lent: pilgrimage of the soul

Lent is an amazing time of renewal, self-discipline, inner work, fasting, self-education. Christians contemplate the sufferings and temptations of Jesus Christ as he fasted forty days in the wilderness, but nearly every culture and religion in the world has some kind of renewal period of fasting, or eating cleansing foods that celebrates spring.

We lead this time period with thought for what we are modeling for our children, and what daily vital practices we can show our children.  If you feel like the past few years haven’t been a great time for your family, or if you feel like 2019 is off to a rocky start, I think Lent can be a great time to get things back together for your family and yourself and really commit to it for forty days (in the Western Church this begins next Wednesday, on Ash Wednesday, and leading until Easter – the forty days excludes the six Sundays leading up to Lent).

Ideas for Lenten Renewal Practices that include children:

  • Eating cleansing foods; stricter fasting could or could not include children dependent upon your religious or spiritual tradition
  • Spending a few minutes each day at the same time silently in nature – maybe at sunrise or sunset
  • Having an unlit candle on the dining room candle that doesn’t get lit until Easter (some families use a small bowl of dirt that changes into a little Lenten Garden during Holy Week)
  • Having budding branches as a centerpiece on your nature table or table but replacing them before they flower (they can flower in a different part of the house)
  • Having a Lenten calendar of a caterpillar counting down the days to Easter, when the caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly.
  • If you are not already screen-free with your children, consider going screen-free during Lent.

Ideas for Lenten Practices for Yourself:

  • Find a spiritual guide in person – this is a time of repentance, fasting, confession
  • Choose fasting and what that means to you in conjunction with speaking with your spiritual advisor
  • Start taking care of yourself – exercising, preparing your food for the week ahead of time so you can eat healthy
  • Use Lent to practice setting boundaries.  I talk to more and more people who want to set better boundaries to improve their health and family life and realize the way they are living and parenting aren’t leading to healthy for themselves or their family members.

If you want to learn more about Lent or the idea of Lenten practices, please see these back posts:

With Children:  

What I Want My Children to Learn During Lent

Quiet Lent

Lent in the Waldorf Home

Lenten Ideas With Children

Favorite Books For Lent

For Adults:

Re-Commiting To Our Children

A Lenten Rule of Life

On Instagram @theparentingpassageway, I posted some of the Lenten resources I will be using myself, including these:

Fasting As A Family

Reconciliation (the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2019 Lenten Book Choice)

Less Plastic For Lent from Green Anglicans

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Celebrating Epiphany

Today is the very last day of Christmastide, Twelfth Night,  and tomorrow begins the season of Epiphany.  This is also one of my favorite seasons of the year!  Many families make a cake for Twelfth Night, with a bean or pea tucked inside it for a little Queen or King to find! In England, Twelfth Night is a festive time for merriment and good cheer! (Wassail is a beverage associated with this night as well). In Germany, children dress up as the Three Kings and go from house to house to collect money for a charity (and usually get a sweet or two for themselves and their fine singing!)  In Scandinavian countries, there may be a procession of singers led by “Star Singers” that move from house to house.  Russian children wait for Mama Babouschka to fill their shoes with gifts, as children in Spain wait for gifts from the Three Magi.  Italian children wait for Old Befana to bring gifts as well.  French families typically share a Kings’ Cake.

The day after Twelfth Night is Epiphany.  Epiphany is actually one of the very oldest Christian festivals. If you are wondering what Epiphany/Three Kings Day/Theophany is all about, Christians in the Western Church  celebrate that the 12th night after the birth of Jesus that the Three Kings/Three Wise Men were led by a star to find Him in Bethlehem.  They brought gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh.  It is traditionally the time to take down the Christmas tree and all decorations (although some traditions do leave the Christmas greenery up until Candlemas on February second). If you have had the Three Kings traveling around your room to reach the now upright Jesus and St. Mary, that scene can also stay up until Candlemas (February 2).

