A Reflective Life

There are times I wish I could turn off my natural tendency to look beyond the surface.  I seem to move through life always pondering a deeper meaning, wondering the motivation behind someone’s actions or contemplate the subconscious of my own actions. I don’t think this is bad…..in fact I rather like this quality in me. However, I have often wondered if there is some sort of respite in being a tiny bit more superficial. Maybe if I could turn off that never ending conjecture at will I would have moments of sweet, ignorant, bliss. However, it’s not going to happen because my life’s point of view is continuously reflective. I know that I will not be satisfied with just hearing an answer. I’ll immediately think about a deeper meaning. I will always, always, always ponder the what-ifs and do-you-supposes of each and every situation of life.

 

Reflective (adjective) re flek tiv  1. Capable of reflecting light, images or sound waves.  2. Marked by reflection; thoughtful, deliberative.  3. Of or relating to or caused by reflection.

 

Teen girl looking at her reflection in the mirror fragments on tPerhaps by not purposefully delving into deeper thoughts I could just release tense situations and move on with life. However, I have not found that to be true. When I don’t pause for reflection and allow myself an opportunity to “figure it out” the memory of that particular event will come up again and live in a new unrelated conflict.

We project onto each other our own thoughts, hopes, fears, and love. Finding myself in a stressful or unpleasant situation means I probably brought something to the table that aided the tension. I have an opportunity to address my part and make a change. It’s the same for positive situations as well. If I’m feeling incredibly supported and loved, I can show my appreciation and reflect it back with and equal amount of appreciation and love.

The last time I blogged I was having a bad week and it felt good to get it out on paper and have a look at it. I was able to process it in a way I needed to. For me, writing is helpful in making a thoughtful and deliberative summary on why things transpired a certain way. I can usually boil down a story to one root fear by looking at common themes through the phrasing I wrote or the feeling I’m projecting. I take a moment to read it as if I’m not the author, but a critic trying to find the character development and motive. When I meditated I also saw the same theme come up in thoughts as I let them pass. Most of the “players” in my bad week had bit parts. I was the main character of my bad day and my plot last week was a tale of being alone and forgotten. Now, having that reflection allowed me to see where I contributed to the “alone and forgotten” story. I can revisit that week and see that what I may have interpreted as a negative event in that moment had many positive things as well.  I learned a little bit more about myself and how I can fall into a lie and let it take over. The “bad week lie” was thinking I was alone and forgotten. I wasn’t. But I did feel terrible because I had a plate that was too full and not enough support spiritually and physically to hold that plate up.

Reflection can be downright frightening.  You become your own critic and risk feeling hurt. But when we approach our flaws with compassion toward ourselves we end the story with loving ourselves.

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A Perfect Storm

An occasional challenge on a good week is tolerable, but when challenges piggy back onto each other in a short course of time it is much harder to deal with.  Today I had what I hope is an ending to a perfect storm.

 

Perfect storm (idiom) 1 – a detrimental or calamitous situation arising from the powerful combined effect of a unique set of circumstances.

 

Lightening bolt on black background. Graphic creation.

A few weeks ago I was honored to be the volunteer chair of my national music fraternity’s convention.  It’s a labor of love.  I enjoy the busy, hands on work of coordinating the volunteers needed to run a convention for 700 over the course of 5 days.  However, during the same convention I decided to run for a national office.  I didn’t anticipate the emotional rollercoaster I would endure while preparing for the speech portion of this election while balancing my other responsibilities.  After winning the election, I was even less prepared (but still very excited) for the deluge of information I would need to download into my head over the course of seven days so I could hit the ground running with my new responsibility.

I return from my convention, excited, with my spirits lifted and my confidence on an all-time high.  My fraternity sisters made me feel like a million bucks. However, I have to jump right back into the swing of my family and work life.

I came back home to a very large project at work.  I needed to research and create a landing page for a specific project during my part time job and have it up and running in just two weeks.  After I crammed the first 20 hours of this project into two days at the office, one of my boys has what I thought was an anxiety attack about starting a new school, but turned out to be the onset of a double ear infection complete with fever, vomiting and a good deal of pain.  I hadn’t quite wrapped my head around the panic attacked turned ear infection – so what I mean by this is I was in full blown denial that my 14 year old was in excruciating pain on his birthday (oh yes, did I forget to mention, it is his birthday?) so of course he was scooted off to band camp.  I visit my consulting client at his office and stop at the store on my way home to purchase the ingredients for my son’s requested birthday meal of tacos.  While in the ethnic food aisle, my mother calls to let me know she has called 911 for herself at her doctor’s request due to a pesky fever that will not go away.  Of course, I drop everything and meet her at the hospital.

Instead of prepping for a birthday, I have shoved that responsibility to my amazing mother in law and then spend several hours at the hospital with my mom and texting my siblings across the states on the status of her recovery (a full recovery was made a few days later).  I come home just in time for the birthday dinner, only to have to come face to face with my denial about the ear infection.  This kid needs to see the doctor asap.  I cannot take him, because I need to get back to the hospital the following morning to be with my mother, so my husband ends up going instead.

Let’s rewind the clock back to my fraternity convention.  I am also prepping for a blues concert in my office parking lot as a fun event for our clients.  The previous year, I blogged about overcoming barriers about singing with the band…..this year with the barriers removed I am downright excited about singing a few numbers and have given my co-worker who runs the band, a list of 7 songs I would like to do.  We agree on the songs and he promises to run them past the other band members but we know based on complicated schedules we will not be able to practice.  So, during the last several weeks I have been practicing on my own……. A LOT.  I had listened to only these seven songs for about 4 weeks during a 50 mile commute to work.  I am running through this playlist as I run back and forth to the hospital, it is the music for my alarm clock and I even annoyed my fraternity sisters that shared a hotel room with me by playing it in the car for the entire 4 hours to and from St. Louis.

This concert happens to be two days after my son’s birthday and my mother’s admittance to the hospital.  However……I see this concert as a good thing…..a release from all the unpleasantries that have made a home in my crazy week.   I had spent the better part of the last several weeks visualizing this concert as something fun my whole family would go to, I would feel their love and support as I do something I love (singing!).   However, now that my son has a raging ear infection and my mother is in the hospital the only family that can make it are two teenage boys that know their street cred will tank if they are actively cheering on their mom during a blues concert in her office parking lot.  Normally part of an event crew, my boss graciously gives me very little to do for the event because she knows I will be singing seven songs off and on.  However, due to time constraints and a great deal of importance put on those seven songs by no one other than me…..over the course of the 4 hour event I only get to sing two songs.

This, my friends was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I am exhausted.  I’m annoyed I spent a lot of time working on something that never came to fruition.  I feel unsupported because no one is there to tell me what I needed to hear at that moment (i.e. “your songs would have sounded great because I know how hard you worked on them” or even “I love you”).  I also felt a tinge of guilt as I found out my mom was discharged from the hospital and had to call her friend at the retirement home to pick her up as I was not available to bring her home because I was “singing”.  I came home and told the story to my husband whos underwhelming response to my hurt feelings just seemed to make the whole thing worse.

I just wanted to go to bed but my mind is trying to process these last few weeks and it’s daunting.

If my meditation practice has taught me one thing it is to listen.  So instead of sitting awake in bed I decide to write down the one verse that I have heard over and over intentionally and coincidentally over the last few weeks:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal……Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Reading this, I am reminded that what I’m feeling right now is nothing close to Love.  It’s a good reminder, because my rational mind can tell my broken heart that all will be well, even if at this particular moment it is not inspiring me to feel less hurt.  I will be happy to start a new week and maybe look back on this week when it stings a bit less and see where I contributed to the perfect storm.  But for now, I’m having a hard time letting it go and letting Love in.

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Spirit of Power & Love

I do not want to go through unnecessary pain and emotional discomfort.  Who does?!??  Like anyone else, I tend to avoid it.  I’ll sweep it under the rug, tell myself a situation is not mine to deal with or put on rose colored glasses and try to accept it as something else.  This always backfires on me.  Eventually the situation I felt was unnecessary, keeps rearing its ugly head.  Opposed to what I was telling myself, this is exactly what I need to deal with.  My avoidance only makes it worse.

 

Definition:  Avoid (verb) uh void  1.  To keep away from; keep clear of: shun  2. To prevent from happening 3.  Invalidate; to make void or of no effect 4. Obsolete; to empty, eject or expel.

