Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Pressing the Reset Button

This month, it has been two years since I began working at St. Mary’s as their welcome leader.  I took a look back and remembered how I was feeling spiritually at that time.  After leaving my corporate job a month earlier, the pace of my life suddenly changed.  Going from working 75 hours a week to 40 was a huge change.  It took about three months for me to fully decompress and I noticed that I was working every day but it felt like I was on vacation.  (FYI - I also work from home doing the accounting for a law firm.)  My mother, who lives with us, said she had never seen me so relaxed.  I felt weird.  Then it hit me:  I hadn’t felt this way in probably five years.  I hadn’t truly relaxed in years.  This weird feeling was peace.

As I moved through 2015, I was able to take good care of myself and whereas before, at the end of the day, I felt completely spent, I was able to be fully present with my family in the evenings.  This blog was born and inspiration was never in short supply for words to share.  This lasted about a year or so.  Then, as my ministry expanded, I started losing this new sense of peace.  Exciting opportunities were set before me to spread the Gospel and I truly felt that everything I had done in my previous career had prepared me for this calling.  There were so many amazing moments where the Spirit was at work, but I wasn’t taking care of myself and by early 2016, my pace was frenetic and I came down with shingles.  

My spiritual director and priest kept encouraging me to answer the call to silence and stillness otherwise I might not have made it through 2016.  It was also a rough year in my parish with the April floods, including our rectory, and the loss of a three-year old child by accidental drowning.  This grief was compounded by watching a presidential candidate come to power that hurt so many.  The blog was harder to write in contrast to the year before where the words came pouring in every couple of weeks.  In my post, “Messengers,” I wrote about my experience on a silent retreat which was truly life-giving.  It was a moment of peace but not enough.  Heading into the fall in a very dark emotional place, I forged ahead. 

I continued to pray for the sense of peace to return.  I reached out to my doctors to address my depression.  We adjusted medication.  All of those things helped and in December, I started experiencing joy again.  But I wanted to feel weird again; I wanted peace.  Sometime during 2016, I had ordered a book called The Seven Whispers by Christina Baldwin.  I don’t even remember who recommended it to me and it sat unopened on my nightstand for months.  When I finally picked it up and read a couple of chapters, I was hooked on the ideas, but my “work” derailed my attempts to implement the spiritual practices.  

Fast forward to January 2017 when our women’s Wednesday fellowship agreed to do a book study on The Seven Whispers.  This last week, I decided to practice one of the concepts from the book, “moving at the pace of guidance.”   Christina says that “speed is the enemy of guidance.”  So on inauguration day, with a demanding workday ahead of me, I heard doves outside my window.  I decided to stop and sit with God in centering prayer for five minutes at the top of each hour, starting at 7 am and ending at 5 pm.  I also took a break from TV and social media.  It was transformative.  While going away on retreat has very good purpose, stopping and re-centering during the workday finally returned the peace I was missing.  I headed into an evangelism workshop I was leading on Saturday with a new calmness.

When Elijah felt that he could no longer go on, he went to the wilderness to die.  After the angel had fed him and he rested, he heard God’s voice.  He obeyed and went to Horeb where the Lord came to him.  But the Lord did not come in the rushing wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire.  God came to him in the silence that followed.  How can you slow down and listen for God?  Is there a community that can support you in finding the peace that only God can give?