Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sing a Song of Now


Ah, the irony of it all is not lost on me.

Did I not have all summer to draw, to sketch, to observe and record? Yes, yes I did. But I was somehow, "not in the mood." Of course not that school is back on my plate, all I want to do is sketch and paint. So now I am back to stealing snatches of time in order to draw. This is fine, except now, of course, I also need to be finishing up some Christmas knitting I am doing too. I'm SURE it will all get done... right? Yes, certainly, certainly it will.

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp is one that is waiting for me at the library. It is not a goal of mine to have a creative career - just living a creative life is enough for me - but the habits of those who do are good to glean from and emulate.

Oh, my fickle phases get to me sometimes, but I think I am getting better. This year has been a really big year of me for learning in terms of my creativity. Just doing it means I have begun to figure out what I truly like and dislike in terms of materials and tools, mediums, and style. It is not such a daunting mystery to me anymore and it comes from just jumping in and doing it.


Some day, perhaps, I will have enough time and money to take a class on some of these things, but I decided a few years ago that life is just too short to wait for that perfect time to come along. I am sure with instruction, I would perhaps shorten my learning curve, but doing something - even if it has meant that I learn from books and tips collected randomly here and there along the way - is better than doing nothing at all.

As I learn more through my own experimentation, I find that the end product does improve. But so much more than that is the bliss found in just doing it at all. I wrote this in my journal just a few days ago:

"What I realized (perhaps again) just yesterday, is that even if my children don't pursue art with the same fervor that I do (but perhaps some day they will), they see me working and creating all the time now. I love that it has become just something that I do and do regularly. I'm glad the girls aren't surprised to see me sketching something and that creativity and art are important in our home, are normal, valued, studied and appreciated. This is something I have always wanted."



So, today, I guess, for you, dear reader, two things:

1) If you are a mother with young children and you have felt a loss of a sense of your identity, I would say to remember that along with those passions that you have, you also wanted children and that they will be with you and small for but a season. My own children are still young, but not so young that they need me so constantly. In the past couple of years, my time has steadily opened itself up to me and my interests once again. That time will return to you, but the children, in their stages, will not. Don't have regrets about your time with them. Their souls are worth so much more than any song or painting or beautiful room or cake or garden or story or crocheted hat or quilted blanket.

2) Still, those things will be there for you in their own time. Do those things you love a little every day in whatever way you can. The snatches of time will continue to add up. Do what you can. A tiny, little haiku written on a note pad once a week (as some members of the Creative Mom Podcast Yahoo group are doing every Monday) will add up to a collection of 52 haikus. Just think: your own collection of haikus from the year your child was two or three or four. Those words and images will change when she is 16, 17, or 18. Write them now. Sketch them now. Sing a song of now, whatever that looks like today, for I recently read on another blog a quote from Karen Lamb, "A year from now you may wish you had started today."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Something Different


So, my blog funk extended into my overall mood, I think. I was definitely needing some changes. You know you are needing change when you get excited - really excited - about shopping at a different grocery store.

So, yeah. I went to a new grocery store this weekend and, good grief, if it didn't make me happy! It's so silly, but it did. I was so sick to tears of the one closer to us. Sick to tears of knowing exactly what they had and what they didn't (and that it meant I'd have to go to even more stores to pick up other things) and sick of the blah environment there. So, I went to a different store and was pleasantly surprised at the number of organics they are now carrying since I'd been there last.

It was weird, because I really wanted to go too. For some reason, it felt comforting to be in that store. The only thing I can relate this weirdness to is that I do know I shopped there - two years ago I think - right before Thanksgiving. The aisles were packed with folks all looking for the same things I was looking for: cranberries, potatoes, evaporated milk, spices. Somehow it made me happy to be in that store with all of them on that day. I don't think I could explain it then and I don't think I can now. But I'm thinking that is one of the reasons I just felt I needed to go to this particular store on this particular day.

Maybe it's because that feeling - that holiday, family, everything-is-right-with-the-world-right-now feeling is what I was longing to feel when I know that so much is just not. Maybe it was a "grocery store escape."

I'm sure escape has a bit to do with it. Not from my life. Currently, thank God, our family is enjoying some calmer waters. We've come through some rough ones in the last 3 years, so this last, relatively peaceful year is one for which I am repeatedly thankful!

