Monday, November 20, 2017

Tiny Bubbles.....

When I saw my spiritual director last week she encouraged me to write down this story I told her.  It is about the house blessing I recently held, but the story began last August.....

In mid-August I was unpacking boxes.  I had moved for the third time in three years, the final time for quite a while I hope.  I am no novice to the whole moving game.  I was a military wife, I moved about every 3 or 4 years during those years.  But, I am clearly out of practice, old, tired and exhausted from all the moving.  That August afternoon I was trying to sort a box of miscellaneous stuff.  It seemed like most of the boxes were full of random items.  Not the organized packing I had once done.

Earlier in the summer I had told a friend that when I got unpacked I would hold a house blessing.  I told her that before I began the move to this house I bought.  Having been moved in for a few weeks,  it seemed the term "unpacked" would never apply to my life. I was discouraged.  I was engaging in unproductive self-flagellation.  I was beating myself up.  I recognized that this was not what I was supposed to be doing.  This was not what God would have me do.  But, I was overwhelmed by the mess and the job before me.

I prayed.  I have rather random thoughts in these moments of prayers.  I try to start out with thanksgiving.  But, past that I just started to feel that I couldn't do it, get unpacked, get settled, have a party, I was giving God my list of the "too much es" in my life...... Then in front of me in the box I had been unpacking, I spied with my little eye a tube of bubbles that I had received at a wedding earlier in the summer.  So I blew some as part of my prayer. I blew bubbles and bubbles and felt more calm and relaxed and hopeful. The bubbles were my praise.

But, still the nagging thought came in that perhaps some people would think I was showing off by having a house blessing, maybe nobody would come, maybe I was just showing off by making it a party.  As I searched my motives for discernment, one of those bubbles that I had ceased blowing a little while ago came and hovered in front of my face. I said, "Okay, God, maybe a house blessing is okay with You." But, I started to wonder about taking something like that as a sign.  And then another bubble came and hovered in front of my face.  I was telling God that I got it when another bubble seemed to come out of nowhere. Not one, not two, but three bubbles long after I had stopped producing them. It seemed to me to be a sign.

So, I found a way to unpack the house.  There is still a lot of work left to do in the basement, but the upstairs will do.  I had a house blessing and the perfect number of people came and it was lovely.  It was beyond lovely, it was blessed.  I am blessed to have this life after so much time spent trying to make life go a different way.  I don't tell this story to encourage people to look for signs like the bubbles.  I don't know why sometimes it seems that God communicates with me this way.  I know for sure that I am a slow learner.

My spiritual director pointed out that discernment probably isn't best left to signs, but rather to the fruits the decision produces.  If having the house blessing had made me upset and caused problems, then it wasn't from God.  But, in this case, the house blessing was great.  I dwell here with God. And we finished off the house blessing blowing bubbles.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Anybody Remember Ben Casey?

I am a little too young to have regularly watched the old television drama Ben Casey.  When it was coming on, I remember that I was told to head to bed. The show was a medical drama and I only remember hearing the opening as I delayed my bedtime as every child is wont to do.  The opening began with someone writing on the chalkboard.  The person put symbols for things. There was a statement about these are the things that control men's lives.  The last of those was--birth, death, infinity.  That seemed mysterious to me as a child. It seemed very mysterious and strange to be writing those words on the chalkboard. But that part of the opening has stayed with me.

These days I ponder birth, death and infinity.  I know about several babies expected in the coming year. These are happy occasions, but stressful. I have a good friend who is dying. She is in the last stages of cancer and I watch her die by inches even as she keeps trying to live.  One of her children is due to be married next year and she longs to be there.  I long for her to be there. But, birth and death are mysteries, beyond my control.

Infinity to me is heaven. Perhaps a better word would be eternity, but that wouldn't fit with a medical drama.  Infinity, forever and ever. Amen.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Bless This House...

A couple of weeks ago I finally got my act together and called the Body of Christ in the persona of my friends and family to bless my house.  I used the Catholic Blessing for new houses..... We prayed for peace and blessings.  We flung some holy water, listened to Mary's song, and blew some bubbles.  The house, my house was truly and fully blessed.

I knew when I bought this house that I wanted to have it blessed.  I don't know any priests personally these days.  And those I am acquainted with are stretched so thin.  So, I prayed about it and discussed it with some trusted advisors.  And I decided that in our roles as priest, prophets and kings that we were called to with our Baptisms, we could perform the blessing.

It was a touching thing to do, to call the Lord to dwell with me, to walk with us, the Body of Christ.  I choked up at a couple of points.  I was supported by my friends.  I marvel at the many blessings in my life.  I am the receiver of mercy and love beyond any expectations that I might have had.

And my point is this--bless your home or your new school year, or your new car, or whatever.  Pray publically, confidently, and let the Lord walk with you in your life.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Winning the Lottery

At the rate I am going I will never win the Lottery.  I haven't bought a ticket in at least 20 years, so I am confident that unless I change my ways, I will never win the Lottery.  But a common expression for me is --if I win the Lottery, I will.....

My sister recently pointed out to me that I don't need to wait to win the imagined Lottery.  I should do the things I want to now.  She is right and I had already started on that path.  I am going to the Holy Land in 2018.  I replaced my stinky dishwasher.  I have purchased an assortment of furniture that fits my eclectic style.

But there are still things on my to do list.  I have plans to replace the lighting in my house. It is old and outdated.  I want to change my fireplace to gas, because who wants to clean up ashes?  I need a rug for the master bedroom. I want a new stove and vent hood.  And I suppose the list could go on and on. But, that is most of the big stuff.  I will work on it gradually over time.

I struggle with the consumerism of this.  I was not given this life to spend it spending. Balance, I need balance and perspective in my life. I can honor God and have a life of abundance. When I look at the wonders of nature.  The leaves on the trees are falling, but look at the show they are putting on before they go. God is exuberant and generous and loving.  It is okay to enjoy my life, to be who I am called to be.  That is a theme for me, being who I am called to be.  And one thing I am not called to be, I suppose, is a winner of the Lottery.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Things We Do For Love

I don't know how I got so blessed in the parenting department.  I have a great kid.  He is closer to 40 than 30 so I suppose most of you wouldn't call him a kid anymore, but he will always be my baby.  He married a great gal and I love them both very much. He was a very challenging colicky baby and young and older child though, so don't think I had it easy in the parenting department. But, end results count for a lot and I have a great kid. Given the difficult situation that he was raised in, my great kid is a wonder.  My brother, however, has told me not to write parenting books.  I could say the same to him.  We have both struggled at times in the parenting department.

I have recently entertained all of my siblings and was reminded of some truths that I knew and remembered deep in my mind, but had buried the memories.  My mom and I had a difficult relationship growing up.  My take on it is that she had a certain amount of jealousy toward me.  Either that or she was a hateful shrew, when I was a teen I went with that one.  But I can be gentler and more forgiving these days. 

This is me being defensive--I was a ordinary sized teen.  If you are familiar with the movie White Christmas, I was more like a Rosemary Clooney than a Mitzi Gaynor.  Mom was a Mitzi.  Mom referred to in front of my siblings as "the big fat sister."  Whenever my siblings told me she had called me fat or other names, I told Dad who fought with Mom, so I had a rather horrible teenage experience looking back on it.  I came to believe I was the fattest person in the room. This, I believe set me up to marry the first man who asked whether I knew him or not. In my case, that was a mistake. It is a mistake that I am still dealing with.

Mom is 96 these days and I am her primary caregiver although she lives in assisted living and not with me. She is still demanding and on occasion she falls back into patterns of criticism, but I have learned how to deal with her and change the subject and distance myself when I need to.  As she settles into dementia, I hold my breath to see which way she will go because the filters are definitely coming off.  But, this is the thing I know, it says--Honor thy father and mother, and though I have searched the good book for it, I find no footnotes or exceptions to only honor them if they deserve it or if they were great parents.  Honor them regardless.  I honor her and care for her and love her.  And occasionally I call or text my siblings and vent.  I take care of her for love of Christ, for love of my dad who loved her, for love of the good mom who helped me to turn out the person I am.  She made mistakes, but so did I.  It only poisons my life if I dwell with the upsets of my childhood.

