Sunday, February 15, 2015

Love is...

This week while teaching a kid’s yoga class, I asked them to check in with a response to the following: “My heart is filled with…” The responses were each precious: (peace, hope, joy, love, God, kindness…), but the one that stayed with me was EVERYTHING! Our work in practicing loving kindness is to embrace it all; the good and bad, happy and sad, and everything in between. As adults we are constantly judging, controlling, and trying to shape our world into a desired outcome, but kids are different. They are pure of heart, and so they are better able to accept what is. They are often our teachers, if we can soften enough to acknowledge their wisdom and brilliance.

The next day, I sat alone preparing for a pre-valentine’s girls night out. We were challenged by a dear friend who is a gifted teacher. She invited us to write a love letter to God. She gave us some questions to ponder: What do you Love about Him? Where have these qualities been palpable in your life? When does He make you feel most alive? I put the assignment off as long as I could. I tried to begin several times, but got distracted and pulled away in a million different directions. Then finally, an hour before I was being picked up, I reread all my brainstorms and half-finished love letters and wrote something worthy of bringing along. After spending time catching up, we read these precious love letters aloud. It was amazing to me the way that God’s love poured through these amazing women as they shared longing and desire, gratitude and awe. It was the perfect place of preparation for the real task which was to take that heart overflowing with love to the paper once again. This time she brought out beautiful stationary and sparkly hearts and asked us to write a love letter to our husband. It was a good challenge.

Writing comes pretty naturally to me, so I dove right in, but the real beauty came to me near the end of the letter, when I addressed the mystery and the goodness of God’s design. That he would take two young and very dysfunctional kids and bind us together in His perfect love. That he would use our stories of grief and shattered dreams to create a fairy tale. I was in awe as I looked back over our history together to see God’s perfect plan unfolding. It was in EVERYTHING… From the drunken teenagers sitting on my front porch sharing our stories of harm and our longing for more, to two 40 year old parents who are ready, willing, and able to grow up and be used for God.
This Valentine’s weekend I am filled with Gratitude for God’s love that is everywhere. I am blown away to bear witness to it in my children, both when they are loving one another, and when they are torturing one another. Love is in all things. It is everywhere and it never fails!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Silence in the Storm

“Silence introduced in a society that worships noise is like the moon exposing the night. Behind darkness is our fear. Within silence our voice dwells. What is required from both is that we be still. We focus. We listen. We see and we hear. The unexpected emerges. The act of listening is the act of creating.” Terry Tempest Williams

In the silence your heart speaks, whispering truth. Press on, stay, just focus on today. The swirling world can swirl outside. Within your heart, a sanctuary. Dwell within the possibility. Leaning into mystery; a dark and scary place. Held by light within, don’t follow after fear. Breathe in and let the light grow big, it will guide you through the dark. With each exhale release a little bit. Surrender your control, you will not need it here. In the land where you are not the one who has to make the calls, you can find a little rest and begin to see through the fog. In the silence, it starts to clear and the break necking speed begins to slow. It feels like you are losing all control. You are! It was not meant for you in the first place. Do not outrun grace. Soften and allow the Spirit to guide you on the path that leads to life. When you are feeling like you are in a battle, close the door. Turn out the light. Begin again. The way to peace sounds simple, actually it is. But we are complex beings and are continually getting in the way. Our work is not that of putting on or learning some new trick. It is more about letting go and taking off the chains that bind.

Tell me what to do, and I will do it. Open up the door, I will walk through it. Just sit in the silence, until the storm clouds begin to lift. After the rain comes a rainbow, a beautiful gift. Soften to receive a thousand different hues, painted across your soul, creating a different view. Letting go of tension, blessings flow right in. Open hand, receiving… life begins to spin. From dark and dull and dreary to joy unspeakable. This is what you are meant for.

I believe this and have experienced it first hand and yet I wrestle. I tussle with God and go back to my old ways of fear and control countless times each day. I choose to hold within me conflict that I cannot control. I pick up packages of sorrow and let them pull me to the depths. I ride the waves of elation to the top of the highest peak and let the storms of life crash and break within me. I feel to the depths and the heights and am thankful that I do, but I crave the peace of stillness and imagine that you do too. Balance is an illusion just outside our reach, always keeping me striving and grasping for that perfect peace. The solution lies in non-doing, in laying the burden down. In trusting in God’s perfect plan that is unfolding right now. I always want to see more than the moment will reveal. And yet the work is returning to that which is within my view. Drinking it in like a cold tall glass of water. My soul is quenched. Gratitude clears away the insatiable need for more. It is and so be it. Amen

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Jesus Christ took hold of me.” Phil 3:12

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Wake up!

