Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pursuing Poverty

No, I'm not talking about credit cards here, I'm talking vocation.

This morning I journaled out a little diatribe to my dearest spouse, a little emotional venting in somewhat of complaining style. That's just how I felt when I got out of bed this morning, and I was blessed with a little quiet time to write. This evening I went to my Adoration hour. As I sat down, I said through my heart that felt weighed on by various and sundry, "Lord, I really want to hear your voice." I hesitated, like one (well, like me) trying to start a conversation, then grabbed my notebook in which I'd written my diatribe this morning. (I'd already thought better than to hand it on to dh as is.) I asked the Lord, "What do you think of this?" As I read it again, I had a very sharp feeling of exactly what the Lord thought of it. I had penned the Lord's thoughts toward me. It boiled down to this sentiment: "We go through life together, but sometimes I feel ignored by you. I want you to share your heart with Me like I matter."

In the quiet of the adoration chapel, I said out loud: "Wow."

I get so busy with nothing sometimes.

So I made a note to self in my same notebook: "Pursue poverty. Seek God's will. Do God's will. Don't do anything else."

It always seems so simple when you write it down.

What does "pursue poverty" mean to me right now? In practical terms, it means to ask God at various times throughout the day, "what do you want of me, Lord?" To examine my duty. To do just that. To set myself not to get emotionally flapped by other things, and to remove other things that suck up my time, causing me to get emotionally flapped and unavailable for the people in my life and my duty. To not waste time moaning about things I need to do, and just do them. But primarily, and most of all, to reckon my time God's. To give it all to Him, keeping none for myself. Kind of misleading, that could be, because when I seek to do things this way, I generally end up with free time, quiet time, and I'm much more at peace than when I try to steal minutes, hours, to entertain myself or what not.

So, that's my aim.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


From Fr. Joe's homily on Monday at Franciscan University:

"It is the prayer of petition (bringing our requests trustingly to our Father) that brings the soul to peace. If the soul is at peace, the person will be filled with beauty. If the person is full of beauty, there will be harmony in the family. If there is harmony in the family, there can be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, then there is the potential for peace in the world."

What struck me here is the truth of "the person being filled with beauty" when the soul is at peace. And I thought of how often I interrelate with my children, especially my son, without that beauty. I've been thinking about beauty in our home in terms of the decorating and the physical space, but of course the beauty of the soul is preeminent. So often it seems so many things are more necessary than beauty. That beauty is all fine and good if you happen to have space for that luxury. More and more, however, I am seeing that there is such a thing as Beauty that is reflective of the Divine. Mankind is to know God in His Truth, Beauty, and Goodness (CCC 319). Therefore we, His body, need to present these to all at all times. So, beauty is not really an optional part of life.

This meditation prompted a question for me: How does beauty say 'no'? I've just come back from receiving Jesus in Holy Communion and my 5 year old son is animatedly waving his bottom back and forth in the pew, knocking me into my 2 year old daughter and thinking it is quite humorous. Does beauty don a Pollyanna mask and say "There, there son, let's sit still and pray to Jesus now!" Uh, no. By the time I get the first "there" out, he's got his nose in my face and grabbing for my daughter to yank away whatever is in her hand, just because. And the masked anger in me will explode out and it will not be a good scene.

So, what does beauty do with real flesh and blood children who are immature and occasionally act it when it is not appropriate?

I think I got an answer to this in today's homily from Fr. Dennis. He spoke on the necessity of love to maintain the unity in the Body of Christ. He quoted St. (Padre) Pio as telling a seeker that the time to forgive someone is while they are doing the hurtful thing. In this way, before he is even finished with the hurting action, I am done forgiving and therefore I am preserving the relationship and not letting the devil poison the relationship and bring division, hatred and discord, and all those mean, nasty, ugly things.

