Friday, April 23, 2010

I Heard the Bells

I love a conversion story, whether it details the shift from absence of belief to the embracing of it, or perhaps a faith that isn't drawn upon or remembered, and suddenly something happens to jolt one into a new awareness.

I could read an entire book of conversion stories, and never grow weary of them. I stuck with Thomas Merton throughout his, and wasn't disappointed, as he transitioned from a college student swayed mostly by debauchery to newly baptized Catholic to a Trappist monk. And yes, that's quite a transition.

My own story is brief, and for some reason, or a myriad of reasons, I cannot share it in detail. Sometimes I feel like if I do, then I chip away at its meaning for me. Sometimes I feel like if I think about it too much, I start questioning its authenticity. When it comes to manifestations of God, I've always been more like Agent Mulder rather than Agent Scully. Agent Mulder believed in aliens, and not much else. Agent Scully believed in God, and always had a scientifically based rebuttal to Mulder's beliefs. (Oh, X-Files, I miss you!)

Unlike Agent Mulder, I do believe in God, but I always have questions. I don't embrace and believe as often as I'd like. So I worry that the more I examine my experience, the more likely I am to pick it apart, and chalk it up to coincidence or some other earthly reason. Additionally, there is the nagging suspicion that I am simply not worthy of God's voice. Why would He talk to me?

But He did. And, at least, that's the story I'm sticking to for now.

Sometimes when I think of the particular prayer I had said the night before my moment, and what I had asked for, I get this little chill. Goosebumps, I think, and laugh about it, like there's a bit of the Holy Spirit left in my memory of things, and it rises through firing neurons to manifest on my skin. To manifest in the remembering.

I think of my child -- who, at the time, was 3 years, 4 months old -- and how she answered my prayer the next morning. How she spoke of the concern I whispered in the dark of my room, as she slept. How she gave voice to wisdom way beyond her years in a single sentence.

Anne Lamott once wrote that she wished we could hear bells to announce the coming of grace in our daily lives, so we could embrace it more, and be aware of it. A celestial ding-dong to help us survive and deal.

I heard the bells, or rather felt them, but after, not before, when my eyes became ridiculously watery sitting across from my child, realizing at that moment God was talking to me. Me. And He was using my child to do it.

I wasn't faithless at the time. I was starting to re-explore, reading out of curiosity and starting to attend Mass again. So while perhaps my experience isn't exactly a conversion, I kind of view it as a divine kick in the pants. And I'm grateful for it.

Not worthy. But grateful.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Can Drunk People Be Sacred? Why, Yes!

I've been feeling rather spent, blog-wise.'s busy, and I guess that's a good thing.

My most gigantic goal ever is trying to find the sacred in the every day, and sacred simply equals good. It doesn't entail rosy, watercolored angels coming down from the heavens, preceeded by the sound of church bells to announce their arrival.

I forget this ALL THE TIME. All the time. Especially when I tend toward the curmudgeon. I like to grumble. It's my way of dealing with stress. The problem, however, is that the grumbling can kind of take over, and become my go-to stance on viewing the world.

This past weekend, my husband and I were at a wedding. Lots of time for witnessing the sacred there, from vows being spoken out loud and shared to drunken revelry at the basement bar way past everyone's bedtime. Sometimes, it feels so good to gather with friends and be crazy. So a vodka tonic isn't nearly the same thing as bread and wine. It still felt like a Communion of sorts, with each person bringing their joy and messiness to the table.

In the morning, Dave and I had coffee by the beach, alone. Being the shore pre-season, there blessedly weren't too many people out and about. But the ones that jogged or walked past our bench nodded their greetings. I loved that, too. It's easy to love everything with the sound of vast amounts of water hitting the sand.

On our way back to the hotel, to try and wake our sleeping, hungover friends for breakfast, we saw some movement in the back of the pick-up truck belonging to one of them. Knocking on the window, we see our friend P sit-up and stretch.

"Dude, what are you doing sleeping in your truck?" we say, opening the door.

"J was being such a jerk last night, telling me to turn down the TV, turn off the lights. Mean drunk, that guy. I was like, screw this, I ain't sharing a room with you. So I came out here."

"That had to be comfortable," I said.

"Guarantee, he won't remember a thing of this," P said.

"Let's go wake his ass up."

And so we did, and we all had breakfast at Uncle Bill's Pancake House, with hash fries and orange juice and pancakes and eggs.

It was a sort of profane sacred, not the kind truly cut out for a blog post, but the kind I wanted to share, regardless.