Monday, October 29, 2007

A Puzzler

I get paid to do this?

I visit a certain elderly woman on our hospice services weekly. She is frail elderly and lives alone. Her mind is never at rest. She worries about lots of things, and worries about worrying.

A visitor brought her a puzzle and challenged her to finish it in a week, "and I don't want to hear that you had help!" She said the visitor thinks it will keep her mind off of her illness and prevent her from becoming depressed.

She balked. I encouraged. She made excuses. I said I'd just get the 500 puzzle pieces out of the box for her and laid on the table face up. She consented to that.

And she wobbled over and stood a few seconds watching me. And then she sat and watched me for a few minutes. Soon we were both picking at pieces trying to find matches with her muttering all the while, "I never had the patience for these things" and "this is making my hands cramp up."

It led into a wonderful conversation about her life and the hard worker she has always been and how she can't remember if she ever did anything to relax. Her mind never rests.

But it did for those 15 or so minutes while we chatted and worked on the puzzle.

As did mine.

It reminded me of a conversation I had earlier in the day with another woman about Psalm 46:10.....Be still and know that I am God.

Many years ago another woman I met through hospice made a cross stitch for me that still sits on my windowsill in my living room. It is a meditation of Psalm 46:10. Here is what it says:

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know.

Be still.


I was "being" with the woman and her puzzle today. And it felt right. There was no where else that I should have been at that moment.

To be or not to be. Is that the question? No. It is the choice.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hypocrisy at the Bedside

I was visiting with my favorite woman on our hospice services right now. She's always been independent and spunky, even into her later years. Now she needs assistance getting out of her hospital bed and is dependent upon others for even basic needs.

She is struggling with her dependence. She has been the one through the years to care for others. Now she is the recipient. Her family wishes she didn't struggle so much with this. So we had a discussion about how she could see their care as an expression of their love for her now, and that if the shoe was on the other foot, she knows how much she would love to help them, and to let them help her as her body gives out on her.......yada, yada, yada.

I'm a hypocrite. I struggle myself with accepting care and help from others. I imagine I would feel the same way as she if I were laying in the bed in her place.

I think if we were two kids talking, she would say to me, "yeah? Well your words bounce off of me right back to you!"

So if I'm going to encourage her in this, I guess I have to work on it myself.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What's the Differing Factor?

I think I've mentioned before that our family watches Extreme Makeover: Home Edition together every week.

Some of the families they choose have some major struggles yet continue to give to others.

It makes me wonder.....what makes some people who suffer reach out to help others while other people who suffer enter into despair??

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Weeding My Life

I weeded my flower garden today.....half of it, anyway. There were lots of weeds. Between them and the cutting back of plants for the fall, I filled 5 wheelbarrows full of yard waste, and spent 5 hours working. It was satisfying work. And it's work that I can see the result of right away. Things went from chaos to order in that short time period.

So I was talking to God about this as I weeded. I wondered why the sin in my life couldn't be more like the easy weeds that come out smoothly. Unfortunately, it is more like the huge weeds. Even though I make sure to gather all of the branches in one bunch, I pull and heave and heave and pull and nothing happens.

So I take the hand held pointy hoe and hack at the tap root. I hack and hack and hack and loosen dirt. Then I heave and pull. And back I fall onto my butt with the tap root still in the ground, leaving a promise of a return of the weed. Grrrr.

God, you are the master gardener. Why does it have to be such a long process? Why do you leave the tap root in my heart so that the sin isn't completely gone?

I'm not patient......another "weed" for God to work on. I can't do it.

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

For those of you not from the midwest, you are probably not familiar with the occasional signs posted in the rural home's front yard. They say things like, "eggs for sale", or "Rabbit for sale--fresh or frozen", or "firewood for camping $2.50/bundle", etc.

Last night we were driving to a pole barn party. It was early evening, the sun was starting to set. We drove along hilly, curvy country roads for about 45 minutes admiring the hues of the leaves, especially the top where the setting sun set the colors on fire.

We drove by a two-story white farmhouse. The barn was closer to the road than the house. The lawn was neatly trimmed, and a sign was posted on the lawn between the barn and the road. It said in handpainted red letters on a white background, "Hickory smokeing blox".

I said to my husband:

"I can understand spelling "blocks" like "blox" because it is more efficient. But "smokeing" is obviously spelled wrong, so it makes me wonder if "blox" is an intentional misspelling, or if the person who made the sign is just a really bad speller."

My husband replied the sign didn't make him wonder that. Hmmphf.

Sometimes it's easier to wonder those kinds of things than think about what's really going on inside my head.

And for a midwest classic......we drove by a cheese store/country store. It wasn't open. Instead of displaying the usual "Closed" sign, on the marquee was the word "SHUT".

It made me chuckle. "The store is SHUT," I said to my husband, "Not closed--SHUT!"

I think I need more sign diversions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Can sloth be made into a verb like slothing? That's what I was doing today. Oh I got 3 loads of laundry washed, and 8 loads folded. I balanced the checkbook. I got e-mails and duties caught up. I unloaded and loaded the dishwasher. I watched my dear goddaughter for a while.









