Tuesday, January 31, 2012

All Who Are Thirsty...

The lyrics of one of my favorite praise songs goes:
All who are thirsty, all who are weak, come to the fountain...
And when I've sung this in church as part of the choir, it's felt like a call to me. That I am calling others to bring their thirst to be quenched in the fountain of Living Water that is God. (OK, let me unpack that churchy phrase: water is an essential to life,"Living Water" is the water of baptism, the Holy Spirit, the Presence of God.)

Here's a version of it on YouTube (it is longer than usual):

The song came to mind again recently (actually, while I was on my blogging sabbatical!)...

Why did I think this didn't apply to me? Why only an invitation to others? Why did I think only one mountaintop experience to be sufficient, enough to remember He is with me?
All who are thirsty, all who are weak, come to the fountain...

Am I not thirsty?

Am I not weak? (and if the latest attempts at diet are anything to go by ... The answer is definitely yes I am still weak)
Let the pain and the sorrow
Be washed away
Have I not pain? 

The pain -- I've learned to manage when obsessive worry takes me over. And I mostly succeed. But sometimes I still need to call on Him.

Am I not sorrowed?

The sadness of losing my last grandparent is still with me. The sadness of losing a father-in-law just over 2 years ago is still with me.

Am I not still broken? Do I not still break? Do my words and actions not break others?
Come, Lord Jesus, come...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Joy Dare Monday...

It's been a week of highs and lows. The highs were at the beginning and the end of the week, and even in the lows, I was able to be grateful and aware of God's grace, His gifts, and His presence.

I think this Joy Dare is just beginning to transform. It's not too late to start if you haven't already.

Here is this week's list:

60. the calm of one of the Interfaith Shelter guests
61. standing out of the rain while waiting for the carousel

62. "gently thrilling" - new phrase uncovered while having fun with new friends
63. orange-tinged grey clouds as the sun sets
64. holding hands

(Ok, so we're holding churros and not each other's hands in this pic!)
65. bright orange & red sunset
66. clothes finally drying out
67. hot shower for aching body
68. progress made at work and things to think about

69. finding out part of my upcoming trip will be by bus instead of all the way by train
70. a hidden petticoat
71. warmth of sun
72. grace, grace
73. conversation in the Memorial Garden
74. needed words for above-mentioned conversation in morning blog reading (thanks Christianne!)
76. stock smelling like cinnamon

77. white blossom petals floating in the air
78. warm gusts of wind blowing in curtains

79. cowbell! (not knowing how to play it but having fun anyway)
80. carried away by the Holy Spirit while singing the choral version of Chris Tomlin's version of "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)"

81. wine and cheese on the back patio with a friend -- not worrying about what I should/shouldn't say.

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Friday, January 27, 2012

7 Quick Takes for Friday: Tea and Stuff

--- 1 ---

I am making my own iced tea. It dawned on me that I didn't need to buy this stuff. I have loads upon loads of tea (loose and in tea bags) so why not use it?  The Mountain Spring Jasmine green tea by Mountain Leaf is just scrumptious. Mentioning it here so I can buy some more once I run through the rest of my insanely huge tea stock.

--- 2 ---

Came home from chanting Lauds at the cathedral to discover that my husband had packed up the nativity scene. I guess he doesn't read my blog.

--- 3 ---

Spent Monday and Tuesday at Disneyland and California Adventure. Needless to say, had an absolute blast and went on a ton of rides because it a) rained on Monday and b) it's winter!

--- 4 ---

I just set up Twitter Feed for my blog so it can push my posts to my Twitter feed and to Facebook auto-magically. This post will be the second one that's pushed, so I want to share the past few posts here in case you missed them because they weren't linked to a link-party.

--- 5 ---

7 things to do instead of eating in front of tv.

1) work on all the altered clothes projects so I can wear them this summer!
2) create in my art journal
3) organize my hosiery (need something to put them in)
4) make a scarf organizer
5) google reader!
6) finish fabric book (so close to being done!)
7) get taxes in order

--- 6 ---

I also want to rearrange my guest bedroom so that I can paint using the big easel. Having it actually in my art room covered up my prayer corner (because of the drop cloth around and under it) and blocked access to stuff I needed. So on the one hand, it did focus me to get the painting done -- on the other hand, it changed my morning prayer schedule.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing ... but it would  be nice to go back to the way I was doing it.

--- 7 ---
I guess my #7 is this:

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How To Deal With The Tornadoes in Your Life...

(This is a repost from my church's blog from a little while ago, edited a little bit to make sense.)

You might think that working in a church office is a pretty quiet job.
You’d be wrong.
Sometimes it feels like I work in Tornado Alley. 
One of the shows I got hooked on last year is “Storm Chasers”. There’s something about the way the tornado forms, how these “extreme meteorologists” can predict it and then still end up in its path.  Tornadoes have both tremendous beauty and gut-wrenching destruction.
(from Wikimedia Commons)
There are folks who blow through my office who are like that.
If it’s an anxiety tornado, then it's contagious and the tornadoes multiply as we react instead of responding.
Why are people tornadoes? When losses are felt, change occurs, the anxiety builds into a super-cell and before you know it.... Sometimes it’s a person’s anxiety about non-church stuff, sometimes it’s a person’s brokenness as they seek help, sometimes it comes through extending the gift of hospitality, and sometimes it comes from biting off more than we can chew.
At the time of originally writing this post, in September, the tornado had been me. 
My grandfather died in September and as I’d gone home in August to say goodbye, I couldn’t go back to Australia for the service.  The homesickness was an added whammy. My Number One Support Guy (aka my husband) was overseas in a totally different time zone, so you can add a good dollop of loneliness. 
Some days I was just fine and some days... I stormed through minor setbacks and actually went home early for a few days so my reactiveness and grieving didn’t negatively affect the rest of the office. (Besides, it was good to go home and have a really good cry.) 
The winds have died down now and having been the tornado instead of the tornadoed, I have a bit of new perspective. I still don’t like it when a tornado comes through--they’re pretty awful--but now I have more empathy.
So when the tornadoes whirl, I try not to take cover under my desk and pray that they soon blow over.  Because it’s as little fun to be a tornado as to be hit by one.
How do you deal with the tornadoes in your life? Have you ever been a tornado yourself? How did you get through that?

I am linking this to Ann Voskamp's "Walk with Him Wednesdays".

Monday, January 23, 2012

Joy Dare Monday...

No pictures this week, or story, just a list...

40. white blossomed tree
41. clean air after the rain
42. visible progress in weeding
43. using homemade compost in the garden for the first time
44. little dirty skunk footprints on off-white patio floor
45. smell of beef stew on entering the house
46. exchanging silly nonsense with my husband
47. warm clothes
48. long shadows
49. clear crisp winter day
50. listening to early morning birds chirp while I'm praying
51. re-connecting with my choir buddy
52. sunrise reflecting off a row of clouds

53. the sidewalk being closed and having to walk the long way around to work -- and uphill!

54. realizing my anger is ego-related
55. gentle rain
56. chanting while the organ pipes are being carried out of the cathedral
57. jasmine green tea (iced and homemade!)

58. chills as we sang the fourth verse of "I Am the Lord of the Dance"
59. finding out who I am mentoring through the confirmation process

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday's 7 Quick Takes

--- 1 ---

I didn't do the 7 Takes last week 'cause the week got away from me. And my plan to update the blog post as I went along? Didn't happen. Maybe tracking God's gifts/blessings and finding something brief to write about is a bit much. But hey, we'll see.

--- 2 ---

Part of my morning practice is to "do" morning prayer. I use the Daily Office from Mission St. Clare currently (I use the iPhone app while catching the bus to work), although I'm sensing it's getting close to time to switch back to using "Lauds and Vespers" (from the Camaldolese monks) because I'm starting to miss chanting...

Anywho, last week, one of the psalms set for the morning was Psalm 6.

6 I grow weary because of my groaning; *
every night I drench my bed
and flood my couch with tears.
7 My eyes are wasted with grief *
and worn away because of all my enemies.
8 Depart from me, all evildoers, *
for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
9 The LORD has heard my supplication; *
the LORD accepts my prayer.

The thought came to me that those enemies are our own griefs, our own wrongs, that we allow to hang onto us and inhabit us until we groan and sob tears. Thank God for God helping us out of our messes. Or at least God would, if we'd stop and listen for God.

--- 3 ---

Yes, that last sentence was me trying to be gender-neutral. God is infinite and unknowable so why would God be a gender, when "male and female, God created them?" Just sayin'.

--- 4 ---

My MacBook Pro's autocorrect doesn't like it when I use slang or make a verb out of a noun. Such a stickler for correctness. But it isn't at the point. Of being able to correct. Broken sentences.

--- 5 ---

Since Tim Tebow's "316" playoff win (yeah, I didn't watch it either, but you can't help hearing about it on the internet), I'm wondering if the best time to post something about God is at 3:16. AM or PM, take your pick. ;)

I am surely not the first person to have thought that. Right?

--- 6 ---

Why does the garden always get away from us? Well, okay, I know why. It's because around about August/early September, we get tired of keeping it up. So it is full of dandelions and unwanted grass and... *sigh*

However, we did get to use our homemade compost for the first time in transplanting a rose tree, so that's a plus!

--- 7 ---

The Bible in a Year challenge at my church is going well. Well, at least for me. Finished Genesis and am into Exodus. What I need to do is take the "what the--?" notes I'm making and look up those verses to figure out what's going on there...

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Christmas Season is Over...

So the Christmas season is over.... (12 Days of Christmas and all that...)

And so is Epiphany and we're into the Ordinary Time before Lent (for those who keep track of the liturgical seasons) ...

My Christmas decorations are packed away. The tree is awaiting my husband's assistance to take down this weekend.

But the nativity scene?

Still up.

For some reason, I'm not ready to put this simple display away. It's old and belonged to my husband's family.

It's suffered a few chips as they're simple plaster figures ...

and Mary is awfully white and blonde ...

but every time I look at it, I remember Him.

So I think it'll stay up until Lent and then turn my focus toward Jesus' final walk to Jerusalem. I haven't picked out my Lenten study yet. There's a short list (surprisingly short!).

And I've just realized: I bought a little nativity figure at the Christkindl Markt in Munich in 2010. What safe place did I put it in? If definitely can't get put away yet!

Yay! Found it. It's with the rest of the nativity scene now. It's a bit bigger...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Becomes Thanksliving...

"Thanksgiving for God’s love always seeks to become thanks-living – a living and giving of His love" - Ann Voskamp.

Today on her blog, she asks us to share a habit that makes things new each day.

I've been thinking about that, what I could write, and then last week during Morning Prayer, I discovered that Monday the 9th was the observed day for Julia Chester Emery.

[I feel like I need to do a side note here. Julia is part of the Holy Men, Holy Women, that the Episcopal Church recognizes. Getting on this list is rather different than becoming a saint in the Catholic church, although we still share some saints in common (up to the 15th century split, anyway).]

Julia Chester Emery, among other things, is known for starting the UTO program in the Episcopal Church.

UTO = United Thank Offering.
This worked by giving each woman a small box with a slit in the top and encouraging her to drop a small contribution in to it whenever she felt thankful for something. Once a year, the women of the parish presented these at a Sunday service. The money was sent to national headquarters to be used for missions. (sources: Wikipedia and Daily Office by Mission St. Clare (James Kiefer)).
Whenever I feel thankful for something, drop a small contribution into a box.

If I do this every time I give thanks for a gift during the Joy Dare ... that's 1,000 pennies, 1,000 dollars, 1,000 times something!

This is something I could do. A penny for each thanks give, to "thankslive" someone else?

I feel like I'm sounding very Ann Voskamp saying that.

So I made a box. Well, a jar actually.

And at the end of the year, I'll count up the money and send it to a charity. I haven't decided which yet. There are more than a few candidates, but my hope is that God will show me where I can help with it.

So who else wants to thankslive while we thanks give?

PS. Yesterday, I posted part of my story. Just in case you were interested.

I am linking this to Ann Voskamp's "Walk with Him Wednesdays".

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Has Calling Yourself 'Christian' Ever Felt Like a Lie?

(this was originally posted on my church's blog a couple of weeks ago. I thought that by sharing this story here, you'd get to know a little more about me)

When I joined Good Sam, I was a lifelong Christian, an active Christian for good chunks of it, but I hadn’t forgiven myself or allowed God to forgive me for my past actions. So the identity tag of “Christian” felt like a lie to me.
Before I joined Good Sam, I was active in another church and could “do” church to a tee: be the sole Sunday School teacher, create and print the Sunday bulletins, the newsletter, serve on vestry, lead the way in inviting the local community to come to church. I was so busy “doing” church that the sum total I experienced in a typical Sunday service was a couple of minutes of communion.
In short, I was working my arse off trying to belong, all the while believing that I didn’t.
Because I had done some things I was ashamed of. That time in my life wasn’t pretty. Or healthy.
It wasn’t until I burnt out at “doing church” that we church-shopped for a new church home and found Good Sam. My hubby and I vowed not to get involved for a while, maybe six months.
We lasted three, and joined the choir. The end of the year rolled around and I ran for vestry.
I was well on the path of “doing church” again. 
But that was the moment God, through Good Sam, transformed my life. While on vestry retreat at Mt. Calvary in Santa Barbara, I walked the labyrinth in the early morning before breakfast.  I was on vestry with Thelma, who taught me how to pray and who knew how to pray a labyrinth.
I used the method she told me about where I reflected on my life, from birth to present time. I was approaching the center of the labyrinth, and realized that what I colloquially call the “dark time” in my life would be what I was reflecting on as I reached the center. Where God was.
This labyrinth is at the monk's new location next to Mission Santa Barbara. The one I walked
was at their original location in the hills behind the town. It burnt down in a fire three years ago.
I could quit the labyrinth or take the leap and step into the center and take whatever God was going to deliver. Think lightning strike.
I took the leap, and laid it all out there: the betrayal, the smashed relationships, the guilt.
And God loved me. There’s really no other way to express the warmth, the overpowering sense of love, the embrace and the gentle voice that said: “I was there. I loved you then. If only you’d seen Me.”
Since then, I’ve done my best to honor God’s gift of mercy, love and forgiveness to me. It took  me a little while to figure out how and there have been some backward steps, but by continuing to lean in toward God and His love, by getting help in learning how to let my baggage go, by learning more about my faith through Education for Ministry, discovering the depths of my role at Good Sam, I think I am finally at the place for what God has called me to do next: to share God’s gift of mercy, love and forgiveness with someone else.
I see it happening through communicating the transformative place that Good Sam is to the outside world via the church's blog, and somehow, personally making an impact on someone who needs to hear what I refused to hear for so long.
Has calling yourself a ‘Christian’ ever felt like a lie? Why?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday's Joy Dare

It was more difficult to find gifts this week.

By Thursday (gift #26), I was full of post ideas for this blog and one post in particular I struggled with. (It's still not ready to go live.) By Friday evening, I couldn't recount a single gift from that day. Then I sat down and forced myself to look back on the day, and remembered the moments God was with me amongst my day's irritations and frustrations.

Here's the list for the week:

16. leaving my appointment with my spiritual director feeling refreshed and energized
17. the salty smell of the sea

18. a toddler on the bus discovering touch: the soft of chenille, the smooth of leather, the cold of metal post, the warmth of mother's skin
19. paying attention to my hubby over a long distance phone call
20. deep breath of early morning blue sky air
21. Fran McKendree's "The Spirit of the Lord Is Here" running through my head
22. a gift that's sour: skunks in the backyard - walking the dogs in the cold under a full(ish) moon

Skunk evidence: new bedding for their den under our back patio
23. waking up with the thought 'Today is the day You have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it."
24. Icelandic poppies

25. Husband coming home from his trip early.
26. little balls of fluff from my chenille coat float in the air in front of me (my coat is shedding!)
27. Nutella gelato shake from Chuao's
28. discovering back up pair of jeans with a big hole in them.
29. crow at the very top of a pine tree squawking at me.
30. heavy yellow moon hanging low
31. pups huffing in excitement (is it because I'm home or is it dinner time?)
32. chewy baguette
33. painting outside in the warm sunshine
34. grabbing the chance to meditate (reciting the Jesus Prayer) while waiting in doc's exam room
35. gray skies
36. dog quite settled in on my lap
37. a misplaced wallet found
38. "oohing to music sung in church
39. praying for anger to leave me

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What this Blog Reboot Is About...

So I kind of got started, so in case you were wondering why the change, read on...

My goal for this blog is to create the beginnings of a community of those who have either once thought they are not worthy of God, or who still think it.  (And if God isn't your bailiwick, your thing, that's okay too. I hope my story, this new-maybe community, will help regardless.)

One way to get the ball rolling is to share my story. My story is about discovering that I am beloved of God after all, no matter how unworthy I feel about that honor because of my past actions. I figure there are others out there who don't think they are worthy of belonging, being loved by God, others who might need to hear this and be heard themselves.

(Now if you need help in dealing with whatever is blocking you from feeling worthy, seek professional help: a psychologist, a therapist, or other qualified person. I have not the skills nor the qualifications, and my prayer is for you to be healed not to harm you with well-meaning advice.)

I hope you will share your journeys here, and together we can draw closer to God.

It hasn't been a simple or easy decision because talking like this, opening up, is a vulnerability, but the various voices that I pay attention to (stop freaking out, they belong to real people like my spiritual director, those I work with, favorite bloggers, and others (and God, YMMV*)) have indicated that this is something to try.

I'll continue posting about what I create in crafts and art for two reasons:
  • it's the original reason I started this blog after all: to connect with the women I met at Silver Bella '09 and to show my Mum what I made. *grin*
  • I express my faith journey now not just in words but in images since I learnt how to draw and paint (thanks, Suzi Blu)
This is the current planned posting schedule (we'll see how it evolves!):
  • Mondays: lists of blessings for the Joy Dare challenge
  • Tuesdays: occasional art posts, more often faith journey posts
  • Wednesdays/Thursdays: responses to Ann Voskamp's "walk with Him Wednesdays"
  • Fridays: response to "7 Quick Takes" 
Do you believe you're beloved by God? Or not? Or don't care?

* YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday's Where's God is Now Joy Dare Day

Yeah, I know know. I just got started back doing the "Where's God?" journal, but Ann Voskamp has challenged her readers to a Joy Dare, and having almost finished her amazing book (at the time, I've since finished it), I have signed on. Writing down 1,000 gifts from God by December 31st, which is at least three gifts a day.

There's not enough room on a page to fit that many ... so I might use the "Where's God?" for pictures, prayers, journaling about this Joy Dare journey.

As I mentioned in Friday's post, I usually do 5-7 "Where's God?" moments a week. So this is a big challenge!

So, incidentally, is math. I put down in my goals that I wanted to lose 25 lbs. Well, I do, eventually. Plus, I apparently can't do math, or don't remember numbers or something. But I'm supposed to set achievable goals, so the next step for me is to lose 15 lbs. So have revised to achieve!

Here is the journal page I was working on when the Joy Dare challenge started:

I filled out the space with some stamps to match the pretty tape on the side.

On to the Joy Dare: here are gifts I've written down as I have to start from #1. I'm using Ann's 1000Gifts iPhone app to snap a few pictures too.
  1. almost finished reading "1000 Gifts" and already want to read it again, to feel it seep deeper into my bones.
  2. dark green Italian fir trees reflecting the orange light of sunset.
  3. realization I'm gonna have to write smaller in my "Where's God?" journal to include 3 graces a day. [Note: have changed my mind since initially writing it]
  4. skirt swooshing around ankles.
  5. Skirt swooshing (sort of. Hard to swoosh and take a picture at the same time) on my front walkway,
    and why yes, that is lint from the dryer ...
  6. being complimented on my cap and outfit by a stranger on the bus.
  7. silly conversation and laughter
  8. smashing my finger while trying to get new printer to work with my computer
  9. Husband opening shampoo bottles that I couldn't.
  10. Amish mistakes
  11. freely forgiven
  12. ordination sermon: "be the light; see the light (stay, pray, the light will come); lighten up!"
  13. spirit-filled ordination
  14. today's music and worship
  15. "with these hands": how we bless in so many different ways with them (sermon)
  16. the creche that is still up, even though the other Christmas decorations are packed away

