It is peak color where I live. Every year at this time, I go crazy with my DSLR. Today seems like a good time to share the beauty that is God’s creation–the glimpse of God’s goodness and beauty and creativity that comes as the world is preparing to settle into its long winter rest. How can we see such glory and not feel, in our bones, the responsibility that comes with being the crowning of creation?
(Note: as I noted late last week, I am celebrating my 20th anniversary this week with a trip with my husband. As you can imagine, a work-at-home mother of 4 trying to pull off an anniversary trip means a LOT of logistical planning, so this week I’m sharing, with minor edits, a post originally published on my personal blog in 2009. To understand it, you need to know that my daughter Julianna has Down syndrome. At the time this was written, she was a toddler. This is one of my all-time favorite spiritual lessons learned from my children.)
It happened for the first time over the Fourth of July weekend. We were staying with my in-laws, and Julianna’s cousins sat on the floor with her and played “Pat-a-Cake.” They showed her the motions and chanted the little ditty in unison, and about the time they reached “put it in the oven for…” Julianna would erupt in a long, loud yell and clap her hands, showing every one of her teeth. The girls did the rhyme over and over, and Julianna never let them down. Every single time, she overlapped the last line with a shout of joy. (I can’t call it a squeal, because that word connotes something much higher-pitched, and Julianna’s is a dusky alto voice.)
In the last six weeks, that fresh, unsophisticated reaction has become one of our favorite things about life with our daughter. It makes us laugh, but not for the reason you think. Yes, it’s funny and cute, but there’s a pure, unadulterated joy in that reaction that never fails to evoke a sympathetic resonance in our own souls. All children find joy in simple things, but it’s more pronounced in Julianna, because of the unevenness of her development. Her body’s skill level is, oh, let’s call it fourteen months; her speech is even farther behind than that—but her emotional level, her understanding, is much closer to her true age of 2 ½. So the things she reacts to are far ahead of her ability to express.
We had pizza one night, and she yelled and clapped to show how excited she was. My husband caught on quickly. He began to encourage her, saying, “Yay for the pizza!” Julianna learned her cue so well that her daddy progressed to “Yay for the ice cream!”
She’s unbearably cute about it. She grins so hard, her eyes squint; she yells, claps her hands, and looks around to make sure everybody is taking as much pleasure in the moment as they ought to be.
One morning last week, as I was out running and soaking in the wonder of a beautiful sunrise, I found myself smiling and saying, “Yay, God!” And it hit me: this is the meaning of praise. The psalms are full of “praise God!” Somewhere along the line I remember learning that prayer should be first praise, then thanks, and only after that petition. I have always been confused by the difference between praise and thanks. Aren’t they one and the same? What words do you use to praise God? Eventually I came to the conclusion that “praise” is one of those “effective” words—a word that has no meaning except its own utterance—a word that accomplishes its meaning simply by the act of being spoken, like “I baptize you” or “I forgive you.”
But Julianna has taught me a deeper truth: that praise is not about words at all. It’s about opening yourself up to the moment, delighting in what you experience, and allowing the knowledge of the One Who made it possible to intensify the joy.
Sometimes it feels like railing against consumerism has become downright cliché. But things become cliché for a reason. Here’s another cliché: when we spend hours picking out a host of presents for a kid, spend a ton of money on it, and what they find most interesting is the box. We all recognize the truth of that one! It’s happened to all of us, right?–your kids are given gifts and they’re like, “Yeah, whatever, what’s next?” As a parent, it makes you writhe with shame. Too bad we aren’t so aware when we do that ourselves….
#joy #evangeliigaudium #intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #catholic
This is the first of two hard-hitting quotes that should cause us to examine our consciences and our biases. It’s easy to make fun of “tree huggers,” isn’t it? To view concerns about environment as secondary (at best) or pagan (at worst). Tune in tomorrow for the second half.
#intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #theologyofthebody #creation #environmentalstewardship #steward #green #greenliving #gogreen #climatechange #laudatosi #laudatosii #catholic #socialjustice
In my “other” life, part of what I do is writing and composing for the Church. Recently I found out that my newest song from WLP, “Show Us Your Face,” was named as a finalist in the Association of Catholic Publishers’ “Excellence in Publishing” awards for 2019. You can hear it on the “listen” tab at this link.
Two other songs are in the running, both of them fierce competition:
I grew up on a farm. I had tree houses (yes, plural). I took walks in the woods, imagined forts in the corn field, sat on a low roof to watch sunsets, read and wrote stories and journal entries sitting on the front porch, played badminton on still summer evenings with my sisters. At night, I fell asleep with my head pressed up against the screen, talking to God and looking at the Big Dipper and the North Star.
My mother tells me I didn’t spend nearly as much time outside as I think I did, but nonetheless, nature is the shape of my childhood.
As an adult, I realize how deeply my concept of God is connected with nature. Nature calmed my fussy babies. Nature soothes my troubled spirit. Nature is where I go to rest–to escape overstimulation and “be still.” It is where I do my best writing, and walking in nature is the quickest way to figure out the solution to whatever obstacle is blocking me–whether that’s a lyric, a plot point, a character motivation, or a real-life relational problem.
I’m not the only person who experiences this, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I think we are more ourselves in nature, because we’re closer to God there.
So the widespread resistance to the idea of environmental stewardship displayed by some Christians is baffling to me. How can anyone view the upswing in catastrophic wildfires, floods, droughts, and storms in recent years and still argue that climate change is a hoax?
I came to understand what it means to be a “steward of creation” when we were suffering from infertility, and a water filter helped us get pregnant…because it filtered out the atrazine, diazinon, and alachlor in the water supply that had been preventing us. It made it clear to me that indeed, human behavior can and does impact creation.
Since then I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I, and my family, can live more sustainably. We do pretty well, but I never get complacent. I know there’s always more I could do. Like everyone else, we struggle with convenience (which virtually always involves more consumption. Can you say “water bottles”?). But simply being aware of our habits, we have found, has made a huge difference. It has allowed us to be more intentional about this part of our faith–the part about being stewards, rather than consumers, of creation. We have a responsibility to protect this precious, beautiful gift that God has given us–this gift that displays His power and majesty, this gift that is a little slice of what Heaven must feel like.
I still have some quotes from the US Bishops on racism’s continued power in the modern world, but with spring finally arriving, after an endless winter, it seems like a good time to place the focus for a while “On care for our common home.”