Even Here, Even Now

Reflections on Life, Motherhood, Marriage and the Experience of God in it All


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8 Ways to Get Through the Winter

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(This article was originally published on http://www.newchurchperspecctive.com)

Last winter I almost cracked. In addition to recovering from a surgery, the kids having more than 10 days off school, and the power outages, it felt like too much. So many people around me were trying to be positive and yet also really struggling with the length and intensity of the winter. Although seasons are to be expected in the Northeast, they can also be difficult. Of course it isn’t just a physical winter I’m talking about, but also dark times in our lives when we feel there is no life, nothing thriving or growing, no hope. I find myself eager to make a plan for the winter (on whatever level it arrives) so that I could do more than just survive. Maybe with a good plan, I can actually thrive. So after talking to a few friends who’d had a similar brush with despair over the winter, I created the following list of To-Do Winter Ideas.

1. Be Purposeful

  • when facing hardship, purposefully seek out nurturing, caring, life-giving practices
  • set goals and tell them to a friend
  • find a partner to achieve goals with you
  • make a star chart if you need it, or find a phone app to track your progress
  • plan one thing you are excited for and can’t wait for each week

Be strong and patient. Be gentle and wise. Do every positive thing you can possibly do. And…believe in happy endings…because you are the author of the story of your life. —D. Pagels

2. Move

Moving your body can change your outlook. No matter your physical limitations, find a way to use the parts of your body that are working.

  • take a yoga class
  • walk (even in the elements)
  • dance
  • step outside
  • plan movement into your morning and evening

Our spirit is in our body, in its whole and in every part of it. —Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 4659

3. Explore New Ideas

  • spend time studying sacred scripture, maybe from a text or religion you are unfamiliar with
  • listen to Jonathan Rose’s bible study online for a new view of the Bible
  • watch a TED talk
  • read a new book

Behold I am making all things new. —Revelation 21:5

4. Reclaim Your Spiritual Practice

  • spend time in prayer
  • start a prayer journal
  • spend time in meditation. Put on gentle music, set a timer, make a commitment to create that sacred space
  • show kindness to another by sending a letter of gratitude, helping someone with chores, or getting involved in a local church or charity

All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle. —Francis of Assisi

5. Embrace Opportunities for Creativity

  • Make time for pointless, blissful expression, like dancing while cleaning.
  • Beautify a space, clean out and reorganize a closet
  • Write music, or sing
  • Paint, knit, draw, or build something
  • Check out new musical artists
  • Read or write poetry

6. Challenge Yourself

When life reaches a plateau we can become stuck and it may be time to challenge yourself. Other times, life is challenging enough, thank you very much! (In which case, skip to #7.)

  • Sign up for a class such as photography, cooking or art
  • Set fitness goals (e.g. walk 30 min each day)
  • Try a free online language learning app like duolingo
  • Learn an instrument
  • Set and strive for a fitness goal you’ve never achieved before

The human mind is a vessel for receiving divine inflow. Yet what is divine does not flow beyond our smoothing of the way or our opening of the door. —Emanuel Swedenborg, True Christianity 34

7. Seek Community

  • Join a small group (see online options at sunroomgroups.org)
  • Call a friend
  • Listen to an inspiring podcast (newchurchaudio.org)
  • Help someone else
  • Go out into spaces filled with people (shopping malls, coffee shops, train stations etc.) and smile at those who walk by

God loves every one of us but cannot directly benefit us; he can benefit us only indirectly through each other. For this reason he inspires us with his love. —Emanuel Swedenborg, True Christianity 457.3

8. Care For Your Physical Surroundings

Even cleaning out a drawer can have significant impact on our state of mind. When you find yourself stuck in the winter, whether stuck inside because of a blizzard outside, or trapped in negative patterns of thought, disrupting, changing and bringing order to your physical surroundings can result in an internal shift.

  • Reorganize a drawer or clean out a closet
  • Wrap up in a soft blanket, or sit near a space heater if you feel cold
  • Collect and display a bowl of beautiful winter nature things like pine cones.
  • Set up twinkle lights
  • Light a candle
  • Build a fire

Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? —Luke 15:8

This winter, we need not just expect ourselves to “get over it” or “deal with it.” Instead, we can use the winter time to practice good self-care habits. By doing this, we become better equipped to handle not only the physical winter, but also the hard, winter-like emotional states where joy seems hard to come by.

With these 8 ideas, we can build up our happiness reserves, so that we won’t crack when the cold hits. And sometimes, going through the hard winter gives us that extra sense of exhilaration and accomplishment when spring returns once again. As Emanuel Swedenborg wrote, “Heavenly peace may be compared to reaching longed for land after storms and dangers at sea” (paraphrased from True Christianity 304).

I’ll close with a prayer for each one of us:

Dear Lord, Creator, Source of all wisdom, all love, all hope, all joy, thank you. Thank you for the beauty of your creation. Thank you for this opportunity to live life. Lord, I know you are already caring for each one of us. I know you are leading us through this dark time. I know you are present even here and even now. Lord, may we open to your loving presence. May we feel that comfort deep in our heart even when storms rage around us. May we remember we are not alone and that we can be part of the work of your loving presence on earth. Amen.


