Tag Archives: peace

Return to calm

The mundane tasks of everyday living

create a sense of tranquility

that stretches out like a

placid lake reaching for the horizon,

each day the same as the one before

and the one to come.

The monotony of routine and habit  

can lull me into believing that the future

will be made up of days like these.

I can sometimes tire of the monotony,

almost wishing for an interruption in the predictable—

until one inevitably comes along,

jolting me out of languid days and tossing me about

like a small boat caught in a storm.

And then I crave the sameness that had been,

the predictability of a daily routine.

I long to return to those times

when I could anticipate how each day would unfold,

when there were no surprises and

I could spend hours daydreaming about future travel or

gathering with friends.

I cannot stop or wish away these unwelcome interruptions.

I can only take comfort in knowing

that the turbulence will end and

calm will return.

Trust

Do not let your hearts be troubled. (John 14:1)

These words jumped off the page of my daily Scripture reading and prompted the question, what is troubling my heart?

Top of the list is my mother, who is ninety-five and on hospice. She has a variety of health issues, and yet she continues to live as though there is nothing wrong with her—she still cooks, cleans and does her laundry. She both inspires me (by her determination and perseverance) and worries me (because I know that any day something could happen—a fall, her heart could fail, etc.).

If you have ever kept vigil for someone who is nearing death, you will perhaps understand the stress of watching and waiting.

I remind myself that my mother is in God’s hands, and I believe that. Yet I know I am still holding onto something, as evidenced by the stress I feel.

The next line in John’s Gospel is Trust in God; trust also in me.

I pray to be able to let go and trust that God has my mother—and remember that God has me, too. Trust is the key, and when I am worrying, I am not trusting.

Worry is another word for fear, and Luke 8:50 reminds me that fear is useless; what is needed is trust. Another invitation to trust!

There are other items on the list of things that trouble my heart—my own health, my work, money, etc. Then there are more global issues that also trouble my heart—poverty, injustice and all the negative isms.

I know that trusting God and letting go of my fears is the way to peace in my heart, which seems to be the work of a lifetime.

What helps me to let go of worry is being present to the moment and trying to stay in the present moment. I remind myself that I cannot do anything about what might happen at some future time—and worrying about it won’t change anything.

I try to do the things that help me be present to the moment—creative activities like gardening, baking, knitting, etc.

What troubles your heart? What brings you peace?

Opt in

Joy

Gratitude

Peace

Resilience

Abundance

Generosity

Hope

Trust

Acceptance

Faith

Forgiveness

Contentment

Movement

Dream

These are my words.

I want to live into them and

out of them.

Breathing in their fullness and

letting go of whatever blocks the way.

Every moment of every day matters, and

I want to make a choice

to live

fully,

in every moment.

Winter dance

Strong winds swirl around my house,

bending and swaying bare branches

to a tune I cannot hear.                                                                                

They dance with abandon,

oblivious to my comings and goings,

unaware of my desire

for peace and stillness.

The winds prevail,

and I bundle up in layers,

a hat pulled over my head and

a scarf wrapped around my face,

three times, four times,

until only my eyes are visible.

Stepping outside, I brave the wind and the

tiny ice crystals that assault me.

Winter is here, I announce to no one in particular.

I listen for the music of the wind,

let go of my need for control and

enter into the dance of the trees.

Finding joy in simple things

We had a streak of unusually warm days a few weeks ago, and I took advantage of them to work in the yard. I removed dead flowers from the garden, raked leaves and pruned my Rose of Sharon. Every warm day found me outside for at least an hour or two.

One day I repotted house plants. Some were clippings I had rooted that were ready for dirt and others were plants that had outgrown their pots. One was a small spider plant I had rooted last winter and planted in the spring. All summer, it sat in its little pot on my sunporch, producing new roots and sending out baby spider plants.

When I tried to lift it out of its pot, I found it was completely trapped and I had to break to pot to free the plant. The roots had completely filled the pot; there was virtually no dirt left. I apologized to the plant (yes, I sometimes talk to my houseplants—they are living things!)

Anyway, I carefully unwound its root system and gently clipped off the excess bits so it could breathe, and then planted it in a larger pot.

As I worked on my houseplants, I was aware of how peaceful I felt, how much I felt like myself, doing something I love to do.

The next morning, I reflected on the peace I felt while repotting plants and how I felt like myself doing that simple task. I can sometimes become busy with work and other obligations and ignore the things I love to do, the things that bring me joy.

I then began to wonder how often my prayer life becomes like that little spider plant—all rootbound, no air to breathe or dirt to help me grow.

Of the many things that have been cancelled because of the pandemic, I think that the cancellation of my annual retreat is having the greatest impact on me. That one week away, completely focused on God, is what I need to shake things up in my prayer life. It is the time I give myself over to God to lift me out of whatever may be constricting, to prune away the excess and replant me in new soil.

Retreat begins with asking for a grace, something I think I need at that time. For me, it is usually something like courage, trust or compassion but it can be anything. Having a whole week to pray with a focus on that grace usually leads to some insight or revelation about where God is moving in my life and where God is inviting me to move.

Retreats, like puttering with plants, are simple activities that can bring new insight and deep joy. Those days in the garden helped me see that I am hungry for times without scheduled activities, times to play in the dirt, to widen my vision and be present to the grace God gives me every day.

What simple activities bring you joy?

Balance

Shoulders back, head up, the teacher said

as she placed a book on my head and

told me to walk across the room,

testing my balance.

The book slipped off,

first to the right and then to the left.

