Boxes in the Attic

It is nearing the end of the summer and my house is littered with boxes. The older kids have been home and I foolishly thought it might be a good time to go through the boxes in the attic. After all, it is their stuff. How am I supposed to know what is a key to an enduring and endearing memory and what is simply debris? Why do I even care about the boxes in the attic?

Well, the obvious answer is that I need the room. As more kids take their leave, the plastic dinosaurs,  boxes of shells, hamster cages and aquariums, sleds, sleeping bags and camo, wrestling shoes and letter jackets, trophies, shoe boxes of love letters, book report posters, scratched Teflon frying pans and slightly broken vacuum cleaners are starting to build up.

Have you ever been to an estate sale which is obviously a surprise to all involved- where the house inhabitants apparently did not know they were on their way out and suddenly, an entire lifetime of old National Geographics, novelty coffee cups and broken lawn furniture is laid bare? It is an undigested life- and an examination of conscience. Your mind races back to your own unexamined life.

I guess that the boxes in the attic mostly bother me because I do not want my house to be an ongoing anachronism. I want to embrace where I am now. The kids have moved on. If they do not care about their stuff, why should I?

I remember when my parents moved out of our family home in Illinois. For years that house had cast a spell- walking down the stairs to the basement or up to the back closet of that bedroom was like magic- trying to recreate the feeling of waking up on a summer morning with the ceiling fan whirring overhead and mom somewhere down in the kitchen doing important things. Over the years she had begged all eight of us to take what we wanted and get it out of the house. But the thought of removing those mildewed prom dresses or hot wheel tracks from the basement closet seemed like a sacrilege. Once the deed was finally done, the house no longer had its hold on me. Now I had to ask myself how I had turned out.

The thought of that makes me panic. Yes, I want this house to reflect reality- not a fantasy that the kids are coming home and that noisy dinners are the norm and not the exception. But not quite yet. I am the keeper of the memories, the archivist, the witness to their life and struggles. I cannot get rid of this stuff, even if it would be so much more efficient and forward looking. There is a value to remembering for them who they are, in case they sometimes forget. Maybe, after all is said and done, I only managed to take two loads to Goodwill this year. The rest will wait. I am putting the boxes back in the attic.


Take a good hard look. Who and what have I not forgiven? There are the big events which still hurt, which haunt me on a bad day, when free floating hostility wants to attach to something. These are the things I have made an act of the will to forgive, the anger I have already confessed, the slow healing wounds. They are on my radar. But what about that other stuff which lurks just below the surface- the bad attitude, the intense dislike, the outrage so satisfying? It seems to be part of who I am, yet I do not even know what it is. I must ask God to show me myself, show me my wounds, show me my grudges. Show me what it is I have to forgive if I am to be forgiven myself.

What gets me riled? The thought of anyone who is manipulative, controlling or self – serving. Then there are those who have hurt my children, either through outright malice or simply by poor example. There are those who judge me without knowing me. Also, those who judge me because they know me! Especially them. There are so many mean, icky, hard things on which to fix my attention and I can feel my upper lip curl as I stare off into space, waiting for the light to change. Things I judge with only peripheral knowledge… hey… that sounds familiar! What a mess. I guess it is true that the sins we hate the most in others are our own.

Rash judgement, holding grudges- these are habits which must satisfy some need. The need to understand and thereby control a seemingly chaotic panorama of people and events. A need to justify myself. But this is not my department. I don’t get to know who, what, why. And why do I dwell on the ugly? It is the old self preservation instinct that wants to remain alert to danger. It would be downright irresponsible to let it go! Maybe this is part of what is meant by being a fool for Christ.

God is all goodness, truth and beauty. I try to imagine the transfiguration. In this overwhelming and compelling delight, the ugly stuff melts away. St. Paul says to the Philippians: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” OK, look for the good. It is there in everyone that fills my day and fills my imagination. If I perceive an evil I cannot understand, I will tell myself that the temptation must have been very great for a soul in pain. If I can use my imagination to feel God’s merciful, loving and affectionate gaze, maybe I can turn my head just slightly, and let it all go.

Ditch the distractions!

