Small Celebrations

One of my longings for this year is to “Find small reasons to celebrate often.”

I’ve found that as I heal, I need to remember the small things.  Healing comes daily in subtle shifts,  and my thankfulness is dependent on paying attention to mundane details.

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Here are a few ways that I’m celebrating right now:

-I’m starting to work out again!  I’ve given up cardio for the past two years in order to teach my body how to relax again and learn to restore itself.  So for now I’m back to doing Jillian Michaels’ workout videos.

-I’ve worked at DII longer than anywhere else since I’ve moved to Indy! To celebrate this I hosted a breakfast last weekend at my apartment.  It was a joy for me to gather friends and to cook yummy food for them, and have the energy to host and prepare to have people in my home.

-I’m approaching the end of my homework for the School of Spiritual Direction class.  What a joy this year has been to learn about this ancient, contemplative practice.

 

What small things are you celebrating now?

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Griefs and Joys in Healing

I remember trying to pray when I was so sick that I couldn’t get out of bed.

It honestly felt like punching a brick wall.  As exhausted as I was, I often wondered, “Why am I hurting myself more?”

But there is this one moment I remember, and I’ve been coming back to lately.

I had just woken up. Sunlight was streaming in from the window on my right.

Gently I heard, “You’re not going to be the same person when you get better.”

It seemed obvious enough.  I knew that the struggle with chronic illness was shaping me.  Getting out of bed every day, making food and going for a walk were my greatest triumphs.  I knew that I was brave in the midst of feeling extremely fragile and broken in social situations.  I knew that I didn’t fit in with people my age anymore.

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For these things, I grieve, and I still grieve. I often feel like I’ve lost my 20’s.  I’ve lost the time to experience the spontaneity of life as a single 20something–and I’ll never get it back. I’m learning to be gentle with myself and let myself grieve that I can’t rewind time. I spent time in bed instead of going on dates.  I roast chicken and make bone broth instead of going to a bar.  I learned to stay put instead of travel.

And as I heal-I still spend hours in the kitchen.  I plan out where I eat and where Chipotle stops are along a vacation route.  I read in quiet more than I go out with friends.

But I am noticing these quiet gifts, joys that I wouldn’t have known before. I can sit still.  I can create an environment of peace, and hopefully people feel more peaceful after spending time with me. I can make yummy, healthy food and I love sharing food with others. I’m not scared away by hard questions.  I can speak my nuanced perspective much more confidently. I can take care of myself and not apologize for it. I allow myself to be refreshed daily.

I’m not the same person I was, and yet I am.  

This gifts were in me, waiting to be seen.

What I really did, slowly, was remove facades. I didn’t need to appear extroverted, or be a power-house single female who was an accomplished career-woman.  I got to drop these images of myself, and get in touch with my fragile, vulnerable self.

I learned to cherish and find great strength in my vulnerability.  I had the opportunity to claim honesty as one of my greatest gifts.  I got to slow down and learn to be friends with myself.

What healing journey are you on? What griefs and joys are you experiencing?

The Shadow Side

On Monday, I wrote about the spiritual practice called the Examen.  In that post, I also referenced learning to get more in touch with my dark side, or shadow side.

Here’s a real life story of my shadow-side that I thought I’d share, not because it’s overly dramatic, but because it’s human.

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Last week, my roommate and I went to a movie, then decided that dairy free fro yo would make a good dinner.  As we sat outside she began talking about how great summer vacation would be, about school, about her students.  I listened, I asked questions that drew out more information from her, yet underneath there was this subtle jealousy, this sadness that I didn’t want to name.

I tried to mask it, yet in the car on the way home I couldn’t find words to say.

So eventually, later that night, I just said that tutoring behind the scenes in a tiny cubicle is still hard for me.  It’s hard for me to tell myself day after day that my job matters, because it receives much less public recognition.  I’m struggling in giving up power and recognition that comes with urban education.

And yet I said, “I can’t blame other people.  This is about me learning to give up control, set aside what I thought my life would be like.”

I failed in the moment to rejoice with Chels, to honor how hard she has worked, to look forward with her to her summer vacation.  I was stuck, stuck because I’m still in the middle of my own struggles, doubts and fears.

Upon realizing these emotions and tensions in myself, I have much to learn in the coming months.

