Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Create a Chapel

I had the opportunity on a gorgeous autumn day to wander around the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, IL.  Their initial screen on the web page states: "...offering a place of peace and tranquility where they will find healing, renewal, inspiration, and a re-energized soul..."  Well...shoot...just what I needed!

Reflective, quiet time has been a struggle since I've been struck with major soul malaise (see post).  In fact, my spiritual director said I should announce a "snit" absence of requiring myself and "should-ing" myself into my normal patterns and expectations of prayer.  Let God meet me where I'm at kinda thing.  So people...I'm in a SNIT and approved and ready to activate SNIT. 

I was gifted with a glorious, crisp, sunny autumn day and some time to wander.  I found the beauty comforting and the time and space to think somewhat healing.  It dawned on me that it was the feast of All Saints (11-1-11); part of my snit is not including liturgical prayer.  I love liturgy; it's one of my most favorite expressions of prayer. It speaks to me of COMMUNITY and coming together.  I've lived community, been the living body of Christ, being Eucharist to those with whom I encounter in ministry and community life.  Part of my soul malaise is experiencing deep pain in being in community situations.  It pierces me deeply; inconsolable pain.  Going to Mass was not going to happen for me this All Saints.   Feeling the guilt and then remembering my spiritual director's advice to let God meet me where I'm at formed a sense of calm and invitation to "create a chapel" in the space I'm in--physically, spiritually, psychologically.  This Haiku emerged:

Create a chapel--
Embracing silence, beauty
God met me in me.

 I only had my cell phone to take pictures and thanks to perfect light conditions and the most vibrant colors I've ever seen...I got some great shots.  Nothing fancy, but some are really cool.  I of course put it to music which touches into where I'm at too.  This piece is called "Breakable" by Ingrid Michaelson.

To my Saints...thank you for your prayerful guidance.  To my Souls...I pray for you.  To my God...thank you for meeting me inside of me.  I continue to hold on to the thread...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trust in America

On my way to a hotel about 1.5 hours away for work this week, I was listening to NPR (my only choice in radio these days) All Things Considered.  They featured a segment entitled: Trust in America" height="386" wmode="opaque" allowfullscreen="true" width="400" base="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash">

It was fascinating to me to hear whom people trust and whom people don't.  Justin economist from UPenn's Wharton Business School who is studing trust...he trusts his mom.  Tom Brokaw...most trusted TV journalist in America...well, he trusts his wife.  Gallup has been polling people since the 70's regarding trust. 

It was an ironic segment for what is going on in my life right now.  I'm struggling with trust in the "institutions", in "leadership", in anything beyond secure, individual relationships that have withstood the time tests.  Breakdown of trust is detrimental to institutions and untrustworthy leadership leads to corruption, greed, and poor leadership and decision making.  

How do we develop trust when trust has been shattered?  Whether it be in the large scheme of an institution or on personal level...breakdown of trust can be loathsome and heart wrenching. 

One poingnat concept from this interview that I heard was to think about the "incentives facing those who are making decisions"...from a business standpoint that makes sense.  Where are the conflicts of interest that are forming biases in leadership?  Can we trust them? 

Whom do I trust?  This is one of my lifelong has been broken and rebuilt, broken and rebuilt, and then shattered once more.  I trust God.  I trust myself...some of the time.  I definately don't trust the institutions right now, but I will think more about what incentives come from poor decision making from this point forward to gain some perspective.

Thanks NPR always considering all things... 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Soul Malaise and a Message to the Universe

I've felt totally uninspired to blog the past two weeks.  I've been in a funk--heartbroken and sick with soul malaise (a coined term from a friend). 

I've written about, prayed about, and been on a discernment journey for quite some time.  It's been very rough at times and other times pure joy!  I know I've grown from my icky, squirmy experiences and that I'm a better person for them.  I have met the most fantastic people and grown from them too. 

I'm a journeyer...a seeker...a questioner...I've been trying to find my way--where I most feel at home.  Where I can be the me I was created to be.  Where I can live out where I believe and experience God calling me.  (Hello...can we say...baptismal folks?)

I just hit a gigantic road block...smack in my face...stopped me dead in my tracks.  Ouch.

I tried being mad a God.  Didn't work.  It's people that got in the way; not God.  People that may think they know God's voice in my heart better, or clearer than me.  I don't accept that; no one knows how God is speaking to you but you.  I guess it's a big part of our faith journey...dealing with the people who get in the way.  Look at what Jesus had to deal with!  Read about the Saints...see what they had to deal with to live out their call sometimes! 

To the universe and the people that get in the way, I want to say...