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8 Ways My Prayer Life Has Been Transformed

This is an article I wrote for the magazine, New Church Connection, first published here: http://www.newchurch.org/connection/issues/prayer-more-than-words/feature.html

8 Ways My Prayer Life Has Been Transformed
by Bronwen Henry

“Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

I have always known the value of prayer. For years, I prayed before meals, I prayed before bed, and I prayed when I was in a tough situation. Those prayers brought a sense of peace, and occasionally some real clarity. In the last few years, though, a variety of experiences have altered the way I pray, and have helped crack open much more of prayer’s powerful potential.

1) I Began Offering Prayers [Or “I Learned That the Prayer is in the Pause”]
One of the most powerful paradigm shifts I experienced around prayer happened as result of a training offered by my church. We were learning skills related to emotional support; we learned ways to effectively care for those who needed a listening ear. After this training period, I was given an opportunity to offer encouragement for one particular woman. At the end of each meeting I would ask her, “Is there anything I can pray for, for you?” Then she would pause. I noticed that in that moment – in her pausing, in her considering what in her life needs prayer – that her true prayer was spoken. Then she would tell me whatever she needed, whether patience, courage, strength or other God-driven qualities. I then had the chance to add more language to her desires. Still, the prayer I offered felt like an echo to the true prayer: the prayer of the deep, soul-searching pause.

2) I Write Out My Prayer for Others
Anytime someone asks me to pray for them, I ask them for details: “How can I specifically pray for you?” Then, although I do carry the person in my heart with whatever they are holding in prayer, I also take the time to concretely write out a prayer. I have heard from my recipients that these written prayers are powerful; certainly, the process is powerful for me as well.

3) I Stopped Assuming That Prayers Don’t Change Anything
I have long rejected the notion that prayers for others could effect any change. Otherwise, why would there be suffering in the world? What about all those people we’ve prayed for to be free from illness and who end up dying? Were our prayers not heard? Yet I recently had a very challenging experience. I was taking a radioactive treatment for thyroid cancer and had to be in isolation for 7 days. I decided to put out a message to my Facebook friends, asking for prayer. That was the first time I’d ever asked a large group of people to pray for me, and now I was asking hundreds! The prayers came rolling in that week, and each prayer helped me feel and know that I was being loved and carried. The prayers gave me courage and the reminder that I was not alone, and I felt an inner peace that I had never imagined possible.

4) I Not Only Pray About My Job, But I Ask Others To Pray About it Too
In my work for my church I have organized prayer teams to help pray for the work that we are doing. In some ways this effort always feels awkward. It feels awfully bold to put my efforts at the level of needing prayer. And yet what I notice is that by having people ready and willing to pray for our efforts, I am personally reminded that what we are doing is worthwhile, and good, and worthy of prayer. I am reminded to breathe, to spend time in scripture, to hand over everything I’m doing in my work to the Lord.

5) I Learned To Pray For Others When I Can’t Pray For Myself
I remember once sitting in doctor’s waiting room feeling a need to pray. And yet, I was in such fear and anxiety that I just couldn’t find the words to pray. Then a thought came to me: Could I pray for other people in this waiting room? In other waiting rooms? Could I open my heart with compassion to others? Yes. I could. And in opening my heart to the suffering of others in waiting rooms I felt the warmth and immediate relief of prayer.

6) I Do a Breathing Prayer
When I’m in physical pain, when insomnia strikes, or when I am being confronting with challenging conflict, I pray with just my breath: Inhale. “Lord help me.” Exhale. “Lord, help me remember others.” Inhale. “Acknowledging.” Exhale. “Opening to Freedom.”

7) I Acknowledge What The Lord Is Already Doing
One time, I asked an elder that I deeply respect to pray for me. I was at a state of loss and confusion and inner distress. The prayer he offered has changed the way I pray forever. Instead of praying,“Lord, please comfort Bronwen.” He offered, “Lord, I know you are already comforting Bronwen.” Each prayer was an acknowledgement of all the work the Lord is already doing. Rather than using words that describe the Lord as far away, it was a reminder of acknowledging that the Lord is as close as can be. He had a confidence about the Lord’s plan and care for me that I will never forget. With this in mind, I love the prayer, “Oh Lord, may we open to your warm embrace.”

8) I Keep It Simple
I’ve learned to keep a simple structure to my prayers so that my mind doesn’t wander all the way to grocery lists, future worries and past regrets. I love Anne Lamott’s prayer: “Help, Thanks, Wow.” I use this structure to help me focus. I might say, “Dear Lord, I need your help now more than ever. I thank you for the beauty of your creation, for the gift of life. Lord, I am in awe of your work and the hope that you can breathe into dark times.” Sometimes the “wow” part is simply the breathing, the being, the fully acknowledging with breath, body, mind, and heart the gift that is life.

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What is your experience with prayer? How has your experience evolved with time?


