A few weeks ago I met with CeCe Nickolich, my Spiritual Director. I love our meetings. Every month I look forward to stepping out of the noise of my life and into the quiet, sacred space of her office. She offers me hot tea, she lights a candle, we sit together, we pray. And for the next hour we talk and listen to each other and to God in a kind of graceful – rather, grace-filled – trio. I always come away feeling lighter, more hopeful, more aware of the ways in which God is working in my life. It is a gift.
I arrived at our last meeting with a sense of guilt, which I laid at CeCe’s feet almost as soon as we began to talk. I explained that I felt I was not moving forward fast enough or far enough with Prayerworks Studio. I thought I should be doing more – more of booking retreats, selling prayer beads, writing blog posts, Tweeting, etc. I was sure that rather than answering God’s call to share the gift of prayer and prayer beads, I was running in the opposite direction. Like Jonah, I worried that I was headed away from Nineveh.
Still, before CeCe could even respond, I said, “However.” For although I had spent most of the previous month feeling guilty, that week before our meeting I had started to sense something else entirely. I began to think that God wasn’t expecting me to do all of these things. In fact, it was becoming clear to me that God wanted me to be doing other things. These other things included:
- Attending The Upper Room’s two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation – I began session #1 in August.
- Learning more about prayer – I was reading all of the books assigned for The Academy.
- Going deeper in my relationship with God – I and several of my friends have begun to experiment with various forms of spiritual disciplines, trying a new one each month (read more at www.simply2listen.wordpress.com)
- Orienting my day around prayer – Using the rhythm I am learning from The Academy, I began to incorporate the offices of Morning, Midday, and Compline prayer into my daily routine
As I shared this with CeCe, I recognized that all of these things are about deepening my relationship with God. She did, too. “You’re on a journey!” she cried. “You’re exactly where you need to be!” Turns out, there was no reason to feel guilty. I am doing what God intends for me to do at this time in my life: go deeper in my relationship with Him, as a way of preparing me for whatever comes next.
It’s funny. Just by changing the way I think about my life, I have changed the way I approach it. When I felt guilty, I moved slower, burdened by its weight. Now that I can see how God is guiding me along this journey – and how I am joyfully and obediently following – my movements are almost effortless. In the weeks since my meeting with CeCe, I have completed the draft of my book, One Bead at a Time: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying with Beads (to be published by The Upper Room in 2013); I’ve had an article accepted for Weavings magazine; I’ve booked one weekend retreat; I’ve scheduled two craft shows; I’ve made new prayer bead designs; and I’ve resurfaced in the social media sphere. Mind over matter, indeed.
But that’s not even the best part. I feel a calm confidence that is different from any other I’ve experienced before. There is depth and breadth to it. It is a peace that pervades everything around me. Sure, there are still life’s ups and downs as well as too much going on in my life, but the chaos is no longer central for me. It is gradually being pushed to the sidelines, allowing space for all that is good and God, front and center.
As I was leaving CeCe’s office, she said, “You were the one who first realized that you didn’t need to feel guilty, and that God was using this time to prepare you for your journey. That happened because you were listening, and because you trusted God.” It appears that all my talk about listening – all those prayer bead devotions – is not for nothing. And that, in itself, is a gift.