No, the escape factor has more to do with the continuing war, the continuing reports of the effects of global warming and the continual waste I see every day. I won't mull all that over here... and I do think folks are waking up and making changes. I find that I have a tendency to push myself to make changes and choices and then am hard on myself when I don't stick with everything all. the. time.

So, I guess I'm just trying to lighten up a bit. Yeah, at the grocery store! LOL! :)

Actually, it's not that unusual for me, because I know food is political and my food choices are important. Grocery shopping, for me, in fact, often feels like an silent battle. It can get depressing. "We really shouldn't buy those conventionally grown strawberries, because they are one of most highly sprayed pesticide crops. But the organic ones are at the other store - 13 miles away - so that's gas being used. Plus, those organic ones are from California; these conventional ones here are from Florida - they're local! Oh, but why do they have to package them in plastic?" and on and on and on. Monkey mind.

So this weekend I just gave my brain a break. I bought some new foods - some different things we hadn't tried before: some snacks that were trans-fat free - packaging be damned. I guess I just can't win on everything. Actually, I was surprised at the number of trans-fat free products now available in addition to the organics. I was even able to find organic cheese - with microbial enzymes as opposed to rennet - all in the one store! Such a nice break. You know, there are people who are high-maintenance with their looks. Our family is pretty high-maintenance with our food and I guess I've just been getting a bit worn out tracking down different places for all the things we need.

So, yes, lightening up a bit and discovering the source of my grocery store happiness.

After grocery shopping and dropping the girls off at a birthday party, I went shopping and bought the first new clothes for myself in 9 months. I'd made the "buy only used things" for myself resolution in January and I broke it on Saturday. I'm pretty happy about that too - especially since everything was one sale. :) I think I'm just trying to cut myself a little slack and remind myself that the state of the world does not rest on my shoulders alone. :) Certainly, I'm not going to become Uber-Consumer, but a few new clearance items from Old Navy will not kill me... even if they are made in China. *sigh* See? It never shuts up!

This weekend we welcomed Autumn, my favorite season and it's a feeling I'm sure I share with many. We had our Autumn Equinox sketch crawl with the Creative Mom Podcast yahoo! group this weekend too and these are the photos I share with you at the beginning of the post and here.


So, I hope I've crawled out of my funk! It feels like I have. Nothing a little art and blogging couldn't set right again anyway. And hey, another Big Boo Cast is out. I'm off to listen and make some supper! Thanks for stopping by and for reading this far if you made it through all of this! :)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Blog Funk

I know that it seems my posts are getting fewer and farther between and it's frankly just because I'm running out of time to write. I got invited to Ravelry last weekend and so far I've only managed to put my basic info in. For those of you who don't know what Ravelry is, it is a new (still in beta testing) knitting database site/online community where thousands of knitters are sharing information about patterns, yarns, projects, etc. etc. It's exciting stuff, but I've only been able to have a peek.

I haven't quite decided what I'm going to do here yet. The fall season/schedule seems to be hitting a number of people hard. I've heard on a number of podcasts the topic of time and balance being discussed. I know it's an adjustment for many. The blog is getting pushed down farther on my priorities list and is beginning to feel like some self-imposed homework in and of itself.

I'm not throwing in the blogging towel... yet. I'm just going to wait and see what will happen here. Maybe another blogging vacation? I'm not sure. Right now I feel pretty content just to go around visiting all of you rather than updating my blog. Perhaps I'm just in a bit of a writing funk. So, forgive me for being so undecided at the moment. I think I'm looking for a bit of a break within all of the new real life commitments.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Balancing Act

I took this picture of this little guy this evening as he (she?) joined me in my afternoon
chore of gathering in the clothes from the line.

Oh, I'm just tired tonight. I knew it would hit me sooner or later. Don't you find that you really need to adjust to new schedules? Especially fall schedules? Everything starts at the same time and then, wow!, you're just going again.

I am not a big fan of going and my schedule is nothing compared to some - and for good cause! But I do like the new fall season - the new faces, the new activities, the new friends. So, now I am needing to re-look - again - at finding a balance.

