Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bring May flowers and birds and nighttime choruses :)

Happy May and the sunshine is back!  

Check out this note on St. Martin's Ministries web page about our generously donated, beautiful new counter made for the Barn Thrift Shop! http://stmartinsministries.org/

This week of course flew by.  I am wrapping things up with farewell luncheons, cards and well wishes, and my favorite-- extra hugs. 
Thanks for keeping my in your thoughts as I continue to transition. 

I love this blessing and want to share it with you as I keep it in mind each day.

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be confident, knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.
(St. Therese of Lisieux)

Have a great weekend!

Monday, April 29, 2013

A few more pictures including some that I added months ago and never posted...


The bulletin board at St Martin's Barn decorated for February--Heart Health month.

The display case during Ordinary Time--discovering the extraordinary!




Super creative circus-themed cupcakes made and decorated by Baker Bees for the Spring Benefit.

Posters to celebrate 2 years of successful cooking challenges completed by SMH residents.

The name of a D.C. Metro station! 



April

Dear readers,
I hope you enjoyed the photos of my beloved babies.  I have not written in some time.

Our Sister Jeannette Murray passed away on the Feast of St Benedict, March 21.  We had fun celebrating St Paddy's day with her--a couple songs and a short group visit to her room.  The funeral and all services were beautiful and celebrated her full life of ministry and love.
Those of us in green on St Patrick's Day
I am sad to inform you also that our Sister Jean Marie Fagan passed away just last week, April 23.  Her suffering (especially many years with Parkinson's) has now ended.  I know I wrote in a recent post that she has been fluctuating for months now.  Even if one is expecting it, the loss is still great.  There is much healing to come for the community.  Of many things, these experiences bring everyone a little closer together.  We will hold her funeral tomorrow, April 30. 

On a lighter note, there are so many things to tell you!
My mom and sister were here at the end of March which was GREAT (for me, and I will speak for both of them as well)!  We explored, shared, relaxed, shopped, laughed, and much more!  They were here for over a week which included time at the beach (cold and windy), Sr Jeannette's services, a full day in Washington D.C., and holy week & Easter. 
My dad visited mid-April for a long weekend.  He and I kept very busy as well: touring the grounds and my service sites, taking in DuPont historical places in Wilmington, DE, and enjoying Baltimore's Inner Harbor.  We had time to catch up and see new places! 
Since it seems my whole family may be moving here (haha), my cousin Allie visited as well.  She left just yesterday and was here for a long weekend.  We took advantage of the time for just us with many laughs, reminiscing, and photos.  The weather was sunny and warm (but actually not as warm as MN--go figure!) while we spent time outside grilling, walking the boardwalk and beach, and in D.C. 

St. Benedict
Though leaving soon will be bittersweet, this time with my family, especially sharing with them my life here, helps to make a transition into the "next."  I am so grateful to them and to the support of family and friends whether or not they've physically been here in Maryland. 

Life has been full aside from my visitors.  Everything is bright and green here.  Many of the spring blossoms have come and are already gone.  Each week accelerates, passing more quickly than the last. 


The residents and St Martin's House enjoy doing Zumba and other abs/core cardio workouts.  I am glad to report that my efforts with this have increased the confidence in some, and a couple of the women will continue to be motivated to care for their bodies, physical, and mental health, release stress, giggle and themselves and others in exercising. 

There are now five residents at the House; there were only three for a while.  One project there has been marketing the House with the primary goal of increasing the number of residents there.  I have been glad to be involved in this and even had the opportunity just last week to visit another transitional housing program in Southern Maryland for some insight on and comparison in their programs. 

The Barn is as busy as ever.  The nicer weather brings more people to us and this coming week, being the first week of the month, will be an especially busy one, including the first Saturday of the month "Saturday Sale."  We receive an incredible amount of donations in clothing, and in other items to both the thrift shop and food pantry.  We recently were able to give out fresh potatoes and fresh pears to clients; we had romaine lettuce last week and may continue to have fresh produce! 

