Dancing in the Rain Stella Maris Rosary

I believe I have referred to the Lenten practice I did last year of 40 Bags in 40 Days.  The idea is to de-clutter your home by making a bag each day that you will either give away, throw away, or recycle (like papers).  Because it was so meaningful for me and necessary for me, I am doing it again this year.  In the process of physically getting rid of stuff we do not need, there is a sense of making room spiritually for God too.  Last year I was also reminded that the 40 days of Lent do not include Sundays.  Some refer to those Sundays as Little Easters.  The 40 Bags in 40 Day practice does keep you more mindful of what day it is and you look forward to Sunday for a new reason.  Going through things to make a bag a day is not always easy–no matter what size bag!

When I went down to work on the pile in our family room this morning, this print above jumped out at me.  It is something I made to hang in our downstairs bathroom.  The frame started peeling because of the water in the air and so took the picture apart and spray painted it.  (That was this summer).  I had just not ever put it back together.

The colors reminded me of a rosary I made the other day.  It has a Stella Maris or Star of Mary center.  As I looked at the saying on the print, I realized that it was not just the colors that fit with that rosary, but the words too.

One of the favorite prayers I found when I was first researching rosaries was the one I have on the information page about the Stella Maris Chaplet.  (See the list of types of prayer beads on the right column in my blog.). Granted, the configuration of beads in the Stella Maris Chaplet is different than the Five Decade Rosary, that prayer can easily be meditated upon with the five decade configuration as well.

Not all of us are sailors, but I believe all of us can relate to the storms of life.  How can we learn to dance in those storms?  How can Mary, the Mother of God, show us how she learned to dance in the storms of her life?  I never realized how that quote about learning to dance in the rain could so easily be related to the idea of Mary as Star of the Sea

Now, I need to get back to that pile and figure out what do do with all of it.  Hanging the picture back in the bathroom is not getting rid of something.  It was just putting it in its proper place.

Hahahaha!  This is what I am dealing with.  Interesting how the photo flips upside down when I add it to this post.  I have tried it a couple of time and it keeps doing the same thing.  Yup, kinda confusing.  That is just how I feel right now!

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Making A St. Brigid’s Cross: What to Welcome In and What to Throw Out

After I found the wheat yesterday, I put it all in a bin of water to soak.  I feel like there is this little theme of “re-visiting” that is reappearing as I begin journeying through there first days of Lent.  When I put the wheat in water, I thought, “how is it that I knew to do that?”  As a child growing up we would have a yearly Advent celebration at our church where they had different craft stations.  It was there I learned how to make a suet ball and cover it with birdseed to hand out for the birds.  It was also at these gatherings that I learned to make Scandinavian straw ornaments.  The straw needed to be soaked first so it would bend instead of break.

Next step for me this morning was to look for a You Tube video and how to weave a St. Brigid’s cross.  (There are many videos to choose from).  I pulled the longest stems out of the bin of water and began trying to follow the directions.  It was readily apparent that practice would make me much better at it, but I just kept going.  I made my perfectionist traits sit and stay instead of them trying to tell me to start over.

This is my finished project:

There was still quite a bit of wheat left in the soaking tub when I was finished.  My first thought was to throw it in the garbage.  But I had another idea because there was a bible verse I remembered whispering in my ear.  “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains but a single grain.  But if it dies, it bears much fruit” -John 12:24 translated from my own memory.

Thoughts of “Maybe I could start a wheat field in our yard” turned into putting at all leftovers in a towel that I dumped at the edge of our woods thinking maybe the deer might like it.

I have read that many place St. Brigid’s crosses above their doors as a sign of protection.  One of the things I have also been pondering lately is what I want to welcome in my life and what I want to get rid of.  I have decided that is going to be the symbolism in my St. Brigid’s cross.  Though I have still not decided where I will hang ii, the metaphor of a welcoming door and a closing door does seem significant.

