My word for the year is…

You know how spiritual gurus encourage you to pick a word of the year, something profound and inspirational to help you navigate a new year? Well, I found mine the other day. I had contemplated some lofty sounding words, but I don’t even remember them now because when this word fell on me, I knew it was the one.

My word for the year is going to be cushion.

cushioned either way.jpgCushioned, either way. Loved, either way.  Card created for Word of the Year, 2018.

When I have a lot of activity then I need to cushion it with some non-activity, some silence and solitude. When I have a lot of sitting, I need to cushion it with more standing and walking around (this I’ve learned from my back injury.) I love the “vorfreude”, the anticipation of travel, but my adventures need to be cushioned with the feeling of contentment when arriving home, sweet home. And the times when I think I can pour just a bit more information into my brain by reading one more article or one more chapter, I shall give myself a cushion, the needed space for new thoughts and ideas to bubble up.

Once I was taken with the idea of cushion as my one-word guide to freedom and happiness in 2018, I couldn’t stop thinking about the various applications. For instance, I should like to give myself a soft place to fall, a cushion on those days when I am too hard on myself. And when I’m too hard on others or expect too much, I can imagine a cushion between them and me. I can be a little softer and a little more forgiving, a little less rigid and a little more relaxed.

Really, it’s about balance, an invaluable tool of Benedictine spirituality that helps one stay in present moment experience, having enough silence and space to listen with the ear of the heart.

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One of the first cards I made, titled “Balance”

I remember how Fr. Mauritius demonstrated what balance looks like at a retreat he directed.  Standing in the center of the room, which represented having a perfect balance, he shared that it is impossible to always be in a perfectly balanced state of being. Rather, what we do is go a little too far to the left (say, with committing to too many social engagements) or a little too far to the right (perhaps, with too much isolation.) To demonstrate how we so often get out of balance, Fr. Mauritius physically ran to the left side of the room and bounced off the wall. And then to re-correct, an attempt at finding balance, he ran to the opposite side of the room and bounced off that wall.

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Our life is a constant attempt to achieve some kind of balance, but perhaps our efforts can be made more gently. This bouncing off the wall is what I would like to avoid in 2018….with my cushion. Instead of overcommitting, I will take the time to ask myself—will this be too much? Am I overcommitting? Is this a physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy way for me to spend my time?

Additionally, I shall allow myself the cushion of time needed to make any decision. There is no need to rush, to overcommit, to bounce off that darn wall so hard. I shall gently bump into the ever-so-soft cushion I have gifted myself as a reminder to listen to the ear of the heart.

Speaking and silence.
Together and alone.
Activity and rest.
Prayer and work.

The connection between these two good options is the word “and”, not “or”. We need both. We need balance, yes, but we can give ourselves a cushion, the opportunity to rest knowing that perfection is not expected. We listen. We act. We pray. We readjust. “This is how a Benedictine’s day is. It is always changing, alternating—praying, working, resting. This is captured in the Benedictine motto, pray and work…The most important word is ‘and’.” -Fr. Mauritius Wilde

Perhaps, this cushion, this soft place to fall, is what love is.

I want to give that cushion, that love to myself. I pray my loved ones know that I can be their cushion, a soft place to fall when they need to know the love of another. “Love one another.”-John 13:34

And, finally, for myself and others–to remember that meeting God in prayer is the ultimate cushion“God is love.” 1 John 4:8

love merton

In place of confusing life patterns, the security of a healthy balance”, The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde OSB

Listen to the Word of God”, The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde OSB

Our Life is a Balance”, Being Benedictine,  January 2017 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina

My 2017 Word of the Year—Be Excessively Gentle: A New Year’s Un-Resolution, SoulFully You

Yes and No: The Seasons of Life

“Are you doing okay?” a friend asked me.

“Yes and no, ha,” an honest reply.

 “Why yes?”

Hmmm, I think.  “Good question…yes, because of faith and hope. Many blessings.”