So as I sit with these emotions and feelings in upcoming examens, I am asking:

  • How can I seek to rejoice when others are rejoicing?
  • How do I daily hear the Lord’s voice and Him telling me that I matter and what I do matters?
  • How do I express my sadness appropriately, yet still see the great blessings and provisions of my life?

How does your shadow side manifest itself in daily life? Do you seek to hide from your shadow side or accept it as a teacher?

The Examen

In my spiritual direction cohort, we are practicing the examen, a practice of silently and prayerfully reviewing one’s day, noticing where the Lord was present what resistance may have occurred during the day.

I decided to practice this discipline in my car on my commute home from work.  So I’m learning to turn off my radio for the beginning of my car ride.  I’m trying to slow down immediately after I leave work.

Today, what did I notice? How was God speaking? Did I listen?

Some days I completely forget. Some days I’m exhausted and my brain is not primed for noticing.  Yet slowly, I can see this practice shaping me.

I’ve noticed myself being more playful with my students after Spring Break, letting myself incorporating more play into their work. I’ve noticed that I’m giving myself more freedom to write.  I’ve let myself linger with uncomfortable feelings and emotions a little longer, not as scared to see the dark side of myself. I’ve let myself ask for forgiveness and be forgiven.

I’ve seen myself get angry with waiting, and I’ve been patient with my body when I just needed a vitamin IV.  I’ve allowed myself to embrace the mundane and get frustrated by it.  I’ve felt lonely and exhilarated.

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I’m seeing that the examen is me seeing that so many times a day God says, “I’m here.  I’m glad to do this day with you.” And so often I reject His words and more easily settle into boredom, comparing, ferociously cleaning, feeling like I’m not enough.

He’s reminding me that I’m shaped by the daily things: a hug after work, winding down the day with a game of Yahtzee, going to bed early because I’m ornery, affirming friends, asking hard questions and not having answers, giving my car a tune-up that it so badly needs.

Life can be so much about creating a facade of control, that I miss out on how I’m being formed.  But I’m learning to listen for whispers, accept change with grace, and live into my questions.  He’s just waiting to remind me what I’ve already forgotten.

He’s here and he’s listening.

The Place of Solitude in Self-Care

Imagine waking up to the rain pattering on the window.  You leave your phone charging and ignore it for awhile.  Then you head into the kitchen and grind some coffee beans.  But you stop and listen to the whirring of the grinder.  You laugh wondering if you woke up anyone else.  After the coffee is made, you sit on the couch, and watch the rain, just holding your mug and smiling from the warmth.

In order to start a morning like this, you must first realize that stillness is healing.  You must believe that small details in life are worth noticing and that they bring you joy.  You must discipline yourself to put away technology for awhile, and resist the to-do list that screams in your mind the second you wake up.  I promise you, it can wait.

Last week, I had a solitude morning in the midst of the city.  I went to a local coffee shop for a cup of tea and writing in my journal.  Then I walked two blocks to eat some gluten-free porridge with coconut milk.  Just me.  I enjoyed watching the regulars at the coffee shop chat with the owners and local artists trying to promote a gallery night by passing out flyers.  I needed uninterrupted time just to put pen to paper, writing whatever came to mind.  I watched the chefs make breakfast and the waitresses in thick sweaters, overalls, and wide-rimmed glasses smile at me.

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Ruth Haley Barton, in her book Sacred Rhythms says,

“Solitude is a place. It is a place in time that is set apart for God and God alone, a time when we unplug and withdraw from the noise of interpersonal interactions, from the noise, busyness, and constant stimulation associated with life in the company of others.”

Now my solitude morning had noise.  Yet I could see God in the beautiful coconut milk porridge, in my rainy walk avoiding puddles, in watching friends talk over breakfast and coffee.  It was a morning to witness the abundance of God’s good creation–and know that this abundance is His love for me.

Why is it difficult for you to seek out solitude? Do you think solitude is important? Why or why not?

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In her book Silence: Making the Journey to Inner Quiet, Barbara Taylor writes,

“I began to know quiet in a way I have never known it before.  No black hole of emptiness or infinite nothingness. Rather a fullness, a coming-into, a vast, unexplored region.”

