Sunday, September 21, 2014

Simple Sunday Snapshot {9.21.14}

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20:15-16

My first and immediate response whenever I read and hear this passage is a sigh of relief. Procrastinators still have hope!! 

In all seriousness, I was once told by a "cradle Catholic" as I was trying to learn the intricacies of the faith and the reason behind its teachings that really, I'd never actually be Catholic since I wasn't born into it. 

Bite your tongue. I surely did. Let's not even get into that whole go to all the nations, preach the Gospel, and baptize everyone business.

While that is an extreme example, I do think that we all risk being lured into a trap of spiritual superiority. I notice it in myself at Mass. Someone STILL doesn't know the new responses. Look who's waking in right before the Gospel. 

Here's the kicker. Jesus came to offer the gift of salvation to all of us, whether we've been following from the beginning or whether we are walking in at the 2 minute warning or sneaking onto the field at the final buzzer. So that person who just doesn't get it? If they're still drawing breath, they've got time, and we'd better be in the business of helping them instead of pointing fingers.

Sure, it doesn't seem fair some days. We struggle to stay faithful for all our days and someone had a deathbed epiphany of repentance and they're offered the exact same mercy and grace as the rest of us. 

That's just what we hear in Isaiah. We aren't supposed to get it. His ways are not our ways. Instead of trying to understand His boundless and timeless mercy while our eyes are still veiled in a fallen world, we do better to trust that He treats us all with equal mercy, even when we stumble in our foolishness. Instead of comparing our piety and worth with those around us, we do better to simply get to work in the business of the Kingdom so when He comes to pay us, we are there, and not at the water cooler rolling our eyes. (Do they even have water coolers anymore?) 

So let's get to work this week, and remember, if we are a bit sluggish or late to the game, Jesus is still there waiting with the fullness of His mercy, His love, and His grace.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

What Dreams May Come

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. It was a pretty famous dream. Most of our dreams don't achieve that kind of notoriety. Sadly, many of us can't even articulate our dreams anymore.

When we were little, dreams were big. Sure, it was dreaming of getting the latest Barbie (or Hot Wheels), dreaming of summer, dreaming of junior high, then high school, dreaming of our first love, our first kiss, our dream jobs, planning our weddings after watching Maria walk down the aisle and wed the Captain, wondering whether we would live in a mansion, apartment, shack, or house. We dreamed. We dreamed with abandon. Then we grew up.

Dreams turned into goals, planners, to-do lists, and keeping up with life. Soon we were no longer dreaming about what may be, but frantically trying to achieve those goals we set and reach the expectations set upon us. Somewhere, dreaming took a back seat and achieving took over. Love may have come and gone, or have yet to come and worn us down to believing we could live without it. Wedding planning turned to career planning. We began to embrace the practical, the achievable, the here and now that would lead to the next thing tomorrow. Life handed us some hard knocks and we forgot how to look it in the face with childlike awe and limitless wonder.

Weariness threatened to take over, but then we heard that still, quiet voice in our heads - "there is more," it said. "There is the life you dreamed of when you were guided by your heart and the desires planted there."

Something happens when we take on adulthood according to the world's terms. We lose that element of faith that as children was wholly unspoiled for many of us. We lose that belief that anything is possible, that we can save the world, we can reach the stars, we can be an astronaut or rock star or prima ballerina or doctor or medical researcher who finds the cure for cancer or any number of those childhood dreams. We get consumed by the to-dos and forget to beWe forget we are Spirit powered and get tied up by our own chains and failings. 

We see cancer. We see war. We see failure. We see greed and poverty. We see hunger and homelessness. We see cheating, stealing, and deceit to get ahead. We see the hurt of tainted love and abuse. We see brokenness...a world full of brokenness, and more glaringly, our very own kind of broken life.

God reminds us to break free of those chains. He reminds us that with Him, all things are possible. He promises us that He has great BIG plans for us. We forget, as we are wont to do, but He remembers, and His Spirit whispers to us - "there is more."

Never is this truer than after marriage and having my own children. I watch my family dream. I dream for them. I want the world to be limitless and full of every good possibility for them. If I have forgotten how to dream, they remind me. My own dreams blossom and take on new life. My dreams become their dreams - I see the world through my children's innocent and joyful eyes. As I dream for them, I learn what it is to dream again for myself. I begin to listen to that still, small voice that tells me "I am still here, and I have more. Do not be afraid."

So I begin to try new things, to follow my heart and take a few risks. I may do it with teeth clenched and eyes closed, still fearful of falling flat on my arse, because...well...we've all been there, right? The important thing, though, is that I try and I follow that voice that leads me. I find that desire that God has planted in my heart. I notice what gives me life and do it more often.

