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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Waiting on Change ~ Advent

Mother of God, Lovingkindness
As evenings grow darker, I find my thoughts traveling to the Advent wreath.  In years past, this is the weekend I would likely be panicking about the fact that I had, yet again, failed to order the candles on time.  As darkness falls on lengthening nights, I yearn to light that first tiny flame--a herald of the coming of our Savior.  But, I have traveled East, and Advent wreaths are not an Eastern Rite tradition.  So, I am tossed in a sea absent Western traditions and spilling over her banks with unfamiliar Eastern ones.  It is easier to fall into the familiar arms of traditions that you have grown up along side, than it is to immerse yourself in new ones--let me tell you.  So, I-- who have lived 49 years ordering my life by the rhythm of the Western Christian calendar--stand in Eastern icon corners and search my soul for the warm, familiar feelings of home.

Large Rectangular Veil in Brown w Pink Accents ~ RCVM6
I am sitting in a quiet house today.  My husband is sorting through mail and the dogs are snoring in the narrow ray of sun that the blinds let in.  Elyse is two hours' drive away.  She'll be home in a handful of days to sew and to don veils for new listing photos before Thanksgiving.  After Thanksgiving, I'll have two adult children at home for awhile.  Twice the love.  Twice the hope for a marvelous future.  Time flies by and change is both joy-giving, and ruthless. 

I know that she will leave us to make her own life, but will stay in the warm embrace of family as she grows into that life, and forms it.  Her life will be different from mine, yet will be shaped and influenced by her time in our home.  All who came before her have put their stamp on her being--on her living.  Just as an Advent wreath glows in the shadowy night corners of my heart, she will hear, in the distance, 1900s cattle lowing softly in the snowy night.  The scent of warm bread dough rising while tucked snuggly in the back of an 1800s covered wagon -- kneeded by the weary hands of a foremother looking west to Zion-- will waft gently on her nostrils.  She will startle-- gently, briefly-- as she places bare feet on the ground along those of her little ones, at the feel of the rich soil of the Tetons squeezing up between her toes.  And then, she will look down to see that it is not really there--in her vision, but is written on her heart.

And, she will remember.  She'll tell the ancestral stories to little ears.  Her children will appear as if they are not listening, but, their hearts will hear.  Their souls will record love of Christ and family--and stories of those who bequeathed these things to them.  And her children, too, will remember.

Liturgical Time : "..Because of the Angels"
So, then, life continues on mercilessly, and change bursts in to reveal that all the things that really matter stay the same.  I'll remember this as I pull my western Advent Wreath out of the sideboard this year and my youngest -- my only -- lights the first candle.  Because, the dust of trails traveled clings to us as we move forward, and then falls gently on newly discovered ground, to enrich it.

He's coming friends-- our Lord, putting on human flesh to become one of us and to grow strong and wise, to teach us, and to conquer death and the grave.  Are you making room?  Are you sweeping corners and wiping shelves and taking stock of your heart and your household?  Advent approaches, in the East and in the West--He is coming. Let us prepare ourselves and our homes, and make Him room.

Pax Christi, dear ones,

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The Dark Stretches Long ~ Advent

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Lilacs and French Lace...Spring is on the Air

It's lilac season at Liturgical Time.  We're celebrating with a flurry of French laces and Springtime prints.  The studio is humming with shipping activity. Into the midst of whirls of packaging ribbon and organza pouches filled with lace lovelies, Papa placed a vase of cut lilacs...and it brought to my mind an old post.  So, I've resurrected it, below, from the archives.

I pray your home is filled with sweet fragrance and strong endurance, and that we all emerge newly broken from our Lenten disciplines,and ready for growth, into this year's Paschal Spring.

Pax Christi, dear ones!

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” 

Lilacs, Shoe Throwers, and Endurance: Remembering Who is in Charge, and Being Still
A Repost from the 2012 Archives....

It's lilac season in the Central California mountains.

I love this time of year.  I hate this time of year.

 I woke up to a flurry of emails 
about typical end of the school year special education stresses.

 May is rough.

But the lilacs are lovely.  There are fields of them around here, and they adorn yards everywhere.  In the center of town, some of them are enormous, like trees.  I imagine they have been around longer than I have, probably much longer.

They have grown so large and sturdy and stately because they have endured.  Through times of plenty and times of rationing, they have soldiered on, simply standing still.  They have celebrated in the roaring twenties; buckled down and lived on less throughout the Great Depression.  I'm sure that they saw a thing or two in the sixties. They've seen grown little boys returning home from wars, and a few good sized California earthquakes.

All the while, they stood still, basked in sun when it was available, slept when it was time, and drank in the water and nutrients that they could.  And it shaped them into something magnificent.

I've had some stresses of my own, I suppose, as I look back over my four and a half decades of life.  As I contemplate the times that seemed debilitating, it was generally due to fear,....fear of loss, fear of change, fear of inadequacy,...and it generally has occurred during periods when I was operating under the delusion that I was in control.

We tend to develop big ideas for ourselves, we humans.  We tend to think that things are in our hands, and to forget Whom it is that hung the stars.

Maybe you don't, but I do.

I tend to think that I can keep everything going, straighten it out, repair it, make it right, and keep it that way.  Then, I begin to think that I must do these things.

Truth is, I'll be lucky if I can just get dinner on the table.

The machine is much bigger than we are, and we can only do our part.  The people who throw shoes in our works,... the people who pass judgment...they cannot see into our souls, and they do not care to.  They have their own agendas in mind.

Our Lord is the only one who can see the heart; he is the only one who has the full scoop.  He is the only one who will stand in final judgment...and...he is the one in charge.

I don't need to be.  You don't need to be.

We only need to stand still, bask in the sun when available, sleep when it is time, and drink in the water and nutrients that we can.

We only need to strive to have Christ in our hearts, and to be Christ to the world.  We only need to strive to provide the best Christlike service that we can in a broken world.

We only need to get dinner on the table, and be still.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  ~Proverbs 3: 5-6 

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Friday, March 25, 2016

On This Day of Bright Sorrow

I borrowed the Western calendar today, for a moment, and pondered.  As an Orthodox Christian, my Pacha, my Easter, will be May 1 this year.  Still, one cannot help but notice that for our Western brothers and sisters, today is Good Friday....a Good Friday that shares a calendar-square with the date in both traditons, of the Annunciation.   Bright sorrow, and melancholy joy, colliding.                                            
Skokloster Castle / Jens Mohr

Forty-one years ago, a baby was born in my home.  A little brother, unexpected, a gift.  I was no longer an only child; I had someone to walk through the decades with.  Nineteen years later, unexpectedly, he went home.  This time, it didn't feel like a gift.  I don't understand it.  The pain really cannot be described, and so, I will not try.  I can only trust that in God's wisdom, it was the better choice.  I can only trust that it was to save him, and us, greater pain.  

I don't talk about him much around those whom I do not trust with such raw, deep sorrow.  I mostly keep him hidden in my heart.  People often show interest in such stories for titillation.  They want to know something that sits deep within you, something that can drop you to the ground.  They want to be spectators to the sensational.  And so, I keep him in my hearts' embrace.

It must have been something like that for Mary? Imagine the depth of her pain, and the sensational response of the masses to her son's death. How she must have grieved; how she must have wanted to cover him with her own body, to shield him from the titillated and jeering crowds.  I am no Mary, but I can imagine a small piece of her experience,... perhaps.

The Virgin Mary Swooning over the Dead Body of Christ at the Foot of the Cross, by Pierre-Etienne Monnot, 1710
Still, she carried this devastating sorrow for the joy it ushered in.  Our salvation, and hers....a wonder. Trusting God, that in His wisdom, it was the better choice...the only way to save us greater pain.  And so, we trust.

Blessed Annunciation, dear ones, and a holy and blessed Good Friday to our precious friends who pray and wait at the foot of the cross, in the Western tradition,

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Shoes and Rain on a Dry Mountain

The face of the mountain is a cacophony of forest green and toasted brown. She is thirsty. My soul glints brown too; I cannot write, and I don't know why. You've not heard from me, because I haven't heard from myself.

Yet, the forest is a-flutter with birdsong. Perhaps in their DNA they know that these things pass and rain will soak the forest floor again, so they need not waste time grieving. Or, perhaps, they are crying out in choral prayer, for rain.

The kettle still hums and my husband still perches on couch's edge, strapping on shoes that prompt me to ask if he is leaving. For 26 years, his shoe donning behavior has confused me, striking uncertainty. In my house, we only put on shoes when we were leaving. In his, shoes went on every morning, regardless of plans. You'd think 26 years would be a teacher, and I'd no longer ask the well worn question, "are you going somewhere?" How many times have I heard the reply offered with a smile and a shake of his head, "just putting my shoes on"?

And so, I am assured and content as he settles back into his spot on the couch next to me, as he has done for two and half decades, wondering why I keep asking.

I pick up the daily reading:

Matthew 15:32-39, King James Version (KJV)

32 Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.
33 And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?
34 And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes.
35 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.
36 And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
37 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.
38 And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.
39 And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala. (KJV-Public Dolmain)

Thursday, there was rain. My Facebook feed filled up to overflowing, with photos of water rushing down mountain village roads. And yet, today, I gaze on glints of forest brown and despair, having forgotten. And so, I am gently reminded. It is not my job to wonder from whence the nourishment will come. It is my job to continue with Him daily, to settle in before the woodstove beside a husband who will not venture elsewhere, and to trust that the birdsong will remain.

Pax Christi Dear Ones,
May you always find childlike trust in our risen Lord,

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real - Elyse's Edition

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real }

It looks like it's my turn to share a bit of life's best bits with you guys!
- Elyse

Let me give you a little background for these pictures.

Recently, I spent a long weekend with my grandparents (one of my favorite things to do). We went sport shooting at a range (favorite thing ever), went to a car show (whee shiny chrome!), and then spent some time at the beach on the pier.
 There is something especially special about spending time with my grandparents, and I think it’s reflected in these photographs


 ©Elyse at LiturgicalTime

No, these aren’t cars! These beauties were nestled into a planter in the middle of the car show, where street after street was lined with fantastic, sportsy, build-it-yourself kit cars, and where I became completely lost wandering around trying to find the parking garage where we left the car so I could get my jacket.


©Elyse at LiturgicalTime

I love the beach. If I believed in reincarnation and fantasy, I probably would say I had been a mermaid in my past life. 

©Elyse at LiturgicalTime

Now, this photograph wasn’t taken during the weekend, but I think anyone who has a dog (or a cat) knows what this means.

©Elyse at LiturgicalTime

These flowers were made from palm branches. One thing I love about the beach is the artistic nature of those who live there, and how willing they are to spread that nature around.
These flowers were made by a group of men seated at a bench at the start of the pier. As Grandma and I were walking by, we were offered the flowers. I asked how much they were, and was told that they simply took donations. At the time, I had no money in my pockets for them, so let them know I was grateful for the offer but kept walking. One of them hopped off the bench, took up a bouquet of two, and caught up with us to let us know he would rather we have them than not. 
Something about this says "real" to me. Maybe it's the beauty of humanity wrapped into two small palm branch flowers, or maybe it's the generosity of someone wanting to share something wonderful with another without any recompense.
People are good, and we don't always see it.

Celebrating everyday life with Like Mother Like Daughter
(After our visit together, stop by the blog hop for more glimpses of simple joys):

round button chicken

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Am I empty?

Today, I received an email from the editor of an upcoming book that I contributed to. The email contained the title of the book: Empty. I hadn't known the title until then.

I bristled.

It's an appropriate title for a book of Christian reflections on infertility and miscarriage, I'm sure.

Rejected as a mother, by God.
I felt 24 again.  The same self-talk and shame rolled back into my being.  Empty.  Of course, my reaction to the title was not really about the title.  It's a spectacularly appropriate and effective title. In truth, my reaction was about my own experiences and interpretations of my situation.  This project has not been an easy one for me.  Participation has required me to pry open wounds that I have covered over and attempted to forget.

I ignored the email for a few hours.  There were meetings to be held that saved me from dealing with the word -- educational plan meetings with mothers overflowing with children...6 children to be exact, and then 8, respectively.  Meetings with worthy women.  Women who measured up.  Women with mother-approval from God.  I realized as I pondered this, that I still feel like I got away with something by conceiving a child.  I realized that I still feel like I am going to get caught, and that, then, she will be taken from me.

Each mother was tired.  As the first struggled with her blessed horde, I wondered if she knew.  Did she know how others yearn for a child as they endure the aching pain of a hollow womb?  Probably not, but even if she did, she wasn't thinking of it then.  She was too busy trying to get her oldest to stop kicking the principal's cherry wood file cabinet.  The littlest one threw a fuzzy, pink, stuffed heart at her head. He had good aim. Empty is difficult, but full is a challenge too.

Returning to my office when the meetings were completed, I was confronted by my phone, still blinking. Empty.

Empty.  It needs to be said.  Infertility and miscarriage leave one empty.  There is pain.  There is loss. Someone is missing. That needs to be acknowledged. Years later, there are scars.  I felt it then; I feel them now.  I contemplated the starkness of the word, the label.  My label.  My label?

Am I empty?
Perhaps I have been.
Emptiness leaves room for filling though, store-room for potential bounty.  Space to suffuse with life, one way or another.

If I had already been filled, would I have been able to love others- that I have not birthed- quite so much? Would I have been able to fully appreciate the short years spent with a loved one who left this life early, had I not known the experience of emptiness prior to his arrival, and after? Perhaps. Perhaps not. When babies don't come easily, one learns, perhaps, to appreciate life in a particularly special way when it does occur.

In any event, as I consider my state, I see that I am no longer empty.  I've been blessed with a miracle child who has filled our hearts and home, and who has brought others into our lives that we have loved. I don't think we love her more than others love their children, but we might love her differently. We understand the joy born of the filling of a space that had previously stood many years barren.  Like the feast after a fast - sweeter for us than it might have been if the bounty had not trailed on the heels of scarcity. Cherished, how she is cherished.

I cannot know God's ways.  I can only feel joy and sorrow, and sometimes contentment, -and then trust that He knows what I need of each.  Because he has loved and schooled and blessed, I am no longer empty.  Because I have lived and cried and longed for those lost, and those never born, ...because I have kissed sweet baby fingers and have been privileged to witness life, I am full.
Today, I am full.

Pax Christi dear ones,

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Why Women Make Blankets...and Prayer of the Hands

I usually have work in my hands when I'm listening to speakers. I suspect that at least a few co-attendees  think this is inappropriate. Busying one's hands can free up the mind to listen, though, and to pray. The repetitive rhythm of handwork has always been a conduit of prayer and of connection for me. You see, rosaries and prayer ropes are wonderful, but crochet works too!  I always listen more attentively, and pray more deeply, when my hands are not calling me for something to do.  Much better to pour one's prayer into a physical product of the experience.  The prayer becomes the work, and the work becomes the prayer; you see?

Some twenty years ago, I spent the many hours of a five day autism conference with a crochet hook and silky yarn in my hands.  A substantial portion of an afghan materialized as I took in what was then cutting edge training on serving the needs of children on the Autism spectrum. I did this sitting next to my boss.

He did not question the fact that I had a crochet hook, rather than a note taking pen, in my hand.  He knew me. His question was different than that.  "Why would you spend hours upon hours making a blanket, when I can walk into a store and buy one in minutes?"  "Because there'd be no love in it," I replied.  I could have added, "or prayer," but didn't; that would have been beyond him. He looked at me incredulously, or perhaps he was just confused. At any rate, he didn't get it. I distinctly remember him shaking his head. There was probably an eye roll in there too.

Women who make things with their hands understand though. It's the reason they send handmade blankets to children's hospitals and to orphanages and to friends who have recently lost loved ones. It's the reason that wrapped and ribbon-clad boxes at baby showers are filled with the things.

For women of faith, the work of our hands is full of intention born of the heart. It is physical prayer and permeated by love. I'm quite certain that the sensation of love can be tangibly perceived.  It feels like dupioni silk and wool and quilting cotton. It feels like Chantilly lace, too. It's in there, amongst the fibers, saturating physical objects spun with it. It's how we bundle those we love in our care and protection and prayer. It's how we wrap people in our arms, and surround them with a comforting bulwark of love, when we cannot be there in person.

And that's why women make blankets.

“He should first show them in deeds rather than words all that is good and holy.”
~Bendict of Nursia, The Rule of Saint Benedict

Pax Christi dear ones, May your loved ones be always ensconced in a rampart of prayer, and may you always feel bundled in love.

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