Too Much to Lose

Author’s note: I was asked by a friend who is a recent convert to the faith to share my take on the Catholic Church in all her messiness. I’m just one Jesus girl who loves the Lord and who cannot imagine life without the Eucharist, and therefore her Church family, and this is my take. Whatever you read in this, know one thing for sure. You are loved beyond all measure by God. Always. -ST

“Who is going to save our Church? Do not look to the priests. Do not look to the bishops. It’s up to you, the laity, to remind our priests to be priests and our bishops to be bishops.” –Archbishop Fulton Sheen

When I was an 8 year-old at St. Lawrence Catholic School, I remember a morning filled with genuine heart ache—and a few tears too. You see, nearly every member of my fairly large class had some important role to play in the all-school mass being organized by Miss Mecklenburg’s 3rd grade class. I did not. Cue the pathetic meltdown. I have always worn my heart on my sleeve, been a little too emotional for my own good, and the truth is, the Lord used this amazing teacher to help draw me to Himself that year. It wasn’t about “I’m a better reader” or “that’s not fair” for me on that sad little morning. It’s a moment I’ve never forgotten (almost 40 years later) because that little girl was just authentically sad about not being able to do something special for Jesus that day. I wasn’t worried about what any of my classmates thought of me, I was just this innocent child who wanted to show the Lord she loved Him. The truth is, it never occurred to me that my ridiculous sniffling might cause my teacher or my classmates to disapprove or think less of me. Eight year olds don’t think like that. With children this age, the one thing you can you can almost always be assured of is authenticity. In good news, I’ve since come to realize that Jesus can see our hearts, even if we don’t get picked to bring up the gifts at mass.

To this housewife from Indiana, therein lies the critical disconnect in this current crisis in my beloved Church. When we forget that in the end, it’s all between us and our Lord, we are lost.

In all walks of life, at all ages and stages, our humanity inevitably oozes forth. When you’re eight, it’s transparent. Unfortunately, as we age, we often lose the ability to be truly genuine. That means that on the edges of the humanity continuum, there are some childlike (genuine) souls who pour out their lives working to be the face of Jesus, and others become more wicked or manipulative and end up reminding us more of Judas.

Miss Mecklenburg? She was the former. She noticed my pained face and pulled me aside. She promised another role, another day. I knew in that moment, because of her kindness, that God had something else in mind for me (and the fact that it involved me getting a brand new green velvet dress for Christmas mass was pretty cool too). She also taught us about satan that year. In fact, she is the only teacher I can remember in 12 years of Catholic school, bringing up the topic of evil in such a courageous way. She encouraged us, when we encountered the diabolical (my word, not hers) in our lives, to speak the name of Jesus, aloud, repeating it if we must. “He will flee if you do that.” I recall that conversation scaring me, as I had not considered the presence of darkness in that way. However, she loved us enough to speak truth, in love. I have always used her sage advice.

Unfortunately, on the other end of the spectrum, far from everyday heroes like my 3rd grade teacher—across all walks of life– are folks who violate all goodness and commit acts which I would characterize as gravely depraved. Turn on CNN. The profound lack of moral integrity exists in all types of folks including parents, teachers, coaches, police officers, doctors, priests, bishops…and the list goes on. This article is not really about the fact that there are deeply disturbed criminals among us. You already know that if you ever watch the news. A neglectful mother doesn’t make us all neglectful, a careless doctor doesn’t make them all careless, and an abusive priest doesn’t make them all abusers, obviously.

The challenge for me is, what about the rest of us, and what about people in positions of moral authority who fail to lead? What is our collective responsibility? There are (I would argue, otherwise decent) folks who overlooked the misdeeds of Dr. Larry Nasser. There are fellow officers of the law who performed their own roles lawfully but who noticed their co-worker’s propensity for violence or racism and said little. There are shepherds in our church who turned a blind eye to abusive clerics at all levels.

“Cry out! Cry out with a thousand tongues! This world is rotten because of silence.” –St. Catherine of Siena

When we avoid all controversy, choose the path of least resistance, and work to keep from offending everyone, it sets us up for a lukewarm life. We all want to be in the inner ring, so to speak. If we who are essentially good reveal the content of our hearts, we fear we will lose approval, acceptance, or prestige. When we have too much to lose, we tend to compromise, lest we lose our upward mobility, our power, or whatever it is we are valuing more than truth.

Our religious leaders are a lot like many of us in that way. We all want an invitation to the party. We feel we have too much to lose to make a stink. Have you ever had a close friend or family member you knew needed honesty, but whom you feared losing even if you lovingly tried to point out a serious concern? Did you go ahead and speak the truth or did you decide it wasn’t your place?

When our Bishops have this mindset, though, it’s a huge problem. Their failure to act on their moral authority in a holy way undermines the life of the Church. Discretion seems to be the word they love more than they should. It’s probably partly what landed them in pink hats, actually.  We are to be impressed when they speak like elite academics. The problem is that when they are insulated from genuine communication with the laity, when they insist on formal letters from the priests in their diocese who have urgent issues to discuss, when they are long on administrative skills and short on pastoral experience, when they are positioning themselves instead of shepherding real people, it gets us precisely here.

I don’t want a confessor who assures me “it’s ok” when I commit a serious sin. I want mercy and forgiveness to be sure, but also I need fraternal correction. I’m looking for Christ in that interaction.  I have a holy, courageous priest and other friends willing to do that in my life.

Guess what? Our leaders need the same. Some of them have forgotten who they are and to whom they ultimately belong. I’m not suggesting our priests and bishops start sending out their cell phone numbers to everyone. You know what though? That would be standing alongside your flock, huh? Right now, a little more authenticity and courageous leadership would sure be a breath of fresh air.

I’ll leave it to the most holy, clever and creative of the bunch to find a way to be the salt and the light and show us the path forward. However, we must demand honest and courageous shepherds! Indignation and righteous anger have a place at the table right now for us who sit in the pews. In the midst of this diabolical masterpiece unleashed on us by the devil himself, though, I vote we cry out every day like I was taught in 3rd grade and call upon our Savior by name. Let’s just keep crying out to the Lord. Why over complicate things? Pray! I read once that even Pope John XXIII, now a canonized saint, would pray before bedtime in a childlike manner and say, “Oh Lord, I’m going to bed. It’s your church. Take care of it!”

“The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine—but for unbelievers a proof of it’s dignity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.” –Hilare Belloc 

Rother 

ABOVE:  Bl. Stanley Rother

Because a funny Irish priest once told my mom, “Ye gots to leave ‘em with a wee bit of hope”, let me give you a shining example of a saintly shepherd by whom I find myself inspired. Oklahoma native, Stanley Rother, became a priest who eventually served the poor in Guatemala. A dangerous civil war broke out and all religious were targets. He was urged to leave. He defiantly refused. On July 28, 1981, he was attacked and killed in his rectory. Shortly before he died, he explained why he was staying with his people, despite the incredible courage and fidelity it must have taken to stay with his flock and lead at an impossible time. He said, “A shepherd doesn’t run at the first sign of danger.”

Amen to that. To all you holy priests and bishops out there, I stand with you. You are heroes who bring us the sacraments, without which, we cannot live. I urge you to remember this is no time for weakness and I want you to know of my daily prayers for you. Thank you for all you do each day. Truly, I love you amazing men!

To those who have been abused and victimized by evil people, my prayers are for your healing and for justice.

Bl. Staney Rother, first martyr born in the United States, PRAY FOR US!

Footnote:  For those in the area, Fr. Don Wolf, the cousin of Bl. Stanley Rother, will be coming to give a first person account of his holy and inspiring life on Oct. 23 at 7pm at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Carmel, Indiana.  It’s a free event, and all are welcome.   

America’s Great. It is.

Those who know me well are quite aware that I adore a good book and admire terrific writing.  When I have the time, I can devour several books in a single week.  This week, because I have a kiddo who asked, I found myself curiously reviewing the humor and memorable characters of American writer, Mark Twain.  How bizarre is it that a man who’s been dead over a hundred years really got me noodling over the current state of affairs?

Mark Twain once said, “It’s better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Yet, here I go, again.

I’m a big fan of welcome mats.  Ditto, those big signs over the highway that declare things like “WELCOME TO MICHIGAN!”

What could be more simple or straight forward, right?  When I see that cheerful sign on the highway, I know I’ve arrived in the land full of blueberries and big blue water.  I believe they are happy I’m there.  I appreciate the sunny greeting and take the people of the great state of Michigan at their word.  When we’re on a road trip, we usually cheer as we pass this sign and others like it.

I believe most of us who live in these United States of America are in fact pretty darn terrific.  Although I present to you not one shred of objective proof, I believe we hold the most important things in common.  For instance, I stand by my belief that nearly ALL OF US want a bright future for our children.  We want to live in peace.  We want our families to live in a place where they love and are loved now and down the line.  Truly and utterly, I unequivocally believe this.  Things happen in every generation that shake us, it’s true.  Nevertheless, America is full of beautiful faces who are generous and amazing and loved by their Creator.

Here’s more wisdom from Twain.  “The pause—that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words, howsoever felicitous, could accomplish it.”

When we pour forth negativity on whatever is happening this news cycle, or insist on pursuing our own viewpoint on social media, ad nauseum, even though our intent may indeed be righteous, I find it often is misconstrued and turns out to be divisive.  The path forward for me involves more prayer and more listening.  I’m not putting an asterisk next to my welcome mat to clarify who I mean.  I’m just not that complicated.  You’re ALL welcome.  I’m happy to have you at my tailgate party– even if your son is lined up against mine on the line of scrimmage tonight.

Usually, I’m a woman of more words than less.  Even my blog posts are usually a reliable 1000 words or more.  I’m arguing this day for the opposite.  Well, unless you are a millennial who wants to take me on over my use of the totally appropriate and not outdated double space.  I’m not old.  I’m just right.  Ha?

“I had been accustomed to vote for Republicans more frequently than Democrats, but I was never a Republican and never a Democrat.  In the community, I was regarded as a Republican, but I had never so regarded myself.  As early as 1865 or ’66 I had had this curious experience:  that whereas up to that time I had considered myself a Republican, I was converted to a no-party independence by the wisdom of a rabid Republican.  This was a man who was afterward a United States Senator, and upon whose character rests no blemish that I know of, except that he was the father of the William R. Hearst of today, and therefore the grandfather of Yellow Journalism- that calamity of calamities.”  (Autobiographical dictation by Mark Twain, 1906).

Amen, Mr. Clemens….and God Bless America.

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)

 

Oh, what a day!

My  16 year old son, Nick, with his first car...a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe!

My 16 year old son, Nick, with his first car…a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe!

Oh what a day! Oh, what a day! 

My baby brother ran away.

And now my tuba will not play!

I’m eight years old and turning gray.

Oh, what a day! Oh, what a day!

–Shel Silverstein

Admit it, this is a lively little poem, huh?  It’s catchy, silly and it rhymes.  Silverstein’s work stuck in my brain when I was a girl the first time I heard it.  Anytime I exhale the words “Oh, what a day” (for reasons either positive or negative) I can’t help repeating this goofy, brilliant little poem at top speed right behind it.  Sometimes I even do it aloud, which typically elicits a stare which wonders silently about my mental capacity.

OH WHAT A DAY!

The forecast this gray day called for 6-10 inches of additional snow in my weather weary hometown of Carmel, Indiana.  Ugh.  But, it’s a big day here at the Thieme house, so I shook off Chuck Lofton and Al Roker with their unfriendly news of the morning and got ready to face the day.

As the mother of a son who has reached the age of 16 years, 183 days, it happened to be the first date on the calendar where he was both eligible to receive his Indiana driver’s license AND the BMV is open.  It’s a big day.

I’ll never forget my own Dad leaving work to come and pick me up at Central Catholic High School the day I was eligible for my license many moons ago.  Mom and Dad didn’t make me wait until a day and time that was practical…when there was no school or sports conflict, for instance.  They let their inner teenager lead the way.  I recall extreme gratefulness and pure joy!!

OH WHAT A DAY!

First, however, there was the carpool full of grade schoolers to escort to St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School.  As I pulled out of the parking lot, I felt a strong inner tug to stop for daily mass.   It’s something I do with fair regularity, but I lack discipline and so hadn’t necessarily planned to do so this morning.  But I have prayed much of late asking for God’s help on this weakness so the tug was all His perfect timing.  Okay, Holy Spirit, I thought.  You win.  I keep praying about how I need Your help with discipline in all things…physical, spiritual, practical.  Thanks for being loud.  I hear you.  Mass it is.

Just moments after my arrival, in came my father-in-law.  I quickly realized God nudged me intentionally and for a specific reason.  My silent quick glance to heaven was a prayer of thanksgiving.

