Then I understood part of my problem has been ramping up into high gear and NOT beginning the day with a candle and prayer. I can NOT not do that. Maybe a day here and there, but not any kind of streak. I must let Spirit set my course, not busyness.
I found the candle and matches, flipped open the journal, slid in a favorite yoga CD and put on a slideshow of my favorite images. That was a deal-breaker: settling into some silence, listening and just being with God. I flipped back to some entries from the beginning of the year when I was on retreat – the one where the flu appeared the minute I relaxed and it wasn't quite what I had anticipated.
I re-read passages about:
– a prayer for me from the retreat director about letting new creativity flow;
– not sinking into fear;
– living life, not measuring it and letting it become a prayer (Thomas Merton);
– using what God has given me instead of focusing on what's lacking;
– bowing to Jesus and giving up the wisdom of the world (Quaker John Woolman);
– not letting society or the prospects of money lure me off center;
– that each day is "given" and that we receive it without control;
– that when so many needs call, we must examine their roots; and
– that our struggle is to learn to walk the narrow way quietly.
As I was reading, I focused on two of my favorite images, particularly one of an embryo, inspired by a friend's pregnancy. This time, I sensed it was me and all of the time I was incubating inside during the early days of motherhood when I severely struggled with fibromyalgia. The images doesn't fit me any more. I have emerged and returned to the world. I need a more powerful visual, one in which I feel empowered by Spirit. Before I got to that, I just had to work out walking the narrow way quietly on paper in pastel.
How do I weed out what is not on my narrow path?
Well, yesterday, I began by spending time in prayer and art-making, not to-do lists, e-mails, phone calls and work. My prayer became:
Lord, how can I best let you shine through me?
So many irons in the fire,
so many needs,
so many options
Where do you want me?
This going back out into
the world is difficult.
It pulls me away
from you and toward
practical, daily matters.
How can I keep you with
me as I return?
How can I keep my balance?
Know my direction?
I mournfully waxed over the people with whom I have felt disappointment for not directing me, letting that dissolve into the pure joy of looking at the art I create when totally engaged with God and not the world; returning to what is simple and elemental: you and me, I said to God.
I fixated on that in-utero baby and how it can't stay in forever, just as one can not eternally remain in the center of the labyrinth. It is designed as a respite and then we must return to the world – transformed. My current dilemma, I discerned in the silence, is growing pains and feel I have no human parent. Simultaneously, I remembered the ministry I named at the conclusion of a two-year program for spiritual nurture: gatherer of hearts.
How can I gather hearts when mine is divided? I can unify it when I begin the day acknowledging it is shaped by Spirit and I must listen before I engage.
• What is my auto-response when I feel overwhelmed?
• Where do I turn first?
• How long does it take to understand this condition is often a separation from Spirit?
• When I return, what changes?
• What spiritual practice helps me maintain that connection?
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