Friday, September 25, 2015

Five-Minute Friday: Doubt (and getting poem-ish for Pope Francis)

For his seventh birthday, Sam asked for an R2D2 cake. Although I am not a great cake decorator, I agreed to try, and after looking around at some pictures, I had an idea of how to do it.

The night before his birthday, my plan literally fell apart. The cake I was baking cracked in three pieces when I was removing it from the pan. I turned to Google for help- surely someone had put together an R2D2 cake I could copy, somehow?

If you are ever planning to make an R2D2 cake, don't Google it. The images that came back were soul-crushing for this humble baker. I could never make something that looked like those cakes...all the dowel rods and wooden bases with bolts and carved rice krispie fondant layers made me feel like my task was impossible.

After a little meltdown, I went back to the drawing board and came up with a way to modify a design that would work for the cake I had left. I resisted the temptation to try for the first time to make fondant icing when I should really be going to bed. I frosted the cake in my regular old buttercream, white and a little bit of blue. After I outlined it with a little black gel, it actually looked like R2D2.

Then, because I had almost allowed my self-doubt to overcome me, I posted a picture of the cake on Facebook- not because I needed or wanted congratulations, but because I wanted to remind myself of a truth I'd almost forgotten.

We are each enough. I am, and you are. In the age of digital photos and Instagram and Pinterest, it's much too easy to think we have to be practically perfect in every way. It's a lie. God made each of us with unique gifts, and all we have to do is to use those gifts in His service and in service to the vocations to which we've each been called. I will never be a professional cake decorator, but I can bake a cake for my son, and it will be good enough.

* * * * *

A week or so ago, a writer friend who was pulling together some work from our region on the Pope's visit to the US asked if I would write a poem for the occasion. I quickly said "no." I wasn't sure I'd be able to come up with anything to say, and with all the kids' birthdays and traveling and everything, I was afraid to commit.

Besides, I wanted to tell her, I'm not really a poet. I just write poems sometimes, and they almost never see the light of day. I like to keep them safely between the covers of my journal where no one can see them.

Then, one night, I felt inspiration hit, and I scribbled down a flurry of words that came out in a rush. I sent my friend a message and said, "Hey, guess what? I'm inspired, and I can do it."

I've spent every day since then second-guessing and questioning and worrying that what I wrote wasn't good enough for the importance of the occasion and wishing I hadn't told her "yes" after all.

In the spirit of embracing grace in the good enough (and with the much-loved R2D2 cake fresh in my mind), I'm sharing what I wrote for Pope Francis. Although I'll never be Mary Oliver or T.S. Eliot, I am grateful to be a writer and to be able to share my words with you.

We all have gifts. Any voice that tries to tell us otherwise is not from God. Let's not be afraid to use what we have received to build each other up.

* * * *

I’m missing the Big Important Catholic Gathering.

Is it an excused absence?
Not really.
No Big Important Crisis prevents me-
just hundreds of little fires, all in a row,
lining the path from here to there,
waiting for me to extinguish them.

My hands are full, people say-
busy slicing grapes in half
strategically placing Band-aids
peeling the pink crayon to make it last a bit longer
busy steadying a wobbly bike
rebraiding flyaway hair
washing wiggly feet.

His hands were full, too-
busy breaking bread (somehow stretched to plenty)
busy drawing in the dirt
touching ears, heads, foreheads
busy not casting stones
grasping a hand and pulling it back to life
flipping over tables when necessary
washing reluctant feet.

I examine my hands and wish they were more like His-
less afraid to touch a stranger
more willing to reach across a fence or a language barrier
less concerned with my own comfort.

They're full, yes, but they're lacking.
I could always hold a little more.

Papa, you walk into our country holding out His hands to us.
They're your open arms, but they're His open hands.

You hold them out in the poor places, on the sidelines, in the margins.
You hold out the Host-
       The Body of Christ.

We line up to receive it
offering unceasing commentary on what you're doing with your hands
even as we receive you as one among us.

I won’t be in your line for Eucharist.
My aching hands are full of the weight of small things.
How your hands must ache- do they?- with the weight of the cup you've accepted!

Perhaps we aren't so different.                                                                                       

Each of us touches Christ’s face, His body, His feet.
We each hold the Christ-light for someone, for many someones.
And if I were in your line?
Or if I had a minute to place my hand in yours,
to lean my head on your shoulder and tell you my life?

I expect you’d tell me I’m right where I ought to be,                                                                      
among the least of these,
and that Jesus is right here, too.

For more reports and reflections on the Pope’s visit from members of the Mid-Atlantic Conference of the Catholic Women Bloggers Network (CWBN), please visit “A Walk In Words With Pope Francis.”