Thinking in response to my brother's comment that I should not write a parenting book, I wonder about turning out okay while having been raised by a mother who didn't seem to or at least show that she loved me very much.  I wondered how my son turned out okay, although much of his growing up years, I was profoundly unhappy, and had not experienced a great parenting example myself.

I can write my parenting book and my daughtering book in a few short words--love.  Love the imperfect mother.  Show her love.  Love your child and love the things he or she does, the things he or she is interested in.  Do things with your child out of love.  Love is the answer.  Do the most loving thing for your child, for your mother.  And love to do it. Love.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Headers and Footers/Titles and Conclusions

One of the great joys of blogging for me during the early years was changing the header.  Hope Echoes was always the title name I wanted, but I liked to change out the photo and the font often.  I delighted in seeing something new when I opened up the blog.  And I do this largely for me, so when I read that it is good to stay with the same title to develop a "brand" I wasn't all that impressed.  I did what I liked.

I like this lily up at the top. Lilies aren't my favorite flower, but they are beautiful and I like them.  This particular lily was extremely photogenic.  I have a lot of pictures of her and I am pretty sure that she is long gone since the new owners of the house have changed the gardens.  That is fine, I think change is perfect.  I smile when I see the memory of the lily at the top of the blog.

I don't do pictures much on the blog these days.  If I do put a photo, it is pulled out of the archive rather than something taken recently.  I may change that, or I may not.  One of the things I love about my life now is that I don't live  with "rules."  I don't have to blog every day.  I don't have to cook dinner.  I don't have to go to work.  The things I do, I can do with joy and intention rather than stress and necessity.  This is a big deal.

I was thinking about working with the camera again, about changing the header, and someday I might do that, or I might not.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ever Sadness/ Ever Joy

There are a great many things to be sad about these days--Irma, Harvey, Maria, the earthquake in Mexico, wildfires out west, the drought here, injustice in St. Louis, the Las Vegas shootings and on and on.  It seems as though the tragedies are never ending and unsolvable.   There are plenty of reasons to crawl in a hole and never look out.  I pray for all those terrible tragedies and the people suffering losses and pain.  I really do and I believe my prayers are not just wishes on the breeze, I believe that God is listening.

But, as a person who had a little dance with depression, I know that it is not good for me to dwell on these things.  The big picture looks so terrible, but that is God's business, not mine.  So, for me it is helpful to pray, contribute what I can and then look away.  Thinking over and over again about things I can have no impact on is not productive.

So, I have to find the thing I need to focus on, and it is this for me--the present moment, where I am right now.  I am not really suffering from any of the afore-mentioned tragedies. Give thanks to the Lord for this mercy. I had a nice lunch at my sister's house, praise God. It is an overcast gloomy day and it might rain, please God! Ice in my water, rejoice. And the praises could and should go on and on.  I am free from critcism and manipulation these days. I am free. The joy in the Lord is my strength.

I am sure there will be times again, when I am personally in the midst of the cyclone so to speak, when I am dealing with horrific problems.  I have to trust that God will be there with me.  I have to do what I can for others who suffer.  But, I need to not lose sight of the joy and mercies of the present moment.  I am not called to feel guilt or pain because my life is a little slice of goodness these days.  I am called to rejoice and to pray.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Tragedy/ Triumph

I like things wrapped up in neat little bows.  I like happy endings.  For the most part I don't enjoy the ambiguous ending or even one where the villain pays and that is the end.  I am not a fan of tragedy.  But, God likes all manner of stories, it seems to me and some of them are horror stories or tragedies.  Some stories seem to have endless amounts of pain and very little redeeming joy and happiness, some real life stories.

When I was less than one year old, but already born, my family suffered a huge loss.  My grandpa's brother (in his 50s) and his son (in his 30s with a pregnant wife and a couple of tiny children) were electrocuted in a farm accident.  The farm implement hit a high voltage line that was too low and both were killed.  Burned beyond recognition.  In fact, the pregnant wife was one of the first on the scene and had to call someone to come put the fire out that was still her husband burning.  Imagine living through that?  Then a neighbor woman suddenly died of a heart attack in the family's kitchen as they prepared the food for the funeral luncheon a few days later. That family lost a father, only son, and neighbor in the space of less than a week.  It was surely a tragedy and it is hard to find God's love and mercy in the middle of the situation.

But, the family was able to survive and move on.  There was a shadow. The young widow remarried and the children were adopted by a new father and the family name was lost, because he was the only son. Nobody sued anybody and got rich.  Maybe the electric company worked to improve their service to farms because of that incident. I don't know.  The widow of my great uncle died in her 80s and lived a happy life I think.  His daughters also lived good long lives.

I was recently talking about this tragedy with my second cousin.  He knew a lot more details than I had ever been told.  I left thinking about it. Life is a mystery.  There are some terrible tragedies that happen like that farm accident. i can't believe that God was punishing or teaching a lesson.  It was just one of those things.  It was a reminder to treasure each day and love and make life as fruitful and joyous as possible, because tragedies happen and we can't predict or prevent them.  All we can do is be who we are called to be.  Be the people of the Lord.  And that is triumph.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Disappearing, Reappearing

I have been doing a great deal of self reflection lately. Probing questions will do that to a person.  Upon reflection I have discovered that I am willing to undergo a great deal of pain and emotional turmoil for the rest of the world to think I got what I wanted and that I was happy with my choices.  That changed recently and now I am looking back at all of it and trying to find my authentic self.

I have a feeling that my authentic self is the person God made me to be.  She is the person with talents and energy and drive.  She doesn't worry about being a role model or how things look, because she is living the life God called her to and that is all that matters.  Ultimately, this self will bring her joy and serenity and these will be shared with the people around her so that she will be the role model and the things will look fine.

But finding her again, that authentic me, is sometimes a challenge.  Sometimes I have her right there and I think--just like riding a bicycle, right back at it, and sometimes I feel lost and confused and have to look around for her.  But, it helps to pray and to talk to God about it.  It helps to remember that I am not alone.

I have a lot of cool stuff to look forward to in this life.  I have all of eternity to look forward to after this is done. Right now I am relearning to spread my wings and believe I can fly.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Stinky, Smelly....First World Troubles

My kitchen was smelling not good the other morning.  Not exactly like rotten onions, or potatoes but something like that. (Not that I have ever smelled those things in my own kitchen. I just imagine what they might smell like.) I ran the garbage disposal in case that was the culprit. No way.  Getting to the bottom of the rot is the only solution.  I haven't lived that long in this house that there could even be much. So I told myself.

This morning I opened up the dishwasher which has never worked since I moved in.  How do I know it won't work?  I tried to use it.  It filled with water, didn't even swish it around, didn't drain the water when I tried to use it about a month ago or so. Opened that dishwasher and was about knocked off my feet by the smell, sort of amonia or rotten eggs, awful.  So, the source of the smell was uncovered.

The reason I opened the dishwasher is--I am having a new one installed tomorrow.  What I decided about that stinky mess was, the water needed to be drained.  If I foolishly let the installers try to take it out full of water, it would probably slosh all over my floor and I would have the smell forever in this house. So, I bailed it out, that stinky water. cup by cup.  Mentally I considered the advantages of owning a syphon, but I decided that I could do this, I could get the stinky water out. It took  quite a little while to accomplish this task.

Sometimes life is that way, I just have to get into the middle of the mess and brave the stinky, smelly water and remedy the situation. This was a tiny problem in the broad scheme of things, a teeny tiny problem.  But, it was my problem and I fixed it.