Monday, February 25, 2013

when you journey, the horizon is always changing

 For those of you to whom I'm not connected on facebook, 
here's the almost finished St. John the Theologian.
 
The first thing to tell you is that this post does not contain angst. Yay! 

I haven't figured out yet whether or not I believe in signs. It's conceivable that they appear to me, I recognize them and then fail to follow through. I hate to say that this is probably the case more often than I would like, since I have been known to hesitate when opportunity knocks. (I keep kicking myself that I missed the Groupon deadline to get Neat Desk at half price. I'm still hoping that it will repeat.) 

Anyway, here's a little of what's been going through my head recently. I keep thinking about dogs, and dog-related employment. One of the causes I support locally is Nashville Paw Magazine. A while ago I looked into what opportunities they might have for work, and though the pay basically sucks, contributing writers do get a stipend for work that is published. I need to submit some writing samples to be considered, but I am confident I can find something "safe" to get my foot in the door. Once that door is open, I have in mind to write a piece about service/assistance dogs as they are benefiting the lives of various people. There's my young friend Barrett, for instance, whose autism (and other ailments) challenge his days, and for whom a new service dog would bring so much relief and support to him and his family. There is K9's for Warriors, a group in Florida that pairs and trains service dogs and veterans (and some active duty folks) with PTSD, and Warrior Canine Connection, in Maryland, that raises dogs for that purpose (they have posted the most adorable puppycams!). One of the things on my "to do" list in the next couple of days is to begin the process of submitting samples, and then start my research for that piece. No matter what happens with Nashville Paw, this is all good.

It was my turn this past Sunday to write for the blog "Feminist Theology in an Age of Fear and Hope." I expanded and polished some of what I wrote in my last post here about my icon. Since I refer to Susan Campbell and Dating Jesus, I thought I would write to Susan and let her know what she had inspired. She is no longer with the newspaper for whom she wrote when the book is published, but I tracked her down at hot-dogma.com. I sent off the email, to which she replied almost immediately. She thanked me for the piece and asked if she could link to it. How cool is that!? As of this morning I don't see a link, but the future looms extensively. 

And then there is this. A job description for a parish associate job came across my path yesterday. Because I know the rector and see his posts on facebook, I'm a little bit familiar with the church. I opened the document to take a glance at what they were looking for, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it is actually an appealing position and a pretty good fit.  I know I have shied away from considering church work, but even before this little turn of events I had drawn the conclusion that any number of vocational opportunities might be fine for me, and being open to them is the first step toward ending up with a good prospect.   (There's a "joke" related to this that goes: a faithful person seeking a job change had two opportunities offered to him. Both looked good, and he was torn between the two, praying fervently for God to reveal to him which job he should take. A little like Tevye, he weighed the options: on the one hand, this; on the other hand, that. Divine silence ensued, and finally in frustration the man cried out, wondering why God wasn't being helpful. To which God replied, "Frankly, either one would be fine.") It is to this notion of staying open that my post title refers: when moving forward, the scenery on the horizon changes with each step, bringing new ideas and fresh prospects for consideration.

So that's today's report. And can I just say how tickled I am with how the icon turned out? 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

st. john and prochora

Well, here we are! With three days progress, you can see, below, my work on this year's icon. My camera is on the fritz, so I have used my trusty phone to take these. I'm still learning the ins and outs of the phone camera, and a sharp focus is a bit of a challenge, but at least I have pictures!

We had a choice of two icons this year: St. John the Theologian (seen here) and St. Michael. At first glance I wasn't the least bit interested in St. John, but St. Michael is essentially the mirror image of Gabriel, done two years ago, that I felt a bit stuck with John. Let the record show, however, that I have no regrets, and John and I are on getting along fabulously. Serendipitously, the John icon also allowed me to exercise a little artistic license. After reading Dating Jesus the biblical/patriarchal slant against women was fresh in my mind, so I decided to make St. Prochorus, John's scribe, female. When I spoke to our teacher about making this change she asked, "Why not make John feminine?" I had an answer. For one thing, it would have been a lot more difficult to feminize the icon's image of John (or so I believe). Not to mention that St. John is a well known and established person. Prochorus, not so much. Although biblical and historic, he doesn't stand out. And here, in this icon, who he is is less significant than what he is doing. 

In this icon John is receiving divine wisdom, and is "dictating" it to Prochorus, serving as a scribe. By making that scribe feminine, Prochora, I see it as John entrusting the Word of God to a woman. As one who preaches that Word, that, to me, is significant. There ya go!

