goodbye to grandmother’s house

said goodbye to my grandmother’s house tonight

in the pouring rain, doors locked, lights off, curtains drawn so nary a peek inside

just me and the husband on the carport, and I didn’t even spend much time on the carport, really, just a place to pass through to get to the door to step inside and wipe your feet on the mat

and then turn the corner and you’re in the knotty pine kitchen and there’s grits or carrots or soup on the stove and crackers and dips on the counter and probably cookies somewhere if you poke around and the room is warm and the light is bright and the dishwasher is old as dirt and not ever plugged in

and the calendar is chock full with lines stretching the lengths of weeks for people’s trips, and scribbled doctor’s appointments, and everyone’s birthdays (which were there first, which baptized the calendar when it first heralded the new year coming)

and don’t forget the fridge, or really the magnet display, with everywhere they’ve been and then some

anyway then you step through the door and there on the left is the living room with its enormous fireplace flanked by enormous bookshelves filled with treasures new and old, let alone the other old books scattered across tables amidst knick knacks and my great-grandfather’s cadet picture, and there’s the table where the Christmas tree would be with its old pie plate ornament, and the moose, good Lord, where do you even start with the moose

and the lobster trap

and the carpet is new and blue but if you were to take all the books off the enormous bookshelves and move them you’d see where the new carpet ends and the old bluish-and-greenish carpet still rests under the bookshelves, because moving them should only happen in case of, well, death

and it was old and worn smooth

and look up past the hummingbird light pull to the ceiling with its bolts and washers from that time the pipes burst and they had to reinforce the plaster and, well, it worked

then down the hallway lined with baby photos and old silhouettes and on the left there’s the bedroom with its twin beds where my sisters and I would lie while Grandmother sat in the little old chair in between them and tell stories about the rabbits, whose names I remember and tell to my daughters, or the Great White Wooly Wugga-Wuggas whose names I have forgotten but whom I can still picture in my head, great fluffy things with soft brown faces, and she’d sing songs in a voice I didn’t know was off-key, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” (and they sang it wrong in England, and I put a footnote about it in my thesis) and then we’d go to sleep

in the room that had been my mother’s, with the door still littered with ribbons from football pep rallies and old Doonesbury comic strips and nametags from competitions and all sorts of things that were as familiar to me as the wood behind them before I could even read, whose meanings I discovered much later

and then the end of the hall, with the pink bathroom right in front of you and there’s the tub we washed in when we were little that didn’t have a shower attached and I used to wonder where the shower curtain was, with the clothesline strung over it for drying towels, and the vanity with lights over it installed twenty years after my mom spent half an hour squinting into the mirror trying to put on her makeup for prom

and on the left was the den, with Granddaddy’s perfect long chair that they gave away without asking any of us, and the pullout couch where we slept later on (and which spent six months in my garage before I finally found someone to haul it away to be donated, the blasted thing) that I saw again every time I watched the old Crit Role intro, and the rug in the middle, and sometimes Granddaddy’s step-er-cise thing with the pulleys that were so fun to pull, and we spent so many holidays piled up on that couch, watching TV after stuffing ourselves

oh and if you leaned over the arm of Granddaddy’s perfect long chair you could reach the bookshelf and I don’t ever remember asking permission to pluck Animal Babies from the shelf but I definitely did, plopping it open on my lap and  learning about okapi long before we even had any in our zoos (and I thought they were small because they lived with the pygmies, but they’re big, guys, they’re pretty big)

but sometimes you could only sit on the couch and read Reader’s Digest because Granddaddy was watching The Weather Channel

back when it only showed, you know, the weather

and then across the end of the hall was their room, where I napped once or twice, or occasionally set a baby down for a nap, stealing glimpses of my grandmother’s engagement photos, pretty much the only time you’d ever see a picture of her without her glasses

and then when it’s time to go we’d go to the den and kiss Granddaddy’s whiskers and then troop back down the hall to the kitchen and there’d always always be peanut butter crackers to be pressed into our hands to be eaten on the long car ride home

winding along the twisty two-lane road with the trees reaching out overhead, the side of the mountain falling away to our left, and then suddenly the lights of the city spread out twinkling before us between the branches of the trees, mostly yellow but here white or red or green, the valley at our feet wending its way towards the river

and tonight as I drove down that misty foggy mountain road I fumbled with my CDs because sometimes music has to say what our hearts are too full to mention

and along the way to the track I wanted I hit upon this one, in all its perfection

and just this week on Christmas Day as my granddaddy left my house I said, “see you later, alligator”

and without missing a beat he said, “after ‘while, crocodile”

as he always did when we left their house, the two of them standing there waving until we’d gone around the block, out of sight

(and I haven’t even touched on the yard, with its one dogwood so perfect for perching in, with its tangles and thickets and acorns and silence)

but they weren’t there when I left tonight, and that is, after all, why I was leaving it

for the last time

it’s not the same and it hasn’t been the same and all the same I cried my way to the base of the mountain while Mumford and Sons said what I could not.

we’ll all be together again, some day, God willing (it’s not his will we have to worry about; it’s our own)

and they’ll all go out to meet her when she comes

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Books Read (and Movies Watched) in 2019

I wasn’t always the best about updating last year’s list, but I’m glad I kept it.  I didn’t include movies but I’m also not convinced I watched any new-to-me movies last year (we certainly didn’t step foot in a movie theatre).  Having our main show also be the equivalent of watching 2-3 movies a week doesn’t help either, whoops.  So here’s to hoping that changes a bit.

Alternatively, here’s hoping my children learn to sleep better.  Ha.

same key as last year: underlined is a reread; * means recommended

*So Anyway… by John Cleese (entertaining, insightful, just fun)
*Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (SO GOOD. devastating, but told with such humor)

The Flame of Telbyrin by Br. Benedict Dyar (good ideas and story but oh man someone get this guy an editor and a book designer)
*Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah)
*Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller (look I just love a good solid now-Legacy Star Wars book okay)
*Beauty by Robin McKinley (a library discard win for me; the ending’s still a bit rushed, but gosh, I love her writing)
*The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (aka Sarah Monette) (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH SO GOOD)
King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (not as good as Six of Crows)
Grayling’s Song by Karen Cushman (a bit shallow and just…abrupt)
Inkling by Kenneth Oppel (cute)
*Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH one of those books that only gets better the older you get)
*Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (HOW DOES SHE DO IT.  HOW.)
*A Room with a View by E.M. Forster (surprisingly stressful this time around)
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (what a scrambled wasted mess of a book that could’ve been something REALLY INTERESTING
[I feel like I’m forgetting something here I really need to get better at keeping up with this]
*The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia McKillip (took me a bit to warm up to it but I didn’t want it to end)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (don’t ask me how I’d never read it before, I don’t know, but I enjoyed it)
Anne of Avonlea
 by ditto (ditto)
Sabriel by Garth Nix (been a long time and I never finished the trilogy but it is still so good)
[and then I read a bunch of books in August so bear with me]
The Southern Sisters Mysteries by Anne George
Lirael and Abhorsen by Garth Nix
The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam something

The Little House Cookbook by Barbara Walker*

The Everyday Apostle: Commonsense Ways to Draw Others to Christ by Fr. Edward F. Garesché (not bad, though very 1910s-y)
Catherine of Siena by…somebody Italian I’ll look it up (just a brief but thorough biography)
The Community of the Beloved Disciple* by Raymond Brown (awesome look at historical Johannine community working backwards from the proffered texts)

Jan 1:  Black Panther*
April25/6:  To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before*

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This novena was originally written for a group of predominantly married Catholic women, and so its focus is distinctly feminine, which I at least consider a bonus. Each day has a focus on one area that tends to come up during the holidays; if a day doesn’t apply to you, feel free to substitute another intention (“siblings” for “in-laws” or “children,” e.g.).  I’ve listed the individual days’ intentions first, and if you scroll to the end you’ll find the prayers to be said every day.

We’ll be relying on the intercession of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Jeanne de Chantal, St. Monica, and St. Rita, all women who experienced various family difficulties throughout their lives be it with in-laws, their own parents, their children, their husbands—really, all of the above, and I encourage you to read up on them. Meditating on their wisdom, we’ll recite the Litany of Humility with the aim of decreasing ourselves so Christ may increase in us, so that no matter what obstacles or hurtfulness we encounter, we may radiate love while resting secure in God’s love for us. Thank you for praying with me!


