Saturday, May 30, 2015

no matter the cost

So I picked up Copper, my "free dog", from his third heart worm treatment yesterday.  My husband had always said to me that with pets, we go by the "$500 rule."  What does that mean? Basically, if treatment for an illness for a pet costs more than $500, we forgo treatment, and pray for a miracle.

Heart worm treatment costs more than $500. A lot more.

And I can tell you the exact moment that the $500 rule went straight out the window.  The receptionist handed me Copper's treatment papers, and on the top of the paper it read..."Copper Phelps."
This dog has my name.  He belongs to me.  And I will fight to keep him alive, no matter the cost.

To be honest, the money is not the worst part. Money is money. I can live with it or without it and it comes and goes so darn quickly that how anybody has the time to worship it, or the stupidity to depend on it,  is beyond me.  The worst part of this crazy heart worm treatment is looking at this sad pup, uncomfortable and afraid, and not being able to explain to him the WHY...why I, the one who cares for him and loves him, is putting him through this suffering.  To him, it makes no sense.

I pet his head gently, pulling on his soft brown ears, kissing his sweet freckled spot just beneath his eyes, as his body shivers and shakes.  He pants, and I can feel his heart racing, and I hold him tight to myself whispering, "I have got you, Copper.  You are safe.  I am with you."  He does not understand that he is sick.  He does not know that there is something living in his heart, that will inevitably kill him.  He is completely unaware that there could be up to 250 worms, as long as spaghetti, occupying his heart.  There is no way he will ever know that the pain I am allowing him to go through is because I love him to no end, and it is the only way to save his life.

Ironically, Copper has the cutest brown spot on his back, shaped like a heart.  And it is in that exact spot that the vet has had to shave to give him his painful injections.  She has had to literally shave away at his heart.

He is sitting beside me now, sweetly and quietly.  He does not leave my side.  Despite the fact that I, the one he believes in and trusts, dropped him off over night for his painful and frightening treatment, he still chooses to stay close to me.  He does not know why he is going through this, but he trusts me none the less.

And so I reach for the silver crucifix I keep around my neck, and kiss it gratefully, remembering the dark and deep valleys of my own life, the painful nights, my own shaking and shivering, the shaving away at my own heart.  And with this faithful pup snuggled close to my side, I too, choose to cling to my own faith, and snuggle close to the one who loves and saves me over and over again; to the one that never ceases to purify my heart, removing from it all evil. This free pup has freed me after all, reminding me to not ask God WHY, and to simply go through whatever this life throws at me, sweetly and quietly.

Because I belong to Him.  And he will fight to keep me alive.  No matter the cost.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

you do not know what you are asking

Mark 19:32-45

James and John come to Jesus and say, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."  And after they hand in their request  to sit one at his right and the other at his left, Jesus replies, "You do not know what you are asking."

This stood out to me.
You see, I ask God for a lot of things.
And of course, I ask him for things I want him to do in my life because I am sure that I am asking for what it is I truly need.

I am reminded today.
I do not know what I am asking.
Because I do not know the full story.
And maybe, what I am asking for is not meant for me.  In fact, maybe what I am asking for would be the death of me.
How can I know?

And so I remain in Him.
And I trust in Him, especially when I most don't feel like trusting.
Because He is the author of my life, not me, and He knows how it will end, not me.

Of course, I want him to do whatever I ask of Him.
But how blessed I am, that he loves me enough not to.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

total wreck

It is the simplest questions I am asked that often leave me without answer.
She asked me, "Can I ask you something? Why do you go to church?"
And my mind went blank.

But let's back up a bit.
This was yesterday.
She approached the side of my car, wrapped up in a green and red Christmas blanket, morning cigarette smell on her breath.
And she never makes eye contact.
Always looks down; looks away.
I wonder what she thinks will happen if she looks me in the eye?

And she has done this before.
This getting out of her car, leaning up against the side of my dirty mini van, picking at nothing in the grass, or looking off to the side, and then dropping this bomb.
Always about God.
And her grandmother, who taught her to pray, who is on earth no more.
It is a mix of annoyance and discomfort for me, but mostly, it feels like helpless compassion.

I mean, how do you even answer such a question?
Why do I go to church?
She mentioned the hate she had in her heart, and how she wants it to go away.
"I was doing so good for so long, and now it is back."
Because those wolves do that, you know. I know that. They leave you for a while, but they always come back. Hungrier.  Angrier.  They are relentless.
"Does church make that go away? The hate?" she asked me.
Still, I had no answer.
"That is part of it", was all I could muster up.

Before the bus rolled down the hill, there was not enough time to tell her why I go to church.
Because I love Jesus.
Because there is no other way to start my day.
Because I must give thanks for every good thing.
Because the church is my home.
Because truly, if I didn't go to church, where on earth would I go?
Because I have fallen, and I will fall again, and there is no way I can continue to get up and fight the battle each day if I didn't have HIS strength to lift me.
Because I am a sinner.
Because I have fallen madly in love with my Creator.
Because I would die if I didn't.

"Come with me one day" I told her.  "I go every day. Come with me."

And I know she won't.
She is scared.
She is lost.
She is angry.
She is hurting.
She is misguided.
She is desperate.
She is trapped in her sin.
She has been tricked.
She has been lied to.
She does not know she is worth it.

She is the closest thing to God I have ever seen.

Looking back on yesterday morning, her, wrapped tight in that blanket...that is what going to church is for me.
It is that blanket.
It wraps around me, keeps me from running, holds me still, protects me, envelops me in softness and warmth, comfort and peace. It is a shield of mercy and grace.  Nothing feels safer.

The bus came.
The children scattered for back backs thrown among the grass, then disappeared down the road.

For the first time, she looked at me.
"Jesus loves the total wrecks, you know".
I told her this.
Right to her face.
Directly into her eyes.

But the honest truth?
The total wreck I was reassuring was myself.

Monday, May 18, 2015

evidence of things not seen

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.

Because of it the ancients were well attested.

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,

let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us

and persevere

in running the race

that lies before us.

Hebrews  11:1-2; 12:1

We look to not what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory,

but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Cor 4:18

Friday, May 15, 2015

the last thing I need

After encouraging a friend, who admitted to feeling grumpy, I received this note:

I know it's only temporary and I will keep bringing my worn out self to The Lord's altar despite wanting to crawl back into bed or have a temper tantrum. It hit me in mass that I ask Christ to bring me close to Him and empty me of all my selfishness and pride and earthly things that separate me from Him. He answers my prayers and keeps giving me the chance to do that but I keep failing at it!

And we do this, don't we? We pray for something...that thing, that dream, that need.  We spend early morning hours in devotion, we make quick trips to the altar and get small beneath the cross, we go to daily mass. And we get hit by this and that; life and all of the trials and bumps and mountains and obstacles, and we feel we have been blindsided, that our circumstances are unfair, that the struggle is never ending, and think, "Good grief, why???? Why are you not giving me this or that? Why are you making my life harder when all I asked for is this??  Why won't you help me? This is the last thing I need!"

And then you get an e mail from a friend who reminds you. Who opens blind eyes.  Who unzips your heart and opens it to the truth.

Maybe...just maybe...this awful thing that you are experiencing right now IS what you prayed for.  Maybe, the circumstance you find yourself in right now...the one that feels like it will ruin you, and suck every bit of joy from you, is the very thing you need.  Maybe, this crappy situation that is currently drowning you, is actually your oxygen mask?  Could it be that this trial of your life IS your help?

I mean, really, honestly....I would prefer to just go to bed and wake up humble, gentle and patient. That is my prayer. I don't really want to work at it. I don't. I just want to be it.  Being tried and stretched, and exercised hurts.  And I prefer to avoid pain.  I prefer the easy way.  And so God sends me these things...these people...these irritating situations that bring out the worst in me; My selfishness, my need for attention, my aggressiveness, my total lack of patience for anyone who dares to stand before me, near me, or breathe on me. He tests me. Not because he wants to prove to me that my prayer is so clearly out of my reach, but because he loves me enough to show me that it is there within me...the well of humility and gentleness and is within my reach.  But I have to work at it. I have to strengthen it. I have to flex that muscle. I have to choose it. I have to want it so much more than I want anything else.  I have to put God first, and everyone else second, and maybe...maybe put myself third.  

And that is hard. Because we like to be first. And by we, I mean me.

On good days I recognize exactly what this God of mine is doing, and why.  And I am grateful for it.  But on other days; the ones that involve bloating, and a head ache, and a dog that can not stop peeing on the carpet, I am a little less responsive to the good he constantly provides.  And so it is on those days, that God gets crafty, and speaks to me through a dear friend who he knows I will listen to.  Like the red robin that glides across my driveway, or the warmth of  my son's neck upon waking, he approaches me so quietly and beautifully, sure to not startle, but certainly, gets my attention.  A sweet voice that whispers to me that all of these annoyances I am currently faced with and wish would go away? They are the help I have been begging for.  These are the answers to my prayers. 

Too funny, really. Because when you think about, it never fails; that what I think I need, is usually the last thing I need, and what I think is the last thing I need, God knows I need, and I am given first.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Hour

I think the problem with Mother's Day is the "day" part.  Asking a man, and four children, to pull off an entire day is just not realistic.  The day would go much smoother if we called it Mother's Hour.  An hour is totally manageable. An hour, this crew can do.  It would also be helpful if the schools didn't stop with the homemade gifts and cards in elementary school.  That ought to go right up through high school.  It is the oldest, less creative teen, that needs the most help in the card giving category.

As much as I like to pretend I have no expectations, I do. As much I like to believe I am blessed with children, and that is enough, sometimes...I don't.  Because Mother's Day or not, I am, at the very core, a sinner, who often seeks comfort and ease, attention and praise.  I am grateful to know this.  I am also, to the very core, a mother.  And I feel like on Mother's Day, we are asked to relax, sit back, and not do what actually comes really easily to me: mothering.  Cleaning, and making lunches, and entertaining my children...this is what I do.  Asking me to not do it is like asking the dog to not pee on the floor. It is impossible. remove me from my family.  And as much as I crave so often to be pay a small guilty price when you choose to leave the people who are the reason for you being a mother in the first place.

Truth is, my family did shower me with gifts, and cards, and a homemade meal, that even included freshly made margaritas, chips and salsa, and a New York Rangers win.  I do not need a day to know how blessed I am.  I do not even need gifts or cards. And I do not need to do nothing.

To escape a couple of complainers, and a kid on day three of not feeling so great, I put on my running shoes and went for a walk. Because I don't run. The first lap was my mind I being grateful?? Why so irritated?? Is this totally hormonal???  The world tells me this is my day, be pampered!  But is that really what I want???  Instagram shows me family hikes and bike rides that truly appear to be picture perfect excursions...but are they?  And really, who cares???? The second lap, I stopped my inner monologue, and I talked to Mary instead.  Over and over again, I prayed the Hail Mary.  Over and over again, I took the focus off of self, and put it on my Heavenly Mother.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners.  Now, and at the hour of our death....

I came home to a set table, surrounded by my family.  A family that loves me, no matter what day of the year it is.  And a dog, who had peed on the floor.  And every bit of it was perfect.

Friday, May 8, 2015

An invitation to all the busy people out there. So yeah. That means everyone.

Feeling overwhelmed?  Calendar just too full? Are you spending your days running from one thing to the next, wondering where the time goes?  Are you always at the breaking point, ready to scream if you are asked to do ONE MORE THING?

Good. Then get ready to scream, my crazy brother and sister...and add THIS to your calendar.

Yes.  I am inviting you to ADD to your crazy day. 

You see, I get busy too.  And aren't we all so good at being busy?  Because somehow, we have all been taught that the opposite of busy is lazy. Uninvolved. Unimportant.  The busier we are, the faster we go, the more we have to complain about...and well, in a twisted way, I think we like that.  I think that in a world and a life that can often lack purpose and meaning, we have been fooled into believing that the act of being busy fulfills us.  Being busy makes us feel useful.

But to who?
I know that when I am running like a chicken without a head, focused on the many earthly things I must do, because you know, if I don't, certainly the world will stop spinning, I am not the picture of what God intended me to be.
I am short tempered.
I am quicker to judge.
I complain often.
I spend more money.
I drink more wine.
I focus on the negative.
I flirt with anxiety and doubt.
I am a crappy wife.
I am an ungrateful mother.
I put my needs and desires of how I think my life should be above the needs and desires God has planned especially for me.
I become blinded by my ego, pride, and desire to be self sufficient, resisting those that offer me help because if I allow anyone to give me a hand, clearly, I am a big, fat loser.

When we get crazy busy, we forget what matters. In fact, we have no time for what matters.  We push those we love away because we have these things we must do first; these things that only we can do, and nobody else. We become an island.  We chase after perfection. We crave control. We only see ourselves and our plan and we will barrel through it all, doing whatever it takes.  And this is so dangerous.

What if I told you that if you went to mass every morning, you would actually have MORE time in your day?
What if I told you that if you spent 30 minutes every afternoon in prayer, your hours would multiply?
Because when you take that all important PAUSE, to hear Gods word, and to ask HIM what you need to do with your might be surprised.  Because God has this awesome way of ordering things the way they should.  God holds your to do list for the day, and it is so much better than yours.  God knows what you need to do in order to find what you are looking for. So why in the world would you not consult the one who created you and everything in it and who quite simply, has all the answers?

I want to see us stop doing the crazy things we have been fooled into thinking that matter, and start participating in the ONE thing guaranteed to bring us eternal JOY.

This is an invitation to all you crazy people who are just too busy to add one more thing to your calendar.

Why will this help?
How can another thing on your list be helpful?

Well, how about this:

"Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing." (John 15)

Did you catch that?
Without remaining in God, you can  do NOTHING. 
And aren't we all running like idiots because we are trying to accomplish SOMETHING?
We are such fools.  We eliminate the ONE THING from our busy days that actually has the power to get us THROUGH the craziness.  We race in circles believing that the crossing off of items on an endless list will bring us joy, when in reality, all it does is bring us exhaustion.  

But joy? Really? How will going to Mass bring me joy?  I usually day dream or plan dinner in my mind, or wonder how any of what I am hearing matters to me and my really long list of things I MUST get done or mountains will crumble.

"Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete." (John 15)

It can be yours.
If you remain in him.
Remain in him by going to mass often.
Remain in him by frequently receiving the Eucharist.
Remain in him by meeting up with good, faith filled friends, with whom you can share your doubts, joys, fears, and love.
Remain in him by putting time with him first on your to do list.

You don't drink coffee? Well, that is a whole other problem I won't even touch as I drink my fourth cup...but go for an iced tea. Or grab a bagel. Sit on a park bench with a smoothie..whatever!  Just do it. Go to mass with a friend, then spend time together afterwards talking about the Gospel, sharing your reflections, opening your heart.

Come on!  You KNOW that if Oprah listed daily mass as one of her favorite things, you would TOTALLY start going!

Yes. It is one more thing.
But without a doubt, it is the ONLY thing.

Do it, and you won't believe how different your life will be.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

remaining in him

I am quite possibly the worst writer ever.  Because I believe, to call oneself a writer, you need to write. I write in  my head.  All day long.  So many stories and reflections are written in my mind.  But I don't think that counts.

And well, I thought I could reflect here today on this theme of "remaining in him" and how lost...and I mean really seriously lost we all are or have all been or sad to say, will one day be, should we forget to abide in Christ. Not just sometimes. But always. It really needs to happen every day and at every moment.

But I came home to house infested with wasps, then the dog ate my lunch, because I was busy talking to a friend who stopped by with her son, who peed through my kitchen chair onto my already dirty kitchen floor, and this is all after getting stuck in Walmart and the dollar store, which I feel like I need a strong drink and hot shower after that experience.

For the record, I have no problem with kids peeing on my furniture.  My furniture is gross and I think kids are cute.

So yeah. Remaining in him.
It is on my mind.
I mean, how do people do it? How do  they get through life without him? Without clinging tight? No wonder no one is happy.  No wonder so many people are unsatisfied.  They are withering branches.  They do not stand a chance.

Not enough time to really explain how I feel about it, but enough time to know that if I weren't grafted to him, and seeking his face in all things...this morning might have killed me.

John 15

Sunday, May 3, 2015

uncomfortable faith

During Mass tonight, my son leaned into me and whispered, "Mom, can you e mail the church and ask them to get cushions for these chairs. They are really uncomfortable."

My guess is he is not alone when it comes to the desire for personal comfort.  Which is ironic, because lately, the idea of detachment and decrease has been playing on a loop in my mind.  Of course, I want things...I want easy...I want all those perks other people seem to have...

but do I?

I have been thinking a lot about this.
About what I want in my life, versus what I truly need in my life.
What I want to gain in this life, versus what I want to give in this life.

I don't want to be comfortable.
Getting comfortable has never improved me.
Being comfortable makes me sleepy, lazy, and unmotivated.

I smiled at my son and said, "Yeah...cushions would be nice.  But I will  bet it would be harder to pay attention if we were too comfortable."

You see, I want an uncomfortable faith.  A faith that stands strong and solid beneath me.  A faith that keeps me sitting up, and paying attention.  A faith that moves me to do something.  A faith with no cushions.

Friday, May 1, 2015


This is what I need to work on.
Moving from a deep silence and resting with my Lord, into the harshness of the real world that I live in.
Taking the Lord I meet up with, and bringing Him along with  me, no matter where the mess of my day goes.

When my husband comes down the stairs early in the morning, and I am in the midst of my solitude and early rising prayer, in simple words, I want to scream.  Maybe even cry.  Punch something.  And then scream again. The mere sound of his feet moving above me, getting out of the bed, walking into the bathroom, creaking down the stairs, sniffling, pouring coffee, water running, pill bottles drives  me crazy.  Getting angry at the one you love for no other reason than he is alive, does not make for a very productive prayer time.

I just came in the from the bus stop, with every intention of getting right to work on this disaster of a place we call "home", however, a quick prayer while waiting for the school bus to arrive gently put on my  heart "write first" before jumping into the busyness of the day.  So, I filled a bowl with yogurt and berries, heated up my coffee, and sat down to a blank screen....

and then my husband walked down the stairs.
and walked into the room where I am sitting.

The nerve of this man to be in his home while I am in it too!

OK, so here is the deal.
My husband is a rock star, and I love him, and he certainly has the right to walk around, and enter any room of the home that he works to pay for. He even has the right to use the bathroom, run the water, and get out of bed in the morning.  And, I actually do like him.  This has nothing to do with the way his body creaks the stairs, or the way he always has the untimely timing of appearing when I am so obviously just about to peak in Holiness and communion with every angel and saint in heaven above.  (This is why an Angel of the Lord will never appear to me and ask me to do something for God. Unless of course, he appears when I tell him to appear.  But I am pretty sure, from what I have read, that they sort of come unannounced, which by the way, I am not a fan of...people showing at my home unannounced.  I like a "head up" so I can at least wipe up the cat vomit, or put the "cup and mouth guard" sitting on my kitchen counter in a less obvious and disgusting place. )

I am great when it is just me and my God.  Really! You should see me! I must look radiant, I am so darn deep in prayer.  I am so good and so pure when there are no interruptions or distraction; when there is nothing but silence.  But news flash: I am a married woman with four children, a cat with fleas, and a dog that is in the process of being treated for heart worm which, by the way, is some kind of small crazy nightmare.  When I chose this life for myself, a life with worms and fleas and kids, and all that I would never, ever trade, I sort of agreed to if not the possibility, but the absolute guarantee, that the road ahead would be peppered with interruptions and distractions.

This is what I want to be.  I want to be the kind of woman, wife and mother, that remains in Jesus.  I want to be holy in solitude, and I want to be holy in the midst of life's biggest storm, which for the record, is every other day over here.  The peace I feel when abiding in Christ, when it is just me, a rising sun, a lit candle, and no other sound but the dogs quiet breathing, in and out, as he sleeps on my lap and I rest in Jesus' arms...that is the same peace I want to have deep within me always...that is the peace I want to hold onto when the next storm hits. Everyday, there is something.  Earthquake. Tornado. Hail storm. It is remarkable, really.  But it is the truth.  Every day is a goody bag of highs and lows, waters shallow and deep.  And I don't want to waver.  I don't want to be the kind of person that prays alone, and writes about faith, and leads a ministry and goes to daily mass, only to throw it all out the window when the first cloud of the day rolls in.  Or when my husband walks in.

And I am not implying that my husband is a storm.  In fact, he is the opposite.  He is the rest that you find in the storm. When he creaks down the stairs, and takes his pills, and runs that water, and pours that coffee, he also comes to me, says not a word, takes my empty coffee up, fills it up, and then sits across from pray.  My husband and his so called interruption is actually something that I prayed for, for many years.  I begged God to give me a husband that is holy, that loves Him, and that makes prayer a priority.   And God answered me.

I suppose I need to reflect on that.  I suppose I have to think about how much I have asked for, how many things I have begged God to give me...and I need to recognize that He has answered every single prayer.  Perhaps not in the way I imagined, but answered, none the less.  And sure, I can complain.  We can always find reason to complain. Complaining is so easy and something I am very good at.  Wanna hear?
God, I asked for a dog....why did you give me a sick one???
God, I asked for a husband that prays...but not at the same time I am praying!
God, I asked for many children,  but not ones that didn't know how to hang a towel or clear their plate!
God, I asked that you make me Holy, but not by this suffering!

See? Told you I was good.

Well, my husband took a hint and went upstairs. Must have been when I stared at him, and said, "Funny. I was just writing about interuptions." I am subtle like that. My yogurt is gone and so is the coffee, and this house really needs to be scrubbed, or disinfected, or burned down.  And so this is what I am going to attempt today.  I will do dishes and scrub toilets and put clothes away...I will medicate the dog, work in a shower, and pick up the basement.  And I will do all of this, with every noise and distraction, and offer it to God as a prayer of Thanksgiving.  I will not look at the loved ones God has gifted me with as interruptions.  I will not seek out holiness the way I want to find it, but will allow every single circumstance and encounter to be an opportunity to find holiness and grace. Every word I speak, every deed and chore, I will do it in Jesus' name.  And when I feel that frustration and annoyance creeping in, I will stop, pray the Our Father, say thank you, and move on.

And then I will sneak out to Adoration, where silence is guaranteed, and dogs aren't allowed.
And when the old man behind me whispers the Hail Mary, fifty times, I promise...I will not be irritated.

I am trying so hard to live a quiet life free from distraction, and yet I am beginning to see that perhaps my way to God is not by finding the route that takes me around these interruptions, but rather, the road he has paved for me requires my walking straight into them; taking them head on, strengthening my soul, trading in complaint for gratitude, for the sake of His holy name.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord-  Col. 3:17