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Archive for February, 2013

I wrote a post late last night, or early this morning depending on how you define your days. The words of a poem I had just read made my gratitude for the people who have been part of my journey over the last few years crystal clear and I had to write.

When I started to write, I was thinking particularly of the women who have brought so much into my life. Some dear old friends. Some just as dear new friends from my writing group and the Creative Joy Retreat. The women who are part of Flock and the circle of women growing together through Lead with your Wild Heart. So my first draft spoke of a large group of wonderful women.

The more I wrote, the more I realized a much wider community who had played such an important part in my journey. They weren’t all women and I didn’t want to leave any one out. So before I hit publish, I changed what I had written to speak of a large group of wonderful women and a smaller group of equally wonderful men.

I hit publish feeling content with my choice of words.

Until my coffee break this morning.

I’d just read this post from Pace. As I finished, my heart plummeted. Not from Pace’s post. It is beautiful beyond words. But because thinking of Pace reminded me of someone who hadn’t specifically come to mind late last night, but who has been part of this journey and has definitely reminded me that so much more is possible than I tend to believe.

It was unintentional. But my choice of words clearly excluded at least one person, and probably more than I know, to whom I grateful.

Barred gate

Even though I was going to be a couple of minutes late getting back to my desk, I logged on and quickly updated the post to read “wonderful people” which was far more accurate and included everyone. I spent my lunch hour that day writing the words you’ve just read, but I knew I wasn’t ready to hit publish. It wasn’t enough to correct the mistake and admit what I had done. I needed to understand how I got here.

I like to describe things. I like to put things into neat, little categories that allow me to more easily comprehend the world around me. It’s how I understand the connection between things.

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that.

I like the words I use to be specific. As one housemate from university once responded to someone’s dismissive declaration that it was all just semantics anyway, I like semantics. The meanings of words matter to me. It’s one of the reasons I need to write. I might be an introvert, but putting things in to words on a page helps me understand and process my life and the world around me.

But sometimes, the tidy descriptions we use to understand are more than that. They become labels that we use to include some people and exclude other people. That is a problem.

I spent most of the first 40 years of my life very involved in evangelical, reasonably conservative, Christian churches. It took me a long time to realize that it wasn’t okay for people to assume I knew I was included when the word men was used in a supposedly inclusive context.

As a young woman who felt strongly called to ministry when many denied the possibility of God using a woman in leadership, and couldn’t even fathom the idea that a woman might want to be a pastor, it was hard to decide when they meant to include you and when they really wanted you to sit down and be silent. Even in those places where they strove to intentionally use inclusive language for the people of God, the idea that someone might want to use inclusive language for God was seen as somewhere between crazy or delusional and heresy worth splitting the church over.

I know what it’s like to be excluded by the language people use. I know what it’s like to be told that I don’t belong because of my gender. I know how much that hurts.

And yet, my tendency to describe and categorize did exactly the same thing to those whose understanding of their gender is not so clearly at one end of the spectrum or the other.

Gender had nothing to do with the impact these people have had on my journey.

What does it matter that the majority of them publically identify as women? Absolutely nothing.

Light shines in

What has mattered to me are their hearts and their wisdom. Their ability to love, encourage and support the people around them. Their desire to shine light into darkness. Their willingness to sit in that darkness with you and simply allow you to know that you are not alone. Their joy in creating a more beautiful world in whatever way they can. Their openness in sharing the laughter and tears of life.

Those are the important things and gender had nothing to do with our ability to do and be those things for each other.

So even if you only read the edited version and didn’t feel excluded because you didn’t know it was the edited version, and especially if you read the originally published version and felt part of your heart break because once again you had been left out in the cold, I humbly ask for your forgiveness. I have always wanted this to be a place where everyone was welcome and I missed the mark.

It wasn’t intentional, but I do know that my choice of language was hurtful. This is my commitment to being more aware of my own words and to speaking up more clearly for what is right.

With much love, humility and gratitude,

Karen

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Since the beginning of February I’ve been reading a poem a day from Mary Oliver’s collection Thirst.

Today I read these words in a poem called “After Her Death”.

… I have not

forgotten the Way, but, a little,

the way to the Way. The trees keep whispering

peace, peace, and the birds

in the shallows are full of the

bodies of small fish and are

content. They open their wings

so easily, and fly. So. It is still

possible.

I can’t really comprehend her experience of grief at the death of a beloved partner of over forty years.  That hasn’t been my story. 

But that phrase about forgetting the way to the Way?  That I understand.

From that, I feel the grief of something lost, of someone gone, or losing a sense of self that was closely tied to the thing that is missing, of feeling adrift, without anchor. But it wasn’t another person I lost. 

It was a dream.  An understanding of who I was meant to be. A faith to which I struggled to cling. It was all I knew of me.

Some would say I’ve lost my way.  One dear friend has decided that we can longer be friends because I don’t believe the same way.

And yet in that losing, I have found something new.  

Pink Rose Close-Up

I have journeyed with so many wonderful people who have reminded me …

That I am loved and worthy of love.

That there is beauty in the world around me and within me.

That to live is to create even if it is done in the tiniest of steps.

That peace can always be found in the midst of a single breath.

That there is no need to hide and pretend I am someone I no longer am.

That there are new adventures waiting before me.

That there is strength in gentleness and boldness in softening.

That I may choose to enjoy solitude but I am never truly alone.

That surrender doesn’t mean losing everything, it may actually mean finding everything of value.

That the questions are meant to be lived not feared.

That there is freedom and delight in movement.

That community can be found in the most unlikely of places.

That kindred spirits really do exist.

That there are many paths to find the Way.

That joy and faith and hope and love will always remain.

If I could, I would list you all by name, but I fear I would run out of space and even more that I would somehow miss the name of even one of you. I’d give you all flowers, but there aren’t enough meadows.

Instead, let me simply say I love you muchly. Thank you, most of all, for reminding me that it is still possible.

Dark Pink Gerber Daisy

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Beauty in things

There are so many awesome things to be found on the internet.  Here’s what been inspiring me and making me smile lately.

  1. After so many years of feeling like I always failed the “good Christian quiet time test”, I love Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project. I’ve finally found a meditation practice that feels like it fits who I am.
  2. I know I’ve mentioned Michael Nobbs’ Sustainably Creative website before.  I love his One Thing Today podcasts.  They’re my favourite listening on my way to work in the morning.  You can listen to his 400th podcast here. I also can’t wait for my pre-ordered copy of his new book Drawing Your Life to arrive.  Love the video he made to celebrate its pending publication.
  3. I had the pleasure of meeting Kristin Noelle last summer.  I love her artwork and Trust Tending is a fabulous place to find inspiration. Each week she has an giveaway of one of her drawings.  I won this one and one of my tasks this weekend was hanging it up in my bedroom, right where I will see it every morning as I wake up and every evening before I go to sleep.
  4. Don’t remember who pointed me in the direction of this list, but I think I actually cheered out loud when I read 25 Things You Don’t Have to Justify to Anyone.
  5. If you’ve seen pictures of my niece’s hedgehog Oliver, you know why I have to try making these adorable hedgehog cookies the next time she’s here for a visit.
  6. I love the community of women who are part of Flock. Rachelle Mee Chapman has created a beautiful and safe space that has played a huge part in me finding the spiritual practices that make sense to me. I’m loving our practices for February and her new Relig-ish series of videos.

What are you loving?

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