The Faith That Formed Me

 

The Faith That Formed Me
by Ingrid Lochamire

On an early spring evening, I stood in line for the symbolic smudge of ashes marking the first day of Lent. I was unprepared for what that touch to my forehead would do to my heart as in the glow of candlelight, I stepped back in time as tears spilled unbidden.

And there she was again, standing at the altar. Skinny, smiling shyly as she posed in her white communion dress, mousy brown hair peaking from beneath a froth of netting, white anklets scrunched above black patent leather shoes. Ardent in her practice of a faith that would form her, the little girl’s eyes glowed with the joy of taking her first communion, of offering her first confession, and of receiving the ashes.

Did she know that five decades later, she’d stand at another altar and her heart would burst wide open, full with the joy of embracing again the precious impact of the ashes?

* * *

I turned away from Catholicism as a high school senior, lured by the popular youth group and upbeat worship music offered by my friends’ non-denominational church. I wanted guitars and games, not incense, chiming bells and Latin liturgy. A copy of The Living Bible went with me to college. My Catholic scriptures were left behind on a bedroom shelf.

An outdoor wedding ceremony officiated by the pastor of that little church set me on a path toward spiritual awakening and growth. Women in the church mentored and encouraged my still-ardent love for Jesus, and I learned to share Him with others. In years to come, pastors from various denominations and other churches would contribute to a deepening faith that sustained me through my life’s trials — divorce, loss, cancer.

The security of a faith built on decades spent living out God’s Word among His people allowed me to pay attention when a gentle ripple of longing began to surface. In the beginning, I couldn’t put a word to the yearnings that bubbled in a quiet corner of my soul. As a mature Christian, I love my church. I’m in deep agreement with the doctrine and theology of our evangelical protestant beliefs and practices. But, like a lamp lit by a low-wattage bulb, my rock-solid faith lacked some of the glow that burned across the years from the altar of that little Catholic chapel of my childhood.

It wasn’t until I spent time working alongside other women in a restoration project at a Catholic retreat center that the yearnings slipped into place.

Beauty, symbolism, tradition, corporate prayer, holy seasons. I had shed them like an ill-fitting coat in my youth. Now, I welcomed the comfort of their weight and warmth.

As we talked and planned, I soaked up the joy of those women doing a work for Jesus. I recognized and understood what shined from their eyes when they spoke to me of tradition. Of miracles, healings, sacraments. Of a church history that, in many ways, is the heritage of my own Christian faith.

It was familiar because it was part of me.

My stepmom passed away shortly after these women completed their project. It was inevitable that my grieving was bound up in their unwavering commitment to The Church. I had seen the same devotion in my stepmother. Her collection of Catholic icons, prayer books, rosaries, holy medals and other symbols of faith passed through my hands as we sorted through her possessions. They gave testimony once again to what I had known and lived — to the faith that had formed me.

You can turn from one good thing and replace it with another, but can you wipe away the imprint that one thing left on your soul? Or can you acknowledge the stirrings when they surface and make space for them in the now?

When our evangelical Christian church chose to observe Ash Wednesday for the first time in many years, I found myself dipping back into the dust of a tradition that lay at the foundation of my faith. The simple, sacred act brought me face-to-face with the ardent little Catholic girl who called herself the Bride of Jesus.

Her eyes still glowed.

“Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” Genesis 3:19b

 

 

 

Ingrid Lochamire is an author, speaker and former journalist. She’s also a “retired” home educator who graduated four sons before returning to her roots as a writer. She blogs regularly and recently began co-hosting the podcast On the Front Porch. Her reflections on rural life, faith and family have been published online in the literary journal Topology, at the website Perennial Gen and on The Redbud Post. Ingrid and her husband live on a farm in a beautiful glacial valley in northeast Indiana. Ingrid is on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest as Ingrid Lochamire.

Products of Personal Care

 

Products of Personal Care
by Melanie Weldon-Soiset

As I push some soap bars to the side of my DC linen closet, I discover a bright pink sunscreen bottle, SPF 65. “Non-greasy dry feel!,” it proudly boasts. Designed in California USA, assembled in the Philippines. I study the bottle while the memories wash over me.

My husband Brian and I moved 10 times during our first decade of marriage, and we culled our toiletry collection for each displacement. Many of our flats came furnished, which means our home décor choices were limited. The rock hard mattresses and wobbly tables did little to cultivate a sense of coziness; hence the splurges on rose and lavender body lotions. I wanted to reclaim a bit of dignity before storing those cherished creams in metallic, neon orange cabinets.

Moving to China forced me to become even more aware of the need to monitor what I put in and on my body. Local shampoo not meant for dirty blonde hair left my mop matted, and domestic body soap burned my skin. News articles forewarning fraudulent medicine in my adopted country kept me from neighborhood pharmacies. I therefore learned to import and stockpile toiletries.

The bottles and boxes in our last Shanghai apartment stood under our bathroom sink like little soldiers, called to attention in neat rows three feet deep and six feet wide. Like a paranoid recluse preparing for the apocalypse, I hoarded toothpaste, mouthwash, and tampons. I accumulated drugs for any ailment, storing anti-diarrheal pills from three different countries, and cold medicine from at least two.

