Here’s to the mundane, the ordinary, and the works of mercy we cannot live without.

Here’s to the mundane, the ordinary, and the works of mercy we cannot live without.

Today I had a thought. A complete thought. And that’s a good thing amidst a million distractions.

Here’s to the mundane.

Here’s to the stuff of earth and all the little things we do — the unspectacular, unexciting needs met for love of God, and love of others. For God notices what we do, even when we forget He is there.

St Therese of Lisieux got it right when she said, “Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.” Therese’s wisdom points to the beauty of the little way.

Every day, I need to pray in the morning: what is God’s will for me now? That’s where my peace is.

Some days there might be brilliant deeds, but honestly, for me, most of them are pretty ordinary.

So here’s to the mundane. Because that’s where He wants me right now.

Here’s to the everyday and to the myriad of things we might do that never get noticed by anyone other than God. They matter.

God’s plan for my life these past few months included countless things that I would not have chosen for myself. Yet God very much intended these activities and places to be on my calendar. Since late spring, I’ve been absorbed in a whirlwind of tending to others’ needs. God has kept me busy.

IMG_2539I have not had a lot of time to write because I have not had time to process it all. It has been much more important to just live it, not chronicle it… staying present to the people I’m with and the tasks I’m given. I sometimes think I place an unrealistic expectation on myself to constantly write about things. Not to mention I’m tempted by the alluring social media zeitgeist of our plugged-in culture beckoning me to come and play and escape for a while. But, for now, I’m not answering.

Yet I wouldn’t be honest if I did not confess that I struggled with acquiring that virtue.

I went through a withdrawal of sorts regarding my unplugged status. For the first few weeks of this shift, I was constantly feeling guilty that I was not producing new material for my writing career… a daily mental nagging that my slow disappearance from my online platforms was hurting my career’s visibility and viability.

The withdrawal period came to a halt when I remembered Who is in charge of everything, from my day’s agenda to my life’s work. My expectations are not his. My ways are not his ways. This became the basis for my relearning how to tune out my own perfectionistic expectations and continue to trust in God’s plan for me. My expectations usually always become worse by media noise — the digital megaphone yelling at me reminding me what I’m supposedly missing every day.

His will equals my peaceIt plots the path for my knowing which way to choose, and what to pack and what to leave behind.

So, here’s to the mundane, to living the hidden life that is oh so necessary.

Hiddenness is an essential quality of the spiritual life. Solitude, silence, ordinary tasks, being with people without great agendas, sleeping, eating, working, playing … all of that without being different from others, that is the life that Jesus lived and the life he asks us to live. It is in hiddenness that we, like Jesus, can increase “in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with people” (Luke 2:51). It is in hiddenness that we can find a true intimacy with God and a true love for people.

Even during his active ministry, Jesus continued to return to hidden places to be alone with God. If we don’t have a hidden life with God, our public life for God cannot bear fruit.

-Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, 1995-

Here’s to the routine earthiness that grounds ordinary life — the roll of the day, the humdrum of what needs to be done. And honing a mature vision to see and act.

Here’s to finding a whispered sense of the sacred in every day… to knowing God is with us wherever we are, whatever we do.

Here’s to trusting God is found in every single person we’re with. Honestly, some days I have had to work harder to see that. But my faith acknowledges it, and right thinking does indeed lead to right action, most of the time.

Here’s to being in the moment with someone who needs me, to being about My Father’s business, to His will, not mine.

Of late, I’ve been caregiving in a variety of ways. I’ve been visiting the sick, clothing the naked, wiping the dirty, feeding the hungry, tackling the moldy and the dusty, driving to the hospital, the nursing home, the physical therapy appointment, and back again. I’ve been smiling at the next step taken with a walker, the graduation to solid food, the progress of wounds closing, and the dosage of pain meds lowering.

It is rather mundane and simple. Routines have to keep going, for the sake of others. I’ve been picking up after others, and tending to the dressing, the laundering, and the meal prep. It has reminded me of my years of hands-on motherhood, but to those I’ve been tending, I am no mother. I’ve been caring for parents who have been dealing with a longterm health crisis and a very slow recovery. Then my husband was unexpectedly sidelined with a back ailment. Then, in the midst of that, over the last six weeks, three of my friends have buried their fathers.

