Friday, December 23, 2011

Oh What a Month!

A month and a day since my last post and what a month and a day it has been! Three days after that post, I became engaged to my boyfriend of 1 1/2 years. Matt proposed to me at my family's Thanksgiving gathering. It was a sweet, surreal, memorable moment and I've barely come down from the clouds since. Even with the expectation of our engagement coming about before the end of 2011, Matt still managed to surprise me on the occasion of his proposal. Not once in the midst of cooking turkey and baking pies that morning did it cross my mind that I might be engaged before the afternoon has passed.

Since that Friday, we have managed to schedule our date at our church, with our priest and with the reception hall of our choice. Yesterday we chose a photographer. The rest will wait until next year. It is an exciting, praise-God-for-His-plans time in our lives.

And now we come to Christmas. That annual feast that never ceases to bring a spirit of expectation, joy and warmth, no matter how many times we celebrate it. It is the mystery of that Child born in the humblest of circumstances, that He can reach through the centuries and still touch the hearts of each of us. Even those who don't realize it's His doing! The spirit of excitement and love takes hold in us all to some degree. Let it in! Let it fill you up! I pray that this Christmas pours its spirit into our lives, spilling over to all whom we love. In between the cooking, the cleaning, the gathering, the gift giving and receiving, and so on, may we take a moment to contemplate the Christ Child!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

'Tis the Season

And so it begins! It's Thanksgiving week and that will usher us into Advent, which will build to Christmas which will fly by to New Year's. I love this busy, blessed, overwhelming, enjoyable time of year. Truth be told, every time I look at the calendar I feel like someone is pulling a prank. How is it already time for Thanksgiving and all that follows?!
Tonight we'll attend the annual Appleton Christmas Parade then my sister and I are watching the Hallmark movie, "An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving." Wonderfully cheesy and sentimental, just right to usher in the season.
I am trying my darnedest to not become overwhelmed this week... or in any of the coming weeks. The forced facing of the reality of living without a personal computer is the opposite of helpful. My laptop took a devastating crash this weekend and the tragedy has me in a bit of a panic.
There is online shopping to be done! And keeping abreast of friends' holiday adventures via facebook! And family email exchanges to settle plans with each other! I need to figure out what saint to ask for intercessory prayer for my hard drive to be restored. In the meantime I shall comfort myself with Matt's homemade pumpkin pie ice cream and blogging during work hours.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bear With One Another

(Originally written for "The Bells of St. Mary's" parish newsletter)

I’m on break at work and it’s been one of those days: computer issues rendering me incapable of completing my task list, miscommunications and lack of responsibility by individuals, and a vague awareness that I need a vacation. It’s all adding up to a mood in which I’m simply trying not to ruin other people’s days. Now I’m sitting down to write about forbearance. The humor is not lost on me.

Forbearance. The word almost sounds foreign. Certainly not one that rolls off the tongue in everday conversation. It is a word hearkening back to the antique language of the Bible, before revisionists tried to modernize the verses of Scripture. But what is it? Merely a synonym for patience? When St. Paul instructs us to bear with one another (Colossians 3:13), is it a matter of just putting up with people as they are? Or is it a virtue that integrates several virtues at once?
Patience, compassion, mercy, understanding, humility, forgiveness – each is in play when forbearance is practiced. And why do we forbear? Ultimately? Because God does. Because “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

We forbear because the Father did not wait for us to understand His plans before He sent His only begotten Son. Christ did not wait for people to believe in Him before performing miracles, or for folks to humble themselves before setting a holy example of service. And He did not wait for us to stop sinning before pouring His life out on the Cross. When we consider the Lord ‘s mercy, we should “consider the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:15).

The family member who can’t shake an addiction, or who has an unbroken pattern of selfishness; the friend who clings to self-pity and grudges, or is too proud to admit a mistake; the coworker who gets under your skin; the spouse with the habit you wish could be eradicated; the child who just can’t correctly do what you’ve shown him how to do a hundred times. They all need your forbearance.

One who forbears looks upon another’s struggle, suffering or shortcoming and, as he does so, humbly acknowledges his own of the same. Forbearance manifests itself in enduring, determined patience. It is the antithesis of provocation. Where you could react in loud anger, you choose mildness and calm, firm words. Instead of giving up hope, you ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to help. Rather than dismissing the troubles weighing on another’s mind, you listen and seek to understand. Forgiveness is chosen over resentment. Intercession is offered up instead of condemnation.

