After a week of preparation and two days of Art-A-Whirl, I was pretty spent yesterday. I took the better part of the day to clean up the kitchen, get my studio office and Direction area back into shape, and do some prep work for a trip to Lake City this coming Sunday.
Leonard was tired, too. Two days of pets, hugs, love – and heat – caused a bit of body stress and spirit tiredness. He spent the better part of the day being lazy, watching people walk by rather than giving them the more spirited “chase and hello”.
At noon we found ourselves in the studio and it seemed like a good time to rest for a few minutes. The cottonwood had been vacuumed off of the rug and chairs, furniture was back in-place, and we needed a break. Leonard settled in on his bed with fan full-on, and I settled in one of my big stuffed chairs. I set my timer to 15-minutes of healing time, and closed my eyes as the Basu chimed and the sound of rain filled the studio.
It was glorious; fifteen minutes of eye-closing respite. I allowed myself some healing time; I focused and re-centered.
Filling my cup (or my soul) is necessary in order for me to continue good work. I need to allow myself the time to simply rest and re-set, so that I can be attentive to others, be fully engaged in my work, and also to be a good partner and friend. We all need to do this essential self-care, but finding the time in our busy lives is sometimes hard. Or – do we simply deny ourselves what we might call a luxury – that which is, in reality, a necessity?
How do you fill your cup? Maybe the better question is, DO you fill your cup? When is the last time you checked in with your body, mind and spirit to find out how you are doing?
I learned the hard way that denial of self-care creates internal and external break down that will eventually lead to a place where everything is out of control. Kindness to self – allowing time for healing and grounding – is essential. It’s not a luxury.
When you feel your rope beginning to fray, allow yourself five, fifteen or thirty minutes to recharge. Offer yourself time for peace and healing. Drink in the gift of renewal for your body, mind and spirit. Re-connect with The Divine in order to connect with self and others. You’ll be glad you did, and everyone else will feel the difference, too.
Amen. May it be so.
Reflection can go two ways – either to cause me to sink into a pity hole or lift me up from the place of reflection to bask in gratitude for simple gifts. Reflection can serve as a reminder of my brokenness – or of my healing – it’s a matter of choice; I get to choose the focus.
This morning I am reflecting on connection that is loving and healing.
A few weeks ago I was approached by two women from my congregation who commissioned a plaque that will be taken to Kongei, Tanzania in Africa. The piece commissioned is a commemoration of eight years of connection – our children and theirs, growing together as community, friends, partners.
I am humbled by the request because there are lots of days I don’t see myself as an artist, but rather that I’m just doing what I’ve been led to do – following this plan that came into my heart. Following a plan that often doesn’t make great sense (in a worldly or financial way), but that fills me and heals me and allows me to connect with people that The Divine places at the threshold of my tent (or my booth or my studio) or who connect with me from someplace thousands of miles away.
Connecting dots is also a humbling experience. It’s not like there’s only one path of these dots leading to one place. I have strands of dots – maybe I could think of them as strands of pearls – each strand starting somewhere different, all leading to the place that is here, in NE Minneapolis, in a small, home-based studio.
Living-life dots, career dots, congregation dots. Personal growth dots, regression dots. Happy dots and incredibly sad dots. Intersecting dots, parallel dots, circuitous dots; even a few polka dots. Regardless the dots and whether they represent people, places, or experiences, they have collectively worked together to bring me here, in this time, connected to space and place, with me showing up the only way I know how.
So, getting back to the reflection on loving and healing: I am not going to Africa, but a piece of me is. A plaque and twenty-five angels to be given as gift to the Kongei people. I am feeling overwhelming love and gratitude – love for people I’ve never met who will receive a part of me, gratitude for those in our congregation who will make the trek, fortify the bond, and work together for the greater good of the children at both Kongei and Grace University Lutheran Church.
The lives that are touched with the work of my hands remind me that there is healing taking place within me. I am following my dots, doing good work, sending prayers filled with love, healing, harmony and peace to a village of people I will likely never meet, but who have entered my heart in a very special way.
Blessings on you and yours. Blessings on our reflections as we do the work of connecting all of our dots to see the beauty that we are, where these connections lead us and, finally, on our love and healing. Amen, may it be so.
