Sunday, November 17, 2013

Slow Dance with Jesus

The lights were dimmed a little, and the noises of people settling in was just barely on the edge of my awareness.  Tim opened the door, and my heart felt my beloved enter the room.  At first he just stood there, taking in the room and our surroundings.  Then he beamed in my direction with that smile that says, "There you are! You're the one I came to see."  As he moved to where I was sitting, the music started.  I didn't recognize the tune, and didn't know the words, but it was lovely.  He was there and I was there, and the vocalist's voice spoke love beyond the words. He smiled, took my hand and lifted me up out of my seat, silently inviting me to dance.

As we stepped onto the dance floor, he first gave me a hug that said, "I love you, I missed you, and I've got you." I hugged him so tightly and felt the strength of his muscles as he held me dear.  As I took his hand to dance, I ran my fingers over the scars.  The big scar on his hand now has that shiny glow of new skin that covers an old wound that no longer holds the power to cause pain, but reminds you of a time when the hurt was fresh and deep.  He smiles at me, and I hear his thoughts saying "It's just love.  I just love you." I hold my head on his chest and breathe deeply to memorize his scent.  He smells of warm body and cedar wood chips. I am reminded that he was once a little boy cleaning his father's wood shop. I love him even more.  He moves us swiftly and gracefully around the dance floor, relishing every movement and treasuring every moment together.  

 The music continues sweet and strong.  He holds me.  I hold him.  He smiles at me and I look upon his beautiful face.  His eyes.  His beard.  That smile.

The song is about to end, and I feel a sadness about to begin. He senses it, too, and as the singer holds out the last notes, he pulls slightly away from me.  He looks me full in the face and smiles. It's time to go. He pulls me close, holding both of my hands and kisses my forehead. This tells me everything I will ever need to know.

He loves me.                  

He's gone. The door closes.  The dance is over, but he never really leaves. His kiss remains.  His love remains.

The door will be opened again soon.  We wait for each other, anticipating the next dance.    

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How far will you go?

Tonight I had the good fortune to go to Vicksburg High School and participate in an event called "Field of Faith".  This evening was put on by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and well attended by athletes from all over our area.  Some drove quite a distance, I heard.

One man was encouraging these young men and women to consider the "why" for the way they do what they do.  His "Why" is Jesus Christ.  Mine too!  Then he challenged us to stand if we were willing to commit to spending more time reading the Word of God.  Again, I'm in.  I'm totally in. I noticed most everyone was standing.  Awesome!  He gave an invitation for anyone who needed help with prayer. A few folks were brave enough to leave their seats to get up and ask one of the youth ministers to pray with them.  That took some courage to stand up and admit you'd like to live for Christ in front of all those people!

So when I got home my attention turned to Syria.  My heart is heavy for the people there.  My only experience of the Syrian people is a kind and loving dear friend who has kind and loving parents that still live in Syria.  Today, in many places in Syria, a man at gunpoint will ask some terrified soul if they are a Christian.  If the answer is yes, he will be given the option to convert or die. Then that person will summon the courage to choose death rather than deny their Savior.

My mind goes back to the football field in Vicksburg.  What if the speaker asked those kids to deny Christ or die, how many would have the courage to stand up and proclaim Christ as their Savior and prepare to meet Him? Several did at Columbine with guns pointed at their faces and their testimonies are riveting.  How many would look around and see what everyone else is doing and follow the crowd?  It's easy to be a stadium Christian.  It's easy to fly under the radar, and sit with your friends and go through the motions.  But what would you do if today your life was required of you? Imagine just for a minute that the gun is in your face.   He died for us, are we really willing to return the favor?    

How far am I willing to go when the rubber hits the road?

My prayer for everyone at the rally tonight, and everyone who reads this (and also for myself) is that our faith isn't something we say, but something we are.  I pray that our faith is such that we become physically incapable of denying the Lord. The Young Church is strong and capable and incredible.  These young Christian men and women should be looked at as the empowered body of Christ that they are!  Thank you to those who encourage my children (because I think of ALL of them as my children) in their lives of Faith.  Thank you so much to those living the example of one who says yeas every single day!  I pray that our faith is strengthened by our brothers and sisters in the stadium, and around the world.  Martyrs will be made today.  Let's honor them by showing true Christian love to everyone we meet.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Poor Kid

"Hey Mrs. Swager, how much money you got?"

I get asked this question every time I work the cafeteria with the 3rd through 5th grade students.  It's not a rude commentary on my wages, or a judgement of me of any kind.  It's a game we play.  I then respond, "I don't know, you tell me." Then I produce the contents of my pocket, and the kids count my change.  Some of them see this as a huge challenge, and they really scramble to get chosen to give me the answer.  There are days when there isn't much there, and they all know that the value of lint and chap stick count for nothing money-wise.

So I got asked this on Friday, and I responded as usual, and this one kid says, "Hey, can I have that?  I'm poor."  I can't go about giving kids money, poor or not, but I responded without thinking it all the way through, and I hope I didn't hurt him.  I know his family and they don't have much.  I know he lights up a smile on his Mom's face.  What I said was, "Lots of people are poor. You have something that counts more than money."  He was irritated by this answer and started talking about how hard his family has it.  I believe him, but there's something else I know.

We are all poor.  We are all rich.

When this kid looks at my life, I'm sure he thinks, "What would you know about poor? Your kids have clothes that fit and you have food for dinner.  You have a house without wheels, a yard, a garage, a bike, a TV, all the toys and games kids could want!  Rich!"  If you ask my kids (on some days) they will point to the things we don't have and all the times Mom says no because we don't have the money right now and think: poor!

One of the speakers I heard this weekend said that if you have Love plus a million things, and I have only Love that you don't have anything more than I do.  This child is rich.  His Mother loves him.  This child is poor.  She doesn't always provide what he needs.

