Thursday, June 30, 2011

Changes


We just bought this cute little house in Chattanooga for our two oldest girls. Beth graduated this past May from Spring Hill College in Mobile and Sarah is a Senior at UT Chattanooga. I went over Tuesday and worked, painting and replacing trim. There is so much more to be done and although I absolutely love the challenge, it is tiring. We go up again tomorrow for the long weekend. I should be able to get the bedrooms and kitchen finished. I know I'll have to go another time to tile the entry and work on the bathrooms. So much had been completely renovated but what was left, was left and will need to be finished. But, it's a two hour drive and I love painting and patching and caulking and making things right. I have a slight pit in my stomach having Beth move in this weekend. It does feel final. My guess is that this is the last time to have her in our house. Leaving her at college was a breeze compared to this weekend. She has a real job with the Alzheimer's Association that starts next week and she's off and running. Bitter sweet. We're all going up for the weekend so I look forward to having the family all together. Working together. Helping their sisters. It's exciting and yet... change, no matter what, is just difficult.

Friday, June 24, 2011

St. John the Baptist

I couldn't help but think about the loneliness of St. John today. His time out in the desert from when he was a young boy. And yet, we cannot help but think of his incredibly, selfless life. He was the first to express his joy over the presence of Jesus in his life. He welcomed all those who came to him in need. He made himself small so that Jesus could be seen clearly. He was so close to our Savior, yet instead of spending time with Him, he performed the tasks to bring others to Him. Oftentimes, we may feel like we are the only ones in a certain part of the journey in our faith. We may sound odd in our beliefs. We may be looked upon as trying to be goody-goodies. We may feel a pull to spend more time alone with our God. We may invite others and find empty stares. But, we can know today that we are not alone. There is one who is a quiet leader and who gives a perfect example. St. John the Baptist knows what it is like to feel alone and yet never be without the One who means everything. St. John knows what it is like to feel complete joy. He knows what it is to live his entire life for the One who gives Eternal life. What better example could we find then this one who we celebrate today. St. John the Baptist, be our guide. Lead us. Help us. Teach us your ways.

Be Different

I can't seem to get out of my head the story Fr. Joe told about St. Thomas More on Tuesday. There must be a reason. He started by proclaiming, "St. Thomas More is one of his favorite saints". A man in a great position in England until King Henry decided to appoint himself ruler over the Church. St. Thomas could not go along with the deal. When asked by some of the people around him to just sign that he agreed purely as being a part of the community, Thomas More said something like, "If I sign and lose my soul and go to hell, then will you go with me 'Just to be part of the community'"? Just going along with the crowd and losing our very souls! Oh, how many times I just had to be a part of the crowd! Thomas More was a regular (sort of) layperson, a father, a brilliant man, a writer and a faithful servant who found himself locked in a tower and ultimately put to death because of his great faith. He simply would not follow the crowd and turn against his faith. And, we can only ask how? How do we love so completely even to the point of losing our own life? How do we not follow the crowd and how do we teach our children not to follow the crowd? After all, everyone is doing it! And mom, I mean everyone. Then be different. Stand strong. Believe that oftentimes, most times, silence is golden. This world is tough but no tougher than the world of St. Thomas More. Save a soul. Go against the grain. This world is temporary. Heaven is forever. Be different.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Work Each Day Toward a Firm Foundation

Our reading from Matthew today is all about firm foundations and it has made me think long and hard about what kind of foundation I'm building in this house. I've also been thinking deeply about how critical I am of others and how I know because I am seeing this being handed down to my children. This needs to stop. No doubt. I had no idea how bad I was until the same habits started showing up in the kids. Ouch! I'm sure that God did not mean for me to build a foundation of judgment and righteousness. Where did that come from? My parents don't do that...judge others. As a matter of fact, they could not stand for us to speak about our siblings or anyone else for all that matter. You know, my mom had all the sayings like "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" and "Walk in someone else' shoes" and something about looking in a mirror. Today, I hear loud and clear the importance of building good foundations because I am well aware that all eyes are on me. My children are reflections of my work and if my work is not for the Lord and of God, then it is better that it not be rock solid so that it can wash away and we can start all over. A firm foundation, rich in mercy and humility and acceptance. It's so much easier to break down than to build up. Thank God, each day is a new beginning. God help us all. In the world and in my house.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Calgon Take Me Away