If you are wondering about the Three Kings, the authors of “All Year Round” write, “In the Gospel story we hear about Wise Men guided by a star; they are never referred to as kings, nor is it said that there are three of them.  An unknown but powerful tradition has transformed these sages (the “Magoi” were Persian priests of the Zarathustrian religion) into three kings, representing them as young, middle-aged and old, and sometimes of three different races:  the African, the Caucasian, and the Asiatic.  They have also been given names:  Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar.”

Besides the Three Kings, also celebrated is  the Baptism of  Jesus and The  Divine Manifestation of the Holy Trinity and the Revelation of Jesus to Man.  There were some great pictures of people celebrating The Feast of Theophany (as the Orthodox church calls it), where waters are blessed and some people around the world plunge into cold waters in remembrance of this special day.  See here for the pictures for this special blessing of the waters:    http://sttheophanacademy.blogspot.com/2010/01/theophany.html

In some parts of Europe, it is customary to incense your house and cleanse it for this time.  One then writes above the front door in chalk C+M+B flanked by the year (so for this year it would look like this:  20+C+M+B+19).  The C,M,B may stand for the Three Kings themselves:   Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, although many of German friends say the C,M,B stands for “Christ Bless This Home” or a variant of that.

Some other fun ways to celebrate Twelfth Night and Epiphany tomorrow: Continue reading

The Number One Thing You Must Do To Have A Successful Year

Today is the Feast of St. Stephen in the Christian year (tomorrow is the Feast for my Orthodox Christian readers), and I think it holds great significance for those of us looking ahead to 2019.  Even if you are not Christian, stop and hear me out for a minute.

St. Stephen was one of the first of seven deacons the original apostles ordained to take care of the poor in Jerusalem. His life was one of service to others. He was the first one to be martyred for his work, and we know his face was “like the face of an angel” as he stood before his accusers and the people.

So, you might be asking, what does this have to do with me and 2019?

Well, because the simple truth is YOU are an influencer.  This term is thrown around a lot, you see it on You Tube Videos and Instragram account descrpitions – “I am an influencer!”  And rightfully so, as  far as social media goes.  But as a human being, and especially as a parent, we are all influencers!

St. Stephen was an influencer above all as the first archdeacon to help the poor.  However, we can all be influencers.  We all can work to influence, support, nourish, and help the people we come into contact with. If we listen hard enough,  we  can discern what work we need to accomplish for the service of humanity.

I have some BIGGER dreams for this year, now that I am feeling healthier finally.  I want to influence 50,000 people in supporting vibrant, compassionate, developmental parenting and education.  I want to think about refreshing my skills in medicine and healing now that my children are 17,14,and 9, which will definitely require a lot of work on my part since I have been out of the game.  I want to be the healthiest I have ever been. We are going to have an epic year with family and friends making connections and having fun and adventures.  It is going to be a great year in parenting and homeschooling our children toward also being influencers that help others. And in order to do this all of this, one thing has to happen first.

We have to believe that we are more than our past mistakes, or the past we think was foisted upon us that was debilitating and wrong. We have to FORGIVE. Forgive ourselves, forgive our parents and whatever they did or didn’t do, forgive the people that we think wronged us, and move forward.  Forgiving doesn’t mean we condone what that person did or even what we did, but we move forward knowing that now is the time to do better, to let go of bitterness, to overcome layers of shame and anger, and to become what we are called to be and called to be doing. Time by itself doesn’t fix things; as I get older I see people holding on to things that happened in their teens and early 20s and are now in their 50s. This has to be an active process!

There is a confession we make in the Episcopal Church that makes me think of this process:

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

On this second day of Christmas, I  know I have the BEST readers ever!  I really  want to hear from you and how you forgave!   How did you free yourself from “what you have done and what you have left undone?”  Tell me how you threw off layers of despair, depression, anxiety, anger, and rage.  Tell me how you are an influencer in your family or outside your family!

This is going to be a fantastic year!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

Celebrating Christmastide

Christmastide is almost upon us, and I am looking forward to the twelve days of Christmastide and the wonderful Holy Nights that are the wonderful, introspective times of peering within for moving forward. It’s a beautiful time of year!

