Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's probably not what you think: Reflections on writing a book

One of the first impulses I had when I opened the box and took out Awaken Your Senses was to find a place to hideaway so that I could read it. Funny, isn't it? After all, by the time the book made it to print, Brent Bill and I had read and reread the manuscript more than a half-a-dozen times. Just the same, and maybe from the realization that others can now read what I've written, I wanted to experience the book in the same way you might. I wanted to hold it in my hands and take it in.

There are lots of things that have surprised me about writing and publishing a book. My guess is, it's probably not what you think it would be like, either. For instance:  

I'm not famous.

I'm not rich.

And I don't (think I) have a big head.

Writing a book doesn't make you famous. It's not uncommon to sell only a few thousand copies of a book. And, if you haven't noticed, there are a few thousand titles to choose from when you're looking for a book to read. The competition is stiff. But I have noticed that writing a book opens doors to good conversations. It's very cool to me when someone picks up my book, reads it and then emails or Facebooks me to talk about it. In fact, not long ago, someone with whom I went to high school but never knew well read The Wide Open Spaces of God. As a result, we got together for coffee and had an awesome conversation about our spiritual journeys that would have never happened if she hadn't read my book.

Writing a book doesn't make you rich, either. It was a bit of a shock when I published my first book and discovered that I only made a couple bucks from each copy. So, you can do the math--if you only make a couple bucks and you only sell a few thousand copies, it doesn't add up to much cash. The reward for me is more personal than it is monetary. My heart feels incredibly full after completing the process of writing and publishing a book. The conception, creation, writing process and completion is a huge accomplishment with very personal dividends.

Finally, writing a book doesn't really give you a big head. (Well--maybe if you became rich and famous.) Undoubtedly, some assume that if you write and publish a book, you must be full of your self. You must think you're an expert and everybody should listen to what you have to say. Maybe this comes from believing that writing a book is a bigger deal than it really is. Now--don't take this wrong. It is a big deal to me and to my publisher for sure. We want Awaken Your Senses to be a tremendous success--to sell thousands of copies and, most of all, to help people connect more deeply with God. But for me, writing a book feels natural, like it's the work I was called and created to do--not some extraordinary feat.

Ever since I wrote and published my first book, I've met lots of people who say they want to write a book. If you happen to be one of them, I hope my honest reflections haven't discouraged you. It's one of the most satisfying and rewarding accomplishments of my life--but probably for different reasons than you might think. And one last thing--if you are thinking about writing a book, I would love to send you a great resource called Writing a Winning Book Proposal. (It's what you provide a publisher--not a whole manuscript.) This resource was written by Michael Hyatt and is very helpful for writers who have never written a book proposal before. Just email me at and I will send you a pdf.

There you have it! Honest reflections of a very grateful author. I hope this was helpful. Have a blessed New Year!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Advent: Jesus Came; Jesus Comes; and Jesus will Come Again

It wasn't until I served in an interim role at a Lutheran church that I really understood the significance of liturgical seasons like this one. Since that time, I have come to appreciate the historical (since the beginning of the early church) and global practice (with Christians from around the world) of joining the common prayers and reflections of a given season in the church calendar.

This is the second week of Advent, a period of preparation, a season of anticipating the coming of our Lord. It a beautiful perspective--one in which we look at the past, the future and the present. Advent celebrates the truth that Jesus came; Jesus comes; and Jesus will come again.

Jesus came: a truth that can sometimes feel sentimental, as though it's a fairy tale. Yet, when I reread the gospel accounts of the little babe born of a virgin in Bethlehem, I am rooted once again in the solid, historical and undeniable truth of the human Jesus.

Jesus comes: a truth that can feel mysterious and squishy, applying to those who have a mystical relationship with God, but not the rest of us who live very tangibly in the hear and now. Yet, when I awake to each ordinary day with eyes wide open, I do see Jesus come to me: alive in Scripture; in the words of my husband, daughter, or friend; through the natural world speaking; and through my daily bread.

Jesus will come again: a truth that has been propagandized and can often feel irrelevant in light of the work that needs to be done today. Yet, something inside me knows. It knows that time is moving forward, culminating in a day, someday, in the future. That something is the notion of eternity, planted in me by God who made my spirit/soul eternal. One day, I will bow the knee of my heavenly body, and my tongue will confess in unison with all humanity that Jesus Christ is Lord.

