Tag Archives: bread crumbs

letting go, keeping, being

I’m here! If you’re here, thanks for hanging with me for all those quiet months. I’ll talk about them a bit, but first this: it’s a clear January day and I’m sitting in my nook with a hot cup of tea, a view of pecan trees outside my little window, and piles of things to do. All happy things. I’m a few weeks into graduate school, having finally taken the dive. In three years, if all goes well, I’ll be a Certified Nurse Midwife. In the meantime, I have this time, this rich quiet, in which to learn and I’m so grateful for it. My children went and got big and now even the little ones have important places to go in the morning. Their excitement is mine too, and their running, jumping delight to be picked up after lunch–that’s mine as well. It’s a sweet season.

It was a weird and difficult fall, and I wrote a lot of words here, but didn’t hit publish on any of them. They seemed whiny and pathetic and not completely true, but I couldn’t find the words that did feel true. I had complicated feelings about moving back to a place that holds precious things but also where I never really thought I’d live again, and every time I tried to work through them I just ended up feeling, well, whiny and pathetic. I guess there are times we just need to simmer and let our feelings be, and wait. Things are feeling more peaceful now; my head and heart are not exactly in line but moreso than before. (I don’t care what you say, spellcheck. I love the word moreso. It says more than more so, don’t you think?)

I’ve grown tired of some things. That’s not to say I’ll never care to revisit them, but for now, they are tiresome. I just want to study and learn, be a mother, be a wife, be a nurse, be a person. I don’t know where all of my faith issues are taking me, but these days I feel less of a need to know. It doesn’t take up so much space in my life. My life is enough and more!  It is full of beauty and wonder (along with anger, sadness, confusion and all the other signs of being a living, evolving person). I feel like I’ve just given my unanswerable questions a big shrug and gotten back to the business of living. Who knows, maybe I’ll come back to them and see things more clearly at some point, like a first draft that you know how to make better after stepping away from it for a few hours.*

Last year, I set out to try and understand the process I was in. I intended to finish out the year, writing at least each month, but I didn’t get past August (well, not publicly and not in a way that felt genuine.) Despite that, as I was reading over my 2015 posts, I realized I had written enough to understand the process. It has been a slow, very gradual letting go. It began years ago, and it continues. It seems to me now that life is less about adding on new things and more about choosing what to let go of and what to keep. So, now, my focus has shifted to the things I want to keep.

Maybe this is the time for resting one set of muscles, so to speak, and exercising another. I only know I don’t want to live in a constant state of analysis and irritation–how could that possibly be good? And when I think about issues of faith, or try to engage with them, I get to analysis and irritation pretty quickly. I don’t want to think about certain things in terms of faith or even spirituality–that just takes me down a bad path. I need to free those concepts from the fences other people built around them a long time ago. I am connected to something important, something that makes me want to engage with life rather than hide from it. I don’t care so much about naming or defining that thing as I do about exploring it.

For the longest time, it was difficult to imagine a life without the framework of religion, but not so much now. Not at all, really. It looks like waking up, trying to be kind, accomplishing something, spending time with people I love, allotting time for self care, acquiring and appreciating knowledge, apologizing when I’m wrong, encountering people and their stories, letting important things change me, sleeping, repeating, in whatever order, pattern or mosaic these things come. Sunday–that day that was beautiful, terrible, confusing, edifying, crushing and magnetic for all those years–it’s mostly for hiking, connecting, and resting now. I’ve embraced simple. (Here’s a thing I’ve learned: when the highs are not so high, the lows are not so low. I may have thought that was cowardly before, but it sure seems like wisdom now. It’s like being sober, as I imagine it.)

Those are my crumbs today, here, now. It’s not so different, but then it’s totally different. I’m a pinpoint in the center of that. Maybe you are too.

 

*This isn’t a goodbye to this space or to the concept of gathering breadcrumbs. It  will just take different forms this year, as I learn what that looks like.

 

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On Sacred Spaces: My February Confession

 I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

-Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

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We, just the two of us, went to Italy. It was a feast for the senses–the language was music and the food was earthy and elegant. Interesting details were everywhere, from moss on stone in the Colosseum to Jesus’ face in a painting by Michelangelo being the exact same face on a Roman sculpture, to train station cafes that served sandwiches and wine, and boasted more elaborate espresso machines than you’d find in any Starbucks. People in Venice, leaning out of their windows, hanging sheets out to dry. Hopes for resurrection etched into the stone walls of winding catacombs. Empty wineglasses on windowsills outside canteens. A small piece of the arrow that is said to have pierced St. Sebastian. Plain whipped cream (the real stuff) lopped on top of melone gelato, cutting the sweetness perfectly. Tiny spoons for stirring sugar.

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We ate what we wanted and walked almost everywhere. We bought things to bring home: bottles of wine, limoncello, a stovetop espresso maker, a pair of babysoft gray suede shoes, biscotti, magnets depicting pieces of the Sistine Chapel. It’s not really possible to bring the spirit of a place home with you, but we all try.

After a few days, the churches and the exquisite art within started to seem almost common. They’re simply everywhere. Armed with a guidebook, we took in as much as we could without rushing and defeating the purpose of vacation.

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In Rome, we spent plenty of time admiring the scope of things as well as feeling uncomfortable with the scope of things. Both in the secular and religious realms, it all seems to be about excess and power, but my sensitivity is to the religious. (My Protestant is about to start showing, but no variation of religion is free from the love of power.) While the art is precious and the craftsmanship well-worthy of admiration, the places that house them hold the silent echoes of stolen riches and trampled innocents. Hollow, not hallowed. “Think of what they could do with all that money,” I vent to Ricky over coffee and pastries after touring St. Peter’s Basilica. “I bet Peter would be completely uncomfortable in there, embarrassed even.”

I imagine Peter grilling fish on the beach with his Savior, wrestling with the call of do you love me? then feed my sheep and wanting Him to stay forever. Alone, hanging upside down, dying in love for the Person who changed it all for him. How does a simple message of love turn into a power structure? Maybe his bones lie down under the enormous altar, but it’s that moment on the beach that matters. How do you contain that in a building? Even on vacation, I cannot escape this constant dialogue with religion and spirituality. It fascinates or wearies, depending on how much space I have for it.

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Last month, I wrote this:

It’s my default right now to view religion in general through a lens of harm caused and ignorance applauded. Christianity–this behemoth of goodness and evil, source of bread and poison, great beauty and so much ugliness–I’ve been so mad at it for so long.

I wish I could find a way back to that beach, too.

Surely there must be a space in this world, in our lives, for art and beauty and sacred spaces. And our various tribes understand those things differently. Give me a cathedral of pine trees and birdsong over marble and organ anyday, but I must understand if you would rather have the marble and the organ. I must try to imagine, if that is your beauty, what you would feel in a basilica such as St. Peter’s.

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As we were moving to leave, a Mass began, with hauntingly beautiful voices singing in Latin. It didn’t matter what they were singing; all could understand. They were singing devotion and longing. They were singing human things in a human place that speaks of all the humanly complicated intersections with divinity. The singing made it beautiful–not the gold or the carvings, the relics or the prestige. The singing–filling that huge empty space.

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Is feeling and seeing beauty what makes feel “the rapture of being alive”? Details of beauty were everywhere in Italy; they are everywhere here too. Aimee’s unbelievably long eyelashes, Nicky’s tight hugs, Silas’ warmth and humor, Ricky’s steadiness, and my own sensitive mind, looking for clues. The people we share our lives with, that fill the empty spaces. I’ve rejected a lot of things that were once precious to me, but I remain in wonder of things old and new. This is my baseline: wonder. Perhaps I can build upon it, but I can always burrow my way down to it.