“Is mass this morning being said for Jane?” I quizzed.

“Yes. “

We sat together, sang together, and Fr. John asked us to bring up the offertory.   It was a lovely, intimate mass and I had the opportunity to pray aloud for the souls of two cherished family members whose losses are fresh and for peace for all of us who mourn.  We held hands as we said the Our Father and we hugged at the sign of peace.  It felt like a great and undeserved gift and if I am honest my heart was aching with both the losses and the overwhelming gratitude for a God who would love me so much that He would know just how to nudge me into attendance so that I wouldn’t miss His incredibly beautiful hug this morning.

OH WHAT A DAY!

At midday, my oldest son got his driver’s license, picked up his first car (a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe) and got his first tank of gas courtesy of the thoughtful and pretty terrific Dawn and Craig Miller at Indy Auto Source.  He drove himself to grab and sandwich, and he made his way home across 116th St. for the very first time all alone.  He acknowledged that his dad and I were due “some extra love” and gave me a high five.  Exuberance and joy were quite evident on his scruffy teenaged face.  I told him that if God blesses him with a family someday to remember how he felt this morning, continue to work hard in school, and pass on the moment one day to my grandchild.  I also told him I loved him and am proud of him and that he has given us no reason not to expect he will be extremely responsible with his newfound freedom.  Then, a tear I could not reign in fell down my cheek.  He smartly ignored it.

OH WHAT A DAY!

What else?  They poured the floor in the basement of my soon to be home today.  That job was finished moments before the snow began to fall. That would be the same snow that is not supposed to stop until nearly a foot of it has collected.  I am not a builder, nor have I recently slept in a Holiday Inn, so I don’t understand that decision.

My friend, Kris, asked our help for her daughter at Purdue that suffered a bad fall today and was in need of medical attention.  She reached out knowing our families are both from Lafayette.  We passed along the names of a couple doctors, the best ER in town and our promise for prayers for our fellow Boilermaker.  A CT scan and X-ray later, we learned there’s no internal bleeding….Thank you God!

My youngest forgot his reading book, my carpool partner called to warn of a problem for her 4th grader arriving home in my car, the ball games were cancelled (again), the kitchen is covered in melting snow footprints, and three friends offered to get my kiddo home from school.  Chase is sending me a new credit card because they think someone is trying to steal my identity.  Oh, and the 9 year old is thrilled I remembered the peanut butter crackers on my grocery run.

And NOW, here comes the SNOWVERLOAD!!

OH WHAT A DAY! OH WHAT A DAY! MY BABY BROTHER RAN AWAY.  AND NOW MY TUBA WILL NOT PLAY.  I’M 8 YEARS OLD AND TURNING GRAY. OH WHAT A DAY, OH WHAT A DAY!!

Like moms everywhere, the life I live is completely without glitz.  It used to be that I struggled to find my worth in the invisibility that is the day to day existence of the stay-at-home mom.  Now, I realize this is the most important work imaginable and I only get one chance to give it my best shot.   I am so grateful for every silly moment of this snowy February day.  My 16-yr old gave me a high five for goodness sakes and I got to hold hands with my pretty amazing father in law and pray with him.   It doesn’t get much better than that.  This is the journey.  This is the good stuff.  Today was a crazy day filled with smiles and a few tears.

Here’s my prayer today.  Maybe a few of you will find it suits your needs sometime.  My great honor would be if you pray along.

Dear Jesus,

I praise you and I thank you for my very full and often invisible life.  In each small detail, in each circumstance, I am given a chance to praise You, Lord, and thank You for loving me perfectly.  When I choose to smile through both routine and chaos with peace in my heart, grateful for the blessing of my family and friends and the life You provide me, I honor You.  Like St. Philip Neri, who was famous for his joyful spirit in right relationship with You, I invite You to be part of all the smallness of my life.  I ask Your help with the discipline and desire I need to grow in holiness and ever closer to You.

Amen.

And now, I’ve gotta go!!  It’s time to work the snow shovel!

PEACE OUT!

Prayers for Boilermakers…

“There’s been a shooting at Purdue today,” said teacher Cathy Cederholm as I finished up my lunchroom duty at St. Louis de Montfort today.  “I’m checking up on all my Purdue kids to make sure everyone is safe.”