So, I'm curious. Which perspective is hardest for you to believe? That Jesus came? He comes? Or He will come again? Maybe that's the direction you need to face as you look for Him during this Advent season.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Consensual Pregnancy

I held Madonna in my hand--a small figure from our Nativity. Her head was slightly bowed; posture tipped forward, as if bowing her heart, as well. I studied her, something of her form speaking to me  about myself.

A word came to mind--a strange word, at first. Consensual. It was a consensual pregnancy that led to the birth of Jesus.

Typically, when we hear or use the word "consensual" it is in relationship with the word sex. We speak of two "consenting" adults, agreeing to engage in sexual relations with one another--often illicit sexual relations.

Yet I saw it here, as well. Consensual pregnancy. Holy Spirit consenting to impregnate. Young virgin consenting to be impregnated. Both with postures low, head's bowed. One, not considering equality with God something to be grasped. Another, not considering being chosen by God something conceivable.

Protests rose up within her. "But how can this be? I'm a virgin; unworthy; not capable." Protests rose up within him. "Must I take on human flesh; leave the heavens of my home; suffer?"

In the end, both said yes. 

Giving birth to our dreams begins with the same consent on both our parts--God's and ours. Our being humbled by being chosen; God's humility in choosing. Heads and hearts bowed.

What protests rise up within you and me? Do we have the courage to consent, to say, "Be it unto me as you have said."?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: What's God waiting for?

Do you ever wonder what God's waiting for? Why God delays answering your prayer. Why he's stalling to realize a dream or even need you have? The answer to that question is often unclear. Yet, as I ponder this waiting period as we prepare to launch Sustainable Faith Indy, I do notice important things happening. The one's most obvious to me are within me.

It's not that I can see obvious, tangible reasons for God's delay, but I can see a shifting within my own heart. As I settle into what feels like a "long winter's night," I find myself thinking and processing important questions, finding a heart posture that I can support during this stand-still.

Most of all, I sense a deepening yieldedness. Through the passage of time, I notice God inviting me to a greater surrender to his will and an openness to receive his guidance and counsel. It takes time for me to get to that place. It's interesting to me that just as I think I'm waiting on God, in reality, He's waiting on me. 

Last week, I was Sustainable Faith Cincy SFC for the School of Spiritual Direction. As we gathered for our first morning together, Dave Nixon led us in a version of the Lord's Prayer that he wrote after reflecting on the passage. As we repeated this prayer, phrase by phrase, one particular line stood out to me. In a moment, I knew that it expressed what God is waiting for in my life.

Here is Dave's paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer. The line that spoke most to me is in bold. Take some time to pray it, line by line, and in the process open your heart to a posture of surrender.

Our Father-in-Heaven, be lifted up today.
Let your intention for us be realized completely regardless of what it might cost.
We look to you to feed us, to provide what we need.
Forgive our sins; cancel our debts.
Teach us to do the same for others.
We are weak and prone to wander.
Oh, have mercy, dear Lord.
Find us in our weakness; rescue us in our lostness.
Protect us from the evil one.
We confess you as King of the Everlasting Kingdom,
The High and omnipotent God,
The All-Glorious One.
This is how it is and how it always will be.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Trying to Figure God Out

A friend of mine wrote me recently and made the off-hand comment that it "seems like we are confined to understanding our lives backward." I knew just what he meant. Often, as I puzzle over the mixed media of my life, I have a difficult time understanding the emerging image. It isn't until I get some distance, step back with time, that I can make out the purposes of God in it. But when I struggle to understand, my natural tendency is to try to figure God out. I ruminate and speculate about what is going on and what he is doing. And that preoccupation typically makes me more anxious.

As I give birth to the dream of Sustainable Faith Indy (SFI), I find myself trying to figure God out. The birthing process has not happened quickly and concisely and the way forward is not clear. The tangible reality of this dream is still hazy. 

