Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Yarn Along

Ginny over at Small Things hosts a wonderful link up called the Yarn Along.  Each week, we share a photo of what we are knitting and what we are reading.  How can you ever go wrong with books and knitting?  Thank you, Ginny, for hosting and for giving us the chance to see some great projects and books!

Life has been even busier than usual in the last week or so and sadly, I haven't had much time for either pastime.  I can't entirely do without, though, so some things have gotten done.  In terms of reading, I finished reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning and overall, I enjoyed it.  It wasn't a "faith changing" book for me the way that other report that is has been but there were parts that really spoke to me.  I'd like to go back and read it again in a few years since it is the kind of book that does seem to have something new to say with repeated readings.  I have also been slowly moving through The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton.  I like it but not love it.  I really enjoyed The House at Riverden by Morton and this book made the list from Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy so I intend to keep going - she has never steered me wrong yet!  Finally, I'm reading Craving Connection: 30 Challenges for Real-Life Engagement from the (in)courage community over at Dayspring.  They have been posting a weekend challenge that links to the book on their blog and I liked what I had read enough that I decided to buy it.  My plan is to read one challenge a week and see how that might work for me.

In terms  of my knitting, that's been REALLY slow.  Pk wanted a hat like her brother's and red is her favourite colour.  They both have really liked the "Pink Pussy Hat" pattern from Kat Coyle and it's SO easy, it works for me, too.  I got a red one done and another pink one.  I think I have four or five more pinks to do before I get one for each of the friends who have requested one.  Finally, the "Able Cable" blanket slowly proceeds.  My friend's baby is due March 25, so it's time to get that off the needles!

I can't wait to see what everyone has been up to!


Lent is something that I have struggled with for several years.  I come from what I would call a "semi-liturgical" tradition - we talk about Advent and Lent but honestly, other than that the sanctuary was stark during Lent and people talked about giving something up (although it was never really clearly explained exactly why), there really wasn't much to it.  It just felt like a waiting period before Holy Week.  I didn't think about it a whole lot and other than a few years that I tried to give up chocolate (and I think more in the name of trying to lose weight than to draw closer to God), it really was a bit of a non-event for me.  As I get older, I've been trying to find ways to make it a more important time but I haven't really found a way to do that.

Here we are, another year, and I'm trying, again, to find a way to make this a special time.  The DECE I work with in my classroom is a Muslim and watching her fast during Ramadan and the significance of that time in her spiritual life has really inspired me to want to take things further and develop this as a time of faith.  I've done some searching on Pinterest for ideas but again, there's not all that much there, especially as a non-Catholic.  I'm going to have to make things up as we go along.  Here is what I have decided to do so far.

1.  Of course, we couldn't miss celebrating Shrove Tuesday.  When I was growing up, we used to have pancakes at school and "pancake day" was lots of fun.  As I got older and we stopped doing it at school, we'd go to church on Tuesday evening and have a pancake dinner.  Now that we are at a much more Evangelical church, we don't even have that option.  I wanted this to be a fun event for the kids.  Dh is English and he has memories of eating "English Pancakes" on Sunday evening before going to church so those have become our "pancake day" pancakes.  1 c flour, 1 c milk, 2 eggs, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 c water, fry like a crepe and top with sugar and lemon juice.  Yum!  

2.  Reading - A friend posted the link to Addie Zierman's post about Lent and in it, she recommends 9 books to try during Lent.  I decided to buy several - Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit, Paula HustonA Way Other Than Our Own, Walter Brueggemann and Lent and Easter Wisdom from Henri J. Nouwen.   I won't have them to start Lent but at least I will have a few books to explore once they arrive and for next year, there will be some books to read.

3.  A prayer chain - last year, I did this with my kids and it was a great experience for all of us.  We do pray with the kids but I have to be honest, it can be hit and miss.  I love this idea of being very deliberate and purposeful and last year, it gave us some good opportunities to talk about caring for others and how we might make a difference in their lives.  The kids liked it enough that they would ask to pray if I forgot.

4.  A Gratitude Journal - I have been keeping a Gratitude Journal as part of my year of "Unashamed" and I liked the idea of these prompts to take it beyond just a list.  I have so much for which to be grateful and I have a bad habit of getting stuck in the negative.  I want that to change and this practice may help.

5.  Finally, my family has become very attached to the "Care and Share", a wonderful thrift store run by the Mennonite Central Committee.  We like it more for making donations than for shopping (although I have been very bad about buying many too many books there!)  I found this list of a 40 day clean out and I'd love to get my entire family involved in this - giving stuff away to create more room for the meaningful in our home and also helping those in need, both who need our stuff at a low price and the profits going to help all of the wonderful work done by the M.C.C. around the world.

How will you be marking Lent this year?  Do you have any good suggestions?  I'd love more ideas!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Yarn Along

I am so excited!  I got a new laptop for work and this is the first post that I have tried on it.  I am a hard core Mac person and I got a Dell and I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to do anything with it.  I am so thrilled that I have figured it out.  There are still many glitches to work out but it's so exciting to think that this is do-able without my having to spend hours and hours trying to figure it out.  Hooray!

I love the Yarn Along link-up hosted by Ginny at Small Things.  Her blog is beautiful generally and when books and knitting are combined, how can you go wrong?  I love seeing what everyone else is working on!

I've been busily knitting and reading but still, I feel like I have accomplished little.  In terms of knitting, LB lost all of his hats and I tried to buy a few and couldn't find any.  I love making them for him but I had such a long list of to-do projects that  I was hoping to save the time.   No such luck.  I'd been working hard on the "Pink Pussy Hats" for friends and since it's such a simple pattern and requires so little finishing, I decided to just change the colour and follow a pattern that I had down pat.  LB now has a rush coloured hat (yarn from my stash that thankfully, he decided was "fox" coloured) and a green one.  That led to Pk wanting a red one (her current favourite colour) so I felt like I had to do that, too.  I hope to get that one finished when I am done here this evening.  I'm also still working on the baby blanket for our friends.  I think three or four more repeats of the pattern and the final edge should finish it up for me.  Thank goodness because this baby is due pretty soon!

In terms of reading, I've been all over the place of late.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the podcast What Should I Read Next? and I broke down and printed off the Modern Mrs. Darcy book journal.  I couldn't resist looking at the book list and Kate Morton appears on the list.  I read The House at Riverden and enjoyed it so I thought it would be worth reading another so I am reading The Secret Keeper.  I haven't made it far into this one yet but it seems good.  I think it was last week, the guest mentioned The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning as one of her top three.  I have had this book waiting to be read for a while and that gave me the motivation to actually open it.  So far, so good.  I am about 6 chapters in and it's good.  I think that because I grew up in a fairly progressive faith background, I don't find it as earth shattering as some (the message of God being loving and good and gifting grace regardless of our sin isn't a new message for me) but there are still some chapters that really speak to me.  His chapter on the loss of wonder makes me want to look at my world again with new eyes.  We are so lucky and there is so much beauty that gets missed each day.  Finally, as part of the MMD reading challenge, I need to read a Pulitzer winning book.  I browsed the list and this book seemed good, The Pope and Mussolini.  I am almost finished the Neopolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante which has me with Italy on the brain.  This book seems like such a logical connection and it's been really fascinating so far!

 I can't wait to see what everyone else has on the go!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Yarn Along

I haven't done a post for a while for the Yarn Along and I've really missed it.  We just finished a marathon of report card writing and in our province, we have a new report card that took FOREVER to write for each child.  My principal read them this week and they were approved so, I can now go back to my usual evening pursuits.  I love the Yarn Along - seeing everyone's knitting and getting suggestions for books puts me in such a happy mood.  Thank you, yet again, Ginny at Small Things, for hosting this wonderful link up!

I've got two projects on my needles at the moment.  The first is a baby blanket.  I found the pattern on Ravelry (of course) and it is just what I wanted.  I am using some old Bernat Baby that I had at home which is really super soft and it looks so pretty in these cables.  This is the perfect pattern, in my mind - it looks lovely (my lack of skill as a photographer doesn't do it justice) and it's very easy, just a repeat of six rows with a cable on the 2nd row of every six.  I don't have to pay too close attention to what I am doing and it's very easy to fix any mistakes if they happen.  I am loving the pattern!

My other project on the needles is a bit of a silly one.  I am assuming that since everyone here is a knitter, you are familiar with the "pink pussy hat" project.  I had a request from a friend for one and, before I knew it, I had about ten requests for hats.  I have finished five of them now.  The blanket has to be top priority (the baby is due in eight weeks so it needs to get finished!) but the hats make a really easy travel project or when I am sitting around at the skating rink while P.K. skates.  It makes a silly and fun gift and is uplifting to the spirits of some friends who are feeling pretty discouraged at the moment.

