I'm a big fan of stickers. My old laptop had many of them on it that had either been given to me or were stickers I had purchased because they held some significance for me. My spouse knows how much I love stickers, and recently they gave me one that said simply, "Gotta Nourish to Flourish."
For a long time, I wasn't sure where I would put such a sticker, until one day it dawned on me that the best place for this message to ring out into my life was my journal. So that's where I put it. On the front cover of my journal that--until Sunday night--I hadn't written in for over a month. The same journal that sat at one end of my desk at home while I worked or while I balanced our books. Or while I was talking on the phone or having a telehealth appointment.
Now, I have journaled since I was about 11 or 12, and I have been sporadic in doing so at best. One might say that I am consistently sporadic at journaling, which may very well be the only consistency to be found in regard to my journaling practice. I am consistently inconsistent. And I think part of the reason is that I find it easier to nourish certain parts of my life than I do others. Maybe you can relate?
At times I find it easier to throw myself into my church work than it is to actually tend to my spirit. I find it easier to numb feelings I don't want to feel with excessive food or excessive sleep than it is to journal about those feelings or talk them out with a friend to--at the very least--get them out. I find it easier to get caught up in my head--making grand plans and working out difficult things in my mind--than it is to turn my brain off of and get to work making a plan a reality. But just because I find it easier doesn't mean that it's working.
Author Caroline Myss writes, "What drains your spirit drains your body. What fuels your spirit fuels your body.” In other words, just because we aren't tending our minds, our bodies, or our spirits, doesn't mean that we are not affecting them. Neglecting one, neglects the fullness of them all. Tending one, supports the fullness of them all. Our minds, our bodies, and our spirits do not exist in silos. They are connected. They are one. And for each of us to be more fully one ourselves, we must practice being attentive to each of them. We gotta nourish to flourish.
I'm not talking about hitting the gym or forcing ourselves to sit down and write something on an empty journal page. I'm not talking about getting up at 4 AM and having "quiet time" with an open Bible and an hour of prayer. I'm talking about cultivating the soil of our lives in such a way that supports fullness of life. Not just in some next life, but here and now. I'm talking about practicing balance by intentionally looking at how we are spending our time and our days and seeing which places are being overnourished and which ones are being undernourished. And then being intentional about bringing those places into a better balance.
I'm not some Pollyanna here, either. I know there are demands in life that require us to do certain things we don't necessarily want to do. I know there are deadlines to meet, and appointments to get to, and children to take care of, and laundry to fold, and dishes to wash, and gardens to weed. But perhaps the manner in which we approach these "have-to's" and the attention and intention we bring to each of them is the key to helping us to nourish and flourish in the lives we actually have.
One of my favorite singer/songwriters is Quaker Folk Artist Carrie Newcomer. She has a song titled, "Holy as the Day is Spent," and I think it speaks to quiet ways we can bring attention and intention to even the most mundane aspects of our lives. Some of the lyrics are: Holy is the dish and drain, the soap and sink and the cup and plate, warm wool socks and the cold white tile, shower heads and good dry towels. And frying eggs sound like Psalms, with bits of salt measured in my palm. It's all a part of a sacrament, As holy as a day is spent. You can listen to the song by clicking here.
Maybe I'm not the most consistent journaler around. I can live with that--so long as I am working everyday to becoming more attentive to the balance of my mind, body, and spirit. Not by adding more to my already impossible To-Do list, but by finding ways to nourish each of them as I work my way down my to-do list. In each moment. With each interaction. We gotta nourish to flourish--maybe that starts with nourishing the attention we are paying to our everyday lives.
Learning to nourish and flourish with you,
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen was called as the pastor of St. Paul Congregational UCC in June of 2020. Prior to her call to St. Paul, Pr. Melissa worked as a hospice chaplain in the Ames, IA area, following pastorates at rural churches in Central Iowa and Southern Illinois. Pr. Melissa is a second-career pastor with a background in agribusiness and production & supply operations. She received her M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and holds a MA Ed. in Adult Education and Training, and a BA in Organizational Communications.