Waiting for the Blessing

By Lisa Ampleman

Newborn First ChristmasOn Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, my church blesses expectant families. Rejoice, rejoice, we sing, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. A whole people waiting for a savior, families who are waiting for the birth of their baby. The rite is called the Blessing of a Child in the Womb, a small curled-up body in warmth and darkness.

For many years, though, the message to wait, to rejoice meant something very different to me: the lack of a child in the womb. Disappointment month after month.

I began to doubt that my husband and I would ever hold a baby in swaddling blankets. I clutched his hand more tightly as couples walked up the center aisle to be blessed in front of the congregation. Our hands formed the shape of the nursery rhyme: Here is the church; Here is the steeple. I pursed my lips and willed my stinging eyes to stay dry. Or, knowing it was coming, I asked my husband if we could attend another Mass, without the blessing.

Others in those pews, huddled in their winter coats under stark blue banners, have their own yearnings: for employment, for a spouse, for an end to pain or illness. Not all will see fulfillment by Christmas when the church fills with pines and poinsettias.

One of my favorite Psalms says, “I believe that I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living,” not in heaven, but here on earth. Some difficult days, I could hold that phrase like a warm heating stone in my cold torso. Many times, it felt like self-deception to say such things. [Read more...]

After a Thanksgiving Feast

image-10I carry my failure with me. My embarrassment. My shame. It grows.

It sets me apart from men in my life, the hard man with the violin, the thin man with the flask. See them in the photo. They have enough, more than enough. If one day they leave a little, the next they put less on their plate.

My life? Apparently, the sustaining belief is this: never enough. Never enough sweetness. Never enough love. Never enough, so I surround myself with more. More than I’ll ever consume. Not enough hours in life to read as many pages as are packed onto floor-to-ceiling shelves. And if there were, what then? [Read more...]

Saying the Name of God

morning-window1Recently, I spent a good part of three weeks promoting an event that my parish was sponsoring: sending out email blasts, networking, posting the event on Facebook. I’m on the committee that arranged the event, and I volunteered to do the advertising. As I did this tedious task, I tried to remind myself: Every moment is lived in God’s love. Somehow these moments are God’s moments.

“I keep sensing…that the whole world is every moment saying the name of God,” said poet Li-Young Lee, interviewed in the current Image, #86.

Once a week, my husband and I spend an afternoon helping a young friend care for her newborn twins. We treasure these privileged moments, having the health to help her a bit, enjoying the developmental changes in the babies each week. It’s easy to feel that these afternoons are lived in God’s love.

“I keep sensing…that the whole world is every moment saying the name of God.”

On Friday mornings, my husband and I head out for our knitting group. It’s run by my friend Tina, who has created a small business offering knitting lessons, help clinics, sit-and-knits.

We hadn’t known any of the other members of the group before we joined, but by now we’ve all become good friends. There’s something about chatting while doing creative work with your hands: There’s a camaraderie, lots of laughter, teasing; and Tina is always there if we drop a stitch or can’t figure out a pattern instruction. Though I don’t consciously think about God during these mornings, it’s easy to feel that they’re lived in God’s love.

“I keep sensing…that the whole world is every moment saying the name of God.” [Read more...]

The Tyrannical Self-Gaze

5516869922_016eaf4251_zBy Elizabeth Duffy

I’m doing most of my walking after dark these days as night comes a little earlier. Night walking always makes me feel lighter, almost weightless, so it seems like I’m walking faster than I do in daylight, and since the scenery no longer differentiates one day’s walk from another, my thoughts are in a tunnel. I’m ageless and united in memory and feeling with almost every dark walk I’ve ever taken.

Tonight that weightless feeling, which somehow never blesses me in daylight, reminded me of being about fourteen years old, “running away,” barefoot, in the dark. I’d slammed the door on my way out, not taking time to assess my readiness for a new life on the go, nor the environment into which I was fleeing. Turned out it was raining.

But I did succeed literally at running away, up on the balls of my bare feet. I remember feeling like a gazelle, and somehow all the little pebbles that gather on the side of the road didn’t hurt. I ran about three miles, and then I ran back home, pumped up on romance and adrenaline, only to find out that no one had worried about me, which was disappointing.

In hindsight, the experience of no one worrying about me—because I really was always fine—has been one of my life’s hallmarks and great letdowns. [Read more...]

Christian Kerfuffles, Taking Offense, and the Poetry of Li-Young Lee

LyleeIn late October, I had the privilege of teaching two workshops at the Indiana Faith and Writing Conference on the campus of Anderson University.

The IFWC, originally known as the Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference, brings together writers of faith to help them develop in their craft and find opportunities for publishing. The director, Liz Boltz Ranfeld, is an Anderson English professor, an essayist, and the mother of two young children.

One responsibility Ranfeld hadn’t expected was answering to outrage over the closing keynote speaker, renowned poet Li-Young Lee. In the following conversation, I attempt to explore what happened, why, and what people of faith can learn.

Tania Runyan: What happened at the closing address?

Liz Boltz Ranfeld: For the first part of the keynote address, things were fine. However, when Li-Young started reading “The Undressing,” the audience became uncomfortable. [Read more...]