Lent day 15- #UULent reflection word: Serenity
Oooooh that sounds so nice, doesn’t it? Serenity. It sounds ethereal and floaty and soft. As I wrap another long day with an endless to-do list in preparation for my sabbatical (T minus 6 days), serenity feels like a far away fairy land!
And frankly, the way my life operates, especially with 2 kids and a full time working spouse, serenity is not something we achieve all that often. Our culture does not encourage this pursuit (even as we might support green spaces meant to offer serenity).
All of our to-do lists are too long and rest it too scarce. The world is biking over with existential threats far beyond our control and it’s shaking us to our core. Why should we pursue serenity when others are being bombed and targeted and silenced?
Let us remember that our well-being, our serenity feeds the whole.
It may only be possible in small moments. In the next breath. In the pause between doing the dishes and falling into bed. Take it, claim it whenever you can. For me it comes in glancing at a beautiful full moon. Or taking a walk between meetings or laying on the floor with all three dogs or family movies night with popcorn and blankets. Each moment offers a chance at serenity and I add them all up until the larger stretches of serenity will do doubt present themselves.
And because I let myself practice serenity, I know it’s possible and I use it to fuel my hope of bringing it more fully into being for all people and all of creation.
Here is a full moon. It is offering Serenity for as long as you’ll take it. Just look up.
Lent day 7 - #UULent reflection word: Alone
My first reaction to this word was “not another sad word.” But, of course, this is Lent. The whole purpose is to reflect on the hard parts of life and the inevitability of death. Jesus did go into the wilderness and fasted. This is part of the ritual of sacrifice during lent, to experience sacrifice of our own choosing as a spiritual practice, pushing us, maybe, closer to the Divine. Jesus often went into to the wilderness alone to pray and be nearer to the Holy.
Then it occurred to me, “I really like being alone.” In part, because it is such a rare occurrence in my life. I often think I’d love to have 40 days and 40 nights all alone, maybe not fasting, but still. The older I get and the more the challenges of life bear down upon me, the more I crave the space to be alone; to reflect and contemplate and breathe. Only when I am alone and quiet am I truly able to hear my own spirit speaking. Only then am I able to listen my my hearts longing, to the holy longing and discover a depth and peace (and sometimes agitation and rage) that need to be expressed and tended.
Alone can be painful. Studies have shown how teenagers report feeling deeply lonely and isolated at higher rates than ever before. But alone can also be beautiful. I am headed in a sabbatical in 2 weeks and am definitely planning time to be alone in the wilderness with just my thoughts and prayers and spiritual practices (and food, because I’m not ready to give that up).
The photo I chose for today was from a few days I got to spend alone in the wilderness (at a cabin) at the end of January. Yeah, there was a natural hot spring pool. We are blessed with lots of those in Idaho. It didn’t suck. It was heaven.
Lent Day 4 - #UULent reflection word: Vulnerability
Ooof. I have a love-hate relationship with vulnerability. I’ve been reflecting on what to post all day. I’ve watched Brene Brown’s vulnerability TED talk probably a hundred times. As a Minister, my work naturally places me in spaces of deep vulnerability, accompanying people and families in some of their hardest moments. It is an honor and privilege and their vulnerability in those moments is profoundly beautiful.
But, embracing vulnerability in my own life is hard, and I am not a fan. I am the kind of person with the personality that thrives on achievement. I thrive on being seen as professional and hard working, organized and smart—on her game, in control. Vulnerability is the exact opposite of that. Vulnerability is about the mess and the struggle and the uncertainty of life; about sharing your deepest fears and worries and shame and longing and doubt. It is the courage to be imperfect, and often in public.
And that is an uncomfortable and sometimes terrifying space to occupy and my first response to all of that is no f-ing way. Not it.
So, here it goes.
Last June I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer—the “good kind” apparently (do we really use those words when talking about cancer?). I have not shared this publicly, just with a few family and friends (and my congregation which felt plenty public and vulnerable). I’m sorry that some of you I dearly love will be learning this on Facebook. The cancer was non-invasive and early stage and very treatable. But, as a result of this diagnosis, I had some genetic testing done and learned I carry the BRCA2 genetic mutation, which not only greatly increases my overall risk for breast, ovarian and a few other cancers, but drastically changed the course of treatment.
I had the first major surgery in November and a follow-up surgery just a week ago. There will likely be more surgeries in my near future which will remove even more of my parts (I am not sharing details here, vulnerability does have limits, but you can infer a lot). Before last year, I had only had one other surgery in my life (at 40 to repair a torn ACL) and my only experience in a hospital was giving birth to my kids.
Oh yeah, and all of this came about from my first-ever mammogram. That felt like a gut punch. The whole experience has been an emotional roller coaster and just hard, exhausting, scary, and full of grief. There have been moments of joy and gratitude, yes, and I have had great medical care and have been loved and cared for by so many. But that still does not erase the pain and vulnerability of it all.
I am one of the lucky ones, I know. I know. And still, I have cried tears of deep sorrow and still wrestle with so much internal emotional turmoil all in the midst of a pandemic and a world on fire.
This is my vulnerability reflection for Lent 2022. And I am quietly chanting to myself, vulnerability is courage not weakness.
Vulnerability is beautiful. Yours, too.
My photo reflection is a picture I took of my legs in the hospital after the first surgery, wrapped in the air compression thingys. And also a picture of the downtown skyline outside my hospital window at 4am.
NOTE for those who read to the end a want of offer a comment. I kindly ask, or rather beg of you, please do not begin your comment with, “At least…” it is not helpful. And, I will still love you.
Rev. Sara LaWall
Justice minded, Unitarian Universalist Minister, mother & wife serving Boise, ID