When you have children, you are always juggling and rearranging things and ways of doing and being. Just when you think you've got a regular nap routine down, all of a sudden naps are not needed anymore. Or just when you've got a good rhythm and routine down for bedtime, suddenly the bath and the stories just aren't cutting it. Or dinner was always at 6:00, but now tummies are growling at 4:00. Or the favorite meal has become passe and a new menu is needed - somehow, some way.

As it is with children, I think it is with adults too, but it just may be more subtle. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's blatant: a new job, a move. But sometimes, as it seems to be in my case, it's the change of seasons and schedules and I'm needing to look at - to reevaluate - and figure out what needs to go.

It wasn't that long ago when I didn't recognize this. I just kept adding and adding things in and pushing myself until I could go no more. I know plenty of folks who do this. But one anxiety attack (2 years ago now) is enough for me, thank you very much, and I simply be a fool not to learn from my mistakes.

Most of the time my biggest problem is me. Do you have high standards for yourself? I think so many of us do. I was listening to The Big Boo Cast yesterday and I just had to laugh (which I do, repeatedly while listening to that one! It is funny, y'all. So funny, it makes me want to talk with a southern accent which I do not have) when Boo Mama said, when asked if she had things she wishes she could have done or would still like to do with her life, "You know, I've never really been an ambitious person." Oh, I do WISH I could have that attitude sometimes!

Often times I wish I was not as serious as I am. I wish I could just relax a bit more... relax without feeling guilty. I wish I could just drive to the grocery store and not think something like, "I really should have ridden my bike," or feel bad when I want to - and then buy - that wonderful papaya from Mexico, but feel bad, because I think about all the petroleum that was used to ship that little piece of fruit here. Oh, you all do NOT want to go shopping with me.

But here's the thing. I tried so hard to buy locally this summer, but I just don't think I have it in me to keep it up during this school year. I think about it and then I say to myself that I just do not have the energy or time to drive to the various farmers markets and I am sorry, but Barbara Kingsolver was not trying to homeschool her family at the same time as she was writing her latest and greatest book.

So, I'm letting it go for now and perhaps will be able to pick it up again in another season of my life. I know that we still do a lot of things for the environment. Way more than some folks do. I just have to remind myself that its okay that I don't do everything perfectly.

Certainly, I'm better than I used to be. I used to have to leave my house to relax. When my children were really small and I had the house to prove it, I had to actually leave my house and go hang out with my friend so that I wouldn't be bothered by the dishes and the various undone things. I would go to her house and she would answer the door in her pajamas - and it might be 2:00 in the afternoon! Now, she didn't always live in her pajamas, but sometimes she would just have a pajama day. This is something I don't think I have ever done. Maybe when I was sick. Maybe. I don't really think so, though. She is the only person I know who, when all of us moms in the early childhood class would talk about limiting or not having any television and the evils of television, who boldly said, "I have 7 t.v.'s! They're all over my house!" Oh, I love this woman!

I just wish I could have maybe an eighth of her cavalier attitude. Friends of ours - and even we - would laugh at such an odd couple of friends we made, but I need people like her and Boo Mama and Big Mama in my life. I need them for balance and to teach me to cut certain things. To give myself a bit of a break - if only for a season.

So, I'm working at getting at balance before it gets too thrown off. I have learned more about my own boundaries and limits in the last few years and I hope to continue to understand these things about me.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Art Journal Activities


Whew! We are finally at the tail end of our first, full-fledged week of school. We did start two weeks ago, but this was the first week that we started with the homeschool co-op on Tuesdays as well as our P.E. group on Wednesdays. Then there was the field trip to the Post Office today... I made it to the weekend!

You know, I continue to be surprised at the number of people who still ask me the "socialization" question.

#1, I guess I think homeschooling is so popular now that I just assume people don't think of it as something "different" anymore.

#2, If folks would simply consider the number of activities their children are/were involved in that weren't directly linked to school, they might pause before asking the silly question.

#3, Do my children, who speak fluently with people of all ages and are regularly complemented on their manners seem to be lacking in social skills compared with other children their age?

#4, And finally, if you know me - even briefly and well enough to be having even a casual conversation with me - you ought to be able to figure out that I would perhaps have thought of that "socialization question" myself and just may be concerned enough for my children to want them to have friends. I told my older daughter the other day that the next time someone asks me if I am worried about them being socialized, I'm just going to say, "Friends? Friends, shcmends! Who needs 'em? We believe friendship is highly overrated!"

