Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Pray For Us!

Today marks the 100th birthday of Mother Teresa, known now as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta as she has been beatified on her way to sainthood in the Church. I probably don't need to say much on why she matters, why it is good to reflect on her life, or how she has influenced the Church, the missionary world, and countless individuals lives, whether directly or indirectly. I will say that there has grown in me a deep appreciation of and desire to emulate Mother Teresa's one on one approach to the suffering, injustice and needs of this world. I'm not good with politics, with worldwide issues or global plans. They overwhelm me and I am left feeling helpless and ignorant. This often makes me think I am doing far too little for the good of my fellow human beings (and this is true enough) and that I am not capable of doing much at all (and this is not true at all). It is Mother Teresa's approach that teaches me there will always be ways I can build up the good of this world. Each individual person I encounter presents me with an opportunity to love and serve, to edify and encourage. None should be skipped over; none should be dismissed. The range of actions that can be taken is truly expansive, from the simplest and momentary to the sacrificial and lasting.

May I always remember to love the person, every person, God allows me to encounter. May I not be too preoccupied to recognize a need in another. May I hold a joy in my heart so permament and abundant that it will consistently reach whomever I meet. May I acknowledge that all I have has been given by God and if He asks me to give of it to others, may I willingly and cheerfully do so.

A few words from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta...

Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.

Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well.

Little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things is a great thing.

A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.

Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world.

Like Jesus we belong to the world living not for ourselves but for others. The joy of the Lord is our strength.

You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing. Jesus made it very clear. Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


For the past five years I've maintained the habit of eating my lunch at home alone. The office being a three to five minute drive from my house, depending on green lights, this has been a completely reasonable option for me. I've savored the time by myself, interrupting the workday with an hour to myself, maybe with some productivity or simply some relaxation. I've always been someone who needs a bit of time to myself here and there, so these at home lunches have served me well.

No more. Matt and I work in the same office. Our relationship began with lunch dates. We've now reached the point of only an occasional lunch apart from each other. The way I used to crave that hour alone and miss it if I had to skip it more than once a week, the same can now be said of lunches with Matt. Today I opted to have a long overdue lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in several months. Delightful as it was to catch up and spend an hour enjoying conversation with that friend, in the back of my mind was the constant awareness of missing Matt at my side.

It's a simple little thing, this shift in my lunching preference. Maybe you're rolling your eyes over it or perhaps you think it's sweet. What's the point of sharing this tidbit with you? I guess it has me thinking about the changes wrought in my life over the last three months. Three months... it doesn't seem long enough in the scheme of things to achieve such marked changes in a person's day to day life. As are so many aspects of life lately, this is just another reminder of how capable God is of taking us by surprise as He works out His plans in our lives - especially if we are carrying around expectations, as I know I have done so very much of the time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

For the Beauty of the Earth

Our excursion to Marinette County, or a bit of the county. These are only 4 of the 15 parks on the 'waterfall tour.' A delightful day in every sense of the word...
We began at Veteran's Falls with a picnic and some traipsing around the water.

Next we drove to McClintock Park. I fell head over heels for this park. Not a waterfall site but a series of wooden bridges over the beautiful river and trails through the forest.
A rocky, steep trail leads from the parking area to Eighteen Foot Falls.
Along the way is one of the coolest tree stumps around.
The day was wrapped up with some traversing of rocks and trails at Dave's Falls.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


The mugginess that's clung to our midwestern air for the last few weeks snapped last night. In its place came clear skies and a soothing wind. The sun is hot but the air is dry and I am happier for that fact. The mere seconds for which I stepped outside at 7:15 this morning were enough to inform me that a day off was necessary. This weather is wasted on us while we keep to our cubicles and keyboards. It was too late to finagle for today but tomorrow... yes, tomorrow would be the day. By mid-morning I'd arranged coverage for my normal afternoon hours at the reception desk. By the close of lunch break, Matt had readily agreed to be my cohort in this day away. Between bites we sorted out plans and I have spent the afternoon with the happy, happy prospect of tomorrow. Sleeping in and taking it slow, sunshine and breezes, hiking and waterfalls, and hours upon hours with the man I can't seem to get enough of with each passing day. I do hope I'll have a few pictures of the delightful day to be posted thereafter.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Drama Queen, I Am Not

