Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hope Lights the Way in the Darkness...Advent 2015 #1

The first Sunday in Advent we light the Hope candle - 

When circumstances are the hardest, when life events are the darkest, 
that is when we need hope the most...

Does the light usher in hope...
Or does hope pave the way for light?

 We all need hope:

Hope that our mess isn't the end of us
Hope that "this too will pass"...(whatever "this" is)
Hope that our broken hearts will heal
Hope that this dark night of the soul will be over soon 
Hope that the prodigal will come home soon
Hope that what we are believing for will come to pass before we die
Hope that our children will come to know the Lord
Hope that our attempts at imparting God's goodness, reflecting His Glory is enough
Hope that secret fears will prove unfounded

and we hope against hope...

Hope is our assurance that God will finish all He has started.
Hope is our confidence that He will do all He has promised.
All the promises of God are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
He is our hope, today and forever! (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Finding Light and Grace in Advent {and the coming year}

Looking for a great way to move into the Christmas season?  

Consider the following:
{found in a facebook group I am in: Contemplative Writers, and shared by Ed Cyzewski}

"This Thanksgiving weekend marks the end of the current Church year. Advent begins tomorrow and we begin a new journey of faith. Thus today is a “hinge day” — a time for gratitude to God for the grace and blessings of the past year, as well as the opportunity to walk forward with the Lord into Advent, as once again we prepare our hearts and homes for the birth of Jesus at Christmas.

Questions to consider:
Ignatius Loyola regularly invites us to take note of the movements of God’s grace in our daily livings. Today, as this year of grace comes to an end:  
What is happening within my heart? 
What adventures and opportunities of this past year am I really grateful for? 
What individuals and situations have strengthened me, challenged me, stretched me? 
What person and situation has had a particular impact this past year? 
Can I trace God’s presence throughout these past months of grace and opportunity…even if some days or weeks were particularly tough and challenging?

Take some moments today to express your thanks, to compliment a friend, to ask forgiveness, to share your talent and time with someone in need."

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your day be full of His blessings...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Practicing Awareness - an Overview: 7 Steps into Fully, Creatively Living

The glory of God is man fully alive...
St. Ireneus

I have mentioned before that I am a collector
and that is part of the appeal of pinterest and tumblr for me...a way of having a large collection of things I like that takes up virtually "no space"...

How does "collecting" fit into the topic of "Awareness", of being "Fully Alive" and how do these topics influence our art?

As is often the case, I sit down to write what seems to be a simple post, and so much more comes forth...the 7 item list at the bottom begs to be expanded upon, and will be!

To begin, the topic of "awareness" is important in the counseling realm as people are prone to live their lives on "automatic pilot".  Days pass by in a seeming blur, and if one seeks help to find out why their lives are dysfunctional, the individual really can have difficulty finding how their choices have played into their present discomfort {thus why the Scripture declares "in the abundance of counselors there is wisdom"}.  Indeed, when an action/choice/decision has become a habit, it is more difficult for the person with that habit to perceive its existence.  It takes a concentrated, focused effort to perceive and in the case of Christians, a good dose of relying on the Presence of the Holy Spirit to lead into all truth!

Our own God-created physiology can play into the development of "automatic living".  Our skin is designed to acclimate to the feel of clothing or accessories so that we don't notice them within seconds of being placed against the skin.  Our brains are designed to develop the ability to "attend" to certain designated important stimulus while at the same time screening out unimportant stimulus.  These two functions are important to our ability to live our days without distraction, but if lived apart from God or if lived "by might {flesh} and not by Spirit", these functions can lead us into numbness or bewilderment about our inability to experience the abundant life promised to us.

Our minds were also created to momentarily detach {or dissociate} from trauma so that we can do what is necessary to survive.  In some cases, dissociation has become a way of life instead of a defensive strategy to use in a crises.

Awareness, or living in the reality of the present, becomes a needed skill for each of these cases.  So how does one develop {or redevelop} this sense of awareness?  Think of how a young child approaches each is an adventure of new sensations and experiences; curiosity and discovery are normal.  They are open to the adventure of life.  Exploration and revelation are ever before them.  How can we reclaim the sense of adventure and revelation?  Following is a list of suggestions - 7 - try one a day, and then repeat!

