Tag Archives: free


Without gravity to keep me grounded,

a handrail guides my steps, and

I cling tightly to stay anchored to earth.

But then I am distracted or careless,

I don’t know which,

and I let go.

Up, I float,

freed from what bound me,

finally able to fly,

like Peter Pan and Wendy.

Untethered, I feel light as a spring breeze,

gliding gently through the air,

and also a bit anxious.

And then, when I am almost out of reach,

a hand clasps my ankle and pulls me back.

Can I still be free and fly to the land of my dreams?


Being open to the presence of God

Sometimes my liturgical seasons seem to get their wires crossed—I experience Lenten contrition in August or Easter joy during Advent. This year, I am resonating more with Advent than with Lent.

Advent begins with the image of the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light (Isaiah 9:2). That is what I am experiencing as Lent begins—walking in light. The darkness of the grief that has gripped me for the past six years seems to have lifted, and my spirit feels light and free. Instead of donning sackcloth and ashes, I feel like laughing and dancing.

Joy and gratitude have taken up residence; contentment reigns. For as long as this feeling lasts, I want to enjoy it.Lent-God-spiritualitySo, about Lent.

True confession: I am addicted to chocolate and rarely go a day without it.Lent-God-spiritualityOne year, just after college, my housemate and I gave up chocolate and alcohol for Lent. I thought giving up alcohol would be more difficult, but it was not. At the grocery store, I repeatedly noticed candy bars on the checkout conveyor belt. How did that happen? I would wonder, knowing full well that I must have put them there, even though I was completely unaware that I had done it. Giving up alcohol for Lent? No problem. But chocolate? No way.

I have a desk drawer at work designated as the snack drawer—it is stocked with chocolate in a variety of forms—granola bars with chocolate chips, chocolate covered almonds and straight-up chocolate candy. It is not a secret stash, and anyone is welcome to dip into this treasure trove of sweets.Lent-God-spiritualityOne Lent, a staff person said she wanted to give up chocolate and asked if I would be willing to join her. She wanted me to empty my snack drawer because she feared the temptation would be too great for her. I explained that I give things up for Lent to become holier—or at least more focused on God—and giving up chocolate would only make me grumpier.

My fasting for Lent tends to be more about giving up being judgmental or being critical or being impatient—more attitudes than actual things. Changing my attitudes seems to have more potential to be transformational in my spiritual journey than changing my eating habits.

My Lenten reflection book encourages making Lent “a penitential season,” and says the purpose of penitential practices (prayer, fasting and almsgiving) is “to open oneself more fully to the presence of God.”

This Lent, I want to fast from judgmentalism, scarcity, stinginess and fear—and feast on  abundance, joy, trust, generosity and gratitude. This Lent, I want to bask in light and live in freedom.Lent-God-spirituality


Do more of this

I recently attended a workshop at a local nursery called Hydrangeas 101, covering the basics of successfully growing Hydrangeas. I had questions about the one that came with my house, as this is my first experience with this particular flower.

When I moved here, I had Googled “pruning Hydrangeas” and learned that pruning was a no-no. Numerous websites advised planting them where they have enough room to grow to their full size. Mine has room; I was more interested in knowing if it needed to be pruned for its health.

At the end of the hour-long workshop, I had the answers to my questions, and I walked out of the nursery aware that I was feeling light and happy.

Gardening is one of my favorite things and learning about flowers is as much fun as the actual gardening. I joined the local garden club when I moved here four years ago, to learn what is indigenous and what grows best in this zone. Now, I watch Monarch butterflies on Echinacea and hummingbirds at the Rose of Sharon.prayer-examen-garden

But, back to the workshop and the lightness I felt when I left.

I am by nature a curious person. Not nosey (I barely know my neighbors or their habits), but inquisitive; I love to learn.

As I walked out of the nursery, the words that popped into my heard were, Do more of this. The feeling was similar to the one I have when I am leaving my Polish classes—happy, light and free.

Entering with the awareness that I am seeking knowledge and leaving having acquired something—a clearer understanding of what my Hydrangea needs in order to be happier, or perhaps one new Polish word—it does not have to be much to make me happy.

Do more of this. The words reminded me of a prayer practice developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola called The Examen.

St. Ignatius saw the benefit of periodically stopping during the day and looking at how the day was going. Was he drawing closer to God through his words and actions? Or was he moving away from God?

I have heard The Examen explained in a number of ways, but the main point is to look at how the day is unfolding, to look at patterns in our lives, and to do more of the things that draw us closer to God and less of those that take us away from God.prayer-examen-gardenI tend to think of gratitude as an indicator of how my day is going. If it am feeling grateful, things are generally good. If I am feeling resentful or jealous or put upon in some way, I know I need to change something because what I am doing is moving me away from God.

The Examen can be helpful in leading me away from toxic people and situations. It can help point out patterns that are harmful and also patterns that are grace-filled. The Examen redirects me toward God and freedom.



Safe and Free

Before he got sick, Jim used to go to the Jersey Shore several times a year. Part of his shore routine was to get a massage at a local spa. Monique was his massage therapist there, and he often told me stories about her—he thought she was a gifted masseuse and an interesting person.

When Jim was sick, we spent some time at the Shore, and one day he wanted to get a massage. We were at a coffee shop near Monique’s spa so rather than call, we just went into the spa to make appointments.

Monique greeted us and I scheduled massages for the following day. When I gave her Jim’s name, she did a double-take. “I didn’t recognize you,” she said apologetically.

“I have brain cancer,” he stated simply.

Tears welled up in Monique’s eyes. She stared at Jim, searching for some feature she could recognize. “I’m so sorry,” she muttered. He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “What can you do?”

The next day, we went back for our massages, and at the end of my massage, Monique recommended a new practice for me:

She suggested that at the end of the day, just before I go to sleep, I take a deep breath, exhale and say, “I am safe.” Upon waking in the morning, she suggested I take a deep breath, exhale and said, “I am free.”

Safe and free—two things I was not feeling at the time. I was much more aware of the threats and dangers I was facing and all the times my insides were tied up in knots.

I felt ill-equipped to care for someone who had brain cancer, and I continually feared I would make a mistake, a fatal mistake. I had never before given anyone injections or infusions, and each needle stick terrified me. And then there was Jim’s frequent falling and my worry that he would seriously injure himself.

Safe and free? Not so much. So I thought her suggestion was worth a try.

Over the coming days, weeks and months, I practiced this breathing exercise and mantra. Every night I would remind myself that I was safe and every morning I would declare that I was free.

After a few weeks, I added a line to my morning mantra. I would take a deep breath, exhale, proclaim, “I am free,” and then remind myself, “Be free.”

It was one thing to say it and another thing to live it, to live as if I believed it.

I started to become more aware of when I was not feeling safe or free, and I would restate my claim, “I am safe” or “I am free.”  It helped.

I still get emails from the spa at the Jersey shore and I keep deciding not to unsubscribe. Every email reminds me of my lesson from Monique—I am safe and I am free.