Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Wheel Of Life Exercise

This is one of those posts that is real and raw, where I brave the critics, step out from behind the screen and say, "This is honest, this is me." In some ways 2020 and 2021 have been some of the hardest years of my life, and not even so much because of the implications of Covid. For me it's had more to do with being honest with myself about the things that I value and want, and more importantly, realizing that I can't have it all and that some things, even GOOD things, have to take a back seat for now to make room for what is best. That means that in recent weeks I've devoted a lot of time and prayer to assessing my life and being honest with God, myself and the ones that I love.

I know I've mentioned it some many times now that I'm probably beginning to sound a like a broken record, but this series has rocked my world and is dramatically changing my life for the better. That doesn't mean it's all been easy, it hasn't and it still isn't, which is one of the reasons I KNOW that God is in this. To be honest it's been hard for me to want for anything else, but thankfully my years of employing the philosophy of Charlotte Mason have taught me that reading / learning are best absorbed slowly.  So I'm pacing myself and taking my time, and while I did breeze a bit through the vision casting portion of the series (still HIGHLY beneficial), now I've entered into the learning and application of the spiritual disciplines. As this series was originally presented weekly, I've now set aside Friday's as the day that I listen to a new message, and then I devote the rest of the week to using the resources that are provided to guide me in practicing the disciplines and making them a part of my daily life. This is the first week of practicing silence and solitude and I am loving every minute of it!

With that, I've sought out other series and podcasts that peeked my interest and that are further expanding on the themes presented in Practicing The Way. Yesterday I listened to a the first part in a series from The Practice  called Invitation to Stillness and Response which I am very much enjoying.  The speaker is Fr. J. Michael Sparough, who is the retreat director and spiritual director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House.  I have a penchant for seeking out information about the speakers that I listen to, so that took me on a bit of a tumble down the rabbit hole, which is what eventually led me to this resource, The Wheel Of Life Exercise, which is what you see in the picture above. This isn't something that was mentioned or even recommended by Fr. Sparough in his message, just something that I eventually landed at, but I'm so glad that I did.

I was already become familiar with A Rule of Life which is scheduled to come up a little later in the Practicing the Way series, so The Wheel of Life of Exercise seemed like a good pre-cursor, I suppose, as it gives you an overall picture of how satisfied you are with your life in the present moment. Now, before I go into a very real and honest overview of my personal wheel, I will tell you that I am my own worst critic. I've been asked questions like, "Would you treat your best friend the way you treat yourself?"often, so when I look at this assessment my guess is I'm probably scoring myself a bit lower that perhaps what the reality of my satisfaction with life expresses. I'm a perfectionist and a pessimist, what can I say? The glass is always half empty and there is alway room for improvement. But with that, let's get to the wheel and my thoughts on each area represented.

The idea behind the wheel is that you rank your satisfaction, on a level of 1 (being least satisfied), to 10 (most satisfied) grading eight specific areas of your life, Career, Family & Friends, Significant Other / Romance, Fun & Recreation, Health, Money, Personal Growth and Physical Environment, so with that, here is where I currently see myself.

❊ CAREER - 4
As for a career, I don't technically see myself as having one. I'm a full time van life traveling, empty-nester wife and mother, although changes are on the horizon (more on that later), but as I am also in the process of writing a book and have a desire to devote more time to writing and developing this blog, I listed that as my "career". I think it may be the first time I've ever actually identified myself as a writer and aspiring author. That alone was worth the entire assessment. :) That being said, with the changes in our life over the past year both writing and blogging have taken a hard hit, so that's the reason I scored it so low. But, as I hope to implement a plan to improve both, I'm hoping that my satisfaction in this area will improve dramatically.

This was one of my lowest scoring areas, and the reason I scored it so low is because I don't believe I am very good at personally staying in touch with or expressing my love and appreciation for the people in my life. It is true that I'm an introvert, but that being said, this area needs some focused and intentional improvement.

While my extended family may suffer from a lack of interaction, my husband does not. After several difficult years of being separated, I would say that our marriage is now stronger than ever. Is it perfect? Not by any means, but I'm very happy with our relationship.  I did only score it a 6 out of 10 however, because I do think there are a number of areas where I could strive to improve.

You might think that since we just spent the past five months traveling the east coast that fun and recreation would have scored higher. And while I did enjoy myself very much, there are other things in life that I've missed dearly, like cross stitching and crafting, and writing! Those things have been pretty difficult to do in the van, and as much as I love traveling, if I'm honest, it doesn't give me the same satisfaction as crafting and making a home does, so that is why I only scored it a 4. There are some changes in our lives that are upcoming soon that will change this, so I'm sure that number will rise over the rest of the year.

❊ HEALTH - 3
My health has definitely taken a strong hit recently, and while they are not anticipating my current struggles to be anything that I can't recover from, it's certainly made me aware of some changes that I need to make to help restore and maintain my health going forward.

❊ MONEY - 2
This is another area that tied for the lowest score, and the reason, I've NEVER been good with money. I remember growing up I got an allowance once a week, typically on Friday, and most weeks by Saturday morning, it was already spent. They say that in every marriage there is typically a spender and a saver, and I've got that spender role wrapped up. Please tell me I'm not alone! I'm ashamed to admit that even at my late age spending is still a problem and it's high time I addressed it.

