Destination: Chicago

This past week was fall break and Chels and I spent some time in Chicago visiting some college friends of mine and exploring the city.  We ate lots of good food, rode the train, took long walks in quiet neighborhoods, saw wonderful skyline views.  Simple, yet special.

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Beautiful skyline view from Grant Park

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              Waiting for the train

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Death of a Dream-First Draft

Death of Dream

Slowly my body

crumples. Autumn creates

creaky bones. Arms lay

limp, aches

accelerate. I arise from bed

take a gulp of water, attempt to

touch my toes. As I age, my body

perceives seasons. My body is slowly

dying.

In summer, I remember barefeet,

around the world basketball, sticky

hands from ice cream. A world where

Candyland seemed real. The season

where my right foot launched from a 9 in.

board, propelling my legs forward

fourteen feet, landing triumphantly

in the sand.

Winter is coming

soon. Hibernation and hot

chocolate. Warmth lingers

by sitting still, pondering this

perennial season.

I wrote this poem as I leave teaching as a profession, as I grieve my daily body’s weariness, as I daily grieve dreams left unrealized. Yet daily and slowly I’m learning to sit and feel the warmth that winter does bring, even if I only realize it later.

Tears and Pumpkin Pancakes

Leaves are just starting to turn here in Indy.  To welcome fall, there is plenty of fall baking.  I’ve made applesauce, apple crisp, pumpkin bars, a breakfast pumpkin porridge made with butternut squash, and pumpkin pancakes.  In our apartment we are burning an oatmeal cookie candle almost daily.  We now are buying fall flowers for our kitchen table, filled with hues of orange, yellow, red, accented with a deep purple.  Spices of choice are cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin and cloves.

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Yes, fall is beginning in all of its glory.  And I love fall so much.

But I must also admit that fall means acknowledging a slow (but maybe fast) descent into winter. Into hibernation. Stillness. Cold. Isolation. For everything there is a season.

And in this subtle, beautiful autumn, I’m starting to grieve.  Morning tears surface as I acknowledge that I’m walking away from teaching.  I’m leaving a profession I thought that I loved.  I cry because I’m sad that I have an autoimmune disease and it feels like some days I spend all of my energy trying to manage my environment.  I’m not as flexible as I wish I could be.  I grieve as I fight to leave my old self behind: one that wants to defend myself at all costs, to please others, simply to conform and fit in.

As I eat my pumpkin pancakes and wipe the tears from my eyes, I’m reminded that I’m being remade.  It’s hard work, painful and lonely, yet I’m being shaped into someone only the Father knows.

What are you enjoying this autumn season?

What are you grieving? How are you changing?

Dinner on the Farm

Wow!  It’s been a crazy few weeks.  There’s lots to update, but the biggest update is that I’m officially stepping down from teaching.  I’m entering into my final two weeks.  Teaching is much too demanding for my body and I need to do a job that is more integrative into the life I’m currently living.  I have a “shadow day” at a local breakfast and lunch place on the northside next week, to see where my niche would be at this restaurant.  I’ll keep you posted!

But the title of this post brings us to this past Tuesday night.  Chels and I had dinner at a restaurant on a dairy farm.  It was a perfect getaway into the “country” and to go to a place that feels like “us.”  The interior of the restaurant was simple, yet elegant.

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Wildflowers in an everyday vase.  White tablecloths.  Wood all around.  A second story barn looking onto the farm.  Waitresses and waiters who moved slowly.  The pace on the farm slows down.

Chels and I could soak in the beauty and dream.   We talked about our fall break plans, trying to cut off the school talk.  We laughed and observed other couples, explaining to each other if we liked their interactions.  It was our kind of place.  Simple. Quality food. Purposeful and elegant.  A place where we could rest.

Tuesday night dinners out is a weekly rhythm we both love.  We cook so long during the week, prioritizing the benefits of healing foods.  Yet on Tuesdays we get to enjoy quality food that someone else makes, so our minds aren’t so focused on logistics.  We don’t feel so isolated, out of the confines of our apartment.

Thanks Chels for dinner on the farm!

Parker Palmer Quote

Yesterday, I read the small book Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer in its entirety.  It was a nourishing read.  I’m going to post one quote now, but will probably comment on this book in posts to come.

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The God whom I know dwells quietly in the root system of the very nature of things.  This is the God who, when asked by Moses for a name, responded, “I Am who I Am,” an answer that has less to do with the moral rules for which Moses made God famous than with elemental “isness” and selfhood.  If, as I believe, we are all made in God’s image, we could all give the same answer when asked who we are: “I AM who I Am.” One dwells with God by being faithful to one’s nature.  One crosses God by trying to be something one is not.  Reality-including one’s own-is divine, to be not defied, but honored.

School of Spiritual Direction Recap

Good morning friends,

This past weekend I started my SOSD class, and it was wonderful.  Eighteen of us sat in the living room of this lovely room and learned together.  I felt at ease and full of joy.  My fatigue still dipped as these two full days went on, but they also were energizing days.  As Saturday evening approached, I asked myself “Why?” The answer I settled on surprised me.

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Because the fatigue from Hashimoto’s affects my entire body, I want to be able to enter into my work with my entire body.  I crave stillness and silence and I’m word weary.  Teaching means I speak a lot.  And there’s a part of me that knows that soon I will enter a season in which I will teach through my silence, my stillness, appropriate touch and looks of compassion. I sense that spiritual direction is a way of entering into a practice with my entire being-and I wondered for so long if I would ever feel this again.

I know I’m also entering a season in which people will ask “What is spiritual direction?”  Here’s my working definition right now:

Spiritual direction is a relationship of accompaniment, between director and directee, in which the director listens compassionately and asks spiritual questions of the directee, helping the directee to notice the presence and work of God in his or her everyday life.

With hopefulness, I get to read, practice, and learn about the practice and art of spiritual direction, hoping that soon this ministry will be more prominent in my life.  There are 4 more teaching weekends from now until May and in between sessions there’s reading, writing, practicing and receiving spiritual direction.

Thanks to all of you for journeying with me, and affirming my life’s story, my winding journey in which the Lord continues to clarify my desires, longings, and calling.

Labor Day Rest

I’m staying home this Labor Day weekend and doing much of the same.

The Saturday morning routine of grocery shopping, farmer’s market, and chores.  Going to church and taking a nap.  Watching football and movies.

But I remember when 3 day weekends meant travel, a quick day trip or catching up with friends who live a little further away.

However, I’ve spent time this weekend thinking that this is no longer true.  For most people, 3 day weekends mean more rest and rejuvenation, or extra time for a work project.  In many ways, 3 day weekends are most exhausting for me.  My schedule changes and my body needs time to adjust.  So while others go back to work tomorrow more ready to go, I’ll be more tired.  That’s a chronic fatigue mystery.

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A gem that I’ve found though in getting used to a lifestyle of restraint is to celebrate small things. To be okay in staying settled and doing small things with enjoyment.  I’m not going anywhere and there’s no big plans.  But yesterday Chels and I went to a restaurant on Eagle Creek and then took a walk at our favorite park.  We put it on our calendar 3 weeks in advance and got excited anticipating a “small thing.”

I’m glad there’s no work today.  It’s a cooking and baking day, and mainly a stay at home day getting mentally prepared to go back to work.  But when we’re making chicken tortilla soup for this week’s lunches, and bison burgers and autoimmune-paleo apple pie for dinner, we’re pretty content.

Repetition

On Saturday I woke up pretty early but agitated and antsy.  I was still exhausted, but my mind starting racing.

Saturday mornings reflect a weekly simple rhythm: farmer’s market, grocery shopping and sometimes a breakfast out.  Most weekends, I crave this repetition, or come to accept that eating healthily and locally if possible has become a dominant priority in my life.

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Yet, this weekend I felt bombarded with the drudgery of repetition.  I felt again anxiety taking over because I wondered if I was too tired for this weekend’s errands, that must be completed because there was no food in the fridge.  I resented being sick, that self-care needed to be a dominant way I spent my non-work time.

