15 August 2014

Sabbatical Year

Back in June when I wrote about my father, I mentioned that I'd decided to make this 7th year since his passing a personal 'Sabbatical Year.' Since then, I've been working on making various goals for different aspects of my life, as well as a means of keeping track of everything. I've been waiting to write this post until I had visuals to help explain what I'm doing and how I'm doing it, but thanks to my amazing sister, I finally have it. :)

So, what is a 'Sabbatical Year', you ask? Well, I might be proving just how much of an Old Testament geek I am, but it was a part of the Law of Moses, recorded in Leviticus 25:1-7.
1 And the Lord spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying,
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord.
3 Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;
4 But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.
5 That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.
6 And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee,
7 And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.
But the Sabbatical Year was more than leaving your land fallow once every seven years, just as the Sabbath Day is about much more than just not working or spending money every Sunday. It was about worship, sacrifice, obedience, rest, joy, service, gratitude... In a word, it was about consecration. Here's the description in the Bible Dictionary:
As was the seventh day in every week and the seventh month in every year, so also was every seventh year consecrated to the Lord. The land, inasmuch as it was the Lord’s, was to keep a Sabbath unto Him (Lev. 25:2–7). In this year the self-sown produce of the arable lands was to be left for the poor and the beasts of the field; and the fruit of the unpruned vineyards (and oliveyards) was not to be harvested but to be left to the owner, his family and servants, the stranger sojourning with him, his cattle, and the wild beasts. A release of debts owed by Israelite to Israelite was made. The year was intended to be not simply a year of leisure but also one of religious instruction and exercises. To mark this, at the Feast of Tabernacles (at the commencement of the sabbatical year, which began with the seventh month) the whole law was read in the hearing of the people. The law of the sabbatical year was habitually broken by the Jews for a long period before the Babylonian exile. The 70 years of exile and the land’s desolation were regarded as making up for the unobserved Sabbaths of the land (2 Chr. 36:21).
Basically, every seventh year at the Feast of Tabernacles, the Israelites would consecrate the next 365 days to the Lord by:
  • Increased Service and Sacrifice to the Poor
  • Forgiveness
  • Intense Gospel Study
  • Increased Participation in Worship Activities
  • Read the Entire Law of the Lord, as given to Moses
This is more or less what I propose to do, allowing for some modern tweaks of course... Here are a few of my goals that specifically coincide with those ancient practices mentioned above:
  • Pay a generous fast offering each month.
  • Forgive anyone I might be holding hard feelings towards.
  • Read and study Jesus the Christ, in addition to my studies of General Conference and the scriptures.
  • Read the RS and SS lessons each week.
  • Complete the entire Standard Works: The Bible, The Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price.
That might sound like a lot, especially since those are just a few of my goals, as if I'm trying to do Everything in my typical Superwoman Complex fashion. But I feel like if I'm really trying to set this year apart and consecrate it to the Lord, then it's going to require some serious effort. I feel compelled to push myself. 

I WANT to do this, not just because I'm an Old Testament geek, or because it's been a really difficult few months and I feel like I have a long way to climb back up to where I was when I broke my leg--though both of those are true. I have several different motivations, but here are a few:
  1. I feel inspired, prompted, and compelled to do it. This can only mean one thing: The Lord has something He's trying to teach me, and if I follow the Spirit, I just might learn it.
  2. When I think of how the Lord healed and transformed my family throughout my father's illness and his passing, I see miracles, love, and joy. Unfortunately over the last 7 years, a lot has happened to cause my family to lose that unity we once shared. I've longed to have that back, especially now that I live so far away. I don't really get homesick for the USA, but while staying with the Maces I found myself growing increasingly homesick for the family we once were. I'm not sure if this Sabbatical will have any sort of impact on my family, but it certainly won't hurt them, and I can do my part.
  3. If nothing else, it WILL have an impact on me. And hopefully this will further prepare me for my future marriage and family. Some day, a lucky man who is not too intimidated by my awesomeness will be brave enough to marry me. And I feel like I'll be much better prepared for all the experiences that follow if I come to a better understanding of what consecration really means now
So if I were to do this by the book (which I already missed bc I think I technically should've done this last year, but who's counting really...), I would begin at the Feast Of Tabernacles (Sukkot)--which coincidentally happens to be my favorite of the Jewish feasts. Here are some photos of Sukkot 2009, when I lived in Jerusalem, but lest I get too distracted from my current train of thought, I'll refrain from explaining the pictures... just enjoy.

(The three collages are courtesy of my dear roommate, Lyndsay Dewey)
This year's Sukkot is 8-16 October, which is only 2 months away, so I suppose I can wait. In truth, it probably doesn't really matter when I 'start', as long as I do. Though the rational part of me thinks it's silly to basically put off this experience for a simple ancient formality, the anthropologist in me knows that this simple formality is as much a part of the experience as anything else I do for it. Plus, this hopefully gives me plenty of time to sort my life out before I begin this spiritual journey.

But in the meantime, I'll become well-acquainted with this beaut. My personalized planner/organizer/goal and progress recorder created by my incredible older sister. Erika is a teacher, and she makes herself one of these each school year... so I had her tweak some things to better suit my needs, and it's perfect!