In terms of reading, I keep reading several books at once, as well.  For the Red Couch book club over at SheLoves, the book for the month was Prophetic Lament by Soong-Chang Rah.  This book is AMAZING and especially timely given everything happening in the U.S. at the moment  A friend recommended Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster after I mentioned that I had loved his book on prayer.  I'm not reading it quickly but I am really enjoying it.  Finally, I have been reading The Love Letters by Madeleine L'Engle for a while.  She is one of my favourite authors in the entire world and I am gradually collecting all of her books (I love buying used books on and this was a fairly recent purchase).  It's not horrible but I can't say that it's her best.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Back Again

I haven't been around for a while.  It's funny, I've had such an urge to write so many times but at the end, my feelings have been so overwhelming that I couldn't risk now having the words.  I don't think I have ever felt so disillusioned.

I'm Canadian but unfortunately, we live in such close proximity to the U.S. that while we couldn't actually vote in the election (and many of us wish beyond anything that we could have had some influence on what happened), we were flooded with it and the negativity and the hostility and the anger have definitely overflowed into our world.  Honestly, it has made me really struggle with quite a few things and really do some rethinking who I am and what matters.

I think the hardest thing for me is the fact that much of the American church could claim Trump as the "Christian candidate."  It makes me so sad and confused and angry and feel so lost.  How on earth could anyone read the words of Jesus and come away believing that a man who espouses racist, misogynist and hateful opinions pretty much every time he opens his mouth be the right choice?  All I can think of are the mothers and children stuck in refugee camps, facing the dropping of barrel bombs or squeezing their children into filthy boats built for 150 with 1500 crammed on board.  How can anyone see that as anything other that being in need?  How can anyone who claims Jesus truly believe that their own worries (which statistically are completely misplaced) are more important than the safety of other people's children?  I have been called a "snowflake" and a "liberal" (as if that is the worst thing one can be) and accused of being naive and stupid and pathetic because I have compassion and am trying to live with integrity.  There are several people from church (people who I suspected I probably wouldn't agree with on everything but people I could certainly have a warm conversation with) posting hate speech, anti-immigrant rhetoric and, worse, anti LGBTQ material that is beyond hateful.  I have always struggled with feeling like an outsider and now, knowing that at least some of the people around me actually hold these views, I find it hard to sit in church.  I want church to be a place where I feel surrounded by people who are committed to following Jesus and yet, I'm afraid that my very attempt to follow Jesus will be what will get me excluded.  I'm in that weird neverland - I believe in a fairly orthodox theology and yet, I also believe that love has to be given more weight than anything else and that fairness and justice must be our goal.  I'm on the Mission committee at church and when the issue of our support for Samaritan's Purse came up, I really faced a dilemma - do I "out" myself as a "liberal" (I'm generally fairly quiet at church - sometimes I am pretty "out" on Facebook but I still hold back a fair bit) or do I go along with something that just feels so wrong?  (In case you a wondering, I came up with a solution that worked for me - I emailed our pastor and asked not to participate in that vote, explaining my view but that I also understood that my feelings may not represent those of the majority of the congregation and he surprisingly told me that he suspected that there were probably many more that held my view than I realised and he worked things out so that we shifted our support to a less offensive organization).

It's really left me in a "Where do I go from here?" frame of mind.  Do I shut up and listen to all of those on Facebook complaining of how sick they are of the "politics" (although when it comes to injustice, I think it goes far beyond politics and I'm sorry if justice and human rights are an inconvenience to you)?  Do I speak up and call people on their hatred and know that I am going to face hostility and disdain all the time?  Do I hide out with my peeps who don't challenge me at all and just stay out of it all?  I've tried a bit of each and nothing feels quite right.

I think, at this point, all that I can do is try to live with integrity.  I will be respectful of those who disagree and not call names, insult or deliberately antagonize.  I won't post jokes or really nasty or derogatory comments.  I will call racism and bias for what it is and, most of all, I will strive to stand beside those who are being hurt and/or excluded.  I will speak truth and I will speak it with confidence but I will also realize that there are some issues that are about justice and others that are about opinion and I will try to maintain that perspective.  I will also pray and pray and pray - pray that somehow, everyone regains the understanding that these "issues" that we are discussing are people's realities and regardless of our opinions, we need to keep the dignity, safety and human rights of all at the forefront of our discussions.

