Veronica's Garden

I originally started this blog to promote my novel, Post Rock Limestone Caryatids. Now I write essays and poetry about everything, including the Flint Hills, healing, parenting, etc. WARNING: emotional content, sometimes intense. Read at own risk of feeling.

Tag: religion

Crying in Church

I cry in church. Not necessarily every week, but I’m an easy cryer in general and the setting is conducive to introspection. I don’t see it as anything bad, and I don’t need anything from anyone else. It’s more a sign of a place in me that needs my attention.

Today I was there in the pew and a couple rows ahead there was a little baby waving a toy and telling everyone about it, and her dad was watching and smiling. Right then the preacher was talking about the prodigal son, and how his dad was so filled with love and joy and pride to have his son back. And the way these parents were with their baby seemed like a beautiful illustration of such love and pride. I know it well, as a parent myself. There is probably nothing my children could do that would make me not love them. When they do things I don’t like, I don’t hesitate to tell them what I think about what they do, but even so, they are beautiful and brilliant and I am proud of them every minute.

So there’s no reason for what the preacher said next to be a surprise. I kind of saw it coming myself, but it got me anyway: Naturally, the way we feel about our children is the way God feels about us. Oh my. I’m used to being forgiven, I count on it; and I’m not surprised when I feel Divine love in and around me; but God is proud of me? Really? I’d been feeling more wretched than usual this week for reasons that, in retrospect, don’t ¬†seem to be that big of a deal, but my petty failings, my unremarkable life, my squandered potentials, all add up to something to be proud of? Impossible but undeniably true, because love is the best part of us, and when we are in a state of love is when we are closest to the Divine. That which comes of love must be of God.

That was what made me tear up, and it surprised me how hard it hit me. It took the rest of the sermon, two hymns, and the offertory before my eyes stopped leaking.

So God is proud of me. I don’t know why, I don’t understand it, but I will do some more examination of this concept and my feelings about it, and see what I come up with.

Do you cry in church?

adult adventure baby child

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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Read At Own Risk

I’ve been reading the Divergent series this past week. I’m a binge reader. I dive in and don’t want to stop until it’s over. You wouldn’t get off a roller coaster in the middle of a loop, sit down to lunch, and come back later, would you? About halfway through, I thought, is this book written by an evangelical Christian? And at the end, I saw that Roth’s first acknowledgement is to God. So be it. I thought Divergent was okay, kind of stupid, not as compelling as Hunger Games, but more of a love story than I’d expected, and I kind of liked that aspect. I guess I’m getting more romantic as I get older.

Because my two daughters are also reading this series now, we happened to have all three of them out at the same time, from two different libraries. So I went straight into Insurgent, and right away I was caught up. Tobias loves Tris even when she tells him what he doesn’t want to hear, makes mistakes, and breaks promises. He admires and nurtures her strength. When they work together, they’re a great team.

Whenever I find myself in the middle of a love story, I get in over my head. I can’t stop thinking about it. I feel all the feelings as if it’s my own story unfolding, my own love at stake. I worry for the safety of the lovers, and suffer their separations.

Maybe what makes the greatness of a love story is the way it inspires the reader to love. I found myself musing on how much I love my husband, and everyone, and being alive. I’m grateful that we don’t have to risk our lives protecting one another, that every day we have the opportunity to see and touch each other and live our love as we choose. This is what a great love story does: it awakens love in the reader, to manifest into your own life.

By the end of Insurgent, I was thinking, great love story, but the stupid parts of the plot might be about to be replaced by something even stupider. But still, their love was strong enough to survive. It was the kind of love that lasts a lifetime, not just through the devastation of war but also through the changes that take place in people as they go through their lives.

Now, if you intend to read Allegiant but haven’t, stop here. I’ll give you some cat pictures before the spoiler, just in case your eye accidentally strays down.

Okay. Here’s where it gets heavy. I read Allegiant in under three days. Finished it yesterday while the kids were in swimming lessons. And I was really angry at the end. I didn’t even cry, I was just angry. Why on earth did it have to end that way? There’s no reason at all. It could have been different. Who has an NDE and goes on and dies anyway? Why is that end better, or necessary, or more beautiful than staying alive? They had begun to build a foundation for a great love; they’d come so far, but it was just beginning. Is love through adulthood so unattractive it’s better to eliminate the possibility? It’s tempting to suggest some authors enjoy the sadistic power of crushing their readers’ hearts. But I don’t really think that’s the case here. And I’m trying hard not to make snarky comments about certain religions and the fetishization of sacrifice.¬† But really. Really.

I was out of sorts all day. I was depressed. Everything seemed pointless. I wondered if I should adjust my meds again. I tried to distract myself, get back into the real world with some facebook, but it was more full than usual with anguish over more people being shot. Just how far away are we from the violent, hopeless dystopias we read about in popular fiction? After a while I realized I was grieving. The love of Tris and Tobias had somehow become attached to something in me, and if their love couldn’t live, something in me was threatened. How did I let this happen? I guess it’s one of the risks of living and loving, and keeping your heart open, even to imaginary characters in a book.

And this, too, is what a great love story can do to you.

Read at own risk.

Kevin and Rachel

Marlo on Gratitude and Weather

Note from Veronica: Dear readers, allow me to introduce my friend Marlo, head midwife and leader of the Postrock Limestone Caryatids.

Summer is winding down, and the sweltering days have begun to falter to milder ones, with cool mornings, enough that we can welcome the sun. When I have no patients, I sometimes slip off to the garden, for an excuse to do something useful out in the fresh air.

That’s what I was doing today, picking tomato worms (which Veronica informs me are really hawk moth caterpillars, not worms at all) and feeding them to the chickens, who were also enjoying the lovely weather, clucking and strutting about the vegetables. Turkey vultures were circling lazily overhead, and monarchs were fluttering by. It couldn’t get any better than this, I thought, being among so much life on a beautiful morning, and I felt a deep gratitude emanating from my heart chakra. It occurred to me to give thanks for my blessings.

But I had to pause. The weather doesn’t exist for us, any more than the planet does. It just is, the way it is, with all its variations, the rain and wind and warm air chasing one another around the planet in constant interplay. So where, then, does one put one’s gratitude? Perhaps the gratitude is not so much for what the weather is, as for being a being who can enjoy it, a life form whose needs are perfectly matched to her niche. For being a creature of sensuality and self-awareness, present in the present moment. I am grateful for being simply who and what I am, for the privilege of experiencing joy.

It’s like when a birth goes smoothly and the baby and mother do well, and everyone says, “Our prayers have been answered.” Suppose, instead, there is a problem, the baby is injured or sick, or, worse, the mother or baby or both are lost. Is it right to say that our prayers haven’t been answered? How do we maintain faith in the face of tragedy?

Does religion give us a better way of looking at this question? I haven’t found it in Christianity. Buddhism might be more helpful, since it doesn’t offer us anyone to pray to. We’re not supposed to want any particular weather; we’re supposed to be present and aware, without judgment or attachment, through whatever we get.

Another answer came to me from a Mayan shaman, Martin Prechtel. I paraphrase from a book I read years ago, and the extent of my inaccuracy will be the degree to which I have made this concept my own. What he said was that the difficulties and discomforts of life are not bad things for us to suffer through on the way to the good; rather it is all one package, and it is the greatest privilege to experience it, every bit, all the joy and pain and love and suffering. It is all worthy of our gratitude.

Many people seem to think it their spiritual duty to remember at all times the abundant blessings they are given, in spite of difficulties and trials. I think it a higher calling yet to be joyful and grateful through everything we get, whether we are able to enjoy it or not. The greatest blessing is just to be here.

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