I never could have guessed when I wrote "P is for Peace Garden" that I'd be led to this moment in time:
There's more on Peace Garden Writer today. Please do stop by!
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Monday, May 20, 2013
Patti McGuire Armstrong and I have known of each other for years, and have met face to face on many occasions, but always in a breeze-by until now. With 15 children between us, there always seemed to be some other need more pressing, preventing a full-out conversation.
But when I was invited to Bismarck last week to do an author visit, I had plenty reason to stay an extra day. Both my Mom and Patti reside there, and with my visit not falling on a Sunday this time, we finally were able to carve out a quiet moment in the afternoon to sit for a while at a tea shop, Steep Me a Cup.
The place was bright and colorful and, really, the perfect spot to meet an "old" friend for the first time.
We sipped and talked, talked and sipped. A few texts interrupted as we did our usual, necessary multitasking. But mostly, we focused on each other, discovered even more commonalities and shared some of our inmost joys and challenges as Catholic mothers and writers.
Though our professional lives first brought us together, very little of our conversation hovered around our writing. Mostly, we focused on our living -- our vocations as mothers/wives and how that intersects with faith.
In a way, I feel like Patti and I are bookends of the Catholic writers' mothering world of North Dakota -- she assuming the western part of the state, and I, the eastern. Not that there's not plenty of other mothers in between, but we're at a place in our lives when doors have really opened, and we're doing our best to be solidly Catholic and communicating our joy and hope over our faith with others. To be in the same room with such a kindred spirit for three hours was pure blessing. I have no doubt our paths will cross many times again!
When I returned home, immediately I was reminded of the messiness of life at home. The needs were many, and so was sibling conflict. Eventually, that gave way to this:
One of the kids' consciences kicked in, but by the time I found the "sorry" sign littered with fresh-picked dandelions on my office floor, the "flowers" were already shriveled up. Nevertheless, the message came through loud and clear, and my heart melted as it always does when a move toward reconciliation happens within our family.
Speaking of messy families, I'm in the middle of reading Patti's latest book, "Big-Hearted Families," and I'm looking forward to sharing more about this gem of a book soon.
In the meantime, the school year is winding down for us here. Just four days left until summer. You can imagine the level of activity around here as we prepare for the final countdown and tie up all the loose ends.
What I'm most looking forward to this summer? Sleeping in! How about you?
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I'm leaving. But don't worry. It's just for a couple of days.
I'll be talking to students.
Narrating a musical production of words I've written.
Having tea with a friend.
And spending time with my 10-year-old, mother and grandmother.
Thanks for waiting it out while I go on this adventure. You can find out more on Peace Garden Writer, where I'll share even more details next week!
Monday, May 13, 2013
This Mother's Day, my internal focus turned away from my own mothering, and more to my mother, who spent a quiet day three hours away, going to Mass, then bringing some gifts to her own mother, who is 98.
|Mom and Me, circa 1969|
Nevertheless, she was on my mind as I went through the day, receiving love and a few gifts from my family here, including several boxes of chocolate (which have drawn lots of interest from the kids), a Cold Stone Creamery cake (chocolate no less), and a small pile of cards.
One of the cards carried such a beautiful message from my 12-year-old that I was left a puddling mess right there at the table. She seems to have inherited the gift of writing from the heart, and I have to say, it's an amazingly touching thing to be on the receiving end of that.
It started this way:
"Mom, thank you for everything you do for me. I know a lot of the time I don't show how much I love you or how thankful I am for the things you do, and that's why I love today. Mother's Day reminds me how much I really love you, and if you were gone, I don't know what would happen. It's too bad, though, once a year isn't really enough to celebrate someone who cares for you and loves you every day of the year."
A few sentences later, after apologizing for her sour attitude sometimes when it comes to the things that go undone in our busy, and often messy household, she added, "Please know that you are an amazing mom! I'd much rather have you be here for me emotionally than at home cooking and cleaning all of the time!"
She ended with saying sorry that she was not able to come up with the kind of "beautiful words you write," and that's when I lost it.
How much more beautiful can words be than when they come through honest humility, as these obviously did? As someone whose primary "love languages" are quality time and words, I was deeply moved, and filled up I'm sure for a good couple days or more.
But I can't not see, even in her words, my own mother, who demonstrated those same things to me by caring less about appearances and more about tending the soul.
So Mom, now it's my turn. I am so grateful you are in my life. If I had to choose from a million moms and could see into each of their hearts, you'd be the one I'd pull from the crowd and wrap my daughter arms around.
In many ways, it took becoming a mother myself for me to truly see just how amazing you are, and I'm eternally blessed by being your daughter. I love you!
|Grandma Jane and Elizabeth, future writer of the heart|
Friday, May 10, 2013
The other day, I found the Church in my mail.
Not email, but the snail-mail variety -- old school. The envelope was hidden among the pile of mostly junk, and since it bore the return label of our kids' school network, Blessed JPII Catholic Schools, I figured it was yet another notice of lunch money due, a report card reported, or a meeting mentioned.
But when I opened it, I found something that took my breath away -- my father's name.
Robert Beauclair, the man who helped bring me into this world and taught me how to fish and write.
The memorial came from a teacher of my daughter's and his wife; money had been donated to the school in honor of my father, who left us Jan. 11 of this year.
They didn't know my father. He lived three hours away and stayed close to home these past years as he suffered through the effects of diabetes. They likely didn't know he'd been reared on Catholic schools, and how his vivid recollections of those days with the nuns had made me wish, as a younger parent, that our kids could experience the blessing of learning in a faith environment, too.
Dad would have been touched knowing someone had thought of his grandchildren enough to donate money to their school and their Catholic education on his behalf, even though the donor and honoree had never met.
As I read the card in the minivan at school pick-up time, the tears began to flow. And in that moment of profound gratitude mixed with joy and some sorrow, too, the thought occurred to me: this is the Church.
The Church isn't what we see and hear in visual sound bites on the evening news. It isn't even the beautiful buildings in Rome, nor the astounding art housed within them -- good things in their own right that point us to the divine. The real heart of the Church is the Holy Spirit working through its people.
This doesn't just happen. We aren't inclined, as human beings, toward generosity. Something must prompt us to reach out in love to a stranger, and that something must be so strong, so compelling, that it would nudge us to think of someone we've never even met, and not only that but respond in love.
Before losing my dad, I'd read of money donated on behalf of so-and-so to thus-and-thus organization, and I didn't really understand it. But I get it now. It's a big, big deal to honor the dead in this way, and in so doing, to love the living. Because I know this gift, though in his name, wasn't just for my father but for those younger ones who exist in part because Dad helped give me life. It was borne out of hope and love -- two things the Church does very well despite what the world says.
We get so caught up in the negativity of the world and the Church's necessary response that it's easy to forget the essence of who we are, our common source, and how our fellow brothers and sisters, people of God all, are spreading light to one another one card, one hug, one simple word at a time.
Perhaps I need to make this a regular offering. Consider this, then, the first installment of, "This is the Church." If you have examples of how the Church has brought life to your world in quiet but powerful ways, I'd love to hear them to share in a future post!
Monday, May 6, 2013
The sky brought some delightful surprises this week.
Speaking of inspiring sky shots, you'll find a bit of that in this video, one of the top picks of this year's Goodness Reigns video contest headed up by my friend Suzanne Haugh. I'm going short on words today so you'll have time to watch this beautiful piece (it's less than 4 minutes).
May your week include an inspiring vista or two!
Peace be with you...
Friday, May 3, 2013
[Originally printed in The Forum newspaper Wednesday, May 1; reprinted with permission.]
Where the water swells, the spirit dwellsBy Roxane B. Salonen, The Forum
BRIARWOOD, N.D. – When the Red River began flowing this spring, so did Sharon Beauclair’s memories of a flood four years ago that sneaked up and surprised this small township just beyond the bounds of Fargo.
Jill Prososki, left, helps her friend Naomi Beauclair work to rebuild a dike for the second crest of the 2009 flood at the Beauclair family home in Briarwood. Special to The Forum
Remembrances of the frenzied activity that engulfed the neighborhood come easily – the makeshift human sandbag factory, helicopter rescue missions and a popcorn tin turned temporary latrine.
But stories of how God stayed nearby through it all fall to the fore just as readily.
“At one point I looked out from the top floor of our house and I thought, ‘Okay Lord, I’m just going to trust you that it’s all going to work out,’” Beauclair says.
She still marvels at how the neighbors pulled together despite being “tired, cold and dirty; they just kept plugging along.”
At one point, the water had filled in to such a degree that the road leading to their home from South University Drive went under. The National Guard had stopped anyone from coming through, yet more sandbags were needed to save their home.
As Beauclair looked out at the rising water with concern, two familiar faces suddenly emerged.
Grant Allex and his son, Addison, had found an opening and were wading in from the road to help their friends.