In the area of personal growth, it tied for first, which makes me very happy! I attribute that to my relationship with Jesus Christ and especially to Practicing the Way. I'm learning so much about myself right now, and it's impacting every area of my life. As I mentioned at the beginning, it hasn't all been easy, and there are still some hard challenges ahead, but I don't recall another time in my life when I felt more challenged and yet more successful than I do right now! I still have a long way to go and these are just baby steps, but I'm very optimistic!

This also made a three-way tie for dead last, and this is where life is getting real for me. I've had to be honest with myself and my husband and admit that van life is not for me, at least, not full time. This admission and decision has been so-very-very-hard for me.  I love Bill so much, he's my best friend, and as much as I love going on vacation, living on vacation is just not for me. I'm too much of a homebody, and I need that "base" so to speak, to ground me. Being a wife and mother and managing my home was the the only "career" I ever aspired to when I was growing up, and even though the girls are grown now, home is still where my heart is and making a home for my family to return to is still very much at the core of who I am. So in the coming weeks we'll be making some adjustments and finding a place for me to make us a sweet little nest that our children can visit, and yes, that Bill can likewise come home too, because traveling is still very much his dream and he will be gone at times. That won't be easy, but we both feel that this is the decision that is best for both of us. I'll still join him from time to time, and for the time being it looks like our youngest daughter will be sharing the space with me. I would say "moving back home" but she prefers to view it as more of being "room mates", which I understand, she IS 22, as hard as that is for me to believe! It's a good decision for everyone right now, and I'm excited by the prospect of a new place and all that entails. Once Bill is done traveling then we may do something different, but for now we're just looking for a little apartment to call home. But because we aren't there yet and I am currently splitting my time between the van and Kate's apartment, I scored this one pretty low. I love the van, but it's not home, and as much as I appreciate being able to hang out with Kate in her space, it's still not the same, so that's the reason for the low score. But, if any area has the potential to improve, it's this one!

So there you have it, this is me, up close and personal, I guess you might say. Doing this exercise was hard as it forced me to take a real and honest look at how satisfied I was in each of these areas, and furthermore to ask myself why. It's part of what helped me to come to terms with how unhappy I've been not having a home, and to realize that it's time I got more serious about taking better care of myself and working on managing money better, hard, but necessary. And while it feels a little risky putting something so personal out there, I did so because its also important to me to never present myself as if I'm living some perfect, fairy-tale life. I've followed bloggers like that over the years, and even seen a few of them tumble. I personally find that discouraging and I only want to be an encouragement which I believe means keeping it real. I'm hoping that maybe you might find this exercise insightful as well. If you're interested in doing this yourself, just click the link below!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

A New Lenten Observance

"Once a year, on a Wednesday, we mix ashes with oil. We light candles and confess to one another and to God that we have sinned, by what we have done and what we have left undone. We tell the truth. Then we smear the ashes on our foreheads and together acknowledge the single reality upon which every catholic and protestant, believer and atheist, scientist and mystic can agree;

"Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return."

It's the only thing we know for sure. We will die.

"Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust."

But a long time ago a promise was made. A prophet named Isaiah said a messenger would come to proclaim good news to the poor and brokenhearted. To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

"Those who once repented in ashes will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the  display of His splendor." - Isaiah 61:3

We could not become like God, so He became like us. God showed us how to heal instead of kill, how to mend instead of destroy, how to love instead of hate, how to live instead of long for more. When we nailed Jesus to a tree, God forgave. And when we buried His Son in the ground, He rose."

- Rachel Held Evans

There were no ashes this year, no traditional sign of the cross on my forehead or hand. These are different times we are living in. Not being Catholic, I don't attend mass and receive the ashes from a priest in a local parish. I am a protestant who happened upon the observance of The Liturgical Year a decade ago now and incorporated it into my own personal faith. And even though I held back some greenery after Christmas specifically for this purpose, there was no easy way to burn it and not be noticed by the apartment management, who frown upon open flames.  I also typically would have observed burying the alleluia, but as I am currently staying with my daughter as I await testing for some minor medical problems, I opted to do something entirely different this year.

Recently the cross necklace that I have worn since my baptism broke without my realizing it and was lost. To say I was heartbroken was an understatement. So for Valentine's day my husband offered to replace it, the only trouble being, they no longer carried the one I originally purchased. So I decided instead to go with just a simple sterling silver cross. Much less ornate that my original one, but something about the simple beauty of it appealed to me. Since I had only had it for a few days, I took it out yesterday during my quiet time of reflection and thought on what it means as a follower of Christ to bear this mark. I've mentioned in several posts recently about the series I am currently listening to each day, Practicing the Way, which as you've heard me say before, has been life changing, so these thought were fresh on my mind. After a time of reflection and prayer I then "buried" the necklace, so to speak, by placing it inside the little box that it originally came in. It's not very pretty and my plan is to cross stitch a small draw-string pouch and place it in that, partly because it's prettier, but also because I don't want to lose it! So while all of this was a break from tradition, in the end it was lovely, just the same. I actually love the idea of not wearing my cross necklace so much that I think I might make it part of my annual observance. 

Lent, much like Advent, is a season of waiting, symbolizing the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting and praying in the desert. I myself am in a season of waiting. My test, which was originally scheduled for tomorrow, February 19, has now been rescheduled for March 18 due to an ice storm that hit our area today and will keep us in its grips through mid-day on Friday. I am thankful that they were pro-active, as some of the testing requires being on a liquid diet. It would have been disappointing to have gone to all of that trouble for nothing. Still, I felt prepared and it was a little disappointing, but as with everything in my life, I am trusting in His timing and plan.

