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 9 – Seamus

Here’s one of our beloved dogs, Seamus. We think he’s adorable, in that funny-cute kind of way – with his brindled head and paws, black back, white starred chest, and graying muzzle. If we scanned his genes to determine breed type, we’d probably find every kind of dog registered with the AKC. Truly – he’s one of a kind. A “mix-up,” as our 5-year old son calls him.
Seamus
And here’s a video of his signature move – the hoot. He’s calling us to let him in from the back porch.
He will keep this up for as long as it takes. I repeat: AS LONG AS IT TAKES – until we open the door for him. His persistence can be annoying. But I admire it.
And when he comes in, his tail is wagging as if no time has elapsed at all. He’s grateful to be reunited with us, back from his romp around the back yard, returned to his safe and loving home.
We got Seamus from a rescue group who had saved him from a shelter in South Carolina where he’d been brought in – a stray guy, just skin and bones, but with a big, big heart. On that day three years ago when he crawled into my lap at his foster parents’ house, I knew without a doubt his ‘forever’ home was going to be with me.
But learning to accept our place as ‘home’ took time. On his first walk with me, his tail slumped between his legs and his head sunk down. In the house, he sat in corners for the first couple days, and he was frightened by the stairs. When our Beagle Luna arrived a week later (we planned for them to be playmates), he allowed her to be the alpha, and didn’t really challenge her authority, even though she was younger, for almost a year. And when my husband approached Seamus’s food bowl while he was eating, Seamus would back away sheepishly. He ran from loud noises. We wondered if he’d been abused, if someone had yelled a lot, or just neglected him.
Nevertheless, he wanted to be with us. And the more we loved him, the more love he returned to us.
At one point, my relationship with God was similar to the one Seamus had with us. I couldn’t sit through any church service without crying. The emotions I felt inside would just bubble up and spill out in quiet tears, and my stomach would turn in knots. I was timid, fearful, and unsure whether I could truly trust Him. In a sense, I had been a stray. I’d traveled a few roads and didn’t feel at home anywhere.
But the Lord’s love is relentless and tender. Fiercely compassionate and constant. Patient and true. A gentle hand that promised to cradle me forever when I was finally ready to fully relax into the safe home of Him.

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.

 

Holy Moments – Day 1 – We Are No Longer Two

Holy Moments. My theme for this month. I have a bunch of ideas. So many things I want to write about. Yet, I began the month by biting off a bit more than I could chew. Back on September 26, I decided on a new theme for my blog, made the big switch to a new host, and lost my old posts and content in cyber space for a few days (not before I had backed it all up on my computer, thank goodness), but still. Being on tenterhooks, frustrated by technology, was not the way I had wanted to begin 31 days of contemplating ‘holy moments’ in my life.

Nevertheless, those moments are here. In the midst of our everyday.
My new blog theme doesn’t look like I want it to…yet. It’s just like my life in that way…It only bears a slight resemblance to the vision I have for it in my head. Yet I know…there is good in it. God is here with me in this hot mess. And there are beautiful things He wants me to see. Like this….
WeddingRingPassport
My husband’s passport and wedding ring sitting on my jewelry box today. Signs of to whom he belongs. Me. His nation.
He’s on a short trip, and the tugging in my heart, which I have felt every single time he’s flown since we were engaged 18 years ago reminds me that my short-lived concerns are nothing compared to what’s irreplaceable.
I kiss him goodbye. One holy moment. And then I wait patiently for the next one. A text.
On the ground. Uneventful. 
Four words that ease my heart. And they are not to be taken for granted. My husband and our union is not to be taken for granted. We are joined together by His design. I know that, and am glad to be reminded of it.
And the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” – Mark 10: 8-9

Donut Date

It’s Friday night and I’m eating purple donuts with my kindergartener while his sister’s in her Irish dance class. Before I realize his hands are still filthy with school grime, he’s two bites in. (Note the outside of his right palm in the photo.) But, I accepted my imperfections as a mother some time ago.Taran_donut

Having gotten the shot I wanted, I interrupt his eating to try to clean his hands with napkins, and carefully avoid the scraped elbow from the playground fall three days ago while I ask about his day.

“So, how did you get that green smiley-face sticker?” I ask, meaning the tiny one on his t-shirt, which he got to wear today because it was an ‘out-of-uniform’ day at school. Talk about an exciting Friday!

“In music class!” he tells me brightly. “I was actually singing really loud! Do you know how many Christmas songs we have to learn?”

“No.”

He holds up seven fingers.

“Wow!”

I make big eyes at him, and am actually moderately surprised, having forgotten how many songs the other two kids learned at this age.

“We will learn a new song each time at music! It’ll be easy!”

“What song did you learn today?”

Without a trace of irony, he says,

“I forget.”

And chomps again into his purple donut.

I sit there and appreciate how he gradually acquires a sticky violet beard across his unblemished face while savoring the confection. He licks his fingers, sips his strawberry milk, and tells me about his new friends, laughing in a somewhat nonsensical way and slapping his legs while sharing his stories. He looks to make sure I’m listening and understanding that he’s making connections with people. I nod and smile, even though his ‘inside’ kindergarten jokes are not funny to me in quite the same way.

Life with a 5-year old is priceless.

I had ended this post there last night but didn’t push ‘Publish,’ thinking it needed an ending. The ending came this morning. Perhaps.

At 8:30 my sidekick and I were at the soccer field for his game. Only a few minutes in, he was bumped by a teammate and went down hard on that aforementioned scraped elbow. (Sigh)

The tears came. His coach said all the right things. My son still came off the field.

And even though the wound had only slightly re-opened, and yes – abrasions DO sting, this tumble had become a mental hurdle he just couldn’t overcome. The elbow hurt, and he was afraid he’d fall on it again. Suggestions that he give the game another go, calls from his teammates to come back in, my reminders that soccer “is all about your feet!” as well as tougher love – “Your team needs you and you love this game. Now get out there and do this!”…Nothing could help the 5-year old crush the molehill in his mind.

So – life with a child this age is still priceless, but today I would add that it is also…. rollercoaster-ish. And isn’t that the way it is with ALL kids.

And all adults.

Yes, they are cliches. We all live priceless, rollercoaster lives. But looking back over the last 24 hours, other things occurred to me too.

My little boy was learning a song and promptly forgot it. He reopened a wound, just a little, and his fears held him back from doing something he loves. We have all learned things that we should remember and have quickly forgotten them. Sometimes with devastating consequences. We have all suffered the reopening of an old wound and allowed it to interfere with the present.

What we need, is a parent who watches over us tenderly, without admonishing us for our failures. One who can sympathize with our hurts and can bind up our wounds, and who always sees a way forward for us, while giving us the right kind of encouragement to get back into life.

Thank goodness we have one. He is the One and only, Lord God Almighty.

I lift my eyes up to the hills-

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

– Psalm 121:1-2

Just Having Her Here

Gretchen_Kathleen_Sept2015
Me and Mom.

Mom came for a 4-day visit and left yesterday. She lives in Florida and I’m in Maryland, so visits require scheduling and travel.

Over dinner Sunday night, we discussed family mysteries and unanswered questions – particularly the ones we wish we could ask the women who came before us and who have since passed on. There are many puzzle pieces missing, and while we have plans to do a little research, we know it may only get us so far.

Thinking about these women – my grandmothers and their sisters, all the ‘greats’ on my mother’s side – I wonder endlessly.

Which qualities did they like most in themselves? Which did they like least? Where, if at all, did they find emotional connection? With whom did they have their closest relationships? In times of trial, poverty, war, disease, abandonment, and the loss of husbands and children, where did they find strength? In several cases, we don’t know anything about their faith lives. So I wonder… How did they carry on? What did they believe?

And finally, what were their greatest successes? And by that I don’t mean the worldly definitions of success….I mean – at the end of their lives, what did they want to be remembered for? And do we remember them for that?

In the midst of this conversation, Mom turned to me and said,

“You know my story, right?”

I nodded weakly. It was such a loaded question. I know so much about her life, but to know her story? A person’s depth is endless. Another human being can hardly fathom it. How I’d love to say I fully know her, that I can understand her every experience, thought, heart and soul’s desire, but I am limited in my ability, and there is more to discover all the time. I hear something new every time we talk. Each encounter with every person I meet is like that – if I’m listening.

And Mom and me? Our time together is finite. Just like everyone’s. It’s not because of geography.

Her desire that I know her – that I know her story – is the great call of each soul. We all have this need to be fully known. And there is only One who can meet this need, who knows our story better than we do, who has been writing it with us and for us since before time began.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”

-Luke 12:6-7

Chicken Salad

I was making chicken salad for school lunches at 10:15 p.m. when Grandpa called to tell me something that, as he told it, struck both of us as funny. These days, his voice often chokes with emotion as he speaks to people he loves, and I cherish this. As a result, our conversations have a depth that goes far, far beyond the words spoken.

Ever since I was two, I’ve always lived at least three time zones away from him, but time and distance don’t stop love. His unconditional concern and care has been a steadfast light shining from afar. He’s a pillar of strength, solidity, and resilience in a family that has spread out through geography, marriage, and experience. And in that way, he bears likeness to another Father who is always present.

I can look back now and see that all the twists and turns of my life, some of them known to my family, some of them just aches within my soul, have been overseen by the guiding and ever-loving presence of God. He has been right there alongside me, however far the distance between us might have seemed.

I heard this song today and it prompted me to write. There must be some connection.