The smaller of my two cats is Kitty Girl. She appeared on our fenced-in patio shortly after sunrise one hot summer morning. I was awake early that day, sipping coffee at the picnic table, and saw a flash of black and white inside the flower box. At first I panicked, thinking it was a skunk. I studied it for a minute, and deciding it was too small to cause much damage, went over to investigate. Peering into the box, I couldn’t tell what I was seeing. It was a tiny blob of coarse dirty fur, and when I reached out to poke it I heard an almost imperceptible meow. Within a few seconds, the ugliest kitten I’d ever seen unrolled itself and looked at me with a combination of curiosity and desperation. Fleas hopped all over her, and yellow green drainage from her swollen eyes matted her face. I brought her inside, cleaned her up, treated her eyes, and fell in love with the perky, petite cat I call Kitty Girl.
Fast forward 13 years. Kitty Girl is no longer an ugly duckling. She is a dainty, lively, sweet cat who loves adventure and has used up at least six of her nine lives with exploits.
Once she wandered about a quarter mile away and climbed a tree. She was stuck there for three days and we were resigned to the idea that she died. Unwilling to accept that, Jackie and a search party of eight-year-old friends set out to find her. Continue reading →
My last post was about answered prayer. But what about the times when God doesn’t answer my prayers? There are lots of those, and I’m often jealous when I hear other’s miracle stories. “The cancer just disappeared!” or “I am so blessed; God gave me just what I hoped for!”
The Gospels often mention God’s desire to answer our prayers. Jesus says, “Ask and you shall receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24). In Matthew 7:7, he says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and the door will be opened to you.” In Luke, we read about the widow who nagged the judge so much he finally found in her favor so she would leave him alone. Jesus tells us God will not be slow to answer those who cry out to him.
So what am I missing here? Why are some people miraculously cured and others not? Is it because they are somehow more worthy or because God loves them more than others? Did I not pray hard enough for Neil to be cured? Was I not persistent in my prayer? Those questions lead me to feel guilty, believing that if I said one more prayer or did one more good deed Neil would have survived. Continue reading →
This is a true story about a miracle. I think miracles happen every day, but we’re too busy and distracted to notice. Every now and then, though, something marvelous catches our attention. It may not even be dramatic, but it breaks through our usual deafness.
I usually start my day with a cup of coffee. When Neil was alive, he often delivered a steaming hot mug to me in bed. Sometimes we went outside to the patio, but frequently he sat in bed with me and we chatted about the day ahead. After he died, I missed those morning moments more than anything else. Gradually, I learned to fill that time with prayer, and began to chat with God instead. (I’d love to say the miracle was that God brought me coffee in bed, but no, that’s not it.) Continue reading →
Lately I have been thinking a lot about gossip. I have definitely been a victim of it; haven’t you? More important though, I have been trying to pay attention to how much I participate in it, and wondering if I am a gossip girl. I don’t want to be!
Over the years there was a lot of gossip about me and Neil:
“I heard Neil didn’t go home last night. I guess Colleen made him mad – she is so bossy!”
“I heard she was pregnant before they got married. I guess she’s not that Catholic after all.”
“I heard he moved out. I guess Colleen finally had it with his drinking.”
Like all gossip there were nuggets of truth in these comments. For example, Neil struggled with alcoholism and sometimes it was safer for him not to drive home. I wasn’t pregnant for nine months since I went into preterm labor at thirty weeks instead of forty. And, our typical argument involved retreating to separate corners until we cooled off. Sometimes that was an hour, sometimes a night, sometimes weeks. But all the gossipers saw was the way things appeared to be – not the way they really were. I loved Neil despite his faults and, thankfully, he loved me despite mine.
So what makes a conversation gossip? It isn’t simply talking about other people. In a small town and among friends, that’s how we keep up with each other, how we know who needs extra prayers and who might need a casserole. Continue reading →
“I can’t wait until I retire,” my friend said at lunch one day. “Then I can do all the things I want.”
“ I can’t wait to finish the semester,” my nephew said during my visit. “Then I can relax and enjoy life for a while.”
“I can’t wait till this chemo is finished,” my patient said at her appointment. “Then I can get back to normal.”
We’ve all said things like this, haven’t we? We’ve all imagined how much better the future will be when we get past the present.
My house is quiet these days. My two younger daughters are away at college and my oldest is married and building her new life. My empty nest is far emptier than I ever imagined without Neil to share it. I often find myself saying, I can’t wait till the girls come home so the house feels alive again.
The other day I came across the very famous Scripture reading from Ecclesiastes that talks about a time for everything. Our lives have seasons just like the weather does – the college season, the work season, the retirement season.
This is my empty nest season. Continue reading →
Shots fired. That was the message on my cell phone at 3:30 in the morning from the instant alert program at my daughter’s college. As I forced my eyes to focus on the little screen, the next message came: three people injured; police on scene. It gave the address of the incident, too, and it was the corner by my daughter’s apartment building. Now I was wide awake. I read the update again, and quickly called my daughter. She didn’t answer, which wasn’t unusual, so I sent a text. I waited a few minutes, and still got no answer. I said a fervent prayer for her safety, and then a miracle happened: I went back to sleep.
When I woke up the next morning there was a message from my daughter reporting she was fine and that she hadn’t even seen my text until she woke up to go to the bathroom. She hadn’t heard any police sirens or shots during the night and her roommates were also home safe. I couldn’t decide whether to be proud of myself for going back to sleep or ashamed.
Then the negative self-talk started. What kind a person goes back to sleep after a message like that? Who doesn’t get up and pace the floor worried sick about their child? Continue reading →
I never thought much about heaven. The idea of dead friends and relatives dressed in white robes singing hallelujah while they wandered inside the pearly gates seemed a little…. well….. boring. Not that I didn’t want to be with God, but it seemed easier for me to find Him here in everyday life. I didn’t need to consider eternity.
When Neil died I became far more interested in heaven. There was so much I needed to understand. Is heaven a parallel dimension where the dead can see and hear us but we can’t see them? Is it a jeweled city of marble palaces and heavenly music playing unceasingly? Is it a physical place on the other side of the universe in an alternate galaxy? And at the end of the world, where will all the billions of resurrected bodies fit? So many questions plagued my thoughts!
Then I had a dream of Neil. In it, I walked out onto the patio where we always enjoyed morning coffee and evening sunsets. I found him waiting on the bench at the picnic table. “What are you doing here?” I asked him. Pointing up to the sky, he said, “The Big Guy sent me to tell you a few things.”
“Ummm…Ok…” I answered hesitantly. Continue reading →
It was one of those negative days where everything was annoying. The birds were loud and woke me up early. The coffee didn’t brew on time and tasted stale when it finally did. The exercise class was harder than usual and I barely kept up. The toilet upstairs hadn’t stopped running after the last flush and used up all the water in the well. The cat and dog had gotten into a fight and as a result the cat got sick in the bathtub. Worst of all, Neil wasn’t there to listen to me complain. Continue reading →
The back of my beautiful house looks down onto the river. Many people walk or bike the trail that meanders alongside it, and in the summer people kayak or canoe or float inner tubes in the water. One day, I was driving down my narrow gravel road and saw three young people walking. Two boys and a girl, they looked to be in their early twenties. They were wearing wet bathing suits and dragging a single inner tube behind them. They had no shoes, and as I steered around them, I noticed the girl’s feet were bleeding. I realized they must have come up from the river.
I looked down at the comfy slip-ons I was wearing on my way to the grocery store and stopped the car. As they caught up, I offered the girl my shoes. The gratitude in her face was overwhelming as she reached out and took them with a joyful smile. Her companions looked surprised, but they shrugged and kept walking. Continue reading →
Sometimes we are reminded good lessons in the strangest ways. Recently, one of my cats taught me one I need to remember.
Tiger is about 13 years old, having been a birthday present for Jordan on her sixth birthday. Neil did not want another cat back then (we had two other cats and two dogs at the time!) but I was determined to make my little girl’s birthday dream come true. Despite my husband’s strong suggestion for some other present, I sat at the SPCA for the better part of a morning, looking into little eyes, watching the kittens interact with each other and throwing paper towel wads for them to chase before I finally decided Tiger was the one. As a kitten he was beautiful: perfectly proportioned, soft velvety fur, big green eyes and a personality that was cuddly and playful.
Fast forward 13 years later. As a grown cat, Tiger seems distrustful and guarded. He hates poor Buddy the dog, who would love nothing more than to be playmates. He tolerates Kitty Girl, our other cat, mostly by pretending she doesn’t exist. I have often imagined him complaining to himself about the idiotic pets with whom he is forced to reside, and the obnoxious humans who are not much better. Continue reading →