31 Days of Seeing Beyond

31 Days of Seeing Beyond

This was my very first post. It appeared on October 3, 2014. I’m reposting it in celebration of my blog’s 5th Anniversary. Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey.

Three deaths over the last month have left me tired…..and sad. My beloved great aunt……a dear friend’s niece who took her own life… and my stepsister –  who passed after nearly 4 weeks in the ICU fighting to recover from extremely rare childbirth complications.  It’s my stepsister’s passing that brings me most often to my knees. I cry out to the Lord on behalf of her third child, a now 1-month old baby boy who will never know his mother.

They say there is a cycle of grief.  It has various stages. And I’m watching devastated people go through it now.  But in the midst of all this anguish, I  have been blessed to remain thankful and aware of God’s infinite goodness. I have also been given new opportunities to serve Him, and follow Him more closely – sometimes in ways that push me beyond old boundaries. I posted a prayer for my stepsister on Facebook. And soon, the family requested more.  It seemed the Lord wanted to use me.  It made me both nervous and strangely excited – not because people appreciated my writing, but because I had stumbled upon a way to really serve. And I learned – when there are people hurting, perhaps then more than ever, the Lord wants me step out of my safety zone and walk in new terrain, keeping my eyes on Him.

About 10 days ago, I saw the invitation from Myquillin Smith to take the 31-Day Challenge and write in October. I could hear the whisper that always leads me to good places — “Try this” — and felt that tinge – of joy.  And as I sat down to write tonight, I remembered a verse I taped to the front page of one of my journals four years ago when I first intended to write in earnest – but never really did.

A bruised reed he will not break,

a smoldering wick he will not quench….

             —  Matthew 12:20

The Word is full, so full, of promises. And for myself and so many people I love, I am holding on to this one right now.  Whether we are writing or just trying to get on with living day by day, the terrain in my world seems new and tough.  We are bruised and bent over, trampled and beaten down, hardly like flames alight. But when I fix my gaze on Him, when I ready myself through surrendering prayer, I am given all the strength I need.

Lord, help us. Thank you for the confidence you’ve given me – the knowledge that you alone are fully trustworthy, and that you are my only true help – my Savior.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Choosing the Significant Over the Short-Lived

Choosing the Significant Over the Short-Lived
Me and some of our “Founders.” Having a bit of fun in Des Moines, Iowa,
at the 74th Convention of the P.E.O. International Sisterhood, September 2019.

Are you choosing what’s significant over what’s short-lived?

Alright. It’s a loaded question. And I bet you’re caught for a second – not sure if you want to read on.

Hear me out.

I spent a good portion of the last week in Des Moines with 6,000 of my sisters from the P.E.O. International Sisterhood celebrating the 150th anniversary of our founding. We hail from across the U.S. and Canada and every year give out millions in grants, scholarships, and low-interest loans to women pursuing higher education. We also have our own college – Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri – which we’ve owned outright and supported since 1927. Formed in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, in 1869 by seven bright young ladies at a time when women’s education was hardly a foregone conclusion, we have never forgotten to be grateful to God for opportunity. We are drawn together by the core values and virtues to which we adhere: faith, love, purity, justice and truth. Check us out at www.peointernational.org.

Officers are chosen from among our sisterhood of 258,000, and Friday evening, I was standing with one of Iowa’s past state presidents who had been charged with the enormous responsibility of bringing so many women together for 4 days of meetings and parties. Though she had done a brilliant, brilliant job – she was, of course, exhausted – and still considering all the ways that each day could have gone better.

No matter how much goes right (and there was an overwhelming preponderance of excellency here), you will always catch wind of every little thing that doesn’t.

So I encouraged her.

“Look around,” I said. “Just look at all these women enjoying one another and making meaningful connections. Real connections. That’s what matters. You did this. Well done.”

I wanted to elevate the reality of the situation for her, because too often we lose the significant as we chase the ephemeral.

