Today is my BFF's birthday. That makes her older than me! We go way back, me and my BFF. Back to before we were friends.
We went to the same Catholic elementary school back in the early 70's. Her grandmother taught me 3rd grade, so that made her somewhat of a celebrity in our third grade world. So I knew her, but she didn't know me. We were in the same fourth grade math class. We were grouped by ability in those days, and we were in the "high" group. Sr. Agnes would just let us work our way through the math books. Those were the days.... When we would get to the end of a lesson, we would get one of the teacher's manuals and check our work. If we had any questions, I guess we would ask.
One day, though, a girl named Michelle decided to take a shortcut. Instead of doing those thought-provoking questions at the end of each lesson, she just copied from the teacher's manual, "Answers May Vary". Apparently Sr. Agnes decided to do some spot-checking because one day we heard, "ANSWERS MAY VARY!!! WHAT DO YOU MEAN - ANSWERS MAY VARY!!???" Oh my! That is a day that lived on in both of our memories for a good 30 + years.
BFF left our school after fourth grade, though, to enter the dreaded world of .....public school.
Fast forward four or five years. We ended up at the same high school - a magnet school far from either of our homes. Last time I visited her, I asked if she remembered how we met. Our memories there differed. I can distinctly remember standing on the steps of church one evening after CCD - probably after our first class in 9th grade because most classes were held at someone's house - and striking up a conversation. Perhaps we realized that we went to the same school.
She remembered that our freshman homeroom classes were next door to each other.
In any case, we became good friends in high school. We didn't live far from each other and I still remember her phone number. We spent the night at each other's houses. We both took piano lessons, though she is much more talented than I ever was. She also played the flute and sang in the folk group at church. She swam; I was allergic to chlorine. I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher; she had no idea what she wanted to "be".
I was a Girl Scout During our senior year, my troop planned the most awesome trip ever - a 3.5 week trip to the western US. I convinced her to join Girl Scouts that year, and we shared a tent for those 3.5 weeks. It was a great trip, and there were memories made that will last a life time, but after that trip, I was pretty sure that we would not be roommates. ;-)
I moved about an hour away for college, but we always kept in touch. She went to France for a year. We wrote. When we graduated, I stayed in the hour away town, but she got a job in NYC. We kept in touch. I visited her there once. She asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. And then she called it off. She went back to school and got her MBA, and then moved to Kansas City. We would see each other when she was home for Christmas - and maybe other times.
I got married, and she was my bridesmaid - my only one. My sister was my maid of honor. I had a couple of children. We kept in touch. Visited at Christmas. And then one Christmas - 1997, maybe - I think she told me that she was going to move to a monastery to see how being a nun fit. I don't think I was too surprised. Maybe she had told me she was thinking of this??
And so this is me and my BFF today. Can you tell who is who?? Sometimes when people find out that my best friend is a nun, they ask me something like, "Was she a normal person?" Ummm, pretty much. We ate pizza together, typed research papers, had matching rainbow shirts in HS, checked out the cute guys, and watched Footloose and Return of the Jedi in the theater!! She didn't wear a habit to high school.
It is amazing sometimes how parallel our lives and the things in them seem to run. I can email her and she will reply with something nearly the same that is happening in her life. We have been lucky enough to visit several times in the past couple of years, but there have been years that have passed without a visit. Years when our only communication has been email or snail mail. But we have shared amazing things by email. I remember in 2001, when I made my first confession in nearly a decade. I think my BFF was probably the first person I shared that awesome experience with.
Not many things last for 30+ years. I have been so blessed to have this friendship. Happy Birthday, Sister!
I had sent an email to a dear friend/co-worker last night updating her about my assistant's condition and whining about other assorted things that are going on in our workplace. She replied to me this morning with an email featuring these pictures. She said it was the very next email she had opened after reading mine.
We complain about the cross we bear, but we don't realize that it is preparing us for the dip in the road that God can see and we can't. I had seen this before, but it was SO what I needed to see today!
After I dropped of my younger child, I had a choice to make. There was a Mass across town at 7:30, but I was probably going to be about 5 minutes late. (Which wouldn't be a huge issue, because it is in a bad traffic area and people get there when they get there.) Or, I could go to the church down the road from my school and just sit in the quiet presence of Jesus. Much as I love Mass, I took the second option.
There is a devotional book entitled "God Calling" that I started using for reflection this summer. Today's entry could not have been more perfect. Here are some excerpts:
And seeking you shall find. None ever sought My Presence in vain. None ever sought my help in vain.
...Sometimes weariness and exhaustion are not signs of lack of spirit but of the guiding of the Spirit.
Many wonderful things would not have happened but for physical weariness, the mind-weariness of My servants, which made the resting apart, the giving up of works, a necessity....
Though My Way may seem a narrow way it yet leads to Life....Follow it. It is not so narrow but that I can tread it beside you...
