Sunday, December 14, 2014

creating a space

Often in the mornings, I stick around after Mass.  There is really no point in going back home (and leaving again in 5 minutes), and I don't want to be too early for work.  So I soak in 15 or 20 or 25 minutes of quiet time and life is good.  The priest finishes up what he needs to do to get ready for the next Mass, and then he turns off the lights - except for the one where I hang out - locks the doors, and leaves me in peace.

Sometimes I drift over the alcove where the Blessed Mother's statue is.  We talk about mom things or husbands.  There are candles in her alcove, and it bothers me when there are some that are burnt out, so I will take those out and replace them with fresh ones and then all seems right in the world.  Occasionally, I come across one which has started to burn and then fizzled.  I will indulge my inner pyro and relight it...sometimes it takes a little bit of persistence, but I usually get it.  Prayers go along with those burning candles, so I figure maybe those prayers needed to be stretched out for a while longer and I'll add my prayers for whatever intention they were lit for.

A couple of weeks back, though, I came upon a candle that was a challenge.  It was filled to the very top with wax, and the wick didn't have a chance.  It reminded me of us sometimes.  We are so filled with all kinds of useful and good things - husbands, children, work, church activities - that we don't have a chance.  The candle had every thing it needed in order to be a fully-functioning candle (wax and a wick), it was just too full.  During this season of Advent - or what remains of it - give yourself some space, preferably a quiet space and see if that doesn't help your light shine more brightly in the darkness.

Related side note:  One of our church people had a stroke last year about this time and now lives in a nursing home nearby, but is still pretty functional.  At Bible study a few weeks ago, he had asked me if I'd give him a ride to the church gumbo which was last Sunday after the 10:30 Mass.  I'd agreed.  I called him on Saturday to see what time he wanted to be picked up (I'm thinking 10:30...11:00.)  "Well I want to go to 8:30 Mass," he said, "so you can pick me up at 7:30." I must have stuttered a little bit, and I'd already left a voicemail  suggesting 10:30 or 11, but I agreed to 7:30.  He called me back a few hours later and left a voicemail saying 11:00 would be fine, and after having had some time to think about it, I called him back and told him I would be there at 7:30.

He was waiting with his walker outside the facility the next morning when I got there (in the vicinity of 7:30).  He showed me how it folded up, I threw it in the back, and we were off.  There was only one other person in the church when we got there, and the air conditioning must have been set on "morgue", but in an otherwise non-stop, crazy weekend, it was wonderful to have that quiet space before Mass started, and I appreciated that God had arranged for me to have it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

ending another chapter

Hasn't been too many months ago since we passed this milestone!
And then we were on to the next step.  We all agreed that a 4-year college wasn't the best step.  He loves history and art, but school - not so much.  He had signed up for Aviation Maintenance on the Community College website (because someone told him it might be fun?)  Then he thought about becoming an Electrician.  My ADHD son around electricity didn't sound like the best career path, so we suggested Machine Tools.  He seems to have an eye for seeing details that others don't.

One day, shortly after graduation we were shopping at one of those large warehouse chains when we ran into our Cubmaster from long ago, along with his wife and youngest son.  I knew that he worked for a company that employed machinists, so I told him of the decision we were looking at:  Electrician vs Machinist.  With a little encouragement from his wife. ;-), Mr. P offered to take the graduate to work with him one day and show him around.  Later in the week, they did just that, and the boy returned home certain of what he wanted to do...Machine Tools, it was!  He scheduled his classes that afternoon on the Community College website. He even texted his schedule to Mr. P, who had said they might be able to find something for him to do part time at his company.

All was well until about 3 weeks ago, when the community college called and said that his classes wouldn't start until the spring.  Now what?  Well, look for work, I suppose.  Once again he contacted Mr. P, but he didn't hear anything in reply.  Then about a week ago, the community college called again and said he could reschedule his classes.  Oh, and by the way tuition was due.  So we took care of that.  This kid took the money out of his savings and checking accounts to pay the tuition because he said he knew he'd do better if it was his money.

