Offering Welcome . . . Starting with Me

DSC01529

The wisdom of illness for me always seems to come with the slowing down and staying present. I don’t believe these experiences come to teach us “lessons” as if God were some great schoolmarm in the sky. But out of our radical vulnerability arises an invitation to ever greater gentleness, to tenderness to the needs of our bodies. This is inner hospitality at its most intimate.
– Christine Valters Paintner, Abbey of the Arts

I am struggling with the truth of these words in a profound way these days. “Inner hospitality” is something I say I believe. And most of the time, I truly mean it. It turns out, however, that I am a desperately slow learner, one who ‘knows’ things in her head long, LONG before I know them in my heart and in the rigors of day-to-day life.

I am impatient by nature, anxious to keep moving forward to whatever the goal of the moment may be, and I’m finding it extraordinarily difficult to be patient in the midst of this particular period of waiting. Most especially, it is difficult to be patient with me.

DSC01554

We heard a sermon this morning that reminded us of our primary identity as followers of Jesus. Underneath every other label we might choose to slap on our personal lapel, this one is the truest, the dearest and the most important: I am a child of God.

I will say that I am feeling peculiarly childlike (or is it child-ish?) these days. I feel small, markedly helpless, dependent on the wisdom, strength and availability of others. 

And I do not like it at all. 

DSC01576

And I find myself wondering — what does it mean to be a child? I mean, besides the relative helplessness and lack of control over the ‘big things’ in life, what does it mean? What did (does) it feel like? What can I learn from remembering/observing what a child’s life is like?

DSC01623

Here are a few things that rise to the surface as I ponder. I believe these things to be true for most healthy children growing up in caring, relatively functional families, where physical and emotional needs are seen and met and safety and security are the norm. Such blessed children can often be described as:

emotionally open
accepting
unself-conscious 
curious
eager
joyful

DSC01556

This is not to say they are perfect. Far from it — children are humans, too, and they can be as belligerent, obnoxious, difficult and moody as the rest of us. But, on balance, there are some truly lovely things that emerge in childhood that so often get hidden away as the maturation process sets in.

DSC01637

As I spent this afternoon reflecting on the sermon and on my life at the moment, I began to search for a spirit of welcome in me, a spirit of welcome for the person I am right now, hobbled by injury and fatigue, more dependent on others than at any other point in my long life since about the age of three.

DSC01652

How can I reclaim that central identity, name myself a loved child of God, and extend grace and true hospitality to the me I am right this minute?

I’ve spent my entire adult life being ‘big,’ both metaphorically and literally. It’s been important that I be seen as enough — good enough, strong enough, smart enough, acceptable enough, big enough. And I’ve worked hard to earn the respect, even the admiration, of others.

So what does it mean that right now, right this minute, I am ‘small?’ I am ‘less than?’ I am dis-abled?

In the midst of that reality, is it possible that I can reclaim and cherish, the identity of child? That I can embrace the littleness, learn to tolerate the dependency, and then move through this particular slough of despond?

Maybe I can start by studying these pictures. Scroll through them with me again, will you?

DSC01529

Can I stand still in the light? Can I pay attention to the life that is happening around me? Can I rest on one foot and ready myself for the next adventure?

DSC01554

Can I enjoy the transience of things, the creation of moments, just moments, of beauty and delight? Can I choose to make the ‘dishwater’ a source of interest and creativity, and leave the dirty dishes aside?

DSC01576

Every day, can I go on a hunt for treasure, looking for beauty and nourishment in unexpected places? Can I resist the urge to make it a contest — with myself or anybody else! — and just look around and see what I can find?

DSC01623

Can I make room for, even welcome, all the emotions that are rising to the surface at this time? The pensiveness, the worry, the hilarity, the joyful abandon, the silliness, the wonder?

DSC01556

Can I re-learn how to be deliberate, to concentrate, to focus? Despite the fatigue of having to re-think every single thing I’m used to doing by rote, despite the lingering after-effects of anesthesia, despite the new demands that this season places upon both body and spirit?

DSC01637

Can I give myself complete permission to take a break? To veg out, as needed, to pull away for a minute (or 30) and just rest? Not this enforced resting that is so much a part of the living of these days, but true rest — deliberate, well-chosen rest?

