Monday, May 25, 2020

Brainstorming and Problem-Solving

Hello again!

This next video is about brainstorming and problem solving using the scenario of setting up for Zoom calls and video production.

I talked about my regular chair with the decorative shelf above it. Remember that only those bottom brackets show on the screen if I sit there. Not a big deal for Zoom calls with people I know, but it didn't seem right for making videos or doing Zoom calls with others.

And this is me in an actual screenshot from a Zoom call with a bunch of people. See what I mean?

This is the edge of my current backdrop, my grandmother's 100 year old linen table cloth, draped over a curtain rod that is suspended on ribbon loops across a doorway. It doesn't look fancy in this context, but it does the job!

I mentioned the UBeesize  Phone Tripod which you can see on my writing table in the photo. It cost me $21.99 on Amazon and can also be used for cameras. This is not an affiliate link, just a courtesy to y'all if you are interested!

After I made the video, I realized I could not only trim the length of the video, but I could also resize it right on my phone! I hadn't known that before. I had shot the video in horizontal mode, but made it more narrow before uploading it to YouTube. When I embedded it here on the blog, I also changed the width in the HTML code.

While the video covered how I worked through the aggravations of setting up my physical space and phone for Zoom calls and making videos, the general concept is brainstorming and problem solving. I didn't go into too many details on this process, but the main gist is to:
  • stop and think of what is bothering you (what problem you need to solve)
  • brainstorm for possible solutions (even if they seem silly)
  • consult with others (those who know you and/or those who know the topic)
  • check websites or other sources for information
  • assess the alternatives and choose the option or combination of options which looks best
  • try it, reassess, and shift to something else if that doesn't work

You might also find these links helpful.
These are the two most recent videos in my practical encouragement series.

Time -- and Time Again!

Dear friends,

In the last post, I featured my 10 minute video called Talking About Time which provided a simple framework for time management. In this edition, my topic is Time--and Time Again which is another look at time. The Greeks had at least two words for time, chronos, which is more quantitative and measurable, and kairos, which is more about being aware of the opportunities that each moment brings.

What I didn't specify in my story about waiting was that it was 70 minutes before I got my groceries from Walmart curbside pickup, and as you may remember, that was the second time I had tried that day! Phew! Usually it's just a few minutes!

In this video, I mentioned a few things that I'd like to show you.

First is the book Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren.

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life

The other is a little bit about my Google Keep app daily checklists. I had to twiddle with this to get it the way I wanted. I had fun choosing the emojis for each. The lists are nested in categories. The way I did this on my phone is to drag each sub-item over to the right with my finger. I can also access my Google Keep on my laptop if I want to do more copy/pasting or whatever. 

I had been using one Daily Do master list and then customizing it for each day as I went. I decided after making this video to go ahead and make a master list for each day of the week with just that days regular appointments and work schedule. These are my screenshots for my Monday Daily Do master list. I copy this each week and then add in details for whatever Today's Task, Errands, and Phone Calls I need to make that day. Money Monday refers to a focus I have for each day, so on Mondays, I need to check in on my finances, review my bank accounts, do some planning, etc. The rest of my list is pretty standard stuff that I might do in any given day -- the routines I talked about in my videos. I just X out what I don't intend to do, or, at the end of the day whatever didn't get done. Then I check off the rest as I go. The checked items appear at the bottom of the list rather than completely disappearing. That is very important to me. I archive the lists for each day, but at least I have a record of what I accomplished. 

And before I go, I wanted to let you know I have another video post ready to go too, this one on Brainstorming and Problem Solving -- or how I keep my sanity when setting up for Zoom calls and video production with my phone. 

Until next time,
Virginia Knowles

Monday, May 11, 2020

Talking About Time! (Video)

Hey friends!

Wondering how to get stuff done during the wonky daily schedules of quarantine? Got 10 minutes? Here's my not-so-secret strategy!

A week after making this video, I figured out a way to use my apps to follow this framework, so I'll put that in my next blog post!

I'll be making more of these videos this summer during my seminary internship. If you want to suggest topics, leave a comment and let me know!

All the best to you!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Goals Gatherings

Goals gatherings!

