THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL
Today was my last day of class for the semester at Denver Seminary where I started attending this year. My class was entitled Theology and Practices of Spiritual Formation, focusing on, fairly obviously, spiritual formation, primarily through the spiritual disciplines.
This was just one simple class, once a week for the last four months, but I will miss it and am sad (sadder than I expected!) that it’s over.
I learned a lot.
I gained a much deeper understanding of the disciplines, a deeper understanding of myself, a deeper understanding of how God works in our lives, and particularly mine.
I learned about theology, prayer, history, philosophy, mystics and scripture.
I learned that you can’t be spiritual if you can’t be present (whoa that was a biggie.)
I sat as the sole Catholic in a room of Evangelicals and loved every minute of it. I learned I was also the sole Enneagram 3 in the entire room of students (lots of 2s, 1s, and surprisingly 7s!)
I learned about my classmates spiritual journeys and how very different they all are from each other; from age, race and background, yet somehow we all landed in the same classroom, on Tuesday mornings, this spring semester in Littleton, CO.
Entering seminary in January coincided with a self-imposed sabbatical that mentally began last November, but officially began at the start of the year, and only deepened from there.
I went on a silence and solitude retreat at Mother Cabrini shrine in February which lead to my stepping away from social media for Lent (fully from Instagram and removing Facebook from my phone, only checking in once or twice a day during that time). Surprisingly, I found this to be the easiest of the disciplines and lenten observances that I embarked on…and I’m still working out to what extent I want it back into my life now.
I attempted some disciplines around food and fasting which was, interesting.
I experimented with daily journaling, reflecting, various types of contemplative prayer and lectio divinas.
I lead a Contemplative prayer group at my home during Lent and even went to confession for the first time in 25 years, which admittedly, was clunky and awkward, (I mean where do you even start after 25 years?) but I did it.
HEALTH JOURNEY vs SPIRITUAL JOURNEY?
As I reflect on all that I learned, experimented with, tried and “failed” (not that these were failures as much as learning experiences, right?😉), I realized that the spiritual journey, if you’re serious about it, is just like our health journey, which is what brought many of you to this blog to begin with.
We have to be committed, we have to remain curious, we must refrain from judgement and comparison of ourselves and others.
We must stop “shoulding” on ourselves (I should be further along by now, I should be more ‘disciplined’, etc.). And, just as we go to the gym to train our physical bodies, we must show up at the spiritual gym to train our hearts, minds and spirits, on the regular.
It’s not easy and, just like our health journey, it never really ends, but when we zoom out and reflect back, we find the fruits of our practices are there, and they are there simply because we had the discipline to keep showing up.
SEASONS & PHOTOS & OBVIOUS TREE ANALOGIES
I noticed this tree early in the semester.
It’s hard to tell from the picture (below) just how big and stunning and erie and wise it was on that wintry day, but it captured my attention and I remember thinking, “when this class is over in May that tree will be green and full of leaves.”
At the time, May felt forever away so I took the picture. We’ve had a cold and dreary May here in Denver and up until even last week, the tree had not yet bloomed… I was beginning to wonder if I would see it bloom!
Today on our break I went out and not only had it fully bloomed but the entire open space behind the school was lush and green and full of the songs of birds and bugs, the sounds of summer! I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion, and I’m not exactly sure why.
- Was it the glaring analogy of this big barren winter tree springing to life over the course of the last 4 months as I’ve traversed my own “coming-back-to life” path? Perhaps.
- Was it the because this inward-turning season of mine is seemingly coming to an end, my hibernation, my own personal winter? Maybe. I did enjoy my long, cozy hibernation.
- Was it noting the obvious passing of time, yet another school year coming to an end? Surely.
- Was it the deep recognition and gratitude of just how much nature has played a part in my journey and connection with God? Definitely.
- Was it the knowing that I don’t know what’s next? Um, yeah, that too.
MY PLAN — WHILE I DON’T KNOW MY PLAN
I really don’t know what’s next for me in this grand and precarious scheme we call life. My time away, this sabbatical, has been deeply meaningful for me personally and spiritually and continues to bring clarity into many areas of my life. And yes, I’m tossing some things out there, future possibilities and such, seeing what sticks, but holding on loosely at the same time. And all things willing, I do plan to return to my program at Seminary when classes resume in the fall.
In the meantime, and this is going to sound super simple and anti-climactic, but here’s my plan:
I am going to be home with my boys, taking advantage of this time off unlike I’ve been able to in summers past. We are going to swim and bike and camp and stay up late and sleep in and eat ice cream and travel to far off places. And I’m going to do my damndest to be be as present as I can for all of it.
That’s all I got.
Instead of obsessing on exactly WHAT’S NEXT, I think I’m going to take what I’ve learned, what I’m continuing to learn, add and adjust as needed, and then just let it soak in–marinate in the last 4 months of wisdom and insight and just be with it, be with God, be with myself, be with my family, just be.
WHERE THOSE ‘FRUITS’ AT?
The fruits of my practices are unfolding daily. My life looks different and certainly feels different than it did a year ago and I am so very grateful for not only listening to, but trusting the call that I heard to do things differently. To truly step out of the box, my box, the one I’d been in for better or worse for the last 41 years.
To unlearn some things and start to uncover more of my true self.
I didn’t just ‘hear’ this call, I felt it in my bones. I was ready and stepped into it fully.
The blessing of this one and only life we’ve been gifted is too precious to not embrace authentically and fully. I will continue to do my best to do just that and hope and pray the same, whatever that may look like, for you as well. And if you’d like to share your journey, I’d certainly love to hear!
As a reminder, I did start a separate IG account for sabbatical and spiritual life. As I alluded to above, I’m wrestling with how active I want to be/am on the ‘Gram, but if you’d like to follow you I’d love to have you over at @SpirituallySeekingKatie.