It's a blue and white day, too cold to venture outdoors much, but beautiful, still, to look at. They're telling us this morning's temperature was the same as on Mars--Minus 19 Degrees. Believe it if you like. I can only verify for Des Moines. So much time the past few months has gone to people--the job, spiritual direction, workshops and retreats, family. I have not been writing. The job is going well. I've added some new things, and truly appreciate the contributions of Tessa, our new Adult Faith Formation Director, and Brody, our new Youth Ministry Director. Usually, I refer to him as "Grady" (our grandson's name), before evolving through "Brady" to "Brody." But I'm getting it. I'm still meeting with directees one-to-one for spiritual direction, and I've added new SoulCollage® retreats and workshops. I've been welcomed into new settings, and met new friends. I have not been writing. Our family is doing well. I've grown closer to my children during the past year, a gift. We've had more time together, engaged in some challenging and meaningful conversations, loved each other in deeper ways. I'm proud of all of them, and it's a great privilege to be included in their lives. I have not been writing. To quote one of my favorite writers and mentors, Annie Dillard, Many fine people were out there living, people whose consciences permitted them to sleep at night despite their not having written a decent sentence that day, or ever. Lately, I've been one of those fine, hopefully, people. I have not been writing. But I have deepened my SoulCollage® practice, my understanding and use of essential oils, and developed my skills as a speaker and retreat director. I've gotten only slightly more proficient at promoting stuff, as in remembering to tell people about it. As much as possible, I've placed my bare feet on the earth, and stopped walking on pavement altogether. I spent three weeks this summer watching our Cooper's Hawk Family, who took up residence in the trees above our deck, as they chased, caught, gutted, and devoured neighboring birds. I intentionally disengaged from the seemingly constant vitriol embedded in political discourse that long ago ceased resembling dialogue, and am much happier for it. I've listened to Rob Bell and Alexander Shaia and Krista Tippett on podcasts. And I've read some beautiful, rigorous, and deeply challenging books and met with other writers, including Carol, my writing partner. This past week, I discovered a lovely, lengthy examen written by Steve and Gwen Smith, which you will find here. It's ambitious and will take some time to complete, but you can always do portions of it and answer only the questions that appeal to you on some level. I've spent a little time reflecting on yesterday's Gospel reading from Luke 2, that scene in the temple that we refer to as "The Presentation." I've tried to imagine what it would be like as a brand new first-time mother, hearing my child being referred to in this way: Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted--you yourself a sword will pierce--so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. I'm sure it would make me want to take my baby and hide. For me the statements so easily lead into a personal examen for the past year: What has fallen in your life, and what has risen? What has appeared to you as a sign? What kind of sign? What contradictions are present? How do you hold them? What sword has pierced your soul? What are the thoughts of your heart? How are the thoughts of your heart revealed? How is the presence of the Christ Child a part of your conscious life? I'm not a New Years resolution maker, are you? If I were, however, I think I would resolve to risk greater, to listen deeper, to love wider, to hope stronger, to think higher, and to reach broader.