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The Prairiewoods Knitters & Stitchers

Otis & Friends 2I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

Today I want to introduce you to Linda Martin and her friends, the Prairiewoods Knitters & Stitchers. This group of crafty humans knits and crochets items for area charities. (They’ve even offered to make me a sock to keep my tail warm this winter!) Feel free to join Linda and this fun group …

A group of ladies gather the second Tuesday morning and fourth Wednesday evening of each month at Prairiewoods, with the intention of knitting or crocheting items for donation. The Prairiewoods Knitters & Stitchers has 18 members. Yarn that has been donated is used to make hats, mittens, scarves, blankets, and sweaters. Each meeting we share patterns and techniques and give help to those that need it. We welcome people with varying skills, including beginners. There will always be someone available at each meeting to assist.

This year we gathered over 500 items for donations to 8 local groups! Items were delivered to Veterans Outreach, Olivet Church, Catherine McCauley Center, Mission of Hope, Young Parent Network, Salem United Methodist Church, Linn County Child Development Center and a Baptist church in Marion.

In the past our group has participated as a Prairiewoods representative in Earth Day activities. We use our craft to knit and crochet with plastic bags we called plarn.

Prairiewoods Knitters and Stitchers participate in the yearly Prairiewoods Holiday Bazaar. Proceeds from the bazaar are used for needed supplies and operating expenses. We have donated money to Prairiewoods, to Grant Wood School Back Pack Program, and to Olivet Church.

Members of our group spend time during the summer in the Sprint Program at St. Paul’s Methodist Church. We help children learn how to knit, crochet and do other yarn crafts.

If you would like join us in our endeavors at Prairiewoods, call Prairiewoods (319-395-6700) and ask to be put in touch with Linda Martin.

—Linda Martin, member of Prairiewoods Knitters & Stitchers

2015 Knitters and Stitchers

Visio Divina at Prairiewoods

Otis & Friends 1I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

Remember my friend Marianne Abel-Lipschutz, who I introduced you to last month? She is a writer, nature-lover and frequent participant in the Seeing IS Believing: Visio Divina program that takes place twice a month at Prairiewoods. Here she tells us about Visio Divina, or holy seeing …

I drive down from rural Cedar Falls for the Visio Divina sessions on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at Prairiewoods. These sessions, guided by Rodney Bluml, are two hours of prayer using an illumination and an accompanying verse from The Saint John’s Bible. I know that quiet prayer happens elsewhere on the property, but not from ten to noon on alternate Tuesdays. Our group of seekers includes artists, writers, readers, and prayer warriors who collaborate in a wide-ranging dialogue with the Word. God inspires us with creative interpretations, uncanny wisdom, and honest reflections about our faith.

The Saint John’s Bible is exquisite testimony: terrific writing and remarkable illustrations presented with excellence fit for the King. Artists cooperated for more than a dozen years to reinvent the handmade treasure for our new century, blending the traditional crafts of the monastic scribes of the middle ages with the book arts skills of the modern era. Even when distorted in pixelated projections onto the electronic screen, the images accomplish the artists’ desire to communicate a true message from God.

Visio Divina, or divine seeing, is one of several disciplines used for spiritual formation, such as worship, fasting, solitude, silence, service, prayer, or study. Visio Divina joins prayer with Bible study in an active process, a group effort to enter the presence of God with teachable hearts. Each encounter with a Bible story, even a familiar one, is a way God comes to us. Each of us receives the Spirit differently. Our prayer is our conversation and we listen in while God gives individualized hope, encouragement, counsel, or direction. It’s one of those hundred-fold divine benefits of community when we hear God speak through each other.

A logical extension of this spiritual practice is to see things in new ways. Without my conscious intention, God’s shaping force through Visio Divina keeps transforming me. Many ah-ha moments connect me to the Spirit, like the other day when I realized something that now seems so obvious, I’m surprised I didn’t “see it” earlier. I’ve been using two troubling pictures from 1955 in an intensive memoir writing project over the past five years. Now I see information in these pictures that I couldn’t perceive before. I couldn’t see what I couldn’t even look at. These revelations are fruits of the Spirit looking at hard things with me that grew through my practice of Visio Divina.

Marianne Abel-LipschutzNo matter what mood I arrive in, I leave our sessions with a sense of revival and wonder. The deep fellowship, the delicious lunch, the laughter and silence, our songs and stories, everything draws me closer to God with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind. I keep the printed librettos, with the illumination on one side and the verse on the other, in a binder. When I travel, I pick out a few sheets from my bootleg bible for daily devotions or spiritual fellowship. These sheets prove God’s sustainability, a simple renewable resource of word and image that keeps the Spirit alive.

Our prayers over each other and our lives in God touch me the most when I come to Prairiewoods. If I miss a Tuesday, I think of the circle of intent and focus myself for a few moments of prayer. How blessed we are to openly share the surprise and mystery and heartache of our days where peace and transformation are the norm. Not every place is as sacred as Prairiewoods, but I feel grateful that we can see the hope in the world more clearly after simply being here.

—Marianne Abel-Lipschutz, program participant

An encounter with deer (continued)

Otis & Friends 5I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

Don’t you just love art? Did you know that Prairiewoods has its very own Artist in Residence, Joni Reed Cooley? I often pose for her, hoping to get picked up in one of her beautiful photographs or painted works of art. Last week, she reflected on an encounter with some of the deer who spend much of their time on the 70 acres that make up Prairiewoods. Here’s the rest of her story …

Last week I shared with you my experience of watching the deer from my Guest House room at Prairiewoods, when a large doe came flying out of the woods and frantically ran around a group of deer who had gathered to feed under the pines. She buzzed around them in a circle twice and then galloped back into the woods, leaving the deer in a very agitated state. I wondered what in the world was going on and stood there puzzled.

A few minutes later, I was given a spectacular experience. Up walked three bucks, a large elder buck, an adult male and a little one. They immediately became Grandfather, Father and Grandson in my mind. The young one with his tiny antlers melted my heart! They walked into the clearing by the window slowly, glanced in the window and stopped there right in front of me.

My jaw dropped as I saw what they were about to do: the Grandfather was play sparring with the little one! The little guy was going antler-to-antler with Grandfather, with the elder training him on how it is done. My heart swelled at the precious scene, as I watched the little guy push so hard with his little antlers against the great antlers of his elder, so much bigger than him! The little one was so intent and serious about it, and the Grandfather was stoic and gave in just the right amount. The Father deer stood close by at the ready, alert to stop the little guy if he became too rambunctious. I was spellbound. They continued locking antlers in their sparring training session for about ten minutes, until Grandfather seemed to tire of the game, and the Father moved in to signal the end. They stood and rested for a short while and then slowly moved on without a backward glance as if it were nothing.

Deer at Prairiewoods by Joni Reed CooleyIt was such an incredibly heartwarming scene. I felt so honored to be able to witness it. They were clearly aware that I was there at the window, and I swear that they decided, “Hey, let’s show her what we can do!” I was totally awestruck. Ironically, I did not have my camera at the window like I normally do, and I didn’t want to break the spell and spook them by moving away to get it. But as is typically the case, it was for the best, because I was able to fully savor the tender spectacle unfolding in front of me, instead of focusing on getting a good photo.

So what happened to the rest of the deer? I was so engrossed in watching the display in front of me that I didn’t see where they went. But they had moved on, alerted by the one brave doe scout who apparently signaled the bucks’ arrival.

I felt very blessed that night, as I reflected on that rare, poignant scene played out in front of me. I thanked God for allowing me to witness that intimate and moving experience with three generations of his walking miracles. I also thought about how we are like the three generations of deer in our best moments. That night, I felt very blessed to be so close to nature and God’s creations, and deeply thankful for this incredible place called Prairiewoods.

—by Joni Reed Cooley, Artist in Residence

How Prairiewoods became a larger part of my life than I could’ve imagined

Otis & Friends 2

I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

Last month, I introduced you to Katie Gerhart, a student at Coe College and an AmeriCorps intern at Prairiewoods. I told Katie about how I came to be associated with Prairiewoods. (I begged for food at the kitchen door, the cooks fed me their delicious food and I became quite recognizable by my ever-growing belly.) Then Katie told me about how she got connected with this place of peace and transformation …

I became associated with Prairiewoods because I was interested in getting connected with the community while going to school in Cedar Rapids. After inquiring about becoming a part of the Iowa College AmeriCorps (ICAP) program at Coe College, a college counselor suggested that I meet with Jenifer Hanson, Director of Prairiewoods, to determine if Prairiewoods was the right place for me. Since the ICAP program requires a student to work a minimum of 300 service hours over the course of an academic year, it was important for me to find a place where I felt my skills and interests would be highlighted. After viewing the grounds and meeting with Jenifer, I decided on the spot that Prairiewoods would be an ideal place to volunteer long-term.

Katie GerhartMy ultimate decision was based on two outstanding principles of Prairiewoods that I experienced directly: a welcoming atmosphere and an unprecedented commitment to environmental sustainability.

Upon first entering the center, I immediately felt welcomed by the physicality of the space. The wide, open layout and ample sunlight made me feel warm, while the quiet work of others lent the space to an air of calm commitment. Prairiewoods showed itself to be contrary of the hectic hustle and bustle of a regular office setting; it seemed to me that this place of business really wasn’t a business at all, but a somewhat sacred place created with the primary intention of providing relaxation, reflection, and peace.

My initial feelings were affirmed as Jenifer began to tell me about the mission of Prairiewoods as it relates to fostering a close-knit, ecumenical community with sustainable programs and practices at the core.

I was quite impressed by Prairiewoods’ apparent commitment to environmental sustainability, as evidenced by its proud LEED Gold Standard plaque and frequent use of suntubes. However, in my meeting with Jenifer I came to understand that it’s the behind-the-scenes work of Prairiewoods that makes its environmental commitment so meaningful. I learned about the composting system, the use of reusable towels and napkins, the I-Renew Education Center, and the solar panels. The attention to detail—from using eco-friendly cleaning products to repurposing recyclables—was astounding. As an Environmental Studies student at college, I was awed and inspired to be better about not only the way I act in response to environmental issues, but to be more wholesome in the way I think about issues as well.

Prairiewoods made an amazing first impression on me and as I continue to work with the wonderful people involved in making Prairiewoods great, I am excited to continue to grow as an environmentally-conscious, thoughtful, and reflective individual.

—Katie Gerhart, Prairiewoods’ 2015–2016 Intern