The Most Important Thing

Last week, I met with my spiritual director.  Throughout the month as I await my meeting, I scribble down thoughts in my journal of things I might want to talk about with her.  Yet, as the time arises, I ask myself:

What is the most important thing we should be talking about? 

The goal of meeting with my spiritual director is to discuss how I’m seeing God at work in my life.  So I’m learning to slow down, attune to my own life, how he’s working internally and externally.  I’m getting used to open ending questions swirling in my mind.

  • What is the Lord revealing to me about myself?
  • What questions am I entering more deeply?
  • What is the Lord saying to me presently?
  • What images center me and ground me right now?

So as I walk into the parlor at Tabernacle Presbyterian at the corner of 34th and Central, I anticipate discussing the most important thing.  Currently it’s an image about the tree in Psalm 1, that’s planted by steams of water, that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

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As the conversation starts, we discuss this image, and keep coming back to it throughout the conversation.  I’m being invited into a more hidden life, a life whose roots keep going deeper and deeper into the soil.  I’m to be grounded, not moving, being tempted to engage in a more active life.  I am to appreciate, to find joy and contentment in staying right where I am.

Peace emerges as the most important thing is discussed.  We end our conversation as I make an observation that the theme of “prophet” has come up again and again this month and I’m wondering how I may be encouraged to take on an unpopular, but necessary stance.  No answers, just a large question to be lived–and to figure out what this means day by day.

What is the most important thing you should be discussing?  

Who do you discuss the most important thing with?

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What’s the most important thing we should be talking about?

This is a hard question, and at times may be too serious.  Yet sometimes this question is totally called for.

It cuts to the chase.  It’s direct and clarifying.  It involves a deeper search.

It’s an active question and it cuts through passive-aggressive wandering conversations if there’s conflict to work through.

It’s both gritty and a gift.  

Imagine yourself sitting down with someone over coffee, and after a few minutes of small-talk, getting beverages, adding creamer, and finally getting settled, you hear, “What’s the most important thing we should talk about today?”

While my first response may be intimidation, overall, I think I would like to hear the question.  It means that my inner thoughts have value.  It’s an open-ended question, so I can bring hopes or fears, joys or tears.  This question gives value to what I’m feeling or processing.  It’s not a “let’s just catch-up” question.

It’s a question that screams, “What is most meaningful to you right now? I want to hear about it!”

I must say, though, this must be a well-timed question, used with discernment.  Some conversations are for catch-up, for information, but some do go deeper.  This question is perfect for your deeper conversations-those friends who are friends because they go deep, and they are not scared away.

I think though that this question can be playful and answered in a silly manner.  If someone would have asked me this question on Thursday morning, I would have answered, “Key-lime pie.”

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I just concocted this delicious pie for the first time and was very proud.  Some desserts on the auto-immune paleo diet are a big disappointment, but this one just looked lovely.  If someone else would have been in my kitchen, I would have told her about the ingredients and wanted her to smell the avocado/lime juice mixture, test the consistency of the coconut pie crust, and take joy in decorating the pie with kiwi and raspberries.

At that moment, making the pie took all my attention.  I was completely engaged, completely excited and I would want you to join in the fun with me.

On Friday, I’ll let you know a deeper answer of mine to this question 🙂

What important things do you want to talk about with your friends and family?

Where do you hurt? Pt. II

At 6am, my alarm buzzes, and I put my contacts on and go into the living room.  My morning starts with 10-15 minutes of gentle yoga, sometimes with classic music, but sometimes just silence.

I settle into breathing deeply, from my abdomen.  Deep breaths, in through the nose, out through the nose.  Or sometimes in through the nose, out through the mouth, loudly.

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My brain settles on my breath, already attempting to quiet my thoughts swirling around, even at such an early hour.  I am focused just on the present moment, not my to-do list.

This is when I hear the Lord ask me, “Where do you hurt?”  

There is something humbling about stating brokenness at the very onset of the day.  But instead of feeling depressed or especially broken by that question, the question is an invitation.

An invitation to be human.  An invitation that I don’t need to be a superhero today.  An invitation to accept my particular limits this day.  An invitation that the Lord wants to hear about my brokenness.  An invitation to be reminded that He comes near to the broken.

Today I answered, “My teeth hurt.  I must have clenched them last night.  My right hip is tight, and much less flexible than yesterday.”

Sometimes the answers may be more emotional or spiritual in nature.  However I have found that telling the Lord how my body feels is especially important to me.

I need to be reminded daily that the Lord cares about my physical body.  He wants me to be aware of how to nurture and tend to my body daily, not give excuses for why my body should be last on my priority list.  He wants me to remember that He came to the earth in a body.

It’s weird at first.  Especially if, like me, you grew up in an environment in which there was a significant body vs. soul dichotomy.  But I remind myself that the Lord cares, even if your words sound crazy for awhile.

I’m still on a journey, where I’m trying to picture and visualize that while on earth Christ hurt in every place that have and will.  I don’t know how this is true, but in order to believe Christ was human and suffered such as me, I must see him lying in bed exhausted, his legs tired from walking, his stomach rumbling of hunger.

May we all accept His invitation to be human.  He created us to be human-nothing more, nothing less.

Where Do You Hurt?

This fall, I read through the book Holy Listening by Margaret Guenther.  The author is an Episcopal priest, author, mother, wife, teacher, and a spiritual director.  The book was gritty, yet nurturing at the same time.  There’s a part in the book where she describes the two most important questions that she asks her directees during spiritual direction:

  1. What do you want?
  2. Where do you hurt?

These two questions sum up so much of what we think about, dream about, worry about, cry over.  These questions dig deep and reveal a person’s true self and his or her deepest longings.  The theological language is stripped away; in fact these questions are quite simple.

But maybe not so simple to answer.  

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Can you imagine if the question “Where do you hurt?” was imbedded into everyday conversation?  How would that change our interactions?

First, we must know how to answer this question ourselves.  Our answer might be physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological.  There isn’t a right answer–but the desire to truly search ourselves and be honest must be there.

Some mornings while doing yoga, I feel that my hips are tight, that my stomach hurts from what I ate yesterday, that my breathing is more shallow.

Some mornings I woke up having cried the night before.  I was worrying about money, about relationships, about my job, my health.  Some mornings I wake up apathetic and just feel like I’m floundering. Some mornings I process the past and feel guilty or sad or angry, and must acknowledge that I need to feel these emotions until freedom can come.

Some mornings, I feel far away from God, or I can’t seem to sit still and just be.  Some mornings thankfulness comes easily and simply as I just seem to pray as I do everyday tasks.

The beauty (or possibly fear) is that there are difficult answers to these questions every morning.

God, and those close to us truly want to know these answers.  The Lord cares where you hurt, where you feel you fall short, how your body is feeling in this very moment.

The challenge today is to sit still long enough and linger with the question, “Where do you hurt?” Answer honestly.  Acknowledge where you are at in this moment, not where you want to be.  Accept love from God and others, for who you are, for where you at right now.

You truly are loved, even in the hurting, the stumbling, the groaning.  He groans with you.

Where do you hurt today?  Feel free to share in the comments, if you feel comfortable.

I will be sharing how I daily try to answer this question with you all on Friday.

Longings for 2016

In early December, I took a half-day retreat at Sustainable Faith Indy.  I was led upstairs to a simple, quiet room with a large window looking out onto the neighborhood street.  I read through Luke’s account of the birth of Christ and was left to ponder how all the persons of the story of Christ’s birth, brought forth a particular light.  Every character had distinct longings.

So do each of us.

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After I spent some time in Scripture, I grabbed a piece of blank computer paper and a pen.  I started to list out some of my longings for the upcoming year.  I make a distinction between longings and resolutions.

Resolutions are something that I typically force myself to do, after seeing some deficit in myself.  

Longings are what I truly desire.  What I really want.  They may be something I work towards tangibly, or something I must wait for.  

Here are a sampling of my longings below:

  • Set up a writing schedule and stick to it. 4-5 hours of writing per week. Keep blogging weekly. Comment on others’ blogs, potentially guest blog. Seek out a writing community.
  • Start a family recipe box. Try new recipes often. Listen to my body, what I crave, what I need, what foods I can incorporate back into my diet.
  • Embrace lazy days. Full of movies and music and being home without guilt or the need to be doing more.
  • Find a healthy rhythm of hospitality.
  • Stay near to suffering, my own and other’s, but not let it drive me to despair.

 

Take your time.  Your longings do not have to be written out in one sitting.  But I hope this year you will ask the ongoing question, “What do I long for?”  Does your life reflect what your true longings are?

Journey with me friends, both in the art of lament and love.  We have much to learn, much to gain.

What are your longings?  Describe the experience of writing out your longings.  

What Do You Want Me To Do For You?

This year on Mondays we are going to be sitting with gritty questions.  I hope that you will interrogate reality deeply with me, for we all must ask ourselves hard questions in order to grow and change and hope.

At the beginning of the year, so many of us are focused on goals.  Even insightful blog posts point out that there’s more at play than just sheer willpower when writing out New Year’s resolutions.  At an emotional level what goes deeper than goals are longings.

