The Gathering of Virtue

Our beloved Deacon Howard George Shannon passed away on Friday, September 21st, while my husband and I were in Seattle, helping my son move into his freshman dorm. We returned home with heavy hearts, yet grateful for so much. His funeral will be this Wednesday at 1pm.

The weekend proved difficult as the sorrow of this time seemed to tug on me, and I found myself unable to be very productive. I swept the floors, and unpacked, and wiped down the counters, then I found myself quiet on the couch, unable to muster much beyond just sitting there. And then I think your prayers all kicked in. A peace settled over me and I found myself filled with joy, and looking forward to celebrating and grieving with my church community.

These days leading up to the service, I’m mindful of Deacon Howard’s legacy of joy. His spirit of giving was infectious and I’m hopeful that some of his goodness has rubbed off on me. I pray so. Over these last several weeks, as he struggled for life, the show of love for this man has been overwhelming. And it’s because he gave us all so much LOVE these last many years–he gave so much of himself–every time, every moment we were together. Always a smile, always a joke and a wink and a chuckle. Always fun and life and the gift of being completely present. And I have this image in my mind of my hands scooping gently up some of the virtue that dwelled in him, that is swirling slowly around us now, here for the taking. A gift from him. A gift to all of us.

And so I’m baking bread, and giving it away, and baking cookies, and sharing them. And I’m so very thankful to have known such a wonderful man…

The BISHOP and the bread

24 crusty rolls, some of them mixed with olive tapenade

Mixed: 9:15 pm

Molded: 6 am next morning

Baked: three batches, beginning at 7 am

For Bishop Joseph’s visit to our parish

Being Orthodox, we are blessed by a visit from our bishop at least once a year. He spends the weekend with us, answering questions, telling us what’s on his heart, and presiding over services. As a family we make extra space in our lives to attend the various events; just being available allows for all sorts of adventures to take place.

Adventure Number One: Arriving early early for Saturday evening vespers and the little one getting to play in the church.

Adventure Number Two: Rising at baker’s hours to make rolls for the luncheon. That’s 5am folks–5am with the house hushed and time all to myself. Now that’s adventure!

Adventure Number Three: John Ronan asking for a pumpkin muffin that sat on the Bishop’s own plate. Wish I had a photo of that one. Thanks, Mr. Bishop, for your pumpkin muffin!

Despite my 5am wake time, this kind of baking and giving is not a stretch. It’s the kind of stuff you and I do every day, isn’t it? We cook and clean, we drive and encourage and comfort. We work, and plant radish seeds, and fold laundry, and even re-learn algebra when we need to…

I’ve written this post a dozen different ways now, and each time it comes out sounding like a sermon. I’m not a bishop–I’m just a jane, and I guess what I really want to say is–I love baking! And I’ve come to really love giving…

It has taken a bit of work to get me here… To really love the giving part.

Before I sign off, and ask you to write the sermon instead–aren’t Bishop Joseph’s vestments simply gorgeous? Just being in the same room as that cloth made me want to sew for an entire weekend straight.

And weren’t those rolls also gorgeous?!!! More about my pot baking success soon. (And that’s a warning… If you read these posts regularly and don’t yet own an enamel or cast iron pot, I urge you to be on the lookout for one you might invest in. Baking bread inside them is like having your own portable brick oven shipped to you from a quaint French village… And I’m gearing up to share recipes and techniques that will all center around that blasted pot.)

Okay, now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear whatever sermons you might have for me. Though the Giving Virtue may have crowded out some of my Sour Stinginess–there’s still plenty of space in my heart that needs a good remodeling. Fire away! I’m ready and waiting…

More Virtuous than I

Batch of cinnamon rolls

Mixed: 10:45 am

Molded: 12:15 pm

Baked: 1:15 pm

Gave only TWO of the fifteen away

I was NOT in the mood to share today. Something about all the sugary goodness just made me feel extra stingy…

But, my virtuous daughter

talked me into being a good and giving citizen, and don’t these boys (whom I’ve been driving in carpools since they were in second grade!) look delighted with their cinnamon rolls on the way home from school?

Hopefully I’m not too old, or stubborn, to learn virtue from a teenager.