Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lugh the Comforting

It's Lughnasadh!  Where has the summer gone?

For me it has been days and days of homework, driving kids to camps and swim meets, working, plus searching for a clinical internship for my counseling degree.  Full time grad school, work, kids, the usual...  I started this week in a clinical internship at a huge local agency providing services to families with kids on the autism spectrum, working as a clinical counseling intern!  Yay!  It took months to find the right place, but I am very happy with the internship I have (and it's paid, yay again!)

Thus for Lughnasadh 2013 I have so much to be thankful for!

And despite ongoing puja to Bridget, today I am sending thanks to Lugh.  Ok, a little overlap in the Celtic pantheon, but Bridget doesn't mind.  Lugh the warrior has always had a close Bridget relationship (warriors and blacksmiths have a close bond after all).  But I owe Lugh, and am dedicating my post to him today (since I don't have time with driving kids and work and school to stop and buy a beer and pour it out to him!)

Three years ago, Lugh's presence came to me at one of the hardest times of my life.  Back then, my ex was threatening me and the kids again, a long pattern in our then relationship.  Years of lawyers and therapists had told me there was nothing I could do, and I had struggled for all that time, with great support from good friends, to give my kids the best childhood I could.

Back then, though, the threats were increasing and I was struggling to get my kids to a safe place, and part of that was just starting my adult school career.  I was overwhelmed and frightened - not for myself, but for my children.  They have never deserved a parent who threatens the other or their interests or schooling!  No one deserves that!  So on Lughnasadh 2010 I sat on my then front porch and poured beer to Lugh in his honor, as you do, worrying about my children, and worrying about how to keep them emotionally and physically safe.

But that night, with fireflies in the summer sky, Lugh came to me.  Well, ok.  I felt his presence like a balm and a protection....   He sat down on the porch, at least in my imagination, clinked my beer bottle, and told me to hold on because he was going to help me.  He reminded me that there are many kinds of battles, and battling to give my children the best I could was a worthy endeavor.  He promised to send me warrior help.  And he promised to stand by me.  Having Lugh on your front porch is a miraculous thing, and though this was all a sense of presence and faith, it was amazingly comforting.

In fact, for these past three years, I have thought of Lugh as Lugh the comforting, and not so much Lugh the Long Arm or Lugh the Shining One as is traditional.

Now on Celtic reconstruction lists where I mentioned this visit, I met major skepticism.  Lugh, the men told me, don't visit middle-aged, gray haired moms (dreds or not).  Lugh, they told me, is only a God for warriors and fighters.  Why they asked, would Lugh talk to little old me?

But Lugh - despite their skepticism - sent me help.

I found a lawyer who finally said that as an adoptive mom I also have rights, and who has stood by me in court.  He helped me get child support despite my ex threatening to give only what she chose - if and when she chose.  Child support meant I could pay my own way through graduate school and not drop out, and still know I could keep my children safe and homeschooled.  I have also worked and paid my own legal fees, as well as supporting myself.  All possible with friends who have sent me clients and support...

And Lugh sent these friends - good ones.  Friends who stood by me while I struggled with a legal system still unused to lesbian divorce, autistic kids, homeschooling, and special needs.  Lugh helped send professionals who have spoken up for how much my dedication and commitment to homeschooling has made a significant difference in the children's lives, supportive teachers who have spoken of how much my support for my children has helped them succeed, and friends willing to stand with me in court and speak up about my ex's years of threats and abuse.

Again and again Lugh has given me courage and strength to keep going even when the "general wisdom" said to give up, to give in, to accept my ex's abuse, to put the kids in school, to ignore their special needs.  Lugh whispered to hang on.  And the memory of Lugh's comforting shoulder has stayed with me these long and hard and also amazing three years.

Faith is what helps us stand firm and struggle on when the odds seem stacked against us, when there seems to be little hope, when even those who should help us tell us there is no help.  I have always been a fighter - I have taken on many an insurance agency to get services for the kids, and taken on many schools to ensure them a good education.  So I guess Lugh saw me as a good bet.  Yet faith helped me hang on and keep a little flame of vision about the future I want for my kids and for myself.  Faith whispers against the dark.  Faith says there can be more.

So today I send Lugh a candle, some reverence, and good friends promise to pour some beer in my name.  But most of all I send Lugh thanks.

There are many ways to be a warrior.  Lugh supports them all.

Happy Lughnasadh everybody!  Pour a beer for me!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Women's Sexuality and Animal Spirit Guides

One of the greatest gifts this past spring was my first group counseling program ever.  Despite opposition from my school professors, and incredulity from my grande dame certified sexuality therapist supervisor, I put together a group on women's sexuality and animal spirit guides.

And the group rocked.

I had five clients for eight weeks, and we explored the ways patriarchy limits women's sexuality, how using animal spirit guides can help us explore our sexuality in new ways, and we made awesome artwork week after week.  We made wildly patterned quilts; we made plaster body casts; we made message bottles with mason jars and finger painted and collages!

As you do.

The fun of group counseling is partly its challenge.  I had Pagan clients and Christian clients and Unitarian Universalist clients in this first group.  Some members had no idea if they could identify with animal totems, and some wanted to find their own personal spirit guide.  Not everyone wanted to finger paint.  Not everyone felt comfortable with exploring sexism.  (Happily, everyone loved bodycasting!)  Yet after a few weeks we were more than a group of strangers; we were a supportive group of friends finding new ways to think about ourselves and our lives.

And this officially marks a combining of my blogs and life!  This puja blog to Bridget and my coaching and soon to be counseling blog all reflect different aspects of my dedication to St. Bridget. St. Bridget has led me constantly in my work in counseling and coaching, whether I walk a client to a disability office on a college campus, or whether I'm helping women explore spirituality.  St. Bridget inspires my art, my work and my worship.

