Friday, February 27, 2015

Don't just "knock" - pound on that door!

Read this in Magnificat yesterday. It struck a chord. The emphases are mine:

Ask, seek, knock

These are the three degrees and, as it were, the three please that must be made with perseverance, blow upon blow. But what must we ask of God in order to emerge from this worse-than-bestial condition in which sin has placed us...

Knock. Persevere in knocking, even to the point of rudeness, if that were possible. There is a way of forcing God and wresting his graces from him, and that way is to ask continually with a firm faith...Even though God seems either not to hear us or even to reject us, we must continually knock, expecting all things from God but nevertheless also actin ourselves...We must never forget that it is always God who provides....

My neediness prays. My necessity prays. As long as this disposition lasts, we pray without praying. As long as we take care to avoid what would imperil us, we pray wihtout praying, and God understands this language. O Lord, before whom I am, before whom all my misery appears, have pity on it, and all the times that it appears to you, O God most good, let it beg your mercies for me. This is one of the ways of praying always, and, of them, perhaps the most effective. - Jacques Benigne Bossuet (d. 1704), French bishop and theologian

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Things your kids will whine about now, thank you for later

  • Making them learn to cook.
  • Making them learn to clean. (Seriously. My daughter's freshman college roommate had never cleaned a bathroom in her life. My daughter was happy to show her how.)
  • Not rushing to school with forgotten homework.
  • Not rushing to school with forgotten lunch.
  • Making them stick out piano lessons.
  • Encouraging them to spend time with elderly relatives.
  • Acts of service in church and community.
  • Taking them to the symphony.
  • Making them call doctor's offices to schedule their own appointments.
  • Taking them out to really nice restaurants, with weird food, where they have to get dressed up and mind their manners.
  • Introducing them to a lot of different music.
  • Trying new food. (Even better, have them help you make new food!)
  • Calling adults "Mr." and "Mrs." ("No one else does!" Yeah, I know...)
  • Putting limits on screen time.
  • Encouraging reading. 
  • Getting a library card and going to the library every week.
  • Not keeping soda in the house.
  • Doing crafts and exploring art, even if you're not very good at it.
  • Learning a skill like knitting.
  • Figuring out directions and map-reading.
  • Taking family portraits.
  • Knowing it's okay to get lost - both literally and figuratively.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Morning Musings

My great-niece playing "Für Elise"
1. Took my darling niece to go see Winter Jam this weekend: Hill Song, Blanca, Building 429, For King & Country, Jeremy Camp, Francesca Battestelli. Not only did I get to spend time with a girl whom I love, we had a blast singing at the top of our lungs, dancing around and praising Jesus.

2. Have to say: was incredibly impressed with the vocals of both Jeremy Camp and Francesca Battestelli. They can both flat-out sing!

3. Loved what one of the members of Hill Song said, "This is likely the largest non-denominational gathering in Michigan this year. You don't know the denomination of the person next to you...and that's probably a good thing." Sadly, true. The Body of Christ should not be divided.

4. Got in some snuggle time with my beautiful goddaughter. Oh, toddlers!! She's a busy little body, but so beautiful.

5. I don't care what anyone says, large families are such a blessing! To see my niece grow, mature in her faith, marry and now raise her children, and for me to be involved in their lives - thank you, Jesus! Truly one of the greatest blessings in my life are my nieces and nephews.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Great opportunity this Lent: Catholic Conference 4 Moms


The Joy of Lent

Lent gets a bad rap - and yes, I'm guilty.

We think of Lent in terms of "giving up." That sounds so wimpy. "I'm going to give up...."

Lent should be about getting going! Get going on your faith life! Get going on your relationship with Christ! Get going on resolving family issues or thorny problems in yourself you've been ignoring too long! Get going to Mass! Get going!

It is good to abstain. It is good to make our very comfortable lives a little uncomfortable. But we shouldn't do it just to make ourselves unhappy. We should do it in a spirit of companionship with those who truly suffer: those who are ill, lonely, persecuted. Those who are mentally ill, socially isolated, spiritually dry. Don't just give up - make it count through prayerful abstinence.

There is a joy in Lent. No, it's not the joy of Easter. There is nothing to compare to the joy of the Risen Lord. The joy of Lent is a joy of suffering, and that is a hard joy to understand. It is the joy of knowing that our Lord and God - God Made Man - allows us a tiny glimpse of what His life, death and resurrection meant - that Paschal Mystery. We get to journey with Him as He moves towards the cross. We get to be his companions.

That is joy. That is the joy of Lent. Don't give up.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mardi Gras! Lent! Why I'm not really excited!

It's Mardi Gras. Which means Lent starts tomorrow.

I have a love/hate relationship with Lent. First, I am TERRIBLE at fasting. I become obsessed with food, wondering if adding this or that to a meal breaks the fast, counting hours until dinner, looking at snacks with longing.

It has been a really long time since I've approached Lent with enthusiasm. My life is Lenten. It's hard. My kids still have a lot of issues I have to deal with, including having a 19 yo with disabilities who lives at home. I have chronic pain. In the past month, I've dealt with a major car accident with injuries to both me and my husband, the stress of dealing with an elderly parent's health and a heavy load at work.

Now I have to start a Lenten journey? My life is a Lenten journey.

I'm not complaining. I know God has a plan and I trust Him. It's just that I'm never sure how I'm supposed to approach Lent. Do I give something up? Going without chocolate seems trifling. Do I add something? Where? How? I'm already exhausted.

I walk a rocky path every day. Compared to so many Christians around the world who live in fear of their life due to persecution, my life is easy. Compared to many people around me, my life is tough.

Blessed Lent. I'll figure it out as I go along. I always do.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday Morning Musings

My 89 year-old mother fell last week, causing a brain bleed. My musings are all about that.

1. I don't think there is anything worse than driving across state in the middle of the night with a loved one at the other end in an emergency situation. Thank you, St. Francis, for keeping the deer in the ditches, and to God for keeping the state troopers out of my way.

2. The hospital food was REALLY good. No joke. However, then menu could use a good proof-reading. The top of the lunch/dinner section gave instructions of what number to call to place your order, and the times food was available. Then it said, "Hand sanitizer available upon request." Uh...no, thank you?? Really? Hand sanitizer on the menu?

3. My mother is a stubborn Irish woman. I don't know where she gets it.

4. We butted heads a few times. I'm a bit stubborn as well.

5. My mom, oldest sister and I spent more time together than we have in, like, 35 years? No one died.

6. I don't care how old you are: your mommy is your mommy. She's supposed to live forever and care for you. I hate this role-reversal.

7. NO ONE should enter a hospital room at 6 a.m., flip on the fluorescent lights, and cheerfully call out, "Good morning! I'm here to take your blood! Is it okay if I turn the lights on?" Bedpan to the head.

8. As much as I hate my mom getting to this point, I know she is tired and yearns for Heaven. I can't begrudge her that.

Monday, February 9, 2015

My book is ready on Kindle!

My monograph on human trafficking, "A Vulnerable World" is now ready for Kindle! If you prefer a hard copy version, that should be out in about 2 weeks.

Help spread the word  - let's educate folks about this topic!

Monday Morning Musings

St. Paul - artist, El Greco
1. Never underestimate the power of small gestures! I had a conference to attend this weekend. A lovely young woman who worked at the convention center helped me out by bringing me tea, and a restaurant server was so kind in offering me a "to go" cup as I headed back to the conference after lunch. Little things=big blessings.

2. Due to my sprained ankle, I used a cane to get around at the conference. It's interesting. When you use a cane, people see the cane and not you. They wonder what's wrong, but don't want to ask - it seems impolite. When I was on crutches, people immediately asked what was wrong, and talked about the crutches. Makes me think about what it's like to be permanently physically challenged and how people perceive them. Do they look past the apparatus to see the person?

