Desire for solitude. Creativity. Prayer. “Firstlight” by Sue Monk Kidd (Aug. 2008)

Susan's Thursday morning note August 21, 2008 
Firstlight by Sue Monk Kidd.  Desire for solitude, creativity, prayer.

Oh, my goodness – can you believe how beautiful this week has been?  The breezes at night – is there anything that beats a cool breeze at night?   Even my coffee tastes better when the weather changes to cool – has that been researched?   Is this what we’re missing by not living all year long in California?  Well, they don’t get the sights of the corn with the cool breeze!   What a beautiful time of year.  My favorite…and then when the fall smells begin with harvest – that can’t be described to anyone not from the Midwest, can it?

Don’t roll your eyes, but I found a new “top five” book for my pile!   Is it possible for my “top five” to be more than five?!?  The book that has captivated me this week is Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings by Sue Monk Kidd.  This book is made up of her earliest short writings.  Her writings are divided into: awareness, availability, compassion, solitude, the sacred ordinary, simplicity of spirit, gracious space, severe grace, a taste of silence, standing fast, letting go, reborn to love.  Every page I have marked up…her desire for solitude, her desire for creativity, her desire for caring for her community, all meshing in her writings as she searches above all else to pray.  I am as captivated by her writing as I was Anne Lindbergh.  I hope just by reading a little bit below you will be encouraged to continue your desire to be all that you are capable of being – for our lives are so short.  How can we make them meaningful?

On writing out our personal experiences – where we’ve been…where we want to be.

For me, creativity is essentially a spiritual experience, a conversation between my soul and me…my writing initiating this conversation.  (What is your creativity?  What brings about a conversation between you and your soul?  Walking alone?  Painting?  Drinking coffee unobserved as you watch life passing by?  Singing?  Being with children?  What begins your conversation where you really get to know yourself?  Discovering our personal stories is a spiritual quest.  Without such stories we cannot be fully human, for without them we are unable to articulate or even understand our deepest experiences. 

1.  The inner story creates identity, transforming our vision of who we are…an act of self-knowing.  Through the lens of story we see the mystery of ourselves more clearly.  Knowing who I am hinges on remembering who I have been in the past and embracing the hope of who I may be in the future.  Story allows me to enter the tension between memory and hope.  (I loved that line).

 2.  Our inner story converts and transforms by sustaining us in the midst of suffering…rebirth inevitably occurs.  Telling our story puts us in an inner room with our suffering and allows us to dialogue with it.  We begin to see our difficulty in a new context and thereby find the comfort and courage to live it. 

3.  The inner tale transforms by reorienting us to new truth and insight, breaking open the hidden holy that dwells in our experiences.  The word story means “to know.” Unearthing my story revealed truth upon truth.  It led me from chest pain and stress, to a pattern of drivenness, to an attitude of perfectionism to a stark hunger of the soul.  In the end, the story led me to the immense heart of God.  Discovering my inner story reveals God in time and place, my time and place.  It sharpens God’s voice in the common places where it often goes unnoticed.  Such awareness transforms life from a series of random events to the poetic realm of a sacred tale.

On Silence.  Stillness.  Prayer

I reflected and prayed.  I peeled open my soul…I began my journey toward wholeness, a journey that carried me into the fierce tenderness of God’s love.  Through solitude and silence I began to find an inner music, a love song being sung in the spaces of my own heart.  In the mystery of contemplative prayer I learned to enter God’s presence within and experienced love beyond reason.  I found that I could not climb my way up to God in a blaze of doing and performing.  Rather, I had to descend into the depths of myself and find God there in the darkness of troubled waters…When I have stumbled into dark places in life and felt alone, I have discovered a presence that has calmed my mind, relaxed my body, and anchored my soul.  I find peace that I cannot find elsewhere when I sit with this holiness.

