Pictures are worth a thousand words

It’s not just a cliche. Images are powerful. They conjure up feelings, memories, ideas. They tell stories. They stand for something.

A brandmark or logo expresses the identity of a business that is easily recognized without using words. Businesses spend a ton of money developing their brand identity, not that we need the business world’s affirmation of the power of images. We already know it. We know it in our soul.

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Continue reading “Pictures are worth a thousand words”

God does so much and asks so little

There could be many titles to this blog post—
God Does Much And Asks So Little,
Aha (!) Moments are God Moments,
God is in Control,
Queen of Procrastination

aha moment god momentYup, that’s me, queen of procrastination. It probably doesn’t matter what the title is, but I will likely spend as much time considering the title as writing this post. I have to get back to my studies so, of course, this is a perfect time for the cloud of procrastination to cover all reasonable attempts to get something done.

But I had an aha (!) moment and I have to capture it. Technically, it’s two aha (!) moments that converge, but anyway, here goes—a creative attempt at procrastination cloaked in inspired productivity.

The past several days I have read all four Gospels of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke, AND John. And not just the miracles or the well-known parables, but from beginning to end; every chapter, every verse. And for each of the Gospels, I’ve also read a chapter in my textbook, The New Testament by Stephen L. Harris, for a class I’m taking at Creighton University. Each chapter comments on key topics, themes, author, date and place of composition, various sources used, the intended audience and interpretations.

I don’t have the words yet for all that I’ve learned, but that’s also why I’m procrastinating. I need to find some words (very soon) to write an 1800 word paper, due in 48 hours, responding to this prompt: Explain the story of the life of Jesus as portrayed in the Gospel of John, and compare it to either Matthew or Luke and how this might relate to ministry today.

I trust the words will come, but this first. Here goes….

Surprisingly (to me) each of the four Gospels share a unique portrayal of Jesus, his life, death, resurrection, and ultimate purpose of all of the above. Ninety percent of the content in the Gospel of John is not in the other three synoptic Gospels. Who knew?

It’s hard to capture the diversity of the Gospels with just daily readings and/or what one hears on Sunday mornings. The Jesus that is portrayed in the Gospel of John parallels some of the Wisdom speeches in the Hebrew Bible.

This is where the aha (!) moment comes in.  As I read through the selections from Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Wisdom of Solomon, I am overwhelmed by how much Wisdom, the Spirit of God, does for me:

Wisdom

Wisdom searches the streets for those willing to receive her.  ~  Wisdom lifts her voice, cries out, stands at the crossroads, calls, appeals, speaks clearly, bestows, shows the way, fashions, plays, delights, covers, decrees, remains, takes root among the people, loves what is good and guides.  ~  Wisdom has ability, understanding, power.   ~    Wisdom makes all things new, enters into holy souls and labors at our side.  ~  Wisdom is intelligent, holy, unique, made up of many parts, subtle, free-moving, lucid, spotless, clear, invulnerable, kindly towards men, all-powerful, all-surveying.  ~   Wisdom is the brightness that streams from everlasting light, the flawless mirror of the active power of God and the image of his goodness.   ~   Wisdom permeates all intelligent, pure and delicate spirits.

And this is what Wisdom desires from me:

Listen! Love me. Search me. Keep my ways. Come to me. Eat your fill of my fruit. Feed on me. Drink from me.

Wow. God does so much for me. And asks so little.

While on retreat this summer, the spiritual director that I met with daily asked me to reflect on what God is responsible for or in control of versus what I am responsible for or in control of. As I reflected on each of my thoughts and actions throughout the day, I created this list:

god is in control

At the end of the day, it was apparent to me that very little is in my control and that very much comes from God.

God, or Spirit, is the very breath of life. I am always and forever dependent on the gift of each moment. And I am always and forever responsible for my reaction to this great gift.

God is the creator and great mover of all. My response to this is to be authentic, prayerful, grateful, committed, attentive, and discerning.  I am responsible for my actions, thoughts, and response to God and others.

I am not in control and never have been. If ever things felt “under control” or to my liking, it was just the way it happened to be, not because I had commanded it. It is a freedom to know that I don’t cause order or chaos. My role, what I am called to do, is to listen to, search for and follow God.  The Spirit of God proclaims, “Those who love me I love, and those who search for me find me .” -Proverbs 8:17

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God does so much and asks so little.

“Wisdom is both the means by which God creates and the channel through whom he communicates to humankind.”  -The New Testament, Stephen L. Harris

Note: This post is about 800 words so I’m hopeful that I can crank this paper out in a few days. 

