Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Back to Business

Okay, I think I have exhausted all I want to say about Sabbath. Here are some nifty things I have come across recently

Organization - I am always looking for a better way to organize things, and I love office supplies. Right now my torn out magazine pages are overflowing an office file box, awaiting the week I take the time to sort and organize them. But even when that is done, I don't really have anywhere to put them. (I have a 4-drawer file cabinet on the family wish-list!) It is tempting to run out and get some binders (some now qualify for Box Tops!) and sheet protectors and do as this crafter did.

Things like this make me want to quilt. I am not big on Halloween decorations, but the shoes are cute and I bet the pattern could be modified to some classy, girly fabrics.

Bouchercon - the annual mystery convention is coming to Indiana next month. One of my favorite mystery authors posted this on her page. I think there is a day at the convention that includes crafts. I would love to go....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Final Thoughts on Sabbath

I'll leave you with these final words from Barbara Brown Taylor on the Practice of Saying No. Would love to read your thoughts and comments about Sabbath.

[from An Altar in the World]
"Your day begins when you let God hold you because you do not have the slightest idea how to hold yourself - when you let God raise you up, when you consent to rest to show you get the point, since that is the last thing you would do if you were running the show yourself. When you live in God, your day begins when you lose yourself long enough for God to find you, and when God finds you, to lose yourself again in praise."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sabbath - part 5

[from An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor - a portion of her personal Sabbath vision, which she recommends each person develop]

"At least one day in seven, pull off the road and park the car in the garage.... Turn off the computer. Stay home not because you are sick but because you are well.... Take a nap, a walk, an hour for lunch. Test the premise that you are worth more than you can produce - that even if you spent one whole day being good for nothing you would still be precious in God's sight - and when you are convinced that this is not so, remember that your own conviction is not required. This is a commandment. Your worth has already been established, even when you are not working."

For me, this is the big moment in a discussion of Sabbath - personal worth and value. Helping people feel valued and loved by God is one of my deepest passions, but deep down I know that I struggle with this, too. I feel worthwhile when I am busy, when I am accomplishing something. Last year I attended a conference where Kevin Lehman was the primary speaker. (It was fantastic!) In one of his books he asks you to finish the phrase, "I only count when...." My answer at first was "I only count when I get it right." And that is still accurate. But lately I have wondered if there is another answer, something like "I only count when I check things off my list." I'm sure there is therapy-fodder in there aplenty, but for the moment I think it ties directly into my ponderings about Sabbath. If I believe my value is in getting things done (and getting them right), setting those things aside for a day messes with the core of who I think I am.

What do you think of Taylor's Sabbath vision? What would your Sabbath vision include?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sabbath part 4

This chapter on Sabbath is so meaty, I am not done working through it yet, so here is another entry on Sabbath.

[from An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor]
"Anyone who practices Sabbath for even an afternoon usually suffers a little spell of Sabbath sickness. Try it and you too may be amazed by how quickly your welcome rest begins to feel like something closer to a bad cold. Okay, that was nice. Okay, you're ready to get back to work now... You are beginning to feel sluggish.... What if you get used to this and never want to go back to work? Plus, how will you ever catch up after taking a whole day off? Just thinking about it makes me tired. Is weeding the garden work if you enjoy it? Is looking through a catalog really shopping? This, I think, is how the rabbis were finally forced to spell out all the kinds of work that are forbidden on the Sabbath - because people kept trying to get to yes instead of no."

I feel so much better when I say yes. I have a friend who once insisted that I have the spiritual gift of helps because of the compulsion I have at times to jump into something in an effort to make it go smoothly for someone else - whether this is at a wedding when I have no official role or at my son's school when a new family walks into meet the teacher day and I volunteer to walk them to their room (and I'm not working at the time). Helps never comes up on my gifts inventories, though. I think in a way it is this compulsion to say "yes."

Recently I received an email from my son's school, asking me to coordinate the fall book fair. I love the book fair! I am crazy about books and I usually set aside my own stash of money to buy things at the book fair for myself. I blog about books every day. And I love to say "yes." I said maybe, which is a good step in the right direction. I mentioned it to my father who said, "And you said, 'I would be happy to volunteer but I can't coordinate it,' right?" My husband was more subtle, pointing out that I have been expressing a lot of dissatisfaction with the lack of balance in my life and the feeling that I am trying to do too much. But I prefer to say "yes." It seemed like a timely test of my resolve to simplify my life and practice saying "no." So, I said no.

I felt guilty, like I was letting people down. But at the same time, when I listed my priorities and the peripheral things I want to get done someday, there was no reasonable room for another responsibility.

So, how are you at saying "no?"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sabbath part 3

[from An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor]
"In the eyes of the world, there is no payoff for sitting on the porch.... If you want to succeed in whatever your 'field' of endeavor, you must spray/plow/plant. You must never turn your back. Each year's harvest must be bigger than the last. That is what the earth and her people are for, right? Wrong god. In the eyes of the true God, the porch is imperative, not every now and then but on a regular basis.... Sabbath is the true God's gift to those who wish to rest and to be free."

Do you find yourself longing for this freedom, this rest? I do. Last Saturday my family watched my son's soccer game and came home, planning to go to a shopping center later in the day. My husband, son and father went to our family room and started watching some TV. I went to our bedroom and just sat on the bed with my eyes closed. I had a book and notebook with me to do something, but I was craving rest. So, I took a nap. It was glorious.... Until I started thinking about what I didn't get done.

I think at the core of my struggle for balance and to better understand this idea of Sabbath is my own expectations. How do I set realistic expectations for productivity that keep room for rest and for God?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sabbath Part 2

[from An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor]
"I know people who can do five things at once who are incapable of doing nothing.... Since I have been one of those people, I know that saying no is a more difficult spiritual practice than tithing, praying on a cold stone floor, or visiting a prisoner on death row - because while all of those worthy activities may involve saying no to something else so that I can do them instead, they still amount to doing more instead of less. Limiting my activities does not help me feel holy. Doing more feels holy, which is why I stay so intrigued by the fourth commandment."

I have been pretty clear on this blog, and anyone who has spent any significant time with me also knows, that I am one of those five-things-at-a-time sort of people. Recently I was talking to my dad and he mentioned that a friend had asked him what I was doing with all my free time now that school has started and I am not teaching part time this year. I felt like I had to list every little thing I was doing each day to validate myself. I worry that mothers who work will think I am a slacker when I stay home when I have a school-aged child. When friends in other communities sent their kids off to school for the first time last week and posted on Facebook about their time at a coffee shop or other leisure activities for that first day, I realized that I haven't done that much since school started because I feel guilty. I feel compelled to be busy to justify my time at home.

This is so ingrained in me that it makes it difficult to switch gears once a week and experience a true Sabbath. I have no idea what that looks like. What is allowed and what isn't? Can I watch TV? Read a book? Do something crafty? If it goes on a to-do list is it off limits? If I am enjoying time with the Lord most days during the week, how does that time look different on the Sabbath?

Taylor refers to the Sabbath, calling it "the consummate act of divine freedom by doing nothing at all." What do you think of that description?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sabbath Part 1

My Sunday School class has been reading through the book, An Altar in the World. The premise is that sometimes we are too focused on finding God in a church or other religious settings. Instead, we can connect with God in the world He created and as we interact with others whom He made in His image. It has led to some interesting discussions as we have talked about chapters like "The Practice of Waking Up to God" and "The Practice of Encountering Others."

The chapter I have been dealing with this week is "The Practice of Saying No." The main topic is the Sabbath. I plan to spend this week - Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday - blogging about some of her statements from the book and how I am processing them.

I tend to think of Sunday as the Sabbath, though I know that in the Jewish system, it runs from Friday evening to Saturday evening. Our Sundays tend to involve Sunday School and a church service and hanging out at home. While we are home, I am often trying to squeeze in whatever chores didn't get done during the week, although I prefer to use it for just reading and resting (and watching football in the fall). I know I need to rest, and I know how I feel when I set my to do list aside for awhile and just "exist." But I am inconsistent in my observance of a true Sabbath.

I tried to Sabbath this past Sunday. I think I did okay. After church I read, napped, watched football and hung out with the fam. I tried to avoid anything I thought was work - reading about writing, actual writing, working on my to do list for the coming week, blogging notes, etc.

Mrs. Taylor writes [with some paraphrase from me]:
[It is interesting - alarming - convicting to think that we] put "Thou shalt not do any work" in a different category from "Thou shalt not kill..." especially since those teachings are on the same list.... There is no saying yes to God without saying no to God's rivals. No, I will not earn my way today. No, I will not make anyone else work either. No, I will not worry about my life...."

I have been challenged by this thought that we put the observation of the Sabbath in another category from the other commandments, as if the Sabbath is more optional or open to personal interpretation.

So, here are some questions for thought and comment. How do you observe the Sabbath? When do you observe it? What do you think about this idea that it requires the same attention and adherence as the other commandments? Does your life reflect your beliefs?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Girly Crafts

Here are a few recent discoveries from some of my favorite blogs. I already have plans to make some of these in the very near future!

1. Play makeup without the mess

Doesn't that look beautiful? I think so - so cool and shimmery. Just like make-up should look. But the best part is that little girls can plan without any mess because that is dry nail polish! So cool! My nieces are so going to get some of this play make up someday!

2. Activity Purse

I am already stocking up on composition books to make up a batch of these for the girly-girls in my life! I love the idea that it looks pretty, but it is also functional. I think it would be great for church! The only downside will be for those girly-girls who want a purse to put things in. But for those old enough to love to draw, this could be fabulous!

3. Yummy!

Doesn't that look yummy?! This site has a great recipe for cookies, plus instructions to make these gift jars. She even includes a PDF for the labels. A terrific find!

