Yearly Archives


Living Inside of Change

Glimmers May 19, 2020



“So on this meaningful morn, we mourn and we mend.                                                       
Like light, we can’t be broken, even when we bend.”

Amanda Gorman


Dear Friends,

You have been in my heart this week.  You, me, all of us –  souls on our planet Earth. We are witnessing a time of transformation. Perhaps you, like me, are reading essays, praying or deepening your meditation, or walking in nature to support this inescapable process of change. Perhaps you, like me, have moments of uncertainty or sadness around the great unknown that is before us.

I followed my instincts, recently, and purchased a grow-your-own-caterpillars kit. I watched them travel around the plastic cup, down into their food source then up the walls to the top. Over and over, shedding their skin as their bodies changed and grew. Their final days, at this stage, were filled with jerks and spasms as they return to the underside of the lid, attached themselves and moved into a “J” shape. Slowly, their bodies transformed, once again, and a chrysalis encapsuled each of them. The next three days were important, explained the instructions, no movement, no disruption to their time of total surrender to their destiny.

These soon-to-be Painted Ladies accompany me, as I too, wait in stillness. They have now been transferred to a habitat for their next stage of transformation. I welcome them each morning, as I too, await mine.

While I wait, I am grateful for the words of our Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman. I am grateful that her message of hope acknowledges the mourning that is all around us.  (I hope you’ll take the time to hear her message to us.) The fullness of life is found through embracing all of life, not just the sweetness but the bittersweet, sour and distasteful. On those days when I allow myself to feel the enormity of these times, I take little sips of such flavors. I grieve the lost lusciousness of an unfettered life. Something happens when I honor my feelings, as I wait inside my Covid Chrysalis. Something shifts with a timing all of its own. I, like the caterpillar, have no control over the next stage of my life. But I can choose to participate in the process, I can align myself with that-which-is-greater-than-myself….Mother Nature, Higher Power, the Sacred Mystery, God.

I listened to John Phillip Newell’s recent offering: Wisdom in the Pandemic. He affirms the call that I have been hearing, “Deepen your integration of grief and hope, Lisa, step into the fullness of My love for you.” I allow myself to grieve the losses in my life, with faith in my heart. Newell puts it this way,

“Keep our hearts open to allow ourselves to feel the pain, in order to access a deep strength of soul within us, to act for one another.”

This is where I land, dear friends. I am learning compassion from the inside out. As I hold the space of your pain in my prayer, I touch my own. As I trust the healing path with grief by my side, I open my hidden wounds and ask that they be bathed by the light of Christ. Today, as just one more sojourner in the Land of Loss, I embrace the gift of self-compassion and find my compassion for you, more grounded and clear. If the instructions are correct, my guides in the art of transformation will soon be emerging from their time of darkness. I will watch them with a deep respect as each limb, wing, antenna comes into this world. With deep gratitude, I will trust the flow of my own emergence into who I was created to be. May it be so, for all of us, brothers and sisters, this time demands no less.

Your sister on the journey, Lisa


This coming Saturday, May 23, 1-4p EDT, I will be facilitating an important conversation and time of reflection about grief.  Our online program, $40, hosted by Mercy by the Sea Retreat and Conference Center, is titled “Conscious grieving: Cultivating Hope in the Land of Loss.” Registration closes at noon on Friday, May 22. If this interests you, I hope you’ll join us. Perhaps you might share this time of community with the people in your world. I’d be grateful.






Pondering Hope in a Time of Loss

Glimmers May 6, 2020

Dear Friends,

I share here a recent blog that I wrote for Mercy by the Sea Retreat and Conference Center. We are working together to create an afternoon of connection and healing, and you are invited.  Details follow for our live, virtual gathering on May 23rd, I hope you’ll consider joining us, especially if you’ve been circling around sadness or loss. And know that you are in my prayer, as we learn to let hope and sadness co-exist in our tender hearts.

with love, Lisa



A cardinal visited my window today, the burst of red in the grey morning made me smile and reminded me of Florence Trahan, RSM. I was fortunate to learn from her at Mercy by the Sea. I was blessed to pray with her. Sister Florence’s gentle heart touched my own as my urgent questions and thoughts filled the room. Where is God in this situation? How should I respond to the people before me? Her spirit sits with me now as I pray about the pandemic and my upcoming program on grief++.

