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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Comfortable, Not Numb

At the end of the day–most days, actually–what I really want to do is put on my jammies (if I’m not in them already) and curl up on the sofa to watch a movie, preferably a good one with a happy ending. If I’m really tired, maybe just my p.j.’s and a mindless game on the iPad. (I’ve always been a Tetris kind of gal.) There are also nights when I make myself avoid the screen and pretend like I’ll read something (because the truth is I’ll read about a paragraph before falling asleep).

What does this say about the quality of my bedtime ritual? What does this say about my self-care? My life?

This Lent, I’ve been loosely following along with SSJE’s “Growing a Rule of Life.” I already have unwritten rules, but before Easter morning, I plan to have them written because like everyone else I need structure and guidelines specific to me and my life. These guides will help and encourage me to grow in the way I believe God would have me grow. Like the garden velcro I’ve used to stake small trees or unruly tomatoes, these rules will be strong but flexible, good for now and amendable for when I’ve grown into a new stage.

I will likely have more than one rule dedicated to my care of self. I need and deserve such attention and focus.

What struck me last night as I turned to my iPad for a game was that I was seeking a quick fix for my tired body, a distraction for my weary mind. The Pink Floyd song “Comfortably Numb” popped into my head. How would such distractions actually help me? What I really needed was rest, true rest, not some kind of numbing agent to take away my awareness of what is real. What is real is my need to be mindful of myself, to acknowledge that caring for others takes a toll on oneself emotionally if not physically.

I didn’t do it last night but on the night before, I gave myself a glimpse of what might work. Compline. No screen. Not too much reading or thought required. Gentle, soothing, rhythmic words to grant me rest and comfort. Afterward, I turned out the light and settled into my pillow beneath the cool sheet and blankets. A deep, content sigh is all I remember. I wasn’t numb or distracted. I ended my day in true comfort.

My Rule won’t be about making sure my day is all comfort and zero distraction; that’s not the way life works. My Rule will be the garden velcro to help keep me closer to God when I would rather fall away into numbness. Being numb is easy in the moment, but it does nothing but stunt our growth.


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A Little More Fuss

I know the woman in the grocery store pushing the cart with the child in the top seat.  I have soft terry pants like that, and though I can’t tell from this distance, I wonder if her old sweatshirt is getting holes at the cuffs and seams like mine, aging from all the washes.  I’ve been this woman.

In another aisle I pass the woman carrying a couple of items in her arms.  She breezes by with a fragrance sophisticated and richly feminine.  She looks like she just came from an executive meeting, winning everyone with her charm.  Could she be as brilliant as she is beautiful?  I can only hope to be this woman.

What being an out-of-the-home working mom has taught me is that I can put forth a little more effort and feel tremendously different.  If I feel different, then how differently will others perceive me?

I style my growing hair.  (I do happen to have rollers from a post-partum drug-store visit for a massive amount of beauty supplies after our third child.)  I wear mascara along with my other makeup.  Occasionally I wear contacts.  I now have a whole wardrobe that can hang-dry only, including many pairs of knee-highs.  I bought a pair of boots (but do not plan to buy “skinny” jeans or “jeggings”).

Doing these small things, putting forth a little more fuss at the beginning of the day, reminds me that I am worth a little extra effort.  I am valuable, and I don’t mind if others appreciate me, too.  None of us really want to be invisible, do we?

Some days warrant the yoga/pajama garb, to be sure, but every day deserves a simple little beauty routine.  Simple can mean lipgloss and earrings or curled hair and a dress.

Beauty is simple by nature, isn’t it?

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Gift to Yourself

Have you had that moment when you catch up with a grade-school or high school pal, one who truly knew you well, and after a brief catching-up they ask you if you’ve done any of that thing you truly love?  For me, the question is something like, “So have you been writing much lately?”  For you it might be, “So, do you still play (insert instrument here), sing, draw, sculpt, design, sew, etc., etc.?”

This thought came to me as I stood washing dishes late this morning, steam from the water warming the cool air around me.  I thought of all my friends I’ve become somewhat re-acquainted with via Facebook.  Of those that are working at jobs, I wondered how many of them are working in a line corresponding with their passions.  I wondered who might be working to pay the bills, and whether they were able to find time on the side to do that which they enjoy, that which brings them joy.

My hope is that all can bring joy to the work they do, work we all do, even if it might not feed us completely.  We do have a choice in what we do in our time off the clock.  I don’t use the words “free time” without using or motioning quotes anymore because I find that very few have free time.  When do you have time that isn’t occupied by something scheduled or something that needs to be done?  If you’re like me, you don’t.  I find myself in places, however, where I can choose what I do with the next few minutes or hours.

