It’s a rainy fall day here in Boston. The bells at the church across the street just chimed five times, telling me it’s almost evening.
I woke up restless and sad, a soul in chaos. The gloom outside found its way inside and I struggled to find a rhythm. The news has not helped. As you who read this blog know, I’ve long loved the Kurds.
Three years before we moved to the Kurdish Region of Iraq (Kurdistan) we had the opportunity to visit. It was at the height of the ISIS crisis, and displaced people and refugees had altered the landscape of the area. ⠀
Even before that time, we had always been interested in Kurds and the Kurdish story. ⠀
Having the opportunity to live and work in Kurdistan last year was one of the great privileges of our lives. And by all accounts, it ended too soon. We grieve the loss of community and miss the deep friendships we formed every day.
Kurdish people face challenges, threats, and obstacles from within and without. From their own leaders making rash and ludicrous decisions about finances, pay checks, jobs, and governance to outside forces making tragic decisions on invasions and non-interventionist decisions when they have already intervened, Kurdish people in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria suffer. ⠀
Despite this, resilience, hospitality, and sheer joy are hallmarks of who they are as people. This group that spans man-made divisions and borders needs your prayers and help. ⠀
The news of the attacks in Syria have deeply affected the community where we lived and worked in Rania. Our friends are sad, but they are also angry. They feel betrayed. I feel betrayed with them and I have felt it in my soul.
But I am many miles away, and my restless, chaotic spirit is not helping anyone.
I learned long ago that there are some antidotes to restless, fractured souls, so if you are feeling as I was today, here are some ideas.
- Bake bread. The measuring, mixing, kneading, and baking will go from your arms to your heart to your soul.
- Chop fresh vegetables for a soup or stew.
- Clean the house. Scrubbing, scouring, mopping, and dusting – cleaning out the dirt that accumulates can satisfy in immeasurable ways.
- Write a letter to someone. The old fashioned kind that will have them shocked and deeply pleased. Taking pen to paper and writing news or a note of encouragement is a way to take your mind off yourself and focus it on someone else.
- Donate time or money to a local charity. There are so many organizations doing good work in our world. It just takes intentionality to find them.
- Light candles and listen to music. There is something about light and music that pushes against the darkness we sometimes feel in our souls.
- Phone or text someone. There is someone out there who is feeling as chaotic, lonely, or sad as you are. Reach out and offer friendship through your phone.
- Read the Psalms. Even if you are not from a Christian tradition, the Psalms can offer extraordinary comfort. King David who wrote many of the Psalms was up against some bad guys. He regularly cried out to God, begging him to destroy the wicked. His words resonate to this day , offering us a blue print of prayer and communication to God.
- Read a book about someone who made a difference. Right now, I’m reading the book Stronger than Death by my friend, Rachel Pieh Jones. It is an a remarkable story about a woman who broke boundaries and rules to love those at the margins of society. It takes me out of my current chaos and reminds me that loving others is a costly calling that I know little about.
- Dance. Just put on that music and go for it. Besides being good exercise, your body will pour forth endorphins in gratitude.
- Call one of your friends who has a baby and go hold that baby. Blow on its belly and listen to that baby laugh. “A baby is God’s opinion that the world must go on”*
- Read The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. This book has nuggets of wisdom that surprise and delight. At one point she encourages the reader to look at doing the next right thing for the next ten minutes. It’s an exercise that continues to stay with me.
- Love someone well. “Ordinary love, anonymous and unnoticed as it is, is the substance of peace on earth, the currency of God’s grace in our daily lives.” (Liturgy of the Ordinary, pp 79)
This list is not exhaustive and it’s not extraordinary, but today, as I chopped vegetables for soup, kneaded bread, and scrubbed the dirt off the floors of this little red house, my soul rested and I felt an incomparable peace.
6 thoughts on “When Your Soul is in Chaos, Chop Vegetables!”
Dear Marilyn, I have never written to you before, but I often read your posts. Not sure where I first got your link, but it has spoken to me many times. Today, less than a month into my home leave in Dallas from my role in Thailand, I woke up with the gloomy cold wet outdoors at 4 a.m. Writing helps me, so I wrote the following. Just wanted you to know you are not alone in reentry. Blessings and prayers from a fellow traveler, Ruth Leatherman
*October 29, 2019 (4 a.m.)*
*Rainy Days and Mondays*
Reentry has challenges
As one leaves a community
Where there can be transparency
And connections not perfect
And certainly not ideal
But, there is shared history
Thursday Spaghetti night
Places to go
People to see
Things to do if I choose
Coming to Dallas to my “home church”
To my biological family
With restrictions in when I can meet
And where I can be
Organizing time together
Lots of time alone
Navigating new groups and experiences
Lack of regular exercise
Rhythms unfamiliar and different
Weather and clothing changes
Even what I wear on my feet
Including socks and boots
Jackets and scarves
Fear of going to my car in the night
… At church, what’s that about?
I long to be connected
To be honest and sharing my own story
Vulnerability and challenges
People are so “Biblical”
Almost as a cover or mask
To keep the real person from
Oozing out or showing
Pride in being in “studies”
Perpetuation of knowledge
Help me not to judge
Help me to observe and be real
Thank you for the groups in the community
That offer a place and space for growth
The recovery community
With structure and opportunities
For all people to have a voice
Are where I feel the most like me
Why can’t we do that
In our churches
Why is the culture of church
One of masks and pretense
Yikes, I long for the connections
That Journey group offers,
That my trio prayer group gives
A chance to say and be all that I am
Without fear of losing myself
Or being judged
My new culture of vulnerability
And lack of shame
Is certainly challenged
As I enter the US once again
How can I be all that I am
And share my intimacy with you
And share in the quietness
Without all the words, words, words
I miss my friends
I miss my rhythms,
I miss sweating and stretching
I miss being touched
And feeling a part of the community
Help me oh, Lord to continue
To be close to you
Send me some people to have fun with
To laugh with and enjoy connecting
Ok, you’ve reminded me of the week ahead
Reunion group and Hillsong
Prayer and Praise
Lori and coaching
Seeing Dad and Corrie on Wednesday
Coaching with Vic
Going to the Golden Gate Church on Wed
With the choir
S Anon on Thursday
Yes, there is connection
And rhythm is coming
Just because the Monday group
Does not have space for me
At a meeting
I can be just fine
With the other things
That are happening for me
The longing to belong
To someone who enjoys
And gets me who I can look out for
And who will look out for me
I have in you Oh, Lord
Keep me close to you
Dray me into your arms
Of strength and compassion
Understanding and peace
I belong to you, wherever I am
Because you are mine
and I am yours
Thank you for your reminder
Of your care and that you are there!!
Things are not nearly as bad
As they feel or seem
With rainy grey days
Your growing girl
P.S. Thank you for the fireplace
With warmth and light
Dancing and brightening the place where I live!!
P.S. I just chopped vegies and put a soup into the crock pot!!
On Fri, Oct 11, 2019 at 5:46 PM Marilyn R. Gardner wrote:
> Marilyn posted: ” It’s a rainy fall day here in Boston. The bells at the > church across the street just chimed five times, telling me it’s almost > evening. I woke up restless and sad, a soul in chaos. The gloom outside > found its way inside and I struggled to find a rhyt” >
Oh Ruth, I’m so sorry for not responding sooner. I love this so much! Thank you for sharing. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for reading!
To your list, Dear Marilyn, I add my own antidote to the tragedies in the world that often threaten to suffocate my soul with sorrow. I light a candle held by a ceramic angel and name aloud those for whom I ask healing or protection. All week I’ve asked for both for the Kurdish people. And for peace and healing in our sorrow-full world. This nightly ritual helps to bring light into my kitchen and then deeper into my soul.
I’ve thought about you and your work with the Kurds a lot over the last few days. My heart and work has been in the Middle East so every time it flairs up I feel the pain too. The gift of travel and TiCK life is we do not separate from those we see on the news and yet it fills us with pain so often. I made pancakes for my family yesterday and spent breakfast sitting together and laughing. Those moments help so I love your list. Thanks as always and my thoughts are with all of those in turmoil.
Yes! This is something I also discovered this past year in dealing with anxiety and OCD. Chopping vegetables became like medicine to me. It got a healthy supper on the table and also distracted me from my troubles.
Also, LOVE the Carl Sandburg quote! ~Elizabeth
I’ve had the honor and delight of befriending a Kurdish refugee family. Because of this friendship, my world is bigger and news that was once impersonal now has a face and my heart is more open to the pain of this world. It’s so difficult to watch my friends suffer with this news. Thank you for this post.