Friday, February 21, 2014

A Poet, Perhaps?

 I didn't always like to write.  When the ability to send an email first came on the scene, I scoffed.  Who would want to take the time to write to someone when they could just pick up the phone and call them?

My how things change!!!  That whole attitude of laziness toward writing disappeared when depression reared its ugly head in my life and it was then that writing became extremely important to my well-being. Through the habit of daily journaling, I wrote myself out of my sorrows.  I enjoyed journaling so much that I decided that I just might like to become a writer.   I started to send some of my poems and other writings to magazines hoping to become published, but only received rejections.

So, I began Imprisoned in My Bones as a means of sharing my thoughts without the fear of rejection.  That's not to say that a good deal of anxiety didn't go into each press of the "publish" button.  When you put your life into words for the whole world to read, you fear over-exposure.  Suddenly I felt turned inside out, as though the whole world could see beyond my skin and into my very heart and soul and that was very intimidating.  But with the writing of this blog, the thought of writing a book became far removed from my mind and I was satisfied to share my amateur thoughts here, online, with you, dear reader.

Every so often people still encourage me to write a book, but I usually don't allow myself to dwell upon that prospect.  Life is wonderfully busy and full and I just haven't felt the strong desire to become published as I once did.  I've been very satisfied to write for the Lord in this little corner of the blogosphere. But recently, my dear friend Christi Jentz matter-of-factly said, "You write poems and I'll illustrate them."  And suddenly I thought, that would work!  Christi is such a brilliant artist, and if she believed I had the talent and ability to put together a book of poetry to glorify the Lord, then I guess I better listen and get busy.

So we're at the very early stages of something that will probably take several years before I feel satisfied enough to submit for publishing.  For now, Christi has been taking some of my shorter poems, or parts of poems, and painting artwork to enhance the words.  She is amazing!  Her love for her craft shows through with each prayerful stroke of her brush and her paintings make my words come alive in ways I had never imagined possible.

Please visit Christi's website, Lumen Christi, to view the first four paintings and learn more about what she sweetly calls the "Annabella Series."  The fourth in the series, "Sun-Kissed Weeds" is below.  Each of the following links will take you to the works, or works-in-progress, for the poems she has painted thus far. And, if you have any advice or expertise about publishing poems and paintings, we would be very grateful if you would share!

The Transfiguration Prayer

Soft Wood of the Tree

Blush

Sun-Kissed Weeds

finished project

details

  Sun-Kissed Weeds

I watch as the sun kisses 
the weeds in the meadow 
licking the early morning 
frost off the leaves 
in a passionate act of love 
known only to me 
and the unseen wildlife

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hold On

When my boys were little I thought that mothering was so terribly difficult.  I cried to God about weaning and toilet-training and sleepless nights and piles of laundry.  I didn't think easy would ever come along.  But somewhere along the line I forgot about the temper tantrums, the fevers, and the picky eating.  But not the piles of laundry.  The laundry always seemed to linger.

Those old trials were exchanged for new ones-homework battles, bullies and defiance became the school-aged challenges, added to the growing pile of laundry.

And now, my three oldest, well they're becoming fine young men.  I think they should be well-prepared to make their entrance into the world as independent adults, but not just yet.  I'm not quite done holding on to them and loving them through the birthing process.  I'm still laboring and I'm still doing laundry.  But this laboring, this birthing adults, has challenges of its own that I couldn't possibly foresee when I was simply (simply! ha!) pushing them out of the womb and into the earthly air.  The challenges of teaching them to drive, helping them to discern their life vocations, and walking with them through the world of women brings mothering to a whole new level of joy and sorrow intertwining.

not my actual car, but this is pretty much what it looks like now

Last weekend, on the slippery, icy roads, a car was crashed.  It was my car.  My sweet, new-to-me Hyundai Sonata with a sun-roof car that I've only owned for a year.  My first car that wasn't a van in over 20 years.  My car that was fashionable and sporty and yet could still fit groceries for a family of seven in the trunk.  My car that just had an oil change, a full tank of gas and a car wash.  I thank God that there were no injuries, but I can't help but mourn for the loss of the vehicle I loved.  Detachment is such a difficult challenge. Sometimes God has to physically pry our hands loose from the material so that He can get a message through our thick heads, doesn't He?

And today His message to me is coming through loud and clear.  That message is "Hold on.  You're not done birthing your boys yet.  The best part is yet to come-the part where they give back to you, where they hold your hand and carry you through your own trials, the payoff where you can take a little bit of satisfaction in a job well-done."

In the absence of my own car, my two oldest sons, just 19 and 20 years old, have been rising at 6 AM to take their mother to daily Mass and then drive me to work.  It's precious time, that 15 minute drive in the early morning; time when my sons can open up to me about their lives in private conversations; time when we can thank and praise the Lord together as we participate in Mass; time when they can offer the gift of their loving care and gratitude to their mother for the many sacrifices that she has made for them.  And I love it.

I don't think I'll be too hasty about shopping for a new car.  I think I'll take my time and enjoy the gift of simplicity and family love that one less vehicle in the household brings about.  And as I linger on the joyful thought of these moments of early morning time with my sons, I'll be sure to thank God for the gift of holding on for just a little while longer before they leave the nest for homes of their own.  And I might just offer that prayer of thanksgiving while I'm folding the most recent pile of laundry!  That would really be gratitude!

(Dear Reader, if you, like me, struggle to detach from your own vehicles, you might enjoy this post:  Dear Anonymous.  And make sure you read the post to which that one was responding, here, at Inside Out.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Daffodils

google images
In the midst of a snowstorm 
I remember the long forgotten daffodil bulbs 
planted last fall,
just waiting to burst forth into bloom 
at the first touch of the warmth of spring, 
and I smile. 

Like the daffodil, 
we are all waiting to burst forth
 into new life
 at the gentlest touch 
of our beloved Creator's hand.

Stretch out Your hand, O Lord! 
Bring us to new life in You! 
Re-create our souls to bring glory to You alone!

Monday, February 17, 2014

In the Time of Old Age

"Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent."  ~Psalm 71:9


“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord."  ~Leviticus 19:32

Carl from the Disney Pixar movie "Up"
The Apostleship of Prayer intention of Pope Francis for this month is that "The Church and society may respect the wisdom and experience of older people."  In a particular way, I have been challenged to help bring this intention to fruition in my own life, as my family and I are discerning how best to help our wonderful elderly neighbors of twenty-two years who have been in great need of extra care in recent months.  Don't we all know someone advanced in years who could benefit from a little extra love and attention from every possible source, whether that person seeks out the attention they desire or quietly and patiently wait for others to take notice?

Several years ago, when my children were still in Catholic grade school, we made the habit of attending the daily 7 AM Mass at our parish.  The daily Mass crowd, made up of many of the elderly members of the parish, delighted to see children at prayer, and my family quickly developed many friendships among those we'd pray with each day.  One woman in particular, Mrs. B., easily became our favorite.  Mrs. B., the mother of 13 children, treated my own family as though we, too, were her own flesh and blood.  She'd send cards and money to each of the children on their birthdays, attended their 8th grade graduation Masses and Confirmations, brought gifts at Christmas and throughout the year, and best of all, lavished us with deep embraces from  which we continue to feel the warmth to this day.  A few months ago, I attended a funeral Mass for a beloved priest from my former parish who had passed away.  I chose a discreet seat in the back of the church, and during the first song when everyone turned to the back of the church for the entrance procession, Mrs. B. spotted me, left her seat near the front, and came to sit next to me.  She held my hand for the entire Mass.  Mrs. B. is so easy to love!

But not all elderly adults exude warmth and joy so easily.  In my young adult days, early in my dietetics career, I worked as a food service director at a nursing home. Many of the residents I served seemed discontent and dissatisfied, constantly complaining and criticizing, so much so that I came to fear them, cringing as I waited to learn what it was that my staff and I were doing wrong that upset them so.  As I grew older and watched my own parents age, I came to better understand the general dissatisfaction of this generation who worked so hard their entire lives, only to struggle during their senior years as they are forced to give up all that had been important to them in this world including their material gains, their health and their relationships.  That kind of forced detachment is enough to bring out the cranky side in the kindest of souls.