My other hope for us all is that we will choose to do something once a day, or at least once a week, that truly feeds us and ties us to that which brings us joy.  What simply thrills our inner child?  Paint a picture.  Play your favorite music (you may be surprised you still remember how).  Pick up your textile of choice.  Don’t let a blank page intimidate you; use your favorite pen.

I wish you warmth this holiday season, especially in your heart.  As you prepare to give to others, don’t forget to give to yourself.  It doesn’t have to cost a thing.  Take as much time as you need.  Enjoy.

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What’s Not Said

Sometimes when there’s so much to be said, it’s better to be quiet.  Sometimes if we wear our heart on our sleeves, it’s best to wear a jacket.  I suppose for a while I haven’t been blogging because what’s going on inside is personal, huge and . . . well, a big deal to me.

But what we don’t say can allow space for others to hear something else.  This can be good or bad, and one’s intent makes all the difference.  I hope others take time to hear their inner voice, to listen to what is being offered.  I’ve been trying to do a lot of listening lately.  My friends will probably attest to the fact that I’ve done plenty of talking, too.  Writing, though, helps me get to the heart of the matter most quickly, which is probably why I’ve been avoiding it.

What is best for me?  What am I willing to do . . . for myself, for others?

My listening these days has some to do with what is good for me.  I trust that if it’s good for me, it benefits those around me.  This takes some getting used to and much compromise.  I also have to be very careful about the delicate balance in the dance of relationships.  It’s not just about priorities.  I’ve come to believe that of course we have priorities, but it’s not as simple as that.

As ever, I have my work cut out for me and hopefully lots of time to practice listening, being and doing.

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Ebb and Flow

As a writer by nature, it’s easy for me to put something down on paper or to type something on the screen, but I know the difference between feeling divinely inspired and rambling on with nothing to say.  So, in all honesty, this post will be short.  I’m not feeling it.  Thoughts have come to me for blog posts, but I haven’t been making note, following through.  It’s time for some soul tending.

For me, the tide may have receded for a bit.  I have a chance to get things in order.  It’s time for me to be very present to the needs of my family, home and self.  After much work within the unconscious, I’m not surprised by this; we can’t stay underwater forever.  Now is the time to set some goals, make some plans and follow through.

The water’s still here.  My feet are still wet.  The well has not run dry.

How are you doing this day?

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Spring Break

Life has a way of providing opportunities for us, opening a window or a door here and there.  We always have a choice of whether or not to follow the lead.

This past week was spring break for my kids, and in many ways, it was a spring break for me, too.  We didn’t go anywhere fancy.  I didn’t clean my house inside and out.  I really did nothing incredibly productive or fascinating, but I lived into every moment.

And spring, my friends, is a wonderful time to be aware.  The birds sing loudly, the daffodils and tree and shrub blossoms are giving their all, and the shades of green right now are enviable in their vitality.  The equinox brought us a gentle thunderstorm as our lullaby.

“Let the rain kiss you.
  Let the rain beat upon your head
     with silver liquid drops.
  Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”
         — Langston Hughes

Perhaps you went away for spring break or have busy plans; maybe you’re kids are just now in their break.  My wish for you is that wherever you are, you’re enjoying yourself, making the time to be fully aware and present.

“See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence;
  see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence . . . .
   We need silence to be able to touch souls.”  — Mother Teresa

Quotes found in my “Day Book,” The Poetry of Nature 2009 Calendar by Jean Lowe and Greg Johnson — my first splurge for ’09.  It’s Spring, and I’m truly grateful to hear the resonating gratitude felt throughout humanity in the heartfelt quotes from beautiful people.

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Much Needed Mommy Time

Actually, the title should say “Much Needed Mommy Me Time.” 

Once we become mothers, our identity as an individual woman is lost.  Birth is greater than bringing a new life to the world, as huge as that is.  Birth also ushers in our motherhood, full force.  We agree to be responsible for growing a body and nurturing a soul and may consent to continue to nurture said being for the rest of our living days.  So here I am, in the thick of “nurturing” and realizing that I need to take care of myself so I can better care for those who depend upon me (a recurring theme, I know).

Part of my care includes recognizing myself as a woman.  My needs are not only the needs of the family.  To keep my life in perspective, I have to carefully evaluate what I need to feel like I’m fully living my purpose.  Not everyone feels this way, and it’s important to know what your personal needs are.

