don’t silence your passions

don’t silence your passions

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My energy level has been like the weather lately. 

One day I feel sunny and full of energy and the next day, I feel weighed down by cloudiness and torrential rain.  

It’s probably not that dramatic but I am paying attention to the ebbs and flows of my moods. Not in a way of judging myself but with an awareness of the toll of this suspension time. It does feel as if we are in the center of a suspension bridge, each side is anchored, we are in the middle taking sure steps as well as shaky ones and sometimes a gust of wind or passing traffic gets too close and threatens to send us flying. 

I am realizing when days are stacked with sameness, weariness creeps in. It doesn’t take a monumental shift to create a lift in mood. It can be as simple as doing or seeing something different across the perpetual landscape of your life.

Fridays are pizza night and we each made our own personal pizzas. Caleb was last to take his pizza from the oven to cool and left the house to take care of our neighbors’ cats. He came through the front door a minute later surprising us with the speed of his caretaking.

He said, “Guys, you gotta come see this!”

Carl and I left our chairs and walked down the block in socks and slippers and started to hear guitar music. Neighbors were spread out along the block before ours listening, clapping, and dancing to a mariachi band.   New neighbors were celebrating their marriage, a new home, and workers all over the world. A table was full of party favors of coffee, cupcakes, and small bags of toilet paper rolls and hand sanitizer. Carl and I went back into our house to get our masks and shoes for him. We loved chatting with our new and old neighbors who live so close to us but feel miles away as well. Once we returned to our pizzas, grins dotted our faces and our spirits were buoyed.

I had a similar buoyant feeling when I recently hosted a silent book club* via Zoom.

Have you ever heard of a silent book club?

Silent book clubs turn the traditional book club format upside down.

Silent book clubs gather together for a set time to read silently a book of choice then each member discusses the book they are reading.

I had always thought this idea might avoid some of the potential book club pitfalls but I tucked it away for another time. Until I spotted this article about what silent book club groups were doing in light of the pandemic. ZOOM. I immediately sent the article to my mother and daughters and each one was intrigued and interested.

Two Saturdays ago, I hosted my first silent book club over Zoom. 

There were 6 book lovers in attendance. Each one of us brought a book to read silently for 30 minutes. Some read on their phone, e-reader, or from physical books. We didn’t all know one another so after quick introductions, we held up the books we would be reading.  The genres were varied as were the reason for each selection. 

  • Starting a new book
  • Giving a novel written in verse a second try
  • The next book in a juicy series
  • One of many books currently reading
  • A book almost finished
  • A library book that one day will need to be returned

We set a timer, muted our microphones, and read for half an hour. Our meeting time was during the lunch hour and people were free to munch and sip while reading. After time was up, we talked about our books which garnered additional discussions and questions. We talked about how our reading life had been affected by this stay-at-home time period.  We batted around the question of whether audiobooks count as reading. We gave each other book suggestions. We chatted about how many pages to give a book before setting aside.  We all agreed to meet again soon.

 After the book club was over, I was energized for the rest of the day. There is a kinship created when sharing a passion. This video chat wasn’t about solving a work problem or recounting a litany of the redundancy of a day, it allowed each one of us to step outside the noise of a week, even the quiet of our neighborhoods and cities can feel loud, beautiful at times, but still loud.  We were able to carve a tiny space to welcome a beloved pastime.  There was something uniting about sitting in silence together while doing a loved activity. 

If you are not a book lover, this might seem like the most insane or, as someone in my home may have said, a lame idea. But I think you could gather across screens around any type of passion.

You could knit with someone and discuss your creations.

You could set your screen to show the length of your table and work on puzzles together.

You could gather a bouquet of flowers from your yard and share what blooming, what seeds you plan to plant, what vegetables you dream of harvesting. Or give a virtual tour of your yard.

Have a set of photos printed in advance to put in a photo album and play “show and tell” during the process of documenting life. 

Gather the ingredients, prop up a phone, and make the same recipe together. 

Songwriters share your songs with each other, poets whisper your poems. 

Unfold your easels and paint together. 

Our family watches Survivor together in 3 different locations but we are united in debating whose torch will be snuffed out each week. 

How can you celebrate and share your passions? 

Find one way this week.

*****

 

May you encounter your neighbors this week in meaningful ways.

May you recognize any passion you have silenced during this shuttered away time.

May you seek connection with a fellow lover of what sets your soul ablaze.

May you be gentle and kind to yourself on days when your energy is depleted.

 

*silent book clubs may be an introvert’s dream, however, our group was a mixture of introverts and extroverts and I think it made the perfect combination!

messengers

messengers

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We had a rough week. 

It wasn’t related to the Coronavirus, but yet it was. The parameters established, although critical, can make situations more challenging and ladle stress on top of what already resided. The details aren’t important because I am confident at this crisis point, we can all fill in the blank regarding a hard circumstance compounded because of new limitations.

Today is better.