That's what I've been up to this past week! Let me back up a bit. A year ago, I posted on Facebook asking if any of my local friends wanted to get together to talk about goal setting. We never did end up doing anything, but the post came up in my memories feed earlier this week and I decided to try again. So many people said they'd love to come but either were too busy or lived too far away, so on a whim, I decided to start a new private Facebook group called "Goals with Virginia Knowles" to share inspiration and resources. That was on New Year's Eve. It kind of took on a life of its own, and now, four days later, we have 282 members who are actively posting and interacting with each other. I love this!

I still wanted to do a local gathering. Some people said they could make it on a Friday evening, and others on a Saturday morning. So I did both. I didn't know exactly who would show up even though I had an RSVP list that kept changing.  I had four pages of handouts ready, which I'll share later in this post. I also bought supplies for making vision boards, which we didn't end up having time to do. 

Four women showed up last night and two more came this morning! Most of them are pictured with me here. I tended to do too much talking in the evening session, but fortunately one of my friends who was helping me moderate, redirected by asking each of us why we were there, and what was our biggest need for goal setting. I am so glad she did that! It's amazing how women can equip one another when we know what each other needs!

Here's an outline of what we talked about! It's not a very linear approach, but then I'm not a very linear person. 

Goals Gathering

Identity >>> Vision >>> Goals >>> Plans >>> Actions >>> Assessments
  • Identity: Who you are - gifts, personality, opportunities, experience 
  • Vision: What you dream - big picture desires and passions 
  • Goals: What you’ll do - what you specifically want to accomplish in real life 
  • Plans: How you’ll do it - detailed steps you will take to make your goals happen
  • Actions: Doing it - carrying out the plans, adjusting as you go 
  • Assessments: How you did it - reviewing how it went, tying up the loose ends, and deciding what you would change for next time

Centered Life:

  • Think of a circle with a core and radiating spokes. 
  • What is at your core which keeps everything else in place?
  • My center is my faith in God that overflows into a desire to serve others. 
  • Simplify! Tend to the inner first, then work outward along the spokes.
  • Key facets of life: Spiritual, Emotional, Physical, Mental, Social 
  • Key spheres of influence: Family, Home, Work, Service, Friendships, Hobbies
  • When you live from the center, you can work with peace, joy, and confidence no matter what else is going on around you.
  • Don’t forget holistic self-care, tending to who you are and the body you are in. 

Starting Over:
  • Moving past failures and disappointments is a part of life!
  • Allow yourself to grieve your losses. 
  • Learn from your mistakes!  Reframe them as life lessons!
  • Own your own responsibility, but don’t take the blame for what is not your fault.
  • “Recycle the trash!” Use your experience to help others heal and move forward!
  • Let go of bitterness for your own sake. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean trust or reconciliation. 
  • Shake off the shame and stigma. Seek out professional help if you’re having a tough time. 
  • Start fresh, looking to the future! God gives beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning! His mercies are new every morning!


  • What legacy do you want to leave for the future?
  • Set long, mid, and short term goals. Work backward from the future and then work forward from now to fill in the gap between here and there.
  • Overwhelmed by the immensity of the future? Stick to “just for now” for now. Sometimes it’s all you can do to take the daily steps as you receive a little light for the path. Still try to think a little about the distant future as you are able.
  • You may have an idea or dream now that won’t come to fruition until much later! Sometimes you have to let a seed go dormant until it’s ready to sprout. Be watchful! Or maybe it will show up in a different way? Be open!
  • What dreams have you had in the past that might be ready to burst into bloom now? What would it take to water and tend them?
  • Other times, you could do something now, but it’s not the best time. Save it for later? Or just minimize your time investment for now?
  • Our opportunities build with our experiences. You are equipping yourself now for things you don’t even see yet. Be faithful.

Case Studies and Case Management:
  • Case Study: Take a step back and look at your life as if you were observing from the outside. Write down everything you can about the situation: the atmosphere, key players, the relational dynamics, what is working, what is not, areas where there has been progress, areas that still need improvement, trouble spots, constraints, resources, anything else? Analyze it from as many angles as you can. Pretend you are a business consultant.
  • Manage: Based on your findings, come up with an integrated plan for progress that will holistically and realistically address the major concerns. Make it like a business plan if that helps. Think about people, time, money, and other resources.

