Perfectly Me

Finally, I’m coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am, that I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself. . . . The unaccepted self that stands in my way and will continue to do so as long as it is not accepted, when it has been accepted, it will be my own stepping stone to what is above me. –Thomas Merton, A Search for Solitude

I have been meditating on the words of Thomas Merton and James Finley. Each morning, they invite me to have a rendezvous with God in silence and to believe that the desire to please God does in fact please God and that receiving God’s love is what pleases God most. God has awakened me to these truths, and I’ve set an intention to not break faith with my awakened heart. 

In my latest rendezvous, Merton, Finley, and God invited me to accept myself as I am. So, as I go through my day, I ask God to help me become aware of who I am. This is what I noticed.

I noticed that I often prefer to be alone, I come alive when I’m outside, and I don’t like change unless it’s my idea. I noticed my attachment to money and the thought that I’m indispensable.

I also began to notice how I interpret people’s words or actions to mean that who I am or what I do isn’t enough. Before I know it, I’m forming a plan to improve myself.

Noticing is freedom. As soon as I notice, I can ask myself,

What if your writing doesn’t need to be more literary?

What if it’s okay that you didn’t call that person?

What if your “mistake” is how you learn?

What if you don’t need to do so much in a day?

What if you “failed,” not because you aren’t trying hard enough, but because you’re trying too hard?

What if being who you are right now is enough?

When I listen to the voice of Love asking me these questions, I begin to accept myself as I am. It’s as if I were an artist painting a masterpiece with Jesus beside me. He says, “You can put your brush down. It’s perfect just the way it is.”

I can see the flaws, and I think that one more touch here or there might fix it. But Jesus gently takes the brush from my hand. “Trust me. If you could see yourself through my eyes, you would know you’re perfect.”

I let his words and the tone of his voice sink in. My shoulders relax and my belly softens. Wonder fills my chest. This is what it feels like to be perfect.

Being perfect doesn’t mean being perfectly loving, perfectly kind, perfectly consistent, or perfectly compassionate. It doesn’t mean flawless. It doesn’t fulfill a universal standard of good or beautiful. It means being perfectly me. And since no one else is me but me, no one else but God and I know what that looks like or feels like. 

“Be perfect,” Jesus says, “perfectly you, just as God is perfectly God.” 

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I was neurotic for years. I was anxious and depressed and selfish. Everyone kept telling me to change. I resented them and I agreed with them, and I wanted to change, but simply couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried. Then one day someone said to me, Don’t change. I love you just as you are. Those words were music to my ears: Don’t change, Don’t change. Don’t change . . . I love you as you are. I relaxed. I came alive. And suddenly I changed! — Anthony de Mello, The Song of the Bird.

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Love Mischief for the World

I joined the You Are Enough 8-Day Tapping Solution Challenge. I downloaded the Tapping Solution app and am spending 15 minutes each day tapping along with Nick Ortner. I love that this is an easy way to allow my mind and body to sink into truth I have awakened to. 

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Apple on a tree” by Greg Clarke. Used with permission.
Quote from Thomas Merton, A Search for Solitude (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1996  220-221
“Pomme” by Kristina Servant. Used with permission. 
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com

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In Christ, I Rise

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
— Colossians 3:3

Hidden in Christ, I rise.
I leave the tomb of freedom
and emerge 
awakened to Love.
For an eternal moment,
I tasted the completeness of it,
the exquisite settledness of myself
in all that is.

Yet I rise tethered
to a graced discontent.
That eternal moment remains hidden in me,
but I cannot live out my intention
to abide there.

And so I pray,
that I will not break faith
with my awakened heart.

Though I lose you,
you never lose me.

Though I turn away,
I can turn again
and find you
right here.

 

So, in this way then, we start to see that as I start to have faith in my moments of awakening, I will not break faith with my awakened heart. In my most childlike hour, in the arms of the beloved, reading the child the good night story; in the pause between two lines of a poem, lying awake at night, listening to the rain, I was intimately accessed by a fullness without which my life will be forever incomplete. And having tasted it, I’m incomplete without it, but I, by my own finite powers, cannot find my way to abide in it. This is the graced discontent of the seeker; that one was granted something, and I will not break faith with my awakened heart . . .

