So here's a fun follow-up to where I've been writing. In addition to contributing monthly posts, I'm still doing the feature images for Velvet Ashes. Here's a few of my favourites as of late (and a bonus one just for you at the end):
A part of our job here has always been to explore our little bit of the island we call home, engaging with culture, connecting with communities doing similar work, and listening and learning from those who know more than us. Thankfully, that kind of posture brings about a good bit of writing (and a whole lot of soul-stirring).
So, into the breach, with the fruits of that labour:
At VOX, my two most recent columns: one, on Ireland's increasingly urgent conversation on abortion, and the way we can talk about it, in the land of "the before."
From where I sat, an American trying to keep her mouth shut, the safety of that room and the unity of the Spirit allowed such a discussion to take place without the casting of stones. I’m sure some left the evening disheartened and maybe even a little bit frustrated, but I left in awe: we were talking about the hard things. We were listening. The dye had not yet been cast. Read more...
And another for Mental Health Awareness Month, with a small plea:
I would like the Church to be that safe haven - dare I say, sanctuary: a place of comfort and rest for those suffering with depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and crisis of faith. I would like those conversations to not only focus on healing and prayer, but on support and companionship. May this month be the month we check in on one another, unafraid to open the floodgates of personal pain. Read more...
Two articles for Influence Magazine, a sister publication of my dearly departed Vital. Both focused on family and ministry: first, on margin.
This freedom to follow God’s call together as equals is a Christ-ordained blessing (Galatians 3:28; 5:1). But if we’re honest, it can also be a curse. When your ministry is naturally a part of your family’s lifestyle, the line between work and home will quickly get blurred. If we’re not careful, those lines can fade into an unrecognizable mess of unmet expectations and crossed wires. Read more...
Then, on when (or when not to) include your kids in your work.
Does your child feel safe and secure in body (what is the environment like), mind (does your child understand), and spirit (do you recognize God’s presence)? Are they giving you cautionary non-verbal cues? Pay attention to your child’s boundaries, be consistent with those you’ve already put in place, and have an “open door policy” to adjust them when necessary. Read more...
For Velvet Ashes, on my relentless power struggle with change, and how I cope (spoiler alert: NOT WELL).
Behind my questions is the insecurity I feel in leaving the place we’ve called home for nearly five years, the only home held in the memories of our youngest child, a home we longed for since the birth of our eldest. Even though I know it’s a part of the overseas ministry package, though I know God has asked me to give it up to Him over and over again, the idea of leaving even for a few months breaks my heart into pebbledash pieces. Read more...
And finally, my first article for Religion News Service, reporting on the Irish Catholic landscape, and the turning tide - or maybe, finally, just an honest acknowledgment - of its secularism and a potential abortion about-face. I studied newswriting ages ago, and did a good bit as web editor for Vital, but this piece was good hard work, and I'm actually pretty proud of it. Hopefully, there will be many more to come...
Throughout the relatively short history of the Irish Republic, church and state have governed private, public and spiritual spheres hand in hand. More than 90 percent of national schools are run by a local parish. A twice-daily call to prayer can still be heard on television and radio. And Good Friday remains the holiest of holy days, with a (much-disputed) nationwide ban on the purchase of alcohol. But in recent years, chinks in the armor of Catholic Ireland have begun to appear. Read more...
Bonus feature: I've been harvesting these written fruits (and eating a lot of scones) at some fabulous cafes: Laine, My Love (pictured above,) Coffee Works (our new village coffee shop) and my usual favourite KC Peaches. Soundtracks include Sandra McCracken's Psalms, Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell LIVE, and The Swell Season's Strict Joy.
Where have you been hanging out lately? Read, written, watched anything good?
I know, probably once a year I come on here and bemoan All The Things and apologize for Not Posting Regularly. Blogging is such a peculiar art as, with most online media, one feels like one has to be present all the time, and if one is not, one feels one owes one an explanation.
(Too many Ones?)
But I'm not going to do that today.
Today, I'm enjoying the grand stretch in the evening, the sunlight that wanders out past bedtime and into summer twilight. This is the golden season in Ireland. Summer here is a finicky thing, so that when we feel the warmth inside our cottony layers, we cancel all other the plans and simply revel.
In fact, at this very moment, I'm sitting in the back garden, surrounded by leaning bikes and lazy anemones, wooden beams and scraps that will soon become a loft bed for Asher, still able to make out the pale haze of the setting sun. Summer solstice is just five weeks away and I hope every night till that night is as grand as this one.
Spring was gloriously busy, in as much as one can find glory in busyness. Truthfully, we did glory in it a bit as we are not always very busy, and when we are, we try to make sure it's for a darn good reason. The Lent exhibition, Easter holidays, seminary classes and other work/life requirements kept us exhausted, but happy. Matt stayed up till midnight or 1 am most nights doing school work, I fell asleep to old Homeland episodes and current On the Media podcasts. The children mostly got on well and I mostly puttered around the house, occasionally writing, sometimes venturing beyond the suburbs into the particularly Irish blend of small city life.
And then I spent two weeks mostly in bed. But we'll skip that part.
So these here are good days, the days of homework in the front garden and lax bedtime routines and the eldest off with his friends. Of tea in the back garden at 9pm. Of bike rides and Saturday morning hikes and a Sabbath on the beach. I keep catching myself, warning myself, Remember this. Remember. Oh please, don't forget
how his 7-year-old hand feels on your arm when he rolls over with the sun.
how her hair flies as she runs, slow and steady, no shame in not coming in first.
how he sneaks into the sitting room to watch Brooklyn Nine Nine with the adults.
I know someday I will look back on these days and curse myself for losing even a second of it. So for today, I will commit as much as I can to memory. And tomorrow, I'll try again.
Last week I wrote for VOX about a Good News Crisis in Ireland. The article didn't start out that way; I just wanted to cover the craziness of our local housing market. But as I watched the doc, listened to the news, and chatted with friends, it seemed like bad news was lurking around every corner. Honestly, this week hasn't brought better news for the world we live in.
BUT, today is Good Friday. And I've found just a bit of good news.
First: we've had a team here all week helping Matt with a big project he's been working on for months. The Lenten Labyrinth. Today is actually the final day for this art installation, which has invited people to walk its path, take in beautiful artwork from a half dozen different artists, and reflect on rest and the laying down of burdens. These have been very, very long days for Matt and for the crew joining him this week, and though we're looking forward to a bit of our own rest next week, it's been amazing to see a dream come to fruition and for people to respond to one simple question:
WHAT WOULD YOU LEAVE ON THE TREE TO BE FREE?
This may be its final day (if you're in Dublin, you have till 7pm!), but I've been thinking about this question for weeks. As people have left their own notes behind on the tree Matt built - a tree which rests at the centre of the labyrinth, built with scraps of bruised and broken wood - I've wondered what note I will leave, what burden I would lay down.
For me, for today, that burden is unforgiveness, a bitter boulder weighing down upon my shoulders. Velvet Ashes invited me to write about this topic this week, and I struggled with it long and hard.
Here's the good news: It’s not about forgetting, moving on, sucking up our pride. Forgiveness is the very intentional – often painful, but never wasted – act of releasing the debt someone owes you. It’s balancing the accounts, undigging the knife, letting the wounds close and heal.
And what happens after the skin heals? Oh, it’s shiny and new. Tender, sure, but is that not what we long for? A sensitivity to the pain and injustice of this world?
We don’t have to keep tripping ourselves up, and we don’t have to just get over it and move on. What we need is a bit of that mercy offered for us, and a willingness to pass it on, even to ourselves.
I'd love for you to read it here and comment if you feel so inclined. What does forgiveness really, truly mean, and why is it so freaking hard?