This column, Barefoot & Preaching, is also published biweekly in print by The Prairie Messenger.

Arriving somewhere safe and okay, as if by accident…

Arriving somewhere safe and okay, as if by accident…

Photo Credit: Katherine Siebert

Safe and okay have been elusive feelings for quite awhile.  Tracing the shape of the dark, wandering lost, tending to wounds, willing some measure of wellness – it’s all been a road I never wanted to turn down in the first place.  I was aiming for a destination quite different from where I have found myself, perhaps somewhere with less confusion, fewer tears, maybe with lower propensity for trauma-induced jet lag?

Last week I was scrolling mindlessly through my Facebook feed when a friend’s post caught me off guard: “You have to be grateful whenever you get to someplace safe and okay, even if it turns out it wasn’t quite where you were heading” (Anne Lamott, Small Victories).  The strangest part of the realization was that I noticed the constant fear and restlessness more in their absence than in their presence.

All the stepping, one foot in front of the one before, the practices of showing up for my life have led me to somewhere new.  Arriving safe and okay – on an ordinary Tuesday without having the location in my agenda – caught me by surprise.  It took me two weeks to notice, actually.  It is almost as if I have forgotten the purpose of the open-handed wandering: to grow intentionally towards something, towards some One.  Isn’t that the point?

Trauma is evidence that we are not always safe; previously, my sense of well-being depended on a sense that I am, and will be.  These months have been an exercise in choosing to love into a world that may not always return love with love.  These days have been a discipline in reaching for the safety that does exist without obsessing over the what if’s that could threaten.

Even before the words that changed my world were spoken, I was afraid.  My fear, an emotion designed to warn and protect me from harm, was realized.  But when the threat was locked up, when the damage exacted, the immediate need for fear receded.  Pain, however, provides a place for fear to grow without attention to the need.  It takes active practice to feel the fear and let it go, to hold it in my hands and then set it down so there is room to hold on to life.

Restlessness uprooted me, made my life feel unfamiliar.  It threatens to pull me under and its gift is a new set of eyes.  It tempts me to believe that I will never feel settled again.  I have felt the invitation to see again, to see something new, and resisted the pull by planting myself in the present and breathing here.

Sorrow and ache are reminders of the fragility of life.  One day, every single person I love will be lost to me, separated by their death or mine.  The particular sorrow points to the universal.  It takes energy to integrate and hold the ache, to let it leak out of my eyes and my heart, a tear at a time.  And gradually, the pressure in the well returns to a bearable level, sneaking up less frequently, and with less intensity.

The effort it took to stay focused on the present moment made it hard to see and feel the gradual healing that was happening.  While I have participated in the movement, I also feel swept along by the current of it, caught up in something more powerful than myself.  A time or two in my past, I tentatively reached out to touch the Healer.  The fragments of healing are still surprising, every time.

Resurrection and healing – these are not accidents, not coincidences of time or circumstance.  Living barefoot changes something, opens me to possibilities I cannot predict, but can trust.  It is a beautiful, if embarrassing, comfort to be reminded that I live this way for a reason.  It changes my life, brings me closer to wholeness, even when I take the long way and forget.

The bright fall colours have given way to the edge of winter in Saskatchewan, and the safe and okay arrives with the same resigned shift into something cooler.  Safe, if only for now, and okay, if only a minimum, is a beautiful place compared to the other stopovers on this detour.  I’m grateful for the gift of more space, more hope, more joy that this place offers.  And I am grateful that safe and okay is an edge of something more and not an end.

Allowing it to be well with my soul

Things are well at our house, at least when it comes to cupcakes.  Every fall, our family picks coloured leaves, sharpens pencils, and gets ready for the first of two clustered birthday seasons.  We make a little banner for the kitchen, tie balloons to the appropriate...

Lost is a place, too…

I am lost. The weird thing about this lost, however, is that I am lost in the most familiar places – my home, my relationships, my life. One thing has changed, but that one thing has changed everything. Lost is a place too, a place of feeling unsettled, disoriented,...

Tending to the wounds of a broken heart

Wounds are strange teachers. Ten days ago, I sliced through the tip of my left ring finger trying to pry leftover ice cream cake off the cardboard. (Don’t worry; I assured my inquiring brother-in-law that the cake was unharmed.) The sting was worse than the blood. And...

Tracing the Shape of the Dark

My sister had an old dead tree tattooed on her arm. She always meant to have dark clouds filled in behind it, but she didn’t get the chance. I asked her why a dead tree and not a living one; she said it was because she had seen the dark and the dead and gotten through...

An Obituary for my Sister…

With broken hearts, our family shares that Abbie Diana Speir was taken from us at her home in Yellow Grass on April 20, 2017 at the age of 33. Abbie was born at Royal University Hospital on September 29, 1983. She spent her school years in Elrose, loving her friends...

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…

…and Preaching

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.

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