Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Lovely Luncheon with My Christ Renews His Parish Sisters

  Top row: Christine, Gina, Susan, Kami
Bottom row: Nancy Colette, Eileen, Me
For weeks I'd been looking forward to the gathering held on Saturday.  One of the women I'd made my Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) weekend with back in February 2009 had invited all of us over to her house for a potluck lunch.  Due to my previous health issues and the fact that Kevin and I have been roaming Catholics lately, I hadn't seen or gotten a chance to have a conversation with most of the ladies in our group for several months.

I'd received some prayer requests and the occasional update via e-mail, but that's not the same as sharing a meal or catching up over a cup of tea.

Though there is often a plan for our get-togethers, (a book study, a video to watch, a carefully-planned retreat), our hostess correctly assumed we'd most like a chance to find out what's going on in each other's lives since it had been so long in between gatherings in recent months.

After some one-on-one conversations and smaller groups convening in the kitchen, we all moved to the dining room table with our platefuls of food.  We discussed current local and world events, then we made our way around the table hearing an update from each person about how she and her family are doing.

We rejoiced in hearing the good news and promised to pray for those who are still in the midst of some difficult situations.  Those who could not join us that day were in our thoughts and prayers.  It was wonderful to receive so many hugs in such a short period of time.  That alone would have made the time special.

We all left feeling spiritually refreshed and that our friendships had been rekindled.  There was more than one person who expressed a desire to meet again soon.  Mention of a fall retreat at a certain special spot was made.

 My Prayer: Lord, thank You for this loving group of women who encourage me to grow closer to You. Amen.  

Monday, August 14, 2017

In Protest of Prejudice (an original poem about the August 2017 tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia)

Those who stand for violence
and advocate intolerance
terrorized the Whos down in Whoville.
The majority of whites and blacks
on both sides of the tracks
gathered for equality,
protested hatred, stood up for what is not only just,
but also sacred: Black lives matter.

There’s a statue of Robert E. Lee
in the middle of our town
which some people believe
should be taken down.

There’s a statue of Arthur Ashe
in the middle of our city
which some people believe
is just such a pity.

Monument Avenue is no place for hate.
Let’s hope more folks realize that before it’s too late
to have tough conversations about race relations
that go beyond statues, street protests,
and some raving lun’
speeding into clashes, spilling blood,
inciting a flood of statutes and proclamations
when the truth is evaded:
innocent lives were ended way too soon.

What of those other words
that were carved into stone:
Love your brother,
Respect your mother,
You will reap what you’ve sown?

Whether Christian, Jew, Muslim,
or none of the above,
tearing people limb from limb
has nothing to do with love.
If you have a brain and a heart,
then you know that the start of war
is wearing down freedom’s reign
to protect the marginalized
and those scandalized
from the certifiably insane murderers/bigots
who live down the lane.

We can do better than public spectacles
underlining how things never change.
Stuff hate in trash receptacles
and expand the range of your perspective.
Be respective of the fact
that one senseless act
is not an isolated occurrence.

Will a message of extreme urgence
still be ignored?
Yes, if any and all resurgence
of prejudice aren’t rightly abhorred.  

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Carytown Watermelon Festival 2017

Publix made their debut as the sponsors of this year's festival. Some
watermelon for $1 stands were set up, and all proceeds
from sales will go directly to Shriner's Children's Hospitals.
The Greek on Cary food stand had several succulent chicken kabobs
for sale as well as some very pretty carved watermelon decorations. I got
two chicken kabobs, pita bread, and an orangeade.
An actual watermelon starburst.  People are so creative.
I never thought to carve a design into anything but a pumpkin.

My friend Holly and her Golden Doodle Tova
were my companions for this year's festival.  
The three silly sisters enjoyed pizza at Mary
Angela's with their parents, then petting Tova
before hitting the kids' section of the festival.
More sweet and crunchy artwork from Greek on Cary.