Others are truly the tragic victims of elderly abuse and neglect.  After giving their entire lives over to the care of their children, they now find themselves alone, forgotten and unloved.  Facing major decisions regarding their health and their living environment, they choose to remain in the one place that brings them security-their own home.  Closed in upon themselves, their world becomes small and they are filled with fear that won't be eased.  Loneliness, regret and sorrow become their daily bread.

In this month dedicated to prayer for the elderly, I'm challenged to step out of my comfort zone, to reach out to the elderly people I know, to offer them love, affection and kindness.  Won't you join me in showing love and concern to people in their "golden years"?  Could you bring your children for a visit to your nearby nursing home and listen to the residents share stories from their youth?  Perhaps you could bring a meal to an elderly neighbor?  Might you offer a ride to church or to a doctor's appointment for someone who is no longer able to drive?  Would a gift of service doing housework or yard work for someone whose strength no longer allows them to keep up with basic chores be appreciated?

As we dedicate the month of February to prayer for those who are older and wiser than we are, let's not forget to follow that spiritual prayer with the prayer of action, and show our love for the elderly in our midst with our words and our deeds.  Life is an amazing adventure-both the good and the not-so-good parts of it, and the older and wiser people that God has placed in our paths enrich our adventure with every interaction we have with them.  Let's make sure we do our part to share in the lives of the elderly who are with us now, before they're gone, and we, too, are filled with loneliness, regret and sorrow.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Child Friendly Guwahati

"How I wish that all of us would hear God's cry:  'Where is your brother?' (Gen 4:9)  Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved?  Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labor?  Let us not look the other way.  There is greater complicity than we think.  The issue involves everyone!"  ~Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium

source:  thisweek guwahati.com

In my work with the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program in Milwaukee, I routinely see youngsters who suffer from lives of poverty and want.  But the struggle that they endure, while still in the loving arms of their mothers, who generally try to do all that they can to provide for their children, are nothing compared to the plight of children in Guwahati in the region of Northeast India, who are often left on their own to fend for themselves, without the support of a family that cares for them.

Over the course of the last year, I've had the pleasure of corresponding with Prasad Kalaparthy, a young seminarian from India.  Prasad, a former social work student who is now a Salesian Brother of Don Bosco in Guwahati in the Northeast Region of India, works diligently to help young children whose lives on the street are in utter chaos.  Prasad is deeply passionate about this project for the poor and marginalized children who are served under the Child Friendly Guwahati campaign, and states that they are aiming to put 10,000 children back into schools over the next three years.  Much support is needed in this endeavor.  

Source:   Child Friendly Gawahati 
The Northeast India slums are tragically home to many vulnerable children who spend their days out on the streets and become addicted to inhalants and smoking.  They are exploited, abused, trafficked, and malnourished. Child Friendly Guwahati,  under the direction of Fr. V.M. Thomas SDB, works to rescue and rehabilitate these children and enable them to return to mainstream education.  Without a solid education, these children face a bleak future.  I encourage you to heed the above words of Pope Francis when he says that this issue involves everyone and offer your care to these youngsters through prayer and/or financial support. Spend some time visiting the Child Friendly Guwahati website here to learn more about this project and please keep the efforts of the Salesians of Don Bosco in your prayers. And in a special way, please pray for my friend, Prasad, as he continues his seminary studies with the goal of ordination to the holy priesthood.

To learn more about Child Friendly Guwahati, or make a contribution toward helping these young children, please contact: childfriendlyguwahati@gmail.com or prasadkalaparthy@gmail.com.

Source:  Don Bosco India


Monday, February 3, 2014

Sanctuary and Sustenance


He buried his face 
in the baptismal font
slurping the holy water like a dog,
shouting incomprehensibly about
the Infant's swaddling clothes,
and when he approached the altar
the fear in our hearts
swelled at this bizarre behavior.
He was asked to leave
 the sanctuary of
church and went out
into the bitter cold.

But me, I sit
for hours upon hours
gaze shifting from
tabernacle to crucifix, 
to saintly statues and stained glass,
silently relishing
the sustenance of
the Bread of Angels
and the Cup of Salvation
before going out
on my own accord
into the bitter cold.