Thursday, July 23, 2009

Walking the Labyrinth

A few weeks ago I discovered a labyrinth. My mom and I attended a writers workshop entitled: Walking the Labyrinth: Writing your Reflections. I had heard of labyrinths but did not really understand what they were. I thought of them as mazes, usually outdoors and meandering through the woods. However, I have learned a great deal about them since this experience a few weeks ago.
A labyrinth is not really a maze at all, and they aren't necessarily outdoors or very big. Often, when walking a labyrinth, you are close enough to another person that you could reach out and give them a high-five on the way by. (This would be considered poor "labyrinth etiquette", though, so don't do that!) Where a maze poses a problem to solve and a destination to "figure out" through trial and error, dead-ends, and wrong turns; a labyrinth is a path carved out that leads one to the center. A labyrinth combines a number of ancient symbols such as the circle and spiral. They have been used for over 4,000 years in many countries, cultures, and religions. There are many labyrinths located around the world; the most famous being the Chartres labyrinth in Chartres, France. A replica of that labyrinth is in San Francisco, CA. Other notable labyrinths are in Central Park in New York, Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, MD, and in downtown Zurich, Switzerland. There are even labyrinths right here in Rockford, IL and Loves Park. Who knew?
Walking a labyrinth is considered a "right brain" activity. Because your left brain does not have to think about where you are going, it frees you up to be creative, intuitive, and imaginative. It tends to enhance a more contemplative and relaxed state of mind. Some people describe walking a labyrinth as "active meditation", and some have experienced moments of grace, forgiveness, creativity, healing, direction, and peace while walking through the labyrinth.
Below is the reflective poem I wrote after my "labyrinth experience". I hope you enjoy it and it inspires you to walk a labyrinth sometime...

Walking the Labyrinth; Walking Life
Structure with freedom
Listening to the rhythmic footfalls on the cinder path
A lawnmower humming in the distance
A reminder of the sacred within the ordinary
A space away
Walking meditation
A path of prayer, a path of purpose
The hot sun on my face
The magic of movement
People and ideas flood my mind
Capture the creativity
One step at a time
A journey of twists and turns
Some parts smoother than others
But the path is promised.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I Need a Silent Night

Yes, I'm still wearing jeans and a sweatshirt when possible, I now just make sure I have on my turtleneck and maybe even my 'Cuddleduds' as well. It's a whopping 3 degrees here today and snowing after a high of near 50 on Sunday. I really do love the snow. I could do without single digits and whipping winds, but a white Christmas is magical.
I bought myself an early Christmas present last week; Amy Grant's new Christmas CD. Those of you who know me know that she is my fav and on my bucket list to meet someday. Anyway, I noticed one of the songs on the play list is "I Need a Silent Night". I immediately thought, "I can relate to that." In the midst of the chaos and commercialism of Christmas, I often feel the stress mounting. I'm not really a "shopper" by nature, and just when I think I have it all done, invariably I end up going out and scrambling for something at the last minute. Then there's the schedule that seems to implode between basketball games, Christmas parties, classroom parties and trying to get all the loose ends tied up at work and home.....I know it's this way for most people and I try to fight against it, but so often I let my joy be stolen so easily and quickly. It can be gone in the blink of an eye.
Do you ever have those times or seasons in life when you get this reoccurring theme coming at you over and over again? Well, right now, for me it's peace. It was the topic on Sunday morning and it's in this song. The more I listen to it, the more I realize that is what I'm longing for. Not peace as in "happy". That's too simple and idealistic. It's more like a sense of well-being. A sense that God has not forgotten me in the midst of all the busyness, crazy schedules, chaos and frenzy. But, it order to hear His voice, to sense His Presence, to internalize the gift of the simple but magical birth of this baby boy, Jesus; the Prince of Peace, I need a silent night. I have to fight for a silent night. I have to actually schedule a silent night.....

I Need a Silent Night

I've made this same mistake before,
Too many malls, too many stores
December traffic, Christmas rush,
Breaks me 'til I push and shove

Children are crying while mothers are trying
To photograph Santa and sleigh
The shopping and buying and standing forever in line...
What can I say?

I need a silent night, a Holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear; a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

December comes and disappears
Faster and faster every year
Did my own mother keep this pace
Or was the world a different place?