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In the cathedrals of New York and Rome

There is a feeling that you should just go home

And spend a lifetime finding out just where that is

-Jump, Little Children

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Christmas, in a moment

Two weeks ago, our little Aimee spiked a fever, became lethargic, and refused to eat. She slept. And slept. And sat up to drink juice, and slept some more. It was worrisome, but I figured she’d pull through it like our kids always do. Three days passed, and she wasn’t getting better. We were watching her chest rise and fall way too fast, muscles pulling in, sucking in air. All she wanted to do was sleep. Ricky bundled her up and took her to Urgent Care on Saturday morning. Her oxygen level was 83%. They called an ambulance.

My family was in town, and we had plans to spend the weekend at a cabin, with snow and a cozy fire and presents and the like. It all fell away. My brother helped me get to the hospital (my keys were in the vehicle Ricky had taken), my mom went into laundry and cooking mode, my other brother played with the boys. Family.

At the Emergency Department, Aimee was receiving breathing treatments, fighting her mask and looking pitiful. She kept rasping juice….drink…..go…..no and we could only hold her, and try to distract her, and keep her from pulling at her lines.

Her tests started to come back. Negative for flu. Positive for RSV. Chest x-ray shows right lower lobe pneumonia. She was still breathing so fast. Her heart was beating 180 times each minute. Faster than a newborn. Grunting. Retracting.

Albuterol, Xopenex, repeat, repeat. No significant response. The doctor came in and said Aimee needed to be transferred to a Pediatric ICU for close observation and high-flow blended oxygen.

I tried to get Ricky his backpack and phone charger before the transport team arrived, but had just pulled into our driveway when he said they were there. He went with them, and I told the boys what was going on and started getting things together.

Aimee was well cared for. We all were. The high-flow oxygen was holding her airway open, providing positive pressure. She stopped grunting, which had been her attempt to stent her own airway. She had been working so, so hard. The first night, I slept in the chair, pulled right up to her crib, lulled to sleep by the knowledge that she was on monitors and they would alarm if anything went wrong. I was so grateful for that. It was like having that first newborn–just needing to know that they’re still breathing until you get used to the idea that they’ll be okay.

Ricky and I switched off, twenty-four hours each. Aimee was a little better each day, and we texted each other updates. O2 down to 6. Back up to 8–she started grunting again. Down to 7. Down to 6 now. Clear liquid diet. O2 at 3. Soft diet. Assessments every 4 hours now. Watching Dora. 

We couldn’t eat in the room, so I talked with other parents in the kitchenette over our food, asking about each others’ babies, offering well-wishes. You feel a bond with other parents whose kids are suffering, and walls break down a bit. You recognize the same tired, brave look in their eyes.

After four days, she was transferred to the regular pediatric floor. No more glass door and constant lights. Oxygen at 2. Regular diet. These markers of progress being checked off, one by one. Little victories.

On the morning of Christmas Eve, she was lively enough to video chat. Nicky did his silly slapstick routines and it was the first time in a week we had seen her smile. Oh there you are, little girl. We’ve been missing you.

I packed up the boys and we made the now very familiar drive into downtown Baltimore, and went up to the family lounge outside the unit to bring Ricky his lunch. To our surprise and delight, both boys were allowed to come in for a visit (Silas with a mask, since he’d been coughing) and Aimee lit up.

A few days earlier, I’d been invited, along with other parents in the PICU, to upstairs and “shop” for any kids on my list. A volunteer handed me five tickets and took me to a ballroom filled with toys (and very nice toys at that). I chose some things for the kids and took my gifts to a row of more smiling volunteers who wrapped them for me. I put them in the corner of Aimee’s room, thinking maybe we’d have a chance to open them. At that point, she wasn’t excited about anything, so I knew it might not happen.

There is something magical about more than one child in a room. They speak to each other differently than we can. So when Aimee and Nicky and Silas were together, the mood changed completely and their two tired parents felt a new energy.

