The Rememberer

I am the rememberer.

The collector of stories and pain.

The recorder of wisdom and healing.

I am the bringer of light and carrier of peace.

The observer of love and conflict.

The knower of truth and the compassion in consequence.

I am the encourager through struggle.

The author of life and director of purpose.

The listener of the soul’s whispers.

I am a guide to the traveler and shelter for the weary.

The echo of footsteps and the meaning for smiles.

The calmer of fears and encourager of faith.

I am the place of eternal rest.

I am the energy of life in all.

I am the rememberer.

I am complete.

I am you.

(poem written by Carla Ryan 7/11/2020 during labyrinth meditations)

Re-defining Spiritual Community

After more than a year of planning, 2020 began with great expectations for launching New Thought Grand Valley as a new Religious Science spiritual community. Since January, however, interest in creating the organization has ebbed and flowed in the hearts of our core founders. I’m familiar with the efforts involved to build such an organization from the ground up… not something I want to do alone.

I continue to nourish the vision of a vibrant, community-based, mission-centric Religious Science home, one that welcomes all who wish to participate and contribute their time, talents, and treasure. In order to start where I am, I began holding a weekly discussion/class night at my house. Participants came each week to grow in consciousness. Two students expressed spiritual education goals toward seeking specific credentials.

Then COVID-19 arrived.

In the midst of this unplanned retreat, the expansion of possibilities appeared. The weekly group now meets via ZOOM. We’re gaining more technical skills, staying connected, and growing in consciousness. We connect in the cloud, face-to-face and heart-to-heart in the digital realm. A spiritual community is taking shape.

I like the ZOOM format. And because there are no transportation issues or geographic limits for student participation, it’s become my preferred teaching method. I’m doing what I love best as a minister – teaching. I’m developing more curriculum and will submit courses for consideration as part of Emerson’s Distance Learning list. Also, I’ve been accepted by Emerson as a member of their “Faculty.” That page on their website should soon be updated. In this way, I can serve both local or remote students and even mentor some along their spiritual path.

Learn. Study. Teach. Share. Repeat.

The next series (“The 5 Love Languages”) originally scheduled for the last half of May HAS BEEN CANCELED. This is an easy, yet meaningful, three-week series to offer since the author (Gary Chapman) provides access to all the materials via his website (study guides, profile/quiz, books for purchase). With so many people “forced” into quarantine, it seems like a good time to re-examine our personal relationships.

What about the future of the new church? I don’t know. I remain somewhat detached from the outcome.

Meanwhile, there is nothing lacking in my life. While I’ve published two books in the past two years, I have several other manuscripts in development. I’m part of the leadership team for a local, 43-year-old Interfaith group, which is entering another stage of expansion and evolution. There are multiple projects around the house.

COVID-19 caused the world to slow down in many ways, but not here. This time of reflection and contemplation, of re-evaluating what’s important, of what’s mine to do, has brought my life new energy and focus. I am in constant gratitude for the time and space this retreat has provided… to make new decisions and to consider another meaning for “spiritual community.”

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Gardening Experiment – Day 16

In the 10 days since my last post, the garden has really progressed. In fact, it’s in!

I thought the radishes grew fast. O.M.G. Did they ever! However, the garden project accelerated when next to the radishes the corn seeds started piercing the dirt – 22 baby corn stalks made their appearance within a week!

And then the green beans started popping up, too. The first and tallest one (so far) was growing an inch each day!  I don’t remember a plant ever  doing that. It wasn’t long before other bean sprouts began busting loose from their pod seeds.

Since we had a bit of a cold spell for a couple of days, I wouldn’t put the tender, little plants outside. They stayed on the counter in front of a north-facing window. That didn’t seem to slow down their growth. It was fun to turn the plantings around every hour or so and see how the bean stalk turned back toward the window’s light. The corn stalks were slower-growing, but within a few days they were a couple of inches above the dirt.

All this growing made me realize we needed to get the raised garden beds installed as quickly as we could. I did some online research and found kits made of pre-cut cedar boards with dowels inserted at the corners to secure the boards into the rectangle shape. I ordered two garden beds and they arrived in less than a week… just as the weather started warming up.

