I cannot see myself as separate from the natural world that surrounds me. It is not dependent on me as I am on it. I possess tremendous power to create and cultivate or dismantle and destroy by the choices I make. I fall prey to fatigue and laziness causing me to rationalize my decisions. My children and their own will bear the consequences of these rationalizations. This is a hard reality to face and inspires me to hold myself more accountable to living green and motivating and educating others to do the same.
This moment I am in right now is sweet...sweet because I have set a boundary. Life has tossed me to and fro enough that I have finally had enough of certain things to the point of putting my foot down. It’s an inside outside job. I have spent many a year falling prey to comparisons and finding myself coming up short. It’s generally my own self assessment that determines another to be better than me...or another's experience of life to be somehow better than my own. It has been a painful, abusive, devaluing way of treating myself. In this sweet moment I feel acceptance and self-forgiveness for the pain this habit has caused me...and in doing so feel somewhat freed of its possessive hold on me. Simultaneously I feel done with allowing anyone outside of myself to do the same. I have lost my tolerance for it. I feel this new tender but firm “no” inside that time will serve to strengthen provided I persist in vigilance and firmness in my word. I pray for clarity of sight and assertion of voice. Thank you.
Jesus, you gift each of us with a unique journey. My deepest sorrow and greatest joy result from traveling this journey with you. That is the way of the cross. It is the agony and the ecstasy. I spend many a moment contemplating and trying to be faithful to the course while simultaneously wishing desperately I had been gifted with someone else’s travel plans. My current life is a result of hundreds of choices made while trying to be true to your call. My deepest inner conflict comes from the gnawing feeling that I somehow heard you wrong or went off track and did my own thing. I pray to be at peace with the choices I have made thus far and for a deep inner peace to accompany present and future choices.
Taking the time for me is as essential as breathing. When I don’t, life closes in and results in suffocation. I clammer and claw at whoever and whatever is around me gasping to hold on to a bit of myself. Our girls, my spouse, my job, our home all seem to scream out louder for attention...but the quiet voice within me screams the loudest of all when I don’t pay attention to it’s quieter hum. It screams in the dissatisfaction of all the other voices around me cuz apparently they all take notice. At first listen, they seem to be yelling at me to attend to them...but a closer more careful listen reveals they are truly sounding the call that I have ignored within myself...or simply not prioritized. I hear you. I’m listening now. I’m sorry for giving you a deaf ear.
When I was a child, chores made sense to me only in that things needed to be done so I had to do them just as much as anyone else. The extrinsic reward was an allowance. The intrinsic reward was my inherent love for order and beauty...and things returning to their rightful place. The guarantee of a warm smile and equally warm fuzzies from my mom was the icing on the cake. Since we bought our farmhouse my love for this ‘busywork’ (as my daughters call it) has grown as well as the sheer volume of it. I fondly renamed weeding “dirt therapy’. As I dug my hands in the dirt this evening to pull out the relentless weeds, I contemplated the generations of moms before me who spent countless hours faithfully doing the same task. It dawned on me that they ‘got’ the metaphorical value of these activities. In this moment I understood that weeding and other routine chores is a cleansing ritual or spiritual practice of sorts for the common householder. Cleaning windows cleanses our perspective and holds the potential for a whole new outlook on life. Scrubbing floors and baseboards purifies and solidifies our foundation. Digging in the dirt reminds us to dig deeply within ourselves to extricate the growth of things that do not serve our essential purpose. Little did I know back then how wise my mama was and what she was really up to when she religiously returned to her windows and weeds and trained us to do the same. It feels like a rite of passage and an emergence of wisdom to have unearthed the deeper significance of these common earthly practices. Thank you.
"If you know how it feels then why don’t you do it differently?" Ouch. The truth hurts...especially when spoken by your own child. She wanted time with me. She doesn’t want to have to share. I get it. Boy do I get it! Her younger sister screams louder and persists longer in demanding my attention...so she wins. It’s not fair to her and I know that as well as any. Being the oldest of five I totally understand what having to share feels like. Does anyone ever emerge from childhood feeling like they got enough love? I knew my parents loved me...but knowing you are loved and feeling like you are filled up to overflowing are different things altogether. I want to make it a priority to give both of my girls a balanced and rich experience of time with me. I humbly ask for help with this.