Have you ever been caught walking in your sleep? When I was young I climbed out of bed and made a b-line for the front door. Luckily the door was locked and my parents were sitting in the living room and able to re-direct me back to bed. Consider the harm that can be done if we walk around sleeping, and yet metaphorically many of us do.

Sometimes I find myself driving completely engrossed in thought. It is as if I am on autopilot. There is no presence of mind, only going through the motions. I do relationships like this sometimes too. If I am not careful, I can catch myself checked out and cut off from Spirit and the sweetness of the moment. This is not the way I want to live, so it is my intention to be awake and integrated as I engage with what is all around me and also with what is within. When I consider the why, I think a lot of it has to do with a lack of awareness and also an effort to self-protect. If I keep my heart guarded and tucked safely away it can’t get harmed. Unfortunately, it can’t experience the fullness of joy that was intended for it either. There are countless ways that we can choose to numb out or keep ourselves from full waking consciousness, and our culture encourages it through the constant connection to technology and insane speed.

We can choose to walk intentionally as children of the light in the little and big choices we make each day. One way I have decided to move toward the light is to wake up earlier, so that the first fruits of my day are given to God. I love to sleep, so when the alarm sounds at 5 a.m. I often hit snooze (repeatedly), sleeping away the most life giving hour of the day. Then I get catapulted into mom mode. On these days I feel robbed and frustrated with myself. One way that I have been trying to encourage myself to wake up is by setting my intention before I go to bed. I read these words by Rumi as a reminder. “The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep.” When the alarm sounds, I stir in wonder and arise to see if I can grab hold of these secrets as I decide what I really want on this new and glorious day.

If we begin and end each day with intentionality and presence of mind, everything in the middle is sure to fall into place. At the end of the day I like to practice daily examen. It is a way of reviewing and “tucking in” the day and laying it down before God. This is an ancient Ignatian practice in which we reflect on the day’s events to look for the fingerprints of God and also to inquire and discern his direction going forward. It is an act of surrender. “Lord, I give you this day and I thank you for the specific ways that I noticed your presence moving in my life.” One invaluable tool I have found is called “Reviewing my Days Map” from the Listen to my Life curriculum. You can find it at

The in between part of the day is often mundane. You go to work, or do the laundry, cook and clean, pretend you are a taxi. How do I do this daily work in a way that is pleasing to God? It is all in the attitude of my heart. When I anchor myself in the Light and Love of God in the morning I feel filled and focused. From there, it is all about gratitude, wonder and awe. I am thankful for another day to do what I am called to do. To love people and God, to pray without ceasing and to walk humbly in the Light. “This is why it is said: Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Begin Again

I love new beginnings… a new journal, flipping the page on the calendar to a new week, month, and year. Beginnings symbolize a clean slate and a chance to hit reset. To let go of past mistakes and failures and set your eyes on something on the horizon. New Year’s Day is the ultimate new beginning. The whole world pauses in anticipation, teetering in the in between space where change takes place. We gather, celebrate, and count down the minutes. We acknowledge the growth, and notice how far we have come. We count our blessings and bear witness to all of the challenges and obstacles we have hurdled. Together we stand firm in our resolve. We declare before God and man that this year will be different. We jump out of the gate like a stallion, strong and ready for whatever this year brings. We promise to be better, to do more, and to stay the course. Somewhere along the line we lose sight of our vision and become passive, we grow weary. We get a taste of failure and start to over identify with that.

For this reason, I don’t like to set goals. Every time I miss the mark, I fall into a pit of despair. I believe the lies and the voice of mockery takes me out at the knees. It happened earlier this month when the pressure and demands of the holidays caused me to miss a blog. My goal was weekly publication and after I missed one week I quickly threw in the towel. One week turned to one month and the message of self-harm and mockery swelled within me. So today, I stand on this first day of a new year and commit myself again to try and put one blog post out each week. I also commit to return to grace sooner. I just found a scrap of paper that I wrote on earlier this month. It says, the truth is life happens, and I am in need of grace, gentleness, and self-care. I will find faith in a process that is different than what I know. I am committed to grow!