Sunshine had lots to tell Holly about being curious, asking
a lot of questions, how the family dog Scout has passed, etc.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Severe Mercy: A Story of Faith, Tragedy, and Triumph by Sheldon Vanauken

One element of A Severe Mercy I adore is the correspondence between Sheldon Vanauken and C. S. Lewis.  Their exchanges are very genuine, straightforward, and even challenging.  The influence of close, faith-filled friends is apparent and so is the belief that right relationship with God and others is to be valued over politeness and friendly formalities.  It is essential to have friends who love us enough to ask us the tough questions and suggest a different viewpoint from our own, especially in regards to our relationship with God and those closest to us in this life.  

As a winner of the National Book Award and the Gold Medallion Award, this is rightly called “the classic memoir.”  I love that Sheldon Vanauken included original poetry as well as many of his letters to and from C. S. Lewis throughout the book.  

I have infused parts of the spiritual memoir manuscript about Kevin and me with my poetry, excerpts from our personal letters, and some of my journal entries.  I’m delighted to see how artfully this can be done by a masterful writer. 

The glimpse into the mind and heart of someone whose lover wants God to be first in her life is very intimate.  I believe it helped me to understand a bit better where my own lover was coming from when we first became friends and began our relationship.  My then boyfriend, now husband Kevin expressed to me more than once that he put me first, before everyone and everything else.  I tried my best to explain to him that God should be first in my life as well as his. 

Sheldon and Davy eventually experienced a major tension and break in what they referred to as “the Shining Barrier:”  their pledge to preserve their “inloveness” and the springtime of life by sharing everything with one another—reading the same books, seeing the same movies and plays, and learning one another’s hobbies.  They went so far as to say that if one of them was to die, they would both commit suicide together so as not to let death separate them. 

The following two verses from the poem “The Shining Barrier” that Sheldon and Davy co-authored beautifully sum up their pledge to one another and the Pagan approach to love and life they had at the beginning of their relationship:

“This present glory, love, once-given grace,
The sum of blessing in a sure embrace,
Must not in creeping separateness decline,
But be the centre of our whole design.” (p. 53, Stanza 1)

“The magic word is sharing: every stream
Of beauty, every faith and grief and dream;
Go hand in hand in gay companionship—
In sober death no sundering of the grip.” (p. 54, Stanza 4)

In the first verse of the poem (and of the two mentioned here), the words suggest that their union and the love between them are what they want to put at the center of their lives.  Their notions of what should come first and be the love through which all other loves flow change when they come to know Christ.  Davy is the first to embrace God’s Will as the one that should come before all others.  At the beginning of her conversion, Sheldon doesn’t share her conviction that the Lord should come before all else.  This discrepancy in priorities leads to the breakdown of the sharing that creates “the Shining Barrier.” 

Davy’s inclination to put God first, even before her dearly beloved spouse, severed “the Shining Barrier” but it led to the ultimate good in time and eternity for both Davy and Sheldon—a desire for God’s Will above all others, including their own. 

I thought of the many times I prayed with tears streaming down my face that God would bring Kevin closer to Him and allow him to see the value and importance of putting His Will above all other loves, plans, hopes, and desires.  I feared that might happen through Kevin losing me to a religious vocation or because that’s what God knew to be necessary in order for him to become a person of faith. 

I can completely identify with Sheldon’s wanting the greatest good in time for his wife Davy, though his understanding of what that is and how it comes to pass changes as he becomes more aware of God’s love and role in our lives on Earth and in the afterlife.

In response to Vanauken’s letter describing his grief over the broken “Shining Barrier” and Davy’s death, C. S. Lewis writes a letter that calls his friend out and really shakes him up. Vanauken comes to refer to it as “the Severe Mercy Letter.”  In this case, the message from his friend led to the writing of this book as well as its title. 

Towards the end of what some might consider a harsh way of addressing a friend who’s grieving, C. S. Lewis writes: “There’s no other man, in such affliction as yours, to whom I’d dare write so plainly.  And that, if you can believe me, is the strongest proof of my belief in you and love for you.  To fools and weaklings one writes soft things.” (p. 210)

Honesty, clarity, trust, vulnerability, and accountability are vitally important if we wish to grow in love of God and each other.  Our skewed views not only harm us, but they also afflict those around us.  C. S. Lewis acknowledges the depth of love between Sheldon and Davy while proving that “the Shining Barrier” was destined to die.  Furthermore, he admonishes Sheldon not to commit suicide in an attempt to be reunited with Davy as soon as possible, because taking his own life could very well create an “eternally unbridgeable chasm” that would sever his soul from hers forever.

I highly recommend reading this book.  For more information or to order your own copy, click here.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Summer Sunshine, Soothing Smoothies, and Paper Palm Trees

In the heat of this summer sunshine, we've been keeping cool and having fun.  The mini Foosball game has been a smashing success.  I’ve made fruit smoothies/milkshakes for several days in a row that the kids who remain for extended day (3-6pm) have enjoyed. 

I like to use things that might otherwise go to waste, so I peeled the leftover bananas, apples, and clementines from snack, and froze them.  I also got some frozen berries to mix in the blender with milk, vanilla ice cream, a cup of juice, and some chocolate syrup.  Some preferred the Tutti-Fruiti smoothie, and others liked the banana milkshake better. 

We’ve done a variety of projects involving palm trees.  One we began by painting sunsets with watercolors, then we traced a palm tree on black construction paper.  Depending on age and ability, people either cut out their palm tree or did it as a punching work, then glued it and the outline of it on the sunset once dry. 

I also purchased small wooden palm trees for the kids to paint.  The first day, we used finger paint.  It was funny to watch how squeamish even the elementary age boys were at first about putting the paint on with their fingers.  The next day, I had them add another layer using a different type of paint. 

Since it’s been so hot out lately, I’ve led the younger kids who stay for nap/rest in some songs and dances.  Their absolute favorite is “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.”  We also do “Bop Until You Drop” as well as the “Hokey Pokey.”  Any adult who watches me do the “Hokey Pokey” might be a little concerned since I do it backwards, so the kids mirroring me are doing it the right way while I’m facing them.

My favorite quote from earlier this summer came out of the mouth of a five-year-old.  As she helped a three-year-old friend roll up her sleeping bag after nap/rest, she informed her, “I’m not your scullery maid!” 

I cracked up, wondering where she’d heard the term.  Within the next couple of weeks, I watched the movie Trolls and solved that mystery.

Another amusing interaction occurred the other day after I’d read a three-year-old and his friends a book about The Cat in the Hat cooking.  Several hours after naptime, he was doing a plastic pop-together bead work.  He created a necklace, bracelet, and a headpiece using the brightly colored beads, then he put all of it on, informing everyone that it was his “cooking jewelry.”  

I’d never seen such outlandish bling sported in the name of cooking.  I asked him what he was going to make and he said eggs in ice cream.  I told him I didn’t think I’d want to come to his restaurant if that’s what he’d serve.

“Am I making yucky food?” he asked me, giggling.

“It sounds like you are,” I said.

After that, he offered to make me an omelet.   I’m not really a fan of eggs, but I’d choose an omelet over egg ice cream any day. 

Another group of three preschoolers worked as a team to put together an alphabet puzzle.  For each letter, they’d go through the alphabet again, then shout the letter that came next when they got to it.  There was one animal for each letter, so after they’d finished, I asked them questions.   Most of the names they knew already but not all of them.  I also had them count how many animals had fur, how many birds there were, etc. 

Summer camp afternoons have been going well.  We’ve managed to learn, love, and laugh a lot.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Roaming Catholics: Church Hopping with Purpose

John, Kevin, and I at St. Michael on May 28, 2017,
after John gave his first Sunday homily at his home parish.
Kevin and I have been what some might refer to as roaming Catholics.  In recent months, we’ve been to a number of churches in the area for Mass: the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, St. Bridget, St. Edward, St. Peter, St. Patrick, St. John in Highland Springs, (the Robins Center at the University of Richmond) as well as our home parish, St. Michael.  I’ve also been to St. Mary, the Pastoral Center chapel, and Little Sisters of the Poor for daily Mass. 

Why have we been hopping from one church to another?  

Sometimes, we’ve done so to participate in a special event, such as an ordination or St. Michael’s 25th Anniversary Mass.  On other Saturdays and Sundays, we’ve made our Mass plans around where and when our best friend/brother in Christ Deacon John Baab will be preaching. 

I’ve always enjoyed going to different churches to see how beautiful and unique they are, to hear a variety of preaching styles, and to see people I wouldn’t normally.  Kevin and I have been to all of the churches I mentioned above before now, typically for Cursillo Ultreyas.  Through our involvement with Cursillo, we have gotten to know people from many different parishes throughout our Diocese and visited a number of churches in Richmond and the surrounding areas. 
We go to Mass each week to receive the Word of God and a person, Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  Regardless of where we go, the Scripture readings will likely be the same as they are everywhere else in the world that particular day, and we can count on taking part in the Communion celebration.  An added bonus is a thought-provoking homily.  

We’ve been popping up where John’s been preaching because we know he has a knack for teaching and sharing the faith.  We knew he would be good at giving homilies, but we didn’t know he’d be quite this good so soon. 

Last evening, we met our dear friends and spiritual directors Dick and Jeannine at St. John in Highland Springs for Mass.  They had to attend a funeral the morning of John’s ordination, so they hadn’t gotten a chance to see him since he’d been ordained, nor had they heard him preach.  All of us agreed his homily on God’s love, our neediness as humans, the psychology of addictions, and the ways we can be vulnerable with the Lord was quite powerful and very moving. 
Kevin and I were considering going back again this morning at 9am to hear the homily one more time.  I’m sure John would be happy to give me his notes, but that wouldn’t be the same as having a recording of his reflection on the Scripture and remedy for distance from God.

When I saw the notice that male candidates are needed for the upcoming Men’s Cursillo Weekend, I immediately thought about how wonderful it would be if some of the seminarians, recently ordained priests, and transitional deacons were to make their weekend this July.  Kevin and I got to know John and a number of our closest friends through Cursillo since 2006.  Many of the laypeople who are most involved at their parishes and in the Diocese have made a Cursillo.  It has been a great way for priests, deacons, and religious to connect on a deeper level with devout laypeople from around our Diocese.

Some of the biggest areas of spiritual growth in our lives have come about as a direct result of our involvement in Cursillo and Christ Renews His Parish retreats.  Those faith families are from whom I learned about Transformation Prayer Ministry, Spiritual Direction Institute, and the importance of working one-on-one with a spiritual director. 

So often we try to create something from scratch when we see a need.  Cursillo is already in place.  The methods, materials, and principles have been used for years throughout the world to provide adults with a short course in Christianity that helps them renew their devotion to Christ. 

Community and accountability are important if we want to learn, grow, and make progress in anything, including our spiritual lives.  We live in a world where moral relativism is more rampant than Biblical values.  If we are listening to the same music, watching the same TV shows, going to the same movies, then we will begin to think like everybody else.  If we take time for prayer, spiritual reading, Christian relationships, community worship, and holy friendships, then our thoughts and our lives will be more God-centered.

My Prayer: Lord, please help us be open to all of the ways in which You wish for us to draw closer to You.  Let us make an effort to choose our media, how we spend our time and money more wisely, so that our thoughts, words, and actions reflect Gospel values instead of so-called worldly wisdom.  Give us the courage to “be still and know you are God” (Psalm 46:10).  Amen.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Getting Past Perfect: How to Find Joy and Grace in the Messiness of Motherhood by Kate Wicker

Is motherhood the most important thing in a woman’s life? 

In Getting Past Perfect, this wife and mother of five’s answer might surprise you.  Kate Wicker addresses this question and other popular myths about motherhood in her latest book.  

I’ve often felt as though I’m missing out because we don’t have children of our own.  I’ve also felt as though I should be closer to perfect as a caregiver, nanny, and/or teacher because I’m not on the job 24/7 like a parent is. 

Each chapter starts out with a catchy title followed by two statements: the first is a myth about motherhood referred to as “Evil Earworm,” and the second is called “Unvarnished Truth.”  

The premise of the book is expressed succinctly on page 1:

Evil Earworm
Being a mother is the most important
thing a Catholic woman can do.

Unvarnished Truth
Motherhood is not your highest
calling.  Being a daughter of God is.

Wow!  What a great reminder!  I love children and have very much enjoyed being part of the village to help raise some of them.  There have certainly been times when I have put my job/vocation of taking care of and teaching other people’s children above my role as daughter of God and wife.  Even without our own kids, I’ve fallen into the trap of getting wrapped up in the little people in my care to the exclusion of some of the other priorities I ought to have.  

My view that I should be able to reach something closer to perfection when taking care of or teaching children because I’m not on call 24/7 for 365 is pretty skewed.  I’ve been reminded of how impossible this is numerous times over the past several years, yet part of me still believes that I should strive for perfection instead of excellence.  Clearly, Kate Wicker is a kindred spirit who has struggled with similar notions regarding motherhood. 

Whether you are biologically and/or legally responsible for the children in your care 24/7 or for a limited period of time each weekday, the truth is you’ll make some mistakes.  Despite your best intentions, past experiences, whatever reading you have done or on-the-job training you’ve completed, there will be times when you’ll not be as patient, pleasant, or compassionate as you are able to be.  A woman can strive to do her best to be kind, gentle, and loving with children in her care, but sometimes she will fail miserably to be any one of those things.  That doesn’t mean she is a failure as a caregiver, nanny, or as a mother.  It means she’s human. 

Whether you have half a dozen children of your own or provide daytime childcare for one infant, your physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual strength and endurance will be tried.  There will be precious moments and warm memories to melt your heart, and there will be others that are nothing short of exasperating and heart-wrenching. 

Getting Past Perfect illustrates how it is possible to be a woman grounded in prayer, lifted up in love, realistic when it comes to the importance of her vocations as wife and mother, as well as honest when taking care of little people has brought her to her knees in tears. 

When people tell you to enjoy every minute of motherhood, it’s okay to look at them like they’re crazy.  When you’re in the middle of the grocery store with a preschooler who insists on pushing the cart, a toddler who’s stripping in public, and an infant with poop oozing out one side of his diaper, you can be honest and loathe that moment of motherhood without being thought of as some ungrateful wretch who doesn’t deserve children. 

In addition to denying the ability to be perfect, Kate Wicker reminds readers that no matter how much we love the children God has placed in our arms and on our hearts, He loves them infinitely more.  When we are facing circumstances outside of our control, the best thing we can do is offer the precious lives in our care for a time back to the Lord God who created them. 

Raising children doesn’t have to be a blessing or a cross that you bear on your own.  You can share it with your husband, family, friends, and community.  Most importantly, you can share the responsibility of saying and doing what’s best with God. 

I highly recommend Getting Past Perfect.  I was interested in reading it the moment I heard Kate Wicker was coming out with another book.  I was slated to review it in the fall, but I couldn’t handle reading it at that time when so much was happening that made our childless marriage so hard to deal with.

I also suggest checking out Kate Wicker’s first book entitled Weightless: Making Peace with Your Body.  I enjoyed it and knew I would like the author’s next book as much if not more.  I feel as though I could write a companion book that is for nannies and childcare providers.  Perhaps that’s what the My Nanny Diary manuscript I’ve been working on could morph into.

My Prayer for Women: Lord, please help us first and foremost to rejoice that we are your beloved daughters.  Teach us to let the love You pour into our lives flow into the people you have given us to care for and about.  Remind us often that drawing closer to You is always in our best interest and will enhance our enjoyment and fulfillment of each vocation to which You call us throughout our lives. Amen.

To get more information about Getting Past Perfect or to order your own copy, click here.

To order on Amazon, click here.

Check out an interview with the author: 

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Memorable Meal with Friends Old and New

We prepared a relish tray and brought a fruit bowl to the Stapletons’ establishment.  Michele rode out there and back with us.  As always, the food was delicious, the atmosphere comfortable and relaxed, and fun was had by all. 

I don’t think it was a mere coincidence that the one time in months we’d all been able to get together was the week Jeff was let go from his job and found out his father, who had been in hospice care already, had stopped eating and drinking.  

Kevin and I have both lost our fathers, who were in hospice care before they passed away.  We have also dealt with the challenges of unemployment.  Interestingly enough, there were times when our being out-of-work allowed us to be there for other people during critical periods. 

I reconnected with Laura the week before their wedding.  Laura and Jeff got married on my dad's 54th birthday.  That Saturday when I brought my father Communion at his apartment, I was all dressed up for the wedding.   A mere sixteen days later, my friend and her groom were in nice attire and at the same church for my father's funeral.  It meant so much to me that this newly married couple came together to show their support.

It’s never easy to be let go from a job or to decide it’s time to move on, but when I was out of work one time, my dad called me and asked if I’d take him to the doctor the next day.  He called me because he knew I'd be home.  He didn't want to bother anyone at work.  I didn’t have a vehicle and could tell he wasn’t okay, so I sent my mom and Kevin to check on him ASAP.  We got him to the emergency room.  We later found out that had he gone to sleep that night, it’s likely he never would have woken up because his lung had collapsed.  He needed emergency surgery.

Fast-forward to another August when Kevin was one of the people laid-off from the Bank of America call center.  He found this out when we got home from our vacation to Rochester, New York.  During my husband's time between jobs, Jeff was diagnosed with colon cancer.  

In fact, the evening that Jeff ended up back in the hospital, Laura called to ask if we could bring her dinner.  Kevin and I had just driven into the parking lot at St. Benedict Church for daily Mass. Usually, I turned my phone off before we left home or on the way, but that time I hadn't turned the ringer off, yet. We left right away to get Laura sustenance and provide emotional support during a difficult time.  

Because Kevin had more flexibility and time while out of work, he could go and sit with Jeff during some of his chemo treatments in the months to come.  We felt it a tremendous blessing that we could be part of the people lifting them up in prayer and encouraging them.  

God works in mysterious ways.  Like Kevin, Jeff had just returned from a trip when he was given the news that he had been let go.  It was the first time he had ever had that experience.  He was very surprised but soon saw it as a blessing that he had no work commitments preventing him from going down to spend time with his family in Florida.  He could be there for his mom, sisters, and their families without having to worry about missing work.  His father had reached the end of his life before Jeff made it down there, but everyone coming together was a time of true beauty and blessings. 

It's hard for us to see what good might come of our difficult circumstances, but God can bring beauty out of ashes, rekindle friendships out of thin air, and transform a tough turn of events into a remarkable series of unexpected blessings.  

Lord, thank you for the gift of friends who have stood by us in times of joy and sorrow, sickness and health, feast and famine.  Give us the courage and strength to see beyond our own situation so that we can be better vessels of love, hope, and healing for those around us who are suffering in mind, body, and/or spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Healing Mass and Another Anointing with People and Places from My Past

One Saturday morning, Kevin went out riding his motorcycle fairly early.  I decided to go to the healing Mass at St. Mary Church at 10am.  Some years back, Kevin, John, and I had gone to a healing Mass there, and it had been a powerful experience for the three of us to share. 

I was delighted to see Monsignor Shreve, the priest who presided at our wedding and who has been a family friend for years.  I had no idea he would be there.  I’d asked him to pray for me back in December when I was having surgery, and I hadn’t seen him in person since all of that transpired.  As the Holy Spirit would have it, Monsignor Shreve was the one assigned to administer the Anointing of the Sick to those sitting in my section.  

The Mass was beautiful, and I was grateful for the opportunity to be anointed for the fourth time since September as I face some ongoing health challenges.  Only a handful of children were in attendance.  Mostly, those gathered were elderly.  Once each of the priests in attendance had anointed everyone else, I watched them anoint each other. 

It will probably always feel strange to be in that worship space after years of our family going to Mass there before the new church was built.  My memories seem a bit disjointed when there. The church isn't the same or the pastor, but, then again, neither am I.  I was surprised to see the priest concelebrating who had been the pastor there when I was in fifth and sixth grade at St. Mary School.  So much has happened since then in the parish, our Diocese, and certainly in our family.  

The suspended stained glass Crucifix that hung in the old church is now hanging in the Chapel. I'm glad they didn't get rid of it.  It's actually quite beautiful.  I like going there for daily Mass, sometimes.  Seeing the familiar faces of the Human Concerns Minister, Pastoral Associate, and Coordinator of Liturgical Ministry along with some of those pillars of the church among the congregation feels somewhat comforting.  

Fr. Michael Renninger presided at Mass and gave the homily.  He spoke about a short Irish woman named Irene who would always proclaim the dry bones coming to life reading from Ezekiel at the Easter Vigil each year.  She had a very convincing way of reading that particular passage that allowed people to feel what the prophet was experiencing.  I loved this personal story about a cherished parishioner.  Fr. Renninger is also a very good storyteller and speaker.  

That period of time in May was full of Sacraments.  I'd had the privilege of going to daily Mass a number of times.  I went to Reconciliation, received Anointing of the Sick, attended an ordination, and witnessed a number of First Communions.  

Lord, thank you for the gift of the Sacraments to bring us together and closer to You. Amen.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer Camps Start Today

It's rather hard to believe that today is the beginning of summer camps at school.  This is the seventh summer I've worked at RMS camps.  I have a bright array of t-shirts to prove my presence.  I've had the privilege of serving as lead teacher for a number of camps over the years.  I had the most fun incorporating some of my favorite things: a love of nature, photography, writing, reading, scrapbooking as well as singing and dancing.

Because I was still recovering from surgery this past January when they needed to know who wanted to teach what camps, I'm only a lead teacher for one camp later in the summer.  It's been fun thinking of all the places we could go as part of my elementary age Discover Richmond Camp.  Mostly, I'll be working in Montessori Enrichment this summer.  I'll be the assistant for some camps.  I've come up with some themes we can use for the 3-6pm crowd.

This past weekend, I attended another Appelbaum Training as part of my ongoing professional development.  The theme was Building Bridges to the Future and our trainer was April Vernon.  I won a new CD for helping pass out papers.  I think Gobs of Fun will likely have some good songs to sing and dance to with the kids.
Claire and I at the Appelbaum Training in Richmond on June 17, 2017
It's time to slather on the sunscreen and head out.  Hope you have a great summer!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sometimes It's the Simple Things That Delight: Dinner with My Sister, Mass with My Husband and Mom, and Evidence of Kevin's Endearing Qualities

My favorite salmon, rice, and greens dish at Mom's Siam.
Thursday evening, I had dinner with my youngest sister at Mom's Siam, a restaurant in Carytown we both enjoy.  Since our lives are so busy and our schedules so different, we don't get together that often.  

It was nice to catch up over a delicious meal, take a walk, get some frozen yogurt at SweetFrog, then try and find a spot nearby where we could watch the beautiful sunset.

Last Friday, Kevin and I went to the Pastoral Center for noon Mass.  I am always delighted when I can share daily Mass with someone I love dearly.  After years of Kevin thinking it was ridiculous that I went to church at all, then that I would go more frequently than just on Sunday, I love when he's inspired to come with me for daily Mass.  My mom was able to join us which made it even better.  

Fr. Brian Capuano was the presider.  He told us some interesting, unusual facts about St. Philip Neri.  Even with all of his quirks and idiosyncrasies, St. Philip is remembered most for his devotion to loving the Lord, doing His Will, and serving others.  We are all called to become saints, not a replica of someone else, but by growing in holiness according to God's plan for our own lives.  I love this Danielle Rose song "The Saint That Is Just Me"' as a reminder of that:


A bit later, we helped my youngest sister move a few pieces of furniture to her new apartment.  I drove our SUV, and Kevin rode his motorcycle.  Apparently, I pulled away just before the following incident occurred. 

Kevin was getting ready to put on his helmet and get on his motorcycle when he saw a little boy with a three-wheeled scooter come alongside him on the sidewalk with his mom.  Ever the extrovert, Kevin told the young man that he had liked his scooter and helmet.  

The boy gazed admiringly at Kevin’s motorcycle.  His mom said, “I think he wants to race.”  Kevin started his bike and the kid took off as fast as his little legs would take him.  Letting off the clutch just a little, my biker babe inched along to give this kid a thrill, thinking he was beating him.  I’m sure it made the kid’s day.  I know Kevin was thoroughly amused.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Mended by Matthew West: When You See Broken Beyond Repair, God Sees Healing Beyond Belief

The graphic I created above using an original photo I took of the sunset over Lake Ontario paired with some of the lyrics from
the very popular and poignant Matthew West song entitled "Mended."

For a while I have been listening to a local Christian radio station I really like.  Your PER (Positive Encouraging Radio) can be streamed over the internet or downloaded as an app.  I've heard a lot of great music I probably wouldn't have come across otherwise.  As has been my habit for many years, I like to listen to inspiring music that draws me closer to the Lord.  I like singing along with songs that double as heartfelt prayers.

While I was recovering from one procedure, then before and after the major surgery I had in December, I found myself listening to the Christian radio station even on days when I felt too tired, worn-out, weak, was in too much pain, or too depressed to devote much time to prayer.  Just hearing the words to the songs, even if I struggled to trust in God's plan at that time, gave me a little sliver of hope on dark days.

One of the songs I felt became a theme song for me during that time is "Mended" by Matthew West.

In an interview with Matthew West you can check out here, he shares a moving story. I'm incredibly inspired that he sought out other people's stories, and reached out to a woman who had been abused by her parents her whole life and then ended up a victim of human trafficking.  A ministry rescued Kathy, but she still felt so broken.

Matthew West went to visit her in person to sing her hymns.  He wrote "Mended" for and about her. He had a plaque made for her with the lyrics handwritten on it, but when they tried to find her, again, to give it to her, they couldn't locate her.  West keeps the plaque in his music room as a reminder that we're all broken, works in progress, and in need of prayer and healing only God can bring about.

There were days when I couldn't make it through listening to that song or similar ones that struck too close to home without tears streaming down my face.  A few times, I was in the car when it came on, and I would cry all the way home.

When we are suffering in body, mind, and/or spirit, it can feel like we are too broken for anyone to fix, even God, but that simply isn't true.  I clung to the hope that God can always look at me (and you) and see the healing He plans to bring about in and through the challenging circumstances that seem so very overwhelming.  

I encourage you to listen to the song and watch the interview.  Maybe you are struggling just to make it through the day, or perhaps you're on the other side of a difficult period in life, but you know of someone who seems stuck.  Please pray for those who are suffering, and if/when you are able, reach out to them with a note, a text, a phone call, an e-mail, or a visit.  If you're the one who is struggling, then tell someone you trust.

In God's eyes, you are not worthless, useless, or too far gone.  You are loved, lovable, and have infinite value in time and eternity.

I realize someone else saying those words doesn't have the same effect as knowing that Truth from God, so I invite you to pray that God will show you how He sees you and that you then have the courage to be still and listen to Him.  Eventually, He will reveal the Truth about you.  It may not happen right away or in the way that you expect, but I assure you it will happen.

After all, when you see wounded, God sees mended.
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