I’m aware that now, and during my training with Sr Florence, I want to do this “right.” Structure my day, I am told. Make time for both movement and contemplation. I listen to wise teachers online, as I listened to Florence’s guidance, and find myself lacking. Some days, I am not steeped in the “peace which transcends all understanding.” I dip into sadness, hover around fear and get drawn into the great unknown.

My study of and experience with grief reminds me to pause…take a deep breath…and open my heart to these feelings. The pandemic is an experience of loss upon loss. Some days I can’t keep up. At the same time, I remember the call to self-compassion. “The root practice,” Francis Weller explains, “for our inner lives and for our relational lives.”

As any griever, I am doing the best I can. I am remaining conscious and bringing that awareness to my experience of loss. I hold the space of love for myself, just another pilgrim on the journey. In the midst of these times, Sister Florence’s gentle spirit reaches into my heart and reminds me that when we choose compassion for one another, and for ourselves, we enter the Mystery as one.

Sister Doris Klein wrote, “We must remember that to own the light is not to deny the darkness but to allow it to be transformed – and it takes courage to be faithful to this transformative process.” Grief after our loved one’s death and grief during this life-changing crisis both call us to an unknown transformation. That is part of the challenge. At the same time, Love is the light that guides us. Love cultivates the courage to choose self-compassion. Love, just like a visiting cardinal, comes at the right time to calm our fears and heal our wounded heart.



*Posted on

++  Conscious Grieving: Cultivating Hope in the Land of Loss 

Due to the pandemic underway, we are experiencing loss and grief in an entirely new way, including unprecedented separation from our hospitalized or dying loved ones. As global losses mount, our personal losses can become “disenfranchised.” At the same time, we can feel overwhelmed by the “collective and anticipatory grief” that we share each day. 

On May 23rd, 2020, 1-4, p (EDT) Mercy by the Sea Retreat and Conference Center in Madison, CT presents a live, online gathering to explore and express our experiences of loss and grief, including those related to Covid-19. The cost is $40, for detailed information and registration go to

Lisa Irish, MEd, MA, BCC will host a time of reflection and sharing, as she draws from her experience in bereavement chaplaincy and spiritual direction. This program will support our individual and collective grief in these times of isolation, exploring the transformative nature of grief and nourishing the sacred strands of connectedness between us.  Fr Richard Rohr says of Lisa’s book, Grieving – the Sacred Art: Hope in the Land of Loss, “…The roadmap is wise, but sensitive – grounded in hope – and reminds us to rest in God’s healing love.”  

Everything is Harder than It Used to Be

Glimmers April 22, 2020

Dear Friends,                                                 

The finches’ yellowness increase day by day. Their morning visit to the silo of seeds is filled with song and calm, wings and wonder. I think I’ve been taking them for granted…these little friends had become part of the backdrop of my window on the world. But not today.

Everything is harder than it used to be, everything is more intense. Everyday Life has been distilled into This Extraordinary Moment, and it is Exhausting.

I was so grateful to see a reminder of Maslow’s Hierarchy – a staple of Psychology 101 – with an arrow pointing at Safety and Physiological needs, noting “You Are Here.” It isn’t just me! What a relief! We are sharing this life-changing experience, trying to make sense of it…trying to survive it.

“I’ve spent weeks hanging out with myself and I am so sorry to every person I have ever spent time with.” Facebook friend

In the midst of lessons in a solitary lifestyle, we are bombarded with images and messages of discord, hope, fear, heroism, anger, loss and love. How do we navigate through it all? My path must include grief. I cannot wait for this to be “over” to cry, for as we know we have no idea what tomorrow will even look like. I cannot stall my sadness until its my family member with the Covid-19 diagnosis, for every soul is related to me. The weight of sadness is everywhere. I have learned enough about loss and grief to know I must trust my feelings and give them space.

