A Secular Sacrament

asecularsacramentI have been in a huge cooking rut lately. I am tired of everything that I know how to make, and my Pinterest recipe explorations have sometimes been met with sighs and groans from the family. When I first started working at a library several years ago I was a little shocked that cookbooks were some of the most popular items that we loaned out. That was pre-husband and pre-kids. It turns out that these people have to eat every day.

So food has been on my mind of late. I listened to Father Leo Patalinghug on the Journey Home podcast a few days ago as I was shamefully making a McDonald’s run. He painted this idyllic image of a family carefully cooking and eating together with gentle gratitude for the food being served. My family does eat together every day, but often it’s hurried and fractured by infant screams.

I’m so intrigued by the French way of eating. The careful attention to the food and a table hung with linen and fine dishes and cutlery. Apparently people eat like that over there. I’ve read multiple books about French culinary culture over the years. The entire idea of two-hour lunches with multiple courses strikes me as exhausting, but I would like to introduce some new meals and vegetables into our rotation.

frenchThis book came home with me during my latest library trip. I am hoping to get some pointers about how to get my two year old to eat new foods. It’s turning into quite a fascinating read actually, because on top of the various food rules the author (Canadian) talks about her year in France with her French husband and two picky eaters.

There is one scene in which the author is playfully arguing with some French friends about the merits of France’s food culture. As an explanation one of the friends tossed out that the country’s traditions springs from religion, “Catholic countries have always been more interested in food. French gastronomie is like a secular communion, like a sacrament or a ceremony.”

This strikes me as true and important. Also intriguing. I think about the way Oliver and I are divided over the issue of religion, and I may never share any sacrament with him other than our daily meals taken together. That alone is good reason to take a lot more care about what we eat together as a family. I don’t know whether or not Jesus was a great cook, but he certainly seemed to enjoy eating!

Feeling inspired, I just placed a few cookbooks on hold at the library to hopefully get some new recipes and ideas! A library book and a copy machine is a powerful thing.

Grace in Pink Blossoms

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This year after a tremendous amount of rainfall, the Texas landscape has managed to remain green all the way into the month of July. And not just green, either. Pink and yellow and fiery orange. Around every corner I spot crepe myrtles absolutely brimming with blossoms.

I call to mind the winds and rains, torrential flooding. Wet, black soil full of nutrients and kisses of sunshine, meetings with earthworms in the dark. The tree accepted all that it was given and burst forth into exuberant, abundant blossoms as if to proclaim the glory of God. It produces its flowers in a single specialized color and style. Even if it could elude its own nature and squeeze out flowers of a different color by sheer force of will and gargantuan effort, nothing would be more beautiful than those which it was created to effortlessly produce.

I keep trying to think of my life in terms of crepe myrtle. What’s my pink blossom? When I receive all as if straight from the hand of the Father, how to I proclaim his glory and my joy? What should be my focus?

In true melancholic fashion, I have been considering this question for over a month and I don’t have a solid answer. I am possibly overthinking the question, also in true melancholic fashion.

”Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” – St. Catherine of Siena

In Defense of Atticus

IMG_4815I started this week with the goal to finally get some career-focused reading done as well as some items checked off the old to-do list. Then this happened and clearly my priorities shifted. This is the first book I’ve bought on its release date since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Here are my first thoughts about it, originally posted on Goodreads.

Contains Spoilers.

This was a difficult read. Not much happened externally. The characters weren’t charming and lovable. 

Scout discovers that Atticus is part of a local Citizen’s Council trying to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision to desegregate schools. The revelation that her father, whom she’d always looked up to for his kindness and decency to all people, is a “nigger hater” stirs up tremendous internal turmoil.

I was very uncomfortable as I read the book until I realized that I had always idolized Atticus just like Scout did. When I read TKAM he was an incorruptible icon of justice, patient and kind. I always expected him to have more modern sensibilities, but truly he is a child of his time. It wasn’t uncommon for people to have a paternalistic view towards African Americans in the 1950s. I would say that he still stands for justice, but he has a different opinion on how to preserve the common good. An opinion which had absolutely nothing to do with hatred. We can agree to disagree.

I loved seeing his patience as Scout “tried to tear him to pieces, to wreck him, to obliterate him.” He absolutely loves her, and that is true. He showed agape love for her the way that God loves us even as we rail and fight against him.

I liked Scout’s defense of black people:
“I know it’s got to be slow, Atticus, I know that full well. But I know it’s got to be….A real good snub, Atticus, makes you feel like you’re too nasty to associate with people. How they’re as good as they are now is a mystery to me, after a hundred years of systematic denial that they’re human. I wonder what kind of miracle we could work with a week’s decency.” p. 252

I have gone through a situation where I have idolized someone and suffered (but not to the extent that Scout did) when they made a mistake like any human would. That part rang true.

I thought the book expressed some important truths, but it wasn’t a beautiful read. I’m not sure I will read it again.

Did you read it? Thoughts?

Daily Rosary Hack

rosaryhackLinking up with Blessed is She today!

Disclaimer: this is such a little thing that it hardly warrants an entire blog post, but it has made a difference for me and might perhaps be helpful for someone else as well.

My devotion to praying the rosary daily started out as a Lenten cop-out.

For Lent I gave up listening to the radio in my car so that I could increase the amount of silence in my day. As Lent wore on, the sacrifice got more and more tiresome. I already listen mainly to Guadalupe Radio, and I was missing some of my favorite faith-building shows and podcasts. Enter the tweak.

My little compromise was this: I can only listen to the radio after praying the rosary.

This practice has been so fruitful and beautiful that it actually outlasted Lent! Praying while driving has always been good for me because I have a hard time sitting still and listening when I’m in my house. While driving my brain is still and focused, and perhaps more importantly my kids are strapped down. Ahem. Buckled up.

Admittedly some days I am more focused than others. I think that’s just how it goes, always.

So this is how it works for me. I grab hold of my rosary as I back out my driveway, and hold it in one hand while I drive with the other. When I get to my destination, I mark my place with a bobby pin. When I get back in the car, I finish praying.

Another help: the Rosary Army podcast. Before my conversion I received my first rosary from them for free and downloaded the podcast which consists of a man and woman praying the rosary. It’s a great help for those occasions when you aren’t able to count the beads yourself, or if you’re a newb and don’t know the prayers by heart!

One more: I sometimes find myself wanting to pray the rosary while I am cooking or cutting vegetables and it’s difficult to hold a rosary in hand. Those times I count out 10 beans and just move them back and forth from one pile to another on the counter to keep count.

A Happy Medium (Finally)

I find that when you convert to Christianity after a lifetime of “other”, it takes awhile to settle into your new identity as “me, only Christian”. That’s how it happened for me. In the beginning I over-corrected my lifestyle by rebelling in the opposite direction. I covered my head. I wore skirts only. I did not cut my hair. I stopped most of my endless crafting that I used to fill the aching void which longs for God and actually searched for, you know…God. These little things lasted for a while as I tried to discover the authentic, Christian version of me. It was like a pendulum pulled far to the left and let go. First it swings far right and then ultimately settle in a resting spot right in the middle.

I think that’s where I am now. Really.

I’m in the process of figuring out which pursuits brought me true joy and which pursuits I used as a diversion to fill up time. Will I suddenly start spinning wool again? Doubtful. Banjo? Perhaps reserved as a party trick.

My basics seem to be reading and writing, mostly. Plus the occasional sewing project, crochet, painting and photography.

postcrossingI’ve always, always had an interest in international correspondence.

I have re-activated my Postcrossing account. I last received a postcard on October 17, 2011. I was in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) and in the process of buying a house. I had bigger fish to fry. But now I’m after the international minnows. Uh, postcards.

Last weekend Oliver and I used a gift card to purchase a color printer/copier/scanner and I now have the capability to scan postcards and watercolor drawings!

Yesterday I put three into the mailbox now headed for Russia (Dumbledore), the Netherlands (mariachis) and the UK (butterfly)!

Anyway, I think Postcrossing fits in with my Hello goal for the year.

postcard collage