Walking and hiking are examples of focal practices: activities that balance, center, focus, and orient one’s life. They don’t require a goal, like finding a white squirrel, in order to be beneficial. They don’t require that type of goal to be “focal” either, which is, in fact, why it is just fine that we didn’t happen upon one.
To say that I’m a fan of Flannery O’Connor is a bit of an understatement. She might have been my top reason for wanting to move to Savannah, GA.—along with it being a beautiful and small city with tons of culture and history, near the beach, and in my home state, Savannah is also where Flannery was born and lived as a child. She regularly attended mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, which was right across the square from her home, and is seriously one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen.
I think that people who know of her either a) love-love her, b) don’t understand her, or c) have a pretty extreme repulsion to her stories. And then there’s d) all of the above.
I remember the first time I heard her name spoken (10th grade, American Literature class, Mrs. Hawkins). And I remember reading "A Good Man is Hard to Find” that year and being horrified, but strangely drawn in. Almost a decade later, a friend recommended Wise Blood, and so I took it with me to Jerusalem and distinctly remember reading much of it on the roof. It left me perplexed and not a little depressed—so much about living there was hard, so I was usually wanting an escape from that, not to dive deeper into the sicknesses that plague our society.
Then, several years later, I was pointed to Mystery and Manners, which I devoured whole, earmarked and underlined, and continue to return to every few months for one reason or another. It changed me. In it, Flannery writes about what it means to be a Catholic artist, a Catholic writer. When I first read it, I was still very much a Protestant, but I thought to myself, “If this is what it means to be a Catholic, then I’m more Catholic than I thought!” Thus, the beginning of my journey to the Catholic Church and why Flannery is one of my patron "saints.”* I have no doubt that she led me to the Church and prays for me still.
*She’s not an official saint—yet. ;)
The feelings about Flannery that I listed above are well founded. Her fiction is hard to understand, and is often mistaken for what it is not—macabre, and hopeless. In fact, in her odd and distinct way, she was doing the opposite of that. She was writing about grace, namely, the act of grace on a person unwilling to receive it.
She lived a short life, and much of it was spent in struggle. Her suffering and limitations gave her guardrails for her passion. She lived as if she knew what story she was meant to write and she might not have time to finish it.
I could go on and on about her. The thing is, I’ve only read about half of everything she wrote—novels, short stories, letters, essays, book reviews, etc. This year I’m setting out to change that. In 2019, I’m reading everything she ever wrote, including re-reading the things that I’ve already read. Along with this, I plan to read some things written about her, as well. My goal (and it might take much longer than a year—probably will) is to become an amateur expert on Flannery O’Connor.
And really, I just want to spend more time with my friend.
I plan on writing here, periodically, about what I’m reading, things I’m learning, etc. I might even plan a little book club, if there is enough interest. So let me know what your questions are--so I can be on the lookout for answers as I read. Right now, in January, I’ve begun The Habit of Being (her book of letters) and Wise Blood(her first novel.)
Since this is such a “me” thing to do—to plan out a course for myself, over an extended period of time, with check points and goals, and all that—I wonder if you have done, or would do, something like this, and what would the subject be?
Let me know in the comments, on facebook, or instagram! Let’s use #YUplotthecourse.
Do you pick a word for the year?
I started to do this a few years ago when a friend asked me to illustrate her word so she could display it and remember it all year. I don’t actually remember what that first word was, but for about three years afterward I kept the same word: “attend.” Apparently one year was not enough for me to get the message.
For 2018, I knew that I would be finishing grad school and moving back to Georgia, thus moving out of our 610 sq. ft. apartment (that was also my studio.) I was anticipating all the extra space in my schedule and in my physical surroundings, and I was ready for it. I chose the word, “space,” because I wanted that feeling to seep into my spirit as well. To me, it meant an abundance of time and peace to do the things that God had for me to do.
This past week, I was cleaning out my studio (which is now a room of its own, praise the Lord!) and I came across a charm that I’ve been storing and moving around with me for over three years. After my mom died in 2015, I bought a necklace at a craft fair that had the quote from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: “When he shakes his mane we shall have spring again.” It reminded me that I would see my mom again. Along with this, I bought an arrow charm, in a set of two different charms, to put on the necklace because my mom always called us her arrows.
