Books I am reading

Friday, March 15, 2013

To Dream or Not to Dream

About a week ago, I woke up with a strong sense that my next life project was to open a bookstore here in the artsy community in southern Arizona where I live part-time (for now!). I have been praying for over a year for clarity about what I am to do with my life once we move here full-time. I went back to school at age 30, after my two children were born, and then I worked as a therapist/counselor/group home director for the next 28 years. Two years ago, I "retired". I was burned out physically and emotionally. (another long story for another day).

All that is to say that I was a bit dumbfounded when the idea of a bookstore came to mind. I love books. I read everyday as much as I possibly can. When I am near the end of a book, I lose sleep finishing it before I close my eyes. I become wrapped up in the lives of the characters, and I often become the protagonist in my mind.

My love of books came from my mother. She was an English teacher by training and vocation (in her later years), and our home was covered in books and magazines. There was a floor-to-ceiling corner bookcase in our dining room filled with books, and there was a half-size book case in the corner of our living room filled with paperback books, magazines and our beloved World Book Encyclopedia. 

When my husband and I had our first child, my mother always bought books for him. And as he grew older, she would read to him. She bought beautiful illustrated books on the animal and insect kingdoms, story books about whatever topic was occupying his attention at the time.

I began taking our son to the library from the time he was born. In those early years, I was the one checking out books, but as he grew older, he began to attend story hour and choose several books to take home. As soon as he was able to print his name, he was able to get his own library card. it was a celebrated day in our home.

In the early years of our marriage, Ted and I could not afford to but books, but as his status in the work place increased, I began to frequent used bookstores and library sales in order to buy books of my own. From the time I went back to school, Ted and I have each had our own study in our home. Mine began to fill with bookcases and books. Ted had 1 bookcase for every three of mine.

As the kids grew older, Ted and I began to travel more, buying a time-share vacation home, and escaping to the sunshine and warmth of Mexico each year. We would take 1/2 a suitcase filled with books for our vacation reading. It became really problematic when we traveled to Europe and our suitcase weight was always too high. I was ecstatic when e-readers became available. For the last 8 years, we traveled with so much less luggage!

So the idea of a bookstore has deep roots in my psyche', but I have never actually considered it before. It seems a strange answer to my prayers about how I can minister and best serve the Lord at this time in my life.

But when I think of a bookstore, I think of cozy reading corners, a group room where book clubs can meet, a literary community center. I can also bring in books to sell that encourage people to think about their purpose in life, how to take better care of themselves, physically, spiritually and emotionally. I can have books that are FUN in order to bring more laughter into the world, and, of course, books for young readers and young adults that can fuel their desire to learn and grow!

So, I am beginning a journey to educate myself on what it would take to open and run a bookstore. I have no idea if this will actually happen, but I feel confident that for now, this is what I need to do. 

Joseph Campbell coined the phrase, "Follow your bliss", and lately I have heard so many people say that you need to occupy your life with work that you love. I loved being a counselor. For the last year, i have tried to image what type of counseling setting I should pursue here in AZ. Nothing grabbed my attention. But the idea of this bookstore has ignited my heart and mind, filled me with energy and excitement for the first time in a long time. May-be as I educate myself on becoming a bookstore owner, God will take me off in a tangential direction. I am open to being led and educated by the One who controls the universe.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Health Journey Part II

With my Grandson - Jan 2013

It is now two months after starting my journey to better health. 

I joined the Susan G Koman 3-Day for the Cure in order to give myself a concrete goal for walking. I was only able to 0.25 miles at a time back in Jan. Yesterday, I walked 3 miles. I admit that I had a break in the middle for lunch, but still, 3 miles!

Also, I have lost 19 pounds! WooHoo! I am using meals and supplements that keep my blood sugar even, and help me to build muscle and my metabolism while losing fat. It is a win-win, because as my muscle builds so does my metabolism, which helps burn more fat. I have to be faithful to exercise and eating healthy, but I receive concrete rewards for my efforts.

I have to admit that with all my previous attempts and failures, i was actually beginning to think that as an older person, I just couldn't be successful. But I am here to say, age does not matter!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sharing Our Burdens With God - Lenten Journey

It has been over a month since I last made an entry here. A lot has happened. I was supposed to leave for AZ on Feb 5th, but became very ill and had to postpone my trip until the following Monday. I was still weak and rested most of the first week in AZ.

Then Ted, my husband, and his sister and brother-in-law arrived for a week long visit. Elisa and Randy participated in the Old Lost Dutchman Mine marathon in Apache Junction, AZ, near Phoenix. We had a beautiful weekend there and all traveled back to Tubac, only to be met by cold and periods of rain and some snow. 
I had a few days to clean up and prepare for a friend who came for a week's visit, and is leaving later today. So I have had little time to write.

So where do I begin? The most emotion-filled moment in this past month occured on Ash Wednesday. I attended a women's Bible study from church, and as part of our opening worship, was asked to read a passage from the Presbyterian Women's "Minute for Missions" devotional book.

Wednesday, February 13
Minute for Mission: Ash Wednesday

Our pastor passed out small pieces of paper and pencils as we gathered around a table at the front of the sanctuary. On the table were a large bowl, a small container of ashes, and a flask of oil. We sang and prayed in the candlelight, calling the Holy Spirit into our midst. Then our pastor asked us to consider what burdens we had come into God’s presence carrying. What burdens of anger, pain, or disappointment might be keeping us from being able to follow in Christ’s footsteps? He asked us to write these burdens on our pieces of paper and to pray over them.The burden that came to my mind was my inability to forgive a friend who had hurt me. I knew that the grudge I was holding was keeping me from fullness of life in Christ. I prayed that God would forgive me for my hard-heartedness and allow me to release my hurt and anger. I had to free myself from the desire to judge my friend and allow God to show mercy to us both. As I prayed, I realized that this would be my Lenten journey: to learn to empty out my tendency to judge and allow my heart to be filled with compassion.The pastor lit a small flame by the bowl and invited us to burn our papers in the flame and drop them into the bowl. As each one of us allowed the flames to consume our burdens, they fell together into the bottom of the bowl. Silently our pastor mixed these ashes with the palm ashes from the container and oil from the flask. As we received the ashes on our foreheads, I was keenly aware that in this mark of Christ each of us was carrying a small part of each other’s burdens. No longer separated from Christ by them, and united in Christ with each other, we began our Lenten journey.Cynthia Reggio, M.Div., Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, 2012

I am generally not one who becomes easily tearful, but I had difficulty finishing reading this entry. I was touched by simple ritual that gave a concrete expression to deep feelings of guilt and shame and a way to redeem the feelings by giving them to God.

But there was clearly something much deeper being touched in me personally.

After three weeks of reflection, I have thought about two memories. The first one has to do with the burden Cynthia Reggio, the author, shared. In the late 70's, my husband and I were part of a house church. The group was very different in background and life experience than Ted and I, and there were frequently times when I felt overwhelmed. I knew that God had led us to this group, and I knew that there was much that God wanted to teach us, but sometimes I wondered if I would survive emotionally.

On one level, I deeply loved each person in the fellowship. They were all very giving, caring people. They worked to share God's Gospel with our immediate community, with our city and with the world.

But there were personality clashes of immense magnitude as well. My frustration and anger were often piqued, and I often felt deeply hurt. Much of this frustration was focused on one particular woman. I didn't know how to interact with her without getting angry, and yet we were working together on a ministry that I felt called to contribute. So many times I prayed for the ability to forgive and let go of the hurt I felt. I spent a lot of time praying that God would change the other woman, but of course, little happened until I started praying that God would change me. Thirty-five years later, I can still remember the deep hurt, the sense of abandonment by God, and then the miraculous healing I experienced once I started asking God to change and heal me.

The other memory evoked by this reflection occurred in the early 90's when I was working at a women's residential addictions recovery program. We actually did a similar exercise. I couldn't structure it as a religious exercise, but I invited the women to write on a slip of paper the one thing for which they felt most guilty about their addiction. We then went outside, and I took an iron skillet from the kitchen and invited each woman to give her burden to her Higher Power, and burn the paper to symbolize that it had been lifted from them.

It was an incredibly sacred moment as each woman burned her piece of paper in the skillet. A few shared what they had written, but most did not. I encouraged them to write about how they felt participating in this ceremony. The next day several women brought their journals and shared what they had written. Many women shared feeling "clean" and "purged from sin" and "forgiven". It was a major turning oint for several women in their road to recovery.

So I ask you, when has God met you in a difficult time and led you to healing and renewal. Lent is an excellent time to reflect on these moments of rebirth that God scatters throughout our lives.