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.

Getting control of the house thing

It’s a gray, rainy day. The sort of day when one wants to curl up on the sofa, wrapped in a soft, plush throw, cup of coffee close by and a deliciously fine novel in one’s hands. Jane Austen, anyone?

It’s a bit more than three months ago that I started this amazing decluttering, take-control journey. More than 30 bags of trash, several hundred books (and more than that remaining on my shelves) – big stuff tucked in a spare room until a friend can help me haul them off in his pickup.  The difference in  my home is absolutely amazing. . . and I’m still “in process.” But I have to tell you, I’m loving this.

I never thought of myself as a domestic woman, or for that matter even a feminine one. My poor mother was a very sick woman — frequent debilitating migraines* and some other health issues that left her more often than not simply incapable of coping with life, much less a strong-willed little girl with more energy than she knew what to do with (what happened to that energy, now that I need it???)  Mom “managed” me by using mental beratement instead of actually teaching me things I needed to know:  “If you had any common sense. .  .” put the blame on me for not knowing how to sew, or cook, or . . . when the truth was that the poor woman simply had no energy or mental resources for dealing with me, for teaching me. No — Nor for doing any of these basic things, herself.

I remember the dishes being washed only when the clean ones were all used up — and we had a lot of dishes because Mom collected them from whichever store was giving them away as a bonus for shopping there. The living room was marked by a narrow pathway from the door to the television to the sofa and Mom’s recliner. . .  the rest filled with old newspapers, books, Hardees coffee cups and holders, overflowing ashtrays. . .

Children need to see home being cared for, as their first step to learning. I didn’t have that. They need to be allowed to work side by side with Mother in keeping home dusted and tidy. I didn’t have that, either. “You’re getting on my nerves . . . giving me a headache . . . ”  — and Mother’s headaches were the stuff of my childhood miseries, as she lay in a perfectly darkened bedroom, emerging only to go to the bathroom to vomit. . .  leaving me to eat far too many “meals” of peanut butter straight from the jar with a spoon.  The house had to be kept q-u-I-e-t. . .  I could be sitting with my nose inches from the television, the volume barely audible, and she’d beg me not to have it so loud . . . from the other end of the house. So the threat of a headache was enough to cow me into submission and to quell my enthusiasms.

But I grew up believing that I had no sense, that I was incapable of doing ordinary things. I don’t blame Mother for being so sick — that was out of her control. But for years I hated her for making it my fault, and for controlling my behavior with insults. Now I just feel sorry for her. And as a mature woman I can teach myself and prove her wrong, most of all to myself.  Thank God for YouTube! Right?

So the sense that It’s Time! and just a general eagerness to have a different sort of life than I’ve had, before, converge and . . . more than 30 bags of trash, gone, several hundred books, big stuff ready to go when the friend and his truck can come.

I was looking forward to doing several things around the house, this morning – more taking charge, establishing routines, etc. — but this cold weather system (we’re supposed to drop to the low 20s tonight, which is typical for January, not November!) is coming through with all this rain and my joints are locked up.  I’ll do a bit of gentle stretch exercises in a few minutes, but if the bathroom doesn’t get wiped down today, I’ll try it tomorrow.

The big thing today — well, there are two:  this afternoon I plan to take some of the smaller, nice stuff that I’ve decluttered to a local thrift/consignment shop. This is another task I can postpone if the joints don’t recover as the rain clears out, by mid-afternoon.  But I’m looking forward to clearing out the back of my car! —

The other is that I have been carefully, frugally been adding some organizational and cleaning helps over the past couple months.  I have ordered an over-sink dish drain from Amazon, and it’s scheduled to be delivered today. That will be a huge help (I hope!) at least by freeing up my sink from the current dish drain. I live in a single-wide trailer and counter space is at a premium; I’ve been using a big dish pan set on the counter to wash, one sink to rinse, and the other to hold the strainer. Now I can use my sinks to their stated purpose and have my countertop freed.  I think it will be wonderful.

