Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day weekend is a good time to give some thought to work-rest balance. This is a particularly difficult topic for Americans. We like to work. Many of us are happiest when we're being productive. Yet rest is prescribed by God; Sabbath is commanded.
I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about Sabbath. I didn't worry about it before I started church work because I had Sundays off, and I went to worship in the morning, and then generally goofed off in the afternoon. Eventually, I realized that I was no longer taking a whole day off from work. I felt like a hypocrite teaching confirmation and talking about the commandments - no room for smugness when I got to the Third. So I started looking around for a way to observe the Sabbath commandment in a God-honoring way.
One essential part of Sabbath is that it is holy - set apart, treated with reverence, held as special. The other is that there is rest. Orthodox Jews observe this so strictly that they won't even flip a light switch on the Sabbath, but that kind of observance would be work (not rest) for me. I believe true Sabbath is an interruption in daily life that turns me toward God, a change of routine that will actually create a restful oasis in my overloaded life.
What I finally chose to do was not complicated. I set aside 24 consecutive hours each week where I refrain from driving my car and spending money. In the beginning it was hard. Then one day I realized that in practice, Sabbath is observed sundown to sundown, and that made all the difference for me. These days my Sabbath practice usually takes place between 6pm Thursday and 6pm Friday, not a usual time but it works for me. These two simple changes slow me down and also create space for rest and prayer. I may be folding laundry, but the slower pace brings me to a place of gratitude for the ordinary. Hot water and clean towels are luxuries I rarely give thanks for. . . occasionally I slip up and hit the "buy now with 1-click" button, but on the whole, it is time away and, I believe, accords me Sabbath benefits.
As the slower days of summer draw to a close, I plan to continue my counter-cultural practice and I hope you can find your own ways to keep Sabbath. If you can't begin to imagine this - start with an hour. I would love to hear about your reactions to experimenting with Sabbath or your established Sabbath practices. Please share!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Church Friends. . .

As I prepared for the birth of my first child, far from my parents and barely planted in Texas, I went in search of a church community in which to raise my child. I visited every congregation of my denomination within a reasonable distance and finally settled upon one. The worship was lively and the liturgy familiar. I attended semi-regularly in the beginning, and eventually joined. The day I became a member though came a few months after I was officially added to the rolls. It was the day I made a friend at church. 

In fact, I made two friends at church that day. I found myself sitting next to a couple who were also expecting a child, and from the looks of things, with a due date close to mine. They welcomed me warmly and from that day forward I had someone I recognized when I came to worship. Eventually, I delivered my daughter Emily three weeks early, on Beth's due date, and she delivered Kenny 8 days later. Her son and my daughter were destined to be friends from an early age.

Fast forward about five years and Niel, Beth's husband, and another great guy from our church have started a camping ministry. By this time I'm a single parent with two kids (the second daughter was born on Kenny's second birthday.) Remembering my own joy in camping as a child I decided to sign up for the family campout. And with lots of help from Niel, and other kind church friends, we started camping a couple times a year. Those weekends were some of the best in my life. The kids had freedom and friends and sunshine and nature, and the adults had community in a way rarely seen outside of family circles. Emily and Kenny made their first communion at a campout, covered in mud and surrounded by people who they already gathered around a table with on a regular basis.

Time marches on and eventually Niel was transferred to Minnesota but our families managed to see one another and even vacationed together a couple of times. Sometime after they left, I went to work at that (now much larger) church and tried hard to befriend new people as Niel and Beth had befriended me.

When my job at that church came to an end, I decided to let the Spirit lead me, wherever that might be. And she led me to Minnesota, only 40 minutes from my old friends, who became my first friends again. And when I moved a second time, I was still close, and now living in the same town as Kenny and his wife, 1100 1150 miles north. Thanks be to God for the gift of friendship!

This entry is written in response to a Friday Five prompt. One of the five questions was "Who is your longest term church-related friend?"  I was shocked to realize that we have been friends since 1984, over half of my life. Apologies to all who have heard this story before (or other stories of our friendship and adventures over the years). And thanks to Beth and Niel for being both good friends and good role models, and for continuing to make memories with me!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fresh Start. . .

