Driving home the other night around 9:30 or 10pm. The snow had started up again and was falling quickly. It was one of those times when your bright lights illuminate so many snowflakes that you're better off just using your regular beams. The rural roads are amazingly quiet and if you take your time, it's not too treacherous. I watched for deer along the road's edge but didn't see any. There weren't many other drivers out at that time. Most drivers had probably made it home much earlier and why would you go out after dark when it was cold and snowing??
Well, I found a reason. As I was starting through our small town, I decided to take some side streets and drive by St. Joseph's Catholic Church, just to see it lit up at night with all that snow! St. Joseph's was built just after the Civil War to serve the Catholic community here. Their original church had been destroyed in a fire on another site further west of town, and so the parish came together to build this beautiful one to replace it. It's an historical building now, symmetrical in its architecture with a warm, intimate feel. Its interior is too small for the size of its current parish, so they have built a newer church north of town that is much larger and is used for most of their worship services. This smaller church is still used for weekday Masses.
The other night, I parked along the side of the road and got out of the car to walk in front of the church. How still the evening was! Not a sound to break my thoughts, nor a person to interrupt my time travel as I considered those original parishioners, and all who have followed since, gathering in Decembers long past to wait and pray, and then to celebrate at Christmas the birth of the One who fulfilled their many hopes. Just as we do today.
This photo doesn't quite capture how thickly the snow was falling, or just how strikingly inspiring this tall steeple was as I looked up at it from the street below. It was worth the chill in my hands and the damp in my hair just to be standing there as a witness of this moment caught by my camera lens in 2013.
We awoke to frost on the fields on September 14, 2013, and a chilly 34 degrees (that's Fahrenheit), which was a bit of a shock after temps topping the 90s just a few days earlier.
My brother had passed away the afternoon before, on September 13. It was a rather sudden death and the reality of it was only beginning to sink in, so life was moving in slow motion for me on the following morning, despite the fact that I rose early. The world seemed changed in many ways, and yet remained so constant and sure.
On that morning, I peered into the slowly rising mist that obscured the distant landscapes, and I thought I may have just caught a glimmer of him there, peering back at me. Such a thin veil separates us.
The low light of the early rising sun turned the dewy field grasses at my feet into shimmery chandeliers. There was no breeze. A lone sand crane flew overhead and disappeared into the distant sky. I stood in that quiet space and just stared… those small lights at my feet, reminding me that His word is a lamp to my feet, a light to be trusted.
And then surprisingly quickly, the mist rose up and was gone, and it was just blue skies.
We, all of us, cope and grieve in various ways. That morning, and those fields spoke to me. I am so blessed to live where the play of weather in nature can speak, and I can hear so many lessons there, and find comfort in that quiet space. I take photos to remind me of the very goodness that surrounds me. My God lovingly speaks to me in language I understand. He uses so many ways to reveal Himself to me... not always the same ways, but always the same loving God.
This morning, on September 14, 2013, He was speaking clearly and my grieving heart was comforted just a little.
We live, we love, we pass on. Our Faith sustains us.
I feel like I live between the spaces. So much of what happens in our lives, happens between things.
I sometimes feel I am living life in the shadows, too, where the lighting isn't as bright and the way isn't as clear.
I sometimes feel that I am weightless, and that I leave no footsteps when I walk, because my life is so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. There are events happening on a much bigger stage, and our influence on that stage may seem very small.
But I sometimes feel that I can do great things, powerful things, things that make a difference for others, for us, for now. And I think again, of the many people who have done great things by simply doing the next thing, and by being faithful to do the next thing, over and over again.
When I saw they were in the pasture, I called out to them a friendly, "Helloooow...!" There were three horses and two donkeys. They turned to look at me and then came over to see me better. The first donkey eyed me curiously and turned away. He disappeared back toward the barn but returned moments later with his buddy. Those two are like twins, and they move and stand together in the most amusing fashion. I just love seeing all of these animals.
The animal world fascinates most of us as we explore the personalities and intelligence of the diverse creatures with whom we share our planet. I think of us as interconnected, all here with a different role to play, but yet all with the same purpose: to reflect the qualities of the Creator, by using our intellect and insights to good purpose.