 

It’s hard to say what the breaking point is that allows me to recognize it’s time to tackle a situation head on.  Sometimes it’s a situation that wears you down like a river molding a canyon; I’ve allowed something to cut me so deep over such a long period of time that it creates a wound so vast I can no longer pretend it isn’t there.  Other times, a new state of affairs pours light into an old situation that allows me to see it clearly.  Or perhaps I’ve just entered into a quiet reflective moment and I hear from God “ADDRESS THIS”; that has happened once or twice as well!

Each time that light switch flips my first feeling is embarrassment.  It is as if I lived in a messy room and I’m suddenly comprehending it’s a pig sty.  I want to clean it up, but I don’t want anyone else to know the filth I’ve been living in.  I’m ashamed that I didn’t have the courage earlier to take care of something before it got out of control.

What on earth is this chick talking about???

I’m keeping it general on purpose, but I think you can all think of some situation or another that fits this description.  Maybe it was something significant like a dysfunctional relationship, or an addiction to shopping or gambling, perhaps it was an addiction to a harmful substance or physical, mental or emotional abuse.

Often times when we address the big things, we end up finding “little” things that follow.  The pintsized signs that we are avoiding something could be extra weight, physical exhaustion or a frequently empty bank account.  Most of us could easily brush those things off as something everyone deals with.  But I invite you to look deeply and see if you allow the extra weight because you use food to comfort yourself from a deep wound.  Maybe the exhaustion is a sign that you are constantly working through your insecurity in a relationship by making everything perfect at the price of your own physical well-being.  Even the empty bank account exists to help you recognize that you are worth more than you realize and it’s time you lived a life that serves you and others more fully.

I believe God gives us these things so we can continue to grow into the child of light we were meant to be.  It is often a trial by fire and it is NEVER easy.  Discomfort can be a very good thing.  I will tell you this:  courage to face what you avoid and embrace pain and discomfort as a tool to learn from is another thing you will try to avoid (ironic right?). It takes a lot of mindful discipline.  I also think in certain circumstances you need to have a professional therapist to work through some issues.  In my opinion, this is the emotional equivalent to a precious metal being honed from impurities and molded into something beautiful; it gets pretty darn hot.  I believe the end result is greater happiness and a more authentic life.

“For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power, love and discipline.”  2Tim 1:7

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Realignment

I have been hitting the reset button. We all need to do this once in a while when our routine gets thrown off course. I am no exception to this karmic rule. The things that nourish me spiritually; writing, playing music and reading have fallen down to the bottom of my priority list. I have had to travel more than I usually do and have had some family obligations that have had me spinning plates out of obligation. When I don’t do those things that feed my soul I find myself wandering a little lost and in deep need of a spiritual realignment.

 

Definition:  alignment (noun) ah lahyn muh nt  1.  The act of aligning or state of being aligned; especially the proper position or state of adjustment of parts (as of a mechanical or electronic device) in relation to each other.  2.  A forming in line.  3. The ground plan (as of a railroad or highway) I distinction from the profile.

 

To me this opportunity to readjust and reprioritize is a tremendous blessing. Each time this happens I witness for myself personal growth like no other time in my life. That recognition of what feeds my spirit is essential to drawing closer to God and I only seem to have this opportunity of recognition when I hit an emotional or spiritual low. It brings an understanding of the gifts I have been given and allows me to be more appreciative of them.

What on earth does this mean??

I’ll give you an example.

A few months ago, I had a similar reset button experience. Everyone else’s priorities were pushing mine to the side. I was feeling exceptionally tired and overwhelmed. The need for sleep, more exercise or a better diet had all crossed my mind but my attempts to add what I thought was missing was not hitting the mark or making a dent in those negative feelings. In a brief moment of purposeful reflection I decided to ask God….”what is going on????”, and as usual, God answered very clearly: “you haven’t meditated in about a month – we need to talk!”.

My realignment moment was brief but very clear. I had not connected with God purposefully in several weeks until that moment. Although this thoughtful and intentional connection was fleeting, it was extremely powerful and dramatically impacted the way I handled these reset moments from that moment forward.

