Practice Resurrection with Amanda McGill (Southwest Ohio)

Welcome to the fourth guest post in a new-and-improved version of the the Practice Resurrection series!

I’ve invited several friends and acquaintances to share a snapshot of their lives during the weeks of Eastertide (between now and Pentecost Sunday, June 9th). As in other series of guest posts, I pray about who to invite and for this series I was contemplating the ways these women and men consistently invite us through their social media presence to regularly consider restoration, beauty, and goodness even, and maybe especially, in the face of difficulty. I’ve asked each guest to share snapshots of their present daily life inspired by Wendell Berry’s  poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”.

I first met today’s guest through The Homely Hours, the beautiful blog she collaborates with a couple other “churchwomen” providing an excellent resource for those wanting to orient home life around the daily, weekly, and seasonal liturgies of the Anglican tradition. No matter your denomination, if you love the Church and you hope to influence the next generation to do the same, take time perusing The Homely Hours website or follow on Facebook or Instagram. In this season of Eastertide, I’m so grateful to Amanda for sharing a snapshot of her life living out the reality of resurrection.

First, take a moment to listen to Amanda reading us the poem, and please don’t miss the adorable poetry buffs who show up at the end!


So, friends, every day do something

that won’t compute.

At this point in the poem, the Mad Farmer turns from ways to practice profit, fear, and death, to ways to practice life and resurrection. “Every day do something that won’t compute,” he says, which contains everything that follows. My main theme in “practicing resurrection” fits within his statement, too: Amanda, learn to be small and happy.

As you keep reading, you’ll find I’m a person who takes myself too seriously. I grow huge in my mind, but not small enough to delight in the real world. By “small,” first, I mean to be simpler inside, to be content with limits; and then I see the principle expand.  My children are my teachers.

Going big is the way of quick profit and promotion; smallness within limits is the way of new life, the way of “two inches of humus” and even the seeds of sequoias. For me, this means a constrained and creative life, tied to a small family and a small church and a small plot of earth in a small town.

Amanda McGill.nest.amcgill.jpg

Love the world. Work for nothing.

When I take these statements together, I think of making a place where love dwells. In another poem, Berry calls it “my art of being here.” This photo is of my first real garden and it has been my primary Eastertide practice. For years, I’ve overthought, become overwhelmed, and barely done anything. This year I told myself, “It’s fine to not get it perfect the first time; just start small, Amanda!” And it’s made me so happy.

There’s love in places where people garden and I’ve known that even when I’ve been too fearful to start. Gardening sends down roots into the order of the world, which is love. And Love spends itself lavishly on perennials and fruit trees, in hope.


Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not live to harvest.

My children and I often go to the forest, the “peace of the woods.” I’ve been inspired by Charlotte Mason, the great British educator at the turn of the 20th century, to attempt four to six hours a day outside with my children (“attempt” is key). I do this because it’s good for me, good for all of us. Outside, I’m not harassed by my to-do list or frustrated with the futility of housework (not to detract from its meaning and value). “I rest in the grace of the world, and am free,” as Berry says in The Peace of Wild Things. Underneath the towering sycamores, next to the creeks endlessly flowing on to the Atlantic, I’m content to be little along with my little girls. And they are also learning from their teachers: the lilies of the field, the birds of the air, the trees planted by streams of water whose leaf never withers.

Amdanda McGill.forest.amcgill.jpg

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful

though you have considered all the facts.

G.K. Chesterton said, “Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One ‘settles down’ into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness...For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”

 I could belabor my lack of lightness, but that only makes me sink deeper into “selfish seriousness.” Here, I know that my children are given to me as a gift, always offering a way into laughter and happy smallness (as well as the chance to frame the daily frustrations into the ludicrous). My husband is also my good match, who “belittles” me in all the best ways: with wit, kindness, and love.


Go with your love to the fields.

Lie easy in the shade. 

Can I “lie easy” and relax with my husband, my children? Do I have enough space in my soul that I can release the pressure to keep accomplishing things? Can I, as Pope Francis questions, “waste time with my children?” Am I small enough to enjoy this moment? Do I have to think it to death? (And now I will stop overthinking).

Amanda McGill.field.amcgill.jpg

Practice resurrection.