Where do these moments go? As I peruse through old photos, I see image after image of child in arms. Those eternal moments have gone by in a blink. No matter the effort to slow life down, it persists in rushing by at the speed of light. Our oldest is 10 and the second trailing closely behind. I find myself questioning whether I have tried to slow life down too much. Have I kept her...them...from being the best versions of themselves they can possibly be? We all vie for attention and time to make our own matters matter most. The stage of life we are in now is making a house a home and establishing patterns and rituals of living together. I look around and see parents running their kiddos here and there and everywhere. They are pre-pubescent experts at one thing or another...karate, jujitsu, soccer, piano, baseball, gymnastics, math. I wonder if I have done enough...am doing enough for them. Have I missed the boat? I want to motivate and inspire them to action and give them opportunities to excel and succeed at something. Even more, I want them to know the lost art of slowing down and relaxing, a lost art which I have much to learn about myself. This home and space we are creating is first and foremost for that. Work certainly happens here but the pace seems to be more in rhythm with times gone by. If I could surrender one thing right now it would be shame and guilt over not doing enough, being enough, giving my kids enough. I would accept that I am giving what I can and that is enough. Who I am is enough. I surrender this to you now and I thank you for receiving it.
Cows chewing, sun setting, mosquitoes buzzing, grass growing, green blanketing the recently brown earth, kids sleeping, evening quiet hushes the sounds of day, sweet chorus of crickets and frogs emerge, moon rises, time passes imperceptibly slow, gratitude swells, my heart sings.
Outside my window in the dark of night is the sweetest lullaby, the most magical of orchestras bellowing out in perfect harmony. Singing frogs intermittently spliced with the rhythmic chant of crickets. Just weeks ago perfect silence descended upon this landscape that was blanketed by a depth of snow rarely seen here in April. Now growth, life, vitality, emergence is fully underway. In the night’s stillness I am almost certain I can hear the grass growing and the flowers announcing their expectant blossom. A short while ago I was keenly aware of my mind’s desire to race with a swirl of seemingly important thoughts, the kind that leave me in the same hopeless place I’ve traveled to a thousand plus times before. Tonight the chorus outside my window beckoned me to slow my mind and listen. Heeding it’s call I found myself again as it summoned me beyond mental stirrings into the quiet of my heart, like the quiet of night that produces such sweet melody. I am distinctly aware that I can return to the thoughts tempting my attention. I am likewise aware that to return to those thoughts is a choice. No thank you. Feeling grateful for her melodious call.
Home. This home. Our home for a time. A year ago felt like another’s home but sweetly called us to make it our own. It bore the promise of life anew. Alas, we discover wherever we go, there we are. We bring all parts with us to anything new...the good, the bad, the ugly. The backdrop has changed but the foreground looks and feels distinctly familiar. I think the same will hold true for that magical place we will travel to when we exit these bodies in search of what lays beyond. For a moment the newness will shock us into ultra alertness. Then we will realize it all looks and feels familiar. It is tempting to believe that being liberated from the bad and the ugly would be something desirable. Yet we so value our freedom to make choices, the same kinds of choices that brought us to where we stand right now. It is a benevolent gift to be given the freedom to choose the same or something different. This home we call The Nurturing Hearth carries our energy. It is becoming a reflection of those of us who take up residence here and of the visitors and guests who leave their indelible mark. Each time we change, the reflection looking back changes. Each time we make a change to it, the very difference transforms us into something new as well. Home.
