Day One: Thankfulness

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Day 1 in Costa Rica

This morning a fat cloud sits on the mountain at eye level as we sit on the porch in the cool of the morning, Colleen drinking coffee and I sipping the precious Diet Coke I managed to liberate from the plane on my flight last On the flight, I watched Genius, the true story of author Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) and his literary editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth). Though the movie was panned by many critics, I thought it did a great job of portraying the exquisite (and sometimes aggravating beyond words) creative dance between authors and their editors.  Granted, most dances (one would hope) aren’t quite so invasive on family life … but then again, genius has its share of big ugly gorillas.

On the drive home, Colleen and I got to talking about her new (second) book, Naked and Unashamed: The Blessing of the Female Body (Franciscan Media). I was her editor for her first book, Who Do He Say You Are? Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels. It is a powerful testimony of the life-changing power of Christ, and of her journey through grief after losing her son Bryce to SIDS and starting (with her husband Greg) the maternity home here.

I was laid off shortly after persuading her to write the second book, and so Colleen and I have been partners in loss. Listening to her describe her experience with the editorial process on the second book, I could feel myself getting angry — a fists clenched, shoulders tight, pit-of-the-stomach smoldering. Finally, I had to choose to let it go. I could not change it … and I knew that somehow God would work this out, too.

It’s been almost eight months since I was laid off at FM and six since rejoining Ave Maria on a part-time, contract basis. Despite the loss of income, I also have to admit that this change has also had its perks. In my old job, for example I could not have taken a month to spend with a friend in this idyllic setting, rocking gently on the front porch and listening to exotic birds as the fog clears from the mountain.

Looking over the valley, I can almost see the top. And I am thankful.

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Countdown: Day 6

One week from yesterday, I head to Costa Rica to volunteer at St. Bryce Missions and visit with my friend Colleen Mitchell. Craig and the kids will join us as soon as school is out. Colleen has my Diet Coke (and, if I’m really good, margaritas as well) on ice, the rocker is ready on the porch, and they have already started lining up the babies for me to cuddle to my heart’s content.

Yeah, it’ll be rough. But I’ll try to soldier through.

It’s already been such a blessing to be a small part of this endeavor — it’s been touching to see people give so generously of their time and resources. My suitcase will be full of baby blankets, rosaries, and other gifts for the work there. Sarah is counting the days until she can see her friend Miss Colleen and paint the fingernails of the new mothers. Chris … well, I think as long as he doesn’t find a spider in his shoe he will be fine. And Craig has lost almost 20 pounds, so he can ride a zip line down the mountain. Because that’s HIS idea of heaven. (Just hope it’s not a one-way trip.)

If you are reading this, please pray for us as we travel, and for the work there. I will post regular updates, so if you don’t want to miss a single adventure be sure to sign up for the e-mailing list (to the right). Thanks in advance for going with us in spirit!

If you would like to help with the work, you can make a donation directly to St. Bryce mission here. Thanks so much for your support!

The Circular Mercy of God

An old Portuguese proverb (sometimes attributed to Thomas Merton), reminds us that “God writes straight with crooked lines.” While God cannot be accused of pointless meandering or false steps — his ways are perfect, after all — the same cannot be said of us. And because he has given us free will, God sometimes allows us to take detours, taking us in circular routes to accomplish his purposes in our lives.

prince of peaceBy way of example, I was twelve when I got my first organist gig at this little country church, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Hamburg, NJ. It was my first taste of liturgy, and the people there (particularly the longsuffering Reverend Richard Izzard and his lovely wife Eileen) were so kind to me. It was a small but necessary step in my spiritual journey, and these dear friends supported me when it came time for my first short-term mission experience. I think it is one of God’s little jokes that, thirty five years later, my family now belongs to Queen of Peace, a homey little Catholic Church in Mishawaka, Indiana.

Although you can’t tell from the picture, this church can be seen for miles, lying at the top of a hillside along U.S. 94. And one wintery day in January 1983, just a short distance down that hill, my life took another unexpected turn … a car accident in which I was badly injured and hospitalized for more than a month. As a result, I was no longer able to have children. But in his circular mercy, God redeemed even this sorrow. That accident took me on a circuitous route through missionary training, into the Catholic Church, and prompted us to adopt Chris and Sarah. In the words of Thomas Merton, “There is no earthly sorrow heaven cannot heal.”

mitchell familyIn just a few weeks, we’ll be heading to Costa Rica to help a dear friend of mine, Colleen Mitchell and her husband Greg. Colleen is the author of a wonderful book, Who Does He Say You Are? in which she shares the story of her own motherly grief, in which the loss of her infant son Bryce and four subsequent miscarriages led her and her husband Greg to create a maternity home for indigenous women and their children in Costa Rica. You can read more about it here.

It kind of takes my breath away, thinking of the way God orchestrated all this. Who would have thought, when I was lying broken by the side of the road, that God would use it all to change the lives of two children who had not yet been born? Who would have thought that, after I left missionary work and became Catholic, God would resurrect that desire to serve as a Catholic missionary? Who would have thought that, in his infinite mercy, God would redeem the brokenness of another family, using it to reach a group of people who might otherwise never have known about his infinite mercy?

I remember the deeds of the Lord,
I remember your wonders of old,
I muse on all your works
and ponder your mighty deeds….
You are the God who works wonders.

What’s your story? How has God’s circular mercy been at work in your life? Please consider how you might help to support the work of St. Bryce Missions, and please pray for us as we prepare to go and volunteer — holding babies all day. I can scarcely wait!