Nineteen Day Feast Part 2: Day 18 Baha’i Blogging Challenge

Botanic Gardens are in bloom and it is amazing. A good day.In part 1 of this series, I contemplated the importance of Feast. Now, what are the guidelines on where should it be held?

“The matter of where the Nineteen Day Feasts should be held is certainly one for the Spiritual Assembly to decide; but the Haziratu’l-Quds seems the logical place on most occasions. Until the friends have a place of worship … this building will also be used for devotional meetings, as well as for administrative purposes.

“If under some circumstances, some special Feast is offered in the home of one of the believers, with the approval of the Spiritual Assembly, there can be no objection; but, generally speaking, he feels it is better to use the Haziratu’l-Quds.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)

“There is no objection to holding meetings in the open air as long as they are conducted with dignity.”
(Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi)

I would love to have Feast outside sometime! And as for the below guidance, it is important to consider the appearance of us being a sect of another religion, or being just a mixture of a bunch of different religions.

“Generally there is no objection to holding … Baha’i functions in places or facilities owned and operated by non-Baha’i religious bodies, provided such use does not tend to identify the Faith, in the eyes of the public, with other religions.”
(Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice)

When should it be held?

“As to your questions concerning the times for Feasts and Holy Days: The Baha’i Day is from sunset to sunset, therefore if in summer the sun sets too late to enable the Nineteen Day Feast to be held on the
preceding evening, it should be held on the day itself. As long as the meeting begins before sunset it is considered to be held on the day which comes to an end with that sunset. Naturally Nineteen Day Feasts should be held on the first day of the Bahai month if possible, but if it should be difficult to do so, for example if it coincides with a regular public meeting evening, it is permissible to hold it on the following day, i.e., on a succeeding day of the Baha’i month.”
(Letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated June 23, 1964, to a National Spiritual Assembly)

One Assembly that I served on considered carefully when the Feast should be held, looked at the times of sunset, and also tried to hold Feast during the day whenever it fell on a weekend in order to accommodate families or those who worked different shifts. It was reassuring to know the Feast schedule for the year and when it would be far in advance, because I could put it in my calendar and plan around it.

“…You ask if it is within the discretion of a Local Spiritual Assembly, to schedule the Feasts at times other than the first day of a Baha’i­ month, and point out that attendance was very low when the Feasts were held in the middle of a week, but that when held on a Saturday many more of the friends were able to attend. It seems obvious, therefore, that the intent of the Local Assembly, in loving consideration of the members of its community, was to make the participation in a Nineteen Day Feast available to as many of the believers as possible. Perhaps the Assembly was basing its decision on Abdu’l-Baha’s statement, taken from the compilation on the Nineteen Day Feast, that the ‘object’ of the Feast is ‘concord, that through this fellowship hearts may become perfectly united…’

“Other passages from that same compilation are: ‘This Feast is a bringer of joy. It is the groundwork of agreement and unity. It is the key to affection and fellowship… ‘The believers of God must assemble and associate with each other in the utmost love, joy and fragrance.’

“On the other hand, since the beloved Guardian expressed a preference, and considered it ‘most suitable’, for the Feast to be held on the first day of each month, the House of Justice hopes that the friends everywhere will aim at scheduling their Nineteen Day Feasts in this way, and that the friends themselves will arrange their personal affairs to be able to attend.

“As in so many aspects of our beloved Faith, this is a matter of the gradual maturing of the Baha’i­s and of the institutions. The House of Justice feels that you should lovingly guide the Local Assemblies in this matter, but leave it to their discretion for the time being.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Mexico)

Obviously there needs to be a certain amount of flexibility with holding Feast at dates and times where people will attend…but how will we ever learn to center our lives around the rhythm of the Badi calendar when we keep trying to adjust it to fit our lives?

I also found this 2009 letter from the Universal House of Justice about Feast to be very helpful when thinking about Feast as a whole.

Continue Reading

Nineteen Day Feast Part 1: Day 17 – Baha’i Blogging Challenge

One of the children drew this during consultation at the Bahai Feast.I think this is going to be a longer and more thoroughly researched post at some point, but I’ve been wanting to record these quotations somewhere for a while, because I spend a lot of time thinking about Feast, how we can improve it, and what it may evolve to be in the future. Sometimes we approach Baha’i Feasts as a boring, every 19 days obligation, rather than as a source of community, of joy, and strength. And sometimes that is because we get guilted about not attending very often, or because our Feast is boring/frustrating to attend, or we are tired and the idea of going somewhere in the cold after working all day is exhausting. But we are still in the infant stages of what the Feast will be someday. Maybe we can take ownership of changing our attitudes around Feast. As much as I love Feast, I still struggle with my own frustrations around it at times. I found the following quotations helpful as I wrestled with some of these thoughts.

What is the purpose of Feast?

O thou who art steadfast in the Covenant!

Your detailed letter hath been received, but because of the press of work a brief answer must suffice. You have asked as to the Feast in every Bahá’í month. This Feast is held to foster comradeship and love, to call God to mind and supplicate Him with contrite hearts, and to encourage benevolent pursuits. That is, the friends should there dwell upon God and glorify Him, read the prayers and holy verses, and treat one another with the utmost affection and love. Should trouble arise between two of the friends, let both be invited in, and efforts be made to compose their differences. Let all discussion centre on the doing of charitable acts and holy deeds, that laudable results may be the fruit thereof.

(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from a Tablet to an individual, translated from the Persian)

Give ye great weight to the Nineteen Day gatherings, so that on these occasions the beloved of the Lord and the handmaids of the Merciful may turn their faces toward the Kingdom, chant the communes, beseech God’s help, become joyfully enamoured each of the other, and grow in purity and holiness, and in the fear of God, and in resistance to passion and self. Thus will they separate themselves from this elemental world, and immerse themselves in the ardours of the spirit.

(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from a Tablet to the local Spiritual Assembly of Spokane, Washington, translated from the Persian)

So there is obviously a spiritual component, but what about the food?