The information being released is minimal and the situation is still active at my alma mater, which happens to also be my hometown.  From here, what I can do is pray for the students, professors, campus employees and passersby who might have been in harm’s way (or feared they were) today.

For the young Boilermakers who are out in the world on their own for the first time and now dealing with a lost sense of safety and security, and for their parents whose hearts stopped  beating until they got the “I’m safe and I’m okay” call, there’s little else any of us could do.

Perspective

Sometimes, it takes something extremely serious to help us with perspective.  Other times, a tiny moment does the trick.

When my 9 year old glanced upward with that morose little face full of innocent freckles and asked me about this situation on the campus he has visited so many times, I told him that it made me sad too.   Then, I just had an honest conversation with him and his 14 year old brother.  I told them how we needed to pray for the victim and his family, and also for the shooter.  Zach looked up waiting for my explanation on that last part.  I shared how no one who understands that they are wonderfully made and truly loved by God would choose to solve their problem with a gun.

I said, “Do you think God loves the boy who made the really bad choice today at Purdue?”

“He’s probably not very happy with him, but He’s God and God always loves us, right Mom?”

“Yep. That’s right, Z.”

Most days, our challenges and concerns aren’t so incredible.  For instance, when my oldest son Nick was 4, he was timid.  On the soccer field, he stayed outside “the scrum” and watched the other kids fight it out.  He was afraid to get hurt, afraid to fall.  Learning to ride a bike was therefore a near impossibility…and his dad and I were frustrated by his inability to get out there and meet the world.  We wondered if we were failing him in some way.  His words were, “I just can’t do it!  It’s too hard.”  He couldn’t see the freedom waiting for him.  We wondered and worried about him like all parents do, especially the first time around.  It seemed like such a big deal.

A few days after watching us and our futile attempts with Nick and his bike, a neighbor told us (and our little guy too) about her “magic bike”.  She described how her son Will had learned to ride on the “magic bike.”  “I could have Will’s uncle bring the bike back from Ohio for you to borrow if you want to try it, Nick” she gently offered.  “Yes, Mrs. Volpe, I would like to ride the magic bike.”

Within moments of his little feet touching the pedals of the “magic bike” a couple weeks later, the walls of fear were coming down and suddenly his world was bigger and faster—and much more fun!  Freedom is delicious!!

On that particular week  12 years ago, there was both worry and then joy for my young son, Nick as he took off on the rusty old white bike shipped in special from Ohio.  It was one of those life moments.

Today, I received a text message from my now 16 yr old (yes, an illegal text sent to his mom from school) wondering about the safety of Will Volpe– the same kid whose bike he borrowed those many years ago, now a Purdue Senior studying engineering.

My grandma used to say “small kids, smaller worries, big kids, bigger worries.”  How true.  It doesn’t really matter if they are tiny or if they are enormous, though, does it?  They are ours all the same and each day we must be prepared to handle what our journey brings as best we can.

Freedom is peace of heart in the middle of the chaos

Over oatmeal and coffee earlier in the week with a girlfriend, we discussed our children.  We talked of our hopes for them, the challenges and perils they face growing and maturing, and our need to trust that God will lead us all according to His flawless plan.  Being at peace and trusting in God’s plan, trying our best to do His will.  That’s freedom, but gosh it’s hard.  It’s especially challenging for those of us right in the middle of raising young people in 2014.

As I wondered aloud that day about the school dance and the driver’s license eligibility date approaching, my friend shared with me that her beautiful and remarkably bright daughter frets and struggle so much over the issue of body image.  This young lady is a gifted athlete who wears a single digit dress size.  If there was ever anyone who should look in the mirror and appreciate God’s creation, it is this young lady.

How can she not delight in it?  How can she fail to see how wonderfully made she is?

Her mother sees all this with clarity and not a small amount of angst, yet she seems willing to walk alongside her lovely daughter with a fair amount of peace in her heart, despite the difficulties.  She is a godly mother, and to me there seems an innate need on the part of mothers everywhere to love our family by some sort of inner compulsion.  It’s how God made us.

Our journey is perilous but we must take it if we want to be free. 

Our children are each on their own journey, just as we all are.  The important thing is that as we walk, wherever we are, that we learn to know who we are in God’s eyes.

