Saturday, May 22, 2010

Easy Seed is for Wimps

Yes! You can transplant grass! Of course you can, that's the whole idea of sod. You just cut it out, lift it up leaving an inch or two of dirt attached, and plant it where you've prepared the soil! It's incredibly... hard, back-breaking work. But so cool! We have some dead spots on the front lawn that we've tried seeding but have never had any luck with. Now there are oddly-shaped patches of thick, lush lawn and clover.
We harvested the lawn from the spot where we put in a raised bed. Cut the square, shovel underneath the dirt, roll up the grass, dig out the go-to spot, plop down the roll of grass, stomp on it, and water. It sounds so simple.
Ah well, as sore and tired as I am (and I AM) I am also pretty tickled and proud of myself and my new muscles. And the garden, and the new lawn. Here's a couple of pictures:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why pray?

I love this image.
I don't know about you and your theology, but the fundamental God-question I wrestle with constantly is how God works/how prayer works.
I want to thank God for all the good things that happen to me, but I think... if I give God credit for the good things, don't I have a right to blame God for the bad things? But I don't want to do that- and, more importantly, I don't believe (or want to believe) in a God who does things to me, at all- good or bad. I do believe that God could do things to me, or, for me... but I find it harder and harder to believe that He does.
This image is right in line with my thinking. If God isn't going to help these people who are willing to die a very ugly death for Him, why would he give me sunny weather for my day off? He didn't save His own Son from crucifixion... what makes me think He will do my bidding?
But, I want to ask. I want to turn to God and ask for what I need- and Jesus told us to, for crying out loud... I have been told to pray and ask for God's will to be done. Fine, of course I want that (and I always have some suggestions about what God's will should be, in case He's curious) but, how can I think that my prayer will have any effect in God's will? I imagine God's will will be done, whether I pray for it or not. So I pray to God to conform my will to His. So far, I haven't seen much evidence of that prayer being answered in the affirmative.
The parent image is always the one I return to- and use my own parents as models for how it works, maybe. I know they have a will for how I'll live my life, but don't move to control it. I know they love and forgive me when I screw up. I know they would have loved to make my life in their care to be a wonderful, pain-free existence, but that they knew it wouldn't be good for me in the long run to live that way. I know they would love for me to turn to them in my sorrowful and fearful times, even if all they could do was love me through them.
But the problem remains; How to pray?
What used to be long chats with God in prayer come down now to three sentences:
Thank you God. (For Jesus, for my life, for whatever else!)
I love you, God. (because I do)
Conform my will to yours. (just in case)
But when the chips are down (or, the lions released) I still ask for help. I figure if Jesus can ask in the Garden of Gethsemane, I can too... (of course we all know how that turned out)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Happy Endings

Today I celebrate two happy endings. One is happy because it's ending, and the other just ended happily.
Today I emailed my final paper to my final professor. No, not forever-final, just final for the semester. And with that email I ended my 4th semester of grad school and begin a blissful summer vacation. Well, I won't be on actual vacation, I will still be working, but no more pencils, no more books.... Oh that reminds me, I have to return my library books.
Today, too, we ended the "season" of Generations of Faith, our faith formation program. We had a really great year, focused on evangelization and discipleship, where our goal was to train a parish full of evangelists, as my pastor says.
We finished the series with a big commissioning, and a good old fashioned procession and crowning of Mary. The older people swooned over the processions and the kids had a great time waving the streamers and flags as we walked to the park. We had a great time, and the staff really felt like something great had been accomplished.
We're celebrating this happy ending by coming home early- we were home by 6:30- that NEVER happens on a Sunday night! Usually it's because we go out to dinner after Mass and whatnot... so it's not a negative thing to come home later on Sundays but it is a pretty cool feeling to be home this early, while the sun is still up. After a crazy-busy and crazy-happy weekend of near-constant running around we settled into our happy places for dinner, and after a half-hour of sitting I stood up and felt every muscle in my body! But it's a good feeling, it means I'm alive and doing good work.
After a few years of the whole community model of faith formation, I would surely have a hard time going back to the traditional classroom model. It amazes me that more parishes haven't had the courage to move over to this model, and let go of the bookkeeper/bouncer/policeperson role that DRE's and sacramental coordinators are forced to play now. It's hard- yes! It's hard! Shouldn't doing ministry, bringing people to Christ and vice-versa, guiding young people into better relationship with God and the Church, be worth working hard for?
Next year for my internship, I'll be working along these very lines- designing and facilitating workshops for DRE's, Youth Ministers, and Sacramental Coordinators to help them jump out of the rut and look at their roles from a new viewpoint. I can't wait to get started on it...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Our Tree

