#Soak It Up

It was barely past 7am on a recent Tuesday morning when my phone began to blow up.

First came a photo of Cole and Clay from my dear friend, Ann.  The caption read, “Grab the Kleenex…it’s going to be the year of Lasts!  The last day our boys will go to school together!  Send pics.”

Then, the adorable Chris sent her shot of Rhett and Rhye.  Her senior looked half asleep, but still handsome.  Her caption read, “Uuuugh.”

Shortly thereafter, more buzzing commenced from Lisa.

“First day of 1st grade, and first day of senior year.”

That was followed up by an adorable side by side of her son, Christian, that would just melt your heart.

A few moments later, “Kleenex needed all day” arrived with a smiling photo of Dominic with his big brother Vinny, from my friend Julie.

I quickly gave into peer pressure and then the morning’s “Last first day” shot of my two oldest. I wrote,  “Let’s just enjoy them all year.”

Drew and Nick on the

Drew and Nick on the “Last first day”

Look at me trying to be sunny!  It didn’t last.  Within two hours I had texted my mom, “Can you just sprinkle a little Prozac in my all my beverages this year?”

I felt a bit like a mom cliche.  I know, it’s silly, and I realize how much God has blessed our family.  Still, there was this wave of sadness, of thinking so wistfully about the last year with Nick under our roof.  God’s grace is sufficient, I thought.  I followed it with, “whatever.”  Then, I found this golden nugget.

Those to whom God gives riches and property, and grants powers to partake of them, so that they receive their lot and find joy in the fruits of their toil:  This is a gift from God.  For they will hardly dwell on the shortness of life, because God lets them busy themselves with the joy of their heart.  Ecc. 5:18-20.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine lost his dad in a tragic accidental drowning.  It appears to all that Mr. Doerr was cleaning the pool when he apparently got tangled in the vacuum hose, hit his head and fell into the pool.  I lost my breath a bit when I read the note I received which laid bare the details, and I imagined the deep grief of the family.

What Fr. Richard reported the day of his father’s funeral was this, which I read on my phone in a bit of disbelief.  He wrote, “It was an absolutely beautiful thing.”  There was no “but”.

His simple words spoke powerfully about his strong faith and grateful heart.  It convicted me instantly, but I didn’t quite understand why just yet.

There’s more.

A year ago, I lost my friend, Shannon, in horrific fashion.  In the midst of their terrible grief, her sister, Colleen, and husband, Doug Stine, adopted the two sons she left behind.  They are being raised alongside the little Stines, Ryan and Maddie…and a brand new baby girl born just days ago.  They named her Shannon Lynn.

I sent my grieving friend, Fr. Richard, this photograph.  It was the moment when Colleen introduced her parents and her older sister, Janet LYNN, to their newest family member.  When I saw it for the first time, I sobbed.

I explained to him that it was one of the most poignant photos I have ever seen and that it was of the O’Malias.  Mom, Dad, and their two daughters– in the delivery room– meeting Shannon Lynn, who is named after BOTH of her aunts.  I told him it was so stunningly beautiful that I can’t stand it, and that it was, to me, a powerful example of God’s grace just reigning down on them.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.   So I won’t write about it anymore.  Here it is.

Welcome to the world, Shannon Lynn Stine

Welcome to the world, Shannon Lynn Stine

To that, the reply I received from the good padre was a link to the homily given by Fr. Rasner at his dad’s funeral.  I thought that was a bit of an odd thing to send but given that I was out of town on vacation during the funeral and regretted missing the event, I was glad to get the chance to hear it.

To say that it was powerful and comforting would do it a massive disservice.  It was perhaps the most beautiful and inspired funeral homily I have ever heard.  The Doerr family is a large and faith filled group which has produced two priests.  The younger Fr. Doerr shared this with me because he recognized in that homily what I felt when I saw that photo.

God’s grace reigns down on us.  It happens all the time in small and powerful ways.  It’s our choice to see it.  We have to cooperate with grace, you see.  When we do, the only appropriate response is gratefulness.  The Doerrs and the O’Malias have provided me (and many, others) inspiring witnesses of faith and gratefulness amid terrific difficulties.  They have given me pause.

Why, oh, why is gratefulness NOT my default position at this point?  I really MUST be the most stubborn, slow learner of all times.

Let’s circle back to my pitiful morning of angst at the realization that this is Nick’s SENIOR year.  It’s the year of lasts.  Sniff, sniff.  Perhaps the storm clouds and film noire attitude is not the way to go?  A little melodramatic– you think??

This is just one small example and one tiny situation.  However, it’s definitely emblematic of an overall spiritual shortcoming.  It was the O’Malias and the Doerrs that inspired me to visit Jesus.  I prayed, “I don’t know what I need, Jesus, but You do.  Please help me.”

As I prayed, I got thinking about the proper way to handle this year (and my life, and my failings), and then I kept thinking of this crazy, over the top guy we met this year on the baseball field.  “Why am I in the chapel thinking about Skiles Test baseball,” I thought.  “Girl, focus on what you’re doing,” I scolded myself interiorly.

I couldn’t.  That’s when I realized God was talking.  Duh.  When people get “stuck” in my brain, I tend to spiritualize the experience.  In other words, I believe the Holy Spirit is behind it and has placed them there for a reason.

What can I say?  Some holier people probably hear angelic choirs when they pray, or at least think of cool biblical guys.  I tend to go another way.

Stick with me, and allow me to digress….

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel”  — Carl Buehner

Coach Bazan is a lunatic.  No, really, he is.  So is his wife, Coach “Ball.”  Her name is actually Crystal, but everyone calls her Ball.  Really.  She brings bags full of gum and miscellaneous candy to every practice and baseball game.  Sure, it’s just little league baseball, but still…and she video tapes every game.  Why?  So she can send video clips to parents of their kid’s great hit, or awesome catch and enjoy it or send it to a grandparent who lives afar.  Coach Ball only sends highlights.

“We gotta call him ‘All American Thieme’ momma, because that is what he’s gonna be someday!  I was so excited when we got him on OUR team this year because I am sick of playing against him!  He hit 7 for 7 against us last year!”

Those were the first words spoken to me this spring by Coach Bazan about my 10 year old son, Zach.  All I could think was, “Good God!”  Who knows the stats of players from the opposing teams?  From last year?  I don’t think I am ready for this guy.  And do you know what?  I WASN’T!

Before we knew it they all had nicknames. There was “Lights Out Ferrucci” and “Hitman Haas.” He named “Gotcha Goff”, “Max the Rock Johnson”, “Mr. Excitement”, “Tough as Nails Bartlett” and “Lightning Baltz”. We will never forget “Irish Padgett” or “Hammer Hardister.” It was kind of hilarious how the boys beamed when he called them by their awesome nicknames……….which was constantly!

I have to be honest. I don’t know much else about this family but for sure I know one thing. They taught me a very important lesson. That lesson?

SOAK IT UP.

Life is an amazing gift. Live it—in positivity, with gratitude! My heart is so often overflowing from amazing blessings. When God reigns down on us, He intends for us to SOAK IT UP, and then… drip sparkly little bits of joy all around us.  I do feel a tremendous amount of joyfulness. It’s time for me to take a cue from the terrific Bazan family and shake that sponge a little harder.

There is a time for nostalgia, for pining over how fast the time has gone, and if all goes as it should, there will be an entire box of Kleenex utilized when I drop my oldest son off at college next fall. But, I don’t need to make it the longest, most painful separation song in history. Brooding is a colossal waste of time—whatever the crisis of the moment.

Now is the time for gratefulness and generosity of spirit.  Now is the time to honor God and the amazing family, friend and community He has given me with my joyfulness!

Those to whom God gives riches and property, and grants powers to partake of them, so that they receive their lot and find joy in the fruits of their toil:  This is a gift from God.  For they will hardly dwell on the shortness of life, because God lets them busy themselves with the joy of their heart.  Ecc. 5:18-20.

God deals out joy in the present, the now.  He also reigns down His love on us through others.

For me, He has most recently spoken through the beautful witnesses of the O’Malias, the Doerrs and the Bazans, To them, and to God, I am grateful.  Candles have been lit and prayers said for these families with a full and thankful heart.

Has anyone loved you up in a meaningful way lately by their example of faith or their kindness?

Yeah, that was God.

This year’s motto:  #SoakItUp

Then, shake that sponge, folks!

Peace Out!

Challenge Accepted, Cathy!

Vivian and Cathy, pictured here with their cute husbands.  Treasures, all.

Vivian and Cathy, pictured here with their cute husbands. Treasures, all.

Her text opened with an update on her husband who has been hospitalized with heart trouble.  “He is tired but okay today.  Took a nap but just cannot catch up.”  She’s one of those people, like me, who write texts so long you have to unscramble the order to make any sense of their content.  “I took a long time at the store today, reading labels,” she continued, “he loves chili but the sodium is awful.”  Finally, she closed with, “How are you?  Your prayer life, your spirit?”

I replied with a great low sodium chili recipe I stole a few years back from my health conscious younger sister, and I followed up with a query about her own physical well being.  You see, Vivian s a bit of a Florence Nightingale kind of gal.  She often sacrifices too much for those around her.  It’s my own personal observation, one with which I am certain she would disagree.

Wise and grace-filled friends are a gift from God.

Vivian responded, “Okay, respond to my question about your holiness and spirit.”  Then, she added a smiley face emoji.

If the goal is to become a magnificent woman, then she has achieved it.

“My prayer life?  Hmm.  I am not taking enough time.  My faith is strong but I am not praying much.  I feel like all I do is petition.  After communion today, I just thanked Jesus for being with me now and told Him I love You and I need help to love You more.”

After I watched Peyton finish off the home team in my beautiful new basement, surrounded by the handsome Thieme men, I re-read what I had written.  It was clear to me I needed to work on gratefulness.  I thanked our amazing Creator for pointing it out so loudly, and I closed my eyes.

Today, I woke to a Facebook challenge by another Jesus girl to write and post for 5 days, 3 things for which I am grateful.  Coincidence?  Ha!!  I am taking that up for one primary reason.  It’s clear to me that Jesus used Cathy, my challenger, as His voice today.

Ask and you shall receive…huh?!

DAY 1:  Three (3) Things for Which I am Grateful

1.  Magnificent Faith-Filled Friends (You know who you are!)  These are the gals who zero in on what’s truly important, who walk alongside, keep their sense of humor, affirm the worth of themselves and those around them, express themselves authentically, and who listen with love.  You girls have taught me how to juggle, rebound, nurture, commit and pray.  You are the face of Jesus in my life….and  I love you all!

2.  My Achy-Breaky Heart:  I curse it sometimes, like when the original mean girl, Nellie Olsen, is simply horrid to Half-Pint and my eyes instantly well up as I flip past an ancient episode of Little House on the Prairie.  The thing is, that aching means God gifted me with compassion.  When I feel that ache in real life, God is winking at me.  He’s prodding.  Go, Shelly, act.  Give.  Listen.  Offer.  Sometimes, I don’t wanna.  Occasionally, I ignore it.  However, I have found that when I feel the ache, see the truth, and do nothing….it is a day I die a little inside.  That achy-breaky heart is a beautiful gift from God.  Listening and acting (without being attached to the outcome)…It’s God’s light shining in me for a moment.  Nothing feels better.

3.  A Diet Coke, extra ice, in a styrofoam cup, with a lid and a straw.  Not to be shallow or mean, but all other beverages fail to compare.  Sometimes, my adorable husband hand delivers one to me.  He just gets me.

WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR?

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  (Matthew 7:  7-8)

 

Mother of Mercy

I’m gonna be honest.  Right now, I have forced myself into this chair to type hoping it will calm me down.  My heart is racing, my hands trembling; my mind is spinning out of control.  This has been quite a week.  At this moment, the gift I am giving myself is to simply spew it.  This is what I would call a “stream of consciousness” entry.

Have you ever had a friend you just cherish beyond words?  God has blessed me with a handful of them.  I just call them “my girls”.   They are the cream of the crop, each with amazing gifts that make them incredibly special to me.  My friend Julie is the REAL DEAL.  She is a loving mother of 3 boys, an artist, quiet and unassuming, funny, selfless, and one of the finest women I have ever known.