Goals keep us striving, while longings tug at our emotions.  

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What do you really want for 2016?  What do you really want in this moment?

At first when I was getting comfortable with answering that question, it seemed selfish.  We just came off a season of giving–and if we’re honest, while it is nice to receive gifts, receiving can be very difficult.  Giving makes us feel good, helps ease our conscience in a way.

Sit still in a quiet place for a few minutes, breathing deeply in and out.  Let yourself dream about what you really long for.  Picture this in your mind.

After you’ve settled with this image, imagine the Lord entering into this conversation with you.  He’s sitting beside you looking into your eyes.  He asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”  

How do you reply?  What emotions do you feel as you hear this question?

Write down your answer on a piece of paper.  Read your longings often.  Share them with someone you trust.  Come before the Lord as your true self, with your deepest longings.  He’s the one who gave you these longings in the first place.

If you’re comfortable, share your longings in the comments.  I’d love to keep this conversation going.  I will be sharing my process of writing my longings, and share some specific ones on Friday.

New Year News

Happy New Year friends!  I hope you’ve had a restful and joyful holiday break, enjoying family and friends, traditions and new adventures.

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I wanted to write a post letting you know about some changes happening on the blog.  First of all, I’m going to attempt to write twice per week in 2016.  You will see posts on Mondays and Fridays.  On Mondays, we will be exploring the theme of powerful questions, how to interrogate reality in your own life and in work or personal relationships.  On Fridays, I hope to write about an element of self-care or purposeful habits.  Please feel free to comment and share my posts with friends.

As you enter into this New Year, either with anticipation or trepidation, may you live calmly seeking to bring your true self to the world, willing to be human and make mistakes, but to engage with the world fully.

May you cultivate compassion for yourself as you set New Year’s resolutions.  You don’t have to be perfect.  You don’t have to get everything on your to-do list done.  Just show up everyday.  That will be enough.

A Year In Review

I want to end the year reviewing some of the highlights of 2015, some things that I’ve posted about, and some things that I haven’t.  I hope you also spend some time to think about the blessings of 2015, ones that are obvious and maybe even ones hiding in a dark corner.

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-Going to a Michigan vs. Purdue basketball game in W. Lafayette for my birthday

-Being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s

-Going to a Penny and Sparrow and Josh Garrels’ concert

-Visiting my sister at Grove City for a sister trip and at graduation

-Visiting Chelsea in Memphis

-Celebrating that Chels went into remission and moved to Indy

-Living with two different families in Indy

-Working at Vision Academy and Dyslexia Institute

-Hosting a “I’m getting healthier” party in May

-Eating at several local restaurants

-Traveling to Chicago

-Sharing my testimony at Redeemer

– Attending a liturgical church and Tuesday night sermon discussions at the barn

-Starting my spiritual direction course

-Taking a poetry class

-Participating in 3 different retreats

-Completing one year of blogging

-Tweaking treatment plans, slowly getting healthier

-Watching plenty of Gilmore Girls and Parks and Rec

-Shopping at farmer’s markets

-Baking for fall and winter

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, friends!  Be on the look out for more thematic writing in 2016.

What are your blessings of 2015?

Christmas Prayer 2015

I started a tradition of writing a Christmas prayer or poem every year.  I wanted to share this year’s with you.

 

Because of Your tender mercy,

the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us

 

You give light to us who sit in darkness, in the shadow of death

and to guide us to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.                                                   

 

You bring us home from our wanderings

to dwell securely and hear Your voice.

 

We wait for the day the wolf shall dwell with the lamb

but show us those moments of peace even now.                                            

 

You promise a safe dwelling,

bring to mind thankfulness for safe people and places.

 

Allow us in the safety of our relationship with You

to be a person of safety for others.

 

Let us taste sadness, so we can savor hope.

May we know you as One who suffers alongside.

 

Let us feel the loneliness of waiting

so we learn to wait eagerly, with deep longing.

 

Come, Lord Jesus.

Come, and keep coming.

 

Thank you for making your dwelling in us

For allowing this broken body to be your place of safety.

Amen.

New Holiday Staple

This weekend I went to a Christmas dinner party.  Everyone was asked to bring their favorite holiday dish.  And I honestly asked myself, “What’s mine?”

I decided to depend on a dish I just made for Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Casserole.  It was my first time contributing to Thanksgiving dinner–and everyone loved it!  And the best part of it, is that it’s so easy.  Minimal ingredients, minimal work, just time for chopping and baking.

Here’s what it looked like pre-baking:

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You can find the recipe here.  Happy Christmas cooking and baking!