Saturday, December 31, 2011

Neighbor

Today I was at the funeral Mass of one of my neighbors. I remember when we moved into our home 13 years ago I would see him out walking every day. He was energetic and full of joy. Smiles would come easily, lighting up his face and he had a great laugh. Then he suffered a stroke and there began his slow downturn. His bubbly wife nursed him with love and compassion until she could no longer care for him on her own. She would go and see him at the assisted living center whenever she could, but since she didn't drive it wasn't as often as she would like. She watched her husband suffer terribly, and yet she would meet you with a smile, always showing interest in our lives and what the kids were doing. On Christmas Eve, he passed from this life.

Today I was at the funeral Mass of one of my neighbors. I embraced his crying wife and daughter and said how sorry I was -- how great a man Mr. P was and the joy he brought to those who knew him. I went into the pew and knelt to pray for the repose of Mr. P's soul and ask the merciful Lord to bring comfort and peace to Mr. P's family.  As we were leaving, his daughter held me and said, "Call her (Mrs.P). Please just call her. She may not answer, but she will know she is remembered."

Today I was at the funeral Mass of one of my neighbors. Other neighbors were present there. Some I know and some I do not. When I am outside I will wave, but many of my neighbors are just familiar faces. How can we lift each other and help each other if we don't even know each other's name? How did we get to the point where we don't know the names of those who live near us? How did we get so caught up in our own lifes that we don't connect with the lifes of those in closest proximity to us?

Today I was at the funeral Mass of one of my neighbors. As we were leaving, Mrs. P held me and thanked me for all we had given to her since we moved in. All I could think is that we had really given her so very little - how could that tiny bit mean so much? She looked at my husband and I and thanked us for our Christmas decorations. "Your house looks so beautiful. We would come home from visiting Mr. P and feel so dejected and so low, and your house looked so cheery and would lift our spirits. Thank you for that."

Today I was at the funeral Mass of one of my neighbors. I was reminded of much in that hour in church today. I remembered how the bright smile of a neighbor out for a walk and stopping for a chat could warm your heart. I remembered how watching Mrs. P care for her husband showed me how Jesus wants us to care for one another with love and humility. I remembered how prayer is a great gift for our own souls as well as the souls of those we care about. I was reminded that I need to reach out to my neighbors more and try to get to know them better. I was reminded that even the simplest of things - like hanging Christmas decorations on your home - can do far more for someone's broken spirit than you may ever be aware of.

Today I was at the funeral Mass of one of my neighbors. Much thanks for the time to honor him, pray for his soul and his family, reflect on what he taught me simply because I knew him. May we all be better people because of what we learn through our interactions with those around us.

I hope my achievements in life shall be these - that I will have fought for what was right and fair, that I will have risked for that which mattered, that I will have given help to those who were in need...that I will have left the earth a better place for what I've done and who I've been.
     C. Hoppe
The

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Where are You?

Growing up, this time of year was magical to me. The Advent wreath, the Christmas tree, the decorations, the Advent calendar, the ornaments, the smell of pine, the lights.  Baking, shopping, singing, watching Christmas movies. Snuggling in bed on Christmas Eve while butterflies were dancing in my heart making sleep nearly impossible.  I close my eyes and I can go right back to how I felt at that time.

On Christmas morn I used to wake bright and early with my siblings. Much, much earlier than my parents. We would whisper and talk and watch the clock to see when it would be ok to go down to wake our parents. We would sneak down the stairs to use the bathroom and peek into the family room to see if the stockings were full and the presents were under the tree. When the time came, we would run down the stairs, get our parents up and race to.... our nativity scene. We wanted to see if baby Jesus had come. Then we would tear over to the tree and into our presents.

As I've grown older, my love for this time of year is still there, but it isn't quite the same. Family relationships have changed - some growing stronger, others struggling. The world has picked up its pace. Stores start packing Christmas items on their shelves in October. Radio stations are playing Christmas music before Halloween! My nuclear family has changed: a husband, in-laws, and children are added to the mix. Am I able to keep up? Am I passing down the love and meaning of this season to my children?

Over the last few years I've found myself asking more and more, "Where are you?" Where are you, Jesus? Where are you, Christmas? It takes longer for the spirit of the season to fill my heart and lift me up. It takes longer for the lightness and laughter to penetrate the darkness. However, it does always seem to win out.

Maybe that is a good thing. The weeks before Christmas are a time of waiting, of preparation, of darkness. Christ, the true Light, comes on Christmas morn to fill our hearts with hope, with love.

I reflect on those Christmases of my childhood and they bring me great joy. My prayer is that my children will look back and have warm and happy memories of this time of year. I pray that my children will feel the wonder and awe that this season brings. I pray that our traditions remind them of the love we have for each other.