I also have undertaken a small sewing project — small in terms of complexity, that is. I bought a set of curtains for the living room from Amazon, more than a year ago, and I really like them . . .except they are very light and — well, it’s getting COLD and I need a  bit of insulation. So I am taking those curtains and inserting drapery lining, which I bought at the local Hobby Lobby. I did the first one yesterday — well, made a good start on it. I pressed the curtain, lined up the liner, pinned, cut, turned under and hand-pressed a seam allowance, and hand-stitched the two pieces together.  Top stitch only. I put the one curtain over the window, last night, and it’s hanging well — I appear to have lined things up well! — so today I will topstitch another as a quick remedy for drafty windows over the next couple of days. . . . then I’ll take the other pair and fully stitch them in, and, piece by piece, get the project done.  I had YouTube videos going in the background to keep me company (when I’m doing house stuff I like the company of another human voice; writing, like this, I listen to music), and the time passed very pleasantly.

Off to do a bit more stuff. It’s still raining, but the sky is lighter.  I think more heavy rain is on the way, though, so I mustn’t get too excited.  Still, the rain is beautiful, isn’t it?

God bless you all.





Actually, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Of course, it sounds like desert-style deprivations and repressions, psychoses and irrational inconveniences, right?

Of course it does! If it didn’t sound so awful, more people would be willing to adopt it as at least a temporary lifestyle and would speak very positively about it. But, oh, no! it’s too “unhealthy” to go without sex!

Actually, I’ve found it extremely healthy to go without these past (ahem, cough) years. Haven’t always thought it so – sometimes it is lonely and unpleasant. But then comes the breakthrough, a breakthrough which can only come when one isn’t distracted by the inebriating effect of one’s raging hormones and narcissistic drive for gratification…

Huh? -Let’s look at that again, shall we?

Sex produces hormone shifts that demand, insist upon, mandate satisfaction. A kiss and a cuddle sets these hormones into overproduction at astonishing rates – gotta have more! and not just more of the same, you’ve got to go a bit farther along the process in order to attain the same level of thrill…

It’s like a drunk or a druggie who has to up his intake in order to reach the same level of “buzz” he used to enjoy – instead of two beers or a shot, it goes to twelve in quick succession and the whole bottle; his body has become acclimated to the substance, so much more is required to get the desired effect.

Sex does that, too, and in this severely disordered culture we’re living in, that insists on instructing young prepubescent children about condoms and masturbation, that places disordered information about sexual “normalcy” into our homes and minds day in and day out – well, we get warped, and our expectations of our spouses’ or partners’ PERFORMANCE becomes warped (after all, it has become a matter of performance, not of real love-making any more) …

and it’s no wonder people have gotten into rotten unsustainable sex-based relationships and basically screwed up their own lives (pardon the pun) and made themselves miserable.

I watch – not only women, men do this too! – getting into, locking themselves into these cheap, abusive, inferior relationships because on the one hand they are driven by fear of solitude (and of being “not normal”) and by sexual hormones, and on the other hand by a deep innate realization that we’re supposed to bond with one another and create families and be together in a deeper sense… and sex is supposed to be the most profound of the “togetherness” and yet somehow it’s all escaping us and what are we supposed to do?

Well, helloooo!!! When we hop into the sack as a matter of course in a nonmarried relationship, we have the euphoria of an artificial “intimacy” which, because of the drugging effect of the hormones, deprives us of the genuine intimacy of spirit we long for!

Celibacy gives one room and freedom to pull focus and to think beyond pushing for the next thrill: What is important to me in a relationship? What sort of character do I want in a spouse? What values are important to share – and which ones are nonnegotiable, and which ones do I have some flexibility with? (Fidelity of body and will is mandatory; preferring ACC sports over professional hockey not so much so 😉 ) How shall I live out those values with integrity in a relationship? How well do we know one another in matters of genuine character and spirit? Is this a person who I want to be identified with for the rest of my life? – a person I can trust and admire, whom I am proud of? or will this person shame and humiliate me with a low unscrupulous character?

Celibacy. It gives us a chance to know what we want. It allows us a clear enough head to know what we want in a life partner, a spouse – and to be able to see in truth whether this particular man or woman can live up to expectations and prove himself worthy of our devotion.

And – surprise and joy! – it gives us an opportunity to discover our own worth, into the bargain, as nothing else, out of our sex-driven culture, can do. Sex costs me all I am – my heart, my devotion, my loyalty, my whole self in unstinted donation to my spouse. I discover myself to be a “pearl of great price,” a prize of inestimable value; I will, therefore, give myself only to the man who is willing to pay my price to own me: his whole self, in all that he is.

Thanks to Angela for directing me to a delightful blog – My 50s Year is a charming attempt at adopting retro living –

It seems to be a developing trend, and why not? We are all hungry to return to a time when life was simpler, morality and decency were the norm – when you could turn on the television or go to a movie and not have to mentally edit the profanity… when you didn’t have to be voyeuristic in other people’s sex lives…

People hunger for decency and simplicity. We long for the days when men were men, women were women, vive la difference! and never the twain shall meet – much less disappear.

So check out this charming little blog, and think of pulling out your own hats… and where do you suppose I might be able to find some dress gloves? hmmmm



ayc-p I’ve been reading this wonderful book for a couple weeks now, a couple of paragraphs at a time, thinking, meditating, praying… Is this what You want of me, Lord? It seems as if I’ve reached a time where I must ask that question. It’s not what I want, it’s not what I’ve ever wanted, it still seems a bizarre and upside-down sort of life.

But I felt I had to ask. I felt I owe God that much, to be willing to look at it, examine it, consider it.

What I’ve learned is that the celibate life, deliberately chosen as a vocation, in response to a call from God, is an incredibly rich and even an extravagant love for Christ. The energy of self-donation that we practice in marriage and family life all goes to Him – we pour ourselves out for God as iberally as the woman who poured perfume on His feet and wiped them with her hair – that sort of extravagant.

I almost envy people who have the celibate vocation – for their ability to love God wholly, without needing human spousal love, family – who can see Him in all those capacities and give themselves wholly over to live only for Him. It is such a noble and heroic vocation…

But I still feel as if I’m on the outside looking in. I no longer feel condemned to be single, as I’ve felt in the past. Nor do I feel excluded from the blessings and consolations I’ve always associated with the married vocation. I feel rather suspended in time and space just now – not vocationally single, but not married either – wondering what God has for me, and how I can live so that my character, my heart, my life, are more fully conformed to Him.

In the middle of the night –

Must be kind to myself – this sort of sorrow isn’t gotten over immediately. It’s harsh, unreasonable to say, “pull yourself together, woman, and get over it!” I reached a decision impulsively, out of pain and frustration, but I think it was the right one, and probably one I should have stuck with long ago.

The heart is not rational. That fact does not make the heart wrong.

Christmas Domestic Pleasures

Yesterday, I went into the yard and trimmed several twigs from the wild holly growing there. I’ve never seen so many berries on this tree! it’s beautiful! and I came inside and took a piece of foam and stuck the twigs all around it. It isn’t as balanced and as elegant an arrangement as my cousins Jane and Carol Dean would make, but it’s quite satisfying for a first-time arrangement of my own. It is set in front of my long living room window, where the afternoon light makes it seem almost to glow.

I decided not to spend the money on a Christmas tree again this year. After all, I’m alone and the cat doesn’t care. But I’ve poured the white and gold balls into a cut glass bowl and set it in the living room. I will string the fairy lights around the kitchen window over the sinks, and probably in the bathrooms around the mirrors. The wreath Stephanie made for me last year is too dear to go on the front door, where rain leaks down and would damage it, so I got a cup hook and hung it just inside the back door, where it is the first thing I see when I come into the house.The nativity scenes are set out, as are the candles and a couple of unusual ornaments that give me pleasure.

