Working the Soil – Ash Wednesday 2020

We planted the garden last weekend. All the kids helped to clear out the beds and turn the soil. We were all surprised to discover large roots deep beneath the surface. They stretched and twisted through almost the whole bed! How did this happen?

For starters, our garden has been “on break” for a year. Between being pregnant with Gabe and then learning how to function with 5 kids put the garden far down on our priority list. So, the garden has not received a love it needed and now has all manner of weeds and plant matter which we did not intend.

Now the garden is beautiful, but in a barren way. The soil is dark and rich and inviting, but there is nothing above the surface. All the work that we did, all the planting that was done, it appears there is nothing to show for our efforts. This is how Lent works.

Today is it is Ash Wednesday. Today is the first day that we dig our shovel into the soil of our soul. We have not done this for a whole year, and we may be surprised to discover what is lurking beneath the surface.

We may find rocks, weeds, or stubborn roots that we have to follow the trail of to find their source. If we don’t remove these obstacles, our new seedlings won’t have the room or nutrients they need to survive. We may also be pleased to discover bulbs of plants we had forgotten, waiting to be watered and brought back to life. Perhaps we already have plants growing in this garden of our souls, but these also need some TLC. This is the time of year that we prune and cut back to shape our trees and bushes so that they can grow to their fullest potential.

God is waiting to plant seeds of peace, faith, joy, hope, and many more good things within us. However, God is a good gardener and He knows when the soil is ready and when the soil needs to be worked. We would be deceiving ourselves if we think we are walking into Lent ready for God to do the planting. There is always more work that can be done in a garden.

As we commence with Lent, and I’m talking to myself here as much as anyone else, I pray that we are all open to the work that God wishes to do in our souls. It is hard to overturn what is deeply rooted, but when the root is impeding the growth of new plants it has to go. There’s something extremely satisfying about extracting a tough weed all the way to its roots. To be able to say, “You’re not coming back,” and mean it with all confidence. Let’s work together with God rather than pulling against Him. Let’s allow Him to prepare our souls for the incredible gifts he wishes to give us.

Don’t forget to go download your FREE Lenten journal! Digging into God’s Word is a great way to discover what needs to stay and what needs to go in the garden of your soul.

Warp and Weft – Plus FREE Lent Journals

I think it’s high time I came out and claimed myself as a fiber artist. For anyone unaware, I have a healthy obsession with yarn. I crochet, cross stitch, try to knit (not well at all!), sew, quilt (also very amateur) and now, my latest project, weaving. Just this week I hauled all 5 kids to Home Depot to buy a few boards of pine and a box of nails in order to make my own frame loom.

First project on the loom.

And I’m in love. How haven’t I been weaving my whole life? It’s like coloring, which by the way I also enjoy greatly, but with yarn. The phrase, “Match made in heaven,” comes to mind. Up until this week, I knew little about weaving. So, the learning curve has been steep. But I’m soaking it all up, thanks to the generosity of other weavers on YouTube. I stumbled upon one video from a group of tapestry makers who are based at the Getty Museum, the site of a grand tapestry organization dating back to King Louis XIV outside Paris. These men and women are creating massive, handwoven tapestries, some taking multiple years to create. And they are breathtaking.

The first step in these intricate tapestries is the same as on my simple frame loom – warp the loom. The warp threads are the ones that go up and down your piece. The woman narrating explained, “The warp is one, continuous piece of thread.” The design comes in the weft threads. These are the threads that travel across the piece. They start and stop at the artist’s whim, moving fluidly about to create the overall picture.

There is a poem that floats around, the author is unknown, called The Master Weaver’s Plan. The poem speaks of God as the Master Weaver. He is the one who weaves the weft threads throughout our lives, picking up colors both light and dark. Our life is a tapestry.

Another way of looking at it is that our life is just one weft thread among thousands, millions, traveling across the tapestry of the universe. We interact with others, creating new shapes and designs we are unable to see. Only God, who has in view the entire masterpiece, is able to discern each thread’s unique purpose.

Both of these images focus on the weft, on the colorful threads which travel across the design. But what about the warp, that continuous piece of thread which undergirds the entire piece? Any weaver will tell you that if your warp is off – too loose, too tight, uneven or haphazard – the entire thing will go wrong. If God is the master weaver, and we are the weft, then who or what is the warp?

Jesus of course!

John’s Gospel tells us that before there was creation, there was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word, the Logos in Greek, is Jesus Christ. We can see in the very foundations of Genesis, at the moment when Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden, God is making plans for their salvation. Up and down the Scriptures, Israel is being prepared for their Messiah. Through Jesus’ Passion, the thread which began before the beginning continues unto eternity. Our sure foundation, our solid rock, our taut warp.