It has occurred to me that this child does not know he is loved.  I can see it, but perhaps he doesn't.  Perhaps their lack of the necessities translates to no one caring in his young mind.  Maybe he can see that to his parents, any money is beer money, no matter what the kids need.  I'm sure I only hope for the bright side of his life, and I don't want to think about how mean things get when no one else is around.  Thinking back to the conversation, he seemed confused at my comment.  This thought rips at my heart, and I pray it's not true, and it changes me.  It will change the way I perform my job at school.

No child left behind?  No.  Maybe instead we should shoot for "No Child Left Feeling Unloved and Unvalued."  THEN we will teach them to read out of love.  THEN we will teach them what they need to know about the world around them so they can spend their lives making it a better place.  THEN we will teach them how to COUNT the change in our pockets, and CREATE change in their families, and in our our community.    

Sunday, October 6, 2013


I remind you, to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God."

My hope for this blog is to broadcast far and wide how great God is, but I am ashamed.

I only came to realize this today.  I'm not ashamed to call myself a Christian.  I'm quite proud of that.  I'm not ashamed to proudly proclaim that I am a CATHOLIC Christian, whether others agree with the Church's teachings or not.

I am not ashamed to shout from the rooftops the wonderful way that God spared my life and allowed me to survive my Cardiac Arrest, which was nothing short of miraculous!  Having received such an incredible gift should have me giving up my day job to stand on the street corners and tell every passing motorist that God loves them SO much.  If they knew just how much God REALLY TRULY LOVES them, they'd park their car and spread the word with me!  I'm not even ashamed to do that!

I'm ashamed of the other part.  If I had hours to give my testimony, there are the other parts that we don't talk about in polite conversation.  There are parts of ALL of our testimonies that we just kind of brush over or avoid all together because they require us to admit to the truth of the choices we've made.  We have to admit that we are weak and broken. We have to admit that we have problems leaving the juicy bits of life alone.  We have to admit that we have made horribly bad choices, and throughout the consequences of those horrible choices, God has loved us and held us and carried us through to a life we never dreamed could be so good.  I'm ashamed to admit that I've chosen the wrong path again and again, knowing it was wrong and hurtful, but "I do what I want" was my motto, and no one (even GOD) was going to tell me differently!

I can't tell you how BLESSED and FORTUNATE I am to be where I am now, if you don't know where I was then!  I am ashamed of who I used to be when I was so lonely, unloved and afraid, and turned to alcohol to numb my thoughts, and allowed myself to be treated like an object that didn't have any value.  But if you don't know that part of my testimony, then the goodness of God's mercy is watered down. How can you know the depths of God's goodness if you don't truly know the depths of my badness?  For God to save a Godly person isn't really why Jesus came here in the first place.  He came for those of us who were drunkards and carousers, losers and lowlifes.

 The really spectacular part of my testimony is that God saw fit to hold ME in His warm embrace.  He let me feel how His pure love could heal and perfect everything within me.  Then he sent me back to live it. He saved me, but he also healed me.  I have nothing to be ashamed of, because I can now boast that God is loving and merciful enough to show compassion to the likes of me!  I can't tell my story if I give in to shame.

God, I pray that you will give us all the strength to be honest so your true goodness can be known!  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Homecoming 2013!

This weekend is Homecoming weekend in the Climax-Scotts area in SO many ways, and I'm being very blessed by each and every one!  For starters, all week long, my kids have been preparing for the big Homecoming festivities!  Floats were built.  Costumes were selected so that Isaac could be a cheerleader for his Senior Girl's Powder puff football team.  Dresses were purchased.  Shirts were ironed.  Music was practiced for Harriett's feature in the Michael Jackson song "Bad" at the Homecoming halftime show!  Much preparation was made for this wonderful, busy week that will all culminate in tonight's Homecoming Dance.  
So why do they call it Homecoming when I mostly spend every waking moment transporting high school kids hither, tither and yon?  I did spend more time 'coming home' because I spent a lot of time not BEING home! Well this weekend, some people I love are celebrating REAL homecomings.  Allow me to share.

Cousin Joe is getting married today to his sweetheart, Jenny.  Marriage is the first step in creating a new family, and a new home within each other's hearts.  Forever more they will be able to see each other or even just think of each other, and know where they belong.  My prayer for them is that they will build that marriage so that wherever they are, no matter WHERE they live, together they are always "home".

Another friend will say goodbye to her grandfather this weekend.  He has gone home to be with the Lord.  His work here is done, and it was his time to say goodbye.  Sadly, I don't believe this friend got to say goodbye.  She has very few memories of her grandfather.  Although he has the joy of going home, she missed out on the opportunity to really get to know who he was, or what he cared about.  How sad that he took that with him. Maybe HIS Homecoming should be a reminder to us all not to be selfish with the gifts God gives us, and to share ourselves with each other.  Mend the fences.  Make amends, before it ends in regrets and missed opportunities.

There is another Homecoming this weekend, I hope.  If his last x-ray looked good, my friend's husband will be coming home from the Cardiac floor, sporting his new Aortic Valve that was replaced this week.  What an amazing Homecoming that will be.  I looked on as his son was crowned Homecoming King, and rightly so, as he is celebrating his father coming home today.  My Isaac played football with the King in the big game last night.  He told me that after King Sam scored, he held up the ball and said,"this one's for you, Dad!" What a nice kid.  What a nice family.  What a beautiful example of faith in God that all would be well.

So tomorrow is Sunday.  I will be celebrating my own Homecoming as I go 'home' to my Father's house and spend time with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I will be united with my beloved Savior in the Eucharist, and will share my genetic family with my spiritual family.  I will not be wearing sequins (probably) and I don't think a float will be required.  I will not be making reservations, but I will definitely be there!  I'll work my hardest for the home team, and I will bask in the company of all who have gone before me and the thought of all those that will follow.

Isn't that kind of what Homecoming is about?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Mom Eyes"

I am blessed to work with some pretty amazing educators. Each one of us brings something a little different to the party, and somehow it just works.  Today, I walked into class to find a hug-fest going on.  Kids were lined up to hug their teacher.  I assure you that only school-appropriate hugs were exchanged in the presence of other adults, who were also being hugged by a hug-crazed room full of Kindergartners! At the conclusion of this hug-mania, I heard her say, "this is the best fake-Mom hug I can give you. Now let's read the story."

The little girl whose dilemma started the hugging needed a bit of Mom-ness.  The teacher told her that since I have so many kids, I have Mom-Eyes that can see when ice (or an ambulance) are needed, or if just a quick hug can fix it.  You'll be glad to hear that she is expected to make a full recovery from a very VERY minor bump she received yesterday.  I sent her back to class, but left school thinking about my Mom-Eyes.

I've been a Mom for most of my life.  The Mom-Eyes developed without notice.  I wasn't even aware that I had them until my teacher pointed them out.  Now that she mentioned it, I can see how they change my vision.   Every child is a son or daughter.  Maybe not mine, but I can imagine they are the sparkle in someones eye.  They are the reason someone wants to be a better person.  At least they should be.  The saddest time to HAVE Mom-Eyes is when you see a parent without them.  Some parents are just too busy to see that they're missing out on the best part of parenthood: the kid!

Sometimes the Mom-Eyes see differently than the rest of the world.   The world may see a little kid crying loudly (almost goat-like) sobbing, drooling, with tears pouring down his sweet little face. "Awww.  Poor little guy! Let's give him what he wants!"  The world may think that.  My Mom-Eyes have seen this performance enough times to know better.  If I give in, the waterworks stop and the "Ha, I win!" smirk is on his dear little face.  Oh no! I will tell this child to follow the direction or there will be a consequence that he may not like.  Then I will remind the child that he is choosing to lose out on any chance of receiving the fussed-over item.  I am not being sweet during this time, but I AM being loving.  Should I allow this kid to grow up thinking that stomping and storming and bawling gets him what he wants? I am truly sorry that he made this choice, but a lesson learned when he's little may save him the pain of jail time later.

Mom-eyes are eyes of love, but sometimes they cloud what's real.  For example, it's hard to see your son graduate high school when you really can only see him as that awkward 12 year old version of himself when he's still mostly boy, but trying so hard to fit into a manly body.  It's hard to trust that young men will treat your daughters with good and pure motives when you see that the Lord has blessed them with beauty. I see her.  She is at the same time, my baby girl and a grown woman, and she's counting on me to be her example. My Mom-Eyes see me wishing I had the perfect words for them, and failing at being everything they need.  Maybe that's not my place.  Maybe my place is only to love them and do my best.  

My dear teacher/friend/work-wife called her hugs "fake-mom hugs", and it is true that she has not yet been blessed with a child of her own.  Her time will come. I pray that she will be blessed with her own children, and her own Mom-Eyes, and I hope it is everything she ever dreamed it would be! For now, there's nothing fake about it.  She is truly Mother to the children in her class during the school hours (and frequently long after!)  She cares for their needs, listens to their stories, works diligently to help them grow smarter and stronger and more capable every day.  She teaches them not only how to read and write, but encourages them to imagine and wonder.  She shows them by her own example how to appreciate and value every member of our classroom family. That sounds an awful lot like Mom behavior.  Maybe Teacher-Eyes (really GOOD Teacher-Eyes) are not so different from Mom-Eyes.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The View from THIS Shoe

I watched Sylvia get ready for picture day, and noticed that where my toddler used to be, a lovely, confident young lady now stands. At a moment's notice, she can be ready to perform a world class dance recital...or gymnastics...or a dog show...or maybe perform the song she's just written.  You can't always tell about her, but there's usually a performance being planned.
I worried for a minute about who Simon should stay with while I took Harriett to look for a dress for her Freshman Homecoming Dance.  I had a moment when he told me he'd like to stay home alone.  He's old enough to babysit, not NEED a babysitter.  He's totally in Jr. High, and one of the most responsible kids I've ever met.  I think he's got this.

That's right.  I said Harriett's FRESHMAN Homecoming Dance.  What happened to my little shy curly-haired girl with the skull do-rag and the princess shirt that made the biker guys melt?  I'll tell you what happened.  She tried on a dress that accentuated her beautiful assets, and I was forced to face the truth.  My baby girl is a beautiful young woman!  She's growing up!  It's an epidemic!  They're ALL doing it!  

Everyone except me! I'm not getting any more grown, but I might be mellowing with age.

I've learned to let Lydia blow her stack a little when she's upset.  When she's rightfully angry it's important for her to feel it and own it.  I love it when she shares her thoughts with me.  I love that she accepts my apologies when I have wronged her, and that she is quick to apologize when she is in the wrong.  That little bitty one who challenged me so much as a teeny tiny toddler has grown into a beautiful, intelligent, (tall) strong young woman.  I never knew what a blessing daughters would be.    

Then there are my big boys.  (Yep, I'm crying tears of joy.)

Isaac is a senior.  I see a man where Buzz Lightyear's biggest fan used to be.  He lives in the same skin.  He shares the same DNA.  He still loves to hug his Mom until he hears her bones crack. He's home now, but it won't be long until he'll be setting his sights "To infinity...and beyond!" I'm not ready.  The good news is that I don't have to be ready today.  He's supposed to be walking the dog, but I suspect he's really sneaking spoonfulls of Nutella.  They each have things they do that they think I don't know is them.  I am SO on to you!

I will miss this someday.    

Like the way I miss the kitchen drawers and cabinets ALWAYS being pushed in and fully closed.  This was something Spencer excelled at!  AND babysitting.  AND being willing to shed his own blood to protect his sister from a broken china doll (even though it almost cost him the use of his pinky!)   Spencer has been the quiet partner in my life for a really long time. There were so many times he was just "there" and his presence was calming and reassuring to me.  We used to watch Graham Kerr's cooking show together while we had quiet rest time on the couch.  Now he's in Afghanistan, and I believe he's doing okay.  But I miss those days.  I miss those times.

Every day at 2 o'clock has been naptime for as long as I can remember.  Every day, I can tell when it's nearly two as my head fills with sleepiness, and the memory of snuggling my unwilling "I'm not tired, Mom" nap-protester until we were both sound asleep on the couch.

Not long ago I was in Alabama, watching my sweet little boy (now a grown man with 2 sweet little cherubs of his own) putting his own children down for a rest.  He talks to them and plays with them and loves them so much.  He's their protector, and then he's the monster chasing them around the room, and then the hero that rescues them and makes them feel safe.  I tried so hard to be that for him.  He was my very first kid, and I was so young when he was born.  I didn't know how to be a Mom yet, but I knew I loved this kid with my whole heart, and every choice was an attempt to honor that.

And God blessed me over and over and over, with the best blessings I could ever ask for! With every new person he added to my heart, he allowed it to stretch and grow and make room for lots more love.

That's what I see when I look out from my shoe, that houses so many children I scarcely know what to do.  I see my life's work.  I see my mission and ministry.  I see my children, and the blessings they bring to me and so many others.

I see Love.          

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sharing a Drink

What am I DOING?

I was thinking this thought as I held the golden cup.  I thought that as I held the cup in front of a young lady and reaffirmed for her what the cup contained: "The Blood of Christ".  She responded, "Amen." The same as millions of Catholics would worldwide on that same Sunday, and have for centuries.  It's the same thing I have done myself, almost every Sunday since I was in the second grade.  (With the exception of a brief period of years when I was very lost.)

What was I doing?  I've never been on this side of the cup!  I am so completely NOT WORTHY to hold the cup that contains the blood of my Savior.  I am participating in the most beautiful and profound giving of gifts that Christ ever gave and I am both exhilarated and grossly aware of my unworthiness.  I truly am a dirty rotten sinner.  Do I really belong here?  I'm no Peter, but is this how he felt? Is this how ALL the disciples felt in that upper room on Passover?      

My priest asked me if I would consider becoming what the Church refers to as an "Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist".  An "ordinary" minister of the Eucharist would be a priest or deacon.  This IS their day job.  Even if they do it every single day, I pray it is never really ordinary for them.  The day that it doesn't really matter to you that you are holding the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our blessed Lord and Savior is the day you need to go on retreat and pray for renewal!  I admit, the title sounds like a superhero, and I DO wish I was truly extraordinary.  I just wasn't sure I could make it through this blessed task without weeping.  I frequently cry during Communion when I am struck by the truth of what is happening. I got trained anyway.  Father Chris has faith in me. I respect (and occasionally question) his confidence in me.  

  Earlier that day, I was teaching my Religious Ed class, and we spoke briefly about what a disciple is.  A Christian disciple is someone called to share Christ with those God puts in their path.  Share the Love!  Share the peace!  That's what we are called to do!  Before today, I have never done this so literally. I have never before looked someone in the eye and said (in essence) "Have a drink.  Drink richly of the covenant Jesus made with us all before his death on the cross.  Do this in memory of Him, WITH ME! Drink and be made whole.  Drink of the Spirit that renews and refreshes the soul, and heals the body and calms the mind.  Drink of the blood of the sacrifice to end all sacrifices!  Drink Liquid Love, and let the truth of it enter every cell of your being and make you ONE with the Creator, through the love of His Son!"  And they each respond with a humble, "Amen." Which means, "Big Fat Yes to all that."

It's a good thing no one asked me to write the words for Communion.  It would take a lot longer, and we'd need a LOT more cups, because I nearly cried when my cup ran out. I could have shared Jesus for the rest of the day.  I'm hooked.  At the risk of sounding conceited, I think I may be a disciple of Christ.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


We are the bride of Christ, therefore, I am the bride of her Son.  

I know this son to be precious to her heart.  Her beloved.   Her reason for being.  She held him in her womb, and her arms, and treasures him in her heart. They have a bond I will never be a part of.  Yet he has chosen me, US, to be his bride, and the wonder of this is not lost on me.

I wonder how she sees me.

I know I can never be worthy of the love of her son.  He's such an amazing man of honor and faith.  I am like the lost stray puppy he has taken in, and I wonder if that's what she sees when she looks at me.  I wonder if she sees the muddy messes I have rolled around in.  I wonder if she notices where my ribs stick out from lack of nutrition from feeding on the stuff of this world, instead of from the Word of God.  I'm certain she envisioned some beautiful creature that was filled with grace and compassion, not this imperfect, broken, common woman I know myself to be.  I wonder if she had hoped for someone smarter, a better mother, a better homemaker.  I'm stubborn and hard to get along with.  I repeat my mistakes.  I am not the woman every Jewish mother has in mind.  

Yet, here I am.  Her daughter-in-law.

I have a deep respect for His mother. She may have initially had fears about this bride's ability to care for her son in a way he deserves, but she knows how deeply I love him.  She is aware of my quirks and weaknesses, but she sees how his love for me (and our love for each other) fixes everything.  She trusts her son and his ability to see inside the hearts of those he loves and see their potential.  She knows his choice is always the right one.  Even when it hurts her. Even to the Cross. Even when it becomes a sword, piercing her own heart.  

Yet, sometimes I hold her at a distance.  My fear of her disapproval makes me put up a shield to protect myself, and now I realize that this is only hurting me. I realize that she loves me because of her son.  He has given her to me as a mother of my own, and I long to grow so close that we drop the "in-law" at the end, and I can call her "Mother".

Mother Mary.

She only wants her son to be loved and valued and seen for the treasure he is.  That's all she's ever wanted.  That's what every mother-in-law wants.  Why would Mary be any different?  She only wants us to love him like he loves us, his Church.  His Bride.  His chosen Beloved.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ray of Sunshine


I think this every morning, and today is no exception.  I want to be a ray of sunshine.  I want my sunny presence to spread warmth and happiness to the world around me.  I'm thinking this thought really early this morning as I'm laying in bed, fighting for a spot in my own bed.  I am sandwiched between Luke and Sylvia, two of the biggest cover-hoggers in the whole world!  Sylvia slipped into my room so quietly, and is now letting her 9 year old presence known by hugging me while I sleep, and putting her face up against mine and falling back to sleep.  I try to roll over so I'm not breathing her used breath, and she holds tight to my shoulders so I'm now wearing her like a backpack. Then the kicking starts.  


I love the fact that she wants to be close to me.  I like breathing my own breath when I'm sleeping! Luke gets up. I move over. I am a ray of sunshine as I fall asleep in his spot with Sylvia near me, but not ON me.  I look at the clock.  Hmm.  7:53.  I can sleep a while.  I pray.  "Lord, please let me be a ray of sunshine today."  I look at the clock again.  Still 7:53.  Is the clock messed up?  Is that the time the alarm is set for?  What time is it really.  Darnit, now I'm not sleeping!  I'm getting cranky about the stupid clock, and that whole ray of sunshine thing is out the window.  Crap!  I pray, "Lord, please, I just want to be a ray of sunshine today.  PLEASE let me be a ray of sunshine!"  I look at the clock.  7:54.  Thank you, Jesus! I feel the warmth spread over my heart.  Then I feel my leg and wrist being crampy.


I've been in PT for 6 weeks, and I know that once I get up and do my stretches my body will feel strong and healthy.  But I don't want to have to do it.  I don't want to HAVE to do stretches to feel good.  I don't want to HAVE to do anything!  What is wrong with me?  When did I get so lazy?  When did I turn into a crabby 3 year old that doesn't like to be told what to do?

 "Please, Lord, I just want to be a ray of sunshine, but I just want to BE one.  I don't want it to require any effort on MY part! I just want you to go "poof" and I'm this lovely speck of happiness and everything is great and perfect and there's no more sadness or pain. I want YOU to just fix everything and make my marriage perfect and my husband perfect.  I want you to nod your head and make my children creeper-proof.  I want you to smile in the direction of my soldier-sons and gird them with magical armor that won't allow them to be hurt, ever! Please, get my kids to do their chores when I ask 1 time!  Please bless my life."  Then I noticed it.
A little ray of sunshine was shining in my window.  It fell softly across Sylvia's face.

I'm NOT a ray of sunshine.  I'm a Mom.  I'm a daughter and sister and friend and grandma.  Having a sunny disposition requires effort on my part. SO here I go.  "Lord, please help me spread your a little ray of sunshine!"  



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dave in the Corner

I LOVE my fitness class!  Yoga Pilates Fusion.  That's MY fitness class.  Well, the whole name is Yoga Pilates Water...For Seniors.  I realize that I am neither a senior in high school, NOR a senior citizen, but as a 46 year old Cardiac Arrest survivor, I qualify.   Have I mentioned that I love this class?

My class includes some really colorful, remarkable characters. One of them is "Dave in the Corner".  I believe his name is Dave, or at least that's what everyone calls him. If we are in the deep end, Dave is in the corner, holding onto his pool noodle (and both edges of the pool) for dear life. Dave never learned to swim, and he's "not about to start now!"  Dave is a different sort of guy, with a sour outlook on life that I find intriguing and inspiring.  He's not your usual ray of sunshine.  Most conversations with him include stories in which people held out hope for something better, only to have those hopes crushed by some crippling unforeseen disability.  (You can see the attraction, right?)  For example, when I told him my husband would be needing a knee replacement in the near future, he started in with ,"Oh no. Tell him not to do it.  You know it starts with knee surgery, but you know the outcome every time??? (I'm thinking better use of his knee, but...) Alzheimers!  Every person I know who's had knee surgery ends up with Alzheimers!"  

Hmmm.  Yep.  Maybe better rethink that knee surgery.  Nah, I think it's a chance worth taking.

He then goes on to regale me with stories of back surgeries gone horribly wrong, cats that died horrible deaths, and family that drives him nuts.  His words display a life of hurt and fear and disappointment.

Yet, here he is, depending on a piece of foam to keep him from a watery death in 8 feet of 92 degree water.  He holds on with both hands while he stretches the muscles in his body to stay strong for as long as he is able. Dave in the Corner is a model of my faith lately. Dave and I haven't given up.  We're still afloat and hanging on tightly because we fear what will happen if we let go.  We've seen so many others go under, and we're just terrified it will be us next...still, we show up at the pool and go into the deep water.

Being in that water is a great equalizer.  When everyone is floating in the deep end on a pool noodle, we all look alike. (Mostly like bobbing heads.)  There are no walkers or canes and we are all floating along with our scars showing. We're all trying to stay strong.  We're all holding on to our noodles, while we work feverishly below the water, kicking our legs and fighting to keep our flexibility.  Once we get out, our differences start to show, but by then it's too late.  We've already bonded.

Dave in the Corner has taught me more than I expected.  I'll still be a ray of sunshine, whether he enjoys it or not, but his outlook inspires me.  He reminds me what a gift a positive attitude is...and how wonderful it is to be realistic.

Be blessed by the Daves in your Corner!  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sylvia's Heart

Sylvia is my 8 year old daughter. She's a girl on a mission 95% of the time!  If she's not creating some type of artwork, she's practicing back bends and cartwheels or trying to dance like a more appropriate version of a "hoochie mama".  It's hard to work your mojo when your mojo is 8 and your Mom would rather you dance like a lady.  The thing about Sylvia is that she's all heart.

Everything she does is full throttle.  I love that about her.

The other day, Sylvia came up to me with her ever-present pad of paper and asked me, "Mom, how do you start a fundraiser?"  I have to admit I was only half listening at first.  Then she said, "Mom, this is really important!" So I started really listening.  "What is this fundraiser for?"  I asked, and her answer caught me totally off-guard.

"I want to raise money so people don't have to have heart disease like you, Mom.  I think Moms should be able to play with their kids and they shouldn't have to worry about their Moms dying.  If I raise some money, they can get rid of it, right?"

She was 4 when my heart stopped.  Half of her life I have lived with heart disease.  I really didn't realize that she worries about me dying.  That's the kind of heart Sylvia has. It's full of love for me, the other moms, and all the kids who have lost their moms to heart disease.  She knows how cruel and crappy life can be when your mom's beta blockers make it hard for her to get off the couch.  She's learned to accept that sometimes Mom just can't.  It breaks my heart.  She deserves the full Mom experience, and she's willing to do the work to make a difference.

Her timing was perfect, since the school was in the final days of their "Jump Rope for Heart" campaign.  She jumps rope, people donate, and the money funds research via the American Heart Association.  It's way easier than creating her "Cartwheels for Heart" fundraiser where people pledge money per cartwheel.  I like her idea.  We'll work on it.  (She's really into cartwheels right now.)

Sylvia understands first hand what it is to live with heart disease in your family.  She's jump-roping her little self silly to try to "get rid of it".  It's very important to her heart that no one else lives in fear.  She's blessed with a heart for others.

If you'd like to support her efforts, go to

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The 'Dirt Blessing'

Two years ago I waited in the hospital in Alabama for my granddaughter to make her entry into the world.  She arrived as scheduled, and promptly made us wait to get to hold her.  Her lungs didn't inflate well when she was first born, which reminded us all of a great lesson...we are not in control.

Yesterday she received ashes on her forehead for Ash Wednesday.  I should say, she and a good deal of the earth's population received these ashes as a reminder of that great lesson also.  We are still not in control.  We get to make choices and decisions, but the truth is exactly what the priest or deacon says as he traces the cross of Christ on our foreheads "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return."

Jordan told me Evie was all excited that she got a "dirt blessing".  She's right, it looks like dirt.  It's actually the burnt remains of the palms from last year's Palm Sunday Mass.  That was the one where we were all excited by the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the people were SO excited that he was there and laid palm fronds on the road before him as he rode in on the colt of an ass. Just before my sins nailed him to a cross.  Mine, yours, all of ours, because he didn't have any of his own.

Evie's right!  It is a dirt blessing.  We started as dirt and we'll end that way.  The important part is what we do while we are MORE than dirt.

For that brief moment of time between when our lungs inflate with the breath of God until we give back our last breath of God when our time here is over, we are more than dirt.

I have been taught that the breath of God contains within it some of His divinity, which is in each of us.  So maybe our job while we're here is to give it away.  Give your divinity to every person you meet by acknowledging theirs.  Give away the stuff that really matters.  Give time.  Give Love.  Give kindness and gentleness.  Give forgiveness and acceptance and find the beauty that this world is searching for and can't seem to see. Share your vision while your eyes are still able to see.  Share your laughter while your mind is still able to see the humor in life.  Share your song as long as your voice holds out.  Then just love.

Evie's a big girl now with her very own dirt blessing, and even though she's only been with us for 2 short years, it seems like she's always been.

This year, for Lent, use your days wisely.  Be a blessing, even if you're a dirty one.    

Monday, February 11, 2013

I Am What I Am....

Once upon a time I was a goofy crazy little child with chubby knees, big brown eyes, and a sense of adventure and imagination that never slowed down from the moment my eyes burst open until the minute I finally fell asleep.  I wasn't a pretty little girl in frilly dresses, but if you needed to find a lizard or a snake, there was a good chance I might have a spare one in my pocket, or at least knew a good spot to find some.

If a food fight was needed in the school cafeteria, I was your girl! I wasn't afraid to go fishing with the boys, since I could bait my own hook AND take the fish off with no problem, but I wasn't dumb enough to bite the head off the fish to join Jimmy and Rusty's fishing club either. I may have been the brother MY brother always wanted...except I was a sister.

But by the grace of God I am what I am!

For a while, I was a very awkward band geek that could play the bass clarinet despite having a mouthful of braces, and a very large white-girl fro that my Mom swore was "adorable".  (I have pictures. Don't make me share them.)  I had this weird new body with no operators manual and no clue what to do with all these...curves... and emotions.  So I covered them with T-shirts and jeans, and just kept being that crazy, goofy child inside, but knowing that I couldn't stay that little child broke my heart a little, and I needed something to ease that pain.

  But by the grace of God I am what I am!

I didn't know those words then.  I may have read them, but they didn't really speak to me like they do now.  

Some time later, I awoke to find myself married with a couple of kids.  "Worthless." "Ugly." "Ridiculous." When you hear them enough you begin to believe them.  Turns out he has a problem with lying.  

But by the grace of God I am what I am!

Then in another stop along the timeline of my life, I find myself surrounded by beautiful people, except they don't know their own worth.  Like me, they're broken.  "Queer." "Fag." "Homo." They've heard it all.  They know you don't approve, so they put up a shell.  Inside they are dying to know the truth, that they are wonderfully and beautifully made in the image and likeness of their Creator. Just like you. Just like me.  My best friend wears a mustache to hide the scar on his lip where he was beaten in the face for trying to feel beautiful. I'd love to go back to that time and yell with them from the rooftops: 

 But by the grace of God I am what I am!

Through the times when a bottle was my friend, and the times when I had no joy left in my soul save the tiniest micro-dot of love. In the times when I was completely alone and scared and learning to care for myself again.  As I nursed my wounded soul back to health and started looking, tentatively at first, into the mirror, I began to learn the truth about myself:

   But by the grace of God I am what I am.

I spent a few minutes of "quality time" with the Creator when my heart stopped.  Just long enough to feel the most perfect, complete, flawless, all-encompassing, forgiving, rejuvenating, renewing, joyful Love that ever existed. Love so intense in that one moment that it's enough to last forever!    

Now I can hold my head high because I don't just think I'm loved.  I KNOW that I am the beloved child of my doting Heavenly Parent! Lizards and perms and braces, and sadness and brokenness and all!  Loved!  

All that I was.  All that I am.  All that I will EVER be is a gift of grace from God.      

...and his grace to me has not been ineffective..."- 1 Cor. 15         

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Feast your Eyes!

New York City was a feast for the eyes!  It was full of amazing architecture, beautiful skylines, and gorgeous people!

I was blessed with the opportunity to represent WomenHeart at the Red Dress Collection Fashion Show, which was attended by tons of people far more fancy and famous than I will ever be.  The gowns were lovely, the hair and makeup was impeccable, and the love in the air was palpable.  It's this last part that I found so incredible. Many people were at this event, not just to see and be seen, but because they legitimately care about women's heart health. They have mothers, sisters, aunties (and lots of men, too) in their lives who have been affected by heart disease, and they showed up to support all of us!  Kudos, and thanks to all who support those of us living with heart disease, and working to make the world a healthier place!    

Those of us who are not "city dwellers" have a hard time understanding those who prefer the city life. It all moves so fast, and us Country Mice prefer things a little more laid back.  Everywhere you look in New York City there is something shiny or flashy or newer or bigger to see!  It would be easy for little old me to feel very small here, but instead, I felt strong and capable, and like things are truly possible for me.  Not on my own merit, or of my own accord, but because of where my hope lies. This may seem odd that I felt this in the middle of one of the largest "concrete jungles" in existence.  This place seems very much like "Babel" of old, with it's super towers climbing to Heaven, and the people below speaking a myriad of languages.  It sounds odd, but I kept finding God everywhere, even when I wasn't looking! In the middle of Times Square, is a smaller area known as Duffy Square. There's a big statue of a Celtic Cross and a man identified as Father Duffy.  Here's what the New York City Parks Dept. website says about Father Duffy.

   Father Francis Patrick Duffy (1871-1932) was a military chaplain and a priest in the Times Square area. Born in Cobourg, Canada, Father Duffy moved to New York City in 1893 to teach French at the College of St. Francis Xavier (now Xavier High School). He was later ordained as a priest and in 1898, he accepted a teaching position at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, where he remained for the next fourteen years.
Father Duffy’s military service began in the Spanish-American War of 1898, serving as First Lieutenant and chaplain of the legendary Fighting 69th Infantry of the National Guard as well as Post Chaplain at the military hospital in Montauk Point, Long Island. In 1912, Father Duffy left St. Joseph’s Seminary and moved to New York City to establish the Parish of Our Savior in the Bronx.
In 1916, Father Duffy returned to the 69th Infantry, serving in Europe during World War I as part of the Rainbow Division and earning a number of medals. After the close of the war, Father Duffy returned to New York, and in 1920, was appointed pastor of the Holy Cross Church, located at 237 West 42nd Street. Serving the theater-district community for over a decade, Father Duffy died on June 26, 1932. In 1949 veteran character actor Pat O’Brien portrayed Duffy in the Hollywood film based on his life, The Fighting 69th, which also starred James Cagney.
There he stands.  Right in the center of it all!  It's a reminder to me of exactly what St. Augustine was saying here in the passage at the top.  LOOK at all the beautiful things!  Look at the handsome young men and the beautiful women.  There's no denying that Kelly Osborne and Jillian Michaels are beautiful young women! See the beauty in the natural horizon behind the buildings that men dreamed of, then built with their hard work and sweat. See the beauty in all of it! Then remember who is the Creator of it all.  If my Creator can plan such undertakings as the Empire State Building and the Museum of Modern Art, just think of what He can do with the raw materials that are me?!? 
See the beauty.  Love the one who created it.  Lord, my God, please be my hope, too!    

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Blizzard of Blessings

The snow is plentiful this morning.  There is so much that it weighs down the branches of my trees, and makes my shrubs look like they are made of clouds.

But if you look really REALLY closely, what you would see are billions and billions of individual snowflakes.  Each one is a unique six-sided work of art, crafted expressly for the purpose of being a snowflake.  If only one were to fall from the sky, you'd never notice it, but when they get together they close schools, and make roads impassable.  If the "Mayhem" commercials are to be believed (and they're usually trustworthy) they also get heavy enough to collapse rooftops.

Together they change the world.  They turn green lawns white.  As they are blown and drifted, they determine which roads we can travel.  They cover all the stuff in my side yard, including the shovel I will need to move them. All because they came down together.

It hit me this morning that this is EXACTLY the reason we worship together.  Certainly we could pray alone at home, and we should, but if that's all we do, then that one prayer is like that one single flake falling alone. When we pray our prayers together we become a blizzard of blessings, changing the world!

Together our prayers can close roads leading the wrong way.  Together our prayers can weigh down the branches of our pride, reminding us to be humble and lowly.  Together our prayers can cause snow days from school (and life), allowing us time to stop and refresh and renew our spirits.

Jesus said that wherever 2 or more are gathered in His name, He will be among them. Come join Jesus and  your friends this weekend.  Let's pray down a blizzard of epic proportions!  


Friday, January 25, 2013

Snowy, with a chance of prayers.

I'm looking out my bedroom window at the snow falling in soft puffs, cheerfully and quietly racing towards the ground.

They are like millions of prayers and kind thoughts all fluffy and pure covering the dark, scorched ground of a tragedy.

It's been snowing for a while now, and only a few dark spots of sadness remain.  At first glance, all is well and light and pure in the world.  Choose to see only that.

Hold on to the vision in white, made whole by the praying of friends and those who love you and don't know anything else to do for you.  Don't seek out the dark patches where the broken pieces show through.  It's too easy to be drawn into them by their stark contrast against the purity of love, joy and happiness.

 The bare ground of sorrow will be covered by the billowy white softness of this snow until this season of coldness ends.

Soon, the warm rays of Divine Love will melt the snow of blessings into water so plentiful that we can't absorb it all.  Kindness, like soft rains will gently soak away the hardness of cold ground that we've become.  For a time, the  murky mud of our sorrows seems to be everywhere. It sticks to our boots, dirties up our homes, and tracks along behind us everywhere we go.

As we allow these blessings to flow deeper within us, and we absorb the warmth of God's love, we are transformed into fertile soil where seeds of hope can find nourishment and flourish.

The ground always remains, but as time goes by it can't be seen through the colorful blooms and dense foliage of the garden we've allowed ourselves to become.        


Monday, January 21, 2013

Live The Dream

At my house, we are living the dream!