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Lent’s Lost and Found: Revisiting Hope and The Prophesy of Simeon

The photo above is of some wheat I picked years ago from my ancestral farm in North Dakota.  I was in a vase for many years until I decided it was too dusty and just needed to be thrown.  In fact, I thought it had gone in the garbage.

We are planning a trip to Ireland this summer, I have been reading and researching about Ireland including St. Brigid.  A few weeks ago the idea popped into my head of making a St. Brigid’s cross to hang above our front door.  Then, my mind went to this wheat and I thought, “why didn’t I save that?”

Well guess what?  I did not put it in the garbage but dumped it with a pile of stuff in our family room I need to go through.

When I read from my book Your Sorrow Is My Sorrow this morning, the author, Joyce Rupp tells the story of the Prophesy of Simeon and how it might have been received from Mary’s perspective.  It talks about how Mary might have felt she needed to find that same trust in God that she accepted when the angel announced to her that she would be the mother of God.

Rupp writes Mary’s possible thought, “…I had to find that hope again as I faced Simeon’s prophesy.”

As I began digging through the pile in our family room and came upon the wheat, I could not help ponder the thought of how my faith and hope are like a lost and found.  Maybe Lent is a time to dig through that lost and found to find our hope again.

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The Challenge of Guarding my Heart and Opening it Too

Today is Ash Wednesday and my first day re-visiting the book Your Sorrow is My Sorrow.  I also printed out the booklet I made with suggested prayers for the Seven Dolor Rosary I found from sources years ago when I first started researching Christian prayer bead traditions.

If you saw my meditation journal pages for this morning, you would see that I am all over the place in my thoughts.  I could elaborate on many thoughts I had today as I read the book and the daily emails I receive from the sites I listed in my post yesterday.

One thing I know about myself from taking the Strengths Finder test is that “Connectivity” is one of my strengths.  Though that is a positive thing in many ways, there is also the negative part that I have a tendency to make connections where there are none too.  My journal entry today would be a classic example of how easily I can connect one thought to another.  I see how the thoughts connect, but to someone else looking at it they could very well be totally lost.  Actually, when I look at what I wrote today, even I am a little lost.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tilt-A-Whirl_in_Saskatchewan.jpg

Another one of my personality traits that came up when I took the Strengths Finder test was “Analytical”.  Yes, I realized that my traits revealed what a tendency I have to be a “head case”.  That might explain in part why I have struggled with panic attacks.  I tend to spend way to much time thinking vs feeling.  When the thoughts start spinning, I can feel like I am spinning too.  Sometimes that can feel like being on a tilt-a-whirl ride and screaming “let me off!”  That tilt-a-whirl analogy holds another truth I have found as well.  Gripping the bar and pulling back will make the car on a tilt-a-whirl spin more and spin faster.  If the car is spinning, your instincts might tell you to hold on to that bar tighter.  What you do not know is that those instincts are actually making it worse.  The instinctive signals your body gives you when you are having a panic attack are much the same–the more you try to run away from it, the worse it will get.

So, where do I go with this post today?  What part do I focus on?  It seems I have more questions than answers.  What I have just written above is not even included in all the journal entries I made today.  How do I connect the image of a tilt-a-whirl with Ash Wednesday?

Maybe it could be a foretelling of sorts of what I am really setting myself up for by agreeing to get on this ride for the 40 days of Lent.

What am I really opening my heart up to?  What am I really willing to let go of?  What is separating me from God?  What do I need to turn away from and what do I need to be open to?

Link to One Source of Suggested Prayers for The Seven Dolor Rosary:

Sisters of the Holy Cross – Notre Dame, IN – http://www.cscsisters.org/spirituality/Pages/dolors.aspx

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The Seven Sorrows of Mary for Lent

Christine’s Seven Sorrows of Mary Chaplet

It is already the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and I still do not have a devotional plan.  For the Liturgical Seasons of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter I usually find a book to guide me in my daily devotions, but this Lenten year there was not one that stood out to me.

Instead of buying a new book, I have decided that there are daily devotions I receive via email that I can delve into deeper.  There are three that have become the ones that  resonate with me most.  They are:

  • Upper Room Daily Reflections – You can sign up on this page:  https://daily.upperroom.org
  • Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations – Center for Action and Contemplation – Link to sign up page HERE.
  • Abbey of the Arts – http://abbeyofthearts.com – You can sign up to receive daily emails on the home page.

Along with those sources for daily devotions, I also decided to re-visit a book I have had for a long time, which is Your Sorrow Is My Sorrow by Joyce Rupp.  The book is based on the Seven Sorrows of Mary found in the Catholic tradition.

It is not very often I make a new rosary for myself, but today I did.  I titled it “Christine’s Seven Dolor Rosary” because it ended up being one I would not put up for sale anyway because there is a bead missing.

Many times I add some extra accent beads surrounding the larger beads of the rosaries I make.  One of my favorite ways to do it is adding leaf beads on either side.  I thought I had 13 of the leaf beads I used–meaning I would have one extra.  When I put on strand with the cross connection at the end, I realized I did not have 13 leaf beads; I only had 11.  That meant I was short a leaf bead.

I dug around on my bead table for those extra leaf beads but concluded they were not lost in the pile.  (Yes, if you saw my bead table you would understand why the bead might not be seen right away.)  I even considered ordering another one and waiting to finish it.  But, I realized that that missing bead could hold some symbolism for me on this Lenten journey.

So, tomorrow my journey begins.  By looking at this blog, you know that I am not very good about keeping it updated, but I want to record this journey somehow without giving up on trying to write a long, lengthy post at the end.

Click HERE for more about the Seven Dolor Rosary also known as the Servite Rosary.

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I Am Already With You ~God

It is time again to do my book work for the past year.  It is one of my least favorite things to do.  If I just did it every month throughout the year, it would not be such a big deal.  But, that never seems to happen.

Being on the computer, I also tend to find diversions.  I can only do data entry for so long before I need a break.  Today, I ended up looking at iTunes.  It is always fun to see what is new out there in the music scene.

I came across an artist named, Michelle Mandico, and was drawn to her voice and contemplative sound.  This particular song – I Am Already With You – seemed to speak to particularly today.  What if this was a conversation between me and God?  Why do I sometimes resist God, like we are on different sides?  Why do I search so much instead of resting in the sure knowledge that God is already with me?

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I Changed My Word for 2018

After some pondering and praying, I decided to change my word for 2018.  In my previous post, I stated it was “embraced.”  Once I started thinking more about the coming year and my intentions, I realized that, yes, I need to let myself be embraced, but I was also being called to expand on that thought.

The other day when I sat down with my prayer journal, these are the thoughts that came to me:

I am embraced in You!
Where are you calling me to go today?
What are you calling me to embrace?
I have no fear for You are with me.
Put Your desires in my heart. Let what You want be what I want.
Give me Your courage, strength, and stamina.
Let me be alert and welcome where you lead.
I am safe.
I am surrounded in Light–warm and breezy.
I breathe You in; I breathe You out.
You are the air I breathe.
My heart beats Your love–my trust in You steady and strong.
Come, Holy Spirit.
I embrace You.

Then, a short phrase came to me.  I decided I wanted it to be my mantra, or short prayer for the year.  I have never chosen a short prayer for the year, but these words seem to describe perfectly what my soul is longing for.  It is short, so I can easily memorize it and use it at the beginning of the day, and throughout the day when I need to regain my focus.

I embrace this day and all I encounter, because I am being embraced.

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My Word for 2018: How I Found It and How It Found Me

For quite a few years now I have been using the spiritual practice of choosing a word for the year.  The practice was introduced to me by Christine Valters Paintner from Abbey of the Arts.

One of the things about the practice that has become more and more enlightening to me is how the word actually ends up choosing you vs you choosing the word.  This year that seemed particularly evident.

During the first part of December, I begin to find myself mulling over or trying out different words to see if they might hold some wisdom for me.  Right now, I do not really remember what any of those were for me this year.  But, I believe my word has found me.