The very fact that I have found enough interior space to write this many words is a hopeful sign that maybe, just maybe, the answer to these queries is a quiet, but determined, ‘YES.’

As with so many things in this life, it’s a matter of waiting.

And seeing.

Shall we wait and see together?

 

Get a personal letter from Diana twice a month

Sign up for *More Wondering. . . * a monthly personal letter from Diana to you, available only to email subscribers. As thanks, receive a copy of Diana's new ebook,30 Ways of Aging Gracefully.

powered by TinyLetter

To receive blog posts in your inbox, sign up below.


Comments

  1. Grace plays a huge role in what you are attempting.

  2. yes
    waiting with you
    knowing He will have great things for eyes that would see!

  3. Yes.

  4. Diana, thanks for the reminder. I love children and enjoyed being reminded of how we are to become like little children. And I agree, the answer to your questions is definitely a yes! Thank you for sharing. I’m glad you found the time to write. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Gayl. It hasn’t been a matter of time, believe me. But of energy and will. So I’m glad I found a little of both today.

  5. Oh my word! These photos are beyond wonderful!

    And this whole idea of granting hospitality and gentleness to ourselves in the waiting and the leaning…

    Rest well, my friend. I’m waiting in hope with you. Now I just might go outside and blow bubbles. Or maybe since it’s dark, I’ll wait until first light. 🙂

    • What a grand idea, Sandy! I had forgotten about these Easter photos until I decided to go lookin’ for photos of children – and then, there they were. Perfect. I wonder why we find it so difficult to be gentle with ourselves (and sometimes, with those closest to us, too)?

  6. Diana,
    I’m so glad to see your touching words and delightful pictures here. It has always seemed to me that the one absolute difference between children and grown-ups is this:
    No matter what is going on, either in their proximity or in their lives, children sleep when they’re tired.

    You remember, don’t you? Being astounded at coming across a little one soundly sleeping in the midst of searing calamity or raucous celebration?

    Maybe there’s something there for us, about where to start when it’s all out of whack.

    Much love to you, friend.

    • Thanks for you kind words, Sheila. And yes, I’ve seen children fall asleep in the middle of total chaos. But I’ve also had a couple of kids – and more than a couple of grandkids with sleep ‘issues,’ so I’ve seen lots of the opposite, too. Both an inability and an unwillingness to sleep when needed. And that’s more like me. So I think maybe you’re onto something – sleep is a good place to start!

  7. Thank you Diana,
    I was deeply blessed by your meditation and your pondering here. I am praying for you as you recuperate.
    Love to you,
    Susan

  8. It’s difficult to be vulnerable and dependent like a child. Yet, children are so trusting, so sure that they will be cared for. I had a nasty fall a few months back, and while I wasn’t too seriously hurt, it made me feel fearful and fragile about growing older. I think I need to trust God like a child.
    Your post spoke to so many things that I’ve thought about.

    • It is difficult, isn’t it, Elizabeth? So sorry to hear about your fall – and I completely identify with your response to it. I need to trust much more like a child, too – I think we all do.

  9. Diana – What a precious word from you today. I had not heard this phrase, “inner hospitality,” before, but I love it dearly. I’m going to need to think over all it must mean in our lives of faith. And the connection of this virtue with child-like faith seems very poignant. I particularly liked the way you repeated the pictures with different words, different sentiments the second time through. I am praying for you today, my friend. Praying that the openness that the Lord has begun in you during this season will prove restful and powerful in your life.

  10. Ro elliott says:

    I love those pictures…epecially the sweet one with the kids and hubby… To embrace the right kind of weakness and the right kind of strength takes a true work of His Spirit!!!! Aging …isn’t for wimps …at least aging with the goal of finishing strong in Christ. Praying for complete healing and strength for you!!!!

    • So well said – embracing the ‘right kind of weakness and the right kind of strength.’ Thank you! And you’re right aging is most definitely not for wimps. Thanks for your prayers and your encouragement.

  11. Diana, I am so glad you found the energy and desire to write again. I was deeply affirmed by you chosing the identity of “Child of God”. That is the one literal phrase I have used my entire life to describe my Christian identity – the one phrase that didn’t feel coopted by any particular doctrine. I have not always been receptive to parental guidance, but God has been faithful and available, as a good parent must. I believe you are well on your way to living into your future.