This past week when I was feeling a bit fragile and shaky, I paid particular attention to the words  read and heard. There seemed to be a repetition of words as well as harmony of theme.  I would have missed the impact of these words if I hadn’t decided to slow down, shunning stress and anxiety.

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe what some might call a coincidence is simply a messenger or an invitation to pay attention. 

Over the years, I have practiced lectio divina which means divine or spiritual reading. Now before these Latin words cause you to glaze over, think of these two words as describing the posture you could take while listening to a friend. 

Imagine a friend sharing a piece of wisdom or insight. You listen and mull the words over in your mind. This is possible because you have made time, no hurrying or rushing to the next appointment.  You ask your friend to utter the words again and once again you listen, lingering over the words to see if they take on any new meaning. Without fear of redundancy or seeing rolling eyes, you ask your dear friend to say the words once more, because these are good words.  Your friend smiles, speaks the words aloud and now the conversation begins.

In lectio divina, you are the one who speaks the words aloud. You are the one who mulls and reflects and turns the words and phrases upside down until you are right side up. You are the one who initiates conversation with your Maker.

So many spoken words surround us on a given day. News reports, bad news, phone calls, words during a meeting, kids bickering over the remote control, or simply the people in your home talking loudly. 

How often do you read aloud, softly, and slowly?

When was the last time you heard words spoken over yourself, in your voice?

 What if you paused and considered what these particular words could teach or guide you on this particular day?

What if instead of reading words quickly and moving to the next task, you allowed yourself to linger over words over, over, and over again? 

How many epiphanies have been missed because of refusing to slow down and sit with words?

 Perhaps you might exit the time of lectio divina with a lighter heart, a new resolve, or with renewed hope. 

My invitation to you is to try lectio divina. 

I will guide you.  

Last week, I kept stumbling across two scriptures and a very well-known prayer. I heard the verses on podcasts and read them in books. The prayer was repeatedly posted by attendees in the chatbox of my Weight Watchers virtual meeting. Go figure.
I tend to rush over passages I know quite well. But when I read the words out loud and without hurrying, I uncover unmined gems.

Below I have included the prayer and the two scriptures I found great comfort in this past week.

Choose one.

Following these three options, I adapted the practice of lectio divina for you and have provided additional resources at the end of this post.

 

/1/

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

 

/2/

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: 6-7 (NLT)


/3/

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:25-34 (NLT)

*****

  • Find a quiet place. I realize this could be a challenge during this time. 
  • If you desire, a pen and journal can be helpful to have on hand to jot down any thoughts which arise. 
  • Take a few breaths as you anticipate the gift of this invitation. 

 

Read the passage slowly and aloud.

What words or phrases stand out?
What do you sense God is saying to you through these words or phrases?

Take a moment to listen.

 

Read slowly and aloud a second time.

From those words and phrases, is there an invitation God is extending to you?
How do these words or phrases apply to your life right now?

Take a moment to listen.

 

Read slowly and aloud for a final time.

Journal your thoughts, questions, concerns, resistance, desire to change directions, or simply speak these words and have a conversation with God.
What do you need from God?
What can you thank Him for?
What are you grateful for?

 

Well done, friend. 

You can practice with any passage of your choosing. I hope you will.

Keep listening.

*****

May we experience familiar words in new and fresh ways this week.
May the loss of familiar ways draw us closer to God who longs to settle our spirits.
May we breathe and allow our spoken voice to bring new revelation or gentle comfort.
May we slow down and give ourselves permission to be soothed by our Maker.

 

More about lectio divina.

I have used this journal over the years.

This book.

 

enough

enough

 

water coming from dhunge dhara
Photo by Ashan Rai on Pexels.com

On Easter Sunday, while cutting fruit for brunch, I remembered the fruit was intended to accompany our dinner. Our supply of produce was dwindling as we shop less often now. I quickly grabbed six ramekins and divided up the fruit for the three of us, enough for brunch and dinner. While I placed the dinner fruit cups in the refrigerator, it dawned on me that if this scenario had played out a couple of months earlier, Carl or I probably would have made a quick run to the corner store because we needed to have enough for both meals. When in reality, we had plenty.

*****

On a Monday, March 23rd to be exact, I posted a photo on Instagram of a red tea kettle. I wrote of walking into the kitchen, pushing the power button to start my electric kettle only to see all the temperature control lights flashing in rapid motion, signaling its demise. My first inclination was to check Amazon to see how quickly a replacement could arrive, even with Prime, a delivery wouldn’t happen until the end of April. Carl checked our storage room and found two kettles from the past, one was truly worthy only of the trash but the other one was in perfect condition. It was a kettle I had enjoyed using until I imagine something flashier caught my eye. I also wrote about how I had the sneaking suspicion the time we were entering might reveal our shadow sides. I had gotten a view of mine. Two Sundays, separated by 5 weeks has been illuminating. 

Has it been for you as well?

