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The body of a woman

Like the majority of American women out there, I’ve got a few body issues.  It’s not like I wander around in a state of constant physical self-loathing, and there are plenty of things I really like about the way I look, but there are also a few key things I’m not wild about, particularly as middle age sets in.  I’m not going to name them here because I don’t want to dignify them that way; see, on a rational level I KNOW this is all very dumb, and most of the time I can just laugh at my insecurities and move on.

Then, other times, I can’t.

The sad thing is that this is not unique to me.  Take a look at this article and you’ll see that women all over the world struggle to feel good about their bodies (though not as many in South Africa as in the other nations in the study. What’s their secret?).

Anyhow, I say all of this because as I sat at the vigil Mass last night for the Feast of the Assumption — the day when we celebrate how Mary was assumed into heaven — it occurred to me that there was something about this feast day that I had never noticed before.

I realized that it was a feast day where we celebrate a woman’s body.

And I like that.  Even more: I need that.

I need the reminder that a woman’s body is worthy of respect and honor.

I need a chance to think about how my own body, this house for my soul, is something that does great things.  It walks and talks and touches and sees and smells and tastes and hears, processes that are amazing marvels when you really stop to think about them.

I need to honor the fact that this body has known pleasure and has known pain. It has needed surgery and medication and yet it keeps on ticking.  It engages with creation every day in ways I usually take for granted, even though I shouldn’t.

I want to honor the fact that this body has held four little lives inside it.   I mourn the two who were lost before they could be born, and yet I am forever grateful for the two who grew to term, two boys who happened to be sitting on either side of me during Mass as these thoughts washed over me.

I need to think about how my body holds a record of my forty-four years on this earth.  It’s there in the wrinkles, the gray hair, the random scars.  They all tell a story; my story.  I wouldn’t change that story for anything.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to think all of this during Mass.  I had gone because it was a Holy Day of Obligation, and I’m that kind of girl.  I didn’t expect to be sitting in the pew suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude that my faith has a day where we honor the body of a woman who was well past middle age.

But it does.  I love that it does.

And maybe this day is an invitation to me — and to you too, sister — to do the same.

Hungry for some Blessed Conversation?

One of the best things to happen to my spiritual life in the last two years has been getting involved with Blessed Is She.  If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a website — that’s a totally inadequate term; it’s really more of a gathering space and sisterhood — for Catholic women to grow in faith.  It features daily reflections on the Mass readings, online workshops, and materials for small group studies, among all sorts of other wonderful things.

And it’s just launching a brand-new study guide called Blessed Conversations.

Blessed Conversations is a seven-part series for use in small groups — anywhere from two women on up — to reflect on key aspects of the Catechism.   You can do the whole seven parts or any one of them.

My contribution to the project was writing the guide on the sacraments.  It — like each of the guides — features excerpts from the Catechism, related Scripture verses, a personal reflection on the sacrament, and questions for group discussion.  It’s also gorgeously designed (by the enormously gifted Erica Tighe) and is available for purchase as a download on the BIS site.

If this study guide (or any of the things BIS offers) tugs on your soul, check out the website.  If you’ve ever thought of getting a few ladies together  and sharing your spiritual journeys, the Blessed Conversations just might be the place to begin.

Good news from the CPA Book Awards!

Exciting news: Taste and See just won a Catholic Press Association Book Award!

Woo hoo!

Here’s what the CPA folks said:

“Arguing that “God speaks to us through our senses,” the author (a writer, wife and mother) proves her point with delightful examples and a flair for telling them well. Here is a reminder that, regardless of one’s feelings at the moment, God is ever-present in the mundane and the sublime.”

The award was second place in the category “Popular Presentation of the Catholic Faith.”  I’m grinning ear to ear over here.

You can see the full list of winners here.  If you’re anything like me, it’ll give you a bunch of new titles for your summer reading list.

He is risen …

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… he is truly risen!

Happy Easter!

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Flowers of the fairest

For the past eight years, my Mary statue has been on our old, cracked patio. I would make up for the icky concrete by putting flowerpots at her feet; it looked nice when they were in bloom.

But our backyard recently underwent a major and much-needed overhaul. Goodbye, old ratty concrete and ugly podicarpus and oversized palm tree that always had me worried it would collapse on our neighbor’s house in a storm; hello, new lawns and curved flowerbeds and the chance to create an entirely new garden layout from scratch.  And there was one feature that was a very, very high priority for me.

“I’m going to give the Mary statue a special corner in the new yard,” I told my husband.

“Nobody puts Mary in a corner,” he said.

But I did, and earlier this week I planted all kinds of flowers around her.   I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

 

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There’s actually a long, long history of Mary gardens in European countries. Often you find in them flowers which were named after Mary herself (including marigolds, or “Mary’s Gold”).  I included several of those, bright and sunny.

I also found a bleeding heart at a nursery and had to put it in, too (that’s another flower traditionally associated with Mary, for obvious iconographic reasons).

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Mostly, though, I went for colors I like and flowers that  I thought would do well in our corner.  It’ll need a little time to fill in; I’m counting on time and Miracle-Gro to help with that.

But it’s a lovely new little space, the focal point of our new yard. And I think Mary is pretty happy in her own little corner.

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