Feeds:
Posts
Comments

The First Christmas

It has been awhile since I have posted. A global pandemic and a year that just keeps growing wilder and wilder, two toddlers, working full time and trying to keep all the plates spinning and balls in the air means something has to give. For awhile it has been writing on the blog.

Even though it hasn’t been posted here, I haven’t stopped writing. During snippets of stolen time I have been working on a secret project, compiling snippets of prose, revamping a popular blog post, pondering what words grieving hearts need to hear.

And now my secret project is ready to be birthed into the world.

The First Christmas: Finding Your Way After Loss

A gift book to help navigate the first Christmas in grief. A permission slip of sorts to help comfort and guide you. A reminder that what you are experiencing is perfectly normal. Grief is hard. Add in “the most magical time of year”, people’s expectations, our own hearts expectations and it can weigh on us and leave us feeling shattered and alone.

Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It is all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest.

Grief is just love with no place to go.

Jamie Anderson

It is my hope that this book will be a companion for you, an opportunity to make the holiday one that is meaningful for you… whatever that may mean to you this year.

If you feel like you or someone you know might appreciate this book here is the link to order a copy of your very own.

A prayer and reminder for you:

May you be held, may you be loved, may you find peace wherever you are.

This poem reminds me of the power of being present, the ministry that happens when you leave your agenda behind and simply meet people where they are at.

When you are deep in grief it is such a gift to have a person who doesn’t have to fix it, change it or make it anything other than what it is.  Grief is often hard, heavy and difficult… woven with hope, healing and brief moments of respite, but so much of the time it is just heavy.  People spend so much time wanting and trying to be someplace other than where they are at… missing, longing and hurting for the dreams that have died, the person who is gone or for the things that aren’t the way they wish they were… and doing anything to not feel all that comes with that.

It is a beautiful reminder to ourselves to allow the fullness of what is, knowing that “no feeling is final”.  There is a freedom in allowing what is, not fighting it, knowing that it won’t always be this way, but that for now, it is.

If we are lucky, we have these people in our lives who can meet us in the midst of deep grief.  Today I would invite you to meet yourself there.  Allow yourself to be where you are, meet yourself with the holy reverence you reserve for those you deeply love and allow yourself to be right where you are.

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

Christmas House

It is that time of year again when many of us who are deep in the midst of cold and snow hunker down and cozy in for a period of reflection and silence.

There is something that is so hauntingly beautiful and quiet about the way the snow falls from the sky, silently blanketing everything in pure white.  A new beginning of sorts that beckons us to become more silent as well.  Each year I find after the hustle and bustle of Christmas and New Year’s my soul often seeks out silence and reflection to think about what the year ahead may bring.

A friend offered this beautiful piece on her Facebook page and it was one of those pieces that caused me to stop scrolling and sit to think more about the space beyond prayer and the moment when one truly dissolves into the silence…

As my prayer become more attentive and inward
I had less and less to say.
I finally became completely silent.
I started to listen
– which is even further removed from speaking.
I first thought that praying entailed speaking.
I then learnt that praying is hearing,
not merely being silent.
This is how it is.
To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking,
Prayer involves becoming silent,
And being silent,
And waiting until God is heard.
~ Søren Kierkegaard

If you are interested in cultivating more silence in your life, sign up for my free 40 Days of Silence offering here.

May this New Year hold the possibilities of new beginnings and new discoveries that await you in the silence that invites you home.

The Work of Christmas

 

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

Howard Thurman- a mystical, prophetic preacher active in the civil rights movement who studied with Rufus Jones and joined the Wider Quaker Fellowship in the 1960s.

Black Fire: African American Quakers on Spirituality and Human Rights

Angels are waiting…

pink-flowers

I had a friend recently who was headed to do hard things.  And as I gave her a hug I whispered in her ear

“The angels are already waiting for you there.  You are not alone.”

It wasn’t me whispering, rather, it was me being willing to be a vessel.

When I make space for silence in my life so I can hear those little whispers, when I make space to be a vessel I am given opportunity after opportunity to show up, to share the ministry of presence, to be who and what that person needs in the moment.

Perhaps our only work is to be willing to be silent long enough to be given our instructions on how in that moment to be a vessel for love.

We have been hearing a lot of bad news in the world lately, and with all that is happening it is easy to find ourselves despairing at the state of the world. It certainly seems that there is a fair share of darkness that has been dominating lately.  I wanted to offer a little light, and the reminder that things are not always what they seem.

The other day I was presenting on my favorite topic to a group of college students, the “Art of Deep Listening”.  I always begin the presentation the same way, by asking the group to share the last time that they felt deeply listened to.  It is interesting to see the themes emerge and hear people share their stories of feeling loved through listening.  According to my informal poll, it seems that mothers and best friends are the best listeners.

