Hello, Kitty

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 12:52 AM
My cat somehow always knows when I’m not doing well.

In deference to my delicate condition, she retracts her claws, stops growling at the sound of my voice, doesn’t try to bite me when I fill her food bowl, and does other little acts of kindness and endearments. Tonight, she hopped up on my lap, allowed me to touch her for about 10 seconds, and gazed upon me with mild disdain instead of open hostility. Oh, how she loves me!

You may scoff, but a recent study shows that cat owners are less likely to die from heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. This does not surprise me: I get a lot of exercise dodging Baby’s claws. Cat lovers, the study explains, have less stress and anxiety levels (living in abject fear is invigorating, not stressful).

Another study asserts that cat owners live longer. Since I’m afraid to go to sleep at night, I know my baby has certainly added life to my years! I would have gotten a lot of things done with these extra hours, it’s just that Baby can’t sleep unless she’s on top of whatever book I’m trying to read or the keyboard as I try to type. I must respect her needs, as her exasperated sighs constantly remind me.

If you have heard disparaging comments, it is only because Baby’s enemies have mounted a relentless smear campaign. Why should she be blamed when people do not understand the mischievous nature of her hissing? The dilated pupils? The better to see you, my dear… The lashing tail? The ears flattened against her head? The way she pounces on you, leaping several feet in the air as her fangs try to reach your throat? Good-natured teasing, nothing more!

I know there are those who do not understand our relationship—and the sadistic few (one!) who have offered to throw her off my third-story balcony.

But she brings me joy. And I love her with the whole of my heart because she is mine. This denotes not possession, but belonging.

I had a truly horrible week last week. Feeling pathetic and battered, I needed a place to weather the storm. I found my refuge here: But now this is what the LORD says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. (Isa. 43:1).

At my best and (especially) at my worst and my weakest, the truest thing about who I am is that I am loved. Passionately. Recklessly.


I've Learned My Lesson

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 7:47 AM
I’d like to jump on the “he’s-not-that-into-you-bandwagon” – mostly because I've already done so much research on this topic!

My Freshman year at AUC, my heart belonged unequivocally to one remarkable young man. If memory serves, he was a Junior that year. I was a tiny nameless speck in his peripheral vision (the left side). And he….well, he was absolutely perfect. I don’t actually remember what it was that made him so desirable (he drove a motorcycle), but I’m sure I was attracted to his intellect (he wore a leather jacket) and charisma (it was a brown leather jacket).

My only memory of him places both of us at the cafeteria and I remember it as vividly as if it had happened yesterday (well, maybe week before last). I was sitting with my best friend, in a chair picked because it gave me a particularly advantageous look at the back of his head. This was not a decision made lightly and several chairs were tried and rejected before finding the perfect one.

When he finished his meal, before my heart could steel itself, he stood and began walking in my direction (it was also the direction of the exit). When he passed me, without looking at me (the emphasis here is important so go back and read that again), he tapped my table twice and kept going.

My heart soared.

At seventeen and in love, there were several ways that the table tapping could be interpreted. For the next few days, I examined all of them: he knew I existed! It was only a matter of time before I would bump into him (at the library, maybe) and I’d saucily tap the table where he sat. I’d lean in close and seductively say something memorable: “um….remember the day you tapped my table at the cafeteria” (OK I’d have to work on that.) Anyway, then he would turn his complete attention over to the periphery and we’d live happily ever after. (Our children would be cross-eyed, but sometimes you have to pay a price for true love.)

Of course, I’m a grown-up now. And I have learned the hard way—a text message where he casually mentions his whereabouts later is not the same thing as a date! When he calls because he’s bored, it’s not the same thing as calling because he wants to hear the sound of my voice! Telling me I’m such a good pal is not the same thing as wanting to spend time with me!

I get it: he’s just not that into me!

(But if he only turned to a little to the left….)


On the Road

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 8:16 AM
There’s a map sitting on top of the passenger seat, so if I really had to, I can figure out what town I’m in. But I don’t want to.

There are better ways to define the place where I find myself than through the banality of naming it.

For starters, I can see the ocean and despite the chilly wind, I’ve rolled down the windows so I can hear the waves. Ahead of me is the promise and certainty of a sunrise over an endless expanse of water. Behind me, the tyrannical “to do” list and the sense of my own importance.

I am alone, save for my thoughts and the crooners I brought for company: Sinatra, Bublé, Jones, Coltrane, Fitzgerald. To them I owe the languidness of my mood as I drive, unrushed, to my final destination: no place in particular.

I’ll recognize it when I get there: it is where “I should be” recedes long enough for me to be reacquainted with “I am.”


Sunday Night

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 8:09 AM
I had the pan-seared, almond crusted salmon, presented prettily on a bed of rice and sautéed vegetables, zucchini and broccoli mostly. The chef had not overcooked the vegetables, as so many places do, and they still held their shape and crispness—this alone made me overlook the fact that they were a bit salty. The almonds made the salmon crunchy on the outside, but the inside was flaky and well done. The whole thing was drizzled with a decadent blueberry sauce (yes, blueberry), a surprising complement to the other flavors.

The meal was remarkable not just because I was eating seafood.

I remember once when I watched a friend prepare the coffee he’d ordered after our meal. Into the steaming cup went the contents of about 20 little containers of cream and an equal amount of packets of sugar. After watching him prepare this concoction I asked him if he’d ever considered that maybe he didn’t really like the taste of coffee.

So this is my problem with seafood: it tastes like fish.

Balanced with the sweet blueberry sauce and the tangy vegetables, this particular salmon was actually just “fishy” enough. Which was pleasant, but not remarkable.

What makes this meal noteworthy is that it is the first time I have ever enjoyed eating out alone. I’m not sure when or how the transformation took place since I’m pretty sure this was no gradual thing. The last time I had to eat in public solitude I’d been too uncomfortable to enjoy the food, and I’d sought safety behind the pages of a novel I’d bought for just such a cowardly act. I had not anticipated that this time would be any different, so I had come prepared with my book in tow. A sturdy hardback nearly 500 pages strong to shield me from curious onlookers and my own fearfulness.

I didn’t give myself any sort of pep talk before going into the restaurant; but I did begin to grow suspicious when the usual nervous butterflies didn’t follow me to the table the hostess led me to. Per my usual ritual I opened the book almost immediately after being seated. However, when the waitress came to take the order for my drink, I found myself looking around in interest instead of rushing back to the shelter of the written word.

The Chili Pepper is not a restaurant that is going to wind up on the pages of The New York Times food section. The bar was five steps from the front door and the dining room consisted of no more than small 15 tables (some of them pushed together). The walls had murals painted with bright colors depicting scenes of some decorator’s idea of the idyllic Mexican countryside and people.

I returned to my book out of a genuine desire to deepen the relationship I’d started with the author. When the food came, I politely asked P. W. Singer to wait while I ate…no, actually, savored the fare that the waitress had brought. I can’t say that I thought about anything in particular, just the same sort of stream of consciousness prattle that’s usually in my head and amusement over my newfound confidence.

I know this doesn’t sound like much, but there’s a whole new set of experiences that awaits me now that I find I can enjoy a meal alone. The jazz café on the top floor of the Kennedy Center and the mystery dinner theatre where guests can help solve the murder, these are now open to me!

I told Frank all about it when I got in the car on the way back to my hotel. But he was too busy singing about asking Joe for “one [drink] for my baby and one more for the road” to pay much attention to me.

That’s why I’m telling you.


Anonymous Intimacy

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 7:31 AM
There is in all of us a desire for relationship, a hunger to be known. And so important is man’s need to belong that exile from one’s country is recognized to be among the worst punishments a society can inflict upon an individual. To gain community, desperate souls have given up freedom, property, even their lives. Created in the image of a triune God means we were created for connection and community. But so much stands in the way.

The fear of rejection and the real possibility of betrayal keep most of us silent when our hearts long to shout. Painful memories from the past hold us captive convincing us that intimacy is too risky. As we grow older we become more cynical, hold on with more tenacity to the masks we wear, and call it all maturity. When new people enter our lives, we weigh our options carefully: how much to reveal, how deep to trust. Gone is the recklessness with which we used to love, if ever it was present. Caution is our new religion.

My own life is filled with plenty of evidence from this great struggle: the yearning for closeness balanced against the need for prudence.

So today I want to acknowledge and thank those who are brave on my behalf. Artists, musicians, writers whose creations are self revelation, not merely self expression. Their works reach parts of me I don’t often share with others. I cannot count the number of times I have been immersed in a book, or an image, or a song that grabs me and won’t let go. There are words that have shaped me as surely as any personal experience. There are times when the pages of a book have reduced me to tears and then built me up again.

To those whose creativity comes at a price, thank you:

How can you know how indelibly you have touched my life? In all likelihood we will never meet and yet you struggle and strain (in part) for me. I’m sure there are days that leave you breathless and weak, times when your own heart is torn apart by fear and doubt.

All your strength and vulnerability poured out so that we might live (if only for a moment) in the oneness for which we were created. Through your craft, I am lifted out of myself and bound up in community. We stand, intimate strangers, held together by the truths that sustain us and a commonality of experience.

If ever there are times when this sacred act of creation becomes tedious and mundane, please think of me—a life, a heart you have already transformed by your courageous act of love.


The Most Dangerous Game

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 7:50 AM in

I've only been hunting once in my life.

Lost in my thoughts, I waited in silence and suspended disbelief: my fingers gripping the cold metal—would I have to courage to act when the time came? The frigid air ripped through me with each breath I took. The steady beat of my own blood pounding in my ears mocked me: coward!

Although it was not yet dusk, the woods were dark. Fitting, I thought, considering our darker purpose. Nature was protecting her own; I could hear the disdain in her voice as she greeted us. The trees all but ignored me as I trod carefully among them, head down, eyes scanning earnestly for signs of our quarry. Was it too late to seek reconciliation, to shrug off the role of predator? Perhaps the sun would shine again once I explained how innocently I had been swept up in the scheme when it had first been proposed, how I had not really considered that my adversary would be defenseless, how I did not mean to insult or injure the friend that so many times had granted me solace and peace.

But how could I face my friends with these childish thoughts? No, the grand adventure must be faced, endured…conquered.

There! In the underbrush! In one moment it would all be decided—I must find the courage!

With a burst of energy, I bellowed the cry my guides had taught me and my hands of their own accord deftly handled the flashlight. The remorse and moral dilemmas were pushed away by the rush of adrenaline: I was acting purely as an instinctive animal now.

But I failed. There was only emptiness.

To this day, I am haunted by memories of that elusive snipe.


Not a Question....Just a Thought

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 11:05 PM in

Even in solitude and silence, my heart finds it hard to be still. There’s a vague restlessness that comes from relying only, always, on myself. It’s amazing, isn’t it, that the same voices that taunt me with condemnation and insults about my inadequacy are also the sirens convincing me that I am capable of being in control, that if I just try a little harder….

I was looking at the balance of power between God the Father and Jesus. Of Himself, Jesus said both that He does nothing without the consent of His Father and that all authority in heaven and on earth had been granted to Him.

In John 5, Jesus explains that it is the Father who is the source of all authority and who willingly has granted that authority to His Son, giving Jesus the power to give life and to judge. Jesus then gives that authority back to the Father by committing to doing nothing of His own accord and by sharing the authority to His followers.

So my desire for control of my life is a distortion… a reaching out for what God freely offers but bypassing the Giver.

Authority granted in the context of worship and service?

The Father gives the Son power, glory, and authority and in the giving He is Himself glorified. Jesus takes the glory and shares it: “I have given them the glory that you gave me that they might be one” (John 17:22). And in the giving, “…glory has come to me through them.” (John 17:10).

The glory flows downward, then. Not glory or authority that I give up….but glory and authority that I receive.


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