In the end, I take Berry’s phrase to “practice resurrection” as shorthand for St. Paul’s words in Romans 6, we are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” We walk in “newness of life.” Every week, we enter through the doors of our church. It’s small and old – lived-in, well-loved. It’s not the place to enter if you think newness of life means something big and shiny. But here, to take C.S. Lewis’s words, “the inside is bigger than the outside.” There are mysteries here -- of smallness and joy (how a stable could hold a King and the whole world be changed through a few weak men). Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary. I follow the fox to church. The incongruity is stark. It certainly won’t compute. But here, most of all, by love and liturgy, I practice resurrection.

Amanda McGill.candle.amcgill.jpg

Amanda+McGillbio.amandamcgill.jpg

Amanda McGill lives in Southwest Ohio with her husband Jon and two young daughters. In 2015, she and her friends started The Homely Hours, a liturgical living resource in the Anglican tradition. She is music director at Christ the King Anglican Church in Dayton. She perpetually rereads C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen; but currently, she is interested in everything written by Rumer Godden and Martin Thornton.  If she has any free time, she’ll spend it reading and writing (after running).


(You can see all the Practice Resurrection 2019 guest posts here.)

Reintegrating

Andrew's baby shower at Aunt Lois'.jpg

Dear friends,

Thank you for the thoughtful and kind responses to my last post. I think that the reality of depression has been so close to my life and family that it surprises me to discover the weight the word carries. I guess my reluctance to name it when I'm the one experiencing it indicates the heft it still carries in my own mind and heart. Truly, I feel that the weight has lifted/is lifting and it's a gift to know that tender people surround me and my family. An astonishing gift.

Several months ago, during a phone call with my spiritual director I frustrated myself trying to describe the physical stall I was feeling. "It's like I'm tucked up in my apartment and just going out the front door feels almost impossible." Of course (and thanks be to God!) I did go out that front door many times each week, but thinking about it and planning for it felt heavy and almost paralyzing. There's lots of factors for this difficulty - physical fatigue from moving so many times in the past 10 years, unfamiliarity with our new neighborhood, reacclimating to the cold and slushy Northeast winters, and more. Still, this sense of paralysis felt different to anything I'd experienced for a very long time. The best comparison I could offer was the feeling of post-partum heaviness.

When that memory of my post-partum experience arrived,  I realized I was talking about depression. Why, oh why, do those early days of new life require from so many of us a high emotional, physical, and mental cost? I wish new life only brought youthful energy and dreamy bliss. I wished it then, and I wish it now.

This past weekend we visited my parents. My mom brought out a stack of photographs she thought I'd want to keep. Photo after photo of my beautiful children as babies and toddlers. The feeling of wanting to touch them, like literally reach into the photograph to cuddle their soft baby skin, almost overwhelmed me. The wistfulness felt almost like a physical pain. At the bottom of the stack, I discovered a few pictures from a small baby shower my aunt had thrown for us just a few weeks after Andrew was born. In one photo he's being cuddled by a great aunt and he's so small, his skin still carries that ruddy newborn complexion. In another image, my Mom is cradling his body cocooned in a baby afghan even though it's late summer. The rest of the photos feature Brian and me sitting on a couch opening presents. These photos hurt to look at, too, and not out of wistfulness. Behind the polite smiles on our faces, I can see directly into our shocked and exhausted hearts. My face is flushed with what I viscerally remember as the feverish first weeks of nursing a baby. My clothes don't fit my post-partum body very well and I can tell that I wished I could hide underneath the pile of gift wrap. Brian sits in his work uniform on one end of the couch and me on the other. In between us, there's a huge open gap of empty couch like we'd forgotten that we'd arrived together.

I'm sure at the moment, if I was aware at all of what I was feeling, I was stunned to be so uncomfortable in a moment I'd dreamed about. Our first baby, a beautiful son, a generous family, and the man I loved with my whole heart surrounding me and I felt completely lost. 

In hindsight, maybe it shouldn't surprise me that the season of "emptying the nest" feels a whole lot like those post-partum days. I'm finally able to admit that it, in fact, does feel like that to me. In spite of preparing ourselves with all the best wisdom we'd heard throughout the years: tend to your own growth and interests, don't overidentify with being a mother, cultivate a strong relationship with your spouse aside from your children I seem to have still been caught off guard.  To quote one of our favorite movie lines: "Oh, Eddie… If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now."

Indeed.

In the phone call with my spiritual director, she gently asked how much I understood about my personality. I figured I'd done the normal amount for someone like me who has a penchant for analysis and introspection. That's to say: a lot. I resisted her observation for a couple of months and have just recently been welcoming some new information and discovery about how God wired me inwardly and outwardly. One realization that struck me almost immediately is that I'm prone to get stuck in my head, the thinking part of me, and have a natural resistance to my body, the doing part of me. With this insight, I've been better able to recognize that paralysis I was describing as a separation of my ability to think a thought, feel a feeling, and then do a thing to move forward. For many days in the last year and a half, I'd keep looping through the thinking and maybe progress (on a good day) to the feeling with only an occasional forward movement to doing. For twenty-seven years I've been navigating up to six people's schedules and instead of it feeling like freedom to only have to navigate my own and Brian's now, instead, it feels like swimming around in a void. Another sort of personality might have rushed to fill in that void with activity, but my personality went inward instead. 

Anyway, the insight (and several others) has been hugely helpful. Reorienting for me requires reintegrating my mind and heart with the tangible, physical world. Without the prompts of needing to do so many things to run a household, my body got lost. I keep telling my spiritual director that I'm too old to just whip myself into shape with some sort of self-help program. Most days I mean, rather, that I've gotten wiser. When I was a child I whipped myself into shape like a child, now that I'm fully grown I'm afraid of living out of an all-or-nothing state of being. I long for a healthy rhythm of thinking-feeling-doing that is led out of a desire to live as my truest self who is growing up in Christ day by day. But in the same way motherhood didn't just spring up with no pain or fear, none of this stage of life feels natural yet either.

And that's where I am today. The sun and beauty of May and June have certainly helped. A growing confirmation that my kids are going to make it in this wild and wooly world has helped. The tender people surrounding me have helped. Movement and active prayer, stillness and silent prayer, and tears and lamenting prayer have helped. Road trips, beach visits, the treadmill at Planet Fitness and the yoga mat on my bedroom floor have helped. Check-ups with my doctor and medications have helped. So have dumb episodes of Bob's Burgers and British murder mysteries. And, yes, to the extent that God-with-us doesn't abandon us in the midst of our idle pursuits, even word games on my phone have helped.

In my morning office today I was struck by the aptness of this prayer (bolding added by me):

O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration I may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

So I pray today that God, by the inspiration and energy of his Spirit might help me both think right thoughts and then to do them through the Christ in whom we live, and move, and have our being. May it be so.

 

Grace and peace,

Tamara

Weekend recap: parents tour Texas + links I love

Reviving the weekly post in which I share my favorite (and, sometimes, not-so-favorite) moments from the week and links from the web. 

-- 1 --

On April 10, this blog turned 11 years old. Crazy, right? I feel like I've lived 3 or 4 lifetimes since 2006. I've lived in 6 different houses in 3 different states, worked about 5 different jobs, attended 4 of my kid's high school graduations, 2 college graduations, and 1 wedding.

In the 11 years I've been writing at this blog, I've figured out several important life questions, and asked a whole lot more. We've worked and served in 3 different churches, become confirmed in the Anglican communion, and celebrated my husband's ordination into the priesthood. 

I've quit blogging 537 times, but somehow never stopped publishing new posts. It's been a consistent space in a season of unpredictable highs and lows. Even this week I quit the blog, yet here I am typing new words onto a white space. And here you are, reading them. 

Thank you. 

In the past 11 years, I've met more new in-real-life friends than any one person deserves. I've also learned the deep sadness of moving thousands of miles away from people, given the choice, I'd pick as my next-door neighbors for the rest of my life. It probably doesn't take a therapist to analyze the reason I value the relationships I've begun or maintained through this digital space. I know it can never take the place of face-to-face connection, yet it does provide a kind of connection that is also meaningful.

So Happy Birthday, blog!  And thank you, friend, for participating, affirming and connecting with me through this intermediary platform.  I'm forever grateful. 


-- 2 --

April brought our first Eastertide in Connecticut (which was lovely in so many ways), and our first trip back to Texas to see our kids and as many other people we could collect on the way. 


-- 3 -- 

We celebrate a family tradition of giving our children an additional middle name at the time of their 21st birthday. We hope to bless qualities we've seen grow and develop throughout their life, and give them a name to point them toward their future. We also hope to acquaint them with a hero of the faith as a reminder of their heritage within the communion of saints. 