A friend of mine and I are doing a baby-sitting swap.  For frugal mothers (whether of desire or necessity) who seek their alone time, this is solid gold.  It’s giving and receiving.  Today I got to go to the library and browse in the upstairs section.  It doesn’t matter that we were at the library yesterday.  I can’t remember when last I checked a book out for myself.  After the library, I went to a local bookstore.  It was time to buy an ’09 calendar, and they had some beautiful ones.  Not every time for me includes an expense, but it is a reward to myself for all the work I put into this family-rearing that justifies my purchases when I make them.  (Hope you agree, dear.)  😉

Now this evening we enjoy our church’s meal before the service (trans: “I don’t have to cook”).  After the short, kid-friendly/chaotic service, I facilitate a women’s spirituality circle.  The church provides a nursery.

I know it doesn’t always take a village to raise a child, but I’m a firm believer that it helps greatly.  If nothing else, it makes for better mothers.

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A Time for JOY

TimeForJoy.gifAs you’re getting this, I am off amidst a group of wonderful women at our annual Time for JOY retreat.  You needn’t envy me.  Just visit our site and plan on coming next year . . . if you’re a woman, of course!

Since the first year of the retreat here in Arkansas, I’ve been hooked.  This is what living spiritually as a woman is all about — Jesus (or insert your religious inspiration here), Others (because we all serve each other and receive great rewards in giving) and Yourself (because a Self properly nurtured has a quality of life inspiring to others, fulfilling to the self and beneficial to all).  You can’t truly put it into words, however.

Spirituality is the experience of this life in the realm of the Spirit.

At our weekend retreat, we try to emphasize the presence of the Spirit, making it obvious in all you do so that when you go home, you are better able to recognize it in your daily round.

Many feel like they can’t get away for a weekend.  Trust me.  I know!  But it’s like putting premium fuel in your car, which you probably don’t do until you start hearing the knocking.  It’s like getting the flu when you need to slow down.  Rather than waiting for something bad to happen, give yourself a little preventative medicine, the sort that nourishes you mind, body and soul.

If you’re not here with me at the retreat, I hope to see you next year.  If you can’t make it at all, is there something similar near you?  Can you make a weekend retreat for yourself?  Do something to recharge your batteries, your spirit.  Get a good night’s sleep.  Eat some good food.  Pamper yourself.  Stimulate your intellect.  Evaluate your life.  Imagine your life as you hope it can be, and do something to make it happen now.  Yes, you can, and I give you permission.

Live every day simply with great joy, and join me Monday with a renewed Spirit.

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What a Body Needs

I almost had to trick myself into writing this meditation.  It has to be done.  Last December, on a weekend vacation with the family, there was an indoor pool at the hotel.  Swimming sounded grand, but a bathing suit sounded ridiculous.  These thighs?  This postpartum belly?  Quickly I slipped into self-abusive thoughts that are only affirmed by the media’s portrayal of what is beautiful.

Hold the phone.  I know what is beautiful.  A nursing babe, having the nourishment to provide her well.  That in itself is a blessing.  With a child’s head in my lap as I stroke his/her beautiful hair, I’ve been told my legs are soft and make good pillows.  My husband love my curves and luscious lips, and he loves gazing into my eyes.  I’ve been told I have a beautiful smile, which I know is contagious — airborne it even spreads to strangers.

What my body needs is appreciation.  I take all of what I have for granted, to feel beautiful is easy if we can remember what a blessing it is to have food and drink and full capacity of the body we have, even if it’s not traditional — whatever that means!  Who wants to be stereotypical?  I like my soft legs; I just don’t want to have a queen size pillow there.

My body needs a healthy diet and exercise as a token of my appreciation.  I know I would be rewarded in many ways.  Toned, energetic, vibrant.  Why is it so much more easily said than done?  I know what is good for me and what’s not.  One key is support.  I don’t need a cohort in crime.  Many of my lady friends agree with me, or understand even, the chocolate passion.  What I have to seek out is someone who will help me savor and enjoy moderation.

I don’t want a diet and a regime.  I’ll avoid those like the plague.  I want a heart-feeding feast, a soul-quenching menu that will indeed include a monthly truffle.  I’ll find an expressive, meditative activity that will boost and release energy, awakening my slumbering muscles.

I would have put on my suit and gone swimming, if I had had the courage to pack it.  I am beautiful.  There’s just more beauty there to be tapped.  Nothing a little attention and persistence can’t fix. 

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