Wedding Gifts

When Steve and I announced our wedding engagement years ago, we did all the ordinary things that brides and grooms were doing at that time.  This included attending a Pre-Cana retreat at a local church, selecting wedding readings and readers who were close to us, and completing a Bridal Registry at the now-closed Burt’s Department Store.

Looking back on all those preparations, I must chuckle now.  The adventures we have lived, the highs as well as the lows, have taken us in directions I never would have imagined.  Our Scripture readings would be extremely different if we had to select them now, less sentimental and containing more wisdom!  There were items on the registry that ended up being not very important, and there were gifts received, without even asking for, that have become personal treasures.  Today, I reflect on one item that is especially near and dear to my heart.

A Wooden Risen Christ Wall Crucifix hangs in our bedroom to the left of the doorway.  It was a gift from Aunt Ruth and Uncle Al, two very special family members who had been a part of my Pittsburgh relatives (Mom’s family) and accompanied our Hammond family on summer vacations to Michigan where my dad’s relatives lived.

With the crucifix came a small note written by Aunt Ruth, reminding us that God is, and will continue to be, a part of our married lives, come what may.  That crucifix has become my daily reminder that along with God, we will get through today.  Being an extremely tactile person, I touch the foot of that cross most mornings when I first get out of bed, asking God to walk with us or even saying, “We’ve got this, LORD!”  I know these words are not particularly eloquent, but in my heart, it’s the sincerest prayer I know.

I’ve written about some of the changes lately in our family’s lives, and at times my anxiety rears its ugly head.  But I must tell you, dear friends, I do know, deep in my heart, that it is all going to be okay.  I feel as if we are surrounded with love and grace, and the words of Scripture and our liturgies strengthen me.  Sunday liturgy provides the fuel I need to face whatever each week brings!

 Those who trust in themselves are fools,

but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. 

(Proverbs, 28:26)





Unexpected Gift

We had no intention of crashing a party.  We’d simply walked into a local establishment early on a Saturday evening with the intent of having some supper.  Right away we noticed a few tables, covered in white tablecloths,  set up in a U formation and a two-piece band was playing.  Friends, you should note, this is not an establishment where linen table coverings are the norm; clearly something special was going on.  We walked past the group of party guests in search of a table for three, which were in short supply, but our waiter graciously led us to a bare wooden table on the perimeter of the growing party, unadorned with even salt or pepper shakers.  It was clearly a busier Saturday night than usual, but we were in no hurry and happily started out with tall glasses of water while we perused the menus.

We placed our orders and then chatted easily while we waited for our dinners to be ready.  The waiter refilled our water glasses in between his trips from one end of the room to the other, even leaving a large water carafe on our table while apologizing for the longer-than-usual wait.  Meanwhile, the leader of the band announced that the guest of honor was a woman celebrating her birthday, eighty-something years young, and everyone clapped.  She and her husband made their way to the center of the room, which became their “dance floor” as they danced together.  They did not move fast or even in a fancy way; but they danced like they had known one another forever and found comfort in each other’s arms.  A little later, the woman’s husband was invited to play the drums for a few numbers, including Bad Bad Leroy Brown, and this woman kept dancing with various family members and friends, smiling so brightly.  Her husband looked at her from his seat at the drums and beamed!

This was the longest we’d ever had to wait for our dinner orders at our local neighborhood restaurant, but in reframing the events that transpired, by having to wait a while for the food to arrive, our family was given more time to talk, and laugh, and witness a celebration of life.  If we’d been seated anywhere else on that Saturday evening, we’d have missed the party!  How much of life is like that, dear ones?  I want to keep my eyes and heart open for unexpected gifts like this!

Comfort Zone

How comfortable are you right now?  Are you sitting down in a comfy chair with a cup of hot coffee in your hand? If you get chilly, is there a cozy sweater or afghan nearby to wrap around your shoulders?  Some people may agree that life is pretty good when we are within our comfort zones.  Merriam-Webster defines comfort zone as “the level at which one functions with ease and familiarity.”

Alas, not all of life can be spent in the safe boundaries of our comfort zones.  Today I reflect one such moment.  The lyrics of a song keep running through my head as I write this…Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world, she took the midnight train going anywhere (Journey, Escape album, 1981).  My family often says I’m a little too dramatic, so I must disclose the facts:  I AM from a small town and I DID take a commuter train, followed by a subway train, some more subway trains and one last commuter train on Saturday.  The Uber receipt reminds me that we reached our hotel at a modest 11:34 PM, so there really was not any midnight train involved here, friends!  But, my early-bird version of the tale contains some truths I want to share with you…

Even total strangers will work together to solve a common problem.  Subway doors won’t close?  Everyone steps back.  Someone with a stroller trying to get on/off the train?  People move out of the way or even grab the front of the stroller to assist the parent.  When it’s standing-room only, people make sure that everyone has a spot to hold on those common metal poles.  Someone’s lost?  I witnessed many people on Saturday offering advice to others regarding taking the R train or the 1 train, etc.  When asked, people step up.

It’s much easier to have conversations when there’s a safe distance between us.  I sought respite in the subway advertisements lining the trains on Saturday because I was afraid if I looked anyone straight in the eyes in such proximity, I’d creep them out.   We were too close for comfort!   I whispered a few things to my family members who also were riding, but for the most part, I kept surprisingly quiet for once.  I also confirmed my theory that quiet smiles still work everywhere.

There’s evidence of beauty EVERYWHERE if we are willing to recognize it.  By the last few hours of my family’s day in the big city, I was getting tired and hungry and missing the quiet comforts of home.  It was only going to be a five-minute wait or so for the next train downtown, and I was resolved to be patient.  I did just fine until my husband and daughter asked me, “Did you just see that rat down there along the edge?”  Fortunately, I had NOT seen the rat, but I became increasingly aware of the noise and the crowds and the various smells…it was like I was enmeshed in sensory overload and starting to quietly freak out inside when…all…of…a…sudden, the most hauntingly beautiful cello music from one floor above us floated down and surrounded me in serenity.  I had walked by the solitary cello player just minutes before, wishing we could stop and listen to him and now the gift of that artist was bestowed on me.  I strained to listen and for a few moments blocked out everything else just to hear a few glorious notes.  What a gift.

We live our lives both within and outside of our comfort zones.  That’s just reality.  How thankful I am, especially during this season of Easter, to remember that the One who loves us accompanies us on all our journeys.  Alleluia!


Monday Morning

This morning I accidentally forgot to drop my daughter off in the car line at school. We had been deep in a conversation about graduation and other such things, and even though I saw the long line of cars, I drove past that turn and had to pull over by the football field to let her out.  I apologized to her for my mistake and she was gracious enough to still wish me a good day as she lugged that heavy backpack towards school on a Monday morning.

Do you ever become so pre-occupied with whatever’s going on that you miss an appointment or forget to return a friend’s call?  If so, you are in good company.  Before we even got in the car this morning, I had looked at the week’s appointments and made a few mental notes of what I needed to do today.  I started typing something for work after glossing over the daily readings, telling myself I’d go back to them in more detail later.  And this was all before my second cup of coffee!  I don’t think I’m all that different than many other parents of teens in that we never can seem to find enough time to “get everything done.”  Even weekends can feel like domestic catch-up time instead of moments of respite and relaxation.

Life constantly throws stuff at us every day and we need to know how to juggle many tasks at once.  Lately, though, I have begun to realize that I don’t want to multi-task as much anymore.  The past few years have taught me that life is also about making choices, discerning God’s call and beginning to simplify the life in front of me.   While I have a long way to go in the process of simplification, I call on God’s wisdom and grace often in this ongoing process of discernment.  It’s almost like weeding a garden bed or cleaning a closet, knowing what you wish to hold on to and what you are finally willing to let go.  Let my prayer continue to be like the words of the psalmist in Psalm 40: “Here I am, LORD; I come to do your will.”