By Regina Cyzick Harlow
Against my nerves
Rattling my soul
Leaving me in a constant state of angst
Unsettled, unnerved, gloomy
Perhaps a kite
Or harnessed power experiment
Might lift my spirit
I’m drinking coffee
In my favorite yellow chair
About the wind
Every time I attend funeral services for an Old Order Mennonite family member or friend, I wish those “outside” could experience their death rituals, rich with culture, community, and faith. The horse-drawn hearse and the four-part-harmony singing make me cry every time.
This week I attended the funeral for my great Aunt Mary. Later that evening, I wrote this poem about the graveside portion of the service.
Regina Cyzick Harlow
From Aunt Mary Beery’s funeral
Dirt onto the coffin
Filling the grave
Formed from dust
To dust returning
Discretely wiping tears
Faint florals blend
And moth balls
Wafting on the breeze
Inhaling the promise
Of Living Hope
For those unfamiliar with Old Order Mennonites, they are often confused with Amish because they drive horse and buggy, dress plainly, and live simple agrarian lives. My family and I were raised in the Old Order Mennonite faith, and while I had my reasons for leaving as a young adult, I hold many things and people dear from their community.
My friend, Ava, wrote an in-depth article about their death rituals here. She captures the essence of what happens at the time of death through the funeral in vivid beautiful detail.
These two make my world a much happier place. I need happy right now and thought maybe you could use some too.
Yo. That’s good stuff!
What? You’re taking pictures of this?!
Sheesh Mom, stop embarrassing me with all the photos.
Would y’all stop the shenanigans? I’m trying to sleep over here!
Oh shucks! Now she’s taking my picture too!
A few weeks before Christmas, I took Our 9 and 6 year-old on a walk through the basement of our house. The goal was to find ten items that I would eventually write a poem about. We play the “describing game” all the time where one person defines something without naming it, and everyone else guesses. This time, we described without defining and took it to a whole new level of fun for us!
Here’s the list of items we found: Globe, Horseshoe, Maracas, Christmas lights, Toys, Nativity, Clock, Presents, Coat, Glasses. I had no agenda for what the poem might become. The end result as words flowed from me, was a poem about Creation Care.
I snapped those pictures from some of my favorite places with my phone. I love the way God uses Creation to speak to me.
By Regina Cyzick Harlow
Sphere rumbles, rhythmic
Marchers, move toward eternal
Tired, worn out, used up sphere
Capitulating to misuse and consumerism
Beneath the pounding beat
Blind marchers march
Caught in the flow
Impetuous, heedless, injudicious
The stage set
A junction, once in periphery, becomes clearer
Marchers arrive at the hour of decision
Hope, born into their world
Salvation, Eternal Gift
Birthed from darkness
Pointing beyond time
Gate of Perfection
Marchers, every tongue and tribe and nation
Gathered in orbs of jasper, ruby, emerald,
Emanating from the One True Light
Basking in the warmth of One True Love
A New Heaven and a New Earth
Finally the Marchers treasure the gift
Happy New Year!
Our family continues to heal from a grueling last half of 2017, but we are certainly here with more hope and peace than we’ve had in a long time. There are still remnants of illnesses, but overall we are much healthier now too!
I have been learning a lot about self care and setting realistic boundaries for what I can and can’t do. This work empowered me to say no to two seemingly great opportunities to serve our denomination and local church district. I love our denomination, but the heart of my ministry has always been with the local grief community outside the context of church and denomination.
Saying no in turn allowed me to say yes to more with the non-profit my husband and I founded to provide non-clinical peer support for those grieving the death of a child. Just a few days of laser focus on that work and multiple doors are opening that will guide us into the future. Our non-profit turns ten years old this year! Lots to celebrate, even though the work is related to much grief and sadness. I have been contemplating how many people I’ve come to love and cherish that I would likely have never learned to know outside of our deepest sorrow and greatest pain.
This has long been one of my guiding quotes.
In my personal work and soul care, I’ve also been having some fun trying to reconcile the multiple and diverse streams of culture and influence in my DNA. My dad is from an Eastern European immigrant family, Mom from generations of horse and buggy Mennonites in which faith I was raised and colors my understanding of God. Learning more about my whole identity has been fun, but I’ve also been reminded that my true identity is a child of God and the ultimate “Home” I long for is being at home with God.
As always, I’ve been enjoying making some great food! I’m posting some on my recipe blog, The Cultured Country Cook. My purpose for the blog is simply to share great recipes. I’m not a fancy food photographer, but we sure do eat good around here. I was thinking this evening, I sure hope there’s a kitchen in heaven, cooking and baking and enjoying good food are some of my life’s greatest pleasures. Simultaneously I pondered how my husband might hope there’s NOT a kitchen in heaven since he usually ends up doing the dishes.
I read through English veterinarian James Herriot’s books last year, so one evening I made roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, Yorkshire pudding, and creamed peas. I had read some chapters and paragraphs aloud to the family and we had a great time with that meal, recalling specific stories from his books.
We’ve had extremely cold temperatures here the past few days so tonight’s comfort food was cheese ravioli with mushrooms and browned butter, a simple spinach salad with strawberries, oranges, a drizzle of olive oil and a fresh-squeezed lime. Dessert was a homemade maple walnut pound cake with light maple cream cheese icing and homemade coffee custard. I had subscribed to the emeals menu planner several years ago, but haven’t used the recipes a whole lot. Tonight’s ravioli and last night’s Spanish Chicken Soup were both from emeals. I’m hoping to utilize that more!
I made cinnamon rolls for the pediatrician’s office who care so wonderfully for our children.
And a “poop emoji” cake by request for some friends who knew I had made one as a joke for Our son’s birthday last fall.
I continue to work out what it means to be fully present in my life and the invitations to be are all around me, if my eyes and heart are willing to see.
I’ve been delighting in the following words from Bob Goff in Love Does: Discover a secretly incredible life in an ordinary world.
“There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I’m tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does. It doesn’t come in an envelope. It’s ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. It’s the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day. Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I’ve seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to fully live.
Turning down this invitation comes in lots of flavors. It looks like numbing yourself or distracting yourself or seeing something really beautiful as normal. It can also look like refusing to forgive or not being grateful or getting wrapped around the axle with fear or envy. I think every day God sends us an invitation to live and sometimes we forget to show up or get head-faked into thinking we haven’t really been invited. But you see, we have been invited — every day, all over again”
People might choose to turn down invitations to the White House these days, but I refuse to decline this invitation to fully live. May it be so. Amen.
This Christmas season has been a weird one for me – in a few ways. Most obviously, it is my first Christmas with my husband. Also, my first Christmas with his dog (now our dog), Charlie – the beagle in the photo! Did you know that when you get married, you buy twice the gifts?! And you have double the dinners? And you spend A LOT of time with your spouse? But these things are not really why this season was weird – I actually really enjoyed these things.
The weird thing was this sadness I carried. About a week before Christmas, I experienced heart-wrenching disappointment and loss. Not death in the physical sense, but death all the same. Some of you know the field in which I work – anti-trafficking. And the week before Christmas – it was a doozy. All the drama and the brokenness and the despair. …
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