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Valentine’s Day seems the ideal time to contemplate the meaning of love. Not to be off-putting, but I think most people get it wrong. Love is not what you see on TV — passionate kisses, travel, excitement, diamonds the size of grapes. Or at least that’s only a tiny bit of it. Love, real love, is a whole lot grittier…and a whole lot more mundane. Here are just a few of the ways my husband says, “I love you”:

Love is giving me the last bites of his cake/cookie/pie, despite the fact that he would like to eat it himself, because he knows how much I love sweets.

Love is helping me slow my breath when I’m having an asthma attack.

Love is private jokes, a secret language, references only we know…but love is also taking the time to learn my family’s secret language and odd references, and using them like a pro.

Love is indulging my whim to try every taco place in town in search of the superior taco.

Love is always saying, “Thank you” after I’ve prepared a meal…no matter how inferior.

Love is massaging my shoulders as he passes through the kitchen, squeezing my hand in church, touching my cheek as I watch TV.

Love is accepting that our lives are not glamorous and being happy with simpler pleasures.

Love is going to Mass with me every week for years and years, despite being (at the time) an agnostic, and then surprising me with the happiest possible shock — becoming Catholic himself.

My husband’s love — much like God’s love — is always right there before me…if I take the time to look. Wherever you are this Valentine’s Day, whether in a romantic relationship or not, take time to search for signs of love. They may be simple, but they abound.

If I’d thought about it, I would have matched today’s quote with a photo of chickory.  I didn’t drink coffee until I was in college.  Add decades onto that and you have the date when I had coffee with chickory in it at a Mardi Gras celebration.  “Wow!  This is really good.”

We do a pancake breakfast at church to celebrate Mardi Gras.  When he heard my comment, one of the old timers told me all about chicory as a way to stretch coffee when times are bad.  When I told me Dad about it, he told me that my mom loved coffee with chicory.  Given the fact that she loved STRONG coffee that shouldn’t have been news.

Curious as always, I looked chicory up online.  See that blue flower beneath this paragraph?  That’s chicory.

I was flabbergasted.  I’ve seen this my whole life along Missouri’s rural roads, in vacant lots, here and there across the countryside.  That’s chicory?  I thought it was just a weed.

I try to remember this moment before I get all judgy.  I seldom know why something or someone is essential in God’s plan.  But then again I’m not all knowing.  There was a time I didn’t even know what that glorious blue flower is.

–SueBE

 

Take a deep breath. Then let it out.  I have to admit that I’m feeling pretty good as I write this.  My sciatica may be bothering me but I went to yoga anyway.  At least the way I do it, yoga is slow exercise.

Try to get into the pose.  Tip over.  Realize you’re using the wrong arm/leg.  Redo.  Tip again. Finally get it and then wait.  Breathe.  Wait.

A big part of yoga is holding the pose and waiting in the tension.  Breathe.

It has been good practice for life.  I’m a wee bit Type A.  When I let my inner anal retentive reign, everything has to be just so and it has to be NOW.  Yoga has taught me to ease into things which is a good habit to develop in a multi-tasking, hurried world.

When I take it slow, I have time to listen.  I can see those around me.  And I find more opportunities to project God’s light into this hurried, troubled world.

–SueBE

The enormous pile of stuff in my garage/basement/bedroom/office.  Hunger in my community and the world.  Whether the problem is decluttering or something less personal and more of a community problem, problems like these feel overwhelming.  Where do I start, Lord?  How can I really make an impact?

Step by step.  One small task at a time.

Today I saw a news story that reminded me of this.  At the Sakima Halal Grill in Washington DC, the owner feed every homeless person who comes in.  Because there was a point in his life when he didn’t have money for food, he knows what an impact a single meal can have. (See the video below).

Feed one hungry person one meal.

Recycle, repurpose, or put away a handful of the items cluttering your home.

Write one letter to your congressman.

Sew on one button.

Listen to one person who feels unheard.

Be Christ’s hands and feet. See the poor.  Hear the troubled.  Drip by drip, an impact is made.

–SueBE

The psychology behind selfies is fascinating to me.  A woman took a picture of herself grinning widely, almost maniacally, and in the background was noted primatologist, Jane Goodall, looking at her curiously.

I wonder what Goodall would say about this primate’s behavior, posturing as if to say, Look! I discovered Jane Goodall. I hereby claim her accomplishments as my own.

Then there’s the phenomenon of photobombs, illustrated by the Fiji Water Girl, the model paid to promote the product by inserting herself into pictures of celebrities at the Golden Globe Awards. Younger commenters think what she did was cute, but older ones (like me) see it as crass.

Normally, I enjoy a funny meme, but I see this as being in poor taste.  There’s no denying we live in different worlds based on how we look at the world.

Why do people do what they do? Most aren’t doing these things to annoy anyone else, but to enjoy life in their own way. It does seem that everyone is looking into a camera instead of living in the moment. Is it more important to prove to others that you had fun than to actually have fun? What’s wrong with this picture?

Maybe it’s not up to me to figure out what’s wrong with this picture. All I can do is to find what’s right with the picture that I hold of the world. In the meantime, if I see a photobomb or Fiji girl coming at me, I’ll look the other way and keep going.

I’m embarrassed to remember just how clueless I was in the early days of parenting.  If I like it, he’ll like it.  If it’s important to me, it will be important to him.

Hey!  I can hear you laughing.

Whenever I had the chance, I’d get him outdoors where he invariably found a stick to play with.  Hah!  I’ll show him something amazing, I thought.  He could barely walk when I led him over to see the first violet of spring.  He saw it all right and immediately beat it to bits with the stick.

Yep.  It wasn’t long before I figured out that he was going to be his own person.  Still, we spent time outside.  And he grew up in the church.

The outdoors and the church are both still important to him.  That said, he doesn’t necessarily value the same things that I do.

Flowers and plantings?  The more the better.

Imagine my shock when I heard the plans to clear out a number of trees and the plantings in front.  And he was for it!  My own baby!

But I also took the time to hear what they had to say.  Several of the trees were dying.  Softwoods grew quickly and filled in and looked nice soon after they were planted.  But they weren’t bred to weather our sometimes harsh winters.  They had also grown up to the point that from the street it was hard to see the way in which made our church less than welcoming.

The shrubs and other plantings blocked the view of the decorative brick and tile work on our foundation.  What?  We have tile work?  Yep.  It’s back way back there.

Earth and rain and wind.  Take them into it all but don’t be surprised when God speaks to them through the elements.

–SueBE

Be patient. You never know what someone else is going through.

Not long ago, a group of us were together and one friend lost her stuff.  Full on, grown up lady-tantrum. Yes, we were stuck in a frustrating situation but wow. The rest of us exchanged looks and wondered what the heck had set that off.

Later that evening she messaged me to tell me how stressed she has been.  Um, okay.  As we messaged back and forth, more and more came out.  Everything made more sense. Then a few days later, her husband told me something else that was going on in their lives.  My husband heard about yet a third stressor.

Add it all together and we wondered how they were keeping it together.

Be patient.  You don’t know what someone else is going through.  And they may not be able to discuss it with you.

Be gentle.  Situations are often made worse when we decide a solution has to be found now.  Now.  NOW.  You need some space?  Too bad, my friend.

Be humble.  Maybe you’re made of mellower stuff than I am.  But I know that eventually I’m going to lose my cool and I will be the one in need of patience.  It may be today. It may be tomorrow.  But it will happen.

Christ charged us to love one another.  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Maybe it’s just me but I suspect that patience, gentleness and humility were at least part of what he had in mind.

–SueBE

Some prayers are easy. And some…not so much. It is easy to pray for the unborn — little tabulae rasae of infinite potential — but not so easy to pray for those on death row, for folks on the fringes, for those who might not even want our prayers.

I cannot judge your heart.
You would not permit me,
even if I could. I am, as always,
at arm’s length, the rain beating
its wet fists on the window. It will not
be let in. Even so, I know fear,
and fear is often where you live.
Let us meet then on common ground:
I wish you safe passage.
I wish you better than common sense
would grant you. I wish you endless
horizons, walkable on feet that do not tire.
I wish for you the thing you will never give to me,
and that is peace. It hurts to hold you.
It hurts to let you go. God speed.

I grew up on stories of Sunday dinner at my grandparents’.  They had very little. Sure Grandad had a college degree.  He was a mining engineer in a time when many American mines were playing out.  He took any job he could find, working in the mines when there were open, painting cars and managing a service station when they weren’t.

My grandmother had a huge garden and chickens.  You could do that in West Texas even when you lived in town.  Back then feed sacks were made from patterned fabric.  The girls got dresses from the prettiest.  Next up were shirts for the boys.  The least attractive fabrics became underwear.

Sunday dinner was a production.  The whole family was there and often there were several friends.  Whoever needed a meal.  Anyone who craved fellowship. All were welcome.  They’d just wedge another chair in around the circular table.  Chicken, corn, potatoes, biscuits, greens from the garden, corn bread, beans.

As little as they had, my grandparents shared.  Grandad always insisted it was a Southern thing.  I don’t know about that but I did get the rest of the message loud and clear.  What the good Lord gives us, we are meant to share.

At my grandparents’ table, no one ever went away hungry.  And there was also space enough to wedge in one more chair.

–SueBE

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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