Five Minute Friday- Goodbye


On Fridays around these parts we stop, drop, and write.

For fun, for love of the sound of words, for play, for delight, for joy and celebration at the art of communication.

For only five short, bold, beautiful minutes. Unscripted and unedited. We just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.

Won’t you join us?

Here are the rules:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

2. Link backhere and invite others to join in.

3. Most importantly: leave a comment for the person who linked up before you – encouraging them in their writing!

OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:

Today’s prompt is:  Goodbye

Ready? GO!

Today I say, “Goodbye.”

I say goodbye to words spoken out loud, to external processing, to kiddo belly laughs in the living room and begging puppy barks for apples sticky wrapped in peanut butter.  I say goodbye to television and Facebook, and *gasp* my cell phone.  I say goodbye to the neverending noise that I steep my life in.

But only for a little while….I’ll be back soon.

This afternoon, at 3 pm sharp, I will enter into a time of silence with 14 other retreatants.  For three days we will give each other the gift of a community of silence.  Silent, but not alone.

I am excited and I am TERRIFIED.

After all the hustle and bustle of the last two months and the deep community with my church last week, I am already feeling the effects of withdrawal…the sudden margin in my life has left me reeling…a little sad….and jones-ing for another hit of constant togetherness.

But today I say “goodbye” to my earthly community to say “hello” to my God.

I have spent intentional time in silence and prayer before, but never this long.  There are great things moving and swirling around me, and I desperately seek the center of God’s Will.  Will you pray for me this weekend?


Reflections from St Scholastica: On Fear and Solitude

When describing my retreat experience several weeks ago at St Scholastica Retreat Center in this post, I described the unease that welled up within me in the emptiness of solitude as fear.  As I sit with the emotion that made itself known in those hours, and that hasn’t fully left since, I think perhaps it was less fear and closer to sorrow.  Or maybe the bowling ball in my stomach was sorrow and, rather than explore it, my response was fear.  Either way, God was so gracious to provide exactly the support I needed to work through part of it, but now, as I prepare to lead a retreat on Practicing Sabbath this weekend and look back over my notes from my own retreat, I found this resource that Sr Macrina shared with us, and realize that my experience of immense sorrow…and of something beautiful and mysterious underneath, is not uncommon…and He’s been there all along.

In his book, How then Shall We Live, Wayne Muller speaks of his first week-long silent meditation retreat and how during the retreat he discovered a deep sorrow and struggled with where it was coming from. As he became more silent he began to sense a unique presence deep within. These are the words he uses to describe the experience:

“Then it got quiet, quieter than ever. I began to sense something beneath the sorrow. I could feel a place inside, below all my names, my stories, my injuries, my sadness—a place that I lived in my breath. I did not know what to call it, but it had a voice, a way of speaking to me about what was true. Along with this voice came a presence, an indescribable sense of well-being that reminded me that whatever pain or sorrowI would be given, there was something inside strong enough to bear the weight of it. It would rise to meet whatever I was given. IT would teach me what to do.

All my life I have felt this presence, but at that moment I could feel its fundamental integrity. As I think back upon my life to the times when I have been lost, I realize that whenever I have ignored this voice I have quickly found myself in more confusion. There  is something inside me that has—for as long as I can remember, since I was very small—always guided me toward what was right and true. I also realized that when I am too busy, rushed or preoccupied, I rarely take the time to listen. It is this desperate unwillingness to be quiet enough to hear what I essentially know to be true—that has been the cause of much of my suffering in this life.”

Bringing the Monastery Home

It’s been exactly one week since I packed my bags and headed to the quiet of the St Scholastica Monastery and Retreat Center.

One week of learning that “no” is not a four letter word. One week of asking for help and wondering at all the amazing, talented people who have been in my life, waiting, all along for me to ask them, but who I never tapped for fear of being an inconvenience. One week of silent car rides and practicing communal silence with my family.

It’s a funny thing when life is quieter…more still…words seem to have greater weight. I like this new-found quiet and even, more, a greater respect for the spoken and written word.

This weekend’s activities stand in stark contrast to last week. Yesterday, we traveled with 24 children (ages 5-13) and close to that many adults to Dallas for a basketball tournament.