LOL!

Anyway, at our co-op - you know, the one with 29 other elementary age children, plus their pre-school, toddler, and infant siblings - I am teaching 6 weeks of art journaling. I'll admit, the first day was a bit daunting with so many eyes kind of staring at me with that "deer-in-the-headlights" look. "Gesso? What's gesso? Where do we put it? What did you want us to do?"

But it was the first day, right? It's certain to get better! :)

My goal is to be able to introduce these children to something I dearly love and hopefully pass on just a bit of that passion to them. Unlike a class one signs up for out of interest, this is a whole mix of kids with differing likes and dislikes. I hope to at least interest all of them - and maybe pass the "bug" onto a few! Certainly, the fact that they all had their new school supplies and art supplies all in shiny new cases (tackle boxes, pencil boxes, large plastic jars) helps. My own children were excited with their new things and so I jumped on the chance to try out an activity I have been wanting to do for a while.

Amy, host of The Creative Mom Podcast, keeps her own art journal and also has one for her six-year-old son. To get him journaling in a regular way, they have a ritual of drawing together every evening. They each go and find something in the house that they might want to draw that night. Office supplies, she says, are big hits: the stapler, scissors, etc. Toys find their way to the table too. Then they choose which of the two items they want to draw and sometimes they draw both. They draw, then she has him write a sentence about his drawing or his day and then he dates it. And that's it. But isn't it marvelous? What a treasure that will be for him and his whole family! What memories they will share of their time together. I hope they well be able to keep it up! It is such a great idea! If you haven't listened to Amy's podcast before, give yourself a treat and listen in! If you like what you hear, she has a whole year's worth of archives - all inspiring, all wonderful!

My concern for my family was that they would be suspicious of any other regular activity with Mom. Was this an assignment in disguise? :) So, I'm keeping it loose and as much like a game as possible. Maia selected my jadeite tea canister the other night and so that is what we all drew or painted. Mine took much longer than the girls, but they were really excited with what they did and hung out a while longer doing their own drawings while I finished mine.

I love seeing all the colors that are in a one-color object! And I love just sitting with my girls and chatting and laughing and listening to the radio while we create together. Simple things. No rules. Just being. Just perfect.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Birthday Fun & Favorite Things


Hello, Everyone!

First, I want to say a big, "thank you" for all the kind birthday wishes. We really had a great weekend.

On Sunday Eve had a friend of hers over after church so we could all go bowling. We have an every-other-year system here with our birthday parties. On "off years" the girls choose one friend with whom they can do an activity: movies, bowling, miniature golf, etc. Bowling seems to be a popular choice for some reason.

After we bowled we came back to the house for cupcakes and the girls played for a bit. Does Eve look happy enough? LOL!



The Saturday before, I had "my day." I headed out of the house about 10:00 a.m. and went to Barnes and Noble. There really aren't any local bookstores in my area other than the Goodwill bookstore which is my usual haunt, so since it was my birthday present, I went to B&N.

I must admit, I only go to this store about once a year. It takes about a half hour to drive there and if I don't just get books at the library, I purchase them used online or at GW. I was surprised at how many people were just "hanging" out there on a Saturday morning. And this was actually the first time I had ever "hung out" there myself. I usually go there with a particular mission in mind and have never really just lingered. Of course, I also usually have the kids, so that plays into the "hang out" factor too.

I ordered a Pumpkin Spice decaf latte at the Starbucks located in the store and sketched some of the people there. Then I went and plopped down in a cushy chair right next to the aisle with the knitting books and ooo-ed and aaaahh-ed over the various beautiful things to create. I probably sat there for a good 90 minutes. Yea!

Oddly enough, I didn't get anything there, because they didn't have the watercolor Moleskines I was looking for. One block over is a Borders and I was fortunate enough to find one there. I picked up a pocket-sized book of knitting basics that would be handy for trying new things. I didn't actually get any of the other gorgeous knitting books with all the patterns, because I am currently up to my eyeballs in projects I want to do and I'm pretty busy with Christmas gifts besides. But I did particularly love Knit 2 Together. There were SO many things I thought were so beautiful in that book and it's going to the top of my Amazon wish list for Christmas! In the meantime, I may just do an inter library loan so I can just look at it all over again! :)

(edited to add: Okay, just as I was finding the link for this, I see that Amazon has them used for $5.50 instead of new for nearly $30.00! THAT fits my budget and I'm getting one NOW!)

