Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Is it not an incredible privilege that we are designed to experience art in such a manner? And not only that we can comprehend the beauty and genius in art while it inspires emotional reactions and provokes new thoughts, but also that we are each unique in our experiences of it. The song I speak of may have little effect on you. The painting or symphony or film you love dearly, I may not like. The favorite novel, the beloved play, the incredible sculpture, or the enthralling music - they are not the same from one to another. We each have our own "songs" that hold ineffable power over us.
Oh, the glory of such variety in both artists and recipients of art.
When I listen to that song I am thankful we are made in the image of the original Artist. We are His finest work, His masterpieces. In turn then every piece of beauty and creativity that comes forth from humanity is an offshoot of His artistry. I hope there is a piece of art, a reflection of His artwork, that has reached you like this song has me. We are each greater for the "songs" that reach our hearts.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Monday, January 9, 2017
She could not look away from his hands. Wide palms; long, sturdy fingers. Strong. They looked capable of holding her, all of her; something she hadn't thought of a man in years.
Three years and twenty-six days. Cora didn't keep track each day. That stopped during the second year. Every few months though, she added it back up. Numbers were a comfort to her; a steadying force reminding her some things made sense. This didn't begin with her husband's death. It was true since she first learned basic mathematics.
Three years and twenty-six days and suddenly (anything new since his death felt sudden), she was staring at a stranger's hands, thinking of how they would feel holding hers across a restaurant table, or on the small of her back, guiding her through a busy airport. Ordinary tasks of her husband's hands. A stranger. At the gym, no less. What was wrong with her?
"Less than yesterday." That's what her sister Tessa would say. Tessa thought Cora should move on. Cora thought Tessa didn't know what she was talking about.
She made up her mind to switch to a different treadmill in a different row, away from the stranger and his capable hands. Tessa's next question would be, "was he attractive?" Cora realized she couldn't have answered. She'd noticed nothing except his hands.
"It's a start," she heard her sister say in her head.
"It's an ending," she whispered as she began to run.
Friday, January 6, 2017
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Writing Prompt: Red Shirt
Writing Time: 30 minutes
There was a spot of something on her shirt. A speck of food, maybe. It was too small to tell unless he drew closer. Her shirt was red and the spot was gray. Justin looked away. He wasn't about to be accused of staring at Leah's chest because of a tiny spot of who knew what. She would tease him for weeks. He tried to pay attention. She was speaking with as much grim seriousness as her lovely voice allowed.
Leah's voice really was lovely. Justin could not think of a better word. Like she was on the verge of singing every time she spoke. It was distracting, just like that spot on her red blouse.
He moved his eyes to the tumbler of whiskey in front of him. She still filled his peripheral view and the whiskey was only background color to her movements. Lifting her wine glass to her dry lips. Pushing her hair off her cheek. She set her drink down too hard. The wine sloshed up the curve of the glass, a single drop escaping over the top to slide down toward the stem.
"Don't you have any thoughts at all, Justin?"
He didn't admit that. "When have you ever taken my advice?" He said it with a smile that reached neither his eyes nor his tone.
"I'm sure it happened once."
She smiled now. That smile would be the end of him someday. Once it lit her face, he felt desperate to do anything, say anything, to stop it from disappearing.
"You can't leave."
Her mouth abandoned the smile to form a small O of surprise. Justin regretted it instantly. She'd want an explanation.
"It's his dream job. I can't ask him to stay." Leah took another sip of wine.
"I didn't say you should ask him to stay." What was he doing? If the tumbler was empty he might have something to blame. His hand shook when he lifted his still full drink so he set it back down and pressed his fist into the polished wood of the bar.
Her almost-singing voice was sad. Or scared. Justin wasn't sure which but he could not meet her eyes after she said his name that way. It sounded like a rejection wrapped up in a mere six letters, two syllables.
"Are you hungry? Let's order some food."
He shook his head. "I'm hungry."
"Me too," she whispered as she placed her finger tips under his chin to move his face in her direction. They both jumped when her phone rang. She dropped her hand.
"Damn it." He reached his arm around her waist and pulled her to him, more roughly than he intended. She slipped off her barstool and stood, leaning her hip against his knee. Every coherent thought left his head as their lips met. Then one single reality reached him: she was kissing him back. Her hand was on the back of his head. Her smooth skin was warm against his end of day stubble. Justin started to stand as well when she broke the kiss.
Leah stayed in the curve of his arm, her eyes still closed. He held his breath. She laid her palms on his chest and he knew she could feel his heart pounding through his shirt.
"How long have you wanted to do that?"
He laughed quietly, placing a light kiss on her forehead. When she finally opened her eyes, he replied, "May 17, 2002."
Confusion wrinkled her forehead for a moment then she smiled too. "The end of year party in your dorm?"
"The day we met."
"15 years, practically."
Her phone rang again and she stepped toward it. He groaned a little for the loss of her nearness.
"I have to take this." Leah didn't meet his eyes when she said it. She was chewing her lip the way he knew so well; the way she did when there was a decision to be made.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Saturday, December 31, 2016
What I found was quote after quote affirming a person's self-worth. I am worthy. You are worthy. On and on and on. We have a crisis of self-worth. This isn't news. It's been going on for decades and only getting worse. The misguided responses of rooting out all humility and lasting, God-given identity haven't exactly helped.
All these people attempting to answer this crisis. At first it seemed like there was nothing applicable to my theme for the new year. I wasn't looking for an affirmation of self-worth. It is exactly because of my belief in my own worth that I chose this word. Then I realized that maybe, just maybe, this new year's theme is a piece of the puzzle of living in a manner that says you know your worth.
I chose WORTHY because I am tired of giving of myself to things that are not worthy of me. I'm tired of being tired - physically and mentally. I, like many people, have trouble saying no to or stepping away from that which isn't worthy of a portion of my reserves of time, energy, attention, and care. In the coming year, I hope to retrain myself to an extent. Give myself only to what is worthy - be it activities, hobbies, relationships, responsibilities, worries, thoughts - and within the collection of what is worthy, spend myself to an extent that is proportionate to each one's importance. Not everything and everyone is worthy of what I have to give, and not everything and everyone that is worthy is equally worthy.
At the close of 2017, I aim to have this a bit more sorted out than I do now. The end result, I hope, will be less of that tiredness I mentioned, yes, but also a better ability to pour myself out for what is WORTHY because I am not wasting myself on what isn't.
Monday, December 19, 2016
During the brief forty-five minutes we had this morning between him waking up and me departing for work, he must have asked ten times for me to spend time with him. The asking comes in a variety of forms - will you sit with me; can we watch a movie together; are you going to eat with me - but the heart of the question is constant: Can we be together?
Connection; companionship; unity; family. It is my belief that we do not lose our early years' desire for togetherness. We grow adept at minimizing its significance, quieting its voice. We learn to ignore it. We all have our own reasons for doing so.
With each instance in which I must reject my son's request for time with me because I am required to be elsewhere, my heart hurts. Yet there are plenty of times where I also turn him down carelessly, preferring that he leave me alone to do the things I'm more interested in that day or the things I think have to get done. I am imperfect in it, without a doubt, but having children has reawakened my own desire for and value of togetherness.
This isn't written with undue guilt. We cannot be there with them non-stop. Jobs, obligations, responsibilities, and even solitary endeavors are both necessary and valuable. Yes, my children have to learn the hard lesson that they are not at the center of the world they occupy nor can they count on always receiving what they want from others. My thoughts run less along the line of eliminating those lessons and more along the line of wondering what society, and specifically my own family, could look like if alongside those harder lessons everyone also learned that we do not need to guard our hearts against the natural desire for togetherness.
|Final request of the day: "Will you rest with me?"|
Monday, December 12, 2016
|Photo provided by Trisha Hummel|
This weekend I spent hours addressing Christmas cards. As I scribbled the names, streets, and cities of my cousins, I couldn't help wondering about Trudi. Would she live in the same area, like her sisters, or would she have established her life elsewhere? Would we have attended a wedding? Would our children have played together by now? Would we have that comfortable, enjoyable dynamic that develops between family members after the years have placed us on level ground?
Hypotheticals. They do an excellent job of muddling the mind and stinging the heart. There's nothing like loss to leave you wading through a pool of hypotheticals. And there's nothing like Christmas time to amplify the wound of loss.
This isn't a direct quote, as I can't remember where I heard it, but I once read that St. John Paul II said suffering is created by feeling cut off from good. We live and love and link ourselves to sources of good. When one of those links is severed, we are left trying to patch the tear.
What has severed a link to good in your life?
Every cut in our connections to what is good is felt keenly in this season of celebration. For some, the suffering renders Christmas undesirable. Potential joy is swallowed up in misery. Sounds of peace are drowned out by the roar of hypotheticals that can never be.
Oh, the paradox of Christmas. For Christmas, my friends, is the arrival of the Divine Response to every wound and cut and tear you carry with you. It is Almighty God dwelling amongst us. He made Himself vulnerable to encounter our vulnerability. God entrusted Himself to the arms of a mother, to the home of an earthly father, and to a community of imperfect, suffering individuals.
|Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst|
Christmas, when "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14) is the root of our conviction "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
|Grandma Evelyn with my firstborn, a few months before she passed.|
During Sunday Mass last weekend, I leaned over to my husband and whispered, "Grandma would have loved this men's choir." The rich, reverent harmonies could have been from any number of old albums of hymns she used to play on her cassette deck next to her favorite chair. I savored every song during that Mass, enjoying it on her behalf.
Then at the end of Mass, I approached the giving tree set up near the sanctuary. Typically I choose a request for a child's gift from these trees. It gives me a special kind of joy to know a young child will be happier on Christmas day thanks to a small sacrifice on my family's part. It was with this same intention that I went to find this year's star on the giving tree. But what did I find on the first star I read? A little Christmas wish list for an elderly woman that could have been my grandmother's list pretty much every single year. My eyes filled with tears and I swallowed a lump of emotion in my throat as I plucked the star from the tree. I get to shop for my Grandma.
When I read that Christmas list and kept thinking, "she would have loved that," with each item, I realized something I hope I won't forget. Remembering our loved ones gone from this world is a special thing but loving on others with the very love your heart has marked for the ones you lost is immeasurably greater.