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Warning: What follows may not be acceptable to sensitive readers. But that’s life.

When you are the caretaker of more than one cat, you remain in a constant state of new motherhood — that is, you have to deal with certain “outputs” on a regular basis. To put it bluntly, there’s a lot of crap involved. And urine. And vomit. Today has been one of those days. Our three elderly felines have left behind them a rash of “land mines” that I am obliged to clean up. Honestly, they were less trouble when they were kittens.

But that’s the way life goes. Unless you are so wealthy as to be insulated entirely from humanity, you probably deal with chores that you don’t care much for. There is a beautiful little children’s book in which a school janitor explains to a child why she cleans toilets by hand: It is to force herself to become used to saying small “yeses” in preparation for the “big yes” that will come at the end of her life. I often think about this character as I scoop and sanitize. By forcing myself to deal with what my cats can’t control, I get experience in dealing with what I can’t control. And that’s humbling.

We’ve had a front row seat this week to the devastation of things we can’t control, like wildfires on the west coast and hurricanes down south. It’s brutal and ugly and heartbreaking. Thousands of people are being forced to say “yes” to things they aren’t ready for. Will it make them better people? Maybe not.

But it is a reminder that we are not the authors of our own lives. We don’t get to write our own endings. Every day we must deal with a certain level of…crap. Some days more than others.

How do we get through it? For me, it all comes down to a higher power. I can’t imagine how people face catastrophes without faith. I’m not sure I could get up in the morning without it. The “faith tape” in my head goes like this: You may not understand it, you may not be happy about it, you may be struck low, but there is always someone with you who longs to make it better. And that is enough to keep me going.

The best part of my faith life? Sharing it with others. Maybe you can’t quite get to the “yes” just yet. That’s okay. I can help. Lots of people can. We are, after all, God’s hands and feet on earth. You are allowed to let someone else help with your problems once in a while. You have only to ask.

Got too much crap in your life? Take a deep breath and remember Jesus’ “big yes” on our behalf. Or give me a call. I’ve got experience with crap.

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There have been things in the news lately that make me question my theory that everyone deserves a second chance.  I don’t want to put in links to the news stories that I’m referring to because I prefer not to focus on the madness.

It’s not good vs. evil.  It’s not us vs. them.  It’s hope vs. pain.

During my recent hospital stay, I realized that when you’re in pain, nothing matters but relief.

We may focus so much on the pain that we forget hope even exists.

I think that pain may be preparation for purpose.  It may be that what you learn while wounded in the trench is an education in empathy.  A crash course in compassion. When the pain is finally lifted, you’re able to share your experience to help someone else on the same path.

This morning, I focused on the pile of bills and the persistent pain in my life, and prayed, quite melodramatically:

Why is this happening, Lord?  I cried. Where are You?

Later in the day, I had an appointment with an agency that provides resources for low-vision patients.  Two very pleasant ladies showed up at my door; one of them was blind herself, and she tapped the step in front of her with her cane. At first, as with anyone I don’t know, I wasn’t sure how much I’d be able to open up to them.

Before I knew it, we were chatting like old friends. As it turns out, they were people of faith too. They shared some of their own struggles and I realized that this was the answer to my morning prayer.

Where are You?

Right here, child.

Wherever two or more are gathered in My Name – even if they’re not talking about religion – I am there in the midst of them. They didn’t have to quote scripture or baptize me with holy water. They encouraged me.  They offered me the sacrament of their own experience. They listened.

Then my physical therapist came for our weekly appointment.  She’s pure positive energy with a knack for healing. No matter where the pain is, she zeroes in on it like a laser beam.  I want to say that she massages my foot and leg – that is, if “massage” is French for painful kneading of muscles that results in my muttering expletives at her in French! – but she’s the reason I can walk at all.

So this crew of caring showed up and, even though they aren’t missionaries or pastors, they ministered to me. Even in the face of pain, hope seemed reasonable again.

Angels appear in many forms, and sometimes, they come right to your front door.  And they may even bring answers to prayers and unexpected blessings.

There’s no shame in saying,
“I need help.”

There’s no risk
in taking an outstretched hand.

There’s no point
in closing myself off when the door is wide open.

May I walk toward the grace extended to me.
And breathe it in like cool air,
and wear it like a warm shawl,
and share it when I’m full.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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