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Archive for the ‘Letting Go’ Category

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One of my friends had the same idea about reading week and posted this video in celebration of a few days away from classes:

I am a firm believer in Sabbath rest.  People in seminary and in ministry talk a lot about self care.  I decided to take Fridays as my day off this year, but with workshops and on-calls at the hospital, I overbooked myself and wasn’t able to add those things to my schedule without giving up my day of rest.  As a result, I got tired. Cranky. Irritable.  Empty.  At Duke Divinity School, this week is called reading week.  Of course they know better than to call it fall break, since the workload keeps going even though there are no classes.  I have two papers to write, a project to start, and several hundred pages of reading to do.  I always want these breaks to serve too many purposes:  resting, catching up with school work and church work, cleaning the house, and making some sense out of all those papers on my desk.

I decided that I would get a jump on my school work over the weekend and then designate today as “Treat Yo Self” day, or in other words, a restorative day of renewing my mind, body, and spirit.

I woke up with the dog licking my face and the kitten jumping on my head.  After centering myself with some devotional time, I headed to Durham.

It started with a soy chai and a bagel.  Treat yo self!

Then a one on one session at the Apple store learning how to do more things with my new phone. Treat yo self!

Then a little shopping.  I’ve gone down a couple of sizes in the past few months, so I needed some new pants.  The GAP just happened to be having a sale where everything in the store was 40% off.  Treat yo self!

Then, on to a massage at a really wonderfully granola-y place in Durham, called Wellville.  Treat yo self!

Lunch at a place off Ninth Street called The Cosmic Cantina for a tofu black bean burrito.  Treat yo self!

Before heading back to Henderson, a quick trip to Trader Joe’s for some vegan essentials.  Treat yo self!

After a great workout, I’m home cuddling with the critters and just read a book that is NOT for school.

During the massage, when I was not even thinking about school – the thesis for my paper popped into my head.  Then when I got home, a great opportunity in ministry presented itself. It reminded me of something that I learned in spiritual formation during my first year at Duke, that I think is from Eugene Peterson.  When we rest, God is still working.  After we rest, we join in God’s work.

I’m grateful for this restoring day and look forward to the work ahead this week.  I just thought I would share this gratitude and encourage everyone else who needs a day to restore to go ahead and treat yo self!

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When my husband told me he was leaving me a few years ago, I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to live without him that I would have done just about anything to get him to stay.  My friends and family wondered why I was clinging to something that was so toxic to me.  As I was looking through old pictures the other night and found pictures of us on our honeymoon cruise, I was surprised to find that I wasn’t angry, hurt, nostalgic or anything.  He was just someone that I used to love.

God gave me a new dream and a new purpose that showed me how much more fulfilling it is to walk towards health and healing than to cling to things just because they are comfortable.  This gave me the courage to give up some bad habits and exchange them for healthier ones.

Here are some other things that I used to love, that I just don’t anymore.

Netflix – This has been one of the worst addictions of my life.  It’s ridiculous how many TV shows I had to watch from the beginning and then let the next episode start in 15 seconds, continuing until I watched every season. I watched a lot of good stuff, but unfortunately, Netflix is the media version of those Pepperidge Farm cookies; you think you’ll just finish one layer, but when that’s done, you have to dig into the next one.  I had to cancel my subscription to stop the addiction.  Sorry Netflix, it’s not you, it’s me.

Cable TV – I used to think the ultimate luxury was to have a full cable package with premium channels. Then it evolved into a Direct TV romance. I got basic cable when I moved to Henderson for what they called an introductory rate at $60 a month. Then when the year was up, they sent me a letter telling me that the real rate was $90 a month, but that they would give me a deal of $70 a month.  When I broke up with them, they started calling me offering me cheaper rates.  Sorry, cable.  I need to read more books anyway.  For the times that I need to watch mindless television, there are the network websites.  Even if I purchased the occasional program off of iTunes, it is still cheaper.  I used to plan my schedule around my favorite TV programs so that I could be home to watch them.  Now, I live my life. And I read books.  Lots of books.

Sugar – There may be a time in the future that I can have sugar once or twice a week.  But I’m not there yet.  It’s still kind of an all or nothing proposition. Even a small amount sets me off on a sugar binge.  I’m trading in my processed sugar for cantaloupe and apples.

Debt – There was a time that I would have been tempted by new cars, new homes, expensive vacations and other big ticket items, enough to go into debt for them.  Not anymore. There is a lot more joy from saving up to spend money on something special.

Animal protein – I’ve traded in bacon, steak, and cheese for tofu, broccoli, and beans. I’m still making adjustments, but I am enjoying eating a plant based diet. I think it’s healthier and better for the environment.  The main reason I adopted this diet, though, was because I can’t be in communion with the meat industry that is so cruel to animals.  In the past few months I have discovered some delightful new ways of eating.  My new version of fast food is picking a tomato from my back yard and having a tomato sandwich with rye bread and vegan mayonnaise.