You know what? It is scary, but it is exhilarating. Truly, the best part of taking off those chains and learning to fly again is watching my biggest fans follow suit. They dream big when I dream big.

As I sit atop my mountaintop year and look ahead to 40, my dreams have certainly changed over the years. In so many ways, I am living my dream. I have found my forever love, walked down that aisle like Maria, started a family and am building a home with them. I haven't become a prominent doctor or found the cure for cancer or AIDS (mostly because chemistry broke my heart and my GPA). I'm not famous, and thankfully not infamous either. It took me a long time to discover that the secret wasn't so much doing big things, but dreaming with wide horizons.

I've got big dreams for 40 and onward. I'd love to have my own studio. I'd love to be home with my children more. I'd love to have this house truly turned into a welcoming place where we can open our home to those who need us more. More importantly, I want to be a wife, mother, and friend who helps others discover their dreams.

The beauty of dreaming with our eyes open is that we don't do it alone. We can lift one another up, push one another on. So here, from on top of my mountain, I say to you, dream big, hope big, love big, live big. Take that class. Right that wrong. Encourage that friend, child, spouse, parent. Throw caution to the wind and trust that you might just fly. Tap into that Spirit power and in the words of Mother Superior,
Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
'Till you find your dream.

NOTE: If you are looking to set out on a new path and aren't sure how to make it work, there are so many avenues like that provide small business loans, and help people achieve their dreams and goals. Dream big, my friends, and know you're not going the road alone!

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Friday, September 12, 2014

SQT: On Children, Mary's Mantle, Beauty Experiments, & Not Alone

I started this post a little after 8. Here's how the hour before that went:

2 time outs
Several "I need juice"s
A smattering of "I need milk!"
Multitudes of "I do it myself!"s
A handful of sad "I don't WANT to sit down"s from the sicky boy.

Welcome to a Friday morning at Casa McCormick!

In other news, our Li'l G is a schoolgirl AND she has a bestie already. After running into her bestie's parents at school yesterday, it seems the feeling is mutual. As the Hubs said, this could be a lifelong friendship in the making. How sweet is that to watch! Their topic of conversation yesterday? Toilet tales. Let's hope that's a phase, or the teenage years are shaping up to be highly awkward.

For those of you stopping by who don't know, my paid gig is a part-time stint as house manager at Mary's Mantle, a Catholic residential program for homeless, expectant mothers (read: maternity home). The women who come through our doors have stories that I cannot imagine living. Some are recovering addicts, some are recovering from the scars of past abortion, some have been prostitutes, some have been in pornography, some have been victims of domestic violence, many have extremely damaged relationships with their families, and all have been broken by abuse, whether emotional or physical. One thing I love about this ministry is that the majority of our budget is funded by small, individual donations. We take no money from the government and our grants are limited as we are committed to fidelity to church teachings. From $5 to $5000, individual donors are the lifeblood of keeping us afloat.

Every September, donors are invited to participate in our 30,000 in 30 Days campaign, which challenges us to find 1,000 people to donate just $30. I ask you to prayerfully consider making a small donation - the link can be found on the website, or a check can be mailed to Mary's Mantle (please note 30,000 in 30 Days in the memo) at PO Box 115; Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303. Even more importantly, I ask that you consider keeping our ministry and the women who come to us (and those who we cannot take) in your prayers. Thank you in advance!

With the crisper, cooler weather that has hit in the last day here in these parts, it is clear that autumn is on its way. It seems every purveyor of tasty treats has also predicted an early arrival of fall with the influx of pumpkin spice everything hitting the stores. This girl is not a fan. The hubs is, though. No one is perfect. *wink*

As autumn approaches, I'm also working on a few new pieces for the shop. If you follow the shop on Instagram, or the blog on Facebook, I am doing monthly giveaways of some rough sketches as well. I still have to figure out just how to promote everything, but baby steps, right?

With us in the thick of ToddlerTown, we are also in the thick of the older one goading the younger one into saying words that will get him in trouble. The word of choice right now is "stupid." The more he says it and gets reprimanded, the more the other one laughs. As we approach the risk of her permanently being banished to her bedroom, any thoughts on how to curb that little minx?

As I argued with my mom about what to get me for my birthday, which incidentally I hate precisely because of such arguments, I arrived at an option that was acceptable to us both. A salon day for haircuts for us together, and I decided to take the plunge for the first time and get highlights. It was a bit of a harrowing experience, mostly because the owner of the salon decided I would actually like lighter and brighter highlights than I said I did. "Subtle" did not have the same meaning for the two of us. I tried to politely say they were lighter and orange, when I had asked for darker and reddish, when what I really wanted to say was "WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO TO MY HAIR - THIS LOOKS RIDICULOUS!" I refrained. We did finally arrive at an agreement that they would just do what I first had asked for and voila!

I'm not sure I'm in love, though. I think it may be a one-time deal. Turns out I kind of like my original, plain-old-boring color. Plus, I might be having PTSD and flashbacks to some rather questionable color-out-of-a-box experiences harkening back to my collegiate days. Let's just say a friend called me Barney for a while after a "rosewood" mishap.

Apparently, last Saturday was a gettin-your-hairs-did kind of day, as I discovered Heather and Jen's post-do photos on the old Insta. Speaking of Jen, if you don't follow her blog, you should head over there! I'm so proud (that sounds weird, doesn't it?) of the work she and Morgan have been doing with their Not Alone Series for single women.

I remember how hard that struggle was when I had discerned my vocation and was waiting for it to find its fulfillment in marriage. I'm so thankful that she and Morgan have found a way to encourage women in the single life, not as an until, but as an important part of their journey to, the altar. They are on CatholicTV today being interviewed about their work. Hooray for them!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

PS - If anyone local is looking for some newish, free toys this weekend, and you're not afraid to dumpster dive, there may be a purge going on at the Casa if mama hears "THAT TOY IS MINE, NOT YOURS!!!!" one more time. Time will only tell if I am serious.

PPS - This conversation just happened:

G: I'm never going to leave you!
Me: Really?
G: Mama, when I get BIGGER. I will live on my very own!!
Me: You will? You will leave me?!?
G: Don't worry. When I get bigger and live on my own, I will get you a NEW....BABYSITTER! I will get you a babysitter.

I'm so glad my daughter already has my old-age plans made. She's still only three...thoughtful girl. :)

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Happy Birthday, Leo!

“He soon felt that the fulfillment of his desires gave him only one grain of
the mountain of happiness he had expected. This fulfillment showed him the 
eternal error men make in imagining that their happiness 
depends on the realization of their desires.” 
― Leo TolstoyAnna Karenina

I remember the first time I opened the pages of this book. I had done my fair share of reading in high school, and was more than annoyed that I couldn't test out of Rhetoric and Composition as freshman requirements. Really quite annoyed. I wish at the time I would have been able to sink into the gift that I had in a teaching assistant, who, unlike me, recognized in me a gift and appreciation for writing and literature. She gave me this book as a recommendation, not a requirement of her class, and I pored over the pages fascinated by every word. I fell in love with Leo Tolstoy. His ability to make the written word come alive, to choreograph a story to dance in your soul, was unlike anything I had read.

Sadly, it has been many, many moons since I have picked up one of his novels. While he is a master of the written word, one thing he is not is concise. Let's face it, it is daunting to think of reading anything more than a thumb's width in length with two whirling dirvishes running amuck under our roof!

When I opened up Google today, though, up popped a doodle honoring his birthday, and I felt like I had happened upon an old friend. If you have never read his work, I would highly recommend giving it a try, even if it is a month (or two or three) long adventure. That is precisely what I have found - reading Tolstoy is an adventurous ride through life, exploring timeless struggles of the human spirit - longing, love, loss, purpose, worth, meaning.

I raise a glass to you Mr. Tolstoy. Maybe I will even dare to dust off a few of your stories and venture into another world for awhile. Maybe.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Birthdays, Dreams, Giveaways, First Days, and Raising the White Flag ofDefeat

Taking a quick hot second to stop in and let inquiring minds know what's been going on in these here parts...

--- 1 ---

Yeah, the Googs knows it's my birthday and sent me a doodle. 

I'm calling this my mountaintop year. If 40 is over the hill, then presumably, at 39 I'm at the peak, right? Does that mean I'll be on top of things this year? No? Drat.

So far, this was my favorite birthday message from a friend via Facebook. The Big Apple is too far, dear friend. More fun, perhaps, but too far.

I've been meaning to do a "40 Before 40" post, dreaming about all the things I'd like to do before I turn the big 4-0 next year, but as I considered some of the fun things, I realized I should have started a few years ago. So instead, my 40 Before 40 will include many of the things I have already been privileged to do, as well as some things I look forward to accomplishing and mastering by this time next year.

I've been trying to be bolder with God about dreaming big dreams, so I am waiting with a bit of trepidation to see where that leads, and it seems it is leading me somewhere new, and not where I first thought I wanted to go. Lots of butterflies, lots of doubt...but definitely an endeavor that energizes and excites me even through that other voice that tells me I ain't no good. {Psst. It's art. In the back of my head, I hear the voice of an old art teacher who is frustrated with me because I can't quite get the hang of the style he is teaching. You know that was when I stopped? I never really drew or painted again - just figured I was no good at it. Sure, I'm no Monet. But I am finding that creating makes me feel more alive than much has in a long time. The Hubs will testify that I get lost in it - time stands still (for me, not for him wrangling two toddlers). I know I have a lot to learn, but I feel like I've had some opportunities pop up and connections be made recently that all confirm this is something I should be doing. Will it lead to anything big? Maybe not, but who says it has to be big to be worth it?

Speaking of art, I'm doing monthly giveaways at the shop. This month's giveaway is a quote from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta whose feast day just happens to be my birthday. Mere coincidence?

Just comment here, on Facebook, or on Instagram and name/tag someone who makes you smile to enter! A winner will be drawn at random on Sunday at noon.

All right. Enough about all that jazz. THIS was far more monumental than anything else. Anything.

And now I'm going to go crawl into a hole and disappear for a bit. Maybe not, but I wouldn't mind. With all the depravity and evil running rampant on the nightly news, it's enough to start making me a little crazy. Hey, I know - God wins. Christ has the victory at the end. We're not there yet, though, and there sure are a lot of really evil people wreaking havoc on the world, and a whole lot of heads buried in the sand for the purpose of political correctness. Between ISIS/ISIL, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, random violence, and friends/family suffering, I'm pretty much on overload. I don't want to see another beheading. I cannot read one more story about a child dying. I am having nightmares. Seriously. I really just can't take any more, so I visualize myself wrapping all these things in a beautiful little box, handing it to Jesus, and saying, "You win! It's all yours!"

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Simple Sunday Snapshot: August 17 {For the Dogs}

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,

“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! 
My daughter is tormented by a demon.” 
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. 
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” 
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.” 
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.” 
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith! 
Let it be done for you as you wish.” 
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.
Matthew 15:21-28

Two things came to mind as I was praying on this Gospel passage at Mass today. Part of the homily broke open the intention behind Jesus's harsh words to the Canaanite woman. While it seems that he is being rude, it may instead be that he was doing so intentionally, so as to hold a mirror up to the faces of the Jews as a reflection of their own ugliness toward the Gentiles. That got me wondering, who are our dogs? Who are those we feel are not worthy of the banquet table of Christ, and might we be holding back even the scraps from their souls? 

The other thought that came to mind was whether I was willing to risk rebuke, ridicule, and scorn to seek out Jesus for the dogs...not for myself, but for those who are dying (body, mind, or spirit) and cannot seek the Lord themselves. What do I do to intervene, and do I take action even when it may not be easy?

If the Lord encountered me on the road today, would he walk on by as I was busy with my life, or would I be bold enough to stop Him that He might say of me, "O, woman, great is your faith!"  Praying the week ahead provides us ample opportunity and boldness to seek after the Lord for those on the margins. 

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Friday, August 15, 2014

SQT: On Floods, Suffering, Surrender, Insanity, 6 Degrees of RobinWilliams and Songful Dreams

Did you hear we had a flood in Detroit? It's about all we can think about since we are still in the midst of cleaning out.

The clean-out has been exhausting, but it wasn't until we took the old infant carrier to the curb that I actually cried. Yes, I know we could never use it again anyway as it's likely about 8 years old since we were gifted it from a friend. It doesn't really matter. It was what carried my babies home from the hospital. Visions of my now-almost-in-school Gia at a few days old, dwarfed by the then-giant seat, memories of the drive home {especially hitting bumps and wincing in pain}, the first moment we brought her in the door and the panicked "what do we do now?" that fleeted through our minds. All of that came rushing back. And I might have cried a little. And that is okay. Goodbye little seat. Time really does fly.

One side effect of disaster, at least in our neck of the woods, has been that more people are out and about in the neighborhood. Sure, they're hauling their sewage drenched basements to the curb, or still pumping out water, but they're out there. And people are talking. And helping. It has cemented something I suspected all along. Suffering unites us in our humanity, and more deeply it unites with Christ who is the source of our truest humanity. In our suffering, God surprises us with His grace and glory, making good out of everything, even s%!# filled basements.

The surprise I came home to dropped off by a friend to help
sweeten the blow of the basement stank. Now she found
out they have a ton of mold in their basement. Prayers for them please!

I've also been thinking about what a difference a day can make... Sunday we were enjoying a tasty brunch and hanging out the kiddie pool, and Monday we had more water than we ever wanted in our basement.