Cooperation and Collaboration:
  • Our lives involve others, but we can’t control them.  Our goals have to acknowledge that and be more focused on our own actions.
  • How will you motivate other people to work with you? What will you do if they don’t? How can you idiot-proof your goals? (We can't completely, but we can try!)
  • We can’t always remove negative people from our lives, but we can counteract that by surrounding ourselves with encouraging people.
  • Pair up for follow up! Share strengths. Ask for help with what you find hard to do. Offer your help in areas where you have seen success.

Time Management:
  • “Habit stack” into a scheduled routine (little to big). When I get up… When I get to work… When I get home… Before I go to bed…
  • What are your “time sucks”? Do you need to eliminate them or just limit them?
  • Do you use timers or alarms?
  • Consolidate similar tasks.
  • More ideas at category “Get It Done”

Efficiency and Effectiveness: 
  • Efficiency is doing things the right way. Effectiveness is doing the right thing! 
  • What will it take to do the right thing the right way?

SMART Goals:
  • Specific - Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Details!
  • Measurable: How much? How many? How will I track progress?
  • Attainable: Reasonable? Doable with your resources and constraints?
  • Relevant: Worthwhile? Consistent with your own life? 
  • Timely: Timelines? Deadlines? Urgency? Rhythm? 

Big and Little: 
  • We need to think of both the big picture (telescope) and the little details (microscope).
  • The big affects the little. The little affects the big. They are intertwined.
  • Big rocks in a jar - get the priorities in first, then work in everything else as it fits.
  • Little things - daily habits can make or break your life. Don’t neglect them!
  • Baby steps! Don’t get too overwhelmed by the enormity of the goal. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time? The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

  • What would you do if time and money were no object?
  • What would you do if you could overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles?
  • Think and write now as it comes, even if it’s random or crazy. 
  • Let it flow freely. Save your tweaking for later. 
  • Do you see any themes? Any weird possibilities?
  • Essentials may reveal alternatives. Take it down to the basics and think what could possibly work for you for this need, even if it’s not a traditional approach. You could get what you really want by decluttering a bunch of peripheral desires.

Organizing Your Thoughts:
  • Lists - any kind! Where will you keep them?
  • Planner - digital and/or paper - buy it or design your own
  • Vision board - pictures or words
  • What apps or computer programs help you most?
  • I like Trello, gTasks, Calendar, Notes, Evernote, email


Since we didn't have time to do the vision boards, we're going to schedule another evening later this month to do that at someone else's home. I'm looking forward to that! 

I'm glad I did the Goals Gatherings and hope to do more in the future. We may also try to get some of this on video, but I will probably do this separately since much of our interactive discussion is private. I am guessing I will do very short videos for each section. 

Have you ever done something like this?


Friday, September 13, 2019

Lessons for Me at 56

Lessons for Me at 56

I turned 56 last weekend! My birthday wasn’t much hoopla coming the day after my daughter’s wedding and a few days after a near miss with Hurricane Dorian. I enjoyed going out to lunch with four of my kids, and tomorrow night I’ll have a belated birthday dinner with another daughter’s family. Besides that, I think what I really enjoyed was all of the Facebook greetings from friends and family near and far. I also loved editing and uploading wedding photos. I'll do a blog post with those later, when the professional ones are officially in. The picture at the top of this post was at my friend Sunny's house after she did my hair and makeup for the wedding. Love it!

I’m learning so much at 56. I always do, at any age. I don’t ever want to be closed off, stagnant. I always want to be able to say, “This Mom grows up!” like the title of this blog. So, in that spirit, here are some things I’m personally musing about. Let’s start with what I posted on FB in the wee hours of my birthday:
It’s midnight and officially my 56th birthday. Here’s my thought tonight: figure out what you think is a worthy goal, what’s really most important to your life. Then go for it - and try to work all the other things around it. I think you may be amazed at how everything can fit together with prayer, planning, preparation, patience, and partnership. Another thing: situations can change for you unexpectedly, serendipitously. Be open to new possibilities, new goals, new adventures. We can’t always see the end from the beginning. What we can do is choose to move forward through little and big decisions every day.
When we are living authentically, we are free to take risks and offer ourselves outward. We can walk with joy and confidence. I loved the sermon that Father Tom preached the day after my birthday. He stood near the pulpit holding a fish bowl with water, a fake plant...and no fish. His kids had recently had a beta fish in it, but beta fish don’t play well with others. So they live by themselves in a little glass bowl until they die. And too many of us are just like that, isolated and self-protective within the walls we build to keep others out and keep our own stuff to ourselves. We need to get out of the bowl and experience the abundant life that God intended for us as his disciples - giving ourselves away for the kingdom in the big world outside our doors.

I wish I'd gotten a picture of my pastor with the fishbowl, but maybe this will get the same concept across. I took my daughter to the zoo the other day. We were in the herpetarium building with the reptiles. Turning the corner to the copperhead snake enclosure, I was so startled to see this instead: a man with a paintbrush in this hand, sitting wedged in behind the glass, working in rather cramped quarters. Good thing there was no snake in there with him, but I'll bet it felt good to get out of there and go on with his day!

Just that morning, I'd taken my teen son to school and stopped at Red Bug Lake Park on the way home. I love to get out in nature and see the beauty of God's handiwork along the boardwalk and the pond there. Such infinite variety, all dwelling together in the same habitat. We humans, though so different from one another, dwell together too. Thinking of this, as well as Tom's sermon, I know we are all created for connection in some way. Yet each of us connects differently due to our own unique personalities. This can be so tricky, but we can learn to respect the dignity and liberty of others, to value and honor them in a way that’s good for them and good for us. It takes patient communication to clear up mixed signals and work out misunderstandings.

Imagine then, how I was struck by these sentences yesterday morning when I read Dallas Willard’s Knowing Christ Today as an assignment for my seminary class Gospel Catechesis:

"We may wish to be loving—to be kind and helpful in our relations to those near us. But we do not trust love, and we think it could easily ruin our carefully guarded hold on life. We are frightened of the world we are in, and that makes us angry and hostile, and contempt makes it easier to harm or disregard the good of others…. It takes little intelligence to know that to live in love is the morally good and right way to live. But entering into and growing in love—actually being it and doing it in the context of real life—is quite another matter. Many misunderstandings of what love is have to be worked through before one can come to peace in it. Evil has a vested interest in confusing and distorting love. Above all, one has to find by thought and experience that love can be trusted as a way of life... Love is not God, but God is love. It is who he is, his very identity. And our world under a God like that is a place where it is safe to do and be what is good and what is right. Living in love as Jesus defines it by his words and deeds is the sure way to know Christ in the modern world. On the other hand, if you are not reconciled to living in love as the center of your life, and actually living that way, any knowledge you may have of Christ will be shallow and shaky at best.” 
And so we love sincerely, even when it means putting ourselves out there not knowing what will happen next. We can genuinely care for others, open our hearts and hands without agenda or expectation. We extend ourselves in friendship. We make the connections, even when it’s complicated. 

Can I tell you how much it means to me that others have done this for me? That others are willing to stay in it with this quirky middle-aged single mom of many: listening well, making space, offering their insight and inspiration with integrity - that is such a gift. I don't always get to see people face to face, but phone, email, Facebook Messenger, and texts all work well enough for me when I can't talk in person. I love the ongoing conversations, a little snippet here, a little snatch there, that turn into so much. 

My sister, dad, teen and adult kids, and several sweet friends have all blessed me just in the past few days. My friend Karen messaged me this morning that she was giving me a Spiritual Middle Name: Resilience. I'll take that! 

Resilience! Yes!

A few days ago, I jotted in my journal some encouraging thoughts related to resiliently navigating through life.
Let your life unfold in God’s time. Enjoy the process. Life is like a game of chess. (What I meant here is that we lose some pieces of ourselves, and move around in unexpected ways, sometimes feeling cornered. We may or may not even win this match. But still we play. Which brings to mind another phrase that’s been rattling around in my mind: “Play hard or go home.”) 
Whatever happens, real life holds incredible blessings better than any fairy tale. You can live in God’s embrace. 
You will learn and grow into genuine maturity. You will earn trust and respect.
You have so many things to do in life right now, and some of them will prepare you for the future in the areas where you are not yet ready.
Your life is incredibly complicated. Honor that. Identify the obstacles that are keeping you from moving forward with your goals, and start to dismantle and disentangle them. It needs to be done anyway.

In what ways are you prepared to sacrifice? What are you willing to cut back or give up to reach your goals? How do you prudently practice self-care? How do you need to change your habits?

Keep praying boldly, with an open and devoted heart, fully yielded to God.
Take the long view. Your life is an epic novel, not a short story. 

And that last one is so true. I don't know what's coming in the next chapters of my life throughout and beyond my seminary years. It may be beautiful. It may be painful. It may be both at the same time. Bittersweet.

My sweet mother had been planning a trip to Europe with my father, and wanted to be able to travel comfortably. So she had back surgery in 2013, but died from a  MERSA infection that she contracted in the hospital. I miss her so much. I determined to live my life well, and do some of the things she loved to do. A few years later, I traveled to Switzerland and Paris with my daughter when she was presenting at a mental health conference in Geneva. My mother had also taken each of my first eight children on a trip of their choice when they were around 12 or 13. My ninth child was ten when Grandma passed away, but I promised him he'd get a "Grandma trip" anyway. He finally flew to New York City this morning with one of his travel-loving older sisters. I drove them to the airport and then stopped at Cracker Barrel on the way home just because I love their gift shop. I can always find something there to beautify and inspire my day. I bought this candle and mug as belated birthday presents for myself. For all things I can give thanks! I can enjoy every little thing and I am clothed with strength & dignity so I can laugh without fear at the future. Can I get an amen to that?

Thanks for reading this! I'd love to hear what you think!

You might enjoy posts I've written on my other blogs recently, as well as several of my poems related to the themes in this post.

Recent posts:
Related poems:

Grace and peace and love to all of you,

Virginia Knowles

Friday, June 28, 2019

How Do I Juggle It All?

Dear friends,

People sometimes ask my how I manage to do what I do, how I juggle it all as a single mother of several children. That's a good question. I don't always do it well. Other times, I do well enough, but not as well as I'd like. 

I am a seminary student (usually full-time with 9 hours a semester in fall and spring, but only 3 in summer), a part-time crisis hotline specialist (15 hours a week), I am resuming home school with my youngest teen in about a month, I have four other teen/adult kids still living at home, and then there is plenty of housework. Add in paperwork, personal care, downtime, and myriad other stuff that needs to be done. Plus, I love to spend time with my five other adult kids and my six grandchildren. One of my daughters is getting married in about two months, too.

Let's just say the house is the thing that suffers most. As I say, if the kids want a cleaner house, they know what they can do... And they do all know how to cook, or at least heat up corn dogs and pizza rolls. I occasionally take a stab at something a little fancier than chili and spaghetti for dinner.

So yeah, it's kind of crazy here. I'm still wondering how I'll manage when school ramps back up for me, my home schooled daughter, and my teenage son in public school. Should be fun, right?

I think the trick for me now is just trying to layer in what I need to do and make it fit.

This morning I woke up before 7, but lay in bed and scrolled through my FB feed and memories to find good stuff to repost to my new page Empowering Christian Women. Then I ate a quick breakfast and headed to my study table to do my seminary homework for two hours. I had a five page paper due tonight, but I worked ahead and wrote most of it last week. I still had to finish the final edits and format my footnotes before submitting it this morning. I posted my responses to assigned topics on the class discussion forums. I updated my list of assignments on Trello (project management app and online program) and checked off what I'd finished. 

Next I cleaned out old food from the refrigerator, attempted to tidy up the kitchen, and packed my snack bag for work. I took a shower while listening to a friend's Facebook Live video on self-care for advocates of abuse survivors. I ate leftovers for lunch while reading a theology textbook on Kindle. I dabbed on a little concealer and blush.

I left for work in the early afternoon, spending five hours talking to people in crisis. I was on a call deescalating a very depressed and anxious client when I accidentally knocked over my drink onto the carpeted floor. My supervisor quietly came over and wiped it up for me. Bless her.

As soon as I arrived home in the evening, my youngest climbed in the van and we headed to a youth event at church. I've been chilling in my room since we got home, talking with some of my other teens. I don't even want to look at my cumulative to-do list. Oh eek, I just did, and I apparently forgot to make sure the trash went down to the curb this morning. Oops. At least my daughter watered my flower garden for me! 

Now it's almost midnight, and I'm off to bed after my evening routine of flossing teeth and moisturizing skin. 

