Tag Archives: Forgiveness

“The Secret Life of Bees”: I am enough

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd was recommended to me by my Dad’s co-worker, a Catholic chaplain at a federal prison. At a Christmas party, we were chatting about authors who wrote on spirituality (like Thomas Moore, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Henri Nouwen) and he suggested that I might like The Secret Life of Bees.

bees

Source: https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Life-Bees-Monk-Kidd/dp/0142001740

I’ve never spent much time contemplating Mary, the mother of Jesus. Growing up, Mary was part of the Christmas story and didn’t show up the other 11 months of the year. Yet in Catholic traditions, she is part of everyday life. I think I like that: having a spiritual woman part of my everyday life. Reading The Secret Life of Bees truly made me grateful that I am a woman, and that doesn’t happen too often. The love, joy, forgiveness, and genuineness that Sue Monk Kidd creates within and between her characters had me mesmerized. Lily, a young teen with a dead mother and an abusive father, saves her housekeeper from jail and they run away together and into the lives of three extraordinary women: May, June, and August. These three sisters keep bees and sell honey, yet they have also created a community around the tradition of a black Mary. These women support each other and have true friendships that uplift and challenge each other to love more.

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Source: http://www.pluggedin.com/movie-reviews/secretlifeofbees/

Monk Kidd’s novel tackles racism, abuse, sexism, and depression. She does not shy away from issues that most people like to ignore. In the novel, she creates situations that seem so outrageous, yet most likely happened. Situations of black women being beaten in prison by their white male accusers. White people standing in the way of black people registering to vote. Black teens being arrested for throwing a coke bottle at white men. Yet the three sisters–May, June, and August–are strong and they gather other women around them to encourage them and support them. Lily, who has run away from home, is treated with kindness and love, and with a patience that seems unworldly. As she works with the bees, she learns more about herself and about reality:

“The sting shot pain all the way to my elbow, causing me to marvel at how much punishment a minuscule creature can inflict. I’m prideful enough to say I didn’t complain. After you get stung, you can’t get unstung no matter how much you whine about it. I just dived back into the riptide of saving bees”  (pg 167)

I love Lily’s attitude. Stung, yet dove back into the work and didn’t get angry or upset at the bees. August keeps reminding her to send love to the bees and to remain calm and observe. Life lesson!

Lily isn’t always calm and patient, and has some fantastic moments of rage and pain about how life has treated her. We follow Lily’s progression from an angry, confused girl, into a young woman who is learning that the most subversive thing a woman can do is love herself. As Lily helps the sisters care for the bees, she learns a lot of about herself:

 

Her hands stayed where they were but released their pressure. “And whatever it is that keeps widening your heart, that’s Mary, too, not only the power inside you but the love. And when you get down to it, Lily, that’s the only purpose grand enough for a human life. Not just to love–but to persist in love.”

She paused. Bees drummed their sound into the air. August retrieved her hands from the pile on my chest, but I left mine there.

“This Mary I’m talking about sits in your heart all day long, saying, ‘Lily, you are my everlasting home. Don’t you ever be afraid. I am enough. We are enough.'”

I closed my eyes, and in the coolness of the morning, there among the bees, I felt for one clear instant what she was talking about. (Pg 289)

Lily learns something that most people struggle, not only to say, but to believe: I am enough. The three sisters have a statue of Mary that was inspirational to many black slaves in the area and they continue to draw strength from this statue. Yet in this conversation with August, Lily tries to find strength from outside of herself and August reminds her that Mary is there to draw out the best: Mary’s power doesn’t come from her statue, but instead comes from empowering others to see the beauty and love in themselves.

mary

Source: http://beesbeesbees.weebly.com/the-daughters-and-son-of-mary.html

I found this book refreshing: looking at spirituality, Christianity, from a female perspective. And a wonderful reminder in Lent that yes, I am enough!