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Courageous Creativity Art Show | Artist Statement

I had a delightful show at the BeWell Cafe. Here is the artist statement I posted with it (you can check out pieces from the show (and order prints, cards, phone cases) in my online store society6.com/bronwenhenry contact me directly for orginals.)

Here I am with the talented Chelsea Odhner and Michelle Chapin who kicked off the night with their music, poetry and passion.

Photo: These 3 ladies are so incredibly talented.  Thank you for such a wonderful evening of entertainment.

Courageous Creativity Show
Artist Statement
Bronwen is more likely to describe herself as “a person facing her fears while holding a brush” than an artist. Though she is warming to the latter title.

In 2013, after a (3 + year) hiatus from painting, Bronwen picked up a brush again…and this time with purpose and courage. While navigating parenting young children, and a (thyroid) cancer diagnosis…Bronwen chose to paint with the intent to face fears (painting on a bigger canvas) that were joyful rather than terrifying (like radioactive cancer treatment felt to her). What she thought would be her first and last large canvas, to her surprise began a remarkable creative endeavor. And in the 17 months since that treatment she has created more than 45 large paintings.

This is her second show, “Courageous Creativity”. This is a collection of pieces she has done over the last year. Bronwen finds tremendous joy while painting, she has a constant smile on her face while working on a canvas. She is drawn to inspiration from nature. The trees remind her of the scripture “The leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.” She holds a space for healing within her and for those around her.

She often is drawn to painting aspens, meditating on their beauty and also their interconnected root systems…reminding all of us how connected we are. Each painting is filled with prayer, meditation and joy.

It is Bronwen’s hope and prayer for each of us that we might face our fears, that we might be courageous, that we might let hard situations transform us, and that we might know our interconnectedness with others and feel the comfort that comes from that connection, and that in our own way we might step through a gateway into compassion.


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Live Like You Won the Lottery

I recently was talking with my husband about what we would each do if we won the lottery.
Initially there were simple things, like replacing the old furnace, upgrading the car etc. But very quickly it got into more core loves/passions/interests of ours. Where would we spend our time? Would we go back to school? Get more training? Travel the world?

Then the third phase of our conversation was my favorite and provided a lot of stimulating ideas for me in my (lottery free) life right now. Where would I donate the money? Would I start a foundation? For which cause that I’m passionate about.

I realized that in integrity, how could I say that I would start a foundation for a cause that I’m not even donating to now? It made me really think about my current donating habits, and what if I outlined them as a map of my cares/passions and left room to expand my giving as I come into more money.
Really that spoke to my whole life.

As you may know from previous blog entries I came into painting recently. I had a seemingly outrageous dream that I would be painting daily. How would I ever achieve this without painting at all? And so I began.

I shouldn’t live like I can’t begin my dreams/passions/hopes. What would it look like to organize my life now in a way that as my giving potential/ time potential expands I have habits and intentions in place?
Why not give $10 until I can give $100 or $100,000? Why wait? Why not build connections/friendships/ spend time even in small increments in the very place you want to spend time in large increments if you get to retire early. 🙂

Why not have your life right now be a life that reflects the fact that you HAVE won the lottery. You are alive.

It is really amazing to have this human experience. Even with the flaws of our body, our minds, our past, our losses, our jobs (or lack of), or whatever…it is still a pretty amazing experience.


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The Blooming You Were Meant For

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“The Blooming You Were Meant For” (C) Bronwen Henry 3′ x 4′ Acrylic on Canvas

“Because compassion is intrinsic to your nature, it inevitably flowers.” Tara Brach

This week my dear friend, Anna Woofenden is getting ordained. For anyone on the path of answering a call to ministry there is great courage required. For one whose denomination doesn’t ordain women, the courage is even greater. I’m exceedingly proud of her. My heart is bursting with joy for this special day, marking this journey for her. Her deep listening to the Lord’s call in her life is an inspiration. (Check out her church plant ‘The Garden Church’ .)

I painted this for her, to honor the occasion. To honor the inevitable flowering/blooming of her spirit. I offer this painting with a prayer for each one of us, that we might step into the blooming we were meant for. That no person, no organization, no thing prevents us from realizing our most compassionate, wise versions of ourselves.


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Go Into the Beauty

“From the urgent way lovers want each other to the seeker’s search for truth, all moving is from the mover. Every pull draws us to the ocean.” Tara Brach

 

Roses with all their beauty and complexity have been drawing me in lately. I delighted in painting this bloom and reflecting on the vastness of the Creator’s love and the invitation to go into the beauty of life.

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“Go Into the Beauty” 30″ x 40″ Acrylic on Canvas by Bronwen Henry


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Unfold to Wholeness

Here is a recent painting series I did. I call it ‘Unfold to Wholeness’

“Our deepest nature is to awaken and flower.” Tara Brach

“Carl Jung describes a paradigm shift in understanding the spiritual path: Rather than climbing up a ladder seeking perfection, we are unfolding into wholeness.” Tara Brach

 

I was inspired by these words and a ranunculus flower. Acrylic on Canvas (20″ x 20″, 10 ” x 20″ , 20″ x 10″, 10″ x 10″) (c) Bronwen Henry

 

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