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Expanding Into a New Call

“This I know: My life is in your hands. I have nothing to fear.
I stop, breathe, listen.
Beneath the whirl of what is,
is a deep down quiet place. You beckon me to tarry there.
This is the place where unnamed hungers are fed,
The place of clear water, refreshment.
My senses stilled, I drink deeply, at home in timeless territory.”
Excerpt from Psalm 23 in Psalms Redux by Carla A. Grosch-Miller

Retreat – a place where unnamed hungers are fed, senses are stilled, body and soul are refreshed, and the water is deep.

In February 2020, I attended a day retreat that combined a labyrinth with SoulCollage©. Walking the labyrinth has long been a spiritual practice that beckons me to tarry and feeds my soul.

As the retreat began, prayer, meditation and music opened our hearts and joined us together as a spiritual community. We were invited to slowly walk around the perimeter of a large canvas labyrinth encircled with images on the floor and to stop when we felt drawn to an image. Before heading outside to a gorgeous day and a beautiful outdoor labyrinth, we were each invited to turn over our image and read aloud the quote on the back. “Perhaps,” the Facilitator said, “you might want to take the quote with you on your journey today.

“Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one’s courage.”- Anaïs Nin

That quote resonated deeply. At the time, I was in discernment about leaving my corporate leadership position as my calling to spiritual direction and retreat facilitation was growing louder and stronger. I left this retreat with the desire to expand firmly planted in my heart and soul. While deeply grateful for my career, I knew it was time to move on.

Retreat – a place where courage is kindled and fueled.

We all know what happened next. A few weeks later, the pandemic changed our lives and expansion felt impossible. Masks and quarantine were shrinking life. It took courage to go to the grocery store, much less leave a comfortable job in a time of great uncertainty. Still, the quote sat on my altar and lingered in my prayer. Anaïs Nin may not typically be quoted in the contemplative spiritual tradition, but nothing and no one is wasted with this Mystery we name God! Her words were prayer to me. Six months later, as the pandemic continued to rage, I gave notice to my employer of my intent to leave. How would life expand now?

One of the places Spirit led me to expand is with Shalem’s Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups & Retreats program. After having completed the program in 2017, I stayed connected to Program Director Ann Dean and served as facilitator for the Prayer Initiative Team that offered prayer companions for participants in subsequent classes.

I was thrilled when Ann invited me to be a Peer Group Leader for the current class of 2022. This was an opportunity to give back to a program that had given me so much. My passion for accompanying others on their spiritual journeys had expanded through this program as my contemplative spirit deepened and my gifts were drawn forth.

While I was in the program, the residencies had offered a rich time of learning and precious space for reflection and prayer. Upon completion of the program, I had facilitated the weekend retreat I had designed for my final project and had started a contemplative spiritual practice group that is still meeting four years later. This program has helped me, and many others, to develop their call to contemplative leadership and transformative spiritual community.

I am thrilled once again to be expanding my role further with Shalem as the Incoming Program Director for the Class of 2023. As Ann Dean discerned a new shaping in her call, Ann and Margaret Benefiel invited me to discern the next step in my call. I am grateful and humbled to be following Ann in the leadership of the Transforming Community program.

I look forward to working with the program team to continue the rich tradition and legacy of the Transforming Community program. We will listen deeply together to discern how Spirit is leading us to create a contemplative community and rich learning environment for the participants of our class. We will listen for how Spirit is calling us to be courageous, expansive, contemplative, and transformative leaders for a world in deep need.

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