Thursday, July 28, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday Vol. 5


1
I just finished mowing the lawn.  And my word, it is dry out there!  I stepped in a few holes, noticed large cracks in the ground and the dust was unreal.  In the 8 years we have lived here, I have never seen this before.  The lawn that is under the tree in the front is really starting to die.  The other side (where there is no tree) seems to be doing okay.  I am thinking that the tree must be soaking up what little water is in the ground and leaving nothing for the grass.  I adjusted the amount of time the sprinkler zones water from 4 minutes to 10 minutes.  Maybe that will save my lawn.  I am surprised the Trugreen guy hasn’t given me a big lecture. And, by the way, he doesn’t do rain dances.  It isn’t in his contract.

2
I really feel sorry for all the farmers this year.  It must be heartbreaking to put all your money in the ground and then watch the crops die.  We have a few farmers on my Dad’s side of the family.  My parents and farming cousins all live in a rural town in southwestern Oklahoma.  When I was up there this past spring, the drought was just beginning.  I went to church(Baptist) with my parents and the Preacher called all the men to the front of the church.  They all got on their knees and, man, did they pray for rain.  The effects of a drought do not touch us city folk like it touches the farmers.  They depend on the forces of nature in a way we don’t understand.  I was so touched by their prayer.  So, I started adding rain to my daily prayers.  I know that God has a plan with this drought and we have to trust that he will provide, but it still hurts to watch all those farmers suffer.

3
Back to mowing the lawn.  So, my husband tells me that he is has been called to fly out to Atlanta this weekend.  Long story short, he can’t mow the lawn.  Now, he doesn’t point this out to me.  I realize in the midst our conversation that he cannot get the lawn mowed.  So I say, “Well, I guess I will mow the lawn tonight.”  He immediately starts protesting and insisting that he can get it done.  I explain to him that he can’t mow in the dark and if we let it go any longer, we are going to lose the dogs and children in the high grass.  As he was walking out the door, he was still begging me not to do it.  Now I want to know, what is so wrong with me mowing the lawn?  Aren’t I doing him a favor?  I have not broken the lawn mower in the past and I am pretty sure that I am not capable of breaking it.  By his overreaction, I have to conclude he thinks I am stealing his manhood or something.  I certainly would not think he was stealing my womanhood if he did some laundry or cleaned a bathroom. 

4

I recently found these cups at Wal-mart.  I LOVE them.  They are insulated and they have a straw.  Thanks to my grinding, I have worn copious amounts of the enamel off my teeth.  Therefore, I prefer to drink a cold drink with a straw.  For the longest time, I was using my cup from the hospital- you know, the one with the long bendy straw.  But the straw broke.  I don’t think those cups are meant to last.  But you think they would after all that money you spend at the hospital!  On the last trip, the bill pre-insurance was $60,000.  I think we spent $15,000 and all I got to take home was that cup.  Oh, and we also took home our Ben-Ben.  I guess he is kind of priceless.

5
So, next week I am starting my new job (part-time).  I am very excited.  But I can’t tell you what it is yet.  It has not been officially announced.  So, you will have to tune in next week.

6
I am about to review this book.  It is a Catholic fiction novel.  I am looking forward to reading it.  In the back of my mind, I have always wanted to read some catholic fiction.  I just never put any effort to actually finding it.  And then John Eklund contacted me and asked if I would review his book.  So, I didn’t have to put any effort into it!  It just showed up in my mail box.  I have some selfish reasons for wanting to review it.  I think that if I ever wrote anything for real, it would probably be a fiction book.  But the idea of writing something that I totally make up that has to be interesting to other people is quite overwhelming.  Especially since it a book is longer than 1000 words.  Maybe this book will inspire me.

7
So, for those of you who don’t know, I run a home child care business.  I am the lone employee.  And yes, I do this in my home.  I am fully aware that I am insane.  I have five little clients ages 4 and under.  They keep me busy and they are my daily lesson on how to have more patience.  I must have prayed for patience at some point in my life and now God has provided me with 5 ongoing daily lessons.  At any rate, this Wednesday, I decided that the baby needed some space.  I have been unable to convince my two toddlers that the baby is not a toy and that if he is in the swing, they do not need to push him.  Or steal his pacifier.  Or give him enormous amounts of toys.  So, I put up some gates to divide the house into two parts- one for the baby and one for the toddlers.  The preschoolers can play with the toddlers or join the baby if the toddlers are picking on them or if they want to play with toys that are not appropriate for toddlers.  I have to say that this is the most genius idea that I have ever had.  All the little people seem much happier for their separate little spaces.  And I am no longer pulling my hair out trying to convince the toddlers that the baby is not a doll.  In fact, this idea has had such tremendous success that I have decided to put up sturdier gates that require me to drill holes in the wall.  Now, if only I can get my husband to tell me where he has hidden the drill bits…

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sing, Dance and Forgive


“Dance like no one is watching.  Sing like no one is listening.  Love like you have never been hurt.  And live as if this were heaven on earth.”

The above quote has been my motto these past few years.  It fits my personality well because I am that crazy girl in the crowd who will happily do just about anything if it will bring a smile to someone’s face.  I am content to oblige to most requests - from singing karaoke in a crowded bar to eating spam out of the can because I lost a bet with a room full of teenagers.  Yes, the first two in the motto are easy.  I am happy to dance (on a stage) like no one is watching and to sing (into a microphone) like no one is listening.  But the last two in the list are a challenge.  I imagine those last two would be a challenge for most of us.

One of my facebook friends recently asked this question: Is it really wise to love like you have never been hurt?  I have been thinking a lot about her question.  She has a valid point. When you have trusted another with all of yourself and was betrayed, then the hurt is profound.  That hurt makes a lasting mark on your heart.  Is it even possible to trust and even perhaps “love like you have never been hurt”? 

Although I am very blessed to have never been significantly hurt by those who are closest to me, I have been hurt by people whom I trusted.  But relatively speaking, I think that we would be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t been hurt or betrayed by another.  My experience happened many years ago when I was on my way out of the Baptist church.  The ministers I was close with made no effort to speak with me concerning my decision to leave the Baptist church.  And considering my relationship with them in the end had been rocky at best, I had to conclude they were happy to see me go.  This was a hard pill for me to swallow because I knew they fought hard for all their members.  If someone stopped attending church, he or she could expect a visit or a phone call.   I was not called.  No one tried to visit me.  Not even one of my friends in the youth group.  Nope.  I could almost hear them yelling “don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out!”  At the time, I just moved on.  I concluded that the lesson learned was to not get close to a Christian community again.  From that point on, it was just going to be me and God.  I didn’t need brothers and sisters in Christ.

I think my reaction to this hurt is quite typical of most people.  When we are hurt, our “fight or flight” instincts kick in.  We protect ourselves.  We analyze the experience, learn our lesson, and take the necessary steps to avoid that pain in the future.  Although that can be healthy - it’s only healthy to a point. If we choose to hold onto the hurt and not forgive the person(s)/act(s), then we cannot be truly healed.  We will carry that garbage around and let it burden our souls and affect everything about us.  Why is that?  Why do we have to forgive in order to be free of the burden?

When we harbor past hurt and pain, we justify the resentment and hatred we hold towards the people who have inflicted that pain.  And that resentment gives birth to the fear of loving or of being loved.  The only way to let go of that fear, is to forgive the person and act from which the hurt was inflicted.  Through forgiveness, we regain the freedom love requires. 

But more important than our freedom to love is the fact that the act of forgiving is what Christ commands us to do:
Then Peter approaching asked him, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?"  Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.  That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.  Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.'  Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.  When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.  He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 'Pay back what you owe.'  Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'  But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.  Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.  His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?'  Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart."   (Matthew 18:21-35)
In this parable, Jesus teaches that if we don’t forgive one another, then the heavenly Father will not forgive us.  I don’t know about you, but I find it terrifying that at the end of my days, I may stand before the Lord and He will say, “You did many good things and you loved me deeply, but you did not forgive.  Therefore, I cannot forgive you”.  And boom: there, I am separated from God for eternity.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s set the fear factor aside.  In another teaching on forgiveness found in Matthew 5:23-26, Jesus tells us not to come to the altar if we harbor anger in our hearts towards another.  I was always confused by this teaching.  Just because I am mad at Cindy or Johnny doesn’t mean I am mad at God.  How are trusting God with my heart, and trusting Johnny with my heart related?  But as I have grown older and somewhat more mature and a little more experienced in the art of love, this teaching has become a little clearer.  I think the reason he says this is because we cannot be open to the love he offers us if we fear the vulnerability love requires. When we hold onto the hurt and pain and thus the resentment and perhaps hatred, then we cannot even begin to trust our hearts with anyone else- even God.  At the altar, Jesus gives us his heart but we cannot experience His love unless we are willing to give up our hearts in return.  That is the definition of love- giving one’s self wholly and completely to another.  Therefore, we cannot truly receive the love Jesus offers us at the altar if we hold onto our hearts for fear of letting go.  When we choose not to forgive, then we separate ourselves from God here and now.  And if we continue to hold onto it throughout our lives, that separation can reach into eternity.

I think that once the dust settles and we see the merits in forgiveness, then most of us desire to forgive.  But actually forgiving is a challenge.  In most cases, we have to let go of our pride.  In my situation, I had to let go of the glory of being right.  I had to let go of the idea that the work I did in that church deserved some sort of recognition by the leadership and its members.  I had to conclude that the reason I was Catholic was not because I stepped away from the Baptist community, but rather because Jesus brought me exactly to where he wanted me to be.  While I wallowed in all the hurt and anger, He found me, comforted me and showed me the beauty of the church He established 2000 years ago.  And then He waited for me to realize that I could not fully experience His love unless I was willing to let go of my hurt, my justification, and my pride.  Once I forgave, I was able to hand Him all of my heart and be embraced by the community through which He loves.  I was able to be reunited with Him.

So, is it wise to love like you have never been hurt?  I think so.  It’s not easy.  It’s not natural.  But it is quite necessary if we want to really live.  How sad would life be if we always guarded our hearts and never allowed ourselves to be loved?  How sad would life be if we never experienced the love and freedom brought forth in forgiveness?  How sad would it be to go to Christ’s table and never partake in the love for which he died?  How sad would it be if we choose to be separated from God here and now and then into eternity?  Yes, it is wise.  Partaking in God’s love is where we find life’s meaning, purpose and most of all, pure joy- it is heaven on earth.  And how glorious will it be when we stand before the Father and He says “I forgive you, my good and faithful servant.”

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday Vol. 4


1
So, my seven quick takes Friday is happening on Saturday which is a great reflection of my life these past few weeks.  My husband has been out of town and we are celebrating his return tomorrow.  I think he is looking forward to arriving at a comfortable place that doesn’t smell like a gym or move like a tour bus.  He will get his wish but his comfortable place will be filled with toys everywhere, and screaming children.  And I may just sneak away from this comfortable place for a little while and let him wallow in the chaos- um, I mean tranquility.
2
While I have held down the fort all alone these past few weeks, I would be remiss not to admit that it wasn’t that bad this time around.  I am not sure if it is because I am getting used to my husband’s absence and all the extra work that his absence entails or if I have just reached a new level of insanity that broadens the parameters of my normal.  In these past few weeks, on more than one occasion, I have run low on patience, time, patience, sleep, patience, adult conversation, and patience.  But one thing I did not run low on was vodka (cue hallelujah chorus).  I refuse to take my kids inside the liquor store so I usually run out of vodka while my man is gone for extended periods of time.  This time, I have vodka to spare, so I think that is a good indication that I wasn’t quite as overwhelmed this time around.
3
This past Thursday, I got to pretend to be a reporter.  I covered the Guadalupe Radio Network Summer Speaker Series at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas for MetroCatholic (www.dfwcatholic.org).  Fr. Larry Richards was the speaker.  And he was hilarious.  On more than on occasion, I flashed back to my days of sitting in a pew in my southern Baptist church on a Sunday morning.  Fr. Larry is a great preacher.  He tells it like it is with no apology.  I had the privilege of interviewing him before the event.  And, being that I work with youth ministry, I asked him what advice he would give to a teenager.  His answer was awesome and should be the mission statement of every youth minister: (I’m paraphrasing) ‘Today’s young people need to come to know that they are beloved children of God.  They need to realize how awesome that is.  And in that understanding, they can experience the love of God in a profound way.  They come to know that God loves us more that any person ever could.  And they need to live in that love.’  Isn’t that awesome?  I think it is particularly awesome because young people think they are many things but beloved is not one of them.  They spend much of their time trying to feel important to someone- anyone.  For them to realize how important they are to God would be a life changing experience for many of them.  It would be the beginning of something extraordinary in their lives.  It would set them on fire.
4
Speaking of being on fire, how ‘bout this heat?  We are on day 22 of 100+ in a row.  I am glad that I had no desire to plant flowers this year.  If I had, it would have been easier to take the money outside and light it on fire than try to keep flowers alive.  Our lawn is starting to get brown in a few places.  And we water it!  We water it as much as the city will let us water it.  I am sure the TruGreen man is all in a dither.  I wonder if he will come do a rain dance on our lawn.  Is that in the contract?
5
So, I am getting to do something today that I do not get to do very often: enjoy a clean house.  My kids are with my wonderful Mother-in-law.  So, because I have a sickness, I saw a perfect opportunity to get my house CLEAN.  I turned up Matt Maher and rocked out with the Lysol, vacuum, and Pledge.  Everything is put away.  There are no little people to get it right back out and spread it all over the house.  I can sit and admire the order.  I can bask in my reflection in the coffee table.  I can walk around bare footed and not wonder what I am stepping on.  And (drum roll please…) the bathroom is CLEAN (which is pretty awesome when you live with a whole bunch of boys).  It is a glorious day.  I may even get to read a book!
6
I also got to do something I do not get to do very often- go shopping!  I am the cheapest girl on the planet so shopping is always hard.  I dread parting with the little bit of money I manage to scrape together for the blessed event.  But today, I did well.  I got three dresses and a pair of dress pants at Ross for $70.  Not bad.  And then I went to Two Hearts Catholic book store.  What I saved at Ross was spent there.  I did get Fr. Larry’s book Be a Man! which is turning out to be really interesting.  It is supposed to be for men but, since I live with all boys, I figured I was allowed to read it.  I also finally bought Lisa Hendey’s book A Handbook for Catholic Moms.  I am embarrassed that I write for catholicmom.com but I have never read her book!  She has a new book coming out in October so I need to knock this one out first.  Also, I figured I would need a book on how to be a Catholic woman after reading about how to be a Catholic man.
7
I fear that my oldest son is turning into a…..(heavy sigh)….teenager.  We seem to be dealing with mood swings.  He is going off to middle school this year at a school in a new district.  And I fear this change is going to be tougher than we originally thought.  I am praying that he makes some friends- and fast.  And good friends, of course.  He needs these friends because I am clearly NOT COOL anymore.  Somehow, I have crossed from the realm fun, loving Mom to dorky Mom who just doesn’t get it.  I don’t think that Dad has made this transition.  I think his absence has made the teenage heart grow fonder.  So, that is good for now.  I think this dorky Mom needs to read some books.  And hit her knees.  May God have mercy on all of our souls.