Sunday, May 31, 2015

Grace




I've reached a time where bones hurt and aches and pains are prevalent. My aging parents weigh heavily on my mind and sometimes the sins of my past come back to haunt me in wicked ways. I think of ups and downs, triumphs and failures. I've made mistakes in marriage, hurt people with my words at times, but hopefully have been a blessing as well.

Have I raised my son well? Am I a good daughter, wife, employee, friend? I wish I had the answers. There are days I'm fresh and ready to face most anything. And then there are others that threaten to crush my spirit, leaving me hollow and aching, forlorn and almost hopeless.

I could never have faced the difficulties of this life without my faith. As a young girl in Catholic school, a teenager who watched every religious movie ever made, and an adult who finally found peace in a non-denominational church. The road of my faith was bumpy, filled with rocks and pebbles. Guilt was such a big part of growing up Italian and Catholic at the same time. I was never quite "good enough." Never measured up to someone, anyone who was better than me, smarter, kinder. Oh did I waste a lot of time.

I never understood grace. I thought I had to work my way to heaven, buy my way in with the ticket of perfection. Not until about six years ago and finding a church home which changed my life, did I realize that grace, perfect love of a perfect God is all I need. That's it. I don't have to be better. I'm good enough for God's love. I am His beloved and have felt the Holy Spirit stirring strongly in my life.

When those days come, the days that pull me down, reminding me how far I still need to go, or tickle at the outer corners of my mind with their lies of being worthless, I remember grace. Someone died for me. His blood, His love poured out for ME. No matter how imperfect and pain-filled my body is, how thoughts of past failures plague me, He loves me unconditionally. And nobody will ever take that away.

Bask in the thought today. Surrender to grace.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mother's Day





She was once a little girl. A daughter, a child. She had hopes and dreams, laughter and fun. She also had hard times, worries, fears and tears. She was born in an old-fashioned era and knew hardship and lack. Yet she pressed on and fought the good fight in her life. She's my mother, Eileen, and I'd like to tell you a little about her.

 Mom has been such a stable even though she had her own adversities. A child of an alcoholic father, Mom grew up with fear as a constant companion. A father who would gamble away the last of the grocery money, a father who hit his wife. And a wife, who took out on her children what she could not on the man she married. Little Eileen wanted so much more. She wanted to play piano, sing. . .soar. But tough times didn't permit her dreams to come true.

She married young, at nineteen years of age to my father, Richard, a man six years her senior. A good man, a loving man, someone who stood by her through good times and bad. Though nervous issues would plague my mother for many years, she now had stability and tenderness. She fought her way through these times, these confusing times when the mind would play tricks on her, threatening to tear her apart. And she would come out on the other side stronger and better for it, with a heart so filled with compassion for others, that many lives would be touched by her.

A pregnancy would come in later years after Mom lost two other babies after she had me. A doctor would warn her to terminate the baby due to health concerns. But this strong woman, my mother, would say words that have stuck with me all my life: "I'll have this baby, or die trying." And nine months later, my brother was born, a true blessing in our lives.

Mom ran several antique businesses through the years, enjoying the challenges they brought. But her biggest accomplishment to many of us was owning a small mom and pop store in our little town of Ambridge, Pa. The Eighth Street Dairy was a quick stop for kids after their long school days. A place to play a video game in the early 80's, and purchase bags full of penny candy: swedish fish, gummy bears, gum balls. Nothing was more important to her, however, than her daily talks with the people and kids that walked through her door.

Some folks came daily for a newspaper and cup of coffee. They'd share stories with Mom of their lives and problems. Like a therapist, Mom would listen and occasionally give advice. And as for the children who came through the door after school hours, Mom would have a listening ear and
show by example, kindness and patience to all, qualities they may not have seen in their own homes at times.

Years later, many of the young people, now grown, would approach Mom if they'd see her somewhere. They'd tell her just how much she meant to them in those earlier years, the time she spent talking with them. A few have told how their lives have changed from knowing her. One man said, "If it wasn't for you, I don't know where I'd be. Every time I thought about getting into trouble, I'd think of you, and just stop what I was doing."

As for me, I think back to a lady who stood by me in one of the darkest times of my life: my spinal surgery for scoliosis as a teen. I don't know how Mom was able to keep strong watching me go through such a difficult time in Children's Hospital. How she kept my spirits up and told me it would pass.

I've gotten my heart from my mother. My sense of humor. I've gotten a love of movies, books, and imagination from her, a spirit of creativity. I've gotten compassion, a love of animals and underdogs of the world. I've learned about faith and God from Mom.

I think Mom doesn't realize just how many lives she's impacted. And now, as her golden years are upon her, I want to remind her of this. The world is a better place because of you, Mom. So many of us wouldn't be who we are without having known you.

Here's to Mother's Day, and the blessing, the great blessing my mother has been to me. Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you with my whole heart.