Saturday, November 28, 2015

she waited

The tree farm was only 20 minutes away, and still, he asked.
"Are we almost there???"

Her brother would be out in 25 minutes, but still she pleaded.
"Can you please take me home and come back for him?"

They rise up at dawn and immediately head to a button to push...a TV a game pad an ipod.
Eyes barely open.
They rush into the day.

And yet, she waited.
She was told, "Do Not Be Afraid."
She was to become the Mother of God.
With barely a warning.
With no directions.
With no time frame.
With nothing to distract her while she waited.
With His will only.
She waited.

I have become increasingly aware of what an impatient world we are.
We do not like to wait for anything.
We are inconvenienced by waiting.
We like to be busy.
We like to complain about being busy.
We really have trouble waiting for we fear what we are not doing while we wait.
Waiting often feels like nothing is happening.
And yet ironically, constantly doing really seems to get us nowhere.

She waited.
She didn't busy herself.
She pondered.
She prayed.
And look at the fruit of her patience.

From the outside, she looked like she was doing nothing.
From the outside, she looked ordinary.
And I think we have trouble with that, for ourselves.
We need to look extraordinary.
We need to show people what we are doing.
We need to post every move we make.

Waiting, a holy expectancy, is not the same as putting off, however.
The bills I stuffed in the drawer?
Those I have been putting off.
That hard conversation?
That I am putting off.
The something tugging on my heart asking me to sit in silence and be with Him?
That I am putting off.

And for what?
I think I can say that putting things off only add to the daily anxiety.

But holy waiting?
Sitting in silence and just being?
This always bring peace.

I have been putting off Adoration this weekend as to get there, I must use a busy intersection that no doubt, will be delayed by Christmas sale seekers.
I do not want to wait.
And the more I ponder Mary, and her waiting to bring Christ into this world, the more I think that perhaps waiting to come face to face with Christ is not such a bad thing after all.
Perhaps, there is great purpose to that waiting and delay?

Tonight at the 5:30 Mass we will light the first Advent candle.
The light that pierces through the darkness of each of us is coming.
But we have to wait.
And He is worth the wait.
Don't you think?

I pray this Advent that we are each filled with the desire to wait, and the hope of our Savior to come.
I pray we sit peacefully in the nothingness that waiting can often feel like.
Because something IS happening.
Ready or not.
Here He comes.

Mary, teach us how to wait.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

where is my reward?

My husband took our youngest out for a dinner of 40 cent buffalo wings.
"Why did Luke get to go out for wings?" was the question a very full and happy 9 year old boy was greeted with as soon as he walked through the door.
"It was my reward!" he proudly exclaimed.

And you can imagine what happened next.
One by one, each sibling wanted to know two things.
The first?
Why did HE get a reward?
And two?
Where is MY reward?

I snapped back at the crowd in my kitchen.
"Every body is rewarded, it all evens out....just be happy for each other!"

But driving to my Bible Study this morning, I had to admit, I didn't believe that.
Here on earth, things don't always even out.
Here in my self centered earthly world, not everyone is rewarded.
Here in this mess of a planet, I have to shamefully say, I am not always happy for others.
Sometimes, with the soil below my feet and the sky up above, I see your reward.
And I covet it.
Because the ugly truth?
I believe I deserve it more than you.
I, like my children, want to know..."where is my reward?"

With coffee in my mug, and a warm dog on my lap, I opened to my evening prayer.

Blessed are the poor in the Spirit...
Blessed are the meek....
Blessed are the merciful...
Blessed are the peacemakers...

Rejoice and be glad.
for your reward will be great in heaven.

Thanks for the reminder, God.

Monday, November 16, 2015

blind on the roadside

Luke 18:35-43

The blind man, begging by the roadside, as Jesus walks by.
You know this one, don't you?
It gets me every time.

He calls out into the nothingness he sees, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!"
And despite being told to shut up, he shouts again.
He kept calling out all the more.

Because this is what sitting in the darkness does to you.

When you can no longer rely on yourself, what else is left, but to beg for help?

This is why getting to know Jesus is so important.
This is why I have made it a point to do my best to lead others to Christ.
Because we are all blind, at one point or another.
And when the lights go out, and you are left on the roadside begging, as far as I can see, you have two choices.
You can sit in the dark and do nothing-which is terrifying and lonely.
You can shout out to Jesus and tell him exactly what you want Him to do for you.

But this takes faith.

The blind man?
He had faith.
Faith that saved him.
He did not see Jesus.
But he knew he was there.
And here we all are, with perfect vision, sitting in our darkness, wondering where Jesus is in all of this mess;
Lacking our faith.

I know people do not like to talk about the dark.
And we will swallow pills and empty bottles and run for miles, just to avoid going there.
But sometimes the dark is necessary.
Sometimes we need to lose all control so that we can hand it all over to Jesus.

And maybe that is you, right now.
Maybe you are sitting in the dark.
If so, call out to Jesus.
Because I promise you, it is when you are overcome by your darkness, that He is closest to you.

Sitting blind on the roadside begging is not what we hope for, but it is where we encounter our hope.
No matter what the crowds say, keep calling out all the more.

Monday, November 9, 2015

the crying room

I was at mass surrounded by five other friends; all of us moms, with kids in school, able to sit in peace.  Mid way through, a woman walked in, and stood at the back.  She was wrangling two very small children, while balancing a very large diaper bag on her already burdened shoulder.  As a once younger mama who would attempt daily mass with an active young one, I understood her.  You do not put yourself in that situation unless you need to be there.

And her children ran up and down the aisle.
They walked out of the church.
They dangerously played with opening and closing doors.
They did not let their mama sit.
She ran. She followed. She protected.

I wondered if she looked at us; older moms, hair brushed, outfits coordinated, tiny purses, no small kids to chase, light loads.  Because I used to do that.  I used to see them...the moms who looked so free.  The moms who were so put together.  The moms who could sit and enjoy and be fed.  And I wondered... would that ever be me?

And the great irony? It will never be me.  And it was not any of us sitting there that morning at mass.
We may no longer carry visible bags that weigh us down, but trust me, we carry them.
Because a small running child grows up into a big running child.
As moms, we really never stop chasing, running after, steering them from danger.
We may get to sit, and we may appear to be alone, but that child?  The one we used to swaddle, and nurse, and rock to sleep?  That child is still right there.  And we carry them still.  We carry their growing pains, their frustrations, their anxieties.  We worry if they are drinking, doing drugs, hanging with the wrong crowd. We mourn their lukewarm faith, their lack of empathy, their self centeredness. We fear this is not just a stage.
We fear they may run, and we never catch up.

This morning I saw her again. The young mom.
Her name?
And I sat with her in the crying room, because I mean, hey, I spent nearly the entire weekend crying myself, so why not? Seemed fitting.
And I told her.
I told her not to compare herself with other moms.
I told her that if I could go back, I would not look to the future in hopes of an easier time.
I told her that every mom she sees feels like her.
I told her how beautiful all of it is, no matter how hard it can hurt.
I told her I understood.

Her toddler put rosary bead after rosary bead around his neck, while she shared how hard the days can be. Then she looked at me with a smile and said, "You do so much, you have such faith, and you are always so together...I would never think you would have any doubts or hard days."

You know, we need to do this.
We need to be honest.
We need to be real.
We need to share our hearts.
Really share them. The entire heart.  Not the cleaned up acceptable version, but the real deal.  The filth and the shame and the honest truth.
We need to stop comparing.

And we all need to take a moment, and sit with Mary in the crying room.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

small deaths

Small deaths.

When you say to someone they must lose their life in order to save it, they look at you like you are crazy.  And yes.  I speak from personal experience.

We don't like to think about it.  We don't want to accept it.  But it is the absolute truth.  We hang onto things and to people and to tasks and to titles and to God knows what else, just to feel secure.  We do not want to lose anything, because so often, letting go, means loss of control.  We desire to put it all in His hands, but we really don't, do we?

I have been walking through my yard a lot lately.
Being that this is our first year in our farm house, every new day, every changing season, is like a new birth.  Christmas day.  A total and complete gift that I can say, in all honesty, I never fail to remember this is all His grace, and thank you is glued to my lips.  I do not deserve this home, this yard, this beauty.  And not because it is a thing that I love, but rather, it is because Gods presence in this space has never been more clear to me.  And the irony in the idea that each day here is a new birth, is that in just the same way, it is also a new death. 

The trees here are slowly letting go.

Letting go of leaves of once green.
Letting go of leaves now orange and yellow-a vibrancy and color scheme that only God could paint.
They are giving up what they have held onto for so long, allowing them to drop to the ground, and taking on an entirely new appearance; branches bare, out in the open, completely exposed.  You can see our house from the street now.  There are no more bushes and ferns to hide it.  It is amazing, really.  The yard and the house have taken on an entirely new appearance!  There has been obvious death, and evident change, and it is glorious.  My husband has a date today without about 500,000 leaves, because it is important to clean up, and sweep up what is no more, and to embrace the reality that a death has occurred, and a new season is upon us.  And while it is hard work and takes manual labor, there is such grace in all of it, isn't there?  Ridding our yard of what clutters, to make room for new growth-it is a lesson not to be ignored.

My own life seems to echo this pattern.  In ministry, in my family, in just my being, I am feeling the pain of needing to let go of my own ways, the pain of accepting the change God is asking of me, the pain of emptying my hands of what I so desperately believe I should be in control of, the pain of dying to myself.  My heart, like the yard, feels cluttered.  Things need to be cleared out, things need to die.  And I am resisting the temptation to allow these small deaths to cause me sadness, or self pity.  Because when I do that, my focus is on me, not Him, my desire is for me, not His Kingdom.

When I start to over think things, and when the work I do to serve my God turns into doubt and confusion, it is time I take a step back.  This is such a dangerous spot to be in-feeling confused and doubtful- because I know that confusion and doubt to not come from God; they come from the devil.  If I am to cheerfully go where ever I am called, what could there possibly be to doubt?  If my eyes are focused on God alone, as my lips proclaim, than all that other stuff that clutters my heart wouldn't stand a chance, would it?  When service to my King becomes about how it makes me feel, and not how am I bringing others closer to Him, there is a big problem.

Father Tadeusz, a polish priest and professor of theology in Warsaw, wrote about how we can not serve God and mammon.  Because truly, that is what happens when we refuse to let go and allow God to take the wheel; we serve two masters, divide our hearts. This is what he beautifully wrote, and what God needed me to hear this morning:

"An obvious sign of attachments is also your sadness in situations when God takes something away from you.  He will, therefore, take that by which you are enslaved-hence everything that is your  greatest enemy, that which causes your heart not to be free for him.  It is when you start to accept this and do it cheerfully that you will become more and more free."

What beautiful truth.  What a beautiful, yet painful reality.  Whatever it is I hold onto-things, people, emotions, are they freeing my heart, or just feeding my pride?  Do they fall out of my hands, allowing me to be bare and vulnerable, open to His love, or am I tight fisted, and stubborn, only willing to serve Him in those ways that allow me to still feel in control?

The trees have the right idea.
Bloom where planted, let go when asked, die to self, accept the seasons, and continue to grow.
And do it cheerfully.
Because a cheerful heart is what fills us up, over flows, and spills out to those around us.
This is how we are to serve.
This is the beauty that is born out of each small death.