A forest walk and God’s word can both bring fresh perspective

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on February 10, 2022 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/a-forest-walk-and-god-s-word-can-both-bring-fresh-perspective

Like the sounds and smells of the forest, scripture brings fresh perspective and awakens my heart.

On a cloudy day in January my brother and I went for a walk in the forest. The tall trees hid the sky. Moss covered branches reached over the path. We moved briskly through the trail.

Dog walkers and joggers passed us as we hiked around the park. We saw a juvenile eagle perched on a branch above our heads. The steady beat of our steps and the moist air refreshed my tired muscles.

While in the forest there wasn’t an anxious thought going through my head. I was present to the moment with my brother. The sounds and smells of the clear brook and evergreen trees awakened my senses. They also brought back memories of camping trips as a young girl with my family. 

I remember going to Golden Ears Park. With my younger sister I pretended pinecones were dolls. I have always enjoyed being in nature since I was in the backpack on my dad’s shoulders in the woods. Collecting rocks and shells was a large part of the fun on a beach visit.

I picked up a pink and orange rock that looked smooth. Such beautiful stones filled the path. Each one a different shape and colour. My brother led the way through the trail. I was filled with wonder as I walked the winding route through trees and creek beds. It was a meditative walk.

I have started praying lectio divina, to listen more to God speaking into my life. I open my Bible and read a passage from either the gospels, or a psalm, or a letter. I pray for an openness to hear God’s voice through the words I am reading. I pick one word that stands out from the first reading. Then a second one, and the last reading I choose a phrase that is speaking to me. 

This has been so nourishing to my soul. The words echo for me throughout the next day, giving me a feeling of safety and security. Recently from Isaiah 49:8-13 the words “establish,” and “heritage,” spoke powerfully to me. So did the phrase, “in a time of favour I have answered you.” I have been worrying about my future and these words brought comfort. 

The Lord has always provided for me in the past. Reading from the Bible I can hear God’s voice more. Words have such power. And Scripture is the living word. 

Like the sounds and smells of the forest, these words bring fresh perspective and awaken my heart. They help me to slow down and give space to hear the call of being a disciple. 

Often I fill my mind and ears with too much music, podcasts, and other media. They can block out God’s voice. I begin to falter in my prayer life and lose sight of my loving friendship with Jesus. 

Every day is a chance to begin again. To bring Jesus into the centre of my life, rather than a part of it. It’s all in my control to ask him to be my Lord and Saviour. Though faith is a gift, I pray that I will always love the Lord and that I will return to him. 

In Emily Stimpson Chapman’s book Letters to Myself from the End of the World, she says, “But you don’t need God someday. You need Him today. You need to talk to Him now and listen to Him now and call upon Him now in the midst of your crazy, chaotic, spit-up-laden life.” 

Maintaining my mental health can sometimes seem like I am fighting a crazy, chaotic life. Yet, the Lord is amidst the suffering. He is there in the anxious thoughts, or sleepless nights. And he heals me from mania and psychosis. God is so good. 

When we arrived at a babbling brook, my brother and I both stopped and marvelled at the peacefulness of the running water over the rocks. To remember it later, I captured a short video to listen to again. 

God’s grace can often work through people. The opportunity to walk in the forest with my brother was an absolute treat. And my cousin gifted me a book by Aimee Chase called Present not Perfect – A journal for Slowing Down, Letting Go and Loving Who You Are. It is a wonderful reminder to find the beauty in the moment and not be a perfectionist. 

Whether it’s pausing to smell the fresh evergreen trees or wondering at an eagle, it helps me to embrace my “wonderfully imperfect life.” (Present not Perfect)


Sanctifying menial tasks

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on July 21, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/the-prayer-in-doing-chores

The ordinary task of doing dishes helps me to silence the noise I am usually surrounded by and to talk to God. Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Washing dishes with pink gloves in hot suds, I had pause to think of all the good gifts in my life. The people, the growing of a dream, the crafting of a memoir. It all means so much to me. Soap suds squeaked and popped. Plates clattered together. I got lost in a hope-filled reverie.

The sun was behind rain clouds, and outside the window a bright green canopy of trees lined the street. A newness even in the overshadowing of a worldwide pandemic. There was a change. The smell of lilacs and honeysuckle in the alley wafted behind my little grey house.

Leaving the sink, I carried the trash outside. I tossed the compost in with a whump. Stretching my arms to the sky, I watched for aviator-like bumblebees passing by. The evening songbird sang high on the telephone wire. The ivy covering the gate shook in the slight wind. A smile pulled at the corners of my mouth. “I am going to be okay.”

My days are full, and my nights are calm. I have peace and joy. The Lord is my all in all. I try to give myself to him completely. Even the lost and broken pieces of my heart I give to him to find and repair. His love heals me through each relationship and time of prayer.

Often, I say, “Jesus, I trust in you. You take care of everything.” There have been many times when I have felt invisible, rejected, and lonely. And he has been with me through it all. I may not be perfect, but I am enough. I am learning to “trust in the slow work of God” and to “give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading.” 

Sometimes it is hard to follow the advice from Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, in his short piece “Trust in the Slow Work of God” to “accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”

The ordinary task of doing dishes helps me to silence the noise I am usually surrounded by and to talk to God. I long to speed ahead through the chores and in my personal projects. I can be quite impatient. “And yet,” says Father de Chardin, “it is the law of progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time.”

The slow growth in relationships and work is almost unnoticeable. But it is new. Gradually, with grace and action they take shape and mature. When I take a deep breath in nature, I am serene with life flourishing all around me. It takes a long time for a tree to stand tall in a forest. Reminding myself of the steady movement of God in my life, I can be present to all the blessings I have.

Who am I to be loved by a God so great? And yet, I have become more aware of his goodness when I reflect on my day with gratitude. I am grateful for rain-picked raspberries from my elderly neighbour. Time spent with loved ones at coffee shops I hadn’t seen in months brings such joy. The beauty of yellow roses and fragrance of jasmine flowers in nearby gardens are lovely.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever” (Ps 136:1). Instead of dreading chores, I will relish the time to clean. Finding restoration in the Lord who is with me through it all.


Friendship: ‘Stronger relief than any medicine’

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on October 9th, 2019 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/friendship-stronger-relief-than-any-medicine

Hope pervades my heart when I am in the presence of another. “I said, ‘I am falling’; but your constant love, O Lord, held me up. Whenever I am anxious and worried, you comfort me and make me glad” (Ps 94:18-19).

Welcomed. Seen. Heard. Being at a support group meeting helped me to break out of stigma around having a mental illness.

Four years ago I walked into a neighbourhood church room with mismatched couches and chairs and was welcomed by a friendly face. The facilitator offered me a hot cup of tea. I held the ceramic mug and instantly felt more at ease. A few more people trickled in. The meeting opened with prayer and introductions.

I was surprised by how everyone there had a mental illness and yet they were working, living, and doing it all with perseverance. It’s an invisible illness. If they hadn’t been courageous and vulnerable in sharing in the group, I would never have guessed they battled mental illness too. Truly, people who experience anxiety, depression, eating disorders are fighters. It was so comforting to meet other mental health warriors who have faith in God, who is with us through it all.

Once I received a brief text message from one of the members, conveying how he had fallen ill in the last 48 hours. “Can you talk?” I sent a message back to him with a couple of questions similar to those of Kevin Briggs, who is known as the Guardian of the Golden Gate. Kevin was with the California Highway Patrol and prevented many suicides from happening by talking and just listening to the troubled souls. I asked, “Are you okay tonight? What are your plans for tomorrow?” And “I am free to chat tonight.” He responded, “I’ll call in 15.”

During that phone call I felt connected to someone who may not have had anyone else to call. After 45 minutes of listening, I asked, “Can we pray to God for protection?”

“Yes, please,” was his reply. The next day, I received an email from him saying, “It’s a miracle. I feel much better this morning! Thank you for listening to me.”

Weeks later, it was my turn to call him for a listening ear. I needed someone to talk to. Someone who understands what it’s like to have uncomfortable symptoms of illness return in times of stress.

I am inspired by Henry Fraser, author of The Little Big Things: A young man’s belief that every day can be a good day. When he was a teenager he dove into the ocean and was paralyzed from the shoulders down. When Henry was recovering in the hospital he saw a man with a similar spinal cord injury wheel himself out of the hospital in a wheelchair. He was then determined to do the same. “Disabled people need to see themselves in others. We need to see others like us achieving, living and inspiring.” Being present with members of the support group has been instrumental in pushing myself to carry on. Resilient people can’t thrive all on their own. We need the support of others.

So, starting this month, I will brave the rain and walk to the group with hopes to lift someone else up, as so many do for me. I try to view my illness as a grace. I don’t like the crippling sadness at times or the fears that invade my thoughts. But the sadness passes, and when it does, everything is sweeter.

Hope pervades my heart when I am in the presence of another. “I said, ‘I am falling’; but your constant love, O Lord, held me up. Whenever I am anxious and worried, you comfort me and make me glad” (Ps 94:18-19).

Community brings peace and the feeling that I am not alone. Our inner lives are so important. It’s a blessing to be able to pray with a friend on a difficult night, sharing in their struggle. Stronger relief than any medicine is the company of a kind and caring friend. My life matters. Your life matters.