If you’ve read my affirmation posts in the past, you already know that I love the image of falling into God’s arms – when spent, tired; when overwhelmed with gratitude, sorrow, emptiness.
For me, today’s affirmation speaks to the SHOULD HAVE DONES in my life; those things that happen where there has been an action – or inaction – on my part that puts me into a place where I choose guilt and / or shame for having done – or not done.
The idea of The Divine as a finger-wagger conflicts with my idea of The Divine as yearning for relationship with me – The Divine as Love, Comfort, Beauty and Grace, just waiting to hold me or catch me in a time where I’ve let the better of me choose guilt or shame instead of realizing that false expectations lead to false guilt. That instead, I can choose to hold onto a sincere understanding and belief that I have done what I could do – that which was within my ability, my wheelhouse, my energy.
I would invite you to meditate for just a few minutes on what letting yourself drop down into God – into Love – might feel like.
Breathe. Relax. Drop your shoulders. Surrender the busyness of a Monday and take 5 – or 10. Find a quiet, sun-drenched place and feel the warmth of the arms of Divine Love wrapping around you, loving you, just as you are. Just as you come; no “should have dones” – only allowing yourself to drop down and into Divine Love.
May we all stop for just a moment and receive this freely-given gift, taking a deep, refreshing breath. Being held by Divine Love, as the beloved child you are. Amen; may it be so.
I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately; some things have popped up (as they do when either not fully processed, or, situationally as I happen to get reengaged) that have brought forgiveness to the front of my mind, which makes forgiving – and its relationship to spiritual growth – hard to ignore.
A book titled, “Don’t Forgive Too Soon: Extending the Two Hands That Heal”, helped me to understand that rushing into forgiving another doesn’t necessarily bring total healing. That, in some cases, there needs to be some extensive processing and work around forgiving. Years of work, even.
A conversation with a friend brought up a different book, “Forgive For Good”; this book outlines a nine-step forgiveness method that ‘makes it possible to move beyond being a victim to a life of improved health and contentment’.
“Forgive For Good” speaks to renting out the real-estate in your head to anger and resentment – that maybe one might consider moving the anger and resentment to a small closet rather than allowing it to take up space on the whole first floor (or maybe every room in the house).
Finally, the mailman brought Presence Magazine, which included an article, “A Closer Look at Forgiveness.” This article moved through common scriptural understanding and teachings about forgiveness, offered some real experiences for consideration, and then spoke to instances where forgiveness may be contra-indicated.
Yes. Contra-indicated. Cases in which:
– it’s too soon;
– anger and other feelings have been suppressed, especially when there is significant trauma;
– it is under duress or pressure, or seen as a moral duty;
– it is part of an abuse cycle;
– it is to help the “perpetrator” in some way (misplaced compassion);
– addictive behaviors are involved;
– it is conditional, e.g., the hope of restored love or acceptance;
– it is for the “greater good”, but damaging to the person;
– an institutional responsibility would be short-circuited;
– there is institutional support for the offending to continue.
Further, the article stated that:
– The outcome for the person who forgives can be freedom and peace, a sense of a hold being broken, an ability to redeploy energy and take back one’s power and strength. The person determines the timing.
– The outcome for a person who sees themselves as withholding forgiveness can be THE SAME AS SOMEONE WHO FORGIVES.
The original Greek scriptural word that has been translated into English as “forgive” has multiple meanings: cry, forgive, forsake, lay aside, leave, let (alone, be, go, have), omit, put, send away, remit, suffer, and yield up. There is nothing about reconciliation, which, it seems, is inferred in the most common understandings of the action of “forgiving”.
Sometimes, it seems that the permission to NOT forgive is what is truly needed, thereby allowing priority to be given to feelings and processing, opening the door to self-compassion and patience, and allowing the healing process to begin.
I am still processing all of this (which I concede is a lot for a Wednesday morning). At the same time, I am processing some old hurt that pops up again and again, letting me know that I’m not done with it yet. The room I give it in my head has gotten smaller and smaller; these days, I imagine that it’s on a shelf in a small linen closet. Every once in a while, though, the door gets opened and the hurt spills out – and then I’m led to think on it once again, moving a bit more forward in the process. Understanding that I don’t need to reconcile with the perpetrator gives me freedom I hadn’t had before. And that actually feels pretty darned good.
