Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jacob Wrestled the Angel

"A man wrestled the angel until the angel wounded him in the sinew of his thigh at his hip. The angel commanded the man to let him go. "Not until you bless me," said the man. Not until you bless me. Now I think I know why and how I got hurt. Not until you bless me, God."

Those were my final official thoughts before sleep last night. If you read them on my social media post, here's an expansion on what I was meditating, or mourning over. 

His Hip Was Wrenched

In the book I was reading the Old Testament account of Jacob wrestling the angel. (TEXT Here)
It struck me, that the injury the angel inflicted upon Jacob, touching the "socket of his hip so that his hip was wrenched" (NIV) felt so much like my own injury. Six weeks ago, on a run that was shorter by my standards, I felt a slight strain. By the end of the run, the strain pulled a bit more and by that night was hot and painful to the touch. I stayed on the couch with a bag of peas under the hollow of hip. I tried to run the next day and gave up a mile or so in. It's been like that for most of the past six weeks. 

I've had this pain before, so I assumed it was the same injury, one with a little glucosomine MSM and ibuprofen, I nursed back between short slow runs and long walks within a few weeks. Not that  I was running good times for months, but at least I was out stretching my legs over the miles. Not this time. Every attempt to run led me to bite my lips to bleeding, days of pain med increases, but less pitiful pleading with God. I would be patient this time. Still I wondered. 

He Was Left Alone

Wondering is a lonesome action, done within. It starts with simple cause/effect questions. What did I do to bring this on myself and why has it taken so much longer to recover? Was it poor eating? Not enough protein? Not enough sleep? Training too hard? The questions become interpretive, and sometimes, they are myopic. Was I putting my appetite before fasting? Was I putting my running before serving God and praying? Every time I took my dose of ibuprofen, I wrestled with myself and tried as hard to avoid pleading with God for healing. I wanted to be patient this time, but deep in the darkness of my soul, I've been wrestling. The funny thing about this kind of spiritual myopia is that it develops out of a lack of wise counsel, out of seeing things only one way, often very close up, and misinterpreting. Yet there are other voices involved.

A Man Wrestled With Him 

When wondering and wrestling, voices of doubt and self-hatred are the first to plague me. The desert monastics called this assaulting or tempting thoughts (logosmoi). What starts as a thought invites in other voices. Sometimes, those come not from God. I can't remember the last time I wasn't in a tangle with myself for improvement, or with God, for release. How do I put into words what it looks like to wrestle one's self? To fight the appetites, whether that is fighting stress by eating and drinking, or by trying to instill another habit in its place, in this case, the running. Evagrius Pontious said these kinds of thoughts follow eight traditional patterns: gluttony, fornication, avarice, sorrow, discouragement, anger, vainglory, and pride. Not that we are jumping right into this sin. There are stages along the way, said Fr. Maximos of the Holy Mountain. It starts with the assault, with which we may choose to interact or engage, or not. If we engage, we often move into the third stage where we consent act upon them, then it becomes sin. From there the grip grows. First, we are defeated by them time and again, and finally, they obsess us. This is spiritual darkness on the flip side is another kind of wrestling, with another voice altogether, the one calling us to repentance. I've always tipped back and forth, between the two. I know it's a cliche, but I see myself in the old-timey depictions of the tempest in a teacup.

Wrestled With Him Until Daybreak

I started this in high school. Anger exploded in me. After the rage, sorrow and self-accusation. It carried on as a became a young mother at twenty. I recall complaining about my body, "cow-heavy" in Sylvia Plath's words, as a new parent, crawling angrily from the covers to change a diaper and nurse the infant. When joy became clatter on my senses I explode, "I could use some quiet!" or "Why can't clean up your messes?" Then it became not white hot anger, but cold. "How many times have I ... [insert griping here]." Always it is followed with shame. Biting words, biting lip. A rapier wit, self-abasing apologies. Shame.

I crept into my version of the thicket, akin to the one in which first man and woman hid from God in their nakedness and shame. My version was and is the bathroom, and crawling further in, the cold porcelain of the tub. The cold and left over damp made me shiver. I clawed at myself with kitchen tools, making thorn scrapes, hoping to bleed the sin and sickness out. That too was a sin against myself. Instead I held my breath. I bit my lips. I twisted the skin on my arm, I pinched, bit, bruised. It was a wrestling against demons and impenitent. I wanted to be God's, so I switched tactics. I decided to wrestle Him. 

"Please, God. You made me like this and this is broken. It's not working. Release me. I won't take what you gave me, but I will ask You for reprieve and release." I admit I have asked God to take me from this life. At times, I have bargained for him to take weak me in place of a stronger friend, one with a life sentence of one kind or another. But I am a broken lamb.

Not Until You Bless Me

I think what I meant in those prayers is what Jacob said to angel. "Not until you bless me." I offer this reading to defend this interpretation. Jacob was already physically blessed. Two wives, many sons and daughters, wealthy with animals. The thing was, he had left his father-in-law and was returning to face up to his brother Esau from whom he swiped the birthright. I cannot imagine how he must have quaked, thinking of those sins of his youth. I might be reading into him too much, but I imagine a kind of self-loathing emitting from the corners of his heart, a self-accusation that he had wronged his brother, and must face up. He must accept the consequences to be a man. That often leads to a fight. 

In the prayers before Communion, we say St. John of Damascus' words: "Consume the accusations of my sins" through the Eucharist. Eucharist means "thanksgiving" and it is what we offer back to God when He became the oblation, the sacrifice for us, and we offer it and our very selves back to him. Jacob was there, wrestling all night long, even after the man injured him, he would not give up. The man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." "Not until you bless me," replied Jacob. Jacob wrestled in spite of injury. He fought on. Stubborn soul. He would face pain, anything, to get release, to get the blessing, to feel he was accepted and loved and free from the thorns within. 

What Is Your Name?

In Eucharist, we approach the Chalice and the priest says, "Handmaiden of the Lord [name],..." And we open our mouths, in our weakened state and receive and give thanksgiving offered up to God, not empowered by us, but by Him. It is both offering and blessing. It is the mystery of giving and receiving at once. Give God that which is Gods. Receive his body and blood or have no part of Him. And, we get named in it. The angel asked Jacob, "What is your name?" 

"Jacob," he replied and the man answered, Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[a] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

He got a new name, a blessed name, in his new state. He was made new. Often, Orthodox Christians have another name by which they approach for Eucharist. They are new creatures in Christ, as Jacob was made with that blessing. He had wrestled. He didn't know it was God with whom he had been wrestling, or maybe he knew, perhaps at least in part. He had wrestled for love of his father, for individuation from his mother, for his birthright and identity, having stolen part of it, and for his status as man of his house. His father-in-law had tricked him as he had tricked his own dad, and his brother.  Jacob knew he needed to leave behind trickery to start his life over in the place where he was born, to start right.

The Sun Rose Above Him

I cried myself to sleep, wracked with a new understanding of Jacob's wrestling the angel, and the joy of the angel overcoming. But Jacob got what he needed. He fought the law and the law won, but he was new, free and blessed. He was also injured. It says the Sun rose above Peniel, named by Jacob as the place where he saw God "face-to-face and [his] life was spared". But he left with a limp. 

I wondered in my sobs, would I ever see this hip get better? Will I limp forever? Will I run again? I'm about to admit, I must set aside those questions. For what is the real healing here? I need a new self. I need to revoke the logosmoi that haunts me, that wants me to act on it, and let it become my passion. I need a blessing. That, my friends, is why I approach the Eucharist every week. I didn't earn one bit of what I get in that moment that I am reminded of God's unity with me, with his gift to me, and what really I have to be thankful for- HIM! Glory to God in all things.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dads. Lucky to be thankful for many things about mine!

I've been a bit cracked up for the past couple of days, wondering if I'm going to wash out of an MFA program. Don't get me wrong, I wanted a hard program, but I hate failure. It's been hard to think of what I'm thankful for. It's not that I'm not thankful. In truth, I was about list the stupid temporal distractions that give my sore brain a break, but someone posted the question, "How do I be dad to a girl?" And, then I knew.  Today's fifteen is all about great things my dad taught me, on purpose or by accident. Thanks, Pete, for being a great dad to lots of daughters.
For here are the lessons he taught, some of which I admit I resisted:

  1. How to play chess, or rather to lose with face, at six
  2. How to understand a solenoid in an alternator
  3. How to ride a bike
  4. How not to make dad do all the work on a tandem bike
  5. Who Pinkfloyd was when I saw it graffiti-painted under that bridge near Foster Park (oh, and how to 'rebel' without rebeling by listening to them without really wanting to be them)
  6. How and why to do algebra, trig and geometry
  7. How read sin on a sound wave
  8. How to appreciate the value of calculus,
  9. Not to let a weird man make me feel uncomfortable, 
  10. What teen boys are "thinking" and to avoid giving the wrong impression
  11. That reading the funnies is important
  12. How to crack lame punnies
  13. The importance of carrying on family traditions, whether it be in pun form, prayer form, standing on the front porch and seeing off your kids and grandkids or praying prodigiously as well as serving God wherever, however, whenever He asks
  14. How to sharpen one's wit and be a life-long learner
  15. To google what you don't know if your Dad cannot do as the sign says "Ask Dad. He knows"
To be fair, my mom had a hand in some of these and I could go on and on and on. More will be forthcoming. Right now I'm bleary-eyed from reading, from staring at screen, from the late hour and most of all, thinking about my dad.

PS. Also, he taught me what a real hammer and a real power drill can do! Miraculous.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Some short items of thankfulness today.
“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.” ― Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

1. I've said it before. A simple prayer, like the Jesus Prayer. I got worked on yesterday in an alternative way. I'm still processing it. The simple "Lord, have mercies" were good to pray during this.

“Here are the two best prayers I know: 'Help me, help me, help me' and 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.” ― Anne Lamott

2. For 48 hours I've not had pain killers. I can walk at almost 3MPH. Here's a thought on that.

Melody Carlson
“Instead of thanking God for my two strong legs that are able to run and jump and climb, I whined about my "thunder thighs" and "thick" ankles. Instead of rejoicing that I have two capable arms that can lift and carry and balance my body, I complained about the flab that hung beneath them. I have been totally and unbelievably ungrateful for everything. Like a completely spoiled brat, I took my healthy body for granted. I criticized it and despised it. With crystal clarity, I know that I do not deserve the good health that God has mysteriously blessed me with. Not only have I been unappreciative of my body and its amazing working parts, I tortured it by overexercising, and I put my entire health at serious risk by starving myself. What on earth was wrong with me? As I watch these kids with their less-than-perfect bodies, I feel so thoroughly ashamed of myself. I mean, how could I have been so stupid and shallow and self-centered?” 
 Melody Carlson, Faded Denim: Color Me Trapped

3. A good meeting for Achaius Ranch happened this morning. I thank God for people who sacrifice so much to pursue such ministries.

“Those blessings are sweetest that are won with prayer and worn with thanks.” ― Thomas Goodwin
4. Enough blessings to pay off a few obligations.
“Rest and be thankful.” ― William Wordsworth 
 5. For October Leaves crunching under my feet.
6. For warm spells in January
7. For lovers' nests in February
8. For March crocus' blooms.
9. For April lilies
10. For May Pascha this year
11. For June anniversaries.
12. For July and family times.
13. For a mysterious power to set aside worry.

Friday, January 25, 2013


I'm getting too old, too jaded, too busy to concoct one of these here life manifestos.
<< See left.

Yet I'm assigning this to my high school creative writing class. Am I too much the hipster, oldster style, that if I forced myself to complete said assignment, I would rebel? I think to myself, what a bunch of greeting card hogwash.

If I must buy a card, it's usually one of those square numbers with just this inspirational mumbo-jumbo on it. For instance, this week I had to buy a card for a kid who survived an auto accident when his best friend didn't. No one knows what's more fractured- his pelvis or soul. I don't know what to say to him, but please, I cannot bear the idea of passing along "smarmy pappy-crap" (High Fidelity Quote). I skipped American and H***mark. I went to a local store and anguished over the cards there. I ended up with this one, and a niggling sense of doubt.>>

At least this one is more sensible mumbo-jumbo.

All that greeting card fantasy life leaves me wondering if the manifesto is a good idea, especially if I won't do what I assigned high schoolers to do. And, this is very important, I believe strongly in doing the assignments myself to see what I am requiring of them.

But when it comes to a life manifesto, I traded out  its high-falutin' axioms for a cliche of the bucket list. This is a cop-out. It occurs to me that I don't want to write a manifesto because, I have graduated myself from enjoying life, to surviving it.

A bucket list is a bummer list. It will not get me to happiness, only some nice memories, which are like clothes in my closet that I don't wear and won't share, and some clout. The manifesto might be worth making. At least I can retain my dignity when I wail out the lyrics to Bob Dylan's "I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now." I can thrash and mean it. So for your reading enjoyment, here is a comparison. See where gratefulness comes from there.

On my bucket list:
Ride in a hot air balloon.
Run a 50 miler.
Go to St. Catherine's Monastery, Thessaloniki, The Church of the Nativity, Monasteries in Essex and Romania.
Write a book. Really try to publish it.
Get short pieces published often.
Get a job where I don't feel like I'm "the screw-up they are talking about" whenever the entire staff gets a talking too, or a memo gets posted.
Get a job reading books, outloud, quietly. Any job reading books.
Run a flash kitchen for a week or two. Just cause.
Plant cranberries, currants, ground cherries, tomatillos, goji berries, persimmons, brussel sprouts, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, baby melons, sweet potatos, peas, beans, asparagus, herbs, every year. Just cause I like them.
Plant enough every year to share.

Here's my manifesto. It adopts what's above, with changes.

Start enjoying life. Play more. No really. Play. Whatever it looks like, probably reading tons of books, more disc golf, enjoying morning runs (hey, I'd settle for getting to run!)
Hug my kids. Give them back rubs, neck rubs, brush their hair. Play games with them. They are moving out soon, WAAAYYY too soon.
Cry when I feel like it. No one said a little cry now and again isn't allowed just because you wear big girl knickers.
Be kinder than necessary. Make more people smile. Give other people "daisies" whatever their daisies are, when they need it, instead of when I feel like it. Remember to do what Mother Teresa said, give my best, be happy, keep giving, Because it's not between me and them, it was, and is, between me and God, anyhow.
Quit beating myself up for not giving daisies today. Try again in the next hour, next day, next week. It's okay to miss some opportunities sometimes. Don't freeze up when it happens.
Plant what I like. Don't cry when the plants don't flourish. Some factors are beyond my control. But plant enough to try to share.
Be Frugal.
Visit as many monasteries as I can, because it's the last place I still respect the stillness with my body, and I need to pray more.
Read the books I want. And more. Write some books. Write down those recipes people ask for. Cook. It is my other creative pursuit. Stop telling myself that I am going to learn to knit, re-learn how to basket weave, sew, and crochet.
Avoid using to-do lists like prozac. Avoid seeking lauds and accolades. Remember how cheap the trophy was when I finally earned it, and then the "what am I going to do with this and how long do I have to keep it" stages. Lauds are the same.
I love making others smile, laugh, feel better. Do that once a day. It's my apple-a-day.
Add to this manifesto.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

why write about this?

I wanted to write about being grateful because I wanted to be happy again. I had forgotten how to be happy. Every day I wake up. I do loads of things that other people think herculean. I used to think they were herculean. I'm not bragging but somehow in a few years time, I woke up and did something like this all last year.
I ran for 10-13 miles before 7am.
I showered. I said prayers with my daughter. We read scriptures.
She left. I worked. 8-10 hours. Sometimes I walked another 5-10 miles on my treadmill, like a snail, 2 or so miles an hour.
I finished with cleaning up lunch dishes that accrued, cooking dinner, cleaning up, running laundry, writing, watching a spot of something funny, debrief with the husband and kids, sipping a glass of wine or spot of scotch, showered, read, went to sleep one or two paragraphs in.
Every day.
Cooking was play. Running to books, to NPR, Play. But it became rote.

Then, our school was threatened by politics and national economics. Friends lost jobs. Lots of folks got sick, with cancer, with anorexia, with chronic stuff. Others had lousy spouses. I worked too hard. I lost my temper at computers. I shouted to the wind. Little birdies heard me. Facebook and broken computers are wind, and they carry sound-waves, thought-waves, brain-waves.

I hurt people. I broke trust.

I ran a marathon. I finished a goal. I got a mysterious injury.

Building blocks of joy that I forgot to thank God for turned into monotony. The pains and sorrows compounded. I felt squashing depression.

So here I am, each day, making an effort to think of things for which I am grateful. I do the same routines, except, I tread like a snail for 15-16 miles on my treadmill. My pelvic may be fractured. I cannot run.

I sleep longer, hoping the bones will mend. I write longer, hoping to keep an A even if I get only rejection notices for publishing and blunt critiques for structural flaws in my work.

Still, there is something, I have learned, to work at what I do not want to do. I do not want to take the time to think of what makes me grateful, or for what I am thankful. It's work on a day like today, when I stare out my back porch at the lettuce that gave in because the temps were below ten.

I am thankful I did not have to go out today.
I am still thankful that treadmill keeps going.
I am thankful for a plentitude of gifts, like it, and the generous folks who bestowed love on me. I don't deserve them.
I am thankful my daughter is going to play a game with me, even though she feels awful.
I am thankful I won a quiet round of banagrams by laying the last tile seconds before she laid hers. In other words, it was a tie.
I am thankful for the rosemary hanging on.
I am thankful for foot rubs and little neckrubs, short touches, quick kisses, chatty interludes with my husband.
I am thankful for that one joke that breaks the tension, whatever it is.
I am thankful that tomorrow is the feast day of Blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg, a fool for Christ, because I think I want to be a fool for Christ.
I am thankful for hot tea.

Thank God.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rest and Joy

Sitting under the auspices of Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss", I took tea with Christina last night. The painting glitters between her sitting area and her dining area. She and her husband have a smaller place now that he changed jobs and they moved from the family home to house in Crawfordsville. Between the creams, golds and reds of her sitting room and the bold golds and creams of her dining room, there is a flow, a movement. I said yesterday, Christina is a dancer.

She has pain now and cannot dance with her legs, or knees. But, her voice lilts. Her thoughts float, her insights plie and pirouette  She said last night what I've been trying to practice, the act of thanksgiving makes a happy heart.

I keep hearing Madame Blueberry from "Veggie Tales" singing, "Because thankful heart is a happy heart."
I read in Ann Voscamp's book 1000 Gifts last night of her simple things. On days like today, when it was very very busy, and still should be, of simple things. Right now, I have those because I did not read the Epistle and Gospel in morning prayers with my daughter. I'm playing catch up.  I hear tell there are these things of which to be thankful:

  1. "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God." Hebrews 4:9
  2. Hot water. It is about zero today. It's so cold the car is randomly flashing engine lights and the internet service shivers and dies. The water main busted outside, but that could be because the water company picked tonight to work on the meter they left half installed and dormant in our front yard. 
  3. A short kind of dinner with my kids. Running from church, to kid's work/boy scouts/dinners/house blessings, makes it all very hard.
  4. That I had very little pain today. I've been marking my days by my ability to recover from what I now think was a stress fracture. I'm too busy and short of sick days to see if the doc will get me x-rays. I've been putting a tincture of knit-bone on this. 
  5. Words. Knit-bone is great. I re-read Annie Dillard's chapter from An American Childhood wherein her mother's play with language is recorded: Terwilliger (as in, Wayne Terwilliger), Tamiami Trail, Slippy. I love funny words.
  6. Talking about books with anyone. I get shivers of joy.
  7. Helping students.
  8. Cooking a satisfying meal for my family.
  9. Fruit and Blue cheese. No I am not supposed to have it, but I found a powder, which keeps me from having the symptoms that my intolerance usually produces. Fruit and stinky cheese are a gift from God.
  10. Olive Oil. Really. It makes every thing yummy. I thank God for creating these little things that make my rabbit food delicious.
  11. Sound minds and teachable moments. I had time today to light my crocheted shawl on fire, and the good sense to tamp it out without throwing over my head (first instinct) or tamping it against my dress (second instinct). My son asked why I didn't pull it off. I would have caught my hair on fire, I realized. And I reacted with the sense to avoid that. I have to celebrate this, because I started my first and only kitchen fire two years ago, for a thoughtless attempt to 'double-crisp" spiced popcorn in a toaster oven. Fire makes such a mess.
  12. Which keeps me regularly grateful for learning from  other's mistakes. I had just bought my first fire extinguisher because a student had one and the presence of mind to use it correctly to end a kitchen fire.
  13. When I used my one-time fire extinguisher, I donated it at the local fire extinguisher purveyors. They gave me a rechargeable one. I'm very thankful they GAVE it to me, because those buddies are costly. That said, it needs recharged or checked. They are to be maintained annually. I haven't had to use it- Thank God- but I should make sure it works if I do.
  14. There have been no fires in the family in the past year. Two years ago, my sister-in-law lost housing and worldly possessions in a house fire started by an unattended candle.
  15. A day off now and then. Yesterday was good for my soul.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tea: A drink with my dancer friend

Last summer, my mother and I split four ounces of a loose leaf tea called "Ice Wine Blend" from a little tea shop outside of the Shipshewana Flea Market. To be honest, by the time we got to the tea shop, I was not expecting much. I hadn't perused the market since high school when I got the stellar shirt below. For some reason, it is not me wearing it here. I'm the cloud-haired girl with the golden handle-bar moustache. My cousin Kari was the sucker in my screenpainted "You Can't Touch This" wife beater (size XXL).

This time wasn't much more of an experience. But cheap clothes, chumpy toss offs aside, there were some gems there. Like the lovely tea shop. Mom and I brewed and iced the "Iced Wine" blend. And then, split the final few ounces. I saved it for a special occasion, like tonight.

Tonight I went for tea with Christina, who once danced, and still does, in her grace and artfulness. While I enjoyed her company, I was reminded of a few things and people for whom I am thankful.

  1. Elena, who taught me that self-care is sustainable living
  2. Christina, for being a tool of God, in spite of what she struggles with daily
  3. A cup of hot tea, for as the good Elder Sophrony says, "“Stand at the brink of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little, and have a cup of tea."
  4. A day off to have tea, to finish my grandmother's book, to make other's happy in some small way.
  5. A husband who lets me write, work, and grade on my day off.
  6. A warm house. It is very very cold out. Some folks can't afford this.
  7. Food on my table. Some weeks are slim, but beans are amazing.
  8. Life. My mother was a teen mom. She and my dad could have made more financially safe choices, but I wouldn't be here.
  9. Great spiritual ancestors such as my great-grandma Edna, my Grandparents on both sides, my in-laws.
  10. Loving my church as my family.
  11. Being able to move still. It may not always be and I should be thankful for today and what is real today.
  12. The Mother of God. I'm getting to know her. She's especially important today, as we remember lives lost to abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, the convulted ethics of war, medicine, and justice.
  13. My two kids. I will never never ever not think that they have been a great tool of my salvation, and that I wouldn't go to heaven, except that they make me better persons.
  14. My parents. For. Every.Thing.
  15. My in-laws. For. Every.Thing.
  16. Poetry, for being the best form of protest, and stories, for telling more truth than most essays.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Looking back, and forward

Greg working on the St. Maria House.
The annual all-parish meeting today followed the coffee hour. The nave was full throughout the service, and for the first time in a while, I was in most of the service. This was a treat because I thought I wouldn't even make it out of bed to church. Somehow, the sense of icky-sicky went away and we braved the nineteen degrees for a sunny walk to Liturgy. I love those, even the chilly ones.

After liturgy, I enjoyed talking balsamic vinegars, green leafy veggies, olive oils, and religious teachings with Chris and Julie. It was a treat because usually I hide in the kitchen, giving myself jobs like serving and dishes.

It was a long, but pain free meeting, which makes me wonder how hard it must be in parishes where people don't enjoy each other's company so much. We are a raucous bunch, with kids lolly-gagging on the open floor while parents munch the meal. Somehow there is always plenty.

I am so thankful
Jonathan who serves with Fr. Joel
1. the variety of people I know, who are learners, farmers, home-schoolers, public-schoolers, gardeners, servers at the local missions.
2. the beauty of the Lord's house, tended by folks who grow our flowers, mow our lawns, manage the books and actually do not fight to be on the parish council, but are also willing to serve as needed.
3. all the babies and toddlers yucking it up
4. the abundance of young men serving with my husband
5. the bursts of laughter from the teenagers playing Quelf and Apples to Apples during the all parish meeting
6. Ann making sure our kids don't overdo the sugar
7. Ann who made sure we don't waste paper products every week,
Robbie, another ninja altar server
8. the folks who do the dishes, because the common task leads to new alchemies, new conversations
9. for seeing the smile that comes when a dream is no longer deferred, even if the dream is just having one's parents and siblings come for a weekend.
10. for people who wait patiently, knowing that a good idea today is still a good idea in two weeks, like dealing with crises in the Church
11. for women who do not gadfly about, teaching me to be more still, more present, more attentive
12. big families. I came from one, and when I'm not with them, the church is mine.
Andrew, who serves, and also teaches 
13. folks who are educating my son.
14. Wendell's Berry's idea of donated haircuts in Jayber Crow, cause donation support often leads to more miracles.
15. little boys who say their dad is their favorite thing to look at.

