Live in the Sunshine…

A three handed card game called “casino” was a big part of my evenings last week in Phoenix. We’d head outside to the balcony and argue about the musical selection being played in the background, and then Z and I would dominate Tom, who just isn’t good at this game. At all. As my life is chock full of the need to take solace in the fact that I am winner of only the “women’s division” in all family contests, I was a skosh obnoxious in victory. Tom snorted defiantly, “People think you are kind- but actually you are pure evil!” I waived off the insult and told him he should think about being better at cards, ha? Zach quite agreed with me, and laughter ensued. This week also contained a nice dose of sunshine and God’s glorious architecture.

Outrageous architecture was the milieu of Antoni Gaudi. I’ve been interested in him since I discovered the Sagrada Familia, an unfinished masterpiece of truly outlandish proportions which is located in Barcelona. I’ve never been to Spain, but learning more about this eccentric genius over vacation with my poolside nose in his biography makes me long to see it when it’s completed. That is supposed to happen in the next several years– around 2026.

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Long a lover of books, their pages have taken me all over the globe and taught me about the imperfection and humanity that exists in even the most inspired and holy people. It’s a great reminder to me that, frankly, there was only one Jesus…and we ain’t Him. There’s nothing like seeing something magnificent created by one of the Lord’s flawed creatures, in person, to inspire the soul, though.

This past week, I found myself in majestic and awe-inspiring Sedona, Arizona. Steep canyon walls, hiking trails, and breathtaking views dominated Red Rock country. The Chapel of the Holy Cross, constructed in 1956, is regarded officially as one of the seven made made wonders in the state. It was my third or fourth visit to the spot, and still my jaw was agape at the splendor.

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZ

Being in the mountains with two of my favorite guys on a stunning, sunny day lifted my spirits so profoundly. As we were descending from the top of the rim on our scenic jeep tour, I couldn’t keep from noticing it was the feast of St. (Pope) John Paul II. He was a man who understood the glory of nature and who saw God’s architecture as tremendously inspiring in his own life. All our help comes from the Lord who has made the heavens and the earth. This is the little piece of psalm 89 he shared when he gazed upon the majesty of the Rocky Mountains on his famous trip to Denver. He also took most of his well-documented vacations with friends he treasured camping in the mountains of Poland. He took some flack for staying in close contact with the old friends who often accompanied him through his life and on his holidays, even after becoming Pope.

Me (at left) w Zach and Tom…and our pink Jeep!

Here’s the deal. Saintly though he was, JPII knew his humanity, and that the calamities of life and the existence of evil were a fact. He realized the importance of love, too. His infectious optimism was rooted in its actuality. So, our connectedness with one another is vital. Our relationships must be fostered– and doing so is a form of self-care, he argued. We must guard our mental and physical health, and we must experience our belovedness through the smiling eyes of those we treasure. They are gifts placed in our lives by the Lord. If the Pope can make time to go camping, you can find the time to enjoy your people too!

Let us love, since that is what our hearts were made for.” -St. Therese of Lisieux

After a few days in the sunshine with two goofballs, my concerns and fears about what lies ahead are still with me, but I carried back to Indiana stronger and more confidently in my heart that Jesus cares about my life and hopes– and He hasn’t relinquished control. His plans are better than my own. I mean, DUH? He’s God, and I am not. How is it that I forget this so easily?

I have noticed I’m far from alone on this feeling of being a bit overwhelmed. 2020 just refuses to end, am I right? If you are running on empty too, I strongly encourage you to try to find someone who makes you smile and take a few minutes with them to catch your breath. If your life is too busy or your heart is too disquieted for that, let alone a trip to the mountains…? Friends, don’t worry. My wise friend Tina taught me that when I don’t even know what to do, just pray, “Jesus, I don’t know what I need, but You do. Please help me.” God will come for you. FACTS. He sees you. Like JPII said, “He hears you. He loves you.” That truth goes for obnoxious card players like me with a streak of evil in my heart, and it applies to you too. It’s that simple.

Finally, I leave you with this thought as the elections approach and COVID (with all the resulting closings, job loss, illness, masking, social distancing, and cancellations) refuses to relent. When we see our lives in the light of eternity, it’s a game changer. It makes me want to try and BE THE GOOD. So, despite my evil tendencies… like yelling too loudly on the sidelines and mocking my husband when I beat him in cards…? I still think someone who aches to be love for the next guy is mostly on the right path. This is truth even when my potty mouth and humanity get in the way. That said, I think THIS WEEK, the world needs the light of Christ in a big way. I’m going to ask Jesus in prayer to help me be perhaps a little less wicked, and a lot more like Him. That seems like a good recipe to become love.

Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong the family of the faith. (Gal. 6: 9-10)

Let Nothing Disturb You

I made dinner for Grandpa Tom and delivered it before I left. Dinner for Mom and Dad was also packed for the journey. I remembered Drew’s package he needed me to deliver to his fraternity, his apartment deposit check, and I brought along some cookies I baked for he and his friends. What I didn’t remember on this second trip north in a week was MY glasses, or clean underwear, or a spare bra, or my toothbrush. So, I just brushed my teeth with a washcloth and I went commando under my yoga pants wearing yesterday’s bra, and THANK YOU GOD a tunic length top. Sheesh. Is that a skosh too much information for you? Sorry about your luck. Today, I’m just flat out keeping it real.

