Sunday, November 22, 2015


For 25 years we have known, but it doesn't make it easier when things shift- when my mom was rushed to the hospital by ambulance for respiratory failure.  COPD brought on by a genetic disorder that my kids and I carry, but don't, thank God, have.  Our lungs are fine. Our lungs can repair themselves and then behave as they should.  But hers have been on overdrive for years, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, like an OCD housewife wearing holes in the carpet with over enthusiastic vacuuming.  Hers are puffed up like balloons that can't, won't, deflate properly.

She hasn't been able to talk very well. Not her usual rambuncious self.  Not her normal bossy pants self.  Not her 'get me a vodka tonic and don't be stingy with either' self.  A breathy whisper.  The vocal chords need air to work properly, it turns out.  Without it, they just get tight and squeaky.

The drugs are good.  We have grown to love morphine.  It is the thing that helps keep her calm when the air decides to quit.  That and lorazapam. Anti-anxiety.  I am ridiculously grateful because without them she is drowning in fear. Her body betrays her spirit, fighting for air.  Better living through chemistry.  Living through chemistry.  And maybe a gentler death, too.

I have been praying with her.  I send her little texts at night as I head to bed.  I quote scripture or just wish her a sweet and peaceful night.

I am jealous of her time, of solitude with her.  I know you are her friends, have been there for her, love her.  But get out of her room now.  Let me have time alone.  I need to hold her hand and speak of things you cannot overhear.  I need to ask her questions that will haunt me forever if left unspoken. I need to strain to hear the truth inside her whispers.  I need to let her love me.  I need to love her.

My kids have met death before.  They met it face to face when their friends' mom died.  The one who made sauce and meatballs and let Noah stay over every weekend. The one who sat in the pew at church with us, week after week, Sunday after Sunday.  The one who died one night.  Who just didn't wake up.  Who left us all grief stricken and in shock.  They have met that death.  The angry, forlorn, shocking death.

But this one is different.  Not the same shock. Or the sense of outrage at it's unfairness.  Instead, it is a quiet grief.  My mom considering this a teachable moment.  She wants them to walk on this journey with her.  To not be afraid.  To step to the edge with her and feel the love that surrounds us all.

I am crying a lot.

Sunday, November 08, 2015


I was supposed to go on retreat last weekend.  It was canceled at the last minute for lack of participation.  I was utterly crushed.  For weeks I had been looking forward to time away from the hubub of life.  A whole weekend of silence, listening, resting in Him, and walking.  But on Thursday I got a call that it was not happening.

I went home and cried.  Big, deep, ugly cry. I carry so much in my day to day life, especially at work. And I felt like the weight of the world came crashing in at that moment.  

My staff assured me that God had something else planned for me.  And while that might have been true, at that moment, it was little consolation.  I was devastated.

So I went home and cried.  And cried out to Jesus.  Lord, help me.  Help me.  

And thus began a funny one way conversation with my friend Jesus.  He got all cryptic on me.  He gave me little orders and expected me to just follow.

I woke up on Friday morning with a sense of him telling me "Clean your room."  Sort of like what I say to my teen aged sons.  And yes, my room was a mess.  Laundry piled up, books all over the place, every surface covered with stuff.  It was as inhospitable a room as you can imagine, made worse by the fact that it needs a paint job and some organization.  

"Make it a place of retreat."

I didn't argue.  I didn't resent the fact that I lost my beautiful weekend of silence to a laundry folding marathon, vacuuming under the bed and decluttering my bookshelves.  It took me the whole weekend to get it all sorted out and dusted.  I helped Emmett clean his room while I was at it, complete with a new comforter and sheets, cleaned bunny cage, swept floors, fresh curtains.

"Go to Mass" was the next order I got.  So I walked to the little church in my neighborhood on a weekday morning and attended Mass with about 6 other folks, all of whom are well north of 60 years old.  As I sat in the church, I felt a sense of peace and joy.  Oh yeah!  I can do this every day if I want!  I LOVE this!

"Come visit me."  The same little church has a tiny adoration chapel.  It is a dusty, funky, vintage 80s affair with a laminate altar, some dying plants, and a few milk crates filled with old candles stacked in the corner.  Hardly a place that inspires fervent prayer.  But between pulling the dead leaves and watering the thirsty plants, I felt a powerful sense of His presence.  On the little bench where I was seated, people had left old devotionals, hand written prayers, and a worn set of commentaries on the gospel readings for every day of the year called 'In Conversation with God'  which is not to be confused with the very new age series of books of a similar name.  

I picked up the nearest copy of 'In Conversation' and randomly opened the page.  It was from the readings for the season of Advent and was about doing a daily examination of conscience.  It suggested that every day, we ask ourselves a simple question.  'Where was my heart yesterday?'  Was it on God?  Or was I focused on fear, anger, frustration, or something else?  It goes on to suggest that we repent of those times when our heart was distracted and ask God's help in staying focused on him for the coming day.  

I went home and bought a copy of the current volume of 'Conversations' for my kindle.  And every day since it has been a wonderful part of my daily time with God.

I was sad and disappointed that I wasn't able to go on retreat last weekend.  But in the days since, I have been spending much time with my Beloved, reading the daily cycle of prayer in the church, going to Mass, sitting in silent prayer, and enjoying my tidy room, a lovely place of retreat in my own home.  

Such a gift.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Heaven on Earth

I was a lector that day.  After the consecration, I was standing behind the altar with the Eucharistic ministers and the altar servers.  The priest, Fr. Mongeon, was saying the final prayer before giving communion.  "Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb."

And suddenly, I felt a wave of peace.  A moment in which I truly believed that God could and would take away the sins of the world.  That we would taste the joy of Heaven.  My heart was flooded with love.  My eyes filled with tears.  I knew, in that instant, what Heaven feels like.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

RIP John Michael

13 years ago, as I was just beginning my walk as a Christian, I joined the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship forum online.  Through it, I met many good people.  I went to the annual convention.  I wrote about my conversion to Christianity and it was published in a book on UU Christianity.  I eventually left the Unitarian Church and lost touch with most of my UU Christian friends, but over the years, one of the most lasting things was a correspondance with John Michael Keba.  

John was raised as an Eastern Catholic who had explored different faiths, including Unitarianism.  He was a hot head who got into vicious debates with UUs about all kinds of things.  He was a very smart, very fiesty man who eventually got himself banned from the forum.  For a couple of years we didn't connect.  

Then, one day, I knew that I could no longer be a Unitarian.  I began searching for a new church.  A Christian Church.  My search brought me to many Episcopal Churches.  But one Sunday, I decided to visit St. Teresa of Avila, a Catholic Church in Providence.  At the time it was pastored by a wonderful priest name Fr. Ray Tetrault.  I cried through the whole Mass. And though I knew that I wasn't ready to become a Catholic, for the first time I thought that someday, I might end up there. 

On the way home, driving under an overpass on the highway, I remembered John Michael.  I remembered that he was Catholic.  I decided to write him an email telling him that I had visited a Catholic Church.  He relentlessly tried to convince me to join the church.  I resisted.  I wasn't ready and I knew it.  But nevertheless, we continued to email each other, sometimes daily, usually weekly.

Thus began a correspondance that lasted over 10 years.  

The irony was that over the next several years, as I was drawing closer to the Catholic Church, John was leaving it.  He eventually chose the absolute polar opposite and joined the Religious Society of Friends.  And even there, in a faith about peace and quiet and the gentle calling of the spirit, John was a rabble rouser.  He was fiesty and cranky and got into all sorts of trouble, I think.  I believe that he was seeking peace.  He believed in peace.  He yearned for peace.

In some ways, John was actually responsible for my choosing to work at CareNet.  He insisted that if God was calling me, I had no right to refuse.  And if there was doubt about the call, he was having none of it.  John was fiercely pro-life.

Once I started working at CareNet, I would occasionally write to him, especially when things were particularly tough.  I asked for his prayers.  He prayed.  He encouraged, exhorted.  But somehow, after his father died in 2014, our correspondance dwindled. 

This morning, I woke up thinking about him, and for some reason, felt sure that he had died.  I went online and found that yes, indeed, he had died over the Christmas Holidays.  There is no obituary.  No record of his death save for a brief comment on his facebook page.  His extended family didn't even seem to know about it. Fortunately, one of his friends was willing to message me back on Facebook and tell me the story of his passing.  He died alone in his home. He wasn't found for days.  No one seems to know if there is a grave somewhere.  

Dear Jesus,  I pray that John is at rest in your arms.  He was deeply aware of his sins.  He loved you with all his heart.  He was a man who yearned for peace.  The peace that surpasses all understanding.  I pray, my savior, that he is with you.  May his soul rest in your peace forever.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Life in a Catholic parish

We have a new priest at St. Catherine's.  His name is Fr. Plante and he seems like a good guy.  That isn't really all that remarkable.  What has been remarkable for me, as a new Catholic, is the way that the new priest was installed.

In my old Episcopal Church, when the priest retired, it was nearly a two year process to replace him.  There was a 'self study' conducted that took months.  Surveys, meetings, ongoing conversations.  An interim priest was assigned (two actually) to shephard the congregation through the process.  A hiring committee spend months gathering resumes, conducting interviews, talking to references.  Finally, a team flew all the way to Paris to listen to the final candidate preach.

In my Catholic parish, it went like this:

My priest asked the Bishop's permission to retire.  The Bishop assigned a new priest to the parish.  On the day after my priest's retirement, the new guy was saying Mass.  That's it.

Here's the amazing thing: This process, for the most part, works just fine.  Yesterday was the first Sunday for the new priest.  I sat in the pew and felt such a sense of love and welcome.  The folks in the pews were a little excited and nervous.  We are, understandably, a bit concerned about how this new priest will work out, especially since he is going to be pastoring two parishes now.  But the overall sense was one of warmth and expectation.  Love and encouragement.  We want to love this guy.

I was very moved, to be honest.  Here, in action, there was a sense of trust in God.  There was the implicit belief that God has brought this new priest to us and we are going to have open hearts and open minds.  There is a humilty in that.  There is grace in that.

It made me grateful to be a Catholic.

The deepest truth about me....

is my faith in Jesus Christ.  It is the thing that drives everything.  It is the thing that has taught me to love you unconditionally.  The thing that draws me to try and do good in the world.  The thing that helps me ask forgiveness when I screw up.  The thing that has helped me raise two stunningly wonderful young men.  The thing that keeps me coming back, even when it is painful or challenging.  I know this truth is uncomfortable.  It has been challenging for some of the people in my life to come to grips with it.   To you, I say, I will not take my toys and walk away angry.  I am right here, loving you.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

out of the darkness

I have been struggling for most of the last year with desolation.  It has been a dark time for me.  It has been very hard.

Fortunately, through all of it, I never really lost the sense of God's presence.  I felt him there, quietly egging me on, inviting me to plumb the depths of my soul, inviting me to trust him.

In desolation it is easy to second guess every decision, question every inspiration, regret everything.  It feels like a deep spiritual depression. And oppression.

A few weeks ago, the desolation began to lift.  I could see tiny cracks of light peeping through.  I could feel a shift in my spirit.  I began to feel a clearer sense of God's reassuring presence.  I have moved towards consolation and it is such a relief.

In consolation, the word is trust.  I trust the decisions that God lead me through.  I trust him to take care of my tender and weak soul.  I trust that I don't have to be in charge of everything.... just let him draw me towards him.  In consolation I am not alone.

This year, for Lent, I gave up desolation.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hey Jesus, got a minute?

I knew this was going to be hard.  I had glimpses of how much of a challenge this was going to be.  But Jesus, I didn't know it was going to be this hard.  This painful.  I had no idea how agonizing it was going to be to feel this isolated.  This is one heck of a cup, this chalice of yours.  Never, since following you, have I struggled so much.

Jesus.  I wonder if I had known, would I have still converted?  I honestly don't know the answer to that.  I think it would have been impossible for me to understand what I was in for.  It is like trying to explain to someone what childbirth is like.  It is like nothing else, so how can you describe it?  So it is with conversion.  If I could speak with my past soul, what would I say?  Would I tell her to ignore the Call?  Would I suggest she run away, hide, drown herself in distractions?  Would I encourage her to deny the groundswell that was rising beneath her, drawing, pushing, dragging her towards the Church?  And if I did... would she have listened?  I think back to that time, not so long ago, when the longing for the sacraments was so powerful, so overwhelming, I couldn't imagine any other alternative.