Make Way for Christ



Hello Everybody -

As I write this, a member of my extended family lies dying in the hospital from Stage IV lung cancer. While she has enjoyed relatively good health for quite some time, her recent decline has been shocking to our entire family. The shock for everyone came to us not because her condition was unknown, but rather because we as humans take for granted each other, the living and breathing we do every day, and most of all, the life cycle in which we are all forced to participate. No one will escape this reality. Life around us goes on as it normally does, but one day we look up and our parents look very old and weak. We see the wrinkles and gray hair where smooth skin and lush locks once were. We, and every one around us, are slowly approaching our final hours. This particuliar family member has had to live that fact in a very real and personal way. They are not afraid to die, having made their peace with God.

The metamorphosis of human life, from inside the womb, to infancy and childhood, adolescence, and ultimately old age is a shocker for everyone. No one ever stays the same, yet we are all “stuck” in the notion that Mom or Dad or Aunt Erma will function as they had twenty years ago, that they somehow become more, not less capable of avoiding our ire. We are always disappointed when we think this way, because it sets ourselves, and everyone else up for failure. Maybe that failure is what enables us to set off another endless rave about the person, and it serves a function. They disappoint us, and we get to let off steam about how annoying they are, a seemingly win-win situation.

We would rather forget that one day we will not have the same people around us as we once did. As a result, we take the trifles and irritations of family life a bit too seriously, instead of knowing that our time together is finite. I am not saying that serious issues should be swept aside, as these occur in nearly every family to some extent, and communication is a good thing for all.  Instead, I am saying that individual family members should remember that historically, the bedrock of our society (the family) was not built upon any one member’s entitlement to “choose”, or “opt out” of their membership. That being said, estrangement from our core families seems to be an epidemic today. What does that say about us as children of God? Are we not all members of God’s family?

Most of all, how are we going to fight the good fight for God if we are swept away in an endless cycle of pride, anger, bitterness, and stubborn behavior? Everyone knows someone that at one time or another has had something against us, or vice versa. Maybe there has been a good reason that they or you feel the way they do. Maybe you think they don’t deserve forgiveness, aren’t asking for it, or will never admit they did something wrong.

Lent comes to us this year at a time in history when the death of our selfishness, our hate, our bitterness, and our anger has to happen in order to make way for Christ. He is our final journey, not cancer, or any other illness. So please consider putting down your defenses and make way for a renewal of our spiritual selves that will ultimately illuminate the presence of God within our lives for all to see.

Make Way for Christ!

 

 

 

A Way Back Home



This last fall was a boon for my mechanic on account of my old car. It’s a 1997 Subaru, and has served our family well, but has had its share of mechanical failings. The first time it quit on me gave me a great scare, as I was alone on a dark night just off the main road.

My cousin Robert (God rest his soul), always told me that prayer had gotten him out of the worst car-related scrapes imaginable. Usually that meant that he had $5 to his name, that the money had gone into the gas tank, and that he was very close to running out of gas. Robert had many times been very close to being stranded, as a developmentally disabled man of very limited means. The only thing he really possessed was faith, and that was what helped him drive countless miles when it would have made more sense to run out of gas, and to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with no money to refuel. For Robert, God made sure he would get home every time, or to the gas station. “Sometimes my car would just stop running right in front of the gas pump,” he used to laugh, …”and I would always say a prayer to thank God for saving me, AGAIN!” I loved Robert, and he used to make me laugh. Now that he’s in heaven, Robert is probably asking God to help the poor get to the gas pump every day. Even though he’s gone, his memory and his example are a great help to me.

So there I was, on my way back from an orchestra rehearsal, a woman with a high-priced instrument, alone in a broken down car. While many wouldn’t be afraid, I was. I could see lots of people walking on the other side of the street toward the two convenience stores nearby, and they didn’t look like model citizens. Yes, I know, judge not, but in my circumstance I could not see anyone out past ten o’clock at night on a school night as being up to any good. To be fair, I reasoned, some might just be out of milk and didn’t have a car, but the tell-tale swagger of others worried me. At one point, one of the passers-by shined a light toward my car as they walked along, which rattled me. Why did anyone else care if I was waiting in a parked car or if the car was vacant? It was then that I decided to shrink down in the seat, jacket hood over my head, and pretend I wasn’t there.

While I was hiding and waiting for my husband to roust the kids out of bed to come and pick me up, a large pick-up truck parked directly behind me. This seemed out of place with the situation, since the convenience stores were down the street, as were the seedy looking rental homes in the area. In short, there was no reason for the motorist to be there, unless they were studying a map, or making a call on their cell phone. None of these actions were visually apparent to me, and even stranger was the fact that the driver turned off is motor, and….seemed to be waiting. The vehicle sat in silence for about three agonizing minutes directly behind me, with the engine switched off and lights blazing, illuminating my car. Now I couldn’t conceal myself at all, so I sat up fully and turned around to look at the driver. The truck slowly drifted past me, with the window closest to me down. The occupants in the car seemed to be giving me a good once over as they drove by slowly. I was scared out of my wits and praying loudly as they finally roared away. Thanks to God, I was safe, but the situation could have been worse. I was still praying, eyes closed, hood pulled down, cowering in my seat when my husband arrived. …”Are you going to get out of the car?” he asked, knocking on the window. In my fear, I hardly even noticed that my family had arrived, so we later had a good laugh over that one.

The next morning, my husband replaced the battery in the car, and it ran perfectly. Perfectly, that is, until the next breakdown. Eight hundred dollars later, the car was back on the road. I attended my weekly rehearsal with no worry in my mind for getting home. That episode was over, right?

While driving home from rehearsal, I somehow had the notion that it would be better to drive on city streets instead of the freeway as I normally do. As a result, I would be traveling near the area where my car had broken down a few weeks earlier. As I neared the now-famous street, I “heard” that I should turn right, on that very street. ..”OK, God, I’ll do it,” I prayed, “but I don’t know why.” The car ambled right, and the dashboard lights once again became very dim, but the car continued its motion. …”Not again,” I mumbled. “This can’t be happening!!!” Understanding was slowly dawning on me for the real reason that God had asked me to have faith and drive my present route. If I had taken the freeway, the car would have stopped for sure, leaving me much more vulnerable on the side of the busy roadway. I was now nearing panic, past the fear stage and maybe even moving toward abject terror. In my present state of mind, I could do nothing but call out to God. I was, well…honest, like I usually am, but much more desperate. “Please, Lord, get me home. I can’t be stuck in this neighborhood alone again! I’m so scared! I can’t do it! Please, Lord, help me get home.” I kept it up, and somehow, my car kept right on going, albeit much slower. As we neared a traffic light in a neighborhood with more crime than mine, I kept right on praying, telling God how very frightened I was. Miraculously, the car kept moving, and as we neared the one-mile mark until home, I got a very strong feeling. It was as if God was telling me I was being a big baby, and I didn’t have anything to worry about….”Don’t I always take care of you?” He asked me. “Haven’t I always taken care of you?” Slowly, I let out my breath, and some of the tension left my body, but not all. I was too busy picturing having to walk home one neighborhood away from where I live, an area with fairly low crime. But still, I reasoned, I would be carrying an instrument that is worth a lot of money, and people are so desperate these days. One look at the gold flute, and I’d be a goner, I thought. ….”How imaginative you are,” The Voice replied, ”but do you think it always helps you?” Little by little, the car, guided by my never-stopping stream of prayer, made it within one quarter mile from my home.

Now the biggest challenge I faced was the fact that I had no power steering, no brakes, and the engine had completely quit running. That, and the fact that I was starting to descend a rather steep hill on the main thoroughfare near my house….”OK, God, here we go,” I began. Only this time, I decided to pray in confidence. “I know you are going to get me home safely. I know you are taking care of me. I just know it.” We careened down the hill, but the car staggered a bit, once I had the presence of mind to gear down. But how was I going to turn right? Just keep praying, I told myself. Just keep praying. Unbelievably, the car made the wide turn. Now how to get down the next big hill on my street, and my own downward-sloping driveway? My imagination was working overtime, as I envisioned the runaway car hitting the neighbor’s parked car, or worse, speeding down the driveway, ramming the garage door, and slamming in to the furnace…blowing the house to smithereens!!!! “Just stay calm. Everything will be alright,” The Voice told me. I started picturing Jesus, who was probably laughing a bit at how bent out of shape I was getting over this whole thing. Lo and behold, the car stopped dead in front of my driveway.

It was faith that had helped me find a way back home. That and a wonderful cousin who had loved me enough to encourage me by telling of his experiences with God. I hope anyone who reads this will find the strength and the courage to do the same for others, to help them find their way back home.

Mary’s Message



They say God speaks to us in a thousand ways. Many people say they don’t really hear his voice, but feel a gentle nudging, or an urge to do something, such as calling a friend who turns out to be needing comfort. Others say they have had things happen to them as if by coincidence which point the way toward taking a certain action. Maybe it’s something the person hears on the radio or TV, or from a friend. Or maybe the person goes to church and hears something from the pulpit that feels like it is spoken to them personally, and fits whatever they are going through at the time. Still others have vivid dreams which speak to their heart. Many people think these dreams come from their own deepest longings, or from God. Does God speak to you?

I have always been the kind of a person who has needed a billboard to figure out which way to go in my life. There have been very few times where I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what to do. Maybe this is due to being more than a little distracted by the usual things that occupy mere mortals, like having a home, a spouse, a career. Life was very full for us as a couple. Still, there was something missing. The house sometimes seemed so quiet.

…”Even with in-vitro fertilization, you will have less than a ten percent chance of conceiving.”

….”How would you feel about taking a trip to Seattle to reduce your pregnancy? Some women produce up to nine embryos.”

….”You would have a much better chance at a successful IVF with an egg donor. “

…”You may spend up to $10,000 per procedure, but that’s just an estimate. The medications could be up to $5000 per month. How do you plan to pay for that?”

The doctor’s waiting room was filled with elite magazines, like “Yachting,” “Town and Country,” and “The New Yorker.” Each month I tried to think that I could be pregnant, like all those ladies who paraded past me in the grocery store. The endless ladies at work that – (oops!) became pregnant without half trying. Worse, the doctor’s office was filled with pictures of sweet, healthy babies. Why couldn’t that happen for us?

Every Sunday I went to church. I lit a candle each Sunday for my prayer request, and each time I asked God for a baby. “Please, please, please, just do this for me.” God must have had a good laugh and the joke was on me. Didn’t He think I would make a good mother?

Finally, our dream came to a splintering halt in October of 2001, after realizing that there would be no way we could ever terminate a life, to “reduce” a pregnancy. It seemed we were travelling down a golden path that only benefitted the doctors, and caused us considerable heartache, especially me. Maybe God did not want us to have a baby. Not now. Not ever. We had talked about adopting after realizing that we had been making a dreadful mistake in considering IVF. We were somehow attempting to rein the power to give life. How under-qualified we were to make such a judgment!

Somehow the subject of adoption was dropped mercifully for a while, so we could gain some balance again, and make a good decision. I remember dragging myself through the work day, just struggling not to cry at times. I felt like I was on the outside, looking in at all the families in our community. It was as though everyone else was having a party and my husband and I were not invited. We both held our pain individually for a while, and neither one of us dared speak of the agony and loss we had experienced together.

Little by little, I began to regain my equilibrium, but it was tough. For one, my sister had gotten pregnant just one month after announcing that she and her husband were “trying.” I know she didn’t mean to, but the daily bulletins about her diet, her feet swelling, and belly-button popping were hard to hear. Then my other sister and her husband announced their joyful news. That was really tough, though deep down I was happy for both of my sisters, and already loved their children. The pregnant lady in the drugstore earned a hard stare from me. How could I possibly do something like that? After realizing what a bad way I was in, I sobbed uncontrollably in the car, and screamed until I couldn’t find my voice. Where was God in all of this? Why was he letting us suffer?

I continued to light one candle every Sunday at church, and to pray to know God’s will. It was so frustrating, because in our attempt to wrangle God to do what we wanted, we were unintentionally blocking any possible answer we might receive from Him! The loss and the grief somehow forced me to hurtle myself through each day with no thought for what God wanted for our lives.

Then one Sunday, on my way to church, I again fervently prayed for a child. I had been praying that God would show me some kind of a sign of his plan for my life, and heard nothing until that moment. And then….I “heard” his voice ask me, “Do you trust me?” For weeks I shook off the feeling that God had actually spoken to me. He continued to ask me this question on and off every time I prayed. It seemed as though he would not leave me alone until I answered Him. When I finally was honest and told God how hard it was to trust completely, and that I had no more strength to fight against Him, I was able to rest somehow. In reality, my weakness felt so complete that I felt I had no choice, that bleak days and despair were my only true companions.

My thoughts occasionally drifted back to conversations I had with a teacher friend named Natasha. When I had confided in her about what we were going through, she gently mentioned the friends of hers that were adopting a baby from Russia, and how happy they were. “That’s fine for them,” I thought, “but there’s no way we’ll ever need to go that route. Our dream will happen.” Of course, my courage and confidence waned as time went on, and life became a struggle. I was fighting to keep myself up every day at work. I began taking lots of vitamin B to help my emotional health. I exercised. Nothing seemed to work. Finally I realized that there was no way that any vitamin or activity was ever going to help, not really. I was either going to have to change how I felt about being childless, or….?

Then something changed. Midnight mass at our church on Christmas Eve was an evening I spent alone, as my husband elected to stay home. Church was not yet a regular habit for us together. So off I trudged to what I hoped would be a traditional experience. What I found was the Vietnamese parish of our church gathering for mass in their native tongue. While I love foreign languages, I knew nothing of Vietnamese but managed to understand the mass, since I knew the context of what was to happen. My head started to pound as I strained to comprehend the readings, working from the few root words I could recognize as compared to the text. I caught myself looking around at the numerous families sitting side by side in the church, thinking that their kids were so sweet, and how lucky the parents were for having them. It was too bad that we would never have a family, wasn’t it, Mary? I guess God had other plans. I looked up at the statue of Mary and silently asked her to help me become a wonderful mother, like her. Mary just looked on serenely at the people at the church, holding her most precious son, the baby Jesus. I wished she could come alive and just talk to me! What was I going to do? What were we to do? Shaking my head, I ignored the people wishing one another a Merry Christmas and turned away, slipping away into the cold gray night.

When I got home it was very late, yet my mind wouldn’t quiet itself. It must be the coffee I drank, I told myself. Why didn’t I just stay home? At least I could have slept. After a time, I drifted off, but not to a restful slumber. I felt completely awake and alert, yet when I checked the clock, an hour had elapsed somehow. I must have been out, I thought. Around 2 AM I finally gave up and eased into a deep sleep….

…Walking into the church, I was instantly at peace, because I knew God was there. This has always been such a wonderful place for me, I thought, as I genuflected and took my place in the pew. Mass went on, and as I sang I felt a sense of joy that had been absent for so long. I hadn’t even been able to sing without feeling teary, but today it was finally happening. God is so amazing! I didn’t feel any pain at all and I wanted it to last forever. Just then, a beautiful lady, dressed in a long white dress and a blue robe came and stood behind me in the pew. As she moved closer to me to place her hand on my shoulder, I felt so much…love and tranquility, a caring beyond what any human mother could give. I don’t think there are words to describe what it was like to be in her presence, even if it was just a dream. Mary spoke to me so gently, telling me how blessed it would be if we would adopt. As she spoke, she gestured toward the altar, on which was a hollow wooden box with two shelves. On the shelves were two tiny bundles, wrapped in blankets of blue and red, and bristling with midnight black hair. I supposed the bundles were babies, but I couldn’t see their faces. Mary and I “talked” for a while, but I don’t really remember anything else she told me. Yet I felt so at peace, and I knew with all my heart that she loved me so very much.

Months later, my husband and I decided to adopt a baby from China. We specified in our adoption letter that if a set of twins were available, we would love to make them a part of our forever family. Almost two years later, our beautiful babies were home, complete with jet black hair and sparkling deep brown eyes. Our paperwork from China indicated that the babies were brought to the police station wrapped in blue and red blankets, just like my dream! Mary was right when she told us how very blessed our lives would be together, as not one of us could possibly imagine being without the others. God knew from the very beginning that our family would be a blend of two cultures from around the globe, but we were slow to realize what He wanted for us. We were slow until Mary stepped in and showed us the way.

From the bottom of our hearts,

Glory Be to God!

and

Thank You, O Most Gracious Blessed Mother!

Love,

Our Family

Ashes to Ashes



Hello All -

Today is Ash Wednesday, a very important day in the church. This morning I was lucky enough to tune into a radio broadcast of our holy father celebrating mass, followed by a broadcast of a local mass here in the metro area. One of the comments made by the local priest was, “From ashes we come, and to ashes we will return.” He went on to explain that the ashes are to remind us and the whole world that we are only here temporarily, and that we need to keep our eye on Him. The rest will pass away, and everything we do to occupy our time, keeping us away from God will be like ashes blown away in the wind. I’m paraphrasing, but it was beautifully articulated at the time, and a great reminder to FOCUS. What ‘ashes’ do you have that keep your attention diverted from Christ and the church’s mission?

For me, that is a sobering thought. I am pretty focused on my job in a helping profession, my kids and family, but have a smattering of hobbies that are time consuming and distracting. Please don’t misunderstand, hobbies are great. We need them to help sustain our well being, but to a point. I think the line exists where taking time for perhaps a hobby (or the vice, bad habit, practice, thought, etc.) begins to crowd out any possibility of living out the real reason we are here. Something like that can’t really be measured in terms of dollars and cents, or in hours and minutes, but every person knows, deep down, if they are living the call. I hope I can say I am, but as a human being, I know I fall, and I fall often.

So as a remedy, I’ve decided to write down my intentions for Lent for the whole world to see. Please feel free to ask me, as often as you wish, if I’ve been following through. If anyone wants to pray that I have the strength to do what I said I would do, I will gladly take that too!

First and foremost, I would like to start Lent with the fast and abstinence from meat today, and every Friday of Lent. I have not done the fast consistently in the past, so this will be new to me. I will also be more moderate in consuming foods that I know are unhealthy, as in the end, if the temple falls apart I won’t be able to serve God like I want. This is going to be tough, ’cause I love my peanut butter cookies and pizza!

Secondly, I am resolving that I will give up being selfish. I will try extra hard not to be grumpy with my entire family if I am tired. I will give up impatience for the sake of what I want to do, because my focus will be more concentrated on others instead of myself.

Lastly, I will devote more time in reading the word and praying for other people.

So, that’s it – Those are my Lenten promises. I hope you will come up with a few of your own, and encourage each other to soldier through, for the kingdom of God surely is close at hand.

God Bless,

Nancy

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Pursuit of Forgiveness



Christy paused, asking God for the grace to get through the meeting with the board of directors at work…”Please, God, don’t let me lose my temper, even if they say things I know aren’t true. Help me to be Christ to everyone there today.”

Christy had met very few people throughout her life that she couldn’t charm or eventually win over. Her work at a non-profit social outreach program had helped her overcome her shyness, and even be able to “work” a room, with her newly-discovered gift of public speaking. Everything was going so well until her boss, Mrs. Fist, hired a co-worker from her last office, “Nourish”, which was dedicated to helping poor families locate food banks from around the metropolitan area. Christy loved her work, since it was so rewarding. She enjoyed lots of friends there, too, and helped run the office. That is, until Mrs. Fist hired Wendy.

Wendy was hired on as a project manager in September. Everything went well with her at first, because Christy ignored the whispers about Wendy being barred from certain meetings for her strong opinions. What was the problem, anyway? Wendy was extremely knowledgeable, loyal to the nonprofit, and went above and beyond on any project to which she was assigned….Mrs. Fist really seems to rely on Wendy, so there doesn’t seem to be any reason to listen to those nasty rumors. She really seems to care about our clients, and…well, everyone deserves a fair shake, Christy thought.  I feel so bad that she doesn’t seem to have many friends here, and why does everyone steer clear of her? It’s as though people are afraid of her, how weird. Wendy even took everyone’s picture today, and that shows how much she likes all of us.

While Wendy, a widow in her sixties did seem a bit opinionated, everything was business as usual, for a while. Sometimes she would seem so charming, but then the storm would blow in, gradually at first, with wind gusts that threatened to shake the building. Boy, Wendy sure gets mad sometimes, she thought. Oh, well, it’s good that she is around to help me. I’ll just ignore it if she loses it. Christy, at twenty-four, was reveling in her success and was increasingly asked to take the helm if Mrs. Fist was called away for meetings or afternoons. Wendy sometimes seemed to sense if Christy was feeling overwhelmed with work, and would volunteer to help. What a lifesaver she is, Christy would often think to herself. It’s a wonder she doesn’t have more people hanging around her. The only things is, Wendy sometimes seems, well, jealous,…but this Christy ignored as well. It wasn’t until Mrs. Fist asked Christy to a closed door meeting that something seemed amiss.

“What do you mean, ‘did I call the service provider’?” Christy asked. “You’ve never doubted me before, so why don’t you believe me now?” Her face felt hot, and blood pounded through her veins. “It’s as if you have never worked with me before! You know I always finish what I start, even if it means going home after seven. Why is today any different?”

…”Well, about that, Christy…I’ve been hearing things,” Mrs. Fist slowly explained. “There have been complaints from an unknown email source of negative comments you have made about work on your social networking site, and other comments that don’t match up to the holiness of our mission here. You’ve also lost several project files over the past few months. I’m afraid I’ll have to let you go.”

Christy struggled to keep her composure as she begged for one more chance. It was pointless to refute the “credible” sources Mrs. Fist had cited in their conversation. She didn’t even belong to a social networking site, and her completed projects always landed in Mrs. Fist’s in-box at the end of the day. “Mrs. Fist, if you let me stay for one more week I promise I will get to the bottom of this, and if it turns out you are right, you don’t have to pay me for that week. Please?”

Eugenia Fist let out a sigh, and relented. “Okay. One week.”

Christy roamed the nearly deserted office wondering if a black hole had suddenly opened up at work and swallowed her reputation and her missing files. She quietly packed up her purse, having deposited her finished projects in Mrs. Fist’s in-box. “G’night, Laura, I’ll see you in the morning,” she softly called to her co-worker.

…”Are you coming back?” Laura asked. ..”I mean, see you tomorrow,” she yawned with a half-smile.

…That was odd, Christy mused. Why did Laura ask me that? We see each other every day, except not lately for lunch, since she eats earlier with Wendy. Oh, well. I don’t have time to dissect every little thing, and tomorrow morning I’ll find out what happened to my files.

Power walking up to her car, she hastily pushed the button on her key fob and climbed inside. She drove home in silence, pondering the events of the day. After a bland dinner and a walk with her dog Rusty, Christy settled into bed and tried to sleep. Well, I guess I should just admit that I am not going to rest tonight, she thought, switching on the lamp. Maybe I’ll just check my email. Or better yet, maybe I should search for my name on the internet and see if I joined a social site and forgot about it. Maybe this is one big misunderstanding. After a quick search, Christy found her name on a web page well known among others in her age-set. As she clicked on a web page with her name, she gasped, seeing a photo of herself with an offensive caption that told the world she hated her boss, her co-workers, even the nature of her job. A second look showed a photo of Christy grinning ear to ear with a caption that read something about liking wild parties. Sickened, Christy ran to the bathroom and vomited. She frantically thought, this can’t be happening. I work for the church! My career and my reputation are ruined!

After shakily dressing, she decided to go see her parents, who lived on the other side of town. Dad will be sleepy, but he always has good ideas when I have a problem. Maybe Mom will have made some of her apple pie, and we can all figure out a solution to this mess, she thought. Until then, I hope no one sees the phony profile on OurPage, Christy worried. But first I’ll grab a cup of coffee at Joe’s. I wish they had a drive-thru, but they do have the best coffee in town….

Half-running, Christy hurried into the small town cafe and greeted the proprietor.  “Hi how are you, Joe?” In her haste, her knee struck a nearby trash can, which spilled its contents all over the floor. She started to pick up the tossed napkins and paper cups, but Joe interrupted her actions, insisting he clean up. In her sleep-deprived state, she quickly confided the whole story to Joe. He had always been there for her, as Christy’s good friend since grade school.

“Don’t worry about that, here’s your coffee,” Joe smiled, after empathizing with Christy’s tale of woe. “Tell your Dad I said hello, and please remind him about golf on Tuesday.”

…”’K, ‘bye,” Christy called, and rushed out the door. Sometime later, after explaining the whole story to her parents, she felt ready to face the next day at work, confident that it would all work out. When she finally unlocked the door to her apartment, it was after two. Well, she thought, tomorrow will work out. Sleeping for an hour or two, the phone summoned her noisily.  Who could that be?

..”Uh-yeah, Christy? It’s Joe,” the voice said. “Listen, we got ourselves a little situation here. After you left a woman came in for cheesecake and she was working on a laptop. I couldn’t help but notice your picture on the screen, so I went in closer for a better look,” he continued. “I think someone is posing as you on some web site. And I found something else. Could you come down here in the morning?”

As excited as Christy was, sleep soon found her. Sunrise came equally fast, and she was off in morning’s early glow to Joe’s Place. A quick cup and a cinnamon roll later, Joe arrived and handed her the mother lode.

..”Christy, I think this woman really has something against you, because she looked angrier and angrier as she typed stuff for ‘your’ profile on OurPage,” he said. “She kept muttering to herself about how she should be running the office, not you. The strangest thing was, she got so upset that she just left! Left everything here, her purse, her laptop, her food, everything. And look here, I think this is her name,” he gestured, pointing to the identification tag on the computer’s soft case. ..”Name’s Wendy Sollanger, does that ring a bell?”

“How can that be?” Stumbling as she rushed out the door, crying as she went, Christy fell headlong into the garbage can which propped open the swinging door. As she knelt to rub her throbbing leg, she glanced down and saw her signature scrawled on a piece of paper floating down the street…”What?” Christy ran after it in the morning chill, capturing a document she herself had prepared only last week. Her eyes swept back to the waste can. And…Oh my goodness, look at all of those files! Wendy must have taken them from the in-basket in Mrs. Fist’s office. Shock rippled through her, then anger, and after a time, steely resolve. Christy was going to march into work tomorrow and straighten this whole situation out with her boss. Even if is uncomfortable, I know she will understand, she thought. Everything is going to be alright!

Morning sunshine glimmered through the office windows. Mrs. Fist paced up and down, trying to stay calm, but finally lost her cool, saying that Christy suddenly finding all of this information was just too handy. Christy was still going to have to prove her innocence, she reasoned, but due to the fact that Wendy was nowhere to be found, a month long suspension for both employees would be better for everyone. That way, Wendy could meet with Mrs. Fist separately, and without fear of reprisal, speak up for herself. The police would have to be involved as well, since Christy was insisting that Wendy had posed as her on the website, and that was potentially fraudulent behavior. Eugenia Fist desperately wanted the police to get to the bottom of the whole thing. The missing files contained sensitive personal information about their clients, and if that leaked out, it would invoke a firestorm of bad press. It would be better to give the situation lots of time and see what played out.

Christy ran to her car after the meeting, crying hysterically. But Wendy slandered me! Why didn’t Mrs. Fist believe me, she agonized. A week was all I needed, and she broke her word. Now I’m can’t come back for a month if I’m lucky and I have no idea how I’m going to pay my bills. Thanks a lot for nothing!

Over time, Christy often thought of what she could have accomplished during the month she was suspended from work. Her time with friends dwindled, and she stopped working out at the gym. She would spend hours obsessing about her lost position, waiting for Mrs. Fist to call and tell her it was all a dreadful mistake. Then there were the nights spent curled up on the couch with a huge glass of wine, a habit Christy had never developed, until now. Wouldn’t it be nice if the earth just swallowed me up, because I feel like I am nothing, nothing, nothing!!! She screamed into the sofa pillow, though there was no one around to hear. …God is not listening to me, so why should I even try, she lamented. Counseling at the church had helped somewhat. Christy especially enjoyed describing to Father Patrick how jealous and unstable Wendy really was, and how much she wanted to make Christy look bad. Father McBride was a patient listener, but one day he told Christy what she did not want to hear, after she exploded with, “I’ll never be able to forgive that woman for what she did to my life, never, ever!” Anger boiled within Christy and she wanted it there, since it was the only thing she felt she could control.

The day Christy repeated her vow of perpetual anger, Father McBride surprised her by saying, “Christy, if that is how you really feel, I think I will have to ask you to leave.” Stunned, Christy stared at her parish priest. “At first, I know you felt wronged and really needed someone to listen, but being here is going to require some effort on your part.” Father Patrick McBride took a deep breath, and let it out. “Christy, you have been nursing your anger, nurturing it, letting it grow out of control. YOU are out of control. It’s time to let it go, for your sake, and for Wendy’s. She may have not asked you to forgive her, but she desperately needs it. Please don’t come back until you are ready to think about that.” As the door swung shut, Christy felt something stir within her, like she was opening her eyes to something she had wanted to see all along, but just couldn’t. That night in bed, she prayed that she would be granted sufficient grace through her baptism to begin the process of forgiving Wendy Sollanger. It might take years, but I will do it, but not because she deserves it! She deserves something far worse. Shutting her eyes tightly, Christy added a prayer to ask God to help her to stop thinking horrible thoughts about Wendy, and no more wine, she decided.

Mrs. Fist finally called late one night and invited her to a board meeting to present her case, and told her that the outcome of the police investigattion would be announced at the meeting. Christy was cautiously elated, wondering if everything would ever be alright. If the board of directors vote in my favor, I can come back to work, she thought excitedly. Making the sign of the cross, she prayed for herself and her situation. Christy also tried to pray for Wendy, just one teeny little prayer. Maybe I’ll get better at it over time, she thought, and went to sleep.

……”And in conclusion, with the matter at hand fully resolved, I support the reinstatement of Christy Wilson as office manager in charge of project development,” Mrs. Fist intoned to the board of directors. Everyone is here today, Christy thought, looking at the crowd of her co-workers, even all those people who didn’t seem to believe in me. The room went crazy as she emotionally re-accepted her post. Thank You, Lord, she sobbed, hugging Mrs. Fist, thank you!

