Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Big Shoes to Fill

Lots of little girls walk around around in their mother's shoes, preening and prancing and pretending they're "big."
The allure of the patent leather or decorative bows or bold, womanly colors - not to mention that ever-elusive chunk of a heel - propels them emotionally into the future. They make-believe they're in love - that they have a family & beauty &....MAKEUP! 
Oh, the draw...
...the appeal. 
...the mystique.
It's a wonder Mamas can ever pry their shoes off those tiny feet.

Well, I didn't try my mother's shoes on.
I was a little different, I guess.
I wore my Daddy's shoes.

I was thinking of that this morning as I slipped my gray & turquoise New Balance sized 7's on, getting ready for my day.
Item imageI sat and remembered for a moment what his shoes felt like, giant on my 5 year old feet. 
(In reality Daddy wore a size 8, but they sure felt huge on my little piggies.)
I remember clop-clop-clopping around on the hardwood floors as I secretly walked around the bedroom.
I remember hiding in Daddy's closet, shoes swallowing me as I played in wonder with his Drexel Electric Shoe Shiner.  I'd watch the buffers spin 'round and 'round, one red and one black. 
A kit fit for a king.

As I poignantly remembered those precious moments, I wondered about my choice to don those black business shoes.
True, the electric shoe shiner was exciting.
But it wasn't the machine really.
And it certainly wasn't the style of the shoe. 
(Remembering back to being in Bill's General Store, mortified that Daddy demanded to see a manager when he found out that his shoe of choice had increased in price to an unreasonable $8, I can attest to the fact that Allen Edmondo Italian Loafers they were not!)
No, it was none of these things.

It was the man who walked within them.

I wanted to be like him.
I wanted to be buffed until I shone as Daddy's creativity made him shine.
I wanted to have the enthusiastic following that, as I realized from that very early age, he did.
I wanted to laugh like him; think like him; teach like him.

As I've gotten older, I recognize what Daddy had. 
It wasn't given by man or exercised by his own will.
He sought his strengths through faith.
It was that very faith that made all he created shine. 
It was his faith that made people want to be near him - listening, following his example.
It was his generosity and kindness of spirit.
It was his openness to letting God show the way. 
Yes, these qualities only grew stronger as Daddy aged, helping curb that Irish temper as he learned to patiently walk with Jesus.
I now recognize that longing in him to do what I did at five years of age.

He wanted to try on his Father's footwear, clop-clop-clopping around on his earthly feet, believing that one day he would grow enough that they would fit.
He wanted to walk in the holy steps of Jesus.
He wanted to tread that path of love.

So I guess it really doesn't matter the style of shoe I wear daily.
It doesn't matter the gender...
The size...
The cost.
As long as I walk in His steps, clop-clop-clopping along until I find the right fit, I'll know I'm treading His path, walking the road to Heaven.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Make a Wish

My birthday is tomorrow, September 23rd.
My girlfriends have been so sweet, checking in with me, asking what I'd like to do.  They know my husband is out of town and probably fear that it won't be much of a celebration without him leading the charge. 
They're awesome, and I so appreciate them.
But I think to myself, "It's 45...you know, no big deal.  No milestone.  Nothing earth-shattering."
If I'm being honest, all I really want is to not have to do laundry or cook a meal.
I don't need much.

At least I didn't think I did.

I went to church this afternoon - the 12:30 mass with the soul-soothing Praise & Worship music led, in part, by my daughter.
For some reason, I thought of tomorrow and what the coming year will hold.
And like visions from His heavenly heart, God sent a cascade of images showing me the way. 
Me in good health and good shape, loving life and feeling clear.
My daughter graduating, healed and whole and anticipating her next chapter.
My boy moving on to his high school life, a song in his heart and a smile on his face.
My husband and I connected, happy and strong.
My faith app reaching millions and helping people grow in gratitude...community...grace.
Oh, what a vision it was.

I can't explain it, but I knew this was a prayer answered that I didn't even realize I was praying.  The entire service was a gift.
The images were a gift. 
The music was a gift to me. 
More than anything, the joy I felt the entire service, was an unexpected surprise.
His joy.

And I knew...
I'm balanced.  I finally felt it.  After months of feeling "off," there it was. 
Him at the Center.

So I embark upon this 45th year with great anticipation, knowing that He has amazing things planned for my family.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights..." - James 1:17a
Oh, the good and perfect gifts in store for me.
Oh, the gifts of His love and grace.
Now that's something to unwrap!

