Monday, September 30, 2013

31 Days to Finding Sanctuary (#31 days of sanctuary day 1)

If you're around me longer than an hour, you'll probably hear me utter the word "sanctuary".  It's become like a mantra for me, and is my one word for 2013.  In the chaotic rush of life, I long for that quiet space of rest and renewal.  I am lonely for connection that goes beyond the incoming message ding of my phone.  But as much as I desire it, I often don't make the space for it.  Although I view it as essential to my ministry as a university chaplain to some of the busiest students I've ever known (and even named my weekly campus worship service Sanctuary), there are always other things to fill my time and "more important" tasks to take care of.  It's only after I'm exhausted and at my breaking point that I stop and heed my own advice to others and seek sanctuary.  If I'm truly honest, I'm usually heeding the voice of my husband who urges me to step away for a bit after I become persistently grumpy and prone to random bursts of tears and yelling.

So here I sit in Panera with my seasonal squash soup, salad, and the setting sun in my eyes, on an evening break lovingly provided by my husband.  It always takes time just to get the feel of it again as I habitually check my phone and scan social media for anything I might be missing before I settle in to true rest.  I fidget, I snack, I attempt to multitask, even though I've never been good at that.  I find myself diving back into work before I'm even aware of it.  Why is it so hard to rest?  Perhaps that's why God made taking Sabbath a commandment.  Otherwise, I doubt we'd see the value in down time.

I had a spirituality professor in seminary that assigned us weekly times of "otium sanctum" (Latin for holy leisure).  We were responsible for discovering and practicing an activity that drew us out of our regular life and into joyful communion with God.  Some of my favorite times weren't very "spiritual" on the surface like driving at night with the convertible top down, but I came away renewed, with a greater sense of who I am and where God is in my life.  It's so easy to forget, and yet it doesn't take much to be reminded.  Just a moment to stop and breathe, and an activity to take us out of the routine of work.  I realize my longing and need for more of that.

At my age, I realize that I'll never be a prodigy, and anything I want to do will take a lot of practice.  That's why I'll be blogging daily during the month of October, a sort of spiritual and reflective practice as I seek sanctuary.  Will you join me?  I'd love to hear what you find along the way.

Day 2: Sanctuary walk
Day 3: Stop the glorification of busy
Day 4: Finding calm in chaos
Day 5: Letting go
Day 6: Sanctuary spaces
Day 7: Running as sanctuary
Day 8: Breathing space
Day 9: Sophrosyne
Day 10: Sanctuary as self-care
Day 11: Being a sanctuary for others
Day 12: Healthy Rules
Day 13: More and Less
Day 14: Shine
Day 15: What you might discover on a prayer walk
Day 16: Sabbath and Sanctuary
Day 17:  Being a Sanctuary for my children
Day 18:  Beyond the now
Day 19: How NOT to find sanctuary
Day 20: Say "No" to Say "Yes"
Day 21: Home
Day 22:  Church Sanctuary
Day 23: Slowing down
Day 24: One Who is Not Busy (repost)
Day 25: Enough
Day 27: Rest
Day 28: Rituals
Day 29: Boundaries
Day 30: Tinker Day
Day 31: Taking off the masks

Friday, September 20, 2013

For the weary parents

It is so easy to become weary of parenthood.  The thing they don't tell you (because you really know, yet can't fully grasp) is that you never really get a break.  Sure, you can hire a babysitter (if you can find and afford one that you can trust), but the kids are always on your mind even when you're apart (and pray that the sitter doesn't call with an emergency).  You can go to sleep (after an hour of fighting with them to go to sleep), but just hope no one wakes up throwing up or has a bad dream. And you know that they are blessings, and you know that others long for the gifts you have, and so it's not really acceptable to complain.  But your mind feels like mush from the endless questions and demands, your body is exhausted at the constant touch and pull and the inability to sit and rest.  You can't remember what it feels like to finish a conversation...or a thought.  You forget who you are separate from them...but it's not like they notice you're a separate being with its own needs anyway.  You dread the thought of getting up in a few hours to start it all over again, already hearing the sound of the whining, the rudeness, the screaming demands, and the ungrateful replies.  And the fighting...can they ever speak to one another without instigating a fight?  They fought all day today over a stupid empty shoebox like it was the freaking holy grail.

You're not asking for much...maybe a few minutes in peace to collect your thoughts, or help with cleaning the messes THEY made without the sighs and complaints of the unfairness of their lives.  You're not even expecting a "thank you," although something other than "YOU'RE MEAN!" would be nice.  And to think we put all this effort into raising them so they'll go off and leave us one day and we'll be sad that they never visit or call often enough.  Your free time used to be spent on catching up on the latest movies and trying out a new restaurant, or just a walk by yourself down a lovely trail.  Now, "free time" is doing chores, planning and attending birthday parties (that ALWAYS end in tears), and trying to find a way to entertain them and keep your sanity in the process.  You've abandoned hope that they'll actually absorb any of the lessons you futilely try to impart.

But there are moments that seem to shine like sparkles of hope.  Tonight was one of these, and I'll even try to forget that it ended badly.  After the frustration of an unquiet quiet time, the neediness of the kids, and my lack of frustration, I decided we had to get out of the house.  We loaded up the bikes and went down to the greenway, something we've done only once before.  The kids were excited, and I was glad to get some fresh air, perspective, and a bit of exercise.  Brady is relatively new to riding his bike without training wheels, but has picked it up much more quickly than many things he's tried.  Once we got on the route, he quickly took off away from Maryn and me.  In just a minute's time, he was just a speck off in the distance.  He didn't stop or look back, and for once I wasn't anxious, but proud.  I finally saw an independent spirit in the boy who constantly need attention and affirmation.  He was on his own and soaring in his freedom.  He is so little, and yet on his bike, he must have felt so big and powerful.  By the time we caught up with him, he had made it to our playground destination and was getting off his bike.  He paused for a moment to look back and see if I would stop him, but I only smiled, and he ran ahead to play.

Sometimes in these moments I can catch a glimpse of their future greatness in their present goodness.