Friday, January 25, 2013

I am bracketed by the Divine

Ganesh (1)
Nelson Congregational Church posted up a quote today that made me stop and think:
"Let us worship God, the God who forms the rhythm of our lives, the God who is present at the beginning and ending of each day...each season...each purpose."  (Kate McIllhagga)
God (by whatever name or names you call the Divine) can, and in my opinion, should, bracket our lives.  The All is there as we rise for the day, getting out of bed and stumbling to the bathroom. The Divine is there when we finish the day and drop into bed and switch off the light. All through our day, God is with us, around us, embracing us. 

Theotokos (2)
There is a great comfort to that thought. Any perceived separation is my own creation, not the Divine's. If I stop and pause for a moment, close my eyes, and take a deep breath... there is God. I can feel infused and loved and held in a second's time. Anyone can!

In my peaceful moments, I don't need to give that Sacred bracket a thought. I simply know that I am contained. I am not a sage, though, and peace comes and goes. During most of my day, I need reminders to pause, to take that breath, and to re-issue my invitation to the Holy to be a part of me and my life. I draw in breath, and in doing so I draw in God. 

Sometimes it's a complex thing, and I light a candle or kneel, or go to a sacred space that is outside my home. Sometimes I need that separation from the ordinary, every day things in order to find my center again. Going into a church or synagogue, casting a Circle, standing within the winding ways of a labyrinth, all are ways for me to step outside the non-stop chatter of my monkey mind. I can say, "Shush! We're in a holy place!" The monkey mind doesn't realize that there's no real difference between my bedroom and the church, and that's a good thing. 

Bronze Buddha (3)
When I remember that I am embraced by God, my shoulders relax. My breathing becomes deep and even. My heart is steady and strong. My face settles into a soft smile and my eyes soften. I can literally feel stress being drained off of me. I know that the arms of the Divine can hold my stress and my problems and me, all of it, without problem. I can "let go and let God" as it were, and just BE.

I'm not the perfect follower of the Divine, of course. I forget. I let stress get to me. I lose track of the fact that I am a child of the universe. Instead of berating myself, I've been using my smartphone to remind me to take it easy. That might sound odd, but it works (for me, at least)!

Several times a day, a little bell dings on my phone. It sounds like a singing bowl or a very light gong. No matter what I am doing, I stop. It's just for a moment, after all. Even in the middle of work, I can take two minutes to close my eyes and take several deep breaths. I remind myself that I am embraced by God, held by the Divine, a child of the All. The grace and peace will flood into me, even if only briefly. 

When I'm done, I go back to work. Most of the time, no one would know I was even doing anything. It certainly disturbs my day much less than a coffee or cigarette break! It's infinitely healthier, too. Several times a day I'm reminded of who and what I am, and over time, the knowledge stays with me a bit longer. Perhaps one day I will remember all the time, and no longer need the reminders. Until then, I will enjoy my bell. 


Check back often for prayers, spiritual musings and all manner of religious discussion and talk. If you have questions or comments, please write to me below. I love to answer questions! If you purchase items I have linked through ads or Amazon, I receive an affiliate portion of the sale. If you find the items are useful, please purchase from my site!
 
You may also be interested in:

Where I've been - Where I'm going
Snow days
I've been nominated!
It's a new year
Rituals should be shared with family

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2) Image by edouardo / morgueFile free photos
3) Image by veggiegretz / morgueFile free photos

Monday, January 21, 2013

Where I've been - Where I'm going

Me, age 20
I have spent a lot of time lately looking at where I've been. My life has been a rough one, but mostly by choice. I could have decided to live a "normal" life and been "like everyone else" and been comfortable. I could have worked a regular job, played cards on the weekend, and avoided difficult things like religion and philosophy. Instead, I put my own self ahead of those normal, comfortable things. I chose to be religious, to be pagan, to be different sexually than the average person. In some ways these weren't so much choices in being (I am who I am when it comes to belief and sexuality, after all, and there's not much I can do to change that) but in exposing myself. I could have hidden that I was bisexual, kinky, pagan, poly, religious, feminist... I could have let it be a background thing that was in a closet, stuffed away. The choice I made was to be what I was, without hiding.