  12. It’s the best identity I know and I was grateful to be reminded of it yesterday and then to think on it for a long while during the afternoon. Thanks for your continuing encouragement.

  13. Thank you for this Diana – I have read it and re- read it (both times enchanted with the children – and especially the blue and white dress, which for some reason has deeply touched me) – and I will read again and be blessed by your humility and transparency. Thank you . . .

    • Thanks so much, Sue – for reading and for re-reading! And yes, I love that blue and white dress. And the girl in it. She is the primary reason I write today because when she was about 3-4 months old, as I was coming home from a pastors’ conference in San Diego, I stopped by the road to rest a while, and wondered with God what might be coming next for me. And I heard one of two distinct calls from God on my life. The first came on a walk while I was in seminary and wondering if all the encouragement I was hearing from professors to consider the ministry was for me – and I heard, “I want you to be my minister.” This time, I heard very clearly that I was to “write your stories for your granddaughter.” So that’s what I’m trying to do. Now I have two grandgirls and I keep at it.

  14. So good Diana. Just exactly what I needed. Absolutely love the idea of inner hospitality. So refreshing.

  15. While reading this, the sun came out, after a whole lot of rain. You put the invitation so well, now all I need are love and patience, gentleness, kindness, ah – yes, the fruit of the spirit – I’m having to practice that quite a lot with myself these days and also, most deeply, trust. I’m glad you found what you needed to pull these words together.

    • YAY for sunshine after rain!! And yeah – all those fruits are good things to have and they do, indeed, take practice. And trust is top of my list, too. Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend.

  16. ” I began to search for a spirit of welcome in me, a spirit of welcome for the person I am right now.” Ah, that’s the secret right there isn’t it?!? Grace and welcoming of ourselves in the now. Without apology for our “shortcomings” or inability to be someone else. We can only and ever be right now. Oh, how my life and my spirit would be different if this became true for me, too. That I welcome my right-now self. And throw in some child-like fun for good measure! Thank you for linking at Unforced Rhythms.

  17. Anne-Marie says:

    Diana, yay on having the energy to write again! And yay for a wonderfully refreshing post. For me. I’m sure for many others. So much for me to find to practice in your words here. I love how you’ve taken a dry time and found manna to share not only for yourself but for others.

  18. OH, YES! I will wait and see together with you, Diana! In fact, I found myself saying “oh, yes” a lot as I read your post. SO much good truth here about inner hospitality, embracing the positive, child-like qualities within each of us, treasuring transient moments of beauty and delight, and savoring times of rest.

    P.S. The pictures are captivating; your words even more so.

  19. I just came by for a second read and really loved the way you broke down each idea (matched with pictures of your adorable grandkids) … it is not so overwhelming this way. One bit at a time, we can find the spirit of welcome.

    Your words are so lovely and thought provoking.

    Praying the foot continues to heal.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

  20. Oh my….this touched some deep places. I’ve stifled my child so many times….really must allow her some freedom. My life could use some “childishness” and I suspect some rest as well. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you, Kim, for reading and for commenting. I think we all tend to stifle that child, way too often. And becoming childlike (maybe not so much childish??) is supposed to be a part of the journey. Such a pity that we so often overlook that command of Jesus – I have to remind myself of it on a regular basis!!

  21. Oh Diana, this is pure loveliness. Utterly and wonderfully needed for my heart.

  22. Oh how I needed to read this! A resounding “Yes”, Diana. How well you paint the struggle, with your glorious prose and photos, to see ourselves as ‘less than’ for being differently-less-able-dis-abled. I long to embrace life with the acceptance, trust, curiosity, joy, openness and grace of a secure child. Too many seriously adult things have stood in the way for so many years and they have taken a lot of life’s spontaneity and enthusiasm with them.
    Now I’m in a season of re-evaluating, pulling back from the good to embrace the better, pacing, withdrawing from most of social media, and resting this oh so weary body of mine. And I whisper hesitant, adult voice soft yet my inner child shouting loud on the inside.. let me out, let me be free and let me live happy to be me!

Speak Your Mind

*