203 PILLS! PLUS WISE AND WONDERFUL WOMEN

 

71C9865D-0EF8-482D-B6E0-CBA6F36196B9Two hundred and three pills!
Twenty-eight injections!
Fourteen inhalations and fourteen nasal sprays!

Every week!

But I am most focused on the 203 pillsevery week! Presumably it takes that many to keep my body from rejecting my kidney and keep me otherwise healthy. 

203 pills! Insignificant when I explore the state of my soul — what lies inside there, what its longings are, what has become of its dreams and, most of all, whether or not I am carefully and gently tending to it. A healthy body is important, of course, but I have been thinking more and more about how to keep my soul healthy. In some ways, that’s harder. And harder to explain.

So rather than launching into a chorus of my own words about how I might care for my soul, I looked to the words of my sisters —  near and far, from the past and the present. There I found the depths of wisdom I needed on this day. So clear and true it is that so many women possess an extraordinary depth of wisdom. Their voices speak their truth, and sometimes ours. Their voices call us to stand taller and to rise higher. They call us to dream and to reach into our souls to find our dreams. These wise and wonderful women invite us to care for our souls. So hear their voices and listen for whispers that give strength to your soul.

Get in touch with and resurrect the free spirit deep inside me. Being one with the spirit allowed me to soar above my everyday reality. I marveled at the beauty of all life and savored the power and possibilities of my imagination.   — Maria Nhambu

Of all the paths you take, follow only those where your heart is wide open, mind enriched and your soul learns to dance.   — Nikki Rowe

A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.   — Maya Angelou

We were willing to explore and be surprised. Willing to trust that there was beauty out there and love and joy. Ready to have our hearts touched and our souls hugged.   — Meara O’Hara

You will never see me surrender, never see me cry, but you will often see me walk away. Turn around and just leave, without looking back.   — Charlotte Eriksson

Big spirits don’t fit in small spaces.Our energy is built for open fields and wide places, room to breathe — room to grow. Room to live authentically and room to roam.   — Nikki Rowe

I am homesick for a place where silence is the only language, love is the only religion, and freedom is not something to be fought for….  — Samiha Totanji

When we discover who we are We will be free   — Mimi Novic

I never said it was easy to find your place in this world, but I’m coming to the conclusion that if you seek to please others, you will forever be changing because you will never be yourself, only fragments of someone you could be. You need to belong to yourself, and let others belong to themselves too. You need to be free.   — Charlotte Eriksson

We have not been abandoned. We have, perhaps, in that leaving been given the gift of ourselves in a new, deeper, and more lasting way.
Macrina Wiederkehr

If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.   — Maya Angelou

I know that no one is my judge. I live according to my own conscience and value discernment which is governed by Holy Spirit. I know my intentions and I walk my path with a clear conscience.   —  Mishi McCoy

The truth is, in order to heal we need to tell our stories and have them witnessed…The story itself becomes a vessel that holds us up, that sustains, that allows us to order our jumbled experiences into meaning. As I told my stories of fear, awakening, struggle, and transformation and had them received, heard, and validated by other women, I found healing.   — Sue Monk Kidd

You can’t put a leash on me. I’m unleashable!   — Tiffany Winfree

All too often we bemoan our imperfections rather than embrace them as part of the process in which we are brought to God. Cherished emptiness gives God space in which to work. We are pure capacity for God. Let us not, then, take our littleness lightly. It is a wonderful grace. It is a gift to receive. At the same time, let us not get trapped in the confines of our littleness, but keep pushing on to claim our greatness. Remind yourself often, “I am pure capacity for God; I can be more.”   ― Macrina Wiederkehr

you got to figure out which end of the needle you’re gon be, the one that’s fastened to the thread or the end that pierces the cloth.   — Sue Monk Kidd

Steal my wild heart, but do not ask me to live under an umbrella when I like being soaked by the rain.   — Jacqueline Simon Gunn

Honeybees depend not only on physical contact with the colony, but also require it’s social companionship and support. Isolate a honeybee from her sisters and she will soon die.   — Sue Monk Kidd

I’ve never been a woman who will settle to fit in, i’d always have rathered find a little world all on my own. If people come they come and if they go they go, but for me staying authentic to my soul’s purpose is all i’ll ever know.  — Nikki Rowe

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.   — Maya Angelou

You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside.  — Sue Monk Kidd

Do you want to paint your life using two colors (good and bad) or do you want to paint the best piece of your life with colors beyond your wildest imagination?   — Helen Edwards

There is no place so awake and alive as the edge of becoming. But more than that, birthing the kind of woman who can authentically say, “My soul is my own,” and then embody it in her life, her spirituality, and her community is worth the risk and hardship.   — Sue Monk Kidd

