Rogue Homilies by Deidre Price

a study of life that smacks of the divine

Month: December 2015

Toddler Jesus and Other Missing Pieces: An Advent Homily

I know motherhood. It begs me to wake at dawn and shoves me toward sleep at bedtime but keeps me up some nights, too.

It negotiates the vegetables onto melamine plates and scares the children out of the street.

My motherhood shows when I count to three, and you know I mean it.  I’m not going to tell you again.

I’m the one who hid the ice cream when I noticed Atticus was getting strong enough to open the freezer by himself, the one who relocated the plastic cups to the bottom shelf the day he decided to start getting ice on his own.

Independent mister.

Independent mister.

I’m a master detangler, the Skinned Knee Whisperer. I can find the second shoe, and I memorized the baby Tylenol dosages years ago. I know what Disney FastPlay really means and know that selecting it is a rookie mistake.

I know motherhood well enough not to talk smack about other good-enough mothers.

Because motherhood and I are so very tight these days, I can say with confidence that our Christmas Carols rival political conspiracy theories. Seriously. That “stable” is basically the Area 51 of the Gospels.

As a mother of human babies, I wager to say that writers have whitewashed Jesus’s infancy.  Just say no to “Silent Night.” Sleep in heavenly—nope! There’s no Similac in Bethlehem. I don’t recall a single passage where Mary is dousing her tired things in cocoa butter while Joseph is wearing out his sandal leather trying to get Christ to sleep for the fifth time in two hours.

It’s just not there. I have so looked.

You know the songs I’m talking about and how close they are to recreating the soap opera babies that pop out in delivery scenes, all bathed and four-years-old. You’ve seen the Little People plastic nativity smile.

False advertising.

False advertising.

“Away in a Manger” prompts us to sing, “But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes,” but unless Mary roofied him with ancient Benadryl, I’ll say that’s about as accurate as Ricky Bobby’s creative account:

Dear Lord baby Jesus, lyin’ there in your ghost manger, just lookin’ at your Baby Einstein developmental videos, learnin’ ’bout shapes and colors.

It tickles me to think of the wise men coming a couple years later when the infant we see in nativity scenes is just getting to his two-year-old prime. Can you imagine? I mean, I just know how my kids pull out all the stops when we have company over. Son of God or not, Jesus threw a fit or two for Goldfish crackers.

You know he did.

Because we turned on the wrong Shrek.

Because we turned on the wrong Shrek.

Because the last waffle fry was broken. (She did it.)

Because the last waffle fry was broken. (She did it.)

Because I was singing.

Because I was singing.

Because I was trying to make her a construction paper hat like she asked me to in the wrong color. (She asked for yellow, and you can plainly see this isn't a yellow piece of paper. I never listen.)

Because I was trying to make her a construction paper hat like she asked me to in the wrong color. (She asked for yellow, and you can plainly see this isn’t a yellow piece of paper. I never listen.)

Part of her costume was still on for Trick-or-Treating. (Note: This was a makeshift backup costume after she vehemently rejected the Sofia the First dress I'd purchased from Target, complete with shoes and amulet.)

Part of her costume was still on for Trick-or-Treating. (Note: This was a makeshift backup costume after she vehemently rejected the Sofia the First dress I’d purchased from Target, complete with shoes and amulet.)

Ennui.

So, when candlelight services get all “radiant beams from thy holy face,” that smacks of grandparent-speak and a land of sugared oranges and all-you-can-eat Blue Bell Ice Cream.

No grown man flips a table in a temple without a couple practice rounds in his early years.

Which means you know Mary had her sweet-Mother-of-God moments, too, or what I like to call leaving the house or 4:30.

Also, Tuesdays. 

We’re human. We fray. This is our proof of life. 

It’s well known from my social media posts that I am least Christian on the way to church in the morning. When our children arrive, one in an iffy John Green t-shirt, another in rain boots, and the hanger-on with an insisted-upon tie worn backwards to simulate a tiny cape, and all three covered in donut dust, we still get high fives from the Guest Services team, and these saints just smile, helping us count heads to make sure everyone made it in from the parking lot. We’re seldom late, but they all run like the McAllisters in an airport trying to board a French plane.

Mother Mary, likely showered and on her way to Target.

Mother Mary, likely showered and on her way to Target.

Mother Mary had Tuesdays and 4:30’s, I bet. 

See, aside from a raging case of love for one another, toddlers and mothers have one more thing in common: We melt down.

