Category Archives: life

Anniversaries

My novice classmate, sister, and friend Chero reminded me that yesterday was the 11th anniversary of our first profession of vows.

So much had happened since then: four years of social justice ministry, two and a half years of graduate school, and now four and a half years of community ministry on the leadership team. Many moves. And so much in between!

This morning, as I walked down the stairs in my pajamas to get my morning coffee, I remembered that today is the 3rd anniversary of the fire at St. Michael Villa, our regional center where I happen to live. While we are back in our corner of the house that received less smoke damage, we are anxiously anticipating the reopening of the main house soon. Lots of losses and discoveries and moves to temporary housing since waking up to a very real fire alarm.

Both memories lead me to give thanks for the gifts of community and belonging.

The past eleven years have been filled with so much love in action.

Prayers, hopes, and dreams shared.

Challenges and disasters navigated together.

Waiting in joyful hope, and maybe a bit of impatience thrown in for good measure.

Invitations and opportunities.

Roadblocks and detours.

Growing together as community for mission.

Finding my voice as a writer and discovering bit by bit my role as a leader.

It is the big moments and the little ones that make up this adventure called life, and God is always in the mix if we care to look.

Perspective

Sometimes we see only what we want to see.

Or our vision is clouded …

by fear or worry or grumpiness or distrust or

[feel free to fill in your own blank].

Maybe we want to see through rose colored glasses,

and so what we see is not quite true.

But sometimes our vision is

recalibrated,

corrected,

refocused,

clear.

Maybe it was a friend challenging us,

or a listening ear,

a lifting of mood,

or simply waking up on the right side of the bed.

Whatever the reason, rejoice!

To see the horizon clearly.

To see bridges as opportunity not obstacles.

To see the tiny beautiful bird in the midst of the mess.

On days when my perspective is clearer I give thanks.

Whatever the cause.

Amen.

Laundromat Lessons

Life circumstances have meant that I have had to go to the laundromat from time to time in recent weeks. I don’t mind. For one thing I get it all done at once. For another, I remember my mom all those years when our washer and dryer were broken and visits to the laundrymat, as I called it, were part of the routine.

Memories flood back from some forgotten place, summoned by the sounds and smells.

Saturdays and weeknights at the laundromat. Plugging coins into the machines. Playing make believe. Helping Mom fold (I am sure she had to refold most of it). Making laundromat friends.

I found myself wondering about those boys and girls I knew as I watched kids bonding amidst the too clean smells and preoccupied adults.

Tag. Tossing a stuffed animal. Conspiratorial whispering. Jumping off the sorting tables until an adult looks up and intervenes. Dancing to the music.

In my memory I played.

But more often I was really more like the little girl across from me now. Self suffcient in her pink tennis shoes and practical ponytail, she observes it all, arms crossed.

What impresses me most of all is the working moms–and dads–filling the car with the laundry on a busy weeknight after a very full day. Then filling the car again with kids and heading to the laundromat to be about the business of life, one load at a time. Rinse. Repeat.

Just like my mom, doing what needed to be done. Day by day.

How we deal with storms

Last summer I had four flight cancellations due to weather, which may explain why I wasn’t too upset when my flight from the west to east coast today was delayed three and a half hours. It was still going and it was a direct flight for me, no connections. No worries.

Of course those with connections were no doubt put out as their carefully constructed plans fell apart. I get that.

But I was fresh off a mini break weekend at the Oregon Coast with a friend I have somehow already known for 28+ years. I was renewed, mostly grumpy free, and a bit zen. I had just watched the choppy waves of the storm one day become beautiful shining waters the next day.

The plane ride itself was uneventful, until, that is, we started our descent just as the sun was setting above the skies and the storms brewing below. Breathtaking.

We landed into mid storm, with lightening strikes and tornado warnings. Ground crew were grounded, so it took awhile to get to the gate. But we were safe.

My positive attitude lasted the next hour while we waited for our bags. Remember those storms? Baggage crews were also grounded, not able to go outside and take our bags off the plane.

Bags started finally to come out of the gate and make their run around the circle. Bags from Aruba and Chicago, but none from Portland. Then the bags stopped their ride around the belt, and no new bags appeared. For quite a while. Admittedly, my positive attitude had lost some of its shine by now. But there was bonding with the other passengers. Two of us embarked on fact finding missions. And one or two walkie talkie messages later and magic … bags!

Storms come, and sometimes a grumpy or angry response is warranted and appropriate. But other times going the grumpy annoyed route just makes you grumpier. How we approach the storms of our lives makes a difference it seems.

And of course it always helps to be coming off of a three day weekend of friendship, fun and fabulous walks on the beach.

Morning prayer (in early spring)

Morning sunshine beckons:

Sit here a while on the back steps.

Birds singing their hopeful song-

Spring is (maybe) here.?!

In other parts of the world near and far the hope seems farther away. Bombs dropping, visits to the oncologist or a family member in detention. Life.

The birdsong fades as police sirens sing in the distance.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Peace. Hope. Mercy. Love.

Pain and promise, mixed in this thing called life.

And the sun continues to shine.

The birds sing louder.

And I hope.

Unexpected Moments

I made my way to an anticiated appointment today, only to find that the other person got her days mixed up and was otherwise occupied.  This was after a day of suprprises, and not the kind you look forward to or enjoy.

