Thursday, July 21, 2016

Peace, Lord, Peace!

I think we are all exhausted. The endless stream of shootings, fallen police officers, guns, political pukings .... I know I want to turn it all off. I can't - my job literally requires me to be on social media all the time.

I cannot recall a time (in my lifetime) of seeing my nation so divided. I have a small banner under my computer screens at work: peace, paix, salam, paz, shalom. It is my constant prayer, yet it feels like a distant echo.

My spiritual adviser said, "We need to be a nation on our knees," yet even among people of faith it feels as if we are praying for vastly different things. One prays for the protection of children from things like gay "marriage" while another prays that all gay unions be recognized for being equal to the marriage of man and woman. One implores God for an end to abortion; another shouts for its expansion. I will let God sort it out...

Peace, Lord, peace.

I am worried about my own health. I try to follow the example of saints, offering up my pain to Christ: let my suffering be one with yours, O Lord. I'm not very good at it.

I am burdened with the death of a friendship. A woman with whom I have shared faith, friendship, struggles, a love of music, the Eucharist - all I can say is that it is like watching a major conversion in reverse. She admits she lied to me and many others. In what seems like the blink of an eye, her marriage is a broken mess, her faith swept aside and she says she is now her "true" self.

God is faithful, even when we are not. The whole earth is groaning out for Him. Can you hear it? Can you feel it? There is no peace without Him. We cannot manufacture it. We cannot elect it into office, or bargain it into being. Peace is not achieved through negotiations by ambassadors, high-level meetings or bombs.

I will hear what God proclaims;
the Lord - for he proclaims peace.
To his people, and to his faithful ones,
and to those who put in him their hope.
Near indeed is his salvation to those 
who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from
heaven.
The Lord himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his 
steps.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Dammit. Did it again....

"Pushing Back the Darkness" - artist Gwen Meharg
I did something stupid yesterday. (I did a lot of stupid things yesterday, but I'd like to focus on just one.)

I saw this funny meme on FB. I have a friend who would also think it funny. It gently poked fun of his particular Christian denomination.

After I posted it to his wall, he replied. A friend of his then jumped in with a rather snarky comment about one of the popes.

And then I did something stupid.

I rose to the bait. I wanted to win. To be right. To show her! I had Truth on my side.

In the last few weeks (longer, really, but most especially the last few weeks) it has seemed like the world is imploding. Political battles across the globe, hashtags reminding us to pray for yet another city mired in violence or terrorism, just plain meanness. This is not the world I want to live in, nor is the world God intended.

Yet what did I do? I jumped right into that nasty world with both feet, eyes ablaze, sword lifted high. Duh.

Writer Ann Voskamp prays, "Make me speak praise, not poison ... Make me do doxology, not destruction." Yes, Lord. Let me speak praise. Let me avoid poison. Keep me from destruction.

And I would add, Lord, save me from my stupid, sinful self.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Culture Care And the Work of Makoto Fujimura

"Twin Rivers of Tamagawa" - Makoto Fujimura
One of the perks of my former job was the opportunity to meet amazing, talented, faithful people from all walks of life and all over the globe.

One of those is a gentleman, Makoto Fujimura, an American of Japanese descent. I met him through Acton University, where he was one of our keynote speakers, and then through ArtPrize in Grand Rapids.

Mako (I get to call  him by his first name...) is not just an amazing artist. He is also a profound thinker, and a Christian of deep and abiding faith. He is very concerned with the place of art in our culture - a line of thinking he refers to as "culture care" - and the important role all artists play in society. Art can heal. In his acceptance speech for the 2014 Religion and the Arts Award, he said:

I pray that artists will no longer have to be on the defensive as was Mary in that aroma-filled room while disciples grumbled that her perfume could have been sold to feed the poor. "What a waste," they said.  What a waste.  Is our art wasteful, too?

