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!







The Birth of Love

Glimmers December 29, 2019

Dear Friends,                                                         

Christmas, the birth of Love in unexpected circumstances. We are often reminded of the ironic arrival of Jesus in such a humble setting. But it’s a lesson for life, isn’t it? Aren’t we invited to seek love in all situations – humble, joyful, empty, even sad. Love is not limited to a perfect holiday scene, though we yearn for such moments every year. 

I attended two funerals this December. One of a young man, kind and generous in this life – a painful loss for all, especially his mother whose husband died last year. The other was for a Sister of Mercy, an unexpected death, but at the end of a long, loving life. She was a mentor to me, keeping her heart open to love even in the challenging of moments of life.

The traditions of Christmas bind us together, they return us to times of wonder and comfort, joy and celebration. The cookies, gift exchanges and decorations remind me of the little pieces of hay that my children used to add to the nativity scene. They prepare us for the upcoming birth, they set the stage so we are ready to welcome Jesus.

As I try to integrate my losses and the losses we experience nationally and globally, into the Christmas story, I find myself moving inward. I can no longer celebrate the birth of Jesus as the end of the story, for I have been transformed by his Gospel. All the preparations and the real life circumstances have brought me to this moment. A new year begins, once again, and I choose to embrace “The Work of Christmas” described here by theologian Howard Thurman,

When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flock… the work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost… to heal the broken…to feed the hungry…to release the prisoner…to rebuild the nations…to bring peace among others…to make music from the heart. 

May it be so, brothers and sisters, please listen to this link as you read this prayer




Natural Love

Glimmers November 23, 2019

Dear Friends,               

You’ve been on my mind these cold, wet days of November – I hope your heart has been nourished by those who love you and is available to those who are in your care. We are sustenance for one another on this path of life, our choices matter. I was blessed by such hearts last month –  Rick, Nancy and two of their horses, T4 and Junior. Each ministered to me, each was present to me during my retreat at their New Mexican horse ranch. Jungian James Hillman reminds us,

 “We can’t be separate from nature, we are nature. Our cells are alive, our nerve fibers are alive.”

Every moment of my southwestern adventure renewed my connection with nature, with life. I was sensitive to the high altitude of the region and became dedicated to increased water intake. The cold, even snowy, days required extra bundling while walking among the sagebrush and yucca plants. Rick and I kept silence on one hike, stopping for an occasional prayer and psalm. The desert view from the bunkhouse kept me grounded in the land and my morning routine returned me to the basics. Paper, kindling and dry wood, stacked together in the wood stove, became my entry to prayer as my own light caught fire in the quiet.

I traveled to Crossed Arrows ranch to encounter the horses. I did not know what I would find standing next to these magnificent creatures, these emissaries of the natural world. With Nancy’s guidance, I experienced a relationship that used no words but communicated deeply. I felt their capacity to connect, heart to heart, and found my own heart responding in the moment. The thoughts and feelings that I brought with me from Connecticut were set aside as I stepped into a fullness shared with these living, loving beings. Gift.

I offer these images to you, friends, as a witness to the lessons found in nature and to the hope found in the world around us. Why else are we drawn to the seashore or mountain trail? Why are birds captivating or the sunrise magical? We can’t be separated from nature, we are nature. Our humanity resides in Earth, our soul experiences her beauty. Gift.

May blessings and gratitude fill your hearts,



*Rick, Nancy and their horses minister to post 9-11 veterans and active military through their non-profit venture: They explain, “The Creator gave us the horse as a gift of transcendence, a bridge between the physical and the spiritual world. They are incredible partners, messengers and healers.”

My Mother’s Piano

Glimmers October 26, 2019

Dear Friends,                                     

Did I ever tell you that my mother played the piano?

I learned to walk with musical vibrations in my world and in my bones.

Recently, I was actively missing my mom’s presence. This happens, occasionally, for me. I search my memory for images or stories so that I might feel a connection, but the 44 years since her death has created a huge gap in my mind. This time, I just said it out loud, “I would like to have a memory of you, Mom.” And in the middle of the quiet, something changed when I looked at her piano. I could see her there, moving her body to the music as her hands moved across the keyboard. Her expression reflected her choices, transported through Bach or enlivened by Boogie Woogie. (click links)

I listened to piano music for the rest of the evening, my own body responding to the rhythms and melodies that are a part of me. I, too, find solace or celebration in musical expression and that singular experience makes me happy. I “watched” her joyfully sit at the piano, in that mysterious-memory kind of way. I didn’t pay attention to the rest of her body…her lifeless, purple legs…. paralyzed by a car accident so many years earlier. Her life has shaped mine, but I’ve focused on the losses for long enough.

