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Archive for the ‘Places to Grow’ Category

“I want to ask you a question.”

“Sure,” I replied. Seemed only fair since we were meeting for tea because I was curious about the master’s program in Spiritual Psychology my colleague was taking.

“How do you feel about mirrors?”

“How do I feel about … what?” I hesitated, sure the noise in the coffee shop had garbled his words.

“Mirrors. What do you see when you look into one?”

It seemed unrelated to our conversation. The response on the tip of my tongue “Fine. I feel fine about mirrors.” But it wasn’t the kind of conversation where fine was a sufficient answer to everything.
I paused and chose honesty.

“They’re not my favourite thing in the world, but it’s improving from the ‘avoid-really-looking’ place it used to be. I’m slowly learning to look and really see myself.”

That was September 23rd.

I’ve been thinking about mirrors ever since and what I see has been changing. In good ways. In ways I never imagined were possible. In ways that are allowing me to see myself with kindness and acceptance.

As part of that journey, I decided to take Vivienne McMaster‘s 10 day Beloved Beginnings course. It’s an easy, dip your tip-toes in kind of introduction to the life-changing and powerful gift that Vivienne is bringing to the world by teaching people to use self-portraits as a way to see yourself with compassion.

It started with a simple exercise. Put one hand over my heart and whisper a little love to the woman I am today. And then use the other hand to take a photo. Late one night after I was ready for bed, I tried out the suggestions that Vivienne had given. Words like “You’re enough” and “It’s all going to be okay” but I realized that those weren’t the words I needed to hear in that moment. What I needed was to speak three small words out loud and hear them quietly ring in my ears.

I needed to say out loud the words that had become true to me in a moment of surprising clarity a few days before as I’d continued to ponder why I felt the way I did about mirrors.

With my hand on my heart, I whispered the words quietly, hesitantly, questioningly at first. Trying them out to see if their truth still held up in the light of day.

I’m not broken?

I clicked the shutter button on my camera phone. I grimaced at what I saw reflected back on the screen, but the words, while unfamiliar, still felt true.

I whispered the words again, just as quietly but with a little more confidence. If they still felt true when I saw myself with eyes half closed, hidden behind glasses obviously thick even when they’re made with “thin” lenses, maybe they really were true. The shutter clicked again.

I’m not sure how many photos I took that night. Each time, I pressed the camera button, I said the same words over again. Soon there was no hesitation. The love I needed to hear from myself that night was a strong declaration of truth that was in stark contrast to the lie I’ve believed about myself for as many of my 44 years as I can remember.

I’m not broken.

Each repetition of the words allowed the truth it sink a little deeper into a wound so old I don’t remember when I first began to believe the lie.

As I continued to take photos, the words took on a new tone.

Beloved Beginnings Day 1No longer were they simply a declaration of truth.

They became a celebration of truth that I could now hear and claim as my own.

I’M
NOT
BROKEN!

So many of us have breathed in that lie. That we are broken, damaged, not good enough no matter what we do, no matter how hard we strive. But it’s not true. Even if you learned it in childhood, in Sunday School, it’s still not true.

Yes, you may do broken things. There may be parts of you that have been broken and damaged by whatever life has thrown in your path. And it may even be true that we have all “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, but there is a truth deeper than that, a … deeper magic, if you will. We are all created in the image of the divine. At our core, we’re not broken.

I’m not broken.

You’re not broken.

At our core, we are beautiful and whole and we reflect the divine.

—–

So what about you? How do you feel about mirrors?

I’d love to her your story in the comments or over on the facebook page.

P.S. Getting to meet Vivienne, hang out with her, give her a great big in-person hug and say thank you was definitely one of the many things I loved about Soulsisters!

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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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Which one of these would catch your eye more as you walk or drive down the street?

The picture perfect star … or the not-so-perfect star?

Picture Perfect StarSlighty warped star

These two stars live side by side on a downtown street. For the last couple of months I’ve walked or driven past them almost every day.

Even though the one hides partially behind a tree, it is the one I look for.  It’s the one that has brightened my commute to work all season long.

It caught my eye shortly after the decorations were put up. It stood out.  It was different from every other one on the street.  It had personality and character. It was unique and special.

If you look at the star up close …

Warped up close

… it’s a little warped.  A little bent. A little twisted.  A little broken. It seems a little insecure. You might wonder how it’s holding on, or whether it might fall down on some unsuspecting passer-by.

But at the same time, you see it’s beauty.

You know it’s off-kilter-ness is exactly what makes it stand out.

Its beauty comes from its brokenness.  Not in spite of its brokenness.

It is beautiful exactly because it is not perfect.

It is beautiful because it is broken.

Its brokenness is beautiful.

Sit with that for a moment, and then imagine …

Our brokenness is beautiful.

Why is that so hard to hear and to believe for ourselves? We can believe it of other things and for other people, but when it comes to ourselves, it’s so easy to fall into the trap that being perfect makes us beautiful.

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

– Leonard Cohen

Do me a favour?  Go watch Kyeli’s video Broken Open.

She says it so well and with such a wide open heart.  Maybe like me, when you hear her words, your eyes will get a little damp and you’ll believe just a little bit more that your brokenness is beautiful.

I’ll be sad when they take my star down. I suspect it won’t look the same when it returns next fall. Someone will probably have given in to the need to fix it and make it appear perfect again.

And if they do? The star will lose what makes it perfect just the way it is.

Perfect just as it is

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Used with Permission - Santa Pause Day 09 - Soften into what IS by Kristin Noelle

With many thanks to Kristin Noelle for allowing me to share her drawing for Santa Pause – Day 9.  I encourage to take a moment to check out her site.  She’s as awesome, warm and genuine in person as you imagine from her website!

————-

Without thinking, I rail against …
… injustice, real or perceived.
… slights, intentional or imagined.
… changes I don’t understand.
… leadership I don’t respect.
… unmet expectations.
… betrayal of friends.
… boxes that don’t fit.
… labels that try to define and stereotype.
… unfairness of family health issues.
… faith that suffocates.

My tendency is to harden …
… to protect.
… to avoid.
… to hide.
… to separate.

I rail. I harden.

I fight. I demand.

I argue. I wrestle.

Against.

But what if I chose differently?

What if I chose to soften into
… my life as it is, rather than how I wish it was or someone else thinks it should be?
… unexpected joy in each moment, rather than sleep-walking through the day?
… creative solutions to workplace stress, rather than sinking into the well of negativity?
… embracing new seasons of life, rather than wishing for things past?
… discovering a faith that fits who I am, rather than worrying about what people will think of the “former youth pastor”?
… releasing relationships that no longer function, rather than struggling to be someone I no longer am?
… listening deeply to understand, rather than judging on first impressions?
… letting go of past hurts and old stories, rather than holding them close out of fear?
… gratitude for new ways to connect and care for my mom, rather than being frustrated by changes we cannot control?
… compassion and kindness guided by wisdom, rather than needing to fix everything and everyone?
… the simplicity of breathing deeply, rather than holding everything inside?
… the wonder of light in the midst of darkness?

What if we all chose to soften into what is?

What kind of world could we create together?

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