More Beauty

How will you make the world more beautiful?

A stunning question really, isn’t it? As today’s rains and last night’s thunderstorms soak into our spring soil promising the bounty of summer around the corner? How am I called to make the world more beautiful? You must see the origins of this question from one of my favorite bloggers Karen Maezen Miller.

Inner Beauty

Inner Beauty

Beauty is a value as an artist I treasure, both inside, and out, aesthetic and the intangible aspects of beauty. I have struggled with beauty since my alopecia has gone full throttle. Having hair or not having hair can be a profound impact on how I perceive myself and on how others encounter me. Shedding more traditional views of beauty has enlivened my spirit, emboldened me to be brave in situations where I might be tempted to shy away from a person’s gaze or unspoken question.

As my hair follicles begin to awaken, I hold hope. I have an awakened heart that has the capacity for beauty, I have open eyes that search for beauty, and I have hands willing to create beauty where one might not think there is any.

How are you making the world more beautiful today? Please share with us here.

No thanks!

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

With our life’s discernment, it is good to take heed about what we have learned that we do not like. Instead of finding this frustrating that once again we find ourselves not loving our work, let’s flip it into an invitation of yet another thing to check off, “No thanks, this is not for me.”

These glimpses into what we find draining us of energy, or avoiding can inform what we need to prune away from our life in order to make room for what we are being called toward.

Often, without awareness, we continue in our tried patterns, our tired treads, because it is habitual and not because it is life giving. When we take the time to pause and ask ourselves why am I resisting this? Or why do I find upon waking I have little energy to attend to my job at hand, whatever that may be, we can gain insight into our discernment–that if left unquestioned we would never gain the wisdom our life is asking of us.

In short, what we dislike, or dare I say hate, is just as important to pay attention to, as to what we often are asked to consider–what gives us joy.

So give thanks for what you do not like! Say Amen, let go. And move on to what does give you joy! You and your community will be better for it in the long run! Take courage and press on!

Easter Vigil

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil

As the sun sets tonight we enter a most sacred time. A time that is punctuated by the darkness of dusk to the early rays of dawn. In these short twelve hours our salvation will be transformed from death to a resurrection.

How can we be vigilant during this time?

Being vigilant means a time of purposeful sleeplessness, a close watch, a period of observation.What are you being vigilant of in your own life? What is Christ asking of you to watch closely? to observe? to stay awake for? When we wait, it is not a passive action, quite contrary it is very active. We wait with hope, with our imaginations, with love of what is to come into our lives, even when it might be through a painful experience.

How do we prepare our hearts, our minds, our guts for such intense watchfulness of Christ’s passing from our physical world to being present to us in the spiritual form? It seems to me that Easter Vigil requires a delicate balance of being both part Mary and part Martha–we need both the preparation of doing so that during the

Martha

Martha

darkest of the night we may just be. My dear friend reminded me the other day to sink into being Mary, to be attentive to what is before me, instead of getting wrapped up in all I wanted to accomplish, the Martha in me. I know these dynamic women can not be summed up so simplistically, but it is good to remind ourselves to hold the tension of being and doing so that we may be vigilant to our lives this Easter season.

The Impossible

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Alice in Wonderland.

I share the above quote on the heals of the Feast of the Annunciation, to remind each of us to dream the impossible and remember as Gabriel proclaims, “For nothing will be impossible for God.”

Dream big, live big, expand! You do the world no great service by shrinking from your brillance.


Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna


Visitation Has Style

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

Last Monday I went back to Visitation Mendota to witness another alumna, Liz Edwards Hewitt, tell the Visitation students her story of surviving breast cancer. A story which led to her deep conviction that it is imperative to advocate for your health. She wanted to catch their attention and decided a good way to do so was to cut her hair on stage for Locks of Love and Beautiful Lengths. As she planned this all-school convocation she invited others to participate. One hair cut on stage led to 33 haircuts of students, faculty, staff, and even parents contributing their hair for people who need wigs due to cancer, alopecia or other medical reasons.

I sat on the steps of the auditorium with my three younger boys and watched as my former teacher and basketball coach, Connie Colon Parsley, cut Liz’s pony tail, and listened to Liz say, “Look around you, the relationships you make here are important. They will carry you through your life. Take care of them.” As I sat in that auditorium, my coat still on, and a hat on my head because of my own alopecia my spirit swelled to be part of this community. To still be in relationship with Visitation through my own friends, through the sisters, and through the school in Mendota Heights and the Monastery in north Minneapolis.

Sr. Mary Paula, stood and shared how she is a breast cancer survivor and what it meant to be able to get a wig when she lost her hair so many years ago. As my boys and I took in the morning, I wanted to say to the students there:

Liz is right it is the relationships that carry you through the joyous and difficult moments of life. While I do not have cancer, but alopecia, I never realized how much hair, having it, losing it, giving it away can define you. But it doesn’t have to define you. You do not have to shrink away from the spot light because of an illness. Nor do you have to explain it. Your beauty comes from that deep reservoir of beauty inside of yourself, your spirit. My spirit is brighter having known the Visitation Sisters, having been steeped in the Salesian tradition, and having been sent out in the world to share the Visitation spirit and tradition with others.