In the morning as I do my prayers I look over at the nativity scene waiting for Jesus to arrive on Christmas morn. Where are you, Jesus? Where are you, Christmas? Fill us with your music, with your love, with your hope, with your joy. Fill us with your magic. Fill our hearts so completely and beautifully that we always know where to find you in ourselves and in each other.

Let's Keep Christmas
Whatever else be lost among the years,
Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing;
Whatever doubts assial us, or what fears,
Let us hold close one day, remembering
It's poignant meaning for the hearts of men.
Let us get back our childlike faith again.
     Ada V. Hendricks


Faith Hill - Where Are You, Christmas?


Let


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Turn Around

     Remember when summer felt like it lasted forever? School would get out in June and the days of summer were spread out ahead of you like a long, lazy, meandering stream just waiting to be discovered and explored. Remember when you would count the days down to Christmas and it just felt like it would never get here? When would it arrive? When would we finally be able to celebrate?  Remember decorating for the holidays and being able to soak up the excitement of each one - individually? Remember riding your bike and feeling the wind on your face - nowhere to go and no rush to get back home?
     When was it, exactly, when time began to speed up? I'm reminded of the song Turn Around. "Turn around and you're two. Turn around and you're four." Only it doesn't just feel like the years are slipping by; sometimes it feels like they are being squished together. I think it began slowly, but now it is like a mad house of mirrors where everywhere you turn there is something new rushing at you.
     As a child, I would get out of school for the summer and have three full months in front of me. Three full months to imagine and dream, run and play. The neighborhood kids would get together and play Hide and Seek. "Olly, Olly, Oxen Free" would be heard up and down the street. Cans would be kicked. Baseball would be played. The days slowly rolled by.
     My kiddos get out of school in mid June and go back right after Labor Day. Up until two years ago, however, they would be back at school the end of August. Where was their summer? Where was their leisure? School sports are going through the entire summer and practices and games begin before school starts. The middle of the hour glass seems to be expanding - a bit like my waistline - and the particles of sand are slipping by more quickly.
     Growing up, retailers trying to get ahead of the game began advertising Back to School sales earlier and earlier in August. The paper would come and we would groan seeing the supplies prominently displayed on the sale page. Our wonderful days of summer were coming to a close. Now, my kiddos are barely out of school for two weeks and the stores have the Back to School section stocked and ready to go. And, goodness gracious, don't you dare wait until the end of August, because there will be very slim picking indeed!
     When my oldest was a toddler I recall when we were into the start of July and a growth spurt had left her with sandles that were not fitting those sweet little feet. Off to the store we went to find a pair of... fur lined boots? What was going on?
     Of course, we cannot forget the holiday scramble. Each store wants to be the first to have the products out and the decorations up. In order to do that they keep pushing it up another week, another week until they are months before the actual holiday! One of my favorite radio stations began playing Christmas music before Halloween this year! My other favorite radio station started in mid-November. Are you kidding me? It was time to celebrate Halloween, enjoy All Saints Day, remember the departed on All Souls Day. Thanksgiving is ahead of me. It is a time when I am supposed to reflect on my year and give thanks for all the blessings I have received. However, that is more and more difficult to do when the television and radio are bombarding me with Christmas music and messages!
     Turn around. Turn around. Turn around. STOP!
      I'm tired of turning and spinning by someone else's timetable. Of course, time goes by. This is not a static world. But I want to get back to a slower paced lifestyle, one that cherishes the idea of family, one that celebrates the moments. It will be a difficult task, I realize.  And there may be times when I fall short because, well, because the busyness of life will sometimes get the best of me. However, I'm going to make that effort to clear my calendar and refocus on the things that really matter. When I do turn around, I want to remember the moments of laughter and love.  I want to turn around and remember time well spent whether it was sitting and reading outside with the sun on my face and a breeze rustling in the leaves or if it is the crazy commotion of a family gathering where everyone is loud with laughter and filled with food.
     I am taking a stand. I refuse to be pushed through time and have the seasons and holidays and weeks pushed together into a blur. I am taking each moment as it comes. I am going to relish it. I am going to be grateful for the joys and the challenges. I am going to look to each day and be thankful for what it brings me. Tomorrow will be here soon enough. Turn around. The day is before you. Soak it in.

"Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each."     Henry David Thoreau

Turn Around


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Doing Right

Trusting people to do right. That is how I was brought up: trusting people to do the right thing, make the right choices. Sometimes I have been accused of being too trusting. "Too trusting?" I would think about that. Hmm. Is there such a thing as too trusting? No, I don't think so. Sometimes I have been accused of being naive. "Naive?" I would think about that. Hmm. Have I been naive? Yes, possibly. But is it something I would want to change? No, I don't think so. Why not? Because I still inherently trust people to do right - to choose right.

