I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Kristen Kludt's reflection on being a Monk on the Move:
I am a millennial. I am of a generation of transplants: leaving our homes at eighteen, many of us never return outside of holidays and vacations. We are like succulent plants – able to be snapped off and replanted again and again, multiplying and spreading wide. We are adaptable, versatile and flexible, but I long for deep roots.
I am a monk on the move.
For the last eight and a half years, my husband and I have lived in California, 2,071 miles away from our family in the Midwest. Practically, that means we travel often and have frequent visitors. We want our two-year-old son to have deep relationships with his extended family. We want him to be friends with his grandparents. We want them to have the privilege of watching him grow. So, in this season, that means we travel several times a year, and we have visitors every month.
A friend of mine asked me last fall what gets in the way of my time with God – my time of stillness, of reading and reflection and art and prayer, my time of cultivating deep soul-roots. I answered immediately, "Interruptions in my regular rhythm of life." I have daily and weekly rhythms of solitude that ground me in God's love for me, but each time we have a visitor or go out of town I give up those practices in an effort to be fully present in the moments with our family, not wanting to miss anything. Yet, in my attempt to soak in every moment, I am giving up the moments that make me me. When I am unmoored from my rootedness I don't bring my best self, my whole self, to my days.
I am coming to grips with the fact that my life will never be "stable" – change comes, expectedly or unexpectedly, and I cannot control that. My life will never be stable, but I can always be rooted.
Last month we went home to Wisconsin for two weeks. We went to the children's museum and the botanical gardens, out for ice cream and to the lake to throw rocks out on the ice. We took our son sledding for the first time. We squeezed every drop of joy and laughter and togetherness from each moment with our extended family. And, for the first time, I protected time each day to spend with God. When our son went down for his nap, I snuck to a back room with my journal and my books and my Bible, and I closed the door or put in headphones. Because this was winter in Wisconsin, I often sat at a warm hearth. The hearth is the center of a home, once the seat of nourishment, a place of both solid rock and living flame. It became a symbol for me of that place I return to within me – the Heart of God, where I am warmed, sustained, impassioned.
I sat before the hearth and I was still.
In those moments, I reflected on the year and on what God was saying to me. I copied quotations that spoke to me into my journal. I drew a little bit. I paid attention to what I was feeling. I listened.
Through those times, I stayed rooted in a way I never have when we've traveled. I gave up precious minutes of conversation with family, and I fought back guilt over my selfishness and fear of missing out on something, but ultimately I brought a more whole self to the rest of our time. In taking some time to be away, I became more present.
When it was time to leave, I was sad. I felt again the loss, the grief that it is to live so far from our family. I realize now that this may always be a wound I carry, one that I must learn to live with well. As our plane curved over the bay, readying for landing, the sunlight cut through the layers of fog hovering over San Francisco like through a prism, covering the city in rays of golden light. It was a consecration: this place is yours, and it is mine. Stable or not, this is the place where I meet you. I am everywhere always; you are here, now. This is the place where we meet together, and where your roots will grow down deep into the soil of my marvelous love.
Now I carry my hearth with me. Yesterday I bought bright orange flowers at the Farmer's Market, and this morning I lit candles at my table. My mom shipped me a box of rocks from my childhood, and they are scattered around our home. I fill my home with rock and flame, reminders that I am sustained everywhere I go.
I am a monk on the move. Wherever I live, wherever I travel, I am warmed by the fire of God.
A wife, mother, and Jesus-follower in the East Bay of San Francisco, Kristen writes as a spiritual guide and contemplative poet. She is finishing a book about practice-based spiritual formation in times of difficulty, tentatively titled The Dark in the Song. You can read more of her work at www.kristenleighkludt.com.