Sneak-a-peak at Luke vs. John: An 1800ish word paper

Many Ways to Pray: Take a Hike

always we begin againThere are many ways to pray. Really all of life can, and should, be a prayer. We are never not in connectedness with God, but it is in prayer that we become aware of this union even more.

Recently, I shared an experience of walking a labyrinth, an ancient portal to prayer that has only one distinct path on which to walk; it is not a maze as some misunderstand it. A maze typically has just one correct path, but it has many confusing choices and dead ends that lead to nowhere obliging one to make a decision about which path to take. One may have to “begin again” several times before completing.

St. Benedict, in his Rule, encourages his monks to always begin again. He knew there would be times when life, even our prayer life, could be more like a maze than a labyrinth. Despite its challenges, our maze-like experiences are a prayerful opportunity to practice awareness, patience, and gratitude. 

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I had this opportunity recently. Surrounded by the wooded hills of western Iowa at the Creighton University Retreat Center, I attended an eight-day silent Ignatian retreat. I was excited to take the loop hike that goes down to the Nishnabotna River. I love to be in nature and believe wholeheartedly, that “every time you admire something in nature, it’s a prayer to the Creator.”  (Vernon Harper)

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Note the easy-to-read map: one can enter the loop hike from two different points and arrive back to nearly the same point.

I started from the north end of the property, but the path seemed overgrown in areas and I wondered if I was on the right trail. Soon enough, there is a fork where I could go right or left. I went right because it seemed the better path. Eventually,  I came to a very steep decline that I wasn’t sure I could navigate. Surely, I thought, I am on the wrong path.

Better safe than sorry, I hike back and take the left path instead. I hike and hike. I end up at yet another steep decline.  I’m no sissy (I have walked on a treadmill with a 10% incline for goodness sakes), but I think this might not be the right path either.  Tired and sweaty already, I decide it’s better to cut my losses and start out at the south end tomorrow where there might be a clearer path.

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It’s a new day…feeling good and my selfie shows it!  I begin again, this time from the other side of the property.  It was a much better trail. Birds chirping, deer scampering, butterflies flying and silence—this is the prayerful connecting-with-God-and-nature hike I was expecting.

Wait, what? Hmm, a choice of two paths—the lower trail or the River view trail. I choose the river view…the whole point of the hike, right?

Riverview sign

Wrong.  Note: this necessary decision is not on the map. I hike to the river view and sit for a moment on a bench to view a sliver of the river. Hiking to the left, I find an even steeper decline than the day before. Hiking to the right, a dead end.

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I hike back to the original choice of trails and take the lower trail.

lower trail sign

I hike for about an hour (the time estimated for the hike) with many choices of trails (which I did not expect….remember, it’s a LOOP and not on the map). If there’s a wrong choice of trail to take, I take it.

I hit several dead ends: at the river, at a sign that reads “End of CU property”, at a few very steep inclines, and at a cave. My love of nature and the enjoyment of the journey is challenged. “Always we begin again” has been replaced with, “Will I ever get out of this maze?”deadend collage.jpg

I considered turning back, but I just couldn’t bring myself to “begin again” two days in a row.  It would take another hour to retrace my steps. Yesterday it was the right thing to begin again but today I need to focus on the present and future, and leave the past in the past. A lot like life, I think. “Always go forward and never turn back.” (St. Junípero Serra)

I consider walking the river until I  meet a road; thinking surely there will be a road eventually.  (So like some life situations: Can I just bail now?) I know this is the panic speaking so I retrace my steps back to a fork in trails and a sign that reads, “Upper Trail”.

Upper Trail is a hike up and up and up and up, likely one of the very steep trails I encountered the day before that I felt incapable of going down. I laugh. I take a short break for a few minutes…and then continue up and up and finally, I am on a walking path. I have to be close now. I see a shed. Wait, no, I don’t. Dear God, it’s a mirage. I laugh again at myself.

I consider taking an “after hike” selfie but know that it wouldn’t be web-worthy and would challenge the “sweat is good” attitude I’ve tried to attain. I realize I have seen NO ONE on the trail in over an hour. Have the others heard the trail isn’t really a loop? Thank God, I have my cell phone. Could I be found if I called for help? I don’t think it’s possible to die from thirst or hunger this close to….wait, I see a building. A real one this time.

I have arrived. Relief.

