sleeping with bread

I’m not feeling very creative today.  I don’t feel full of passion or positive motivation.  Most of what I feel is fear – fear that I’m behind in the work I’m supposed to be accomplishing, fear of future decisions, fear that my housemates and I won’t be able to find a place to live by September 1st.

“But I have to write a CreativiTea blog entry today,” I thought as I walked to the kitchen to refill on tortilla chips.  “Well, I can write about how I’m trying to cope with all these things.  That may not be about creativity, but it is surely about faith.”  So here it is.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a prayer retreat led by Susan Phillips where we explored the examen, a practice of Ignatian spirituality.  Broadly speaking, the examen is a method of examining your life and seeking the truth that it reveals; more specifically, a common way of practicing the examen is to sit down at the end of the day and ask yourself what you are most and least grateful for in that day.  Susan recommended a book called “Sleeping With Bread” as a good introduction to the practice, and I’ve bought it, read it, and am trying to do the examen every day now.

The title “Sleeping with Bread” comes from a story of children orphaned in World War 2; the children were having trouble sleeping until someone hit on the idea of giving them a piece of bread to hold as they slept, a reassurance that there would be food and shelter for them when they woke.  And I have found the examen to be that in my life so far.  Doing it as a ritual every night has provided a safe place to decompress at the end of long, busy days.  It has also helped me stay balanced between despair and denial by forcing me to confront what was hard about the day, but also by reminding me what was good and joyful.

Besides being a helpful practice on its own, doing the examen has shown me the importance of having daily (and weekly and yearly) rituals, not only for their inherent stability, but their ability to sustain us in all aspects of our lives – spiritual, mental, physical, and definitely our creative lives.

What rituals do you have that support and sustain your (creative – spiritual – emotional – etc.) life?  

Should age be the factor in mentorship?

I recently came across an online forum that crowdsources and refines ideas to make life better. The site is called OpenIDEO. My interest was peaked by a recent challenge on the site: How might we inspire and engage young people to support older adults through mentorship?

I appreciate this upside-down thinking where age is not the determining factor in who has something to give.

There are some wonderful contributions to the question. I love the idea of youth partnering with older adults to map memories of places to boost conservation in cities (submitted by Kate Machtiger). Or the “reverse summer school” where young people use empty school classrooms to teach skills to older adults during their summer holidays (submitted by Mathieu Chevalier).

In considering how we might support our aging population innovative and creative ideas like these will be needed.

How can young people in your area support older adults?

Preparing for Transitions

In September, I’ll be going back to school. I’m really excited, and a bit overwhelmed. Last week, I stayed with a friend for the few days before she left for school. It was wonderful, because she’s amazing, and moving to Tennessee, but it was also exhausting. It reminded me off all the things I need to get done before I go. I’ve already started studying for a placement exam. I’m working several days a week. I have to pack and move. Moving didn’t seem like a big deal, until I remembered that I needed to bring furniture, which means coordinating help, and taking a bigger vehicle. I’d also, like to get some of the projects I started in the last few years done, before I go to school.

Thinking about all this, I starting to regret the five day vacation in the middle of August. It would be five more days of studying, packing, etc. However, reading Christine’s blog from last week reminded me that not only is getting everything ready, making money for school, etc. important, but taking a break is an important part of preparation.

The idea of Sabbath rest is something I have always treasured about the Bible. Spending most of your time working, but having time set apart for rest has always made a lot of sense to me. It also makes me feel special, that God did not create me just to slave away. He created me with gifts and he expects me to use them. Work and learning are both part of his plan, but he also created me for relationship, rest and pleasure.

In the Old Testament, the seventh day was set apart as holy, it was the day that the Israelites were to do no work. Instead, they were to rest, just like God did during Creation. I am not sure what the Israelites did or didn’t do on the Sabbath. How they rested, or if they gathered in the temple, but I think that the idea of setting time apart for rest is very important even today.

Over the years, I have had many jobs where I had to work weekends. Sometimes this meant that I always had Mondays and Tuesdays off, and other times it meant that my weeks varied. As long as I took one day completely off within a week or so, it did not seem to make a difference. However, one of the things that I like about school, is there are no classes on Saturday and Sunday. I am looking forward to once again having every weekend off, or at least one of the two days off from studying. Hopefully, during this time of preparation, I will be able to find a healthy balance between work, rest and saying goodbye.

Have you found a healthy work, rest and relationship balance?

duty-free

Posts have been a bit slow from Jill and I recently because…

Kerry Cliffs

…we were both on vacation in Ireland and the UK!