If any friends should show up on my door step, unexpectedly, a pleasant and cheerful, albeit modest, home awaits them. I am contented.

I am Not a Mule

For a long time, I have doubted my identity as a feminine woman. The roots of this go back to my childhood and an ugly brown calico housedress, taken from a reject box of miscellaneous stuff from an uncle’s estate sale and thrust at me as my only permissible “dress-up” outfit. The message was that I was too rough, too tomboyish, too graceless and inelegant to be trusted with anything nicer. I was also told that I was too loud, too careless, and too rough and clumsy to be domesticated. Mother didn’t want any disruptions or distractions to her control of our home – even though that “control” was not exercised in any creative way.

When I married and began to establish a home of my own, the lack of practice in childhood play took its toll. Homekeeping was hard, and it seemed impossible to please my DH anyway. “Why did you do this, instead of that? Why did you put this here instead of there?” Out of one side of his mouth he told me I was smart and could do anything, but out of the other, more loudly, he told me I was a sentimental idealist who was burdened with unrealistic expectations about home and marriage, and that everything I attempted was stupid, idiotic and dumb.

Needless, to say, I soon quit trying.

I think I had my first unqualified success when I got to go to college, in my late 20s and early 30s. One of my professors, who had a reputation for being difficult to get along with, was overheard to tell one of his colleagues that I was one of the most brilliant students to come down the pike during his entire career. That bit of praise, indirectly received, made a profound impact on me. Other teachers had told me I was bright and ought to be doing better in school, but they were “nice” people who could find good to praise in everyone; this one professor with the opposite reputation got my attention as those kindlier people could not have done. If they praised me, they were being nice; when he did, as he so rarely did to anyone, then maybe there was more to me than I had realized before.

But academic achievement and success don’t compensate for the sense of being a failure in other, more personal life dimensions. I continued to find homemaking, parenting, and just liking myself very difficult. Truth be told, I failed at all of them. I decided that to be as clumsy and impatient as I was, as common in my roots, but to love beautiful art and music and literature, I must be a mule – one of those bizarre freaks of nature, the cross between an ass and a horse, hardworking, rather plain, sometimes temperamental… sterile. I thought I must be a very superior sort of mule, to love the beautiful things I do, but I had to be a mule all the same. After all, hadn’t I heard my whole life that I wasn’t good enough to be anything finer?

Dramatic life change requires a catalyst, and I was given mine in the form of new friends. One of these, a Catholic, an immediate friend through the power of our shared Faith, spoke and affirmed and validated all those ideals of womanhood and relationship and marriage that DH had ridiculed and scorned  – and scorned me for holding.

The others have been important, too The power of genuine masculinity is astonishing, and my friends have helped as catalysts of my healing through the very clear and masculine identity they possess, in strength of mind and a clarity of thought that is sadly lacking in most of the men I have known in recent years; most of the men I see so wounded and distorted in this postmodern feminist-dominated culture. And they are  kind and gentle – the sort of kindness and gentleness that can only come from manly strength (weak men can only be varying degrees of weak). These friendships have been a gift of healing and encouragement; never once have they treated me as anything less than a woman.

I did some reading this summer in order to know myself better. Yes, I mean relationship books <blush!>. One of them contained a little quiz to help the reader determine whether she is a masculine-energy, feminine-energy, or narcissistic individual. I enjoy quizzes, and this one was no exception.

Each question had three options for answers. As I read the possible responses, I almost always thought, I would like to do this, but that feels safer…  Without exception, “This” was the feminine-energy response, “That” was the masculine-energy response! I was astonished to realize that my native instincts are feminine, but that I have been conditioned to be strong, decisive, and even at times overbearing by a multitude of neglects and abuses over the years.

I sat down in response to a blog post I read, and I began to draw up a list of things I love, that make me feel happy and at peace. The list contains things like Chanel No. 5 (which I bought for myself, back in August!), a variety of flowers, the paintings of Monet and Henry Tanner, the music of Chopin, Debussey, Palestrina…

All the things I love are very feminine, elegant, graceful, gentle things.

It is a shock, this discovery of myself as a feminine woman. My mother was wrong about me – and so was DH. Without pressure to please someone else who is impossible to please out of the emptiness of his/her own soul, I have discovered I enjoy puttering around my home. I take pleasure in making my bed every morning now, and in making things neat and clean. I do it for myself because I’ve discovered I am worthy of an orderly, cheerful and pleasant home; if God allows me to marry, I will be better-practiced to make a peaceful and cheerful home for Him Whom My Soul Loves, as my gift to him and to myself.

In Joyful celebration

Coming to the end of the one-year anniversary of the Declaration of Nullity from my first husband, which has been an amazing year of self-discovery, and I feel as if I’m still just beginning.

For a long time I described myself as a mule – a strange hybrid animal, steady and heardworking, but nevertheless a mule – a cross between a donkey and a horse, a sterile hybrid, unable to reproduce and given to rather eccentric temperament – and completely inelegant!

Then I decided, maybe I’m not a mule, but the best I can hope for is some broken-down scrub of a plow horse… still inelegant, a bit rough around the edges, lacking breeding and social graces…

In short, I was re-entering “polite society” after a very unpleasant and unwilling detour, and I felt unworthy of the companionship of the extraordinary people I was meeting and, surprisingly, making friends with. I felt backwards and ignorant and clumsy and wholly out of place with these educated, cultured, intelligent men and women.

Since the granting of the Declaration of Nullity, however, the way I see myself has been changing at lightening speed. For years, I had felt I deserved the derision, the scorn, the ridicule, the dismissals – after all, I’m hardly a Domestic Goddess! – and then I’d put on all this weight – and I was not just fat, I was clumsy and graceless and just downright awful.

During this year – to make a very complex story very short – I have discovered that I am neither mule nor broken-down plow horse, but a far more graceful breed. More to the point, I am not some androgynous thing of a beast, but – not merely physiologically, but emotionally, spiritually, ontologically – a woman. A woman, with all the grace and beauty and dignity and strength of character, and purity of vision and heart, and capacity for love and self-donation…

I am more wholly myself, my real self! – and more capable of love and devotion than I was at the age of 18, when I married DH.

The immediate difference is that I no longer feel embarrassed about being a woman – about inconveniencing someone who is holding a door for me, or asking the boys at school to remove their hats in my presence, or being embarrassed when a man slips with a bit of profanity in my presence…

I’m still working on the domestic stuff. I still doubt myself in this sphere, but it is getting easier as I’ve been working to declutter the house, and to rid myself of items that have unhappy or unpleasant associations (like the love seat with R’s cigarette burns) – and of course, the very discipline of homekeeping is getting easier as I have less to fight against…

The past eleven months have been absolutely full of wonderful discovery. I’ve come to feel that – while I’m not THE “pearl of great price,” I certainly am more valuable than I ever knew myself to be, before – certainly “priced far above rubies.”

I am eagerly looking forward to more discovery and growth. I look forward to all that the future holds.

Thanks, All, for your prayers for me. I know they are helping.

The damage done to a woman’s soul when she is bound to a homosexual man is severe. I’m going to be doing a lot more writing about this topic on future – there aren’t enough resources for this need, and most of the ones I’ve seen are decidedly secular, and one or two are downright liberal and almost anti-Christian in their orientation (No! I do NOT want my ex- to have a happy and fulfilling gay “marriage!” I want him to be CONVERTED!!!)

Blessings to you all –