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2018 in Focus (Spiritual Journey Thursday)

My One Little Word for 2018 is/was FOCUS. I wrote about what I expected my focus on FOCUS to do for me back on January 4th, and did a mid-year evaluation on July 5th.

Since then I haven’t actually dwelt on my OLW a whole lot. But reading these two posts and looking back over the year helps me see that focus has, in some small way, actually become part of my DNA—though I could still do much better.

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A Bible Journal doodle I did on the word FOCUS, in January, 2018.

In September we took the trip to the Canadian Maritime provinces that I was dreaming of back in July. Before our trip I focused on getting ready. During our holiday I focused on the sights, sounds, smells, tastes—all the wonderful moments of exploration and discovery.

When we got back home, I kept my promise to myself and again picked up and focused on the fictional story I’ve been writing (in some form or other since 2014). I’m thrilled to announce that the first draft is nearly done!

Something I do to help me focus on this project (and others) is to set my iPad timer for the amount of time I plan to work on it (for this one 90 minutes a day, four days a week). That somehow frees me to dive in and get immersed in the work without the distraction of looking at the time.

Another focus trick I use is to treat myself after onerous tasks. Treats are things like drawing, painting, doodling, or reading (not food!).

My one little word for 2017 was LISTEN. I was sad to leave it behind. But I didn’t—at least not completely. I have found that habits I formed during my year of LISTEN are still with me. (For example, in conversation, when someone cuts in and begins to talk over me, I immediately stop talking and listen—something I trained myself to do last year when I was trying to become a better listener).

Similarly, I hope that habits I’ve formed this year under the influence of FOCUS will prove to be just as sticky.

And now, it’s time to focus on Christmas. To all of you—have a very blessed one!

Merry Christmas Header

spiritualjourneyfirst-thursday-copyThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey (First) Thursday, hosted today by Irene at her blog Live Your Poem. There you will find links to other Spiritual Journey Thursday posts.

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The humour of Ms. Google

Just over a week ago hubby and I returned from an autumn holiday. It involved a fair bit of driving in places altogether unfamiliar to us as we explored Canada’s maritime provinces: Nova Scotia, PEI, and New Brunswick. To avoid having to navigate with my head buried in a map, I prepared for the trip by downloading and learning to use Google Maps as our GPS. Ms. Google was certainly a holiday-saver! She also gave us a few groans and a couple of laughs.google-maps-1797882_640

For example, on our way from Lunenberg to Blue Rocks NS, she led us down a No Exit road.

Several times just after I (the navigator) noticed the fleeting Re-routing banner, she would begin pouring out a virtual river of instructions. A river because we usually ignored her attempts to get us back on track by traveling on to where it was safe to make a U-turn so that we could get back to the original route. I know I detected relief in her voice when she would announce: “You’re back online.”

Another time, after we had visited St. Stephen N.B., which is within eyeshot of Maine, she began giving distances in miles instead of meters and kilometres, totally mystifying us two Canadians for whom metric has become the norm.

navigation-2049643_640We got the biggest chuckle the day we missed the turn into our motel and found ourselves back on the highway, racing northeast while Ms. Google, sounding more frantic with each repetition, called out “Go southwest. Go southwest! Go southwest!!” She toned down after we took the first exit we could and she then proceeded, with the greatest patience and never a scolding word, to circle us back to our missed destination.

I would never want to go on another trip on unknown roads without Ms. G. holding my hand. The fact that we could laugh at her foibles is testament to how she helped us relax and enjoy our drives.

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spiritualjourneyfirst-thursday-copyThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey (First) Thursday, hosted today by Jan at her blog Book Seed Studio, where you will find links in the comments to more articles on the subject of Humour.

 
 

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Look both ways before proceeding (Spiritual Journey First Thursday)

January 2018 seems like just yesterday in some ways—and like a long time ago in others. As I look back and ahead, here in the middle of the year, I see several trends.

FOCUS

My one-little-word for 2018 is FOCUS. I began to put that word into action early in the year by cutting out some activities and routines. One of them, you Poetry Fridayers may have noticed, was to withdraw from posting a weekly poem and linking up with Poetry Fridays. Indeed, my poetry-writing has taken a back seat to other things this year.

Graphic art interest

The interest in doodling, drawing, and lettering that was ignited when I discovered Bible art journaling last spring, has continued to grow. Joining Instagram earlier this year (@vi_nez), has challenged me to grow even more as I’ve discovered amazing artists whose work I admire. It seems to me that at some level, drawing uses similar mental, emotional and intellectual brain pathways as writing (especially writing poetry) and so my urge to create has been absorbed in this new-to-me art form.

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In June I took part in a flower-drawing challenge (we were given the names of 15 flowers to draw; lettering/words were at our discretion if at all). I chose a Christian quality as a title for each of my flowers. Here are four that I did.

Finish what I start

One writing project that I continue to work on is a novel—a sequel to the Bible fiction I published in 2012. That book (Destiny’s Hands) fictionalizes the story of the Bible character Bezalel. He was singled out for the job of making the Tabernacle and crafting all its worship accessories (along with many helpers—see Exodus 31:1-11). In Destiny’s Hands, I follow Bezalel from the Egyptian craft guild, where he works for Pharaoh, to the time he receives his assignment from Moses.

In the sequel (my working title is Under the Cloud), I follow his sister (a purely fictional character) through the rest of the exodus, taking her and her family to the border of the Promised Land.

I’ve worked on this project for several years and still don’t feel I’ve researched enough. But a while ago I decided enough of that, better get writing. I am about two thirds of the way through (53,000 words Monday) what I’ve planned. I’ve been beavering away at that project for most of this winter, doing 90 minutes a day four days a week.

During the summer months I’m going to shelve that project but am determined to take it down again when we get back from our travels. My goal, at this point, is to simply finish a first draft. It may never get published, but I will finish writing it.

Vacation

Our summer vacationing starts next week with trips planned to see our children and grandchildren and hopefully take a meander through Canada’s maritime provinces after the summer rush. We’ll see.

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Early in the year I was part of an artist mentoring group. In that group we were encouraged to create a vision board. Here is a photo of mine. It addresses various aspects of life and I think it might be time to update it.

I’m loving the creative shot-in-the-arm I’ve received from taking up art journaling, drawing, and lettering. It’s a lot of fun to learn new things! At this point I have no ambitions for this new venture but to learn it. My writing I hold loosely too. I put all these things under the umbrella of a Bible verse I chose for the year:

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. … One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 3:12-14 NKJV

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spiritualjourneyfirst-thursday-copyThis post is part of Spiritual Journey Thursday, a link-up with other bloggers who write about their lives and work from a spiritual perspective. Doraine Bennett is hosting our link-up this month. Visit her at her blog Dori Reads.

 

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“Summer” and “read” are synonyms (Spiritual Journey Thursday)

Summer. Even saying the word makes me feel good. I think the magic of this season is so much a part me because of the rhythms of school ingrained from childhood. From my earliest memories it has always been ten months of school (September to June), two months of summer holidays (July and August)—the standard in Canada.

Then there’s the weather. Where I live, in the northern hemisphere, much of the year is chilly. The warmest months of the year argue loudly for a break in routine. And that’s what summer is for many of us.

One of my favourite summer activities is reading. I read all year but summer with its beach mornings, its lazy afternoons, its long light evenings makes it especially conducive to getting lost in a good book, or series of books.

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“Egghead” sculpture by Kimber Fiebiger (On exhibit in Castlegar B.C., 2016)
 Explanation of the sculpture: “Egghead is a tribute to all people who are excited by a good book.”

A couple of summers ago I read all of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books. Last year I indulged in Tolstoy, completing Anna Karenina (not the most upbeat read but long-lasting).

A Story

A Story
Tradition
not in her memoir.
No Grannies
bone china.
Grew up in fast company— 
tale of Twisted Tea.
© 2018 by Violet Nesdoly

This year I’m reading the Lord of the Rings books. (Are there three or six? The Kindle collection I downloaded has six!) Though I’ve already been reading it for some weeks, I am only at 36%, it will probably take me much of the summer to complete, and thus it’s the perfect fat summer tome (especially as it’s readily available, without added weight or bulk, on my iPad).

Feeling Small – Version 2

Feeling Small
Joined by marigolds
I am safe in Mother’s arms
reading giant tales
© 2018 by Violet Nesdoly

As well, summer is the perfect time to read the bestseller of all time—the Bible. Whether you read it chronologically in great chunks or selectively a few verses at a time, it’s sure to enhance the spiritual aspect of your summer reading. If you’ve never read it before, try reading a modern version (like The Living Bible – TLB). A good place to start might be the life of Jesus as told in the Gospels of Matthew or Luke (the first and third books of the New Testament).

What about you—do you also enjoy wiling away the summer hours with books? Which ones would you suggest?

(The poems are from my 2017 “Summer Shorts” photo / poem project.)

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spiritualjourneyfirst-thursday-copy.jpgThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday, hosted today by Margaret Simon on her blog Reflections on the Teche.

 

 

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Special Day (Spiritual Journey Thursday)

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Welcome to Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday, hosted here today. This month we’re exploring the topic “special days.” Following my thoughts, below, is a widget where you can leave the link to your post.

Somebody’s turning seven! (Photo © 2018 by V. Nesdoly)

The look on the face of my four-year-old granddaughter—of excitement, anticipation, I’m-ready-for-the-spotlight—said it all. This was her special day.

It doesn’t take long for kids to realize that not every cake with candles and pile of presents is for them. How quickly they learn to let the special person of the day blow out the candles and, hard as it is, open all the presents.

But today was our little four-year-old’s birthday and the expression on her face, even though seen only on video, showed that she knew it was her turn.

I think it’s a great thing to celebrate each person one day a year. In our family we do that on the anniversary of their birth (birthday). Letting the child choose the food for a special meal, the guests to invite for a party, the party theme and decorations, the destination if the activity is an outing are ways to appreciate and affirm each little and bigger one.

We are all created in the image of God as one-of-a-kind beings. What a privilege and joy it is, then, to acknowledge this by giving each person entrusted to us, especially in the family unit, a day of celebration.

Special Day

Each year we celebrate Valentine’s Day
giving our hearts as a present.
Hearts gifted back make us feel special.

Other days we circle too, as special:
Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas day
occasions we want all to be present.

But there is no other like the one I now present
a different date for each of us to feel special
our cake, candles, make-a-wish Birthday!

The day we celebrate the present of each special self.

© 2018 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Now it’s your turn! Please leave your link with Mister Linky.

 

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Vicarious (Spiritual Journey Thursday)

A few weeks ago an acquaintance sent me a newly published book of her poems. They were simple but beautiful in their first-person expression of praise, love, and gratitude to God—a collection of modern psalms. I reacted to that book like I have to other similar ones, asking myself, why don’t I write more overtly spiritual poetry? I ask because writing about spiritual subjects is hard for me to do.

I’m not sure why. It may be because I fear using theological jargon and worn-out phrases, thus slipping into cliché. (It certainly does take thought and attention to relate spiritual experiences and express convictions and emotions with fresh language that avoids being trite, maudlin, or sentimental.) Or I might avoid that kind of writing because many of my convictions don’t fit the politically correct social climate of the day and so the poems come whiny or like a rant.

As I look over the overtly spiritual poetry I have written, I feel that the poems that have come to me the most easily and naturally are the persona poems. In these I’ve tried to get into the head space of a Bible character.

Preparation to write these got me studying characters in the Bible and imagining their thoughts and feelings as they faced specific circumstances. I often fictionalized how that moment was a catalyst to growth in faith or rejection of it.

Several years ago I wrote a collection of these based on Bible women. Here are two from that collection.

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Image: Pixabay

Miriam

(Based on Exodus 15:19-21)

Though I lived under the bright
Egyptian sun these many years
my sky went black the day Moses left.

Even his return with snake-rod
didn’t banish the clouds
hovering on my horizon.

Premonition dampened
my celebration when we crossed
out of Goshen into the wilderness.

Dust of approaching chariots
was my nightmare
entering the day.

But somewhere on that black
step-by-step sea crossing
I walked through fear to faith.

I taught Moses to sing.
Now he gives that gift back to me
Hand me my timbrel!

© 2018 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

 

Orpah

(Based on Ruth 1:1-14)

I am too young
to give in to death
be numbed by Naomi’s
negative breath.

Mighty Yahweh has failed
this family, my man.
Here’s my chance to detach
from this unlucky clan.

So I’ll return to Moab
to make a new start
(despite this strange yearning
deep in my heart).

© 2018 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

If you’re like me and find writing poems about spiritual subjects a challenge, maybe writing persona poems could become a spiritual poetry portal for you too.

spiritualjourneyfirst-thursday-copyThanks to Carol Varsalona, who suggested the subject of Poetry as spiritual practice of the heart, and who is hosting Spiritual Journey First Thursday today at her blog Beyond Literacy Link.

 

 

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Welcome Spring!

Happy first day of spring.

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Crocuses – March 11, 2018 (Photo © 2018 by V. Nesdoly)

Welcome Spring!

A chalked hopscotch
blossoms overnight

that robin
won’t stop singing

whole fields gloat
sunny dandelions

a rainbow of tulips
sprinkles the town

muddy ruts scar the park
which smells of fresh-mowed grass

spring-fevered pickup trucks
race to every corner

air is heavy with spicy
fragrance of sticky leaf buds

I feel a raindrop on one cheek
sun’s warmth on the other

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2018 in Personal