Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: A Year of Changes

The Little House When We First Met It Last Fall
A year ago at this time we were still house-hunting. Of course, we had no business house-hunting, for we had not yet sold our home in Madison, but in other ways the time seemed right. The time must have been right, for we found The Little House, and here we are enjoying our first fall in this house. 

When I think about the last year I am quite amazed at all we have done --all the changes we have managed and how settled we feel. Not only did we move into this house, but we moved my Dad from his home of almost 48 years into a senior living facility, and a few months later got his home ready to be sold, which it did quickly. We moved out of our apartment here in St Paul and then soon after that our home in Madison sold and we completed the move into this house. 

I have been living here full-time since the end of November, but Bruce commuted between here and Madison until the end of July, living in an apartment in Madison 4 days each week. Now he is here full-time, as well, and working part-time here at home. 

Then there was my broken ankle the end of March --a major and unwanted time-out. My healing has gone well, but is not yet complete, and at times I am frustrated by my own lack of speed and energy.

And, of course, as with any move, there have been house projects --new kitchen countertops and backsplash and major painting on the first floor, including all the woodwork and windows. Both projects dragged on for far too long, extending the feeling of unsettledness. Bruce has worked in the yard, thrilled to have garden space again, and the results add to the pleasure of being here, but now the garage project will begin soon. The tiny one stall garage, although cute and cottagey, will be replaced by a much needed two-car garage. We will need to overlook the mess and the noise for awhile. 

Keeping the Big Picture in Mind
I know many of you have had much more agitation and dis-ease in your lives than I have ever had, and I don't present this list of changes in order to encourage your sympathy. Our life is good--wonderfully good, and I am so grateful to be here and now. We have weathered the changes and while there have been periods of utter exhaustion and feelings of "what now?" for the most part we have put our feet in front of us and have done what needed to be done. 

Along the way we relish many joys. For example, Bruce picks up our grandson at the end of the school day and walks him back to our house. I fix him a snack of applesauce and a couple cookies (not homemade, unfortunately!) and the three of us sit at the table and review the day. I tell him what I learned about the wolf pups who had been rescued from a cave in Alaska and are now at the Minnesota Zoo. They will soon be ready for public viewing, and we will go see them. He tells us about his school journals--for math and reading and his daily journal. Then we sit in our sunporch, and I read him a few chapters in the new book we are reading until his Mom comes to pick him up. Our granddaughter Maren went home after school, instead of going to volleyball practice because she wasn't feeling well. She is fine on her own, but I told our daughter that we would be available if she needed to stay home from school the next day.

This is why we are here. This is where we are meant to be. Right now. These are the things, along with the time to be with my Dad and to reconnect with friends and family, that make the stresses in the changes of the last year all worthwhile. 

Experiences of Change
This past weekend we were with friends who are going through similar major changes right now. They have sold their home and are living temporarily in an apartment. Their furniture is in storage. They have bought a new home in another state, but are not able to start living in it for a few months. That means living in a different apartment in that new location. She has left her job and doesn't know what the next step is, and he is transferring to a different office and will do some commuting part-time and work at home, wherever home is, part-time. They said we give them hope--that eventually they, too, will be settled. We talked about master lists and the Big Picture. 

While out walking one morning I met a woman who has just moved here to be near her daughter and her family and to help with childcare for a toddler. Because her home sold faster than anticipated, she didn't have much time to find a place to live here. She is in an apartment with an absentee and oblivious landlord, and the apartment needs much improvement to be livable.  She still has needed items in a storage unit in her previous location. The disarray in her new place matches her emotional unsettledness. 

Many others in my life have experienced similar situations in recent years. We seem to know it is time for a change, whether it is  downsizing our homes and stuff or moving to be closer to family as we get older or to help with an even older generation. We have retired or have experienced drastic health issues or both. We feel pulled in more than one direction--to experience as much as we can before we can't and yet to slow down and find a new rhythm. Sometimes we are on the same page as our partner in life, and sometimes not. Some of us feel supported in our decisions by our closest family members, and some of us are on our own. 
Sometimes we have the good fortune of planning for change, examining the possibilities, making pro-con lists, and moving forward in the way we think makes the most sense, and other times life intervenes and forces the change. 

The Need for a Spiritual Practice
How do we cope? Fortunately, we have a great deal of life experience behind us at this point. We know how we have coped in the past and what has worked and what hasn't. With a little reflection we understand what our defaults are --what we do when we feel stressed--and by this time in our life, I hope we recognize our healthy and unhealthy responses and can correct the course faster than we did when we were in our 20's and 30's. 

This is the time, my friend, to stop and listen to how God, however you definite the sacred, the holy, is moving in your life right now. What is God asking of you, offering to you? How is God asking you to address your longing? And what can you do to enrich the possibility of knowing the movement of God in your life, of hearing your inner voice and living your essential being? This is the time to deepen your spiritual practice. If you don't have something you can identify as a spiritual practice, and the definition is broad, now is the time to invite a practice into your life and practice it. What is it you do with intention that opens you to the sacred? Name it and practice it. 

Of course, as a spiritual director, I also advocate meeting with a spiritual director, for that person can help you identify spiritual practices to match you and your life, and can listen with you to the movement of God in your life. I believe with all my heart that we do not make any of these life-altering changes alone, and cultivating a spiritual practice helps me recognize the depth of holy connection available to me. 

The changes will continue to happen--some by design and others because that's the way life is, but how we meet the changes is up to us. My prayer is when you feel unsettled, may you open to what sustains and grounds you and find peace and even joy. Here's to change. 

An Invitation
Think about the changes you have encountered in the last year or so. How have you met them and how have they prepared you for future changes? Are there spiritual practices you can strengthen or add into your life that will nurture your soul and allow you to live more fully?

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