When We Take a Moment of Silence for Ourselves

 

I remember a few times throughout my life taking part in a moment of silence. It’s a tradition we’ve picked up in America, to stop and be still and quiet for a moment to honor the death of a friend or colleague, or to pray with others in a time of tragedy.

I remember when the Twin Towers fell, I was in middle school. That day, the air was heavy. It was thick, everyone was silent, teachers wondering how to explain what was happening, friends of mine worrying about their traveling parents. We were still, quiet, reflective, because we were looking horror in the eyes and wondering what could possibly come from it.

 


 

I’ve been working on my second book this week from the attic office of my home, and I notice when things are particularly quiet. I get a bit uncomfortable if it lasts too long.

I can handle moments of silence in honor of others, to hold space for their memories, to mourn or sit in the reality of great tragedies that happen in our country or in our neighborhoods and cities. But taking a moment of silence for myself? What does that even mean?

What would it mean for us to take a moment of silence so that we can take inventory, so that we can ground ourselves in the moment? What would it look like to remember yesterday, and to dream for tomorrow?

 


 

Many times when we talk about self-care, we quickly jump to conversations about shame, about selfishness, or about privilege.

The reality is, everyone, everyone needs to practice self-care in the best way they know how.

What if we imagined self-care to be the thing that gets us through the day, that actually leads us to each other? Stopping to take a breath, to remember who we are and where we are, isn’t a selfish endeavor.

When I began trauma therapy, I noticed how uncomfortable I am with the silence that falls sometimes between my therapist and me. Sitting in that room, sitting with the air, with our breathing, with our eye contact (or lack thereof) forces a reality that our souls are meant to be listened to, cared for.

Taking a moment of silence for ourselves produces space and room to be present with others, and that is one of the greatest gifts we can give someone else.

 


 

Maybe in that listening we recognize that indeed, we are mourning, we are looking deeply at our grief. Sometimes we need to stop and take a look at the parts of us that have died off; we need to remember and say goodbye.

We need a moment of silence to ask what's next, to believe that we walk a sacred path, ever unfolding.

We need a moment of silence to remember that we indeed are tethered to ourselves to one another.

The silence is a cocoon, and it leads us out, transformed.

The silence is an incubator, preparing us for growth.

To give the world the best of ourselves, we first have to listen to what our own inner voice is saying.

So let’s get silent, if only for a moment, to remember.

 


 

The greatest heroes of our day and the days that came before us are the ones who draw from a deep well. When we hear them speak, we are listening, because there’s something undeniable about the reality of their depth.

They have done the work of investing in moments of silence to listen to their own souls, and so they give us the gift of that outpouring.

It isn’t about being chosen to be great. It isn’t about being prepared, or suddenly called.

It’s about you and me, and it’s about us.

May our moments of silence lead us to ourselves, and may what we find there lead us to each other, a constant cycle never ending, a constant journey toward peace.

Iw, Amen.

 



 

 

Day 23: Lent for my Closet-Quiet

  

At my sister’s house, we are staying in the girls’ room, Eliot on the twin bed and Isaiah and me on the bigger one.

And a few times, either after they go to bed or before they wake, I sneak into the closet for some quiet.

It’s got what you’d expect to find– all these little hidden treasures, their favorite books, pictures they’ve drawn and painted.

There’s a dress-up bin

and beaded necklaces

and a rolling backpack covered in pink and purple hearts and stars.

But for these few days, it’s my quiet space, my solitude, my gentle escape.

The berber carpet becomes a holy ground, a soft place for me to land in quiet and mystery and truth–

We’re all longing for that, aren’t we?

For a space to be quiet,

a space to ask questions and

admit how we feel and

rest in mystery?

And I suppose we’re too afraid, too busy, a little bit of both.

But once we get there, the room to breathe is overwhelming and beautiful.

Once we get there, the openness of those moments takes us by surprise, and its lessons leave us wanting more.

More spirit.

More presence.

More mystery.

More life.

And Lent gives us that space where we grieve and ask what’s going on and admit that we’re hungry, to ask if a Savior really wants us as we are.

And Lent tells us the truth, and we walk in it.

Hallelujah for the space and the closet-quiet,

Hallelujah for the question-asking-mystery.