As the weekend approached, we prepared the ground. We removed some of the grass in a sunny (but dead) spot away from the house (a change from the original plan), filled in low spots with old soil from miscellaneous plant pots scattered around the property, and pinned down weed-block cloth over the selected area. We bought bags of dirt and PVC pipe to construct the simple, arched frame for the netting. Then we tackled the assembly of the raised garden bed kits.

I just want to say that I’m grateful for my husband’s brute strength and his give-me-the-hammer construction method. The dowel holes barely matched up with the ones in the side boards. Each corner had to be muscled together with hammer and screwdriver and even a bit of re-drilling. Once the corners were together, the rest was easy. We poured in the bags of dirt,  constructed the PVC frame, and attached the netting.

Today I put the baby plants in the ground. All of them. I added a couple of tomato plants, purchased shortly before the install. I added new soil to a few empty pots and planted even more seeds. I figure if nine-year-old seeds can grow, so can seeds from 2020. Now it’s hoping the weather forecast is accurate and these plants have a good start before summer arrives.

More updates are sure to come. Stay tuned.

Gardening Experiment: Day 6 – It’s Getting Real!

Day 6… and I’m starting to panic. The radishes are growing so much faster than I anticipated. I thought I might have at least a couple of weeks before they grew to this height and thickness. When I look back at all the gardens I’ve planted in the past, I doubt I EVER actually counted days until seedlings appeared.

When you compare the photos from yesterday to today, it’s like these seedlings are in a growth race. I’m stunned! They certainly like the amounts of water and sunshine they’re now getting on a daily basis. Time to plan the raised garden bed.

We went outside to look at the yard and what direction the spring sun hits it. Since we have a couple of spots where the dead grass is an eyesore, it makes sense to position the raised garden beds over those spots… but not block the sprinkler heads. We’re trying to find the sprinkler heads now. The grass is really thick.

Since I’ve built raised garden beds before, I quickly drew a sketch, but at half the size of my previous construction. Next, I’ll go online to order the materials.  We can do a drive-thru pickup at the local lumber/hardware/garden store. I’ll have to go back later for manure, soil, and bird  barrier netting. Also to keep out the dogs.

We’ll likely build one garden bed for the seeds and plants I’ve already planted. We can do another later for the herbs. The far end of the yard (garden) has a bit of dappled shade, which will be better for more delicate plantings.

Looks like I’ve got work to do.

Garden Experiment: Day 5 – Coming Alive!

On the second day I snapped a picture of the dirt in the egg carton. A sunny day meant that the seeds could be warm outside. Zoey, one of our dogs, kept watch for birds. None appeared. After a couple of hours, I brought the mini garden back inside.

Today is Day 5 (4/8/2020). Last night there was an explosion of growth! Look at the radishes! I’m excited mostly to know that the seeds – as old as the envelope said they were – are still able to produce a plant. How exciting is this already!?

These little seedlings got to go outside today for the morning and early afternoon. Perfect spring weather. The sun really dried out the soil. Once back inside I re-watered the radishes and their sleeping buddies for the night. It’ll be interesting to see how much they grow overnight. I’m now looking forward to the morning and more garden growth. Stay tuned.

Gardening Experiment 2020

DAY 1:   I planted seeds.

Since we made eggs this morning and used up what was left in the paper egg carton, I decided to use the carton to start a vegetable garden. First, I dug through my garage supplies and containers to make sure I had seeds. Success! They’re pretty old. 2013 seeds. I’m starting with the seed packs that are already open. Green beans, yellow corn, radishes.

I crumbled up the four eggshells from breakfast and broke them into bits, the remainder of the white albumen and all. I put a bit of this chunky mess into each of the twelve egg slots of the carton as fertilizer. I used wax paper to line the bottom of the open top cover (didn’t have any freezer paper) and put eggshell bits on that side, too.

Then I added the garden soil from a bag I had in the garage. I love my garage supplies. It’s always a pleasant surprise to see what I’ve managed to save or recycle for “someday” projects. Dirt is a garage supply staple in my opinion. I even have some potting soil for cactus plants… another project for later.

I heaped enough garden soil to fill the carton egg holes to over-flowing, knowing the soil would likely shrink when I watered the seeds at the end.

I really over-seeded this tiny start-up garden. Instead of two or three seeds per hole, they got six to eight. If they actually sprout – and it’ll be interesting to find out because the seeds are so old – then I can transplant the seedlings later into my many empty pots in the garage and use more of the big bag of garden soil that I still have sitting there. I’m not willing to put this baby garden outside yet, except during the warm sunny days. Fortunately, the large tray I have helps me carry the egg carton back and forth from the outside to inside. It also catches any water overflow.

The seeds all received a generous bath of water and the soil shrunk down like I thought it would. I left the empty seed packets near each section to identify them later. Since it’s a bit chilly outside today, I’ll keep them inside on the counter near a window for a couple of days (see photo).

It feels good to be planting something. I haven’t had a garden for several years, as evident by the date on the seed packets. And since this “quarantine” makes it possible to stay home for an extended period, I might actually be able to attend to these plants regularly and watch them grow. All I need to do is make sure the seeds get sunshine, stay warm, and be somewhat moist until they sprout.

Come along for the journey. Prayers and good vibes welcome for these baby plants.

Our Responsibilities with Death

Today my husband and I had one of those “difficult” conversations. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic affecting the globe and hearing about thousands of people dying, I insisted that we review our Wills and other final documents. While there is some comfort in knowing we made certain arrangements a dozen years and five house moves ago, clearly it’s time for an update.

The subject of our eventual death need not be one we avoid nor approach with overwhelming emotion. The fact is we are all going to die at some point. It’s just a matter of when and how. We may not have control over either of those decisions, but we can make known to family, friends, or an attorney our wishes about certain things being done upon our exit from this life. It is the responsibility of each individual to determine his/her final wishes in the last chapter of one’s life story.

Eckhart Tolle said, “Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.”

Let me make something clear: I love my life. I LOVE my life! It is better now than it’s ever been. While certainly there are some experiences I would never have consciously chosen for myself, I’m grateful every day for the journey that brought me to this place and time.

And I take care of myself in a way that supports my body for a long experience on this planet. I still have much to do and be before I make my transition from this plane to whatever is beyond this earthly existence. Any fear of death I carried into adulthood continues to be replaced by decades of studies in world religions, death traditions, rituals, beliefs, and spiritual growth. And, yes, I do believe the soul or essence of who we are continues in another realm or dimension. It’s a mystery and a future adventure.

Meanwhile, as we practice social distancing, personal retreats, or self-quarantines, and follow the guidelines to keep one another healthy and safe, I believe it is also important to be practical, responsible, for any unforeseen (but possible) situations… death being one of them. As the number of deaths from this virus increase each day, it can be difficult to consider we could become part of those statistics. However, currently we’re part of the living and that provides us with an opportunity to be responsible adults.

Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science, wrote in the Science of Mind textbook in the chapter on Immortality some of my favorite lines of this philosophy: “And so we prepare not to die, but to live. The thought of death should slip from our consciousness altogether; and when this great event of the soul takes place, it should be beautiful, sublime . . . a glorious experience. As the eagle, freed from its cage, soars to its native heights, so the soul, freed from the home of heavy flesh, will rise and return unto its Father’s house, naked and unafraid.”

For me, preparing “not to die, but to live…” means that I take care of those tasks, documents, directions, expenses, etc. that are mine to do. This includes my funeral arrangements, cremation, designation or distribution of personal items, and so forth. No one can guess what I have in mind unless I write it down and offer some directions. I believe my wishes will be honored by those who I’ve entrusted with such requests. And, the thing is, once everything I need to clarify and list and label is recorded and shared appropriately, I can focus on Life and all it still offers.

A few years before my father died, he shared with me certain things he wanted to have done after he was gone. His list was not a long one. Unfortunately, he didn’t write down what he had shared with me. Then another family member took control of his life and finances in those final months. While more than two years have passed since he made his transition, I intend to honor him and his verbal requests as best I can, and in more ways than he originally suggested.