O ye loyal servants of the Ancient Beauty! In every cycle and dispensation, the feast hath been favoured and loved, and the spreading of a table for the lovers of God hath been considered a praiseworthy act. This is especially the case today, in this dispensation beyond compare, this most generous of ages, when it is highly acclaimed, for it is truly accounted among such gatherings as are held to worship and glorify God. Here the holy verses, the heavenly odes and laudations are intoned, and the heart is quickened, and carried from itself.

The primary intent is to kindle these stirrings of the spirit, but at the same time it follows quite naturally that those present should partake of food, so that the world of the body may mirror the spirit’s world, and flesh take on the qualities of soul; and just as the spiritual delights are here in profusion, so too the material delights.

Happy are ye, to be observing this rule, with all its mystic meanings, thus keeping the friends of God alert and heedful, and bringing them peace of mind, and joy.

(Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá)

I also really like the last sentence in the above selection. “…bringing them peace of mind, and joy.” If we turn Feast into a place where people feel this way, imagine the things our communities could accomplish in that environment! Also, we still don’t fully understand how important the various components of Feast are in combination…there are “mystic meanings” involved here.

Are we required to attend Feast? Why is it so important?

“Attendance at Nineteen Day Feasts is not obligatory but very important, and every believer should consider it a duty and a privilege to be present on such occasions.”

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer)

“…The main purpose of the Nineteen Day Feasts is to enable individual believers to offer any suggestion to the Local Assembly which in its turn will pass it to the National Spiritual Assembly. The Local Assembly is, therefore, the proper medium through which local Bahá’í communities can communicate with the body of the national representatives….”

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada)

“In reply to your letter of November 8th we feel that all friends, whatever their circumstances, should be encouraged to observe the Nineteen Day Feast.

Obviously it can only be an official administrative occasion where there is a Local Spiritual Assembly to take charge of it, present reports to the friends, and receive their recommendations. But groups, spontaneous gatherings of friends, and even isolated believers should certainly remember the day and say prayers together. In the case of a group it may well hold the Feast in the manner in which a Local Spiritual Assembly would do so, recognizing of course that it has no official administrative standing.”

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles)

Alright, so we know that the Nineteen Day Feast is one of the important patterns of our community life, and it seems pretty clear that we can observe Feasts even if there are no other Baha’is nearby. In my next post I will highlight the different portions of Feast and the guidelines surrounding them. 

Go here for Part 2!

Continue Reading

Abdu’l-Baha at the zoo in Chicago: Day 16 Baha’i Blogging Challenge

I live about one mile from the Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the last free zoos in America. On a summer evening, we may ride our bikes there, stroll in the gardens, or look at the animals. It is a magical place to me in many ways. I remember coming across this photo years ago and being struck by it. Abdu’l-Baha leaning over the railing of the enclosure, looking at the animals in 1912 on His visit to America. Having mostly seen posed photos over the years, it was a revelation to see Him doing such a relatable thing in my hometown.

I wonder what the conversation amongst the local Baha’is was like when planning His visit and trying to figure out where to take Him. I may try to find out if any of the original structures shown in these photos still exist.

Continue Reading

The Baha’i Proofs: Day 15 Baha’i Blogging Challenge

Another of the discoveries from my time at the Baha’i National Center (I think?). This one is something that I actually own. It is the 1929 edition of a book originally published in 1902, and was a standard introductory book to the Baha’i Faith for many years. It was written by Mirza Abu’l-Fadl and translated by Ali Kuli Khan, who is a fascinating person himself. I love old books, though I don’t collect them, and history is a passion of mine. I was especially struck by the paragraph about the lack of the application of the transliteration standard set by Shoghi Effendi. How fascinating to see how early in the Guardian’s ministry he was working to standardize the system of translation and word usage.

Continue Reading

Having a voice: Day 13 Baha’i Blogging Challenge

Feast was lovely in Wilmette tonight. Scattered at times, but lovely.When I was a child, I remember curling up under a blanket or even pulling a rug over myself during long meetings, or Feast, or any activity in which adults were talking and I stayed in the room. I remember being small, but assertive. (Nothing has changed about the assertive part.) I remember my parents telling me that I needed to have a voice, even if my voice was small and my thoughts not fully formed. That this was my Baha’i community and that participation from individual community members is one of the things that made the Baha’i Faith different from other religions.

I remember having a voice. I remember that sometimes people struggle with that voice, that nothing has changed since then, that we still fight against the influences of a failing society, with its flaws and racism and misogyny. But that I had a voice, and a community, and that was more than a lot of people I knew. And now I am more aware, and I can speak up, and bring up the tough conversations.

We are learning, as a community, how to give others a voice, and what consultation truly looks like. We are human, and therefore flawed, but we are learning. And I promise that I will always try to hear everyone’s voice.

Continue Reading

Who signed the guest book? Day 11 Baha’i Blogging Challenge

Things I find when cleaning out the Wilmette archives. Look at those top two names!When I lived in Wilmette, I served on the Local Spiritual Assembly for a few years and also served as the Wilmette Archivist. This title was more of an honorary acknowledgement of my natural interest in old things and my organizing ability as the Wilmette community had to move its boxes and books to a storage unit when the Baha’i Home was turned into an office for the Baha’i National Center. I often regretted not taking more photos and spending more time with the papers in those files. I would love to have the time to completely digitize them and allow people to search through them.

One day I found a guestbook that had a few names on the first page that I recognized. As a child I heard stories about these individuals, and it looks like they came for a visit on the same day from opposite ends of the country. They were both serving as members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada at that time (it split into two different Assemblies in 1948), so I’m guessing they were in town for a National Spiritual Assembly meeting. It was really special to come across this and imagine them in town, attending some Baha’i gathering, and signing that guestbook.

January 11, 1943: Amelia E. Collins; Phoenix, AZ

January 11, 1943: Louis G. Gregory; Eliot, ME

Continue Reading

My visit to Spain in 2007: Day 10 Baha’i Blogging Challenge

When I was serving at the Baha’i World Center in Israel from 2006-2008, I needed to leave the country to renew my visa, and I was also due for a vacation. I didn’t have much money, so I decided to go visit my friend Lorenia, who I had met online through our blogs and who had just recently become a member of the Baha’i Faith. We had never met in person, but she was living on the northern coast of Spain at the time and I decided to take a chance and take a week-long trip to stay with her.