I read a short paragraph this week that brought this experience together for me. It's by a 17th Century priest named Francois Fenelon. I thought it might having meaning for you. Fenelon offered this counsel to one of his friends:

"The future is in God's hands, not yours. God will rule it according to your need. But if you seek to forecast it in your own wisdom, you will gain nothing but anxiety and anticipation of inevitable trouble. Try only to make use of each day. Each day brings its own good and evil and sometimes what seems evil becomes good if we leave it to God and do not forestall him with our impatience."

Trying to figure God out can be a perplexing vocation when using our own wisdom and vision. I know that my impatience to understand my life often leads to frustration. I appreciate Fenelon's advice to "try only to make use of each day." That seems to be God's word for me right now. That and being grateful for what I have today.

So, let me invite you to join me in an imagining prayer exercise that might help us "make use of each day" as we live into our dreams:

As you embrace the dreams within you, imagine being a tree, stretching tall toward the sky, yearning with desire. As you reach upward, what does it means to "root yourself" in today? Feel yourself thirstily sinking your roots downward into the soil of your present life; imagine living right now in Christ from your true self.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Miscarriage

For those who have never suffered a miscarriage, it's probably hard to know what it's really like. The elusive emptiness; the hollow sorrow of losing something that you never held; something that never had visible substance, yet had become real to you.

It became real because your imagined it. You found out that you were pregnant and soon your mind was alive with images, with wonderment of what it would be like, some day, to hold this little child in your arms. And when the miscarriage happened, all those dreams had no where to go, no funeral, no place to be buried.

Our first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. We hadn't planned on or tried to get pregnant. But once we found out, it took no time before we let our imaginations frolic along the path of future parenthood. It felt like a cruel and unbelievable prank when, at 14 weeks, I lost our baby.

I felt so very alone in my pain. Nothing to show for it, other than the dreams I'd dreamed. I ached and wept for days, cocooned in a dark space of disappointment and bewilderment. It took weeks to come to terms with the loss of this dream and with God. Over time, I suppose I did.

Strangely today I feel some of the same anguish. I've grown up a bit since my first miscarriage and learned a bit more about the nature of life and what to expect of it. But today I feel that same elusive emptiness and hollow sorrow. Not because of the loss of a human life within me, but the loss of a dream--a dream that had captured and consumed my imagination for weeks.

In the process of giving birth to this dream of a retreat center (SFI), David and I found what looked like a viable property. It was a little, hand-hewn log home in a cluster of woods with a stream and pond on 5 acres of land. It had much of what we wanted and the setting made our imagination combustible.

Then we found out on Monday, the same day we also found out that we had a guaranteed buy-out on our home, that the cabin had sold over the weekend. So..., here we are, wondering and grieving; aching and wistful as we reminisce about what could have been.

When I had my first miscarriage, God met me in a particular gospel story. Interestingly, last week, before we "miscarried" the dream of our little cabin in the woods, I spent time in imagining prayer in the same story: John 11.

This chapter tells about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The narrative explains that Jesus dearly loved Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. Yet, instead of coming to them when he heard the news of Lazarus's serious illness, he tarried and Lazarus died. All along, he told his disciples that this sickness would not "end" in death. And days later Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

As I used my imagination in prayer, walking through the story with Jesus, the theme that surfaced was the reality that God often brings life from death. I know that to be true. My journey with him illustrates that reality over and again.

So, right now I am looking for life, trying hard not to keep my eyes narrow but wide open, studying for signs, even in unlikely places. Maybe the most important thing of all, I'm allowing my dream to continue to inspire my imagination. Perhaps miscarriages have that affect.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: The Risk of Desire

One of the greatest risks in giving birth to our dreams is the risk of desiring. Desire is what spawns dreams. Desire--an unweildly beast--is what rises up within us like a caged animal wanting to be released. But something in us knows that if we open the cage door, life will never be the same. Pandamonium may result.

(Yes, I'm using this analogy on the heels of the national news story of the guy in Zanesville, Ohio who "collected" wild animals for a hobby and two nights ago let them out of their cages and then took his own life.)

It feels like I've let desire out of it's cage and it's running loose. Not only have I embraced the desire to establish Sustainable Faith Indy ( ), but David and I have let our hearts go for a specific property to house SFI. After we found it, we immediately put our house on the market and have been earnestly moving forward to see if we could purchase it.