Tomorrow (Saturday) I will try to sort all of the clean laundry that has been piling up in my dining room so the kids can put it away, tame the dishes in the sink, run a few errands, and finish the last several chapters of reading assignments for the week. I also need to finish up some of the arrangements for an upcoming out-of-state family reunion that I'm organizing. I'm sure I'll squeeze in a nap too.

I don't think I'll ever get the house the way I want it until I have an empty nest in several years. That's just something I have to accept for now, but I still keep plugging away at it with the help of my kids. I can at least keep my own bedroom mostly tidy most of the time.

So how do I get it all done? I don't. But I do what I can and call it good enough. And when it's not, I take a rest and give it another try later.

How about you?

Related blog posts? Sure thing! 

Grace and peace,
Virginia  Knowles

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Arise (One Word)

Hello friends!

Like me, you've probably seen plenty of social media posts about friends  choosing their "one word" for the year. 

I've been doing this for a few years:
My "one word" for 2019 is ARISE! 

I chose ARISE because I want to encourage myself to rise up and overcome the many challenges in my life. Last year's word FOCUS ended up putting me on the path of going back to work part-time and starting seminary full-time after 26 years of home schooling. This is in addition to caring for my five remaining teen/adult kids at home (though they are pretty self-sufficient), trying to keep the house clean, and coping with multiple physical disabilities. 

It's sometimes hard for me to get up in the morning, so ARISE takes on the literal meaning every day. But it's not just that. It is more a sense of empowerment for myself as a an ezer-woman in God's eyes. Rising from a religious paradigm where women had no voice and no choice about so much of their lives, to one where they do, well, that was quite a switch for this 55 year old mama of 10. Then, building on that, attending an egalitarian seminary (Asbury Orlando campus) has been so much of a breath of fresh air for me! I still wonder what I'll end up doing, how I'll rise up and find my way in ministry in the community. It's a walk of faith from first to last, as it has been for the past 42 years since I first embraced the gospel of Christ for myself.

One of my classes, Church History I, delved into Celtic Christianity toward the end of the semester. I'm smitten. Starting in medieval Ireland and spreading throughout the British Isles and western Europe, Celtic Christians nourished an abiding devotion to God, deep spirituality and worship, and a love for creation, beauty, the arts, adventure, and yes, empowered women! What more could I ask? I've ordered a few different Celtic Christianity books from Amazon:

Then there is the Celtic prayer St. Patrick's Breastplate (see chalk art at top of this post), which starts with the words "I arise in the strength of heaven..." I also created a photo calendar for 2019 with Celtic prayers and blessings and some of my flower photos from last year. Here is my October page with more "arise" inspiration.

A little more story that puts me in awe of God...

My friend Patricia, who started me on my seminary journey, decided last month she wanted to visit the church where her friend and former Asbury classmate Tom Phillips, is the pastor. Church of the Incarnation is an Episcopal congregation. I decided to show up that morning too, and we've been going ever since. I love the old liturgy mixed with contemporary worship music. (Church History class also gave me a fondness for weekly Eucharist, which our professor Dr. Chilcote served each week in the style of whatever ecclesiastical period we were studying that week.) Anyway, on Epiphany Sunday this past week Father Tom's sermon at Incarnation was, of course, about the magi (also known as the wise men or the Three Kings) traveling to visit the infant Jesus. Of course we sang the carol, "We Three Kings"! To my delight, the Old Testament reading was Isaiah 60:1-6, which starts with "Arise, shine; for your light has come..." (I already had that loaded in my Bible app, because I had just looked it up.) Reading further in the passage, I see the prophecy about the nations and kings following the light to the messiah, bringing gold and frankincense. Mind-blowing! I had never made that connection before!

You can watch Father Tom's Epiphany sermon on this passage here on Facebook. So encouraging! The people of God radiate the brightness of God to the nations, drawing them to the good news of Jesus. It's not bootstrap moralism, but being filled up with God! I'm listening to it again right now: "When your heart settles into the radical truth of the grace of God... you wear the very perfection of Jesus, then your heart starts to shine with the radiating grace... and your neighbors see it."

ARISE, shine! Your light has come! The glory of the Lord has risen upon you!

