Faith, Family, & Focaccia

A faith and culture Mommy blog, because real life gets all mixed together like that.

Love in the Balance

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Apparently, the emotional turmoil of moving inspires poetic rather than prose responses in my soul.

There are so many things that I could say about my impending return to my home country. Even more that I could say about the consequent departure from the city and country that have become my loved, if sometimes uncomfortable, home. I could reflect on the sometimes humorous, sometimes hand-wringing challenges of culture-crossing. I could expound on the idiosyncrasies of the Italian language that continues to enchant and frustrate me. I could reminisce over sweet memories and mourn the imminent changes to dear friendships. I have feelings and thoughts on all of these elements of this incredible experience, but these are not the truths that welled in my soul as I walked to the kids’ school this afternoon (for one of the last times).

Instead I reflected on the ways this experience has changed me, and as often happens these thoughts brought me back to the faith that is at the core of the “me” who has changed. There has been a lot of change in me, that is clear, at least to me. And I suppose my faith has changed as well, but not in some linear sense of conversion from one form to another. Rather, these years have brought a new sense of synthesis. This is not a direct consequence of one or another element of my experience. My years in Europe have, on the one hand exposed me to much more variety within Christianity than even my seminary years, at least in terms of lived experience. But on the other hand they have in some ways left me on a spiritual island – isolated from the friendships where I feel most free to talk honestly and openly about my faith, marooned with my faith and my God to try to work out for myself what I really believe.

And I am emerging from this experience with a new sense of balance, an appreciation for the life of “the now and the not yet” that was academic in seminary, but is now experiential. In describing this, however, my prose escapes me. Instead, I share the poem that evolved from a prayer walking through the rare autumn sunlight of a crisp November Milan afternoon.

This morning's view of the Basilica in the sunlight.

This morning’s view of the Basilica in the sunlight.

Love in the Balance

Constancy that’s ever changing

as I shift my point of view.

Your face can ever bring me wonder,

every morn Your love is new.

*

First I knew You as a savior,

hung for me up on that tree.

Oh, the breathless love of sinner

called by One who welcomes me.

*

Then I knew You as a Father

firm, though loving, in command.

My call, I knew, must be obedience

always submit to Your demand.

*

I’ve also known You as my Abba:

Daddy, dear, who holds me close.

Nestled in Your sweet protection

perhaps this face I love the most.

*

A mother’s longing You have shown me

when I hold my children near;

a love that yearns toward my potential

balanced between hope and fear.

*

In blessed moments I have known You

as the Lover of my soul,

igniting passion for Your presence,

for only in You am I whole.

*

More often You’re the still small voice,

so hard to hear amid the din

of life that presses with demands

so urgent, as I am worn thin.

*

But other times Your voice seems absent

even when I call in pain.

Your silence deafens me from shouting

leaves me hopeless, Spirit drained.

*

Until I learn to sit in patience,

let the silence fill my soul,

find the peace of true surrender,

choose my faith despite the toll.

*

Your words are sometimes those of comfort,

sometimes challenge, sometimes call,

hope, rebuke, forgiveness, wisdom.

At different times I’ve needed all.

*

Such contrast can all seem disjointed,

“Who is the true Word hid beneath?”

But Truth can hold them all in tension,

each is true, just incomplete.

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Author: Serena Gideon Rice

In early 2011 my family moved our home, temporarily, from New Jersey to Milan, Italy. In the process I quit what had been my dream job conducting policy-directed social science research, to focus on my other dream job, raising our two young children. The three-year adventure was exciting, exhausting, disorienting, fulfilling, and countless other contradictions. It also birthed in me a desire to share my reflections on life's joys and challenges with anyone who cares to reflect with me. Now that we have returned to the US I'm finding that the new perspective I gained in Europe has come with me, and gives me a whole new way of interacting with my home. There's still so much to learn and share! I hope you'll share the journey, and add your own lessons to my daily education.

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