I have been nothing if not weary and exhausted the past few weeks. I mentioned that last night.
Then I pulled out Shorter Christian Prayer which contains Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. I flipped to today's. The Psalms were alright. Psalm 36 was about sinners and God's goodness. The Canticle from Judith 16 concluded with, But to those who fear you, you are very merciful. Lord, please be merciful to me. I'm trying...
Then I got to the reading from Tobit 4. It ended with: At all times bless the Lord God, and ask him to make all your paths straight and to grant success to all your endeavors and plans. Given the title of this blog, I really felt like that was directed right at me. Telling me to trust the Lord in all things, rather than asking Him to lighten my cross. And so that is my focus right now!
I left with the message that God does, indeed, hear me and that He also "has my back."
School is school. Good, bad, crazy. Again, nothing got crossed off of my "To Do" list, but things got added to the bottom of it. My assistant did take the day off and says she has a black eye along with a bump on her head. Her sub was a lady who has subbed in my room before, and whom we all love. My awesome assistant says she will be back tomorrow. I'm impressed! The weather was cooler, and that was a lift. My students are really good this year. I emailed my now-former supervisors with some things that I needed their help with, but they both just passed the ball to someone else (my new supervisor and another staff person). It was the feeling of being put out to sea in a boat in a hurricane with just one paddle.
But with all of the stuff on my plate, I know that He will give me the grace to get through and to do things "His Way".
Sorry about yesterday's long entry. Sometimes my fingers just don't stop typing.
Today has been a day. Oh my.
My older teen is taking a career exploration class this year as a freshman, and he told me that he didn't know what he wanted to be, but he knew he didn't want to be a teacher because it was BORING. LOL! Teaching is many things, but one thing it is NOT is boring!
It was my second day of seeing students, and all was going pretty well. A few schedule glitches, but we're doing OK. After that group left at 10:20, I started making my peanut butter sandwich because I have about 20 minutes before I have playground duty. It's a little early to eat, but oh well.
My assistant was also in the room with me and we were chatting as she rounded a corner to go to her desk. As she walked, she caught her foot on the leg of a chair and tripped. She tried to catch herself but stumbled. Off balance, she fell against a desk that is against my desk and smashed her head into my desk. It was not pretty. Head wounds bleed a lot, and this was ugly and deep. I grabbed the paper towels and had her sit down. We put pressure on it.
What do you do then? She handed me her phone and I called her daughter. Then what? I thought of calling the front office, but they recently changed all the numbers of all the schools in the school system, and I don't know my own school's number. Two of our other assistants knocked on my door at that time, so I asked them to stay, while I ran to the office. Nothing happens fast in a school, though. It is SO frustrating. The nurse was there, but she was dealing with a diabetic child. The clerk was there and helped me after she finished what she was doing. I think everyone is so overwhelmed, that we must focus intently on the matter at hand and then move on to the next task, lest we just totally lose our minds.
Long story short, her daughter showed up, and they went to a walk-in clinic. She got six stitches, and then because she was very drowsy, he sent her to the hospital for a CT scan, which thankfully showed nothing. She said she didn't think she would make it to work tomorrow. She rarely misses, but I was pretty sure of that when she left today. I am thankful no kids were in our class when this happened.
That was the blood.
Sweat - that was lunch duty. Thought it wasn't as bad today as past days. Or maybe I was just preoccupied with other things. Like head injuries and hearing that "thud".
Tears. We found out who our newest new supervisor is today. There were several "good" ones that we could have gotten, but we did not. We got one that we had about 10 years or so ago. She doesn't pester you much, but she is also of no help. We called her "The Bumblebee" before. It was apt; she just bumbled around with the occasional sting.
It was a day.
The good parts - Mass this morning, most of my students behaving like people, and an early dinner with some teacher friends.
Give thanks always.
It occurred to me today that in the summer, the heat saps your strength. You feel physically tired. During school, the constant mental demands and due dates and deadlines and discipline issues and documentation wear you down. And right now with summer and school, we are all physically and mentally exhausted.
A few assorted tidbits from the past week or so...
Faith leads to surrender. Surrender leads to love.
Human rights come from God, not government.
God wants us to open our hearts to Him.
We are called to "Go out to all the world and tell the Good News." (Psalm 117)
Last Thursday, the First Reading at Mass was from Ezekiel 36: 22-28. It started off: Thus says the LORD: I will prove the holiness of my great name, profaned among the nations, in whose midst you have profaned it. Father says that the ancient Israelites were profaning God's name by their actions. The question for us today: Do we give God a good name by the way we act, or do we give God a bad name? Honestly, I'd have to say that it varies sometimes in my life.