If you are like me…

  • you’ve got a to-do list a mile long
  • you haven’t called your best friend this week
  • you haven’t connected with that new friend you promised you would
  • but your phone is almost never beyond arm’s reach
  • somehow, you have found time to look at Facebook or Instagram…and you think you know what’s going on in acquaintances’ lives….and that matters to you….

Consistently, we are choosing the short-lived over the significant.

Where are our priorities?

Four days of deep, eye-to-eye contact with women I love from all over the country – some I know very well, some I would give anything to know better – reminded me that THIS IS WHERE IT’S AT.

Working on a long-term vision together.

Revisiting our ideals.

Or just sharing the day-to-day aches and pains.

Breathing new life into one another.

A quick text or a “your kids are so cute” comment on social media is no substitute for longer, substantive, and yes – face-to-face conversations.

We do not intimately know one another until we sit in the same space, hear the tremor in one another’s voices, watch and clasp each other’s hands, and see the crinkles at the corners of our eyes as we speak – or don’t speak – of love, woe, and everything in between.

We use the excuse that we are busy and can’t “get it together.”

We wear it like a badge of honor.

But c’mon. We know better.

We know small efforts yield big results.

So let’s just start.

Let’s get together. For coffee. For conversation. For the sake of love. And life. Women’s education and a sisterhood that endures. The future of the planet. Some other lofty goal that God has put on your heart.

For all that we know is good.

Choosing the significant over the short-lived.

For real.

When You’re In a Hard Spot on Mother’s Day

When You’re In a Hard Spot on Mother’s Day
Is this going to be a tough Mother's Day? Take heart, friend. In all likelihood, you can honor your mother best in this one way.

Are you in a hard spot this Mother’s Day? Just not sure how to handle it?

Maybe you’ve recently lost your mom and the ache is raw and deep. Or she’s been gone a long while and you find yourself just a little bit resentful of people who’ve had their moms around for so much longer.

Or maybe your relationship with your mom is complex. You’re out of sync with her. Perhaps there’s a long, complicated history. Or nothing more than the fact that you’re separated by geography, personality, or matters of the heart; it’s hard to bridge the distances you feel between you.

We want love to be simple but it so rarely is.

We especially know this to be true when we try to express how we feel about our moms.

The necessary pulling away, the inexpressible desire to be close – it’s more than most of us can negotiate easily, and certainly beyond words.

We feel the tension even when we’re young.

Two nights ago, my teenage son entered the kitchen and told me that as part of an assignment, he needed to read me a letter he’d written to me during Spanish class. He was laughing as he explained, saying, “I told my friends, ‘My mom won’t understand a word of this. She studied French.’”

True. So he translated each line as he went, telling me, “I am proud to be your son,” and “You make the best food in the world,” which cracked us both up because we both know the latter is patently false.

The letter was equal parts humor and heart; a perfect reflection of how difficult it is to tell someone why you love them – much less in a language that challenges you.

I’m up against this now – struggling every day to tell my mom how much I love her – because I’m not taking any day for granted. An illness does that. It brings everything into proper perspective.

My mom has stage 3 mucosal melanoma. It’s a rare cancer that affects the body’s mucous membranes and does not respond to chemotherapy. She’s been battling it for 11 months now through surgeries, immunotherapy, and radiation, and there’s a reason why people say cancer sucks. It really, really, really does.

My heart is so heavy with the pain and suffering she’s enduring. And I tell her all the time, “I wish I could carry this burden for you.” But she wouldn’t wish it on anyone. If it were within her power, she would forever prevent my sister and me from ever experiencing this torment. She would take it all on herself.

A mother’s love is all about sacrifice.

From the moment the idea of you was born, your mother’s every breath was a silent prayer of hope for your well-being.

It’s exceedingly rare to hear of a mother who doesn’t love her children more than herself.

Every day, she shared her very soul with you.

And she gave all she could in the hope that you would grow fully into yourself – the most beautiful YOU she believed you could be – a person who would contribute goodness to the world.

To the best of her ability – however perfectly or imperfectly – she displayed the self-sacrificial love of God, the One who made her, and you, in His image.

Her sacrifice, written forever in your heart, was God’s sacrifice first.

We were divinely designed to love.

