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The outward sign of an inward grace

Ahoy, gentle readers! It’s been a while, I know, but please understand that my lack of posting hasn’t been from of lack of trying. I think my brain was tired. I’d start a post and then stall and catch myself throwing longing glances at my recliner with the little black cushion on top that has the built in heat and massage, and, well, that was that. Off to La La Land. However, I’m feeling a little more perky today and hope to complete my post without loss of consciousness.

Update on The Condition – we’re making progress in healing the erosive gastritis, but not near as quickly as I had hoped. Of course, with any kind of physical malady I never feel I’m making progress as quickly as I had hoped. Good news, though, on the medication front – I’m off the big scary proton pump inhibitor (thank the Goddess!) and taking a milder form twice a day, a-and I’ve weaned down to half of the morning dose every other day. I’ll have to come off this stuff very slowly or The Condition could flare up again and I’d have to start all over. Which doesn’t sound like fun. I’m also augmenting with supplements and herbal products (I’ve discussed all this with my health care provider and she’s on board) and they are filling in the gaps nicely. So, yay me!

But managing my stress and fatigue has not been so effective, and I’ve had to make a couple of major changes that well, make me sad. I’ve had to step away from my choir and my church. Thursday night choir practise left me so wired I sometimes couldn’t get to sleep for hours, and after Sunday service I’d flake out on the couch for the entire rest of the day. Too much energy going out. Not enough coming in. I’m thinking I may have to extend my hiatus until the Fall. I love my choir and my church, but if I don’t get serious and take care of my health now, when will I? And how much more difficult will that be if I put it off?

Which leaves me with the question of what to do with my Sunday mornings. I thought I’d do some spiritual reading as I do during my summer hiatus, but I wanted some form of worship too, something to connect me to my church during the time they would be worshiping. I settled on a “mindful footwashing.”

I love to soak my feet at the end of a day when I’ve had to do a great deal of walking or physical activity. But this was to be different. I felt inspired to slow everything down, to assemble every item I would need one at a time instead of grabbing as much as I could in a big armful. The basin, the towel, the salts, the lotion, the hot water, the cold water, a trip down the hall for each, and I try to be conscious of each step I take as I make each trip. I pay attention to the whoosh of the water out of the kettle into the basin, the way the steam curls off the surface of the water, the scent of the lavender, the soft musical sounds of water being gently moved by the dipping in and out of my feet. My breathing slows down, my racing thoughts quiet, and at some point I find myself smiling.

I used to think smiling was reserved for feelings of happiness, or humour. But this is peacefulness, and it engenders a soft smile of its own. It comes from a different place, and it brings with it reassurance that everything will be all right. And that, in itself, is healing.

A long time ago, I wrote an article for a Catholic journal musing on what would have happened if footwashing, like Jesus did for his disciples on Maundy Thursday, had become the Sacrament instead of Eucharist. After washing his disciples feet, Jesus urged them to wash each other’s feet, though there is no indication in Scripture that they did. But what if we followed his example and every Sunday took up the basin and the towel and knelt to wash each other’s feet? There’d be strangeness and embarrassment at first to be sure, but once that wore off, what would happen? To touch another with such care, to let ourselves be touched by such grace in all our bunioned, calloused, flat-footed, malodorous humanity. The washing, the anointing, the kiss. The cleansing, the sanctifying, the adoration. Could we kneel at the feet of our debtors in this way and not forgive them their debts? And what faults of our own would be forgiven as those we have hurt stooped to wash our feet? And our wounded self-esteem? What healing would we find when every touch, every gesture, every look says, “You are worthy. You are worthy. You are worthy.”

What kind of church would we build?

Every Sunday morning, I sit staring at my soaking feet…and wonder.

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  1. Joannie
    Posted April 23, 2016 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Wouldn’t it be a wonderful church! I’d like to be part of THAT church. Where judgements and gossip fall away and love and forgiveness take their place. Where I would sing my gratitude for your beautiful writing and your honesty in sharing your life experience with us. Thank you Penny-Anne. Love, Joannie

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted April 24, 2016 at 12:21 am | Permalink

      Oh Joannie! You lift me up and bless my heart! Thanks!

  2. Karen Rockwell
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    I so love the way you think Penny-Anne! Washing eachother’s feet. I wonder how the size of the congregations might change? I for one might return to church! I’m so glad you are loving your wonderful self and that you write! =0) Karen

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted April 25, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Bless you, sister! Bless you real good! You always make me smile!

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