I made a king cake for Fat Tuesday. The brioche-like pastry can be filled with cream cheese or cinnamon and inside a small figurine of the infant Christ is hidden. The idea for partakers of this sweet treat is to find Christ. It is a wonderful symbol of the goal of our Lenten journey.
Last year, I spent three days and nights at a silent Jesuit retreat center in Grand Couteau Louisiana. Then I drove to northern Louisiana to visit with my daughter in grad school. The retreat was a difficult time for me as I began to understand the depths of detachment. This year, I didn’t attend a retreat but I did commit to some really good books on the subject of love and the Examen prayer. Each time, I have had to learn to clean the closet of my heart–detaching from old habits that I thought kept me safe.
I don’t think that love is what we think it is. Certainly, Hollywood has a skewed vision of it’s meaning. Love is a search for Christ, first and foremost. God is Love–with a capital “L”. So, when we seek Him first, we become filled with love that we can give to others. I am learning the importance of keeping my tank filled.
Last Wednesday, I got up very early and drove to Oxford Mississippi, the home of William Faulkner, the Pulitzer prize writer. His home is owned by the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and is nestled right off of a busy street, hidden by a thick forest. It is a peaceful place that once you arrive, you park on gravel and walk on the clay path, cut by visitors who come to glimpse at his home.
Once inside, I walked through an old southern home. I looked at an era in time, long gone. But, his words written endure and still apply.
His acceptance speech for the Pulitzer spoke to me. His instructions for writing live on and apply to my Lenten journey to de-clutter and clear a path for Light:
“He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.”
Words can be timeless. The plot always searches for the truth of our hearts. That will never change. And all most of us ever want in this world is a little hope. He concluded his speech with just that:
“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”
Lifted up in hope, I journeyed on to a small town in northern Louisiana to see my daughter. We got some dinner and prepared to head out the next morning to do some antiquing in Texas. We drove to Waco to visit the famous “Magnolia Market” –the spark that fueled the show “Fixer Upper”. Then we drove around to other antique/junk/flea market type stores.
I ask myself, “Why is it so important to preserve the past?” or “Why do we need to take something broken and find a way to make it new?”
Perhaps it is that hope that helps us to soldier on–to see that even in ourselves we can take what is old and polish it into something new.
After an afternoon of shopping, we drove to Dallas to meet my husband’s first cousin. In thirty years, we have never met, even though she is one of my husband’s favorite cousins. It was important to see why and to re-build this family bond.
We shared dinner and memories. We became acquainted with something familiar; perhaps a shared past. We went to her daughter’s all school mass the next morning and then had breakfast. She is all that my husband said that she was–a beautiful soul. What a wonderful gift.
My daughter and I headed back to Louisiana. We shared time. I understand her journey, so far from home. It can be lonely and frightening. A new direction away from the safety of all that she knows. I begin to see her in a new light. A young adult is finding her way.
Each of these trips illuminate a little more to me. I keep trudging. Cleaning. Clearing. It is the season to prepare for Christ.
I am a daughter, sister, aunt, mother and probably most notoriously, ‘the Vet’s wife’.