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“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”  -John Muir

I received more than I was seeking, no doubt. A simple loop hike turned into a frustrating and, in hindsight, funny experience.  I took only short hikes for quite a few days, but as the end of the retreat neared, I knew I needed to challenge myself to the “loop” again. Surely, it would be easier now that I had done it.

The trails were familiar so I trusted myself and the route I chose. I hiked this time with a new set of eyes. I noticed things I hadn’t before—the signs seemed more clear and logical, sounds from each of the birds were clearly unique, a turkey family trotted quickly into the trees, blue insects escaped into cracks in the dirt, and there were forks in the path I hadn’t noticed before. But, this time I felt more comfortable being adventurous and going down those uncertain paths.

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With experience behind me, I knew when I had come to the final fork in the trail. I hiked up the last hill and when I came out of the top, I realized, NO, that I was not at the end of the loop but at another offshoot! I laughed out loud. My confidence did not waiver; now I was able to trust where I was and navigate back to more familiar terrain.

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Sometimes we must begin again. And when we do, we bring what we have learned from earlier efforts. I find this in my spiritual life as well. The more I pray, the more I trust. When I become afraid or anxious, I begin again. I go back to my faith, to prayer, and trust that God has been there before and always will be. I just need to begin again. 

When we finally broke our silence at the end of the retreat, I realized I was not the only one that had this experience. Everyone else had gotten lost in the woods too. Now isn’t that just like life? There are no new problems under the sun.

No one, not even our closest soul friends can “hike the loop” for us, but, thankfully, they share with us solace, encouragement, and prayers.  This journey is our own. We learn on the way. We are accompanied. And always we begin again

And for future hikes—this is a better idea of what the map should look like.trail map2

Recommended article: “How Hiking Can Help Your Spirituality“, by Megan Bailey at beliefnet.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Music as Prayer ♫ This Journey Is My Own

“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.” -Plato

Singing is soulful. It is prayerful and it is powerful. I love to sing (in the privacy of my own car). I love to listen to others sing, from the liturgical chant of Benedictine monks to contemporary Christian artists. Whether it’s the melody or insightful lyrics that I find a connection with, music can create a mood, help recognize or express a feeling, or bring me to a place of prayerful listening.

When monks are singing they believe they are singing with the angels, and we are just to join in. The beauty of singing familiar songs and hymns is allowing our mind and heart to beat as one. Songs that capture what we could have not so artfully written, become our prayer. To sing, or sing with another, is to elevate the soul, to connect with the Divine.

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With music as inspiration, I created this SoulCollage® card to honor my own journey, some new paths I am taking. The words came later:

I am one who is on a journey. I walk this path alone, yet accompanied.  At times I walk a road that is flat, even, predictable; at other times with bumps and bends that I don’t expect. Sometimes it’s all uphill.  Smooth or stony, I walk with the prayer of birthing something new—a new awareness, aim or attitude,  the spark of a fresh idea, or the comfort of a new connection. There are times when the landscape is of no significance. I notice it and I keep walking, nose to the ground. More often, I am one who wanders the road, captivated by clouds and big sky, awake to the countless shades of ordinary green, gold and brown. I notice the details. That is my prayer. I want to see what’s new. I am surrounded by the music of my soul, a prayer, and voice that guides me. I am embraced by the sounds of heaven; I listen to the symphony created  just for me.  And I follow.  This journey is my own.

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“This Journey Is My Own”, a beautiful song by Sara Groves, captures the essence of my spiritual journey, one of my favorites: 

When I stand before the Lord, I’ll be standing alone
This journey is my own
Still I want man’s advice, and I need man’s approval
This journey is my own

Why would I want to live for man, and pay the highest price
What does it mean to gain a whole world, only to lose my life

So much of what I do is to make a good impression
This journey is my own
And so much of what I say is to make myself look better
But this journey is my own

And why would I want to live for man, and pay the highest price
And what does it mean to gain a whole world, only to lose my life

And I have never felt relief like I feel it right now
This journey is my own
Cuz trying to please the world, it was breaking me down
It was breaking me down

And now I live and I breathe for an audience of one
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one
Cuz I know this journey is my own

And why would I want to live for man, and pay the highest price
And what does it mean to gain a whole world, only to lose my life
And you can live for someone else, and it will only bring you pain
I can’t even judge myself, only the Lord can say, ‘Well done.’

Oh, this journey is my own

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This Journey is My Own, Sara Groves

CaptureSinging in God’s Presence #3: In place of the disability to express ourselves, to sing, The Holy Rule of St. Benedict: A Spiritual Path for Today’s World with Fr. Mauritius Wilde O.S.B., PhD.

