Silly Things We Do That Keep Us Sane II

What do you do that keeps you sane? 

In my first “Silly Things We Do” essay, I speculated that many of us have these things we do that would appear impractical and odd were it not for the good they do us. Funny how writing about that one habit of resting in winter sunshine has given me a lens for evaluating so many other things I find myself doing.

The “silly thing” I’ve noticed lately involves a collection of teddy bears, two rabbits, a dog, and a pig – all stuffed animals – that sit in a corner of my bedroom closet. I realize that I’m a middle-aged woman admitting to stuffed animals. My Google search as to whether or not this counts as laughable, weird, immature, or otherwise silly was inconclusive. However, I’m still taking a deep breath as I admit that I – a woman with aspirations to emotional maturity and professional gravitas – have a collection of stuffed animals that catches my eyes as I get ready in the morning and wind down at night. 

I can’t help it. There’s nowhere else I’d rather keep these little stuffed critters. They make me smile. Oh, the stories! 

The pig was a joke, of course, but the workplace antics leading up to it represented months of office fun that actually left me feeling pleased when Mondays rolled around. Lest you think that my colleagues and I were slacking, I assure you that I’ve rarely managed as much productivity as I did during that time. (BTW, I believe that employee morale is one of the most under-valued resources of the contemporary workplace, but I’ll save that for another essay.)

My mother gave me one of the rabbits – a big, lop-eared bunny with curly grey fur – during my college days. I’d recently been diagnosed with a mood disorder. I remember how much I judged myself in those days for having trouble (so I thought then) with “adulting.” The gift of that rabbit from a parent who believed in me whole-heartedly and had nothing but love and encouragement for me felt deeply comforting. The term “transitional object” can so diminish the power of these beautiful symbols that remind us of the people who believe in us and get us through our difficult phases of life. 

Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

I could tell story after story. These stuffed critters came from family and friends over the years, and while they most often sit there in my closet, I occasionally bring them out for other purposes. A large tan dog with floppy ears went with me to church one Sunday to star in a children’s sermon, and I don’t think I’ve ever had listeners receive anything I’ve said with as much enthusiasm as those children received the visit of the big, floppy-eared dog. I still laugh at the memory of all the children (and even some adults) who wanted to hug the dog afterwards. 

“A memorial is a pocket-sized collection of memories that we can take with us,” writes Dan Moseley in one of my favorite books, Lose, Love, Live: The Spiritual Gifts of Loss and Change.* “The work of remembering,” he explains, “involves downsizing the reality so we can carry it within us into the future.”[1] I like Moseley’s lens on memorials, and as I reread Lose, Love, Live recently, my mind went to the stuffed animals in the corner of my closet. That gathering of button eyes, velvety noses, and worn fur keeps saying to me, “Love.” Each cushy critter reminds me of love and the myriad ways it’s touched my life over the years, both in giving and receiving.

I believe that whatever else sanity means, it means not forgetting love as an active presence in our world. I don’t mean to make gods out of any of the people or relationships that have given me stuffed animals over the years. I do, though, suspect that God resides in love of all kinds, in all the ways love touches, heals, and blesses lives. And why shouldn’t we encounter God in spaces of play and comfort as well as in spaces of seriousness and striving?

I, at least, take the presence of stuffed animals in a person’s life with a great deal of reverence and appreciation. In some cases, I even give them as gifts to other adults. If even one stuffed animal here or there reminds someone of love at a time when they need it, then that soft and furry little life will have been one of great blessing.

What about you? What reminds you of love?

The Beauty of Rest: Contemplative Essays(Clay Patin Press 2023) is available for free on Kindle today (4/12/23 Pacific Time) only.

[1] Dan Moseley. Lose, Love, Live: The Spiritual Gifts of Loss and Change* (Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2010), 64-65.

A Novel for Lent

“We tend to associate this time of year with devotionals or books for study,” I wrote recently in Christian Theological Seminary’s CTS Connections newsletter. It was a piece reflecting on my recent novel, Kat’s Dreams. I continued: “In the case of Kat’s Dreams, though, I chose to set this story during Lent – and I envision it as a Lenten story – because it has to do with repentance. The fact that abuses of power do sometimes happen in our congregations is a structural sin that Christians are still coming to terms with. Much like the characters in this story, I think individuals as well as communities are still learning how to constructively and faithfully ‘turn’ from these experiences . . .

I imagine this novel speaking to anyone who’s had a love-hate relationship with The Church or a church. The main character, Kat, refuses to set foot in any church, and her story gives us glimpses into why. She’s only just beginning to practice trusting again after an experience of betrayal. It doesn’t take a situation like hers to resonate with a healing journey like the one she’s on.”  

Excerpted from my reflections in “CTS Alum Writes Novel for Lentin the March issue of CTS Connections. Click here to read the rest of the article.

The Beauty of Rest: Contemplative Essays (Clay Patin Press, 2023) is available as a free Kindle ebook today (3/8/23 Pacific Time) only.*

The Miracle of Dust (Kat’s Dreams)

Sometimes it’s from the dust and ashes that God brings blessing and even new life.

Author Callie J. Smith discusses Kat’s Dreams, its setting during the season of Lent, and what God does with dust. Also, get your FREE copy of Kat’s Dreams in Kindle format (for a limited time only).

Video Transcript:

“The Miracle of Dust” 

 “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” – it’s an Ash Wednesday refrain, but I still find it curious to think about. Dust is a sign of mortality. We often don’t like to remember our mortality, but there are moments in life that take away our ability to ignore what we often ignore. 

I was working with that idea when I wrote the novel Kat’s Dreams. It’s about some of those impactful moments that show us more than we’ve seen before. The main character Kat has recently met a man named Paul whom she can’t stop thinking about, and that’s an exciting moment of life for her. However, they both have some other impactful moments – moments of mortality, and limitation, and failure – that they need to work through before their relationship can deepen. I think that what emerges for them in the middle of that difficult work is part of the beauty of their story. Kat’s discovering anew the people in her life who are supporting and encouraging her, and Paul even has her suspecting that she sees blessing every which way she looks.

It’s like in the book of Genesis where God promises Jacob: “your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, . . . and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring” (Gen 28:14). God does this amazing thing of turning something like dust into an image of blessing, an image of abundant blessing. But God does amazing things with dust. God forms humanity from the dust of the ground, creating promise, hope, love, and joy, and even now God breathes the breath of life into the dust of our days.

In the approach of Lent this year, I’m hoping to find in the dust a reminder of the miraculous things that God does. What about you? What are you hoping to remember?

(Adapted from Smith’s essay “What God Does with Dust,” originally published in the February 28, 2022, issue of Bearings Online.)

* Kindle Free EBook Promotion available February 15-17, 2023. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases when you use links from this site.