On Why I Have Been Silent Here

I always feel slightly embarrassed when someone asks for my website because its been quiet here…I mean I haven’t written here since May! Let me tell you why.

You may have noticed the world is, well, a bit noisy. I mean, forget our closets and garages…there is so much internet clutter. I fear what this is doing to our brains, our souls, and our connection with God. And to be one who writes on the internet…it’s even more sneaky clutter. The constant wondering what people think and if there’s enough “traffic” and “likes” and “hits” and all of it is enough to lose one’s own soul…which is well, ironic given that big logo up in the corner says “Reclaim Your Soul.” I can’t exactly do that when I’m swimming in internet clutter, let alone internal clutter.

So I am going silent. A lot.

I don’t know how often I will write here on the blog, honestly. I chose to go silent here back in June 2017 (I went so silent I didn’t even tell you here!) and it’s been oh-so-good. Silence is where substantial soul depth is born. Silence is where one sees all of the clutter and stays long enough for it to begin its departure. Silence is where our false self meets its demise (again, and again, and again). Silence is a place to meet God. And if I’m going to do all the things I say I do up in that big picture up there, I have to be silent.

I can only speak when I am silent.

I can only lead when I am led.

I can only stop seeking “likes” when I am seeking God.
(so cheesy and so real, why does it have to be that way? like a poorly alliterated sermon. I digress.)

But if you want to stay connected (which would be great) you can subscribe to my newsletters, they come about once every month or two and are born from silence. My subscribers get what comes from my silent space. If you do you also get my free ebook on praying without words. In the newsletter I offer a brief pondering, a practice (a way to connect with God), what I am reading, and my gigs (writing, speaking, retreats, spiritual direction, etc.).

Recently published writing includes Finding Balance in Limitations at the Redbud Post. Next month I have my most exciting article yet at Christianity Today, I will come back and update the link when its published. You can find me at The Mansio Center as a spiritual director as well.

Peace to you (and some silence, too).
-Kimberly

Noticing Transformation Moments Part 3: A New Way

Last year I began this series on Noticing Transformational Moments. I wrote about Part 1: Awareness and Part 2: Acceptance. They are longer than my normal posts and would be used as great morning quiet time / meditation material. The response to these was more than I expected, I could tell this was resonating with readers.

However, after our third child was born last spring I never returned to it. A lovely reader emailed me this week to ask where the third part was because the first two were speaking so deeply to her. I had to, embarrassingly, respond that I never actually finished it even though I had promised it at the end of part 2. I am finally completely part 3 today. I pray it leads to newness that breaths life into your soul.

To offer a brief recap of Part 1: Awareness is the essential first step in soul-level transformation. While what we think about ourselves is important, it’s not just about thinking your way to “a new you” as self-help books may purport. Becoming aware of transformational moments is more of an inner disposition that allows all moments to become transformational fodder: fight with a spouse, frustration at work, mad at yourself for stupid mistakes, apathy toward a certain individual or issue…all of these can be guideposts to deeper transformation. You don’t have to look further than your own day to experience life-changing invitations. Read more about Awareness here.

A brief recap of Part 2: Acceptance is the antidote to shame and feelings of not being loved. Once we become aware of our honest inner disposition, we move onto acceptance of ourselves just as we are. It is powerful to enter into Christ-like acceptance. In many Christian circles Acceptance gets a bad rap because of two very common, and dangerous, misconceptions about what acceptance really is. I expose those in my Part 2 post and tell you what Acceptance actually is and how to engage it in your life. I also give an optional prayer experience on how to integrate acceptance in your own life. Read my post on Acceptance here.

Part 3 is about finding A New Way. After you have become aware of all the transformational invitations in your very everyday life and have brought your exposed self into the presence of Love, what is next? Just these two movements of the soul have enough power to change the way you see your regular life in all of it’s limitations and joys. Yet having a path forward is undeniably helpful in your desire for growth. So if we are not just manufacturing self-help positive thinking, what are we going for? Glad you asked 😉

As I mentioned in part 2, I am going to follow the pattern of Jesus Christ and how he offered people a new way. In reading the Gospels you can see him bringing awareness to their motivations, acceptance of their personhood, and then offering them a new way. We are going to explore that new way.