Then Sunday, Mr. P's wife called me.  "P's boss is trying to get in touch with B....make sure he calls him," she said.  He called yesterday and scheduled the interview for today.  "I think I got the job," he texted me.  It's a full time job, starting Monday, if he passes his physical.  "On the job training for this kind of job is better than school," he says.  A part of us is programmed to say, "You HAVE to go to school."  But he is going to see about a tuition refund tomorrow.

He is excited and looking forward to this new chapter.  I am, too.  That's what we do as parents...raise productive members of society.  But I suppose, though, this is kind of a signal that childhood and all that entailed is wrapping up real fast. I'm a little sad about that.  But glad that we are moving forward.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

remember me?

It's been a million years or six months since I last posted anything here.  Sometimes I think about it, but then I get half way through a post or don't start it at all.  I don't know what happened from the days of thinking, "Oh, I can blog about this."  I suspect part of it is that my kids turned into real people.  More or less.

But  there are a couple of  things from earlier in the year that I want to write down just so I remember them. Remembering is getting harder and harder, it seems.  I think its because my brain is out of available memory space and there is a constant assault of information  That's what I'm going with, anyway.

I am spending some wonderful, valuable, golden time with my BFF.  I've been here's been three years -almost exactly to the day - since I was here.  But tomorrow I head home.

So let me download a couple of things from my memory...good things.

In 2013, towards the end of wrestling season, one of my sons' coaches collapsed during practice and died right there - on the mat.  It was sudden, it wasn't pretty, and it was one of those parts of life you wish you could shield your kids from, but can't. forward a year to the 2014 wrestling season.  Our high school hosts a tournament every January, and this year it was renamed in honor of the coach who had passed away.  Many of his family members were in attendance.

As I washed my hands in the restroom - of all places - a woman that I had never met before, introduced herself to me as the sister of the late coach.  She said, "I just want you to know, I'm ______'s sister, and he always had such positive things to say about your sons.  And I've heard other coaches say the same thing, too."  We do our best raising our children, but sometimes it really is nice to hear something out of the blue so positive.

I hate it when people post on Facebook about how fabulously, wonderfully awesome their amazing honor roll, principal's list kids are, so I refrained from splashing that on Facebook for all the world to see.  I think sometimes those people just want more people to say how awesome their kids are and it's because their parents are so great, of course.  But it's here so I won't forget it.

I had another proud mom moment in April.  There was an evening meeting for my son's internship program after school one day.  There is a kid who lives in a nearby subdivision...his parents work nights...he asked for a ride.  So we picked him up - not a total stranger, he has run cross country with my boys, rides their bus, etc.  On the way home, my child wanted to stop at Chick-Fil-A.  I was not interested in eating  there(started Weight Watchers a month or so earlier), but I stopped so he could get something.  I stayed in the car and let them go in.

Our ride-along buddy didn't have any money, and had never even been to Chick-Fil-A before.  I was proud of my child, for doing the right thing (without me nudging him along) and buying a sandwich for his friend.  After they got in the car, his friend said to my son, "I owe you, man."  "Nah, that's OK...just pay it forward some day."  It was another proud mom moment.

I listened to the 2 of them talk in the back seat on the way home.  My boys and this young man catch the bus at 6 am, which is way too early, in my opinion.  BUT, this kid wakes up even earlier and walks his sister - who goes to a different high school even further from home - to the bus stop at 5:30 because he does not want her to wait alone at that hour.  It kind of gives you a little bit of faith in humanity that there are still responsible, selfless, giving people in the world.

Now I shall crawl back into blog oblivion...or maybe I'll come back and share my visit with my BFF.  Just depends on what's happening in the world (my world).  Tomorrow will be a travel day, and then the next day begins inservice days for school.  RIP summer.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

today's faves

Inspiration for this post goes to Meg at Held By His Pierced Hands.  Her blog should really be in my sidebar....I just haven't updated recently.  I love, love, love her writing and thoughts.  In a recent post, she shared some of her favorites after someone had asked what her favorite parable was.

And since I seem to lack for ideas of my own lately, here goes.....

Favorite Parable:  The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:  11-32)  I think it is the story of most of us.  I also remember reading it during our First Confession Ceremony/Celebration/Liturgy all those years ago in third grade.

Favorite Image of Jesus:  The Good Shepherd  The fact that He leaves the 99 and goes off in search of the one lost sheep.  So, not only does He welcome us back when we come to our senses, but He goes out, searches for us, and carries us back.  See Matthew 18:12-13.

Favorite Bible Verse:  I'm pretty sure that can't be narrowed down to just one.  Tops on the list:  Be still and know that I am God.  (Psalm 46:10)  Draw close to God and He will draw close to you. (James 4:8)  Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.  (Mark 9:24).

Favorite Bible Study: Anything by Jeff Cavins and the folks at the Great Adventure.  I have studied James, the Bible Timeline, Revelations, Acts, and Matthew (twice).  Again it is difficult to pick a favorite, but James was short and had a great deal of practical application.

Favorite Liturgy:  This is an easy one....Holy Thursday...the Mass of the Lord's Supper.  It is beautiful.   It begins with an open, empty Tabernacle.  Even without the customary washing of the feet - an option that our pastor chooses not to exercise - there is so much symbolism and richness.  It is a Mass that doesn't least not right then.  It concludes with Adoration, at the end of which the priest removes the Blessed Sacrament from the Tabernacle, leaving it empty as it was at the beginning of Mass.   A bonus on Holy Thursday is the Chrism Mass, which is held early in the day at the Cathedral.  Simply beautiful.

Favorite Prayer:  This would have to be the Prayer of St. Francis...Lord make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred..... I don't know why it's my favorite.  I'm pretty sure I don't know it by heart in its entirety,  nor do I pray it regularly.  Maybe it's the structure, the poetic nature, or just the simplicity, and the image of what we should all be.

Favorite Sacrament:  Of course, the Eucharist is the hands down (or hands-out) winner.  What is not to love?  Our God making Himself present to us - condescending to us - to be consumed in order that He can consume us.  But a really close second would have to be Reconciliation/Confession/Penance.  It is that one-on-one with Jesus.  That combination of nervousness and anticipation.  The grace, the encouragement, the warmth, the fresh start.  It is so worth it.  Every single time.

Favorite Penance:  I have had many that are thought-provoking and/or helpful, and my current priest never assigns the "say 3 Hail Marys" variety.  My favorite, though, "Go and bask in the silence and let Jesus speak to you."

Favorite Catholic Musician:  That would be Matt Maher.  Love, love, love.  And my favorite of his songs, "Deliver Me."  Loosely based on the Litany of Humility.

Favorite Catholic Devotionals:  This awesome series.  There is something for each day of the year that  matches up with the Scripture readings for the day.  Things that make you think, but presented so that normal people can understand.  In Conversation With God.  I got most of my copies from eBay.

Favorite "Catholic" thing to do:  Adoration.  This is the best thing ever.  Whether the Blessed Sacrament is exposed in a monstrance or simply present in the Tabernacle of whatever random Catholic Church you find yourself at.  What do you do when you go?  You can just sit in the Presence.  You can kneel.  You can kneel then sit.  You can pray prayers you know.  You can just sit and gaze.  You can tell God everything that is on your mind.  You can sit and listen to God whisper in your ear.  You can read.  You can write (one of my favorite things to do).  You can ask for forgiveness.  You can ask for wisdom.  You can ask for help.  You can surrender. You can praise Him.  You can thank Him.  You can do all of the above.  It is amazing the answers that come.  The peace that comes.  Amazing.

Favorite Lenten Practice:  The best Lenten "penance" ever was daily Mass.  I started part way through Lent one year, and committed to 3 days a week (because our parish had Mass at 6:30 am 3 days a week and I could go and make it to work at the required 7:05).  This was absolutely the best thing ever.  I was hooked long before Lent was over and felt like someone had been keeping this little treasure a secret.  It's not a penance.  It's a gift.  And it's certainly not just for Lent.

And that, boys and girls, are my favorites for now.  I'm sure there are more that I could add....and maybe I will....

Friday, January 3, 2014

13 for 13

I was going to compose something profound about the year in review, but this seemed like a better option.  Especially since its been a while since I've written anything bordering on profound.  Thirteen pictures...from 2013.

1. My boys at a wrestling meet.  It is such a hard sport to appropriately photograph in action.  I love that they enjoy it as brothers.  They say wrestling teaches a lot about real life.  It became a little too real, however, when one of their coaches had a heart attack and died during practice in early 2013.

2.  The Eagle Project for Son #1 was completed.  Merit badges remained, but at least this part was done.

3. In the spring, I made a decision that I never thought I would make, and elected to leave the place where I had worked for the past 24 years.  In retrospect, it was an unexpected blessing.

4.  This was the key to my sanity while working at that place.  Almost every morning, before work, I could find 10 or 15 minutes or more...sometimes an hour.... to sit in the peace and the Presence.  It was at Mass in this church that I first had an inkling that God might have something different planned for me for the coming year.

5.  It wasn't the school where I thought I might be going.  But I prayed to know the "right" one, and in the end, it met every one of the specifications (both serious and not so serious) that I had on my Perfect School list.

6.  Kid #2 got to spend 2 weeks at the National Boy Scout Jamboree.  He is a character.

 7.  Kid #1 turned 18.  I was so excited that he would be able to sign all of his own back-to-school paperwork when school started.  He also worked 2 jobs this summer:  a 7:30-4:30 internship with the computer repair folks at the school board and then a 5:00-11:00 or so job at Sonic as a carhop. We didn't see much of him!

8 &9.  Totally enjoyed a visit from the grandkids.  There are 6 of them...4 of them are seen in these pictures.

10.  We don't always get back-to-school pictures. Its a hectic morning for all of us.  But they let me snap one out of the car window as they waited for the bus.  I have a junior and a senior!  How time has flown.  Speaking of's about 6 a.m. in the picture, which is why they don't look too alert.

 11.  This was a long road - working on the Ad Altare Dei religious award.  But we finally finished it up and our pastor presented our little group with their medals one Sunday morning.  The lighting in the picture is not great, but we were proud.

12.  Son #2...full of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Smelling the sweet scent of chrism.

13.  A half-way decent family picture at Son #1's Eagle Ceremony.  Finally!!

Lagniappe:  Visiting with my Granddad.  He is 97 and looking good!

Gotta include one more bonus pic.  This one was a "selfie in the sacristy".  Altar servers before the Easter Vigil Mass.  I like the little guy looking up to the older servers.  My guys have served at the Easter Vigil for the past 7 or so years.  They do it willingly, but each year I think, "this might be the last time.".  That growing up thing.

It was a year.  Closed doors and new beginnings.  Goals achieved, gifts received.  Through it all, God is good!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

in all things give thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

Several weeks ago, we had a homily at church, stressing the ALL in "In ALL things give thanks."  Most of us can say that we are thankful for the good things in our lives, and probably even remember to acknowledge God's role in that good fortune.  But that is precisely the point...we are to give thanks in ALL circumstances, not just those that we judge to be good.

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm not even sure I'm a 100% at giving thanks for the things that are "good", and I KNOW I've got a long way to go before I'm very grateful for financial problems, or backstabbing co-workers, or self-centered people, or aches and pains.  But as I knelt in church today before Mass, gathering my thoughts and trying to hear God's wisdom, that was exactly what I heard.  Doesn't God always take care of us?  I know that He does when we get out of the way and let Him.  However, it is not always in the way we would have chosen.  In the last month at church our sacristan has had a stroke and relocated to an assisted living facility and the lovely lady that does our schedule for lectors and ministers of Communion has been diagnosed with stage IV cancer in her lungs, liver, and kidneys.

Are we supposed to be thankful for strokes and lost independence?  For cancer and lives interrupted?  But from a distance, I know that God can take painful circumstances and work miracles in the midst.  An acquaintance of mine passed away in October...she had fought stage IV lung cancer for nearly 5 years...doctors had given her a 15% chance of surviving a year.  She had 3 young children.  The miracle was not a cure, but a witness; so many were inspired by her battle, by the way she placed everything in God's hands.  Good did come from trials and sorrows.  But being thankful seems like a stretch.

I remembered a scene from The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.  Corrie and her sister were in a Nazi concentration camp, and are housed in a building that is infested with lice.  In all things give thanks. "Lord, we are thankful for the lice," they prayed.  Later they realize that the guards totally avoid the building because of the lice.  Lord, thank you.

In my own life, I can look back and see how good has come from things that I never would have chosen.  9-11 is what gave me the incentive or motivation to make things right in my spiritual life.  There have been other trials and losses and difficulties over the years that I would have preferred to avoid.   Yet, I can sometimes look back and think, "Oh, this is why I had to go through that!"   But even then, gratitude - if it comes at all - is often very much delayed.

Lord, help me to be grateful.  Help me not to ask you "why", but to understand "what" I am supposed to learn or to become from the difficult things in my life.  Help me to give thanks in ALL things.

1/2/14:  Updating.  My sacristan friend seems to very happy with his new living quarters, from what I've heard.

My friend diagnosed with Stage IV cancer is likely very happy with her new home, although we miss her greatly.  She underwent surgery on December 20 with great hope that the tumor could be removed and the remaining cancer successfully treated with chemo.  Her heart stopped after surgery, however, and could not be restarted.  She had told her husband that she might be "spending Christmas with Jesus" and she was totally OK with it.

The thing to be thankful for is that she felt had no symptoms from the cancer and never had any pain from it.  She had time to prepare for her death and to wrap up loose ends, and we got to hug her and tell her that we loved her.  The rosary held at the school where she worked and the memorial Mass held at our small parish were attended by hundreds.  It was beautiful.  She was beautiful.  Her husband told me, "keep praying."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

fresh starts

The school year has begun and for the first time in 20 something years, I am at a new school, in a new classroom, with a new staff, and new students.

The classroom I am now occupying is awesome.  If it had a sink, it would be just about perfect, but I won't be picky.  I have 4 window unit air conditioners.  I have an area along one side where my computers are housed, a main room, a closet, and another room, which can be used for small group instruction or a time-out room.

I spent a lot of time in the closet.  It was a mess!  Days were spent before school started...trying to make some sense of it....

It is better.  Not perfect.  I still have boxes of my own to unload...and school started before I could get them all unloaded.

Did I mention that I love my students??  I have 7 of them right now.  I think we will get along just fine.  Complete strangers have come up to me and told me how glad they are that I am in this class.  Apparently the classroom atmosphere was different last year.

I am struggling to find my feet, but that is always the case at the beginning of the year.  Moreso this year, because I don't have experience with the curriculum that other teachers with this type of class use.  Going to spend the day tomorrow with a friend who teaches this class at another school.  Hopefully, that will help...

I manage my way to and from without the GPS, now.  And I found the nearby Dollar Gen...bought some cleaning supplies there one day.

I have two teacher assistants, and that has helped me to feel comfortable.  I also have a colleague from my old school who is here...a familiar face.  People have been nice.  But as I sat in the auditorium for a faculty meeting after the first day of school, I wondered how long it will be before I could count some of those people as "friends". Fresh starts...

It has been an amazing journey - the last 4 months.  A journey I never planned to take.  Sometimes God has been in the driver's seat....other times he has sat in the passenger seat and navigated.  There have been plenty of billboards along the way letting us know we are on the right path.  My supervisor shared with me that the job was open for "only a few days" before she heard that I had filled it.  It made me wonder what had happened if I had been called on the first day they started placing us...instead of the third.  Maybe this job wouldn't have been available.  I marveled at God's timing.   But now it seems like we are pulling back into the driveway.  The let-down feeling after vacation....when you have to go back to the real world, when you still have laundry and unpacking to do.

But in the end...I have a sense that I am where I am supposed to be...and that was my prayer all along.  Things will happen when they happen.  And all will be well.  I am blessed to be where I am.