Day 12: Lent for my Moment of Silence

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Every week at our church, our pastor engages us in a moment of silence.

You can hear the occasional cough, a child asking what’s going on–

You can hear human breathing, our hearts beating out a steady rhythm.

In the big sanctuary service yesterday, all of us were gathered together,

and I saw the dust particles carry our prayers into the air,

up to the ceiling,

under the pews where we sat,

right up to and against the stained-glass windows that surround the space.

And Pastor Dale quoted the old spirit-words, “It’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”

Lent, then, is about our breath,

about our stillness,

our waiting,

our calm,

our trying to be quiet.

And it is about doing that together, claiming as a body of people

or as a community of friends

or as a blood-related family

that we will listen for God’s voice together,

especially when we are so unsure of everything else

nowadays.

May we learn the sometimes-awkward and precious art of

practicing quiet together,

of facing our palms to the sky

to remind ourselves that we are to receive

something good when we are postured this way.

And so we all breathe together,

Jesus,

You knew us yesterday,

You know us today,

You know us tomorrow.

We breathe You in

and out

and pray that our air

fills with You

every moment

until Kingdom come.

Amen. 

day 3: Lent for my Sickness

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If there is ever a time in our adult lives when we feel like little babes, it is when we are sick.

Over the weekend I woke up aching, my whole body unable to participate in everyday activities.

Sickness always comes at the worst times, always when there are things to get done.

 

And the thing about being sick is that it goes beyond us, and we are at the mercy of our friends and family.

It forces us into rest, to stop moving and stop going and stop doing, and to be honest, that totally kills me.

The apartment is a mess.

There are groceries to buy.

I can’t stand to take another nap.

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And yet, here I am in bed, and there is nothing but rest on the agenda.

And in all of it, I hear Him whisper, “Yes. Rest, child, and regain your momentum slowly but surely. Rest and remember what this season is all about.”

It all comes back around to Lent again, to the season of listening for what Easter will bring us, for what salvation is trying to teach us,

for what we are supposed to know about ourselves and each other and this world that forces us back into the quiet every now and then.

We are limited here to real-life bodies that get real-life diseases and flu bugs, and sometimes we just have to let them be,

in between praying prayers of healing, prayers of please get me through this.

There, Lent is still teaching us something, still reminding us that life works outside of us, outside of our bodies and minds and wants and needs.

Life still happens, and we can always trust that it will be waiting for us on the other side of whatever it is that makes us sick today.

 

 

THE CALL OF REST

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Today, it is quiet.

I am the only one home, and the deep spirit part of me is asking for some real quiet.

There are no Hallmark mini-series episodes today (I know, judge me).

There is no music.

I hear my pen mark the page and candle wicks flicker and cars rush past our complex outside.

I am in bed with four books, and I will read and drink my coffee in the quiet,

because my heart is asking me to.

We think we know real quiet, but to actually get there?

It’s quite a vulnerable journey,

and even painful, if we’re honest.

But then the quiet comes.

She graces us with her presence and we wonder how we could ever do anything without her helping us along.

Yes, the voice that our souls speak with today is saying,

“Please, find the quiet so I can get some rest.”

Our poor hearts, how we neglect them.

And we ask ourselves what a Sabbath actually is– a Sunday afternoon nap, a few seconds without the blare of the television screen?

Maybe we’re not giving Sabbath the flexibility she deserves.

Sabbath isn’t always just one long day of dawn-to-dusk rest.

Sabbath happens for us on a quiet morning,

during an afternoon nap,

on a family hike.

Sabbath quiet knows our hearts, perhaps better than we do, and if we choose to meet with her wherever we are,

we may find our world quieted and refilled and repurposed for all things good.

The challenge is to draw that curtain open in the first place,

to step into unknown mystery, difficult mystery,

and hear those heart words.

Then, a new spring green emerges in us.

Hallelujah and amen.

“…long ago in the quiet of the world, where there was less noise and more green…”

–The Hobbit

Fighting Our Shame with Silence: a lesson in finding the truth through gratitude

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As human beings, I think if we are really honest, the painfully quiet moments are the hardest for us.

In those moments, we hear ourselves.

In those moments, we dream.

We grieve.

We speak.

We believe.

Or, we absolutely doubt.

And there, most of us are looking more at what should be than what is.

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Years ago, monks flogged themselves as they roamed the halls of their holy places, a punishment and form of killing off their broken human parts and their sins.

Even though the practice is not as common today, I suppose you and I still flog ourselves, too.

When it’s really quiet and we aren’t making excuses to anyone or defending our causes, we are hurting.

We are lonely.

We beat and bruise ourselves.

We’ve missed it again.

We punish.

We are afraid.

So when we’re tired of the quiet and we can’t stand the voice any longer, we run to the chaos, to the loud, to the TV, to the music, to the drink.

There are stories of Native Americans stopping after they’ve hunted an animal to thank them for their life before they kill them.

There, a moment of silence.

There, honoring a life and giving thanks for it.

We are afraid of the quiet because we don’t know how to be thankful for who we really are.

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Forget what your neighbor said about you two years ago, or what your best friend thinks you should spend your time doing.

Forget the hurt your brother caused or the unforgiveness that’s still lingering there.

Instead, stop and give thanks for your life.

Instead, stop and look at yourself.

Stop and receive the spirit of your living, breathing, gifted self.

We are not just skin and bones rattling through the days as best we can.

We are life and breath, voice and vision, flesh and blood.

“Healing may come through medicine, through prayer, through presence and scent and calming touch, or through the consecrating of the journey as holy, dignified, and not without purpose or grace.” -Rachel Held Evans

There is something about the journey of stepping through our shades of pain or hurt and walking through to the light, that brings us healing.

And our gratitude, speaking the truth over who we are and what we’re called to be– that’s what brings us out to the light, away from the shame that constantly grips us.

The lie is that God only finds us when we are good, when we are full of light and hope and there are no lies in us.

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But the reality is, those beings don’t exist, and in our quiet longings, He is our friend.

In our quiet longings, in the battling of lies and the resting of our souls, He is the hunter who calls us good, who thanks us for our living, for our gifts, for the love we bring.

And then He kills off the hurt, destroys the unrest, calls us to the light, and walks with us into glorious living.

Hallelujah and amen.

A Seasonal Lesson: The Absence of Words

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If it weren’t for the changing of seasons, we wouldn’t know when to start and when to stop.

And if it weren’t for the presence of words, we wouldn’t know how to appreciate the absence of them.

It’s hard to accept it, when you’ve had a steady stream and then suddenly, all’s quiet.

My first instinct is fear, fear that nothing will pick up, that I’ll never have anything to say, ever again.

But instead, I gather myself back together, and remember the promise of never alone.

And I curl up by my dear celosias, and I open An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor.

For a few weeks, almost every day, I let her speak for me, let her say to my heart all the thoughts that are jumbled about, all the stagnant possibilities pooling within.

Trusting God is a strange thing, but learning to read and know myself is even harder sometimes.

So for the summer, when every creature gravitates to rivers and chlorinated water, I’ll be there, listening, taking in, paddling a kayak, quieting, and hoping for a few words here and there to keep me connected to the people around me, my brothers and my sisters.

They are the ones who are also taking in and listening, also reading themselves and giving thanks for the season’s change, and all the good it brings.

I need to get deeper into the heart of God, so that He can pour more into my emptiness. Maybe there will be words in that space, maybe not.

In the meantime, we keep entering, keep searching and asking, seeking and knocking. We keep hoping and knowing, keep uttering Hallelujah for all holy things.

A Prayer of Reaching (when kingdom is already here)

There is so much we haven’t reached.

And I suppose our whole lives will be spent reaching, striving, seeking.

And we may never get there, never see full glory before our last days, our last moments of sight and breath.

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Still, today, I strive.

Today I hope for a better heart- I beg for it.

“Make me better! Make me new!”

And today, I long for more presence–

more presence with myself,

more presence with the people I love,

more presence with the quiet,

where I find You,

all open-armed and waiting.

And You tell me to stop striving so hard,

to stop bullying myself into darkness,

to let go and accept grace in its fullest form of gift.

It’s rained a lot the past few weeks,

but when I see the sun, I’m letting her in-every ounce of shine I can take.

Today, I’m still purging, still cleaning and renewing and restoring whatever I can.

But I want it all fully–

fully purged,

fully restored,

fully renewed,

fully cleansed.

But the universe’s walls remind me that I’m bound for now.

I am here, and there’s no moving forward until eternity beckons.

Except.

Except it beckons now, it streams in like sunlight, pierces to the marrow and the bone and the heart of hearts.

So, I walk to the edge of myself, and ask You to take me from there.

I walk to the edge of myself, and ask You to lead me into eternal things–

“Let me grasp them,” I plead.

“Let me see them, know and understand.”

And there, You whisper mystery,

just enough to calm all of me, in all of my waiting.

“Until eternity,” You say.

“Until eternity, and even now.”

A Lesson on Seeking: the listening wait

It’s the theme of my heart, the struggle of waiting, the fight for a patient soul.

I’ve got a patience banner hanging in the kitchen, specifically for those moments of frantic chopping right before lunch, when we’re all snapping each other’s heads off, teary-eyed from low blood sugar.

The words tell me to be patient because He’s patient toward me.

FullSizeRender-58FullSizeRender-60 FullSizeRender-61And in those tiny moments that expand upon themselves, it’s all pressure, and it’s our eyes watching the clock tick and calendar days blast by, while we keep chopping, bone weary and afraid.

But waiting is the long-term, too, the weeks and months of asking, seeking, knocking.

And then He says, “Dear one, you knocked once and walked away before I even got to the door. You asked and closed your ears. You sought two seconds for instant gratification, and left thinking I’d abandoned you.”

If I must hang a patience banner over the microwave in the kitchen, maybe a perservere while waiting and remember to listen banner should be strewn across all walls, over every inch of square footage, wrapping itself around my apartment building and even entangling itself in my car.

Because I need to see the reminders every single place I tread, every minute of every day– or I forget.

And He doesn’t just answer once and move on to the next customer in the service line.

But He journeys with us through every answer, every closed and opened door, every adventure sought.

And we must escape ourselves, get out of the tiny hollows that consume us, because they are endless, bringing more impatience, more questions, more doubt.

We must move ourselves back into the quiet, where deepest waters flow;

we must hide out under vast wings of white, where shelter is always promised and never lost;

we must allow ourselves to be held still and silent in nothing but embrace;

we must open ears, heart, very soul, to discover peace in the constant seeking hours;

and we must not let our hands grow weary of knocking, or our tired fingers give up on the Voice who formed them with breath.

No, we must not give up on the listening wait.

 

A Lesson In The Tempest: seeking calmer seas

Jesus, Savior, pilot me…

This past week has been rough. It’s been, perhaps, trying in more realms than I’ve yet understood.

The phrase treacherous waters has been in my head.

Not just here in my tiny cockleshell of a world, but out there, too, in all the trembling hearts and hands and brokenness of this land-ocean covered world.

I first heard the song “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” at International Justice Mission’s Global Prayer Gathering. I’d never heard it, and I was absolutely moved to stillness.

And this week, it’s come up again, these phrases in my head and this picture of the sea and the Savior covering all of it with a stride of His peaceful hand.

I found out this week that a “cockleshell” isn’t just a shell, but also a “flimsy boat”. Well, aren’t we all riding violent seas in a wobbly and unsafe vessel?

So in my own emotional turmoil, I trust.

Chart and compass come from Thee…

We’re singing it at church Sunday, and you could make big bets on me crying a little when I help lead it.

Last night, I drove the boys to the grocery store about an hour before sundown. It was blaringly bright, the brilliance of the yellow-white.  I couldn’t see the cars, the color of stoplight, where I ended and everyone else began. It covered all of us and no one could escape it.

If I ride tempestuous seas and flail in the blackened water, my hope is that the bright light will guide.

When Eliot is screaming himself out of a nap and I’m crying  my way into his room, there are calm waters somewhere nearby.

When we admit we’re broken and find the truth between us once again, we calm our seas, and bright skies shine.

May we continue to trust.

When we went to Uganda in 2009, we stayed a few days on the Nile River. Moments passed when I couldn’t even believe I was there, that the calm and still of the water was actually right under my feet and surrounding every part of me. It was every calm that I needed in a place of hurt I couldn’t understand and a people I deeply loved.

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Today, that river reminds me, and I choose to be piloted. I choose to be lead, and I choose peace.