But it was also a beautiful day. I had free time in my schedule, and I had already driven out to a beautiful rural area of central New Jersey for my appointment.

So I asked google where I might go for a nice walk in the woods and did just that.

Exactly what the doctor ordered this autumn day!

Sometimes the unexpected moments are the ones we really need.

One Year Ago

One year ago today I woke up to a fire alarm indicating a real, actual, and very scary fire here at St. Michael Villa. No one was hurt, thank God, but life was and continues to be disrupted here on the campus.

Tomorrow we will be having a small mass of thanksgiving, with some of the first responders as our guests. I will never forget that in our shock that morning, huddled in the gym of the building next door, it was the Chief of Police who asked if we’d like to pray and led us in the Hail Mary.

I am also painfully aware of all those in California who are facing flames and the aftermath. Praying for their safety and for peace of mind and heart in the days and months ahead.

Travelling Grace

FairhavenFrom our founding years, my religious congregation has been geographically spread across wide distances.  In January 1884 we were founded in the Diocese of Nottingham, England.  By November 1884 our sisters had expanded to serve immigrant Irish women and the visually impaired in the Diocese of Newark, New Jersey across the pond.  And by 1890 our pioneer sisters were invited to the Pacific Northwest to open a hospital which would serve the mining and timber communities in Bellingham, Washington.

 

On one of my last whirlwind trips from New Jersey to Seattle, one of those squeezed between commitments on opposite coasts with barely a moment to breathe, I found myself lamenting the fact that our three centers are 3,000 miles apart from each other.  As an elected leader who wants (and needs) to spend time with our sisters and associates in all three regions of our Congregation, I was tired in that moment.

But as I sat there complaining, I reaching an aha moment of wonder.  I don’t have to take a train or a boat or send telegrams or letters that must also travel by train and boat.  I can make a phone call or send an email or even better meet with one of my UK sisters via video conferencing and take a six or eight hour flight and physically be present with my CSJP sisters and associates.  We are so connected as a CSJP family, even across the miles, … pure grace!

There is of course the physical and mental wear and tear of travel, made more complicated by our security responses to a wounded and weary world. I have become a wee bit obsessed with effective packing and the benefits of quality luggage … packing cubes being my latest discovery!  I’m now trying to be more intentional about bringing what I need, and no more, while still looking presentable.  Then there’s the effort to make sure you have your electronics and the files you need for x and y meeting.  It’s an effort, even with the benefit of modern airline travel.

But it is also sheer grace that, after I head on a plane this evening in the Newark airport, I will wake up tomorrow in Birmingham, England, just a short drive from our sisters in Leicestershire.  I will breathe in the air that our founders breathed.  I will rub shoulders and share tea with our UK sisters and associates.  I will experience their gracious hospitality, enjoy their warmth, and share my own presence.

Travelling grace indeed!

And as I prepare to travel to reconnect with my CSJP family, I think of and pray for families separated by miles. Those who are do not have the proper documentation to visit an ailing family member across the border.  Those forced to flee their homes in the dead of night after a drone attack or bombing.  Those who leave family and seek to find a job in a foreign land to be able to send money home.  So many families, separated by the miles.  So much to be grateful for, so much to pray for, in our human family.

Birthday Musings

This morning I woke up another year older,

Wiser hopefully, as time goes by and experience + lessons learned make an impact. 

There is what I thought I knew, what I have learned, and that giant category of what is still mystery beckoning.

I am richer in relationships and connection to be sure. Pure gift.

This year my birthday coincides with the number attributed to the man presently in the white house.

My birthday wish upon waking was that he might focus on building common ground, promoting the common good and peace.

A girl can dream, especially on her birthday.

Most of all I am just grateful. For community, friends, and family near and far. For gifts given and received. For life.

Gratitude

Things I find myself especially grateful for this Thanksgiving morning, in no particular order.

The gift of life itself … Think about it, we get to live and breathe and smell pumpkin pie baking in the oven and laugh with friends and family and maybe drive each other a little crazy and hopefully do something productive in the middle and love people and be loved and go to sleep and wake up and spend yet another day experiencing the gift of life.

I am grateful for community. My world has been rocked a bit lately, what with accompanying a dear friend on her cancer journey and then our motherhouse caught fire and I have been displaced ever since and then my dear friend died and we pulled together to give her an amazing send off (in a local parish since we cannot use our chapel due  to fire damage)  then too all the regular stuff of life and leadership in community. When I end my day looking back in prayer, I am filled with wonder at the ways community supports and challenges, comforts and empowers me to keep on going on and continuing to face the future together as peacemakers in gratitude and hope. Such gift.

I am grateful to family and friends, mostly far and some near, who I know love me and send good vibes of love and support and are there if I ever need them. More phone calls are coming soon I promise.

I am grateful for our system of government, for checks and balances and ways to participate in democracy. I am grateful for the model and witness of nonviolent peacemakers like Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King and Thomas Merton and my Sisters of St Joseph of Peace and my mother Eileen and countless others. They faced evil and oppression head on and countered it with love in action and solidarity with an eye toward the common good and those Jesus loved so well. They started walking the path in their time and our world is a better place for it.  In these dark days I am grateful for their memory and for those who I trust will walk the path with me in our time.

I am grateful for creativity and intellect, for curiosity and compassion, for a passion for  peace through Justice, for God’s sustaining love, for laughter and sadness  and everything in between.

Peace my friends and happy Thanksgiving.