I was not balanced, it turned out.

Practice at home, she instructed,

trying to sound hopeful.

I thought it was pointless.

My balance was off.

How could a book on my head fix that?

Balance matters, though.

Holding all things in perspective,

allowing for the ebb and flow of life

like the ocean obeying the tides and

trees dropping their leaves in fall

to be reborn in spring.

Nature knows balance and offers its lessons to us.

Sit in the classroom of the forest or

run along the shoreline,

see the rhythms of life and

then walk with shoulders back and head up,

holding all things in balance.

Long life

To live a long life can be a blessing,

if we choose to see with God’s eyes and

to love with God’s heart,

to be open to the possibility of life and

content with what life brings.

Pain and suffering come to everyone

(whether we want it or not),

each hurt offering an invitation to shift a bit

so that we see from a different angle,

get a different perspective.

Every day offers a fresh start,  

a chance to be more loving and forgiving

and generous and grateful.

I want to live with abandon,

to risk love and forgiveness,

and at the end of my long life,

I hope my final words will be words of gratitude.

The gift of a flu shot

“Relax your shoulders,” the nurse instructed me as she prepared to give me a flu shot. I breathed out and let my shoulders drop. But before she could stick the needle in, my shoulders tensed.

“Relax your shoulders,” she said again. I breathed out and let my shoulders drop, and she stuck me.

“I didn’t even feel it,” I said.

“That’s because your shoulders were relaxed,” she observed.

“Wouldn’t all life be less painful if I kept my shoulders relaxed?” I suggested.

She chuckled and agreed.

All that day, I kept coming back to the nurse’s instruction and my experience of a painless flu shot. I thought of images of the flow of life and meditations inviting me to be the tree or be the river.

How many times a day do I need to relax my shoulders? To let go of my resistance? To lean into the flow of life instead of trying to stand against it?

While reflecting on those three words, relax your shoulders, I recalled a conversation from a few days earlier about “reacting” versus “responding.”  I want to respond to life events, from a place of peace—rather than reacting from fear or resistance. Staying relaxed seems key to responding.

A few hours after I got the flu shot, and after I had spent an hour and a half working on a spreadsheet, my computer crashed. I could feel my shoulders tense up, and then I recalled the nurse’s advice.

I stepped away, breathed out my frustration and let my shoulders drop. Yes, it was a wasted hour and a half, but in the bigger scheme of things, it was only an hour and a half and not worth getting too upset about.

I was grateful for the nurse’s patience with me, that she waited until I was relaxed before she gave me the shot, because her example was a reminder of how every event in daily life can hold a lesson, if I am open to it.

It seems odd that a simple flu shot could produce such a deep reflection, but isn’t that the point of mindfulness—to be present to what is happening right in front of me and to learn from everything, even those things that seem insignificant.

Mindfulness, to me, is paying attention to what catches my attention and letting deeper meanings surface. Three little words, relax your shoulders, offered a gift—the reminder that staying relaxed can make painful events less painful.

Who or what is offering you insight and wisdom today?

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In the silence

How do you pray in a time of sorrow?

I am not talking about saying prayers,

but rather that conversation with God,

when you acknowledge your deepest needs,

admitting vulnerability and brokenness,

speaking of your desire to be healed and made whole,

confessing from the depths of your being that you are

lonely or depressed,

crying out,

Oh God

from beneath a sadness that presses down like the weight of a

thunderous waterfall crashing onto the rocks below.

Looking for God,

wanting to share the whole of who you are,

wanting to tell

everything.

How do you pray from that place of loss, sorrow, confusion?

And then I remember,

God is here.

I only need to turn around

and meet myself at the open door,

cross the threshold and

come back to that place within

where the divine dwells,

and there I can

let my tears flow,

flushing out my sadness,

creating space for hope and

finding peace in the silence.

Looking ahead

We celebrated my mother’s 94th birthday last week. At a niece’s wedding last fall, people kept telling me that my mother is “amazing” and “awesome.” I got tired of hearing it, and I also smiled at the truth of it. My mother is amazing and awesome.

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At 94, she still does her own cooking, cleaning and laundry; and she is still trying out new recipes! As my mother has aged, she has, in some ways, become more open to change. Part of that, she would say, is that we, her children, have forced her to accept change because we don’t do things the way she once did them. But, after a little resistance, she goes along.

My grandmother lived 96 years, and most of my mom’s siblings lived well into their 80s. One uncle died just days short of his 98th birthday. We have longevity.

The thing about my mother and her family’s longevity is that it is a constant reminder to live as though I, too, have longevity. It is an invitation to see a vast future waiting for me to explore.

And, because I have had so many friends die young, I also know an early death is possible and that each day is precious.

Balancing those two realities reminds me of a large rock I once saw. One side of the rock had the quote, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” etched into it, and the opposite side had a quote about planning for tomorrow. I was more of a “live for today” kind of person, so I don’t even remember what the other side said!

Having lived longer than a number of my friends (some did not even reach thirty) and considering my mother’s advanced age, I think more about the future now and ponder how I am being invited to live into that future. Intentionality is the word that comes to mind when I think of what is ahead—living intentionally.

For much of my early life, I moved around—a lot. I think in all that moving around, I was trying to run away from my past, searching for something external to bring me peace—only to find that wherever I went, I took my history with me. Eventually, I realized that everything I needed was inside me. I feel settled now and plan to stay put. I am unpacking and looking to a future built upon what I have learned.

Are you more of a “live for today” kind of person? Or are you someone who plans more for the future? Are you able to find a balance between the two?

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