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.
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
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.
This prayer was on my heart this last morning of retreat:
I awoke this morning
to the rising sun
and the mist hovering over the waters, just so.
Within me, around me, above me, beyond me.
Mercy upon mercy upon mercy,
grace piled upon grace.
Behold I am always doing something new, says the God of surprises.
Do you not perceive it?
Even when twilight approaches and the clouds pepper the sky
And the trees stand firm and tall as their leaves show off their new bright colors preparing for their downward fall
Even then …
the sun peeks through the tiny spaces to shimmer and make the leaves glow as if from within
while the wind blows through the all of it, adding a symphony of sound to the moment
Even then, I stop in wonder and awe and gratitude, adding my Amen to that of creation
There is so much in the world we do not control. Most of it actually, from whether the sun shines or the rain falls to the political and economic forces that impact our lives to pretty much everything in between.
But my friends we can choose …
We can choose how we choose to act in this crazy mixed up world.
We can choose to smile at a stranger, hug a loved one, or hold that unkind thought without speaking it into the world.
We can choose to add our creative energy to the mix, choose to do what we do best, choose to learn something we don’t know.
We can choose to share and to laugh. We can choose to ask the impertinent questions about unjust structures. We can choose to show up where and when it matters.
Each day, a fresh opportunity to choose to live and to love, no matter how messy it all seems.
What is better than that?
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.
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.