Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cleaning for the Soul

Last week we took our two oldest and got them settled in for another year at their respective colleges. For T, this is the start of her fourth year and for D, this is the start of his second. It's such a busy whirlwind in the days before they head off.  The packing. The organizing. The shopping.  The list checking.  The laundry.  The list goes on and on.  And then, in a flash, things are quiet.

When T left her first year, it was quite an emotional roller coaster.  I wrote a little about that experience here.  Especially during that first week, just walking by her room would bring me to tears. When I was able to bring myself to go in and clean, a peace came over me as the Holy Spirit nudged my conscious.

I pray for my kids every day.  I prayed for them before they were born. I prayed for them as they grew. I prayed for them each day for whatever came to mind. When T went to college, the Holy Spirit worked His way through my sadness and inspired me to pray for my children a different way.  Not that it is such a unique idea or that others haven't done this before. However, it was just what I needed at the time and what I've done each year since that August in 2012 when we dropped our daughter off for her first year of college.

So, what did I do differently?  "Enquiring minds want to know." Well, maybe they don't, but that was just what popped into my head remembering those silly National Enquirer advertisements.  I'm digressing. Apologies. Where was I? Oh, yes. Sending my kiddos off to college and coming home without them and praying and cleaning. 

So, what DID I do differently? I went into T's room to do a thorough cleaning from top to bottom.  Stripped the bed, flipped the mattress, washed the curtains, dusted the baseboards - the whole shebang. The entire time I cleaned, I lifted T in prayer. Her friends - that she would find good ones and be a good one. Her roommate. Her teachers. Her studies. Her choices. Her spiritual journey. Her future spouse - if that is the vocation God wants for her. Her health. Her safety. Her future job. Her time at home. You name it, I prayed it. I covered her in prayer. Whatever I could think of for that day, the next, all the way down the road. Whatever came to mind, I lifted in prayer. As I wiped the dirt away, I covered her with great love through my conversation with God.

These aren't new things that I brought to God. However, during my scrubbing four years ago something sacred occurred. As I cleaned that room I looked at what was there. This was the room that she had lived in and decorated. She cried there, she laughed there, she chose what things to put on her walls and what to put on her shelves. The things left didn't make the cut for being brought to college. Yet, they would still speak to her when she would come home of her roots and where she began. 

Because of this, I cleaned that room so that when she walked in from college it would be fresh and crisp and welcoming - it would be home. I filled that room with prayer for my daughter's past, her present, and her future. I filled those four corners with prayer so that when she walked in she would feel safe and warm and loved. 

Last year and this year I had two rooms to clean. (My experience with D heading off is here.) Two of my children slipping from childhood into adulthood. Two. Two. Two.

So, what exactly DID I do differently? I don't pray any differently, per se. They aren't new things. It is more of a concentration of prayer. During that time I reflect on where they have been, celebrate who they are now, and envision who they may be in the future. The cleaning itself becomes a prayer, an extension of the words and thoughts forming in my heart. I cover them in prayer and God hears me.

I pray and wipe and pray and dust and pray and scrub and pray and launder. For a momma feeling the sadness and loss of her children being away, it brings peace to my soul. 

"Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you."  1 Peter 5:7


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Satan's Lies

i try to write

i want to write

but echoes in my mind

are satan's words

that began sometime

in 1999

I think so often about subjects and thoughts and ideas I want to write about. Then something...someone holds me back.  It's me.  I know that ultimately it is me.  Yet, I feel Satan at the forefront and I need to be stronger to hold that nasty fallen angel back.

Back in 1999 I began sending out weekly musings.  They were meant to be thoughtful, reflective, and, hopefully, inspirational messages.  Sometimes they were merely a quote that touched my heart.  Sometimes they were a reflection on my week followed by a quotation that I found inspiring.

After some time, it came to my attention that some people dear to me were getting together each week to tear apart what I had written -- my thoughts, my dreams, my heart.  I shared my week and what inspired me in the hopes that it, by God's grace, would inspire someone else only to discover that some were using that to laugh at me, poke fun at me.  Who did I think I was?

I wrote less and less often and by January of 2003 my sporadic writing came to a halt.  I allowed Satan's prodding to work its way into my mind and bring me to a standstill. 

I certainly didn't think I had the corner on being inspired by a simple life.  I take great inspiration from others who are trying to live humbly and share their journey - highs, lows, and in-betweens - with others.  I tried to do the same. To be completely honest, I fall short of this goal each and every day.  However, I continue to lift myself up and try.  Yet there is one area that I continue to fall short.  Writing.

I don't believe that my thoughts, experiences, or words hold any kind of wisdom or wonder for people.  However, I've always felt drawn to share what I'm thinking, how I see God working in my days, the wonder and beauty in the moments I usually let slip by thinking that they are not worthy of my attention. 

So, here I am challenging myself to push through.  Push through Satan's lies. Some, for whatever reason, may not appreciate my words and thoughts.  That is OK.  I need to trust in what the Lord wants me to do and not what others, and what Satan, wants me to believe.  

And my own struggles made me wonder about your struggles.  What holds you back?  Why does it hold you back?  How can you change that?

It can be so difficult to put your heart and soul out into the world.  Where do you feel that push out of your comfort zone?  How does God want you to stretch?  What, if anything, is holding you back?

I began this blog late in 2011.  How often have I written?  Not nearly as often as I think of something.  Satan's lies continue to ring in my mind.  His nasty message echoes back and forth making me question what I think, what I love.

We can't let Satan win.  He chips away at us. He wants to plant doubt and confusion.  It is easy for him.  Often times he begins with something small - so very small.  He plants that doubt, he makes you aware of the nastiness, and then lets that ferment. It comes to life and holds us back.

Let's all take some time to pray. Let's take some time to discern the places in our lives where Satan is telling us untruths and God is quietly waiting for us to hear His truth.  1 Peter 4:8 says, "Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour."

I know that one - one of many - of Satan's lies is to push me away from writing.  What is Satan telling YOU untruths about?  Let's work together.  Let's lift one another up. God wants great things for us. -- " For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope."  (Jeremiah 29:11)

Who are we going to listen to?  Who is going to win?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Feet Washing

"For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."
John 13:15

Holy Thursday is one of my favorite liturgies to attend.  I didn't grow up attending this Mass.  In fact, it wasn't until I was an adult and a priest asked me to be a reader for Holy Thursday that I attended.  I was so moved to my core and haven't missed a Holy Thursday liturgy since then.

In John's gospel, he recounts how during the Last Supper Jesus washed the disciples' feet.  At that time, this would have been a job for the lowliest of servants.  However, Jesus does this and tells his disciples that not only can they not follow him if they do not allow him to wash their feet, but that this is an example for them of how to live.  To serve.  To serve all.

During Holy Thursday's liturgy, the priest takes off his chasuble and washes the feet of 12 people.  Often, the priest will kiss the feet of the person upon completion of the washing.  It is beautiful.  It is symbolic.  It is a reminder to the priest and to all of us of what we are called to do as a follower of Jesus.

This particular Holy Thursday, the foot washing ritual hit my heart particularly hard.  I watched our parish priest pour water over the feet, gently clean them, dry them, and kiss them.  And I saw my father. 

Two years ago, my mom suffered a minor stroke.  She has some deficits.  Not as many as some people, but definitely more than others.  My father has filled the role over these last two years as her caretaker.  

When I am at my folk's house, I see my dad prepare meals for my mom.  At breakfast, he gets her cereal or toast ready and brings it to her.  At lunch, he brings over a paper plate with a sandwich, a cookie (or two), and a glass of milk.  Dinner is prepared and brought over to the table.  

Because of some health issues, my mom has to wear very tight nylon stockings.  It takes quite an effort for my dad to get these on my mom.  She is quiet even though it is painful.  And he is kind and patient and as gentle as possible as he works to get the stockings on her.

He makes her laugh.  Throughout the tough moments of the day, he tells jokes or does silly things to bring a smile to her face.  She still has tough days and moments of tears, but he can make her laugh like no one else can.  I am grateful that their days have many moments of laughter woven through the many moments of challenges.

My mom hates not being able to do things for herself and her family that she could do before the stroke.  My father has stepped into the role of caretaker without complaining even though he has some health issues himself.

Meals and stockings and laughter.  Just three small details of the many things that my dad now does on a daily basis to help my mom.  He serves.

Jesus washed the disciples' feet.  

"For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."

The priest washed the parishioner's feet.

"For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."

Every day, I see my father following Jesus' example with humility and grace.  

"For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."

My mom's stroke has changed much of how we live.  More so for them, of course, but in different ways for their children and grandchildren as well.  However, it has also brought many opportunities to grow in faith and love.  My siblings and I have been given a grace through all of this.  We are witnesses of God's love being manifested through my parents in a way that it didn't before.

"For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."

I pray that I can live out this example every day as beautifully as I see it lived out every time I am around my parents. 


Thursday, January 15, 2015

What's In A Name?

"You can call me Ray.  Or you can call me Jay..."  Do you remember that commercial? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7n9YX1Xfw4) That's a little bit of how I feel right now.

I was named after my auntie.  She was a great woman.  Her name was Dorothy.  People called her Dot.

My folks thought about what to call me - my given name or a nickname.  My dad believed that kids would call me by a nickname at some point and so my folks decided from the get-go to shorten my name.  My family called me Dottie.

Then I went to school.  There was always the dreaded first day when the teacher would do role call and call me by my name, "Dorothy."  No one called me Dorothy.  It sounded foreign to my ears.  "Dottie," I would reply quickly.  The teacher would make a note and I'd be called Dottie from then on.

My peers would pounce on my given name.  If there is a joke out there about "The Wizard of Oz" that I haven't heard, I would be surprised.  At times, my peers would also pounce on my nickname.  Dottie became "Dottie-Potty."  No need to tell you how that resonated in my soul.

Different times in my life I thought I might be able to break from the identity I associated with my childhood.  Surely adults wouldn't jump to the yellow-brick-road jokes?

When my husband and I moved with two young kiddos I grasped that time to embrace my grown up self, or at least what I perceived my grown up self to be.  The vast majority of my adult friends and people I've come in contact with call me "Dorothy."  It was lovely...for a time. Until my name worlds crashed.

When we had gatherings at our home, half the people would be calling me "Dottie" and half would be calling me "Dorothy."  Initially, the yellow-brick-road crowd would turn their heads.  "What are people calling you?" and "Why don't we call you that?"

Why, indeed.

Joining Facebook was another name clash.  Some people who knew me as "Dottie" and whom I hadn't seen in a while called me "Dorothy," which just didn't feel right.

Recently I went to a mini-reunion from my elementary school.  Everyone there was calling me "Dot" or "Dottie."   How did that feel?  Honestly, it felt wonderful.  When I drove back to our humble abode after an evening of being called "Dottie" I felt like I was coming home in more ways than one.

Since then I've found myself reflecting... Who am I?  WHO am I?  Who AM I?  Maybe I should sing it like Jean Valjean?  WHO AM I?  Maybe then I'll know?

Or maybe I should keep my singing to my own house and car?  Yes.  I think you may thank me for that.

What I can say is that since the reunion night I have felt a special fondness once again for my childhood nickname - Dottie.  Maybe now I can relate to this name in a new way realizing that who I was as a child is more in line with who I am now as an adult.  There is something about that knowledge which is very comforting and warm.  I like who I was as a child.  I like the trust and the unquestioning love and the innocence that I had.  I realize that I still look at the world through much of the same lens that I did as a little one, and I am extremely grateful for not having become jaded by life - at least not too jaded.

Who am I?  I am a combination of all these names and all they represent.  Together, they are who I am.  I am "Dor" - to a select few, and you few know who you are and I love you.  I am "Dot."  I am "Dorothy."  I am "Dottie."  I can say that last one again with joy and peace in my heart.  I am "Dottie."  I like it.  It feels like home again.