Home as Sanctuary, Refuge

Rumors are flying on both sides of the political spectrum, as America heads toward the anticipated inauguration of Joe Biden next Wednesday. It’s a difficult time, and not a little alarming, as Trump supporters and other Conservatives are threatened with retaliation by those on the Left.

A few years ago, Rod Dreher wrote a book called The Benedict Option, in which he urges people to consider following the example of the venerable Father Benedict of Nursia, who abandoned Rome and headed to the hills to dwell in caves before he was persuaded to take leadership of a monastic community. From that community he wrote a Rule which has become the standard of many successive Orders’* Rules over the centuries, and is still read and aspired to by Benedictines, today. Dreher recommends abandoning society and retreating to a more isolated life away from the controversies and difficulties of modern society.

Of course, Benedict left the depravities of Rome, not its collapse. And he didn’t have the technologies to complicate his life that we do, today.

Fact is, a full withdrawal from the world is extremely difficult in the 21st century. We have families, jobs, obligations of varied descriptions that make a full retreat impossible.

However, there is something to be considered in the Rule and life of St. Benedict that is useful for us all: the mandate to consider every dimension of our lives as belonging to God. He required his communities to set aside very particular times of the day to pray (the Mass and the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours), to study, to labor. In addition, his counsel calls his communities, and us, to remember that every dimension and aspect of life is God’s. The tools of life did not belong to the monk, nor even to the monastery; they were God’s, and were expected to be treated respectfully in consequence of that reality.

Likewise, our lives and our homes belong to God. And in a world where so much stress and uncertainty are at the fore (Will more shutdowns cost me work, and income? Will political and theological convictions jeopardize my employment?) the only place where we really have influence and some degree of control is in our homes.

The control should, must! be used to make our homes places of refuge from the world — for our families, certainly, but also for our neighbors and friends who are drawn to us to share concerns, burdens, prayer, need in an uncertain and frightening time. Reduce/eliminate clutter. Establish a place for everything and put items in their proper place (a great personal challenge). Cultivate a standard of hospitality, not entertainment, for welcoming friends to your home. Plain simple food with warmth and affection in the atmosphere is far more soul-nurturing than an impressive meal with stress and irritation.

In the coming days we will be called upon to comfort and encourage others, in and out of our family circle. Let’s be careful not to look on this challenge as a burden, but as our calling as home-makers. Let’s establish as our objective that all who enter our homes might sense God’s holy and healing presence there.

  • An Order, for my nonCatholic readers, is a community founded upon the particular gifts and insights of its founder — i.e., the Franciscans (St Francis of Assissi), the Domincans (St. Dominic), the Benedictines (St. Benedict), et al. Each Community and its daughter houses adhere to a Rule which outlines the particulars for that community, that Order, to live out its special gifts and calling.

Fall Reflections

The huge arctic blast that everyobraadfordpearne has been talking about has reached my area.  Lows last night hit nearly 20F, and today’s highs will be in the low 40s.  These are temperatures we normally see in January, not November!

I admit I don’t care for the shorter days of winter, but the quality of sunlight this time of year is so golden and so magical, it almost makes up for the brevity of days.

The leaves have been beautiful.  It seemed to take a long time for them to turn, but I don’t know when I’ve ever seen a more beautiful display. The peak never lasts long enough to suit, so I’ve tried to absorb every moment of the splendor that I possibly can. Driving late in the afternoon, earlier this week, along a stretch of country road, it seemed the red-leafed Bradford pears, the dogwoods, the crepe myrtles were ablaze!  And the golden maples, sycamores, and ash were lit from within themselves.

So often people give only a cursory bit of attention to such details, but this beauty has really fed my soul.  I pray I may never be too busy, or too low in spirits, or too distracted, to be able to appreciate such generous, even extravagant, indications of God’s Love.



Book Draft 1 Complete

Finally — after four and a half years, the draft is done.  The dreaded final section finally found a “voice,” night before last, and I finished in a blaze of glory, yesterday.

