8 things I wish I’d known about the Orthodox Church

Nearly Orthodox1

I make lists. Some days just the act of sitting down and writing out the list feels like an accomplishment. I used to try to keep track of these things on my phone, in fact I have at least three apps plus the notepad and the calendar to keep my stuff together so to speak. It works, for a little while at least. But there’s nothing like the piece of actual paper and the hard plastic of the blue ball point pen in my hand. I just feel better writing that list. And I feel better crossing things off that list. It’s satisfying.

When I was on the long road of the catechumen I had lists in my head, on the computer and in my journals about the Orthodox tradition, on the different services, the times to make the sign of the cross, the fasting times, the feasting times, the…

View original post 1,127 more words

Advertisements

All gift.

1535524_715700858450506_2019273677_n

2015 sort of snuck up on me when I was busy doing other things.

I had intended to write a moving and inspirational blog post about the hopefulness of a new year, about the passing of time and the growing feet of my three boys, about my daughter’s applications to college, about the gray hairs I find poking through at my temples and sometimes in my eyebrows so I guess I’ll get right on that.

Those wiry gray hairs are a weird comfort to me and I think it’s because I so often forget my age. I have to do the math, “let’s see…born in 1967 and now it’s what, 2015…”

It’s not a bad thing to forget my age, especially when I realize I’m a whole lot older than I had remembered, which sounds backward, I know. I forget that I’m on the backside of my 40’s sliding headfirst toward 50. I forget that and I get very impatient with my body, with my brain, with my energy level. It’s those gray hairs poking through that remind me of my age and I use those gray hairs as a sort of “keep calm” instruction when I get impatient.

I’m never going to have the body or the brain or the energy level I had when I was 17 or 25 or even 33. I am here now, living here now, having this body, this brain, this energy level and that’s okay. Really, it is.

So as I sit and reflect on the quiet, night-time passing of 2014, when I was busy doing other things I watch the slowly falling snow from the comfort of my favorite writing chair.  I hear the clicking of fingers on the keyboard issuing from my husband’s home office as he works on placing text in his graphic novel. I listen to my boys and their ever-growing feet as they run around downstairs, milking this last vestige of winter break. I think about my sweet girl sitting quietly in her room pondering great and powerful things that lie ahead for her in 2015. And I take comfort in the passing of time, the unfolding of the now and the not yet, the gray hairs poking through to mark the time, reminding me that this is all gift, all gift.

There’s still time!

IMG_3457

For the last few years we’ve spent our Christmas holidays in a house we have near Nashville, TN. After selling our place in Chicago at the height of the housing boom we bought this house in the middle of nowhere to escape the big city. We wanted a change of pace, a new view outside our windows, a fresh perspective and we got that. Unfortunately, a few things happened after that- First, we discovered that we’re not “country” people. Living full-time in the middle of nowhere was making us crazy. Second, the bottom fell out of the housing market which meant we could not sell the luxury log home on 18 acres in the middle of nowhere.

Lucky for us we stumbled on the vacation rental track. We organized the place to optimize the experience and began to rent the house on a regular basis. It worked out so well we were able to make our way back to Chicago over time. But we always find our way down to Nashville to spend time when the rental calendar allows in the spring and summer and at Christmas and New Year’s.

The Christmas trip always sneaks up on me.

I try to keep mindful of the season, to foster a sense of wonder and waiting. I try to keep my mind focused on why I celebrate this particular holiday and generally I fail pretty well. I find myself distracted and worried. Then as I begin to shift the balance back, taking care to still meet my holiday obligations of gift giving and travel planning I find I am drowning in all of it. There are moments, lots of moments, that are beautiful and mindful and real, even in the chaos of the travel and holiday madness and I’m thankful for that.

Today, a few days away from the feast of the Nativity I open my email while sitting in a comfy chair in between arrivals of family members and friends visiting. I am catching up so that I can clear my plate for the next days again. No less than five emails in the box start with “There’s still time!” My heart jumps a little, I know I have forgotten someone or something. I might have left the lights on in the house. I might have gotten confused on which gift was for Chet and which was for Henry. I might have forgotten to get anything at all for Miles. There’s lots to do to get ready, to prepare. The emails want me to know that there is STILL TIME!

And then I’m panicked. I think they count on that. Same day delivery and last-minute shopping was made for people like me who float a little aimless this time of year, procrastinators and seasonal hopefuls. But instead of caving today, only a handful of days before Christmas, I’m going to change the context as much as I can because there is still time- not for shopping and cooking and cleaning and wrapping. Those things will cycle through quickly. If a gift isn’t wrapped we don’t miss all that much. If a sink has dishes when the guests arrive or the countertop a bit sticky we’ll all survive no worse for the wear really, but if I move through this next few days losing track of the reason I celebrate this feast then it wears away at me, it tears down the purpose and the resolve and the motivation to move forward. This context of knowing why I continue to inch ahead is fuel for the journey, now and tomorrow and the next day and the next. It’s where the joy is born, where the celebration is rooted, where the beautiful moments reside. And I want to be there as much and as often as I can.

