Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Prayer and Discernment, and then: When in Doubt, Throw It Out!

I found out today that I will be moving out of my office so that our new pastor may have an office in our building. I have no problem moving to another smaller office, which now belongs to the youth minister, who will be moving to a desk in the break room, but she is only at the office proper a few hours a week. In this way, through our compromise we were able to support the needs of the new pastor to have an office in our building, and still keep our break room which is used by the staff every day. He had said he was going to use that as his office.

So, I have one month to pack up everything that I have accumulated over five years and find a way to squeeze it into a much smaller space. I guess this will be a great time of discernment. I will be able to determine what is really necessary and what is not. I can cull out some of the things I haven't actually used in five years and get rid of them, and then I will be lean and mean when I am all moved into my new space.

Do you want to know something? I am actually looking forward to this move. To be truthful I have never liked my office, the desk faces the wrong way, and the furniture is totally non functional. I realize that the new office will have its problems as well, but they will be problems I will have years to get to know. I am looking forward to the challenge.

No rest for the weary I guess, the next month will be full of packing and sorting and praying and pitching.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Loss of a Great TV Show

Joan of Arcadia was canceled by CBS. How sad that a show that is so well written can't seem to find a place on the network. I am in mourning. Lucky for me that I got the DVD's of the First Season for Mother's Day and can watch them any time I wish.

My dream job would be to be a writer on Barbara Hall's next Television show. I am sure that it will be just as challenging and well written and well acted as this one was.

At Least House will still be around next year, so I will have one show to watch.


The Joy of the Writing Process

I have been writing a story over the last few days. It started out to be an assignment for my New Testament class on a Johanine Theme, but I chickened out because I wasn't sure my professor would accept a fictional account in place of a research paper. I had planned to call it a Midrash, which is an ancient Jewish traditional style of reflection on what isn't in scripture by supposing what might have happened after or before the scene that is depicted. I just wasn't sure if he would accept it, and my grades do matter to me. Gotta keep those straight A's even if they are just for me.

So, I went ahead and wrote a straight up research paper on another theme in John. But I couldn't get my imagination to shut down. I was pondering the idea of who was this Malchus, the High Priest's slave whose ear Peter cut off in the Garden of Gesthemene? Why does John bother to mention him by name? I started to piece together a few suppositions of this person's background, and before I knew it I had five pages of story before me on my computer.

I had so much fun writing. The words seemed to flow so freely that I wasn't even aware of the process that went with the writing. It reminded me of the story I wrote about Gomer, Hosea's wife, a few years ago for another class I took on the Old testament. In that class we were encouraged to write in the midrash tradition.

So, now I have two stories. I may do a whole collection of them. Who knows some day you may be able to purchase a book of them somewhere. I would be honored if God allowed me to use this talent for writing that is His gift to me in that way.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A Better Version of Me

Thank John Henry Cardinal Newman for my thoughts today. A reflection on today's gospel by him in was in my email inbox this morning and it really made me think.

I have been stagnant in many areas of my life of late. I have been striving so hard to be the student and be good at my job, that I have let the home fires nearly go out. I rationalize by saying that I have never liked to cook, so the kids really don't mind that I don't cook dinner very often. So long as we have clean clothes to wear who cares if the laundry never really gets caught up? Something has to give in my busy life and housework is the thing that has taken a backseat lately.

Somehow today's reflection really got me thinking. If Jesus is calling me to be the best version of myself, wouldn't that include every area of myself? Not just those parts that other people see, but the parts that only my family see. Even the parts of my life that I don't even let my family see need work.

How can I be the best version of myself, the person that Jesus intended me to be from the moment of my creation, if I am not willing to put every ounce of effort into every area of my life?

I am realistic enough to know that I won't become this new person overnight. I also know that just saying I want to change these areas of my life won't be enough, I have to back up my words with actions. Each day I am going to begin by thinking of one or two things I can do that day that will bring me closer to that reality, and then I am going to do them.

Today my two things will be to take a walk while my daughter is at her softball practice. I had planned to sit in a chair and read my textbook, I can walk and read just as easily and the walking will be better for me. The second thing will be to finally clean up around the desk in my bedroom office. I have been saying I need to do that for at least two months but I never seem to get it done, today is the day.

I will tell you how it goes tomorrow.


Monday, May 23, 2005

22, and getting better all the time

Mrangelmeg and I have been married twenty-two years last Saturday. I was trying to remember what it was like way back in college when we decided that we couldn't imagine a future that didn't include each other, and we just had to get married. Boy were we young.

After all these years of mortgage payments and totaled cars and plumbing problems and bad vacations, and silly sentimental gifts, and lots and lots of love, I can't imagine how I could have gotten through the past twenty-two years if I hadn't married him.