Dear friends, we are invited to claim the continuing bonds, or “braids of love” as I call them, that extend between ourselves and our loved ones who have died. They are a vital, healthy reality in that relationship. Braids of love assist us in our healing from loss and offer support as our lives unfold in new ways. Once claimed, we can nurture these connections through sweet memories, by filling a vase with flowers, return trips to special locations, or even listening to finger-dropping melodies in B Flat, with grace notes and sustained hold in just the right places. Tears return, but only for a time. In the folds of the moment, our hands touch, our hearts connect and we remember….ahhh love, there you are. There you are, once again. Thank you.

with love,





Today is a day of wonder!

Glimmers September 23, 2019

Dear Friends,

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

The first time I read those words, I had long blonde hair instead of short steel-colored waves. I wore contacts instead of glasses, known to swallow one by accident if it needed moisture. I moved quickly across campus, my body strong and slender, though I felt more fear of it than love for it. Life was full of possibility in the midst of confusion, and those words became an anthem of hope.

They are still, gratefully. Much has changed, much has not. My children are adults in a world filled with unrest and cries for change. My body reminds me of its important place in my life, and now I listen….grateful we are working together. I have learned to slow down, to honor my inner life, while at the same time carry deep concern for the life we share on our dear Earth.

I recently received encouragement from a friend, “Take care and live each day. We never know when the Light of Home will shine on us.” It reminds me of my years leading the Hospital of St Raphael’s bereavement program, days and evenings supporting folks in their struggle with loss. In the midst of honoring their sacred journey in grief, my colleagues and I found ourselves savoring the gift of life itself. Our sense of mortality was heightened, our connection to each new day increased, our trust in God renewed.

Today really is the first day of the rest of our lives! Today, this singular experience unlike any other, is an invitation. We get caught in the mundane routines of life or thrown by the intense joys and sorrows – and we forget. That bit of sunlight on the carpet says, “Come outside, lets play today.” The breeze that cools my skin speaks of comfort and peace. That friend shares a genuine smile and my heart is lifted.

Each moment of this day is an invitation to wonder, each a step into the sacred Mystery.  As JD Salinger put it,

“All we ever do our whole lives is go

from one little piece of holy ground to the next…”

Many blessings on this new and wonder-filled day (click here)



Return, relax, remember

Glimmers August 13, 2019

Dear Friends,

Last month’s Glimmer was such a gift! Thank you for engaging with the images and sharing the blessings, thank you for joining me in these thoughts and ponderings. And my gift to you? Well, I encourage you to reread the July Glimmer and click on the link in the last line. I put it in as a surprise gift, but too many missed it. I invite you to receive the whole message, including the sound of love:

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Return, relax, remember…these themes remain as our August days stretch, stretch we hope, forever! But something has changed, a coolness arrived one morning and now it’s time to savor the final days of summer. Return, relax, remember…my heart opens to this prayer of hope and healing. I let go of expectation and fall into the rhythm of the words, I receive the invitation….. return…relax…remember…how would it be if we truly trusted our inner wisdom?

In my case, there are actual memories that I’m trying to retrieve, moments that I might tune into and learn from. It’s been a challenging process, the various childhood traumas have obscured other moments of connection and love. But that’s just my path, what about you? As you sit with this invitation, return…relax…remember…what images come forward? As you give yourself permission to stare out at a horizon, a lake’s edge, or a quiet neighborhood scene, what feelings come forward? What thoughts poke around in your mind and heart?

If it’s alright, I may start sharing some of the fruits of this prayer with you. Our exchange has become integral to my experience of the Divine. I’m gratefully reminded of the mystery every time I start writing to you. When some of you respond I receive the gift of our connection and the gift of you – your unique light on this earth. Richard Rohr, OFM tells us,

Presence is never self-generated, but always a gift from another, and faith is always relational at its core.

Return…relax…remember…let us pray together dear friends, through these days of summer memories. Let us watch the earth’s rhythms and become a part of them. We, like the trees, birds, and stars in the sky, are evidence of Love on earth. Once again, Richard Rohr’s words guide us. He suggests that we breathe this truth into our very core:

I have never been separate from God, nor can I be, except in my mind.

May it be so,                                                                                                   




Quotes from The Universal Christ – How a forgotten reality can change everything we see, hope for and believe, Richard Rohr, Penguin Random House, 2019



Birthday Invitation

Glimmers July 23, 2019

Dear Friends,

As I get older, my birthdays seem to speak a little louder. How is it for you? Do you notice the annual movements of your heart inviting you to greater awareness of what it means to be alive?