I really hope that these first few weeks are either an aberration and the result of inexperience and lack of judgement but that will change.  I suspect, though, that the best that I can hope for is an awakening of the passion for justice, the craving for mercy and the humility that we are all called to.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Yarn Along

Thanks to Ginny at the beautiful blog Small Things, each week, we are able to enjoy the Yarn Along, a link up of books and knitting.  How amazing is that?  Two of the most wonderful things in the world and the most wonderful things to dream about!  I'm not sure what I like more - finding new books and dreaming about reading or finding new knitting patterns and dreaming about choosing yarn.

This week was a good one for me.  Since school finished really late this year, that means that we go back late, too.  Hooray!  I know, it makes the lead up to Christmas really busy but it means that we get a week after New Year before we go back.  I LOVE that!  Dh's family lives about 3 hours north of us and they live in an area that gets lots of snow.  That can lead to problems during winter visits and we can't risk getting stuck up north.  We very rarely get up north during the winter, especially now that the family is so busy on weekends with skating lessons and church activities.  This week and this visit has been heavenly.

One great part of the trip is that I get to do some knitting in the car.  I had started another pair of fingerless gloves but I have to be honest, working them on the 2.5 mm needles is not that much fun.  I love the close stitches but I am so afraid of dropping them and it doesn't travel well.  I did some reviewing of my "to-do" list and decided to break out an old pattern that I used a lot last year, the Gap Inspired Leg Warmers.  I made Pk three pairs last winter and several of her skating friends had hinted at pairs, too.  I had some nice yarn left from the wrap I made for Christmas so I decided that would be the colour of the first pair.  I was also really excited because the town in which Dh's family lives has a really nice yarn store that is exactly what I look for - really nice yarns that aren't too frilly or fancy, just nice basic wool and other fibres in nice colours and while not cheap by any stretch, not insanely expensive, either.  I love some of the fancy hand-dyed colourways in some exotic yarns but sadly, most are far out of my price range.  At the visit to the yarn store, I got enough to make red leg warmers, black legwarmers (the colours that Pk wants to match her skating clothes) and a really nice green to make a green and black hat (as requested by my b.i.l.)  I could have gone crazy (they had some Cascade Eco in some lovely colours and I really like using that) but I controlled myself.  We should be coming back at March Break and between now and then, I am supposed to get a baby blanket finished so there's no point in going crazy.

Reading has also been refreshing as I finished several of the books that I have been dragging through and am now onto some fresh reading.  A book that I loved years ago is one that I am rereading - Rumor Godden's In This House of Brede.  It's hard to describe but it's about an order of nuns and the complex relationships in the community.  It's a nice change.  I am also reading Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber, which I LOVE.  She would not be to everyone's tastes - she's a Lutheran pastor who is covered with tattoos, has a foul mouth and a history of living life rough and she is an Enneagram 8.  On the other hand, she is the perfect mix of sarcastic, funny and with rock-solid theology and a perspective that is often very fresh and VERY wise.  She is so easy to read but I know that she wouldn't be for everyone.  If you are easily shocked or you are uber-conservative, she isn't for you but I am really enjoying her.  I liked her previous book, Pastrix, but I like this one better.

I can't wait to see what everyone else is reading and stitching!

Monday, January 2, 2017

A New Thing

Happy New Year!  I hope the year has started well for you.  For the first time that I can ever remember, we started the year at church.  I suspect that some of that comes from the fact that any bit of New Year drinking that we might have done ended YEARS ago and that we celebrate "English New Year" - we celebrate when it's New Year in England so that we can celebrate and go to bed.  It's easier to get yourself ready for church when you were in bed at ten.  

It turned out to be a wonderful way to start the year.  It was a sunny, clear morning and the sun was streaming through the windows of the church.  It was a small turnout but it was so nice to be present with our church family.  We had a potluck lunch afterwards and it was nice to get together with church family.  Our pastor's sermon was wonderful and did a terrific job of helping us to move into 2017 with our priorities aligned.  He began with Isaiah 43:17 - 18.  

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

What a wonderful thought!  I took a few minutes last night to work on my journaling Bible.  I am new to this and when everyone started colouring, I thought that people were crazy but friends have convinced me to give it a try and I must admit, I am hooked.  

Enjoy the new things of the year!