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Fear not the Strangeness (a love note from your online Abbess)

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You must give birth to your images. They are the future waiting to be born. Fear not the strangeness you feel. The future must enter you long before it happens. Just wait for the birth, for the the hour of the new clarity.—Rainer Maria Rilke

Dearest monks and artists,

I have arrived in our new home in Ireland and am slowly settling in while trying to be ever so gentle with myself in this transition.  The day we got here was also the day of the annual hunt and so there were dozens of horses parading through the streets of the village.  Then came a brief hailstorm which gave way to a brilliant rainbow across the bay.  We are feeling a sense of deep blessings on this time.

There are challenges too, as our internet connection is long delayed, making it challenging for your online Abbess to do her work.  And there are, of course, the anxieties that come with any transition, or crossing over another threshold, the longing to feel at home while trying to embrace the strangeness we feel.  We are indeed strangers here moving toward familiarity very slowly.  Coming to know a place and allowing it to come to know us is a process that takes time.  This is one of the gifts that threshold brings – an intimate encounter with the feeling of exile so that “home” becomes that much sweeter.

The first night in our new house I had a dream.  A figure of light handed me a stone and on it was written a single word: Breakthrough.  In my dream, I receive it in my palm as a gift, and I know it to be my word for the coming year.

When I awaken I feel a sense of strangeness. The word I have been holding these last couple of weeks is suffused.  I love the feel of it, I love how it evokes for me the sense of my greening life force and lushness with which I have been growing more intimate this past fall.  Suffused felt good to me and seemed in alignment with the recent movements of my heart.

Yet I wasn’t feeling the full ripeness of it, some uncertainty lingered, so I have held off claiming it.

Then this dream arrives with a word I would not have consciously chosen, a word I sort of bristled at upon awakening, the small voices within rising with their chorus of judgment. Breakthrough.  The word has too much hubris, too much expectation, too much. . .

I sat with it the whole morning after awakening, journaling my way into it, testing it out.  I picked up the book I was reading – God’s Hotel – by a medical doctor who also studies Hildegard of Bingen’s approach to medicine.  She is with a patient whose case is challenging and she asks herself how Hildegard might engage treatment.  She realized the answer was to remove whatever obstructed the flow of viriditas, whatever was impeding the freedom of life force to move freely.  And as I read those words, I felt a rush inside of me, a promise of breaking through all that stands in the way of my allowing the fullness of my own life energy to rise up.

I am called to make space for breakthrough, in whatever form it might take.  Certainly this journey to Ireland offers me a thousand new visions and ways of seeing my life and work.

Has a word been ripening for you?  If so, share it here (share before January 7th and be entered to win one of several wonderful prizes).  If not, join my free 12-day retreat by subscribing to the Abbey newsletter.

May the year ahead bring ripeness for you.

With great and growing love. . .


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5 Responses

  1. My word for 2013 is “Rooted”. Having moved more than 23 times in my life…feeling/being rooted is a mystery to me. It’s something that I long for in place and Spirit. I am waiting and listening for the ways that God would root me. I am expectant and hope filled as I face the new dawn of each day.

    Looking forward to hearing you speak in Arvada, Colorado! I hope 2013 has many versions of Breakthroughs for you.


  2. Just got out of the hospital after an unexpected surgery, so have been more occupied with keeping the pain at bay then with thinking about the coming new year. At such times, I wonder if any word that comes to me is part of my pain and recovery or what I truly need to focus on for the next 360 days. Perhaps there is no clear boundary, but just life and whatever happens serves the bigger picture.

    Your time in Ireland promises to be a new adventure; cannot wait to hear more about it. May 2013 bring you new friends, more joy, and much peace.

  3. I think my word for this year is: “be!” To explain exactly what this means to me would take a very long time, but it is what I have been avoiding for a very long time. I have to be me and to let myself grow as God would have me grow, rather than trying and trying to fit into ways of life which just don’t fit me. I’m about to read “The Artist’s Rule” and think it will hold a prominent place in my life, as it seems to reflect the journey I am currently taking.

    Under the Mercy,


  4. I read “God’s Hotel” last year. I enjoyed it immensely. How wonderful that the author’s words spoke to you as they did.

    Blessings for you and yours as you make a new home in Ireland.