*****

I’m not proud of my knee jerk response to what I sensed as a lack in my life, attempting to fill it with an Amazon delivery. I’m saddened by my blindness to the abundance within my hands’ reach and how easily I open my front door to obtain more. The tea kettle was broken but I had several options besides using a discarded one. There was boiling water in a pot upon my stove, heating a mug of water in my microwave or even running the tap until it was toasty hot.  I have so very much when so many have so little. I have a storage room for my overflow. I see tiny movement towards contentment when I set these two Sundays apart and I pray the trend grows in spite of my privileged ways.

*****

Many people have described this time in our world as a sabbath, a time to rest or a reset. I agree with each one. I also would add the word “fast”. We are fasting or taking a break from our usual way of moving about our days and world. Most fasts are by choice, but this one has been thrust upon everyone abruptly. There wasn’t a lot of preparation like last meals at favorite restaurants or one final movie theater outing. You know the important things when life or death is on the line. Had we known, how would we have conducted ourselves? I think we have an idea and it can be summed up by the words toilet and paper. 

We are creatures who do not thrive on the unknown, the loss of control or the fear of scarcity. I am raising my hand as well. 

If you have ever fasted from sugar, the first days can be brutal and mind consuming.  But with time, the true sense of taste is restored or reset and a bite of a strawberry, a natural food, tastes like honey from heaven. Taking a break from artificial sweetness allows our taste buds to be satisfied by simplicity. 

*****

During Lent, I practiced decreasing my critical internal dialogue. I became aware of a tendency to complain in my mind as if rehearsing the evidence for a court case.
Whenever I found myself tempted to flip the switch of criticism, I would try to turn that reflex off by speaking a blessing aloud. I hope one day this won’t be just a practice but a fast to completion.

There are many things I am missing during this time of isolation. I am trying to rehearse the opposite whenever I am inclined to remember the former days.

*****

I miss walking to the library during the week and seeing my favorite librarians and often a friend. 

I am grateful for walks around my neighborhood and a house full of books, including library books I get to keep for much longer than anticipated.

I miss going to the movies.

I am grateful for having extra time to introduce our teen to our favorite movies he hasn’t seen. 

I miss jumping in the car to go somewhere, anywhere, just because.

I am grateful for less money spent on gas, fewer miles on our cars and a break from traffic jams.

I miss not being concerned about my physical proximity to others.

I am grateful for a friend who shared her handmade masks and a daughter who shared her overflow to keep us safe.


What are you missing today?

 How can you embrace the loss and fill it with gratitude?

May our satisfaction come not from the things we buy or possess.
May our hands open more to give than receive.
May this time of ceasing from life’s abundance of artificial sweeteners heighten our tastes for what is lasting and real.
May our contentment come from a deep place of hope and peace.

 

rhythms

rhythms

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During the summer of 2012, I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s book An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. I have a certain fondness for books read in the summer. A book has to be enticing to lure one away from playing in the sunshine.

I was consumed with this book because it was everything I believed but didn’t have the beautiful language to convey. This blog was started in 2006 and named A Work of Heart with the tagline, paying attention to God in our midst. I wanted to write about all the ways God shows up in everyday life. Reading this book made me feel understood and embraced. It’s my deepest hope to lay down words here which more often point to God than to me. It’s the place where I get to share about the geography of my faith.

“Or I can set a little altar in the world or in my heart. I can stop what I am doing long enough to see where I am, who I am there with, and how awesome the place is. I can flag one more gate to heaven–one more patch of ordinary earth with ladder marks on it–where the divine traffic is heavy when I notice it and even when I do not. I can see it for once, instead of walking right past it, maybe even setting a stone or saying a blessing before I move on to where I am due next.”
~An Altar in the World

We have plenty of time to take notice of our surroundings and our lives now. There are no longer the perpetual distractions and busyness of appointments, events, practices, sports, etc. In many ways, we don’t have the luxury to look away and bury our thoughts in a full schedule anymore. We have the gift of being able to reflect longer and deeper than usual if we dare. 

We don’t have to redecorate our homes to make a place of refuge, a respite from the storms which rage throughout our world. It’s as simple as lighting a candle at the beginning and the end of each day. Maybe it’s pulling out the good dishes while you eat grilled cheese sandwiches and telling jokes during dinner. You could sit on your porch with a book, making sure to greet all who walk past. Or spread a blanket on your front steps and drink a favorite beverage. Yesterday, we anchored a crate to our giant maple tree along our parking strip and filled it with bottles of bubbles for passing children, hoping to impart a tiny bit of airborne joy from our home to theirs. 

In what ways can your home become a place of refuge and rest in a weary world?

Those who have loved Barbara Brown Taylor’s writing have often borrowed a question she was asked when invited to speak.

“What do you want me to talk about?” I asked him.

“Come tell us what is saving your life now,” he answered. It was if he had swept his arm across a dusty table and brushed all the formal china to the ground. I did not have to try to say correct things that were true for everyone. I did not have to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church. All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could, and then find some way to talk about it that helped my listeners figure out those same things for themselves.”