Grace and peace,

P.S. Actually, I'm a bit torn between Arise and Rise, so I'm using both, as you'll see in my 2018 Advent poem, We Can Rise

P.P.S. I'm actually writing three blog posts today, which is notable since I sometimes go months without writing any. The others are Inductive Bible Study on Discipleship in Matthew 8-9 (Seminary Notes) and A Simple Woman's Day Book post which I haven't done yet. Little bit of overlap here, but I just had to include a Francesca Battistelli's "The Breakup Song" (Fear You Don't Own Me) in both this one and the Day Book post. It will help me ARISE!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Vision of Mother-Life (A Poem)

This morning I dreamed
a friend rose to greet me
with a dark smudge 
of ash on her chin.

And as I wondered on this,
the blot transformed,
regathering into the outlines
of an intricate tattoo,
spreading across her cheeks. 

Then vibrant colors seeped into
the empty spaces, and a full scene
emerged on her face:
a vignette of a radiant woman 
quietly tending her garden 
with peacocks and gladiolas, 
sculptures and fountains,

My friend smiled at my astonishment. 
“I want my children to have
something interesting to look at
in the morning...”

This is the mystery of 
a vision of glory,
bright and beautiful story.

Who knows where this dream
would have taken her, and me,
if I had not woken up just then?

But is it just a dream?

A few thoughts:

Why didn't I see children in the tattoo/dream rather than just their mother? I think it is because the child is the beholder, watching the life of her mother in a moment in time. The mother is in the child's world, but the mother and child are distinct from one another, with their own identities and interests. The garden is also not the only scene she sees in her mother's life. There are so many other realms in which women flourish. As I said, who knows where else the dream would have gone? 

My own amazing mother was a skilled computer trainer, a talented stained glass artist and seamstress, a member of the National Christian choir, a devoted wife & mother & grandmother, a travel lover, and an avid gardener. This is just a tiny description of a large life. She was my mother, but so much more! (If you'd like, you can see more about her here: In Memoriam: A Tribute to My Mother, Mary Quarrier and Radiant Nurturer: Recent Photos of My Mother.

Unfortunately, I am a black thumb gardener, but I still try to keep plants alive. My days find me in many places: working at my writing/art table, cooking and cleaning in my kitchen, answering crisis calls in the 211 center, listening to a lecture in a seminary classroom, typing away at online class assignments, shopping at the grocery store, in my mini-van picking up my kids or going through a drive through, strolling through botanical gardens and art museums, preparing for a family birthday for one of my adult children, visiting my adorable grandchildren... I am a mother of ten amazing kids, but I am more than a mother.

I do think an important milestone in maturity is for children to see their parents not as extensions of themselves, present solely for the purpose of attending to their every need, but as unique and distinct people with lives of their own. Our children do things with us that they will someday do themselves, or maybe even later with their own children. And they will accomplish many other things that we never even thought to do. And we will do other things not only when they have flown the nest, but while they are still with us. They need to see that.

As part of one of my seminary assignments, I watched a movie called Vision about Hildegard von Bingen, a medieval German nun. She excelled in so many areas - founding abbess/magistra of two cloisters, visionary mystic, traveling preacher, philosopher, poet, composer, playwright, gardener, herbalist, naturopathic medicine expert, scientist, ecologist, and so much more. She was "Mother Hildegard" to the nuns in her care, yet she was so much much more. In the movie, a very somber magistra from another cloister rebukes Hildegard for writing and producing an amazing musical play, Ordo Virtutum, on the moral virtues. How worldly and immodest to see nuns out of their habits, dancing and singing! Hildegard sagely responded, "God loves beauty! In paradise there is no ugliness." Ah!

On the dark smudge... So many dark things happen in life that dominate our mother-days at times. In this poem, the pieces of ash reorder themselves into art and come alive with color. This picture of grief and redemption makes me cry. Why did I dream of ashes and mothers? Maybe this: earlier in the morning, I had scrolled through my On This Day memory feed on Facebook feed. I saw pictures of a trip I took to Acadia National Park with my daughter, sister, and niece. We were scattering the ashes of my mother in the ocean at Thunder Hole. That poignant experience turned into a poem which you can read here: Thunder Hole

Back to the present, and to the future...

What is your vision of mother-life?

Virginia Knowles

P.S. I found the stained glass picture at the top of this post on Pinterest. There is no identification to it. I wish I knew the title and artist!