This might not be the typical are-you-okay-what’s-wrong? line of questioning one might expect, but good friends know what’s behind your “yes and no” already.  Sometimes the no just needs to lie right where it is; it’s the yes that needs more attention.

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Likely, the question was meant for me to consider what is good? what is hopeful? what is well with my soul? 

A few days ago, I created a SoulCollage® card, that I named “The Seasons of Life: I’ve Seen A Lot of Shit.”  Eloquent, I know, but it’s the first thing that came to mind when I looked at my finished card.

seasons of life1I had no idea what I was creating when I started, with no goal in mind. I was drawn to the older women sharing stories and enjoying each other’s company.  They look experienced (not old, please), rested, peaceful, connected, comfortable and wise. I imagined what it was they might be discussing. Perhaps the storms of life, the many changes they had experienced, their efforts to rise or reach or resist, obstacles they had overcome, obstacles that made them feel all shot-up and yet, in the end, still standing, still sitting, still connecting, still enjoying.

Both women hold a little of each season, every year, and the many experiences they have lived within them.

“Autumn holds fragments of the other seasons in transformative arms…the mood of autumn is the ebb and flow of life. Autumn stands as an epiphany to the truth that all things are passing and even in the passing there is beauty. It holds out platters of death and life.” -The Circle of Life, Joyce Rupp & Macrina WiederkehrDSC_0267a

Each of us is called to take the seasons of life into “transformative arms”, to become more of who we are. So this autumn weekend, I consider the seasons of life—all of it, especially the blessings. I think about the “yes” of life that threads itself through my days—the yes to faith, hope and gratitude for many blessings. The daily yeses keep me focused on the bigger yes—the yes to God.

My yes is the desire to become more of who God created me to be.  This I have hope for and believe in. This I am grateful for and what I say yes to.

Yes, it is well with my soul.

 “People often speak of becoming more grateful after having lost some of their health. Suddenly they see all they have taken for granted. Gratitude for all that has been enables them to say yes to all that is to come.” -The Circle of Life, Joyce Rupp & Macrina Wiederkehr

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I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag…despite my disappointment

Each school day during my 3rd-period Marketing class, I stand with my students, hand over heart, pledging allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. 

This simple moment of national patriotism is a requirement in Nebraska, a rule passed by the Nebraska Board of Education in 2012  stating that all public schools must provide time every day to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in order to receive accreditation or state funding. Already a common practice in elementary schools and many districts, it was a new practice for most high school students.702848[1]

After the rule passed, teachers took an inventory of classrooms that needed flags—many were old and torn, more had been discarded over the years and with tight budgets, new ones hadn’t been purchased. The first several weeks, hand over heart, we stood facing an 8 ½ x 11 colored photocopy of the flag until a generous alumni donated enough American flags for every classroom.

Reciting the pledge is voluntary for students and teachers. We can recite the pledge either standing or sitting or remain quiet showing respect for those who do participate. After five years, I am still surprised when there are a few students that don’t stand to say the pledge. I’ve wondered why. This semester every student stands. DSC_0874a.JPG

Regardless of our different political views or opinions, it feels like the one great gesture we can make together is agreeing to pledge allegiance to the flag. We have so many other opportunities, especially this past year, to take a stand (or sit), to disagree, to voice an opinion, to protest or resist. But I’ve also come to the conclusion, and I respect, that not everyone feels the same and that perhaps they have good reasons for not standing or reciting the pledge (besides it’s their constitutional right). In the words of Pope Francis, who am I to judge?

For a few years, I showed a short video clip with Red Skelton explaining what each line of the Pledge meant to him (if you are old enough to know who he is, likely you stand without question for the Pledge of Allegiance).  Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I will continue to stand in spite of my disappointment, even shame, at what has become of our United States. I have faith in the words of our Pledge and faith in the meaning behind the words.