New beginnings are about surrender. As we release our grip and soften, grace happens. The Spirit and power of God begin to flow freely into and through our lives. We start to live life that is truly life. Richard Miller is a psychologist, author, and yogic scholar. He invites us all to return to grace. He wrote “In every moment we begin again, we accept and surrender. As we deepen our understanding and let our truth unfold we pave the way for healing and transformation.” This is in alignment with the truth of scripture. It lines up with the promise that we can join God on the road to transformation, but it is a moment by moment process. We want to be transformed quickly and completely. We are an instant gratification culture. We prefer a cleaning crew to come into our house so that the whole thing is clean at the same time. If we do room by room, corner by corner, we never feel the joy of completion. This process is the reality that we are called to live into. In Romans 12:2 it says “Do not conform any longer to the patters of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This year is the year of the Lord’s favor! It is an invitation to soften and surrender and return to the flow of grace. Every time you find yourself falling short of your goals and desires, please consider this invitation to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Begin again and again and again… all is grace!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Nana's Love

I love to be invited! I remember meeting my oldest brother Bill’s soon to be mother in law for the first time when I was seven years old. Her eyes were filled with delight in my presence. She had been many years without little ones in the house and she was a caregiver by nature. After our brief encounter when we stopped at her house to pick Vicky up for a family wedding, she invited me to come back another time and spend the night or weekend with her. I accepted the invite with great anticipation. I was chosen!

When I showed up at her house one warm summer afternoon, I was so nervous. Then I caught a glimpse of her radiant smile! That sweet Italian face shone like the sun through her window pane and her tiny frame seemed to whisper come and play with me. She had been looking out the window and waiting for me like when you order something online and run to the window every time a brown truck comes near. She was expectant. She hustled to the door and bubbled over with excitement that I had finally come. She took my face in both hands and kissed me on both cheeks. She gave me a warm hug and said “Oh Jeannie, I am so glad you are here!” She meant it. She proceeded to share her plan and hopes for our time together. She began by asking, “What do you want to make for dinner?” I had no idea what to suggest, having never been invited in to the planning and preparation of meals. She said with great joy, “I will just have to surprise you.” I like being surprised maybe even more than being invited!

We went to the grocery store and the whole trip revolved around my desire. Nana awakened my desire and opened my eyes and heart to a banquet. She cared for and treated me like I was a princess. She took such pleasure in walking me through the grocery store and helping me discover what was good and pleasing to my tender and unsure heart. I fell in love with food while with her. The vibrant rainbow of colors, the rich and mouth-watering smells, the textures of the foods as we washed and prepared, and the sound of the chopping all helped to awaken my desire. And then, the feast… we had a 5 course meal on a regular Wednesday night. I am so thankful for that visit and the start of a relationship with such an amazingly loving bearer of Light.

Reflecting back on Nana, it is evident that she was an angel on my path. One of the many bright lights that were placed along my journey to whisper a truer truth than the lie I was believing that I was “too much.” Nana adored me. Her love was just like Christ’s. There was nothing that I needed to do to earn her love. It was simply and lavishly given. There was nothing that I could do that would kick me out of that place of favor and delight that she had placed me in. There was nothing I could do that would make her love me less. What a rich blessing it is to be chosen, set apart, and loved lavishly. In the Bible it says “See what great love the father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1John3:1

Nana passed from this world and as I remember her today, I give thanks for the legacy of love that she left the world with. Her kindness and radiant presence of care and nurture live on in my heart like a treasure. I wonder if you can take some time during this holiday season to remember with reverence and celebrate someone who has reached into your heart and touched your life for the better.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Table