I was joking with a friend the other day about how much yarn I have. She was encouraging me to try out a new kind and maybe do a spotlight on it for the blog. I carelessly said, “I’m sure I can find God somewhere in yarn.” Turns out I was more right than I realized!

How God Works

If we want to get to know our Master Weaver better, we need to look at His Word. This is why every Lent for the past few years I have created Lenten Lectio Divina Journals. I’m so please to offer this journal as a free printable, updated for this Lent 2020. It includes:

  • A guide for how to pray in the lectio divina method
  • Scripture passages taken from the daily readings for each day of Lent and the Triduum
  • A blank page which may be used if you wish to select your own passages to pray with
  • A page for homily notes which you can print and place wherever you need them within the journal.

I’ve created two sizes of the journal. One is A5 and the other is a standard 8.5×11. The A5 you will need to print on A5 specific paper or cut down but it will create a smaller book once finished and be easier to carry around.

I’d love to hear any feedback you have so I can continue to make these better each year. I pray you feel the movement of the Spirit within these sacred words during the Lenten Season. May they be a source of inspiration, solace and encouragement for all of our walks of life.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Cooking in Lent

Though Ordinary Time has just begun it is a short beginning. Preparations are already underway for Lent’s quick approach next month. One of the primary aspects of Lent is fasting, particularly from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during the season. 

Lent has a unique relationship with food. On one hand, it encourages us to eat more simply, to fast and abstain. Many people choose to fast from some kind of food or drink, like giving up sweets, soft drinks or alcohol. But then by some weird logic, the very act of giving up certain foods then seems to create a fixation with that food. Abstaining from meat means I spend a good deal of time that week looking up meatless recipes and alternatives. If I’m not careful, the whole purpose behind the fasting is lost by a hyper focus on what I’m not eating and how to cook for my family. 

Rather than creating a barrier, this Lent let’s allow cooking to open us up to God’s presence in our kitchen. Cooking, by its very nature, connects us with the Paschal Mystery. 

“Like fire itself, which photosynthesis destroys has created, all cooking begins with small or large acts of destruction: killing, cutting, chopping, mashing. In that sense, a sacrifice is at its very heart” (Michael Pollen, Cooked, pg 52).

The Paschal Mystery is the theological term for the life, death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ. Jesus teaches us through His whole existence on Earth what it means to be an offering of oneself. Through His sacrifice, we receive life everlasting. Each time we cook, the sacrifice inherent within the food we prepare offers us life for another day. 

Cooking During Lent

We need to eat everyday, which means we cook everyday of the year. What can we do to make our cooking different during Lent? One idea is to slow our cooking down. “When stirring the pot, just stir the pot. It seems to me one of the great luxuries of life at this point is to be able to do one thing at a time, one thing which you give yourself wholeheartedly. Unitasking” (Cooked, pg. 195). Many of us rarely see this luxury. It’s not that we don’t have the time, it’s that we haven’t prioritized the time. 

This isn’t to say that each day you need to stand slavishly in front of the stove for hours, methodically stirring while your kids tear the house down around you. But you don’t need to be checking Instagram while stirring either. Maybe it means preparing elements of your meals in bulk ahead of time so you are better able to focus on what must be cooked day of. Things like rice, polenta, beans and mashed potatoes are excellent make-ahead sides. Think about carrot and celery sticks, bell pepper slices, fruit salad or sliced oranges. 

Another idea for cooking more intentionally this Lent is to learn how to make something yourself which has otherwise intimidated you or alluded you. What might you learn from making your own bread or yogurt? Have you considered what goes into making jam or homemade pie crust? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to make your own baby food or salad vinaigrette but have never taken the time to learn. When you make food “from scratch” you begin to learn how it’s components work together to form their new whole. There is a transformation that occurs as ingredients move toward harmony among each other. 

It is incredibly empowering and humbling to make your own food. Only after making your own bread will you begin to understand a person who, in order to have bread that day, must first make it. “To brew beer, to make cheese, to bake a loaf of bread, to braise a pork shoulder, is to be forcibly reminded that all of these things are not just products, in fact they aren’t even really ‘things.’ Most of what presents itself to us in the marketplace as a product is in truth a web of relationships, between people, yes, but also between ourselves and all the other species on which we still depend” (Cooked, pg 408). 

Food is an integral part of Lent. The intentional absence of certain foods provides opportunities to simplify your table. It also can be a time to grow in your knowledge of a new type of food or cooking that can enrich your family’s eating habits. 

Stay tuned: my next post will have the anticipated Lenten Lectio Divina Journal!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com