This was the first time we saw Kendra since she turned 21 in March, and were so excited to reveal her new name: Kendra Jenee Edel Murphy, after Edel Quinn

We bless you, Kendra, for your fiercely tenacious, lovably persuasive, exceedingly capable, mystically devoted, churchly oriented, nations championing, friendship nurturing life. Godspeed into this beautiful and terrifying world, KJEM. We are always for you, and Christ is always with you.


-- 4 -- 

Favorite sights, sounds and reads from the internet this week:

  • Bono & David Taylor: Beyond the Psalms - Last year, Brian and I had the privilege to support this project behind the scenes. The latest releases are examples of great conversation and craftsmanship. Excellent. | via Fuller Studio
“We don’t have to please God in any other way than to be brutally honest; that is the root not only to a relationship with God but the root to a great song . . . or any work of art of merit.” —Bono
  • In Venezuala, the Catholic church endures among the revolution's ruins - One of my former co-workers in Austin was born in and still has family members living in Venezuala. I've been following the links he's posted on social media to try to understand the current turmoil.  This post helped give me some historical and religious perspective. Lord, have mercy. | via America Magazine
"When the state becomes predatory, the defenders of the faith are called upon to point people in the right direction, away from the violence of the authorities and back to God. Reminding the people he is still there; he is still looking; he is still caring."

 

  • Rewrite Radio, the podcast from the Festival of Faith & Writing - A year ago, I attend the festival for the first time. It was a game-changer for me, even though, at the time, it felt awkward and lonely. If you love writing, reading or just listening to interesting speakers, check out the archives of previous festivals in this new podcast series. If nothing else, listen to episode #10 featuring Frederick Buechener from the very first festival in 1993. | via Calvin.edu

 

"I think of how often God's messengers and Jesus himself urged, "Be not afraid." Both comfort and command, those words suggest that taking that full look at the worst is exactly what the Spirit equips us to do—to have eyes willing to see, and ears willing to hear, and hearts willing to participate wherever we can in redressing injustice and fostering the kind of community we were called to by the Holy One who made us stewards and called us friends." -- Marilyn McEntyre
 

-- 5 --

We're headed into the third week of Eastertide. I hope you're still celebrating - maybe even with champagne for breakfast, as N.T. Wright recommends!  On the blog, I'll be sharing a Sunday post each week, highlighting the Gospel accounts, great visual art, and some of my favorite literary quotations on the theme of resurrection life. I'm also excited to kick off the annual weekly Practice Resurrection photo contributions from friends all around the country (and globe). 

In the meantime, here's 271 of my favorite songs on the theme of Gospel resurrection. Enjoy!  


May you enjoy a weekend full of worship, love, and beauty, friends. Maybe even, champagne!

Weekend Daybook post. beginnings and endings edition

weekend-daybook-goethe-quote.jpg

As we head toward fall, I'm trying to get the blogging gears moving again with a weekly catchall post. I've posted this particular series in various iterations over the years, but all of them started as a discipline to counter the anxiety I often feel headed into a weekend of social interactions. Even though I love people, and I love meaningful conversations with people, as a 45-year-old introvert I still struggle with social anxiety. So this post is an attempt for me to collect beautiful, true, and good bits and pieces from the internet and from my own ordinary life in one place as a contemplative practice. I share them to help me remember, and with the hope that it might be helpful for some of you, too.

Please let me know what you've been reading, making, doing, listening and enjoying this week. I love the ideas you share here! (and if we happen to see each other in real life this week, by all means I want to talk about it all with you!)

a little song (or 20)

Roots & Wings Playlist

I made this playlist to comfort us on our trip home from taking our youngest daughter, Natalie, to her freshman year of college.  I've been saying this since we took our oldest son to his first day of elementary school about 20 years ago: There's nothing in the world more counterintuitive than to take your child to a place they've never been and leave them there. It feels kind of like shock, actually.  

We are so excited for her opportunity to attend the school she's been dreaming about in the program she's been dreaming about for a long time.  We're so thankful to live only three hours north on the efficient I-95.  We're even looking forward to this new "empty nest" season.  AND we are also sad.  It's just the end of an era, and deserves a bit of boo-hooing, in my opinion.  

When you take a child to college for the first time, you have all these ideas of taking beautiful photos. Usually you walk away with something like this.  

When you take a child to college for the first time, you have all these ideas of taking beautiful photos. Usually you walk away with something like this.  

If you're in the mood for something more cheery, here's my ongoing Summer playlist on Spotify. By the calendar we still have a couple of weeks left, friends.  This playlist kept me company during a pretty refreshing Saturday breakfast-making, herb-replanting and kitchen-cleaning session this morning.  Enjoy!

My Summer Playlist

Kendra at Captain's Cove marina, Bridgeport

Kendra at Captain's Cove marina, Bridgeport


a good poem


a fine picture

Swimmin , Rhona Garvin -  source

Swimmin, Rhona Garvin - source

My brother and nephew swimming in the Long Island Sound off Jennings Beach.

My brother and nephew swimming in the Long Island Sound off Jennings Beach.


make & do

We've been given some beautiful fresh produce by neighborly gardeners.  Last night, to celebrate one of Kendra's last nights home, Brian grilled some delicious steaks.  I quick searched a recipe to use the zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes we had on hand, and made this delicious vegetable side:  Roasted Garlic-Parmesan Zucchini, Squash and Tomatoes. (perfect, right?)  The veggies were so yummy, Brian and I ate them with scrambled eggs this morning and Kendra finished them up with pasta and a bit of leftover tomato sauce for lunch.  One dish for three meals - is this what Empty Nest will be like?


a few reasonable words

Patterns of Home, Importance of Homeyness |  I have a little side hobby of studying urban planning and keep learning so much from this organization.  via Strong Towns blog

Retreat for Ministers to Artists: Kathleen Norris, Artists & the Vocation to Prayer | If you love artists, churches, or Kathleen Norris, you need to read this announcement.  If you love all three, you just need to register for the retreat already.  via Diary of an Arts Pastor blog

Joe Henry - The Mystery and Adventure of Life and Songwriting | Such an excellent interview between two intelligent, creative and seasoned adults.  Listen asap.  via On Being with Krista Tippett podcast

from the archives:

What I Wish My Son Would Say About Me On His 22nd Birthday | In honor of Andrew's 25th birthday this week!

My Top 4 Parenting Epiphanies, or My Child Is Not My Property but My Guest | I seem to re-learn this lesson every single September.  Read if you are a parent or you know a parent.  It's pretty important stuff.

We had a great time with 3 of our kids here in August!

We had a great time with 3 of our kids here in August!


a conversation prompt

Remember, friends: Only you can prevent small talk! Hopefully, I've given you a few things to contemplate and share in your conversations this week.  If all else fails, here's a great question to ask everyone you meet. 

What makes a teacher great? Tell me about one of your all-time favorite teachers.

I'd love to hear your answer to this question, so leave me a comment below!  

May your week be filled with truth, goodness and beauty, friends.

Tamara

Retrieve Lament: from me, the mother

Pietà, Anto Carte - source

 

I can't imagine being your mother

-- or maybe I can.

The day she cradled your dead body, 

how much of her suffering was about you? 

How much was about her?

 

I've given life to four people

All still alive (thanks be to God),

but I grieve anyway.

 

For a mother, grief

comes easy. 

As does the following:

Anguish

Fury

Irritation

Contempt

Remorse

Humiliation

 

Also:

Liability

 

Occasionally:

Love

 

Sometimes love feels fierce as hate-

mingling down in howling tears. 

It's hard to tell the difference

Am I crying for my kid?

Am I crying for myself?

 

Which makes me wonder

What your mother felt the day she cradled 

your dead body?

 

One time (or maybe a million)

I cried all night because I couldn't

remember if I'd ever done anything right

for my kid. I thought 

the homemade play-dough was a good idea, and 

the library trips.  Maybe that wasn't

enough?

 

One time (just the other day)

I cried all night

because I was so damn mad

at my kid. The one I love more

than life itself. The one

-- given enough Pinot --

I could just as easily slap

upside the head.

 

Four times I writhed and moaned

and screamed and hollered

and bled and cussed

until - hallelujah -

it was finished.

 

Four times I cooed and cried

and prophesied, shouting

over the tiny 

screaming face:

This is my kid -

do whatever he tells you to do.

 

Four seconds of transcendance - 

even while my body turned inside

out, split in two, stretched 

beyond recognition.

 

Four perfect seconds of euphoria - 

after that, things begin to fall apart.

 

Did your mother think, I would 

die for you? 

 

Did she think, 

You wear me out. Or, 

this is all your father's fault.

 

I only ask because I've thought all 

those things.  If it's ok

for the mother of God,

maybe I'm not so bad.

 

Maybe there's hope for us yet.