It’s you, Dad

If there’s a reason 

I can understand

unconditional love,

it’s you, Dad.

If there’s a reason I feel 

that anything is possible

it’s you, Dad.

If there’s a reason I know

that understanding and compassion

matter far more than 

position or wealth,

it’s you, Dad.

If there’s a reason I know 

that gentleness and self-sacrifice

are the signs of true strength

it’s you, Dad.

If there’s a reason I can understand

that God is our merciful Father

who delights in being with us

it’s you, Dad.

Thank you for a life of tenderness.

Thank you for always cheering me on

and protecting my heart.

You will always be my father,

and I’m so glad it’s you, Dad.
  

Into Eternity

For you I would enter the dark waters 

Extinguish myself

For you

Give all

So said the Voice to the tiny speck

Floating the the vastness of the universe

And the little speck

Overcome with sheer joy

Burst into flame

And lit up the entire universe 

With a flash of love

Uncontainable

Entering by this exchange of love

The realm of eternity 

Do we live with reverence for creation?

What strikes me when I listen to Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” (find it recorded here) is an attitude of reverence…both for nature as created by God, and for every human person as part of that same creation. The poor, the humble, the sorrowful sinner, the bird with the broken wing, the glorious sunset…are all beautiful manifestations of God’s infinite creativity. As such, all can be approached with a gentle reverence that inspires respect and care, rather than judgment and selfish dominion.

So what resonates deeply with me, is the Pope’s assertion that the way we treat nature is a sign of, and even affects, how we treat people. If we take all created things for granted, as items to be used for our own pleasure and financial benefit, it leads us to also objectify our fellow  human beings…to use and abuse them as well. We become disconnected from creation, and unable to relate to those who suffer because of our selfish actions; our vision becomes microscopic, and we only see things as they affect us. 

We forget that everything we receive is gift…air to breathe, the sunrise, fresh food to eat, laughter, joy. When we see such things as rights instead of blessings, we fail to appreciate them. We get caught up in trying to cram our souls full of new gadgets, acquisitions to fill the emptiness that should be filled with gratitude for all we already have. 

  
But what if we tried to live with more simplicity? What if we tried to make our money stretch a little further, so we could have more to share with those who really need it, for whom every dollar counts? We had a Lenten meal at our parish in Sunday, and ate a simple meal of soup and homemade pretzels. All the donations for the meal were given to help build a school for poor children in South America. We watched a little video of these beautiful kids with great big brown eyes, smiling and full of hope as they shared their ambitions. “Yo quiero soy un professor,” (I want to be a teacher) said one little girl. (Forgive me if I spell the Spanish wrong!)

That soup tasted like a million bucks. I wish I had a million to send to those kids. They are the little ones whose world we must take care of. The ones for whom we need to lift our eyes behind the screen of our iPhones to look into the future. Let’s tread gently, and live generously, so that as many of them as possible can grow up to fulfill those dreams, and in turn also make the world a better place. 

Two Pounds Richer

  

Have you ever wondered what the best gift for a mom with a new baby is? How you could best help her feel supported while she recovers from birth and gets into the swing of nursing? Well here is a simple way to be a hero, and the best of friends: organize a meal train for her! 

There is a simple website called Meal Train which will help you do just that. Simply invite all her friends and family by email to sign up for a date on your meal train page and you’re done. The site will lets the mom know when someone signs up to help out and even send reminder emails to people the day before their meal drop off day. 

There is a place to put favourite meals or let people know about allergies or any other preferences so that the food can be the most helpful. You can suggest fruit and veggie trays, muffins and other snacks as well as meals. I recommend scheduling the meals every two days, rather than every day, as the help lasts longer then, and leftovers can be used up on alternate days. 

I have been the very lucky recipient of meal trains since I had my second baby and it is always such a help. The nicest thing for a mom with a new baby is to be mothered a bit! I want to send a big thank you to all who have spoiled me in this delicious way! You are really a special part of making my baby’s first days more smooth and peaceful.

 
 I am very moved by the fact that some ladies who helped me only know me because I smile at them when we are both tending to our little noisy ones at the back of the church during Mass. You never know what a friendly smile will bring your way!

And best of all, thanks to your yummy spanakopita, Greek salad, cake, roasted butternut squash soup, homemade lasagna, chicken and potatoes, chilli, muffins, cookies, fruit, chocolate and so much more, my little three week early baby has gained 2 lbs! Thanks for making his milk, and my life, so much richer by your generous love!

  

“Mirror, Mirror” and The Lonely Quest For Beauty

In my last post I ranted about a fairy tale movie I disliked, “Into the Woods,” so now I’ll tell you about one I enjoyed a lot. “You’ll like it so much, Mummy,” said my oldest who had watched it before with Daddy, “It was, like, made for you!” The movie is called Mirror, Mirror and stars Julia Roberts as Snow White’s wicked step-mother. But rather than being just another evil old lady movie, Mirror, Mirror takes quite an interesting and humourus look at the problem of beauty. 

 

The story is told from the perspective of the step-mother, an aging queen who is trying to hang on to the beauty of her youth with all her might. Her most intimate and honest relationship is with her magic mirror; it is the only one permitted to see her vulnerability and insecurity. Time is taking its toll and threatening to snatch away her claim to being “the fairest of them all.” As she has always used her beauty as a source of power, this loss has not only personal but political ramifications, and makes her fearful of losing her crown. 

  
When a handsome (but this time not sleezy like the one in Into the Woods) young prince arrives at the castle, she sees in him an opportunity to solve her financial problems and gain security. The pre-ball ‘beauty treatments’ she undergoes are a painfully funny commentary on woman’s willingness to suffer for her appearance. She uses a a bird-dropping face mask, bee stings on her lips as an instant volumizer, and a horrific harness-like undergarment to squeeze her into her old dress size, to name a few. 

 Yet despite her physical appeal, the queen lacks warmth; she is always determined to feel superior to those she is with, even the prince whose affections she is trying to gain. While she dresses as a magnificent peacock for the costume ball, the outfit she chooses him is that of a rabbit, with silly huge ears sticking out of his hat. It is very clear who is in charge. 

  
 All her efforts at impressing him are trumped by the simple elegance of Snow White, who arrives dressed as a swan, and captivates the prince. The most charming part about her though, rather than her appearance, is how little she thinks of herself. Her defining traits are to be found in her care for others, from the palace servants to the people of her late father’s kingdom. She shines in relationship, rather than in isolation. Integrity and finding the courage to fight for the good are what make this girl attractive. Her Audrey Hepburn-like beauty is something that simply fits with the goodness that exudes from within. 
   
She proves herself a lot more capable than even she expected she was, and finds, with the amusing help of her friends the dwarves, the strength to fight to reclaim the throne of her father from the abusive queen who is taxing the people to death to support her lavish lifestyle. While the young Snow White’s life expands as she gains in her sense of purpose and in serving others, the older queen’s life, built on manipulation and control, collapses inwards as her isolating self-admiration becomes insufficient to ensure her own happiness.   

I highly recommend this movie, for being both humourus and thoughtfully done, and touching on interesting themes of youth, age, beauty, generosity and selfishness. The themes of using beauty as a source of power, and basing one’s self-worth on externals, are certainly important issues facing women in our society today, and worth discussing with our daughters and friends. 

Finally, Mirror, Mirror also ends with an unexpected Bollywood style song and dance number by Snow and the dwarves which is sure to make you laugh! 😄 I sure did!

The Feminine Touch

 

To deny that making a home a beautiful and loving place is a valuable task is to deny the value of woman’s innate ability to nurture…and to place value only on money and perceived external power. Sometimes feminism makes the mistake of equating equality with masculinity…thinking anything typically feminine is lesser. What an impoverished view! How far from respecting the feminine, how far from liberating women! 

True freedom lies in the ability to choose for love…whether it is to work in society, or to build society from within the family. Woman has much to add in both these spheres. 

Whatever we do, wherever we are, we do as women, and proudly so. Feminine qualities of empathy, wholistic vision, ability to multitask, to communicate and bring out the best in people should be part of everything we do, whether teaching our children or designing a bridge. So wear the power suit if you like, but don’t throw away your feminine soul. You are richer for it, and so are those around you. 

We are NOT our stuff

It’s easy to get mixed up about who we are…what is important to us and where we spend our time… Sadly those two things don’t always coincide. Sometimes we spend a lot of our time dealing with stuff that doesn’t really matter. Like our junk. Our millions of clothes, books, toys, papers, household supplies etc.     There’s a saying that where your treasure is, there is your heart also. We might think that our heart isn’t in our physical possessions, but if we spend huge amounts of time buying, organizing, sorting and maintaining them, then isn’t it true? Society (or at least advertisers) actually tries pretty hard to make us believe our happiness and identity does come from what we own. We define ourselves by our possessions:

I have Ferrari = I’m successful. I wear expensive jewelry = I’m classy. I have the latest fashions = I’m attractive. I eat organic = I’m pure.

There’s nothing wrong with these good things, but none of them actaully defines the core of who we are. None of these things come with us when we die. I believe it was St. John of the Cross who said, “At the evening of our lives we will be judged on love.”     So how does stuff relate to our capacity to love? St Augustine tells us that “any lessening of concupiscience (the disordered and selfish desire for or attachment to things) means an increase in charity (generous love for others).” So the less our heart is crammed with stuff, the more room there is for people.     I want to relate this again to how we use our time. What has the time you spend dealing with your excess stuff (at least if you have too much of it like me) prevented you from doing for others? Perhaps volunteering at an old folks home, visiting a lonely relative, having a friend over who really could use a heart to heart chat, etc.     Or what does needing to constantly clean and organize prevent you from doing for yourself? Reading great books? Exercising? Meditating? Praying? Reflecting? Writing? Wouldn’t doing these things make you happier than trying to shuffle around the belongings you don’t know what to do with?     We don’t want to live caught on the surface of life, amidst our clutter. We want to go deeper, love better, ponder life’s meaning and find ways to nourish our souls. Having too much stuff can trap us in the superficial…so there’s only one solution: get rid of it and free yourself to live better!     I’ll write more on doing major decluttering soon, including insights from organizational master Marie Kondo’s book “the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.” Until then, all the best, and remember, you are not your stuff, you are so much more! Trimming the excess clutter will only free you up to be more yourself… 

If It’s Only By Crying…

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If it’s only by crying
that I can understand
the tears of others
then let me wear them like pearls

If it’s only by losing hope
that I can bring it to others
then let it fly away

If it’s only by breaking my heart
that it can become
big enough to hold everyone
break it

If it’s only by my desolation
that I can walk the valley of grief
with others
then strip me bare

Let my fragility bring others courage
my vulnerability, strength

And from my emptiness
let Your light burst forth
and shine

Lead us through the valley of grief
because if we walk it together
it will bring us Home

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Into Loving Arms: Rescuing Korea’s Abandoned Babies

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I’ve had the honour of previewing a very beautiful film called “The Drop Box.” It is about a courageous South-Korean man, Pastor Lee Jong-rak, and his loving wife, who care for babies abandoned on the streets of Seoul with a delicacy and tenderness that frequently moved me to tears.

It all began with their son, Eun-man, who was born with extreme physical disabilities. Because their son needed such constant care, Pastor Lee had to sell their house and move into a ward of the hospital with their 6 year old daughter, staying there for 5 years. They soon came to see, by the tenderness he inspired in others and by his ability to smile despite all his physical limitations, that Eun-man was both a gift to them and a teacher about the preciousness of life.

When they moved out of the hospital, other people began to bring them their disabled babies, because they knew Pastor Lee and his wife would care for them. In a society with a very low tolerance for disability or mental illness, their warm acceptance is a rare and special gift to disadvantaged children. Other such babies were being left on the streets after birth, to die in the cold. So to enable people to be able to abandon their babies anonymously, but safely, Pastor Lee made a drop box and installed it in the outer wall of his house.

When a baby is left, a bell sounds and Pastor Lee rushes down to pick up the child. It is so moving to see this older man hurrying down the stairs at 2 am to cradle a strange infant, praying on his knees in thanksgiving for this precious life. This is such generosity. This is such love.

Sometimes the babies are clean and swaddled, other times they still have the cord attached and have just been born. Sometimes they are accompanied by a sad letter from a teenage mother who doesn’t have her family’s support to care for her child…words like, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. Please take care of my baby.”

“When I was naked, you clothed me, when I was hungry, you fed me…as you do to the least of these little ones, so you do unto me.”

Hundreds of babies are saved through the baby box each year. So many little ones who didn’t die abandoned on the cold, hard cement of a back alley. Most go to government agencies to be placed in care, but Pastor Lee and his wife have also adopted many, especially ones with disabilities, and are currently raising, with some help, 15 children. It is worth seeing this gorgeously filmed and beautifully scored movie just to see their happy little smiles, and to rejoice with them in the simple but miraculous gift of being alive.

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They’re not the unnecessary ones in the world.
God sent them here for a purpose.
Pastor Lee Jong-rak

While “The Drop Box” does deal with serious subject matter, it is ultimately a breath of hope in our world which is so often ready to give up on life. Pastor Lee’s humble but firm conviction that every child has a purpose and mission, and that their life—every life— is worth more than the whole world, resounds in my heart.

One lovely example is one of Pastor Lee’s adopted sons who was born missing many parts of his fingers. He struggled against his fear of rejection and ran for class president in his elementary school. To his great surprise, he was elected, twice! He asked his classmates why they voted for him, despite being “a disabled.” “Because you’re good at sports and everything else,” they said, and from then on his memories of being teased and rejected melted away. When he grows up, he wants to take over his father’s work in caring for abandoned babies and children, so all his father’s work isn’t lost, and so he can do more good. The maturity of this child!

I most heartily recommend seeing “The Drop Box,” the inspiring story of the Korean couple who so heroically pour themselves out night and day for the sake of love. As part of the proceeds go to support their amazing work for the most vulnerable—infants in danger of being abandoned—why not spread the word and invite your friends, too? Just click on the heart in the top right corner of the page to access the easy share buttons on the bottom of the page, and send this story to your friends on Twitter, Facebook or Google +. If you’re a follower and receive my posts in your email box, just click on “leave comment” at the bottom of the post and it will take you to my blog site so you can use the share buttons or comment yourself!

Canadian theatre showings will be March 4th and 5th. Here is the trailer to give you a taste!

The Drop Box Film – Award-Winning Documentary About Life

If you feel inspired to donate to help care for the many babies who are left in the drop box, or even to help support a mother in need to be able to keep and care for her baby, please visit the website below. Thank you and God bless you!

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A Moment with Mercy

I didn’t write on my blog yet this Christmas because I didn’t want to make people sad, and yet I couldn’t force myself to be unnaturally chipper. So here I am again, crawling out from under the Christmas tree like a grumpy hedgehog with decorations stuck all over, to share with you what it was really like.

I wish I could say Christmas was all sparkles and magic, and that it was filled with Hallmark moments. I wish I could say that it’s wrong that Christmas is hard when you’re grieving, but I can’t. Normally, the manger scene with it’s beautiful image of family, the warm circle of love around a newborn baby, brings me such consolation, but this year it hurt to look at it. I could relate better to the empty manger beforehand, but the sweet statue of the baby Jesus just makes me long for mine.

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This year, before the child came down from Heaven, mine went up. And this bittersweet exchange brings me to tears. God didn’t ask me for anything more than he gave himself, but then, he is very generous, so it was a lot.

My other children had a lovely time with our wonderful family who came to be with us on Christmas Day, and I am so glad, but for me it wasn’t really Christmas until we decorated baby Josephine’s wreath on Boxing Day. Our neighbours who are good friends of ours came along, too. That meant a lot.

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There isn’t much I can do to feel better right now, except to reach out to others in my brokenness, and let them know they are not alone in their pain. As my friend Julia wisely pointed out to me, everyone has some secret burden weighing on their heart. Perhaps me being vulnerable can open the door for others to share their struggles as well, and in the sharing, be consoled.

It has been said that it is in showing mercy that we give others hope, so this is my goal, to spread a little more hope. So as part of my own healing, I am reaching out on behalf of a family in the Philippines who is struggling and needs support, and sharing their story with you once more.

They are my friend Christina’s nanny Mercy’s family. I’ve met Mercy a few times. The first time she came with Christina and her mom Lynne to help me organize and declutter my house. A task equivalent to rollerblading up Mt. Everest, but they did wonders, and took away a van load of stuff. For me this was a great act of mercy!

The second time was earlier this month, to talk about the idea of starting a group funding campaign for Mercy’s extended family (parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, etc) whom she has supported by herself for over 20 years. With shy reluctance, she began to tell me her story. Growing up too poor to own chairs. Eating the cheapest dried fish with her siblings. The region plagued by unemployment. Then, long years away from her home, sending back every spare penny, as she still does.

And now, she has been forced to take her father home from palliative care because the hospital cost too much. A while back, sitting by his bedside, she complained of the heat, to see if he still understood her words. He tried to fan her despite hardly being able to move, because she is still his baby, even though he is dying. Her diabetic mother is unable to visit the doctor for treatment and medicine, again, because it cost too much.

Mercy’s meagre savings were recently drained by her niece Chloe being born very sick and needing a month in intensive care. Chloe hasn’t been able to breast feed, but paying for formula means that the other family members eat less, since it’s about $90 a month. Chloe’s mother is planning to move to Canada as well to help support the family and will have to leave her baby girl behind. What a choice to have to make, to leave your baby, in order to make sure she has enough to eat!

Now Mercy is trying to buy a small piece of land further away from the unsafe volcano base where her family currently lives, and the second half of the payment is due in early January. Her fundraiser has just over a day left. Would you consider helping her out by making a donation or sharing her page with others? Perhaps you could give $10, the price of one fancy New Year’s Eve drink, to symbolically toast the good health of Mercy and her family. Or perhaps if Santa has been generous with you this year, you could give more.

My kids saved up $35 in change by doing extra chores and proudly donated it. I added a little more. Every bit helps.

You won’t believe what a little Mercy can do…