And I believe she would have been happy as can be with my first counseling group.  We were women of many religions, orientations, totems, goals.

But when people come together, I believe St. Bridget is there.

It is Beltane, another fire festival.

Thanks to her path.

image:  sattva,

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bridget Quilts!

I've been making and selling quilts to Bridget for over two years now!  And two of my small scapular necklaces have been accepted into a local juried show, Lost and Found:  Sustainable Fashion at the Sweetwater Center for the Arts!!

Wow!  I have never submitted, nor ever thought I could be accepted, to a juried show!  So once again, following St. Bridget's path has led me to new places.  (Oh triple goddess that she is, and Irish saint, she oversees poetry, healing and blacksmiths - which somehow in my life includes arts and crafts of all types from weaving to quilting to blacksmithing!)  I dropped off my scapulars this morning at the Center, and am still amazed at how life unfolds when practicing puja.

I tend to be so linear (stop laughing everyone) that I am surprised when life throws me these amazing curve balls - or Goddess surprises.  My entry into the competition comes from a walk with my dogs on a snowy day back in March, and I ran into another doggie friend.  I've known Sue for years, and we have talked dog many times.  This cold and wintery day, however, she suddenly asked me if I were a fiber artist!  Bizarre.  And I said, "yes, I sew and quilt and weave and spin."  She then told me of numerous shows where I could submit my work, and invited me into the Pittsburgh Fiber Arts Guild at the same time. . .  kind of one of those amazing synchronous happenings.  It was a miserable and wet day, and there I found myself seeing Bridget calling.

So I filled out applications and struggled with online submissions and pictures, and lo and behold the juror accepted both my scapulars.  And of course both are dedicated to St. Bridget.  And both go on display this Saturday for a full month.

I continue to write about the importance of puja, of worship, no matter what tradition or deity you follow.  And this is the kind of coincidence that puja brings:  I never dreamed I would find my work at Sweetwater Center for the Arts or be invited to the Fiber Arts Guild.  And now here I am doing both.

In other paths I am working to pull together internships for school, coming down to my last year in the master's program for clinical counseling.   I am later than my classmates at setting up internships, and my advisor is annoyed with me.  Some friends have said, "Just take something and get through."  I am however mindful of my art and sudden opportunities.  "Just taking something" is counter to Bridget's message and the practice of puja.  Daily puja, from prayer to meditation to chanting to sacraments, all take time.  Puja is like my tomato seedlings, needing time to grow.  "Just taking something" won't bring tomatoes faster.  Nor will Bridget's plan for me and her followers be revealed in as fast a time as we would all like.

Puja, like art, like healing, takes time.  I made a lot of quilts for my etsy store, waiting to see if anyone wanted them.  (Oh the happiness when my first quilt sold!)  And making scapulars this winter, I had no idea they would be in a juried show.

What can I say about my Bridget quilts?  Well, mostly come see them.  Or check them out come June when they go into my etsy store.  But most of all I want to say that puja is a path, and following that path requires letting faith take shape and grow.  Faith is knowing that the path will lead where you need to go.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Puja, hard work, and opening doors.

Honoring a deity can become a fulltime job!

This past winter I began my group coaching practice (with a kickass group exploring women's sexuality and animal spirit guides), continued in my counseling program, worked with new clients as a coach for special needs, and built up my etsy store with quilts honoring Maman Brigitte and St. Bridget!  Lost in the work was keeping up with my Bridget blog.

Yet I have kept up with my writing.   I am working hard on my first totem counseling book, and hope to release it this spring.  Since my work as an augur continues (phoebe has been prevalent in my daily walks), I have expanded my coaching to include animal spirit guides as a means to creating better relationships.  The result of that work has been so much fun!

But at times I have been overwhelmed! Advertising my coaching program, meeting new clients, school work, parenting my kids, quilting and weaving, all of this has required some juggling.  (and sometimes lots of juggling!)  In the meantime, Bridget continues to ride my ass pretty hard, with coaching ideas and new paths opening, and an endless push to healing, art and poetry.

Hang your worship on a deity, and this is what you find.  I have friends who honor Allah and Jesus and Buddha, as well as friends who worship Lugh and Danu and Aengus and Isis and Diana.  Each of these deities will reveal a different path to you the worshipper.  Aengus inspires an artist friend with her pottery; Diana draws another friend in to work with rescued animals; Allah calls for daily remembrance and prayer; Jesus calls for us to leave traditional family and pursue a communal good.

Worship can be bloody hard work!

But the results are so amazing.

Just in the past week, casually walking my dogs (I have a little of Diana in me!), I met a neighbor I haven't seen in years.  Her dogs have passed away, and she no longer walks, but the spring weather brought her outside.  As we talked about her dogs and her grief, she suddenly asked me:  "are you a fiber artist?"  When I told her about my etsy store and my quilts and weaving and smithing, she invited me to a fiber arts guild here in Pennsylvania.  She herself remarked, "I don't know why I just had to ask you that question!"

Then a few days later a poet in the eastern part of Pennsylvania contacted me about sharing our poems and some poetry venues, again completely out of the blue!  Since one of my goals this year is to find more forums for sharing my poetry, this was a great - and surprising - meeting!  These unforeseen opportunities are an example of what puja brings in our life.  Yup, I have been juggling many projects and yup, I have felt Bridget riding my ass, but then She presents opportunities and connections that I never would have dreamed up myself.

So if you are on a puja path, and at times you find worship to be hard work, remember that there is that return moment when puja brings an endlessly opening door.  That is what a relationship with the divine ultimately is - a door to worlds we can not envision.

Faith is holding on until the door can be found.

image © weinelm