Quite a few domain names were considered before settling on slowandsimpleliving. It won out for the depth and breadth of things it allows me to write about and the lifestyle choices it anchors me to. I have wanted to launch this website and blog for quite some time but each attempt to begin was met with my own internal confusion and indecision. I have been a little hard on myself for the "slowness" of the process and felt that surely I should be able to just whip this thing together. In my prior life as a priest I was accustomed to asking a question in meditation, quieting enough to receive an answer and stepping out on it promptly and without hesitation because that is how I was taught. I can't say that I was always 100% on board with the forward movement but, for the most part, I did what was asked of me as the consequences of doing otherwise bore too high a cost on many fronts. While there was much to be learned and gained from moving ahead swiftly, the neglect of the 5% of me that was not fully on board has come back to haunt me in ways I will revisit another time. The process I have been in since leaving my life as a priest serving a spiritual community and embracing my role as spouse, mother and "ordinary person" has been a very organic one. It has been a slower process of "feeling" my way forward each step of the way. With each stride the landscape and horizon shift just enough that the next step of the journey reveals itself naturally. In contemplating this it occurs to me that the process I have been engaged in is one of "re-branding". Before this transition, my primary self-identification was my priesthood. It defined who I was and was a statement to the world around me about what was most important and central in my life. The role of spouse, mother, therapist, adventurer came secondary and tertiary to that role. Being a priest was far more than a "role", it was a deep internal conviction about my life's purpose. From the clothing I wore to the rituals I practiced to the lifestyle I lived, I embodied this role with my whole being. It defined me and informed every aspect of my existence. Since doffing the clerics and leaving my active ministry behind, I have painstakingly tried to figure out who I am all over again and what my life is all about now. The roles of spouse, mother, sister, friend, employee, manager are fairly straightforward as they all carry with them a certain parameter of activities and responsibilities...but those roles do not define me...they are not who I am. Yes, I am all of them but so much more...as is true for everyone. My priesthood is still very much alive in a much more interior sort of way. It is what drives me at my core. It is a deep internal commitment to know what truly makes my heart sing and to do that in spite of whatever obstacles I might encounter along the way. In order to discover what makes my heart sing, I had leave that life behind me...a life and a role I never dreamed that I would leave. This deep internal commitment prompted me to change course, slow down and pay closer attention to the sacramental nature of the ordinary moments in my life with my husband, daughters and with myself. While certain aspects of that prior life were easy to let go of, much about it has been gut wrenching and hard. Walking around in clerics and a cross the size of a Madonna crucifix was a rare opportunity that I was blessed to have. It made me squeamish at times for all the assumptions people made about what it meant that I would wear such attire. It prompted stares and a certain flavor of conversation which only that kind of outfit could. It forced out the small talk and allowed me the chance to connect with people on the deepest level...for better or for worse. It forced me to get clear about what I knew to be true from my own internal experiences and what I was willing to stand on. In an odd sort of way, leaving and embracing a slower simpler life has done much the same. "Re-branding" feels like taking the gems of the original product and recreating the package through which the product finds its way into the world. In an odd sort of way, as I discover myself emerging on the other side of this crazy time of transition, that is just what I feel I have done.
Our pattern is so painfully familiar. I disrespect your need for closeness and sleep. You pull away. I reach out in attempt to find you but nothing is there...you have retreated into the safe confines of your shell. I feel the sting of your absence and am left feeling alone as a result. Ouch. I don’t know how to find you again...what I need to regain your attention or favor. I heed the call for time and patience. I rediscover the need for self love and the capacity to love selflessly that emerges from that simple yet strangely challenging and powerful act. I find the courage to lean in when my impulse is to run away. You emerge to meet me there.
Something in the way she moves reminds me of what it felt like to love movement for its own sake. It’s that feeling I perceive she has that drew me back to the beam, bike, boat, board, boulder over and over again a thousand times and more. She twists, turns, swings, rolls, flies as if one with the air surrounding her. She yearns to return to like movements with fervor and persistence. Learning is a by product of repetition but not the motivator by any stretch. The simple joy of movement compels her to stay with it. What would our world look like if we were each given space, freedom, support in finding our own rhythm...discovering the kind of movement that feels right...that allows us to move in perfect unison with its pulsation? What if all life forms were allowed this freedom? Watching her move makes me ponder the awe of being in a world that moves thus. I think this is the image that the Divine holds hope for.
Longings stir under cover of night in spaces that are dark and quiet. The impulse to create churns in the depths of our being where the mind is inactive and cannot interfere with Life reproducing Itself. Melody, poetry, architectural lines, paint strokes, babies...bubble to the surface of our awareness and convince us of their need to exist. We either numb to their sound, hear and suppress, or claim the voice as our own and label the creation "mine". Oh to listen, receive, give way to the birth of a word, an idea, a visual display of splendor, the sound of angels. Creativity is at our core. It is the flowing and flowering impulse that unites us all. It has the power to blend colors, dissolve boundaries. Creativity is gifted to us upon our arrival here. What we do with it is our gift in return...to the Giver...to one another. What we do with this gift may very well determine our survival as a species on this planet. Please help us, your creation, turn toward You, oh benevolent Creator this all powerful generating force that is the birthright of humanity yet a power we ourselves cannot possess. Help me open to your flow within me to be a conduit through which Your creation can emerge in whatever form or capacity You desire. Thank You Almighty One...Father and Mother, Generator of all.
...that bakes cookies and does loads of Pinterest-type crafts with my kids...or lathers their skin with the lovely scents of healing essential oils. I am not the kind of mom who encourages my girls to participate in all the latest and greatest things that are guaranteed to challenge their bodies and intellect and ultimately guarantee their success in the world. I am not the kind of mom who has neatly organized chore charts on the fridge or hanging in their bedrooms. I am not the kind of mom who does all the neat nurturing "mom" things I envy other moms for. I am the kind of mom who severely limits time on technology and engages my girls in meaningful conversation at the dinner table. I am the kind of mom who rewards my girls greatly when they think to ask me (with interest) how my day at work was. I am the kind of mom who is willing to uproot my family several times over until I am confident we have found the best place for our family to have deep enough soil to root in and sufficient enough space to spread our wings and fly. I don't tell my girls daily that they can be anyone they want to be when they grow up (because I am tired and I forget) but I do try to show them through my actions and the inspiring stories I share with them during our nighttime reading ritual. I am the kind of mom who teaches my daughters that life can be hard and choices have real consequences that can sometimes feel hard to live with. I am the kind of mom who sometimes screams or trips over her own toes, who falls down and cries and then picks herself up and apologizes unabashedly when necessary. I am the kind of mom who is real with my girls about the challenges that we, her parents, face sometimes and reveals that while it can be hard, we choose to stay in and work it out and are both better people because of it. I don't hide that stuff. I choose to be transparent so that they learn how to live life. I ask my girls if they heard me slam the door and if they felt that something was going on with me. When they say yes, I ask if they want to know what was up. When they say yes, I am honest about my anger and transparent about the roots of it to the extent that their level of maturity can handle...and tell them that one day, if and when they want to know more, I will be happy to share. They live in my energy day in and day out. There is no escaping that. While I have had high expectations for myself, I have often fallen short of them...in my own eyes. I am the kind of mom who strives to be better at all that I am each and every day but most of all strives to be real. While I may never be the kind of mom I have envied other mothers for being, I can be real with my daughters about who I am, shortcomings and all, and hopefully free them to be fully themselves too. I guess if "being real and transparent" is a kind of mom then that is the kind of mom I am.
Silent witnesses to the coming and going of wild wind and bashful breeze, of setting sun and rising moon, of summer giving way to autumn, winter, spring, summer all over again. One generation plants, another grows, another basks beneath expansive canopy, another swings from its benevolent branches, another harvests for warmth by the fire or a safe haven to call home. So strong and robust yet so utterly sensitive to shifts in climate which leave it unbearably parched or with rotted root vulnerable to pests and robbed of essential nutrients. Its insides become barren and brittle and it loses its luster which beckons our gaze and approach. It dies a slow or quick death depending on whose eyes are watching. It resists not. It stands strong no longer. When it falls it becomes home and sustenance for a billion tiny creatures...mostly imperceptible to the human eye but dutifully doing their part to call it home once again...back to the circle of life from whence it came. Selfless and seemingly silent in nature like the God who called it into being. If trees could speak oh the things they would tell us. But are we ready to listen?
Ten years ago today I gave birth for the first time. I was both terrified and elated...a shared experience by most birthing mamas I would assume. This blossoming being inside of me was head-butting my sciatic nerve in an attempt to find her way through the small canal that would serve as her entry point into the world of opportunities awaiting her. I was doing my all to breathe her out but tensing up to avoid the feeling of a freight train coming through an impossibly small opening in my body. Seconds seemed like minutes, minutes like hours and hours like an eternity. I was in a serious time warp. Her birth was assisted by our brave apprenticing mid-wife and my husband...her papi. After sixty-plus hours of labor, the repetitive deep knee squats - an exercise worthy of an olympic training routine - finally caused the water sac surrounding her little body to burst with a loud bang. Thirty minutes later she emerged into her daddy's arms. The three back-up midwives were tied up by a Denver April blizzard. One of them had visited earlier that day and advised me that a birthing mother had more strength and stamina than one could ever know. That was all I needed to hear to stay the course and stick it out at home. While speed may not be my greatest strength, stamina is one of them. For better or worse, I have a knack for sticking things out long after others jump ship or quit. This quality has served me well in life and also gotten me into trouble, but in this case was definitely an asset. My family was far away and likely had no idea I was even in labor, a bittersweet part of the whole experience. Her birth took place during the time when I was out of connection with them. The passage of time, a deep desire for my daughters to know their maternal roots, my enlightened understanding of the agony and ecstasy of motherhood, and the capacity to see and accept my parent's humanity and forgive them for it were just a few of the things that inspired re-connection with them. Those years of disconnect felt like an eternity and a blink all in one. The birthing experience felt the same way...as did the following decade. Spiritual practice slowed time down and allowed me to become deeply aware of my in and out breath and of each passing moment. Birthing and rearing two daughters has done much the same when I allow myself to see them as pure gift and blessing. In the same way deep contemplation, spiritual teachers and community revealed my growing edges, my daughters do much the same. While we are vehicles for the gift of life for our children, they, in turn, have the capacity to gift us with a renewed experience of life. My daughters have slowed time down and forced me to get real with whatever happens to be lingering inside of me. They serve as a mirror in case I refuse to spend the time looking within. As they mature and grow in confidence and courageous self-expression, they speak uninhibitedly just the words I need to hear. Today she is ten, tomorrow she will be twenty. I pray to embrace, celebrate and live to the fullest each second, minute, hour, day and year in hopes that she will continue to do the same in the midst of a world that tries to convince her to do otherwise.
Creating this blog feels like giving birth except it's been years vs. 9 months in the making. Finally she is coming out. It brings me such joy to finally see her. I settled in on her name today...finally circled back to the name I started with a few years ago when she was just an idea whose time had not yet come. We have made big decisions, moved, sent Tim off to school, found our farm and home, got girls settled and now finally settling in myself enough to feel creativity stirring in me. I have felt distracted at work trying to muster the courage and know-how to get this thing to come out. Now that she is finally emerging enough that I can see her and trust that all is well and feel confident that her name fits for now yet gives her room to grow...I can relax and exhale. Thank you. Please help guide her formation as she continues to emerge.
A space where we come together to warm and nurture ourselves. The light and heat of the hearth culls out impurities. It beckons our return day after day for conversation, laughter, sustenance, healing, fulfillment of our nutritional and relational needs. Weary from the day, it promises to refill our cups to full or overflowing. It is a time tested place of return. To learn more about this hearth we call home, check out thenurturinghearth.com. The Nurturing Hearth.
Unplugged. Disconnected from the pulsation we have come to believe is Life Itself. Frees us to connect within to the pulsation that is Life Itself...magnetic, full, expansive, drawing towards Itself at our very core...or within the core of another. The gadgets we hold can be a distraction or a tool depending on how we use them. Use them wisely lest they use us.