That night at home Christy again gave praise for God and his mighty hand blessing her work at the non-profit. She drifted off, sleepily realizing that the real work was yet to be done, that it might take her some time before she could fully forgive Wendy. …Some good did come of all of this, she thought, and I’ll never forget Joe for what he did for me, tears sneaking from her eyes. At least now I know God is behind me and my work, and I can start to move on with my life.

Christy’s auburn hair softly brushed the pillow as she again asked God to help her to forgive. She asked not because Wendy asked her to, but because deep in her heart, she knew that God wanted it. It feels awful to be so angry at Wendy, she cried, and I want to be whole again. Afterwards, Christy was able to sleep peacefully for the first night in a month.

Many months went by. Then one day Christy caught a glimpse of Wendy while browsing at the corner drug store, but stayed in her hiding place among the greeting cards. Wow, I can’t believe I’m thinking this, but she actually looks pretty today. I hope her life is better now. She did have to go through her time at the mental hospital, and that must have been tough. Who knew she had experienced such a terrible childhood?  I wonder if she ever thinks about what she did. With shaking knees, walking the short distance to the toothpaste aisle, Christy held out her hand to Wendy Sollanger and said hello.

Life was good again.

Mashed Potatoes or How to Love to Cook



Writer’s Note:

This selection is taken from a handwritten recipe book given to me by mother, who lovingly wrote the “how-to’s” for a collection of culinary favorites shortly after I was married. With my Irish heritage, it seems that the gift of gab comes to me from a long line of those blessed with Irish blarney, sprinkled with fairy dust and an unwavering love of God. I will always treasure my mother’s delicate scrawl and the great care she so obviously put into making a gift for me, because she couldn’t afford to buy one. Little did my Mom know at the time that she would be giving me a gift that could be shared.

We hope you enjoy it!

Mashed Potatoes or How to Love to Cook

Use a 2-quart pan even if preparing potatoes for two people.

Wash 5 or 6 potatoes in a colander, and pat dry. Get a paring knife from the drawer and take the whole thing into where your TV set is, or where you can look outside periodically to a pretty day. Sit down, you deserve it, and put your feet up! Now turn on the TV set and watch a show. It will make your troubles seem much smaller by comparison, or look at the sky and count your blessings. Be grateful to God for whatever you have to prepare for your family. He is your supply, not your husband, not your job, but God. Tell Him thank you. Then while you peel your potatoes, think about those for whom you are making them. Focus on those good habits or those peculiarities that make you smile. That’s it, you’ve got it. Now your hands will give up the sweetness of your own individuality that makes your food taste unlike anyone else’s.

Never mind if your hands feel a little gritty – just keep working, moving the peeled potatoes to the right and then discovering the unpeeled ones. Now that they are finished, turn off the TV set or turn it up if you are not disturbing anyone. Aim yourself toward the kitchen sink. Drop the peeled potatoes into the colander; rinse well. Dispose of the potato peelings, wash the colander, and put it back in its place in the cupboard. Plop the potatoes in the 2-quart pan and fill 1/3 of it with water. (As long as you cook them right away they won’t turn dark). Put the pan on the stove on high heat until it comes to a boil. Sprinkle salt on top of the potatoes, about the amount that fits into your own hand. Once it boils, cover the pan with a lid and turn the fire down to medium. They will be cooked in 20 minutes, more or less. Watch out for potatoes grown in a dry season – they will burn and require more water. Peel your potatoes, wearing clean rubber gloves to protect your hands from the burning hot ‘taters.

To continue: To mash your potatoes, pour off half the water and replace it with milk (and then some) to about half the depth of the potatoes. Add oleo or butter, warm for a few minutes until the milk is good and warm. Now mash coarsely at first, and then add the separated water if needed, or more milk. Turn on your beater and finish mashing the potatoes, now creamy and beautiful.

Remember, you can save part of these potatoes for frying with eggs for breakfast, or to add to one hardboiled egg while making egg salad. In other words, think ahead and work smart, not hard. The same thing is true of pasta. Save a few cooked macaroni’s or spaghetti’s for salad, or add cheese, or cubes of meat and bake. That leaves more time for your husband, which will make you both smile. Do this, and you will see your happy husband grow old.

NOTE: Always remember that vitamin C is water soluble. Therefore, the less they are washed, the more vitamin C is left in the potatoes. That is why you should use less water than you might think, and please, don’t continually lift the lid, letting your “C’s” escape.

NOTE ON THE NOTE: You usually can’t do a thing with husbands who lift lids and say, “What’s for supper?” Just save your breath. That’s all the more reason to “Save your C’s” where you can. :>)

Asleep at the Wheel



Mary Kate silently pursed her lips in displeasure as her twin boys fussed and cried in the back seat of their car, expressing their disappointment at having to leave Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

She began her reproach. ”Guys, I know you had a great time with Grammy and Grampy, but it’s late! How will you ever get up for preschool in the morning if you don’t go to bed on time?”

Four year old Nathan glowered at Mary Kate, his lower lip trembling, his head lowered in defiance, while peering up at his mother through eyes at half-mast. “But I dinna finish my coloring for Grampy, and now he won’t have my picture ta look at! It’s not fair!” Nathan kicked the back of his mother’s seat hard, over and over again in protest, until the car slowly drifted to a stop on the side of the road.

“Hey, you two, I’m not moving one foot until we are able to be calm again. I know you are sad to leave G-Ma and G-Pa, but that does NOT mean that you should yell at me,” the weary Mary Kate began. “Now I can stay in this spot as long as you need me to, but if the car is on the road, it’s because we are being kind to each other. Can you do that?”

Noah fixed Mary Kate with a steely-eyed glare, but gave in to great heaving sobs that showed how tired he really was. Within a minute, his once taut little body relaxed, and his eyelids began to droop. Thumb in mouth, faded blanket to his cheek, the champ was down for the count and gently snoring.

Nathan, however, was not quite ready to give up his show of independence for his mother’s sake. He continued to softly kick the back of the driver’s seat, while his brows knitted together as he silently examined his “wubby” (his stuffed duck) for signs of damage after being propelled forcefully at Mary Kate’s headrest. …”You take me back right now!!!” he screamed, fists clenched in fury.

Sighing, Mary Kate made the sign of the cross and recalled the peaceful afternoon she had spent in the church during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, while kneeling in the presence of Jesus incarnate. The monstrance on the altar, with its sunburst of gleaming gold, which held a consecrated host, exuded something Mary Kate could not ever aptly describe, yet she knew she couldn’t live without it. Every Friday morning she would spend just twenty minutes sitting in the real presence of God during adoration. Somehow the time would fly, and after finding the quiet place within, Mary Kate would be able to return to her life, which she often referred to as something she experienced in warp speed… especially after giving birth to twin boys, she thought. The temper tantrums, the fight for autonomy which manifested itself in many moments containing the word “NO!” characterized much of her life. Many times, Mary Kate would wake up and wonder what type of twin tornado would occur on that particular day, and could she handle it? Prayer throughout the day gave her peace, but it was hard to maintain, even with weekly mass. Adoration really helped… I know God has given me a really important job to do with these boys, but it’s a mystery what their “grown-up” jobs may be at this point, she reflected. Sometimes I think that Noah will grow up to be a prize fighter and Nathan, well, who knows? Maybe a high-powered attorney, Mary Kate would often vent to her friends. …At least I know I will always be able to have my “appointment” with Jesus every week, and He will never tell me ‘no’ like the boys do, she mused. Well, I guess it’s time to go. Slipping her seatbelt over her chest into the buckle, Mary Kate eased the car back on the road, winding her way up the freeway with the car pointed north toward home. The family birthday party had been so much fun, it was a shame to have to leave everyone, she thought, especially the folks. And the cake was yummy! Mary Kate had heartily enjoyed a thick slice of chocolate cake, heavily frosted with white icing and frilly confectionary flowers, plus a scoop of ice cream. Now that the boys had calmed down she felt waves of exhaustion flood her body as she struggled to stay awake. …Just a few more miles to go, and then it will be Bedtime for Bonzo, she laughed to herself. The window, opened a few inches, granted a pleasant breeze. The radio softly played Mary Kate’s favorite song, but she still felt tired and groggy. …It must be the cake, she thought. Eating too much sugar made me sleepy. Wearily, Mary Kate glanced over at the blue sign advertising local restaurants as she made her way up the exit ramp. Almost home, she thought, her eyelids growing heavy, just a little while longer….

About fifteen seconds later, the car lurched violently as Mary Kate’s arm struck the automatic gear shifter, the button on the mechanical arm mysteriously pushed as the vehicle roared in neutral up the ramp. Mary Kate had felt her body slump forward, her arm hit the gear shift hard, and awoke, stomping on the brake as panic rushed through her. How could she have fallen asleep so quickly? And how had the car stayed on the curved off-ramp for the time she had been asleep? Even more troubling was the fact that she and her babies, now sleeping peacefully, would surely have perished, as the car hurtled toward the busy intersection, with no car in front of it, into the oncoming traffic. Wow, we were really being taken care of by our guardian angels, weren’t we? Mary Kate uttered a grateful prayer, and began to realize that her job, though fraught with frustration, was an important one. She couldn’t afford to be asleep at the wheel, no matter how hard her days were, not now, and not ever. Otherwise, something terrible could happen to my boys, and they could stumble into something dangerous, like drugs or alcohol. Maybe it wouldn’t even be something that other people would classify as harmful, but a habit like disrespecting their parents could be the seed that grows into something even worse over time, she thought. Mary Kate shuddered at the image of her boys growing into young men that rebelled against any type of authority, sneering at anyone in charge of them while they did exactly as they wished, even disrespecting the law. Then what would happen to their souls?

…Motherhood must be one of the most important jobs of all, if God sent his angels to watch over us, and saved us from being seriously hurt, or even killed, she knew. Sometimes it was so hard to be patient when all she felt like doing was losing her cool when the boys misbehaved, or when they made so much noise her nerves jangled in response. I suppose if Moms told their daughters how hard it really was to be a mom, no one would ever do it, yet glancing through the rear view mirror, she knew that wasn’t true. Her breathing slowly returning to normal, Mary Kate pondered eating just a little less cake, and more time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Get Over Yourself !!!



Hi Everybody !

I must confess to a certain amount of exaustion that I’m certain comes with the territory of being a working mom. A few years ago, I gave in to these feelings and confided in one of my fellow parishoners about always being tired, never getting anything done, the house looking like a tossed salad, and so on. My friend is a mom of 5 (all under the age of 8), and always seemed a bit tired herself. I guess I took that fact as my cue (wrong!) that it would be OK to vent a bit about how I didn’t get enough help on the endless chores, that I felt like a gerbil on a non-stop wheel. Yep, you guessed it.  I was acting like a big baby, disguised in dress-up clothes for church, complete with make-up and high heels.

The response I got was PRICELESS. My friend turned to me, eyes open wide with surprise, and said, “Get over yourself !”….I was a bit taken aback, shocked that this mother in particular wouldn’t partake in an overt invitation to complain ad nauseum, like me. She again repeated, “Get over yourself, sister ! That’s what I tell myself every day. I used to work a high-paying job with lots of status that was making me and everybody else in my family crazy. Now I work for kisses and hugs from my babies. If I do something so small as change the sheets on a bed, I get lots of sweet ’thank-you’s' from my little ones. That’s the only pay I want anymore.” She looked at me incredulously for my whine-fest, and I said quietly, “You’re right. I shouldn’t complain.”

The great thing about being a Catholic Christian is that we get to experience first-hand that the church is not for perfect people without sin, but rather like a hospital. There we are a continual work in process, with God as physician and we the patients. While the casual unbeliever may want to call attention to and label any transgression we make as hypocrisy, we know differently. In my case, I was being lifted up by a fellow mom to a better attitude of grateful service to others.

Attitude ? Check. Attitude adjustment? Check-mate.

Get Over Yourself !