There have been many times when I felt indebted to my mom. Like when I was younger and she’d done too much for me at Christmas. It was then that I told her, “I can’t give you what you’ve given me.” She always said, “You’ll do the same for your kids, or for someone else.”

We come up short when we try to return our mothers’ affections. But in the end, that was never their intent.

How do we honor our moms?

We acknowledge and thank them for their love and all they’ve done for us – with fumbling words, our simple presence, and token gifts if our moms are alive, or with our grateful hearts if they have passed.

And just as importantly, we recollect and recount that she made daily sacrifices of love, in big and small ways, on our behalf.

And then?

Then we go. And we do the same.

When My Daughter Didn’t Want to Be the Explorer

When My Daughter Didn’t Want to Be the Explorer

Kids never cease to surprise, and my daughter gave me a real gem today!

She and one of her best friends happen to be working on an in-class team assignment this week. It entails researching a famous explorer. By Friday, the two girls are to have prepared a short presentation for their peers, and at least one of them is to have a basic explorer ‘costume’ which can fit over the school uniform.

The explorers were chosen for the students. The girls ended up with Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596).

Sir Francis Drake (1540-1569).
Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596).

Today, on the car ride home, my daughter said to me, “So we had this idea for our presentation.”

“Yes?” I inquired.

“Well, Francis Drake had two wives. So we thought we’d dress up like them.”

I held my breath and stifled a disbelieving giggle.

“Was he married to them both at the same time?”

“No. One died.”

This quick answer zapped my funny bone, so I leaned down over the wheel as I steered through downtown Annapolis, desperately trying to make sure my daughter couldn’t see me laugh in the rear view mirror. A comic classroom scene was running amok in my imagination and it just couldn’t be contained.

I asked,”Was one of you planning to stage your death during the presentation?”

Then she laughed, and belted out, “No! But that’s pretty good, Mom!”

The whole car was guffawing now.

She continued, “We were going to dress up one of our American Girl dolls as Francis Drake, but the teacher said ‘No,’ it has to be one of us. He had a beard, Mom. Ick.”

“Oh.”

I didn’t really know what to say just then. I was a little deflated for her. I understand that the point of the assignment is to talk about the explorer’s achievements. I get that. And I don’t want to diminish him or other men in any way.

But I also saw something else in the motives of these two girls – something altogether innocent and lovely: They like being girls. And they thought they could still tell the story – as girls.

There was a time when these thoughts might never have even entered into their minds.

But that wasn’t the case today. Today they wanted to dress up as two women who were there in the wings of history – women who were every bit as real as Sir Francis Drake.

Something about that is good news to me.

Like the lily among thorns, so are you, my love, among the daughters.

-Song of Solomon 2:2 (AMP)

There’s an Echo in My Grandmothers’ Names

There’s an Echo in My Grandmothers’ Names

It’s a picture I look at every day. One that sits on my bedroom dresser, reminding me that my job as a mother is not unique, and that if generations before me did, I too can get through any challenges I face today. Sometimes, I even think, ‘Perhaps these women are cheering me on.’

Who are they? They are my great grandmothers. Many greats, in fact.

But before we go there, let’s start here.

This is me with my mom, Kathleen, in January.

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Yes. She’s beautiful. In all ways.

Now, here is the photo – of the mothers we share – posed in 1924.

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The little girl is my mother’s mother – Elaine.

Diagonal to the upward right is her mother – Gretchen (my namesake).

The woman standing to the left, wearing glasses, is Gretchen’s mother – Ruth.

Seated, with Elaine on her lap, is Ruth’s mother – Sarah.

Seated on the far right is our matriarch, Sarah’s mother – Nancy.

Is a 5-generation photo like this one rare? Absolutely.

Is it notable that these women would want to document themselves for a future generation? I don’t think so.

I think that if every family’s women could have, they would have.

In fact, if we look closely enough, we find that they did.

In small, almost imperceptible ways, each one of our mothers – the immediate ones and the ones of long ago – have passed along a bit of themselves to each one of us.