The first image, above, is at the close of the first day, after the application of the flat layers of color on the icon. With base coats down, we then worked on the robes of John and Prochora. I still have some work to do on Prochora's robe, but I left it in pretty good shape. John's may get another "wash" of warm color, as well, if I want it to look more like the original. 

Our third day began with the blessing of our hands, since the work we were undertaking was the face and hands of our icons. You can see the guiding outlines of the faces in the second image, at right. It's an amazing process, to watch the face emerge from the dark, sankir base as lighter colors are applied to it. That's one of the glorious things about icons, that the work is done from dark to light.

As I glance at the next image I realize that I have overlooked adding the sandal straps on the feet. Oops! I'll do that today. There is still some tweaking to do--I notice that I left a scraggle of beard "undergrowth" without its accompanying gray/white, and a section of Prochora's face needs a revisit. But essentially, the faces (and John's hair and beard) are done. 

Today the rocky entrance to the cave will get its detail, as well as the scrolls and basket, and the divine "intervention" emerging from the upper left-hand corner. Those rocks are going to be a killer! The rest may have to wait until tomorrow. We'll see.
   
I've included this closeup of the faces. The red on the icon is where the gold leaf will go. Red is the color of choice in the event that some portion of the leaf doesn't take or flakes off. Better for it to show through than the white canvas beneath. So the tradition goes.
 
Thanks for stopping by! I'll report in when we're done.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

joy woven through

Lest I give the impression that my days are morose with vocational angst, let me share some of the joys that get sprinkled around to keep me buoyant. 

As noted in the last Friday Five, I got to do some valentining. Yeah, baby. Among the recipients were my goddaughter and her family. She wrote to me that I was a Valentine Ninja--how 'bout that! I told her that was a title I was happy to wear, and I think I just might put together a t-shirt proclaiming it! Feel free to submit artist renderings or ideas--this could be a money-maker! That's Hannah in the picture, displaying the kiss with her name on it. She and a friend are playing kissey tic-tac-toe.

Tomorrow I return to the land of the icon. Ah, bliss. A week in sacred silence writing an ancient icon. Once again I am honored to serve as workshop chaplain. We start each day with Eucharist, and uncharacteristically I've already got all the scriptural lessons for each day assembled for easy reference. I adore the serendipity/synchronicity that aligns certain feast days with such events. This year we start the week with Martin Luther, then move on to Frederick Douglass and John Henry Newman, and we close the week with Eric Liddell. Who? Ah, my second favorite movie of all time introduced me to this holy man. You will know him as the minister who wouldn't run a Sunday race in the Olympics in Chariots of Fire. One of my favorite movie lines of all time is contained herein: "When I run I feel God's pleasure." Lucky me. For all kinds of reasons!

St. Augustine's, The Episcopal chapel at Vanderbilt  University is where we've been hanging our going-to-church hat. St. At's, as it is known affectionately, is a bustling congregation where people from the community vastly outnumber the students who attend. They have lots of ministries, one of which is the Center for Contemplative Justice. I don't really know what that means (I haven't done my homework), but St. A's hosted a fundraiser for Holy Cross Hospice in Botswana, an outreach arm through the CCJ last Thursday night. Called "The Greatest Show Ever" it boasted musical performances from the likes of Janis Joplin; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Otis Redding; Karen Carpenter; Maria Callas; Peter, Paul and Mary; Neil Diamond; and more. It was fabulous! St. A's has a rich music ministry, which I suspect has something to do with the fact that the husband of the chaplain is a grammy-winning songwriter.  An auction interrupted the performances half-way through, and one item on the block was a jam session in the lucky winner's home with four musicians, one of them the aforementioned songwriter. Would that not have been the most fun, ever? Alas, we didn't have $1000+ to offer the winning bid.

I'm reading! I'm closing in on the last pages of Susan Campbell's Dating Jesus, a book given to me a few years ago by my mom. I started it way back then, but got interrupted early on and am just now returning to it. It's fun and thought-provoking at the same time, written by a recovering fundamentalist who became a journalist and left church, but didn't leave Jesus. Finishing this book will keep me on track for my Project 56.0 effort of reading a book each month. Ken has picked out my next book, which is Templar related.