Praying that you – and I – allow ourselves compassion and patience – letting the healing process begin – on our time, no one else’s. Blessings on our way. Amen; may it be so.
I started writing about this yesterday, and then the day got away from me. I’m back at it this morning, having a think on it again today – new light, new day, new thoughts.
It seems to me that this affirmation is about trust; does that idea resonate with you? That in the NOT knowing, I am given the gift of stepping out in trust, taking that action – which then fills me with the gifts of grace and beauty.
What comes to mind is security. Or the false sense of security, maybe; stepping out in trust when the rug gets pulled out from under your feet and then standing in a “limbo” of sorts, allowing an opening for grace and beauty to fill us up. There are amazing things that can happen when we surrender and allow.
Seven years ago my job was eliminated and I was sent to a career coach to take tests and figure out what my next steps should be and where I should focus my job search. I’m not really certain how these things work – that is, were my answers to questions steeped in hope or in reality? Did I, because of hope for drastic change, answer the questions on the tests the way I wanted in order to get the answer I wanted? Or – was I led by Spirit and Divine Intervention to answer according to the way Spirit and the Divine wanted my steps to go?
If I had gotten a glimmer of the hard knocks rather than a glimmer of freedom, might I have chosen not to listen and take to heart the results of all those tests?
As it turned out, grace and beauty – or, I should write, “Grace and Beauty” – came in the NOT knowing. I took the drastic step of trust that I was being guided by Spirit and Divine to breathe a different, life-giving air. Air that gave me freedom and unlimited joy. Air that provided fresh perspectives. Air – or a hearty wind – that carried with it thousands of people who have blessed my life with their stories, tears, laughter, heartbreak, joy. Sharing themselves with me, allowing me to share myself with them.
I am grateful that I took the action of stepping out in trust, believing that I would be cared for; believing that, if God can care for a sparrow, God will care for me. The Divine has kept old – and brought new – friends and acquaintances into my life who have blessed me over and over and over again. The road hasn’t always been easy, but that’s part of the deal – I can be angry, frustrated, and thankfully honest – I can give those feelings their due, and then move into the joy of grace, beauty and thanksgiving – for the difficult AND the easy.
I am so much more full now than I ever imagined I could be, or ever would be. And I am grateful for the NOT knowing, and for the courage that I had to believe that something bigger than me was leading me to step out in trust.
We don’t always have to have the answers. It’s helpful to ask the right questions, though, and to have an open heart, mind and spirit to discern what’s next on the path.
Blessings as you ponder your questions and allow openness to offer new perspectives. Be ready for Grace and Beauty to fill your cup.
Amen, may it be ever, ever so.
Yesterday evening I was watering the plants in our boulevard garden; an older woman (definitely in her upper 80’s) shuffled past and we exchanged hellos. Although she was determined in her walk, she moved excrutiatingly slow; her cane kept her steady.
Forty minutes later, I saw her about a block down, heading back toward my house. This time, she was accompanied by a young woman (maybe 20) who held her arm. I made the assumption that the women must be related, and that the young woman had been the older woman’s destination.
Then, out of nowhere, my neighbor across the street, Glorie (who is well into her 80’s), rushed out of her house, hurriedly crossed the parkway, and stopped the pair at the alleyway. Glorie had obviously been watching when the older woman passed the first time, and sensed something wasn’t quite right. Now there were three; together they approached me as I shut off the water supply to my hose.
Glorie asked if I could drive the woman home – she already knew that I would, and I replied, “Of course!”, understanding that she had already offered me up (which was fine – we have lots of ‘understandings’ like that between us).
I made my way to the studio and grabbed my keys, got my truck started, and turned onto the street. The three were working their way to the far corner of the crossroad in order to make getting into my truck easier for my passenger-to-be.
You’re probably wondering what in the world all of this has to do with today’s affirmation. Let me see if I can make the connection (for all of us – me included).