About a week ago, a friend introduced a few of us who met for bible study to a group called The Liturgists.  For our gathering we listened to two recordings inspired by the Ignatian or Jesuit practice of prayer, which uses imagination and reflection.  The first recording we listened to was Nazereth to Bethlehem from The Liturgists album titled O Light.  (You can find the album on itunes.)

It was a cold night and I had run errands that afternoon including grocery shopping.  After I went home and put the groceries away, I really struggled with just staying home.  I even left my coat on to motivate me to go out again.  So, when we gathered that evening for bible study, I left my down coat on my shoulders to keep myself warm.

As I found a comfortable corner on the sofa and readied myself to listen to the recording from The Liturgists about the birth of Christ, I decided to put my coat over the top of me and snuggle in.  I also found myself bracing my arms and hands lightly over my stomach in a sort of embrace.  The recording asked us to imagine ourselves on the journey from Nazareth and right there in Bethlehem.  With my arms circling my stomach, the mental and physical feelings of what Mary might have felt carrying Jesus became very real.

We enjoyed the first recording so much that we decided to listen to another one from the album.  This one was titled Cosmic Christmas.

Right away I knew this recording was going to be more challenging than the first.  Instead of the warmth and comfort I found in the first one, I right away felt a tinge of fear rise up within me as we were asked to take the Light’s hand while we “accelerated” and “zoomed away” from earth.  Still in my same position with my coat over me and my arms encircled lightly around my middle, I decided that I need more than just a hand for this journey.

The visualizations the recording brought to mind of the “kindness and cruelty” of our human history and existence was not a comforting feeling either.  Yet, as a listened a warmth seemed to stay with me–a circle of light embracing me around my middle, not too loose that I would fall, but not so tight to feel confining.

I do not remember if it was in the first or second recording that they said something about being chased by love, or if they even said that at all.  But I had a vivid image of being chased by a parent figure.  In it I am running away and resisting being caught.  Then, when I am finally caught, I kick and struggle a bit before I finally surrender.  I let myself be embraced.

I had let my word for 2018 find me.  It is embraced.

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Contemplative Crochet

Crocheting has become therapy and a form of contemplative prayer for me.  This morning I am pondering loose ends.  Sometimes those loose ends in our life do not only need to be tied up but woven in.  How do I weave God more into my life?

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Advent through Epiphany Meditations – Night Visions by Jan L. Richardson

Artist and poet, Jan Richardson’s words and images have been speaking to me for the past couple of years in the emails she sends out to those who sign up.  I am not sure why, but so many times I feel such a deep connection with her words illuminated with her soulful abstract paintings.

When I saw this book, I have to admit that the cover caught my eye first.  It makes a lovely coffee table book.  The title–Night Visions–also called to me.

The winter season is not one of my favorites in Minnesota.  The cold is embraceable with warm “woolies” to keep you warm, but the lack of sunlight can sometimes feel like you are under a big dark heavy blanket looking for an edge to peek out.  Just these past couple days I noticed what a difference there is in how I feel if the sun is shining vs when it is not.

Most of my life I have associated darkness and night with things I do not want in my life.  Because of that, I try to stay away from them and ignore that they are there.  But these past few years with my practice of trying to be more mindful and in the present moment, I have found that there is so much beauty and wisdom that can come from darkness and night.  I believe God created day and night, so why did I think God is not in darkness and night?

As I have been practicing embracing the darkness and night, I am seeing things I never noticed before.  And I am seeing them in a different way.  For instance, we have a Great Horned Owl that we can here hooting at times.  The old me might associate owls with scary stuff, but the new me, ponders the sound with awe and wonders what that owl can teach me about God’s creation.  I am realizing that there is much I have missed out on in life by letting my presumptions and fears get in the way.

I am looking forward to making this new book part of my daily Advent practice.  The other part I really like about it is that it goes through Epiphany.  Did you know the 12 days of Christmas do not start until Christmas Day?  I guess I will save that thought to write about later.

Here is a little preview of what is inside the book:

The book is available for purchase on Jan’s website—www.janrichardson.com–or through Amazon.

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