Running on empty is never a good thing. I remember a recent road trip where had a van full of nieces and nephews who I was bringing back home with me. We were enjoying ourselves tremendously as we drove across the state. About two hours into the drive, I suddenly remembered that I never filled up with gas before leaving. I did a quick check of my gas gauge and realized that I was running on fumes in a section of the state that has no gas stations. In fact, that area is simply miles and miles and miles of country land. My prayers began in earnest. I called upon my Guardian Angel, St. Christopher and the Blessed Virgin Mary. I knew how few miles I had left before I ran out of gas. I also knew the next gas station was further than the gas in my tank could take me. This was a moment of desperation, and my prayers rose to a high pitch. May I add that it was a very hot day and we had little or no water in the car. I was envisioning myself and the children sitting on the side of the road sweating and dehydrated.
By this time, my prayer was sweating out of my pores! I tried to hide the tears streaming down my face. Suddenly, an exit with a gas station appeared. I quickly made my way to the gas station and filled up my tank. I know exactly how much gas my minivan’s tank can hold. However, when I filled my tank, the meter read .1 gallons more than my tank could hold. How was that possible? I have no idea but I surely know now that full is so much better than empty!
I share this story to say that I spent the weekend with my oldest children at an amazing conference put on by Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. I have to tell you that spiritually I had been running on empty. I was not taking the time I needed to fill myself up with God’s grace. This weekend was like standing under a fire hose of the Holy Spirit! To say I am “full of grace” does not seem like an understatement. I recognize now that I need to stop running so hard and take time to fill up throughout my day. Enough of the running on empty. Too scary. Too tiring. Too worrisome. Instead I will pray, I will make time to read scripture, and I will spend time with our Lord in the Eucharist. I pray that my grace will overflow on those around me and fill them up! (and so on, and so on, and so on!)
Transitioning into summer has been like jumping into an ice-cold river! The universe seemed to get a signal that school was wrapping up and began to send wave upon wave of intensity at my doorstep. I thought I was ready for summer. Now I am not so sure.
I suppose my youngest said it best. We headed out to weed the front beds and she informed me, “Why did we wait so long to get to this? Look at all the weeds!” She was right. It had been too many weeks. But family and friends and family and vacations and visits came tripping into our lives day after day since before the end of May. If we had a free moment, we were either all doing laundry and putting our house back in order or not feeling well. This is the first weekend in a long time that our calendar is actually readable.
I had a lot of amazing plans for this summer. I wanted to get back into the bible study that the kids and I started last summer. I mentioned that our chef (a/k/a me) who prepares lunch and dinner would need a sous chef this summer and that each child would get a turn. I haven’t even started planning my overnight week camp for cousins and friends.
But reality is much different from plans. My focus has shifted from the “would like to’s” to the “have to’s”. I have a house to finish remodeling along with many repairs to be made. I have to take the youngest to their swim lessons and the oldest to his college classes. I have to find a way to let the children play, yet have time to get these “have to’s” done. The list keeps growing and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Although I think I am flexible and can roll with changes, I have not been handling all this very well. I got a little grumpy with God. I had to go to Confession again! Yes, I am definitely a sinner. My little plans had to shift. I should know by now that God has a bigger, better plan. But I don’t always have the faith I need. As my wise friend said, “You know what the motto in Hell is, don’t you? I did it MY way!”
I am so thankful for the Sacred Heart Sisters who shared with me and my family on a weekend retreat. They refilled my heart with good thoughts and solutions. They live their faith, and their joy is contagious. I sure needed that lift as I head into this summer. Thank you, God, for Sister Rose, Sister Teresa, Sister Adriane, and Sister Laura! Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Tomorrow night is the big performance: The Passion of Christ. As we ran through the lights and sound this evening before our final dress rehearsal tomorrow morning, our director was commenting how much she enjoys this time of a production. All the creative thoughts and ideas finally becoming a concrete, physical reality. I agreed with her as I pricked my finger because I wanted just one more safety-pin to hold up the backdrop.
The backstage is something to behold. Giant crosses are resting against the walls. A mannequin’s head holds the Crown of Thorns, which stands next to the purple robe and burial cloth. Costumes hang in rows on coat racks, ranging from browns to greys to shimmering pink. Our backdrop is a rolling cube which allows us to easily change between 4 different backgrounds for the scenery. All of it is very simple but effective.
We have no idea who will show up for this production. Last semester, we set chairs for an audience of 50, and ended up adding another 30 chairs to accommodate the crowd. But that was a Friday night, and we had to go with Thursday evening this semester. We are all wondering if families will skip soccer practice or forget about it being a school night and turn their hearts to the story of the Passion? I’ll let you know how it goes, but for now, I guess I will rely on the Holy Spirit to fill our room. All for Jesus, Mary & Joseph!
I sat in the most amazing meeting this morning. I was invited to attend because I help coordinate a program that is held at this church on a weekly basis. The meeting was the “Leadership Forum” which included one person representing each church ministry and one person representing each oversight responsibility for running the church facility. I didn’t quite know what to expect since I am not a member of this specific congregation.
However, I did come with a lot of baggage about meetings because I have worked in corporations, not-for-profits, health care, small business and consulting. I generally cannot stand meetings because often there is no agenda and no accountability or the people running the meeting have a different agenda than what is listed on the agenda which becomes apparent during the meeting. I basically dread attending a large group “meeting.”
That’s why I was so thrilled by this meeting with this group of people. First of all, they stuck to their agenda. What was listed, they discussed. Second of all, they actually knew how to dialogue with each other. If someone brought up a problem or situation, everyone truly listened and then made helpful suggestions or offered ideas. If one person had not thought of that perspective, he thanked the other person for bringing that to the group’s attention. No comment was ignored. No eyes rolled. No undertones or hidden agendas that I could perceive (and I am pretty good at hearing/seeing/feeling those things.)
Also, there was an amazing amount of humility on the part of each person in the room. When they shared their results, it was never about themselves. They mentioned all the people who helped make this happen. But their results were tremendous! Remember, I was an “outsider” at this meeting, but they made it a point to help me see that my input was just as important since I used their facility.
It is no surprise that this church is growing in membership each month. If you spend time with their leadership, you see that they are truly servants. “For who is the greater: the one at table or the one who serves? The one at table, surely? Yet here am I among you as one who serves!” (Luke 22:27) It’s almost like they take the Gospel seriously and live it each day, even in meetings! What a novel idea.
Have I mentioned we are doing a Passion Play and that my son has the part of Jesus? I also have children playing the parts of St. Peter, St. John, one of the Weeping Women of Jerusalem and the Narrator. I am the Stage Manager, which basically means no one else wanted the job, especially since it entails hauling wooden crosses, backdrops, props and costumes. I am so thankful that God has blessed me with my minivan!
Speaking of my minivan, today I evangelized to a couple thousand people in about 2 hours. How? Well, all you have to do is strap some huge crosses onto the top of your minivan and drive down a highway around rush hour. Then, you discover that the bridge is closed because of a “crane” accident, and you take an hour-long detour with all your fellow commuters. Finally, when you have made it across the river on a different bridge, you find yourself on a detour of a detour! Yes, the route I selected detoured me again because of another street closing. Basically, God allowed me to ride around our city for a solid two hours with people looking at us, and pointing, and some even honking. Because I am optimistic, I think those honks were in support of Jesus.
Meanwhile, my son who will be on the Cross next week during our Passion Play, had to carry the base of his cross because it would not fit anywhere else in the car. At one point, he had nails digging into his skin. He became very uncomfortable. I really felt his pain and tried to help the best I could while navigating stop-and-go traffic. But the base is very heavy, and we didn’t know there were nails in the bottom, plus there wasn’t much I could do to help except be in his pain with him, like the Blessed Mother was with Jesus.
I have to say that seeing your son dying on a Cross is a very emotional moment. I am curious how his father/my husband will do when he sits in the audience and sees this for the very first time on the evening of our live performance. I hope he has a hanky with him!