An easier way.

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I’m on a solitary writing retreat, thinking about my daily rhythms of life and what helps me versus what hurts me. This morning I meditated, prayed, exercised, showered, and read a chapter in a helpful book. It is now five minutes to 7:00. I feel like I’ve cared for myself. I feel like I’m ready to work. Normally I’ve already tried to get an hour of writing into this time, so it makes sense that I don’t do this every day, or does it?

I don’t do it because of the feeling of walls around me in my life.

There is so much that we don’t do because of the feeling of being fenced in. There are these cramped boundaries we give ourselves. I don’t have enough time. Twenty minutes is all I or you need to do the next thing, so we kinda do have time.

We do have natural limits. I’ve learned this in the past year, as I moved closer to burnout more than I ever have before. However, because the day feels wide and free today, because I am on a retreat, I managed to take care of myself fully, and still end up at the page earlier than I might normally, if I was overwhelmed and procrastinating or avoiding my work. And that means that the time limits are sometimes in my head.

I’m thinking about an easier way to live.

I think it connects well with my faith, with Jesus, who said, “Do not worry about anything, for which of you by worrying can add a single day to her life?”

Or which of you by procrastinating and anxiety can eke another hour out the day?

Or which of you by not playing or taking care of yourself can save up enough for what your children need?

Or which of you by obsessing can control the world and take care of all the needs around you?

Where is this easier way?

Actually, every day is wide and free. Tasks don’t close me in. My thoughts close me in. Thoughts that say, don’t exercise or work on your writing right now because you have a meeting in six hours and its probably better to walk in circles and think about all the things you have ever done wrong.

Work is not the problem. Work can always be holy in a trusting heart. Each day is full of possibility, of walking in the glittering shadow of God, who creates as easily as he breathes. The Creative Wild Spirit of God, ready for me to give her enough room to turn every conversation into a sanctuary for kindness. I am not in some godless boring world where every act is doled out by me in a scarce approximation of building a house, brick by brick.

Jesus invites me to create with him. To continue what has already been done for eons, this continuing creation in love that floods the devastated places.

I can admit that I don’t come to peace naturally, but perhaps a hard won peace is still precious.

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Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work. A new Patron only post (An Illustrated List of Good and Inspiring Things) is up now.

Hands open.

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 I was watering the garden in the smoke yesterday, watching how quickly the water disappears into the dry earth. Our friend who is helping with watering asked me if she was doing it right on her days. “I just don’t understand why it looks like I’m not even watering.” 

“It’s just that dry,” I told her.

 A drop lands and practically sizzles. It sends a puff of dust. The sky is like a bruise. The sun simultaneously scorching and weak through the smoke.

I watered, and I thought, “That first rain is going to be like a miracle.” 

It takes going through a dry season here to really appreciate the rain. 

The sky opens up. Water comes from heaven. What? Is that really possible? 

In two minutes God accomplishes what I would have to spend eight hours to do with my puny little sprinklers. 

The first rain.

Fasting and feasting. Waiting for the promise. The Bible is packed full of references to this part of our life with God. We are in the now/not yet. We know rain will come, but we can’t control when it will give us those first drops. 

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; 

His going out is as sure as the dawn;

He will come to us as the showers, 

As the spring rain that waters the earth.”  - Hosea 6:3

Sometimes when I am waiting for God, I get a little too invested in my own systems. I wrap my gnarled rat hands around the garden hose, insisting that my efforts are going to be AMAZING. It’s okay if you don’t want to come now, I tell him. I can do it all by myself. 


And then the rain comes. It drenches me, the garden hose, my gnarled rat hands and my face scrunched up from my efforts to be a tiny god. We are all soaked, instantly. Better to lay down on the ground, hands open, mouth open. 


That first rain is going to be like a miracle.

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(Cross posted at the Shekina Blog.)

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Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work. Special thanks this month to new patron, Stephanie Connelly!

Don't Let Your Wildness Go.

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We went to the park (the new playground, a dream come true) and I sat under a tree with my books. Isaac and Solo played, but Solo had a hard time enjoying himself.

He wanted to make sure Isaac was playing well, not being unfair, that everyone had a chance at the slide. He kept running back to me to report on the slide situation.

He was taking on all the weight again. It’s a bit too much for a ten-year-old boy.

Oh, Solo.

I want to tell you this:

Try to stop worrying.
Let the others mess up their own fun and then figure it out. Only step in if someone is in danger.
Swing as high as you can.
Go and watch ants in the grass.
Dream your own dream.
Be a kid.
Learn it now,
before it becomes a habit written in the lines in your forehead,
before you can’t let it go
before you have to unlearn decades of trying to control outcomes,
and people
and whether anyone gets their feelings hurt,
and whether anyone is unhappy,
before you have built the entirely wrong idea of your role in the world,
Wise, beautiful artist son,
Wild One,
don’t let your wildness go.
Go and watch the clouds drift by.
You’re allowed.

Trust me.

***

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Shapes of a retreat.

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this one is from my friend’s beautiful new house.

this one is from my friend’s beautiful new house.

A retreat. I am an introvert living an extrovert’s life. 

Being an introvert doesn’t mean I don’t love people. It just means that if I don’t get solitude, I start to lose energy and focus, I get exhausted fuzzy around the edges, and if it goes on for a really long time, I start to forget who I am. That’s when I get clingy, peering up at faces to see if they can tell me who I am, tugging on coat sleeves, trailing after monks in the street, casting myself at the feet of the grandmother next door.

Well. That’s maybe where it would end up, if I didn’t retreat.

I walk backwards, very silently, fingers to my lips. Then run!

Actually, no, I just kiss my husband and get in the car. Find a cheap guesthouse in a part of town where I know nobody, and spread out my journals, pencils, computer, books I intend to read but never do, a bag of almonds, my coffee paraphernalia, and my blanket. Do you remember my blanket? I’m still working away on it. It’s the longest delight.

Some things I do on retreat:

Lie in bed and don’t get up.

Look at colors and shapes in the market. A stack of mangos. Embroidery thread. Dried mushrooms. Shapes, smells, and colors are very soothing. Very simple.

Find a park and look at trees.

See a movie.

Write words and words and words and words.

Read.

Paint.

Do the big shopping at the big store. (Sometimes non-retreat things have to be combined with retreat things. This is life.)

Talk to God in long, uninterrupted sentences that can be complainy, boring, or grateful.

Then I run (drive) back under the trees to my family and dog and hug them forever.

***

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I like what you have made.

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I love to cook for big groups of people. It’s something I just love, what can I say?

Maybe it’s because cooking is one of the most sensory of the tasks of our lives: cut tomatoes. Cut six kilos of them. Keep your fingers out of the way. Cut onions. Cry at the doorway. Come back and cut some more.

Cooking on Sundays is smell, taste, organized work. I line the vegetables up in the order they need to be cut. I set a timer and go as quickly as I can. Later I slow down and go carefully. Seeds in hot oil: Fennel, coriander, cumin, mustard. I add turmeric and a spice with the magical name of Kitchen King. Suddenly, the kitchen is alive with fragrance, with memories of jungle days.

Abundance. We have enough and plenty to share.

Holy work. I couldn’t do it if it wasn’t art. But every color, every texture, truly is beautiful. It’s holy work to cook for others. Before anything, God is Creator. Whenever I respond to what God has made, I feel as though we are in an act of making something together. I appreciate this, I whisper. I like what you have made. Especially purple cabbage. Especially the glorious tomato.

Holy work is always messy. True holy work, that is.

So there are stacks of dishes. There’s a chunk of dhal that has spilled on the stove and is blackening at an alarming rate. And there are friends; here they are helping, here they are chopping, creating, we are making things together. We are saving the sambar from burning in the pot by ever more ridiculous and ingenious methods. I am asking Sonal to make the chutney because hers is the best. Keren is cutting a mound of cabbage that nearly engulfs her.

And then somehow, it all disappears. The two rice cookers are empty, the giant pot is being scraped, the salad is long gone. People are walking around with the food we made in their bellies. Fed. I love it. What can I say?

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work.