Writing

Humiliation and glorification

img_20170215_133308_394“The specifically Christian humility is learned in no other way than by formal and repeated humiliations.” (Hans Urs von Balthasar, To the Heart of the Mystery of Redemption)

It was in that moment—as the priest lifted the host high above his head so that it was in front of the crucifix on the back wall—that I saw it.

I saw that this crucified Lord, this humiliated Lord, hanging bloody and bowed on a cross of wood, is the same Lord who comes to us in the broken bread and the blood-red wine. He comes to us, again and again, humiliated, offering Himself to those who do not deserve Him. Yet He also comes glorified. He offers His glory to those who will join in His humiliation.

It is all too beautiful to comprehend, but let us try.

The cross is a scene of intense humiliation. The dictionary defines “to humiliate” as “to cause (a person) a painful loss of pride, self-respect, or dignity; mortify.” It is hard to think of Christ as being humiliated. Certainly He did not have any pride to lose as He suffered at Calvary. But He lost, and even gave up of his own will, all of His dignity. He hung on the cross—naked, cursed, despised, rejected. God Himself was humiliated before mankind.

So too, in a smaller way, the humiliated Lord comes to us in the the Holy Sacrament. He deigns to come to us through earthly substances; He condescends and gives up His dignity and allows His very being to be communicated through grain and the fruit of the vine. Even more humiliating, He enters people who do not deserve the purity and the majesty of the Lord. We hardly deserve to sit in His presence, let alone literally ingest Him and take His being into our very being.

Yet the beauty of Christ’s humiliation is that it is the source of His glorification. The humiliated Lord was glorified by the Father and is now sitting in glory among the angels and the saints. So, too, we praise Him daily for His humiliation. We glorify Him for His lowliness. Because He was cast-down, He is raised up.

Perhaps, in the same way, then, our moments of humiliation are those moments that are most pregnant with the chances for our own glorification. Changing dirty diapers, messing up at work, suffering ridicule for the sake of our beliefs, realizing again and again just how dark our hearts truly are. These are the things of humiliation. And so, too, they are the things of glorification, if we allow them to be.

Hans Urs von Balthasar writes of how Mary is often humiliated by Christ: when Jesus calls her “woman,” when He says His mother is those who hear God’s word, when He removes His sonship from her upon the cross (“Woman, behold your son!”). These humiliations, as Balthasar writes, are “constant training in the naked faith Mary will need under the Cross.” This training makes her able to say “yes” again and again to all that being the mother of the Lord means. “He himself is the first one to wield the sword that must pierce her. But how else would she have become ready to stand by the Cross, where not only her Son’s earthly failure, but also his abandonment by the God who sends him is revealed.” (Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mary, the Church at the Source)

Christ’s dealings with Mary, in a sense, seem utterly backwards. Yet they are His greatest love. For she suffers the deepest humiliations, culminating in the very death of her own son, yet she now knows the highest of glorifications. She lives with her son, in glory, the Queen of Heaven, Star of the Sea, Seat of Wisdom, Mystical Rose, Help of Christians. The humiliations that Mary suffered made her ready for glory.

So, too, do our humiliations. We must stand by the cross with Mary, and with her offer our “yes” to every humiliation that the Lord offers us as we know that He is inviting us, ever so generously, to glory.

Photography

Present sight, I

Processed with VSCO with lv01 presetThe incarnate Word is with us,
still speaking, is present
always, yet leaves no sign
but everything that is.
(Wendell Berry)

I have had this sort of subtle, yet constant, feeling as I go through my days that I should have a hobby, or some sort of activity that I do. The free time that I do have these days (read: the overlapping nap time that happens usually for an hour every afternoon) is primarily spent doing dishes, cleaning up the house, preparing dinner for the evening, and then maybe reading a page or two in a book. But even then, I feel like I ought to paint, or knit, or hand letter, or crochet, or make things. And I feel unsettled and unhappy because I feel like I don’t have a hobby or a “thing” of my own.

Recently I’ve been remembering that at one time in my life, I considered myself a photographer. And I would still like to be one today. I have three loaded film cameras that I got out again, and I thought I should get my digital out more often, as well. (My equipment is getting old and doesn’t work as well is it used to, so it tends to be frustrating more often than not, but alas!) I think I can pretty easily take an enjoyable, cute photo of my kids but mostly because they are so darn cute. But back before I had children, I took photos of things that I saw, and I want to get back into that. I want to notice the little pieces of beauty in each day, and to capture them. Perhaps sometimes for others to appreciate, but primarily for me to appreciate as I attempt to embrace the details of these days that feel so moment-to-moment and dictated by the needs and feelings of two little ones.

Maybe this is just another one of my “project ideas” that I usually begin and rarely continue for very long. But I hope not. Inspired by one of Wendell Berry’s Sabbath Poems, quoted at the beginning of this post, I hope to notice and capture at least a few times a week the signs that I see of beauty and incarnation around me. I want my present sight to be that which notices and embraces the entirety of this world that is so impregnated with glory and love.

So this little photo is my first entry.

Books & Reading

Written words, I

_smo1082-copyHere is the first in, I am sure, a number of small posts collecting words that I read and want to remember. To begin is a  rather sad poem, but I find the last lines incredibly striking.

 

 
After the storm and the new
stillness of the snow, he returns
to the graveyard, as though
he might lift the white coverlet,
slip in beside her as he used to do,
and again feel, beneath his hand,
her flesh quicken and turn warm.
But he is not her husband now.
To participate in resurrection, one
first must be dead. And he goes
back into the whitened world, alive.

The Rejected Husband, Wendell Berry

Home

Five things I have learned from owning a house

Processed with VSCO with a9 presetLiving somewhere that owning a house is not only doable, but also makes more sense for our little family than renting somewhere has been quite a blessing. If we were anywhere else, we probably couldn’t own a house. So as we enter into this new stage of life, I am learning some things along the way:

1. We are adults.
No, my college loans didn’t do it. Marriage didn’t do it. Even having a kid didn’t quite do it. But owning a house makes me think we are actually adults now. The fact that a bank would loan us a huge chunk of change and trust us to pay it back feels a bit ridiculous, but apparently we’re old enough for that sort of thing.

2. Things take time.
When we first moved in, I had many aspirations for our little place. I could think of about twenty projects that I wanted to complete: things that I wanted to change, decorations I wanted to add, or even paint colors I wanted to try. I am the sort of person that wants to tackle a task immediately and just get it done, so a house has been quite a learning curve for me in that area. I simply cannot complete all the little projects I would like to—due to time and monetary constraints!—and so I am learning a lot of patience. Making beautiful things takes time, and unless you have Chip and Jo doing work for you, you can’t change an entire house overnight. (All the admiration goes to my very patient mother who 20 years later is finally beginning to have the home she always hoped for!)

3. If you don’t have the money for it, you don’t need it.
Another crucial lesson. This was how I learned to make decisions about what I did once we moved in. I wanted a rug, a pretty little nursery, a dresser, an accent chair, more art. All good and fine things, of course, but I found myself wanting them too much. (Also things like dehumidifiers and shop vacs were more important, sadly!) I looked at home decor websites constantly and dreamed of the perfect wall planters and baby nursery mobiles. But when I finally brought myself to accept that we simply don’t have the money for everything I want, I realized that perhaps that meant that I don’t need them. This doesn’t mean that it would be wrong for me to buy something pretty for my house when I can, but it does mean that I feel much more free to embrace the things that I do have instead always be dreaming of what I can’t have.

4. Dads are great.
So this wasn’t a new lesson. But when my dad (who lives 10 hours away!) asked for a to-do list and then came to my house and did them, I was reminded again that fathers are some of the best things in the world. My dad cleaned my sink drain, changed multiple batteries and lightbulbs, and installed a diaper sprayer on my toilet. (Things are glamorous around here, obviously.) Acts of service: becoming my love language very quickly these days.

5. Things matter. Things don’t matter.
I very quickly fall prey to the feelings that my home isn’t pretty enough or artistic enough or white enough. That daily scroll through my instagram feed often makes me think my home needs a few more gallery walls, more natural wood, marble counters, and wicker baskets under windows for my babies. It is easy for me to say “those things don’t matter.” But I know that isn’t true. The things in my home do matter. It matters that I create a beautiful, orderly, peaceful, useable space for my family. But it doesn’t matter that I don’t have a uniform aesthetic or a number of photogenic corners full of the perfect decor touches. (No matter how much I might love these things!) It doesn’t matter that my bedroom is blue (why?!), or that my couch is more of a “college dorm” couch than an “adult house” couch. It matters that my family finds peace, grace, love, and joy in these walls. It matters that my husband and children can live and thrive and grow here. And it matters that I remind myself of that daily.

Kiddos · Photography

Catching up: photos

Since I recently deactivated my facebook, another goal for this blog is to post photos once a week especially for family members.

Processed with VSCO with a7 preset
This boy has been growing so quickly and I have recently been remembering just how much I love the 4 month age. He is so sweet and has recently gotten into hanging out on his belly so that the second you put him down on his back, whether to change a diaper or just to play, he immediately tries to roll.
Processed with VSCO with a5 preset
Just trying to keep it together until dinner.
Processed with VSCO with a5 preset
Post-nap oranges with Pooh Bear.
Processed with VSCO with t2 preset
We have had sickness in the house for the last two weeks now and I am so ready for it to just go away.
Processed with VSCO with a7 preset
Edith’s recent favorite perch. I love watching her carry her rocking chair over to the closet and then set it up in just the right spot so that she can see the mirror.
Food & Recipes

What We Ate January, II

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset
Saturday pizza.

