The Liminal Space of Engagement ~ Sarah Sanders

 

There are few things in life that can both cover and expose like finding love.

In the last year, since meeting my fiancé, I have gone through several cycles of death and rebirth. I have tussled with all the questions a precocious, conscientious, and spiritually-minded young woman would: “How do I know he’s ‘the one’?” ” Do I even believe there is one ‘the one?” “What does the Word say about this?” “When the Word seems to have gaps, what do the ‘experts’ say?” “Should I trust their interpretations and opinions?” “When I pray, what does the Father tell me?” “What questions am I not asking that I should?”

When I was a teenager, I was told to make a list of characteristics I wanted in a husband and pray for Yah [HaShem] to bring me the man of that list. I decided later that, while well intended, this was a misguided activity. Do I really know what I need in a man? At 15, can I know what I want and need at 30? I think not. I gave up on that and started praying that Yah would direct my path to the right man and that we each would be shaped into the person the other needs. As I matured and mused on finding a mate, one thing became clear.

At the end of the day, there is one prerequisite that matters most – he needs to love the Father more than he loves me. If he has that priority straight, the rest will take care of itself.

Like many young ladies, I wondered and dreamed at how my future mate and I would meet. Being highly involved in church leadership, I figured I would meet him at church. There were a few attempts at relationships with guys I served alongside, but they were short-lived and, frankly, frustrating. I discovered that while the church seems to preach an ideal image of what a Biblical or Christian relationship should look like, that image is vague in application and usually not lived out. In fact, the church, in general, sadly conforms to the same habits as the world: aimless dating based on physical attraction, relationships  rife with interpersonal issues caused by selfishness and miscommunication, immaturity, and lack of mentorship. Add to that the hazards of temptations and missteps being a condemnable sin.

I was supposed to be the most prepared person to find a suitable mate. I read numerous books, attended women-only Bible studies on the topic, promised to save myself for marriage, and committed to date only for the purpose of marriage. Still, I felt sorely underprepared. I knew what not to do (with big blaring sirens and lights!), but not what to do. In addition, my parents divorced when I was 17, contributing to a feeling of isolation and ambiguousness. I lacked not only their (healthy) model, but also their leadership. I would love to say that this sticky wicket resolved itself with time and experience, but it did not. When I met my fiancé at 29, I felt not much more prepared than my 17-, 24-, or 27-year-old selves.

When my fiancé and I met (at work!) in April of last year, the air was electric. I was disarmed. Our connection was undeniable. I soon began a recurring cycle of questions, time, prayers, exhilarations, terrors, deaths of assumptions and expectations, resurrections of dreams and hopes, doubts, confirmations, more questions, and more prayers. That was a journey in and of itself, a tedious and delicate act of Divine trust. The interplay of spiritual and physical decision-making was more complicated than I had anticipated. But, when I emerged on the other side of that true and genuine battle, I finally understood what a few key couples in my life have told me, When you know, you know.”

My fiancé and were engaged in December of last year. The last several months have been marked with a contentment I have never experienced before. My heart is happy. Happy happy. I cannot help but be bright and full of life. It is effusing from every pore in my body; my heart, my chest, my face. It is exhausting and energizing.

I feel so full, so saturated and, somehow, at the same time, emptied, flung wide open. This exhilaration carries both a deep sense of satisfaction and anchorage while also being so obviously vulnerable and fragile. It is covering and exposing. I am soothed and raw.

As our wedding day nears, I find myself alternating between a sense of being somewhere and nowhere. I am spoken for, but not yet taken, and cannot live like either. I have moved into a holding pattern that, from what I have been taught, is somehow supposed to maintain a certain status quo (purity, separateness, guardedness) while also moving forward (intimacy, unity, vulnerability). The tension exists not just in the physical sense, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Mentally and emotionally, this anticipated relational change is more than just having someone else to spend time with, consider, coordinate with, and look after. It feels more like becoming a citizen of a new country. My new country has its own learned language, non-verbal gestures, customs, expectations, and rhythm. My core identity is being acted upon and shaped, touched and accessed in a unique way, more deeply in this transition than in any other I have experienced. However, at the same time, miraculously, this new citizenship is not just happening to me, I also have a hand in defining it. In any situation, I can choose to act on, stop, or advance its creation.

As I merge with this oscillating dance, acting on and being acted upon, my familiar and usual frame of reference of “me” and “you” is morphing into “us”. Emerging out of this give and take of influence, a distinct, third entity is taking form. We.

This process is wondrous and uncomfortable. At times, I see a side of myself that I do not like, a side I did not know existed. What is this sudden burst of emotion or selfishness or immaturity? I do not like that. Is that really in me? Other times, I get a fleeting taste of what true unity must be like. It is a closeness hard to describe. And just when I think we are close, we get closer.

Close.

I cannot write about the liminal space of engagement without discussing physical intimacy. In fact, this is the part I am most excited to write about. Why? Because it is the part that has, so far, taught me the most. I have received many mixed messages about physical intimacy in my years growing up; it is shameful, beautiful, uncontrollable, painful, to be avoided, to be celebrated, embarrassing, sacred, something we do not talk about, something I should know about, something Yah created, for procreation, for recreation, carnal, a necessary evil, on and on. It is no secret that our society has a myriad of views on intimacy – even the church varies in its sentiment.

As a woman who has saved herself for marriage, finding and falling in love with my future husband has brought these mixed messages front and center. What is the difference between lust and desire? Is it as simple as a day and some vows? What does it mean that I so deeply desire something that is regarded as both a gift and a plague? What does the Bible say about it? How should I feel about it? In the face of increasing closeness and the necessity for unity, how do we protect our boundaries? How do we care for each other, embracing the real, physical part of our relationship, without overstepping our limits and hurting ourselves and our future? And how tedious is it to talk about and prepare for something you will be sanctioned to do in the future, but cannot at present?! (That is a thought in and of itself: what else in life does the Bible say we cannot do until we make a certain covenant, undergo a certain passage?)

Ultimately, what is this new intimacy and, in this liminal space, how do we learn to be intimacy-minded while not being intimate? At least, not in that way.

What I am discovering is that physical intimacy is far more than a kiss or a touch. Those elements are essential, but are accents to a greater motivation. Intimacy is an orientation. It is a posture. It is something that, through our tangible, concrete decisions, we either move towards or move away from, intentionally or unintentionally. Intimacy is in how we include our spouse, regard our spouse, and protect our spouse. It is in how we guard our relationship; how we allow somethings in and keep other things out. Intimacy is – as appropriately described in my premarital class textbook – about stewardship. We are making the choice to care for each other in the way that Yah has told us is the best, whether we want that in that moment or not. Before marriage, it is minding our physical boundaries. After marriage, it is tearing those boundaries down and not allowing them to build back up. Before marriage, it is possessing our bodies and conducting them appropriately, together, but still separate. After marriage, it is surrendering our bodies to the “we”, making them a shared space, without boundaries, without ownership.

Falling in love with my fiancé has given me a new appreciation for the spiritual intimacy that Yeshua wants to have with us, but not without its discomforting epiphanies.

The closer I come to being a bride, the more awkward it seems to seek to relate to Yeshua as my bridegroom, my husband. My brother? My friend? My shepherd? Those make sense. What do you mean Yeshua desires me and that I should desire Him? Desire Him like my fiancé? For a brief moment, I squirm at the thought, but finding the spiritual equivalent is actually not that hard. We have to remember that intimacy is an orientation. How am I including Yeshua, regarding Yeshua, and protecting my relationship with Yeshua? Thinking about the closeness I feel when I am in my fiance’s arms or when we are acting in unity on a project or issue, what am I doing to create those moments with Yeshua? Do I rely on my alone time with Him like I do my time with my fiance?

On one hand, my fiance and my relationship has caused me to feel pulled “away” from the spiritual; my time, focus, and energy are being applied more to the concrete things around me (buying a house, planning a wedding, working an extra job) that need to be done. But, on the other hand, I feel more tightly connected to my relationships with the Father and His Son. I am beginning to sense a level of intimacy that is available and possible with them that I have never known before – and I am encouraged and excited to move forward.

We need to savor and value these strategic, liminal spaces in our life journey. Truly, He has embedded lessons in every transition, in every liminal space, to awaken us to new capacities and to draw us closer to Himself.

 

 

Sarah Sanders is an educator, worship leader, and soon-to-be bride.

Born and bred in the Pacific Northwest, she enjoys being a health nut and a foodie (and wants to be more outdoorsy), but gets excited learning and experiencing just about anything. She dearly looks forward to being a wife and mother, and building, together with her fiance, a home of hospitality and worship.

 

Sarah and her fiance Shane.

 

 

  • Artwork: Israeli artist Martina Shapiro

The Liminal Space of Parenthood ~ Raynna Myers

PARENTHOOD is definitively a liminal space. One often entered into either flat-out knowing we have no idea what we are doing or far too confident that we do. Neither are true. 

There’s definitely a moment of initiation, but it doesn’t come with any certainty of what we are now doing or who we now are. At first the not knowing can be compensated for with the excitement of it all. Before long, however, there we are, swimming in the sea of un-knowing. 

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Some of us compensate for this with books, lots and lots of books. Ah yes, a sense of control. Some of us compensate with opting out of the cloudy landscape parenting is and choose to focus on other things that give us immediate feedback and measurable results… you know, instead of waiting the twenty or so years to find out if we have completely blown it or not.

When do you “arrive” in parenthood? Parenthood is a lot like life, in that it’s like going to school thinking you are the teacher, then finding out very quickly, you just made it to kindergarten.

But that’s not bad news.

It’s wonder-filled news actually. We begin to see things we never saw. We are looking through fresh eyes. All of a sudden, we understand for the first time how tiny and cute we once were—all of us.

That’s how it was for me. It was so weird. I’d be talking with someone I previously found “difficult”; one moment I’d be frustrated, the next moment I had these mental images of them as a baby too. That had never happened on the school playground. I had trouble seeing past my own nose in kindergarten the first time. This time though, experiencing the world with my newborn in my arms, through his eyes, the whole world has been born new. 
Startling us from our familiar mindsets has it’s costs. Some of those sets have grown skewed over the years. Even so, the question gently laid before us in a multitude of ways, in myriad pieces of light streaming in, on, and over us as we walk through the fog is, “Am I prepared to let them go?” “Am I willing to pay the cost?”.

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I could more easily contain Niagara Falls in a tea cup than I can comprehend the wild, uncontainable love of God.”
— Brennan Manning

In parenthood we meet ourselves, as we once were and as we now are. If that sounds tame, then I haven’t done a good enough job trying to describe it. It’s more wild than trying to fit Niagara Falls into a tea cup. It’s more wild than the highest free-fall. It’s wild like Aslan and we’re riding in the wind on his back.

If I could go back to newborn-parent me, I’d tell myself to hold on to that mane and let go for nothing. I’d say, “Feel that wind, that is your life breath, breathe deeply.” I’d tell me that if this isn’t wild then nothing is. If I could travel through time and sit down with grown-up-parent me I hope I’d sit silently and hear the sojourn song of love.

Parenthood is a passageway, and as with all rites of passage, we first die to emerge new.

And that’s not bad news.

I’m nearly 16 years into this ride and as I write this, tears fall. Tears for the goodness and tears for the wildness and tears for the hopefulness and tears for the realness. Tears fall for the thankfulness to see the world renewed six times now, never one time the same, never one time unneeded, never one time understood fully.

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 This I do know, the liminal space of parenthood generously equips us to serve those little (or big) ones experiencing the liminal space of childhood, which applies to everyone else in the world. We were all little children once.

Yeshua said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

 

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset  RAYNNA MYERS

Raynna Myers is a writer, photographer,  homeschooling mom of six and wife. Her first book, Pray, Like a Woman in Labor was published last year with a Foreword by Keren Hannah Pryor.
She writes at www.RaynnaMyers.com, from the trenches, to link arms with physical and spiritual mothers alike and anyone hungry to let Mercy lead.

The Liminal Space of AGING ~ Keren Hannah

And as long as you haven’t experienced
this: To die and so to grow,
You are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.

from: The Holy Longing by Goethe*

In his blog on July 15th, pastor Brian Harris reported, “I turned 59 on Wednesday. It’s an awkward kind of a birthday, 59 – it feels like an unspecified space. When you turn 39 or 49 people joke, ‘almost 40’ or ‘almost 50’. But 59 is different. People politely say, ‘I would never have guessed it’ – as though you are about to enter territory too sad to fully acknowledge.”

As we age, a milestone birthday, or maybe every birthday, begins to feel like an “unspecified space.” When we step out into the uncharted territory of aging, and traverse its liminal spaces, the attitudes we have cultivated and the core values we have ingrained prove to be the most significant factors in carrying us through each stage. 

No surprise, that when you’re young and strong and filled with boundless energy, ready to take on all life has to offer, you believe that you will never age. Get old? Who me? Then years go by, as they unavoidably do and, one fine day, quite suddenly,  you look in the mirror and find an old person staring back at you in disbelief!  Of course it has not happened overnight, the process of aging traverses a series of thresholds, an array of liminal spaces. Each one offers the challenge of change and a variety of choices and decisions to be made. For women, the onset of menopause is called “The Change,” which somehow carries ominous overtones as something to be dreaded. Indeed, for some, it can be a total derailment, bringing in its wake hot, sweaty “flashes,” sleepless nights, confusion, and depression. Men face their form of mid-life crisis too. The experience, for each of us, is well described in Dante Alighieri’s poem:

In the middle of the journey of life,
I found myself within a dark woods,
where the straight path was lost.**

The ‘dark woods’ scenario happens, when all we have achieved and the goals we still aim for, need to be examined and evaluated and a ‘straight path’ found again. Often much needs to die before the new can begin to live. In these uncertain, liminal spaces of ageing, the decisions that are made, and the direction taken, are crucial to the next stage of life.

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When you prolong your gaze at the ‘you’ in the mirror, you may detect traces of anxiety, sorrow, and even fear, in your reflection. These are the responses of one’s ego. Human nature, basically, is comprised of two elements – the Ego and the Soul. Our perception of anything is influenced by one or the other. Aging, for understandable reasons, is unbearable to the Ego. Movie stars, and those who rely on their looks, such as the late Marilyn Monroe, commit suicide rather than see their beauty begin to diminish. To bear the unbearable, the hard shell of the Ego must be cracked open and broken to allow the Soul to shine through.Then a perceptual shift happens and the understanding comes that the “front” of the Ego is not the real you. You are a soul, a spirt, within a physical being. While your body may weaken and diminish, your spirit continues to grow stronger and more beautiful with the passage of time. When you start seeing the world from the perspective of the Soul, you discover grace.

As the apostle Paul encourages in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV),

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

From the Ego’s perspective aging certainly is not fun! It’s a reminder of impending death, from which the Ego recoils. From the Soul’s perspective, however, it is a great learning and growth opportunity. It is seeing everything with eyes of faith and grace. When you are settled and secure in your spirit, what is there to fear? With a heart filled with gratitude you learn valuable lessons:

  • You learn that faith and love deepen and grow and are stronger than any physical changes you undergo through aging – stronger, even, than death.
  • You learn that, as one ages, the qualities of understanding, empathy, compassion, and other true emotions have the opportunity to deepen and strengthen and can be expressed and shared in real and meaningful ways.
  • You learn how to relate soul to soul, appreciating the life and goodness in the other, and can bypass the defences of the Ego, which invariably raises self-centred barriers of competition, jealousy, judgmentalism and criticism.
  • You learn that you do not, and cannot, control everything in life. Tragedy happens, loss happens. Crises arise that shatter any delusion of control and substitute it, rather, with a wise and solemn understanding that only God, the Creator of all things, is in control.                                                                     

When we learn the lessons that come with age, we realize that the selfish perspective of the Ego, which causes one to make decisions based on one’s natural will and the logic of one’s cognitive mind, is altered and softened by the God inspired perspective of the spirit and the grace-filled intuitions of the heart that loves.

This affects our choices. In times of crisis, the hopelessness, pain, and fear are real and decisions need to be made. Although we do not have control, we do have choice. We are not robots. God has given us the gift of free will. He wants to bring us through the dark times into the light but He does not force His will upon us. We are free to choose darkness, fear, death and despair or light, hope, life and joy. Once we choose – to give up or to fight in our own strength, on the one hand, or, alternatively, to surrender and yield to the grace of God – He will either leave us to go our own way or He will direct us in His wisdom and lovingly strengthen us with faith and courage. 

We then can whisper, when the night is dark and we feel we have lost the straight path, “Father, Thy will be done, not mine.” The tension, worry and uncertainty will lift and melt away as He takes over. We can rest assured that He will lead us, in lovingkindness and grace, through all the changes to be faced. We can let go of any resistance to the passing of time, any fear of aging, and we can believe that a new way of grace and being will emerge. We can trust the changes, and learn and grow more fully, and gently, and beautifully through them, because we can trust the will of the One who has our lives in His hands.

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  • * Quoted in Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser, 126
  • ** Ibid., 254

The Liminal Space of Life After Loss – Jenny Lovell

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Take comfort from this in your darkest hour.
Others have plumbed the secrets of the night.
The lost Rose garden they found at last.
See, out of darkness – light.
~ Anonymous

 Remembering countless others who have also suffered loss.

Little did I know, seven and a half years ago, that I was about to enter a “Dense Fog of Grief” – a space forced on me by the sudden passing of my beloved husband, Syd.

I could hardly talk. If I did sleep at all, when I awoke the shock of his passing hit me again like a train in the night with a pain I had never experienced. Time passed slowly, but I felt I would be forever frozen in that place.

I didn’t want this unfamiliar pain and I couldn’t imagine, at the time, that this was a launching pad into a new life. Although it would be a slow journey, the transition from the numbness of grief to new found joy had indeed begun.

It was with thanks to God that I could proceed on this journey. Without the knowledge that He cares for us and ordains our every step, and that He has a purpose for our lives,  I would have gone insane. My heart went through a roller coaster of profound and memorable emotions during that time. I discovered how He speaks to us constantly through others, books, etc,. I can recall coming across “the right” articles and people at just the “right time” and that caused my soul to come alive again and to dare to dream of a new future. This was paramount in the early years. The transition of insecurity to security ~ a new uncharted Liminal Space.

Sometimes it takes a plunge into darkness to realise how beautiful God’s light can be. Darkness to light ~ a true Liminal Space

Through the ensuing years I experienced the care of my wonderful family and friends. Family members came to stay with me for a month after Syd’s passing and kept in constant contact. Others invited me over for dinner, or “tea” as we say in Australia! Friends came by or left a note stuck in my front door or under my door mat; neighbours brought food over. These acts of kindness helped steer me to a calm place.

The liminal spaces of life are filled with choices and new opportunities. On my journey through, I now choose to embrace all that is around me and that enriches my life. In the  liminal space of transition through Loss ~ one can choose to be stuck in the waiting room of grief or to step out and start to embrace a new life. It is daunting and overwhelming, but if you take one step of faith at a time into HIS irresistible future, you will be amazed at how far you’ve come and will go. I love the saying, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step!”

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One of the great Jewish spiritual teachers of the 20th century, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel argues that facing death gives life meaning; that life and death are both part of a greater mystery; that by virtue of being created in no less than God’s image, we can imagine an afterlife for humanity–yet at the same time death itself is an antidote to human arrogance; and that in death we pay gratitude for the wonder and gift of our existence.*

The Liminal Space of Loss, like every liminal space, is a place of constant change; a place of moving forward, transitioning from old to new. Even if I could travel back in time to my previous safe, comfortable life, I wouldn’t fit any more, because I am not the same person. I have stepped from the darkness into light.

 

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~ Jenny Lovell

Jenny

Jenny Lives in Adelaide South Australia, near the popular beach-side suburb of Glenelg. Her passion is cooking, baking & photography. She loves spending time with her family as well as reading, listening to music, pottering in the garden, walking/running by the ocean and swimming.

* Excerpted from Heschel’s essay Death as Homecoming, published in Jewish Reflections on Death, edited by Jack Riemer

The Liminal Space of a Child with Cancer ~ Teri Jensen

Teri and Jared

I have experienced many liminal spaces in my life. Sometimes I think those spaces are where I constantly dwell. However, one of the most difficult liminal spaces occurred when my 18-year-old son, my only child, was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Even though we know that many people, including children, battle cancer, I believe we never really grasp that it can happen to us, to our child. Because of this, we can never fully prepare ourselves for the diagnosis and when we hear the word “cancer,” a shock, a numbness, a fearful horror sets in as we try to comprehend that this really is happening. To us. Our son has cancer.

It was a life-quaking space with many small tremors rippling through and shaking our safe world. In this liminal space, we moved from ignorance to knowledge about things we never wanted to learn.

We learned a new vocabulary filled with oncological terminology. We learned about chemotherapy drugs and anti-nausea medication, and which foods our son was able to eat.

We learned a new routine revolving around the Cancer Center instead of our home. We learned to survive on little sleep: My husband spent half his day with us at the Cancer Center and half at work. My son slept on the couch while I slept on the uncomfortable love seat nearby so I could hear my son if he called in the night. I also woke every four hours to give him his anti-nausea medication.

We learned to laugh and joke when we really felt like crying. Because of this, my son’s memory of the day his hair fell out in chunks is tinged with humor. “I can’t believe you actually said that my head looked like it had been eaten by moths, Mom!” he laughs. But we also learned that when we can’t laugh, it’s OK to cry. The greatest help to me was my friend who didn’t tell me what I was supposed to feel. Instead, she laughed with me when I laughed, she cried with me when I cried, and she worried with me when I worried.

We learned about God’s loving care through the love and support of countless friends, who gave us gift certificates to a local restaurant so we wouldn’t have to worry about fixing meals; who bought our son a Tablet to distract him while he was receiving chemotherapy; who bought or made him soft hats to keep his sensitive bald head warm; who sent pictures of themselves and their families and pets wearing goofy hates to cheer him; who entered the battle with us through prayer.

Unlike some, our son successfully won his battle with cancer. He is now cancer-free! However, our time in this liminal space left us changed. Like Jacob, we now walk with a limp. We never approach our son’s followup CT Scans and appointments with the same innocence that we once had. We now know that cancer can touch us—and having touched us once, it is possible that it can return. We always breathe a sigh of relief when we are told that everything is still clear.

After the cancer battle, we moved into the new liminal space of recovery. For friends and supporters, the cancer battle is won when the treatment ends, but we have learned that for those of us at ground zero, the battle continues as we work to rebuild what cancer tore down. My husband and I learned about Caregiver Burnout–the complete exhaustion that hit as soon as the treatment ended. We learned that soldiers aren’t the only ones who can suffer from PTSD—cancer patients and their families can also suffer from this normal response to an abnormal situation. Our son has had to work to process the emotions that accompanied the reality of “my own body tried to kill me.” He has had to learn to handle nightmares and the memories that are triggered when he sees anything that reminds him of cancer. He also has to deal with friends who think he is merely being unmotivated and lazy, not understanding that it takes time to recover and rebuild a life after cancer. Thankfully, he is recovering quickly.

Research has shown that many who were diagnosed with cancer as teens often struggle throughout their lives because it hits them just as they are moving into adulthood. Many never successfully hold a job or go to college. Our son was diagnosed with cancer at just such a time. He was working at his first job and in the middle of his first semester of college. He is now doing well at his job and planning to enter college soon—major accomplishments! Cancer touched his life and damaged him in some ways, but it also has left a new courage, compassion, wisdom, and maturity in its wake.

Again, we are entering a new liminal space, one that feels as if we are in the time when Winter is leaving but Spring has not yet fully emerged. As a family, we decided we needed a new start so we risked everything to move to five beautifully forested acres in an area in Northern Michigan where we had always longed to live. We went from life in a town to an area of great natural beauty and many new opportunities. Our son has renewed hope and is eager for life. My husband went from a difficult job to a new job he loves. I am also reaching a new season in my life as I attempt to start a new Etsy store to help us with our finances. We all declare we are happier now than we’ve ever been before.

I think liminal spaces sometimes take us through life-quakes that change the whole landscape of our lives and cause us to walk with a limp. However, life always returns. With life’s return, there is a new awareness of the ones that are dear to us, a new wisdom and maturity, a new willingness to seize each moment and to dare to reach for dreams.

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~ Teri Jensen

TeriTeri, her husband Eric, son Jared, introverted dog, and six cuddly cats just moved to their new home on five enchanted forested acres in beautiful Northern Michigan. Teri writes about their lives in her WordPress blog called I Love To Go A Gardening. She is a gifted crocheter who sells handmade gifts from her Etsy store called Teric’s Treasures.

 

The Liminal Space of a Woman with Child – Raynna Myers

 The Liminal Space, the threshold, the between, the there but not there yet, the carrying of a child within a woman, where the boundaries bleed into the living: this is a sacred space.
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 Somewhere between the most intimate of moments between man and woman, somewhere between sweat and light, somewhere between warmth and passion, somewhere between the moments we realize and the moments we are caught up—flesh and spirit mix; they mix again like an echo from the beginning.
Conception. In the dark of the womb; life.
Then, in the long months –  where we celebrate growth, and must, at the same time be suspended between beginning and end, which is really only another beginning –
we wait.
In the waiting there is perceptible change, like fruit edging closer to its ripening, fullness abounds—life rounding life. As every element builds from particles of joy we can’t create on our own, the realization of miracle awakens one cell at a time.
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Hints of glory instruct the mother’s heart that if what is happening within her is beyond her comprehension, then how much more will this mixture of flesh and spirit be when it emerges and a new soul is born. We wait for the appointed time with expectation threaded through with trepidation. In the truest moments, we hope for the future and wonder over the joy of all that is out of our control. We wonder, and we wait for the signal from the long night in our womb that the sun is about to rise.
Spirit and flesh have been knit, who can understand this? Yet here we are embracing it with our entire body; giving home to miracle, sharing/mixing our very life source. We cope with the greatness by attending the fragile thoughts of the reality occurring between our bones with strokes of comfort that “this is normal” and how, through the millenniums, women have gone before us.
Sometimes heaven brushes by with the thought that we were once miracle too. Or—are we still? Who can understand this? And who will come near enough to this flame of His Presence to be instructed in the way to go? To know that this is all beyond us, before we have even begun, could feel like a swift defeat—except it’s not. It’s an invitation sealed with gold written in blood on purest white. It is a welcome to the world where all is beyond us but nothing is beyond Him – the Giver of Life.
And the real miracle? He is in us. The apostle Paul said, “How great…are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Messiah in (us) you, the hope of glory”. Fearfully and wonderfully made, our souls know it very well. Yet it gets covered over by the day to day worries of this world.
As the deer pants for the water so my soul longs after You.
A woman with child, no matter how long the inhabitation lasts and for every moment of it, has the gift that seems to otherwise often only come through suffering— the gift of reality, truth, rising in our soul. The eternal deep knowing that Adonai placed within man from the beginning seems to lift us higher; we become less encumbered, and how badly we need it.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:5-6)
It is all at once frightening and compelling, but anymore that seems my most adequate description of all of life: this embryonic experience we’re living is too often flattened in our thoughts, lost.
How precious to me are your thoughts,
O God How vast is the sum of them!  (Psalm 139:17)
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 Could it be true that conception could conceive something new in me? The thought could lead us somewhere wonder-filled. I will speak for myself and say there are times I have feared wonder. What if I cannot live up to the greatness?
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there is any anxious/ grievous way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting!
And we wait. And we shape. And we forget.  And the relieving news is it doesn’t matter whether we understand it all or not, the cells keep multiplying to their appointed day. The miracle is in the seed to accomplish the purposes He sent it for. In His shade we enlarge—body, soul and spirit.
This is the liminal space of the woman with child, where woman transforms into mother, and a new soul comes to dwell. The greatness baffles us. If we could just let our thoughts dwell there a little while, maybe we would hear the call to “be still and know.” The voice over the waters, over us, He is God, King and Creator of all the earth, all the universe. He is also See-er of the sparrows, and you and me.
 th-12 (1)Raynna Myers
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Writing and Photography  –  www.raynnamyers.com

imageHey! My name is Raynna and I like to go camping with my kids in a tent that is too small for 8 people [Raynna,
husband Jay and their 6 wonderful kids!] and wear them out real good so that they fall asleep in the middle of the day snuggled up to me like this. I can barely handle the preciousness so I write about it and take pictures, pray a lot and laugh when my husband tells me that I like to act like a homeless person when I’m ready to go camping again.

The Liminal Space of Palliative Care – Karen Freeman Worstell

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I am learning the role of chaplain in a large Northwest medical center in the United Sates. It’s my second year and I am specializing in palliative care – that time and season of life after receiving a life-limiting diagnosis.

I’m discovering that it can be a time of intense beauty. A time only equalled by those moments of release when we learn to seize a moment in time, even while we let go of matter and matters that  simply are no longer as important as they once were. One could perhaps call these, “last second” moments. My father used to say, “Nothing would get done if it were not for the last second!”  I thought he was speaking of my school deadlines.

The time spent in palliative care can also be called “liminal space” time.  The “event horizon” may be near or far, but it is real and undeniable.  It is a gift, really, to have a deadline, even a Final One,  as it tends to sharpen our focus.  In some ways, living with that knowledge of the deadline helps to put fear in perspective.  What could compare, in fact, to dealing with an existential threat that is not just probable, but has an anticipated arrival?

The closer we get to the final hours of life in this world, the more acutely aware we become of the sheer veil that separates what we have come to see as existence in this world and existence in the world beyond.  It is sacred ground – a place where eternity kisses mortality and brings it through the veil.

So many times, I have stood by and felt less a chaplain than a midwife, as the soul labors to be born into the kehillah – the gathering place –  of souls.  We have no good words for it, actually, this liminal space.  It is mystery, something one experiences rather than describes.

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Perhaps these breathtaking sunsets of Autumn in the Northwest are gracious gifts; given to train our subconscious to see the beauty of the liminal space of life when it finally arrives.

My patient was surrounded by family and his pastor during his last hours. As I left his room, high up on the top floor of our hilltop hospital, the windows were lit with the alpenglow of sunset. The light slowly receded from pink to dusty lavender. Reflected gently on the first fresh snow on Mt. Hood, it passed, very slowly, steadily, from beauty to beauty.

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~Karen Freeman Worstell

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The Liminal Space of The Empty Nest ~ Cindy Elliott

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THE EMPTY NEST

The wholeness of a home depends much on its ability to prepare its young to leave the nest and risk trusting their own wings to take them to unknown elsewheres, where they will have to build their individual nest.*

Empty nest – that quiet vacuum of space that takes shape around your child leaving. Permeated with feelings of loss it is a threshing floor to the identity and purpose that has defined a parent for years. For two decades the core of my identity has been mom. I’m still mom but all at once my role is less defined – changing.

Viktor Frankl knew about change. Not the natural movement through seasons of life change – but a change that is painful in a way few of us have had to realize. Viktor Frankl was a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau concentration camps and he shared the following:

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

The Hebrew word for change used here, chalaph, means to sprout again, renew, change for the better. This type of change can be seen in the book of Job:

For there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sprout again (chalaph), and its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant. Job 14:7-9

The word is found also in Isaiah 40:31, where we see that it is a change that comes as we wait on the Lord:

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength (chalaph); they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

A tender shoot will grow and new life will spring up. However, we do need to allow ourselves to grieve the loss of the old in order to embrace the new. Empty nest is a time of mourning – a time of letting go. In our western society, where there is tremendous emphasis on individualism, grief reminds us that G-d created us to be a community. The work of grief is not a work to be done alone. There is a world of empty nesters standing on the same threshing floor as you find yourself.

It is good to remember that this liminal space – though a place of grief – is also a place of celebration. Sometimes the emotions that overwhelm our heart need to be turned on their head. In the context of those feelings of abandonment, psychologist Madeline Levine** tells us:

Our children’s independence is a reminder of how much we had to give and all that we have accomplished. It is a pleasure to remember that it is not a form of abandonment but an expression of a job well done – and is something to keep in mind as we move back into the center of our own lives, in ways that will make our children proud.

The rich meaning of chalaph (also translated ‘passes’) reminds us that this too will pass. As with all liminal space, we are reminded annually at the Feast of Sukkot, or Tabernacles, to embrace the shelter of your temporary and fragile sukkah and leave the bricks and mortar at home. Liminal space isn’t the place to build a house but is a passing through – a threshold to something new.

 

Kathleen Noffsinger - Roots and Wings

As parents, during years of holding them close and nudging them forward, we have spent our lives giving our children both roots and wings. Roots – providing security, nourishment, and a place in their heart that is always home. And wings – the freedom to fly the nest.

Elizabeth Stone said,

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

That makes us vulnerable but I don’t know one parent who would have it any different.

In general, I’ve found that it can help to look outside myself and see through the perspective of others. There are parents who will never experience an empty nest because their children are not able to spread their wings. Their children are not physically, mentally, or emotionally able to make it on their own. When I think of such circumstances, I can more easily view my empty nest not so much as a gift being taken from me, but rather as a gift I have cared for – will always care for – and am giving back to the Lord. There is something rewarding in the knowledge that we have cared for the daughter G-d has entrusted to me and my husband;  and, in doing so, we also have empowered her to take care of herself.

Lastly, be encouraged. We can see in what Rabbi Sacks shares, that letting go and giving your child over to G-d isn’t easy – just look to our Father Abraham:

The principle to which the entire story of Isaac, from birth to binding, is opposed is the idea that a child is the property of the father. First, Isaac’s birth is miraculous. Sarah is already post-menopausal when she conceives. In this respect the Isaac story is parallel to that of the birth of Samuel to Hannah, like Sarah also unable naturally to conceive. That is why, when he is born Hannah says,

“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”

This passage is the key to understanding the message from heaven telling Abraham to stop: “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son” (the statement appears twice, in Gen. 22: 12 and 16). The test was not whether Abraham would sacrifice his son but whether he would give him over to God.

As you move through this season of empty-nesting, may you live each day to it’s fullest as a sacred gift from Heaven and may G-d bless you with His peace and His purpose.

 

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~ Cindy Lou Elliot

 

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I had run across a list of “You Know You Are An Empty Nester When…” that brought such a smile to my heart. I thought I’d share a few of my favorites**

You know you are an empty nester when you:

 

~ send them articles about people who were murdered on a deserted road in Great Britain, indicating what can happen when one moves away from home. Hey, if it can happen to a Mildred in Ravenstonedale, England, it can happen to your Miriam in Riverdale, New York.

 

~ have them on speed dial, along with their friends, the fire and police departments, local Emergency Rooms, the National Guard — and you can’t remember your own number!

 

~ call their teachers and anyone who they ever dated … just to “shmooze.” Make sure they know your daughter is still “available.” G-d only knows what will happen to her if you don’t intervene.

 

~ E-mail or when you use your key, leave little reminder notes, tips, and affirmations, such as “Life is one big tsimmis,” “Your dad and I aren’t getting any younger,” “Call so we know you’re not lying in the street somewhere,” “One sneeze could lead to double pneumonia,” “Did you know a Sukkah could be turned into a bomb shelter?”

~ slip them a few dollars when they visit, saying “Sha …” even while your husband has taken from his pension fund to pay for Medicare supplemental.

 

Footnotes:

* John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us, pg. 82
** Jewlarious, aish.com
*** Kathleen Noffsinger, Roots and Wings

The Liminal Spaces of Life ~ Keren Hannah Pryor

When we arrive at the limen, or threshold, of a new year we need to pause a while and catch our breath before we step out of this liminal space and fully embark on the path of the new year, ripe with its potential and challenges. There are many such spaces in our lives – daily, weekly and monthly  – and particularly as we reach major milestones.

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Psychology and physiology describe a limen as the point at which a stimulus is of sufficient intensity that it begins to produce noticeable effect; for example, the threshold of pain, or of consciousness.
In our walk with G-d, the stimulus we seek and depend on is the vision He births in us – the particular and personal word we need to hear from Him; the stimulus that will guide and direct us in the unique path He has prepared for us to walk in.  We cannot rush blindly ahead. Rather, as Shel Silverstein’s poem expressed in our Introduction to The Liminal Space,

“We will walk with a walk that is measured and slow, and we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows [His directions] go.”

In general, we humans are not comfortable with this liminal experience. We like to believe we are always fully “with it” – that we have everything under control, that we are in charge of all that is happening in our lives and of what is around us. We don’t like to feel “neither fully here nor there” as we wait on direction from G-d; to see where He places the next chalk-white arrow. With a touch of grim humor, we sometimes refer to a liminal space as “a twilight zone.”

Physically, we experience the daily liminal spaces of sunrise and sunset. Twilight is the bewtixt and between light – the time we can enjoy the soft diffused light as the sun sets, the day wanes and night begins to fall. Biblically, this is the beginning of a new day. As we read in Genesis 1:5, ” And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

At twilight the rush and busy-ness of the day slows down. We can take time to consider the work of our hands, what we have accomplished and learned, as a form of preparation for the day to come. Based on Genesis 3:8, we popularly believe that this cool, twilight time of the day was when the Lord walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is a sad thing, in our modern, technological age, that too many sunrises and sunsets are overlooked and ignored. We lose their gifts of quietness, contemplation, awe at the marvels of Creation and fellowship with the Creator.

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Birth and Death are two major liminal spaces every person must traverse. We make the major move from one realm of existence to the next. A lovely verse in the Jerusalem Talmud describes: “In death [as in birth], two worlds meet with a kiss: the world going out and the future coming in.”

Life comes and life goes and during the interim years we do not know the reason why things happen as they do. We experience the goodness and joy and also the sorrow and pain. How can we understand the mysteries of life and death? Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev once cried out to G-d:

I do not beg You to reveal to me the secret of Your ways – I could not bear it! But show me one thing; show it to me clearly and more deeply; show me what this that is happening at this very moment means to me, what it demands of me, what You, Lord of the World, are telling me by way of it. Ah, it is not why I suffer that I wish to know, but only whether I suffer for Your sake.

We too can ask. “Lord, it is not why I live that I wish to know but whether I live for Your sake?” Every day, every moment is a gift of time. Our Father in Heaven gives us the breath of life that enables us to live each moment. When our days are lived for His sake, we sanctify them and bring eternity into them. Then, every passing moment is a liminal space – a new arrival, a fresh beginning – a  time of rich possibility to partner with G-d and to further His redemptive plan for all mankind. In the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel,

The greatest problem [with life] is not how to continue but how to exalt our existence… Eternity is not perpetual future but perpetual presence. G-d has planted in us the seed of eternal life. The World to Come is not only a hereafter but a here-now!

The Irish poet and teacher, John O Donohue bemoans the fact that in modern secular society the thresholds of life are not recognised or celebrated meaningfully. Key thresholds pass by withut distinction from the mundane, the everyday. When we approach our significant thresholds with reverence and attention, they will bring us more blessing than we could have imagined. This blessing brings transformation and awakens any gift the crossing has to offer. In his book, To Bless the Space Between Us, O’ Donohue writes:

Each central phase of life begins at a decisive threshold where you leave one way of being and enter another. …It is an intense frontier that divides one world of feeling and being from another. It is a dividing line between past and future. Crossing can often mean the total loss of all you enjoyed while on the other side. Usually the reason you cannot return to where you were is that you have changed; you are no longer the one who crossed over. Once a blind man crosses the threshold into vision, his life is no longer lived in the constricted mode of blindness; new vision means new pastures.

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O’ Donohue also makes the very interesting observation that the word ‘threshold’ is related to the word ‘thresh’ – the separation of the grain from the husk. To cross a threshold, therefore, carries the meaning that in the crossing we leave behind the dried and outworn husks of what is no longer suitable or needed and we go forward with all the promise of the life-bearing grain.  He writes:

The old barriers no longer confine you,
the old wounds no longer name you,
and the old fears no longer claim you.

The old patterns are transformed and the fruitful is drawn out of the past. We can press eagerly forward with new vision and inspiration as G-d ushers us forward with all the grace, peace and strength we need for the next phase of the journey.

 

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~Keren Hannah