Quiet stillness has been replaced with the rush, rush logistics of moving 50 people from one place to another, the loud voices and constant chatter of excited young children, and the sideline yells and hollers of a zealous crowd of parents have taken the place of the reverent whispers, bird song and the soft sound of the wind in the tree tops.

It’s definitely a different world, and I am honestly struggling a bit to function here. I miss the mini-monastery we created at home, and while I am having fun with my family, I yearn for quiet solitude.

So how do I do this? How do we create this monastic life and still have a family life? Are the two mutually exclusive?

I don’t think so. I think it’s possible to have a little bit of both in this world. And I’m on a mission to figure out how.

Reflections From St Scholastica: A New Day

Reflections from St Scholastica 2/27/2011

St Scholastica Monastery, Fort Smith, Arkansas

The Sister’s have invited me to share Mass and breakfast with them this morning. They are such gracious hostesses, sharing all that they have with their guests with no care of gift in return. There is so much I can learn of hospitality from these Benedictine monks.

I rise early and prepare, fully intending to take advantage of their offer, but another longing rises up within me. Something new to my nature.  “Stay with me,” He whispers softly. “Get a cup of tea and break your fast with me.”

My human heart cries out at the invitation. “But…God…I will be alone…and quiet.” It yearns, even now, for the tangible, solid companionship of the Sisters.

My true self does a happy dance and springs to the kitchenette for a cup of tea with My God. I make church by a small pond on the east side of the monastery grounds. There are six Canadian geese swimming happily there and the squirrels with their giant red tails and the robins with their thick bellies promise spring days are near.

The jonquils are beginning to bloom and tiny white and blue crocuses carpet the ground beneath my feet.  There is a tree here at the edge of the water. Big and strong—I wonder at its age—the years it has seen. This monastery in the heart of this small city, has all the wonder of a rural setting, but just in case you forget where you are, the cars on the highway vroom past and the occasional thump, thump of loud music breaks the un-silence of the birds at play.

In my soul a song wells up. I don’t know the words, but I know the heart of it so I close my eyes and hum the tune to Jesus as an offering of worship. My voice is soft and crackly as I shake loose the cobwebs of extended silence. I wonder fleetingly if the Trappist monks who take a vow of silence ever feel these heartsongs? Is it ok for them to release them with their voice to Jesus?

There is so much about this place I do not understand, and yet none of that seems to matter.  Jesus has met me here in a profound way. I have looked deep into the Magic Mirror and found some pieces of me that must be scrubbed away, some practices that need discipline, but most of all I found a beautiful, Beloved  Child of God staring back at me. I found a monk and an artist. I found a heart that yearns for silence and the presence of God. I found an appreciation for a slower way of life…more mindful, more present, more measured.

The question now is how do I return to my world and fold into my reality the peace of this one? Solitude is not just for the monastery. This gift is not one I want to leave here next to the thank you card on my bed- “Thank you so much for the soul space…keep it for me, I’ll be back again next year!” No! This is a gift I can carry with me. But, how?

I will start small:

  • Turning the car radio off while I’m driving alone.
  • Asking of my family that we share 10 minutes of quiet time when we arrive home in the evening.
  • On my free days, taking an hour of each day for prayer.
  • Following the rhythm of the Seven Sacred Pauses during my day- using the praying of the hours to center and guide me back to “ceaseless prayer” in the present moment.

These are my commitments. Perhaps some will stay and some will fall away, but this much is certain—I will find time for solitude. Will you?

Are you looking for ways to deepen your spiritual practices? We invite you to explore the possibilities with us as we begin the “Practicing Your Path” Retreat Series based on the book by the same name by Holly Whitcomb.

Each one day women’s retreat focuses on a different spiritual discipline:

3/19/2011  Practicing Sabbath:Rediscovering God’s Design for Rest

Register for Practicing Sabbath: Rediscovering God's Design for Rest in Rogers, AR  on Eventbrite

4/9/11  Practicing the Fast: Taking Yourself Out of the Equation

Register for Practicing the Fast: Learning to Take Yourself Out of the Equation in Rogers, AR  on Eventbrite

5/21/2011 Embracing Your Call: Discovering Your Purpose

Register for Embracing the Call: Discovering your Purpose in Rogers, AR  on Eventbrite

6/11/2011 Practicing Hospitality

Register for Practicing Hospitality: Creating Welcoming Spaces for God, for Others, and for Yourself in Rogers, AR  on Eventbrite

8/13/2011 Practicing Prayer and Action: Living a Life of Intercession

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You can register for each of these events individually or save 33% and register for the entire series!

