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Archive for the ‘Life Happens’ Category

Coming Home

I’m always amazed when someone I’ve never met finds their way to this tiny corner of the internet. I imagine how they found this little spot I’ve carved out and claimed as my own. When their chance encounter with my online home allows my words to speak some nugget of truth, some gem of comfort, to their journey, I am in awe at the wonder of two lives connecting even for briefest of moments.

I’ve missed that feeling over the last months, but a few weeks ago a gracious reader left a comment on a post I’d almost forgotten. I wrote it what seems like a lifetime ago. Her words reminded me of why I’ve loved this space and were like knowing a warm cup of tea was waiting with dear friends. I knew it was time to come home.

Finding Centre

So much has happened since I last stopped to share my journey here. So many stories that could be told, so many words left unwritten in the last few months as first I got busy and writing fell by the wayside in favour of other creative pursuits (being props mistress for Oliver! was so much more fun and so much more work then I ever imagined). Then words became hard to find as some stories I might have told weren’t really my stories to tell. Other stories were mine to share as I liked, but I was too deep in the story to know what words felt safe to share. I stopped writing. My nighttime writing practice dormant for months.

My need to write hidden behind a one-sentence-a-day journal, and then by the addition of a gratitude journal. Both of those rituals serve a purpose, but one sentence does not begin to cover the journey I’ve been on. The words of gratitude documented lovingly each evening have helped keep me sane when the story seemed dark and I became fearful. But at the same time, those small bits of writing let me drift farther away from the practice that most soothes my soul. When I needed to let the words of my heart flood the blank pages, those rituals allowed me to shy away from what I needed most. I’m not sure any of it would have found its way here, but my heart needed to pour out on the page before me. I was afraid what I might discover when the words were freed to live on the page even if I was the only one who read them.

I allowed myself to hide in the belief that those few words each day were writing enough. I allowed myself to believe that lie until I started to feel like I was losing myself. The self I’ve struggled so hard to find in the last few years began to slip away. Gratitude became harder to find. Joy became a distant village I could rarely find the path to visit. I had a choice. As someone rather famous once almost wrote: “To write or not to write, that is the question.”

It’s taken a bit, but I’ve been finding my way back to the practice that sustains me. For a while I needed to keep writing just for me and not think about whether any of it might be shared with anyone else ever.

I’ve been writing the story that is not all mine to tell. It’s in a notebook, safe and sound, recorded to let me see the truth of it with different eyes. Some day, I dream that I might share it but at the same time I pray that day for sharing will be forever in the future. For now I will continue to write it in silence, in solitude, and most importantly, in love for the one whose story it truly is.

In August, I decided to attend a workshop called “The Spirituality of Writing” at a local church. The workshop title called to me from the church sign. The idea of a safe place and consistent time to write beckoned in a way I couldn’t refuse. The workshop wasn’t really what I imagined, but the time and space to write was exactly what I needed. I started writing one thing, but then the story I needed to tell and was mine to tell began to find it’s way onto the page. The words flowed. My truth, that I’d been afraid of finding, seeped out in the ink on my notebook pages.

When the first evening of the workshop ended, I knew I wasn’t ready stop writing. (Have I mentioned how hard it is to find a coffee shop open after 9:00 pm in Victoria? Thank goodness for a Starbucks close to the university campus!) An hour more there. A break for laughter at the “car shark” in the parking lot. Another hour or so more at home when it became obvious the words weren’t ready to stop even though my body was ready for sleep. I haven’t gone to look, but one of the lines in my gratitude journal that night should certainly have been about the freedom of knowing I could sleep in the next morning on my Friday flex day.

Car Shark

I know I’ve only hinted at many stories left untold. I’d like to tell you that I’m going to be here regularly with a warm cup of tea waiting for you, but I can’t make that promise. This part of my journey seems to need more reflection and I’m not sure where the path is taking me. There is definitely much in my world that is aching to be recreated, but I’m not sure when I will be ready to tell some of those stories in such a public way. I will make one promise to you and to myself. Even when it feels like I cannot tell the story out loud, I will keep telling the story. The pen and the blank pages of my notebooks. The screen of my tablet. The slideout keyboard of my phone. All of those will record my story and when my heart says the time is right, the stories I need to share will find their way to my little corner of the internet.

Even if no one reads the words, a writer writes because she must. So I continue to write, because as someone else rather famous once almost wrote: “I write, therefore I am.”

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On March 25th, I bought a new journal. It’s not like it takes much for me to want to bring a new journal home.  There’s something about the blank, lined pages that makes my heart smile. There’s so much possibility. What will those pages contain?

That little bit of mystery is part of the temptation that is so hard to resist. This time I knew exactly what would fill these pages.

Wake Up Smiling Journal

Gratitude. For silly things. For sublime things. For profound and powerful things. For things that only seem important to me. For things that make a difference on a grand scale.

It might seem counterintuitive given the “wake up smiling” title on the journal, but each night before I turn off my light and go to sleep, I’ve been spending a few moments writing down at least three things from my day that make me grateful.

Some nights, many things flow onto the page fast enough that my pen can hardly keep up. Other nights, I have to stop and think back through my day to find moments of gratitude.

Those are the moments that help me to wake up smiling. Those few minutes thinking back over my day and recording my gratitude leave me ready to sleep, at peace and content with my world. Secure in the knowledge that no matter how crazy the day has been or how I’m feeling, there is beauty in my world. There is cause to be grateful. There is joy to be found even in the smallest moments.

This weekend I also happened to take photos of the things that ended up on my gratitude list.

Lambs in the Daffodils

Every spring, I hope to see the lambs in this daffodil field.

Tomato Season Has Begun

Tomato seasons in Victoria, BC has begun.

Fabulous Finger Peeler

Love my new vegetable peeler. Peeled all the veggies for a roast beef dinner and my hands didn’t end up sore and grumpy.

Ready for a Perfect Afternoon

A cup of a delicious Angelwater tea from Silk Road, in my favourite tea cup from a dear friend, ready to sit down and read River of Stars, the brand new book from my favourite author, Guy Gavriel Kay. No better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

What about you? What are you grateful for in this moment? What is making your heart happy?

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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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It doesn’t always work the same way twice.  We create rituals.  We set aside time and space.  We plan. We expect. We assume that if we do the “Thing” that worked for us before, it will work again the next time.

Makes sense when you’re following a recipe.  Those things are predictable.  Given the same set of ingredients, the same baking techniques, the same oven temperature, and the same time, you’ll get the same results almost always.  If you don’t, you can track down what changed.  Maybe the humidity level is extra high and that changed how much flour you needed.  Maybe you didn’t actually measure carefully.  Maybe the oven needs repair.  Maybe someone unknowingly peeked under a lid that needed to stay closed.  Whatever the cause, you can normally figure out what went wrong and know what you need to do to fix it.

But what about faith? Spirituality? Your connection with the divine? Your ability to hear what spirit is saying in your life?

As much as we want them to be, those things don’t always follow the same path.  Sometimes our rituals lead us to the place we need to be. Sometimes our practices help us build our relationship with god.

But sometimes they don’t.

And if you’re like me, you’re first assumption is that you’re at fault.  That your connection with spirit was always broken. That once again you’ve failed “the quiet time test.” That a “good Christian” (or whatever you call the people who hold the same beliefs you do) would have received an answer. That you weren’t good enough.

I thought I’d left that old story behind, but I recently found myself right back in the middle of that shame-filled place where I’m never enough.

I’d carved out a space in the middle of my day to sit in silence and stillness and listen to the guided meditation that is part of the Flock’s spiritual practice for January.  I was so excited knowing that we were going to use the same recording as last year.  Those words had been so powerful.  The experience of hearing Boldness as the name of my star to follow for 2012 was one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life.  I couldn’t wait to repeat that moment.

I’d had a thought a couple of weeks earlier about my word for 2013, but I deliberately held that word at a distance so I could wait for that moment in the meditation when the name of my star landed in the palm of my outstretched hand.

Time carefully arranged.  Feeling peaceful and excited. Ready to listen, I began to play the meditation.  I listened.  I breathed deeply.  I turned the word over in my heart wondering if it was the one.  I waited in stillness, patient.  I reached out and …

Nothing.

Not a single thing.

There was silence. Not the warm, welcoming silence of friendship, peace and contentment, but the cold, dark, lonely silence of abandonment and exclusion.

I had no clue what my word was.  The panic started to rise. I’d done it wrong.

Last year, I was at home, not in the library.  Last year, I’d been laying on my bed in the dim light of dusk, not sitting at a table under fluorescent lights on my lunch break. Last year, I’d done some other planning and thinking before I got to the meditation. This year, I’d waited for just this moment, secure that I would know the answer when I was done.

Having boldness as my word last year was such a catalyst for change in my life. What if I’d screwed it up?  What if I’d failed at this new spiritual practice just like I’ve failed at every spiritual discipline I’ve tried over more than 30 years of trying to be the Christian I thought I was supposed to be?

I tried to pretend it was okay. That it didn’t really matter to me. That I knew there was magic in having a word for my year. The truth is I headed back to work with an underlying sense of panic.

In that moment, in that horrible silence, the right-fit feeling of the spiritual practices that have become so important to me over the last months cracked. My heart was broken. I had failed at this practice too.  I’d done what I thought I was supposed to do and God didn’t show up.  I’d been right before. He wasn’t interested.  I didn’t belong.  I wasn’t beloved.

How quickly our old stories jump out of history and into the forefront of our minds and hearts.  Here, let me just pick all that baggage up again. While I’m at it, let me just grab that extra bag too.  I’ll just bring along a bit more to carry.

Then, I made a choice.

Really who cares if I have a word for 2013 or not?  I don’t actually need a word.  No one whose opinion matters to me is going to judge me for not having a word … or an intention or a resolution or a whatever it is you think you need to have. And if I really want a word, I can pick it for myself.  I don’t have to be “divinely inspired”.  There’s nothing magical about the word.

The good things that came into my life during 2012 didn’t come only because I did it “right” and heard boldness as my word.

They came because I followed the quiet voice inside me that knew what I wanted and what I needed.  The star of boldness was simply a reminder of the path I wanted to be on.

I breathed a sigh of relief.  I put the extra bags back down. I surrendered my need to follow the same path as those around me. I leaned in to accepting that I didn’t have a word and that I didn’t need to have a word in order to be okay, to be enough, to belong.

And as the tension started to dissolve and the panic began to loosen its grip, I heard my heart sing in a quiet whisper.

Soften.

Soften into being who you are, not who you think you are supposed to be.

Soften into who the people around you truly.

Soften into what is.

Soften.

Soften 2013

Seems I needed a different path to find my star’s name this year. I think that might just be the first lesson of soften for 2013.

It wasn’t until I allowed myself to soften that I could hear what my heart needed to say. It wasn’t until I surrendered my ideas of how my spiritual life was supposed to work that I could recognize what spirit had been saying to me since before Christmas.

Boldness? Yes, still that, but soften first.

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New Year’s Day has always been about napping, sprawled in front of the tv, brain turned off, asleep even when awake.

Today I wanted something different. Something more. Something reflective. Something that resonates with who I am and who I am becoming.

Today I did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and yet have avoided doing even when the opportunity was right in front of me.

Christ Church Cathedral Millenium Labyrinth

Today I walked a labyrinth.

Step by slow and careful step. Circling inwards. Pausing to breathe. To reflect. To see. Inside and out. To meditate. To celebrate. To mourn. To hear myself called beloved by my creator and to know that I was invited to call the same.

I felt self-conscious.  You must look a little crazy walking slowly in circles, pausing at each turn in the path.

I felt freedom to be in my own space, unaware of the world around me, simply focused on the step in front of me.

I felt trepidation as though I was entering a dark and scary place.

I felt joy as I emerged into light.

I felt despair as I contemplated my mom slipping slowly away from me.

I felt peace knowing that I have a family of my heart whom I love dearly and who continue to hold me close to their hearts.

I felt excitement for the year ahead and gratitude for the year past.

I felt alone, solitary in my journey, and yet, I felt connected to a greater community I’ve never met but who have walked these same steps and others just like them for so many years and in so many places around this earth.

I felt hope as I experienced a divine stillness as I stood on holy ground.

I felt lost as I wondered what on earth I was doing walking a labyrinth outdoors where someone I know might see me.

I felt found knowing that I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing in that sacred moment of time.

Walking the Labyrinth

For those who are interested, the labyrinth is the Christ Church Cathedral Millenium Labyrinth at the corner of Quadra and Burdett in Victoria, BC. It’s outdoors and open to the public.

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