Tuesday, December 20, 2011

C.a.m.e.l - Not Just For The Kings

I've never really thought much about camels before yesterday. Now, I can't quite get them out of my mind. A couple, who I met last year, came into the bookstore yesterday to add pieces to a nativity set and shared with me a family tradition. They have a very large camel (about knee high or more) who stands with a leg relaxed back, head cocked and a large smile upon his face despite the huge burden upon his back. They shared that their family members each give a symposium on a subject around the camel and the best work, wins the camel. The acronym they shared for c.a.m.e.l is Calling All Members to Enjoy Life. As I wrapped their gift, I could not get the image of the smiling camel bearing the huge burden out of my mind. They shared that subjects have been chosen such as marriage and family and work, etc. as in despite any of the huge burdens that may surround our relationships, our lives, our journeys, do we somehow smile and find a way to enjoy life? I will never look at another camel in quite the same way. I can envision the camels (skinny legs and knobby knees) wearing that smile while carrying the Kings with their gifts in all their heavy clothing. And all I could ask myself is How Do I Bear Life's Burdens? Are they truly burdens? Do I smile when I am tired or when I am stressed or when I have what I feel is the weight of the world on me or do I allow others to feel sorry for me? Or worse, do I want them to know I bear the weight so they will be concerned about me? Today, I am Calling All Members to Enjoy Life! Bear burdens with a smile. Take on the weight of your difficulties with grace and humility. People in this world need strong examples of perseverance. Take the challenge. Enjoy life. Everyone wants to be king. Let's get over ourselves. Be the Camel.
Thank you Dr. and Mrs. Donahue www.messengersindenim.org

Thursday, December 15, 2011

You'd think...

You would think that a person working in a Christian Book and Gift Shop during December would have something to blog about everyday. You'd think she would be dying to share all those awesome stories that she hears from customers and from employees and from family. You'd think she would take the time to tell about the visit from Emanuele Fontanini and the request for the city to remove the port-a-john from the parking lot for the day, the visit from St. Nicholas, and I mean St. Nicholas, and the stories told about his life and the families who's lives he has touched, the trip to Memphis to set up a Christmas shop for the students at St. Benedict and St. Francis and the response and remarks of grateful kids and teachers and the constant oooos and ahhhs as customers enter our West End store and spend time and enjoy the season. You'd think that being in the midst of the reason for the season day in and day out would bring about some sort of daily writing but instead it has all made me busy. And I mean a good kind of busy. I am busy doing all the things I need to be doing and I am enjoying it all. I want to write and sit and write some more but I need to keep moving. As I sat with my kids and watched the movie Finding Nemo last night, and I needed to sit and watch that with my family, I was reminded by Dori to, "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming." You see this year although you'd think that I have so much to share and to tell, I think that I have discovered that there is a right time for everything and I have to go with my gut and I believe that my gut is telling me to enjoy what needs to be done. Roll around in it, take time with it, breathe it all in and write about it later. Things may be different tomorrow but for today, just when you'd think I have so much to tell, I am silenced by the season.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lessons From Work

Whether we work inside the house or outside the house or both, our work can teach us many things about life. Our work can teach us virtue in action. Love in action. Christ in action. Our work can teach us about responsibility and relationship, about allowing others to help, about family, about patience, about humility, about listening with the heart, about the importance of the aged, about youth, about the homeless, about passing on gifts, about using gifts, about being gifted.
I am very fortunate in my particular work that I have these opportunities right smack in front of my face. Working in a Catholic bookstore with my family gives me plenty of possibilities for success and for failure. Faith is all around me. We talk about Christ, we share Christ and we often miss meeting Christ face to face because we get wrapped up in ourselves.
Let me start this morning with the lesson of allowing others to do their job. If you are like me, you know that in your workplace you have the capability to do everything. You can do it all. You can work the business, do the bookkeeping, open, close, answer the phone and run errands. You can do anything necessary. But, I believe that we are here on this earth, in this place, in this house or this business to work together. Don't we think that when Jesus became man and went out to preach and to teach that He could have done it all? But, He didn't. He called others to come and to work along side Him so that when His time here was over, His work would continue. It is important, not just for that reason, but also because when we allow others to do the job they believe they were called to do. They too are allowed to have some success in the journey. Our children putting their laundry away, doing their dishes and finishing their chores not only teaches them that they have responsibilities but also gives them self worth. Our co-workers finishing projects and helping customers and serving the needs of other co-workers allows them to have that same sense of self worth. People need to be needed. People need to do their jobs. People need to work together to build what we hope to someday be a better world. Today, we have to let others do what they do. We need to allow others the satisfaction of accomplishing the work for which they have been called. God knows we can do it all but He wants us to work together and to love one another.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

St. Andrew Novena Starts Tomorrow!!!

Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St. Andrew. This powerful Novena has made incredible difference in my life.

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew (30th November) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Passed Down

I believe that in every kitchen this morning celebrating Thanksgiving Day, there is at least one recipe being used that has been passed down from a previous generation. I know that my nephews and niece in Atlanta who cannot make it to our dinner have called for my mother's dressing recipe as well as my brother Pat and his family in North Carolina. I think it rather cool that we will be sharing the same meal so to speak despite the fact we cannot be at the same table. I personally am assigned my grandmother's corn pudding each year. I think about her so many times during the year when certain incidences occur that I know she would have a comment for or a tidbit of wisdom to offer but while putting together her recipe, I think about our times together every step of the way. Well, unless I'm sidetracked by a child or a time crunch. But, the point here is that I hope all of us who use recipes on this wonderful day or celebrate a certain family tradition, pause and enjoy a memory or two from the person or persons from which it was passed down. From the First Thanksgiving to the one we celebrate today, may we be grateful for and may we share a little of all that has been given. God Bless us all. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mission Field

This past week, after having tables at the Mid-South Leadership Conference in Lake Barkley, KY the first part of the week, St. Mary's set up a booth at Christmas Village at the Fairgrounds in Nashville. A large event with vendors covering five buildings worked by members of Pi Phi to benefit the Bill Wilkerson Center, we open on Thursday night and do not break down until Sunday at 6pm. I have to admit that it is a big job but I was lucky enough not to have to work out there every day because my sister does that duty for the store. However, the show is always great and we see all sorts of customers that we never get to see otherwise and we feel that our particular merchandise speaks of the True Spirit of Christmas. As a matter of fact, we have many people come by the booth and share just that thought. They love the beautiful Nativities and angels and books and ornaments.
Every year we are next to the same family and every year the father of the group starts in on me as soon as he sees me coming. He ribs me from the first day to the last and of course, I give it right back. Imagine that! His daughter leaned over to me this year and said, "Just consider this a mission field." Of course, with that, I started thinking about how I should consider every aspect of my life a "mission field" from my home to the streets I drive to my work to my church and my school and my community. What mission does He have in mind for me? Am I just to make people laugh or to listen to their story or simply to walk with them? Is my mission truly what I have in front of me or is it a much larger field?
The readings at Mass this past week were about taking what we are given and multiplying it, putting it to use, making a difference. The parables make the point that anyone can take what they are given and keep it for themselves in a safe place and return it at a later time. But, how many of us really maximize the gifts, accept the challenges or even know what it is we are called to do? Really called to do? How many times have I played it safe and missed opportunities?
This past week in the church and in the field, I was reminded that I need to take the time to first of all figure out what it is I am supposed to be doing in every aspect of my life and then to use that to multiply the gifts that I have been given. I know I've been doing a lot of time consuming coasting. Busy work. Time for me to step out of my comfort zone, to get out into those fields and multiply the goodness of God.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hardheaded, I'm Guessing

I am at Lake Barkley in Cadiz, KY at the Mid-South Leadership Conference. I have been coming and setting up tables with books and gifts to represent St. Mary's Bookstore for many years. Many years. This morning we all attended morning Mass in the Conference Center. As the lector was reading the first reading, a woodpecker began pecking on the outside wall. A loud knocking continued and all I could imagine was God rapping His knuckles on my head and saying, "Hey, hard head, are you listening? I'm speaking here. What do I have to do to get your attention?" Surely He wouldn't have to keep at it until he bored a hole in me but I was sure that woodpecker was coming through the wall. Now I'm thinking why in the world do I have to be so hard headed? Repent. Forgive. Say I'm sorry. Don't talk about others. Be on guard. And last but not least... Increase in Faith.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

When I Was a Little Girl

I have to start this way because all of my kids tease my husband when he starts his long drawled out, "Well, when I was a boy..." And, a story begins.
When I was a little girl, my mom would stop for Chapel visits quite often. Or, at least it seemed. She would tote all 8 or 6 of us kids right down the aisle of the Church and into the pew for "just a minute". As a matter of fact we had a little poem taped to the bathroom mirror that had on the front a picture of a young boy at the end of a path with the Church at the other end and was titled, "Just for a Minute". It wouldn't matter if there were groceries in the car or if she had to get dinner on the stove or we were coming home late from a practice, if the feeling hit her, we stopped. I think that most of the time I knelt and wondered what everyone else was saying to God. What could they be telling Him or asking Him? I was always squirmy sitting in the quiet.
Now, I long for those times, sitting in quiet and listening for a word or a direction or an approval. Last night I took my 9 year old to the gym for a little while to work with her on her basketball skills. After speaking with my brother many months ago about our children I decided to take his advice, although he called me for that, and use working with my kids on their extra-curricular activities as a chance to spend quality time with them one on one. Anyway, it was fun and somewhat productive and I feel we regained some of her confidence after her miserable first practice. (She was inadvertently made fun of and wanted to "never go back".) As we drove home, approaching the church I asked if she'd like to make a visit in the Chapel. "Sure." As I parked, she said, "You know, all we need in this life is religion." I asked her to repeat what she said so that I could be sure I heard correctly and then I totally agreed and inserted "God". I swiped my key card which she thought was cool and we blessed and entered. (I thought, "those were the days" when churches could be left unlocked). The choir was practicing in the church and as we knelt down I realized how peaceful it was with her in that moment. After a few minutes, she leaned over and whispered, "Do you want to go sit up there?" Meaning, up in the chairs at the tabernacle. "No. I'm fine unless you want to move." "No, but in first grade Mrs. B let us sit up there and told us not to touch the tabernacle. I did and I can't remember who it was but some boy told on me. Mrs. B wasn't mad." Wow. I didn't even have to wonder what she was thinking. She just lets everything spill right out. I told her to go ahead and finish up with her prayers because we would have to leave. It was past her bedtime. That little head pressed down hard against the armrest and she closed her eyes. How much closer could we possibly get to Him then at this moment, in this place? I thank God for my parents handing down the example of stopping by the Chapel even "just for a minute". I thank God for giving us a large family who we can rely on for good advice because when I was a little girl, I wondered just what it was all about and how it would benefit me in the long run. And I thank God for this little girl, not squirmy at all, who knows that all we need for this life is our faith.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Guess I Need To Get Used To It

Here are my oldest girls who found the need to try on some of Target's Halloween costumes and "Yes" I cracked up that they would climb into these outfits right in the aisle in the middle of Target. Many years have passed since I actually made the girls' costumes, whether a simple black cat or Peter Pan or an angel. Nowadays I just let them pick out something from one of the stores. I did paint a vest onto a shirt for my youngest this year and cut up some fishnet hose for her use on her arms as well as her legs. But, and here's the kicker, for the first time in 20 years, I did not take a child out for trick-or-treat. All three went with friends and the youngest spent the night out or I would have been with her. Ugh! I guess this is something I will need to get used to. My kids are growing up and do not quite need me for everything and I take that as a compliment. The oldest two can act crazy without me and the youngest ones can go out with their friends. They make their own lunches and almost handle their own homework and the oldest two run their owns lives. Mostly, they're comfortable being themselves and although it will be difficult for me as they each venture out and no longer need me, I'm good. Whether as hot dogs or odd birds or just themselves, I'm good.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Our Final Pumpkin Globe

Our journey began 13 years ago when our oldest daughter was in 4th grade and was assigned to turn a standard 38" diameter pumpkin into a globe, labeling the continents and the oceans, the prime meridian and the equator, the north and south pole, and of course, Nashville, TN. We learned with the first one how important it was to take the tape measure with us and get as close to 38" and as round as possible. That year two pumpkins were purchased. We also learned the importance of not doing the project too early. In this case, the early bird would have a bad case of mold before the project returned home. But, it has to be done early enough for all the paint to dry well. The first half of the family had to purchase real pumpkins but now the children are allowed to use plastic. Not us! In this family it's all about tradition. Julia must have asked me six times as we worked together was this what I did for the other kids. "We can use a plastic pumpkin." "What did the others do?" "I can trace the continents while you paint." "Did you do that for everyone?" "Do you want to type out the labels?" "Did everyone else type them out?" And so on. So as our 6th and final pumpkin globe project went, it was purely done as it had been done in the past with a few lessons learned by the project manager.
All in all, it's fun to work with the kids on some of their projects and it's very rewarding seeing parents learn to let go of perfection with each child that comes along. That first and second and third globe, I wiped around the edges of continents making sure the kids stayed inside the lines. I balanced continents and oceans and made perfect lines for the equator and prime meridian. But as time passed, I realized that the pumpkin globe was not about the paint or the lines. The pumpkin globe not only taught Julia about our continent, even our own city and state, in relation to other continents, but it taught her a little something about our family and the importance of traditions and the importance of learning from previous mistakes and the importance of change and of difference. She obviously looks up to her brothers and her sisters and wants to be like them in many ways. I like that. I like that she gets it. I like that she knows she has choices but may still want to do what was done before. I like that she understands a little about family traditions. I like working with her. And, I have to admit, I like that this was our final pumpkin globe.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

One Last Act

I don't remember exactly how the story goes but I'll try to get as close as possible to the truth.
Several weeks ago I went to the funeral home for the visitation of a woman I have known since I was in grade school. Her daughter took the time to tell my friend Betsy and I about the beautiful powder blue knit dress she was wearing.
While her mom was in the hospital, a box had been delivered to her house and one of the children simply put it inside for her. "She loved to shop" and having a box outside the door seemed to be a norm. "I told dad not to take anymore magazines to the hospital." We laughed. Not too many days passed and her mom died and the children met at the house to plan for her funeral. Across the bed in the back bedroom lay the powder blue dress with the silver belt that their mom had ordered for herself. "Definitely not something we may have picked and yet absolutely perfect." We both agreed. To me, this was the one last caring act for these children as their mom. Who knows if this woman ordered this dress for her funeral? Who knows if this woman thought that it would be better for her to take care of the details so her children would not have to struggle over agreeing what would be best or what she might prefer? Who knows if this mom was sparing her children time and energy that they could be spending with one another in stories and memories and friendship? I felt at that moment as the story was told that all these questions could probably be answered positively. One simple act. One lasting memory.
The daughter went on to tell us that when she would visit her mom in Florida, she loved to wear her mom's accessories. There were plenty of choices and many pair of black or gray pearl earrings that she particularly loved. She realized how perfect a pair of those earrings would be for her now but could not find any at her home here in Nashville so she gave up her own pair. She told us how happy she was that her mom would be buried with a little piece of her. One simple act. One lasting memory.

Friday, October 14, 2011

St. Augustine said

Our homily today was on this brilliant statement by St. Augustine:

"Trust the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love and the future to God's providence."

Now if I could just live as if all the junk from the past has been forgiven and God is in control of all that is to come, so for today all I have to do is live in His Infinite Love and in return pass that on to others. Wow, our God is good.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In Memory of Sr. Diane

Yesterday afternoon I attended the funeral of my 8th grade teacher, Sr. Mary Diane, O.P. As everything out at the St. Cecilia Motherhouse, it was beautiful. I had the pleasure of being taught by this sister at St. Henry School, the same school my children now attend, 37 or so years ago and reuniting with her through St. Mary's Bookstore and becoming good friends over the past 20 years.
I met Lisa at the front of the convent and we went toward the Chapel. In the foyer before entering the Chapel, the sisters and Sr. Diane's family were all gathered around her open casket talking and celebrating her life. As Fr. approached, Mother Ann Marie pulled Sr. Diane's scapular up over her face. The sister standing next to me explained that upon first vows they lay prostrate with the veil over their face symbolizing the beginning of their vows and at their death the same action is repeated to symbolize the end of their vows. All of the sisters then processed through to the Chapel, almost in order of oldest to youngest, and we followed. Sitting in the back throughout the funeral allowed me to drink in not only the beauty of the Chapel but also the feeling of complete peace and joy. Fr.'s homily was somewhat lighthearted as was Sr. Diane. He said as he was called to give Sr. Diane Viaticum in her last week of life, he informed her that she was on the last of her road and she informed him that he was not too far from the last of the road himself. She was just that way and that is one reason we were good friends. At the end of the service in the chapel, Fr. read the farewell prayer and suddenly the entire chapel filled with light from the sun and I mean an overpowering bright light. I looked over at Lisa as she spun her head to me and her eyes were wide and a smile came across both our faces. Whata moment!
At the cemetery right their at the Motherhouse, one of the sisters asked if I had any Sr. Diane stories and I just laughed and said probably nothing I could repeat but truly I have many stories and they are all filled with times of laughter and happiness. She had a good time and I had a good time with her. In 8th grade, I was always in trouble and she made us copy dictionary words as we sat in from recess or were denied time on the back hill just basking in the sun with the others from our class. She loved taking us outside on that hill. We got caught lifting her desk onto the back cabinets on April Fool's day and mimicking her with her pointer at the blackboard and the only time she really got angry was when we turned her Blessed Mother statue backwards. She could take fun and games but not disrespect and I held that lesson close all these years. She was tough on me. Cranky and quick with sarcasm. She called the store occasionally and asked, "When ya comin to visit me? What's going on with you right now? How's your poor husband?" Finally, a couple of weeks ago, when I got a call from the infirmary about a crucifix they needed, I asked, "How's Sr. Diane?" "Not good." "I should come see her." "Better make it quick." Thank our good God I went the next day. She was in a bed but talkative and sassy just the way I loved her. We talked about the old days and about the store and my kids and of course, my poor husband. She struggled with her breathing but seemed to enjoy our last time together.
Sr. Diane was always teaching me, always challenging me, always pushing me whether with sharp comments or cold, blank stares. She wanted me to give and to get something more and we understood one another. She was bold and brass and didn't hold back on what she thought. She taught me off and on for 37 years in and out of the classroom and I couldn't be more grateful for the times we were together. She made me laugh and I will truly miss her.
May her soul rest in peace.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

On the Journey

One week ago today I was setting up a store inside a small house at the base of the hill that led to Living Waters Retreat Center and then farther up to St. Margaret Catholic Church. After 5 hours of unloading books and putting together clothing racks and hanging chasubles and albs and displaying chalices and mass kits and pictures and crucifixes, I was exhausted but my "store" looked wonderful. The next morning I woke early enough to go back to the store and fine tune a few things and then hike up to Mass. As I huffed and puffed up the hill to church, I had to stop half way to catch my breathe. The hill was steeper than I expected and the need to stop and look out at the incredible view of the surrounding mountains was quite the reward. The leaves were turning and the mountains were developing their patch-work quilt covering. The crisp morning air actually made my throat hurt as I gasped. "I'm fat and out of shape" I thought with each possible last deep breathe. No breakfast had left me light-headed but after a few moments I continued, finding my way to the top, to the church, to the view from above. I fully expected to see a church filled with priests and it wasn't until after Mass when I stopped by the office for a schedule that I realized their Mass was at 10:00. But, what a wonderful Communion Service with the deacon presiding. There were 4 men, the deacon with an altar boy and two in the pews, with us seven women. Eleven people. Was this normal?
I had no idea but what was unusual, or amazing, were the words from my morning prayer in the Magificat that met me in that pew in that church in those mountains of Maggie Valley, NC.



"Jesus instructed the disciples to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick - no food, no sack, no money in their belts. We are a pilgrim people, journeying through the varied landscapes of life, on our way to the heavenly Jerusalem. Let us travel light, unburdened by useless baggage - material or spiritual - and sing this pilgrim psalm to the God who has given us such a glorious goal in life."


And in the personal intentions, "...let us rejoice in the springs of living water which refresh us on our way."







All I could do for three days was just sit and drink it all in. God is good.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Careful, People Do Read These

I sat last week in our church between my daughter and my friend Ellen at the funeral of one amazing man. My friend Ellen leaned over and told me how much she enjoys my blogs. I thanked her thinking to myself, ahhh! a reader. How nice! A family filed into the pew in front of us and as the boy knelt I leaned over to Ellen and pointing to the back of his suit coat simply said, "Clip that." The young man had left the white thread that held together the slit on the lower part of the back of his navy jacket and from further review I noticed the large paper tag was still on one sleeve. Ellen leaned back and simply said, "Just keep your eyes down." Okay! Okay! I had just posted about curbing curiosity and not lifting my eyes except to help another or to ask for help. Touche! I'd like to say that I was trying to help but really I was wondering how no one in that family had noticed the thread and the tag! I smiled and thought immediately how we who write or even sometimes just speak truly put ourselves out there and how we have to be careful to practice what we preach or at least try to practice. I loved that Ellen reminded me of my own words and what I had said I was going to work on for my own spiritual growth. So, I say to all who write or teach or parent or preach, "be careful", people really do listen and read and take notice and expect.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Can't Seem to Help Myself

I can be fully engaged in reading an article in a magazine and when someone comes into the office, I have to look up to see who has entered. I can be engrossed in reading the meditation for the day, sitting in the Chapel even, and when a kneeler goes down, I have to take a peek at who has joined me. I can be talking on the phone and as two people in the same room begin talking, I strain to try to hear both conversations. I have never really thought much about my curiosity or rather my nosiness until I read a meditation in the Magnificat magazine this month on Curbing Curiosity. Now, I can't seem to get it off my mind. Here's a little of what St. Bernard of Clairvaux has to say on the topic: "The first step of pride is curiosity. How does it show itself? Now you begin to notice that wherever you are, standing, walking or sitting, your eyes are wandering, your glance darts right and left, your ears are cocked. Some change has taken place in you, every movement shows it... My friend, if you gave yourself the attention you ought, I do not think you would have much time to look after others... Are the eyes never to be raised at all? Yes, but only for two reasons: to look for help and to help others." Whoa! What! And so, I've been trying but I have to say that it seems impossible not to lift my eyes and turn my head and listen to the murmurs. At first, I thought I would have no problem because I don't always pay much attention to gossip mainly due to the fact that I do not know who others are talking about anyway. But, not to lift or turn my head in curiosity. It's tough. I'll tell ya. Ya need to try this and as you do, or don't as the case will be, think about why you want to know who has entered, who has joined you and why, or who others are talking about or to. I personally, can't seem to help myself but I'm willing to keep trying. It really makes me stop and thing, maybe, just maybe, St. Bernard knows exactly what he's talking about and that's why we look to the words and wisdom of the saints. Just for today, just try to concentrate on raising our eyes only to look for help or to help others! I guess this is what my parents have been trying to tell me my entire life when they've said, "You take care of Julie and let everyone else take care of themselves."

Evidently, We All Have One

This is a re-post and I truly hate to do it but I do love this story and it fits on this Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

My mother shared with me one day that if you say the prayer to the Guardian Angel 5 times before you go to sleep, your protector's name would come to you the next day, somehow, plain and clear. So, that night before I lay my head on my pillow, I prayed. Around 2 a.m., I sat up in bed and the name Ferrell came into my head very clearly and that was all. I lay my head down and the alarm woke me up at 5 a.m., my mom picked me up at 6 a.m. and we drove to the airport to fly to Chicago to buy for Christmas. In the plane, I told my mom about my middle of the night experience and she simply confirmed, "Well, he's it." "He's what?" "Ferrell's your Guardian Angel. Now you can call him by name when you pray to him." Being a doubting one, I needed more proof and told her that if one of the new angels in the Roman showroom was named Ferrell, I'd be convinced. My mom couldn't believe I was making it so difficult.

We arrived in Chicago and were driven to the showroom where our representative was waiting to work with us. After buying for Christmas, we ate lunch and continued through the huge showroom, meticulously looking at each item. As we were about to end the day, we walked to the front to look at the new Seraphim angels and I said to mom, "Now if one of these new angel's name is Ferrell, then I'll believe." Our rep shuffled up behind us and asked why were were talking about the name Ferrell. I told him it was a long story and I'd share later. "I just asked because that's my middle name, Ferrell. It was my mother's maiden name and I don't hear it much. My full name is Jack Ferrell Carmody." I whipped my disbelieving head around to my mother who was wearing that goofy smile and just said, "Okay. Okay. I believe."

"Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here, ever this day, be at my side to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Canned, Frozen or Made from Scratch

Yesterday I received this picture from my oldest daughter who is living with #2 daughter. The caption read, "This is what Sarah snuck into the basket at the grocery!! Hahaha." It really got me thinking about how these children are raised in the same house with the same parents and yet, they seem to turn out completely different from one another. Well, not completely. But while one can be adamant about putting together a real meal, the other can be satisfied with a simple can of Spaghettios. As I looked closely at the cans, I did see the word ORIGINAL on each can and I do agree with that...they are, each and every one, original. I definitely can agree that some are my children are all about made from scratch. Each and every aspect has to be fresh and new, seasoned well and cooked to perfection. Then, there's frozen. Doesn't care about much. Needs time to defrost slowly and would prefer not to be nuked to be brought back to room temperature. Once they come around they are seasoned just as well as if they started out fresh. Last, there's canned. Ready to go. Easy going and with or without the meatballs, prepared very well. Does the job even though has not taken as long to prepare. I believe this is pretty much the way God's made His children. Each and every one of us a little different in flavor and taste. Although we may move at a different pace, we each have our talents and our contributions to this life. We add our own spices. We may even seem bland to others in comparison but we are all a part of one big happy family whether canned, frozen or made from scratch. And mostly, we are all originals.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Happy Belated Birthday

Yesterday was my mother's birthday and as much as I wanted to post about it yesterday, I didn't. So, I say, "Better late than never."
If I had to sum up my mother in one word, I think it would be the word "relationships". Seems my mom is all about relationships and has been since as far back as I can remember and even before that. Jean, mom, Nona, Mimi, Mrs. Dortch or Aunt Jean was the oldest of 3 children, always saying she had much to do with the raising of her younger brothers Joe and Billy Drennan. From the start her life was filled with family. Her mother and aunts gathered in the kitchen all day discussing and preparing meals, mending socks and crocheting. Her father was known for bringing home others who may need a place to stay or a meal or just people to talk to and it seemed an uncle or grandparents or someone always lived in their house (not uncommon during the depression). Her memories of the past are always told with love and laughter and are filled with she or her family's relationships to or with others. I remember visiting Uncle Joe and Aunt Nina and Uncle George and Buster and Audry and so on and so on. My point here is that I have learned this from my 51 years with this chic...relationships matter. Our relationship with God and with our spouses and our children and our co-workers and our siblings and extended family and our teachers and our church and school community and our friends both past and present really matters. All the other stuff is just that...stuff. How we relate to one another and deal with each other builds up the Kingdom of God.
So, on this day after my mom's birthday, let us all think about our relationships. She'll tell ya...first and foremost build that relationship with God and all other relationships and even the other stuff will fall right into place. Trust my mom. She knows. She's come a long way baby and just as is this message, building or mending relationships is better late than never.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Middle Aging

I used to have two brains, one for work and one for home, and for a short time I had even a little extra for my passion, writing. However, since my over 50 birthday, there have been quite a few changes in my life. I've always enjoyed 10 minute power naps right before dinner, you know, the ones where your children ask you things the entire time your eyes are closed and swear later that you said they could spend the weekend at a friend's house or have a party and you were only out a few minutes but at the same time when you get up you feel like you've slept for an hour. Now, I need a 20 to 30 minute nap every afternoon. Somewhere between 3:30 and 5:30 I have suddenly started to have brain drain and my eyelids just can't seem to stay in the open position. Next, there's the weight issue. I have never been one to really watch what I eat so to speak but since that birthday, I have put on 15 lbs and no matter what I do, I can't seem to shake them. I know, I know, my metabolism has changed but when the heck is it gonna change back? People tell me just to walk a little each day but after 4 flights of stairs all day at work all I want to do is... yep, take a nap. To make matters a little more in my face, I still have 9, 11 and 13 year old children so I will be in grade school for a bit longer and hanging around those younger moms does not make me feel any better about myself. But, and there is a but, I have to be truthful about the fact that I am a lot less stressed about life. I have learned with the older three that it will all be okay. The kids will be fine even if I forget to pick them up from practice and the doctor will not go crazy if I happen to miss an appointment and even though a customer may get impatient, it's not the end of the world if their order does not get in on time. Life is too short to worry about all the little things that go on in this world. I say, take another vitamin or a nap and move along helping this world to be a better place for those who are to come. I do find myself spending more time in the Chapel and stopping by my parents' house just to chat. Thank goodness they are both on my street as well as my work and grade school. So, keep in mind, if I forget your name or leave a child at your house for days or look like I might fall asleep while you're talking or seem a little wide in the mid-section, be gentle with me, I'm middle aging.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

New Magazine

As I've mentioned before, I have started using the Magnificat for my morning readings and meditations which include the Mass and evening prayer. I absolutely love it but I have to admit that when I jumped on facebook and saw the post for our Bookstore with the quote from our new daily magazine, Give Us This Day by Liturgical Press, I was deeply moved and am tempted to use both meditations each day. I love that my daughter posted this:

‎"It really should come as no surprise that when we celebrate the birth of Mary we find ourselves contemplating the birth of the Son. Here again Mary, the mother of Jesus, becomes our model for discipleship. A question to ponder on this feast of Mary's birth: When people look at me, as when they look at Mary, do they see Jesus?"

-Father Anthony Oelrich (from today's "Reflection" in "Give Us This Day" Sept. 2011)

Morning at the Motherhouse

Got a call yesterday from a sweet young Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia who asked if I could help her find a crucifix for the wall behind the desk in the Motherhouse infirmary. She thought maybe she could even take some samples and test them on the wall to see which would suit the space better. I had no problem with any of that. She then proceeded to offer that I may even come see the space for myself and help her with the decision. (Ohhh those sisters!) I told her that I really needed to come visit my 8th grade teacher anyway so I could come out if she got it all authorized by Mother. She returned the call in an instant and all was set for me to go this morning. Well, let's not waste any time!
I can not express how grateful I am to Sr. Anne Francis for getting me over their to visit and to talk. First, I grabbed a crucifix we had at the store even though I knew it would be too small but thought it would help us with coloring. Come to find out that the infirmary is named for St. Martin de Porres (Lima, Peru) and the crucifix that I happened to grab was..... yes, made in and imported from Peru. It was perfect all the way around. Second, I had an amazing visit with my 8th grade teacher, Sr. Diane, for quite a while before she was taken to a small birthday party for Our Blessed Mother with cake and ice cream. I think she was a bit disappointed that the ice cream would be vanilla and not chocolate. Goodness gracious I gave that poor sister a fit in 8th grade and she still loves me unconditionally. God Bless her! And lastly, on the way out, I was able to duck into their beautiful chapel and they were having Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Could it get any better? And, all because this young sister suggested I spend a little time on my only day off helping her and visiting with an old friend. Again, may I just say, I am grateful for her and these God-incidences in my life.
Today, on her birthday, may Our Lady hold us all in Her mantle and bring us closer to Her Son.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Croquet

Before Mass started yesterday, an old friend came in the opposite side of our pew to speak to my parents. I smiled and put my hand up to say hello and she responded then sat down next to my mom and spoke for a few minutes to she and my dad. Seeing her reminded me of all the wonderful times we had together as kids. There were six of them who matched up almost perfectly with our oldest six. Her younger sister and I were practically inseparable until we went to different high schools. But the thing I remember most about Kathy was her passion for winning especially during a simple, friendly (haha) game of croquet. You know, croquet is one of those games that takes a little time to set up properly but she didn't seem to mind as long as we would play for several days in a row, or until the grass had to be cut. We all had our favorite colors we wanted but Maureen and I often had to settle after the older ones had their pick. Then, it was game on and there was no mercy. For some reason, I feared Kathy the most. If she was anywhere close to another ball, she would make the hit and send that sucker for a buggy ride every time even if the choice of 2 strokes could give her a better advantage. She loved clearing the field of all the possible other challengers. Today, I know she is still a fierce competitor. I know she runs marathons and I've seen pictures of her participating in the Ironman Triathlon. I believe she has her pilot's license and she coaches amazing cross country teams and she's brilliant. Who knew the possibilities that a simple game from our youth could pass on and be used in our adult lives? Healthy competition, rules to follow, toughness, intelligence, perseverance. During our youth, we looked up to these older siblings. We watched and we paid attention and we followed. We were fortunate and when I saw my old neighbor at Mass, I remembered instantly all the good that has been handed down.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Who Do You Say That I Am?

Each year our grade school chooses a theme for the year that helps to connect the events and the classrooms with the faculty, the students and the parents. This year's theme is, "Who do you say that I am?" That wonderful question Jesus puts to Peter and Peter responds to properly, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." We witness in this response that Jesus is not only human but also Divine. We understand that He is so much more than just a prophet or a teacher or a leader or a follower.

During the parent-teacher night last night and last Thursday night and the Wednesday night the week before that (yes, 3 weeks in a row), I began thinking about who I am and who my children are to others and how people identify us. Many, many times throughout every year I have people stop me in the grocery store or at a ball game and say, "Oh. St. Mary's Bookstore. Right?" I am often stopped at school or at a party and asked, "Now you're Beth's mom, or Sarah's or Will's or Margaret's or Nicholas' or Julia's. Right?" In church or in a restaurant, "Aren't you Bill and Jean's daughter?" At work, "Allen's wife? or Donna's sister? or Ted's aunt?" All answers are correct. I am one of the faces of the bookstore and I am a mother and a daughter and a wife and a sister and an aunt. I am an author and a reader and a talker and a listener. I am a daughter of Christ, the Son of the living God.

Today, as the disciples are called to be "fishers of men", we are reminded that we too are called to bring others closer to Christ, the Son of the living God. As we encounter others, may we think today about how they identify us and who we need to be to them. What is our connection and how can we be so much more? Who do others say that we are?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gleaning

Last week sometime, the good padre spoke during his homily about gleaning and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind. In my next little book coming out after the first of the year from Our Sunday Visitor, I have a paragraph about the famous artwork, "The Gleaners". As I have processed Fr.'s words and my own, I have come to realize the importance of gleaning in this world. As parents, we do some sort of gleaning most every day (picking up the leftovers). For example, I tend to think that parents get the food that is left after each of their children have taken their plates. But it's not just all about food. It's about the great parts of life in general. We'd be crazy to think that we want our kids to have anything but the best that is available and we'd be glad to settle for a little less to give it to them. However, another important point was made about gleaning. Fr. stated that he hoped that every Catholic Business College offered a course on gleaning. His point was on the importance of leaving enough behind with each business venture so that everyone has an equal chance to a life filled with opportunities to work and to food and to clean air and water and all the necessities of the world. Not just leaving behind so others can pick up the leftover scraps and survive, but leaving a fair share so that all mankind can have a good life. Some day, maybe some day, those who are wealthier or more powerful can take just enough and leave just enough so that all may prosper. As we plow through this life picking up the first batch that lies in our path, may we consciously leave enough for those who come behind us.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mother-in-Laws

"He will be your comfort and the support of your old age, for his mother is the daughter-in-law who loves you. She is worth more to you than seven sons!"
As I read the story of Naomi and Ruth today, I am reminded of how fortunate I was to have my mother-in-law as a part of my life. A strong woman who dedicated her life to her husband, her children, her grandchildren and her friends, she also spent hours a day working with disabled children in our schools as a physical therapist. After the long week of work, she would appear on Saturdays to help her son care for her grandchildren, taking them places or just playing games with them while he cut grass or ran errands or merely just survived while I was at work. She seemed to be always on the move, always happy and always willing to give a little more herself. As she battled cancer, I remembered vividly my daughter sitting with her and rubbing her bald head. I was so worried that they would bother her but she never missed a chance to love my children. When she had to go for full care from Hospice, I slipped over one afternoon for a visit. I sat and talked to the nurses and told stories about her grandchildren. Before I left, I looked into her eyes and told her, "You are a wonderful mother and grandmother. I love you." She mouthed back, "I love you too." It was the last visit I would have with her and as usual, she gave me so much more than I ever could have given her. I will say it again, I was so fortunate to have a wonderful mother-in-law.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Here I Am Lord

As we repeated the Responsorial Psalm today, "Here I am Lord, I come to do Your will", Fr. used the opportunity to touch on the importance of answering the call, the call of our vocations, the call to follow His will for us and the call to answer His invitation. Passed down to me from my parents and from their parents and from my siblings are the examples and the teachings of answering the call, of responding to those in need, of being my best self, of rising to the occasion, of following His will. I can only hope that in my daily walk, I do a little of a lot of what He calls me to do. I can only hope and pray that in this short life I have, and will, respond well to the opportunities, to the needs, to the call. As I have said before, my mom always has awesome displays at our bookstore. The picture here is a tiny example of her being perfectly in sinc with the scripture readings while catching the eye of the customer. As I have struggled this year to discover, What next Lord?, I have become keenly aware of those around me who are constant, who never set down the receiver, who wake every day to follow His will (whether they are fully aware or not). In the meantime, I remain open. I remain willing. I remain in awe.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pinking Shears


Pinking shears have a utilitarian function for cutting woven cloth. Cloth edges that are unfinished will easily fray, the weave becoming undone and threads pulling out easily. The sawtooth pattern does not prevent the fraying but limits the length of the frayed thread and thus minimizes damage.
For some very strange reason, the conversation at breakfast last Sunday with my parents led to pinking shears. So often when we were young, the only pair of scissors to be found around our house were just that, pinking shears. As I ponder this I realize the significance of being raised in a family that rarely went straight by the book, kept everyone in line or cut right to the point. As I see it, we were raised to have utilitarian functions for weaving through this world. We were given the right tools and the proper example not to be easily frayed or undone by life. Oh sure, as with everything and everyone, "things" occur that can cause damage but we were prepared to deal with such times by clinging to our faith and to our family so as to limit and minimize. What a wonderful tool for my parents to have passed down and what a perfect time to be reminded that life itself is just not about straight lines and easy paths and completely finished products. There will always be a little fraying, a little unraveling but if we can stay close to the very One who can minimize the effects, we have learned to use the tools given wisely. Not always easy, but effective. And, we have to do the work. We have to trudge the uneven paths. We have to persevere through the crooked roads. We have to deal with the unraveling. If there's damage, may it be minimal. If fraying, may the pattern we are given limit the length. May God be with us all as we cut through this seemingly uneven, frayed life and search for meaning and for love and for the way back to the very One who gives us life.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I Have Become Fully Aware...

that I could never have gotten this far along in life if I had not had these kids. Oh sure, I could have survived but I would have just been a mess all the time. For instance, I never would be capable of getting myself dressed and if I did, my clothes would not match or they would be out of style. My shoes too would NOT go with the outfit and the accessories, if I dared to attempt, would be completely wrong. My purse would be the wrong color and there would be no way it would be in season. Without my kids, the calendar on the wall would just contain the days and not include the lists of doctor and dentist appointments as well as practices and birthdays and invitations. Besides the fact that I would never even remember to look at what needs done in a day if these kids did not remind me. There would be no one to tell me the laundry needs done or what's in the washer needs dried for an event the next day or that certain items need pulled out and not dried all the way. How would I have made it in this life? No one would tell me that they were embarrassed by my behavior and that I should not say anything to their teachers or their friends or ever speak to someone of the opposite sex with the exception of their father. What would I be thinking? No one would direct my path as to what to read or what to write. I would never even know how to turn on a computer or change the TV to HD. I never realized how clueless I could be before I had these kids. Thank You God for giving me someone to dress me and to check on me in the shower and to watch what I say in public. Thank You for these wise little ones who keep me going in this world in which evidently I know nothing. Thank You for sending them to save me from myself. And, thank You for allowing me to become fully aware that I would never make it without their guidance. Today and every day, I thank You for these kids.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Led by a Cloud

The challenge given to me this morning is to strictly let my life be led by what God wants me to do and not always by what I want to do. He has a plan. I'm all over the place. He wants me to finish. I just want to get on with the next best thing. He wants me to stop and think. I want to move on. He wants me to rest in His goodness. I want that and so much more. Today, we are called to be led by the cloud. When God wants us to move on, He will lift the cloud, He will give the sign, we will know. When He wants us to stay still and finish or contemplate on the task at hand, He will leave the cloud and we are to remain. Here is yet another time in our lives when we are challenged to be totally in sinc with what God wants us to do and not just humm drum through life doing whatever we please and never really finishing anything or accomplishing anything meaningful. Today as everyday we are called to listen to Him, to know His will and to follow Him completely. Not an easy task by any means.
"Whenever the cloud rose from the Dwelling, the children of Israel would set out on their journey. But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward; only when it lifted did they go forward."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Does 51 Look Like?

The other day my 13 year old daughter said, "I'm not trying to brown nose or anything but you DO NOT LOOK 51." "Oh, well, thanks honey." "You look more like 45."
This week being my birthday week, I've been thinking a lot about just what 51 looks like. When I was 13, my mom was 41. Quite frankly, I was too busy thinking about myself to even wonder what my mom was looking like or acting like. Nice.
After much thought, I remembered having dinner a little over a week ago with a group of other 51 year old girls who I graduated from high school with and we shared something that each one of us has accomplished recently. So, I came up with something like this. Fifty-one looks like owning an accomplished design business, closing on a new condominium, going to Washington to fight for the rights of the people, having amazing children, being a photographer, being promoted in my law office, taking care of an aging father between working and maintaining a home of my own, running a dance studio, carriage racing (yes, like in Ben Hur), publishing a second book while running a bookstore and raising six children, walking and running and taking time first for God and for family and for friends. Fifty-one looks and feels great. I am at 51, lucky to have been handed down strong genes from a strong woman who has done amazing things and never looked or acted her age. What does 51 look like? It looks like whatever you want it to be and from where I'm standing, it looks like we've come a long way and we have quite a long way to go.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Called the Doctor and the Doctor said..."

I took three of my children for their physicals yesterday and I have to say, "What a pleasure." The entire time my daughters were fulfilling requests, the physician assistant was discussing about what to expect during these times in their lives and how to react to them. She would ask, "Do you have a cell phone or a facebook or twitter account?" "No ma'am." Smile for mom. "Well, when you do, always use the Church test when texting or sending any message to a friend or acquaintance. If what you want to say cannot be put on a large screen in the front of the congregation at church, do not send it." "Are your parents always in your business?" "Yes ma'am." "They do that because they care about and love you. Know that if you are ever at a friend's house and something is going on that makes you feel uncomfortable, you can call your parents and they will come and pick you up no questions asked. Do you wear a helmet when you ride a bike? How do you cross the street?" "Ummm. Look both ways?" "Of course, great." "You may worry that your actual weight is more than that of your friends but that's because muscle weighs more and you are quite strong." Smiles. My girls have starting running together and walking to stay in shape this summer, despite the heat. And the conversation went on and on. Positive talk about positive choices. How fortunate I am to have these pediatricians and their assistants and their nurses who love my children and know how they are being raised and who want to keep us all on the same page and confirm our choices. I realized yesterday that we have been together 23 years and I cannot say there has been anything but joy except for one incident with a shot and my youngest. Amazing group. As I told them yesterday, we are blessed.
When we were young, we too had the same doc the entire time, Dr. Daugherty, and the same nurse, Ms. Barnes. I had my tonsils out in his office. Those were the days. He seemed to be on the same page with my mom back then too. Nothing like a good physician.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Blessing of God's Peace

As I open my Magnificat (daily reading and so much more magazine) yesterday, the short morning meditation is a continuation of my own meditation and morning blog. I sit with the words just long enough to feel the Holy Spirit move throughout. "The unity for which Christ lived and died is not an abstract ideal. It is the result of hard work: suspending judgment, choosing others before self, forgiving, seeking reconciliation rather than nursing hurt pride. In other words, it requires that we die to self in Christ. The fruit? The blessing of God's peace!" Ahhhh, God's peace. The death of these things, all this stuff that holds us back, allows me to shrink so that Christ can be seen and the outcome is peace. God's peace. I thanked God to read that it is "hard work". It sounds so easy and yet it is all such a struggle for me to work on my dirt, to work on my self, to discover this blessing. God's peace.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Good Dirt

"But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
I have been thinking about the homily this past Sunday and cannot get out of my mind how important it is for me to work on my dried up, clunky old soil. Fr. Steve spoke about "good dirt". You know, the kind that something has to die to create. Maybe something needs to die like self-righteousness and over-confidence and pride. Maybe something like bad habits and the desire to be the center of attention and words. I've been thinking that to be good dirt doesn't mean I have to be boring and quiet. Quite the opposite, most of the good dirt I know is kind of fun and attractive. "Things" want to burrow in it and stay. I'd like to take that kind of good dirt and roll my kids around in it, let them cake it on their faces and throw it at one another. I witness that kind of good dirt take the seed that God sows and turn out an amazing harvest. I certainly do not want the gifts He sends to be "eaten up" or "scorched" or "choked". There's definitely enough of that being done in this world. Talents being held back and gifts being thrown away because the world screams they are not deserved or there is something better. We need good dirt. We need these things that get to us, this world, to die so that we can have the richness we need to grow and to produce fruit that can overcome all that holds us back from the love and goodness. I need to work on my dirt. Cultivate. Mulch. Weed. Prepare. The work can be fun and the results certainly worth it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Painting


I love to paint. Now don't get me wrong, I can't paint like my mother, the artist here, but I love to paint the rooms of my house. There's something calming in the painting. There's something that relaxes me and renews me as I refresh a room. Granted, it's often a struggle to find the time and to overcome the soreness the next several days after going up and down the ladder a million times and lying on the floor and holding my mouth just right but it's always worth the time and the struggle. I like to do things where I can see and enjoy the accomplishment. Doesn't everyone? Painting gives me time to be alone except for the few strokes that my girls just have to try. Painting frees my mind of the outside world. It brings to life a new look and it makes me happy (and that's not because of the fumes). In a way, it makes me appreciate a real painter's incredible talent and it helps me to understand the hours one can spend at the task. There is solitude and joy and peace in painting.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Play Well

Joseph wept. Were his brothers sorry because he was their family and they mistreated him or were they sorry because of the consequence?
When we were young and our parents punished us for mistreating another sibling, I know, without a doubt, that I was sorry because I got caught. Now, as I correct my own children for teasing one another, they immediately have some excuse but rarely are they sorry because their sibling is hurt, rather because they are soon to be punished. Yep, what goes around comes around. Now, I'm just saying, God made us a family and although we didn't get to pick our siblings we should some how learn to get along because we should, not to keep from some punishment. From as far back as the OT to the NT to the 1960's to now, parents and leaders have been trying to teach us all to just love one another. To care for one another. To not sell out our brother the minute something better comes along or he/she irritates us. Jesus chooses His Apostles, us as disciples, as students, to learn to live together, to work together, to play together and to get along. Sometimes the way we treat one another makes us too want to weep. We are a family and the need to be together has been handed down through generations. Today, may we treat all as family, loving one another, treating each other well because it is the right thing to do.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wrestling with Life, Holding on to God

Life is filled with challenges that we all have to encounter from time to time. Life is filled with joys as well as sorrows and through it all, if we cling to God, we work through to a place where we are sure that He is all we need.
In the reading from Genesis today, we hear that Jacob wrestles through the night and holds on to the One he has encountered face to face until God grants him a blessing. He holds on. In the Gospel reading paired with this we see the people coming to Jesus in their sickness and their brokenness and in His compassion, He comforts and He cures. They hold on to Him. "The harvest is abundant" as is the need in this world for us to comfort and for us to be aware of all in need, of all who wrestle with every facet of life. "The laborers are few" and those who are aware of the loving, saving power of the One we will some day meet face to face are needed. We wrestle and we hold on and we are called to bring others, to teach, to comfort and to care. As we all limp through this life, may we bring others a little closer to Him, to the One who is our all.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Changes


We just bought this cute little house in Chattanooga for our two oldest girls. Beth graduated this past May from Spring Hill College in Mobile and Sarah is a Senior at UT Chattanooga. I went over Tuesday and worked, painting and replacing trim. There is so much more to be done and although I absolutely love the challenge, it is tiring. We go up again tomorrow for the long weekend. I should be able to get the bedrooms and kitchen finished. I know I'll have to go another time to tile the entry and work on the bathrooms. So much had been completely renovated but what was left, was left and will need to be finished. But, it's a two hour drive and I love painting and patching and caulking and making things right. I have a slight pit in my stomach having Beth move in this weekend. It does feel final. My guess is that this is the last time to have her in our house. Leaving her at college was a breeze compared to this weekend. She has a real job with the Alzheimer's Association that starts next week and she's off and running. Bitter sweet. We're all going up for the weekend so I look forward to having the family all together. Working together. Helping their sisters. It's exciting and yet... change, no matter what, is just difficult.

Friday, June 24, 2011

St. John the Baptist

I couldn't help but think about the loneliness of St. John today. His time out in the desert from when he was a young boy. And yet, we cannot help but think of his incredibly, selfless life. He was the first to express his joy over the presence of Jesus in his life. He welcomed all those who came to him in need. He made himself small so that Jesus could be seen clearly. He was so close to our Savior, yet instead of spending time with Him, he performed the tasks to bring others to Him. Oftentimes, we may feel like we are the only ones in a certain part of the journey in our faith. We may sound odd in our beliefs. We may be looked upon as trying to be goody-goodies. We may feel a pull to spend more time alone with our God. We may invite others and find empty stares. But, we can know today that we are not alone. There is one who is a quiet leader and who gives a perfect example. St. John the Baptist knows what it is like to feel alone and yet never be without the One who means everything. St. John knows what it is like to feel complete joy. He knows what it is to live his entire life for the One who gives Eternal life. What better example could we find then this one who we celebrate today. St. John the Baptist, be our guide. Lead us. Help us. Teach us your ways.

Be Different

I can't seem to get out of my head the story Fr. Joe told about St. Thomas More on Tuesday. There must be a reason. He started by proclaiming, "St. Thomas More is one of his favorite saints". A man in a great position in England until King Henry decided to appoint himself ruler over the Church. St. Thomas could not go along with the deal. When asked by some of the people around him to just sign that he agreed purely as being a part of the community, Thomas More said something like, "If I sign and lose my soul and go to hell, then will you go with me 'Just to be part of the community'"? Just going along with the crowd and losing our very souls! Oh, how many times I just had to be a part of the crowd! Thomas More was a regular (sort of) layperson, a father, a brilliant man, a writer and a faithful servant who found himself locked in a tower and ultimately put to death because of his great faith. He simply would not follow the crowd and turn against his faith. And, we can only ask how? How do we love so completely even to the point of losing our own life? How do we not follow the crowd and how do we teach our children not to follow the crowd? After all, everyone is doing it! And mom, I mean everyone. Then be different. Stand strong. Believe that oftentimes, most times, silence is golden. This world is tough but no tougher than the world of St. Thomas More. Save a soul. Go against the grain. This world is temporary. Heaven is forever. Be different.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Work Each Day Toward a Firm Foundation

Our reading from Matthew today is all about firm foundations and it has made me think long and hard about what kind of foundation I'm building in this house. I've also been thinking deeply about how critical I am of others and how I know because I am seeing this being handed down to my children. This needs to stop. No doubt. I had no idea how bad I was until the same habits started showing up in the kids. Ouch! I'm sure that God did not mean for me to build a foundation of judgment and righteousness. Where did that come from? My parents don't do that...judge others. As a matter of fact, they could not stand for us to speak about our siblings or anyone else for all that matter. You know, my mom had all the sayings like "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" and "Walk in someone else' shoes" and something about looking in a mirror. Today, I hear loud and clear the importance of building good foundations because I am well aware that all eyes are on me. My children are reflections of my work and if my work is not for the Lord and of God, then it is better that it not be rock solid so that it can wash away and we can start all over. A firm foundation, rich in mercy and humility and acceptance. It's so much easier to break down than to build up. Thank God, each day is a new beginning. God help us all. In the world and in my house.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Calgon Take Me Away

I know there is not a single person in this world who wants to hear about another being who feels overwhelmed (don't we all). But I had to laugh at myself yesterday while I was paying bills for the bookstore and paying my household bills (don't tell my boss) of which one was already late (don't tell my husband) and catching a text message from my cousin's wife in Chattanooga who was letting in the Sears (there's more for your life) delivery guys for new appliances (that we drove to Chattanooga on Monday and purchased at the outlet store) being put into our house we closed on last week for our two oldest daughters (one who just graduated from Spring Hill and landed a job at the Alzheimer's Assoc. and the other in college at UT Chattanooga) because for the next several years it will be cheaper and a better investment (obviously) than an apartment. All I could think was "Calgon take me away!" Remember that woman lying in the tub filled with bubbles and smiling, relaxed without a care in the world or a child in the room?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Enter Through the Narrow Gate

"How narrow and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few." I have been trying lately to pay close attention to short, hidden paths and small openings to where Christ is leading me. Tiny voices, obscure people, chance meetings, narrow paths. And today, a lesson from the life and words of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Talk about choosing the narrow gate when he had in front of him the massive gates of a kingdom. Hmmm. Kingdom on earth. Kingdom in Heaven. Hmmm. Riches of this world. Poverty of spirit. Hmmm. Serving in a castle. Serving in a hospital. Man oh man did this guy choose the road less traveled but his quote from St. Bernard (about the apparition of the angel sent to the shepherds at the nativity of Christ) says all about his choices. "How many of the powerful and of the wise men of the world were resting in their soft beds at that hour, and none of them was esteemed worthy to see this new light, to know that great joy and to hear the angels singing!" His choice to detach himself from the riches of this world frees him to see the light, to know the joy and to hear the voices sent down from heaven.
I know, personally, that I this whole idea is nearly impossible for me. I like the big doors and lots of attention and easy paths. There are tugs and pulls and I know He wants more but for me it seems I move two steps forward and three steps back daily. Lately, I'm just treating each day as a new beginning. A new possibility. A fresh start. Today I will think of St. Bernard's words and of St. Aloysius' ways and I will pray to make the right choices, to say the right things, to follow the narrow way. May every day bring each one of us a new beginning and a fresh possibility to see new light, to know great joy and to hear the angels sing.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trinity Sunday

"This congregation is very lucky! I could speak for hours on the Trinity." The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are always, always in perfect sync with one another. They have a perfect relationship. They are in perfect harmony. Jesus was sent to invite us into that relationship. To invite us to be open to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are asked to mend our ways, encourage one another, agree with one another and live in peace. The same peace we recognize in the Trinity. I immediately thought of the way my children handle their relationships with one another. How crazy our household often is and yet how peaceful it can be. It is true that where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name, there He is. Fr. Joe's theory is that this is because if there is more than one human, we need Him with us. Amen to that! We need Him in our relationships. We need the peace He offers. He loves us and so He does invite us, He does call us, He does offer for us to join in a relationship. We are all broken in some way and so we need to be open to the gift of the Father to send His Son and to leave us with His Spirit. We are indeed very lucky.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

They Said It, We Heard It, Simple is Best

If you happened upon the readings this morning, you already know where I'm going and if you didn't, I'll fill you in. I repeat how St. Paul began by saying, "Please put up with me." As I hear it today, spreading the simple message of the love of Christ and praying the simple prayers, such as the Our Father, are all He asks of us today. We can use all the big words and sit and try to think of huge ways to pray and to praise and to worship, but for today, Jesus says to keep it simple. Do not babble. Do not over think. Do not super size. Do not look for others to follow that you think will lead you down the right path. Follow Jesus. Pray the prayer to the Father. Be open to the Holy Spirit. This path seems too simple. This way is less traveled maybe because it is so simple, it is just hard to believe, too good to be true. But it is all confirmed today. No difficult words. No heavy reading and rereading. Spread His word with simplicity and humility and pray the prayers we need for our daily bread, for forgiveness, for guidance and for protection. Simple is best.

Calm Down and Read the Instructions

Yesterday I was in a wad trying to copy legal size documents to my half broken copier and get them signed and sent back for the closing on a little place we have found for our two oldest. I could get 13 out of 16 pages printed perfectly but the last pages just would not work. What the heck? I was getting really angry when the thought came just to go down the street and let the "professional copy people" handle this job for me. So, in the midst of a thunderstorm, and I mean nature was pouring and lighting up the sky, I jumped in my car and humbly headed for help. The first place, where I knew the guy and expected great help, sent me to a computer and told me to tell him when I was ready to print. So, I inserted my credit card and began, only to wait and wait and find out that the internet was down because of the storm. I was offered a dry place to stay until the storm quit but I expressed my need to move on because of a deadline, not without saying, "I'll just find another company who can do this for me. Thanks anyway." I was rude. I was charged one dollar for nothing but the light of my short fuse. I moved to the next place where the guy assured me that it would be no problem. I logged into my email fine and he went to his ginormous printer. As another employee entered the scene, I saw my guy point to the paper tray and ask if the paper was legal size. Ugh! Then I noticed it. The badge. "In Training". I had no time for learning. My clock was ticking and my documents had to be scanned and returned to GA then checked then next day aired. The trainee finally conceded after several trials the he could not print them in legal size. He did however get them printed in letter size and it "looks like most of the pages printed". "No, the tops of all of these pages are missing." "Oh, well, if you want them, I'll have to charge you." I wasn't leaving them with him with all my bank info, etc. "Well, he had a shredder in the back and he could shred them. No, not then, but he would do it." "No thanks. How much for what I did not ask for?" One dollar sixty cents but if I have my rewards card it would save me 10 percent. Finally, I just had to burst. "I'm angry right now. I'm paying for something I don't want and I don't care about 10 percent. I need to get these documents back to GA by 3:00 and it's 2:15." Long story short, I went back to my own little printer and read the manual, which if you've read here before is completely against my family's grain, and figured out how to print and got it all done and signed and next day aired and they should arrive today, the good Lord willin'. Now, why don't I just calm down and read the instructions? It would save time and frustration and a whole lot of unnecessary anger toward those in their workplace who do not really care whether or not customers ever return. Oops. Maybe I'm still a little angry but good grief, get a grip. Anyway, amidst the horrible storms yesterday, and I don't just mean from nature, God was good and all was done and I have learned that if I'd just calm down in the first place and work step by step with persistence and faith and the instructions, I can get it all done. (Can't we all?)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What Concern of it is Yours?

In the Saturday's optional reading from John 21, we hear Jesus tell Peter to mind his own business and just follow Him. Oh boy did this ring home with me. Always thinking about what everyone else is doing and saying and how I measure up to what God expects of me versus others. Fr. Joe said, "What about him? What about her? Why do we worry about others, about fairness, about equality? We are to keep our eyes and our heart focused on Christ because as St. Therese would tell us, 'He is enough.'" And so He is. Thank God, He is.

Monday, June 13, 2011

No Candles Necessary

Just a short note to mention my boy's 16th birthday last Sunday. What a great kid I am blessed with in this 6'2 1/2" man. He's good to his grandparents and his parents. He's good to his siblings most of the time, ribbing his younger brother, hanging out with his two older sister, oftentimes making lunch for the younger ones. He doesn't need much; no big birthday bash, not even candles for the cake. He's laid back and about one of the kindest kids I know. He'll say he doesn't care, but he cares and I am very proud of him in every way.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Kindness Amongst the Crazies

Yesterday, my 15 year old, 9 year old and I went to the Driver License Center for a Learner's Permit. May I just say ha ha ha! Three hours later. When we went at 11, the line was out the door and down the sidewalk. We went home and ate lunch and at 2 the line was just outside the door so we ventured forth. An old couple stood with us who merely wanted to have their pictures on their licenses for traveling purposes. The woman warned us that the last time she did this she waited 3 hours, and she was right on the nose. But, here's what I believe (maybe) was passed on to us during 3 hours of pure, possible TV drama. There are many people here who do not know that they cannot get a license without proof of U.S. citizenship. Women who get cut in line by scary men can stand their ground, speak nicely and get their place back without brawling. When the sign reads "please do not use cell phones" it means do not use them no matter how angry you are and how much help you need. Everyone waits, make the most of it and talk to your neighbor. Don't yell out in a crowd and make the people behind the counter angry; they just work slower. Be prepared. Get online and have the proper paperwork and if you don't have access to that, call and ask but don't scream at the person just doing their job if you don't come to the facility with your original birth certificate. Patience, kindness, self-control, equality, politeness and a darn good attitude going in can get anyone a driving permit, a picture on your existing license, an address change or a new license in 3 hours no problem. This poor facility was so under-staffed, it just made us wonder how these workers come back day after day and take the verbal abuse and general flack from people who really need their service. There is a lot to learn about others out there in the real world and to wonder about the state of our government. It can be scary at times but after yesterday, we know, kind is what kind does and how kind acts. Be kind to others. Btw-He passed. Third driver on the way!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Let's Put a Name to the Face

I need to start asking for names. I'm pretty good about it when someone asks me to pray for them. I like to make a personal request if I can remember. Sometimes I ask and then forget when speaking to the Man upstairs but I still feel that since I asked He can fish it from my memory. After all, He is God. I like putting a name to a face. I met many of the phone salespeople last week at the Religious Book Trade Exhibit who send me constant email blasts at work about new releases and new product. Now, every time I receive a notice, I can picture Lauren and Rose and Julie and Mike and Amy and so on. The face God put me in touch with just makes the messaging a little more personal. So, why in the world do I forget to ask the names of the street guys I meet? Is it easier if I don't make our encounter personal? And why did God put this thought into my head today? Don't get me wrong, I know Roy and William and Kenny and Byrd but it's because someone else has taken the time to ask their name and understand their story. The only street person I can think of who I ever asked her name was Tina and I believe that is because she was obviously a girl and I guess I thought it safe to actually know her. God knows each of us by name and cares for us personally. I think I'm going to start trying to remember to put a name with the face. This will help me remember them and remember to pray for them. Last weekend, I had a street guy walk through the lot while I was unpacking my car and at first I acted like I didn't hear him. He wanted money for food. Well, don't they all. I usually get food for them so they will really eat but instead I called him back and gave him money from my pocket. He said, "Ma'am, you'll get this back." "No, it won't and it's okay." "Yes ma'am. God will bless you for helping me. You will receive a special blessing in some way. I know you will." Then, poof. He was gone and I haven't seen him since. I liked what he said to me. Can't get it off my mind. What was his name? What was his story? If I had done as others around me, I would have asked. Maybe, we all should take a little more time to know one another. You know, put a name to a face. Pray for one another personally. Know the one with whom we do business. Give someone the opportunity to tell us about themselves. Maybe, they'll make our day.

The Invisible Mother

I was sent this yesterday and thought it well worth passing along. Even if you've seen it before, it's worth reading again.

The Invisible Mother......

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?' Obviously, not. No one can see that I'm on the phone, or cooking, or vacuuming the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible. The Invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Can you pick me up at 5:30?'

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.'

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: 'To Charlotte , with admiration for the
greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, 4 life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

1. No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have
no record of their names.
2. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they
would never see finished.
3. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
4. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith
that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.' And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte . I see the sacrifices you make
every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and
smile about. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the an antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my daughter to tell the friend she's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and
bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to
myself. I just want her to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to her friend, to add, 'You're gonna love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot see if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Great Job, MOM! Share this with all the Invisible Moms you know...I just did. Hope this encourages you when the going gets tough as it sometimes does. We never know what our finished products will turn out to be because of our perseverance.