tentative joy

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holiday star by itselfFor many years the holidays were a time of tentative joy. While the excitement over shopping, baking, wrapping, and the Advent season sustained me, I had a great amount of fear that all of these good feelings would crash and burn once the holidays were over. The bleakness of January scared me.

January and February are very dark months to this Midwesterner-turned-Southerner. The sun is inching its way back into center stage, but it is still winter and our time to hibernate is not over.

I’ve found that by remaining present to all of the emotions that this season brings up has helped me do a little bit of healing before I feel like I am out of breath and exhausted, waiting for the new year to jump start something in my heart.

winter sceneHere are some simple tips to remain present during the bustle of the holidays and to nurture yourself along the way:

  • Plant your feet on the ground. Whether you are standing in line, are on the phone, at your desk, or ordering a gift, be sure to plant your feet and allow them to root themselves to the spot. You’ll find that that you tap into a secret strength and energy.
  • Check in with yourself and listen. It is very important not only to check in if you feel something amiss in your heart, but to listen to what your body and your heart are telling you. What needs to change, what needs to be heard, do you need more of something or less of something?
  • Go outside. Clarity can come with fresh air. Even if you step outside for a span of a few breaths, doing so will help you clear your head and ground you. Take a walk down your street or around the block. It does not have to be a long walk to get the benefits of being outside.
  • Land in your breath. How often do you find that you are holding your breath? Often this happens when you are stressed or uncomfortable. Take a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth–as many times as needed. Soon you will find your shoulders begin to settle down to their natural place.
  • Practice gratitude. Consider all of the things you have been blessed with whether they be tangible things or intangible. When you shift your mind from what you don’t have or the things on your wish list to what you do have, your heart gets light and you become capable of being more present.
  • Offer yourself compassion, grace, and kindness.
  • Slow down–sure something might not get done, but that is okay. Allow your task to be meditative. Wash the dishes, sweep the floor, fold the laundry, drive to the store with a desire to be in the moment and not two steps into the future.
  • Seek solitude and take as long as you need. This is one thing that we don’t tend to do during the holidays when we are so geared up to be with people, shop, prepare, and spend time with family. It’s okay to step out of the bustle and to find a silent corner to just be in for a spell.

winter heartMay this time be merry and light. Hopefully your joy will be bold instead of tentative as you find your way through the holidays into the newness of the upcoming year.

The illusion of perfection

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I grew up mistakenly believing:

If it isn’t perfect, there must be something wrong (with me).

I do not entertain this notion any longer. First of all, there is sincere beauty in imperfection.

“Imperfections are not inadequacies;
they are reminders
that we’re all in this together.”
~ Brene Brown

Instead of striving for perfection, I try to check in with the hidden expectations that are taking my breath away. Where am I on the spectrum of what is expected? Am I living outside of my borders to reach something unattainable? If so, I try to step back, find my breath, and sit still for a moment or two.

heart plantWhat if it is not about attaining perfection? What if it is about the benefit, the lessons learned through acknowledging my weakness, my struggles, and my inherent inability to reach perfection? I think this is where true authenticity meets life: recognizing the hard parts as the door to being open and raw–to let grace happen.

Consider how many times you’ve noticed an oddity or an imperfection in nature. Isn’t it beautiful? Doesn’t it draw you in instead of repel you? Aren’t you intrigued? It is the intersection of grace that you are observing. Why not extend the same grace to yourself?

If you did not have something to strive for, you would not have anything to aim toward–but the goal must be attainable on some level. The trick is to align your goals with where you are headed–where you want to be. Perhaps you can sit down with pen and paper and jot a response to these writing prompts as you anticipate the next season:

  • What do I need more of in my life?
  • What do I need less of?
  • What energizes me?
  • What zaps my energy?
  • I go beyond my boundaries when I…..
  • Describe where you see yourself in two, five, ten, fifteen years–whatever amount of time you can imagine.