Since we had this unexpected time together, we (giddily) told the kids we had a surprise for them and pulled out the presents. It was a much sweeter moment than I’d thought to hope for.

We had our Aimee back.

Even though we were able to go home later that evening, taking our girl with us, that moment was what made it Christmas. There is no better gift than having your people all together in one room.

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Raising Up Sisterhood

Friends, I have a beautiful guest post to share today. I had the opportunity to work alongside Stacy Hart in a Perinatal Services Unit and got to know her there. She’s a skilled and compassionate nurse, an invested conversationalist, and she has a peaceful conviction about her that really shows up in her words today. I smiled when I read them, because I’ve never felt anything but support and genuine interest from Stacy. She models the strengths of women well–strengths that sometimes are hidden by the heavy things that burden us. Her post today encourages us to lay down those heavy things and come out from our hiding places. I hope you enjoy it and are encouraged, as I certainly was!

Little girls with string tied between their beds. Hiding giggles in pillows as they pass notes, dolls, and sisterhood back and forth on their homemade contraption. Footsteps coming. Flop down fast, try to trick Daddy; make him believe dreams are the only thing awake in this room. He peeks in the door, sees eyes squeezed too tight, smiles playing at the corner of mouths, and hears the faintest attempt at fake snoring. He grins, closes the door, knowing this is more important than sleep.

It always will be.

This aching. This longing. This need–for each other.

Community. Connection. Sisterhood. Family.

Life is born and the first cries from a sweet new babe’s mouth beg for comfort, to be held close, to be wanted. Needed.

We are women. We were created for community. Designed to do life side by side.

But the world says no. Society screams stop. Experience teaches us to hold others at an arm’s length. View them as a threat. Assume the worst. Give no benefit of the doubt.

Then we turn on ourselves, and become more harsh than any critic would dream of being.

I must have it all together. Be the most successful. Be better than everyone–then I will know success. I must dress flawlessly. Emulate airbrushed lies in magazines. I must devour the right parenting books and produce children who never bite me or throw tantrums in store aisles. I must keep up appearances. Put my best foot forward. No matter what the cost. This is where happiness is found.

Eventually our world screeches to a stop. Life happens around us. And we believe all of its lies.

We know we will never be what SHE is. We will never be that good. That talented. That beautiful. That successful. That carefree. That skinny. That crafty. That funny. That desirable. That intelligent. That perfect.

Comparison is the poison that devastates community.

Does it really matter if you breast feed or use formula? Co-sleep or have separate rooms? Does making my own baby food make me a better person? Does slinging verbal abuse in the comments section of parenting articles mean I win? Does gossiping about the popular girls make you prettier? Does a brand name give me more worth? Does hurting someone else ever make me better? Happier?

No. No. Every time, no.

Defeat threatens. But hope prevails.

I have heard a whisper. Felt a stirring.
And I know that I am not the only one.

The rumbling is off in the distance but it is steadily growing louder, more powerful. I hear the voices, the hearts, the souls, of thousands of women who have decided to say…

Enough is enough.

Comparison will not steal my joy.
Comparison will not poison my sisterhood.
Comparison will not win.

Community.

Community is making a comeback.
Possibly one of the greatest and most important comebacks in all of history. Think I’m exaggerating? Think again.

When community thrives, when selflessness and a servant’s heart reign, selfishness dies.
When community is the goal, competition, comparison, and mommy wars lose their sting.
When community exists, lives change.

Where community lives, Love reigns.

Imagine this world.

Open your eyes.

The rumbling is all around us. Community coming back to life. In neighborhoods, in churches, in offices, in blogging communities, on social media: women are realizing we need each other.

Friendship rediscovered. True connection. Life to the full.

When you stop looking at someone, and their talents, and all of their beauty, and their allegedly Pinterest perfect life, as a threat, your eyes are opened to who they really are.

A woman. A wife. A mom. A heart and soul as weary, as exhausted and as lovely as you are.

This movement. This powerful force of women who challenge, encourage, and inspire me every single day. This wave that will change society forevermore. It starts small, nearly too small to notice at first.

It starts with weary moms at Target smiling at each other so we know we’re not alone.

It starts in book clubs, and spinning classes and yoga studios.

It starts when we stop looking at each other through the eyes of comparison.

It starts when a tragedy happens and thousands of women on Instagram reach out to a family experiencing unbelievable loss.

It starts when we ask real questions and have real conversations and discover how desperately our soul was longing for friendship kindred.

It starts when we call out the beauty and the talents and the extraordinary we see in women around us.

It starts when we believe that we are our very best when we do life together.

It starts when a new mom has meals delivered to her door and her toilets scrubbed.

It starts when we introduce ourselves at playgrounds instead of staring at our phones.

It starts when there is no fear of judgement…
In asking for help.
In revealing our weaknesses.
In being vulnerable.
In speaking of the uglier parts of life.
In asking forgiveness when we are wrong.
In dying to the disease of pride.
In asking women we love to journey with us.
In admitting we need each other.

It starts with you. It starts with me.
And it is so time.

We’ve got this.

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Stacy is a wife, mother to three beautiful daughters, Labor and Delivery nurse, and in case you couldn’t tell, she’s passionate about the power of community and friendship among women.

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Glitter, Green Converse and How to Get Red Wine out of White Linen: Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming Episcopalian

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a guest post; a whole lot of life has happened. But, today I get to host my friend Deborah Stambaugh, and that is a very exciting thing. I met Deborah officially when we were college freshmen–but I probably should have met her many years before that. We went to the same church camp every summer in Mountainair, NM (some of you know exactly what I’m talking about) and I remember seeing her and her three sisters and thinking how beautiful and cool they were (I was right–they are).  Deborah might be part of the reason I married who I did–I do know she saw the potential for our relationship long before I did. So thanks for that tremendous gift, Deb. And thanks for helping me laugh at myself, for modeling bravery, for glasses of “water” to drink around bonfires and glasses of iced coffee to drink in boring classes. I’ve always learned from your generosity.  

Hope you all enjoy her words today, and can find a way to breathe deep and trust the process you’re in. I’ll be doing the same. Happy almost Easter!

When James led us to the Episcopal tradition, many friends and relatives asked why.  His answer always started with the church calendar.  That was boring (and certainly the last topic that could ever be blog-worthy) so I often interjected my own response.  After many cycles of the calendar, I am beginning to understand.

It all started in Advent.  Looking for coffee in the great hall at St. John’s Cathedral, I found the smell of cut pine, families bustling to assemble their advent wreaths, glitter and cut ribbon all over the floor, and bystanders drinking coffee and enjoying the hubbub.

“You should make one,” James (my husband) offered.  He drank coffee and chatted instead of helping me.  So, I vindictively put glitter ribbon all over it.  He hates glitter.   He said it was beautiful.  I thought, “There must be something to this Advent thing if it can make him like glitter.”  Inspired by the wreath, James invited our neighbors to our house.  He said a short, but lovely, prayer and cooked a beautiful meal, which we enjoyed by the light of the first candle–a tradition we continue.

I paid no attention to the calendar until Lent approached and people asked what would be my Lenten discipline.  I retorted that I would stop “walking Central” and smoking cigarettes, but only for Lent, and that I would not give up the pole dancing gig!  Secretly, or not so secretly, I was repulsed by the idea of Lent.  Sometime during that first Lent I do remember thinking that Rev. Goodman was finally preaching proper sermons—about abstaining from sin and committing your life to God because Jesus sacrificed so much for you.

On my first Pentecost it seemed every woman at church wore a red hat, except me.

There are colors to coincide with each season of the church calendar.  Ordinary time is green.  James likes to wear Converse All-stars to match the color of the season.  Ordinary time is the longest season, so his feet smell awful by the end of it.

The glitter wreath, my abstinence from abstaining, my black dress in a sea of red, and James’ stinky feet were all I truly understood during that first cycle of the church calendar.

When Lent came around a second time, Rev. Goodman’s sermons sounded familiar (like real church) again.  This time, equipped with the experience of feeling (though in a rudimentary way) other seasons, I understood why the sermons were familiar—because it was Lent.  Then I realized, “I hate Lent because I’ve done 20 years of it.”  An evangelical emphasis on holiness combined with my own religious ambition resulted in a continuous effort to memorize scripture, pray, abstain, and otherwise improve myself so that I could be the best Christian possible and obtain a lofty status in the Kingdom of God.  It exhausted me.  Instead of becoming more Christ-like, abstinence made me judgmental and proud.

I gave myself several years of ordinary time.  Thankfully the Cathedral completely and utterly welcomed me in spite of my lack of enthusiasm.  Slowly a thirst for renewed spirituality burgeoned within me.

//

James was assigned to help at a small parish that did not have volunteers to prepare and clean up communion.  After service he wetted the wine-stained church linens, put them in a plastic bag, brought them home, and left them on the counter to rot.  Three days passed.  Then four.  My options were to throw out the whole mess or attempt to salvage it.  I dug out my Oxyclean and an old tooth brush.  While working on the linens, it dawned on me that I was participating in an ancient tradition.  Though separated by 2,000 years of time, I was working together (in a symbolic or possibly more than symbolic way) with the people who performed the most honorable task of preparing the corpse of Christ for burial.  I thought about them.  I participated in their grief.  I wondered what thoughts they had as they tended the vacant and mutilated body, whether they were mad at him, knowing he didn’t even put up a fight.  Were they mad at the authorities who caused his death?  Did they dare hope for a resurrection?   How horrible it must have been to grieve without the hope I have in the resurrection.  Luckily it was only three days.  I wished I could share my Oxyclean and washing machine with them.

Somehow cleaning linens made Christ and his people more real to me.  I understood the value of early church traditions, and decided to participate.  Each year as we circle around the calendar, I gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the celebrations.  Each year my participation is seasoned by my own life experiences.

This year we celebrated Advent right after I experienced the longing and anticipation of waiting for the birth of my own child.  I thought about all of the people who shared with me in the joy of anticipating my daughter’s birth.  I considered the Virgin Mary’s anticipation as she felt the Child quicken in her womb, as she waited to meet him, to introduce him to the world.  I felt anticipation of Christ’s return and longing for His presence in my daily life.  Advent is “the fast that feels like you’re just too excited to eat.”

Jane, the Cathedral’s former Christian Education director, hung a bell on my son Edmund’s wrist the year he had the role of Jesus in the Christmas play.  Nora, my daughter, had that honor last Christmas, and I stole a bell from the Cathedral to put on her wrist.  I will hang those bells on my Christmas tree every year until I die, and remember with joy the births of my children and THE BIRTH we used the bells to celebrate.

When we started planning our move to Virginia, I desperately needed reassurance that God would guide.  Epiphany provided great comfort.  Epiphany is “a star from God to guide the Magi.”

Last Sunday we waved palm branches and processed around the neighborhood.  I told Edmund about Jesus coming to Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, and about how everyone was so excited they put palm branches on the ground for his colt to walk upon.  I refrained from sharing the rest of the story.  He will hear it in due season in accordance with the calendar.

My mom celebrated Easter (in the Protestant tradition Easter is death, burial, and resurrection all on the same Sunday instead of breaking it apart over Lent and Holy Week) by hand-sewing dresses for each of her four daughters every year.  As a child, I knew Easter was important because of the way mom prepared for it, and because I felt beautiful on that day.  I wonder if Mom’s tradition came from my great-grandmother and her Anglican/Episcopal ancestors.  I share the colors with the children in my life because I think dressing in accordance with the season is a way of preparing to understand what is happening at church.  I have dismal sewing skills, but I enjoy buying purple dresses for my niece, Ella, during Advent, and talking about why we wear purple. (I am sure someone in the family will correct all of the misinformation I’m probably giving her.)

I will probably wear jeans on Pentecost as a way to welcome others who don’t know about the red hat thing.  But you can rest assured I will have a beautiful green hat for ordinary time…and maybe some Oxyclean for those nasty green shoes.

DebandNoraPalmSunday2014

Deb is a wife of nine years, a mother of two small children, and an attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico who drinks way too much coffee.  She enjoys estate sale shopping with her husband and long walks.

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mystic

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes–
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Lately I see this gorgeous bit of verse everywhere.

I listened to a sermon about beauty yesterday; about how the Wise Men didn’t know they were looking for Jesus specifically, but they followed beauty and so they found him, eventually. The point was this: if you follow beauty all the way back to its original source, you will find Jesus, because anything and everything beautiful is from Him.

I love this. God seems more beautiful than ever when I think of Him this way.

I suppose it was the exact thing I needed to hear, because I just stopped what I was doing and built a pile of stones right there. I prayed, curled up on the couch while Silas tinkered, about beauty and seeing, really seeing, and melancholy and anger and making decisions that are fear-based, about my heart-dreams and my sins against my own heart. About love and regret and persistent pain.

I leaned against my dearest Friend, and wondered why at times I cannot trace all this beauty back to its Source. Why I am satisfied to tiptoe around these burning bushes. In the ordinary of our lives, there is such loveliness. There are whispers of what could be, of the true potential of all of us made in the image of the One who transcends it all. I need to remember this, in all of my interactions. I need to ask more people what they are dreaming of and where they see beauty.

Fear is strange because we fear our deepest desires sometimes. I fear becoming real, like the Skin Horse, because it means being worn down, but I’m worn down to exhaustion from retreat and withdrawal. Could there be anything more wonderful than being real? When you meet such a person, you remember. I sometimes think heaviness is my own personal thorn; I can’t comprehend all this energy and lightness around me except for the brief moments when it flickers over my head. I don’t seem to have many answers, but I recognize beauty, and I can give thanks for it.

Looking around is a good starting point.

I may never understand my own holding back. I may never deem myself worthy of such wild, limitless love. Oh, but may I continue to know it anyway. May I somehow point the way to the Source, gasping alongside the rest of creation at the glory all around us. May I be brave enough to believe it all matters.

I invite it. I want to be a mystic, taking my shoes off in ordinary places.

*originally posted December 5, 2012 on Noting Now.

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feasting, fasting, and dreaming of bread

Ricky and I are almost finished with our Whole30–an elimination diet that cuts out all grains, dairy, legumes, sugar, alcohol, and anything processed for thirty days. The idea is to reduce inflammation and discover if any of those foods are making you sick, and for us, it’s also a way to shed some holiday pounds and detox from sugar. In case you’d like to know, our Valentine’s Day dessert was a roasted sweet potato with ghee, strawberries, blueberries, and a sprinkle of nutmeg–which is actually quite delicious–but it was hard for me to focus on that after smelling the warm, cotton-candy aroma of fresh-out-of-the-oven red velvet cupcakes I’d baked with the kids. But–lest you think we’re noble or anything like that, know that we’ve both cheated. Ricky ate a fish sandwich when a friend came to town and I took a big bite of Silas’ peanut butter and honey sandwich one day when no one was around (it was an awesome moment). We discovered that our trail mix has sugar in it and ate it anyway, I’ve drizzled  honey into my coffee a time or two, and last night we seriously considered making it a Whole25 so we could be done before the weekend.