You try to do what is right, but sometimes the evil and the profane just sneaks in. I have a new co-worker this year. Actually I have several new ones, but one who teaches the same group of kids that I teach. This is just an odd little person. As in, I can't imagine that we would ever have much in common, someone who hasn't really tried to reach out or be included, someone who is just a little strange. Or maybe a lot. Someone who is going to be an endless source of aggravation and conversation. I was feeling just a little bit bad about it. A little bit like the mean kid on the playground. Darn conscience.
Confession was already on the agenda for the weekend. Sometimes when I prepare (I can never just show up at church and "wing it", like my teenagers like to do) I come up with "the list" and other times there are just a few general things that I know need to improve. I don't know ahead of time what's going to present itself - the list or the top 3, but this weekend was a "top 3".
I wonder why gossip and work must go hand in hand? Not once all summer, was that even an issue. But as soon as school starts... it's as if you can't even have one conversation without it being about someone else. And then there was the issue of my new co-worker. I laid it all out there - my attitudes and their weirdness and asked for some perspective from my confessor. (And there are some legitimate specific concerns that I won't put out here for the whole world, but trust me...)
I know the Holy Spirit speaks through this man. "Karen," he says. "Think back to last week....do you remember the question from the homily...I think it was Thursday...'do we give God a good name..?'" I nod. "Our lives must stand for something....there are no easy answers or quick fixes...but we are called to live so that others can see God's love in us....we bring Him to the world out there....God would not have put this situation in front of you, if He didn't also give you the grace to get through it." I know all of this. There is nothing new here. He is an excellent homilist, and I listen - really. But sometimes it is helpful to be reminded in context. My penance fit perfectly - offering something as a sacrifice for this person.
For a long time I avoided confession. Then I had a love-hate relationship with it. But now I have a great appreciation of the sacrament. Maybe that is why I write about it. I know a lot of people in real life who haven't been to confession in a looooonnnng time, who think they don't need it, or who are just really uncomfortable with it. But it is such a gift to us. Yes, there is some humility and honesty involved; sometimes it's a little painful when pride takes a hit. Some nervousness, but it usually passes. Don't be afraid!
Several years ago, I knew I needed to go. It had been a long time, and I had a short list of serious things. (Not that I was an occasional sinner, but I just did the same few things over and over and over. So short list + serious sins + long time = need to go.) One of the things that helped me greatly to find the courage to go was to read the experiences of others and see that they had, indeed, been to confession and lived to tell about it, and that overwhelmingly their experiences had been good ones. And so that is why I share my stories, in the hopes that one person will find the courage to make their way to the confessional and be reconciled with a God who loves to forgive. You go, and not only do you live to tell about your experience, you are filled with New Life! A pretty awesome exchange: humility + honesty + sins = forgiveness + grace + new life.
The title for this post comes from last Sunday's gospel, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate...." (Luke 13:22-30) I read a book several years ago that pointed out that the narrowest door in many churches is the door to the confessional. So, when I hear that scripture passage, that image always pops into my head. Your mileage may vary. :-)
A blog without pictures resembles a classroom with nothing on the walls after a while. There just seems to be nothing photo-worthy these days. It is hotter than hot. Everything is green. School has started. The days are long and the people are tired. Nothing beckons me to capture it.
But...reading on Mary's blog, there is a meme (rhymes with 'cream') where someone selects the number of a folder and picture (like your third folder, 25th picture). You, in turn, find the 25th picture in your 3rd folder, share it, and explain. So that sounded fun, and will provide a much-needed visual for this blog. :-) (I didn't have 25 pictures in the folder, but this is one of the last ones, and it had "25" in the picture number....for what that's worth.)
So.... are you ready?? Kind of anti-climatic, eh?
Want the story behind this?? Well, pull up a chair and a cup of coffee...
My grandfather and grandmother were married for over 50 years. My grandmother was a wonderful, generous, hard-working person, but also rather controlling. For most of our growing-up years, they lived in New Jersey, and we live in the deep South so we saw each other once a year on the average. Taxes in New Jersey being what they are, my grandparents retired and moved to my hometown when I was in high school.
My grandmother passed away in 1990 or so (numbers just blend together since I've had children) and my grandfather was in his early-mid 70's. It was early in my teaching career. About a year or so later, he married Bessie. Bessie had been a widow for a long time, never had any children of her own, was still working at an upscale department store in women's clothing, was about 80, and had flaming red hair. She told us from the beginning that she didn't want to take our grandmother's place, but she was such a gentle soul that that was never an issue. She loved us and we loved her. She never meddled. She never nagged. She just loved. When my first child was born a few years later, she bought him several beautiful "outfits" from the store that she had recently retired from. She is the great-grandmother that my children remember the most.
This was one of the outfits. It was a little romper thingy. But white and my children never mixed, so it was never worn. I kept it in the closet, with the tags still attached while all of the other outgrown stuff found other homes and other children. Fast forward about 13 years. Bessie had passed away a few years before (in her 90's with her hair still red). My sister had had her first child and was looking for something for him to wear for his baptism. I mentioned this garment to her and had taken some pictures to email to her for her approval. This was one of those pictures. Notice the dates. We weren't waiting until the last minute or anything? (Kind of runs in the family...)
