Chelle Summer

easter

Easter Perspective

Michelle Rusk

I had taken some time on Saturday morning to photograph the dogs– Hattie and Lilly– for Easter. Neither one was happy with me (although after they ran off when I told them we were finished, Lilly hurriedly pushing the bunny ears off her head, they were easily swayed back into happiness with treats) and later I told Greg about how obvious it would be when I posted the photo on social media Sunday morning.

"No one is ever happy on Easter," he said. When gave him a funny look, he added, "Everyone is uptight about something."

Then I remembered the Easter Sundays of my childhood: we were always late for mass. I have no idea why and I never asked my mom when she was alive because she always got upset and accused me of thinking she wasn't a good enough mother. But the church filled up early and it meant we were left standing in the entry way listening to mass. For an hour. 

In that hour I had little understanding of what Easter meant. Yes, I'd taken religion classes growing up, but honestly it didn't mean a lot to me.

Then about six years ago, the same time I had returned to going to mass weekly, I found myself leaving Easter mass wanting to sing, feeling the happiness of coming out of darkness into the light. And each year since then, Easter has come to mean more to me.

I'm sure that I could argue that I'm older now and I "get" it more than I used to but I believe it's just a sense of having traveled multiple journeys of finding myself in darkness and having to seek out light. Each year Lent reminds me that there is hope, that we can get to the light, to the sunshine, that we don't need to be scared.

And a beautiful, cloudless sky– like we had in Albuquerque yesterday– doesn't hurt. 

A Reminder as the Lenten Journey Ends

Michelle Rusk

Sometimes I repeat myself in a blog. A year might go by but usually I find myself writing about something I had shared some aspect of in the past, mostly because I have realized something different about it. And I figure that if I am thinking about it, probably someone out there could use similar inspiration.

I still talk too much in my prayers.

I hadn't thought much about it in quite a while but suddenly at mass on Saturday I realized that I'm like a constant chatterbox when I pray. I'm that friend who gets you on the phone and you only have to say an occasional "Uh huh" (and you can probably put the phone down and make a sandwich without them knowing it) to keep up your end of the conversation.

Which makes me wonder if God is making sandwiches as I pray– or even keeping tabs on several prayers happening at the same time (more likely). 

The reality is that we were taught to say prayers, to ask for what we need/want/desire. There are unlimited numbers of prayer cards and prayers available to us. We were taught to memorize certain prayers growing up.

So how would we know the importance of silence during a prayer?

No one taught me that it's just as important to listen in our prayer as it is to ask. I'm too busy with my list that I forget to listen, too. And while I know that often the answers don't come during prayers, instead we usually find the answers present themselves to us at moments when we least expect them to. It can happen when we are in the middle of something unrelated (perhaps, cooking dinner) or when our minds have time to wander and we aren't thinking about anything in particular.

But if we don't listen– as difficult as that can be because our minds tend to wander when we "rest" during prayer– we'll never hear the answers. It might feel dry to listen during prayer, but remember that it's part of the give and take of the conversation. We don't give God a chance to give to us if all we do is keep asking.

 

A Different Kind of Lent

Michelle Rusk

For about six years I've used Lent as a time to work on strengthening my prayer life and letting go of what I can't control. March has become a challenging time for me because even though time marches on and my life is great, imprinted in the back of my mind are the anniversaries of the deaths of both my sister and my mom. I had decided that this year I would focus on strengthening my relationship with Our Lady of Guadalupe– whose feast day and my birthday are the same day– so I knew I needed to find something different to do for Lent.

I have a stack of spiritual-based books that I have started to read and haven't finished. And I had just picked up a new one at church (because I needed a book like I need a hole in my head!)– My Life with the Saints by James Martin, SJ, so I thought Lent would be a good opportunity for me to read his book and hopefully one other. Fr. Martin writes about how he has become to know the saints in his life, something I am interested in as Our Lady of Guadalupe has become more important in my life. While I read two newspapers a day and have several magazines subscriptions, reading books is something I haven't done much of since graduate school (I blame all the article reading I did). I see Lent as a time to challenge myself to make myself better and reading these books is easily part of that journey– while also making me a better writer along the way– after all, there is a correlation between reading and writing.

The second part of my Lent involves the driving range. Yes, you heard right– the driving range. My golf game has gone by the wayside since my mom's death three years ago and an injury to my shoulder after an accident with my now-deceased dog Gidget. And I have a tendency to work too much– because there are certain goals I want to accomplish– and not slow down as I should. Forcing myself to the driving range once a week does that and also connects me to God in the sunshine and learning to be patient with myself. I admit though, having taken a trip a week ago and having another one coming up has made this a harder task to accomplish than reading, but hopefully tomorrow afternoon I'll make it out there.

It's not an ordinary Lent, but this isn't ordinary time either! To me, Lent isn't about what I can give up– over twenty years ago a priest told me not to focus on what I could give for Lent because I'd lost so much with my sister's death– and now with my mom's death added into the mix, I definitely see it as a time of working on making me a better person, on strengthening my spiritual journey. And as I already have a more extensive prayer life than most people, I knew I needed to add something different this year. 

And so it is: reading and the driving range.