Life, When You Get Better At It Thoughts on the New Year

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I was meeting with my peer supervision group of spiritual directors, a group of wise women whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. And I was trying to describe my life at the moment.

Being an extrovert, I often don’t know how I’m doing or what I’m thinking until I start to process out loud. My description went something like this:  “I feel like I’m ping-ponging through life. I’m just bouncing from one event to the next, without really preparing. Like this talk I have to give on death and dying at the seminary on Thursday, I haven’t even prepared for it, but I’m not worried about it. This is just not like me!”

One of the wise women asked, “How was your life different in the past?”

“I would have written an outline, and every word of the talk, and have memorized it. I’m used to planning my life, not just bouncing through it. But, strangely, I don’t feel guilty; it’s actually kind of freeing. I’m enjoying my quiet time in the morning and my yoga, and each day, I ask: ‘Lord, what’s most important for me to do today? Give me your eyes to see. Show me how to love well.’ It feels different. It feels like life — when you get better at it.”

All the wise women stopped me there and made me write that last phrase down, “Life, when you get better at it.”

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Maybe I’m growing up. Maybe I’m finally learning what’s important. I don’t need to spend so much time stressing, preparing, outlining and rehearsing my life. I just need to be attentive to the spirit of the divine and keep my eyes open.

This month I was invited to a healing party. If you’ve never heard of one you’re in good company. I think my friend just made it up. She is one of the wise women mentioned above. She sent out actual invitations, and of the eight of us that came, most had physical healing needs. She had a liturgy printed out, along with an order of service. Each person shared and was prayed for in turn. My friend had even made some special essential oils so we could be anointed.  It was short, sweet and amazingly lovely. I don’t know what all the outcomes were. I know I felt loved and received a word about “gentleness,” which I am pondering.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, I pick a word, or phrase, to pray into for the New Year. This year I’m picking the word “Gentleness.” I want to be kind and gentle to myself. I want to be kind and gentle to others. I want to live life – like when you get better at it.

The world does not need more strident, yelling, shiny, evangelicals. The world needs gentler, loving, kind Christians. As Dr. Patrick Fung said at a recent Urbana convention, “God is not looking for spiritual giants, but rather for those willing to carry spiritual lamps that shine for Him.”

In 2016 may my spiritual lamp shine with gentleness, hope, and love.  I want to do life like I’m getting better at it.

What is your hope, phrase or special word for the new year? If you share it, we can pray for each other this year.

Mindfulness at Christmas

• greetings from phoenix, aZ •

mind·ful·ness ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/ noun

1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

“their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”

2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

The word mindfulness is everywhere these days. I’m quite enjoying it, actually. I need to learn to be fully present in my body and to others. It is one of my greatest spiritual formation challenges: To stay in the moment; to be here, now – with myself, with you, and with God.

The Christmas season is not an easy time to be mindful. We are dashing to stores, decorating the house, baking, worrying about finances. It does not lend itself to mindfulness. That’s why I’m learning to enjoy advent. In my faith tradition, there is no celebration of Advent, so I’m a newbie and I love it. It helps us slow down and anticipate the birth of Christ before all the crazy relatives swoop in and steal our peace.

This year I’m thrilled to have in my possession, hot off the presses, a new advent guide by a dear friend, Deana Rogers, it’s called Wrapped in Grace: The birth story that changes everything.  It is a beautifully illustrated slim addition that I’m going to savor long after Christmas.

When I was reading this book today I and came across the word, “Mindfulness.” It was in the story where Mary (Jesus’ mom, freshly pregnant with him) goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth (very old, not supposed to have kids, pregnant with John the Baptist). Mary launches into a song, which the author explains is very similar to other songs women have sung throughout the Bible. In it Mary says:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”

In this (New International Version) chapter of Luke, God is said to be “mindful of Mary.” God, the power of the universe, the one who holds it all together, is fully present with Mary. He knows her circumstances (an unwed teenager, carrying a baby that does not belong to her fiancé). He also knows her heart.

If God was mindful of Mary and chose to use her to carry (literally) out his will, it occurred to me that God is also mindful of us. He knows our circumstances, however, messed up they may be. He knows our hearts. He is not concerned that we are too young, like Mary, or too old, like Elizabeth. He can and will use us to carry out his good plans on earth.

What was Mary’s end of the deal?  To say yes. Yes, yes, yes.

This advent season, I want to be fully present to myself (what God is doing within me).  I want to be fully present to others (what God is doing in the world), and I want to be fully present to God (to help carry out his plans). That is what I’m pressing into this Advent Season.

In what ways are you being mindful this Christmas?

#Adayinthelife  #SelfieChallenge

 

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

A friend of mine invited me to try the “Ten Day Selfie Challenge.” You post a different picture from a day in your life, each day, for 10 days. I decided to give it a try with ten of the different “hats” that I wear in my crazy life. It was really fun to do and here are the results:

 

Day One: My Nana Hat

This picture features me having a pajama dance party with one of my lovely grand-kids. The grandparent hat is one of my favorites. It is so much more fun than being a parent, which features much more stress and busyness. Now I can play, color and watch Disney movies all day!

 

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Day Two: The Writer Hat

I love being able to write anywhere, wearing anything… or nothing, if you prefer. I actually write in the library on Tuesdays. I do not generally wear my bathrobe there.

Day Three:  The Homeowner HatIMG_1765

The day I took this picture we had an early snow and it was very wet. The leaves were still on the trees, and after so many years of drought in Nevada, the branches started snapping off the trees all over town. We woke up to huge branches, which fell from our tree, just missing our neighbors’ cars. Some fell on our roof, and some in our driveway, barely missing our cars. And one whole tree toppled over into the street. I’m happy in my homeowner hat because I have an amazing husband who knows how to work a chainsaw!

Day Four:IMG_1767 The Dog Walker Hat 

Since it gets really, really cold in Northern Nevada (it was eleven degrees this morning) walking a dog can be a challenge. But Rocky tends to pout and make everyone miserable if he doesn’t get his walk, so we bundle and go.


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Day Five: The Book Marketing Hat

I’m not smiling in this picture. I’m actually sitting at my library cubicle, where I write on Tuesdays, but I also do some of my marketing there. Don’t get me wrong, I love connecting with fans. I just get tired of the constant self-promotion.

Day Six: IMG_1768The Day Job Hat

Yep, I work a regular job. I’m the Director of Bereavement and Spiritual Care for a community hospice agency. Love it!

Day Seven: IMG_1854 The Retreat Leader Hat

My husband and I are both marriage and family therapists, and we are also both pastor types. 

 

Day Eight: IMG_1793The Crazy in Love Hat 

 December will be 32 years since I married my best friend. I’ve loved every minute of it! Here’s to 32 more!

Day NineIMG_1797: The Mom Hat

David and I gave birth to two wonderful children. Since then, we have added six more girls to our family. This picture features my only boy. A little guy at 6’5” but he will always be my baby boy.

 

 


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Day Ten: The Activist Hat

I can’t help it; I was born with a bleeding heart. David and I run a gay/straight Christian alliance to help bring healing to those from the LGBTQ community who have been hurt by the church. I also attend PFLAG (parents and friends of lesbians and gays). The middle button says “I’ll go with you.” Much violence happens to transgendered people in bathrooms. This button let them know I’ll go in with them if they are afraid. And the last one says #blacklivesmatter because they do. I wrote “Cracker” to try to help turn the tide of racial injustice. It’s my small drop in the battle against injustice.

So this is my selfie challenge. I had a blast doing it. How about you? Post a picture telling something about yourself, or better yet, take the ten-day #selfiechallenge!

First Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com