Monthly Archives: December 2017

Advent of Light: Wonder

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I have followed photographer/speaker/author Karen Walrond at www.chookooloonks.com for several years and I love her photography and the tone of her writing. She is very soothing. She also provides links to her favorite songs on her playlist, which has introduced me to some fun new (to me) musicians. In December, she is offering a guided journal type writing course called Advent of Light and since I was looking for a way to focus some time on writing, I signed up.  I’m already behind, because life is busy, but thought I’d take a few minutes to pound out a few words from Day 5’s prompt: Wonder

At a Cub Scout Pack Meeting in November, parents and Cub Scouts alike were asked to think of something they were thankful for and write it down on a paper leaf, then attach it to a large hand drawn tree. Later, we would share with the assembled group what was written on our respective leaves.  Many of the adults and children said they were thankful for family or for Jesus or friends. The Cub Master leading this discussion praised each person’s choice. Truly, family and Jesus and friends are things to be insanely grateful for.  What was I grateful for that night? Indoor plumbing.  This was met with a sort of “womp-womp” expression from the Cub Master. She quickly recovered and agreed that indoor plumbing is indeed something to be grateful for, but I could tell she was looking for more noble ideals.

But I stand by my choice. I marvel every day—seriously—that I have clean water flowing through pipes that are inside my house, and it is easily accessible in multiple places throughout. In seconds, I can have hot water for a shower or to wash my hands. I have clean water to drink from taps on both floors of my house. I don’t have to leave the comfort of my home or brave the weather to use the bathroom.  I have machines hooked up to hoses and pipes IN MY HOUSE that clean my dishes and clothes!  It astounds me that it is possible and that I’m lucky enough to possess this technology that provides this most basic of human needs—clean water.

I follow another blog, called We Are That Family,  written by Kristen Welch, founder of Mercy House Global, a charity that empowers women and mothers around the world to provide for themselves and their families. Kristen co-founded a maternity home for pregnant teens in Kenya, with a Kenyan woman, Maureen Owino. Their mission was to preserve families and prevent orphans, to rescue girls who had been sexually abused and found themselves pregnant. Kristen and Maureen set out to provide a safe haven for these expectant girls, where they could both heal and prepare for the births of their babies. Kristen and Maureen felt very strongly about saving lives—and that no child deserves to grow up in an orphanage. Their philosophy is that it is better for children to have one loving, dedicated parent than to have none at all.  While they offer support and resources and facilitate opportunities for emotional and physical healing and preparation for giving birth, they help the girls with their academic studies and teach them a trade, so they will be able to support themselves and their babies.  Kristen’s blog posts about her trips to the toughest parts of Kenya and Maureen’s trips to the States shine light on the disparities of wealth and resources. She has written about how things she takes for granted in the States are simply overwhelming to her Kenyan friend and colleague. She says this not only reminds her of how much ease and convenience her life in the States provides, it reminds her to do her part to share what she has and work for and celebrate the successes of her Kenyan girls. Kristen admits to being often overwhelmed by the difficult lives and heartaches of the young women she loves and works for, and that many times the stories and circumstances of the girls make her feel hopeless, but she carries on in her work because even though she can’t do everything, she is not excused from doing something.  She says what helps her keep perspective is to remember to marvel at what is possible.

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Advent of Light: Peace

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I have followed photographer/speaker/author Karen Walrond at www.chookooloonks.com for several years and I love her photography and the tone of her writing. She is very soothing. She also provides links to her favorite songs on her playlist, which has introduced me to some fun new (to me) musicians. In December, she is offering a guided journal type writing course called Advent of Light and since I was looking for a way to focus some time on writing, I signed up.  I’m already behind, because life is busy, but thought I’d take a few minutes to pound out a few words from Day 4’s prompt: Peace

I have never really thought deeply about peace. I have always understood it in one sense to mean that there is no war. I have also understood it to mean feeling calm, assured that things will work out eventually, even if everything around you is in chaos. On Karen’s blog, I read a story about a king who goes in search of the definition of peace and is told by a wise man that it is in a grain of wheat. The king takes the grain and puts it in a box and guards it carefully, thinking over how this grain could possibly be the definition of peace. He can’t figure it out, so he goes back to the wise man and asks. He is told that though he was careful to protect and guard the grain, he was depriving it of the soil, the water, and the light it would need to grow  to its full potential. The wise man explained that peace is not just something to hold within ourselves, it needs to be allowed to grow and to be shared with others.

I’d never really thought of peace that way—to me, it had always meant no war or  feeling calm and reassured that things would work out eventually, even if everything around you is in chaos. So, the story above got me thinking—how can I share peace with others?

I am an intense and passionate person. I have big opinions and big feelings and I am not afraid to share them—but this also sometimes makes me a bit intimidating and obnoxious.  My intent is never to hurt or shame or anger anyone—but I have inadvertently done so on more than one occasion, simply because I allowed my intensity to overpower my consideration of others.  I have noticed this tendency particularly since the last presidential election cycle. I have always considered myself a “bridge builder.” I LOVE working to bridge gaps in understanding, culture, and education, but I think I’ve burned a few of those bridges over the last little while and it has taken me some time to figure out how to start rebuilding.

Karen mentioned in her blog that she had a chance to talk with Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and he said that peace is more than the absence of war, it is living in harmony with others. I like that definition of peace. I am sharpening my bridge building tools, which are: listening to understand, preserving a person’s dignity, and bringing levity to tense situations when appropriate.

Advent of Light: Light

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I have followed photographer/speaker/author Karen Walrond at www.chookooloonks.com for several years and I love her photography and the tone of her writing. She is very soothing. She also provides links to her favorite songs on her playlist, which has introduced me to some fun new (to me) musicians. In December, she is offering a guided journal type writing course called Advent of Light and since I was looking for a way to focus some time on writing, I signed up.  I’m already behind, because life is busy, but thought I’d take a few minutes to pound out a few words from Day 3’s prompt: Light.

I’ve been reading the Harry Potter series out loud to my kids (this is an annual tradition) and as the series progresses, the tone of the writing and the content get darker and more complicated. There are people who are turned off of the series because of this, but I find it fascinating, because with each volume, as the situations and experiences of Harry and his friends get darker and more frightening, the forces of good and love at work in the novels burn steadily brighter, and ultimately show out to a happy and hopeful resolution.  There is suffering and pain and loss, but through it all, is light and hope that good will triumph. I’m drawn to this series precisely because of that, and am often inspired and reassured by a quote from the film adaptation of the book Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

When I consider the times in my life that have felt the darkest, I have always managed to cling to the little fire burning within me that insists life is worth the fight. Sometimes the little flame needs some kindling by way of a good work out, a good laugh with my husband, a rambly talk with a friend, a ranty email to my mom, an hour poring over some Shakespearean tragedies (I’m weird that way), a good cry, a long nap, or a heart-to-heart,-no holds-barred talk with God. All these things build up the light in my world. I hope then, that I can share my light and help others build up their own.

Advent of Light: Grace

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I have followed photographer/speaker/author Karen Walrond at www.chookooloonks.com for several years and I love her photography and the tone of her writing. She is very soothing. She also provides links to her favorite songs on her playlist, which has introduced me to some fun new (to me) musicians. In December, she is offering a guided journal type writing course called Advent of Light and since i was looking for a way to focus some time on writing, I signed up.  I’m already behind, because life is busy, but thought I’d take a few minutes to pound out a few words from Day 2’s prompt: Grace.

I have done some really bone-headed things this year, a few of them recently. Though I didn’t intend to, I managed to hurt and alienate some people that I love and respect, and I am still dealing with the consequences. It’s hard not to want to kick myself. I have made my genuine apologies and tried to make amends. I am an impatient person and am ready for bygones to be bygones, but I also understand that forgiveness and reconciliation take time, if they come at all.  I’ve done the best I could and now I move forward, with hope. I’m not really one to wallow in self-pity.  Is that grace? I guess it’s as much as I’ll get for now.

