Monday, July 23, 2007

Bye for now

I'll be offline for the next two weeks. Our Mediterrean cruise is on! The ship, which was in dry dock until last Friday, is on its way to meet us in Barcelona tomorrow. I won't be blogging at all until we return. Then, watch for pictures...lots and lots of pictures!

Please pray for our safe travel...thank you!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More wisdom from the movies

There's a scene in the movie While You Were Sleeping where the father of the family ponders the events of their turbulent week. One son is in the hospital just out of a coma, and he's talking with the other son, who is about to finally tell him that he doesn't want to work in the family business:

Dad: It's been a helluva week, hasn't it? Life is a pain in the ass, I'll tell ya. You work hard, try to provide for the family. And then - for one minute - everything's good, everyone's well, everyone's happy. And in that one minute, you have peace.

Son: Pop, this isn't that minute.

You might think that life is supposed to be mostly made up of those moments where "everything is good"; that bad things do happen, but it's OK as long as they only happen once in a while. I guess there are some people for which that is true. There are even those fortunate ones who have seem to have a charmed life - a loving intact family, always enough money in the bank and food to eat and clothes to wear, no major illnesses or deaths. Fortunate, indeed. But also totally unprepared when the inevitable occurs.

When Danny died, I was working my way through the list of people to call and came across the number of our neighbors back in Michigan. We weren't particularly close; I cannot even remember their names today. I called them just moments after they had received the news from our friends across the lake. The man had become hysterical when he heard...he was screaming and sobbing in the background. His wife told me that he had never before known someone who died...not even a grandparent.

I wish life was like that lake we lived on...beautiful and calm with a few ripples...and on those stormy days, waves we can handle without much trouble. But I've found that life is more like the ocean...constantly rocking and churning, and sometimes violently stormy with waves so high you can't see the horizon or anything else. And it's only once in a while you get those moments of complete calm and peace...just as the dad in the movie described it.

Does that mean that we have no choice but to be uneasy and unhappy except in those rare moments when everything is good? No. We can choose to recognize that there are still lots of things to be thankful for, even in the worst situations. And we can remind ourselves that no storm lasts forever...whatever we are going through will eventually pass or be resolved.

There are storms going on all around me right now, and I have no idea when any of them will end and what kind of damage they will leave behind. But I am at peace in the midst of the storms, because I know God loves us. He has shown me again and again that it is always safe and warm in His boat. We just need to stay in the boat and trust Him.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pencil me in

UPDATE: See correction below.

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." (John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy")

"Russians don't take a dump, son, without a plan." (Admiral Josh Painter in the movie "Hunt for Red October")

"I want you all to forget the flight plan. From this moment on, we are improvising a new mission." (Gene Krantz in the movie "Apollo 13")
Planning is a good thing. It is better to plan than not to plan. When I worked as a Project Manager, planning was over 90% of the effort...making plans then planning alternative plans in case the original plan didn't go as planned.

In the true story of the Apollo 13 space mission (the movie is a favorite of us project managers), the lives of the astronauts depended on their own ability - and that of thousands of people on the ground - to completely write off the original plan when something they didn't plan for happened. When they realize they cannot possibly land on the moon and get home alive, they take just a moment to grieve their lost moon before shifting their focus to creating and executing a new plan. If they had spent too much time indulging in their disappointment before moving on, those three men flying in their damaged spacecraft may not have made it home.

My guess is that a very small percentage of all the plans in the history of humanity have ever gone off without a hitch. In my circle of friends, only a very few (one nurse and a couple of priests*) are in the careers they originally planned.

In my life, all my plans are written in pencil. The route I drive to work, lunch dates, vacations, my career...all these plans come with the disclaimer "subject to change without notice". When things change I still feel disappointed sometimes, but I don't stay in that mood for long. I wonder at and take comfort in the fact that while my own plans are in pencil, God's are in ink:

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11 [NIV])
God's ink is pretty much invisible to us until the moment arrives. But trust in His promise that He will work out all things for good (Romans 8:28) and don't worry about it. He's God! Who could be a better project manager?

For a long time, my plan has been to be on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean two weeks from now. But last week a submerged rock and a failed electrical system combined to put a big question mark on that plan. The ship is damaged, but is supposed to be repaired and back in service in time for us to sail as planned.