Recently, I have been closing some posts by recounting what has helped over the past week. It is the same as describing what is saving my life. 

Daily rhythms are saving my life right now. When I look over the past month, there have been productive days and days when I felt kind of crummy inside and out. There have been days the pace of a snail and other days I couldn’t believe it was time to fix dinner. 

The consistent part of my days has been maintaining, adhering to and if I am honest, running towards my rhythms. They have been an anchor during this turbulent time. I have written these ways before but repetition is the beauty of rhythms and routines. The value multiplies over time.

At night, I write in my journal documenting the day. This helps me remember and drains my brain so I can sleep. It’s kind of like how I wished I  had written down EVERY funny or cute thing my children said instead of thinking I would NEVER forget them. This is for the same reason, I will forget. I want to remember.

After I finish writing, I bring my Bible, studies, other journals (#writer problems), planner and whatever book I want to read in the morning. It could be non-fiction, fiction or a devotional book. I make a stack in front of my chair at our dining room table. Sometimes I fill a glass of water and place it on the table as well. I love cold water but sometimes room temperature water feels better in the morning. I pray, write or recite any verse I want to memorize and usually write a card to send. 

This rhythm circles my day. My end of the day rhythm helps me sleep and prepares me for the next day. The day begins in a way that brings me peace and direction for the hours ahead.  Each has become a sturdy signpost drawing my attention away from fretting. A colorful journal to remind me of the beauty in a day when the world seems to have shifted to black and white hues. A small stack of hope to help affix to my heart and mind. 

A signpost could be reading glasses to remember to read or running shoes as a nudge towards the outdoors. It might be a water bottle to stay hydrated or a sticky note with the word BREATH in bold letters. Rhythms don’t have to be complicated or take hours. Try one thing, repeat it and see if it adds value to each day. We all have rhythms whether we are conscious of them or not, now is a wonderful time to create rhythms to strengthen you now and hopefully will last way beyond this patch of time. 

 

What’s saving your life right now?

May the gift of each day, whether filled with easy or difficult parts, be anchored by rhythms to equip you with peace and stability. May your dwelling place feel like a sanctuary of rest and hope.

hugs and grief

hugs and grief

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Sometime during the early swirling days when we were learning how to conduct ourselves whenever we braved the world beyond our walls, Caleb and I happened to walk across a parking lot and heard his name called.

Suddenly I saw a blur of swinging hair and as I swiveled my head to get a better view, Caleb and a childhood friend advanced towards each other with arms outstretched.  At that moment, I smiled because of my recognition of two long time friends but I also heard from behind me, a voice say “Don’t touch each other!” As if I had been dazed, I snapped back into reality, this newfound reality, and watched as the duo stopped quickly enough to achieve an air hug. From a distance, two moms stood wearing the same facial expressions of joy tangled up with sadness because, despite affection, touching can be dangerous.  I won’t soon forget the image of two friends grasping at the space around them to attempt an embrace.

*****

Two Sundays ago, we did a family check-in. We talked about how we each were doing and how we could be praying for one another. Some of us had a lot to say and some did not.

Since we all process and cope in different ways, it is perfectly fine to not have words to adequately describe our emotions. 

I think it is important to keep asking (and asking in different ways, without nagging) allowing for pauses, to give opportunities for fuller answers.  Last week, one of the house dwellers stated, “I’m tired.” Had I rushed to relate or offer a “solution” instead of waiting, I would have missed the fuller response a few breaths later of “I’m tired of this.” Two very different statements spaced apart, a tiny megaphone revealed their current status. 

Another aspect of our checking in with each other has been naming our grief. For example, last weekend, Caleb and a friend were to be away for outdoor school counselor training. It’s disappointing this won’t happen. We are endeavoring to not ignore the crossed off items on the calendar, we are speaking them out loud and honoring the loss. It’s a personal loss but it also extends to countless six graders who are missing this experience. Speaking aloud the canceled event helped loosen his tongue to express a fear of his school year not resuming. Saying the words doesn’t lessen the pain but it does allow the hidden fear to escape from hiding among our deepest thoughts which tend to bore a hole for anxiety to fill. 

We are embarking on a time frame when the activities we have been holding out hope for will be laid aside, postponed or canceled. There has been bad news and the possibility of more news to be received in the future.  Each of our points of grief are important and never meant to be a contest to determine whose is the biggest or the hardest. It can feel this way at times when we hear of so many different ways others are feeling the effects of this solitary time mingled with losses.

The worst grief is always yours.

This is a quote from David Kessler, a grief expert and a recent guest on Unlocking Us podcast hosted by Brené  Brown. If you are not listening to her podcast, I would highly recommend it. I listen to many podcasts in my normal life but there have been very few I feel drawn to now. She has such a soothing voice and perhaps the science related to our emotions feels essential right now.

This quote has allowed me to have compassion for myself alongside empathy for others. 