:>) Nancy

 

 

Strangers by Faith



As I dropped off my kids at school today, my eyes were drawn to two little kids making their way from the adjacent sidewalk, while their Mom secretly stood guard behind the fence. They seemed so small, so helpless, yet so determined to learn and grow, and well…thrive. The little boy’s face was pulled up tight, as he struggled to adjust the shifting weight of his backpack and his super-hero lunch box. His little legs pumped hard as he ran, baseball cap askew. His sister ran more confidently beside him, his protector while at school. My car rolled away as I spied their mother through the rear view mirror, ever watchful, peering from her hiding place in the backyard next to the school. She stood next to their swingset with a wistful look on her face, knowing inside herself that there would come a day when her son would no longer want to wear pajamas with TV characters, and her daughter would put away her play ponies for good. Their days were carefree, but they would be soon be drifting into a world unfamiliar to them at school, a place where they were well known, but strangers by faith. Many of the kids on the playground would use language that was foreign to the boy and girl, but still be in English. The mother sighed. What would she have to explain to her children today ? And how ? How would she explain that Bobby and Mary were living in a world that was saturated in sin, where they would have to resist the attitudes of the world in order to keep their immortal souls pure ?

The mother turned toward the house, looking briefly at the gathering clouds above her. As she slowly made the sign of the cross, she imagined St. Michael the Archangel, standing 80 feet tall with his sword glinting, standing at the ready, then whispered the prayer she said daily.

…”Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle; be our safeguard against the wiles and wickedness of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan, and all the other evil spirits, who prowl through the world, seeking the ruin of souls…”

Peace washed over the mother, now starting her chores inside. Her babies were safe and she and Paul would somehow find a way to help their children learn about the world around them, about their role in a place that rejects anything to do with God. Who knows?, she thought, maybe one of our kids will be an ambassador for Christ today. Maybe the playground could be different because our children are there, not the other way around. Sipping her coffee, the mother realized that today was a brand new day.

 

Angel on Board



Joan shivered among the other passengers aboard the city bus bound for the public library. The ski club outing was great, she mused. Now it was time to go home, back to the real world. Dad was gone and it was just Joan at home. Well, Joan and Mom, to be fair. Why did they have to get a divorce? Private school was grand, but it meant taking a city bus after ski club to the main library, then a wait for Mom to come….usually a long wait.

It was nine-thirty on a snowy evening, a time when high school girls ought to be at home studying for tomorrow’s final exam, or in bed asleep. And where was Mom? …Probably out with that good-for-nothing rat of a boyfriend, she thought. I hope I don’t have to wait long for her to come pick me up.  If she is late again I will NOT let her forget it, Joan muttered angrily. It just figures, she thought. I forgot my cell phone and now I’ll have to wait in the DARK for her to come. Hopefully there won’t be any creeps hanging out at the library….Why couldn’t she care more about me? Other moms would just arrive early and wait to pick up their daughters.  Why was mine so different? Now I’ll have to wait and the library will probably close on me. I’ll be all alone, out there…in the cold, just like she did after confirmation class. Lately it had felt, like, well, not much of anything. Where once a thriving, vital faith, only empty feelings about church remained, and what was she supposed to do with it? Be a soldier for Christ?  A homeless soldier is more like it, she thought. Without Dad around, the house felt like an empty shell, not like a real home. She tried to connect with God to “talk” about it, but all that would come out were the routine Our Father’s, the Hail Mary’s, and on a good day, a Glory Be. I can’t even pray any more, and maybe God is not even there anyway, she vented silently.

As Joan fumbled through her purse for change, she couldn’t help noticing that most of the other passengers had disembarked. She found herself alone, save for one passenger, an elderly woman with a shopping bag filled with groceries. Joan hastily dumped the contents of her backpack in the rush to find her change purse before her stop. Where was it? Had she left her money at home too?

Great, just great, Joan fumed. Now I have no chance of getting home unless Mom develops psychic ability and figures out that I actually NEED a RIDE. She fought back the tears gathering at the back of her eyes. I’m so tired, and all I want to do is flop on my bed and sleep, not stand outside a downtown building hoping nothing will happen to me! Panic started to rise in Joan’s chest, her heart beating like a jack rabbit as she made the sign of the cross…What am I going to do now? Please God, help me, help me, please!!! I can’t stay outside by myself! There are strange people hanging out by the library!!! They don’t look like they read books, either….They look like they are up to no good!!! Joan’s shoulders trembled at the thought of getting off the bus and standing near the many homeless people and gang members who so often loitered around the public library, in search of warmth or their next drug deal.

Her quickly streaming thoughts were soon interrupted…”Excuse me, I was just wondering, do you by chance need this?” The elderly lady, dressed in a tattered woolen coat, leaned forward, holding some change. …”I think you will be able to go inside the library and call your mother where it is nice and warm. The library hasn’t closed yet.” At the next stop the woman, her face wrinkled and care-worn, waved to Joan as she got off the bus. “Now, don’t forget to call your mom right away. ‘Bye,” she called in her soft, drawling voice.

”Th-th-thanks,” Joan choked out, eyes filling. She hurried to pick up her backpack, filled with the books and homework for the day. She was so kind to me just now. But how did she know…?

…”Driver,” Joan called. “The lady who just got off at the stop just gave me money to call for a ride home. Wasn’t that nice of her?”

…”What do you mean, miss?” the confused driver queried. “What lady?”

“She just got off at 82nd street,” Joan replied. “You know, the old lady in the black coat, the one with a bag of groceries. She got off at your last stop! Don’t you remember?” He must be even more tired than I am not to see a passenger, for crying out loud, Joan thought, and not even remembering a person right in front of his eyes, how totally weird!!!

…”Honey, I have been driving this bus route for eighteen years, and I can assure you, not only is there NO stop at 82nd street, but you have been alone on this bus for the past 15 minutes.”

…Alone? Joan wondered. But how could that be? The nice lady was RIGHT THERE across the aisle from me the whole time. I saw her! The bus driver must be on something. Doesn’t he even know his own route?!

The realization that she really hadn’t been all alone suddenly dawned on Joan, as she remembered how Mom had told her about her own guardian angel as a teeny girl, and how God’s holy angels have a mission to protect human beings from every possible kind of harm. What a comforting thought, she sighed. I guess Mom isn’t so bad after all.