Yesterday, I climbed into the woods behind our house, so grateful for the natural world and for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. I watched a brook coming down the hill, the water turning this way and that depending on where the rocks were positioned. I could see little ripples as the water pushed its way through a narrow space, I listened to the sound it made. I listen now to the words of John “Juniper” Robertson, OEF, adapted into poetry form by Shoshanah Kay, OEF

“What do I have to fear?
 My path has been prepared for me.
 It is a path built on love.
 My ancestors, our ancestors, have lived through really rough times.
 And the hope and knowledge of the
        Love at the center of the Universe
        has brought them through.
 Spring is all around me in New York City.
 This pandemic makes it obvious that I don’t know.
 But, in fact, that is my every day.
 I don’t know what is coming, what is just around the corner.
 Living in this “I-don’t-know” locates me in a place of listening.
 Listening to the struggles of those around me.
 Listening to fear, to anxiety.
 Listening to the birds, to the signs of spring.”

As the finches’ color gets brighter, something is shifting in me as well. I am changing – sometimes against my will, sometimes aware of God’s grace. Inch by inch, feather by feather, I adjust to this new reality. May I also experience an intensity of awareness for the gifts in my life. These finches, for example, they bounce from perch to perch, flap their wings to protect their favorite spot. Their bright yellow presence pops against the newly green grass and reminds me to look a little more closely at the life all around me…they remind me to breathe…with one conscious breath I open my heart, and assume that in spite of all the change around me, the God I know, is God.”*


With love, Lisa

*With gratitude to The. Rev. Dr. Molly O’Neill Louden, Celtic Worship Team Facilitator


I Am Enough

Glimmers March 22, 2020


“This is preeminently a time to tell the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly….Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.”      Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Inauguration Address, March 4, 1933

Dear Friends,

I heard these words from Doris Kearns Goodwin on CBS This Morning. (open link for the interview) Her historical knowledge of American disasters offered wisdom and perspective that was very helpful. Doris described the Civil War, the Depression, and other challenging moments in history with the words, “They did not know how it was going to end, there was enormous anxiety. And yet, history tells us that in each of those situations the leaders came through, the citizens came though. We really did emerge stronger than ever before.”

My mission in these six years of writing to you has been to tell the truth, my truth anyway. I have shared experiences and observations from my life, and sought to “make meaning”  from my stories. It was and is my desire to connect to you, to your stories, and to your sense of the sacred…to affirm our shared human experience

Today we find ourselves in a new reality, ever changing and completely upending our sense of home and safety. Each of us, we and our neighbors, find ourselves in various states of denial and awareness. But if I am to tell the truth, “the whole truth, frankly and boldly,” let me add my voice in favor of our capacity to adapt and to grow in the midst of this crisis.

Four years ago, I claimed March 24th as “I Am Enough” Day. It was an idea that came out of my prayer and healing journey. We celebrated simply, the idea being that for one day let each believe that “I am ok, I am enough.” I know that some of you have no difficulty with that concept, but I also know many who do. So, as my ministry grew, I sought to affirm folks in their “enoughness.” It’s been fun, enlightening and needed. Nathaniel Branden, a psychologist known for his work in self-esteem, puts it this way,

“The feeling that ‘I am enough’ does not mean that I have nothing to learn, nothing further to achieve and nowhere to grow to. It means that I accept myself, that I am not on trial in my own eyes, that I value and respect myself. This is not an act of indulgence but of courage.”

Oh friends, too often we find ourselves “on trial in our own eyes”…..after that phone call or text; within a place of deep grief – where we question every choice; following a change in a relationship or work status; and now – in the midst of constant self-doubt about our Covid-19 behaviors and our uncertain future. Now, more than ever, it is time to consider and embrace our enoughness as the act of courage that Branden describes.

As these sheltered-in-place days seem so long and so alone – it is indeed time to embrace the unique being we are. Let us “value and respect” ourselves, dig deep and listen to our inner wisdom. We were created in love, by love and for love. Let us shine our light in the spaces around us! Yes, we must practice physical distancing but let our hearts extend love into the world. Yes, we must renew practices to protect ourselves, but let us do so on behalf of others. That is our call, that is our mission, that is our reason for being here in this moment in history.

With affection,  Lisa

Please join us on March 24th, light a candle, send your love to our hurting world. Know that you are enough and can make a difference.

“Anything you do, let it come from you. Then it will be new, give us more to see.” Stephen Sondheim



Remembering my Dad

Glimmers March 2, 2020


Dear Friends,

My father died when I was eleven.