It is not a comparison game, we feel what we feel. Allow yourself to feel your sadness and if you are able, express it to others. If nothing else, take a deep breath, exhale and wrap your arms around yourself. We all need to keep breathing and feel a hug, even if it is our own. 

*****

What has been helping me:

Being vigilant about what I watch, listen to or read.

Deciding to stop apologizing about sleeping longer in the morning.

Listening to this podcast and this one.

Using this app.

My end of day journal- I read my first entry a few days ago, the day began with my wondering about my jury duty service and ended with our governor limiting gatherings to ten people. In case you are wondering, I will serve in December. In case you are also wondering, I am not perfect in this practice. My mind is easily scattered and I haven’t written in it in several days. But I am glad when I have written in it.

A new mantra-The days are both slow and fast.
I am extending myself grace when I don’t feel productive. 

Good mood songs. I put this song and this one on my Spotify playlist twice to increase the probability of hearing them.

I am praying for more lovely days and dream of summer breezes for all of us.

May God fill the spaces within our lives which suddenly feel vacant and less occupied in the days to come. May He pour out His presence and banish loneliness and emptiness. May He extend His mercy and comfort to bridge the gap from our inability to embrace each other the way we want and are accustomed.

Lord have mercy.

 

seeds of hope

seeds of hope

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Note: This is not the post I wrote earlier last week for today. Who knows, I might post that particular post sometime during the week. These are some of the words that began to percolate when my head hit my pillow last Friday night/early Saturday morning depending on how you look at the time after midnight. It seems audacious to write a pep talk when we are perhaps on the precipice of some very dark days in our history. It also feels hard as those of the Christian faith begin to mark Holy Week leading up to Easter. But my heart began to race as laid on my pillow and then rose to scribble some words in the dark before I returned to my covers. 

*****

A few posts ago, I mentioned my intention to plant nasturtiums along our fence line.

Later on, I realized I hadn’t explained the significance.

There are have been markers in my life, you could call them signposts in nature which have been instructive as well as given me hope, especially during times of trial.

Ladybugs have been one, dragonflies are another and of the flowering variety, nasturtiums.

Nasturtiums seeds are hard and wrinkly, I think they resemble little brains.
The seeds can be large or small, in various hues of brown. A seed packet might suggest nicking or sanding the seeds with a file or even soaking them in water for quicker germination.  They can be planted in full sun or part shade. They grow best in poor soil, in fact, if heavily fertilized, the seeds will produce mainly leaves and few flowers. They can endure outside attacks as I can attest as one summer, an animal developed the habit of digging up the plants during the night. Each morning after plenty of sighing,  I would pat the roots back into their patches of the earth. In spite of this harsh treatment, the plants flourished and continued to bloom into the winter. They are a species that welcomes neglect to bring forth beauty to the eye as well as a peppery taste to the tongue.

We come in all shapes and sizes, beliefs and ideals, hopes and dreams, burdens and concerns yet we are united by this time of crisis.

I don’t know what each one of you has already faced or will in the days and weeks to come. 

What I do know is that each one of us is resilient. 

We are resilient people.

We can be like the nasturtium seed.

We can thrive in the midst of the worst possible conditions.

We can let our only hardness be that we are not easily crushed by the weight of trials but continue to retain the softness of our hearts.

May this time of isolation refine us by sanding off our rough exteriors and exposing our empathy and generosity. 

Burying a seed into the ground is an act of faith coupled with hope. It’s easy to feel buried behind our windows and doors and masks and gloves. 

We can feel hidden and alone.

We lose track of days and wonder if anything is happening for the better.

It is the same when visiting a planted plot of land, there is a longing for signs and evidence of growth. It requires hope to believe there is movement when it can’t be witnessed by the eyes.

Sometimes the only visible signs are weeds. And just when growth is seen, creatures tread upon the earth desiring to tear at the fragile leaves or unearth and destroy the roots

Be resilient.

You were made for this time, some days the sun will shine brightly and other days are full-on shady.

You can endure, no matter the weather.

Bury your seed, your life, as a hope,  your offering in solidarity with the world.

Get cozy in your home soil.

Look to the right and the left and see the other seeds dug down deep beside you. Seeds are always meant to be spaced apart for maximum yield. 

We are waiting in shielded sight together.

No matter what threatens your peace, keep clinging to the earth.

Keep assuming the position.

Let’s wait for the day together when our roots are made strong, reaching deeper than we believed and our blooms erupt in glorious color at the appointed time.

I am waiting and watching with you.

 
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gotcha

gotcha

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I had a dream in the wee hours of Tuesday. 

I walked into our bedroom to find Carl high atop a ladder painting our bedroom.

I was puzzled and asked him what he was doing and he insisted that he needed to get this room painted. I glanced at the ceiling and noticed large globs of paint starting to descend onto the perfectly made bed, the carpet and me. I tried to reach out my hands to catch pools of paint but there was too much for me to even help the situation.

Dreams are strange. To be honest, I don’t really like to hear other people’s dreams and I doubt they want to hear mine either. Mainly because when dreams are expressed they often become a jumbled mess to the dreamer and hearer.

