Could there be Beauty –

I’m reading a marvelous book, Captivating, by John and Staci Eldredge. Staci is a former/lapsed Catholic; she and John write for an Evangelical press. I have actually read this book once before; last year, going to Raleigh to sing with the Master Chorale, I went into Barnes & Noble one afternoon and read this book over a latte grande… and journalled like a fiend – This month, when I had a bit of money to spare, I had to buy it for myself.

This idea that each woman is created as a Beauty is disconcerting to me. You see, all my life, I have believed that I ranged from Plain to Mostly Ugly. No, I couldn’t play dress-up, my mother told me; I was too rough, too careless, too clumsy; I would tear or break or dirty…. Every compliment about my prettiness was always responded to with a disapproving look and “Pretty is as Pretty does.” I was rough, clumsy, etc., so obviously I could not be pretty. The message was even more firmly packed into my mind during my first marriage; homosexual men don’t particularly care about the beauty or worthiness of a woman, except as how it might reflect on them.

So – I’ll be fifty years old in a month, and all these years I’ve thought of myself as “plain.” All for the simple reason that I didn’t deserve any better.

I don’t know who some of the readers of this blog are – there are some locations that I recognize (Linda, God love you for your loyalty!) and some that make me wonder… despite the possible risk of being discovered, I want to tell a story about myself, a story that reading Captivating has caused me to relive, vividly, this evening.

It was nearly two years ago. I had met a fellow Catholic at Chorale, had quickly come to admire him in that way that is dangerous for a woman like me – that fervent admiration for a man’s character, intellect, accomplishments, and in this case, his Faith. I longed for every opportunity to be in his presence, to engage in conversation with him, because somehow, in his company, I did not dislike myself so very much, because he awakened good and noble things in me that I had lost along the years.

We attended Mass together one Sunday after one of our concerts. He followed me to the parish with the late Mass, and I waited as he rummaged in the back of his vehicle for the umbrella, as it was a grey, drizzly evening. He opened the umbrella and held it over my head –

and I had one thought: either I am going to walk half in and half out from under this thing, or “the girls” are going to keep bumping into him. Terribly embarrassing thought, that! and without deliberating, I reached up and took his arm to steady myself against the probable awkwardness of … ahem. cough. (shhh – boob assault)

He looked down at me and smiled the gentle smile that I love, and he snugged his arm, with my hand in it, against his side, and I was starkly aware for the first time what a strong, sophisticated, and virile man he is.

We walked into Church, talking until we reached the entryway to the Church – he had me proceed him down the aisle, he motioned me into the pew ahead of him. He lowered the kneeler before I could hook my foot over it and draw it down (my mindless habit) – We prayed side by side, worshipped Christ in the Holy Eucharist; at Communion, he motioned me to precede him in the reception line – After Mass he held my cape and gently draped it across my shoulders….

I’ve never felt this way, before or since – for one hour, in the presence of a strong and good man, I felt myself to be sweeter and gentler, more womanly, than I have ever known myself to be. The unremitting necessity of self-sufficiency was for a sweet hour lifted from me – I felt shy, a stranger to myself.

And it was only an hour – but its effect on me has never fully dissipated. I read this book, and I relive the rush of awareness, the sensibility of parts of myself I’d never been awakened to before…

And I am grateful that I have been allowed this even-fleeting touch of such strength and goodness in a man that opened my soul to this other, repressed Laura – whom I want to know better and to give full development to.

I almost doubt her existence; perhaps it was just a strange but predictable combination of hormones and chemicals in the air that gave me that glorious hour – and therefore it cannot have been an ontological self awakened, at all –

The struggle with weight – no, there has been no struggle, because until tonight I have left unquestioned and unchallenged the certainty of my own ugliness – my core, fundamental, ontological ugliness.
The struggle to keep house, to bring order and beauty to my intimate dwelling place – a reflection of my perennial condemnation to not being good enough, not being worthy of anything good…

But I remember the twinkle in his eyes as I took his arm that afternoon – and I remember the way he held my high school portrait and studied it – studied it! not just casting a careless polite glance at something so outdated and irrelevent! – and the smile that played about his lips as he looked at the girl I used to be and said, “I think I know this girl.”

And tonight I am compelled to question my own self-doubt and self-loathing.

Because of the strength and influence of a good man.

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I am Yours, O Lord –

My dreams, my desires, the yearnings of my heart –
I place in Thy Hands, O Lord.
Do with me as Thou wilt –
with my life, my abilities, my ambitions –
(not that I have many ambitions, but what I have are Yours)-
My affections, my hopes,
All things belong to Thee.
I will follow You where You call me –
only let Your voice come clearly to my inner ear
so that I might not confuse it with other noise of my ego’s wants.

Be glorifed, dear Lord – in and through and even,
when we must be blunt about it –
In spite of me.
amen.

So God said "No – "

… to whatever it was you were begging Him for. Maybe it was that job, or the miracle to save your marriage, or the life of your child –

And you did everything you were told you are supposed to do –
You prayed the novenas, you fasted, you made other sacrifices, you were careful not to step on cracks and you stood on your head…

And, oh, your faith was immense –

And God still said, “No.”

We are told – by well-meaning people who can’t bear to tell us the truth, by popular movements, by our “authority figures” – that if we just play the game right, God will honor the desires of our heart –

Actually, what we’re often told is that, if we just follow this particular formula, God has obligated Himself to do what we wish.

That’s a pagan idea, worse than a heresy; God does not subject Himself to our whims and wills –

But we, in our utter desparation, believe, we cling to every bit of flotsam within reach, because we are desparate to receive what we want.

When God says “No,” it doesn’t mean that we failed. Oh! how we can beat ourselves up over that! – I must have done something wrong, I must have spoken the words (the incantation?) out of order, I must have failed in some capacity – my faith must not have been strong enough –

No. God is only exercising His Divine Right as the Almighty Creator of the Cosmos – His omniscience that there are greater fruits ahead.

When I saw the mom’s fevered prayer request for the life of her son, back last fall, I knew that he would die, and I feared for the woman, because her prayer request was worded in such a way that I knew she had bought into this neopagan notion that God can be bought. Sure enough, the boy died a couple of weeks ago, and I have gotten word that she – who was absolutely defiant in the face of his failing health: “Mary will do what I ask her to do!” – has reached a bad place, a bleak and miserable place.

With the very certainty that I foresaw the boy’s death, I also saw that his death would be the catalyst to bring many souls into the Kingdom of God. Sometimes we can do more for Our Lord when we are denied what we want – and this is going to be such a case. I believe it with all my being.

Pray for this family, please –
and don’t doubt God’s mercy, or His power, just because He won’t play our games.

Okay. More than two months since my last post. I think one of the things I dislike about blogging is that it isn’t interactive enough. My life isn’t exciting enough, and my thoughts and insights are not profound enough, to justify sitting here putting them out into blogland as if the fate of the Nation rested on my shoulders.

I enjoy feedback, dialogue. I like being told something I said in a website was smart, or outrageously funny… heck, I even get a kick out of a good fight once in a while!

That just doesn’t happen in a blog. It’s a monologue that gets thrown out into cyberspace in a perennial echo… and for all I can tell doesn’t make a spit bit of difference anywhere, to anyone.

So – what is happening in my life the past two months?

Early August, I fell getting out of the bathtub. My left foot hit the linoleum and just k-e-p-t o-n g-o-w-i-n-g…. Honey, I couldn’t do splits as a preschooler! Let’s just say it wasn’t a pretty sight – and for the life of me, I couldn’t get my right foot off the floor of the bathtub! The scary thing was when I felt something rip (and heard it too – that is ONE GROSS SOUND) and I realized the phone was half way down the other end of the house and I was completely and totally alone. But I was able to eventually pull my right foot out of the tub, stand up and hobble off to bed. Then I got out of bed, went to the kitchen, got an ice pack out of the freezer, too the last of my post-oral-surgery hydrocodone and went back to bed. I was able to sleep, and a friend helped me look up on the internet and verify that I had a pulled hamstring…

The next day, Saturday, I went to housesit for friends going out of town. Steps going in to the house from every door. Steps up to the showers and bedrooms. My knees took a beating, compensating for the hamstring injury. I’m still recovering from that.

I have a couple of photos from the Eucharistic Congress in Charlotte, which was this past weekend. That was a real treat – I sang with the combined choir on Friday night, had a solo in the dona nobis pacem of the Mozart Coronation Mass – a very nice experience overall.

Got to see and meet Father Benedict Groeschel – he was the Friday night speaker, talked about Eucharistic Adoration. When I download his photo I’ll post more about his talk.

I’m not singing with the Master Chorale this season, but decided to try to cultivate a local social outlet so am singing with our local county choral society. The music is not nearly of the same calibre (that will be another post – I had to pick a horrible year NOT to sing with the NCMC) – but again, it’s a local group and will give me an opportunity to meet people in my own community. I need that.

Okay – Josh, if you pop back in, I’m back LOL – God bless you, dear friend! and bless you in your seminary studies.