And so we wait. We had hoped to be in Texas in March to celebrate my oldest daughter's birthday with her, but to be honest Covid probably would have interrupted those plans anyway, so I'm resting in that. At this point I have no idea when we will be back on the road, but my guess is late spring or early summer, but in all honestly I'm not even thinking much past the given day at this point, because I typically don't wait very well. I'm a Plan B kind of girl, I like knowing what's right around the bend. And on that note, that sounds like a need for some intentional, focused prayer.

Do you observe Lent, and if so, what are some of your traditional observances? Share in the comments!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Somber, Beautiful Season of Lent

Tomorrow is the first day of Lent. I'll be sharing more about how I am observing this beautiful season of the church year with you in the coming days, but for today, here is a lovely passage on Lent from one of my favorite books, The Dance of Time by Michael Judge. The labyrinth in the picture is just a short walk from my daughter's apartment. Last year I walked it on New Year's Day, and weather permitting I hope to visit it again this weekend as part of my Lenten observance.

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent lasts for forty days, in imitation of Christ's self imposed exile in the desert at the beginning of His mission. During this time the faithful are expected to give up vices or pleasurable habits, pray and attend mass more frequently, and meditate on the state of their souls. In medieval times people donned sackcloth, smeared their faces with ash and water, flogged themselves and foreswore most food and drink during the Lenten observance. In spite of its severe customs, Lent is a hopeful time. The word comes from the Middle Earth word, lengten or "lengthen", a reference to the fact that the days grow mercifully longer during this time.

Of course, people being people, all of this Lenten-self sacrifice had to be rewarded before it even began. Throughout Europe for three days before the beginning of Lent, businesses closed, streets were blocked off and everyone headed for church, where they went to confession. Afterwards, kegs were tapped, bottles drained, and sweet meats and other foods, soon to be forbidden, were consumed in a bout of wild merrymaking.

Eventually these pre-Lenten revels became concentrated into the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, called Pancake Day, after the sweet pancakes traditionally eaten during the party. In Medieval France where the day was known as mardi gras, or Fat Tuesday, a vast carnival was celebrated during which an enormous ox was paraded through the streets of Paris, surrounded by common folk dressed blasphemously as priests and nuns. The people banged drums and kettles in an unconscious imitation of a Roman triumphal parade. Years later in France's former debauched colony of New Orleans, the party known as Mardi Gras became America's most famous orgy, and a raucous song in the depths of winter. Eventually, however, in New Orleans as in all christian lands, Lent arrives with the grey dawn of Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is calculated backwards forty days from Easter. It is so named because on that day Catholics stand before the church alter and receive on their foreheads a smeared cross of ash from the priest. along with an admonition, that in some churches is still whispered in Latin.

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es
et in pulverem reverteris.

(Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust though shalt return.)

The ashes come from a very specific source. On Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, members of the congregation hold palm fronds, in imitation of the crowds who welcomed Christ into Jerusalem. Afterwards the palms are ceremoniously burned, their ashes collected and stored. They reappear the following year on Ash Wednesday, to be daubed on the foreheads of the faithful. The symbolism of Ash Wednesday's is circular, striking and sublime. A year after the Savior's symbolic entrance into the city, the very ashes of the banners once held forth to honor him now prepare the faithful for the season of His crucifixion. 

- from The Dance of Time
by Michael Judge

Monday, February 15, 2021

Sacred Pathways

I mentioned in my previous post that for the past few weeks I've been listening to a sermon series produced by Bridgetown Church called Practicing The Way. To say that this series has been life changing for me is an understatement, I've only just completed the vision casting portion which was a series that was presented over twelve weeks, one message each Sunday, but since I've been listening to them during my personal time of reading and reflection each morning, I completed this portion in a little under two weeks. I'm beginning the next portion, Be With Jesus, tomorrow morning and I am so excited!

This series has cast a vision for me of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ better than anything I have ever heard or experienced in my lifetime, and I've been in church my entire life.  Basically being a follower of Christ means to be a disciple, or student of Christ, and to become like Him, you live like He did. It means to;

- Be With Jesus, as a student (disciple), spending time with Him.

- Become Like Jesus, which is essentially the by-product of spending time with Him.

- Do The Things That Jesus Did, which is a further outcome of spending time with Him and becoming like Him.

I've taken almost an entire notebook of notes and in the coming week I plan to spend some time going back and re-reading them and sharing some of the key insights from this series with you and how it is rocking my world! But today I actually wanted to jump ahead into the sixth message in the series, How We Change: Key Thoughts on Practice. I'm not going to get into the message so much right now because I want to share more on that in another post. But, there is a survey that John Mark mentioned in this message that I think would benefit anyone regardless of where you are in the series, or even if you never listen to it yourself, just for life in general. Its called The Sacred Pathways Survey which helps you to discover how you naturally connect with God and what your spiritual style is. The link above explains it a little more in depth and then you can take the survey, here.

To be honest I was really surprised with my results, as I honestly thought that nature would rank probably in the first or second spot, but that was not the case at all for me. But, after taking the survey, scoring the results and reading through the explanations of each, this is a perfect reflection of me. I'm honestly so glad that I took it, because I think without it I would have been spending a lot more time in nature, when in reality there are other ways I connect more personally with God. Not that spending nature is a bad thing, it's just not as high of a priority for me as others. Here are my results.

