Friday, February 26, 2021

The Present Moment Is Eternity

Many years ago I stumbled upon a book in the public library, Holidays and Holy Nights by Christopher Hill,who first introduced me, a wholly Protestant girl, to the The Liturgical Year. Though I was not raised Catholic, I found a beauty and a rhythm to observance of The Liturgical Year that was appealing, even comforting. Recently, as I’ve begun working my way through the spiritual practices, I was reminded again of this lovely book and the in particular, the following passage. In my efforts to slow the pace of life, these words are a balm for my hurried soul, and what started me on my journey to a slower, sacred, and more meaningful way of living. 

"The whole point of the Year of the Lord is that there is more than one way to experience time. The understanding of time that most people live with is only one way to experience it. We could call it the worldly or profane understanding of time. It is an image of time as a straight horizontal line with a middle point, where we stand, called The Present. This line is always moving past us like a conveyor belt. On the left is the Past, where present moments constantly flow and immediately cease to exist. On the right is The Future, which is always moving toward the Present, but never actually arrives. 

This model is almost completely abstract. In other words, we never actually experience any of it. The present is gone before we are aware of it, and the past and future lie outside our grasp. Anxiety is built into it. Each human possesses only a limited quantity of this kind of time, and it is constantly passing us by, never to return. 

This view of time is not necessarily bad. It can be a useful tool. All human progress, in some sense, depends on it. But its not the whole or most important part of the picture. It is not the way we experience time in the deepest parts of ourselves, on the level of our hearts, and it is not the way God experiences time. Above and below this abstract, one-dimensional timeline, is well, reality. This is the world we actually experience, in which we “live and move and have our being”, as Paul said. The word “I Am” as God introduced himself to Moses. The present moment is eternity. 

For most of human history, people experienced time very different. The pattern was not a line, but a circle or cycle. The cycles of sun, moon and stars; of the seasons of the life, death and birth of plants, animals and human beings. Everything went away, but then in some way everything always came back. We can be sure that people living with this image of time still got anxious about things, but anxiety wasn’t built into the system itself. 

The image of the cycle contains a lot of truth. It expands the one-dimensional timeline into a two-dimensional circle and so takes in a lot more of reality. it is less abstract than the line, truer to experience and incorporates the fundamental patterns of creation. Years, seasons, months, weeks, days and hours all come from this model of time. Birth, life, death and rebirth are all in it. What it doesn’t include is the possibility for growth. In this cycle, the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

The Year of the Lord, the Christian understanding of time, is a variation on the cycle. The timeline, as we’ve said, is a one-dimensional model. The circle is two dimensional. The Year of the Lord is three-dimensional. It is modeled on the spiral, a circle that grows outward and upward. It grows in a vertical direction as well as horizontally, combining the straight line of the past, present and future with the height and depth of eternity. Like a spiraling tornado, it sucks one-dimensional time up into three dimensional reality. It uses time to break us out of time. It hallows and sacralizes time and transforms it into eternity. Year, season month, week, day and hour all concentric circles that lead deeper and deeper into the center; the present moment, where we live in the presence of God. The present is the Presence. And the present time ripples outward again, connecting us with all time and all the cosmos."

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;

Following time-honored spiritual traditions and practices.

Experiencing God with your physical senses or imagination.

 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;

Gaining insights about God and life with Him.

Obstaining from comforts to make more space for God.

❊ Nature
Appreciating the beauty of God's creation.

Offering God's compassion to those hurting or struggling.

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

❊ 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.

Click on image to open in new window. Right click on image and save to your computer.
Open document, insert image. It made it as a 3x5, but you may want to adjust the size.
Print out on card stock, cut out and enjoy!

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!