We wrote a contingency offer on Friday (contingent on selling our house) and yesterday we found out that someone else has put an offer on it--without a contingency. Now it hurts to desire. It feels like a trick to desire. Our imaginations had run wild with desire as we envisioned ourselves, our family and Sustainable Faith guests retreating at this property.

Now what do we do since desire is out of it's cage? 

I'm not sure. That's what I am asking God this morning. All along we have prayed deeply about our dream and this property--prayed that if it's not the place, that God would redirect us. I'm still not ready to give it up; not ready to let this particular property go. Perhaps the desire it evoked can lead us to a better place, a different property that has the same, or even more potential.

Yes, it feels like a risk to desire. At the same time, it seems unimaginable and even tragic to keep my desires caged inside me. I know that true desire needs the freedom to roam, to explore its surroundings and establish itself. So, even though it hurts right now to desire, it's still worth the risk. (And it certainly beats shooting it--the fate of the lions, tigers and bears in Zanesville. How very sad.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Waiting

The for sale sign is in the front yard. We stuck it in the ground together, ceremoniously, and with a lump in our throats. We've lived deeply and well in this home for fourteen years. It means a lot to us. We've raised four kids and owned two dogs while living here. We've worn traffic patterns in the carpet. Gotten our hands dirty in the garden, planting and transplanting.

The sign in the front yard represents movement--our overcoming the inertia of fourteen years of staying in one place. We've put it there in faith that the dream within us to give birth to Sustainable Faith Indy is a God-dream. And so we wait--something that's never been easy for me.

We wait for the one person to walk through our home and say, "This is it!", so that we can, in turn, say the same to the person who owns the property we have identified. A chain of events. A sequence that must be followed for this dream to have it's day.

This morning, as I was reading The Inner Compass by Margaret Silf, she provided a very helpful prompt for prayer. She invited me to visualize leaving my little, secure cottage at the edge of the banks of a river, and to step out onto the stepping stones in the river (of life). The river around me might be racing or it might be calm. Either way, I must stay planted on the one stone, waiting, until God provides the next one. (Oh, and by the way, I can't see the riverbank on the other side.)

Silf writes, "As time passes, I learn to recognize God's ways, and to trust, when I stand in the middle of the fast-moving water, that he will always bring me one more stone--just one--and call me forward to one next step."

So, I'm waiting for one more stone to take one next step. That's all I need. A chain of events. A sequence that must be followed for this dream to have it's day.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Contractions

I will never forget lying in the hospital bed, preparing to give birth to our first child. I was hooked up to an IV of Petocin, a drug used to induce labor, listening to a woman in the next room in active labor. The sound coming from her terrified me! I listened in horror, thinking to myself, "Is that going to be me in a few hours?"

I never saw the woman, but I pictured her. Her loud, guttural screams made me suspect her to be a large, robust woman with a set of huge lungs. Every time she had a contraction, it sounded like she gripped the side of her bed and fought them with all her might, as if by doing so she could get them to stop. I listened, vowing to myself that I wasn't going to do the same. 

In that moment, I realized that I could either work with the contractions or against them. I could allow them to do their work or fight the work they were trying to do by resisting them. I won't tell you that I followed my advice with agility and flawless execution. I did, however, succeed in not screaming:)

As I give birth to my dream of starting a contemplative retreat center (SFI), I don't know if I am feeling the onset of labor. I might be. We listed our house last week and have our eye on a property. Things could be ratcheting up. Labor could be imminent. In preparation, I am reminded that I can either work with or against the contractions.

Here's what I mean:
  • I can allow God's timing to naturally progress or resist it, hoping to speed things up or slow things down.
  • I can grip life and try to control it, or trust God to be in control of things like the sale of our house and the purchase of an ideal setting for Sustainable Faith Indy.
  • I can scream at life--or at God--when I feel the pain of leaving a home we love and have lived in for 14 years to embrace the new and unknown.
  • I can resent the labor it takes to overcome the inertia of 14 years of rootedness and forget why I am giving birth and what I have to look forward to.  
So, as you, my reader, think about something you are in the process of giving birth to, how would you describe your relationship with the contractions? Are you working with them or against them? Are you embracing the pain and allowing it to do its work in you? The one thing I remember that helped me during active labor was keeping my eye on a focal point. What are you focusing on?