Look on everyone with the eyes of your Heavenly Father, from the briefest encounter with a stranger to the most intimate relationships in your life. The Father’s eyes see each of us as we truly are, with every success and failure, strength and weakness, act of love and act of fear, virtue and vice. Through those eyes, we can love, and because we love, we can forbear.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In the Shadow of the Cross

Last night I began a post on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. It was left unfinished and I expected to wrap it up today. The words were full of hopeful things... the mystery of God's masterful ways, the beauty of Christ's humility, the wonder of what God can do when we are faithful even in suffering, the rich abundance of living as victors in Christ. I meant to finish it for you, whomever you are, but I find that I can't. Not today. Today has morphed into a Jonah day. The morning brought stress and tiredness and a wish to hide away. Then the afternoon arrived with news of a family friend's very unexpected and difficult to fathom death. I've kept my head bowed low over my workspace to hide the tears that keep falling each time it creeps across my thoughts. And so I find I can't wrap up last night's thoughts on the Triumph of the Cross. And yet the Triumph of the Cross is the only thing that matters on a day like this one. The only thing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Something Big?

Do you ever get the giddy, stomach-jumpy feeling that something big is coming? I don't feel it too often. The details of my life are mundane and consistent, laced with blessings but still rather 'as usual' from day to day. Lately though, I can't shake the aforementioned feeling. It's a heightened awareness, a standing on my tip-toes wondering what's over the bend perspective.

In 17 days, I'll turn 30. I've concluded this has a lot to do with the current feeling. Until just the last few days, I've given little thought to this mile marker birthday. It hasn't bothered me or worried me or excited me. Celebrating birthdays is a great love of mine so I have simply looked forward to enjoying this one in a fashion similar to the rest. My sister and my boyfriend have undertaken the plans though and I am not privy to details. This arrangement certainly warrants some happy anticipation. For some reason though, it is more than that. It is more than the expectation of a fun, memorable celebration. It is a hope.

An undefined but hearty hope. I am hopeful. I am hopeful about my still unpublished novel which I am working diligently to revise and improve and nervously submit to my fellow book club ladies for their reading pleasure (ideally...). I am hopeful about the man I love with all my heart, who is gradually welcoming a faith in Christ and the Church and all the life giving goodness that comes from a sacramental relationship with our Lord. I am hopeful about the things in myself that need significant growth - those habits and virtues and courses of action that will lead me daily closer to the best version of myself.

Whether it's the Holy Spirit or my own persistent optimism, I am expecting big things.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, NAB)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Can't Get Enough

Two mornings in a row, I have been awakened by Barry White's "Can't Get Enough" playing on my alarm clock radio. As I lay for a few moments longer on my pillow today, listening to Mr. White's resonant baritone and laughing at the coincidence, I couldn't help wondering if there was any significance to it. Was I about to live Monday through again in a Bill Murray-esque manner? Oh, I hoped it wouldn't be so. Then as I passed the next hour dressing for the day, applying my makeup and drying my hair, I wondered a bit at how anything signifies anything.

Let me qualify that. Of course there are things of obvious significance - events, actions and interactions that have meaning and influence, effecting change and so on. My pre-workday musings had more to do with the rest. The rest. All that fills our days and nights, in between the moments of clear significance. The way we phrase our conversations; the clothes you put on; the food you decide to consume; the music you tune your radio to in the car; the people you choose to smile at; the people you choose not to smile at; the tv show you sit down to watch; the laundry you make time for; the dishes you decide to leave for another day... Does any of it signify?

There are many in this world who would answer with a firm 'no.' What do these things matter? In the long run, who cares? Well, sorry to be such a contrarian but I take a different view. I say 'yes.' I say the little bits of life signify a great deal. The little bits are what our habits consist of, and our habits are what our characters consist of. Recognizing this, I believe we can choose to live deliberately. That is, live in a manner that directs all our actions, words and even thoughts to the service of developing virtue. Patience, courage, generosity, joy, mercy, understanding, love. Virtue doesn't grow out of enormous tests and trials. Virtue grows out of day to day living and proves its worth when the larger events come to pass.

