I gave the second assignment for November, and this is what I asked myself and my siblings to write about:
Think back over the last year, and write about something you have either read, listened to or watched that has made a tremendous impact on your life. Share about it, and why it impacted your life. The link to Bill’s assignment is here, and the link to Christy’s assignment is here.
Nudging Toward a Remake
As I was driving to the airport to pick up my daughter Zoe this fall, I perused my audio books I had on my Kindle to listen to something I wanted to listen to while driving to Spokane. I came across a book called Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Neiquist.
On the Amazon website, here are a few words that describe this book:
In these pages, New York Times bestselling author Shauna Niequist invites you to consider the landscape of your own life, and what it might look like to leave behind the pressure to be perfect and begin the life-changing practice of simply being present, in the middle of the mess and the ordinariness of life.
Written in Shauna's warm and vulnerable style, this collection of essays focuses on the most important transformation in her life, and maybe yours too: leaving behind busyness and frantic living and rediscovering the person you were made to be. Present Over Perfect is a hand reaching out, pulling you free from the constant pressure to perform faster, push harder, and produce more, all while maintaining an exhausting image of perfection.
Shauna offers an honest account of what led her to begin this journey, and a compelling vision for an entirely new way to live: soaked in grace, rest, silence, simplicity, prayer, and connection with the people that matter most to us.
From the forward by Brene Brown as she said, “Present Over Perfect is an open-armed invitation to welcome the people we love, and even ourselves, back into our lives. It’s not an easy call, but Shauna is at the door and she knows exactly how to make us feel at home,” to the beautiful poem by Mary Oliver titled Wild Geese, tears streamed down my face as I listened to the words of this book that struck a chord with me. A chord that is telling me that my soul is sick and needs nourishment. A chord that is telling me to focus on the important things, and to clearly identify what those important things are in my life. A chord that wants my life to be honest and real. (When people are honest and real, that can make things a bit messy. I need to realize that messiness is good. Messiness I okay. Because, whether we like to admit it or not, we are all, at times, a big, hot mess.) A chord that wants to be present in people’s lives, not perfect.
Here is the poem Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver, that does a wonderful job of setting the tone for the rest of the book.
By Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
Are moving across the landscapes
over he prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
As Niequist starts telling her story, she shares about an email exchange with one of her mentors. At one point, her mentor emails her back and says, “Stop. Right now. Remake your life from the inside out.”
This is where I am at in my life. I need to remake my life from the inside out. What does this mean? I think that is part of the process. This book was a catalyst to get me thinking about this change. There have been other little things in the last few months. A new women’s meeting at my church. A student poetry reading at the high school. A sermon on Sunday focusing on capturing the wonder the shepherds must have felt when the were told of the baby lying in a manger, and then finding the baby. A personal Bible study on learning about Agape love. A reading in the Advent devotional Paul and I have been reading that tells the story of the prodigal son, and explains more about the cultural ramifications the father went through when his son asked for his share of the land, and then he sold the land off before his father’s death, and then how great a love the father showed when the son returned home.
A little nudge here. A little nudge there. Now it is time to start seeing, to start listening, to start experiencing a change in life. Find ways to nourish my soul. Find ways to be real. Find ways to accept the messy. Find ways to connect.
Niequest quotes Thomas Merton in one of her final chapters. He says, “You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.”
I want to know who I am at the deepest level. Somewhere along the way I have lost who I truly am. As I move into 2019, I want to journey toward the deepest level of who I am. I want this to be a journey of love. A journey of finding my way back home.
The book began with Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese.
The book ended with another of Mary Oliver’s poems, The Journey.
I think sharing this poem is a very fitting way to end this post as well.
By Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.