After getting my passenger into the truck (which was neither pretty nor easy), I introduced myself and learned that her name is Elsie. She was very distraught and anxious; she apologized again and again for the inconvenience, and repeatedly told me how stupid she felt. My heart hurt for her and I prayed that she might calm down.
Elsie was able to direct me to her home and we parked. I got out, came around to her side, helped her down and out of the truck. She found her keys, we said our goodbyes, and she slowly made her way up her sidewalk and into her home.
Elsie, tired, spent and vulnerable, had hands open to receiving Grace last night. In her vulnerability, she allowed Grace to enter.
The young woman, too. She found Elsie and helped her to walk steady. She was willing to give of herself to make Elsie’s way easier, and clearly was willing to walk her all the way home.
Glorie, too. She used the wisdom of her years to see not only potential disaster, but also a solution for Elsie. She was willing to inquire about need, make an assessment, take the steps necessary to implement a plan.
I was simply the holder of tools: a vehicle, a driver’s license, and the willingness to say, “Yes.”
Grace.Pouring down, washing over, reminding me that Grace Opportunities are something for which we were made. Last night’s Grace Opportunity was beautiful. I imagine that Elsie, Glorie and the young woman are feeling that way today, too.
Praying that we might have eyes wide open to see the Grace Opportunity that presents itself today. What might that look like?
Amen. May it be so.
A few weeks ago there were upwards of thirty robins in our yard. I put water in the bird bath that sits outside my studio door and watched as the robins dipped and flapped and cleaned the winter’s dust from their bodies. I emptied and filled the bath several times over the course of the day; it was incredibly joyful to see how appreciative the birds were for this little oasis on their way to someplace else. I was grateful that our yard and I could be of service to these dirty, hungry travelers.
And before dawn broke this morning, the birds began their bright song. I hunkered down under the blankets for a while to listen, but as each bird responded to the earliest bird (whom I presume got the worm), the early morning life-song grew louder and louder and it begged me to get up. I was blessed to take in the shadow-shifting from my kitchen window as the morning light expanded and rose up from the east, higher and higher from behind the trees and houses.
And as the sun rose, the birds just kept on singing their morning song; I paused for a moment to reflect on my response to morning; it is hardly the joyous racket of birds, but rather a slow movement, akin to Leonard’s chasing a toy. He is no retriever, and I am no bird.
Birdsong is affirmation of life. Listening to birdsong is also an affirmation of life; it might well be God’s voice welcoming the day, an invitation to take pause and listen. It also might be an opportunity to receive the gift of peace that comes in the earliest morning, as one gratefully welcomes the sun, bringing with it another day where we might choose presence over worry, living over existing.
I invite you to listen tomorrow, and the tomorrow after, and the tomorrow after that. Take pause. Be affirmed. Seize the day and all that it brings.
Peace and comfort and joy be yours today. Amen. May it be so.
Do you ever resist being good to yourself? Have you ever resisted taking a 15-minute nap that you desperately needed? Ever in a funk that makes you snarky with yourself and all the people around you?
Aha. Then we DO have some things in common.
Take time to be good to yourself. Rest.
Breathe more slowly and more presently. Count your breath’s intake and try to double the number for your breath’s output. This is the practice of being present to self. Within a short time, you will relax and find rest.
I like to be productive – I am learning, however, that I have a lot more JOY in productivity after two hours on my feet and a 15-minute break in the sun. I’d like to invite you to slow down – either a sun break or a quiet place break. By slowing down for a few minutes, your muscles will relax, your shoulders will loosen; doesn’t that just sound awesome?
When I’m hard on myself, what’s the true underlying reason for the attitude? In my case, it’s usually because I am physically and emotionally spent. Once I step back and really check-in, I can self-correct and make necessary changes to get more rest, and also be a bit kinder to self (It’s always easier to be kinder to a friend than myself, but that’s just not good self-care). See yourself in a more loving way and be gentle and kind to YOU.
Resting, slowing down, accepting our limits, offering ourselves kindness – these are the things that renew us.
Which brings me to . . .
Today’s Affirmation Part 2: The best bridge between hope and despair is often a good night’s sleep. Psalm 127:2
I don’t think I can say it any better myself.