Maybe it's the dreary, rainy fall day. Maybe it's the feeling of lonliness that set in today for no apparent reason. (I'm always amazed one can feel lonely in the midst of people.) Maybe it was the ordinariness of the day......constant fighting with myself not to seek excitement anywhere other than God.

For the most part in that way it was a successful day. Nothing like a little fasting and abstinence in some way to remind the self that there is more to life than this one.....that there is HOPE coming, even if the time of it is uncertain.

I think heaven will be no more fighting against the tendency towards discontentment of the heart. Self will be put in its place in heaven.

How far is it, anyway???

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Childless Blanket

My oldest son is gone to a sleepover tonight.

Tucking my youngest in, I looked over at my oldest's bed. Lying on the floor next to his bed was his blanket. We really can't call it a blanket anymore. And it can't even qualify for a rag. It's a bunch of batting with unrecognizable fabric connected with scraps of zigzag stitching after many mending sessions. But he gets mad if we call it a blanket it is.

He sleeps with it every night. It panged my heart to see it lying there. He's too embarrassed now to take it to his friend's house because none of his friends have a blanket anymore (so they say). Now he ventures off without it.

I can't even begin to tell the memories associated with that blanket. When one day he discards it completely, it will get put into his memory box....if only because I won't be able to part with it.

It's going too fast.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I Finally Have Some Thoughts That You May Find Interesting....I Think.

If you're reading this, I'm amazed! I've been a delinquent blogger of late, mainly because I haven't felt inspired, or I've been busy, or everything I have to say I think is only interesting to me.

My job as a hospice worker always manages to teach me something. Everyday I work. I see so many examples of self-sacrificing love that I feel put to shame. It's like someone takes my face between their hands and wrenches it from my inward stare to force me to look around me. And consider.

Like what would it be like to be fairly sure your husband will be gone in less than 6 months and to be planning a trip across the country because he wants to go.....setting aside all of your fears of being away from other family members or of what might happen on the road that you won't have the tools to deal with. Yet you go forward with your plans anyway because the person you love more than anyone else in the world wants to go with you one last time before you die.

And what kind of intimate memories you are creating with the aunt you are caring for who is widowed and has no children while your sister is 1500 miles away caring for your own mother who has significant disabilities. And your aunt has always been fiesty and independent and now you share much more than your humor and affection. She needs you to help with her very basic personal cares. Your relationship has changed forever.

And what kinds of things family members do to each other that cause so much hurt and pain that 20 years later it is impacting the family's ability to provide calm, organized cares. I cannot imagine.

Everyday I am reminded of my mortality. And most days I choose to live in denial of it.

But I live in enough of the reality that I feel guilt when I don't do and say things I should do or say if this were my last day on earth.

Like thank-you. I love you. I forgive you.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Dorothy Had It Right

.....there's no place like home.

I spent a wonderful weekend with a friend of 22 years (why does that make me feel so old?)

I went to a conference and came home affirmed and supported and encouraged in my role as wife and mother.

I came home to a clean house--laundry done, bathroom cleaned (some of you heard about how disgusting my toilet was!!), the mudroom straightened, the kitchen/family room picked up, and a couple of little cards placed about the house for me to find. My boys came running and squealing to the back door when I walked in and gave me some big hugs. AND there was homemade apple pie and hotwings in the oven--Mmmmmmm! It made for a wonderful homecoming. I felt very loved.....and so did my husband! :)


Today is Respect Life Sunday. On my way home, I went through a small town. The streets and the corners were lined with people standing silently, holding signs that said, "Abortion kills babies." Several had their eyes closed and their lips were moving in prayer. I couldn't help give them a thumbs-up sign and make the sign of the cross as I drove by them to show them I was united to them in prayer.

I was so proud of my brothers and sisters and their stance against something so horrible.

May God have mercy on our country. And on the innocent babies who die every day.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I Miss You, Grandma....

Someone called me feisty tonight. That word totally reminds me of you, grandma. When someone asked you how you were, you always replied, "Oh, fat and sassy!"

I still really, really miss you, grandma. I miss the sparkle in your eyes, how you'd say "I love you, Chrissy", how your love for me was always unconditional.

I miss your feistyness. I miss your loyal unwavering love for your family and the glue that you were for all of us.

I miss how you would scrunch up your face and circle a clenched fist in the air to show the fight in you.

I miss how you would belt out your favorite songs at church, especially "How Great Thou Art." Your voice could be heard above all others!

I miss your listening ear and the pragmatic advice that always grounded me.

I miss how you'd say when looking right into my eyes dreamily with your chin propped on your hand, "Honey, you're so cute. You're such a good granddaughter."

And your favorite saying pops into my mind and onto my lips frequently: "That's the way it goes."

I miss you so much.

But you were wrong about something. Something else you'd always say......"It's a great life if you don't weaken." I respectfully disagree. It's a great life even if you DO weaken. And I saw you live that out as you weakened.

