My Rule

It’s not a rule; it’s a way to measure how I’m doing in life.

I tell myself this so that I don’t panic with all the responsibility or rebel against the “requirements.” Knowing beforehand that I will be imperfect at this is being gracious with myself. Thomas Merton prayed something to this effect: we hope that the desire to please God does, in fact, please God. I believe this wholeheartedly, and I also believe that holding myself accountable is the responsible thing to do good for me. My resistance to post this, to hold it out in the light instead of tucked away in my journal speaks to how truthful this is, what power it can unleash.

I must be feeling brave today. Here goes…

For care of self

Daily: journal/read/write; eat well; sleep; honor healthy boundaries/limits

Weekly: exercise; spend quality time with husband; reflect on what I’m reading in a journal

Seasonally: take a personal retreat; clear clutter in at least one area of my life/home; reflect on new material to read/listen to

For Relationships with Others

Daily: pray; show love; smile; focus on the one I’m with without distraction

Weekly: give individual attention (preferably 30 min) to my family members; enjoy a game night/family activity; serve through outreach ministry

Seasonally: spend a weekend/time with friends/family

For Relationship with Creation

Daily: recycle; keep thermostats at reasonable temperatures; walk when possible; turn lights out (& lights off by 10pm); use washable items (especially water bottles) as much as possible

Weekly: tend a flower bed or place in the yard/garden; if eating at a restaurant, eat someplace environmentally and food-friendly

Seasonally: hike/camp/enjoy the natural environment

For Relationship with God

Daily: pray the Morning Office or participate in the Holy Eucharist; meditate/contemplate 20 minutes

Weekly: practice lectio divina with the lectionary; worship corporately

Seasonally: monthly spiritual direction; spiritual retreat; confession

This is not set in stone, and it will change with time. If the first step is the hardest, I’m on my way, but I’m sure taking the next gazillion steps will require perseverance and love, too.

I told my husband that I will share my rule with him tonight so he can be on board (he’s already been completely supportive with my self-care goals lately). He can’t wait to hear it, he says.

“Want to know my rule?” he asked.

On the phone? Really? I thought. “Sure,” I said out loud.

“It’s easy. Four words.”

I try to guess it before he says anything. He’s always making dramatic pauses. I’m thinking about love and family.

“Don’t be a d*ck,” he says. “It’s simple.” I can tell he’s smiling.

I laugh, because this is perfect for him. I told him I was going to include it in this post, and he said I should make sure to credit Will Wheaton. Thanks, Will, for sharing your Law.

Here’s to the next steps in our lives!

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Blessings

I guess I don’t often think about what a gift it is when we share blessings with one another. Sometimes they are said aloud like on birthdays or holidays, but often it’s just a smile and shiny, teary eyes that say, “Bless you.”  Wrapped with each blessing is a bit of gratitude as well . . . and love . . . and recognition . . . and hope.

We are a blessing to each other when we take the time see one another not only as we hope to see each other but as we really are. In this one day alone, I’ve been privileged to share in conversation with people younger and older than me. I don’t know if they know how much they enrich my life, how much I see the Light of Christ in them.

The younger folks I visited with was through an elementary school mentoring program. This week they’re studying poetry, particularly that of Langston Hughes. In their eagerness to share their work with me, I saw the creative Spirit breaking through the surface, mostly untouched by criticism. A bit of creativity introduced and nurtured, set free to interact with each child–I only hope it catches on and sticks around to grow into the potential I heard and saw.

I hope that these children are able to pursue their dreams without false pretenses, saving themselves the time and energy of putting on guises to present who others want/expect to see. Still a prolific writer, how much more so would Hughes have been if he had been encouraged to follow his creativity at an even earlier age?

How much richer would our society be if we took time to acknowledge the Spirit unleashed in each other, blessing each other and the gifts that we offer? True, we have to know what our gifts are; furthermore, we have to know who we are first. This takes time (and sometimes therapy!), but the more people I meet and get to know, the more certain I am that each of us is a blessing if we choose to be.

As God’s beloved, we are blessed. If we can live into that, we can’t help but be a blessing to others.

Hungry for a spark of creativity from an author of beautiful blessings? I cannot get too much of John O’Donohue.

 

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People Are Beautiful

With this thought, the bell tower rings nearby.  Affirmation, I suppose, of the divine sort.

I’m meeting many new faces these days, learning new stories, discovering new personalities, hearing new laughter.  This also means, of course, that I’m uncovering other aspects of myself.  In particular, I’m noticing how people relate to me, now that I’m in the “professional” realm (for which motherhood has been the best training ground), and also how I relate to them.

Through my world-view, my lenses, I easily see everyone as child, regardless of age, and somehow I feel how to relate to them as fellow child or as mother.  I find myself listening with compassion.  It’s not unusual to see glistening eyes in this other who is not so different from me after all.

I realize people are beautiful, in so many different ways, on so many different levels . . . myself included.

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Letter to My Best Friends

Dear Hearts (yes, this includes you),

I remember the night I sat in a class about the “authentic” journey, making a list of those I admire.  I remember the shock, near horror, of being told that I possess the qualities of those I admire.  How could I possibly possess their qualities, their potential?  But my denial or disbelief doesn’t change what is.

Now it’s a new year, particularly the Twelfth Day of Christmas, and I find myself richly blessed, ready to embrace the present truly as the gift it is.  I give thanks for all the past has brought me.  I read through my gratitude journal from the past year, and I could feel the radiance of love, warmth, and joy.  Looking forward into this year, I know these blessings will continue.  I have an optimistic yet realistic view on what this year brings.  It includes hard work, but it also brings growth and progress in all aspects of my life.  I hope your friendship will endure my work.  Though I may not seem as available as I’ve been, know that your presence abides with me.

I realize that you, too, are on the list among those I admire, and you, too, teach me much about who I can be, who I am.  Your love, companionship, laughter, warmth, appreciation, humor, gratitude, hope, inspiration, gentleness, faith, doubt, will, strength, perseverance and openness are just a few of the things I count among our treasures.  Thank you for teaching me and allowing me to teach you, as the aikido sensei is fond of saying.

It may be a new year, but it is just another day.  Each day the sun rises, we have the opportunity to take yet another cleansing breath, let it all go, and begin again.  Thank you for sharing your journey with me.  I look forward to all that is to come, but mostly, I give thanks for all that is.  You here, now, is a gift.  You have my love and gratitude, now as always.

xoxo,

Sara

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Point of Contact

Walking in public places, do you notice the awkwardness of when to make contact with others?  Should I look into their eyes?  Smile?  What if they look up just as I’m looking away?  Should I send good energy their way or conserve?

Then I think about how ridiculous the whole concept is if, in fact, the energy isn’t mine to give but ours to share.  I sense an obligation to make contact with others who participate in this life with me, as I participate in this life with them.  I offer my smiles, my focus, even if it’s just a moment, as it usually is.  Maybe that moment of contact, of relation, with all its sincerity and lack of expectation, can be like the butterfly in the chaos theory, changing the course of events for the better.

It only takes a moment to let someone know, “I hear you.  I witness you here and now.  You are not alone.”

In our Circle of Trust, during our small group time, we conclude each focus person’s time with “We hear you.  We honor you.  We bless you.  We love you.  We are blessed by you.”  (something like that,  anyway)  And the miraculous thing is we really mean it.  How often do you get to say these words and feel in your heart of hearts the deep connection?  This practice is spreading into the rest of my life, opening my heart so that it’s not just those with whom I work closely that I feel a connection, that I experience a deep, genuine love.  I daresay this practice of compassion is growing into Compassion.

There is no one point of contact, no quantitative measure of when and where to do this or that in society, regarding when to smile and/or make eye contact or not.  It’s just as true to form not to make eye contact, so long as we feel the connection, honor the other and participate in our wholeness.

Your suffering is my suffering.  Your joys are my joys.  Your life is mine, as mine is yours.  I bow to the Buddha in you as you see the Christ in me.  Here we are, as One.

I hear you.  I honor you.  I bless you.  I love you.  I am blessed by you.

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Authentic

adjective : made or done the same way as an original : true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character

I don’t take for granted the fact that it is a luxury to do inner work, to find who it is I really am, whom I’ve been created to be.  Surely if I lived in a region where to survive was the daily goal, my focus would entirely be to secure water, shelter, food, safety.  Hopefully I could do so with a content heart, not bitter at my lot in life.

This life I’ve been given, however, is a comfortable one, my basics assured (relatively).  I don’t have to dwell solely in my external life, the physical.  I do have a responsibility to keep a healthy demeanor, to care for my body, but even to that extent, I have been richly blessed.  I have food, sanitation, water and medical care — all things to keep me healthy and lead toward a long life.

experience_drop_water_19147_l.jpgThe very substance of my being, though, the undercurrent of my life, is the steady stream of Spirit, the flow of Love that has been ever-present.  The drop that was given to me to begin this life has continued to grow and swell, and now it is time to release the flood gates, to pour that wealth into the receiving bowls of others.  It’s a beautiful energy to share.  It needs no words, only an open heart.  Of course, as a writer, I will share my experiences through words, as meager as they might seem, to offer to others to read or hear.  In some ways, that will do.

All this comes to mind after starting a new childbirth class last night with parents eager and willing to learn, sitting at dinner with a group of passionate, open, honest women, and sharing coffee, dessert and soulful conversation with a dear friend who, like me, is finding that she’s doing what she’s meant to be doing, even if she doesn’t know exactly how it will work or where it will lead.