Our tree is 121 years old.
Well, of course it isn't our tree, it's our landlord's tree, smack in the middle of her property. But our lives seem to circle this big leafy maple tree. It's the home-base of our yard and everything we do out there has some kind of glancing thing to do with the tree. Planting means we have to take care to notice where the massive shade falls throughout the day, and windy days mean moving the cars out from under its weakest limb, just in case. We lose the last few minutes of whatever we are listening to in the car when we pull in, because the tree blocks the satellite's beam. In a way we are more the tree's than the tree is ours.
It's inchworm season in our big tree, and there are tiny green nasties everywhere. Our cars are covered with their tiny but ubiquitous poops. On a very still day, sitting under the tree, you swear you can hear them chewing the leaves.
A few years ago the tree seemed really to be failing. We were worried and watched it for bad and good signs. One day as I was sitting on our porch I heard a clear, pure tone and turned to see our groovy neighbor, who was circling the tree and ringing a bell. He came up on the porch and told me that the bell was ancient, and that its tones would bring the tree's energies into alignment. For my part, I promised to say a Rosary for the tree, and I did. It seems to have bounced back with vigor since then, and who's to say why?
Today we spent the day raking underneath the tree and cleaning up the yard, pulling out tiny little maple progeny and mounting strings of lights on the tree's lower limbs. I cringe when a staple goes in, but the tree stands stoic and is beautiful. Tonight we'll light the lights and a fire in our fireplace under the tree, try to dodge the green worms and their ammunition, and strain to see the stars between the tree's beautiful branches.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Compare and Contrast

It's been a week of comparisons. On Tuesday night we went to visit with friends for dinner and laughs, people we haven't had a chance to visit with that way in so long. One couple has 4 kids, a big house, a crazy busy schedule- the other has one squiggly little one and two full-time youth ministry jobs. Our single friend is free and happy and full of joy. We had so much fun but at one point Scott said to me "you're being so quiet!" It was because I was soaking so much in- I couldn't help but think that I was getting a glimpse of what Might Have Been. If we had made different choices or if things had turned out differently, we could have had similar lives to these four friends. It was like visiting alternate universes.
But I was not only busy comparing our family lives with theirs, but to our ministry lives. They are all in Youth Ministry, which I am currently not- I'm still a little surprised about that- and it was so interesting to hear their stories and experiences. There is still so much frustration in the world of YM. I listened, fascinated by the things that stymie youth ministers in their efforts: parents, kids, money, parish politics, working with others... it's the same old story but I forget about these things since I am in Ministry Heaven at my parish. One reason I was quiet was because I remember being in frustration and hearing people's happy stories and feeling even less hopeful. I know I paid my dues and I know God has me on a temporary sabbatical before whatever comes next, but I don't want to forget how it felt to struggle like that.
Later this week, we attended a funeral for a woman who had 6 kids, 18 grandchildren, etc... we looked at a future that we can't have, and measured our lives against it. Who will be at our funerals? Who will take care of us when we're old? When this woman died, I remarked to Scott that it must be such a relief to know all the answers to these questions. Her husband had died 18 months before her and everyone worried. How long would she live? Could her family care for her? How would it all end? Now they know and it must be such a relief, it seems to me.
I know we're not supposed to compare ourselves with others, but how can we help it? The good news is, even though I know the people around me would say the same about their situations, I am glad to say that I like where we are and wouldn't change a thing.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

First World Problems

Did you remember that the Mary Tyler Moore show was on Saturday night? It was before DVR's and even VHS machines. That means that even if you didn't have wonderful plans on a Saturday night, you'd have something great to watch on tv.
Now they don't even bother putting good shows on Saturday night. Woe unto those who have nothing banked in the DVR. What's on? HGTV renovation shows.
I get hives from watching these shows. I get completely annoyed with people who stress out over color choices, and cry over spilled paint and complain about having to stay up so late to get their free renovations finished.
These are First World Problems. Watching these shows I can't help but think about families all over the world who are living in refugee camps, wondering how they'll ever feed their children. I think of people who've lost everything in natural disasters. I think about people who have lost their jobs/income, and live in fear of their boiler breaking.
It truly is not worth crying over spilled paint. I can't muster a cell that cares about these people and their first-world-problems. I'd rather watch The Soup. But it reminds me of the inequities in this world that need to be addressed and people in need of my prayers.