Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Closet Soul

Closets, much as I like to try and keep up with them, are often a repository of past and present fashion sins and out-of-the-way incidentals and necessities. I’ve piled Isabella’s closet so it’s starting to border on the dysfunctional , and I know I’m going to need to start doing something about it, in spite of the mounds of work I need to do at any given time of my school year, never mind during the holidays. It’s maddening.

To sort takes time. To consider what’s good or bad inside that closet will require discipline of choice, and thoughtfulness: which toys should be keepsakes and which should others come to enjoy? The same for clothes--and organizing them by size. What about all those supplies I’m not using, from her infancy? And shoes that don’t fit? What can become useful again, and what do I pack away in remembrance of her early years? I’m coming to find that even the simplest things--in fact, especially the simplest-- are often the hardest to discern, achieve, work on.

In wonder I consider the kinds of stockpiled emotions, regrets, hopes, and joys my psyche has and will experience. How to sort these, make sense of them, and make room for the joy that Advent presents to us. Clean out the cobwebs of my deferred self and make room for anticipation, faith, and blind, child-like trust that we all so fancy at this time of year, but never fully grasp, and leave to the innocence of children.

I want that child-like trust back. I want it so bad it’s a problem, because here I have in my closet my anger and frustration about so many things--anger I need sort through, picking out righteous anger and making good use of it, and discarding incidental, superfluous anger altogether. Taking angst and tossing it into recycling for another day which needs the adrenaline it causes. Embracing instead a simple view of myself, pared down to necessities, the extras at bay.

I know I’ll need return to the closet again and again as Isabella grows, and rebuild it by breaking it down to its pieces. I’ll trust I can see the need for pruning before everything just spills out, cartoon-like, onto the floor. In light of recent events--I wrote this before the shootings in Connecticut--I can’t think of a more suitable time to start working on breaking the self of hard habits, of heavy burdens, and sharing these. Of becoming community by making room for each other in our hearts and lives. That’s the smallest of spaces where the Spirit can enter and make all things possible, even the seeming impossible.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fallen and New

Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.

Mark 13:28

I remember when the fig tree leaves budded and bloomed, just before summer, just as spring got full underway, as the heat turned up as if some unseen hand had turned the knob on the oven, and the sun blared harder on our little yard, blooming and supporting all manner of flowers and leaves. It seemed like it would be forever before we could sink our teeth into succulent figs--and it wasn't until July, for Isabella's birthday, that we could gather a small bowl of them for family to try. Otherwise we'd gather them a few at a time, just enough to taste, to pair with some Portuguese cheese my Mom had just sent, or with a cookie or some cake, in the Victorian tradition of tea cake loveliness.

That fruit was so astounding to me--its growth, nourishing small birds who passed through our yard. I know how it grows, but there it was, in my back yard, along with gorgeous hydrangea the most otherworldly purple, and gardenias so fragrant, and greenery with that smell of summer, that velvety brightness unlike the velvety smell of death in Autumn, as the leaves flutter or fall in droves and become crushed underfoot, bringing not doom but an altogether different smell, one of old library books and school days and the musky oldness of life.

When I look out my back window as I wash dishes, and see the fallen and withering fig leaves, I can't help but think about it in a couple of ways: the negative sensation of aging and changing, and the positive, lovely sense of this promise of another Spring. In the leaves I see myself, lately, moving forward in time, aging, wrinkling, becoming broken in body and soul with each new day giving way to possibility, in spite of the miles on this vehicle that's my body. I'll turn 40 in January, and in turns I fret and rejoice in this. I'm not vain--it's not about white hair and wrinkles and sagging and busted knees, but it's about these things, too. It's about being unable to do what I once could do, and it's about being able to do what I could never do as a youth at the same time. It's paradox, these leaves fallen under the surprising fig tree we did not know we truly had until it began to bloom, and it's that way with me, when I realize something about myself I did not know--something I did not think I was capable of (for the good and bad of it). I have to pause as I do at the back window of my life, this segue into the next season, this momentary pause and taking account of things which belong to the spirit.

Part of my faith journey has become this recognition that my soul does not wither, or wrinkle, or sag. It's intangible, frustratingly so, but the hope such a realization brings me manifests itself gently-- lovingly I will treat this weathered shell, my ticket to exploring the joys of this world, of which there are many, in spite of what Max Ehrmann calls the sham and drudgery of our human strivings. I will pick the fruit of my life, however small the yield, as I go along, and enjoy the momentary pleasure of it, knowing ephemeral as it is how important that moment of recognition must be. That taste of my soul will keep me hungry for the best yet to come. If only I could concentrate the flavor, taste it in times of despair, perhaps that would help my limited sense of self.

But then, I guess I would not see the sharp contrast life throws our way sometimes, by giving us the pains and sorrows necessary to see the joys in graphic relief.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Eyes of the Soul

On the way to work, I look in the rearview mirror and see the bright, beautifully shaped eyes my daughter inherited, the smile in them (or frown, or grimace), the shine of wisdom, glitter from the morning sun, from my little Sophia.

Then, I get on the bus to go into campus and, some mornings, will catch that same eye and smile in the gorgeous diversity of people. Eyes made to shimmer in the sunlight--blue, brown, hazel, of all shapes and origins. Eyes which have seen both beauty and war, have seen their own share. In some eyes I see this more than others--more awareness.

I wonder at the souls on that bus, where they go when they step off into their day. We share that--the day, its newness, its possibility. Each day is that way--its blessing inherent to our momentary choices, to chance encounters.

What will become of us today? Where can we become everyday saints?

I try to be as hopeful as I can be in my writing--I figure there’s enough negative out there for seconds and thirds at the pity party--but life’s reality does come in sorrow, suffering, loneliness, depression. There’s homelessness in the midst of a storm, cancer in the body of a teacher or parent, loss in the most (seemingly) unlikely or unworthy places. That is, if you think of life in terms of meritocracy.

Every day, with those chances we get, we earn different kinds of things. We make our livings, complete our projects, bring our children to and from school, pay our dues in various ways. Our bodies can fail us but our souls trudge onward, reaching for sublime inspiration.

In matters of the heart and soul, we’re growing, not earning. We’re coming to see and believe--or believe even without seeing. For me that’s a matter of deep faith in God who made me and sustains me each and every day, speaks to me through others, their words and works and lives.

I falter and doubt, am absolutely imperfect in my practice, but I cannot let go for trying, in the everyday, to see in the eyes of others, to see with the eyes of my soul, the goodness of Creation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I often find myself at the end of a weekend wondering where the time went, why I didn't do more cleaning or eliminating clutter or catching up on projects and writing. Balancing checkbooks, planning futures. That sort of thing.

One recent such weekend, I wrote a poem.

That's not the only thing I did, but I gave in to meditation using words and ideas. This poem became an example of what could happen when I just paused, momentarily, in life, and really allowed the spirit to move me. I often do that now in playtime with my toddler, or even in deep research about some literary work for class, but have found I don't often enough just use the space of time to dream, ruminate, and let thoughts sift through me.

Turned out this poem was such an on-target take on my deep fears about having another child, about miscarriage and letting it go, about the way in which death in nature hearkens life, that seasons must and will overtake us and that we should immerse ourselves in their beauty, in the goodbye of it, the goodbye we relish if we seek a new beginning, a fresh take. There's so much to come, more than the mundane of life which needs be done, but needn't be the endgame of everyday. To be a soul seeking everyday faith is to get away from the mundane if it keeps us from the sublime.

So in the meantime I don't do laundry or course calculations in favor of coloring with crayons or picking out pebbles in our front yard with my two year old daughter. I do get frustrated that I can't work faster, that my bones hurt now and again and I feel old, that I can't keep up with all there is to do on any given weekend.

In the end, there are many things we did do, and that's what counts. No--scratch that--what counts is how we do them.

Here's the poem. It needs editing, but I am so pleased with the raw result of my exercise in lines and words (versus my usual prose--and thanks to someone at the department offering Jim Simmerman's exercise from his book Practice of Poetry). Writing it broke open my head and heart at once.

Begin like a symphony,

Cacophany of a hundred falling, shattering leaves

Tinkling, clashing, humming,

Feathering and splintering, puzzling

Crunching munching granola

Cinnamon and cedar, sugar and splinters

Velvet taste of dying chlorophyll

In a Hammock's Athenian dream

Clear and whole.

Neat in a little womb

Wound in papoose silk pouch

Unmoving because nothing was there

To begin with

But will be beginning

Will start as soon as yesterday ends.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Beauty and War

When I read something which forces me to question the difference between horror and beauty, and then makes a strong case for the connection between them, I have to pause and consider whether I'm a monster for seeing any good or whether reality just hit me square.

Lately, I have my students reading different stories, fictional and not, about war and its aftermath, and while this discussion verges on the sublime, I've been thinking that everyday wars we wage with ourselves count, too.

It's odd to find beauty in a place you don't expect. Especially when that place is your deep dark place.

For instance, I find it annoying about myself that I tend to whine about everyday little things, even when I promise to myself I won't do it. Of course, there may be good reasons, sometimes: not having gotten sleep; being sick; dealing with insufferable students; feeling injustice. Even as I grind my teeth I know I need to stop, and it's quite like the literal "watching a train wreck" from inside. It's something I'm working on, but in truth, even when I'm at my worst, I find my(real)self in new ways .

One day, when I was so frustrated about something that it was all over my face, Isabella, as all good children do, picked up on it. She paused, looked at me, and called me. Getting up close to my face, she gave me her biggest smile and said "Mama, haaaapppppy!"

To be a child again!

In a time when humans do dastardly things, and treat each other shabbily, it would do good to remember the child's view of things. We adults want to protect little ones from the darkness, but that child's inner compass, built right in, knows how to focus on the good. Our experience blinds us, wills us away from the simplicity.

Thank goodness there are children to remind us of what we once were.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Give It Away Now

The smallness of places can only be bad if you cage yourself within them, if you tie yourself to the posts of fear, pride, resentment, things which so easily entangle.

I tied myself to a daily grind of complaining, grumbling under my breath, about Tra and his habits, about my shortcomings, about all the things we did not have. Loosening that from me allowed me to float back up, reach for brightness rather than darkness. This daily grind was my small place. I’m finding right now, as I listen to my soul respond, that my literal daily grind of work and making or saving money is starting to feel like a small space. I want so desperately to save money for my daughter’s education, to allow her the opportunity for some of a Catholic one as I experienced. I know that this foundation has taken me the longest way, still leads me down good paths. I know it would grow for her in dividends, it would be the best of investments. At the same time I want to donate my money to the many causes I know need a community of help: homeless families, educational endeavors, our church community which has sustained us and brought my little family together.

I know when I gave away my things, as I got married, I felt, after the initial shock, the freedom of this--not feeling tied to things. Spaces literally get smaller when we fill them with things, and I have done my share of that, but part of what was happening to me was evolving out of this giving away, this loosening. I now find a kind of joy in giving things away, or even in not getting them to begin with. I have found that the simpler I make my choices, the more peace I feel. I’ve made the soul space for it.

There are exceptions to this. For instance, living on the last paycheck of the school year for the three months of summer is usually not fun. It means seriously and carefully thinking about each dime I spend, sticking to a relatively strict budget. It means going to the Farmer’s Market or store and not being able to get everything I needed or wanted, especially squelching the want part. It means as well appreciating the fact I have money to begin with, that I can get supplies, however limited, and that there’s something to this discipline of not just getting whatever I want whenever. I’m finding this theme in my life--delayed gratification creating a great deal more pleasure than instant satisfaction. There’s frustration in the mix to be sure, but that makes the process all the more gratifying.

Part of what I give away each day is my mind and heart--to my family, to my students, to those I meet. The lucky thing here is that these rejuvenate, with regularity, and open up even more as I give myself to each day.

And yes, I now have the Red Hot Chili Pepper's "Give It Away" stuck in my head.

Monday, July 30, 2012


I wonder why I am obsessed with death lately--not in the way you’re thinking just now, reading this sentence, but in the existential, philosophical way, the way which adds that protective layer we need when we think about the inevitable. I listen to Joan Didion on audio books describe the suffering involved in losing your child, and of course it touches me, it makes me think about the delicate balance between the here-and-now and the beyond. It’s unnerving to consider it--Isabella, in all her youthful and playful beauty, seems to me to be immortal, and it’s sobering to see this little bit of myself in her and know she will come, some day, to an end, as will I. That’s always hard to face, though I think my current obsession comes with preparing myself, with tempering my soul, with facing reality in a way that leaves room for awe and wonder and not fear and trepidation.

Life is for living, after all.

I guess what makes this process difficult is suffering. There’s such a variety of it, all confounding and heart-breaking; I am especially sad for those who endure debilitating and terminal illness, who deal with physical and psychological pain for extended periods of time. There’s a discipline to dealing with that that tempers the soul, but no one wishes for that. What we want is the rainbow, not the storm, but both are necessary, as the cliche of course goes.

So what if we just took it day by day? What if we just took each moment God has given us and made use of it for each other? Give yourself to someone and to yourself, even for the smallest of things: read a book to a child; listen to someone complain for a bit, without judgment; don’t respond to someone in a knee-jerk kind of way; give yourself unreservedly to something you have been meaning to do for awhile, whatever that might be; meditate for even just 20 minutes, as quiet as you can be; or else pray as a child does: so simply asking for the simplest of things, so easily grateful for the small things of life.

I’m going to work harder at this myself, but then, that’s how life gets lived--not giving up, trying even as you succeed or fail, and working with the tools of this wondrous life we’re given.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Language of Disagreement

The kinds of fights most of us like to avoid are often as quick and easy as a Southern summer storm, descending upon the land with vengeance in its thunder and lightning and downpour. As I get wiser (notice I did not say older) I find that I'm learning more than I thought I would from this: the inevitable tousle over something. Anything. Sometimes everything. Makes me think of times when the adults in my world fought in front of us kids, how I hated it, how it broke my heart then and sometimes still does, especially when disagreement involves witness by children. The sadness of bile and bitterness seems wrong for a child's eyes and little soul.

Yet, conflict and its resolve are what children must see to know, to understand, to build the spiritual tools necessary to overcome. What I have learned after so much witness is that experiencing conflict is like language immersion in another country; the language of forgiveness comes in letting go of old grudges and griping (I've been praying for the holy spirit to come and clear my head many times lately!). Part of this, too, is in the language of humility as much as in the language of righteousness (and no, not that puffed up kind you're thinking of)--in conflict we need to know ourselves, be willing to get to know others, and leave that little wiggle room for that unnameable something which somehow starts resolve, somehow brings us the tools to be able to put down our anger and frustration and just talk to each other, and see that sometimes there's more than meets the eye.

I don't know what it takes for someone to take the first step--it's often a little nudging from within, a barely perceptible feeling that something must give, that pride is a waste, or even that pride is the reason to reconnect with that one other whose soul you've locked horns with.

Conflicts come from disagreement on the simplest terms of the human condition--the desire to be accepted, loved, free. With time and patience we can make sense of this--if only we're willing to try. With our own good example we can help a child to see that good can come from bad, and disagreement can somehow lead to love and true living.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

We Are Family

Anyone who knows me knows I adore my family. I know how far my heritage has made me who I am, and often, being so far from them, and so far from the Portuguese enclave in which I came of age, I miss the smells, tastes, outlooks, and sounds of Portuguese life. I miss the compassion, love, and understanding of my mother and father, siblings and cousins, aunts and uncles. I feel, to some degree, severed from them, especially now that I have taken this massive step to set down roots in the South.

My saving grace has been forging new family here, since I set foot on red clay.

The family I have made here through that same love and compassion given me as a child has made possible who I am today, and I am forever thinking about them each step of the way. Each friend who coached, encouraged, and made me feel extraordinary--or challenged me to get my head out of the sand--pushed me forward. So many different communities contributed to my well-being in this very moment, I'm stunned reminiscing sometimes: the Catholic Center, where I felt (and feel) the call to a spiritually mature life; the English department at UGA and the department of housing on campus, where I found the most unlikely pairings of friends who gave me permission to be me; Full Bloom, where I found tenderness, camaraderie, and guidance when it came to the wild and wacky world of mothering. The list goes on and on.

Then there's my husband's family, who without fail have been there for me since day one--through utterly unselfish giving that I find myself wondering if I deserve.

What makes a life possible is love received, practical support and guidance--through the simple presence of another human soul. Who knows how this family will grow?

(Cue music from the Sister Sledge--you know you wanna dance!)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Having Mercy Tattooed to Your Soul

RECORD: To learn by heart; to commit to memory, to go over in one's mind

The day I got back from my surgery we had to pick up Isabella from daycare, and when we got home, she saw how I struggled out of the car, and decided that taking my hand was the thing to do. She slowly walked with me up to our porch, kept looking up at me as if to check on me. So small, so new to this world--but she knows what kindness is.

Compassion seems to be both a learned and instinctual thing, I am finding, as I raise my daughter and come to learn a few things about myself.

My ear is always attuned to turn of phrase and etymology, and the verb "record" caught my fancy recently. To record is what I hope to do with my family history, what I have done on a little digital device, what I do each day when Isabella delights me with her innocent glee (and I snap photo after photo). The spiritual meaning is there in the etymology and I have always missed how it connects to mercy, in both English and Portuguese (never mind all the other Romance language takes on it!): the "cor"--the heart of compassion and mercy. In Portuguese it's misericórdia, this sense of feeling one's pain and that of others, of having mercy automatically tattooed onto your soul. Because of my parents, because genetics would deem it so, because I have been surrounded by good and gifted the eye to see good even in the bad, I have this misericórdia. I am suddenly aware of how this is a gift.

As a storyteller, I have spent my life recording, revisiting, reconsidering, repenting, but most importantly learning by heart even as I discover the ways in which compassion is a shared thing. A sacred thing.

This sacred seed God plants in us to be for others a source of love--and we coax it from the ground of our souls, watch it grow, tend to it. The heart of this, to use the cliche, is really the absolute ground zero of who we are, and where we should begin with each new day.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Arc of Plants and People

On a quiet, reflective hike at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, I found myself considering the way some plants bend in an arc toward something--water, or the sun, or each other--and found myself wondering, why do they do that? I’ve been interested in the plants popping up around my house--the delight in finding I have gardenias growing by my front porch, and a bountiful hydrangea bush in our backyard. I am clueless about gardening (I’ve killed a few house plants), but I want to get to know what being a true gardener means. What tools do I need, and what do I need to know about plants of different types and with different needs? How does a good gardener know when her seedlings are growing as they should? Or when they need a little nudge?

Motherhood hasn’t been dissimilar, and Isabella seems to be growing fairly well. There have been plenty of times I wasn’t sure how to “water” her or what to do to make her grow right, and I am sure I am in for much, much more.

On the other hand, I still seem to be pruning myself.

In human terms, God could be the all-wise gardener who tends to us. As co-creators we become gardeners, too, with less knowledge and more intuition and perhaps some of the same questions: what tools do I need, and what do I need to know about people of different types and with different needs? We turn to the Master Gardener for answers, and find sometimes we have none.

Then again, we should probably cherish the way we MUST grow--what God built into us naturally. The diversity of this soul growth is staggering to me still, after years of attending Bible study groups, receiving spiritual direction, diving into all things spiritual though bookclubs, and meeting people from all walks of life. How have we found each other? Stunned as I am, I arc toward the source of all life, basking in it, growing and pruning and becoming someone anew.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wonder Years

There are days when I think back onto my teen angst years, and remember certain things I’d wonder about: (who) will I marry? Where will I live? What will I do with my life and talents? Will I matter? It’s funny, but I still think in terms of (some of) these questions, except now I see them in the light of my experiences over some twenty-odd years. That space and time has tempered my soul, made me see in the way I couldn’t back then, when I sat and brooded by my stereo, taping a WBRU (college station) alternative music mixed tape for my best friend. Ah, the 80s.

There have been many times along the way I faltered, then got back up again and kept trying, breaking new ground. The unknown elements--the moments when the next step seemed truly unsure--were the scariest, but I wouldn’t imagine those hesitant steps any other way now. I couldn’t have possibly dreamed up the life I have now back then: 2,000 miles, a broken engagement, Master’s degree, marriage and pregnancy away from my current self. There’s so much that happened in between, for that matter. What remains the same is my desire to remain true to myself, my faith, and the path for which I have long felt grateful.

Along this way I have found those wandering as I have (and still do), rejected by others or maybe themselves. To these fellow wanderers I say, walk with me a bit, and wonder with me at what could be.

We might surprise ourselves.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Recognizing Resurrection

Visiting one week after Buster’s passing, Isabella, upon seeing his grave, immediately and without prompting said, “Doggie!” In a pile of dirt and stone she recognized our beloved dog --she’d marked that moment in her mind, watched us grieve, perhaps processed it, and, if nothing else, saw this quiet, unmarked, removed place as a special one.

I stood still and felt amazed at her remembrance and understanding, and in the same way, I see this understanding implicit to revisiting Triduum. I find something new to experience each year, even after a lifetime of Easters. This year, having a sense of mortality is really at the fore--I recall last year thinking, during Good Friday services, that this was a funeral celebration (the oddity of seeing Easter in this way caught me off guard). Watching Buster die reminded me of other deaths and perhaps made me cognizant of my own. If I could feel this excruciating way about our Buster, then how is it possible for a parent to witness her child’s death, or grapple with her own in the face of family abandonment?

Seeking my soul, this season has been a renewal, a time to clean out the excess in my life.There’s always room for improvement, and plenty left for me to learn about life and death. Isabella’s delight and discovery are what I aim for; the elusive sense of redemption, this rethinking of our anxieties, hang-ups, all of this is wrapped up in our spiritual strivings. The rising of our souls should become a personal, joy-filled, inexplicable thing that we can just barely understand or express--that recognition of Resurrection in the moment can come without prompting and surprise us, every time.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Active Waiting, Simple Being--That's Me

In my last post, I considered the desire we have as humans to control or master our lives, and the deep contrast in just plain trusting God's plan. I've been tested on this so much lately, in particular with regard to waiting on uncertainty. What's the point of waiting when no one can offer certainty—but then, is certainty possible, really? I have a friend right now who is battling the highs and lows of dealing with a rare disease, and she's fighting the good fight of patience and faith, waiting on doctors and nurses and her body. Each day poses a new challenge for her spirit, and she consistently maintains clarity mentally and emotionally, knowing she's only human at the same time. It's superhuman to me.

Right now I am battling with the unknown about some murky results from some blood tests my doctors have been doing on me. I find myself at specialists—endocrinologist, neurologist—looking for answers that just won't come yet. It's unnerving to think that something may be wrong with me, and there's no way to understand how to prepare for such an eventuality, though really what I want to do is not WAIT, but just BE. Be in the moment, be of the moment, and not think forward. This business of thinking forward, though, creates in me this desire to sit on my back porch and look up at the sky, at the large, billowing clouds transforming with each second, brushing the brightness of the sky, its crispness, and hiding the sun, allowing only for an aura around the ever-changing edges of each cloud that passes. I want to sit and drink a cup of tea, and read something intoxicating. I want to pray, and do, every few hours, for the grace to stop second guessing myself, stop holding myself back, stop complaining, and just get on with the business of life.

Advent is more the waiting season in terms of anticipation, but Lent—well, Lent is the wait-for-the Lord season, the have-faith-and-return-to-the-basics season, dying-to-self season. Dying to the ego that can send me tumbling easily over small hurdles simply because things aren't settled or going my way. It takes some kind of spiritual discipline to maintain one's soul in the midst of this kind of chaos,but I'm taking it as spiritual boot camp at the moment, and thankfully, I have a munchkin with a laugh of gold and a husband with a warped sense of humor to keep me grounded. I'm still looking up, though.