I have to confess, the meaning of life has been a topic of reflection for most of my days walking upon this earth. Yesterday, though, I was floating instead of walking. I found myself drawn to hidden shadows along Lake Beseck, where the dark water exposed unknown depths not easily seen in the sunlit center of the lake. Tree boughs and water’s edge come together to form a place of respite, a sacred space in the midst of a summer day. The willow’s leaves whisper as I paddle under her long, thin branches. Yes, it was a place of relief from the heat, but it was more than that. Quiet is speaking here, and I am listening.

For so many years, I have been looking backward at the puzzle pieces of my life. I have most of the edge-pieces and have filled in much of the scene. I’ve spent long hours, years really, searching for a few lost pieces. Some relationships and moments help me retrieve those missing fragments of my life, it’s as if I get a second, third and fourth chance to learn the lessons of loss, shame, abandonment, anxiety or fear. Each time is another opportunity to accept my limitations, embrace my gifts and open my heart to Love. Each time, I step into the Holy and experience the mystery of my humanness. Through God’s grace, I sometimes see the preciousness within. As Paula D’Arcy said,

“God comes to you disguised as your life.”

Other people float past my chapel on the lake, but I am still listening to nature’s voice. “Return,” the willow’s whisper touches my heart. “Relax,” the insects sing out at day’s end. “Remember,” reverberates through the light’s reflection, travels across the water and laps up onto my feet. I am one day older, steeped in the Mystery, and grateful for the fullness of life.

With affection, Lisa




Sometimes we grieve together…

Glimmers June 30, 2019

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday, I heard a 6 minute description of the current living conditions of detained migrant children along the US-Mexico border.  I cannot get the words and images out of my mind. Their plight has become a part of my prayer. Their experiences of loss have kindled my own.

We all face the pain of death in our lives, we resist as death steals our loved ones away. But loss does not stop there, it has many forms. Francis Weller’s The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief  masterfully names the layers of loss that we carry as human beings, from “everything we love” to the “sorrows of the world.” The Second Gate, as he describes it, is “The Places That Have Not Known Love,” and it is here that my heart is caught when I remember those children.

I have places inside that did not know love. My mother’s car accident, when I was 18 months, created a patched-together upbringing with missing pieces. While they did the best they could, my parents moved into survival mode and everything changed for that little one. We all have such places, of course… little hidden secrets, fears of inadequacy, conscious beliefs based on unconscious pain. Grief’s great gift of healing leads us into these spaces to release the pain and make room for love. This is part of our human journey, part of our story, or as Wes Anzinna put it in a NYT Sunday Magazine article,

“A lot of things had to happen for me to be me.”

I am finding my way. There are many folks who take steps to open their heart to the pain inside, allowing grief’s wisdom to lead them toward healing. Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” and Scripture reminds us, “Let light shine out of darkness.” Life includes the process of loss, healing and hope.

I leave you with an image, friends, the image of a woman aching after a loved one’s death, courageously saying yes to love’s presence in her heart. Her smile fills the room with her light. At the same time, I hold the image of the children, wrapped in silver plastic. I ache for their places that do not know love. Their story is indeed one of the “sorrows of the world” and I grieve for all of us.

Grateful for your loving hearts,



Step into the Holy

Glimmers May 31, 2019

Dear Friends,

I have missed you! The month of May was filled with travels, out into the world of Italy and deep within the heart of Lisa. I come home changed by the new sights, sounds and feelings I encountered…the winding, narrow roads through Tuscany, marked by the tall Cypress trees that stood as sentinels on our journey; the memories of my parents that returned, unexpectedly, but a treasure to renew our braids of love; the awareness of my place in the world, a citizen of the planet along with every other human being.

The calendar image for May of 2019 winks at me with one last reminder before I turn the page:

“Wisdom is not knowing more, but knowing with more of you…”   Cynthia Bourgeault

It’s interesting that our ego-driven consumerism can find its way into our spiritual journey. We seek to gather more – books, teachers, experiences – searching for answers. As the challenges of life mount up, we work to respond with a corresponding pile of lessons and quotes!  Cynthia Bourgeault’s reminder (yes, it is in the form of a quote) invites another pathway of growth….a wisdom found from within.

My recent conversations with a young neighbor offer an example. As I listen to this nine year old’s questions, I’m reminded of my own curiosity at that age. I explain my gardening to her and I remember my mother’s love of the garden – even though she had to drag her paralyzed legs along the dirt as she worked. We smell the lavender and taste the chives while we talk, my heart is happy.  In  that holy moment between my young friend and I, I am present to her with all of these aspects of myself: my curiosity, my story of love and grief, my connection to the earth.

When more of me is engaged in my life, the sun is brighter and a friend’s smile touches my heart in a new way. When I welcome more of my story on this day, I experience a fullness, a peace which “passeth understanding.”  Here, on this sunlit morning at Lake Beseck, I encounter the Holy and I stop trying to explain it.

Blessings to all, Lisa