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I felt at home with these sentences when I read them.  I’m journeying to pull back the layers and understand why.  Signing up for spiritual direction still seems like a mystery for me, and yet practicing spiritual disciplines in a community has been a homecoming.  I’m discovering a deep longing for solitude that I’ve always had.

As I journey back, I think about my preferences.  No music in the car doesn’t bother me.  Big crowds have always been overwhelming.  A loud concert isn’t where I’d prefer to spend my time.

Yet I have also felt the black hole of silence.  Living alone in an apartment being sick.  Turning on music or a show to keep me company.  I detested quiet because it reminded me I was alone and at the core I didn’t really like myself.

I’m glad I’m learning to journey inward.  I’m more readily accepting my gifts and limitations.  I’m getting acquainted with my “shadow side” or my false self that I tend to portray socially.

Yet no matter what personality type we are: introvert or extrovert, I believe that we all long for quiet.  We long to feel whole, to feel loved, to be still and not perform for applause.  To be rooted and grounded.  We want to be loved at our worst.  We long to be gentle with ourselves and be able to love and forgive others.

What is your relationship with solitude? What emotions surface when you are quiet?

Space

Time off used to mean trips across the country, or at least several hours away to see friends or family.  Time-off was packed with activity.  Yet as I’ve reflected on this spring break, which I’ve stayed home, there are these small moments that linger in my mind.  Time slows down, and this in many ways is a richer gift than running around with travel.

I’ve enjoyed lovely culinary spots in Indy, letting myself indulge in goat cheese and french fries. I’ve walked a new college campus, and spent time hiking on a chilly day with my sister at Fort Harrison State Park.  There’s been long coffee-shop conversations over a cup of tea at Calvin Fletcher’s, Lino’s and SoHo.  I’ve baked a blueberry peach cobbler for a church potluck and coconut flour biscuits as an after dinner snack.  I’ve cooked a chicken lemon kale soup and citrus-thyme pot roast.

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I read two books in the last week: Dakota: A Spiritual Geography  by Kathleen Norris and Silence: The Journey to Inner Quiet by Barbara Taylor.  I’ve let these contemplative works seep into my bones, in order that I be disturbed a little.  I visited the IMA, gazing into the genius of Renoir, Monet, Picasso, but also let myself be attracted to George Morren’s painting Sunday Afternoon.

I’ve listened to the Lumineers and watched Parks & Rec, along with Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Bucket List.  I went summer shorts shopping on a cool, rainy spring day when I just wanted to see the sun.  I’ve started a new journal and written 23 pages in a few short days.  I’ve spoken deeply of theology with a friend and starting dreaming about summer trips.

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Space allows me to dream.  Solitude enlivens my creative side, which then invigorates my desire for hospitality. I’m trying to celebrate the smaller things in life.  So now I’m planning a “Come celebrate with me because I’m still working” breakfast for later this month.  I’m wanting to invite others into my life to celebrate that my health is in a much better place.  No occasion is needed.

How do you recognize space in your life? Do you enjoy it or run from it?

Needed Rest

I noticed the weariness in my body as Easter was approaching and in this week after.

So I decided to take things a little slower.

As I ease into my newer lifestyle of more silence and stillness, longer meals and renewing routines, I find that I’m less frustrated when my body gives me clues.

“Slow down. Rest awhile. The world keeps on going even as you pull away for a bit.”

I can be my own worst critic at times.

So my body reminds me when I’m weary and I long for much needed rest.

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My excuses can abound:

  • I only work part-time.  I shouldn’t need to rest like I do.
  • I already rest a lot.  Why more?
  • Why can older people live a much more hectic lifestyle than I do?
  • I want to be more active, and resting seems to slow me down.

I tend to need rest when I’m not reading or writing very much.  There’s been a lull, a disinterest, a boredom, even though I love both things.  Slowing down and pursuing the things I love, helps my mind become at ease as well.

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There’s joy last weekend as I visited a coffee shop in Bloomington and had the freedom to read for 2 hours. There’s freedom in exploring a college-town that I’ve never walked, eating lots and walking into book stores, record stores, underground coffee shops, and a vegan and gluten-free bakery.

After the busier church calendar with Holy Week, with Easter celebrations, and cooking, I needed a respite.

Part of celebrating Easter is celebrating that I’m being made whole, in my activity and my rest.

When do you notice that you need rest? What are your favorite ways of resting?