Then I was off to Michael's to get a pan of watercolors, a row counter and needle gauge, and a small bit of yarn for yet another Christmas gift in the lineup.

I came home and had a bit of time playing around with making test swatches of my new colors...


and then my older colors - the watercolor pencils - just because it was fun!


And then I did the tomatoes that you see at the top of the post. So, it was a good day of doing many of my favorite things!

I wonder how many of you keep journals - written or visual or otherwise? I keep a written one that is private, one for favorite quotes, and then my sketchbooks which I don't mind sharing. If you keep a journal, I'd love to hear about it. How many do you have going at once? How long have you been journaling? Do you have many saved? I think I'm closing in on 40... in journals and in real life it seems! :)

Friday, September 7, 2007

It's Our Day!



If any of you dear readers of present were readers last year, perhaps you will remember that I share my birthday with my baby girl, Eve. She is not so much a baby anymore. She turned 8 years old today!


I know I've mentioned this before, but somehow when my older daughter turns an age for the first time, it seems SO big; I had a hard time when she turned 8. Whenever Eve turns an age, though, it seems so small still, thank goodness. When Maia turned 4 - and Eve was just a year - she was such a big girl, but when Eve turned 4 - and Maia neared 7 - Eve was "just 4." I know it's not fair, but you learn so much as a parent. I think, with your first child, everything they do is new territory and so seems so monumental; they accomplish so much. With later children you realize - and are thankful - for how young they truly are. At least that is how it is for me.

I think too, with Maia being the first - and maybe it is just part of her personality too - she has always stepped into the role of big sister quite easily and has seemed quite mature. She never threw a temper tantrum (except for the day we brought home Eve from the hospital!) and "terrible twos" just never found their place in her. Eve, on the other hand still has her wildly emotional days. It is evident when she has not had enough sleep and, as my mother would say, she'd cry if you "looked at her cross-eyed!"

Somehow, too, it seems that she is the one, even at 8, who comes up with those "kids say the darndest things" moments. In her 7th year, we enjoyed these moments:

Driving home one evening it was sprinkling and a rainbow appeared in the eastern sky. We were on a road that wound south, then east, then south, then east at least 3 times and every time we rounded the corner I would say, "There's the rainbow!" Finally, at our last eastward turn Eve exclaimed, "Rainbow, rainbow, rainbows! Mama, there are rainbows just about everywhere we look!"

I loved thinking that she was, for a moment, living in a world with a sky full of rainbows.

A couple of weeks ago the girls had lunch with their friend, Kati, next door. When they came home later my conversation with Eve went like this:

N: What did you have for lunch at Kati's house?
E: We had potatoes. They called them "all rotten" potatoes, but they weren't rotten at all, Mama, they were really good!

At that one, I couldn't help but burst out laughing and had to explain to her that they'd had "au gratin" potatoes and that I thought they were really good too!

Have a look at the sweet things my family gave me today:

My mom gave me Leigh Radford's book, One Skein that I'd had on my Amazon.com list for some time now. I bought the Country Living Magazine for myself last night at the market when I was getting ingredients for cupcakes for Eve.



The girls each gave me a candle and homemade cards.



And Paul made me this fabulous card (he has a pretty good reputation amongst family members for his card creations and wrapping jobs at Christmas time):



It reads, "Some grow older with a dimness in their light. Your fire is still burning bright!"

I had to laugh thinking that my fire is only going to get brighter with every additional candle on the cake!

Isn't it cool? A homemade pop-up card!

My gift will be that tomorrow I will get to go plop myself down at Barnes & Noble with a cup of coffee and peruse all the knitting books I'd like. I may get one and perhaps a magazine. Perhaps a moleskine watercolor notebook too and then a trip to Michael's where I may pick up a small pan of watercolors. I haven't totally decided yet, but the whole day seems utterly delightful to me and I can't wait!

