Wednesday, June 24, 2015

You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone: Our New Take on My Dad's Refrain

Trisha Niermeyer Potter ©2015
“Don’t worry, I’ll be gone again soon” is an expression my dad used when we were growing up.  He said it when one of us would show any sort of disapproval or weariness in response to his words or actions.  He was well-known for his corny jokes, elaborate pranks, and dramatic overtures, few of which we appreciated during certain periods of our lives when most kids find their parents exasperating.  

Dad had an affinity for inserting random fictitious characters and/or destinations into children’s books that my sister and I had long ago memorized word for word.  Suddenly, he'd have Little Red Riding heading to Burger King or something equally as out-of-character.  My mom, sister, and I have always been book lovers, so we didn't take kindly to this sort of literary torture even at a tender young age. My dad gloated over the sheer pleasure of getting us all riled up.  As is the case with many dads, he excelled at this.    

Back then, he was very likely to be “gone again soon.”  When he was climbing the corporate ladder in pharmaceutical sales, he traveled quite a bit, so there wasn’t usually much layover at home in between business trips.    

“Don’t worry, I’ll be gone again soon” was typically said with a sad countenance.  My dad could resemble a clown.  He could appear happy on the outside while globs of sorrow would ooze out every once in a while.  I hated when he’d say this in such a dejected tone of voice.  It made me feel guilty for being upset with him.  I was simply expressing my displeasure with something that he’d said or done, not wishing that he wasn’t there at all. 

It was years later when I realized that he really believed that we would have been happier without him there.  And, to be honest, sometimes we were more relaxed, at ease, free to be ourselves when just with Mom.  Even so, it is always horrible to feel unwanted, unwelcome, unloved, or unappreciated.  Of course, I felt the presence and absence when my dad passed away.  I feel it still.

Kevin and I have gotten in the habit of saying a variation of this phrase to each other, but it has a different, more optimistic twist.  “You know you’d miss me” or “you’d miss me eventually” are our oft-repeated responses when we’ve said or done something that runs the gamut from endearing to outrageous. 

I like our versions.  They imply that we would be missed because we are loved, even with all of our idiosyncrasies, faults, and flaws.  Implicit also is that we have dearly missed one another in the past.  
My mom's gift to me when I turned 18.

Kevin and I spent several years at the beginning of our relationship living several states apart.  We began officially dating when I turned 18.  Missing each other was something we did often and well. 

Through God's grace (and my mom's), we made it through our time of separation through many phone calls, letters, notes, more phone calls, and the occasional visits.  I mention phone calls twice because we spent a lot of time talking even before we were dating officially.  

What do I mean by a lot?  This will give you an idea.  To celebrate my 18th birthday,  my mom took me out to dinner and presented me a nicely wrapped box with this inside: the hard copy of our AT&T phone bill for the first few months that led to our dating as soon as I turned 18.  My gift was that my mom paid for the bill.  I was tremendously grateful and really surprised we'd racked up such a high bill in such a short period of time.  

You've likely heard this song featured in the movie Pitch Perfect.  It sums up pretty well what Kevin and I mean when we say "you know you'd miss me."

One of Kevin's co-workers loved to say: "How can I miss you if you won't go away?"  As a married couple living in a two bedroom apartment, we sometimes feel that way about each other.  We each need some downtime alone, but no matter how much we get on each other's nerves, we do miss one another when we have to spend significant chunks of time apart.  Another phrase I often say is: "It's good to be missed; it means you're loved.

Kevin and I both miss our dads, but we're grateful for what they taught us while they were here about what's most important in life: love, relationships, and being present.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Blind Leading the Blind

The first person I saw for spiritual direction in Richmond was (and still is) legally blind.  I met her when I made my Cursillo weekend back in June 2006 at Mary Mother of the Church Abbey.  She was on the spiritual direction team.  Her faith and her terrific sense of humor inspired me.  Hearing the story about her giving her grandsons a lesson in charity was the clincher we have kindred spirits.  She, too, recognizes what great spiritual directors kids can be and is willing to learn from and be challenged by them.  

“If you have two of something, you should give one to the person who doesn’t have any,” she told her grandsons.   

“How many pairs of sunglasses do you have, Grandma?” one of the young boys asked her.

