A Time and a Place for Being (Savoring Sunday)

Today is the start of a new series called Savoring Sunday where I will write about spirituality, slowing down, self-care, soul work, quiet, and rest. Poetry will be included from time to time, but prose will be the most prominent feature. My writings are intended to share thoughts on what I’m discovering and what I’m wondering as I walk through the seasonal rhythms of the year. I hope you will join in the conversation in comments and share your own insights and experiences.

Today is the twelfth day of Christmas. I fully embraced this season that has felt very much as if time were standing still. What have I been doing? Little work (other than household chores), lots of reading, pondering, reflecting on last year, and listening to my heart. I’ve played and re-played podcasts about aligning your business to who you actually are, rather than who you think you should be.

I’ve been asking myself if I’m living in congruence with who I am. Do I have the courage to follow my intuition and live from a place of peace and listening to myself, to allow adequate time for self-care and rest as well as for learning and work? I can be so unbalanced in this! I love work and learning and can fill up my days and nights, going nonstop until I’m wired and exhausted. Because I have a business to run and I want it to succeed. I’m also a student and have plenty to learn.

But I need to take care of my whole self. My body won’t be at its best if I am not caring for it daily with proper amounts of exercise, nutrition, and rest. My mind will be anxious and troubled if I don’t allow it time to meditate and calm down. My soul craves connection with the Divine, “…my soul thirsts for you…”(Psalm 63:1) but I have to slow down and “Be still” (Psalm 46:10) to get closer to God. And getting out of doors and into Nature more often seems to bring balance to every layer and part of myself.

The other area that I’ve been thinking about is friendships. I had a few insights last year including how I have the tendency to approach friendships through the lens of ministry or “how can I help/serve you?”. This is because I was raised in a minister’s household and pretty much everyone who came to our church or to our home needed something and it was up to my parents to provide it. So I tend to look at people in light of what they might need and see if there is anything I can offer to help them.

But this is actually not what I want, so I had to stop doing it! I want to be someone’s friend, not their mom or minister. Because I have needs too! That means I have to act in accordance with this. I have to be honest and tell friends what I want, as well as ask what they want. This will be a process…

So this is a little of what I’ve been thinking through while I’ve been taking a break from business and every day life. This time-between-times has been magical. I’ve nurtured my creative self with music, reading, rest and just being, realigning myself to my purpose by doing plenty of self-inquiry, and restored my soul by listening for that still, small voice.

And because you know I love sharing my favorite resources, I’d like to share a few things I’ve been enjoying. Here are the two Spotify playlists that became my go-to music this season: Christmas Choirs (U.K) (just gorgeous) and Christmas Cocktail Jazz (the perfect quiet yet upbeat jazz instrumental music for parties, dinner, or anytime).

And here are the two journals/planners I use to keep my life in order and to keep my personal and spiritual growth moving forward: This is my fifth year using the bullet journal method and “>this is the dotted journal I love. This year I purchased the Nordic Blue color, which is the first time I’ve veered away from Black or Navy Blue. I’m splashing out! What I love about the bullet journal is that it is completely customizable to each individual. You can learn this method in a few minutes (seriously!) and use any notebook you have. If you haven’t tried it, and you’re someone who craves a simple, doable way to keep your life in one place, go with the bullet journal method. You’ll wonder why you didn’t start it sooner!

The other journal/ planner I love is the Sacred Ordinary Days Planner. It follows the Liturgical calendar, has weekly spaces for Examen, Sabbath ponderings, and a page for each day with spaces for priorities and notes. There are suggested Biblical references for each day, as well as quotes from spiritual writers. So yes, it is most suited to those with a Christian inclination, but there’s none of the annoying, overbearing, cutesy, cheesy feel that most Christian planners have. It is tasteful, sensitive, and leaves room for your own creativity and individuality.

And, lastly, here is A Literary Christmas a sweet collection of old-fashioned Christmas stories and poems on audiobook. Juliet Stevenson and Simon Callow narrate and it is a holiday treat I will look forward to each year.

I’d love to know what you’ve been thinking about, listening to, and discovering these last few weeks!

 

Self-Care Through the Holidays

If I’m not careful, every year by mid-November, my good self-care habits and intentions fly out the window as I slog away at work and try to fit one more thing into my schedule. But with each trip around the sun, I have become increasingly sensitive to stress, and my body, mind, and spirit cannot handle being ignored.

For instance, if I work past lunchtime, instead of eating when I’m hungry, my blood sugar dips low and I’m tired, dizzy, cranky, and get a headache.

If I stay up too late hunched over my computer–to get just one more thing done–I have a difficult time falling asleep and whatever sleep I do get leaves me feeling not very well rested.

If I fail to move my body and meditate because “I don’t have the time” my joints get sore and creaky, my outlook is negative, and I feel stressed, out of shape, and have low energy.

But it’s true that we all have so much to do and so many places to go this time of year. So how can we have a satisfying holiday experience while still practicing good self-care habits?

What To Do?

There are two ways that I can think of to have a holiday season that aligns with who you are and how you want to feel and still leaves room to take care of yourself and enjoy this festive time.

1. Ask for what you want and need. For example: maybe you could ask a spouse to make dinner more often, ask the kids to step it up with household chores, ask a friend if she could help you decorate for a party.

2. Say no and let go…of the idea of the “perfect” holiday. In order to slow the season down, you’ll have to say no to some things. Maybe you can bake 2 kinds of cookies, not 10. Maybe you can sign up for one charity event, not three. Maybe you don’t need to put up quite as many lights outside as you usually do. Maybe you get Chinese takeout on Christmas Eve instead of that huge Italian dinner you make that everyone loves, but leaves you exhausted. (I’m looking at you, Mom.)

When I was younger, I wanted to give my kids and family the perfect Christmas experience. The month of December was a blur of church events, recitals, and activities that left me with little time for self-care.

I always stayed up late on Christmas Eve wrapping gifts or doing last minute preparations. I’d get up early, serve homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast, have my whole family over for dinner around 2pm, followed by a 5pm dessert open house when extended family and friends would come over. I would be dizzy with exhaustion the whole day and couldn’t wait for it to be over!

Then one year, I was actually sick with a fever, but still had to do all the things. That did it! My idea of a perfect Christmas had made me sick. So I smartened up and began to do less and ask for help more.

Questions/Thoughts To Design a Better Holiday

We are a just a week away from Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., which hurls us into the craziness of the commercialized Christmas season. Rather than live the season the same way year after year, what if you really did things differently? I invite you to sit with yourself and ask yourself these questions and then shape the next month in a sensible way that will leave room for self-care, wonder and delight.

Write down your idea of a memorable holiday season: how would you feel, what would you have time for?

Which holiday traditions do you or your family most look forward to each year? (Baking cookies with the kids or with friends, advent readings, attending a religious service, caroling, dinner with family…)

What things could you let go of this year?

What does your self-care routine look like during the holiday season?

What would your ideal daily and weekly self-care routine look like during this time? Be specific.

In order to have a ___________________ holiday season, one in which I take care of myself, enjoy the festivities with my loved ones, I need to: (Hints: ask for help from partner, kids, don’t sign up for as many events/activities, etc.)

Don’t Put Yourself Last on the List

As you’re thinking about the next month, make sure you make yourself a priority. No, this is not selfish! Women especially can struggle to take care of themselves. But guess what? You need to take care of yourself for you and for your family’s sake. Don’t wait to see what everyone else is doing before you decide when you can “fit in” self-care.

Have you ever heard that story about the rocks and sand in the jar? If you put all the sand (unimportant, trivial matters) into the jar (your daily schedule) and then try to fit in the rocks (the priorities) you can’t do it. But if you put the rocks into the jar first, you can fit the sand around them. Your self-care is a rock. Put it into the jar first.

These are my Everyday Self-Care 7

1.Move your body 

2.Drink enough water

3.Eat healthy food

4.Spiritual Practice (examples: prayer, meditation)

5.Get enough sleep/rest

6.Do something you enjoy

7.Practice gratitude

OK, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you are designing your holiday season this year. 

Thoughts and ideas on having your healthiest, most satisfying holiday ever!

Just the Flax, Ma’am

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On Saturday, I was a vendor at a holiday craft bazaar at Ithaca First Assembly of God Church. Over forty vendors set up tables and displayed their handmade items in the sanctuary, the entryway, hallway, main fellowship hall and a smaller side room, which is where I was located.

This was my fifth craft fair since I began this tiny business in September and I’ve attended a couple of humdingers, let me tell you. I won’t mention names, but some were very far out in the country and all, except this one, were not advertised well.

Thankfully, First Assembly is on the ball. There was a Facebook event, an email went out to the participants to share the event with friends on their social media pages, and an email went out to local churches to advertise as well. The women in charge were super organized and knew what Square and Apple Pay were which meant we would definitely have WiFi. The place was clean, brightly lit, upbeat Christmas music played and the people came in droves to shop.

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My table had ornaments, small felt dolls, natural body care products, decorative pillows, and nine flax warming pillows. Honestly, I hoped to sell my ornaments and dolls and pillows along with the rest of my things. And I thought I would because they’re cute and seasonally appropriate. Alas, not an ornament or doll sold. My winter balm, made of coconut oil, shea butter, and lavender sold out. Lots of lip balm and several lotion bars sold as well. But my continual bestseller are these flax warming pillows. Some have lavender flowers added and some are flax alone, but they all come folded and tied with ribbon. I display them in a small treasure chest I found at Mimi’s Attic with a blackboard sign.

When I wracked my brain, I could not remember how I ever decided to make these pillows to begin with. Maybe someone mentioned them to me? Maybe I just bumped into the idea on Pinterest? Anyway, I made four pillows for the first craft sale back in September and I sold out. Every place since–even the very worst sales–I sold a few of these. Well, this Saturday, I sold out of all nine of them. It is interesting what people want. You really never know. Part of me thinks these flax pillows will continue to be a “bread-and-butter” item for my business. Part of me is worried I’ll make up a bunch of these and they’ll sit unwanted on the shelf and people will want something else. I’m going to go with the former leaning and purchase flax seed in bulk from the Amish tomorrow. If I’m wrong, all my friends and family will be getting these pillows as gifts for the next year.

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The greatest part of Saturday, though, even more encouraging than having very good sales, was all the friends and family who came. They hugged me, chatted about kids and work, asked me about myself, took photos, laughed and commented on my items for sale. Many of them purchased things as well. It felt wonderful to have made things for people I love to use or give as gifts. My mother came with my niece–she’s the one that bought my last two flax pillows. Alan was an angel and came twice: once to replenish my ones and fives and again to bring me lunch. When I packed up at 3, my heart was happy. If only every craft fair could be as full of success and a sense of community. Today, as I cut out fabrics for another dozen flax pillows, I felt carried along by the lightness and merry atmosphere of that event. If only I could package that feeling…it would be a bestseller too.

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Pie Happy

“Mother took the pie out of the oven and it hissed fragrant apple, maple, cinnamon steam through the knife cuts in the top crust. She was making her world beautiful. She was making her world delicious. It could be done, and if anyone could do it, she could.”
J.J. Brown, Death and the Dream

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The day before Thanksgiving, I baked a grain-free pecan pie from Gluten Free and More Magazine and I told you I would share photos if it came out right. Well, I’m happy to report that it came out beautifully and it tasted scrumptious even four days after Thanksgiving when I finally got around to trying it.

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The crust came together easily, with few ingredients and pressed into the pie plate without crumbling. It cracked, but was moist and it was easy to repair and crimp the edges.

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The filling just mixed up in a bowl and then was poured into the crust and baked.

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I am going to use this pie crust recipe for all sweet pies from now on. Apple is next on my list, and raspberry after that.

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“America has developed a pie tradition unequivocally and unapologetically at the sweet end of the scale, and at no time is this better demonstrated than at Thanksgiving.”
Janet Clarkson, Pie: A Global History

 

What did you bake this Thanksgiving?

Day 26: The Hurrier I Go

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I’m sure you’ve heard this Lewis Carroll quote,

“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

There’s a certain point at which that becomes true. Not that I am encouraging dawdling or procrastination, but hurrying hurts and usually winds up hindering our progress. Oops! I spilled something in my haste. Or, now I need to apologize for snapping at my loved one because I’ve made myself miserable trying to live at this breakneck pace.

We weren’t meant to flit and speed from one place and activity to another with no rest, no time for reflection. Here is a definition of the phrase “hurry sickness” coined by doctors Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman:

“a continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time.”

This article on how to overcome hurry sickness takes a good look at the problem. We need help! As a culture, many of us don’t know how to relax or slow down, even if we only have a few pockets of time every day.

We have forgotten how to love stillness and silence, how to sit with ourselves alone and just be, how to fully enjoy a walk, appreciate the preciousness of a loved one’s smile, drink in the exquisiteness of a sunset, how to be silly and laugh long and hard, and how to look for joy in the ordinary. But we can slow down and become full of wonder again.

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This time of year, you’re probably looking ahead at the next two months wondering how you’ll get through all the activities associated with the holidays. I used to just square my shoulders and tell myself to hustle more.

And I would go through it all feeling panicky, breaking down into crying jags, yelling and being sharp with my words. And then apologizing for my unacceptable behavior. I just couldn’t handle the constant go-go-go, combined with baking like mad, lots of entertaining, the purchasing and wrapping of gifts and trying to make it all magical and perfect for my kids and anyone who came to our home.

I wanted the peace I attempted to give everyone else. I craved space, simplicity, and the beauty of delighting in small things.

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After a bunch of years doing it the hard way, with the help of books or articles I read and voices on slowing down, like Ann Voskamp’s, I am learning to change my holiday style.

Here are a few questions you might ask yourself before plunging into the season:

If I could arrange my holiday season any way I chose, what would it look like?

If I wasn’t concerned about anyone’s judgement about how I did the holidays, what would I say yes to and what would I say no to?

Who is most important to me and how can I focus on showing them love this season?

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Here is an old book that I love called Unplug the Christmas machine: How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted. It touches on typical roles that women and men take on during the holiday, four things children really want for Christmas, a simple Christmas, Christmas revival, the gift of joy, and it includes a handy resource section with recipes and alternative gift ideas. Of course, it feels dated, but it also feels wise and warm and cozy. Some of the resources may be outdated, but use the internet to find something comparable. This version is out-of-print, but amazon Marketplace has copies available.

And if you’d rather have the in-print version, that’s Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season:

The other book I’ve read over and over is: To Dance With God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration. Although I’m not a Catholic, I incorporated several of the traditions listed in this book to enrich my own and my kids’ holiday season. This book actually takes the reader through the entire church calendar, but I’ve used it for Advent and Christmas, primarily.

And finally, a sweet out-of-print old-fashioned book called The Child’s Christmas. I’m not sure how I stumbled across this one, but it follows a fictional Victorian family from Advent through Epiphany. It tells of all their traditions, what they ate and played and did, what gifts they gave and received, how they celebrated. I read it to my kids when they were seven and three.

I hope we can all find comfort and joy this year!

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