I forced you to read about mine because it isn’t that complex or crazy. If I had to interpret my dream, I would venture to guess it was about the feeling of being out of control. 

They say our dreams are about what we cannot resolve during waking hours. So it isn’t surprising I woke up not feeling great, a bit nauseous. I wanted to spend the day in my pajamas. I couldn’t seem to muster up any of my “pick one thing” mojo. 

I did a little of this and that and nothing seemed to lessen the tightness in my chest or stomach.

It was pretty dark outside with all the signs of threatening rain so I decided to take a five-minute walk. An hour later and fully drenched, I felt a little better because my breathing had changed shallow to deep breaths. 

I showered and ate lunch. I sat in my living room chair and listened to a playlist of peaceful verses until I fell asleep. I know I was asleep because I was startled from slumber by my phone alerting me to a Zoom video call. I spent the next half hour talking to my daughters who are no longer live under our roof. We caught up, laughed, talked about everything important as well nothing of value. 

After our call ended, I noticed I felt lighter. I realized how much I missed seeing their faces.  I have felt this same way from text messages with friends and whenever we Skype or Zoom with my parents and brother’s family. 

*****

It’s Wednesday and I didn’t have a dream last night. But I changed my morning routine and walked first thing after a big glass of water. I need to help my body rid itself from residual anxiety and help myself breathe deeper. 

I haven’t been walking in my favorite park for the last week but instead neighborhood routes. There’s a marked difference in how walkers and joggers are conducting themselves, people are very intentional to switch sides of the street or in my case, a lot of zigging and zagging to keep safety in mind.

Near the end of my walk, a fellow walker and I attempted to increase our spacing, I  moved closer to a fence and she risked soggy socks by moving to the grass strip and as we drew closer,  I looked to the right to greet her with a smile and a waving hand, she said, “I gotcha!” with a smile. 

In two words, a stranger communicated her care for me and about our safety. Perhaps I am a bit tender right now, but those two words meant a lot in that sweaty moment.  This upside-down time of separation is brutal but it is for the greater good of people beyond our reach. It further reminded me of how although we are isolated, we are not alone. In our day to day lives, we never know what those who cross our paths are enduring. They could have received bad news or the loss of a loved one or are worried about how to pay their rent. But now when we encounter a stranger, we know they are experiencing this global pandemic alongside us plus all the weighted concerns from before the virus extending to here and now. It’s a lot for our bodies to store and absorb. 

Be gentle with yourself.

Be gentle with others.

There may be days when you lose your temper or patience.

There may be days when tears come out of the blue. I found myself tearing up while watching Top Chef All-Stars this week. The chefs were visiting small restaurants and sampling their cuisine. Sadness escaped from my eyes when I thought of so many restaurants that may be shuttered for good.

There may be days when you want to stay in your pajamas.

There may be days when you are filled with energy and resolve.

Each day is different and without a manual or road map.

Be kind to yourself.

What has helped me this past week:

  • Taking deep breaths
  • Seeing the faces of those outside my walls
  • Naps
  • Lots of water because a bathroom is always close at hand.
  • Not trying to fix the vacillating moods within my walls, mine included.
  • Documenting the day in my journal and with photos. I will want to remember this time, even the reality of recording the mundane parts of each day. There is no need to write a lengthy report, simply jot down a few sentences or an adjective rating for the day. If your planner seems neglected by less scheduled hours, perhaps use those lines to capture bits and pieces of your day. Or use the notes app on your phone.
  • A surprise book arriving in the mail. I have struggled lately to read fiction but this one has helped.
  • Watching one news program a day, listening to music and podcasts designed to bring peace not fear. 
  • Hugs

What has helped you during this time?


These mountains that you are carrying,

You were only supposed to climb.

                                           ~Najwa Zebian

 

casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].
 I Peter 5: 7 (Amplified Version)                     

 

I am forever grateful not to have to carry the weight of the world in my small palms.

 

Tyler Perry’s He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands Challenge

 

P.S. After watching this video, I seriously need to up my fingernail game!
Also while editing this post on Saturday, I saw a man standing on our sidewalk, waiting for someone it seemed. Suddenly a woman who had been out of my line of sight walked through our lawn, carrying scissors, a small bunch of the orange wallflowers blooming in our side yard and a large grin across her face. I was startled at first but as I reported this action to Carl, I realized, she simply is capturing beauty within her day.

Go forth and do likewise!

 

pick one thing

pick one thing

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When our oldest daughter Carlen was 4 or 5 years old, a friend gave us a timely book to help us teach her about cause and effect. The book was called What If Everybody Did That? The premise of the book was showing a child moving throughout a day making seemingly insignificant actions and the repeatedly asked question was “what if everybody did that?” Then on the following page, the fallout was shown of the same action performed by many people.  Throwing a banana peel out the car window seems minor until the entire city begins to throw their trash willy nilly.
Picture mountains of garbage causing traffic to come to a halt. This book evoked plenty of giggles but the point was cemented in our minds, our small actions matter whether individually or collectively.

I unplugged last week for a few days. I found myself feeling overwhelmed by each email bearing the subject line of “our response to COVID-19”. Every email was well-meaning but when amassed it became daunting.  So when emails begin piling up in our inboxes one by one they sidle up next to the stress already present inside us. Because when our senses are lured to a solitary topic, our emotions follow and grow.

We are beginning another week of isolation and the needs around us are most likely going to continue to increase. My suggestion is to pick one thing in the various areas of your life right now to lessen the potential of being overwhelmed.

As life would have it, I have had plenty of home alone time since Thanksgiving, thanks to leaving a job. I knew that particular time was to be about resting and healing and slowly looking for work. But a small corner of my mind started compiling a list of ALL the things I could do with this new unassigned time. I could repaint our kitchen, organize decades of photos or reorganize ___________. 

But I soon realized, rest and being uber-productive aren’t very compatible companions. Now that I do have actual companions during the day and night, it becomes even more important to choose areas that breed peace to me and those who suddenly surround me.

I want to suggest that you don’t have to achieve or accomplish anything monumental during this time. Your most important assignment is to find ways to navigate this segment of time as best and right as you can. We are not the same, possess the same personalities or preferences but collectively, none of us have encountered this newfound reality before, let’s tread gently. 

Since I have had a little head start, this is what picking one thing looks like for me now:

For my body, I am taking a walk outside every day. Yes, I would love to try every online exercise workout currently available for free, but for now, I am keeping it simple. Also, my personality is the pick too many good things and because of all the choices, I don’t start anything. 

For my mind, I am taking five minutes before I go to bed and writing in a journal about what the day was like, what I did and how I am feeling. The other day, I might have rejoiced about beating Caleb at backgammon. I have forgotten to journal once already. It’s an intention, not perfection.

For connection, as part of my morning practice after my devotional time, I am writing a card to a loved one. 

For others, I purchased a gift certificate from a business I fear will not survive. There are countless ways I can give and there will be more ways I will give or help in the weeks to come but last week, I picked this one way. 

For my home, I will clear the weeds along the fence and plant nasturtium seeds.

For my people within my walls,  I will love and care for them well, however, that may look on a given day.

For my people outside my walls, I will check-in frequently via all the wonderful ways technology allows.

For those I encounter outside, I will smile at them.

Yes, I said pick one and I have listed eight. I have picked one thing in the areas of my life I want to nurture during this time. However, you might pick as your one thing to: 

Meditate every morning. 

Listen to music while cooking dinner. 

Endeavor to look for something beautiful every day and list it. 

Create a bracket of picture books by reading two a day and determine the champion as a family. 

Learn to say I love you in different languages and reflect on the people with this tongue. 

Take a nap every day. 

Read a poem at night. 

Blow bubbles at sunset. 

Read a psalm.

Learn a joke and tell someone. 

Complete a crossword puzzle every morning.

Start bird watching.

Watch no more than an hour of news.

Limit scrolling your devices.

Watch the flames in your backyard fire pit or fireplace.

Reread a favorite book.

Paint your nails a color you normally wouldn’t. Be bold, you are not in public.

Share never told stories with those who are living in your midst.

Fill an egg carton with dirt and plant some seeds, let each day be numbered by growth.

Print out these coloring pages by one of my favorites and color something gently humorous.

Pick one thing which can provide an anchor during these challenging times. 

What if everybody did that?

We might just create a mountain of peace, joy, and love. 

mantras

mantras

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A week ago, two beloved friends came to visit.
The four of us met when all but one of us was in physical therapy school in Minnesota. Carl and I had been married three weeks before the program at Mayo began.

When we learned of the possibility of a visit during their travels, my whispered mantra was “calm your crazies!”

I have a tendency to shift into perfection mode when we have company. Perhaps it’s heightened now as busy schedules have caused us to not be as practiced as once upon a time. Somehow my desire to extend a welcome becomes a tangled knot of also wanting our home to resemble a magazine layout. 

Calm your crazies.

My intention was to be present and not hurry. I wanted to bask in listening and speaking words and not be consumed by the funny little idiosyncrasies of our home. I didn’t want to become wrapped up in the imagined ways our home lacks and miss the plentifulness of the precious souls in front of me. I hoped to wave goodbye without regret for a wasted time of worry when I could have savored the time with dear friends.

Calm your crazies.

So we cleaned because why would you not.

Then we allowed our emotions to bubble over with excitement and anticipation.
We have been friends for almost 34 years, all of our marriages. They were our first couple, the ones we spent nearly every non-studying or working moment together with. We share the history of unwrapping the newness of marriage and babies.
Although none of us could land on the exact amount of time passed, we believe it has been over 20 years since we had been in each other’s presence.