Photo credit:  Microsoft Word Images

Friday, September 20, 2013

Seeking Simple

The word "simple" has taken over brand marketing for the past decade or so as people seek to find quiet amidst the ever-increasing noise of our world.  Have you noticed? The word is everywhere.

SimpleHuman (kitchen and bathroom products)...
Real Simple (magazine)...
Simple Green (cleaning supplies)...
Simple Skincare (ummm, skincare)...
Simple (online banking)...

Part of me thinks that this quest for simplicity is admirable.  But  another part thinks that we endeavor to streamline certain things so that we can free up time to simply, but tumultuously, fill it with other things.  After all, if I can reorganize my home office to function optimally - with baskets containing my required reading, pretty file boxes holding my "to do's," and apps downloaded to corral my financial paperwork - then surely I'll have an extra hour a day, won't I? 

But how will I spend it?
Watching TV? 
Surfing the web? 
Getting lost in an ocean of social media? 
It's doubtful I'll gain the hour, only to elect to spend that precious time with the Author of Rest, the Prince of Peace.

Still, a few days ago, amidst the hubbub and the rush of life, I had a moment.  An epiphany, actually, though what hit me is a truth I've been told my whole life through.  I guess at almost 45 years of age, in my kitchen, making lunch for my boy, washing my hands with my SimpleHuman antibacterial soap, it was finally time for it to make it's way from my head to my heart.


In that moment I brushed aside the exhaustion, the soul-weariness of these past challenging months, to MARVEL at His grace and love for me. 
A grace I do not deserve, especially with my history of wrong choices and impatient temper tantrums. 
("I want it NOW!!!!  The lesson! The gifts! The pleasure! The reward!") 

But the true revelation is not that I am blessed.
It's why I'm blessed.
This grace, it cannot be earned (as is evidenced by the fact that I, a frequent and hideous sinner, am receiving it). 
There's nothing I can do to get it.
And nothing I can do to erase it.
It's mine....simply...because I'm His.
It's a gift - nothing more.
It's a grace given to His children by a Father who simply cares.
Simply accepts.
Simply forgives.
Simply loves.
Simply lives - in those priceless, peaceful moments - in the quiet of our hearts.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Language of Love

Have you ever heard two people who speak different languages try to talk with one another?  Frequently, they start speaking SLOWER and LOUDER in their own language - as if slowing it down and shouting it out is unexpectedly going to translate into understanding.  During my two summers in Japan, I experienced this often and was sometimes guilty of it as well.  It was occasionally frustrating but more frequently comical as we all adapted, resorting to a modified sign language to communicate.

I'm so happy that God speaks every one of our languages.

Think about it.
He created every life...every person...every society...every dialect.
He even christened folks with His supernatural ability during Pentecost:

"And there appeared to them tongues like flames of fire, dispersed among
them and resting on each one. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to talk in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them power of utterance. " - Acts 2.3-4

Imagine suddenly understanding every one and every thing.
Communicating with every one and every thing.

Luckily, God's got my language nailed.
No, I'm not speaking of English, though that is my native tongue.
I'm speaking of my love language.
He makes it simple when He's speaking to me.
He often employs visual aids to illustrate his point.
And He knows, most importantly, that I hear Him most clearly (yes, He's probably speaking SLOWLY AND LOUDLY to penetrate the density) surrounded by His beauty.

Here were some messages to me on the weekend of my silent retreat...

I spied this bench from far away on the first morning and felt drawn.
No reason....just felt that I needed to pray there.

So I grabbed my coffee and neared the place, still not noticing its significance until I sat down.

Jesus knew I needed a blessed reminder of my Daddy at this retreat.  My father was Joseph...he has continually left us "heart signs" since his passing...he had a prolific and beautiful garden he lovingly tended.

(Thank You, Jesus...)

Right next to St. Joseph's garden, I found this little gem...

Theresa is my mother...

(Thank You, Jesus...)

There was water at every turn.
I am rarely more at peace than when I hear the sound of water rushing...trickling...crashing...cascading...flowing.
Oh, sweet peace.

(Thank You, Jesus...)



Lastly, the ultimate symbol of His grace in my life.
Sent often and lovingly through my Father for my father.
That heart & cross symbol yet again.
Ushering in my feeble but valiant attempt at beginning meditation in His presence.
Oh, sacred heart of Jesus.

(Thank You, Jesus...)

Yes, my language is simple but clear.
And His fluency continues to be overwhelming.
Thank You, Jesus...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Silence is Golden

I was so fortunate to be able to take a few days this past weekend and go on Silent Retreat.  I’ve never attended one before.  For those of you who know me and are reading this right now, realizing I couldn’t talk for more than two days, I’d appreciate it if you’d stop laughing now.  Really…just stop.

I learned many things while with the Carmelite Sisters.  I observed many things.  I listened for many things.  I’ll be sure to share some of these nuggets in the days and weeks ahead (depending on God’s plan for this blog and what other thing He may hit me over the head with in the meantime).  But suffice it to say, I learned the greatest lesson near the end of my time at Sacred Heart Retreat House, the morning of Day #3…one I didn’t anticipate learning at this quiet place of respite.

The lesson actually had to do with rest.  The first hour we were there, during a half hour orientation to the grounds and a beautiful Scripture based slideshow, the retreat leader emphasized the intended point of making this type of trip. “We want this to be a weekend of rest for you.  We want you to leave here recharged, with possibly a new vision of what is to come and a renewed sense of bringing His message out into the world.”

So on Sunday morning, Day #3 of the retreat, I was shocked to glance in the bedroom mirror and see a bedraggled woman staring back at me with under-eye bags equipped to hold a week’s worth of groceries, sallow skin and a look and feel of utter exhaustion.  I was so disappointed…not in the retreat but in myself.  Where had I gone wrong? 
I got it together with lots of eye concealer and blush and ventured down to the little kitchenette for a cup of coffee.  Once I had my cup, I walked to the garden, to my undeclared but privately claimed spot, and sat down.  My mind was a whirr but once I had calmed it down a bit, I let out an inner rueful laugh and prayed, “God, I think I didn’t do it right.”

At once I heard, without equivocation or question…

“You don’t have to DO anything.  You just have to BE.”

Ahhhhhhh, of course.  I was so busy trying to learn and absorb, attend every conference and service, participate in each scheduled activity that I lost Him along the way.  My brain was tired…my body was tired…I was just plain weary. 
I had abandoned rest for knowledge. 

I had neglected stillness in the desire for enlightenment. 
And all the while, I had forgotten the most important precept at a Silent Retreat…

He is not with us in the noise.
He is not with us in the bustle.
He lives in the silence of our hearts.
And when we find quiet, He is there awaiting us


Friday, September 6, 2013

He Carried My Daddy

One of my favorite Seinfeld bits is about moving.  Seinfeld observes that suddenly, everything in your life is centered around boxes.  "Where did you get those boxes?  That's a nice box.  Boxes...boxes...I need boxes!" At the end of the bit, he equates death to the last big move.  "The hearse is like the van; the pallbearers are your good friends...the only ones you can really ask to help you with a big move like that; and the casket is that great, perfect box you've been looking for your whole life.  The only problem is...once you find it, you're in it."

I thought of that comparison at midnight last night, amidst pleas for Jesus to live in me; requests of the Holy Spirit to guide my words;
and prayers of forgiveness from God for all of my words which, up until that point, had not been guided by any of it or Any of Them.
I thought of that comparison after an hour of thinking,

"Marriage is hard."

Once upon a time there was an engineer who married an artist.
The engineer walked through life thinking like an engineer and the artist walked through life thinking like an artist.
And, only by the grace of God, did the engineer have an artistic side and the artist have a logical, organized side.
In this story, every moment, every part - the exposition and the rising action; the climax and the falling action - contained two conflicting sides.
So the resolution never came.
The End.
I thought of this story...our story...also at midnight and wondered how
- if -  
the resolution will ever be reached.
How the earth-shattering topics of 
"is it white and black or sometimes grey?
"How can you ever understand?" or
"Why can't you say it like this?" or
the subjects of empty breakfast chairs and attaching a detachment and filling a void plus the seemingly constant sound of the keys...
how, oh how will they ever be answered.
And then I remembered...

He carried my Daddy on his shoulder.

One morning in June, donning dark suit amidst the heat, walking out the church doors into the welcoming embrace of the clergy, he carried my Daddy.
He put him in a car then got into another car.
And the two cars parked at their destination and he exited his, lifting that box again.
That bronze box which replaced the little blue sewing basket with the plastic handles.
That box that held my Daddy's earthly vessel, cradling it in its billowy satin.
He lifted that box right up onto his strong shoulder and walked...
a final act of tender mercy.

And I realized, he's "that friend"...the only one you can really ask to help you with a big move like that.
Because, truth be told, who else would say,
"Sure, I'll help put your Daddy in the freshly dug earth,"
because it seems sort of macabre when you think about it.
Only your person, the one who loves you most, would know that it needs to be done. 
And it needs to be done lovingly, gently, with the utmost respect and solemnity as the Archbishop speaks and we all pray and tears flow into dirt and bugles play and  and my husband's earnest face is revealed as the flag snaps in half during the folding.