“The aim and final reason of all music should be nothing else but the glory of God and the refreshment of the spirit.”-Johann Sebastian Bach

 

 

 

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.

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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

I don’t know nothin’.

I don’t know nothin’.

After trying to solve world problems, philosophizing and sharing his wisdom over a glass of wine at our kitchen table, my father-in-law, Marv, would exclaim, “What do I know? I don’t know nothin’.” He had thoughts and opinions (oh, yes, he did) and plenty of experience, but, self-admittedly, he knew he still didn’t know much.131207_10200564020853354_135052895_o

Marv said it often enough that it was the opening line in the eulogy my husband gave for his dad’s funeral. So much is held in those few words: I don’t know nothin’.

Perhaps it meant—I surrender. I am humbled. I don’t know it all. I don’t know hardly anything. I can’t see the big picture. I raise up my hands and proclaim, “I don’t know.” I thought I had answers. I thought I knew a lot, but now, I’m not so sure I know much at all.

I’m not sure if Marv meant all those things when he said “I don’t know nothin’,” but it does show that he left room for not knowing, for mystery. He knew he wasn’t in charge of all things true… and he admitted it many, many times.  

Feeling blinded by the dust and debris of life, his words speak to me when I feel my plans are not going according to the playbook I’ve written.  I’m not special; I know dust and debris fly for all. Life is humbling—this is what I think my father-in-law meant. And I am missing him right now because I know he would’ve comforted me and brought it all down to that one line-“I don’t know nothin’.”

Marv, even though he’s been gone now for 3 years, still lives on in my heart and head. He is my inspiration for this SoulCollage card, “Surrender Supergirl”:supergirl

I am one who is young at heart, brave and courageous, but I am still growing. I have a ways to go before I am the Supergirl I wish that I was. I am one who isn’t quite as brave as I might look.

I wonder, how do I look? Do I care what I look like to others? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps I should surrender this idea of Supergirl….or at least the idea that her strength and knowledge comes from me alone. 

Part of me is hidden from others and even myself. I’m still discovering who I am and where my strength comes from. I am at peace knowing that I don’t have everything all figured out right now, and maybe I never will. I will grow either way- whether I strive to or not.

The tree does not wish itself to grow. It just grows. In wind and rain, drought and snow, being cared for and being neglected, the tree grows. I am growing into the freedom of a cautious and courageous spirit. I am growing into knowing nothing, of letting go what I thought being strong and brave, courageous and peaceful looked like. 

It doesn’t look like anything. It is experienced. It is lived into. It is not an easy thing to grow, but I raise my arms in surrender, dancing on the beaches of freedom, the freedom from having to know everything. I surrender Supergirl.  

I don’t know nothin’.

Marv was almost 80 years old when he died and I am almost 50, but age doesn’t really matter when we are on a journey to knowing (and unknowing) ourselves. Marv was a humble man who gave of himself in so many ways. If this is what it means to know nothing, sign me up.

Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. –Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 7 MedalBlueGold180

Learn more about Benedictine spirituality and the Rule of St. Benedict.

 

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.   

 

SoulFully You: 2015 in Review

Happy New Year from SoulFully You!butterfly no logo Thank you for subscribing to and sharing my posts during 2015. Your comments and feedback have been encouraging.

Thanks to you, SoulFully You was viewed 6200 times by over 2500 readers in 39 countries during 2015. Readers have found SoulFully You through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, SoulCollage, Becoming Minimalist, Jumping Tandem, Abbey of the Arts, St. Benedict Center and Google. It’s been a serendipitous blessing to connect with people around the world and to stumble upon new readers in my hometown, Lincoln, Nebraska.

SoulFully You, the name of this blog /hobby/ business/vocation /passion /endeavor is about my own pursuit of a creative, spiritual  and authentic life and my desire to accompany others on that journey. It’s about listening and praying and living a creative, purposeful, passionate life.

It’s about becoming SoulFully You. So thank you for accompanying me.DSC_0323a

There is no formula for what and when I share. There are no strategically-planned weekly posts (who would want notifications or email from me every week?). It may seem a little haphazard to the reader (and even within the writer, ha!), but it’s important for me to wait for inspiration and to listen for guidance about what to write; to be soulful about what I share.  I know when it feels right; and I know when it feels forced or unnatural. I’m not going to “leap ahead of grace” (quoting Sr. Helen Prejean) when it comes to SoulFully You.