Me, age 41
I look at these two pictures, and I see only a few differences, surprisingly. My face is a bit rounder and I weigh a few pounds more. My glasses are smaller (and more effective). But the smile is the same. The eyes are the same. My hair isn't currently dyed, but it could be. The necklace in the upper picture now resides with my daughter, and the necklace in the one to the right has special meaning to me. It's still ME though. I haven't changed as much as I would have thought I would. I don't look significantly older. The few gray hairs I have are largely hidden in my blondish natural hair color. I pluck my eyebrows now, and I never did when I was younger. I still don't wear makeup and avoid bras whenever possible.

So what has changed? I think the most significant change is... me. The inside me has grown so much larger over the past 22 years. I've done years of therapy in between, getting over the abuses of my childhood and young adulthood. I've attended seminary and graduated and been ordained. I look at the world through different eyes, now. I'm calmer, more self-possessed, less impulsive. I deal better with schedule changes, and I cook more.

Over on FaceBook, someone posted up a picture that shows a silhouette face bursting into flying birds (it's beautiful, not freaky). Under it is a quote from Lao Tzu: "If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place." The quote has been stuck in my mind for a couple of hours now. I ask again, what has changed? The answer is that I've (at least partially) corrected my mind. Life is now falling into place.

What masks do you hide behind? (1)
Some 20 years ago, I felt it was important to let all my emotions hang out. I now refer to it as emotional bulimia, because I emotionally vomited everywhere, even places where it was horribly incorrect to do so. I thought that allowing my emotions to burst forth whenever and everywhere, I would correct the damage of having held in those emotions for the years of my childhood. I was wrong. What I did had very little (if any) positive impact on me, and caused great harm and damage to all those around me.

Ten years ago, I began serious work on correcting my problems. I worked intensively with a therapist who didn't judge my oddities in lifestyle, but focused on my outbursts and my inner pains. Dr. D. had the bravery to tell me when I was wrong, bluntly and without beating around the bush. I owe him my life. I owe him my relationships, too, because his patient and kind help allowed me to let real love enter my heart.

He is the one that taught me that my feelings are real, they're mine, and that no one has the right to take them away from me. He also taught me that it is my responsibility not to regulate those feelings, but to regulate how I present those feelings to the world. It is right and appropriate for me to feel angry when someone does something bad to me. It is not right and appropriate for me to scream or threaten or write nasty things about them.

Life's puzzle takes a while (2)
That one idea brought such healing to me that I can't even begin to explain it. I had always been under the impression that the goal of therapy was to make the Bad Feelings go away. If something made me angry then I needed to learn to stop being angry, right? That's what Good People did. That's not true, though. Good people can and do get angry, and frustrated and upset and pissy and any number of other negative emotions. The difference is that good people learn how to navigate the world and express their feelings in a way that owns those feelings and doesn't shove them willy nilly onto others.

My anger doesn't mean you need to be angry, too. My anger may be based on false assumptions or observations that are not complete. My anger may have nothing to do with reality at all, and be based solely upon internal issues. That doesn't make my anger wrong. It's MY anger. So long as I don't force that anger onto others, and also don't bottle it up and make it fester, my anger can be used for healing and learning.

Where I've been was a place of excess emotions and adherence to schedules that had to be incredibly strict and unvarying in order for me to cope. So where am I going? Onward and upward, ever on and ever better!

Today, I recognize that angry words thrown at me are a symptom of something more, some hurt that goes far deeper. It's not really me they're mad at, just as it wasn't really other people I was mad at (and sometimes still am).  I am able to separate myself better from the feelings and the actions/words of myself and of others. I have more control over how I express my negativity.

The result is that I'm happier. I'm not giddily happy (well, not most of the time) or manic, but just... happy. When I'm sad, I don't have to thrust it into the open, and I don't have to push it down deep inside. I can express that I'm sad (or angry, or frustrated) to others in a way that shows the emotion is mine, not theirs. Most of the time, that is, because I'm not perfect. I've come a long way from that 20 year old with emotional bulimia. But like any sufferer of bulimia, I have to watch that I don't allow myself to relapse. I'm healthy, but perhaps not fully healed.

As I approach my 42nd birthday on Saturday, I do so with a smile in my heart and on my face. Life is not perfect, nor would I have it be so. Life is good, and that's enough. I'm happy more days than I'm sad. I'm healthy more days than I'm ill. I love my home, my partners, our children (all of them!), and our life. I love my ministry and the place that I am right now, emotionally, physically and mentally.

I'm going forward with my life, with my head high, my eyes alight, and my heart full of song. I am content with the fact that sometimes that song is hard rock, sometimes it's classical, and sometimes it's 80s hair band crazy. Sometimes it's sad, and other times it's happy. That's what a soundtrack is supposed to be like, after all...

Check back often for prayers, spiritual musings and all manner of religious discussion and talk. If you have questions or comments, please write to me below. I love to answer questions! If you purchase items I have linked through ads or Amazon, I receive an affiliate portion of the sale. If you find the items are useful, please purchase from my site!
 
You may also be interested in:

Snow days
I've been nominated!
It's a new year
Rituals should be shared with family
Keeping up... barely!

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2) Image by mconnors / morgueFile free photos

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Snow days

Walking in the snow (1)
There is a fresh snow fall outside. Big, fat flakes are drifting lazily down from the sky. It's picturesque snow, that pretty snow you see in professional pictures and postcards. I love these kinds of snow days, when the children are kept home from school and we're all in a big, warm pile in front of the television.

Sometimes we make cookies, or huge pots of fresh popcorn drizzled with melted butter and a dash of salt. We read together. We're about to start The Hobbit today, in preparation for seeing the movies. Adventure and hardship awaits us in the pages, along with Second Breakfast and Tea, trolls, wizards, halflings and elves. No television show can compete with that kind of story, nor should it. We need to take this time to cultivate imaginations!

Red berries (2)
Out in the yard, the driveway has filled with about six inches of snow. The kids spent time playing in it, engaging the fantasy circuits in their brains. Hubby has used the backhoe to pile snow many feet high, creating our yearly Mount Snowmore, a sledding hill and budding fort. The kids (and hubby) work on digging out the interior, making a grand, if cold, hideaway within. When it's large enough inside the hill, they'll take a couple of tea candles out there and melt the interior slightly, just as if it were an Eskimo igloo. The thought of having their own igloo eggs them on.

Snowy fence (3)
I love days like this, when the pace of life goes a little slower than usual. There's time, suddenly, unexpectedly. There's time to make hot chocolate and watch a movie, time to snuggle together and read Harry Potter, time to make tacos for supper. There's time to pull out The Hobbit and have the whole family gather around the fire to cuddle and listen to the story. Perhaps that is the secret of this type of snow: it creates time. Perhaps that is what makes it so incredibly special.

Days like this, when snow is falling heavily outside and the inside is all warm and full of life, always seem more quiet. I have patience for introspection and meditation. I find myself pulling out my needlework and enjoying a cup of tea. Instrumental music thrums from my smartphone, filling the air around me with the tones of Buddhist chanting or Franciscan monks singing in Latin. I find the calm within me, and I touch my center so much more readily than on other days.

What does a snow day bring for you? Is it a thing of beauty and quietude for you?

Check back often for prayers, spiritual musings and all manner of religious discussion and talk. If you have questions or comments, please write to me below. I love to answer questions! If you purchase items I have linked through ads or Amazon, I receive an affiliate portion of the sale. If you find the items are useful, please purchase from my site!
 