“They were angels. They helped us get our sandbags down,” Beauclair says. “When they left, Grant had to carry Addison on his back because the water was so high.”
The night before the river crested, Beauclair’s husband, John, went in search of drain plugs, but met with a “closed” sign at Menards. Another man also walking up to the store asked John what he’d come for. Turns out he was a plumber who had plugs to spare back at his shop, Beauclair recounts.
Another time, the couple woke at 4 a.m. to find water seeping into the window well – the result of a leaking dike. So they and their three of six children still at home yanked on their coats and boots to help dig a trench for sump pumps.
The pumps needed gas, though, and John couldn’t reach the road. That’s when a man helping another neighbor appeared and offered the use of his pickup parked over the barrier by the road, Beauclair says.
The family also benefited from food brought in by a neighbor who’d evacuated but come back to feed her hungry friends, and received countless prayer offers, as recorded on their ill-attended answering machine.
Beauclair says she attributes the gestures to more than simple human kindness because to her, the timing and selflessness of those who acted point to something divine.
“I knew there was a higher power involved because it was always right when we needed it, like when John needed the plugs,” she says. “What are the chances a plumber would walk up just then?”
Three empty chairs
On the other side of the river that same year, Mark Krejci was slugging sandbags with his new neighbors in south Moorhead.
A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., Krejci says he knew flooding well and felt their area was safe.
But the elements proved otherwise, and soon he and his father, a potato farmer, were fashioning sandbags from burlap bags.
As the river neared crest, they got a call from their pastor, the Rev. Mike Foltz from St. Joseph’s Church. Because so many of the neighbors were from St. Joe’s and couldn’t get to church, he offered to bring Sunday Mass to them.
“We all piled into a family room of one of the homes and packed the place with chairs,” he says, noting that three extra chairs had ended up in the middle of the circle. Then, just as Foltz was about to begin the service, the doorbell rang.
It turned out to be a Moorhead firefighter who’d been helping with the flood fight and his wife and son, Krejci says. They’d just lost their home to overland flooding and were looking for a neighbor, and when they found out what was about to take place, they asked if they could join in.
“We’d gotten a late start because we were talking,” Krejci says, “but I guess God wanted us to wait for these three. It was just one of those great ‘God moments.’ ”
Where'd everyone go?
Sometimes, for whatever reason, when God calls his people to action, silence follows. Such was the experience of Barb Olson, Fargo.
A city girl, Olson remarried after being widowed and was thrust into country living when she joined her new husband, Otis, on his family farmstead near Perley, Minn., in the mid-1990s.
Then came the record-breaking winter of 1997, its horrid ice storm and resulting flood, which engulfed their home – so much so that fish could be seen jumping in the swirling waters outside their doorstep.
Inclined toward ministry work from an early age, Olson says her greatest desire during the crisis was to gather with her faith family at church, but she soon discovered the church had been abandoned.
“When you’re kind of marooned by water everywhere, the one thing you want to do is have services in the church, but (the pastor) decided to cancel services since it was flood time,” she says.
And she may always wonder why, though neighbors were helping neighbors, their farmstead was overlooked. “My husband is well-known as was his father and grandfather, and yet not one person volunteered to come out and help us,” Olson says, noting that Otis learned their farmstead had been overtaken while helping someone else.
The couple ended up living in the home for a year without electricity or running water, using boats to reach Highway 75 to replenish supplies. Despite being insured, they ended up having to spend $100,000 of their own money to move the house closer to the road, since the foundation had been ruined.
Through it all, Olson says she never lost faith in God and learned much about perseverance. “I care for other people and I’m called on a lot but I’m the one who is blessed in that,” she says, mentioning her favorite passage, Psalms 121. “If Christ doesn’t shine through you, you can’t minister to other people.”
Zach Priddy, a college student in the National Guard in 2009, didn’t have a home that needed saving, but his soul did. After losing his father when he was 15, he says, he’d never really gotten over the emotional pain and had started numbing his feelings with drugs and alcohol.
His girlfriend was about to break up with him when he arrived in Moorhead for flood duty, he says. While there, he began attending Apostolic Bible Church and was welcomed with open arms.
“To get addictive behaviors out of your life you have to develop positive relationships,” he says.
“I developed all these friends at church and in the Guard, and it helped me get past all that.”
Priddy ended up with the girl, Rochel, now his wife, and is giving back to that church by serving as its youth leader. “The flood changed my life in a good way. I’m totally different from what I was three, four years ago,” he says.