Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Me, Martha, and the birds

I went to 9am Mass this morning un-showered, hair a mess, pathetic attempt at eye liner, in a white T shirt with a coffee stain on my left breast, because when I sat down at 8:30am to pray with today's readings, I saw that today is the feast day of Saint Martha.  How could I not choose the better part?

Funny.  A woman saw me and said, "We have missed you! Have you been on vacation?", which was immediately followed by a quick up and down of myself and a concerned, "What happened to you?"  Now maybe by what happened she truly meant where did you go, but let's not sugar coat this folks...this summer has been a beast and a challenge and I look like I have just come out of a boxing ring, not back from a week relaxing in the Cape.  As I told the bank teller who asked me if I had proof of a change of address, "Doesn't the stress on my face count as proof enough?"

But Martha.
She, too, felt the burden.
The work and the endless serving.
How unfair it all was.
She, too, was anxious.
And like Martha, I often wonder why Jesus didn't give me the more desirable task; the easy way to serve.  I mean, with all of the ways to serve Him, does mine really have to be the un-showered, endless meal cooking, kitchen cleaning, child chauffeuring, task?  Because after all, who even sees that?  Who knows the hours I spend scrubbing, and consoling, and fixing, and praying? Who even cares?

Oh, me, of so little faith.

I know He cares.
I know He sees.
And still.
I find a way to allow worry, doubt and anxiety to sneak in.
Did I say sneak in? Because, good grief, some days I think I leave the door wide open for him, with a bottle of wine and a plate of cheese and crackers set out on the table with a note saying, "Welcome, anxiety!  Make yourself at home!"

Just beyond this laptop is a stack of bills that I have had, unopened, since before we moved.
And just beyond those bills is a little boy who still calls out for me in the middle of the night.
And just to my right is a dog who starting coughing again...not a good sign.
And upstairs are two girls with  an ipod and iPhone, and are looking and seeing God knows what.
And on the counter is the lunch my husband packed himself for work...and forgot.
And at the high school is a teenage boy who is lifting weights, in an addition to the weight of life he no doubt is carrying, because I can only suppose that the weight we can see and understand is way easier to deal with than the weight that we just don't get, and brings us to our knees.

Lifting weights.
Carrying weights.
Shouldering burdens.
Ironic, that I am at my most out of shape, and yet, my body aches from all this lifting.

Worry. Anxiety.  We are told not to.  We are told to do as the wildflowers do, to trust as the birds trust. But flowers and birds don't have children, and flowers and birds don't have to pay bills.
Sure they make their own nest...and find their own food....and brave the weather without blankets or central air.
And well, the more I think about it...the birds don't have it so easy after all.
But we do that, right?
Without knowing the full story of each other, we always think everyone else has it so much easier.
There is a reason, when things stink, we use the expression, "It's for the birds!"

And Jesus asks Martha, "Do you believe?", and He asks me this too.
And the answer is of course, yes, I believe.

And so please, help my unbelief.

I learned of a friend who has a serious battle of cancer going on.  Has been for a long time.  But never spoke of it.
Another friend with a child in serious trouble.
And another who is losing her house and possessions.
Makes my private tasks and burdens look like that cape vacation I am not going on.
And I suppose that I can offer up my mundane and boring for these women who God has chosen suffering as their way to love.
I can look at their circumstances and say it is for the birds, but even God loves the birds.

And that is it. Right there. Love.
It truly does come down to this.
To love God, to love each other, and to be love.
I bowed my head low and prayed today that my heart be filled with His love, because my love is a miserable attempt at loving, if I am being honest.

And I prayed to lose the anxiety and worry.
And then came home and checked my bank account.
That was a bad idea.

Or was it?

Three weeks ago at the lake my little boy was screaming that he felt fish biting him.
He could not see them.
But he felt them.
And that frightened them.
Two weeks ago he went into the lake wearing goggles.
He dove his head under and looked.
He saw the fish.
The fish that were biting, he looked at, and saw.
"Mom! I saw an orange fish!"
"Mom! There is a white fish too!"
Worry melted away.
And finally, with joy on his face and peace all around, he popped up out of the dark waters and into the bright light of the sun and shouted out to me, "Now that I can see, I am no longer frightened!"

The bills, the bank account, the kids, the house, this life and these tasks that God has given to me out of love; I pray that I see them today in the light, and that I approach them with love, and that I do not allow them to cause me worry or fear.  It is so easy to believe in what we can see. May we all dive in deeper into the dark unknown, ready with goggles, trusting and believing that just above us is a great bright light, waiting for us to pop our heads out of, and proclaim to the world, "Do not be afraid!  He is here!  In this dark, in these bills, in this cancer, in this mess...He is here!"

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

put Jesus on your calendar

why is it that when we get too busy, the first thing to go is prayer?
doctors appointments, sports, sleeping in...they all become our priority.
And we say, "well, it is summer..."
as if that is okay.

I am just as guilty.
I have not been to daily Mass in nearly a month.
And is it just me, or is receiving the Eucharist just once a week not nearly enough?

And sometimes it is just not possible.
If kids need pick ups or drop offs and you have multiple children to juggle, sometimes it is simply not possible to be at daily Mass.  Unless you are able to bi-locate, which I can not. Yet.

But prayer?
We can always pray.
We can pray everywhere and anywhere.
And we should.
Because the reason we are feeling so overwhelmed, and busy, and so not relaxed this summer, is not because of all of the things we are doing, but rather, it is because of the most important thing we are failing to do at all.


If you have eliminated it from your daily routine this summer, I challenge you to put it back.
Despite what the world, and your calendar tell you, time with Jesus is the only thing you actually really need to make happen today.

Put Jesus on your calendar, and the other stuff will take care of itself.

Monday, July 20, 2015


The disciples picked up their nets, and followed Jesus.

I used to wonder how they could do such a thing.
How they could just leave their wives
leave their children
leave it all.
It seemed so...rude.
So selfish.
So unbelievable, really.

After the challenges of this summer
getting up and leaving doesn't sound so unbelievable anymore.

Just dropping my net, and leaving, sounds almost as good as a free Bermuda vacation.
Or a shower.
Or a day without hearing, "what are we doing today?" or "where's mom?" or "what's for dinner?"
In fact, I may even shout out, as I throw that net to the ground, "See ya' suckers!" 
Because I am sure that is what the disciples said to their families and friends.

That's a joke.
I know they didn't shout that.

Turns out, the bites my husband and I are covered with are not bites after all.
It is poison ivy.
Of the worst kind.
My husbands legs are swollen and blistered and we have not slept through the night since we arrived here at our beautiful new home.

And would you believe that as he sits in pain, legs oozing, itching like mad,
he looks at me, wine in hand and says,
"I don't care.  I love this house."
And would you believe that with real joy he tells me, "The good news about having mice in our walls is that we don't have rats!"

I mean, break out the champagne, right?
We only have mice in our walls!
And mites!
And poison ivy!

And I can only safely assume that the fox's inability to steal his joy all go back to his abundant well of gratitude.
Because when you forget to be grateful
for every little thing
you may as well drink poison.

If I could re-choreograph the move
the kids
my husbands aggressive removal of weeds off of the gazebo, that were not simply weeds, but poison ivy
and then his touching me....

I would.

But then, I am playing God.
And God, I am not.

And who knows what sort of miracle and blessing I would erase by trying to remove the road that leads me there.

And as I was reminded by a visiting priest to Newtown yesterday,
God does pull the good out of the bad
and He does shine His light in the midst of death and darkness.
But seeing that light requires focusing on the good and joy.
as little of it as there may seem to be.

Being the light requires not giving into the poison of ingratitude.
Drink ingratitude, and everything goes dark.

Everyday and night I make the effort to take my itchy, bumpy, un-showered self, and awful un-styled hair, and I take a walk through our gardens.
I resist the itch to curse the gazebo
scratch at my ankles
and cry out
"To what end Lord? To what end???"

I visit our frogs
I look for the chocolate brown rabbits
I spy the yellow finches at the feeder
I look longingly at the wild flowers
wishing I could grow as trusting and beautifully as they do, so effortlessly and worry free.

And as hard as it can sometimes be

I make sure to give thanks.

And the truth is,
I can drop my net.
If I weren't holding onto it for dear life, with clenched hands,
I could.

And the real truth is...
I have already dropped it.
The very day I chose to follow Christ, my net dropped.

You see,
Following Jesus is not a ticket to a carefree life.
It is not the easy way out.
It is not mice and poison ivy free.
It does not guarantee polite children
it does not come without pain and tears.
It is hard, and it itches, and it is loaded with suffering.
And to someone who chooses to deny Christ, and to do what makes him feel happy, I know how stupid following Christ can sound!
But here is the catch, my friends:
I, too, have chosen to deny and do what feels good,
and it slowly lead me to the deepest, darkest, place of despair.
I would rather have Christ, and poison ivy, than to not have Christ at all.

And although, most of the time, I have no idea why He is testing me the way that He is,
I have a wonderful history of screw ups
and mistakes
and failures
and wrong choices
and bad directions
and hideous pride
and zero humility
and a whole lot of drinking poison
to remember how despite my colorful past
He has never failed to reach out
to pick up
to heal
to comfort
to hold
to shield
to provide
to forgive
and to save.

And for that, and calamine lotion, I am grateful.
Itchy, and feeling incredibly unattractive...
but oh so grateful.

If you have fallen into the poison of ingratitude,
look for just one thing today that you can give thanks for.
Because one simple praise of thanks has the ability to open a dark sky and let in the brightest beam of light you could ever imagine.

Friday, July 10, 2015

learning patience and endurance through mice and mites and the spider in the basement

The good news is, the bites and welts all over my body are NOT from bed bugs.
The bad news, is they are from the MITES.
From the MICE.
And let me just say, I will no longer sleep in a short sundress type of night down ever again.
These mites should be arrested.

But let's look on the bright side, shall we?
Steve from Terminex?
An awesome guy.  Gift from God really.  He not only found all of the dead mice in my bedroom, but he removed them too.
And this is nothing like the rats we had in our cupboards in Los Angeles.
Or the maggots I found all over the kitchen floor.
Or those roaches that held nightly dance parties on my kitchen counter on the upper East side.
Or even the man that took his pants off outside of my bedroom window in the "mixed neighborhood" we moved to, right by Olympic and Pico, with the daily helicopter search light over our apartment.

People, I have been trained for this.

And He does that, doesn't he?
He send us all sorts of tests and trials and like an American Ninja, we train and grow stronger.
We learn to cope.
Because I am.
I am stronger.
And although my husband says I am spiraling, I do feel that in my own way, I  am coping.
One might look at our short life here in Connecticut of just five years and think, "When are you heading back to L.A.???"
Because truly, it has been a collage of the totally unimaginable.
Disaster upon disaster.
But it has also been beautiful.
Perhaps the beauty is not always obvious, but I am learning to seek it out.

Patience.  Endurance.  They have been a running theme, bashed over my head, at the request of God, by every angel and saint looking out for me.  And when I keep my eye on the prize, and remember what this race we call life is all about, I am good.  Itchy, but good.  Because I remember, this house is not the home I am aiming for.  My goal is to make it to the house of my Father.  And from what I have read about heaven, I don't think there are mites in heaven.  Or strange men in bedroom windows with their pants down.

Last night Nick and I sat and poured two glasses of chilled red wine.  Chilled, because I thought I bought white wine, and well, honestly, that was almost as upsetting as learning about the dead mice I was sleeping with.  But Nick and I are not quitters, and so we drank it anyway!  We are determined, like that.  You see, there is still good stuff here.  There are still good people here.  There is still a beautiful marriage here.  And there is still a beautiful home to be made.  And as soon as we kill the pests, and paint the walls, and fix the toilet, and clear up my will feel just like home.

I am running this race, and I will not give up.  Here I am, Lord.  Patient and willing to take on what you throw me.  I trust in you, and I know you know the plans you have for me and that they are GOOD.  I just pray that this awesome plan of yours does not involve my having to run into that spider in the basement again.  Because he was the size of my husbands head.  And I am not sure I can handle that.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

in this spot

As it turns out, I like routine.
I like getting up at 5am.
I like praying with the sun rise and morning birds.
I like my kids knowing what is expected, what the day holds, and where they need to be.
I like going to daily mass.
I like the boring things I need to do to keep this family of mine moving forward.

I swear, moving from L.A. to Connecticut was easier and smoother than moving down the road.
This house....that we love...this spot we are is just so unfamiliar.
And this feels like rain everyday.
The change in routine and the boxes in rooms and the mantels that are holding tools, and all these odds and ends that have yet to find their forever place, and the toilet that won't flush and the water pressure that seems to have gone on vacation, and the SNAKE in my garden....

it is a little unsettling.
and it does not feel like summer.
it feels like chaos.
and I want the simple and often boring order of my life back.
and I would like the snake gone, but let's be honest...I moved to a, the city girl, is now a farm girl....and that snake is just one of many.

And isn't it so easy to slip into darkness when things start to feel hard?
How crazy easy it is for me to throw my hands up, embrace doubt and regret, and give the devil exactly what he wants: the lack of faith and trust that I am exactly where God wants me to be.
The devil does that.
He makes us question ourselves.
He makes things look worse than they are.
He really is a piece of work.
He would love for me to sit and despair, doubt and cry.
He would delight in my sadness; my failing faith.
He wants me to believe that I made a mistake.
He wants me to feel alone, and abandoned.
He wants me to give up on prayer.
He wants me to curse this house and everyone in it.

But he can't.
He won't.
Because only Jesus Christ has a hold of me.

This old 1800's farm house IS what I love.
These kids of mine, frustrated and insecure ARE who I love.
These boxes and mess and total chaos WILL find their place.
This spot we are in is exactly where we are meant to be,

My exercise for today is that when I hit a bump or am faced with an obstacle, or hungry bored child, or a broken appliance, or an angry teen, that I will not raise my voice, or allow evil thoughts to occupy my mind, but rather...I will stop and LOOK to find Jesus.  And when my head hits the pillow, I will not give in to tears of frustration and worry, anxiety and fear, but rather, I will recall the many messengers that God sent my the friend who dropped off chocolate and wine at my door, or the lady at the pool who simply listened to me, or the e mail from the woman who had just been on my mind, who wants to meet for coffee, or the butterfly resting on top of the Saint Francis statue that rests among bird feeders and wild strawberry patches.  It is just too easy to be stupidly blind to all of the life boats God sends my way, day after day.  It is shameful, really, when you think about much beauty and goodness God showers us with, and how narrow our minds and hardened our hearts can be.

I pray I journey through today with  my eyes, ears and heart wide open, and I am truly excited to look for Jesus in every moment of this day...because although I miss him often, no matter how obvious His presence is...I do believe He is here.  He is in the boxes and chaos, He is on the crazy mantle of assorted items, He is in the garden with the snakes.  And His arms are stretched wide, and His wounds are a safe place for me to crawl into and find comfort.  His heart is on fire with love for me, and He is throwing me life line after life line, as only He can.  He does not take away my present trouble, but like a champ of a leading man, He is there, right this His great glory, to guide me through it.  He is sending me chocolates and wine, listening ears, invites and butterfly wings.  He assures me I am not alone.

"Truly, the Lord is in this spot, although I did not know it!" - Genesis 28:16

Thursday, July 2, 2015

paralyzed by sin

Today’s Gospel: Matthew 9:1-8
There was a stretch of time in my life where I found myself confessing the same sin, over and over again. No matter how many times I was forgiven, I was not convinced it was true. In a sense, my sin had paralyzed me. One night my parish had a visiting priest come to give a talk on reconciliation, and afterwards, he offered confession. I told him this sin of mine. Not the original sin, but the sin of not believing I was forgiven. And at the end of our time together, nearly an hour, I looked out the church hall window and discovered it had begun to snow. Huge, white flakes were dancing in the sky and falling gently to the ground, and the priest smiled at me and said, “Now go! You are brand new, white as snow; it is your baptism day!”
I will never forget that moment. I will never forget my parish community that carried me, paralyzed, to confession. And I will never forget the grace I felt poured upon me; that amazing moment I felt that I was right there with Jesus, that I believed I was forgiven. No longer paralyzed, able to move forward, ready to share the good news.
Sin does that to us, you know. It keeps us right there, in the dark, on the stretcher. It tries so hard to convince us there is no moving forward, that we are not worthy of healing. But we can move forward, and we are never too ill to be cured. If you are too stuck to move yourself, I promise, there is someone out there who will pick you up and carry you. Do not lose faith. Take it from me, a hopeless sinner, who has been forgiven, who was blanketed in the whitest of snows, who picked up her stretcher and found her way home.