Making-Progress-QuoteIf you're the type of person who's interested in personal or spiritual growth (and probably you are because you're reading this blog!) then there's often comes a point when you wonder, "Am I making progress?  Is my life any different this year than it was the last?"

It's hard to know sometimes, of course-- self-improvements are objective.

This Lent at The Federated Church, a small group of us studied a book I found particularly helpful on this topic called, A Clearing Season by Sarah Parsons. 

Within the chapter, "New Growth" Parsons gives 4 ways we can know that new growth is happening in our lives.

First, spiritually open people are creative.

She exhorts us: "As we open ourselves by successfully clearing space in our lives, creativity energy flows more easily.  . . . My own creative impulses are as small as a desire to cook dinner . . ."

So many of us think of creativity as something "those kinds" of people do. Not us. We say "I can't sew. I can't draw. We can't arrange flowers." And because of these things we assume that we're not creative. But Parsons points out here with her cooking dinner example that all of us can create something.

Woodwork, gardening, painting, writing, dancing and the list could go on and on. I've heard it said that the greatest enemy to creativity is comparison. So who cares that you're not a rock star?

Second, spiritually open people are loving.

Parson writes, "As we grow spiritually and new life springs up in us, we discover that we have more love to give, and we feel more confident in our giving."

It's so easy to believe in a world of scarcity, to believe that there's not a enough love to go around. But when we are spiritually open, Parson says, we approach life with the freedom of loving lavishly. We tell people how we feel about them. We open our heart to new members of our social circles. We make time for the most important moments of life. We love without strings attached!

Third, spiritually open people welcome surprises.

Parson says, "A willingness to be surprised is a matter of trust in God, of trusting that somehow God's surprises are always good."

Each new day IS an invitation to surprise. Even if we think our day is planned from the moment our feet hit the floor, there's always the possibility of factors we cannot control. And aren't surprises are the best? A conversation that lingers long. An encouraging card in the mail. A tasty meal. A glorious sunset. A chance to see the Big Dipper in the night sky.

Openness to God is always about the possibility of what the Divine could only orchestrate for our days. And aren't the words of Isaiah 43:19 so wonderful when God says to us, "I am about to do a new thing; now that it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"

Fourth, spiritually open people are vulnerable.

Consider this, "Most people" Parson writes, "can recall an experience of being vulnerable that left them hurt, and we can start to think that our vulnerability was the problem. If we just avoid showing our weakness, we can avoid all hurt in the future. But Paul offers us the opposite lesson, 'I will boast all the more gladly in my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." (1 Cor. 12:9)

Or, otherwise known as speaking our truth. A warning here: not everyone can handle our vulnerability (and not everyone has earned the right to hear our stories as Brene Brown would say). But there are some gems of people who can. Through them, we receive the blessings like compassion and forgiveness.

So are you getting somewhere? I bet you are!

Many of us can be so HARD on ourselves. We don't celebrate that we've moved an inch when we've think we should have moved mile!  As an aside, a dear friend of mine frequently tells me when I start complaining like this, "Don't should all over yourself." And it's so true!

Here's your homework: take a walk alone. Sit quietly for a few extra minutes in the morning. Sit outside in a beautiful place. Be still and know God. And the rest will come!