Friday, June 19, 2015

Head Over Heels

Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: 
in the sense that almost certainly 
(in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) 
both partners might be found more suitable mates. 
But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to.

-J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunday, June 7, 2015


“…I wish I liked Catholics more.”
“They seem just like other people.”
“My dear Charles, that’s exactly what they’re not — particularly in this country, where they’re so few… everything they think important is different from other people. They try and hide it as much as they can, but it comes out all the time.”
-Sebastian Flyte, Brideshead Revisited

I used to be pretty sure that I was a confident person. But the confidence it takes to be different, publicly, where people can see...that's something I may just be beginning to learn now.

Mercy and Giving: Packed together, shaken down, and overflowing

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you."
-Luke 6:36-38

I'm a notorious bean-counter. When Dad would pass out M&M's, I would count to make sure that Hannah and I had the same number of reds, browns, greens and blues. But the measure with which I measure? I need to rethink my measurements.

The little baby duck that was born into our family just five weeks ago has been a first rate reminder and a precious little instructor in this lesson o'the day. I'm grateful. And tired of learning all the lessons. Good thing we have nap time two hours after we wake up.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Fragile! It must be Italian."

I've thought lately about how my new city and my new marriage have underlined for me how easily my heart is bruised, how delicate I really am.

Since I began thinking of such things, I have realized that I prefer to be exquisite instead of delicate. Feeling and sensitive, but not soft and not fragile and therefore safe from many bumps and bruises. In turn, this leads to independent and capable but also a bit guarded. In college, I honestly-but-secretly thought that my dream career may be that of a First Lady. Order and resilience, grace and poise, not ALL of the responsibility but plenty enough. And only delicate (read: messy) fragility when you're away from the people.

I practiced this without knowing it, I suppose. I began to carefully guard my hopes so that I would not unnecessarily expect things that may not come. I'm not sure that you can draw clear lines between hope and expectation, and so, to avoid the gray area, I slowly and unconsciously closed those borders. Hoping wasn't forbidden, but neither was the gate left open for substantial hopes to move freely and be visible in me. I didn't NEED to have all of the beautiful things and the ever-present friendships and a sweet, devoted man in my life, so I didn't think on these things. But they trickled into my life before I really understood how to place them.

Vulnerability like this is HARD.

I remember being on retreat with the Sisters of Life and hearing a holy Jesuit priest describe his reflex to draw in, armor up, and close off when hurt or disappointed or disillusioned.  The priest met a developmentally delayed man in his community who loved and loved and loved and did not lock himself in when he was let down. The priest saw a statue of Jesus exposing His Sacred Heart despite taunts and defilement and loneliness and injustice. The priest decided those two were similar - the simple man and His Jesus. And he wanted the strength to be like them.

I want that strength as well. But I also want a list. "How to be appropriately open." Very "," very Wikihow, check the box and ah one-two-three... 

But there is no list. 

It's complicated even more because I can't just:
1.  Go far far away from the people
2. Learn vulnerability
3. Perfect vulnerability
4. Cue the red velvet curtains to be drawn (also cue the horns) and 

It feels safe when everything goes the way I expect! It's fun to be me when all the right boxes are checked! But and however...not every day goes as expected, not every person treats me like I wish to be treated. Marriage and moving have forced me to give up more control than I ever have knowingly surrendered EVER. Stepping out before I'm really ready, when the curtains are still closed and the scene isn't perfectly cast in sepia-toned light is painful. I mourn the loss of the unfulfilled ta-DAAAA! moment. Tears and everything.

And still. Even in the midst of new friendships in a new city and budgets that leave no room for Anthro sales and miles between myself and my parents and disagreements and resolutions and communication and Confession and mercy...even with all's worth it. 

When I see my reflection in the proverbial mirror that my husband holds up for me, I think "Tala. Really. You don't want to be disappointed in everything and most everyone. Bitter doesn't work for you. Open it up a little, sister, and see what happens when you take the stage without a script." I have to consider the benefits inherent in the risk that I take when I make myself vulnerable. It is the most substantial challenge that I have ever willingly entered into. It's pure grace that I don't have to (and actually can't) go it alone. Each day of loving and trying and working and crying (also the name of my next hit on the country charts) has begun to turn my fears of transparency and unfulfilled hopes and "I'm a mess I'm not comfortable here" into an ounce of understanding of real strength and real love.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Think happy thoughts.

In a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy class at Vandy, I listened to the professors speak about how the thoughts in your mind and the feelings in your body changing your behaviors - sometimes in helpful ways, and other times in unhelpful ways.

I immediately flashed back to my childhood, when Hannah or I would sneak down the stairs from the third floor to the basement where Mom and Dad were talking or watching television, to tell them that we "just couldn't sleep." (Only one girl went at a time. We had an unspoken understanding that if both sisters were downstairs in pj's at the same time, Mom and Dad would know that something was up, and nobody would be able to enjoy any of it.) Sometimes it was true - the neighbor boys were playing basketball on the school playground and the metal nets clanged, or we were worried about something. Usually it was because we heard the tv show through the floors and were too curious to miss out. Or we smelled popcorn.

Whatever the reason for tiptoeing down the stairs, Mom and Dad never crumbled. They listened to the story of the night, responded appropriately, and as were were shooed upstairs, one or the other said, "Well, go lie in your bed and think happy thoughts."

What in the heck kind of good did that do for us?  No questions were answered. We didn't even get a snack. But that was the final word. NOBODY tried to argue the happy thoughts solution. We took it as a sentence, sighed deeply, and went back to bed.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Edith Stein tells it well

The soul of a woman is called to be expansive and open to all human beings; 
it must be quiet, so that no small weak flame will be extinguished by stormy winds; 
warm so as not to benumb fragile birds; 
clear, so that no vermin will settle in dark corners and recesses; 
self-contained, so that no invasions from without can imperil the inner life; 
empty of self, in order that extraneous life may have no room in it; 
mistress of itself and also of its body, so that the entire person is readily at the disposal of every call.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Peace within and infinite possibilities

“May today there be peace within.  May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.  May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.  May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.  May you be content knowing you are a child of God.  Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.  It is there for each and every one of us.” 
― Teresa of Ávila

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Unattended children

I have saved a version of this picture for decades that Pinterest has never known. Lovely.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

all i really wanted

"a few years back, as i was driving home from work, i had a silly thought that suddenly turned straight genius on me. i realized that all i really wanted was for my life to be beautiful. i wanted my home to be beautiful, i wanted my thoughts to be beautiful, i wanted my feelings to be beautiful. i wanted to create beauty in my life. if it was worth doing, i wanted it to be beautiful. life didn't seem beautiful at the time, but i wanted it to. it seemed silly and shallow, until suddenly it wasn't anymore. our god created for us an insanely beautiful world. why is that, i wondered? he created beauty around every corner. the earth, the animals, and music and art and science. all beautiful. and loving families, a passion for learning, and a sense that we can have an impact on what surrounds us--well, to me, that is beauty. and holy, for sure. so i stopped considering that desire shallow. i started to think of it as a way of honoring god, who is the one who created beauty to begin with, after all. "  -natalie holbrook

Saturday, January 19, 2013

My family: A life less ordinary

We had family meetings, and listened to records, where I learned to love Sam Cooke, "Red, Red Wine," and "I danced with a dolly with a hole in her stockin' and her knees kept a'knockin' and her toes kept a'rockin...we danced by the light of the moon." We danced in the living room.

We had talks. Happy, sad, mad, and glad, we talked. (Except that time that Dad wouldn't get through the "Why Did Grandpa Have to Die?" book without crying. So I hid it. Sometimes, a girl's gotta take matters into her own pudgy hands.)

We had bedtime. After prayers and goodnights, we would sometimes sneak little lights on and blankets over our heads so that we could read until our eyes felt sandy.  I can also remember holding the blanket over my head like a babushka so that no one would remember that I had braids in my hair and ask me to take them out for more comfortable sleep. I just thought they were so beautiful.