Thursday, January 1, 2009

Best of 2008

Top Ten + 1 of 2008 - in no certain order.
  • Menopause the Musical which caused us to laugh out loud at this particular phase of our lives
  • Spiritual Direction Training at Vineyard Central in Norwood
  • Silver Clay Class at Fairfield Community Arts Center - Christmas gift from Chuck
  • Easter dinner with Nabors family - a very warm and hospitable family
  • Volunteer opportunities at St. Raphael Social Services
  • Cortney moving into Hamilton area
  • Toddstock in Hawaii - of course!
  • Ike wind storm for many reasons
  • Counseling Conference in Columbus with Jeanie
  • Open House in my home to sell jewelry - mine and other crafters' work
  • 2008 Christmas with sister and brother-in-law - love Christmas with family

Blessings on your New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

When Love Comes to Town

I love the mystery of God incarnate moving from spirit to flesh and taking a tiny step into our world as a baby. God could have arrived in any form yet chose to show up as one of us in our most vulnerable form. Just as vulnerable and open as love when it comes into our lives in its truest form. A baby is probably as close as we can get to uncomplicated love – vulnerable, fragile and yet a powerful force to reckon with.

I’ve been thinking about how we look at the birth of Christ as the arrival of love. I just can’t seem to settle for that narrow of a story. I think it needs to be stretched much, much further. God is love – for all time. Forgive me for stating the obvious but God has always been with us even before we could sense the mystery of something more. Love was breaking through long before the birth of Christ and will continue to pierce our barriers. Why does this matter to me so much? It matters to me terribly because the Christmas story can easily become a story about anything but love. We can claim this story as our own and before we know it find ourselves believing that God loves only Christians. That is why we must remind ourselves that the son of God has always been present in God. That love, the same love that spurred the incarnation, was available long before the notion of Christianity. Christ himself didn’t bring the notion of Christianity with him but the hope of new life. New life is birthed out of love – real love.

I hope this Christmas you can look into the eyes of those people who are very different from you and remember that God loves them. The Spirit of Christmas is a Spirit of Love that transcends time and even the Christmas story itself. This Spirit of Christmas gives us reason to never consider war as an option. As the bumper sticker says to be "against the next war before it even gets started.” Love is not limited to a religion, an ideology, or race. U2 has a song titled, “When Love Comes to Town” which describes the transformation that takes place when love moves in. If only, in the Spirit of Christmas, we can let love come into our town and our hearts.

By the way, the image is artwork by Jeff Nabors.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Year 54

Year 54 and counting. As I get older I am more aware of the tension - the tension between finding my own voice and the need for community and relationships. I say that I couldn't care less about what others think but I don't know if that's true or not. I suspect I care very deeply. I have seen so many people come and go in my life for one reason or another and now I have so few good friends. At this point, I'm trying to learn how to hold onto these relationships with a healthy grip.

I took some time this morning on the day of my birth to reflect on where I stand on relationships after 54 years. I am still so insecure on where I stand with people and I find that pattern so frustrating. I know it's a pattern. This morning I was recalling my relationships with my parents and how that formed this pattern of insecurity over the first 18 years. I was never really certain where I stood with them. My parents fought as if my sister and I were not present, not really there. We could be going down the road at 60 miles an hour and mom would threaten to jump out of the car. My sister and I sitting in the back seat trapped and stunned. So many thoughts going through our young minds regarding our mother and our future. We saw enough violence that we learned relationships can turn on a dime.

Fifty four years and I am still trying to change this pattern. I am healthier in the sense that I have little or no tolerance for being treated as if I'm not present. At 54 I don't have time to be treated as if I don't exist. I am still working on finding ways to accept relationships for what they are and trying to have realistic expectations. I will be working on this the rest of my life because the old pattern is so embedded in my thoughts. The awareness of this pattern is a gift and allows me to step back and examine my responses to people. The biggest hurdle for me is accepting the fact that people are okay spending time with me. I know I have some attributes that people don't necessarily want to be around like sounding like a "know it all". I know it can also be very difficult being around a person dealing with depression and low energy. Some fun! At the same time, I know we are always extending grace to each other in one way or another. Grace allows us to truly be present in the life of each other.

Community and relationships are our most valued possessions as we get older - our most difficult and precious gifts. I still have some time and I hope some day that I will know how to receive and give these gifts.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Twenty Six and Counting

Twenty six years ago we were married at 2:30 in the afternoon at College Hill Presbyterian by three pastors: Ron Rand, Jerry Kirk, and Chuck's father, Branson C. Wiggins. Just a bit overkill but no one could doubt that we are really married. It was slightly rainy and a little bit warmer than it is today. There was a Thanksgiving Day parade in College Hill in which Chuck was stuck for a few minutes trying to get Graeter's ice cream for the reception in order to surprise me. He continues to be thoughtful and full of surprises to this day.

I don't know why I'm so blessed with a friend, a partner, and a soulmate. Not everyone gets that privilege in this life. He has been patient with my career choice to step out of teaching. He has been sensitive to my journey with depression. He is the most talented person I know. He quietly reads and continues to expand his knowledge base. Not only is he intelligent but he is also wise which is a wonderful combination. I have the utmost respect for him. He has made me laugh until I cry. His beliefs are based in the hope that we will evolve into the better versions of ourselves. He's a geek and an artist. He is a quiet man who plays a fierce accordion.

I don't know why this good fortune has been bestowed on me. There is no apparent reason for it. But I'll gladly take it and hope for many more years with the one I love.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday, November 7, 2008

Jeanie with the Cool Glasses

I attended a counseling conference this week at the invitation of my friend, Jeanie. Jeanie and I have much in common but our most exciting commonality is our passion for helping people move toward healing and wholeness. It floats our boats, charges our batteries, and blows our dresses up. Jeanie is an excellent counselor and she has walked me through many trying times in my life. Let's just say if she were charging me by the hour then I would have to ask the government for some of that financial bailout money.

At this conference I was able to find sessions where counseling and spirituality were linked. Interestingly enough, the speakers of these sessions spoke from the premise that you cannot separate counseling the person from their spiritual/religious stance. The emotional, psychological and spiritual are intertwined and getting to the root of an issue can often lie in the spiritual/religious realm. Of course, I was very excited to see a secular conference acknowledge the connection in their effort to move people toward psychological health.

I was able to attend sessions such as "Using Biblical Principles to Move Clients from Fear to Forgiveness", "Empowering Clients by Using Spirituality in Counseling", "Counseling Issues with Clients from Mainline Christian Denominations", and "Wired for Joy or Wired for Stress." Of course, I am not a counselor nor would I ever pretend to be. But I have been trained in Spiritual Direction and this renewed my passion for coming alongside people on their own spiritual journey.

I have three main reasons for my passion for Spiritual Direction. First, this is what I am gifted to do. I am a listener, an empathizer, and I love to see people move toward wholeness. I have my own life experiences with depression and loss so I know the struggle of moving from the pit to standing on my own two feet. Of course, I am still moving toward wholeness and I have far to go. I believe my woundedness is the gift that I bring to others. Second, I have worked as an Adult Discipleship Coordinator in a local church. I spent much time finding and developing programs to help people in the area of spiritual transformation. Of course, some of it was very helpful to others as well as myself. I don't totally discount programming. At the same time, I firmly believe that transformation cannot be programmed. I don't believe that Bible knowledge or reading a Christian book generally changes a person. I have seen people who know much about the Bible show the least love to others and there have been times that I can include myself in the category. I do believe that Spiritual Direction forces you to identify where you are with God and what is happening in your spiritual life right now. The goal of Spiritual Direction is to help you identify the desires of your heart and to do the work that helps you move toward those goals. Spiritual Direction is about your spiritual ideology, not mine. I am there to keep the focus on that point that the Holy Spirit is moving you toward. My job is to help you find answers to questions by drawing those answers from you. You are the only one who truly knows the answers and I dance the dance of listening and asking questions and then stepping out of the way of what is happening between you and God. This is truly spiritual transforming work because you are no longer in the knowledge realm but facing the reality of where you are spiritually and how it plays out in your life. It is the joy of being actively involved with your God in the healthiest way possible. The third reason I am passionate about Spiritual Direction is because I have been on a church staff and I have been in that place where I needed a truly safe and confidential place. The reality is that this place is very difficult to find in your own church. So my heart goes out to all the people on a church staff from the custodian to the pastor(s). Most church staffs consist of wonderful people trying to do an impossible job. Their need for support is immense and absolutely necessary. I know Spiritual Direction can be that place that recharges their batteries and helps them to return to an impossible task. Of course, you don't have to be on a church staff to need Spiritual Direction. Anyone can need it at any point in their life.

I am grateful to Jeanie for asking me to go with her. I just hope I have the energy and courage to pound the pavement to make myself available as a Spiritual Director. Just email me if you are interested, what to know more, or know of someone who might be interested. And if it's counseling that you need then I'll just refer you to my friend, Jeanie.