Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Black History Month: Some Poems

In honor of black history month, here are a couple of my favorite poems by black authors.

First, Amir Suleiman is a poet I've just recently discovered and who I can't get enough of. Just so much wow I can't even describe him. Here are two of my favorites...





And moving back in time, here's one that has always moved me to tears:

The Negro Mother
by Langston Hughes


Children, I come back today
To tell you a story of the long dark way
That I had to climb, that I had to know
In order that the race might live and grow.
Look at my face -- dark as the night --
Yet shining like the sun with love's true light.
I am the dark girl who crossed the red sea
Carrying in my body the seed of the free.
I am the woman who worked in the field
Bringing the cotton and the corn to yield.
I am the one who labored as a slave,
Beaten and mistreated for the work that I gave --
Children sold away from me, I'm husband sold, too.
No safety , no love, no respect was I due.

Three hundred years in the deepest South:
But God put a song and a prayer in my mouth .
God put a dream like steel in my soul.
Now, through my children, I'm reaching the goal.

Now, through my children, young and free,
I realized the blessing deed to me.
I couldn't read then. I couldn't write.
I had nothing, back there in the night.
Sometimes, the valley was filled with tears,
But I kept trudging on through the lonely years.
Sometimes, the road was hot with the sun,
But I had to keep on till my work was done:
I had to keep on! No stopping for me --
I was the seed of the coming Free.
I nourished the dream that nothing could smother
Deep in my breast -- the Negro mother.
I had only hope then , but now through you,
Dark ones of today, my dreams must come true:
All you dark children in the world out there,
Remember my sweat, my pain, my despair.
Remember my years, heavy with sorrow --
And make of those years a torch for tomorrow.
Make of my pass a road to the light
Out of the darkness, the ignorance, the night.
Lift high my banner out of the dust.
Stand like free men supporting my trust.
Believe in the right, let none push you back.
Remember the whip and the slaver's track.
Remember how the strong in struggle and strife
Still bar you the way, and deny you life --
But march ever forward, breaking down bars.
Look ever upward at the sun and the stars.
Oh, my dark children, may my dreams and my prayers
Impel you forever up the great stairs --
For I will be with you till no white brother
Dares keep down the children of the Negro Mother.

and... one of my absolute favorites, one that resonates with me and clearly with many:


CAGED BIRD
BY MAYA ANGELOU
A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

50 Shades of...... reactions.

The parking lot was packed out with not one spot left even though we were thirty minutes early. Women were everywhere. Cops were parked out front. Signs of Valentine's Day permeated the air: Nervous laughter from uncomfortable would-be couples. Groups of single people making the best out of what might otherwise have been a lonely Friday night. Red ribbons and streamers hanging from the ceiling in the wine bar, where they served deliciously red mixed drinks. The bathrooms line was filled with women sizing each other up with smirks on their faces, wondering who was on the right team. There wasn't a protester in sight, but the atmosphere suggested that no one would have been surprised to find themselves accosted for the name of the film on the ticket stub in their hand.
It was Friday the 13th, and here in Fayetteville, NC, the air inside the brand new Patriot Carmike Cinema complex was electric..... the mood was one of smoke, and fire.
The movie theater employee who addressed the crowd asked animatedly: "Are you guys excited to see 50 Shades of Grey??"
And the crowd cheered, albeit nervously, as they packed in close to make room for stragglers. She promised a full theater and I wondered at how much the experience of going to the movies had changed in just a few short years.
The mass popularity and consequential polarization of women over this book and film series felt somehow like a momentous event in American culture.
For the first time in my mind's saturated-in-French-culture memory, Americans were talking about sex. Out loud.
And not just any sex..... they were talking about BDSM.
In Europe, we often say that Americans are the most gluttonous of cultures precisely because people here are notorious for holding puritanical beliefs externally that force them to keep secrets and act out.
Puritanicalism creates a culture that is hypocritical at best and flat out schizophrenic at worst. Ask your European friends..... they'll tell you Americans usually make the rest of the world shake their head in wonder. BDSM is typically portrayed as an "extreme"type of sexual expression, and so it seems perfectly natural to the rest of the world for Americans to open the public dialogue about sex and relationships via a book and film about bondage and domination.
I've been chastized repeatedly for even bothering to see the film and review it, so as not to add to the voices out there discussing it. The way I see it, the more we talk about this stuff, the better.
Also, I rarely see my newsfeed so opinionated and polarized over a book.
If memory serves the last time I think it was over Twilight, and Twilight has a lot to do with why I'm writing this review in the first place.
You see, when Twilight came out, I jumped on the boycott bandwagon. Without knowing anything about it, I poopooed it til the cows came home. Only to read it, years later, and realize that I had been so, so wrong. Twilight was amazing. It was surprisingly well written and beautiful, with powerful themes that reflect the virtues we hope to highlight to our children.
Twilight remains an epic example of a creative display of Truth and Beauty and I regret very much the time I lost ignoring it in popular culture.
I normally review movies and books with paranormal themes, though, and 50 Shades is not one of them. But I needed to do this, because I didn't want to miss the chance to comment on popular culture for the sake of my sisters who sit and who wonder. And though I didn't feel about 50 Shades even remotely as good as I did about Twilight, I think it bears noting that I didn't walk out shocked, horrified, full of unbridled lust, or ready to fling reason to the wind, either.
I walked out thoughtful.
So there I sat, lights dimming all around me with a dear, like-minded friend, ready to experience 50 Shades and come to my own conclusions. If I've learned nothing else in the past three months, it's been that I will never again let people draw conclusions for me. Let me always think. Let me always reason. Let me always be open, and listen.

