Hate

Hate.

It seems to be the dominant theme in our world today, and I hate hate.

I see so much, unfortunately, that the world seems to simply accept, or even to possibly encourage it.  I don’t believe I have ever felt that strongly about anyone enough that I could say I hated him or her, but I have had others tell me they have hated.

Examples may include:

*A former student of mine has recently visited what remains of Auschwitz.  The residue of hate.

*I have seen images of those fleeing Syria.  The  scarred survivors of hate.

*Our own country has created unfair and unjust laws against people of different color, race, or gender. Not sure if this is hate or fear, but one tends to lead to another.

*I am confused by the recent shooting in Orlando.  How could anyone have so much hate?

*War is hate.  I hate that sometimes war may be necessary.

*There is self hate and doubt (often capitalized upon by advertising), which all may affect those suffering from depression, thoughts of suicide, and/or eating disorders.

*People hate being taken advantage of, but taking advantage of others seems convenient when it leads to profit or to power.  I am not sure if I should hate capitalism or not, but I do have a healthy fear of it.

*The media capitalizes on hate.  I am not saying that the news should not be true, but hate sure seems to sell.

*Terrorists and enemies hate us and we hate them.  What does it all solve?

I could go on and on.

But, as I was starting to become too negative and struggling with how not to hate, I asked for advice in the confessional.

One of the priests at St. Peter’s cathedral offered me a possible solution; I needed some quiet time with God.  It may seem ridiculous (especially for a busy person like myself), but all of my frustration and anger with life seemed to be leading towards hate, so I wanted to at least give the idea a try.

The priest was right.  I could not hate while sitting in the holy presence of the eucharist.  I could not even bring  myself to be angry.  I have returned many times back to this quiet and sacred chapel.  I have even brought my daughter.  She seemed confused at first, but we both left calmer and more ready for another busy day.

I hope to some day make eucharistic adoration more a regular part of my life.  For now, it will be sporadic, and I know that I can always pray at home (or in my own head at work or wherever). It is not yet enough.

But, cannot learning to love and trying to be humble at least help?  I know that it is too late for the scant few survivors of Syria or the Holocaust.  I know that love won’t bring back all of those killed by terrorists or war.  I do not pretend to understand the angry/hateful commentary made by even those running to be our country’s future leader.

I do not want to be ruled by hate.  Jesus did not seem to hate anyone.

I know that Jesus was not particularly fond of vendors making profit in his Father’s house, the church.  I know He vanquished demons and was able to avoid the temptation of Satan, but I do not believe that Jesus used the word “hate”.

Instead, he said to his disciples:

“Do to others whatever you would have them to do you…Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many.  How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.  And those who find it are few”  (Mt 7:  13-14).

Is the road the way to heaven paved with love and the road away paved with hate?

If so, I plan to strive to love, as hard as that may be.

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Scary Sounds of Silence

We all have had that eerie phone call.  The one where there is no speaker on the other end of the line.  A dead line.  A disconnect.

It can be very intimidating, listening to the sounds of silence.

I used to be a very, very quiet person. A timid girl who was afraid to get a wrong answer in school.  A middle schooler who used to write notes to her friends instead of talking aloud.  I guess I used to be an introspective child?

After high school speech class, I learned that talking could gain a speaker power. Public speaking was required for my degree.  It certainly was useful to give confidence to a person like me who wanted to stand in the front of students in order to teach them!

I am not saying that we should always talk, nor that talking will always solve.

If anyone has been listening to the recent debates, we have all been enduring a lot of rhetorical banter.  I still am prone to interrupt other, but I am trying to learn to listen more.

As a mom, I also can remember how frightening it was to have a young child playing at home and hear, suddenly, nothing.  It was often an indicator that something was wrong or that an accident had occurred.

But, in today’s obnoxious society where :

*machines chirp commercials at us while perusing aisles

*videos may begin while reading from  a news website, even if we do not select them

*ring tones sounding and changing according to the caller

*cars talking to us or allowing us to talk while doing so many things at once…

…maybe we need a bit more time to reflect?

I have a friend, and former colleague of mine, who endures a hearing loss.  I once asked her  why she would remove her listening aides during school.  She said she sometimes needed NOT to hear everything.  Isn’t that the truth?

For her, relaxation often is the form of quiet reflection, walking, or just being alone.  I used to think that behavior to be a bit strange, that is until I started to go to eucharistic adoration.

