Friend, are you afraid to be vulnerable?
If the butterfly remained encased in its chrysalis,
it would never share its beauty with the world.
Friend, are you afraid to be vulnerable?
If the butterfly remained encased in its chrysalis,
it would never share its beauty with the world.
What’s holding you back?
The dark shadow of self-doubt…
Turn towards the sun!
When I’m back home I’ll think of you
walking under the immense dome of the sky
which curves around like giant arms
until it touches the distant edges of the prairie.
You awed by the paradox
of God’s ever-watchful otherliness
and the incarnational intimacy of the earth
supporting your feet–
you tiny amidst the soaring and the solid,
utterly surrounded by God.
We live in a society filled with experts. There are specialists who are eager and willing to tell you how to do just about everything. Want to clean out your closet? Feed your kids well? Wear the right colour for your hair? Thrive in the workplace? There are likely dozens of e-courses, books and podcasts to teach you how. Let’s just hope they all agree…lest the conflicting “experts” cause more confusion and give you even less clarity.
While the abundance of information is potentially enriching, I wonder what it does to our confidence to feel we need to consult an expert or extensively research every decision. Who are we, after all, to decide for ourselves? And are we actually doing anything right??
This kind of insecurity can rob us of peace. It’s impossible to follow everyone’s advice, in the same way it’s impossible to wash your hair with every kind of shampoo that claims to be best. It would make you crazy to try. So we have to calmly make choices and stand by them. Nobody else knows how to be you. Remember this, and don’t go against your gut because something is currently trendy or thought to be essential. These things change all the time anyway.
But to shut out these clamouring voices, we need to seek a place of quiet. To turn off all our many devices and remember what it’s like to hang out with ourselves. With no add breaks. No interruptions. Just our own thoughts, and if we listen carefully enough, that still, small voice that guides our heart. The company of the one true Expert, the One who made us and knows every fibre of our being…who knows what challenges, graces, and gifts we need to be truly happy. In this place, we can remember who we are and what’s really important.
So as the busy fall season approaches with all its potential activities, try to ask yourself quietly: “Which of these will actually contribute to the well-being of my family?” “What do we actually feel called to do?” “Which of these would maybe look good on a resumé, but lead us to being overbooked, overstressed, and short on time to enjoy being together with those we love?”
If you ask such things quietly, peacefully, and in an attitude of listening, chances are your heart will guide you. And acting from a place of quiet, you’ll have the confidence to stand by your decisions, despite the storm of “expert” opinions ever swirling around you. In that inner quiet, you’ll find the freedom to be you.
There are times I feel unworthy of poetry
incapable of receiving inspiration
cause I’m overly immersed in soap suds and laundry
combing out tangles in hair
and sibling relationships
putting out constant fires
–flashes of jealousy and
fits of frustration so loud
it’s hard to hear the quiet whisper
of a newborn poem
wanting to meet the world
But I need to dismiss these unromantic doubts
because it’s not really about me
Is a candle worthy to illuminate the night?
Yet it is in it’s very disappearing–
that it gives burning light
Your love for me doesn’t depend on my greatness
but is rather a sign of Yours
Fill the empty cup of my heart
Help me exude Your warmth
and be with me
in my noise and chaos
Help me find the whisper of your presence
like flashes of gold in a mountain stream
and amidst all the pebbles
help me find poems
Lovely readers! How I have missed you all! One New Year’s resolution….to write more often!! To not hesitate to post…to follow inspirations and forget perfectionism. Who knows what good can come from words conceived in joy or sorrow…they are better shared.
There was a gorgeous black and white card I saw when shopping for stocking-stuffers. It was of a little girl wearing fairy wings, standing at the edge of a small precipice. The card read: “But, Mother, what if I fall?” and on the inside, “Oh, my darling, what if you fly?” It almost moved me to tears. The idea of this daring vulnerability, this willingness to take a creative leap and reach for one’s dreams, despite fear, is to me both brave and beautiful.
I am so excited for the new year–a fresh start and new projects. I have a new poetry book in the works, thanks to the warm encouragement of my mother and sister-in-law who asked me, “So, what’s next?” I realize it gives me great joy to have a project…something to ponder dream about while I am doing the dishes and housework–something to reflect on in quiet moments when I hear the Holy Spirit whispering.So I want to encourage you all to dream big and take lots of little steps each say this year to achieve your dreams…and may this process bring you much happiness!
I am thinking lots about habits and happiness because of a wonderful book my awesome husband got me for Christmas called “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. She is a hilarious and warm-hearted New York writer, fiery red-head and mom, so of course I love her! She realized one day that while she was basically content, she could still be snappy, irritable and impatient at times, and didn’t always savour the beautiful moments as they came. How, she wondered, could she be more happy, not by making any dramatic life changes, because she already loved her family and career, but by reflecting on what brought her happiness, what brought her stress and grief, and then trying to build habits that were more conducive to joy. She does this by seeking to change her own habits and attitudes, rather than blaming or resenting others for things she finds hard.
She describes her journey of researching happiness, consulting everyone from psychologists to saints to friends in a café, and then testing out their theories by working on important areas of her life each month, like her home, marriage, parenting and career. This might sound intimidating, but it is quite the opposite. Her frank and funny descriptions of trying out her different monthly resolutions are as fun to read as a novel, and really helpful, too. For example, in February, the month she focussed on her marriage, she tried for a week of “Extreme Nice.” No snapping, dumping, nagging, etc. After describing how positively it affected things at home, she jokes about her relief when the week was up, as her tongue was sore from biting it so often!
She found that personal stories and examples do more for inspiring growth that vague stats and studies. Personally, even reading about her happiness project has made me more aware of savouring my own happiness, and seeking to make it grow. As Rubin reminds us, happier people make those around them happier, so being happy is really the best gift we can give to those around us, because joy is infectious. I so recommend this book to help inspire you to seek happiness this year by building habits of happiness and changing your heart so you can find it more easily. Her blog has tonnes of helpful resources, too. Here is the link: Gretchen Rubin
Happy reading! And have fun with your resolutions…I will write more about that another day!
The alluring emptiness of a white page
free from clutter and electronic distraction,
the peacefulness of a smooth sheet
waiting for my words to gently rest on it…
Oh, how it calls me
in the midst of noise and business!
There, in the silent gaze of the white page,
my soul is free to unfurl its wings
and write with feathered quills
the thoughts that have distilled inside it.
Oh blessed quiet
in which to hear the silent whispers of my heart,
to set free the poems
that have been clinging to my fingertips
like small birds awaiting flight.
When you’re a busy mom of seven,
a quiet moment at the bus-stop
with no wifi
and only the baby
becomes rather more entrancing than it used to be…
Hey, I’ll take what I can get!
Anything that makes someone feel more loved is an act of mercy.
Have you been looking for a way to grow in your faith this Lent? Perhaps you wish you could get away on retreat, but with all your little kids at home you can’t. Is there nothing for you? There is! Check out this year’s Catholic Conference 4 Moms. This year’s topic is the many Faces of Mercy. It is inspired by the Holy Father’s proclamation of the Jubilee year of Mercy.
We are called to share God’s love and mercy with others as well as to receive it ourselves. How can you spend these 40 days aquiring more merciful heart? One of the best ways to start is by hearing personal stories of how mercy touched other people’s lives and transformed them.
To hear many uplifting talks by moms, priests and theologians from the convenience of your home, sign up for the Catholic conference for moms. Feel connected and be inspired. Most conferences cost hundreds of dollars, but this online one is only $14.99, or use my coupon code “Eastland” to save $4 and make it just $10.99! This includes a digital “swag bag” full of goodies like free books to download and discounts at your favourite Catholic websites such as Holy Heroes and Fransciscan Media.
The 2016 “Faces of Mercy” Conference will offer:
-20 + All New Popular Presenters and Presentations (Check them out!)
-Plus a Spanish Track, featuring presentations specifically for Hispanic moms
-Every Presentation is available all of the time, throughout all of Lent, after the conference begins Saturday, Feb. 20th.
-Live-Streamed Session Saturday Morning Feb. 20th featuring Jennifer Fulwiler
-And Live-Streamed Session Saturday Afternoon of the Divine Mercy Chaplet
– HD Videos also Available as MP3 /Podcasts that you can download
-Valuable Digital Swag Bags for all Online Attendees
-Available for individuals Online or for your Mom’s group!
I loved last year’s talks, like having heart to hearts over coffee with awesome friends, and hope you’ll join us this year!
Click here to see the website:
Poetry as a gift of silence…Here is a poem which spoke to my heart like a familiar breeze ruffling through the forest, bringing new life and resonating with joy. It is from author Wendell Berry’s book New Collected Poems.
HOW TO BE A POET (to remind myself)
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill — more of each
than you have — inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
This Sunday I saw a rose so lovely one could get lost in it’s petals, contemplating beauty while the blossom blushes sweetly. It had the rich scent of a real rose, the kind you want to just drink in again and again…the kind that makes you think of romantic English gardens and quaint little thatched cottages.
Thinking back, it was a funny little gift to see it growing there, just outside the church, where moments before I had been talking with my friend Sherri, and joking that all the pretty women were wearing roses that day. She had a beautiful white dress covered in red roses, and I had a rose pattern white t-shirt. She told me she wanted to dress up extra today, on the feast of Pentecost, for the Holy Spirit, with whom she has such a love affair. “He just always takes such good care of me,” she smiled.
“Today is my 10 year anniversary of baptism,” I told her, “10 years since I joined the church.” For her it had been almost 16. I remembered rubbing my belly with childlike excitement in the days leading up to my baptism…God Himself was coming to dwell in my soul! We marvelled at how lucky we felt, knowing God’s love, His desire to be close to each and every person, to bring depth and meaning to our lives.
So who is this person Sherri and I are enamoured with, who inflames and guides our hearts? Isn’t going to church just for stodgy old ladies…people who recite pious prayers but aren’t really spiritual? As a convert, I haven’t found this old stereotype to hold water, nor have I found the supposed opposition between being religious and being spiritual.
For me, finding the faith helped me begin a very intimate and interior journey, one of growing closer to God while at the same time becoming more free to truly be myself…learning to trust the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, the one who nudges me to grow, to give, to respond to His creative impulses, to be optimistic and ready to dream aloud. To trust in something bigger than myself. To be willing to take creative risks.
Growing in my spiritual life has been essential to my growth as a writer. I find there is such a direct link between prayer and creativity, because prayer helps me be aware of the beauty around me, and to be still enough to let it enter my heart. Then it’s just a matter of sharing what’s inside. I once compared writing poetry to sitting still enough for a butterfly to land on you, a matter of receiving an inspiration and sharing it, a little gift…
So if I haven’t been blogging much at times, you can guess I’ve been letting myself get too busy, and you can write me a comment and say, “Anna, stop running around… sit still and pray more; we want some poetry! ”
When I don’t take time to pray, to be still, to talk to God about my life and especially to listen, my creative well runs dry. I run like a little hamster in a wheel, very busy but very superficial. It is exhausting and empty, and I think our souls need to love deeper…ha, that was a typo but still true: we need to live deeper and to love deeper. This is what helps us see the beauty in life, despite suffering; this is what helps us live for something bigger than ourselves, and in the process become more the people we are meant to be.
Maybe I’ll write more about this soon, but as we’re all busy people I’ll let you go for now. I hope you’ll find a little time to seek out that special stillness in which God whispers to our hearts and inspires us to help Him create a more wonderful world.