We are now the proud owners of a Hoover Floormate. No, really! This little gem is a life-saver with all those muddy paw prints on the new floor. It vacuums, scrubs AND dries. Of course no sooner is the floor clean than paw prints begin to decorate it within minutes, but that's okay. Our sanity is improved considerably by the illusion of a clean floor every few days, if only for a minute. We're also strategizing ways to reduce the amount of dirt that enters the house in the first place. Stay tuned on that, but don't hold your breath. 

And that's a wrap for now, because I need to get ready for church.  Blessed day to one and all. What joy would you like to share?


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

moving toward a new normal (routine)

As I noted to a friend in an email earlier this morning, it's hard to change habits. But to routines, change does come. 

For years my waking duties have included tending to dogs (first), making coffee, then heading to the computer to catch up with the world. First it was emails. Then message boards entered the scene. Then online chat. With blogs and facebook, communication is less personal, but certainly economical in terms of time and message. The habit of being at the computer for an extended morning session has outlived its usefulness, at least for now. My world has shrunk significantly, and there is less blog fodder. If I'm not writing my blog, I'm tending not to be reading other blogs since I would link from my own page. That doesn't honor the people whose blogs I tend to read, for which I'm sorry. I need to find a way to adjust that.

My days still start with dogs and coffee, but now computer time has shifted to a review of emails (mostly subscriber feeds from web sites), then facebook, a quick hop to Huffpost, then Pinterest. I play a game of online sudoku, and then I'm done. 

The plan, at this point, is to take advantage of the quiet in the house at that early hour and get some reading done. I have resumed cross-stitching in the evening while we watch television, so that time is productive, but finding the right time to read has been elusive. Until now.

Wish me luck. 

 

Friday, February 08, 2013

friday five: semi-random edition

At RevGals Karla writes: Who knew it was the Second Friday of the month? I have been busy getting ready for Blizzard Nemo (really, 24 inches in Boston?  Why on earth don't I have a snow blower???) and pondering life transitions--oh, but enough about me.  
How about you?  

1) What is sneaking up on you, and what have you been thinking about?  
For a change, Valentine's Day is NOT sneaking up on me! Thanks to the leisure of unemployment I had time to revive an old tradition of making valentines for the beloveds in my life. That list has exploded with a new generation of wee folk in the lives of the aforementioned. Cards are made, treats bagged and tagged, and a trip to the post office is in order this morning to ship everything out. 
2)  What will you have for lunch today? 
Leftover chicken satay made for our super bowl grazing adventure.
3)  If you were to get snowed in for two days, and you need to hunker down, what essentials and treats would you store up? 
I'd be busy making soup and baking bread. Nothing says tucked in comfort like the aroma of both coming from the kitchen. 
4) Tell me a story about one awesome thing you have experienced in the last couple of weeks. 
I had an experience of spiritual rejuvenation several days ago, and that--coupled with the extended benefits of it--was pretty awesome. I'm on a vocational roller-coaster, a journey that is wearing me out, but God managed to get through and settle some peace on me that I didn't anticipate. I am really trying to keep fear at bay through this ride, and working hard to connect the dots of my life to help me find a road map forward. For now, I'm beyond grateful for the peace, and more than grateful for the friends who continue to keep company with me on this desolate road.
5)  What is your favorite office supply to splurge on? (now THAT is random, right?)
I'm a recovering office supply junkie, with a stash of post-its (and other goodies) overflowing from my desk drawer. There's no room for supplies any longer in my office, so I have, out of necessity, applied a self-imposed ban on such purchases. Reality has sapped the thrill from the splurge, which I see as a good thing.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

two things

These days, as I stare into the great unknown of my future, I am trying to "read the signs" as I see them. EVERYwhere--okay, just facebook and Pinterest, because I don't get out much--there are quotes and sayings and cliches about the best being yet to come, and words of that ilk. Some days I find encouragement in the way they dot my days. Other times, well, "yeah, yeah, yeah," dripping with sarcasm, is my response. I can't tell you how badly I want to scream at the "everything happens for a reason" prognositications. Spare me. 

But there are times, like this morning, when the agony of my psyche leads me to the lap of God. I mean, enough already! What point are you trying to make? I have learned a multitude of lessons from difficulty through my lifetime. Trust? Patience? Hello!!!!!!! Why do you think I have not abandoned ship?

Anyway, after a fresh round of tears I went to the kitchen to top off my coffee and as I neared the kitchen window I saw snow falling. Unlike the snow of yesterday, this one is sticking first to the street and driveway, and has not yet shown any accumulation in the yard. I know this won't amount to much, but this unexpected offering is the equivalent of God's handkerchief for my tears. It just feels like love. It's a sing sign. Thank you. Just, thank you. My inner Yankee is rejoicing!

Completely unrelated to anything, my high school boyfriend and I are friends on facebook. It's kind of weird. We hadn't been in touch since college days, but some years back I learned that he'd tried to send a message through one of those classmate web sites. Since I refused to pay to be part of "golden member status," I never learned what the message was. A few years ago I learned that Joe was on facebook, so for kicks I sent him a friend request that went into the cyber abyss. Forgot all about it. Then, about a year ago, he accepted the friend request. When my father died Joe wrote a thoughtful reply to my post. He recalled that Dad had taken us camping on the Cape. I had forgotten all about that! Joe isn't on facebook very often, but he occasionally responds to one of my posts with thoughtfulness and support (when needed). It's just nice.

There's a huge gap of years between now and when I knew anything about his life, and we are not in the least caught up. I do know that he's divorced and living with a woman that he dated after we broke up. I don't know if he has children or if his parents are still alive. He works combining two loves: motor sports and photography. He is still a fan of Peter Frampton and other musicians of our era.

There's something comforting about the consistency of who he is. We dated through our junior and senior years in high school--significant days that carry good memories along with some of those difficult learnings referred to above. That we can connect, tangentially, at this point in life is another of those signs that I accept with gratitude. 

Which brings me to this. Life pretty much sucks right now, but the fact that there are glimpses of hope and bits of balm along the way matters. I am trying to pay attention to signs like snow and the presence of a once-meaningful relationship that serve to prop me up on mornings like today, when doubt and cluelessness cling like dog hair. I stand in the doorway of opportunity, and even though I can't decipher what to do with it, the recognition that it is there reveals the presence of light. God-light. Christ-light. Spirit-light. So now that my tears have dried up I'm planning to dance in that beam of light for a little while and shake these unemployed blues. And, I'm going to keep on praying. It may feel lonely, but at times like these there's no better place than the lap of God.

Friday, February 01, 2013

project 56.0 update

As you know, I normally play RevGals Friday Five on this day of the week, but today's questions were just too penetrating for me! I'm not afraid of digging in, but I just didn't haven't answers. Instead, this being the first day of the second month, I thought I'd offer an update on my "turning 56" project.

I won't go through the whole list (which can be found here, if you're interested), but I can tell you that I have both succeeded and failed. 

On the "accomplished" list:
  1. We saw Zero Dark-Thirty. Seeing Lincoln is on the list, maybe on Monday when the local theater offers a Veterans discount.
  2. I mailed the turtle to my sister-in-law, and managed to get another package-in-waiting shipped off as well.
  3. I have started Jude's birth announcement. Yay!
  4. I sent a postcard. Well, one is better than none.
  5. I finished Brené Brown's book, as intended. 
  6. I have reviewed the list weekly, and,
  7. Updated the list monthly.
On the "didn't materialize" list:
  1. Those things I hoped to do weekly? Too ambitious. I'll just leave it at that.
  2. I did try to learn a new digital scrapping technique, but my version of Photoshop Elements got left behind ages ago, and it didn't behave according to the instructions. I didn't get very far. Like, past the second step. Sigh.
  3. I didn't bake bread. I did buy rye flour and have a two-page recipe printed out! I'm not afraid of long recipes. I used to make challah (that wonderful, braided egg bread that makes THE best french toast!), and that recipe is about four pages long! I should make challah again.
  4. I still need to write a couple of thank you notes.
All things considered I guess this isn't too bad.  A number of items on the list aren't time specific, so I can catch a break there.

I've added one thing to the list: learn how to crochet. I actually crocheted a baby blanket back when I was in high school, using a technique called broomstick lace. You actually use a broomstick. At the time I learned the technique for that particular project and have never been back. I don't generally like the look of crocheted projects upon completion (as compared with knitting), but I'm broadening my horizons. Plus, there's a particular project that I would like to take on.

So there you have it. Time to whip out a postcard or two and catch up.

It snowed last night, about half an inch, so I am REALLY enjoying looking out the window at this wee glimpse of winter wonderland while it lasts. The sun is out, so by noon it will pretty much be gone. 

Hope you have a great Friday, and an even greater weekend. Go Ravens!
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