Monday, April 17, 2017

Immersed in the Psalms: Colorado dreams

Have you ever had a Bible passage speak to you, directly? I don't mean convict you of something that's been gnawing at you... I mean that reaches out and talks about what's on your heart specifically?

Psalms 37

Many years ago, my husband and I began daydreaming about moving to Colorado. Our joints move more freely there. We breathe more easily in the thinner air. Our allergies are better there. Yes there are painkillers available there, that aren't yet legal here.

Several years ago, I started hunting for a house that would work for us in Colorado; a smaller, universal design that we could afford. I have looked at over 10,000 floor plans at this point, and we've fallen in love with a specific design. It's been the house we measure all other options against for two years now. And... it's half the size of our current small-to-modest sized house.

Yes, tiny houses are currently extremely popular, but when we started hunting in 2006 people thought we were crazy. When we finally found THIS house, we were told we're insane. A family of four adults? With 540 square feet of ground-level living? With enough open space to accommodate a WHEELCHAIR?!?

This year, we began saving in earnest towards our house. It is no longer a dream, it's our goal. The floorplan is on our wall, where we can write on it whiteboard-style as we brainstorm how we'll fit everything we want to bring with, into its tinier space. We've marked out a miniature pantry on our living room floor, to visualize where all of our canning paraphernalia will be stashed. And we've prayed, long AND hard, for years.


Today I am catching up with my Psalms readings, and I finished the 37th Psalm... and it covered every reservation we've had about our move.

Psalm 37:7a - Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him... One of our biggest issues with our plan, is the several-years of waiting and saving it will take to be able to achieve our goal while downsizing our financial needs. Be still. Again, be still and wait patiently. How many times must we read that patience is a virtue?

Psalm 37:16 - Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked. To be able to downsize our house, we have been downsizing our belongings. As we've struggled with how many bookshelves we can fit, we've been slowly learning that the more we let go, the more free we feel.  Now even the Bible is preaching the virtues of owning less! What more do we need, to know that we're on the right path?

Psalm 37:34a - Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land... Land. To own our own land. To see our dreams come true.

Wait for the Lord
and keep His way,
and He will exalt you to inherit the land.
Our dream, written about by David, thousands of years before we were born.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

How NOT to Celebrate Saint Patrick's Day

I would like to share a few things, before the Chicago river is dyed green and absolutely everyone claims Irish ancestry. If you choose to celebrate the life of one of Ireland's most famous, please consider the following:

St. Pat - no, no, NO! You are celebrating the life of a man named Padraig. If you must shorten his name, please... it's Paddy, never Patty or Pat. If you prefer, his birth name was Maewyn Succat. He didn't become Patrick until he was a priest. In our house, we celebrate who he was before AND after his priesthood... the entire man.

Green Beer - this is not a thing. The Irish think this is crazy, since they are known for their love of pubs. What would an Irishman drink? Guinness, or whiskey. I've heard that both are divine.

Corned beef - this is not Irish. It is American. Enjoy it in honor of Irish immigrants, but know that it did NOT originate on the Emerald Isle. Ireland has never had many cows, and therefore beef is extraordinarily pricey there. Would you like to try true Irish fare? Colcannon. It's amazing, and served up year-round in our house. You can also try: barmbrack, champ, boxty, or a shepherd's pie, just to name a few personal favourites.

*** Booklist for Baby Sis: 
This is Ireland, by Miroslav Sasek
Patrick Patron Saint of Ireland, by Tomie dePaola
Patrick Son of Ireland, by Stephen Lawhead
The Confession of Saint Patrick, and Letters to Coroticus 
101 Things you Didn't Know about Irish History, by Ryan & Amy Hackney
Irish Cook Book, by... YOU!
Celtic Myths & Legends, by Publications International
Spring, by Gerda Muller
Spring Story, and Poppy's Babies, by Jill Barklem ***

Being a redhead - believe it or not, only half of Ireland's people have red hair. The other half have DARK BLACK hair! I was born a ginger, meaning my heritage is visible. I cry when my dark-haired Irish friends are told they can't be Irish because their hair is the wrong color. It's the dark-haired Irish who inhabited the island FIRST!!!

Irish for a day - please, seriously? If I were to claim I was Somali for a day, how would my melanin-blessed friends react? That would be wrong. Why then, is it socially acceptable for people to claim they are Irish for a day? Why isn't this JUST as wrong? Some of us are very proud of our under-recognized heritage. Please. Let us have JUST ONE DAY when we can be proud of who we are.

When you're a Cornish Welsh Scot-Irish (aka: Celtic!) woman, there aren't many days to celebrate your ancestors. Saint Patrick's day is a Catholic day of remembrance, that has been adopted as a day when those with Celtic roots can claim pride in their heritage. Please, use the day to learn about Ireland. Wear green. Visit a pub. Go to a parade. Swap limericks. Learn about Mr. Succat - the Roman nobleman, turned slave, turned priest. Try something genuinely Irish. Invite yourself to my house for colcannon and apple cake while listening to Celtic Thunder, and The Chieftains. (No, really, feel free to come over! I'll make plenty!) But please remember... this is a nationality being celebrated, not a joke.

Ireland is a tiny little island. To this day, only HALF of Ireland is independent... and yes, there are resistance groups who STILL fight for the freedom of Northern Ireland. For a tiny country that can't even claim their own land, having a holiday taken over by those who aren't Irish... stings, at best.

How do the Irish celebrate Saint Patrick's Day? By going to church.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Immersed in the Psalms: headspace

Most of the past week has been spent in the 18th Psalm... a long passage that shows the many ways God saves David from his many enemies. It's a difficult passage to connect to, when your worst enemy is your own body. I don't really want to be rescued by an avenging God, and I don't need the strength to utterly crush my enemies. So I found myself picking at the passage, pulling praises from amongst the foe-vanquishing, and not really "feeling" most of what I studied.

At the same time, I have been fighting downright evil migraines all week; eventually visiting the doctor for a diabolical head-scrambling shot, and a short list of bad options for dealing with my migraines in the future. This might have had some effect on my ability to connect and concentrate.

What do YOU do when you can't get info a proper headspace? How do you connect, when everything around you feels disconnected?

For me, I've spent more time in prayer and listening to songs, and less time reading and looking at screens. It doesn't help much, but it does allow me a different perspective.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Immersed in the Psalms: my daily routine

I've been asked by several people what I actually DO in my Psalms studies. Now that I've been studying long enough to have formed habits, I can share my routine.

Each morning, I begin with prayer... and tea. The tea is purely medicinal, I'm sure.

From there, I'll read the daily devotional in The One Year Book of Psalms, and on days when I finish a chapter I read the coordinating chapter  In The Secret Place: a Pilgrimage Through the Psalms. Then, I write out the passage I've been studying, by hand. Writing it out seems to bring different phrases to mind than simply reading it, and quite often changes my entire perspective.

After this, I turn on music inspired by the Psalms, (fit right now I have The Psalms Project, which goes through the 30th Psalm... After that, I've found Youtube playlists for all 150!) while reading through, commenting on, and coloring in Bless the Lord, O My Soul. This is a quieter, more contemplative time for me to simply and quietly process what I've read so far.

Some days a single Psalm is split up over a few days, while other days I finish an entire Psalm in a day. On "partial days" I finish up by embroidering one of my favorite verses or coloring in The Psalms in  until lunchtime. On full-chapter days, I will write out my favorite verse from that chapter in illustrated calligraphy. I'm still practicing so my work looks somewhat elementary, but I'm loving being able to hone my skills after years of neglect.

These studies take 1-2 hours each morning, and have been an amazing time of quiet and reflection so far. I'm only a month in, but I am loving every minute of my time so far.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Immersed in the Psalms: Keep Us Safe

I chose to hold off on my studies this morning, so I could watch the presidential inauguration.

Today I read the twelfth Psalm. All I can say is... read it yourself. The timing of this passage feels oh, so apropos on such a politically charged day. I COULD see it as a Psalm of despair, but instead I see - twice - a promise of God's protection.

Too many of my friends are angry, or fearful of the future. They are worried about safety, heath care, and even war. I have heard, "not my president" from so many friends - and I worry that this could divide a country that cannot afford to fight with itself, when there is hate and fear attacking us from what feels like every side.

Mummy taught me, "When you can't respect the man, respect the title." Whether you voted for him or not, I think we can all agree that President Trump is a man who needs our prayers. He stands for ideals that are bigger than you, me, or himself... and no one man can do half of what's expected in that position. I prayed for President Obama, and I will pray for President Trump. The fact that I voted for neither man is immaterial. They hold a title that deserves my prayers and respect... because ANYONE in that office, needs prayer... and respect.

Pray that he lives up to your hopes. Pray that your fears are unfounded. Pray that God's promise of protection keeps us safe.

But pray.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Immersed in the Psalms: Helping the Helpless

For the past few days, I have been immersed in Psalms 8 & 9 which talk about helping those who cannot help themselves.

