Lessons I’ve Learned, Again: 2016 in Review

beginningsHappy New Year from SoulFully You! Thank you for subscribing to and sharing my posts during 2016.

The SoulFully You website was birthed as a way to connect with those who practice prayerful creativity and who attend my retreats and workshops. The blog came along later when writing as an expression of creativity felt comfortable. Journaling is a spiritual practice, sometimes an emotional purging, but always a way to see the hand of God at work in one’s life. For me, reflecting is just as prayerful as the writing itself. Reading what I have written during 2016, I see how God was preparing me for challenges, urging me to trust and to be patient. God works in every moment of our life—in times of joy and peace, turmoil and trial.  I am never more certain of that than when I re-read my journal or blog posts. I appreciate those in person, or through this blog, who joined me in the journey.

Lessons I Have Learned, Again

Most of 2016 was observed as a Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church, a time to reflect on the many ways we are in need of mercy and the opportunity to always begin again.  Sometimes it takes living, learning a lesson, living it again, remembering the lesson learned, (and in my case) writing about it, screwing it up a few more times, before, finally, letting the lesson settle into the soul as a balm for what ails.

captureThere were plenty of opportunities to practice mercy, on myself and others, this year. In Parker Palmer for President: The only political post I will ever make, I was full of intention to be “more Benedictine” during the tension of a tumultuous election year—to listen more, to honor diversity and to be more hospitable to those who don’t share similar political views. I admit that it was easier to write before we knew who the Presidential nominees would be, before offensive Facebook posts and family disagreements, before the dream of our first woman President died, than it was to live out. The best outcome from this post—a direct response from the dear Parker Palmer, who I pledge to vote for should he ever decide to run.

Lesson learned: Having intention is easier than action; be more merciful to oneself; try again. 

In When the Dust Settles, I had a dream that gave me the insight to move through some difficult situations slowly, to be cautious, and to patiently wait for the dust to settle, to see what otherwise might be overlooked. God has many backup plans for us; we don’t need to have a perfect vision of what is to come. By surrendering to surprise, by surrendering an idealized version of our life, we create an opening for God to work in mysterious and more perfect ways than we could have imagined.

Lesson learned: Be patient; one can see more clearly when the dust has settled. 

I also learned what I previously thought I knew, that I don’t know nothin’. I learned from my father-in-law, who also knew nothin’, that one should leave “room for not knowing, for mystery. He knew he wasn’t in charge of all things true… and he admitted it many, many times.” So many times I’ve thought I had things figured out, knew what would happen, had expected an outcome, just to come back to this lesson—I don’t know nothin’. Anything can happen and that’s going to be okay too. Things change, God is constant.

Lesson learned: I don’t know nothin’. 

I also remembered that I am a child of God, something I thought I already knew, but apparently had forgotten also. In Made for Goodness: A Child of God, I was reminded of this message: “Walk slowly. Listen, for God is speaking. You are accompanied. You are known; uniquely created. Be faithful. Trust and it won’t matter how the road may turn. It’s not where you are going, but how. God is with you.”

Lesson learned: God is constant. HE is before all things. By HIM all things consist. (Col 1:17) 

So Much Joy Too

Despite the challenging year, there was so much joy too. Most significantly, our daughter, Jessica, navigated her final semester of college, landed an amazing job in Washington DC and moved to Capitol Hill two weeks after receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Business Administration. “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.” See A Mother’s Blessing and Just Listen: Advice for a Quarter-Life Crisis.

Much joy came from simple, yet poignant moments: lunch with a friend, a walk around Holmes Lake, a thoughtful text message or a surprise gift or card of encouragement, good conversation, times of silence, reading, creating, leading or attending a retreat at St. Benedict Center, having a photo in the Hildegard Center for the Arts “Bridges” Nebraska Sesquicentennial Photo Exhibit, Oblate discussions and lectio divina, the friendship and shared reading with my Circle and book group, the satisfaction of finishing my first theology class at Creighton University, the ordinary moments of marriage and mothering, a Carrie Newcomer concert on a coincidental weekend trip to DC, moments of clarity and connection with the Divine. Joy can always be found.

In 2017, I hope to write more about Benedictine spirituality, sharing posts and other resources at a new website and blog, BeingBenedictine.combeing-benedictine

Thanks to you, SoulFully You was viewed 4700 times by over 2400 readers in more than 40 countries, primarily in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Germany.  SoulFully You is about listening, praying and living a creative, purposeful, passionate life. It’s about becoming SoulFully You.  

May you have joy, peace, love, and creativity in 2017!  May it settle in your heart that you can “do this hard thing” knowing God is present in all of your moments. Blessings, Jodi

You can do this hard thing
You can do this hard thing
It’s not easy I know
But I believe that it’s so
You can do this hard thing

 

 

 

Parker Palmer for President: The only political post I will ever make

How do we “ward off the buffoonery and blathering, the racism and sexism and homophobia, the distortions and demonizing, the rhetorical cruelty, the cover-ups, the abysmal ignorance and flat-out lies that suck the marrow from our souls as the 2016 presidential marathon gains momentum”? -Parker Palmer, Breathing New Life into “We The People”

Seriously, how do we??

I want to be an informed voter, to be aware of what’s happening in our country and to understand what the Presidential candidates hope to accomplish. But I just don’t know who or what to believe.

How can so many candidates believe they have the Absolute Truth and the One and Only Answer to all of our country’s problem? How can each of them be right and all the others be wrong? Why do hostility, distrust and self-righteousness have to be the status quo for election years?

As the media and candidates spin their stories, I sit and spin (remember those?) and I’m sit and spindizzy. It makes one want to “hole up for the duration”; to turn off the news and hide every Facebook post that is political. There are some candidates or issues that bring a visceral response—my stomach hurts, my heart beats faster, I get tempted to respond or post my own political comments (likely, equally as uninformed as the post that pissed me off).

So why do I put myself through it? Why did I stay up late to see that, ultimately, a coin toss could determine who would be the Democratic “winner” of the Iowa caucuses? Why do I engage in political conversations that cause discomfort?

I have never been very political.  I would prefer to steer away from political conversations, even with issues I agree. Too often I find myself being the devil’s advocate because, well, that side needs defending too, right? Or I get so wound up (the sit and spin effect) because I know it’s not really a listening-kind-of conversation, but a trying-to-convince-me-of-something conversation. Political conversations seem so hopeless and people become so divided.spinning out of controlAB.jpg

I don’t like disagreement. I don’t like conflict. I want everyone to get along. But I know that I contribute to this conflict as much as I want to avoid it. I have my opinions that I think are right just as much as the person who believes strongly in something different. But having a daughter with a Political Science major and a husband who loves 24/7 news does not allow me to escape the political scene.

Escape is not really a good option anyway: I want to be politically and socially aware, to be able to have an intelligent conversation and an opinion about the issues and candidates that impact our future.

“Though much of our political discourse is toxic, “politics” itself is not a dirty word. It’s the ancient and honorable effort to come together across our differences and create a community in which the weak as well as the strong flourish, love and power collaborate, and justice and mercy have their day.” -Parker Palmer, Breathing New Life into “We The People”

Election years do feel toxic. It feels like there isn’t a lot of community that is created (except with people who are already like-minded). Community implies cooperation with those not necessarily like us, to “come together across our differences”.  But it feels like there isn’t a lot of listening. There is more holding to an opinion, standing our ground on what we think “makes America great” (even though we don’t know what that means and the candidates don’t tell us what they will do to get us there either).

revolution.

“We need a revolution of tenderness.” –Pope Francis

We need “a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally.” –Senator Bernie Sanders

The word that has resonated with me during these past few months is “revolution”.  It has come from the mouth of Pope Francis and from Senator Bernie Sanders. In both situations it is a call for desperate measures, a radical change in the way things are being done and the way we treat each other.

Pope emojiPlease do not mistake me for putting Pope Francis and Bernie Sanders, or any political candidate, in the same category.  Anyone who knows me knows Pope Francis wins any contest hands down (I have Pope emojis, case closed), but it’s the word “revolution” that has me thinking.  Perhaps we all have a sense when things aren’t working, when we need to try something different.

So what can we do to bring about a revolution of tenderness during this election year when it is all too easy to see what divides us, to dwell on the differences?

Parker Palmer, in his article Breathing New Life into “We the People”, makes some excellent suggestions for managing the political angst of an election year.

