Sunday, December 6, 2015

Be A Light....

Chanukah is this week. Running from Sunday night for eight days, each night observers light a candle, remembering the miracle of how an oil lamp stayed lit for eight days even though the oil was almost gone.

Rabbi Angela Buchdahl from Central Synagogue, shares in the short video below the meaning of the Shamash: the candle that lights the other eight candles over the course of Chanukah. She says: "Being a Shamash might not have all the glory of being a Chanukah candle but the light that the Shamash brings is no less miraculous."

Watch the video below to learn about what it means to be a Shamash, a helper of light, in your own life (and stay tuned for the three blessings as the candles are lit during Chanukah).

How are you a Shamash in your part of the world?

Friday, December 4, 2015

God's love stories .. there's a movement

There is a movement of love afoot. Maybe it's because this is what I'm looking for in order to write about it, or maybe others have decided that what we must do is combat violence and hatred is start talking about love more, start living love more. 

As they've appeared on my Facebook and tumblr feeds, I've reposted them but I thought I would collect some here, with original sourcing where possible (in other words, trying to be a good internet citizen). 

1) Change the World Through Love

"She felt like doing her part to change the world, so she started by giving thanks for all the blessings in her life, rather than bemoaning all that was missing from it. ... Each day she lived with more gratitude, more acceptance, more kindness ..." -- Scott Stabile (from his Instagram 

This quote (and I encourage you to read the whole thing on Scott's Instagram account) begins with acknowledging blessings, then with liking oneself, then with small acts of kindness. In various small ways, love can enter the world ... and it's through each of us bringing a small piece of our hearts to the table.

(Scott has a book called "Just Love" based on his articles and Facebook posts. I haven't read it, but if you have, let me know what you thought!)

2) Respond from Stillness

I just recently I wrote an introductory piece on stillness. Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery is a name that has kept popping up but have I read anything of hers? Not until yesterday, when she wrote this piece on Facebook:

It's a beautiful summation of sitting with something (being still) and then taking compassionate action. She says it much better than I did.

Hi My Friends,I have found there to be a distinct pattern to my reaction to personal or global trauma.1. BE...
Posted by Momastery on Friday, December 4, 2015
3) Hug

Hugging is good medicine, is an image shared on Facebook by Beloved Festival which happens yearly in Portland, Oregon. 

Joyful, hugging monks pretty much says it all. (Alas, I couldn't find a source for the numbers. The quote, or part of it, seems to have come from Virginia Satir, a family therapist)

So that's this month's "love moments" I guess we can call them without sounding weird or creepy? (Sorry, I just watched a Tina Fey/Amy Poehler trailer. Everything seems to have a double entendre now.) No? Well, let's just stick to calling them God's love stories and I hope they find ways to transform your life with love.

Where have you seen the movement of love occur online and in life? Please share in the comments and I may add them to the next instalment!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Be Still .... Discover Love Within/Without

"Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10)

Stillness is a habit of love, according to Ed Bacon (8 Habits of Love). It's showing love to the Divine, simply by showing up and paying attention to God. It's showing love to oneself by being generous with one's time in order to find a calm center.

I really struggle with stillness. It's been a part of my Rule of Life as an Associate of OHC (Order of Holy Cross) for about four years now and still I struggle. Even 10 minutes seems an insurmountable amount of time. And I don't get it. It's something I say I want to do and yet I've yet to form the habit.

One of the questions Ed Bacon asks is to reflect on times when you felt that stillness. No monkey brain thoughts, just a calm, quiet peace. In discussions with my current spiritual director, I already knew that a pleasant environment is a key part of my seeking and finding that stillness. Some examples:
  1. watching the Hudson River with a warm cup of tea in my hand in the late afternoon
  2. watching a storm come in over the Santa Barbara hills as I prayed the Jesus prayer using wooden Anglican prayer beads
  3. standing on the cliffs watching the waves crash, and the pelicans fly overhead
But those are really special occasions. I don't have a river or an ocean at my back door or near enough to my workplace. How do I bring it back with me to ordinary life?

The closest thing to a pleasing environment is the altar space that I have at home. It has two icons that I have written along with smaller icons (prints), crosses and other meaningful images. There are candles and angels, places to hold my prayer beads and Associates cross. There would be incense too but I ran out of that.

Taken a year or so ago, it's a little more crowded now (more icons, angels, more candles)

This Advent, I'm participating in Advent meditations on Facebook with Christianne Squires of Still Forming. There's an audio meditation four days a week, and a written one the other two. If this doesn't make meditation a habit, I'm not sure what will! (Advent is under way, but you can start by joining the private Facebook group). 

Do you find time for stillness? Is it easy for you to be still? (And if it is, got any tips for me?)

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Link between Gratitude and Generosity

The first habit Ed Bacon talks about in The Eight Habits of Love is generosity. What I did not expect was how closely gratitude is linked to generosity.

I am not a morning person. Motivation to get out of bed is hard to find, I always want a few more minutes of sleep or dozing or even lying there cozy under the blankets. Ugh, getting up.

After reading the chapter on generosity, I woke to my usual grumbling internal monologue and thought, no, wait a minute, and mentally listed several several things to be grateful for, very basic things like a roof over my head, hot water for a shower... The grumbles were gone and I was out of bed and headed into my day with extra energy.

Ann Voskamp also links generosity and gratitude. Ann has been writing about gratitude for a long time, writing down list upon list of things to be grateful. Her book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are was transformative for me.

I followed her example and wrote gifts even on the darkest days, the smallest moment becoming a moment to find joy. Today, I try and linger in those moments of joy and grace. My spiritual director has suggested writing down the fruits of my contemplation (not that I’ve been very contemplative lately — more on that in a future post) which is also turning out to be an exercise in gratitude.

Most recently, Ann wrote about how gratitude makes “giftivists”

“...there’s a perfect love that casts out all fear, there’s an immoveable truth that we are a people of Love, not fear, and there’s not an attack of the enemy that can make the people of the Cross cower in fear and hate and close their doors to Love."
... the Giftivists are the activists who believe that radical acts of generosity counter radical acts of inhumanity." 
I was, and in many ways still am, a selfish person, but I have noticed that I am becoming less selfish. Listing the ways seems to be like tooting my own horn, but small acts of kindness are becoming more frequent and occasionally in opposition to our shrinking household income. 

On the other hand, I still want the last Tim Tam (link to what they look like because we ate the last of them before I could take a photo. Ahem.). But maybe there is hope for me yet.

How has gratitude fed your generosity?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

An Invitation ...

I checked my email this morning to find the weekly letter from Still Forming had a very appealing announcement.

I wrote the following on Facebook:

Friends, there have been discussion and posts on my Facebook feed on the refugee crisis and what should or shouldn't be done. Early this week, I wanted to escape the polarization that's occurring and offer a series of reflections this Advent on love but I haven't been exactly successful in escaping the creation of more polarization on my Facebook feed. Christianne Squires (Still Forming) is offering a series of meditations on Jan Richardson's blessings (beautiful example here).

Here's what she says about them: "Jan's blessings are most poignant for the ways they meet us in the cracks and crevices of life, helping us find or notice the light in dark places. During a time when the world feels full of darkness, and in a season — Advent — when we are watching and waiting for the light to come, I cannot imagine a better gift than to let her remarkable blessings speak to our hearts and find our way forward."

The meditations are based on Jan Richardson's new book: Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons. 
It takes more than one voice, one heart to change hearts away from fear and toward love. If you would like to join in, Christianne has set up a private Facebook group here.
I am still going to blog about love and hope this Advent and I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts too ... feel free to share them directly in the comments or link to your blog there.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hope for Peace

Since the attacks in Paris, I've been contemplating how to respond. I've reacted aplenty: with horror and sorrow, with concern for backlash at refugees, immigrants and Muslims. I've traded comments on Facebook, shared news stories, prayers and commentary like this one:

"ISIL is Weak" by Wahleed Aly (The Project, a news/comedy show in Australia).

I kept getting the nudge that there was more that I could do than this, more that I could bring to heal the hurt, anger and fear.

"Hope for Peace" is the beginning of that. It's closely based on a LifeBook 2015 lesson by Andrea Gomoll some weeks ago that I never got around to doing. 

Glass bead gel is awesome although you can't see the shimmer really in this photo. This art journal page expresses simply my heart in that moment: to hope for peace, to bring light and joy and transformation ...

Advent is almost upon us (it starts on the 30th). It is traditionally a time of expectant waiting, of preparing for the arrival of the Christ Child. I am going to be blogging about peace, love, light, joy and transformation, and my struggles to find the same. I figure by sharing struggles and learning to speak and live these things that maybe there will be more joy, more love, more peace and less and less fear of things we don't need to be afraid of.

To start with (because one has to start somewhere), I'll be referring to Ed Bacon's The 8 Habits of Love: Overcome Fear and Transform Your Life which came out a couple of years ago. I pulled it out from my massive to-read pile(s) and started reading it this week. I'll also be dipping into The Rule of Benedict and various other sources.

I am hoping this will be less a lecture (aka me musing to myself) and a conversation, so I invite you to share your thoughts too on how one can lead with love.

Friday, October 23, 2015

7 Ways to Get Jetlag (7QT)

#1. Watch a Sondheim musical on the plane. In my case Into The Woods. Earworms stay in your head for days. "Agony". "Hello Little Girl".  "It Takes Two of Us". Ahhh ah-a-ahh a-ahhh.... You're welcome.

#2. Don't take charge of your space. Like when the clanging water pipes continue to clang and you realize your neighbor is not taking an epic shower and the noise is there to stay. Don't wait until 1:00am the night before your flight to complain to the hotel's front desk.

#3. Pay attention to your husband. When you wake up and he complains he can't sleep, don't give into empathy and sit up with him, no matter how much you love him. You're in business class, you can lie flat, for Pete's sake.

#4. Take epic walks before your flight. So epic that the first walk has you limping and it makes you limp on day two because it feels like walking on knives. (Bonus if you can do this and not have plantar fasciitis.) Then delay taking medicine that will reduce the pain so you can sleep.

#5. Did I mention Sondheim? Ahhhhhhhhahhhhh ahhhh-ah-ahhhARGH.

#6. Be so exhausted by the time you get home, your half hour nap turns into over an hour long because neither one of you sets the alarm.

#7. Remember when you stopped writing romance novels? Night time is not when you write an entire novel outline set in Arthurian Britain. (Hey, it usually makes me fall asleep.)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

finding strength (LifeBook 2015)

I am experimenting with watermarks on the images in this post. Mainly because I don't want them passed off as somebody else's work.

So, the lesson last week in LifeBook was called "Finding Strength", presented by Donna Downey, and named after the stencil of hers that she used in the class. I was tempted to follow Tam's additional sketching instructions to create something similar, but in the end went in a completely different direction.

I thought to myself, what does "finding strength" mean to me...

It started with this sketch of a sweet face.

And then I thought I would put in shadows and a bit of color and saw what I did, freaked out and gessoed over it. (I should have taken a picture of it in all its hideousness.)

And sketched the face in again, a little bit different (the mouth is a little off-center I just noticed).

Also, in my art room I have a bit of an ant problem. Well, we're having a problem in the whole house, and large number of them have died in our freezer this morning. But in my art room its a few stray ants who seem to be interested in my water jar and seeing what else I have. The way they react to wet paint is really interesting. It's like they rear back and go "what on earth is that?!"

Proof -- an ant and its shadow
Here's the final. The rays of strength coming from her heart are tinted with iridescent violet paint from Golden. I should probably smudge some on her eyelids too but the iridescent doesn't photograph well.

LifeBook 2016 is opening registration soon. You can join in the blog hop party and maybe win yourself a free seat in next year's class.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

God's Love Stories ... July edition

Today I have mopped the kitchen and dining room floors including under the fridge because our dog recently died of kidney failure -- imagine oceans of pee. I am incredibly grateful to him that when he couldn't wait for us to get home from work, he went on the tile.

So yes, I'm mourning my 16 year old dog, who we had for about 10 years of his life. Adopted as an adult with his brother who died last year ...

This also might be a Sarah Bessey fan-post, because I have a large number of links from her blog. She writes really really good stuff, folks, if you don't follow her yet. It's probably way past time for me to buy her book...

Phew. Here are some other great blogs I've read recently:
And for Laughs:
  • F*ck That: A guided meditation that is seriously Not Safe For Work or Around Small Children (NSFWOASC). By Jason Headley on vimeo

Friday, July 10, 2015

Where Bloggers Create 2015

I am going to start out by saying, I could do with a serious purge of stuff. That said, I have so much because I've flitted from scrapbooking to 3D creations (birdhouses) to fabric creations to painting on canvas to art journaling.

It shows.

On the other hand, I've gone from working part-time to not working to working full-time, so I know there are projects I really want to get to. (Like the Madonna art display quilt from a swap I was in several years ago.)

I've taken a break from this blog party for the last couple of years, but if you want to see how my creative space has changed and developed (just in case you haven't seen enough creative spaces for one day!), you can see:

  • in 2009 in its barest of bones (I didn't participate in the blog party, but wanted to show in 2010 how my room, which is a small third bedroom, had looked before.)
  • in 2010 which is like a complete reveal with an additional post on my homemade hanky curtains
  • in 2011 after an overhaul of the closet (the doors fell off)
  • and in 2012, where I decided to show some "for real" pictures. I'll be doing so again today because I had no real chance to tidy up
Let's take a tour!

Above: paintings were done as part of several Suzi Blu classes. The ribbon holder makes a great canvas display. (It still has ribbon spools in it.)

Above: The white Shabby Chic bookcase is filled to the brim. Top shelf: pretties (china cup, piano player rolls, old photos, baby booties, etc). Second shelf: another canvas from a Suzi Blu class; hankies and buttons and other doo-dads are stored here, plus another pretty collaged canvas to hide some of the clutter. Third Shelf: Scrapbooks mostly. Bottom shelf: paper. This is all the commercial paper I have (this doesn't include the vintage stuff). As you can see I am really good about putting away. Not.

 Above: The closet space: You can still see hints of the papered wall before I put in another set of shelves (they're for shoes, technically) to hold: (top shelf) bookmaking supplies, art journals, sparkling H2O paints, stencils and my mother-in-law's hair in braids from when she was a girl. Yeah, you read that right. Don't know why I claimed them, but a use will come to me. I hope. The rest holds my childhood diaries, vintage photo albums and various Golden mediums. The visible glass top there is supposed to be pretty. But it needs a clean up. The chest of drawers contain old tablecloths (see the green tank? One of my unfinished projects is to cover it with doilies and make a lace top), fabric for a quilting project and so on.

Above: The very top of the closet. It has a box of my Psanky supplies (that I haven't touched in an age despite my best intentions), trophy parts that I rescued from a church cleanout, other containers, a styrofoam bust and a picnic basket that is actually for picnics.

Above: one of my art works in progress. I have fallen for writing icons. I do them in acrylic which is a modern take on the encaustics or egg tempera techniques.

Above: one of my newer purchases, one of those IKEA rolling carts. And in teal which is my new favorite color. It's pulled right by my table for easy reach of paints, washi tape and journaling bitses.

A view from above: my most commonly used supplies (not including washi tape which didn't fit): Golden fluid acrylics and a couple of tubes of heavy-body acrylics, a few Dylusion spray inks, prismacolor pencils, inktense pencils, there's an empty tin where my NeoColor II watercolor crayons go because I just got back from a trip and haven't put them back yet, inks, pens, watercolor pencils.

 Above: I have a lot of paper napkins for collaging. Send help.

Above: the jewelry cabinet stores markers, paperclips, doo-dads, and so on. As I was having a look I found an unopened package of white gel pens! Truly a treasure chest. And that's a vintage typewriter in its black case.

Above: I have a pink chest of drawers which holds photos, glue dots and other adhesives, ink pads, glitter, and some fabric. On top of that is the small metal card cabinet which holds fabric flowers, ribbon and lace, the blue suitcase holds vintagey papers and some fake flowers and as you can see there is more lace.

Above: small travel and art journals, tools, gold leaf, cards and envelopes, a future projects box and a current projects box that have been ignored for so long ... stamps, jewelry making supplies.

Above: Pretty pearls!

Above: and here is where those pretty pearls live. An IKEA cabinet. I have tried to keep the top as a pretty display area of pretty things (like glitter in glass salt and pepper shakers) but I see I didn't put away a purple bucket of that floral foam stuff. Ooh. That might work well on my latest art journal page....

Above: It contains large stencils, an insane number of Stampinton publications, the sewing basket I've had since I was a little girl (with some unfinished projects dating from the same, music, collaging supplies, books to alter, and so on and so forth.

Above: I made one of the shutters into a display board. (The other side also has something but its primary duty is to hold up the drop cloth so I don't make a mess using the big easel.)

OK, folks now it's time to Get Real. Below is a portion of the floor and is pretty true of the rest of the floor, alas. The beige book propped up in the middle is my latest art journal and it is huge! The biggest I've worked in. Off to the left of that is the box that holds my Life Book 2015 pages. (You can still sign up for this year long class -- the videos and pdfs are all downloadable!) There's also some music to be put away, a bag full of invitations that I plan to pull apart for the paper and some more stuff that just needs to be put away. You know how it goes.

Below is my "for real" art table. It has two in progress Life Book journal pages on it (from two different classes.) On the left is my traveling art journal kit, opened but not yet unpacked. New is an Ott-Lite because I found that the light in this room wasn't bright enough for the fine detail of icon painting. There's more paint, liquid watercolors, inks and glimmer mists at the back. Brushes, palette knives, etc, are in a rotating bucket on the right. And so on. I've lost my small pink scissors and honestly, it's no surprise.

So there we have it! This is where this particular blogger creates!

I am looking forward to seeing your spaces. Thanks for taking the time to have a look.

My Desert Cottage

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What I Learned in May, June, July ...

Which sounds like the lyrics of a song but here goes:

1) When you upgrade to OS 10.10.3 and PhotoShop Elements (6.0) crashes on trying to open jpg files to edit. What to do? Drag the files to the app icon and voila! Edit and save to your heart’s content.

2) Birthdays can last for more than one day. Sometimes up to two weeks! I have the cakes (and toasted marshmallow milkshake) to prove it!

3) I had to be shown how to use tumblr. My Computer Science degree is officially useless.

4) Texting during the Great Silence probably counts as breaking the silence. So does, I learned, reading and writing in your journal. One is supposed to be still as well as silent.

our room at Mt. Calvary monastery

5) Reading in a group "From Teilhard to Omega", a collection of essays edited by Ilia Delio. Teilhard was a Jesuit whose writings were banned but appear to have recently sprouted wings. The interesting thing I learned was that Teilhard's central theology is that all things move toward union with God. Our study leader (a Lutheran pastor) shared that we are moving toward the Garden of Eden, toward union with God.

What new things have you learned recently?

Where Bloggers Create 2015 edition ... coming soon!

I took a break for a couple of years from participating in Where Bloggers Create, although every year I lose about a day and a half of my life poring over everyone submissions.

There is time to sign up if you want to share your creative space on your blog. On or around July 11 (which is when the party starts), there'll be a place on Karen's website to sign up as part of a link party. There are more details on how to do that on her site as well.

My Desert Cottage

So -- stay tuned!

(And thanks to Sandy at Quill Cottage for posting about it!)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

God's Love Stories - What a Week edition

OK, so it just won't be links on race relations, which has been a huge topic here in the United States, but there will be other interesting blog posts as well.

First, if you haven't yet watched President Obama speak at Clementa Pinckney's funeral, please do. It's 40 minutes, but it's 40 compelling minutes. Amazing grace indeed. (Start it at the 1:20 mark.)

Race relations:

"Afterwards, a black woman approached me and with far more grace than I deserved, reminded me that to African American listeners like her the image of God as a cosmic master is not only discomforting but frightening and oppressive." 
Spiritual Stuff:
"I often think of a story someone told me about her period of spiritual discernment. She was in her kitchen praying, and asked for a sign from Jesus. As she sat in silence, Jesus suddenly appeared before her. He stood there, looked at her, then shrugged his shoulders. I told her, “Yeah, I know what you mean.”

And for fun, "Extra Day", what happens when you run the lyrics of "One More Day" from Les Miserables through Google Translate a few times:

Oh, and I actually posted something of substance recently. You can find it here.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The role of relationships and community in my spiritual growth

What has been the role of relationships and/or community in your spiritual growth?

This question was recently posed on Facebook by Christianne Squires and I told her I could probably write an essay on it. So here it is.

The roles of relationships and communities have both helped and hindered my spiritual growth.

Community has hindered my spiritual growth by not teaching me.

I've been a Christian from the cradle. I would say I spent the first half (currently) of my life not really getting Christianity. When your Christian education consists of some Sunday School and a confirmation class (where I was taught things my current church teaches to pre-K and elementary school aged children), it shouldn't be a surprise that I didn't really get it. I'd never been educated beyond a kindergarten level and somehow I was expected to know why it was so important to worship God and what exactly that entailed. I was taught nothing beyond "come to Sunday worship" and "be nice to people". 

I went to church because I liked to sing and because I had to (not that Mum would've made me beyond Easter and Christmas but because I am a good girl who is ruled by oughts and shoulds.) I served on parish council and walked the streets of my suburb to hand-deliver parish newsletters to save on a bit of postage. I *did* church.

And yet I fell in love with liturgy. More importantly, I fell in love with Celtic Christian liturgy as it was being reimagined and the contemplative quiet of Taize. These were seeds waiting for the right time to grow.

Community hindered my spiritual growth by not seeing me.

I left home and stopped going to church. I did try two churches and neither of them acknowledged my existence so I never went back to them.

Relationships hugely helped my spiritual growth when I married a Catholic.

I was raised in the Anglican Communion and going to a Catholic church caused all sorts of issues for me, the main one being I was not permitted to take communion. All of a sudden, communion, which I hadn't been taking by choice as I hadn't been going to church, was hugely important. I had to work out why, and my husband and I had some very spirited discussions on Catholic theology and doctrine.

We ended up leaving the Catholic church (although the Catholic church doesn't leave you!) and went to an Episcopal church.

My current community has helped my spiritual growth in many ways.

By being welcoming and actually letting us rest after being burned out at our last church with "doing".

By getting us to Cursillo, a Christian renewal weekend, after ten years of it not happening at a convenient time.

By opening doors and opportunities to exploring my faith, such as:

(1) when I served on the vestry and we went on vestry retreat, where I discovered monasticism, Episcopal-style, and where I had a literal meeting with God on the mountain. (If I tell the story, I will cry because it's when I knew, in no uncertain terms, that God loved me, despite everything. Everything.)

(2) at that monastic community I became an associate of the order, and it is where I am learning about personal piety, a rule of life, and of striving to be with, near and present to God.  It's at this monastic community that I have found a haven to rest from the work of ministry.

(3) We learned about the Education for Ministry program happening at a different church, and I finally got the education I'd lacked all my life. Now I knew how to read the Bible in multiple ways, now I knew how the church doctrines were formed, now I knew the radical inclusion of Jesus, now I knew how God has acted and been present throughout my life (spiritual autobiography, of which this is a snippet), now I had a theology that had well and truly graduated from Kindergarten Sunday School. For four years, we belonged to a small community of students and we all helped each other through the faith crises that came with studying the Bible and our faith tradition. Out of that time, came a brand new friend, a soul friend. We share about each others lives, chant, and occasionally write icons together.

(4) When we first joined our current church, a Catholic community rented space. Now we share the space and share ministry. Through worshipping together and Advent, Ash Wednesday and Holy Week and by joining forces in helping others, we've become one community. (Who gets to take communion still separates us, much to everyone's frustration.) Remember those issues with going to a Catholic church? Overcome.

As you can see, it is not just one community that has helped form me, and that formation overlaps. For example, after being told at Cursillo I needed a spiritual director, years later, thanks to the monks, I understood why. Both of my spiritual directors, past and present, have been Catholic monastics. They have walked with me through my spiritual journey, providing a reflection.

Episcopalians waiting in line at a food truck at a Catholic conference.

It's at my church that I learn about what it means to be Christian who is beloved and who loves, to be a person of faith, who God is, was, and will be. Through adult education forums, through the wisdom of elders about praying, through going through stuff with each other.

There's also where I work, a Reform Jewish congregation. They have welcomed me to worship (which I love, once a sucker for good liturgy, always a sucker for good liturgy). I have learned so much about Torah that I know I've barely scratched the surface. I have fallen in love with Jewish prayers, like the Sh'ma and the recitation of the V'ahavta and examined why. My faith has expanded and continues to expand as a result. When I read Christian theology, I sometimes think to myself: "umm, Jewish context anyone?"

Even when I felt or realized my spiritual growth was being hindered or was stagnating because of community, some growth came out of it.

How about you? How has relationships or community played a part in your spiritual life?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Answer Me This: Summer time ...

I've never done this Q&A before, but it seemed a fun thing to do while waiting for paint to dry. (Golden's high flow acrylics are VERY high flow. I have artistic puddles drying. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

1. Any big plans for the summer?

A quiet summer this year. Am spending a long weekend in Santa Barbara at Mt. Calvary Monastery. It's my once a year trip. (Now that I work full time, it's once a year.) The rest of the summer, I will be working to prepare for my vacation later this year.

2. What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

I believed many strange things. I was pretty sure there was a hungry dingo under my bed.

3. What is your favorite amusement park ride? (can be a specific one at a specific park or just a type of ride)

Fantasyland is my favorite part of Disneyland. I love the carousel and the Peter Pan ride there. My favorite in California Adventure is the Toy Story Mania and Grizzly River Run. I don't do the big rollercoasters or the super bumpy ones like the Indiana Jones ride.

That said, we never go to Disneyland in the summer. We prefer early January. When its raining. No waits on hardly any of the rides, so we don't have to plan, just go!

4. What's on your summer reading list?

Ummm.... my hubby and I are on an Ann Bishop glom. I am trailing behind but I hope to start on the next series we have with her. We started with her most recent series The Courtyards of the Others, and I just finished reading The Black Jewels trilogy in her Realms of the Blood series. Next will be The World of the Fae series although I see there are more RotB books on her website.

This might also be the summer I finish the N.T. Wright book ("The Resurrection of the Son of God") and I may get to Desmond Tutu's book on forgiveness that he wrote with his daughter.

5. Have you ever fallen asleep in public?

Dozing on epically long overseas flights don't count, right? Because usually everyone's trying to sleep.

6. What is your favorite smell?
Lavender, jasmine, rose.

Check out other people's answers at Catholic all Year.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A post about art ...

OK, so I have been somewhat distracted by this little, year-long class called Life Book 2015. I haven't had time to reflect on the week's Gospel passages or, well, anything beyond the occasional link of other people's content because I have been making art, and making it a habit.

And I confess that I have also been hooked on TV shows like Game of Thrones, Scandal and Ripper Street. I love how Shona Rimes speaks to the issues of the day

The best thing about Life Book 2015 for me has not just been learning new ways to draw faces, which was my main reason, but it has made art a habit. It was something I did maybe once a month, now it's almost every week, and if I can't make it to my art room, I am thinking about it.

I wanted to share my version of last week's lesson. It was taught by Tamara Laporte. It was the second male face I've drawn. I stuck pretty close to Tam's example: it's her composition, her method, her template for drawing a male face, her way of making backgrounds. I drew this, and I didn't love it and there was a new lesson coming in so I let it rest.

For all of 24 hours. I've decided to share the process with you.

I decided to fix the too boxy jaw, the weird lips. (I still haven't quite figured out how to do lips right yet.) I put white gesso over the top.

And then I realized that the blue of his overalls (that's what they were supposed to be) was a whole new color that didn't match anything else.

So I fixed the face, which required a lot of patience because it kept wanting to go down to the white and gave the overalls a different color. I darkened the eyes 'cause they felt a bit flat.

It's still Tam's composition, background, etc but I am happy with it now. Well, except for those lips, but I just need to spend some time practicing drawing nothing else.

It's halfway through the year for Life Book 2015, but you can still sign up and join because everything is downloadable and yours to keep. So you can go at your own pace. I haven't done all the lessons yet. I was supposed to catch up -- but found myself doing this instead.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Being Present: Are we at Pentecost yet?

Just kidding. Today's post is a list of links to good reads, starting with:

Read this one post if you don't read anything else on this list: You're already so loved by Sarah Bessey, and then hold those words in your heart.

Rachel Held Evans' series: "The Women of Holy Week" (and yes, I didn't read it until after Easter Day):
Here are some other Eastery links about being present that really resonated with me:
and really importantly:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Things I Learned in April

In April, I learned:

1) I learned how to make Matzah Crack, aka chocolate caramel/toffee crackers.

waiting for the chocolate to harden

caramel on top of matzah in the oven - got to watch it to make sure it doesn't burn

I made two batches. You should too. (Recipe is from smitten kitchen.) I'm saving the final packet of Matzah for Pentecost, although there's still a ton of Matzah in my local grocery store.

2) I learned how to read a theological book. (which I kind of already knew, but still)

3) I learned that there are many awesome Passover parodies of "Uptown Funk" but no Christian ones (so I wrote one)

4) I learned that I love the color teal.

5) I learned that if you press down on the plastic thingy right by the blade of the paper cutter you get a straight line! (how long have I been using these things?!)