So, check these sites and crafts out! You might even want to follow the blogs all the time so you can enjoy even more craft ideas! All of these were originally posted at U Create, one of my favorite blogs.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Cathy Zielske is one of my favorite scrapbookers and bloggers. When Simple Scrapbooks was out, I could usually pick out her pages without even trying, either because I recognized her style or her family. She has posted a great challenge on her blog, and I decided to pass it along. Please check it out! I have watched the video and it is inspiring!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pros and Cons on the Kindle

Because of my overwhelming affinity for books, we are in need of several more bookshelves for our home. Every time this comes up, someone suggests I just get a Kindle. And I have thought about it. It would be a large investment of money I don't have, but my hesitation is more than financial.

While I would love the storage capability of a Kindle, I don't know if I would like to read something without having an actual book in my hand. When I write, I often draft on paper first before typing up something, making that first entry on the computer as my first revision/edit to a piece. I just don't know if I would want to give up the physical book....

I recently found this entry about the Kindle at a book blog that I enjoy. It is one of the most helpful and informative discussions of the pros and cons that I have ever read. I still don't know if I could ever make the switch, but the writer gives me a lot of points to think about.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Too much of a good thing

I have been thinking a lot lately about having too much of a good thing. There are so many great things available to us - things that fill our free time, things that make life easier, etc. - but there is a tipping point where those things are no longer a help but a hindrance.

For example, I blogged the other day that my need to be busy, to check things off a to do list, can go too far where I get burned out and just shut down, not wanting to do anything. Or I take on too much and can't keep all the balls in the air without something crashing.

This happens other places, too. You love your computer at work and all the things it allows you to do - until it crashes or the power goes out. You love your cell phone and the ability to have it with you where ever you are in case of emergency. But when it dies, you lose your phone book, pictures, and the ability to seek help if you need it. Facebook is a great way to stay connected to old friends and to make new ones. But sometimes old friends should stay in the past and not mix in with your present life. Or you hear stories about teenagers who are getting harassed on Facebook by "friends" or who use things that happen on social networking sites as a way to manipulate others. It is so easy to get out of balance.

Balance is something I am seeking but rarely finding. Maybe you are that way too. How do you find balance in your life?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Warn those who are idle

Recently I spent a whole day in bed, sick. Other than school drop off and pick up and dinner with my family, I hung out in my bedroom. I did a few things on the laptop, took a couple nice naps, went through half a box of tissues... and read 3.5 books. It bothered me all day that I had a huge list of things to do, but I felt too crummy to do them. But I also couldn't just lay there.

I tried. My husband came home that afternoon from a business trip, and after we put our son to bed, we watched some TV while he got on the computer. For a couple minutes, I just rested my head on his shoulder, but I was restless. It felt like "wasted" time if there wasn't something I could accomplish or cross off a list. So I read a book.

Looking back I have to laugh at my inability to be idle. I guess I must have taken the admonition that "Idle hands are the devil's tools" too seriously at some point in my life. Usually this is an asset. I can get a lot of things done and I am pretty organized. I juggle projects well, for the most part. But there are moments when it can be too much of a good thing. Either I get so tired from juggling or so bored with my usual activities that I get burned out and have to set everything aside for a couple days to regroup (which makes me tense because I am not getting anything done).

In a perfect world, I would give myself a day of grace every week or so to do "nothing" - to be crafty, or veg out and watch a movie. But there is always something to be done, and I just can't help being the one to do it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I resonated with this blog post recently. It's called "It's Only Money." I found myself with these same thoughts not too long ago.

My husband was wrapping up a four-week sabbatical from work (what a great perk, by the way). We had taken two trips to see family, and had done more shopping than our budget could handle. So we started scaling back, eating out less, staying home instead of running to the book store (and you should know after blog entries like this one, and my book blog, that I love the book store!) or Target, etc.

So we came to the end of his time off. Our son started school on a Wednesday, leaving us three days to spend together - something very precious. We used one day for errands and chores we hadn't yet completed. We used a coupon I won in the library summer reading program to eat cheaply at a restaurant we never would have tried otherwise - and it was great. Another day was for him to golf (something he paid for back in the spring) and me to spend some time on personal projects. For the last day, we had entertained the idea of going to the bookstore (vetoed because it was too tempting to spend money, plus the gas it would take to get there), just going to a coffee shop in town (less driving, no shopping), or just plain staying home.

Then I started thinking of how pathetic that was - to end a great season together by sitting at our house, where we were likely to do chores or go to separate rooms of the house to do our own things. So, we scrounged up a BOGO coupon for Denny's and went out to breakfast together. We lowered our expenses, didn't drive a long way, and got to spend a couple hours together (talking fantasy football). Technically, we didn't have the money to go out for breakfast or for the lunch a couple days before. But we made a choice to spend a little to celebrate a lot - the sabbatical, and being together. And those are some of the things I want to remember from the month together.

I think the lesson here is balance. We need to shop less and spend less than we were, but we need to remember that we are making memories together. And I don't want all of those memories to be of my son asking to do something and me telling him we don't have the money. When we exercise balance in the every day things, we have more opportunities to say "yes" for the extra-ordinary.