 

As I say the Pledge, I take the time to breathe, slow down and really think about the words I’m saying. I hope and pray that my country will live up to the words that each day we profess. There are far too many days lately when I’m uncertain what America really stands for, but when I say the words of the Pledge of Allegiance, it is this in which I believe:

I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE, promising to speak my truth while remaining committed, TO THE FLAG  as a symbol OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.  I pray, even when we seem so divided, that we are united in, and take seriously, our responsibility to all people within and beyond our borders, especially those who flee their own country seeking a place of peace and promise.  I hope we are not so proud of our country that we forget about others, that our desire for unity does not become exclusion.

AND TO THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS, a country that is a worthy and wonderful place to live, grow and be, representing a land of opportunity and a chance to always begin again. 

ONE NATION that represents a diversity of opinions, beliefs, ethnicities, lifestyles, socioeconomic and educational groups, yet a nation that comes together and is unified in times of tragedy and trial;

UNDER GOD, through our faith, hope, and prayer, in the spirit of our founding fathers and mothers, guided by a morality that resides within;

INDIVISIBLE, without division, united with wholeheartedness of spirit;

WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE, in gratitude for our freedom, with a duty to be fair and honest, and respectful of all we encounter.

FOR ALL.  In God’s eyes, there are no borders—we breathe the same air as the refugee, immigrant, gay, straight or transgendered, Muslim, Hindu or Christian, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, Protestant or Catholic. We breathe the same air as those we disagree with and those we live with. We are one world. Oceans cannot be divided, this part belonging to Europe and that part belonging to America. The air cannot be split—Mexico breathing this air and America breathing that. No, we breathe the same air. We are connected to all people, all countries. All means all.

This I pledge. This I stand up for. This I place hand over heart for and recite every day of the school year. This I pray.

Our words matter, so how can we live what we profess and believe, as individuals and as a country? Each of us must reflect on what it is that we place hand over heart and stand up for.

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“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Wherever God Dwells in My Heart

God can speak in so many ordinary ways, but, if one does not intentionally take notice, a lesson will surely be lost. For me, listening to my dreams and expressing myself creatively is when I am most aware of God’s presence.  

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Card Name: Birthing Something New

Recently, I had a dream that I was pregnant. I was not in labor but, clearly, I was expectantly waiting for the birth. When I woke, I knew this brief dream was one of both hope and uncertainty, and that it mirrored the ambiguous space I’ve been in for several months. I remember when I was in actual labor with my daughter, Jessica, thinking, “I quit. I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. I’m outta here!” It’s a silly thought, because, obviously, there is no other choice but to persist.

As any mother will tell you, labor is definitely worth it but, in the middle of it, that place of in-between, frustration and impatience can set in (not to mention, pain). As it is with birthing a baby, so it is with birthing something new in one’s life. One is more-than-ready to see the fruits of labor.

In dream language, being pregnant means more than giving birth to a baby; it’s about potential and expectation—giving birth to an idea, a new phase of life, or a new phase in a relationship. All of life is a birthing, dying and rebirthing process.

“…love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. We let go of one phase, one aspect of love, and enter another… Pain is chased away and surfaces another time. To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many many endings, and many many beginnings—all in the same relationship.” –Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves

I woke from this dream knowing that something new shall come and that I must persist. Less an act of will and more an act of surrender, I trust that this birthing is a divine experience.

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Card Name: New Birth with an Empty Nest

Just a few weeks later, another dream gives me a hint of what is to come. I was frustrated that I hadn’t seen any progress on a house that was under construction. I wondered, how could the builder not show me this house that I was planning to buy? Finally, he gave me a tour. The rooms were larger, different than I had expected, surprisingly unique. There were some rooms that already had furniture in them, arranged in a way that I would never have considered. It was far more beautiful than I could have imagined.  But there were other rooms that were still under construction. Also, there were two staircases—one that led to my bedroom and another that went to a few guest rooms, those that family might stay in.  Although the rooms were near each other, they could not be reached from one to the other. They could only be reached through their separate staircases. In the large living room, there was a piano with rows of chairs gathered around it, as if for a performance. I was content that the house was coming along quite beautifully and far beyond my expectations.

This house is me. This dream spoke to me of comfort, fulfillment, wonder, patience, hope, and even, certainty. And although I am “under construction”, what is, and what is to come, is beautiful. Progress IS being made even if it might not look or feel like it. I am excited at the prospect that there are choices that I can make, of color and pattern, to complete the decor. What was revealed is certainty that God is working, and also a hope, a promise of something new to come.

I am surprised that I have my own staircase, that my room is separate from the others, but this gives me confidence that this journey is my own to grow in beauty of self and spirit. God is working on me and in me, giving me permission to limit distractions, to have my own haven of peace.  It really doesn’t matter what God has in store for me because God dwells within me. I am at home wherever God dwells in my heart.

My dreams will continue to give insight and God will continue to work on me in a more beautiful way than I could have imagined myself. I may not know what is to come, but trusting the birthing process is surrendering the outcome.

Consider: What does it mean to dwell by myself? Where do I dwell? Where am I “at home?”  For more on this topic listen to HR#35 The Life of St. Benedict – God’s Dwelling Within – The Holy Rule of St. Benedict w/ Fr. Mauritius Wilde O.S.B

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Card Name: Held in Love, God’s Dwelling Place

More SoulFully You blog posts on Dreams:
When the Dust Settles
Lessons I’ve Learned, Again: 2016 in Review
When You Feel Like You’re Sinking, Just Float
Just float…Gently down the stream, Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream

A Mother’s Blessing

 

I thought it would be a little tacky to take a photo of a mother and child I didn’t know this morning in church. I was so tempted to sneak a cell phone shot and apologize later if caught.  It was a tender, intimate moment that I wish could have been captured. But I hold it in my heart instead.

Imagine this: an expectant mother (I would say about 34 weeks into her pregnancy, if I were a betting woman) and her 7-ish year old daughter. The young girl, head resting on her mother’s belly, was tenderly caressing and then, curiously poking at the outline of a baby foot or hand in her mother’s tummy. This simple gesture was a blessing for her sibling, the unborn baby—a welcoming, a communication of love and hope.

Blessing my unborn baby

It is an awesome responsibility for expectant parents to consider bringing a new life into the world.  An avid reader, I couldn’t get my hands on enough books about parenting—parenting an infant, a toddler, a teenager.  I wanted to be the best and most prepared mother I could be, but I experienced an information overload, even without the not-invented-yet, scary, paranoid, hypochondriac rabbit-hole called the Internet, and I started to freak myself out, thinking about all that could go wrong and the weight of this responsibility. quote2

So I scaled it back a notch, deciding, gratefully, to focus only on the moment, on welcoming the life of my unborn baby. In the womb, a baby hears, feels, moves and senses. Despite the 1980’s new agey-ness of the title, I read a book when I was pregnant with Jessica called “Communing with the Spirit of Your Unborn Child”.  I believed that “Every parent has an unceasing responsibility to the child to be the light, to represent the light.” I prayerfully welcomed the baby we had so desired, sending her light and blessings while she was still in my womb. Throughout my pregnancy, I documented my thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams and prayed that we would be good parents.

pregnancy collage

When Jessica was a toddler, I read “The Blessings” by Gary Smalley and John Trent, about the value of blessing a child with words, touch, visions of a positive future and more. Blessing a child doesn’t just happen once; blessing a child continues through their life in a variety of ways.

Recently, Jessica asked her dad and me for a blessing.  While visiting Jessica in Washington DC during her senior internship, she broke it to us, ever so gently, that she had fallen in love with DC. She said she really wanted to pursue working there after college graduation.

And then she said, “Do I have your blessing?” My 21-year-old confident, brilliant, talented, highly employable daughter wanted her mom and dad to say it was okay for her to move away from our hometown and follow her dream.collage2

It was a touching, respectful-of-her-parents-kind-of-request, but she must not have realized that she already had our blessing. Our blessing has always been for her to pursue her dreams, to find her place in the world and to become a joy-filled, independent adult.

SoulCollage ® has become an intuitive, yet intentional, way for me to pray, so when my daughter asked for a blessing, I created an image, a blessing card, that could be a visual way to pray for her—to pray that she listen to her intuition, follow her dreams, and know that she would always have our blessing.

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I’ve been praying with the blessing card for several months, but recently decided to share it with Jessica for an end-of-year celebration at her sorority house. The images I had used to create the collage meant something to me, had help me capture a mother’s blessing, but I added these words to share with Jessica. With her permission, I share them here:

As we said your nighttime prayer as a child, our hand on your head, we gave you our blessing. God bless Jessica’s mind, body and spirit. We give you our blessing now for your journey, wherever it takes you. The bond between a baby elephant and its mother is the closest of any animal on earth—this image represents our connectedness as family, no matter the distance between us. In an African village near a Benedictine monastery, it is tradition for a mother to paint her face when her children are growing into adulthood.  She hides her emotions and opinions so her children will forge their own paths and make their own decisions without the influence or bias of their parents. Our blessing for you is that you bloom into the Jessica you are meant to be. You have been more precious than jewels to us and we look forward to seeing you become a jewel to the world. We love you and give you our blessing as you fly into your becoming.

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Blessing Jessica, as my grown-up child, is a journey of becoming comfortable with the uncertainty and the many possibilities for her future, letting go slowly, surely, courageously. The blessing card is as much a reminder for me as it is for Jessica.

This morning, watching the young girl tenderly embrace her unborn sibling, it reminded me of the vision we had for Jessica before she was even born-that she become fully who God intends her to be.  It is a prayerful process, a standing-witness-to the becoming of this young woman, who as an unborn child was welcomed and blessed into this universe so that she could become who she is meant to be. She has our blessing, then and now.

 “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.    -e. e. cummings

When the Dust Settles

“In dreams, spiritual reality breaks into our life…In our conscious life, we are often blind and deaf to God.  We overlook what God wants to tell us.  We listen solely to our own thoughts and those of the people around us and fail to hear God’s voice.  For this reason, God must be made perceptible in our dreams.”  Anselm Grün, Dreams on the Spiritual Journey

I trust the language of dreams. I hear from the deepest part of myself, the part of me that knows the Divine beyond my thoughts or beliefs or ego. I have spent years listening to and working with the images of dreams in prayer, spiritual direction and journaling learning to trust that I can trust my dreams. My dreams always bring insight, often provide solutions, and, more recently, give me courage.

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Recently I had a dream that my daughter and I were driving down a road to our home. While we were driving near a large building under construction, there was a huge explosion that spewed debris and dust in every direction, plummeting from the sky, dipping sideways, flying through the air. There were cars, smashed along the road, that had been hit by flying debris. Despite poor visibility, we continued driving. I may have told Jessica, or at least I was thinking, that we needed to keep moving forward; that stopping, even though we could not see through the dust in front of us, would put us in greater jeopardy. Even though it was frightening, we had to move forward. But I also knew we needed to slow down. Move forward cautiously and courageously—this was the insight I heard as we drove through the flying dust and debris. Frightened and, yet, confident, we safely reached the other side of the explosion. The view was clear, the dust had settled, we were out of harm’s way.

The dream wasn’t a huge surprise—there’s a lot going on in our life right now. Uncertainty and changes, surprises, disappointments, some anticipation and some fear. The dream captures the ambiguity that is our life lately.  If we are truly honest with ourselves, we live with this ambiguity every day under the illusion that all is just the way it should be and always will be.

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But we can never know what is right ahead of us, when the dust and debris will create chaos in our life. We can’t anticipate everything. And we can’t necessarily hurry through the life-is-under-construction experience either. We just stay the road, moving forward cautiously and courageously.

I reflected on this dream when I had the opportunity to drive country roads this past weekend—a favorite soul-comforting practice I do for myself. I love the slow, sauntering, stop-the-car-and-take-a-picture-on-the-side-of-the-road-in-solitude moments.  I must admit, though, this past weekend there were too many obligations on my calendar and the sauntering was at a quicker pace than I like.

In Nebraska, it’s get-those-tractors-out-of-the-barn season; and if you’ve never driven behind a tractor, they drive verrrry slow, kicking up a bunch of dust (God bless the driver’s corn-planting souls). There is no driving closely behind a tractor.  You won’t go anywhere fast and you can’t see a darn thing. One must be patient.

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It made me think of my dream. Drive slow, be cautious, move forward and wait for the dust to settle. With a little patience one can see what otherwise might be overlooked. One can see more clearly when the dust has settled. I think this is true for country roads and for life. I’m waiting for the dust to settle…

I share with you some of the views from my country road drives near Schuyler and Columbus, Nebraska. Happy dreams, slow-sauntering and blessings on your journey this week! May the dust settle quickly. 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. – Isaiah 43:2

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“…if you know and have been affected by your dreams you will feel in yourself a thread of meaning and purpose that is part of something much bigger than yourself.” -John A. Sanford, Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language

For more blog posts on Country Roads.   

 

In God’s World, Every Day is Earth Day

For Earth day, I was invited to write an article for the April 2016 SoulCollage® newsletter, SoulCollage® Community Update, reflecting on how creating with images of nature can cultivate a sense of gratitude for God’s creation  and, ultimately, impact how we protect our earth’s resources. It’s an honor to share it with SoulFully You readers as well:

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As Earth Day (April 22) approaches, I’ve been noticing that images of nature appear in nearly every one of my SoulCollage® cards. Plants and animals, water and fire; the diamond and the rough ground-rugged, rocky, sandy, earthy. Trees-naked and blooming, knotted and gnarled branches. Streams or floods of light and all things celestial-moonrises, sunsets, stars, planets, wide open sky. And every color of the rainbow-red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, and each color in between.
My Fairy World
by Jodi Blazek Gehr

These SoulCollage® pictures have been calling me to stand up, pay attention, listen, prayerfully consider, and take action. They have encouraged me to reflect on my role in creation – how I enrich, nurture and care for our earth and all that draws life from it.

I Am One Who innocently, carefully, lightly treads through my part of creation, where I have been planted. I am as little as the lily pads and as vast as the stars and planets. I am a part of the whole, keeping balance on a very small twig of space and time. I am embraced, protected, held up by the wings of love.

We think of fairies as little nature spirits, without realizing that as human beings, we are ourselves nature spirits! It is nearly impossible to separate ourselves from our environment. We breathe the exhalations of trees. Our bodies go through similar seasons of new cells birthing, old cells dying and being shed. Our bodies are in a constant process of re-creating, living and dying, using the minerals, water, and earth from plants and animals and returning again to dust.

Spending time in and seeing the beauty of nature has been for me the first step to taking action to protect it. I see myself as responsible to and for the small space in which I live. My seemingly insignificant efforts-planting flowers and trees, recycling paper and plastic, remembering to take my own bag shopping, using energy-saving light bulbs, buying gifts that are consumable, not buying products that use excessive packaging -can have an impact that reaches far beyond my little place and time. My physical body is not the whole of creation, but my spirit is vast, and my actions leave an impression.

The images of nature hold meaning for my life. When I see a tree, I also see growth, changing seasons, pruning, the effect of time.  I see roots intermingled, each tree surviving and thriving because of the other. I connect to my process of self-discovery and growth, my inward journey that is beautiful and painful, at times agonizingly slow and, at the same time, too quick.

Surrender to Creation
by Jodi Blazek Gehr

I Am One Who believes in the divine birthing of our planet and the life-force that is poured out for us by our mere existence in this dynamic, evolving, growing, breathing earth home. I Am One Who exists as part of this environment, receiving the mysterious flow of energy and outpouring of nourishment with open hands. I bow my head at the splendor of shades and shapes, the rebirth of nature through the sacred spirals of the seasons, the purpose and patterns that are sometimes evident and always sought after.

I believe we are dying inside when we don’t spend time in nature, whether in stillness or activity. If we don’t get outside and enjoy nature, we don’t realize it is hurting and needs our care. We run the risk of seeing earth as existing only to meet our needs, rather than seeing our role as caretaker of the earth.