LOOK...I am a woman of and willing to serve.  I have a lot to give and an immense heart that's ready and capable of great loving.  I have gifts that I'm willing and ready to share.  I am willing to be on the matter how hard it is.  I will make mistakes and I will grow. I will challenge and I will be challenged. I will love and I want to be loved for who I am not who you'd like me to be or how you think I should be. I'm a learner, a perseverer, and committed.  I will follow the Spirit speaking within and around me as best as I can.  I will find home...and live as God is calling me. 

As much as it hurts me and cuts through everything I have known and loved for a long time--I'm back on the journey to find my "home"...the place where I belong.  It's a little harder to trust the Spirit this time.  A little harder to trust that voice of God in me.  It's a little harder to see what's possible.  But...I will find it....and when I do, I'll live it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Living Intentionally: An Inner Excavation Day Part II

I've spent the last several hours praying with, playing with, journaling, and creating with the word enthusiasm.  (If you'd like to know Living Intentionally...Part I)
I don't know that I came any closer to the answers to my questions, but I did have some interesting experiences!  First I went on an image walk...I took my camera and snapped photos of things that stood out to me in relationship to my word enthusiasm.  Here's a little montage (Gotta have a...MONTAGE)
Grass growing
Going down backwards!

Add caption
My car has "insight"

 Pretty random stuff. I think.  Things that represent play, energy, and growth are the themes I see that connect all of them. 

I did some photos of me walking and skipping too...

Just for fun.  See what enthusiasm might look like from my head to my feet.  :-)

Then, I created these eyedropper ink pictures...which one do you think spoke to me the most of enthusiasm?




If you said #2 you're......................WRONG!  Actually, when I sat with the pictures, it was #3 that stood out.  Something about the girl seems more real...genuine and contemplative.  #2 is the "Tap-dancer" know the type--center of attention, always keeping the party alive.  I think the Tap-dancer has surface enthusiasm, but #3 is has it buried deep within and only comes out on special occasions.  She is the "Questioner"--taking her experiences and letting them soak in. 

I used to be the Tap-dancer.  I was enthusiastic on the outside about almost anything!  I had a big shift in me a couple years ago while my journey led me down a long and unknown path.  I found this person who is quite reflective, contemplative, and introverted.  It was such a relief for me to find this part of myself because it really fit me; I'm much more comfortable in my own skin.  Whereas...when I was was at great effort sometimes to keep that energy going.  The Questioner me likes to take in my surroundings and let the process germinate before reacting.  When I am experiencing's usually a combo package of energy and deep passion for something I believe strongly in.  It's much more real for me. 

I end with a fun poem from one of my favorite poets: Hafiz.  I think his poems are so visual and capture these deep, sometimes inexplicable things with humor and images.  I think this is the Hafiz interpretation of someone who forgets their enthusiasm...  Enjoy....

We Might Have To Medicate You

Resist your temptation to lieBy speaking of separation from God,
Otherwise,We might have to medicateYou.

In the oceanA lot goes on beneath your eyes.Listen,
They have clinics there tooFor the insaneWho persist in saying things like:"I am independent from theSea,

God is not always around

Gently Pressing againstMy body."

Bottom line for me...If I fall into a trap of persistence that I am "independent from the sea"...some one knock me over the head with this poem. try and see where God is in all of this first it seemed obvious...God is in all things. But as I continued to reflect on my Questioner and Tap-Dancer personas...I came back to something I've written about and said before. At the deepest place of my being is where my passion is. That's where my questions are. That's where my journey continues. That's where I grow and learn the most. It's who I am at my core...and inside of me...that's where God is. maybe there is more to this enthusiasm stuff.

What struck me the most was...I drew this card and thought SA-WEET...something easy. I can prance around all day and think about being enthusiastic. My reality was a very quiet and reflective day understanding a little more about where I find these characteristics that I sometimes forget are inside of me. It was definitely a surprise...and from the old definition of enthusiastic...inspiration from the presence of God.

I enthusiastically bid you adieu....thanks for reading.

Living Intentionally: An Inner Excavation Day...Part 1

Today I am having "Inner Excavation Day"--A day to pray, play and create.  I'm really trying to work on the concept of "living intentionally"; and an inner excavation day seemed to fit right in! 

The task:  I decided to use my Angel cards (little cards that have a word on them) and choose a word for today.  That word would become the focus of my activities today.

 Now...I truly believe the Holy Spirit is at work when I do things like this.  I always get the word I need not necessarily the word I  want.  In fact, most frequently, I get a word that makes me cringe and squirm and I don't discover why it was the perfect word for the day until much later...sometimes days, weeks later!  So...I shuffled my little cards.  Spread them out.  Said a little prayer like, " me to be open to the possibilities of today," and I chose one. 