Twas a good Sunday at church. Thanks be to God.
And, yes, we need more pictures. These are linked from, the church website.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Knit Bone

Comfrey, please help, as all the naturopathic and medical sources seem to suggest you will
It is called knitbone. Did you know that? It seems so biblical.

Warm sunny walks alongside my husband

Hot tea, any tea, but my favorites are green or rooibos chai and aztec chili (Yogi tea brands).

Ginger, to comfort the stomach. I often bring it home pickled, dried and fresh. The folks at the international market must think I'm on a ginger bender.

Cinnamon. I made a dairy free whip and put on three kinds of cinnamon, common, ceylon and saigon. Delicious. Do you know how many kinds there are? Not as many as chili, but oh so good.

The Theotokos. I may learn to love her as I never knew was possible. It occurred to me today, as friends wait for the Comforter, having lost a spiritual father, that we feel so orphaned when our spiritual parents repose, but our spiritual mother, Mary, has already crossed the divide. What hope to know that is what happens with our reposed parents as well.

Sleepy boys who lean their heads on my shoulder in Vespers.

Good books.

Getting a few things done. I shouldn't love being productive over being at peace. I probably don't but it does keep me from melancholic shennanigans.

Warm ovens. They give me the fuzzies.

My husband, with his eyes like acorns, his beard like maple bark, his pine nut skin, strength and solidness, reaching up to heaven.


Way Back When Water 
It satisfied me most, made me appreciate things
as God made them
not as we re-make, or fiddle with them
tastes clean from the well, not like chlorine from the city utilities,

Water running out of the taps in my house, clean to drink
plentiful plantful gardens
flowering out and fruiting
imports not required to eat, even quinoa.
Plentiful options, chilis, chocolates, grains and legumes
flowering textures and flavors, grainy, smooth, buttery.
water that I used twice a day to wash my skin

Thursday, January 17, 2013

DoubleTime Part 1

Due to unexpected joys, I returned home one day early. It required a complete overhaul of my day, but it was oh, so worth it. Today, I will attempt to make up some missed Thanksgivings!

  1. Days beginning to stretch out again.
  2. The joy of new books, especially a St. John Maxomovitch on Veneration of the Mother of GOd
  3. The satisfied feeling when I finish a book
  4. The elation of a good essay
  5. Beans. They even make really good GF brownies! I just made some yummy blondies with a bit of cornmeal, butter beans, imitation almond flavoring, ghee, soda, an egg, brown sugar, and mace.
  6. Herbs De Provence on salad greens with olive oil, red wine vinegar, smoked salt and garlic
  7. Lemongrass Thai Gree Chili soup
  8. A rainbow of flavors, even in just the variety of peppers I enjoyed today- Crushed red pepper, bhut jokala, chipotle, ancho, japones, paprika, green sweet peppers and jalapenos. God loves variety.
  9. Spending the afternoon doing the bulk of planning creative writing, including listing some of my favorite books. See my efforts? I'm happy!
  10. Listening to Chimimanda Adiche

  11. Listening to Anne Lamott

  12. Listening to Anis Mojani

  13. Listening to Donald Miller 

  14. Laughing with Key and Peele

  15. Listening to Sarah Kay on TED Talks

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Thanks, but no thanks

Things I woke up Thankful for

  1. Daily Scriptures posted on Ancient Faith Radio
  2. The excitement of seeing Lydia today
  3. The chance to meet up with a former student, James, for book shopping and meeting important folk in his world.
  4. Unexpected good essays that dig out of my fingertips and mind, where I didn't know they lay
  5. I will be almost home in 48 hours, God Willing!
  6. Students who make awesome origami gifts!

 Things I Don't Need to Want

  1. A house any larger than what I have. I could downscale happily. Less cleaning.
  2. A cruise to anywhere with San anywhere or Caribbean. I am thrilled to do missions instead of fancified vacations.
  3. A motorized toothbrush. Think of all the calories I would not be burning without the vigorous up and down scrubbing.
  4. A gun. I can hardly handle kitchen knives. Lord knows what I would do with a gun! Shoot an artichoke in the heart?
  5. A bigger car. I drove 12 hours on one tank of gas, my friends. Love me a small camry.
  6. A Pedicure. Turns out, I don't have toe-nails. Footrubs from the hubby come with more value: love quotient high, cost to bank account, zero.
  7. Squawking Boxes
  8. Talking Heads on 24 hours visual networks
  9. Possessing beauty, instead of just enjoying it wherever it turns up!

Monday, January 14, 2013

What's There To Be Thankful For

1. Work Around Your Abyss - Henry Nouwen
There is a deep hole in your being, like an abyss. You
will never succeed in filling that hole, because your
needs are inexhaustible. You have to work around it
 so that gradually the abyss closes.
    Since the hole is so enormous and your anguish
 so deep, you will always be tempted to flee from it.
 There are two extremes to avoid: being completely
 absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so
 many things that you stay far away from the wound
 you want to heal.

I found the poem above tonight, with hints from Parker J. Palmer's foundation for the Courage to Teach. 

2. It goes along with another from one his anthologies- "If" by Rudyard Kipling.
If you can keep your head when all about you   
 Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
 If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
     But make allowance for their doubting too;   
 If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
     Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
 Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
     And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
This will be the thanks you's of my day- gratefulness for words that have fed my soul. So this doesn't get too long, most poem texts will be linked.

3.   Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
 O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.

For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?

Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves,
 and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters.
You are good when you are one with yourself.
Yet when you are not one with yourself you are not evil.
For a divided house is not a den of thieves; it is only a divided house.
And a ship without rudder may wander aimlessly among perilous isles yet sink not to the bottom.
6. Tell the Truth but tell it slant by ED (reminds me of the proverb- A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.)
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned 

By those that are not entirely beautiful; 

No man is an island,
 Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main. 
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

And, For the Record

I've taken a some dust and smoke, deservedly, these past months, for my stress level. It's affected my husband and kids most and they have been patient with me. It's the friends, peripheral folks in my life, who God has used like prophets to warn me. I probably should have called one last night. I parented badly, corrected it even more poorly, gave up and went to bed. This morning, I have to drive to Pennsylvania. You know where that is, right? For me, turn right and drive straight through the Slough of Despond and stop at the Castle of Diffidence.

And, when I get in my car on Thursday, I take the second star to the east and straight on till morning. Literally, though, it will be late at night, but my youthful joy will be getting home.

Before I go off:
1. Thank you to my husband, who was warned by me in waking hours, of this dark side, for marrying me anyway.
2. Thank to my husband for being the first to apologize, to give and forgive, in nearly every disagreement we've ever had.
3. Thank you to my husband for trying to reduce the sphere of what I need to worry about and care for, so I don't lose my wits as often I might.
4. Thank you to my husband for not pointing out my petty mistakes and silly errors, but quietly covering over my many indignities and sins.
5. Thank you to my husband for doing a whole of little upkeeps that I forget to stop and notice, like so many roses and daisies God grows along the path.

Thank you to my daughter
6. for noticing this little experiment is helping with some joy in spite of pain.
7. for being a piece of mercy when things are tough and maturing into such a lovely woman.
8. for taking care to be and do your best, without checking your weight, your skin, your class ranking, the name brand on your clothes, and make/model of cars, phones and technology in our house.
9. for trying a bit of something, painting, cooking, newspaper writing, science, literature, to find yourself.
10. for being responsible, self-sustaining, and being able to call your Mamaw, aunts, and older/younger folks some of your closest friends.

Thank you to my son
11. for laughing at my potty jokes, petty jokes and silly puns.
12. for loving to play outside so much. It's a great world out there.
13. for trying to do the honorable thing and not play video games during media breaks, even if you are at your friends and they are playing.
14. for your love of reading and books. It's so fun for me to share with you and your sister!
15. for really getting better at the chores because I asked and not because it's just oodles of fun.

I will miss you.