One of the young woman shared about how the night before as she had been stressing about finals, and overwhelmed with everything she had to do her roommate deeply listened.  She never told her that she was overreacting, she didn’t tell her to suck it up, or try to show her all that she did had under control, or share with her all of her solutions.  Instead, she listened generously, shared her presence for as long as it was needed, and then, she made her a waffle for breakfast that morning.

And sure enough, after a good night of sleep, feeling heard and understood the world seemed a lot more manageable, and whatever was looming large the night before seemed to fall into place, at least a little bit.  But the kind act of being provided for, of being nurtured and cared about “fixed” what was “broken”.  Her roommate knew a secret that we too often forget… sometimes things aren’t meant to be fixed, or changed in that moment, it is in these small acts of kindness, of nurturing that we heal each other.  It is in these small acts of compassion that we remind each other that the world can be a safe place.  It is in offering a safe space to be that healing can happen.

When we can offer a soft place to land for those we love, when we can share with one another our  little acts of love, we light up the world.

And we could all use a little more light in the world.

 

 

The Monk Manifesto

Summer 2015

Summer 2015

It has been a long time since I have found myself in front of the computer to write a blog post. I have been embarking on a creative journey lately, one that has been all-consuming, and much different than I had expected.

Christmas Eve my partner and I found out that I was pregnant. It has been an amazing gift, but it has been difficult. I have been sick most of my pregnancy, and I have been learning a lot about my limitations. My world has gotten a lot smaller than I am used to and I have had to learn how to be better at saying no. With just a little over a week left I am coming out of the fog and starting to feel better and more myself with each passing day. With all of this focus on my physical body and all of its changes, and the physical changes in the house, creating a nursery and getting all of the essentials ready for the new arrival I am realizing that I am craving more of the sacred. I am craving more time to go within and to spend some time pondering what all these changes mean. And as I was thinking about how to delve more deeply into living with intention and where to even begin after being so externally focused on all of my to do lists and “things to get done before the baby arrives” this beautiful piece came across my newsfeed today on Facebook and I have been thinking about it ever since.  And since I have been so focused on doing, it feels like shifting into a different gear to focus on being- albeit a welcome one and this feels like just the place to start.

The Monk Manifesto: Seven Principles for Living with Deep Intention:

Monk Manifesto: A public expression of your commitment to live a compassionate, contemplative, and creative life.

The Monk Manifesto-

I commit to finding moments each day for silence and solitude, to make space for another voice to be heard, and to resist a culture of noise and constant stimulation.

I commit to radical acts of hospitality by welcoming the stranger both without and within. I recognize that when I make space inside my heart for the unclaimed parts of myself, I cultivate compassion and the ability to accept those places in others.

I commit to cultivating community by finding kindred spirits along the path, soul friends with whom I can share my deepest longings, and mentors who can offer guidance and wisdom for the journey.

I commit to cultivating awareness of my kinship with creation and a healthy asceticism by discerning my use of energy and things, letting go of what does not help nature to flourish.

I commit to bringing myself fully present to the work I do, whether paid or unpaid, holding a heart of gratitude for the ability to express my gifts in the world in meaningful ways.

I commit to rhythms of rest and renewal through the regular practice of Sabbath and resist a culture of busyness that measures my worth by what I do.

I commit to a lifetime of ongoing conversion and transformation, recognizing that I am always on a journey with both gifts and limitations.

Christine Valters Painter

It brings me great peace to be reminded that I will always be given what I need when I ask for it, to know that if I choose to walk a more contemplative path it is always one step away.

It brings me great peace to know that there are seasons in my life that allow for different focuses, but that a deep and meaningful life is always waiting in every season and in all ways, and that both doing and being have their place.

It brings me great peace to be reminded that as long as I am living deeply in the midst of life there will be treasures to unearth, love to be found, and joy to be had.

It brings me great peace to know that the path that I have chosen for my spiritual journey allows for detours, for exploration, for compassion with myself.

It brings me great peace to be reminded that as I embark on this shift in identity, in this life-changing journey, that I can choose to do this with compassion, with creativity and contemplation.

Learn something…

Flower4

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.”

The Once and Future King

T.H. White

This beautiful quote was found in this blog post by Parker Palmer.

On becoming silent…

IMG_9576
After the hustle and bustle of the holidays it is nice to carve some time out for silence, for stillness.

A little time and space to absorb all that has happened. The love, the sharing, the gifts, the time together, the warm hugs and all of the other emotions too the emptiness that we sometimes feel of those who aren’t beside us, who can’t be with us for various reasons, the excitements, the disappointments and everything else.

