Tag Archives: spirit

Flesh, Spirit, Pie

Did you ever play NBA Jam for Super Nintendo as a kid? As a rule, I’m pretty terrible at sports-based video games, but there honestly wasn’t much to that one. While I’d have preferred MarioKart (because if your brother asks you what game you’d like to play, the answer is always MarioKart), I wasn’t always the one choosing and on occasion, it was NBA Jam. My favorite part of that game was when I ended up “on fire” — I don’t know how many baskets in a row qualified you, but you basically couldn’t miss after that and the ball was literally on fire. Loved that!

NBA Jam -- on fire!! {Source}
NBA Jam — on fire!! {Source}

All that for me to point out that when it comes to blogging I’M ON FIIIIIIRRRREEEEE!! Four in a row! She’s un-stopp-a-ble!!

At least for now. As I said: good– loudly, clearly, always. Four in a row or four in a month. Got to give myself a bit of grace.

So, after a lovely Friday evening (Seth and I, as I said, went for a fish fry, complete with wine (which you generally can’t get in a church basement) and then drove by all the lovely animals at Wildwood Zoo on our way home– super fun!) here I am relaxing on Saturday (waffles, waffles, waffles!!) and ready to reflect again, one more day of Lent. And our days of Lent are almost gone, after all. Got to really make the most of what’s left!

Today marks 3/4 of the way– conversation #30.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” –John 3:6

“What does it mean to be ‘born of the flesh’ and ‘born of the spirit’ and in the end does it really make any difference? So much in me ‘born of the flesh’ — done to satisfy my appetites — has in the end changed by spirit. And many times for the good. And those things in me ‘born of the spirit’ — meant to be idealistic, ‘spiritual’ — have just as many times been corrupting. I was a ‘good Catholic’ and so became disdainful of those who weren’t Catholic. How unholy can a person be? So now I suspect the separation of flesh and spirit and am open to both. That way, perhaps someday holiness will sneak in when I’m not looking.” –Joan Chittister

Here’s what I like best:

That way, perhaps someday holiness will sneak in when I’m not looking.

I like the idea of holiness just sneaking in. Me, just going along, doing my best, day after day, and somewhere along the way, maybe in my late 70s (because late 70s seems reasonable), holiness just sneaks in through a crack left unattended.

Think it might happen? Maybe if I don’t worry so much about it… maybe if I just do the best I can, one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, one minute at a time, one second at a time. Perhaps holiness will find its way in whether I search desperately or not. I like that. Hey, self, stop trying so dang hard!

So then, to Joan’s question, does the distinction of flesh vs. spirit really matter? Maybe not. She talks of separation, but ultimately, we are both. I would cease to exist as myself without either one or the other. Therefore, it seems impossible that, as Joan describes, one shouldn’t impact the other.

When I was in Memphis last November for the Call To Action conference (progressive Catholicism, if you’ll recall), I stopped at a booth representing the Church Health Center. Based in Memphis, TN, the Church Health Center “seeks to reclaim the Church’s biblical commitment to care for our bodies and our spirits.” I loved that idea and I picked up a couple of books while I was there, including God, Health and Happiness.

It spoke so soundly to this point, the inability to separate body and soul, the fact that both matter to overall health and wellness. Such a good read and I’ve bought the Church Health Center premise hook, line, and sinker.

{Source} Care for the flesh and the spirit.
{Source} Care for the flesh and the spirit.

It make so much sense, doesn’t it? The notion that all of these flesh-based and spirit-based facets of our lives contribute to our overall health and well-being. I especially love that each one is given an equal piece of the pie. (Mmmm… pie.)

While there may be separation of thing of the flesh and things of the spirit, I firmly believe that Joan is right– one can affect the other, and we are often unable to predict when or how or why. So we do the best we can at making the slices of the pie equal in size and deliciousness and hope that holiness sneaks in in the process.

The Spirits of Christmas (Tree) Past, Present, and Future

First order of business: I made waffles for dinner tonight. Breakfast for dinner makes me ridiculously happy. Waffles anytime!

But we can talk more about waffles another time.

I realize that I’ve been belaboring my pup’s recent surgery and you’re probably tired of hearing about it… I only bring it up now because I want you to remember that Seth and I are basically confined to the house with her until she is healed up enough to have her stitches out. Too much risk of her moving around and popping something important if we’re not keeping a watchful eye on her. (Thank goodness Seth works from home– it has made this whole ordeal much, much easier than it would have been otherwise! I am grateful every day for his excellent job! And his boss is kind of cool, too…)

So because we were home bound with Curly this weekend my exceptionally generous sister-in-law, Sister Doctor, and her husband (on his birthday, no less!) went and picked out a Christmas tree for us! How awesome is that?!  They delivered a beautiful fresh cut Fraser Fir from Seth’s uncle’s tree farm on Sunday afternoon and Seth and I spent the evening setting it up and decorating as Curly looked on from her kennel.

Setting up that Christmas tree reminded me of so many things about Christmas past and made me think ahead to the many, many Christmas’s Seth, Curly, and I have in our collective future. And it was interesting to think about all of the holiday traditions Seth and I celebrated with our own families growing up and how we’ve merged those things into something completely unique for our own bitty nuclear family.

When I was little, we always had a beautiful gold and silver star with a bright white bulb at its center topping the tree and the first year Seth and I got a Christmas tree together I was certain that I wanted to find our own perfect star. But Seth’s family always topped their tree with an angel, and that’s what he preferred. I remember my mind being absolutely boggled at the thought of having an angel atop the tree– I’ve never liked the look of overly realistic angels. I mean… a star!! Personal preference, I suppose, but I was stuck. Until I found this angel:

Angel Topper

A plain, bright bulb for a head and a simple design. Much like the star I enjoyed growing up, while providing Seth with the angel he always wanted atop his tree. Perfect compromise. Isn’t it lovely???

Same with the lights. Seth’s family always had tiny ones, we always had big round bulbs. What to do, what to do? Compromise once again! We got some mid-size LEDs, just bigger than the minis Seth was used to and the same shape and colors as the bulbs I’ve always loved.

Together with the Christmas tree stand handmade by Seth’s grandpa (it’s a hand-welded sleigh!!), the tree skirt latch hooked by Seth’s mom (lovely little holly berries!), the mounds and mounds of tinsel inspired by my dad (seriously… LOVE tinsel!!), and the multitude of ornaments handpicked by Seth and I on special vacations and gifted to us throughout the years (new house, engagement, wedding, honeymoon in Hawaii (Mele Kalikimaka!), Seth learns to surf, Rachel learns to wakeboard…) we have our very own perfect tree.

Tree Details

I see it as a subtle reminder of our Christmases past, a beautiful symbol of this Christmas present, and a harbinger of Christmases yet to come… each one sparkling, pine-scented, and joy-filled.

Lit Tree

SANTAAAAA!! (or not… but Christmas, anyway)

I like Thanksgiving– the food is great, seeing family is fun, and there’s always much to be thankful for.  But I’m one of those people who really loves Thanksgiving only because of what it means for the future.  To me, Thanksgiving simply means:

***********************CHRISTMAS IS COMING***********************

And Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year– FAVORITE!

The jingling! The jangling! The sparkling! The magic!!

A lot of people argue about the meaning of Christmas, whether it’s been overly commercialized, and how we spend too much time celebrating it.  I am not one of those people.  I don’t really care about any of that.

Because for me, during the Christmas season, my heart just SWELLS (end-of-the-movie-Grinch-style) and fills to the max, beating extra hard with joy as I see the beauty, the cheer, the peace, the comfort, the charity and generosity*, the grace, the family, the LOVE, and all the other beautiful and good things that the holidays bring.  That they epitomize, really.  And while I can’t comment as an expert on the holidays of the other major religions, I strongly suspect this to be the case surrounding Hanukkah and Kwanzaa as well. (Am I right?  Anyone?)

I absolutely adore putting up the tree, the scent of fresh pine filling my house as I hang up our ornaments, each one representing a beautiful memory.  I love that we get to go to Seth’s uncle’s tree farm to pick the tree out– grown and cared for by family for years.  I love the advent season, the spirit of expectation and of hope, peace, joy, and love as we light another candle each week.  (And I super love that my mother- and father-in-law just gave me a beautiful advent wreath as an early Christmas gift!! It’s gorgeous!!)  I love stringing the Christmas lights up on the house and remembering how year after year my dad and I struggled with new and more creative(ly dangerous) ways to get the lights all the way to the tippy top of our once-upon-a-time-Charlie-Brown-Christmas-tree that traveled with us all the way from Skandia to be planted in front of our house.  And I even love remembering the sound of the vacuum bulbs exploding when they hit the concrete because our latest and greatest plan didn’t quite pan out as expected. POP!

I love the scents (the cinnamon, the vanilla, the pine, the fresh cold snow), I love the sounds (the happy music and tinkling bells), I love the chill in the air (or the frigid snap of snot-freezing cold, as the case may be), and I love the giving and the receiving, the sharing of so much– gifts, food, love, time, whatever it is that we get to share this time of year.

Sometimes the hustle and bustle of reality threatens to overtake all the other good feelings I love to cultivate this time of year, but it’s completely in my power to prevent that and this year has felt nothing but good, despite the hardship.

My sweet puppy had to have a repeat knee surgery and she’s laid up for four full weeks, through Christmas. Nothing but kennel or potty with a leash and a sling. Seth and I are limited in how much we can be away from the house. But my sister-in-law agreed to pick me out a tree, and when I’m in the kitchen baking I know my husband is snuggling my pup and when I’m done it will be my turn. She is loved and she knows it and we’re making it work. Our house may be a bit messier, but it still smells like Christmas… and a little bit of poop. Did you know anesthesia can cause some severe diarrhea in dogs? Because it can. And it did. But don’t worry, mostly it just smells like Christmas now. (Thank goodness for the good people at Lysol, Clorox, and LG!!)

Our travel plans had to change on account of the surgery, but my sister and mom assured me that all that matters is getting to spend time together, not the day, and encouraged me and Seth to save vacation for a longer trip next year. So instead of a week long trip with our pup in tow, I’ll be making a quick jaunt over to celebrate Christmas the weekend before at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house. And even if I couldn’t, I guarantee you that every one of them would understand why. (But good news– I totally can!)

No matter the circumstances, the sights, sounds, smells, and most importantly, feelings of Christmas are everywhere this time of year– and, as I learned from The Muppet Christmas Carol, I should both honor Christmas and try to keep it all the year!

(Watching The Muppet Christmas Carol is my family’s Christmas Eve tradition.  We all packed together on the couch year after year, packing in another significant other or two as time went on, and watched that amazing movie– singing along with Kermit as Bob Cratchit and Miss Piggy as his wife, of course. My in-laws totally humor me by watching it now– that’s love! And that’s Christmas!!)


*Interested in learning more about generosity this holiday season? Check out my friend Chris Lema’s brilliant 30-day series on the subject. (Yes, I’m name dropping by qualifying that last sentence with “my friend,” but it’s true and I’m proud to get to say it.  I know him in real life, y’all!)  It’s a thing of beauty from the true master of generosity himself (trust me on this one, I have been the recipient of his generosity in so many ways it’s unbelievable).