3. If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast,
for an obligation has been imposed on me,
and woe to me if I do not preach it!
If I do so willingly, I have a recompense,
but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship.
What then is my recompense?
That, when I preach,
I offer the gospel free of charge
so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

Although I am free in regard to all,
I have made myself a slave to all
so as to win over as many as possible.
To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak.
I have become all things to all, to save at least some.
All this I do for the sake of the gospel,
so that I too may have a share in it.


Thank you, St. Paul! What a challenge and what a hope! Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!

4. Talked to my mom yesterday. She sounds so old. When did that happen? Time is precious and short.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sterilizing the unfit

Apparently, officials in the UK have decided that a woman with six children needs to be sterilized. She is reported to have some mental health and/or cognitive issues, and she is being told the sterilization - which SHE DOES NOT WANT - would be best for her.

There are many, many reasons this is wrong. However, for my part, I can think of five: Eldest Son, Tallest Son, Curly-haired Daughter, Dark-Haired Daughter and Youngest Son.

Their birth mother was not particularly "fit". She could have made the "easy" choice of abortion, but she did not. Many people told us that "that woman should be sterilized" to which we replied, "At what point? Which child should we be without?"

Eugenics, folks. Eugenics.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sorry about the delay; I was having a bad day


Yup. That's our car, or what's left of it.

A week ago Saturday was a big day for me. I had been invited to present at a TEDx regarding human trafficking. I was PUMPED! Dear Husband was of course with me, and my oldest sister drove over to lend moral support.

The talk went great, and the three of us went out for a celebratory dinner. My sister left, and then Hubby and I hit the road. About 40 minutes from home, a large pickup truck made an illegal left-hand turn in front of us and...then everything in the world exploded.

I won't bore you with all the details, but Hubby has a broken wrist, and I've got whiplash, a minor concussion, a badly sprained ankle, and lots of bruises. The ambulance attendants were marvelous and the ER staff (Nurse! I love nurses!) were stellar.

Now to heal. Oh...and get a new car.

By the way, thank you Chevrolet. All of your safety features worked the way they were designed to, and you saved our lives.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Three weddings and a whole lot of funerals

I've worked in parishes. For the most part, I enjoyed the work. I will tell you this: most people think that working in a church is quiet and peaceful and meditative and calm.

Not so much.

Weddings and funerals - as I'm sure most of you know - bring out the best and worst in people. For those working at a Catholic church, well...it's a whole bag of Skittles with a dash of crazy thrown in.

Brides want to know why they can't walk down the aisle to their favorite Broadway tune. Brides and grooms are upset to find out they can't write their own vows. And ever since that Irish priest burst out in song at a nuptial Mass...

And then there are funerals.

Actually, I loved planning funerals with families. It truly was an honor to be with them in their grief and sorrow, and to be able to offer prayer with them and support to them. But sometimes, people get a little bonkers.

I started thinking about this because of the news story about a church (not Catholic) in Denver that wouldn't show a video at a woman's funeral because she was a lesbian and the video showed her kissing her partner. Now, this was stupendously poor planning on the church's part: really, this didn't come up until folks were seated in the church and the funeral was literally minutes away??

My mom and dad went to a funeral (yes...sigh...in a Catholic church) where the closing "hymn" was "Goodnight Irene" because the decedent's name was Irene and it was "her" song.

I had to gently explain to a family that they couldn't play "Somewhere, Over the Rainbow" at a family member's funeral. I still don't think they are over it.

No, you can't have a eulogy.

Sorry, you can't read a poem during the Mass.

No, you can't use a CD of favorite music instead of having the organist play hymns.

It's hard to work with people when they are grieving, and you have to tell them "no." And yes, there is an enormous amount of ignorance about Catholic liturgy.

The next time you are tempted to think that your local parish staff has an easy job, sitting in church gazing at the crucifix in meditation all day long, remember that they are really busy fending off brides who want to bounce down the aisle to Beyonce's "Put A Ring On It" and a grieving family who wants to send off Dad in high style with "Oh, Danny Boy."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Prayer, blessings, tears: talk about human trafficking

My monograph on human trafficking is almost done. I know it's a small book, but it's a big deal to me and my family.

I gave a talk last night at my parish church - it meant so much to me to be able to have my first talk on my book take place in the warm, prayerful confines of that holy, simple place.

I spent time in prayer before I spoke. Meditating on the crucifix, it struck me that Christ on the cross is the perfect haven for trafficking victims. His body and spirit are broken, he is abandoned, frightened. The few loved one who remain cannot do a thing to help.

Yet, the Cross is our hope. It is our salvation. It is truth and life.

One of the women that came to the talk last night was clearly shaken by what I shared. She was in tears at the end, and said, "How can we be hopeful? This is all so sad and scary."

It is. It horrible and sinful and ugly and evil.

But there is hope. And that hope is Christ.

I'm not sure I was able to convey to her how important prayer is - sometimes it feels as if prayer is doing "nothing." You don't always see the fruit of prayer.

I'm also not sure I was able to convey to her that there is hope. There is salvation and redemption - for both survivors and traffickers.

I did encourage those who attended to not be among those who move from ignorance to willful apathy (a phrase I borrowed from Andy Soper). Now that you know, you MUST do something.

I've read the Bible and I know who wins this war. The only real question is, "Which side will you be on?" There are no spectators; choosing to do nothing is still a choice.

Which side will you be on?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Andrae Crouch: Eternal Rest, Grant Unto Him, O Lord

Andrae Crouch passed away. His presence here will be missed, but I'm betting the angels are happy to be rockin' out.

Clap along!


Monday Morning Musings

1. Had a guest priest yesterday - he gave a fabulous sermon. Nice to know he's pastor at the parish that serves a large university in our area.
2. My human trafficking monograph is chugging along - got the first proofs. Now, it's all proof-reading, checking for errors, etc. Oh, so close!
3. Winter is here with a vengeance! Last week we had an Alberta Clipper come through. It was a good time to hunker down with a warm blanket, tea and a book.
4. Speaking of reading, I just finished "The Invention of Wings" from Sue Monk Kidd. Terrific - fictionalized account of Angelina and Sarah Grimke', early abolitionists from a slave-owning South Carolina family.
5. Hubby and I are on an organization kick. Have to see if we can keep it up past January.
6. Using essential oils in my protein shakes. My two faves so far: lemon oil in blueberry smoothie, and peppermint in chocolate. Yummy!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Hey! You! Nurse! Come over here.....

The first thing you must know, nurse, is that I am the daughter of a nurse. And not just any nurse. An R.N. And not just any R.N. An R.N. who was schooled by Catholic sisters her entire life, including nursing school, who became a nurse during WWII, and served at Marine Hospital in Detroit.

A nurse who wore whites every day.

A nurse who starched her caps every Saturday.

A nurse who pinned her pins on her uniform, and checked to make sure they were straight.

Good heavens, I even saw her in her nursing cape once.

A NURSE.

So, this is why I want to speak with you. This past weekend, you had the duty and privilege of caring for my beautiful niece. Said niece has a seizure disorder, and the doctors were not able to control it and decided to admit her. On top of the seizures, she was having night terrors as her anxiety shot up regarding the seizures.

(I'm also just gonna throw this out there. You've heard of the HIPAA laws, right? Where we are all entitled to complete privacy? I have enough HIPAA booklets to paper my living room, so I'm assuming that you - a medical professional - are familiar with this. But perhaps I should not assume.)

Anyway, you and one of your fellow nurses decided to stand outside my beautiful niece's room and discuss her case. Where everyone (including my niece) could hear. And you decided to laugh over the fact that she wasn't "really sick," it was "all in her head," and wouldn't it be nice to fake being sick to get out of work.

Just a couple of thoughts for you. A nurse is a professional. Maybe you didn't get that part in nursing school. You do not, under any circumstances, discuss a case where others can hear you. And you certainly don't make fun of a patient when the patient is within earshot.