Since she was and still is a fashionista, she had several pairs.  That’s when she realized it would be wise to take the Spiritual Direction Institute (SDI) course developed and offered by Monsignor Chester Michael.  If you’re going to talk the talk, then you best walk the walk. 

Something that still cracks me up about my friend is that she always looks cute and is very much into fashion.  I’m pseudo-blind without my contacts in or glasses on, but most of the time I still choose comfort over cuteness when it comes to fashion.  Not this lady.  She watches shows like What Not to Wear, and she knows which of her friends to go shopping with or ask for suggestions of what to pair together in her closet.

She’s well-read, well-spoken, loves learning, laughing, and spending time with family and friends.  Without ever looking at me, she could really see me.  In one of her talks that weekend, she shared a story about knowing you’re loved and cared for even in the dark. 

When their firstborn was a baby, her husband went to work when it was light outside.  When he returned home in the evening, not a single light was on in the entire house.  He was worried something was wrong. 

It hadn’t occurred to my friend to turn any lights on.  Even though in the dark, their daughter knew she was loved and would be taken care of.  After that, my friend got in the habit of turning lights on for her daughter’s benefit.  That story and this woman really impressed me. 

During dark periods in our lives, we can become almost paralyzed by fear and worry.  We’re not sure which way to go.  We have no idea who or what is in the room.  It’s unsettling to say the very least.  Since we are God’s children, we don’t need to be afraid.  Even when it seems as though all of the lights are out and only darkness prevails, He is there with us.  Just like the Bible says: “In Him there is no darkness at all.  The day and the night are both alike.”

In the same way that my friend’s daughter rested in her mother’s arms and knew she was loved and would have her needs met even in the dark, we are invited to trust that God will lead us through difficult circumstances and periods in our lives. 

Do you trust your guide?

I remember playing the game with a partner where you each take turns being blindfolded.  The person leading had to talk the blindfolded friend through a walk outside, letting them know when to step up or down, move to the right or left, etc.  I worried I would get paired up with a jokester who would lead me into a patch of poison ivy or laugh hysterically as I fell down a set of stairs.  Fortunately, neither of those things ever happened (while I was blindfolded, anyway). 

We need to pick the people we follow and spend time with very carefully.  I felt comfortable trusting my friend as a spiritual companion, because she is a life-long learner, humble enough to know she doesn’t know everything and is still growing in the faith herself.  Her active prayer life, dedication to family and friends, and love of books made me feel that I could trust her. 

During my time meeting with her, she recommended a number of fabulous books for me to read that enhanced my spiritual journey and faith walk.  One she hesitated to recommend to me because she is friends with the author.  She feared I might suspect she was more interested in plugging her friend’s book than suggesting I read something that would really speak to where I was at that time.  She was wrong.  I knew I could trust her book recommendations would be authentic and honest.

Sabbath Presence is a beautifully written book based on the theme that was chosen for my Cursillo weekend “Be Still and Know.”  I am someone who always feels like I should be doing something.  I have often had to fight against the notion that my worth comes from what I have done or am doing rather than from God, who created me (and each one of us) in His image of love

This book changed my life.  It’s one of the very few books I read twice in a row, soaking up the wisdom and allowing it to sink in.  My first time through, I skimmed over the reflection questions, but I didn’t spend a lot of time with them.  My second time through, I took quiet time to journal and really meditate on each of the questions. 

I can’t think of a more perfect book for me to have read at that time. It’s very unlikely I would have come across it if not for a blind woman I saw for spiritual direction.  True sight into the soul is in the heart of those open to the Holy Spirit.  

Prayer: Lord, please help us become more open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit moving in and through us.  Guide us to a deeper awareness of and appreciation for Your Presence in others as well as ourselves.  Show us how to see beyond appearances to what truly matters and is of eternal value.  Give us the courage to face our own blind spots, accept Your forgiveness, and mercy.  Amen.

Questions for Reflection, Discussion, or Journaling: What do we block out or miss when we get caught up in appearances?  Have we ever judged incorrectly because we have made assumptions based on the way a person or situation looks?  How likely are we to ask questions and really listen to: a friend, a spouse, a child, a co-worker, God, or even our own inner voice of wisdom?  What can we do to become better listeners? 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Book Review: The Sacrament of the Present Moment by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

I was excited to discover this book in the Spiritual Direction Institute (SDI) library since I read the full-length translation of Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence in college and absolutely loved it!  This quote from the text beautifully sums up the richness contained in this book: “How I long to be the missionary of your divine will, O God, to teach the world that there is nothing easier, more ordinary, more available to all than saintliness.”   