It’s an unquietness I feel deep inside. It’s not about being extraordinary, you see. It’s not about standing out. It’s simply about shedding all that’s false. And believing with everything I have that you can too.   — Jacqueline Simon Gunn

When it’s time to die, go ahead and die, and when it’s time to live, live. Don’t sort-of-maybe live, but live like you’re going all out, like you’re not afraid.
— Sue Monk Kidd

Let your life reflect the faith you have in God. Fear nothing and pray about everything. Be strong, trust God’s word, and trust the process.
— Germany Kent

The cage wasn’t insignificant in the shaping of my wings, stillness is an experience only the deep souls can go. A quiet solitude in the midst of it all. A getting to know yourself once more.   — Nikki Rowe

O God, help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is.   ― Macrina Wiederkehr

You’ve got to trust yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Listen to yourself.You’re the only person who can get you through this now. You’re the only one who can survive your story, the only one who can write your future. All you’ve got to do, when you’re ready, is stand up, {and begin again.}.  — Tessa Shaffer

Journal became a sanctuary where I could pour out in honesty my pain and joy. It recorded my footsteps and helped me understand where I was standing, where I had been, and even where God pointed.   — Sue Monk Kidd

Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.   Brené Brown

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!
St. Catherine of Siena

That’s the sacred intent of life, of God — to move us continuously toward growth, toward recovering all that is lost and orphaned within us and restoring the divine image imprinted on our soul.  — Sue Monk Kidd

The seasons of my heart change like the seasons of the fields. There are seasons of wonder and hope, seasons of suffering and love, seasons of healing. There are seasons of dying and rising, seasons of faith.
Macrina Wiederkehr

You only need to lose track of who you are, or who you thought you were supposed to be, so that you end up lying flat on the dirt floor basement of your heart. Do this, Jesus says, and you will live.  — Barbara Brown Taylor

I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.   Brené Brown

Without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace.  The gift of grace increases as the struggle increases.   St. Rose of Lima

Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.  — Brené Brown

I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again … there is only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.   — Barbara Brown Taylor

Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for he who created you has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother.   St. Clare of Assisi

For these wise women, O God, we give you thanks.
For their words, so full of grace, we are grateful.

For those we call our sisters, we ask your presence — in their days of light and in their dark nights of the soul.

Heal us, God our Mother, and give us grace for the living of these days.
Heal us, God our Father, and give us courage for the living of these days.
Heal us, Jesus, and walk beside us as we heal the world just as you urged us to do.
Heal us, Spirit, and give us your wind and fire — to live, to stand, to persist — to heal the souls of others as we heal our own souls. Amen.

 


599FBE6C-0696-46CC-B8F3-19823066126BThis blog post is dedicated to the memory of my friend, Sister Macrina Wiederkehr, a wise and wonderful woman who left us this year and is now walking among “trees full of angels.”

I used to be . . .

734D4A65-1E4E-4705-A356-D13DF9C7F9B4I used to be . . . 

It’s a phrase I use a lot these days as I fight off the feeling that in retirement, I am useless. It’s not true, of course, that I am useless. But to be honest, I do feel just a little useless these days, at least some of the time. The reason? I used to be a bona fide workaholic. I used to feel important and productive. I used to be busy all the time, night and day. I used to be a perfectionist. I used to have just a bit of obsessive compulsive disorder, and all,of that drove me to a dangerous place.

The problem is that when you love and believe in your work so much, your work can become your whole life. Then things can get unbearable. So I admit that I am a recovering workaholic. I was the person that put in far more than 40 hours a week and never took a day off. But the critical question I had to answer was this: Is my ego at the root of my workaholism?

What was the job that was important enough to push me to work so hard?

I was a minister and a trauma counselor, and I was executive director of Safe Places, a nonprofit organization that served victims of violence. There was always someone in trouble, someone who had been battered by a spouse, someone trying to escape trafficking, a teen that was recovering from rape, a child that had been abused. So the work was never done.

I loved my work. I believed in it with all my heart. But I could not see what others saw. I could not believe the truth spoken by friends and colleagues, that I needed rest, that my work was hurting me. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I was working myself sick. Circumstances, and maybe the alignment of the stars, brought me to a “come to Jesus” moment that forced me to take stock of my life. I realized I couldn’t do it all. So I took a very slight respite and pulled back from the constant work. In the meantime, as the stars would have it, we lost our federal funding, and suddenly Safe Places was gone. It was over. 

The stress did not end, though, because those that needed help kept calling . . . my phone. I had no staff left and, though I tried, I simply could not continue helping all these hurting people by myself. So I was forced into an unwanted and unplanned rest. 

During this “rest” time, grief and loss took over my psyche. But miraculously, my body began to rest. My pace slowed down. I was becoming mindful of every moment and what was going on in every moment. And in spite of the grief and sadness, my mind and spirit began to heal. What happened next was the shock of a lifetime. As my mind and spirit began to heal, I finally allowed my body to tell me what was going on. My doctors got to the bottom of it and diagnosed me with end stage kidney disease. Before I could even begin to take it all in, I was hospitalized and on dialysis.

I honestly believe I had worked myself to death, or at least nearer to death than I wanted to be. I spent a great deal of 2014 in the hospital trying to stabilize and then working to take my life back. It was hard work learning to write again, to think again, to walk again. But I made it through to a “new normal” that meant for me at least 7 1/2 hours of dialysis every day for the rest of my life, unless, of course, I am able to get a kidney transplant.

The experience of serious illness changed me. After I began to recover, people told me that I was unusually quiet. I didn’t speak much even when others around me were engaged in meaningful conversations. I knew that I was being quiet, quite unlike my normal personality. I was often silent when normally I would have had a great deal to say. I was different, to be sure, but inside myself I was okay. If I had to describe myself I would say that I was soft, broken open and free. And I was content in that place, although my family was concerned about me. I had traveled to a new place in my life, and it was a good place to be.

So here I sit in my “new normal,” tending plants, painting, cooking, writing, reading, and doing all things for pleasure. Most often I am still tempted to dive in and work on something until I am exhausted. But when the tiredness begins to creep up, something in my body remembers. Remembers I need to rest, to embrace stillness, to just “be.”

Still, I fight my old workaholic ways. Sometimes they push me to do things faster and better and longer. Sometimes my old workaholic ways push my button, the button that accuses me of uselessness, as in, “You are not worth much anymore! What are you going to do to change the world?”

Good news! I have finally given myself permission to not change the world. It has been a major shift for me, but I am seeing the truth more clearly, that I never could have changed the world anyway! So most of the time, when I feel myself pushing past my edge, I walk away. I write a blog post or fiddle with my flowers. I cook something fabulous or watch a little Netflix. So what will I do to live happily in these retirement days? I hope that I will keep studying the secret art of rest. I hope that I will continue to learn the grace of mindfulness, just cherishing the moment, every moment.

I used to be a workaholic. Not anymore.

Oh, and one more thing . . . a prayer. Though my faith tradition has always eschewed prayers to Mary, mother of Jesus, many very beautiful and meaningful prayers are prayed to her. I leave you with this one written by Mirabai Starr.

Mother of Consolation, help me to let myself be consoled. 

I hold it all together, Blessed One. 

I have convinced myself that it is up to me to keep the airplane aloft with my own breath, that I am the only one capable of baking bread and scrubbing floors, that it is my responsibility alone to alleviate the sorrow in the heart of every single person I know. 

But I have forgotten how to weep, Tender One. 

Teach me to reach out to the ones I comfort and ask for their comfort. 

Let me feel the tender touch of the Holy One on my cheek when I wake in the night, weary and frightened. 

Help me to be vulnerable and soft now, broken open and free.

— Mirabai Starr

 

 

I Am Creating Me

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As a fledgling artist, the metaphors in this quote by Bishop Steven Charleston resonate with my experience.

You and I are artists of time. We bend and shape, color and texture, make and form what is to come by what we do now. Now is our tool, our brush, our chisel, with which we work diligently to create something new. We use all of the materials we have at hand, our experience, our memories, our dreams, and seek to put all of those into a finished piece both recognizable and beautiful. Our work never stops. We are born to this art. It is our vocation, our passion. Time is our medium, life our creation, reality our gallery, tomorrow our masterpiece.

What a lovely way to say that we are the creators of our lives, that our experiences, our memories and our dreams fill our canvasses with untold beauty. We are each unique, artists in our own right. We work incessantly, through wake time and sleep time, through every season, to create this art. Indeed, it is our masterpiece.

The reality is that I am in the holy process of creating me, and no one else gets to add to the masterpiece.

We create our darkest tones in difficult times. Brighter days call for the most vibrant and bright colors. Melancholy blues . . . joy-filled yellows . . . greens that hint of growth and change. Our palettes are endless as we swirl and mix the colors of our lives.

So we must never let another person disparage what we are creating. We must take our inspiration, not from other individuals, but from our own souls and from our Creator. This gives a whole new meaning to the declaration we should imprint on our hearts, “I am beautiful!”