Also, every Sunday we gladly accept a broken piece of bread and a sip of wine. Our pastor sometimes gives out very large pieces of bread, noting that it’s a habit he formed during his prison ministry days, from wanting to offer the inmates as much nourishment as possible. We don’t complain.

Since I’ve confessed, I feel justified in bragging that we sat and watched our kids eat McDonald’s at the Air and Space Museum (it was the only food choice available, it was dinnertime, and they were about to stage a mutiny) and did not eat a single fry. I was totally having a battle in my mind. We then drove an hour back home and picked up some Chipotle bowls–green salad, steak, grilled peppers and onions, pico de gallo, and a gigantic scoop of guacamole. It tasted like heaven, and victory. That was a high point.

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A few other high points: whipping olive oil, and egg, and some lemon juice into mayonnaise that’s better than anything you can buy, better skin from our increased avocado consumption, and making Paleo spaghetti with our friend Adam, who came to visit us right in the middle of our Whole30 and jumped right in with us. Roasted brussels sprouts and bacon. Coffee with a sprinkle of cinnamon and plain almond milk. Sparkling water (Silas calls it spicy water) with a squeeze of fresh lime. Berries with a dollop of whipped coconut cream, no sugar necessary. A new appreciation for the beauty and versatility of whole foods.

A low point: discovering I’m allergic to plaintains. What the what.

It may seem like unnecessary self-torture, but I’ve also been reading Shauna Niequist’s luscious book Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table during our Whole30. It was just too beautiful of a book to put down until February 25th (oh yes, I’m counting down at this point.) The book is full of mouth-watering recipes like blueberry crisp, breakfast cookies, and risotto, but there’s also a chapter called Feasting and Fasting that strengthened my resolve. She writes:

I love the feasting part of life. I don’t want Thanksgiving without stuffing or Christmas without cookies and champagne. I don’t want to give up our family tradition of deep-frying everything we can think of on New Year’s Eve. But I’m learning that feasting can only exist healthfully–physically, spiritually, and emotionally–in a life that also includes fasting.

And:

Fasting gives me a chance to practice the discipline of not having what I want at every moment, of limiting my consumption, making space in my body and in my spirit for a new year, one that’s not driven by my mouth, by wanting, by consuming. (both quotes from Kindle edition, p. 133)

On days when I’m home with my children, my life seems to revolve around food. Ricky and I alternate making breakfast, then there’s a morning snack, then lunch, then dinner planning mid-afternoon if I’m on top of things, then making said dinner while handing hungry children slices of clementine oranges to tide them over, then a steaming cup of reward-tea after all littles are tucked into bed. I don’t go more than two hours without thinking about food, and sometimes it feels like a burden. It makes me think of some nursing shifts, when I would run like mad from 7 AM until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and suddenly realize I hadn’t eaten anything, find some food to inhale, and get back to running. There was something freeing about it, in a way–being too busy to think about food very much.

Fasting is different, though. Fasting is when you’re thinking of food but intentionally moving those thoughts elsewhere. That’s more like what this Whole30 has felt like–spanning lots of cooped-up, snowy days and the holiday of chocolate and sugar. I feel a new sturdiness inside. I have more energy. I really, really want to eat the things I can’t have, simply because I’ve told myself I can’t have them.

There’s a space in my life that isn’t being immediately filled. That, I think, is the point of all this.

I’m fascinated by the parallels between my relationship to food and my spiritual well-being. Our church foremothers and fathers were onto something big as they observed the church calendar, which is essentially a series of feasts and fasts.  I’m in Church Calendar Kindergarten right now, but I’m loving the guidelines I find there.  They help as we try to settle into a rhythm of enjoying the bounty of the earth and caring for our bodies,  holding ourselves back from having all things at all times, making the days of fasting worth it, and the days of feasting a true reward.

Those are kind of lofty words for a cheater-pants, I know. Fasting is about humility, too. Let’s just hope we can make it five more days.

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