Now, I know my son does not act out his immaturity in order to hurt me, but in a way, I am "offended." Perhaps it is wrong for me to be offended at all. Perhaps not. But in my context I realized that forgiving means making peace in my heart about what is happening. Truly understanding. This does not mean condoning the behavior, but understanding where it is coming from, which is immaturity. Occasionally from hunger or other needs. If I am at peace with it, then I don't get bent out of shape. I can absorb more. I can take in getting knocked over by his errant bottom and make it part of my prayer rather than a distraction from it. And I can hold him close to me and give him the attention he craves. Occasionally I have to patiently correct him, but this is different from barking at him and venting my anger.

However, this peacemaking has to be a conscious choice, I find, just like forgiving, so it makes sense to be on the alert while the annoyance is happening.

Beauty says no by forgiving. Beauty says no by gently correcting when necessary. Is not this how God deals with us? Whenever God corrects us, He already has forgiven us and is just wanting the relationship to be made right and brought back to peace. But God does not constantly correct us and show us every last thing we do wrong or not as good as we could. He allows us to feel a lot of that for ourselves.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


The steps are nearly bare. They haven't been scrubbed yet to remove the bits of glue (or perhaps melted foam pad?) from the rise of some steps, nor the dirt. Remaining are the strip off the last step that covers the rising portion, and the top step and landing. And of course, the rest of the steps going up, the hall way, the bedrooms, the living room and the downstairs hallway.

But I do think they look lovely, in a worn, homey sort of way.

Compare with the "before" picture showing the steps:

Friday, May 18, 2007

Of Rosaries and Garbage

Tonight was the first-of-the-season rosary walk which encompasses our immediate neighborhood. The procession starts in front of the home of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, circles a good 10 blocks around, and finishes up where it started. Our family has dashed out the front door to catch it a few times in years past, but since we have taken up the habit of an evening rosary together in recent months, we made a point to join from the start this evening. It makes me wonder if there is any other neighborhood in the USA or elsewhere for that matter where Catholics come together and pray the rosary out loud while walking down the street. I'm guessing there were 8-10 families represented among the walkers, but potentially there could be about three times as many if every Catholic family whose house is passed joined in.

And then we have Big Garbage Day. That's not officially what it is called; that's a phrase I picked up from my days living in Japan (where we gaijin actually called it "Big Gomi Day", gomi meaning garbage.) (And by the way, did you know the etymology of the word garbage derives from "fowl entrails"? We learned that the other day.) Regardless. Once a year we get to put out big broken things that are too clumsy to throw away at other times. People start setting things out a week in advance. And others start combing the neighborhoods with pickup trucks, and most of the garbage disappears before the official trucks come to take it away. People with serious pack ratting disorders, perhaps?

Our wedding day was actually Big Garbage Day, 1999. It was a little depressing as I recall to drive down to the church through streets overflowing with garbage.

Tomorrow morning I'll have to do a last scouring of the basement to make sure there's nothing I hid in the cold cellar to "remember to throw out in the spring."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This is What Committment Looks Like

I started ripping out the carpet today. The wood is a bit worn on the step, and the wooden strip used to nail the carpet in does a bit of a number on the varnish. But anything has to be better than old filthy carpet!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ideas, Please!!

Work on our living room has been long anticipated. I've decided to begin in earnest gathering ideas for re-doing it. The only difficulty is that my ability to visualize what might look nice leaves me lacking. Heck, my ability to look at a finished room and notice when it is ugly is not that strong, either. Hence, when we bought this house three years ago and the living room came as is (minus several stains on the already worn carpet), I was pleased that the curtains and the carpet matched. I didn't even really notice that the carpet was probably going on to 25 years old and desperately needed to be replaced.

So, I am trying to enlist the suggestions of anyone who feels they like to work with color or rooms or anyone who is willing to give a suggestion. Below are the photos of the current situation. Here are the non-negotiables: First, the carpet is being ripped out and the hardwood floor below exposed. Second, no painting the woodwork. Third, we have two young children, and we "decorate" with them in mind. The rest is up for grabs. I'm thinking it is about 14 x 15, something close to that, at least.

This is the front window. What you can't see from this picture is the design in the top of the window, similar to the side windows, below. I probably need a better picture of this.

Ok, so this is a bad picture of the staircase and entry hallway taken in the living room.

This is a wider angle picture of the front window, showing also the smaller side window with beveled glass, hinting at the ceiling fan, and the obvious white walls.

This is the view from the entry hallway into the living room. You see the two small windows, the fake fireplace, the light green print wallpaper and most of our current furniture layout.This is a close up of one of those windows, and a better view of the wallpaper and mantle. This window has the curtain rod taken off; you can see the white band on the opposite window in the picture above that previously held a valence type thing identical to the one on the hallway window, second picture.

Here is a brighter picture of that fake fireplace.

Here is a detail of the stenciling currently over the archways and the front window. You can also see the blue wallpaper in the dining room a bit.

Here is a wider angle picture of the archway into the dining room. I suppose that room needs attention, too, but one thing at a time :). The flooring in the dining room is a laminate we put down to protect the hardwood floor which was bare when we moved in. The actual floor is dark, much closer to the color of the woodwork.

This is the view looking towards the front door and shows the exposed hardwood floor at the entryway for an idea of the color.

This is the view standing at the front door looking into the living room and towards the dining room.

This is the view standing at the front door looking straight ahead.

This is the front door.

So, what do you think?

Friday, May 11, 2007

What Makes an Education?

Recently my 5 year old son said to me, when we were discussing the potential for him to not play with his friends outside, "But how do you expect me to learn anything if I can't play outside?"

Perhaps this comment reflects that our unschooling culture has taken root and that my son's "soil" is naturally fertile for it. My son is an action man; he is at his best when he is moving and interacting, although he certainly is capable of quiet concentration, too. We now have nice weather in our corner of the world: sunny, warm, but not unbearably hot or humid. So outdoors he is, almost all afternoon long. We live in what has got to be one of the best neighborhoods in the United States for him. Our neighbors have a large yard that attaches to ours via a backyard gate, and they welcome him and our daughter to come and play when they want. Their children range into the older ages, but their youngest is a year older than our son and their second youngest loves to Mommie our 2 year old. The their older boys mean older friends who like to show off their athletic abilities. This is without mentioning the other two families behind us, and others down the street, all with kids who come and go in a grand social scene. And nearly all of these children and young adults have grown up in a Catholic homeschooling home culture.

So his playing involves older kids who still know and cherish "playing", positive role models, and kids just his age who share most of his passions. Hours of imaginary play, exercise, friendly competitions, and freedom mixed with responsibility for others.

But what I was originally going to get at is this idea of playing outside. I think children are built for being outside, in some degree of nature. I have always been more bookish than physically active, but I too loved to play outside as a kid. My games were solitary, and involved doing imaginary archaeological digs and primitive cake making, no wait, the technical term comes back to me -- mud pies. Nothing better than exploring dirt, except perhaps sliding in snow when in season.

As a bookish person, I remember being drawn to certain books as a kid, and even now as an adult reading to my daughter, that depict creatures playing and living in nature scenes, far from anything that looks like a city, yet socially, and with all their needs met for food and comfort. My daughter has a board book called Little Chick that is one such story. It is one she will ask me to read again and again. I have to admit, I feel my spirit open up when I read it.

I think the attraction, whether to books like Little Chick or to nature itself, has something to do with the desire for the Good, for God, for heaven. Creation sings of its Creator, if we have ears to hear. And children's ears are likely more fitted to this hearing.

Another reason not to coop children up in a school for the meatiest part of the day.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Be Who You Are!

I am currently reading the book The Family That Overtook Christ by Fr. M. Raymond. It is the story of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and his family, who all became saints, venerables, blesseds, or some degree of holy people.

At one point in the book there is a discussion of the mother, Alice, her holy life and deeds, and the fact that she attained her sanctity by "just being a mother". The fictitious characters who are discussing her sanctity go on about how so often people think they have to be someone else, do daring deeds or give up great potential to do menial deeds, to be holy. They come back to this refrain which Alice taught them, that one should simply be oneself.

I found myself all at once thinking how strange it sounds for anyone to question that she could have attained sanctity by "just being a mother". It's no easy job, of course. Whatever do you mean she was "just" a mother?! And at the very same time I remember vividly walking to my classes at the University here before I was married with this directive of God ringing in my ears, that I should be myself. And feeling downright frightened by the prospect. It was something that the Lord brought me back to many a time from my entrance into the Church until those days... probably until getting married.

What was so frightening about being myself? Do I still find it frightening?

Maybe the fright arose from the fact that I felt very alone. Although I was in the Church, the Church was not in me, deeply at least, for the first several years I was Catholic. It's like the parable of the different kinds of ground. I had rocky and hard ground, and it took quite a bit of grace work for the ground to be broken up, watered, fertilized, watered some more, to the point where the surface was workable and fertile -- able to receive and sustain that which God wanted me to have. And so I felt very alone.

Alone is not how God created us to be. We are created to belong to others, to be in relation to others, to be able to open our hearts and be human with other humans, without having to constantly shield ourselves or hide away, or lash out at others.

So if we are commissioned to be ourselves but feel no connection, the fear is, who will love me, who will protect me, how will I find any happiness. And I think our time and energy is spent trying to surround ourselves with things, or people used as things, to buoy us up. But we only need a buoy when we are otherwise drowning.

To say it another way, I cannot really be myself apart from God. He made me, after all. In Him I'm complete. Without Him I'm broken pottery.

So, yes, I was terrified to be called to be myself because it sounded incredibly risky.

But I have to say I'm not terrified anymore. I may not always live fully myself, but I'm not terrified to do so, either. There are many times I don't know exactly how to go out being myself, and many, many times that I realize being myself is extremely weird in the eyes of other people. I risk the disapproval of others, or the disinterest of others -- don't know which of those hurts more.

But I think walking with Christ on a daily basis is the only path to being real. Jesus always takes us back to our hearts, and when we come to Him heedfully He will show us exactly our need, and then show us how He will fulfill the need.

What a waste we make of our lives if we don't walk with Christ. "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, yet lose his very self?" Thanks be to God that He is merciful, and makes over even our years of wandering, aloneness and pain into treasure.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Infertile and Catholic

This is a very thought-provoking article on being infertile as a Catholic. I think it slices to the heart of the matter to consider infertility a gift, a special call to holiness and prayer. If 1 Timothy 2:15 states that (normally) women are saved through childbearing, I believe it makes sense to see infertility as a special or unique call.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May 1, 2007 Monthly Message as given to Anne a lay apostle


My apostles, I speak to you with such hope. Why do I feel hope when I speak these words? I, your Jesus, feel hope because you are reading these words and listening to Me. In your soul, you are interested in My plan. In your soul you are willing to make the changes which will bring about My plan. In your soul you receive a foretaste of heaven which provides you with the joy that I wish to make available to others. My heavenly plan is truly rooted in your soul and for this reason I have hope. The times in which you live provide you with opportunities to practice hope, even while much of the world feels dismay and fear. My apostles see that the world is changing and this is the message, a message of hope, which flows through them. You are precious to Me, both because of the unique love I have for you and for the unique plan I have for you. Allow Me to rest in your soul each day and I will fill you with My love. Where can you find more silence? How can you give your Jesus just a few more minutes of time to be with you and sanctify you even further? My beloved apostle, please be disciplined about your time with Me in each day. I do not want you to be distracted. I do not want the world to take your hope from you. If you do not spend time with Me, you are vulnerable to the fears sowed by the enemy of hope. I rely on my beloved ones. In them I find rest and solace. You see, dear apostle, if I can change you and fill you with My great spiritual blessings, I can change others. Is there even one life that you can say you affected by your faith in Me and by My presence in you? Do not limit My plan in your mind. My plan is vast and it is working. Be joyful today as I am joyful. Hope in Me, dear one, as I hope in you. Trust in Me as I trust in you. Be with Me as I long to be with you and together we will fill the world with hope, drawing many wounded souls back into our family of love.