Monthly Archives: March 2011
The last few weeks have been filled with lots of work and lots of play. First, a week of play in Scottsdale, AZ, with Steve’s extended family. We celebrated Steve’s grandfather’s 88th birthday with a big bash, and we cherished the moments of having four generations of family together. Such precious times. I grew up with one aunt (who died in her thirties), and I never had any first cousins, so it’s been very cool to inherit all this crazy family. Arizona was a needed break, and the first vacation-with-kids that actually felt relatively relaxing. Amazing.
On the heels of AZ, I flew up to Northern California—rain, rain, and more rain—and enjoyed some incredibly meaningful time with the women of Menlo Park Pres Church. First, I spoke at Mothers Together Mountain View, a satellite campus of MPPC. We talked about authentic community, something I believe these women are serious about practicing. Since this was my second time with this group, I loved seeing familiar faces and felt so at home.
Two days later I had the chance to speak at MPPC’s “Day of Renewal,” a one-day retreat for women at the amazing Mercy Center, a Catholic conference and retreat center. What an extraordinary campus, nestled in the hills of Burlingame. Truly inspiring to pass the Sisters in the hallway and see the radiance of love and hospitality in their affect. Like you had just seen Jesus.
We spent the day talking about the themes of Exile and Belonging in our lives as women, following Jesus’ healing of the woman with the issue of blood from Mark 5. We thought about the “issues of blood” in our own lives, the things that keep us isolated and exiled. And then we talked about Jesus’ treatment of this woman, not only restoring her physically but restoring her emotionally as well, bringing her back into a sense of belonging after 12 years of living on the outskirts of community.
At the end of the day, we transitioned to the *stunning* chapel and participated in a Taize and communion service, with a very personal and poignant devotional by my mother-in-law and beautiful music led by Debbie Schaeffer. We sang amidst what felt like a thousand candles all reflecting off of the enormous stained glass. What a place.
Sprinkled before, during, and after these trips were moments with dear friends. A highlight was getting to see Kara—who moved up to Nor Cal over a year ago—and laugh and catch up as if no time had passed at all.
Today, I find myself tired, and yet filled up too. I spent every spare minute yesterday putting my house back together again after the cyclone of the last few weeks had ransacked it.
Today, I return to the reality that our future is still in limbo (thanks to a job in the Navy and a world in chaos)—an inconvenient truth I shelved for the last few weeks. And as the time grows closer to a decision from the powers that be, I try to process my fears of the unknown.
Doing laundry, making coffee, building blocks with my kids, paying bills, writing . . . just trying to participate in the small moments of life that help us put one foot in front of the other and be present in this moment. Thankful that Jesus sees me. And, trying my best to remember what I shared this last week—how powerful safe community can be, how truly loved we are, and how deeply and mysteriously God heals us.
I thought you might want to know what books are inspiring me right now. This is the hodge-podge stack of non-ficton on my nightstand and desk at the moment. These are the books I am currently underlining, rereading, referencing, and just plain loving:When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions by Sue Monk Kidd A beautiful memoir about Kidd’s spiritual crisis and the importance of “active waiting” as a part of the journey. I’ve underlined about half the book. *** Emotions Anonymous by EA International This is the “big book” for EA specifically. It outlines the program, provides 29 personal stories from EA attendees, and also has a section on tools for recovery. This is a handbook with a soul, something I believe everyone would benefit from reading. *** The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown Can’t get enough of this woman. She is a qualitative researcher and has spent her career focused on shame, fear, and vulnerability. So fascinating. This book outlines her findings that led her to what she calls a “breakdown” and what her therapist calls a “spiritual awakening.” She has a memoir coming out later this year that I will be purchasing. *** One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp Freshly added to the NY Times Bestseller list, this book reads like poetic prose. After being challenged to document 1,000 gifts in her life, Voskamp realizes that gratitude changes everything. The book will give you new eyes. *** Healing the Shame that Binds You by John Bradshaw This book was first recommended to me by a therapist a few years ago, and I keep coming back to it over and over again. Another one I’ve practically underlined entirely. His professional insight and personal journey on the subject of shame is so, terribly enlightening. I’m rereading now, as a mother.
Due to the current limits of my life, I just chip away at these books, and at some point I actually finish one! When the above stack has been sufficiently chipped away, I hope to dig into:The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows by James Bryan Smith I’ve heard nothing but “this is life-changing” from everyone. *** Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety by Judith Warner Very compelling subtitle, don’t you think? *** I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power by Brene Brown Just because I’ve got to read everything she’s published. :) *** An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor Absolutely loved Leaving Church, and I am totally wooed by the word “altar.”
Also, could someone please leave a message for Anne Lamott to crank out a new non-fiction collection? Thank you so much.
What is currently on your list?
Last night, I hosted a Found Art Workshop on “Facing the Toxic Voices.” We talked about two important truths when it comes to fighting off these destructive mantras: externalizing and accepting.
I likened externalizing to the confession booth, basically the process of getting what’s hiding inside you out into the light. Whether it’s writing the lies out in your journal, praying them to God, sharing your internal monologue with a safe friend or group or partner, externalizing the toxic voices is one important way to quiet them. Naming things can often take so much of their power away.
We also talked about acceptance. This is so tough . . . the spiritual practice of accepting our limits as human beings. Acceptance—and here’s something important—is the final stage of grief. So it follows that sometimes in order to come to a place of acceptance, we have to go through the process of grief. Something most of us are not good at.
Accepting ourselves as no more than human and no less than human – just beautifully and wonderfully made human – we are able to give ourselves permission to rest, to play, to limit our commitments to those we can actually maintain, to limit our relationships to those we can actually nourish, to limit our work to hours we can actually sustain.
After we talked through these thoughts on facing the toxic voices, the women did two writing prompts in order to process the false mantras they are living out of and in order to receive some of God’s truth.
Then, we dive into the process of creating found art. I laid out an entire table full of remnant wood – table legs, spindles, trims, moldings, finials, old frames. I pulled every bit of it from what amounts to a junkyard, so it was covered in mud and rainwater and spider eggs and plant matter. Awesome!
The women each chose a piece of wood that spoke to them and they created these strange and wonderful pieces of original art—each piece loaded down with reminders of God’s love, grace, acceptance, and creativity.
The best part of the night is the point at which the room becomes pile after pile of open journals filled with one-of-a-kind handwriting, scraps of paper covering every surface like confetti, paintbrushes flying, hammers pounding in nails, Jack Johnson in the background, the smell of strong coffee and hot glue in the air, woman after woman hunched over her masterpiece with intensity and devotion.
I am always amazed at what this process yields. I’m not sure I can fully put a word to it other than magic. What a gift it is to make space for our souls and to allow ourselves to create . . . imperfectly.
My creation started out with a small two-legged table base, about a foot and a half tall. I mounted my architectural remnant to cardboard I had covered with burlap (using hot glue to secure). I then covered it with words and images that remind me to be brave, be free, and be alive. Oh, and of course I piled on the twine.
If I could spend the rest of my life facilitating these workshops and writing books that helped people feel seen and loved, I would be a very fulfilled woman. Here’s to that dream.
And here’s to all of us living out of the abundance instead of the scarcity!