Here is the journal I've picked to write these in: small enough to carry in my purse, leave on desk, counter, etc, where I will think to write the gifts down.  It's also cool in that the cover keeps the pen inside the notebook.  It has a boring black cover, so I may do something to the front of it.

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)

Friday, January 6, 2012

7 Quick Takes for Friday

--- 1 ---

I've started the 1,000 gifts in a year Joy Dare challenge. Ann Voskamp launched it yesterday. And I signed on. I've already been kinda sorta doing it with my "Where's God?" journal postings, but now I have to start from #1 and so "Where's God?" is going to be on hiatus while I attempt to come up with 3+ gifts God has given me each day. I usually manage about 5-7 a week!

Will you be joining in?

--- 2 ---

For some reason, I want to memorize this dialog. All of it. The funny thing is that when my brother showed me the first episode of the series (which was converted into a movie for American audiences), I was all "meh". Now I find it freakin' hilarious.

"Gentlemen, to bed! For we rise at daybreak."

He quoted it on Facebook and I couldn't remember much of the dialogue. But to learn the whole thing, including the Billy Connolly impression. That'd be awesome.

--- 3 ---

7 Quick Takes is hard. (This is my first time doing one.)

--- 4 ---

So excited about Revbecca's ordination tomorrow. And the day after she celebrates her first Eucharist. I guess more about this in next week's 7 Takes...

--- 5 ---

I have written the first "family" newsletter that I have in literally years. My grandparents loved getting this.  My last grandparent died this past year, so I think this is me trying to stay connected to my family a whole ocean away.

It didn't go out in time for Christmas, but it will hopefully go out before Lent. They're printed and I'm prepared to email the others.

--- 6 ---

Last week found me at Chick-fil-A doing my church communications planning for the year. When to promote events and how to get a communications strategic plan done for each ministry in my church. I suspect I ate way too much fried chicken for the day and a half I was there.... (oh, and the chocolate milkshake! omg.)

What? It's a Christian restaurant.  It even closes on Sunday. The In 'n' Out was too far to get to.

--- 7 ---

Today hasn't been a good day for my English. (It's my first language.) First, I wrote "highly educatid" (stop correcting me, Mac laptop). Then I wrote "I have wrote a newsletter..." above. And then "plan done for each church in my ministry."

I truly suspect it's time to call it a night.

"Gentlemen! To bed! For tomorrow we ride at 9:30"


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Saint for the Year

Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary put together a Saints Name Generator and encouraged her readers to choose a saint for 2012. It's a very Catholic thing, but we have saints (and holy men and women) in the Episcopal Church, so I gave it a whirl.

Even though I'm a computer science grad and know how these things work.... I am impressed.

The result: Blessed John of Parma.

(This is St. Francis in Mt. Calvary's garden. I couldn't find a pic of Blessed John of Parma)

So he's not a saint yet so he hasn't been assigned a list of what he's a patron of, but reading his biography, he could be a patron of silence (which is one of my 2012 goals!) and of knowing when to say the right words, something that I'm going to need in the coming year as my blog takes a bit of a turn in the hope I can reach the "don't wanna be reached".

I look forward to reading more about him and learning from him.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday's Where's God?

We've moved from Wednesdays to Mondays. I didn't keep this journal while I took a blogging break. I guess I need my few readers to keep me accountable.

Here's last week's list:

As always, would love to hear how you've noticed God or how you've been affected by God in the past week.

Am linking this up to Ann Voskamp's "multitudes on Mondays" (or will as soon as it goes up!)