I need to feel your love. I know you are there but knowing does not feel like enough right now. I want to feel it with every cell of my body...in every fiber of my being. You are Love. You are the Source from which all things good and worthwhile flow. Without You, I am nothing. I feel like nothing right now. I try to be something. I give thought to what I can do that will leave a special mark in the world...some evidence that I was here and the living of my life mattered. I fret at not knowing what this mark should be. I fret at the thought that somehow I might not matter. The reality, at least what I can conceive of it in this moment, is that I matter as much as you say I do. I matter because I am here...I am alive...I exist. I matter because You chose to breathe life into me and You chose to give me consciousness...of not only myself but of the world around me and You. I don't think I need to question anything beyond this. The very fact that I exist tells me that I am loved...and should the lights dim on my physical existence, I firmly believe I will become more vastly aware of my spiritual existence. All this said, I still long to feel you in me. I long to feel Your love expand and take up residence in my body and being. I cannot do this life alone...without You. It means next to nothing without You. I place blame on the inadequacies of those around me...but the reality is, of course they are! In comparison to You, all things are inadequate. No one's love but Yours will suffice. I want Yours. I want to drink You in, I want my cup to runneth over. I have experienced that before and long to experience it again. Please help me to show up...to do the work of showing up for the relationship with You. I have nothing to give without receiving from you first. I only matter to the extent that I allow your Love in. Please help me to open to Your abundant river. I am so very thirsty. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I just finished posting a series of clothing fabric pics to Instagram from a recent trip to Assisi, Italy. This is one of them. The colors and textures transport me to another time when I perceive that life moved at a different pace and creating beautiful works of art with our hands was commonplace. I am inspired to bring these influences into our homestead so that we...and others spending time in the "nurturing hearth homestead"...can be supported in slowing down a bit. I straddle the world of present and past daily as I transport myself from our rural farm property to my city office where I spend my weekdays immersed in a world of "modern convenience". As the winter months edge in closer and I return in darkness to our little rural homestead, I find myself missing some of the lights and sounds that make the long dark nights a little brighter. At the same time I am feeling an internal nudge to lean into the darkness and into the experience of "no time" that takes over when the illuminated digital reminders of time go away. As my weeks of 'to and fro' come to an end, I find myself naturally longing for the respite our new home and surroundings offer. The approach of Monday morning informs me that the clock keeps ticking no matter where I am. But after 3 months of taking up residence in our new home I am noticing a shift. While I used to feel like we were crash landing into "bedtime", now the quiet dark lulls us into the routine and time seems to spread out a little more. While I used to fight sleep, milking the most out of each waking moment, now I feel the sweet calm of country nights cradling me into the warmth of bed and transporting me into the world of whatever book I am reading. While I used to awake feeling my heart jump at the start of a new day with a hurried eagerness steal a few moments for myself before the world encroached upon me, now I find myself more rested and rising sufficiently early allowing me to ease into my day still held by the quiet stillness surrounding me. The commute is longer, the neighbors more scarce, the distractions hopelessly absent. What fills that void remains to be seen...it certainly has me pondering...and grateful for this moment now to write about it.
I just returned from the little tiny corner of the world I was born in, a small Midwestern town surrounded by cornfields. It is flat and vast with a smattering of farmhouses, barns and an outcropping of trees here and there to provide shelter to the homes that are hidden within them. This little corner of the world felt like home enough growing up...surrounded by family, friends and all things familiar. But when I hit young adulthood I couldn't escape quickly enough. The open fields and monotonous landscape surrounding our peaceful clean little oasis felt like a prison closing in on me. I cherished the relationships that spawned and nurtured me into adulthood but the familiarity of it all became oppressive and stifling and I knew I needed to leave in order to stretch open my wings to fly. What an odd experience to return with my daughters in tow. While I did not return from mountain vistas and ocean seascapes to the exact place of my birth...I did choose to return within driving distance somewhat motivated by a desire to give them roots of their own so that they too would one day have the best chance of taking flight. Things have a way of coming full circle. Wondering if our girls will want to hit the road too when they enter their prime. Watching them grow and evolve thus far has taught me that they are truly their own people with different needs from my own. I pray to give them wings to fly when the time is right for them to leave the nest. I look forward to seeing what their maiden flight looks like as it will surely be different from my own.
I'm Kelly Isabelle.
Full-time workin' mama & spouse aspiring to live a slowly paced, sustainably minded, creatively expressed, clutter-free life shared with kindred folk.