Friday, August 1, 2014

Tending my soul, within and without

My life has been anything but still this week. I am churning inside and out in that place of unknowing on several counts. The exterior churning has begun to affect my inside calm, which is why I need spiritual companions at these crucial moments. I don’t know what I would do without them and the support of a faith community.

Monday afternoon, I took my girls to meet with one of my longtime spiritual friends. She wants to lure them back to Quaker circles in her friendly, gentle way and reminded them that their lives can seem chaotic, but they have resources upon which to draw. “Just like with your mom,” she said. “When I’m struggling, I can talk to her and it helps. You can’t talk to just anybody about spiritual things.”

Feeling creative in my wonderful studio has been difficult this week as the new owner, a developer, and many inspectors and environmental testers have invaded the space. After I sent a welcoming letter with ideas for this dear, old school, the developer dropped by to meet with me last week. I prayed before he came to we both could be open. We began that way until he held my letter up and said “I can’t take this to the bank” and told me that even if doubled, the pittance I pay times 28 classrooms is nothing.” It became obvious that his chief concern is making money on this project. Sure he’s open to a community or cultural arts center, but only if someone well-financed waltzes in with funding in place. That’s what we all have been dreaming of. His invitation to the community to submit ideas is a “development opportunity” sign listing retail, office and residential. I told him residents don’t see that as an invitation and he argued with me. And, as he traipsed down the stairs and out the door, he hollered, “you have about six months.” I had hoped I’d have til next spring, when the autistic school’s lease runs out. Maybe not as the custodian let in people trying see if utilities on this side can be closed off.

Tuesday, I was really feeling the effects of some negative energy swirling about my safe space, so I decided to focus on another task: checking grant deadlines. I discovered that one of my best funders moved its fall deadlines to July and I missed them. I was devastated.

OK, God, what is going on here? I asked. I had taken June to discern if I would continue with Artsy Fartsy Saturdays, the arts exploration for local, at-risk kids, I developed with much Quaker support that is focused in this space.

Barnesville, Oh, where I always find peace
I couldn’t pull myself out of the worry whirl, so I wrote a group e-mail to my Quaker buddies and had a chat with my pastor. Primarily they all said to remember that when one door closes another opens. Perhaps Artsy Fartsy is ready for a change. My pastor suggested I look for the helpers, something we both remembered reading, possibly written by President Obama.

Stillwater Meeting, a very special place of deep worship
So I am looking for the helpers. The day things hit, I left the studio to walk it out and landed on a park bench halfway to my house. I called my oldest and she met me there, gave me a hug and walked back with me. She’s planning the next kids’ session and we were taking stock of supplies. I’ve also been culling several boxes of donated materials, delighting in visualizing how the kids will use them and putting my room back together after a flurry of activity and a busy summer. I always knew this wasn’t a permanent spot, yet it has met so many needs. One Friend asked which came first, the program or the space, and I honestly answered, the program. “Ok then, you can find a different space.” Another has chatted with a local gallery, whose owner says they have a small room I could use. I also e-mailed the owner of the complex we serve and she is thinking about the possibilities. Another building tenant asked if I would be interested in going in with them; they are looking at a warehouse in an area I hadn’t even considered. It’s closer to the kids I serve and has a sidewalk – they could walk and solve our transportation problems.

The possibilities are alive and the helpers are arriving. This morning I knew it was time to still myself and I opened my Thomas Keating daily devotional. The reading was centered on Psalm 23:
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul …
I meditated on that passage and what it means to me right now. Essentially that God is all that I need:

My needs are filled. I am to rest in beauty. I am guided to deep stillness, peace. She helps me reclaim my soul.

God (ful)fills my soul from within and without.

Exactly what I need to hear.

• Where do I turn when I am churned up?
• Who are my spiritual friends?
• What do they offer that’s not available from social friends?
• How does my faith community ground me?
• When have I discovered God’s helpers?

uncertainty swirling

fueling worry and fear

what will happen?
echoes in my mind,
and body, creeping
into my spirit

until my heart
reminds me I
know another path

the one that
reaches deep
down and within

buoyed by my
faith companions

God is, indeed,
within and
tending my soul

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