Category Archives: 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.

image

This day in the history of the US, my family, and me!

meGrandadOn this day 2016 years ago, Abraham Lincoln was born.

On this day, 113 years ago, my grandfather Ludwig Lincoln Schmelzer was born. Yes, his middle name was given to him by his German immigrant parents to honor the illustrious day of his birth in their new country.

On this day 10 years ago, I made the first official step toward becoming a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace and became a pre-candidate. From the way back machine that is my old blog:

Long story short, my discernment has reached the point where it’s time to start discerning whether I’m called to religious life in the context of a particular community. And there’s something about this group of fun dedicated women, working for justice and to spread the gospel of peace. Whereas every Star Wars book and movie has the line, “I have a bad feeling about this,” I can honestly say I have a very GOOD feeling about this. There’s just something about the groovy csjp sisters. Helps me make much more sense of what God might be calling me to.

Ten years later, of course the story continues, in new and interesting ways as I embark on month two of my adventure in elected leadership. Every day confirms what I knew then, that there is something about this group of fun dediated women, working for justice and to spread the gospel of peace. I feel privileged to be part of the mix, and indeed the past ten years has shown me that it is as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace that I can become the me God dreams I can be.

The picture is of me with my grandfather on my 4th birthday. My grandparents were a special part of my early years, and lived with us for many years. He had a scratchy beard and a big heart. Happy birthday granddad!

Goodbyes and New Beginnings

Me standing in front of the "Bean" sculpture in Chicago's Millennium Park
Me standing in front of the “Bean” sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park

Two and a half years ago I packed up my room at Grace House (the CSJP community house in Seattle where I lived with two other Sisters) and moved to Chicago to study at Catholic Theological Union.  While it was hard to move to a city without any other CSJP Sisters, I was excited about the opportunity to study theology full time. I was also excited that my big sister Monica lived in Chicago with her family, and that I had a ready made group of “young nun” friends in town.

About a year later my Dad moved to Chicago as well, so I’ve had the unexpected opportunity to see him every week since then.  I will miss those regular father/daughter bonding moments, as well as the regular kid time with my 4 1/2 year old nephew and the opportunity to get to know my sister better as an adult (we’ve never really lived in the same city before).

I’ve also made some great friends at school, mostly younger than me, who have made this time special. I know we will stay in touch thanks to the wonders of social media, and I’ve offered guest rooms for any who find themselves in the New Jersey/New York City area, but it’s never the same after you say that initial goodbye.

Of course, new adventures await! I am in the final stages of sorting, purging, and packing. Tuesday morning my friend and housemate Sarah will drive me and my many bags to the airport. When I get to New Jersey, I will be met by one of the Sisters with whom I will have the pleasure of serving on community leadership for the next six years.  I’m actually moving back into a familiar space. Believe it or not, the house that was my novitiate house is now where I will be living with two other members of the leadership team. God has a funny sense of humor in my experience.

God is also faithful.  I find myself praying with these words from our CSJP Constitutions during this time of transition:

“Confident of God’s faithful love and collaborating with others who work for justice and peace, we face the future with gratitude and hope.”

Begin, tomorrow my vacation will

yodavacationWelcome to the blog!  Feel free to read the archives and stay tuned for future posts after the first of the year.

I am taking a much needed vacation before I begin my new adventures. Hence, I will be off grid and electronic media until later in January.

In the words of my community’s constitutions:

We recognize the value of leisure
as contributing to restoration and wholeness. (Constitution 54)

Or, as Master Yoda might put it:

Away you must go, relaxation you need. Hmmm…?

Neverending Story

rummageMy immediate future involves another move, this time back to east coast groovy sister hq as I embark upon my new adventure as a member of our congregation leadership team starting in January. Truth be told, I’m a wee bit nervous but very excited about what lies ahead.  Except for one small detail, that is, and that would be the actual process of moving.

Because, you see, as the title of this post implies, embarking on this new adventure means yet another chapter in the neverending story of my journey on the path to simplicity. Put quite simply … I STILL HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF.

Granted, I do have less than when I entered. For example, the picture is of a small sample of my many belongings which I sold at my parish rummage sale when I entered community after living alone in a two bedroom apartment for ten years. Since then I’ve moved across the country twice and to the middle of the country once (plus a short sojourn across the pond). I’ve also moved locally more than a few times. Each time, I embark upon what I like to call project “sort, purge, pack.”

If I am being generous and nice to myself, I can recognize and celebrate that I have decreased my belongings over time.  But I am still a long way from embodying the simplicity I aspire to in my life.  This always becomes clear to me, of course, when it’s time to pack!

And so, now that I’ve finished with my thesis and my comprehensive exams, and in between celebrating Christmas with my Dad, it’s time to sort through my belongings in my dorm room here at CTU and begin (again) the project of purging my pereptually expanding belongings and packing those which are essential (plus, I’m sure, some which are not). It’s a process and a journey after all!