The Last Time

When my kids were born, I was diligent (well mostly diligent, for the first three anyway) to fill out their baby books with all their firsts. Their first solid food, first word, first haircut, first step, and so on.  But no one seems to care about the last times. There are no spots in the baby books for that. It’s hard to know when the last time comes, because you always assume there will be a next time. Until it’s been years and you realize there was never a next time.

When I was a kid, I remember watching game shows with my grandparents, making forts with furniture and blankets, climbing trees, playing hide and seek, swinging on the swing set in my back yard and at Karen’s, playing our tether ball (the only thing I was ever good at that involved a ball), digging in the dirt with my mom’s fancy engraved silver spoons, playing Atari (and then later Nintendo). I walked to the neighborhood pool where I would play pretend underwater tea parties, then eat cheese curls and lick clean my water-soaked and wrinkly fingers. I rode my banana-seat bike (The Praire Flower), played in the nearby creek, and caught fireflies (and took their lights out to decorate my arms, yuck). When I got older, around 13, I would sneak out of the house, out my bedroom window onto the porch roof, climb down a tree we aptly named the “bag-worm tree”, go pool hopping, egg houses, and hide from cops. Some “lasts” are a good thing.

But it all stopped one day. Not all in the same day, but over time, one-by-one, it ended. And I didn’t know to relish it then. Instead, I went on to the next thing, oblivious to the chapters of my young ending.

I think about my own kids’ “lasts”. The last time I pushed my youngest in the stroller. I have no idea when that was. I didn’t know that moment was the last time she’d need that, the last time I’d get to do that. The last time my oldest reached up to hold my hand. The last time Joseph needed his stuffed animal to go to sleep. The last time I tied their bib or filled their sippy cup. The last time I gave them each a bath. The last time I played tooth fairy. And the last time I didn’t play tooth fairy because I forgot. I didn’t know I wouldn’t get the chance to remember next time.

But time marches on. Children grow, and adults grow older. Change is the only thing that stays the same.

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Robot for God

Being an anxious person by nature, I have a hard time making easy decisions sometimes. I just want someone to choose for me, so I don’t have to decide. I wonder if that’s a way for me to avoid feeling responsible if the choice doesn’t turn out to be the “best”. I’m not sure, because to me there are so many “best” choices that it seems unfair and confusing to choose one “best” over another, and who knows how life would have been different had the other “best” been chosen instead.

Sometimes when I can’t pray, I mutter in my head, “Lord, Lord” or “My Lord, my God” over and over. But that makes me feel unsettled every time because I think of Matthew Chapter 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Then I think, “But I can’t do any better; that’s all I’ve got in my head.” But then again, maybe I’m just being lazy and I could do more.  But it really does seem difficult to muster up anything substantial or sincere.  So while the verse says not everyone will enter the kingdom of heaven, maybe God would make an exception for me because I’m naturally deficient and not doing it out of spite or a lack of faith or love.  But I don’t know, because it seems pretty clear that “…only the one who does the will of my Father”… But how do I know the Father’s will? He knows I’m not good with subtlety.

I’m anxious about discerning God’s will.  I mean, how hard is that for someone like me who is a big-time second guesser? It’s a neurotic’s jack pot contemplating all the things God wills for me in every aspect of my existence 24/7. So I got this great idea in my head that I would fervently pray for God’s will for me to become my own will.  I prayed and sincerely told God that He has my permission to transform my will into whatever His will is for me, to fill my will with His, to overshadow my will with His.  How perfect would that be, if only God would grant me this — My will and God’s, the same! No more agonizing decisions, no more anxiety, no more regrets, because if my natural will is God’s will for me, then I can’t go wrong. It really seemed like the solution, that God fill my heart and mind with His will.

In the book, Searching for an Maintaining Peace, the author Fr. Jacques Philippe says “… this desire to know what God wants sometimes hides a difficulty in enduring a situation of incertitude.  We want to be released from having to decide by ourselves.” He goes on to say that “…frequently, the will of the Lord is that we do decide for ourselves, even if we are not absolutely sure that this decision would be best.”

God’s will is for me to decide?!

God didn’t create us to be robots. God cares about our intentions. He knows our limitations and weaknesses. He is pleased to see us want to please Him, and He is certainly able to draw good from any error.  I agree with Fr. Philippe when he says, “…we would love to be infallible, to never be wrong, but there is a lot of pride in this desire and there is also the fear of being judged by others. The Lord loves him… who abandons himself with confidence to God as to the consequences, rather than the one who torments his spirit unceasingly in an effort to know what God expect of him and who never decides.”

 

 

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Child of God

You know those annoying parties women get invited to, to buy junk they don’t want or need, under the guise of a “much needed girls’ night out”? They are often presented as, “Of course you don’t have to buy anything, just come for some girl time, have some food and drink, and relax”. Then, you will definitely end up buying some nail stickers, tote bags, candles, food containers, jewelry and/or any other miscellaneous items that you would’ve already purchased at Target had you actually needed in the first place.

In the name of being a supportive friend, I showed up mostly on time for the silly party, my checkbook ready. I made myself at home. I started rifling through the kitchen drawers, looking for a bottle opener. I helped myself to a glass I found in the cabinet. I looked in the fridge. I pulled stuff out, opened it, ate it.  I was so confident in helping myself, that another guest asked the host, “Is she your sister?”

Well, no, I’m not. But I know my value there.

We all have identities. I am a wife, mother, sister, friend, daughter, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, an employee, a Catholic, a book and music lover, a cook, a maid, a chauffeur, etc. Although all of those identities are temporary and mortal, I cling to them. Who would I be with no friends, no family, no job, and no hobbies?

There is a comfort in knowing yourself and in knowing where you stand with someone. It gives you peace and confidence when you know people want you there, when your presence matters, your existence matters, you matter. You’re entitled to, rather, expected to be, yourself. And yourself is a wonderful thing to be.

Who am I without my self-created identities? I am God’s child.

Wherever I am, no matter where I go, no matter what happens in my life, no matter what Earthly losses I have, I exist because of God who truly and deeply loves me intimately and infinitely as a cherished and beloved daughter.

If I have a bad minute, or a bad hour, a bad week or bad year, God is always there waiting with open arms to love me. He dwells in my heart, soul, mind and body. He speaks to me in the silence, and even through the noise. While as human parents we love our children imperfectly, God loves His children perfectly.  Children often misbehave, and their parents may get impatient or exhausted. God never does. If I misbehave one minute, He is still there to love me unconditionally. If I fall down, He is right there to pick me up. I just need to put up my hand to Him. If I turn away, He is right there waiting patiently when I’m ready to turn back to Him, whether it is an hour or a year or longer. There’s never a need to wait until my defiant mood passes, he’s able to love me in spite of it.

But not just me.  Everyone. If only everyone believed it.

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I Never

I’ve been pro-choice. It’s my body, so I’ll do what I want with it, what’s best for me.  I am vehemently pro-life. I better not get started on how strongly I feel about this issue and the pure evil that is abortion.

I’d never do drugs. Drugs are for weak losers.  I wanted to be able to say to my kids someday, “I’ve never done any drug in my entire life”. I’m not able to tell them that.

I’ve strongly stated and truly believed that I never wanted to have kids. I don’t like them. They’re needy, expensive, and annoying. God must’ve thought that one was funny.  I have five. By choice. And would die for any of them.

I would never bottle feed a baby. What kind of lazy, stupid, selfish mother would do that?! I bottle fed three of mine. Because, well, sometimes life just doesn’t go how your utopian mind thinks it will. Get over it.

I won’t cuss. Using bad language is unintelligent, immature, and unbecoming. I know my sister got very excited when I let go of this one after about four years. I do technically have a sailor for a father (he was in the Navy) and he certainly cusses like one. Not saying it’s lady-like, intelligent, mature, or proper, but it feels good dammit.

I never thought my kids would go to public school. Public school is a lower quality education with lower quality people. I should know, I went there. I pulled two of my kids out of private school and sent them to public. My self-righteousness took some hits on that one.

I’ve been apathetic, a Ouija Board user, an agnostic, a moral relativist, a hypocrite, and an extreme religious conservative who is against the liberal post-Vatican II Catholic Church. I hope I’m done with that roller coaster.  My current employer is the Catholic Church, and I am a practicing Novus Ordo Catholic. So much for my being sacrosanct.

I would never be so superficial and vain to the extent of having plastic surgery. God gave us our bodies and we should accept them and love them as-is. It’s sinful to defile them in any way. I’m definitely vain enough to have plastic surgery, and it’d be great if I could afford more. Every part of me could use an improvement.  Well, except my wrists, shoulders, collarbone, neck, and fingers.

I’ll never forgive. Forgiving is weakness. I’ll hold grudges and fantasize about revenge. That’s so much better and stronger. I’ve forgiven, when it seemed impossible to do so. More than once. It’s the way to go, silly former self.

I’ll never think I’m good enough. But I am a Child of God, so I might be.

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Jesus with Me

I’m here, stuck in the mud in the middle of the woods, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere.  Nobody knows where I am.  I don’t even think I know where I’m at, because I wandered too far off the path.  The water has risen as high as my waist and I’m not able to move my lower half.  When I try, I just sink further down into the mud.  I’ve already lost both of my shoes trying to pull up my legs. 

The thick sheets of heavy rain have stopped and it’s only misting now.  It’s chilly.  I’m tired, scared, depressed, and wonder how long I’ll have to endure this.

I realize I’m not alone.

There is someone with me in the mud.  He isn’t trying to pull me out.  He should, right? He’s just next to me, just as deep in the mud, with his arm around me holding me close. I’m still cold, tired, and depressed, but I’m not scared. I would still rather be somewhere else, someone else, but I accept that I’m not. So I wait in the mud patiently. He waits with me.

It is actually possible to rest waist-deep in mud, when you have a shoulder to lay your weary head. Morning comes and the sun is bright. The land has absorbed much of the water overnight, and the sun is starting to soak up more. It is down to my knees now. The sun is hot. A big oak overhead partially shades me. I feel hopeful, that I’ll be able to overcome the pain of losing my way and getting stuck.

Something stops me.

I really want to be out of this mess, back home where I’m safe and dry. But I still cannot pull out my legs from the mud. It is only ankle deep, but I have a paralysis of sorts. I’m worried. I think, “Will you stay here in the mud?” And I hear a reply in my mind’s ear, “Only if you do. I’m with you always, no matter where you go.”

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Joseph Journal 15

The good news is, it’s really hard to get in trouble when you’re serving an in-school suspension. (I.S.S. — Although my brain keeps accidentally calling it ISIS.)  The bad news is that Joseph had I.S.S. this week for getting into a fight.  His grades are 2 Fs and 4 Ds.  I can barely get him to do four minutes of Theology every other day.  He is unreasonable, irrational, moody, and mean.  We never take walks anymore.

Joseph bought dippin dots from the concession stand when I brought him to see the new SpongeBob movie.  He used my collectible $10 bill from the 1920s that is “payable in gold”, that I’ve saved for over twenty years.  He used the change to buy a big bag of spicy Doritos, a giant size Kit Kat and strawberry-kiwi flavored water.

I asked Joseph for a hug goodnight.  He yelled at me, “NO!” and walked away.  I prayed, as tears streamed down my face, “Please help me not take that personally.”  I’m still getting the “Don’t touch me” response, but sometimes I’m able to get a hug if I ask at just the right moment.

Joseph has talked about committing suicide so many times that I’ve lost count.  He said he’ll drink bleach or run the car engine with the garage door closed.

He still cuts his arm, has cut marks of varying age and degree the length of his entire left forearm.  He wants to pierce his ear, and tried poking a hole through it with a safety pin.  Or was it a paperclip?

His doctor thinks he has bipolar disorder and he started two new prescriptions on Wednesday.  Trying to get him to take the medicine is a battle.  He doesn’t want to, and “You can’t make me”.

 

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Joseph Journal 14

Joseph has been consistently more affectionate and loving toward me.  I gave him a good night kiss on the cheek tonight.

He passed his drug test today.  Hope he passed his three tests at school, too.

Joe drive

This car went from 15 mph to -0- in about 0.5 seconds.

I took him walking at the indoor track tonight.  It was crowded and a completely different dynamic than our 5:30am solitary walk when it feels like we have the world to ourselves.  I was tired and he was hyped up.  He talked a lot but most of it was laced with attitude and the conversation topics were mostly negative as opposed to neutral or positive like our morning walks.  There wasn’t any quietness or solace to it.

Just before I pulled the car into the cul-de-sac, I switched seats and let Joseph drive.  This was 100% his idea.  I said he could go around the circle once and then pull into the garage.  But he went around the circle and then headed up the street.  I made him stop.  He was happy to, so he could practice driving in reverse.  It was dark out, and this was my first time being a passenger with teen driver who is my child.  It was scary.  My heart was racing, my blood pressure was high I’m sure, and any speed over 5 mph felt really fast.  He pulled into the garage and almost hit the concrete wall in front of him.  I swear he only stopped because I yelled at him to do so.  When he went to put it in park, he put it in low gear.  I put the car in park, he jumped out, checked his parking job, and was like, “YES, I did it!”  I hope I never have to ride with him again.

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