Today, again, I find myself on a hard, wooden pew amongst nervous youngsters and families. It is Charlie’s First Reconciliation; a Catholic rite of passage where my second grader is about to confess his sins to a priest. He has learned what sin is: a choice made that is not an accident. A bad choice. But with this sacrament, his sins will be absolved and forgiven.
He fidgets. His teacher approaches and signals to speak to me privately. Did you turn in Charlie’s love letter? Oh dear. Love letter? Of course, I had not. I had completely forgotten. I sheepishly sat (no pun intended since the lamb is the symbol for Penance) as, once again, the youngest got the shaft. I feverishly scribbled on a blank piece of paper the teacher had, just for this reason, and hand wrote a message; quickly sealing the envelope and handing it back to her. Weeks prior I had forgotten he would be tested for this sacrament. Today it was, the day, and I forgot to write him a love letter; congratulating him on his rite. I was this small once again. (sigh).
He chose to confess to Father Tom; a very verbose, Irishman, who would seem intimidating to most kids. Not my son. Of course, after the child confesses, the parent follows suit and as I sat face-to-face with the sharp eyes of the priest; I confessed. I am a terrible parent. I throw tantrums. I forget about my son’s milestones. And I’m a Martha, not a Mary.
(Luke 10:39-41). Martha prepares and cleans as Jesus visits while her sister Mary, sits and visits with him. Frustrated, Martha asks him,
“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?”
He answers, “Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”
I am a busy-body doing various acts of service or works; and totally miss the message.
It so happens that, this week, I almost forgot to do my Bible Study. I was focused on bookclub since I hosted Friday night. I busily cleaned and prepped Chinese fare to celebrate the Chinese New Year; and the fact that the book I chose, “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, is set in San Francisco. Again, I was lost in busy-work and missed the message. So early Friday morning I kept re-reading the above passage about Martha and Mary and could not understand how it fit in with our study of 1000 Gifts with a chapter entitled, All is Grace. I read the verse, again. After reading the question for the third time I realized; I was in the wrong chapter of Luke. I needed Luke 9:39-43. God CHOSE that I read that verse, over and over, as a reminder.
The ugly-beautiful is what Ann Voskamp calls it. We see God’s face in the messes of life. Recently, all I see is; MESS. But if I focus and give thanks for everything that I have; I really should be seeing God. But I refuse to see; ungrateful. I am determined to organize and do busy-work to fix my life. As we concluded our mass I thought of God’s grace; forgiveness. I thought of what I saw on Ann’s blog regarding Bible studies: Because passing on prayer concerns but to pass on praying — that’s not godliness. It’s gossip. It’s easy to appear to be a good Christian. But if you miss what is fundamental; the praying, then what are you really getting out of it? I know God has given me grace. All week it’s been right in front of my eyes. Going through the act of Confession, physically, brought it home to me. Remember that my most effective way of learning is bodily-kinesthetic. I see now.
I thought back to my week; plenty to be thankful for. Our book, last night, talked about: love, forgiveness and second chances. The girls sat around my table, paintbrushes in hand, decorating their “reading glasses” with hues of: jonquil, pacific iris, pink dahlia and seaweed. We smelled the aromas of honeysuckle and astroemeria, shared flowers and even ate flowers (edible hibiscus with champagne…yum). The girls chose flowers that spoke of: patience, devotion, love, magnificence, innocence, delicate beauty and faith. Our bouquet sat on the table.
As women our days are filled with details: driving, work, driving, homework, driving, cleaning, driving, cooking and finally sleeping. It is so rare that we affirm one another for our unique abilities. I gave each person a red, Chinese envelope. I couldn’t include money but I made sure each person wrote something personal. Money can be spent but words, of praise or condemnation, can stay with someone forever.
When it came time to share our letters at mass, this morning, I read what Charlie wrote to me as he stared, intently, at the paper I had hastily written. Mom. What does it say? I can’t read handwriting. I sighed. But I looked up to the altar and patted for him to sit on my lap. He scrambled off the pew as I read the words I had written to him and he smiled; holding his lamb pin. My life is ugly and messy. I am reminded of where to place my focus.