I know there is not a single person in this world who wants to hear about another being who feels overwhelmed (don't we all). But I had to laugh at myself yesterday while I was paying bills for the bookstore and paying my household bills (don't tell my boss) of which one was already late (don't tell my husband) and catching a text message from my cousin's wife in Chattanooga who was letting in the Sears (there's more for your life) delivery guys for new appliances (that we drove to Chattanooga on Monday and purchased at the outlet store) being put into our house we closed on last week for our two oldest daughters (one who just graduated from Spring Hill and landed a job at the Alzheimer's Assoc. and the other in college at UT Chattanooga) because for the next several years it will be cheaper and a better investment (obviously) than an apartment. All I could think was "Calgon take me away!" Remember that woman lying in the tub filled with bubbles and smiling, relaxed without a care in the world or a child in the room?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Enter Through the Narrow Gate

"How narrow and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few." I have been trying lately to pay close attention to short, hidden paths and small openings to where Christ is leading me. Tiny voices, obscure people, chance meetings, narrow paths. And today, a lesson from the life and words of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Talk about choosing the narrow gate when he had in front of him the massive gates of a kingdom. Hmmm. Kingdom on earth. Kingdom in Heaven. Hmmm. Riches of this world. Poverty of spirit. Hmmm. Serving in a castle. Serving in a hospital. Man oh man did this guy choose the road less traveled but his quote from St. Bernard (about the apparition of the angel sent to the shepherds at the nativity of Christ) says all about his choices. "How many of the powerful and of the wise men of the world were resting in their soft beds at that hour, and none of them was esteemed worthy to see this new light, to know that great joy and to hear the angels singing!" His choice to detach himself from the riches of this world frees him to see the light, to know the joy and to hear the voices sent down from heaven.
I know, personally, that I this whole idea is nearly impossible for me. I like the big doors and lots of attention and easy paths. There are tugs and pulls and I know He wants more but for me it seems I move two steps forward and three steps back daily. Lately, I'm just treating each day as a new beginning. A new possibility. A fresh start. Today I will think of St. Bernard's words and of St. Aloysius' ways and I will pray to make the right choices, to say the right things, to follow the narrow way. May every day bring each one of us a new beginning and a fresh possibility to see new light, to know great joy and to hear the angels sing.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trinity Sunday

"This congregation is very lucky! I could speak for hours on the Trinity." The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are always, always in perfect sync with one another. They have a perfect relationship. They are in perfect harmony. Jesus was sent to invite us into that relationship. To invite us to be open to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are asked to mend our ways, encourage one another, agree with one another and live in peace. The same peace we recognize in the Trinity. I immediately thought of the way my children handle their relationships with one another. How crazy our household often is and yet how peaceful it can be. It is true that where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name, there He is. Fr. Joe's theory is that this is because if there is more than one human, we need Him with us. Amen to that! We need Him in our relationships. We need the peace He offers. He loves us and so He does invite us, He does call us, He does offer for us to join in a relationship. We are all broken in some way and so we need to be open to the gift of the Father to send His Son and to leave us with His Spirit. We are indeed very lucky.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

They Said It, We Heard It, Simple is Best

If you happened upon the readings this morning, you already know where I'm going and if you didn't, I'll fill you in. I repeat how St. Paul began by saying, "Please put up with me." As I hear it today, spreading the simple message of the love of Christ and praying the simple prayers, such as the Our Father, are all He asks of us today. We can use all the big words and sit and try to think of huge ways to pray and to praise and to worship, but for today, Jesus says to keep it simple. Do not babble. Do not over think. Do not super size. Do not look for others to follow that you think will lead you down the right path. Follow Jesus. Pray the prayer to the Father. Be open to the Holy Spirit. This path seems too simple. This way is less traveled maybe because it is so simple, it is just hard to believe, too good to be true. But it is all confirmed today. No difficult words. No heavy reading and rereading. Spread His word with simplicity and humility and pray the prayers we need for our daily bread, for forgiveness, for guidance and for protection. Simple is best.