Even if my niece's health issue was "all in her head" (and since it's a seizure disorder, isn't it likely that it is in her head??) and she was suffering from mental illness, you still are obligated to be a professional. Even mental illness is illness - again, perhaps you didn't pick that up in nursing school.

My sister talked to your supervisor. She's going to report you.

You're lucky I wasn't there.

You are REALLY lucky my mom wasn't there. She is a NURSE.

Monday Morning Musings

1. Good to be back to routine!
2. Got a lot of stuff organized in the house, which felt good. It did not feel good to Curly-Haired Daughter. She just moved into a new apartment and I off-loaded all her stuff that's been lurking in our house for nearly 4 years.
3. Mass last night - Feast of the Epiphany. Our pastor once again knocked it out of the ballpark on the homily. Even better, I didn't have to cantor or lector or nothin'. I was just another civilian in the pews. Wonderful to be able to pray!
4. Spent three days with a friend near Chicago. It was supposed to be a relaxing, fun visit, but things unraveled. Her garbage disposal died (Dear Hubby took care of that). She is delicately dating nearly 2-1/2 years after losing her husband. Her adult kids are having a tough time, naturally, and things kind of...exploded.

We were happy to see her, but it sure was stressful!
5. Brought back a load of furniture from said friend's house to drop of with Curly-Haired daughter. The weather got really icky, and I was having back spasms, so it was a long trip home.
6. On top of that, my oldest sister was housesitting and hanging out with Dark-Haired Daughter, when she got a call that her youngest daughter was being taken to the hospital with seizures.

Overall, it was a lovely Christmas break, but boy: we blew this past weekend UP.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

God-incidence, Wow, and Thanks

I had the most amazing experience yesterday - a God-incidence.

My co-worker, Todd, has been here for about a year. He's a very genial man, almost courtly and I've enjoyed every encounter I've had with him. He has spent most of his life working in the State Department and traveling, but he and his family decided to come "home" to Grand Rapids.

Yesterday, Todd came to me with a tiny, battered, red leather address book that he said he purchased in 1970. He was going through it in order to check addresses for holiday greetings.

He said, "Your name is in here, in my wife's handwriting, and then again in mine."

I looked, and sure enough, it was our old address - 25+ years ago.

I was baffled. "Todd, I don't think we've ever met before, have we?"

He said he didn't think so, but there was my name. What was the connection?

We started going through our mental warehouse - where were we 25 years ago? He was at Calvin College, I was teaching and in grad school...

I stopped. "What's your wife's name?"

"Vickie."

Suddenly the name, the handwriting, the places - everything clicked.

"Todd, your wife was my German tutor when I was in grad school."

Mystery solved.

Vickie had been my German tutor. She and Todd were both students at Calvin and Vickie is originally from Germany.

We both ended up adopting - they have three, we have five. Last night was our staff Christmas party, and there was the beautiful Vickie, with her gorgeous accent, just like I remember. We had so much fun studying together: both newly married, in grad school, serious Christians. So many good discussions...and last night, we got to pick up our talk, 25+ years later.

Thank you, God. You are good.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

1. I feel like Buddy the Elf this morning: "SANTA!!"
2. Enjoyed a lovely production of "The Nutcracker" yesterday with my sister, my daughter, a niece and grand-niece. What a lovely holiday outing. (Even though I think nutcrackers are creepy. Clown-creepy. Icky.)
3. One of my nephews just bought a home in Florida: oh, Andy...guess who's coming to visit?
4. Excited for the New Year. I'm seeing a lot of building projects around West Michigan, which you couldn't have found with a GPS a few years ago. I think the economy is getting its feet under it.
5. Plus: wedding! Two weddings! My daughter is getting married, and one of my dearest friend's daughter's just got engaged. I think I'll be on Pinterest overload.
6. Getting ready for the big sing marathon that is Christmas Eve Mass. Our priest has a deep and abiding love for incense, so it's always fun to see how the allergies will react. And by fun, I mean: load your pockets with Kleenex and pray for the best.