Flipped it over (crossing my fingers and toes that it wouldn't be something like "growth" or "mercy" or "feelings") and I got...

ENTHUSIASM!  Wow!  What a fun word to choose!  Thanks for the easy road, Spirit.  Did I just say, easy road?  HA!  Discovering--excavating, if you will, is not easy.  Sometimes it's more fun than other times.  Sometimes it's happy sometimes it's painful--but nothing about this is easy.  Good thing I like a challenge.

So I'm into enthusiasm today.  I sat in my comfy chair and just sat in the quiet for a bit.  I had already gone for a run this morning--did I run with enthusiasm?  What does it really mean to live with enthusiasm?  Where is God in the day-to-day enthusiasm?  Do I really know what the word means?
I couldn't really answer the last 3 questions; I gathered this is what today's quest is going to be about. 

Do I really know what enthusiasm means?

I had some initial, joy, passion, active, happy, bouncy...ok...I usually have one or more of these characteristics going on.  So what?  I looked it up and this is what I found from Wikepedia:

Enthusiasm originally meant inspiration or possession by a divine afflatus or by the presence of a god. Johnson's Dictionary, the first comprehensive dictionary of the English language, defines enthusiasm as "a vain belief of private revelation; a vain confidence of divine favour or communication." In current English vernacular the word simply means intense enjoyment, interest, or approval.

INSPIRATION or POSSESSION...BY THE PRESENCE of [GOD].  Are you kidding me?  How awesome is that?  I had no idea that was the original meaning.  What a great starting off I reframed my questions a bit thanks to Wikepedia. 

How am I inspired by the presence of God? the day-to-day? the bigger picture?  Do I live with enthusiasm? Let's see how the day unfolds...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Womanspace--happy places; spiritual spaces.

I don't know about you, but I have these special places that I usually refer to as my "happy places".  Door County, WI is one of them for me.  My entire family (grandparents, uncles, cousins, etc) used to go up to Door County every summer for a week and go camping together. It was a great time.  When ever I go to Door county those memories and rituals just produce such a comforting feeling for's a happy place!

Womanspace in Rockford, IL is one of those places for me.  Womanspace was founded by two of our Sisters: Dorothy Bock and Elaine Hirschenberger.  You can read more about their story here. 

I started going to the center about 6 years ago to play, create, and spend time with Elaine and Dorothy.  I try to get there 1 or 2 times a year.  When I am there I feel this peacefulness and groundedness within me.  It is a space where I can let go and be creative.  I love listening to Elaine and Dorothy's stories of their experiences.  I am truly at home when I am there. 

I haven't been to Womanspace in about 2 years and I had the opportunity to go and visit the other day.  As soon as I pulled into the driveway I felt a shift was that "home" feeling.  I was thrilled to be greeted by Elaine who embraced me.  She had some things to finish up so I had a few minutes to take in the space.  I walked outside through the Lily garden and enjoyed the beauty.  I walked through the woods to the labyrinth.  Walked around the front and sat for a few meditative minutes in the Celebration Garden while I waited.  

Outside at Womanspace I try to s-l-o-w myself down and really take in the beauty that is around me.  There are artistic renderings everywhere...easy to miss if I'm not being purposeful in my walking (which is my usual mode of being). 

While I was walking and enjoying the art and natural beauty...I felt this calmness and serenity that I have had before while being in this place.  It took photos of little things that seemed to speak to me.  I gave thanks for this time and this space. 

I also enjoyed a great meal and conversation with Elaine and Dorothy, whom I also haven't seen in a while.  Driving home I was reflecting on my relationship with them and experiences I have had at Womanspace.  I am filled with gratitude for how the spirit speaks in these unique ways...through art, nature, and relationships with good people. 

Womanspace is definitely on my list of "happy places"...even better it is truly a place where I encounter God in so many ways.   Where are some of your happy places or spiritual spaces?

My happy place and spiritual space...thanks Womanspace!  Thanks Elaine and Dorothy...much love to you!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ahhhhh Vacation!

Flower from the Moonglow Bay Garden
A lot has been happening in my life!  I have a new job!  I am a Curriculum Implementation Manager for the company Achieve3000.  I will basically be going into all different schools giving professional development to teachers and administrators.  It's right up my alley and a good mix of my skills and talents as an educator.  I'm thrilled!  So between ending a school year and beginning a new job, the blog life has been on the back burner. 
View from our Deck I type I am sitting outside, overlooking the river, sun shining and a gentle breeze.  I'm at Moonglow Bay, a vacation home that a group of my nuns and I rent for the week.  It's glorious.  They are the perfect people to vacation with.  We relax, read, play together, pray together, share meals, laughter, and stories.  It's a chance to celebrate our community life as well as have time and space to retreat and nourish our spirits.  We get all get along great and there's always something to do...if you want to!

