Everyone Needs a Summer

by Gwen Shipley, CFDM Spiritual Director

This morning I woke to the whispers of my nine-year-old granddaughter who spent last night, asking for her favorite breakfast–eggs from our chickens. If a full day staying home is her definition of exile, sleeping in her own bed is anathema! So I rescued her. She spent the night and scored a rare, after-dark motorcycle ride with Papa, followed by a popsicle, then crashed on the couch–which she is outgrowing. It was a definite diversion from her regular routine.

Everyone needs a summer.

After breakfast, I trailed her to the henhouse to check for more eggs. Intimidated by the Banty rooster who is more bark than bite, she won’t enter alone.

On the way back, she detoured into the garden insisting we check under “just one plant” for potatoes. Her slightly-older cousin joined us there. A full row later, we were rewarded with a wire basket full of golden nuggets, then meandered back to the house alive with the energy of the hunt and the sheer pleasure of getting our hands dirty.


Photo used with permission by Nature For Kids, http://natureforkids.net/

My intentions for the morning had been entirely rerouted but on the way I found rest for my soul. I had set out to write, shower, return at least one kiddo home, view a motivational training video, pay a bill, continue a DIY project, pack for a trip…It never ends does it?

But once in a while, a good detour helps restore us to a peaceful place from which to do all our living. Sometimes we just need to leave the planning, organizing, the constancy of life’s demands. To pull heart and head back together–at least I do. It grounds me in the present in a way little else can. And if you do it in the dirt, so much the better. Science tells us that interacting with organisms found in the dirt helps build a healthy immune system that fortifies us against disease.

Come to think of it, my potato dig via the garden detour, is a little like investing a year with CFDM in Spiritual Formation. I spent many years in a sterile, religious cocoon. But a willingness to disrupt the soil, to expose some roots, to uncover the fruit of what was growing in unseen places–and to do so in the company of others, put me in touch with my own lived experience and strengthened my connection with the Source of all life from which mine flows. It’s messy work. It requires some effort. Your legs fatigue and it will mess up your manicure. But good things are found there.

The Benedictines gifted us with this helpful matrix: Work, play, rest, pray. If you’re feeling tense, tired or just plain dry, you might want to sit down with a cold drink–it’s been in the triple digits here in the Northwest–and spend a few minutes reflecting on how you are specifically attending to each domain–which is really making space for God. How we decide to do that will differ for each of us. The important thing is that its function occurs. Getting in touch with where we are is the first step in determining the next step to take. Our desire can help guide us. If you’re desiring something more, consider that it may also be God’s desiring that thing for you–maybe even a little more play.

You might be in the middle of a busy season.

You might be in transition and seeking direction for the next season of life.

You might be simply seeking a period of rest and renewal.

Whatever your felt need, if there’s a child tugging on your sleeve–literal or figurative, perhaps the video or the project can wait (probably not the shower…!). I worked yesterday, turning down a movie with a friend to paint part of the DIY project after spending the morning working. Today I planned more of the same but instead I turned left into the garden–and what a gift it turned out to be. After all, everyone needs a summer.


A few spots are still open for CFDM’s 2016-17 Spiritual Formation 1 Program beginning in September. It could be just the detour your soul needs, the change in routine that makes more space for God, space for attending to the needs of your soul. For more information and to register or just check out what’s happening at CFDM click here.

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