Hello there! I want to share a few things I've been working on recently.
Guided Contemplative Prayer
I created a guided prayer called Sacred Presence. It's a 5-minute guided contemplative audio, creating a simple way to slow down and experience the presence of God in your everyday life. You can listen to it during a prayer time, on a walk, or wherever you find space in your day. You can get the audio (mp3) here: Sacred Presence
Our New Podcast
Just for fun, my husband, Steve, and I started a podcast. It's aptly called "Steve and Larissa - a Podcast" and the episodes are essentially casual conversations about mundane everyday life stuff (fun things we're into) and also important things (like how we're managing life during the pandemic). This podcast is our way to connect, share our experiences, and have honest conversations with lots of laughter. If you want to listen to the podcast, go to steveandlarissapodcast.transistor.fm or subscribe on your favorite podcast app like Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Hawaii Spiritual Directors Website
Hawaii has a diverse community of wonderful people who serve as spiritual directors and companions. For the last few years, I've had the pleasure of helping with some behind-the-scenes things, including creating and hosting a website to help Hawaii folks find a spiritual director, retreat center, or info on upcoming events.
In my own journey, I've been finding new and beautiful ways of encountering the Presence of the Divine. A lot of that has been through meeting with my spiritual director and therapist, parenting our kids, getting liberated from theology that is rooted in white supremacy and patriarchy, meeting God in creation, and moving through lots of grief and loss this year. I'm struck by both the beauty and pain of this life, and grateful for a God who is in it all with us.
My heart continues to be invested primarily in helping guide people in their spiritual journeys, and making space for people to encounter God's presence. I hope wherever you are in your faith, you have the support and tools you need. If you're searching for a spiritual director, feel free to connect with me!
Do you want to stay updated? Please join my mailing list to sign up for my once-in-a-while newsletter. Sign up here: spiritualjourney.activehosted.com/f/1
You can also find me on Instagram @larissalmarks
Every year in December, I take time to reflect on the past year. I look through journal entries and notes, scroll through past social media posts, and think about significant experiences that happened. This practice helps me to step back and take a deeper look, recognize what I learned, and embrace the coming new year. Here are some of my reflections as I look back on 2020.
1. What was the best thing that happened this year?
Absolutely the best thing that happened this year was that we adopted our son Austin. He has been a gift to our family since we began fostering in 2019, and we finalized his adoption in summer of 2020.
2. What was the most challenging thing that happened?
What WASN'T challenging this year? This year was marked by COVID-19, and the endless ways it disrupted every part of life. I suppose the most challenging thing for me personally was discerning how to adjust to so many changes, and how to help our kids through those adjustments at the same time. Navigating school closures, not gathering with anyone in person, finding new ways to connect with community, etc. was incredibly difficult.
3. What was an unexpected joy?
I found so much life and joy within a few relationships with family and friends. Since relationships were distilled in this season, I feel like I had to work harder to lean into my tribe of people, and in turn, I appreciated these connections so much more. Our family of 6 grew in intimacy, with date nights with my husband, family games and hikes, and parent-kid one-on-one excursions. We gathered with extended family for regular Zoom hang outs. Friendships were nurtured through texts and phone calls. This year forced a lot of stripping away and pruning, which ultimately resulted in deeper, more powerful relationships.
4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
Grief. In the spring of 2020, I began to feel grief in different ways and for different reasons. I believe it was catalyzed by the effects of the pandemic, but I also felt layers of grief related to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. Grief because of loss and isolation. Grief because of human evil. Grief because of fractures in our world. I did not expect grief, but it came.
5. Pick three words to describe 2020.
Loss. Survival. Liberation.
6. What were the best books you read this year?
The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right by Lisa Sharon Harper
Black Theology and Black Power by James Cone
Theology of the Womb by Christy Angelle Bauman
7. What did you do in 2020 that you've never done before?
I got my real estate license, and joined an incredible team of real estate professionals. I love the people I work with, and the many opportunities I have to steward resources to bless our community in Hawaii. Another first was Steve launching his own mortgage company, Ohana Mortgage Solutions.
8. Did you keep your New Year's Resolutions, and will you make more for 2021?
I cannot recall if I made any 2020 resolutions, so that says something. As I look ahead to this year, I'm committing to these things:
9. For what are you most grateful?
I'm grateful that we have a good God. I'm grateful that God pours out joy and beauty in the midst of pain and sorrow.
10. How did you change this year?
I feel more comfortable and alive in my unique, female, Asian, almost 40 year old self.
11. What moments were most memorable?
12. What were your greatest discoveries?
13. What are you looking forward to this coming year?
Healthier leadership in the United States. Hopefully an eradication to COVID-19. Turning 40 in January!
14. What was the most significant thing you learned this year?
I learned how desperate I am to be part of creating shalom and wholeness in the world.
What are your reflections on the past year? What are your hopes for this coming year? Feel free to use the above questions as a way to do your own reflection.
P.S. My blog posts are rare. Older posts are archived on The Larissa Monologues. If you are on Instagram, I'd love to connect there! @larissalmarks
Let’s state it clearly: One great idea of the biblical revelation is that God is manifest in the ordinary, in the actual, in the daily, in the now, in the concrete incarnations of life, and not through purity codes and moral achievement contests, which are seldom achieved anyway.”
This morning I rolled out of bed, put on clean-ish clothes, and went through my morning ritual of making my pour-over coffee. I fed my almost-2-year-old daughter her breakfast, checked email, and as an afterthought, turned my awareness to God. It was like a silent, "Hey there, God." An acknowledgement of his presence with me, a welcoming him into the ordinary-ness of my day.
On mornings like this, when life seems so normal and routine, I am thankful that God is present in the ordinary. I am thankful that God isn't only in the flashy and extraordinary. Because if that were true, my mostly ordinary life would seem to be missing the mark. So I am grateful. But I also recognize that I want more of this. I want to know and encounter more of God in my actual life. So I invite God in. I ask him to help me see him and hear him in the ordinary.
After I pray this, my daughter asks for a snack. So we toast some bread, and take our morning snack outside on the porch. We sit together for a while, my daughter is thrilled by the passing airplanes and garbage trucks. Then she turns to me, "Mama, kiss?" She plants a sloppy toddler kiss on my face. And in this moment, I sense God delighting in the moment with us.
I wonder how our lives would change if we became more aware of God's presence? How might we react to the interruptions? How would we treat the people we unexpectedly encounter? How would we experience our errands and household chores?
I am learning how to welcome God into my ordinary. I invite you to do the same.
ACTION & PRACTICE
Take a moment to simply be with God. Turn your awareness to his presence with you. Invite him to reveal himself right now. Ask him to help you see and hear him in the ordinary today.
How aware of God are you in your daily life? How do you encounter God in the ordinary? Please share in the comments.
If you enjoyed this post, check out these related posts:
Questions That Lead Us to Transformation
How to Pay Attention to the Health of Your Soul
Permission to Want and Desire
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Aloha! I'm Larissa. I help others go deeper in the faith journey with God.
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