Here my little godchild spends some quality time with his great-grandfather after his baptism. Bessie was there with us that day, too.
And so this is long enough for a post. I had started another one that amounted to "tales from the confessional and other assorted ramblings" and had thought I'd just put the photo roulette in front of it, but I think I will cut and paste that into another post for now. Stay tuned....
Maybe it's like one of those quick take things. Lots of little pieces floating around in my mind. Except it is hard not to make them not-so-quick takes.
Anyway. Last week on Monday morning, I thought it was kind of hot at Mass. I was ready to chalk it up to hot flashes, until I saw the A/C units as I walked out. Obviously some kind of trauma had befallen them. It wasn't until the next time I was at Mass there (Thursday) that one of the church-ladies-in-the-know said that someone had vandalized the units for the copper. What kind of thief steals from a CHURCH? It was still hot for Mass last weekend, even though the units had been replaced. They must have not been totally hooked up. Then Father nearly sent half of the [mostly elderly] congregation into cardiac arrest when he told them at the end of Mass that (a) the church had been vandalized and (b) the replacement cost for the 4 compressors that were stolen was $32,900. (Fortunately insurance paid all but $1000.)
At Mass on Monday, I had the thorn in my side on my mind. Our church is shaped like a "T" and for daily Mass, I usually sit in the right "arm" of the "T". That day as I looked across the altar to the people on the other side, there was a spitting image of my thorn. It HAD to be her sister. I have seen the lady there before; she was a regular during Lent, and has shown up again the past few weeks, but this day I think she had a wig on, which made the resemblance unmistakable. I thought it was pretty cool that God sent a visual cue for my prayer - as if to say - don't forget to pray for Thorn. (Side note: We once had a kid at our school named "Thorn". We had one named "Pirhana", too. He lived up to his name.)
Tuesday evening my older teen came with me to pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary. That was nice. It was a nice comfortable group - SIL, MIL, 2 of my nieces, SIL's friend and 5th grade daughter, another SIL friend, me and DS.
Wednesday morning was rainy and icky. We were a little later leaving the house and the car-rider line was unbelievable. I don't know why it is so long. Maybe all the little PreK'ers haven't figured out how to undo their carseat buckles. But with the slow moving, long line, there was no chance at all of making Mass. I didn't even worry about it. There is a beautiful church about 2 minutes from my school that has open doors. I don't really like the daily Masses there, but it is a great place to find peace and quiet at other times. I went today and it was dark - no early morning sunshine streaming through the east windows. I didn't turn on the lights; just sat there in the dark. In the darkness, I could see the silhouette of Jesus on the cross. His hands caught my attention. One, almost claw-like in agony, and the other almost peaceful, accepting, offering. I don't know if there is deep meaning behind that; it's just what I noticed. It was too dark to read Morning Prayer, so I prayed the Rosary. It really was quite peaceful. I will confess that I forgot the 4th Mystery, so I had to break out my cheat sheet and go back and pray it. ;-)
We got our schedule finalized yesterday. Our sections were put into the master schedule, and we changed the schedules of the fifth graders that we will have. Then we went and broke the news to one of the fifth grade teachers that she now has 35 fifth graders in her class. Her partner only has 27, though, so if she gives four away, they should be even. Late afternoon is probably not the best time to give this kind of news to a teacher. Today we should get sixth, seventh, and eighth grades scheduled.
Worked out in the evening. No Pretzel M&M's. Yay me!.
School started last week. My 8th grader started on Wednesday. My 9th grader had his first day on Thursday. All is well, I think. For 8th grader, it is his 10th year at this school. I was so tempted to skip last night's open house. It's his 3rd year with these teachers. Not much has changed at all. But, I went. I almost felt sorry for the kids by the time we were done. We only spent 7 minutes in each class, but that was enough for me! It was long for the end of a day.
We took this picture the second day of school. (It didn't even cross my mind on the first day... bad mom.) Can't you just see the excitement in his eyes about returning to school??
9th grader is in a new school this year. His first year in public school, and the reports from the first 2 days were "awesome". Let's hope that continues. He is in a technology program that functions somewhat like a school within a school. It seemed to be a "safe" environment for him. He is taking World Geography, Algebra I, English I, Physical Science, PE, Introduction to Business Communications (Typing), Computer Tech Literacy, and "Journeys to Careers". He catches the bus at the end of the driveway in the mornings. That is a first for us, but nice.
Here is his first day of school picture. Yes, it is still dark outside when he goes to meet the bus. What maturity! (Sometimes I think boys go backwards on the Journey to Maturity.)
I have the feeling of making progress at my school. My students were not scheduled into my classes this year. I don't even have a schedule. Thursday and Friday were crazy days at my school, and I worked with trying to get new kids into classrooms and looked to see which students we were supposed to have, who actually showed up, etc. We looked at records of new students and attempted to determine their needs. Today we went to a nearby school which has sent us many transfers, and picked up records for 4 or 5 new students. Met with our principal to see what his specifications for our schedule were and then sat down to see what we would come up with. The new "inclusion" teacher and I (who I really like) were able to sketch out a rough schedule. Maybe it was the bag of Pretzel M&Ms that we picked up on the way back from the other school. It feels good to have a basic schedule done.. I will have a 6th grade first hour. Cool! They are a sweet group of kids. Last year I had "The Breakfast Club" first thing in the morning. (SweatHogs would have been another name for them.)
So that is my boring life for right now. I feel so scattered. Mentally exhausted and overloaded a good part of the time. But today was good. I watched 1 kid get on the bus. I got another kid out of the house in a timely manner and dropped him off much earlier than usual. I proceeded on to 7:30 Mass across town ( and unexpectedly met up with a friend), and made it back across town in time to sign in (before 8:20). Life is good. The heat was not so bad today. Maybe that is why I don't feel totally wiped out. Rolling over to sister-in-law's in a little bit to pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary. Maybe one or both of my boys will come with me!
August 15 is not only grandchild #5's birthday, but the Feast of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother into Heaven. What a celebration that must have been when the Mother of Our Lord arrived in heaven! So, in honor of the Feast, here is her Magnificat in song....
I, for my part, happened upon the most delicious flavor of ice cream tonight. Blue Bell's Delta Blues. I had a bowl of it last summer at my sister's house. It is vanilla with blueberries, blueberry sauce and pie crust mixed in. Blue is a Marian color, you know. So I bought the last half-gallon in the freezer case at wally-world and enjoyed some tonight. In honor of the feast, of course!
The kids I teach were scheduled into the "general population" to start the year, so I didn't have too many students today. That gave me a chance to help with students who didn't know where to go this morning and to go over my rosters and visit with teachers to see who I was *supposed* to have and who had actually shown up. In all, it was a pretty productive day.
Someone brought me a student early this morning, with the thought in the back of their head that she was "special". Indeed, she seemed to be to me. Monotone answers. Very agitated and poking away at the keyboard of a computer that was not on. Yelling at the intercom to "shut up, shut up, shut up". (I feel the same way sometimes.) They were afraid to put her with the regular kids, for fear she would "blow" and it just wouldn't be pretty. She told me that she couldn't be in big classes, because they get loud, and it just ticks her off. She mentioned that she had taken her meds this morning and they help her with her panic attacks. She said she gets a lot of panic attacks. I asked her what I should do if she has a panic attack. She said, "Hold me down." Ummmm... I don't think so. I asked if she would hurt me. She said, "Maybe...."
She said she was hungry, so we went to the cafeteria and one of the nice ladies pulled out a piece of toast with cheese and sausage for her to eat. After that, life seemed to improve for her. :-) Word came that there were no records of her getting "special" services, so she will be in a regular class. The counselors were rather overwhelmed, though, so she stayed with me the rest of the day. I enjoyed her, and I think she had a good day. No panic attacks.
My second shadow was very sweet, but much lower functioning than the children that I usually teach. Her mother is still holding out hope that she will get a high school diploma. Sixth grade. First grade skills. High school diploma - probably not.
Many good things have happened in the last week. Prayers have been answered, but one thorn still remains. There is one person (in a position of authority) who asks seemingly innocent questions, but then adds in comments and innuendos that seem to imply that I am not doing my job. I am not usually easily offended - 20+ years of teaching middle schoolers have taken care of that. But this just seems to be an ongoing thing. A feeling that I am under a microscope. A new teacher that I have known for exactly one day commented on it as we left, so I know that it's not my imagination.
As I was replaying the events in my head tonight, my thought was, "I don't need this @#$%." Really, I am pretty easy-going, and can get along with almost anyone. But then another voice says, "Maybe you DO need this." God does tend to send us what we NEED. I'm not sure why He would think that I need this, but I do know that He has good plans. I know God knows what God is doing, even when I don't.
Also playing in my head are the meditations from the Seven Sorrows Rosary. Meditations about accepting the suffering God deems it necessary to send our way and about the value suffering has when it is known only to God. In other words, suck it up, offer it up, and shut up. And so maybe that will be my focus. Instead of running to my co-worker and saying, "Guess what she wanted to know now?", I will just go on with my business. <<Say only the good that needs to be said.>> Perhaps, too, there is something to be said for treating enemies kindly. Romans 12: 17-21 likens it to "heaping burning coals upon their heads." I won't lie. There would be a certain amount of satisfaction in that....