Renew. Allow yourself time to shift back to the kinder, gentler, more loving you. And get some shuteye. You’ll love you more, as will those around you.
Amen – may it be so.
Third semester of school was rough for me; Patty had been diagnosed with cancer and our position was one of powerlessness. We had often talked about “what if?” as it relates to a cancer diagnosis; what would I do? What would she do? The thing is, when the “what if” becomes a reality, it’s a game-changer.
I am well aware that we are not alone in having had this struggle. People, once they became aware of our story – Patty’s story, really – couldn’t help but share their own with us. I think that this happens because they have become empowered to share. Empowered simply by making it to the other side of the experience.
And so it came to third semester, a time during which I thought I could emotionally manage Patty’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgeries, as well as my school load.
But, not so much. I failed the semester. I was powerless in my ability to strive and thrive. I fell into a pit of despair, numbing out by drinking too much and not engaging in life. The reality was that I was a mess.
My teachers told me that I would not be put forward unless I did some soul searching and writing about accompanying Patty through the cancer journey, and my writing had to meet their expectation of depth and insight.
A power play, it seemed, which made me very angry.
Anger is not something I do well. I became a boiling pot of muck bubbling and shooting out steam; rising up and over the edges of the pot, spilling and spitting. Who did they think they were? Why wasn’t I getting a pass for what I’d been through? The “I’ll show you” attitude reared its head in an ugly way, and I spiraled down further into the dark pit of self-pity and ick that had begun to form in September.
A few weeks went by and I did nothing; well, the reality is that I did do something – I groused about the assignment and crabbed about the unfairness of it all. And then, after about 3 weeks of grousing and crabbing, along came a shift.
I moved out of the comfortable (yet uncomfortable) place of self-pity into a place of humility. I admitted my ugliness. I put a spotlight on the ugly and welcomed it in. I embraced it as a part of the whole me.
I admitted my anger.
I gave recognition to my despair.
I faced my demons.
I welcomed them.
I gave them their due.
And, finally, I wrote about them.
Depression, powerlessness, anger, panic, fear, grief, confusion, reactivity, exhaustion, resentment, passive-aggressiveness, avoidance, isolation, separation from friends, family, and God.
Ugh. And that’s just the beginning of a very long list.
But here’s the miracle: From a position of powerlessness, I found me again. I cried. I punched at God verbally. I was honest and true to what I was feeling. I didn’t hide behind denial, but offered up the broken me and asked for help. I lifted my eyes to the mountain, and from it came my help.
Easy? No. However, from the experience of going THROUGH it, I have come to the other side. Empowered. Healthy. Self-aware. Honest. Having found my voice, speaking my truth. Seeing once again that from death comes resurrection – day after day after day.
Today I invite you to not only welcome your demons, but also to embrace your gifts. We are what we are, shadow and light. Celebrate the whole you. It is only by welcoming, embracing and celebrating, that we truly become whole and empowered and powerful.
Amen. May it be so.
It’s a dreary day in Minneapolis; it’s been raining on and off for days now, and that only adds to the dreariness of things. There is gift in the rain, though, as I can see my lawn regenerate, plants peek their heads through the soil as they are given renewed life through the watering. I know there are many beauties that haven’t made their way to the surface yet, and so I await their coming.
I sat in my studio this morning during my prayer time. I have the ritual of morning and evening prayer, and some days it’s in the house, other days in the studio, even others in my car or simply offering up an acknowledgment when I have the moment, generally due to oversleeping or some urgency that displaces the ritual for a time.
I have learned through various grapevines that a few friends have had tough times of late. Dis-ease, death, unexpected life changes. I listen to the news, where the rhetoric of the day is separation and hate disguised as building our nation into a better state. Which group set apart as “other” will be the group of the day? It seems there are lots of choices to pick from. Immigrants today, Muslims yesterday, those who identify as LGBTQ will get the lashing tomorrow.
So I pray, asking to see the love, asking to be the love, for those who are “other”. I am choosing to believe that we all have a lot more in common than what those things that make us different from each other and that are being chosen as point of separation.