Why?  Because we aren’t the author of the story, and the only thing we can count on in this life for sure is that some days are going to take our breath away and we aren’t going to get out alive.

Who am I in God’s eyes?  I didn’t know when I was 16.  Or 30.  I was a slooooow learner.  Of course I don’t want that for my 3 boys.  I’m sure you’d rather an easier path for those you love as well.  UNFORTUNATELY, God isn’t big into sharing when it comes to authorship.  He is the Author of Life(Acts 3:15), Author of our Faith (Heb. 12:2), Author of Salvation (Heb. 2:10).

Friends really are a gift from God and that chat felt like a God sighting along Highway Shelly.  It helped me so very much as I meandered through this Tuesday afternoon.

Patience and humility are the words of the day.  God makes His presence known when He wishes and appears for His own reasons.  We have to be, says Fr. Robert Barron “humble and docile in his presence, ready to wait, if necessary, through long hours, days and years, prepared to hear the rush of God….when it comes.”

For the first time maybe ever, I realized today, I feel a legitimate sense of peace.  I am not saying I don’t have significant things about me that I don’t like a bit.  I loathe that I am sometimes more concerned about me than about others.  It bugs me that I don’t get out of bed without hitting the snooze button.  It irks me that I lack self-discipline, have a bad attitude towards exercise, and that I drink too much diet coke.  I talk too loudly and check my iPhone too often.   It drives me crazy that my pride doesn’t allow me to love selflessly the way God wishes.  And seriously, what’s up with the kidneys always full of stones?

Here’s the thing.  I don’t define myself anymore by what’s lacking in me, by the sins I commit or the suffering that is mine to manage while my God seems far away.

Says Fr. Barron,  “When we suffer, we are like the tiny child, sadly and angrily incapable of grasping the reason for our pain, and God is like the father whose only recourse is the invitation to trust.”

Much like my sons are each the child of a crazy lady who insists they shower and occasionally eat from multiple food groups, not to torture them but out of love, I am the child of a merciful God who is wild about me.  So are you!  Sin or imperfection cannot be allowed to define us.  That is a peace stealer and it is NOT OF GOD.  God loves me because I am His.  It doesn’t have anything to do with what I do or the parts that I don’t like.  God loves me because of who He is–and  HE IS LOVE.

Here’s my little prayer today.

We praise you God and thank you for making us just as we are.  We thank you for our friends, family and all those you have given to walk alongside us in this life.  Lord, we ask you to reveal your love to us and to our children in a new and profound way.  Help us look in the mirror and say, “Mighty God, I know you love me.”  Help me shine like the sun so others may see You through me.  Oh, and Jesus…please be with all the Boilermakers who need your powerful presence tonight in their minds and hearts.

Amen.

“Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

She’s not going to make it

Jane M. Thieme Jan. 17, 1943-Dec. 4, 2013

Jane M. Thieme
Jan. 17, 1943-Dec. 4, 2013

“Come now.  She’s not going to make it…”

I dropped the bag full of groceries on the counter and headed out the door thinking “how can this be?”

After that, time and details are kind of muddled in my mind.  However, I woke this morning knowing that the grandmother of my boys, Tom’s mom…….Grandma Jane…….is gone.

Sure, she had been ill.  Yes, she struggled physically.  But, she just baked Drew his favorite pumpkin pie for his birthday.  She was going to the Yuletide show this weekend.  She was headed to Chicago.  How can she be gone?

Today, this reality is coming over me in waves.  SIGH.  I guess I just needed to type it and see the words come across the screen in front of me today.  So, forgive me for being a touch inarticulate and not terribly inspiring.  This entry?  Well it feels cathartic, so I’m sorry for your luck if you were in the moody for sunshine.

The funeral was Saturday.  Our parish wrapped us in love and helped us say goodbye.  They anticipated our needs, they fed our family, and our two priests were present to walk alongside on a truly difficult day.  I am grateful for my church.  Catholics know how to say goodbye in the most meaningful and lovely way.

This is going to be hard.  How can my father in law be okay when half his heart is gone?  I’m not sure.  God’s grace is sufficient says St. Teresa of Avila.  Gosh I hope she’s right.

THE EULOGY

Below is a copy of the eulogy.  As my brother in law Jerome aptly put it, I was “voluntold” by the family to write and deliver it at her funeral mass.  I share it here at the request of several.  If there’s anything here of meaning or comfort to anyone, all glory goes to God.

