Good in the world

I believe that God is at work in the world.

As a Christian, this should not be a controversial statement, but many would disagree, at least in practice. If we believe the world is a scary place, full of danger, darkness, hatred, and pain; if we then live our lives in fear, isolation, protectionism, and suspicion; if we define other people as our enemy and trash creation–if any of these are true–then we are denying the reality of God at work in our world.

I believe God created the heavens and the earth. I have no idea how that happened, what it meant for God to speak and suddenly photons are flying through space at the speed of themselves. I do not know how God formed the earth, lit the stars, set the universe in motion, or sparked life into existence. I stand in awe of the beauty and complexity of creation and am constantly amazed at the scientific discoveries that show this world in ever smaller, ever greater, degrees of complexity.

I believe there is beauty in the world. I see the sky and the clouds, the deep endless variety of blue that as a Kansas girl provides the boundaries of my visible world. I drive the Flint Hills and observe the green, brown, yellow foliage that feeds animals wild and domestic. I see the frolicking calves, the bounding deer, the soaring eagle and flitting swallows playing in spaces that fit them like a tailored suit.

I meet people whose individual personalities delight me, from the cynic, to the organizer, to the ever-optimistic, to the deeply compassionate, the humorist, the critic. Each one with perspectives to share, experiences to recount, and a light to shine.

I do not see the world through rose-colored lenses, though. I know there is pain. I know there is violence. I know both are closer than I want to admit. Each one of those people I meet have scars, I have them myself.

But I believe we have a choice.

We can choose to see the good, beautiful, gracious gift of the world and all who are in it or we can cower in fear that pain will come knocking on our door. We can set our eyes on God at work in the world and receive comfort knowing that we are not alone in seeking good and just and beautiful endings. We can choose to join God in pursuing dreams of a world that is healed, and lives that are healed, and communities that are healed.

We could also choose to shut ourselves away. We could focus on the darkness. We could build our walls higher, our moats deeper, our cannons larger, our swords sharper.

When the darkness is the biggest presence in our view, it is impossible to walk in love. Love requires an open heart, and fear shuts it down. Love requires the willingness to sacrifice, but fear makes us hoarders. Love requires that we listen and learn from one another, but fear galvanizes our opinions until we are incapable of hearing and considering the perspectives of others.

I believe God is at work in the world and is looking for people to join in. God’s work is love in action. Will we choose to see the light of love and rejoice, or will we fixate on the darkness?

A Refreshing choice.

Yoga Tip: Foundations

This is my first yoga-related post. Where better to start than the foundation of our practice? For me, because I view yoga as both a physical as well as spiritual practice, the word foundation applies to my faith and where my body meets the mat.

Having a firm foundation is essential to rising up into a strong alignment in our poses. In my yoga tradition, Holy Yoga, we often refer to this as rooting down. We root down through whatever parts are touching the mat. In seated poses, we root through our sit bones. In standing poses, we root through the four corners of our feet. When we are in a table top or down dog, we root through our palms and our knees or feet.

When we mindfully root into the mat, we create a stable platform on which the rest of our body can build a pose. Without that firm foundation, our poses wobble, our alignment is forced, and our body wastes a lot of energy just staying upright. When our pose is built on a proper foundation, we can almost float, completely at rest in our proper alignment.

The same is true for me in my spirit. If I have invested in a firm foundation, I find it easier to walk through the day mindful of the people around me, loving and serving in productive ways. When my foundation is weak, I struggle. It takes a lot of effort just to answer kindly, or practice patience in basic situations (like waiting in line at the grocery store).

My foundation is a relationship with the creator of life, Jesus. Sometimes I need to spend a lot of time praying, listening, meditating on words given to me in the Bible. Then I simply need to maintain an open connection so that his life can flow through me. When I find myself struggling in my daily life, I know it is time to re-examine my foundation. Am I rooting into Christ, and using that stable platform to build my life? Or am I forcing myself into alignment without a firm foundation?

Rooting down to rise up strong.
Now that’s ReFreshing!