So, here I am at another repositioning moment. But this time, I meet it while I have been regularly giving myself time with God. I wasn’t at the rock-bottom of an emotional valley when I noticed it was time to readjust.   While I meditated and allowed God to sit with me and speak to my heart I have heard exactly what God’s message was………”allow me to feed your spirit and you can feed others.”.  Throughout this emotionally unstable time God kept at it by gently reminding me it was time to write, time to read or time to play some music.  These are the things that allow me to replenish and be of use to God.

Maybe for you it’s something a little different.  Perhaps what feeds your spirit is creating in the kitchen, being crafty or digging in the dirt and making something bloom.  Whatever it is, take some time to realign and sit with God.  Notice what is going on physically when you sit.  See how that communion with God actually feels so you know it’s coming from The Source.  You will notice that it feels pretty darn good.

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Gut Job

Spring brings a warm, fresh beginning to everything outside while inside it echoes an inspiration to clean up, open windows, and grow new life in the wet dirt.  Fresh leaves bring new beginnings as students graduate and young couples start new lives together.

This week I had the honor of going back to my hometown to present an award at my high school.   My childhood experience was of a small town that is barely recognizable now.  Over the last 35 years, the town burst out of its one-stop-light size to a sprawling suburban destination.  The current graduating class has tripled the size of the group that moved onto adulthood with me.   Nostalgia smacks me in the face every time I return.  This time, I arrived early enough that I had time to drive by my childhood home.  Driving in my neighborhood I recalled streets by the houses named for people that no longer live there.  When I turn the corner to the simple mid-century ranch I called home, I’m shocked at what I see.

My childhood home has become a renovation project.

The yard my father painstakingly took care of was littered with dandelions and all the shrubs ripped from their beds.  The house was completely devoid of any curtains and the windows covered in dust.   White declarations of “No Trespassing” and “Legal Permit” were nailed to the familiar blue door.  The sight of it all was too hard to comprehend with a casual drive by the property.  I pulled into the driveway to investigate further and confirm that the first place I called home was indeed a complete gut job.

 

Definition:  gut job (noun) gət jőb  1. Radical alteration to building; the restoration or repair of a building that includes the removal and rebuilding of the interior.

 

Once I realized that the construction workers had gone home for the day, curiosity got the best of me and I got out of the car and walked around the house peering into any window that was clean enough to see through.  The parquet flooring my parents decided to cover up with wall to wall carpet was replaced in the living room with beautiful hard wood.  A stark contrast against the 1950s fireplace we hung our Christmas stockings on which was still intact and covered with plastic.  I speculated if the fireplace was next on the demolition list.  The kitchen was a shell of chalky white walls pickled with wires and pipes; a room devoid of the overhead cabinet that my brother always knocked his head on.  I ran to the back yard to see if I could peek into my old bedroom.   The new design had moved my closet and put a door directly into the adjacent bathroom.  I found myself admiring the ingenuity of a renovation that would have made my teenage years a dream.  Wow, my own bathroom!  I daydreamed about who one day would use the room where I dreamed about teen idols, played records I checked out of the library and arranged my stuffed animals.

As we drove away I found myself saying out loud several times “Wow, I can’t believe someone’s gutting my house!”.   Part of me longed to see the familiar blue curtains in the big picture windows and the ornamental cherry tree blossoms tower over the house from the back yard.  But they were all gone.  Someone, rightly so, decided it was time for an update.

Hours later, when the awards ceremony finished and I started to head home, all I could think of was the house.  I was excited someone wanted to bring it into the modern age.  I was struck by how significantly things can transform in 35 years and how much I have changed.  I felt a pang of loss remembering experiences that would no longer be “firsts” and people that I knew that are now long-gone.

Sentimentality aside, I also felt at peace and happy as I realized that over those years I have been guided through my own restoration.  Like my former home, the outside shell is a little weathered, but inside a lot of improvements have been made.  I have purposefully cleared out old ideas that no longer ring true for me, I removed the dated and unhealthy dependence on others and rearranged my priorities so my spirit was filled.  The process didn’t remove any of the wonderful memories and has made me grateful for those challenges that brought me to the person I am today.

Radical alterations do not always require power tools.