Dear Friends, It's been a long stretch since my last post and as the summer approaches I've decided to get back in the saddle again. A group I belong to posts a Friday Five challenge which I intend to use as a prod to get me going. So - as I fumble to find my footing, bear with me, and feel free to ask questions.

As most of you know, I changed jobs again back in November. It was hard. Harder than moving to Minnesota in the first place because back then I needed a job, and a place to be useful. Blooming Prairie was the perfect transition. The people were kind, the church was and is vibrant, the pace was restful, and I really recovered from the trauma of unexpected change. I learned a lot about myself, and about where I came from. I hope and think I was useful to the congregation and the community. I made some wonderful friends who I expect to keep forever.

. . .Then the Spirit blew something new into my path and I found myself drawn toward it and after endless prayer and journaling and lists of pros and cons along with conversations with trusted advisors I decided to accept a new position 50 miles further north. . .

That decision started an eight month period of imbalance: new job and home, holidays in a new setting, some family stuff, and just the lack of community that I as an extravert require for good balance. It takes time to settle after this kind of thing but I'm determined to find a new balance this summer.

All of which brings me to today's writing challenge: make a quick list of five things you do when you need a triage of self care.
  1. I SWIM. Nothing soothes my soul or my body like time in the pool. One big bonus of the move to Northfield is the Northfield Senior Center which has an 89 degree pool open many hours a day. I joined early this year and try to make it there every couple of days.
  2. I READ. I read good fiction that takes me to other times, places or circumstances. If it's not absorbing, or if I find myself critiquing the writing or the plot, I move on to something else (I have a Kindle which allows second choices 24 hours a day.)
  3. I CONNECT. When my need for self-care is caused by too much alone time I make the effort to plan a meet up with someone else, or call someone I miss a lot.
  4. I INDULGE. Usually with a haircut, pedicure, on-line shopping, or sleep, but sometimes with a massage, a rant, or planning a trip.
  5. I CRAFT. As I haven't really set up a studio yet, this one is kind of unavailable right now (and more a source of stress than relaxation) but when I can drag out stamps, paper, tools and toys and try out new techniques and color combinations I can feel my soul settle.
The challenge offered "bonus points" for a sixth item so I will add that I PRAY in different ways: writing letters to God, finding a place outdoors to sit with God and let the wonder of creation seep into my awareness, or just good old-fashioned contending with the Almighty out loud.

So, how about you? What are your five go-to activities when you need to take care of your frazzled self? I think just thinking about this is a really useful exercise for me. It creates a plan for the time when I need to rebalance. Challenges and stress and change come to all of us and it's good to be prepared to step up and take care of ourselves. I hope you have some extra time off this weekend and can spend some of it taking care of yourself! I will be catching up at home in an effort to find a little more balance 1100 1150 miles north. . .

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Senior Antics

No, not me, though the insistent AARP renewal reminders seem to indicate that they are concerned about my memory. (And since it's been so long since I wrote ANYTHING, I guess my memory could be suspect!) However, the past two weeks have held several graduating seniors events.

First, I went to Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana to witness Gracie's graduation from Law School.
I was one proud mama, but I didn't take many pictures since others were buzzing about with cameras, so you'll have to make do with this quick phone snap as proof I was there. Everything about the graduation was delightful: the awards ceremony, the party Gracie and two of her besties threw on Friday evening so their families could meet, the morning prayer service, eating brunch in law school classrooms, and especially the student-selected professor who spoke so eloquently of what really matters (and he specifically stated that your career was NOT the most important thing.) It was happy and sad at the same time, like most graduations; it was hard to leave Gracie and Tony's first home for the last time, but also very exciting to see their next chapter beginning.