There’s a happiness that fills my heart and brings a smile to my face.  Surely this is what it feels like to be authentic, to live connected to, with and through that drop of the Divine.

photo from everystockphoto.com by Katia

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All Things Good

I’m finding it difficult to focus on that which must be done.  I’m caught in the mental quagmire of thinking about those who are faced with life-threatening illness and preparing myself for a weekend retreat.  Some are facing the reality of their mortality, and I am delighting in the vitality of my life, the blessings of my nurturing community and ability.

Life is full of these paradoxes, though.  There is birth and death every day, but this is just what we see with our limited vision.  If we could take our focus away from the blatant physical dimension, perhaps we would be able to sense the divine spark in everything, feel the Presence that is the source of life, imbuing us with the energy and very vitality that we describe as “life.”  Energy is neither created nor destroyed.

One of my responsibilities is to trust that all that unfolds has meaning, that ultimately, everything contributes to the greater good, even if I can’t see how.  My vision and understanding are finite, very limited.  If I allow myself to trust, however, I feel like my understanding is broadened; I feel hope.  One of my other responsibilities might be to help others sense this trust and hope.  Some might call it faith.

Whether our body is overtaken with cancer or if we have years stretched before us, the truth is that in every moment, we may not know the difference.  The truth is that the only thing that truly matters in every moment is that we love and love deeply with reckless abandon.  In that, there are no regrets.  And that is a responsibility we all have.

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Need vs. Want

Today marks Day 4 of my Master Cleanse, the third time I’m trying it, hopefully the first time I actually make it through all 10 days.  I’m not doing it alone, though.  My husband and two other couples are doing it, along with some others.  Were it not for the support, I would have already quit.  My constitution is weak.  I dearly enjoy a good meal and am blessed to have the ability to provide such.

burger.jpgBut do I need lavish meals?  No.  I want them.  I enjoy everything about preparing a meal, no matter how much I might complain.  I especially enjoy when the meal is shared, when I can provide nourishment to others.  During the Journey class I’m taking, we took our spiritual gifts inventory, and hospitality is definitely one of my gifts.

Having elaborate meals is a want, but being in relation to others may very well be a need.  Dinner parties give me the best of both worlds, and my husband and I are deciding to make this a regular part of our lives.  Our goal, however, is to prepare healthy meals.  We just need some more planning.  When I have a list of resources, I promise to share.

What other ways can we consciously see where our needs and wants combine?  What wants can we truly give up, do without?  Are all our needs being met?  We may think we want a space of our own, but isn’t it really a need if it improves the quality of our life?

It’s a difficult topic, determining what is crucial to our “quality of life.”  At the core, our needs are the same.  Our layers, though, begin to differ depending on where we live, our society, our livelihood, etc. 

What are we doing to improve our own quality of life?  What are we doing to improve the lives of others?

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Genuine Connection

Recall the last conversation in which you spoke from the heart.

Think of the last time you listened with so much awareness and presence that you truly felt what the other person conveyed to you through words.

When is the last time you maintained eye contact long enough to glimpse the soul and true feeling of the person across from you, not diverting your gaze out of societal propriety?

Forget the e-mails, the Twitter, the insincere chatter and texts of your day and seek out what is truly meaningful in relationships — we have to genuinely relate.  Our souls need contact.

Our recent ice storms left many without electricity, many without heat.  Neighbors came together and helped each other, visited with each other; they connected.

In our Women’s Leadership Circle curriculum we’re using in our women’s spirituality group at church, the meat of the curriculum comes from the conversation that conveys our experiences, our observations, reflections from our heart.  No book, brochure or digital anything is going to replace the connection of souls sharing in Spirit.

Many lost or man-made electricity, but the current of energy that Spirit provides may have just been given a boost.  I hope your power is restored.

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With Gratitude

I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with abundance, friends and/or family, and a warm, comfortable place to settle and rest and marinate in the deliciousness of a life filled with gratitude.

My day isn’t quite like that.  Mine is more of the get up and finish making everything, make sure kids and self are presentable, drive half an hour to one part of the family, eat too much, drive to another part of the family, help make more food, eat too much twice (dessert can be its own meal), spend half an hour trying to make a dent in the mess created, collapse on the couch for a bit and then drive home exhausted around midnight.

But I am blessed to have the family I do.  The more, the merrier, right?  I will gladly spread four meals of thanks throughout the month to get to spend time with my loved ones, and I do sincerely love them.

Complain as we might, some of my fondest memories and the best conversations are had while preparing meals and doing the dishes.  It’s like talking to a man while driving; you can get into deeper conversation there. Women talk well while driving, too, but for me, it’s best when sewing/crafting, cooking, dish washing . . . and, of course, over some tasty beverages.

May your love and conversation be rich, and may you be filled with gratitude.

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