Saturday, December 22, 2018

God's Stitchery

I've heard a few different people say it in a few different ways so, please don't think it's my genius as a wordsmith: God is making an amazing tapestry, with our lives as threads, (or whole tapestries depending on whom you ask) and often it looks "messy" underneath - we won't see the beauty until we leave this world and see it from above.

I think I agree with most of that but perhaps it would be more encouraging, as it has been for me, if we look for the "stitches" that happen in our lives. Today, for instance...

Twenty-one years ago, we buried my dad. It wasn't a welcome end to a lingering illness. It was a horrible accident, 6 days after my 29th birthday and 6 days before Christmas. It was a truly devastating tragedy. To say God allowed my life to be pierced that day in order to begin the stitch would be an appropriate analogy. Left behind was a most painful wound.

For eleven years the wound remained. The hole where my dad was ripped from us. Advent and Christmas were trials, even with our new marriage and our two young children. It would sneak up on me when I least expected it.

I would never liken myself to Our Lady in anything but, perhaps, I could join in with a friend of one of the Twelve Apostles, just following Good Friday. God is good so how can this be it? How can this be the end? Why did this happen and where are we to go from here? I can empathize with those early Christians in their waiting those long days. It can be a dark time.

I did wait, though, albeit not always patiently. I tried to continue to attend Mass and receive the Sacraments. I am so grateful for this grace because one particular reconciliation with one particular priest is why I am where I am today in my faith. He spoke about anger and questioning but also waiting and trusting and not giving up. So, even in my wretched pain and sorrow, I did not give up.

On the 11th anniversary of that day at my dad's graveside, God pulled the thread and completed the stitch. We delivered our third child, a boy, who would carry my dad's name. The thread that had first pierced me so many years before; the trust that allowed me to hang on during the dark times; the grace that allowed me to walk blindly...allowed me, with my dear husband, to see God's handiwork. His finished stitch was so much more beautiful than I could have imagined. So much more good than I could have thought would come from such tragedy.

We were speaking to a priest the other night and he was mentioning the current crisis in the Church and how it was similar to 500 years ago. Following such a desperate crisis came the Counter-Reformation and an explosion of so many great Saints, so many people who trusted and followed and lived according to God's plan for them. How sad, he said, for the people who gave up the faith, just before -  how much they gave up! So, if you're going through a dark time...if the evils of the world (in or out of the Church) weigh on you...keep walking forward, listening to God's word and plan for you and don't turn from Him, even when the dark and silence are overwhelming. Wait to see how He finishes the stitches in your life. This is going to be one incredible tapestry.

We are blessed.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

I forgot

Today is December 19. Twenty-one years ago, my dad was 1/2 mile from home and a truck driver "made a bad decision" and drove over top of his Honda. It was a nasty wreck and a nasty aftermath. It's never a nice thing to bury a parent three days before Christmas.

Looking over the blog, there have been several blog posts, like This One on the 15th anniversary. It has been a good thing to process and write about my feelings. I'm so grateful that I have this outlet.

Today, though, it wasn't until around 11 AM that it occurred to me that today was the day. Immediately after realizing I had forgotten, I also realized that I wasn't sad about it. I didn't feel guilty that I had forgotten. I had only peace. Somewhere in my mind or heart (wherever it is that God speaks) I was reassured that my dad, finally, was in Heaven, his eternal reward.

We are blessed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

On becoming 50



Tomorrow, around noontime, I will turn 1/2 century old. That's kind of a big thing to me. There were so many times in my 20s and 30s that I never imagined such a milestone. Yet, here I am on my birthday vigil, saying ciao to my 40s! What an amazing day.

I was talking to a few women after Mass on Sunday and one of them was mentioning something about the way we are expected to act in public. I asked what the age was that you could stop worrying about what society expects and just do what you feel called to? I think today it's going to be fifty.

So, dear readers, hang a while and listen to all the collective wisdom (not all, really, a few nuggets) that has resulted from my fifty years of failure and beginning again.