And I also know, the intuition is, that in this moment, it isn’t as if something more was given to me, but a curtain opened and the infinite love that’s always been given to me, it touched me. And so, I then seek to know how can I then learn to accept in humility that actually I tend to get absorbed in my obsessions over what I think is the meaning of it all, and I catch myself imposing of it upon myself, the very dilemma I can’t bear. And here I am. Here I am.

And then Merton says that it doesn’t matter very much because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things. We’re staying in the joy of the cosmic dance, which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us for it beats in our very blood whether we want it to or not. — James Finley, Turning to the Mystics Thomas Merton Meditation 1

Credits and References:
“Wheat” by FarbenfroheWunderwelt. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Hidden with Christ in God

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
–Colossians 3:3 (NIV)

She is dead
but not lost.
She is 
hidden with Christ in God–
consummated
whole
one
decomposing and becoming
soil.
The grain of wheat fell to the earth and died.

In the tomb of the earth
she is free
of all that held her back
of all that was not her.

She is not lost.
She is found
hidden
ready to rise.

We’re on this earth to learn to love. That love [is] in God, in death, so the dead aren’t dead. They’re not annihilated; they’re consummated. And they don’t go anywhere, because in God, we live and move and have our being.
James Finley, Turing to the Mystics, Introductions for the Practice

Credits and References:
“Soil” by Tina Reynolds. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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With Christ, I Die

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
— Colossians 3:3

In the silence,
I close my eyes
and die.

I release
all I love
all I desire,
all I wanted to do
all I wished to become
all that is not resolved.
My hands open one last time.
I release my life.

We breathe our last breaths together,
yours laboured with every breath ever breathed,
mine among them.

I have feared this moment more than any other.
Now, I am here
in the valley of the shadow of death.
You are with me.

We go into death,
your heart beating in mine,
your voice a knowing,
that pulses,
beats,
speaks.

In me, you have always and will always
live and move and have your being.
I will never, never, never
not know who you are.
In a moment, 
I will take in my breath
and your soul will come to me
like a needle to a magnet.

I breathe my last
and the illusion
that we were ever separate
vanishes.

 


From all eternity, God eternally contemplates who you eternally are hidden with Christ in God before the origins of the universe. This is the unborn you that never began, because God never, never, never, never, never has not known who you eternally are, who God eternally contemplates you to be . . . 
Mechthilde of Magdeburg says, God says to her, “Do not fear your death for when that moment comes to, I will take in my breath and your soul will come to me like a needle to a magnet.” See? So, when God inhales and takes us, we go back home, like, lesson learned. We’re on this earth to learn to love. That love [is] in God, in death, so the dead aren’t dead. They’re not annihilated; they’re consummated. And they don’t go anywhere, because in God, we live and move and have our being.

James Finley, Turing to the Mystics, Introductions for the Practice

Credits and References:
“Extinguished” by Earl. Used with premission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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Will I Enter This Holy Week?

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As Jesus pauses
before he enters Jerusalem,
I pause here.

In the silence we share,
I descend from head to heart
and pass through the doorway
of Love
into Oneness 
and rest in my Beloved,
the Ground of our being.

As Jesus opens his eyes and mounts the donkey, 
I rise and set an intention with him

to not break the thread
of oneness,
of belovedness

to return again and again to the Ground of our being.

As I enter into this holy city,
this holy week,
this holy day,
let me be present
moment
by
moment.

This holy palm branch.
This holy house plant.
This donkey.
These birds outside my window.
These voices crying out.
These voices crying out.
These feelings of hope and dread.
These feelings of welcome and resistance.

Each step of the donkey,
each step I take,
we arrive
home.
Arriving.
Home.
Welcoming.
Letting go.
This step 
a birth.
This step
a death.

In the silence,
I pause before this holy week
and set an intention
to not break the thread 
of Presence
as we step into
what is.