Now the hard work begins.  Step one:  Proofread the new stuff.
step two:  send to Beta readers, including the nonfiction critique group with Catholic Writers Guild
Step three: write a Proposal
Step four: Develop a Marketing Plan…

In short, get my introverted, self-abasing self out into the world and make people LIKE ME.


brief update – and a celebration of sorts

I don’t know whether I’m back to blogging regularly. I’ve had the intention, but not the energy. For a long time, I thought I was being hounded by “the Black Dog” as some have so humorously put it. But I became ill in September, had emergency gallbladder surgery, and – lo and behold! it wasn’t a Black Dog at all so much as a “hot” gallbladder!

As soon as I recovered from the anesthesia, I began to feel wonderful – with more energy, interest,  and just general “give-a-damn” than I have felt in years. Yes, years.  This illness has crept up in little increments, waxing and waning but never allowing me to feel completely well.  I’ve wanted to do so many things, only to look at them and immediately feel as if they were too great and difficult for me to do “right then.” I’d do them later, I told myself. When I felt better.

Well, by the grace of God, I am feeling better, only things had deteriorated so badly that it is taking a while to catch up. I still have limited stamina, you see, and weak knees…   but brick by brick, one step at a time, one task at a time, sometimes one item at a time, I am recovering my home and my life.

Over the weekend a young friend came out and tilled part of my yard. I bought a load of composted horse manure a month ago, and I’ve added several buckets-full to places where I want to plant…  and D. came over and finished shovelling it on the garden square for me, and tilled it in.  I’ve planted garlic and swiss chard, and several pots of pansies, and taken clippings to root from the buddleia, a sage, and a lavender. I pruned back the wisteria (and might even cut the horrid thing down — it’s only bloomed once, three springs ago!)  and just sat in the sun enjoying temperatures in the 60s and counting my blessings.

The Mouse Saga has revved back up for the new winter season. Between the dog, the cats, and the traps, 11 mice have been dispensed with over the past three weeks. In one 48-hr period 10 were killed or transported to the big creek down the road, and I knew of two other little ones that were seen peeking out from behind the bookshelf. I emptied the shelves, moved them, cleaned behind them (oh, the stink!) and replaced and refilled them. Little Mousies navigated to another facility – a small cabinet in which I store office supplies, primarily printer paper and file folders — but have not been seen now in two weeks. The mouse Simon caught and killed on Saturday ( #11) might have been one of these, but of course there is no way of knowing with certainty.  Others remain on the lam — and the stinking rascals have figured out how to remove peanut butter bait from my TomCat traps without springing them. I knew mice are clever, but this is really too bad!  One even figured out how to exit the humane trap I had set up.

My one complaint is insomnia. Some women my age suffer hot flashes and night sweats; my hardship is a great difficulty in falling asleep at night. Once I do fall asleep I sleep like a log! but getting to sleep in the first place is difficult. It can be a hardship at times, but fortunately my schedule allows me certain indulgences, such as sleeping in.

We might have snow flurries tomorrow night. I was thinking earlier how fortunate it is that I went by the store on Saturday and got a half-gallon of milk for my coffee and tea, and two loaves of bread, for sure as God made little green apples, the local stores will see a run on both, tomorrow, in anticipation of our very early winter weather. Our 70% chance of precip will almost surely come in the form of rain, and any snow we might possibly see will almost surely have melted before we are even aware it has fallen… but Just In Case rules our lives, here in the South, and no one could survive a storm without milk and bread.

Reflections while attending the funeral of a cousin

When we die, only what is Christ remains.

I’ve often thought how terrible it is for people to die, then be forgotten, except for a very notable few. Most people live, go about their daily tasks, and when they die, in a short while no one is around to remember them – or to care that they are becoming forgotten. We long for immortality largely, I think, so that we will not be forgotten, as some people long for fame so that they will not be obscure.  

But nothing remains, except for Christ. I, my ego, my wishes, my dreams, my accomplishments, are nothing. Only Christ remains. Only what is of Him in me remains after I am dead. Only what is of Him in me will be able to stand before God in the Judgment.

Weight Loss Challenge – Some early observations

This weight loss business is daunting. I feel already as if I’m going to absolutely DIE during the process; that’s how emotionally dependent I am on food. But it has to be done – I don’t want four hefty EMS guys to be required to hoist me on the stretcher that carries me out when I go toes-up.