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Source: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/i-am-enough/

“Our Lady is not some magical being out there somewhere, like a fairy godmother. She’s not the statue in the parlor. She’s something inside of you. … You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside.” (Sue Monk Kidd)

“Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with you.” (From the “Hail Mary” prayer)

The Immaculate Heart of Mary

The Immaculate Heart of Mary. 2010 Stephen B. Whatley

Source: http://www.stephenbwhatley.com/1_the-immaculate-heart-of-mary-2010-30-x-24in-by-stephen-b-whatley-copy-jpg

“The Nature of the Beast”: trust

The Nature of the Beast is the third book I’ve read in the Inspector Gamache series and I’ve enjoyed them all! This book raised some great questions about good and evil, especially when it comes to the question, Can people change?

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Source: http://gamacheseries.com/the-nature-of-the-beast/

Today, while scrolling through Twitter, I was disturbed by an article from the US. It was an article about the number of prisoners being executed in a short amount of time, I think 8 in the next few days in just one state. I scrolled by too fast because I was so disturbed by the fact that capital punishment still exists.

In Penny’s novel, a serial killer is mixed up in the building of a secret supergun. This serial killer isn’t just evil, he seems like he’s irredeemable. he is beyond saving. Even the generous, thoughtful, and wise Inspector Armande Gamache does see the possibility for this man man to change and become a functioning human in society. It was a dark read, one that I wasn’t prepared for.

The village of Three Pines in Quebec, a fictional town, is the site of a genius group of men’s idea for a supergun, one that doesn’t require technology to deliver its devastating blows. The residents of the town don’t know that the supergun even exists, expect for some of the town’s oldest, and most secretive residents. Twenty or so years after the men building the gun came to town, the evil of their presence still lingers in the collective memory of the town. In fact, the town’s poet, Ruth, writes about these evil men, specifically the man who became the serial killer, in her poems and the poem about her encounter with this seeming animal won her awards.

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Source: http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2402940087

The three men responsible for building this terrible weapon, one they were willing to sell to highest bidder, regardless of the destruction that will follow. They also took the construction of the supergun one next step: they named it the whore of Babylon and made references to the Bible’s book of Revelation and the coming of the end of the world. The creepy foreknowledge of these men, and yet their determination to continue with their project brought up issues, like the building of the atomic bomb. How evil cruel can humanity become? But more telling, how much evil are people willing to put up with before they intervene? What is it about our human nature that openly trusts to the point of complete destruction.

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Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/06/arts/this-is-fine-meme-dog-fire.html_r=0

As humans, what is our limit for evil, pain, suffering and hurt? If we don’t have to do work or cause a stink, are we ok with things like the death penalty? Yet at the same time, what about those of us who are strong, brave, and courageous to stand up and say no. Thank goodness for the police and others who enforce rules and laws to keep the greater good safe. Yet time and again, we are reminded of what happens when we are willing to put up with more and more evil. More and more behaviours and actions that truly are not fine.

Penny leave her readers unsettled. Yes, in the end the murderer is caught and the old serial killer remains in jail, yet what about the thought that some people are not able to change? What about the thought that some people enjoy the suffering of others? What about the idea that sometimes we want to see an eye-for-an-eye justice?

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Source: http://www.soulaction.org/justice-theology/justice-theology-the-law/

The courage and strength to forgive and rebuild is something that Penny builds into her novels. Inspector Gamache is rebuilding his life in the town of Three Pines. Three Pines is constantly rebuilding itself as a community tragedy after tragedy. Yet isn’t these moments of suffering and pain that bring communities together? We feel like we might suffer alone, yet that is hardly the case. So, for Penny’s characters, the grief and the burden of overcoming hate and fear is done together. Humans trusting in the good in each other instead of seeing on the bad.

I was reminded recently by an acquaintance that my first inclination is to openly, and fully, trust people. I always assume the best for those I meet. I’m a person who gives you trust, yet as things happen, that trust disappears. I believe this is a great quality! Sometimes I get burned and hurt, yet it’s worth it.

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Source: http://www.nivrithitrust.org/contact.html

“Some people keep their darkness inside, and some hide their light. You, mon ami, almost certainly have a croissant in there.” (Penny)

“A gadabout gossip can’t be trusted with a secret,
    but someone of integrity won’t violate a confidence.” (Proverbs 11:13)

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Source: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/you-hurt-me/

 

 

“Becoming Human”: heart and head

I truly enjoy the CBC Massey Lecture series.  I’ve listened to, read, and seen live some of the talks that Canadians give on topics they are passionate about.  Becoming Human is Jean Vanier’s series about who we are and how we can, through compassion, love, and forgiveness, become fully human.

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Source: https://www.amazon.ca/Becoming-Human-Jean-Vanier/dp/0809145871

I found Vanier’s book to be challenging because it made me see myself and reflect on my own motivations, thoughts, and actions as I read.  Vanier wants his readers to see that compassion and love for others are possible, yet we need to become free first and need to forgive ourselves and others.  These are not light topics that are easy to shrug off.

This year I have been learning a lot about trying to reconnect the heart and the head in education.  The Enlightenment taught civilizations to keep the two separate and that has not yet changed.  I like that Vanier addresses this way of Western thought: “We tend to reduce being human to acquiring knowledge, power, and social status.  We have disregarded the heart, seeing it only as a symbol of weakness, the centre of love that can reorient us from our self-centredness, revealing to us and to others the basic beauty of humanity, empowering us to grow.” (Pg 78)

heart

Source: http://www.playbuzz.com/randallmurphy10/a-whats-the-connection-between-your-head-and-your-heart

Vanier writes that when we start to see people through our heart, we allow a place for everyone to belong.  Belonging can be a fearful, negative thing for some because of the way society is set up, they will never belong.  Vanier helped to start L’ARCHE, a community for people with intellectual disabilities.  Through his work with these communities, he has learned that freedom means loving and seeing the heart and soul, not just the potential for success. He also has a lot of wisdom around forgiveness: “Forgiveness, the act of loving my enemy, like forgiveness of self, is not a sudden event, a rapid change of heart.  Most of the time it is a long process that begins with the desire to be free, to accept ourselves as we are, and to grow in the love of those who are different and those who have hurt us or appear as rivals.  It is the process of getting out of the prison of our likes and dislikes, our hatreds and fears, and walking to freedom and compassion.” (Pg 161)

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Source: http://www.thequotepedia.com/quotes/forgiveness/page/12/

Vanier is aware that his way of living–living in love, compassion, freedom, and forgiveness–is not easy and it is not a lifestyle that offers a lot of examples, yet it is a life that leads to becoming human.  For Vanier, once we become human, then we find we truly belong.

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Source: https://plus.google.com/photos/+Tomletgo/albums/6015896748732687393

“To be lonely is to feel unwanted and unloved, and therefor unloveable. Loneliness is a taste of death. No wonder some people who are desperately lonely lose themselves in mental illness or violence to forget the inner pain.” (Jean Vanier)

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, speak well of those who speak badly about you, and pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

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Source: http://themetapicture.com/graffiti-revolution/

“Things You’ve Inherited From Your Mother”: forgiving yourself

I stumbled on Hollie Adams’ book Things You’ve Inherited From Your Mother at the public library.  As I was waiting for the student I tutor to show up, the cover caught my eye and it was in a display that promised books you’ll love that focus on character.  And sure enough, I did love it!

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Source: https://www.amazon.ca/Things-Youve-Inherited-Your-Mother/dp/1927063833

In the novel, the main character Carrie is trying to deal with the fact that her mother is dead.  Life is never what we plan and it never looks the way we imagine, and Adams is brilliant in writing her heroine Carrie.  Carrie has a complete break down.   She ends up wearing fishnets to her mother’s funeral to prove to her ex-husband that she’s over him.  She ends up wearing sweat pants for an entire week at work after her two-day-off grief period when her boss creates a ‘no jeans’ dress code.  She ends up making penis puns while her daughter tries to say why her daughter doesn’t have any friends at school.  She tries to write a ‘self-help’ book.  As things get worse and worse, Carrie proves that life is never simple and clean.  Life is messy and complicated.  Complicated, like right now I’m eating toast with raspberry jam made by my ex-boyfriend’s ex-mother-in-law.

complicated

Source: https://beatingcowdens.com/2015/12/22/its-complicated/

We all have days where nothing goes right and we look like we are in our very own comedy.  The topic of grief or loss is heavy, yet Adams uses humour to show that reality is never simple.  This week I watched the movie Tammy and was reminded that sometimes we cannot react ‘normally’ in every situation.  Sometimes, going overboard is the only answer!  For anyone who has seen Bridesmaids, the same idea is there: sometimes the best way to react to something is to overreact.  So yes, there are a lot of great films out there right now that show life is complicated and we don’t always make the best/ right/ responsible decisions, yet in the end it’s forgiveness that gets us through.  Forgiveness of self is something extremely powerful and that is one of the things I liked about Adams’ book.  In the end, Carrie rebuilds her life, and it’s not perfect, but it’s hers.

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Source: https://zarahlinda.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/the-importance-of-forgiving-yourself/

So, if you have ever reacted poorly or laughed at the wrong time or left things too long, you will enjoy this novel!  The library was right: it’s a book about character that you will love.  Also, I was encouraged in remembering that the people who truly love me with be there for me, even when I make the wrong decisions!

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Source: http://jarviscity.com/2015/07/07/chocolate-movie-scenes/

“The next morning, open your closet to find a dark grey shirt and pair of dark grey pants adorned with neon ‘wear me’ stickers.  A fun thing you could do: show up at the church in the assigned attire with her neon Post-its still affixed to the collar of your blouse and thigh of your pants.” (Pg 15)

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” (Like 6:21)

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Source: http://izismile.com/2009/10/02/epic_fails_the_best_of_the_best_part_1_79_pics.html

“Baygirl”: create a family

Family is an interesting concept. It’s the people who surround you. It’s the people who share your genes and DNA. But what about the people you choose to become part of your family? Is that just descendants from a common ancestor, or does that include friends?

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Source: http://higheredibles.com/edu/definition-family/

Baygirl by Heather Smith is a fantastic example that family is the people around you who love and support you and in return you chose to love, forgive, challenge, and encourage. The novel is told from the point of view of Kitty, a baygirl in Eastern Newfoundland, who moves to St. John’s with her parents when her father loses his job as a fisherman.

baygirl
Source: http://www.heathertsmith.com/books

This novel was another one from the CBC’s Must Read list of young adult fiction. And it pulls a punch, literally (well, at least for some of the characters). We see how Kit deals with and increases the number of people in her family. Her Dad is an unemployed and depressed drunk. Her Uncle is a recovering alcoholic widower. Her Mom is a hardworker who tries her best to hold the family together. Her Nan is a saint who loves all of her family. Then Kit adds in members to her own family: the bizarre elderly man, Mr. Adams, from the Yorkshire Dales who lives next door and constantly drinks tea, and Elliot, the French-speaking, poetry writing geeky boyfriend. Throughout the novel, Kit learns to let people into her life, she learns to accept help, and most importantly she learns how to forgive.

I loved this novel because it was set in Newfoundland, where I’m heading for vacation in a few weeks. I also loved this novel because the characters were not perfect. I liked that despite all of the anger, fear, hate, and sadness, there were beautiful moments that show life is good. Although some people do not have the best family (who are related), it doesn’t mean you can’t create your own family.

If you are looking for a great young adult fiction summer read that is Canadian, Baygirl is the book for you! This novel is heartwarming, aggravating, and delightful all in one. If you don’t believe me, click here for what the CBC list has to say.

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Source: http://www.buzzquotes.com/you-can-do-it-quotes

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“I always wondered – how does one forgive the person who has caused them to live their life walking on eggshells? This is the question I wanted to explore when writing Baygirl. This is why forgiveness is Kit’s biggest dilemma.” (Interview with Heather Smith)

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Source: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/friends-are-family/