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!
At Mass today, I couldn’t help but notice her. She sat by herself, nicely coiffed, with her dark black curls fixed just so and her petite size 4 designer clothes immaculately pressed. Her posture reminded me of a ballerina, except that she had a humility that is hard to find in a dancer. I’m guessing that she is in her late 70s or early 80s.
The reason I couldn’t stop seeing her was because she was by herself. Many years ago, when my children were young and I was hopeful to attend daily Mass, she and her two sisters would always stop and talk with us. Over weeks and months, we got to know them better, and they each had their own sweet personalities. They had such a similar look and mannerism that my children may have thought they were triplets. It was like having three Grandmas cooing and adoring my passel of children. Even though they were not related to us, they knew how to love and my family basked in their warmth.
As life goes, we moved away and moved on. We haven’t seen these ladies in years. Today, we went back to celebrate Mass for Mother’s Day with my husband’s mom at her church. That’s why I saw her. So many questions I wanted to ask. Were her sisters still living? I hope they had just moved into a nursing home. Was she the youngest? Did any of them have children? What is life like when your best friends and also your sisters die before you?
As Mass ended, and we headed out the door, I turned to see if she was in the crowd. That’s when another friend and her family spied us and interrupted my thoughts. “Happy Mother’s Day,” she said and gave me a hug. I smiled and hugged her back. When I remembered to look back, my elderly friend was nowhere to be seen. I hope she has a lovely Mother’s Day and may the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.
I would not say I am a risk-taker, but I did choose to throw myself off a 7-story building when I was in high school. It took a lot of courage to do it and here’s why: I was being held only by a rope and spotted by others down on the ground. Of course, I had been rappelling over a few smaller cliffs and had trained to get to this point.
Standing on the ledge of a 7-story building can change your perspective. I wondered if I would really go through with this. I remember the feeling of backing up to the edge of the ledge and realizing that I just had to go for it. Talk about understanding the meaning of trust! I had to trust that I had reliable equipment, knowledgeable instructors and attentive spotters.
At this point, many people would choose to walk away, but not me! There was an added dilemma to this whole ordeal. We were working from a building that the fire department uses for practice on high-rise fires which meant that there were no windows. The building was just a concrete structure with giant holes shaped like rectangles for the windows. I remember my instructor saying, “Just be careful not to swing sideways because you don’t want to swing into an open window hole. That would be bad.” As he is saying this, I am immediately thinking of all the variables that could make that happen, like wind, my trembling hands, and lack of experience. It took a lot of courage, but in the end, I jumped. I followed all the rules that I had learned to safely rappel. When I got to the bottom, I was ready to go again.
This is how it is to trust God’s will for us. Often, we must jump without knowing with certainty how things will land. Isn’t that the definition of faith? Such a simple word, but so hard to put into practice. God will give us the grace we need in those moments, just like I had the equipment and people to help me jump. God has also given us some very wise instruction in His Word (also known as the Bible). God has considered all the variables and knows how to help those work for our good. And when we land safely, we are so happy to know that we have true faith and we are ready to go further, higher, deeper, wider for our good God. And maybe even bring some others along to try it, too!
My education and upbringing really emphasized having a game plan and goals in life. Leadership was presented as being strategic, setting goals, and working your plan. I thought that being a leader would mean having success. What I apparently didn’t spend enough time thinking about was what type of success would really fulfill me as a person. I honestly never took the time to think deeply about “success,” what it was, what it means, or why I should care. Here I was pursuing it, yet not really even sure what I was pursuing.
I share all of this to say that I am experiencing what my wise friend calls “hang time” right now. I went to him for spiritual guidance and he always has just the right example to help me visualize what my real problem is. He talked about the circus, which at first, I must admit, bemused me. I thought to myself, “The circus? Really? What does the circus have to do with this serious issue I am having in my life?” But he explained with patience and kindness: “When the trapeze artist swings from one swing to another, there is a point in time when he has to let go of the first swing, hang in the air, then catch the second swing. He has to trust and have faith that he will be able to grab that second swing.”
Sometimes in life, we are in that moment where we have let go of one thing and are waiting for God to show us what’s next. We have to “suspend” between two things. This feels so unnatural, especially for someone like me who has been groomed to have goals and plans and strategy. It feels like letting go of the steering wheel while driving 100 miles per hour. It feels dangerous! Now, I have long ago worked through my view of success which is probably quite different from a worldly view of it. Money, power, status, and position no longer matter to me. These are passing things that definitely do not bring me fulfillment. I am trying to follow God’s strategic plan which has a much longer vision for me, as in eternal! However, in these moments of “hang time” when I am waiting for the next prompting of the Holy Spirit, it feels like a wasteland and seems to last for eternity, even if it is only a blip on the timeline of my eternal soul.
Our remodeling project is moving along swiftly. The entire kitchen is gutted and looks tremendously large now that it is just studs instead of walls. Tomorrow, we start tearing out a section that will take the roof up about 9 feet. It was a fake drop ceiling over an old bar area. Next, we will demolish a wall which was between the kitchen and bar area. I cannot wait to see the sunlight come pouring in from the giant sliding glass doors off the bar area. What felt closed off will be now airy and spacious!
