Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday

I've never felt an urge to do something for the period of Lent. I have always seen friends giving up Starbucks or Facebook. I have family members who are very serious in their Catholic tradition who take their Lenten practice truly to heart with sacrifice and service.

But I've never felt much need to sacrifice or serve more than I already do.

This year, I've felt a tug to find something to commit to for Lent. Knowing that the intent of this season is to draw closer to God in preparation for Easter, I knew I wanted my choice to be spiritually based.

I didn't have a plan when I woke up this morning, though. Sacrificing sugar or coffee or chocolate didn't really seem like the right idea. So I opened up my email and decided that I would read one of the many daily devotionals that I receive - and maybe I would feel so moved as to actually read one of them each day.

And I read one. And it was nice enough. But it didn't move me.

Later in the day, I jumped on Twitter. There is a Jesuit priest I follow - Father James Martin. Now, I'm not Catholic. But I know a lot about Catholicism since my dad and my brother are Catholic. I've attended Mass many times. I won't pretend to know everything about the faith but I can say that there is a lot of beauty in the prayers and traditions. Father Martin tweeted about a new podcast he is doing for Lent - The Examen.

I was intrigued. Maybe this was what I needed. And I will admit - I had no clue what it was going to be about or what "examen" meant. Turns out, it is a daily meditation style of prayer to review your day from start to finish and remember or recognize where you experienced God in your day.

I took time and started the podcast. I was expecting a talk. To just listen. But it was an actual time of prayer and meditation. I started to write things down as I reflected on the previous day. And I was aware of how much I just cast aside a day once it is done. But when I stopped to examine it, there was beauty and love in so many places.

When it was done, I began quickly reading about St. Igantius Loyola and this daily practice. There are cards you can carry that have the steps laid out for your daily prayer and meditation time. Lots of interesting things to read about this time reviewing your day, looking for God, and then spending time talking to God about a specific happening or person you encountered - and time to listen. Time to acknowledge where you messed up, where you sinned.

It's a beautiful practice. I am moved.

A couple of things I wrote down from articles I read -

"If it is part of our human experience, God is in it."

"God is present in every event of our daily lives - not only in thoughts and words, but in smells and sounds and sights and feelings."

There are many different ways to do The Examen and I look forward to this Lenten journey and going deeper in my faith through this practice.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Sacred in Normalcy

We are the "lucky" ones. We are "blessed."

I'm not a huge fan of those phrases.

Our year started out in a very low and scary place.

Here is the excellent news - our son is completely fine. The tumor in his leg is not cancer. It's an enchrondroma. We will have regular x-rays to monitor it but it's the type of thing that usually shows up in mid-life and is just a thing. Not something you do anything about. Not something that should cause any issues.

We went from the most terrifying place - possible leukemia - to the most normal place - not even needing surgery.

It's been a couple of weeks since our final doctor visit to confirm the findings of the specialist in Florida. And the decision that we don't need surgery at this time.

Life quickly got back to normal. For a month, we lived in a little bubble. We drew within ourselves. Our family drew in tight and close. Now we can breathe again. We can expand again.

Now, I seek the Sacred in the everyday. Which feels more challenging. When life is being lived in extremes, it's easier to sense and need God or some higher power.

Most recently, it was witnessing some 5th and 6th grade girls supporting each other. I lead a discussion group for 4th-6th grade at my church. We meet 2 times per month. This particular group has been together for a couple of years. And they have shared things. About friends and family. They share joys. And they open up and share things they are passionate about.

Recently, our discussion was on popularity and power and fear. We usually start with one topic and swirls in many different directions until we bring it back to where we started.

One girl shared something personal about her family. Another shared something about a group of her friends that broke up in ugly ways.

The beauty in it was how the girls supported each other.

This group of kids - boys and girls - talk excitedly and over each other sometimes. They get very focused on their own things to share sometimes. But when it comes to sharing something hard, they love each other.

When each of those girls shared, the girls nearby would reach over to hold a hand or an arm or a shoulder. It wasn't discussed or anything. It just happened. Naturally. Compassion in action.

I felt the Sacred moving between them. Connecting them. Holding them. And giving them each other. I simply sat and witnessed what was happening.

From Philippians:
If you find any comfort from being in the Anointed, if His love brings you some encouragement, if you experience true companionship with the Spirit, if His tenderness and mercy fill your heart; then, brothers and sisters, here is one thing that would complete my joy—come together as one in mind and spirit and purpose, sharing in the same love. Don’t let selfishness and prideful agendas take over. Embrace true humility, and lift your heads to extend love to others. Get beyond yourselves and protecting your own interests; be sincere, and secure your neighbors’ interests first.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Sacred In Sacrifice

"Mom... If things with my brother are bad... And it is going to cost a lot of money... I want to give things up for him. Things like... Well, tae kwon do. I know it costs a lot for me to do tae kwon do. So I would give that up."

She loves tae kwon do.

She loves her brother more.

It isn't a sacrifice she needs to make.

But how can you not see the Sacred when a child offers to sacrifice their passion?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Sacred in a Moment

The phone rang. The number we had been waiting on...

The doctor's voice.
Not a nurse.

Calling with results.
Results that were simply more questions.

I inhaled.

In that moment, the Holy Spirit was within me, around me, between us.

Then I exhaled. Fear, worry, the unknown returned.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Sacred in Laughter

Jan 2

I found the Sacred in laughter today.

The kind of laughter where you forget everything else in the world for a second. For a moment. Because all that matters is the ridiculous thing that made you crack up.

It's hard to escape life right now. But good friends can help with that.

I found the Sacred in laughter.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Seeking the Sacred

I'm not big on resolutions for the new year. I've done the "word for the year" thing but it doesn't really stay with me, either.

I am intrigued by the idea of doing something daily. I don't usually think of it until the middle of the year. No idea why I can't just start it on that day but something just feels refreshed and new with the changing of the calendar.

However, I am usually lacking ideas for what I should specifically track or do daily.

At church this past Sunday, our pastor said something in the sermon about the random places where we find the sacred. And it got me to thinking that I have not paid much attention to that - to those places where the Holy Spirit surrounds me. I used to feel very in tune with those moments. But now, it's more like hindsight. I can look back and see where God was with me, where I leaned on my faith.

So I'm setting a loose goal to blog. Maybe daily. Maybe weekly. But to write down those moments of ordinary where I encounter the Sacred. Where I meet the Holy Spirit. Where I recognize the grace of God.

2017 ended with a lot of struggle in our family.

Dec 12 - The week before winter break, Teagan woke up puking in the middle of the night. 24 hour stomach bug.

Dec 16 - I take Zach to Urgent Care because he has leg pain from tripping over anothe rkid at recess the day before. This is where the nightmare began. They did an xray. It showed an abnormality.

I won't go through every painful detail. I have written out everything I can remember from that day. It started a ball rolling that we never imagined would be in our lives.

First, we ruled out leukemia. Yes, this was a terrible, awful, terrifying day.  This was done via blood work in the ER of our children's hospital.  He is given crutches and told to keep weight off the leg.

Next, an MRI was done. Dec 21. Met with a pediatric oncologist for a dose of hope - she didn't see signs of malignancy. She sends us to an ortho because there is nothing immediate that she needs to do based on the MRI. There is a mass at the top of his right fibula.

We see the ortho the next day, Dec 22. He reviews the X ray and MRI. He says it could be as minor as a mass of cartilage or as major, but certainly more rare, as being a sarcoma that would require chemo and surgery and other scary things. Step one is a bone biopsy to see what is inside the mass.

Dec 27 is his biopsy. He is under general anesthesia. The procedure takes about an hour. The doctor says what he saw showed a consistent whiteness, no discoloration. These are good signs. The mass is encapsulated - totally contained.

In the midst of all of this, Teagan ends up with strep throat. We catch it immediately and get her on antibiotics right away. My mother in law ends up in the hospital. My grandma ends up in the hospital.

So I have spent winter break being anxious, in tears, terrified... being brave for my boy, needing to just be held by my husband... we have taken turns crying, fearing the changes to our future. We have found relief and joy as we pass certain hurdles and cross scary words off the list that we never knew we were keeping.

Now it is a new year. January 1.         

Zach is still on crutches. We should have biopsy results this coming week.

This morning, the waterproof post-surgery bandage came of his little leg. Seeing the stitches, the marks on his leg... broke my heart into little pieces all over again.

And then he puked. Because of the crutches, he couldn't make it to the bathroom. So the kitchen floor took it. And the splatter meant a LOT of clean up. Jeff handled the worst of it. I steam cleaned the floor and lysoled it. He ran the carpet shampooer on the small section outside the kitchen. We got Zach cleaned up and into bed to rest.

I decided to go ahead and shampoo the carpet in the hallway since we had the machine all set up anyway. Jeff sat with Zach while he was resting and I shampooed the carpet.

The machine was loud - drowning out all sounds around me. The process requires not being in a hurry. You have to be slow and patient.

And this is where I met the sacred today. In my hallway as I shampooed the carpet. Moving slowly, patiently, methodically. Allowing my brain to wander or rest.

I cried. Everyone was tucked away behind closed doors so I was alone with my shampooer and carpet. Tears down the cheeks as I allowed myself to touch on all the fear and anxiety and even just the blasted unfairness of how hard these past weeks have been.

I cried for myself. For my little boy. For my daughter and husband.

I cried for the families of kids who live with mobility restrictions and the circumstances they must have when sick.

I cried for the families who don't get those blood results back with good news. I cried for those who spent Christmas in the hospital.

I realized that I used to think my faith was about carrying me through hard times until I could be happy again. But as I shampooed the carpet, it struck me that joy doesn't mean being happy all the time. Peace doesn't mean never having troubles.

In the midst of all of this difficulty, there has been love and laughter. Joy. There has been hope and relief. Peace.

Moments. Hard moments. Impossible, frozen in time moments. Warm moments. Hugging moments. Love moments. Strength moments. Hand holding, game playing, hugging, holding, on my knees praying moments.

Jan 1 - Today, I found the Sacred as I shampooed carpet.

Friday, December 1, 2017

2017 is Almost Gone

1 month left to achieve goals or to adjust them. Some things have to push into 2018. Nothing wrong with that. Some things will continue to need focus beyond a single year or achievement.

Smiley face - done.
Red X - not going to happen in 2017.
Pink heart - Can still accomplish or it is in process / adjusted.

A night away with Jeff - we did do a church retreat. We have not had time to find another weekend getaway. I'm starting to think it takes a year of planning to make it happen. At this point, if we could convince the kids to just spend the night with friends and we could be home alone together, I'd totally count it.

Weekend for me (yellow arrow) - I have made zero effort on this one. And it won't happen in December. So maybe in 2018...

Family vacation - Smokey Mountains in the spring, weekend at Kingdom Kentucky over the summer.

Explore different faiths - Teagan and I attended the Indy Festival of Faiths and very much enjoyed ourselves. We learned about wearing a hijab, wearing a turban, and much more.

Quiet time in nature - I've sat and prayed outside several times, usually at my church which has natural habitat areas.

Active time in nature - This one hasn't happened. I didn't make it a priority.

Black Belt - This one moves to 2018. Teagan has earned her Black Belt. She started a few months before the rest of us. But Jeff, Zach and I will be testing next year.

Prayer and reflection - ongoing.

Pray regularly - I haven't made this one happen, either. Interestingly, lately I've been feeling more and more like... I don't have words for it. But more of a calling to be close to God.

Focus my passion - this might take longer than 1 year. But I feel more content in recognizing my passions than I did when the year started. As we approach the end of the year, I will say that a big realization this year was that I do like my job. It's hard and it's stressful. But I like what I do most of the time. So while it may not be my passion, I like shifting my focus to be positive about how I spend the majority of my waking hours.

Exercise - tae kwon do continues. Trying to increase my daily steps. Boxing with a friend sometimes. Still would love to do zumba regularly. Once TKD is done, I will have to find my next thing to help me stay a little active.

Yoga - Another one that I just need to make happen. I'd like to make this one happen in December.

Date nights - Another one that needs to be made a priority and I just haven't. Situations have changed so that having a sitter for the kids is more of a challenge. However, we have been trying to find alone time more often - even if it means just being able to run to Target without the kids for an hour.

5K - Done

Ride my bike - I don't think this one will happen in 2017, sadly. Nope. Didn't happen. Will have to try again in 2018.

Free hugs (3x) - Done. At the Women's March and at Indy Pride (in the parade) and again at the Festival of Faiths.

Read 12 books - done! And still going! Currently reading Hillbilly Elegy. Beartown and Waking Up White are next on the list. Have really been enjoying young adult books this year.

Journal - ongoing. Recently my journaling has been poetry!

Time with friends - ongoing.

Chores - we had a great system over the summer. Struggling to keep it up in the school year. No consistent system but I'm better about asking the kids to do jobs more often.

Love others - yep. This is happening.

Labyrinth - check. Walked the labyrinth at church after a friend died.

Wear my Fitbit - check.