"What's so special about today?"

One perk of my job is that I'm within a 3 minute walk of the Cathedral of St. Andrew. It's a beautiful church, and it's always a blessing to worship there.

Last Friday (which was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and a holy day of obligation), I went over for noon Mass.

[An aside here: the following sort of thing happens to me a lot. A lot. My spiritual advisor says some of us attract unbalanced people, lonely people, those on the outskirts. It's like I have a neon sign on my forehead: "SAFE PERSON!"]

I had just entered the church itself when a young woman came up to me, very close. I thought perhaps she was someone I knew, but she was not familiar. She said, "What's so special about today??"

I have to admit that my first thought (and this is how you know I was a religion major) was, "Hey, that kinda the first line of the Passover Seder. The youngest asks, "Why is this night different from all other nights?"

The young woman had intense dark eyes, and an eager face. She said, "We usually just have the service in the chapel, but there are so many people here today!"

Ah: that gave me a bit more to go on. I explained that today was a holy day of obligation, so Catholics were required to go to Mass.

She told me she was a Christian, but not Catholic. "I just love worshiping here. I try to come every day. Why is today so holy?"

I briefly outlined a whole lot of theology in a sentence or two, telling her that God prepared Mary to be the Ark of the New Covenant, the very best place for His Son to begin His earthly life.

"I don't understand why Catholics pray to Mary or saints. They're dead."

Oh, I said: "They are more alive than we are! They are in the presence of Almighty God!"

Her face lit up, "I never thought of that!"

And better still, I told her, Mary was our Mother as well.

"How can that be right?" she asked.

In Christ, we are all brothers and sisters. That means Christ's Mother is also ours.

Her face filled with wonder. "I have a mother in Heaven?"

Yes, you do. And she so much wants to hear from you. She will take all of your cares to Her Son.

The young woman thanked me profusely, and then drifted off to find a seat.

If only every Catholic had her faith, her desire to know and her willingness to ask a perfect stranger: "What's so special about today?"

Death, where is thy sting?


I've felt the sting of death too much this week.

My Aunt Frances passed away. She was the youngest of my mom's three siblings, and Mom's only sister. Her very last days were a lot like my mother's: stubborn Irish women who clung to life, but also longed for Heaven.

With my aunt's death, my generation becomes the eldest. Really? That doesn't seem right. We are still kids.

It was good to see my cousins, and it was a good reminder to stay in touch.

Yesterday, we learned that a college friend passed away. It was a stunning piece of news, an untimely and apparently lonely death.

He was a brother, a fraternity brother, but really: a brother. He was quick to laugh, loved a good debate (and he and I had MANY!) and a trusted soul. How could we lose someone so vital, alive?

Today, we've been sharing memories and pictures. Remembering is good but - oh, how I wish we'd been able to be more in touch.

I pray. I pray that we all remember that time is short and life is precious. I see the boys I knew in the faces of my cousins: the boys who taught me to catch a football and throw a punch. My sweet cousin who was my first babysitter. A young man, cigar dangling, with a silly grin that hid a sharp mind.

Death stings. The loss is too keen. A friend reminded me over the weekend that life is too short to miss out on love, to say, "not now," to allow things to pass us by as spectators and not participants.

Good-bye to a funny aunt who taught me to be a strong Irish woman. Good-bye to a man who laughed and cried with me, who was a brother to me when I needed one. And let's us remember that good-byes come swiftly - let us not waste a moment.

"The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want...and want...and want..."

Today marks the end of the liturgical year. Next Sunday, we enter into Advent as we prepare for Christmas. We end the year with the feast of Christ, the King of the Universe (which, I admit, sounds a bit like the name of a boxer with "the Universe, universe, universe" resonating in the arena.)

Or maybe that's just me.

Anyhow, today's psalm is easily the best-known: Psalm 23. We sang today: The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. The psalmist not only recognizes the Lord in his life, but recognizes that the Lord is the only thing necessary for his life.

This is a deeply ironic thought, given that we just celebrated our nation's premiere holiday: shopping. (Sure, we had Thanksgiving, but mostly it's about shopping.) On Thursday, we gathered around the table and gave thanks for all of our many blessings. On Friday, we went out and bought stuff that we didn't mention at all on Thursday, but now seemed to be of the utmost importance.

I'm not a holiday shopper. I can't stand crowds, and going to the mall is not one of my favorite things to do on any weekend. But I'll tell you: I struggle with that "want."

I have more clothes than I can wear in a month. I own more shoes than I can wear in a month. A different set of jewelry every day? No problem. But I always can use more...and more...and more.

When I was out of work for four months this past year, I - by necessity - had to curb my internet shopping. But we were broke, so I couldn't have purchased anything anyway. But now that I'm working, I feel that familiar urge. Honestly, I don't need another black skirt, or another pair of earrings. But I sure do WANT.

St. Augustine knew what he was talking about when he described the God-shaped hole we are all trying to fill within. We can jam alcohol in that hole, or shoes, or trips to the casino. It won't help. And it won't help if we have one more drink or buy another pair of boots or scratch of one more lottery ticket. We cannot fill that hole with anything but God.

Yet, we try.

Christ spoke to me today: Why do you keep wanting STUFF when you have Me? You praise Me with your lips, but not your heart. Why do you let your WANT be greater than Me?

St. Francis of Assisi came to a point in his life where he got this. He stripped naked in the public square, relinquishing his fine clothing and family money. He put on a scratchy brown robe, with a rope knotted about his waist, and never looked back. He had all he wanted, which was Christ the Lord.

There is not one single thing I can add to my life to make it better. There is no thing. It is, rather, a who, the person of Christ. He is King of the Universe, but not yet of my soul. I'm not ready to put on the scratchy brown robe (and I'm not called to that anyway.) I hope, however, that I can have less of the "want" and more of the "know." I want only Christ.

A Good and Faithful Servant

It's funny how you can know a piece of Scripture and yet be completely oblivious to its meaning. As Catholics, if we read the daily readings every day, we will read nearly the entire Bible in three years. And the parables of Christ are memorable: they are stories, and we love stories.

As a lifelong Catholic, I've heard and read today's Gospel ... a lot. A rich guy is leaving. He calls his three trusted servants together and gives each of them money. "I trust you will care for this."

The first two double the money, returning twice the original amount to their master. The third, who has the least amount, was worried about losing the money he had, so he buried it. Kept it safe. And returned exactly the same amount back to the master upon his return.

What I never got was why the last guy was punished. He didn't lose the money, he didn't gamble it away. He kept it safe, right?

Today, we had a Paulist priest celebrate Mass with us, Fr. Costanza. He said a beautiful Mass, and his homily - well, after decades, I now have a handle on this parable.

Father pointed out that the first two servants saw their master as good and fair. They knew that he would treat them well, regardless of how much they were able to return to him. What mattered is, they wanted to please their good master by trying their very best with what they were able to do with his treasure.

The third servant - he acted out of fear. He saw his master as demanding, unfair. He wasn't going to take any chances - he feared his master's wrath.

Father pointed out that God gives each of us gifts. We can do whatever we choose. We can use those gifts extravagantly, hoping that we can return these gifts back to our Master with a grateful heart. Or we can act out of fear of a harsh and judgmental Master, one who will punish us no matter what.

I thought about those five talents given to the first servant, and my five kids. I hope that Dear Husband and I invested all we had into them. We recognized they were a gift from God, not truly ours. But God had given us responsibility for them.

They are young adults now. I don't care for all their choices, but they have to answer for themselves now. I love and pray for them. I look forward to having them around my dinner table at least once a month, and seeing them as often as we can get together.

No, they are not who I want them to be, but they are who they are. We could never impose our will onto them - they have to choose God. I hope they will.

In the mean time, I pray to God for each of them. And I hope He knows that I am, with all my faults and sins, trying to be a good and faithful servant who wants to give back more and better than I received. Amen? Amen.

Let's Not Be Rash

The past few weeks, I've been battling a skin rash.

This is nothing new for me. Dealing with allergies my entire life, and having sensitive skin, hives are a pretty common occurrence.

One day when I was about 8 or 9, we'd been picking strawberries at my Aunt Doris'. I was rewarded with a bowl of strawberries. Sitting at my aunt's dining room table, I dug in.

"Stop."

My mom reached over and told me to stop eating. She could see that I was breaking out in hives as I ate. And that ended my ability to eat strawberries.

Strawberries: God's gift to the world of fruit. I mean: such decadence! Eat 'em plain, throw 'em in champagne, dip them in chocolate. And I'm allergic.

I joke that one of my first questions upon entering Heaven will be, "Hey, God. How come I couldn't be allergic to Brussel sprouts?" And I'm hoping that at this point, strawberries and cream will be served.

Right now, I've had a rash on my arms and legs. It's itchy. It's ugly. After a few trips to my doctor, I was referred to a dermatologist. We've worked to get it calmed down, but it's still there.

Can you imagine what life would be like if we wore our sins on our skin? For a long time, lepers were thought to do this. "Unclean, unclean!" A person with such a horrible distortion of their skin must have done something to deserve this. Right, Lord: who's sin is this, the man or his parents?

It's all too easy to blame God for everything. What have I done to deserve this? I'm trying so hard to do Your will, and this is what I get? Really??

Dark-haired Daughter asked me yesterday about Adam and Eve. Why did God punish them? Why was God so mean?

I explained that God had given us Paradise, and we chose hives. Everything was perfect, and humans chose - free will! - our way instead of God's. We lost the garden, we lost Paradise ... and we chose an itchy, scaly rash.

What a mess. I wish I could blame it all on our original parents and original sin, but I know that I'd be just as likely to make the choice Adam and Eve did. Sure, God told us not to eat from that tree, but He didn't really mean it, right? I'm sure it will all be fine.

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes,and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

The man said, He told me to wash. I did. And my sight was restored. It sounds so simple. A skin rash is, pardon the phrase, more than skin-deep. It doesn't take much to clear up the skin, but what of the soul? And that is what Jesus did.

Let's not blame God for the effects of original sin. We chose it, and we choose it over and over again. Even when we know it's itchy and horrible and bad. Our hope must be in Christ.

The Resonance of Teaching

Resonance - artist Kathy Tidman
I'm pretty sure all of us can name one teacher who changed our lives. Perhaps it was a Sunday School teacher, or your 10th grade science teacher or even your piano teacher. Whatever it was, they were the person in the right place at the right time with the right message for your life.

Unless you've been a teacher, you wouldn't know that the opposite is also true. One's students leave indelible marks on the soul of a teacher.  Perhaps this is more true of a religion teacher, as we deal with life and death issues. And while our 15 year old students often stare at us blankly when we mention Purgatory or frankly disbelieve us when we talk about mortal sin, they still listen and absorb and think and ruminate.

I haven't been in a classroom in a few years, but many of my students remain a part of my life, even in a small way. I'm sure they still roll their eyes when I tell them I pray for them, but I do. And I pray harder for some then others. I hope that whatever truths I taught them, however feeble my attempts, stay with them. I hope those truths resonate, pondered for many years to come.

I lost a student yesterday. She lost her battle with addiction. Addiction is such a huge monster, and she was such a small lady. She had the white-blond hair of a toddler and a slightly sideways smile. Like most addicts, she was a sensitive soul. While she certainly had a reputation for being "wild," I only ever saw her as tame. She mostly stayed in the back of my classroom, likely counting the minutes until class was done.

In the last few years, she'd been realizing dreams: a baby boy, a new job, a car. She seemed really happy, in a way she'd never been in her teen years. But the addiction that chased her, caught her.

While I pray that what I taught those young people in a drafty classroom stays with them, perhaps it is important that they know their lives resonate with me. They made me laugh, they reminded me of their hurts and sorrows, and that some areas of our faith were just too hard to understand. I marveled at their stupidity and their strength. I saw courage in their eyes. They taught me that sorrow and regret are not just for the old.

I pray that this sweet young woman who carried tremendous burdens on her thin shoulders is now at peace. Peace, dear girl. May it be yours unto eternity.

Where is my heart? It was just here

Artist Erika Kuhn
Almost 2 decades ago, a dear friend of mine had a baby girl. It had been a rough pregnancy and I tried to make her bedrest at least interesting, with frequent light-hearted mail.

And then: baby girl! That baby became my god-daughter. I wrote her mom a letter about motherhood that, said at one point, "now you'll know what it's like to have your heart walking around outside your body."

I've always thought that line was one of the best descriptions of motherhood (No, I didn't write it.) Your kids, even when they are all grown-up, will always always be at the core of your very being. Even now, as adults, your heart hurts when they do. You wish you could navigate young adulthood for them. You ache when you don't hear from them.

One of my babies, my oldest daughter, decided (with her hubby) to move 800 miles away. It's been so great for both of them, but especially for her: she's matured so much. They are exploring and having fun. I'm so happy for them and for their marriage.

I was leaving work one day a week or so ago. Sitting at a red light, I saw a tall, leggy brunette with her hair piled on top of her head. She strode across the street, messenger bag hanging off her shoulder. My heart skipped a beat: "My baby!" But it wasn't her. And my heart hurt a little.

She called me last night, on her long drive home from work. "I'm bored," she said. Her cell phone kept cutting out, so we had a weird conversation that was chopped into bits and pieces but we laughed and chatted anyway. And my heart was a bit happier.

Articles like this one have young adults finding flaws in their parents in order to make sense of their own lives. (Trust me, my kids don't have to look very far to find my flaws. I've always lived my life "out loud," no holds-barred, right or wrong.) My relationship with my daughter is like oil and vinegar: it can be tasty and fine, or bitter and flat. Because we're human.

I wonder if God looks at this way. We are so far from home, so far away from our Heavenly Parent - He must miss us. He must hurt when we do. He must desire so deeply to hug us and never let go. At least I hope it's that way.

But my heart still skips a beat when I see her. I'm thrilled when she laughs, and love her little social media messages. And I literally ache - I miss her so much. Mi cara, mon coeur ... my heart, 1000 miles away. That's motherhood.

I'll just be crying in the bathroom...

Most women will admit to having a crying jag in the ladies' room at work at some point or another. Yesterday was mine.

No, I didn't actually cry in the bathroom, but that is only because of an iron will. And I wasn't sure - for most of the afternoon - whether I wanted to cry or needed to throw up.

I'm on my second week of a new job. Yesterday was a calamity. I felt like I was doing everything wrong, creating more work for me and/or someone else, and doing most things 2 or 3 times. Objectively, I know that nearly everyone has a day like this at a new job. You not only have to do the work you've been assigned, but you have to remember the names of co-workers, who sits where, where the copier is and how to negotiate delicate office issues. (For instance, if the next department over has treats out, can you snag one?)

Objectively, I knew I wasn't in danger of losing my job. Objectively, I know that my co-workers are more than happy to answer questions and help out.

But we are not talking objectively. We are talking about that part of the brain that is planning a crying jag in the bathroom: Can I get there without breaking down? Should I use a bathroom on another floor to minimize exposure to my immediate co-workers? How long can I stay in there?

I muddled through.

Part of this was my own fault: I was treating everything on my desk as if it were an emergency. As I do not work in a field hospital or trauma center, this is clearly not true. So, I told myself this morning that I needed to slow down. "Right" is almost always better than "fast."

I also asked God to give me a bit of a break. And He answered: the program I need to use has been down most of the day. I took advantage by cleaning my desk, storing a bunch of stuff that the previous cubicle owner believed to be important but was rather meaningless to me, and am studying.

That God for answered prayers. I'll hold on to my allotted crying jag for another time.

Straggling Towards Sainthood

Path to Heaven - artist Susan Kayler
Jesus told us that the path to Heaven was narrow. I'm sure He meant to add that it's also rocky, dizzying, and disturbingly lonely at times. It reminds me of all my childhood vacations spent lost because Mom couldn't read maps and Dad couldn't follow directions.

Earlier this week, I was so sad. I was talking myself out of bed in the mornings. I couldn't come up with any good reasons to get going in the morning. No job, no money, nobody to care for: couldn't I just spend one day in bed? Deep down, I know that "just one day in bed" would become a habit, and not a good one.

We all get knocked off our feet by life. A spouse dies. A child moves away. We get sick. A friend has cancer.

"That's not fair! This is not what I bargained for!"

It's easy to look at the lives of others and imagine they "have it easy." Perhaps it's a friend or family member who has loads of money, and a life punctuated by fabulous travel and a gorgeous home. Maybe it's the marriage of a couple we know; they always seem to be in sync with one another. And it's all too easy to begin thinking that God is somehow making our life more difficult - on purpose. Like He's picking on us.

I admit, I began this week rather upset with God. My now 4-month long job search has sucked the life right out of me. I doubt myself. I keep thinking I don't deserve a good job. Why even bother?

I hurt all the time. Somewhere, on my body, there is always a point of pain. I still sleep on the floor sometimes, as it is the only way to relieve pain and find a comfortable manner in order to sleep.

Oh: and sleep! Yeah, I don't do much of that. 4 hours here, an hour or so there.

I just decided to blame God. It's much easier than examining my own conscience. It can't possibly be MY fault, right? And even when I know that no one person or thing is to blame, I want to have a reason for it. Why not God?

Then, things began to fall into place this week. A job offer. A "thanks be to God" conclusion to a long and drawn out battle in our lives. Comfort from friends. Little by little, light begins to seep through the cracks.

It seems hypocritical: hey, God is answering my prayers the way I want! Let's get all happy now! Thanks, God, for seeing things the way I want - you da man!!

When I received some news this week that a long-fought battle regarding one of my kids seemed to be close to a resolution, I drove to the nearest church and hit my knees in front of the tabernacle.

God is good, all the time. I am not. I am likely to crawl over to the side of the pathway to Heaven and complain about how hot it is, and how tired I am. I scrabble along, half the time clutching my rosary in prayer and  half the time clutching it in frustration as I shake my fist at God.

One of the things that we must learn on our journey to Heaven is that "fair" has nothing to do with anything. I'm not sure "fair" is even part of God's vocabulary. "Love" certainly is, and "hope" and "faith" but not "fair." Being thankful to God is not about giving thanks when things are going our way. God is not keeping some eternal scorecard that He can balance as it becomes necessary. Nope, that scorecard exists only in our heads, and it is always misleading.

Once again, I'm down on my knees. Once again, I'm dragging myself along the path to holiness. Once again, I'm begging for a mercy I do not deserve. Once again, God looks at me with love.

When I see despair, God shows me glory. When I seek ease, God keeps me off-kilter. As I feel pain, God binds up my wounds. I cry out in fear, and God covers me in peace.

As I straggle towards sainthood, God crawls beside me, in companionship and empathy and charity. His love never fails, even though I do.

Some Franciscan Thoughts on the Feast of St. Francis

St. Francis of Assisi - artist Alfredo Arreguin, quilter
St. Francis of Assisi has a lot going for him. He's hugely popular with kids, mainly because of his affinity for animals.

He certainly was a rebellious young man, which can appeal to teens. He also had big hopes and dreams for himself, something most young people can understand.

He was in great physical pain much of his adult life. Those of us in that stage of the game know what it's like to hurt so badly and ... still get out of bed and do what needs to be done.

First and foremost, Francis loved Jesus. Whether it was the simple love of an eccentric mystic or the grounded love from which grew a mighty order of men and women service God, there is Francis.

That love, Franciscan author Ilia Delio, is central to understanding Francis and ultimately Christ.

We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ; rather, it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. (Franciscan Prayer.)

Like any good relationship, our relationship with Christ must challenge us. It must goad us into stepping out of sin and selfishness, and into freedom and light. Christ only invites, however; he never demands.

But what does it really takes to become a friend of Christ? What must we do? We must humble ourselves, just as Christ did ('humbling himself to death, even death on a cross'). And what does this humility look like?

Humility looks like service. It looks like the Mom who hasn't had a hot meal in years because she is making sure everyone's food is cut, the baby is fed, leftovers packed away for lunch.

It looks like going to Mass on Sunday, not because you have to, but because you need to.

Humility is admitting you're wrong. Face-to-face with the person you wronged.

Humility is knowing that there is always room at the table for you, so you don't need to worry about where you'll sit.

Delio: Prayer, therefore, leads us to know ourselves in God and God in ourselves, and in this relationship we are led to true humility by which we see clearly the humble presence of God all around us.

Today, on this feast of Francis, let us ask ourselves, "Whom do I love? Or do I love a 'what'?" We might also ask, "Do I truly humble myself in prayer? Or am I just talking at God, with my laundry list of intentions?"

Francis is one of those rare souls who changed the world. What a shame if we missed our opportunity to do the same.

Extra helpings of humble pie

One of my favorite saint stories is about St. John Paul II. At one point (says biographer George Weigel) the pope had to call a young priest in the Vatican to his office. The pope had the task of reprimanding the young man for some error that went beyond an "oops" but was rather an error in judgment and conduct.

After the pope finished, he stood and walked from behind his desk. He knelt in front of the young priest and said, "Now, will you hear my confession?"

Humility.

Fr. James Farfaglia likes a definition from St. Teresa of AvilaShe said that humility is living in the truth ("andar en la verdad").

This makes sense. If we are pompous, we are not living in the truth. If we see others as "less than," we are not living in the truth. And if we believe ourselves to be horrid and ugly and unlovable, we are not living in the truth.

 If humility is the virtue, pride is the vice. When we act pridefully, we place ourselves in higher esteem than others. We believe some tasks are simply beneath us, and that we are not meant to serve other people.

Humility, like any virtue, must be cultivated. It does not come naturally. We need to pray that we are humble, asking God to give us the grace we need to possess the humility of Christ. Christ washed the feet of his disciples. He welcomed children, telling his followers they needed to be like them in order to gain Heaven. Ultimately, the humility of Christ led Him to the Cross.

Of course, when we pray, God answers those prayers. If we pray for humility, not only will He grant us humility, He will give us circumstances to practice and grow in humility.

As the Bard would say: there's the rub.

A couple of weeks ago, I accepted a job, ending my 3-1/2 month of being jobless. I prayed, and it seemed like a good move. Sure, there were a few hiccups, but no job or organization is perfect.

It did not go well. Not well at all.

I had been told my job would be one set of responsibilities by the owner. Just after she hired me, she left for a 3 week trip for work. I was thus left to be trained by a manager that I had not met.

The manager seemed to have a completely different view of what my responsibilities were meant to be. Was this poor communication or bait and switch? I didn't know, and I had no way of contacting the owner, who was literally half way around the world.

There was a steep learning curve. I'll admit, I had some trouble learning things. There were many details, all important. However, I thought I was doing pretty well. My manager did not. She told me I was not learning quickly enough and was asking too many questions.

I was a bit baffled. I'd never had a job where asking questions was considered troubling.  The manager, it appeared, had done her job and it was done. Any further questions seemed to signify moral failure on my part.

I was getting more and more uncomfortable, and she was getting more and more frustrated. Finally, they "made an executive decision," deciding "this was not working out."

I nearly blurted out: "Thank God!" Of course, it still stings. It feels as if I can't do anything right. In fact, the only thing I seem to be good at is losing jobs.

Yes, it is humbling. It is not comfortable. It is not easy. It is not fun. Yet, God has His reasons, and I must trust Him, despite how awful it feels. If I want to be more and more virtuous, I have to gratefully accept this lesson.

I'd rather kick and scream and suggest that this was all the manager's fault. Yes, there were clearly problems on the part of the employer. But I have to accept responsibility for my own issues. I am not better than, more than, holier than. Nope, I'm the same old sinful soul that has been praying for the perfect job, the place where I can really shine.

Humble pie is not shiny. It does not taste good. It's not bad either. It just is: sort of like oatmeal. It nourishes and fills one up, but no one is excited about it.

So pass me the fork and I'll eat my humble pie. The Chef who prepared it knows that it is just what I need.


Families And the Ties That Bind

A number of years ago, I interviewed for a job. When I was hired, the guy who would be my boss told me: "We will treat you just like family." I hesitated. I mean, no matter how a great a family is, there are some bumps in the road. If you're from an Irish family, being treated like family can mean anything from getting terrific gifts for your birthday to getting un-invited from a reunion because you forgot your 2nd cousin's anniversary.

In our family, we've had a couple of small weddings in the past few years. Typically, our family weddings are all-out bashes, sending out invitations to everyone from Mom's great aunt Clodagh to your cousin, his wife and their 10 kids.

Smaller weddings are certainly understandable. It's expensive. A lot of our family members are footing the bill themselves, rather than relying on Mom and Dad. And, honestly, some of our family members don't know each other too well. If you're trying to be frugal, the guest list has to stop somewhere.

In a perfect world, all of this would be understood. But this ain't no perfect world. Feelings get hurt. people feel left out and drama ensues.

Here we are, a few days after one of our small family weddings, and not only are feelings getting hurt, but salt is being rubbed into wounds. It's ugly.

This is the sort of "ugly" than can tear people apart. I'm saddened but I'm trying to be Switzerland (not a place I'm terribly comfortable.) What should be a wonderful event is tainted by hurt feelings that others won't acknowledge. We'd all hug it out, and things would be fine. Yeah....

Seems like the Golden Rule is applicable here. Sometimes, we just have to keep quiet (and if you're Irish, you know this is darn near impossible.) The balm of Gilead should be applied generously. Maybe by the time the next wedding rolls around, all will be forgiven.

I doubt it, but hope springs eternal.

Family Dinner (and why there is a kitten on my head)

With our kids now grown (one at home), it became obvious to me this past year that unless we made a specific effort to be together, it wasn't gonna happen. Thus was born Family Dinner.

It's simple: we host dinner the last Sunday of every month. Bring a date, bring a friend but be there. Dear Hubby likes to cook, so it's win-win. And the kids responded. It's became rather sacred to all of us: "Oh, sorry. I can't. That's Family Dinner."

We hosted a Special Edition Family Dinner yesterday, as Curly-Haired Daughter is home for a family wedding next weekend. As Hubby laid-out a roasted pork loin dinner, I was happy to have the table set and extended, a couple of extra chairs rounded up, and kids surrounding us.

Our "entertainment" was the newest edition to the family, a tiger-striped kitten named Galway Girl. She has yet to learn that the table is not a playground. Her preferred sleeping spot is either my shoulder or the top of my head. Who knows why? She is like all kittens in that she is curious and fearless and funny, and she is unique because she is ours. Also, our older cat, Mojo, seems to have forgiven us for bringing the pip squeak home.

Even better yesterday was that Curly-Haired Daughter stayed late and talked. When she and her hubby decided to move out of state in January, it rocked our worlds. (I HATE having her so far away - despite the fact that I know how silly that is. I mean, come on: the age of the internet and cheap travel means she is still "right here." It's not like we live in the mid-1800s and she and her hubby decided to strike out for the West.)

It became apparent to me last night that she has matured SO MUCH in these past few months. There are a lot of reasons for it, but she is clearly thinking like an adult. I'm so proud of her and her hubby in that they truly believe in marriage and they make theirs a priority. Oh, she is still my baby girl but the world is gaining an amazing young woman. I'll still cry when I have to hug her good-bye in a week, but I could not be happier with the fact that she is a beautiful, fierce, funny woman. And when she is visiting next, I'll curl up in my chair, cat on head, to listen and talk.

What to do at the end of your rope? Hold on tight and cry.

In some ways, things are looking up. Curly-Haired daughter is home for about 10 days, as she is matron of honor for her cousin. Esther, her cousin, is 90 lbs. of dynamite. She's a bit off-beat, and the wedding is going to be a bit off-beat, but I'm still excited for her.

I've got a job! I'm keeping it a bit low-key as I interviewed for another position Friday. I'm 99% sure they are going to offer me a job, and I don't want them to read about me taking another job on Facebook. More on the job and the process of getting there later.

I'm also going to be doing some freelance writing for extra money. Busy girl.

Yet, with all this, my heart is filled with dread. Our bank account is in the negative numbers - 14 weeks of my being unemployed has added up. Our expenses have not increased (and in some ways, they've decreased) but here is the sad fact: we can't pay our rent this month. We honestly could be evicted. I've hit up a couple of people for a loan, but so far....

As much as I'm enjoying the early days of a new job, I keep seeing us living out of our cars. So, I'll pray. It's all I have left....

BE something or DO something?

As my anxious mind was over-working itself in the wee hours of the morning, I was interspersing worry with prayer. "God, what do you want me to DO? Three months of job searching and I still don't know what you want me to DO!"

We like to DO. We want to be busy and to contribute and to look back and feel accomplished. But that often isn't what it needed, necessary or good.

A dear friend is sitting vigil with his mother right now. She is dying of cancer. I've been there. At some point in the care of the loved one, the discussions move from "what do we do" to just being. There isn't anything we can DO in the dying process - God calls us to simply BE with our loved one. And anyone who thinks this is easy or not helpful or not unsettling has never done it.

In Genesis, Jacob/Israel wrestles with "a man" whom Biblical scholars say is God. When the man tells Jacob to let go, Jacob refuses. He won't let go until he gets a blessing. Now, if this were happening to me, I'd probably not let go even after I got the blessing. I'm stubborn that way.

How many times do we "give it to God" and then continue to wrestle Him for it? We pray for God's will, and then go about our day trying to ram square pegs into round holes. We are not content to live in God's presence; we have to wrestle with Him for His blessing.

And in the wee hours this morning, I realized that I've been searching for something to DO instead of simply BEing. As hard as it is, I really must let God reveal Himself in this portion of my life in the way He wills. I have to stop the wrestling, stop the begging for something to DO and simply BE the person God has created me to be.

A change in perspective

I'll admit it: I was getting a bit frantic in my job search. SEND OUT ALL THE RESUMES! SOMEONE HIRE ME!

Kinda like that. It wasn't good.

Providentially, I went away for the weekend to visit a friend. It was only supposed to be an overnight trip, but I was so relaxed and enjoying the company so much...I stayed. (Just as I was discussing this with my friend, Dear Husband sent me a text to say, "Stay another night if you need to." He really is the best.)

My friend and I actually stayed with her aunt and uncle, as my friend was visiting from out of state. I enjoy their company as well. They have a beautiful home and quite a collection of art. I feasted with my eyes.

I should probably mention that my friend's family are news and political junkies. They lean hard left; I don't. Watching MSNBC for HOURS: yikes! I do find this whole thing quite entertaining, though.

And then there was the Gospel this weekend: Who do you say that I AM?

It would seem that God is trying to show me that I need a little change in my outlook. Getting away for the weekend was a change in perspective, as was the running political commentary. Being surrounded by amazing art was a change in perspective. Jesus asking point-blank about our understanding of His identity? Boom: change of perspective.

What are my lessons from this weekend? Breathe. Laugh more. Seek out beauty. Other people's opinions can be fascinating and entertaining. Know Jesus.

Not bad for less than 48 hours.

In the midst of craziness

While my life just feels like my life, I am constantly reminded that others don't view it as "normal."

In the past couple of weeks, I've had not one, not two, but three friends who know me well explain the exact same thing to me. I start complaining about not being able to find a job. Each one of them - at different times and settings - said, "Elise, you have had a horrible two years. So much loss! God just wants you to rest."

I'm slow. It took three times. Ok, I promise: I'm trying to rest. Relax. Read. Pray. And not get TOO hung up on the job hunting.

We had a family get-together a few weeks ago for a nephew's 40th birthday. Lotsa fun, food and little kids running around on a perfect summer day. One of my nieces, whom I don't get to see very often, asked where my hubby was. He had a soccer tournament that day. She asked how he was. I told him that he was busy - being an engineer by day and soccer coach at night.

I also told her that he'd been embroiled in this weird situation at work, that had essentially turned him into a detective and eventually a sort of whistleblower. Her response, "Oh my gosh! You and Uncle Ed just seem to have one thing after the other - you can't catch a break!"

I laughed and said, "You know, on the Hilton Scale of Catastrophe, this work situation didn't even register!" We both laughed, and she agreed this was likely the case.

People, over the years, have told Hubby and me how "brave" we are, how "saintly" we are, yada, yada, yada, to have taken on 5 special needs kids. Oh, no. It don't work that way!

When God asked us, we said "yes." That is it. In all the craziness we've dealt with, we just kept saying "yes." And there has been a lot of craziness. Knowing county sheriffs by their first names, endless meetings with schools to figure out the best way to teach a kid, learning the EXACT right words to say in order to get a kid hospitalized on a psych hold.

We are not any braver, holier or more special than any other parents. I am bull-headed and that has helped. But honestly, the only thing we have done that others have not is said, "yes."

Sometimes our voices shook. Often, we wondered if we doing the right thing. We've had our hearts broken a time or two. But we've just held each other's hands and kept right on saying "yes." Even when it made our stomachs hurt.

And yes, we have a Hilton Scale of Catastrophes. Most parents have never found the need for such a scale, but we have. And we still use it occasionally. But in the midst of chaos and craziness, there is always that "yes." It is beacon, a light that leads us to God. So we'll just keep on saying it.

In this crazy beautiful life 
In this crazy beautiful life 
Something's make sense and you don't know why 
It's this crazy beautiful life 
Wherever you are, whatever you do 
Whatever wishes might come true 
Whatever you got, whatever you give 
You make it a beautiful life to live 
It's a crazy beautiful life It's a crazy beautiful life 
Something's make sense and you don't know why 
It's a crazy beautiful life

I'll just be over here...waiting...


Most people will tell you, I believe, that they are not patient. Certainly none of us likes waiting. Check out the folks in any urgent care center: Why haven't I been called? Hey, that guy came in after us!

Some of us are so impatient we pull out our phones at red lights, hoping to kill a few seconds.

And if one prays for patience (a dangerous prayer!), God will most certainly give one plenty of opportunities to grow in patience. 'Cause he's like that - more like a dad than a genie in a bottle.

We all know that patience is a virtue. We're happy to remind other people of this, but we certainly don't want to hear it when we have to wait.

I am no more patient than anyone else. I'm often more prepared: I'll bring a book or knitting if I know I'm going to be stuck in a waiting room for any length of time. But this doesn't make me more patient, just less bored.

I have now been without a job for just over 16 weeks. 115 days.

Oh, I've had interviews. I've had three second interviews. But no job.

I am convinced that God has a plan for me. (Can I get an "amen?") I just don't know what it is. So, I'm waiting.

Being patient. Very badly.

Waiting.

The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

Well, there's a message we don't want to hear. God is not delaying or denying an answer to our prayers or needs. No: he is PATIENT WITH US. He is happy to answer our prayers - when we are ready.

So, this whole "waiting on God" thing? It's much more about us - you and me - than about God. The answer to a prayer is right there, ready to be given to us by God - when we are ready.

Ugh. That means I need to do something. And that "something" is not to nag God: Why haven't you answered me yet? I've been waiting for so long! Aren't you supposed to answer prayers? Jesus said you won't give me a snake when I ask for an egg. He says, "Ask! The door will be opened!" Open the door, God!!

What an uncomfortable truth. (And aren't most truths uncomfortable?)

You know how we talk about the patience of Job? He wasn't patient; He was suffering! Miserable!

But he was faithful to God. He hoped and knew that in God's good and gracious timing, his suffering would diminish and his world restored. THAT is the something we are supposed to be doing while waiting for an answer to prayer. We hope. We are faithful. We trust in God's goodness.

I'm waiting. I'm trying to be faithful and patient. I am trying not to nag God by telling him, "Now! Now would be great!" I'm not very good at this yet, but he's giving me lots of opportunities to practice.

So.

I'll just be over here. Waiting.

The weight, the darkness of our Hinterlands

Welsh coast - photographer Lewis Fackrell
I've been watching "Hinterlands" - a BBC show on Netflix. It follows Tom Mathias and his detectives as they solve murders in rural Wales. (Really, really rural.)

Mathias, the lead character, is a man being crushed by the weight of guilt and sin in his life. It has forced him to live alone, in a shabby trailer. When he's not working, he's running - literally.

The whole tone of the show is dark. A woman who knows she works too much, but still tries to reach out to her teen daughter. A wife who knows of an affair between her husband and sister, the pain of which drives her mad in a way that Shakespeare would have been proud to write. "Home" for these people is not a sanctuary, despite the glorious scenery. No, home is truly the hinterland, "an area lying beyond what is visible or known."

Mute and silent before the wicked,
I refrain from good things
But my sorrow increases;
my heart smolders within me.

The notes for Psalm 39 tell us that this lamentation is one of a leader, now mortally wounded. Like any soldier, he knows the price of service, but now, facing death, he is weighed down - not by the injury - but its aftermath.

All of us carry scars and bruises. Some "scars" we choose ourselves: a tattoo or piercing, the scars of a C-section. Some scars life gives us whether we want them or not: a broken heart, both literally and figuratively.

Man goes about as a mere phantom;
they hurry about; although in vain,
he heaps us stores without knowing for whom.

Think of the parents who have begun to raise families, only to have that privilege taken from them. A mother dies from breast cancer or a young father in an accident. They did not know for whom they were storing riches for - they will not dance at a daughter's wedding or hold a grandson.

I promised myself that I would move far away from my own hinterlands this year. In many ways I have. But like the psalmist, the pain of the aftermath - well, I cannot drop that by the side of the road and hope it disappears. As the characters in the show mentioned above learn, our most rugged hinterlands lie within our own hearts. The rough and wild land where God has placed us: we can navigate and learn and come to love the place, or we can curse it. Either way, it is our hinterland and we must come to terms with its terrible beauty.

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
You are my only hope.
From all my sins deliver me...


Whispering "Dream Big"

Dream Big - artist Sylwia Gryczuk
For reasons to complicated to explain, I found myself in the ER waiting room today. This particular hospital is the one in our area that gets many homeless guests, so the waiting was at least interesting.

The ER entrance for folks off the street features security guards. You have to pass GO before you even check in.

A mother with three children came in. She was tiny; her daughter (whom I'd put at about 10) was already taller than mom. The family was Hispanic. There was also a doctor entering at about the same time - a lovely lady with a wide smile and wooden clogs (You're gonna do a 12 hour shift in wooden clogs??)

The family stopped to speak to the security guard, and it was clear that one of the boys served as translator for Mom. The doctor paused, listened, and then entered.

Mom went to the desk to check in; she had to wait for a few other people before her.

The doctor went swinging down the hall, then stopped and came back. She went over to the three children, who had taken a seat to wait for Mom.

"When I was in school, I had to translate for my mom, too. She only spoke Spanish," the doctor said to the three kids. "It was  hard sometimes. But I loved being able to help her, and to speak two languages. Do you like science?" A couple of nods. "I really loved science, and now I'm a doctor. You can do that too. Study hard."

And then she took her shining, swinging self down the hall. And left three kids with big grins.

Dream big, little ones. Dream big.

Be Transfigured

Jesus' Transfiguration - Salvador Dali
From today's readings: 

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the and his clothes became white as light.

...we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

Today we celebrate the Transfiguration. For whatever reason, Jesus brought three of His disciples to Mount Tabor to witness this miracle. They weren't sure what they were seeing, but they knew enough to throw themselves to the ground in the presence of Almighty God. St. Peter (who never did anything halfway) excitedly declares that he will erect tents on the mountain as a way of memorializing the event. But Jesus tells him and the others that they are not to tell people what they witnessed - at least not yet.

In the second reading, the requirement to be quiet has been lifted, and Peter tells new Christians not only of this event, but of its validity and meaning for them "Be attentive - this will be a light for the dark places you will have to traverse."

I suppose non-believers find this a quaint story. Not only did this Jesus guy fool everyone into believing that he was God, he performed magic tricks. Or maybe it isn't even that - maybe it's just a story, meant to fool others who didn't witness it.

It's odd that people find this hard to believe, because we live in a culture that is obsessed with transforming bodies. We eat clean, we workout, we compare ourselves to actors (who pay a lot of money for personal trainers.) We gulp kale smoothies and vitamins. Women are especially vulnerable to be transformers of their bodies: it's fine if you're pregnant, but you'd better be able to snap back to pre-pregnancy weight as quickly as possible. Our drugstores are filled with aisles and aisles of items to help us transform and transfigure ourselves: makeup, nail polish, hair products, weight loss products.

Our culture is currently obsessed with transgenderism: people who believe for one reason or another that they were really meant to be the other gender. Scientists tell us that this affects only about 1% of the population, yet there are those who spend most of their time telling the rest of us that we must make all kinds of concessions to this very small population. (For reference, 1% of the population will run a marathon in their lifetime, 1% will be incarcerated at some point, about 1% of women are 5'3" tall, and about .5% of people are vegans.)

But the Transfiguration of Christ? Somehow, people find it not believable.

We humans can do some pretty drastic things to transform ourselves, but ultimately these changes are only skin deep. One long-term study found:

Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population.

The only Transfiguration that truly matters is the one Christ is calling us to. And it is only in light of our transfiguration in Christ that we truly understand what our bodies are made for. (Let us remember that  Christ did not leave behind His body after the Resurrection - no, it was transformed, transfigured. Our bodies are not "bad" - they are limited because of sin. But we are called to be transfigured.

Romano Guardini reminds us that Christ did not give us His spirit in order to save us - He gave His Body and Blood. What more do we need to know about being transfigured?


...through the Holy Eucharist we participate again and again in the transfigured reality at once human and divine. Because communion in his flesh and blood is the remedy of immortality ... of an immortality not only spiritual but corporal; of man caught up in the abundance of pure corporal and pure spiritual life in God. (The Lord)

Thus, the Transfiguration is not only about Jesus revealing Himself more fully. No: it is a sign for us. Christ is calling us to be transformed ourselves, to be transfigured into living signs of Christ and the Heavenly Kingdom He has both established and wishes to establish. We are called to be better than our diet, our health, the status of beauty. We are meant to be transfigured in Christ - it is the only change that truly matters.

Mea Culpa and Updates

Sorry I've been MIA from the blog. I've had a number of things going on.

The first has been the job search. Yes, it's been two months since I lost my job AND I'M STILL LOOKING. I have a second interview for a position on Monday, and am continuing to pray for God's will.

I will look forward to getting rid of all the job search bookmarks and emails. However, they have been a source of much amusement. Most of these tell you they will send you job updates and openings that are "tailored" to your background, experience, etc.

Why am I getting job alerts for hi-lo drivers? What about me says, "social worker?" Geez....

I have been chief chauffeur for-t dark-haired daughter, who is working part-time. It's been great for her, but I'm hoping to work out transportation for her, should I get a full-time job.

If you need prayers, head over to Broken Mary. This site tells the story of a friend of mine, Kevin Matthews and of Broken Mary. Kev is a prayer warrior, and always has a rosary handy. He's happy to offer prayers for you!

Finally, I am working on a book. It will be a book study/journal reflection style book focusing on the words and works of Edith Stein.

I promise I'll be writing more. One way or another, I'll have a new job in a week or two!

Ain't No Hollaback Girl!

Some of you may recognize the title here today. It's from Gwen Stefani. You don't need to check out the song or the video (both a little raunchy), but know this: Gwen is speaking for a lot of girls and women, saying: "I'm a lot tougher than you give me credit for. In fact, meet me after school at the track, and I"ll show you. I'm not going to yell beck you, 'cause I ain't no hollaback girl."

When I was in about 2nd grade, there was a boy who delighted in tormenting me on the playground. One time, he put his head down, and made a running start, hitting me square in the stomach. I was home for a few days, feeling ill. Finally, my mom (one of the gentlest people I've ever known) told me, "Bullies are really cowards. They only pick on you if you let them. When you go back to school, you clean that boy's clock."

(As an aside, this was 35 years ago. It was an age of simplicity and wonder. At school, you still COULD clean a kid's clock, with the explanation that he had it coming. Now, of course, should a child do this, the parents would all hire lawyers, counselors would be brought in for the little darlings who'd witnessed the traumatic event and at least one kid would need to find a new school.)

And I did. I cleaned his clock. He didn't bother me anymore, and neither did his buddies.

Now of course, we still have bullying but children are expected to "talk through the issue." Peer mediation might be suggested. And all that may work - eventually. Meanwhile, some poor victim is wandering about looking over his shoulder, because thus far, mediation hasn't worked.

I'm not saying we should encourage kids to create and/or respond with combat. But every kid, and especially every girl, needs to know where her boundaries are and  how to respond. And darn few girls get that.

Girls are still being taught to be "polite" in all situations. That is DUMB. We need to teach our daughters, nieces, cousins and friends, that we each have a "gut" and we need to listen to it. Our gut tells us that some guy in Target is creepy; we need to move away from him. When the elevator doors open and we see a shady looking guy alone, waiting for us to entire, WE DO NOT HAVE TO. You are under no obligation to get in an elevator with some guy that sets off your bells and whistles. Nor do you owe him an explanation.

Our daughters need to know that they can look a bully in the eye and said, "You are not treating me this way anymore." Then, whatever plan you've discussed with her gets put into place.




On giving up dreams and having your skin ripped off

The Redemption of Eustace by Clang55
One of my nieces sent me this video of a Liberty University Convocation address a few years back. The speaker is Phil Vischer.

Who, you may ask?

You may not know the name, but you most certainly know his work. He's the creative genius behind Veggie Tales. (Let's all sing a little of "Oh, Where Is My Hairbrush?")

Mr. Vischer is certainly one of the best known animators ever. He certainly was very financially successful.

Until he wasn't. (Go ahead; watch the video. It's worth your time.) Let me just say that Mr. Vischer found out that his plans and God's were wildly divergent.

At one point, Mr. Vischer references this passage from C.S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Eustace - a very unlikable boy - was changed into a dragon. He finally, after a very miserable time as a dragon, allowed Aslan to help him:


Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke — You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was jut the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.  You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.” 
I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund. 
Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .”
What God wants for us is not always what we want. And we can be stubborn. But God is better than stubborn; God is faithful and patient. He allows us to flounder around in dragon skin. He gives us the freedom to choose the stupid dragon skin, even though it's vile and doesn't fit us at ALL. He waits.

God waits until we are finally ready to say, "This dragon skin is horrid! It's getting in the way of everything important ... And that 'everything' is God."

No dream we have, no thing we own, no item we produce is better than God. Even the good things: a great marriage, a wonderful family, a job that inspires us and others. Nope; add it all up, and it's still not more than or greater than God.

Having spent most of the past year and a half getting my skin ripped off allows me a bit of knowledge of the process. It hurts. I don't always understand. There are moments of "Why, God?? Why?!" There are dark nights that lead to ... well, darker ones.

There are wounds only God can heal - the woundedness of dragon skin, the vanity of thinking what we are and have and do is better than, more than God Almighty.

Mr. Vischer knows all this now too. And he came to the conclusion by NOT DOING ANYTHING. Well, not doing anything except (and this is a big "except"): spending time in prayer.  Then, and only then, did he see that all of his success and dreams were really just dragon skin.

And so it is for me.

Dear God, this dragon skin is horrid. I know it is not meant for me. I'm sorry that I mistook it for Your plan. I'll just wait right here with You until You reveal what is next for me. Amen.

Don't open that door!



Growing up, my older sister had a "Mystery Date" game. I have no recollection of how it was played, only that, at the end of the game, you had to open the door to reveal your date. You wanted to get one of the handsome guys, dressed for a day at the beach or a formal dance. You lost if you got the "dud."

My other memory of this is that my sister rarely let me play the game, as I was "too young." This meant I had to sneak into her room and play by myself. I guess that was better than nothing. (By the way, I'm sorry,  Michele,  for trespassing.)

Dear Husband and I visited some friends from college a few weeks back. We were discussing all of the traumas I/we have had to deal with over the past year and a half, including losing our house. In many ways, it's been a blessing to have the apartment we found, and being relieved of the burden of too much stuff.

I didn't realize until I was speaking the words out loud, but I really did not like our old house. Too me, it represented so much stress, so many burdens, and unfortunately, far too many really bad memories. I used to come home at the end of the day, and as I got closer to home, I would get more tense. Opening the door and entering, I never knew what would greet me: another cracked window, something being stolen, a fight .... It was awful.

No one should feel dread when they are coming home.

Moving to our apartment has relieved that particular stress. There are only good memories here, and we fully intend to make more. Opening the door now means, I'm home. Kick off your shoes. Check the veggies and peppers on the deck. Gather around the table for a great meal and a bottle of wine.

About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundation of the jail shook; all the door flew open, and the chains of all were shook loose. Acts 16:25-26

For so many years, my foundation has been shaky. Our home shifted this way and that, with every new crisis. Now, I have the doors and windows open to the sun and the wind. Our home is open and welcoming, and my chains are loosed. The Holy Spirit has room to move here. I no longer fear an open door, losing the game by getting the "dud," or facing down an angry teen.

No, here we praise God, for He has opened the doors that cut us off from peace and He has set us free.

Looking through the wounds of Christ

Hands of Proof - artist Hyatt Moore
I enjoyed lunch with a friend yesterday. I've known her and her husband for some years, and they are both delightful people. However, we rarely see each other, as he is busy with his ministry and teaching, and they live quite a distance. However, they are in Grand Rapids this week, and she reached out to me: Would you like to have lunch? And I did!

In the course of conversation, we spoke of our children - who are all adults now, but our children, nonetheless. My children have had many challenges, and she shared that their youngest was also an addict. They tried all the things you're "supposed" to do, but eventually just had to tell him to leave the house. He chose a treatment facility, and since then has lived what his mother calls a "vagabond life." They occasionally get a phone call, a text, and email. That's it.

Is he clean? They don't know. Is he where he says he is? Shrug.

Then she said a remarkable thing: "I learned that I have to look at him through the wounds of Christ." She held up her hand, indicating the nail hole, and said, "I just have to look at him through this wound."

Well, yes.

We have so many hurts and burdens we carry. We think we have so much to do in order to make the situation right and whole. We scurry and pray, jump on the internet to seek out words of wisdom and the best treatment money can buy, but - in the end - we really don't have a job to do. We've prayed, we've given it to God. And God doesn't need our help.

But as mothers, we so, so want to make things right. We fret over every word said, over years of friction. What did I do wrong? I should have done this or that.

But it is in God's hands now. He doesn't need our help.

What we can do is to look at these hurts and burdens, these people we love, these old hurts through the wounds of Christ. Those wounds make all things whole. Those wounds hold all our wounds lovingly, carefully.  Upon seeing with and through these wounds, we can glimpse how God sees us: with great love, with great compassion, with great understanding.

Catholics have a long-held devotion to the wounds of Christ, with many prayers associated with this:

Holy wound of the right hand of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for Thy graces lavished on me with such love, in spite of all my most perverse obstinacy. I offer to the Eternal Father all the pain and love of Thy most holy humanity; and I pray Thee to change my heart and its affections, and make me do all my actions in accordance with the will of God.
When we are tempted to fret, to mull and worry, to cry out - we must stop. We must look at this situation through the wounds of Christ, and let Him do the work allotted to Him. We have done our work; it is now in His hands - His wounded, tender, most capable hands.

Be Brave

A few years ago, it came to my attention that a young family member was struggling with anxiety and depression. I was able to share with her a bit of my own struggles, and let her know she wasn't alone.

Bravery - artist Arzu Yontar
A few weeks after our talk, I saw the movie, "Brave." It struck me that the young protagonist, Merida, modeled a great quality. She was indeed brave.

Being brave is not about recklessness. It is not about confidence. It's not about being foolish, or looking for glory in the eyes of others.

Bravery is about doing what is right, even when you are a quivering mess. It's about knowing that things may not turn out the way you expected, but forging ahead anyway. Being brave is standing by the hospital bed while a loved one is dying, and all you really want to do is turn back time. Bravery is standing up to a bully, when your legs are screaming for you to run. Brave is doing what needs to be done even when you're scared and tired and feeling helpless and hopeless.

I sent that young family member a piece of jewelry with the word "brave" engraved on it, to remind her that she was brave.

I'm not feeling too brave right now. My last two jobs were ones I LOVED. I loved the work, the people, the feeling of doing something with meaning. And in both cases, my bosses encouraged me, stood behind me, challenged me, and assured me that I was doing a great job, and that I played an important role in the organization.

Until both of them told me I was no longer of value to the organization. Pack up your stuff and go home.

Just before I was let go from my last job, I passed a plaque on the wall in the office. It designated employees who'd worked there for 10, 15, 20+ years. I thought, "My name is going to be up there one day. I cannot imagine working anywhere else." And within a day or two, I had to scoop up all my personal belongings and haul my butt out of there.

I'm struggling right now with the idea of going into an interview with confidence. I still have no idea what happened in both of these cases - why I lost whatever my bosses had valued in me. How do I know it won't happen with the next job? How can I possibly trust another boss, make friends with co-workers, speak up, when I know there is a very good chance a day will come when I'll be called into the office and told: "You don't have a place here anymore."?

I'm trying to be brave. I'm trying to keep my chin up. I feel like a baseball player whose gotten hit with too many pitches though, and he is skittish about standing in that batter's box. I'm sitting in the dugout, trying not to throw up, because I know my at bat is almost here.

Brave. Be brave.

I am acutely aware that brave women run in my family. For now, though, it's enough to know that I've been brave before and I'll be brave again.

Old men with a lot of money say selling children for sex is fun and profitable!

Carl Ferrer, CEO of Backpage. He was arrested in the fall of
2016 on pimping charges. He was not successfully prosecuted.
He now resides in Amsterdam, where prostitution is legal,
which I'm sure makes him feel right at home. 
I realize the title of this post is quite blunt. Trust me, it's much nicer than the ads you'll find online on Craigslist and Backpage. There, you can order up your choice: a 15 year old virgin? Sure! Want to spend some time with a 12 year old dressed in lingerie? No problem.

I know it seems incredible, and the thought of such a thing makes most of us want to turn away. Disgust. Horror. How can this be?

Please watch the movie, "I Am Jane Doe." You'll get a front row seat to the battle that is raging in our courts and on our computers. You'll hear from victims, parents of victims and attorneys fighting to make sure we are not a nation that tolerates the sale of children for the sexual proclivities of adults. You'll even hear from a former pimp who helps law enforcement by educating them about pimps. (I'm sure this man cut a deal with some court. He made my blood run cold.)

Who will you NOT hear from? The old white guys who live in big houses, who may never even touch a computer. But they might as well be printing their own money: they are the owners of these websites.

I am not Jane Doe. I am her mother. I can't believe that 5 years after we got our daughter back (and that was truly by the grace of God!) that we are still having this conversation. Why are we even ENTERTAINING the idea that this is ok?

Watch the documentary. Pray for our children. Call your Senator and Congressperson.

Just hangin' out

It Is Oh So Still - artist Fredrik Ahlstedt
I'm trying to remember when I had time to work. Honestly, I've been so busy!

Dear Husband and I spent the weekend Chicago-way to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend. She's a foodie, and we got to experience this incredible restaurant. (I had a goat cheese tart I refused to share.) We spent most of the weekend just hangin' out. And that was just fine.

I really have been busy. Dark-haired daughter just got a job, and we are navigating the early days. I've been chauffeur. And that is just fine.

The State of Michigan has wanted some of my time, re' unemployment. Actually, that was just fine: the lady that helped me today was very pleasant and helpful. Not what one expects from a government employee...

I'm helping a friend promote his book, Broken Mary, and his website. He is actually a former DJ, who was on a local rock station for many years; Dear Husband and I were big fans. Now, he's moved on (not necessarily willingly!) to a different role: helping to spread the word about Fatima and praying the Rosary. This is fine, fine, fine....

Spending the weekend with my hubby and friends helped clarify a few things for me. First and foremost: I have time. Just relax. Take time to be still. Pray. Enjoy.

Despite the fact that I truly have been busy all day, I took 40 minutes to sit on my deck and listen to music. Just hangin' out. Fine, fine, fine.

I'm just hangin' out.

My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation. Ps. 62:2

Time is getting short


''I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear: I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go. 

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever. 

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.'' ~ BrenĂ© Brown

Trauma Mama

Dismantling Wall in Order to Heal - artist Somerson
Dear Husband and I both enjoy certain medical shows, such as "ER" and "Code Black." ("St. Elsewhere" was another fave!) These shows revolve around trauma: humans who'd been ambushed by life: a car accident, a fire, and abuse, as examples.

More often than not, these shows also highlight the trauma the doctors and nurses needed to deal with. Having a patient die is always offensive to a doctor: they are charged with saving lives and losing one is the ultimate failure. Nurses spend more time with patients, and can forge strong bonds with people that may be in their lives for just a few days.

But trauma doesn't always look like a bloody body being wheeled into an emergency room, or a house surrounded by fire trucks and police cars. Trauma comes in many forms.

According to one website, trauma can look like surgery. It can look like moving. Trauma can be losing a beloved spouse or more horrifying, a child. Trauma can also be chronic pain, loneliness, mental illness. Trauma can be caring for a loved one who is dying.

We don't get wheeled into the ER because we are moving. No one suggests a doctor visit for loneliness. When you kid gets put in jail for stealing a car, there is no EMT waiting to care for the parents of that kid.

Over the past 18 months, I've had a lot of stuff to deal with. I've lost 2 jobs, we moved (not entirely by choice), we are involved in 2 lawsuits, I learned I had inoperable cysts on my spine that may eventually erode some of the bone. Our family dynamic has changed with one daughter now living 1000 miles away.

Over the past 10 days or so, I've been praying about and reflecting on all this. I don't have a job right now; I wasn't quite as valuable to that company as I was lead to believe. Thus, I've got a lot of time to do some soul-searching.

Trauma has been a big part of our family life. Our kids started life with cocaine in their systems. It's affected all of them differently, but no one could possibly say that it didn't harm them.

Adoption can be traumatic. There are a lot of questions that don't always get answered.

For some reason, 8th grade was traumatic for all our kids. It's like the social pressure, the hormones and their already slightly-addled brains just imploded. And sometimes, the kids exploded. We lived in a house with holes in the walls, cabinet doors smashed, carpeting ruined from having toilet cleaner dumped on it. For me, coming home was never a welcome homecoming. No, I had to steel myself to walk in that door every evening after work, hoping that no thing was destroyed and no one was hurt.

Despite just having lost a job I truly loved, I am beginning to see the great blessing I've been given. I have a lot of trauma I need to deal with. I'm one of those people you want around when there is an emergency - I go into Wonder Woman mode and get stuff done! Now! Won't take no for an answer!

And then, when the issue has been attended to, I thank God and then wait for the next emergency. And there always was one. It got to be that I lived in a heightened state of anticipation and anxiety, knowing that the next crisis would be coming anytime.

Now, I have a quiet home that truly is a refuge. I have time to think and pray and write. I have time to process things that I've stuffed down very deep, because if I didn't do that, I could never handle the next crisis.

Just this week, I've been shown in so many ways (Thank you, God!) that now is meant to be a time of rest and stillness. It is to be a time of contemplation and wonder. It will be a time for me to dig out from all the trauma and hurt and sorrow and pain that I've given free rein to my brain and heart. Now is a time to heal.

Let's be kind out there, in this harsh world we live in. That horribly slow man in front of you at the check out? He's been sleeping with his wife every night in the hospital as she battles cancer. That noisy, rude kid next door? He has no adults in his life who truly care for him. That woman in the office who always has a smile on her face and candy on her desk? She is ready to break into a million pieces because her husband has informed her that he is leaving her for another woman.

It's taken a long time for me to see that I have been a Trauma Mama for a long time. All this trauma needs an outlet, to be lanced and drained, no longer allowed to fester.

As much as I hated losing my job, I now have time to garden a bit, to write more, to see friends I haven't seen in years, and to be free of a schedule. This Trauma Mama is going to take the time necessary to retreat a bit spending time in the company of Almighy God, our Blessed Mother,  and some saintly friends. I'll be taking the advice of St. Francis de Sales: Be patient in all things, but most of all with yourself.


Deep calls to deep  
in the roar of your torrents, 
and all your waves and breakers sweep over me. 
By day the Lord sends his mercy and 
by night may his righteousness be with me! (Ps. 42:8-9)

Always Faithful

We went to Mass last night, and had an older priest. In his homily, he exhorted us to "semper paratus:" Be prepared. The Gospel,...