Category Archives: Spirituality

Wholly, Holy Gfree…Really!

The church my husband and I attend offers a gluten free option during communion; it was a major selling point when we were searching for a spiritual home. Sometimes the gluten free option was Van’s Everything Crackers and sometimes we received rice circles seemingly sized for dolls with self-titled story books.

The church is part of the United Church of Christ, a progressive Christian faith whose “overarching creed is love.”

This post, however, is not about church doctrine or what and why we believe. If you want to know more about the United Church of Christ, check out www.ucc.org.

This post is about the challenges of participating in any community of faith when celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or food allergies separate you from everyone else.

This is about watching the minister tear in half the loaf of bread while proclaiming, “This is my body!” and watching, not with sacred awe, but with horror as bread bits bounce across the table. Maybe they didn’t bounce into the bowl brimming with gfree crackers, I think, only to see glutinous globs on said crackers when the minister proffers the dish moments later.

This is about graciously changing crumb culture:  making clergy cognizant of how crumbs clinging to their fingers create crumby communion crackers, contaminate once celiac-safe crackers.

This is about how I only nibbled a corner of the cracker before covering the rest with a tissue, hoping no one would see me partially partake, and getting sick anyway.

This is about finding the courage to chat with the clergy about cross-contact, about wanting to show them simple steps for celiac-safe communion, and how, strangely shame-laden, I sweet-talked my spouse into speaking in my stead…something I regret.

This is about invitations to potluck gatherings, supper clubs, and even the coffee and tea social hour after service and being unable to participate because participating might be sickening, really sickening. The kind of sickening that comes from a coffee cup proffered by a cheery congregant whose same hands composed the cookie plate so now my coffee cup has cookie crumbs clinging to where I must clasp it.  Conundrum. Can the crumbs be cleansed from my cup or my clasp before I cover my mouth to cough? If not, curses! Those crumbs now course through me. I’m contaminated…glutened.

This is about God calling the clergy to call my husband and me to serve on the Board of Deacons. After we accepted our respective calls, I emailed our minister, asking if I could help the church become more inclusive for those of us on the fringes due to serious medical conditions related to food.

This is about our senior minister then celebrating the ordination of his blessed friend, who broke gfree bread for churchwide communion because he, too, has celiac. The newly ordained to his friend explained he cannot engage with glutinous grain: no loaf, wafer, or cracker. God loves timing a revelation.

This is about our leader rethinking what it means to be inclusive and welcoming after seeing his friend celebrate communion celiac-safely. I only planned to propose plastic to cover the gfree communion crackers to prevent crumby cross-contact. Our minister—by God—went much further. When he announced the 8:30 service would serve gluten free bread for communion, not just for the gluten sensitive but for everyone, my heart heated and my eyes misted.

This is about tears tumbling freely when he tore a piece from the same gfree loaf feeding everyone else and placed it into my hand. In that moment, I felt holy. I felt wholly a part and not apart. After years of feeling separate and not equal, it was Velveteen Rabbit redemption: I suddenly was real, a one-of-Us and not a Them.

This is about the countless times I’ve “participated” in gatherings by sitting at the end of the table, huddled over my brought-from-home container of gfree food while everyone else orders from the menu, or passes around plate after plate of potluck, laughing and sharing the same feast while remarking about how sad it must be to be me, deprived of the communal bounty.

This is about someone seeing, beyond me, that separate is not equal, that a sliver of starch beside sumptuous sourdough disserves the spirit of the Last Supper set by the One whose generosity surpasses any we mortals can muster.

Gfree…you…now…like me.

Amen.

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Illness Is Not A Moral Failing

Screaming loudly from more than a corner of the quest to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is this notion that moral, upstanding people take care of themselves and do not get sick; therefore, they do not need guaranteed health insurance or subsidized premiums to make insurance affordable. This line of thinking suggests we who have chronic illness somehow bring the malaise upon ourselves. We don’t lead clean, healthy lives; instead, we make bad choices which lead to our illnesses. If we put our money on organic food instead of smartphones, I’ve heard said, we’d be healthier. If we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps and worked to become wealthy like regular Americans, rather than laying around bemoaning our ailments, we’d stop being a drain on the economy . . . and we wouldn’t need to see the doctor so often.

