Mining for Gold

Morning

It was the feast of the angels, and that meant Struan. It was a day that had to be about giving. There have been too many illnesses, dramas and heartaches these last many weeks, that have kept me busier than ever–and focused on the putting out of fires. I was (am) desperately missing the regular routine of reaching out.

Several years ago, when my daughter was five or so, we knew there was a mid-week service at church, but were too busy, too whatever, to even know what we were celebrating. My daughter begged to wear her gold angel wings to church, wings that she had made at school just a few days before. I relented after much begging, and we entered the feast of the holy angels with my daughter already in tune with the day, leading the way as she danced in circles and sang hymns celebrating Saint Michael and his fellow angels.

Children often have knowledge that we would be wise to listen to.

Every night I pray with my littlest one, who will absolutely not head to bed unless he has had triple prayers. My husband typically says the trisagion with him as a start (unless he’s out of town, and then my eldest usually jumps in). I swoop in and say another prayer, thanking God for the day, asking for restful and undisturbed sleep for the night, and John Ronan finishes with prayer number three, said with his eyes wide open and always a smile, entreating the angels to watch over him (among other things!). Triple prayers, every night.

Do you believe in angels?

I do.

Lately I’ve been making my way through Brother Juniper’s Bread Book. Written by Peter Reinhart, a master baker who is also Orthodox, he writes a beautiful explanation of the Scottish tradition of making Struan. It’s a Scottish harvest bread, filled with corn and oats, brown rice and bran. There’s buttermilk and brown sugar and honey…

Midday

Anyway, I had a list of things needing to be done that day–that day of the angels. School, for one. Picking up pine needles. Laundry. Baking Struan, downloading Skype, making a new batch of granola, reading books about angels. I got most of them done. A few of the uncrossed items simply moved to the next day. You know why? It was a feast day! A day to celebrate and learn, and love, and a day to put prayer and feasting in front of errands and domestic dramas.

Rewind

Several days ago I fell into a pit. Piled on top of all the sicknesses came a real live heartache. I haven’t felt angry in a very long time–not real hot anger, but this time I was spinning in circles, my defenses already beaten down by so many other worries and tasks. Prayer. I dipped into prayer, then lunged out, angered again. It was a wild ride. Thank God for the prayers of his saints, for the love of my friends and my priest who reached me and encouraged me to not be so horribly prideful and angry. Anger gets you No Where.

Giving

So, I brought the extra loaf of Struan to a friend who is also in a hard place.

But… when we arrived at church for the akathist, she wasn’t there. Instead, I shared that loaf of Struan with a whole host of everyone. Everyone who was there. So glad I had a way to share. I needed to give. Forgiveness Giving.

Saints All Around

And following on the heals of the feast of the angels was the feast day of Saint Nektarios. What a gift he is–my son was born on November 9th and so we got to celebrate yet again… And all day, when people said Happy Birthday, John Ronan responded this way, “AND, it’s the feast day of Saint Nektarios!”

Saints, birthdays, an ascent from a place of anger to a place of forgiveness. Here are some words I jotted in a notebook last year…

Father sees this time as a time when I can mine some spiritual gold. My body is struggling and God can be my help… Before succumbing to fatigue, ask God for help. Battle it. It will make me stronger in the end. Fatigue, hunger, sorrow–if you can find that place of light, of love and joy in the midst of those trials, then you will indeed strike gold.

Sharing with Sparrows

One loaf of sourdough, made only with sour starter–no commercial yeast

Mixed: 10:15 pm

Molded: 10:30 am next day

Baked: noon

Gave to Mustang and Leanne, and several sparrows–I’m sure the doggies got bites, too

I really wanted to give the loaf of sourdough to a man at a church that I normally see on Wednesdays. He’s in between homes, and I thought with the rain, it’d be nice to give him a warm loaf of bread. But he wasn’t at his usual spot, under the tarp, alone; the rain has changed all of our routines, and I was disappointed not to find who I was looking for.

This happens to me often… I think the bread is going in one direction and it ends up heading somewhere else. Maybe I need to plan better? Nah… these changes bring sparks of adventure. Adventure that I need in my life of carpooling and dishes and playing with blocks on rainy days.

While my son was in the atrium, learning about the Good Shepherd and singing songs with Miss Carla and Miss Kate, I sat in my warm car wondering what to do with the cooling loaf of sourdough. Then I saw him–a familiar homeless character who rides around Isla Vista on his high handle-barred bicycle. He has a wild grey mustache and beard, a few missing teeth, and I recognized him from Monday night dinners and other church-sponsored meals. I approached the van, where I found his wife talking to one of the two dogs they keep.

“Would you like a loaf of bread?” I asked. “I baked it this morning…”

“Sure, that’s so kind.”

I couldn’t keep my eyes from wandering around the packed van. A little Chihuahua dog was perched on a huge pile of stuff. Bags and bits of things hung everywhere. “You guys have a lot of stuff in here.”

“Yeah. Hey, thanks for the bread.”

“Of course. And my name’s Jane, by the way. You’re?”

“Leanne. And that’s Mustang.”

“Nice to meet you both. Enjoy the bread.”

I walked the twenty feet back to the car. It started to drizzle. I started to read. Then I stopped, and chided myself for thinking that what was in that van was A Lot of Stuff. Sure, just look at me and my thing-filled home. My twenty pairs of shoes, my corner cabinet full of china and crystal candlesticks… How many vans would I need just to hold the books and files out in my office?

Ten minutes later, I spied my bread, flying through the air, and onto the ground. Mustang was enjoying his own moment to share. He was pulling out the spongy crumb, just like my dad does–savoring the crust himself–and tossing the warm inner dough to the sparrows. At first I was a bit shocked as I watched that good bread fall to the wet and dirty ground. That was good bread! But I’d already learned this lesson, I reminded myself. The bread is theirs, not mine–my part of this small puzzle is done.

And besides, if I can share, why shouldn’t he have that same joy of giving? My mind shifted, and suddenly I was enjoying the scene completely.

Saints time and again throughout history have shared their meals with animals. Sts. Seraphim and Herman fed bears, treating them like beloved friends. St. Francis of Assisi tamed the wolf in Gubbio, making a pact with him as though he were a friend, entreating the people of the town to feed him like he was a proper member of their community. St. Jerome befriended a lion, removing thorns from his claws without fear for his own life, and then allowed him to stay in his own cell as one might keep a favorite dog. St. Brigid herself is known even today as a patron of flocks and herds. I thought it was so beautiful that Mustang turned directly toward those sparrows, wanting to give something so newly his, away.

If only I could hold onto things that way. With an open hand, with a hand ready to let go at any moment. Another good lesson learned from those struggling on the streets. Those who understand the spirit of Saint Brigid probably a lot better than I do…Thanks, Mustang…