Last year, I typed up some of my favorite scripture verses in fancy fonts and pretty colors, and printed them out on a piece of cardstock, which I taped to the front of my microwave in my little corner at school. One of those tidbits of scripture was Luke 12:34...For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
This summer has been so rich. That's the best way I can describe it. Rich. So many treasures.
A retreat weekend with my sister-in-law and Immaculee.
A deepening relationship with sister-in-law.
A rosary well prayed with thoughtful meditations.
An introduction to Our Lady of Kibeho.
The discovery of the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows.
Praying the Rosary with others.
Praying the Rosary with my nearly 15 year old son sharing my chair, resting on me, and praying along
The grace of knowing the things that need work in my life.
A wonderful confession.
An invitation to serve as a Eucharistic minister.
Lots of quiet.
A great visit with a best friend.
Coffee with friends after daily Mass.
Teenage sons who are requesting to work on a religious award for Boy Scouts.
The real possibility that I will be their counselor.
A friend returning to Mass after a looooong time away.
For now, that's what comes to mind - though I reserve the right to add more later. It has been a summer of far more blessings than sorrows. Truly a gift. Now it comes to an end. A meeting with staff today and the influx of students tomorrow.
May this school year also be a time of more blessings than pain. May God show me the goodness that He wants me to become. May our students see the face of Jesus in us. ~ Amen.
My boys returned late Saturday evening from their 2 week adventure to the National Boy Scout Jamboree and points in between. Isn't this a nice picture of our little group? What you can't see in that picture is THE SMELL! Oh my!!
Did you know that you can go two weeks and only take a couple of showers? (Swimming in a river probably counted as one, and being out in a thundershower was probably the other one.) Did you know that you can go a week wearing the same "conson's" (KUH-sawns)? That's the Cajun word for underwear. Mothers of boys probably know these things.
Anyway, the whole group smelled. I can imagine what the other patrons of the establishment where they stopped for lunch thought. They probably finished their meals quickly - if they were able to continue eating at all....
It was a great trip, by all accounts. They whitewater-rafted on the Ocoee River. They spent an entire day riding go-carts at the Nascar Speedpark. They ate pizza. And bar-b-q. They spent ten days immersed in the Boy Scout culture with 40,000 other scouts. They said that at times, in whatever direction you looked there were other Boy Scouts, all going the same direction that they were. They traded patches and made new friends - some of whom have already shown up on Facebook. My guys reconnected with an old friend who now lives in another state. They slept several nights on the bus, one night in a cave, many in a tent, one under a tarp, and another in a church basement. They were treated kindly by strangers. They participated in a 5K run/walk. They earned merit badges and came home hungry to start working on a religious emblem. They attended Mass concelebrated by 4 Bishops, a couple of dozen priests and deacons, and attended by 14,000 or so other scouts. They spent 2 days seeing the sights in Washington, DC, part of a day in Chattanooga, and time crawling around in a cave on a "wild" tour.
Hopefully there were seeds planted that will bear good fruit and memories that were made that will last a lifetime. For what they did, the price tag was very reasonable, but still a stretch for the family budget. I hope that some day they will appreciate the sacrifice.
This is the group on Saturday night as they gathered the final time to hear the final Scoutmaster Minute. This was usually a short story about someone who demonstrated some kind of virtue - never give up, treat others kindly, do the right thing.... In a parking lot with over 100 people, there was quiet. A prayer of thanksgiving was offered, the Scoutmaster offered his final reflection - with no need for a microphone. There were no mosquitoes noted to be present. I think it might have had something to do with the aroma that hung over the gathering - body odor and dirty clothes, with a touch of mildew. It was good; very good.
Mary has tagged me in a new meme. Side question - how do you say "meme"? Wikipedia says it rhymes with "cream" and it's an idea that spreads quickly through the internet. I don't know how Mary found me, but I'm glad she did!
My Favorite Catholic Prayers
The rules are these:
"Name your three most favorite Catholic devotional prayers, and explain why they're your favorites. Then tag five bloggers - give them a link, and then go and tell them they have been tagged. Finally, tell the person who tagged you that you've completed the meme. The Liturgy and the Sacraments are off limits here. I'm more interested in people's favorite devotional prayers."
I'm nothing, if not a rule-follower, so here we go!
1. The Prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
and in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Not that I pray it every day, or even that I know it all from memory, but I like it! It rather neatly sums up what we are about and how we should live.
2. Rosary of the Seven Sorrows
This is a new discovery for me - new this summer. I have been trying to say it on Tuesdays and Fridays, as our Blessed Mother asked when she appeared in Kibeho, Rwanda. Basically, it is 7 sets of 7 Hail Mary's with meditations on Our Lady's Seven Sorrows: the Prophecy of Simeon, the Flight into Egypt, the Loss of Jesus in the Temple, Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary, Mary Stands at the Foot of the Cross, Mary Receives the Body of Jesus, Jesus is Placed in the Tomb. More information is available here. I have found it to be very powerful - and I have never been a big "Rosary Person" or "Mary Person."