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Bit Players

The Passion story told on Palm Sunday is one of my favorites. The plot is something we have all seen in movies and read in Bible stories. The significance of Jesus entrance into Jerusalem, his last supper with his disciples, the betrayal of one of his followers and his ultimate death on the cross on Palm Sunday marks the start of the most significant doctrine of the Christian faith. However, the people in the Passion story that are most fascinating to me are the ones with no names or faces. Who these people are is insignificant, but what they do is integral to the plot.

 

Definition:  bit player (noun) bit pley er 1. An actor who performs a minor role in a movie, play, etc.:  an actor who is not a star 2. Someone or something that plays a secondary or minor role in some process or activity.

 

Twice in the passion story Jesus makes a request of his disciples that involve a bit player. He tells them to go into the city and untie the first donkey the disciples see. If someone asks them about their intentions with the animal they are to say “The master has need of it.”. Of course, someone does ask – it’s a bit player. Most likely this is someone responsible for the donkey; precious property that looks as if it is being stolen. Contrary to common sense, this bit player is perfectly fine with the very vague “the master has need of it.” response.

The second occurrence is when the disciples ask Jesus where they should celebrate the Passover meal.  Again, the disciples are not given specific instructions but told to follow a man carrying a jug of water then ask the master of the house “The teacher asks where is the guest room that he may celebrate the Passover?”. Indeed there is a room prepared at this home. This master has the room not just available but completely prepared.

Who are these two people? Is anyone else blown away by the obvious fact that there has been some significant divine communication prior to the disciple’s encounter with them? The master of the house is the one that amazes me the most. Preparation for Passover is no small feat. There’s a great deal involved in not just the meal itself. The entire kitchen is cleaned in a very specific way, the table is set differently than any other meal and certain items attained for this celebration had to be in high demand. Preparing for Passover is arduous. It’s obvious the master is actively preparing if he sent a servant out to fetch water for guests that hadn’t even entered his home yet. It makes me wonder; did he know the servant would find these disciples? Did he doubt that his prepared room would be used?Did his servants and family think he was crazy? What type of master is this that makes up a room based on the faith of someone not yet seen?

In my mind, I think the fact that these two individuals are nameless and faceless is not a coincidence. The keeper of the donkey and the master of the house must have had their hearts opened in a way that allowed them to respond to God without question. They are regular people doing everyday things but this time it has an extraordinary outcome. It could have been that every Passover the master of the house set a hopeful table. Maybe the donkey’s keeper had a supernatural knowledge about the necessity of his steed. We don’t know. We just know they were doing what they needed to and followed God’s call.

The bit players are essential to the Passion. They represent the faithful; you and I. We are an integral part to this amazing love story. Without the blind faith of bit players, the ride into Jerusalem and the Last Supper doesn’t happen. Bit players believe and take a risk that God will come and do what needs to be done. Aren’t we being called to do the same right now? Could it be that our everyday actions, our common daily tasks, our bit parts in the story of life right now are being used for something beyond our comprehension?

I think so.

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Accidental Lent

So, it’s Friday and this morning I went to the health club and worked up a tremendous appetite.  I came home and made myself a nice omelet and only after I plated it and sat poised with my fork above its fluffy goodness did I realize I put diced Canadian bacon in it.  Knowing full well that I shouldn’t be consuming meat on a Friday I was completely perplexed.  It was completely cooked and I felt like throwing it out would have been an extravagant waste of an entire meal.  There was also no way of avoiding the chopped up meat, it was completely incorporated into the omelet.  I asked for forgiveness and ate it anyway.

 

Definition:  forgiveness  (noun) fə giv nəs  1. Act of pardoning somebody; the act of pardoning somebody for a mistake or wrongdoing.  2.  Forgiving quality; the tendency to forgive offenses readily and easily.

 

So far this season of Lent for me has been the farthest thing from my mind.  As I mentioned in the last blog, I started Lent at a work conference.  I left that conference with a huge fever and was unbelievably sick for a solid week.  Then, as I returned to work my mother’s husband ended up going into hospice and just passed away this week.  This week my mother will be my priority as I help her gather photos for the memorial service and pick up and host relatives at my home that are coming in for the service.  It seems like any attempt to mindfully observe Lent are being railroaded by situations out of my control.