We collectively look older, our joints not as pliable although our minds and mouths raced with stories and questions. It was as if we stepped into our own personal time machine for about 36 hours. We all had experienced the expanse of time marching us toward middle age, raising children to adulthood and dousings of joy and sorrow. The only difference in our conversations was the passage of time, not affection or affinity. Our time apart felt like a long pause before completing a thought, a soul connection without awkward silences only reassembling of lives.

They arrived when the fear of Coronavirus was just beginning to rise. It is a strange reality to know, but not know if contact could be dangerous. We risked the possibility and maybe it was unwise but there was hugging involved. There was plenty of handwashing as well. We sided with love mingled with wisdom.

If there is one truth or anchor Carl and I have built our married life on, it’s this:
When in doubt, love more.
When we have no idea what to do, we err on the side of loving.
It’s not about being heroic, it simply makes sense to us, because love is never wrong.

The reality has arrived regarding the magnitude of this pandemic. This is fragile and new territory for us to walk through together and apart.
I hope during these first days to have my movements originate from a place of love and extend my resources outward and not corral them. I want to replace the mantra of last week with several new ones.

I will pray and laugh and weep with those who weep.

I will find new ways to stay in contact with the people I love and value in my life.

I will list the people I have lost contact with and share my affection for each one of them.


I will stay informed and maintain my rhythms and routines.


I will read books and number my blessings each day.


I will extend myself grace when I watch Netflix too much or eat something purely for comfort.


I will use technology for good and take walks to witness spring’s arrival.


I will share my disappointment with those whose plans and lives have been turned upside down with the speed of an email or news crawl.


I will refrain from assigning blame and speak words of kindness even when it is a challenge.

I will view this time as more opportunity to lock eyes with the people in my home.

I will pull out the board games and give attention to neglected areas in my home.

I will check my spirits and not forget to reflect on those beyond my walls.

I will take regular breaks from social media and the news.

I will laugh every day.

I will pray.

Above all, I will calm my crazies.

bookmarks of the past and present

bookmarks of the past and present

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Back in December when I started thinking about writing more consistently on this blog, it was a challenge to align my heart with my mind. My heart was completely on board but my mind kept telling me to not get ahead of myself. There was a faint whisper reminding me to look at the space between my posting history if I needed further proof of my lack of consistency.

My mind has been reluctant to admit this has been a sweet surprise to have posted every Monday since the beginning of January.  My heart swells and pumps an affectionate response of knowing it was always possible.

I thought from time to time, I would share an update or another thought related to a previous post or a short tip for living a slower life. These posts will be shorter in length and perhaps give the writer and the reader a little breather (wink).

/////

On Wednesday I finished the book from last week’s post. I choked up several times while reading the last several pages.  For those non-book enthusiasts, I won’t write at length about how the sentiments of happily ever after felt more applicable upon book completion. 

Last week, I was reminded of a piece I wrote for an online writing class I took in 2005. I started this blog the following year. I posted those words as my first attempt to share with others. So much has changed in 15 years but so much has remained the same. I am including a paragraph excerpt without revising it. There are sentence fragments and during this time, I loved using the ellipsis. Because this is my writing from the past resonating with the present.

There are many times that I feel as if my bookmark has fallen to the ground.  I scramble to pick it up as if by simply holding it in my hand, it will magically replace itself.  I rifle through the pages trying desperately to find my location. Where am I? If I backtrack needlessly, it is fruitless…territory already covered.  Lessons learned and vision restored. If I jump ahead of my place, I will only be skipping important details that are essential to any good story. Oh, it is so tempting to sneak a peek, just one juicy tidbit to keep my interest engaged, but that morsel will be all the tastier when it is revealed at the proper time.

Why had my bookmark fallen? At that time, our children were 16, 12 and 2. We were at the beginning of one of the deepest, darkest times of our lives. It was a prolonged season of loss, grief and immeasurable pain. I recall being asked to speak at church possibly in 2007 and expressing how it had been the hardest season of our lives. I would advise never saying those words because life can get even harder. The crush of those years has passed however I don’t know if anyone ever fully recovers.

I cannot count the number of people who are suffering today. They are people I know and others I won’t ever meet. To be honest, it is overwhelming. To them, life is not simply a book to be leafed through. It’s an assigned textbook too difficult to comprehend or desire reading. It’s not being able to articulate a sentence which has changed days and life as it once was. Many days, I can remember wishing to go back a few chapters, before our narrative changed.

I weep with you today. 

One hard reality I remember during our times of trial was how some people will come close and others will withdraw. Pain is uncomfortable. I will confess to wanting to help others but also not wanting to hover or intrude. I have learned drawing near even in silent presence is always better than quiet from a distance. 

I extend my arms toward you today if you are in a hard place. 

If no one knows your pain, text a trusted family member or friend. Don’t live in silent pain.

If you know someone in pain, reach out even if you feel you don’t have adequate words or might say the wrong words. Presence wins over perfection every time.

If you feel you have no one who can share your pain, my email is on the sidebar. 

You are not alone.