Divorce, Dreams, Genesis, Midway, The Inner Landscape

Call Me Israel

Jacob Wrestling

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.

Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”

So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”

Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”

 (Genesis 32:24-28, part of a reading for Pentecost 21C)

It must have been quite a night. Jacob sent his family across the river ahead of him: his wives, his children, his servants, his livestock, all his property as a highly mobile desert patriarch. Was he looking for peace and quiet, or did he anticipate a struggle, or an opportunity?

In the middle of the night, at mid-life or really past it as I edge toward 50, I am struggling with God in the night and trying to call it an opportunity. How am I a different person than I was ten years ago? Or than I was at 24, the age of my oldest child, the age I became his mother? (A terrifying thought! Who ever rated me ready to care for an infant when I was so young myself?)

We’re shifting at home, readjusting our view of what life had been, trying to see what the future will be and bring. I have a new call, and a very sick dog, and my marriage is over.

I am striving with God and humans.

I wake in the night, and I wonder what’s next? And I look back at this year and I think I can never call it the worst year ever, no matter what, because my second son flew out of a car and lived, because all three of my children are wonderful, because I found out who really cares about me, and because two people who cannot live together anymore are doing their best to be merciful about it while caring for a beloved pet who is likely nearing his end.

But like Jacob, I am out of joint, and I may walk with a limp. So call me Israel.

Love, Marriage, Weddings

Things Go Awry

UnionChurch_wedding  (My last act as Interim Associate Pastor at Y1P is to officiate at a wedding, off-campus, this afternoon. I must admit that I usually lean heavily on old homilies…but this time I wrote something from scratch.)

Things go awry.

You can almost rely on it. Life is going along smoothly, as
beautiful as this gorgeous day, this lovely bride, this kind-hearted groom.
That’s what we want for you, the smooth ride, the good weather, the supportive
friends, the expansive blessings of providence showered upon you.

But the vows you will make to one another are for other

They are moments away, these holy and heavy words that will
bind you, making two people into one marriage.

The apostle Paul wrote to young communities of faith, not to
young couples, but he expressed himself in ways that we bring to weddings
because the words are not romantic but holistic. They prepare us for the times
when things are less fabulous, more earthly, not-so-divine and fully human.

River We read the words from scripture and exchange the historic
vows knowing that we are not alone in finding commitment challenging, knowing
that like so many other people all we can do is the best we can do, knowing
that we are standing on the shore of the great, glad river of God’s Love, a
river we will need to visit to draw a cup of kindness, a bucket of compassion,
a pool full of forgiveness when the moment calls for it.

You’ll need them when things go awry, these thoughtfully
crafted and poetically expressed promises, more grittily summed up this way.
You promise to be there for each other not just through highs, but through
lows, not only when it’s easy, but when it’s hard. You promise to forgive each
other not just for locking the keys in the car or forgetting an anniversary,
but for being fallible and broken human beings who will surely make worse
mistakes and say the wrong things and turn out to be somewhat different from the
people you believe yourselves to be today.

Wedding-gift You will receive many gifts, beautiful things you will appreciate and for which you will write many thank you notes, no doubt! But the real treasures are the promises you give each other today, word gems
that give you a place to look for help and encouragement no matter what the
future brings. It’s my prayer that you will remember these things when you need
them, and be blessed by having said them to each other.

Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Chez Songbird, Photos

No Drama Sam’s Mama

Oatmeal Watch 001

After my meeting tonight I noticed two missed calls from home and one voice mail. I tried to listen to it while using my office phone to call home and ended up listening to LP’s voice saying two things at the same time.

She was upset.

Apparently, Sam went into her open backpack and ate one of her fingerless gloves. The second one he slobbered on and left on the floor. Meanwhile, Pure Luck is driving into the big Central Atlantic storm. At last report, he found Maryland drivers to be moving very slowly. I’m hoping by now he’s close to his destination.

I’m not sure what to do about Sam and his love for textiles. He’s going on 7, and his habits show no signs of abating.

On this busy day, I realized that for the past seven weeks I have had it easy on the home front. I appreciate how much Pure Luck does when he’s at home, that I don’t have to worry about the dog and have back-up to transport LP when she needs to go places or get back from them, company when I want it and a quiet, peaceable companion when I’m worn out.

There have been lots of times I’ve made myself totally miserable in his absence, and made things like Sam’s dietary indiscretions worse for myself and everyone else by Freaking.Right.Out.

But my resolution for 2010 is to make less of my own drama. So for tonight, I’ll be monitoring the dog, calmly. He seems fine, ate a cookie with gusto, and is certainly capable of, um, handling it. Let’s hope.


No Drama Sam’s Mama

Children, Grrrls, Highbrow Family Values, Living in This World, Love, Mothering, Sex, Sons

On Love and Sex

I think I’ve written about this before, in various ways, but in answering Kristin’s post referenced here earlier today, I used these words and want to blog them here:

Here’s what I want for [my children] (who are 23, 18 and 14 now). I want them to view themselves as whole people, loved body and soul by God. I want them to love themselves, body and soul, and to recognize how inextricable those two parts are. I want them to love another person, body and soul, and to regard that person’s wholeness to be as precious as their own. In talking to them, I’ve called it a Love Ethic where sex is concerned. Love yourself, love your partner, and remember that how you live is an expression of how you love God. It’s for them to work out when that happens, and I trust them to be true to their teaching.

To go further, this is not an idea about what is good for children to know but what I hope people can know about themselves, that they have value and a responsibility to attribute that value to others and to treat them with love and care in relationships, whatever names are attached to those relationships.

I avoid discussions of marriage for two reasons. First, I think it should be available to everyone as a civil right, and until it is, I’m irritated that I can have it and others can’t. We’re coming closer to having that right in Maine, but face a campaign this fall to overturn the new legislation extending the right to all.  Second, I don’t really want to get into a scripture throw-down with anyone about marriage, because I don’t have the patience for a discussion based on ancient rules and stories that devalued women and treated them as property. That is no basis for any arrangements in the 21st century, and people who use those texts to justify a point of view are beyond debating, in my experience.

My own experiences in the sexual realm are pretty limited for someone born in the 1960s. Very, in fact. I played by the good girl rules. I’ve had sex within marriage and sex outside it, and I’ve had it with love and without it, both inside and outside marriage, and all I can tell you is it’s better with love. But that love is not about romance or even necessarily a long-term commitment. It’s about a sense that your existence matters deeply to the other person and your coming together is holy because of it.

There’s lots of sex in lots of marriages that does not meet that definition.

So even though we don’t often associate it with sex, which we want to affiliate with the “eros” love, and it’s hard to sustain a marriage without that particular connection, I want to say that what really matters is agape. What really matters is being in the arms of a person whose love you trust to be unselfish, generally, and giving, mostly, and freely offered, as much as humanly possible. To get a higher score on those, grace helps, too.

Food and Drink

Summer Festival of Meat Loaf

Some of you have heard the story. Some years ago, while I prepared a menu for Christmas dinner for the extended family, I sought a secondary main course that might suit simpler tastes, particularly those of the youngest cousin, who must have been 7 or 8 at the time. I asked my husband what he might like, thinking I would hear “turkey,” because he’s not a fan of ham or of the prime rib planned for the rest of us.

But he said, “Meat loaf.”

And I said, “But this is supposed to be a festive meal!”

And he said, “I think meat loaf is very festive.”

I must admit that meat loaf did not form a staple in my cooking. I tried it when Pure Luck and I were dating, because it’s a favorite for him, but after the Event of the Suicidal Meat Loaf — a Martha Stewart recipe cooked on parchment paper on a baking rack, set aside to do whatever it is they do before you cut them, which somehow upended itself on the kitchen floor, after which he took me out to dinner — well, I lost my nerve.

Until he told me he believed in the festive nature of meat loaf, and I decided to try again.

Thus came into being the Festive Holiday Meat Loaf celebrated in various forms by our family over the past five or six years. (We’ve even made a turkey version for non-meat eaters.)

When I shared this tradition with St. Casserole, and she mentioned it to her husband, Mr. C, he misheard and thought she said something about the “Festival of Meat Loaf.” We try to celebrate it when I go to visit them, and there has been great hilarity at that festival, particularly the year the potatoes got locked in the oven overnight.

Today, with our non-meat eater out of town on a youth trip, I have prepared the Summer Festival of Meat Loaf, in honor of Pure Luck’s return. As is true of most of my recipes, there are eccentricities and variations in the preparation of the Meat Loaf, but it will always and forever be festive.

Below please find my recipe, adapted from various sources and strongly influenced by one’s intuitive cooking style:

Summer Festival of Meat Loaf

Ground beef, the 85% fat kind because a nice man at the meat counter once told me that was best, approximately 1.8 pounds because that’s how they sell it, and since the recipe calls for one and a half, adjustments are required.

Bread crumbs, 1.5 cups (I used the Progresso plain version)

Milk, 1.5 cups plus a smidge because it was the end of the carton

2 eggs, because the recipe in Betty Crocker called for 1 but this is more meat

1/2 a Vidalia Onion chopped small, but not exactly fine, Vidalia being the key to a SUMMER Festival of Meat Loaf

Salt, sage and dry mustard–rather indefinite amounts, poured into my hand first, less salt than Betty Crocker suggests, but more sage and mustard

Ground pepper–much less than called for because the pepper grinder doesn’t work very well

Worcestershire sauce–something like a Tablespoon, but really a little more

Garlic salt–a sprinkle, because I forgot I had real garlic and am just seeing it now

Mix all these things together by hand. I take my rings off, because it would not be festive to find them in the meat loaf later.

Remember that old Martha Stewart recipe that jumped off the ledge and consider the possibility of cooking this immense meat loaf on the roasting pan. Mold it into loaf shape and then remember why you used parchment paper. Get out a loaf pan and hope for the best.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1.5 hours.

We had cooked teeny tiny carrots with a little olive oil and slightly mashed red potatoes with butter, a teeny bit of salt and fresh ground pepper. Pure Luck likes his with ketchup, but I prefer a little barbecue sauce.



Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Cats, Rheumatoid Arthritis, The Great Outdoors, The Inner Landscape

Making Home

Sam and I participated in the Arthritis Walk yesterday (many thanks to those who donated!), walking the 3 mile course slower than some people but faster than others, but mostly, by ourselves. We stopped several times so that he might be petted and admired by strangers. We both admit that it’s been a while since we walked three miles all at once, so we paced ourselves. And even with that, Sam dragged behind me at the end.

WhiteVioletsWeb Later in the day, we went to 1PF to drop in at the Spring Sale. I picked up some white/purple violets. I love violets. We bought some purple violets at a plant sale at Light Princess’ Montessori School many years ago (8 or 9?), and they inhabit various corners and create interesting borders in our backyard, far from the places they began. I’m going to plant the white/purple ones in front and look forward to seeing where they will travel.

We’ve lived in this house for almost eleven years. I moved in with children ages 12, 7 and almost 3, along with two cats, ages 6 and almost 3, and we soon added another cat to the family. I think I was a little bit of a crazy cat lady at that point in my life. Unemployed, trying to go to seminary and take care of the kids, what made me think I could manage and maintain TWO pets, let alone three? But there was something about having my own house (possible because my parents had died) and my own life, and I had a determination to create something post-divorce.

I had a desire to make a home.

I didn’t think logically about what might define home. I moved through a process as befits an ENFP, reaching out around me and drawing in what felt right, what seemed needful.

At the time, that included cats. Later I drew in a man, and then two dogs. And as I’ve mentioned recently, the change from a house with three cats, two dogs, two teenage boys, a man, a woman and a young girl to the current cast of mother and daughter with one dog and two old lady cats, well, it’s fairly stunning.

Last night I murmured something about the house seeming unnecessarily large. Light Princess turned on me, “What do you mean?” Her reality does not include the possibility of other living arrangements.

This is home.

Last summer we did some rehab to our swing set in anticipation of young visitors, and after they left I noticed that our neighbors with younger children than mine have already taken theirs down in favor of a carpet of green grass. I’ve noted that their children are never in the yard anymore, while LP strains the swings to their ultimate height capacity almost every day after school. Really, a mother must look away when she turns herself practically upside down and pray she doesn’t get tall enough to have her head graze the ground.

We’ve grown up here, all of us, but it seems that is not quite over.

Pure Luck, far away for at least half this year, may be away for even more of it, as both his car and his laptop appear bound for the boneyard, and he pays cash for everything. We’ve been married almost seven years, and I’m starting to look ahead to the day when no children will be at home, and wondering where we will be and how we will live, but for now, this is home. And perhaps the next phase of growing up is learning not to be a baby about this long absence, to be grateful that he has work in this economy, and so do I.

Which brings me to kittens. You see, there were kittens at the Spring Sale. A church member has three kittens, almost 8 weeks old. They look alike, the three of them, black with a few white wisps, blue eyes from their Siamese grandmother, just precious little creatures. When you hold one in your hand, it bends around you, soft and flexible and full of curious energy.

I’ve said for a long time that when the current generation of old lady cats “retires” I would never have another cat. But apparently, I’m once again attracted to new, young, mewling life. And I think it’s because I feel better. I walked three miles yesterday with more energy than the dog. I’m on half the dose of anti-inflammatory drugs I used to take. I’m sleeping well. I’m happy about my work life. I’m enjoying my dog and my daughter. I’m writing poetry. I feel on the brink of exciting things.

And maybe that’s the lesson of the kitten. Changes are coming. New life is on the horizon. When it stops raining, I’ll plant the violets. If the sun comes out again, the lilacs will soon reach full bloom. When we find a break in the schedule, Pure Luck and I will find a way to see each other. At the other end of a long year, we’ll spend the winter together, making home.

Acts, Easter 6B, Marriage Equality

Can Anyone Withhold?

(Thinking about Easter 6)

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days. (Acts 10:44-48)

It’s still the Easter Season for a few more weeks, and at this time of year we get stories of the early church, from the Book of Acts, instead of a Hebrew Bible reading each Sunday. The Acts of the Apostles is sort of an adventure book about the early church, rather than a CNN-type documentary. It conflicts with accounts in the epistles, and we have no way of fact-checking it. But it brings us those famous and modestly well-known first Christians and gives us a sense of who stands behind our faith.

Peter had to come around to accepting ministry to the Gentiles. Despite what Jesus told the disciples about taking the gospel to the wider world, Peter feared the different and the “unclean” until a dream taught him to know better.

I live in a state where the legislature and the governor last week made marriage legal for any two people who love one another, reaching the conclusion that we cannot withhold civil rights from people who have received love just as others have. This gradual process, not quick enough for some and too fast at any speed for others, continues to unfold. We’ll have a challenge to the law, a collection of signatures on petitions, which may lead to a referendum with a campaign for and against the measure.

I wonder how it felt for Peter to baptize the Gentiles that day? Was he happy? Thrilled? Solemn? Simply busy making sure they were all included?

It’s selfish, but my first thought on the passage of the law was about myself. When, I wondered, will I have the chance to perform a marriage ceremony for couples who could not have had one before? I thought about couples I know, committed couples, couples whose commitments have been blessed by other pastors, but who could not attain the rights and privileges my husband and I got very easily when we decided to marry. I wondered if they would even care about having a church wedding, if there has already been a ceremony of blessing and commitment?

God, you see, already recognizes their relationships.

When I got married the first time, my Cousin Jack told us that the marriage license and the wedding ceremony in church didn’t really matter to each other. It’s merely a convenience that your pastor can sign the piece of paper and make it all legal.

This is one convenience I will be happy, thrilled and solemn to offer, when the time comes.