Where people stayed home wishing for snow
Watching three channels of their TV
Look at us now, runnin' around
Trying to buy Christmas peace

I need a silent night; a Holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day, with a silent night.

What was it like back there in Bethlehem
With peace on earth good will toward men?

(For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us
and the government will rest on His shoulders
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.)

I need a silent night, a Holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day in a silent night.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rut or Routine?

I think one of the reasons I became a teacher is because I thrive on routine. There is a beginning and an end, 5 days in the week, class periods, grading periods, desks in rows or groupings, lesson plans, daily schedule, classroom procedures.....I used to peg routine people (myself included) as boring and non-spontaneous, however, the more I read and the more I learn, I realize that some routine actually releases us to be spontaneous, adventurous; in the "zone" so to speak.

One of my favorite movies is Hoosiers. When faced with a challenging team and critical community, Coach Norman Dale says he's gonna "break the boys down and then build 'em back up." They had been under leadership that lacked discipline, fundamentals, and hard work. As you watch the movie, you see the boys go from being frustrated, angry, and belligerent to a group of young men, that once they believed and lived within the "system", it freed them up to really let loose and play with abandon...

The flip side of this is watching a team play that is so regimented and routine that they "don't know what to do when they don't know what to do". They are so programmed to 'run the play' that if one person is in the wrong spot, or the ball is mishandled, they freeze up and thus end up "choking". It is painful to watch, believe me...

Routine and "plays" are good as a framework, but maybe when we start "choking" in life situations, or feeling merely bored, we need to assess whether we are in a routine or in a rut. Are we being 'ruled, or released'?

It all started when I went to the fabric store the other day with my daughter and my mom. We were looking for material for a Halloween costume (this is where grandmas come in!) I hadn't been to a fabric store in years. Maybe a craft store, but not a bona fide fabric store. I was amazed at the energy in there. A group of people were in the back corner participating in a sewing class; you couldn't find a seat to even look through the pattern books, and there were actually high school kids (boys and girls) wandering around looking at material. (Remember Halloween is just around the corner. Hey at least they're planning ahead.) I left there thinking I really needed to get a sewing machine, take some classes, and shoot, I could save a lot of money if I made the kids clothes... (Don't worry, I came to my senses within the hour!) The point being, I do have some creativity that I had forgotten about. I went home and got out my 35 mm Rebel 2000 in order to take some pictures of Todd playing soccer this week (coming soon). Then I thought about other ways to get out of a rut. Maybe I should walk my "routine walking route (or rut)" backwards; the route that is, not me personally walking backwards :) I was amazed at how everything looked different. Houses that I had never noticed, trees, the way the street curved around the bend. It was cool. It got me to thinking about other areas that I have just "always done that way". I don't know about you, but I tend to shop at the same stores, eat at the same restaurants, drive the same way to and from school when taking the kids, listen to the same music, wear the same clothes (fyi: did you know that most people wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time??), fix the same meals, go out with the same friends. So, I am on a mission to "mix it up a bit"; call an audible, color outside the lines, eat somewhere besides Beef A Roo. If I get really crazy I might just get rid of my beloved, lime green; holey hoodie :) It will have to be replaced immediately, however! So, what branch are you going to go out on?? Here are some ideas to get you started:

Drive a different way to work

Learn and try a new recipe (if you already do this; then it doesn't count!)

Try a new restaurant

Rearrange your furniture

If you only read fiction, try non-fiction and vice versa

Buy a new CD

Take up a new or old hobby

Try new fashion statement

A new hairstyle

Instead of going out, invite people over...