    1. Value our differences:Only through the creative conflict of ideas has the human race ever accomplished great things.
    2. Listen for the long haul: Holding your differences with others in a way that can sustain dialogue over time, giving everyone a chance to speak, listen, and learn.
    3. Listen for understanding: “The more you know about other people’s stories, the harder it is to dislike, distrust, or demonize them.”
    4. Honor diversity: “Not only visible diversity but the invisible forms of “otherness” (from political persuasions to sexual orientations) that exist among people who look alike.”
    5. Act with hospitality: We have the power to resist the culture of hostility that’s gutting American politics — to act daily in ways that foster a culture of hospitality…”

*all quotes above from Palmer article 

Palmer is a Quaker, but this all sounds very Benedictine.  St. Benedict, in his Rule, states “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ.” (RSB: 53) Treating others as Christ takes intention.

So my goal for this election season is to be a little more Benedictine: to try a little tenderness; to be more hospitable, to be a little more tolerant of opinions different than my own.  To have more conversations where I simply listen; to be less judgmental; to try to understand why others believe or vote the way they do.  I am not an expert (on hardly anything, let alone politics) and I have a lot to learn. I have a lot to learn about treating others as Christ.

Having an attitude of tenderness and hospitality may be the only thing that can bring a revolution within, in this country or this world. As Palmer states, “Just as democracy can die a death of a thousand cuts, it can be given new life by a thousand acts of civility.”  I will do my part.

If you are interested in topics of tolerance, hospitality, listening and self-righteousness according to the Rule of St. Benedict, I encourage you to listen to the podcasts listed below. Kris McGregor of Discerning Hearts interviews Fr. Mauritius Wilde, OSB, PhD, Prior of Christ the King Monastery in Schuyler, Nebraska on Benedictine spirituality. I highly recommend!

HR#6 “In place of provincialism, respect and tolerance” – The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde OSB

HR#11 “Instead of circling around one’s self, hospitality” – The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde OSB

HR#13 “In place of self-righteousness…seeking God” – The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde O.S.B

HR#17 “The Value of Listening and Silence” – The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde O.S.B

DiversityA

Card name: Diversity, It Takes All KindsParker Palmer

More from Parker Palmer:  Chutzpah and Humility: Five Habits of the Heart for Democracy in America

 ….and a little more from Parker Palmer! I was tickled to hear from him on Facebook in response to this blog post.

Why I Teach

Childhood Dreams

As early as kindergarten, I identified teacher as a potential
occupation
in my “School Years” book, a collection of elementary school Kindergarten teachermemories. My kindergarten-self chose nurse, teacher, model and mother as possible career and life choices, although the options were limited to traditional girl-jobs only. (I’ve wondered why I didn’t dare to select baseball player or astronaut. Was it because those jobs did not interest me or did I not consider the boy-jobs? Or why were airline hostess and secretary NOT of interest to me?) Female stereotypes aside, by fourth grade, I had wisely eliminated model and nurse (yuk and yuk!!), leaving teacher and mother.fourth grade

I was interested in learning and teaching as soon as I was old enough to work my way through phonics, spelling and math workbooks, just for fun. And then creating worksheets and math problems, grading spelling quizzes and making lesson plans became my childhood joys. My brother was my first student and I worked him pretty hard. I remember taking the graded assignments I’d given him to my fourth grade teacher, proudly showing her what I was helping him accomplish outside of school hours. Rather than receiving the anticipated (and sought-after) praise, she promptly told me I should back off and not force him to be my student anymore or he might hate school—my first humbling opportunity at professional self-reflection.

BooksLaura Ingalls Wilder was my childhood heroine. Pioneer girl turned teacher; wide-open prairie sky and her own classroom, from Little House on the Prairie to These Happy Golden Years —I wanted to BE Laura. I admired her sense of self-confidence and independence, how she encouraged students to overcome learning challenges, many not much younger than she. (I am such a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder that when my daughter could barely read I bought the entire book series,  picture books and television movies for her and also road-tripped to Mansfield, Missouri to see the house where Laura penned all of the Little House books. Quite a thrill!)

All the evidence indicates that, if I wasn’t born with the desire to teach, the passion was stirring when I was very young.  Continue reading “Why I Teach”

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