reconciling things

“Allow it all to happen: beauty and terror…” Rilke

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings..

(White Christmas, 1954. If you can’t hear that in Bing Crosby’s voice we can’t be friends.)

I like my job. Every day I cook meals and snacks for students who are in the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty. They come into the kitchen singing or laughing—occasionally crying. I listen. I dispense motherly advice, say prayers, or offer broth, tea, or chocolate—as appropriate. I stand over my cauldron sized tilt-skillet and stir cheese sauce for massive quantities of mac-n-cheese and make pans of brownies to feed hungry hearts. There is so little stress in that, because no matter the chaos of the general world, food makes sense. Food is nearly as consistent good liturgy.

“I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say ‘nothing’ I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.”

(Julie and Julia, 2009. If you have never used egg yolks and chocolate as a meditation, I highly recommend it.)

Speaking of good liturgy, I love the East. (And by the East, of course I mean, Eastern Christianity.) Shake your head, click your tongue, laugh if you want, say it is a trend. I am not particularly one to follow trends—as evidenced by my wardrobe, probably. Or by the fact that that I chose to come into the Catholic Church when the flow was going the opposite direction. No, it’s not a phase. The East just holds so much mystery, beauty, and joy. It’s unlike any other thing on Earth. It’s almost like you can hear the desert fathers chanting along with you. It’s as if venerating an icon is like a portal of time and the holy men and women touch you back with all the tenderness of a loving parents. The unchangedness of the words and responses. The great equalizer of the kyrie, the intinction of Communion, the very words ”HOLY GIFTS FOR THE HOLY…” Good liturgy, particularly good Eastern Liturgy, makes me think it is good that the world goes on so that this worship of the Lord continues every day and in every place.

About a year ago I was in this cab and the cab driver, this indian guy, started telling me all sorts of stuff. He was just looking at me in the rear view mirror and he said; ‘Bliss. Bliss is your birthright. You have great potential in this lifetime, the key to your life is gratitude. You do not give enough thanks.’ And I said; ‘well how do I do that?’ And he said; ‘Simple, say thank you.’ And I said; ‘well, when?’ And he said; ‘All the time, right now.’ And he said after I said thank you I should say ‘more please.’ That with gratitude the universe is eternally abundant.”

(HappyThankYouMorePlease, 2010)

I think somewhere along the line I stopped believing in bliss. But, I used to believe in bliss. I honestly used to believe that all things were possible. But then maybe I expressed more gratitude. Like Annie in this film, I do not give enough thanks.

I believe in sadness, but what happens if I stop believing in bliss? They both have to exist in order to have a full spectrum of emotions and lived experiences. You can’t believe all life is bliss any more than you can believe all life is dismal. It just doesn’t make any sense in that way. So, let us give thanks. And by us, I mean, me. Unless you are also up at 4AM with too many feelings to formulate thoughts. If you are, come on over for a cuppa. The kettle is already on.

For my kids who are tender and beautiful and complicated people, in whose faces I see Christ. Thank you. More please.

For my friends who stand with me, tell me hard truths, don’t give up, and are descended of Simon of Cyrene and help others carry crosses. Thank you. More please.

For the quiet of the house at 4AM with the chill in the air and the darkness like a cover. I am safe. Being safe with oneself and in one’s home should never be taken for granted. Thank you. More please.

For possibilities. I don’t know what is possible, even though I say things like ”that’s impossible” all the time. I don’t really know what God has in store. It is likely that in a few years from now I will stumble on this post and marvel at how life has changed or maybe just how I have changed. Thank you. More please.

Tell us a story from before we can remember.”

(Tree of Life, 2011)

Ever since I was a little girl and well into womanhood, whenever I felt unsafe, when I felt my soul in turmoil, I would close my eyes and imagine myself in the palm of God’s hand, curled up, asleep, completely trusting. I could easily fit in the palm of his hand and nothing could get me there. I was untouchable. I needed no defenses there, because who would dare disturb me while I slept in God’s hand?

The kettle says it is ready. I think I will take my tea there. There’s room for you if you care to join me.

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