Category Archives: shifting

Home Alone

I had no idea how much I would enjoy being home alone for hours and hours during my sabbatical.  Usually, I prefer to be home with someone or out working or with other people.  Before Seth and I were married, and I actually lived in this condo by myself, I was almost never here because I could not stand to be alone for too long.  I was afraid of my own thoughts and was prone to feeling a little anxious if I was home alone for more than a couple of hours without at least talking to someone.

Maybe it’s the almost seven years of working in a windowless office with lots of (wonderful) people, going to meetings, leading classes and groups and being a pastor at a large congregation that has lots of (great) people that has left me craving time alone.  Maybe it is the almost five years of sharing a home with my loving husband and the over two years of having a child that has left me longing to be in my own home by myself.  Actually, it is probably the combination of these things.

I love quietly enjoying the sunlight and fresh breezes.  I enjoy gazing out the window at the beautiful St. Croix River and the buzz of downtown Stillwater in the summer.  I am grateful to be surrounded by color, the sounds of the world around me and the comforts of home.  Having time in my sabbatical to be home alone is a wonderful gift.  I can hear myself breathe and think.  I have uninterrupted time to listen for inspiration and ideas.  I have space to write and read, plan and dream.

Most delightfully, I am finding a sense of joy in being alone with myself and my thoughts.  I am no longer afraid of myself and what I will find within in the still moments of rest and reflection.  In his classic book, Sabbath, Wayne Muller writes that Sabbath rest has a way of unclogging our souls and allowing us to find a deep inner peace.  He is right; that is what I am finding in these moments of being home alone.


The Good Rain

Zella loves the rain.  She had her green froggy boots on this morning and was excitedly waiting to get out of the car so she could jump in puddles.  She didn’t care about getting her clothes or legs wet.  Unlike me, she wasn’t in a hurry to get inside.  She laughed when some huge raindrops landed on her head and held out her hand to feel the water droplets land on her skin.

Her delight reminded me that rain is good.  The year I lived in Seattle, it rained almost every single day for nine months.  When it is sunny, Seattle is the most beautiful city in the country.  When it rains for so many days in a row, it can be depression-inducing.

To improve my quality of life in Seattle, I decided I need to learn how to make peace with the rain.  I read a book called The Good Rain, which helped me understand how the ecosystem in the Puget Sound area thrives because of the rain.  I learned to appreciate the rain for the sake of the plants and the trees and all the interconnected species of life.  I started biking in the rain and walking the beaches of Puget Sound in the rain.  I learned how to see the rain as good.

This morning, inspired by Zella’s rainy play and my memories of living in rainy Seattle, I decided to put on my raincoat and go for a walk.  I was the only one out walking around the lake.  Eventually, I even took off my hood and let the cool raindrops soak into my hair and drip down my face.  I stopped, closed my eyes, and let myself be fully embraced by the rain.  It was pure joy!

Can I love God without loving God’s creation?

While I do not like to project theological qualifications onto other people’s spiritual journeys, I do think that loving God’s creation is an integral, perhaps even essential, part of faith.

On sabbatical, I have tried to slow down enough to see the world and to experience God a little more directly.  Last Thursday, as I was walking around Lake McKusick in Stillwater, I noticed that the more slowly I walked, the more I could hear the birdsong all around me.  I actually did a mini-experiment.  I would speed up my walking pace and then notice how aware I was of my surroundings.  Then, I would slow down my pace and observe my connection to the world around me.

At the faster pace, I could not hear as many birds singing or see as many leaves dancing in the wind.  It was only when I slowed down to a very meditative pace that I could sense the marvelous harmonies of wind and song and could see the sun shimmering on the rippled waters and the trees swaying in the brilliant blue sky.

In this small sensing experiment, I realized two things.  First, the creation is alive with beauty and spirit like this all the time, and it is I who am missing it.   I am sure I am not the only one, either.  Second, I know that my connection to God feels a lot stronger and more real when I am paying close attention to God’s creation.  It is easier to love God when I stop to really see and hear and touch the sacredness of the world all around me.

This morning, my devotion included this verse from Romans 1:20 “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made.”  I think the Apostle Paul knew it, too.   Slowing down enough to be really aware of the birds and trees is one of the most powerful ways to experience God’s presence.

Spiritual Friendships

Joy is hearing a friend tell me they love me and see the beauty of God shining in me.  I am grateful to have had friends throughout my life who say such things to me.  It is a treasure to my soul when the people who know me best, quirks and imperfections and all, gift me with these words.

I was reading my daily devotion from Madeleine L’Engle this morning when I had the insight that spiritual friendships are just as important as spiritual practices.  As L’Engle noticed, “Too often we do take God for granted.”   I often think of practices like silence, study and singing as ways to connect with God.  Practices like these, and many others, are great disciplines for nurturing my soul.  For me, though, sharing these practices with friends makes them much better.  Even silence is richer when I am with friends.

I love that I have friends who will listen to my stories, encourage me, laugh with me, and spend time with me.  Spiritual friends also help me awaken to the beauty and newness of God that surrounds me and is within me each day. With their presence, words, and actions, spiritual friends remind me not to take God for granted.  For these reasons, part of my sabbatical schedule includes time with at least one friend every day.

Unplugging…a little bit

In making the transition to sabbatical living, I’ve been thinking about the role technology should play in my daily experience.  I debated about whether I should take a break from all forms of social media, or a least from Facebook, but I decided against it.  That would be too hard and actually work against one of my sabbatical goals of having more time to connect with friends.  Social media stays.

What I have decided to change is the way I interact with my cell phone.  I have an HTC Evo (Android smartphone) with all the fun apps and gadgets.  The most distracting and addicting feature is the everpresent email alert.  Anytime one of my email accounts has a new message, my phone beeps and little mail icon appears on the phone.  I confess to being rather undisciplined in the constant checking of these email messages.  Something important could have happened!  Someone may have interesting news!

I have now turned off all of the alerts and moved my work email icon off my main page.  I have been living alert free for two days, and I can already feel the difference.  No more little “dings” tempting me to look at my email means sometimes I don’t look at my phone for hours!  Yes, hours of phone free time is good for my mind and spirit.  It gives me time to rest, reflect and live without wondering every minute who might need something from me or have something for me.

This is a small, simple change.  Unplugging, just a little bit, is part of my sabbatical living.  It helps me savor time and be swept away by the moment that is right in front of me.