Advent of Light: Reflection

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I have followed photographer/speaker/author Karen Walrond at www.chookooloonks.com for several years and I love her photography and the tone of her writing. She is very soothing. She also provides links to her favorite songs on her playlist, which has introduced me to some fun new (to me) musicians. In December, she is offering a guided journal type writing course called Advent of Light and since i was looking for a way to focus some time on writing, I signed up.  I’m already behind, because life is busy, but thought I’d take a few minutes to pound out a few words from Day 1’s prompt: Reflection.

This year has been interesting. It hasn’t been bad, but in reflecting on 2017, my general feeling is “meh.” This is mostly my own doing—I turned 40 this year and was so burnt out by April from all the going and running and doing that I do in my day-to-day living that I decided I was going to put the skids on everything I could.  I was exhausted from all the driving, all the striving, and all the things I had committed to.  I had failed in some long-time goals earlier in the year and was discouraged and frazzled.  I took some time to consider the goals I had been chasing and realized that it was time to let them go…to accept that I wasn’t going to accomplish them and admit that I didn’t really want to anymore.  I spent a good part of the front end of the year struggling with the shame of feeling like a failure and a quitter, but also knowing that as I was working on those goals I had discovered that I really didn’t want them bad enough to continue.  I expressed my feelings to my husband, who told me “Sometimes you have to visit a lot of ports to find your harbor.” Or something to that effect. I don’t quite remember exactly how he put it—but basically, he meant that sometimes we don’t know what we really want (or don’t want) until we’ve tried a bunch of things.  This thought gave me a lot of peace, and I was able to let go of my negative feelings.  I had some loose ends I needed to tie up, but I kept putting them off, because I didn’t want to let people down or admit that I wanted to be done. But, I finally did it, and I feel at peace. 

After that, I decided I was going to spend my 40th year having an anti-mid-life crisis. I was not going to go get a crazy new hair-do or take up a fascinating new hobby, or go on a diet, or start doing yoga or whatever.  I gave myself permission to just dink around and not commit to anything I didn’t HAVE to.  I gave myself permission to be a slug.

In some ways, this has been very nice. I’ve done a lot more reading than I have in the past. I’ve spent a little more time at home than I did before, which has enabled me to spend more time with my younger kids and getting to know them—not just to do all the homeschooling stuff. It’s been fun. I have spent more time with my husband—which his awesome, because I really, really like being with him.

In other ways, though, being a slug has made me, well, sluggish.  I have put on 10 pounds and felt myself get flabbier and less strong.  I have spent a lot of time laying around, scrolling Facebook. A general feeling of apathy has settled over me.  I’m tired all the time and feel a bit directionless. Turns out having goals keeps me active and focused, and not having goals turns me into a sleepy butterball. I saw a tee shirt recently that said “My patronus is a sloth.” I think that sums up 2017 for me. 

The good news is, I’ve had about enough of that. I’m bored, a little lonely, and antsy—all good signs that I’m ready to get up off my couch and get back into life. It WAS nice to dial life back to doing the bare minimum—I needed the rest. I think I just rested a little too hard and a little too long.  I’m intense like that—all or nothing, baby! 

Well, maybe not all or nothing. I’ve learned from this year that too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing.  It’s great to chase after goals, but not to the point of exhaustion and burn out. It’s also great to take a break and rest easy, but not to the point of complete inertia.

I’m not really one to do New Year’s Resolutions, but I am definitely paying more attention to what I’m doing every day, and asking myself if it’s the right thing to do for my long term health and sanity, and then acting accordingly. I read a book recently that talked about when you don’t have everything figured out, but need to keep moving, you should just do the next right thing.  I like that. It’s a good philosophy that I’d like to carry over into 2018!