This morning when I made my omelet I wasn’t thinking about abstinence, suffering or any other aspect of Lent so I mindlessly added the Canadian bacon to my breakfast.  I was so relieved to finally get back into my routine and hit the gym after a two week absence and recuperation that I never gave Lent a thought.  My growling stomach and fitness minded brain was thinking “protein and limit those carbs”, not “meatless Friday”.

Lent is all about suffering, and finding a way to connect with Jesus’ suffering on the cross.  Most of us are blessed enough to live comfortable lives with plenty of food and no worries about shelter and basic necessities.  We need to actively pursue this connection to suffering.  For the last two weeks I have been tending to pressing needs both with my physical health and my mother’s grief.  I think my Lenten suffering has been happening but completely by accident.

Maybe a mindful Lent for me will end up being a little different this year.  I probably wont need to look too far for the suffering but I will still need to connect it to God’s love on the cross.  And if things should start moving in a more positive direction over the next couple of week, I can always go to a more “traditional” Lent and remember not to eat meat on Friday.

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Lent: A Commonality of Suffering

I am behind on my Lenten writing project.  In past years, I would treat Lent like I do Advent and try to blog each day as part of a mindful practice to honor the season.  I always have visions of this grandiose plan that I attempt to pass off as simplistic.  I think I will have oodles of contemplative time to honor the silence or ponder the agony in the desert and forget that oodles of contemplative time is a luxury that working parents of teenagers do not enjoy.  The reality is that Lent is here and the rest of the world with all of its obligations still revolves around a secular schedule.  Just the act of mindfully observing Lent is its most basic simple forms, is going to be a challenge.  I’ll do my best to blog daily, I know you will all be sympathetic if it doesn’t quite work out.

 

Definition:  suffering (noun) sʌf ər ŋ  1.  Pain; physical or psychological pain and distress.  2.  Painful experience; an experience that is painful or distressing.

 

This Lent started with a very heavy work obligation.  I’m part of an events department and we had our three day conference with 120 attendees start on Ash Wednesday.  My partner in crime for this event is also a Catholic and we agreed we would get up early on Wednesday and enjoy the Ash Wednesday service at Holy Name Cathedral, two blocks down the street from our event and then we would slip back into the conference with our obligation served.

So, a little side note here:  I am not a cradle Catholic.  I was raised in a Christian religion that did not emphasize a whole lot of ritual or express many outward signs of worship.  We didn’t even wear crucifix jewelry.  For my emotionally distant, non-affection showing, Nordic ancestral family, this was perfect!  We love not talking about feelings and other messy things!  However, Catholics LOVE this stuff!

Catholicism drew me in with the meaning and purpose of symbolic things like the distribution of ashes as a tangible sign of my non dualistic nothingness and preciousness to God.  But my discomfort with outward expressions of religion was challenged.   Couldn’t we place the ashes on my arm or some other place that I could cover up?  On Ash Wednesday as I leave the church, I still struggle with what feels to me like carrying a neon sign with the words “Ask me about the giant splotch on my forehead.”.  I’m not comfortable with people asking me about it!  God is completely on to me and my insecurity because I’m certain it is no coincidence that every year, I get the one priest who really knows how to dig his thumb into the ashes and lather it on thick enough to last all day.  Unlike my friend, I don’t have a nice full set of bangs to cover it up.

As I’m involved in the events of the day I’m not thinking about Lent, or the fact that I have a giant black smudge on my forehead.  Like any other work day, I’m thinking about things that need to get done; presentation materials, technology issues and hotel check-ins.  Everyone once in a while, I would carry on a conversation with someone and notice they are not looking me in the eye, but staring at my forehead.  I would slip away to the restroom and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and have a moment of shock when I see a large black cross on my pasty white skin before my brain recalls why it is there in the first place.   Walking across the lobby, someone makes a humorous comment about “dirt on my face” and it takes a moment before I recognize what they are referring to.  During dinner I decide to break the ice with someone I barely know with a question about marketing plans and instead enjoy an incredibly awkward conversation about how happy he is that I went to church today.  My first thought is “How did he know I went to church today, and why doesn’t he want to talk about marketing?

………oh yeah, giant black cross on my forehead.

