Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday of Advent: HOPE

Mormons don't typically celebrate Advent, but I frankly don't know why. Perhaps it was an effort to set ourselves apart from other churches (since Catholics and many Protestants do observe it). When he came home from his mission in Norway, my husband brought an advent wreath, which is a round candleholder which holds 4 candles. Our family has always lit the advent candles, one on the first sunday, two on the second, and so on until Christmas. (This year, since Christmas falls on a sunday, Advent begins earlier than usual.)

In some traditions, each week is marked with a virtue, most commonly (from what I understand) are faith, hope, love, and peace. This year, I am choosing to observe Advent with my own adaptation of that. Each week I am choosing a virtue (not necessarily the traditional ones), and during that week I will study, ponder, and strive to practice that virtue. Since I am in charge of the children's primary at church here, I am also doing our "sharing time" lesson based on the virtue of the week.

This week, the theme is HOPE.

I showed the primary kids this picture, and we talked about prophets foretelling Christ's coming, and about how believers had to have hope that He would come. We talked about us now having hope for His return.

the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best
a person or thing in which expectations are centered
to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.
to believe, desire, or trust
to feel that something desired may happen

As I said, I'll be putting some study, pondering, meditation, and so forth in this week. Theoretically I will write something about my thoughts in a few days. But for now, I invite you to join me in celebrating Advent.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

WIPs and FOs

Yeah, I've written a "discussion post" (3-4 paragraphs, with full citations) and also an "application paper" (3-4 pages, full citations) every week, and this week I'm finishing a 10+ page research paper about Benedict Arnold (and my--referenced and cited--reasons for why he did what he did)...and I have 5 kids under 5 full time. We've also had a couple of rounds of sickies in the last couple of weeks, so I suppose that's why I haven't posted anything HERE in a while!
With all that said, in the last month or two I HAVE gotten some other things done. These things--and the excitement and feeling of fulfillment that comes along with completing a project--have been contributing factors in my decision to put grad school on hold. I want to be present with my kids, I want to make things for them (and for me and for my home). Babysitting is not my favorite passtime and never was, but it pays well and if I don't have assignments to worry about then it's not stressful.
In the meantime, here's what I've made lately (if you have ravelry and like to see details about knitty things, I'm putting those links too)
First, the FOs Finished Objects:

PA110005Sweater (vest) for Bear. Rav link. The yellow and red yarn came in a box full of leftovers from a friend, I bought the blue to make enough for a sweater...he picked the style, kept changing his mind (asked for buttons then asked for a zipper just after I'd done the last buttonhole) and so on. I had to entirely invent the thing because I couldn't find a pattern at all. When it came down to it, I was thrilled when he wanted it to be a vest instead of a sweater...I was getting tired of the color. I like smaller projects and/or variegated yarn.

009 Rav link Bear wanted a hat like Wolf's, one that would keep his face warm when he's on the 4-wheeler with the carpool to school (oh yes that's how things are up here! even at -2 degrees folks). This time he asked for yellow, so I redistributed the remaining yarn from the sweater and turned this out in just a couple of weeks. I love how fast hats go.

PB110002I had this idea about making a sort of beret/snood/hairnet thing, (rav link) that I could use to pull my hair back when I didn't feel like doing anything with it, but which could also keep me warm when going out... I'm not sure if this entirely is what I had hoped for it to be, but I think it's pretty regardless. I love the extra room that leaves space to pull it down to my eyebrows and over my ears (it's not as chic looking when I do that, but it is warm). It was a pattern written to be done on a hat loom, and I adapted it for needles, so they featured me on the pattern homepage in ravelry (anyone can see this link). I feel very special now. ☺

Also, on a non-knitting front, I've sewn two new pairs of fleece pants for Bear. The boy grew about 3 inches since spring I think, and all in his legs, his pants were crazy short! I have two more cut out too... (black and green) which I plan to get to hopefully next week before I start focusing on Christmassy things.

006 And this one is a WIP Work In Progress... (Rav link) A couple of weeks ago I saw a friend's long scarf (long enough to go around 2-3 times) and I thought, yeah, I need to make something like that for me. The coldness here really calls for something over the face, and I like scarves better than toasty hats... I knew I wanted to do it with bulky yarn though, because 6 ft of scarf would take a looooooong time with skinny yarn!
Then literally days later I received a box in the mail from a friend, and she had tucked in a sweater. She had come by it for free, it didn't fit her, she thought I might be able to use it. It was gorgeous, and so soft, but when I put it on it fit about like a potato sack... so I carefully picked out the side seams, and then pulled on the corner and thub-thub-thub-thub-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb-thb... Now I have four HUGE balls of awesome bulky yarn! So then I needed a pattern. I found one I liked, with the thought that perhaps I could finally learn how to do cables (the rav pattern page promised that it was an easy pattern). Sure enough, there were 19 rows of cabling to start it off, and by row 15 I had intuitively grasped how it worked and didn't need to look at the pattern anymore. And then of course my normal nature kicked in, and so rather than knit the middle 5 1/2 feet in plain rows, I did some more crisses and crosses... and then some more, and then a crazy lot, and then fewer, but never stopping...I'm 18" into it and I have no idea what will criss or cross next. Except that I'm pretty sure it will always be symmetrical... I don't know if I know how to let loose THAT much! 020

Monday, November 7, 2011

Everything is Holy Now

I heard this song recently, and it has struck a resonating chord with me.

(and if you are the sort who doesn't want to watch a 5 minute video, in spite of the powerful message that I promise is in it, the lyrics are the italicized parts throughout this post.)

Of course I have always known that sacredness, and communion with the Divine can be found in nature; that was one of the things that drew me to paganism.Prophets throughout the ages have gone into the wilderness, upon the mountaintops, or into the forests to talk with God. Obviously assorted locations and objects have been deemed holy or sacred by various religions over the centuries too.

When I was a boy, each week
On Sunday, we would go to church
And pay attention to the priest
He would read the holy word
And consecrate the holy bread
And everyone would kneel and bow
Today the only difference is
Everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

I asked my 11 year old son how much of the world he thought was holy. He thought about it for a few minutes, and said "well, there are a lot of shrines in Japan and stuff, so maybe 0.05%"
I told him about how trees are an ancient symbol of the Feminine Divine. He thought for another minute, and then said "so maybe 10-15%, because they have cut down a lot of trees, plus there are deserts and stuff."
I asked him if he thought God could be in the ocean. If he thought God could be in the mountains. If he thought God could be in the wind.
"Oooh," he said "holiness can be everywhere huh."

When I was in Sunday school
We would learn about the time
Moses split the sea in two
Jesus made the water wine
And I remember feeling sad
That miracles don’t happen still
But now I can’t keep track
‘Cause everything’s a miracle
Everything, Everything
Everything’s a miracle

Indeed, I believe so.

Wine from water is not so small
But an even better magic trick
Is that anything is here at all
So the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for miracles
But finding where there isn’t one

My son  has been studying biology this year in school. He loves to chatter on to me about mitosis and photosynthesis and the other things he is learning about. I have always found these things impressive, but when they are presented in a textbook they seem mundane...just another vocabulary word to learn for the test. But take a step back and think about what they really are. Indeed, they are miracles.

When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

It is not just that we can sense the holiness of Deity when we see that glorious sunset. The sunset itself can be holy. It is not just that we can feel a closeness to Deity when we sit in the forest, listening to the birds and streams and smelling the dirt and pine needles. The birds and water and dirt and pine needles themselves are holy. It is not just feeling a closeness to heaven when we look at a new baby, but the baby himself is holy. In fact it is not just nature and babies and "good people," but we are all holy. We all have a godseed in us, the potential to become like our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. For small times (or lifetimes) we may not live up to that potential, we may not let that holy spark shine, or we may not know how to let it shine (some of us may not even realize that it is there), but that does not change the fact that it is there.
The sunset is holy.
The sea is holy.
The trees are holy.
The animals are holy.
Our children are holy.
We are holy.

Everything is holy now

Read a questioning child’s face
And say it’s not a testament
That’d be very hard to say
See another new morning come
And say it’s not a sacrament
I tell you that it can’t be done

Obviously this is probably a bit of a paradigm shift for you, it was for me. But to perceive everything as inherently holy, everything as inherently a miracle, that adds a whole new richness to my life and to my spirituality. When holiness and sacredness were things that had to be found, or sought, they seemed "too special," like the china that my Mother in law keeps in the cupboard 363 days a year, and only gets out for Christmas and Easter. But when sacredness surrounds me every day, it does not cheapen the holy, rather it raises my everyday to a higher plane.

This morning, outside I stood
And saw a little red-winged bird
Shining like a burning bush
Singing like a scripture verse
It made me want to bow my head
I remember when church let out
How things have changed since then
Everything is holy now
It used to be a world half-there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Our Samhain

One of the things I love about living in Alaska is the wild meat we're able to hunt and butcher ourselves. It was actually on Mabon that we got a call from a neighbor who had some caribou they had shot but could not fit it all in their freezer, and they asked if we wanted some. So we spent our Mabon evening butchering and freezing caribou.
Since Samhain is a time of giving thanks for the harvest of meat (and showing gratitude for the animals' gift of their lives for our sustenance), I thought it was appropriate to eat some of our caribou tonight.
We had actually had a caribou roast just a few days ago, so instead of cooking another one, I chopped up the leftover meat, added in carrots, potatoes, broccoli, and peas, and poured over the leftover gravy to make a savory caribou pie.

Samhain is also a time to ponder on death, and to remember our loved ones or others who have died. I had planned to make "dead bread" but we had a last minute shuffle (something came up and with very little notice we ended up celebrating a night earlier than planned), so that fell through and it was just the pie.

The boys drawing their pictures
you can see our element candles and the remainder of the caribou pie...
However, we did do something to remember our departed loved ones, and that was to write messages or draw pictures for them, and put them in the fire so that the smoke could carry our love and thoughts to them. My husband wrote to his granddad who passed away this last year. I wrote to my babies who died before I was ever able to meet them. My sons all drew pictures.

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