I too get caught up in thinking that living with purpose means setting out to achieve great things. I fill myself up with resolve that is sapped in a week's time. I overlook all the small opportunities to live deliberately and when the opportunities for great things do come, I find I am nowhere near ready for them.

I don't know if Barry White will wake me up again tomorrow. I do know that choosing to be amused and to get out of bed smiling as the song played set the tone for my day. In fact, this seemingly insignificant event and reaction might be credited with today being remarkably more pleasant than yesterday despite the content of the two days being so alike. Just another reminder to live deliberately and trust that the big and lasting good things are built upon numerous little and momentary good things. Barry White and I encourage you to live so as to infuse significance into all the moments between the significant.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


To close my adoration hour this past Monday, I prayed Psalm 63. My eyes returned to verse 5 after I finished. I read the words over a second and then a third time. "My soul will feast and be satisfied, and I will sing glad songs of praise to you." So read the Good News Translation which happened to be the version available in the adoration chapel. The NAB (verse 6, by the way) reads, "My soul shall savor the rich banquet of praise, with joyous lips my mouth shall honor you."

Oh, those words! How truly they resonate. They reminded me of something my favorite Scripture professor, Dr. Gregory Vall, said as we studied Psalm 25. Verse 1 includes, "to you O Lord, I lift up my soul." We discussed the notion of lifting our souls, our nephesh (Hebrew*), to God. Dr. Vall insightfully noted that "we are always lifting our nephesh to something." Our souls are always seeking something and so we lift them up to whatever we think maybe, just maybe, will be what is sought. David, as he expresses in his psalm, chooses to lift his to the Lord. The verse that caught my attention so strongly in Psalm 63 seems to me like David's follow up to that choice.

"My soul will feast and be satisfied." Our souls - our innermost being that gives us our unique human intellect and free will, our 'hearts' that house our desires, our spiritual aspect - these souls of ours are incessantly hungry. Having been made for the purpose of eternal life with God, they are kept between the boundaries of this earthly life and so have an unshakeable restlessness for more. Hungry... and so our souls feed. Or rather, we feed our souls. Sometimes it is with the choice meats of prayer and authentic love. Other times, all too often, it is on the scraps of selfish pursuits or flawed pleasures. In some instances, we are quite aware that we are feeding our souls. We are convicted by the restlessness in us and so determinedly pursue contentment - be it in wise or unwise places. Then there are the instances of unawareness. We latch on to sources of pleasure, gnawing through them for the satisfaction they can't give, and don't even realize the malnourishment of our souls. This life offers an unending buffet for our consumption. Some soul foods are worth tasting and enjoying and will lend strength for the days ahead. Many are superb when taken in proper portions and at the right times. Others shouldn't even touch your plate for they will only bring bitter, regrettable damage.

At all times though, our souls are feeding. They are never satiated. They cannot be. For it is only in the banquet halls of heaven that the "soul will feast and be satisfied." One day... one day... the soul will long for no more for it will have all. In the meantime, feed it well, my friends.

(*Have to give credit to my friend Fr. Mike Chenier for correcting me when I first posted this and said nephesh is Latin. Can't believe I made that mistake! I hope I didn't shame Dr. Vall too badly.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sleep Deprived

A series of much too late nights and I have reached Friday with dark circles under my eyes and yawns escaping at an all too frequent rate. I am tired. Tired, tired, tired. It is an effort simply to keep my head held up and my eyelids open. And so, I need to formally lodge some complaints... with myself....

1. Carrie Sue, it is time to recognize that you're getting old. You cannot fully function on 6 hours or less sleep per night. In fact, you probably wouldn't do well on less than 7 hours for more than one consecutive night. In exactly 2 months, you will be 30. Yes, 30. Since you have never been that 20-something girl who still parties like she's a co-ed (nor did you do so when you were actually a co-ed), there is no reason to think your body has been properly trained for such minimal amounts of sleep even if it's for the sake of watching The Big Bang Theory episodes on your boyfriend's couch rather than getting wasted.

2. Why do you insist on sacrificing the essentials when you are crunched for time and/or energy? Prayer, exercise, reading - have you seriously not yet learned that these are not the things to be set aside when you're having a week like this one? Oh, foolish, foolish Carrie Sue. You have spent oh so many years learning this lesson. You must have a remarkably thick skull.

3. Sleep deprivation = crankiness = you are not all that pleasant to be around. Do your loved ones a favor and get some rest.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On the Lack of Beaches In My Life

There is a terribly sad lack of beaches in my life. As far as places on this earth go, it is hard to find any I enjoy more than a good beach. I have not traveled to Europe - a significant caveat, I'll admit. That fact aside though, what I wouldn't give to be near a great beach. By great, I mean soft sand, lengthy for walks and jogs, shallow near the shore for putting only my feet in but much deeper further out for a good swim. No scum or stench from industry further up the shoreline. It should be within a 30 minute drive from home, under 15 minutes is ideal. Sunsets there ought to be spectacular. I'm thinking of Good Harbor Bay or Point Betsie. Grand Haven and Holland, though those are busier. Naples, FL was lovely too. Or Ponte Vedra, trading the sunsets for sunrises. I live in Wisconsin... on the Lake Michigan side of Wisconsin... it should not be so hard to spend a day at a truly great beach. Alas, it is.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


On Saturday, I began reading Matthew Kelly's Rediscover Catholicism and it has me all fired up in the best way. His message has me recalling my love for this sort of material - spiritually themed, practically applied and authentically communicated. Oh how I love the Church. I neglect that love sometimes, letting it fall to the back of the line of the things that occupy my days. This book is an effective rearranger of that line.

The pages of the first chapters already host plenty of underlined passages and small margin notations. Plenty of statements Kelly makes have struck me as significant with a lot of, 'that is so true' moments. The one that's staying with me since yesterday reads, "God always wants our future to be bigger than our past. Not equal to our past, but bigger, better, brighter, and more significant. God wants your future and my future, and the future of the Church, to be bigger than the past. It is this bigger future that we need to envision" (pp. 23-24).

I've been thinking plenty about the future in recent days. Plenty. Sometimes I want to just stop thinking about it for a while and remember to be present in the present. However I can't claim I've thought about the future in such terms as Kelly suggests. What I love about this declaration, that God wants our future to be "bigger, better, brighter, and more significant," is the beautiful reality that when God wants something, He always, always makes a way for it to be possible. He doesn't do it for us. He makes it possible. This means that I can have that future. You can have that future. If God desires it, He will provide means necessary for you to attain it. And He does, undoubtedly, desire it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


My lover speaks; he says to me,
"Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!
"For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!
~Song of Songs 2:12~

I have two double daffodils on my desk. It is baffling how the presence of fresh flowers changes a space. They were among the few blooms in our front flower bed that came through this spring. Once their stalks bent to the ground, I rescued them to spend the last of their bright yellow days in a mug of water on this desk. Perhaps when I have a true writing desk, a space consecrated to that activity, I will aim to always have fresh flowers of some sort at hand. Someday...

It's a season of freshness - Spring - overly wet and slow in coming though it may be. The branches of the many maples in my neighborhood are decked out in their green buds. Daylight comes at such an early hour again. Walks and bike rides and softball games are filling the evenings. My summer calendar is already heavy with plans but for now, for a few more weeks, I feel like I can breathe a bit slower, deeper, and the air I catch will swell in my lungs with the freshness it lacked through the lengthy winter.

My niece became engaged this past Sunday. For several years it was a frequent (and nearly funny) joke in our family that she might marry before me or a couple of my sisters. The idea of that happening was a lonely one indeed. The past year changed my perspective on a heck of a lot though and with my hand in Matt's, I am able to rejoice with her. Granted the fact that my niece is getting married makes me feel a bit old, but not lonely. In a single year, I have tasted what it means to have a companion, to be beloved, to give and receive wholehearted affection, to fight for and with each other, to question and subsequently dig for the answers, to rest in another's arms and trust them to hold you well. I say 'tasted' because even with all the depth of the relationship thus far, I have a back-of-the-mind sense that we have yet only skimmed the surface.

In the last few months I've read several books that remind me why I love reading. They remind me of what I am trying to do and why I try at all. Water for Elephants, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, Inkheart... The words of others wear away my apathy and hesitation. I have no small task in redeveloping Aillinn's character and backstory in order to give more depth to her part in the story of Full of Days. The invigorating pleasure of taking up that task outweighs the difficulty though. I am freshly ambitious and as such I feel more like myself in this realm of things than I have for nearly a year.

There is such beauty - not vain beauty but tangible, effective beauty - in a person pursuing what God has designed them to do. To love, to create, to believe, to hope, to give of themselves in their unique ways. When the talents and qualities He has given are taken up by their possessor, those close by are able to witness that spark of life, of truly living, which I believe we all wish to experience day by day. Each day truly lived is indeed a radiant bloom.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Spring seems to be coming only in spurts this year. Tiny, sporadic, brief spurts. Like today - the first day of sunshine and 50+ degrees in a couple weeks. And a couple weeks ago there was only one similar day after another few weeks prior to that. It's been sad and discouraging and all too well suited to the way I'm living. Writing, cleaning, exercising, praying - all in spurts. It's shameful and it's not me!

Consider this a mid-year review. If I were my boss, I would not give me a raise, inflation or no inflation. Time to step up. There is nothing more disappointing in a person than potential left unactualized. And no person more disappointing in that regard than when it is your own self.

Rebounding from a 10 day cold and headaches that rendered me horribly listless, I am ready to not only feel like myself but to live like myself. How I used to prize consistency! Consistent effort bore consistent fruit.

Let's be honest, falling in love interrupts everything. In the best possible way, of course, but I realize now that I have waited a whole year to adapt to living in love. Welcoming after years of waiting the chance to focus so wholly on my relationship, it is time to live more as my truest self in that relationship. I am a prayerful, tennis playing, hiking, reading and writing friend and family member who is in love. I am not a lover who used to be the rest of those things. It's as cliche as it comes, I know. Who doesn't lose themselves in the joy of the new relationship only to find the relationship would be better nurtured if they hadn't lost track of themselves? So I suppose I'm just learning one of the oldest lessons around. Well, it's learned. I get it. And I am glad for the chance to have learned it. Now let's get on with it! :)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Strange Days

A headache had me flat on the couch for hours this afternoon. Eventually I moved to my bed and prayed and cried a bit until I fell asleep. It was a heavy sleep that I didn't rise from for three hours. Now I find myself awake when I should be readying for bed. Closing my eyes in the daylight and opening them in the dark, I feel off kilter and am desperately hoping I'll be able to slip back into sleep sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I decided to turn on the television and watch a bit of the coverage on my DV-R of Blessed John Paul II's beatification. With a little restless channel scrolling, I'm now flipping between this and the breaking news of Osama Bin Laden's death at the hands of United States personnel. The combination, along with my shaky nerves from the headache, is rendering this the strangest day in recent memory.

The pain is returning to my head after some relief during my sleep. I haven't eaten much today, which probably isn't helping matters. As I'd awoken this morning with several ambitions for this rare day to be spent at home with no company, there's no denying I was thoroughly disappointed by how things went. Now though, I'm filled with a gripping sense of the littleness of my sufferings. I am a member of this vast human society. It's a society riddled with sickness and war, instability and death... trying to catch hold of peace but never certain of its finest course.

This is a terribly rambling message, I realize. So go my thoughts though. Blessed John Paul II, advocate of the true peace of Christ that passes beyond our understanding, pray for us.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Is It?

I don't know how to explain it but I am in such high spirits this morning! I feel as if I could conquer anything you set before me. There is such newness to this day. Is it the promise of plenty of melting of the snow as the temps finally reach the high 40's? Is it the great prospect of a whole relaxing weekend away in Door County for me and Matt? Is it the fact that today is Opening Day and this afternoon my favorite boys of summer will be taking the field again? Is it the simple reality that my life is full of love that wraps around, sinks into, and intersperses itself amongst all else of which my life consists?
"God is love. He didn't need us. But He wanted us. And that is the most amazing thing." Rick Warren

"Love wholeheartedly, be surprised, give thanks and praise - then you will discover the fullness of your life." Brother David Steindl-Rast

"The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of His love." Blessed Julian of Norwich

Monday, March 21, 2011

What A Difference A Day Makes

I'm not working tomorrow. There came an urgent need to take a day off. Just one day. A day not intended for other plans and occupations. A true day off. Granted, it's probably not all that urgent and might not qualify as a genuine need. Still, it's close enough. What shall I do? What shall I do with my day? There is something glorious, as many of you working folks and at home parents alike can verify, in the prospect of a day available for whatever you choose. The gloriousness does not come from planning on using it irresponsibly. Neither does it come from scheduling hour after hour with useful accomplishments to be made. It comes from the freedom to make of it what you will.

So I sit here, thinking through the keyboard, listening to Patty Griffin, considering a snack before bed and smiling over the notion of tomorrow. Of course I'm thinking of a dozen ways to use the hours but I'm not allowing myself to actually plan on any of them. I know I'll start the day with prayer and then... who knows.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

At The Library

After work yesterday I spent a good half hour or so among the books. Library... synonym for sanctuary, at least in my personal thesaurus. As I hadn't been to our library here in Appleton for more than five minutes in the last several months, the visit yesterday had me thinking about the hours I've spent in libraries in the course my twenty-nine years. Countless, really.

In junior high and high school, my sister and I walked after school to the tiny public library in our town. Two blocks from the school (those two blocks being the length of our 'downtown'), it was a squat, square building filled with shelves of delight. Jessica and I spent numerous afternoons there. Starting our homework, naturally, but more importantly, searching the stacks. That library is where we got hold of every single Sweet Valley High, Babysitter's Club, Nancy Drew, and Ramona book ever written. It's where we discovered Gilbert Morris, Lori Wick and Janette Oke. Heck, it's even where we discovered the nonsensical fun of People magazine. And it's where I first opened the pages of Pride & Prejudice. I can still picture that copy in my mind: large, with a dark green hard cover and drawn illustrations interspersed among the chapters.

Occasionally we'd stop at the larger library in the relatively larger town nearby (Menominee). I never knew my way around this two story stone building that well and each visit felt like an exploration. This one had wide bow windows overlookng the marina and Lake Michigan and thus I learned how remarkably well water views and reading go together.

I never liked the library at Grand Valley State. It was unwelcoming and hard. When I transferred to Franciscan though, I loved my library once again. Softer lighting, comfortable chairs, beautiful volumes.... A friend secured me a part time position as a clerk and I spent a few quiet hours behind the counter and returning books to their proper homes. I sporadically wondered how happy I'd be as a librarian.

The Appleton public library is unremarkable but adequate. I don't spend a lot of time there as it doesn't provide the cozy security I associate with the libraries I've loved. Nevertheless, the occasional visit - for longer than five minutes to pick something up that I have on hold - remains a delight to me. I will always feel at home among the books.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How Small a Fire

I fell asleep while reading Persuasion. All the Jane Austen novels are worth reading (though Mansfield Park perhaps only once) but it is Persuasion that I return to time and time again. It is my literary comfort food. Among other things, the story is a demonstration of the terrible power of words. Words to persuade and convince, words to manipulate, words to hide behind, and words left unspoken for far too long. Only when words are spoken in humble honesty, without guile but with hope and courage, only then are things set aright and happiness slips into the grasp of the long suffering hero and heroine.

As this and other things this week have me considering the power of our words, the passage from James Chapter 3 came aptly to mind.
"If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies. It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot's inclination wishes. In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers." (vv. 3-10)

It's a dire outlook on human communication but one that is unfortunately justified again and again. With the same mouth we worship God on Sunday mornings then tear down our neighbor, a priceless human being made in the image of God. "From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so..." This need not be so. That comment cuts me to the quick. Encouragement and discouragement; love and hate; hope and fear; honesty and dishonesty; and on and on. Are we even aware of the fires we set with our words? Daily we engage in communication with one another, from the spouse to the stranger, and none of our words are without effect. None of them.

If we consider the power of our words for ill, are they not equally capable of good? Were we but more conscious of ourselves, more attuned to the responses of the other person, more concerned with building up another than ourselves... oh the good that could be done. Instead of violent fires, the flames set might be lamps added to one another's paths - paths often difficult enough to walk without us multiplying the difficulty for each other. Yes, the good that could be done.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Desire & the Decision

I've never held a dear desire to have children. Making that statement inclines me to hide my face for a moment. I'm well aware that it doesn't fit. It has long felt like something 'wrong' in me. I'm Catholic, wholly pro-life and pro-family. I don't believe in the use of contraception of any sort and I celebrate the beautiful gift that is our cooperation with God in creating His most precious creatures - human beings. I hold children to be among the greatest gifts bestowed by God, never burdens and never unwelcome. I am the youngest of 7 children and those siblings... well, there's little I wouldn't do for them. When friends or family members announce pregnancies or introduce me to their new little ones, I rejoice with them. I relish the tender snuggles and vivacious antics of my 11 nieces and nephews. I mourn with those close to me who have lost a child or struggle to conceive. I love children. And yet...