Everyone one of these things caused me to suffer just a little bit.  (Ok, “suffer” seems a little extreme, but this is Lent and it is all about looking for the suffering.)  For the next 40 days I should be focusing on not just my discomfort but the commonality of that suffering with those around me.  Lent gives us an opportunity not to just improve ourselves by removing sweet treats from our diet, but recognize how we share uneasiness, embarrassment, worry and anxiety with everyone else in the world and allow God the opportunity to reach in and heal it.

As I moved throughout the day on Wednesday, I felt very uncomfortable with each reminder of the outward sign on my face but by the time the awkward dinner conversation rolled around, I could also sense the discomfort of this person at my table as well.  While he fumbled his words and mentioned Jesus for the 5th or 6th time I truly felt a kinship with him.  Part of me really wanted to reach across the table and that tell him I didn’t want to be that weird Catholic chick with dirt on her face right now and he didn’ need to feel obligated to talk about it.  But I decided to just share in his uneasiness and make it as pleasant as possible for the both of us.

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Thus Lies the Poetry Lie

When I was in college I had a friend that I really respected.  Mike was a few years older than me and we were paired up randomly to work as prayer partners for our Christian fellowship group that we both belonged to on campus.  Having traveled to Europe for a study abroad program, he seemed worldly to me and I hung on every word he said like they were pearls of wisdom.   I looked at our relationship as one of mentor and student.  He majored in English and we talked about music and writing and reading quite a bit when we got together for our scheduled prayer sessions.  Mike graduated years before me.  His mentorship was based mostly on convenience and not emotion.  While I was happy to be paired up with him on a project at the time, it was not surprising that once he left campus I never really thought of him much and have completely lost touch.

In the last year or so I have had the pleasure of joining a writers group.  Once a month, this lovely group of women respectfully shares what we have written and enjoys each other’s encouragement.  We also do some exercises together to hone our writing skills.  Our ages vary, our mode of writing is different and our attendance to meetings is completely voluntary.  This is also a great mentorship for me, but one that is casual and easy going.

 

Definition: mentor (noun) men tɔr  1.  Experienced adviser and supporter; somebody, usually older and more experienced, who advises and guids a younger, less experienced person.  2.  Trainer; a senior or experienced person in a company or organization who gives guidance and training to a junior colleague.

 

Last week I received an email from my women’s writing group about our next meeting.  Being February, we were asked to voluntary come with something we have written on the theme of “love”.  I absolutely adore these requests.  I feel like it pushes me to do something I might not otherwise do and I’m always surprised at how much I enjoy a different topic.  I wanted to take this opportunity to challenge myself a little further and try writing a poem.  To me the topic “love” screamed for a poetry genre!  I don’t usually write poetry aside from Haiku.  This is where all of a sudden I remembered my meetings with Mike.

In college there was a poetry publication that students could submit works to and have published.  It was distributed free to anyone that wanted it.  I loved reading it but didn’t have any background in writing poetry.  I felt called to write but clumsily stumbled around the mechanics of writing and thought maybe I should share my attempts at poetry with my worldly, English major friend, Mike.  He was happy to help and I gave him about five sheets of paper where I poured my heart and soul out in my best attempt to be “poetic”.  He tried his best to tell me what was very obvious; it was horrible poetry.  He tried to explain to me that there are forms of poetry and certain mechanical aspects of writing that qualify writing pieces as a poem.  My writings had none of these qualifications.  He bluntly told me not to submit anything to the publication because he was concerned I would be rejected.  I awkwardly asked for my papers back and embarrassed, never mentioned it again.  I was incredibly immature and feeling rejected by someone I respected so I never attempted to write poetry again until recently.  As an adult, I realize now that I could have taken that moment to look further into what he was trying to tell me and learn more about the art of writing poetry, but I didn’t.  I unintentionally shut that desire down and told myself “You are NOT a poet.”, and left it there.

Now in the last year or so, I’ve rekindled that poet inside me.  I have found that I stick with Haiku because it has a simple formula of counting syllables that I can’t “mess up”.   However, with this latest assignment from my writers group I really want to try something else.  I want to write a poem on the theme of “love” that isn’t Haiku.  I sat at my computer and tried to cobble together words.  I found myself Googling poetry genres and forms like crazy.  I questioned everything I wrote and wondered if it was actually a poem or not.  Why was I doing that?  What was causing all of this insecurity in trying something new?  I was shocked to find my mind wandering back to that situation with Mike over 20 years ago!  I thought I had completely forgotten it.