“Unless we begin to align ourselves with nature, nature will be endangered and our own lives with it. Our own souls with it, in fact. We are here as part of creation, not as consumers of it. We are here to care for this planet, not to exploit it. We are here to find our proper place in it, to grow with it spiritually as well as physically.” 

-Joan Chittister, Author, Two Dogs and a Parrot: What Our Animal Friends Can Teach Us About Life.

My Source Card: Let There Be Light by Jodi Blazek Gehr

I Am One Who, in darkness, is breathed into being and held in the light. Leaf or life-all is dependent on the Light.

Creating with images of nature can influence our sense of gratitude for God’s creation, our sense of oneness with nature and, ultimately, how we respond to the call to conserve and save our earth’s resources. My SoulCollage® cards have heightened my awareness for my role, no matter how insignificant or great, in the care of creation. This earth is my home. I have been brought into being to do my part.

So how am I going to celebrate this Earth Day? I will spend time in thanksgiving, honoring that in God’s world every day is Earth Day. I will remember my place on the planet, my role in respecting the earth. I will take a walk. I will look up at the sky. I will touch the ground.  I will enjoy the many colors of creation, particularly the spring purpling. I agree with Alice Walker: this is where our contribution begins – noticing.

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” 

– Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Jodi Blazek Gehr is a high school Business teacher, SoulCollage® Facilitator and retreat leader. She writes a blog called SoulFully You exploring and encouraging creativity and spirituality through a variety of prayerful, creative and contemplative practices.  Jodi is a Benedictine Oblate at Christ the King Priory in Schuyler, Nebraska, a mother, wife, and friend.

Last year, SoulFully You readers were challenged to share their love of nature using images and creativity for a project that my daughter and I collaborated on titled,  “Soul Collage® and the Environment”To view all Earth Day entries, including cards and responses from readers, and the research paper that Jessica submitted for her Environmental Politics class at Nebraska Wesleyan University, see Earth Day blog entries.

God’s Blessings for Earth Day and Every Day!

 

Protectors of Creation: An Earth Day Challenge

Seeing the beauty of nature is the first step to taking action to protect it. Unless we can appreciate the oneness we have with creation, we will do very little to protect it.

“Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.” –Pope Francis

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For Earth Day last year, SoulFully You readers were challenged to share their love of nature using images and creativity for a project that my daughter and I collaborated on titled,  “Soul Collage® and the Environment”.  To view all Earth Day entries, including cards and responses from readers, and the research paper that Jessica submitted for her Environmental Politics class at Nebraska Wesleyan University, see Earth Day blog entries.

Earth day card 2

For Earth day this year, I have been invited to write an article for the April 2016 SoulCollage® newsletter, SoulCollage® Community Update, reflecting on how creating with images of nature can impact and influence our sense of gratitude for God’s creation, our sense of belonging in and oneness with nature and, ultimately, how we respond to the call to conserve and save our earth’s resources.

I would love your insight and feedback! Please consider sharing your reaction to the SoulCollage® cards posted on this page by responding to any or all of the writing prompts.

  1. What is the effect of one (or more) cards on you?
  2. What does it say to you about God’s creation?
  3. Consider writing an “I am one who” statement or using a card to pray with or meditate on during this week. Does the meaning of the card change or deepen as you “read” it differently?
  4. How does this blog and/or the images inspire you to action?  Consider how you might conserve and save earth’s resources.
  5. What inner shifts or feelings arise when you contemplate your responses.
  6. Be creative.  Give yourself time to savor the images. Watch and listen for what bubbles up within.

earth day my fairy world card 3

Share your writing in the comments, send through Facebook messages or email jodigehr@aol.com. Also consider creating your own card and sharing how that process impacted you.

earth day card 4 just sit

“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.” Pope Francis, Laudato Si

earth day card 5

 

Follow the Star: For the Directionally Challenged

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” ~Matthew 2:2We are kings and queens

For the past four months we have lived off the radar, so to speak.

We live in the city, but we can see the city limits boundary from our backyard. There are empty lots behind us, next to us and across the street. Our address is finally recognized by the U.S. Postal Service, but is not listed on Google Maps or detectable by other forms of GPS.

For the first four weeks at our new address, the local cable company claimed there were no lines laid in our neighborhood to connect us to internet and television services (much to the disappointment of my sports-loving husband.) When people have come to visit us, we need to provide them directions, not just our street advice. No Google maps, no Siri will find us; just good, old-fashioned directions. “Head south on ___street.  Go three more blocks until you reach ___street. Turn right. Go to ____ street, and turn left.”

This hasn’t been an easy task for visitors to our new house. We’ve received phone calls from lost friends and have had some late arrivals. We really have no idea how long we will be technologically unlocate-able, but we kind of enjoy being out in the boonies. (Picture of old barn less than 1/4 mile away from our house)

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So, who has had the most difficulty finding us, you ask?  The answer: the directionally challenged and/or people 30 years old and younger, the Millenial generation.

So many people have become accustomed to using GPS to navigate, not just on trips to unfamiliar destinations, but the cities where they reside as well. I love young people (I teach them; I have one…a daughter), but they just don’t know their directions very well, having relied heavily on technology to navigate from one place to the next.

GPS has become a crutch….perhaps a tool that is used instead of problem-solving for oneself or following one’s natural sense of direction. Getting turned around in a neighborhood can be a brain-teaser without knowing which way is north, south, east or west; what direction you came from; and what direction you need to be going. Relying on GPS precludes the possibility of finding a short cut or a more scenic drive. Sometimes we just need to make decisions about what the best route is on our own, without advice from GPS.

What if you were told to just follow a star to get where you were going?

epiphany1“Follow the star” was the only direction given to the Magi seeking the Christ-child over 2000 years ago. They didn’t have a road map and they certainly didn’t have GPS. But sometimes that’s all you need—just a general idea of where you are headed, especially when you are aware of being guided by something Greater. They watched and listened and followed the Light… and they found Jesus. When they were headed back home, the Magi were instructed to return by another route. They learned new information that could help them on their return journey.

“They listened to a voice deep within, which led them to follow that light. The star guided them, until they found the King of the Jews in a humble dwelling in Bethlehem.”~Pope Francis, January 6, 2016

Perhaps this is the only road map or GPS we need—follow the Light, listen, watch, rely on the Divine to give you cues, clues and the guidance to end up right where you belong. And every now and then, take a different route.

Things to ponder: What or who do you listen to for direction in life? What or who is the “star” you are seeking?  Are you following the Light?

Happy Epiphany and continued Christmas Blessings!

“…go to Bethlehem, to find the Child and his Mother. Let us follow the light which God offers us!”~Pope Francis, January 6, 2016

The Creators Hand

Cards made during Christmas and Epiphany seasons, 2015

Every Little Thing!

Little things matter. A bunch of little things can make a difference, especially if it’s all the candy we eat in the weeks leading up to and following Halloween, which bumps into the weeks leading up to and following Thanksgiving…and then there’s all the Christmas parties… you get the idea. All the fun-sized, little snacks and treats can just plain add up on the scale.  Little things matter.

But little things can add up unexpectedly in big and good ways, too. The little things we do to take care of our physical, emotional and spiritual health can make a difference. The peaceful inhale and exhale of a contemplative prayer or meditation practice can sustain us when times are stressful. The little things we do for others can give comfort or show appreciation.

There are lots of little ways to make a big difference in the lives of people that we work, play and live with.

My former neighbor and friend, Deidra Riggs, wrote a book called Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are. Deidra found herself living in Nebraska, having moved here for her husband’s job, but not liking it one bit. Right where she was, was not where she wanted to be.

I started planning my escape. I wanted out. Not through. As far as I could tell, Nebraska was the very worst place to live in all the world”, she writes. Continue reading “Every Little Thing!”

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