Book Review: Love, Henri

I first encountered Henri Nouwen about 8 years ago when my son was born.
He met me during the depths of a spiritual dark night of the soul. His words have been and continue to be a balm to my soul.

Henri is like a deeply insightful and empathetic friend. Reading his words feels like a conversation over coffee and a warm hug. I’m deeply thankful for his willingness to sit int the mystery of our faith and not claim black and white religion. If you want right and wrong opinions on faith, this is not your book. If you want encouragement in your journey of faith and to know you’re not alone, this is your book. I would also recommend his other works for this same reason.

Love, Henri is a beautiful collection of letters. It gives a deep and personal insight into Henri’s personal relationships. The way he encourages and comes alongside is so intentional and lovely. He was and continues to be the hands and feet of Jesus through his words and memories.

This book in particular is easy to read because like a collection of prayers you can easily pick it up at any time and read a letter. It’s not essential to read it in order or in one sitting.

If you are looking for grace, peace and encouragement this book is a great start.

 

*I received this book in exchange for my honest review from Blogging for Books.

Grief & Loss

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This past week was hard. We had to say goodbye to our cats. We’ve had two sweet cats for the past ten years. They’ve been constant companions and loving. Until the last few years they were a very happy part of our family. Adding kids brought stress to their little lives and once we had our third child they were no longer happy. In the past 6 months they’ve been peeing on our kids things. We’ve been to the vet, checked on medical issues, tried all sorts of behavioral aids, etc. to no avail. It was time.

It’s funny how making the right choice is hardly ever the easy choice. In some ways it would have been easier to pretend like they were happy, and just clean the pee and complain about them. But, the truth was they weren’t happy. That’s why they were acting out. I pray they are adopted by a sweet little lady that just wants to cuddle and pet them.

This was one of the hardest choices I’ve ever made. I never planned for them to not be apart of our family. Grief has come in waves and washed over me at the least expected times. Peace with a decision doesn’t mean that grief won’t come. It comes fast and hard. Just less twisted and dark than it would have if you weren’t expecting it or weren’t willing to sit in the muck.

So if you’re sitting in the muck or resisting the muck, just let go. Rest in the Father’s arms. Cry those tears and name those losses.

Grief
like waves it crashes upon my soul
each choice carries loss within its core

Painful and bleeding
grief oozes from open wounds

Welcome, welcome
name each loss
feel deeply, don’t withdraw

I hold each in the palm of my hand
letting hot tears wash over, cleansing the wound
I let go

A scar remains, bearing witness to pain
grief and healing
freedom

Space for your Sabbath

Today was a hard sabbath day for me. I’ll share more later, but these words arrived in my inbox and spoke to me. He’s listening. He sees my weariness. I’m not alone. Grief is hard, but it’s purposeful and life-giving.

So, if that’s where you are today, drink deeply friends.

For everything there is a season…

Sometimes on the Sabbath
all you can do is
settle into the soft body of yourself
and listen to what it says.

Listen to
the exhaustion that is deeper than tiredness
the hunger that is for more than food
the thirst that is for more than drink
the longing for comfort that is more than physical.

On the Sabbath
body and soul reach out for time of a different sort
time that is full of space rather than activity:
time to watch the burning bush in your own back yard…
the movement of the wind among bare branches…
the last leaf that clings to the branch before its final letting go.

Letting go is hard,
letting go of that which no longer works
that which no longer brings joy and meaning
that which is no longer full of life.

It seems cruel
That something that used to be so beautiful
should fall to the ground
sinking into the earthy mud along with everything else that is dying,
no longer recognizable for what it used to be.

It seems cruel but it is the way of things.
One generation gives its life for the next.
One season slips away so another can come.
One crop of fruit falls from the tree so that more can be borne.
One wave recedes while another gathers strength
to crash upon the shore.

It seems cruel
but it is the rhythm of things
And rhythm has its own beauty.

by Ruth Haley Barton 

Meditation & Stillness

By Dingzeyu Li
By Dingzeyu Li

Well, 31 days of October have past. I can’t say I wrote all that I wanted to, or that I intended to for the 31 Days series, but I was reminded that I have limits. Especially as a mama of three wee ones, I need to honor those limits and not punish myself for having them.

I have been thinking a lot about stillness and meditation lately. I am re-reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. She has a very different journey than mine and the first time I read it I was not in a good place to receive anything from that book. I was too caught up in the judgement of the book; is this right or wrong, etc. This time around, I’m more at peace with myself and my faith and know that God can speak truth from anything or anywhere, not just Christian writing and language. I’m finding her writing on meditation and stillness especially provoking.

Then, this weekend I read this article, Practicing Stillness and Silence on The Art of Simple. Do you practice meditation? or silence and solitude? I’d love to hear what works for you. I’m often so daunted by just the idea of doing it I procrastinate until I’m in bed, horizontal and thinking…”I should really meditate right now” and then promptly fall asleep. But, I do want to practice this art, so I’d love ideas on how you got started or what keeps you from trying.

