Category Archives: life

Unexpected Moments

I made my way to an anticiated appointment today, only to find that the other person got her days mixed up and was otherwise occupied.  This was after a day of suprprises, and not the kind you look forward to or enjoy.

But it was also a beautiful day. I had free time in my schedule, and I had already driven out to a beautiful rural area of central New Jersey for my appointment.

So I asked google where I might go for a nice walk in the woods and did just that.

Exactly what the doctor ordered this autumn day!

Sometimes the unexpected moments are the ones we really need.

One Year Ago

One year ago today I woke up to a fire alarm indicating a real, actual, and very scary fire here at St. Michael Villa. No one was hurt, thank God, but life was and continues to be disrupted here on the campus.

Tomorrow we will be having a small mass of thanksgiving, with some of the first responders as our guests. I will never forget that in our shock that morning, huddled in the gym of the building next door, it was the Chief of Police who asked if we’d like to pray and led us in the Hail Mary.

I am also painfully aware of all those in California who are facing flames and the aftermath. Praying for their safety and for peace of mind and heart in the days and months ahead.

Travelling Grace

FairhavenFrom our founding years, my religious congregation has been geographically spread across wide distances.  In January 1884 we were founded in the Diocese of Nottingham, England.  By November 1884 our sisters had expanded to serve immigrant Irish women and the visually impaired in the Diocese of Newark, New Jersey across the pond.  And by 1890 our pioneer sisters were invited to the Pacific Northwest to open a hospital which would serve the mining and timber communities in Bellingham, Washington.

 

On one of my last whirlwind trips from New Jersey to Seattle, one of those squeezed between commitments on opposite coasts with barely a moment to breathe, I found myself lamenting the fact that our three centers are 3,000 miles apart from each other.  As an elected leader who wants (and needs) to spend time with our sisters and associates in all three regions of our Congregation, I was tired in that moment.

But as I sat there complaining, I reaching an aha moment of wonder.  I don’t have to take a train or a boat or send telegrams or letters that must also travel by train and boat.  I can make a phone call or send an email or even better meet with one of my UK sisters via video conferencing and take a six or eight hour flight and physically be present with my CSJP sisters and associates.  We are so connected as a CSJP family, even across the miles, … pure grace!

There is of course the physical and mental wear and tear of travel, made more complicated by our security responses to a wounded and weary world. I have become a wee bit obsessed with effective packing and the benefits of quality luggage … packing cubes being my latest discovery!  I’m now trying to be more intentional about bringing what I need, and no more, while still looking presentable.  Then there’s the effort to make sure you have your electronics and the files you need for x and y meeting.  It’s an effort, even with the benefit of modern airline travel.

But it is also sheer grace that, after I head on a plane this evening in the Newark airport, I will wake up tomorrow in Birmingham, England, just a short drive from our sisters in Leicestershire.  I will breathe in the air that our founders breathed.  I will rub shoulders and share tea with our UK sisters and associates.  I will experience their gracious hospitality, enjoy their warmth, and share my own presence.

Travelling grace indeed!

And as I prepare to travel to reconnect with my CSJP family, I think of and pray for families separated by miles. Those who are do not have the proper documentation to visit an ailing family member across the border.  Those forced to flee their homes in the dead of night after a drone attack or bombing.  Those who leave family and seek to find a job in a foreign land to be able to send money home.  So many families, separated by the miles.  So much to be grateful for, so much to pray for, in our human family.

Birthday Musings

This morning I woke up another year older,

Wiser hopefully, as time goes by and experience + lessons learned make an impact. 

There is what I thought I knew, what I have learned, and that giant category of what is still mystery beckoning.

I am richer in relationships and connection to be sure. Pure gift.

This year my birthday coincides with the number attributed to the man presently in the white house.

My birthday wish upon waking was that he might focus on building common ground, promoting the common good and peace.

A girl can dream, especially on her birthday.

Most of all I am just grateful. For community, friends, and family near and far. For gifts given and received. For life.

Gratitude

Things I find myself especially grateful for this Thanksgiving morning, in no particular order.

The gift of life itself … Think about it, we get to live and breathe and smell pumpkin pie baking in the oven and laugh with friends and family and maybe drive each other a little crazy and hopefully do something productive in the middle and love people and be loved and go to sleep and wake up and spend yet another day experiencing the gift of life.

I am grateful for community. My world has been rocked a bit lately, what with accompanying a dear friend on her cancer journey and then our motherhouse caught fire and I have been displaced ever since and then my dear friend died and we pulled together to give her an amazing send off (in a local parish since we cannot use our chapel due  to fire damage)  then too all the regular stuff of life and leadership in community. When I end my day looking back in prayer, I am filled with wonder at the ways community supports and challenges, comforts and empowers me to keep on going on and continuing to face the future together as peacemakers in gratitude and hope. Such gift.

I am grateful to family and friends, mostly far and some near, who I know love me and send good vibes of love and support and are there if I ever need them. More phone calls are coming soon I promise.

I am grateful for our system of government, for checks and balances and ways to participate in democracy. I am grateful for the model and witness of nonviolent peacemakers like Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King and Thomas Merton and my Sisters of St Joseph of Peace and my mother Eileen and countless others. They faced evil and oppression head on and countered it with love in action and solidarity with an eye toward the common good and those Jesus loved so well. They started walking the path in their time and our world is a better place for it.  In these dark days I am grateful for their memory and for those who I trust will walk the path with me in our time.

I am grateful for creativity and intellect, for curiosity and compassion, for a passion for  peace through Justice, for God’s sustaining love, for laughter and sadness  and everything in between.

Peace my friends and happy Thanksgiving.

  

My October Lessons

It’s been a while since I’ve written in this virtual space. My life the past few months has been very full with unbloggable happenings and twists and turns which have kept me otherwise occupied, many of them good, some of them a bit more complicated.

October in particular was a doozy.  Lots of travel for nun meetings and conferences, and sprinkled in between more dramatic close to home happenings, such as accompanying a loved one with a serious illness and, oh yeah, my house caught fire, meaning that in between my scheduled travel I’ve been living here and there since we can’t get back home just yet.  Most recently, I ended up with a nasty cold that got a bit more serious given my asthmatic tendencies, but thanks to modern medicine all will be well.really-480
Nonetheless, to be quite honest my prayer of late has been simply one word …. “Really?”

And that is without watching much cable news or following the sad collapse of our democracy and civic sensibilities. Or watching from afar the destruction of the makeshift refugee camp in Calais, France, and the heart breaking situation of the 1,300 children left behind. Or my exacerbation that our apparently increasing obsession with hate and division and polarization keeps us from attending to the broken threads in the fabric of our society or focusing our creative energy on maybe, I don’t know, mending them rather than setting them on fire in the name of being right.

So essentially for the past three weeks, I’ve been an itinerant person without my own bed. I’ve returned to the days when I need to figure out where to do my laundry, and had the fun experience of trying to get the smoke smell out of my clothes, and the new experience of having to move my belongings around with me.  There is a lot of uncertainty ahead, and lots of hard work, and challenges, and difficult situations.

But there has also been much to give me perspective, and even, dare I say, to inspire me and give me hope.

For one thing, I am inspired by the amazing response of my displaced elderly and infirm Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace who showed such resilience in being uprooted at 7:15 am in the morning of October 12th by a serious house fire. I am filled with gratitude and awe at the incredible response of our caregivers and staff who got every sister and staff person to safety, managed to get their medication and medical charts, and find temporary homes for them the same day. Not to mention the emergency responders who not only contained the fire but acted with compassion and were present to our sisters. Then there is the wonderful outpouring of support, from our neighbors and sponsored ministries, from our sisters and associates across the congregation, from other religious congregations, the community at large. People are good. If you focus on the negative spin of our never ending electoral cycle, you might be forgiven for forgetting that simple truth, but people are good.

Even more than that, I have the marvelous gift of community which continues to surprise me and teach me in ways I would never imagine what it means to follow Jesus. I am safe, we are safe. We have the resources and support we need. We have access to medical care and ways to find temporary roofs under which to lay our heads. We can get the help we need to restore our home and come together as community in one place. But even in our current scattered reality, we are one. We are together. We are a community for mission.

So when my prayer starts out with that one simple word … “Really?” … the next set of breaths is a realization that life may be chaotic and hard to predict, but I have so much to be grateful for and such incredible support and love to nourish me as I navigate it all, as we navigate our shifting reality, together.

Not everyone is as lucky, not everyone who is homeless has the resources they need to see them through. Not everyone who is sick is able to just go to a doctor and get medication to make them feel better. Not everyone who is concerned for the common good has the right to vote.

I have all these things, and that gives me a responsibility to face the next day, to take the next step, and to keep hoping that, for one thing, November will be better than October has been!  It leads me to believe that things can and will get better, that our responsibility is to show up, to care for one another, and to face whatever comes together.

Which perhaps is why I loved this Facebook post by Kid President:

Yesvember.png

Let’s give it a go … and see what we learn from November, hopefully a little less chaotically!

 

Writer’s Block

how_to_beat_writers_block_for_content_marketersI realized this morning that I have not posted anything here on the blog in the new year!  I’ve had many things kicking around my head and heart, but I guess they have not been in publicly consumable form for the most part.

I did manage to break through my writer’s block for a bit earlier this week. The result is my latest column on the Global Sisters Report, in which I ponder indifference and disconnection, justice and injustice, privilege and moral action.

Facing an overwhelming sea of social injustice, I am coming to realize that my privilege moderates which realities I choose to see and which I take to heart. My privilege distances me from the experiences of people living in poverty or those who daily struggle against racialized structures of injustice which limit access to education, housing, and employment. My privilege obscures my own complicity and connection to the root causes. My privilege makes indifference and disconnection possible. (Read entire column here)

Have you ever noticed that you really start to appreciate some things in their absence? Friends, family, and in this case, writing. Writing is a gift that helps me process and relate to the world and the movements of the spirit in my life. Writing helps me connect with my deepest and truest self.  Writing is gift … even as these words come forth from my mind and heart through my fingers to the screen.

Maybe I’ll be writing more soon … maybe not. But whatever comes is surely gift!

Endings and Beginnings

Another new year is coming, ready or not. Balls will drop, champagne will be drunk, some will go to bed early and most of us will wake up in 2016.

This year my new year musings coincide with the end of my first year in elected leadership of my religious community. 2015 meant:
-an end to my grad school experience
-a move to New Jersey and revisiting familiar territory with new eyes
-building community with a new group of Sister housemates
-meetings and travel and opportunities to visit our csjp community in all three regions
-and every thing in between.

It has been a good year filled with endings and new beginnings. January 7, our Community Day of Thanksgiving,  will mark the beginning of year 2 of my leadership adventure. Much is in progress, some important projects are just beginning, and there are others still on the horizon, not to mention those surprises good and bad which are bound to come.

There is lots of uncertainty,  some anxiety, but a deep peace and faith that the One who calls us together will guide our feet into the way of peace, through the next set of endings and beginnings on this path called life. And that is a good place to be as we say goodbye to 2015 and move into the new year and all it will hold.

Morning Gratitude

Some days are filled with mishaps and events that can certainly contribute to a state of generalized grumpiness. Yesterday was one of those days,  complete with flight cancellation,  traffic jams, airport mayhem, delays and ultimately a missed connection which meant I did not arrive in time for the conference I am meant to speak at this morning.

Yet this one day of chaotic mishaps makes me realize that this is but a temporary hint of the daily reality of so many.  Mothers who do not know how they will feed their children today let alone tomorrow. Patients receiving a diagnosis seemingly without hope. Villagers picking through the rubble of a senseless drone attack. People who feel broken or lost or alone facing yet another in a series of unfortunate events, often without adequate resources or support systems to help them cope.

And here I am. I was able to rebook my flight. The schedule for today was moved around so that I can still speak on the panel I was traveling to attend. I spent the night in a comfortable hotel bed and woke up to a scrumptious breakfast buffet and a good cup of coffee. The shuttle driver was pleasant and went out of his way to be helpful. I checked in and went through security with ease. The list goes on and on …

Every day is a bad day for someone.
I am grateful for my bad day because it gave me a much needed dose of perspective. It was almost like I needed an antidote of mishaps to reorient some grumpiness I have been indulging of late.

How we face the day makes a difference, not only for ourselves but for those whose path we cross.

And I am facing the day very and truly grateful.

I spy

On my morning walk today, I spied with my little eye …

Two rabbits
One literally running down the bunny trail
Only his cotton tail visible.

One coast guard ship
Patrolling the waters of the
Hudson.

An empty Heineken can
(Presumably empty … I did not check)

A myriad of birds
Which also serenaded my ears
Along with the oddly soothing sounds of traffic.

And in the distance
The city
People busy about many things
Starting a day
Full of promise.

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