In this multi-part series, Avenue Deputy Director Jenifer Wagley, shares her experience as a 2018 Michael Rubinger Fellow. This is Part I.
by Jenifer Wagley, M Div, M Ed
Some of you might know that in 2018 I received the Michael Rubinger Fellowship from national LISC. In so many ways this fellowship publicly acknowledged what I felt in my heart about the beauty, the power, the uniqueness of the work and the leaders in the Northside of Houston. It was a dream come true for me both professionally and personally.
My fellowship project was to take a series of retreats and to write and deliver speeches, presentations and even sermons about my soon to be decade of work with Avenue. The first retreat was in Portland, Oregon with the Center for Courage and Renewal. My all-time favorite author is Parker Palmer. If you have not found his books I encourage you to buy one now—in fact, I’ve purchased his book “Let Your Life Speak” so many times that it is an easy button on my Amazon account. “Healing the Heart of Democracy” is another treasured work, as is “A Hidden Wholeness”. This retreat was a Leadership and Writing Retreat and it catalyzed me into a new understanding of my ability and core desire to write and to teach.
The biggest surprise was that I began writing poetry and have continued doing so. Here is one that speaks directly to my work:
I didn't write about my genius
but the labyrinth told me to....
In my journey my genius never led
my genius never won
it was always my love.
I am the rocky path
by green, glowing, earthen glue.
A green that illuminates
the path of love
the path of truth
the path of community.
I didn’t write about my genius
but the labyrinth told me to….
It was always courage.
It was always desperation and
It was always the trees,
It was always
It was always
Another surprise was that one of the facilitators was the Poet Laureate of Oregon, Kim Stafford. In our conversations together he shared that when the world brings him too much grief, he writes. I responded by saying when the world brings me too much grief I act. He compiled a book of poetry about the Common Good after our conversations.
This retreat both focused and grounded me in savoring a year and a journey like no other. I wrote this poem in recognition that the fellowship itself did not give me time, but it did gift me with perspective:
A Gift of Time
To be given something for which is already yours
and to be grateful for the gift
in a deep, compelling, soulful, gratitude.
To be given time and to find oneself again
for maybe the 100th time;
To be given time and to see again
and to see anew;
To be given time to weave stories,
both yours and mine;
To be given time to see the green mossy trees,
and the grand winding river;
To be given time to journey,
to a new land,
to find many friends
both old and new.
To be given the gift of time
which was always mine;
is the greatest gift
life could give.
In my next post I hope to share about my summer and perhaps one or two of my presentations. Thank you for reading. My hope is that you would take the time this week to think about how love leads in your life and in your work. I invite you to reflect on your relationship with time and to think how it might shift to allow you to see the world around you with new eyes.
Tikkun Olam “to repair the world” my friends.