My grandmothers each have stories, of course. But there’s not enough room for them here. So, consider with me for a moment, the role of names.

In Biblical times, lineage and names were very important. A name’s meaning was an indication of to whom a person belonged, their character, and calling. Today, the same can be true.

We do not live our lives in a vacuum. The same God who created us and our parents knows our every thought. Wouldn’t it make sense that His hand was in the choosing of our names?

In her book, Becoming Myself, Stasi Eldredge asks,

“Do you know what your given name means? It’s a good idea to find out. And if you don’t like the meaning you initially discover, press in to find out more about it. Ask God to reveal to you why he named you what he did.” (p. 222)

So let’s look my grandmothers’ names:

Nancy means grace.

Sarah means princess.

Ruth means companion or friend, and vision of beauty.

Gretchen is a derivative of Margaret, meaning pearl.

Elaine is a variant of Helen, meaning shining light.

Kathleen means pure.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that each name’s attributes are idealistic and intended to encourage its bearer to aim high.

And isn’t that God’s calling? For us to become like Him? With His support? To ultimately come home to Him?

I am descended from these women – born of each one of them. If I string my grandmothers’ names together – as a lineage banner over me of God’s love – I get a message that looks something like this:

I give you My Grace, dear Princess. Walk with me, be my constant Companion and my Friend, for I long to be yours and you are a Vision of Beauty, like a Pearl surrounded by ugliness. I have made you to be a Shining Light, a sign of my Pure and eternal Love. 

Sound strange?

Check out this echo in Song of Songs where the Groom (God) speaks to the Bride (Us):

You are all-beautiful, my beloved,

and there is no blemish in you.

Come from Lebanon, my bride…

how much more delightful is your love than wine…

You are an enclosed garden…a fountain sealed….

a well of water flowing fresh from Lebanon. 

– Song of Songs 4:7, 8, 10, 12, 15

This Mother’s Day, I looked back at my grandmothers with gratitude for the life and the love they extended to me down through the ages by virtue of their perseverance and hope. The names they gave their children are not only evidence of the desires of their hearts, but also of God’s heart.

Consider your name. Consider your family’s names, and how they whisper to you of Love.

The women in the photo I look at every day are more than just my grandmothers – they are examples of how I know that He loves me.

Concerns for My Daughter

I’m catching a mid-morning flight and trying to leave the house quietly. But my daughter is up to say goodbye.

She’s always been an early riser, but I’m still surprised to see her standing there in her pajamas, her blond hair a tousled mess.

“Honey, you should be asleep.”

She turns her head ‘No’ and whispers while moving in to hug me tightly.

“Did you leave Daddy a schedule?”

“Yes.”

“Ok. But who’s driving me to dance?…What is the plan for tomorrow?…Did you remember to tell Dad about…?”

She has a list in her head.

Just like me.

Maybe that’s not a good thing.

image

See – the list making – the idea that we can finalize plans, has become for me an extension of my perfectionism – something I do not want to pass on to her. Having a few ideas about what I’d like to do is one thing. Expecting them to happen just as I’d like, is another.

I want to tell her to relax. Enjoy. Don’t anticipate.

But it’s hard to convey these things effectively. And there are even bigger things that I must teach her. Things I believe are essential for her to understand.

If all of Scripture could be boiled down to two central messages, they’d be: 1) Be not afraid. 2) You are loved.

More than anything else, these are the things I want my daughter to know. And sometimes I worry she isn’t getting these messages.

‘But maybe she’ll see,’ I think. How can I help her see?

These were my thoughts in Bible study Thursday night, where we were discussing Jesus’s mother, Mary – the one person in history other than Christ himself who best exemplifies a person exercising full trust in God’s providential care.

To the root of her being, Mary was humble and put her faith in God. She had no silly notions that she was in charge of her life. As the angel told her that she would bear God’s son, she declared herself “the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38). Her ‘yes’ – given despite the questions she had – showed she accepted the full weight of His authority, love, and protection. From within that sacred space, she then assumed her role in God’s plan and prayed from her deepest depths, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” (Luke 1:46)

Mary’s life was anything but easy, and it’s impossible to overstate how agonizing it must have been for her to watch her son die on a cross. But everything we know about Mary leads us to this conclusion: in the role that God chose for her, Mary was fully cooperative, and God used her as His instrument to point others to Christ – to Himself.

Not surprisingly perhaps, Mary’s last words in the Bible, concerning Jesus at the wedding feast in Cana, are to the servants – and all of us – “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (John 2:5)

We too can magnify God – make He who is invisible, visible – by fully leaning into Him and asking Him to fill us with His love. Then, His love flows into our words. And into our actions.

Lord, I thank you for your mother, Mary. I ask that you make me more like her, and that Your Will be done in me. Make me a vessel that magnifies your Love, projecting Your radiance to my beloved daughter.

Holy Moments – Day 25 – Meg Turns 40

Holy Moments – Day 25 – Meg Turns 40

From my vantage point – about 36 inches above the ground – I could see a mass of blankets preceding Mom through the back door and into the kitchen of our little Cape Cod home in Gales Ferry, Connecticut. I was two weeks shy of 3-years old, and I knew there was a treasure inside those warm white fuzzy folds. Her name was Meghan. And she was my baby sister.

I pawed at Mom’s arms, trying to see, but was gently led into the family room and seated far back on the olive green sofa with my right arm supported by a pillow so that…. I could meet her.

I wish I could remember her face on that day. But I do remember holding her. Holding her. Feeling for the first time that emotion that is privilege to older siblings (and the bane of youngers!) – ‘I will look out for you.’

She was my only sibling, and my protective instincts were sometimes appreciated – like when Meg was falsely accused of slashing mattresses at Girl Scout camp and I knew this wasn’t possible. She didn’t even own a pocket knife, for goodness sake. I was more than happy to go to the troop leaders and tell them what was what.

But more often than not – my compulsion to force on her my 3 years’ worth of advanced wisdom was met with resistance or outright rejection. Go figure.

To her credit, at a young age she understood how to use my bossiness to her advantage. For example, Mom asked me to help Meg learn to make her own bed. I got so frustrated by Meg’s ‘inability’ to straighten her green Sears ripcord bedspread, that I pushed her out of the way and declared that I would “just do it myself.” I ended up making lots of beds.

IMG_2898
Meghan and me, 1983.

Like so many sisters, we’re perhaps more different than alike. But it’s funny how every time Meg’s birthday rolls around, I feel our kinship reconnected in a special way, and in the last day or so, perhaps I’ve found the reason.

Meg and I were both born during Advent – a word which means “coming.” It is, by its’ very definition, a season of anticipation in which we keep a look out for the greatest gift – Christ, the Light of the World.

So many of my fondest memories with Meg are centered around moments of waiting for something.

Sitting on packed boxes in various houses, waiting for the moving van to arrive for our military move to another state.

Holding our bags in our laps (before the stewardess told us to put them down), waiting for the plane to land in Seattle, home of our beloved grandparents.

And my favorite – waiting side by side at the foot of the tree on Christmas morning for our parents to wake up. My sister and I never dared proceed with opening (or shaking!) gifts before ‘it was time.’ We didn’t even run into Mom and Dad’s room to jostle them awake. Why? I don’t know. I’m just so thankful now that, for whatever reason, Meg and I had this quiet special time together every Christmas.

In my childhood mind, the month of December – marked by her birthday, then mine, and ending in Christmas – was magical because for most of it, we were looking forward together to the largest celebration still ahead. Intuitively, we recognized this month for what it is – The season of Hope. The season of anticipation which rejoices in the fact that the best is still to come. And to think – that this is when we were blessed to be born.

My beautiful sister is a searcher. She digs deep and asks thoughtful questions. She looks for the Light.

So, today I celebrate Meg on her 40th birthday. As much as I’d like to think I could still ‘look out’ for her, I know she’s in the very best of hands and loved beyond measure. And though she’s doing well in life, I still believe her best season is up ahead. I’m eagerly waiting to see what’s in store for her.

Holy Moments – Day 20 – Our Family of Faith

My heart leapt with joy as I ran up the steps into church yesterday. The school children were singing one of my favorite hymns – the Catholic Litany of the Saints. When we sat, I settled quietly into a back pew, where I took this photo. There were six adorable third graders dressed as saints standing on the altar, and approximately 250 kids up front, with my Kindergartener somewhere in the midst of them. They are all so little – they are invisible behind adult heads.

St. Mary's

As often as I can, I try to attend the kids’ prayer services, and because we celebrated All Saints Day on November 1, the topic of this one was the lives of the saints. Our deacon lead us in a simple prayer.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for this beautiful day.

Thank you for all the blessings in our lives.

Thank you for all the saints in heaven. 

Thank you for the example of their lives. 

May we all try to be a saint. 

Amen. 

Growing up in Protestant churches, I didn’t give much thought to the notion of saints. They seemed a foreign concept, distant from Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. But all of that changed during my junior year of college when I went to France. And perhaps not for the reasons you might think.

Yes – I was a French major and studying a tremendous amount of art history, so I was surrounded by illustrations of the saints every day – in museums, in town squares, in building facades. But to truly appreciate the art of Europe, you must visit its cathedrals, where sculptures and paintings of saints are in every direction you turn. Yet this is not what led me to consider saints in a different light. The story has a subtle beginning, years earlier.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am blessed with one living grandma. But I also have a grandma in heaven.

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After suffering a stroke and then being in a coma for 11 days, my Grandma Elaine (Grandma ‘Chris,’ as we called her) passed exactly 30 years ago on All Saints Day, November 1, 1985. My mother was in such grief that she didn’t even make the connection to this Holy Day until the priest mentioned it in his funeral homily. At 12, I didn’t know what the day meant – what was special about it. But I do remember walking out of the service, into the Florida sunshine, and feeling that somehow, Grandma was ok.

Two weeks later, I woke up one morning and went directly into the kitchen to tell my mom I’d had a dream.

“Grandma was sitting at a square table,” I said, “playing cards with three other ladies. She had on a black dress with small red flowers on it. She looked so happy. Her dark hair was up, and I was walking around the table looking at her. She looked up, right at me, and smiled at me.”

Then I said, “Mom. Did Grandma ever play cards?”

My mom stood there frozen.

“She hadn’t played in years.”

To my knowledge, no one else in our immediate family had a vivid ‘Grandma dream’ like mine following her death. And the details of it have never scared me or left me.

In the time I’d known her, my grandma had also not attended church. But she was a Catholic. In fact, she converted to Catholicism sometime before marrying my grandfather.

So, when I called my mom from France and told her that I felt that Grandma was with me every time I visited a cathedral, she said, “That’s weird. She really wasn’t into church.”

All of this brings me back to the saints. What do we believe about them? We believe they are our Loved Ones, our Family of Faith. This is why we have sculptures and paintings of them in our churches, so that we will remember them, just as we have photos of our relatives and friends in our homes. And just as we ask our family and friends here to pray for us, we can ask the saints to pray for us as well. The saints are clear examples of people who truly lived Jesus’s commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) And since “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much,” (James 5:16), it is fitting to ask the saints to appeal to the Lord on our behalf.

While there are thousands of saints officially recognized by the Catholic church, it is accepted that the names of millions if not billions more are known only to God, just like only God knows the hearts of men. “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

For my Confirmation on April 7, 2007, I was invited to take the name of a saint, as many Catholics do for this sacrament, though it is not required. I hemmed and hawed over this decision for weeks, but finally decided that my own name “Gretchen Elaine” was sufficient. Only later did I realize – when I was confirmed ‘Gretchen Elaine,’ that perhaps I had taken a saint’s name anyway.

 

Click Catholic Litany of the Saints to hear the song and see some beautiful artwork. This song was played at the Easter Vigil when I was confirmed.

Holy Moments – Day 19 – Grandma’s Wisdom

Yesterday, when I was brooding (if you’re so inclined, you can read that post here), I heard my Grandma’s voice talking to me. I am so very, very blessed to still have her. She is 93 and breathtakingly beautiful, as you can see in this photo taken of her last year.

Gretchen_Grandma2014

She lives on the opposite coast – in Seattle, Washington. So I don’t get to see her nearly enough. But I try to call her as often as I can.

She is more precious to me than all the jewels in the world. My love for her is boundless. Today, just for a moment, I’d like to celebrate her wisdom.

When I was 11, my parents divorced, and my grandma and grandpa asked that my sister and I come spend a substantial part of our summer with them in the Pacific Northwest. They were boaters, and for several weeks in June and July we toured the San Juan Islands, stopping in Vancouver and Victoria, and dropping anchor overnight in tiny coves, where we watched the Orcas jumping playfully around the boat and listened to their calls in the darkness. It was there that my grandparents let my sister and I discover the freedom of a rowboat, and introduced us to the thrills of catching and eating Dungeness crab. One summer led into a few. They were the joys of a lifetime.

But during that very first summer, there was a cloudless day when Grandma came up to the flying bridge and sat opposite me. She was pensive, and told me she wanted to talk to me for a little. I said sure. She simply asked how I was feeling about my parents not being together anymore. I don’t remember what I said. I just remember that she was the first person who had asked me how I felt.

My world was falling apart, but she was willing to open herself up to whatever might come hurtling out in that moment. After whatever it was I managed to say, she smiled gently. “Well,” she said, “I am here if you ever want to talk about it,” and didn’t belabor the conversation.

My grandma opens doors and leaves them open. This is how she loves others so well. She listens with undivided attention and does not judge. Never once in my entire lifetime has she said anything negative about either one of my parents. And only one of them is her child – my dad. In fact, every time we talk she still asks me about my mom, and cares deeply about her welfare. The two of them visited with one another last summer. People matter to Grandma, because she is wise. She knows and trusts that Love is bigger than human failings. 

I heard her voice yesterday as I was cleaning dishes – again. I had once lamented to her that I couldn’t get the house in order – that it never seemed to be as neat as hers. She laughed and said, “Well, the work is never done.” Right there, she put it in perspective. Orderliness is a temporary facade. It will all shift soon.

So, I honor my grandma with this section of Proverbs from Chapter 8, “The Discourse of Wisdom,” which personifies wisdom, which comes from God.

Those who love me, I also love, and those who seek me find me. 

With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity.

My fruit is better than gold, yes, than pure gold, and my revenue than choice silver.

On the way of duty I walk, along the paths of justice,

Granting wealth to those who love me, and filling their treasuries.

– Proverbs 8:17-21

The fruit of Grandma’s wisdom is my family’s unequivocal affection for her. She is a light we are drawn to because she exemplifies honorable character. And I look forward to hearing what she might say the next time I call her – today.

Holy Moments – Day 2 – 106 Women

WWP_STMStartFlowersOctober 1 was a monumental day for my parish. A handful of us had been praying for years – YEARS – for that day. We wanted to host a particular Bible study for women. But space is very limited in our historic church, and there were many obstacles. Yet, when God’s timing is right, doors just seem to fly open.

And they did. In the span of a few months, a team of us started gathering interest. And then it happened…Women began registering for our study. More women signed up. More than we expected. And on that rainy night – they came out for the first meeting. 106 of them to be exact.

106 women walked through the doors to begin our parish’s chapter of a growing nationwide Catholic Bible study called Walking With Purpose (WWP). I have been a participant and group leader in this study at another local parish for the past 5 years, and have experienced healing, transformation, and a deep conversion of heart that is difficult to fully express in words. The women I have met have become steadfast friends. Sisters, really. And I look forward to going to Bible study like I look forward to seeing beloved family members.

So why is this a holy moment? Because I KNOW what’s in store for these ladies. I know of the goodness that they are about to taste. And I am thrilled for them.

Today is Thursday again – time for WWP.  Our numbers are now 112. My adrenaline is pumping. The work of the Holy Spirit that is being done through this ministry changes lives. I am witnessing it with my own eyes, and thanking God for what He has done, and will do.