The trouble is, science doesn’t support this kind of thinking. Having a chronic autoimmune disease like celiac disease as I do, or Sjogren’s as my sister does, or ankylosing spondylitis as my other sister does, is more a fuction of genetics plus environmental risk factors than of moralilty. Continue reading Illness Is Not A Moral Failing

A Little Flakey on the Decor

With Winter Wonderland as our wedding theme, and our wedding scheduled for January 3rd, we made things easy (and inexpensive) on ourselves with respect to decor and accessories. Planning the wedding during the Advent season meant both online and bricks and mortar retailers were all flaked out, and willing to discount, for the season.

The ridiculous popularity of the Disney movie Frozen contributed even more snowflake-themed products to the marketplace, both a boon and a bear. Sure, there were  more flakes available in September and October, but the aqua and purple hues didn’t quite  complement our wedding palette of midnight blue, silver, and grey, nor did the ubiquitous character visages. “I do and Olaf does, too,” just didn’t seem romantic…or age-appropriate. Talk about the need to let it go.

A word about snowflakes. The snowflake seemed the perfect symbol for our wedding. Each one is special, with its own design and its own purpose. One snowflake by itself is nothing much but when it joins with another snowflake its power and purpose are multiplied. Like the snowflake, we are stronger together than we are on our own, yet we retain our unique purpose and design within the relationship. We are snowflakes and even when it gets warm and we might melt, we simply change shape and flow on. It’s an imperfect simile but it worked better for us than guns and grosgrain. Continue reading A Little Flakey on the Decor

The Secret to Successful Surgery

Dr. W looked oddly casual in his surgical scrubs and snazzy black sneakers, which he confessed would come off–the sneakers, not the scrubs–during surgery. It gave him better balance, he said, while he operated using the daVinci robot. He chatted amiably with us while we waited for the signal that the OR was ready, until the lead surgical nurse came in, scowling. The surgical plan wasn’t in my chart, she said. Dr. W looked, and sure enough, the printed plan wasn’t there.

Yikes. Continue reading The Secret to Successful Surgery

10 Lessons Sans Carols: #1 Stille Nacht

We’ve finally gotten to number one!

I had no idea when I started this series that writing ten posts about lessons learned from the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s holidays would test me so much. The testing has enriched me, so I’m not complaining. I’ve learned a great deal about myself by processing the pile of pictures past perfect. Going even further, I’ve yanked the lenses right out of the snap-trappers taking those freeze-frames and I’ve discovered surprising convexings in the glass. Continue reading 10 Lessons Sans Carols: #1 Stille Nacht

Holiday Lessons: #2 The Gifts of Giving and Being Gifted

I’m a list maker. Lists are wonderful little gifts to myself costing nothing except the paper on which I write them and the ink used to pen them. I love making lists before I go grocery shopping so I remember to buy what I’m out of, about to run out of,  want to try, or have but it’s on sale so I should get more. I’ll admit that half the time I forget to bring the actual piece of paper on which the list is made when I leave the house, but the act of making the list puts about 80% of what’s on the list into my short term memory so I’m better off than if I didn’t make a list at all. What I forget to buy, I just add to the list for the next shopping trip.

I also love making Christmas lists. Lists of things to do to get ready for Christmas; things to buy for the various Christmas meals; things to make for the various Christmas meals; and events to attend (and things to buy for said events, such as hostess gifts). Checking off each item on the list feels really satisfying. Vacuum. Check. Clean the bathrooms. Check. Check. Check. Nap. CHECK! Each check feels like a gift, maybe an affirmation of my value or at least evidence of my efficiency. Continue reading Holiday Lessons: #2 The Gifts of Giving and Being Gifted

Ten Lessons Sans Carols: #4 The Bright Thing to Do

In the post “Gift #9” I talked about my neighborhood and the curmudgeons who circle around the cul-de-sac. In the interest of fairness, I have to say not everyone here in Pine Bluff Trace is mean. There’s also my neighbor who leaves post-it notes on my windshield early in the morning saying, “I’ve gone out of town for two days. Can you take care of my dog?” There’s also the neighbor who hosts popular hot tub parties well attended only by attractive young men at least twenty years younger than said neighbor, but that’s none of my business. Continue reading Ten Lessons Sans Carols: #4 The Bright Thing to Do