Ok, enough about the water woes. Today we had a staff in-service and I was asked to find a prayer on surrender. There was a prayer of surrender to the Holy Spirit I was thinking of, but when I asked my pal Google to locate it, old Googs one-upped me and found me this prayer instead, which now is at the top of my list of favorite prayers. Given that today is the Feast of the Assumption, it seems fitting to share a prayer about total surrender of self, that we might offer our whole yes to the will of God as Mary did.

Dear Lord Jesus, it is my will to surrender to you everything that I am and everything that I am striving to be. I open the deepest recesses of my heart to you and invite your Holy Spirit to dwell inside of me. You are the salvation of my soul; I hold nothing back from you.

I offer you my mind, heart, body, soul, spirit, emotions, all my hopes, plans, and dreams. I surrender to you my past, present, and future problems, habits, character defects, attitudes, livelihood, resources, finances, occupation, skills, vocation, and business endeavors. I surrender everything unto your compassionate care. I give you my home, marriage, sexuality, relationships, friendships, and children. I surrender all my weaknesses, strengths, fears, and insecurities to you. In sickness and in health, in the good times and bad, I belong to you. Please transform my life into whatever most pleases you. Transform me into the child of God that you have intended me to be.
In your most holy name we pray. Amen. 

School starts soon for our first born. I got a letter from her pre-school about a new-family orientation. It begins. It was such a welcoming letter, and part of their welcome to new families is to pair them with an established school family for the year to ease the transition. What a lovely idea and great way to build community. I might have come close to shedding a tear. It's been an emotional week.

Once I got my head above water from all the muck in the basement (hahahah, head above water...get it?), I was pulled right back under with all the chaos on my newsfeed. What the what is going on with the world? I don't honestly even have words for what is going on in Ferguson, MO, or in response to the Walmart shooting. I really don't right now, but thanks to a friend I did read a post by someone who I feel nailed every issue right smack on the head.

Of course, then every two seconds we hear about Robin Williams' suicide. How very truly tragic. What saddens me the most is how surprised everyone seems to be that someone who was a comic by trade and brought such joy could be so very distraught himself. It saddens me that we have become so focused on the surface that we forget how deeply the waters of our spirit run within, sometimes in quiet turmoil. I won't even get into my disappointment with the judgement running rampant on every angle of his death. A man has died - this is not a story, this is not a cause, this is a man who brought joy to those around him but deeply suffered. A man. With a family. With friends. With a kind heart. Yeah, those stories are making me cry. While I never knew him myself, I will throw one more log on the fire that was the generous spirit of the man.

My Godbrother was an actor (sometimes struggling) in Cali in the late 80s/early 90s. He happened to get a role as an extra on the set of Hook back in the day. We tend to think of extras as just faces in the crowd, blending in, going unseen. Somehow, Stevie met Robin, and made enough of an impression that Mr. Williams remembered him a few years later when he passed from AIDS related complications. I don't remember all the details, whether he attended the funeral or just sent a long note to the family, but I remember my Godmother was so very touched that he had remembered her son. He spoke of Steve's spirit, his soul, his kindness, his beauty as a fellow human being that he'd had the privilege of coming across. Stevie was an extra, and Mr. Robin Williams, a lead actor, knew enough of him to know he had passed and know how to contact his family. He took the time to offer his condolences. This was the spirit of the man who was tormented by his own demons. I hope, as his spirit and legacy is remembered, that the generosity of his spirit will set an example for others who achieve the same success. For Mr. Williams, it seems that people were just people...and by that I don't mean "just" in a diminutive sense. Rather, it seems that his legacy is one that shows us how it looks when a man, regardless of his stature, views all people with the dignity they deserve. That loss is a great one in our world today. May God grant him mercy and eternal rest, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

EXTRA (because why end on sorrowful note when you can end with joy?):
I have this great dream. It will likely NEVER come to fruition, and may be not the most reverent of dreams. Yet...I have this dream. One day, I will be at a Mass honoring Mary, and THIS will the version of Salve Regina that is sung. If we are honest, it's the version that's in my head no matter which rendition is sung, however slowly. You know what this is. You do. Now sing to the rafters, clap those hands, and hit it, girls!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Great Flood {Part Deux} - Lessons in Gratitude

In the last installment, I regaled you with my incessant whining about how we had a great rush of water engulf our basement like in the days of the Great Flood. Now that I have gotten that required boo-hooing out of my system, on to the surprises the whole ordeal has held for us me so far.

Gratitude. Lots and lots of gratitude. Sure, the whole situation stinks (again, literally). Given a choice, we would much rather NOT have a flood in our basement, especially one involving sewer water. If we said we enjoyed this, I would give you full license to have us thoroughly examined by the nearest mental health practitioner, which in this case is my brother in law. Ethical, schmethical.

However, while we were struggling through the emotions and the necessary detachment both for our sanity and spiritual growth, God provided so many moments where my heart was filled with gratitude - for His providence, for His timing, and for those He has placed in our lives. {Let me be perfectly clear about one thing before I dig in. This is how I see the hand of God in the events as they unfolded for me and for our family. Just because events did not unfold in such a way, or led to more trouble, for others, does not in anyway mean that the hand of God abandoned them or gave them less. Not. At. All. God worked in so many ways and through so many people as we hear the stories come pouring out. This is just my story, capish? Phew. Glad I got that out there.}

Let's talk about providence first. Both the Hubs and I (and numerous others) have commented on how providential it was that we cleaned out a large part of our basement earlier this summer. Had we not, I'm not sure we would have been able to recover anything on the unfinished side of the basement - it would all have been enjoying a good soak. We were able to salvage many of the bins and some baby gear. If only we had finished the job. C'est la vie.

His timing. The flooding came Monday evening, not too long after I got home from work. On the way home, I heard news of flooding on some of the local highways, but nothing major had hit yet. It wasn't until I tried to go out for supplies and reinforcements after we saw the mess in the basement that I realized how badly the roads were flooded, even in our 'hood. I was gone for a half hour and got absolutely nowhere fast. After seeing people getting stranded in the middle of a busy road, I turned my swagger wagon around and high tailed it back home. I'm so glad I did after seeing the aftermath. Y'all, it was like a zombie apocalypse had hit the streets and people were dragged from their now haphazardly abandoned cars. Cah-razy!

People, oh my, the people. I'm not even sure I can put into words just how grateful I am for all the people who God has placed in our lives in such a wide variety of ways.

First, there is my mother in law who immediately agreed to have the kids come stay with her for an indefinite length of time while we clean up (but oh, how I miss them even with their crazy ways!). I can't stress how indefinite this is, and how much energy our children have. Such a great blessing that we not once had to worry where they would go.

Next, there is my mom who has offered to help with costs if/when we know what we need, even though she's got her own expenses ahead of her. While we may not take her up on that offer, it is a solace to know that we have some options if we want to explore different avenues to restore and refurnish.

Then there were the kids themselves, who somehow knew something was up (maybe because mommy told them to chill their grills while we worked) and miraculously slept through all the din of Operation Rescue Books and Monsters.

There are the friends who offered their home and their laundry if we needed somewhere to go.

There are the numerous friends who have offered their prayers, diversion, mental/spiritual support and sympathies.

Then there was Dwija. Dear, sweet Dwija, who is "far, but not too far" from us and offered to let us escape to her slice of heaven. Don't get me started on the beauty of the interwebs. Don't you tell me it is a waste of time! No interwebs, me no meet Dwija, who astounds me with her kindness and grace and joy every single day...even the worst one.

When we found out from the restoration contractors that we would have to haul all the trash out of the basement ourselves because they just didn't have the manpower for it now (and let me tell you that saves us some cha-ching!), I sent an SOS to a friend who came and worked with us for several hours no questions asked. Without his help we'd still be sludging in the basement instead of clean and tucked nicely in bed. We've got pals including the bro-in-law lined up to help tomorrow afternoon too. Dear sweet friends who don't mind the muck... THANK YOU!

Last, but definitely not least, there is the Hubs. He often works through exhaustion, but nothing like Monday night, where exhaustion was mixed with the emotion of loss and helplessness.  He continues to work tirelessly as we chip away at the clean-out. We may have wanted to crumble at times, but never at the same time. In so many ways this has brought us closer together. His loss is my loss, and my heart breaks that we didn't finish the basement cleaning so we could have brought more of his books to safety. {I have to mention that as I was cleaning out the bottom shelf of all the shelves, I inadvertently stumbled upon one that was completely dry. It's a book on the Eucharist. Completely dry people. Not one drop of water. No, it was not in plastic - simply sandwiched between other books. And paperback. Bone dry, pages perfectly swishing as I flipped through it. Tell me the Eucharist ain't something miraculous, even in print. I need to take a better photo of it and where it was on the shelf so you understand just how impossible this is. Sorry for the digression. Back to the regularly scheduled programming now...} 

In all the turmoil and uncertainty, I never in a million years thought that the one emotion that would overwhelm my heart was one of gratitude - deep, abiding gratitude and trust in God's provision. I don't particularly care for His way of helping us finish our cleaning out of the basement, but I know He will make good out of it, hopefully sooner rather than later. I have grand visions of a pretty basement - I'm pretty sure I'm wearing a different pair of glasses than God right there... Hey - we've all got work to do, right?

Stay tuned for future editions as we have updates of our recovery from Floodgate Detroit 2014.

May you and yours have a restful night!

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The Great Flood - Part One

In case you hadn't been following on social media, we are in the mix of those who were affected by the torrential downpours in metro-Detroit on Monday afternoon. Our basement had close to two feet of water from a sewage backup, and the roads around us are still closed from damage due to flooding. We live just a few blocks north of the I-75 / 696 interchange in the metro area, and while they have done some amazing work toward getting that cleaned up, it was and still is a bit of a disaster.

Looking south on the intersection of I-75 & 696 on Tuesday morning.

An embankment that gave way at that interchange, taking with it a pump,
which was part of the problem. They are reporting that part of the issue
now being discovered is that the copper from these pump stations was
stripped by thieves at some time in the past, contributing to major flooding.

In the grand scheme of things, it may not be much that we flooded. Others had far more water and lost far more things. One neighbor said they had at least $50,000 worth of damage to their basement. At the end of the day when the numbers come in, I have no idea what the financial estimates will be. I know the husband lost a whole library section of books that were stored down there, though we instigated a mass exodus of what we could get to as water was filling in on Monday night.

There is some damage to the little studio I had just set up, but thankfully I was lazy in taking down some finished products and new supplies. In the grand scheme of things it is small - but it is OUR small. Our mementos of life that are washed away and damaged, though we decided not to even look through some boxes so we would not actually know what in totality was lost. Now comes the task of trashing. Trashing what could have been given to others, like an old bed and old clothes now laying in ruins and stinking it up. Trashing old memories that, for the sake of our mental well-being, are better left un-recovered.

That lovely sheen on the floor? Not a new paint job - that be a foot of
backup from the city sewer line. Awe. Some. And yes, that is my new studio.

A memory box of cards from our wedding was in a desk downstairs,
which we luckily DID discover. I managed to sift through them and
rescue a good handful, especially those with sweet handwritten notes.
More on those emotions in a future installment.

While we are upset with the loss of many of our things, and let's face it, for the Hubs his books are like his babies, we also know they can mostly be replaced, apart from some of the mementos. What was the worst feeling was watching it all happen and realizing we could do nothing to stop or impede the coming of the water, the ruining of the things. It was such a mix of emotions. I kept going back and forth to realizing that they are only things, to crying because we had worked so hard to clean so much of it up and begin to use the space we are blessed with having. And now - what a mess! I wavered between realizing that we didn't have the worst of it and wanting to scream when that wave of adrenaline-fueled stress would rush through. Yes, I had made it home safely and seemingly just in time before the waters rushed over the expressway. So many were stranded or on the road for multiple hours. And yet there was sewage bubbling into our basement with no relief in sight. If only the water would stop and give that poor sump pump a break.

Monday night, by the time our heads hit the pillows, we were in a mixed state of exhaustion and utter alertness, lest more water start gushing in and requiring a more concerted rescue effort of things. Our home looked looks like a flea market, with piles of goodies strewn about. No fleas yet. Also no market - don't come with your quarters.

I sat in bed as my mind raced between comparing notes with everyone else via social media and thinking about all those who had experienced loss from natural disasters. If this little bit of flooding created such a battle in our own souls, how must those who experienced losing everything, even loved ones, in flooding or tornadoes - how must they have felt! How much loss and heartbreak and struggle. The magnitude here is not catastrophic, but loss is loss. Pruning is painful. We realized our attachments, though not un-noble in nature. The books the Hubs lost are all theology and Scripture related.

Yet...they are things. We had a lot of things we lost. It is not a small thing to realize that part of that is maybe because we have too many things. Things others could use. (No, Hubs, I'm not speaking of your books. You may keep breathing.) If this is the worst loss we go through in our lives, then we can truly consider ourselves lucky.

Now we begin the task of cleaning up and trimming down. There are still lessons to be learned and frustrations to be managed. In the end, this whole ordeal definitely stinks - quite literally - but we have a lot to be thankful for most certainly. More on that in the second installment.

You know your jealous of my newly found style. J to the Lous.

The start of the great dump. We've already had pickers come through,
some from our own block. You've gotta be kiddin' me... Well, hey,
if you want sewage infested goods, go right ahead, knock yourself out.

For now, it's time to get back to business.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

SQT: Bizarro World, ToddlerStrong, Bathroom Talk, Breakfast, & the Quest for Simplicity

I'm going to start with what is making me speechless. These headlines:

Report from Iraq: families throwing children from a mountain to keep them from terrorists.
ISIS Beheading Children in Iraq
I can't. I just can't read it anymore. So I hear we are taking action finally. I wish I were more optimistic about the outcome of that. For now I just join in prayer for our truly persecuted brothers and sisters. It looks like the US Bishops have chosen August 17th as our national day of prayers for Iraqi (and Syrian) Christians under attack. Let us continue to pray every day and join together as one body in Christ with all our Christian brothers and sisters to pray the devil back to hell. We know God's promises are lasting, so let's grab on and go forth with bold expectations of what He will do for us if we ask in faith.

We had family photos taken on Wednesday. Did I mention that our children do NOT like to simultaneously look at the camera and smile on command? Poor Katie. I do believe that we witnessed a miracle as she got more than one photo with everyone looking at the camera. Now to sit down with the Hubs and decide which of those two maybe three photos will the winner!

When we pulled into the church where we had our photos taken, there were the most beautiful sunflowers. I'm a sucker for sunflowers. Unfortunately, the lighting and the toddlers did not cooperate for a family photo with them.

I"m not really sure what led to a meltdown of epic proportions Wednesday night (I blame ridiculous bedtime antics by all little creatures). Let's just say there was a baaaad episode. The kind where one half of my mind is diving into the darkest, deepest waters and the other half is smacking that half around saying "get it together - you know better!" There were moments where I was simply just upset with myself for not having moved past all this and wondering whether there would ever be a time where I would just keep it together. Through the sobs, I started reading my devotional which pretty much hit right where it hurt, but in a good way. I couldn't tell you now what it was that I prayed - I'm not sure there was any conscious and calculated prayer at all. I just know that while I was still a bit on the funky cold medina side the next morning, I also kept coming across things that served to remind me that there is struggle on this wild ride we are on, but that God remains with us. As I was driving in to work, what popped into my head was that it was not such a bad thing that I am a mess. It's better that I get frustrated with myself than simply coast through live without a care. It is actually good that I am restless, even if I'm not all that young.

We are in full toddler swing around here. Heaping helpings of "no!" and "I do it MYSELF!" and screaming followed by flopping on the floor. I wish I could tell you which child it was, but I am afraid it is both of them. We have started simply giving them five minutes in isolation, but I don't know how well it is working. The house is such, that these end up being in their bedrooms many times, and I know I don't want them to associate their bedrooms with punishment. Any thoughts out there? Tried and true solutions that have worked? As long as I'm in the asking mood, how about battling potty training? We are mostly there with the three year old, but she will NOT, I repeat NOT, sit on the toilet and stink it up, if you know what I mean. Our bathroom is really too small for her to have her own potty seat, and she has gone on more than one occasion before. She just will not do it now. Ever. Without all antics mentioned above. Oh, and school starts in three weeks. To quote the Beatles, "HELP!"

While many of you are in a panic with the start of another homeschooling year, we are biting our nails as we approach creating a new routine when Gia starts pre-school. Hubs is back to work on Monday, and she starts after Labor Day. I'm exciting and nervous at the same time. We are not early risers around here, and school starts at 8:15. Also, this makes me feel like I need to ante up as a mom. So far it's been small potatoes. Now begins that phase of classroom treats, teacher conferences, possibly school friends and parties...much bigger stakes! I can't wait to see how she blossoms as she enters the classroom. We are raising a nerd, fo' sho'!

Looking ahead to earlier mornings and possibly better habits, I have one word: breakfast. I have a hate/hate relationship with breakfast. I'm more a fan of second breakfast. (Can you have a second breakfast if you didn't really partake of the first?) So...I need your help again. What are some easy peasy lemon squeezy (but not real lemons) savory, healthy breakfasts? It is a rare morning where I can wolf down the sweet stuff. I've been thinking about getting some quinoa and keeping that in the fridge like a savory oatmeal-ish dish. Maybe mixing in some eggs and spinach. But variety. I needeth variety. And simplicity. Mama is not at her best in the wee hours of the morn (which is defined as anything before 9 a.m.). Grazie!!

Last, but not least...well kind of least...I have finally dug into Jen Hatmaker's book, 7. I had started it months ago, but was clearly not ready. Now, I am ready. Well, more ready. Have any of your read her book? Have you followed suit with her exercises in curbing excess? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences! In the interest of full disclosure, I'm still in the middle of the first chapter on food and only a few days into reading. I'm intrigued though. Much praying and discerning, but I am ready to start climbing out of my excess. I haven't broached this with the Hubs yet to extend it to the whole family. Oh, husbaaaand.......!

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