There aren't many things of which I am certain in this life of mine, but of this I am sure: my vocation is to be married to mrangelmeg. I was called to it, and I took solemn vows sealing it in a church in front of witnesses and God, and it is only through my vocation that I will be complete. God ordained that mrangelmeg and I would become one. The really cool thing I have found is that when I am weak, he is strong, and when he needs my strength I have excess to give. Teamwork isn't about giving 50/50, it is about giving all for all. And he always knows when to make me laugh. I love his sense of humor.

Oh, and besides that, he still makes my knees sweat when he looks at me in that special way. My heart still skips a beat when I hear him come through the door, or when he reaches for my hand when we are sitting next to each other.

Love does get better, Who knew?


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Blank Stares and even Blanker Pages

So, here I am.

I am sitting at work trying to do everything I need to do to get to the end of the year stuff, AND I have two papers and a project due in four weeks for my masters, AND I have an article due for the parish newsletter.

I am sitting here staring at the blank computer screen hoping for inspiration or wisdom or something to come along and hit me so that I can get something done.

I know what I am going to write my John theme or text paper on: the doubting Thomas story. So I got books out of the Saint Meinrad library on the Gospel of Thomas and the Thomasine community and the tension between the Johanine and Thomasine sects in the early 1st and 2nd century and as exciting and amazing as the reading has been I am more confused than ever and have no way of writing my analysis of why the author of John decided to include this story in this particular gospel account in just 1200 words. So, I sit here writing nothing.

So I move on to my project on 1 and 2 Timothy and I load powerpoint slides with information that I think will be informative to a class that I hope has at least tried to read the letters (who am I kidding I know I am counting on the projects to inform me enough so that I can get away without reading them myself). At least that part is going smoothly, until I get to the women be silent stuff.

So I move on to the other paper which I really can't start on account of I haven't exactly finished the second of the two books we were supposed to be comparing and contrasting.

So I try to write the newsletter article. What on earth do I want to say to a parish who is getting their third pastor in less than five months? Sigh.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the heart of me your servant, and give me something to fill up all these blank pages.

Maybe I should just call it a day and go grocery shopping on the way home.

OH NO!!!

Now I have to write a grocery list!

Will it ever end?


Saturday, May 14, 2005

When Your Heart Breaks

My heart is breaking. The young man who is staying with us has had such a hard life. It makes me want to cry to think of the things he has had to endure in his young life. It makes my heart break that his own mother threw him out on the street, for whatever reason. I cannot imagine any eventuality where I would turn my back on my child. Or at least I couldn't have begun to imagine how that could happen, until recently.

We have been having communication difficulty with our daughter. She isn't exactly lying to us, she just withholds some of the truth from us. It is as though she lives two separate lives; the one she tells us about and the one she actually lives. I am about at the point where I will have to enforce some hard tough love choices. I will have to let her fall on her face and not help her up, or help her out of the mess she seem to want to wallow in.

Did this young man's mother go through some of these same feelings before she turned her back on him? Perhaps I am too quick to judge her. I haven't yet walked in her shoes.

Each day I pray for the strength and courage and wisdom to know what the right thing to do is when it comes to my daughter and these seemingly destructive choices she seems bent on making. Each time I get the chance I try to help out in some small way to soften the blow of the "real world". I wonder, if my help here and there is doing her more harm than good? She has absolutely no concept of what it will be like to be on her own, because she has always been dependent upon us, not just for the really essential things, but for the stuff that makes her life easier than most kids her age. She has a car, it may not be a nice car, but it runs. We have paid for all service on it. She has a cell phone. It may not be top of the line, but it doesn't cost her a penny to use. She has a computer for her dorm room. It isn't state of the art, but it runs the internet.

Maybe this is the time when we should just let her go and let her fall down and not help her get back up, or clean up the mess, or fix the car, or pay the fees. If she wants to be independent, maybe we should let her have just what she wants, with all the rights and responsibilities that that entails.

After all, isn't that what our Father in heaven does with us?


Monday, May 09, 2005

Mothers and Mothers-in-Law

My mother is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. When I visit her she can't remember who I am or why I am there. Most of the time she simply ignores me. I avoid making in person visits to see her even though she is only about two hours away.

I try to talk to her on the phone as often as I can, and I pretend that it doesn't bother me that she really doesn't know who I am any more. I try to keep the conversations light and on topics I know won't get her riled up. She loves to talk about her memories of growing up. She loves to talk about her sons. Somehow her memories of me are in that part of her brain that the disease has taken from her.

The thing is I never really had a close relationship with my mom. I was a daddies girl until dad died when I was 13. After that I fought really hard against needing my mom, because she seemed to be so consumed by the problems of the other people in my family. I wonder why now I am so upset that mom doesn't remember me?

I am learning how to love my mother in a whole new way. It isn't an easy lesson, and it takes a lot of humility.