So here's a look inside:

Monthly calendar spreads, complete with encouraging quotes
A place to record my overall goals for my Sabbatical Year
Pages to record specific monthly goals that will help me work towards my yearly goals
Weekly planning/recording spread, including places to record daily scripture study and tender mercies, as well as a weekly missionary moment, study of a General Conference talk, and a place to reflect on how I did on my goals, etc. that week.
Monthly reflections/progress reports, also complete with encouraging quotes.
A place to keep track of those I need to write thank you cards to. It might seem old-fashioned, but I'm a big believer in hand-written notes and expressing gratitude... 
I tend to make myself 'to-do' lists after each General Conference, as a way to keep track of specific invitations that we are given during the messages. This will allow me to keep it in the same place as all of my other goals, so I can be sure to incorporate them more easily into my plans.
Since one of the things I wanted to improve was my personal record keeping/journaling, I figure using this planner will help me with that, if nothing else. Plus it gives the added illusion of maintaining some sort of fragile control over my life, like I have some sort of idea as to what I'm meant to be doing. haha

Moral of the story: It's going to be another amazing year filled with a lot of personal growth, but I'm full of faith that the Lord has some wonderful things in store for me, and He's just trying to prepare me for them. Well, with that kind of incentive, how could I say no? :)


On Sunday night I returned home to Poole House after spending the last month in Lichfield. My time away was a huge tender mercy, and I'm forever grateful to the Mace family for opening up their hearts and home to me. I had no idea how much I needed it, but as usual Heavenly Father was watching out for me and answered that prayer before I even prayed it.

But I'm back now. So it's time to get to work and start putting my life back together. First things first, I obviously started with my room.

I really can't describe how lovely it is to be sleeping in my own bed again. Finally! It's been a long 4 months in getting here, but I can finally go up and down the stairs at Poole House on two legs, even if rather slowly. But since there's no one here for me to inconvenience by my turtle's pace, it isn't a big deal.

However, being alone also means I've had multiple days this week where I have not seen or spoken to another human being. So I've decided I need to buy a plant. It doesn't particularly matter what kind (though I'm hoping for something with flowers), just so long as it's something to talk to. I prefer to think of this decision as eccentric and not pathetic. haha ;)

14 August 2014

WWI Commemoration

Last week was the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI, and there were all kinds of commemorative ceremonies and vigils throughout the UK to mark the occasion. 

My friend, Connie, was visiting me from Utah for a couple days, and we had the opportunity to attend two really wonderful events. The first on Sunday night was a special 'Peace Among Nations' program and candlelight vigil at Lichfield Cathedral. It was incredibly emotive and quite poignant in the way in which it compared the history of the war to the last week of the Savior's life through to His Resurrection. To be honest, I felt the Spirit more strongly during this service than I did in church earlier that day. It was a really powerful experience, and I'm grateful we could go.

The next day, we caught a cab to the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, which is only about 10-15 minutes outside of Lichfield. It is a gorgeous and thought-provoking place full of memorials and monuments to all kinds of causes, groups, places, and events. Obviously many of the memorials are to different groups within the armed forces, but not all. For example, there is a Neonatal Memorial Grove dedicated to babies who were stillborn where families can dedicate a tree to their child, a rose garden dedicated to the Widows of the World Wars, and a pathway dedicated to blind servicemen which is lined with strongly scented plants. So LOTS of memorials to all kinds of things and people. 

If I remember correctly, this monument is dedicated to the Polar Expeditionary crews.

Even though I'm slowly getting better at walking, I'm still fairly limited in both distance and duration, and this place was huge (150+ acres I think). Gratefully, Connie had the foresight to make me borrow a wheelchair when we first got there, because there was no way we could've seen even half of it if I'd been walking.

My favorite memorial was 'Shot at Dawn', which is dedicated to those servicemen who were executed  by the military, mostly for desertion or acts of cowardice. There are 307 posts with the name, rank, age, and branch of service of an individual who was executed. It is a stirring visual, but was even more powerful was hearing about individual stories of some of these men from one of the guides who was there. I call them men, but so many of them were boys, younger than me. And in hearing about their individual experiences it doesn't take long to disparage over the uselessness and senselessness of war. The statue in the middle is of one of the young men who was shot for cowardice. He was 17 years old.

A memorial to paratroopers

There was a river than ran along one side of the grounds. It made for a beautiful walk.


The Royal Air Forces Association. That eagle is made from over 1000 silver-plated feathers... in case you were curious.
The largest and most prominent memorial is to the armed forces more collectively. The names of all those who have died since the end of WWII are inscribed on the inside of the walls. It's rather sobering to see just how full those walls are.

The inside of the walls, where all those names are...

For FHE, the Maces came and met us there after work. We all met up just before the commemorative vigil began. It's times like these when it paid to be a cripple. A front row view, and a seat. Everyone else had to stand. ;) haha 
All the makings of an epic sunset. ;)

Glorious! :D
The ending of a beautiful service
It was an unexpected addition to our plans, but both of these commemoration ceremonies were really special, and I was grateful to be a part of them. I'm not sure this anniversary was even noticed in the USA, let alone marked nationwide as it was here. Being in the UK gave me a unique perspective and a much greater appreciation for the sacrifice of millions.

02 August 2014

This song and video are both so beautiful, and so very true of my own experiences. I've been thinking about some of those experiences this week, so when I came across this it seemed like a much more powerful and poignant way of describing my thoughts than anything I can write.