A Tribute To My daughters On International Daughters Day

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I have five daughters. I gave birth to one, and the other four came along later and claimed my heart.

Sarah, my firstborn, is my lioness. She is strong and a fierce protector of her tribe of children, pets, friends, family, and those on the margins. People look to her to lead.

Natalie is my koala bear. She longs to create a warm and loving home, full of light, beauty, laughter, and creativity.

Stephanie is my owl. She is wise, observant, quiet, pondering, and thoughtful. When she talks, we listen because her insights are compelling.

Camilla is my beaver. She is industrious, busy, smart, and competent. People rely on her to keep order in the chaos of life.

Susie is my fox. She is shy, with a quick mind that can solve intricate problems and a loyal heart. She has good boundaries as she makes a life with my son, and a playful side that delights her nieces.

This is the thing: All five of my daughters are brilliant, creative, kind, and beautiful. And, all of them have experienced trauma, disappointments, or devastating losses in their young lives. I wish this weren’t true. I wish we were handing them a world which is an easier, kinder, safer place, but we are not.

I know each of you is strong and resilient, but I wish you didn’t have to be. I don’t have much wisdom to offer you, but you know how I feel about trees, so I give you this one. Look at it; its beauty stopped me in my tracks and took my breath away. For me, the world is also like this tree, beautiful, strong, breathtaking, and wise. It will stop you in your tracks, take away your breath, and give you the strength you need to go on. So, here are some things I’ve learned, and I wish for you.

Rest, under the tree, like a lioness. You all constantly give to others, take time to rest, play, and create.

lioness

Cling, to the tree like a koala. Cling to your values, your loved ones, your faith in humanity, in God, in yourself. Being rooted in a community will carry you through every storm. Relationships are important.

photo of gray koala bear hugging tree

Sit in silence, like the owl. We live in a crazy busy world, and you all have over-full lives, but there is so much wisdom in silence. I hear you protesting, “When?” But, take five minutes to settle yourself, sift through your priorities, then make decisions about your day.

brown owl on tree branch

Hide behind the tree, like the fox. In a “just say yes” world, we need to learn to say, “no.” We need boundaries around our time, our energy, and our souls. It’s okay to say no, and don’t forget to play. Life can be serious. Find a way to belly laugh.

black and brown animal

Work with the tree, like the beaver. Find meaningful work that enlivens you instead of drains you. You all work hard. If you can work from that place of rest, silence, safety, and boundaries, your work won’t burn you out, and you might even find that elusive quality we are always looking for, that is, balance.

Beaver with stick

Know this, my daughters: Know that I think you’re amazing. I find you endlessly fascinating, and I enjoy spending time with each of you. Know that I am always on your side and that you always, always have a place in my home and my heart.

Mom

 

 

Pictures from WordPress Pixel except for beaver which has a link and the tree is mine.

Spiritual Practice: Finding Your Calling

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I used to think that “calling” involved a specific word from God about your life. As if there was only one thing on earth you were called to do. For instance, when I was in full-time ministry, I thought that was my calling. But what happens if, like me, you leave the ministry? Are you suddenly “out of your calling?” Are you, “between callings?” This led me to a lot of questions. What if I’m working in a gas station, is it a calling? What if I’m housebound by illness? Is there still a calling?

Recently I’ve been reading, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old by Parker Palmer. I love Parker Palmer; he is warm, engaging and funny. My copy of his book is now marked with smiley faces where he has made me laugh. In this book of essays, he brings up the topic of calling or vocation. In it he says,

“The way I’ve earned my keep has changed frequently, but my vocation has remained the same: I’m a teacher-and-learner, a vocation I’ve pursued through thick and thin in every era of my life.” Pg. 85

This thought rocked my world. I was feeling “calling-less” until I read those words. Then, the lights came on. Learning can be a vocation??? Oh my, that is me; I LOVE to learn. Learning something new is what drives me to get up in the morning. It’s why I read, it’s why I write, it’s why I listen deeply to people. I love to learn. I didn’t understand that calling was more about who you are than what you do. It’s more internal than external.

But, unlike Parker Palmer, teaching was not my vocation. I had to think hard about how to describe the other part of my calling. I realized it’s communication, and, specifically, communicating hope. The tag line on my website is “Infusing Reality with Hope.” Hope is in all my books, it is reflected in how I do counseling, it’s in my spiritual direction practice. It’s evident every time I speak, teach, or train. It’s just who I am.

parker plamer

So, my calling is learning-and-communicating hope. What is yours? Here are some ideas to consider when trying to discover your calling:

  1. I think most callings have an inward and outward expression.
  2. I think these callings are innate within you already, from the time you are born. They are part of your inborn personality, or as the Quaker’s say, a birthright gift.
  3. I think they are evident no matter what you are doing for a job. You’ll be able to see these gifts across your lifetime whether you’re scrubbing toilets, teaching kindergarten, or living as an AIDS worker in Africa.

Why is it important to find your calling? For me, it was a freeing exercise. Once I left the ministry, I felt “calling-less,” and I tried to think of my next jobs as callings, but they just didn’t fit. Realizing that your calling/vocation is about who you are, relieves a lot of pressure on the things you do for a living. I like to write, but if writing was my calling, it would feel very weighty and it would lose its lightness and fun. If I put the burden on something I “do,” it feels heavy. If my calling is something I “am,” it feels natural. So, what is your calling? Let me know if you think you find it. This should be fun!

 

 

 

Spiritual Practice: Being a Light

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I have a dear friend who is often housebound by one of those horrible autoimmune diseases. She told me that once in desperation, she cried out to God, “What can I do for you, I can’t even leave the house?” God answered, “Be a sunflower.” The image of being a sunflower, of turning your face toward the light of God is beautiful and doable. She thought, I can do that!

Poet Mary Oliver, in her poem, The Buddha’s Last Instruction, suggests the Buddha’s last words were, “Make of yourself a light.” Mary Oliver’s poem is about the sun coming up and filling the land with light. In one stanza she writes,

“And then I feel the sun itself

 as it blazes over the hills,

like a million flowers on fire –

clearly I’m not needed,

yet I feel myself turning

into something of inexplicable value.

 

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The light does this to us. It shines on us, in us, hanging and healing us, so that, as the Buddha says, we can be a light to others.

John Donohue, a beautiful writer, and prayer of the Celtic tradition of Christianity wrote,

“May the light of your soul guide you. May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the secret love and warmth of your heart…May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light, and renewal to those who you work with and to those who see and receive your work.”

When Quakers pray they say, “I’ll hold you in the Light.” I think that is beautiful.

sunflower

It seems clear to me that our job is to be a sunflower, turning our face to the light of God’s love. As God’s love fills us, it guides us, blesses our work with love and warmth. Then, it does as the Buddha suggests, it makes a light of love and healing to a hurting world.

How have you experienced the light? How does light flow through you to others?

 

Photo credit: Sunflower Lantern FestivalSunrise