I connect with God naturally through;

1. Tradition
Following time-honored spiritual traditions and practices.

2. Sensation
Experiencing God with your physical senses or imagination.

3. Quiet Prayer
Being absorbed with God through silence and solitude.

These three all tied for 1st actually, scoring a 10 in each, but knowing myself personally I would say this how they line up. The rest played out as follows;

4. Learning
Gaining insights about God and life with Him.

5. Asceticism 
Obstaining from comforts to make more space for God.

6. Nature
Appreciating the beauty of God's creation.

7. Caregiving
Offering God's compassion to those hurting or struggling.

8. Enthusiastic Worship
Celebrating God's goodness with thanks and praise.

9. Social Justice 
Actively engaging with others to serve the poor and needy.

As I said, I was actually pretty shocked that Nature came in at number 6, but that being said, this is an accurate reflection of my personality and aligns perfectly with my Meyer's Briggs personality of INFJ, who are known for being highly creative and artistic, idealistic, and enjoy thinking about the meaning of life. It also aligns with my Enneagram 5w4 profile who are creative and expressive, observing and understanding of small details, and who have a deep level of focus and attention. These results also explain in depth why I have been so drawn to The Liturgical Year and practices such as The Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina , Centering Prayer and the like. I have also always been BIG on tradition and plan for and celebrate the holidays, Christmas especially, and much of that is through food and other activities which falls in line completely with sensation. 

I will say however, that even though caregiving fell low on my list, I am the type of person that enjoys creating events and atmospheres for my family and close friends to come and experience. These are the ways that I express care and love. It is true as well that while Social Justice scored dead last, I do care about such things and I do have very strong opinions. I'm just not vocal about them, at least not publicly. My close friends and family, however, know exactly where I stand on the issues! :) I also often don't agree with the tactics employed by some "christians" when voicing their disagreements and feel that they do not represent Christ or other christians well, as has been the case recently in the response to the latest Presidential election. The bible says that we are to pray for those in authority, and that is what I try to practice. To be honest, I don't get too hung up on politics because thankfully my faith is in someone who holds a much higher, God, Himself!  I don't know if that is a healthy approach, but it works for me.

So, before this becomes a short story, I'm going to close and make myself some dinner. If you decided to take the survey yourself I'd love to hear what your results are! You may not be into this sort of thing, but I find them fascinating and very revealing!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Resting In The Holding Pattern and Practicing The Way

Good Wednesday afternoon, my friends! I hope this finds you rested, peaceful and well. 

I wanted to bring you up to date on a few things that are going on in my life, first regarding my health, where we are currently with van life, as well as a HUGE work that the Lord is doing in my life right now through a series that I just happened on to a couple of weeks ago.

So first, my health and van life. We've been back in our home town of Lynchburg since early December. The original plan was to spend the holidays with our daughter and head out again after the first of the year.  But shortly before we arrived here I ran into what they believe is just a little minor health problem but one that is going to require further testing (19th), and possible surgery. So, with that, we've been in limbo. Thankfully we've been able to park the van on some land in an area that we've long been familiar with and love, so that's been nice, and it's allowed us to spend an extended amount of time visiting with our daughter. I can already see God's hand in this delay, so I'm resting literally and spiritually in that. My test is scheduled for 10:30 on the 19th of February, which is in just a little over a week, so while I'm not expecting that to reveal anything other than what we believe is going on, if you want to keep me in your prayers they would be appreciated. I think my biggest fear/challenge is that this is the type of test that requires that you drink some goop that I've been told by those who have gone before me, is difficult to keep down. Factor in my overly sensitive gag reflex when it comes to taste and texture, and yeah, fingers crossed and prayers lifted! :) 

That being said, since we've been parked and have a strong signal for a couple of months now I've taken advantage of this time and listened to a couple of series from a few churches and pastors that I like and they have all been life breathing! It may not be for everyone, but being an introvert I just have to say that I've really grown to love online services and even more when I discover a wealth of previous teachings in the archives. I've used the bible app for years as my primary source for devotionals, but in this season I much prefer listening to a live speaker! So, anyway . . . that was how I happened on to the series that I am currently in Practicing The Way of Jesus which is put out by Bridgetown Church. Y'all, (that's a throw back to my Texas roots!), I don't even know where to begin, but I guess I'll start with a confession.

I've been in church my ENTIRE life, I've attended a number of churches, tried 2-3 different denominations, and was part of a "non-denominational" (don't even get me started) church for close to twenty years. And while I will credit that church with teaching me the difference between religion and a relationship, for the most part I have s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e-d all of my life with trying to do all-the-things that I was told a good, fruit-bearing christian does. If I'm being perfectly honest and transparent with you, after awhile, I was burned out. I stop reading my bible for awhile, I occasionally prayed (usually during a crisis), until I would begin to feel guilty, doubt my salvation, and start the whole process all of over again. I even entertained at one time that I was simply not one of the chosen and that the reason this must be so hard was because God never intended for me to be with him forever in heaven to begin with. And can I just call that a lie from the pits of hell! But at my spiritual rock bottom, that's where I was.