On Aging: “You, see, Ann Grandma is getting “real.” That’s all.” (referring to The Velveteen Rabbit)…  I was left to consider for the first time that growing old could be a wondrous passage.  The markings of it didn’t matter, except to those who didn’t understand.  What mattered was becoming “real.” What mattered was loving and being loved for a long, long time…my Grandmother carried inside her a certain renewing flame that is hard to define.  A paper found beside my grandmother’s bed the day she died…”May I wake ready for that daily, yet greatest of gifts – a fresh start.”

On Being Present in the Moment (Not always having a wandering mind)…The words now, here, and nowhere have the same arrangement of letters, but differ when a small space is inserted.  Likewise a fine space separates us from experiencing our life as nowhere or now here.  Attentiveness is entering fully the moment you are currently in, no matter how hassling and mundane, and simply being present with it.

On Busyness: The Chinese pictograph for busyness is “heart killing.” In Wordsworth’s poem “The Prelude” he writes about “spots of time” that nourish and repair the soul…search for spots of time here and there in my day…by stopping.  Just stopping.  Jesus spoke…”Come away by yourself to a lonely place and rest awhile.” …stillness where I could spend five minutes or less sitting still and receding into the quiet core of myself…contemplative prayer…putting the soul to rest…caring for my soul.

On God’s design (I love this part)…Compassion, which is the very life of God within us, comes through a slow and often difficult metamorphosis deep within the human soul.  It happens through a process.  If we look closely at the workings of creation, we find that God nearly always works through process.  Think of it.  First there is a seed, then a sprout, then a blossom, and finally fruit.  God does not begin with a butterfly, but with a larva that becomes a chrysalis and finally a creature with wings…the most mysterious of all is the unfolding process of ovum, fetus, baby, child, adolescent, adult.  The universe is designed to move stage by stage, from incompletion to completion.  Now why should we suppose that God has designed the heart any differently than the rest of creation?  It, too, has stages.  (She wrote later in observing the night sky over the ocean…Night and day, wind and tide, current and moon.  It was a magnificent dance to silent music, choreographed by the Creator…I stood up and began to walk back, ready once more to fix my eyes and heart on the Choreographer.” Isn’t that beautiful?)

To finish I’ll put one more writing of hers on what matters in our life.  What we do that makes our lives significant…  Sir Christopher Wren designed St.  Paul’s Cathedral in London, a towering and magnificent work of carvings, columns, arches, and spires that took 35 years to build.  He is buried in the cathedral, beneath a plain and simple slab.  Barely noticeable and void of trappings, his tomb bears only this inscription: “If you seek his monument, look around you.” In the end, the only monument that matters may be the work of love we carve into the lives around us.

Do you see why I find encouragement and thoughts worth contemplating from her writing?  The above only taps at her writing.  Go today – notice the little things.  Be aware.  Be aware of those you meet.  Be aware of their needs.  Give them your time, even if you have nothing else to give.  Be aware of creation.  Be aware that you need time alone.  Be aware.  Notice your moments.  Don’t waste this day even if it isn’t where you wish you were, what you wish you were doing, who you desire to be with that aren’t near.  Appreciate just being with yourself.  Become aware of what gives you alone life.  Pray.  As Sue Monk Kidd stated, searching yourself and your soul will lead you into knowing God.  The stillness.  Your time in prayer.  Your source of strength.  These are promises, not from me, but promises from God.  I hope that you find friends, books, peace from prayer to go through anything that is difficult in your own life.  And if life is handing you laughter right now, joy, peace – be thankful for that gift from God.  He created us because he delights in us.  He desires us.

Thank you for letting me talk to you on your Thursdays.  Have a great weekend and week.  I hope I’m in the store when you come by, but if I’m not, know that we thank you for your support of our store.  You are why we make it and add more and more to what we have for you.  Go make yourself proud with decisions you make – even if no one ever knows you made the decisions.  Susan


Works Cited:
Kidd, Sue Monk.  Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings.  New York.  Penguin Putnam.  2006.