Art is gratuitous. Art is extravagant.  But so is our God.  God does not need us; yet he created us out of his gratuitous love. Jesus astonished the disciples by giving Mary the highest commendation anyone receives in the pages of the Gospels:  

"Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." (Mark 14:6 -9)

I pray that in the days to come, this aroma will fill the air whenever the words of Gospel are spoken, that outsiders to faith will sense this extravagant air and feel it, particularly for them. I pray that when our children speak of faith, this gratuitous, intuitive aroma of the love of Christ will be made manifest in their lives.
I cannot begin to describe his art. It is deep: it requires patience on the part of the viewer. He works with delicate materials while attempting to plumb the depths of faith, emotion, culture and ultimately, God.

Do yourself a favor, and view his Artsy page. And remember to pray for our artists, who bring beauty to a world sorely in need.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Work Notes


I neglect my little blog here. Mostly, it's because I have a blog that I'm solely responsible for at work. And sometimes, it's just because I'm lazy.

Today, I'm being lazy. Please go to my work blog and read a couple of things. The first one might get you prizes: Ordinary Time, Extraordinary Giveaway! (And if you could urge your friends to do the same, I'd really appreciate it.)

The second one is just a cool story. What's the craziest thing you've ever done for the Kingdom of God? I'm betting Justo Gallego has you beat.

Read on, friends!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Do the Good

The Good Samaritan, artist Ferdinand Hodler
It is so easy to get caught up in our own worries and woes. I belong to a Catholic moms group on Facebook, and every day there are prayer requests: a baby in the hospital, a car that died, no money in the bank, issues with in-laws. The worries range from the almost hum-drum (It's raining and the kids are driving me crazy!) to the very serious (A teenage son whose asthma is so severe that every virus turns into a near-death experience.)

We worry about our woes. But we still need to do the good.

Every day, we get a chance to do the good. Do we take that chance?

It's no secret that I live in a lot of pain. Now, I've got this rather worrisome cyst on my spine. I'm waiting to see a specialist. Waiting.... Waiting... Today, two of my co-workers stopped what they were doing and came to "check on me."

"How are you feeling? Do you need anything?"

They did the good. They probably don't feel like it was much, but it gladdened my heart so much. Now, I know that when I'm having a bad day, I have a couple of shoulders here at work to lean on. That is so good. It cost them nothing but a moment of time, but it means the world to me.

Where can you do the good today?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Can We Be Honest?

"No. You are not wearing that. It's hideous and that's the truth."
Honesty is tough, isn't it? We lie to ourselves ("I'll get to that chore later.") We lie to each other ("Sure, that looks great on you!") We'd lie to God if we thought we could get away with it.

One of the hardest things about NOT being honest is keeping track of your lies. Did I tell this to Mary or Jake? Did I mention this to Caroline at work or my neighbor?

And then there are lies of omission. We just keep our mouths shut when we should speak up. We just "conveniently" leave out information.

I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.

Jesus didn't use "truthiness" when He spoke (check out yesterday's Gospel as evidence.) He wasn't uncharitable, but He was honest.

Have you ever seen a celebrity on the red carpet in an outfit that just does her no justice? I'm not talking about being half-naked, or testing the laws of physics. I mean, just something unflattering. Ugly.

I have a theory. This type of thing happens when the celebrity does not have a sister. You see, a sister will sit outside the dressing room, and when the celeb comes out in the ugly dress, the sister says, "Uh-uh. Not that. No way. It is not flattering. Go back in and try again." Now if the one trying on the dress hedges and says, "But I like the color..." the sister is ready. "No. That dress is wrong. I don't care what color it is; you don't look good. And we are not sending you off on the red carpet in an ugly get-up."

Alas, the celeb (with no honest sister) is surrounded by people who are paid to tell her she looks FABulous! Astounding! That unique piece is HOT! Go for it!

I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.

Normally, telling the truth is easy. "No, I can't come to your party. I have another commitment. But I'd love to see  you; let's plan on lunch."

Normally, families don't worry much about dishonesty and lying, unless it's become a pattern. "No, kiddo. You lied about where you were last weekend. You are grounded."

We want a work atmosphere that is honest. I've had the great misfortune of being in a job where machinations, plans and sleights of hand were being performed behind my back, all the while being told, "Everything is fine." It wasn't. it was toxic.

So why this post on honesty? Because I have a friend who isn't being honest. She hasn't been honest for awhile - I'm not really sure how long, because: lies.

She isn't being honest with herself. She's certainly not being honest to those closest to her, and people who are incredibly qualified to help her think through some major life changes she's decided to make. She's not being honest with God.

I've tried a couple of times to speak with her. I've been honest but as charitable as possible. Doesn't seem to have done much good. She has created a narrative that she is now bound and determined is the "truth," whether it actually is nor not.

Lying is toxic. It poisons the liar. It poisons the relationship with the person being lied to. For children, lies from parents are devastating. The child never knows what the truth is ("Uncle Bob is an alcoholic. He drinks too much and it's making him sick" is a whole lot easier for a kid to deal than "Oh, Uncle Bob was just being funny. He didn't really mean to say that stuff to you. Just never mind him.") Lying makes every conversation with the liar like a game Truth or Dare, only you won't know what the truth is and the person is daring you to believe them at your peril.

Being lied to hurts. We've all had that experience. We need to guard our thoughts and words so that we focus on loving truth, being charitable and expecting honesty. When we are lied to, we cannot just brush it off. Truth is too important. Jesus said so.

I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Be Careful What You Pray For


I am weak and sinful. (Aren't we all? The key is recognizing this in ourselves and not just others.) I pray. I don't pray well, nor do I pray often enough. But I pray.

I have been praying for persecuted Christians everywhere. I see pictures in my head of the Syrian children clinging to life in tiny boats, and one small body washed up on the shore. I hear the screams of terror from the slain Sisters of Charity. I weep for those who've lost loved ones in the violence that pervades our own society. I pray for peace and understanding.

God always takes our prayers seriously. I know this, not only because of my own experience, but the experience of the many, many souls who have come before me. One of them is St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

She was born Edith Stein, a German Jew. She was exceptionally bright, going on to study the philosophical field of phenomenolgy. (Look it up. It's tough stuff.) As a woman and a Jew in the early 20th century, she could not find a teaching position at the university level.

She also was a convert to Catholicism. Her intellect guided her: she was seeking Truth and nothing but. She also longed to join the Carmelite order, but her conversion was very difficult on her mother, a devout Jew. Edith's spiritual director told her to delay her entrance into the monastery for the sake of her mother.

As Edith's spiritual life was deepening, her nation was collapsing. Hitler became the leader of a Germany that was coming undone. She taught for awhile at a girls' school, and then eventually entered her beloved Carmel.
In 1930, Stein wrote of her foreboding sense of divine mission. “After every encounter in which I am made aware how powerless we are to exercise direct influence, I have a deeper sense of the urgency of my own Holocaustum.”
 Stein’s use of the word Holocaustum in 1930 was radical. What did she imagine was the urgency of her “own Holocaustum”? She literally saw herself as offering her life as a sacrifice, but a sacrifice to what, and why? Was she a mystic who saw the end of German Jews? Stein first wrote about the meaning of her future death in her last will and testament, composed on June 9, 1939: I pray to the Lord that he may accept my living and dying ... as an atonement for the Jewish people’s unbelief and so that the Lord may be accepted by his own and that his reign may come in glory, that Germany may be saved and that there be peace in the world.
 As I said, be careful what you pray for. Stein was wholly aware that she would die at the hands of the Nazis, but wanted to offer herself up as atonement.

I won't get into all the theology of this idea of atonement, especially in Jewish thought. However, die she did, along with her sister, in Auschwitz.

