I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community (you can read the call for submissions here). Jennifer has been involved with the Abbey for the last couple of years through various online courses and is studying to become a spiritual director. Read on for Jennifer Trently's wisdom:
When I first began my journey of being a monk in the world in January 2012, I really had no idea what it would mean for me. At first I thought, it would mean living a highly disciplined life and adopting a strict schedule. No this is not what it meant for me. For me being a monk in the world meant jumping in and taking risks. Taking the Way of the Monk, Path of an Artist class through the Abbey was first my huge risk. I had not done any art for a very long time and did not believe that I had an artistic bone in my body. As the class unfolded, my own creativity emerged and then I began to see how being a monk in the world meant being the one the Divine created me to be. As I have let loose my creative self, I have learned that there is no right or wrong as long as I live my life honestly and intentionally. However in the midst of raising a daughter; keeping my relationship with my spouse going, caring for two cats and trying to earn some money through p/t work; I often find that I am easily distracted. I get lost in the whirlwind and lose my balance. I am breaking the habit of trying so hard and now let the Spirit take over my priorities, which makes even the chores I dislike easier. However for the Spirit to take over I have to do my part.
For me living as a monk in the world requires finding some time everyday to be silent; to read and to do something creative. Again, there is no magic formula; however, I cannot do my part unless I accept who I am and stop comparing myself for others. Due to my bipolar illness, it is difficult for me to carry out the same disciplines at the same time every day. However, as I receive the gift of divine love; I am more able to accept myself and accept that for right now I am not one of those monks who sit in a chair everyday at the same time for twenty minutes. My connections with God are always different but contain the same elements of silence, reading and creativity in some form every day or else I lose my balance. Somehow, though Jesus is always there pick me up and help me start again.
The gifts I have to offer others are presence and time. I offer a contemplative presence to life through slowly down and by giving others my undivided attention. God has bestowed a mind upon me for remembering details, which I use to make my prayers for more specific. I listen intentionally and with integrity. I keep confidences and encourage others on their spiritual journeys. When I am doing these things and am doing them in a way to honor the Divine then my spirit is at peace.
Living into my calling and being a monk in the world continues to take on a shape of its own. It is not my shape but the Divine creating in me. During this year alone, I have shed at least five involvements that I recognized were detrimental to me staying honest and intentional. It is a continual of journey of trust because somehow my old insecurities always come back. I wonder what other people will think or if anyone will like me anymore. Yet none of this really matters. Letting Jesus take my burdens and allowing the Divine Mother to comfort me help me to lower my expectations for my earthly community.
For me the dance is one of celebrating the ordinary and of letting the L’s be my guide: leaning, letting, limiting, learning and living all in love. I do not be need to be a super monk and stop to pray every day seven times a day but I do need to honor the sacred rhythm that has been given to me.
My creativity continues to emerge in unexpected ways. Many things are new; but some are old and just needed to be uncovered. My gifts of writing and listening had been stuffed for many years by own views of not seeing them as valuable and my not being talented enough. Yet as I live as a monk in the world; these gifts continue to blossom. There are still many unknowns in my life but letting the Spirit be my guide makes it less scary. I am excited about how 2014 will unfold and what adventures will come my way.
I live in Jackson Tennessee with my husband, 17-year-old daughter and two cats. I write a blog at: http://livingintomycalling.blogspot.com/. Currently; I am studying to become a spiritual director through the Perkins School of Theology certificate program and in my free time I love curling up with a good book.