I realize I’m an emotional eater. This may have its roots in my childhood, when my mom was frequently debilitated by severe migraines and I was left to eat too many “meals” of peanut butter straight from the jar with a spoon. It definitely hit a crisis point during my marriage to the Fairie Prince, when I was learning how to cook, and living with a man who just wanted to be left alone while I was longing for conversation and cuddling (and not necessarily in that order, either!). I would sit and eat while he sat and watched tv with his back to me. A spoonful here, a pinch there… it adds up quickly.

I have also realized that I hate cooking for just myself. It seems so tedious and boring to fix one-serving meals instead of great lovely quantities of things… but if I cook quantities, the leftovers call to me from the kitchen and I’m  back with that one-spoonful-here-one-pinch-there crisis. Or, in the case of a lot of my favorite foods, like soup, a bowl now and another bowl later. It doesn’t do me any good to say, “Put the leftovers in the freezer” because I do not have a freezer; I have a small (4.4 cu. ft.) fridge that fits under a countertop, and it has only a narrow little icebox on top.

Breakfast bores me – well, sort of. I love to eat breakfast out, when someone else is exerting themselves to prepare it (God bless all restaurants that serve breakfast!), but I hate having to prepare breakfast at home. Plus, I have absolutely no appetite for a couple hours after I wake up; in fact, the thought of food makes me feel sick, early.

And, finally, I’m my dad’s daughter, and I’ve developed indigestion, which makes me feel as if I need “a little something” in my stomach more frequently. Dad popped Rol-Aids frequently from my earliest memories of him, but lived on them even more in his later years. Yuck.

So. How to manage this? — I think I’m just going to have to hold my nose and cook little meals, every single day. Blech! – I’m going to go by the store this afternoon and pick up some chops, divide them into freezer bags and stick them in that little ice box section, next to the ice trays. I can thaw out a chop per day, right? Or part of a chicken breast or a thigh. I’m really wanting soup, right now, with our temps dipping into the 20s again (they were in the 70s for the past several days) – maybe if I’m really careful I can freeze the soup in ziplock bags, too? Worth a try.

What I will NOT be doing is eating “diet” foods. Have you ever looked at the labels of the “nonfat” or even “lowfat” foods in the grocery store? Those things are loaded with a bunch of weird toxic chemicals that become necessary to replicate the smoothness or flavors lost when they remove the fats in the foods.  Nope! If I’m going to poison myself, I’m going to do it with real food, not fake chemical compounds masquerading as foods. Yes, I’m going to have to become portion-conscious as never before. But I can manage that with a great deal more cheer than … fat-free yogurt artificially sweetened with Aspartame. No!!! thank you, anyway, but NO!

I already eat whole grains, not white bread and only rarely white rice, so I’m good there.

Exercise: the walking has been hard because of knee pain, but I’m stretching before getting out of bed in the morning (I’ve moved to the daybed which has a foam pad on top of a bunky board, so it’s like sleeping and stretching on the floor, almost) – and I’m using free weights a bit. Soon I hope to be able to comfortably switch to my Total Gym. Yeah, I bought one of those things a bit more than a decade ago. Love it, but in the past couple years have found it harder to get on/off than to actually use it, so it’s still propped up in the corner of the spare room.

Updates will be continuing soon.

Y’all have a good day, now.

Already running up against a wee problem with this weight loss business:

I hate to cook.

Well, I hate to cook for just me. And if I cook in quantity, like soup, I tend to eat and eat and eat… until it’s gone. That’s why I no longer bake cakes unless I have to take one somewhere, by the way. Leftovers call my name real loud.

So. Buy chops? re-bag them up for one per meal and stick the rest in my little freezer compartment? Note: I cannot just “freeze things” because I have a small under-counter fridge with a narrow little ice box; my little ziplock bags of chops would go where an ice tray would fit.

Oh, and I no longer have a microwave, and I really don’t want one. I was only using it to reheat things, and then I began seeing articles about how “nuking” the food actually effects its molecular structure; and that makes me kind of nervous… so I got rid of mine, which was older than my house, anyway.



Ugh. Who wants to hear the fat lady talk about dieting? I sure don’t! – Oh, wait, I am the fat lady and blogging is one of the requirements of my participation in the program. Oh, darn.

