Is this a sign that Mary is protecting me?

Over a week ago my husband and I had trouble with our air conditioner which is installed in the attic. The air conditioner technician noticed that some of the insulation had been pulled off of the ductwork, a clear sign that a small animal had invaded our attic. Since we live in a rural area where wildlife abounds, it is not uncommon that a wild “critter” prefers a home attic to their natural environment.

ringtail cat

We had had the roofline and attic sealed less than two years ago when a ringtail cat invaded our attic and lived there for several months, so we were surprised that we had a live-in visitor so soon after having the extensive work done. I could not find the receipt from the previous work, so I called a different company to inspect the roof. A young woman came to our home, examined the roofline and told me that there were five places that the visitor was using to enter our attic. She showed me a photo of what she had seen.

The previous work had cost quite a lot of money, so I was understandably upset. The young woman recommended that I contact the previous company and see if there was a warranty. Finding the receipt took some time but after several hours of searching I did find the company which did the original work.

Rosary necklace with St. Benedict medal

While I was speaking with the young woman she noticed that I was wearing a rosary necklace, one of several kinds which I make. Since the woman recognized what my necklace was, I thought the woman might be Catholic and asked her about her faith. The woman said that she was Catholic and so I gave her the necklace. The young woman accepted the necklace and commented that it was lovely and it fell perfectly on her neckline. I was pleased that she liked the necklace. I asked the woman to send the photo she had taken of the damage to the roofline and an estimate of the cost of doing the repairs. I gave the woman my email address and saw her type the email address into her phone.

I waited several days before contacting the inspection company, as I had not received the estimate, the photo taken or the invoice for the inspection. After several calls and a text message to the inspection company, I still have not heard back from them – this has been over a week now. I was able to contact the company which had sealed up the attic two years ago, and they scheduled an appointment within two days of my call for an inspection.

I recognized the inspector from his previous work. After spending over an hour examining the roof while my husband watched, the inspector said there were no places where an animal was getting in. Since the air conditioner technician had surmised that the “visitor” was a raccoon due to the damage to the ductwork, the roof inspector suggested that we place food in the attic – marshmallows and cheetos – which would attract the animal. If the food were eaten, we were to call the inspector again and he would place cameras on the roof and in the attic to ascertain where the animal was getting into the attic. So now we wait.

I am still in a quandary about the first inspection and why we have never received the photo of our roofline and an estimate for the suggested work. I had not carefully examined the photo on the woman’s phone to ascertain that it was our roofline pictures, as I thought I would have ample time to examine the photo in detail once I received it through my email account.

As I reflect on the experience I wonder if the photo was not of our roofline. Is that why the young woman never contacted us again? Is this a sign of our Blessed Mother looking after me as I had given the young woman the necklace made in honor of Mary? And where will this necklace take the young woman? Will it be a constant reminder to the young woman that God sees everything and that He watches over all of his children?

The extraordinary life of Mr. Doofus – part one


When our daughter was in the seventh grade, her science class hatched out some chicken eggs as part of a science project. As the school year was drawing to a close, our daughter asked if she could bring home one of the chicks – a cute little peep. Since we lived outside the city and had a few acres of land, we decided to “adopt” the baby chick. For some weeks the little peep lived his life in a box under a light to keep our baby chicken warm.

Original chicken coop

Aware that our growing peep would need a more secure and spacious home than the cardboard box he or she was living in, my husband started building a chicken coop. We still have that original coop, having moved it to our newer home. Over the years the original coop has deteriorated as you can see – it was once painted a bright spring green. It was quite a nice coop “in the day” when the wood and the paint were fresh. Now the old coop is used for storing wood to keep it dry for when it is needed.

His Majesty, Doofus the Great

Day by day the little peep grew. Of course, we had hoped the chick was a hen – my husband had dreams of fresh eggs for breakfast. But as luck would have it, the chick was a male. Sexing baby chickens as we later discovered, is a special art and not one which we have ever learned. As the chick continued to grow and then started to crow, we knew that our cute little chick was a rooster. My husband named the little rooster “Doofus”.

Having adopted a rooster, it was necessary to find some hens. Roosters have no known use except to make noise, fertilize the hens’ eggs and sadly, to serve as food. We were able to purchase two young hens of laying age and named them Henny Penny and Miss Chicken. Now we had a happy chicken coop! Day by day our hens gave us fresh eggs – one apiece. Minute by minute Doofus let us know how special he really was with every loud song he sang. 

