Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Episcopal Church 101

For anyone who has ever been curious about The Episcopal Church, who we are, what we believe, how we're different from other Christian traditions, and how we're the same, I very highly recommend "Welcome to the Episcopal Church: An Introduction to It's History, Faith, and Worship" by Christopher L. Webber

It's a short little book, with only 133 pages, but it is packed with really good information about, well.... the history, faith, and worship of The Episcopal Church. The language used is very easy to read and the explanations offered are clear and concise. I read it cover to cover during the flight back from Frankfurt last week and still managed to take a nice three hour nap. So that should tell you how fast a read this really is. This was one of the two supplemental readings assigned to us in my Inquirer's Class (preparation for confirmation by the bishop in April). After reading it I have to say that I loved being an Episcopalian before, but reading about the church, the faith, the people, and the Anglican Communion in general makes me love my Episcopalian-ness even more. I'm so happy not only to have found where I belong, but also to have been received with such open arms and open hearts.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Build Inner Strength

This comes from the Daily Insight newsletter I get in my email from Yoga Journal. Words cannot begin to describe how perfectly this fits what I need right now. So I thought I would share it.

Want to develop inner strength? Try these techniques recommended by Fairfax, California, yoga teacher and author Nischala Joy Devi.

Breathe. Alternate-nostril breathing can help calm you down. Close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through your left nostril for four seconds. Immediately close the left nostril with your right ring finger. At the same time remove your thumb from the right nostril and exhale for eight seconds. Switch to the left nostril, and begin again. This, Devi says, cleanses and rejuvenates vital channels of energy.

Affirm. As you inhale, think: The strength I feel inside me is enough to sustain me during any experience I have today. As you exhale: The compassion from my heart will lead me to help anyone in need. With such thoughts, Devi says, what we're doing is strengthening and bringing prana into our system, which helps us become strong and compassionate toward others.

Relax. Lie down in Savasana (Corpse Pose) and mentally go over the parts of your body one by one for 15 to 20 minutes.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bakasana Update

So I announced that my two challenge poses for this quarter (January-February-March) would be bakasana (ie, crane pose) and urdhva prasarita eka padasana (ie, needle pose or standing split). Well it's been nearly two months and I must first confess that I have not practiced in nearly two weeks. I spent a week overseas visiting my husband, with a few days prior trying to get packed and the few days since trying to adjust to the new time zone. I'd really wanted to do some yoga while I was visiting, particularly after spending nearly nine hours in a cramped airline seat. But I didn't. The best I was able to do was to stretch out while waiting in the line for passport control and customs. I got some very strange looks.

But before all that, I was making very good progress in learning needle pose. Since I don't have a mirror at home, I can't be sure of how much my flexibility and range-of-movement has improved. But I can now hold the pose with only one hand on the floor and the other wrapped around the ankle of my supporting leg. Ideally, I'd like to have both hands around my ankle and my raised leg lifted as high as I can. So it's something I will continue to work on in my home practice.

Crane pose is proving to be a much bigger challenge, as I expected. I noticed a few weeks ago that I've developed some pain in my right wrist when my hand is flexed all the way back. I'm not sure if this is related to my yoga practice or the excessive time I spend on my laptop (like right now) or both. I mentioned it at my last acupuncture treatment and my doctor added a needle to help relieve some of the inflammation in those tendons and ligaments. It's helped quite a bit, but I think I'll bring it up again next time for another treatment. Once the wrist pain is gone (or at least significantly subsided), I'm going to work on increasing flexibility in both my wrists as well as strengthening them. This will be key to my work toward mastering crane pose. Without strong, flexible wrists I won't be able to resume working on crane. But I'm glad this weakness has been brought to my attention, because now I know what to work on.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Lenten Discipline

I had a lot of difficulty deciding what to do for my Lenten discipline this year. In the past I've always given things up, usually foods. When I was in college, I danced competitively. In the last month and a half before our team competed each spring, we would all give up drinking alcohol and eating certain foods (like deep fried things or sugary sweet things) so that we would be in top condition when it came time for competition. So when I started observing Lent, it was like second nature to give up some of the foods I love for forty days. The problem, though, is that on Easter Sunday (like the day after competition) I would binge on whatever I'd given up. After only a week or two, the benefits of my abstinence would be completely undone. So what was the point?