What’s a Doula?

Maybe we need another name, but it can be difficult to think what else we would call ourselves. Professional Emotional and Physical Support in Labor and Delivery Assistant seems a little long. Sometimes we may shorten the description to professional labor support, but what does that entail? The word Doula means “female servant” from the Greek, and really refers to the role a Doula plays in serving and supporting other women.

What a Doula does.

A Doula is a person (typically a woman but there are male Doulas) who has special training in the physical and emotional aspects of childbirth as well as strategies and techniques to help a laboring woman and her partner have the kind of birth they desire. Doulas meet with their clients typically 2-3 times before the baby’s birthday to get to know the preferences of the laboring person and help to form a birth plan.

Doulas provide uninterrupted labor support during labor and delivery, helping couples ask good questions about their options from medical care providers. The Doula brings a copy of the birth plan, takes notes on procedures and keeps a timeline of the birth. Doulas are there to support emotionally, suggest changes in position or activity to reduce pain and help labor progress.

After the baby is born, the Doula will stay with the new mother for a predetermined amount of time (typically 30 minutes to 2 hours), possibly taking pictures or helping the new family move to a recovery room. Doulas also check in with the new family at home in the first few weeks postpartum. They will listen to you tell your birth story and talk to you about common postpartum topics like breastfeeding, baby care, and caring for yourself.

Doulas charge a fee that depends on the services they offer and the area or clients they wish to serve. Doula fees range from $250 to well over $1000. There are affordable ways to hire a Doula if you have a lower income. Some Doulas have a sliding fee scale, or may work for a non-profit, or a hospital.

What Doulas don’t do.

The Doula is not a doctor. Doulas are not medically trained and do not perform medical tasks. A Doula should not suggest medical interventions or administer medications. Doulas are not your voice, they help you to find your voice. The Doula you work with may ask you a question about your comfort level with a procedure if it is something you have talked about previously, or they may ask you if you have questions for your care provider, whether an MD, OBGYN, Midwife or your labor nurse. Doulas are there to empower you to advocate for yourself.

What Doulas might do.

There are Doulas who have special skills or training that they bring to the labor room as a bonus. Some Doulas are trained in massage. You may find a Doula who is also a photographer. It may be that your Doula is a yoga or other fitness instructor. Some Doulas also serve the other children in the family. Other Doulas are available to serve the family postpartum for an hourly fee.  From time to time, a Doula may also be a trained nurse. In that case, they will probably identify under a different title of monatrice.

I hope you have a better idea of who Doulas are and what they can do for expectant mothers and their partners. Maybe we need another name, or maybe we just need to increase awareness to the point that everyone knows what a Doula is and how Doulas can help you have your best birth.

Healthy Pregnancy and Birth,
How Refreshing!

A Prayer for Peace

I offered this prayer at our Vigil to Pray for Peace in Emporia, KS on July 10, 2016.

God of grace and mercy,

We come tonight with our hands full, our fingers tightly gripping our fear, our anger, our pain, our suspicion, our frustration and feelings of powerlessness in the face of what seems an impossible problem.

We know that our fear leads to isolation, our anger builds walls and our frustration can lead to apathy. By your mercy, forgive us for allowing our bitterness to bring division, and our pain to excuse contributing to the pain of others.

Tonight we look to you for the healing of our hearts and hearts across our land. Teach us to let go of all we are clutching, lest we use our closed fists to add to the violence.

Give us strength to pry open our fingers so that we may stretch out our palms to you and receive your healing grace.

May your healing produce a peace that is not only an absence of violence or conflict, but full of forgiveness, restoration, and joy.

Instill in us a love that reaches across racial boundaries, economic boundaries, religious boundaries, and every dividing wall of hostility. Grant us wisdom as we work toward reconciliation wherever we are, whatever our context.

Turn our hearts toward you when we grow weary. Unite us in purpose so that we know we are not alone. Light a path before us so that our steps may be clear as we journey together toward peace.

I offer this prayer in the name of Jesus, who laid down his life for the healing of the world.

Amen.