 To pray is
to descend
with the mind
into the heart,
and there to stand
before the face of the Lord,
ever-present,
all seeing,
within you.
Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894)

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Love Mischief for the World

Our seventh Lenten question asks: Will you enter this holy week (another week that is holy because God is in it) and Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter in which we contemplate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus). In my poem, I echo a number of voices and images that help me enter into each moment of this week: scripture, Theophan the Recluse, James Finley (not break the thread), Thich Naht Hanh (Arriving. Home), Thomas Keating and Mary Mrozowski (Welcoming. Letting Go). What helps you enter into this present moment grounded in Love?

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Entry of Christ into Jerusalem” (Lebanon) Michel Bakni, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Palm Frond” by Samuel John. Used with permission.
“Walking” from Pixabay. Public Domain.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Easter, Lent, Mindfulness, Mystical, Poetry, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Weakness Are You Invited to Befriend?

What does she want to talk about? What am I doing wrong? I wondered when I received an email from SoulStream‘s Executive Director asking if we could set up a Zoom time to check in.

A wise inner voice told me that I had nothing to fear. Deb’s checking in with every person on the leadership team regularly. She’s there to support you. Besides, when has she ever criticized or belittled you? Never. You know your fear is irrational.

I knew it. I also knew that if I was doing something unhelpful, she would be gentle, and it would be for our good, and yet–

And yet, I can be oblivious at times, totally unaware that what I’ve done or said may have undermined or hurt someone. Having it pointed out is so embarrassing.

Even though my fear was irrational, I promised God I would listen to it. So, I welcomed it, tapped with it, and God and I listened. It didn’t keep my anxiety from rising again or my mind from trying to figure out what Deb wanted to talk about, but it did enable me to return to picturing her loving smile and sensing God’s comforting presence.

I had a reasonable night’s sleep before our Zoom call. Thankfully it was in the morning. We had a lovely conversation. No big reveal. No big agenda. She just wanted to get my help with something (which is exactly what she said in the email when we set the time to meet, but I missed that part).

I felt rather sheepish afterward and took that feeling to God, too. God reminded me of what I heard James Finley say a few days before in an interview with Kristen Oates.

One week I was working on this talk. I think it was on Meister Eckhart, but I don’t remember. And I personally thought the talk was particularly profound. I thought it was really, you know, “This is a good one.” And when I got to St. Monica’s church, I realized I forgot my brilliant talk at home. I only had thirty minutes before the group started. So, I tried to find a room to sit down and scribble out what I could remember, and all the doors were locked. I had to sit on the floor at the end of the hallway on the back of an envelope writing out what I could remember. And as they were walking up the stairs, all the people were coming up for the sitting, about a hundred people, or so. And as I walk up the stairs, because it happens to me all the time because I’m dissociative from the trauma, and I said to God, I said, “You know, I just wondered am I ever going to get my act together?” And God said, interiorly inside of me, “I don’t see it coming.” [laughter] “I don’t think you’re going to get your act together. I just don’t see it, to be honest with you.”

Am I ever going to get my act together and stop being oblivious and need to have my missteps pointed out? Will I ever stop being afraid of being hauled up on the carpet? What if God doesn’t see that day coming? And what if that’s okay? What if God is inviting me to befriend these weaknesses and continue to come home to God in them?

What is serious to men is often very trivial in the sight of God. What in God might appear to us as “play” is perhaps what God takes most seriously. At any rate, the Lord plays and diverts Himself in the garden of His creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear His call and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance. — Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

James Finley‘s story (in Turning to the Mystics) invited me to befriend my unawareness and fear of being blindsided. In this sixth week of Lent, what weakness are you being invited to befriend? I’ve just started listening to and praying with Turning to the Mystics “a podcast for people searching for something more meaningful, intimate, and richly present in the divine gift of their lives. James Finley, clinical psychologist, and Living School faculty, offers a modern take on the historical contemplative practices of Christian mystics like Thomas Merton, Teresa of Avila, and John of the Cross. Leaning into their experiences can become a gateway to hope, healing, and oneness. Together with Kirsten Oates from the Center for Action and Contemplation, they explore listener questions and examine their own paths as modern contemplatives in this beautiful and broken world” (from the Centre for Action and Contemplation).

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Principal’s Office” by Brandon Dill. Used with permission.
“Sisters” by laura betancourt. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
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What Brought You Here?

“What brought you here?” you may ask. How was I able to finally lose weight and take better care of my body? Now that’s a long story, and you’d need to read my books and blog posts to follow my slow, meandering journey of transformation. It wasn’t easy, simple, or quick.

My journey isn’t over, and it’s not yours. But here are twenty things I learned looking back that may be helpful to you.

1. I realized that God’s big plan to save and restore all creation (including us and our bodies) is to love and accept us deeply and completely as we are.
For years, I thought this meant that God would love me just as much whether I ate a big bag of chips or not. And I was right. That’s true.

Sometimes I thought this meant God didn’t care if I ate that bag of chips. I imagined him as the indulgent grandfather, “Go ahead, darling, eat as much as you like!”

At other times, I believed that overeating was a sin that separated me from God. This didn’t stop me from overeating. I turned away from God and ate what I wanted, despite the guilt and shame I felt knowing I had chosen my love of food and my desire to feel good in that moment over God. It followed then, that God acquiesced and turned away from me as if my choice to sin relieved God of any responsibility for my demise.

Then one day, I saw Brad Jersak perform the Gospel in Chairs, and I realized that no matter what I do, God turns towards me. I heard it in songs such as Lenten Lands by Steve Bell and in the story of the prodigal son and in Isaiah 30:15-18. I also began to believe what Jesus, Paul, and David said: nothing, including sin, can separate us from God. We were in this together.

2. I woke up
I woke up to the reality that God’s love is truly unconditional–given before we are forgiven or transformed or confess wrongdoing. Love never gives up. God loves my body and that means God cares for my body. God actively listens to it, feeds it, exercises it, gives it rest, and reduces the stress it carries. God enjoys my body, what it can do, and that it is the recognizable “me” in the world. God is in my body, in the energy flowing through it. Even though God loves me whether I am obese or not, God is invested in caring for my body so I can be healthy, happy, and whole.

I woke up to how extravagant, meticulous, and intentional God’s love is for me and my body. I also woke up to the TRUTH–the reality that I was not just overweight, I was obese and my obesity was increasing my risk of death from a heart attack, stroke, and diabetes, as well as throat cancer from acid reflux. My excess fat was also contributing to fatigue, malaise, planters fasciitis, depression, and self-loathing. My preoccupation with food meant I would often lose sight of others in a room when food was on the table.

I received one wake-up call after another.  My nurse practitioner wanted to put me on medication to reduce my cholesterol. A friend who was obese died suddenly. I repeatedly heard that those who are obese are more likely to die of COVID. Truth shouted: “WAKE UP! Stop pretending that you can continue to eat what you want and avoid serious consequences.”

This was the TRUTH that helped set me free. Was God shouting at me? Oh, yes. Not in a mean tone but in a loud I-want-to-save-your-life-because-I-care-about-you tone. It was the panicked shouting of a mother that sees her child wandering onto a busy street. God was also whispering in the voices of Anthony de Mello, Richard Rohr, Justin Michael Williams, Tara Brach, Pema Chödrön. “Wake up! Wake up!”

3. I received regular spiritual direction and learned to discern the voice of Love that seemed to come to me in what my spiritual director calls “surround sound.” I have received spiritual direction monthly for almost 20 years. In spiritual direction, I can share openly and honestly and hear what’s true and untrue. I gain confidence in what’s from God and what isn’t.

4. I followed the inner voice of Love. God wasn’t just interested in getting pounds off. Love led me to people who loved me and held my hand through the terrifying fear of trusting their love. Love led me to slow down, receive instead of strive, practice self-compassion, enjoy beauty, quiet, and solitude, pray in different ways, do what I love, and become more self-aware.

5. I stopped believing that only Christians could help me. I began to hear God’s truth spoken in different ways from Hafiz, Rumi, Tara Brach, Pema Chödrön, Valarie Kaur, and Thich Nhat Hanh.

6. I took Living from the Heart and prayed the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. Years passed before something shifted in my eating, but these retreats in daily life started me on the road to believing I was loved and cherished.

7. I changed careers. I stopped doing what was stressing me out. I enjoyed being a pastor, but more often than not, the desolation I named in my practice of the Examen was something that happened at work. So in December 2014, I left my job as a pastor and gave myself more time to write and offer spiritual direction.

8. I began to welcome and listen to all of my feelings. This required courage, compassion, companions, and practices such as Welcoming prayer, focusing, and EFT tapping. A cloud of witnesses (Ignatius, Anthony de Mello, Rumi, Brené Brown, Mary Mrozowski, Thomas Keating,  Tara Brach, Cheryl Richardson, Nick Ortner, Jessica Ortner, Brad Yates, Donna Varnau, Glennon Doyle) emboldened me to welcome my feelings without identifying with them. They encouraged me to let them speak without shushing them and receive their insights and wisdom.

9. I offered compassion to others and myself. Something shifts in me when I move from being hard on myself or others to naming with God, “This is so hard.” I am so grateful for Sound’s True’s Radical Compassion Challenge in 2020 and the wonderful teaching of Tara Brach and Kristen Neff.

10. I learned to listen to my body and paid attention to the felt sense of my emotions–the tension in my shoulders, the knot in my stomach, the constriction in my throat. I noticed how good I felt after exercise. I paid attention to when my body was tired or sore and noticed when I pushed myself to do more.

11. Many people encouraged me–Fred, family, friends, colleagues, and experts on Youtube (e.g. Food Revolution Network, Yoga with Adriene )

12. I began eating what was good for my body and the planet. Hands down, evidence supports a whole food plant-based diet as the way to go. Plants contain foods high in nutrients and fiber and low in cholesterol and addictive dopamine-producing oil, fat, salt, and sugars that turn on food cravings. I credit the consumption of eating greens and omega threes with my prefrontal cortex’s new ability to strengthen my self-control.

13. I made a commitment to get outside every day and walk, bike, or run.

14. I stopped working so hard and made time to play. I became intentional about getting enough sleep and reducing stress by practicing yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. Notice I said “practicing” as in I need to keep practicing to get the hang of it.

15. I learned what works and doesn’t work for my body. I stopped believing I was fighting with my body and spoke more kindly to it. I gathered information to help me stay awake and keep making healthy choices. I got a good scale and weigh myself daily to keep me honest. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so it wasn’t difficult to cut out sweets. Eating in the evening or at night is driven by my emotions, and I’m not hungry in the morning, so I drew clear lines. I eat only between noon and 7 pm and try not to snack in the afternoon.

16. I didn’t do things perfectly. I still eat some processed foods (Beyond Meat Burger and plant-based “cheeses”), have fries occasionally, and wine.

17. I plan ahead for situations that might be challenging. I take my lunch with me if I’m going to be out and about. When I know I will be a guest, I offer to bring my own food and plan what I’ll say so as not to offend others. If I give myself time, the words come. God is with me in this.

18. I leaned into Lent and COVID. Lent was a good way to begin a plant-based diet without offending anyone. In my circles, people have space for whatever you decide to give up for God for 40 days. COVID gave me a break from social gatherings where I would be tempted to eat what everyone else was enjoying. Honestly, I don’t think I could have done it if it wasn’t for COVID.

19. I received grace. I couldn’t make myself lose weight when I wanted to. Willpower wasn’t enough. I had a zillion failed attempts. So many times I decided to cut back on my eating, and my resolve lasted less than an hour. But something was different when I decided to quit snacking in the middle of the Food Revolution Summit on April 29, 2020. God had prepared me to take flight and got me off the ground.

20. I let it take as long as it did. More truthfully, it took a long time, and I learned to live with it. It’s been a hard journey. I’m not talking about the year it took to lose 35 lbs. That’s one of the last chapters of this story. God, in every chapter of my life, worked to bring me here.

This is hard. We can do hard things.
–Glennon Doyle, Untamed

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

How you walk with today’s Lenten question depends on where “here” is for you. If “here” is spacious and full of light, something in my blog post may resonate with you. But what if “here” is dark and heavy? Does exploring that question seem more fitting for you? If so, take courage, be gentle with yourself and invite God to be with you. Listen with compassion and curiosity. Notice what you feel, say, and believe. Perhaps you will become aware of blame and the desire to measure, judge, or fix yourself. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or feeling panicky, you may want to pause and consider continuing this exploration with a counselor or spiritual director.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Arriving” by Stephen Pougas. Used with permission.
“One year nearer to heaven” by Redeemed & Forgiven. Used with permission.
“Journey’s End” by Crispin Semmens. Used with permission.
“We can do it- Rosie the Riveter” by .alicia.kowalski. Used with permission.
“Perfect Peaches” by Thomas Quine. Used with permission.
Quote by Glennon Doyle in Untamed, p.85.
Love mischief image from a collage I did.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in compassion, Lent, Mindfulness, Overeating, Reflections, Resource, Spiritual Direction, Stories, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Are You Dying for?

“When I am dust, sing these words over my bones.
She was a voice.”
Ana in The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

When I first read those words in The Book of Longings, I felt myself recoil. I wouldn’t say that. It’s too out there, too presumptuous, too vain. Yes, Ana, the woman in the novel that spoke them was out there and presumptuous, but she wasn’t vain. Her passion to write led her away from the lives other people were living to live her own. She listened to her deep longing to give voice to the largeness inside herself and others who had no voice in their society.

“Lord our God, hear my prayer, the prayer of my heart. Bless the largeness inside me, no matter how I fear it. Bless my reed pens and my inks. Bless the words I write. May they be beautiful in your sight. May they be visible to eyes not yet born. When I am dust, sing these words over my bones: she was a voice.”
― Sue Monk Kidd, The Book of Longings

“What is our largeness?” someone asked our book group. Again I felt a recoiling. It seemed obvious to the other women that for me it was my writing. But I didn’t want it to be. I wanted it to be something we all share. That felt much safer.

Last week I went for a run and listened to this podcast by Marie Forleo. Marie asked the question, “What do you really want?” Then she told the story of a single mother that wanted to write. She faced numerous obstacles to become the biggest selling fiction writer of all time. My inner critic instantly reacted. “You’re just deluding yourself if you think you could do what J.K Rowling did. You’re not that good of a writer.”

As if she heard my thoughts, Marie asked, “What are the things you are saying to yourself that get in the way?”

I remember what a big deal it was to let go of being a pastor so I could offer spiritual direction and write. As a pastor, I kept giving myself away and doing a lot of good things, leaving little time for the longing within. Now, seven years later, I’m writing more. I’ve published two books, but my calendar is so full of other good things, there is little space for me to format and publish my third book.

I’ve always said that I don’t have to be famous or make millions on my writing. If my books and blog posts help one person, that’s enough. But now I wonder: what if my limiting beliefs are holding me back? What if I don’t invest more in my writing because I’m afraid to pray Ana’s prayer. I’m afraid people will roll their eyes and think, “She wanted to be a voice, all right. And she was–a boring, predictable, unskilled, unimportant, scratchy voice.”

That fear is holding me back. It goes on to say, “Who do you think you are, anyway? Your voice is no more special than any other. Do you really believe your writing will appeal to a bigger audience?”

My fears are loud and pointed.

But God doesn’t shush my critical thoughts or anxious feelings. Love just holds me and listens. Eventually, I am reminded of more than one person who told me how my writing has freed them to be themselves. “You were a voice to them,” God says.

The Book of Longings is an imaginative account of Ana, the wife of Jesus. It is her story alongside his. Both had a largeness in them that led them through death and resurrection (Ana more than once!). In this season of Lent, I ask myself, What would it be like to truly own the God-given passion seeded in me and do what I was created to do? Isn’t that what Jesus died for?

Bless the largeness inside me, no matter how I fear it.
–Sue Monk Kidd

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Love Mischief for the World

You may be thinking, Really, in Lent you want me to look at my passion, my longings, my largeness? Shouldn’t I be thinking of others, following Jesus, and sacrificing myself as he did? What if following your God-given desires is the best way you can care for others and follow Jesus? Doing that takes courage, sacrifice, and a lot of dying to the person others want you to be and the person you think you should be. Our fourth Lenten question is: What are you dying for? When you are gone, what will you leave behind that will continue to bring life, hope, and healing?

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Monarch Crysallis by Gary Millar. Used with permission.
Butterfly flight sequence by Dwight Sipler. Used with permission.
Monarch larvae by Shelby L. Bell. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Lent, Prayer, Reflections, Stories, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What Are You Shushing?

Since my convergence last spring, I’ve lost thirty-four pounds. I’m no longer obese and hover on the edge of a healthy weight for my height. I have begun to enjoy freedoms I haven’t had for a long time–running, sleeping better, and liking my reflection in the mirror.

But then I started snacking again. What is converging for me now is the truth that I am emotionally eating. Something in me feels hurt, sad, conflicted, or afraid, and before I’m even aware of it, my body wants to comfort me with food.

One of my earliest memories is of me getting a step ladder and climbing up to the counter and the breadbox where the crackers were kept. I still remember the relief I felt when I bit into the saltine.

I’ve known for a long time that I suffer from emotional eating but knowing that didn’t change anything until I connected trauma with lament.

Many of us overeat to soothe the feelings that trigger hurts from our childhood. We experienced times in the first years of life when we didn’t get what we needed. Our young minds tried to make sense of it and (often mistakenly) believed that we were unwanted and unloved. Those feelings scared us then, and they scare us now. So when something happens in the present that causes us to experience feelings similar to those from the past, our body feels unsafe and wants to fight, fly, or freeze. Eating is a way of freezing by numbing painful feelings.

The way out is to feel them, and the first step is to notice them. I don’t even know something is bothering me until I’ve eaten a handful of nuts when I’m not even hungry.

So this year for Lent, I set an intention to feel instead of snack.

After teaching about lament as a prayer practice earlier this month, one of the Living from the Heart participants shared a personal story.

I was recovering from a difficult birth and my baby girl had colic and cried almost incessantly in the first few months. My friend came to stay and help me as I recovered. I noticed that when she picked up my daughter when she was crying, she said something different than I’d heard anyone say to my baby or any baby. Most of us were saying things like “Shhh now, it’s ok” or something like that, trying to stop the crying. But my friend would wrap her up, put her on her shoulder right up by her face, pat her back gently, and say, ‘Tell me all about it. Tell me all about it.'” Her words were so unexpected and so comforting to me, I often found myself tearing up too.

Nothing is too insignificant, too familiar, or too loud for God to hear. Nothing is shushed. I am held, heard, and my soul is comforted.

“To heal, you have to feel” keeps echoing in what I read and hear. Lament helps me express those feelings to God.

As we begin to understand the shape of the world into which we were born, we would all soon experience the “shushing’” of parents… Contained somewhere in the heart of these demands to ‘”be quiet,’” beneath the sincere attempts at comforting, lay a level of shame and the inescapable message that we should not cry out, we should not behave in such ways… At that frustrating moment we entered into the very human, fallen aspect of denial, which is the polar opposite of lament.  As a result we grew up trying to control our tears and trying to help others control theirs, thinking that in the midst of it all sometimes we might even be able to control the pain.  That single pathway through it all, the path of lament, became overgrown, lost, left off all our maps.                             —Michael Card, A Sacred Sorrow

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Love Mischief for the World

Our third Lenten question–What are you shushing?–invites us to lament.  If you’re looking for a song to lament with, here is one that my son-in-law wrote when his Crohn’s disease was relentless. If you’d like words to pray your lament, the psalms have a lot of them. Perhaps you’d like to paint, sculpt, dance or walk out your lament. Another option is to put pen to paper, address your lament to God, and write unfiltered to the One who inclines an ear to you.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Story by Living from the Heart participant used with permission.
“Lament” by INTVGene. Used with permission.
Leaf photo by Gail Purdy. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Lent, Overeating, Prayer, Reflections, Stories, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What Story Do You Need to Return to?

“Something in you gets irritated when you think about anyone being a victim,” Donna said in a focusing session hours after I wrote last week’s blog post.

“Yes. It’s like a painful ball in my throat.”

“You might want to say hello to it. Let it know you feel it and notice what more comes,” Donna said.

The ache in my throat led me back to my childhood when I was picked on by my siblings. “If I go to my mom, I’ll be a tattletale. If I don’t, they won’t stop.” I said as tears came.

This story again. How many times do I have to return to this story? I love my parents and my siblings, and they love me–a lot. I hold no anger or resentment for what happened to me as a child. I don’t blame them for what they did or didn’t do. I don’t blame myself for being too sensitive. Counselling, spiritual direction, a loving community, and prayer have brought healing and reconciliation. Yet, here I am again being led back to that old story.

“Something in you remembers what it was like to feel caught with nowhere to go.” Donna stayed right with me, reflecting back what I was feeling, helping me track how I experienced it in my body, and inviting me into a felt sense of safety whenever an emotion threatened to overwhelm me.

The constriction in my throat eased a little. I remembered, as a child, I would find a way out by going into my imagination. I was safe and happy in the stories I created.

The constriction hardened again. Something in me didn’t want to leave my body to feel safe, but the little girl in me was afraid to let down her defences. I felt her feelings in my throat. I heard her thoughts. She wanted to trust, but she was afraid that as soon as she did someone would pull the rug out from under her.

Donna and I stayed with her, listening and feeling while a calmness rose up from my feet and legs like a warm embrace. It gently welcomed her in. She came into it, panicked a bit, and went out.

Then I remembered the painting by Jaison Cianelli, a quote in the Cloud of Unknowing, and an image of my grandson as a young child with his arm around Fred’s neck, his hands in Fred’s hair. I remembered that feeling of embracing God and being embraced and melted into Love.

There was no separation between the little girl and me and God. We were colours swirling in delight and safety and wonder.

I remained there for a while. Then the constriction returned to my throat.

Donna invited me to welcomed it again, to return and feel and notice what more comes.

The image of a baby came to me. She was being held with her bottom on her mother’s arms and her cheek on her mother’s chest. I watched her startle awake, look around then flop back down. The constriction eased.

Then I saw that I was the baby and the mother was my mother. She was caressing my tiny arms and face. She was thinking, I wish this moment would never end. I breathed in the words, the picture, and the felt sense of being so loved.

“I have no actual memory of this,” I told Donna as our time come to an end. “But if I asked my mother now, I know what she’d say. She’d say, ‘Of course, it’s true. I remember that.'”

My body remembered that story too, and now I can return there again and again.

It is God, and he alone, who can fully satisfy the hunger and longing of our spirit which, transformed by God’s redeeming grace, is enabled to embrace him by love. No one can fully comprehend the uncreated God with his knowledge, but each one, in a different way, can grasp him fully through love. Truly this is the unending miracle of love: that one loving person, through his love, can embrace God, whose being fills and transcends the entire creation. —The Cloud of Unknowing

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Love Mischief for the World

Our second lenten question comes in a cluster of others. What story in your life is returning to you unbidden? What old feelings have come to the surface and want your attention? You may feel frustrated and disappointed, thinking you’ve moved past that old hurt. What if you haven’t regressed at all? Maybe you have moved on, but Love has something more for you. Maybe there is a part of you that got left behind, and Love wants to bring her home. Trust your body. Trust what God is doing. Be brave and ask: What story do I need to return to? Then go, but don’t go alone. Take God with you and maybe a friend, spiritual director, or counselor.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world? Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 – August 19, 1905) photo by Thomas Hawke.
Used with permission.
“Warm Embrace” by Jaison Cianelli. Used with permission.
Quote from  The Cloud of Unknowing (14th C), Chapter 4. Author unknown, edited by William Johnston.
“The Hard Lesson” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1884. Public domain.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Childhood, compassion, Lent, Mystical, Prayer, Reflections, Spiritual Direction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment