Spirit of Life member Karen Whistler is a fount of information and joyfully shares her encounters with theology, spirituality, biblical witness and life. She will be posting here from time to time, inviting us into her world. Enjoy! - Pastor Marietta
My name is Karen Whistler. You’ve probably seen (and heard!) the Whistler crew either in person (we come in hot!) or online (our 3 kids waving into the camera). We started attending Spirit of Life in early January. Each in our own ways, we are grateful to have found such a safe and loving church community. Recently, Pastor Marietta asked if I would like to share with the church some of the resources I come across. My answer: Yes! I am constantly discovering exciting articles, songs, podcasts, books, you name it with so much enthusiasm and a deep dive to share. I don’t really do social media, so I end up texting and emailing anyone who might be interested in my latest “find.”
I would like to preface with a brief bit about myself and a very personal story.
My husband, Nate, and I moved from Seattle to Vancouver, BC in 2010 so I could pursue grad school at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. I focused on Design Thinking and research methodologies. For years I built a career as a strategist around applying Systems Thinking principles to User Experience and Customer Experience for a wide range of companies and organizations.
If all of that is gibberish, read: It means I think a lot about what we feel and think when we encounter experiences — a room, a website, a book, a train ride, an app, a set of instructions, all have an impact on this journey we call life. Each of us bring a lot to the table that impacts our interpretation of each moment and interaction.
We lived in Vancouver for 12 years, had 3 kids, and I experienced a series of health challenges culminating in disability. Last summer, we started our transition back to Washington. Our family landed in Port Orchard to be near my family (who had recently moved to the area) for support.
Since 2021, I have been primarily bedridden/housebound with something called Severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (often referred to as ME/CFS), This video was sent out within the community for “Severe M.E. Day” on August 8. This seems like an intimate personal detail to disclose in an introduction, but it is an all-encompassing (yet difficult to explain) part of our family’s life. I also share this story because there is a direct connection to what lead me to contribute resources to Spirit of Life.
First of all, my illness means I spend a LOT of time in bed. During the early days of being near-completely bedridden, I had to reconcile with the real idea: If I am never again able to contribute to society or my family or my kids, then who am I? In this place, I was gifted by a deep-felt presence of Divine Love. Through a guided meditation app, I was introduced to what Brennan Manning called the Relentless Tenderness of Jesus. I had to allow this love into every crevice of my heart, mind, and soul. It was profound. As my body continued to be so very sick, my soul was renewed like never before. I am Love and can be a conduit of Love—if and when I get the chance to be in the presence of others.
ME/CFS comes with a lot of sensory aversion. Often I cannot withstand any light or sound. When I am able, I listen to guided meditations, and podcasts. I read books, newsletters, and—more recently—the wide world of Substack content.
I use this time in bed to bathe my mind in things that reinforce Love. Over time, I have collected a number of resources. I’ve learned and unlearned significantly as I follow this path of allowing myself to be loved so that I can be Love in my small corner of the world.
With cognitive impairment, my brain can often only comprehend small bits of information, if anything at all. By investing in practicing lovingkindness toward myself, I made peace with not being able to recall what I hear or read. I view this process as learning to trust my body and Spirit will use whatever it needs. This has been an evolving act of faith. I have to trust what my mind cannot recall will show up in its own way.
Through this journey, my gut reaction to feeling intense Love has been to share. When I feel filled with passion by something I hear or read, I immediately think of who else might need that content. Typically, I begin texting or emailing. Since Pastor asked me to share on this blog, I’ve began thinking up a post.
So, that is my heart. I am coming to Spirit of Life with the things that have been life-giving to me and trusting that someone in this community will be filled up in my sharing.
With Peace and Gratitude,
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