Thursday, December 25, 2008

Our day was a whirlwind, as it always is. But last night we went to Grace for the 10pm mass and it was so quiet and beautiful. We even had incense, which I love. The church was lit by candles, and at the end of the service, we all knelt and sang Silent Night together. It was gorgeous moment of quiet contemplation in the midst of the chaos.

Tonight, we went to the Nguyen family shindig, which is dozens of people hanging together, laughing and chatting. Always there is too much food... and the combinations are amazing: Vietnamese soup, egg rolls, curry chicken wings, and tonight, our Jewish friend from Austria brought home made baklava. We had a new guest tonight... a mathematician from mainland China. We introduced him to rice noodle soup and s'mores, lol. I don't think he quite knew what to make of it.

Every year I think how nice it would be to just stay home and be quiet rather than join the madness at the in-laws. And then we go and I find myself sitting in a room stuffed with children and sisters and brothers in law dozing off on the sofa and grandparents and cousins and relatives of in laws whose names I do not know and I am always grateful that God saw fit to invite me into this family, nearly 20 years ago.

But now, oh Lord, I am tired. Tomorrow, in my family tradition, it is boxing day. A day of rest and renewal and quiet. We will take the kids and the dog for a walk somewhere, and drink cocoa in the afternoon... and nap. Paradise.

Merry Christmas, all.

God has come into the world. Oh Holy Night.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hot dogs from heaven

We are training our new dog, Ziggy, with hot dogs.

In the old days, of course, training involved a rolled up newspaper and a choke collar, complimented with the occasional milk bone. But the hot dog method involves identifying the behavior you DO want and heavily reinforcing it with tiny bits of cut up hot dogs.

For example, we want the dog to stay out of the kitchen when we are in there cooking. I have taught him to sit quietly at the threshold. As long as he is there, I toss the occasional hot dog bit over his shoulder. He is learning that when he is in the kitchen=no hot dog. When he waits at the door=hot dogs rain down on him like manna from heaven.

God's consolations are like spiritual hot dogs. When we are vaguely on the right path, he showers us with delicious spiritual tidbits. When we get more spiritually mature, perhaps he weans us off the hot dogs, gently, gradually, so we learn to have faith in him even without the spiritual hot dogs.

Mother Teresa is said to have been in a spiritual desert for 50 years. For her entire ministry in Calcutta, not one hot dog. Can you imagine that? She must have been a spiritual giant to be able to devote herself to that ministry without the constant reinforcement of consolations from God. When I heard about that, I was moved to tears. She really must have been a saint to be able to do that.

Today I give thanks to all the spiritual hot dogs God has thrown my way. I am the eager puppy, wiggling with joy at the feet of him whom I adore.

Sit. Stay. Good Girl.

Merry Christmas, my beloved friends.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


My friend John is a new Friend (Quaker) and has witnessed at his meeting a couple of times now.

Today, I had a chance, sort of.

Before church, I overheard the Sunday School teachers lamenting that it was their day to get up and give a short talk about their program. Neither seemed that keen on doing it. They tried to rope an innocent 12 year old bystander into doing it, but she demurred.

I raised my hand like a third grader and cried "Oooo, oooo, let me, let me." At which point they both looked at me like the insane woman that I am and kind of shrugged and said sure.

I didn't prepare. I sat in the pew, knowing that in a short time I'd get up in front of dozens of people and give my little spiel. And suddenly it was time and I said a prayer to the Holy Spirit to please give me the words to say.

And say them I did. Only the priests could see my shaking hands clasped tightly behind me. Everyone else just saw me give my heartfelt witness to why I thought the Sunday School program was one of the most important things we do as a church.

And like a true witness, I can barely remember what I said, except that it had something to do with giving children the precious gift of the bible to help them when they face difficulties and challenges in their lives. With a relationship with God, they will be able to handle anything.

Afterwards, people came up to thank me for my little speech. But really, I can't take credit for it. I just say what pops into my head and hope that at least some of it is at God's nudging.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A delicious...

snow day today. The kids got the day off, even though it didn't start snowing until almost 3pm.

So, I got to sleep in (til 8!) and drink coffee in my jammies. I began, finally, to clean the house in preparation for Christmas. It comforts me to remember that traditionally one isn't supposed to decorate or sing carols until Christmas Eve. This year, we might just follow that tradition.

I made Kale soup with chourico and chicken thighs and white beans. I cleared the mantel, cleaned the kitchen and played with the dog in the yard. The kids had a friend over and had a ball in the snow.

Even Nguyen stuck around the house, putsing around in the garage and tidying the yard.

I felt blessed today, in so many ways. I realized, for example, that all our stress about finances was the reason I went out and found part time jobs. And now I am so very blessed by the relationship I am developing with my client and her husband. It is a gift from God, without a doubt.

My neighbor was over last night helping us out clean up the roofing shingles from our garage and after, when we were chatting, he and I prayed for my client. Such a beautiful thing, standing in the street in front of the garage, holding hands and lifting up prayers to God. Thank you God for bringing us to this place.

Tomorrow my dear friend and drumming teacher is heading out of town. I won't see him again until I get to Mali in January. Because of the storm we couldn't get together, but we spoke on the phone for a long time, talking about our plans for the trip in January and what we are going to do in Africa. It was lovely.

There is about 10 inches of snow outside. It is quiet and white and beautiful.

Thank you, Lord, for this day.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Such a gift as this

For confidentiality reasons, I have not been talking much about my new job. I am a personal helper for a young woman with a chronic, disabling illness called myalgic encephalomylitis. It is a poorly understood disorder that results in a full fledged attack on every system of the body. The disease causes great suffering.

My job is basically to help out around the house. I buy groceries and cook meals. I clean. I do laundry occasionally, scrub the tub, run errands.

The list of my activities can, in no way, even scratch the surface of what this new job has been for me.

It is a sacred thing to prepare a meal for someone. It is holy to be invited into a home, tend to someone's needs, sit by a bed, hold a hand, whisper a prayer.

For a long time I was afraid to ask if I could pray for her. Weeks went by when I would leave and sit in my car to pray because I was afraid of how it would be received. Then one day, finally, God broke open my fear and gave me the courage to ask.

I have been praying every day since. And God has been showering me with consolations when I am with her. I feel his presence so powerfully I can't help but weep.

A couple of months ago, this woman and her husband were strangers. Now we are deeply, intimately connected. It is a great honor and priviledge to be invited into someone's life. I thank God for it every day. I pray, too, for relief for her suffering.

Pray for us all, my dear friends.

Pray for strength and courage and perserverance and love. And for her, please pray for healing.

In Christ's name.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A quick bit of advice before I head off to work....

If you heart tugs you to make that call, do it.

If it occurs to you to give something away, say something kind, or love someone who needs love, don't edit or censor or think it through. Just do it.

If you feel like praying the rosary, or saying a psalm out loud, or sneaking into a dark church and laying on the floor to pray, do it.

Be fearless in your love. Love hugely.

Do it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Yesterday I hit another car with my car.

I was pulling into an intersection when someone cut me off. Then the light changed to red. Since my nose was in the intersection, I decided to back up a little and wait for the green light.

I checked my side mirror and there was no car, so I began to back up.



Followed by


There was a car behind me after all. I pulled forward a bit, put the car in park and jumped out to assess the damage.

The guy rolled down his window.

"I am so sorry" I said. "I didn't notice you behind me."

"No problem" He replied.

I reassured him there was no damage and he didn't even bother to check it himself. He just kept repeating that it was no problem.

Thanks, dude. That was some good car mojo there. I hope God blesses you for your kindness. And I hope I get my head out of the clouds and onto the road.

Kyrie Eleison

Advent has been a time of darkness for me. Each year since becoming a Christian, I have experienced tremendous spiritual emptiness during Advent. Then, usually around Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, the clouds part a tiny bit and let a fraction of the coming light shine through. My spirits lift, my smile broadens, and I feel slightly more prepared for the coming.

This year, Jesus has seen fit to make his presence known during the dark days of Advent. I have felt his mercy pouring forth. My heart has been ablaze with his love.

Today on the way to bible study at church, I realized that one of the great gifts the Lord has given me is the ability to love without fear. I was awestruck by the miracle of that. By the time I got to church, I was in tears. I think the parking lot attendant was concerned! But I was fine. I was crying for joy.

Last Saturday I went to a funeral for a friend from Grace. He died unexpectedly. The church was filled. People got up and talked about him and how much they loved him and how much they felt loved by him. It occurred to me that it is a great gift to love others. And to be able to love fearlessly is one of Christ's tender mercies.

Kyrie Eleison.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


This year my birthday falls on the feast of Epiphany.

I wonder if God has any special epiphanies planned for me?

I will be celebrating my 44th birthday in Africa if all goes as planned.

Maybe I'll find a Catholic church and attend a mass that day.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Sing his praises

One of the many hats I wear is that of an energy work practitioner. I am a certified Reiki master (whatever THAT means, LOL) and have a very tiny little group of clients. Before Reiki, I did hands on healing for family and friends after receiving that gift in a dramatic experience with the Holy Spirit.

Now, once a month I lay hands on people and pray at a healing service at Grace Church.

For a long time, I was shy to incorporate prayer into my Reiki practice. I felt that since that wasn't what I was advertising, I didn't really have the right to do it. So I would pray to myself as I worked on people. In my mind, I would invite Jesus to join me and lay his hands on them too. We would work together, Jesus and I, comforting and soothing my clients, body and soul. But I was too shy to say anything.

No more.

I can't pretend that I am doing just Reiki anymore. What I am doing is prayer. It is Christian healing. I lay my hands in the traditional reiki positions, but I know that what is taking place is much more than the simple shifting of energy.

So, last night, at my Reiki appointment, I asked my client if I could pray for her. She said yes. At the end of the session I laid my hands on her and knelt beside her and said a prayer of thanksgiving and petition.

And you know what? To me, at least, it didn't feel weird or awkward at all. In fact, now it feels weird NOT to pray... because I know damn well that the energy, the power, that my clients feel isn't mine at all. By claiming it as God's, I am able to put the emphasis exactly where it belongs.

Praise to YOU, Lord Christ.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


When you go to a big church, it is inevitable that there will be shared joys. Baptisms, births, weddings, recoveries are all part of living in community together.

There are losses, too.

Today, at bible study, I found out that a fellow parishioner at Grace, Roger Ferland, died yesterday. It was a sudden, unexpected loss. He was in his fifties... an OB/Gyn here in Providence.

I met Roger when he and his wife, Kim, first started coming to Grace. We made a meal together for the soup kitchen one Saturday. Then, last month, he preached a sermon in honor of St. Luke. It struck a particular chord for me because the work I have been doing lately is of a kind that I have to rely, every day, on the Grace of God. That was what Roger preached on... God's grace in seemingly hopeless situations. After the service I approached him and thanked him for speaking. I told him about my work at the crisis pregnancy center and asked about his practice. We both allowed as to how the process of birth is especially ripe for God's grace.

I have been struck, lately, by what a blessing it is to be in community with other people. Joy, sorrow, grace and despair are different when they are experienced together with other people of faith. There is such sorrow in loss... but such grace in being able to experience that sorrow with other members of the body of Christ. I cried my way through the bible study this morning, comforted by the presence of God and my friends. Afterward, I sat in the darkened church for awhile, praying.

This weekend I'll go to the funeral at Grace Church. There will be doctors and patients, friends and relatives. And there will be some of us who knelt at the communion rail with Roger and broke bread and were connected to each other through the flesh and blood of him who brings grace to us all.

Rest in peace, Roger.