Friday, August 23, 2019

Spending a little time with the Word...

Hello everyone, and welcome back to my little blog! I can't believe that it's late August already, YIKES! My kids haven't gone back to school yet, but it's coming. We have parent orientation tonight at Henry's new high school, and I think I'm handling my interior freaking out pretty well. ;-) I'm ready for a new season, but I'm also quite nervous. It'll be OK, but there are big things in store, to be sure!

I teased today's topic in last week's post, and I'm so excited to write about this today. :-) While I was on vacation last week, my sister introduced me to these Write the Word Journals, by Cultivate What Matters. I saw her using one each morning with her Bible and was intrigued.

These are not scripture studies, or guided journaling through scripture, per se. They are different from anything I've used in the past in that each day has a passage from the Bible listed (book and verse only) and then a big space for you to write down the actual passage. So you're not reflecting on the scripture verses (although you could do that too), but you're transcribing the verses down into your journal. There's also space to write down what you're grateful for that day, a word for the day, and what's on your heart that day (which you could use for pretty much any prayer purpose you wished). What I like about this system is that:

 (a) it can help you to memorize scripture verses, and

(b) on busy mornings, no deep thought is required on your part. You can just write the verse in, and there is still a great benefit to settling into God's Word for those few minutes without having to come up with coherent thoughts of your own. ;-) Some days, no inspired/academic reflecting is coming, as I'm sure you can relate!

There are a number of these journals available from Cultivate the Word, and each is themed. So this one (which is the one that I purchased) is about renewal, but there's also faith, hope, joy, contentment, etc. Here's a peek at the interior pages:

So indeed, I ordered one of the journals to check it out. You can also get these through Amazon, which if you have Prime shipping, is a way to save a bit. That's what I did. And I've been using mine each morning for a little peaceful and happy time with my Bible and with my own thoughts.

This is a non-Catholic Christian company, so the scripture references will be from the parts of the Bible that we both share, just an FYI. But I have to say that I'm loving the set up of these. There are lots of great options out there for scripture study, to be sure, I've just taken a shine to this one as an opportunity for individual scripture study, in a format that appeals to someone with a short attention span, and with not a lot of time to spare in my morning routine. :-)

Speaking of scripture study, I have been very inspired by this of late, and so have fun plans to announce to you. :-0 I'm going to start a weekly thread with themed scripture verses for us to chat about together in the blog's Facebook group! My sister Shauna'h has agreed to lead the thread each week, and will announce the theme and a related verse for us to look up in our Bibles and write in with our thoughts if we are so inspired. This will be super low maintenance, just participate whenever you'd like and/or are able to. I even made a graphic for us and everything, horray!


Join us on Facebook for Wednesdays with the Word starting up right after Labor Day! So, our first day will be September 4th. 🤗 I can't wait for this, I'm so excited!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Unexpected blessings at Mass on the road...

Hudson River, at Corinth, NY
So I had a lovely experience this past weekend, one of those times wherein you're sort of cruising along on spiritual auto-pilot, and then something comes up and grabs your attention in a completely unexpected way, kwim? To be sure, things haven't been poor for me in the spiritual realm, but it has definitely been a bit dry of late. I think this happens to most, if not all, people, and for me it's quite cyclical. A cycle might go for a year or more in either direction. And for me, it's been "just OK" for a number of months now.

This past weekend, my entire family took a weekend trip together for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. My 2 sisters live in other states, so we all met in the middle, rented a huge house with a pool through Airbnb, and all 15 of us stayed there together for a few days. It was SOOO nice to see everyone, and to spend quality time together.

Having some time to blissfully talk to my sister Shauna'h in person, we quite naturally navigated over to spiritual topics. Catholic podcasts we both listen to, books we've read, etc. And a book she was using for her morning devotional time really struck a chord with me. In a total teaser, that is the subject of *next* week's post, so you have to wait a bit for the big reveal on this particular book. :-0 But I'm soooo excited about it, and to share it with you! At any rate, she and I were talking about this book, and about prayer routines and scripture study, and it really got the Catholic Nerd in me re-energized, big time. More on this next week. ;-)

And so on Sunday morning, I was really looking forward to going to Mass. I'm going to be honest and admit that lately, Mass is something I attend because I know it's the right thing to do, not because I feel spiritually edified when I'm there. It happens. We must soldier through, and so that's what I've been doing. I was even wondering if we were going to make it, given that many of us hadn't slept well the night before, and things at the house were moving slowly Sunday morning due to an electrical outage.

But we made it. The Google Maps lady got us there safely, and I was feeling optimistic and much more enthusiastic about attending Mass than I have in quite some time. As we were walking into the tiny church for the 10:45 am Mass (open only seasonally to accommodate tourist season in the Adirondacks), a man standing at the door greeting people stopped us and asked Henry if he could help him carry something heavy. Henry, always the first to complain about church being boring, could use a job to do to keep his mind occupied, so I encouraged him to help out. The rest of us bustled into a pew.

Next thing I know, I see the man directing Henry into retrieving the cross from up at the front of the church. In most parishes, the portable cross for processing up the aisle is made of wood, but this one appeared to be made of wrought iron. :-0 Henry got it out, no problem, and carried it to the back of the church. I was pleased to see him being so cooperative.

Within minutes, the man reappeared, and this time he was wearing priestly vestments.

😂

Who knew?! He wasn't wearing a collar before then, so I assumed he was an usher. But I should have realized that this tiny church did not need ushers. At any rate, the opening song begins, Henry and the priest proceed to the front of the church, and Henry efficiently tucks the cross into it's holder and carefully turned it so that Jesus was facing out at the congregation. As he started to walk back to our pew, the priest stopped him, and they had a quick sidebar. Apparently, Henry's deliberate pause at the altar with the cross, waiting for the priest, and then coordinating their bows, gave away his skills as an altar server. Father recruited him on the spot to serve at the Mass. Which is hilarious, because Henry was on the schedule to serve at our home parish that exact same Sunday, and had to find a sub due to our trip. Apparently, he wasn't going to get out of serving on this particular day!

The experience gave the Mass a truly serendipitous feel, like it was meant to be for us to be there for that specific Mass. I loved watching Henry pitch hit on the altar, figuring out the system at this parish as he went along. Afterwards, we chatted with Father for awhile, and it was just lovely. He was thrilled to have an altar server at Mass, as he usually doesn't have one at this particular location, and enjoyed talking to us about our story and where we were from. I left with the happiest feeling of contentment and joy in my chest.

It's little moments like this that cause me to remember that God is always looking out for us, even when we're not adept at recognizing the signs. It was a wonderful experience that has left my faith feeling rejuvenated.

Have you ever had an experience like this one? Just a small God-incident moment? Any good Mass on the road stories from Sundays of travel? I'd love to hear about them in the comments! Also, next week we'll chat about devotionals. 😀

Friday, August 9, 2019

Back-to-school prayer, and knitting as a distraction from worry...

Welcome back friends! I hope you're enjoying the fresh start to August as much as I am. I am going to freely admit that I am quite odd, and find July to be my least favorite month every single year. I like certain aspects of July, like the 4th of July holiday and swimming/picnics, festival dancing, extra socializing with friends. But the weather?

👎

It's the most humid month of the year here in WNY, and that's my least favorite weather ever. Yes, even more so than winter. So, with July done, besides panicking a bit about the approach of my dance competition finals in late September, I'm enjoying the slight turn in the weather that August brings. There are still warm and humid days ahead, don't get me wrong, but they tend not to cluster so much, and to be less oppressive than July. I'll take it.

August also heralds other changes in our lives. K-12 schools in my part of the world don't start back until after Labor Day in September, but back-to-school is IN THE AIR now, if you know what I mean. Lots of sales and pictures on Facebook of back-to-schoolers, since most other areas of the country start back before we do. This is a situation that I have tucked away firmly in my heart for daily prayer. This new school year means lots of changes for our kids: they will no longer be at the same school, Henry will start high school, and Anne is officially in Big Kid Land as she starts 3rd grade. I have this rosary on my desk at work, made by the lovely Allison, and just holding it and looking at it gives me a sense of peace:

St. Joan of Arc, pray for us!

I have a feeling that I'll be using it for more than admiration purposes as we transition into fall. I think her courage and faith are exactly what I need next month, to be sure. I'm downright weepy about all of these changes, and the worry that accompanies them. So I've been knitting for both children up a storm, because in my mind this keeps them safe.

?

I know, I know. It doesn't have to make sense, it just has to make me feel better! I started a pair of green self-striping socks for Henry (who is suddenly an ADULT LARGE in terms of shoe size), and I made a robin playset for Anne. Not exactly conventional, but that's how we roll in my avian friendly household.

This summer, we had a robin family nest in our neighbor’s yard. Anne, ever the avid birder, kept vigil with her binoculars over Memorial Day weekend, and got to see the entire process - from the parents building the nest, to mom incubating the eggs, and finally three little beaks starting to push up over the top of the nest as mom and dad arrived back with worm reinforcements. The babies fledged a few weeks later, and now we see them in juvenile form, hopping around our back yarn with their spotted breasts, learning how to look for food on their own. It was just so special! So I found a robin pattern to make my Anne her own commemorative robin:

Pattern is Spring Robin, and is available for free!

This is Mother Robin. And she's super inquisitive. ;-)



Never content to leave well enough alone, I made a nest for Mother Robin. She needs a comfy home for her family!




And of course, my little helper is so excited about her new bird friend.


Instructions for the nest are included in the pattern, and it was MUCH easier than I expected! You essentially make a yarn snarl in your lap that you baste together with a separate strand of yarn, threaded through a tapestry needle, into the shape of a nest.

And here, HERE, is the best part. Mother Robin has her triplets!

:-0
I mean, did you ever? Instructions on how to knit the nestlings (squeal!) are included right in the pattern as well. I will admit, I found it a bit more cumbersome to knit a stuffed toy, especially small ones, as opposed to crochet. But this was an enjoyable process that I learned a lot from, and I'm thrilled with the results!

Anne made some "worms" out of scrap yarn, so now we have Mother Robin and babies posing all over the house in various scenes of feeding frenzy. It's all so cute, and I'm glad that I tried out the new skills I had to learn in order to make these. The satisfaction of all of this took my mind off of how freaked out I am about several key dates in September. 😂

So that's what I've been up to. How about you? Do you have any intentions you would like the community to pray for? Just let us know!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Dancing around dogs and potholes - festival dancing adventures 2019...

TGIF everyone, and as ever, weeks with summer festival dancing are full of adventure. I have to admit that heat and humidity are not my favorite conditions to dance in, but when you perform a cultural dance form, outdoor festivals are sort of your jam, whether you like it or not. So I've adapted as best I can (gigantic clip to get hair off of neck for in-between dances and changing of costumes is absolutely ESSENTIAL) but it's always an interesting stretch, especially the last full weekend in July, when our studio has traditionally danced 2 full afternoons at one particular art festival.

This year, there was no stage for performers, so we danced out at ground level throughout the festival grounds. This is another less then ideal situation, because it means that we're dancing on a road surface that is inevitably uneven and full of divots and loose gravel. It's just, you know. Not very glamorous. :-0 And a little bit uncomfortable!

Saturday was about 85 degrees, and quite humid, so my very strength of will was girded about what we were about to experience. Which is to say: sweat. So much sweat. And the un-air conditioned dressing space is the gateway to this situation, for sure and for certain. 😂

We were dressed in Saidi gowns, which means that the sweat situation was a bit more intense than usual, as they are full length and have long sleeves. I know, I know, but we are performing a number of folkloric pieces this summer, so the costuming is very specific. Hence, the sweat. But people dance in Egypt in gowns heavier than this, so I figure I cannot complain. ;-)

Saidi gowns!

And everything went very well. It's always difficult to carve out dance space in these situation, but people are super curious, so they tend to give way. I don't like dancing on slightly inclined surfaces, because I lose my balance much more easily when turning, but I did what I could:

Tiffany's Thought Bubble: "Well, maybe if I just step/step/step around it'll be better? Oof. Where did that hole come from?"

As we were lining up for our drum piece, I heard a troupemate whisper:

"Could you guys scoot forward just a bit? We're in a pot hole over here."

Very typical festival conditions, to be sure. 😂

Each day required an immediate shower afterward and complete laundering of costume and accessories, but such is life in summer festival season. We're performing again tonight, and I'm expecting more of the same! It's draining, but fun to dance with my girls. 🤗

What are you all up to this first weekend in August?