Tonight, Paul plans to let the girls pick out a frozen dinner at the market and some Chinese food for us so I won't have to cook. It's been a terrific birthday! Thanks for stopping by

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Thoughts on Language and Profanity


Image by Jessie Wilcox-Smith
courtesy of allposters.com

Here it is, Thursday again!! Somehow I have fallen into posting a mere two days a week. School is upon us for sure! Have your calendar days begun filling in? Mine certainly have. I am not at all inclined to be a "runner": someone I think of as constantly running to and fro from activity to activity. I prefer to be home most of the time and thus far, we've kept our extracurricular activities to a minimum and/or combined (meaning it is something both my children are involved in or all of us as a family). I simply don't fare well with a hectic schedule.

Last night was one of the new activities of the new season. I hosted a Ladies' Bible study at my home. We will be meeting every other Wednesday evening and we will be selecting a Beth Moore study. Have you ever done a Beth Moore study? Among all that I have done, she is my favorite. She is such a dynamic speaker (all of her studies come with DVD's with about a half hour of her teaching) and studies the Word so thoroughly. I learn so much every time! My pastor's wife (who is also my next-door neighbor) is leading the study. The children will be next-door at their house having an activity time with Miss Nancy, my pastor's mother, in which they will study character qualities they wish to have (or that we wish them to have!!).

Having clean language is one quality I have always wanted my children to have and have therefore maintained around our home. My husband and I have never sworn around them and if you'd ask them what a "bad" word is, they might say something like "shut up" or "stupid." Maia, at 10 1/2, was surprised yesterday when she found the word, "stupid" in a definition in the dictionary. She said, "Mama, I didn't think they'd have a word like that in there!"

It's not that they have never heard a swear word before, but truthfully, at this point, they do not recognize them as such. I have learned that, as there are many words of which a child does not know the meaning, if they hear a swear word in a film or, unfortunately out of the mouths of some other adults in their lives, they do not recognize them as something bad. One key, I think to this is that we never react when one occurs.

First, I will say, that we avoid most known television or movies that we know will have foul language. That said, it seems that many words I was taught were off-limits to me, as a child, are now frequently used in common conversation on television (another reason to be vigilant about viewing habits altogether!). If a word does come up, though, we don't laugh or act offended or cover their ears or comment at all. It is ignored, and as such, finds no reaction in my children either.

It is the reaction, of course, that the profane mouth seeks. I loved hearing Bill Cosby talk about profanity once. I do not have a direct quote of his, but he had said something about the use of profanity in comedy or any other language revealed one's lack of vocabulary. Profanity is used when someone does not seem to have a better or more accurate word to say. Instead of seeming ignorant, the user swears and hopes to appear stronger, more intelligent, funnier, or more intimidating than he actually is.

When my children have asked me what some of the words are that I don't want them to use, do you think I share those with them? My answer has always been, "I don't want to tell you something I don't want you to say and I don't wish to say it myself." Someday, I know my girls will hear and understand what some of those crude words in our culture are, but at that point, they will likely have a better understanding and opinion of them and why they are used.

Along these lines, now that I think of it, is the use of God's name in vain. Since becoming a Christian again nearly ten years ago now, my ears have been very sensitive to that very thing. What a waste and a shame that Jesus' name should be used in anger or frustration when He was the kindest most loving person who ever lived and who gave His life away for us. If you are a Christian reading this and this is a habit of yours, I would strongly urge you to consider what it is you are actually doing and what kind of example you are giving to your children if you have them and to others - Christian and non-Christian alike. What kind of respect and honor are you showing to your God if you use His name so callously?

As happens many times, I intend to sit down and write one thing here and, as with my own, personal journaling, something completely different comes out! Well, it must be then, what was needed to be said! I hope that it blesses you in some way today. :)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sunday Thoughts - For Free!


"Church Picnic" by Faith Ringgold
Image Courtesy of allposters.com

Today the new church my girls and I have been attending met at the pastor's home. As they are our next-door neighbors, the jaunt to church this morning was an especially quick one! They are a young church that commonly meets in a school, but when holidays come round and folks are out of town, they'll often save money on the rent of the space and instead meet in their home.

This was their once-a-month family meal as well and so we all brought a dish to share. We had some time for a lesson this morning, but more time was spent in fellowship than anything else and it was quite lovely.

One conversation I had with a young woman who works in a new age bookstore was interesting. I asked her how she felt about working there and if she felt she had a strong witness (not pressing people into believing what she believes, but just by her life and choices, is what I mean). She said she loves working there, but that she did not feel like she had a strong witness. I told her I could understand. I used to follow a number of new age/pagan paths for 10 years before I came back to Christ. I felt then that my beliefs were generally the same as any other person on a spiritual path and that mostly it was just that Christians were less tolerant.

We spoke, too, of what changed my mind about that. The answers to that are really too long and numerous to put into one post, but a few major things are these:

1) On the surface it seemed that most world religions were the same. It is true that many share many of the same philosophies. But the deeper I went into any other religions, there were places where I stopped short and could go no further. Truth was not revealed to me there.

2) I was burdened by many teachings that told me that my enlightenment or salvation was up to me. People speak lightly, often, of good or bad karma, but the tally list was too much for me to bear. One teacher spoke to me about my chakras being so "clear" and said I really ought to join him in a teaching weekend that included sitting 10 hours in meditation. "Is this what it takes?" I wondered? I knew I didn't have that in me. I wasn't prepared to separate myself so much from the world. Did that condemn me to another go-round at life? I wanted to be a wife and mother. Would that cause me to be too attached and therefore cost me another lifetime when I may, instead, then choose the life of a monk or teacher and at that point work my way closer to nirvana?

God shows me through His law what He required. And then He showed me through the sacrifice of Christ that He understood that the tally would be too much for me to bear: that I could not do it - in any lifetime - and that He would do it for me. It was more than sweet relief to me!

3)Finally, one thing I saw repeated in the new age community again and again was just how expensive it seemed to get those "secrets" to enlightenment! Here, as in the other places I have lived, I will pick up the local new age newspapers/magazines from time to time. Often they will have local events listed that are of interest to me because of our vegetarian diet or alternative health practitioners that we like to use: homeopaths, acupuncturists, massage therapists etc. But I see over and over, as I did years ago when I was exploring the new age world, the plethora of speakers, healers, channelers, etc. that charge exhorbitant amounts of money to reveal their "secrets" to you. Often it seems, they will write an interesting article - or even book - that will reveal tidbits of their knowledge, but in order to learn more that they know (and never everything, because then how would they make a living?), you will need to attend the day-long (expensive) or weekend-long (even more expensive) seminar. See for yourself! Pick up a local, new-age publication and see what enlightenment is costing these days!

The young woman I was telling this to today found this interesting and noted that the best-selling items in the store in which she works are things to do with prosperity: candles that have been blessed for prosperity, feng shui items to reflect and bring the buyer prosperity, and classes that teach how to draw prosperity to you. She said that she was raised in a Christian home and never really realized how strong a focus money is in the world.

One day, when I was 27 years old, preparing for my wedding, and working as a receptionist, I saw an add in one of those papers that mentioned that the owner of this small bookstore was also an "Interfaith Minister" and preformed weddings and other duties as such. What was an interfaith minister, I wondered? Where did she go to school? How was she credentialed? What did she know about the world's religions and how was she able to meet the needs of so many beliefs? I was curious and telephoned her. I wondered if I could come down to her shop and just talk with her a bit to find out some of these things. Yes, of course! She would be delighted to meet with me and it would only cost me $50.00 an hour! I must admit I was a bit dumbstruck. I was still curious, but also close to broke and asked her if she would, perhaps meet with me for half and hour since that was all that I could afford. She agreed and I did meet with her. But the niggling thoughts remained: How many Christian ministers would charge me $50.00 an hour to share their faith with me? Why was it that only the wealthy seemed to be able to afford the teachings of the gurus and therefore the "secret" of salvation/truth/happiness/life? Why would they want to profit from something that should be free to all?

These were a few of the things I noticed in my time and travels away until I returned, the prodigal daughter. Sometimes, when I think of those ten years away, I cringe a bit with regret. I do wonder at the walk I could have had. But the Lord knows me and the way I learn, I suppose! Knowing where I've been and what I know now, I cannot be swayed and know and understand what I believe... and believe it I do.

It is no longer a question of a curious new teaching or a wondering if a particular technique will work in my life for me. I know that first, it's not about me and next, that it's not up to me either. There's freedom in that and it doesn't cost me a thing. It should, but it doesn't. It's grace and it's free.
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