While this wasn’t the first loss in my young life, his death certainly changed the trajectory of what was to come. James Theodore Mitchell, better known as Ted, was born in Seattle, Washington. He lived thirty-six years on this earth – son, brother, husband, daddy, friend, scientist, community member, believer. As I think about his upcoming birthday, I retrieve a few memories and images. During the last year of his life, for example, he surprised me at school and took me on an adventure for the day. We visited Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento, CA. Known as the birthplace of the gold rush, the fort was also a refuge for pioneers and survivors during harsh times. I recall the fort that I built in the family room, my own refuge during confusing times, and wonder about the legacy it has for me. Survival? Certainly. Gold? Yes, I can now say, “Yes.”

I remember reading “The Hobbit” to him as his sight and energy decreased. I have always watched myself in this scene, alone under the golden lamp light in the darkness of his bedroom. I look back now and and wonder what he was thinking and feeling in the moment…his child before him – all of her gifts and dreams, those quirks that reminded him of himself or of my mother. I imagine him praying for my future as he struggled with the end of his own. I am sad as I write this, so many years of shared life experiences that did not happen, especially the security of “Dad” during the tumultuous becoming-a-woman years.

All of us experience the pain around death, perhaps my words trigger your own memories and feelings. If so, I hope you give them the space they need and the regard they deserve. I hope you pull out a picture or remembrance of your loved one and step into the fullness of that relationship…the both/and of loss that includes the assurance of love that does not cease to be.

The other day I sat before Long Island Sound, pen in hand, and opened my heart to gratitude. I relaxed into the spaciousness of grey water and quiet sky, I leaned into the strength of tall trees and coastal sea rocks along the shoreline. As my body melted into the world around me, the seagull’s flight invited me into her expressions of freedom and of trust. In that moment, and now as I describe this to you, I experience gratitude as more than an emotional or intellectual response. Gratitude, with a contemplative lens, is a resting place for the whole of me. Here, within the ongoing invitation of a grateful heart, I think of my Dad. My heart expands with felt-sense memories of his sweet patience and encouragement. I treasure his humor and integrity, his delight in me and mine in him. I will celebrate his birthday and receive the mystery of love, once again. I wrap it around the wounds of loss and say yes to the never-ending Braids of Love between us.

With affection, Lisa

All Good Gifts Around Us

Glimmers January 23, 2020


“We can be unhappy about many things, but Joy can still be there…it is important to become aware that every moment of our Life we have an opportunity to choose Joy…It is in the choice that our true Freedom lies, and that Freedom is, in the final analysis, the Freedom to Love.” Henri Nouwen

Dear Friends,

I was greeted by these words upon arrival in the Tower, a sacred space atop Mercy by the Sea in Madison, CT.  Luggage filled with warm clothes, a crate of writing materials and my favorite afghan in hand, I walked up three flights of stairs for a time of prayer and reflection. Nouwen stayed here too, in the 1970s, and I gratefully return as I did when I worked on Grieving – the Sacred Art: Hope in the Land of Loss. Considering a new project, his wisdom touches my heart, his ministry inspires me to choose joy and to speak of Love.

And speak of Love, I must! I made the choice five years ago to write and publish these Glimmers, the experience and your        responses have been such a blessing in my life. You gave me the opportunity to shine my light, to join you and others who choose hope, and to encourage you to shine your own lights upon our hurting world. Our kindness to strangers, our advocacy for the environment, our choice to educate ourselves about racism – all matter. All our thoughts and actions matter. You, dear friends, matter.

Long Island Sound stretches out below me, it’s waters reflect the morning sunrise. Pink, grey, scarlet, light and deep blue fill the sky and sea. The stillness reminds me of last night’s Centering Prayer in the chapel. Our circle, sitting in silence, our hearts replenished after a full day. A reading spoke of courage, and we shared our thoughts into the quiet. One voice remains with me this morning, “We are of God, created and made in Divine likeness. If God were the sun – ever present warmth and light, we are the sun’s rays – extensions of that light on this earth. This is who we are! Courage is needed, not to become a better person, but to claim the amazing and complete person that we are!”

With God’s tender care, I’ve embraced glimmers of this wisdom over the years…a minute or a day at a time. I celebrate this invitation to claim myself as a beloved child of God, at least for today. May this first Glimmer of 2020 come into your heart and remind you of your unique place in this universe, your unique light.  Let us join with Henri Nouwen and claim the freedom to bring our loving hearts into the world!

 With affection, Lisa


Stay tuned for upcoming event in March!