UU Church Today, Practice & Voice

Transformation: Letting the light in

As a young girl, I learned my worth was connected to my accomplishments. This pattern of connecting worth to achievements was passed down through many generations in my family, just as it is the case for many families. As an adult—well into my ministry, family, and life—I’ve learned I have the power to transform these patterns. I have incorporated retreats as part of my spiritual practice, allowing me to slow down and take time for myself—liberating myself from the pattern of “doing=worth.”

Drawn Shades Transform

Recently, on retreat in the desert around Tucson, AZ, my friend Joan told me the following story about her grandmother, who became very depressed and withdrawn at the end of her life.  Although her room in a residence for the elderly had a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean, her grandmother kept her shades drawn down all day long. The little round tassel at the end of string that pulled the self-rolling shade down rested on the windowsill, day after day, preventing any light from getting into the room.

Joan’s grandmother died in this darkness when Joan was 10 years-old. Joan’s mother asked her what belonging of her grandmother’s she wanted to have or hold onto. Joan asked for the window shades. Her family obliged. Joan kept those shades through high school, and college, and graduate school. She carried them with her through marriage and motherhood and her career as a professor of art history.

Regardless of where Joan was in her life, the shades stayed rolled up in a closet.

One day Joan pulled the shades out, laid them flat on the floor and started to draw on them.

She wasn’t really drawing though.

She was crushing colors onto the shades, pushing and pressing ocean-greens, sky-blues, flower reds and field-yellows, into the lifeless shades. She worked without a plan or a purpose, rubbing the colors into each other, covering the old living room scrolls with color.

Letting the light in

When the colors had become part of the cloth, Joan cut several circles, in rows, on top of the color. Today, the shades hang in Joan’s home—streaming light through the circles, as they wanted to do, so long ago, in her grandmother’s room.

No one will ever be able to block out the light again with those shades. Joan changed the pattern on the shades, and in her life.

And, I know the light shines on me as brightly when I am resting and useless, as when I am working and productive.

Patterns can be passed down through the generations. And they can also be transformed.

By you.

Join us at All Souls on every Sunday in March to explore the theme of TRANSFORMATION.
We’d love to have you with us in-person or online, together in community and covenant.
Live stream services are at 10:00 a.m. CST for our Traditional service or the 11:30 a.m. CST Contemporary service.
Listen to all our services, including the Humanist Hour (Sundays at 11:30 a.m.) on our weekly podcast, too.

Rev. Barbara Prose serves as the Executive Minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is a regular contributor to and is featured with Dr. Willie Parker in, NPR Builds a Social Justice Relationship. Rev. Prose utilizes her down time to help fuel her efforts for women’s rights, her work with New Sanctuary Network Tulsa, singing with SpiritSong, and ministering to the members of All Souls.

Image Credit: Pixabay


  1. What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

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