Advent

Healing, hope & slowness

Well it has been a good long stretch of quiet here hasn’t it? I used to be a fast processor but not anymore. These days the thoughts ooze slowly through my soul, taking time to steep while I fold the daily load of laundry, drive car pool, read books aloud or teach fractions. Everything takes more time  than it used to.

A few months back I started swimming again, lap after lap after lap, to wash my swirling thoughts away. Kicking to try and find clarity. It started from sheer survival - our schedule this fall with Aaron traveling more than he ever has before was frankly a bit much. My own exercise (other than my daily dog walk) went to the wayside taking with it a good chunk of my unanxious mind. My parents came for a visit and could see I was hanging on by a thread, I think. My mom had a come to Jesus type talk with me about taking care of myself and based on her verbally brainstorming for me I finally figured out that I could swim a decent amount in under an hour - in and out. Several of my kids activities take place at our local rec center with a pool, if not there is one close to drop offs. So swimming it is for now. The blue of the pool and quiet of my head under the water brings me a much needed peace. You could say it is what is saving my life these days.

I still constantly find myself having feelings about how long healing takes. Here I am a year and a half after looking at myself, unrecognizable, everything I felt I was shattered into a million pieces on the ground. A year and a half is not a small measure of time, and maybe it isn’t a long one either but I certainly thought I would have ‘finished’ processing healing already. Back to my fast processing and high coping self, of course having learned all the lessons and experienced all the growth I needed to in order to be a more enlightened person. (I wish I were joking.)

A year ago I wrote that healing takes more time than people want to give you and now I year later I am writing that it takes more time than you want to give yourself.

I remember when my therapist chatted with me about sectioning off a period of time in which to focus on my healing and my family. A period of time in which I would say ‘no’ to anything else. I landed on six months. I thought I was being ridiculous and gracious to myself to set out that long period of time.

Now I sit here with open palms, no set end date because I am much more intimate with this process. Two steps forward and one and a half steps back. Reminding myself to keep clinging to God who works all things for good. If there is one lesson I don’t want to loose there it is.

 

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Our culture tends to glorify ‘celebrity style overcoming’ and perhaps rightly so. When you are staring down a scary prognosis it is exceptionally encouraging to see people who have overcome ‘quickly’ with joy and enthusiasm. We want to believe we can self-help everything and to some extent we can. To some extent God gives us bodies and brains to help ourselves - sometimes a miracle looks like getting off our behinds and doing what God has made us capable to do. We can get our buts to therapy or yoga, we can seek out the wise treatments and therapies and modalities. But only by God’s grace does all the stuff work and we find ourselves on the other side - ‘healed’.

And then.

Then you still feel broken and lost and exhausted. Here comes the part of the story that doesn’t sell anything, so we don’t hear about it. This is where you find yourself siting in your ‘healed’ brokenness, feeling like you have messed up because this is supposed to be the easy part, the celebration.

This is the part where you get used to waiting. You get used to showing up and doing the right things to keep healing yourself even when it feels futile. Then you stop doing them and realize - nope not yet. I still need those things. At least for now but also, maybe forever. There are things you don’t get used to: feeling like a stranger in your own body, like a stranger in your own mind. You know there is more healing to come, you loose all pride you had about considering yourself low maintenance, resilient and being a high achiever.

You wish you could contentedly and serenely use prayer to let this draw you closer to God and wisdom and love (some days this happens). Instead, it is more likely you get irritated about life’s petty crap, about your unknowing what to do now, about how everything has changed and yet; nothing has.  You find yourself too agitated to make sense and plop things on a sticky note into your ‘God jar’. Not much here is pretty or presentable.

You listen. You listen a lot because you don’t have many coherent thoughts to share. You sit in silence. More silence than you ever imagined. You try to get comfortable with knowing you only know about two things for sure, while 1001 thoughts swirl around in you. You wait some more.

You move slow, slower, slowest. Sometimes you falter and shame yourself for your slow process but mostly you give yourself more grace than you ever have before. You rest more than before, because you still have to even 1.5 years later. At best this feels like progress (I’ve learned to rest!) at worse you feel like you will never be as healthy as you were.

And God. You still need to cling God. Because you aren’t as desperate as you were before, but you are other things instead. This was perhaps the most unexpected part. You are so grateful for your everyday ordinary life and also so many things are still being rooted out. You still feel sad, angry, frustrated, annoyed, tired and just done already alongside of grateful, grateful, grateful. More questions, more wresting, more learning. You are still in need of a savior and you are still in need of hope. Hope. The light. Rest from all the change and growing and learning. A glimpse of new life, an end (at least for now) of things dying away. You are aching for the bloom.

And then - and then it is advent.

Quiet. You find so much quiet and stillness. This is a natural posture for you now. Sitting, quiet. Being present. Palms open. Praying for eyes to see hope, hope everywhere. Perhaps more will die away but you are also open to receive. There is no magic. No single moment where you wake up and think ‘this is it I have bloomed’. Not yet anyway. Instead you listen for the next step, then the next, then the next. Slow, quiet, listen. Slow, quiet, listen.

This is the heartbeat of the healing.

 

Making Space for Hope: Advent Week One

It is the first week of advent and just now, five days in already I have had some time and space to sit down and be still. To think a little bit about this season and what I am hoping for this year. People keep asking me if I am ready for Christmas and to be honest it hardly feels like December yet, so no, no I'm not. Basically our life is the same as your very own. Our days are full, we juggle some mix of parenting, work, volunteering, appointments, keeping everything somewhat clean and kiddos tummies full, managing minor and major crises in-between the connection and laughter. We are in the mid life years where our days often start before the sun comes up and find us about ten pm, hours after the sun has set in our northern latitude finishing up supper dishes during the first chance we have had.

Mid-life is a daily practice in being present and in making space where it seems there isn't any to be made.

I so often feel we live in a world that wants us to rush on from one thing to the next. Christmas decorations are for sale before Halloween is over, a symptom of a culture encouraging us to keep looking endlessly forward for our contentment and our joy instead of finding it right here in this very day. This is why I love advent so much, I believe. It is a season of counter-cultural beliefs and practices. As much as it may not be advertised as such advent is intended as a season of reprieve from all the doing and never enough and endless thinking about the next thing. A time to step away from the always seductive promise of bigger and better stealing both my contentment and my life.

If I remember to let it be so advent is a season of stillness, of waiting and repenting and sitting right where I am under the wonder of the full moon with the one who made me. A time for moving slower, pondering more.

Advent is a time to find just one reason to hope in a world where there are a million not to. A time for softening my heart a little bit more towards God who came as an infant - as a vulnerable minority refugee. It is a time to both ponder and act on ways I could further align my own now softer heart with the ways of God I don't always understand. A time to look for ways I could help plant or water one more seed of subversiveness to help kingdom come.

Advent is about opening my eyes to see the beauty of creation and love and mercy all around me, to drink those things in with my spirit, to remind me there aren't only hardships and heartbreak and horrors. Advent is about making space for hope and being still with a God who always works towards good and finishes what is promised.

 

(Mostly I 'do' this by sitting quietly, or not so quietly depending on which children are awake/around, praying and reading from one of these books or listening to something - no rules, nothing set in stone, just which ever one catches my spirit when I make space to sit down and be still.)

A Widening Light by Luci Shaw,editor

Book of advent themed poetry by assorted authors, all with eyes to see creation and God and faith in new and life giving ways, perfect for reading and pondering one at a time in a snippet of time.

Circle of Grade by Jan Richardson

Every blessing in this book has moved me to tears or towards hope. Richardson incorporates both beauty and heartbreak, which to me is the only type of honest blessing there is.

Watch For The Light

Daily writings for the whole pre-advent through epiphany season by assorted authors. I don't read them everyday but when I do they always give me something challenging to think about.

Wintersong by Madelieine L'Engle and Luci Shaw

Journal entry snippets, poetry, essays from two of my favourite writers. If you haven't read these women you are missing out on mid-life artist/faith wisdom from L'Engle and stunning nature/faith reflections from Shaw.

Listening to:

Pray As You Go podcast

Simple Advent playlist on Spotify

Advent 2016 thoughts on hope

Advent 2014 thoughts on hope

And continued here