Our table was passed down to us from my brother Mike. It was made by hand and with great care by the Amish. It holds love. It has seen two families grow and has taken a beating to prove it. It is covered with cloth to hide the scars and marks of wear and tear; colors and textures of love. It is a sacred place where we stop the rushing and we sit together. We turn our faces toward and we break bread. We hold hands and we give thanks. At our table we do life; the messy and the beautiful, the highs and the lows. We take time to be filled, seen, and known. Our table is a holy space. We are grateful! Kevin and I went to a marriage class at our church when we hit a rough patch. One week the teaching centered around the table. They taught about how the family table you grew around influences your current family table. They addressed the relational brokenness that each person brings into their marriage and to the table. In order to have a healthy table we each need to acknowledge and work through past pain and brokenness so that we can give and receive love in a healthy way. This is the journey… My childhood table didn’t really exist. It was there physically, but it did not represent the space of connection and intimacy that my soul longed for. Since my mom worked 3-11, she would prepare food and leave it on the stove. We each would come and go as we chose and there was much movement away from. When people would sit at the table, they were often doing other things than connecting. The TV was almost always on and for me it was a lonely place. My dad ate in the other room by choice. He watched the news and wanted to be left alone. He ate at a TV table and then played solitaire or space armada. I often wondered why in a home with so many people I felt so all alone most of the time. To my marriage I brought longing and desire for intimacy and connection in an almost desperate measure. Kevin’s table looked like my dad’s. It was a TV table where he would sit alone and eat a microwave TV dinner. He lived with his mom who was mostly absent. He cannot remember a single meal where he was invited to sit at the table and share a meal and some connection. To the marriage table Kevin brought a desire for a new beginning. A hope to create a new family tree. He brought an excitement of what could be different if two people turned toward one another with love. Gary Thomas wrote, “We receive, celebrate, and live in God’s love; we pass on that love to our children, and we teach them to love God and others. We are born to love, redeemed by love, carried by love, and called to love.” When we sit together around our table today, I cannot help but give thanks to our good God who has helped to restore our hearts and redeem our stories so that two lonely and broken kids were grown into a family of love and connection through God’s grace and the power of His spirit living and active in each of our hearts. We are a work in progress, and always have room to grow, but I celebrate how far we have come. My kids still mock and tease one another around the table. We get short and snappy with them too. We are constantly in need of grace and forgiveness, but we are fighting the good fight. We have declared together and before God that this family that he has blessed us with matters. We are determined to love and guide them and call them to the table. We are going to say no to the patterns of business and striving of the world as much as we are able so that we have more holy moments around our messy and beautiful table. We are grateful!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Truest Truth

I used to think that if people knew the truth about me, the whole truth, they would run away. What I have instead discovered is that the more I tell the truth, the more others are drawn in. As I learn to love and have compassion for myself, others are invited in to do the same. So as I tell my story with great care and compassion, I live more authentically and effortlessly. People want to be in the presence of truth, even if it is imperfect and messy. When I was young I learned slowly and differently. I had a hard time focusing and auditorily processing information. If I were in school today, I would definitely be labeled with special needs. I didn’t know I had a learning difficulty all I knew was that what appeared to be simple for those around me was excruciatingly difficult to me. I began to believe a lie that I was stupid. Living with this false image created boat loads of suffering. Trying to measure up and be what I was not only led to pain. It has just been over the past few years that I have begun to see clearly and celebrate my unique learning style and giftedness. Learning to believe a truer truth when you have believed a lie for so long is a process and it takes commitment. The second yama or practice of taking off the old on the 8 limb path of yoga is satya; which translates as a commitment to the truth. The truth they are referring to in the unchangeable truth. It is not about what you think or do, but about who you are at the core or your being. Our true identity simply boils down to who we are at the core. Yoga identifies the root cause of suffering as avidya or spiritual ignorance. We suffer because we forget who we really are. It is a sad case of mistaken identity. My work with truthfulness or Satya has to do with remembering and returning. You are not the sum of your thoughts, you are not your mistakes or what other people think of you. You are a reflection of God. You are a bearer of Light who has been called to bring light to the world. When I remember this truth everything else seems pretty insignificant. Is says in scripture “You will know the TRUTH and the truth will set you free.” John 8:23 There is such great freedom in knowing who you really are. It has been a long process of shedding skin that is ill fitting to get to a place where I can stand naked and unashamed of who I am. As you peel away the wintery layers you have used to protect and hide you for so long, it takes great courage to stand firm in a new and truer truth. From this place of integration it is pure delight to step forward and follow your heart toward what your true calling and purpose is in this world. The process is filled with grief at times because the people around you may not like the change and they may drop away, but it is so incredibly liberating to Be authentically who you are that it doesn’t matter all that much. You will begin to find yourself surrounded by people who appreciate and celebrate all of you. This is a precious gift. It is like stepping back into a flow of Spirit that has been there all along. In the yoga sutras it says “For those grounded in truthfulness every action and its consequence are imbued with truth.” This process of grounding into the truth of who you are is a choice to notice the times you are exhausted and running around in circles to measure up, be still and remember the truth and begin again… It is invitation to return to grace and compassion, curiosity and great care for yourself and those around you. Today, may you live your truth from the inside out. May the Light of Christ swell within you and radiate out of every cell of your being. May you experience the profound peace and freedom that comes with being authentic. Jesus said, “You are the Light of the world…” GO SHINE!

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