Mom got a new hip a week ago, and so I’ve been staying close to help out a little extra. I broke away from Red Oaks Lane to have lunch with my college kiddo and a buddy of his who are nearby studying at Purdue one of these afternoons. It was a nice break, after which I decided to make a little detour to campus, and I popped into the bookstore to pick up a few items for my Boilermaker enthusiasts this Christmas. That was when things got dicey. There were two employees present, and they were arguing about politics, the Supreme Court nominee, and even just the TV channel being shown in the store. They apparently felt volume changes minds. The experience felt very emblematic of the soupy situation we all find ourselves in right now. Plus, it was not mood enhancing.

Mom, looking good post-surgery.

Maybe because 3 out of 3 grandparents in our lives are in the middle of some health drama, the husband of a dear friend is in the ICU on a vent, COVID has disrupted the education of our children, and the powers that be have stolen from me the sacred music at mass which calms my soul (among myriad other trials), I find myself somewhat rubbed by things which injure my mental health further and illuminate nada. I am much more interested in what we can do to love each other. Helping the next guy to “see the light” or change their stubborn mind when we honestly have no idea what they are facing is just flat out the wrong approach, according to me, myself and I. Clearly, all of the social media outlets disagree, but I digress.

I have a theory. It is based on not a darn thing except my gut instinct. Therefore, I offer it to you without a trace of scientific evidence to back up the assertion. Here it is. I think we can’t change other peoples minds. I think it needs to be their idea. In other words, discordant, raucous screeching actually doesn’t even work a little. Perhaps we can nudge others along with rapport, kindness, and understanding. I feel like I have a lot more success instilling open mindedness in others when I listen respectfully and find common ground.

I’ve never actually tried to convince anyone to change political parties. BUT, I have tried to persuade plenty of hurting, lonely folks that they are loved beyond all telling and that God is for real. That seems like an argument worth winning to me. I’ve got all those people on my mind today, which is apparently “World Mental Health Day.” I can’t keep up with all the made up holidays but based on my own mental chaos alone, this seems a cause worthy of attention.

You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind. Trust me, I’ve tried. EPIC FAIL. To call this year challenging is just the most ridiculous and underwhelming description. I’ll add some other adjectives just to make myself feel better about the adequacy of my work here. Hmm. 2020….troublesome, painful, demanding, wearisome…and downright onerous? Yes, that sounds better. Hopefully, there’s one in there that makes you feel like we are kindred spirits, because it is absolutely true that misery loves company, ha?

Here’s the thing. Servant of God, Walter Ciszek said, “Each day, every day of our lives, God presents to us the people and opportunities upon which He expects us to act.” This is a stunningly beautiful thought coming from a man who spent 15 years of hard labor in Russia, most notably in Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka prison where he was tortured and spent significant time in solitary confinement. If you haven’t read his biography, With God in Russia, I’d recommend it. It’s a difficult read, but incredibly inspiring.

So, what are you and I called to do today? What’s God asking of you? For me, I think it’s possible the Lord wants me to lighten up. The world needs sunshine. Laughter paired with being a little more gentle with Shelly would be a great aid in this matter, and perhaps put my own needs on the to-do list as well? It’s hard not to notice that deficiency when you’ve got Crest on a washrag in your mouth (and no undies) for gosh sakes! I’d guess there are a few of you who may be similarly called by our Lord. I’m making light here, but seriously, folks. Life is hard enough, consider being kinder to yourself. Others are watching your example and during this Respect Life Month, I’d say sometimes we forget our own dignity and worth. We can’t be who we are called to be, or be the face of Jesus to others like we should if we don’t mind the store a little.

A good friend texted me this morning, “Can you help me calm down?” I had no magic, but I promised prayers and told her I loved her. Then later, I sent her an inappropriate but very funny meme. Smiles can be the fairy dust in our day, am I right?

We need to trust the Lord and be at peace. It sounds hard, but it’s really very simple. For me, it helps to quiet down, pray, and go to mass as often as I can. Receiving Jesus is a great joy and comfort for which I’m grateful. This morning, the mass was said by one of my favorite human beings. He’s got the voice of an angel, and he hasn’t used it much lately. There are pandemic rules, I know, I know. Sometimes, I find the obedience of my pastor super annoying, ha? But TODAY, he did sing the Alleluia before the Gospel, and for just a moment, he broke into the harmony while the smattering of daily mass folks like myself sang the melody. It was just a little smile from the Lord, a reminder that He loves me, and that He knows everything— including how much I miss beautiful, sacred music. He’s right here beside us if we look.

On this feast of St. Teresa of Avila, I leave you with one of my most favorite saint quotes of all time. There’s a reason this gal is a Doctor of the Church. Read it slowly, and let it soak in.

Let nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you,

All things are passing away;

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things.

Whoever has God lacks nothing;

God alone suffices.

— St. Teresa of Avila