Breathe…..

I’ve gotten back into yoga after decades away, and my body is both loving and hating it. I look like the tin man in most of the poses, but I’m beginning to feel my muscles let go as I make the connection between breathing and releasing tension. I’m thankful for a very patient teacher and a friendly group of supportive ladies who encourage me to stretch beyond my comfort zone.

Comfort and breathing go hand in hand. I have the tendency to hold my breath during difficult poses, and that causes my muscles to contract and stiffen my body. My yoga teacher is a patient, wonderful woman who comes around and helps us ease into the proper alignment. Obviously, she spends a lot of time with me.

She came over last week, stood in front of me, smiled, and began to shake my hips. She used the image of the old vibrating exercise machines to get me to loosen up. We both laughed because it was working. She did the same with my shoulders which, like my hips, lock into place at the first sign of stress.

I’m a visual learner who loves laughing, so the teacher’s technique was perfect. She certainly helped me relax and breathe. Yesterday during class, I found myself shaking my hips and shoulders while imagining myself on a 1950’s exercise contraption. The best teachers find a way to get their students to learn. Jackie did just that. In fact, the image helps outside of class. When I feel a little tension building, I just think of that crazy machine, laugh, and give myself a little jiggle.

Modern day versions of the old exercise machine are available. It turns out the workout can be beneficial when used correctly. I don’t think I’ll purchase a machine because recalling the image and the remembering the laughter is enough to get me to relax and breathe. Turns out letting go works as well with breathing as it does with loving.

Namaste -_-

Make Room

Making room for God requires letting go of self. That doesn’t mean I can’t be me; it simply means I can’t keep all of my stuff. When I moved into my tiny apartment in town, I had to downsize considerably. The home I shared with my son and his family for two and a half years was over 5,000 square feet. My new place is 550 square feet. My bedroom and bath were larger than my apartment, so I had some serious downsizing to do.

Taking stock of my belongings wasn’t easy, do I did it while the kids were away on vacation. I made three piles: treasures to keep, things to give away, and things to sell. Two of the piles were easy, but the one in the middle brought me to tears. I love books and had hundreds of them, but I knew they would never fit into my apartment. The same was true for all I had accumulated over the years. After agonizing over each possession, the largest pile held treasures I wanted to keep. I decided to deal with the other two first because they were easier on my heart.

The pile to sell was easy. I felt great after taking several car loads to a nearby consignment shop because I was going to get paid for letting go. I was energized and ready to tackle the give away pile. It was fun to think about who would love and appreciate the stuff I no longer needed. I started with materials and books from my classroom. I had given away a ton of materials when I retired. I left most everything behind in my classroom when I retired, but I did take special books and units with me just in case I decided to teach again.

I knew several wonderful young teachers, one a former student I knew would put my things to good use. She was elated, and that encouraged me to press on. It was time to deal with that troubling treasure chest at home. I made a new pile of things for my son. That was fun and made a big dent in the pile, but there was still the treasures to keep pile!

I decided to take a break and do some praying. God knew this was a hard process, and He knew that was more about letting go than sorting out. Not having room is convenient when it comes to homes and hearts. There is a certain safety in not having space because it keeps me from inviting in the new or stepping into the unknown. If I don’t have time or space, I don’t have to worry about growing. We all know that growing pains are very real and apply to more than teenage joints and muscles.

With God’s help, I was able to let go and grow into my tiny apartment with room to spare. I absolutely love my new home because it is filled, but not full. Simplifying was satisfying and opened the door for a similar transformation in my heart. My apartment and my heart are loving the openness. God is loving it too because His Holy Spirit has enough space to dance. That makes both of us very happy. My grand daughters are happy because they also have space to dance and play. Making room in a house or a heart isn’t an easy process; but once you create a little open space, you want more of it and will never be satisfied with crowded again.

Patience

Patience is a virtue that took over sixty years for me to grasp. It took a lot of patience on God’s part to teach me the importance of patience. Stillness and patience are kindred spirits, so it’s not surprising they came into my heart at the same time. I’m not claiming to always be still or patient, but I do have a greater understanding of both thanks to God’s lessons of late.

I’m learning to wait in a different way, and I believe that is at the heart of Advent. My busyness kept me from the patience and stillness needed to wait as God desires, but that was my own doing. Busyness is the perfect hiding place, and that was just what I was looking for. God, however, had something much better in mind.

Busyness kept all that was whirling around me from crashing down on me. Like staying in front of a wave on the shore, those breakers could not catch me if I kept moving. God knew I would have to face the waves eventually, and He knew they would break me. He also knew I must come to a stop on my own, so He didn’t force me. He just held my hand and picked me up after they hit.

Fear of the waves and a lack of faith kept me from experiencing the stillness and patience God knew would bring me nearer to Him, but He also knew it would only work when I chose to stop. As I told my grand daughter, God doesn’t cause the bad things that happen to us; He simply holds and loves us while they are happening. Like mommy and daddy, He is there to make sure we know we are never alone. She liked, and understood, that kind of love as only a loved child can.

In the same conversation, she asked if she could ask God for things. I told her God heard our prayers and would answer them, but we don’t say give me this or give me that to God. Her response was, “No, that’s Santa!” I grinned and said, “Yeah, and there’s a big difference!”

I love learning from my grand daughters, but I’m afraid they didn’t offer much help with patience and stillness. Children are wiser than we, but they are still novices when it comes to patience and stillness -particularly at this time of year 😉

They do, however, sit  beautifully still when there is something worth waiting for or watching. This photo of the girls is a beautiful example of just that.

 

Thankful

Embracing that which is in my path is giving me a grateful heart. I’ve wasted too much time fretting over what might have happened or what isn’t happening, and it’s kept me from enjoying what is. This Thanksgiving was the best ever because I savored every single moment.

One of the sweetest moments was when I held my new grand daughter while sitting between her big sisters. My heart was as complete as it’s ever been, and that caused me to pause and offer thanks to God in the stillness of that moment. Most of the moments were not still ones, but the stillness I was feeling didn’t require me or those around me to be still.

Thankfulness requires mindfulness, and mindfulness requires stillness. I’ve struggled with being still for most of my life because I saw it as something I had to do rather than something I could be. Relaxing into obedience is not sitting still and being quiet. I learned at an early age to do that or suffer the consequences. It took every fiber of my being to accomplish the feat, but fear is a powerful motivator.

The stillness God has in mind is not about sitting still or being quiet. It is about letting go and trusting God to know what He’s doing. True stillness allows me to see and hear things I never noticed, and that is allowing my heart to listen in a powerful way.

Hearing God, hearing my own heart, and hearing the hearts of others is what stillness is all about. I am very thankful to finally understand that beautiful truth.

 

Differentiated Unity??

Differentiated unity may sound like an oxymoron, but it is a beautiful truth I am learning to embrace. I first learned about self-differentiation eight years ago when a friend introduced me to the concept. He used a pencil and a rubber band to help me understand the difference between unhealthy fusion and healthy differentiation. I don’t pretend to be an expert on family systems, but I have learned to discern how being who I am allows me to connect as God desires.

Fusion creates a tight bond, but it is a bond that doesn’t allow movement or growth. It is the type of connection I preferred because there is a sick sort of safety with fusion. It’s concrete walls are a powerful form of protection. Self-differentiation requires letting go and allowing myself and those to whom I connect the room they need to expand, move, explore, and grow.

God is the ultimate example of self-differentiation. He describes Himself as The Great I AM. He is Who He is, and He always will be. He refuses to fuse, but so many Christians refuse to follow His example. It’s easier to fuse to a group or set of beliefs than it is to have a personal relationship with the Creator and those He created. I have struggled with the notion most of my life. My lack of faith caused me to focus upon what I could do for God and others and avoid differentiation.

Doing is, and always will be, much easier than being. Being requires stillness and trust that God knew what He was doing when He created me. I have to admit I have often believed He must have been having an off day when He created me. My early childhood cemented that belief into my head and my heart. I was not like everyone else. I knew this because my father pounded the notion into my body, and my mother whispered it into my spirit. Difference defined and confined my heart, so I and learned to make others happy by doing for them or making them laugh. It worked by all accounts, except for the one God was keeping in my heart.

I learned about self-differentiation in an honest, loving environment where I could be me and still be loved. I loved the freedom of being myself with someone who understood and encouraged, but I didn’t learn how to apply the learning to all aspects of my life until recently. Letting go is the test of self-differentiation, and anyone who has an adult child understands the pain involved in letting someone you love go so they can become their truest self.

As I watched my son love his family and help clean up after our wonderful meal, I was filled with pride. The mark of a great relationship is not how tightly I hold on to those I love, it is in how willing I am to let them go and grow into who they are meant to be. It is like the quote often attributed to Richard Bach, “If you love something, let it go; if it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.”

I never felt closer to my son than I did in a quiet moment when we hugged yesterday. I told him it was the best Thanksgiving ever, and he said that they just kept getting better and better. I will not completely understand self-differentiation until I am with God in heaven, but I experienced a sweet taste of it in that beautiful Thanksgiving hug.

The unity God desires does not come from holding on; it comes from letting go. Differentiated unity makes perfect sense to my heart. It took eight years for me to understand it, but that moment when it settled in my heart yesterday was well worth the wait 🙂

 

 

More Than Just a Dream

I always sleep well, but I was surprised to awaken this morning and see that I had slept for ten hours! I blame it on the rain. We have been dry for a very long time, and the smoke from forest fires has filled the air for weeks. Those drops of rain were precious and long awaited, so hearing them last night sent me into a slumber filled with dreams.

I’ve always had vivid dreams, but the dreams this week have been especially powerful ones. Earlier in the week, God gave sweet resolution to a recurring nightmare I’ve had for decades. I’ve experienced three such dreams in my life. One began after I almost drowned at age five and lasted until I was fifty. Another, about not being able to get out of a building, started in college, and ended a month ago. The third began in my thirties and ended this week.

The dream about getting out was a particularly troubling one because the same theme recurred, but the locations varied from decade to decade. I would be in college, in church, or some other large building. In all the dreams, I was unable to find my way out. Stairways would collapse. Doors would not open, or they would lead nowhere. The dream always went from frustrating to frightening and ended with my giving up on getting out and waking up. God brought resolution to that dream six years ago with a vivid set of concrete steps I recognized but ignored. I went my own way, so the dreams continued until last month.

The last dream is one that haunted my rest for over four decades. I desperately need to go to the restroom, but I cannot find one that works or one that is private. I always dismissed the dream as simply a way for my body to wake me up so I could go to the bathroom. I know now there was much more to the dream. This week, God helped me see the dream was about my fear of intimacy. I keep a distance when it comes to relationships and tend to have relationships where time, distance, or circumstances keep intimacy at bay. The dream this week ended in a way that made me realize that those illusive restrooms were simply symbolic of my need to hide when it comes to loving as God desires.

It is easier to love from a distance than it is to share life in an intimate way. God made that clear in a very humorous way that I will not share because it’s far too graphic. It’s hard enough for me to share as much as I am sharing; so I’ll keep the details to myself. I know those images will make me smile when I find myself needing to remember the powerful lesson God has been trying to get across for so many years. The teacher in me would call it an AH HA!! Moment. God chose to make it a HA HA!! Moment so I would remember it when my heart starts to look for a place to hide. I know, and used to tell my students, that humor increases knowledge retention by thirty percent. It’s why we did a lot of laughing in my classroom. God knows I love to laugh, so it’s the best way to get me to remember.

I thank God for the dreams and visions He has always given and used to help me find His way and learn His lessons. His patience is beyond anything I can imagine, but His results are worth waiting for. The teacher in me admires His strategies, and the student in me is always amazed and most always amused by them. The child in me is so very thankful for a Heavenly Father who knows and loves me better than I know myself.

I have always been a dreamer, and no one knows that better than the One who created this little dreamer. It follows that He would use dreams to get my attention. After all, sleep is the only time my heart is still enough to listen.

 

 

Write On!

I’ve wrestled with writing for the past few months and thought about not renewing my WordPress account. I haven’t written faithfully in 2016, so I figured it was time to stop blogging.

As I’ve prayed about it last week, several folks told me how much they enjoyed reading my posts. I was humbled by the comments and amazed that some came from folks I hardly know. God continues to bid me to write, and I continue to make excuses not to. I had to laugh when the girls began watching an old Disney show called “Do With a Blog” last week. They love the silly sitcom and so do I. Lillyann asked what a blog was when we started watching the show, so I explained it and told her I had one. She wanted to see it and asked me what I wrote about. I told her I wrote about my feelings. She asked if it was hard to do, and I told her it was very hard. She may only be seven, but she seemed to understand exactly what I meant. I love that about her.

I started writing for Lillyann in 2009 because I wanted her to hear my heart and know me deeply when she was older. Mylah came along in 2011, so I continued to write with both girls in mind. In November, little Kylie will join us on this wonderful journey. I don’t know if any of the girls will read what I’ve written for them, but I do hope they will. I printed over 300 pages of the posts that relate to them so they can read them when they are older. When I showed the notebooks to Lillyann several years ago, she said she was going to read them when she was my age. I smiled and thought of how much I would love to hear my grandmother’s right now.

Writing is a pain filled process, but like the deep tissue massages I’ve been getting over the past few months, it’s pain necessary for healing. The peace I feel after I write makes the pain of sharing bearable. I don’t know how God will use writing to transform me into who He wants me to be, but I do know that sharing the journey through my writing has been a big part of my healing.

When I taught, I urged my students to open their hearts and share their writing with others. I never followed my advice because I was too afraid. The Pollyanna in me preferred a happy face to a healed heart. I didn’t want to burden others with my sadness. God placed a young women in my path yesterday who had the same fear. I met a friend at a small cafe to catch up and reconnect, and this young lady was working there. She knew my friend, and I heard the young women tell her that she was deeply sad but didn’t want to make others sad with her dark feelings. I jumped in and told her she didn’t have to make others happy. I knew not to say anything, but I just couldn’t help myself. She told me sadly that it was her reality, and I understood completely. My plea was meant for me.

Writing is not for the faint of heart, but nothing else gives me the catharsis I find in the transparent honesty that comes when I share my heart with others. So, I’m renewing my WordPress account and trusting God to do what He does best-open my heart in ways that always surprise and heal. Living and loving as God desires isn’t easy because it requires a level of faith I cannot reach on my own. I’m finding that the more I let go of my need to make others happy or be who they expect me to be, the closer I come to being the beloved daughter God created me to be. I have come a very long way since I began writing in 2009 and even further since I decided, in August 2012, to share my journey by blogging. I still have a long way to go, but inviting others to come along as I learn makes the journey a joy.

Thank you all for sharing the journey. You encourage me to keep going. The journey truly is better with company.  That was God’s powerful lesson this week.