I hold you close to my heart always.



Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Headless Chicken Dance

(Warning--you may interpret the imagery in the next paragraphs as graphic. Do not tell the animal rights people.)

Life whizzes by so fast sometimes. We all run around like chickens with their heads cut off. We all know the saying. Have any of you ever seen a chicken do that? I have.

After they are decapitated they go running willy nilly in any random direction and sometimes bounce off an obstacle. Their legs go fast and their wings flap until eventually (it doesn't take long) they fall over onto their side and lay there flapping and quivering until the quivering slows and ceases altogether.

Now picture about 50 chickens like that (for the record, I've not seen that!). I think it's a good description of our society.

I know I was made for a purpose. I know most times I have direction and my eyes fixed on eternity. But some days I just feel like a chicken whose head was suddenly removed. I feel like I'm at high speed running from or towards I-don't-know-what because my eyes in my head are laying on the ground and not attached to my body. And everyone around me is doing the same.

And we bounce off each other, say "hi" and "blurti-blurt-blurt" in a moment of quick impact before we crash into the next body. Eventually we fall over. I've not fallen over yet. But I want to. So here's the next thought.....

Part of me wishes I could fall over to get out of the random crazy blind chicken dance. But part of me feels if I do, I will be forgotten and replaced. And no one else in the midst of their chicken dance would even notice that Chris Chicken is not running around with them or bumping into them any more. I feel I'm easily replaced by a new bumper chicken. (At least maybe the new bumper chicken will have bigger breasts. Ahem.)

Sigh. Sing with me everyone.....(making chicken beak movements with your hands and flapping wings with your elbows. It's a Wisconsin wedding custom, doncha know!)....."nah-nah nah-nah nah-nah nah......"

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Answered Prayer, but.....

I pray for humility, Lord, and you answer me. Thank-you.

......but bleccchhh.

But thank-you.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Fast or Feast

I was listening to a replay of Archbishop Fulton Sheen today on Relevant Radio. Are any of you old enough to remember watching him in black and white on television? I'm not....but I heard it was so! It's amazing how pertinent his talks are even today, some 40-50 years later.....even the talks about communism. Anyway.......

He uses a lot of analogies. I know I've said this before, but I love analogies. Today he was saying that there are two philosophies by which people live their lives.

One philosophy is to fast first and feast later.

The other philosophy is to feast first, and then a hangover.

I thought about these two philosophies throughout the day. It (hopefully) is obvious that the first philosophy is the call of the christian lifestyle. We (ideally) deny self, deny feeding and filling ourself, with the hope of the banquet in heaven on which we fix our eyes.

The other philosophy has a much more immediate satisfaction, but it is deceiving and temporary in its pleasure, and has painful consequences.

How do we instill the desire for the first philosophy into our children? How does the call to a life of delayed fulfillment compete with the glitz and glam of what the world has to offer? How do we teach them that the reward in heaven which they cannot see or touch is worth so much more than the instant pleasures in this life? How do they learn the value of suffering?

Lord, do not cease to pursue the hearts of my children.


We all get discouraged when we fail. I've been more disgusted with myself lately. I just asked God the other day, "God, how is it that my focus goes from outward to inward in an instant?....not knowing it has happened until the retrospect?"

This is what I am constantly submitting to God through prayer, through fasting, through self-discipline and self-denial. It will take a lifetime to kill the selfish nature in me. I cannot wait until heaven for this reason. The effort is exhausting and sometimes overwhelming.

I read some things this morning that encouraged me. St. Therese of the Child Jesus (1873-1897) was talking with St. Therese of Lisieux (who died in 1897) about what it meant to be the greatest. St. Therese of the Child Jesus said:

"To be little is not attributing to oneself the virtues that one practices, believing oneself capable of anything, but to recognize that God places this treasure in the hands of his little child to be used when necessary; but it remains always God's treasure. Finally, it is not to become discouraged over one's faults, for children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves very much."

I can easily fall into the trap of discouragement and focusing on my failures. But by God's grace and mercy I get up and continue on.....knowing I will fall again but not wanting to. Any good in me is only because of God. Because I know I cannot do it myself. I'm reminded of that over and over again.

The other thing I read was about how love is nourished only by sacrifices. This makes sense, doesn't it, in light of the cross? Consider these statements:

"Love is nourished only by sacrifices...If one is completely dedicated to loving, one must expect to be sacrificed unreservedly. I have no other means of proving my love for you, O Lord, other than not allowing one little sacrifice to escape, not one look, one word, profiting by the smallest things, and doing them through love...In suffering and combat one can enjoy a moment of happiness that surpasses all the joys of this earth." (St. Therese of Lisieux)


"Human existence is a consuming of oneself 'for' something. This is the human being's greatness. Happiness comes through sacrifice. And the more one accepts this, the more one experiences a greater completeness already in this world." (Msgr. Luigi Giussani)

Sigh. It's a constant ideal to strive for, falling far short every day. But God, that's what I want to be like.

How long will it take? Have I made ANY progress at all?