Good morning.  On behalf of my father-in-law, Tom, as well as Jennie, Mary, my husband Tom and the rest of the family, I want to open by saying thank you.   The sense somebody cares always helps, because that sense is Gods powerful love…and your presence here today is a very great gift you have given us for which we are truly grateful.  Your time, prayers and attendance at this special mass for Jane are the tangible presence of Christ holding our hands as we give her back to Him.

Since there is absolutely no adequate way to try and do justice to Jane’s big personality in the 3 or 4 minutes I have this morning,  I am just going to remember some of her greatest gifts and how they blessed all our lives.  I’ll start with her insatiable need to seek out the newcomer.   Jane loved to welcome new faces, and did it in her own fantastic way.  We kind of joked when anyone new showed up at a family dinner or event….”here comes her fresh meat!”

The very first time I visited her home I was 15 years old.  She took one look at me and said, “Well Shelly, that skirt is darling…but you need to come back here to my room so we can look through the jewelry box for a better pair of earrings.  Those silly things you’re wearing are waaay too small.”  In a way that only Jane could pull off, she immediately killed the awkwardness of my greeting the boyfriend’s mom with her own version of “what not to wear.” 

I have heard so many stories the last few days about her sunny hospitality and unique brand of warmth towards co-workers, cousins, friends, neighbors, old boyfriends….it seems everyone has a “Jane story”, and all of them make people smile. 

Jane’s heart was soft for anyone down on their luck.  In fact, right this very minute our South Haven cottage handyman is sleeping in her Michigan cottage bedroom because he didn’t have another place to go.  So, over Thanksgiving, she offered him her pillow and a warm place to sleep in exchange for some painting and repairs. 

This was not new behavior.  On the morning of December 25th many years ago, I was told she noticed a young high school kid milling around outdoors.  His home situation was difficult and he had moved in for a time with the neighbor down the street.  He was locked out I think, and without a Christmas plan…until he ended up at Jane and Tom Thieme’s Christmas morning breakfast on Saw Mill Road.  .  I have no doubt the tree was perfectly trimmed that morning, and I am sure the homemade centerpiece on the table would put Martha Stewart to shame.   I can’t remember his name, but I do recall it gave her great joy to see him on the field playing football for Purdue a couple years after their chance encounter, knowing he was in college and doing well.  Jane had a gift for hospitality. 

Did I mention she was an extrovert?  She charged her batteries by being with other people.  Her favorite person was, without question, her partner of 49 years, Tom.  She once said to me, and I will never forget it, that if she had been on a quest to marry the most thoughtful and hardworking man in the world, she couldn’t have done any better.  With Jane at his side in all her vivaciousness, I feel safe saying he met and interacted with thousands of people he might never have otherwise encountered.  They always seem to be so comfortable with each other, balancing each other, that their example of a holy marriage will always be to us a beautiful influence in our own lives.

What else?

When I listened to Mary Jo, Jennie, and Tom talk the last couple days, I heard about all the summer fun in South Haven when they were kids because to her, things like an extra day of vacation and great games of charades were priorities.  That led to a chat or two about the more recent fun in Michigan had by Thomas, Katie, Nick, Drew and Zach along with us, their parents, and Jane and Tom, orchestrated utterly by her grand plan of cottage ownership about a decade ago.  She handled the bills, she scheduled the repairs, she managed the details none of us wanted to take on…………so that the family could be together, smiling, eating Sherman’s and watching the sunset.

If Jane could speak to us today, I think the first thing she would say is, “Oh, I don’t want all this fuss over me.”  Oh, but she really would.  She would adore the fuss as much as she loved each of you who touched her life in ways big and small.

One last thing. Jane did some suffering too.  Her cross seemed especially heavy during many moments the last couple of years.  We weren’t prepared to lose her.  Our hearts weren’t ready.  So, for those of us who have ever thought about saying to God, why this?  Why now?  I have this thought.

An interviewer asked a young man who had been through extreme suffering and was facing death if he had ever questioned God about why He allowed this to happen.  The young man answered, “Yeah, I ask God why all the time.  Why out of all the people in the world did you choose me?  Because now I am going to spend eternity with you!”

What an amazing perspective. 