For years I've been aware of my lack of desire to be a parent. It hangs about in my mind in disconcerting contrast with most of my peers. It leaves me wriggling uncomfortably under the expectations that are voiced by those who know me. I feel a bit ashamed of myself as I hear the hopeful remarks of others, longing for the day they will have children of their own and eager to embark on that journey. Meanwhile, I have longed for marriage, praying for God to prepare me for that vocation and prepare my spouse in the years before I would even meet him. But children... I've wanted to want them. That's not the same though, is it?

There have been stages to my self-assessment in this regard. First, I wrote it off as nothing to be troubled over. "I'm sure eventually God will put that desire in me." "When I meet the right man then I'll begin to long to have children with my spouse." "Of course I want a family. There's no reason to be impatient or desperate about it." More recently I moved into a state of worry as I admitted the fears I hold about being a parent. I worried that deep down I do have a strong desire to be a parent but I'm too scared to acknowledge it. How can I possibly be capable of raising children? This world is so full of influences and events that will inevitably undermine my efforts. Families are too capapble of hurting each other. There's so much pain and disappointment involved. The fears piled up and I wondered how I'd ever admit to my spouse how afraid I am of having children.

Then I met Matt. No, he has not ushered in an era of longing for motherhood. Our attachment to each other didn't act as a magic wand casting a spell on the parental part of my heart. What Matt did bring was his son. Matt brought reality to me in the form of his six year old, tow headed, rambunctious, eager to please, says-the-darndest-things son. Matt invited me into his life, at the heart of which is his son. I stepped hesitantly inside and took a look around. There was plenty to see, even if I kept to the wall. What I saw was parenthood. The daily choice to put another person first, a person entirely dependent on you for his well-being. This fundamental decision of parenthood, to love and do so unrelentingly captivated me. I saw a man who was shaped by his fatherhood, who was on the path he was on because he was a father. I knew this wasn't how it had to be, wasn't the ideal or the convenient or the easy or the carefree way. Yet it was what he chose day in and day out.

It was startling. And like nothing that came before, it took hold of me. Essentially, Matt gave me a new lens. I have long seen the beauty and goodness of children but now I began seeing the beauty and goodness of parenthood itself. In all its struggles and sacrifices, joys and encouragements, unknowns and questions, it is good. I don't know how I missed it before, or not missed it so much as left it uncomprehended.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2011 So Far

Why hello, Blogosphere! It's been a while. Too long, really. I've had the itch to blog for many days now but haven't taken the time. As well, I haven't hit on a particular topic to expound upon or story to tell. Yet, here I am. Typing away instead of processing invoices for multifunction office machines and their accessories.

I rang in the new year with a fancy dress and my friends' wedding. Matt and I slipped away early though and welcomed midnight with living room slow dances and a sweet kiss. It was a lovely night. Naturally, a few resolutions were also made: floss every day, worry less, relax more, read Scripture every day, watch less TV, and put more money aside for savings. I've done well on the flossing and the savings so far. The rest are a more gradual adaptation.

The new year also brought a new job. I'm still with the same company but gladly accepted an unsought promotion. It brings new challenges and a small raise and I welcome both.

January has been snowy and I'm quite ready for spring. As my readiness doesn't accomplish anything though, I must choose the silver lining instead. Winter lends itself well to indoor hours of reading and writing. As a new member of two book clubs, the reading has certainly increased and I'm loving that. The writing... why, oh why am I having such a difficult time rededicating myself to writing? My desire to be published, to have Full of Days finally go to print, is stubbornly consistent. The same cannot be said of my certainty that I should keep trying. Oh fear, you're such a leech, while courage, you're rank with the more elusive creatures. Lately though, other folks' willingness to take risks and make big, bold moves is pushing me along on this path of recommitment. I look at their decisions and pursuits and wonder how I could settle for holding myself back. So, it's back to the drawing board - or the editing desk. This novel will see the light of day. It will.

And that's that. An underwhelming post, I know, but it will have to do.