Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gray Hair = Tough

  Any time I find myself taking life too seriously, our loving Creator throws a zinger in just to shake me up. Today I found myself worrying about mudslides, earthquakes and any other number of catastrophes I can't possibly do anything about or protect my kids from, when I was confronted by one of our five year old martial art students.
  He was staring up at me as I held a heavy bag which we use for them to practice kicks on. The heavy bag saves my shins from a number of bruises and possible broken bones. I showed him how to throw kicks on the bag and then held it for him to do. While I tower over the bag, his head just barely comes up half way on the bag, so he was looking straight up as we worked. 
  "What's your name?" 
  "Mrs. Simmons."
  "You have gray hair!"
  "Yes, I do."
  Pause, kick twice, "That means you're old!"
  Pause, keep from kicking him back, "Hmmm, I don't think it does."
  Keeps, kicking, "Oh, yeah, it does."
  "Why do you think that?"
  "My mom says old people have gray hair."
  "So does your mom color her..." I stopped myself before I even began that question, it was Lent after all and instead replied  "It means I'm tough, that's what gray hair means!"
  He gave me one of those looks when kids are trying to decide which adult they should believe, their parent or the tall lady who he has seen kick this bag in front of him really hard.  Finally another student broke in rescuing both of us before we either of us got really nasty.
   And I was tough, tough enough to realize God was trying to redirect my thoughts into helping this five year old learn his kicks, and maybe a few manners, instead of spending my time worrying about the things I can't change.  Hopefully I could change this five year's thoughts on us gray haired people, we're a tough bunch you know!


Thursday, March 20, 2014

How Is Lent Going?

   So we're not quite to the middle yet, but how is your Lent going? Many of you might have thought I decided to give up blogging for Lent, but in fact my writing has just gotten a little edged out these days. Lent in our parish is usually taken up with preparing our high school freshmen for Confirmation. It's a wonderful time of year to help them prepare to receive a sacrament because we are surrounded by reminders of our faith on a daily basis during Lent, Stations of the Cross, fasting and abstinence days, prayerful retreats, and more chances for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It's also a time for me to remember to just put everything in the Lord's hands and know things will work out.
  This year, because of our Church renovation, we must move our Confirmation ceremony Mass to our school gym.  This is a slight disappointment to our Confirmation crew because it's just not the same receiving a Sacrament in a gym setting as it is in our Church.  But we've been working on decorating and trying to bring it all together.  Those of you who decorate gyms on a regular basis understand what I mean.
  It's brought me to a place in both my faith and my vocation as a mom to really have to let go of things I cannot control.  I can't control us not being in Church, so we must make the best of being where we are. I also learned this week that my married daughter living almost 2,000 miles away has the flu and I can't be nearby to bring soup or Kleenexes to her either. So in both these things I must "let go and let God".  Truly a Lenten challenge for me.
  I pray that during this Lent you can also "let go and let God."  It's not so much an act of resignation as it has been sharing. I can only do so much as a human being, and somehow God is helping me understand and be patient with that idea.  I pray you can find that too during this Lent.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


   Am I the only one not looking forward to Lent?  I have to admit working in a church office, it seems like Lent happens a lot. I know it's only once a year. Perhaps it's because I am surrounded by well meaning publishers pushing whatever books, leaflets, bulletin blurbs they have available for us to use during Lent, or it's the retreats, workshops, and many, many more suggestions for Lent to make available to parish members that we advertise in our bulletin, hall and website that are making me weary.
  I feel like a complete Catholic failure when by the time I get to Lent I am exhausted with the idea of "doing" Lent!  Shame on me, I know.  I think I stated once before I feel like the 'black sheep' of the office staff because sometimes I don't 'get it' with everything Catholic all the time.
  So forgive my weariness. I am reminded that Jesus, too, grew weary with his Lent, His Passion of the Cross. He fell down three times. I know I fall a lot more, but I always know I can count on the fact that He did it too to help me get back up and face whatever sorrow, hurt or depression that is going on in my life.
  So don't get me wrong with I say I really dislike Lent. Because I LOVE Holy Week. Which may sound weird, but I love the readings, the walking with Jesus through the Garden, admonishing his friends to stay awake and watch out for temptations.
  I don't enjoy fasting on Friday, but I love Good Friday service. There is a song my sister-in-law and I do almost every year on Good Friday. It is called "The Pieta" and is written by Tom Kendzia.  It is Mary's Song of the Crucifixion.  It's hauntingly soft theme is about Mary asking us to come with her and see what our sin has done to her Son, the Lamb of God. It is so beautiful that every year it is hard for me to sing, because as a mom I envision myself standing there in front of my dying son. It reminds me again of Jesus love for us and Mary's love too because she once again says, 'yes' to Jesus. She didn't scream and holler, she accepted what Jesus accepted.  As a mom I cannot imagine not yelling at the soldiers, doing something to make them stop. But Mary knew in her heart that what Jesus was doing, He had to do.  It's a powerful thing to realize she knew He had to die.  What beautiful faith Mary has in her son. And what strength she had to have to wait there, watching, praying, loving her son.
  So maybe this Lent I can keep that in mind and realize that all of Lent is preparing for that moment of Jesus on the Cross and knowing I too have to say 'yes' to the sacrifices, and offerings up we try to do. Because Jesus died for me and for you. And He chose to do it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Community of Prayer

Right now our parish’s prayers have been with a very special family whose son was involved in a very bad car accident the first week of January this year.  It was horrible, slick roads, head injuries and now not knowing if he will ever recover.

As a mom, my heart was just broken for his parents.  Each day drags on, trying to see if he responds to anything, feeding tubes, trach tubes, iv’s everywhere. The mere list of terminology is so overwhelming, all the family can do is pray.  And our parish has joined them in prayers. Not a day goes by someone doesn’t mention his name in the daily Mass petitions.  Families have pitched in to babysit the other youngsters at home, help with homework and school lessons, make and deliver meals to them, visit the hospital, the care center. Recently we’ve had bake sales to help with the ever mounting bills.  And through it all, the parents must sit and wait.

I’ve been through this myself in my family, when my brother and his wife almost lost their baby.  They were five months along in pregnancy with this seventh child, when suddenly contractions began and she was coming. The doctors could not stop labor and gave her very slim chances of surviving, much less survive with no lasting disabilities.

But now at 6 years old, she is a beautiful little girl, learning how to write and do her math problems.  At birth she went in an incubator for four months, wrapped in plastic wrap because even her skin had not yet developed when she was born and her eyes were not ready to open.

Our parish banded together, sending meals to them, my parents babysat the other six kids so Dad could keep working and Mom could be at the hospital as much as possible, talking with their baby girl so she would know she wasn’t alone.  Meals, cleaning house, taking care of the other kids, all helped, but most of all prayer, it was prayer that lifted them up.

Now, our parish is banding together again, in such beautiful ways to help, to listen, but most importantly to pray.  That is what our faith is about, a community of prayer. When kids tell me they like to pray on their own, alone, I tell them that’s all well and good, but they need their community of faith. Our prayers bonding together, helping, lifting each other, knowing we are not alone and that we are surrounded by people who care about us and want to help.  That is what our faith is about, what belonging to a community is about.

Monday, February 3, 2014

New Year's Resolution: Looking At the Crosses We Bear

  My newest resolution this year:  More chocolate, less angst!  Self imposed angst that is, some of it we can't help!  "bear a cross without grumbling"  Ack!  Why is this so hard sometimes?!!
  I'm reminded of Cardinal Dolan who talked about our crosses in his book:  “To Whom Shall We Go?

Right now I’m reading the chapter on Embracing the Cross. It couldn’t come at a better time. You know how it seems like even though you are trying to do things right in your life, everything is going wrong?
   Just yesterday I was musing to God, kind of like Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof does. You know, complaining to God, asking why everything has to keep going wrong all the time, why can’t I get a break. Then I sit down to read some of Archbishop Dolan’s book and begin the Cross chapter.

   That darn golden two-by-four as my hubs calls it, hit me in the head when I read this: “Our Lord could not be more forthright in telling us that the Cross has to be part of discipleship. Why are we so surprised then, when it comes?”
   Ouch, he was right. Why am I so surprised when my cross really gets heavy or seems to increase into several crosses. I read further;

Jesus told us it would come. As a matter of fact, when the Cross comes into your life, I propose that it means you’re doing something right. You’re on the right track. You’re actually following our Lord, because He told us the Cross would come.”
   Now I am picking myself up off the floor because I had just been crabbing at God about how He treats His friends and I thought I was a friend. Here Archbishop is telling me, duh, why do you think you HAVE this cross?  Because you ARE friends. “ All of our complaints, our distresses are just different words for the Cross.” Then, lest we think, “Well, it would just be easier if I didn’t follow Christ, if I just kind of forgot I knew about the Church and the sacraments, “ he goes on to say,

                The Cross comes to everybody, whether they are disciples of Christ or not. Everyone experiences the Cross in the simple, ordinary adversities of life.
   So, I guess I had better stay friends with Jesus because at least I know he listens and give me comfort through the words of scripture and the sacraments. I always feel better when I’ve gone to confession and confessed being grumpy with the Lord about my cross!

Friday, January 24, 2014

It's Like Beating Your Head Against A Wall

  I truly wonder how God doesn't give up on us. I mean, time after time He must rescue us from our sins, forgive us and bless us. I imagine He must shake His head every time and say, "She still hasn't learned this lesson." sigh... "Let's try this again, Lisa!"
  I say this because sometimes I don't learn my own lessons, the ones I try to teach to myself. For example, every week I must push an open cart carrying our Sunday bulletins in an open carton over to Church to be given out for the weekend. I've had this job now for over six years.  I've carried them over in rain or shine, cold or heat.  For the rain I cover the box with an umbrella or better yet a clean garbage bag.  But there is something about windy days that does not sink into my graying head.
  Windy days are the bane of my existence. I swear! I really dislike them. Now I love the breeze, I love the rising wind before a storm rolls in, the almost gale force breezes off the ocean while sitting on the beach. But a plain ole windy day in Southeast Missouri drives me to insanity.
  Especially when it comes to carting my bulletins to the church.   I think it has something to do with the subtle way mother nature does it. She thinks it's funny to watch me look out the door, see nothing going on weather wise and begin my journey down the ramp from the office building, blithely on my way.  Then I hit the end of the ramp which also ends the protection of the building and all heck breaks lose. If I haven't remembered to secure my kite-like cargo, it's off fluttering away and I'm making a mad dash doing a really good scene that would have worked in an "I Love Lucy" show.  Papers flying everywhere, bulletin inserts coming apart and sticking to the ground.
  Try as I might, I can't possibly keep a hand on the remaining bulletins in the box and catch all the ones in the air or pick up the ones waiting on the ground. 
  And this has not happened just once to me. Today marked the third time I fell for what looked like calm air.  The sun was shining, though the temperature was hovering right at 15 degrees. I only wore my hoodie because I'd been running all over the parish campus all morning and was warm. I escorted my cargo down the ramp and wham, the wind hit it and an instant the air was full of whirling papers.
  Only this time it got really bad. Bulletins began flapping through the air across the street, down the next block. I ran inside and screamed for help from my office mates. They came running and it took us quite a few minutes to retrieve bulletins from down the alley and the block.
  My fingers were beet red from the wind and my fingernails broken from scratching up paper from concrete. I was exhausted!
  All my office companions could do, beside laugh at me was say, "Have you STILL not learned this lesson, Lisa?"
  "No," I shake my head, "but I guess I was spreading the Good News!  And it was Gone Like the Wind!"