Back to my prayers for persecuted Christians. I am no saint, although I aspire to sainthood. God has gifted me with some suffering to bring a bit more "bang to my buck" when it comes to these prayers. I have cysts on my spine that are causing me a great deal of pain. I have been referred to a state university neurosurgery center for treatment of these rare cysts, known as Tarlov cysts.

I consider Edith Stein to be a close friend, a sister in Christ. I beg her intercession for my health, but I also follow her lead in offering up suffering for those around me. Be careful what you pray for.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Best Response To Criticism Is Joy

The past few weeks were rocky. An attorney decided that it was a good idea to call my Dark-Haired Daughter horrible names. As much as I tried to shield my daughter from what was swirling around her, she found out and was understandably devastated.

I assured my daughter, as she cried tears of both anger and pain, that none of this had anything at all to do with her, and everything to do with the attorney who chose to act in this manner. But my balm was weak against these mighty wounds. The familiar sounds of PTSD were howling at the door of my daughter's heart.

Yet, we had a party to put on. Dark-Haired Daughter has completed her formal education, and a celebration was in order. In the scheme of things, it wasn't that big of a deal. In fact, you couldn't miss the dozens of handmade signs and balloons marking dozens of houses in our small town this weekend. It's that time of year.

But, as we all know, it IS a big deal. And for Dark-Haired Daughter, it was an even bigger deal. She had seen her brothers and sister have such parties and she thought this would never happen for her. But it did. And we threw a party.

Cake, lemonade. Cards, gifts. Coleslaw, kids. People spread out over our yard, our house. Kids colored with sidewalk chalk and a soccer ball got kicked around. Our friends rejoiced with our daughter, who glowed all day.

Yesterday, for awhile, she felt no sting of the pain from two weeks ago. Yesterday was all about joy: the joy of an accomplishment, the joy of thanksgiving for loved ones, the joy of seeing a daughter grow. While no major world problems have been solved with cake and lemonade, I can tell you that one girl's pain was eased and that meant the world to us.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Where is Christ? Take Me to the Alley

My worldly life is one of ownership: a house, a car, furniture. I have way too many shoes (but I'll keep on buying them!) and a lot of jewelry, which tell a story about me. I love clothing and fashion.

My spiritual life is Franciscan. Yes, I acknowledge: I am either the world's worst Franciscan or God has a delightful sense of humor (it's both.) The world has it all upside-down: "stuff" is not to be our focus. Our focus begins and ends at the foot of the Cross.

I'm not sure if Gregory Porter realizes it, but his latest album has what I consider (like Gregory Porter cares about my opinion....) the perfect Franciscan song. And I have not been able to get it out of my head.

Where is Christ? Where must we go if we are to find Him, accompany Him, learn from Him? We must go to the alleys. The dirty places. The lonely places. The places where the lost and forgotten gather. Where hope goes to die.

Take me to the alley.



Friday, June 3, 2016

"A Good and Spacious Land"



Ring of Kerry, Ireland: author's photo
Isn't that a beautiful phrase: "a good and spacious land"? It's from Exodus 3:8, as God is giving Moses his commission to help free the Israelites.

I think it sounds like the title of a great book or story, maybe something by Flannery O'Connor. Of course, if it was something she wrote it would be a rather dark look at the good and spacious land.

We need to remember that Scripture is not dead - it's not simply stories of long ago, or lessons to people in another place and time. Scripture is the living Word of God. It has meaning for us, here, now, today.

There was something about that phrase that resonated with me as I was praying the other morning. "A good and spacious land." God promised that to the Israelites, and He promises it to us. (Keep in mind it took the Israelites a hard 40 years to get there.)

Last year was a very difficult year for our family. My husband and I hoped this year would be better, and it is. Yet, our lives are not simply made up of segments of time: a good year, a bad year. They are made of moments (the joy of our daughter's wedding, the love we share with our goddaughter) and made up of events, rites of passage, our friends and family. We live our lives - if we are faithful - in this good and spacious land.

Even in a land that is good, spacious, and flowing with milk and honey, there are bitter herbs to be tasted, chewed, gulped down. Like the Israelites, we have to struggle to figure out where God is leading us, why He has chosen the route He has for us. We often don't see the good and spacious land because we are so caught up in "bitter herbs" that dot the landscape.

We also have an interior life that God desires to be a good and spacious land. Our sense of God who resides in us, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, should we be in a state of grace. Our connection with God through prayer and meditation. The grace of the sacraments. The realization of blessings in every moment of every day.

"A good and spacious land." God desires this home for us eternally as well.

A good and spacious land. How good is our God!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mother's Day ... And why I don't always celebrate

Unless you're living in Outer Mongolia, you've been inundated with Mother's Day ads. Apparently, we moms are dying to have buckets of perfume, a shopping spree, expensive handbags and a multitude of other "things" that will prove a child's love.

Of course, we moms know that none of that really matters. Yes, gifts are nice, but it's more the acknowledgement, the love, the thoughtfulness of the day that matter to us.

And yet, I don't always celebrate.

I remember all those years when my heart was broken with infertility, and all the moms were asked to stand in church for a special blessing. I pray for all those women who suffer this pain.

It's hard to celebrate when your child is in the hospital, or in jail. I've been there a LOT. It's just a broken and hopeless feeling - one of those things a mom cannot fix. I pray for all those moms who will face this feeling on Sunday.

This will be the first Mother's Day without my mom. I can hardly bear to look at bouquets of flowers (Mom always said fresh flowers were better than a psychologist). I can't believe I won't talk to her on Sunday. I pray for all of us who are missing our moms this Sunday.

Since my kids have a birth mother, I can only imagine how Mother's Day feels for her. Despite the choices she made that led to her children being placed for adoption, she is a woman who gave them life. She loved them enough for that. I pray for all the moms who've made a choice for adoption, those who've had the choice made for them.

Sometimes, it's hard to look at the choices our kids have made. We want better for them. We want more for them. We can see where they are going astray. We talk, we pray, we weep. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart; it's tough to watch your kids do stupid stuff, dumb stuff, sinful stuff ... and end up broken because of it. I pray for those moms - and I'm in this boat - that stand on the sidelines of their kids' lives and hold them close to a mother's broken heart.

Like every celebration, Mother's Day is bittersweet. We moms will hold our kids close this weekend, and we will be joyful. But many of us will think of the children lost, those who wander, those for whom we suffer. Yes: Happy Mother's Day, and let's be good to those who can't quite celebrate.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Taking pains to set things right

It's ok; I'm fine, really. A little ice will take care of that.
Well, that title is a bit of an idiom for my life.

I found out this week that I have lupus. I was kinda-sorta surprised. I thought it was rheumatoid arthritis (and it still may be, as I found out that some doctors treat "rhupus"). My dad had lupus, so it wasn't too big a surprise.

Dad had the kind that affects only the skin, however. I have the "bad" kind (because I'm bad to the bone!): the kind that affects joints/organs. Lupus is an autoimmune disease and basically what happens is that the antibodies that fight off infections and diseases get confused (maybe it's old age on my part) and start attacking things you need, like your knees and your stomach.

While it's always good to have a diagnosis, no one wants to hear that they have a chronic and painful illness. Yet, God is good, and we know that our suffering here on Earth can be joined with Christ's suffering on the Cross and that all things work together for the good. (That's my inner poster child speaking. On the whole, I'd rather be able to walk without groaning.)

Then, there was this: a gentleman-journalist called me this week. He was doing a story re' my former employer, and ran across an email written by the former city attorney for Grand Rapids, MI to a private citizen while the attorney was still in office. The email, which was supposed to be about a tax issue, was instead about my daughter. Faithful readers will remember that my daughter was the victim of human trafficking a few years ago. We filed a lawsuit against the city for not pursuing the case.