Have fun, and let me know how it goes...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

It's a "James Taylor kind of day"

Hey Friends,
I don't know about where you are, but here in Northern Illinois, it is cool, cloudy, and a soaking rain has been coming down consistently for at least 24 hours. Sometimes rainy days make me sad, but usually it's a more specific emotion. Perhaps melancholy, contemplative, "slow"; not necessarily negative, just "rainy". On days like this I am "encouraged" to reflect on my life, and the people in it. I really am blessed beyond measure; besides the stuff in life that I have been provided with, it's the people and relationships that matter the most to me.
We are doing a study at our church based on the book, One Month To Live. It's interesting to talk to others and think about what would take priority if we had a mere 30 days left. Over and over, I hear the same thing. People. Relationships. If they're broken, people want to fix them. If they're precious, we want to enjoy them. Sure, the laundry's got to be done, and groceries have to be bought, dinner made, bills paid; but perfection and tasks take their rightful place - down the list quite a ways. Maybe the "list" itself gets pitched. So, on a day like this, I "do" things, but in the back of my mind, I reflect on those people who are most important to me...
For your listening pleasure..... enjoy, reminisce, maybe even pick up the phone. (txtng dsnt count!)

J.T. still has it...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Inspired to Live Differently

I actually read this quote while flipping through my latest Better Homes and Gardens magazine. While many things inspire me, one of which is my home, that's not what I wanted to share.

Some of you know that at the end of August I went on a little adventure... I traveled, by myself, to San Antonio, TX to a women's conference featuring Beth Moore. She is a Bible teacher, speaker, writer, kinda wacky lady (in a fun, good way). I knew no one there. No one. Nada, zippo, zilch, zero.... Just me, myself, and I. I wanted to go for a few reasons. One, I love the idea of traveling and I don't do that much. At least not by air; lots by van. Two, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this alone. Three, I have come to respect Beth Moore a great deal, having read many of her books, and done many of her Bible studies, but never seeing her in person...

I'm not going to go into all the details. It's kinda one of those "had to be there" experiences, but I did come back "inspired to live differently". The topic for the weekend was The Inheritance. She went through 8 statements that elaborate on that idea based on Psalm 16:5-6. When we are followers of Christ, we have an inheritance. (Eph. 1:11; IPet. 1:4)

All the statements were profound, but I will just share a few. One truth I came away with is that what we believe about ourselves directly affects our behavior. Think of Princess Diaries. Before she knew she was the queen of a country, Mia acted out of her own "geeky" perception of herself. When she realized her inheritance, she began acting differently. It didn't happen overnight, and hollywood plays up the outward appearance thing, but it's all there. She started "being who she was born to be". Don't get me started, Lord of the Rings fans!! Okay, just one example - Strider, aka. ranger, hiding, small story, turns into (or actually becomes since he always was the true heir) Aragorn, King of Gondor (yeah, I know, it goes on and on, doesn't it??) So, what is your perception of yourself, and how is that guiding your decisions, and actions?

A second truth that hit me was that Christ did not call us to behave. He calls us to believe, to be changed, and to be powerful, to be different. Ahh, ......He inspires me to live differently. I'm still figuring out what that looks like, but I'm up for the challenge...

Also, I met some great "girls" in San Antonio. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly. They were kind of amazed that I had come all the way from (near) Chicago by myself. I kind of had to convince them that yes, I did have a family and many friends, just not with me at the time. I got to hang out with Dianne, Sharron and Karen, and they were great! Thanks.

Oh yeah, I got to wear jeans and a sweatshirt today:)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

To Begin......Again, and again, and again....

That's really what it's about isn't it?? Okay, this is my second attempt at bloggling....I mean blogging :) Maybe that's my problem...Why are beginnings so dang hard?? I don't know about you, but it's like the first of anything. I just want to be like 2 weeks "into it". Whether it's a new job, first day of school, first time bungy jumping (not that I've ever done that, or want to), but it's like let's just get that "first one" out of the here, it's out of the way. Done. Almost. Okay, the jeans and a sweatshirt thing....

Just for the record, I do not always wear jeans and a sweatshirt. Like yesterday I was at the local water park, and I was NOT in jeans and a sweatshirt. Yikes. Or today. Sure it's September 2nd here in Northern Illinois, and it's topping out at 92 degrees. Definitely not jeans and a sweatshirt weather - just the "second week of school" weather. The only 2 days of the whole summer that we hit 90+. Cool! No, hot actually... I just prefer weather that calls for jeans and a sweatshirt. Give me colored leaves, football, hot chocolate, apple orchards, cider doughnuts, Thanksgiving, more hot chocolate, more doughnuts, and of course a good pair of jeans (preferrably Levi's) and a hoody sweatshirt..
There, first post down. More to come...hopefully!:)