So this year I've decided to take something on rather than give something up. I wanted to do something different than I'd done in previous years. But, more importantly, I wanted to do something that would continue to benefit me long after Easter morning has come and gone. And I wanted to do something that would be less physical and more spiritual. While there is something to be gained spiritually by abstaining from indulgent foods, it's not what I need the most this year. It's not what I need, given where I am in my life right now.

Monday, February 8, 2010

February Adoption Update

I just got off the phone with our agency. I'm going overseas with my mother-in-law to visit James for a week and wanted to give them the numbers where they could reach us while I'm gone. While we were on the phone, she told me that our profile packet went out to two different birthmothers for review during January. They hadn't come back yet, yea or nay. She said that sometimes birthmothers don't return their packets for several weeks (especially if they aren't very far along in their pregnancies) because there's so much paperwork to go through. So it may mean nothing. But it could mean everything! Please pray for us and keep your fingers crossed. If we're very lucky, we won't have to wait in limbo for very much longer.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Greenhouse Gardening

A recent conversation with a childhood friend about veganism reminded me of something my husband and I had talked about last summer: starting our own herb and produce garden. At the time, we ultimately decided against trying to start a garden because the quality of the "soil" (it's actually more like clay) on our property would never support anything other than weeds and because we're anticipating a move sometime in the next five months. We currently live in a newly constructed home (it's not a custom build, but it was built just for us in 2006), so the "soil" around our house is actually low-quality fill dirt. I mean really low quality. We found old potato chip bags buried in our backyard when we were first digging it out to level the yard and plant grass seed. I already have a pretty brown thumb. There's no need to add crappy soil to my already minuscule gardening skills.

So we opted to start shopping at our local farmer's market instead. This was a great alternative because we were able to support the local economy while putting fresher, healthier food on our table. The problem with the farmer's market was that it eventually got to be too expensive for us. Once we initiated our domestic infant adoption paperwork, all our extra cash went toward adoption expenses (long story... maybe another time). But even if we had been able to afford weekly trips to the farmer's market, eventually the market would have closed for the winter season. What am I supposed to do then? That's when I got the idea of starting a greenhouse garden for the winter months.

I've been doing some research online and there are collapsible greenhouses that can be assembled for a season and then put away and stored during the off-season. This would be perfect for me, especially if our new house has a concrete or paver stone patio in the back yard. Just before the farmer's market closes in October, we can assemble the greenhouse on the patio (since we won't be using it for parties at that time of year anyway) and plant herb and produce seeds in pots and containers. Then we can enjoy fresh vegetables all winter long until the farmer's market opens again the spring.

Who knows, maybe my plants will grow so well that I won't even need to shop at the farmer's market after a season or two. Ha! Yeah, right.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Just my thoughts

God is preparing my heart for something wondrous. I know not yet what that might be, but I know it will be well worth the trouble that now weighs so heavily on my heart.

Psalm 23 - The Divine Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff - they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

On Veganism

By the power of social networking, I've recently reconnected with a good friend from my childhood. We'll call her KP. A day or two ago, she posted the following to her Facebook page:

"As a vegan, I find myself often attempting to silence my beliefs around my friends and family members in an attempt to not make them uncomfortable - I truly believe that everyone has the right to make their own choices, and that what is right for some is not right for all. However, many of you ask questions - number one being WHY VEGAN? And I think this video by Sir Paul McCartney answers that better than I ever could. Warning: Like all videos of this nature, it is graphic. 

The point for me is not that this video is all that original - there are many more out there just like it. I find it just a very clear to the point argument against supporting this kind of behavior by purchasing and eating meat and animal products. It is not that I believe that the eating of animals is wrong, fundamentally or in any other regard. It is that I believe that the view of animals as a product, vs a living being, and therefore the ability of large companies to treat these products with cruelty and violence and disrespect, is something that I am against wholeheartedly.