Coffee – This is only day 3 without caffeine and  I am going through a serious detox.  But it can’t be good to be so dependent on this drug to get going every day, so I’m starting out with a 2 week break from caffeine.  After the two weeks, we’ll see if I can have the occasional cup of coffee or if it’s like sugar – all or nothing.  I’m replacing it with water and herbal tea and apparently – sleep.

Dating – This month’s AARP magazine has an article from a woman who was going on all of these dates and then realized that she was content to be single. I know a lot of people who are in great marriages and relationships, but I always seemed to be looking for someone to fulfill some kind of emptiness.  It’s pretty good to realize that you are living your life just the way you want to.

Hair color – I guess this goes hand in hand with the dating thing.  I always felt like I had to cover up those gray roots and try to look younger.  At a cost of $80 – $160 every 6-8 weeks, I decided that money would be better spent somewhere else.  I love my gray hair.  As I’m letting it grow out, it’s got all kinds of colors in it.  I have no desire to look younger.  I am what I am.

I think the biggest lesson I learned when I moved out of my comfort zone  is that I don’t always need what I think I need.  There is no longer any reason to hang on to some of these things.  There is better stuff out there.

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One of the things I miss about teaching is using off the wall analogies and metaphors and seeing how long it took the students to connect them to what I was trying to get across in the rehearsal or lesson. So, writing this blog is my opportunity to engage in that whenever I want to.

We have some messed up ideas about sin.  Some churches teach us that being a Christian is a matter of avoiding sin.  Some think that we should identify everyone’s sins and then hold them accountable.  But these approaches don’t leave too much room for grace.

I think sin is like a mosquito bite.  It consists of some type of brokenness that causes you to act.  The mosquito bites you and you scratch it, even if it means you rip up your skin in the process.  When churches talk about avoiding sin, it is like asking you to avoid scratching an insect bite.  Grace is like the calamine lotion that heals it.  When it is applied, there is no longer any reason for you to scratch. Sometimes we resist the calamine lotion and stick with just scratching the itch. We stay in our sin and brokenness even when we know there is a way out of it.

Another problem with sin is that some churches and religious people make us think that sin is only about what they consider inappropriate behavior or evil thoughts, when actually sin is anything broken in us that keeps us from this total wholeness and unity with God. Things that are good in some circumstances can be sinful in others. Sex, for example can be good between people who are in a loving and committed relationship, but can be bad when it is used in an oppressive way.  If we only focus on the actions, we are not always getting to the root of the sin.  What is it that causes a person to act in an unhealthy or oppressive way?  That’s the brokenness to address.

Good things can become disordered and become sinful. The act of eating can be a good and pleasurable experience, but when it is disordered, it can become gluttony.  We stay in denial about things that are broken in us, because they may have started out as something good.  But, along the way, sin may have changed it from something that promoted life and health to something that takes away life and health.

Good things can be made into idols. Being a hard worker in a productive environment can become an idol when making more money is the only thing that matters.  Anytime we put our trust in something to sustain us, other than God, we are being motivated by sin or a brokenness that will fail to satisfy us.

When we submit ourselves to the journey of following God, we are seeking wholeness, not by keeping ourselves from sin, but by exposing our brokenness to God’s healing grace, letting go of those things that we no longer need to carry on our journey.  I have heard some preachers disregard the idea of “what’s good for you may not be good for me” and have instead encouraged people to adopt absolute values.  While I agree that there are some absolutes, like not oppressing others, I think that each of us has a unique journey of faith.  If we were all ice sculptures, with our sin being shaven off in different ways, it wouldn’t be a “one size fits all” operation, since we are not all the same person.

Sometimes the sin or brokenness is so much of a habit, we have adopted it as part of our personality.  “Oh, I’m the lazy one, the mean one, the fat one, the sick one, the addicted one, the cheating one, the criminal, or the evil one.”  Is that the image of God that we were created to be?  Or can we get to the root of that brokenness and find a new identity in God?

We can open our hearts and let God’s healing grace wash over us and transform us into the people we were created to be:  Beautiful, loving children of God.

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Big news – I’m changing my name.  Finally. Back to my maiden name.  I know this will bring cheers from my family members who have wanted to remove the reminder of what I went through with my second husband.

When I got divorced the first time, I went back to my maiden name, wanting to reclaim the independent spirit that I had before I got married.  While it was difficult to make that decision knowing that I would have a different last name than my daughters, I knew it was the right one for me. There was eventually healing in that relationship.  My first husband and his wife were gracious enough to invite me to spend Christmas with them this year.  We had a wonderful time together and we can rejoice in the fact that our two daughters have grown up to be beautiful, smart, and talented young women.

But when the second marriage ended,  even after he left and made it clear there would be no future friendship or healing,  at the time I thought that I should stick with this name as some sort of penance for my bad decisions.

But, when my daughter was talking about what her kids would call me someday,  I just couldn’t accept the thought of these future little babies calling me Grandma Burdick. It’s just not who I am.  As I am trying to honor God with the way I live my life, I would much rather honor my parents with my name. As soon as I can make it legal, I will return to being Heather Jeanne Harding. I wish only good things for all of the members of the Burdick family, but it’s time to be rid of the name and the baggage of that experience as I continue walking down this beautiful path of my spiritual life.

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When I moved away from Orlando last summer, I didn’t have the time to look back at what I was leaving behind.  It was full steam ahead into my new life.  I started at Duke this fall in a flash of adrenaline where I was trying to master new material and care for my parents, running at a high energy level, sometimes feeling like everything depended on me.

Some of the bridges that brought me from my life in Orlando to the new world of Duke are still there supporting me, but some are gone.  My parents were the most beautiful and bittersweet bridge that got me here.  Now they are gone.  Sam Wells calmed me down and reminded me that everything really depends on God.  In a year where I have left so many tears on the sanctuary floor, I have had a shepherd to guide me from frenzy to grief to healing. Now he is moving on to new adventures in his life.

Driving around in Orlando and seeing the things that have changed and the things that have stayed the same have forced me to reflect on my life and my past.  I have a lot of layers here. Some are beautiful memories, some are painful things that I feel were inflicted on me, some are regrets I have about pain I may have inflicted on others, and some are live connections to people that are still important in my life and are still giving me energy as I go forward.  I have changed and am continuing to be transformed, but this was a pause in my journey to remember it all, the good and the bad, the times I succeeded and the times I fell short.

My friend and spiritual director, Carolyn shared this poem with me which sums this up beautifully:

The Layers – Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look

before I can gather strength

to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling

toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing

from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels

wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe

out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled

to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind

the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet, I turn, I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intake to go

wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road

precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

“Live in the layers,

Not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.

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They’re the luckiest people in the world.

I have always seen myself as a loner, always wanting to retreat from the crowd.  I attribute this to my Myers-Briggs designation of INFJ – Introverted (which you would never know by how much I talk), Intuitive (If you are intuitive you get this about me right away), Feeling (I’m still devastated over a squirrel that got hit by a car today) and Judging (I like to make lists and plans. A lot.  But I’m close enough to the P side – Perceiving- that I don’t always follow through with those plans).

It turns out that I’m not a loner, that I actually really love people. When one of my young college friends invited me to spend the weekend at the beach, my first reaction was to politely decline, thinking that for them, it would be like having their mom along. But then I thought – what the heck – the beach sounds amazing.  We had seafood in Calabash, spent glorious days at the beach, went out for ice cream, and shared home cooked meals together.  I experienced Pizzookie for the first time – which is half baked cookie dough covered in ice cream.  I also enjoyed the chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, some with happy faces, some with frowny faces, and a delicious dinner of spaghetti and garlic bread.  I forgot how sweet the movie Juno is in the end. I learned a little more about Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship beliefs and traditions. I rejoiced with a friend who celebrated the news of receiving a passing grade in Hebrew by burning her Hebrew flash cards. While any gathering of Divinity School students generally causes conversations centering around the stress of upcoming papers, this time was different. With the first year behind us, our talks shifted to our larger theological views and the possibilities that lie ahead for each of us.

It turns out that I wasn’t the mom – that designation went to the organizer of the trip who in her final preparation email reminded us to bring sunscreen and underwear.

So,  I enjoyed a wonderful weekend at the beach and got a chance to know some of my Divinity School friends a little better. It reinforced the fact that I like living in community. Next week, I get a chance to spend a few days with another one of my favorite twenty-somethings – my daughter Danielle.

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As we come to the end of 2011, it’s a time to say goodbye to another year.  One of my biggest life lessons in the past year is that you can’t keep endings from coming, but you can make the decision to finish well.  This can mean a variety of things in different situations, but when you live honorably, there is peace in your endings.

Ending well in work means that you will be on good terms with your boss and co-workers as you move onto another position.  Ending a semester well in school means that you do your very best all the way through, no matter what challenges you face.  Ending a relationship well means that you remain friends and continue to pray for good things for the other person.  Ending a year well means that you can give thanks for the wisdom gained in that year from walking through the highs and lows with God.

I am ending this year with two people that I treasure, my sister and my Aunt Charlotte. Over the past few days, we have enjoyed the delightful dining in Durham, explored new territory, dreamed new dreams, and celebrated with new friends.  While this has been a bittersweet year, my heart continues to be molded into something that feels everything more deeply.

Because my parents lived honorable lives, they finished well. My mom changed the lives of countless students, many with special needs, and many who were incarcerated, and left a love of learning and thirst for adventure to all whose lives she touched.  Even after she was gone, she is still serving her church through an endowment that she left.

My dad touched many lives with his humor and generosity.  His green thumb allowed him to create a beautiful environment in nature wherever he lived.  His funeral honored his 23 years of military service.  As they presented the flag to my sister and me and played taps, we felt that this was a beautiful ending to an honorable life.

"On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful nation, we offer this flag for the faithful and dedicated service of Master Sergeant Roswell S. Harding."

For everything lost and everything gained, everything celebrated and everything grieved, 2011 has indeed finished well.

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