Archive for February, 2010

Lent / Cuaresma

Lent.  How well am I following Jesus on the Way?


The Way . . . . . .Jesus

Gentle                  Yes

Prayerful             Even through the night

Dedicated           3 years non-stop ministry

Sacrificial            No place to “rest His head,” gave up food to talk to woman at the well

Loves others      To his death

The Way . . . . . . Maria

Gentle                  Sometimes, but I catch myself being rough or abrupt

Prayerful            If I push myself, daily; but felt dismay when asked to pray an hour a day in Lent

Dedicated           I consider myself “serious” about my Christianity (but what does that mean?)

Sacrificial            I won’t walk around the house w/out slippers, prefer to eat when I’m hungry

Loves others      As much as I can when I can muster the zeal


Cuaresma. ¿Qué tan bien estoy siguiendo a Jesús en el camino?

Se necesita trabajo.


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Lent is an interesting time for those who observe it.  I know some folks who look forward to these forty days they see as a means to grow in their relationship with God.  Others dislike this part of the year – too gloomy, a ‘downer’ with penances, mortifications, and sacrifices.  Others see it as a necessary part of the Christian life – remembering why Jesus Christ had to come anyway.

About 18 years ago, I was diagnosed with allergy to dust mites.  I took allergy shots that seemed to greatly reduce my symptoms which were always most severe in winter time when we are housebound with dust galore.  I often think of myself as allergic to just dust; certainly I don’t like having it around and even now I can get the itchiest eyes from too much of it.  Alas, all that dust that I dislike and even the physical allergies associated with it, don’t seem enough impetus for me to pick up a dust cloth and tackle the home often enough to keep it clean!

Scripture says in Jeremiah 30:15 :

Why do you cry out over your wound,
your pain that has no cure?
Because of your great guilt and many sins
I have done these things to you.

Again in the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians, we are told:

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

“Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

I know that I came from the earth and will go back to it.  I will become the dust eventually.  The Almighty has already become “dust” like me… for me… without losing His righteousness.  Come Holy Spirit and work in all of us to become the righteousness of God!

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If you have been reading, my spouse, John, recently threw me a massive birthday party when I turned 50, but waited some 362 days after I had turned to do it.  Surprise!!  Now it’s his turn to age up and mark his 50th birthday on February 17, Ash Wednesday, which is also the beginning of Lent.  As is customary in regions around New Orleans, that means throwing a big party just before!  So I and several of our good friends gathered in our house to celebrate and honor John.

Mother Nature inserted herself by sending a generous “gift” in advance of three feet of snow, but our intrepid group of well-wishers surmounted the hurdle of icy, wintry pathways and made their way silently into our home as the boys and John (blissfully unaware) sat watching the continuing saga of the men’s luge event at the Olympics in Vancouver.

As he was called upstairs by head, Frank, the group sprang to life and greeted John who reacted with complete and joyous astonishment.   Below are some photos from the fellowship and honoring time (click to see).

Photos of the Surprise

*p.s. the other surprise party was posted on Feb. 1

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Cross-country skiing on Toll House Road

R’member the Blizzard of 2010?  Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?  It was a record-setting snowfall – 30 inches.  The living experience of the depth was more like 3 – 4 feet with drifting and piles of plowed/shoveled white stuff.  We were snowed in for about a day and a half.  We had opened the doors to John’s father, Howard (or Ace) and Miss Sharon to stay with us on Friday, the day it started.  Today is Tuesday, and you better believe it has snowed mucho since Friday.  Meanwhile, because our street is a Metrobus route and route for local school buses, the plows has come through several times.  By Sunday,  J.T. and Brad, Jane and Rebecca, and John and Maria, had cleared the driveway, as well as our two main cars; even the sidewalk down to the Cassells was wide open.  Also, we had enjoyed several activities with the Cassells, Rebecca, Chris, and David – other youths from POP, on Friday evening and Saturday.  Let some photos tell the story a little better.

Rebecca (being dramatic with Jane early in the snowfall)

Rebecca and Jane (freezing their ___ off for the photo shoot)

So cute!