Calm Down and Read the Instructions

Yesterday I was in a wad trying to copy legal size documents to my half broken copier and get them signed and sent back for the closing on a little place we have found for our two oldest. I could get 13 out of 16 pages printed perfectly but the last pages just would not work. What the heck? I was getting really angry when the thought came just to go down the street and let the "professional copy people" handle this job for me. So, in the midst of a thunderstorm, and I mean nature was pouring and lighting up the sky, I jumped in my car and humbly headed for help. The first place, where I knew the guy and expected great help, sent me to a computer and told me to tell him when I was ready to print. So, I inserted my credit card and began, only to wait and wait and find out that the internet was down because of the storm. I was offered a dry place to stay until the storm quit but I expressed my need to move on because of a deadline, not without saying, "I'll just find another company who can do this for me. Thanks anyway." I was rude. I was charged one dollar for nothing but the light of my short fuse. I moved to the next place where the guy assured me that it would be no problem. I logged into my email fine and he went to his ginormous printer. As another employee entered the scene, I saw my guy point to the paper tray and ask if the paper was legal size. Ugh! Then I noticed it. The badge. "In Training". I had no time for learning. My clock was ticking and my documents had to be scanned and returned to GA then checked then next day aired. The trainee finally conceded after several trials the he could not print them in legal size. He did however get them printed in letter size and it "looks like most of the pages printed". "No, the tops of all of these pages are missing." "Oh, well, if you want them, I'll have to charge you." I wasn't leaving them with him with all my bank info, etc. "Well, he had a shredder in the back and he could shred them. No, not then, but he would do it." "No thanks. How much for what I did not ask for?" One dollar sixty cents but if I have my rewards card it would save me 10 percent. Finally, I just had to burst. "I'm angry right now. I'm paying for something I don't want and I don't care about 10 percent. I need to get these documents back to GA by 3:00 and it's 2:15." Long story short, I went back to my own little printer and read the manual, which if you've read here before is completely against my family's grain, and figured out how to print and got it all done and signed and next day aired and they should arrive today, the good Lord willin'. Now, why don't I just calm down and read the instructions? It would save time and frustration and a whole lot of unnecessary anger toward those in their workplace who do not really care whether or not customers ever return. Oops. Maybe I'm still a little angry but good grief, get a grip. Anyway, amidst the horrible storms yesterday, and I don't just mean from nature, God was good and all was done and I have learned that if I'd just calm down in the first place and work step by step with persistence and faith and the instructions, I can get it all done. (Can't we all?)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What Concern of it is Yours?

In the Saturday's optional reading from John 21, we hear Jesus tell Peter to mind his own business and just follow Him. Oh boy did this ring home with me. Always thinking about what everyone else is doing and saying and how I measure up to what God expects of me versus others. Fr. Joe said, "What about him? What about her? Why do we worry about others, about fairness, about equality? We are to keep our eyes and our heart focused on Christ because as St. Therese would tell us, 'He is enough.'" And so He is. Thank God, He is.

Monday, June 13, 2011

No Candles Necessary

Just a short note to mention my boy's 16th birthday last Sunday. What a great kid I am blessed with in this 6'2 1/2" man. He's good to his grandparents and his parents. He's good to his siblings most of the time, ribbing his younger brother, hanging out with his two older sister, oftentimes making lunch for the younger ones. He doesn't need much; no big birthday bash, not even candles for the cake. He's laid back and about one of the kindest kids I know. He'll say he doesn't care, but he cares and I am very proud of him in every way.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Kindness Amongst the Crazies

Yesterday, my 15 year old, 9 year old and I went to the Driver License Center for a Learner's Permit. May I just say ha ha ha! Three hours later. When we went at 11, the line was out the door and down the sidewalk. We went home and ate lunch and at 2 the line was just outside the door so we ventured forth. An old couple stood with us who merely wanted to have their pictures on their licenses for traveling purposes. The woman warned us that the last time she did this she waited 3 hours, and she was right on the nose. But, here's what I believe (maybe) was passed on to us during 3 hours of pure, possible TV drama. There are many people here who do not know that they cannot get a license without proof of U.S. citizenship. Women who get cut in line by scary men can stand their ground, speak nicely and get their place back without brawling. When the sign reads "please do not use cell phones" it means do not use them no matter how angry you are and how much help you need. Everyone waits, make the most of it and talk to your neighbor. Don't yell out in a crowd and make the people behind the counter angry; they just work slower. Be prepared. Get online and have the proper paperwork and if you don't have access to that, call and ask but don't scream at the person just doing their job if you don't come to the facility with your original birth certificate. Patience, kindness, self-control, equality, politeness and a darn good attitude going in can get anyone a driving permit, a picture on your existing license, an address change or a new license in 3 hours no problem. This poor facility was so under-staffed, it just made us wonder how these workers come back day after day and take the verbal abuse and general flack from people who really need their service. There is a lot to learn about others out there in the real world and to wonder about the state of our government. It can be scary at times but after yesterday, we know, kind is what kind does and how kind acts. Be kind to others. Btw-He passed. Third driver on the way!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Let's Put a Name to the Face

