I had to laugh a bit at all of us parents and grandparents packed like sardines in that Lutheran church, craning our necks for a glimpse of our preschoolers dressed as sheep, seeds, the Good Samaritan or, in my family's case, a shepherd – Mary the shepherd with a staff and lines and everything. Our cameras, so many cameras, were out and aimed at the stage up front upon which four and five year olds were sweetly dramatizing Jesus' parables. You'd think they were the opening act for U2 or the Rolling Stones the way that small town venue buzzed with excitement and anticipation.
"So this is what's become of me," I thought just minutes before the show. "I'm one of those moms who revels obnoxiously in preschool plays, in funny stuff her kid's say, in soccer goals, a solid report card, construction paper snowmen. And then how good it felt to own the fact there was no place in the world I would have rather been – no one richer than me, more famous than me, more talented, productive, respected than me I would want to trade places with if it meant not having my family – not delighting in these little things, little people.
I'm pretty sure that's exactly what those parents of adult sons and daughters mean when they say, "Don't wish these precious years with your young kids away! They fly by so quickly." Taking that wise advice to heart, I openly admit to you this morning that my idea of a good time has dramatically evolved over the past decade into this:
And I'm thankful.
Today I raise my glass of fruit punch to all you who have sacrificed so, so much much to put your (extraordinary) children first, even when it hurts or requires more than you feel capable of giving. May God bless you and reward you and I both with the determination to soak in these fleeting moments in front of us. A peaceful Monday to you, my friends.
If a mother pours herself a bitter cup of coffee, she'll have to drive to the store to buy a gallon of white vinegar to clean her coffee pot. But when she gets home and prints out the instructions on how to clean her coffee pot and starts the process of scrubbing away the grime compromising the pleasure of consuming her daily caffeine, she'll notice how cluttered the shelf holding the coffee making supplies has become and remove every item from it. After that shelf is wiped down and reorganized, that same caffeine-addicted mother will get disgusted by the condition of her other kitchen shelves in comparison to that newly tidied one and impulsively empty every single shelf in the kitchen until every single square inch of counter space is covered with spices, cereal boxes, bags of flour, dried beans and vitamin bottles.
She will then become so distraught by the overwhelming mess she's made, so close to dinner time, that when her daughter shows her her mostly finished school project - a poster board on the US Constitution- and asks what to do about a misspelled word in the title, a word written in permanent marker, that mother will explode like a pricked balloon. "How many times have I told you," she will yell, "always write in pencil first! Why didn't you bring this to me sooner so I could spell check it? Blah, nasty blah, blah blah!" And then the daughter will get teary, and the mother's heart will ache. "I'm sorry, baby," she'll say, after taking a moment to regain her composure. "Your mom took on more than she should have and then took it out on you," prompting her sweet, forgiving daughter to reply, "It's OK. I know that cleaning kitchens makes mothers crabby."
And then, inevitably, after being humbled by her lack of self-control, that flustered mother will have to pray for the faith to not wallow in her shame and frustration but rather, in spite of that kitchen disaster, the maddening mess, start over right then and there. "Let's clear some space on the kitchen table so we can sit down together, with a plate of chocolate chip cookies, and come up with a plan to fix your poster, " the imperfect mother will say to her resilient child. And chances are, if you give a mother a cookie…
she'll want a (non-bitter) cup of coffee to go with it.Read More
As to the ultimate meaning of it all
- by Bruce Bawer
We know just what we know. We can't know more.
Somewhere far away there stands a door.
Somewhere there hangs a solitary key.
The end is near. The end is always near.
The end is all around us, every day,
In every cell of your body, in the rosy
Cheeks of your children playing in the yard,
In the strong bronze arm of your lover, safe in bed,
And in the house on fire, where the body
Of someone you love burns like a Christmas log.
And yet love happens, blooming as if from air.
I feel no obligation anymore to explain God, or why I believe in the Resurrection of Christ despite the universality of death and suffering. I won't pretend that suicide bombers, plane crashes and children with cancer don't make my insides crawl with horror. The truth is I have no real answers to give, and that any I concocted would be speculative at best. Being confronted by tragedy is like a bucket of ice water to the head. Death and suffering, the way they breathe all hot and heavy down my neck, won't let me sleep, or forget that I am vulnerable – just as vulnerable as any and everyone else – to having my comfortable little existence shred to pieces in a heartbeat.
I feel no responsibility to whitewash the pain of being broken with glossy euphemisms proposing that sense can be made of injustice. Thirteen years ago I surrendered my opinions and dependence on reason to the ancient teachings of the Church – I retired my time consuming (wasting?) quest to figure things out (Who, what, where, when, why is God, exactly?) and learned through the sacraments to make peace with the Mystery that is God and His mercy, the Holy Trinity, salvation. And now I'm no longer in the mood for a debate about the peripherals, not when the end is all around me and my only real source of courage is, mysteriously enough, self-denial. No, I will not try and appease your anger, your disillusionment, your doubts, but God help me weep with you when you weep and love you, serve you, just exactly as you are, lest the monsters, pride and despair, sink their teeth into my soul.Read More
Mary’s godparents, the Lamberts, moved to Michigan recently and this past weekend we finally got the chance to visit their warm and welcoming, crazy cool and cozy, spacious and spectacular home in the woods. Greg and Marian exude kindness and hospitality. They pursue love and beauty by going out of their way to maintain the ties they’ve created with old friends and, as thoughtful and available neighbors and parish parishioners, remain always open to the forming of new ones.
Their walls are covered with artfully framed and hung photos of family members, godchildren, their adorable three month old grandaughter, those many friends I referred to above and, best of all, with original paintings birthed by Marian, herself. Really awesome paintings. Marian has a little studio now where she can paint away amidst the most breathtaking views of nature-y stuff. I’m so happy for her – that she’s carved out in this stage of her life an oasis of creativity. Father Thomas Hopko’s twenty-first maxim for spiritual living is: “Have a healthy, wholesome hobby. Have something where you exercise your brain just for the pure joy of it.” Marian’s wholesome hobby inspires me to keep playing around, just for the pure joy of it, with my camera. Yes, my time with the Lamberts inspired me on many levels. I hope Troy and I grow up to be very much like them.Read More
They are girly-girls to the bone, these inseparable cousins. Twice a week, at least, my sister-in-law, Paige, and I take turns hosting their afternoon play dates, because when they play, intently for hours at a time in rooms littered with dress-up clothes, paper dolls and markers, we can sneak in extra moments of uninterrupted work. The sound of them giggling, pretending, and learning to compromise is delicious. I treasure their bond, and this slice of their lives free from anxiousness, insecurity – from any pressing concerns at all. They bring out the silly in me – and heaven only knows what sort of pinched-faced skittish prude I might become without them urging this over-thinking mom and aunt of theirs to dance, sing, or break out my obnoxious (Dick Van Dyke style) Cockney accent every once in awhile. When weary of news reports too reprehensible to believe, having access to embodied innocence is such a blessing. Feeling jaded, overwhelmed? Quick, go drink them in; inhale your babies! Sweet relief is but an impromptu waltz in the kitchen (or something else equally as impractical, as affectionate and memorable) away.