30 days of thanksgiving, volume 6 (the final edition)

See post #1,  post #2post #3post #4 and post #5 (the book edition). Fields-2

I would say that all good things must come to end, but as a follower of Jesus, I simply do not believe that to be true.

Quite the contrary, actually. I hold hope in my heart, instead, that every glimpse of light and grace in this crazy world is a shadow of something that will be fully restored one day. This earth will one day be our heaven. Creation will stop its groaning. And every bit of evil, every nasty thing that tries our souls, will one day give way to a gracious ruler and King. 

Even now, glimpses of heaven breaking through on earth happen daily. We pray "Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." And then we leave our homes and, through the power of Jesus in us, we build the Kingdom now, right here, wherever we are planted. We are bearers of light, reflections of hope. This is my surest reason for gratitude: this is where God is present in all of this. The broken relationships, tattered dreams, losses and monotony. There is a Redeemer, and even now he is in the process of renewing all things. The old can be made new; the Resurrection of a Jewish carpenter-God-man showed us it is true.

And now, to practice the discipline of the giving of thanks:

  • First Thanksgivings. This year, a few of our new friends from Brazil, students at a local university, joined us for their first Thanksgiving. They were introduced to pumpkin for the first time, they pulled up chairs at the family table, they found home while they are experiencing homesickness. And whatever blessing they received by joining in with the Burden clan, we received back in being a part of their first U.S. Thanksgiving. David and I are blessed over and over again each time we meet up, laughing about the absurdities of the English language. This is part of the family God makes, and we are grateful.

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  • Thankful friends. Your comments on this series have cheered my heart and renewed my hope that together sharing our gratitude makes a tremendous difference. Here is just a sampling:

It doesn't get easier to wait as we naturally hope for quick and easy answers; but it helps to know God is totally involved in the waiting and has a plan that encompasses the inevitable, complex realities. -Laurna

Inspired by what many celebrate on Nov. 1, I am thankful for the great number of "saints", those canonized and those unknown to anyone today, those powerful and those humble, who have preceded us in serving God's mission in the world. -Scott

Grateful that God redeems what we believe to be lost, gifts us with what we do not deserve, and graciously right-sizes us time and time again. -Heather

I am so grateful for my family. I love them so much more than words could ever describe. I am also grateful that through all of my life's choices, God has always been there waiting patiently for me. -Connie

Thankful for: my husband's health ( he just had an appendectomy), cooler weather, the ocean breeze, a quiet morning with my bible, podcasts by wise Christian women, a bursting avocado tree, spilled milk, women in my writing community like YOU, Thomas the Train, friendly neighbors who have embraced us with open arms. I could go on and on and on. There is so much to be thankful for!  -Lesley

I'm grateful for the fact that second chances are always before us, wide-open doors we can walk through with just a tiny bit of intention. What a grace in this world of grief! -Heather

I'm grateful for Edith...a high school Sunday school teacher who taught me that the face of joy sometimes wears black lace-up shoes. I'm grateful for a God whose love does not expect our perfection but instead has covered every sin, every shortcoming, every failing with his sufficiency on our behalf, and brings good things out of even the most devastating losses of this world. -Shelly

Your final chance: for what are you most grateful for on this day?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece. Order here.

30 days of thanksgiving, volume 5 (the book edition)

See post #1,  post #2post #3 and post #4. Fields

In case you haven't already noticed, I am a bibliophile. A lover of books of all kinds.

Man with Book Sitting in Chair

As I mentioned in a previous post, I  relate to the writing of Lauren Winner in her memoir, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, where she said that every book is a self-help book.

I say this because in my life books challenge, ignite passion, entertain and edify, scold and challenge, reenvision and reframe, educate and spur growth, and most importantly: they have given me the quiet joy of consolation and comfort amidst the storms of life. They have mentored me, held me, and shaped me.

And for this, I am exceedingly thankful. Where would I be without my books? (Well, in a library of course, using someone else's books.) But I digress.

This week's giving of thanks will highlight seven quotes from books that have impacted me or the lives of a few of my friends at the Redbud Writer's Guild. Enjoy. And share the gratitude and happiness by sharing your favorite quotes or books in the comments below. Pull your chair up to the table—this is a book lover's feast.

  • And now, we give thanks for good books and powerful words:

#22: -Mark Twain. "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." (Nominated by Shelly Wildman at shellywildman.net)

#23: -Paul David Tripp. "The provisions of your Heavenly Father are not limited by the size of or your awareness of your need." (Nominated by Johannah Reardon at johannahreardon.com)

#24: Sheldon Van Auken. "There might be no certainty that Christ was God—but, by God, there was no certainty that He was not. If I were to accept, I might and probably would face the thought throughout the years: 'Perhaps, after all, it's a lie; I've been had!' But if I were to reject, I would certainly face the haunting, terrible thought: 'Perhaps it's true—and I have rejected my God!

This was not to be borne. I could not reject Jesus. There was only one thing to do, once I had seen the gap behind me. I turned away from it and flung myself over the gap towards Jesus." (A Severe Mercy)

Books I've read, skimmed, or would like to read one fine day.

#25: CS Lewis on Aslan. "Ooh!" said Susan. I'd thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."

"That you will, dearie, and no mistake, said Mrs. Beaver, "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."

"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you." (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe)

#26: -Flannery O'Connor. "When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God's business." (dedicated to my writer friends)

#27: Annie Dillard. "If the landscape reveals one certainty, it is that the extravagant gesture is the very stuff of creation. After the one extravagant gesture of creation in the first place, the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness, heaping profusions on profligacies with ever-fresh vigor. The whole show has been on fire from the word go. I come down to the water to cool my eyes. But everywhere I look I see fire; that which isn’t flint is tinder, and the whole world sparks and flames." (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

#28: -Jesus. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

*I still believe that gratitude makes room for the gift of his presence, and that it reminds us we are all needy, every one. And that being carried by a generous and gentle Shepherd might actually make our brokenness a gateway to the next gift. Will you join me?*

Come back next Monday for #s 29-30 on the gratitude list, and please know you are invited to add your own giving of thanks.

Your turn: For what book or quotation are you most grateful for on this day?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece. Order here.

30 days of thanksgiving, volume 4

See post #1,  post #2 and post #3. Fields

I am sitting on my blue couch, even now, and watching little bits of snow fly.

FullSizeRenderAnd I am praying, dear God, help me not to complain about snow. Not to put too fine a point on it, but as you can tell, we survived the polar vortex from last year, we had enough food and more to eat all winter, we had clothing and shelter, we were neither in danger nor surrounded by those in danger. Dear God, raise my vision higher, take my focus off of me and put it on the things that matter to you.

The souls that matter to you.

The hurting and hungry and broken that matter to you.

The injustice that matters to you.

O, Abba, please, let me be a bearer of your light.

  • And now, to practice the discipline of the giving of thanks:

#15: Repurposing. Remember this from last week? The repurposed door that was sitting on sawhorses in our garage, covered in two coats of chalk paint, just waiting for us to distress and wax it. We have been waiting for a rebirth, too; and the door reminded us that seasons of casting off, of pain and challenge and dying, make way for re-creation, for resurrection, for a fresh start. And voila, this week the door was made new, but with the distressed look, reminding us that our scars can be beautiful, that we are being repurposed with greater depth and character. I feel the repurposing happen, see it even, and joy is breaking through.

collage #16: Women are being healed. One of the hardest things I've ever done is see the book #ReclaimingEve through the publishing process, along with my coauthors. It took 4 1/2 years, went through many delays and reschedules and times when I thought it would never happen. I do believe there were spiritual forces at work that made it such a trial to bring this news of freedom and wholeness for the world's women. But now I have eyes to see and ears to hear: I hear women share stories of feelings of deep inferiority and inadequacy who are being set free and strengthened to stand up as the ezers or strong powers (Genesis 2:18) God created them to be.

I walk into safe spaces and I hear these women tell their stories or I read their emails, and I think God is raising up a new generation of women, restoring one heart at a time. The lies of "I am easily deceived, dangerous, and inferior" are being replaced with the powerful truth that "I bear God's image and am his representative, I have the agency to share his love with the world, and I am equipped for his good work." And women are Reclaiming Eve by passing this redeemed narrative on to their daughters and their sisters, their mothers and their friends.  I believe that every story matters, and that as we are set free to live out our calling we will set other men and women, boys and girls, free as well. For this I thank God, over and over again.

#17: Church. Do you remember my post awhile back about struggling with traditional church? Oh, the pain that coursed through the comments and the emails I received. Well, God is doing a new thing with us and church, my friends. The last few Sundays we've been at a church that is gloriously messy. They are not big, they are not a "production," they are showing up with a new pastor and seeking to find ways to go out into the community to serve. They are as friendly and warm as the day is long, and amidst the chaos we feel the Holy Spirit moving in their midst, we feel love and gratitude hanging out, we feel seen and valued and appreciated in all of two Sundays. I can't wait to go back!

#18: Health. This past week, a family member had a health scare, and I found myself at the hospital, looking for answers, hoping for the best. I am thankful for good medical care and for healing and for hope. I am thankful that no matter what comes, Jesus will shepherd us through it, our Great Physician, our always-present Friend.

#19: The Divine Hours. Each morning my heart needs a reorientation, a resetting, a recalibration. And so I pray from the Divine Hours, like I did just this morning, "…you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen." And the anchor holds.

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#20: Good neighbors. We have some really wonderful neighbors, the kind who will give you food out of their garden and put your stuff in their garage sale and help you move something with their truck and bring you something they thought you'd like to try. It makes me want to be a good neighbor, too, so I invited a couple over to celebrate his upcoming retirement. He doesn't do celebrations, so he asked if we could just call it "Friday," and this just makes me smile every time I think about it.

#21: Book Club. We have a menagerie of friends who coalesced around reading challenging books together and now just get together to hang out and share life, so I suppose we should call it the "Life Club." The wonderful thing about them is that they are safe people, unique and welcoming souls, and though it's hard to get all of us together, we never give up. That is how I ended up sitting at one of their tables last Saturday drinking ginger beer and eating Chicken Enchiladas and African Ground Nut Stew. And the conversations, oh, they are the best of all. From ice cream to immigration reform, social justice to church mission, book discussions to relationship sharing and advice.

*I still believe that gratitude makes room for the gift of his presence, and that it reminds us we are all needy, every one. And that being carried by a generous and gentle Shepherd might actually make our brokenness a gateway to the next gift. Will you join me?*

Come back next Monday for #s 22-28 on the gratitude list—a list of some great book quotations, and please know you are invited to add your own giving of thanks.

Your turn: For what are you most grateful on this day?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece. Order here.

30 days of thanksgiving, volume 3

Fields See post #1 and post #2.

Years ago when at one of my lowest points, I did the least likely thing: I began filling the pages of a notebook with things I was thankful for.

It was a dark time, and my counselor suggested that regular journaling of thanks would help. Of course, I couldn't see how at the time. But I literally forced myself to sit down and to come up with something. (Incidentally, I'd love to find that old journal now.)

Remarkably, as I put pen to paper, the list grew quickly, filling many pages. Family, friends, flannel pajamas, help in times of trouble, promises of God, the fact that there's always reason to hope, no matter what…sometimes the hardest part about the giving of thanks is just beginning, just starting when you don't feel like it. Then watching the gratitude grow.

In that spirit, will you join me by adding your thanks in the comments below? Perhaps your simple list will be just the beginning, and your journal will beckon. In my book, that would be the best possible outcome: to free up the gratitude you didn't know was there, welling up and overflowing, to the Giver of all good gifts.

  • And now, to practice the discipline of the giving of thanks:

#8: Repurposing. My husband had a great idea to find an old wooden door and repurpose it as a headboard for our king-sized bed. It sounded good in theory; but where would we find one? Enter a musty shop filled with castoff doors, old—and sometimes odd— light fixtures and time-past treasures. The door is now sitting on sawhorses in our garage, covered in two coats of chalk paint, just waiting for us to distress and wax it. The shop owner said it came from "The Alamo," an old city business of some sort, torn down and just waiting for a rebirth. We are waiting for a rebirth, too; and the door reminds us that seasons of casting off, of pain and challenge and dying, make way for re-creation, for resurrection, for a fresh start.

IMG_0109#9: The word "magnanimous." I've heard it's definition described this way: "large-hearted." Here's another way of putting it from dictionary.com: "generous in forgiving an insult or injury; free from petty resentfulness or vindictiveness." Yes, this, Lord! I pray. Make me a giver, considerate, kind, not easily swayed by praise or spite, but filled with goodness, generous and open, filled with the fruit of the Spirit.

#10: Hearing God's voice. My friend Heather commented on the last thanksgiving post: "Grateful that God redeems what we believe to be lost, gifts us with what we do not deserve, and graciously right-sizes us time and time again." And I thought about right-sizing, about seeing ourselves and God correctly, and it reminded me of the many times I have sat on my blue couch and prayed: Lord, what do you think of when you think of me? And the gentle Shepherd speaks to me, and upholds me, tucks me in, and finally, raises me up.

#11: Time. I have a natural tendency to regret what my heart views as wasted time or wasted years, years in which looking back, I could have taken a different course. But I am asking God to give me a different view of the time he's given me: to help me see years of infertility and childlessness somehow as tenderizing time, time when all is stripped bare and I am left only with what I can know for sure. To know for sure that my heavenly Father doesn't waste my time; that he is redeeming and loving and somehow giving good gifts that I cannot see. I pray for new grace to begin again to anticipate the future with hope, rather than dwelling in the past.

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#12: Books. Once when reading one of Lauren Winner's memoirs, I read that every book is a self-help book. And it made me smile, because books are some of my best friends of all, and they push and shape and challenge and console and expand me in ways that have shaped me into the woman I am today. Lately, it's been books like Resurrection Year by Sheridan Voysey, Beautiful Disaster by Marlena Graves, Teach Us to Want by Jen Pollock Michel, and Slow Church by Chris Smith and John Pattison. Finally, I'm making a deep dive into Falling Upward by Richard Rohr.

#13: Writing. My writing tends to sift my motives, to give a pulse-check on where I'm at with my Savior, to clarify the path and clear away the brush. And then sometimes it cracks my heart open, expanding and enlarging. Two of those posts this last month have brought unexpected healing; and for this, I give thanks to the God who created us to create. (See A Woman Fully Alive on SheLovesMagazine.com and I Am the Other: On Acknowledging My Disability)

#14: Community. I belong to a writing community called Redbud Writers Guild, and these ladies are  a beautiful tribe of helpers, of women who generously give to each other, mentoring along the way. Those who bear witness and encourage and help you to sharpen and strengthen, to fearlessly expand the feminine voice in the culture and the Church. Much of what I've done the last few years would not have been possible without this band of sisters.

*I still believe that gratitude makes room for the gift of his presence, and that it reminds us we are all needy, every one. And that being carried by a generous and gentle Shepherd might actually make our brokenness a gateway to the next gift. Will you join me?*

Come back next Monday for #s 15-21 on the gratitude list, and please know you are invited to add your own giving of thanks.

Your turn: For what are you most grateful on this day?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece. Order here.

30 days of thanksgiving, volume 2

Fields-2EXCERPT  from post #1: "Part of me wishes I could say life got easier after that, and that I eventually drew another picture of Jesus and I hand in hand, walking chummily through life. But, alas, no: Jesus is still carrying me. I'm still unclear on the future as far as permanent ministry is concerned; I watched another birth mother pass us over for adoption of her baby in July; I heard a few weeks ago that our book publisher—the one we worked so long and hard to get our book published through—is closing their doors on December 1, just 9 months after our book was finally published. (The process took us 4 1/2 years total.)

So I think it's fair to say I'm no longer the girl in search of "clarity" on her spiritual journey, whatever that means. I am searching for sustenance and the words of God that declare me his Beloved and for the next open door, but I have realized that God hasn't promised us clarity. I am seeking, instead, what it might look like for him to be present in all of this."

  • And now, to practice the discipline of the giving of thanks:

#1: Autumn heals. It is not just the beauty of the leaves or the chilled air, the apple cider or the apple brown betty my husband bakes inside a pie pumpkin. It is the transition of it all. Something will be born of transition, I feel God saying, something good will be birthed here, don't be in such a hurry to move on to the new season. 

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#2: Friendships grow. People come and go from our lives, but there are a few that stick around, too. And those friends have carried some burdens over a dinner table these last few months, their cards have made for a pleasant sight when the mailbox opens, their understanding leads me to see and taste that the Lord is good. I believe as psychologists Cloud and Townsend have written, "God uses people as his uniforms."

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#3: Scripture enriches. Psalm 27:13 says, "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Did you know that the times when you can't trace God's hand are the times he begins to prove his goodness? Not the shallow, Jesus-please-give-me-a-nice-life goodness, but the goodness of sharing in his heart so that your heart is broken right alongside his, that you might share his compassion with the world. And his Word becomes manna, daily bread: click on this post from from friend Leslie Leyland Fields as she digests Ephesians 2, and scroll down to watch her reciting it on video in the Alaskan wilderness.

#4: Music soothes. I am that girl that plays the same album and same songs over and over again ad nauseum, the Brokenness Aside album from All Sons & Daughters sliding into the cracks in my heart, renewing, reviving, recreating. "This is a word to all the ones that feel forgotten, that you are not…", "Alive," Brokenness Aside EP.

