Heading into Advent like…

•November 26, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Christmas is looming on the horizon. With thanksgiving behind us, we’ve embarked on the Holiday season, frenzied and tense as ever. If only I had the mental muscles to plan forward to Christmas starting in January, maybe then I wouldn’t start panicking after Halloween.

Already I am looking at New Year’s Day, 2019.  What is left in 2018 for me to squeeze out? How do I make the most it’s remaining days? What are my convictions, inspirations, motivations, desires? Where do they lay, can they take me anywhere worth going?

I have had a few catalectic conversations this year. Ones that have me self-examining hard. Teetering on the knife edge of giving up, or pressing in. I’ve been in survival mode for so long it feels like my bones are singing their swan song, saying “jump now, or never, settle and die, or live. This fire will not burn in the embers long without some fuel, so gather wood, feed the flames.”

Depression is remarkably easy to slip into, it’s more common and more nuanced than many people realize. I’ve seen it creeping lately, like looking down the barrel of a gun asking if I want to play Russian roulette. I don’t dance with the devil though given the clarity of mind to make that call. So I’ve been turning lights on and practicing my battle cry. Oh darkness, oh dagger, or bullets of despair…you’ll not rest here. Not today.

In self exploration these past few months, yet again trying to put pieces of my past together like some map I tore to pieces and threw to the fire, I’ve been digging at the deepest truths of me.  What do I want? Am I brave enough to reach for it? Is there a way to redeem past years, making the journey worth all the while? Am I passively comfortable enough to fail without trying? To what degree does it matter to me that I am single? If I am looking at another year, another five of being single what do I need those years to look like? What is family, how do I nurture it? Can worlds collide without destruction? Is reconciliation possible in the ways I need it? What must die in self for love to grow? What is home to me now, how can I increase its meaning, it’s shelter? What is in me to give away, what do I have to offer anyone? How do you make friends as an adult, like serious meaningful relationships? Have I been head down in the sand for too many years to come back to the land of thriving? How many revolving pieces in me can be growing at once, if none of them are manifesting outwardly?

Now, just throw all that and it’s rabbit trails into a blender with a tight budget, a love for giving good gifts, equal need for people and solitude, and all the Christmas Holiday everything and what do you get?

Yeah. A headache.

So that’s my story coming into Advent this year. Questions I can’t answer fast enough to suite me, circumstance I can’t change without serious risk, or least more risk than I’ve been prone to taking these past few years. A loneliness I don’t know how to battle. A fire burning in my bones, raging in the embers. A fear and anxiety that I am just epically failing at life, at who I could be, or am meant to be.

But Hope. That brings me to hope. The first week of Advent is all about hope.

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Juniper table

•September 24, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The smell of juniper leaves rolled between your fingers on an Autumn day is one of the smells most weighted with memories from childhood. I thought there was some romantic and slightly tragic in the death of Summer. Autumn a strange magic where as the air grew crisp and cooler, the light waned, the colors turned gold, red, rust, amber, every shade of warmth and fire, an ode to the sun. And the smells of this earth turning dance…the death of Summer drifting, piling up in corners,  twirling down quiet streets. Lights in windows, and spilling across wood floors,  the rush of warmth crossing from worlds of make believe beneath the magic of trees going to the depths to sleep until spring, to home for dinner.  Autumn is a season of gold, mysteries and magic.  I’d do well to remember my childhood love of playing in the cool twilight before the stretching out of quiet winter. For I hate the cold, as it makes my old bones quiver in anxiety that maybe this time, Summer really died and won’t come to hold me again. I would do well to fall in love again, to lay out the warm harvest fruits again,  to lay beneath piles of blankets and wake to cool crisp clear golden days,  full of a expectancy of merry making in holidays sprinkled through the coldest days.

Class for the seeker, the chaser, the mischief maker.

•September 9, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Tonight marks the first of a year full of RCIA : Right of Christian Initiation for Adults.

An hour long class taking place every Saturday evening, in the basement of a Catholic church called St. John Cantius, that has become something of my third place.  Home , work,  church.  And while Cantius is not my primary church it is my second.  And now I find myself engaged in adult confirmation classes.

I’m not converting, or confirming. As I see it I am simply engaging deeper with a part of my world.

Should I back up to explain further? Ok. Bear with me.

While I was a student in art school I was part of a Christian community on campus. It was through this group of people I not only found my first vocational path after school in campus ministry,  but was also given some of my best friends in school and far beyond.

As we moved beyond school, life beckoned us deeper into faith.  I watched amazed,  confused, in awe, heart broken,  but mostly resolved on standing by my friends no matter the turns of their faith. In a few cases this meant offering understanding as they wrestled down a dark path seemingly leading them away from Christ. But for other friends of mine, it meant watching as they entered a realm of faith wildly unknown to me. While my questions, doubts, fears, hopes, joys in faith, and longings for Christ had always been met, for a few of my dearest friends  Protestantism was no longer pulling them forward and deeper in faith, no longer meeting them.  They found home in Catholicism and with it a chasm opened in my life.

All of a sudden, my religious world was too small for some of closest Christian friends. And while my faith was not struggling in the way theirs was being challenged, I felt from heaven a requirement for my understanding , my world, my religion, my relationship, even my own faith my own heart to expand.

So they converted, and I commited to remain faithful in love to what God had given us , friendship, community, family, encouragement and more.

Early on I decided two things.

1. We were all still Christians,  still had truth,  and faith,  and relationship with Christ.

2. This would not divide us.

That first one is almost laughably easy, yet it was vital to intionally establish, because that second point proved more challenging than any of us would’ve hoped or imagine.

For me, as my friends converted, it meant having to be actively engaged. Ok. So we don’t agree on things the way we used to, how do we spur one another on in faith? Oh…my church friends are really struggling with friends of mine converting from Protestant to Catholic. How do I live in that tension with honor and integrity? And the hardest bit, was making peace with the parts of Catholicism I really don’t accept as Truth, yet finding a way to make peace and live in the tension of Christian Truth. Because I knew, early on in my world becoming more and more Catholic,  that we were both with Christ. Both Christians.

So I opened my home and heart. I took risks. I committed to love, to Christ,  to relationships , and trusted the grittier areas would be smoothed out.

Priests dined in my home. Holidays with friends like family meant masses, loooong Latin masses. People started asking when I would convert. Casual conversations nearly always turned religious. At first each of these encounters was foreign, tense, uncomfortable, some times infuriating,  but largely, for the most part, heart warming and increasingly so.

Five years down this path. So many good stories I could tell about Cantius, my school friends now Catholic,  new friends because of them who are also Catholic. Conversions I prayed for into relationship with Christ that happened through the Catholic church.  Living and doing life alongside Catholics.

But I didn’t quite realize how much it was mine, how deeply I had come to love Cantius church, Catholic priests, my Catholic friends old and new… until earlier this past Spring.

A couple things happened, first my parents came to visit, a few weeks later a good friend of mine. As we explored Chicago I made sure to point out Cantius church to them.  I was amazed at how disappointed I was in their lack of interest. Surely these loved ones of mine have some idea how much this particular church means to me, how much it has affected my world…surely…but if they don’t, maybe I have not expressed my affection because I didn’t realize how deeply it ran. Hmm.

Then, a priest at Cantius, leader, and founder,  truly a father of faith, who despite everyone in his far reaching care, remembered me, and often asked about me, and showed me kindness.  He was wrongly accused of misconduct, later proven completely innocent, but still removed from Chicago,  from community, family, and friends. Oh how I grieved.

So I asked God , what do I do with this?  With this affection, this grief? How do I love and serve in this?

There were immediate answers, (pray, go to this mass and be present in my children’s grief) but their were also long term stirrings set in place.

This Summer God has secured me even deeper in a love ever growing. He in intimate conviction has drawn out of me a keen desire to invest in, promote , pursue unity. He placed in me a desire to build bridges to and from the art world and Christian community a long time ago. Still a passion, a calling , a desire of my heart. This Summer He invited me to build unity between worlds that are already one in Christ.

Perhaps it’s more timely than I realize,  or maybe I’m a bit late.  But God has placed on my heart a desire to nurture unity between Catholic and Protestant churches.  He has reminded me we’re one family. One bride. It almost feels like Christ as simply given me permission to express more freely, the deep love for His people, He has cultivated in my heart.

That’s really all. I love people.  I love the local church. I feel responsible to love and support, to serve the body of Christ. I carry a conviction not only to love my family, but to love others into it.

To love…is my greatest inclination,  desire, passion.

God has laid upon my heart to love the people He brings into my life.  I fail often. But never quit. It’s messy. It’s not always easy. In this particular case I have no real hope of…I don’t know , reconciling, unifying, and rebuilding  the Christian church, both Protestant and Catholic. One bride,  which history shows us has stood long divided, new generations inheriting old biases and grudges.  I’m just one woman. But I am one woman who will choose over and over to extend love, offer shelter, build into relationships, make connections , seek to help and serve.  I’m one small woman , who isn’t scared of the gray spaces,  mystery,  or messes.  I’ve learned the lines we draw , however precious,  are usually in the sand. And the ocean of God’s love will wipe them away. The Author of Perfection is writing, has been writing since the dawn of time the most beautiful love story we’ll ever know. My story. Your story  we’re all part of it.

I’m not sure what I hope to get out of Catholic confirmation classes.  But they’ve been laid out before like an invitation to love. More.

And all I want to do is love,  and grow in loving.

So here’s to a class about loving!

In Christ we are each loved,  lovely,  and loving.

Here’s to more.

 

 

 

A Summer kiss

•September 2, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Silver in the sky dancing between gold lit clouds as summer drifted by. Won’t you pick me like a ripe fruit from the  tree’s highest branch, before autumn takes me. Sweet and full,  rich upon your mouth.  Hold me, paint me, take me in, and plant me.  Beneath the deep, until Summer comes again.

A glimpse of due north, second star to the right.

•September 2, 2018 • Leave a Comment

It’s a strange thing to like you as I do.  To cherish you in such sweet regards, letting my hold release over and over hoping for relief.  Some say attraction,  even love is just a chemical reaction . But all I know is something grows and quiets when you’re near.  It’s comfortable, the first walk in without a coat after a long winter, the easy warmth of a mild breezy Summer night, a favoured drink in the prefect moment.  More than that as though the world in me stops spinning wildly having found a grounding orbit. A firm well lit ground. I doubt I’m in any firm standing with you.  Hardly friends.  But I’ll gladly take the drink of water,  of feeling safe in my own skin. Is it love ? I may never know,  it takes two to tango. But heaven knows I’m grateful for those moments when you are near.

A good sheep

•August 30, 2018 • Leave a Comment

A Catholic priest friend of mine recently told me,  ” you are a good Christian. ”

I laughed.  I laughed in disbelief. Later I laughed in a bemused, bitter, even maybe frightened way.  What does that even mean? To be a good Christian? Especially coming from a Catholic priest who knows you’ve got no intention of converting, no interest in Mary,  and very little patience for the eating of God being confused with experiencing His presence fully… as if I’m missing something.

I’m not missing anything I’ve been made aware of yet , doesn’t matter who tries to tell me otherwise.  I drink deeply the water of life , I dance at heaven’s feet, I have held the hands of angels, heard the voice of God, am a friend of Jesus beyond any shadow of a doubt I may conjure up out of the darkness against my identity. A solid, committed, faithful Christian?  Yes.  A good one?

When my whole body aches with longing growing weary with the abscence of covenant touch, of holding life within? When my bones waste away from the disobedience of every day I fall short of living into my potential as an artist? When my skin wrinkles and sags not only with age but the lack of care for my body?  When my mind wanders more times a day then I can count towards a man who doesn’t have a clue I’m wishing him unto me… when ever present,  ever near,  ever with me is the greatest love I’ll ever know,  eagerly awaiting my call?

What makes a good Christian? Surely it’s not these marks of my humanity , so desperately telling of my need for divine intervention ? Or , is it just that.  This very dust suit, the mud in my veins, the knowledge I carry in my very DNA that I am in need of a savior, who knows me as the lover and warrior I am?

Is it the mark in my very essence that tells me I have some other name,  a wild sacred one unheard this side of heaven. ..a maker who knows and loves me not only as I am, but all I am becoming … is that enough ? Merely that I exist and have some knowledge that I exist fully in the heart of my maker as all that I am enough to be called good?

Yes.  I’m sure it must be. For when the Creator unfolded all of creation,  He looked upon it and called it good,  simply because it existed. He made it so. And it is good.

Cocktail

•July 30, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I came across a recipe for a drink called “unrequited love”. But they got it wrong, it had too much juice, like a splash of Jack in your mimosa without the champagne.

Perhaps that’s the way of it, enough of anything, whatever goes down easiest.

But if I was going to drink in unrequited love,  it would have to be stronger.

Strong enough to mine a cave clean, raise a barn, or set sail to a sinking ship bringing it to harbor.  Stronger than the breaking,  ripping, tearing down of the reality love turned void. It would be bitter and sharp warming the inside threatening to freeze over,  with enough spark to burn bridges down. It have to have an edge enough to plumb line the rebuilding of ruins. Smooth enough to still the flow of angry tears. Strong enough to make the racing mind of an insomniac sleep.

But they don’t make that drink.  There’s no recipe or ingredients for it.

Unrequited love is a mess maker. So in it’s face I suppose any cocktail will do.

I’ll take whiskey,  the story maker.