In all honesty I think part of the problem was that in every case where a church body presented the steps to becoming a christian and led me to that point, beyond that, I was on my own. Other than instructing me to read my bible, pray, go to church, not a single person offered to come along side me and show me the way, which I realize now is because for the most part, they didn't/don't know it themselves, or at least, not all of it. The best advice I was given was to establish a slot and spot, open my bible, read, pray, get involved in a small group and find a place to serve. And guys I did ALL of that, and while for the sake of this post and the possibility of overwhelming you I will save most of that for another day, I have very strong and I feel spiritually founded beliefs about small groups and serving in the church, but I will share that with you in another post. All that to say, nothing about this model grew me spiritually. Yes, it filled me with a lot of head knowledge, if I retained it. I got a lot of great recipes from my fellow small group members, gained ten pounds, and I wore myself out physically and emotionally trying to make sure I checked serving off of my weekly good christian to do list. If I'm being honest, this aspect alone caused me to grow bitter and resentful  until eventually Sunday became my least favorite day of the week. I was so physically and emotionally worn out from all the "doing" and the "trying", that eventually I just gave up on the traditioal church model all together. Deep down, though I didn't know at the time what it was, I knew there had to be a better way. This couldn't be "life and life to the full" that Jesus offered.

It was around that same time that I began following a hand full of Catholic bloggers and became intrigued with the Catholic church, and in particular, the liturgical year, also known as The Year of the Lord. I loved the rhythm and ritual associated with it, and tracing the life of Christ from his birth, to his death and through His ministry. I first began by observing lent, and then advent and eventually incorporated some of the other feast days into my personal faith. But there were other aspects that I struggled with, such as praying to the saints, and the belief that Mary was born blameless and without sin, not to mention the idea of confession and the status of the Pope. So in spite of the fact that it had enriched my spiritual life and drew me closer to what I was searching for, I found myself in limbo. I was too protestant to be Catholic, and to Catholic to be protestant, and I've been in that stage, for several years, until now.

During the pandemic I've been spending a lot of time listening to podcasts and searching the archives of pastor's and churches that I respect and listening to sermons. I had bookmarked a number of them and saved them for a later day. I've shared with you before, or at least, I think I did, that my word for 2021 is SEEK. So towards the end of the year I set up a file with some links to some sermons and series that I thought might focus on that idea, and one of them, which I orginially thought was a stand alone message was called Unhurrying With a Rule of Life. Looking back I'm not even sure what it was about this message that caused me to think it had anything to do with seeking, I think it was that word "unhurrying" that caught my eye, because for two years I've been telling the Holy Spirit that I want my word for the year to be "slow", "simple", 'unhurried", but He's not playing my game, so, a-n-y-w-a-y. Like I said, two weeks ago I clicked on that link and that was when I discovered that this message was actually a part of a much bigger series called, Practicing The Way. And being a Type A, Enneagram 5 type person, naturally I HAD to start at the beginning, and can I say that for once in my life my natural tendencies and personality served me well, because guys, I sought, and He is answering through this series. 

So, this series unlike any other instruction on being a christian has done before, keeps it pretty simple. There are three aspects to being a disciple (student) of Jesus Christ:

- Being With Jesus

- Becoming Like Jesus

- Doing the things that Jesus did.

And guys, that's it! Now you have to understand that Jesus did a LOT of things, like being in the word, and engaging in silence and solitude, observing the sabbath, fasting and praying, just to name a few.These are ALL of the spiritual disciplines that not only Christ, but that members of the early church engaged in, and yet NOT once in all the years that I have attended church has anyone ever instructed me in this, but it's all there! Yes, reading the bible and being in the word is one of those practices, BUT the instruction I received in all the years prior to this did nothing more than fill my head with knowledge, and knowing something is not enough, it's not even the purpose of God's word. Even Satan knows scripture! The purpose of reading the bible is to be with Jesus so that you then become like Jesus and to learn about how He lived His life so you can then go out and do what He did! Maybe this all seems so obvious to you, and  I hope it does. It has honestly been embarrassing for me over the years to watch my friends seem to effortlessly live out their lives with Jesus while I struggled to understand why this "formula" just never seemed to work for me. But now it has me wondering if they aren't missing out too, because I can promise you I know for a fact that many of the spiritual disciplines that characterized Christ's life have never once been mentioned in the churches I've attended. There are reasons for that, I'm just learning, and we can discuss that more in depth in future posts, but guys I am telling you, I've been missing out and missing the whole point and now, I get it! This series has been LIFE CHANGING for me and I'm barely even into it! I'm just now working my way through the Vision Casting portion of the series, and if you decide to listen to it I would encourage you not to skip over that part. While it was created to cast the vision to a particular church body, it will still benefit you in understanding the history behind the practices and why they are vital to growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ

So finally, you can expect that I'll be sharing more as this series and its transformative impact on my life is front and center at this time, in conjunction with striving to live a slow, sustainable lifestyle, and isn't it just like God that it all is just coming together in the most beautiful way, so much so that it feels like a gift I feel unworthy to receive!  I'll still include other content here as well, so if this isn't your cup of tea or it doesn't speak to you, then feel free to skip over this post and others related to it. I'll be back soon, becuase I have so much more I want to share with you! This is only the beginning!

~ Peace.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

A Little Thank You!

I needed a thank you card for a package I sent out to a friend today, and rather than make a trip to the store to buy a package, IF I could even find one I liked, I decided to make my own.
I thought you might like, too.

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Friday, February 5, 2021

A Tale of Two Betsy's - The Books From My Childhood

Good Friday evening, friends, and my apologies for being absent from this space for almost a week! I won't go into a lot of details about the whys, but please know that I have missed posting regularly this week and tonight I am back to discuss one of my FAVORITE topics, CHILDREN'S LITERATURE, specifically from my childhood and in some cases my daughter's childhood, as I was late to discover a few of these gems!

I'v decided since there are so-many-books, to write this in a series of posts featuring 2-3 authors and some of their works each time, so if you love children's literature, be looking for more posts coming in the future, but tonight, we're going to begin at the beginning, with my absolute favorite series of all time, and follow it up with another sweet series, both of which happen to feature little girls named Betsy.