The animal world is full and varied from the simplest single celled forms to the more complex creatures, with a range of qualities and personalities as diverse in between!
The invisible world is said to be the same, populated by intelligent creatures, angels and spiritual beings, of many bearings and features, with intelligence and purpose of their own. This may sound fantastical, of course. I recall a time in my life when the thought of angels and invisible creatures posed a real stumbling block to me. But it seems quite an acceptable construct to me now, and more acceptable as I peered back at these magnificent animals on the this past January morning.
I have already concluded that my dog is smart, with his own unique feelings, and affectionate qualities I regard as good. So you could say that my interactions with the animals around me have added substance to my faith in that mysterious world that can't be seen with the naked eye. It is not so difficult to understand that the created world has levels of intelligence in both the visible and invisible world, and that which I see is a reflection and lesson about the very large portion of Creation that I cannot see.
Whatever your own conclusions, aren't these horses and donkeys neat?
At nighttime, I often sing the Song of Simeon in my head... A prayer of hope fulfilled and of faith.
"Now Lord, you can let your servant go in peace, according to your word. For my eyes have seen your saving deed, which you have set before all men: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."
We have a loving Father who cares about us, who cares for us.
Having heard and read about the Gosnell trial and the atrocious details, and seeing the report on the news last night as a jury deliberates this case, I am wondering how we can continue to deny that there is something wrong in our national thinking about the abortion issue. Like so many, I am wondering how this case will be determined and what it reveals about the American psyche.
Here, in this photo, behind the magnolias, is a depiction of the Resurrected Christ. Christ, who is our Good Shepherd, who seeks out the lamb who is lost, who has strayed. Sometimes we know we are lost or have wandered, and other times we are oblivious. This seems to be our current condition. I have no doubt that many who support abortion, do so with good intentions. However, an act that is inherently in error, cannot be correct, whatever the end may be. Abortion is not a solution, and can never be seen that way.
Our Creative Father can help bring good from our mistakes, though. Even the most egregious. This is my hope, and my prayer.
I took this photo last night on my way home from work. The St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church magnolia is probably the biggest one in the area. It's certainly one of the most beautiful.
Blackbirds perch along the roofline of this vine covered barn. From there they see the landscape from a different perspective than I do. They see the cattails and tractors, but from their position, they see the locations of things with better understanding and clarity, while I rely on my very limited depth perception.
It was a beautiful morning when I awoke on Saturday, and I lay in bed admiring the sunshine that filtered through the curtains. The sun was still low in the sky.
I was filled with contentment after a great evening the night before with my daughter, who was visiting from the west coast. Dinner at our local favorite restaurant, followed by a movie, and then coffee shop conversation. So many miles melt away. Being together allows us to do simple tasks, and have conversations about both the mundane and meaningful.
The west coast is so very far away. You can't even see it from here! At least not clearly! Time with my family is the best. It is where I feel most myself, most at ease, and where I can explore ideas and gain so much from their learning, too. We are grateful that she made the effort to come back to Michigan to visit her sister and family. We know she has work and commitments far away. But being together is wonderful.
And if I position myself from a good vantage point, just the right vantage point, I can see we are not so far apart. Indeed.
I slept in this morning to catch up a little after working a long stretch of days. I feel so much better with the extra sleep!!
The sun is shining and the temperature warming up this morning, my birthday. A gift for certain! How blessed I am!
Here is my 2013 Litany:
Today, I am grateful for so many gifts.
I am grateful for life, for my parents and family and all the instruction I received from them as I grew up, and for the earliest sense of identity and belonging they gave me.
I am grateful for the influence of the Catholic Church in my early years, for the sacraments of Batpism, Penance and Communion, all before I was 7 years old, and Confirmation a few years later! I loved that I could slip away on my bike and go to our church during the summer to sit quietly by myself in that holy place and pray.