Open up to door to creativity and see what happens. There is no perfection in creativity–you just do it. Consider making a vision board, or doodle, collect some leaves, or rearrange the furniture in a room. What comes up for you? Make some tea, get a snack, light a candle, burn some incense, open a window, and get to it! The point is to get to the place where perfection is not even on the horizon, so you can access your heart and truly listen to what it’s telling you.

What I learned by asking for help…

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evening comes

evening comes

December is a lovely time to retreat from the world. It is difficult to get away for a weekend due to the bustle of the holidays–but it might be my favorite time to slip out of the routine of daily life…

the color and texture of green

the color and texture of green

It requires a tiny miracle to coordinate a weekend retreat. The children, the work, the house, the husband, the schedules…

But somehow it came together, and we felt blessed.

Sometimes I wonder if when I ask for help, those who offer it are blessed too. I’ve noticed how our children respond when we ask them for help. They tend to come outside of themselves and to fill the space of need. It becomes an opportunity to be blessed by our children.

There is nothing so delightful than to have friends and family help us with our children so that I can do something I so desperately need: quiet, time to reflect, and safe spiritual space to be in for a time.

I felt very loved while I was gone, and I felt very held by my community.

I go forth slowly and with awareness...

I go forth slowly and with awareness…

I think I need to ask for help more often. When I ask for help, I feel very vulnerable, but being open in this way allows others to come alongside me and walk with me; minister to me. And I need that, too. I can’t always be the giver, even though that was what I was taught to do.

it looks like grace to me...

it looks like grace to me…

Sometimes the hardest thing is to say: I need {this}.

But consider how your {this} will feed you, make you feel whole, allow you to rest so you can grow.

All are welcome, and all are loved.

All are welcome, and all are loved.

It’s okay to ask for help.

In fact, I encourage you to make one request today. Notice how your body feels.

Breathe into that space.

Allow others to walk into this space with you, and to care for you.

Just imagine how good it feels to walk with others giving and receiving–being a part of a community of love and service.

Creating a Vision Board: Welcoming Renewal and Clarity

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I have found that a new year can carry with it a lot of pressure. Will this be the year that x, y, and z will happen? Will I finally _____________? Is it possible that ________? Truly, what does any new year contain? It contains hope, potential, dreams, and sleep, meal times, conversations, work, rest, vacations, words, and maybe some attention to the Self. VisionBoard2So, let’s slow down this newness and really appreciate it, hold it, and infuse it with our intentions. The beauty of this new year is that it is wide open. While there are some things that you know will happen (paying bills, preparing meals, possibly cleaning), there is space for your dreams, hopes, and goals to come to fruition as well. As Marth Beck says, “just specifying your goals is a huge step toward achieving them.” Perhaps your dreams and goals are not completely clear from this standpoint, but opening up that space to allow the light to catch them is more than enough to begin the process. And this is why creating a vision board is a wonderful tool to collect your dreams in a visual representation of what is stirring in your heart. Beck goes on to say that finding your way, your passion, your direction (North Star) is a highly psychological and spiritual act. When you sit down and allow yourself time and space to dream along with the joy of creating a visual of those intangible thoughts, you are being brave. You are showing up for yourself and in your life, you are daring to live and to find a way to make what you desire, what fuels you a part of your every day life. You do not need to live from a place of exhaustion, stress, misalignment, brokenness—you are capable of cutting and pasting and crafting beauty that you can place on your wall—a visual reminder of your dreams to carry you through and to focus your prayers, to remind you of who you are, where you want to go, what you want to do, where you want to travel to, what you want to read, where you want to live, what your bookshelf will look like–what infuses you with life. That, my friends, is a gift you can give yourself at the start of this new year. It is so important to honor all of the ways that you already do show up in your life. 20131210_153643One of my most favorite activities is to create a vision board during an afternoon retreat with other women. It is so nice to be able to sit in circle,  to breathe, to respond to a few writing prompts, to center my thoughts, to share and to listen to what others have to say, and then to dive into creation mode. I love sharing this rich time in shared silence and comfortable companionship as we shift magazines, paper, glue, and scissors around the circle. If you are in Athens, Georgia, on Saturday, January 10th, I’ll be offering our first Vision Board Circle of 2015. We will be holding space for renewal and clarity as we cut, paste, and glue our dreams to 2015. You can see other upcoming events by going to the heidi.at.heartspace profile on Facebook.

showing up anyway

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I like perfection. I like it so much that I can forget about people–especially those I live with and love.

