Wednesday, February 26, 2014

40-Days of Contemplation And A Give-Away!

Most of you probably don't know that for over twenty years, my husband was a minister. That's right-- a church minister. During that time, he served in two independent congregations as the senior pastor. I'll be honest with you, being a "pastor's wife" was never a cloak I wore with comfort or ease.

A little over a year ago, my husband had a career change and left the ministry for good and is now working at a university, thoroughly thriving in his new job. 

Not only did the last year bring about a career, and consequent life-change in terms of my husband's vocation, it also was one that tested the grit of my faith through my family's health crisis. Both events combined, churned up the soil in my soul and have caused me to dig deep within myself and rediscover what I truly believe; how I view church, religion and all that it encompasses for me.

Who Is Lent For?

Next week, March 5th, begins the season of Lent--a 40-day period of religious observance for many practicing Christians. Believe it or not, I have never practiced Lent. No church I ever attended placed much emphasis on this occasion. 

For many, Lent is simply a time where one gives up something for 40 days. I've known people who don't attend church or believe anything in particular, but who will still be giving up sugar, chocolate, or pop for the Lent season. I think their intentions are more in hopes of self-improvement, but it's interesting how the practice, if not the purpose, has permeated the culture.

For the more spiritually minded, Lent is a 40-day period of prayer, contemplation, reflection, and yes, sacrifice. As far as I know, the Bible doesn't even directly mention Lent. Rather, it's a practice of only a select few denominations within the Christian religion and an attempt to imitate and remember Christ's 40-days of fasting and prayer in the desert prior to his death.    

For those who don't follow a belief system or whose faith and beliefs lie elsewhere than Christianity, Lent can can also be a time of, as one site I looked at called it, "spring cleaning"-- a period of cleansing, rest, simplifying, sacrificing, creation, contemplation, forgiving, and giving. 

The Lent Journey

I don't often wax religious on this blog, nor in life, actually. I make no apologies or defenses for what I believe and realize each of us must choose our own direction and allow our hearts to guide us accordingly. However, in my own quest to define and deepen my spirit, I'm going to take a 40-day journey through Lent, for the first time in my life. 

What will this look like? Honestly, I'm not sure. In the continuum of scullery maid and mystic dreamer. I tend to vacillate between the two, sometimes content in focusing on the pragmatic tasks at hand, other times, losing myself in contemplation and dreaming. I'm hoping that with an intentional focus of the 40-days of Lent, I will reconcile the two a bit more-- allowing my dreamer out for prayer and play, while practicing the manifestations of my faith in the forms of self-denial, prayer, devotional reading, creation, forgiving, and giving.

No matter your beliefs or non-beliefs, I'd like to invite you to join me in this 40-day journey. It doesn't have to be rooted in faith-based beliefs, or it can be a deeply spiritual retreat, as I'm hoping it will be for me. Maybe you have been focused on tasks and work lately and desperately need a break. Maybe you've let the intentions and resolutions of the New Year fall to the wayside in the demands of everyday life. Maybe like me, you've had a rough year and need to regain your focus and energy. Or maybe you are also digging for a deeper spiritual connection. No matter your motivation, consider walking with me through the next 40 days, setting your own goals according to your heart and needs. 

And A Give-Away!

To help motivate you and give you ideas for meditation, contemplation and growth, I'd like to buy you a book. After a lot of searching, with careful consideration that we all come to this from varying places, I've selected three options. To win a book, leave me a comment about your thoughts on practicing Lent or a time period for quiet and retreat from the world. I will select one commenter, at random ( and, if chosen, you can decide which book you would like. I will send a paperback or Kindle version to those within the continental US or a Kindle gift, via email, for those elsewhere.  

Give-away will close with comments left by the end of Sunday, March 2nd. 

3. Heart Steps by Julia Cameron

No matter the place you come from, we all need a time to remember we are more than earth-bound creatures running in a maze of tasks. Taking an intentional "time out" to nurture our spirits-- the birth place of our emotions, creativity, connection to nature and the world, and the dwelling place of the Divine-- is important to our complete growth. Join me for 40-days, beginning March 5th, on this journey. It's nice to travel together. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Notepads

If you look at the area by the phone in our kitchen, I’m embarrassed to admit you will usually find a disorganized mess of pens, miscellaneous mail, postage stamps, scissors, a glue stick and several notepads. This is our disheveled attempt at a communication command center.

The notepads are usually the cheap, spiral bound type, or small legal pads—the kind you buy in multiples at your local discount store. But despite their modest appearance, they--and the pens hoarded from hotels, businesses and before-school sales--are the vital tools to our family’s communication. With four car-driving adults in one house, (daughter, 18 and son, 23), the comings and goings can be constant and usually unannounced. Without our little pads, we would never know what each family member was up to.

Like a spontaneous journal, our little used up tablets reveal sentiments and messages, recording our daily lives.

Sometimes the notes are simple, like this one I left the kids before going for a jog, Hi—took Weemie Weiner (one of our nicknames for our Weimaraner dog) for a jog. Love you, Mom.

One day I left this for my daughter, who was still in bed with some kind of viral ick. Even in my notes I'm a professional Mom. Hi Sweetie, I hope you are feeling a bit better today. I set out pills for you—eat a little something. There is that soup social after church—I won’t stay long but call or text if you feel really yukky or need me.  Love  you, Mom. As a  PS I added, stay hydrated and drew a cup, apparently to add to her visual enjoyment.

My daughter left me this message last year, and I can’t bring myself to throw it away, Hi Mommy, Came home w/ Kat to get clothes, I’m helping her with a photo shoot for Art. I’ll be home this evening! Love you! Missy Moe. I loved how she still calls me Mommy, and she signed it with her nickname, a term of endearment within our family.

On a mini legal pad from this past fall, a series of messages commemorate my son’s recent battle with cancer.

From me: Dayne-O, I’m in town for a bit. I’ll leave my phone on (if the battery holds up). Dentist @ 1:00. Call Dr. John. You may want to ask if there will be any issues with dental xrays?

As his chemo treatments started, he learned he’d have to have a shot with each treatment to help boost his white blood cell count. Although we tried to treat it as routine and keep his life normal, my worry was always just barely concealed. Dayne-O—I’m at training for job with Diane. I’ll be done around noon in time to take you to shot (Dad took your car). I have phone. Please call if you’re not feeling well. Love U, Mom.

Another time, as treatments wore on, I left this note: 
The pasta needs to go on—the sauces should be ready. 
The cakes are in the fridge. 
The house is cleaned. 
Kat’s bringing salad. Morgan’s bringing the pop. 
I’m stressed and have had no time alone and I don’t want to be yelled at. I’ll be back later.

I remember the day I wrote this through a blur of tears. We were preparing to host my daughter’s softball team for supper and an evening of team-bonding. My son, understandably short-tempered from treatments and not feeling well, had snipped at me while I was trying to get the house ready, and I had a heavy dose of self-pity brewing. After all, there were two children who needed my attention, I'd had no time alone for months, and precious little time to work towards my own life-goals.

I stormed out of the house, hopped in the car, and sobbed my way into town, only to discover I really had no place to go. I finally ended up by the local river park staring sulkily into the rushing water; its cold, black waters matched my own tumultuous mood. After a good weeping session, I came home a little more in control. But times of frustration and fear often built up. The note was evidence of the strain health issues can place on a family.

As the chemo wore on, my husband and I decided my son needed a positive focus in his life, so in a moment of lapsed sanity, we allowed him to get a puppy. What we were thinking still remains a mystery, but this message is a reminder of the puppy antics that were the best therapy we could have given him. Dayne-O, See you when you get home—be safe. Also, your hoggy-doggy ate my P&J sammie, so he won’t need lunch (may have ate the baggie too, FYI).” I drew a picture of a dog-pig head and wrote woofoink under it, then the usual heart-shape and Mom.

On the last page of the legal pad is this simple, casual note left for my still sleeping daughter. Maddi, we’re at hospital. Dayne’s getting his port out—shouldn’t be long. I don’t have a phone but will have my Kindle/email if you need me. Love you, Mom.

That is the last note in the notepad, and also commemorates the day we put medical closure on my son’s illness. Removing the dreaded port, the means by which the healing recipe of toxic brew was pumped into his system, marked the triumphant end to his almost year-long battle. 

I just put out a new pad today, and I wonder what notes and messages it will hold, the tell-tale, hastily penned lists, phone numbers, and messages we will leave each other. Before the year is out, my son will move on with his life and my daughter will leave to attend college. How sad and empty the note pads and my heart will be.