Travels abroad became opportunities to replenish our bath and body collection. In each new country, we actively sought out the multinational drug store chains Boots, Watsons, and Mannings. This trip in the Philippines, however, proved especially trying. Stops in our usual oases left me empty-handed in my search for high SPF sunblock. I was now scouring a local grocery store.

There I stood in that Manila supermarket, at my wit’s end. The next morning, Brian and I would fly to stunning yet inadequately provisioned Boracay, a Filipino beach resort. I desperately yearned for some rest and sunshine, since I lacked both in smoggy China. I was severely overweight, burned out from my job, and injured from a torn Achilles tendon. Tears built in my eyes as I aimlessly wandered the aisles, seeking the epidermal protection I’d need to be outside. My anxious attempts at Sabbath were dissolving in failure.

But then, a flash of pink. A special section of sunscreen beckoned me. I approached the delightful neon display, and discovered a small bottle of self-care treasure.

Back in DC, I lovingly place that pink sunscreen in its proper place in my new-to-me linen closet.  We had moved back to the US from China, and I’m now performing the familiar ritual of organizing the toiletries.  This time, however, I intend to stay put.

“The medicine is ready!” Matthew calls. I close the closet door, and head downstairs. I see Brian and our Chinese tenant, Matthew, sitting at the kitchen table. Three bowls of soup greet me.

Brian and I are congested with colds, and Matthew has offered to make some Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine is eaten, not taken, which means a delicious soup also serves as succor. I smell the fragrant ginger, sit down, and look inside my bowl to see small red goji berries floating in an inviting brown sugar broth. What I could not accomplish in China I am now doing in the US:  healing myself the Chinese way, with the help of a Chinese friend. I gratefully take a sip.

 

 

 

Melanie Weldon-Soiset loves to get real in comfy house slippers. A member of the Redbud Writer’s Guild, Melanie has written for Velvet Ashes, Sojourners, Geez, Redbud Post, Red Letter Christians, and Bearings Online. Melanie also lived in China for five years, where she served as a pastor at a Shanghai church for 2,000 immigrants from over 100 countries. Melanie hails from Georgia but now lives in DC, where she bikes on local greenways, gardens, and abides among the basilica bells and sacred space of her Brookland neighborhood. Find Melanie online at melanieweldonsoiset.com, or on Twitter @MelanieWelSoi.

Resurrection

 

Resurrection
by Michele Morin

“As for man, his days are as grass;
as a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and the place thereof remembers it no more.”

Psalm 103:15, 16

 

Every day there are fewer shingles — and more bare roof.
Every day there is less barn and more sky
until,
it becomes clear to us that walls are also passing away,
a melancholy nod to the flowers of the field
who spend their winters in barn-storage,
The wind having already passed over their flourishing.
There is merit,
apparently,
(wisdom at least)
in the contemplation of
a barn-less field,
a me-less world:
“Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
But Old Testament poets notwithstanding,
there will be a Second Wind,
Who will tease mortal hay back into clover, timothy, succulent greens;
stir the dry bones;
reconstitute my known frame, while that Living Wind whispers,
“Resurrection.”

 

 

 

Michele Morin is a teacher, reader, writer, and gardener who does life with her family on a country hill in Maine. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, and three adorable grandchildren. Michele is active in educational ministries with her local church and delights in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. Connect by following her blog at Living Our Days, or via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Gilt Gift

 

Gilt Gift
by Jody Collins

Sometimes I guilt myself right out of
joy. Like the surprise of an iridescent
butterfly from an unsightly cocoon,
who would expect this shimmering
show in morning sunlight?
My eyes trained on Northwest firs
framed in blue, frosted feeders,
feathered presents hidden among
the trees.
Moments pass.

I’ve held my breath, wondering.
Did my mother ever ponder stilling
herself, take a moment with the
birds in her California garden? Gaze
restful at morning fog carried in
on marine air? Was she ever at
ease in her troubled
life, parenting us five alone?
I will never know.
I cannot ring her up to ask, there is
no email to send, no letter to write.
She is gone, stolen far too soon.
I abandon this feigned injustice.
How wildly unfair that I should gather
such beauty as surely she never did.

No.
I will not leave reason to balance the
ledger, steal this away, too. The
feathered hum of heat, filigreed pane,
frosty view. I drink in sleeping green,
the fluttering avian dance, breathe
in the brilliant morning.
Surrender my second guesses and leave
logic to philosophers, welcoming with
wonder this gilt gift, nothing to ponder
but my thanks.

 

 

 

Jody Collins is a blatant philologist and poetry lover living in the Pacific Northwest with her very patient husband. She uses both gardening and writing as therapy, often featuring her 6 grandchildren, whom she thanks God for daily. Jody’s been penning words since Smith-Corona typewriters graced the desks of her middle school, but nowadays you can find her thoughts at www.jodyleecollins.com.  Twitter: @JodyLeeCollins2  Instagram: @jody_lee_collins