And if it isn't? Well, we might just fly to Europe anyway. Only God knows where we will end up.

*Later today I thought of more of my friends who actually are still working in their original chosen profession...including my brother-in-law the accountant. Or as his mother would say, "my son is A CPA Man".

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A thrilling evening

Last night I met one of my favorite bloggers who I mentioned in my last post, Dawn Eden of The Dawn Patrol. She was in town to speak about her book The Thrill of the Chaste, which I reviewed when it came out last year.

We also heard a little bit about her new job with The Cardinal Newman Society Love and Responsibility Project, which I will write more about later.

It was a stormy evening, but the rain stopped in time to have the talk outdoors. Listening to Dawn speak reminded me just how awesome God is when it comes to preparing people for His purpose. Dawn's life has taken a lot of twists and turns, all of which brought her here to this place on this day to speak...with a microphone...about sex...from the door of a Catholic the middle of a busy Chicago neighborhood.

Kinda makes you wonder what God is preparing you for, doesn't it?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

You are not what you lack

A while back I had drinks with an old friend who asked about my love life. He was aware of my beliefs and my commitment to refrain from sex until I get married again. He said that while he admired that, he still thought I would be better off with a boyfriend; and since I am an interesting and attractive person, I would have no trouble getting one...if I was willing to put out.

So if I would just become someone I am not, compromise my beliefs and give away something that is precious to me, I can have someone to go to dinner and the movies with! Doesn't sound like a good trade to me. And besides, why would I want a man who wants a woman who would become someone she is not, compromise her beliefs...?

There are times when it is extremely tempting to give up and give in. I am healthy and have human desires. I may be abstinent from sex with my body, but that's not the same as being chaste in mind and spirit...especially since, as a widow, I know very well just what I am missing.

We live in a world that says "if it feels good, do it" and "if you want it, you should have it". The world looks at the lack of something in our lives as a total negative, when in truth it can be a blessing. If for no other reason, such a void in our lives can make us appreciate all the things we do have.

Our friend Dawn at The Dawn Patrol wrote a wise and beautiful essay in response to a reader's question about how she can consider chastity to be "...suffused with the thrill of wonder" instead of a void in her life. (Make sure you read the comments...lots of wisdom there too.)

So as I face another Saturday night without a date, I won't look at the lack in my life as defining my life. My singleness is not who I am, nor is it a burden to be lamented. It is simply one facet of the precious gem that is the life that God has given me.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The sounds of silence

A couple of weeks back my niece lent me her car while mine was in the repair shop. It had a different kind of radio/cd system that involved a panel that opened to reveal more functions than would fit on its face.

I say "had" because around day five of driving her car, the panel wouldn't close. I couldn't turn the radio off, change the volume or the station. As I was trying desperately to find a way to fix it, I broke it completely. And so for the last couple of days I had no radio, no CD and no iPod because my adapter was in my car, in the shop.

It made me realize just how very little time I spend in a given day without some kind of audio and/or visual activity. Riding for even the 15 minutes it took me to get to work was a very odd experience because I'm usually listening to something.

Even in my "quiet time" first thing I the morning I'm either reading or speaking to God, without giving Him time to talk to me. This morning in my reading I came across this quote from Mother Teresa:

"In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to His voice."

So I gave it a try. I made a serious effort to be silent and listen. I didn't hear God's voice, unless He was singing the theme song to the TV show "Scrubs":

"I can't do this all on my own. No, I'm no...I'm no Superman."

I suppose it could be some sort of message, reminding me to lean on Him. Or it could just be the song is still stuck in my head from last week, when my nephew wouldn't stop singing it.

Perhaps listening in silence is like any other skill...I need to practice. I'll try again by driving to work without the radio on. And perhaps God will answer my prayer by taking that darn song out of my head!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

From sea to shining sea

Today we honor the birth of our nation.

When we ask God to bless America, do we imply that the rest of the world is not worthy of God's blessings? No. None of us is worthy...but He blesses us anyway and allows us to be a blessing to others.

When we fly the flag, is it arrogance and conceit...a way to say that we think we are better than anybody else? No. The flag is a symbol of our identity and history.

When you hear people bash America, focusing only on our flaws, does it make you angry? It makes me sad, just as I would be if people focused only on my flaws.

Is America perfect? No. But I would not want to live anywhere else.