Freya Jaffke, in her wonderful book, “Celebrating the Festivals With Children”, writes:

During the twelve or thirteen Holy Nights that follow Christmas, the events of Christmas continue to resonate; and it is a lovely custom for children if candles are lit each day, with singing, music making and perhaps a reading.  This period is set apart from the rest of the year, and can be a time when we gather our strength for the year ahead.  Nothing urgent needs to be done, and we can really take time for things.  Children are deeply satisfied if mother or father sits down beside them with some craftwork, or perhaps join in a game now and then.  In contrast to the summer when we like going outdoors, we feel very comfortable at home in the warmth – apart from winter walks and the fun of snow when it comes.

Here is a small guide toward helping families enjoy each day of Christmastide, and I do so hope you will leave your favorite traditions in the comment box as well!

Monday, December 24th – Since the Feast of the Nativity truly begins on Christmas Eve, attending liturgy is a priority for this night! In the hustle and bustle that can often accompany this day before Christmas, making time for quiet prayer is a powerful example of showing our children that God is with us should we choose to acknowledge Him, find Him, adore Him. God is with us, and with His smallest creatures. In Scandinavian countries, it is traditional to put sheaves of wheat for the birds. Children will enjoy taking time on this day to decorate an outside tree for the birds by stringing popcorn or making the traditional pine cone bird feeder of peanut butter rolled in birdseed.

 

Tuesday, December 25th– Christmas Day, the first of the twelve holy days, is a wonderful time to take an afternoon walk and see God’s creation, and also to read from The Gospel of Saint Luke. Old-fashioned board games are another suggestion for celebrating the Christmas afternoon in family togetherness. Another suggestion that some Christian families have tried with success is to spread gift-giving throughout the twelve days of Christmas so that not every gift is opened on Christmas morning.

 

Wednesday, December 26th The Feast of St. Stephen – Love is the spirit of Christmas. This day is the Feast of Saint Stephen , one of the first deacons of the Church to serve the poor. Perhaps today you and your children could bring small baked treats to your neighbors, or another act of kindness and love for those in your area. Good King Wencelas is also associated with this day; perhaps you know the famous carol about him and there is also a picture book about him called “Wencelas: The Eternal Christmas Story” by Geraldine McCraughrean that children may enjoy.  This is also marked as “Boxing Day” in the UK and other countries, and you can see a full description of that here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing_Day

 

Thursday, December 27th– The Feast of St. John –  This is sometimes associated with the blessing of wine.  You can see more about this day here:  http://www.fisheaters.com/customschristmas4.html

 

Friday, December 28th– The Feast of the Holy Innocents. This is a lovely day to let your smallest child be the “King” for the day, and a wonderful day to bless your children with a special ceremony.

 

Saturday, December 29th –  is The Feast of St. Thomas Becket  in the Anglican Church and also in the Roman Catholic Church. You can see more about this feast day here:  http://www.fisheaters.com/customschristmasx.html

 

Sunday, December 30this a very quiet day on the Church calendar; perhaps this is the day to write thank you’s for Christmas gifts and to take another walk or hike to look at God’s beautiful world.

 

Monday, December 31st– this is, of course, New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve actually has no relationship to Christmastide since the beginning of the New Year in the (Western) Christian calendar actually begins with the First Sunday in Advent or September 1st in the Eastern Christian calendar! However, this can be a wonderful day of receiving friends and hospitality. Perhaps you could plan a special party, playdate or tea for your children and their friends on this day!  My favorite activity is listed in the book “All Year Round”.  Those of you who have this book may remember this activity, where small walnut shell halves are filled with beeswax and floated in a tub lined with tin foil and greenery and there can be small “islands” of desires, dreams, wishes for the New Year.  Just lovely!

 

Tuesday, January 1stThe Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus – according to Jewish tradition, this would be the day of the naming and circumcision of Jesus Our Lord and Savior. In English tradition, it is also a day to remember godparents. Children would often visit the home of their godparents to be blessed and receive a gift! Perhaps this is a day your children could talk to their godparents and deepen that relationship.