This could mean any number of people, but to me it's about children. Children are vulnerable to our actions, our neglect, and... our words. One careless word can scar a child, literally for life. I know this first-hand, and I've seen it too many times to count, in others. Please, be careful with your words... ESPECIALLY when little people are present!

For my little friends, who cannot defend themselves, I would like to share some truisms that I have learned. Some are funny, others are dead serious, but they are all real.

25 Things I've Learned from 25 Years of Working with Preschoolers

1. Farts are funny. Get over it.
2. You DO fit on an 11" chair with a 32" inseam. Kneel with your feet under the chair. Unfold gently when standing up again.
3. Bubbles heal nearly every ouchie. For those that they don't, there are band aids. Buy the colorful ones, they heal faster.
4. Don't ask what the picture is... ask them to tell you about it. Watch their face light up.
5. Use "no" sparingly. Follow every "no" with a "yes". Yes, for the 10,000th time.
6. The COOL daddy ALWAYS drinks the invisible tea from the pink plastic cup. Always.
7. Storytimes are magical; they can expand your lap enough to fit seven children. Try it.
8. Mitten clips fall off and get lost. Strings through the sleeves, do not.
9. Need to go somewhere quietly? Pretend you're a different quiet animal every time. This only works if the grown-ups do it too.
10. Three rules, that's all any group needs; take turns, be kind, and always use NICE words.
11. Never ask if they WANT to do something, if what you mean is that they MUST. A question may legitimately be answered with "no".
12. Time to clean up? Who can pick up more red Legos than Katie? More toy food than Ben? This is faster than the clean-up song, I promise.
13. Crafts are messy. Do them anyway.
14. Glitter, however, is not worth the mess.
15. Teens make the best helpers. Teachers AND preschoolers agree.
16. Red juice/Jello/treats with artificial colors will turn at least half your room into scary monsters. Test this at your own risk.
17. Hug them. Hug them more. Hug them once again. Then give them another, for good measure.
18. Play kitchens are for boys too. The ONLY difference is that the pink cups will be filled with invisible juice instead of tea. Don't know why, but it's true.
19. Let them see your fears. My "fear" of the color pink has endeared me to hundreds. My fear of the dark? Thousands.
20. Do not shout when you need their attention. Speak softer and softer until there is silence. If everyone is shouting at once... blow a train whistle. Then whisper.
21. Don't believe in can't. Believe in try again. This works 90% of the time. For the other 10%, there is "let's try together".
22. Cardboard boxes and blankets over tables are STILL better than ANYTHING that runs on batteries or electricity.
23. Make snacks together. It's worth the mess. Foods that spread or need mixing are best.
24. Laugh at their jokes. All of them.
25. Accidents happen. Forgive, FORGET, repeat.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Immersed in the Psalms: Perspective

I took these photos earlier this week during a rare moment when I had the house to myself. I was enjoying the silence, and snapped the photos to remember how at-peace I felt.

Just a few hours later a family emergency came up, and our hurricane-nephew came to turn our house into a frenetic place of rambunctious energy.

As I look at these photos just a few days later, I realize that nearly everything I see can be interpreted based on perspective.

The candle on the table - I can see that it's nearly burned down... OR I can see that we have been enjoying the same candle for several weeks.

The flowers - I can see that they are starting to wilt, OR I can see that there is still some life in them, nearly two weeks after they were purchased.

I see my blanket and know that I was curled up on the sofa feeling the effects of the weather - OR I can remember that I was warm inside my house, and did not need to venture outside on a day that would have been cripplingly cold.

Through the window I can see that we still share a driveway and side-yard with neighbors literally 20' away, OR I can see the new flooring, and enjoy the fact that we have been slowly improving our house for the past 18 years.

In the next photo, I can either see a micro office-cart put together out of the needs of a failing body, OR I can see that I have everything I need right at my fingertips, wherever I need to be.

I can see that our home is small enough that our fireplace is only for gel fuel and decoration, OR I can see that we've managed to find a way to have a cozy fire, even without a chimney.

In my life, I can see that I have been forced to use my wheelchair more often than not in the past two years, OR I can see that I have an all-terrain chair that allows me to trek around offroad, and that I am able to "outrun" my son for the first time in 15 years.

In taking a year to study the Psalms, I can see a desperate attempt to add peace and calm to a chaotic life, OR I can see that we can afford for me to be a stay at home mom, even after my kids have grown, and that I have the freedom to finally do something for myself.

Some days these changes in perspective come easily to me. Other days I have to struggle to even see them. Just within this past week however, my eyes have been opening to some of the more subtle positive perspectives within my life.

It's a welcome change.