What is A New Way?

The new way is always the way toward healing and wholeness.

The path to get there is always unique to our own story.

Jesus offered a new way to everyone he met, some call it “Good News.” His big desire was, in part, to bring the Kingdom of God through opening the hearts of people to the Love of God. There are so many things that get in the way of receiving and giving this Love, and he knew that. He also knew each of our journeys are different. My hang-ups are unique to me, created by the difficulties of my story and personality, just as yours are to you. So when Jesus interacted with people, he offered them a new way particular to their story, and it was truly Good News.

Lets take a look at a few of the random and strange things Jesus did to offer others a new way to the people he loved:

  • He spits in mud and makes a blind man see
  • Tells a rich man to sell everything you have and give to the poor
  • Exhorts a promiscuous woman to go and sin no more
  • Tells a man to let the dead bury their own dead
  • Heals a invalid and tells him to take up his mat walk

Jesus is walking the earth ever dismantling each individual’s particular blocks to giving and receiving God’s Love. He knows their motivations and speaks directly to their hearts. His Good News is the same for each of us, but the new way to that Good News is nuanced. For us it could be in the form of:

  • Words of comfort, identity, challenge, courage, humility
  • Call to action
  • Call to active inaction
  • Call to be seen
  • Call to be hidden
  • Call to go
  • Call to sit with deep unanswered questions

So how do I find A New Way in my own life?

This is where we move into territory that can be new for many, so stay with me, there are really good things ahead. We are going to explore a way of listening for the Voice of the Spirit through the Gospels. Ignatius of Loyola created this way of prayer over 500 years ago. It endures today because it is a transformational way to meet with the Living God of the thousands years old Gospels stories.

Two essentials to embarking on the New Way journey:

  • If we are going to hear our Guide’s voice on our new way, we must be listening. Rather than spending all of our time in prayer talking, we must change our approach, and sometime drastically. Begin to adjust your idea of prayer so that listening is just as legitimate way of praying as speaking words.
  • Assured by Matthew, the writer of one book of Good News, God knows our needs before we even ask (Matthew 6:8). So let’s trust that He knows us, sees us, and the Holy Spirit at work in the world is on the same mission as Jesus Christ when he walked on earth: To dismantle our individual blocks to giving and receiving Love. This in ultimately and invitation to rest. God sees you in your vulnerability, trust his Love.

Begin by quieting your own heart. Take some deep breaths, be a quiet place so you will be able to listen to the movements of God’s voice. Let go of the fear of hearing “nothing” or doing it incorrectly; just trust the process. We will debrief at the end. You are in a safe place here.

Choose a short passage in the Gospels; anywhere Jesus is interacting with others will work.

Some possible choices:

  • John 5:2-5
  • Luke 19:1-10
  • Luke 15:1-7
  • Matthew 21:28-32

You will read through the passage several times, each time expanding your focus.

First, read through this passage slowly and take in the scene. Allow your imagination to construct the scene. It will be what your mind creates, your imagination need not be perfect or vivid; it need only be engaged. You are simply creating space within your mind and heart to connect with God; trust He can and will use your imagination exactly as it comes.

Pause

Second, read through the passage again. Linger in the scene and be there with all of your senses:

  • Look about the scene, what do you notice around you?
  • Are there many people, just a few?
  • Is it hot or cool outside?
  • What is the weather like?
  • Does the air have a smell?
  • What noises do you hear around you?
  • Who is talking? What is Jesus doing?
  • Where are you in this scene? Are you an observer or interacting somewhere?
  • What does it feel like to be there?

Pause

  • Third, read it again to refresh your imagination as you engage with Christ. Pay attention to your feelings.
  • Do you long to ask a question to someone in the scene? Do so, and wait for an answer.
  • Is there a particular experience someone else is going through that draws you?
  • Where is Jesus in relation to you? Are you interacting? Is he speaking to you? What might he be saying? Maybe you want to speak to him?

Go with your instincts in the scene and be open to your interaction with Jesus.

Write down your experience, thoughts, and feelings about this imaginative prayer exercise.

Are there other ways of receiving A New Way?

