The Serenity Prayer and the Ice Queen

Often, I feel like Queen Elsa in the 2013 Disney film, Frozen, with let it go repeating in my head like a scratched record or a warped mix tape warbling words of what has got to be the greatest three-word sentences in the history of ice queens.

Let it go. 

Life can feel like an avalanche of situations outside of our control.  Other than our reaction to things, we don’t get a say in much.  Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t have much to say, only that we don’t get to decide who listens, cares, or jams earbuds in their earholes when we speak.   Despite my awareness of how much I need to let go of Every. Single. Day. I don’t want life to be merely a series of reactions to outside events.  I want to be deliberate about what I let go of and what I strive to change.

Long before Elsa retreated to the ice castle, there was American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, who wrote the Serenity Prayer.  I know he wasn’t royalty, didn’t have a 3-centimeter waist, and couldn’t turn people to ice with the flick of his wrist, but he did write a pretty good prayer. Read more

Advent, Pink, and Happy News!

I was picking up throw pillows off my living room floor last week.  (I don’t have toddlers but I have teenagers and there is a multitude of similarities). Anyway, I turned around from my pillow-pick-up and looked out the window to see a pink sky.  To my surprise, there was a rose-colored glow on everything: the grass, trees, pavers – all of it.  Pink.    It was beautiful and eerie and made me feel as if the world had stopped and Jesus had come. Not long after that, the pink had faded into gray and torrential rain followed.  Still, I kept thinking about the way the sky’s color palette changed from ordinary to awesome in what seemed like an instant.  It reminded me of our faith journey.

Sometimes in our faith walk, it feels like we travel alone. Others may know our troubles but they don’t understand every notch and groove of the crosses we carry, nor do we theirs.  As such, it is important to always practice compassion and take comfort in the mercy we are offered along the way.  Our walks look different.  Sometimes it’s the longing for a child, the reconciliation of a marriage, a better job, the healing of a loved one, unbearable grief, or addiction.  Regardless of what it looks like, it requires the perseverance of faith.

For years, I wanted to publish a book about mercy.  I wanted to write the book I needed to read but could not find.  I pursued it. I experienced painful rejections, the almost but not quite, the close doesn’t count, and the dogged doubt that told me to quit.  For some time now, that has been a part of my faith walk.  Alone, in the dark, unsure, but trying to trust, I practiced patience and surrender, and above all, mercy. I persevered.  Without mercy, I never could have kept going.  It told me that it was okay to try.  It taught me to love myself, not what others thought of me or my work.  It reminded me that something far greater than earthy desires await.  So, I trudged on, trusting that I would know when it was time to quit.  I waited, sometimes even hoped, to get that message to move on.  Yet, through Gods strength, I always managed another day.

Then, on an ordinary Wednesday, a publisher offered me a book deal.  Just like that.

The walk that for so long felt cumbersome, lonely, and uncertain was over.  The longing was no more.  The wait ended.  The sound ceased to be an echo.  The darkness receded.  I had my pink sky.  There aren’t really words to describe what this meant to me, all the countless ways that I looked back and saw how God had intricately thread the tapestry of my journey. Every stitch was intentional. Every time I held on by a thread, he held me up.  I could finally see his pattern that once seemed so haphazard.  I think of all the people he sent at just the right time to keep me going, to encourage, to embody hope, and I am overwhelmed by the goodness of it all.  Yet more than anything what strikes me is how in one instant everything can change.  We walk in faith.  We trudge along.  We believe. We doubt.  We fall down.  We get up. Sometimes it’s awful.  Sometimes it’s hopeful.  And then, in the instant of his perfect timing, one walk ends and another begins.  It’s like Christmas day on an ordinary Wednesday.

During the third week of Advent, we celebrate Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for rejoice. While Advent is a penitential season of expectant waiting and preparation for the coming of Christmas and the second coming of Christ, on Gaudete Sunday, we celebrate the joy of God’s redemption.  With only a week of Advent to go, we pause and rejoice all that awaits. “Rejoice in the Lord, always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let all men know your forbearance.  The Lord is at hand,” (Philippians 4:4-5).  As such, we switch from lighting purple candles on our advent wreath to lighting pink.

Pink is the color of joy.  It is the fulfillment of the promise of our faith.  Sometimes it’s the color of the sky reminding us of the miracles in nature.  Sometimes it’s the color of our cheeks when we are flush with joy.  Sometimes it’s the color we have longed to see for far too long.  The color that shows up one day as the embodiment of a dream.  Right now, it is my favorite color of all.

May it be yours too.

This is me signing the book contract! I know I should have dressed for the occasion or at least gotten out of my pajamas. But, seriously, I didn’t care what I looked like, I was too happy! I felt like Tim Tebow must have during one of his many signing ceremonies (only not as good looking, and with a needy dog on my lap, and readers in my hair, and coffee instead of champagne, and morning dishes surrounding me, and my husband as my paparazzi). Still, it was messy, wonderful, and perfectly pink.

FOMO and the Season of Advent

Just days ago, I spent the day giving thanks.  It wasn’t a restful day, but it was full of food, family, and a dance party with my nieces where I got to be the star Rockette.

Then, in a flick of a leg, it ended — the spirited kicks, the gratitude, and that content feeling that I had everything I need.  I know that’s not why they call it Black Friday but it seems apt that all the products they try to sell can make us feel as dark and empty as a turkey with no stuffing.

How strange it is to go from counted blessings to conspicuous consumption in just a day.  Stranger still, that it’s done in the name of Christ.  After all, he never owned much during his time on earth.  Jesus was concerned with miracles, not the material.  He shared compassion not coupons.  He wasn’t about making the deal.  He was the real deal.  That’s why we celebrate the gift of his birth.

But popping out of a day of thanks like a rogue jack-in-the-box, we are bombarded with glossy ads, lowest prices of the season, rebates, cyber sales, steals and deals, and all the promising thrills the hustle and bustle buys.

It’s exhausting and expensive and it’s what I do.  The season of Advent hasn’t even started and I already feel more harried than merry.  Even when I am not looking for anything in particular to buy, I am afraid not to look, because what if I miss out on something? As such, I have diagnosed myself with FOMO (fear of missing out).  I’m thinking this is a legitimate diagnosis since there is an acronym for it.

As it goes, I fear that if I don’t click on the link or the email or the buy button, then I am going to miss out on some “deal of a lifetime.”  My life will spiral out of control if I spend two more measly dollars than necessary to buy something.  My children won’t go to college. We will be financially ruined.  The Elf on the Shelf will mock me.  My nieces will find another star Rockette. Read more

Birthday Lessons for Everyday Life

I just celebrated another birthday.  Besides wilting skin, the imaginary birthday girl tiara on my head, and the presents I intend to buy myself, I think of the song Birthday by the Beatles on my 365th day of orbit around the sun.  Anthony Michael Hall sings it to Molly Ringwald in the film, Sixteen Candles.  “They say it’s your birthday, well it’s my birthday too, yeah!”

Whether it’s your birthday too, or just another day when age sixteen feels really far away, there are a lot of lessons birthdays teach.

This is what I learned from mine:

Birthday lists are important:  Every year my husband pesters me to tell him what I want for my birthday, and every year I can’t think of one single thing to get.  Yet, there are many things I want.  I just talk myself out of them because I don’t want to clean puppy pee off the floor.  Birthdays give us a chance to consider what we want.  For many of us, that feels uncomfortable.  Still, it’s important to know what you want in life, because it’s short, and precious, and as far as we know, we only get one shot at it.  What do you want?

Gifts are great: Who doesn’t like opening presents?! It’s so fun to size up the box, give it a little shake, and then rip the pretty paper off that is suffocating the thoughtful gift inside. I haven’t always thought of my life as a gift.  I have taken it for granted, given away too many days to sour thoughts and staid reflections.  But, birthdays remind me to give gratitude to the ultimate gift-giver.  I always try to offer thanksgiving to God, but on my birthday, I am especially humbled by his goodness.  I see the gift of each day: the sorrows, joys, trials, and the spaces in between.  All of it, a gift.  All of it inspires me to try to be a gift to others. Read more

Lessons from my dog: Let it be

I love my dog.  I know that’s about as interesting as one of those stick family decals on the rear window of a mini-van.  It even sounds like something you might read on a bumper sticker.

This isn’t about bumper stickers though, but rather bumping along in life with worries that ping-pong around like reckless cars weaving through traffic.

Gus, is a faux-lab we adopted when he was a year old.  I call him a faux-lab because he doesn’t like the water.  This baffles me because his breed seems almost amphibious.  He had been at the shelter for six weeks before we adopted him.  I am not sure if that had anything to do with the sign on his kennel which read, “I eat blankets.”  Since I like to hide underneath blankets when the world feels too wonky, I figured our shared affinity for bed covers might make a good match.

When we brought him home from the shelter, Gus was as shiny and black as a baby grand piano with dazzling white teeth as his keys.  He is nine-years-old now.   His muzzle is gray and his teeth aren’t quite as glossy.  He doesn’t eat blankets, but he’s always there when I need one.  The longer I have him the more grateful I am for his unconditional love and the uncanny way he completes our family.

The more I realize how dear this dog is, the more I worry about my next dog.  I lament that I won’t be able to find another dog as perfect, that I won’t even like any other dogs, that when the dog I have dies I am going to adopt 10 more cats to add to the two I have and just call my life a dog-gone disaster with a dozen litter boxes to clean.

Breaking from my catastrophic thinking I wonder why I can’t just enjoy right now.  Why am I wasting time trying to write a future when the only thing I can author is my present?  Why is it that the more I know what I have the more afraid I am to lose it?  Why can’t I be like the Beatles and just let it be?

Let it be. 

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Catholic Church Sex Abuse Cover Up: Time to Go

I wasn’t going to write about the unconscionable cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. I don’t have anything nice to say.

I am angry and it feels horribly unnatural to be angry at the church that I love. But the church I love doesn’t molest children and certainly would never cover it up and let victims multiply exponentially to maintain a sham of integrity.

Except they did.

It’s incongruous with the church I know who serves the poor, feeds the hungry, cares for the sick, educates, and indoctrinates. I have spent much of my life surrounded by Catholics.   Like most Christians, they are people who live consciously, generously, and with a fierce commitment to love and serve others.

Trying to reconcile the beauty of my faith with this grave betrayal feels impossible. Yet, I know that all things are possible with God and I pray for healing. I pray for the victims who were violated, shushed, ignored, and invisible to the church who betrayed them. I pray for those who served on the Pennsylvania grand jury who investigated these atrocities and advocated for their exposure foraging a pathway to justice for victims and a forthright accountability of the Catholic Church. I pray for the many good priests who dedicate their lives to the teachings of the church, who follow the rules, and who imitate the life of Christ in their ministry. I pray for Jesus, whose holiness was shamelessly used to facilitate these crimes. I pray for the grace to move past this. Read more

Waiting isn’t the hardest part

Tom Petty sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.”  He captured in lyrics what we know from experience – the agony of the wait.

Last summer I experienced waiting in a completely different way, as hope.  A publisher was considering my manuscript on works of mercy.  We began conversations in June, and she presented the manuscript to her Acquisitions Committee in August.

In the time between, the waiting, I was so excited to have the opportunity.  I felt like everything was coming full circle and that God really did have a plan for me.  I worked hard polishing the chapters and helped put together a marketing plan, but I wasn’t anxious.  Instead, I felt like I was in a pale pink bubble, not made by a fairy-tale godmother, but by God himself.  I was on the cusp of a dream, closer than I ever thought possible.  Instead of feeling like the waiting was the hardest part, I wanted to remain in it.  It seemed too painful to be so close and experience rejection.  For the first time in a long time, I felt genuine hope.  I would have been content to float on that hope for the rest of my life.

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Divine Mercy Sunday

This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday.  Since mercy is kind of my thing, I figure I should write about it.  Only, all I can think of are answers to the question, how did mercy become my thing? Mid-life crisis?  PTSD? Exposure to pesticides?

I have other things I am passionate about including cats, dogs, and color-stay lipstick.  Unlike mercy, those things make sense to me.

For most of my life, mercy felt above me like one of those words at the top of the hierarchy that I could never reach.  It was like the incense used during Holy Days that rose to meet the cherubs at the top of cathedrals.  It was an enigma, because I never took the time to contemplate what it meant, how it’s shown, and its source from which salvation hinges. Read more

Easter Rose

During this Lenten season, I lost a dear friend unexpectedly.  It was a Tuesday, and I planned to go to the grocery store.  Instead, I was in the ER and then the ICU, waiting, hoping, and praying while trying to comfort her two daughters who are the same ages as my boys.  I had so many joyful memories with these girls:  picking blueberries on a hot summer day, watching them bob in the pool, laughing, and splashing with abandon, and chatting leisurely in their kitchen on carefree topics that meandered like the veining in the marble on their island.  We went trick-or-treating with them, hunted Easter eggs, and watched fireworks on the Fourth of July. Read more

God: the Mess We Make

I’ve been on a search for the holy grail of vacuums. This isn’t a new thing. I’ve been at it for years.  Other people travel the world, I buy (and, often return) vacuums.

I guess I am looking for the perfect vacuum that has among its features a desire to actually use it.  So far, all I have had is a longing for clean floors.  A friend of mine lent me one of those robot vacuums.  I figured even I could muster the motivation to try it since it only required me to push a button.

The dog and I suspiciously watched the wayward machine.  It was like a mini R2D2 after a night out at the bars.  It swayed in one direction and then the other, continuously running into things.  I couldn’t help but feel sorry for it.  It was trying so hard. Read more