Now, let me tell you, when someone does something that I don't think is right it can really throw me for a big ol' loop de loop. This especially happens when it comes to my kids. Occassionally someone will make a decision that goes against everything that seems right to me. When this happens it tests everything that I believe in and it tests that trust which I hold so dear.

Just last week a situation presented itself that completely went against what I thought should have been a "right" decision. So, how did I react? I'll tell you. I went numb. Then when I was alone I yelled, I cried, I tried to deal with the adrenaline that shot through my body at the injustice of the decision. Then I hit my knees - to pray.

Do I always make the right decision? No, of course not. I try to always do my best to be trustworthy, to stand on the side of right, to build a strong character, to make good choices. When I don't, I try to learn from where I erred and seek forgiveness if need be. I pick myself up and try to do better next time - to be better next time.

My hope is that when others make poor decisions that they learn from them as well. If I screw up and try to make better choices, then I have to trust that others will try to improve on their bad decisions as well. I have to trust in humanity.

One of the short prayers that touches my heart to its core is the five word prayer "Jesus, I trust in You." If I truly trust in Jesus and His great love for me then I need to relinquish the feeling that I know what is the best in every situation. I don't know what is in store, but I must trust that however I am effected by someone else's choice that I will be able to come out stronger on the other side of it. I need to trust that God knows what is best at any given time.

When someone does send me on one of those big ol' loop de loops the sooner I can get myself upright and steady the better off I am. If I'm guarded and second-guessing what everyone is doing then I will become jaded. If I expect the worst from people then where is the hope in my day? Instead, I choose to trust. I'll trust that God will help to get me through anything so I am better and stronger on the other side of it. I'll trust that people innately want to do what is right. 

So, am I too trusting? I don't think so. Am I naive? Possibly. However, I pray that I will always trust people to do right: to do the right thing, to make the right choices. I'd rather live in the light.

"It takes the best in each of us to bring out the best in all of us."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Yesterday and Tomorrow

Tomorrow I take my oldest child, my oldest daughter, to get her senior pictures taken. Yesterday, the doctor held her up to me and said, "It's a girl".

Yesterday, I held her in my arms and spent hours just taking in every detail of her face. Her beautiful, round eyes would stare at me as she nursed at my breast while her little hand clasped my finger. She would fall asleep nursing and I would recline the chair and we would sleep peacefully together. And we had a whole lifetime ahead of us.

Yesterday, my daughter would squeal with laughter and run into my arms as we played chase in the living room. Her sweet, contagious giggle would fill the room with music more beautiful and melodic than has ever reached your ears before. We rolled and laughed and played through the days. And we had a whole lifetime ahead of us.

Yesterday, the school bus pulled in front of the house to pick up my daughter for her first day of kindergarten. Her new backpack hung nearly to her knees and her excitement for school and new friends and learning just poured out of her. The step into the bus was so high she had to stretch to get in. I turned from the bus and cried as I headed back to the house. And we had a whole lifetime ahead of us.

Yesterday, we attended the first musical production T was in. She danced and sang and we sat so proudly in the audience not daring to believe that the adorable blond on stage was indeed our daughter. Her smile filled the room and her excitement enveloped everyone around us. And we had a whole lifetime ahead of us.

Yesterday, T began taking driver's education. She couldn't wait to get behind the wheel and I hoped I wasn't the one who would have to take her out driving. This young lady smiled and grabbed her permit and asked if she could drive. What happened to that little one I held at my breast? Suddenly, we no longer had a whole lifetime ahead of us.

Tomorrow, I take my oldest child, my oldest daughter, to get her senior pictures taken. She's a young woman now. A young woman with an easy laugh and a kind heart. I look at her and remember the little one who used to climb in bed and snuggle in tight with me. I look at her and think of the teenager who climbs on the sofa to snuggle in tight to watch a favorite show. I look at her and can see glimpses of the woman she will be.  I look at her and suddenly, I realize that we only have moments ahead of us.

Yesterday, I held a sweet baby close to my heart and cradled her firmly in my arms, drinking in her wonder for what felt like forever. Tomorrow, I take my oldest child, my oldest daughter, to get her senior pictures taken and will have to loosen my grip a little more. Today, I realize that although we no longer have a lifetime ahead of us, that the moments that are ahead of us will be beautiful. They are beckoning to me to come closer. They are comforting me as my daughter grows up and away, "Have no fears, these moments will be the wonderful yesterdays that you think of when you reminisce. These moments are what make up a sweet lifetime of memories."