There are!! And there are many. I will share another important one below. First let me say I have engaged Ignatian Prayer (above) more times than I can count. I regularly return to this way of listening and find it a refreshing way to hear God’s voice. Many times I understand what God is inviting me to, but it is not always immediately understandable. There have been times when I have written down my experience with no discernable understanding, only to be completely surprised weeks later when it all unfolded and I understood what God was speaking. As I wrote a few weeks back for The Mudroom, it is good to remember we transform at the pace of nature, not at the pace of a smartphone. Be patient with yourself, rest in God’s love to unfold His ways to you as you seek.

We are never alone in our seeking of A New Way. The Spirit is ever speaking to our souls, drawing us to the Love of God; as we slow down to listen we can begin to hear. While we are equipped to experience that “hearing” in our own prayer life, it is also be healthy and helpful to experience hearing God’s invitation to us in the context of relationships. If you are in a place of longing to experience God in your life just as it is right now I highly recommend Spiritual Direction. It is a safe place to explore your deepest inner places. There is no prerequisite for spiritual direction except interest.

I highly recommend you find a trained director to meet with you. Most meet once or maybe twice a month. I offer direction via skype from anywhere in the world and in person in the Chicagoland area at The Mansio Center. You can find a Spiritual Director near you through graftedlife.org or sdiworld.org (the database here offers direction from all religious backgrounds. If you are seeking Christian spiritual direction you will need to be sure to vet that out yourself.).

The inner journey is THE journey that will transform your life. It doesn’t offer the quick fix like shopping online or binge watching your favorite show, but it is satisfying in all the ways you want your life to be.

Thanks for coming along on Noticing Transformational Moments. The final part 4 will come soon. We will explore what this means for our relationships, the Gospel, and the world. Be ready to have your mind opened wider than it has ever been in relationship to the Gospel. I can almost promise that. 😉

Blessings friends,

Kimberly

The Welcome of What Is

Today I have the privilege of writing over at the Mudroom!  I encourage you to head over, there are so many talented and beautiful souls writing on the nitty gritty of real life I can all but guarantee you will find yourself in their words. 

There are many rhythms that carry me through daily life and into the presence of God. As a Midwesterner, the four seasons have become a perpetual joy and sometimes annoyance, but a cadence upon which my body, mind, and soul have come to rely.  As an Anglican, the liturgy, Eucharist, and church calendar have carried me through cynicism, healing, anger, and rebirth. As a mother, the demand of a baby’s nighttime hunger, the emotional needs of a child, and the necessity of self-care have been the ever-opportune situations where I meet God for strength and inner filling.

But amid all of this, there is one inner movement that can distort these rhythmic invitations into mere thoughtless motion…[read the rest at the Mudroom]

The How (and Why) of Slowing Down

 

Friends! I am alive. I mean several things from this, but first and foremost, I am actually alive and breathing and thankful to be. The past four months have been everything I never expected, have you ever had a season like that? I expected to be writing here, working on other projects and enduring a Chicago winter with young kids. But wow! Then something takes you by surprise and unfurls a series of events that you didn’t see coming…it’s been that sort of year for me so far.

Often in my life those events have been bad. They’ve struck me out of nowhere and kept me reeling until I hopefully stumble upon that thing that I need to help me through. This time the inciting event was more positive. Undoubtedly stress-inducing, but positive. We decided to move. With three young kids and in winter. It turned out to be exactly as fun as it sounds 😉 But the discernment process we took ourselves through undeniably pointed in that direction.

I joke that we said some cosmic “yes” and the planets all aligned. The short story is that we decided to move one week, told three neighbors the next week, and by the following week had buyers and a contract on the home we were selling and we were under contract to buy a home we love in the town we wanted to be in. Four weeks later, we moved. We never even put our home on the market. One of my sisters joked after we had moved into our new home, “I feel like you were just starting to talk about the idea of moving…” Yea, yea, me, too. >>Because we were<< We’ve already been there over a month now! We are getting settled in and creating home within our new walls.

While the process of deciding to move was a bit slow, the selling and buying and moving all happened very quickly. I would say so quickly that my mind and heart couldn’t really catch up. I had to just do the work of packing and parenting nonstop every.single.day. For over a month I didn’t sit down once during the day, I would just collapse into bed at night replaying to-do lists as I tried to sleep. I was packing, taking care of kids, getting moving boxes, completing paperwork, and making sure every one ate, because these little monkeys are always eating. always eating. always. But this big shift for our family was taking place and I couldn’t be present to it at all, I had to make the shift from human being to human doing.