31 Days of Becoming Me – Day 17: Social Media & Comparison

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There’s so many pathways in the topic of comparison. In this digital age, it’s easier than ever to compare ourselves with others. This is most unfortunate since we are seeing others put their best perceived selves out there and generally comparing them with our worst selves. Other than Glennon from Momastery, I don’t see a lot of people hanging their baggage out for others to peek and pry into (one of the reasons I love Glennon). It’s photos of vacations, of dates and gifts and perfect kids. Facebook and Instagram are notorious for this. Instagram is only slightly better (in my opinion) because it’s less about the words and more about the photo.

by ownernation.us
by ownernation.us
Anjelah of anjelah.com writes this:

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media and how it can affect our spirit. Listen when I tell you that your journey is your own, specially tailored for you and nobody can take that from you. There are so many special gifts along the road waiting for you and only you. When you look at what other people have and start comparing it to what you have, you may start to devalue something that is actually pretty special. It’s special because it’s specifically for you at this point in your life.

I think this is the same for who you are. If we are comparing who we are to what other people do or present to the world that they are we are setting purse up for failure. The beauty of who we are resides in us alone, we cannot find it in another.

In March earlier this year, I decided to take a break from Facebook, indefinitely.  It felt momentous at first. What would I be missing out on. Would anybody notice I was gone? Would I miss it? 

For me, Facebook had this drug-like quality. I hated it with a passion most of the time (except for the quizzes, loved those things), but I couldn’t stop myself from checking it. It was a boredom trigger. Waiting at school pick-up? just a quick check. A few spare minutes? check. On and on it went. I had taken the app off my phone, but that only hindered me slightly.

Then, I had several ‘friends’ make comments on Facebook that I couldn’t un-hear, do you know what I’m taking about? Snap judgements that people made that felt like judgement passed on me.  I’d brood about these comments and be angry or hurt far past an appropriate passing of time. And worst of all, it was damaging those relationships because I now filtered it through the comments they said. I started asking friends, “how does it make you feel?” Nobody, nobody said “it’s life-giving, I feel so connected or isn’t it great?” It was a mixed bag of, “It kind of helps me stay connected,” and “I wish I’d never gone on it, but now I can’t give it up.”

I made the choice to leave Facebook, thinking I might be back soon. But I haven’t gone back, and truthfully, I haven’t missed it much either. It’s not without it’s trade-offs. There are things I miss out on. But, overall I’m a healthier more integrated person because of it. My spirit is lighter and less encumbered. It may not be for everyone, but it has been the right choice for me.

Have you ever taken a break from social media? Why? How has it worked for you? I’d love to hear your experience.

31 Days of Becoming Me – Day 16: Self-Acceptance and Self-Knowing

31Days2015headerIn David Benner’s book The Gift of Being Yourself he writes:

“Self-acceptance and self-knowing are deeply interconnected. To truly know something about yourself, you must accept it. Even things about yourself that you most deeply want to change must first be accepted — even embraced. Self-transformation is always preceded by self-acceptance. And the self that you must accept is the self that you actually and truly are – before you start your self-improvement projects!”

Yikes. At least that’s my first reaction. But, it’s true isn’t it. Why do so many of our self-improvement projects fail? How can I become more compassionate, healthy, kind, etc. without realizing how I lack in the first place?

I’m not talking about taking a trip down misery lane and berating ourselves for our inequities. That’s not the goal or the focus.  It’s more about self-awareness. Being aware of who we really are is the starting point. And, we might find out some things about ourselves that are surprisingly beautiful and good.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the kind of mother I am. When I measure myself up against culture’s standards I don’t pass. When I compare myself to my mother and mother-in-law I don’t pass, depending on the criteria. But comparison isn’t the starting place.

If I start with what kind of mother I am and what kind of mother I want to be, I find that I’m actually more aligned than I thought I’d be. Perfect? No way.

I want to be an integrated woman, one who brings her whole self to her family and models that for her kids. One who loves deeply and respects her limits and the limits of her family. I want to train my kids to be independent, thoughtful, compassionate and kind. They’re only 2, 5 and 7 years old, but I’m modeling the best I am able to be these things.

If that’s the kind of mom I want to be and am on the path to becoming, can I fill our schedule to the brim and be involved in every committee myself and every activity for them? Absolutely not. So I don’t measure up to the super-mom standard. But that’s not what I want in the first place.

This is unique to me, and you have your own unique design and desires. Only you can become self-aware and self-accepting of yourself.


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31 Days of Becoming Me – Day 15: Stop Apologizing for Being Yourself

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photo-by SnapbyThree MY
photo by SnapbyThree MY

There’s another 31 Days writer I’m following. Mary writes at Giving Up on Perfect. 31 Days of Not Sorry. When I saw the topic I was intrigued. What’s that about? Here’s an excerpt from her blog:

What I’ve been thinking lately is that all that apologizing is just one more way I’m trying to be perfect. And just like all my other attempts at perfection? It’s exhausting. And I don’t think all this trying…and failing…and apologizing is what God has in mind for my life, for me.

I love this. I know I’m guilty of apologizing for this reason. Why? Because in the past I really want to be perfect and be perceived as perfect by others. But that’s ridiculous.

No one is perfect and pretending that we are or that it’s something we can attain is putting our best false self forward. That’s not the authentic life. 

When we put up these kind of walls, it puts distance between ourselves and others. That’s not our goal. Our goal is intimacy and that’s only achieved by being vulnerable and sharing our true selves.

Part of our becoming is admitting we’re human. Our humanity is not something to apologize for. We are all human. It’s how we were created. Not meant for perfection but for living. Let’s choose to inhabit our being. Don’t apologize for being you.