So, the charm that came with it, that I’ve been holding on to but not using? It says, “Soar.” It’s never meant anything to me until now. And all of a sudden, it means everything.
I’ve worked so hard this year to get to a place where I am set up to accomplish what God is calling me to do. Being a mom, with limited time and resources, I feel like it’s a sloooooow slog uphill in the rain to get anywhere, and it often feels like nothing is getting done. But when I look back on what I’ve accomplished, I’m amazed! Big things get done in small bits.
There is so much more to be done, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I have moments every day when I doubt that I’m in the right place, doing the right thing, and sometimes I’m tempted to scrap it all! But I’m going to keep showing up, and I’m going to soar.
I know, I know…that sounds so cheesy. This is definitely not a word I would have chosen for myself. It’s too sentimental and motivational-sounding for my taste. But here it is, my word of the year, brought to me by God and a little charm that I carried around for years for no reason at all.
This is what it tells me: God is carrying me, like an eagle on the updraft, like an arrow flying toward its mark. The power is not my own. It’s my job to fly straight and catch the wind. Am I mixing metaphors? Yes. These metaphors mean soooo much to me, like deep in my soul and memory and imagination. So I do not care. They come together in this single word: SOAR.
So, what is your word of the year? If you don’t know, ask God to show it to you. It doesn’t need to be poetic or motivational. It doesn’t need to mean anything to anyone except you. In fact, maybe it isn’t even a word, but an image. Pick something to carry with you throughout this year or season that reminds you that God is thinking about you and is looking out for you. Because he is.
If you want the opportunity to talk about uplifting (haha!) things like this with like-minded people, think about joining the Yet Untold Fellowship. You can find out more here, or sign up for my mailing list.
After waking early, dressing ourselves, and gathering all the things needed for a day trip with a toddler, we drove through the pouring rain two hours eastward. We arrived at our destination exactly at the time we were supposed to be seated and ready to worship. But we were still looking for parking, and then after finding it, and loading our arms with child and things and coats and umbrellas, we walked through the rain and into the church. We found a pew in the back next to friends, shuffled in, and laid our burdens down. Still, I did not look up. I attended to my son, who had just spent two hours in the car and was quite wiggly. I sorted his books and things and my things: coat, scarf, clothing, hair. And then, having settled everything possible, I finally looked up.
When I looked up, I saw this, and more beauty besides. It took my breath away, and then I smelled the incense, as if for the first time. I let my gaze wander to the stained glass and Stations of the Cross, as I listened to the beautiful prayers being sung around me. And then I took note of my neighbors, each quietly, reverently participating in worship.
What does it take to get us to look up? How often am I so taken in by what’s just beyond my nose that I fail to see the beauty laid out as a gift before me? I fail to see my neighbor sitting right next to me, and I fail to see God, present with me always.
Advent can quickly become a season just like any other—perhaps busier! We are people who like to do things, so when a season like Advent rolls around, we are looking for “good” things to do. It’s tempting to overcommit to devotionals and books and Advent calendars and activities, etc., etc., etc…(not to mention the shopping, decorating, and partying!) These things are not bad, but if they cause you to miss out on being present in your life, or make you so busy that you don’t notice God’s presence with you in the everyday, mundane things, they are not fruitful.
The most important thing, in my opinion, is to just be attentive. Attend to God’s presence. Attend to your family and friends. Attend to the goodness that is present in your life. And attend to your neighbor: What are their needs? Where can you help? If all you can commit to do this year is to try to pay attention, it’s a good place to begin.
So, settle yourself. Put your burdens down. Create a cozy spot, light a candle, do what you need to do, and then... look up. Look at his beautiful face—the only thing you need to do.
And if your family has yet to make any traditions, and you’re looking for some, I can certainly point you in the right direction! Jess and I recorded an episode on the Tend Podcast recently about this topic, and I am recording a short series of episodes that are each an opportunity to enter into the season in a contemplative way.
Peace be with you.
What are you hoping for the advent season? What would you like to see when you look up?
So, Jess (of the podcast with me) asked me if I could point her in the direction of some good shawl patterns for knitting. I could just tag her on some Instagram pics, but I thought it would be way more fun to make a blogpost, especially since we just recorded a podcast episode about clothing a few weeks back.
I have only ever finished knitting three shawls, but I have started many! I’ve learned a thing or two about what types of projects I’ll enjoy all the way through, what colors will keep me going, and what shape I’ll actually enjoy wearing once it’s done.
Jess wants a pretty but fairly easy to knit shawl. I know that she’s managed to knit a pair of socks and a huge sweater coat, but she still feels a bit uneasy with increasing and decreasing. (At least she did the last time we talked about it—which was a while ago.) I am thinking about simple, repetitive stitches with some variation to keep it interesting.
I’ve chosen a few by knitwear designers I have personally purchased patterns from and love. They keep making amazing designs, so if you like what you see here, make sure to go check out what else they have.
The Laylow Shawl by Shannon Cook
This is two skeins of MadelineTosh Sock made into a lovely, drapey beauty. I’m thinking about casting one on right now, because I definitely have some sock yarn stored away. (Just listen to the “Simplicity” episode of the Tend podcast to find out about that!) I like the shape of it—it’s a crescent with wings. I have no idea what you call that (uh…crescent? 🌙), but it makes it wrap around really well, which is the most important factor, in my book. I also like that, since it’s made with fingering weight yarn, it’s great for warmer climates (like Savannah and Sydney.)
I have also been working on Shannon’s Veronika Cardi all year long, and hope to have it finished soon! It’ll be just in time for Savannah’s winter, which starts at Christmas, apparently.
The Hoarfrost Shawl by Drea Renee Knits
I’ve seen this one floating around my Instagram feed for awhile, and it’s always a scroll-stopper. Drea is the queen of color mixing, but this one is (usually) done in a neutral, and that is my speed right now. I have bins full of brightly colored yarn, but all I wear these days is a carefully curated color palette and a lot of neutrals. (I’m going to have to do a lot of gift knitting.) I do love the Find Your Fade Shawl, though, and currently have it on my needles (somewhere) in all the colors.
The Caress My Soul Shawl by Melanie Berg
The Caprius Shawl by Aroha Knits
I have actually made and finished this one! Like, all the way! Although, this is not a picture of mine—the one that I knit was purple and blue, and was gifted to Jess. So, Jess, do you like the shape of this one? It is, apparently, called an asymmetrical sideways triangle. I’m partial to shapes like this, which are longer than they are wide, as opposed to a regular triangle shape or half moon shape. I want to be able to wrap and wrap and wrap without it being too bulky. This one turned out really nice, I thought, even though I made a ton of mistakes and didn’t quite stick to the pattern very well.
The Age of Brass and Steam
This is a great first shawl pattern. I knitted one of these out of some gorgeous yarn that was a blend of wool, silk, and cashmere. Every moment of knitting it was a dream, and then, when it was done and I tried it on, I realized that the color I had chosen was all wrong for me. Oh, well. It was exactly the right colors for one of my closest friends. The thing about this one, is that you can get away with only using one skein of yarn, but you end up with something more like a kerchief than a shawl. It will wrap around your neck, but not much else. You can continue the pattern, though, and keep adding yarn as long as you like. And, this pattern is free, so that’s a win.
I have bought patterns from, and/or knitted designs from the above designers so I can testify to their skill and the quality of their patterns. If you haven’t seen what you’re looking for yet, you can look over here:
Melody Hoffman’s designs and aesthetic are just so lovely.
Sylvia McFadden of Softsweaterknits. Just gorgeous.
Stephen West if you’re looking for something with a bit more…color. ;)
So, I hope that’s helpful, Jess (and others!) Don’t feel restricted to what I chose though—Ravelry has great search filters if you know what you’re looking for, like shape, weight, and yardage. Let me know what you decide to knit. Also, comment below if you have a favorite shawl pattern or designer!
P.S. Of course, since I said that thing about not being crazy about triangular shawls, this is one I want to cast on right now after looking through everything. How fun is that!
This past Sunday was the Feast of Christ the King. Even though it is Friday, I just can’t let it go by without saying something about it, because it’s one of my favorite weeks of the year.
For a little context, it is the last week of the Liturgical Year. The Church calendar begins with Advent (which, this year, begins on December 2.)
I’ve followed along with the Liturgical seasons, and celebrated this feast for about eight years, ever since becoming Anglican. (I’ve since joined the Catholic Church.) I did not know until recently, however, that this feast is fairly new. Pope Pius XI instituted it in 1925 to combat the growing secularism pervading society. As people began to trust in themselves, governments, and institutions rather than in God, he wanted there to be a clear reminder that we already have a King, and he is King forever.
As the visions during the night continued, I saw
one like a Son of man coming,
on the clouds of heaven;
when he reached the Ancient One
and was presented before him,
the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship;
all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed.
Daniel 7: 13-14
I like the reminder, right before Advent begins, that the King is on the throne. We are entering into a time of expectant waiting for the world to be made right. And, perhaps we are paying a bit more attention to the sorrow and suffering of this world juxtaposed against the mad consumerism and saccharine sweetness of the season.
Being that I am an American, my best knowledge of (at least good) kings comes from fiction. Aragorn is my idea of a good king: he’s brave and self-sacrificing, humble and good. But Tolkien did not make an allegory of him. Aragorn reflects parts of Christ, but he is also exiled and fearful of his own calling. He is a very good king, but he is still a man.
Jesus, in contrast, is not shying away from his throne. He is Ruler of the Universe, seated there for eternity, calling and protecting his flock, for he is the Shepherd-King.
There’s a lot of trouble in this world, and sometimes it feels as if it’s all going mad. I think it has felt that way to generations upon generations—this is nothing new. We cannot explain away suffering. It is not something to be understood, but entered into. It is by suffering with Christ that we are joined to him, and it is by carrying the burdens of our neighbor that we are joined to our neighbor. So, while it may feel as if the King is in exile, or shirking his duties, or being kept away by an unseeable foe, it is simply not the truth.
As we prepare our hearts for Advent, we can rest in the knowledge that there is a good King on the throne. He is Ruler of the Universe, and it is my job to make sure that he is Lord over me as well.
p.s. Oh! If you’d like to listen to something else about the Feast of Christ the King, check out this “Abiding Together” podcast episode. In fact, it summed up so much about what I’m trying to do with Yet Untold, that you’d think we’ve been talking about it. :)
Y’all, I am so excited to finally be able to launch the Yet Untold Fellowship. I feel like I’ve been talking about this FOREVER!
What is it? Well, it’s a private page where we can talk about the most important things. We encourage each other in our spiritual growth, talk about what’s working or not, our goals, favorite books, practices that we want to adopt…so many things!
You can read more about the Fellowship here, but the main point is that we are really meant to do all of this together. The Church is a body, and our culture doesn’t do anything to help us understand what that means. We weren’t supposed to figure out how to follow Christ and grow spiritually by standing on our own two feet. We are meant to hold each other up, and I’ve created a place where we can do that.
I think the best way to tell you is to show you, so during the season of Advent, I’m running a promotion. Right now the cost of a monthly subscription for the community is $4 (which is a steal!), but for Advent only, I’m given you a $4 off coupon, so you can try the first month for free! No obligation to stay whatsoever (but I think you’ll want to.) Also, this will lock you in at the $4 price, which will definitely go up in the future.
I’m keeping the price low on this because I really want for everyone who wants to to be able to join. This is a business, but it’s also my ministry, my calling, and I don’t want anyone to be excluded.
And, if even this cost is prohibitive, there are ways that you can join for free if you are willing to become a community guide, which just means that you are responsible for making people feel welcome and generally helping out. (If you’re interested in this, email me right now!)
I’ll be telling you about the other things I’ve got going on—things that will help you practice the presence of God by attending to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful—very soon!
Make sure you sign up for the newsletter to get that discount code, and to be updated on other offers.
There is so much happening here at Yet Untold. We’ll be unveiling new products, new classes, and a new podcast all within the next few months! Make sure you’re “in the know” by signing up for our newsletter here. And if you do, you’ll immediately be able to download the “Hope is Here” flyer, complete with verses full of hope. Feel free to print as many as you like to hang at home, your local coffee shop, school, or wherever you like!
It’s the podcast about the things we do and why they matter
Erin Ware and her co-host, Jess Graieg-Morrison, will be discussing everything from vegetables and cloth to prayer and poetry. We’ll talk about spiritual practices, habits, the creative process, and so much more!
Listen on iTunes, or check out the webpage.