Friday, December 30, 2011

a cough, a fever, and a smile

My one and a half year old granddaughter has been ill with a virus.  She spent most of today in my lap, at times nestling close to me as if she wanted to burrow inside.  Certainly she didn't want me to leave her, even for a moment.  We didn't talk, we didn't play; we just sat all day in a chair together.  For three hours at one stretch, "Doodlebug" did nothing but sit with me and sleep.  I claim to be a "homeschooled grandma," and today my littlest tutor taught some powerful lessons.

For one thing, Doodlebug (being good natured) has spent this week with "a cough, a fever, and a smile."  I would have understood if she'd been fussy; after all, she surely feels rotten.  I would have held her regardless, for I love her and want to comfort her.  However, I will admit that a child who grins broadly even when bleary-eyed with fever is a child who makes life easier for those around her.  It can be pure pleasure to care for such a one.

When I have "a cough and a fever" ... or a leg ache or a headache ... can people describing me add the words "and a smile?"  Hmm.  Highly unlikely.  So - lesson one:  even though I don't have Doodlebug's easygoing nature, I'm certainly old enough to exercise my free will and MAKE THE DECISION to smile even when I don't feel like doing so.  It would surely make life easier for those around me.  It would be an act of charity.

The other major thing I learned more deeply today was the value of being with God even without words.  Sometimes there just aren't words for prayer, or sometimes they don't seem necessary, or sometimes my mind is distracted.  I was touched just knowing that Doodlebug was comforted by my presence....that she wanted to be as close to me as possible.  It gave me, perhaps, the tiniest glimpse of how it must touch the Heart of Our Lord when we want to linger close to Him.  Doodlebug would look up at me sometimes, as if remembering I was there, and she'd touch my face with her hand.  And she would smile.

I admit to being tired and physically drained from my day of comforting and being tutored.  I think it appropriate, therefore, that my bedtime prayer be to simply sit with Jesus, letting Him "hold me" in my tiredness.  I have a feeling He is pleased every time I take a second to remember that He's here, and that I'm being held by Him.

I have a feeling He's pleased every time I reach out for Him with a word, with my presence, with my smile.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

the tragedy of warm frogs

While on a recent "breadbox excavation," I came across the following letter from several years ago....

Dear Father Andrew, Have you heard the analogy of the frog in hot water?  The story goes that if you place a live frog in a pan of boiling water, he will jump right out.  But if you put him in water that's his own temperature, he'll happily stay there while you place the pan on the stove and slowly turn up the fire under it.  The frog, it is said, will cook to death without even noticing that the water is getting hotter.  Lately I've been reading about how partial birth abortions are done, and about such things as goddess worship in church services, and I think 'are we really so blind?!'  Can it be that people are not aware that the water all around us is almost boiling already?  It can feel pretty lonely to notice that the water is steadily growing hotter while so many around seem to be saying that this is exactly how the water should be and 'isn't it good that finally there is a bit of a warming trend'.... Nancy 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sowing Peace

"Peace begins with a smile.
 Smile five times a day
 at someone you really
 don't want to smile at... 
 do it for peace."   
                                    (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta)

(photo N Shuman)

Thursday, December 15, 2011


One word we hear at this time of year is "joy."  It sings to us from carols, calls to us from cards, marches across banners in the mall.

Someone once said that JOY is found by putting one’s focus and priorities in the proper order: 
J   esus

O  thers

Y  ourself

Is this "priority of focus" how St. Paul could write, in the face of persecutions, "I am filled with consolation, and despite my many afflictions my joy knows no bounds." (2 Corinthians 7:4)..?

Is this "priority of focus" what enabled some of the Church's greatest saints to endure adversities with joy? 

May we all burst forth with "the joy of right priorities" at this holy time of year. “Rejoice in the Lord always!  I say it again: rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Great Expectation

"Like a secret
told by angels,
getting known
upon the earth,  is the Mother's
of Messiah's 
speedy birth." 

(F. Faber, "Our Lady's Expectations")  

Monday, December 12, 2011

unpacking worlds

The Christmas tree is a place where all my worlds converge.  Long forgotten worlds, ones scented with cedar and eggnog and juniper and pine;  I’m always surprised to find them.  I open a box of ornaments and out the years tumble, jumbled together world upon world, as if some unknown weaver has been working to string them together in the dark.  A dough reindeer unrolls and suddenly I’m in bell bottoms, flour in my hair as I bake and paint.  A paper chain plops a blonde haired son back in my lap, with his proud announcement that this is “for you, Mommy!”  There are needlepoint squares made by a relative.  Vintage glass artifacts from my husband’s parents.  Treasured ornaments from my childhood trees:  bells and stars and my favorite blue ball with the painted word “Noel.” 

Things around the tree have come and gone through the years.  Gifts left under the tree have come and gone; the trees themselves have come and gone.  Even the people hanging ornaments have changed.  But I can sit in front of the Christmas tree and, in effect, watch all the phases of my life flash before me.  It is not a bad source for meditation, and certainly it can be an opportunity for prayer.  “Thank You, Lord, for coming.  Thank You for family.  Thank you for everyone I'm remembering; I pray for grace upon them.  I ask for the repose of souls...

"O come O come Emmanuel.  How greatly Your world needs You.  Touch us with Your mercy and Your love....."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Through the Looking Glass

They're starting to arrive:  the cards, the notes, the updates from friends who cannot visit.  "I can't pop in for a quick cup of tea," the cards imply; "so I'm sending this in my stead.  Here's what's happening with us..."

It's one of my favorite things about Christmastime.  Hearing from people who take a few minutes to remember those who've been part of their lives.  Perhaps the years have separated us, maybe responsibilities have called us apart; in some cases we're victims of the "tyranny of distance."  But during the weeks surrounding Christmas Day, we reach out to one another almost as if time has stopped.  For me it does stop, if only for a few seconds, as I sit in the "lettered presence" of a friend.... 

"The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends, but let us not despair.  God is like a looking glass in which souls see each other.  The more we are united to Him by love, the nearer we are to those who belong to Him."  (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton)