lessons learned: what bird netting can teach us about relaxation

Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are. 

~Chinese Proverb

This morning, after I fed the chickens, I was attaching their netting cover to the side of the fence.  I do it every morning and night, but today, it seemed to say, “I’m just not going.”  After pulling it in many directions, I ended up stretching it tautly, then I quickly hooked it into place and hoped it would hold.

Needless to say, it did not.

The tension kept it there for a moment, but what the netting wanted to do was relax itself and go back to the shape and form it was created to take.  In essence, the tension made it snap, just like stress can do to us.

Perhaps some days, we become like that netting–stretching ourselves too far beyond who we are or what we are capable of doing in order to “succeed,” “accomplish,” or “get ahead” rather than accepting being at peace in mind, body and spirit with where we are on the journey.

After the netting drooped down and I shifted it (and my way of thinking) a bit, I was able to gently place it around its hooks with a little “give.”

My prayer for us today is that we relax just a bit and offer ourselves a little “give” in order to appreciate the benefits of relaxation.

lessons learned: Nature’s therapy for teenage girls

Go out, go out I beg of you    
And taste the beauty of the wild.    
Behold the miracle of the earth    
With all the wonder of a child. 

~Edna Jaques

This weekend, I was given a great gift by Nature.  Nature turned my serious, observant 13-year-old daughter into a silly little girl again, a treasure I have tucked away in my heart.

If you have never raised a teen girl, you may make a lot of assumptions about the moodiness, the awkwardness, and the ego-centricities of her nature, and you would be right.  But what you also may not grasp is the fine dance young girls do daily in order to learn the intricacies of being raised as a young woman in a world that places so many different challenges on our gender–the stereotypes and expectations to be smart enough to bring home the bacon, domestic enough to fry it up in a pan, and sexy enough to sell it in print media.

I say all that to note too that blossoming into a young woman, simply put, is hard.  And so, going for a hike on Saturday with my daughter allowed life to be easy for awhile.

She climbed fallen trees, played hide and seek among the rhododendron, and splashed in the water.  Down deep inside her, she found the laugh of a four-year-old and let it loose a time or two.  She teased her mom, she giggled at herself.  She was sassy and silly and anything but serious.

Funny how Nature does that–She brings out the best in us.  She allows us to forget the struggles and concerns in life and focus on simple things like play and exploration and joy–even in a teenage girl.

lessons learned: what canning has taught me about prayer

Prayer is not a product; it is a relationship. 

~ Daniel Wolpert, Creating a Life with God:  The Call of Ancient Prayer Practices

Spending time in the kitchen or in nature is one of my favorite forms of prayer.   In those places, God and I roll up our sleeves and get to work as we chat about life’s challenges and new insights.  We commiserate about frustrations, cry about losses, and celebrate over joys.

For a long time, I just called those opportunities “conversations” with God and assumed that I needed to meet several requirements to engage in prayer:

  • be in a quiet space
  • be focused on my time with God
  • be still in mind, body, and spirit

Needless to say, I rarely met those expectations being a working single parent.  Moreover, I sensed that I found more peace in homesteading activities than I did sitting on my couch in silence.

A couple of years ago, my spiritual director defined the relationship of prayer for me.  As I described my connection to canning and the “openness” it gives me in being closer to God, I watched the light in her face unfold.  You see, canning for me is an opportunity to turn off the world and make still everything around me.  The process takes little thought so it affords me the time to talk with God, bless the healthy food I am preparing, and lift up thoughts and prayers for others.  When I complete a canning task, or any other homesteading task around the farm, I find that I feel centered and rooted again.

After describing these feelings to Katie, she looked at me and smiled gently, “My dear Cameron, you ARE praying, you ARE meditating.  It may not be on a couch in silence, but you are connecting with God.”  I thought back to my parameters:

  • Canning offered me a quiet space and place.  God and I did it together but alone in an activity that was all ours.
  • Because canning is a rote but creative process for me, I don’t have be distracted by directions, math, or language.  I can simply focus on conversing with God about the issues at hand.  My canned goodies have been baptized by salty tears and have reflected knowing smiles.  They have been privy to my deepest concerns and a few four letter words–all the while, respecting the connection and conversation that I have with my creator.
  • And most importantly, canning helped me still my heart, soul, and mind so that I could be centered on my relationship with the Creator rather than be distracted by the world

Katie was right.  Prayer is not so much about where and how it happens or if it is presented as a neatly formed

our kitchen’s “stained glass”

confession/thanksgiving.  It is about the time spent talking and listening, quieting ourselves long enough to hear what God is saying and to feel how we are being moved or called to respond.  It can happen in the kitchen or  the garden, on a river or atop a mountain.  And sometimes, when I least expect it, it even happens on a couch in the silence of an early morning sunrise.