Being Thick In A Thin Place


Celtic Christians get credit for the spiritual concept of thin places but the understanding of a thin place is far, far older than that. Ancient Irish inhabitants believed that there were actual physical places where the physical and spiritual realms were so close, only the thinnest of veils separated the two. At certain times of the years, these spaces grew even thinner. Being neither into ancient pagan practices nor modern new-age meditations, thin places are something I’d like to understand from a purely intellectual vantage point. I’ve always had a love of ancient mythology and having Scots-Irish blood in my veins, a trip to these so-called thin places, out of mere curiosity, is definitely on the bucket list.

Be that as it may, I find that at certain times of the years, I have my own thin places. Late March and late December are the thinnest and that is when the dreams come. So I find myself in this time of strange and incredibly vivid dreams that have so much to tell me and yet I cannot understand. And no I don’t mean the crazy dream symbolism, so put down the dream dictionary. I mean I literally do not understand.

There was one with a strange little man who spoke to me in rapid-fire Italian, which I haven’t studied or spoken in over 20 years. He had so much to tell me but he refused to speak to me in English. I tried. I told him I didn’t understand. He waved off my protests and in the end all I got was that the time is near. Time for what, I have no idea. But it was important enough that I was down on one knee to hear him and he took my face in his hands to tell me. I woke up and could still feel hands on my face. Far too vivid for my taste.

The places in my dreams lately are definitely thinner than usual, even for me. I on the other hand, am feeling quite thick. I don’t get it and there is nothing that leaves me more frustrated than not understanding something I can see unfolding in front of me. So for now, I write them down as they come and wonder what it is that I’m missing.



Sandy Hook. A year later. Is that really all it’s been? One year? It feels like so much longer and yet… somehow it still feels like yesterday. My heart still skips a beat to see a police car outside either of my sons’ schools. Used to be a police car at a school meant a rather vague safety talk about not taking candy from strangers and maybe a chance to sit in the officer’s car. Now they’re there watching, on guard against nameless, faceless potential threats. Both boys have had real lockdown situations at their schools and while I find it unnerving, they take it in stride. That makes me want to scream, ‘No! No! No! This is NOT normal!’

A year has passed and I still have nightmares now and then. I skip past the month of December when I flip back through last year’s journal. It will be a very long time before I can look at some of those entries. Last year’s Christmas letter, which I was writing when the news broke, still sits unfinished, the half-formed thoughts that had been coming into focus remain scattered. The blog post I wrote in January still holds true. I find myself still very much out of answers. There is no undoing the horrible evil that was done that day. So the best I can do is to hug my kids tighter, to be quicker to tell them I love them, to do more of the silly little things that we love to do and to laugh as much as we can at the craziness life throws at us. Very simply, to bring as much good to the ones around me as I can and teach my kids to do the same.

The boys are at their father’s house for the weekend, leaving me time and quiet to reflect on this past year. There’s a new playground within sight of my backyard now, bright flamingo pink and dedicated to teacher Vicki Soto. I heard the chorus singing ‘Feliz Navidad’ when it was dedicated back in June. I could only stand and cry while over all of it a plane circled overhead pulling a banner that read: Live. Love. Laugh.

What else can we do?

I went there this morning at 9:30. It’s the first time I’ve gone to the park since the new playground was built. It’s cold today and the snow is falling. Three little pine trees have been decorated with pink and purple Christmas ornaments. I took photos but I found I couldn’t set foot beyond the paths that marked the edge of the playground. It was so perfect, so still, and somehow, I knew, it was not to be disturbed. Even the birds and squirrels, who are usually quite busy in that park, had chosen to be still. The few inches of snow covered the playground in a blanket of white and with more snow falling, there was an absolute hush in this place with the sign that reads: Where Angels Play.

As I walked back up the hill to my car, I saw a painted star nailed to one of the trees. It read simply: HOPE.

What further answer could I need?


Unexpected God


I don’t know why it caught me so off guard. I mean think about it, God showed up in a barn as a baby when everybody looking for the Messiah expected a great warrior. So it’s not like I don’t know He’s got that weird element of surprise and He does love to use it. But still…

Yesterday morning, I had coffee with God. Yes really. Face-to-face. Sat down and had coffee in a restaurant in New Haven with God, who decided to show up as Andrew, a large raucous gay black man on his third screwdriver at 11:00 in the morning. I wasn’t even there to meet him. I was there to see my best friend John who was home for one last time and his friend George, who had made the trip with him. Andrew just happened to be with them when I got to the restaurant.

Breakfast dragged out until well past lunchtime. We lingered long over coffee. Well, no, George and I lingered over coffee while John and Andrew knocked back vodka and orange juice while joking with the waiter in Spanish. And then suddenly, it was just me and Andrew. George had gone back to the hotel room to finish packing. At Andrew’s suggestion, John disappeared for an extended cigarette break.

This guy who thirty seconds earlier had been making raunchy jokes suddenly got quite serious and quiet. His face and his eyes softened and changed, almost like they were lit from the inside. “Girl, we need to talk. You need to listen to me. You are a beautiful woman and I don’t just mean on the outside but inside too. You radiate beauty out of your face and you don’t even see it. You been hurt. I can see that too and it just made you stronger and kinder and more beautiful. Don’t you go wall yourself off because some men treated you bad. There’s good men out there still. You’ll see. You will find someone who will love you right and treat you the way you deserve. You just got to be patient and you don’t give up and you don’t lower your standards for no man.”

It went on from there. Dating guidelines, boundaries, and so on but you get the idea. Okay so he’s not the first person to tell me any of this. I’ve heard it. Over and over and over and over again. My mom, my friends, my therapist, spiritual director, my confessor, they’ve all said it to me these last six years. But this was different. It was unexpected. It was from a stranger. More than that, it was just a plain flat out strange situation. Hanging out in a restaurant watching two men get drunk and loud before noon is so far outside my comfort zone it’s not even on the same map. And I guess that’s what got me. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what defense to put up. So I didn’t. And He used that and He got through.

So then what? John came back. Serious conversation over. Light in the eyes was gone and the raucous conversation started anew like this little talk we’d had never happened. But it did and it blew past every single one of my usual defensive walls. A few months back, Deacon Ron mused that it seemed to him that I needed to meet God with some skin on Him. Yesterday, that’s exactly what happened and it was nothing like what I would’ve expected.