"Who told you you were not wearing clothes?"

I'm at the point in the new job where I wonder if they'll figure out I'm a fraud. You know, I got through the interviewing and vetting process merely on charm and dumb luck, and now, when push come to shove - I won't know what the hell I'm doing. I suppose it's the adult equivalent of dreaming that you've shown up for school naked.

Either way, it's scary.

And untrue.

Remember in the Garden of Eden when God comes to visit (I mean - how ridiculously awesome would that be? After dinner, God drops by for a glass of wine or a gin and tonic, and you chat. Maybe there's a new bird that needs to be named, or a new flower design He's been noodling with....) Anyway, God comes to visit and Adam and Eve hide, because they are naked.

"Who told you you were naked?"

It struck me that my feeling as I headed into work today, worrying about my competency, was not unlike the scene in the Garden. Nothing had changed. God was still omnipotent. Adam and Eve were still naked, and everything was cool.

Until.

Until they tried to outsmart God. Until they hid (like you can hide from God??) Until they thought, "What if things are not what we were told they were? What if it's something else? Something WE'VE thought of, and the big guy hasn't?"

They somehow figured that things were not as they had seemed. God had not been honest with them. They were not who they thought they were.

And things went downhill from there.

As I was praying and pondering my own irrational fears about work, I thought of this. I need to rely on the knowledge God has given me, the person He created me to be, the opportunities He's afforded me.

I don't want to think I can out-smart God.

New Stuff, New Beginnings, New Heart

Some..times the new year starts in January. Sometimes it starts in September. Sometimes - it starts whenever you begin something big and new and scary and fun and wonderful.

I have a new job. It's a big deal. I never thought I'd leave my old job, but I did. And I'm thrilled to have a new place to work that is meaningful, with great people, doing something I love. It doesn't get much better than that.

Of course, it isn't easy. I hated leaving my old job. Hated it. I hated leaving a dear friend (I mean, he's still there, and still a friend, but I'm not seeing him daily.)

And even now, at my age, you feel like the new kid at school - are people going to be nice? What should I wear? Will it be appropriate? Am I really going to be able to do this job, or is this some big cosmic joke?

(By the way, I got the interview for this job on the last day of a novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots. Be careful with novenas: change usually occurs.)

Thus, it begins. And yes, it's big and new and scary. But it's also fun and wonderful. Plus, I figure if our Blessed Mother had a hand in this, I can't argue.

So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. - 2 Corinth. 5:17

"Monday morning you look so fine - Friday I got travelin on my mind - First you love me, then you fade away"

[lyrics from Fleetwood Mac, "Monday Morning"}

1. Scored at Goodwill yesterday: got my Older, Wiser sister outfitted for a black tie event. Cha-ching!

2. Praying hard to Mary, Untier of Knots. I never seem to run out of knots!!

3. There are a few things I'm quite bitter about. Remember "The Jetsons?" (If you don't, look it up.) I still don't have a flying car, a jetpack or a robot maid. And here it is 2015.

4. Yesterday's Gospel was about service. You can't expect to sit near Jesus in Heaven unless you are willing to serve everybody else. Pope Francis is great about reminding us about this. Serve others with love.

An elderly warrior, and the weapons necessary

We moved Mom into an assisted living center recently (well, my brother and nephew - God bless them - did the heavy lifting.) She is sorta settled and sorta unsettled.

Her apartment is great, and thankfully set up much like her old home. Her cat, Barney, made the move too, and that helps.

The "unsettled" part of her keeps moving things around. I'm not sure if its her way of trying to make it feel like her own, or if it's just her aging brain. Anyway, things were muddled the last time I was there, and my brother suggested that I "help" Mom straighten out her closet and drawers. Thankfully, she was open to my gentle offering.

I tried to put her winter clothes together, and tuck away sandals that she'll likely never wear again under the more comfortable slippers she will need. I sorted through lighter tops and folded them away under sweaters.

In her dresser, she has a drawer that I thought was jewelry. There were a few trinkets in there, but mostly, there were rosaries and scapulars. Dozens and dozens. I recognized one rosary as my grandmother's. The scapulars - some were worn and torn, others brand new - were tucked neatly away in small plastic bags and little jewelry boxes.

This was my mom's war chest: her weapons for the years and years and years she has spent as a faithful warrior for Christ. I know all of those rosaries have been fingered and prayed at some point. Mom always had at least one rosary handy - in a purse, in the car, in a bag for traveling.

When I was fourteen, I fell off our horse and broke my arm. My mom, a nurse, splinted the arm efficiently and tucked me into the car to drive me to the hospital - a good 25 minute drive from our rural home (and trust me, an eternity when you have a broken arm.) As we headed out, she handed me a rosary, and said, "It's good to hold onto." When we got to the hospital, they literally had to pry that rosary out of my hand.

That drawer - that war chest - reminded me that our family has been blessed in so many ways by the prayer warrior who has been our matriarch for so long. Now, as she steps closer to death, her mind a bit jumbled, those prayers still spring softly from her lips. The warrior may be old, but her fight continues.

Swinging At Curveballs

Time for change. I can't reveal all yet, but change is coming. Big ones. Littler ones.

I'm not a big fan of change.

You'd think by the time I'd reached this point in my life, I'd have developed a "change is inevitable and I'm used to it" attitude. Oh, dear. No. Not a bit.

I like routine. I like knowing what's going to happen. I'm all for a great, romping adventure in a novel, but I prefer my kitty slippers, a glass of whatever potion I choose to drink and said novel on my lap every evening.

And yet God persists in challenging me. Telling me to stop crowding the plate. No balks, but almost. The change-ups are always circumstances in which to trust Him. I do better sometimes than others.

He does that, you know. Throws you a spiritual curve ball. It's not a test (Will she do it? Will she get it this time?) so much as a way to learn how to swing better. Keep changing up those pitches, and eventually, you can hit 'em all ... well, a lot anyway. But God loves a good curve ball.

Take Mary. Imagine an angel showing  up and telling you you're about to become the mother of the Messiah.

Or Noah. Go build a great big boat. Everyone's going to think you're nuts, but ...

Or Moses. Dragging a bunch of whiny, ungrateful ex-slaves around the desert, knowing the Promised Land is out there somewhere, somewhere.

I'm in the batting cage. I'm swinging away. I'll get there. Keep 'em comin'!

I can't think about Monday I can't think about watching you walk away

[Lyrics from Carole King's "I Can't Think About Monday]

1. It was a glorious fall weekend in Michigan ... and I spent it inside, sick with a head cold. Such is life.

2. We have a big work shindig next week: black tie. The guys cut a deal with a local retailer to rent tuxes for 25 bucks. Geez! My hair is gonna cost more than that! And guys ALWAYS look better in tuxes than women do in evening gowns, just because we're not used to them getting dressed up.

3. From a friend's FB page (he's an Orthodox priest):

When the sun rises and cast its light of the world, it reveals both itself and the things it illumines. Similarly, when the Sun of Righteousness rise in the pure intellect, He reveals both Himself and the inner principles of all that has been and will be brought into existence by Him.

- St Maximus the Confessor, 400 Chapters on Love

Blessing And Blast From The Past

artist Pamela Spiro Wagner
In the summer of 2014, I hit rock bottom in the world of depression. I was making plans for suicide. I didn't really want to die, but I couldn't take the pain anymore. I checked myself into the local psychiatric hospital and got the help I so desperately needed.

The first morning I was there, I woke early. I went into the "quiet room" with my prayer book. I was in there for several minutes before I noticed a person huddled under a blanket in the corner. A lovely face peeped out at me: porcelain skin, sky-blue eyes and the type of blonde hair that you usually see on toddlers: almost white, wispy, soft.

She said softly, "Are you praying?" and I said yes. She picked up her Bible and asked if I'd like to pray with her. Yes, I did.