SoulFully You, the blog, was birthed to connect with others who find DSC_0730SoulCollage® a creative and prayerful form of self-expression and to share information about retreats and workshops. 

But it has transformed into something more for me: a way to reflect, grow spirituality and express myself creatively. Both words (writing/reading) and images (SoulCollage®) resonate with me; I surrender to the synergy that is greater than either practice alone; I listen and learn and follow my intuition.   I write about what I am passionate about, often prompted through SoulCollage®I am one who” statements; send it out into the universe; and hope that it resonates with a few people.  I have faith that what I create will be a spark of light for the right people, at the right time.

WordPress, the blog platform used for SoulFully You, prepares an annual report, basically a report card, for every blog they host. The cool thing is that it’s just about my blog…no comparisons, no goal setting, no pressure to increase blog traffic…just a good old-fashioned report. It honors what IS and I appreciate that. 

According to WordPress, the top 5 posts on SoulFully You were:

1. Giving up to Gain: Selling, Decluttering and the 68506

2. It’s About Time We Start Sharing the Same Breath

3. Selling Our House: Surrender to Surprise

4. Decluttering: Taking Off the Top Layer

5.  A Picture Can Reveal the Soul: Using Images in the Classroom

Decluttering and selling our house was a defining element of 2015. Writing about it was tonic, and accountability, for the soul…and it seemed to have resonated with others–Google search brings a new reader almost daily for those posts. I haven’t written about our move (and the downstairs storage room that affirms the decluttering process as yet unfinished), but I hope to bring this theme back to life in 2016…life just got complicated during the process.

In the midst of moving to a temporary dwelling while our new house was finished, my mother-in-law (pictured) became ill, was hospitalized for several weeks and then suddenly passed away.

Our hearts are broken. Perhaps the greatest stress and loss in our lives, combined with sending our senior-in-college daughter to Washington DC for an internship, IMG_8622starting a new school year myself and then finally moving for the last time, has thrown us into survival mode for the second half of 2015. Lots of tasks are still on the list of things-to-do.

Creating and writing about other topics has been helpful and healing, but likely a bit of avoidance as well. I hope to write about my mother-in-law when the time feels right. In the meantime writing and reflecting about spirituality and Soul Collage®, creativity and country drives, friends and family has been a balm for my soul.

Some of my favorite 2015 posts

love and marriageSome of my favorite posts are about my husband and daughter. Joe and I celebrated 30  years of marriage this year and Jessica is just one semester away from being a college graduate.  See A Marriage Made of Moments and Jessica Becoming.

Driving country roads is contemplative prayer for me. I get lost in the beauty and I know I am in the presence of God. See Country Road Contemplative (also shared on Abbey of the Arts Monk in the World guest blog), The Same Two Trees, The Grandeur of God, Signs on Country Roads.

Using SoulCollage® to honor and remember friends and family is not just an option for me….I have to, I am compelled. This year I created cards and wrote about Cece, a grandma collageneighbor who was like a grandma to us (See Cece: A Snow Day Reflection); my own grandma Helen Blazek (pictured) and what I learned about faith from her (See Images of Faith); and about my friend Judy, part of our Circle (See Circle of Friends), who also passed away in 2015.

Reading “Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are” by Deidra Riggs was a surreal experience. Being neighbors by chance, and having as much in common as different, brought the exciting opportunity to be on the launch team for her first (and likely not last) book. (See It’s About Time We Start Sharing the Same Breath and Every Little Thing).

And of course, writing and reflecting on the power of images and creativity is my afavorite topic to write about–in my job as a teacher, in my spiritual life, leading retreats (especially Full Moon retreats!) and in reflecting on nature and the environment. (See We are Moons, Not Suns; Living in the Fullness of God; Praying with Scissors; Why I Teach; Earth Gratitude; We are Made in the Image of God;  A Picture Can Reveal The Soul)

Some of the topics I hope to write about in 2016 are Benedictine spirituality (including obedience, stability and conversion of life….and what all of that really means for a “monk in the world“), Lectio and Visio Divina prayer practice, creating and reflecting on Community Suit (friends and family) SoulCollage cards®, being a Catholic-Come-Home, the on-going decluttering process and using SoulCollage® to celebrate Earth Day! Whatever it is, I shall wait for the Divine nudge and then hit PUBLISH. We’ll see how it goes.

Thank you for following SoulFully You! May 2016 bring you joy, reflection, peace, creativity and love!  Blessings, Jodi

For the official WordPress report card, see link below.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,200 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

SoulFully You 2015 in Blogging Annual Report

 

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