We match!Luckily, she wasn’t a criminal, and in fact, has become one of my closest friends (oh my goodness, look how young we were!). The timing was great, as it was October and we were able to attend many Baha’i activities in the local Baha’i community. We went to a study circle, Feast, the regional unit convention, and the celebration of the Birth of the Bab in the week that I was there!

Where the regional convention was held todayAttending the regional convention was a magical experience. We left Gijon when it was still dark, early in the morning, and drove to a farm somewhere in the country. The roads were winding, the fences were made of stone, and a light fog swirled through the farms and trees. When we arrived we went to this guest house where chairs and tables were set out and there were snacks. I couldn’t follow most of the conversation, but every gathering we attended was full of love…and really amazing food.

For the Birth of the Bab celebration, we went to the home of one of the relatives of the Bab, which made it even more special, where platters of food were shared and we spent the entire day hanging out, speaking a mixture of Persian, English, and Spanish, and meeting new people. They spent much of their time trying to convince me to move there…which was tempting, given how beautiful it was there and how lovely the people were.

Holy Day dinner

The experience of being immediately embraced by this community of people who knew nothing about me is something that I have experienced my entire life, yet is hard to explain to people who don’t know what that feels like. It is like having aunts, uncles, and cousins where ever I go in the world, and I’ve never felt truly alone. This is a gift that I am eternally grateful for.

Continue Reading

Map of the travels of the Central Figures: Day 9 Baha’i Blogging Challenge

Map of the travels of the Central Figures

Another of the treasures that I found in my work at the US Baha’i National Center is the discovery of copies of maps that were probably created in the 1950s. This one is a map of the travels of the Central Figures of the Baha’i Faith: The Bab, Baha’u’llah, and Abdu’l-Baha.

First of all, I love the design from this era. The fonts and colors are all so appealing to me. The softness and elegance make you want to hang this on your wall. I am pretty sure that I have the original document lying around somewhere, and I’d love to get it framed and displayed someday.

Second, growing up as a child attending Baha’i children’s classes, we learned about Their travels but rarely had a visual to rely on. Especially one that showed all three at once. I would love to see a map of Shoghi Effendi’s travels too!

Continue Reading

Sustainability at Gatherings: Day 8 Baha’i Blogging Challenge

Have you ever noticed the pile of papers after Baha’i Feast, or a reflection gathering? We want to make sure we have enough copies of the Feast letter, or the Treasurer’s report, or whatever documents we need to share or read…and then we kill a bunch of trees and waste paper and very few people refer to those documents again.

We hosted Feast on Friday at our home, and though we have a printer, we decided to put the letters up on the TV for everyone to read. It wasn’t a perfect solution, though we tried to zoom in to help people see the letters…and we successfully managed to have no paper printed! We have done this once before and got good feedback on it.

I realize that we may not always have access to technology (or the know-how!) at our gatherings, and I also know that screens just don’t feel the same as a piece of paper in our hands, but we should consider the responsibility we have toward our planet when planning our gatherings!

Continue Reading

Historic photos of the Baha’i House of Worship for North America Part 3: Day 7 – Baha’i Blogging Challenge

Back when I worked at the Baha’i National Center in 2012, I found this series of photos in a stack of items that were being given away. I decided to scan them in and post them, but then I never actually shared them widely. I split it into different posts because they’re from different time frames. I love seeing the progression of the House of Worship over time, and it really helped give me a sense of how long it took to construct this building.

You can find part 1 here and part 2 here.

March 5, 1953
1953-Auditorium of the Baha'i House of Worship


March 5, 1953 - alcove at the Baha'i House of Worship

Unknown date
Mid 1950s? No date

Continue Reading

Historic photos of the Baha’i House of Worship for North America Part 2: Day 6 – Baha’i Blogging Challenge

Back when I worked at the Baha’i National Center in 2012, I found this series of photos in a stack of items that were being given away. I decided to scan them in and post them, but then I never actually shared them widely. I split it into different posts because they’re from different time frames. I love seeing the progression of the House of Worship over time, and it really helped give me a sense of how long it took to construct this building.

You can find part 1 of this series here.

December 5, 1940
December 5, 1940

December 18, 1941
Baha'i House of Worship with scaffolding

July 1, 1942
July 1 1942 Baha'i House of Worship

Continue Reading

Historic photos of the Baha’i House of Worship for North America Part 1: Day 5 – Baha’i Blogging Challenge

Back when I worked at the Baha’i National Center in 2012, I found this series of photos in a stack of items that were being given away. I decided to scan them in and post them, but then I never actually shared them widely. I split it into different posts because they’re from different time frames. I love seeing the progression of the House of Worship over time, and it really helped give me a sense of how long it took to construct this building.

October 8, 1930
October 8, 1930

October 23, 1930
October 23, 1930 Baha'i House of Worship

October 23 1930 Baha'i House of Worship

October 31, 1930
October 31 1930

November 14, 1930
November 14, 1930 Baha'i House of Worship

April 28, 1931
April 28, 1931

April 28 1931 dome

April 28 1931

March 6, 1934
Baha'i House of Worship, March 6, 1934

Continue Reading

Why am I participating in the Baha’i Blogging Challenge? Day 4 – Baha’i Blogging Challenge

Some of my Baha’i internet friends started this initiative to blog each day in November and I thought it was a great way to get back into something that I used to do quite regularly. I’ve made lifelong friendships through my blog and learned to express myself creatively in ways that I never would have without an audience.

I started blogging in 2001, in my senior year of high school, before most people knew what blogging was. My first post on this blog was in June 2003, which seems like a lifetime ago. And it really is, in internet terms. Back then, it was considered strange and dangerous to meet up in real life with people that you met on the internet. Sharing personal information about oneself online was such a new concept and I remember so many people being very concerned about it…and then this little pocket of the internet where we were all sharing all the things. It was surreal to be able to connect to so many other people online, particularly Baha’is, that I could then meet at conferences or when traveling.

I think in some ways it helped me develop my Baha’i identity even further. I could learn about how Baha’is lived in other countries, and in the days before Facebook, I got a glimpse of personal connection that seems deeper than what I have now with most social media. Sometimes we didn’t even know what we looked like, all we had was a screen name and the written word, and it was somehow more intimate for all of that.

There is a certain amount of nostalgia in this blog, and I’m glad that I have not deleted it and that I’ve tried to keep it going. It helped shape who I am now in some pretty important ways, and I am grateful for that.

Continue Reading

Nineteen Months & why I continue after 7 years – Day 2 Baha’i Blogging Challenge

I post about Nineteen Months quite a bit on my social media channels, but rarely do I actually explain my involvement in it and the amount of time it takes in my life. It is something that I never expected to keep going as long as it has!

A friend and I originally started the site based on a now-defunct yearly Fast blog called Nineteen Days, with the goal of generating Baha’i-inspired art and content based on the cycles of the Badi Calendar. The first post was March 19, 2010 with photos only. As time went on we added articles and various forms of the written word. Four years ago when he stepped down, my friend Caitlin Castelaz came on board to be my co-editor. Since she has a writing and editing background, she had the training to take on or start a lot of the projects, like Vahid, that I would never have been able to do.

There are background logistics that are required for such an endeavor. Recruiting photographers and writers to provide content at no cost is, of course, a challenge. We have been lucky to have a large number of talented people assist us over the years, and I’m grateful for the time and energy they have given to this project.

Every 19 days I send an email to all the photographers on my current roster and remind them that their photos are due. They send me a photo and quote, and I arrange it and format it for posting in WordPress (our publishing platform). It takes about an hour each Baha’i month to arrange everything. I have to upload the photos (sometimes resizing), then ensure that the photographers are credited and the location, quotation, and any notes are included. If the quotation is from the Baha’i Writings I check the source to make sure it is noted correctly. Then I publish the post, share the link on the Nineteen Months Facebook page, and on my own Facebook page.

Of course there is basic maintenance and upkeep of the site. We have to pay for hosting, renew it each year, update the WordPress template and do a site redesign every so often to keep things fresh. We recruit new contributors, respond to emails, and have phone consultations. We recently collaborated with Baha’i Publishing to put out a calendar. All of these things take time, and this is not a site that generates revenue.

As the editors, we are fairly open with who we are and who contributes to the site, because I think it is important to know the faces behind the posts and who we are. I hope to continue working on Nineteen Months as long as it is useful and people want to contribute to it. If you know anyone that wants to be a contributor (photographer or writing, no requirement to actually be a Baha’i!), please send them our way.

Continue Reading

The importance of Chicago according to Abdu’l-Baha – Day 1 Baha’i Blogging Challenge

I have lived in Chicago for the majority of my life. We moved here when I was 8 years ago because my parents wanted to live near the House of Worship and my dad was offered a job in the area.  Recently someone reminded me about this specific passage from Tablets of the Divine Plan: “Up to the present time, every movement initiated in Chicago, its effect was spread to all parts and to all directions, just as everything that appears in and manifests from the heart influences all the organs and limbs of the body.”

I included the full text of the Tablet, as I feel you need context when reading these quotations to get the true impact. There is a great article from Baha’i Blog that discusses the history and significance of the Tablets of the Divine Plan…written during World War I, they were the blueprint for the Baha’is to teach the Faith and build the administrative functions of the Faith. There is also a site with some additional information about these Tablets…including some photos of the original postcards that they were written on!

As a child I recited the prayer at the bottom of this post all the time, memorizing it shortly after we moved to Chicago. It is a blessing to live in the shadow of the Baha’i House of Worship.

Revealed on February 8, 1917, in Bahá’u’lláh’s room at the house of Abbúd in ‘Akká, and addressed to the Bahá’ís of the twelve Central States of the United States: Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

He is God!
O ye old believers and intimate friends:

GOD says in the great Qur’án: “He specializes for His Mercy whomsoever He willeth.”

These twelve Central States of the United States are like unto the heart of America, and the heart is connected with all the organs and parts of man. If the heart is strengthened, all the organs of the body are reinforced, and if the heart is weak all the physical elements are subjected to feebleness.

Now praise be to God that Chicago and its environs from the beginning of the diffusion of the fragrances of God have been a strong heart. Therefore, through divine bounty and providence it has become confirmed in certain great matters.

First: The call of the Kingdom was in the very beginning raised from Chicago. This is indeed a great privilege, for in future centuries and cycles, it will be as an axis around which the honor of Chicago will revolve.

Second: A number of souls with the utmost firmness and steadfastness arose in that blessed spot in the promotion of the Word of God and even to the present moment, having purified and sanctified the heart from every thought, they are occupied with the promulgation of the teachings of God. Hence the call of praise is raised uninterruptedly from the Supreme Concourse.

Third: During the American journey ‘Abdu’l-Bahá several times passed through Chicago and associated with the friends of God. For some time he sojourned in that city. Day and night he was occupied with the mention of the True One and summoned the people to the Kingdom of God.

Fourth: Up to the present time, every movement initiated in Chicago, its effect was spread to all parts and to all directions, just as everything that appears in and manifests from the heart influences all the organs and limbs of the body.

Fifth: The first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in America was instituted in Chicago, and this honor and distinction is infinite in value. Out of this Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, without doubt, thousands of Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs will be born.

Likewise (were instituted in Chicago) the general Annual Conventions, the foundation of the Star of the West, the Publishing Society for the publication of books and Tablets and their circulation in all parts of America, and the preparations now under way for the celebration of the Golden Centenary Anniversary of the Kingdom of God. I hope that this Jubilee and this Exhibition may be celebrated in the utmost perfection so that the call to the world of unity, “There is no God but One God, and all the Messengers, from the beginning to the Seal of the Prophets (Muḥammad) were sent on the part of the True One!” may be raised; the flag of the oneness of the world of humanity be unfurled, the melody of universal peace may reach the ears of the East and the West, all the paths may be cleared and straightened, all the hearts may be attracted to the Kingdom of God, the tabernacle of unity be pitched on the apex of America, the song of the love of God may exhilarate and rejoice all the nations and peoples, the surface of the earth may become the eternal paradise, the dark clouds may be dispelled and the Sun of Truth may shine forth with the utmost intensity.

O ye friends of God! Exert ye with heart and soul, so that association, love, unity and agreement be obtained between the hearts, all the aims may be merged into one aim, all the songs become one song and the power of the Holy Spirit may become so overwhelmingly victorious as to overcome all the forces of the world of nature. Exert yourselves; your mission is unspeakably glorious. Should success crown your enterprise, America will assuredly evolve into a center from which waves of spiritual power will emanate, and the throne of the Kingdom of God will, in the plentitude of its majesty and glory, be firmly established.

This phenomenal world will not remain in an unchanging condition even for a short while. Second after second it undergoes change and transformation. Every foundation will finally become collapsed; every glory and splendor will at last vanish and disappear, but the Kingdom of God is eternal and the heavenly sovereignty and majesty will stand firm, everlasting. Hence in the estimation of a wise man the mat in the Kingdom of God is preferable to the throne of the government of the world.

Continually my ear and eye are turned toward the Central States; perchance a melody from some blessed souls may reach my ears—souls who are the dawning-places of the love of God, the stars of the horizon of sanctification and holiness—souls who will illumine this dark universe and quicken to life this dead world. The joy of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá depends upon this! I hope that you may become confirmed therein.

Consequently, those souls who are in a condition of the utmost severance, purified from the defects of the world of nature, sanctified from attachment to this earth, vivified with the breaths of eternal life—with luminous hearts, with heavenly spirit, with attraction of consciousness, with celestial magnanimity, with eloquent tongues and with clear explanations—such souls must hasten and travel through all parts of the Central States. In every city and village they must occupy themselves with the diffusion of the divine exhortations and advices, guide the souls and promote the oneness of the world of humanity. They must play the melody of international conciliation with such power that every deaf one may attain hearing, every extinct person may be set aglow, every dead one may obtain new life and every indifferent soul may find ecstasy. It is certain that such will be the consummation.

Let the spreaders of the fragrances of God recite this prayer every morning:

O LORD, my God! Praise and thanksgiving be unto Thee for Thou hast guided me to the highway of the kingdom, suffered me to walk in this straight and far-stretching path, illumined my eye by beholding the splendors of Thy light, inclined my ear to the melodies of the birds of holiness from the kingdom of mysteries and attracted my heart with Thy love among the righteous.

O Lord! Confirm me with the Holy Spirit, so that I may call in Thy Name amongst the nations, and give the glad tidings of the manifestation of Thy kingdom amongst mankind.

O Lord! I am weak, strengthen me with Thy power and potency. My tongue falters, suffer me to utter Thy commemoration and praise. I am lowly, honor me through admitting me into Thy kingdom. I am remote, cause me to approach the threshold of Thy mercifulness. O Lord! Make me a brilliant lamp, a shining star and a blessed tree, adorned with fruit, its branches overshadowing all these regions. Verily, Thou art the Mighty, the Powerful and Unconstrained.

-‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan

Continue Reading

The Nineteen Months Calendar!

I can’t express how excited I am about working with the Baha’i Publishing Trust to create a wall calendar that is now for sale on their website. Caitlin Castelaz, my co-editor, and I worked with our photographers to submit photos and quotations to be included in this 15 month calendar. It is great for your cubicle or wall in your house. The photos are beautiful and I’m so grateful to our photographers who contribute every 19 days to this project…which has been going on for 7 years (the project began in March of 2010).

Continue Reading

Nineteen Months Poetry

Over at Nineteen Months (the site that I founded and now run with my friend Caitlin), we had 19 day project of words from various authors about the Baha’i Fast, and Caitlin organized it all. She put it together in a PDF for everyone to enjoy: A Fast Word: The Anthology.

The poem that I contributed:

My Mother’s Hands 

My hands do not yet look like my mother’s hands
but they are starting to move in the same ways
and express themselves on their own.
When I pour coffee early in the morning
my hands cradle the cup
and I view the skyline of my home.
Dawn comes in little pieces
the tests come in waves
each chasing the other.

Continue Reading

Promotion (and some thoughts)

Rare sunny day in winter. #fromwhereIworkI got promoted yesterday. From Events Coordinator to Events Manager*

*does a happy dance*

It was a while in coming, but I was told in the morning and it was announced in the afternoon to our department (which is good, because it would have been so hard to keep that a secret!). I’ve had some very supportive supervisors and colleagues, and it meant a lot to have that support and guidance over the last few years. Nothing really changes for now (other than my title and my business cards), and I’m really already doing most of the work, so it is nice to be recognized. Thank goodness I don’t have to move! I love the view from my desk.

Women’s Work is Not What You Think

In the last few years especially I’ve been thinking a lot about women in the workplace and in leadership positions. I know that women generally don’t advocate for themselves, ask for raises or promotions, and are not taken as seriously when it comes to strategy and business decisions. I am grateful for the people in my life that have encouraged me to stand up for myself, to not accept the narrative that so many women are fed their whole lives. My parents started it, of course, and then a steady flow of other family, friends, and co-workers all taught me how to be strong and navigate the minefield. And the people who were not so nice taught me things too. I could move on from those situations with additional skills and knowledge.

I work in a female-dominated industry, but men are still in charge overall, and it became very evident to me last year when I read the PCMA 2015 Salary Survey. To sum up:

  1. Average salary for meeting professionals: $77,519 for women, $102,375 for men. Almost exactly 75 cents to the dollar. 
  2. Planners with a CMP certification make about $10,000 more than those without. So glad I got my CMP in 2014.
  3. Association meeting professionals tend to make more than corporate planners. I’m in association management, thank goodness.
  4. 72% of respondents who said that they had additional work added to their plate also were not compensated for the additional work. Find this to be true across the board.
  5. Also, in the Department of Labor categorizations, meeting professionals were generally lumped in with restaurateurs, lodging managers, etc, within the Hospitality and Tourism category, and only last year did they start to get their own sub-category that is beginning to recognize their expertise. This has been a huge frustration of mine for years. We are experts in a specialized field that doesn’t get nearly enough recognition. 

The reason I want to talk about this stuff is because I feel a lack of it right now, and career growth and development is important to me. I work with a lot of young women, especially because we get a lot of college grads who are just starting out. When will they have these conversations? No one likes to talk about salary discrepancies, or the workload (please spare me the tired old spiel about working hard to prove ourselves), or the emotional labor we carry for our teams or our clients. We are martyrs in one of the most stressful (and fun!) jobs, but then don’t have enough open conversations about how to create more of a balance, or how to support each other. So I’ve been making an effort and I am hoping it helps some people along the way.

A couple of articles caught my eye this week:
Women in Company Leadership Tied to Stronger Profits, Study Says
Having It All Kinda Sucks
(*those are our external titles. internal titles are more complicated, but it works well enough for our purposes here.)

Continue Reading

Recent Photo Publications

Over the last year I was asked if I could provide some of my photos for the Baha’i Publishing Trust’s upcoming publications.

The Baha’i Datebook is a physical pocket calendar for 2016-2017 for the year 173 B.E. and my photo of the new Welcome Center at dusk is the cover photo. It was a challenging shot to get, as I didn’t want people, construction equipment, or cars in the shot, so Shea patiently helped me drag around my tripod and take many shots.Baha'i Wall Calendar (173 BE)

The Baha’i Wall Calendar also features the same photo.





The Dawning Place is a book about the building of the House of Worship that was originally published in 1984 and was an integral part of my life growing up in the area near the House of Worship. When I was guiding at the House of Worship as a kid, my parents encouraged me to read this book to be able to answer questions about the House of Worship and tell stories that people may not know. I was so excited when I was told that my photos would be included in the new edition. It is a gorgeous, display-worthy book that has loads of very interesting information about the House of Worship.

The cover photo is not mine (actually taken by a friend, Bobby), but the below photo shows some of the photo pages inside the book with photos I had taken over the last few years.

Continue Reading


my daughter, my daughter…
never let the conventional wisdom
of the masses fool you into complacency
when it comes to the sacredness of your body and your soul

my sister, my sister…
your experiences in life are yours
are real
they are true things and they created you
society will tell you that you imagined things
or that it is ok for you to be an object

my mother, my mother…
all of the mothers in the world are you
when there is some cruelty
your arms shield and hold and are battered and bruised
from fighting for your children

my friend, my friend…
raise your girls and boys to be without fear
and to love with every piece of their heart
raise them to recognize injustice
to scream when it rears its ugly head

my brother, my brother…
listen to your sister, your daughter, your mother
stand up to speak
when she is weary of speaking another word
because even the strongest child
breaks sometimes

Clouds took over the city today.

Continue Reading

Our New Orleans trip

At the end of the July I had a conference in New Orleans for work, and since it was so close to our two year anniversary, we took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the city together. I had been to New Orleans a few times for work but hadn’t really had a chance to explore. I am so glad we did!

I stayed at the Marriott in the French Quarter for my conference but then moved to the Garden District to stay with some friends who graciously opened their home to us for four days. I wanted to take notes on some of the places we went and food we ate, partially so that I wouldn’t forget, but also as a reference for others who might wish to replicate some of the things we did. I have to say that exploring New Orleans on foot (for the most part) in July heat was a little painful, but we made it through.

Meals during the conference
We don’t get to eat out much while we’re working a conference, but we took advantage of a few free evenings to enjoy some great places.

My top recommendation is Coop’s Place. The place is a tiny local’s bar on the edge of the French Quarter, and the Supreme Rabbit & Sausage Jambalaya is the best dish in the place, and is gluten free. I ate there several times during my trip. Go there.

GW Fins was a great location for our staff dinner. Close to the hotel and with a large enough dining room to accommodate our group, the food and service were excellent. Nearly all of their food could be made gluten-free and there was no reduction in the quality of the food.

Luke New Orleans seems to be busy on all nights of the week. There were five of us and while the staff were very helpful and the food was delicious, I got pretty sick from a food mixup in the kitchen and the food took over an hour to get to our table. Apparently their kitchen gets overwhelmed when the dining room is full.

Palace Cafe was right next to my hotel and had a dedicated gluten free menu. I told my server I was in a bit of a rush and she brought my Shrimp Tchefuncte (Gulf shrimp, Creole meunière sauce, roasted mushrooms, green onions, popcorn rice) out in less than five minutes. It was very good.

Daisy Duke’s is a surprisingly delicious, low-cost diner that is open 24-7 with several locations. The staff gave it good ratings and I ate there several times (mostly just the breakfast is gluten free though).

Lunch at SoBu in the French Quarter with Shea, was fantastic. They had a separate gluten free menu and a dedicated fryer for their fries. I had the Churrasco Steak a la Plancha with fries and Shea had the two course lunch. The bartender made me a delicious mocktail a few nights earlier when the staff stopped by for drinks. We met up with our friends who would be hosting us the next few days and ended up at their friend’s farewell party for the evening.

Best breakfast. The Floridian omelette (stuffed with cream cheese and topped with crab meat) with potatoes and a side of gf pancakes. New Orleans is trying to kill me.Sunday: Our hosts recommended a place around the corner from their house in the Garden District called Another Broken Egg Cafe. And if it was located in Chicago I might eat there every day. I got The Floridian: Cream cheese filled omelette topped with garlic sautéed crabmeat, Monterey Jack & green onions. They came with breakfast potatoes and a side of gluten free pancakes. Incredible. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Got a tour from the cemetery custodian and learned about how they bury people.After breakfast, we walked down the street to Lafayette Cemetery #1 and were lucky to get a little impromptu tour from an older gentleman who explained various parts of the cemetery and how burials are carried out. Fascinating!

That afternoon we took a bus to catch the ferry across the river (a very short ride) to Algiers Point. There isn’t a whole lot to do per se (or even much open on a Sunday), but we found a great little cafe that was doing a brisk business, as well as a garage sale where we bought a hat for Shea. The houses there are just beautiful, though, so if you like wandering through lovely neighborhoods, it is nice. Just be sure to bring cash because the Algier’s Ferry only accepts cash. Touristing the French Quarter When we got back from Algiers Point we wandered the French Quarter and went to my favorite place for jambalaya (Coop’s Place) again, so that Shea could try it, as well as the Jean Lafitte Visitor Center, a lovely free resource if you want to learn a little about the history of New Orleans and the national park system. That night we went to Mais Arepas with our hosts. I had been wanting to go there since I first read about their gluten free options over a year ago. It turns out that they’re not always great about the gluten free things and had to bring my food out a second time because they put the fried plantains in my dish. It was tasty but I’m not sure I’d go back.    This is where we spent our day today. Worth it.