"Every cliche about kids is true; they grow up so quickly, you blink and they're gone, and you have to spend the time with them now. But that's a joy."  Liam Neeson

Friday, October 7, 2011

Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We all have heard that over and over growing up, didn't we? And we may repeat it to our children now. But I must say that I absolutely think breakfast is the most important meal of the day when you are having it with girlfriends. I may not be the best breakfast eater here at my house, but if you throw the idea of sitting down with dear friends I can't wait for the eggs and hashbrowns!

Every couple months I am fortunate enough to meet up with some girlfriends for breakfast. When we set a date, I excitedly put it on my calendar and look forward to the time when we will sit at a booth and eat together. It is a magical time. It is an energizing time. For that hour or so around the table with girlfriends I become a better mother, a better wife, a better friend. Amazing what can happen during a meal, don't you think?

"It's just a breakfast," some of you may scoff. "What can make a bowl of cereal (or pancakes or eggs or whatever breakfast item of your choice you'd like to insert here) such a magical time?" If you were sitting at another booth and watching us you probably wouldn't see anything magical happening at all. We would appear to be just some friends sharing a meal. Well, let me take a moment to share with you the magic of breakfast with friends.

Here is the secret: we sit together and talk. Yep, that's it. Well, I guess that isn't everything, but that is the crux of our time together. We hug, we sit, we eat, we talk, we laugh, we listen, we cry, we share, we support. We talk about husbands, children, extended families. We talk about hair, weight, clothes. We talk about struggles, joys, triumphs. We talk, well, we talk about everything.

So, "where is the magic?" you ask. Did you miss it? Didn't you see it? It is that time around the table when we are talking about anything and everything that the magic happens. All of a sudden I don't feel like I'm the only one dealing with the challenges of teenagers and overworked husbands and school schedules. All of a sudden I don't feel like I'm the only one relishing the excitement of watching my child do well at a meet or the fun of randomly breaking out in dance with the kids to their favorite song.

When we are down, we are lifted up. When we are up, we share the joy. Whether we are up or down, we laugh with each other and cry with each other. As our leisurly breakfast comes to an end, we pay our bills, leave the restaurant, and embrace - each going where we need to be for the day. But as I turn to go home I am never quite the same as I was when I entered the restaurant. Something has happened. The magic of friendship and love has enveloped me and changed me. That magic energizes, encourages, and refreshes me. The magic whispers in my ear, "You are not alone. You can do it."

And this is why, my dear friends, that breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day. Maybe it is time you got out your calendar and scheduled yourself some magic today.

"A real friend is one who helps us to think our best thoughts, do our noblest deeds, and to be our finest selves." Anonymous

Monday, October 3, 2011

Why God's Gifts?

My daughter is blogging for school. When I mentioned that I had been considering writing a blog for a while she told me that I should. So, here I am. I began my blog and immediately became stumped when prompted for a title. Hmmm. What should I name it? What will encompass a little of me and what I think about and how I view the world and the random thoughts I would like to share with those who may decide to read a bit of what I write? Hmmmm. That is a tough one.

As I sat and pondered this big decision my daughter chuckled. She advised not to get too worried about the title because I can always change it as I go along. True. Very true, indeed. However, that isn't how my brain works. So I sat a little longer.

Years ago I would write a weekly random thought. It would be a reflection of something that happened that week and then would conclude with a quote or short inspirational writing that somehow connected to what I had encountered that week. It was a joy to do, because while I sat down to write I would look to try to find out what I learned through what had happened, how had it changed me?

Sometimes our lessons are small and sometimes our lessons are big. Sometimes what we deal with day to day is wonderful and inspiring and sometimes what we come into contact with hurts our hearts to their very core. What I would like to explore in this blog is how everything - and, yes, I mean everything - we deal with is a gift from God. I hope that you find some of my meanderings enjoyable. I hope that some of what I write may inspire you to think about things in a different way. I hope that some of your comments will get me thinking of new things and viewing life from different angles. I hope that we can learn from each other and discover all the ways that we are touched by gifts from God in all the things we do.

So, with my daughter's prompting, here I am in the land of the bloggers taking a risk and putting myself out there. Maybe more of us need to get out there and take a risk or two:

TO RISK
To laugh
   is to risk appearing the fool
To weep
   is to risk appearing sentimental
To reach out for another
   is to risk involvement
To expose feelings is to risk
   exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams before
   the crowd is to risk loss.
To love is to risk
   not being loved in return
To live
   is to risk dying
To hope
   is to risk despair
To try at all
   is to risk failure.
But to risk we must!
Because the greatest hazard in life
   is to risk nothing.
The man, the woman, who risks nothing,
   does nothing,
   has nothing,
   is nothing.
                            Author Unknown