1. Beginning again. That's a really good place to start. We were discussing life expectancy at the dinner table the other day and dh brought up the fact that part of the drop we are experiencing is due to the rise in suicide and euthanasia. That led to a discussion of good days and bad and to the assurance to our kids that when they have these bad days...even several in a row...there will always be a good day to follow. I suffered some deep, crippling depression in my high school and college days (one of the reasons I figured I'd never get to my current age). There were days that were just so dark, I couldn't imagine a way out. My mother was so devout during that time, hanging in with me and assuring me that tomorrow would come. How blessed I was. How I pray that I can carry my children through on their dark days to see a fresh, new day.
Image result for meme every day god's mercy is new

2. Maturing. Now that I'm old, I can talk about how immature people can be ;0) Not really. Again, I did have the corner on snotty behavior for more than a decade so I can't throw too many stones. I have noticed, though, when I'm forced to sit in a room and listen to a loud, all-knowing, 20-something, I don't get angry like I used to. I don't feel like I have to crush all the stupid ideas out of her head. I just smile and think, if you don't learn it another way, humiliation goes a long way towards teaching humility. Time is the great equalizer, after all. There is a great deal of truth that wisdom comes from age. It's so easy to dismiss the older generation but they've had so many more years of successes and failure. They are have a wealth of information to be tapped if we just ask. Yes, I'm the older generation now...ask away ;0)

3. Patience. Why are we so agitated and rushed when we are young? Have you ever looked at an old person (not in traffic, that's some crazy reality-altering situation for many of them) but sitting, walking, whatever? They take their time. They are deliberate in their actions. They don't need to be first. When does this change? I don't know, I'm sure it's different for everyone. I can tell you I'm closer to "old" person than "young" in this, though. I'm not that rushed to do things anymore and, this week notwithstanding, I don't find as much trouble saying "no" as I used to. When I had a bunch of little ones, I soooo wanted them to grow up. I had them in activities, I ran them here and there. I think that was my biggest regret so far. Little kids just want to hang. That's why they are such good companions of old people. They both "get" what's important...sometimes looking at a butterfly for 10 minutes is important. Sometimes just chatting about nothing is the best thing you can do. There is nothing that makes you realize the immensity of God's creation like listening to the thoughts of a 2-, 3-, 6-year-old.

4. Dark night. In my time spent here on this earth, I've noticed that most of my annoyances still exist, just like they did in my 20's but, somehow (ahem) I'm better able to let them float away (except people who won't capitalize Mass when talking about the Holy Sacrifice...will the headline make sense when it reads, "Today, a mass shooting during mass." See the difference? rant over.) That ahem means the workings of the Holy Spirit in case you've just joined us. If you're wanting more Holy Spirit stories, wander through the blog a bit...you will find many. For now, though, it's important to state and to remember that even as you grow in your relationship with Our Heavenly Father, there will be times, sometimes long times, when He is not as evident as at other times. I think this is probably the blessing and the curse of seeing the workings of the Holy Spirit in life. Perhaps, too often, we become comfortable with those workings and don't see them as the amazing gifts they once were. Perhaps, as I tell myself, God is just really busy with someone else who really needs Him more than me at the moment (I know it's silly but it helps surprisingly often!). Perhaps, as I heard recently in confession, He just wants to know that we're committed, not just in fruitful times but also in the desert. I realized last week that we close on our new house on December 14, the feast day of St. John of the Cross.
Image result for st john of the cross quotes
Yes! This St. John of the Cross!

So much more on that later but, really, I can totally hear God laughing at us sometimes. In the most cheerful, loving, teaching Father way.

5. Marriage is a life-long journey. God gives us so many good things, marriage has to be in the top three. If you have a husband who stays with you on your witchiest day, who loves you even on the days when you couldn't be less loving, who provides for you and your children so that you can stay at home and teach them God's laws and how to apply them to life then returns home in the evening to help with those lessons...that is definitely a gift from God and you need to work really, really hard to choose love, even on the many days when your emotions aren't anywhere near that feeling. Love is a choice, not a feeling. Part of society's woes when it comes to marriage seem to stem from confusing one for the other. (I just wrote #5 for my own use but you can borrow it if needed. )

6. Sin is increasing so we must find and use the overflowing grace. Society is a crazy place these days. There are so many times I look at the news and can't believe what I'm reading. I'm guessing it's not the first time this has happened...check out Romans Chapter 5, near the end. Humanity fell and sin entered the world but through God's gift of His Son, we may be saved from this...we have to just listen, trust and follow. The sins in the Church, the frailty of humankind is on display these days. Again, not new and not even that shocking anymore (sadly) but the result has been interesting to watch. Amidst these sins are those who want ultimate judgment to happen here, in this time and place. Others want to be declared the only "true and right" followers of Christ, with all the others doing it wrong...sometimes heretically so. These are both occasions of sin for me. I've found when I'm in a group that is spouting one or the other, holding my tongue is a herculean task. Still, I've managed to do so...for the most part. When there are those clearly wandering into slanderous waters, I try to reflect enough questions to make sure they intend what they are saying. In the end, we are our brothers keeper and it will probably go more smoothly if we approach it from a place of love and not of superiority.

7. People are people and prayer is powerful.  Ultimately, we have to deal with our fellow man and sometimes (many times) it's a difficult road. Even the greatest priest/friend/coworker/teacher/etc. you've ever met has that pesky humanity and, given enough time, will reveal the frailties that they carry. It's not really fair to walk through life, with our full compliment of frailties on display, and expect mercy when we are so slow to extend that mercy to others. This is something I really need to practice more. If there is someone I really can't even meet where they are because their frailties are so incompatible with mine, I just need to pray. Pray for grace to extend mercy. Pray for patience. Pray to be silent. Pray to lovingly educate. Pray to do what God wants me to in the situation.

8. God has a network. I think the most amazing realization of my journey so far has been that, even on the most trying days (and often more so) God will plop someone in my path that is immediate witness to His love and care for me. Most of the time it's dh, who listens attentively to my rehashing of every moment of the day. Sometimes it's a person I haven't seen for a while and in catching up, I realize the important part he or she can play on my journey. Sometimes it's a near stranger who just makes a comment to which I "go into the deep" and respond with "God talk". I have to say, for the most part, the Holy Spirit has been a wonderful guide. I can't remember the last time I had a person look at me strangely and more often we both walk away from the interaction with that inside smile - realizing that God is here and He is working. Oh, and then there are those people whom I rarely see and seldom speak with but who share such a history...they can give me a bar of delightfully smelling soap made by monks and chocolate made by nuns (or vice versa) AND a whole book about drinking with Saints! Not even joking. I mean, that is friendship that is beyond anything human. It's totally, completely God-inspired and for that I am so, so grateful (sorry, friend...the package was too pretty to wait another day!) How good is our God? How far are we willing to go for Him?

9. Doing our part. The last reflection, promise. Do you hear people say, "you know, I live in the world  but I'm not of the world. Is this ever actually true? Seriously, all the people who I know that do that would never think of saying it. They wouldn't say it because they know, even in their near-saintly routine, they are still creatures of the world. It's our fallen nature and near impossible to escape. So, should we just throw up our hands, buy that giant tv, spend lots of cash on more toys we don't need, let someone else deal with the poor and lowly of the world? No, of course not. Nor should we think that we are going to become a saint in one day...or by the same road that our good and saintly friend is following. We have to educate ourselves in what it was that Jesus actually said and then listen to what He is telling us to do now. That first part is really, really important because if we hear "Him" say, "let everyone live their lives and live your own life and it's all good...do what makes you happy" it's probably not Him...if you know what I mean. In a world where a mother can talk about the love song her unborn baby sang to her just before she aborted him, you must know the devil is alive and well. Don't shy away from that or shrug it off. We have to get busy on this. The devil will not triumph but that doesn't mean we can just hang back and rely on God's mercy. As I said, each person has to answer her own call. We have been doing things a bit differently around here, I hope with God's direction, and I hope with some results for both our own spiritual growth and for people we may never see. God's network, after all, consists of every child He has created which is, well, everyone. We are in a penitential time...(Yes! It's not Lent and Yes, it's still penitential!) What better opportunity will we have to journey out into the desert to hear His call for our conversion. Who knows? My conversion may very well convert someone else. Ripple effects are wonderful.