We purchased books about chicken husbandry as we were curious about how often roosters crowed, the best food to buy for raising chickens and when to be concerned about the chickens’ health. Roosters crowed, according to one book, when the barometric pressure changed; another book said roosters crow in the early morning when the sunlight appears over the horizon. Given how often our rooster crowed, we surmised that the “instruction books” were either all wrong, or we had a rather remarkable rooster. We know now that Roosters crow when they have a mind to – even in the dark. Doofus was usually quiet at night, but a passing car on the dirt road alongside our property late at night could encourage Doofus to raise his voice in song. Once Doofus started singing, it was hard to stop him, such was his desire to “proclaim glory to God.”

Doofus, Henny Penny and Ms Chicken

It became apparent that two hens for this incredibly busy and exceptional rooster were not enough. Due to the way roosters “impregnate” hens, the hens started looking raggedy with lots of their feathers missing from all the rooster’s activities. So before long we bought a few more hens to keep Doofus occupied and happy.

We purchased a few different breeds of chickens because their feathers or the colors of their eggs were pretty, but we quickly learned that Rhode Island Reds, also called Production Reds, were best for making eggs. Although Leghorns also lay quite a few eggs, their low weight allows them to “fly the coop” whenever they have a desire to do so – which it turns out, they often have the desire to do.

Is this a hen? Doofus looks
Whoa! Not a hen!

The original coop quickly became too small for our growing flock. My husband built an even larger coop which connected by a wire covered tunnel to the vegetable garden behind a redwood fence that surrounded a storage yard. Within the storage yard we had a small metal shed for garden implements, a laundry line where I hung loads of laundry several times a week, trash barrels, a covered shed for our tractor and other power equipment and the new, larger chicken house. Life was interesting and good for all of us – chickens and humans.

A Simple Gift of Bread

Years ago I made multiple loaves of bread to be given to my family and friends as a Christmas gift – that Christmas was at least twenty five years ago. Some of the loaves were the standard size for home baked bread of 9 inches by 5 inches, some breads were smaller at around 5 inches by 3 inches. Each person receiving a gift of home baked bread was given several small loaves of differing varieties with the addition of one or two larger loaves. The loaves were all wrapped in foil, tied with a pretty ribbon and presented in a gift basket. It had taken multiple days to bake the different recipes, and then to wrap and choose which loaves went to each individual. It was an enjoyable experience thinking about each person who would receive the bread and which loaves might be special to them. The gift was a surprise to each to whom it was given and was well received by all.

I started thinking about this gift of bread as I was cleaning out the kitchen cupboards. I found a half dozen of the small loaf pans (5″x3″) and another seven of the larger pans that were used to bake the bread so many years ago. I haven’t used the smaller bread pans in quite a few years, so they were out of sight, stacked behind other serving dishes and casserole and baking pans. I still use some of the larger bread pans, as I bake bread during the winter months. I haven’t decided what to do with the smaller bread pans. It is difficult to give away things that have a pleasant memory still attached to them.

An old bread recipe given to me by a long departed friend, which had been handed down to her from her mother, provides enough dough to make seven loaves of bread at a time. Mixing that quantity of dough all at once is a physical challenge now, though it has always been a great exercise kneading that quantity of dough. I made my friend’s bread recipe a few months ago and decided then that I wouldn’t make it again – this recipe was the one reason I used to hold on to so many large bread pans.

In the midst of thinking about all these bread pans, their history and the tasty gift breads which I once made, I couldn’t help thinking about the “special bread” which God shares with us each and every time we attend Mass. While the “bread from heaven” is shaped into small, flat disks and is generally tasteless, the “bread from heaven” is a more valuable gift than what I had given away so many years ago. 

The “bread from heaven” (Consecrated Host) is very small – only about 1 inch or so in diameter and yet it carries with it an eternal promise. The plain, unleavened Consecrated Bread is our “food for the journey” of our earthly life and is meant to sustain us as we continue our pilgrimage to heaven. Like the ancient Hebrews who were given manna in the desert to sustain them during their journey to the Promised Land, we too have been gifted by God with sustenance for the journey.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 6 we read the “Bread of Life discourse” during which Jesus identifies himself as being the “bread from heaven”. Many people turned away from following Jesus after He had said the following: “unless you eat the flesh of the son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”

During Jesus’ final Passover Supper – we don’t know how long it was after that incident above occurred – we read the following: (Luke 22:19-20) “Then he (Jesus) took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying “this is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.””