Some days the only good I think I can do is in prayer. But besides the prayer, there is a spiritual motherhood that I’m being called to – that of lifting up the lowly and the depressed, and making the things I serve taste good even if I can’t make the people eating them feel good. It is standing by and staying awake and in between, I’m providing friendship, nurture, coffee, and yes, adult beverages.

I’ve had to do things that I have no taste for either – like reading up on medical issues, prescription dosages, geriatrics, Medicare, financial planning, and wills.

I’ve been conversing, cheering, cajoling, joking, arguing, admonishing, strategizing, and soothing. I’ve been praying, crying, grieving. I’ve been shooting the breeze and swearing a bit too much. I’ve not been getting enough sleep. Yet my fatigue is no excuse for the many times I’ve tripped headlong into the sinful gulch that runs deep alongside the river of my would-be sanctity. I’m not the most patient person. But I’m trying to remember all the times when I was the patient and others were caring for me.

Still, here’s to the mundane.

There is simply holy work that must be done. It is the caring for a family and home, for the sick and for the dying.

The corporal and spiritual works of mercy never really make headlines but they make the world go round. We’d be loveless and lost without them.

When doubting our effectiveness, some days all we can do is offer it all up. It still counts before a Father who sees all and knows all. My stay-at-home-Mom years taught me a valuable lesson when serving… I call it not keeping score. There is a time and a season for everything under heaven. (Eccl. 3:1.)IMG_3063

Today love means tending to the ones most needy and the work most pressing. Right now, that means not much writing for me. There have been a few short respites. I’m watching the calendar pages change. My presence is all that is required for now. Soon there will be time to pick up the things I’ve laid aside temporarily.

Here’s to the mundane.

Here’s to today. God made it. He sees it, knows it and loves it. Everything He makes is good.

Do not be anxious, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.

Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
-Matthew 6: 31-34 rsv-

This makes me think… about my hungry soul…

The prayer that person prays to the best of his ability has great power.

It makes a bitter heart sweet,
a sad heart glad,
a poor heart rich,
a foolish heart wise,
a timid heart bold,
a weak heart strong;
it makes a blind heart see and a cold heart burn.

It draws the great God into the little heart;
it carries the hungry soul upward to God,
the living source,
and brings two lovers together:
God and the soul.

-St Gertrude the Great-

The F.U.N. Quotient… water balloon edition

Here’s a great idea for family and youth ministry fun! It’s a kick-starter campaign you may want to support.

Click: Plano Dad invents something to fill and tie many water balloons at once! 

This makes me think… about how classic hymns can be powerful prayers

This makes me think… about how classic hymns can be powerful prayers

Breathe on me,
Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love,
and do what thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me,
Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until with thee I will one will,
to do and to endure.

Breathe on me,
Breath of God,
till I am wholly thine,
till all this earthly part of me
glows with thy fire divine.

Breathe on me,
Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with thee
the perfect life of thine eternity.

text by Edwin Hatch, 1835-1889

Here’s a music file of the traditional melody.

Why I love Saint Mary Magdalene

Why I love Saint Mary Magdalene

From my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood:

Here’s a vision of hope for every woman stung by bad decisions and the pain of sin. It is the life of St. Mary Magdalene.  First, imagine Mary Magdalene, one of the notorious sinners mentioned in the New Testament, from whom seven devils were cast out. When she met the God of love, she turned from her sins, converted, and lived to love and serve Jesus.

Now, here’s a second picture to envision: At the foot of Jesus’s Cross, the Gospel records that Mary Magdalene stood next to the Blessed Virgin Mary—the woman the Church declares and Mother of God, and John Paul II called “the mirror and measure of femininity” (See Angelus Message, 3, June 25, 1995.)

In the New Testament  [Mary Magdalene] is mentioned among the women who accompanied Christ and ministered to Him (Lk 8:2–3), where it is also said that seven devils had been cast out of her (Mk 16:9). She is next named as standing at the foot of the cross (Mk 15:40; Mt 27:56; Jn 19:25; Lk 23:49). She saw Christ laid in the tomb, and she was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. (Jn 20:11–18)

(Pope, “St. Mary Magdalen ”, New Advent.)