It’s the I give up, but I won’t, so I’ll just stand here and cry in the kitchen until you stop acting like a lunatic and I stop feeling like a failure.

It’s the I’ve had enough, but I’m staying anyway because we’ll both be worse off without each other than with, and we’re the best thing each other’s got.

It’s the I just can’t even, which translates, I’m sure, in every language and spans every century that’s ever been.

It’s the worn edges, the lines that finish out our faces, those scars that mark where love has been.

And, hand to the heavens, it’s this very fray, the wear and the unravel, that’s proof we’re all doing it right. 

 

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You, then Me: An Advent Homily for San Bernardino

[December 2]

I wake to small voices behind a nursery door each morning. Two-year-old Evangeline calls out first, sweeps the long bangs from her face, and pulls her blue and white polka dot blanket over both shoulders, its train following behind her; she is regal. She swoops up an oversized stuffed wolf into one arm, tries to wake a stubborn sleeping brother and begins the knocking as she takes turns trying out all our names.

Stubborn, sleeping brother.

Stubborn, sleeping brother.

In San Bernardino this morning at a state facility for the developmentally disabled, a holiday party begins. Armed and armored shooters burst into the room, saying nothing. They fire indiscriminately into the crowd. The news gives numbers like fourteen dead, seventeen wounded, deadliest massacre since Sandy Hook, between one and three responsible. Two suspects dead. One man. One woman.

But I’m seeing children like my children in these photos, their hands held by bigger people. But in these photos the adults themselves have their hands up, too, spoiling the illusion that there’s any safety to be had.

Ten years into being an only child, our oldest walked in on us as we changed the diaper on her new baby brother. Not used to noise in the middle of the night, she entered the nursery fist to her chest, my sharpest paper-cutting scissors pointing out in preparation for self-defense. She’d come to save him, suspecting an intruder had come and the worst was about to happen.

My husband asked her, “What exactly were you going to do with those if it had been an intruder?”

Her answer was “Whatever I needed to.”

Since the birth of our even-newer newest edition, she has since switched to knitting needles as her weapon of choice for imaginary home invasions, but her heart’s still the same: you, then me.

An officer leading survivors out of the Inland Regional Center where the shooting occurred, reassured them, “I’ll take a bullet before you do, that’s for damn sure. Just be cool, OK?”

I thought of my oldest, our family shepherd and resident badass. We’d be safe with her—or at least feel safe, which is sometimes even more important.

Daina, the spare mama bear.

Daina, the spare mama bear.

San Bernardinos are happening every day now, aren’t they? They’re as scattered as the bullets that fall, but they’re here and here to stay it seems. My students, thinking nothing of opening or closing doors, do not know I stop to look each time, to keep tabs on who’s in and who’s out. I’ve run the scenario too many times, the clamoring and chaotic stampede to the door, the drop to the floor to seek safety in a room that’s made of half windows and filled with rolling chairs no good for a barricade. After every click of the latch and spent breath, I think of my husband’s question, “What exactly were you going to do with those if it had been an intruder?” and hear where my daughter gets it from when I respond, “Whatever I needed to.”

This is what we’re called to: you, then me.

My ordinary, selfish self doesn’t budge too easily, but in those crisis moments when the brake hits the floor, my mothering arm extends, airbag-fast to hold life steady—everyone else’s but my own. This has nothing to do with being brave. And we hear this all the time. Good Samaritans risk themselves to save other people, and journalists call them brave and ask them why they didn’t hesitate to risk their own lives to spare another’s, and the response is nearly universal. I didn’t think; I just did it. I just did whatever I needed to do.

They never accept the word ‘brave’ because it’s not a bravery situation. It’s instinct that’s derived from necessity.

This idea of instinct derived from necessity becomes ever more beautiful and apparent to me during the holiday season when my mind is drawn to Mary and her waiting and Jesus and his coming.

Let me say that neither were ‘brave.’ Brave undermines the profundity of the sacrifice both made—a life devoted to the calling of ‘you, then me.’

At advent our focus tends to be on Mary’s ill-timed pregnancy and barn/cave birth, but as mothers know, those memories are but a flash compared to the life lived. Again, ‘you, then me.’

When I think of Mary, instead, I think of her son’s death she witnessed up close and how helpless she must have felt, surely wanting to hold his hand but being able only to hold her own up to God in the meantime because this is what we do when we do not have the words, this is what we do—to try to be held—when there is nothing left to hold on to.

I pray sometimes with my hands up, shaking them as though, like Evangeline, I’m trying to wake my own stubborn sleeping brother.

I begin the knocking as I take turns trying out all his names.

Photo Dec 01, 1 20 48 PM

 

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In Praise of Keeping Time: A Homily

I have little interest in being cryogenically frozen upon my death, but I’d be lying if I said I weren’t sympathetic to the Larry Kings of the world who might one day push pause on their very bodies, to suspend themselves in time while everything else must keep on moving and ticking.

If I should be frozen for a day, I’d give up Christmas Day.

I’ve always preferred presents wrapped to presents unwrapped—the waiting to the reality. The 72 hours of Christmas Eve, Day, and the day after were absolutely the most disappointing days of the year during my childhood. My last-minute mother would spend much of Christmas Eve still in stores, practically pushed out of them when they closed, and would spend hours after the candlelight service holed away in her bedroom wrapping presents while the rest of us waited in the living room for Christmas to happen. On Christmas morning, my brother and I would awake to a sea of unwrapped Santa things, dump the stockings filled with oranges, walnuts, and Kisses onto the floor, and sort the loot until my parents would whisk us off to Alabama to go from grandparents to grandparents. We’d arrive home late and wake up the next morning to the sound of my father’s annual vacuuming, the tree already stripped and lying on the curb for trash pickup. He loved ordinary days better, too.

There’s more.

My father, wrecked with cancer, didn’t want to die on Christmas morning, but we’re worlds within worlds, aren’t we? We don’t get to decide it all. Some things just happen. Some things just are. And so he died on Christmas morning, and I said goodbye to him with the sound of Ralphie still pining for a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB gun coming from the TV ever-on in the background.

The moving and ticking continues despite our absence. It’s a comfort to know this will happen one day when we ourselves stop moving and ticking, but it’s a curse to have to carry on like nothing when others do. But rest assured, traffic and rain and radio and breakfasts will find their way into the big world no matter the weather in your own smaller one. They are part of the system, that comfort and curse.

Cappuccino, donut, eggs, and cheese grits for Atticus because these Legos aren't going to build themselves.

Cappuccino, donut, eggs, and cheese grits for Atticus because these Legos aren’t going to build themselves.

I take comfort in self-imposed bustle, but the bustle of the holidays overwhelms me. They fall into the category of the days that just happen, the days that just are. The expectations are just too much for me. I want to wake next to my husband and breathe in my children and think/read/write and drink a dirty chai if I’m feeling frisky. That’s my short and skinny.

Tacky sweater, dirty elephant, white Santa whateverness is just no. And anything involving those mischievous elven spies is just not happening. What surely started as an action figure with book is now the emotional equivalent of adopting a puppy.

Anyone who willingly raises the bar that high had better make it an open one.

Evangeline, a.k.a baby girl who watches me like a creep if I try to sleep until a reasonable hour.

Evangeline, a.k.a baby girl who watches me like a creep if I try to sleep until a reasonable hour.

Listen to me, all bitter and whatnot. I would love to love the holidays. I would. Christ-loving people especially are supposed to love Christmas. It’s his freaking birthday.

(I do know he was a spring baby. I’ve read books.)

What frustrates me the most is how puffed up and plastic some of us make this season when Christ is my jam precisely because he was so ordinary: a Middle-Eastern kid born to a scared teen mom in a place that was not their home.

I feel out of place most days, too. Sometimes while driving in the car, I’ll realize I have three children in it and that, by some fortunate twist of the universe, I am their mother—and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and fear of inadequacy all at once.

A good day.

A good day.

I should not be their mother. They deserve endlessly more than I can offer. I cannot be enough.

Me, mothering.

Me, mothering.

I wonder whether Mary thought these things sometimes:

I should not be his mother.

He deserves endlessly more than I can offer.

I cannot be enough.

It’s universal, isn’t it: the wonder in the waiting? Again, we are worlds within worlds. We don’t get to decide it all. Some things just happen. Some things just are.

And so we wait.

Emmanuel, God with us, sums up my hope for the advent season this year—that I notice the bits of the divine around me despite the hectic sparkle of the season and that I find the sacred—because it’s here already, in the middle of our moving and ticking, in the middle of our keeping time.

Photo Nov 17, 1 56 30 PM

Me and the divine.

Me and the divine.

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