We basically spent the day at the National World War II museum. Worth it. Spend the whole day there if you like history. Trust me, you will be glad you did. The museum is well organized with displays that tell the stories in engaging and respectful ways. I especially enjoyed the Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in World War II exhibit.

At lunchtime we decided that we were hungry and I found a place with good reviews just down the street called Cochon. Turns out that it has won a bunch of awards for being delicious. I got the Louisiana cochon with cabbage, cracklins & pickled peaches with a side of creamy grits, and Shea got the Rabbit & Dumplings. So, so good.

Almost 2 years. #vacationThat evening, our hosts took us to a park on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, where we had a BBQ picnic and watched the sun set over the lake.


We wandered down Magazine Street to District Donuts to get coffee, and then to HiVolt for me to get a gluten free donut (it was pretty good). We spent time looking at various shops along Magazine Street (which is a must-see), and had lunch at Ignatius Eatery, where I had alligator sausage and Shea got an alligator po’boy. We waddled to the airport and got on a flight back to Chicago. I’m glad we saw most of the city on foot and am grateful to our friends for the time we spent together there.

One thing I would like to add. New Orleans still has the scars of Hurricane Katrina. 10 years later, the visible and not so visible scars of destruction, death, displacement, and gentrification are all there. It is a beautiful place with beautiful people, and I love every opportunity to visit…just know that it is a place beyond the tourist attractions and hotels, beyond the news stories that get so much wrong. Learn about this city because it has a rich culture and life to it, and recognize what was washed away in the storm. 

Continue Reading

TSA pre-check

Time for a site visit to New Orleans! Anyone else hanging at O'Hare this morning? I have an hour to kill thanks to TSA pre-check. 😎I traveled for work via an airplane 7 times last year, which means 14 TSA lines. I traveled for fun too. And for the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t apply for TSA pre-check earlier. It was only $85 and about 1 hour of my time, including filling out the application online and the office visit. For those of us in the US who travel by plane more than a few times per year, it is something that should just be done.

I have to say, there have been glitches here and there, like in New Orleans last week when we were told that since they didn’t have enough personnel working, we had to go through the line with the same restrictions, but overall it has saved me an average of 20-30 minutes on each trip.

Continue Reading

Again and again…

My heart has been so heavy these last few days. These last few months and years. I don’t have words. But I am watching, and reading everything that I can, praying, and standing witness. I can’t pretend to know, but I can be aware, I can educate, I can listen, I can disagree with those who say things that are not ok…

It’s not just Baltimore. Or Ferguson. Or any one place anymore. Chicago has these problems, everywhere does. We are all…struggling. Regarding the problem of racial prejudice in the United States, Shoghi Effendi wrote in 1938:

“Let neither think that such a problem can either easily or immediately be resolved. Let neither think that they can wait confidently for the solution of this problem until the initiative has been taken, and the favorable circumstances created, by agencies that stand outside the orbit of their Faith. Let neither think that anything short of genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature wisdom, and deliberate, persistent, and prayerful effort, can succeed in blotting out the stain which this patent evil has left on the fair name of their common country. Let them rather believe, and be firmly convinced, that on their mutual understanding, their amity, and sustained cooperation, must depend, more than on any other force or organization operating outside the circle of their Faith, the deflection of that dangerous course so greatly feared by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and the materialization of the hopes He cherished for their joint contribution to the fulfillment of that country’s glorious destiny.”
-Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice

Continue Reading

There is no safety.

grassesI’ve been thinking a lot about safety recently. About insurance, vaccines, outbreaks, and all of these scary things in the world. In my line of work, I have to. I spend my time planning giant meetings where hundreds of people are interacting with each other, and it is basically a germ factory. I have to purchase insurance in case there is an outbreak or an emergency at one of my conferences. I have to plan for what we would do if there was a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. We have to submit floor plans for fire marshal approval. This is what I think about.

I was raised by a scientist and a math teacher. I live firmly in the world of logistics and planning. God and faith are a part of my belief in science. I know too many scientists, doctors, and people who are trying to fix the world to think that they are hiding the truth about vaccines. Or whatever is the current conspiracy theory. This does not make me naive. There are a lot of bad things in the world. There is a lot of negligence, and death, and lack of planning for the future of our planet. We do not need to invent more bad things because some already exist.

On the topic of vaccines I will be clear: they save lives. The world is a better place because of their existence. I have studied history enough to know the alternative is truly terrifying. The world before vaccines was a place where babies dying was just accepted because there was nothing to be done. I thought this battle was fought long ago, and it saddens me deeply that our privilege in this country is causing a situation that could bring unnecessary death and suffering to thousands of people.

We have to be able to talk about controversial topics without hating each other. We have to be able to acknowledge that there is something that we may not know about the world. There needs to be a place where we can learn from each other. I promise to try to understand, to listen. And I ask that you do the same.

Continue Reading

2014’s Travel & Events

January 2014: Hosted Feast with Shea in Wilmette for the first time. Tried not to freeze to death in the coldest 4 months on record. Ever.

February 2014: Saw Queenie Pie at the Harris Theater in Chicago, had a wedding client, and got stuck on a CTA train when it derailed (with my husband, which made it much better).

Leaving New Orleans. Thanks for the delicious food and the painful blisters! #untilnextsummerMarch 2014: First visit to New Orleans, for a client conference. Ate amazing food at Tableau, realized what a bad idea it is to be in New Orleans during Spring Break season, got caught in a rainstorm, solved several minor crises for the client, walked at least 4-6 miles per day at the conference, and was the event lead for the first time by myself at SB, which felt amazing.

April 2014: Met my niece Faye for the first time, saw my first Bulls game in person at the United Center (from a suite), and saw Shen Yun at the Civic Opera House.
Even though entry is free, I wasn't going to stand in a long line to do the tour. It's too hot and I can appreciate the founding of our country from a nice bench in the shade. ;)
May 2014: Traveled to Philadelphia for a client conference. 5 days as the only event staff on site, saw my gorgeous cousin who announced her pregnancy, got caught in a rainstorm (again), saw the Liberty Bell, located several delicious restaurants, walked less than I did in New Orleans, and worked with some pretty great volunteers.