I am always looking up, for those clouds and signs and wonders in the sky that tell me all is well.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Transplanting Fear for Love

Sunlight comes earlier now, and nudges me up along with some melodious chirping each day. I get fresh dirt in my nails as I dig into the ground, tilling the earth around some tulips unfurling in my front yard of their own volition. Spring reminds me always of new chances, fresh growth that's inspiring: from the pear blossoms waving in the breeze, to the daffodils brazenly challenging what's left of winter to bring it--they're here to stay. Makes me smile.

This kind of renewal happened within my soul as I listened to Alice Camille and attended a penance service for Lent just this past week--she reminded her listeners of the ways we need to surrender ourselves now, and always, to the next moment, how time marches on in our lives regardless of what we try to do to slow it down, control or master it. For those of us not so in love with our wrinkles, this is bad news, of course, but in truth the more important mark of time comes in the way we cherish it. Along the way there's plenty of struggle with change, which, as Alice put it, rocks our complacency. As I listened to her speak, I wondered if I have tilled the soil of my soul, and how I will learn to master my fear and be as bold as the daffodils.

A piece of this message had to do with forgiveness--with coming to terms with ourselves and others and freeing ourselves to love and live rather than fear. I know it can be hard to come to terms with forgiving our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass, but in the end we cannot transform ourselves into the humans we're meant to be without letting go and creating that opening into which God can pour ever more grace into us.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Space, the Spiritual Frontier

I think unpacking is finally in the last stages, and we've made a house moreso a home.

Getting used to this new space has been something of an adjustment, and I'm reminded when I see spaces—the empty ones at our old place, and the extra ones here in the new—that with each passing year there will be things to put into that space. I'm not suggesting the things around us make us who we are, but they certainly remind us of where we've been, where we're going. Looking at Isabella's crib reminds me when I gave up my papasan chair to make it fit. Now I'm seeing a new crib, or another bookshelf full of books, or some marker of how the next part of my life will go. It's the promise of the space, you see, and the possibility—that's what's caught my eye.

I think this works the same way with our souls. We see the spaces within that are full, the spaces that need filling, and we come to understand if we really take a look at ourselves, we'll not fill needlessly or neglect to fill wholesomely the cradle of our spirits. I'm striving to pause and pray, to take time to contemplate, which is my nature to begin with, and follow my soul where God leads me. I'm aiming to stay simple in my choices, and tend to the little things of life which open me up for the big things.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Oh Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Sitting here listening to the winds draw in 20 degree weather, I am grateful for this new space we've been graced with. I've decided to leave our Christmas stockings up, and haven't finished unpacking, but am nearly full speed into a new school year, and into the daily rumble that is our life. I always feel a little tinge when the Christmas season ends, and the songs remind me why: a mixture of this heady, comforting, joyful celebration, this warmth from within which protects us from the cold which blows on and on outside.

So many of us long for the true peace that is "silent night," and those of us paying attention to the solemnity of the season catch in the lyrics of long-hallowed carols the purpose of the child born. "We Three Kings of Orient Are" captures this in a haunting way. The warmth of the manger, its bare protection for this little family who is in for so much more as this child grows, draws us into the song; what we get as the carol winds down is a reminder of the gifts' symbolism. There's the bitter perfume of the myrrh, which "breathes of life of gathering gloom"--listening to the choir sing this carol Sunday and joining them in harmony I felt stirred to celebrate life, and at the same time became ultra-aware of the way death has and will touch my life. I thought of those who suffer during the holidays and seek this comfort and joy; in the church I saw a couple of people with tears in their eyes for perhaps a recent loss, and I remembered being there myself.

This season we most obviously celebrate Christ's birth and ultimate death, but we must see and understand ourselves as well in this act of faith: to believe, regardless of how hard things get, in the destiny we each get to work with as children of God. Comfort and joy WILL come--in the most unexpected ways. There's a beauty in that.

For now, I munch on my last piece of holiday chocolate, and wish you glad tidings of great joy, peace, and all good.