When my friend Marie Pechet died in December, she sent me a spiritual gift. That may sound strange to some of you but anyone who has read her blog or who knew her knows what I’m talking about. Marie was all about spirits, serendipities and God connections. So I wasn’t at all surprised when I felt a strong nudging from her to read a certain book and then found out later that she had died that morning. That’s so Marie.
This post is all about Marie and about so much more than Marie, which I know she’d find delightful.
The morning Marie sent me her gift, I was overwhelmed by anxiety, which had become routine. 2016 was a hard year. I hear a lot of people saying that so I know I wasn’t alone but it wasn’t just politics that troubled me. We sold a house, bought a house, struggled to afford our house, struggled to keep our business afloat and basically struggled to find footing in constantly shifting ground.
I prayed a lot in 2016. I prayed to be financially stable, I prayed to be thinner, I prayed that I wasn’t warping my kids, I prayed that the kittens’ diarrhea would go away, I prayed to not be awoken in the middle of the night by panic and then prayed to be able to go back to sleep. I mostly prayed in the shower and on the toilet because after all, the bathroom is the altar for mothers of young children.
There was a big part of me that didn’t believe any of my prayers would be answered, at least not in the way I wanted them to be and I was falling into a horrible state of hopelessness. On this particular December morning, a book popped up on my radar and I had an overwhelming sense that Marie wanted me to read it. I debated briefly about spending the money but the urge was so strong that I got on Amazon, bought the Kindle version and started reading it right away.
The book checked all the boxes for what I wanted to hear. It was about how to transform fear into faith (check!) and how to give up the false sense of control that often leads us astray (check!). It was about the love of the universe and how to unleash our power (check, check!).
To be honest, I never actually finished the book because the author quoted a bunch of other authors and their books sounded even more intriguing so I embarked on a spiritual squirrel chase.
As I juggled books, my mind went in circles and I imagined what each author was trying to tell me:
Pema Chödrön told me that I’m addicted to hope. She said that when I suffer I automatically think that something is wrong. Holding onto hope robs me of this present moment, which is the only moment that is real. She even suggested that I abandon hope and stop needing a babysitter (God). She confused me.
Gabby Bernstein told me to ask the universe for help. She told me that obstacles are detours in the right direction. The only thing holding me back is my perception of my situation and to get out of the way and let the universe handle it. That made a little more sense to me but still felt hollow.
Rob Bell told me that I’m here on purpose. I’m not an accident. I have choices and responsibilities but I’m not alone. This day is all we have and we need to celebrate it. Hope is vital. Faith is vital. Trust is vital. Love is vital. Love wins. His words calmed me. They made the tightness in my chest ease and made the world stop spinning so fast. But I’m a Christian so it makes sense that his message resonated the most. It’s always nice when we can take what we believe and find someone who thinks we’re right.
There were more books (I’ll list them at the bottom) and in their own way, each gave me insight into my problems. But I kept going back to Marie. She had actually walked the walk and smoked what she was selling. She wasn’t about shallow positive affirmations or vague spiritual teachings that are hard to apply in real life. She was all about sharing her deepest fears, her most painful moments and her brightest hopes while at the same time praying intensely for each of us.
I decided to read her blog from the beginning. Every entry was a balm for my heart. Her insights encouraged me to ask tough questions about how I experienced God and I started to see that all the lack I perceived in my life was much deeper than it seemed on the surface.
I don’t have a weight problem. I have a how do I love myself regardless of my body fat and how do I accept that I’m aging problem.
I don’t have a financial problem. I have a how do I find a sense of security regardless of my finances and how will I be worthy if I lose everything and a will there ever be enough problem.
And mostly, I have a what if my prayers aren’t answered problem.
I read more books and asked countless questions and cried more tears that I ever thought imaginable. When I ran out of prayers for myself (and frankly, got sick of my own whining) I started praying for other people before I went to sleep each night. I tried to be specific and I made a point of choosing people who would probably never ask for prayers and would never, ever expect that someone was praying directly and specifically for them. I wonder if any of you felt those prayers? Maybe you felt an unexpected sense of peace come over you when everything felt upside down. It’s such a comfort to know that someone, somewhere is praying for you.
Marie’s blog is called Adventures in Spiritual Living, which I think I’m finally getting.
I will always be faced with tough choices and responsibilities and my family, business, community and friends are depending on me. There’s so much outside of my control but I can choose to keep putting my best foot forward. That’s the living part.
I will keep making the best choices I can while acknowledging that nothing in this world, not riches, not substances, not the best chocolate brownie in the world will ever fill my spiritual hole. Only God can do that. That’s the spiritual part.
And I will keep looking for miracles in my life. The signs are everywhere when you pay attention. God is constantly putting people and experiences in my path exactly when I need them. I may not always get what I want but I’m repeatedly given the strength to keep growing. And instead of dreading what will happen next, I’m excited to see how I will be made new again. That’s the adventure part.
Here’s what I pray for you (borrowing some from Marie’s words):
Even when you feel most alone, I pray that you start to see small signs of change and know that like spring, there are unseen treasures just under the surface waiting to bloom.
Whether your face is turned toward the light or you’re hopping from shadow to shadow to keep from getting burned, I pray that you see each moment as a new chance to start again. There will always be things that you can’t control and circumstances that cause tremendous suffering and I pray that in those moments you don’t give up. I hope you know that you are always cared for and carried.
The books I read (or reread) in no particular order:
Faith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned How to Ask Questions – Rachel Held Evans
The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith – Gabrielle Bernstein
empty. (Living Life Full of Faith When Life Drains You Dry) – Cherie Hill
What the Mystics Know: 7 Pathways to Your Deeper Self – Richard Rohr
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times – Pema Chödrön
How to be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living – Rob Bell
Love Warrior: A Memoir – Glennon Doyle Melton
The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way – Wayne Dyer
The Bible – various
Out of Sorts: Making Sense of an Evolving Faith – Sarah Bessey
The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing and Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community – Tony Jones
Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace – Anne Lamott
Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People – Nadia Bolz-Weber