I had pie-making lessons from
Mary "Pie Maker" Extraordinaire"

I think vacationing is actually an important part of community life.  In our "regular lives" we negotiate the day-to-day living along with ministry responsibilities.  We carve out intentional time to live communally, pray, and play.  Laugh if you want, but I think being able to relax and just be together is another art that people have to negotiate in community life. 

How are we with one another when we eliminate the structure of the day-to-day?  Can we find time to be together and be comfortable with being on our own...or in different configurations of groups?  How do we communicate "vacation expectations"?  It's a different pace, a different routine...all which I think bring us closer as community as well as helps us grow as people.  (Yes...a true educator...I just transformed the concept of "vacation" into a learning process).
Sparklers for the 4th of July
With the images, I'm trying to capture the more unique aspects of vacation in an artful way.  It's all about the R's--refresh, relax, rejuvenate, revive, reconnect, reestablish, relationships...etc.  Enjoy this first offering of Vacation 2011...
Quintessential Vacation Pose---Lounging with Kindle


Monday, June 6, 2011


Haven't blogged in a while...busy busy end of the school year.  All my educational ministry friends know what I'm talking about!

I have had some time to do some artwork though! 

I did a mandala series.  I used to pray with mandalas a lot and then stepped away from it, but something called me back.  I approach my creative time as prayer.  I don't preplan what I'm going to "make"; in fact, I have no idea what's going to emerge.  This really frees me.  It mutes my perfectionist's voice who often says, "It has to be like _____" and really makes room for the Holy Spirit to enter and do her good work!  My creative time is quiet, sometimes with music...or not.  My artwork usually represents how I'm feeling, what's going on, and how God is speaking to me.  Sometimes, I'm amazed at what emerges! 

What in the heck are mandalas, you ask?  Simply, in Sanskrit it means circle.  I was introduced to it as a means of prayer and conversation early on in my spiritual direction.  Here are some more good resources on mandalas:
  •   Click MANDALA for the wikipedia version. 
  • The mandala project has some great resources. 
  • And my friend, Stella DeVenuta, OSF does some of the most brilliant mandala work--as an artist and as an interpreter/spiritual guide.   
So...I have this mandala series...actually they are not finished yet.  I'd like to add some poetry for each one.  I'd also like to mount them with some sort of colored background and maybe add some more embellishments like fibers or rice paper or something. 

I hesitate putting something up on my blog that is "unfinished" until I was praying the other night and realized that might be my perfectionist talking.   (That's him...with the tie on...LOL)

An aside story...While I was having a rough time in my life, not knowing which end was up half the time.  I created this cartoon book called "On The Inside".  On The Inside is 47 "characters" that are literally on the inside of perfectionist, intuition, frustration, anger, joy...etc.  Each character has a name and a haiku that describes who they are and what they do.  It was a great project; gave me language for things I didn't really understand.  It also was quite amusing and fun to create!  So anyway...that's Percy Perfectionist.

Back to unfinished I decided this was a challenge for me...share a part of myself that's "in process", unpolished, not quite up to my standards...yet.  I watercolored paper and went all crazy with stuff.  Then I ripped it all apart and sewed (those of you who follow my blog that know me...YES I SEWED using a SEWING MACHINE) the pieces back together.  Boom...reflective, prayerful, unfinished mandalas.  I don't have titles or poetry with them yet, just the images.   I have some close-ups of each one so you can see the detail too.  Enjoy!

This is the first one (actually it's the last one created).  It was the ugliest, most putrid painting I've ever seen.  I was going to throw it away!  I resisted and sewed it back together and I felt really drawn to it.  I love the complexity and the layers.  My favorite part is the window with the fibers showing through.  And...there's glitter!  Who doesn't love sparkly?

This one I think is going to be called "I AM's Fire"'s really intense.  But then again, so is the fiery, passion of my I AM. 

This one seems very serene to me.  I like the pockets of white and I'm addicted to salt resist with watercolors.  It just looks so cool (and it's something I can do with my paint phobia)

I saved my favorite for last.  I don't know what I'm going to call this, but this really speaks to me at a deep level.  I've been praying with it for a couple weeks now.  I love the intensity of the colors.  And yet, there's a calmness in parts too.  This was some total Holy Spirit action going on here that's all I know!