6) I learned how to play Apples to Apples and had the best fun ever! The standard and Biblical sets were mixed. For the category "Old and Cranky", I won the round with  "God the Father". Yes, I am pretty sure I will be going to hell for that, but it was too funny not to play.

another sample hand. Radical is....

7) I learned I can draw horses, but not hedgehogs (Ok, these are March and early May images). I am loving the Life Book 2015 lessons! (The hedgehog one is based on Juliette Crane's lesson.) And I learned how to draw a horse by following this YouTube video.

a hedgehog. really.

horse. same artist aka me. really.

Linking up at Emily Freeman's "What I Learned in April" at chatting in the sky

What have you learned this past month?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Lest We Forget

ANZAC Day is an important day, lodged deep in the Australian psyche. It was a day where I don't do much beyond making ANZAC biscuits (cookies). My brothers and the other boy cousins went off to the dawn services with fathers and our grandfather and then go drink beer at the RSL (Retired Serviceman's League) afterward.

It means a lot, not just to remember those who died for their country and ideals and those who made it home. For me personally, it illustrates the utter horrific waste of life.

My grandfather survived WWII, which he never talked about. We never even knew that he'd been to San Diego until he met my then-soon-to-be-husband. I couldn't get home for his funeral, but I wrote something to be read and then I turned it into an art journal page.

He was handsome, eh?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Being Present: the 50 Days of Easter

After announcing I was giving up other people’s approval for Lent, you might have noticed I didn’t do much blogging. Much was going on, much processing, and I thought I would unpack all that, but today, just a little bit and a looking ahead.

Yesterday started the 50 Days of Easter. Easter is not just one day, but a season of rejoicing. And it’s more than that too, I’ve come to realize. I think as a child I intuitively knew this because I was that child who hoarded her Easter eggs until May.

But Easter is not about hoarding. It’s not about ekeing out the chocolate, the love and grace given to us on that day two thousand years ago and every day since.

It's an abundant gift that always is renewing.

I spent Lent giving up people's approval for Lent. There were some spectacular failures in that, but without them, I would not have been open to realizing what comes next.

It was the Maundy Thursday service, and Monica gave a sermon inspired by the Holy Spirit. It was so perfectly paced, I thought for sure it was written down but I found out that it wasn't how she planned it.

She talked about how often we fail to be present to each other. Whether our heads are buried in our phones, or thinking about our extensive to do lists. When I wrote novels, it was the stories that took me away from the present. Even after hearing this sermon, I found myself in times of “not being present”.

And times of being present too, like last night, cross-legged on the kitchen floor with a skunked dog in my lap drying him off after his de-skunking treatment. We had to wait for the treatment to dry, then rinse, then apply carefully by hand again because the skunk had got him square in the eye. Not exactly a speedy process at 10 o’clock at night. And yes, I mourned that I was wearing my favorite t-shirt and jeans, but when you’ve a shivering pup (of 16 years of age), you don’t think about that until it’s too late.

Back to the sermon. Monica spoke of how foot washing was Jesus being incredibly present to his disciples in this humble, awkward, messy act, and she invited us to see each other as we washed and were washed. To get beyond the awkwardness and the giggling and to look into each other’s eyes and acknowledge that we are here in this time together. To say “I see you.” So powerful in a world where we rush and don’t take the time to see anyone but our own reflection.

Now I find the whole foot-washing thing as something I would much rather not do, and I have been known to skip it, even though my husband considers it a sacrament, but Thursday night I took the challenge. I looked up at my companion as I washed her feet and she looked down at me, confessing she always cries when she gets her feet washed.

We switched and as she looked up at me and I at her, she softly started thanking me for being who I am, for all that I do, and it was so beautiful that I was moved to tears also.

There are 50 days to the season of Easter, and my intention is to spend that time being present to others: whether its to my dog who saw a butt being presented to sniff and got a nasty surprise, to the bus driver, the check out clerk, my co-workers and last, but not least, my husband. Sometimes its those you’re most familiar with that you forget to always see.

Being present to others is an abundant gift that requires no fanfare at all, but the tomb is empty and presence is a gift of ourselves and of God to another.

What are you doing for the 50 Days of Easter?

PS. The Life Book 2015 art class I am taking has a theme every month. This month: Honouring the Here and Now. Coincidence, or god-incidence?