3. The Stations of the Cross
I rediscovered the Stations of the Cross several years ago during Lent. I only remember attending the Way of the Cross on Good Friday when I was growing up, but my current parish offers them on Friday afternoons during Lent at 5:30 p.m. One Lent, I made the effort to go (and it WAS an effort on some Friday afternoons), and I realized that I enjoyed appreciated them. It made Lent that much richer.
When our current pastor arrived, I didn't see the Stations in the "line-up" for Lent. So I asked him (via email). At first I got a reply, that said, "Sorry, but it just won't be possible." I was OK with that, because our parish is not his only assignment and there are other near-by parishes where I could have gone for this devotion. But a little while later, there was another email that said, "On second thought, I will lead it until someone else is found who can lead them." I think that was 3 Lents ago. He's still leading. We've gotten new booklets with new stations.
Bonus: Shorter Christian Prayer
Technically, this is Liturgy, but it is also prayer (or so the title says ;-)). This little book is a condensed form of the Liturgy of the Hours that the religious pray. It has Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer. It has some selections for Lent and Advent, but not as much as Christian Prayer or the Liturgy of the Hours. It has all of the Psalms that are in the 4 week "rotation".
I prayed Morning and Evening Prayer fairly faithfully for the past couple of years, but I've slacked off this summer. Each takes about 15 minutes, and I often felt lately as if I was just flying through the words without actually praying. (When I first started, I had to ask someone, "If this is "shorter", how long is the "regular"? But they explained that the prayers are not shorter, but the selections are fewer for feast days, etc.) I have tried to add in more opportunities in my prayer time for the Rosary, and there just isn't time to do everything. Perhaps with school starting it will fit back into the rhythm of my days.
I am including this, because if you think you might ever like to try the Liturgy of the Hours, this is a great, fairly non-confusing place to start. I really did enjoy getting to be more familiar with the Psalms, and a Bible Study last year gave me a wonderful frame of reference that helped it all make more sense.
Last week, I had a post about how Jeremiah (the prophet, not the bullfrog) keeps popping up in my life. So this week, I've been trying to take in some of his wisdom.
I started with Chapter 1 and there were a few gems there:
Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I dedicated you.... Jer 1:5
Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD. Jer 1:8
They will fight you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD. Jer 1:19
It is a fairly lengthy book - 52 Chapters, so I've been trying to read a little each night - just enough to savor. Last night I started flipping through, and I came across this passage.
You have to know that I've done a few Bible Studies, but sadly, I am not a frequent reader unless I'm working on homework for a Bible Study, and my Bible is not all marked up and highlighted. It doesn't have that comfort level yet. But THIS passage in Chapter 29 was highlighted. As we went through our Bible Study, I highlighted a few that I really liked. Apparently, this made the Top 10.
Can you read it? What a powerful promise that is! If we believed it, would we ever need to worry?
Thus says the Lord....
For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD,
plans for your welfare, not for your woe!
plans to give you a future full of hope.
When you call to me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you.
When you look for me, you will find me.
Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the LORD,
Sometimes I am in awe of how well we are taken care of and provided for by our Heavenly Father. Way beyond what we deserve.
Today was the dreaded first day of school of a much dreaded year for me. Have you gotten that sense reading this blog? But I had decided that between the grace of confession and the alcohol in the small section at Walgreens, I would survive the year.
I went to Mass this morning with my sister-in-law and a friend at Our Lady of the Library. (Not really, they are just having daily Mass in the parish library until their church is repaired.) It was the Feast of St. Jean Vianney, and the homily was about living so that others can see Jesus in us. Very appropriate for a back-to-school message.
After that, I very reluctantly made my way to school.
Not long after I arrived, one of my co-workers mentioned that our supervisor had resigned over the summer!! You can get a sense of the frustration I felt in the first couple of paragraphs of this post. I am SO thrilled!! I wish the best for her, but I wanted to do cartwheels when I heard that bit of news!
I just finished a novena of the Seven Sorrows Rosary. That's nine consecutive days of saying/praying this rosary. From someone who's not really a "Mary person." I wonder if this has anything to do with it? Especially since my school situation was one of my top petitions. (And I didn't forget to tell God and His Mother, "thank you".)
Not all of my issues have dissipated, but now I have the sense that I WILL survive. I can deal with what is left on my plate. And I might be able to do it without too many detours by the liquor section at Walgreens!
There is something about working with my tomatoes that allows me time to reflect. Maybe because I am usually alone and the 'maters don't talk back. I have fed them Miracle Grow the past few weeks in the hopes of resurrecting them. I spend a lot of time clipping off brown leaves and stems. The dead stuff. The dying leaves that take away from what the plant could become. No matter how many brown leaves I clip off, it always seems like there are more the next day. Sometimes I clip off the whole branch and sometimes I just clip off the leaves on the tip - if the rest of it is still relatively green.
