Are You A Welcoming Person?

Are You A Welcoming Person?
Photo by Remi Walle. Unsplash.com

I’ll tell you this story – not because it makes me look good – but because it doesn’t.

Sunday I was sitting with my family at the 5 pm Mass, having finally made our way there after a long Thanksgiving weekend filled with fine, rich food and lots of family in two states. I had spent a little time over the previous days praising God for his goodness, and even more time thanking Him for my blessings, but it quickly became obvious my heart wasn’t right for the worship service.

I remember my husband telling me early in our marriage (before I became Catholic), that you shouldn’t be late for Mass, but if you were, you needed to get there before the Gospel was read – the third of the Scripture readings. On a Sunday, this generally occurs about 15 minutes into the service.

And so it was that just as the Gospel started, three 20-something guys in baggy pants and hoodies moved swiftly and quietly to the front of the church and slid into the pew directly in front of me and my family.

Something about them made me uneasy.

Was it their very late arrival?

Was it their dress?

Two of them sported scruffy beards and fringed, unkempt hair and the other had shaved his head. Strong, subtle curves of youthful muscle filled out the shoulders of their large sweatshirts.

Was it the way they seemed unprepared for the service and restless upon the decision to sit?
The one closest to me – the one with the shaved head – was fidgety.

My thoughts raced and images of a mass-shooting at a church in Texas flashed through my head.

God forbid.
How awful of me to think….
Am I always this jumpy and judgmental?
Ugh, if I am – I’m truly awful.
But…my anxiety is for nothing.
Do I have such little faith?
What am I afraid of?
Who do I trust?
I trust you, Lord.

No sooner had I thought this than my focus returned and I looked down at the Scripture in my lap. I heard the Word proclaimed, read in every Catholic Church around the globe on this very day.

’Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ -Matthew 25:44

The homily came and I listened. Then it was time to greet one another with the words, “Peace be with you.”

The young men turned to face us one by one with cautious, unsure expressions. They hesitated before leaning over the seat to shake our hands.

I felt shame and Love flood my body.

“Peace be with you,” I heard myself say to the one closest to me, and as I grasped his hand, his deep brown eyes softened at the corners. His shoulders eased back as he took a breath and returned the greeting with a tiny smile.

When Communion came, the three filed out of the pew and stood aside to let an elderly couple out. But then, they turned away without receiving the Eucharist, and left the church.

I took Communion and kneeled to pray, waiting to see what I would be led to pray about.

People make more of prayer than it is. It is a simple conversation, and when I let God lead, He brings people to mind who need my prayers.

Eyes closed, my thoughts wandered for a moment.

Lord, I thank you for my husband and my kids.

BOOM.

I saw the face of the young man who was sitting in front of me just moments before, the other two behind him.

Pray for them, came the not-so-subtle holy prompting.

And so I did.

And I have – on and off – imperfect as I am – throughout this week.

I may never see those men again – will probably never know WHY I need to pray for them or how whatever it is that’s going with them turns out.

But none of that should matter to me.

It’s not my place to be concerned about results. My place is to follow and obey the One who cares for – and welcomes – all.

People who are in need of welcome surround us every moment of every day, and we are often blind, or worse – unsympathetic – to them.

Souls suffer from myriad kinds of prisons, illness, and hunger.

Every person we meet has an interior life which is known only by God but which requires the Love His people are called to offer unconditionally.

In God’s eyes, welcome is the first action of Love.

This Christmas season, may we have eyes to see where welcome is truly needed, so that from there, we’ll have hearts open to giving, and souls ready for joyful sacrifice.

Is Your Schedule a Gold Mine?

Is Your Schedule a Gold Mine?
Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

Do you think of your schedule as a gold mine?

Let me explain.

If you are an adult – and especially a parent of multiple kids – you’ve almost certainly faced (at least once) a constrictive schedule dominated by ‘who needs to go where, for what, and when.’

Right?