 

Wednesday, January 2nd – The website Full Homely Divinity, a resource for Anglican parish life, recognizes that the Feast of St. Basil is celebrated on January 1st in the Orthodox Church, so they recommend making the traditional vassilopita on this day, which traditionally has a coin baked into it for one lucky person to find and have good luck in the new year. Here is a recipe: http://www.lerios.org/recipes/vassilopita.php

 

Thursday, January 3rd– Today is a wonderful day to again gather friends and family and hike, play board games and sing Christmas carols! What carols does everyone know in your family?

 

Friday, January 4thThis is a day to read Christmas books; there are several by Tomie dePaola that are exceptionally good!

 

Saturday , January 5th– Twelfth Night, the last night of the Twelve Days of Christmas and marking the transition to the beginning of the season of Epiphany! We often recognize not only the gifts brought by the Wise Men on this day in the Western Church, but also the Baptism of Jesus and the significance of water, but also the first miracle of Jesus performed when he changed water into wine.

Bonfires of the Christmas greenery and Twelfth Night Cakes are typical on this day; perhaps this would be a good day to sing the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas”!  Many times a special cake is baked; a Twelfth Night Cake!

 

Sunday, January 6th – The Feast of Epiphany –Epiphany is a festival of The Baptism of Jesus in the Orthodox Church and called Theophany; in the Western Church we often call it “Three Kings Day” and mark the Wise Men. The night before Three Kings Day is Twelfth Night, and is a time of joy and festivity marked in many different ways in different countries . In Scandinavia, “Star Singers” move from house to house, led by a large and festive star on a stick and in Russia, children are putting out shoes for Babouschka and waiting for gifts. Italian children are waiting for Old Befana and gifts as well. There are many wonderful traditions from other countries to explore; in many countries Epiphany and not Christmas is the main time of gift giving!

There is a traditional house blessing often done on this day that acknowledges the Three Kings, and the eating of a King’s Cake is traditional. You can find details about this under the Epiphany tab on the Full Homely Divinity website.  I also have past posts about Epiphany on this blog.

For those of  you interested in the idea of the Holy Nights as elucidated by Rudolf Steiner, there is much to say, and I am by far not an expert on Steiner’s indications for the Twelve Holy Nights.  I refer you to this document about the Holy Nights as a good source often shared in anthroposophic communities.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

The Fourth Week of Advent: May You Be A Shelter From The Storm

When I was very young, before my mother died, we lived in an apartment complex.  Apartment complexes in general are not always full of nature, but our apartment building backed up to a small lake.  I spent days by myself outside running around that lake.  In the winter, we ice skated on it.  And in those days, I would look up at the sky and realize that all the things I could see – the sun, the sky, the rain and clouds, the ice and snow, the trees, the water – were all breathing in and out together. It all felt connected to me.

This feeling continued as I grew up.  I became very  interested in other people’s stories; what had happened to them and how they got where they were.  I worked in a hospital in a big city and treated people from all walks of life.  We treated the incarcerated, we treated many suffering from addiction. I still felt connected to so many that I met, even if their life circumstances were very different from mine.

Now I have my own family.  All of our personalities are very different indeed.  Sometimes the hardest test of learning teamwork and respecting each other’s differences begins right at home.  We all are connected, but by more than just blood. In this day and age, when many of us have friends  whom we feel closer to  than family members, it is important to me that I stay very connected to my spouse and to our children through warmth, love, and fun.

This fourth week of Advent is about people, and the unity of people in all things in the world.  To me, this fourth week is about good stewards of creation and all that is in it, but also being good stewards for ourselves and for others and the hope that we can bring each other.  May you be a shelter in the storm for someone this holiday.  May you always remember those who are in need and if you find yourself in a position to help, just help.  There doesn’t need to be any judgement attached to it.  Just be that help and shining light for someone.

We are all connected.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Winter Solstice

Today is the shortest day of the year, and to me, one of the beginning of a season of community, storytelling and gathering, but also one of introspection and rest.

