Hey y'all, sorry it's been a while since I've updated Cold Oatmeal. The last few months have been a bit of a struggle-- certainly some ups and lots of downs. Despite some of these intense challenges so far in my personal life, ministry, and community, I can feel that I've grown since the beginning in August. I've met some great people, explored the city more, and I'm finally getting to know some of the students.
This last Saturday, I had a wonderful time on my own exploring a beautiful San Francisco landmark-- the Golden Gate Bridge. Prior to getting there, I was in a funky bad and sad mood. Though, when the bus dropped me off that bad/sad mood somehow lifted. This huge monument that I've seen on TV (especially every episode of Full House) was right before my eyes. I was standing on it, walking on it, touching it. I could see all of San Francisco. This was so cool.. and it was a perfectly sunny afternoon. I walked across the 1.7 mile bridge to Marin County where I hiked up to a beautiful look-out spot. The view put a smile on my face. The tourists around me must have thought I was nuts-- "Who's this girl that's just sitting there smiling?"
A few years ago, in the midst of a crazy semester of school, a mentor asked me, "MP, where do you find God in all of this?" I thought about it for a moment and replied, "God is there." I was taken back from the depth of my own answer; whoa, things just got deep. As I reflected more, I explained that I did not feel as though I was intentionally putting God at the front and center of all that I did. I was involved with this and that-- music, Res Life, college ministries, school, volunteering, and roughly 20 other things. Sure, I prayed regularly and went to mass, but didn't consciously give up everything to God-- as many of my peers testified. However, I did feel God's presence in me and in my life: God is there. Since then, it has been my mantra for my spirituality.
With the Dominican Volunteer experience-- full-time ministry and living in intentional community with vowed religious women-- there is a lot of 'God time' in Godly places-- praying in my classes, in the chapel at evening prayer/mass with the sisters, at the young adults small group, weekly mass... I'm really racking up those prayer points!
All of this 'God time,' though, it's made me contemplate my unfulfilled spirituality-- Why am I not feeling fulfilled? Is all of this 'God time' a true reflection of my spirituality? What am I doing wrong? For example, the faith community that I live in has a distinct way of 'doing prayer'-- liturgy of the hours, Dominican style. It's great, beautifully written and sacred, but I don't really get a whole lot of spiritual fulfillment from it. Same with the other forms of God time-- it's great, but I'm not getting a lot. Now, I know prayer shouldn't always be selfish-- what am I getting from it? I, I, I; me, me, me; take, take, take. When you pray with a community, there's the aspect of bringing something of yourself to share with others. With that, I do participate and will continue to do so. On the other hand, shouldn't I get a little something? Why does everyone else seem to be getting something, and I'm not?
Going back to my Saturday afternoon at Golden Gate Bridge... It wasn't just a good ol' touristy time for me... it felt spiritual. Sitting at the way top of that look-out, taking in the breathtaking nature-y view of the pre-sunset... I felt connected to something bigger than myself. This something that I was feeling-- that was making me feel so good, physically putting a smile on my face-- it wasn't something that could be replicated in a church or a chapel or a classroom. For the first time in a while, I really felt like I was whole-heartedly living out my spirituality. That feeling where time stops, you feel real joy, and want to share it with everyone.
Finding God in the ordinary parts of life, mainly nature, is where I feel most connected. I love singing in the church choir at mass. Prayer with the sisters is a good wrap-up to the end of a busy day. It's wonderful to see everyone in my prayer group. I'll definitely continue to do those things, but it feels so good to have identified an environment that fosters my spiritual needs. Luckily, all I have to do is go outside.
Carla Mae Streeter, OP, writes so eloquently on spirituality. I just love her vision of spirituality-- being real and being present. That's exactly what I was feeling on Saturday.
Spirituality is real presence. It is being real, or fully human, and being really present - to myself, others, nature, the cosmos, the Divine. Said rather tritely, it is being all there wherever there happens to be.
Carla Mae Streeter, OP