Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Altar

Alter: An altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices and votive offerings are made for religious purposes, or some other sacred place where ceremonies take place. Altars are usually found at shrines, and they can be located in temples, churches and other places of worship.

My last post was a bit of a whiner, wasn't it? I confess. I have so little to whine about, and yet there I go again. However, one thing I have come to realize recently is that the changes in my life necessitate a few other changes as well. I am not getting enough adult time, enough time for contemplation, enough time to simply "be". It makes it hard to complain about it when A) I want to do what I am doing and feel absolutely called to this new form of life we are living and B) We have children who really are super easy to be with on a 24/7 basis.

But as Dominick and I have talked about and as others may not realize or understand is that the past 7 months has been one of constant vigilance and interaction. If I am sitting in a room I am asked questions at least every 3 or 4 minutes, not in a desire to interrupt but in an effort to understand a new world. In some ways, bringing home older adoptees is like bringing home toddlers...ours are inquiring about every single thing, asking what things mean, and struggling to find the words to do the inquiring. There is also the need to anticipate the unasked question AND to figure out ways to phrase things so answers will be understood. Even in the confines of my bathroom questions are shot at me through the door!! It is funny most days, exhausting every once in awhile. We will eventually move out of this phase, but at the moment we are firmly in it, times 2 children, and it is something I don't always take into consideration at the end of the day when I have a need to just veg out.

Today though, I was regenerated, despite what others might find to be an overbooked day before an exhausting upcoming week when I will be spending most of it pretending to sleep on a pull out chair/bed in Kenny's hospital room. We had church in the morning, a council meeting afterwards, then a book club meeting in the evening. In between was a little packing, a little cleaning up, a little shopping (I actually did very little as Dominick headed up the crew for laundry and house detail!).

Somehow though, this packed day filled me up. Our church service this morning was one, both during and after, when the sense of community was strongly felt...and I have missed it this past month when we have been away. Our council meeting was lengthy yet productive, and it is wonderful to be part of a group of people who are all "gelling" in a way that doesn't always happen in these environments.

Tonight was my first opportunity to take part in our church book club, which started as we left for Kaz, then went on hiatus for awhile. We were reading "An Altar in the World" by Barbara Brown Taylor. To say this book is thought provoking is an understatement, and right now I would call it one of the top 2 or 3 books on faith I have ever read. Barbara Brown Taylor's writing style is exquisite, there is really no other way to put it, and her book provides one with some insights into a way of truly living a Spirit centered life which are practical and easily applied. Her honesty is refreshingly down to earth, and I have this book marked up, highlighted and dog-eared all over the place.

It set my mind to thinking about the altars we all have in our lives, and what we place upon them as an offering to God. I wonder, what does your altar look like? I am not talking about a table at the chancel of your church...but what is the sacred place on which you place your God offerings? And what ARE those offerings? What form do they take?

I gave this a lot of thought myself and came to a couple of conclusions. My altar is my entire home. It does not look sacred to the outsider, and it certainly is not a beautiful one at that. It is not made of marble or hand carved ebony. I can not even claim to have it thoughtfully decorated, as it is more utilitarian in style than it is anything. No fung shui here, no cottage feel, no Victorian splendor. There are times when I have wistfully wished for a home that had more pizazz, but I have no skill at creating such a home so I have settled for cleaned up (mostly), orderly (occasionally), and functional. When I think about it, that sort of suits me just fine. I have an appreciation for beauty, but much like the Amish I find an appreciation for a simpler, less embellished look. If I had my way, and didn't worry about others who visit my home thinking I was a total freak, I suppose I would have not a single knick knack, and a more sterile look, for I find peace in clean table tops and fairly bare walls.

But it is not really my structure that is the altar, it is any hotel room, any tent, any friend's home in which we might be dwelling.

And what is laid upon my altar? My family, of course, my life...all of it...every single morsel of my life. Do I always succeed in having such a perspective? No, of course not, but I do try very hard. I try to see our children as God's, not ours to hang on to tightly...and occasionally that means having an inner conversation about what our role really is. I see our marriage as God's to use for the betterment of this world in whatever way God wants, and that our partnership allows each of us to be something more than we would otherwise be. I see all our collective skills, talents, and gifts placed on that altar as an offering to be used as God sees fit...and I recognize that there are times when not a single one of us recognizes that we are being used. But perhaps in the simple act of mentally laying our family on the altar, by being somewhat intentional about it, we will find ourselves in the position more often to be God's light, hands and feet here on earth.

I will not call it "sacrifice", for that is not what it ever feels like. It is reciprocation, jubilation, appreciation, and dedication.

We all can carry the Sacred with us wherever we go. We just have to be aware, we have to walk through this world with more than open eyes...we need open hearts and heads as well. The Sacred has no confines, unless we confine it ourselves through our inability to understand and internalize the abundance that God has to offer us all. That is what "new life" really means, getting that on a gut level.

So as I head into a new week, one that will be stress filled and yet Holy in a LaJoy sort of way, I will try to remember what my altar looks like, and what is placed upon it.

Good night everyone. See you on the flip side in Chicago. Prayer for success for Kenny's surgery would be greatly appreciated.


Anonymous said...

May God bless you and keep you--each and every one.
May your flight be smooth and your journey one of joy.
May you be enveloped by the love of friends, and healed by the hands of God through surgeons.
May you return home missed by those you leave and welcomed by those who wait your return.
May God hold you in the palm of God's hands.


Anonymous said...

Prayers winging your way from Virginia.



Dee said...

Beautiful post, Cindy.

The only "me" time I really get most days is when I sit down to write just before bed. I used to know a couple who got up at 5:30 every morning to have their private time for an hour before the 5 kids woke up. It's a tough thing to do..

Praying for you as well as Kenny. Hospital vigils are never fun, as I well know...


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