working out what life and call and prayer and silence are all about

Posts tagged ‘coming home’

Cloudy with a chance of raga

When I visit Charleston, it feels like coming home. I didn’t grow up there, but I did grow into myself there. My first church was Redeemer Lutheran in West Ashley (that’s across the Ashley River from the peninsula of Charleston) and my first home was in Belle Hall Plantation, across the Cooper River in Mt. Pleasant. I arrived as a young woman, fresh out of seminary, with big ideas and big dreams about making a difference in people’s lives. I worked late hours organizing youth events and outreach ministries and developing relationships with the young adults who were moving to the area just like me. It was a moment in time when I felt that everything was possible and that nothing could happen that I couldn’t handle.

Brunch on the water with my dear friend Cheryl

In the middle of yoga teacher training last week, I was invited to spend the holiday weekend in Charleston with our assistant director, Lisa, and another student, Linda. I was looking forward to the escape, leaving behind the stress of planning my practice classes (yes, yoga teacher training can be stressful!) I couldn’t wait to share my Charleston with my new friend, Linda, who’d never been there before. I wanted to run the Cooper River Bridge again, remembering my favorite 10K road race. I wanted to show her the rivers that dominate the landscape, bringing life and energy to the city. And I wanted her to walk the streets and feel the sense of history and heritage that permeates every building and landmark.

St. Phillip's Episcopal

I wore myself out on our drive to downtown, pointing out the street where I used to live, the Coburg cow that changes color for the holidays, and the Krispy Kreme with the Hot Now sign that used to lure me in. With a storm approaching, we didn’t get the full downtown tour, but we hit the highlights and prepared for an evening concert performance by Lisa’s fiddle-playing daughter. After the amazing show (don’t miss them at Woolfe Street Playhouse!) we walked down King Street for some ice cream. Expecting to be wary as we walked down an empty street at night in this part of town, I was confronted by crowds of young professionals, scantily-clad and all clambering to get into the new hot spots downtown. What happened to my Charleston? I used to enjoy walking the streets at night, along the quiet waterfront, past the peaceful churches and their semi-spooky graveyards. Now I was thrust into some kind of Kardashian-inspired catwalk, where being seen at the right club would make history on your Instagram. This is NOT my Charleston, I told Linda.

Red, White, and Cash

As I drifted off to sleep that night, I wondered why I was so disturbed by the crowds on King. Why was I upset that new restaurants with glitter in the windows were attracting young professionals who had made Charleston their home. And it hit me: raga. It’s a Sanskrit term, one of the kleshas: things that distract us from seeing what is, that prevent us from experiencing what is true. Raga is holding on to the memory of a pleasurable experience, something that was enjoyable, and wanting to repeat that experience: becoming attached to it. In the midst of raga, we are miserable in the present because it doesn’t reflect our past. The memory of what was (past) clouds our view of what is (present.)

I realized that my memories of life in Charleston were holding me back from experiencing the delight of Charleston today. And I thought about all the other memories that hold me back. Memories of old relationships that cloud my perception of new relationship possibilities. Memories of the way my body used to work that hold me back from enjoying the way my body works now. Memories of accomplishments and achievements that set impossibly high, perfectionist standards that get in the way of trying new things and taking risks.

Yogic philosophy gave me a name for the feelings I was having that night, and reminded me that being in the present is the only way to pay attention to God’s presence within and around me. The more I’m looking over my shoulder at the past, and longing for whatever used to be, the less I’m able to see what’s right in front of me: the abundant graceful gifts of God. As I enter my last two weeks of yoga teacher training, I want to be fully in the present, taking on the challenge of being a beginner at this new thing, and embracing the blessings of the supportive community Discovery Yoga creates for their teachers. So it’s time to let go of the memories, file them away so they don’t take center stage, and allow the present to blossom in front of me, full of abundance and grace and the promise of new beginnings.

Coming home

I’ve lived in a lot of different places by now. I moved every year through college and seminary, I’ve owned two homes and rented several in between. I’ve traveled to Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, the Middle East and all over the US, and I’ve lived in 6 different states. I’ve loved it all – discovering new cultures, exploring new terrain, meeting new people. And because I’m an organizing geek, I’ve loved finding ways to arrange my stuff in each new locale.

But with traveling and moving comes some stress. There are new customs to decipher, procedures to follow, information that’s needed but can’t be found. It’s hard to start your day when you can’t find the basic necessities of life: towels, soap, toilet paper. And it simply takes a while to get used to a new place. So even as I seek out new adventures, I long for the comforts of home.

One thing has always helped me find the balance between adventure and safety. Wherever I’ve traveled, wherever I’ve moved, I never feel right until I’ve found a place to run. When I’m running, I’m able to explore new places in a way that most tourists don’t. I’m up early and out the door as the shopkeepers begin their daily chores and the locals are walking their dogs. I learn which bars were the rowdiest the night before and which parts of town get overlooked by other travelers.
But even as I get to experience something new on each run, I’m also returning to the safety of what I know: the way my knees creak during my warmup, the satisfaction of deep breaths, the rhythm of my stride that remains the same, no matter where I am.
When I’m running, wherever I’m running, I am home.

On Sunday I ran in that fabled city of runners, Austin. It was in the mid-90’s by the time I got to Lady Bird Lake in the middle of town. But I knew I needed this run, to remind myself of who I am, and so I took off into the humidity. I ran under the shade of trees that line the lake. And I partook of life-giving water from fountains generously located along the trail. I was entertained by the hundreds of kayakers and SUPers learning their new skills, and by the families with kids in various stages of grumpiness and irritability. And as I was buoyed by the crowd of runners braving the heat, I realized that once again, I had come home.

I still can’t find the box that has my belts and scarves, and I don’t know how we’re going to get to the decorations in the garage come Christmastime, and who knows how long it will take to get my car and self registered and licensed in the state of Texas. But none of that really matters. Because I found a place to run.


abundant life at home

Traveling is incredibly stimulating to me. Seeing new sites, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures – all of this sets my senses on high alert and makes me almost giddy. And this state of being is perfect for the discipline of awareness. Looking for abundant life in a new setting was a breeze. Where wasn’t I seeing God at work, pouring out life in abundance?

And then I came home. I had to do laundry. I had to go through the mail. I had to feed the dog. And my son. None of these are exciting tasks in my life, yet they are all necessary (especially feeding that boy.) So where is the abundant life in the midst of the drudgery?

I led worship this morning. I was kind of a mess. I couldn’t find where last week’s substitute pastor left my lavaliere mic. I almost started the service without a bulletin to tell me what page we needed to be on. And I totally blanked on what I say every week when we collect the offering. But as I was swirling in my own personal chaos, people were gathering and sharing stories of their week’s work. Our pianist played a moving prelude. Readers proclaimed God’s Word with passion and expression. Kids came running up to me for the children’s sermon. People responded to my sermon, even when I felt like I was heading off on too many tangents.

And just in case I wasn’t paying attention to all these wonderful signs of abundant life, God gave me the choir. They sang a John Bell song from the Iona Community: We Will Take What You Offer, and let me tell you: they rocked it. 4 parts, staggered entrances, building excitement, conveying commitment to discipleship, filling our hearts with passion to do the same.

Their voices lifted me up and reminded me that I was home. These are my people – friends in Christ, partners in ministry. And as we sing together and pray together and work together, we live out the abundant life Christ promised. I thank God for them.

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