What habit should I give up for Lent? Easy! Whatever is separating me from a real relationship with God. How do I know what that is? Chances are, it is the same habit that interferes with all my relationships – distraction. I do not consciously and maliciously ignore my most sacred relationships – I just take them for granted as I am caught up in other things that seem more compelling at the moment.

If I close my eyes at the end of the day and try to account for my time and attention, it is easy to see why some days feel so blank. I wasted time on stupid stuff while the most important people in my life were right there in the room. Modern life is all about distraction: busyness, control and escape. Which one of these gets the best of you?

I am way too lazy to be a control freak. Busyness is a bit of a problem, but mostly because I tend to go with the flow and it accidentally builds up. But even in the busyness, my biggest temptation is escape. Escaping into my imagination served me well a long, long time ago as a girl with nothing to do in a boring Midwestern town. But this habit persisted even when life got intense and involved, filled with family that needed my undivided attention. Whoops! I was secretly on vacation thinking about something else.

God wants to pour His graces into our hearts so that we can love those people who are right there in the room. A Lenten resolution? How about a little eye contact? How about asking an open-ended question and listening to the answer? How about once per day per person in the household? Graces and people – we have to be available to receive them, right there in the middle of the moment.

I try to remind myself to stay in the present moment. I have even written songs about it. I say a Memorare for this intention every morning. Old habits die hard. How can I have a relationship with anyone divine or mortal if I am constantly off in my own little world? This Lent will be another chance to ditch the distraction and embrace the graces that keep slipping through my hands.

This song is a short meditation on the daily distractions that kill our most sacred relationships. It is from my Everything Changes album. It is called “Don’t Go There”

Don’t Go There
©2004 Marie Bellet, Ordinary Time Music, ASCAP

Where do they go when people stare
Out into space, unaware
Of life that’s waiting to be shared?
Where do they go, please, don’t go there

Don’t let the water pull you down
Fighting mad and spinning round
Clawing for the higher ground
Don’t let the water pull you down

Don’t go there, stay right here
You don’t need another beer
Another life, another lover
There’s so much here to discover
Don’t go there, stay right here
Don’t flip to another year
Another hour day or minute
Love is now and you are in it

Why must you be so dramatic?
You fill your head with so much static
Clinging to the mildly tragic
Isn’t real life good enough?
Ordinary people stuff
Common but miraculous

So brush you teeth and comb your hair
Go find something clean to wear
Anger, self pity, and despair
Sounds like fun, but don’t go there

Don’t go there, stay right here
It’s all right now, have no fear
Live in every passing minute
Love is now and you are in it
Don’t go there, stay right here
Don’t go there, stay right here

Where do they go when people stare
Out into space, unaware
Of life that’s waiting to be shared?
Where do they go, please, don’t go there



“And she pondered all of these things in her heart.” Serene and loving, she pondered the truth revealed to her in her ordinary daily life. She accepted all without argument, no matter how seemingly outrageous. This is how you behave when you are without sin.

And I look around me at people, events and ideas, past and present, and relentlessly analyze. I am starting to feel it in my stomach — the acids ready to digest all that is before me, and I am disgusted. I have been a glutton…and to what end? I suppose there is a grand sense of control and superiority when you analyze and strain to understand, as if you could. What arrogance! This is how you behave when you are a sinner.

Which approach leads to understanding, to the truth, to heaven?

I have been sorting through years of my own writing — mostly on scraps of paper and receipts frantically seized at an unexpected need while sitting at a traffic light, incensed, inspired, insistent on writing it down. Sometimes it is a rhyme to fit an unwritten song. Sometimes it is a rage against the people in my life. Sometimes it is a grand observation. Maybe it helped to write it down, to set it aside so it did not have to occupy vital short-term storage capacity. Like I am doing now, on a couch, in my robe, with a cup of coffee on a dark rainy fall morning.

I could sit and sip and worry about each of my kids, going down the list one more time, broken prayers that trail off into another stream without noticing the distraction. Distracted by analyzing once again, hoping to grab hold of the crux of the problem, Would they be healed if I could figure out their riddle? No. So stop it. People are mysteries to be reverenced, not problems to be solved.

It started out so cozy but now my robe is getting too hot and the coffee is starting to burn my stomach. I am in over my head.  But the cold rain speaks to me: Don’t you know all of this analyzing is vanity? Seasons come and go. I, the Lord your God,  am in control.  Why don’t you tend to what I have set right in front of you, your daily bread? It has all been worked out already. Be at peace. I have your children in my heart. It is you who needs to straighten up. Let the earth digest the leaves and the rain wash it down.  Accept these things in love. Ponder them in your heart. I will not let you go.



There is too much to say about this song. On the surface it is almost a real estate listing. It is a simple concrete description of my house and home. I wrote it as a souvenir for my children as they leave for college and career. It is a reminder of who they are, where they come from, that there is something worth sacrificing for and preserving, that somewhere they are they are known well and loved deeply. It is this awareness that will strengthen them in the difficulty they will find ahead. Family is everything.  Keep Reading →

I recently spoke with Dina Marie Hale at KBVM Catholic Radio out in Oregon for their weekly “In Person” radio hour. We talked all about my background and music, but mostly about Catholic family life in today’s culture. Here is the MP3 of that interview.

I never expected that one of my sons would want to be a soldier. I do not know why it was such a surprise. Looking back through old photo albums, I can see that he was always in uniform. From Superman PJs to Scout uniforms to the camouflage shirts, canteens and cap guns, I guess it should have been obvious. It is just that neither my husband nor I had any military in our backgrounds. When my son announced that he wanted to attend WestPoint I secretly hoped that he would not get in. It is terrifying for a mother to imagine her child in battle. But he did get in. It wasn’t long before we loaded up the 15 passenger van and made the drive from Nashville to check the place out. Entering the Academy we had to pass through a rather sobering checkpoint at a gate called Stony Lonesome. As a songwriter I thought: “Wow, what a cool sounding name!” As a mother I thought: “… Oh…no…!” I knew there would be a lot to contemplate in that name, and I knew it had to be a song. Stony Lonesome is a mother’s reflection on having a soldier son. Keep Reading →

A few years back my firstborn left home for college. It should have been great news for me- he had worked hard and gained admission to his top choice school- a happy ending to 18 years of worry and care. So how come whenever I found myself alone all I could do was cry? The other mothers at the school kept acting like they were SO relieved to have it over with. What?!

It was not like I had an empty nest. I had seven more at home and a new baby boy born a few weeks after the first one left. But it seemed like saying goodbye to the first one changed everything about what I had been doing for the last eighteen years. And it seemed like I could no longer relate to chirpy and optimistic young mothers who thought that if they did everything just right, their children would never have to suffer the slings and arrows of real life. I was stunned speechless. I could no longer write. I was in over my head. You pour yourself into your child for eighteen years, there is a big going away party, then silence. I was glad I didn’t know about this part when I got into the whole thing. And now I had to do it all over again, knowing what I know. Keep Reading →

NASHVILLE — The 40 Days for Life’s fall campaign in the Diocese of Nashville got a rocking boost on Sept. 24 with a festival of music that garnered support and commitment from a youthful audience. Produced and promoted by Mysterium Records, the live concert of eight Catholic musicians and rock bands was recorded for a CD that will help promote 40 Days for Life. (The CD will be released by Mysterium Records and made available to LifeTeen and through Ignatius Press.)

Jimmy Mitchell, 25, president of Mysterium Records and producer of the Love Come Alive Festival, was inspired to get more deeply involved in the pro-life movement because of 40 Days for Life.

Read more at the National Catholic Register.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting a true culture warrior, Jenn Giroux, at a Women of Faith conference here in Nashville. She and several other mothers were on a speaking tour called “Speaking of Motherhood” which focuses on debunking the lies of the culture of contraception. Their aim is to help women overcome the disordered fear of fertility and replace it with a healthy fear of missing the most beautiful part of their womanhood, which is motherhood. We found that we have a lot in common, and I hope to be joining them on their tour as time allows. Jenn and I recorded a couple of hour long interviews first about marriage and then about motherhood, focusing on the themes in many of my songs. Below is a link to her blog where you can listen to the two audio files. You can hear both hours online!

Click here to view the interview.