I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Jenneth Graser’s reflection the unfolding process:
The deep down longing of my heart in this life for the longest time has been to know God and be known by God. Over the past 8 or so years, this has taken on a completely different flavour as our family has grown. Going back in time to around 2002, my life twisted in an unexpected way when I came back home to South Africa after attending a Ministry School in Toronto, only to have a break down from a traumatic relationship I had whilst there. And then within a few months of my return, my brother died leaving my family reeling in shock and disbelief. From thinking that I would be entering full time ministry in Canada, I found myself rather learning the deepest relationship with God I had ever experienced was going to be in the school of (largely) isolation from others, grief, pain and in-depth counseling sessions. A year into being home, I began working for an Anglican lay minister and was introduced to new ways of being with and experiencing God.
This began a journey of searching for God in different expressions, slowly, gently and then over the last few years, with increasing fascination as I have felt invited into ever increasing prayer explorations . The break down I had, taught me to embrace process. So living as a monk in the world as my family has grown with each new addition, has been a process of adaptation. I have welcomed mentors in books, both Saints and mystics among other wonderful people. I have heard for the first time what makes my heart ring: The Cloud of Unknowing, Practicing the presence of God, soaking music, Ignatian contemplation, Lectio Divina, on and on . . .
Until the day Karl and I felt called to start a contemplative group and call it Free Flow. We wanted to foster and encourage a place where anyone could come and just be in the presence of God without judgement or expectation. A place to laugh, chat, receive prayer, commune in silence with God while listening to music, and to allow much space to follow the nudges of Holy Spirit. So our gatherings have these various elements in them, but each time looks different as God does something unique. We want to approach these times as children, hungry to learn, hungry to grow and to share our growing times with whoever wants to come along for the ride. Out of these times, I began recording some contemplative, mostly spontaneous songs and recently started sharing them on a podcast. This has become part of my prayer adventure, as well as Mystic Prayers on Facebook, a prayer community I started to express my visual prayer journey with God and others, as I take the quotes of mystics, scripture and saints and put them together with photographs which convey my feelings.
Life is greatly busy as a Mom. I feel expended some of the time in such a way that I feel tempted to go on a long term retreat in an Abbey somewhere, by myself that is! This not being a possibility has forced me to live as a monk in this season in a largely flexible way. The wonderfully appealing consistent, dependable rhythm of the day in a monastery needs to look different for me, as I go about my day to day doings, comings and goings. My vigils are more about learning to love myself as I am in this space, that prayer is not systematic but rather organic – a practicing of the presence as I draw myself towards myself while hanging washing on the line, or in the times of recovering from the tiredness of meeting the continuous needs of others while listening to the Pray as you Go podcast. Sporadic journaling to catch up with my heart, or trying to be more aware of my night time dreams in order to listen to their messages. Snippets of time collected in art appreciation, a photograph, a quote and a phrase, playing the piano and singing what flows. I write poetry, I breathe, I observe, I forgive myself. I am learning to be. To listen. To humble myself and find the glory in the ordinary. To lean back into grace with each mistake I make and receive prayer in the birds and springtime wakening of the garden.
I am trying to slow down and live in the moment and embrace the creation of each new day, whatever it looks like. Including what is shaped in me as I meet the reality of being molded as a wife and mother. I am trying to suspend my feelings of what life should have looked like by now, now that I am turning 40 in January, and still holding onto un-realised dreams and desires. I am learning that Free Flow begins at home, in the temple of my heart, and as I orientate myself to the grounding of that home of God inside of me, the vast expanse of timeless space that is there will begin to outwork itself in, not a mid-life crisis, but rather, a deepening awareness of being loved, receiving love, giving love. Learning the grace of contemplative life does not have to look the “out-of-my-grasp” kind of way, but rather a “let’s find out where this goes today God and let me learn who you are today”, in the sun shining through a leaf, or the whispers of God in my thoughts, or the smiles and cries of the family I love so much that it pains my heart. I will continue to figure out what it looks like for me to live as a monk in this world, and that is what makes it such a joy. The very un-definable discovery of myself in prayer with God in the adventure of what life holds for me, is happening in the here and now.
Jenneth Suzanne Graser has just approached her 40th year, wife to Karl Graser and mother to three girls, Abigail (7), Sophia (4) & Joelle (3). She lives in Cape Town, South Africa where she has lived for most of her life, other than North Vancouver, British Columbia when her family immigrated there in the 80’s and also Toronto, Canada. Jenneth has a degree in Library and Information Studies, and is currently a stay home Mom who has started homeschooling her daughters this year. She and her husband facilitate a contemplative soaking prayer group called Free Flow. Jenneth is the author of “Catching the Light: a Devotional”.