I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field for a while, and gone my way and forgotten it. But that was the pearl of great price, the one field that had treasure in it. I realize now that I must give all that I have to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past. It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
Sunday might always be a bittersweet day for me. Christians have long called it the Sabbath: a day to attend church and rest. And until a few years ago, I went along with this. It was the way I was raised, and as a person in a ministry family, it certainly didn’t feel like a Sabbath. It was a religious work day, which left me feeling exhausted, with a headache, and with no rest at all before starting the whole week over again.
When I went through my midlife crisis several years ago, (yes, I said it!) I decided I had to stop doing some of the things I’d been doing for so long out of duty, guilt and because I wanted to please others. And church was one of those things. Jung talked about the two halves of life and I completely identified with this:
“One cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening become a lie.“
So do I miss church? Not really, no. And that makes me sad. I feel guilt associated with not missing it, as well as a wistfulness that I’m not one of the people who feel happy and a part of everything at church. It might be my introverted-ness and detest of crowds and doing things as a group. It might be my rebellious streak that doesn’t want to “turn to your neighbor and tell them…” after the worship service is over. It might be that there really are some people better suited to organized religion and I’m not one of them.
But I still believe. I still search. I still pray. I still am awed by creation and by my little place in it. But, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I feel like I’ve expanded my views and I’m not afraid of other people’s ideas about spirituality, or the possibility that they might influence me.
Perhaps I need their influence! In my yoga teacher training class this past Tuesday, our teacher was talking about the size of our galaxy, how many stars are estimated to be there, how fast light moves, etc, and how small and insignificant, yet important each of us is. And I thought of the passage in Psalm 8 (verses 3-5, NLT)
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.
It was marvelous to connect a Biblical passage to a yoga teaching! I’ve been surprised to find I can be reading a book on meditation from a Buddhist teacher, and it doesn’t in any way contradict or put down the religion I grew up in. Instead, there is respect shown and I continue to discover many correlations between various religions and belief systems. If anything, I’ve been humbled in what I thought I knew, in how people of one belief might treat someone from another belief. (Christians have a lot to answer for!)
In this period of my life, I turn to books, as I always have done, to help tether me to what I believe, as well as to challenge what I think I believe. I’ve been reading much wider than I did as a younger person, and it’s been very healing as I find the inner resistance, the prejudices, the tendency to be on my guard and then learn to listen anyway.
I have fewer answers than I once thought I had. The pride of earlier years, the cut and dried way of looking at things, has given way to viewing my neighbor through a gentler, more compassionate lens.
So many, myself included, have been wounded by the church’s (or other religion’s) intolerance, rigidity, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness. We may not go back to the way things were, yet we still believe.
For people like myself, or for anyone who is spiritually aware and a seeker, here are a few books you might benefit from.
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’ Donohue. Many of you are familiar with the late John O’ Donohue and I often share his poetry here on the blog. Everything this man wrote is worth taking the time to read, and this book is no exception! He infuses his poetic, imaginative, nature- inspired way of seeing into everything he writes, combining it with a rich, philosophical intelligence and a spiritual depth that I haven’t read elsewhere. And beauty is everywhere.
Thirstby Mary Oliver is one of her many collections with a spiritual bent. Her poetry is clear, direct, true, and always asking and seeking out the Creator. If I’m particularly troubled in spirit, her poetry helps me find the heart words my head cannot. You know what I mean, right?
Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God is a collection I discovered a few years ago, and read continuously. His unique, fluid, broad perspective on life, on the Divine gives me courage whenever I feel my faith flounder, whenever I think I’ve gone too far away, I remind myself of the fact that I’m circling around, that I’ll return.
I could go on, but these are four to start with and you can be sure I’ll add to this list over time. I’d love to know if you’re reading a book on spirituality or philosophy, or perhaps a self-help or personal growth book. Please share in the comments below and have a great week!
Today is the start of a new series called Savoring Sunday where I will write about spirituality, slowing down, self-care, soul work, quiet, and rest. Poetry will be included from time to time, but prose will be the most prominent feature. My writings are intended to share thoughts on what I’m discovering and what I’m wondering as I walk through the seasonal rhythms of the year. I hope you will join in the conversation in comments and share your own insights and experiences.
Today is the twelfth day of Christmas. I fully embraced this season that has felt very much as if time were standing still. What have I been doing? Little work (other than household chores), lots of reading, pondering, reflecting on last year, and listening to my heart. I’ve played and re-played podcasts about aligning your business to who you actually are, rather than who you think you should be.