As I met with my spiritual director this week, she shared that “feeling how tired I actually am” will continue to take discipline, must in fact be a spiritual discipline for me.  As my life has slowed down, I crave stillness and quiet–yet, it’s to the point where I’m realizing that these things are necessary, not just an option.

To feel how tired I actually am, means that I lay on the couch and grapple with the daily reality that I manage a chronic illness.  It means that I hear the Father’s voice saying, “It’s okay that you have to lay on the couch all afternoon.” That I have the freedom to leave the productive, efficient world of work, and fall back into grounding rhythms of repetition.

Repetition and habits and the mundane experiences rather than seeking out new relationships and experiences stand in direct contrast.  Culturally speaking, in my 20’s as a single I’m supposed to live independently racking up as many new experiences as possible because “nothing or no one is holding you back.” But to pursue health, means to embrace repetition.

Yet, on certain weekends, I must also grieve that my life cannot handle spontaneity very well.  Repetition creates traditions and deeply instilled memories, yet with a chronic illness unwanted repetition can seem forced, and I must deal with these intense emotions too.  Repetition does bring out calm and joy, yet also anger and frustration.  But I’m glad that my Saturday morning of errands does have the capacity for delight every week.

What emotions does repetition cause in you? 

Taking a Sick Day

I woke up, barely having slept at all Monday night.  My head burned and throbbed and I was congested.  Yes, welcome to the beginning of school year cold in the middle of August.  Most of my life I just pushed through a simple cold, sucked on lemon cough drops, took a short nap, but still maintained life as usual.  There was too much going on to pause.

But last Tuesday I took a sick day.  Not because I couldn’t get out of bed.  Yet because I’ve learned enough to listen to my body-and I needed to protect myself from feeling worse.  So I made breakfast, took a bath, completed a small house project, and napped for 3 hours all while running the diffuser constantly.

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The sick day helped me to slow down.  To remember that my health takes a precedence over work.  To remember that I miss mid-morning walks and writing daily.  To remember that the goal isn’t to push through any more but to listen to my body.  To remember that a simple change of pace changes my perspective drastically. To remember that I’ve grown; I’m no longer who I used to be.  To remember that it’s my job to forget about students for the day and take care of myself.

I made the right decision and I didn’t feel any guilt.  I took a sick day on the third week of school.  I reminded myself that I manage a chronic illness daily and that pushing through is not my job description anymore.  I took a day off and could truly rest.

What do you learn about yourself when you take a day off?

Spiritual Direction

Next month,  I will start a class on spiritual direction in Indy.  Since signing up, I’ve felt tentative.

Why did I sign up?

I’m not prepared enough.

What is spiritual direction anyway?

Why do I feel a sense in me that I just need to ‘find out more?’

As I’ve started delving into my reading, preparing for this first class, I’ve paused at these sentences that author Susan Phillips uses to describe her work as a spiritual director in her book Candlelight: Illuminating the Art of Spiritual Direction:

“I listen for the depths of humanity, believing that in those storied, embodied, sensate, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual depths lies the presence of God. An encounter with God is not achieved by stripping us of our human nature, but rather entering into it honestly, as Jesus did. As a new relationship begins, I listen for the ways God encounters the real person and how the person prays from the depths of his or her heart.”

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I discovered spiritual direction by attending a few solitude retreats at Sustainable Faith Indy and talking to the hosts, who so graciously welcomed me into their home for quiet reflection in the midst of an undiagnosis and unrelenting fatigue.  I left their home thinking “I want to become like them.”  So at their home for 5 weekends this next year, with a small cohort, we will learn together about spiritual direction and what it means to be a spiritual director.  And over the course of this year, I know I will be changed.  I hope I become a person for can embrace stillness and rest even more fully, enter into conversation more attentively, and see the stirrings of God more acutely in myself and others.

As I come home from work and read, I find myself crying, reflecting, and knowing that  this is my most weighty adventure this year.  I can’t wait to tell all of you more over the coming year.

What adventures are you taking over the coming year? 

How do you wish to learn and grow?