The city attorney had this to say, in part:

“The young woman did not run away from home to become a crack and heroin whore because of anything by the City of Grand Rapids or the GRPD (police). We did not raise her and did not influence her life choices in this regard. The hypocrisy of the Acton Institute and its employees is simply amazing. Beware that you are dealing with hypocrites, sir.”

I do not have many tools at my disposal, but I've got this blog. If you are dismayed that a city official could a) release this type of information to a private citizen and b) be so blatantly offensive, please do me a favor. Write to the local Grand Rapids' media and ask them to investigate. This attorney is now in private practice, but clearly the city of Grand Rapids should know that the woman they were paying to be the voice of the victim has a dim view of victims.

Fox 17
WoodTV
WZZM
MLive-Grand Rapids

Please include the link to the story referencing the email: http://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/22382

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Driving Me Crazy

When I took a new job at the beginning of the year, my commute got a bit longer. (It's still not bad at all, especially when you compare it to places like Chicago or Boston.)

I actually enjoy the commute time. I listen to music, sing, pray and I annoy no one.

This morning, I had Dark-haired daughter with me. She has an appointment later, so I dropped her off at her cousin's house for the day and I'll pick her up later.

She is not quiet. Not contemplative. Not serene.

I told her a couple of times, "I really just need quiet." I woke up in a great deal of pain. I just wanted to focus on the drive and the music. "Please, just be quiet."

She agreed. Until...

"Just one question. How many babies can fit in a uterus?"

"Can you be 50 or 40 and have a baby?"

"When you have the baby, what happens to the water that's around the baby?"

My morning commute went from "me time" to a review of the female anatomy, the birth process, and the aftermath of birth. Having never been pregnant, I tried to be as accurate as possible.

Dark-haired daughter is often like a very young child. She asks question after question after question. She's curious. She likes to know how things and people work. Once she's met you, you are fair game for her curiosity. She is never intentionally rude, but sometimes she needs a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder that there is a personal line you shouldn't cross.

Yes, she drives me crazy. But I find her curiosity refreshing and sweet. She is a great companion for an adventure, because she loves new things and new people.

Yes, she drives me crazy. She is the best co-pilot, anytime, anywhere. I'll take the crazy.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

artist Stephen B. Whatley
Dear Husband and I had the opportunity to make a one-day retreat yesterday. The priest, Fr. O., was delightful and succinct.

Fr. O. spent the afternoon talking to us about mercy. Did you know "mercy" (in one form or another) is used 400 times in Scripture? Seems as if God is trying to tell us something.

I have to say that I've been struggling with mercy and forgiveness. There are wounds from my former job that still cause me pain. When I think of them, I try to remember to pray words of mercy over the situation and people involved. But it still hurts.

Soon, I am going to have to sit across a table from some of the people who are responsible for the abduction and assault on Dark-haired Daughter. I'd like to say that I am preparing myself for mercy, but that would be a lie. I feel like I'm preparing myself for battle.

Mercy, for us mere mortals, is a work in progress - always. Thankfully, for God, it is not. God is always ready to forgive, embrace, caress, love. We have to fight for that readiness, that ability to see the person and not the sin and hurt. God IS mercy, and we are mere sinners.

Fr. O. gave me a lot to ponder yesterday, and for that I am thankful. Today, I'm going to pray mercy over those situations in my life that remain painful, tender, sore, stinging.

Mercy. 400 times in the Bible. We can't use it enough.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Terrible Beauty


Dear Husband and I are home from 10 days in Ireland. It was amazing. We saw the most beautiful land, managed not to hit any sheep, and ate a lot of great food (and drink!)

We had the opportunity to attend Mass twice. The first time was rather sad. It was a small village church, and the Sunday morning Mass. While it was well-attended by people of all ages, it was perfunctory at best. Thirty minutes start to finish, no music. The responses were said so fast we couldn't keep up. It was as if everyone was there to put in there time, not to worship. How very sad for a place where we Catholics fought so hard for our Faith.

Our next experience was the Sunday Vigil Mass at St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. The setting could not have been more beautiful. The cantor was spectacular, and a treasure of a pipe organ provided beautiful accompaniment. The priest gave a solid homily, and while the congregation tended to the elderly, it was worshipful and much more inspiring.

The Pro-Cathedral also played a role in the Easter Uprising of 1916. As Dublin burned and the streets were filled with battle, the priests held open the doors of the church as a place of refuge and for care of the wounded and dying. It was feared that the church would burn, but it did not, and the priests were able to feed the hungry, shelter those who'd lost their homes and tend to those fighting - regardless of which side they were on.

Cherish your church - both your parish and the Universal Church. When you travel, don't hesitate to attend Mass. Wherever you find yourself, you are at home in the Catholic Church. Give your children the gift of history and culture and prayer wherever you find yourselves. It is always good to be in the familiar, but it is a treasure to pray with strangers and sojourners, wherever we may be.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Lessons from the lunchroom

I wandered into the lunchroom at work today, grabbed my frozen mac & cheese and headed for the microwave.

Two women (whom I don't know except by sight; they work in another department) were talking. They were both complaining about their adult daughters. Apparently, one family was thinking that the daughter and her toddler son were going to move back in.

"She's just miserable; she's made a mess of her life."

"My daughter would be so much happier if she lost some weight. I keep telling her that." [Ouch.]

"She just doesn't understand how to take care of her son."

Ooph.

Yeah, I've complained about my kids. I've been mad at my kids. But I don't talk smack about my kids to co-workers.

I was thinking, as I waited for my lunch to get hot, that I almost lost a daughter four years ago. Really - she was abducted and gone for 48 hours.

I was thinking about how beautiful my oldest daughter looked at her wedding this past summer. So young. (And yes, we fought about everything - but it was a lovely day!)

I thought about my sons - the struggles they have, the heartache they've caused.

I wouldn't change it. I wouldn't change them.

The lunchroom made me sad today: two moms (and yes, I'm sure they love their kids) who were so caught up in the negative. I hope I remember the next time I open my mouth.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Miracles

"He is Risen" - artists Frances and Robert Hook
We spend Easter Sunday with our beloved Franciscan Sisters. We enjoy a beautiful Mass together, and share a brunch afterwards (and you should all be jealous you weren't there: the food, oh my!!)

During brunch, we have a tradition of sharing our Easter Miracles: miracles, big and small, they happened to us during the past year. Sometimes it's as simple as a child with a disability who has now learned to read, and other times, it's a sister hitting the 5-year mark of being cancer-free (the 5-year mark is considered cured.)

One of our friends had a terrible accident with a table saw, and is struggling to get healthy, and work with a hand that won't ever be the same. However, their family stilled shared a miracle of all the help and prayers they've received - their family life didn't skip a beat; there was always someone there to jump in and do what needed to be done.

I started thinking about the miracles in our family this past year. It wasn't a good year for us, but miracles abounded. Dear Husband - despite a horrendous outcome from an "outpatient" procedure - lived, didn't lose his arm, and is overall very healthy now. Our daughter was married to a young man we love. I was able to spend the last three weeks of her life with my mother.

My Dark-Haired daughter continues to be the biggest miracle of all. She has been the victim of such horrible, evil crimes, and she chooses to be a survivor. She chooses joy. She chooses life. She chooses love. EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I still struggle with forgiveness and anger, but I'm working on it. I know there can be a miracle in my heart, and I expect nothing less.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Annunciation, Mom, And Faith

The Annunciation - artist Maurice Denis
Friday would be my mother's 91st birthday. She's been gone almost 4 months now, and I still have to catch myself calling her on the way home from work at least once a week.