#5: Food nourishes. The aforementioned pie pumpkin is sitting on the counter, and it will be scooped out and filled with apples and cinnamon and bread, and baked, coming out of the oven with steam rising and ice cream sliding on the top, melting almost as soon as it hits the pumpkin goodness. It will nourish our tongues and our stomachs, and somehow in doing so, it will touch our souls. Much like the experience where the Brazilian university students gathered around our table several weeks ago and all of us ate Brazilian fish stew, my husband and I for the first time, and we all said what God did when he created: "This is very good." And somehow all of this reminds me that I can literally taste and see of the Lord's goodness; his presence is right here, around the table, delighting when we are delighted.

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#6: Jesus loves. Sometimes I sit with the heartbroken, those in recovery from addiction or loss, and I pray for them. I pray the words for them and for myself and for all of those who Jesus loves. I say, Jesus, help her to know this: You are God's Beloved, you are the one that Jesus loves, and he delights in you. And oh how the broken cry when they hear words of unconditional love that come from a heavenly Father who loves, the One whose Son showed us we are loved. One woman said "I will write this on a mirror. I will write this many places so I cannot forget." The God of the last and the least pursues the broken, and somehow, mysteriously, in his upside-down Kingdom, the very last will be the very first (Matthew 20:16).

#7: Creativity beckons. I am at the beginning of another project, one that requires research and creativity, and it is a slow start. But the joy of piecing together this zany story pushes me on, inviting me, asking me to bear witness to the story of God unfolding through history, and to say, winsomely, "Pay attention to this. Look at the beauty here. These people were fallible but in love with a God who redeems and renews." My creativity is marinating, taking shape, and finally I will sit down and write and pull together and refine, and it will be a spiritual act, tinged with a touch of the holy.

I still believe that gratitude makes room for the gift of his presence, and that it reminds us we are all needy, every one. And that being carried by a generous and gentle Shepherd might actually make our brokenness a gateway to the next gift. Will you join me?

Come back next Monday for #s 8-14 on the gratitude list, and please know you are invited to add your own giving of thanks.

Your turn: For what are you most grateful on this day?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece. Order here.

30 days of thanksgiving, volume 1

FieldsOh, Father, I prayed, please remind me of the ways your grace is showing up in our lives. A year or more ago I drew a picture of Jesus and me, while a group of women in addiction recovery around me scribbled their own, each of us trying to express something that is hard to put into words: Where am I at with the one who calls me Beloved? 

I drew the most elementary of stick figures, me leaning back straight, and Jesus—well, Jesus was carrying me. I no longer had strength to stand. I couldn't manage much forward movement on my own. As I would write later, he would have to take it from here. 

Part of me wishes I could say life got easier after that, and that I eventually drew another picture of Jesus and I hand in hand, walking chummily through life. But, alas, no: Jesus is still carrying me. I'm still unclear on the future as far as permanent ministry is concerned; I watched another birth mother pass us over for adoption of her baby in July; I heard a few weeks ago that our book publisher—the one we worked so long and hard to get our book published through—is closing their doors on December 1, just 9 months after our book was finally published. (The process took us 4 1/2 years total.)

So I think it's fair to say I'm no longer the girl in search of "clarity" on her spiritual journey, whatever that means. I am searching for sustenance and the words of God that declare me his Beloved and for the next open door, but I have realized that God hasn't promised us clarity. I am seeking, instead, what it might look like for him to be present in all of this. 

And just as I was sniffling this morning from a cold, I sat on my couch and asked God to bring to mind the ways in which we are graced, blessed, and cared for. And my mind was flooded with images, with gifts of grace:

  • A book club that enters into deep theological discussion and questioning and also cares deeply for each of its members, reflecting back the love of Jesus for fellow-journeyers.
  • A recent Reclaiming Eve retreat in which women of all ages spoke of being set free to be the strong power and image-bearer IMG_0107representative of God they are each created to be.
  • A friend who so feels for us on the journey that she sent me a grace-filled book, right through amazon, and followed up with an email asking how she could pray for us.

These gifts, though they may not number 1,000, are just the beginning. So it is that I've decided to post a reason for thanks for each of the 30 days in the month of November.

Because I believe gratitude makes room for the gift of his presence, and that it reminds us we are all needy, every one. And that being carried by a generous and gentle Shepherd might actually make our brokenness a gateway to the next gift. Will you join me?

Come back Monday for #1-#7 on the gratitude list, and please know you are invited to add your own giving of thanks.

Your turn: If you drew a picture today representing your relationship with Jesus, what would it look like? And why?

Note: The book Reclaiming Eve is still available on amazon along with the Small Group DVD, and we will keep you updated on future developments.