Well, the program is Dieting Dozen in a Writing to Lose Challenge, initiated by my friend Karina Fabian. So here goes:

NAME: Laura Lowder


BLOG:   http://www.lauralowder.wordpress.com

100-word BIO:

WEIGHT LOSS GOAL:  By March 1? I’ll be thrilled with 15 lbs. Ultimately… I’ll tell you later, but it’s a LOT.

FITNESS/APPEARANCE GOAL:  To be able to do something physical for more than 5 minutes without being out of breath, hurting, having to sit down.

LIFESTYLE CHANGE GOAL (optional): See above. Being able to move around without aching and/or needing to catch my breath will be a major lifestyle change.

WHAT’S YOUR INITIAL GAME PLAN?  Eat better – less junk food, more fruits/vegs — and to exercise every day, even if it’s just walking out to my mailbox.

ANY INSIGHT TO SHARE? If I had insights, would I be doing this?

CURRENT WEIGHT: HAHAHAHAHA — NO WAY am I telling THAT number! I’ll admit to being morbidly obese; you’ll just have to be content with that.

CURRENT BODY FAT INDEX OR MEASUREMENTS:  I don’t know yet – will try to get a tape and measure later. – that does NOT mean I will be posting said numbers. Okay?

PHYSICAL CHALLENGES?  Collapsed arches leading to knee problems –

MENTAL/EMOTIONAL CHALLENGES (comfort eating, sugar addiction, particular life stresses) — comfort eater, probably a sugar addiction, too. Started eating to stuff emotions in the very early days of being married to the Fairy Prince.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE FOR FROM THIS GROUP?  Help/motivation/encouragement to take better care of myself.

First target date: March 1

Be prepared to be completely and totally BORED by all this.

Happy Sunday!

I love new weeks. Every Sunday, I wake up with a sense of excitement that belies the routine and ordinariness of the day. Sunday! A new week! And I feel an eagerness to start again –

Tweak the schedule a bit – renew my determination to better job of mastering my work – sort out my priorities –

All for a limited, do-able block of time.

Forgiveness – 70×7

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him as many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” – Mt. 18:21-22 (RSV)

We’ve got two things going on in this brief passage that I want to look at.

First of all there is the idea of our brother continually sinning against us. There are grave sins – like physical violence, theft, marital infidelity – and I don’t think the Lord is talking about these. I think He’s addressing the ordinary offenses and grievances that people commit against one another, that rub up against one’s ego and pride.

There’s an example – we all have seen this, I expect – of the woman whose husband is sometimes thoughtless or selfish or perhaps a bit coarse or impatient… and she tells all her friends that she just can’t stand any more of it. Sometimes she uses these things as an excuse to run home to Mama.

Somewhere this woman has been told – erroneously – that she has these “rights” not to have her feelings hurt, to have all her needs met by one person.

She needs to learn to forgive these disappointments no matter how often they come. Seventy times seven, if need be. Fact is, we don’t have any inalienable rights to have our precious feelings protected from all hurts – or else we also must face up to the fact that we are prohibited from hurting others’.

On the other hand (and this is the second point) – I don’t think the Lord requires of us that we subject ourselves to dangerous behaviors again and again and again. In the point of history when He was on the earth, women had no choices – but we do. We have a lot of choices. And sometimes for the sake – not only of our own safety but also of our abuser’s immortal soul! – we must put our foot down and say “No more!” – and do whatever is necessary to put an end to the abuse –

whether that abuse is physical abuse, or marital infidelity (which includes the infidelity of pornography), or alcohol or drug addiction that renders the addict wholly irresponsible and hurtful, or any other gravely immoral behavior.

In such cases, a single violation of trust can be so severe that it requires multiple forgiveness – each one as if it were the first – for the whole of one’s life. Seventy times seven for one terrible offense.

We can think we have an issue taken care of – but something will cause it to return to us as fresh and as bitter as if it had just been committed, or discovered. Perhaps a dream, perhaps a comment from someone else – sometimes things just come to our minds when we don’t expect them – a temptation to trip us up from our Enemy?

And this is when we have to dig deep and forgive all over again, sometimes working out our anger and hurt as if it were a brand new violation.

It’s not easy – it sure as heck ain’t pleasant. But it’s necessary. And it’s do-able.