I found The Sacrament of the Present Moment very encouraging.  So often I have felt that I should conform to certain standards, methods of prayer, types of study and action, but Caussade describes how God’s grace and the inspiration which comes from the Holy Spirit don't look the same for every person.  It is important that we listen to and discern what God is calling us to each moment—a desire to do His will above all else and an openness and submission to His plan for our lives.  

I’m reminded of the song by Danielle Rose called “The Saint that Is Just Me.”  There have been many times in my life when I have seen how someone else is living and figure their path to holiness is one that I should follow or emulate, that their trials, tribulations, joys, and sorrows should also be mine.  I’ve been often reminded that isn’t true.  

God has a unique call in my life that is meant to be lived out in a way that is different from other people’s.  The beauty of it is that we are each called to grow closer to the Lord, develop faith, trust, and love on deeper levels as His grace, mercy, and providence permit. 

Being resigned to the will of God is what souls tuned-in to the Holy Spirit share.  Their calls and even the specific ways they live out similar calls, ministries, and/or vocations bring to light the vastness of God love, blessings, inspiration, and nurturing for each one of us on the path to saintliness and eternal life.  Teresa of Avila's poem "Into the Hands of God" is a beautiful prayer for discernment.

What deeper layers and richness would I glean from reading Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence in its original French?  What do people think of me who know the many spiritual books I’ve read?  Do they wonder why the heck I don’t have a more disciplined prayer life and a better grasp of even some of the topics I've studied so fervently?  Does it matter what they think?  No, it matters how God sees me, though I can’t honestly say that I’m not affected or wonder about the opinions of others.

     “Lord, so often we seek the approval of our family, our friends, our colleagues, and society and are easily swayed by their opinions.  Please help us have courage enough to turn to You when we need guidance, and put Your view of us, Your wishes for our future, and Your thoughts about our words and actions, above those of other people around us.
     You alone know our hearts completely.  You alone know what is ultimately best for us.  Inspire us to spend more time listening to You so it is easier for us to separate Your will from our own and those of the people closest to us.  Protect us from despair and disillusionment by arming us with the truth, the strength to do Your will, and the wisdom to submit everything we are and have to You.  Amen.”                 This is a prayer I wrote in one of my many prayer journals in March 2008  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sifting, Sorting, Scrounging, Saving, and Searching

This is the desk where I tend to put things
I'm organizing.  It's rarely the spot where I sit
and accomplish things.
As I'm sifting, sorting through, and searching for things to keep, give away, recycle, repurpose, or throw out, I came across one of many single subject spiral notebooks I've written in.  I read what I wrote last summer, and many of the questions, nudges, and fears are still the same.  I think I am making progress while continuing to reflect on challenges that seem to stay with me even when I do grow at least a little.  

Here's an excerpt from a journal entry I jotted down in July 2014:

In what ways is God inviting me to live a little more courageously in order to spread the Good News?  Be better about dedicated time for prayer and study.  Share more openly, when led to do so, through notes, letters, blog posts, and journal entries about what I’m learning, thinking, feeling, experiencing, and perceiving is going on in and around me. 

Lord, I am still struggling to have a proper, healthy and appropriate love of myself.  I think of the young boy at Mass at the Pastoral Center yesterday playing innocently, seizing the moment to remove his shoes, smile at others, hang on his mom, and reach out his hand to the woman sitting on the other side of him. 

I didn’t doubt then or now the Lord’s love for that young boy.  Maybe he wasn’t focused on the Readings or even facing the right way for the Eucharistic prayers, but he was present and truly alive, which is often more than can be said for most of us. 

Lord, I don’t understand how You can possibly love me completely and unconditionally, especially when I don’t merit it and definitely can’t earn it, but help me to accept Your love and mercy even though I don’t understand it, for that is the only way I will be a good  vessel for You and to others. 

Looking back and being honest now, I'm still working on all of these things.  I'm also still able to appreciate what great spiritual directors children can be.  They are often much better at living in the present moment than I am on my own.  

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Journal My Grandma Gave Me

Grandma gave me this journal years ago.  When I saw it on the bookshelf in the office around the beginning of this May, I checked to see if I had already filled it.  Most of the notebooks in our place and journals (those brand new as well as those initially used for other things), I have filled with journal entries, poems, letters, stories, and reflections over the years.)  I was happy to find something she’d gifted to me so long ago could be of use to me now. 

My maternal grandmother was very good at reusing, recycling, and repurposing things.  Her tendency to hold on to items and not waste food likely became ingrained when she was growing up during The Great Depression.

I’ve tried to make the best of what others have discarded, cast aside, or thrown away.  In that way, I’m like my grandma—not wanting to waste things that can be recycled or repurposed. 

I guess I have long been inspired to create things that are useful, beautiful, and/or innovative (at least to me) using what others saw as worthless, useless, or pointless.  Maybe that’s one of my redeeming qualities.  Perhaps my words or my art will inspire others to see the value in people and love in this life.  

I have been drawing, cutting, pasting, cropping, coloring, and enjoying doing lots of different art projects over the past couple of years.  I may begin sharing some of them online.  Writing is definitely one of my creative outlets, but creating things with paper and other art supplies are also ways I like to express myself. 

“Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true.  With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for You.”

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Not-So-Smooth Operator

From Friday evening May 15 until the afternoon of May 17, Kevin and I were on a retreat with our Spiritual Direction Institute (SDI) class.  As misfortune seems my lot, the afternoon we were supposed to leave I was suddenly hit with a powerful wave of fatigue and a desire to crawl into bed and sleep the whole weekend with our place all to myself.

This was the first red flag something was amiss.  I’d been looking forward to this particular retreat for a while.  A friend had told me this was one of the weekends she enjoyed the most.

Kevin and I both had trouble sleeping that night.  By the time we had to get up, my throat was really sore and my lymph nodes were swollen.  Not cool.  Luckily I had brought my own box of Honey Vanilla Chamomile tea and some raw honey, so I made it through with several cups of tea and glasses of water. 

By Sunday evening when we got home, I wanted some time alone to process and unwind.  We had minimal groceries, so I made myself a smoothie before retreating to the bedroom for some much needed solitary confinement.  Trying to be somewhat health conscious, I put spinach in my smoothie.  I put more in than was needed and added ice, so the color and taste were weird.  Ah well, it’s cold and my throat is very sore. 

I set my gigantic cup of smoothie on the nightstand next to the bed.  It was still light out, so I figured I’d open the blinds and let some sunlight in.  The next thing I know, gross green smoothie has splattered all over the place.  This is not the first time I’ve had bad luck with these blinds.  They are not of the highest quality or the sturdiest construction, so I wasn’t terribly surprised they came crashing down.  My dismay came from realizing that the blinds had come off of the window, crashed into my cup of smoothie, and fallen to the floor, leaving a splattering of green the likes of which I have never seen before, certainly not in our bedroom. 

Kevin heard the crash and came running. 

Kevin went to get paper towels to sop up the green goop.  We’d run out.  He brought in some blue cloth-like towels you’d use on your car. (He refers to them as shop towels.) 
“Do you have enough stuff to make another one?” he asked.  I glared at him certain he had to be joking.  Turns out, he wasn’t. 

“No, I don’t, but I don’t care about that,” I told him, appraising the scene before me.  In one fell swoop, I had turned what was supposed to be a relaxing evening of recuperating into a blind-breaking, plastic smoothie cup flying spectacle.  I just wanted some time alone to rest, but it was not meant to be.  I had inadvertently seen to that.   

Kevin was furious.  I told him to go into the other room.  I’d clean up my mess.  I was already upset with myself enough for both of us. 

He went back to watching TV, one of his preferred methods of unwinding, while I proceeded to mop up the green stuff with an assortment of linens that already needed to be washed, the blue kind of paper towels, and various articles of clothing I’d put in a bag to give to Goodwill.  Once I had gotten up the puddle on the floor by the bed, on the nightstand, behind the nightstand, under the nightstand, and on the windowsill, I stripped the bed, wiped down the mattress cover, and put the soggy sheets in a plastic bag to take down four floors to the basement of our building where the washer and dryer are.  That seems like it would be said in a whining voice because it was.

Before I did that, though, I figured I should probably use some Clorox wipes to get the green splotches off of the walls.  My efforts met with moderate success, but as long as some attempt had been made, I didn’t care.  There are still green dots on the outside and inside of the lampshade on my side of the bed.  I was too tired to bother trying to clean them off that evening or since.  Aren’t we supposed to have frequent reminders of our need for humility and our uncanny ability for humiliation? 

Since I wasn’t feeling that great and my luck was crack-a-lacking, I came out and asked Kevin to hold me steady as I stood on the aforementioned nightstand so I could scrub spots off of the ceiling.  Yes, this was a free range smoothie once hit with malfunctioning blinds.  Not only did it end up all over our bed, nearby clothes, furniture, and walls, but this debacle also required that I scrub the ceiling.  (We don’t do things halfway here at the Potter residence.)

For my next trick, I called and/or texted everyone on the sub list for several days in a row trying to get people to cover my shifts at school.  No, not because I was still cleaning up smoothie.  I’ve given up on those remains of the day.  I’d gone to the doctor about my sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and was told I had a fever, but that I tested negative for strep.  I was prescribed a strong antibiotic just in case.  I felt pretty awful, but having to call and search all over creation for someone who could take my shifts was only making things worse. 

Over the long weekend, I still wasn’t feeling great, so I ended up missing Mass on Pentecost as well as the birthday party for our Goddaughters who turned three.  Kevin reinjured his foot and was in so much pain the store manager sent him home early. 

Truthfully, seeing so many photos on Facebook of happy people at the beach, having barbecues, at graduation parties, wedding receptions, having fun in the backyard, on exotic vacations…slews of individuals and families thoroughly enjoying their Memorial Day weekends made me green with envy  (a prettier shade than is on our lampshade from the smoothie incident).

God has had mercy on us.  This weekend has been much better all around.  We've gotten to spend quality time with family and friends, enjoy a yummy cook-out, hang with some of our favorite little people, go to Mass together.  I even successfully made a smoothie with some spinach in it, but way more fruit that tasted delicious and didn't end up anywhere it shouldn't have.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Glory Bee to God (for Michele Morris)

My dearest Christ sister,
best glory bee friend,
I know it’s so tempting
to ask for an end
to the questioning,
pleading, and pining.
You’ll soon find out what’s next,
But God’s Will’s not confining
and won’t always come in a text.

You’ll be sure to hear the call,
Whoever your priest is.
Your heart has no wall;
You know where the feast is. 

Divine love is your calling.
It pulls you each day.
Take courage you’re still falling
In step with His way.

Don’t lose your great spunk
Or let go of your pep.
He’ll lift you out of this funk
When the time’s made known
To take another step
The place and plans will be shown.

Running into crosses in cloisters
He’s seen you, He loves you,
and He knows your soul’s boisterous,
Wanting ever some new clue
As to what your next choice is.

Remember: this is only one chapter;
There’s much more to your story. 
Worry will only zap up
some much-needed strength.
With God’s desire in your heart’s cup
Don’t fret or become upset.
He speaks to you always,
Sometimes at great length. 
You’ll ne’er be apart
From the right focal point of
His everlasting, unconditional love
Which always reaches you from above. 

As beautiful as the bridal shower
Thrown for you freely
at a most unexpected hour,
The Holy Ghost,
Always the perfect host,
Requires your presence
At the eternal feast.
He knows the true essence
of all that you are,
whether billed as a sister,
or hailed as a star.

You’ve found the best fellow
To court you and tame you,
And, if need be,
It’s true, He can also rename you
Something nice, perhaps mellow
That fits you to a T.
Don’t believe me,
But trust Him,
The best’s yet to bee. 

He guides you and leads
Anywhere you must trod.
Jesus always feeds
Those committed to God.

Your passion for learning
Plays out with discerning
The right community
With the best balance
Of pleasure and strife
Where a higher unity
Will define your whole life. 

With a joyful, light humor
You’ll meet this next challenge
Whether trimming tree branches
or pondering the chances
Of how likely a moose’s advance is. 

Girl’s day out was another lovely blessing,
One better than planned
if in all truth confessing. 
With a second-hand purple dress
And some sturdy new shoes.
You merrily twirled
Getting ready to take on
the big wide world.

I must say I’ve not felt too concerned
Or particularly troubled
About your discernment
Though the stakes seem to have doubled.
Anxiety’s always a tricky allurement
At this brand new juncture.

Others may think you’re hands have been tied,
But we both know God’s been on your side.
Your hand hasn’t already been played.
You traveled clear across our great nation
you groveled and pondered, unsure of your station,
but each time you have prayed,
it has lifted up all of human creation. 

The days seem so long
when we start to cower.
It’s true we get lost
in search for that tower
From whence we’ll see everything
And can finally make sense
Of the things we have suffered
With grace, recompense. 

Your spirit is as vibrant as ever, my friend.
We know not the hour or the day life will end.
Rest assured of my love for you,
An abundance of prayers
Offered up each day that is new.
We all have many layers,
complex like homemade sauces.
Ingredients take time to simmer,
But we know who the Boss is.
There’s always a glimmer of Hope
In God’s Heavenly kitchen.

Note to Reader: I wrote and sent this along with a letter to Michele earlier this week.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Michele Morris Update and Prayer Request

Michele Morris is doing fine, but she is very much back in the throes of discernment and would appreciate any love, intercessions, etc. you'd be willing to send her way. I have full confidence God will lead her where He needs her and knows she will most glorify Him next (because He's always done so in the past, sometimes in miraculous ways), but she wrote in her most recent letter to me that some extra prayers right now would be "a great source of comfort and encouragement." Michele doesn't have internet access, but she can write and receive letters at least for the rest of the month of May. Here's the address: 
Michele Morris 
c/o Queen of Angels Priory
5813 W St. Martha's Ln.
Hulbert, OK 74441

Last week I finally resent the Glory Bee to God sign I'd made to her in a package along with a belated Easter card, a cute little journal I found I think she'll like (it's bright green and has a bumblebee and flowers on it) and two books I loved and think she'll really enjoy: I Believe in Love by Jean C. J. d'ElbĂ©e and In God's Womb: A Spiritual Memoir by Edwina Gately, and my usual epic-length letter. Hopefully this time she'll actually get the package. I got it back when I first sent it to Washington state when she was living with the hermits there.  I'm still not sure why it returned with an insufficient address stamp on it. If at first you don't succeed, try again. 

Please pray for Michele! Thanks, everyone!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Mother's Heart

I love this post called The Wide Spectrum of Mothering (by a non-mother who blogs).  I feel all women will be uplifted to read this.  

Over Mother's Day weekend, I had a number of glimpses and reminders of what constitutes a mother's heart.  Here are some of them:    

Last Friday night at the Ultreya, we greeted a couple who lost their only son to suicide.  That particular parish is a bit of a hike, but I knew it would be worth the trip if only I could give the young man’s mom a huge hug and tell her in person that I’ve been praying for her and her husband.  The two of them have continued their ministry to youth, and they are such models of love, strength, courage, and compassion.  My heart aches, there are no words, only prayers.   

The woman who gave the witness talk spoke about the conversion of her grandson who came to live with them for a brief period of time.  She thought she and her husband would plant a seed of faith in him and hoped that it would grow.  Little did she know that he would be a catalyst for her to reconnect with Christ through daily prayer and meditation.  

A dear friend who made her Cursillo weekend with me was in attendance.  During the prayer intentions she prayed for her sister who died of breast cancer thirteen years ago last week and asked us to lift up another strong woman of faith, Cursillista, and mutual friend who has been hard at work in our diocese for years and is now facing a serious battle against breast cancer.  My heart aches, there are no words, only prayers. 

I think of a Mother’s Day not too long ago when Kevin and I were at dinner with the family friends who have adopted us into their clan.  When someone came and handed each of the women at the table a rose, Kay Marie and I hesitated to accept ours.  Kay Marie has been the spiritual mother and grandmother to countless children through the years she and her husband led the Rachel’s Vineyard Ministry in our area and in their involvement in 40 Days for Life.  Not long after I got to know her, I came to consider her one of my “other mothers.”  Because she didn’t give birth to or legally adopt any children, she didn’t really consider herself to be a mom.  I can’t think of many people as loving, tender, gentle, caring, kind, and selfless as she was.  She certainly had a mother’s heart. 