The Last Supper

In the Old Testament we are told that Jews were forbidden from drinking the blood of an animal, as life was considered to be in the blood and that life was created by and belonged to God. I have often wondered what the Apostles thought of what Jesus said and did during that last meal. Did anyone recoil at the thought of the body and blood which was being offered in the form of bread and wine or look to the others present for an explanation of what was transpiring during that meal? Were the Apostles remembering other covenants between God and the patriarchs? Did they remember that “blood” was often involved in the sealing of a covenant, yet none of those old covenants required the drinking of blood but rather the sprinkling of it? 

After the death of Jesus those puzzling words of His must have been in sharp focus for those who had been present at that “Last Supper”.  When did the Apostles understand what Jesus was telling them? Did the Apostles connect the New Covenant which Jesus had spoken of with the Old Covenant between God and the Jewish people? Did the Apostles understand the connection between the lamb’s blood on the doorways of Egypt and the blood of Christ poured out on the Cross? How long before the Apostles truly knew that our freedom from sin was purchased by the sacrifice of Christ?

After Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven, the Apostles repeated often the ceremony with the bread and wine which Jesus initiated, believing that the words of Jesus not only kept the Lord present with them but by eating the bread and drinking the wine, they were helped on their life’s journey. Each time the first Christians ate the bread and drank the wine, they were renewing the “New Covenant” which Jesus had established, the New Covenant which had made peace between God and man and opened the gates to heaven.

Consecrated Hosts for First Communion

As a child preparing to celebrate my First Holy Communion, I was taught that the Consecrated Host is truly the Lord’s body. And as a child I accepted freely and eagerly what I was taught. Only after many years did I begin to fully recognize that what I was taught as a child is true – perhaps more true than anything else in our broken world.

Jesus is present to me in the Eucharist – the Consecrated Bread and Wine – and continues to love and sustain me as I make my journey in this life. During these last 15 or so years when I have grown stronger in my faith, I have begun to see how Jesus has touched and renewed my heart over and over again through this gift of bread. What appears to the human eye as just a simple bread is truly a gift of heaven. Day by day, even hour by hour, in Catholic Churches around the world, God continues to feed His children with this life sustaining, miraculous bread. How blessed we are to have so generous a God!

The Red Candle

How strange the inside of a Catholic Church must seem to those who visit one for the first time! There are stained glass windows, holy water fonts by all the doors, statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and sometimes a variety of saints statues, religious paintings, stations of the cross plaques along the walls, a crucifix, an altar and a gold or carved wooden box in the center, just behind the altar. 

Interior of Catholic Church

The gold or wooden box is called the Tabernacle, and it is the most important part of the Church. Usually hanging from the ceiling or on a stand next to the Tabernacle is a red glass candle holder. The red glass holder has a flame burning inside when the Consecrated Hosts are present in the Tabernacle. Catholics believe that the Consecrated Hosts are the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Last evening when listening to an online lecture, the presenter mentioned a stoplight – the red light which we see at every major intersection. When the stoplight is red, we know that there may be danger present. We have to wait our turn to proceed. After hearing the presenter’s words about the stoplight, my mind mysteriously jumped to the red glass candle holder in the Church. I saw a connection between the red glass candle and the red stoplight even though they are entirely different things. They also have entirely different meanings – or do they?


Several years ago my daughter faced a difficult surgery. Since it was day surgery, I had volunteered to stay at the hospital and bring my daughter home once the surgery was completed. After the staff had taken my daughter to the surgery suite, I was told to wait in the large waiting area where the surgeon would speak to me after the surgery. The waiting room was very crowded and noisy, as it was early in the day and most surgeries were done in the morning.

I was worried about my daughter. The outcome of this dangerous surgery could make my daughter’s life much more difficult – she was and still is a single mom with a young son to raise. I tried to pray while I sat in the waiting area, but the noise level was too high to concentrate. I decided to look for the hospital chapel and spend some time there. The chapel was a stark and cold place, sparsely furnished with a very contemporary look to it. There was nothing inviting in the room. I took a seat in the back row and began to look around, trying to quiet myself so that I could lift my heart in prayer. In the far right corner was a carved wooden box and just above the box was a red glass candle holder. There was light coming from the flaming candle. I began to cry, as I knew then that I was not alone. The Son of God, our Savior Jesus Christ,  was there in the Tabernacle with me to accompany and comfort me, as I waited for the result of my daughter’s surgery. I spent some time in the chapel, though I don’t remember how long I was there. When I returned to the waiting room, it was nearly empty and now quiet. Some time later the doctor came to tell me that all had gone well with the surgery and that my daughter would be fine.

Interior of St. Helen’s at Easter

As I pondered the image of the red glass candle last evening while the lecturer continued his discussion, it occurred to me that like a red stoplight, I should stop and wait when I see that there is a flame in the red glass candle holder. Rather than being a sign of danger as the red stoplight is, the red glass candle in our Catholic Church is an invitation. The Lord Jesus is inviting me (and all His children) to “stop and wait” and be quiet in His Presence. No matter what my problems are, no matter how I am feeling, He is with me. I need not be afraid.

The Play’s the Thing

In a homily about the Gospel of Luke chapter 1 verses 30-45 Bishop Barron says the following:

“Upon hearing the message of Gabriel concerning her own pregnancy and that of her cousin, Mary “went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country” to see Elizabeth.

“Why did she go with such speed and purpose? Because she had found her mission, her role in the theo-drama…The theo-drama is the great story being told by God, the great play being directed by God. What makes life thrilling is to discover your role in it. This is precisely what has happened to Mary. She has found her role – indeed a climactic role – in the theo-drama, and she wants to conspire with Elizabeth, who has also discovered her role in the same drama. And, like Mary, we have to find our place in God’s story.”

I have heard this idea before, that we are all “engaged” in living out a story that God has created. So I wonder what my role is in this drama? I have already lived out a large part of my portion of the story, so what, I wonder, lies ahead? And how does my part of the story fit in with the stories my loved ones, my Church, my community and world at this time are living? What happens if someone chooses not to take his/her part in the story but chooses something else?

I have been thinking about the roles I have played in my life, some of which are ongoing – first a daughter and then sister, then a wife and mother, a friend, a caregiver to parents and later caregiver to a sister, a Bible study facilitator, an artist, a website creator and writer, a grandmother. How do all these roles fit into God’s story? How does my participating in my faith fit into God’s story?

I have never been a “public person”, never had a public role in the community except for the year or so I served on a community school board or the times I taught community school classes. I haven’t given speeches to large groups or done much besides voting to influence public policy. I have just been an ordinary person – cooking, cleaning, gardening and caring for friends and family. How is that a useful role in God’s Theo-drama? It certainly isn’t a starring role like the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus. How or rather whom do I influence who has the ability to change the society in which I live? Does influencing someone or changing something matter? Is it only important that I live out my role not knowing who or what that role influences, only that I fulfill my part in God’s plan?

It occurred to me this morning that this Theo-drama is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. I am not good at putting jigsaw puzzles together. I can usually work on the edge pieces, but I leave it to more experienced and competent puzzle makers to do the rest. What is amazing about the puzzle that God is piecing together is that it covers not only all of humanity and the universe, but it covers time as well. How can it be? A puzzle in many dimensions with an unknown size and shape with layer upon layer and the pieces might rearrange themselves at any time? It is not a puzzle I could even guess where edge pieces fit. How awesome is our God!

A Simple Joy

Sarah’s necklace

My friend, Sarah, visited me the other day. Sarah knew that I made jewelry and was hopeful that I could help her repair an old and broken necklace. The necklace once belonged to Sarah’s mother. Over 15 years ago Sarah’s young grandson found the necklace and while playing with it the wire broke, scattering the beads on the floor. Sarah had picked up all the beads she could find and put them in a plastic sack. The sack of beads had remained in Sarah’s dresser drawer until recently.

The beads are really pretty and have a lovely lustre to them. The necklace, though inexpensive, was a special possession of Sarah’s mom, and she wore it often. With Sarah’s help, I redesigned the necklace to Sarah’s taste, adding some tiny silver beads instead of the original gold beads, between each of the larger beads. I then restrung the necklace as Sarah remembered it – two strands of graduated beads with tiny beads between each of the larger ones. I was able to make a pair of earrings from the beads which were left over. 

