I remember exactly where I was when a plane crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It was a profoundly sad day. It changed lives and an entire nation. I will never forget the unthinkable, unimaginable horror as I huddled around the television watching the ash of innocence unite a country in anguished grief. As the morning went on, the plane crashes went from one to four, each one an almost unrecoverable blow of terror, multiplying devastation into exponential heartache.
A new commitment to patriotism rose like a phoenix out of ashes on that pivotal day. We were less naïve and more united. A surge of civilians stepped out of their air-conditioned offices and into the desert heat to join our military. They traded the comforts of civilian life for the trials of war to ensure freedom.
I don’t doubt the urgency of the call to serve that those newly converted soldiers felt. I was almost eight months pregnant with my first child on 9/11. Things that mattered to me before that day—the décor of the nursery, the name I would choose, decisions about going to work afterward, and finding a pediatrician—were suddenly inconsequential. Somehow, life as we knew it was in jeopardy. My body was full of the promise of life, and the sky was falling. Read more
Sometimes I look at my life, and I don’t know whether hypocrisy or irony is screaming louder. I write about mercy, because I believe whole-heartedly in its power to change lives and, in a broader sense, the world. That is not hyperbole. It is a truth that exists regardless of whether we acknowledge or believe it.
Despite my enthusiasm, doing works of mercy sometimes feels like a struggle. You would think in my zeal, I would embrace them with a “Woo-hoo! Here’s another opportunity for me to serve!” But often my “woo-hoo” sounds more like, “woe is me.”
Frequently the service we are called to do is organic, and, like the produce in the grocery store, organic always costs more. It has always felt easier to serve when I plan for it, choose the capacity, and have had a shower. When someone else’s misfortune interrupts my plans or to-do list, it can be frustrating.
Recently, I took my mom to the doctor, because she was sick. I tried to be peppy about it despite my manic Monday mentality. My mom was pleasant and chatty on the way to her appointment, and, instead of gratitude for her attitude, I begrudged it for being better than mine. After all, I was the healthy one. Why wasn’t I bubbly and bright? Maybe she should have been driving me around! Read more
I was in an existential funk questioning my purpose, God’s plan for me, and the universality of suffering. Someone suggested as a solution that I should be more shallow. While I understood the spirit of love in which it was made, it was a funny thing to hear.
Besides, I’ve tried. I’ve wrapped my self in the superficial that society hawks. But when my closet starts to cram contents together, I am more interested in streamlining than another sale.
I am always telling my boys when they ask to buy something (that they already own four of) that it’s not going to fill them. I tell them God is the only one who can do that. Of course, this does little to discourage their desires. Still, I hope the message eventually settles in.
There’s nothing wrong with having nice things, enjoying a good sale, or a great pair of shoes, but the joy it brings is superficial, unsustainable, and nothing like the satisfaction we get from a relationship with God. Thinking about the work of mercy to clothe the naked, it seems almost archaic considering the number of clothes we all own. I recently visited several thrift stores for an outfit for an upcoming 80s fundraiser, and I was struck by the volume of clothes in these warehouse-size buildings. It was astounding. And while I understand that there are many areas in which this work of mercy still applies, such as a woman fleeing an abusive relationship, families who lose everything in natural disasters, poor families who can’t afford to replace their children’s outgrown clothes, and the homeless who lack proper shoes or jackets, I can’t help but think of clothing the naked on a deeper level. Read more
The work of mercy that most embodies parenting is to instruct the uninformed. Only it took me a while to figure out that maybe it was me, the mama, who needed the most instruction.
From the earliest days of motherhood, when I frantically thumbed through pages of parenting books in the dark of the night in a desperate attempt to find a way to coax my son to sleep, I felt more clueless than confident.
No matter how many books I read, I could never get my son on a nursing schedule, sleep schedule, or a mama-really-needs-a-shower schedule. I had friends who were more successful with following the instructions, and, of course, I resented their efficiency and ease.
I am trying to be a list person. Typically, my lists get left behind on the kitchen counter, or if they are more goal-oriented, require me to breathe into a paper bag. Instead, I am a do-one-hard-thing-a-day-and-act-peppy-about-it kind of girl. Read more
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? Thought it sounded cool?
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
“Reunited and it feels so good,” are lyrics from the 1978 song by the vocal duo, Peaches & Herb. But upon returning a stray dog, the lyrics that played to the song’s melody sounded more like, “Reunited, and it feels like crud!”
It was far from peachy.
When I found the elderly dog, he was thin, filled with fleas, and uncharacteristically aloof for his breed. After twenty minutes of convincing him I wasn’t a serial killer, he reluctantly succumbed to my coaxing him into the backyard. Within minutes he escaped and sat stubbornly in middle of the road. I directed cars to drive around us while begging him to follow me. Perhaps, the dog binge-watched Criminal Minds before running away, because he clearly knew the finer points of stranger danger. After getting him into the backyard for the second time, I jammed logs in the passage in the gate he eluded, creating fine fence folk art that I am sure would become the envy of my neighborhood. Then I went back inside to post his picture on lost-dog websites. Read more
Guess who has a birthday coming up?! No! Not Beyonce! Well, okay she does, but I am not talking about her or any other celebrity born in September — Pippa Middleton, Gwyneth Paltrow, Keanu Reeves or Harry Connick Jr.
Mercy me! I am talking about my own birthday!
As it turns out, I am not going to be 40 forever. Who knew? Read more
I admit I am not used to winning awards. Sometimes if I am having a really bad parenting day I will give myself the Worst Parent in the World award. Other than that, the last time I can remember getting an award was in high school when I got Most Improved in PE II. Really, I did. It felt like a back-handed compliment to go with that back-hand serve I knew nothing about — a dubious honor memorialized with a certificate. Read more