Also, I have discovered the joy of clearing out old furniture. Craigslist is my new best friend. I have been selling pieces of hodge-podge furniture that we never really bought. We just were given it or it was left with us in the family home. I’ve learned that there are people who are looking for all kinds of furniture (no matter the condition) and they pay cash for it. Lovely!
All of this to say that having less is really feeling nice. Our house felt so cluttered from combining households many years ago. Freeing up space seems to free up my mind and my spirit. I’m really enjoying letting go of these “things”, detaching, and gaining some breathing room. I’m realizing that having order around you does affect you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I think I will plan my new rooms around this concept and see how it feels. So excited to see the results for me and my family.
Being the head of the household must be a challenging job, especially when you have a wife like me. In Ephesians 5, St. Paul makes it clear that just as Christ is the head of the Church, and we are the body, so the husband is the head of the wife. Of course, many people overlook the next verse of this important message. To sum up, Christ loved his Church so much, that he gave his life for them.
I think my husband is much like Christ. He works hard every day at a job that doesn’t necessarily give him warm fuzzies and is surrounded by a materialistic, worldly, self-interested group of people. But he continues and perseveres, always doing the right and honest thing, even if it hurts his paycheck or chances of promotion because he is a man of integrity. That’s why I married him and I hope and pray that never changes.
Now, don’t get me wrong. He grumbles and stresses and worries. He is not perfect, nor am I. At times, he thinks that I am trying to run the show. Honestly, both of us have issues with trying to run our own game plan instead of listening to God’s plan for our life together. So instead of turning to God, we sometimes are like two people in a tug-of-war, feeling as if one or the other is winning or getting their way. God must be looking down at us and just shaking His head. I know how I feel as a parent when my children behave this way, and God loves us more than a parent loves a son or daughter, but I am certain at times He must be amazed at how we choose to use our free will.
A dear friend of mine shared some insight into the life of the Holy Family. I have developed a devotion to St. Joseph because he lived with two people who were like no other on earth, and had the responsibility of being the head of their household. My friend shared that although the Blessed Virgin Mary was without sin, she still deferred to St. Joseph as the head of the household. This made me stop in my tracks. It is making me take a long, hard look at myself and my willingness to serve and be subject to other. I fully understand that marriage is a mutual self-giving, a communion of persons. I just had not realized how much my own pride and will get in the way of fulfilling that ideal of marriage. I need to let go of my plans, listen to God more, and be the helpmate to my husband I am meant to be. Sometimes, this will be a giving up of self and of control. I really don’t like the thought of having to do this, but I will do it out of love.
I’ve been getting a lot of calls lately from close friends, family members and even acquaintances that have an overwhelming need to vent. These calls or conversations last at least an hour or two. If I had to group these conversations into a category, I would name them “mid-life discontent” or something of that nature. I have listened to both men and women who range in age from late 30s to early 50s.
I am a pretty good listener. I really try to understand their perspective. I also try to imagine the other person’s perspective, too. Often times, after listening for a long, long time, what I suggest is not what they want to hear. Why? Because usually it is true and it is hard to do. Believe me, I know this to be true because I have good friends who will listen to me and suggest the wise course, which I sometimes do not want to take!
I called these conversations “mid-life discontent” because my callers are usually not happy about a situation in their lives. Sometimes, it is a result of their choices. Other times, it is a result of their spouse’s choices. Often times, it is because they chose to act before seeking wise counsel or discerning God’s will. In our hurry-up-and-go world full of messages of instant gratification, slowing down and listening and pondering the right choice is not even considered. It seems that we have taken in the lie that we should always be “doing” something versus “being” someone.
I work really hard to be a human “being”. I try not to rush ahead to solve a problem or to accomplish my own game plan before listening and discerning. Sometimes, I am accused of being “lazy” or not being open to a change. That is not so! If only the accusers understood how much self-control it takes for me to slow down, listen and wait!!! It is not in my nature to do these things. It has taken considerable prayer and change for me to get to this point. I like to “do” just as much as anyone, but I have learned the hard way that “being” is much better than “doing.” So, even when I am being confronted for my lack of “doing”, I fall back on prayer and listen to God’s will. It has served me much, much better than my old human “doing”…Now, if I could just get more people to try it!
I seem to have been hit with early spring fever. Today, I cannot stop cleaning and decluttering. I really do not see myself as “attached” to many things, until I have to start making decisions about what stays or goes. I finally hit desperation and called in my youngest two children. “Which of these videos should we keep, and which ones should we get rid of?” I asked them both.
“Ooh, let’s get rid of this Gulliver’s Travels because it was creepy,” said the youngest. Followed by, “But let’s keep this version of Gulliver’s Travels because it may be old, but it’s good,” declared the sibling.
“What? How did we get two versions of the same movie?” I say out loud.
My children suggest we get rid of Dora the Explorer, but I remind them of a friend who visits and loves these movies. We finally find three movies that we all agree that we can get rid of–one of those gift sets from a bachelor uncle-type who thought they were kid movies, but they really were not.
Then very nonchalantly, my dear children actually suggest we get rid of Care Bears. Now, those are fighting words! “I’m not ready to get rid of those yet,” I reply, as I pull each Care Bear video out and sit down to look them over. I am thrown back to a time when my children were toddlers, and goldfish were treats. By the time I look back up from looking back, the children have left the room.
I put the videos back away and move on to the next area to clean. So much for letting go! I sure hope this gets easier as I get older.