Ok, that was longer than I expected but, really, five decades is nothing to sneeze at. I pray that my continued age will help me to draw closer to my Heavenly Father and Our Lady, to draw others closer with me, and to use all the coming trials to help people I know and people I will never meet...on this Earth, anyway.

We are blessed.

Friday, November 30, 2018

MIA

It's hard to believe it's been over two months since I've looked at this blog...time seems to be slipping away at an alarming rate these days. In my defense, there is a ridiculous amount of stuff going on around here (self-imposed mostly) so it's been hard to take a minute. I do wish this was my "job" - then I could sit and ponder for hours and not try to stuff it in last minute...there have been some amazing Gospels/Readings at daily Mass lately. Alas, with no readership, I don't suppose I would make much cash anyway so on to my real vocation.

To catch up a bit. I have no idea what happened in October so we'll just skip that.

November, being the month in which we specifically remember the souls of the faithful departed, we made some cemetery visits and some stone rubbings so that we could remember specifically those for whom we pray. The kids also made up a great calendar of one-soul-per-day that we remembered in evening prayer.



I asked the back two why they wouldn't smile, "Because, Mom, we are at a cemetery!"



 


We caught the Eastern relatives when we made our most recent trip to New Jersey. It's tough to be that far away from the graves but good that we get there when we can, which must be more often because we found them without too much trouble this time (it's a really, really huge place).
 
Our trip east was to help celebrate the birthday of dh's sweet Uncle Frank, who turned 93! It's always a good time visiting with this wonderful man but this trip was even more special. He went to fight for our country at the tender age of 17 during WWII and during this visit, he was very open about sharing his experiences with the kids. It's amazing what he went through and what was the continual theme? "We just prayed...we prayed." Faith continuing for 93 years is a beautiful thing.
 
We bought the center some new puzzles and games which they had to "try out" first ;0)

Nothing says birthday like a box of Tastykakes!


Uncle Frank is a mean Yahtzee player!

The middle of the month brought a salute to even more of our living heroes, the veterans. Our top three were honored to take part in the local school's program, performing in the color guard and table ceremony. I love Young Marines. It's an extracurricular with all the right ideas.



Young Marines aren't supposed to smile...go figure ;0)

We also finished up Little Kickers for the Fall. Again, a wonderful "sports" activity but without all the crazy travel/competition/etc. No worries, our kids are plenty competitive with one another and it doesn't take us out of the house on Sunday! Seriously, though, we love LK - the people are great and all the kids can be involved in one way or another. Bonus.

dad/coach!



Last week we joined with our two favorite matriarchs and sat to give thanks for all of our blessings. They (and my friends who have the same philosophy) are my favorite guests. No stress, no cleaning (not much), no pinterest-worthy table...just good food and good company.

the hosts being a bit silly

our fully, happy table

The most exciting thing, kitchen-wise, is that this guy has been taking up cooking as extra credit for one of his online classes. Pretty good potato pancakes, I must say!
 
 
We rounded out the holiday weekend with the first, ever Rocco Academy spelling bee (a qualifier for the regional bee early next year...I had no idea you could run it through your family. Bonus on scheduling, for sure)
 
The winner was not as surprising as how many rounds the tiny guy held up. He and the older two hung in for at least 5 rounds until I started throwing him 5 letter words (he said first graders were only required to spell 4 letters at a time) and he started throwing a fit. The middle guy is clearly not cut out for the individual competition thing. I'm with him...I may refrain from attending regionals this year. Too much stress for me :0( Congratulations, #1, on the success of your last spelling year. It seems eighth grade is turning out to be special in lots of ways.
 
There was also a trip to the opera and some other things that happened but, for the most part, that was November, 2018, which is officially in the books in a few hours.
 
There are two decade-birthdays around here over the next few weeks but that's December and it will come in its own time. I'm going to try to step away from FB for Advent and spend more time here compiling all the joys and challenges we'll be facing as we close out 2018. It promises to be one incredible month.
 
Wishing you the peace that comes with the quiet dark before the glorious light of His birth. We are blessed.