I have not (yet) scheduled myself for a set reflective time to be in front of the eucharist.  I recently started to go since a priest suggested that I sit in silence. He said it would help ease my frustration from the normal stresses of having a full time job, life, and family.

The priest was right.  Now, when I feel particularly angry or frustrated, I cannot maintain those moods if I am humbled by the body of Christ.

No one in church chats during eucharistic adoration.  No one says anything.  Prayers are quiet. Turning of pages are done delicately.  One can almost hear the candles whispering  prayers to God.

I have come to view silence differently and to respect silence.  My son once visited a Holocaust memorial in Germany.  When I asked him about the experience, he said, “I don’t know what to say about it.  It was so quiet and no one had to tell me not to talk.  You had to just be there.”

Maybe silence is a necessary part of God?

I have spent a lot of time alone in the past two weeks.  This is not to say I have not seen nor talked to family and friends.  But, as I have been home bound, recovering from surgery, I have not even turned on the radio.  I take time to watch the soft fluff of falling snow,  like kitten’s pads crossing verdant moss.

And…I think.  I pray.  I try to take advice from others and to rest.  I read about the horrific events of late due to violence, conflict and hate, and I wonder.

I wonder if we are all really listening, or instead, if the sounds of hate may be able to change into silent acceptance and forgiveness.

A 25th Anniversary Pilgrimage: Limited Photos or No Flash

My husband and I don’t travel a lot, but we do keep an account for when a special anniversary arrives.  So far we have been blessed to travel for our 10th, 20th, and now 25th anniversaries.

But, what made our current anniversary a bit extra special was a simple thing that an acquaintance commented to me about:  a pilgrimage.  The same individual had told us about a nearby shrine, Our Lady of Good Help, that although we have lived within 3 hours of visiting it, we had never been there.  So, since we had committed ourselves to holy matrimony, why not be sure that God was added into the vacation mix?

Paul and I searched website after website, and even contacted a local travel agent. Nothing seemed to fit for our typical August celebration (nor our budgets).  The only affordable option would be during an already busy June, during a summer college course in which I had already enrolled.

We met with some kind friends who also have been blessed with the ability to travel. They told us about their favorite place to go, lent us books and maps, and I was struck by a story they told about one location that may have the blood of Jesus inside of some steps in Rome.   Only telling close family, we did what we rarely do, we impulsively booked a tour to Rome, Italy.

I was very nervous.   After all, I speak Spanish, not Italian.

I was even more nervous in noisy, crowded Rome.  We were quickly lost (even with a map), and there was no way to see all of the sites we wanted to see.   Our vacation had choices for excursions, so together we chose mainly Christian-related tours, sometimes on purpose, and other times, purely by accident.

Of course I insisted that we visit the Vatican.  I will never forget the moments I spent staring at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I was staggered by the high security for such a small country.  I was disappointed to learn that St. Peter’s Square was closed since Pope Francis was celebrating a special mass.  I was so jealous of all of them to be that close to the holy father. Their group even all had their yellow t-shirts coordinated to match and to commemorate their experience.  I guess that’s what I got for failing to plan enough in advance.

And the churches, oh the churches!  We visited small ones, large ones, and basilicas, which are special churches where a former pope has had a special connection.  The major basilicas are all in Rome and our guide told us that only the pope is allowed to celebrate the eucharist in the main nave.  So many, so beautiful, and so beyond my ability to describe adequately!

I felt entirely inadequate in most of them.  For example, one church, a basilica, had a portion of the wood from Baby Jesus’s manger; this Holy Crib was a locale that I fell to my knees before, entirely speechless.  The rest of the tour group had to wait for me at times since I honestly lost track of how long I knelt there.

Another time was when I was in another location, a small building (by Roman standards) that supposedly housed the steps that had a few drops of Jesus’s blood.  Although the Scala Santa (Holy Steps) was very unassuming, I could do no more than kneel on the first first step.  Our own priest,  Father Chris had talked about how he had done the climb on his knees.  I do not know if the wood covering these steps truly conceals the blood of Jesus, but I certainly felt the devotion and deep faith of those who were praying for forgiveness or for the forgiveness of others.

We spent a lot of chaotic time trying to negotiate railways, crowded streets, and subways, until our anniversary came to a close in Venice.  Paul has always been interested in Venice from a builder’s viewpoint; he found out answers to all kinds of his construction-related questions.  We had decided to tour some of the local islands as well, and to see as much of the area in the few short days we had.

Little did I know that again, churches would dominate our experience.  There were churches everywhere!  No, I mean really. According to this website, there are 137 churches in Venice and the surrounding islands!  I have heard from friends and from websites that one must become lost in Venice.  Paul and I were lost 15 minutes outside the hotel.  We even saw young people with cell phones and hand held GPS instruments entirely lost!  We were more lost in Venice than in any other locale on the trip, but whenever we would become discouraged, we would find a church and we would be able to use it to navigate using our paper map.  The foundation for our navigation became Santa Maria Formosa Church.   

The most moving experience I had was on the island of Torcello.  At first, Paul and I had were rather disappointed with the final island we visited, after seeing the busy islands of Murano and Burano.  The only high point our guide really referred to was that Ernest Hemingway had hung out at one of the local bars and that there were some churches on Torcello as well.  At first, we were not even going to go inside Torcello’s cathedral since a portion of it is a museum.  Paul and I had been trying to visit mainly churches that did not charge any fees because instead of being impressed by big money and big buildings, we wanted more of a personal experience.   That, and we were simply trying to save some money.

Torcello’s Basilica, dedicated to Mary (Santa Maria Assunta) was overwhelming.  The cathedral was originally started in 639, and was later added on to.  The mosaic art showing a representation of Revelations, or the Last Judgement, held me absolutely transfixed.  I have no idea how long I sat there.  God bless Paul and his patience; he never once tried to rush me from one location to the next.  The basilica was so incredibly holy.  Although its outside is unassuming, it was one of my two favorites. It is not unusual in Rome to see remains of bodies in churches, but seeing a wrapped corpse with a burial mask never failed to give me pause.  It was particularly so in Torcello when I was near the martyred remains of St. Fosca.  Perhaps it was also that a crypt there may have housed the St. Mark?  I am not sure, but we could have paid to go up into the bell tower or to tour the museum, but if I go back, it would be to be simply sit in the awesome presence of Torcello’s Basilica again.

Finally, our last full day in Venice was “off schedule,” and some friends had suggested we take the vaporetto (public water taxi) around to see sights.  I had been admiring a building across from St. Mark’s Square for some time, and we decided to go and visit, yes, another church.  It was so beautiful that I figured we would need to pay entry, as we did in Torcello.  The vaporetto dropped us off on the back side of Dorsoduro, and we walked the sidewalk along the water until reaching the tip of the the peninsula.

There Paul and I met an unlikely couple.  They were lounging at the very edge and the man claimed he was there every day for the view of San Marco (Piazza San Marco).  He said, after all, it was the best view in Venice.  He insisted that Paul take photos of the two of them.  Paul ended up telling him that we were in Venice for our anniversary.  I elbowed Paul for giving such personal information to a complete stranger.  Then, abruptly, the young man asked if we had lit a candle for the virgin yet at the church of good health.  Paul and I looked at one another, but promised, yes, we would do so.  The man (who appeared to be a scruffy pirate, but was completely harmless) laughed and insisted on taking a photo of the two of us.  The photograph turned out to be one of my favorite shots from our vacation!

We went up the long, wide steps to Santa Maria della Salute expecting to pay a large fee, but since this church was created to honor the Virgin Mary (credited with ending another plague), there was no charge.  Yes, I lit a candle for the virgin and I prayed for all the sick people that I knew.  I also prayed for the dead.  I admired the gorgeous architecture.

IMG_8974

God had surprised me again. Not just with a wonderful trip, not just with a wonderful husband, not just with a wonderful view, but also with a wonderful soul correction.  Who am I to assume that churches like the Our Lady of Health (or people for that matter) are to be judged by their structure?

I know many of you readers may be disappointed to see that my blog is not filled with spectacular photos or images.  Even my own father, an artist, seemed a bit miffed that we had not seen Michelangelo’s David in Florence or Pieta in Rome.

But, to me, the best parts of my experience cannot be photographed. In fact, in most churches, no photographs or photographs without flash (in a sometimes dark interior) are simply not permitted.

I think with limited photos or no flash is as it should be and should stay.

Thank you God for a journey that continues both outside and inside myself.

Bread crumbs

It has been snowing and blowing non stop where I live, so everything has been scoured clean and cold.

This morning I find myself wondering how the birds find nourishment in such an ocean of fluffy stuff.  During the harsh winter months, we have put out stale bread on the feeder, especially when low on sunflower seed.  It takes the teensy Chickadees many days to discover that the bread is edible.  They perch on the bread, fly past it, or at other times, the neighbor’s dog snags it, and they get nothing.

Lately, I feel a lot like those birds–searching and searching for what has been right there all along.

We missed church this week due to traveling, and even missed Ash Wednesday since the weather has been so awful that the children’s service for ashes (the one our family usually attends) was cancelled since the highway was closed.  So, I am searching for God at home and in the Bible.

I have been particularly thinking about a Greek woman from Mark (Mk 7: 24-30).  Jesus helped her daughter to cast out a demon.  The woman seemed to really bother Jesus (or so it seemed to me, maybe because she probably worshipped other Greek gods?) and they had this conversation:

He said to her, “Let the children be fed first.
For it is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied and said to him,
“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps”

I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to approach Jesus (especially if I was an idol worshipper), but she compared herself to a dog and was content to get his “scraps” or the merciful cleansing of her daughter from a demon (or from sin).

Another crumb/scrap-related related segment is again from Mark.  This time, chapter 8 (Mk 8: 14-21).  The disciples feel they have again done far less than Jesus needed or wanted them to do.  He warns them about the Pharisees and Herod using a bread metaphor of leavening (contrasted with the manna in the desert or the unleavened bread we now receive as eucharist).  The disciples think Jesus is talking about the physical word and their physical needs, since they have remembered to only bring one loaf of bread with them.

Jesus says:

“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”

At times, I see myself very much like a confused disciple or a bird pecking through a snow-covered landscape.  It can’t be that easy?  It can’t be that Jesus is the solution, the truth, the life, and all the bread that I need?

I am sure He is all the crumbs that I will ever need, and perhaps I (and all of us) need to search for Him where he is.  Right here with us, in front of us, and within us all the time!  I just have to stop looking for Jesus in all the wrong places!

The Fourth Wise Man?

Yesterday our church celebrated the epiphany of our Lord.

All of us have had epiphanies at one time or another, I think I had my epiphany (a sudden revelation or insight) after doing some  online research (thanks Google).

What intrigued me was when our priest said that there is literature suggesting that there may have been a fourth wise man.  I had heard of Gaspar, Melchior, and Bathezar, but a fourth magi?  Was the priest simply saying I too should follow Jesus?  Was I too give up everything I have and follow the next bright star?  Was there a fourth wise man or was the priest insinuating that I should be as such?  Was I rich in a way I did not understand?

Thanks to Google (although I already want to learn so much more as a teacher of research writing), I discovered that there is a short story told by Henry Van Dyke about  Fourth Magi named Artaban as I found on www.storytellingforthesoul.com/other-wise-man-shtml or www.classicreader.com/book/593/ .

Yes, the link are to a fictional story, but there is a also a movie starring Martin Sheen, links on YouTube, numerous writers and Bible scholars arguing about who were magi, and many, many Christian links that testify and question not only who the wise men were, but what kind of people they may have been.  According to Christiananswers.net , the term “wise men” appears 44 times in the Bible.

It seems my quick research lead to more and more questions.  Questions that may be answered by astronomy;  I remember going with my parents to a special exhibit at our local planetarium that “turned back the clock” and showed what the sky looked like when Jesus was born.  It did show a bright star in the east.

My epiphany seems overly long  for a “sudden realization,” but I think we all question, we all wonder.

In the story (I won’t spoil it for you if you have not read it before), Artaban tries everything he can to do the right thing.  He often felt unworthy.  He often felt as though his decision may not be the right decision.

Doing the right thing should not be so taxing, but often it seems to be more of which right thing?  Which right thing when?  Which is the greater or lesser evil while trying to do or be right (or even while trying to be truthful without hurting others?).

Artaban is faced with the very same choices symbolized by three jewels:  a sapphire (it stops him from starting his journey on time), a ruby (symbolic of blood that could have been spilled but was not), and a pearl of great price (that one you can read for yourself).  All three choices and three jewels remind me of (various) stories from the Bible:  The Good Samaritan, the Crucifixion of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea, to name a few.

The jewels also parallel the gifts the original three Wise Men gifted to the Christ child:  gold (kingship and birth), frankincense (used for anointing/healing and priesthood), and myrrh (used for embalming the dead) from www.biblicalarchaeology.org .

So, the gifts symbolize the three main stages of our lives and of the life of Jesus:  birth, religion/life, and death.

I too am faced with choices.  I can choose to do right or to do wrong, but Artaban wanted to do what he was supposed to do to get closer to God physically, but his true choices ended up always being spiritual.   He ended up always choosing the least selfish choice.

My epiphany is this:  In order to be wise, I must strive to make spiritual choices and strive to be less selfish.

Bible Exercise

Over the holidays, especially around the New Year, many people make exercise promises or other resolutions they don’t always intend to keep.  I too am the same.

No, I am in decent shape (for my age).  I mean Bible brain exercise.  For the past year, I challenged myself to read the daily readings from the Bible, no matter how busy I was.  I cannot say I read every single day.  I did read most every single day, no matter how tired, now matter how cryptic the reading, no matter what else I was trying to get done.

I set aside the time each morning to “have coffee with God,” and I now understand how it must feel to begin training for a marathon.  I have realized that there is so much to learn!  I have read the same readings again , only to gain new insight.  I am beginning to notice patterns (Yes, Catholics had those set up all along, but I had not noticed them before).

So, this morning, as I read yet once more about John the Baptist, I felt renewed.  A year or so ago, I may have wondered, “Why again John the Baptist?”

Now I ask myself, “What sins you need to cleanse?  Have you accepted enough time for God to enter into your heart?  Have you invited anyone else to think about God?  Are you brave enough to answer when others question you about God or Catholicism?

So, in 2015, I am going to start each morning again with my daily readings, do my exercises, and have some coffee with God.  I may continue to share some of my insights and realizations with you all, but above all, I have learned that although I am hardly an Olympian (in running or in reading the Bible), I cannot make myself healthier without going to God each day.  I need His Word.

Parables

We all like to listen to stories.

Parables are stories that teach lessons.

Often these stories (or fables) may be with animal or plants as main characters.

 Examples may be:

*Fox and the Crow (from author Aesop)

*Man forced to choose one his children to give to a hungry giant (from author Hosseini)

*Leaky pail (from author unknown)

*Trees deciding who should be their king

*Mustard seed

*Pearl of great price

*Wealthy man and the beggar

*Burial of a treasure

 Most parables come from the Bible.  We too, like the animals, characters, or plants, have our own unique stories and life lessons.  We made our own mistakes before learning.

 I love to tell stories, but I am not the best storyteller.  I think that means I need to be  a far better listener than speaker.

 It has taken me a long time to understand that talking (or interrupting for that matter) is far less important.  It is in those infrequent quiet moments that I think I may try to grasp what my lessons in life will be.

Stories of:

*People I love dying from cancer

*Those who work hardest in life (like teachers, state politics or others in service industries) being downgraded for the gain of the wealthy.

*Baby fighting for the ability to live

*Work overshadowing life

*Extracurriculars dominating family

*Wars destroying innocent people

*Putting up wood for the winter (remember the Ant and the Grasshopper?)

*And…so many, many more

 The only person who ever did everything he said he was going to do, never lied, gave up everything for everyone else, and meant it was Jesus Christ.

 So, the next time you hear a story (or a parable), are we all listening enough to get what we need to learn? Or are we trying to change the story?

 I don’t know yet, but I will continue to strive to listen and to understand.


I would like to hear your stories too, and to learn from them.  

No other greater commandment

In the highly charged political environment of Michigan (and in the United States), I find truth and peace for everyone still stems from the New Testament.  

Some people hate others who do not match in skin color.  Other hate those who wave rainbow flags.  Women have the “option” to purchase insurance in order to protect their private parts from “invasion”.  

Even Michigan’s governor does not seem to know side is the popular side to be on, or perhaps that is just because it is an election year?

Some people hate unions for trying to establish fair and equal treatment in the workplace for reasonable hours and fair wages.  Many who are underemployed or unemployed feel that no one should have more than they lack.  Others spout religious mantra in coffee shops, airports, or using electronic media.  I guess I too am guilty of this in my own blog…

In contrast to all of this hatred and elitism is my new hero, Pope Francis.

Pope Francis established a new idea; one which should not be new at all.  We shall not judge.  That is for God and Jesus alone to do.  

America is supposed to be the land of equality and freedom.  

America has been through some nasty times in our history:  from killing Native Americans to burning crosses, from turning away ships filled with castaway Jews to protesting war at the grave sites of our soldiers.  I know that marriage equality for those who are gay seems to be the new “sore” spot. 

It just so happens that my daily devotion stemmed from the gospel according to Mark (Mk. 12. 28-34) where Jesus praises a scribe for understanding.  Jesus questioned a scribe about which commandments were the most important.  The answer:  “To love him [God] with all our thoughts and with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves is worth more than any burnt offering or sacrifice”.

What if we all practiced loving our neighbors instead of “burning” them up in words or condemning them?  If my neighbor is all the colors of the rainbow, he is still my neighbor.  If my neighbor uses a gun for protection, she is still my neighbor.  I don’t think God wants us to allow neighbors to take advantage or to hurt us, but if we focus far MORE on love and acceptance (instead of how our neighbors are “different”), perhaps we will be one step closer to God and to what America is supposed to be?

Little Things

I used to let all the little things get to me.

The people who said and did mean things, endless eye rolling, the list of little annoying things can stretch on and on…

Since my back surgery last week, I have had a lot time for self examination.  I had to let go of a lot of things, big and little.  There were far more important things (like taking care of myself, trying to help a bit around the house, and running a classroom from home) to deal with.

There are little things that DO matter.  Chiefly, being able to walk steadily and being able to breathe easily.  I remember watching the clock until the exact minute when the doctor said I would be able to try standing and walking.  I also still have to use a breathing device to keep my lungs functioning correctly after surgery.  Little things like that I took for granted.

I no know that things that matter the most are in the heart zone.  I read in my “post surgery” handbook that everything I need must be in reach or near my chest/heart area–below an outstretched hand and above the waist.

Items not in the heart zone are things I have learned to ignore or let go.  If it’s on the floor, someone else has to deal with it.  I used to be the sweeper, the person who vacuumed, the crazy lady who picked up all the dirty laundry, dust balls, or loose crumbs.  I now have a “grabber” for the things I drop (and there have been many, many dropped things lately), but my daughter seems actually thrilled to help me.  I don’t like asking for help, but I am learning to.  This recently has even included putting on pants and shoes since I won’t be bending at the waist for almost a month more.

I can prepare food if it’s on the counter.  I can deal with things if it’s in the “happy medium”.  If it’s underneath or up too high, I need help.  This can also be applied to God.  He helps me when I feel down or if I need to be lifted up.  My heart zone is both spiritual and physical.

It’s nice to be needed in the zone of the heart.  I think my husband has found out how difficult it is to arrange a schedule to include coaching, work, grocery shopping, errands, and running a child around.  All things I have most often done, but I will be going into week number two of no driving.  Even when I go back to work, he will have to drive me there until the doctor says otherwise (or until I can turn at the waist to see out of the blind spot while behind the wheel).

Another part of the heart are all student emails and messages (online or on paper) that wish me well.  I am sure there are some enjoyed trying to manipulate the subs or who tried to get out of work, but deep down, I believe that all children want to learn and can learn–if effort is put in.  The students who gave me the most well wishes were often of the type who put in the most effort or who were raised by parents to know effort is to be expected and praised.

I plan to return to work sporting a new bracelet one gave me prior to surgery.  She made her mom run home to get it so I could have a wonderful warm feeling before surgery.  The cute card also made me laugh and I brought it with me to the hospital.  Even though it was awhile before I could cross the floor to get my personal items (and a nurse had to put the bag of stuff within my reach), just knowing someone cared enough to wish me well meant a great deal.  The bracelet has a lot of red (heart colors) IMG_6531on it too, along with many other educator symbols.

I have also learned to be appreciative of the people for all of the little things they do.  My daughter is learning to do laundry and to stack dishes in the lower part of the dishwasher that I cannot reach.  My husband waited for hours just to be sure I was not alone before surgery, and then since the surgery had been postponed until late afternoon, he drove home to get my daughter from school, and then all the way back again (more than 2 hours of driving total) just to be sure I was comfortable for the night.  When I was finally released to come home, he slept on the couch in case I needed anything.  He even charged the hunting walkie talkies so I didn’t have to yell downstairs!

Last Sunday I demanded to go to church.  I felt relieved that someone had switched me dates for eucharistic ministry since even walking up or down stairs right now means doing them only one tread at a time.  It was great to worship God and to go there to Him instead of staying home.  It may seem like a little thing that many people don’t want or need, but it was important to me.

I go back to work soon.  I appreciate the emails, the pleasant messages, the well wishes, the calls from friends and family and the prayers.  All the little things do matter–things in the heart zone, those matter the most.  Even if I don’t have a bracelet to show it, all of you do matter–you are all in the heart zone.

My Failure to Communicate

I am a foreign language teacher.  I am a mother.  I am also, now, a mother-in-law.  I like to think I am adaptable, but Germany was not the experience I had planned for.

We went to Germany this summer with not even enough money to properly celebrate my son’s wedding.  My younger daughter and I had tried to learn some German phrases.  We could repeat some of the language CD, but as I speak mainly Spanish and English, I spoke terrible German with a silly Spanish accent.

My daughter-in-law’s family spoke some English and we spoke German fragments.  It made for a a frustrating and stressful time.  We discovered in Germany that using a credit card that was anything but a German credit card could be used in only scattered locations.  We were not sure how much things would cost, how much we could (or would be able to) pay for the wedding, and the wedding customs were quite different.

One such custom was to smash plates a few evenings before the wedding.  Called a Polterabend, we were both excited and confused to see merry Germans tossing crockery into the air and streets, followed by the bride and groom cleaning up the mess with brooms.  It was quite the experience to watch the passersby expressions (or those who tried to drive or pass by).  The custom was to wish good luck to the bride and groom.  The young couple had to learn to work together, protect their brooms from theft, and survive a seemingly endless process.  Metaphorically, it is very much like a marriage.  Marriage is meant to (hopefully) be forever and should not be “torn asunder” by trivialities.

Other customs to adjust to included attending a tiny church ceremony where usually groomsmen and bridesmaids did not stand up for the ceremony.   The ceremony was religious and the audience had to try to sing in both German and English.  The minister’s words were spoken and translated.  The vows were spoken in both English and German.  The young couple wanted a blend of both traditions.

At the reception, this blend was repeated with symbolic flags from both countries on the tables.  My husband and I felt quite inept at the head table since in Germany this seating consisted of the bride, groom, and their parents only.    In fact, I did not understand the importance of the table settings until I found out later that they served  and cut the cake/s prior to the main buffet meal.

Our children had never planned  a celebration before.  Our children did not have a plan nor a budget.  The theme was a blended American/German, so neither set of parents were entirely comfortable with the whole celebration; however, once the music started everyone began to relax.  The Germans did not know how to dance to all the American songs.  We Americans did not know how to sing or do the moves of the German songs.  One of the reception highlights was when a group of competitive square dancers made a sudden and fantastic appearance;  the bride and groom later joined in.

This is not to say we did not enjoy Germany.  The area was beautiful, the people kind, and although the area we stayed left us often trapped without a vehicle, we felt safe and secure in our small hotel.  I am truly grateful to have been able to celebrate with my son and his new bride.

We still try to communicate with our new in-laws.  They have become our new family.  We have since “Skyped” with them and showed them bits of our house as they have tried to share their lives and homes with us while in Germany.

It made me realize how important communication is.  We had to try to figure out what others wanted by using fragmented conversations and a lot of silly gesturing.  For example, I am pretty sure we were scolded at the hotel.   I think the lady who ran our hotel was mortified that we had hung some wet clothing in the open windows.  We tried to explain that our daughter had been quite sick on the way from the airport, so some clothing was soiled in vomit.  The next morning the hotel owner seemed offended that my still ill daughter would not eat much for the complimentary breakfast.  Before the end of our stay she understood that our appetite matched our health.  She was also thrilled that her guests  found her granddaughter’s missing  ring underneath a bed.  We eventually came to be trusted,  once better communication had been established.

I heave learned that God is much the same.  He will bring blessings in His good time, not on our time.  He tries to communicate with us, but we need to speak His ways, instead of ignoring Him and doing things our ways.

I prayed a lot on the trip.  I prayed for more sleep. I prayed the airplane would safely deliver us. I prayed for the new, young couple. I prayed the wedding and reception would go well. I prayed for my daughter’s recover. I prayed the taxi would deliver us safely to our hotel on the  jagged mountain roads.  Although my trivial needs were nothing compared to the pain and sufferings of others, God has truly blessed me with a new, wonderful people.

Maybe we just need to take more time and prayer to thank Him?

I guess God knows what He is doing after all!