 If Mary Magdalene, with her checkered past, can stand with the Blessed Virgin Mary – the epitome of grace and womanhood – then we all have a chance to do the same. The Blessed Mother is truly the friend and refuge of sinners…

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Catholic Photo Challenge # 5: “Filial trust.” (Or, after Mass in a small town)

Catholic Photo Challenge # 5: “Filial trust.” (Or, after Mass in a small town)

Steve Nelson’s Everything Estaban blog continues to intrigue me with the Catholic Photo Challenge. The theme for this week’s challenge is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“322 Christ invites us to filial trust in the providence of our heavenly Father (cf. Mt 6:26-34),
and St. Peter the apostle repeats: “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you” (I Pt 5:7; cf. Ps 55:23).”

Steve writes:

For this photo challenge, capture a scene or event that expresses joy in a carefree moment. A scene when you, or someone else, is living in the moment, not fettered by worries or needing to be in total control.

Anyway, since I’m caregiving and not really keeping my usual schedule, I had not planned on participating in this current challenge until something unexpected happened after Mass yesterday.  This was a photo I just happened to snap — without even trying to do the challenge… but it just happened to work out that way.

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I attended Sunday Mass at my parents’ parish which is St Joseph the Worker — a combined collaborative of St John’s in Clyde, St Patrick’s in Savannah, and St Michael’s in Lyons, NY. Dad and attended Mass at St John’s today. Since my mother is still in the nursing home getting rehab, I decided to take a few photos of the church for her, since it has been several weeks since she has been at Mass in this church.

After Mass I was busy taking photos of the tabernacle and the major statues very quietly as the church emptied out. As I focused my lens in on the statue of St Joseph, a woman quickly stepped into my frame just as I pushed the shutter. It was not until I looked at this later on, did I realize that this would make a great depiction of “filial trust in the providence of our heavenly Father.”

From top to bottom… within the artistic rendering of the statue we first see Jesus gazing confidently (with filial trust) into the eyes of St Joseph, his foster father. What a model for us!

Then, in the lower portion of the photo we see this darling woman placing her own filial trust in her patron, St Joseph. She prayerfully lights a candle as she trusts Joseph’s spiritual fatherhood — after all, he is the Patron of he Universal Church — with her special intention.

Finally there is the implicit and ultimate to call to you and to me — as stated in CCC 322 above — to trust in the providence of our heavenly Father. St Joseph was the Heavenly Father’s choice and provision for his Precious Son, Jesus. Joseph, the gospel attests, was an upright and just man. He was a humble follower of God whose own filial trust in God allowed him to carry out his vocation as the earthly father of Jesus.

This photo reminds me that both Jesus and Joseph trusted the Heavenly Father to provide for their ultimate good. Those are pretty good endorsements. May we all aspire to such deep and abiding and childlike trust in our Father, “the one who searches hearts (Rom. 8:27)”.

:::

Check out the latest Catholic Photo Challenge, and be sure to read Maria Johnson’s poignant entry too.

On the Road in Wayne County

On the Road in Wayne County

I’m staying with my parents due to my mother’s long hospital stay and her subsequent recovery in a nursing home for rehab. As I travel through the local countryside, I’m pining for a better camera beyond my iPhone 4s. In recent weeks, I’ve been getting to know the highways and byways of this area and taking many photos of this landscape.

Over a dozen years ago, my folks, Jim and Cathy, transplanted themselves from cacophony of downstate Long Island (one of the most densely populated regions of the USA) to the upstate quietude of Wayne County, New York. Situated on the shore of the great Lake Ontario on its northern border, between Rochester to the west and Syracuse to the east, it’s got a varied history as the Erie Canal runs along its southern edge.

My daily drive to the nursing home takes me through farm and orchard country — especially apple orchards. Driving through the backroads, I spy many family farms and commercial growers, Amish and Mennonite homes and farms too. It’s a lot different than the country lanes I usually zip through in New England. 

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Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. — James 5: 7

 

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A few pics from around my parents’ yard…

 

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My Dad's old truck.

My Dad’s old truck.

 

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This is Lilly.

 

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"Good dog."

“Good dog.”

The F.U.N. Quotient… facebook funnies

Both of these made me giggle this week! (Trust me, I needed giggles!)

For you paper lovers out there:

 

Toddler sings the blues: