Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Great Risk

The courage.  Do I have the courage to be a writer?  I mean, a real writer, not cloaked in anonymity as I am here.  For surely, I don't know most of my readers, and it gives a freedom to share that is...odd.  It is disconcerting to me.

I am reading Ann's book, and even as I am learning so much, seeing so much, being propelled through the reading of this fascinating book, I can't help but wonder at her vulnerability.  At her courage to be vulnerable.  I sit here, full of so much that is so shocking and so painful and so shameful that I would surely hurt my family if I really shared, if I put a face on my honesty.

And I might invite judgment on our family, this little family that is striving through Christ to become the family He wants us to be.  You see, I met my husband very young, and we were both teenagers stumbling out of homes full of sharp edges.  My mother had done a valiant job of padding the sharpness of a childhood brought upon me by a father who was unready and unable to have a family.  She worked hard and kept strict rules for her girls and leaned into the church and her stable parents for guidance on how to parent the fatherless, the abandoned, while being abandoned herself.  And so when I met my husband and found that he was struggling out of a situation more complex and more sharp-edged, he was hungry for the stability my mother imposed, and that I in turn was eager to build a fresh, new family upon.

But the shadows follow, and casting off the past is a challenge, and as bad seeds planted also bear their bad fruit in due season, so godless choices and actions of unrepentant parents and grandparents routinely sprout vines of sin that we must continue to extricate ourselves from, now with three children to protect.

You are curious now.  Get ready.  It's really bad.  And if you were to see me, in my embellished Target t-shirt, within my Benjamin-Moored walls, looking out at my wisteria vine glowing with violet potential, with my clean-cut son in his LLBean outfit, you might think I look nothing like someone burying the ghosts of divorce, and adultery, and murder, and gambling addiction, and drug addiction, and alcoholism, and murder (yes, again), and suicide.  I know how I picture that woman, and she doesn't look like me.

Is it pride, or fear of judgment that makes me say the next thing?  I must be clear that this has not occurred in my little family of five.  But parents?  Grandparents?  Stepparents?  They lived this way, in our extended family, in those who came before.  Some begged forgiveness for wrongs, went before the Father, sought healing, and there healing has occurred.   But in justification of wrongs, in unrepentance, in a lack of belief in right and wrong, there the repercussions of sin and the godless living continue to cut us, our children.  And it proliferates among siblings and cousins and stepsiblings. 

Will I have the courage to put a face to this sordid stuff?  Is it even mine to claim?  I fear that fear will prevent me from writing things that will help people, because I am so deeply uncomfortable with these topics, I so greatly fear the reactions of others. 

Especially among Christian circles, and, I shudder to day it, especially especially among Catholic circles, we like to pretend these things don't exist.  I will tell you about a woman from my childhood.  She lived with her husband and son and daughter just a few blocks away from us.  Her daughter was in my class, and we went to Kindergarten together and fifth grade together and high school together.  She was such a nice girl.  So was I.  We had friends in common.  We attended the same church and religion classes.  And as kind as I'd be and as nice as she was, we never became friends.  She never came to my birthday parties, and I was never invited to hers.  She invited my best friend and my boyfriend to her Sweet Sixteen party.  I, passed over, stayed home. 

Last year, at a school fundraiser, I was in a cluster of women when I saw the mother of this classmate.  I am 39 now.  I smiled.  I asked how her daughter was.  I mentioned my children, their ages, the clubs at the school that my husband volunteered to facilitate.  She was stiff as could be, a social grin on her face, doing the barest minimum of maintaining her part of the conversation before excusing herself to get her Chardonnay. 

It was then that I realized with dismay and shock that her daughter and I hadn't become friends as children because she had forbidden her daughter to be my friend.  She was still holding against me the addictions and bloody death of a father I had never known about, never known.
But anyway, it's stories like that that cause me to fear complete honesty. 
Fear a bared soul. 
Fear courage.


For more on courage, please visit Elizabeth.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Time is Short

My husband reads giant stacks of documents for a living. Sometimes he brings home one or two feet of paper to read, and it is the thoroughness with which he reads and digests that information that enables us to eat, have a sound shelter, and clothes on our bodies.