Two weeks ago I found myself in a surprising position. A schedule that for years had allowed me to serve in a volunteer leadership position on Thursday nights suddenly steamrolled my plans. As the fall sports schedules were released and carpools were worked out, I challenged myself:

How can I drive from Columbia to Annapolis, make dinner, and handle homework questions in between 5:45 and 6:45?

I know! I will use the slow cooker and pray there is never a traffic jam.

Yeah, right.

I have worked logistical miracles before, but seriously?

Thankfully, I came to the sober realization that I needed to step down from leadership and take a back seat to my kids’ plans for Thursday nights.

I tell you this because my first inclination was to say, “I take a back seat to my children,” but the Plan for me was: You get to spend more time one-on-one with them.

See the change?

How often do you view your schedule and say:

Wow! Today I get to go to the dentist!

I get to walk my dog two times!

I get to cheer up a friend!

I get to coach my child on handling disappointment!

I get to give a presentation at work!

I get to choose my own attitude!

My kids are at three very different and important life phases right now: elementary school, middle school, and high school. Their needs are discrete. They often don’t share details with me.

But if I am fully present to them – I hear what they don’t say directly.

I get to listen more.

In the last few days I’ve heard…

  • My second grader say that he visualizes drawing red circles on the ceiling with lasers, and I learn that his mind is like a painter’s, creating anew in the abstract.
  • My middle-schooler say that a teacher asked her to show a new student around, and I hear in her voice that this has made her feel valued and confident.
  • My high-school freshman explain that any boy who would someday want to date his sister must be “smart, kind, and considerate – opening doors for her on dates and stuff,” and I understand that despite his constant chiding of her, he feels protective.

Observations like this are gold – gold mined in the quiet moments between life’s scheduled events.

Our days are filled with opportunities to participate in creation, because we are made in the image of the Creator. His imprint is within each one of us, and He has given us the ability to work in collaboration with Him.

Our choices can work with His plan for our best interests – or against it.

And when we go with Him, blessings abound.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

When Our Animals Pass On – Some Words of Hope and Consolation

When Our Animals Pass On – Some Words of Hope and Consolation

Some people just aren’t ‘animal people.’ They can’t help it, really. They just haven’t ever connected with a dog, cat, or some other creature in that deeply beautiful and inexplicable way that changes everything about how a person sees the world.

And then there are the rest of us.

Too many times over the last couple months I’ve watched friends wish a forever goodnight to a beloved dog or cat, and every time I hear of an animal passing, I go back to the days of losing the ones who were most precious to me.

There was Sassafras – the Puli I grew up with  – a Hungarian sheepdog who looked like a Rastafarian. She endured hours of ‘dress up’ as I styled her in my old baby clothes.

Crash – our 107 lb. Yellow Lab – who was afraid of linoleum, occasionally howled when he heard sirens, and adored flowers so much that if I came home with a bouquet, I had to let him smell it right away or he’d tackle me trying.

Crash. He loved flowers and wearing bandanas.

And Shiloh – our Golden Retriever – a big, red, fluffy guy who befriended all the neighbors and was so diligent about “checking” on our infant daughter I had to close the door to her room or he’d wake her up by pushing his nose through the slats of her crib.

It’s this last dog I think of with regret.

Regret. Commingled with our cravings for peace and comfort, it’s often the unspoken part of loss.

Sometimes it’s big. Sometimes it’s not. But one way or another, it can creep in.

We got Shiloh – a 9-week old puppy – on December 22, 2003 when our oldest son was not quite one year. I house-trained him in the dead of winter by strapping my son into his high chair, giving him a handful of Cheerios, and running Shiloh outdoors. He learned inside from out, but was never trained in obedience. My husband and I fully admit – our timing in getting this dog was not among the best of our decisions.

Shiloh on the day we brought him home.

Our daughter arrived two years later, and I was perpetually preoccupied with the work of mothering young children. Shiloh just didn’t receive the one-on-one time and love he so richly deserved. We lost him to an irreversible heart ailment at 8 years old; it was far too soon.

Shiloh as a young pup.

I went to the vet on Valentine’s Day in 2012 to be with him at the end, and the doctor gave us a few minutes alone to say goodbye.

I looked into his eyes and was overcome, so I sat on the tile floor, and with my arms wrapped around his huge red neck, I poured out my pain-filled heart.

There was so much to say. So much I still wanted to do. And couldn’t redo. And all I was left with was precious little time.

I told him I loved him.

I thanked him for his constant devotion to me and our family…for the joy he had brought to our lives.

And then…

I followed my soul’s prompts…and I asked him for forgiveness.

I said I was sorry. I listed many things I did that I regretted, and all the things I didn’t do that I regretted even more.

And this dog knew.

Why am I sure?

I saw it in his eyes.

There is one thing domesticated animals do better than their people: they love unconditionally.

And he did.

Just then, he leaned into me – physically and in spirit. He rested his head on my shoulder and licked my tears.

If every life moment is a glimpse of the divine, what was I seeing just then?

These critical life lessons:

Do not look back and wish for something else. We must live and love right where we are. To do otherwise is futile.

Forgiveness is a matter of turning the heart in the right direction: owning up to wrongs and then relinquishing them. Often, the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.

If facets of God can be seen here on earth – present in the unconditional love and forgiveness of an animal who trusts us and accepts us as we are – then in the same way, we can rest in the knowledge that if we approach Him with contrite hearts, admit our mistakes and ask for mercy, it will be granted to us.

And what of the animals? Where do our friends go?

I appreciate the words of Pope Francis:

“Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all.” – Laudato Si

It warms my soul to consider this…to savor the fact that the God of my experience and understanding so loves the whole world, and God wants me to experience perpetual joy and love to such a degree, that He will use any means necessary to show me this Truth….

Even a dog – here on earth, and someday, forever with me in heaven.

Shiloh dressed for Halloween. He had a funny birthmark on the middle of his tongue. And a beautiful, beautiful heart.

Not Sure What to Believe Anymore? Encouraging Words for Today

Not Sure What to Believe Anymore? Encouraging Words for Today

My spirit stumbled as I read my friend’s words on Facebook this morning.

“I’m not sure what I believe anymore, as these past few years have been rough.”

She lost her dad to cancer two years ago.

Her mother is battling it now.

Yesterday, one of her closest friends became a widow who will raise a beautiful little girl alone.

Maybe you’ve faced similar heartaches.

Maybe you stand in the middle of a circle of suffering and spend most of your days staring at the misery, wondering, “How could God allow all this? It’s too much.”

You don’t have to be a believer in God to feel the desperation and loss of hope that Job experienced in the Old Testament book.

In great oppression men cry out;
they call for help because of the power of the mighty,
Saying, ‘Where is God, my Maker,
who has given visions in the night…

Though thus they cry out, he answers not…
– Job 35: 9-10, 12

Our souls demand answers. When we’ve reached the ends of ourselves we turn as a last resort toward the idea of heaven. Freedom from pain.

There’s a voice I hear from time to time – a memory that comes back at pivotal moments to buttress me.

I’m standing on a street in Paris during my junior year of college, just staring at my feet, complaining about my aching legs which are sore from miles upon miles of walking. The voice of my professor speaks close to my ear.

“Look up,” she says. “Always look up.”

Begrudgingly, I do. A colorful panorama of ancient, detailed architecture framed by clear blue sky awaits me.

There is so much more to discover than the layers of grime built up on my ugly black shoes and the cracked sidewalk beneath them.

I have come to know that the words, “Look up,” were etched into my mind for an even greater reason than to remind me of how earthly pleasures can distract or numb a tired mind.

But it is idle to say God does not hear or that the Almighty does not take notice.
Even though you say that you see him not,
the case is before him; with trembling
should you wait upon him.
– Job 35: 13-14

God may seem silent. He may not answer in a way that makes sense to our feeble minds. But he is ever-present. The Alpha and the Omega – beginning and end which frame our lives and time itself. Something in us recognizes this infinite power and heeds its call when we are fully honest about our need.

Our hope for our current circumstances is to LOOK UP and continually ask for the things He promises to give: Wisdom. Peace. An ability to recognize that His ways are not ours and that even in our sorrow, He will cover us.

I used to have trouble with this. A LOT of trouble with this.

My family of origin fell apart. I was betrayed by friends. I have struggled throughout my life with the demon of depression.

But I have come to know…

Dear friends and family will come to our aid. We will have the provisions we need to live in body and spirit. God will give freely – using those around us to show us His ancient, present, and forever architecture of Love.

Help Needed in Aisle 4!

Help Needed in Aisle 4!
Photo by Marian Trinidad. www.creationswap.com.
Photo by Marian Trinidad. www.creationswap.com.

“Help! Help on Aisle 4!”

I heard the voice from a few aisles over. It was a woman, sounding slightly annoyed but not exasperated. Like an employee on a walkie-talkie.

“Help, please.”

My, the bows and decorations I was looking at were pretty. And how pleasant it was to be strolling along with my cart, all by lonesome on this last weekday morning before school let out for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Hello?!” she called. Urgency had been summoned into her voice.

I took another sip of my tea. ‘It’s that time of year,’ I thought. ‘We’re all going to start getting uptight.’

But then – I was suddenly shocked by a heavy, greater awareness that no one was coming. In fact, this woman and I might be the only people in this quadrant of the huge store.

My hands let go of the cart and my feet started moving in her direction just as her strongest cry yet rang out.

Help! Help me, please! Someone help!”

My legs were moving quickly now, and my head felt light. My thoughts jumbled.

‘Am I floating? Is this my body? What’s going on here?’

Many aisles over I saw her, an elderly woman with two enormous storage bins placed on end in her cart, and her finger wedged between them and the metal bars of the collapsible child seat. She couldn’t reach around the bins to relieve their weight, and might not have been strong enough even if she could have. I pulled the bins off and she stared at me with a pale, relieved face.

“Thank you. Oh, thank you.”

“Is it broken? Can you move it?”

She wiggled her finger and massaged the long acrylic nail, which looked a bit twisted.

“Oh, goodness. I don’t know what I would have done if you didn’t come.”

For a moment, I said nothing.

“Are you going to be ok? You can get help loading these into your car.”

“Yes. I’m ok. Happy Easter.”

Then I just smiled.

“Oh! Oh! Gosh,” she laughed faintly, “Happy Thanksgiving.”

“You, too. Happy Thanksgiving.”

I walked away from her with the firm knowledge that I had – just then – been an instrument, and that I could not in any way take credit for what I had done.

Left to my own devices, I would have ignored her call, would have kept on putting decorations for my own future celebrations into my cart.

That’s just how self-absorbed I was. Am. Can be at any time.

But I wasn’t given a choice. I was given a gift of being made ready to serve in His way at His time. And He stepped in and moved me right to the place He wanted me to go.

In this time of Advent, as I await with expectant hope for the joys of Christmas, I want to remember that true gifts are not things – they are found in the giving away of grace that has been given to us. A humble, servant’s heart is what made Christmas possible in the first place, and it’s still the greatest part of this season. 

Lord, make me a channel of Your peace. Use me this Advent in the ways You see fit. Use me to give away Your relentless grace.

3 Ways to Savor the Last Weeks of Summer

3 Ways to Savor the Last Weeks of Summer

Tomatoes_Summer2016

I’m digging into my salad when I see that a friend has posted on FB a photo of his Yellow Lab sleeping in the grass and captioned it, “Dog days of August.”

Ah yes…dog days. Lazy days. I too want to do…absolutely nothing.

Just a few weeks left of summer vacation, and what a fabulous summer it’s been. Family trips to the Outer Banks and Maine, long days spent poolside, and plenty of time for reading, movie-watching, and sipping lemonade. Heaven on earth.

I appreciated the dog photo, because it reminded me that it’s easy to become lulled in these hot, humid days into taking this season’s blessings for granted. So here are three ways to renew your appreciation of August.

  1. Visit the farmer’s market. We go every weekend to find the juiciest corn, mouthwatering heirloom tomatoes, and biggest cantaloupes around. I love to fill my bags with the fruits of the earth, knowing that these fresh foods are divinely designed to nourish my body in exactly the right way. And oh – the peaches this month! Don’t get me started on my love for peaches…
  2. Make a date with a friend. In this season more than any other, it’s easy to lose touch with people because families go their own ways. Within communities there are fewer routines, and we don’t cross paths with friends we see on a regular basis at other times of the year. I saw a dear friend at Mass on Sunday, and we hadn’t connected in weeks! If you’re missing someone, let them know, and make a date to get coffee or have lunch. We are created to love; we need one another. We need to connect with our friends.
  3. Take a day trip. Go see something new. Or revisit someplace you haven’t been in awhile. We’re going to Ocean City, NJ – my husband’s childhood summer retreat – to eat pizza and play mini-golf. Take a short escape from the ordinary and go, while keeping your eyes open to the wonders that await.

As I grow in appreciation of the beauty of each season, I see the world for what it is – a home for me and for all of us, created in love, by Love Himself, to be cherished and utilized conscientiously. And the more I meditate on its offerings – the more I savor life in all its fullness – the more I realize that I can’t begin to count my blessings.

Happy are those who dwell in your house!

They never cease to praise you.

-Psalm 84:5

Scene from a Ballpark

Scene from a Ballpark
Orioles' Adam Jones - 2nd Image by Keith Allison - Creative Commons
Orioles’ Adam Jones – 2nd Image by Keith Allison – Creative Commons

The father and son walked a bit ahead of me as we exited Camden Yards on the second night in August. At first I didn’t realize they were together, because the father was white and the son was black. But then I saw their hands.

They were holding hands. To stay together in the crowd.

This wouldn’t have been notable, except that the son was about 13. I know because I have a son that age who is also nearly as tall as me.

As I got closer, I expected to hear a conversation I’d hear in my own house, but it wasn’t like that at all.

This boy was slurring his speech, and when he turned his head, I could see that it took effort for him to form words. But he was joyful in his attempts. And he was saying hello to every person who passed him.

A few returned his greeting.

Most glanced in his direction and then moved away.

Then one man struck up a brief conversation with him, asking him if he’d enjoyed the game.

My heart gave thanks for this generous soul, because the moment he engaged the boy, both he and his father turned toward the man and gave huge welcoming smiles.

The boy named a couple things he’d liked – the four home runs, cotton candy – and then something he didn’t. And the banter that ensued was typical Northeast stuff – a repartee of “no-way-c’mon-yeah right-don’t gimme that.” And for a bright moment, the boy was not “special needs.” He was just a kid at the ballpark with his dad.

Valuing a person means recognizing the sacred within – the holy that comes from beyond the boundaries of time, space, body, gender, race, or ability. Thank God for those who know true beauty when they see it.

No More Summer Scrooge

No More Summer Scrooge

 

IMG_7885

I used to hate summer. I was a Summer Scrooge.

I only lightly concealed my loathing of the heat and humidity. I never wanted to be outside. I harbored resentments – for my fair skin that burns like bacon, blue eyes not meant for bright sunlight, and tender feet that just won’t tolerate hot cement, sand, or even flip-flops. Strange, you think? It’s true. The thought of something stuck between my toes all day long makes me cringe.

But my feelings were a prison of my own making.

It’s amazing how years can go by before you realize that you’re missing out on whole seasons of your life because of the way you look at them. 

I’ve learned – the words that ring in my head and my heart frame my perspective.

So, 7 years ago, I decided to make summer different. It happened like this….

I had a friend who seemed to treat every day like an adventure, even if she never left her home. One weekday afternoon, I was sitting in her bright yellow kitchen while she cooked, eating olives from a ornate blue and white bowl that was part of a set.

“I love these bowls,” I told her, which matched a platter covered in cheese, crackers, and cured Italian meats.

“Thanks! They’re from Portugal. We got them when Tim* was stationed in Rome.”

Five of the six kids we had between us were yelling and charging happily all over her house, occasionally running through to snatch a slice of provolone or salami.

“And you’re using them today?”

“Why not?” she laughed. “What good are they doing in the cupboard? I use them all the time!”

“What if they get broken?”

“Well, then they do,” and she tossed her long hair as if to say, ‘But we really used them, didn’t we?’

That small exchange made an impression on me. Yes, other people had told me, “Use the good china,” but until that moment – I guess I hadn’t heard the message: Live today.

Even as a stay-at-home mom doing the usual thing on a random Tuesday – Live today.

And I decided to make a summer plan.

In the beginning, my summer plan entailed my own physical happiness. I found a non-sticky sunscreen and decided I was worth the expense, shunned capris and shorts and settled on the fact that skirts were more comfortable for me in the heat, and discovered that playing in the pool with my kids actually is more fun than sitting on the side watching them.

But by leaping those physical hurdles, I also found strength to focus on my deeper, emotional hurdles. Like how to use the summer months to draw closer to my children emotionally, when holding them at arms’ length would be easier for me. I’m an introvert with currently very extroverted children, and all this ‘togetherness’ can be challenging.

But the summer is time we will never get back. So I’ve learned to pray and ask for discernment from God about how to spend these days well.

I don’t always get the answers I want. As one would expect, there is less time for me and my pursuits, and in the short-term that can be frustrating. (i.e. I’ll be blessed if I can write one blog piece a week from now thru August!)

But because of my willingness to bend to Him, He is helping me to make the very most of now, learn from the past, and have fewer regrets later. It’s a hard thing to admit that I’m a better mom to my third six-year old than I was to my first child when he was six, but good parenting is about continuing to grow, and I so desperately want to be good – for them. I am being formed into the woman I was intended to be and the Creator is creating the best summers of my life.

This coming week, we’ll be on vacation, and I intend to spend equal time on the beach reading and building sandcastles. But I leave you with some recent words from my youngest son.

He and I were driving to the gym in silence when he blurted this out. I scrambled to get it down as soon as I could. I was in awe of what I’d heard, knowing I had to preserve it forever. He said,

“Every day is special. 

Because God is always with us.

And every day is a birthday.

And a new baby is born.

And a new house is built.

And a car is fixed.

And flowers are planted.

And gardens grow.”

 Amen.

Every day is special.

 

 

*Not his real name.

Warrior in the Rain

Warrior in the Rain
Photo by Ryan Wilson. Portland, Oregon. unsplash.com.
Photo by Ryan Wilson. Portland, Oregon. unsplash.com.

This morning I was reconsidering a post I started last winter and never finished. Sometimes that happens. I drift along, writing about a moment that captivates me, but then I’m not sure why I had been told to pay attention. The lessons we learn can be months – or years – in the making. Today, as summer dawns, I’m leaning forward to hear His whisper on this memory.

Cold rain pelted the colonial streets when I dropped my kids off at school this morning. 38 degrees and gloomy. I was turning left when a couple started to cross the road right in front of my car, walking a black Lab.

I saw her first.  She was bundled up in a parka, hat, and scarf, and working hard to hold on to the pulling dog, who was giddy over his outing despite the weather, his tail whipping him into a full-body wag.

Then I looked at him. He was oddly serene – a dreamy, almost complacent expression on his face – and he had chosen strange attire. His muscles were lightly concealed by a t-shirt – and shorts! He held an umbrella over the woman, even as the driving rain splashed against his bare limbs. His gait was strong and steady, but ever-so-slightly unnatural. 

Then I saw it – his prosthetic leg.

I assumed he was military, a warrior injured while serving our nation. But it could have been an auto accident or something else, of course.

Nevertheless, in the two seconds I studied his face, I saw resolve. Perhaps the kind that comes from having faced fear and done the next right thing despite it. Or from the hard work necessary to overcome a challenge you never thought you’d encounter.

Why was I directed to remember him?

Maybe because we all face obstacles to a smooth walk.

Despite my best efforts, I still struggle with comparing myself to others, fear of judgment, paralyzing perfectionism, and an inner critic who won’t shut up. When no one is counting on me, I’m also rather poor at time management and start projects I don’t finish. Then I worry that somehow these failings will become my legacy.

I could resign myself to these negative thoughts and let the foes of my spirit finish me. I could assume that I can’t improve my gait.

Yet I believe that God is pulling for me. His Word is replete with promises of His Love. 

And He is sovereign over all – even over the various forms of darkness that plague my mind, creating muddy puddles on the sunniest of days.

He says,

…be transformed by the renewal of your mind…

-Romans 12:2

This is a command. To allow myself to be made better. To be made new. By Him.

Through Him I will find the long-term resolve I’m looking for.

My ability to walk naturally through life without fear or pain is directly related to my willingness to yield to His Love.

Can I yield a bit more today?

Riveting Like Rosie

Riveting Like Rosie

image

I’ve always liked “Rosie the Riveter,” the iconic WWII figure famously portrayed in this painting by Norman Rockwell. Years ago, I had a copy of this print in my office. Rosie symbolized the thousands of women in industrial jobs who replaced men gone to fight. She embodied the spirit of a new phase in American life.

I look at her and I see Resolve. Tenacity. Perseverance. Strength. Courage.

And I know that under her tough-as-nails exterior, she was also tender and womanly. To convey her feminine charms, some artists even portrayed her with noticeably red lips.

I can relate to Rosie’s “taking care of business” attitude, and I suspect that most American women do.

But I also wonder about her quieter moments. The ones where she kept her home together. Held her kids. And perhaps marveled about the way thousands of little bolts can hold one big vehicle together.

I have a riveting gun too, you see. It’s just invisible. Its’ bolts are tiny interactions, layered one on top of another over months and years until hopefully, finally, in the end, my contributions will have aided in the creation of a self-sufficient and loving adult. Three of them, in fact. At least, this is what I envision.

I get so consumed with trying to make sure that everything is powered down and in place that I can forget the beautiful whimsy of working on long-term projects that are large, grand, and so very, very important. And also so very different, complicated, and not “projects” at all – but God-given gifts who are entrusted to me (and my husband) for a time.

I can fail to really see each one of them at all. 

That is, until I experience a moment like the one I experienced tonight. Because – let’s face it – my kids’ growing up experience isn’t just about them, is it?

It was all normal enough – laying out my son’s clothes for school tomorrow.

Except that tomorrow is his last day of kindergarten.

My baby’s last day of kindergarten.

His navy blue shorts and white shirt suddenly looked so, so small.

A metaphorical hammer was coming down on my head as I realized he wouldn’t fit into these clothes come fall. They are already tight, and he’s our last child.

He’s my baby.

I stood there. Suddenly fighting to breathe.

I ran to his bed, where he lay, silently sleeping.

I stroked his hair. Touched his cheek. Held his hand.

Wiped tears from my face with the back of my other hand.

There were so many projects I had planned to do this year while he was spending days in kindergarten. Some got done. Others didn’t.

And? No one was keeping score.

But like Rosie, I was doing the work of a new phase in my own life.

Invisible rivets. Laying down the foundation for what will be when he  finishes 1st grade, and 2nd, and 12th, and so on.

A new phase means changing some things and building on others.

I think of Rosie. She says…

Look ahead with Resolve and Courage. Be Riveted to Hope.