1. The Betsy Tacy Series
by Maud Hart Lovelace
This series is hands down my absolute all time favorite! The characters are all well developed, the setting is dreamy, and the storyline of each book is just as sweet as punch! If you long for a need to escape the world and step back to a simpler time, look no further than to Betsy, Tacy and Tib. You can follow their adventures from grade school all the way through to Betsy's wedding day and every story is just as delightful as the next! I discovered this series when my girls were young and it was one of our all time favorites! I've read the entire series twice now and I'm considering embarking on them again! They remind me a lot of the characters and setting of one of my favorite movies, Meet Me in St. Louis!

Here are the links to the books in order:

So as you can see, there are a number of books in this series to keep you busy for quite awhile. When I first discovered them I could not put them down and read the entire series over one summer! If you're not familiar with these lovely stories I highly recommend them!

2. The Betsy Series 
by Carolyn Haywood
This next series is one from my own childhood and features another character named Betsy. I vividly recall finding these books at my elementary school library and falling in love with the characters and stories! However, at that time I only recall reading perhaps the first four books, and it wasn't until I was homeschooling my girls and came across the others that I finished most of them. Sadly, since I haven't been able to find a copy of Snowbound With Betsy or Merry Christmas From Betsy, I've stopped until hopefully one day I will! My OCD self can't entertain the thought of reading them out of order. So here I sit.

- Snowbound With Betsy - this is sadly, this is one of the books in the series I was not able to find on the archives, and the only one in the series I have never read, primarily because I just can't bring myself to pay $70.00 to $500.00 for a book! I've had my eye out for YEARS, but to no avail. I just hope that some day someone loads it to the archives!
Merry Christmas from Betsy - not available from the archives.

So if like this series and you ever come across a copy of either Snowbound With Betsy or Merry Christmas From Betsy, nab them up, and if you find two at a decent price, nab one for me, too and I'll pay you for it! :) 

Both of these authors wrote other books as well, so if you like either of these series, just search on their name in the archives and it will bring up their other works!

What are some of your favorite books or series books from your childhood? I'd love to hear!

Friday, January 29, 2021

Living The Liturgical Year - Candlemas

It's been about twelve years since I was first introduced to The Liturgical Year, or The Year of Lord, and Candlemas was the first holy day I observed. Also known as The Feast of The Purification, as well as The Feast of the Presentation, it is coming up next Tuesday, February 2, and it's beautiful. At least, it is for me.

The story of Jesus being presented at the temple, the offering of the doves by Joseph and Mary, and wise old Simeon, who's promise from the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before laying his eyes upon the Jesus, his Savior. It's just the sweetest!

It's been 40 days since we celebrated Christmas , and even though Candlemas it is not part of the Christmas season, it is considered a "Christmas feast" as it is the last feast of the Liturgical calendar where Christ is commemorated as an infant child. It was considered by the early church as the absolute last day by which to have your greenery and other Christmas trimmings put away, and following this day, all thoughts give way to Septuagesima and forward to Lent

❊ The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
There are several events that are commemorated on Candlemas, one of them being The Feast of the Purification. Under Mosaic law, a woman was viewed as unclean for 7 + 33 days 40 days) after child birth, and as such, could not go into the temple. From the 25th of December, February 2 marks forty days.

Though I am past my child bearing years, there is a beautiful ritual practiced in some Catholic churches known as the Churching of Women. Jessica, from Shower of Roses has received this blessing following the birth of several of her children. And while I am not Catholic I have borrowed over the years from the faith, incorporating various feasts and celebrations into my own faith and making them my own.

For me personally I love the idea of taking this day to give thanks for and celebrating my womanhood.  For those of us with children who already celebrate Mother's Day, giving thanks for the gift of being a woman could be much more personal and introspective. Some ideas might include;

- "Purifying" yourself by preparing a special bath, complete with candlelight and music.You could spend some time before or after in prayer and offer thanks to God for creating you to be a woman. Maybe add some bath salts, I think the lavender scent sounds lovely.

- Purchase a lovely, feminine, shawl. I ordered this one in sage green just today and it is set arrive on Candlemas. Though I couldn't find the exact one I ordered previously, I have a red one similar to this. You can see it in this post.

- Make Dove Sugar Cookies
The purification ritual obliged Mary to bring a lamb or a dove as a sacrificial offering. Families that could not afford a lamb could present two turtledoves.  As a lovely symbol of this beautiful day, you could make sugar cookies in the shape of a dove. This is my favorite sugar cookie recipe, it's simply, the best! These cookies could also be used to observe and celebrate the Feast of the Presentation.

❊ The Feast of the Presentation of Christ
The Feast of the Presentation of Christ is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I just love the story of Mary and Joseph coming to the temple, their offering of two turtle doves, and of the steadfast faith of Simeon, 

Here are a few ideas for observing The Feast of the Presentation

- The Canticle of Simeon
Prior to eating your meal tonight, read Luke 2:22-40, and then recite together, The Canticle of Simeon. This is a lovely song that you could listen to, as well.

"Now dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, 

In peace, according to Thy word: 

For mine own eyes hath seen Thy salvation, 

Which Thou hast prepared in the sight of all the peoples, 

A light to reveal Thee to the nations." 

Candlemas - The Feast of Light (Return of the Light) or The Feast of Candles
It is that very last line in the canticle, where Simeon refers to Jesus as "the light", that established the tradition of blessing the annual supply of the Church's candles. Beeswax candles were blessed by being sprinkled with water and having incense swung around them, and were then distributed among the members. Today, parishioners bring their own beeswax candles to be blessed. In some churches, the blessing is the followed by a procession in which people carry lighted candles while the choir sings. The procession represents the entry of Jesus as light of the world into the temple. Afterwards, church members take their candles home and place them in their windows as a symbol of light during the darkest days of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

- Blessing The Candles
If you are not Catholic, you can bless your own candles. You will find an example, here.

- Eat Dinner by Candlelight
Another lovely tradition that we have observed a few times is eating dinner by candlelight. I even know of some families who only use candles as their only light source for the entire day. But in our home we only refraine from using electricity and lighting at dinner time.

- Moonlight Lantern Walk
Another tradition I've personally observed the past few years is a moonlight lantern walk. One of the things I've enjoyed about this tradition is that I spend some time during the day on Candlemas making the lantern. This year I'm considering making an ice lantern and simply freezing a small piece of jute or ribbon to the top so that I can carry it without my hands getting too cold.

Here are some other ideas for lanterns that I think are lovely, as well.

- Twig and Paper Lanterns

There are a number of ideas for other lanterns on Pinterest, so be sure to check there if none of these ideas appeals to you.

❊ The End of Christmastide
In medieval times, Christmastide lasted from the nativity to the purification. Today the season of Christmas ends with The Feast of The Baptism of the Lord (January 10, 2021). But there are some who still continue to observe the season through Candlemas, 40 days after Christmas. You can read this article if you want to learn more.

Our famly has always observed Christmas through The Epiphany, when the wise men came to worship Jesus. These are the actual Twelve Days Of Christmas, and we've always kept our decorations out and continued to observe the season with songs and at times, small gifts. But I actually love the idea of stretching it out a little longer and fulfilling the 40 day cycle which we see so commonly throughout the bible and in scripture. The flood lasted 40 days and nights, Jesus was in the desert for 40 days. 40 days holds significance. I'm not sure exactly what that will look like at this point, but its something I'm going to give some thought to before next year.

This very ancient carol, below, also speaks of the departure of Christmas on this day. It is called "I Am Christmas," and was written by James Ryman, a Franciscan Friar, ca. 1492. The reference to Hallowtide (the days of the dead centering around All Saints Day) here refers to the fact that it was during Hallowtide that monarchs used to announce where they would be spending Christmas.

I Am Christmas

Here have I dwelled with more or lass

From Hallowtide till Candelmas,

And now must I from you hens pass;

Now have good day.

I take my leve of king and knight,

And erl, baron, and lady bright;

To wilderness I must me dight;

Now have good day!

And as the good lord of this hall

I take my leve, and of gestes all;

Me think I here Lent doth call;

Now have good day!

And at every worthy officere,

Marshall, panter, and butlere

I take my leve as for this yere;

Now have good day!

Another yere I trust I shall

Make mery in this hall,

If rest and peace in England fall;

Now have good day!

But oftentimes I have herd say

That he is loth to part away

That often biddeth 'Have good day!";

Now have good day!

Now fare ye well, all in fere,

Now fare ye well for all this yere;

Yet for my sake make ye good cheer;

Now have good day!

❊  Groundhog's Day
Of course most people are more familiar "Groundhog's Day", which also falls on February 2. in America, it is the day when, if the groundhog sees his shadow, there'll be 6 more weeks of winter. There is a similar belief in Europe about how Candlemas weather foretells the length of winter. The English have a saying, "If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year." The Germans also have a few sayings about how the weather at Candlemas bodes ill or well for the nearness of Spring:

When the bear sees

his shadow at Candlemas,

he will crawl back into his

or this one;

If Candlemas is mild and pure,

Winter will be long for sure.

And finally;

If it storms and snows on Candlemas day

Spring will not be far away.

If Candlemas is bright and clear,

Spring is not yet near.,

In our home we've used a variation on these poems;

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright<

Winter will have another fight.

If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain

Winter is gone and will not come again

But I also came across this lovely little poem just this week, which is so much like the poems we've traditionally used during Advent that I wish I'd found it when the girls were young. At any rate, if you followed along with my Advent plans last year, perhaps you'll enjoy it.

Candle, candle burning bright,

Winter's halfway done tonight.

With a glowing, we are knowing,

Spring will come again!.

While Punxsutawny Phil is fun, personally I much prefer the loveliness of Candlemas.

Ideas For Observing Candlemas
If you want to conduct an actual Candlemas Ceremony, you'll find an outline here.

- Let children roll and make their own beeswax candles, or if you want to get really adventurous, perhaps make some by dipping them a few days ahead. Here's a kit for making your own rolled candles, or you and also purchase them ready made. I also love these orange peel candles, so beautiful how so many of the same elements are used in decorations from Advent through to the days before Lent. If you do make your own candles, here's another lovely poem to share with the littles in your life.

“A candle’s but a simple thing, 

it starts with just a bit of string.

But dipped and dipped with patient hand,

it gathers wax upon the strand.

Until complete and snowy white,

it gives at last a lovely light.

Life seems so like that bit of string,

each deed we do a simple thing.

Yet day by day on life’s strand,

we work with patient heart and hand.

It gathers joy,makes dark days bright

and gives at last a lovely light.”

- Light candles and set them in the windows. You can use the electric or battery operated ones that are popular at Christmas for safety. . 

