reconciling things

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

“I will repay you double what the swarming locust has eaten…” Joel 2:25

Farm To Table 2021

Catholic Rural Life Farm To Table Supper 2020. I made a spectacular menu with lobster spring rolls and a Moroccan lamb and chicken stew and five kinds of paletas. I didn’t eat any of it. I barely made it through the day. I leaned hard on my mom friends who helped me in the kitchen. I had to take frequent breaks because my body was not cooperating. I finished the six course service, then sat down by the fire with friends. They toasted the perfect autumn night with champagne and offered me a clove. I was just happy to be done.

I don’t know how I got home actually. I drove. I had to. But, I was already shutting down.

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A few years ago my middle school aged son got into the car and I handed him a book and said, ”Hold this please.” He said, ”Is this a Bible?” I said, ”No, Seven Storey Mountain.” He replied, ”Merton. It’s always Merton with you.”

He’s not wrong.

This morning I picked up The New Seeds of Contemplation for about the millionth time and opened it at random and this jumped out and pierced my heart, like nothing else.

“Untie my hands and deliver my heart from sloth. Set me free from the laziness that goes about disguised as activity when activity is not required of me, and from the cowardice that does what is not demanded, in order to escape sacrifice.

“But give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens. And possess my whole heart and soul with simplicity of love. Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love, that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection, not for the sake of virtue, not for the sake of sanctity, but for You alone.

“For there is only one thing that can satisfy love and reward it, and that is You alone.”

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Has the Lord ever asked you a question and you know the right answer and your answer are not the same?

The Lord is really good at asking simple questions that cannot be answered because the answer is too difficult to bear, let alone say out loud. Like the rich young ruler who went away sad, sometimes what God asks of us is more than what we are prepared to give.

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In the book of Luke, chapter 15 there is the parable of the good shepherd going after the one lost sheep.

Did you grow up in the era of the Sunday School flannelgraph? (Kids today have no idea what they are missing. If you know, you know.) If you did, you know the image of the sheep, stuck in a bush. (Probably played double duty with the story of Abraham not sacrificing Isaac.) And you know of the good shepherd—Jesus in his long robes—and how nicely the little lamb fit over his shoulders. Charming to be sure.

The parable is interesting though. What shepherd in his right mind would leave 99 sheep to chase after one little pain the ass, who, if you have ever worked with sheep, will probably stray again? (They are persistently rebellious like that.) It always seemed an odd analogy to leave the flock for one.

My pastor said today it is a picture of love and how love compels us to do things that are not even understandable and in the light of reason seem unreasonable.

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When I was a little girl I wanted to get married young, be a missionary, and have so very many kids.

Check. Check. Check.

And honestly, I was proud of it. I did exactly what I set about to do. I was serving the Lord (I mean, I am sure God appreciated all I was doing for him. Why wouldn’t he? I was such an asset.), I was married to the first man I ever kissed, and I had all these beautiful babies. My life was completely on script.

Little did I realize that life was improv.

I never expected to be living with the consequences of addiction and trauma. I never expected chronic illness. I certainly never expected to be 42 and divorced, raising children on my own. Working full time, even! That was never in the equation. I loved being a stay-at-home mom (a term I don’t particularly care for) so much.

And now. What is going on with my unscripted life?

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Today I listened to this podcast. Although not the main focus of the podcast, it touched briefly on the well-curated lives of those on Instagram. Not just us regular folk on Insta, but those “content creators”….you know….“influencers.”

Especially prickly to me personally are those monochromatic curated accounts. All polished and shiny in the same color palette. It doesn’t look alive. It looks like a still life. The accounts are kind of sterile. Dry. Unromantic.

But life is rather unruly. The unexpected always happens. We never expect it. Life is messy. It is all the deep end and there is no lifeguard.

It’s so easy to be false. I suppose that has always been true of mankind, but it is particularly true of mankind on social media. But what if I don’t have, or more importantly, I don’t want a well-curated life, that has been carefully selected for the demographic most likely to give me likes. Going out of a limb here, this can include vague-posting and meltdown selfies. Likes are the social currency we use to evaluate our worth. And if a pic of us crying without details of why can get me a lot of likes and “What is wrong?” comments, we’ll do it.

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Today begins the Dormition Fast in the Syriac church. Our Byzantine fam has been fasting for a week already. Our Roman fam is not required to fast…but that doesn’t mean you can’t.

As promised here are some meal ideas for your big ol’ hungry family for the fast. But first let me mention two approaches to fasting. The first says that if it is tasty and you enjoy it that it is not really fasting. The second says the bare minimum requirement of the law is enough. Can we find a happy medium and a proper understanding of the fast?

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I spend about 10 minutes in the mornings looking at the headlines. I probably shouldn’t, because more often than not it’s depressing. The world has gone mad. Where are we all going? And why are we in this hand basket?

Our collective health, mental well-being, economy, and energy is overextended. In response, the powers-that-be print money in hopes to stimulate the economy. Nevermind that consumerism has never led to internal peace. We can update our post-pandemic wardrobe or join a gym to get sculpted. We can find a better car, a perfect latte, or a guide to being an at-home mixologist. Yet, at the end of the day, when we look in the mirror, we just have ourselves and whatever bit of eternity we hold within us that we haven’t managed to snuff out with our excesses.

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We drove. About 7,000 miles (give or take a thousand). We saw both coasts. Canyons, mountains, rivers. We watched elephant seals fight on the beach and an otter swim up river. We drank California wines and Colorado beer and ate hotel breakfasts which is always a thing all its own.

But the best part of everything was people.

First of all, the people with whom we traveled—the family. All shoved in a van, blasting music, eating too many snacks, laughing, napping, sometimes fighting, praying the Divine Mercy as close to the hour of mercy in whatever time zone we happened to be in. (You can still view those prayer times on our Instagram.)

Also the people we visited. It was precious. Some friends were new. Some friends date back decades. It has been a lot of years since we have hugged some of these people. We have grown and changed and so have they. And yet, to embrace them again—there were some tears, because our hearts are still connected. Bless God for that. As the kids say, if you know you know.

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It has been 8 years since we have taken a family vacation. That was a simply magical month of road tripping with only 8 kids. And we have had a lot of miles as a family since then.

Surviving and somehow coming out thriving after the last couple years has been nothing short of miraculous. This vacation is a grace, a gift, and is full of Thanksgiving. The kids and I are well and healing body and soul.

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