Reminds me of us with our sin and confession. Always there is stuff to clip off. Dead stuff. Stuff that gets in the way of us becoming the people God created us to be. Sometimes you clip off just a little bit - just the behaviors. Sometimes you can lop off the whole branch - the attitudes, thoughts, deeds and all.
You see this? Remember this post? (It's a pretty quick read and some people told me they liked it.) Anyway, you see this guy? He's a super pooper, apparently. Follow the poop and you'll find the caterpillar. You see that powdery stuff on the leaves? It is SUPPOSED to keep pests from eating your plant. I guess you can see for yourself how well that is working.
Wednesday I return to school for my first inservice. Please mumble a quick prayer if you read this. I will need it.
Oh yes - the return to the world of the working is right around the corner.
I heard what must be my theme song for the upcoming year last week on the radio.
You can tell what high hopes I have for the year, right? Really, I do hope it is a good year, but the reality of the end of last year is still a bit too close.
Today, I was given what will probably be my mantra for the upcoming year.
A year or two ago, I realized that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a good place to go when the going gets tough. I explained it to my husband before I left this afternoon: School is about to start and I need all the grace I can get. Grace doesn't come cheap, but there is a ton of it in this sacrament. I don't know why or how, but it is like a well (of Living Water, no less) that the thirsty can drink from.
I go with my list of "the usuals". If there's any hope for fixing some of those things, it has to start somewhere. And this is as good a place as any. It takes me a little bit of time to get my footing, but the good Father waits patiently, and I eventually make my way down the list.
Then there's the whole school issue.
"The end of last year was difficult," I begin. We've had bits and pieces of that conversation before and there's no need to go into specifics.
"But I made it, and I didn't make it alone. There was a lot of prayer and grace." "But I'm really not too eager to go back this year. I am afraid of what waits for me there." "Because even though I told God how to fix it, He probably didn't follow along with my plans."
"Probably not," he agrees.
"And I know the fear comes from a lack of trust that God knows what He is doing....from a need to control the outcome...."
Though I seldom leave the confessional walking on air with the weight of the world lifted, as some do, there is ALWAYS something good that comes from the encounter. Sometimes the advice, sometimes the penance, sometimes a gesture or an offhand comment that is *just* what I needed. (And always, absolution.) I haven't had this experience except for the last couple of years, but then when you go to confession once every year or two as I did for so long, it is hard to establish any kind of continuity. There is something to be said for a regular confessor and somewhat regular attendance.
There wasn't much in the way of advice this time. I know this is something that is just going to have to be walked through. There's no magic wand.
My penance - spend some time in prayer with "Lord, show me the goodness You want me to become." "It might take a little bit of time; you might not finish right away," he says, "but you'll understand." Kind of sounds like it might be a year-long process to me. Transforming, changing....
Is that not perfect to laminate and put on my wall?
Lord, show me the goodness You want me to become.
Is it not the perfect companion to my other frequent prayer- "Lord, show me what needs to be fixed in my life?"
Living water from the font of mercy! A tall drink for a thirsty one!
Editing to add: God did answer my prayer. I blogged about it here.
With a little poking around, I figured out my technical problem - at least partly. I sent my personal laptop off for repairs last week. It returned in great working order. However, I realized that the security error was caused by the time and date being reset (probably during service). My computer was saying that it was January 3, 2001. Hmmmm.. That still doesn't explain my problem for the school board laptop....
Yesterday, was a hot one here.
Started off with a couple of friends heading to the funeral of a co-worker's mother in a near-by town that I had never been to. We made one wrong turn (thank you GPS) but we realized the error of our ways and corrected it. The little Catholic church where the funeral was held was PACKED and since the deceased was African-American and I am not, I felt just a little conspicuous. We were given seats on chairs placed in the aisle, which was nice. The longer we were there, the hotter it got. The air-conditioning could not keep up. But, the music was beautiful, the homily was nice, prayer is good. We elected not to follow the procession to the cemetery. I can only imagine how the heat affected things there. Did I mention that it was H.O.T?
We have those days here from time to time. I have always said that is why there are so many Christians in this part of the country. You get these days where sweat just pours from every pore in your body if you so much as walk outside, and you think, "If hell is this hot....I don't want to go there...because this is just miserable." It's a great motivator - that little slice of hell every summer.
Speaking of hell, I go back to school on Wednesday. More on that in my next post.
I'm the wife of one ancient man and the mom of two teen beings with Y chromosomes.
I teach middle school special ed, and I'm slightly "touched".
I've always been Catholic, but in recent years my faith has become much more important in my life. Now I'm a "Happy Catholic."