I always felt like the introspection and rest  of the entire winter season was an interesting contrast to the feasting of Christmastide (that begins on Tuesday) in the Christian calendar, but the older I become I see Christmastide as both feasting and introspection.   Solistice, to me, begins the time when I think about how I am going to spend the Twelve Days of Christmas, which begin on Christmas Day (this year it is on Tuesday!  Not that many days away), and ends with the feast of Epiphany/Three Kings Day.   If you are interested in planning a bit ahead for the twelve days of Christmas and some inner work, here is a back post linking some ideas.  Here is an introspective approach I took one year through biography.

For today, though,  here are a few thoughts for celebrating:

  • Watch the sunrise or the sunset
  • Have yellow, round warming foods
  • Create live music!
  • Hike, backpack, picnic
  • Use only candlelight today or have a candlelit dinner
  • Make Sun Bread (do you have the little book?  This is the link to “Sun Bread” on Amazon
  • Tell stories about the animals
  • Make yellow window stars, star lanterns, window transparencies
  • Ski or snowshoe if you live in a climate for that. All we are getting where I live is cold, gray rain.
  • Go out and see the full moon and the meteor shower.  There was a recent article about this here.
  • Try some of the ideas from the Danish concept of hygge.  I personally like the book, “Making Winter: A Hygge-inspired Guide For Surviving the Winter Months”
  • Be inspired by viewing some beautiful winter art, like Henry Farrer’s “Winter Scene In Moonlight” and others.

Hope you have a wonderful day marking this transition into winter.  I would love to hear your plans!  Comment below!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

9 Ideas To Help You Keep A Rhythm During The Holidays

Finding rhythm during the holiday season can be difficult!  From disturbed naps to sweet food that our children don’t normally eat to general overstimulation (but lots of fun!), it can be a time of year that is unlike any other.  How do you keep a rhythm during the holiday?

Sometimes it seems near impossible, but I have a few suggestions to help you enjoy both the season but also to keep the edge of insanity at bay:

  1.  Loosen up and enjoy the fun and energy of this season.  I don’t have any immediate family on my side of the family who are alive, so while your family may drive you crazy, if you still are talking to them and generally like them, do try to relax a bit and enjoy it as much as you can.  Yes, your children might be overstimulated.  Yes, the TV might be on and driving you crazy.  See if you can find ways to cope and still enjoy yourself at all.
  2. Be prepared with some of the things (toys, crafts, ideas for getting outside) in order to occupy your children. It really helps to keep things more even-keeled, and you will feel better knowing some things are still in your control.
  3. Earlier bedtimes and nap time is often difficult in a noisy house for toddlers and preschoolers. Consider taking them for a little car ride and having them fall asleep or laying down with them.  It gets you out of the over -stimulation of everything as well!
  4. You can’t do it all, especially with preschoolers and toddlers in tow!  Things HAVE to be mother-sized.  The wrapping, cooking, baking, decorating, what have you, has to be mother-sized.  Delegate, simplify, pare way down on your expectations.  Ask for help!  Come up with new traditions that don’t tax you!
  5. Prepare one day a week  during the holiday season as your rest day if that is possible.  This can be a  day to be home and get things done; a day that the children will go to bed early and you will have a little time to get something done that you need to without littles around.  Or trade off child care with a friend or enlist an adult in your family to help entertain children.
  6. Simplify your meals so they can be warming and  nourishing but not exhausting.( If there was a ever a call for the simplicity of crockpots, instapots, and compostable plates, December might be it! LOL).
  7. See if you can take a break for outside time each day, even if it is cold or blustery outside.  The children will enjoy it, and they will rest better.  And you can de-stress!
  8. Self-care can be hard this month; so deecide what self-care means to you this month and what that would look like. Does it mean getting up earlier than normal to get your workout at the gym in?  Does it mean eating right so you feel good in the midst of everything?  Does it mean a hot bath several nights during the week?
  9. Keep your schedule a little clear.  In planning December and even through New Year’s, it is easy to pencil something in most days and then have no room left for the last-minute things that come up.  Keep some time and space unmarked.

I would love to hear how you de-stress your holidays with tinies or with teenagers!  Let’s share ideas!

Blessings and love,

Carrie