You may also be interested in:

I've been nominated!
It's a new year
Rituals should be shared with family
Keeping up... barely!
Pretty Paper all Around Me

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2) Image by doctor_bob / morgueFile free photos
3) Image by almoraco / morgueFile free photos

Friday, January 11, 2013

I've been nominated!

Thanks to Kenn over at the Flaming Thyrsos, I've been nominated for a Liebster Award! Apparently, "The Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. The word 'Liebster' comes from German and can mean the sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, most beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome." For those with an interest in the history of the Liebster award, check this out.

These are the Rules:
  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  • Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (while making sure you notify the blogger that you nominated them!) You write up 11 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees.
  • You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated your own blog!
  • You paste the award picture into your blog. (You can Google the image, there are plenty of them!)
Whew! This is a lot of work! However, I believe I may be up to it.

Random facts about Allyson

1. I am short, being only 5'1" and a bit.
2. I hate the Windows operating system and prefer to use LINUX or UNIX.
3. I'm currently taking high school math because I failed it when I was in school.
4. I'll be 42 in a few days.
5. I just started learning how to sew a couple of months ago.
6. I love cross stitching.
7. At this point, I don't think I have a religion, per se, but I am more deeply spiritual than I have been at any other time in my life.
8. I'm volunteering at the Cathedral of the Pines this summer because I love what they stand for.
9. I can't stand it when my nails are even close to long, and tend to keep them extremely short.
10. I type about 120 wpm.
11. I prefer the Oxford comma.

Questions from Kenn
1. How many pairs of shoes do you own?

Let's see. I have the crocs I wear around the house. I have a pair of "sh*t kicker" boots with thick heels. I have my dress shoes I wear for weddings and preaching and such. I have two pairs of sandals for the summer. I have one pair of cheap tennis shoes. That would be six pairs of shoes total. Oh wait, boots! I have a pair of winter boots, and a pair of rubber boots. So eight pairs of shoes.

2. What is the most expensive thing you’ve ever broken?

That would be the hubby's UPS for the servers. That was a Bad Day.

3. If you met a Genie who offered you three wishes, what would you wish for? (more wishes does not count)

First, I would wish for enough money to pay off all the family/household bills, including our mortgage and cars. Second, I'd wish for all the paperwork and money I need to get my driver's license again. Third, I'd wish for my daughter to be here with me (not against her will or anything, but for holidays, whatever).

4. If you had to describe yourself as a flavour, what would it be?

Oi. I think I'm vanilla bean. I'm pretty normal, for the most part, but there are occasional flecks of deliciousness that make me slightly more exciting.

5. What nicknames do you have/have had?

I can't list them all... there are too many! I've been known as AllyKat, tiya, Lady Biananti, Lady Ariadne, Katishah, Moonfury... and a bunch that aren't fit for public consumption.

6. What was your first job?

I worked for my dad assembling machines when I was 12 or 13, but my first "real" job was working as a helper/after school care person at a Montessori school. I went after school on the bus (I was 15 I believe) and cared for the kids and did projects and such, until their parents arrived.

7. What is the most interesting thing you can see out of your nearest window?

I can't see anything out of the nearest window because the blinds are closed. If they were open, I could see the big yellow backhoe, though.

8. You are walking to work. There is a dog drowning in the canal on the side of the street. Your boss told you if you are late one more time you’re fired. Do you save the dog?

Leave out the getting fired part - I'm not a dog person and I tend to break out in hives when I come into contact with them. I'd certainly pop out my cell phone and call animal control, and give them an exact location, but I'd zoom off to work as well.

9. What historical period would you like to live in if you could go back in time?

I would live in America during the 1800s, during the pioneer drive across the plains and into the west. It was a hard life, but one that has appealed to me for as long as I can remember.

10. What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?

Uni (sea urchin). Looks like snot. Has the consistency of snot. Tastes *incredible* though.

