Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Little Visitation

It's been an insane, surreal couple of days. Unfortunately, I don't mean that in a good way.

I spent the long Memorial Day Weekend vacationing in Pittsburgh at the first-ever Phatmass Phamily Reunion, which I'll write about some other time. It was a wonderful trip full of new friends, fantastic food, and plenty of grace.

As it turned out, I needed that grace in spades this week. When I got home, I found out that my grandmother, who's been ill for almost a decade, had taken a sudden and very serious turn for the worse while I was away. She remains critical in the hospital tonight, and combined with the injuries from a recent fall she's not well at all. Please keep her in your prayers.

The "hospital rhythm" is something my family is very good at. Every few years as my grandmother's illness exacerbates, we sink back into a flow of hospital visits, odd meals and odd moods. It's gone on for so long that in some sense, it almost feels normal.

But I never get over the hospitals, the nurses, the fall risk bracelet or how sad she seems there. Her pain makes me hurt. And I am the sort that tries to run from and ignore and drown my pain by any means necessary.

Needless to say, then, visiting her in the hospital is a very difficult thing, especially now that I'm older and can choose to go on my own.

My boyfriend suggested we visit her the other night, but I blanched at the idea and brushed it aside, saying I'd see her Saturday when I visited with my Mom. But after he went home that night and I laid in bed thinking about her, I felt neglectful and a touch guilty. So the next day, I told my boyfriend of my change of heart and we trudged down to the hospital.

Seeing her was fine – it's the hospital setting that I find difficult. I chattered with her aimlessly for 20 minutes or so, eager to avoid the empty, awkward silence that likes to descend on me when I don't know what to do.

From that difficulty, though, came something profound.

I made her laugh in that 20 minutes. And I brought joy to her face and, I'm sure, to her soul. Real joy. The kind of joy that God breathes into us and wants to show us every day.

It hit me like a ton of bricks when we left the hospital room, that sense of rightness in my gut. I had forced myself beyond my comfort zone of selfishness to truly give of myself to her. And the results made not just her day, but mine.

As we walked to the parking lot, I smiled at the people we passed. And they smiled back. I gave them a reason to smile.

That's how simple it is to bring God's joy to the world. On this feast of the Visitation, I always find myself reflecting on the joy Mary brought to Elizabeth's heart when she came.

God's joy is everywhere. All we have to do is open ourselves to sharing it, just like Mary did.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Staring at the Sky

I had a wonderful Ascension Thursday this week. My Grandma was kind enough to take me to Mass, where I got to see one of my best friends from college.

The readings gave me so much to think about, but for now, I just want to focus on one verse.

"Why are you standing there looking at the sky?"

The question is posed to the Apostles who just saw Jesus ascend into heaven by a man dressed in white garments, likely an angel.

This scene is one of many that I can picture vividly in my mind. I find so much genuine humor in Scripture, especially when the Apostles are involved. I love them – they are stubborn and clueless, just like me. ;)

But I digress.

It's easy to imagine the array of emotions cycling through their heads immediately after Jesus ascended. Only six weeks before, they watched their Lord and Savior suffer an agonizing death at Calvary. That same Jesus who had healed wounds and changed hearts after performing countless wonders was torn from their lives.

And then He rose from the dead, defying everything the Apostles knew about our world. Jesus was back – transformed, glorified, and ready to continue His mission.

After the glory of the Resurrection, to see Jesus leave would have broken my heart all over again.

Can you see the shock and confusion on their faces yet? How about their pain, their disappointment, their feelings of betrayal? I can.

He rose from the dead, and He has gone away again, saying in no uncertain terms that we cannot follow, not yet.

In that moment, the magic finally ran out.

That's why the angel showed up: to remind them of their hope and their vocation.

"What are you doing, you idiots, staring at the sky as though something were about to fall from it? Jesus has gone to the Father to prepare a place for you. And until He calls you home to that place, He has given you a mission! Don't just stand there! Get out there and do something!"

I like to think that's what was really said.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Questions from a Round Peg

Today, I was blessed to be in the right place at the right time. A dear friend is struggling with a call to a beautiful vocation. He can't reconcile in his head who he is now, and who it is God is calling him to be.

I know his struggle. It's one I have every single morning when I look in the mirror.

Who am I and where am I going?

I know where I'd like to be. The distance between here and there, now and then, suffocates me.

I'm too stubborn. Too bitter. Too jaded. Too...

Too much of a round peg in square hole, generally speaking.

I was okay with that until recently.

Suddenly, I have a future and a bold, brave, wonderful calling on my heart. This tiny mustard seed I've kept locked away, safe from the elements, is finally ready to do something.

But I'm not good enough. I'm just not good enough. And I'm not sure what to do about that.

I know who God says I am. I know who I want to be. But will the rest of the world accept me?

...Since when have I cared what "the rest of the world" thinks, anyway?

Is there room for me and all my quirks in this Church? Can I be an example to others without taking on some cleaned-up, saccharine plasticized image of womanhood that just isn't me?

I've always been my own woman. And I never want that to change, that's all.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine...