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.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A Sabbatarian Rhythm - Blessing The Weekend

"The Sabbatarian Pattern - six days of work followed by one day of rest, is woven deep into the fabric of the Bible. The very first story in the Bible climaxes on the seventh day, the first time there was a seventh day. Having created everything, God rests and blesses this day and makes it holy. God declares, as fully as possible, just how very good creation is. Resting, God takes pleasure in what He has made; God has no regrets, no need to go on to create an even still better world or creatures more wonderful than the man and woman. In the day of rest, God's free love toward humanity takes form as time shared with them

Later, God teaches the children of Israel to share in the blessing of this day (Exodus 16). After bringing them out of Egyptian slavery and into the wilderness, God sends them manna, commanding them to gather enough each morning for that day's food alone. Mistrusting, they gather more than they need, but it rots. One the sixth day, however, they are told to gather enough for the next two days. Miraculously the extra manna does not rot, and those mistrustful one who go out on the seventh day to find more, find none. God is teaching them, through their own hunger and His provision, to keep the Sabbath, even before Moses receives the commandments on Sinai. 

In these two passages both commandments require the same behavior, work for six days and rest on the seventh, but each gives a different reason. What is wonderful is that each reason arises from a fundamental truth about God's relationship to humanity. 

The Exodus commandment to "remember" the sabbath day, is grounded in the story of creation. The human pattern of six days of work and one of rest follows God's pattern as Creator. God's people are to rest on one day because God did. In both work and rest human beings are in the image of God. At the same time, they are not God by God's creatures, who must honor God by obeying this commandment. 

In Deuteronomy the commandment to "observe" the sabbath day is tied to the experience of a people newly released from bondage. Slaves cannot take a day off, free people can. When they stop work every seventh day, the people will remember that the Lord brought them out of slavery. Sabbath rest is a recurring testimony against the drudgery of slavery.

Together, these two renderings of the Sabbath commandment summarize the most fundamental stories and beliefs of the Hebrew scriptures; creation and exodus, humanity in God's image and a people liberated from captivity. One emphasizes holiness, the other justice"



from Practicing The Faith: A Way of Life For A Searching People

Many years ago when my girls were younger, we began observing a Sabbath day of rest. On this day we abstained from work and from our screens. We did allow for a family movie and often watched one together, and I will admit that if it was football season, my husband definitely watched his favorite team. But for the most part this day was reserved for activities such as going out to dinner or on a picnic, hiking, playing board games and doing fun things together as a family. We also often took time to enjoy individual activities such as reading or crafting, but we still did these things together in the same room. In preparing ahead I also made sure that our meals for the day were made the day before, or I would throw something in the crock pot and let it do the work for me. Most weeks I also baked a special treat for the day. It was a wonderful time, and because we planned ahead for it, it was something we looked forward to each week.

Now that the girls are grown and on their own, I still observe a Sabbath day of rest, but it has become much more personal. Sometimes my husband and I will still go on a hike or maybe to get coffee and spend some time at the local book store, but for the most part we both prefer not to go anywhere on that day and just allow things to unfold. Even traveling in the van this year, we typically tried to plan our week so that at least on at least one day we were stationary and not on the road.

Traditionally in Jewish homes the Sabbath, or Shabbat (Sha-BAHT), begins a few minutes before sundown on Friday evening and lasts through the appearance of three stars on Saturday evening. It is ushered in by the lighting of candles and the reciting of prayers. A lovely tradition that I have observed myself from time to time, and would like to become more intentional in observing again. You can learn more about this beautiful practice, here, as well as the Shabbat prayers, here.

My friend Heather has a practice she likes to call Blessing The Weekend, which is very close to a Sabbath. She sets aside time every Friday afternoon to tidy the house, she prepares meals (or at least has an idea of what she will be making) ahead of time, as well as having a few special baked treats on hand. It is basically just a time for setting the weekend up to flow a little easier so that she can relax and spend time with her family.

Last year I wrote a similar post, but in light of my recent need to re-ground myself and slow the pace of life, I want to be a little more intentional with my sabbath. Even though I've continued to observe it, if I"m honest so much of time I get drawn right back on to my computer and in to social media, when there are better ways that I could be spending that time. That's one of the reasons I was excited to find this bible study, which I plan to begin today, Return To The Sabbath with Sarah Koontz. It's a free, six week, self paced study and I think it might be just the thing I need. I also love the idea of Blessing The Weekend, and find the elements so interchangeable that I plan to incorporate a little of both. Of course living in the van presents some challenges if we happen to be traveling, but typically we always stop to rest on Sunday and it could be that my sabbath might be on a different day, which is perfectly fine! There's really no right or wrong way to observe it, the most important thing is that you take the time to rest. And if you don't want to incorporate the prayers, then Blessing The Weekend might be a rhythm that works better for you!

I had previously made up a form for Blessing The Weekend that I've linked before, but yesterday I made up a little form for planning out a sabbath as well. I'm linking them both below and I hope that you'll be blessed by one or both of them. In the coming days I'm going to be posting some recipes and ideas for non-screen time activites, as well as a few books that you might enjoy during a time of rest that will encourage you in this practice, as well. If you currently observe a sabbath each week I'd love to hear how you plan for it, what rituals are a part of your observance (if any), as well as any other thoughts you might have! Let's encourage one another to be intentional about setting aside time for rest!

"At home, the kitchen was warm with the smell of fresh baked white bread. The room sparkled with cleanliness. The table, which wore only an oilcloth covering all through the week, now had a snowy white tablecloth. On it stood the brass candlesticks, gleaming brightly from the polishing that Ella and Sarah had given them the day before. They were just in time to see Mama saying the prayer over the candles.

The children stood around the table watching her. A lovely feeling of peace and contentment seemed to flow out from Mama to them. First she put a napkin on her head, then placing four white candles in the brass candlesticks, she lit them. She extended her arms to form a circle. One the lighted candles the encircling gesture was repeated. After that Mama covered her eyes with her hands softly murmuring a prayer in Hebrew.

This was Sabbath ushered in."


Monday, January 25, 2021

Slow and Steady - Daring To Defy The Norm

*This is a repost from 2019, but one that expresses  my desires to live a SLOW life.  I've struggled to find SLOW in recent months, and felt a need to pull back and return to center. Re-reading this post was life-breathing for me, as I hope it will be, for you.

There is a certain slant of light that has intrigued me since I was a little girl. I have a very vivid memory of sitting on the floor in my bedroom, the window was opened and a warm breeze was blowing in.  I recall the sunlight leaning through almost in want, it seemed, to touch my face. I was reminded of the verse in the gospel following Christ's baptism when the light from heaven fell upon Jesus' face, "This is my beloved son. . . ." God spoke, "In whom I am well pleased."  Even at my young age, I wondered if He was pleased with me, and I recall feeling as though His pleasure surrounded me.

Over the years the light often caught my eye, and I always took time to notice, a habit which distressed my mother greatly. I may have spoken to this before. She referred to it as "dawdling" or "lallygagging", and it wasn't tolerated. And so I learned to move at a quicker pace, but always with a tinge of regret for the loveliness of the world that beckoned me. I never cared for hurry, or for the feeling of being rushed. Even as early as my late elementary years, I was very intentional with my time. I often set my alarm thirty minutes earlier than was needed so that in the final moments before I departed for school, I would have time to read the next chapter in my current book, or listen to a couple of songs from my latest album, or to simply sit on the front steps of our house and observe. Even in our suburban 70's neighborhood, my eyes were naturally drawn to beauty.

But somewhere along the way I succumbed to the expectations and pressures of society. Slow simply wasn't an acceptable way to live. It was expected at home, at school and in my later years, at work, and once I became a mother myself, multi-tasking became the norm. Time passed at an alarming rate, and with each passing day an angst arose within me which led to a season of deep depression. I caved beneath the pressure of all that was expected of me. I was a wife, mother, daughter, employee, school volunteer, friend, and the list goes on. None of which were uncommon roles. My friends bore the same burdens, and spoke of it often.  We were all "just so busy", but what was to be done?  It appeared as though this was simply the norm, and I began to question how I would survive it. I almost didn't.

It took a bit of a break down for me to realize that I am simply not built to withstand the pressures and expectations of what other's may view as "a normal" life". That's not to say that I could or would want to eliminate any of the roles that I fill. My deepest desire was always to be a wife and mother, and I have been blessed to be both. But when I began to look back upon my life, to reflect upon my natural inclination for dawdling, I realized that it wasn't the roles I filled that overwhelmed me, it was the intersecting demands for my attention that often set me spinning. In short, I am simply not equipped for multi-tasking. I like to do things well, and for me that means focusing on the task at hand until it is completed before I move on to the next thing. That doesn't mean that I finish a project in one sitting. I love to crochet, but if I were to make an afghan I certainly wouldn't ignore other duties until it was finished, too many other, more important things would be left undone. But what it does mean is that I try to schedule my days so that for a certain period of time my focus is solely upon adding a few more rows to it. Some weeks that might be daily, and at other times I might not be able to pick it up again for a few weeks. But I try to live in such a way that whatever task I am engaged in is my singular focus until it is time to move on to the next. Of course there are days, perhaps even seasons, when a bit of multi-tasking is required. But I've learned, the hard way, not to allow this to go on for too long. It is essential to my emotional and physical well being to limit multi-tasking, but also to be attentive to the speed at which I work, as well. I don't like to be rushed or hurried, and as much as I loved my mother, as an adult I've embraced my "lallygagging" and my need to live life at a slower pace. It might sound a little strange, but to be intentional in focusing on one task at a time, and to eliminate hurry and rush, I plan my days in such a way that allows for slow.

I know that I am drawn to beauty, and that nature does and always has re-charged me. I don't want to walk past a planter of beautiful flowers and see a honeybee there and not be able to stop and admire it. Bees are one of my favorite creatures. So to allow for that, I build in time to "stop and smell the roses", if you will. If I know I have a margin of time in route to my destination, then the few minutes I allow myself to take in the beauty that surrounds me isn't stressful, and in doing so, I arrive more peaceful and at rest. I can feel, internally, when I've allowed myself to be rushed for too long. It's that old familiar angst, which immediately signals the need to slow my pace, get out in nature, and narrow my focus. I've even learned to voice that need, and thankfully I have a loving family that understands and supports me. They know what "too much" looks like in my life because my lack of it has, unfortunately, impacted theirs. Insert memories of bad mommy moments, here. But thankfully as they have grown to understand my needs, and I theirs, we've all learned a little about the importance of balance. Slow and steady, it's my favorite speed. That's not to say that I don't care about where I'm going or don't see the big picture, I do. But for me that means leaving early, building margin, breaking down big projects, taking small steps towards big goals, and above all, not allowing myself to be pushed by the frantic, fast pace of this world. My priorities. My pace. It's essential to living a life of authenticity.

Maybe you feel that familiar angst yourself, even if until now you didn't even realize what it was. I didn't understand what I was feeling for years, and it took me a few more to find a way to find the balance. I admit that I am blessed to be a stay at home wife and mother, which makes single-tasking and "smelling the roses" a bit more doable. But whether you are raising a family, working hard for that promotion, or whatever the demands of multi-tasking looks like for you, there are some small steps you can take to slow the pace and narrow your focus, and I'd like to share a few of them with you here.

★ Start Small
My husband loves to watch television, it's how he unwinds. I on the other hand, could go for a months and never turn it on. I need quiet to recharge, and would prefer to read or craft in silence or in nature. Whatever your preference, start by focusing only upon what you are doing in that moment. If like my husband you like to unwind by watching your favorite sit-com, put your phone on the other side of the room, close your lap-top and rather than just catching a funny line here and there or finding after thirty minutes that it was just background noise while you were replying to emails, give it your full attention and really enjoy it. The same if you're like me and you prefer a quiet place to read or enjoy your favorite hobby. Eliminate other distractions and engage fully with what you are doing. Pick one thing and give it your full attention, even if that's only for half an hour. Try to do this every day (maybe a long term goal), or at the very least a couple of times a week to begin.

★ Break Down Large Projects Into Smaller Chunks
I don't know about you but some tasks are just overwhelming, like cleaning out the basement/attic, or spring cleaning, which many of us are about to tackle. Even birthdays and holidays can become overwhelming and so often the demands all seem to hit at the last minute. It stresses me out, and I'm sure it does you as well. Something I have found that helps me combat this is to break it down into smaller chunks.

I worked as an educator and later in public relations/event planning in my career-girl years, and it was then that I established a routine of planning six weeks out. I did the same thing when I homeschooled my children. I would begin about six weeks to a month ahead writing lesson plans, or planning the next event. I would start by making a list of all that needed to be done, down to the tiniest detail and then prioritized it.That way by the time we started the next semester or my next big event came up, 90% of the work was done and all that was left in the end were the little last minute tweaks and details to polish it off. I've gotten out of this habit in recent years, and even as I am writing I am reminded of the need for this in some areas of my life. My baby is twenty now, so I no longer homeschool, but even the daily tasks of home keeping can become overwhelming and tasks can sit left undone without a plan. Maybe planning six weeks out is too much, at least for day-to-day housekeeping, but definitely not for holidays or larger tasks.

★ Narrow Your Choices
In the world of social media we have so many "friends", it's impossible to keep up. Notifications are pinging every minute, and everyone and everything is vying for our attention. The important thing is to control it and not allow it control you. Recently I "unfriended" close to 30 people on FB and unfollowed over a hundred on Instagram. How on earth I thought I had the time to devote my attention to that many people and products and pages fathoms me. Just KNOWING that I followed that many people overwhelmed me, and to be honest, I'm still a little uneasy with the numbers. So to ease that burden, I remained friends but changed my settings. 90% of my Facebook and Instagram feed are pages and articles and topics on things that interest me and bring me joy, and only about 10% are personal posts written by friends and relatives. I am still friends with them, but to see their feed and what they are sharing means that I have to intentionally click the link to go to their page, and I'll be honest, I don't do it often.

I had some friends and even family who seemed a little taken back by my actions. They "enjoy seeing what others are up to", or "just scroll through and ignore most of it", but in the end I had to do what was right for me. I don't, honestly, enjoy scrolling through the day to day details of the lives of more than 100 people. Even half of that is too much for me. I do have a few close friends and family that I enjoy staying in touch with and those are the posts that find their way into my feed. Aside from that there are others that I check in on from time to time, but definitely not daily, and that is how I maintain peace.

Even in real life I've narrowed my focus in this season to my family and a few close friends. My husband and my adult children are my closest friends and I prioritize them above all other relationships. I feel called to build into and build up a few other people in this season, and I aside from that, that is about all I have time for. That has meant hard choices and pulling back from friendships that I had been more actively engaged with, but as with social media, it is necessary. Nothing is more important than my marriage and my daughter right now, and for that, I offer no apologies.

If you find yourself spread too thin in by social media, I would encourage you to do the same thing. You control it, don't let it control you.  Facebook and Instagram can be a good thing, when used properly, and it is good for keeping in contact with faraway family and friends.  But even in that, it is not a requirement.

★ Recharge At The First Sign of Burn Out
As I mentioned, getting in nature, crafting, reading, listening to music, these are all ways that I like to recharge. And while I admittedly have a much smaller threshold than most for burn-out, I've learned to take time to re-charge at the first sign that I am headed in that direction. Otherwise, well, things can get ugly. It isn't isn't selfish to take care of yourself. Jesus leads us by example in retreating Himself, into a boat, into the garden. We all need time alone to engage in and with the things that bring us joy. Even in this, if possible, leave your phone at home, or in another room. I promise, the world will still be waiting when you return. Sometimes when I go for a walk I will take my phone so that I can listen to music, but I've discovered that far too often I find myself in turmoil when I feel that familiar vibration go off indicating to me that someone or something wants my attention, so recently I've started praying during this time instead, and it's been wonderful!

And finally. . .

★ Stop Apologizing
I don't mean for that to sound cold hearted or uncaring, but here's what I've discovered.  People, even people who mean well, are going to question you. Any time you dare to defy what society deems "normal", everyone is going to have an argument or an opinion. Some will be offended, probably in part because they wish they were brave enough to make those choices for themselves. Some people may even be hurt, which is a sad but unfortunate outcome that may still be necessary. I would encourage you to remain strong in your convictions and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you. In all honesty, you don't owe anyone an explanation for doing what you feel led to do and what is necessary to maintain your peace. Your true friends may not like it, but they will understand and support your decisions, and anyone who doesn't, well, probably isn't a very good friend, if at all. If all you have to give right now is to your marriage and your family, they are your God-given FIRST priority, and everything and everyone outside of that is discretional. Right now I feel led by the Holy Spirit to build up and into one of my daughter's friends, and I am being faithful to that prompting. We also recently began attending a new church and I'm being intentional about building community. With that AND rebuilding my marriage and investing in my daughter, I can easily become wiped out. It's been hard, I've been questioned, and I know that there are some who don't understand, but I'm OK with that. A year ago Bill and I were living separate lives and things were different. I had more time to invest in friendships, and it was wonderful. Today my marriage is better than it has ever been and we are healing and growing closer. and that is wonderful, but I don't have it in me right now for both.

Just like the cycles of nature, our lives are "seasonal", too. The Holy Spirit often leads us into change, narrows our focus, instructs us to pull back, and some times, to build in. And the best way I have found to hear His voice and heed His prompting, is by allowing time for quiet. That's pretty counter-cultural by nature because it means single-tasking (making Him our singular focus), and moving at a slower pace. At least, that's the only way it works for me. I'm wired for this and I think more sensitive than most, and yet it is still a struggle for me to find time for quiet. There's a reason God instructed us to, "Be still, and know". You don't get the latter, without the former. Slow and steady, it's still progress, and it brings me peace!

Until then,

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Body and Soul - My Journey To Wellness

When I was in the second grade I was diagnosed with a "nervous stomach", what I assume by today's standards would be the equivalent to IBS. It's been a life-long problem and something that I've more or less learned to live with. I've gone through periods when it was worse than at others which I've now learned are known as "flares". Having suffered with this for more than 90% of my life thus far, over time I settled into a state of acceptance that this was just what my body does. I get stressed, my stomach gets upset, my appetite diminishes, and so on and so on. There are a multitude of outcomes with varying extremes. I'll spare you the details.

But then last week something happened that got my attention and shone a light on what I believe is, perhaps, at the core of my health issues. I noticed a post on one of my friend's FB feed. It was a picture, and in the picture was a familiar face, one that I'd not seen for over forty years and hadn't thought of, really, since childhood. What was interesting to me, though, was that not only was the memory of a person I'd forgotten restored within seconds, but it was quickly followed by a few negative emotions. Feelings I'd forgotten, but obviously, based upon their immediate affect, never dealt with. And that was when it hit me. Now bear with me here if this just seems oh-so-obvious to you, but for whatever reason until that moment I never fully understood the mind-body connection, nor did I realize the extent of the impact that our thoughts and memories have on our bodies.

Even though I'd read articles suggesting that our gut is our second brain, it wasn't until that moment that I made the connection between the collective experiences of my lifetime and my overall health. So often when I am dealing with a stressful situation, be it good stress or bad, my appetite will fluctuate. Often on our travels I will only realize I am hungry when Bill suggests its time for lunch, and even then I frequently begin by saying I'm not hungry, until I see or smell food, and then it sets in. It's as if something doesn't connect. At other times I get so busy that I simply forget to eat until late in the day, and as my mind is ALWAYS busy, I forget frequently. The downside to all of  this is that I become so hungry I then become ravenous and eat a large meal late in the day that my body struggles to digest. 

Another issue I've dealt with all of my life is clinching my jaw and grinding my teeth. Often I will be working on a project or reading, when I'll realize that I have been clinching my jaw for a long period of time. This, of course, is an indicator of underlying stress, which is likewise affecting my digestive system. In spite of realizing these actions and their affects, I had never been able to pinpoint the source of my stress. But based upon my experience last week, I think I may be figuring some of that out.

Without going into a lot of detail, my teenage years and even into my twenties and thirties were VERY difficult. The experiences I encountered in those years resulted in my being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety, mild Generalized Anxiety Disorder and I am likewise a Highly Sensitive Person. Being an HSP doesn't mean I cry a lot, in fact I rarely cry. But what it does mean is that I am easily affected by things such as crowds, bright lights, loud noises, etc. If you're interested in learning more just google "Highly Sensitive People", it will tell you more than you probably care to know. 

In addition to my formal diagnosis, I am INFJ-T on the Meyer's-Briggs Type Indicator Scale, which is the rarest of the personality types and accounts for only 1-2% of the population. I am likewise an Enneagram 5 with a strong 4 wing. They are so close in fact, that I interchange comfortably between them. If you are interested in learning more about the Meyer's Briggs Type Indicator and even want to take a free evaluation, I highly recommend this one. I've taken a number of these tests over the years, and while the result was always the same, I feel that this particular website does a very good job of explaining each of the personality types. I would say that I am definitely an Advocate,  And as I mentioned, I am an Enneagram 5 w 4 on the Enneagram Scale, also known as The Philosopher which I highly relate to. If you are interested in learning more about the Enneagram Scale, I suggest this site, which I believe is produced by the same company. I realize that all of this may sound like a bunch of hullabaloo to you, and I respect that. But for me, taking these assessments has helped me to really come to understand myself and my make-up, and I also find them entertaining. Often when I have some down time I will seek out various online tests, just for kicks and giggles. Sometimes they are enlightening, and often, especially those silly ones on FB,  miss the mark completely! Recently however I came across this fun little test and the results were that my color is GREEN, which made me happy.  You only need to look around here at my little cyber-home, to discover that GREEN and RED are my favorite colors.

Anyway, I feel like I'm starting to ramble here and completely missing the point of this post. In discovering that I (we) carry repressed memories, and repressed emotions as well, I think I am beginning to understand WHY it is that my jaw is clinched so much of the time. And while I realize, being a highly sensitive person, that any number of things can cause me stress in a given day, it just didn't add up. Even collectively, it didn't seem to me that those things would produce the amount of stress I am under. But in consideration of what I discovered last week, it makes sense. I realize now that my current stressors are probably only adding to the collective stress that I've been carrying with me for years. All those memories and emotions tied to unpleasant events in my past, and that's just the things I can recall. It doesn't even take the repressed memories and emotions into account, which makes the level of stress I feel in my body day-to-day much greater. With this in mind, I am looking for intentional ways to reduce stress, as well as working on some ways to deal more affectively with past hurts. I mentioned some of these practices in my post, My Winter Wellness Rhythm, and while I have been successful at implementing some of them, a few of them are still a work in progress.  

One thing I have added to that rhythm is Intermittent Fasting. Without going into a lot of detail because this post is already quite long, Intermittent Fasting is fasting from eating either for a certain amount of hours daily, on certain days of the week, or, for some, even for an extended period of time. While I have fasted religiously in the past, fasting as a regular part of my health routine is not something I have observed. But last week I happened on to a documentary on Prime called Fasting, which explores seven different kinds of fasting and a few of them claim some pretty amazing results. It's a little long, almost two hours, and while I didn't find all of it interesting or relevant, I was impressed with the results that Dr. Jason Fung and Dr. Julie Wai-Shatzel are seeing with their patients. 

Dr. Julie recommends fasting for a period of 12 hours and changing not so much what you eat, but rather when you eat it. It is based upon the Circadian Rhythm that our bodies follow, and encourages eating at optimum times when your body more easily processes and converts calories. The results that both doctors have seen, especially with pre-diabetic and diabetic patients are amazing! I am not diabetic, and my interest in fasting is to reduce my body weight, which I carry primarily around my middle, and to improve my gut health from a physical stand point. But I can tell you that I've been fasting from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. for four days now, and I am already less bloated and feel thinner through my mid-section. Seeing results quickly is so encouraging when you take on a new health regiment, and I'm very pleased.  It also hasn't been that difficult since you are asleep for most of the time you are fasting. I would say the most challenging aspect I have had to deal with so far is not making coffee as soon as I get up, which is typically around 5:30. You can drink black coffee without breaking the fast, but unfortunately for me, I tend to like a little coffee with my creamer.

I am implementing some other practices as well, but as this post is already longer than I intended, I'm going to go ahead and close. So what about you? Is stress a major factor in your life day to day? Any fellow jaw-clinchers our there? And if so, what some ways that you reduce or deal with stress? I'm open to considering just anything at this point! I'll be sharing more with you soon about other ways I'm looking to reduce stress and what aspects of my winter wellness rhythm are working.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Learning To Identify Birds and My Bird of The Year 2021

If you recall my 101 Things in 1001 Days List, learning to identify birds by sight and sound is #9 on my list. 

Identifying birds is something I've been doing since our homeschool days, but have gotten away from in recent years.  I even came across a form I made up just a few short years ago, for sighting a bird for the year as well as for noting other birds I observed and discovered.  I've updated that form, and if you're interested in printing out a copy, I'll provide a link below. 

Choosing a bird for the year is a fun tradition this time of year that I first heard of from my good friend and fellow seasonal blogger, Dawn. Dawn traditionally chooses hers based upon which bird she first spots each year. I did that for awhile, but as I often almost always first spotted chickadees, I began simply choosing a bird for myself. In the past I've tracked monthly sightings of chickadees, robins and even crows. This year, I've decided upon the cardinal. 

There are often meanings associated with different birds, and for the cardinal they include loyalty, as cardinals mate for life, good luck, it is believed in some cultures that you will have good luck within twelve days of the sighting, and the Indians believed they were spiritual messengers, and that upon sighting one the spirit of a loved one was nearby. Such a lovely bird with even lovelier sentiments!

In our homeschooling days there were a number of books that we enjoyed that taught us a lot about birds. I thought I might revisit a few of these and even use them to aide me in my sightings. Here are a few.

- Bird Neighbors by Neltje Blanchan (A personal favorite!)
- Birds Worth Knowing by Neltje Blanchan

In addition, I wanted to put you on to the sweetest little series of books, The Robin Redbreast Series by Madeline Leslie. Written in 1860, our Kate adored hearing the tales of the little robins when she was a little bird, herself.

They really are just the sweetest little books, and revisiting them brings back many pleasant memories. Before I discovered The Internet Archives, Google Play provided us with a large library of books from days gone by that added so much beauty to our curriculum. Sharing some of the resources we used in our homeschooling years is one of the things I've been considering sharing with you here. I once had a separate blog to house it, which boasts a pretty large archive. I can't decide whether to include it as part of this blog, or simply to reopen it and direct you there. What I do know is that there are many worthwhile books  that could easily be incorporated into your curriculum, or simply enjoyed with the littles in your life! Or, if you're like me and believe you will never outgrow children's literature, are equally as enjoyable as adults! I did want to mention that almost all the books linked above are also available at the archives. I chose to link them from Google Play because that is where most of my online library we used for homeschooking is housed. However you may find the format at the Archives more agreeable, in which case you could simply search there with the title of each book.

In the days to come I hope to craft a few bird treats to hopefully help attract a few cardinals and other winged friends, as well. I'll be sure to share! :) In the mean time if you want to select a bird for the year and track your sightings over the next twelve months, as well as keep a record of other birds you spot, you can download my updated form below.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Small Things

and this one form the archives, What If All I Want Is A Mediocre Life?, so good!

A few books from the Internet Archives that look interesting . . .
Simple Words:Thinking About What Really Matters
by Adin Steinsaltz

The Holy Way: Practices For A Simple Life
by Paula Huston

I've long been a fan of Steve Tyrell, ever since discovering his music in the movies Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride II. I listen to him often, and this song, in particular, is one of my favorites.

by Steve Tyrell

One of my goals this year is to build a home apothecary, and I have elderberry syrup on the list. You can read about the benefits of elderberry, here.

from Recipes and Rituals

Growing up, there were a couple of casseroles that were  on a regular rotation in our home, often on Friday nights. I remember with excitement coming in to see my mom putting it in the oven. Served with a side salad, these are two of my favorite recipes from my childhood.

King Ranch Casserole
2 c. cooked, diced chicken
1 pkg. (18) corn tortillas, quartered
1 chopped onion, sauteed in margarine
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 c. grated cheese

Save hot broth from cooking chicken . Combine onion, Rotel tomatoes, mushroom and chicken soups, chili powder and garlic salt. Heat until hot. Dip tortillas into hot broth. Dip quickly and line baking dish with tortillas; add chicken and more tortillas if all are not used. Pour hot soup mixture over chicken. Top with grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serves 8-10.


Hamburger Rotel
1 small pkg. corn tortillas
1 lb. ground hamburger meat
1 can Ranch Style beans
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 can Rotel Tomatoes with Chilies

Arrange in layers beginning with tortillas and ending with Rotel. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Just yesterday I discovered a lovely magazine and blog, The Joyful Life. One of my favorite bloggers, Monica Wilkinson, wrote an article for their website, How To Cultivate A Spirit of Coziness In Your Home, perfect for this colder winter months that find us more in doors. But the entire website is full of other wonderful posts and resources. I briefly skimmed through it and found a few that I wanted to make a note to read later. If you're not familiar with it, be sure to visit and be inspired!

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