I'll call her Lauren. She was in her 20s, and she was very, very sick. She spent most days huddled under her blanket, a hat pulled down low on her forehead. She hardly ever spoke above a whisper. Some days, there were easy smiles, but mostly, she was either almost crying or crying. Her pockets bulged with tissues.

Lauren and I talked and prayed. She was suffering so much from childhood wounds, mostly inflicted by her father. These were not the wounds one could see - these were deep, treacherous, trench-like wounds that scarred her heart and her soul.

She thought one day she might be released, but no - she was not ready. She knew it, but it still saddened her. As good as the care was, as important as it was - it's not a great place to be.

I've been maintaining my mental health for more than a year, and Lauren still creeps into my mind and my prayers. She was so sweet, so gentle, so kind ... and so hurt.

Yesterday, my sister and I ran into the local Panera to get lunch - and there was Lauren, at a cash register. I walked up to her, and said softly, "Do you remember me?" She said I looked familiar, and I said, "We were in the hospital together last summer" and then her face lit up.

I asked her how she was. She said she was good - she had spent most of the last year at an out-of-state women's ministry center, getting intense counseling, and she was doing well. I told her I'd often thought of her and continued to pray for her.

Had the counter not been between us, we would have gently hugged, just as we did the day I left the hospital.

God is good. On a day when I had to get painful spinal shots, I got to see someone I never expected to see again, and she was well. What a gift.

Humility And Humiliation

It can be hard to distinguish humility from humiliation in our world and in our spiritual lives. I know I was scared to pray for humility for a long time, because I thought of it as humiliation.

Humility is a virtue. Humiliation is not; it's a sin.

Humility makes one stronger and more empathetic. Humiliation tears a person down and makes a person focus more on themselves.

Humility helps one grow in service to others. Humiliation makes one turn inward.

The Annunciation - artist Mikhail Nesterov
Humility is always a good. If more of were humble, our world would be better. Humiliation is never good, and it makes our world a sadder, more unwelcoming place.

Humility should be sought in one's spiritual life. Humiliation should be shunned, both in ourselves and in how we treat others.

A perfect example of humility is our Blessed Mother:

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.

And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. 

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer, Only when we humbly acknowledge that "we do not know how to pray as we ought," are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. "Man is a beggar before God."

Do not be afraid to pray for humility. God will never humiliate us, because humiliation is not love. It is distressful, harsh, and tears one down. God loves you too much, and He wants only good for you. Humility is good - it is from God. Ask Him for this grace and do not be afraid.

 

Breaking Through

On my way home last night, I came upon my neighbor carrying his rather large Husky from his driveway to the street. Quinn (the dog) is not disabled, but rather has an electric tether. Quinn never strays from his perimeter, carefully kept from wandering by a thin wire in the ground.

Last night, Quinn's owner wanted to take him for a walk. Quinn's collar was off, but he would not cross that perimeter. Giving up on coaxing Quinn out onto the street, his owner finally lifted him up and carried him across the invisible barrier.

How often do we do this? How often are we tethered by our sins, our failings, our past? We confess our sins, we are forgiven but ... we can't get past it. We are kept from new experiences, new events, new people. We are stuck in a yard of our own design.

Remember Jesus calling out to Peter to walk on the water towards him? Peter tried, and then fear overtook him. He sank.

What if Mary had let fear get the better of her when a mighty angel appeared and asked if she would assent to being the mother of the Savior?

Imagine Paul, in chains. He could have simply given in, given up, allowed those chains to be his reality.

What is keeping you stuck? What fear is holding you back? Most importantly, why are you not trusting God to carry you over any barriers in your way?

Rest

If you haven't yet listened to Matt Maher's Saints and Sinners album, do yourself a favor and do so.

Here's one I needed to hear today (not the official video, but lovely):


There is a bike in my dining room....

Really. There is a bike in my dining room. DH got obsessed with cycling after we bought our first house. You know: young, married, no ki...