I want to tell her about my new job and how much I like it. I want to tell her about planning a trip to Ireland (which she and my dad made possible by their Depression-style savings and generosity.) I want to tell her about the kids, and the house, and Tiger baseball and Jeopardy and well, everything.

Her birthday falls on Good Friday this year, which feels quite right to me. Part of the grieving process. Usually, on March 25, we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, but the feast is moved to Easter Monday this year.

I always thought it was wonderful that Mom's birthday fell on this feast, this celebration of one woman saying "yes" to the will of God and thus changing humanity forever. While the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, I imagine all the angels in Heaven leaning forward, holding their breath (as it were) in anticipation of Mary's answer.

I have several of my mom's prayer books and missals. There are prayer cards in them from grade school retreats: a girlish hand writing "To Elizabeth, from Lorraine, in memory of our grade 7 retreat." I pray for both Mom and Lorraine now, hoping they are catching up in Heaven.

One of the prayer books is a Mother's Prayer Book. It's pre-Vatican II, so the language seems quite formal and a bit stilted, but I know my mother prayed many of those prayers fervently. Now, so do I.

My mother's greatest possession was her faith, a faith she fiercely loved. She set a very high bar for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in that regard - a legacy.

This year, my hope and prayer is that her birthday will be celebrated with her Heavenly Mother, rejoicing together in the epic story of passion, death and resurrection. Happy Birthday, Mumma.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Being honest about mental health

Artist Toby Allen
I was in the beauty shop last night (where women really go for therapy!) and had an interesting experience.

First, my hair dresser has been doing my  hair for a long time. We know each other pretty darn well. She runs her beauty shop with such a huge heart for Christ - she really thinks of it as her ministry and not just a place where people go to get their hair cut.

A young lady (early 20s) came in, a friend of my hair dresser's. She started talking about her experience recently of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and what a scary time she'd had after a particularly bad panic attack.

I spoke up and said, "I know exactly what that's like. I had to check myself into [insert local mental health hospital here] a few years ago."

We had a great conversation. She said that she wished people talked about it more; she would have sought help sooner if she'd felt more comfortable talking about it.

If  you read my blog at all, you know I'm a HUGE proponent of better mental health care, but also that we TALK about mental health. People with mental illness often suffer far too long and needlessly - mostly due to shame, ignorance and embarrassment.

We need more voices in the fight for mental health care in this country. We need to help those who suffer by letting them know they are not alone, and that there are many of us who walk in those shoes.

I hate to think of any young person suffering silently, hurting for far too long, just because they don't know that there are so many of us who understand and that help IS available.

St. Dymphna, pray for us!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Trying to make sense of injustice

I am flawed. I have a big mouth. If you ask me what I think, I will tell you. I do not mince words.

Given these traits, I am not always easy to work or live with. I know this. Yet, I consider myself a good employee, a good sister. I give 110%, especially when I am working on ideas that stimulate me, that I'm passionate about. However, I try my best to work just as hard on the mundane things as well.

I left a job last year. I did not leave under good circumstances. It was made clear to me that I was no longer considered a useful employee (I realized this when I was told the best task they had for me going forward was folding programs for upcoming events.) I have, thanks be to God, found a new job, where I am valued, treated respectfully and professionally, and I am quite happy here.

I just found out that three men who I hold in high esteem were also "forced out" from the same organization that I left. As I understand it, they were treated, at the very least, poorly, and at most, in an evil manner. It makes me very angry, as this organization purports to hold itself to a very high standard.

This is unjust. Injustice is a cruel thing, because it generally denies the dignity of a person. It treats that person as a thing, a tool, an object to be used and/or discarded. It is bullying, all grown up.

Is there anyone who has ever been treated more unjustly than Christ? God-made-Man, sentenced to death for no reason. He had no guilt - never had done even the smallest wrong to anyone.

In the face of injustice, especially when it involves people I know, I want to scream and fight and blow the whistle. But in this season of Lent, I believe I shall instead ponder Christ on the Cross: "Forgive them. They know not what they do."