I passed my CMP test and became a certified meeting planner. whew.

After dinner, Mallory introduced me to Halo-Halo. "Halo-halo (Tagalog language for "mix-mix") is a popular Filipino dessert with mixtures of shaved ice and evaporated milk to which are added various boiled sweet beans, jello and fruits, and served in a taJune 2014: My second visit to Las Vegas in the span of 1 year for a client. Dealt with some drama, took a taxi to In-N-Out and then to try Halo-Halo for the first time, which is my new favorite dessert. I saw the Beatles LOVE show and tried to bake in the sun when I wasn’t walking 10 miles a day at the show.

We had a mini family reunion in Chicago with most of Shea’s family and I attended my first gala for work at Navy Pier.

July 2014: We spent the 4th of July at my parent’s house and watched the fireworks with Shea’s parents and mine. We visited Green Acre Baha’i School with the Munion family (and extended relatives) for nearly a week. Starved Rock Camping with Shea was an amazing experience, even though the thunderstorm in a tent was not something I ever thought I would experience.

I visited Las Vegas for the 3rd time in a year for a client, where I saw amazing sunrises and sunsets, found a pasta place that had delicious gluten-free bread and pasta, had a successful conference and probably only walked 8 miles per day, experienced bedbugs for the first time, saw Weezer in concert, and ate gelato as much as possible.

Vegas panorama
Las Vegas Panorama

August 2014: Celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary, spent a week in Minnesota for the Minnesota State Fair and family time, stopped by Persian Conference, and chopped off many inches of hair.

September 2014: Stepped firmly into my 30s (no going back now!) and visited Nashville for work.

Bear Lake
Bear Lake, Rocky Mountains

October 2014: Traveled to Denver, visited Rocky Mountain State Park and the top of Pike’s Peak, and then took a plane to Salt Lake City, where we hung out in some amazing cabins in the mountains and watched Shea’s sister get married.

View from my room this morning. Goodbye Pittsburgh!November 2014: I stopped for a few hours in Minneapolis for a client, and spent a few days in Pittsburgh for work, where I realized how very cool the city is and that everyone thinks that it is still covered in pollution, but it isn’t. Thanksgiving at my parents house, a Thanksgiving Interfaith event at the House of Worship, and Thanksgiving in Chinatown made it a very thankful November.


December 2014: Saw Justin Timberlake in concert, went to Second City for the first time, attended my work holiday party, Shea’s work party, saw Cinderella at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, and worked through most of the holidays. Oh and spent 3 weeks with a very bad cold.

And that, my friends, was my 2014.

Continue Reading

Being Mortal

Through some source I can no longer remember, I added “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande to my Goodreads list, and snagged it from the library right after they purchased it. I’ve been telling a lot of people about it and thought that I’d share it with a wider audience.

I’m not fantastic with book reviews, but mostly this is an opportunity to encourage people to at least have conversations with their loved ones about how to handle end of life care. In many cultures, discussions of anything related to death and even illness can be very challenging for people.

As my generation has been losing grandparents for a few years now, and some of us are starting to be concerned about our parents aging, I feel that the conversations really need to happen. Even for husband and wife this topic can almost be taboo…and then, in the height of grief, we and those closest to us must make decisions about whether to continue care, go home for hospice, etc. The process of creating a will and having an advanced directive can be great conversation starters for this, and you may be surprised about what you discover about the wishes of your spouse and family members.

The thing is, we don’t know what our end will be, and human nature hopes for the best outcome, especially when there is terminal illness. We hold onto the miracle treatment and put ourselves and our loved ones through surgeries, treatments, and other painful operations. Some work, some don’t. What I love about this book is that it doesn’t try to dictate what we should do. It is an observation from a doctor who has been working with patients for decades and had to confront family illness before writing a book to address it. The stories can be heartbreaking, but the information in this book about options and current trends could save your family a lot of pain and heartache.

Continue Reading

5 Things I wish I had known earlier in my career

Perspective. #trump #amaplaza

5 Things I wish I had known earlier in my career

(or: things no one talks about but I really wish they would! All of the below items sound like common sense…but it truly isn’t so common.)

1. Always thank people. Whether it is something small or large, acknowledge the work that was done.
It is truly incredible to me how many times I have seen people demand that something be done and show no appreciation for the work. I don’t care if it is a light bulb being changed or an entire project or event…acknowledge it! Make gratitude a part of the culture.

2. Insist on the use of a formalized system of performance reviews that are captured in writing.
This is especially important at non-profits and smaller companies where people are afraid of “hurting feelings” or where people fear losing their jobs because they think that this is what performance reviews are for. Performance reviews are also a method of determining career growth, assisting people with improving areas of weakness (we ALL have areas of weakness!), and having a record of your time at a company.

3. Make a habit of written praise for employees who go above and beyond.
Even if it is just a quick email to them, it is something that they can keep to put in their files to show in the future, especially when they are going for a promotion or need support when a situation might not be so pleasant. Even if you aren’t someone’s manager, that praise can mean a lot.

4. Confront conflict right away, clear the air, and ensure that the individuals can move past it.
Do not allow situations to fester. Recognize that just because you wish people would just get along, it doesn’t mean that it will happen. It isn’t easy to do this! Most people do not enjoy this part of the working world. But learning how to do work through conflict will actually make things easier in the long term, and employees will appreciate your ability to deal with the hard things.

5. Learn to balance the art of consultation with the science of standing up for what is right.
Your professional opinion could enure the success of an event/project, and you may not get credit for standing up for the right thing until years later. It’s worth it. People won’t always like it, especially if it challenges their sense of authority/ego/power. I have learned from experience that if you are a young woman with knowledge and confidence, there are people who will not be able to handle that, and who will try to undermine you. (This has not happened in my current job but I have experienced it in the last 15 years in the workforce.) Recognize it for what it is, and learn methods for moving around it without jeopardizing your job.

Continue Reading