Meditations from the saints:
“We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

“Cordial love of the neighbor does not consist in feelings. This love flows not from a heart of flesh but from the heart of our will.”
St. Jeanne de Chantal

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for our immediate families, those in which we were raised and those we are raising ourselves, your domestic Church, where we first live out Your calling and experience your love, whence we bring your Gospel to the world. [Add any other intentions here.]


Meditations from the saints:
“I then, O my Praise and my Life, Thou God of my heart, putting aside for a little her good deeds, for which I joyfully give thanks to You, do now beseech You for the sins of my mother. …and inspire, O my Lord my God, inspire Your servants my brethren, Your sons my masters, who with voice and heart and writings I serve, that so many of them as shall read these confessions may at Your altar remember Monica, Your handmaid, together with Patricius, her sometime husband, by whose flesh You introduced me into this life, in what manner I know not. May they with pious affection be mindful of my parents in this transitory light.”
St. Augustine

“Our God loves us; this is our comfort.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for our parents, who gave us life and those who raised us, who are called to be models of Christ and His Church for us their children; we give thanks for those who received the grace to live out their vocations, and beg pardon for those who turned away. [Add any other intentions here.]


Meditations from the saints:
“Her mother-in-law, also, being at first prejudiced against her by the whisperings of evil-disposed servants, she so conquered by submission, persevering in it with patience and meekness, that she voluntarily disclosed to her son the tongues of the meddling servants, whereby the domestic peace between herself and her daughter-in-law had been agitated, begging him to punish them for it. …And…they lived together with a wonderful sweetness of mutual good-will.”
St. Augustine

“Must you continue to be your own cross? No matter which way God leads you, you change everything into bitterness by constantly brooding over everything. For the love of God, replace all this self-scrutiny with a pure and simple glance at God’s goodness.”
St. Jeanne de Chantal

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for our in-laws, who through God’s blessing gave us the great gift of our spouses, whom we are called to love as our own parents; we give thanks for those who love us as their own, and pray for an end to strife with those who do not. [Add any other intentions here.]


Meditations from the saints:
“Let us be sure that we understand what an honor it is for us to spend time in prayer, as much time as we wish, as intimately as we wish. The man who wins an hour-long audience from his prince, considers himself lucky. And our God, before whom the kings of the earth are less than a spark in the full blaze of the sun, and less than a little worm in the presence of the highest angels — this great God, nevertheless, is eager to hear us no matter what hour of the day or night we turn to Him.”

“Give them books and conferences treating of the virtues, and tell them that they must set about practising them. Later on they can talk about high things for by the exercise of true and solid virtue light comes from Him who is the Master of the humble, and whose delight it is to be with souls that are simple and innocent.”
St. Jeanne de Chantal

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for our children, gifts from God whom we are called to shepherd from infancy to independence, that they may always be faithful to Him; and we pray especially for those adult children who have left the Church, that their mothers’ intercession may open their hearts to the grace to return. [Add any other intentions here.]


Meditations from the saints:
“The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends, but let us not despair. God is like a looking glass in which souls see each other. The more we are united to Him by love, the nearer we are to those who belong to Him.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

“This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you be.”
St. Monica

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for our family members who have finished their life’s journey on this earth, whose absence leaves a void filled with many emotions and tender hearts; we [remember them especially during this month of All Souls] and pray fervently that they may be admitted into your kingdom, and that those they have left behind may know the consolation of Christian hope in God’s mercy. [Add any other intentions here.]


Meditations from the saints:
“The love of talk distracts all the powers of our soul from God, and fills them with earthly objects and impressions, like a vessel of water that cannot be settled while you are continually stirring the earthly particles from the bottom.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

“When she had heard on both sides most bitter things, such as swelling and undigested discord is wont to give vent to, when the crudities of enmities are breathed out in bitter speeches to a present friend against an absent enemy, she would disclose nothing about the one unto the other, save what might avail to their reconcilement.”
St. Augustine

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for preservation from gossip, from the sort of talk that seeks to spread jealousy, discord, strife, and enmity; we pray that we may avoid the near occasion of sin and, if unavoidably subjected to such conversations, that we may guard our hearts and tongues and instead speak Christ to all. [Add any other intentions here.]


Meditations from the saints:
“How sweet, the presence of Jesus to the longing, harassed soul! It is instant peace, and balm to every wound.“

“And in every disappointment, great or small, let your heart fly directly to your dear Savior, throwing yourself in those arms for refuge against every pain and sorrow. Jesus will never leave you or forsake you.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for preservation from misunderstanding, from the unnecessary hardships that arise from the failure to speak clearly or to listen well; we pray for clarity, charity, and generosity in our dealings with others, that instead of retreating into bitterness we all may strive for reconciliation and progress towards our common goals. [Add any other intentions here.]


Meditations from the saints:
“Cut to the center, tear up every root, let it bleed, let it suffer anything, everything, only fit it for Thyself. Place only Thy love there, and let humility keep sentinel.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

“Love God above all things.”
St. Rita

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for preservation from pride; we pray that we may humble ourselves before God’s guidance and will, that we may have the wisdom to discern when to stand firm not on our own judgment but in Christ’s, and when to patiently and joyfully bear our sufferings from the shelter of His wounds, always with the meekest gratitude that He might choose to use us as instruments of His love. [Add any other intentions here.]


Meditations from the saints:
“Suffering borne in the will quietly and patiently is a continual, very powerful prayer before God.”
St. Jeanne de Chantal

“Perseverance is a great grace. To go on gaining and advancing every day, we must be
resolute, and bear and suffer as our blessed forerunners did. Which of them gained heaven without a struggle?”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for patience and perseverance, that having so prepared ourselves for the holidays we may succeed in bearing Christ’s love in every encounter with every person we meet; we pray that we may have the patience to run well and finish the race, doing all things through Christ who strengthens us so that at the end of our labors, we and our loved ones may rest together in His peace. [Add any other intentions here.]


Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us.
Saint Jeanne de Chantal, pray for us.
Saint Monica, pray for us.
Saint Rita, pray for us.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart,
Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled…
From the desire of being honored…
From the desire of being praised…
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted…
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Father God, we come before You today with hearts stressed and burdened by the demands of the season and the strife within our families. As we cast ourselves undeservedly into the arms of You, our most loving Father in Heaven, help us to truly leave to You the care of ourselves and our families so that we may be free to desire to please You and serve You well in all we can.

Lord Jesus, as we bring ourselves before You, help us to accept Your yoke and learn from You Who are meek and humble of heart. As we humble ourselves before You, we beg You to sanctify us, reign in us, transform us to Yourself, live in us, and let us live in You; so that all whom we encounter, especially within our own families, may know Your love and peace.

Holy Spirit, Who comes to the aid of our weakness and intercedes for us when we do not know how to pray as we ought, pour out Your grace upon us and our families. By Baptism we have been bound together as children of God, joint heirs with Christ; through You, may we experience that same unity in our earthly families and Your peace in our hearts. May we use Your gifts to bring forth Your fruits so that through us, Your love may renew the face of the earth.


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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Books Read in 2018

to be updated as the year progresses

underlined is a reread; * means recommended

*The Cat Who Wanted to Be a Man, Lloyd Alexander

Lost Stars by Claudia Gray or whatever, I don’t even care, only about a quarter of the book was actually gripping and then she managed to ruin it
Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo, (5/5/18) eeeeeeeh we’ll see if the series gets better
Siege and Storm, ditto (5/?/18), an improvement but the beginning was very weak and the whole series would be better if MWT wrote it
Ruin and Rising, ditto (5/30/18), definitely improved and I think makes reading the previous two worth it though still not 100% satisfying (to me, but I am weird)
Six of Crows, ditto, (9/6ish/18), SO MUCH BETTER OH MY GOODNESS

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

*My Life in France, Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme
Two Gardeners, Elizabeth Lawrence and Katharine S. White, ed. Emily Wilson
Stirring the Pot with Benjamin Franklin: A Founding Father’s Culinary Adventures, Rae Katherine Eighmey (SO MANY COMMA SPLICES)

Into the Deep, Dan Burke (the business PD version of Lectio Divina)
*Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II
Embracing Edith Stein, Anne Costa
A Simple Path, Mother Teresa (9/23/18)
*Come Be My Light, Mother Teresa + an editor (so good y’all)
Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Rite, Enrico M…something (IT TOOK ME OVER A YEAR BUT I DID IT, Y’ALL)

Gardening? Outdoors?
*A Southern Garden, Elizabeth Lawrence (would like to own)

Radically Simple, Rozanne Gold (definitely interested in several of the veggie sides)
What Should I Bring?, Elizabeth Heiskell (it literally has a recipe that she describes as “impossible to transport” if that gives you any indication of quality)

as I edit this at the end of the year, I think to myself, I should read more books next year.  Here’s hoping!

of course this list doesn’t include Too Many Picture Books to Count, but I will of course shout out the Hat trilogy by Jon Klassen for making me laugh and then breaking my heart all in one go

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Imagining the Trump Supporter

A friend of mine emailed me about my last post, saying that she simply DOES NOT UNDERSTAND TRUMP SUPPORTERS. Another friend of mine recently mentioned somewhere that he was shocked to discover that racism actually exists within the Republican party. And I’ve read several articles about Trump’s popularity, ranging from “people are angry” to “people feel disenfranchised” to “people feel like they lost the culture war and want someone who will fight for them,” and all those things are true. And there are probably several more articles out there that already say what I’m about to say (this Atlantic piece is a good outline), but all the same, I thought I’d put out a few details. In this approach I am not attempting in any way to condone any of the opinions or viewpoints that I theorize the average Trump supporter holds; but I am attempting to present them with relatively little commentary on their merits or lack thereof.

Side note: Sunday afternoon, Trump held a rally in my home state, and one of our senators became the first sitting senator to endorse him. I heard about it during the hourly NPR news update, and for the first time in my life, I was ashamed to be from Alabama.

Let me be clear: I’m from Alabama. I know, okay? I’ve lived in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, driven through much of the rest of the country, and spent a fair amount of time on the East Coast. If I stopped to count I think I know someone from almost every state in the Union. I’m descended from the sister of a Confederate general and there are absolutely slaveholders in my ancestry. My hometown, though the first to integrate its school system (peacefully, no less), is still under a desegregation order. [Side rant about all the schools in the rest of the country that have never been under a desegregation order but are no less segregated.] We keep electing Roy Moore to be Chief Justice of our State Supreme Court, even after he was kicked off. I get it. There’s a lot to be embarrassed about.

Embarrassed. But it’s my home, and I love it, and I want the best for it. It’s part of why I always planned to move back, no matter how far away I went. I’m a strong believer in the value of getting out and in the power of going home. I’m an eternal optimist.

But when I heard Senator Sessions giving his endorsement, for a moment, my spirits were absolutely, totally crushed.

Side note the second: Trump is performing well, but his competitors are still in the fight. Not every person who fits into one or more of the categories I’m about to describe is a Trump supporter. (This means, of course, that Cruz and Rubio possibly also have racists voting for them, ironically enough.) Not every Trump supporter fits into all of the following categories.

So who are these people, and why are they supporting Trump?
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Part of my “get on top of life” resolution has included trying to keep at least a token sense of being up-to-date with the world’s news. This of course has coincided with the primary season (aka, when all the campaigning actually starts to matter). I’ve been ignoring most of the campaigning itself–I’ll almost certainly be voting third party, and I have better things to do with my time than listen to adults hurl invectives at each other and make vague promises in the meantime–but now that votes are starting to roll in I’ve been reading a lot of analysis about why things are happening the way they are, and how they might get better or worse as time goes on. And being me, I’ve had some thoughts. I don’t know how coherent I’m going to be able to make them, but it’s worth a shot.

Some background reading:

On the potential progressions of the Republican nomination battle.
Why evangelicals are voting for Trump, i.e.
How Wag the Dog ruined me.

I went looking for the genesis of other thoughts of mine, but those have mostly taken place in non-public Facebook threads.

