Posts tagged intentional living
Everything That Loves and is Loved and is Love

I lathered the shampoo gently through his full head of hair, patient with the knowledge that he would whine and pull away. It had taken him an entire hour to warm up to the water at the pool, but I didn't have another one to wait during bathtime. He jerked his still-baby-round head in protest and I chided him softly. Scooped some water up and let it trickle down his fat white back as a peace offering. We grinned.

My knees were starting to ache against the tile floor when our eyes locked, his lashes like butterfly wings delicate on his face. He saw something—pulled in closer. "Daddy right der!" he whispered, pointing at my iris. "Dat daddy right der!"

My own reflection danced in the dark of his pupils; he saw himself in mine.

A chubby finger touched the rim of my eye. "I see daddy der!"

He never stopped whispering, like the discovery was too great a secret to reveal. Had he shouted, perhaps it wouldn't have felt so supernatural; as it was, there was something that pulsed in the air every time his feathered voice broke through.

Everything he knows of love, he knows in community—a trinity of father, mother, son in which one is constantly being found in the other. From this centrality emerges every other expression of love he encounters: siblings, friends, grandparents, parish, community. It all shoots out from the love that exists between the three of us, because love is not stagnant. It must always be going and coming, from and to something.

The doctrine of the Trinity is a complicated one, and other religions rightly find it befuddling. One God in three Persons? Sounds like a man-made idea scrambled to account for the teachings of a masterful prophet who said some incredibly confusing things. Even Christians struggle to understand, let alone explain, such a mystical reality.

But Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, atheist all witness to the reciprocity of love, that it will not and inherently cannot be contained. For love to exist, it must be going from one being toward another; it is an intrinsically communal experience (yes, even when it goes unreciprocated). The language that the Christian tradition has given us for this reality is the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit —wholly uncreated, and together at the beginning of time. "Let us make humankind in our image," the Godhead says in Genesis 1. We claim to know what it means, but we swim in mystery.

"The energy in the universe is not in the planets, or in the protons or neutrons," Fr. Richard Rohr writes in explanation of Trinitarian love, "but in the relationship between them." The universe itself is relationship, is community. Is it really so far-fetched to say that love makes the world go 'round? Perhaps it's quite literal. We are invited to move our thinking past an infantile imagination of three white men up in heaven; the Trinity is in the relationship between protons and neutrons, in everything that loves and is loved and is love (which is to say, everything).

Love, and even being, only exist in community. No man is an island, as they say, but neither is God, for God is in relationship with God's own self — must be, if it is true that "God is love". And we? We are the fruit of that love relationship: we are the reflection that we see in God's eye.

photo source

The Road to Golgotha

We walk to Good Friday the only way we know how: one foot in front of the other, unsure of what we are meant to be feeling, uncomfortable with sadness and grief, untaught in the ways of lament. We are both creators and products of this culture we live out our days in; one that silences the suffering, not out of malice but discomfort. Scripture says that God "sustains the weary with a word," but the imago Dei in me can't seem to remember how.

Ancient societies had elaborate traditions for mourning, but my grandfather is dying and all I know to do is text him pictures of my kids. I want the world to stop; I want my family to walk away from our jobs and our schools and our lives and set up vigil around that old farmhouse for weeks until he drifts into eternal rest. But we haven't set our world up for that. We expect the bereaved to stay on the treadmill. You told him goodbye two weeks ago, after all. What more could you hope for than that? No one says it. No one except society and my own heart.

I peer into the tomorrow of Good Friday tentatively, sure that when the hour of our Lord strikes at 3:00 I will miss it; too busy slathering peanut butter onto apple slices or pulling a bedraggled toddler from his crib. I have only ever observed the day as a mother of young children, and I find myself fantasizing about how holy it will be when they're grown and gone and I have the whole day for silence and fasting and prayer. And then I berate myself because this right here is holy, and when that day comes in the future I know I will cry tears of memory, thinking on how loud and messy and hard and precious Good Friday used to be.

I feebly offer my children what I know of the Triduum; I piece together a liturgy of life that I only hope will anchor them to something eternal as they grow and change. Tonight we will wash each other's feet in mass, and I will cry freely in front of God and men the whole time. We won't receive communion at mass on Friday- we'll kiss the feet of Jesus on the crucifix instead- and maybe the awe-full/awful truth of this holy day will seep into their bones, ready to be unearthed and dusted off in twenty years when their faith feels rootless. Saturday will be still (but they are small boys so it won't be still at all) until the Easter Vigil, when the fire will reflect in their eyes and their tiny hands will grip candles determinedly as the litany of saints dead but alive rolls over their ears.

Good Friday will not feel powerful and sacred; I've been a mother long enough to feel sure about that. But I will walk my children down the road to Golgotha anyway, praying that the liturgy of death and resurrection will be locked somewhere deep within that I can't see, there for the taking when they need it; there for the taking when they are 87 years old and dying, receiving texted photographs of their great-grandchildren to make them smile.

Winter Reading List
Is there really any season more conducive to reading than winter? Even summer, with all it's free time and "best beach read" lists, fails to match it. (Aside: Why is every book you lay hands on in the warm months a "beach read? What kind of hours is everyone else clocking in the sand? How do I get in on that? So many questions.)

gratuitous baby pic

As I continue to narrow my focus on this blog to be "real writing"-centric, I'm going to transition these seasonal reading lists to my newsletter instead. So this will be the last installment you'll see here, but if you don't want to miss my book recs be sure to sign up for the newsletter- an email that comes every 1-2 months with original content not found on the blog.

(Click the image to view the book's description in Amazon. Links are affiliates.)

Just Finished Reading

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

This is a fascinating book about the effects of trauma (childhood and adulthood) on the brain and human person. It's heavy, often deeply sorrowful, and scientific- not the typical description of books I usually read or recommend- but is an important work for anyone affected by trauma, whether directly or indirectly. I would even say it's a helpful book for those who don't identify with trauma, as it births understanding and compassion for others whose choices and behavior might baffle you. Great book.

Psalms of a Laywoman

This book of poetry was loaned to me by my spiritual director and oh man, I fell for it and I fell hard. Gateley has a way with words that is powerful yet accessible. I like poetry but often forget to seek it out, so reading this watered my soul. I took this book into labor with me because one piece impacted me so deeply I had Eric read it aloud during contractions. Quite a recommendation, isn't it? ;)

Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth

I wanted to love this one, but it fell flat for me. Granted, I was already very familiar with the Enneagram (if you're not, you can learn about it here!) so it might be the perfect book for someone who is still new to the personality indicator. I was hoping it would delve more into what practical spiritual disciplines/spirituality might look like for each type, and I didn't get much out of it.

Currently Reading

Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life

My dad gave me this one thinking it would resonate after the disappointment of last summer's plan change. I've only just begun it but so far so good!

The Soul Tells A Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life

My friend and podcast co-host surprised me with this gem in the mail one day, and I don't think I've ever read anything like it. As I've tried to grow in taking writing more seriously I've read some good books on the craft, but this is really a lovely observation and guidance on the interconnectedness between creativity and spirituality. I would (and already have) recommend it to other writers.

When We Were Eve: Uncovering the Woman God Created 
You to Be

I had the honor of contributing a short personal essay for the end of one chapter in Colleen's book, and was thrilled when she sent me a bright, beautiful published copy a few weeks ago. I'm a huge fan of Colleen, both as a person and as a writer, and this puppy has been a frequent companion during nursing sessions lately. Her vulnerability and fearlessness is my favorite thing about her writing.

Will Be Reading

Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, and Consciousness

Does this put me squarely in the "fringe Catholic" club? If so, I'm happy to be there. My husband introduced me to Ilia Delio and I'm a total fangirl now. She's a scientist and a Franciscan nun, so her view of the world is absolutely fascinating and enlightening. I rarely reach for super heady works, but reading this book has evoked so much joy and hope within me. (for you non-Catholics: the "catholocity" in the subtitle is used in the "little c" way, meaning universal, so don't assume it's not for you!)

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit

One of the women I respect most in the world mailed me this the other day, saying she felt it had a message that parents of young children dearly need. My curiosity is raging from that recommendation because it is clearly not a parenting book. I am forcing myself to finish the other books I've started before I dig in. (Trying to start reading one book at a time! Trying.)

Kids Are Reading 

Because of Winn Dixie

Alyosha, age 7 at the time of reading, really enjoyed this book. Moses, age almost 4 at the time, sat in on a lot of our bedtime sessions and happily listened as well, though I don't know how much he was able to follow the plotline. I loved it because it was thoughtful and addressed some very real family themes while not being a total downer or too heavy. The ending was beautiful, and it was my favorite read-aloud we're shared in quite awhile.

Eric's Reading

The Holy Thursday Revolution

The hubs is gobbling up books at his usual rate, but this particular one stuck out to me to share with you. The premise is that domination has subtly but thoroughly infiltrated Christianity, a huge departure from its roots of humility and servanthood, and the need for us to reverse that. Eric is loving and recommending it, and it sounds like yet another one I need to steal from his bedside table.


Your turn! Share with us what you're reading and recommending, either in the comments here or on Instagram and Facebook! And read other book recs at Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit linkup!