Here in Blooming Prairie, my mind is on the Baccalaureate service for the high school seniors which my congregation hosted this week. I didn't have much to worry about besides getting gifts for the seniors, lining up younger students and parents to serve, and ordering the cake (check, check and check!) We are starting a new tradition with this post-Baccalaureate reception but there are plenty of on-going traditions. Last Friday, on the way to work, I was literally stopped in my tracks by one of them. Here's what stopped me:

Tractors! Lots of them. It is a tradition here for the graduating seniors to drive a tractor to school on the last Friday of classes. The young man driving the Deere happens to be my upstairs neighbor. He doesn't park that tractor in the parking lot so I'm guessing a farming family friend lent it for the day.

A Rochester television station reported on the event. You can watch their story here:
Blooming Prairie tradition,

I guess the end of the school year has entirely permeated my mind these past few days. I also wrote about it on my other blog WaterWings. Onward to summer!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Paper Possibilitites

You may have seen the announcement on Facebook - my sister and I have taken the big leap and joined forces as Possibility Paper Company.

We've been stamping for years: cards for friends, teaching stamping classes, and making invitations for showers and parties. Then came Emily's wedding. I demanded that Laurie meet me at Mom's and help me with the invitations. (I really didn't give her a choice in the matter!) and for an entire weekend, with help from Mom, we embossed with Certainly Celery Craft Ink and clear embossing powder. About 150 inviations, with multiple pieces for each one.

Eventually we helped out with a lot of weddings, married off more daughters and their friends and finally realized that there were other brides who didn't have the benefit of a mom with a stamp room

So here we are, and I have weddings on the brain. All the time.

Yesterday I went to the post office to mail off a package of labels (we are full service!) to a bride. While I was there I took a look at the wedding stamps. Take a look at these beauties:

This one is very striking. It's a $.49 "forever" stamp that would look so good on a white envelope! The little heart hints at the fact that the envelope contains news of love, but it's not entirely obvious. I like it - and I wouldn't feel silly using them up after the wedding.

Postage is reasonable, but still a factor when choosing your invitations. The cost of using this stamp is $49/hundred invitations. Your invitations have to be in a standard sized envelope and weigh less than an ounce and be less than 1/4 inch thick to mail with this stamp. However, if you exceed any of those restrictions or want an odd sized envelope - say 6x6 inch square - there is a $.70 option that features vintage tulips. That extra ounce raises your price to $70/100. Not a huge cost in the scope of all the wedding expenses, but one to consider when choosing your invitations.

An older but still popular choice is a pair of stamps that look awesome on vanilla or cream colored envelopes. The standard version features roses, but this $.70 option for 1-2 oz or square or oversized envelopes is just beautiful.

These have been around for a while now and are beloved by brides who want traditional or classic weddings and invitations. They are probably not as popular with the whimsical or theatrical bride. And if you have opted for envelopes in a color outside the white/cream spectrum, you will probably want to explore other options with the post office. You'll find a wide variety of richly colored stamps that will fit most color scheme or bridal themes. Some of them are actual works of art. I love the Farmer's Market stamp collection, and I think this Water Lily group
would be striking with many pastel envelopes.

I don't know how much brides agonize over these details; there used to be far fewer choices. Maybe I just like it because I collected stamps as a kid. Do you remember what the stamps on YOUR wedding invitaions looked like? Did you notice the stamp on the last invitation you received?

As you can tell, I am loving everything about our new business! As I recently mentioned, more time with my sister is one of the biggests gifts of my life up north, and Possibility Paper Company makes even more time together possible. You just never know where life will take you! This is definitely one of the blessings to be counted 1100 Miles North!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Robin Promises

The robins are here! Here in the midwest the arrival of the robins is a well-known promise of spring. While this winter has been a piece of cake compared to last year's monstrous snowfall and incredibly low temperatures, we have still spent 5 months in coats, gloves and boots - and I am very ready to shed all the extra clothing and feel the breeze on my skin.

So, when I saw a flock of robins arrive outside my office window last week I felt my hope begin to soar.

The robins like some trees better than others, and I'm told that the flowering crabapples we have planted around the church grounds are some of their favorites.  I think this must be true because there are literally dozens of the funny, fat, red-breasted visitors visible from every window.  The tree outside my office has had as many as 20 birds perched in its branches at times.

Last winter (I may have already shared) I was told that when the robins have walked on fresh snow three times, we could expect spring weather to stay. I paid strict attention, and the prediction held. Yesterday we were visited by the first snow since the arrival of the robins, and I watched them with great interest to see what they would do.

As the snow fell, the birds took refuge in the courtyard, under the eaves. They were close enough to watch with great enjoyment. Any movement from my side of the window would spark a great flurry of activity but soon they would settle back under the eaves and resume their poking and picking in the mulch (where, incidentally, you can see the promise of tulips poking through.) I tried, but never got a shot or video of them good enough to share.

Still, I did record proof that spring is on its way. The robins have left their footprints in the snow so two more snows and we will find our way to spring!

(I should add that I am probably the most impatient person in Blooming Prairie. Most people here are happy to have temperatures in the 40's and to see the snow disappear. I am greedy. I want the mud gone too, and temps that require no jacket.

I miss having everything bursting into bloom as Easter approaches. The irony that I live in Blooming Prairie, home of the Awesome Blossoms, and have no hint of anything getting ready to bloom is not lost on me.)

Perhaps I should see the approach of Easter as I see the robins - as a promise of better things to come.

My Lenten weeks have gone by quickly - filled with soup suppers prepared by my National Youth Gathering group, preparing my little Angel Chorus to sing on Palm Sunday,  rounding up commitments for the Easter breakfast, and leading Communion Instruction for 18 fourth and fifth graders who will celebrate their first communion during Holy Week.

The road to Easter is pretty much the same no matter what is happening outdoors but this photo, posted by my friend Karen in Austin on Facebook last week, reminds me why I am feeling such longing for spring.

The plows have gone by so even though the school is starting two hours late, I should probably leave a few footprints of my own and head to the office.

I'll let you know when spring arrives here, 1100 Miles North!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Revisiting Childhood Pleasures

Today I felt incredibly old and wonderfully young all at the same time. And it wasn't dementia setting in; I went ice-skating. Well, actually, it was more like ice-shuffling. It was a beautiful day - temperatures in the 30s and a blue sky without a cloud to be seen.

In my imagination skating was going to be like riding a bike, something you never forget how to do. In reality though, skates have changed, my center of gravity has changed, and my courage has been subsumed by common sense.

There were kids there with a folding chair and one of them let me use it. Otherwise I'm pretty sure I would have clung to the fence the whole time. As it was, I took a full 30 minutes to lace up, inch my way out onto the rink, and scoot my way around the perimeter with the help of a folding chair. My ankles were wobbly and I felt muscles I'd kind of forgotten I had.

Speaking of fogotten muscles - I recently realized that here on the prairie I have lost my stair and hill climbing muscles. After a couple of visits to places that required climbing stairs I realized that I now have a very lazy backside. Neither my home nor my work requires going up or down stairs with any regularity. Another good reason to try to regain my ability to skate.

But back to the rink. . . maybe the best part was that I saw lots and lots of "my" kids and their friends. They were all very sweet and friendly and encouraging and helpful. I think if when I fall I will have help getting up!

Another happy thing about this adventure was learning that the rink is a joint project of the city and the state. It has a warming house and skates in good condition which can be borrowed for free. It employs two teens at a time whenever it's open (starting at 4pm every day when school gets out, and at 8am on Saturday and Sunday.) My tax dollars are working on things that really impact the community: exercise, employment, safety, and intergenerational interaction. 

I'm going back! I wish I had a training tool like this one:

I guess I learned without one before so I probably can again, albeit at a much slower pace. I suppose I could even toss my own folding chair in the trunk of the car.

In the end I left smiling. It had been a pleasant break in my day. My cheeks glowed from the longest stretch of time outdoors that I've had all winter. I will go back. And next time I'll stay long enough to justify drinking hot chocolate afterward. 

Still revisiting my childhood pleasures. . . 1100 Miles North.