Thursday, June 27, 2013

Love, Compassion and Disagreement

For a while now, one of the last things I think about, and pray for, before I go to bed is my siblings.

(Pictured here in 2011 at one of my sister's wedding - she's having her second this week!)

We have varying degrees of disagreement about the way the world should work, morality, public policy, you name it.  While this isn't directly about my beautiful siblings, they stretch me and cause me to think about the larger world in general.  I get the feeling that I'm viewed, for the most part, as inflexible and righteous, perhaps to the point of uncaring.  I view myself as somewhat of a bleeding heart, so there's a disparity there.

This has me thinking about the way the Church is viewed in general, and how I'm viewed, specifically as an orthodox follower of a 2,000+ year old tradition.  I profess the teachings of the Catholic Church.  I believe it is the clearest path to salvation.  I believe God is merciful and loving, and just.  I also can't remember the last time God called me to be comfortable in my life.  This was especially clear to me as I sat in church on Father's Day next to SB's bio dad.  I can't remember being in my comfort zone by God's calling.  I know I've placed myself there many a time, but when I really stop and listen, God is always calling me a little further than I am....a constant stretching of my soul like taffy.

The biggest and most uncomfortable place I could be is one where my views cannot be reconciled with those around me and it causes discomfort for them.  As I try to pull back and look from the other side, my views, housed within the beauty of the Church, might seem cold and uncaring about the happiness or feelings of others.  I care so deeply for my fellow human being that I've spent the last two years raising a child I have no claim to.  I care so much for the feelings of others that I'm probably silent when I should speak.  When I do speak, sometimes the words are fumbled, and all too often, pride comes before love.

It is the deepest of conundrums, how can I share the message of God's abundant and unfailing love for the world when my beliefs could be categorized, by some, as bigotry, intolerant, [insert insult here]? What's even harder to surmount are views that I am to be placated as a child who believes in Santa, that somehow my intelligence is limited by a faith that I am not all there is; that this time is not all there is.  As I argued recently, if my faith has created a delusional state that creates in me a kinder, more compassionate human being willing to sacrifice for the future of others, maybe we should all be a little delusional. 

My siblings to me are a sampling of the larger world....that happens when you're one of nine!  There are so many, it creates a tiny sub-culture, complete with a variety of viewpoints.  I worry that the world isn't hearing enough about love.  I also worry that when the world hears the message of love, they accept the affection and turn a blind eye/deaf ear to the message that God has a plan for each of us, in his love.  It is not enough to know that you are loved; get up, reciprocate!  What a loss that so many times I hear others speaking of all the rules and problems of the Catholic Church that they disagree with and it seems they got all of the rules and none of the why.  Here's why:  God loves you.  So completely, so infinitely that he created you to be with him for all time, all eternity.  We were created to know God, to love him, to serve him and to be happy with him in this life and the next.  And it's not the kind of happiness you get from a new pair of shoes or some other worldly is a deep, abiding joy and solace.

We were born into this world to be refined for the next.  Not for corporal comfort or fame or fortune.  I remind myself of this when I look around my cramped house and catch my complaints as I think of those who don't have a roof or a meal tonight.  There's a reason the crucifix adorns so many altars; it is the epitome of the sacrifice and deep love that is the message of the Church.  We are invited to follow, we are not coerced.  It is an invitation into love.  I worry this invitation hasn't been presented well, and each time I speak to someone about it, I pray that the Holy Spirit guides my words, to walk that fine balance that is the message of love and the absoluteness of truth and right.  Loving doesn't mean giving everything the other wants, and it's hard for anyone to hear that their heart's desire isn't on the list of things that lead you to greater holiness - still working my way through that one on SB.

So this is why I think of my siblings and pray for them each night.  I pray the invitation lands on each of us with a receptive heart.  I pray the world hears this message and I pray for our pope, as he leads so many back to the faith in his gentle, but firm way.  I know we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, but my earthly siblings are some of the most dear to me.  It's true what they say, the best gift you can give your child is another sibling and I'm blessed to have received that gift so many times, even when we disagree, even when it's hard to find a common ground, there is love.  A great sadness weighs on my heart when we are in discord, and when my faith places us there, I feel even more sorrow....because I have no ground to give as I stand on the eye of the needle I need to pass through. 

Thank you God for my family, for my siblings, my parents, my husband, my children.  Thank you for the gift of my siblings to challenge me, laugh with me, comfort me and support me.  Thank you for a family who has a love bigger than disagreements, as I know this is an uncommon phenomenon in the world.  As I look forward to an upcoming reunion this weekend, I am filled with joy and expectation, and I thank God that I have a family that can elicit such emotions just at the thought of seeing them :)

Theme Thursday: Black and White

In the midst of all things recently, work has (finally) started to pick back up again.  For one particular project, I needed a head shot for a webinar.  Enter my tripod, the timer on my camera and a kitchen stool against the living room wall.......

Thanks to a link-up party at Clan Donaldson, I did a little editing to make it black and white for this Theme Thursday.

I like this picture because it's such a capture of me, especially if you know the details, like I'm sitting in my living room and my 3 y/o nephew was assisting me while the babies slept.  I'm wearing a sundress with a blazer thrown over the top of it for the picture and right after this was taken, my hair went back up in a ponytail.

That little bit of extra chin I see also tells a story about where I am right now, SB is 1 and I'm working my way through some baby weight (plus a little more) to get back to fertile ground again.  Working mom, from home, with all the juggling it contains....that's what I see.  I see the piles of toys around my feet and hear my nephew saying, "my turn!".  This is what my work life looks like, chaos just around the corners out of frame, cool and collected in frame. 

I could make a list of all the things I'm down about right now, but when I look at this picture, I'm reminded of one of the best things about my life.  I get to stay home with my kids AND do work that I love.  The mix can be chaotic and I might be sending files to a client at 10:30 at night when the house is still, but I'd just be watching something silly on tv, so might as well be doing something productive, right? 

The babies are down for a nap, I haven't showered yet today (because I'm trying to motivate myself to work out by not showering until I've put some miles on the treadmill), I'm sitting on my couch, barefoot and wearing a sundress.  I'm also about to start my morning work, editing some classroom materials before I assist with the training in July.  I have my laptop and in my view are a laundry basket, a Little People barn and through the next door, an unmade (mine) bed.  This is my balance and sometimes the scales tip a little too far in a single direction, but it's all I could ask for.  The toilet will get cleaned when the file is finished, and if my bed doesn't get made, I'll shut the door if someone stops by.

If I could get my toddler to stop getting up from her morning nap to dance and talk to me, I might get something done :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The $10 Miracle

Sometimes it just doesn't seem worth checking Facebook....maybe it's about a political view you don't support (although I'm known to put my own views on my own timeline for all to see, so welcome to free speech, eh), or a flood of whatever sporting event recently went down.

But sometimes, you find a gem.  Recently, I found a couple new blogs through a friend's newsfeed.  The first was House Unseen. Life Unscripted.  The woman is hilarious, cheerful, productive and unabashedly Catholic.  I started following her blog right around the time she discovered a complication in her pregnancy.  The baby continues to be in danger and reading her blog gives me a chance to share in, and reach out to her family in prayer during this time.  Nothing like the Body of Christ in cyberspace.

Well, after liking her page and following along, I started following Clan Donaldson....because I saw a post about Operation Laundry Room.  Basically, on top of worrying about her baby in utero, this mom of five at home has to also worry about mice drowning in a bucket and empty dirty water from a leaking valve during each load of laundry.  So, on Clan Donaldson's blog, a plan was hatched to raise money to fix the leaky valve (oh, and buy a dryer since House Unseen was operating without one).  I started reading the comments and even watched a hilarious video

I watched the number tick up and up on the goal line counter (over $6,000 at posting).  Then I decided I wanted to be a part of the story.  So, I donated $10...not a huge sum, just a couple fancy coffees and less than I would spend bringing a meal to a friend in such a situation around here.  But that's the power of the Body of Christ.  We just read a couple weeks back about the loaves and the fish and now I'm getting to take part and watch Christ multiply all of our little gifts into a big blessing for a family facing a tough road in the coming months.  Such a simple thing, so with a little bit from so many (and perhaps quite a bit from a few), I'm watching a miracle unfold during a time of testing and trial for one family in MI. 

So today, maybe you could be a small part of someone's miracle too.....providing child care, sending a bit of encouragement in a card, making a meal, sharing a smile and your time, God will multiply our efforts and the gift will be more than we thought possible :)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

On Hold

Life is an ever-winding road....or maybe an ever-winding rollercoaster.  So far this year's highs and lows have included; potential to adopt SB on the table, potential to adopt SB off the table; preparing to move to a new house, getting back the home inspections and halting the moving process.....yep, no green acre for now.

After we reviewed the home inspections, we decided it was just too much for us to take on fixing.  Major bummer, but maybe it's just the first step to something bigger and better down the road.  In all things, I try to keep in mind God's promise:

Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  Plans to prosper you, not to harm you; to give you hope and a future.

On the up side, I've gotten a lot of organization done on my house in the last couple weeks.  We're also going to do some updates here and there on our current house to make it a little easier to live with for a while longer.  An ever-winding road, an ever-winding rollercoaster.  Sometimes the answer is just not yet, so for now, the great adventure of country living is on hold.