I will keep you posted at the onset of labor, when the true contractions begin!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Meandering

I like to meander. I even like the word meander. It conjures the image of strolling along an unfamiliar path, finding your way as you go. You come to a fork in the road and feel the direction you should take, a route that brings you to new crossroads, ones you wouldn't have found if you hadn't chosen the first way.

I believe that birthing a dream requires a willingness to meander. First, you go one way and travel for a while and then you see a new path that feels copacetic; it feels right and good. That's what happened to me recently, as I was rambling along the path of giving birth to my dream of launching an urban  retreat center. I came to a new crossroads.

I came upon it when David and I were on vacation. The first days of our time away were in an extraordinarily beautiful retreat setting in Virginia called the Belfry. I was there for a writing retreat with other InterVarsity authors. This gracious home was snuggled into a cascade of hills amidst the Blue Ridge Mountains. Each morning we woke early, grabbed a cup of coffee and blanket and headed to a large hill in front of the Belfry to greet the rising sun. It reminded us of what we already knew--that being surrounded by God's creation helps repair and re-center.

This led to a number of important and revelatory conversations about the idea that perhaps we should consider a setting in nature, rather than in the city, for our retreat home. It's like we have approached a new intersection, must stop and look both ways, as we consider this different path.

This morning, David read a verse to me that was meaningful to both of us. We sat and mused about it together. "Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls." Jeremiah 6:16

As we amble along this path with twists and turns and intersections, we have come to a crossroads where we must pause and ask where to go. Ask for the ancient paths. Look for the good way as we yearn for a place of rest--a retreat--for ourselves and for you, our friends and fellow travelers. Would you pray with us and for us. Thank you.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Drawn or Driven?

If you've been following my blog of late, then you know that I am in the beginning stages of giving birth to a dream of starting an urban Christian retreat center in Indianapolis. This endeavor is in partnership with Sustainable Faith in Cincinnati and is called Sustainable Faith Indy.

From the beginning of this dream's inception, I have had tremendous energy for this endeavor. But about two or three weeks ago, the energy changed. It wasn't that I necessarily lost desire, it's more that the passion and movement felt like it was coming from a different place. A more anxious, willful, self-oriented place.

For days now, I've been observing this shift and trying to figure out why my dream had become draining. Through a wonderful book I have been reading, I believe God pointed me to the heart of the matter. I was being driven, not drawn toward this dream.

Margaret Silf, in her book Inner Compass, explains a distinction that St. Ignatious made many centuries ago when he spoke of periods in our life when the inner movement or motives of our heart are drawn toward consolation (in God) or driven toward desolation (away from God).

Smack in the middle of the chapter, she had the audacity to ask me (the reader) a very pointed question: "Am I feeling drawn, powerfully perhaps but always gently, or am I feeling driven?" It took little pondering to know the answer. Driven.

Why had my heart shifted toward desolation and driveness? As I reflect, I see a point when I felt like God was not moving things along solidly enough, quickly enough for my taste. I thought, perhaps, he could use a little help. My help, my initiative, my driveness.

There is something very comfortable, even natural about relying on drive to produce the energy and movement necessary to keep going and continue accomplishing. That's why I think we rarely notice or challenge what's driving us. When I was pressed to stop and clearly ask the question, "Am I being drawn or driven?", it wasn't hard for me to see the source and root of my quest. It was coming from my own self-will and anxiety, rather than from being drawn by God toward God and life and this dream.

One reflection that feels ever-so-subtle is the sense that in my fervor, I began to hide from God. My heart knew that I was straining forward in order to get done what God didn't seem to be getting done. And in the process, I began to follow down the lane of desolation, turning my back upon the precious and faithful presence of God.

So, in the spirit of Margaret Silf and St. Ignatious, may I do a bit of noodling in your life and ask you a question or two:
  • Are you being drawn or driven? Is the movement, action, energy of your life and work coming from a place of consolation or desolation? If you take some time to ponder this question, my guess is you will know.
  • If you are being driven and moving toward desolation, how might you stop in your tracks and reorient your direction toward the One who draws you with loving kindness?
Let's hold one another in prayer that we might give birth to our dreams through the energy and passion of being drawn by God. The fruit of  our life and work will be far sweeter.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Faith

Whether you're pregnant with a baby or a dream, during the period when there are no visible signs of life, you have to take it on faith that something is happening "beneath the surface." That's where I find myself these days as I pray for my dream to become reality. A picture has come to mind that gives me reassurance. It's one that Jesus used to help us imagine the nature of God's Kingdom.

