Monday, July 7, 2014

Dealing hope...

I am so inspired by this man's story of struggle and redemption.  Take a few minutes to read it and be encouraged by the promise of renewal.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The words written on the palm of my son's hand...

Another day chock full of regrets and wishing I could take those words that flew out of my mouth so freely and shove them back down my throat.
Having a kid that has special needs is so hard sometimes.  And I know that others have it so much harder than I do.
But the way that he responds when he is hurting is the very thing that fills me up with this anger that bubbles and spits until the fire is rampant and I can't put it out.
He left and I held my head in my hands and cried.
I picked him up at lunch time to tell him that, although he didn't have the right to speak to me that way, mom is an adult and has a responsibility to act like one.
He holds up his hand and shows me the inside of his palm where the words, "I feel sick," are written in sweaty, smudgy ink.  He looks at me with pools of water teetering in his eyes.  One blink and it will all come pouring down like a building being completely demolished in one fell swoop.
I take his hand and I turn it over in mine.  Those uncalloused hands that I admired the day he was born.  The valleys that have been forged between now and then...
On his ring finger, the word, "yes" is written.  On his index finger, the word, "no," and on his pinkie, "I don't know."
"I didn't feel like talking today, so I wrote words on my hands," he says looking down at his untied tennis shoes.
"That's a pretty creative way to avoid talking," I say.  "And good," I tease, "that you didn't write anything on your middle finger, or people might think you were flipping them off."  
He smiles wryly.  I take him by his shoulders, square him up to my face and look him in the eyes.
"Nobody has a right to yell at you.  Ever.  I'm sorry."
He tells me he forgives me.  We hug and get smoothies and french fries and talk about Indiana Jones and video games.
Yes.  We are that dysfunctional.  Saying hurtful words, crying, offering grace and asking forgiveness.
We are all of those things and I am painfully aware of the gamete of human emotions a single person can feel within the span of a single day.
The heart is always learning and re-learning and it is a very tiring sort of thing.
But I lay my head down tonight...forgiven, broken, a vessel being filled up with so much that I crack daily.
And tomorrow, we'll do it all over again.  Today, I hope we've learned to do it with less carelessness and greater grace.  
The beautiful is inextricably bound up in all of those gaping wounds.  I teach grace out of my own brokenness and redemption through my own failings.  
And that thing about beauty for ashes rings heavily in my chest and in my mind.  It's what I cling to.  What I hope for.  What I hold on to with white-knuckled hands so that the ugly doesn't get the prize that I am fighting so damn hard for.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I never said I wasn't a hypocrite

For all of those who say they don't want anything to do with church or religious people because they are all hypocrites, it is true. 

How could it not be?  The church is a group of human beings, presumably striving for holiness.  A people hopelessly flawed and forever struggling against sin.  Of course, every single person who claims to believe in Jesus Christ commits a multitude of transgressions--it is who we are.  An imperfect people forever engaged in the daily struggle of becoming perfect.  Or how about just becoming better? 

So, when a friend texted me last week and said that there were a few openings for a two-day retreat put on by the Dominican Sisters, I hesitated.  

We go to church every week, our kids go to a Christian school and we say our prayers before dinner and bed.  I have always struggled, however, with my faith. 

I can remember asking my mom at ten years old, "What if I don't believe?" 

When I decided to convert to the Catholic faith, it wasn't because I was absolutely convinced that it was all true.  Rather, I felt that I was being called to have faith--to trust.  In John, chapter 6, Jesus asks the twelve apostles, "Do you want to leave too?"  And Simon Peter answers, "To whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life."  I heard Scott Hahn, a Catholic theologian speak on this scripture.  He said, Simon Peter didn't know any more than any one else, but he chose to put his faith in Jesus.

And that is where I find myself very often.  Putting one doubting foot in front of the other.  Making one decision of faith at a time...struggling always.

What I found at the retreat were so many beautiful women.  It was not what some might imagine.  Perhaps you might think that the people attending a retreat like that have it all together.  That they are holy and shake their heads at those who are not.  But it was nothing of the sort.  As the priest spoke compassionately about the struggle with sin, I watched women cry.  I watched heavy tears fall.  I witnessed women filled with humility and a desire to better themselves.  I saw that we are all trying so hard and often failing miserably.  And that is okay.  It is good to be vulnerable.  And it is good to receive God's grace.

The priest told a story of going to confession with a friend of his.  Afterward, his friend shared what the priest said to him, "My friend, I feel you have let me in to the parlor of your heart.  What is in the back closet?  The locked box?"  We all have those things and often keep them hidden very well.  But how freeing would it be to take off the mask and allow others to see us as we are?

And if they call us hypocrites, we will say, "Absolutely.  Would you expect anything less?"  I live a life that professes God through my actions and my words.  I also stumble, sin and endlessly contradict myself.  The woman that I am is in constant conflict with the woman that I desire to be. 

The story goes that St. Thomas' sister asked of him, "How do you become a saint?"
And he replied, "By willing it." 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fantastic Quote Friday

My children have the first stanza of this poem memorized because I say it so often and have often written it on our white board at home.  It is as much a reminder for me as it is for them.  These are beautiful words to live by.
Live fully and deliberately, my friends!

“Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.” 

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Collected Poems and Translations

What is your favorite quote about beginning anew? 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ralphie's Great Big List of Fun Things To Make Mommy Crazy!!

There are so many nights that, as I reflect on the day, I wonder what in the heck I accomplished!  The house looks like someone broke in and ransacked the place (but unfortunately decided not to take anything).  Why can't there be a toy thief, anyway??  They could come in to the house while everyone was away and fill up their giant bag like the Grinch who stole Christmas!  When everyone arrived home, the house would be amazingly uncluttered and the parents would secretly rejoice that the Toy Thief had come!  

Back to my point (sorry, stream of consciousness gets me every time).

 Laundry is endlessly piling up.  I may or may not have showered (I have finally gotten the knack down for speed-showering while Ralphie is strapped in to his high chair eating lunch, which I think my family is grateful for).

So today, I cataloged all of the wonderfully devious things my Ralphie did that kept me racing around like a lunatic.  And I realize, I did do something.  I (barely) kept my sanity, for which I give thanks.

1. Threw handfuls of red grapes from his high chair while squealing with delight.  And I chased after the grapes before the other children could smash them in to the floor. 

2. After I cleaned the boys' room, Ralphie hurriedly emptied out all of the pants and shorts from Dynamite's dresser drawer.

3. Hid my frothing pitcher used for my cappuccinos. (Did I mention that I had run out of milk and NEEDED to have a cappuccino, and that I strapped the kids in the car to go to the store and returned home with said milk??  And did I mention that I got out the frothing pitcher to fill it up and the phone rang and when I turned back around it was gone???  I NEEDED that precious nectar of the gods BAD).  And so, I made an iced cappuccino instead.  I still don't know where my frothing pitcher is.

4. When I turned around to answer the phone (see #3), Ralphie grabbed all of the napkins out of the napkin holder and scattered them all over the floor like he was throwing confetti at a birthday party.  Oh, you could see he thought it was absolutely delightful!  Meanwhile, I still couldn't find my friggin' frothing pitcher!!  (I was a little upset, as you can see).

5. Grabbed out all of the "B" index cards from my address box, which I had to put back in and re-alphabetize. (If you normally get a Christmas or birthday card from me, but don't this year, it's likely because your last name starts with "B" and was lost in all of the hullabaloo).  

6. Pushed a stool over to the sink and methodically began putting all of the clean dishes in to the same side as the dirty dishes (again).  I am one of the few remaining people on the planet who don't have a dish washer (slight exaggeration) and I can barely keep up with my dishes as it is, so I really don't need some little squirt to climb up to my sink and confusing me with what's clean and what's not.  (Honey, if you get a bowl out for cereal and there's something crusty inside of it, I'm not taking the blame).

7. While "helping" his sister with her lemonade/bake sale, Ralphie joyfully poured lemonade all over his shorts and down his legs.  Because, on a scale of wetness from 1-10, he was only about a 5, I let him continue playing.  

8. Ate a bag of bacon bits.

9. Squeezed an entire bottle of baby shampoo in to the bathtub while older brother was "overseeing" his bath time.  When asked why he let his little brother squeeze all of the shampoo in to the tub, he responded rather obviously with, "Because he wanted to."  Of course!

10.  Emptied my Christmas photo album out all over the floor.  When I had only two children, I would take all of the beautiful Christmas cards, photos and letters and organize them in to an album.  It was nothing fancy, but I just couldn't get rid of that memorabilia.  My kids love pulling out those albums and looking at them and cousin so-and-so and how little he was only a few years ago!  Well, one of the albums was left on a dresser today...a dresser that was a little too close to Ralphie's crib during nap time.  When I walked in to get him, there were pictures, cards and letters strewn everywhere.  Thankfully, none of them were ruined and it was only a matter of putting them back in.  I did snap at the children, however, for leaving anything relatively close to Ralphie's crib and then realized how silly that was since we can't leave anything anywhere!  I had to say I was sorry (again) for losing my temper.

So, while the things I did today cannot be checked off of a list, I was busy.  And for whatever reason, it feels validating to write it all down.  
What did you do today (that makes you feel like you did nothing and everything all at once)?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Gift of Tears

I wanted a sign.  I know it was a lot to ask and that it is "an evil and unfaithful generation who ask for a sign."  (Matthew 12:39).  

And I'm okay with that.  

I'm not above saying that I have days when I struggle.  These last few days have been hard.
Cindy-Lou Who fractured her wrist.  

The kids were all in drive-mommy-to-the-funny-farm mode; I don't know how they coordinate schedules like that!  (When I told Dynamite that he was going to drive mommy straight to Crazyland, he said he didn't want to go to Crazyland; he wanted to go to SKATELAND)!!

I was placed on prednisone for allergies and literally did. not. sleep. for two days.  (My kitchen counters have never been whiter)!

My grandma was placed in hospice care.
I was tired.  God, have I been tired.

As I walked in to the hospital last night, I prayed in my head, "Lord, please, let me know you're here.  That you're a part of all of this.  That you are real..."  

Because I struggle.  Like, a lot.  I question everything.  A friend of mine once told me, "That's how you answer questions--with another question."  

I am doubting Thomas who asks Jesus to show him the nail wounds in His hands.  

I am Israel who keeps forgetting how much God loves them and continues to fall in to their old sinful ways. 

I've stopped feeling entirely bad about it.  We were made to wonder.  

I figure that if it's God who made me this way, then it's really not even my fault. ;-)  (You see what He has to work with here).

So, I asked.  

When I walked in to my grandma's room, my dad's wife showed me a picture of the rainbow that arched over the hospital as she was parking the car.  A sign.

But it wasn't a sign for me.  That was her sign.

I wanted to get my grandma a rosary to hold since that seemed to offer so much comfort to her.  As I wandered in to the bathroom, I thought, "What if there's a rosary hanging in the bathroom?"  (Yes, I'm a weirdo at times...most the time, actually).

But there wasn't one.  Only toilet paper.

I walked to my car to get a rosary and walked back up to my grandma's room.  I opened up her swollen fingers and placed the beads in her hand.  "Here, grandma," I said.  "Here's a rosary."  I prayed that the familiar feeling of the beads in her hand would help her rest.

As I got ready to leave, I laid my head on her chest.  And I cried.  

I have a hard time crying.  It's probably due to growing up in a fairly dysfunctional family (what family isn't?).  Being an only child, I often felt that I had to hold things together.  That if I cried or felt sad, everything would fall apart.  That feeling has followed me in to my adulthood.  

There have been so many times I have willed myself to cry, desired the flood of emotions to take over, known that the situation called for tears, but they wouldn't come.  Apparently, my brain had trained my tear ducts not to render tears. 

But last night, I sobbed on my grandma's chest.  I cried like a 5-year old girl.  My tears fogged up  my glasses and my nose ran.  This carefully-constructed shield that had been placed over my heart for so long was seemingly lifted off of me.  My heart was exposed.

And I savored my humanness for a moment.  Clung to feeling sad, because it was exactly what I felt.  "Good and honest sorrow." (Isaias Powers) 

 It is a beautiful thing to find that you are still capable of feeling pain.  

And that was it.  My sign.
A gift of tears.  

My dad's wife got a rainbow and I got the rain.  

I couldn't have been more grateful.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Guarding the Stone

Time.  It's all we have and yet never have enough.

We rush trying to pack in a million things and are blinded to the holiness that surrounds us.  

The wonders of the everyday.  The divine conversations we take part in day after day--all heavenly.

There's a pin ball machine banging in the background.  A baby playing.  And the holy rosary being prayed both on the television and in my head.

I stop.  Slow.  Listen.  I breathe in holiness and deliberate how to seal it in--like the stone rolled in front of the tomb.  

And yet like the body of Jesus disappearing, the peace inevitably finds a way to escape.  The one guarding the stone falls asleep at least twenty times a day.

A type of sleep apnea of the soul, I presume.

Racked sleep and cessation of breathing in holiness.

Today, I fight to stay awake.  To keep watch over the stone.  To seal in those things that are good and Spirit-filled.

Things that are divine, barely spoken, beautiful.  

I hide them in my heart and stand guard.