I leave you with a prayer inspired from psalm 39, which will maybe help us remember how important it is to live simply, not taking ourselves too seriously……….but by loving each other and our God in the light of eternity.  

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.

Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting life is.

You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.

My entire lifetime is just a moment to you, each of us is but a breath.

With you, my God I long to live forever.

May Jane’s soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. 

AMEN.

Let’s Start an Intention Avalanche!

In her book “Come Be My Light”, Mother Teresa shocked the world with the revelation of her deep interior darkness.  During this time, God used her radiant smile to shine one of the brightest lights of modern times on countless people all over the world.  This is what came into my mind today when a positive and faith filled friend sent out a message this morning which gave me pause.  I want to share part of it with you.

Everyone will go through some hard times at some point.  Life isn’t easy.  Just something to think about…Did you know the people that are the strongest are usually the most sensitive? Did you know the people who exhibit the most kindness are the first to get mistreated? Did you know the ones who take care of others all the time are usually the ones who need it the most? Sometimes just because a person looks happy, you have to look past their smile and see how much pain they may be in. To all my friends who are going through some issues right now–Let’s start an intention avalanche.

The sentiment expressed here is a bit sad but truly lovely at the same time.  I read it as a call to pray for all of those around us, especially those who smile at us radiantly.  Every person—family member, neighbor, colleague– in our path was put there by our all-knowing and loving God.  We have to care enough to pray for them, love them, even though they may not ask.

The note above was sent by a sparkly and positive person– a mom– that I regularly encounter.  I am ashamed to say that I cannot recall having before offered a single prayer for her.  You see, she seems to be doing just great, and she never asked.  That’s not okay.  A friend shouldn’t have to look miserable or advertise their illness or struggle in order to be “prayer worthy”.

“Love one another deeply, from the heart.”  –1 Peter 1:22

Admittedly, I get a fair number of prayer requests.  I consider this a great honor and privilege, and I also think it’s just the influence of my big personality.  I make  “friends” with bank tellers and bag boys and small talk with coaches and kindergarteners.  Just yesterday, for example,  I found myself searching for prune juice at O’Malias with a cute old guy who was a bit turned around and couldn’t find the juice aisle.  I thought I knew where everything was at that store, in fact, until tested on the prune juice.  But, my new bff, Stanley, and I did find it! The “never met a stranger” gene is a gift inherited from my Dad.  Is this a blessing, or a curse?  Ha?!

This kind of giftedness, however, should not be mistaken with the kind of faithful friendship that is possible when we open our lives and hearts up to others.  We have to be willing to take the risk of vulnerability when we lay out the welcome mat to our hearts.  This is why I work hard to honor all the prayer requests, even if it means that I offer a single “Glory Be” on my busiest days for a particular intention.  Someone has usually risked revealing fear or genuine interior desire when they ask for prayer, after all.

However, today’s message made me realize, that’s not going to cut it.

“Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God’s best gifts.  It involves many things, but above all, the power of getting out of one’s self and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another.”   — Thomas Hughes

When we look up from our own lives to notice those around us, we have the opportunity to multiply joy or divide grief.  We have to understand silence sometimes speaks loudly too.

It used to be when I heard about this idea of “prayer without ceasing” that I pictured pious little nuns with bloody knees.  It didn’t make the idea of being near God all day long sound like anything but a crummy idea.

Here’s what I think about prayer now.  Prayer is speaking to God in the quiet of our hearts, but it is also sneaking in the back door to do the dishes of the neighbor who hasn’t asked but needs the help.  It’s keeping your girlfriend’s kiddo, it’s sending a birthday card, a sunny text message to a teenager, making a breakfast date, or popping in to grab a hug.  These things take time, it’s true.  That too is a prayer though, and it honors God in a way that is possible for minivan moms like me.

“Whoever refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”  –-Prov 11:25

Today, to thank God for the special people in my life, I am going to pray by action.  I choose my sparkly friend who today selected a unique way to say “help me.”  I am honoring her by letting her know how I see Jesus through her, that I am thinking about her, and that I am thankful for the friendship.  I hope she will feel Jesus hugging her with my hands.

“There are so many hurts that circumstances and the world inflict upon us, we need the constant reinforcement of encouragement.”  –Billy Graham

To all reading this today:  Know that you are loved.  Don’t ever forget that Love came all the way down here to earth to help us in our helplessness.

Now, pass it on!  Get busy!