God does this to me all the time!!!  I’ll be in the throes of something important to me or time consuming and suddenly I will have a memory of something or someone from ages ago.  It’s usually a circumstance I initially look at as insignificant and try to dismiss but also invokes a strong emotion.  Like this memory of my poetry conversation with Mike, I wondered why I was even having this memory but at the same time I could feel my awkward embarrassment and shame at revealing my horrible poetry to someone I respected as if it were happening now.

I believe God draws us back to those moments because there is something we believed about ourselves that started the basis of a lie.  It’s a lie that subconsciously snowballed and now God wants to heal and correct it in our thinking.  I let myself believe that  “I cannot write poetry”.  That belief was so successful that I could feel my emotions resisting my attempt at writing  a poem this week.  But it is based on nothing in reality.   My adult eyes could understand that I was 18, insecure and hanging on the words of someone that was the wise old age of 21.  He probably didn’t have the capacity at that point in his life to effectively communicate something difficult.  I didn’t have the maturity to be objective.

God calls us to heal in these moments.  It’s crazy when I think about how my brain holds onto something deep down and it bubbles up to the surface just at a time when we can be receptive to God’s intervention in healing it.  Being alert and aware to those little moments of memory can be instrumental in witnessing God’s presence in our lives.

I am still struggling with the love poem.  I have no idea how to write it and where to start.  I’m sure I will throw something down on paper and bring it to my group on Sunday.  They will be as gracious as always and point out the wonderful things and brush over the imperfect.  I’m poring over poetry magazines and looking for form and structure and trying to emulate it.  It will not be perfect, but I will take this as an opportunity to see myself in the same light that God sees me and worry less about the poem itself.

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Every Day Sacred

This week I am being given a gift.  I’m spending most of this week at a hotel close to my office.  I have a big work event coming up and a lot of things to get done.  With the 50 mile distance from my home to my office and the increased hours this week, my boss graciously offered to put me up in a hotel so I will not have to drive 500 miles this week.  This is wonderful, but the added benefit is that after work is over I have some peace and quiet.

For the last two nights I never even turned on the TV.  Instead I did Yoga and read a book.  It was spectacular.

 

Definition:  sacred (adjective) sei krid 1.  Devoted to deity; dedicated to a deity or religious purpose.  2.  Of religion; relating to or used in religious worship.  3. Worthy of worship; worthy of or regarded with religious veneration, worship and respect.  4.  Dedicated to somebody; dedicated to or in honor of somebody.  5. Inviolable; not to be challenged or disrespected.

 

Our local pastor emeritus likes to use the phrase “every day sacred”.   I like the fact that he doesn’t say “every day IS sacred”, but leaves out that third person verb.  It subtly changes the meaning and moves it away from us as individuals and makes it more about what goes on around us.  We might not feel like the entire day is sacred, but we can find something worthy of worship in every day.

Each day we have a routine.  We get up, brush our teeth, make some coffee, take a shower, get kids ready for school and a variety of other things custom made to our individual circumstances.  Those things we do on a day to day basis are in fact, sacred.  The commonplace is worth our respect and honor.  Recognizing the routine as sacred is not just being grateful for them, but moving to a point of seeing those things as precious gems can change our perspective on not just the present, but gives us perspective on how those things have shaped our past.  I only need to wrap my hands around that warm cup of coffee to remind myself that “life is good!”.   It’s a reminder that I live in total abundance and the fact that I made that coffee with running water, electricity and in a heated home makes me one of the more comfortable and pampered members of this planet.

There are things I am not doing this week because of the change in routine.  I am not seeing my children off to school or picking them up from practice.  I miss that a lot.  I even miss feeding the dog and have discovered a new appreciation for my shower head at home.  While the distance of 50 miles gives me enough of a break that I can appreciate some solitude, it also helps me appreciate how great I have it at home.  My observation of every day sacred is heightened.

I will be happy to be back in my own bed and slipping back into the same old routine by the end of the week and with renewed appreciation for what once seemed humdrum.

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