So often it feels like it jumps from Thanksgiving to Christmas and right into New Years. So when New Year’s Eve comes along it feels like hurry up and make a resolution, hurry up and decide what is going to be most important for you over the next year, have a resolution tied up and neatly bundled and ready to go, but I have decided that I prefer a little time and space with my resolutions.

I have been reading what my blogger friends have written about their resolutions, intentions, their decisions not to make intentions, choosing words to represent the year etc. and when I read this from Amy at My Path With Stars Bestrewn I knew that was just what I was looking for.

Become silent, and wait
within your heart to feel
the next step
choreographed by Love,
then close your eyes and
surrender to the hold of
grace. Let yourself lean
into the music of stillness
dancing. . .

~Kate Mullane Robertson

So as this 1st day of the brand New Year draws to a close I offer you this prayer:

I wish for you
the ability to “surrender to the hold of grace”,
silence that fills and nourishes,
joy that overflows and sustains you,
the ability to ride the waves of grief when they come,
the ability to learn from mistakes and let them go,
and the opportunity to celebrate your accomplishments.

May you enter into this New Year bringing only what you need from the previous year,
may you trust in the abiding love that surrounds you now and always,
and may this year be filled with wonder and delight.

P.S. Don’t forget, like Pastor Carson so beautifully reminds us: Renewal Can Happen Every Day

The First Christmas…

 

Winter

For many of my friends this is a “First Christmas”  First Christmas without their dad, first Christmas without a significant other, first Christmas for a variety of reasons… and tonight as I am thinking of them I wanted to send a little prayer/letter out to anyone who might be experiencing their “First Christmas”

Dear one,

This complicates things so much.  It wasn’t the plan, it wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, and yet… here we are.

You may wonder how you will get through the day, how you are ever to smile again, much less be “Merry”.

Just don’t.  For one Christmas just don’t.  If you don’t want to put up a tree, don’t.  If you don’t want to send out Christmas cards, don’t.  If you can’t bring yourself to read other people’s Christmas cards, don’t.  And by all means if you want to do it all exactly the same as you always have done, do it!  But, perhaps, for this Christmas, you will give yourself a pass.

Let your expectations drop, focus on the love that remains, focus on the memories, and pay attention to the pain.  Don’t hide it, don’t shove it underneath a strained “Merry Christmas”, don’t drown it in too much liquor or lull it into a sugar coma with too many sweets.  Your pain is inviting you to pay attention.

Your heart has been through so much, it has been torn, bruised and battered this year.  It is time to rest, to repair, to heal.  But in order to do that you must be willing to pay attention to the pain, which we so often avoid.

I remember sitting on the bed crying, holding my heart wondering if it was possible for my heart to literally break, it felt like there was more pain than my heart could hold.  And now I know, yes, the grief manifests itself physically.  But at the time, I wondered if I was going crazy.  Dear one, you are not going crazy, you have loved much and this loss runs deep.

I didn’t know what I know now, that our hearts are amazing, they are far more powerful than we even realize, and sometimes when it feels like it is breaking it is breaking- breaking open to allow more room for more love, more joy, more gratitude, the the process can be painful.

You are allowed to grieve, to have your time, to have this Christmas be a jumbled mess of everything.  Joy, sadness, gratitude, love and perhaps even a moment where it the grief doesn’t feel quite so heavy anymore.

To the extent that you can “don’t anticipate, participate”.  Anticipating when grief will hit is like trying to catch a wave in your hand, it just doesn’t work.  You will sail by moments you thought you weren’t going to make it through and then something else will hit you that you never expected.

Grief isn’t linear and can’t be treated as such, it is a wild mess of jumbled things that can’t be anticipated, but if you participate.  If you allow yourself to fully feel it you will gain trust in yourself again that yes, you can ride this wave, you can do this.  You may not know how, but you can.

Pick a phrase, something that will get you through, something for those moments that you need to focus.  That first Christmas my mantra was from the Amy Grant song “Breath of Heaven”

Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me 

Here are a few things I know…

You will be held.  In the midst of your darkest night, there will be someone, something that will remind you that you are not alone.

You will make it through this day, it may not be pretty, it may not be what you anticipated, but it will be over. Hour by hour, minute by minute, you will get through this.

You have the right to say their name, to bring up memories, and you have the right to know if that is too hard, if it is too much right now.  And it may happen in the same day.

You have the right to turn down invitations, to decide what is healthiest for you, without buying into other’s expectations or guilt.

You have the right to listen to your own grief journey, to listen to your heart.

Know there are others who understand, who have been where you are…

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now 

Breath of Heaven- Amy Grant

Know that my heart is outstretched to yours and I am holding a candle to light the darkness.

May you be held, may you be loved, may you find peace wherever you are.

With all my love,

Erica

P.S. If you liked this piece here is another post I wrote about dealing with the Holidays. The “Merry” Dilemma