I need to start asking for names. I'm pretty good about it when someone asks me to pray for them. I like to make a personal request if I can remember. Sometimes I ask and then forget when speaking to the Man upstairs but I still feel that since I asked He can fish it from my memory. After all, He is God. I like putting a name to a face. I met many of the phone salespeople last week at the Religious Book Trade Exhibit who send me constant email blasts at work about new releases and new product. Now, every time I receive a notice, I can picture Lauren and Rose and Julie and Mike and Amy and so on. The face God put me in touch with just makes the messaging a little more personal. So, why in the world do I forget to ask the names of the street guys I meet? Is it easier if I don't make our encounter personal? And why did God put this thought into my head today? Don't get me wrong, I know Roy and William and Kenny and Byrd but it's because someone else has taken the time to ask their name and understand their story. The only street person I can think of who I ever asked her name was Tina and I believe that is because she was obviously a girl and I guess I thought it safe to actually know her. God knows each of us by name and cares for us personally. I think I'm going to start trying to remember to put a name with the face. This will help me remember them and remember to pray for them. Last weekend, I had a street guy walk through the lot while I was unpacking my car and at first I acted like I didn't hear him. He wanted money for food. Well, don't they all. I usually get food for them so they will really eat but instead I called him back and gave him money from my pocket. He said, "Ma'am, you'll get this back." "No, it won't and it's okay." "Yes ma'am. God will bless you for helping me. You will receive a special blessing in some way. I know you will." Then, poof. He was gone and I haven't seen him since. I liked what he said to me. Can't get it off my mind. What was his name? What was his story? If I had done as others around me, I would have asked. Maybe, we all should take a little more time to know one another. You know, put a name to a face. Pray for one another personally. Know the one with whom we do business. Give someone the opportunity to tell us about themselves. Maybe, they'll make our day.

The Invisible Mother

I was sent this yesterday and thought it well worth passing along. Even if you've seen it before, it's worth reading again.

The Invisible Mother......

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?' Obviously, not. No one can see that I'm on the phone, or cooking, or vacuuming the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible. The Invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Can you pick me up at 5:30?'

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.'

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: 'To Charlotte , with admiration for the
greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, 4 life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

1. No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have
no record of their names.
2. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they
would never see finished.
3. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
4. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith
that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.' And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte . I see the sacrifices you make
every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and
smile about. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the an antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my daughter to tell the friend she's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and
bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to
myself. I just want her to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to her friend, to add, 'You're gonna love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot see if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Great Job, MOM! Share this with all the Invisible Moms you know...I just did. Hope this encourages you when the going gets tough as it sometimes does. We never know what our finished products will turn out to be because of our perseverance.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Communion Service

Our priests are on retreat this week and we can only get a morning Communion service versus our regular morning Mass around here. When I mentioned this to my father, he was disappointed. Said he felt bad going to a Communion service because that would be just for him, as opposed to going to Mass for Him. I've never really thought about it. Never separated the two. My daughter said, "Yes, I agree, attending Mass is all about worshiping Him and just going for Communion is padding on the graces for her." Or something like that in easy for me to understand terms. I said I understood but I just, again, never really separated the two. Soooo, as I ran to morning Communion service yesterday, I made a special effort for a little praise and worship during and after the service and I have to say, "What a difference in my small little heart and soul." At one point, and please don't think I'm crazy, but I heard Him say that He was pleased. Tears ran down my face. He continued to say that He was not just pleased with my effort there but also when I pray to Him through His Mother. I do love the rosary and I'm not as slow as I sound. I know that He speaks to me continually and I just am not always open to His words and I know the difference between Mass and Communion service, but I just had to share how pleased I believe He is at our conscious efforts to go a little farther and to seek a deeper meaning and stay a little longer. I pray I can be a little more open, a little more on task, a little more ready every day. May we all be open to finding more ways to give back and to worship and to praise Him because the return on our investment is worth it all.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Passing It On

Last week I took my annual trip to St. Charles, IL for the Religious Book Trade Exhibit. It is one of my favorite shows because we get to meet authors and editors and marketing directors and sales managers from most of the publishers. It is fun and exciting. We buy and we talk and we laugh and we learn for 3 1/2 days. We meet with stores just like ourselves who love the ministry and continually try to learn new ways of not just surviving but of thriving. My mother used to go with me on this trip but last year I brought my oldest daughter and this year my four daughters. They could not all go in the exhibit hall at the same time but the oldest 2 came for the first 3 days with the younger 2 finishing up Friday with me during the last hour. They met plenty of wonderful booksellers and were able to see and understand a little more about what I do for the week while I am away from home. I think they had fun. They also got to enjoy St. Charles and each night at dinner told stories of what they had done during the day. They swam every day but they also went to a Japanese Garden, the History Museum and played putt putt. Evidently at putt putt, in true Cragon fashion, a scene occurred with one of my oldest having to chase a shoe through water along with some other crazy happenings. I'm told that upon entering Panera for lunch, my oldest saw that several of the people from the exhibit were there and immediately turned to the other 3 and said, "Act right! People mom works with are in here!" Just like mom! We never really care what happens inside the house or hotel, well to a point, but once they step outside in public, they need to act nice and treat each other with a little respect. And, for the most part they do. It was good to see that I've passed on a little of that understanding and it was great to see them enjoy the rows of books and people who work in the book and gift industry. What a wonderful week! May all our children at some point learn to love the gift of books, the gift of the story, the fresh smell of the paper and the feel of the cover and the wonder of all that lies within those pages.