I had a ton to do in the short period of time and this was totally the best way to handle life for the time being. But then. BUT THEN. It happened just like it always happens. Life wants to get back to normal but I am no longer the person I was before it all changed. I have been moving at light speed to get it all done. There is just so much urgent. I lose any sense of being present to myself and then it happens: I lose any sense of God.

God hasn’t shifted, left, moved, but I have been so noisy there is no way I can hear any voice that calls. Busyness always snuffs out love, you know. And since God is love (1 John 4:8) there is neither mathematically nor soulfully any ways I am going to meet Him when I am this busy.

 

{Busyness ≠Love ; God = Love ; Therefore: Busyness ≠God (that’s the mathematical part I was referring to, just in case I lost you ;-)}

 

To get back to me I have to be with me. I have to be with #allthefeels, as they say. I have to slow down and allow the eruption of thoughts, ideas and fears and sadness come up. The only way through, well, is through.

Sometimes I can just return to myself through silence and breath, but there are times I have been so caught up in external or internal noise that I can’t slow down without getting more deeply into my body. This time I needed restorative yoga to bring me back present. I didn’t just need a class of it, I need a week of it to reacquaint myself with my body, my life, my soul. I needed to let tears come when they might (even though that’s sort of weird in yoga class…whatev). I needed to wake up early and sit in a quiet house and literally just breath as the sun rose. I needed to spend a night at a monastery and sit quietly in a huge empty chapel imaginatively walking through the Gospel of John.

Have you ever been there? Maybe you are there now. You’ve lost your way and are stuck in internal or external noise that keeps you knowing up from down. You need clarity to make decisions; you are judgmental or hard on yourself. You want to slow down but then you’ve been so busy for so long you are scared at what might bubble up if you do slow down.

It can happen to any of us. We are certainly not out of God’s view or his care when we find ourselves in this interiorly disconnected place, we are simply not present to ourselves or to God. The work of self-care **and dare I say true Christian spirituality** is to become present to Life, to the great I AM… so we can bring our great “WHAT IS” to this great “I AM” being ever-transformed into Christ’s image. But we must always come exactly as we are wherever we find ourselves. That’s always all we’ve got.

I think we all know we have turned into a foolish society with the inundation of things things things and stuff stuff stuff and noise noise noise. But the real thing to focus on is that it all keeps us from love, love, LOVE. Because while the things, stuff, and noise certainly hurt our relationships and our lives and ultimately leaves us empty, fixing those things is not to be the initial focus of our soul’s returning… We first need to do the work of returning ourselves Love itself.

Thankfully there is a way out of that scary noise that keeps us from ourselves: it’s silence.

Silence is the gateway to our souls and to God.

To be in silence truly is a gift and it can truly be scary. Jane Vennard writes in her book Be Still:

“We long for silence and ye we are afraid of silence. For when the outer world is quiet, we begin to hear our inner noise. Our heads are filled with chatter, our hearts with emotions. We replay history and rehearse the future. We wander away from the present moment by making lists, or planning supper, or anticipating an argument, or remembering who said what to whom at yesterday’s meeting. In the silence we begin to realize that we are everywhere but here.”

So the real thing to do is not to rant about things, stuff, or noise (though critical thoughts on these issues is undoubtedly helpful and fruitful), the real question for your own soul’s “how-to” is How do I return back to Love? You need to be able to answer this question, because life needs to be full of returnings. Some call it repentance. It begins with a shift in our internal direction.

Try taking 3-10 minutes of silence at some point in the day for the next few days (set a timer if you need, I have done this very often when I have just a short amount of time but don’t want to be checking the clock). Breathe deeply and continue to bring your mind back to your breath whenever it wanders. Don’t judge it for wandering, Henri Nouwen explains in his book Spiritual Direction, that this is what the silence is for, for bringing up all these things that are jammed in your soul with no where to go. So be hospitable to yourself and let the silence be a gift to you.

I would love to know (and I bet others would too!):

-How do you make time for silence in your life?

-What does silence do for your soul?