The redesigned necklace is lovely. It is a reminder that something doesn’t have to be expensive to be beautiful.

I was thinking while I was working on Sarah’s beads how special mothers are to us. While in the womb, we hear our mother’s voice and her heartbeat accompanies us as we grow and develop. After we are born we notice our mother’s smell, we feel the softness and tenderness of her hands as she cares for us. And when our eyes are able to focus and notice things, we finally see the face of someone who loves us without measure and has been with us since our very beginnings.

Working on my friend’s necklace has given me such joy. 

The Greatness of Men

I often complain of the dangerous things my husband does – climbing 12 foot tall water tanks and then falling and getting a separated shoulder will still climb that ladder again, pushing cars over the cliff – well “that”, my husband said, “was accidental”! Then there are the things I have stopped him from doing like taking down a 70 foot tall dead elm tree by himself. When I called a tree removal company my husband was angry, because he had spent hours thinking about how he would do the job and what fun it would be. But I digress.

Women are naturally more cautious, perhaps because of giving birth to and raising our children. The primary role which our loving God gave to women – protectors of the lives which have been given to us, we accomplish through often tedious daily tasks and an abundance of caution. God created men to be protectors as well. He gave men the strength and stamina and desire to do those necessary and often dangerous tasks. Caution was not one of the gifts that God gave to men.

I am in awe of men because of their physical strength and their courage. I was thinking this morning about the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, each man knowing full well that most of them would not survive the day, yet each man, in turn, strapped on his backpack, grabbed his weapon and climbed into the landing craft. The rest is history. Thank God for all of them! May they all rest in peace.

I know that there are some women, who are called to be courageous and strong as men are strong, but most of us are not. I honor those unusual women, as I honor all women for our own natural strengths. I think about nurses who face battlefield conditions to help the wounded – where does their courage come from?

Though I am strong for my age and my sex and always have been, my innate physical weakness, as compared to men, often made me angry in the past. Rather than being able to do what I wanted to do when and as I wanted to do it, I had to call on a man to help. Only when I matured emotionally and began to accept my limitations could I acknowledge my own strengths which are different from my husband’s strengths. There have been times when I have done a courageous or dangerous thing when the life of a loved one was in jeopardy. I wondered afterwards where I found the courage to do that dangerous thing, because I am naturally not courageous – even climbing a 6 foot ladder makes my knees shake and my stomach turn somersaults.

I have been amazed these past few days to learn that some men, all of whom survived multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, are now going back into danger to rescue Americans and those who helped our fighting forces – those our government has left behind. To know firsthand what the terrorists will do and yet face that enemy once again to save a life – who cannot be in awe of these brave men? I pray daily that God will protect these heroes, that He will give them success in their missions and that He will bring them safely home when their missions are accomplished.

The Most Underpaid Laborers on the Planet

Or maybe even in the Universe! Who are they? Mothers and dads are near the top of the list, but Guardian Angels are, to my mind, at the very top. We rely on them every single day, and we don’t even realize it.

Guardian Angel – watercolor F. McDonald

I was reading a biography lately and by page 40 of this book I realized that this individual written about owed his very existence, numerous times over, to his Guardian Angel(s). So I began to think about my life and the lives of my loved ones – how have we been impacted by these special beings God sends to protect us? It is astounding the number of events that I could remember in just a few minutes where Guardian Angels had to be credited with the safety of the individual. Let me list just a few examples that prove my argument:

1) As a toddler my daughter fell into the deep end of our swimming pool and would have fallen all the way to the bottom – 9 feet – where I might have been unable to save her. I had turned my back for just an instant to move the garden hose to another plant and when I turned back, there was my daughter with her legs sticking out of the floating basketball net. How did she manage to fall into the net and not sink to the bottom instead? I quickly pulled a screaming toddler from the net and vowed never more to turn my back on her. She was thankfully alive and safe and is still here with us. Was her Guardian Angel responsible for positioning the basketball net just where it needed to be? Maybe.

Jeannie Age 4 or 5

2) My sister Jeannie, at about age 4 or 5, climbed to the windowsill in my parents’ bedroom and proceeded to sit on the ledge of the open casement style window, her legs dangling outside the window from the second floor. A quick thinking neighbor noticed Jeannie and called our mom. Guardian Angel alert? Maybe.

Jill age 1 or 2

3) My youngest sister, Jill, still in a walker as a toddler, saw an open doorway to the basement and proceeded to roll herself toward it. Jill and the stroller were halfway down the stairs when our dad caught the stroller. Did a Guardian Angel alert dad who was doing something at his workbench in the basement and spur him to action? Maybe.

4) As a depressed/angry teenager – who isn’t at that age? – I decided to ride my bicycle to the Apple Orchard about a mile from our home. I had taken our family dog with us on a leash. She loved to run, so she was the perfect companion for a kid on a bike. My sisters and I often visited the orchard to purchase apple cider from the local factory there, although it was long past the time of the year when it would have been open. I proceeded down the long road to the orchard when the family dog stopped and could not be moved. No matter how I yelled or pulled on the leash, the dog insisted that we return home. So we did. Was there danger ahead? A Guardian Angel moment?  Maybe. 

5) A traffic accident after my high school graduation when mom, my three sisters and I were traveling on the Baltimore Beltway to a department store to shop for bathing suits for our upcoming vacation. The traffic had stopped for some construction when an 18 wheeler plowed into the back of our station wagon. Rather than being propelled forward to smash front end first into a line of traffic, the car with its occupants were thrown 90 feet off the side of the road, down an embankment, missing construction equipment lining the highway. There were a few injuries sustained during the accident, but all occupants of the car lived to tell the tale. Were all our Guardian Angels responsible for saving our lives? Maybe.

SUV resting over edge of driveway

6) My husband has had numerous “accidents” – and I say that lightly – while working around our homestead. I am convinced that multiple Guardian Angels are taking care of him.

a) He fell from a ladder while checking the water level in an over twelve foot high water collection tank and only sustained a bruised ego and a separated shoulder. He could have hit his head on the boulders surrounding the tanks, killing or permanently maiming him.

b) Last summer while moving our SUV into the shade without starting the engine, my husband managed to push the car over the 3.5 foot embankment supporting the driveway which is surrounded by boulders. He was pushing the car with one foot while the other foot rested inside the vehicle on the brake. Somehow my husband ended up lying in the driveway instead of impaled beneath the car on the rocks. He had a severe leg injury but after a few months recovered – somewhat humbled and more cautious, although I don’t expect that to last. Guardian Angel work – undoubtedly.

6) While returning home from my husband’s work after a rain, my car brakes failed. I was driving slowly on a two lane road which ended after a steep decline onto a four lane well traveled, high speed boulevard. My car brakes locked up, and I slid into the intersection unable to stop the vehicle. The car stopped in the center of the grassy median, passing cars and trucks screeching, weaving around me and honking. Guardian Angels on duty? No doubt in my mind – not just my Guardian Angel but the Angels of passing drivers who avoided hitting me.

I could relate even more stories, but I am sure that all of us have multiple incidents that “prove” the existence and presence of Guardian Angels in our lives. What is even more astounding to me than the presence of the Angels is that our Heavenly Father knows us so well that He is prepared for all contingencies to keep us safe while we complete the tasks He has prepared for us. Amazing, awesome and loving Father! 

The Benefits of Looking Up

It has been a while since I took the time to clean the grout on the kitchen floor. Usually I just take a steamer or a mop to my marble tile. Over time the grout and the marble has lost that off white color that it once had 25 years ago. The task of cleaning the grout is no longer an easy one on my 75+ year old bones. Getting up and down from the floor, and even kneeling or sitting on the floor can be a problem, but there are definite benefits as well.

While seated on the floor I was surprised to find bread crumbs underneath the refrigerator. As often as I vacuum and/or mop the floor, I thought that the area underneath the front of the refrigerator would be clean. I was wrong! From my position on the floor, I could now see the undersides of cabinet doors and drawers and all the coffee drips that someone, who shall remain nameless, left behind – that wasn’t me of course. The patterns and colors in the marble tile are much prettier from down here than up there. I can definitely see why I chose this marble tile.

Looking up to heaven with our eyes is often a great pleasure – how often do I do that? The color of the sky changes moment by moment, the shapes and colors of clouds delights not only children but grown ups as well, and the stars at night – who has not wondered about them – how far they are, how many there are, why some twinkle when we see them and others do not, what are their names, why do they make recognizable patterns in the night sky? Is it true that God has a name for each one of them?

neighborhood visitor

But what about looking up to heaven, not with our eyes but with our minds and hearts? The earth is a magnificent and beautiful creation. I am often taken aback with the wonder of it. To think that God made this world for us to live in! It is more beautiful than anything that man could create – what a generous and loving God we have! And what creativity! There are animals and plants which live in every different kind of ecosystem. Blind fish who live at great depths in the sea, insects and bacteria that live in permafrost. Bugs that prefer to live in my home instead of where God put them! Imagine that! Just the variety of birds and butterflies cause me to wonder at it all.

Looking up to heaven with our minds and hearts, wondering about that far away place – even if we had the very best imagination, we could not imagine “what God has in store for us” just as Jesus said so long ago. Maybe I will sit outdoors this evening and just gaze “up” at the sky and wonder.

The Way of Freedom

Exodus Chapter 4:10-12 Moses however said to the Lord, “If you please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past, nor recently, nor now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who gives one man speech and makes another deaf an dumb? Or who gives sight to one and makes another blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Go then, it is I who will assist you in speaking and will teach you what you are to say.”

Charlton Heston as Moses

Millions of us have seen Cecil B.DeMille’s movie, “The Ten Commandments”?. Who can forget Charlton Heston as Moses telling the Pharaoh, “Let my people go!”? Those powerful words were eventually fulfilled; the Pharaoh did let the people go. There are many parts of the film which still bring tears to my eyes – the child Moses being set adrift in the river Nile, the first Passover as the Jews ate their last meal in Egypt while dressed for travel, the carrying of the body of Joseph with the Israelites to freedom to fulfill an ancient promise, the parting of the Red Sea, the death of Moses. The story of Moses and the people of God leaving Egypt is a long and interesting adventure full of danger and promise at every turn. The story begins in Exodus, Chapter 2 with the birth of Moses. Be sure to read all the way to the end of Exodus to grasp what I am saying. The story of Israel continues even beyond Exodus, and one could argue that the story continues today for the people God chose as His very own.

When I first read those two verses in chapter 4:10-12, it was the beginning of my own exodus from a self imposed slavery to a way of freedom. Just as with Moses and the Israelites, my exodus from slavery took a very long time. I am still traveling on that journey.

I grew up in a close knit Italian-American family in the middle of the last century. I had a wonderful, interesting and love filled childhood. I learned to never stand out, never to draw attention to myself. That behavior came from my innate shyness and not from how I was raised. I would seldom argue with anyone or try to convince anyone of the correctness of my opinions and consequently I had little to say. I would always try to let the other person win an argument, even when I believed that I was correct. 

One day in my early thirties I faced a major emotional crisis: I despised myself, because I couldn’t communicate clearly with close friends and family. I felt worthless and without value. A class was being offered at my parish church to help women, like myself, to “find ourselves”. It is a silly way of expressing that many women like me needed to recognize their self worth and use the confidence they gained in the class to live their lives more fully. I signed up for the class, hoping that help could be found there. During one of the sessions the other students and I were given a homework assignment. We were told to read three specific Bible passages; in one of the passages, the instructor promised, there would be a personal message from God. Sure, you might say, how could that be? But it was true.

Two of the Bible passages we were assigned were from the New Testament, though I do not remember which ones they were. The third passage was from Exodus beginning in Chapter 3 when Moses sees the burning bush and has a conversation with God. I read the two New Testament passages, but I didn’t find the personal message from God in those passages and that worried me. Could it be that God had nothing to say to me, that I was as useless as I felt? It was when I read the passage from Exodus and began reading the part from Chapter 4, (italicized above) that “the dam broke”. I began to sob and continued to do so for quite some time. What I heard God saying to me in those few words of Scripture was that I wasn’t broken or defective as I had come to believe that I was. Just as He had given to Moses, God had given me all the gifts I would need to do the lifelong task He sent me to do. I was to trust Him and to follow Him just as Moses had done. And so I began the daily walk with God that was to change my life.

I have learned much during the many years since that life changing event. I am still not overly confident in my ability to express myself orally and sometimes shy away from arguments with others. I will engage in an argument when necessary, but I don’t seek them out. I have discovered that I am able to write clearly, to express myself more competently in the written word than in the spoken word, though that took some time to develop.  I have begun to see that God did equip me to do the task He sent me to do. As the Bible says in Psalm 139, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. And so, I think, are we all.