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Several roles define my life right now: wife, mother, student, minister, and friend.
Within all these roles, I use the skills learned in the Certificate in Spiritual Direction program.
Funny thing—I was in all these same roles during that training!
I graduated in January 2019 and in April I was accepted at Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky.
Thankfully, the Master of Divinity program is wholly online.
So, as the pandemic rose and isolated so many individuals and families, classes kept on going.
I was very happy to have The Shed in the backyard where I can be quiet and study.
I share this perspective because, like most others, my time in isolation—with my family—was one in which acknowledging and meeting emotional needs became paramount to peace.
As I was considering what it was that I wanted to share with you, I realized that most, if not all, of us were in similar situations.
Similar situations, but possibly very different at the core.
Each family is a network of relationships where energies–spiritual, emotional, and physical—are at play.
In our family, as those energies became trapped, life got a bit complicated!
We had to find ways of addressing the need for release, honoring the ways in which we each found release, and then coming back together again.
In our family, I am the one who often shepherds others in that journey.
What I found was that I needed a distinct “helper” outside the family to whom I could turn.
Fortunately, within the M.Div. program, it is required that I have a clergy mentor.
My clergy mentor, also a spiritual director, turned into my own shepherd as I helped my family.
There are four of us—now five counting my older son’s partner—who remain under the same stress as we were in February of 2020.
I tend to watch their facial expressions for keys to their thoughts as well as taking note of where they appear to be holding tension in their bodies.
This skill is one I learned through my Spiritual Direction training.
I take note of these attributes and assess when and where (that’s important) to bring up the age-old question of “how are you?”
My family is by now very familiar with the process that follows “how are you”—I stop and listen.
I listen to whatever they have to say, whatever questions they need to ask.
Only after I experience them as being “done” do I ask if there’s anything else.
The value of this process cannot be overstated.
One only has to stop and think about the last time anyone took the time to listen after they asked that question.
How did that make you feel?
Being willing to lay aside all else and listen to our families, friends, neighbors, strangers in the store is a gift that keeps on giving.
Each person to whom we listen with our whole selves carries that gift with them in the world.
Surprisingly, they just might offer it to someone they encounter.
So, whether we’re catapulted into close quarters via pandemic or just living our lives, this is a gift that helps so many beyond ourselves.
I equate listening in this manner as offering the other person time to pray, to bring out what needs to be said—to God—and be witnessed doing so.
The importance of our willingness to bear witness is also an aspect of this process which cannot be understated.
Bearing witness is the gift I receive each time I sit with family, friends, or strangers and listen with my whole self.
If you believe you would like to learn more about spiritual direction, I encourage you to contact the Center for Life Long Learning for more information.
At this point in my journey with God, I am called to share God’s grace and to be an encourager and grace-filled presence to individuals, families, and congregations. With respect to congregational service and care, I am called to assist congregations in seeing their strengths and weaknesses and in learning ways of growing spiritually and faithfully as they discern their future.
I’ve written two books one of which is Love, Then Listen, Sharing My Son’s Journey Toward His True Gender. It’s available through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and my publisher–Good Faith Media. I can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org.