It's not the dream where people feed you grapes while you lay on couches in Greek togas with golden leaves in your hair.

Even the "Cribs" dream of having more bathrooms than bedrooms, and a bowling alley and a movie theatre in your home seems a little unnecessary to me.

I'm talking about Dr. King's dream.  I'm specifically talking about his vision of a place and time that children can learn and play and pray together, regardless of the color of their skin, or the where their great-grandpa was from.  I'm talking about the fact that my kids care less about what color someone's skin is, and care more about what kind of person they are.  We're not perfect over here, but I believe we are living the dream.

One piece of evidence of this happened several years ago on this date.  The kids had been discussing Martin Luther King Day at school, and they came home with questions.

Them: Who is this guy?
Me: Dr. Martin Luther King.  Preacher, civil rights activist, he was shot for his beliefs.
Them: So, martyr?
Me:  I guess so, yes. He gave a very famous speech about his dream.
Them:  What was his dream about?
Me:  It was his hope for the future that people would just love each other and not judge each other by the color of their skin.
Them:  That's stupid.
Me: WHAT?!?!?!
Them: That's stupid!  Why would someone think someone was less or more important because of the color of their skin? That's just stupid!
Me: (Calming down.) Agreed.  But there was a time when black and white people weren't allowed to go to the same school or church or even bathrooms.
Them:  What!?! That's Stupid!  What difference does it make?

This is when I run out of answers for them, because I don't know.  I don't have all the answers for why  people feel that way.  I don't know why history was like that.  I don't agree with that way of looking at people.  Then the kids really got incensed.  They stopped thinking of color and started naming names.

We went to Cincinnati a few years ago and visited the Underground Railroad Museum.  It was awesome and I highly recommend it.  I watched my kids learn the history of former slaves and free people working together to liberate those born and sold into slavery.  As every cruel act was described, at every horrible disrespectful word they would look at me and ask "Why?"  It was the same response when we got to sit on Rosa Parks' bus.  Why?

Stay innocent, my children.  Don't look for reasons to separate and hate and disrespect.  Don't hate people.  The dream is that Love Rules!  Live the Dream!  Love One Another!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Closer than they Appear

My friend told me to think of your life like a car driving at night.  "You can't see any further ahead than your headlights."

This totally rubbed me the wrong way, since I am incredibly GIFTED at worrying about the things to come.  Not that I worry for no good reason, I am a sensible worrier.  I mean, I don't worry about the whole Mayan Apocolypse, or Zombies or anything senseless like that.

However, I was given the most incredible blessing of being the mother of 7 great kids. Hence the worrying.

Some of this worry is indeed, beyond the scope of my headlights.  I can't do much for my children when they are grown or when we are apart from each other.  I can't make my grown kids brush their teeth. (I trust Jordan's wife makes him do that now.)I can't make them change their socks.  I can't make them make good choices.  Sometimes, for no really good reason, they will cheer for the wrong football team.  (Sometimes that team will even win a game, which STILL does not make it appropriate to say "Roll Tide" at the dinner table.) I can't make the girls actually sleep when they have a sleepover at Aunt Chris's house, or Aunt Jenni's. I can't keep them from trying a drink or a joint.  I can encourage them in the right direction, but the decision is ultimately theirs. (And, kids, if you're reading this, KNOW that I will find out and that you WILL NOT like the consequences!)

What worries me is that I can't keep them from harm.

Before they lived in Alabama or Kentucky or Louisiana, or even Michigan, they lived in my heart (and places south of that) and that makes my kids like the objects in my side mirror:  CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR. At the moment, I have children in three states.  In the next few months, I will have children in three different countries. No matter where they are, they are always in my heart first.

When my sons deploy, I will worry.

I will also remind myself that they are closer than they appear.  I hope they will remember that I am closer than I seem also. It's hard to cuddle with half of a DNA strand, but just know I'm there, and not just me.

Our Creator is closer than he appears also.  The one who loves us most.  The one who can see beyond the headlights.  The one who tells us that we can't change a single hair on our heads by worrying.  

Alright.  So I guess I'll just be happy with what I can see right now, knowing that Love is much MUCH closer than it appears.    


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Rear View Mirror

I'm driving to church with my 8 year old daughter in the passenger seat.  She's looking out the window at the crushed side mirror that dangles by a strap of duct tape from the hole that once held it in place. "Hey Mom.  Are you gonna get that fixed?"

I intend to.  It's not a big priority, to be honest. The mirror was fine until one morning when I was cranky and hurried and fuming about something and came flying out of the garage too close to the side of the garage and stopped just in time to crack the mirror glass, but not dent the door.  Having the glass hanging their limp and lifeless is a great reminder to me that if I don't slow down enough to pay attention, LOTS of the things in my life will end up broken.  The precious things.

Out of the blue and for no particular reason, I said "Can you imagine if we had to drive everywhere using only the mirrors?"  Hmmm.  Why did I say that?  It got me thinking.

I think I've been trying to drive my life using only the mirrors for a while now.  I don't  look out the big window in front of me much.  Instead, I look at the rear view mirror to see where I was and how far I've come.  I look at the familiar, and how odd it looks as the perspective changes as I fly down the street away from the things I'm leaving behind.

Then, of course, I get fixated by the objects in the mirror that "are closer than they appear". Closer than they appear?  Are you kidding?  Certain objects loom large in my rear view mirrors! My cardiac arrest is right there.  My recovery is right there.  My fears and my worries are all right there.  Closer than they appear! But those are the things behind me.  My heart is getting healthy.  I still have heart disease, and always will, but my heart event is past.  My divorce is long past, and happily far from view.  Lots of good happy roads have been traveled since then.

 If I'm not careful, I get stuck looking behind, and forget to look at where I am right now.

NOT the view out my back window.

I'm still heading to church.  I'm looking right out the front window, with the sun shining off the little bit of snow still melting on my windshield. With my eight year old daughter wondering about my broken mirror.  I'd rather look at her sweet face than anything I would see behind me, anyways.  Maybe it's Love that's closer than it appears.