the middle

April 22, 2010

now that we know we will be staying put in chicago for another year, i’ve impishly started a very mild form of job searching. i say ‘impish’ because, as i’m sure many can attest, it is hard to look for a job when you have one. emerging into the job market after seven months out of it, i find that i’m still not really qualified for anything too interesting except for jobs like the one that i have.

my determination on this front was dulled even more by yesterday’s “administrative professionals day” during which i was given the most expensive meal of my life, a bottle of wine, gift cards, chocolate. oh, and a 10% raise. geez.

mark says that this is just the corporate way of keeping people stuck in their apathy – they stuff you full of perks until you’re too fat to move. and i have to agree. i’m having trouble moving. as much as i squirm about the mediocrity of my employment, it all of a sudden seems rather scary to think about jumping ship — err, jumping to a new ship.

i have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to “find a balance” in things. i feel like i’m always saying/hearing it said – “you need to strike a balance”. i feel like it is the driving thesis behind most conversations i participate in. but i developed a distaste for the phrase at some point yesterday and it grew and grew.

this all came to a head at the prayer series at St. Clement’s last night while listening to two old women banter about the experience of the fear of God in prayer. “it’s fear of the goodness of God” said the one. “its the fear of the terror of God” said the other – back and forth for a good long while with neither one crossing camps to agree with the other. each seemed incapable of really grasping the conception of the other and the sweet priest tried his best to smooth things over with a sweep of the hand “it’s both, it’s neither, it just is”.

i’m realizing that balance doesn’t need to mean lukewarm nuetrality or the slow stripping off of the outer layers of extremity. rather, balance should be an embrace of both ends, of the vibrant risings and the desperate plummets of life, right? God is good and God is terrifying and we don’t need to choose between the two. nuetralizing existence for the sake of agreement or argument doesn’t make sense.

i guess this also situates the experience of lent and easter- profound pentitence and profound joy mingling with one another in preparation for the coming of Christ. faith shouldn’t be just peaceful, shiny ecstasy or shameful guilt. i think i let myself swing from one extreme to the other briefly in my movement between churches. i need to learn to better embrace both rather than emptying or cheating myself out of the brightness of the great variety the Lord has given us.

Lord, let my faith grow along with my doubt.



April 19, 2010

well i am sore in all sorts of weird places today after a weekend full of gardening. i didn’t even know that i had muscles in my armpits but now i am well aware. i also acquired a new appreciation for grave diggers. so those are two little gems of knowledge gleamed from the weekend: armpit anatomy and digger appreciation. priceless.

at any rate, there was some serious progress made. mark and i took part in turning a 15 foot high pile of dirt (which was right on top of our plot – not as helpful as you might think) into smoothed out plots and a path. we even mustered the energy to build a raised bed, crooked and new looking but from our own handiwork which is something to be proud of. mark worked like a little maniac and (mostly) graciously absorbed my repeated misgivings about our bed boundaries and relation to the ground like a good husband. so now we have a little piece of land all ready to receive seedlings, something that we hope will happen within the week. i osiclate between complete joy in this undertaking and total self-consciousness and doubt. i worry i am a regular jean de florette.

but that is ok i guess.

today happens to be the feast day of my patron saint, Julie Billiart.

and i just love this woman.

her ‘catchphrase’, if you will, was “how good is the good God”* and she adored sunflowers for their gentle determination to turn their faces up toward the sun, their source of life. that basically sums up her life: one of simple and straightforward faith in and love for God, all wrapped up in devoted thanksgiving. she never overly worried herself about circumstances, which really says a lot considering the sorts of circumstances she had to deal with.

she entered the world in amiens, france in 1751 and lived a devoted and prayerful existence. when she was 22 she became paralyzed but continued to participate in the life of the church in any way possible – prayer, sewing altar linens, teaching young catechumen who would gather around her bed, etc. then the french revolution happened and all hell broke loose – julie, who had become well known for her faith and aid to local priests (and still paralyzed, mind you, and nearly speechless) had to flee from angry mobs five times in three years, being smuggled from town to town by devoted friends.

all sorts of other things happened in the midst of this craziness and julie decided to found an order of nuns. she was healed of her paralysis after 22 years and this enabled her to move about founding more and more convents. she was eventually ostracized and abandoned by close friends and forced to relocate her convent to namur, belgium where she died at age 64.

and yet in the midst of all this, she never forgot about the goodness of God. it blows my mind. i forget about that goodness about a million times a day as i trot through my life, working limbs and all, well loved by family and friends.

her order (the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur) are still alive and kicking, most notably in the form of the dear Sister Barbara at St. Greg’s. i have visited their convent, the interior of which is decorated with all sorts of sunflowers and inhabited by sweet old women.

while there, i was given the Prayer of St. Julie which i try (keyword: try) to pray everyday, both because it is incredibly beautiful and because it epitomizes what i want my life to look like:

“God, how good you are.
I believe that you love me unconditionally.
I belive that you call me to live the Paschal Mystery in every aspect of my life; in the daily dyings and risings that link me to your Son, Jesus, and to His mission.
I pray that your Holy Spirit will help me to grow in the spirituality of St. Julie, a spirituality of:
total trust in You
joy and inner freedom
steady courage in difficulties
inner and outer simplicity
faithful love
an abiding concern for the poor
and generous service.
May all my actions be grounded in prayer so that I may imitate Mary, model of discipleship.
I pray this for myself and for the Associates, and for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur throughout the world.
I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen”

 amen, amen.

*in french: “qu’il est bon, le bon Dieu”, thus the name of this here blog