It was great to get away for a few weeks and have a proper vacation.  Chatting with a friend, I realized that the gift of this particular trip was the chance to live “duty-free” for a few weeks.  I still had to answer emails every other day and I made sure to write postcards to my family, but otherwise I was able to shed all obligations and simply live out each day’s demands as they occurred.  And if I made it to all the sites, great; if not, there wasn’t the sense that I hadn’t completed the day.

Of course, since returning from vacation I have been bombarded with my no-longer-suspended obligations: find a place to live, start a new work project and prepare for the two workshops I’m teaching next week.  And in some ways, that’s as it should be.  Life accumulates meaning and purpose through the commitments we make, and the duties that we choose (or that choose us!).

What my vacation taught me, however, is that I can’t let my obligations consume me until I see nothing else.  It taught me to see my commitments in the proper perspective; as promises made by a single, small person who can’t do everything at once.  My vacation taught me, in an experiential way, the truth of the words “…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

 

Family History

Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking about family history. I just finished reading a book about my great-great grandparents, “Homestead Memories on the Buffalo Paunch Creek”, by Yvonne Lorentzen McGuire. I found it interesting to read stories about my ancestors who lived, and some of whom died over a hundred years ago. I was fascinated by the their log cabin being made in the stockade fashion instead of horizontal logs like I am used to. Reading my Grandfather’s cousin’s account of helping not homestead in the mid-fifties, still cooking on a coal stove. Although I still prefer the story I had heard of great-great-great grandpa Emmanuel’s ghost ship floating in the Atlantic, it was fascinating to hear the more reasonable a ship lost at sea.

Reading this, made me curious about my other sets of great-great grandparents. What were Great Grandpa and Grandma Knight’s parents like? What was it like raising children in poverty during the reign of Queen Victoria? Who were Great-Great Grandpa and Grandma Barlow? How come they moved so much? So many questions and so few people who might know the answers.

Thinking about how quickly family stories can be lost, has made me treasure my own memories of my grandparents & great grandparents. My tiny Great Grandma Blanche whose hands were as strong as a vice. My equally short and less well know Great Grandma Morey. Gruff Great Grandpa Morey. My Grandma’s dad and his wife, who I only met a few times, but who welcomed a whole gaggle of us to their home. Grandpa Morey who loved and emulated Eeyore and looked like Spenser Tracy. Grandma Mom who I spent many summers with and most weekends my first year of university. Grandpa Lorentz and Grandma Lou who are still alive and when they are home live right across the alley.

So many memories, and thankfully there is still time to make more. I’m glad that cousin Yvonne took the time and effort to not only write down her memories, but research the facts that were missing and give some of the history of Washburn, ND.

Always We Begin Again

Over a year ago, I was given Always We Begin Again: The Benedict Way of Living by John McQuiston II. It is a tiny book full of tidbits of knowledge from The Rules of Saint Benedict. It is quite interesting, although I haven’t finished it. Yesterday I was reminded of the title. I was reminded by Christina’s blog from last week, where she quotes Pope Francis as saying Christianity “points to a horizon of beauty.” I take this to mean that Christianity is something beautiful and alluring, which cannot be fully attained at this time. It is always there, and always the same, but new every day. At sunrise, and sunset it is a myriad of colours. During the day, it is green and blue, separated or blurred together. At times, it is white snow and white clouds, or mountains that appear to float in a netherworld between earth and sky.

The horizon is always beautiful, but you cannot always see it, nor do we always observe it. In the same way, God is always there and always beautiful, but we have to make note of him in order to experience his brilliance.

This constant relearning to observe the divine has been practically illustrated for me in the last month. I am making an afghan from an idea in my head. I found a basic pattern for the middle, and have been slowly working my way out from the core. I have the basic skills and a vision of what it should look like, but I have to invent the individual steps. When I am working on it, I can see bits and pieces. In order to see the whole, I have to lay it on the floor. There have been many times where I laid it on the floor and thought it is not quite right. I usually try to fudge it, and do another couple rounds, but I always get to the point where I just take it out to the last place that it worked. It is not efficient and very frustrating, but the final product will be beautiful.

As frustrating as this is, I think that it is an important skill to learn. If you don’t take risks, in life, art or your spiritual walk you will live in fear and not grow. At the same, time we need those times when we begin again, or at least check to see we are on the right path or we will end up making daring and miraculously disastrous decisions.DSCN5123 DSCN5125

welcome

I love this quote, found in Pope Francis’s first apostolic exhortationEvangelii Gaudium.

“Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone.  Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their job, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet.”

Wise words for living a life of faith, of creativity, of love.

sunset