11. Do you keep a diary/journal?

Just the ones on blogger. I don't write "personal stuff" outside of my blogs.  However, there are posts that I write that never see the light of day.

Eleven small blogs I am nominating

1. Cage Free Family
2. Life in 120 Square Feet
3. The Velveteen Rabbi
4. The Witch of Stitches
5. Tending the Hearth of the Gods
6. Simple Joyful Living
7. Plan to Eat
8. Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom
9. 100 Days of Real Food
10. Chrysalis
11. Kallisti: An Apple in Pandemonium

Eleven questions for my eleven nominees

1. What role does religion play in your life?
2. What's your favorite television show, and why?
3. What was your favorite subject in high school?
4. Coffee, tea, or other? Why?
5. What is your favorite ethnic food?
6. Have you ever baked bread from scratch? Why or why not?
7. Why do you blog?
8. Is Doctor Who a silly show or a deep commentary on the world today?
9. What's your opinion of social media in general (Twitter, FaceBook, G+, etc)?
10. If price were no object, what would you want for your birthday?
11. Where do you read the news? Why?

So there you go! Now I'm off to go report to my nominees that I think they're awesome and deserve an award.

Check back often for prayers, spiritual musings and all manner of religious discussion and talk. If you have questions or comments, please write to me below. I love to answer questions! If you purchase items I have linked through ads or Amazon, I receive an affiliate portion of the sale. If you find the items are useful, please purchase from my site!
 
You may also be interested in:

It's a new year
Rituals should be shared with family
Keeping up... barely!
Pretty Paper all Around Me
My Nativity

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

It's a new year!

We're a bit over a week into 2013, and I haven't had to write the year down on anything yet. Does that mean it isn't real? Seriously, though, this year is looking to be a good one, if perhaps a bit tough. Last year turned out well, despite the bumps and turbulence of a standard family life. The world has treated us pretty well, finances are improving, and things just seem to be doing well.

Last year, I had some really popular posts, but they weren't the ones I expected to be popular. It's odd how that happens. My number one post was Gratitude for Shopping, with a whopping 2600 views! I'm not sure why it ended up with that many views, but I'm grateful for the traffic spike.

What's changed in the past year? Well, the government tells us we're no longer in a depression (and some are saying we never were). This doesn't sit well with me, as I try to squeeze fewer pennies just a little harder each month. Food prices are rising due to many factors, and paychecks are going down because of the current tax rates. Prices on most things seem to be going up. I'm looking out at my snow-covered garden and wondering if I'll be able to produce enough food to help us through this summer and next winter...

Through 2012 I made contacts with the Cathedral of the Pines people, and I was honored to perform their Blessing of the Animals in October. I did several weddings, all of which were beautiful and inspiring. I did some supply preaching, and a lot of blogging and article writing. My writing seems to be a firm focus both of last year and the year to come. This makes me happy!

Where do I want to go? That's a good question. There are many things I'd like to achieve this year. I want to become better at cross stitch, and start working on some more complex patterns. I want to reinvigorate my meditation practice, which has been slacking (read: mostly non-existent) for some time. I want to eat better, eat less, exercise more, and treat the temple of my body more as a shrine than as a garbage pit.

Mostly, what I want is to keep making progress. I've made two steps forward and one back several times over the past few years, but the progress is always forward in general. I want to keep that up, and maybe even accelerate it. Less steps backward would mean more forward movement.

What are you doing for the new year? Where were you, and where are you going from here? Do you have resolutions or plans?

Check back often for prayers, spiritual musings and all manner of religious discussion and talk. If you have questions or comments, please write to me below. I love to answer questions! If you purchase items I have linked through ads or Amazon, I receive an affiliate portion of the sale. If you find the items are useful, please purchase from my site!
 
You may also be interested in:

Rituals should be shared with family
Keeping up... barely!
Pretty Paper all Around Me
My Nativity
Shopping and Bright Things

Thursday, January 3, 2013