Register for Practicing Your Path Retreat Series in Rogers, AR  on Eventbrite

If you can’t make it to Northwest Arkansas for retreat, no worries! You can register for online retreats including video clips, worksheets and guidebook. Just click register now and choose “Online” as your ticket type.  You will receive the worksheets and videos by email the week of the scheduled retreat.

Reflections from St Scholastica: Fire

Saturday, 2/26/2011

One of the wonders of this personal retreat was taking part of the Day of Recollection: Discovering the MonkWithin Retreat led by Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr. The theme of the whole weekend for me really became about finding solitude in the everyday, about experiencing life as a monastic outside the monastery walls.  About slowing the pace and measuring all the steps of our days.  This poem is one of the beautiful nuggets Sr. Macrina presented us with.

“In our lives, the spaces in between are the places of waiting.”

– Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr.


What makes a fire burn is the space between the logs,

A breathing space.

Too much of a good thing,

Too many logs packed in too tight

Can douse the flames

Almost as surely

As a pail of water would.

So building fires

Requires attention

To the spaces in between,

As much as to the wood.

When we are able to build open spaces

In the same way we have learned

To pile on the logs,

Then we can come to see how it is fuel,

And absence of the fuel together,

That make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log

Lightly from time to time.

A fire grows

Simply because the space is there,

With openings in which the flame

That knows just how it wants to burn

Can find its way.

– Judy Brown

“Wherever I am, the world comes after me. It offers me its busyness. It does not believe that i don’t want it.” – Mary Oliver

Reflections from St Scholastica: Seeking Solitude

Seeking Solitude

I came here seeking solitude,

And found I like the quiet,

But am afraid of the alone.

I came here spent and desiring rest,

And found bounding energy

Yearning for outlet.

Busy energy-

Worldy energy.

“Rest,” You said, “Be still.”

But I find myself restless

And in perpetual motion.

In obedience and with discipline of will,

I sit.



Eyes closed and thoughts clearing.

And finally,

I sink into Your grace.

-Cari Kaufman

Written on retreat at St Scholastica, 2/25/2011

Reflections from St. Scholastica

I am just returning from a three day personal retreat in Fort Smith. My dear family gave me the soul space to make a retreat to a monastery and retreat center not far from our home to spend a little time seeking and resting in God.

Choosing to go to a Catholic retreat center  was, well, a good bit out of my comfort zone(I am not, nor have I ever been Catholic), but I found heart sisters there none the less.  More importantly, God met me there.  Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing some reflections from this trip with you.  I hope that you are blessed by them.

This next reflection was from my first evening at the retreat center.  Enjoy!

St Scholastica Retreat Center, Fort Smith, Arkansas


Dear God,

How do I seek you? How, How, How?

I am riddled with how, and how come, and when and where and why. And I am sorry that my human need to understand overshadows my soul’s desire to obey. Have patience with me, Dear Father. I am like a young child, full of wonder, but just cresting into the age of exerting my independence.

I’m not sure why I’m here in this place. To seek you, I know. To draw near to you, to spend quality time with you, but my busy mind doesn’t know how to be quiet. My heart doesn’t know how to be still. Nouwen spoke of how his intellect was a hindrance—always looking for ways to spread your message, but often losing out on the golden moments of absorbing it himself.

Even now, if I’m honest, I write with a dual purpose: both to put words to and process how I am feeling and to express to others that this humanness is not something to hide—that it is a shared experience.

I am learning that in this monastic community are the perfect picture of the inhale and the exhale of solitude and community. There is a place for both. But I am afraid of the community today because I’ve come seeking solitude—is it wrong to engage others?

I leapt at the chance to take supper with the monastic community here: both out of curiosity and an also a visceral need to share this experience with another human being. I find myself in the common areas more than my room to listen to laughter and concern and conversation of others. It is music to my soul, but I’m afraid that it is escape—a distraction from the disruption of God in my life. Is it? Am I defiling this sacred time? Am I running away from you?

I don’t understand this way of being. I only know DO-ing. Give me something to do and I am comfy, cozy there. My God, this just being, this act of presence—I find my skills rather shoddy.

Help me, Lord, to quiet my mind—my spirit, my heart and just know that there is no wrong way to spend time with you. Save not at all. That by making this sacrifice of time, I am already drawing near to you. I am not being graded on this experience. Meet me here, Lord. Let me see you and feel you and hear you…Amen.

You have made my soul for Your peace and Your silence, but it is lacerated by the noise of my activity and my desires. My mind is crucified all day by its own hunger for experience, for ideas, for satisfaction and I do not possess my house in silence.” – Thomas Merton

Upgrade Your Spirit- Finding Community

“Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so dull and insignificant.  As individual stones, we can do little with them except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? Together in the one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of god.  That’s community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world.”- Henri Nouwen

Finding ways to engage the community of believers is the central teaching of Strings Attached Ministries.  Learning to plug into and act as a vital part of the Fellowship of Christ is key to truly deepening your relationship with God.

We have focused in the past weeks on deepening our quest for solitude and time to BE with God alone because it is a spiritual discipline that often gets overlooked and laid aside when our lives get busy.  And frankly, because it is the part of MY spiritual walk that I am most called to at this time (Yay- that you are experiencing this learning curve with me!)

However, when I was discussing this series with a friend recently, she asked a question that gave me a moment of pause. “If you are plugged into community, how does solitude fit?”


Then I ran across this in my reading.

“Solitude is not a private space over against a public space of community, nor is it merely a healing space in which we restore ourselves for community life.  Solitude and community belong together; each requires the other as do the center and circumference of a circle.  Solitude without community leads us to loneliness and despair, but community without solitude hurls us into a void of words and feelings.- Bonhoeffer

“A void of words and feelings-“ wow….ummmm….ouch.

This is where I live my life often when I find myself stealing moments with God instead of scheduling time with Him. (Here’s a hint….I am not a very good thief. Stolen moments never happen.) You see, I am learning that it is a fallacy to think that we grow closer to each other only when we talk, play, or work together.

“Solitude is inseparable from community because in solitude we affirm the deepest reality of our lives together, namely, that as a community we are like hands pointing to God in prayer.”-Nouwen

So what does the discipline of community look like? Doesn’t that sound strange? Discipline of community? But without discipline, community becomes a ‘word that refers more to a safe, homey, and EXCLUSIVE place than a space where new life can be received and brought to its fullness.” It requires discipline because to create space for God among us requires us to look past our differences and prejudices and constantly recognize the Spirit of God in each other.

We are called to a level of fellowship far deeper than potlucks and small group studies.  The Greek word used to describe this community is koinoniaKoinonia is a word so rich in meaning no single English definition quite suffices.

“To create a bond between comrades is the meaning of koinonia when people are recognized, share their joy and pains together, and are united because of their common experiences, interests and goals. Fellowship creates a mutual bond which overrides each individual’s pride, vanity, and individualism, fulfilling the human yearning with fraternity, belonging, and companionship. This meaning of koinonia accounts for the ease by which sharing and generosity flow. When combined with the spiritual implications of koinonia, fellowship provides a joint participation in God’s graces and denotes that common possession of spiritual values.

Thus early Christians had a fellowship with God, sharing the common experience of joys, fears, tears, and divine glory. In this manner, those who shared believed their true wealth lay not in what they had, but in what they gave to others. Fellowship is never passive in the meaning of koinonia, it is always linked to action, not just being together, but also doing together. With fellowship comes a close and intimate relationship embracing ideas, communication, and frankness, as in a true, blessed interdependent friendship among multiple group members.” –

Community requires a deep understanding of those we choose to fellowship with.  It is vital to our walk with Christ to find and engage a community of believers, those that  walk alongside us, that hold us accountable, and that love us for who we are.  It is also vital that we are our true selves within this community, open and honest and willing to be vulnerable.  This is not an easy feat in this world.  It requires….that’s right….discipline.

Take some time today to reflect on the following questions:

  • Am I a part of a community of believers?
  • Am I truly plugged in or am I ‘just playing church?’
  • Am I open- willing to be vulnerable or am I faking it?
  • How would my walk with Christ change if I truly plugged into fellowship with other believers?

You are a vital piece of the puzzle. Without you our picture is incomplete.

Are you plugged in?