The 2017 experience with my father’s death and his unfulfilled final requests inspired me to create a “Funeral Planning Workbook.” It has since been published (on Amazon) and used by a growing audience of folks, like me, who are willing to address their eventual death and consider what final arrangements are desired. In so doing, we are being accountable to ourselves by taking care of tasks NOW so that our families won’t need to be burdened with them later.

Whether you choose to purchase and utilize such a planning tool or start handwriting your list on a notepad, I encourage you… in these days of isolation, reflection, self-care, and with a focus on your health and longevity… give some thought and direction to what you can do to ease the burdens of those you will leave behind. You might discover ways to simplify life even further.

As we’ve seen on the news or in social media, this virus doesn’t care about your age, gender, social or economic status, race, profession, or where you live. So if you’re reading this, you still have time to complete a very important life task… and let someone (or two) know where to find your final documents and instructions. Research online. Download templates to get started. Consult with legal professionals. File whatever forms are necessary by mail or email. And once it’s done, having considered the worst that could happen, you will have a better appreciation for this awesome experience called Life and can joyfully look forward to the best it has in store for you.

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The Gift of Time – a prayer

Right here, right now, is where God is. All I have is this moment – and then the next. Time expands and contracts as I need it and life unfolds in perfect order. The past is just a distant memory and the future is a window of possibilities. I have NOW! I have the crisp, fall days and the cool, moonlit nights. I watch the leaves turn from yellow to red to brown and slowly drift to the ground, from bare treetops to frosty grass below. The abundant flow of life is all around me and I am bathed in the generosity of Spirit. In this moment of absolute perfection, the bounty of God – all the time in the world – is presented to me as a gift. My gift.

I, too, am a gift, an expression of Spirit – unique, individual – and filled with all the qualities of God. Yes, I am one with Divine Mind – that timeless and eternal grace. And I am part of the changing seasons as autumn becomes winter – living in cycles – birth into death, and birth again. I am content to watch the leaves as they drift to the ground, each one also uniquely designed. I watch as each melds onto the ground to become united with those that have fallen beforehand. Connected, united, one. And soon the leaves become snowflakes and the cycle begins again.

And I recognize the eternal nature of this cycle of creation – spring and fall, birth and death, youth and the aged. These are not opposites but just one stage following another in a continuous cycle of life. Time is relevant only to humankind – and I have all the time I need – to complete life’s goals, to serve my community, to express my full nature and gifts of God. I have Now. And in this moment is contained all the passion in my heart. My purpose for being – to use this moment for the truest expression of my God-self as I can imagine.

My heart overflows with gratitude and love. I give thanks daily for the God expression that is Me – for the time I have to be in this magnificent experience called Life – for all those individuals who come in and out of my days like so many leaves blowing across the field – for the abundance and prosperity that continues to pour forth into my experience like the generous harvest of old. Thank you, Spirit!

So, I release these words to Law and anticipate their return in even greater expression as they fill all the voids many times over. I let go and let God direct the leaves in the wind, the cycles of the moon, the beating of my heart, and the tick of the clock. Right here, right now, I am content. I simply allow and let it be.

And so it is.

(a spiritual mind treatment / affirmative prayer written by Carla Ryan in 2006 as part of her Religious Science Practitioner studies)

Moving… finale…

UPDATE (6/10/19):  The home inspection did not go as planned and we canceled the contract on this property. We have decided to pursue alternative ideas toward our financial goal of being mortgage-free and to stay in this home for as long as we can.

        Today we started packing. Filling boxes. We’re moving again. This will be our fifth move in five years. Insane, I know. Especially considering how “mature” in years we are. We pray it’s the last… again.

        I jokingly, at times, claim to have gypsy blood. Today I have no doubt. Why else would this seem like a normal thing to do? What’s the bottom line? Why would we be willing to do this again in our mid-to-late 60’s?

        We – my husband (Mike) and I – want to be mortgage-free. No debts, especially the house loan. The sale of our current home will allow us to achieve the long-held goal for us to NOT “have to” work. It greatly reduces the self-imposed mental and financial stress. We can do other things with our time and money… travel, develop hobbies, build a spiritual community, visit grandkids… the possibilities are unlimited!