As I wrote earlier this week, my wonderful friend, Julie, lost her mother a few days ago.  I omitted details from the day she died on my previous entry.  See, the thing is, I had been with Julie most the afternoon that day this world lost Nula.  Julie had what I call a “Lucy and Ethel moment” and fell down the stairs and onto her garage floor the day before her mom died.  When I got the call to take her to have her leg checked the next morning, we both assumed she simply had a bad sprain.  Wrong.  The ankle was broken.  We talked and laughed and determined that it was annoying as heck, but nevertheless possible, to survive 6 weeks as a mom of 3 without being able to drive.  She picked out a purple cast….the ideal color for the mom of a Guerin Catholic Golden Eagle football player.  We found the sunny side, and I promised that we would help her through.

When she got home, news reached her that her mom had taken a major turn for the worse, and that doctors didn’t think she would make it through the night.  This was jarring.  Despite the fact that she had been ill, the end came very suddenly and was without warning.  The prayer warriors went into overdrive that night praying Divine Mercy for Nula and strength for Julie and her entire family.  Word came just a couple hours later that God had taken Julie’s mom.  Julie sat beside her mom’s bed in a wheelchair herself, filled with angst, in that quickly forgotten purple cast.

Funeral plans were made.  Eulogies were written.  We painted Julie’s toes purple to match her accessorized right leg.  Casserole dishes and platters full of cookies appeared.  Four priests concelebrated the mass, and Deacon Rick was “robed up” too.  It was a beautiful celebration of an amazing life.

SIGH.  NOW, it seemed time to let my friend have some room to mourn with her family.  Then, the phone rang.  It was Julie.  She wondered if I could take her to the doctor.  Her good leg was hurting more than she thought it should.

Two days post funeral, there we are in the doctor’s office again.  The doctor looks up at us and says, “I’m going to need you to head to St. Vincent’s now.  They will confirm things for you, Julie, but I believe you have some blood clots in your leg.  You need to go immediately.”

I was thinking, “Goodness.  That’s a fine how do you do, God.  Really?  Hasn’t she been through enough this week?”  Off we went, trying to remain calm.

Within half an hour, the ultrasound technician confirmed the diagnosis.  Her good leg has quite a few clots.  More tests were ordered.   Tears streamed down my friend’s face as I held her crutches, and her necklace, and her hand.  “Jules, this is when trusting God feels really hard, but we have to try.  He and I are gonna have some words tonight over you, FOR SURE, but our job is to trust Him.”

I went to get her a tuna sub from Subway, and I called her husband.  He left work, and we tried to see the sunshine.

Yesterday, more doctors were consulted.  Specialists galore, friends, and family swirled about.  She was sent home to rest and wait for instructions.

Now four days since her mom’s funeral, she finds herself in a chair, in the same hospital where her mother passed away last week, with her purple cast, a left leg full of clots, getting a blood transfusion.  It seems her blood counts are poor.  It’s REEE-DAMN-DICULOUS!  Why now?  None of it makes much sense.

Her concern is for her children.  She is texting me not to forget the youngest son’s cleats.  There’s carpool pickup, practice, and don’t forget the 9am football game.  Every mom can relate.  There’s no way to be present and peaceful in the moment until you are certain your children are safe and in loving hands.

Tonight I will have some extras at the Thieme house.   There will be picking up, dropping off, packing bags, watching games, meal preparation, kid bathing, sleeping bags, and extra hugs needed.  I wish I could do more.

To all the people today to whom I seemed distracted or even rude, I was.  I’m sorry.  Gus, greatest handyman ever, thanks for saving my house from the leaky plumbing while I talked and talked and talked on the phone today and completely ignored you.  I’m sure you’d like to give me a piece of your mind about my tacky hand waving.  A nice tip will be forthcoming.

Here’s the thought I can’t quite escape as my heart hurts for my friend.  Who do we want when we are sick and struggling?  I can’t speak for you…..but I want my mom.  Gosh.

Jules, this is my prayer for you.   I’m asking Mary, mother of us all, to watch over and intercede for you this day.  She will, because you are beloved.

HAIL HOLY QUEEN, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope…..