There’s still time.

Nobody cares about your blog

nobody-cares-about-your-blog-1

There have been days, quite a lot of them actually, when I really wanted to buy this tee shirt. And on some of those days, once purchased, I think I’d actually have worn the tee shirt in public.

For a long time (in internet years) “blogging” has been the thing. Everyone’s doing it. But when I started this blog, back in the good ole days of the internet, the concept was new. We were all maybe a little paranoid while putting out all this personal and revelational material into the great vacuum of cyber land, even adopting a pseudonym (see: mrsmetaphor) to protect our identity. It felt as though I was shouting into the chasm. Nowadays it’s more like shouting into the storm of people shouting. Everyone has a blog. So what?

Many of my long time blogging compadres have left their cyber houses untended, letting weeds reclaim the yard and vines grow over the entrance. We can peer in the windows and see the layers of dust on the floors and shelves, white sheets draped over the furniture. I think back about the hey day of blogging, lo those many (internet) years ago and sometimes I sigh with wonder and appreciation. Those were the days.

Then the idea of monetizing came and the idea of viral posts and blogging for book deals and high profiles and millions of readers. It’s interesting to see how things shift over time. I was never much for monetizing or viral posts. I just write what I feel like writing and put it out there, no longer shouting into the storm but more likely whispering. That’s okay by me.

I have to admit that I don’t read a great number of blogs anymore. I just don’t have the time or energy. The information overload on the internet is too much and too often so now I subscribe to the writers I like and have it delivered easy-like to my email in box. I unwrap those entries at my leisure and savor them in my own time.

All that said, as recently as a few months ago I encouraged someone to start a blog. Even with all the saturation and monetization and the “nobody cares about your blog” feelings, I will sometimes still offer a big thumbs up when someone asks my opinion on it. In no particular order, here are the things that sway me on that front-

5 Reasons to start a blog (even in the modern soggy internet market):

  1. You love to write and you have something to say
    So let’s say you find yourself with a little time on your hands, a working computer and something to say but no place to publish or no interest in pursuing publishing as a career.
    Go for it.
    It’s a great way to start a writing discipline and begin to see words on a page. Just be warned that whatever you put out there is out there. I like to tell people that the internet has a long memory and a short attention span. Even if you remove a blog post or shut down a blog those words might live forever someplace else- someone’s hard drive, cached pages, etc. Don’t write anything you hope no one sees. That’s just asking for trouble.
  2. You have something to sell
    I hate that I just wrote that but nevertheless, it’s true. If you sell something like jewelry or essential oils or fitness practices (wink wink) then it’s probably a decent idea to have a blog connected to your website. Products are lifeless and cold, writing about what you sell or how it affects your life or even how much you love donuts or Disney movies helps to make you a real person, weirdly enough, and that will lend your product some edge in an overcrowded online market.
  3. You are an amazing writer
    It’s true that I know amazing writers who won’t go anywhere near the “blogosphere” (mainly because there are non words like blogosphere that describe it.) But if you are an amazing writer and are not published anywhere but want to have your work out there, go for it. It’s a good way to begin to build some presence online and perhaps even begin to build a readership for your work. My limited experience is that people who are amazing writers get blog traffic when what they write about fills a niche no one else is reaching OR fills a niche no one reaches with amazing writing. Let that roll around on your tongue for a while.I’ll give a caveat here though because I know from experience that if you are an amazing writer and have something to say, see #2 and heed that advice as well. If you “publish” a great essay on your blog but think you’d like to send it to a lit mag or online journal you may find they won’t touch it. The thinking on this has been shifting a little bit but for the most part the most respected journals won’t publish it even if it’s “just” on your blog. Take care with your work. Blog about “blog” things, keep ’em short and chewable and lovely but don’t stop there. Use it as a springboard to write longer and more interesting things to submit when you’re ready.
  4. You’re quirky
    For this one I’d say you also should be an amazing writer but that’s because I get tired of people trying too hard to be quirky at the expense of the writing. Unless you’re selling something or are already known it’s really hard to get your work noticed. People need a reason to visit or subscribe to your blog, they’re busy and distracted and impatient. If you’re quirky they’ll come back or trek along for the ride. If you’re not sure if you’re quirky ask your friends. They’ll tell you. Most likely that’s why they hang out with you.
  5. You’re already published
    Here’s the thing, most of my favorite published authors don’t blog and I respect that. There’s this little nagging thing in me though and I don’t think it’s only me. I want more. I want to know more, I want to understand more, I want to know what that author thinks about Ferguson or the deficit or the cost of higher education. Sometimes you can get that by following them on Facebook and, in fact, Anne Lamott does her own version of this on that site. She’ll post long status updates (blog length, I’d say!) and those serve the purpose. But if you’re not Anne Lamott and you’re published and people love your work and want more it may be worthwhile to start a blog. You can do it on an author Facebook page if that’s your bag but it may be a good idea to set up shop on an actual blog and just save Facebook for cat memes. That’s your call. In any case you want your work to be available and sharable. That’s the key.

I hate that this now feels like one of those “ask the expert” posts. Sorry about that. I’m no expert. I just have feelings, a whole lot of feelings…and I have a computer and some time on my hands. Maybe nobody cares about my blog or your blog these days, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

Good luck all my blogging people…make beautiful posts!

Day 24: Light

Everything reminds me of movies I watched when I was a kid. #truestory

Nearly Orthodox1

IMG_5144

Light of Light, True God of True God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made

I like the talk of “essence” though I’ll admit that it reminds me of the film, “The Dark Crystal.” I saw it as a kid and my foggy memory has blotted out some of the finer points but I do remember that we expected more of a “Muppets” vibe because it was Jim Henson and came away a bit shaken at how un Muppet Show like it was. And the second thing I remember is “essence.” In the film the hero, a “gelfling” must find a shard of glass to help restore the natural order of things. The villain steals the “essence” of other living things, the life force, the energy. When it leaves their little muppet like bodies they shrivel up, sometimes dying, sometimes just emptied…

View original post 157 more words

Day 18: Staff

Nearly Orthodox1

For the last few months I’ve been working on a sort of daily Advent devotional for my DoxaSoma folks. I wrote one a few years ago and uploaded that, “The Daily Practice of Prayer” ran just for 30 days and was meant to help people integrate some mindfulness in their fitness practice. Prayer and Practice for people who don’t usually associate those two.

Now, as an Orthodox christian I get prayer and movement all the time. The Orthodox liturgy isn’t a static one. It feels fluid to me, constant and moving. For most christians, though, prayer does feel static and perhaps detached from any physicality. In reality, we’re integrated beings- body, soul and spirit working together, God’s good design shining through. He does nice work.

So for today I though I’d share a DoxaSoma position, actually it’s a pair of positions called “Rod and Staff.” They always work together.

The…

View original post 161 more words

Advent devotions…

If Advent is your gig…this is a good way to keep your focus right.

DoxaSoma

It’s that time of year again…we are in a state of preparation. As Christians this is a good time, this season of waiting and hope, to get our focus right. It can be hard to get and keep that focus of the coming of Christ! There are so many things to distract us.

You can help to set and keep the focus by downloading our new eBook, DoxaSoma: Daily Practice of Advent. Follow along with us each day, breathing and finding that focus.

You can get your copy by clicking below and begin your practice at any time!

Daily Practice of Advent

View original post

Day 13: Gratitude & Day 14: Less is more

You know that pile of Thanksgiving and Gratitude posts people had up yesterday? Here’s another one 🙂

Nearly Orthodox1

1511195_10152392229867035_8109336248687527378_n

Most of the morning yesterday I was roasting vegetables- broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers and carrots. I tossed in a handful of asparagus that was languishing in the fridge all week and an onion close to sprouting, mushrooms left lonely in that vented green box on the top shelf next to the sour cream. Orphan vegetables.

I don’t cook so well. It’s not a lack of practice or know how. I believe it has something to do with intention and focus. I get so easily distracted and maybe a little bored. That’s my confession today. I don’t give cooking the attention it deserves.

But I spent the day roasting the vegetables to bring for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s the only dish I needed to prepare, thankfully, having the rest filled out by friends and family at the gathering we’d attend. It’s nice to be invited, to have a place to go and be…

View original post 291 more words

Day 12: The Spiritual Necessity of Tithing and Alms Giving

Thoughts on spare change…

Nearly Orthodox1

I gave money to the man who appears every day on the expressway off-ramp at Armitage and I-90east. I see him there walking slowly, shuffling really. He smiles a weak and nearly toothless smile, his face brown and rugged like the sign he carries, “Need help. Please.”

Generally I don’t give money to homeless people directly. I was broken of that habit years ago by a man who had no legs but that’s another story. Today, the story is about some shift that happened in me as I sat at the longest red light on the planet. The man on the off ramp is there consistently with his ragged cardboard sign. It’s a simple ask, each and every day. This is his ritual I imagine. Get up, feel the air on the skin, make adjustments as able for the weather, shuffle to the intersection with the longest red light on…

View original post 379 more words

Day 10: Building a Fire

On building fires…

Nearly Orthodox1

c9ccaf8d39322b310ac8749b65c02f1c_large

And now a word from our sponsors…

My husband and I make a business of building little fires with our work. We manage to cobble together a living with small projects and medium-sized projects and corporate gigs here and there. For the last three years while I’ve been working on my book, Nearly Orthodox, my husband Dave has been working on a book of his own.

The Hunting Accident is a graphic novel based on a true story. Dave first got wind of this a number of years ago when a friend told him the story of his father’s life journey one day over lunch. His friend’s father was blind and he had been telling everyone that he was blinded in a Hunting Accident. In reality, he was blinded in a liquor store robbery, in an attempt to get “made” by the mob in the 30’s. He was sent…

View original post 131 more words