I think of “my two little guys,” the ones for whom I nannied for the first couple years of their lives soon after Kevin and I tied the knot.  They’re in elementary school now.  I’m not sure if they even remember me, but I will always have a special place for them in my heart.  Memories of their smiles, laughter, and triumphs, right alongside their booboos, blowouts, and brawls still surface regularly. 

The joy on my mom’s face when she’s holding her grandson, watching him play, telling stories about his latest adventures has no parallel to anything in my life.  The joy in Kevin’s eyes as one of the three silly sisters who is particularly fond of him, leaps into his arms, and whispers in his ear that he’s her best friend.  My heart aches, there are no words, only prayers that my loved ones will experience moments of joy and love far beyond what I can give them. 

The most beautiful gifts and blessings are people.  I have not brought life into this world, but I have celebrated and rejoiced over the lives of others.  I have not given birth, but I have changed many diapers, dried many tears, and treasured the precious moments, hours, days, and years when I’ve held and loved each little baby, toddler, young person God’s placed in my arms.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fulfilling a Mission

This is Captain Courageous. Someone else drew him and provided
the coloring page. I just colored him in, because art is good for the soul.
Note: No attempt has been made to copy the appearance or
attire of my student.  My only hope was to capture the vivacity
of his spirit and usual happy-go-lucky attitude towards life.
“I just wanted to come and say goodbye to you,” he told me, looking very serious. 

“Really, where are you going?” I asked.  It was hard to hear his response over the dull roar of 25 plus kids gallivanting about on the playground, but I thought he said something about 16 days. 

He kept talking, and I did my best to listen.  I heard only bits and pieces of what he was saying, but when sound bites about “going on a mission” and “superheroes” reached my ears, I figured I should sit down and hear him out at eye-level.  I knew this was going to be good.  

He told me matter-of-factly that he needed to leave for a mission that would involve “fighting bad guys to make the land safe.”  He would be gone for “six tens,” which I guessed to mean 60 days.  He leaned in for a hug and told me goodbye.  I wished him well.

About ten minutes later, he came back over and took a small package of candy out of his coat pocket.  “I want you to have this so you won’t forget me while I’m on my mission.”

“Oh, honey, I could never forget you,” I told him. “You don’t have to give me something so I’ll remember you.  I won’t forget about you while you’re away on your mission.”

He nodded and put the candy back in his pocket, then went off to bid farewell to a couple other teachers.  

Another fifteen minutes passed, and this adventurer under age six came up to me, again.  In a low voice, he asked me not to call him by his name anymore.  “I’m going to have to change my name for the mission,” he explained. 

“Okay, sweetheart,” I said.  “When I see you I’ll just say hi instead of saying your name.  Got it.”

This reminded me of countless other experiences I’ve had when young people tell me about a job they need to go do, a mission or trip that they’ll be going on.  Sometimes I can tell from the get-go that what I’m hearing is a figment of an active imagination, but in other instances, it’ll be a few minutes of the little one talking non-stop before they throw in a detail that lets me know they’re spinning a yarn not recounting actual events that happened to them. 

If Batman, Spiderman, or My Little Pony is among those named in the adventure, I know we're in the land of make-believe.  When parents, siblings, and other actual people and plausible situations and circumstances are involved, I figure it could be truthful, at least in part.  

I receive daily reflections from the Henri Nouwen Society blog via e-mail, and “Fulfilling a Mission” was the theme of the excerpt of his writing selected for one day this past week.  You can read it here.

It's true.  We may travel far and be gone for a long time on our journey, but God always goes with us.  “My home is within you” we’re reminded in Psalm 87:7.  After a time, He bids us return home for rest, reflection, and to share what we have learned.  Not only places, but also people can constitute “home” for us.    

Questions for Reflection: How seriously do we take our mission in this life, the vocations to which we are called, and the particular roles and tasks God asks of us?  How do we discern which missions are meant for us?  Are we silent long enough to listen to what it is God wants of us?  Do we put limits on where we’re willing to go and what we’re willing to do for God?    

Prayer: Lord, help us be open to Your missions for us in this life so that we may be better able to enjoy eternity basking in Your love. Amen.  
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