One Year Old Hands

Your formerly tiny, balled up hands are different now
Flatter, fatter, moveable, still soft on my cheeks
They explore every surface and texture you touch
Patting and wiggling all day long
Your baby paws dig into the dirt as we put plants in the ground,
Leaving lines of black under your fingernails.
Grasping at strawberries and cheese for your lunch,
Carefully placing them each into your wide-open mouth
With curled up corners and a giggle in the air.
They softly pat my chest as you nurse and find the biggest mole you can pinch
Eyes drifting off into sleep, or at least stillness and rest.
Much needed rest.
Your hands are bigger now, and they do big things
Like pull you up on the furniture as you cruise, lightning fast towards your friends
They learn gentleness to pet the dog, and high fives to greet.
You grasp my fingers when you walk, and stop if I let one go.
As Daddy pulls you in the wagon, you reach your hand out for mine
And we walk, hand in hand, tiny and true and trusting.
I love your tiny hands, willing to open and clap, to be kissed and to hold.
You have your daddy’s fingers.
They are the most natural thing I have ever held in my hands
Like they were always meant to be right there
All this time

-Gillian

Blessed Are Those

In prayer, we ask, plead with and talk to what we have never seen. And to all of us doubting, Jesus only answers: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29).

“How do you know that God answers prayers if you have never seen His face?” asked the man in old jeans and a tattered sweater standing in the food line at the homeless mission. “I mean, I go to church and I believe in God, but how do you know?”

Clammed up, nervous and inarticulate, the volunteer answered, but only to a barrage of other questions pertaining to faith and the presence of God.  I was glad I was just watching and listening. Thankfully, he was not asking me.

When I left, the first question stayed with me. I thought to myself: “I go to church and I believe in God, but, how do you know?”

I have always liked questions that can be answered. I love the dialogue, the process and, ultimately, the solution. It is exhilarating to discover, explore and solve questions.

The church-going man in his old jeans and tattered sweater shared something in common with me that night. We both loved questions that can be answered. Unfortunately for the both of us, I am not sure his question is one that can be.

In prayer, we ask, plead with and talk to what we have never seen. And to all of us doubting, Jesus only answers: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29).

That is not necessarily the kind of clear answer I love. But that is the problem all along. I too often love the answer to my question and forget to love the One who is the answer.

When I am struggling with something, I always turn to my wife and talk through it. Sometimes she responds with answers that I love, sometimes with ones I don’t like and other times with only a listening ear. Most of the time, it is not her answer that solves my problem, but her presence through my struggle.

And so it is with God. God, it may not be your face that I see, your hands that I feel or your voice that I hear. But by faith, I know your presence and I know you are near to me. Your answer to my prayers is your love for me. My answer to your nearness, your constant presence and your love – is my own.

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.

-Christian

This was originally published on Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology’s blog, Echoes from the Bell Tower on January 5, 2017

A Thanksgiving Story

It may not be naïve after all to believe there are times in human history where we remember we belong to each other. It seems to me that when we forget that truth we should make time in our lives to come back together again and give thanks.

I feel somewhere along the way we have forgotten we belong to each other. But then again I wonder if that has always been the case. I am not sure there was any period in human history where there was not war, hunger, or someone seeking to harm the other. It is naïve to believe there ever was a golden age of togetherness, respect, and love? Is it naïve to believe one could come?

In 2016, I made my first thanksgiving dinner. I bought a turkey and roasted it. I mashed up potatoes, made green beans, made cornbread, and bought the pumpkin pie. Most of the essentials were there with the exception of sweet potato casserole. But I wasn’t bold enough to make that quite yet.

With all of the food on the table we sat down to eat. Before we started all of us went around the table and said one thing we were grateful for from the past year. To me, it is not thanksgiving unless you practice giving thanks. Without that it simply becomes another meal at the table – albeit a nice one.

Making the meal took a lot of work. One has to prep the turkey, season the turkey, pray and hope the turkey doesn’t burn or taste terrible once it is done cooking. One has to cook the potatoes, the green beans, the cornbread, and kill a few sticks of butter in the process. It is one big dance that needs to come together at just the right moment so nothing is left sitting too long to get cold. I cook often so even though I know my way around a kitchen this was still a formidable challenge.

However, even though cooking the food is a lot of work, Thanksgiving is not necessarily about eating the food one cooks. It is a holiday of being thankful we have the food to cook and people around us to share it with. At its core, Thanksgiving is a holiday to remember that we belong to each other. The Thanksgiving story of the pilgrims and the Native Americans gathering around a table to share their harvest reminds us of that truth.

I personally love stories. I love nestling up to my son and reading him the classics: Winne the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Charlotte’s Web. I love their interesting plots and the meaningful lesson at the end. Jesus loved stories too, I think. He told them often and they always had a meaningful lesson – even if those listening did not always understand.

The course of human history is certainly a story and our lives are one small chapter or maybe just a few lines. Intertwined in our story, undoubtedly, are the holidays we come together and celebrate. I wonder if I opened that book to look back and see that a couple times a year groups of people came together from all over to share a meal, tell stories, laugh, and give thanks – if I might see that as a moment in time when the world remembered it belonged to each other.

It may not be naïve after all to believe there are times in human history where we remember we belong to each other. It seems to me that when we forget that truth we should make time in our lives to come back together again and give thanks. The story of human history is filled with chapters of war, hunger, and despair. Those are chapters we should read and continue to work toward resolving. That work never ends and because of that our coming together should never end.

So grab a seat at the table, place your napkin, and pick up a fork. I am grateful for you and most grateful for those times I remember we belong to each other.

-Christian

This was originally published on Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology’s blog, Echoes from the Bell Tower on November 23, 2016

7-3-16, Nursing my Baby

Today I nursed
In bed as we woke up
In the church pew during the gospel and homily and prayer of the faithful
At breakfast while I ate my bagel sandwich in a crowded restaurant
In a museum on a theater chair
In two elevators
At Joes Crab Shack while my husband fed me bites of fried ocean dwellers
As we walked along the Ohio River past strangers with the wind blowing in our hair

And no one said a thing

Intimately beautiful
Transportable nourishment
Fast food for my crying hungry baby
In the sunshine and the puddles
Walking
Kicking
Sitting
Swaying

I have never felt so strong
As when I hold this less than ten pound being
Fresh into the world
My offspring and life and my joy
Feeding him in my arms.

-Gillian

Preparing to Entertain Angels

Out of the three that will be read, this one is my favorite. It teaches timeless lessons that are learned over and over throughout the course of life. In some ways, it is the first reminder to a lifetime of reminders that God is in those whom we encounter every day and that no matter what may come our way, the Lord is our helper and we should never be afraid.

For over a year now, I have been on a journey with my soon-to-be wife planning our wedding Mass and celebration. Although it has been a complete joy picking out the colors of the table linens, taste-testing the food we are to eat, stressing over the difference between white and ivory, and wondering if our bank accounts will ever be big enough to handle the onslaught of overpriced wedding services, my favorite part of planning has, without a doubt, been choosing the readings that will be proclaimed at our wedding Mass.

The second reading we chose, from the Letter to the Hebrews, reads: “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” Further down, the reading continues, “Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, I will never forsake or abandon you. Thus we may say with confidence: The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid.” (Hebrews 13:1-4a, 5-6b)

Out of the three that will be read, this one is my favorite. It teaches timeless lessons that are learned over and over throughout the course of life. In some ways, it is the first reminder to a lifetime of reminders that God is in those whom we encounter every day and that no matter what may come our way, the Lord is our helper and we should never be afraid.

Marriage is a frightening prospect in many ways. First and foremost, when you say your vows you are the most vulnerable you have ever been and will ever be. With all the faith, trust and hope in your heart, you vow to the one you love before God that you will treasure them all the days of your life no matter the trials or tribulations that may come your way.

It is a timeless commitment and one that binds your heart to another. It is a commitment that almost demands courage, fearlessness, and blind trust in the Providence of the One who proclaims, “I will never forsake or abandon you.”

But as Paul’s letter tells us, we should never be afraid to take courage and to trust in the Providence of God, for it is His love that helps us overcome any trial or tribulation. It is the love of God that helps us be content with the many gifts given and not wish away our life on things that blow away with the wind. It is God who is our firm foundation, the foundation that allows us to embrace the type of radical vulnerability it takes to wake up every day and renew the vows you took to cherish the one to whom you’ve committed your life.

Paul teaches all of us that the vows said on the day of your marriage do not bind but free us from fear, worry, distress, anxiety and all of the evils that plague us when we fail to remember the Lord is our helper. The vows free us to love one another fully, openly and without abandon.

They allow us, and challenge us, to never neglect the greatest gift and blessing of all time: the gift that He gave, and continues to give each time we celebrate Eucharist. The gift of His only Son, sent to sacrifice Himself so that we might have life. Incarnate in the flesh, God made Himself in human form and likeness so that we know in His nearness and unfailing love that we will never be abandoned and never be forsaken.

It is in that truth that I take courage and that I boldly proclaim to love and cherish another for the rest of my days. It is from that commitment that I am challenged to open my door to angels and to never be afraid.

-Christian

This was originally published on Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology’s blog, Echoes from the Bell Tower on November 6, 2014.