“The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. 28 The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. 29 And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.” Mark 4: 26-29

God's Kingdom is at work within and through the nature of things. In this parable, Jesus speaks of the "earth producing the crops on its own." Interesting. A seed planted in rich soil naturally sprouts on its own time. A seed of a man planted in the womb of a woman does the same. Magic.

Faith is what we dreamers must have as we go about our lives, asleep or awake, waiting for the seeds of our dreams to break ground and sprout into something visible and tangible. We don't understand how it happens. And we don't have to.

Where do you need to trust that the Kingdom of God is at work, even though you don't see the evidence?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Waiting for Signs of Life

I remember distinctly the awkward period in pregnancy when I knew I was pregnant, but I felt little to no signs of pregnancy. It was after the usual morning sickness had subsided. (Mine, confessedly, was never all that bad.) And it was before my waist began to thicken and belly swell. Most of all, it was before I could feel the little life inside me letting me know he or she was there.

It was an awkward time.

In my head I knew the pregnancy test was positive; the doctor had confirmed it. But nothing else confirmed to me that a baby was on the way.

That's a bit how I feel right now in the birthing of this dream. I've named it and told others about it. But as I do the slow and often unnoticeable things like write a business plan, form a board and meet with potential donors/investors, the dream seems like exactly that....a dream.

I am waiting for signs of life. Confirmations that the dream I am birthing is taking shape and form and one day will be a real, tangible urban retreat center called Sustainable Faith Indy.

So, for now, I take it on faith that the baby's in the bun warmer. (Did I just say that? Where in the world did that expression come from?!)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Opening Pandora's Box

If you've ever cracked open the door of your heart to a new dream or desire, then you might feel like I do--like you've just opened Pandora's box. All the desires and interests that accompany your dream, mingled with a brew of anxiety, obsession and impatience seem to pour out of the same spout. 

According to Greek mythology, when Pandora opened her box, supposedly all the contents emptied except one. All the potential evils of the world were released into the atmosphere. One item remained. Hope.

As I wrestle with unpacking this dream of starting an urban retreat center ( SFI ), I see all kinds of emotions and interesting motivations surfacing in the midst of what seems like, feels like, smells like a vision that God has planted within me.

What do I make of this Pandora's box? I've learned in the last few years to pay attention to the mixed bag of things within me and not shame myself for them. (One of the great lessons learned from David Benner in the Gift of Being Yourself--the idea of offering hospitality to your false selves.) Instead, I am trying to be curious and honest; prayerful about what I see that is less than noble and bringing it to God for understanding.

I thought about it today--the fact that I could have left the lid on Pandora's box. I think life would have been easier if I had. But opening it and taking a look inside and wrestling with the contents seems to me a more transforming way. And lo and behold, after all the contents have emptied, there is something left inside. I still have hope.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Infertility

When I began this blog series on giving birth to our dreams, someone made a poignant comment, lamenting that she struggled with infertility as it pertains to dreams. She wondered why; why do some people brim with visions while she struggles to conceive.

This week I had breakfast with a friend. In the course of our conversation, she made a comment that lingered in my mind. This friend is in the process of giving birth to a new chapter in her life. One day, she wrote in her journal that she didn't feel allowed to dream because her dreams "might inconvenience her husband or harm her kids." I knew the fear and guilt she was describing.

It occurred to me that women who are married and have kids might struggle most with embracing the dreams in thier hearts for fear that they will follow them and forsake their families. I wonder if men/husbands/dads struggle with the same fear. (Men--by all means, speak up.)

So, perhaps one cause (though I suspect there are many) for infertility may stem from fear of how it will affect those closest to us--and that is certainly important to consider. As David and I muddle through this process of me starting Sustainable Faith Indy, I know it's been really important to involve him every step of the way; to make sure he feels heard and his concerns taken seriously. In turn, I am so grateful for his support and belief in me. He has been key to me conceiving and giving more ways than one.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: What Is It??

So, here's a picture of our grandson Eli's first encounter with his brand new baby brother, Riley. I feel like the caption should read, "What is it?" Eli looked curiously, with a bit of apprehension and puzzlement, at his little brother. It was as though he couldn't decide if he was real, and if so, just what kind of "real" he was.

I have found myself looking with the same kind of puzzlement at this dream inside me. What is it--I've asked myself? Pages and pages of journal entries indicate that I have been just as confused and uncertain as little Eli was when first meeting Riley. (Of course, he has long gotten over that and adores his brother!)

When we meet our dreams face to face for the first time, we may not recognize them as real either. Often, they feel like romantic obsessions or idealistic visions. It helped when I saw something real that reminded me of my dream. That happened almost two years ago.

I enrolled in a seven month School of Spiritual Direction at Sustainable Faith in Cincinnati (SFC). When I arrived at SFC, located in an old convent in an urban area called Norwood, I was immediately enveloped by this wonderful, substantial structure and the way it felt. "Sacred"....I would say to others, as I tried to describe it. It felt like sacred, hallowed space. Each time I returned, I felt escorted into the peace and quiet of the convent and into stillness in the presence of God.

Over time, I began to realize that what I was experiencing at SFC was what I longed to help create....a "come away place," an urban retreat center in the heart of Indianapolis. So, now you know the "baby's" name. Sustainable Faith Indy is in-utero....and I am anxious to tell you more about it. SFC

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Giving Birth: The Quickening of a Dream

Over the years, I've had a number of people, mostly women, tell me that all they've ever dreamed of was becoming a parent. Their whole life they've looked forward to having kids of their own. I can remember our son when he was maybe seven or eight, and just as earnest as can be, tell me that he couldn't wait until he had a wife and kids. (Thankfully, he did wait until he was 23:) 

I bet I've heard that statement most from women who struggled to get pregnant. In their case, it seemed like a cruel form of torture to have such a deep longing for something that they were unable to affect on their own.

I don't know if giving birth to a dream is typically a life-long ambition. But I do know that it can form in you like an ache, poke at you in the pit of your stomach not unlike the desire to have a baby. I've had that sensation for three or four years now.

I can look back in my journals and see entries where I wrote about this "thing" welling up inside; this desire to do something, begin something, give birth to something. It would go away for a time and then there it would be again, asking for me to look at it, listen to it's cries, examine it to see what it was.

I would write about it as if a distant cousin I was trying to remember or know after a separation of years. I would try to name it but found that difficult. That is until I saw something that reminded me of it. It wasn't until I experienced what I yearned for that I was able to name the "baby" inside me.

So....I know I'm stringing you along. In fact, I'm going to postpone telling you the name of my dream until later. But I do wonder if you can relate; if you have a nagging, unrelenting desire to give birth to a something welling up inside you.

If you do, you might asked yourself, "What have I seen or experienced that reminds me of what it is I yearn to create?" I promise I will tell you the name of mine very soon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Giving Birth

Giving birth. When you hear that expression, I am guessing what comes to mind is the birth of a baby. Same for me. This expression is especially meaningful because five days ago I witnessed the birth of a baby--our second grandchild, Riley Daniel. I will never forget that experience. Even now, I have a picture in my memory that surfaces--the incredible image of this tiny creature emerging, eeking out his first audible cries, covered in the stuff of birthing, beautiful--a miracle!

Giving birth is an appropriate and often used expression for other kinds of creative processes, as well. And today, that is the kind of birth I am thinking of too. I want to begin a series of blogs about the process of giving birth to dreams--those seeds of ideas, visions, imaginations that each of us are impregnated with and have the awesome task to deliver into this world.

I am in labor. I am not sure where I am in the birthing process. I suspect somewhere in the middle. A dream is about to crown (I hope) and sometimes the joy of anticipated birth is eclipsed by the fear and pain of giving birth.

In my next post, I will share with you the specifics of this "baby."So for now, let me ask you a question: where are you in the birthing process? Have you conceived a dream? Does it reside deep in the belly of your imagination, just beginning to take form? Or are you in the early stages of gestation, beginning to feel life? Are the labor pains intense? Are you about to give birth?

I invite you to journey with me as I cooperate (or not:) with the birth pangs and learn through the process of giving birth to God's dream planted within me.