Jesus sat with the marginalized. His mission wasn’t to hang out with the folks that had it all, but rather to love those who were “other” – to offer them a radical love based simply on their being human. He got angry in the temple because of the injustice and the cheating of the poor by those who were taking advantage. He loved the woman at the well because she was disenfranchised, marginalized and set apart. He called for changes in heart – there is freedom in loving those who are different. There will always be “other”; I have felt that sting myself, and not just once. Every time someone asks me, “What are you?”, I am reminded of the little girl in grade school whose skin was just a bit darker than the majority. How does it feel? I used to feel ashamed of being different. Now I choose to rejoice in the uniqueness of me.
And so today I pray for the “other” to whom I am connected, simply because I am human. I pray for you. I pray for me. We are connected, as distasteful as that might sound; that is our humanity. If we choose love – really choose LOVE – there isn’t room for hate, or separation, or entitlement, or power position. Because if we really choose love, we want all of us to do better. To be better. To be included. To feel connection.
I’ve been waiting for them; as the days have been lengthening, I’ve been wondering when they would show themselves through their early morning song. They are heartily at it this morning, chirping like crazy!
The songbirds bring me joy. They are busy birds, nesting and going about their bird business. They have Spring purpose, which will be evident soon enough when baby birds present themselves. I am reminded that each bird comes with it’s own song – its own voice – its own purpose.
What is my voice today? What is it saying to me?
In school last week there was a presentation done by one of my classmates on Henri Nouwen, I didn’t know much about him, and the presentation intrigued me enough to dig in. I had bought a Nouwen book at the beginning of the semester, but because it wasn’t required reading, I hadn’t cracked it open until two days ago. I am liking this Nouwen character; what I’m reading is humbling me, which, it seems, was something of which I was in need.
What I’ve realized this morning (or maybe what was revealed to me this morning) is that often I quash my inner voice – the songbird within. I don’t want to sit with the silence long enough. I have other things to do. I am busy. Busy. Which equates to an avoidance in order to keep being busy so that I don’t have to acknowledge my inner voice. Hmm.
If I believe what I say, which is that The Divine / God / Spirit lives IN me, then whose voice am I avoiding? It would seem to be the voice that calls me “Beloved.”
I knew all of this; I was just being avoidant. As Spirit often works, it just happened to be through a presentation that led to a book that led to a revelation that I had some excavating work to do. There is no coincidence, you know.
And so I go.
Praying for deepening place and space; place and space where I can sit in the silence willingly, listen for the voice within, trusting The Divine / God / Spirit to reveal those things to which I need to pay attention. Listen to the song within my heart, the still small voice that says, “Love.”
Blessings and prayers that I / you / we not only hear, but also listen to the songbirds – within and without.
Today I have been writing a paper for class. The assignment was to take a current “issue” and dissect it from three perspectives – our surrounding culture growing up, our religious tradition, and our life experience.
Currently, I am struggling with food. I have become compulsive; like the Lay’s commercial states, “You can’t eat just one.” And that seems to be the issue around just about everything put in front of me, beside me, behind me, on the table, in the car, in the studio, etc., etc., etc.
I’ve had food issues before; how much, what, when, where. As in how many servings is one (really? that little??)? What am I eating versus what might be a better choice? When am I eating? All the time, or only when I’m hungry? Where? At the table? In front of the TV? In the car? In the studio?
I don’t even like to think about where the compulsion has come from, how it started, when it started, or why it continues to dog me. However, in writing about it, I’ve discovered there are some old tapes that affect me, and that I need to figure out my own story, delete the tapes, find the better me.
And so, I am accepting that I am so totally imperfect. And that’s okay. I am loving myself where I am at the moment, and seeing that I have the strength and capabilities to make change. This isn’t my first rodeo. I am standing at a place where I can willingly forgive those who associated shame with food in my life (as in scarcity, waste, judgment of good or bad), and am simply allowing myself to be who I am, with a recharged plan for self-improvement.
And in that, I can better meet others where they are, can have more compassion and love, can allow for expansion of self. Expansion of heart. Expansion of mind.
Praying for better self control, more compassion and love, and movement forward toward the place I want to be. One day at a time. All things are possible – even this. Blessings on your journey, on your forgiveness, on your acceptance, on your change – if need be. And if not, blessings. Period.