        The other key reason is this. We’ve had many discussions about what we would do with this large, beautiful home (where we now live) when one of us dies. It’s going to happen. We may as well talk about it. BOTH of us have stated – we’re in agreement – that whoever is the survivor would sell the house and move into something smaller, more manageable. So, we figured, why not do that now? Do it together, get settled, and then when that grieving time comes, the remaining spouse would NOT have to do it or make such decisions during such a sad time. And after running all the numbers, it just makes good financial sense.

        For some folks our age, this mortgage-free goal has already been accomplished. Not for us. We attribute the delay to having multiple marriages (both of us) and having to “start over” to some degree after each divorce. Not recommended, but it’s in our pasts. Also, we don’t remember having good financial role models.

        It also took us awhile to learn good money management skills. Budgets. Emergency savings. Retirement funds. Sharing. Allowances. And healing the wounds around money issues from childhood into adulthood and through the present. The scabs of those wounds get lifted on occasion, but mostly they’re quickly put back into place where they belong… the past. We’ve looked at our beliefs and (mis)trust issues around money and abundance MANY times and often. There have been arguments, blow-outs, tears, and recovery. Not so much anymore. Thank goodness.

        One thing we’ve done correctly over the past five to eight years is make better decisions about what we do with the funds after the sale of a home. Those decisions have brought us to our beautiful resort-like home, which will soon be put on the market. We’ve lived here two years. We could continue to live here. We can afford the payments. We just don’t want to do it anymore. So we’ve decided to downsize, once again, but in a different direction and with more experience behind us. We’re aware of how much of a downsize we can handle.

        The previous moves included going from large homes (3,300 to 4,500 square feet) to smaller ones (1,600 square feet) with large lots. The house was either too small or the property too much to take care of. We learned what we could or wanted to maintain. We learned how much space we needed for a home so we could live together and still like each other. This time we’ve selected a manufactured home (think double-wide) of 1,800 square feet on a rented lot that we can maintain or hire out.

        We call it #18 (part of the address). We’ve had “919” and “22” and currently we’re in “474.” It’s a thing we do when we remember the different places we’ve lived. In Australia it was simply “Margaret Avenue” or the “Turramurra” house. In childhood (for me) it was “Swan Creek” or “Gratiot Road.” We like the numbers better. And, yes, we read the house numerology descriptions along the journey.

        Thankfully, this time, the downsize process won’t require us to get rid of too much of what we’ve accumulated in furniture. We did most of that two moves ago. What we don’t really need will go into a storage unit for now until we get the rest all sorted out and in-place. Whatever is extra can be given away or sold.

        We can keep our books for “the library” room. I have room for my sewing machine and craft supplies and keyboard. We’ll both have offices. And we have approval to keep our new hot tub. Whew! However, the covenants, as we discovered, allows for only one dog. We have two.

        Our little Zoey will be carefully re-homed to someone who will care for her as well or better than we have. She’s a likeable and sassy miss that is more adoptable than our Casper. It’s taken a long time to get him to trust us and heal from his wounded past. Both dogs were rescues over three years ago, but Casper had a much more dramatic past to overcome. Zoey has been his teacher. He’s come a long way, but has further to go to be the wholly, healed dog I see him to be. Zoey’s got it covered. She knows who she is and lets you know it! She’s already a love-bug (when she allows it). Casper is still overly cautious about who is allowed to come near him (or us). Perhaps being an only dog will give Casper the extra attention and space he needs to discover himself.

        There you have it. The “why” and a bit of the “how” of it all.

        We’ve selected a comfortable home in a beautiful, treed setting just a few miles from where we are. A small town and all its shops are within walking distance. A bike trail and river are just a few minutes’ walk from our neighborhood. We’ll be surrounded by vineyards, orchards, and parks. We’re still a short drive to friends and restaurants and other activities. We’re planning to do a few upgrades and changes before we move in. Things we’ve done at other homes.

        And what helps us KNOW we’ve made the right decision is how quickly and precisely EVERYTHING has “fallen into place” in the time since we made the decision. Even our ego-voices have nothing to say at this point. This has totally been a God-thing.

The process began just a week ago. The price of the next home came down. The initial mortgage was approved; preliminary papers have been signed. The inspection is scheduled. The realtor for our current home is on-board and ready to list it early next month. The packing is underway to stage our home for sale… and there’s not a lot to do in the way of repairs. Just decluttering and cleaning. This house will sell quickly. It only takes one… and what if it’s easy… is our frame of mind (mantra) and our experience.

        And it’s all happened easily and effortlessly around the plans and projects we already had scheduled. Everyone involved has been helpful and friendly. We’ve received TONS of support and validation about our decision from friends and family. The timing is perfect!

        I’m looking forward to enjoying our new lifestyle after all the boxes have disappeared and the paperwork is filed. We’ve both worked a long time to get to this point, even with all the life detours we made along the way. I like (and love) my husband. I pray we enjoy this new place together for at least 20 years. The last owner of #18 lived to be 102 years old! Maybe we will, too. It’ll be fun to discover who we are in this different mode of living.

        Thank you, Spirit! I love this creative Life!!

Coat of Many Dreams

During the time I was a single mother (late 1970’s-early 1980’s), I struggled financially to support my young son and myself. I made sure we had shelter, food, clothing, and sometimes recreation or fun things to do. We often dreamed about the places we wanted to visit, the activities we thought would be fun to experience, and what we would love to have.

For me, getting the large Spiegel catalog a couple times a year set me off visioning for myself, especially about how I wanted to present myself in the world by wearing the clothes offered in that catalog. I saw myself in the elegant and classic styles of that time.

Occasionally, I managed to save enough money to purchase a sweater or slacks. One time I even saved enough to buy a military green, long duster coat. I wore that coat for years. It protected me through many snowstorms on my travels to and from the bus stop. But the photograph of the model wearing a long, wool, tailored coat with princess lines… that was the one that seemed beyond my reach.

Fast-forward thirty-five years. My son is grown and gone. Spiegel is no longer in business. However, my desire for that wool coat never wavered. A few years ago, I found a sewing pattern in the style I remembered and loved. More time passes, and, through an online fabric outlet, I bought yards of washable wool in a light gray color at a price I can easily afford. Months after it arrived in the mail, I took a small sample to a local craft/sewing store and purchased satin lining to match.

By the time I had accumulated all the necessary materials, I was living in a mountainous, cold area of Colorado where a wool coat would certainly make winters more comfortable.  But between finishing up a school degree project, remodeling a house for sale, moving, and then engaging in the new community’s activities, the large sewing project waited for almost two more years.

Until now.

Several weeks ago, I placed the first pattern piece onto the wool fabric. I trembled as I cut the material. It was really happening. My fashion dream would become a wearable reality. And piece by piece, step by step, I took my time throughout the long-awaited process. At first, I questioned my sewing abilities to take on such a project. But as the coat began to take shape, my confidence and skills met the challenge. When necessary, I watched sewing lessons via DVD or online. I’d waited this long; there was no hurry to rush through with a bad job.

The end result was exactly what I’d hoped it would look like. Tailored. Classic. Feminine. The long length and swirling hemline a bit medieval. I cried as I completed the final stitches. Success! Completion! Persistence had paid off in self-satisfaction and pride – and I had a lovely coat to show for it. One that I could wear for many years.

This has been a year of recognizing the longing and desires of my heart. I’ve sought guidance from those wiser than me. Weighed decisions carefully before responding. Established new boundaries and interests. Released worn-out things and toxic relationships. Welcomed new friendships. Finished long-desired projects and developed new skills.

It feels like I’m at a turning point… reconsidering the frantic way I’ve always done life. I want to be busy, but at a pace that breathes with life and joy.

I’ve taken a few days to enjoy “finishing” the coat, as well as completing a book series I’ve been reading. I’m ready to jump into “what’s next” yet I do hear the internal warning to pace myself… take care of myself. I feel a bit apprehensive that the next creative endeavor will require a longer commitment from me and I want to be sure I’m willing to make it.

What I know for sure is how much I enjoy the process of creation, something I refuse to give up. Thus, whatever the next step turns out to be, I’ll be challenged, enlightened, and required to grow in some way. I am ready for that!