I am grateful for the friends I had in elementary school and for the acceptance I experienced in their company. I am grateful for having a "best" friend in those early years, and for shared secrets and adventures, and a neighborhood "gang" with whom we explored the world! Our "gang's"adventures rivaled any of those in The Little Rascals! (Younger people may need to look up the reference.)
I am grateful for the move our family made to another town, even though it was painful at the time, and for the new friends I made in middle school and high school-- friends that are dear to me now.
I'm grateful for Young Life, and the encouragement I received to read scripture and to pray together with my peers. I am grateful for the awkwardness I felt in high school, which reminds me how awkward we often still feel as adults, and helps me find empathy. I'm grateful for my high school teachers. And I'm grateful for the difficulties and confusion I experienced during those years, for they brought lessons and insights that are with me still.
I'm grateful that my fellow classmates were spared going to the Vietnam War, although the young men had draft numbers, and some were nearly called. I'm grateful that the Vietnam War taught us to honor our young military people who continue to make sacrifices for our country because they are asked to do so, and not because they understand all the political and national interests that motivate our leaders.
I'm grateful for the gift of becoming a mother, three times! I'm grateful for the chance to learn that I could love someone else so deeply that my own life would seem unimportant in comparison I am grateful for the chance I had to hold young babies in my arms for hours, and to reassure them over and over again that they were loved no matter what, and then, over years, to confirm that no matter what our circumstances, we would always be for one another. I am grateful that I could teach my children, and thereby teach myself, what is important in life. And I am grateful to have lived to see my children's children. So grateful.
I am grateful for the humility I have learned through my mistakes and the consequences we must accept for our actions.
I am grateful for the love of my husband and his blindness to my faults.
I am grateful for my good health, not something to be taken for granted.
I am grateful for meaningful work and for having everything I need.
I am grateful that we live in a country that values independence and freedom, and that so many of my fellow citizens are trying to work together to preserve the lives and God-given rights of all persons, regardless of age, race, or religion, and to ensure that our homeland is secure from lawless acts no matter how great or small.
I am grateful for the years I have lived and the ones I may have left to live. I am grateful to you, and all that makes you who you are.
I feel so blessed, like a tree, planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in due season.
As you can see, I already have all the gifts I could ever need or want. Today, I am simply grateful.
In the agricultural world, harvest is a time of reaping, and a good harvest is often the sign of good planning and hard work. The same holds true in other industries, too. Success is often the result of our good efforts and hard work, and certainly comes very little to those who do not make an effort. We know that we must work if we want results. But it is not a good idea to take all the credit, or assume that we control our fate. We know that circumstances must fall into place to make our efforts worthwhile. We know that "luck" often plays a big role in the process.
When things are going well, it is easy to rely on our own judgement and to accept that our good fortune is the result of our own cleverness. When we face difficulty, we are more apt to cry out for assistance. But it is so important in times of prosperity to remain humble and accept our circumstances as the result of God's providence and mercy. So much of life is hidden from us. To remain faithful in our trust, no matter if we abase or abound, is the key to calm and peace.
We are exhorted to remember and be grateful through the words of Moses:
"Take heed, lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his ordinances and statutes...
lest, when you have eaten and are full, and have built excellent houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground when there was not water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna which your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware, lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth.' You shall remember the Lord your God for it is he who gives you power to get wealth; that he may confirm his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as at this day."
I'm a wife, a mother of grown children, and work full time as a nurse practitioner with cancer patients. My work is gratifying often, and difficult and sad sometimes, too.
I'm average and extraordinary, just as you are. I've experienced profound failures, significant disappointments, had a few successes, and been the recipient of a lot of mercy. I try to keep perspective on what's important in life, and not get too upset about the rest.
My Catholic faith is important to me, and while I'm no theologian, it's my intention that my faith inform my outlook and values, and inspire personal virtue. I love that God desires to reveal himself to us. I love the small hints, the little bread crumbs, the multiple clues, and the pieces of the puzzle that dot the created world and point to the hand of the Creator. I love that He uses beauty, art, science, all his creatures and the invisible realm of our heart and emotions to communicate His goodness to us. And I love that the fullness of his love can be seen in the sacrifice of his son, Jesus, which makes me free.