New Year, New Intentions

Last year I was talking to my friend about New Year’s resolutions. I was saying that I often have a hard time with resolutions because if I don’t follow through with them I feel like a failure. The New Year can be symbolic of a fresh start, but the expectation that a new year will bring a completely new and reformed you can be a lot of pressure to put on yourself. She told me that instead of having resolutions she was going to have a set of intentions. The idea of intentions is that they lack the pressure that often accompanies a resolution. Setting intentions allows me to have goals for myself, things that I would like to work on and opportunities for growth in the new year, without the feeling of failure if I don’t achieve perfection.

This will be my second year setting intentions for myself instead of resolutions. I generally try to keep my intentions positive and achievable. This means I try to avoid very specific things, such as losing 50 pounds or saving $1000. Having this type of goal works well for some people, but I often find myself discouraged if I end up not meeting that exact goal, even if I have made positive progress.

I find that accountability is one of the most important factors when it comes to making any sort of progress (not perfection) with my intentions. I like to write them down so that I have a physical reminder, and often share them with my friends or family. This allows me to have a group of people whom I can check in with regarding my intentions. With that said, here are some of my intentions for 2020:

  • Listen to my body and what it needs
  • Don’t should myself (i.e. I should eat this, or I shouldn’t eat that)
  • Work on my budgeting skills
  • Do more things that bring me joy
  • Say no when I need to
  • Try to be a better communicator (especially in my personal life)

I can’t wait to see what 2020 holds. I hope for friendship, happiness, love, and growth.

 

 

Have a Holly Jolly – and Intentional – Christmas

By: Bethany Straus
Advent and Christmas have always been my favorite holiday season; traditions shared with family and friends have given me some of my most treasured memories and I love having the opportunity to show those around me how much I love and appreciate them through gift-giving.

 

Although I will most certainly be taking part in as many holiday festivities as I can (such as decorating my own advent wreath), I will also be taking a new approach to a major part of the holiday season: gift-giving. Instead of browsing Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, I opted instead to find some great gifts for family members at some local bookstores on Small Business Saturday (#ShopSmall). Additionally, throughout the month of December, I will be working on creating various handmade gifts, as well as browsing locally based thrift stores and antique stores.

 

Besides that, the only gifts I plan on buying new will be from companies that have active involvements in the community. So far, I have purchased some knick-knacks at a local gift shop, Hope Tank, that supports various local organizations and charities with each purchase, as well as a collection of socks from Bombas, a company that donates a pair of socks to the homeless for each pair of socks sold.

 

Overall, I’m trying to avoid spending money on gifts that wouldn’t benefit the community as a result of my purchase. Although this approach won’t be as convenient or straight-forward as making a big order on Amazon, I am enjoying being able to explore the small businesses around me – not to mention the fact that my purchases will serve as a far greater benefit to the owners and employees of these local businesses than they would for Amazon.

 

Have a joyous and safe holiday season! Remember to kind and intentional in your interactions with everyone you meet this season – especially the overworked and underpaid retail employees!

Sabbath- Corinne

As an introvert, I need a lot of alone and down time, and I have not gotten enough the past week or so. It can be hard to find time to myself with my busy schedule, but I know I am a better person when I get enough introvert time.

As part of my Rule of Life, I wanted to dedicate one day a week to be my sabbath day. Most weeks I am able to accomplish this. However, in addition to this one day a week, I have started to complicate my idea of sabbath by considering that any moment can be a moment of sabbath if I am intentional about being in my body and in the world.

 

Here is a beautiful poem by E.E. Cummings:

 

A Sabbath Poem:

i thank You God for most this amazing

day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything

which is natural which is infinite which is yes

 

(i who have died am alive again today,

and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth

day of life and love and wings: and of the gay

great happening illimitably earth)

 

how should tasting touching hearing seeing

breathing any-lifted from the no

of all nothing-human merely being

doubt unimaginable You?

 

(now the ears of my ears awake and

now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

23. -Anna Foster

Today is my 23rd birthday. As I reflect on the past year, I realize that I have grown in more ways than I ever could have imagined. As I continue to go through transition and transformation, I’m reminded of the importance of gratitude. One of the most beautiful things about gratitude is it allows you to find a source of gladness even during the hard times.  As a spiritual practice in our house, we try to spend time every evening at dinner reflecting on what we are grateful for.  In honor of that, I’d like to share 23 gratitudes.

I am grateful for:

  1. My Saint Columba family
  2. Change
  3. My family (especially my parents)
  4. God’s creation
  5. The opportunity to grow
  6. Fresh snow on the mountains
  7. An amazing job
  8. Delicious meals
  9. The St. Peter and St. Mary community
  10. The ocean
  11. Humor and laughter
  12. Passionate people
  13. Dogs
  14. Music
  15. A great cup of coffee
  16. Warm fuzzy socks
  17. My education
  18. All of our basic needs which we take for granted, food, water, shelter, etc.
  19. Patience and understanding
  20. A good book
  21. Good friends
  22. Beautiful sunrises
  23. All the love that surrounds me

I hope, that as I enter my 24th year, I will continue to carry all of these gratitudes with me, and with an open mind and heart be willing to find even more to be grateful for. The world can be scary, sad, and very dark, but I will continue to allow the light of gratitude guide me on my way.

October- Corinne

As the weather has started changing, I am realizing that new seasons are turning in many aspects of my life.

During the first week of our program, we did an activity at Rev. Rebecca’s house. She had laid out lots of different images across her dining room table and invited us to choose a couple of images that stood out to us. We then went around and shared why we chose those images and how we felt they connected to our coming year.

I was particularly drawn by an image of someones hand outstretched towards the sky. The arm was cut off just below the elbow and the fingers were outstretched wide. In the background were fields of wheat and what I interpreted as a sunrise.

I remember sharing that I felt this connected to my intentions for the year in multiple ways. The first of which was that I wanted to do a year of service because I was ready to use my hands and do some good work in the world. I really valued my college education, but there became a point at which I was tired of learning and wanted to do more. I have felt this at my work placement, as I have been given a great amount of responsibility as I am treated as a staff member.

The second reason why I chose this hand image was because this year I want to show up. The quote “Here I am, Lord,” is something I focused on a lot during the first two weeks of the program, before we started at our service sites. I have still been thinking about this phrase a lot. This year is about learning, laughing, crying, sharing my emotions (which, for those who know me, is very hard for me to do), making new friends, and following my heart and my vocational journey. 

I have to say that the past couple of weeks the Spirit has really listened to my “Here I am Lord” call. There have been many work and professional challenges, and although I absolutely love my job, it has been hard emotionally and mentally. It has also been hard as a house as we have been exiting the “honeymoon phase.” We have faced some challenges as a community, but I have to say that I have learned so much about being in intentional community, living in authenticity, and being open and honest about my feelings. I love the people that I live with with my whole heart and the adversity we have faced, as cheesy as it sounds, has only made us a better community and family.

Photos I’ve Received: Opening Retreat – Bethany Straus

During the opening retreat for Colorado ESC back in August, Rev. Rebecca led us all in an exercise of using photography as a form of prayer and connection to the Earth. This exercise came in two parts: focusing on a single object in different angles and manners in order to see an object in many different ways, then going out into nature to find what places or things that called to us; Rev. Reb instructed us to not capture photos, but to receive photos – to aim the lens toward whatever caught your eye and attention.

 

I only recently took the time to look through all of the photographs that I received during the retreat, so I wanted to share the photos from this exercise and explain what I was feeling while receiving and/or when viewing the photos.

 

For the first activity, I focused on a light fixture that hung over the dining table of the house in which we were staying for the retreat (at Cathedral Ridge, a conference center in Woodland Park, CO). In order to get as many unique views as possible, I stood or sat in just about every corner at a variety of heights and angles.

 

Here are some of my favorite photos from the first activity:

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In this photo, I was captured by the different variations of swirls that led my eyes throughout the frame; the large swirls of the light bulb, the fine swirled threading of the bulb, and the light swirls in glass shading of the fixture.

 

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In case you couldn’t tell: the swirls of this light fixture really caught my eye.

 

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I remember standing on my tippy-toes across the room for this photo and seeing the fixture at an angle from which I never looked at the fixture; instead of sitting below the light and looking up to see the entire bulb encased by the glass shade, I was barely seeing the bulb as it poked out from under the glass shade.

 

For the second part of the activity, I walked from the house to an open field, then headed toward one of the larger buildings on the property, as this area was slightly elevated.

 

Here are some of my favorite photos from the second activity:

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Immediately after stepping outside of the house, I was drawn to the patch of flowers besides the walkway between the house and the driveway. While most of the places or things that I received photos of are found in multiple photos from different angles or shutter settings, this is the only photo of this bed of wild flowers; this honestly surprised me while I was viewing the photos, as I tend to be rather heavy on my shutter finger.

 

Content warning: If you don’t like/are creeped out by bugs, you might want to skip the next two photos.

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Every time I photograph nature, I make an effort to capture images of the bugs and creatures crawling on plants, particularly on flowers. This time was no exception.

 

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This photo made me laugh while I was viewing the photos because the bug looks like he’s jumping for joy!

 

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This particular tree was catching my eye all week whenever I passed it because of the white bark that appeared to be covered in eyes. It struck me as such an eerily intriguing sight.

 

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Each eye on the tree is so unique and striking, especially when seen while driving past.

 

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When I saw this set of wild daisies (or whatever type of lookalike flower it is), I was immediately reminded of a friend from college, Sam, who loves daisies. I received quite a few photos of this type of flower, as they made me think of some very fond memories I have with Sam and other members of the my school’s Episcopal Campus Ministry.

 

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Looking at this photo makes me feel as though I’m a squirrel crawling through a tree. I remember that while receiving this photo, I spent quite a few minutes fiddling with the manual focus in order to get just the right focus and depth-of-field that I was hoping for and I’m quite pleased with the results.

 

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I couldn’t get over the irony of this sight: fresh stumps from former tree limbs framing a brand new birdhouse. Wood was removed from the tree, resulting in an attempted replacement.

 

Warning: one more bug pic

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I love the way that the flowers essentially form an arrow that points to these bugs.

 

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Something about the flowers lining the ditch along the side of the road called to me. The contrast of the brown dirt road against the green, white, and yellow of the flowers and plants was incredibly pleasing to the eye.

 

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Sitting on the side of the road, looking up through the tall grass, with some beautiful mountains off in the distance, I felt so content and at peace. I remember feeling like a bug looking up through blades of grass while I was in this spot.

 

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I remember being absolutely captivated by the clouds during the retreat: there were so many full, intense-looking clouds that sailed through the sky. Therefore, it only makes sense that I received some photos of the clouds while finishing up with this activity.

 

I absolutely love the products of this exercise and I am so grateful that Rev. Reb lead us in this activity. Looking through these photos made me so excited for the next photos that I will receive as a reminder that God is all around through His beautiful creations, whenever and wherever that reception may be.

Imperfect Prayer – Weston Morris

To this point, I never considered myself an intentionally prayerful person. I have been a practicing Episcopalian for nearly my whole life, and the idea of communicating with God using words outside of the liturgies outlined in the Book of Common Prayer felt scary. On some level, I knew that prayer does not need to involve me kneeling at my bedside telling God about my highs and lows, asking for forgiveness or anything else. I have started to try, yes, actually try, to pray. Here are some ways I’ve been doing that.

The first change has to do with my rule of life. For years, photography has been a joy of mine and a practice I wanted to cultivate more, especially in nature. Part of my rule of life in Steamboat Springs was to make one photo per week that I was excited about. Not that anyone else was excited about or that I needed to share, but just one that I could see the divine in and remember the beauty surrounding me in that moment. Sadly, this practice hasn’t continued into my year in Denver, but I’m thinking of updating my rule of life to include it. I miss my camera.

Secondly, living in Steamboat challenged me to be in solitude. My mind is not always a kind, joyful, hopeful, or peaceful place. I learned that to move myself through the boggy marshes of my brain it helps to move my body. I started walking every day, or almost every day, to a park near the Steamboat condo. While I don’t remember every walk I took, I do know that it was never the same. Even going to the same place gave me new insights into the divine. The reality is that our natural world is changing all the time and if you become familiar with one place you can notice how it changes from day to day. I found God in my walks every day. I also found that I changed over time in those walks, I began to rely on them for conversation with God.

In Denver I have continued to walk, but I have to be more mindful about when and where. I am still working out how walking continues to form my prayer life here. A few days ago, I got to spend a day in the mountains for the first time since I moved to Denver. I found myself breathing easier and praying every moment I could. I prayed in gratitude for beauty and in hope for my friends and family. I simply prayed in conversation with God about what holiness is, how heaven looks and whether it matters at all. I returned to Denver feeling refreshed.

The third tool I’ve started using is something a coworker at the Office of the Bishop introduced me to. Anglican prayer beads, similar to the rosary, are a tactile tool for intentional prayer. I had never used prayer beads before, but at Diocesan Convention this weekend I bought my first set. Since convention ended, I have been carrying it with me everywhere. The largest bead, the cruciform, is not in the shape of a cross but rather a heavy bead with a labyrinth etching. I have taken to wrapping the beads around my left wrist and fiddling with them while walking, recreating the intention of walking a labyrinth while on the streets of Denver.

All of this is to say that there is no one way to pray, on one size fits all, no way of prayer that God will hear you more. There are many, many ways to connect to God. What I’m challenging myself to do this year is to not wait until something is perfect, but to show up while I’m still working all the kinks out. It’s the same with my prayer life. It’s an imperfect practice as it always will be. I don’t believe that God cares about how I come to the relationship, but just that I do.

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