Barefoot & Preaching is a syndicated monthly column in The Catholic Register.
As fall turned to winter, I found a prayer for life transitions in Common Prayer, A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. We were considering a move, in the middle of a pandemic. It all felt very complicated. And the opening line of the prayer resonated with me: “Lord, help me now to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity.”
If I ever write a book about parenting, it will be all about how the secret to parenting is lower expectations. I learned this from surviving. So many of the things I pile onto my plate and shoulders are just avoidance of and distraction from the things that matter most to me. Then, I use efficiency and time management strategies to do more things better and feel a false sense of satisfaction at my capacity for chaos.
For three years before the pandemic arrived (nearly a year ago already), grief plunged us into survival living. Our world was uncluttered for us by the disorienting force of loss. I wasn’t capable of focus, just existing from one moment to the next. So when COVID undid the world we had started to rebuild, surviving was a familiar way to live. We have more experience than most at this.
So we sank back into the simplicity of things. Being kind to each other matters more than being right. Extra rest is more important than accomplishing things. Feeling nourished and connected matters more than minimal screen time. Survival seasons have more than their share of struggles, so I do not need to add more by expecting myself to achieve at anywhere close to the same level as other seasons.
This week, the prairies fell into a deep cold. Ice crystals floated in the air, and the wind whipped them into every crevice. Simplicity finds us here. Blankets and warm drinks, mittens and toques. Plug in the car and warm it up when we must go out. Survival depends on reduction to just the most essential things.
Spiritual survival brings with it all kinds of difficult emotions: doubt and fear, anxiety and grief, anger and despair. It takes so much energy to feel these, to let them wash over me without carrying me away. It is enough to watch for God here. Simplicity makes it possible to survive.
So often, I get impatient with a God who does not resolve things quickly, remove my suffering, fix the things I think are wrong. But the Creator of all that is seems to be so much less concerned about efficiency than I am. The divine instructions are so simple. Love. Rest. Share. Hope. Follow.
In some future season, bursts of energy will return. There will be days for lofty goals, pushing hard, and rocking it. Today is not that day. Today we will cuddle in the blanket fort with all the stuffed animals. We will use our words and try again when we forget. Crackers and cheese and raspberries are a perfectly great supper.
As we prepare to move in this survival season, I am living into simplicity here too. Doubts are as numerous as the boxes, and I can only pack one at a time. The list of things I do not know is longer than the things I do, and God is handling that list. Laughter lifts the worry and the kids give me lots of reasons to laugh.
I woke up one day this week to the howling wind. It ached with the -45 degree weather waiting for me on the dark drive to the hospital for work. Simplicity means slipping my feet into moccasins, relishing the heat of my straightener as warm hair falls against my face, delighting in the arms of my toddler wrapped around my neck at the daycare door.
Lowered expectations as a spiritual survival strategy are not giving up; they are giving over. When I cannot do any more, I will reduce myself and my world to the most essential parts and let God do the rest. And this is what it means that God has the most power in my weakness. This is how simplicity and survival create space for what will be.
“Lord, help me now to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity.” Amen.
As fall turned to winter, I found a prayer for life transitions in Common Prayer, A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. We were considering a move, in the middle of a pandemic. It all felt very complicated. And the opening line of the prayer resonated with me: “Lord, help...
The problem with letting God catch me is that I have to jump. I have to give over the middle and the end, precisely at the place that feels most vulnerable. In the height of risk, surrender is the call. I want to let it ring. I’ll call back when it works better for me. Despite thousands of recitations of the words, it turns out that I am not okay with being enough. I want to be everything. I want to jump and catch, and the world does not work that way.
Image by Pezibear from Pixabay Longing is a place I visit frequently, passing through on the way to somewhere else. The floor is worn at the entrance way and in front of the window, where walking gently back and forth has left its mark. The chair...
Shoveling for hours, I dug mostly for more space inside myself.
The God who has held me for every moment of my existence does not offer a heady salvation from a massive throne on a far off judgement day; the Spirit pours the saving into creation and wraps itself around me in every moment.
And all these awkward stages in life and in creation are part of the miracle of being alive. They are neither better nor worse than seedling or mature stages of growth. Where did I learn to judge the awkward as bad, the uncomfortable as awful, the exposed as wrong?
I am learning to practice falling the way I practice guitar: to learn to recognize the notes and to trace my fingers over them until they feel familiar.
Delivered in memory of Abbie Speir at the Court of Queen's Bench in Regina, Saskatchewan on July 23, 2020, at the Sentencing Hearing for Kevin Obina Okafor. So often, in the days since you took Abbie’s life, Kevin, people have said that they cannot imagine what it is...
Photo Credit: Marc Perrault Honest is hard. There is nothing like a season of physical distancing to remind me of that truth. We have joined in the effort to protect the vulnerable by staying home and away from other households, drawing the six of us into closer...
Space is not a word I associated with love for most of my life. I grew up longing for the freedom of stretching further away from the intimacy of my family and small, Saskatchewan town. I sat in the farm house window sill in my bedroom, staring up at the expansive,...
On Being Barefoot…
Before the burning bush, God asks Moses to take off his sandals, to notice and reverence that he walks on holy land. This holy land continues to burn before me, before us, signaling God’s presence before we arrived rather than because we did. This life we are living was holy before we existed in it. This land and creation we call home is the first book of revelation, God’s love letter to us, bearing witness to the Creator of it all.Our lives and the moments that make them up are the stuff of sainthood, our invitations to participate in Divine life to be swallowed up and fulfilled by God. At the grocery store, in the false solitude of our cars and commutes, in our laundry rooms, and over text messages. My shoes run the risk of “protecting” me from the sacredness of this naked moment. And how I love shoes, and how my sensitive toes resist the prickles of grass and the mess of sand. But barefoot is how my spirituality works, daring to live an embodied and earthy love of Jesus who took on flesh. I’m wandering through this life, yearning to let go of my shoes, to walk reverently and with deep attention to what passes under my feet and to what isn’t yet my path. Barefoot is how I write, how I speak, how I work. Experience shored up against an insatiable thirst for knowledge; direct honesty honed by sensitivity; and vulnerability chained to a commitment to competency. And an unapologetically barefoot tendency to speak it as I feel it, which leads me to…
I’m a preacher without a pulpit, with words that burn until they are spoken ~ aloud or on a page.
My ministry is one of colliding words and ideas, reaching out to find a connection with God’s amazing people.
The world seems to me to be spilling over with grace and we seem to be people who, all too quickly forget that all of this is pure gift.
When I’m driving, eating, visiting, resting, cleaning, working, playing, and almost everything else, I’m frequently stunned by the pure miracle of what simply is.
It’s not all promised joy and ease, but it is all presenced and remembered by the One who gives it. And I can’t stop talking about it, proclaiming it, preaching this good news that we have not been forgotten or forsaken in any moment of this life.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, my words seem to be given to encourage and inspire. In a world where women and girls are still too-often silenced or secondary, I’m barefoot and preaching because my soul won’t rest any other way. If my words can be a gift to you, then that is a gift for me.