I’ve been asking myself if I’m living in congruence with who I am. Do I have the courage to follow my intuition and live from a place of peace and listening to myself, to allow adequate time for self-care and rest as well as for learning and work? I can be so unbalanced in this! I love work and learning and can fill up my days and nights, going nonstop until I’m wired and exhausted. Because I have a business to run and I want it to succeed. I’m also a student and have plenty to learn.
But I need to take care of my whole self. My body won’t be at its best if I am not caring for it daily with proper amounts of exercise, nutrition, and rest. My mind will be anxious and troubled if I don’t allow it time to meditate and calm down. My soul craves connection with the Divine, “…my soul thirsts for you…”(Psalm 63:1) but I have to slow down and “Be still” (Psalm 46:10) to get closer to God. And getting out of doors and into Nature more often seems to bring balance to every layer and part of myself.
The other area that I’ve been thinking about is friendships. I had a few insights last year including how I have the tendency to approach friendships through the lens of ministry or “how can I help/serve you?”. This is because I was raised in a minister’s household and pretty much everyone who came to our church or to our home needed something and it was up to my parents to provide it. So I tend to look at people in light of what they might need and see if there is anything I can offer to help them.
But this is actually not what I want, so I had to stop doing it! I want to be someone’s friend, not their mom or minister. Because I have needs too! That means I have to act in accordance with this. I have to be honest and tell friends what I want, as well as ask what they want. This will be a process…
So this is a little of what I’ve been thinking through while I’ve been taking a break from business and every day life. This time-between-times has been magical. I’ve nurtured my creative self with music, reading, rest and just being, realigning myself to my purpose by doing plenty of self-inquiry, and restored my soul by listening for that still, small voice.
And because you know I love sharing my favorite resources, I’d like to share a few things I’ve been enjoying. Here are the two Spotify playlists that became my go-to music this season: Christmas Choirs (U.K) (just gorgeous) and Christmas Cocktail Jazz (the perfect quiet yet upbeat jazz instrumental music for parties, dinner, or anytime).
And here are the two journals/planners I use to keep my life in order and to keep my personal and spiritual growth moving forward: This is my fifth year using the bullet journal method and “>this is the dotted journal I love. This year I purchased the Nordic Blue color, which is the first time I’ve veered away from Black or Navy Blue. I’m splashing out! What I love about the bullet journal is that it is completely customizable to each individual. You can learn this method in a few minutes (seriously!) and use any notebook you have. If you haven’t tried it, and you’re someone who craves a simple, doable way to keep your life in one place, go with the bullet journal method. You’ll wonder why you didn’t start it sooner!
The other journal/ planner I love is the Sacred Ordinary Days Planner. It follows the Liturgical calendar, has weekly spaces for Examen, Sabbath ponderings, and a page for each day with spaces for priorities and notes. There are suggested Biblical references for each day, as well as quotes from spiritual writers. So yes, it is most suited to those with a Christian inclination, but there’s none of the annoying, overbearing, cutesy, cheesy feel that most Christian planners have. It is tasteful, sensitive, and leaves room for your own creativity and individuality.
And, lastly, here is A Literary Christmas a sweet collection of old-fashioned Christmas stories and poems on audiobook. Juliet Stevenson and Simon Callow narrate and it is a holiday treat I will look forward to each year.
I’d love to know what you’ve been thinking about, listening to, and discovering these last few weeks!
I don’t know about you, but I have a lifetime of breaking promises to myself. Of telling myself one thing and doing another. Of agreeing on a course of action only to face the unpleasantness and lack of novelty of follow-through and fizzle out.
Last summer, I was made aware of this while listening to a podcast by Rachel Hollis. She talked about how so many people are in the habit of starting and stopping things, about the lack of commitment to our own priorities, about how breaking promises to yourself makes you not trust yourself. And how no one would flake out on another person the way we often flake out on ourselves. That idea–of keeping promises to myself–was one I hadn’t really thought of before. I don’t know why.
Although I neither blame my parents or the Christian culture I was raised in, my life–the way I think and live– has been affected. Sometimes it’s been very positive, sometimes not. One of the “nots” would be this rather irksome saying my mother used to quote to me when I was a child: “Jesus first, Others second, and You always last. That spells JOY!” Sorry, Mom, but it ain’t necessarily so!
The whole concept of living to serve God and others is a noble one and I am not suggesting that now I have seen the light and only serve myself. I believe that a human who lives only for self winds up feeling empty and dissatisfied, lonely, and worthless. We all need to be investing part of ourselves in that which is greater than us, in that which may not serve us, but which will benefit others.
But in the past few years, I have begun to see how damaging the above concepts can be for women who think that God wants them to spend their entire lives putting aside their needs and/or desires, because someone else’s needs or wants must always come first. And as much as I hated to admit it, I had done a good deal of this as well. Until age 39 when I fell apart. My experience is not so unusual, really. As Brendon Burchard says, “Living incongruent to what you believe is the greatest form of unhappiness.”
So after I had my mid-life crisis, as it’s aptly called, I reassessed everything. I began to catch myself when I would say yes to something that I really didn’t want to do. I had to remind myself often of the Jen Hatmaker quote, “If it’s not a Hell, yes, it’s a No.” And this past year, I have begun to deal with my lack of consistency in many areas of my life and make myself do what I told myself I was going to do.
Commitment to myself is tough, but I know it is right! That means if I have time scheduled to write or work or exercise and one of my kids wants me to drive them last minute, or a friend wants to come over, I have to say no. It’s hard to disappoint people–I hate it!!! But I’ve had plenty of practice disappointing people in the past few years between leaving church, getting a divorce, getting remarried and living differently than I did before. (I am starting to warm up to the idea of writing more about this difficult season I’ve been in.)
If you have a habit of breaking promises to yourself, it’s going to be a process to turn things around. Begin with something small, but be on the lookout for places in your life where you constantly shove yourself aside to please others. You put things off, change your plans, let personal growth and wellness goals fall by the wayside because someone else is demanding. Again, I’m not saying live to please only you, but there has to be some place for you in this life. “Your one wild and precious life” as Mary Oliver says. I will leave you with her poem The Summer Day. Happy Monday, friends!
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand.
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
Let me be honest: it is a challenge to walk the wellness path I encourage others toward. It takes lots of time and dedication to the dreams I want to manifest. It takes willpower, grit, gumption, tears, motivation from many sources and plenty of failing forward. I have many areas I still want to master. In the spirit of transparency, here are some of the things I am working on this year:
I need to be dedicated to daily writing, daily meditation and yoga, daily practice of my instruments. I have an irregular schedule, so I’m thinking that the best way to make these things happen are to make appointments in my calendar app and then follow through. I am not a morning person and do not think clearly enough to write first thing, except morning pages, perhaps. But maybe yoga would work in the morning.
Here is the emotional/mental/spiritual aspect of myself I need help with the most: being grounded in my body enough that I can be calmer, less anxious. I startle easily, am a “Nervous Nellie” as Alan calls me, and am often on the verge of panic. I am taking an herbal blend and use essential oils in the diffuser to help with this, but there are more pieces of this puzzle to be found.
The relational and personal growth-type of area I most need help in: being able to stop what I’m doing and focus on the other person, whom I love, without being preoccupied with work and wishing I wasn’t interrupted. It is really hard for me to change gears, let go of my plan, and be present with someone when I think I really need to get back to whatever I was doing.
I may fake it as well as I can on the outside, but inside, I’m fuming at having to live someone else’s plan for myself. Sometimes I can tell them that now isn’t a good time, but plenty of other times, I need to let this be my life: giving my time, energy, love and attention to the other person.
After all my years serving at church, reading books on selflessness and about being more like Christ, I wonder if I’ve progressed at all? I still like what I like and although I can be a grownup and do all the responsible, giving things on the outside, on the inside I am often willful and rebellious, smart-mouthed and sarcastic. It’s a good thing we can’t hear each other’s thoughts!
So, what do I tell myself? Do your best today! That is my aim everyday, as I’m sure it is yours. We aim to be our best selves, we sometimes miss the mark, but we reassess and keep going after the goal.
How do we treat ourselves after falling on our faces? Plenty of negative, critical self-talk, right? To care for yourself, though, and to promote inner emotional and mental health, you need to be kind to yourself. If you, like me so often, tend to beat yourself up with your thoughts and inner talk, then switch it up! Be encouraging. Find things to compliment about yourself. Remind yourself that mercies are new every morning. Tell yourself “I love you and you deserve to be loved”.
For Lent this year, I gave up negative self-talk about my body and my actions. Every time I catch myself getting ready to unload the mean words gun, I am amazed at how natural it is. It feels weird saying “I love you” to the parts of my body that I’ve never liked much. It feels weird to not criticize the way my jeans fit or my face looks on live video. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s stretching me in the right direction!
So today, assess your life and be honest about where you need to grow, be more consistent, be kinder, let go, create space, or boundaries. But notice the way you talk to yourself and if it tends toward the negative, then begin to sweeten your tone, be encouraging and kind, and tell yourself you are loved and lovable. Because you are!