My mother-in-law, and I never really had a very good relationship until the last few years. When our fifth child was born, about the time my MIL retired, she had the time to watch over our angel baby for us, and I needed to be out doing things like volunteering etc, for my own sanity. The relationship worked wonderfully. When I went back to work full time my MIL was always there to fill in and help out, though we never asked her to do full time child care. I think My MIL doesn't have enough to do at home all day. She keeps asking me to bring her laundry to do. Don't you love having someone around who wants to do your laundry? I know I do.

She had a small stroke a month ago, and is confined to her house. I took her to the Dr. and the store today. She was so appreciative. I think she is ready to be out and about. The next task is to help her get her license renewed, it lapsed because of her stroke and she has to take a driving test to get it back. She is a bit nervous, but I promised I would take her to get it done.

It makes me feel better to have my MIL to fuss over since my mom doesn't allow me to do that for her. Somehow it is making the transition easier. She is helping me to see that some of the difficulty is part of the aging process and has nothing to do with my difficult relationship with my mom.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Update on Discernment

I have decided, after more prayer, and remaining open to the Spirit as I continued to mull over the topic of the Catholic Women in Faith July talk on A Father's Heart, that perhaps God does want me to speak on this topic after all.

This morning I woke up with a way to approach this topic that opens up an area of spirituality that they haven't discussed yet at their meetings, and it goes right to the heart (pun intended) of the topic of A Father's Heart: I woke up with the feeling that I should talk about the mystical path to the Father's heart. I can do a short history of the early mystics and how hard it was for them to speak of the transcendent experiences they were having, because human language is so truly limiting. Then I can tell a little about my own journey along the mystical pathway of prayer.

This will fit right in with the beginning of perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which will just be beginning at our parish at this time as well. I can end my talk by stressing that when words fail silence becomes the most effective prayer, communion in silence is at the deepest point of entering into the Father's heart.


Mother's Day Gift to Myself

I sent my kids to the movies for Mother's Day. It may sound really odd, but I paid for the five of them to go off to the matinee so that I could have a nice quiet afternoon of studying here at home all by my quiet self. Ah the silence, no noisy video games in the background. No one fighting about who got to watch what tv show next. No one stomping around the house complaining about anything. Just me, my book, and a quiet afternoon. I wonder what tomorrow is the holiday for?


A House Filled With Love Always has Room for one More

We have another child for a few weeks. Our oldest daughter brought a friend home from college. A young man she knows from school had no place to live between the time the dorm closed and when he could get housing straightened out. We have offered him a fold out couch and food and all the siblings he can handle. He is a very nice, well manered young man, and so far has been a pleasure to have around.

Some might wonder why we would open our home like this. For me there was no question of allowing him to live on the street, my Christian heart wouldn't let that happen. So long as I have room there will always be space for someone in need.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Headache Free for Six Weeks, Praise God!

Six weeks ago today I began taking a new drug to combat migraines. I haven't had even a headache in those six weeks, let alone a migraine! The side effects of the daily medication have been fun getting used to, but nothing compared to dealing with the problems that frequent migraines cause.

So, I am praising God, from whom all blessings flow, for this wonderful new medication, which has given me back my life. I am cautiously looking forward to a headache free future.

God is good, all the time.


Monday, May 02, 2005

Discernment of Spirits

A little over a year ago a woman's group formed at the church where I work. In all of that time they have only once invited me to speak on any topic, and in that case it was an emergency when the intended speaker was late getting back from a business trip and they needed someone to fill in at the 11th hour. It has really been bothering me that they haven't asked me to prepare a talk and speak on any topic. They have even invited men to speak, but not me.

I have prayed about this, and discussed it with friends, and with some women involved in the group and each time I get a plausible answer for why they haven't asked me to speak. It still hurts that they have never asked me.

Tonight I was asked to speak at their July meeting. The topic "A Father's Heart” was one on which I have no opinion or thought really, and the meeting is just a few days after I return from my vacation. I told them that I would have to think about it.

My inclination is that I should say no. The woman who asked said that they were going to ask the new Priest to speak at the same meeting, so I am not sure why they need me to speak as well. I don't want to feel as though I should be preparing a talk while I am on vacation. Also I already have a guest speaker coming in earlier that same week to give a lecture on Women in the early Church. My post vacation energy will need to be focused on that presentation.

I really don’t feel called to speak on that particular topic, which is true. To be completely honest I feel as though they are throwing me a bone. I don't think a lot of thought went into what topic they offered to me. There certainly didn't well up in me some great need to speak on that particular topic. I am sure that given enough time I might have been able to come up with something spiritual to say, but I don't think that is a valid reason to speak on any topic.

So, I think I am going to say no. Isn't it funny? I was complaining that they never ask, and then when they do I feel called to turn them down. My friend Jean is always telling me that at times like this I need to try to figure out what God is trying to teach me in all of this. What is God trying to teach me? Humility, grace, patience, knowing that when the time is right, when it is truly Kairos time, I will know it because the topic will be one I care about and one that will make my heart leap out of my chest. I will be overjoyed to speak on the subject. In God's time all things will be right.