A significant aspect of the revisions needed on Full of Days before I submit it to more publishers is the story of one of the main characters, Aillinn. She is a main character but her story lacks the richness of a main character - it fits too snugly into the shadow of the other main character's story. So it must be changed... added to... enhanced. And how will this be possible? Greater character development, sure; digging deeper into the personality and experiences of the character as she interacts with others, yes; more tangible and captivating descriptions than are currently written of her, certainly. But besides these, key to this task is the addition of more drama. Struggle, disappointment, difficulty, dilemma, crisis, mistakes, recovery - more drama... That shouldn't be too difficult for a fiction writer. Right? Um, right.

Dare I admit that I have a strong distaste for creating more drama in these people's lives? They're fictional! They are not real! The drama is not real! Yes, but I know these people inside and out, fictional or not. I hate creating drama in real life and I am living real life while I'm writing so this translates into a bit of a struggle. I am brainstorming over what to add to Aillinn's life, what circumstances to create for her to have a richer, more significant story. Each idea that presents itself is accompanied by a hesitation. "I don't want to do that to her!" Or, "that might be too dramatic." It's hard to sort out the thoughts to know which to heed and which to ignore.

"Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are." (Arthur Golden) It is this which I believe I did accomplish in Annie, the other main character of Full of Days. It is this which I am attempting to do for Aillinn.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Maybe I'm Old Fashioned

After a recent viewing of the Fred Astaire/Rita Hayworth film, "You Were Never Lovelier," I had a new love: the song, "I'm Old Fashioned." The film was an enjoyable but forgettable bit of fun but the song has stuck with me. What a joy it was to find then that one of my favorite songstresses, Ella Fitzgerald, performed the tune!

"Sighing sighs, holding hands; these my heart understands..."

Taking the Ordinary Time

The walk I took yesterday morning deserves its own blog post. It was that lovely. However, it's loveliness put me in the right frame of mind for other thoughts and I won't restrict myself to the walk itself. Over the weekend I visited my brother and his family in western Michigan. Their home is situated on a country road in a hollow surrounded by hundreds of acres of cornfields and century old pines, maples and oaks. The setting is impossibly and inherently nostalgic. Having attended Mass the evening before, I took advantage of the quietness of Sunday morning by sneaking out for a walk before anyone else in the house stirred. It was early enough for the dew to still soak the leaves of every plant in existence but late enough for the sun to be halfway to its full height and heat. The picture above is not one I took on this walk but might well have been. The sunlight poured through trees tall and old enough to pass as Ents and it draped the surface of vast cornfields in yellow splendor. I set my iPod to shuffle through five Matt Maher albums and trekked over the broken concrete of the old roads for an hour.

Upon my return I tried to capture for myself why this walk was so gloriously refreshing. I hadn't taken a solitary, early morning walk in a few months... maybe I was rediscovering something I'd forgotten I love. The exercise was edifying... but it isn't as if I'd been motionless in the previous days - hours had been passed in the backyard pool with my nephews and niece. As I wondered over it, my mind drifted to thoughts of the coming week. I searched my brain for what I had scheduled in the days and nights. What would fill my evenings? Anything significant happening at work? Events to attend or people to see? I came up with nothing. Nothing. A possible dinner with friends passing through on Monday evening, but that was only tentative. Relief settled over my skin like a cool sheet on a humid night and I smiled over my discovery.

What was particularly extraordinary about my walk that morning was that it was ordinary. It was an ordinary thing to do - taking a walk - but because I had the time and the energy and the uncluttered mind for it, it had the potential to be extraordinary. Suddenly I could look forward to this week with great delight. Having time to do ordinary things could be counted as extraordinary because of how seldom it is the case. All the things I've been thinking I ought to take time to do, in the next weeks I might actually have the time to take for some of them. Time for the taking - now that's worth a smile and a sigh.