I find that perfection functions under the illusion of control: an illusion that I need to be at the center, directing, ordering, organizing all of it. I do not allow the Mystery–the opportunity of being scooped up into capable arms–to carry me to rest and peace.

Is this something that you can relate to? If so, consider thinking about the following questions, or use them as a writing prompt:

keyhole and key

What are you holding onto so tightly today?
What can you surrender?
What are you afraid of?

Peel back the layers a little to see what is underneath your strong grip. It’s okay. It needs the light, and it needs your compassion.

Fortunately, you have access to both.

 

 

I have come so they may have life
and have it in abundance.
~ John 10:10

The fullness found in emptiness

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welcome-new-lightRecently, I was on the cusp of saying “yes” to an opportunity. I wanted the “yes” more than anything, but I felt as though my heart was giving me a firm tug to sit and to wait, to listen before I jumped into a hurried “yes”.

It was hard to open my hands once I set this opportunity down. I wanted to hold onto this option; to the “yes” instead of embracing the “no, not yet” I realized I needed utter. To say “no” to this is to say “yes” to love, to family, to faith–and therein is the trick: to follow that still small voice that calls me to make choices that support wholeness instead of a fractured existence.

I can open my hands because the emptiness is not empty. Not having my hands full with anything is freeing–scary, but freeing. It’s just like silence: full, rich, multilayered, open to the work of the Spirit. It lacks for nothing.

Yet, it can be uncomfortable not to have a distraction, a focus, a direction to point my energy. Being still, present, and available to the emptiness allows me to ponder how I want to fill this space; to consider what infuses me with light, joy, and excited possibility.

But I don’t choose anything.

I sit still and open my hands in my lap.

Better is a handful of quietness
than two hands full of toil
and striving after the wind.
~ Ecclesiastes 4:5 ~

Photo credit: AlicePopkorn / Foter / CC BY

Book recommendations: A Heart-felt, Bittersweet, Laugh List of Memoirs

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I take reading seriously, which is why I like to read things that make me laugh. So, I offer you a list of what has made me laugh–all awesome, some laugh-sad, others bittersweet-happy–all heart-filled and real.

Heidi’s Laugh List:books

  • Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell. Her first essay, “Shooting Dad”, makes me laugh-cry (every time). It involves politics, her dad, a canon, and respect.
  • Anne Lamott…. Uh, all of her books? My favorite is: Operating Instructions where she recounts the birth of her son, Sam, and how her life changed. Written with authentic hilarity.
  • Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time, by Michael Perry. Perry returns to his hometown in Wisconsin where he joins the volunteer fire department and really sees his community for what it is: awesome, strange, and real.
  • Confessions of a Recovering Slut by Hollis Gillespie. It’s as interesting as the title. Gillespie decides to settle down and the antics ensue piled on top of stories of her interesting upbringing. Written with rawness and moments of “wha?” interspersed.
  • Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. Who doesn’t want to read about a herd of goats, an old Victorian mansion, dream chasing, love, the land, and the most unlikely of scenarios? The opening chapter will be sure to pull you in with a smile on your face.
  • The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker. Imagine how lonely it must be to be a young, overweight, female, Mormon in New York City. This is Baker when we meet her, and she shares her story full of transformation, and courage as she unpacks her past and who she is in a wonderful and candid way.
  • A Girl Named Zippy and She Got up off the Couch and Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel. I really appreciate Kimmel’s voice and ability to tell her story about growing up in a small-town in the Midwest. She was a quirky kid whose youthful observations are a joy to read.

reworking my work ethic

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I am a Widwesterner at heart. I no longer live there, but I spent my formative years along the Wisconsin-Illinois border.

It is cold there in the winter, brutal sometimes. Now that I live in the South, I have realized that there was an urgency to our winter preparations. My dad would spend hours hauling, drying, and stacking wood for our wood burner that we’d begin using in October. Along with the urgency, there was a pioneer-sense of survival that guided how much food we’d have at any given point during the winter months, making sure no gas gauge on the car went below the half way point, having enough salt to sprinkle on the driveway, and on I could go with the things we needed to feel secure with winter’s approach.moonlit field

Throw in the threat of a blizzard, and hunker down. Get ready to jump out of bed at four in the morning to shovel snow to get to school on time. Add in a little fundamental Christian frenzy and you have a recipe for a small apocalypse at any given moment–blizzard or not.

In my family of origin, I learned to work hard, to plan ahead, to worry. I learned to multi-task, to think of everything/everybody else, to rush, and to live far beyond my borders.

I’ve recognized that haste undoes the work of the Spirit–the flow of life, the beauty of time passing, and the joy of letting go.

What is at the heart of my work ethic?
Why do I feel needlessly rushed?

If I am to be honest, it is entirely wrapped up in my self-worth. The more I can do, the more I am loved–that is what my little girl self tells me.
When I am working too hard,

  • people notice
  • my efforts are applauded
  • I think I earn love, respect, and appreciation
  • I lose my sense of self
  • people ask more of me

Upon noticing what is pushing me to go beyond what I can do in a work situation, I have to pause and view my underlying needs (with compassion). And then I align my needs with my goals and collect all of my pieces that I spread over that conference table, on that spreadsheet, in that conversation, during that meeting, and I walk toward wholeness.

Consider what drives you. Is it love, or is it something underneath something else? Does an emotion present itself when you consider your work life? If so, sit with that emotion and allow it to speak to you.

It is worth our time and energy to dive below the surface and to examine what fuels our work ethic. If nothing else, it provides an opportunity to gather ourselves and to move toward what we do want in this life, what we are called to do, and why we are here in the first place.

Quotation: spiritual practice as guide to mapping your soulscape

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waves“Just about anything can become a spiritual practice… If you approach it in the right way–with intentionality, humility, receptivity, hope. And of course with an attentive eye on the lookout for the activity of the divine.

Spiritual practices are a way of mapping your own personal soulscape. Helping you become more acquainted with who you are, who God is, and the people he’s placed you into this life alongside of.”

~ Father Solomon, in
The Sacred Year: Mapping the Soulscape of Spiritual Practice
by Michael Yankoski

Depression: giving voice to the silence

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I have recently celebrated three years off of anti-depressant medication. I am overwhelmed with gratitude, because there were many, many days when I did not think I could do this thing called life. But as time has unfolded since facing the darkness, I have realized the genesis of my profound sadness, and that is where my healing began. autumn-solitude-a-solitude-to-share-again-and-again_l

I have two boys, and one thing my husband and I cultivate in our home is that everyone can share how he/she feels—safely. One day I was struck by how one of my boys was able to express his thoughts in such a way—despite my obvious anger—that I was brought to my internal knees. I could not get over how eloquent this child was, and how my frustration over the situation (I don’t even remember what it was!) did not phase his ability to share his heart. I wanted to know: did I start out this way? Was I capable at such a young age to speak my hurt, share my wounds, have the words to communicate my pain? I think I did, but over my formative years my voice was rendered useless and then all of that emotion started to back up to the point where words failed me unless I wrote them down—and even then I would struggle with the vastness of the page…

How does one effectively communicate
years of pain once her voice has been silenced?

My depression was an overwhelming fullness of pain meeting its threshold without a safe outlet. I do not doubt that there were other things going on, but at the heart of my profound sadness there was a claustrophobic emotional vortex that couldn’t contain one more injustice.

What is under the sadness? What memory, residual emotion, or event comes up when you sit with your profound sadness—if you have one of your own? Have you ever given it an opportunity to speak? Have you allowed its voice to be heard?

I know it can be scary.

Perhaps it is the walking through and not around that we need to do in order to find healing for our active wounds. Perhaps the answer is in the listening we need to do in order to turn our wounds into sacred scars.