Come Oh Kingdom Come

I have started a new chapter of life in Cedarburg, Wisconsin with my HUSBAND. So many changes have happened, and I have gotten completely out of blogging. However, I have felt prompted to return to share something I wrote last week. I am working as a paraprofessional with 8th grade students with special education needs. (I want to bring notice to the fact I intentionally did not say “8th grade special ed students”, because well, I think they are so much more than that. Their special education needs do not even begin to define their identity.) Last week I was in 8th grade U.S. History, and while the students were watching a video I was urged to write. I quickly jotted down what came to my mind. When I began writing I had very little idea what would come of it. The words which flowed out of my heart onto the paper were real, raw emotions. These emotions I often avoid sharing with the people around me, and even more so I avoid acknowledging to myself. This is what I wrote. After reading my own words I believe it is a Psalm of sorts.

I feel trapped in fear

There is no way out

Always there are things to fear.

I do not know a way to avoid it all

So I do not move

I cannot move.

I am paralyzed with death.

Too afraid of death to live.

Now, I know exactly when my heart was broken in the way that has produced such deep grief and sorrow. Last August one of my Young Life girls, Caroline, died in a moped accident leaving where we were spending time together. She was only 17 years old, and her death has affected me in more ways than I can begin to describe. The pain has punctured my heart deeply. Over the last year I speak of the pain occasionally, however, I have rarely admitted to anyone (even myself) the extent of the fear it has caused. Writing these painful feelings out felt as if I was able to stop shoving these feelings down; the feelings we all so badly try to pretend we do not have. So we work incredibly hard to hold our hand over the flow of it in order to make sure it does not come out of us. It brings a visual to me of someone holding their hand over a spring that just needs to gush out. The more the emotions need to flood out, the harder we work to make sure that will not happen; the harder we must press down. All of this to make sure no one will see what we actually feel. For me, writing out these words felt as if God was saying to me, “Stop working so hard, because I can handle this. I can handle your fears, your sadness, your raw emotions. You don’t need to try so hard. Let me, please.” 

As I finished writing the first part of my psalm in class I immediately I felt the urge to write again. What I wrote next felt like a personal response from God to my feelings. Yet it also had somehow become my response to my own feelings, because as I wrote I believed it. By being willing to let the realness flow out of me I was able to finally let God begin to touch a part of me that I have been holding so tightly in me. And through Him touching this raw, vulnerable, real part of me, I am able to see hope in what felt hopeless. Here are the words of hope I wrote.

 

I will write of hope

you alone are the hope

my hope

if only i could truly hope in you

what freedom would that bring?

you can free me into joy

a joy that will bring me to life

bring the world to life

come oh freedom come

your kingdom is free

come oh kingdom come.

Image

Sweet Caroline

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The Purpose of Full Attention

Hey all,

My dear friend Kelly asked me about a week ago to begin going through a book with her. It is similar to a daily devotionals book, but it is about mindful ways of living. Each day is a new story followed by ways to apply it to your day. I have absolutely loved it. It has been incredible to be centered on a way of mindfully living each day. Today’s entry really struck me, and I wanted to share it with you all. It is from The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have. I think this title is fitting, because how often are we searching for something different than what we have? believing if only we had something different THEN we would be happy. Different circumstances, different friends, different living situation, etc etc. The beautiful thing about mindfullness is it teaches you to stay present in the life you have and learning to love and grow within THIS life.

Here is the excerpt I wanted to share:

“Amost profound and helpful learning came to me when struggling with the pain of having a rib removed. For weeks I felt a corset of pain girdling each breath. But watching the winter water of a stream begin to thaw and flow, over and over, I finally saw that to make it through the pain, I had to be more like water and less like ice.

For when trees fell into the ice, the river shattered. But when large limbs fell into the flowing water, the river embraced the weight and flowed around it. The trees and winter water were teaching me that the pain was more pointed and hurtful when I was tense and solid as ice. Then, each breath was shattering. But when I could thaw the fear and tenseness I carried, the pain was more absorbed, and I could, like the thawing stream, move on–not pain-free, but no longer shattered.

It is this way with much of nature. By opening fully to our own experience, we can feel and see the resilience of life around us. Feeling our woundedness, we can learn from the hollowed stump how to root smaller greens. Feeling our sadness, we can learn from the leaves too tired to be blown along how to surrender. Feeling our tenderness, we can learn from the caterpillar how to endure the tremble that preceds the appearance of wings. But it is only by showing up, by denying nothing, that other living things reveal to us the secrets of how they manage to live. In deep counterpoint to the old saying, “An eye for an eye”, there is a deeper law that guides us to wholeness: a truth of being for a truth of being. So the purpose of full attention is to invite through personal surrender the particular example of life force in whatever is around us to show itself: a truth of being for a truth of being.

Yes, when in pain, be like flowing water. When suffering near the bottom, feed off what you can, like the brilliant ocean fish, and spit back the rest. When feeling burdened, watch small birds to see how they begin to fly. When feeling finished, watch newborn animals open their wet little eyes and imitate their innocence. Once giving full attention, you will come back–one drop at a time–into the tide of the living.”

Self Compassion

I am taking a class this semester called Foundations of Mindfulness. It has been one of the most intriguing courses I have taken throughout college. Currently, I am reading an article entitled The Power of Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff. She is a professor in human development and culture at the University of Texas, Austin. She discusses our culture’s lack of self-compassion. The idea that we value compassion towards others, but we do not extend that same compassion toward ourselves. She provides a few possible reasons for this lack of self-compassion. The main reason she provides is we believe in order to be motivated we must be self-critical. However, she goes on to cite research showing self-criticism is strongly linked to depression–which is clearly not a motivational factor. The article goes on to explain the difference between self-compassion and self-esteem. This is the portion of the article I found to be the most beneficial and eye-opening.

“Self-esteem is all about being special and above average. You subtly try to
position yourself above other people so you can maintain your self-esteem.
But self-compassion is about shared humanity—it’s all about being average.
It’s about being a human: We have strengths and beautiful qualities, and we
have weaknesses; we succeed and we fail and it’s all part of this shared
human condition.”

The interviewer then goes on to ask Neff about the empirical benefits of practicing self-

JM: Looking back over the last decade or so of research, what are the
findings that you think really attest to the benefits of self-compassion?

KN: Well, there’s the data supporting the fact that self-compassion has the same mental health
benefits as self-esteem: less depression, more optimism, greater happiness, more life satisfaction. But self-compassion offers the benefits without the drawbacks of self-esteem. Self- esteem is associated with narcissism; self-compassion isn’t. It’s self-compassion, not self- esteem, that predicts stability of self-worth—a type of self-worth that isn’t contingent on outcomes—as well as less social comparison, less reactive anger.

No matter what one’s view on this whole idea of self-compassion, we cannot deny that we live in a world where people have a difficult time loving themselves. I don’t think the answer is to turn inwards and not love one another; however, I do think at some point we have to break this pattern. And I believe it may need to come from a place of self-compassion. My what a different world we would live in if instead of putting ourselves on a hierarchy against other people–hoping to rank above at least a few–we chose to see ourselves in line with all of humanity-imperfect and surprised to be loved, saved by grace.

creation

Lately, I have a yearning to create. Sometimes I feel like this means creating by doing crafts–painting, knitting, drawing, etc. Most of the time though, the way I best know how to create is to write. I am able to express my truest thoughts, feelings, and experiences through writing. That is what I hope to do here. I look forward to this new adventure.