 Awareness enhancing activities:

1.  Spend 5 minutes paying attention to your surroundings with your senses.  List (one word to keep is simple) what you hear, see, smell, taste, or can sense through your skin (hot, cold, comfortable, how do your clothes feel, what you are sitting on, etc.)  Consider taking one sense each day, and on days 6 and 7 write reflections on what the senses have revealed to you, or your thoughts about the exercise, or how paying attention to your senses has increased you awareness of the rest of your life.

2.  Count blessings.  3 a day gets you to 1000 over the course of a year.  Do you need a nudge on how to start?  Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience, has a link to prompts by month. (Plus information how giving thanks for the blessings makes good habits that lead to fuller lives is included.)

3.  Take a break every afternoon at the same time.  Sit down, drink a cup of tea (or in my case, rich dark coffee - no sugar or cream please); don't multi-task, but keep a journal and pencil handy - but this is not journaling time, not even a list making time.  When a thought of "I should" or the list of "to dos" starts running through your mind, just jot them down in the journal quickly for future reference, let the responsibility for it go and let your mind relax.  This might be a time when the Lord speaks to your quieted heart - your handy journal can capture the main idea of His words, but the important thing is not "to do", but "to be". And allow this to be a time when you keep your heart open, where family can come and you listen to their hearts...keep the attitude of "being" and not "doing" while you interact, and see how that affects the family members that come to your "tea time".

4.  Start a virtual collection on pinterest or tumblr.  Limit yourself to 5 minutes on one or the other however.  This becomes a diary of your personal likes, the beauty you are attracted to, the things you are curious about, joy and beauty that is being revealed to you.  It can also be a quick reference to that beauty.  In a very small way, you are creating a personal space for your own likes and loves.

5.  Start a journal:  1)  consider a "quote journal" in your own handwriting.  It will be a keepsake!  Are you writing blessings in a journal?  Consider using the same one for quotes in order to only keep up with one journal.  2).  a nature journal; visually record your surroundings - outside and in!  Sketch, watercolor, use color pencils.  Date your entries. 3).  an art journal; a combination of words and images, collaged, drawn, doodled, sketched, painted colored.  The key is freedom and no concern for the finished is the process that is important!  Don't try to be perfect and let that perfectionism rob you of the benefits of journal keeping!

6. Simplify:  this one word has ramifications in many areas of our life.  Start out by listing possible areas of "too much" that need to be addressed.  Three online places that I like:
a) Home Sanctuary - Christian and her mostly daily emails lead you to clean or maintain a small area, breaking the task into bites even the most busy person can achieve. Want to make your home - your sanctuary? You're in the right place. Come on in and join us!
b) Small Notebook - A Christian blogger in a small home who loves to share the joys and largeness of "small living".  Her family lives in a small space, so she has lots of good ideas for keeping that space from getting full and organizing it.  Small Notebook gives you practical tips and encouragement to simplify your home, your finances, and your time. She hasn't posted since January of 2015, but the blog and all the goodness is still there.
c) Simple Mom - a space dedicated to helping families live simple and intentionally. A book "Organized Simplicity" and "One Bite at a Time" helps make the "simplifying" task, well, simple!

A word of caution - don't let "simplifying" become an issue of overwhelm!  These 3 blogs can help, but give yourself permission to go at a pace is comfortable to you.  I subscribe to "Home Sanctuary", because I like the daily prompts (which I choose to do or not do).  "Small Notebook" is a place I visit during leisurely minutes for inspiration to do more with less.  The same with "Simple Mom".  My visits to these two sites might be once a month, and probably reflects my season in life.  You might find a different routine would fit your lifestyle in a better way. 

One final recommendation...three "simplifying" sources are all you need.  You might find a different three than these, but limit yourself to three.  Anything more is probably procrastination at beginning the task of simplification!

7.  Take deep cleansing breaths.  They increase the oxygen that your brain receives, help to cleanse your body of impurities, and release minor stress.  Notice times when you sigh.  Have you been holding your breath unconsciously and your body has just made an attempt to get more oxygen?  Take these opportunities to do several deep breaths...and send sentence prayers to God during the breaths!

Praying for Him to lead you into the simplicity of devotion to Him 
by letting go of all that is not of Him...
(2 Corinthians 11:3)
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