Continue reading

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A Brief Note of Concern

Okay. I’ve seen a couple young ladies on my newsfeed link to a blog post entitled “The Day I Decided to Stop Listening to What Everybody’s Saying I’m Supposed to do & Why I’m Not Ready to Get Married in 44 Days.” The first time I read it, most of the comments were still sensible, but apparently many more people have discovered it since then and the sense has mostly been buried.

If you go back through the comments, I highly recommend reading the original comment from “Nathan” and also one from “Sandy.” If you’re too lazy/anti-internet-comments to do so (understandable), have a soapbox moment from me instead:

1) This post very much reads like it was written by a young twenty-year-old. There is nothing wrong with being twenty years old! It is a transition time from teenagerdom to adulthood. And some people are older at twenty than others, and this young lady falls into the latter category.

2) On that note, I’ve read blogs and talked to people who were married at twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two. Some of them were young, like the author of this blog post, and those whose marriages have lasted will unabashedly tell you how difficult being young and unready (which in this case often means “completely unaware of the sacrifices involved”) made the first few years of their marriages.

Others were older, and though unready in the sense that it’s impossible to truly understand what the sacrament will do to you until it’s done, had a sense of the responsibilities involved–had the sense that they still had growing and changing to do, but were committed to going through those experiences together.

3) In that sense, being “ready” to get married can, in part, be understood as being “ready” to submit yourself to God and to your spouse–and in THIS is freedom.

4) The author of the blog post defines freedom as “God created me as a [free spirit/the person I am right now and therefore I can do whatever I want because that’s who he made me to be.” This is not Christian freedom. Christian freedom does not elevate the individual above the community, nor does it provide justification for your every action. Christian freedom is the freedom to follow God, freedom from the slavery to sin, freedom to serve one another as Christ served us.

5) This is what God created us to do, to be. Each in our own unique way, with our own gifts, yes–but we are called to submit those things to him, and to do with them as he wills. Oftentimes that means submitting ourselves to the authority or will of others–rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, or honoring our fathers and mothers.

So ironically, the message the blog post author wants to convey is, technically, correct–we are called to the freedom of God’s children, which often bucks conventional “worldly” wisdom. She is, however, completely INcorrect as to what that actually looks like. Her words are quite romantic, but it’s an adolescent understanding of freedom–a young twenty–that fails to understand that her “free” (in this case, we could charitably call it “blind”) spirit is not the primary nor final arbiter of right and wrong, nor even of the path God wants her to follow.

God doesn’t always speak to us directly in our hearts. Sometimes he uses those around us–because after all we Christians are a communal people, one body bound in the breaking of the bread–to be his voice in our ears. True discernment–of marriage, of moving, of all the decisions we make–lies in learning to hear his voice, to see past the cloud of our desires into the clear sky of his light–and then learning to align our desires with his. Again, THAT is true freedom. Not walking barefoot at your wedding (a neutral act), nor putting your feet on someone else’s desk (actively willful–and somehow, I doubt that will is God’s).

So please, when reading this article, take it with a grain of salt. Or better still, skip it. But at the very least, recognize the difference between ramblings and wisdom, between a young woman experimenting with her understanding of the world and a young woman who understands that the world does not revolve around her.

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Upset is Not an Emotion

One of my best friends from college majored in psychology, and while in undergrad she worked in one of the professor’s labs studying the interaction between families and schools and education. You know, totally not depressing stuff at all. Anyway, she spent a lot of time “coding,” which I’m still not 100% sure is what it sounds likes, but senior year she also got to participate in family interviews. Before she did this, she had to practice, and since I was right across the hall I was one of the lucky few selected to pretend to be a six-year-old while she asked me questions about my family life.

I’m sure you’re all shocked to learn that I make an excellent squirmy six-year-old.
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NFP: A Few More Thoughts

Probably I’ll come back to the subject eventually–it is part of my life, after all–but for now, just a few more things.

I talk about NFP because it’s what we practice and because it was an awareness week, but really I’m mostly just trying to encourage general non-hormonal methods that are actually reliable (sorry, condoms and withdrawal). So, in my book, if you’re looking into FAM, that’s awesome.

“But you’re Catholic aren’t you trying to take away all my pills ISN’T THAT YOUR REAL AGENDA?” asks the reader of this blog who’s new around here.

I don’t want to take away pills so much as I want to encourage a worldview where a woman’s fertility is something to be celebrated, not dreaded or feared or dismissed, and as long as the Pill is an assumed norm that’s probably not going to happen. Also, I want to encourage education and knowledge and freedom and taking charge of one’s self. Also, I weep for those mothers who feel like they have to put their daughters on birth control just in case they get raped. Talk about the exact opposite of female empowerment. (I vote for the spike-toothed female condom in that instance, myself.)
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Different Approaches to Love: Submission

So when I referenced Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in my last post, I quoted from the end of it, where he says “this is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church.” For those of you unfamiliar with the passage, I’ll be honest and quote the whole thing:

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
“For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church. In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:21-33)

You probably know this reading either from a) those Sundays in church where Mom and Dad elbow each other mercilessly throughout the epistle or b) rants about how Christianity is anti-feminist. I don’t want to go too deeply into the latter point today (definitely another post), but I do want to reflect a little on that darn “subordinate” word.

Once, while my husband was deployed, I went to an adult ed class on this reading once because hey, who can resist hearing it dissected, especially by a husband-wife team. Each took the lesson aimed at their sex and broke it down, and the wife’s explanation went more or less like this: “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands” can also be translated as “wives, submit to” or “be submissive to” their husbands. To be “submissive” or “subordinate” means to subject oneself (or place oneself under) the “mission” or “order” (think not only in terms of being boss, but also what it means to belong to “an order”—usually there are strict codes of conduct involved) of another. And what is the husband’s mission? To love his wife as his own body, to lay himself down for her as Christ gave everything of himself for the Church. (Love is of course the action of willing the good of another, and Christian love is the action of willing the good of another above the good of oneself; “there is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for a friend.”) The speaker was in tears as she described, then, a wife’s duty: to let her husband love her, to submit to her husband’s love for her.

So really, the wife comes off pretty easy in this passage (and you’ll notice Paul’s instructions for wives are shorter than his instructions for husbands): all you have to do is submit to the fact that your husband has to lay himself down for you. Honestly, if the word “submit” wasn’t used there, you could probably read it as “walk all over the husband who has laid himself down for you.” It doesn’t even say you have to love him back!

But what does it mean to submit to someone loving you? This was the question I posed my dad, and his response was more or less, “You have to let him love you.” Say what? “When he tries to do something for you, let him do it, even if it’s not exactly how or what you wanted him to do.”

This is the answer you see in the “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” section of Ladies’ Home Journal, where the wife is complaining about how she is overworked trying to raise the kids AND keep the house clean AND possibly hold down a job on top of it and the husband complains that whenever he tries to help he is rebuffed because he “wouldn’t do it right” and then his wife is exhausted and rejects all his other advances and instead of being a caretaker he just ends up being another thing to be cared for within his own home. “Let him do the dishes,” the counselor advises. “He might not load the dishwasher the way you would, but he is a grown man and fully capable of doing it. Let him help.” Respect him and his abilities—trust that he’s capable—let him take care of you for a change. Wives are called to submit to their husbands’ love because it is so hard to give up control of our fears and our doubts and our insecurities and our million things that we are thinking about it, to just let ourselves be loved.

And you are called to love him back. You’re submitting to him as the head of the body as the Church submits itself to Christ. Because Christ gave everything of himself, the Church is called to return it all to him; because God created and sustains everything we are and have, we are called to give all the glory back to him. Obviously the wife doesn’t get her glory from her husband, but in giving the gift of letting go and accepting the love he pours out for her she understands and accepts the love and glory of Christ, and loves both of them all the more. And the husband, in pouring himself out as Christ, sees in the return love of his wife the model of how he himself ought to love Christ, and in more fully loving Christ he is more fully able to give of himself.

Confronted with each other’s submission to the love of the other—the husband in pouring himself out, the wife in giving it back—and seeing in it the love between Christ and his Church, how can they not exclaim gloria in excelsis Deo?

and on earth, peace to people of good will.

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