My heart swelled that morning as I watched 33 women donate their hair and 33 stylists dedicate their time to cut and style them. At one point a friend of mine, who was on stage, held her cut locks in a bag and looked in my direction, and winked. Tears brimmed as I basked in her act of sweet solidarity.

I invite you into relationship with the Sisters of the Visitation, like so many of their relationships in north Minneapolis it can start by simply ringing their doorbell.

A Meditation for Lent

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.

Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on divine order.

Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.

Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from discouragements; feast on hope.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.

Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that sustains.

~ William Arthur Ward (1921-1994)

Thank You

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

The snow dances between ice and rain outside, and as I walk through the slush it is like I am wading in waves this Leap Year. This Lent, I am throwing myself into greater gratitude. I heard my fellow blogger, Melissa, speak that she is trying to say “Thank you, for everything in her life this Lent, even the messy stuff.” Don’t we often want to leap over the messy stuff of our lives to get to the comort and grace on the other side? But the trick is leaping over the sticky stuff means you miss the good stuff, the stuff that informs our hearts, our minds and our guts to act curouageously down the road. The messiness is where wisdom and grace are born and often where we transform into greater versions of ourselves.

I hold Melissa’s intention and the stories of others I heard recently as I think about the simple and revolutionary act of the two simple words, “Thank you,” in my own Lenten prayer. How do we say thank you to God, others, ourselves even in the slushy parts of our life? So as not to leap over it all, but to really pay attention, which I am told is the beginning of devotion.

“If the only prayer you ever said in your whole life was “Thank you,” that would suffice.” -Meister Eckhart

Thank you. Amen.

Gratitude

Gratitude

Ash Wednesday

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

We ready our hearts,

In the desert we swirl from dust to dust,

upon the mountain top as the sun kisses our face;

marking it like a lover.

How to look into the sun’s radiance?

God whispers on the winds of our heart’s longing to be purified, loved, whole.

The desert upon first glance is void of life and vibrancy,

but within deeper prayer the life that lives in the forsaken land is revealed.

Colors become vibrant.

What lives within each of us dying of thirst,

waiting that rare desert rain that hits hard red earth and is readily absorbed?

An invitation for our hearts forty days in the wild desert to become supple and strong, swift and tamed by love.

Falling in love…what’s it have to do with your vocation?

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

It turns out falling in love has everything to do with your vocation, your calling, your way you express yourself in the world at large.

Often I hear people say go with your gut when making a decision, which can mean tapping into your intuition, acknowledging your heart’s desires, or at the very least getting your logical self out of the way. However, as I reflect on how our heart can lead us especially on a day where the heart is particularly celebrated, I fall back upon the wisdom of three people: Fr. Pedro Arrupe S.J., St. Thomas Aquinas, and Fr. Michael Himes. It is my heart’s desire today that their words speak to your heart’s deepest longings and clearest sense of yourself. Just as we must pay attention to how our minds work and which voices to cultivate, we too must pay attention to the tunings of our hearts and where and whom we pour love toward.

Fr. Pedro Arrupe S.J. said:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

A Valentine from St. Thomas Aquinas on the Virtue of Love presented and unpacked by Fr. Michael Himes, Professor of Theology at Boston College. Please click on the short video to watch how love is defined by “the effective willing of the good of the other,” and realize the excitement that this approach to love makes for your loved ones.

Community–What does it mean to discern?

by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

What does 'community' mean to you?

Often when we speak of discernment we might faultily think this is regarding individual decision making, but perhaps do not give credit to outside influences or considerations that inform and guide our heart’s true longings. For example, what is in the news today, or yesterday might catch our attention and ask us to consider how our gifts could respond to a need in our immediate or global community.

“St. Francis de Sales implores of us to ‘seek sage counsel, and once we have prayed about the decision, to not look back.'”

This morning at a weekly meeting I was asked, “What does community mean to you?” Our group responded with the following: “Community is people you know and love, people who are families; community is made up of concentric circles from those you may casually interact with to those you know more intimately; there is a virtual community and a live community; community is destined by the architecture of the place both constructed and nature-made.”

When we are asked to discern how our gifts could bless our communities needs, we need to also ask the question, “Does our community need the gifts we want to use at this time?” We can not, nor should we discern in isolation. We are prudent to follow what St. Francis de Sales implores of us to “seek sage counsel, and once we have prayed about the decision, to not look back.”

“…our holy decision-makings do not happen in isolation, nor should they happen solely in community.”

A close confident of mine, spoke to me this evening about what he heard on the news about a three month old dying in interment camp in Afghanistan, and then a subsequent story about a mother in Detroit not able to bring her older kids to school because she could not afford the bus money for all six of her kids. He said, “I feel so far removed from the daily sufferings of others, and while I work hard to improve our natural world, there has to be more I can do in our own backyard to help others who are in need.”

I was moved by what caught his heart’s attention and how God was inviting him toward action. Hearing him speak, also had an effect on me. It invited me to reflect more on how I can respond in kind. And so: a discerning community begets a discerning community.

I share these two events of my past week to further illustrate that our holy decision makings do not happen in isolation, nor should they happen solely in community, but in a delicate dance between solitary reflection and the illumination of community needs and invitations. What is your community asking of you? What is your heart’s longing wanting to give of yourself?