- These spirals are traditionally made for Advent, but would pretty for Candlemas, as well. Perhaps make a ring and place four candles, one for every ten days from Christmas to Candlemas at differnt places on the ring. It would make a lovely centerpiece for your candlelight dinner table. You could also make this Swedish Coffee Tea Ring and place four candles in it, as well. 

Well, I hope that this has given you some ideas for celebrating this lovely day! Candlemas is one of my favorite celebration, and as with so many other aspects of The Year of the Lord, filled with deep meaning and symbolism. I hope you will try out a few of these ideas and savor in the beauty of this lovely day with your family.

Thursday, January 28, 2021


Forever – is composed of Nows –

‘Tis not a different time –

Except for Infiniteness –

And Latitude of Home –

From this – experienced Here –

Remove the Dates – to These –

Let Months dissolve in further Months –

And Years – exhale in Years –

Without Debate – or Pause –

Or Celebrated Days –

No different Our Years would be

From Anno Dominies –

It snowed today. It wasn't the heaviest or even the prettiest snow I've seen, but after 600+ days without it (at least, here in our small town), it was beautiful.

We are in a holding pattern at the moment. I have some minor health issues that need attending to, and as is typically the case with doctors, the earliest they can see me is February 19. But if I'm honest, I'm fine with it. We've been here since the week after Thanksgiving and it's been good to be able to visit with my daughter. I occupy myself well enough, helping out with cleaning and such,  and I've enjoyed being able to bake and cook again.

The van is parked on a beautiful peace of property about forty five minutes from where our daughter lives. I've split my time between both locations, but today I am at the apartment. I had planned to help out by cleaning out the refrigerator, but with the snow came the urge to bake, so I made up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I baked half and put the rest of the dough in the refrigerator so that I could make up another batch fresh from the oven this weekend. Chocolate chip cookies are best served warm with a cold cup of milk. At least, that's the way I like them.

In the middle of my baking a package arrived. The mortar and pestle I ordered earlier this week. It's taken me awhile to decide if I wanted wood or marble, but in the end I went with natural wood. I'm excited for spring and foraging for wild herbs and making teas and adding to our home apothecary. I've immersed myself in learning all that I can on the subject. I find it fascinating!

Simple and slow. These the small ways that fill the moments of my ordinary days. This, is now.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Nurturing My Inner Child

Recently I discovered a You Tube artist who's calming vlogs have inspired and encouraged me, The Cottage Fairy. Produced by a beautiful young woman with an even  lovelier name, Paola. Her vlogs chronicle her  simple, sustainable life in rural Washington State. I follow a number of other You Tube artists who vlog on the subject of slow and simple living, but The Cottage Fairy is definitely my favorite. Paola is wise beyond her years, an "old soul", as my grandmother used to say, and even though I am old enough to be her mother, I've learned so much from her already. I feel the Lord sent her my way at just the right time.

You may recall back in September, I completed an exercise that revealed and categorized my core values. In some ways i was surprised, I suppose, when Childlike Faith was among them, in fact it ranked #2. Though I was aware of some of the qualities in my life that were, I suppose, childlike, I never attributed them to that. Things such as awe, curiosity, delight, inquisitiveness, playfulness, to name a few.

I have known for some time that there existed in me a childlike state, I don't really know how else to describe it. A part of my core self that because of trauma, never matured. It wasn't a problem as far as preventing me from functioning as an adult, but is more like a part of myself that I was never allowed to explore, aspects of my personality that were repressed and not allowed to fully form. In short, I've always been keenly aware of the inner child that existed in me, but until recently it caused me a lot of shame. But even before I found Paolo's video, the Holy Spirit had begun a healing and I was beginning to embrace the part of my soul that never lost touch with the wonder of childhood.

In many ways being a mother has taught me to mother myself, and to give the inner child in me the permission and freedom to simply "be",  in ways that my own childhood did not allow for. I don't want to elaborate on that too much because I loved my mother and I don't want to paint a grim picture. She simply had hurts of her own that naturally affected me. It has been the same for myself and my children. Every parent is, to some extent, a broken parent raising and breaking our own children. 

But it wasn't until recently that rather than mourn for the little girl within, that I began nurturing that part of myself and empowering her. I hope this doesn't sound too schizo, because it certainly isn't a case of a split personality. I am wholly one person, but as with all of us, there are aspects of my personality and being that have grown and developed at different times throughout my life. My inner child was a part of myself that I pushed away for many years because I was an adult and it felt wrong to allow myself to entertain those feelings. But I realize now that in denying this aspect of myself, I have been surpressing vital parts of my overall persona. Embracing my inner child has changed me in ways I never imagined, and made me wholly a better human.

Among other things my inner child has taught me to embrace my slower, more awe-struck, and yes, perhaps easily distracted self. If by taking life at a slower pace I am dazzled by starlight and enchanted by bumble bees, so be it! I would be sad and in every sense of the word, denying my true self if I was or pretended to be anything else. I did that for years. No more.

The child in me still loves 
- Swinging so high my feet almost touch the sky.
- Tales of woodland animals and forest kingdoms.
- Building sand castles.
- Making snow angels.
- Coloring in coloring books.

I'm sure I could name more, but these are just a few that come to mind. 

Do you nourish your inner child? If it's not something you've ever considered, I encourage you to watch the video above (as well all of the rest!), and reconnect with the childlike wonder that lives on in each of us!

Also, Candlemas, one of my favorite days of the year is coming next week! I'll share more in the coming days!

~ Peace.