Before I can address the film itself, I have to address the reasons people are criticizing it.
First... the graphic sex itself.
Let's be real: this was no where near as naughty as people claimed it was going to be. Certainly no worse than, say, Vikings, or Game of Thrones, or HBO's Rome.
So if people are boycotting it on the premise that it's pornographic, but still watching other TV shows, to you, I roll my eyes. Truly. I'm not saying there wasn't any graphic sex or nudity. I am saying that it was no more shocking than most popular American TV shows these days. There will always be those who find nudity shocking, and more power to them. Many persons in my community intentionally shield themselves from it and this is not a comment about them, in fact I admire their commitment to purity. However, it is my duty to point out that if you are making facebook posts about how evil the graphic sex in 50 Shades is while sitting on your couch watching Game of Thrones.... well.... you're wrong.

Next: the elements of "abusive behavior" / bondage and domination.
Again, let's be real for a moment. BDSM is not abuse in any way shape or form. In fact, I'm not sure if my readers realize this, but for every Christian rabidly posting on social media about boycotting 50 Shades, there is a person openly involved in the BDSM community who is also posting boycott requests. Why? Because for people who aren't familiar with BDSM, for people with both feet firmly planted in the land of vanilla sex, 50 Shades may give a misleading portrayal of what BDSM actually is. It contains all of the elements without a proper explanation, leaving the elements open to interpretation. And so to fairly portray BDSM, here, I think, is important.
BDSM is about two (yes, or sometimes more) people consenting from their own free will to explore fantasies and desires (both sexual and nonsexual) with each other in a safe and sane way.
BDSM typically involves building platonic relationships first, deciding carefully on the pursuit of a sexual relationship, building trust and communication for long periods of time in said potentially sexual relationship, often goes so far as to include a contract which clearly communicates the rights and responsibilities of each party within that relationship before any sexual contact occurs, and furthermore, said relationships are oftened hoped to last for life. The practices of BDSM include breaking down physical and psychological barriers, paying careful and loving attention towards each partner's wants, needs, and fears, and many persons claim to find it both healing and enjoyable, which is why many persons go so far as to identify with BDSM and seek to build community and a lifestyle around it. Again, BDSM is about sex, but only insofar as sex is a part of human relationships. Many people practice BDSM without having sex at all, and many others incorporate BDSM sexuality into their ordinary lifestyles, recognizing in it some spark of something they find healing or helpful in relationships.
Let me be very clear: I say this not to normalize BDSM but to give you a truer depiction of what it is and means to those who practice it than what your imagination or popular culture might be portraying it as.
The problem with 50 Shades is that instead of seeing BDSM through the eyes of the people who practice it, the viewer here is seeing it through the eyes of a woman who not only isn't familiar with the dynamics and culture of BDSM, but is also a virgin, so inexperienced with sex in a general sense and also with relationships. She also isn't seeking a spouse or long term relationship, but an experience, and not even with any foresight, just.... as it comes.

And to the public, this creates a situation that leaves BDSM open to interpretation, when in fact it is a particular set of norms that -- though it means different things to different people -- cannot be changed. BDSM can not ever be abuse, because it is the opposite of abuse, in a way. It is a loving, caring, committed exploration of one's own psyche and that of one's sexual partner, often of one's spouse.
Dominants and submissives walking among you who are involved in the official community of BDSM are typically seeking to be part of caring, trusting, loving, carefully handled, and committed relationships. Which isn't to say that abuse doesn't happen or that there isn't a lot of immorality happening that is glorified when BDSM is glorified--- there are abusive men masquerading as Dominants around every corner within the BDSM community because it makes their own desires very easy to achieve. But if we are going to talk about a thing, we need to address it for what it actually IS, not what people assume it is. I ask for the same courtesy, for example, when people discuss a religion, not going to "Anti-Catholic" websites to learn about Catholicism but to learn about it from officially sanctioned Catholic websites. Same rules apply here.

Further, Catholics, of all people, should have a clear understanding of the dynamics because we practice obedience, silence, submission, chastity, corporal mortification, fasting, and other types of actions in common which hold spiritual significance because of the changes they effect in us and in our community. I'm obviously not comparing Catholicism and BDSM here, but I am saying that we have practices in common in some areas and that we can at least acknowledge that fact in our attempt to understanding what is happening on the screen when a movie attempts to depict BDSM for popular culture.

OK, so those two things being said, what about the film itself? The film itself is your average "finding oneself" love story. It was as gripping as any romantic drama might be... if you enjoy those, you'll enjoy it, and if you don't, you won't. It wasn't particularly gripping and I found Anastasia's character especially annoying. She was frumpy, disorganized, made poor decisions, and clearly needed someone to help her get control of herself. At the same time, she was portrayed as the reasonable one, whereas Christian, who was successful, productive, had his life together and was clear on what he wanted and who he was (read: actualized) was portrayed as a mess-- possibly even a dangerous abuser.
The film presents a duality in which the characters (and therefore viewers)  are forced to choose between BDSM and actual love, something that I'm not sure I agree is a choice people are forced to make. When a wife tells her husband how she enjoys being touched, and her husband respectfully attempts to give her that while maintaining whatever boundaries she has set into place, they are basically involved in BDSM. Kinky people might disagree with me here, but I'm just saying....that's really the bottom line, and you don't have to be in one camp or the other to be "legit."
Labels are silly.

For some people, like Christian, it obviously went deeper than that, and the Church addresses that in various ways which I'll leave to the viewer to discern because I'm sure everyone walked away with a different sense of what Christian was going through based on their own life experiences. A person who has experienced heavy abuse will react one way to Christian's story, whereas a person who has never been abused but suffers from jealousy or confidence issues will react a different way.

Ultimately, sexuality is a personal, unique, and intimate thing, and the only real guidance the Church can give is to hope that we are operating within a context of marriage between a man and a woman, exercising our free will and caution, and open to life.
I was upset about Christian's nonchalant rule-making about birth control. He wanted Anna to eat well, exercise, and sleep enough, but he had no qualms about poisoning the very body he claimed to love with birth control pills. This was also a sign of his actual objectification--- essentially he was saying to her: "I want all of you, every inch, except your fertility and everything that makes you an actual woman." Ick. That was the only real objectification I saw present in the film, though, ironically. The rest was actual affection and desire to know her. But the birth control?.... Yeah. It was ugly and sad.

I walked into the film under the impression that people were going to see it with the intent of having a naughty Valentine's date that would culminate in couples trying new bedroom antics, basically, but realized once the credits starting rolling  and I started spying on reactions that the majority of female viewers felt especially empowered and uninterested in bondage and domination in the end. Sure, there were those in there who saw it because of an interest in bondage and domination, but they were by far in the minority, which is probably a good thing.
Honestly, it sounded like most of the women in the theater were going to go home and have a bowl of ice cream and congratulate each other on being awesome, strong women while periodically interjecting with comments objectifying Christian Grey, likely while poopooing him for objectifying Anastasia's character.

If you've read the "Five Fat Lies" article on the same topic, I did want to point out that I vehemently disagreed with two of his points. Violence CAN be sexy. It's sexy if it turns someone on, and is consentual and that's really the bottom line. No one person gets to say to another: "Hey, THIS is sexy. That isn't." That's not how sexuality works. Our sexuality is built up of our experiences, our psychological makeup, and our inner workings, and we are as unique as snowflakes in that regard, and you won't have to give up your Catholic card to believe that. Further, I would argue that "sexual brokenness"actually CAN be sexy as well, for the same reasons. In particular when it is being healed, and especially in the context of a loving, monogamous, committed relationship like marriage.  These things will be especially healing and possibly pleasurable when coupled with the grace that comes from making frequent and regular use of the sacrament of healing: reconciliation.
And I mean, again..... let's be honest. Catholics flog themselves and wear cilices and hair shirts and impose silence for the same reasons in many ways. To understand ourselves and to hear God's voice through all our mess. What in the world makes a couple consensually, safely, and sanely doing it to each other such a horrific or awkward thing? Am I really the only one who finds that kind of ridiculous?

Now, this is not a movie for everyone, and likely, a small number of people only should see it.
Some may find it shocking and should steer clear. Others will find it enticing and it may lead them astray. In all honesty, some may find it boring.
But for those who feel it speaks to them one way or another, I hope that they will leave with one thing in mind: that our sexuality comprises a large part of our identity and sense of self, and that we must understand ourselves and our spouses, if we are married. It doesn't have to make sense to anyone but the people doing it, and it doesn't have to be kinky, it doesn't have to be "ordinary," it doesn't have to be anything but real. We must FACE our true selves. Only then will we hear God clearly, and make progress. Progress means drawing closer to God and to each other,  and becoming the people he intended us to be. What that looks like will be as unique as each person on the journey, so put away your boycotts, and learn to speak honestly about your experiences, to pray and study hard, and to communicate your sexual feelings with your spouse. I can only hope that that is the conclusion most people will draw from the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, even though the film itself clearly didn't convey that message accurately.
Fire can destroy us or purify us. It can rush through us and burn everything in it's path, or it can clear the way and make room for new growth. Don't play with fire, but don't be caught without it, either. Just be..... cautious. Fire is fire.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Funnies

Told my son to get started on some copywork this morning while I did the dishes.
Returned to find this. ... yes, those are runes. I'm still laughing.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Khalil Gibran on Religion

Have I spoken this day of aught else?
Is not religion all deeds and all reflection,
And that which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise ever springing in the soul, even while the hands hew the stone or tend the loom?
Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations?
Who can spread his hours before him, saying, "This for God and this for myself; This for my soul, and this other for my body?"
All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.
He who wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked.
The wind and the sun will tear no holes in his skin.
And he who defines his conduct by ethics imprisons his song-bird in a cage.
The freest song comes not through bars and wires.
And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn.


Your daily life is your temple and your religion.
Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.
Take the plough and the forge and the mallet and the lute,
The things you have fashioned in necessity or for delight.
For in revery you cannot rise above your achievements nor fall lower than your failures.
And take with you all men:
For in adoration you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself lower than their despair.


And if you would know God be not therefore a solver of riddles.
Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.
And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.
You shall see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in trees.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Atmosphere in a Charlotte Mason homeschool



Sorry about all the helicopter, guest, and toddler interruptions, haha, but that's life and part of my atmosphere. ;)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

9 Neanderthandal Habits of a True Man You Never Thought Would Make You Melt, but Will.


I came across this article today which was being furiously passed from woman to woman on my facebook and touted as the best thing in the world.
As I said there, and will say below, the article annoyed me quite a bit, for many reasons, but mostly being that:
" If you try to help me put my jacket on or take it off, I will cut you. Because hijab and it took me an hour to get it right so don't freaking touch it.
And me no likey chick flicks I don't expect you to either.
I like flowers but I once dumped a guy because he brought me flowers EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.... and spent too much time with my family.

I should write a post called: "9 Neanderthal habits of a true man that you never thought would make you melt... but will." In fact, I'm gonna."
and
Also, I love and appreciate opening doors but sometimes aintnobodygottimefodat and I just can't stand the wait, I'm just like MOVE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST MOVE. So pick your moments, men.
So now here I am, writing this post. Let me start off by saying that all those ideas I read about are nice, but if you hold out for the guy who embodies that post, you are going to be either (a) marrying a damn liar or (b) missing out on a lot. So without further ado, I give you nine things men actually do that used to drive me nuts but I now find incredibly endearing.

1. Closing doors. 

The writer mentioned that she liked men holding doors open. Well I like men closing doors.
First off, I like when my man closes the figurative door on a situation I didn't have the guts or common sense to close one on myself. They don't mind being rude or direct, and I love that because I do. Close them doors, for me boys!
That's a big one...  for sure. But also, I like men literally closing doors.
Men slam doors every where they go. Doesn't matter if they are little men or big men, they will pretty much slam every single door they encounter, and whats' even funnier is that you can bet on them yelling at any kid within ear shot for slamming doors themselves. Door slams always carry a message: things like "leave me alone" is a common one, yes, but another is "Oh my gosh I'm so excited!!" and there's also "I'm late!" too. While door slamming is a regular occurrence in a household full of boys, they are almost always loudest at naptime and after the children have gone to sleep. I have no idea if this is intentional or just a weird Murphy's law thing, but there you go.
 Whatever the message, whatever the reason, I melt a little bit when my house is full of guys and my door is slamming constantly as they happily go in and out forgetting things and yelling things to each other.

2. Eating everything in the house.

Sure it's nice if they save the last bite, but lately I've been noticing how nice it is to have a house full of hungry men I get to feed. There's something about chasing them out of the kitchen, slapping their hands away while they touch stuff, and watching the look of satisfaction (not to mention the good mood after ) that comes when guys have eaten a hearty meal and are grateful for it. If they are eating you out of house and home, you likely know the joy of finding happy men all around you and there's nothing like it. Like my Mediterranean mothers before me, this year I have really learned to rejoice in my kitchen duties and to find peace and pleasure in stocking and re-stocking.....  and re-stocking the fridge. I used to LOATHE Dinner prep, practically considered suicide when it "+1" started turning into "+ 3" around here on a regular basis, and seriously thought about just walking out one day and leaving everybody hungry. I prayed about it a lot and the Lord gave me a brilliant vision for hospitality and told me to embrace that hot, dirty kitchen.... and now let me tell you, I wouldn't trade my job for all the world. I now love to feed people, but men especially, because nobody is more thankful or happy after a good meal.

3.  Spending time with the guys.

Love a guy who loves to be around family. That's always, always important. But ladies, have you ever really stopped to appreciate the hilarity that ensues when guys get to spend time with each other? It's a glorious sight to behold, and one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an afternoon should you have the good fortune of listening in.
Men get together and play jokes on each other, talk smack to one another, give each other a hard time, build things, do projects, figure out ways to dominate the world..... it's amazing. Also, you will NEVER have to worry about things like home invasions or things that go bump in the night with groups of men around. You will learn all kinds of interesting things and come out with such a great appreciation for who men are and what they do. Most importantly should your guy be the kind who works in a "guy-oriented field" (military, first responders, etc.) you will find that even dull moments at work can be made hilarious and gleeful and learn a thing or two about making glory out of ordinary tasks. Most importantly, metal sharpens metal, so if your man has the blessing of having some good guy friends--- let them go, be, do. They come back way better than if they had spent eight hours locked in a house with you. and what happened will keep you entertained for a whole day of folding laundry and rinsing dishes.  I promise. :D

4. Making you watch action/war/ adventure movies.

Like most women, when I married my husband I had fantasies in my head of snuggling on the couch watching The Notebook or something most nights, while he whispered sweet nothings at me about how amazing I was. Yeah right. Instead I have spent literal years of my life listening to deep discussion about weaponry, armor, tactical gear, combat methodology, body building, philosophy, and kingdom building. I have seen Red Dawn (7 billion times to date) and Dune and Braveheart and Rob Roy and the Last of the Mohicans and The Postman.... again, and again, and again. I go to sleep to the sounds of Rambo, or Rocky IV,  not Rapunzel, and you know what? It's been kind of amazing. If you want to know why, you'll have to read my older blog on the topic right here.  Do it.

5. Sending weapons.

Sure, it's nice when guys send you flowers. But you'll know it's love when they send you weapons-  especially weapons THEY want to own. ;) Over the years, I've received endless knives, spears, bows, and battle axes and I'm not going to lie to you, I've often been like.... seriously? All I wanted was a gift certificate to Amazon. But there is nothing quite like the feeling of having a visiting man notice one of your gifted weapons on the table or something and hearing him say: "WOW  This thing is awesome. Where did you get it?" Now that's love. :D

6. Walking in front of you and/or getting in your way.

When I was first married, nothing irritated me more than my husband walking miles ahead of me when we were out and about or him stomping around in front of me when I was trying to get stuff done. Ten years in and now I love both. I love watching him when he is getting in my way because he's also active, doing something important to him, and I love to see him at work and to watch his process. It's adorable, and almost always a good, playful conversation starter.
But it's the walking far ahead of me thing that makes me melt....  I love the looks we get as a family when he walks into a room, with me behind him and our long line of kids trailing behind me. It's like people just want to stare open mouthed, or clap or something. EVERYONE has something to say. It's hilarious. I love it.

7. Trying to have sex with you all the live long day.

Yeah, kissing your forehead is cute. But you know what's adorable? When your husband won't leave you alone. Slapping your butt in public, making big eyes at you over the toilet he's fixing, or sneaking you off during a big holiday meal... whether you're in jammies or gym clothes, if he's a man,  he's constantly at you and it's pretty flipping awesome.

8. Filling up your fridge.... with beer. And random edible animals.

Sure, we all love a guy who fills up your gas tank. But have you ever known the joy of opening your freezer one day and finding a chopped up deer in there? Or a squirrel? Or a Greenland freaking shark? Yeah, living with men is crazy, but you will never, ever again has as much fun as you do once it begins, especially if you let them do their thing.
I've always tried to, which is how I have ended up with enormous frogs and chocolate-and-habanero covered crickets in my fridge at times but the tradeoff is the fun of the unexpected find and.... well, it's love when he wants to share his poo-smelling Durian fruit with you "just to try it." So choose love.

9. Putting his jacket on.... the floor. 

Yes, that's right, I'm actually going to say that there is something endearing about these crazy neanderthals leaving their clothes all over the dang carpet. Because let's face it, when you're a new wife you spend a lot of time crying over this stuff, right? ("I mean, *sniff* he threw his disgusting, sweaty PT shorts here and it's like TWO INCHES AWAY from the laundry basket I bought, restored, and spent six hours painting pink and electric green and now I have to touch them! Why doesn't he respect me??!") But now that you've been married ten years, you do things like giggle when you find one of his socks hiding in the blender or on the ceiling fan("How did he do THAT??!") and sigh when you find an invisible man made out of clothes standing up next to the bed, realizing he was so tired last night he literally just peeled them off and slid in with you. You learn to love this stuff, because it means you're IN, and that he loves you. And in the end, I'd rather have that a million times over than any of the formalities I read in the former article y'all are passing around like it's the best thing you've read all year. ;)

Here's to men--- may you know them, love them, raise them. Polite and totally wild. And here's to savage gentlemen. Amen.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Advent of Hope

The sweetest song of praise just came to my lips as I did our breakfast dishes and reflected on my advent waiting, wandering, and longing. It sprang from my heart and out of my mouth, and filled the house, and my children danced.  This is advent.... the coming of the Lord. We await His presence made manifest among us...learning He has been with us all along.

I've been thinking about single-ness lately. It is a good way to express the longing I think about during Advent.

I know some amazing men who are yearning for a strong, real relationship and who are finding it difficult to meet the right girl. They struggle and they suffer, and I watch it with tears in my eyes and a prayer in my heart, for any woman would surely be so happy to have such good men to call their own and in some ways I can't understand it.
I know so many girls, also, who are waiting, searching, and yearning. They are finding it hard to meet men of character who they feel will make good husbands. They sort and they sift, they wait and they expect. They long.

You'd think the two would meet and voila, but quite honestly, it's much more complex than that.
Personalities have to connect. Chemistry is critical. There are sparks to be looked for, and warnings to heed. Having experienced that longing myself, I not only sympathize but genuinely relate to the struggle.  At the same time, I envy them their single-ness. My husband and I always say that if we could do it again, we wouldn't.  What a beautiful time of freedom and internal reflection single-ness is. What a time of peace and fun, with such few worries! What a time to build character and habits that you will need for what's ahead.
But even then, with all that joy, I know that my own journey towards hope didn't come to an end at marriage.

Marriage is hard. It's a daily struggle. For every ounce of joy you receive, a joy which fills your cup and leaves you breathless, there is an equal part deep struggle and an overwhelming sense of doom you'll have to battle to get there. It is uphill. The road is long. The loads are heavy. Most of us have not trained the way we should have.

When I was single, I used to wait for the right man to come along... unable to do anything but improve my own condition as I could, feeling that I was quite alone at times, but still quite happy and fulfilled at others.
I always thought it would one day change, but if I'm honest with myself, I still do much of that same thing in my marriage.

My husband is incredible-- probably the best man I've ever met. And yet I am still lonely, as is he, despite knowing he has my heart and I have his. Our lives are full, and our relationship incredibly rich, and yet still there are holes-- there is longing, there is waiting, there is indescribable pain that surfaces again and again. Why?

Because this is the stuff of life.

As a teenager, I remember well watching Romeo and Juliet one night, late, in my living room alone.
Moved by the passion in the story (and probably pretty hormonal, ;) )  I started to cry, wishing for that same flame to come alive in my life, wondering why all the guys I had dated had ended up wrong for me.
My parents (who, incidentally were the only couple in my entourage who were still married and loving towards each other)  heard me and called me back to their room, where we talked about it.
"Do you think anybody will ever love me that much?" I cried. "Does real love even exist??"
They tried to calm me with good humor and jokes about their own relationship, but this was serious business to me and I would not be deterred from my longing.
I remember saying: "You're married! You are supposed to have this huge bonfire of passion burning all the time."
My parents looked at each other and laughed.
"Well, we have a match," my dad giggled. "One of those long ones. Maybe a candle."
I sighed. I felt empty. I knew this was a feeling I would know all my life. I didn't want a match, or a candle. When I later read St John of the Cross it left me breathless and helped me to know what God was doing in all this....

 O living flame of love that tenderly wounds my soul in its deepest center! Since now you are not oppressive,now consummate! if it be your will: Tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

So as I sang, today, I remembered the quotes I had scribbled in my journals and pored over as a young, single woman. Quotes written in tears and ink, sprawled across pages and pages as long as I could remember.
I remembered the first time I saw Elisabeth Elliot's words on the matter on paper. They shocked me so badly it took my breath away and made me retreat to my room where I remained all day to reflect and lick my wounds. She wrote:

My heart was saying, “Lord, take away this longing, or give me that for which I long.’ The Lord was answering, ‘I must teach you to long for something better.'”