Grandpa takes refuge by snowy window

Brad (pre-sniffles) faithfully clearing the walk

Maintaining the driveway during the snowfall

Saturday evening playing Apples to Apples

Finally, Saturday night, the snow quit and we went to bed under clearing skies.  Sunday dawned perfectly clear, sunny, and cold.  The media was saying stay off the roads and let VDOT continue clearing and treating them.  “You don’t want to become part of the problem.”   John believed that the main roads would be better than our side road, albeit not perfect.   I agreed, because that had been our general experience in Virginia where road crews work quickly to restore functionality to the main arteries.  Also, most of the time, the depth of snow and moderate temps combine to allow for the melting process.  Our driveway and two vehicles were clear and readly.  Unfortunately, we had underestimated this particular snowfall.

The street and the nearby cross street were packed with white snow.  Despite the dazzling sun in the blue sky, it seemed the 36-hour blizzard had turned our area into a veritable winter-wonderland that more northern states are used to when the snowfall is heavy.  We were not used to that.  So even though the Bishop of Arlington Diocese had dispensed Catholics from attending Mass if the prevailing conditions did not permit safe and normal driving, we set out for church with a snow shovel in the back and boots on our feet.

Elliott Igloo (I mean home), Sunday 2/7/10

Our neighbor, Elvis - the Beagledachshund, surveying the snow

Simmons' place

Jane climbing into the "Priusleigh"

The neighborhood streets were empty except for a few intrepid sledders and dog-walkers.  We passed one other car on the road which was good because although plowed, there was not sufficient room for two cars to pass each other along the stretch of one block much less the entire road.  The real surprise came at the main road, Little River Turnpike.  As we approached the road, we found the left of two lanes blocked by a pile-up of snow.  So we turned right onto another packed, white and snowy avenue which had only a few vehicles on it.  It was no better than our road had been.

Love that block of snow poised to fall!

By the time we arrived at the closest church, not our regular parish, we had seen a few interesting sights, but mostly six-feet high walls of snow and very little vehicular traffic.  The Mass was a blessing for us.  The organist had made it with a cantor and of course, the priest who was applauding the 50 souls who had come.

St. Ambrose Church

Icicles hanging from church roof

After church we came home and this time saw just a little pavement on the other secondary road near us, Wakefield Chapel Drive.  I believe we were fortunate that not many other people had tried to brave the roads.  We were mostly healthy (Brad had/has a bit of a cold.)  I was able to take a few more beautiful sno-phos (great shots of it all).

Oh, what fun it is to slide on our Toll House Road to-day!

Our neighborhoos sign, name barely visible

Later that day, we all enjoyed Super Bowl  XLIV, even Grandpa.  If you have to be snowed in, Super Bowl Sunday is a good day to endure it!

See John on the porch?

Maria next to the three-foot drift by the front walk

From left - right, Jane's car (under snow), basket ball hoop, Sharon's car (under snow), dumpster

There has been no school since last Thursday, roads are not completely plowed out yet (some like the Runyon’s are untouched!), and now they are calling for another 10 – 20 inches starting this evening and continuing through tomorrow night.   It may be pretty, but enough is enough.  Today, it isn’t nearly as beautiful as it was for these photos, and cars are getting stuck.  Pray for our area to be spared the second major storm.  Also, Blessed Lord, send forth Your breath and melt it!  Amen!

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I am lovin’ this snow holiday!

Look how beautiful the snow was this morning:

View from kitchen to back of house

Our sitting room – prayer room

Snow-covered maple tree in Grandpa's side yard

Grandpa exhibiting great caution

Annandale looking unusually lovely

Unfortunately, by afternoon most of it melted, but it was nice while it lasted.

After enjoying the great, white outdoors, the next activity was a movie:  “Next”!

Snowday is movie-time

May the name of the Lord be praised!  ~ Job 1:21

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See Kathryn’s blog!


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It’s a Wonderful Life…

One year ago today, I turned fifty – five oh – 5 0 – the jubilee year – YES, fifty.  It seems that it happens to everyone, if they live long enough.  Anyway, the interesting part was:  I and most of the family were living in England (Cheltenham, United Kingdom) at the time.  It’s a completely different life from America when you wake up in the Cotswold area of the British Isles.  First there are cows on the hills, stone-walled cottages, changeable weather, and lots of lovely chaps who are inclined to say, “That’s BRILLIANT!” when something goes well.  But I digress…

Since we were in England, I knew that I would not be celebrating my day with the usual troupe of culprits, my extended family, community brothers and sisters, and friends from the years.  But, I understood this, and some of those same friends had made great efforts to mitigate any disappointment I might feel on account of the discrepancy.  (see our England blog,  http://ukpop.wordpress.com/2009/02/03/birthday-in-britain-with-snow/ ) Besides, it was Sunday, and we were going to Mass at our beloved Church of the Immaculate Conception in Stroud where I would worship with all my new friends from England, and a Birthday Tea Party (the British and best kind) was going to occur a couple of weeks in future to mark the occasion.  I was content.

A year passed (362 days to be exact).  We moved back to our house in Virginia.  Life went on…

Then, this past Friday evening, an amazing thing happened to me.  My husband had asked me a few weeks earlier if I would enjoy going out for my birthday with our dear friends, Frank and Carolyn, to dinner.  It sounded good, and I agreed.  I was feeling quite blasé about my birthday and thought going out with friends would be even more than I might actually plan to do.  As the time drew near, John informed me that we would need to go earlier than normal because our friends had a meeting they needed to attend at 8:00.  I put up some resistance because it meant missing the basketball games of both of the boys (decidedly NOT brilliant!), but he managed to convince me that Jane would represent us.  Then he said that our friends and we would return to our house for the dessert by 7:00.  I thought this timing was quite tight, and besides, didn’t want Carolyn to have to make dessert.  But diplomatically, John said, “Well, let’s just ask them,” and proceeded to make the call. (In retrospect, the diplomacy should have been a tip-off, but we won’t go there …)

The bottom line is, his plan was set in motion, with my total buy-in, and the dinner occurred with great fun and enjoyment by all four of us.  Afterwards, we hopped in the car – Carolyn and I in the back, Frank driving and John riding shot-gun in the front – and proceeded back to the house (which I had spruced up for the occasion and was therefore pleased about), knowing that the boys and Jane would be eating leftovers after the basketball game.

As we pulled in to the driveway, I was surprised to see that the house was dark, and had a momentary jerk of motherly concern for the kids not being in the kitchen.  But Frank said airily, “Oh maybe they are downstairs…” so we headed for the front door with me in the lead.  As I turned the handle which was unlocked, I felt sure that the children were within, and I reached for the light when it turned on as if by magic!  And I saw first 3 – then 6 – then 10 – then a roomful and overflowing hall-full of people who all yelled, SURPRISE!

And I was.  I felt my jaw drop and my eyes widen and a grin grow as I looked around at all the people smiling and clapping and looking to see my face, whether or not I had been surprised.  It WAS a total shock, a marvel to me because it was so – from my perspective – unexpected.  But I have one of those brains that make connections, and I immediately connected this surprise to my 50th birthday.  I saw those little, shiny 50’s dangling fetchingly from the ceiling along with crepe paper and a decorated table.  But mostly, I saw people:  my extended family (those that were able to come) including Grandpa, Kathie and Greg, and my parents; I saw some friends I met in England who now live in Illinois, but were visiting this weekend;  also, there were many of my closest friends some with children whom I have known from their earliest days, but who have grown into friends in their own right.  Not everyone I have known and loved was there by any means, but such a prodigious number of close friends, that I felt they represented the dear ones of all my years.

And somehow, I felt the expanse of God’s love for me and all those who have been in my life.  It was George Bailey with Clarence and everyone showing up in his own parlor all over again.  And it made me feel quite grateful to my Father in heaven (and John, Jane, and my women’s group here on earth!)  I know that there will be more greetings today because that’s the nature of things.  (Facebook friends sometimes help the process!)  But that party was a miracle of love to me.  And I was grateful.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?

For Auld lang syne my dear, for auld lang syne?

We’ll drink a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Eric&Diane in from Illinois and Erica from A.U. with Maria

Dad Carlos, Maria, Mom Marijane, and Sharon on Feb. 1, 2010

Photos from Party (click here)

May the name of the Lord be praised.  ~ Job 1:21

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