Between the meals of Prego sauce and spaghetti or pancakes and eggs, I managed to make a few more favorites this month.

Chicken tikka
First was this amazing sheet pan chicken tikka that we all loved. Anything that is one pan full of goodness, popped in the oven is a win these days and this will definitely be a staple for the Lacy family. I marinated the chicken overnight and it is worth buying all of the spices to get the fullest flavor. Edith and I both looooved the pickled red onions on top, so much so that I’m now obsessed with them and always looking for new ways to use them. Avocado toast with pickled red onions? Yes please.

Buttermilk Roast Chicken
I was so happy about this one-pan thing that I made her buttermilk roast chicken the next week. Anything with buttermilk is my kind of food.

Chocolate Cake
Speaking of buttermilk (and Smitten Kitchen…), I recently made her everyday chocolate cake, which is kind of  like a cake in the form of a quick bread. My chocolate and cake-loving husband was a bit skeptical about its lack of icing, but pronounced it excellent, as I was pretty certain he would. Because buttermilk. And Smitten Kitchen.

Black Bean Soup
And finally, lunch is the constantly-dreaded meal in this house. Edith has made it a bit more bearable by finally deciding that peanut butter and jelly is worth her time (thanks in large part to homemade jelly from Grandma, I am sure!) so now it’s just me that has to work to find something worth the effort for lunch. Enter black bean soup. My mother would whip this up regularly for lunch on many a school day, so inspired by her, I made it last week while Edith ate breakfast and enjoyed it for a few days. I also had leftover homemade chicken broth in the refrigerator, and I am certain that adds an excellent flavor. When there isn’t sherry around, a splash of red wine vinegar is a decent substitution plus all the lime juice. This soup makes lunch easy, and makes me not resent lunch for its necessity, so I will definitely be making it again.

Motherhood · Women · Writing

When things are hard

img_4456-copy-copyWhen I sit at the top of the stairs, listening to two children talking or crying (respectively) in their beds with this sinking feeling in my stomach that there will not be any sleep this afternoon.

When the baby needs a new diaper and the toddler who has a penchant for standing in her high chair is in the middle of a meal and I have to decide whether to interrupt her scrambled eggs or to risk stains all over the baby swing.

When our sweet little girl is cutting something like eight teeth at a time and wants nothing more than to be held.

When the littlest member of the family, too, wants nothing more than to be held.

This is so hard, I think.

When I can see the layer of dust on my piano.

When I walk in bare feet across the house and feel all of the dirt and crumbs and pieces of dry pasta that are accumulating because I haven’t gotten the vacuum out in days.

When the third dirty diaper of the day means yet another load of laundry and I have to carry the three loads I did yesterday up the stairs to remain, possibly folded (but not likely!), in the hall until I remember to put them away.

This is so hard, I think.

I am learning to allow myself to accept that this stage of life is hard because hard does not mean bad. “Love is always sacrifice,” a dear friend wrote in a letter to me this week. And sacrifice is never easy. It is the best thing we can do. It is what makes us happiest in this life. It makes us more fully ourselves. But it is always hard.

My daily litany of diapers, meals, naps, playtime, kisses, dishes, laundry, diapers, meals, baths, bedtimes is hard in the way that running a marathon is hard. It is hard in the way that learning a new subject is hard. It is exhausting: mentally, emotionally, physically. It is a constant balancing act of many needs, all of them feeling immediate and many of them feeling impossible to fully meet. (Not to mention that all the mothering I have done in my life has been either in the post-partum stage or while pregnant—not the most emotionally and hormonally stable periods of one’s life!) It is all so hard, and that is okay.

But I also want to remember that all of this is so hard precisely because it is so good. Because this hard that I am feeling is the call I am given to lay down my life for another. This hard is the joyful duty of loving another person in incredibly physical, tangible ways. This hard is the burning away of those things in me that are ugly and tainted so that my true humanity may more firmly take root, so that the Lord Himself might make me one with Him.

This hard is the best thing that I have ever done.

And when someone asks me what it’s like to be a mom, or when I think of my days and my weeks, I want to think of more words than just hard.

When Edith watches Finding Dory and out of the blue says “Octopus holding cup.”

This is amazing.

When Edith gets the biggest grin on her face over a scoop of ice cream.

This is magical.

When John Henry clearly gets excited over our bedtime routine and can’t stop grinning at me and kicking his little legs.

This is the best.

When Edith suddenly takes an interest in her little brother and tries to give him a toy to hold.

This is good.

When I hear giggles coming from down the hall because Edith and her dad have a blast during bath time.

This is beautiful.

When Edith says “Mommy,” when John Henry watches me so that he can flash me a huge smile, when Edith says “Thank you,” when I look at these babes and my dirty floors and my piles of laundry and my sleepy eyes, yet all I can think is just how amazing these two little people are.

This is love.