Category Archives: God's Abundance

Aside

The other day while heading back from church, my son asked me, “Mom, why is it so easy for us to follow the law but so hard for us to follow God’s Law?”  As usual, he had stumped me.  I … Continue reading

The Accidental Spiritual Tourist

Recently, on a trip to Asheville, I was accosted by a woman who wanted me to purchase her books on Yoga. Wait – that’s not entirely accurate. She insisted I take one for a small donation. I truly had no cash, explained I was a tourist and that I was on my way to lunch. “Oh! I’m a tourist, too – a spiritual tourist!” she chirped. A spiritual tourist. Yeah, okay. Moving right along.

Much to my chagrin, over this past weekend, her words rang back to me and I discovered that I, too, am a spiritual tourist. “Let me ‘splain…no, no time to ‘splain: let me sum up.”

I woke this morning feeling sentimental about my old house in Ossining, NY, and  heavy-hearted, missing my mother. I have not seen my mother in over 39 years, so when I miss her, it usually means something big is playing out in my life or is about to play out in my life. The awakening was preceded by detailed dreams about visiting colleges with my daughter, Clarke. These dreams may have been triggered by a recent visit to Oxford England where many families were touring the University during “open days” as I was visiting as a tourist. (That is, an actual tourist, not a spiritual one.) Or it could be that I am dreaming about visiting colleges as it is Clarke’s junior year in high school and some time during the spring, we are going to have to do just that.

No matter what the trigger, when I opened my eyes this morning, I went first to check on Clarke because she had been complaining of an ear ache last night.  I gingerly touched her forehead with my hand, and tried not to wake her. I’m not exactly sure why I thought I would not wake her, because she has always startled if touched when asleep. She did in fact startle and let me know her ear kept her up a good bit during the night.  She weakly requested to visit a doctor, so I got dressed immediately.

We piled silently into the car and started for the Urgent Care.  On the way there, she put on some of her music, which I usually abide because it lets me into her teenage life just a little.  That’s when the Magical Mystery Tour rolled up to the first stop.

I found myself standing as a teenager in Montaldo’s Boutique in Greensboro, NC with my sister, shopping for her wedding dress.   All during the day my ear was increasingly more annoying and I therefore kept bothering it back.  By the time evening fell, I was in some pain.  I downstairs and interrupted the 11:00 evening news to tell my dad I needed to go to the emergency room.  It had become impertive that I get the invisible ice pick that was persistently jabbing my right ear drum removed at once.

If my daughter’s pain was a fraction of what I recalled from that night, she was surely suffering.  Her silence told me all I needed to know and my heart crumbled.  A few empathetic tears snuck down my cheeks, but before I could truly enjoy this sentimental stop, the tour bus careened around a corner screeching to a halt at the doorstep of my Ossining home.

At this stop, I recalled a time when my next oldest sibling had gone off to kindergarten. I was finally going to have my mom all to myself while my three brothers and sisters went to school.  These were supposed to be happy days for me, but they turned into seeds of anxiety.  Most days, once I was fed, Mom let me watch TV while she disappeared somewhere upstairs in our split level home.  I watched myself as a 4 year old girl, wandering around the upstairs looking for my mother. I called and called for her and she did not answer.  When she eventually re-appeared at the top of the stairs, I was dissolved in tears.  That brief time of feeling lost in my own home left me scared and much in need of her presence and comfort.

BANG!  The Spiritual Tour was nearing a close as I arrived at my final destination:  Gratitude.

During those days of needing hugs, kisses, comfort or the actual presence of my mother, I was building the deep desire to be available to my family.  Now, every time I offer them something as simple as an aspirin or quiet company when they are down, it is both a gift to them and a gift to me.  I am grateful to be here and to be a constant source of love for them.

Next on the tour:  Baggage Claim!

Changes big and small

Lent is here, and so far it’s been a season of changes big and small for me.  If you know me or if you’ve ever read anything I’ve ever written, there are likely hints here and there that I am Catholic.  Very Catholic.  And Lent is a huge opportunity for all kinds of growth for me – more so than the typical New Year’s resolution because I will be more consistent and persistent in doing something for someone I love rather than for myself.  And God is someone I love.

Most people associate Lent with a time to “give something up.”  In years past, I have given up fried foods, chocolate, and the internet.  While these were excellent exercises in self-discipline, when the 40 days were up, I took back every bad habit with gusto.  So where did it get me?  I don’t honestly know and that’s the problem.

What is often overlooked during Lent is the opportunity to grow closer to God by taking on some new good habits.  There’s nothing wrong with throwing out the old ones, but if no real change is accomplished, I can’t really see the point.   What our faith is trying to teach us is self-discipline as a way toward Discipleship and service to others.

With that in mind, this year, I am still eating sweets, drinking coffee and surfing the web.  However, what I’ve decided to is to fast and pray as my church has asked me; not just for purposes of my own spiritual growth, but especially for the trials suffered in the world such as school shootings, starvation, and natural disasters.  Fasting is not something I normally do (because I really love food and I’m generally self-concerned).  But over the past few years, something changed in me.  I’ve been sincerely touched by the people in my life who have witnessed to me by word and action; who are constantly giving to others, thinking of others, praying for others.  It is clear God has surrounded me with such people to teach me to grow closer to Him.

I’ve also decided to meditate on the book of Sirach.  Sirach is like the book of Proverbs on steroids.  Reading this spiritual guidance has been like getting smacked in the face with the dodgeball every night.  I’m seeing stars — and loving it!  It’s just what I needed and God brought me to it very deliberately.

Although Fat Tuesday is long past, it’s never too late to begin a good habit.  If you haven’t decided what you are going to (or if you are going to) give up for Lent, I invite you to give up the futile practices that don’t make you a stronger and better witness to your own beliefs.  Take up a meaningful new way of life whether it be something as big as organizing a fundraiser for a charity or as small as passing up a meal and being mindful of those who go without because they have no choice.

If these were academy awards I would now be boring you with a list of thank you’s to people you don’t know.  But it’s my blog and I’m going to thrill you with a list of thank you’s to some people you may just know (and there’s no orchestra to cut me off!)

Thank you:  SISTER LAURA, BROTHER(FATHER) WILL, BROTHER GRAHAM, SISTER ELIZABETH, MOTHER CAROL, UNCLE (DEACON) STEVE, EILEEN, MAMA SHIRLEY, CHARI, SUZETTE, TERESA, ROSEMARY, VALERIE (AND MY MANY OTHER CRHP SISTERS), LOREE, ANNE, CHERYL, KRISSY (AKA POSH SPICE) AND MICHAEL (AKA BECKS), FATHER RICHARD BELLOW, FATHER BILL PHARR (RIP), MARJORIE, ANN K., LINDA B., BILL L., “MY JENNAY”,  and of course my very patient and forbearing spouse, FRANK!

I know I’ve left a ton of people off my list and I beg your forgiveness…your 5 minutes of blog fame is sure to make its way to the light of day.  Many blessings and a fruitful and productive lent to you all.

 

Adventures in Driving

Like most Catholics, I am a firm believer in the help I receive from Guardian Angels. Tonight, as my daughter and I set out on an errand, I prayed that Jesus would cover us in His protection…forgetting all about poor Flossie, my Guardian and friend for Life. Luckily for me, Flossie shows patience with me.  Otherwise, I’d have been dropped from the protection roster long ago.

Anyway, on our merry way home, Clarke had to change lanes in order to make her turn. There was a short span of available lane for her to use and she dutifully checked her blind spot, as did I.  Neither of us saw the *insert your favorite insult here* coming from behind her to pass her, and as she was half way into the lane change, this (ahem) individual came careening up on her right side, blowing the horn and maintaining position with a roaring engine.

To say I “squeaked a bit” might be an understatement, but rest assured the squeak was in stereo. Clarke pulled back out of the lane allowing the (ahem…) individual free rein to speed by us and jet forward another hundred yards, so that he or she might get to wait at the red light just a little sooner than would have been possible had they applied their brakes.

Once our hearts were out of our mouths and we could speak through the panting, I told her I pray a blessing over people like that. “Heck, it’s only traffic,” I said, “Grow up, chill out and move on…ya know?” “Yeah,” she breathed, still stunned from the experience. “So, it’s a good thing our Guardian Angels were looking out for us, huh?” she asked. Then she said she didn’t know the name of her Guardian Angel or whether she had a girl or a boy protector.

“Flossie!” I said. “Mine is named Flossie!”

“How do you know that?” She said. “I heard you’re supposed to pray to them and ask them to tell you their name,” she stated, matter-of-factly.

“Well, I did that,” I replied. “I did that and my angel said ‘Flossie.’ I heard it in my head.” Then I began to laugh. I began to laugh really hard.

Clarke glanced at me as if she thought she might have to keep driving to the funny farm and drop me off.  You see, I had been imagining meeting Flossie. What if our little incident had turned out for the worst and I came face to face with my very own Guardian Angel? In my mind’s eye, Flossie was standing by the side of the road, arms crossed wearing a disgusted look. Head shaking side to side, Flossie, who closely resembled Mean Joe Greene, growled at me, “Flossie! FLOSSIE?!” That wasn’t me talking in your head — that was that jive-ass Gabriel messing with me again! Pleased to make your acquaintance, Claire…the name’s Crusher. Now, c’mon and I’ll take you to God…

…she’s got a thing or two to talk to you about!”

For better or not so better

We recently went on a weekend camping trip.  It is the same camping trip that has been organized by a group of friends from our high school since 1983.  It’s called Summer Soltesz after the originator, Steve Soltesz who unfortunately passed away 2 years ago.

The weekend was very much the same as in years past, but also different in so many ways.  First, many of the attendees are parents, so the original party weekend in the woods now involves a pavilion where our children perform, drinking games are replaced by beading and crafts, and most everyone is asleep pretty early.  It’s come to be a truly great family weekend.  That’s not to say that there aren’t still drinking games, but they happen after the tents are filled with mouth breathing little ones passed out from a day on the lake.

One of the major changes wrought on this event is the shifting status of families. Whereas in past years also, young couples were forming and new people were brought into the event through marriage, this year several long standing marriages were reported in jeopardy.  Given the large number of families that have come to camp each year, this should not have been a surprise, but it still was.  The reality of  (1) not seeing the usual couples together because one stayed away as a result of the separation, or (2) seeing two people who literally have a hundred mutual friends sitting frostily at separate camps, was unsettling. I was sad for all of us.

At the end of this strange, and yet still wonderful weekend, there was much to   absorb.  Frank and I worked silently together to strike camp beginning shortly after we got up until close to lunch hour.  And as we were ready to leave, Frank had one final bit of bad news:  He had just padlocked the trailer with the truck keys inside.

It was hot.  We were tired.  It was time to go and we couldn‘t leave.  Frank asked around for a bolt cutter to get the padlock off, and actually found someone who had one to lend.  Unfortunately, it was broken in the attempt to get to the keys.

Did I mention it was hot and we were tired?  Since we had a car and dad hat the truck, the kids wanted to leave and let Daddy catch up later.  When I told them we were not leaving Daddy, they had a ton of suggestions for how he might succeed (Bad Idea).  It was lunch time and everyone was hungry, but first, we decided we would go to Walmart to buy another pair of bolt cutters…and a t-shirt.  My beloved’s shirt had been “decorated” by a bird at some point during our morning’s work.  After 20 + years together, I had learned one thing about how to deal with my husband:  when Frank is upset/hurt/angry/frustrated, my best bet is to shut up, stay calm, and be supportive.  And so we all drove to the Walmart, got his tools and tee and headed back.  The kids and I waited in the air-conditioned car as Frank went back to struggle with breaking into our trailer.

The children began prompting me with what we should tell Daddy he should do.  I whispered to them the secret:  “When daddy is frustrated and saying ‘big words’ it is best for us to be quiet and wait to be asked for  help instead of offering any help.”  That’s when my lovely son Bryce said,
“Mommy, maybe we should pray for Daddy.”
I replied, “I already have.”
Me too! he cried.
“Me too!” chuckled my daughter, Clarke.
“But, said Bryce, “I want to pray all together.”

And so we did.  And at that point, Frank go into the truck.  (Yeah, God!)

Later, as we were headed down the highway toward a late lunch, something very important became apparent to me and I shared it with the kids.
“Do you know what you witnessed today, kids?”
“No, what?” they asked.
“Marriage,” I told them.  “That is what marriage is.  When things are inconvenient and frustrating and not working right:  remember that you are in it together and support one another lovingly and quietly.”

That and the Grace of God has helped us through.
Hopefully, the kids got the message.

 

The Gift of Shared Grief

I had the privilege yesterday of attending the funeral of a man whom I had never met.  His name was Morris Kaylor and he was a member of a lovely Lutheran church in Conover, NC.  I learned from his son James, who is a dear friend of mine, that Mr. Kaylor was a man much like my own dad.   And while I did not get to meet him during this life, I have the distinct impression we will meet in the next…likely during the Palm Sunday service held by the multitudes as described in the Book of Revelations.  I imagine my deceased father and Mr Kaylor have  been introduced in the afterlife and have compared notes on their children.  It is my fervent wish that James and I can compare notes on our dads the next time we get together, as there could be much healing to be had in such discussions.

Thursday did not mark the first time I attended a service for someone I had never before met.  Mr. Kaylor’s service was the second time I have realized myself lucky enough to have friends so dear, that the death of their parent or parents moves me easily to action. For me, being with friends not just in “difficult” times but specifically in times of grief, is the best of gift I can hope to give them.

Several years ago, I went to the viewing of Katie Hurd.  Katie, I imagine, bestowed her lovely eyes and bone structure upon her daughter, Loree Charles.  It’s a pity I never got to see those eyes twinkle when I told her how much her daughter has meant to me during our friendship.  But when we were introduced, as it were, I put my warm hand over hers, prayed for her, and whispered to her just what a treasure Loree was (and still is) to me.  Mrs. Hurd likely knew that long before I told her lifeless form.  I have often said that I would walk across cut glass in my bare feet for Loree Charles, so being with her in her grief was no great hardship for me.

I’ve noticed over the last several years that the opportunity to grieve with my friends has become a gift to me.  (Yes, I’ve managed to make this about me again…amazing, aren’t I???)  It’s not that I’m seeking gifts for myself, but gifts are heaped upon me when I remember how incredibly moved I was by my friends when my dad passed away.  I was amazed at the friends who appeared at the funeral home and sent condolences, when many of them had never met Dad.  Although there were a few who physically could not be there, I knew their love and prayers were with me and it was an incomparable feeling to know that love.  They shared my grief when we were able to be together later and I’m so grateful for them.

Until I received love such as that in shared grief, I had no idea what it meant to be able to give it back.  And so it was my great honor to be included in the service for Mr. Kaylor.  Much love and blessings to you all.

Chance to heal

I have been presented recently with a spiritual and emotional challenge…actually, as a friend of mine would say, it’s an “AFGO.” (Another *@!%ing Growth Opportunity.)

A person from my past contacted me out of the blue not long ago. Yes, that lovely tool called Facebook was the impetus for the contact. Being raised to be polite, I accepted the friend request with some trepidation. There was a fair amount of curiosity about this person I have not seen in over 20 years, but there was also the age-old pang of wanting so much to be accepted. The fact that she was pursuing contact with me was a small victory.

When we were kids, we went to a small school. Andsby virtue of the fact that we were children, we behaved as such and were fickle with each other. Sometimes we were friends, and sometimes for reasons unbeknown to me, she would become angry with me and suddenly stop talking to me.  For WEEKS at a time…I would go completely berserk following her around, begging her to speak to me.

She would smile and continue silently on.

As we grew older, still trapped in the same small school, things got worse. She became better at alienating me, and one day convinced several children on the bus to cheer when I got up to leave. Humiliation and impotent rage do not begin to describe the feeling of a 4th or 5th grader being heckled by an entire bus load of children (Hmmm…been meaning to talk to my therapist about that). That’s right: I don’t have a therapist.

Now, I’m not saying that I was a perfect child or that she didn’t have reason to become irritated with me — often — but some of what I experienced stayed with me deeply. I’m now faced with a choice: do I want to use this time to try to heal or do I want to hang onto old hurts out of spite and resentment?

Those were excruciating days for me and I don’t doubt they contributed heavily to the low self esteem I struggled with for years. However, it’s been over 34 years since the bus incident and well past 25 years since she stole my first high school boyfriend then ceased to speak to me for the remainder of our time in high school. But for some reason, it still stings to think about my relationship with her. I have failed to mention that the girl was, and still is, “smokin’ hot” so I never measured up in the first place.

My choice is clear: forgive as my Lord and Savior forgives me for the heinous things I do to Him on a daily basis in thought, word and deed, or cling pathetically to the hurt I had so competently buried. Human nature says cling to hurt and try to hurt back. AFGO says, “grow up and get over it already.”

Lucky for me, it is Lent. A time for reflection and repentance. I’m likely not going to cling full out to the past, nor let it go entirely. I learned a lot of valuable things from that time in my life and it has made me a better friend, a better mother and better able to give counsel when needed. I think I’ll sit with this for a while and see how I am led.