Finding God Within

dbf30df3dd3e44bf6050bcff29e04b25I once read that coming to knowing God is like walking around a sculpture. A photo of a sculpture cannot provide the same depth as seeing a sculpture in person where you can walk around it and see it in new light. Each vantage point provides new understanding. So it is with my relationship with God. The more I experience of life and creation the better I know my Beloved God.

One area in which I struggle to know God is within myself. While I believe God dwells in me deeply it is hard to be present to this communion with my God on a daily basis. I try to reflect on this during my early morning commute. My long drive gives me plenty of time to pray about the previous day and reflect on where I have noticed or missed God. I do this almost every workday yet I can rarely say I noticed God in myself. I’m sure many people share this experience . It is easy to see God in the good, beautiful, and meaningful events of my day but not so simple to see God in the ordinary such as myself. This may be in part because we often hear God discussed as out there or, more commonly, up there. Another road block for some is the common masculine metaphor we usually use to describe God. Yet any image we may come up with for God is just that, an image. It is hard to wrap our minds and hearts around our God, Creator and Mystery, so it is only natural to develop metaphors which describe some aspect of God.

I have found the female metaphors for God to be very helpful for me. Some familiar feminine Biblical images for God include: mother, hen, the woman with a lost coin, and Sophia. It is easier to see God’s movement within me when I can imagine God as She. This was reinforced for me at a recent new member workshop with my community. We spent the weekend studying feminist theology. We covered several key topics from feminism to some theological writings. We also had sometime for reflection. One such opportunity during this weekend was time to reflect on ourselves as images of God.

During this prayer period I recalled the words of a theologian who wrote, “God is not beside me but dwelling deeply within me.” I can’t recall who wrote this but it has stuck with me for sometime as a strong reminder of the deep communion God maintains with God’s own creation. This weekend workshop reminded me that this relationship isn’t anything I need to earn. We are all inherently worthy and loved by our God. We are all made in God’s own image. We are all made in love and for no other purpose than to be with God who is present in all creation, including myself.

 

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A New Chapter

You may have noticed the new title to my blog, “Stainless Steel Sister”.  You are still in the right spot!  The pirate chapter has closed, and I have taken the page formally entitled “I’m a Pirate After All” down.  I am very fond of the pirate metaphor so it is posted one final time below just in case you missed it.

I always thought I was going to get married.  That’s not how most people would think discerning religious life would start, but that’s how my journey began.  I was in high school when a teacher, who was discerning the diaconate, planted the first seed when he said, “If you’ve ever ruled something out, just keep it on the back burner.”  I have no idea why I took this to heart except that it must have been an act of God because once I’ve made up my mind I can be kind of stubborn.  Fortunately, God kept nudging me and throughout college I began to slowly move toward the Sisters of Mercy although I didn’t know it at the time.

I wish my decision to pursue religious life was a single moment that I could describe to you but I grew into it, or maybe it would be more accurate to say it grew into me.  Either way it was a gradual process that was helped significantly by a group of students I met with in college.  We gathered together often and simply shared what was on our minds; the things that scared us, and the things that made us so excited for whatever God had planned for us!  I never knew I could feel both of those things at the same time and it was so much easier to be with people who were figuring this out as they went along just like I was.

It was during this time that I went on Mercy Challenge with others who were thinking about joining Mercy.  We spent the week in service to the poor of Sacramento, but the memory that sticks with me the most had nothing to do with that.  My vocation minister happened to be on this trip and one day she was showing me around the mother house when we happened upon an elderly sister who was lost.  She couldn’t remember where her room was, and seeing the care that my minister had for this sister that she had never met before has always stuck with me as a true example of what it means to be a sister, and to be merciful.

As I spent more time with the Sisters of Mercy the feeling of coming home became undeniable for me. The love and support I have received as I transitioned into community life, ministered as a chef at the local soup kitchen, and navigated the last few years has made me realize how wonderful and strong this family of women is. Now, as I look forward to the novitiate I value that support more than ever.

I have decided to start this blog to share my story, however strange and grammatically incorrect it maybe, in the hope that someone will find my experiences, and mistakes helpful in their own journey.  Oh, and the pirate thing… well I’ve always liked the sense of adventure and the desire to be counter cultural which just happen to be two attributes I see in religious life.  Not to mention the great hats!

Breathe and Be Yourself

 

img_0788bMy ministry’s environment can be rather hectic most days; full of activity and lots of people.  The day is on the short side, just seven hours, but between breakfast and lunch we serve an average of 300 meals a day and I depend on a lot of volunteers to get this done.  I’m also an introvert so socializing with volunteers and guests all day requires a lot of energy for me.  With all that goes on at work I began to notice I was holding my breath while cooking and would have to consciously think about breathing for a moment, attentively releasing all of the breath from my lungs so I could take in fresh breath.  I’m grateful for all those yoga classes I took where I learned this and other breathing practices which helped in the moment but had not really changed my general experience of work-place stress.  Cooking has often been a special meditative activity for me which I treasure so I wanted to do something to address the root causes of this stress in my work place and return to what has always been a rejuvenating process for me.

secretsI happen to be taking a class on prayer which uses the book, “Secrets of Prayer” (Nancy Corcoran, CSJ), and around the same time when I began to notice my troubles at work I was into the section about praying with our five senses.  In this chapter Sr. Nancy discusses Thich Nhat Hanh’s bell meditation which is the practice of stopping what you are doing when you hear a bell and becoming mindfully present.  I thought that I would give this a try at work to see if it helped so I began to consider what sound I would use as my “bell”.  The doorbell is wired into the kitchen though you can hear it almost everywhere in the building, it’s just that loud and obnoxious like an old fashioned fire alarm, so I chose this sound for my practice.  I liked the idea of taking an annoyance and transforming it into something peaceful.  For this meditation I cannot stop during my day as Thich Nhat Hanh recommends, but when the obnoxious door bell rings I bring myself mindfully to the moment and fully attentive to whatever action I am preforming, or I at least take three mindful breaths.

This could not have worked better for me.  I no longer find myself holding my breath while I cook and just the other day I was running around wishing someone would ring the obnoxious doorbell.  The gift I did not expect with this practice is that I am more myself during the day, the more at ease I am the more authentic and patient I am able to be while I relate to my volunteers and guests. My days are just as hectic as ever, and just as full of extroversion, but I am learning to be still in the rushing pace of life.

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