Where was that "something better?"
Every year He answers that question more deeply for me.
The answer comes at Christmas. This is the Advent journey. The Lord reminded me that day that I had been converted on Christmas Eve--- nothing is ever an accident.

One night recently, around a lively fire, no less, I stood with my husband and some of his closest friends, a group of guys I lovingly call "The Chieftains," for their ancient ways and manly occupations.
We were talking stories, looking at past memories and having a giggle, when suddenly I found myself deeply amazed as I looked into the eyes of one of the Chieftains who had just said to my husband and myself: "Ten years. You've been married ten years."
I breathed deep.
His eyes expressed the same kind of wonder and awe that I felt in my heart when he said it.
Ten years?! How could this be??!
I went over my inventory of married life-memories. So many wonders. First kisses. Babies, sacraments. Touches. Tears. There was darkness there, too. But just as the flames before me seemed to rise from the ash pile beneath themselves and reach into the darkness around us, leaving us warm and aware, I saw that the flames had touched us the same way. There was darkness at times, but still we were warm and aglow. We just needed breath -- fresh wind-- to be OK again. We needed PRESENCE. We needed presents. Something to sacrifice in the flames.

I remembered reading and copying these lines from Elisabeth Elliot as a young woman:

“I took it for granted that there must be a few men left in the world who had that kind of strength. I assumed that those men would also be looking for women with principle. I did not want to be among the marked-down goods on the bargain table, cheap because they’d been pawed over. Crowds collect there. It is only the few who will pay full price. "You get what you pay for.”
and

“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”
I learned this lesson late in my marriage... that there would always be temptations for him or for me, temptations which called us to promises of fulfillment or satisfaction "elsewhere" and in something other than in ordinary life. More than many women, perhaps, I have never felt that being a mom or a wife suddenly fulfilled or satisfied me. I have other needs and interests that I constantly yearn to express and explore. I often feel unappreciated, and unwanted. Or too wanted and feel like I just need to run away. These are common feelings in marriage and motherhood.

And yet as I have struggled with these, I've learned more deeply that anticipation, waiting, hunger, longing-- these are much more fruitful and satisfying than anything I can dream up.
True to His Word, in which He has promised me that he can turn "what was meant for evil" into something good, when I have remained faithful to my vocation to love without care for what that sacrifice costs me, he has given me glimpses of what true love looks like and feels like and that love has been life-changing. It has, indeed, set me on fire.

For years, I have clung to this passage in scripture:

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord... In the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27)

Did you catch that? In the land of the living.
You see, I have learned that we are not only CALLED to wait and long--- but called to wait silently:

“Waiting silently is the hardest thing of all. I was dying to talk to Jim and about Jim. But the things that we feel most deeply we ought to learn to be silent about, at least until we have talked them over thoroughly with God.” (Elisabeth Elliot)

Whether I was single, or now as a married woman, to speak to God and turn to Him in the turmoil of my longing and yearning and waiting.... to accept that THIS is part of the experience.... to accept that
almost every time what He wants from me is to die to myself, to turn my desires and my weaknesses and my wants and my needs into gifts of love for those from whom I want the most......

THIS has been the catalyst for joy and fulfillment again and again, whether in my love life, in the raising of children, in my friendships, in my career. This has been the spark, the embers, the flame at times. It never burns out completely and is only as strong as I let it be.

With the lessons of advent I can serve others and feel satisfied. I can love others who can't or won't love me back and still feel fulfilled. I can love with real love. This is Advent in action.
Only when I commune with God about these opportunities, and allow him to transform my "waiting" and emptiness will He make it into a holy, pregnant time of new growth and new birth.

Then and only then my "Silent Night" turns into an "Oh, Holy Night" and His presence becomes known. Then, and only then do stars and rock, earth and hay, an uncomfortable-- even painful-- journey through the night, doors slamming in our face..... these become a living, breathing miracle that gives life to the whole world.

We will never be competely satisfied in this world. We will never know complete joy while we are here. We will never have complete fullness this side of heaven. We will always hope, always wait, always long, always yearn for something more.

But the King, our friend and savior, walks among us, in the ordinary things of daily life. He is in our coffee pot and in our woodpile. In our dishes and in our song. And in Him is the fullness of life eternal.

So I sing.... Rejoice!




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Instruction in women's attire from the early Church



What follows is a selection of quotes from early fathers on veiling and women's attire. I'll let them speak for themselves.


But we admonish you, too, women of the second (degree of) modesty, who have fallen into wedlock, not to outgrow so far the discipline of the veil, not even in a moment of an hour, as, because you cannot refuse it, to take some other means to nullify it, by going neither covered nor bare.
(...) Arabia's heathen females will be your judges, who cover not only the head, but the face also, so entirely, that they are content, with one eye free, to enjoy rather half the light than to prostitute the entire face.
(...)
It is incumbent, then, at all times and in every place, to walk mindful of the law, prepared and equipped in readiness to meet every mention of God; who, if He be in the heart, will be recognised as well in the head of females. To such as read these (exhortations) with good will, to such as prefer Utility to Custom, may peace and grace from our Lord Jesus Christ redound

- Tertullian, "On the Veiling of Virgins." approx 200 AD

"Let the woman observe this, further. Let her be entirely covered, unless she happens to be at home. For that style of dress is grave, and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty, and her shawl; nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled." [Clement, The Instructor 3.12]
Clement of Alexandria, Egypt, approx 190 AD

"And let all the women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth, not with a veil of thin linen, for this is not a true covering."
-- Hippolytus (200 AD), Apostolic Tradition

“Woman, because she was created by being drawn from man’s side, is constantly trying to return to him. She desires the original unity of one flesh and one bone. The desire for unity between man and woman is a mirror of the relationship between Christ and the soul. As woman longs for union with man in human relationships, she is also drawn to unity with God. He calls her to become one with Him: to come under His side and become flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone. This occurs during reception of the Eucharist. The covering of the head with a veil symbolizes the reality of woman sheltered in the side of her Source and becoming one with Him. She becomes covered and hidden in her Divine Spouse.”

~ St. John Chrysostom, Father and Doctor of the Church

Instruction in Christian prayer from the early Church



Let every faithful man and every faithful woman , when they rise from sleep at dawn, before they undertake any work, wash their hands and pray to God. Then they may go to work. But if there is some instruction in the Word, they shall go there, considering that it is God whom they hear in the one instructing. For having prayed in the assembly, they will be able to avoid all the evils of the day. The pious should consider it a great wrong if they do not go to the place in which they give instruction, especially if they know how to read…

If there is a day when there is no instruction, let each one at home take a holy book and read enough of it to gain an advantage from it.

If you are at home, pray at the third hour and praise God. If you are elsewhere at that time, pray in your heart to God. For in this hour Christ was seen nailed to the wood. And thus in the Old Testament the Law instructed that the shewbread be offered at the third hour as a symbol of the Body and Blood of Christ. And the sacrifice of the irrational lamb was a symbol of the perfect Lamb. For Christ is the Shepherd, and he is also the bread which descended from heaven.

Pray also at the sixth hour. Because when Christ was attached to the wood of the cross, the daylight ceased and became darkness. Thus you should pray a powerful prayer at this hour, imitating the cry of him who prayed...

Pray also at the ninth hour a great prayer with great praise, imitating the souls of the righteous who do not lie, who glorify God who remembered his saints and sent his Word to them to enlighten them. For in that hour Christ was pierced in his side, pouring out water and blood, and the rest of the time of the day, he gave light until evening. This way he made the dawn of another day at the beginning of his sleep, fulfilling the type of his resurrection.

Pray also before your body rests on your bed.

Around midnight rise and wash your hands with water and pray. If you are married, pray together. But if your spouse is not yet baptized, go into another room to pray, and then return to bed. Do not hesitate to pray, for one who has been joined in marital relations is not impure. Those who have bathed have no need to wash again, for they are pure. By catching your breath in your hand and signing yourself with the moisture of your breath, your body is purified, even to the feet. For the gift of the Spirit and the outpouring of the baptism, proceeding from the heart of the believer as though from a fountain, purifies the one who has believed. Thus it is necessary to pray at this hour.

For those elders who handed down the tradition to us taught us that in this hour every creature hushes for a brief moment to praise the Lord. Stars and trees and waters stand still for an instant. All the host of angels serving him, together with the souls of the righteous, praise God. This is why it is important that all those who believe make certain to pray at that hour. Testifying to this, the Lord says thus, "Behold, a cry was made at midnight, saying, 'Behold the bridegroom is coming! Arise to meet him!'" And he adds,
saying, "Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the hour is coming."

Likewise, at the hour of the cock-crow, rise and pray... hoping daily in the hope of eternal light in the resurrection of the dead.

With these things, all you faithful, if you do and remember them, instructing one another, and encouraging the catechumens, you will not be able to be tempted or to perish, having Christ always in your thoughts.

--  St. Hippolytus of Rome written around 215 AD.
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