So he doesn't read other stuff all that often, and I can understand why.

But there was a book that was recommended to me from a very reliable source, a father-and-son book, and since we have two sons, I thought it might be a good idea to purchase it for my husband.

When it arrived (do people buy books at the bookstore anymore? Books come in the mail, right?), it was hard for me to keep my hands off of it because, well, it was a book. But I managed to resist. My thinking was that I didn't want to know all the recommendations made in the book, because it might subsequently make my husband feel as if I were waiting for him to do the stuff in the book.  You know, eyebrows raised, foot tapping, close-lipped smile.  So I allowed it to be his project, and I contentedly noticed he'd tuck it along with his stuff if he foresaw a wait ahead in his day or something.

Now, my husband has a cousin 22 years his junior. This dear boy, smart and handsome and talented and everything you could want in a son, lost his father two years ago. And he had lost his grandfather the year before that. The remaining men in his life, of differing ages and backgrounds, varying faiths and interests, have stood around him, sometimes literally but mostly figuratively, as he navigates this passage from childhood to adulthood without his father and grandfather.

My husband is among this band of men, and it was one night when he was reading the book I had bought him that he said of his cousin, "He's turning 18 in March. I want to have a dinner for him, with his father's friends there..."

And so the plan was set, and it was accomplished two weeks ago. Men gathered, and they hadn't all been in the same room since his father's wake, and the pictures from the evening revealed just what joy they had in being in each other's company, in encouraging this young man. They brought letters they had written to commemorate this significant birthday. Advice they thought his father would have wanted to pass on. Decades-old photos of his father, smiling, always smiling...

One of the men in the group had been suffering from a particularly aggressive form of cancer, and it was through the grace of God that he was able to attend. His wife drove him in from out of state, revealing his true physical limitations, but the photos from the evening show a brilliant countenance, sparkling with life and energy and a ruddy glow. My husband, upon arriving home from the party, expressed such gratitude that this ill friend was able to attend.

And then two days ago, we learned that he had passed away. Sometimes, I am all about intention, and the action behind the intention gets lost along the way.  I plan, I think, I plan some more, I intend. I am so blessed that my husband didn't just think it would be nice to get the men together to encourage his, he put action behind his intention, and by doing so he was able to capture a fleeting moment in time. Not even two weeks later, a precious soul left the world. Not even two weeks later, those same men will gather at a wake for one of their company. I am so blessed that my husband is a man of action, who enabled a rare meeting to take place.  He is a man who recognizes that time is short, the time for action is in front of us.

How often do we, blessed to be in the busy time of children-at-home, three-people-need-me-at-once, could-it-be-any-noisier, rush through the day,waiting for evening to fall so that we can rest our bones a bit?  I know that I do this often, and I deeply regret this attitude, for time is short. 

I pray for the open heart to cherish each day, each hour, each minute, each instant.
I pray for the readiness and motivation to put action behind my intentions.
I pray for the mindfulness to realize the precious in each moment as it happens, not just when I have a quiet moment to reflect.

Time is so very short.

Multitudes on Mondays

My heart overflows with thanks for...

~ a friend who exemplifies this quote from St. Francis de Sales.  I originally came upon this quote at Small Treasures, and it has remained with me.  It suits my dear friend, for whom I am grateful...
If your mutual exchanges deal with knowledge, your friendship is certainly very laudable; it will be even better if they deal with the moral virtues such as prudence, discretion, strength, justice; but if they pertain to charity, the love of God, Christian perfection, then this friendship is truly precious and excellent: excellent because it comes from God, excellent because it tends toward God, excellent because its bond is God, excellent because it will endure eternally in God.

~a sweet, small boy who seeks me out when he hears me gargling to ease my sore throat.  "I hope you feel better, " he says with a hug into my legs.  He knows he's being cute.  He puts an extra squint into his smile.

~success at basketball for another dear, loving boy.  Tall, lanky, built for it.

~three perfect tests for a smart little girl! 

~two lost pounds.  Eh.  I'll take it.

~a husband who rushed home from work upon hearing I wasn't feeling well.  I was just dehydrated.  I'm fine now.  And on that note...

~clean, cool water to drink.  It is heartrending that many don't have this simple, lifegiving necessity.

~the inspiration of Dave Ramsey and the relief of being debt-free except for the house!

~Focus on the Family, for reliable guidance, well-presented.  So much helpful information for every stage of family life.

~a husband who woke up before dawn to take our elder son cycling this morning. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blog Therapy - One

My personality is, for the most part, a steady one. However, I do have a streak of melancholy, and it surfaces frequently. Deep thinking, pondering bittersweet thoughts, worry about the future and the past, a too-serious view of life...these are minefields for me, and oftentimes the websites I choose to visit are crafted by women with similar temperaments. At first, this seems serendipitous, to find strangers who view life as I do, and often express thoughts and observations that have me nodding in agreement. Their images may be thought-provoking, revealing depth. Their words may be poetic, heartrending even. And this is a reflection of their expansive souls and a God-given gift of expression.

Yet, there are times when I am close to being emotionally depleted,  and I need to step away from reading the reflections of these like-hearted women for a season, so I do not drift too far into my own self.

What I do instead, when I feel as if I may soon succumb to melancholic tendencies, is visit a blog with a purposefully cheerful outlook, by a woman whose sanguine temperament counteracts my personal inclinations.  I have a few websites I would like to share with you over the next few days.  I always shut down the computer refreshed and more positive when I visit these websites. They encourage me to choose my attitudes and responses, and help me to see that a change in perspective can, indeed, be a miracle.

Firsw up, the adorably delightful Sugar Pie Farmhouse!

Ruthann tends her Sugar Pie Farmhouse with effervescence and care. Each thoroughly-realized post is chock-full of encouragement and ideas, cheerful images and happy-making music.  She peppers each essay with Scripture which is often just the thing I needed at just the right moment.  And she speaks often of choosing our attitude, how when we catch ourselves in a "whine" we have the opportunity to purposely change our minds about a matter.  Her family is adorable, and one thing I really love is advice from a mother who is a step ahead of me in experience.  I do think you will enjoy your visit to Ruthann's.  When I leave her website, I have a spring in my step, an extra measure of energy, and a heart bursting with love for my children, my husband, my home, and my Lord. 

More to come...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Decision Making, Made Simple

 Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.
                                                                                                            C. S. Lewis

My goal for myself is heaven.
My goal for my children is heaven.
If it doesn't keep our eyes fixed on heaven,
there is no room for it here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Singing His Praises

One sentence changed her life. 

She was told, suddenly and absolutely unexpectedly, that at a tender age, she was now a widow.

And she lived with a grateful heart before that moment, and she lives with a grateful heart still.

When we live so closely with another, all is obvious to us, the good and the not-so-good.  And how often do we dwell on the imperfect, even if it is offset by ten wonderful qualities and deeds? So, let us allow love to cover a multitude of sins.  I encourage us all, and have been taking my own advice, to embrace our husbands the way my friend would embrace hers if she could.  And pray for her empty arms, and quiet home, and still days, if you would, please. 

Thank you, God, for a husband who
1.  brought me white tulips on Valentine's day.  They are my favorite. 
2.  shoveled the snow.  Again.  I don't have to worry a whit.
3.  fills my car with gas without my asking.
4.  prays on Sacred Space with our eldest son.
5.  vacuums. 
6.  brings the children on errands.
7.  overlooks my flaws.
8.  chooses to work close by.  He could double his salary by commuting, but he would sacrifice two hours of family time each day.
9.  reads Scripture, and reads about Scripture.
10. when seeing me despondent over this recent tragedy, bent over me and placed his hands on me, and prayed.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I would deeply appreciate it if you could pray for my friend L. who lost her husband in a tragic auto accident.  The funeral was today.  She has two young daughters, ages 9 and 6.  If you could lift them up before the Lord, I would be so grateful.