Saturday, January 23, 2010

How God Created Hair

I was speaking with my sister the other day and she told me about a conversation she overheard between my 7 year old niece and my 8 year old nephew. My niece was asking her brother how God created her hair. Her brother answered, "God used strings from heaven." My niece was not fully satisfied with the answer and so she elaborated on her question, "How did God make MY hair, with color and like this?" Her brother answered, "Oh, God took (this part is gross) human skin and shredded it up and colored your hair." Well, needless to say my sister was happy about the first part to the point of tears and then the gross things some boys say comes out and ruins the moment.

This conversation reminded me about the scripture passage where Jesus challenges the listeners to "become like children". To be curious about how God created us is one of those childlike questions. To take time to reflect on the awesome mystery of how we were created is to be childlike. Yes, as adults we know how we are created in the womb of our mothers but, how awesome is that! Who else would have created such an event or way of creating another human being.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What Kids Say

Today in the kindergarten class, we were singing the song "Star Light, Star Bright." I went around and tapped each student with a wand as we kept the beat. If the student was tapped at the end of the song, he or she then got to wish for something. Some wished for a magic pony or a trampoline or a Barbie car or a transformer. I laughed hysterically when one little girl wished for a bologna sandwich. She responded, "What! Haven't you ever been hungry?"

Also, according to a 3rd grader, the 5 second rule doesn't apply when something falls in mud.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Some of you may know that I have been learning to paint religious icons over the last couple years. I've been learning the ancient techniqes that involve making your paint with egg yolk and dry pigments, gilding with gold leaf, etc. It's opened up a whole new world for me, and it's what I love to do best when I occasionally have a free day at home.

For the last year or so I've been working on an image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I started this one from scratch, getting my own board cut, gluing on and then scraping out the ridge around the edge called a kovcheg, sealing it with rabbit skin glue and cheesecloth, making gesso of marble and chalkdust, spackling the surface, sealing it, gilding with gold leaf, painting on the basic drawing with India ink, and then finally painting in the actual image.

There is so much spiritual preparation that goes into this, too. Every night when I say Compline before going to bed, I end with the "Hail, Holy Queen," and as I pray that last prayer I always pray with a little image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. It's a sweet, sad image, and Mary's eyes are so merciful, so kind. It's an image that speaks to what it looks like for God to be with us in the hard times. God knows what we feel, no matter what we're going through.

After almost a year, I finally am getting near the finish, and I am so excited I can hardly stand it! Here's what things look like about now. Pretty soon I will add lots of gold lines delineating details of the clothing. Pray that this will come to a happy conclusion soon!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Chances are you have been affected by someone's suicide or suicide attempt. Maybe a friend, classmate, relative. Or maybe you've read about it in the paper or heard it on the news. It's always a tragedy and leaves many unanswered questions and feelings of guilt. There comes a point when all we can do is trust in God and remind ourselves, "I did the best I could. I did all I knew to do. It's not my fault." And maybe even repeat the last sentence over and over until it eventually soaks in. There will always be "what ifs," but only God knows. I'm sure God is weeping also.

Please take some time to watch the youtube video "Why" by Rascal Flatts. It is a powerful song that addresses the feelings of loved ones who are left behind after someone's suicide.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Daily Blessings!

Life is full of unexpected gifts and surprises! Every day I discover something new about the art of being a good teacher. I observed two friends of mine today-one in her 8th grade Langauge Arts Class and another in her 5th grade Language Arts Class. Both were just phenomenal lessons to watch in action. In my 8th grade class, their teacher used "Vocabulary Cartoons" to enhance comprehension of vocabulary words with visuals and in my 5th grade class, they worked in their pods to create word searches with their key vocabulary words. The students just LOVED what they were doing! This is exactly why I love being a teacher! When I see the kids light up with joy and enthusiasm, I light up with joy and enthusiasm!

God is revealed in the most unexpected of places in our lives. The anticipation of each and every day is exciting because we never know what God has in store for us! We make a choice every day-to receive life with joy or to receive life with fear and anxiety of what might be. Today, I saw God in the faces of those students-their energy gives me life. Their joy and zeal for life and learning is God revealed in the ordinariness of a gray, cold, January day! Thank you, God!

First Communion Enrollment

On Saturday night, 37 students became candidates for First Communion. They proudly received their White books after their names were called. Then, they and their parents attended a meeting. I always love First Communion preparation. It is one of my favorite parts of the job. They are genuinely excited and they really want Jesus to come into their hearts. Their joy and their love are infectious. And, their parents seem so haooy as well. The parents had all their questions answered and it was a great meeting! God is good, and I pray that these students will know and experience God's awesome love and grace as they get ready for this sacrament.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Go Colts

I had a great time watching the Colts play the Ravens. I watched the game with a group of sisters. We really got into the game with yelling and cheering. It was amazing. Hopefully, next week the Colts can play just as well. My favorite player is Dallas Clark. Another neat thing is that I can talk to my students about this at school. They think it is really neat that their teacher (a sister) watches football.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

To Live In Grace

This week I had a surprise that brought me to tears. A former student of mine knocked on the door of my classroom the other afternoon while I was teaching. Now, this student was not the top student nor the most likable. Not a student most teachers would like to have a visit from but, this student left school near the end of his Sophomore year never to return. He has a rare blood disease that he has battled for the past two years. He has lost the sight in one eye and many other side effects due to the experimental treatments he has been receiving.

I have been keeping up with him via the baseball coach. This young man loved baseball with all his heart and soul. This past year he was very low and he nor his parents, or friends thought that he would make it very long. The other day the baseball coach had mentioned that this young man would be at school for a short visit. I thought that I would not be able to see him. I heard the knock and opened the door and there he was, that young man whom I butted heads with. I was so surprised that I was speechless. I gave him the biggest, gentlest hug. I had very few words and I know that he realized that our head butting did not prevent me from caring about him and keeping up with him via the baseball coach. It was only a few minutes but it made my entire week, month, year. Needless to say that it was difficult to return to instruction and I was happy that the period was about to end. My other students began to ask who that was and when I said his name they were all quiet. This was the young man that we had been praying for as a school and in my class from time to time. They realized how special this moment was.

I have been teaching my students about the sacraments, grace, rituals, symbols and liturgy the past two weeks. The knock on the door was the knock of grace, a sacramental moment. That the grace of life transcends all other differences. And just as the people of Haiti are now struggling to survive the world is full of grace to help those who have lost everything and are in the "valley of the shadow of death". To live our lives gracefully would certainly have the power to transcend all differences. The young man at my door and the people of Haiti call us to be our best possible selves, to live in grace.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Be Yourself

Part of my ministry involves discussing the readings with the class that is preparing for Mass. Together we come up with a focus, which is done before Mass and may include a skit, a short reading, or a song. We then create petitions that tie in with the readings and the focus.

I enjoy doing this and try to relate at the kids' level. I still remember the misunderstandings I had as a small child and the difficulty I encountered when I reached the middle school years - the dreaded adolescence when you think everyone is noticing every imperfection about you. Your hair, your clothes, your weight, everything is of utmost importance.

I still remember the revelation I had when I realized, "If I think everyone is noticing everything about me, maybe everyone else thinks everyone is noticing everything about them, so really no one is noticing anything about me because everyone else is worried about what everyone else is noticing about them. So really no one is really noticing anything about anybody." Whoa! That's a mouthful.

The reason I bring this up is because on Tuesday, January 24, the 1st reading is about Saul being jealous of David. As I was discussing this with the 6th graders, I wanted them to know that when I was their age, there were classmates I wanted to be more like. "If I could just be (smarter, prettier, funnier, etc.)_ like ________, my life would be better." I could rattle off several of these statements. Adolescence is a difficult age when comparison may be the norm and unfortunately damaging. The sad part is that it continues into adulthood.

It's not easy, but I encouraged the students not to be jealous of others, to recognize their own gifts and talents, and to be the person God created them to be.

There's a story I heard about Rabbi Zusya, an 18th century Hasidic rabbi. He said to his disciples, "In the world to come I shall not be asked, 'Why were you not Moses?' I shall be asked, 'Why were you not Zusya?'"

The same can be asked of us. Why spend valuable time and energy being jealous and desiring to be more like someone else? Hopefully when the time comes, we will be able to answer, "Yes, God, I spent my time on earth being the person you created me to be. My desire on earth was to become more fully who I was called to be, not what someone else was called to be."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

School Again

I am working on my Master's Degree in Education. I have been taking a class every semester in the evening. I start my class this evening. It is called Literacy Programs in the Classroom. When I go to class it takes me back to my college days. I have to say that it was easier back then because I did not have many other things that I had to do. I do have to say that it is teaching me not to procrastinate so much.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mary's Example

In my family, we never underestimated the power of Grandma's rosary. She prayed all the time. My mom does too. My mom recently told me that the rosary has helped her through a great deal in life - more than I'll ever know. I too follow their example and turn to Mary in prayer.

Have you ever tried it? I bet you'll find that you and Mary have a lot in common. Ever been in a situation you didn't expect? Mary sure has. Ever had you whole life change in an instant? Mary's been there too. Ever felt helpless as you watch a loved one suffer? Mary knows what that is like. Ever have things not turn out the way you had planned? Yep, you guessed it. It was the same for Mary.

I pray that I can be more like Mary and follow her example of surrender and acceptance. Her life was turned upside down; however, she trusted fully in God and followed in loving obedience.

Now when I find myself in situations I haven't planned, I either tell myself "surrender and accept," or "Mary." It helps me focus and trust God's will.

Mary, you faithfully followed God's will. May I too follow your example of surrender and acceptance. May I stay focused on God and trust in God's plan for my life. Amen.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Connecting with Friends

Recently, I have had the opportunity to reconnect with two friends from the past. One friend happened to call me on my birthday at the end of December. We had not spoken or written to each other in a very long time. The other friend I just finished talking to via Skype. A new technology tool for me and I love it. The most amazing thing about long term friendships is that we just pick up where we left off. Laughing and remembering all the crazy things we have done in the past and catching up on the present. To begin the New Year renewing old friendships is a wonderful gift. God is the same way. We can be away for a long time and when we decide to reconnect it is like beginning where we left off and catching up to where we are.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Warmth of Winter

It is Saturday afternoon as I sit here in the quiet, watching the snow and praising the awe and wonder of God's creation. The temperatures are bitterly cold outside and yet I feel a sense of eternal warmth these days as I sit in the arms of God and watch..... I watch as the sun comes and goes. I watch as the temperatures rise and fall. I watch as the snow falls, stops, and dances around. I sit and I watch.... God's creation is simply amazing! But, how can winter be warm, you say?

Well, a friend of mine reminded me on facebook today that as we walk out into the chill of the cold winter days, life becomes a "sacrament" as we enwrap ourselves in the arms of God! Thank you Macrina, for sharing that beautiful Wisdom with me! As we move into a new year, maywe all be blessed and surrounded by the arms of God and the fruits of prayer! Amen!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Where Our Vocation Contacts Are From

Ever feel like you are the only one out there discerning religious life? Well, you're not! Here is a map of the young woman throughout the United States who are in touch with us and are thinking about religious life. Zoom out to see the whole United States or move it around to find your state. Click the red or blue marker to see the city and state. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Getting All the Facts

Here at the monastery, we have lots of music. It's a part of who we are. Music plays a major role in our prayer, liturgies, celebrations, and even our recreation.

I'm reminded of my first ever Christmas band concert when I was in 7th grade. Before I continue the story, let me first say that I really thought I was being considerate and doing my parents a favor. For you see, they had come to hear my twin brother and me play. Even though they heard us practice many hours at home, I felt bad that here they were, sitting in the audience, listening to the band as a whole. How were they supposed to know which sound was mine? It seemed tragic to me at the time, so I came up with a plan. I decided that when the band director cut us off at the end of the song, I was going to keep playing. That way my parents, who were sitting in the audience, wouldn't be disappointed. I was doing them a favor. By holding my note a little longer, my parents would get what they came for - they would hear me play.

Fortunately for me, we were all beginning band members, only a few months into playing, so I wasn't the only one who missed the cut-off. Several other band members, who I'm sure were also being considerate and thinking of their families in the audience, also held on longer to the last note, so the band director cut us off several times.

Now that I teach music, I experience the same situation with my 4th grade recorder students. When the song is finished, there are some who like to hang on. I don't blame them. If you're playing with ~20 others, it's tempting to hold on so you can hear yourself. I tell them, "Good musicians know when to stop," or "We're a team. We play together and end together." But like my band director so many years ago, I also cut off my students several times at the end of a song.

It is interesting when we look at our behaviors. The person who is not behaving as we think he or she should may be perfectly justified in his/her own rationale. For example, holding the note longer at the end of the song was wrong. My band director could have gotten upset at me. However, at the time, I didn't realize I as doing anything wrong. I was playing out of consideration for my parents who were listening.

This goes to show that it's better to ask questions and seek understanding rather than limit the situation with only our perception and uninformed judgments.