Then the engineering viewpoint and the artistic viewpoint and the logic and the emotion and crying and the pleas, the black & white & grey, and all of the questions and answers and confusion fall into one another...
And they just sort of melt away as the story continues to unfold.
For I know he loves me.
I know he sacrifices.
I know he cares.
Because he carried my Daddy on his shoulder.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When You Can't Stop Thinking About Scones

This post is about scones...but not.
It's about sacrifice...but not.
It's about dieting...but not.

I have a vulnerable story to tell about the progress of my health since losing my dad last May.  It's not a pretty story.  It's a sordid tale of weakness and choices not of Him.  To say the story isn't yet ready to publish would infer that I've begun writing it.  That just isn't the case. 
I can't bring myself to write it...to face it...to admit it.

Is there anything in your life that feels this heavy?  (Really, no pun intended, friends.  It just flew off the keys.)

The one clue I can reveal to you about this span of time, without going into the full story, is that I made a promise to my husband, and by golly, I kept it.
The promise?
"I just want you to know, I'm going to eat my way through the grief."
His response, "I know."
Bless him for understanding, for the lack of pressure and guilt.

So, one promise kept and many, many, many pounds later,
I write this for you.
For me.
For Him.
Because it's really not all about the weight.
It's about taking comfort in something other than His grace.

This decision has serious ramifications.

You see, it's not just the aesthetics of the decision.  To be truthful, though it's a bummer that I can't fit into any of my previous clothing (I have some really cute pieces!) and my current wardrobe looks more "mu-mu" and less "my, my!," it isn't just my appearance that's causing me angst.  True, I don't feel great about my form and often don't want to go out because I'd rather hide in my house.

But the hiding out isn't all about the aesthetics either.
It's hiding from the reality...
the shame...
the blatant truth that I've chosen wrong again and again.
Now the whole balance of my being is skewed.

Okay, you have the history at this point.  Maybe I'll write the whole story one day.  Maybe I won't.  But for today, I'll fast forward to approximately a week ago.  I honestly can't remember what I was reading or doing or thinking but I do know I had been praying (finally...duh!) for guidance about this issue.  I had been praying, perhaps somewhat desperately and halfheartedly, for quite some time.  But that day?  Well, that day I began praying honest prayers. 
Prayers of surrender. 
Prayers of direction. 
Prayers of healing. 
And I suddenly felt washed over with peace. 
I knew what I had to do. 
I was led to a series of articles, sites and conversations - all from different sources - that brought me to a directed path.

I won't go into the details here (and please, friends, know I am doing this smart and healthy) but the long and short of it is, I have cut gluten out of my life.
Now the "gluten-free decision" isn't the revelation.
The resolve is.
The submission is.
The trust is.
The peace is.

But the weird thing...the very, very odd circle of thought that has surfaced is,
"What if I'm never able to eat a scone again?"
Why scones?
I don't even eat scones very often.
Why not pasta or bread or bran or pizza?
Why not all of the every day offerings in which I won't indulge?
Why not cookies or cake or Fiber One cereal?
Again...why scones?!?

Round and round the scone debate mentally ran.  For a few days, they became a sort of mental unattainable source of pleasure I sought....
Like my entire life story might come to a bitter end if I couldn't have a scone.
So I prayed for an answer.
This morning it dropped on my doorstep...okay, my inbox, but same difference.

One of my daily devotionals focused specifically on this exact struggle.  Kari Patterson entitled her post "Because I Don't Want to Do This for Forty Years," in reference to the Israelites walking in circles for 40 years looking for The Promised Land.
Focusing on the negative.
Focusing on what  they were giving up, not on what they were gaining.
Focusing on this temporal life, not on life in Him.
And she wrote it in reference to a current struggle with her daily food choices.

She writes:
"I told him He could have every grain of sugar for the rest of my life, if that’s what it meant to not walk in the wilderness for forty years. If it meant never tasting my children’s birthday cake or never sipping coffee or never baking cookies with my kids. It wasn’t for me to decide upon a plan at that moment, it was for me to surrender all to Him and let Him take over and show me the plan."

No scones?
Yeah, that's a pittance.
A small price to pay to have Him in every moment, every decision.
Focusing on His good rather than my weakness.
Focusing on the well-being of this earthly vessel and the ability for it to do His work.
Not focusing on a buttery, sugary, doughy indulgence of gluttony and sorrow.

No scones...but all of Him?
Yeah, that's a choice worth making.
Yessiree, I choose that.

Photo credit:  Murdrobe1, Photobucket