The Benedictine School community has gone through a transition period the past weeks, as have the sisters and entire community here, with deaths affecting the atmosphere.  I have been fortunate to hear many stories of both Sister Jeannette and Jean Marie.  It is difficult for staff and parents to imagine Benedictine without their presence.  Their spirits live on!  The Spring Benefit for Benedictine was last Saturday the 20th and was a wonderful, lively event.  The circus as well as casino (in honor of the party-loving) theme was a fun one; and again, many are so generous.  I am continually taken aback by the deep caring and sharing of those whose lives have been touched by the works of the Ridgely Benedictine Sisters. 

My work at the school the past months included a lot of time observing a few students.  This was great experience for me to grow familiar with a Student Observation System (SOS) called BASC (Behavior Assessment System for Children).  I continue to float and help where I am needed in various classrooms, as well as spend extra time in student counseling sessions & groups. 

I didn't give you a report of my visit to Alexandria, VA to the all-community Eucharist and multicultural dinner & festival with a friend there.  The atmosphere was energized and colorful.  I was engaged in conversation with new acquaintances and my ears were filled with beautiful languages and rhythms.  I hope to be able to attend another event like this in mid-May! 

I think this is long enough for one post!   Thank you, always for reading.  I hope the new life of Spring reaches you wherever you are at this time.  More soon! 

The display case (that I jump up into to staple up the background material) decorated for Easter!



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Photos to warm your heart

Here are my babies at St Martin's House.  Some of them no longer live here at St Martin's but they all are so dear to my heart.  Hope you enjoy!  These were a long time coming ;) 











Friday, March 29, 2013

FORGIVENESS



                Forgiveness.  A word that has been resonating with me for weeks now.  A couple weeks ago we had silence at dinner, as with every Tuesday and Thursday evening during Lent.  Actually there was not silence; rather, we listened to a reflection by Edward Hays (incredible person, just so you know).  The reflection was on Forgiveness. 
                Edward Hays in this reflection painted a picture for us of a rainbow rain that fell on human beings.  After the rain stopped an unforgettable thing happened: the rain left stains on the people.  The stains were colors of the rainbow, but not so pleasant.  These stains were color-coded to sins, i.e. red for murder, blue for adultery, etc., and the stains covered the faces and arms and every inch of skin on the people, on us.  People frantically tried to scrub off the stains, ashamed of themselves.  People did good deeds in hope of absolving their sins; we went to church, prayed; we gave up earthly possessions, donated money.  People went in to hiding; as the story goes so did the Pope, and government offices were closed. 
                I encourage you to find this reflection if you are interested.  I really don’t want to spoil the ending, the solution to removing the stains.  But I will by telling you what Hays said.  There was a man and woman who, among the frantic attempts to scrub away stains, sat quietly talking with one another.  We soon find out that they are apologizing for the hurt they’ve afflicted on the other, and on themselves.  The two forgive one another and promise to do their best.  And guess what? –their stains disappeared. 
                In addition to this reflection, multiple times in the past weeks I have turned on the radio and what is the song that fills my ears?  Forgiveness, by Matthew West.  There have been many Gospels and other readings recently on FORGIVENESS.  What a beautiful gift.  And a focus during this Lenten season.  The parable of the Prodigal Son (or daughter; --child) also speaks to me of so much Forgiveness. 
                Alas, forgiveness as it has been a resounding cymbal to my ears and my heart provokes my thoughts in many ways.  Forgiving myself is one of the hardest things to do; it’s right up there with forgiving the hurt experienced from the carelessness of those close to me.  But God always forgives and that forgiveness is love.  So too, then, unforgiving or not forgiving keeps me from God.
               
Forgiveness, by Matthew West

It’s the hardest thing to give away,
And the last thing on your mind today.
It always goes to those that don’t deserve.

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real.
It takes everything you have to say the word…
Forgiveness; Forgiveness.

It flies in the face of all your pride,
It moves away the mad inside,
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy.
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you got a right to hold a grudge,
It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘set it free.’

Forgiveness, Forgiveness, Forgiveness, Forgiveness.

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible.
Forgiveness, Forgiveness;
Help me now to do the impossible:
Forgiveness.

It’ll clear the bitterness away,
It can even set a prisoner free.
There is no end to what its power can do.
So let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace:
The prisoner that it really frees is you.

Forgiveness, Forgiveness, Forgiveness, Forgiveness.

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible:
Forgiveness.

I want to finally set it free.
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees.
Help me now to give what You gave to me…
Forgiveness, Forgiveness,
Forgiveness, Forgiveness,
Forgiveness.

Friday, March 15, 2013

In Gratitude for the opportunity to Change


Change our hearts
this time;
Change our minds
This time.

Change our hearts… the song of the season. Here is the first verse that resonates with me in this Lenten season: Brought by your hand to the edge of our dreams, one foot in paradise, one in the waste; drawn by your promises, still we are lured by the shadows and the chains we leave behind.  But Change our hearts this time, your word says it can be.  Change our minds this time, your life could make us free.  We are the people your call set apart; Lord, this time change our hearts.   (Hymn credits to Rory Cooney; ©1984, spiritandsong.com®, a division of OCP; taken from OCP missal Breaking Bread 2013)

On my current reading pile:

Not By Bread Alone: Daily Reflections for Lent, 2013 reflections by Bishop Robert F. Morneau; Liturgical Press

Give Us This Day daily readings and reflections, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN

A Love That Impels by Stephanie Campbell, OSB.  The history of the Ridgely Benedictines © 1986. 

A Field Guide to God by Patty Kirk

Prayer by Joyce Rupp  

Running With Expanding Heart by Mary Reuter, OSB (St Benedict’s Monastery, St Joseph, MN)

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.  Something I’ve been meaning to read since high school.  A novel about Dinah, the forgotten sister of Joseph and his eleven brothers.

The Breath of the Soul by Joan Chittister

…and many other novels that I have not yet dipped into, however, I did read the first book of The Hunger Games in January. 
 

Last week five college women on their spring break were here to volunteer everywhere on campus.  It was fun to have them around.  They are lovely, hard-working girls.  Having their help at the Barn for the week was wonderful.  Young—keep in mind age is relative!—persons are hard to come by.  We all enjoyed their company, energy, humility, and compassion.  I was responsible for training them on Monday at the Barn.  It went really well; I could tell they were overwhelmed that first day.  They kept extremely busy—splitting their time even more so than I do in a day or a week.  They each wrote me a sweet note at the end of the week as well.  Darling J

Three weeks ago our Sister Jeannette was taken to the emergency room.  To make a long story short, she was admitted, spent a few days in the hospital and then returned home and is on hospice.  She has had good days, some bad.  She tires easily, but has lots of visitors come to see her and many people praying her through it all.  Sister Jean Marie also has good days among not-so-good ones.  She has spells during which she talks to some people.  She seems to be especially suffering the past week or so.  Our other Sisters in the infirmary have been pretty stable, not anything major. 

Saturday, March 2nd was the 16th annual Author’s Luncheon to benefit St Martin’s Ministries.  It went extremely well and was an enjoyable day.  I am so thankful for the opportunities I’ve had here, to be a part of the preparations for and execution of this event—one in whose target audience I otherwise would not be.  The Luncheon was held at a beautiful venue on the Chesapeake Bay, all windows looking out on the water and the Bay Bridge.  Three local authors were present; we (this was my main job during the event) sold their novels and the authors were available to sign them.  The authors also each spoke on their writings following the lunch meal itself.  They did a wonderful job sharing, answering questions, and giving their time to the event.  The silent auction of 90-some donated items and vacation-trips successfully found homes.  A highlight of the day was Beth, one of St Martin’s House residents, shared her story and the blessing that her life at St Martin’s has been.  I encourage you to read her speech here: stmartinsministries.org

I have been taking WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) classes the past four Wednesday mornings.  The program is put on by the Chesapeake Voyageurs.  A staff person from St Martin’s House has been participating as well.  This action plan can be used for a habit, addiction, behavior, etc.  The process looks first at wellness and what is needed to be well.  These five things are hope, support, self-advocacy, education, and responsibility.  A wellness toolbox is then created specific to each person with go-to resources such as healthcare providers, taking a walk or exercising, meditation and deep breathing, being around positive people.  The recovery action plan itself looks at triggers and a plan for triggers, early warning signs and how to deal with them—things that will set off the maladaptive behavior.  It is very thought-provoking and makes a person very self-aware; suggested uses are anything from a substance abuse/addiction to quitting a job to mending a relationship to motivating oneself to clean. 

Up and coming:

My mom and sister will be here soon to visit for a week!  We ALL are very excited. 

St Patrick’s Day heightens the mood a bit for especially the Irish.  Clover-shaped cookies are in the making. 

This evening I am going to Alexandria, VA to join my CSB friend Shannon for an International Festival.  I will report next time. 

The end of Lent will be here before we know it.  Palm Sunday is next Sunday the 24th followed by the Triduum and Easter!

 

Friday, February 22, 2013

February has come and is going!

I mentioned in my previous post the blog of Sister Jo-El, a member of the St. Gertrude community.  A couple weeks ago she shared a beautiful reflection on Ordinary Time.  I encourage you to read her words here http://www.osbridgely.com/apps/blog and to be mindful of what is extraordinary in your daily life.  Maybe there is something or someone you can influence to move from ordinary to extraordinary, maybe especially with new seasons.  While still in the month of February we try to keep hold of our new year's resolutions; a few moments of sitting with the ordinary can do a lot for my brain racing 139 miles per minute, for my heart, and for my body, too. 

Recent outings:
                Did I mention I went to the Holocaust Memorial Museum?  I hardly could take in even a portion of it.  I was on sensory overload, but don’t know if I envision returning anytime soon.  For any of you who have visited the museum, you know the toll it takes emotionally.
                I met a friend in Annapolis a recent Friday afternoon.  We enjoyed hot chocolate…  I have to share this: the place we went insisted the only way they could make the drink was to fill have the cup with mini marshmallows before adding hot water to the mix.  One of my companions was bewildered; she could not wrap her head around such a concept.  Continuing, we enjoyed a brisk walk in the light drizzle around a quiet, wet downtown Annapolis.  It is so charming.  We enjoyed company in a warm, Friday evening bustling pub as we tasted vegetable crab soup.  An evening we could hope to repeat again soon!
                Also when in Annapolis I found the Whole Foods market/store.  I had never been in one (not even in MN), and had been looking forward to exploring.  Wow, what a place!  I enjoyed the plump produce section, the fishes and meats, oooh-ing at the homemade pastas, the cheeses, oh, and more!  This is one of my favorite pastimes, if you didn’t know: food markets, farmers’ markets, co-ops, etc. 
                I have been to Dover, DE a few times in the last weeks.  I venture there with my friends to have some girl time out and about, not even spending money on ourselves.  We went to the “small—though I’m not sure how Caroline County residents can make this judgment” Dover Mall and enjoyed window shopping, trying on 5” heels, chasing 14-month olds around.  Just this past Sunday I found a Plato’s Closet—I didn’t know they were nation-wide.  The women with me were elated with the finds for the great prices.  We will definitely be returning there when we have more time.  We also plan to go to a (bigger) mall in Annapolis in the near future.  Works for me—all the more places I can experience, the more cultured will I be. 
               
               My babies are growing up.  Lil’ almost-two-year-old repeats, well, tries anyway, everything I say.  She is growing into an identity of her own, and quickly!  One of two school-age sisters just turned six years old, and the other will be four next month.  Just a fun fact about these two: the former falls asleep around seven in the evening and nothing in the world will wake her—noise, moving her, her fidgety sister, and speaking of whom is an insomniac herself and refuses to sleep more than six or so hours each night; but the two share a single bed and don’t want it to work any other way.  The other two babies are as lively and lovable as ever.  They are great pals—just two weeks apart, and give each other a hard time… kinda like puppies, haha. 
                I introduced a few new nutrition/health topics so far this month to the women at St Martin’s.  We had a lesson on portion sizes and a good discussion relating portion guidelines to our everyday experiences with food and food choices.  We talked about whether to eat a huge loaded lettuce salad because it’s our source of vegetables and also some protein, and maybe even good fats and fiber.  On Valentine’s Day we did some interactive learning on Heart Health, as February is the American Heart Association’s Heart Health month.  We mostly talked about fats—bad and better, and how those affect our heart and overall health.  A healthy heart is a happy heart!  I also prepared some quinoa (KEEN-wah) for the residents to try.  It is one of my favorite grains (it’s a seed but most commonly serves as a grain, as a replacement for rice). 
                I haven’t been knitting much lately.  I finished a couple scarves and am working on another different-material one.  Definitely not on a roll, turning out scarves as I was/we were in the fall and before Christmas.  I have, instead, been taking time for reading, both novels and spiritual works.  I also am trying to get started on another cross-stitching project. 
                Yes, Lent is here.  I actually started a blog draft three weeks ago titled, “A new season is around the corner!”  Well, religiously speaking the season is here and enveloping us.  The season of the recent weather is also new and unexpected as of late.  The stars have been bright and dazzling and overwhelmingly breathtaking.  I have taken a few night walks in order to best enjoy them.  This is surely one of the unquestionable blessings of living away from city lights. 
                Back to Lent in my next post! 
Much love. 



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Please enjoy these links!

I have been meaning to share with you the websites of my service sites.  There is a lot to look at, read, watch, take in.  I hope that they can supplement and support all I've told you about these incredible ministries here in Ridgely, MD.  Here they are, along with a few others.  =) 

St. Martin's Ministries= "The Barn" (food pantry & thrift shop) and "The House" (residential program for women)... http://stmartinsministries.org/ 
and on Facebook "St. Martin's Ministries" http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/St-Martins-Ministries/146146165419502

Benedictine School for Exceptional Children http://www.benschool.org/ 
and http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Benedictine-School/49643943549?fref=ts

My host community, St Gertrude Monastery http://www.osbridgely.com/ and on Facebook "Benedictine Sisters of Ridgely" http://www.facebook.com/#!/BenedictineSistersofRidgelyMd?fref=ts

BWSC (Benedictine Women Service Corps) is an outreach of Saint Benedict's Monastery, St Joseph, MN http://sbm.osb.org/

You will love the rich, reflective words of Sr Jo-El McLaughlin, OSB's blog "Song du Jour."  From the St Gertrude website click on the most extreme right icon at the top of the page, or http://www.osbridgely.com/apps/blog 

Thank you!!! 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Some of my favorite things & shared reflection

I love children, their aura, innocence, honesty, purity.  I love how with infants and toddlers we understand them through their actions for lack of verbal communication.  This connection teaches me something about communication with others in my life.  Really what I love is walking into St. Martin's House to a handful of children who are just themselves.  And to, "Aaaaaaaa--" (for Aaa-shley), a 14-month old prancing over to me to be picked up and snuggling into my neck for just a second before squirming down to resume playing, to smiles and clapping, to 3- and 5- year olds fighting over who gets to open the door for me.  I've spent quite a bit of time around children before, but these children are what I most look forward to every day. Everyone would have a friend.

Life is unexpected.  Life is a plethora of the unknown.  A youth surprises me by getting close, almost in a hug, and then remaining there, allowing my to keep an arm around her for a whole two minutes as I stood on guard waiting for the moment her comfort passed.  She typically holds out an arm or both to ensure everyone keeps their distance.  And for good reason, because just this week she was upset and decided to express that emotion by pinching and scratching--also unexpected but just the flick of a few fingers.
Right could always win.

I never expected that worlds could come together and I would be a sounding board, a confidant for some of the clients here.  Even those that seemed to try so hard to make it known to me that I was different from them and hardly capable of relating to their lives and hardships are open now, slowly with time.  And trusting, too.  Or maybe the trust had to come first.
Time will heal all hearts.

Back to communicating through actions.  Someone wise and admirable in my life put it something like this, "Don't hang onto the words of others but look to and trust their actions."  With infants and children, those who are nonverbal such as persons with disabilities, and others including the elderly, we have to look for and make the best decisions for them based on their actions, body language, and nonverbal cues.  Oftentimes I get so caught up in what people say or I wait for a friend to say the right thing.  Or, I may hear the same words from an acquaintance but no action taken to follow up or support those words.  Making the best decision for myself can be possible if I am aware of what that person is communicating to me through her actions.  I want to thank all the nonverbal persons currently in my life for reminding me of this which improves my work experiences. 
Love would have no end.

Remember the warmth a smile can bring and offer that to another.  Know how simple a greeting of blessings is to a friend.  I have a dream that acknowledgement means greeting with a smile, a nod, a positive energy.  I have dreams of kind words, affirmations, encouragement, broadening of minds to the betterment of the community, opening of minds and hearts to the injustices we can prevent each day, fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves.  Affirming children so they don’t grow up to affirm themselves by abusing others.  Taking an extra four seconds to listen. Taking an extra two to respond.  Taking a final half-second to smile. 
No more lives torn apart; and wars would never start.  This is the world we share.

Included is an incorporation of lines from the song "A Prayer for Every Year" by Plus One --the statement at the end of each paragraph.  Thank you for keeping up with me in this post!  
 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Halfway...?!?

Yes, yes, it indeed has been a month since I last wrote something on my blog.  I know you are disappointed, so here I am-- enough of my reasons of illness and weariness. 

Well 5 months ago I drove up to St Benedict's Monastery in St Joseph, MN to begin my orientation retreat for BWSC.  And I'm sitting here trying not to think about the fact that my time with this program will conclude in just a little more than four months.  I also have been reflecting on my mid-year evaluation/review for BWSC, as well as the new year's revelations.  There are so many reflections to share...might I suggest you just take a little trip inside my mind ?  Okay, great-- that will make this blog post lots shorter.  Haha, how about, then, taking a little trip to Ridgely, Maryland to visit?  Good compromise. 

Alright, to begin: an update on my service works. 


          The Barn had a great, busy month in December.  We were fortunate to be able to give additional food for the holidays to all clients during the months of November and December.  St Martin’s Ministries has incredible donors that enable us to continue giving time, talents, resources, and more to those in need, in this community.  I keep busy with tasks: stocking the food pantry, creating recipe sheets for items in monthly food boxes, set up of data spreadsheets, filing, decorating billboard, cleaning, planning, reviewing cash register—you name it. 
            Clients continue to visit us monthly.  I now recognize many faces and am learning quite a few names as well as a few more helpful Spanish phrases!  I am without a doubt the newest and least-seasoned of the volunteers at St Martin’s Ministries.  Most have been giving to St. Martin’s for 20-30 years!  I am blessed to learn from the example of these selfless persons around me. 
            I have had many bonding experiences with beautiful people.  I don’t know what I expected during my time here but I have formed rich relationships with so many.  These have been with co-workers, peers, children, and clients alike—through all of the ministries in which I serve.  I look forward to my service BECAUSE of sharing time with people.  I have been able to extend these relationships beyond our scheduled working hours which has been time both relaxed and social for me.  

To be continued... :)