Chelle Summer

our lady of guadalupe

A New Journey

Michelle Rusk

I am convinced that sometimes the universe tells us we've been sitting too long and need to move it along. As I post this to social media, today is my birthday, December 12. It's also the feast day for Our Lady of Guadalupe. And yesterday on December 11, my job went half time. 

No need to discuss the job because it's not about that or about the loss of income that I'm trying not to focus. When you find out that your job is going half time and the date it begins is the day before your birthday– which also happens to be the feast day of a saint whose presence has unknowingly been part of your life longer than you're aware– you know the friend who sits behind you in church was right when she said, "Guadalupe has something better for you to do."

We all know I have many things I'm working on, many things I want to do. The hardest part has been finding the time to do them all. Part of the problem my husband Greg will tell you is that I work hard, I'm a Midwesterner who listened to my parents when they said, "What ever you're doing, make sure you do the best you can at it." While I work at home with a lot of flexibility on a military grief study, I often found myself stifled by a 40-hour work week in the sense that I felt I had to always be available if they needed something.

No more. Now half my week has been freed and I believe it's Guadalupe– because things always happen around my birthday and during Advent– telling me that now is the time, to get focused and get busy on that list. I have one major manuscript I'll be tackling next year along with two others. I obviously have swimwear and clothes to make along with the handbags and such. And hopeful sales will come along with the creating.

I'm not totally clear what this road looks like. And because we're in the midst of the holiday season, I also know I'm somewhat limited on what I can do right now. Instead, I'm resting up and gearing up for that different journey to go into full swing right after the new year, after a trip to Los Angeles.

It's not going to be an easy road. When you've spent much of your time working with grieving people- which can be taxing– you also find that while other aspects of your life make you happy, there is a sense you aren't doing enough because you've been working in life and death. That's something I have to work out, to let go of, because my work is important, just in a different way than hearing people's stories. Instead, it's about living an authentic life, the life I've always wanted– of which I haven't quite reached– and sticking to it even when I'm not quite sure how to get there.

Life isn't easy. It's always full of surprises we don't like. But if we embrace what might look like is two steps backward but is really five steps forward, we'll get where we want to go.


Quietly Answered Prayer

Michelle Rusk

I have experienced enough life to understand that prayer can often feel dry and empty. Particularly over the past five years as I have worked to grow spiritually, I've really begun to understand that there are times when prayer feels like...nothing.

And in my recent life– with certain aspects of it, especially professionally as I grow a new business and continue to write (as well as maintain a full-time job), it can be frustrating when I'm asking for help to move forward. Yet I feel like there I am, standing in one place, nothing happening. And I'm alone.

Still, I know I'm not alone, I know that God is always with me. I don't doubt any of it. But there are times when I wonder what's really going on because it feels as if nothing is going in the direction I want it to. Wait, I should clarify that– at the pace I want it to go. Nothing ever moves as quickly as I would like.

There I sat last week in my studio– the room I lovingly call my "sweat shop" although when the swamp cooler is on, it's one of the coolest rooms in the house– making one of my Our Lady of Guadalupe prayer dolls for our new priest's mother's birthday. 

As I sat there gluing on her hair, drawing her face, sewing her dress, and, finally, adding the snaps to her cape and her dress, I realized how lucky I am that my sewing adventures began with making Barbie clothes. That has helped me with Guadalupe's dresses. And as I have written recently, practice does make perfect. Or at least better!

And then my mind wandered– as it often does while I'm working– and in my head popped an answer to a prayer: the second half of manuscript that had felt seeming impossible for several months.

There it was, suddenly appearing in a moment where I least expected it.

Many times prayer is dry and empty. And then there are those quiet moments that the answers appear as if out of nowhere. But they aren't out of nowhere. They were just waiting for the right moment to appear. 

Some call it grace. I call it an answered prayer. 

Guadalupe and Me

Michelle Rusk

To be honest, a few weeks ago, I really wanted to skip my birthday. We had just put Chaco down, I was coming up on the anniversary of my dog Daisy's death seven years ago (or was it eight? I can never remember), and while I have a great life, my holidays aren't the same without my parents and my younger sister. Denise and I had all sorts of things we did at Christmas as kids: finding the gifts early (my Barbies had to know they were getting a new bathtub, I reasoned) and putting on "Christmas Shows" with our Barbies and Raggedy Anns. And Christmas will be followed by the anniversary of my dad's death and then the first anniversary of my dog Gidget dying. The losses don't seem to end in my life and no matter how far forward I go, they are there somewhere, stamped in my memory.

This is combined with the fact that I'm working to understand how much time has gone by. Chaco was with me almost fourteen years and a part of me can't believe that fourteen years have passed. Yes, I spent them living and a lot happened and a lot of great things and people are in my life now. But I have to do some processing to get there.

And yet as the day drew closer, something tugged at me: the reminder that my birthday falls on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I find myself writing about this every year because until I moved to New Mexico, I had no idea who she was. My first birthday here I went to mass at noon and it was all about her although it would be another fifteen or so years before I would truly realize how lucky I am to share a day with her.

On Thursday before mass for the Immaculate Conception, I lit a candle for her, the same place where Greg and I left flowers at our wedding during the "Ave Maria." For the past year I have been working with a priest at the monastery here, a Norbertine Community, meeting monthly to help me draw closer to God. And really for me, it's about hearing the messages because I tend to talk too much in prayer (yes, it is possible!). 

As I stood there in prayer on Thursday and then as my friend Alicia and I left mass, a man was handing out Our Lady of Guadalupe novenas. When I told him my birthday fell on her feast day, he said, "You're special!"

On Saturday we had our mass at church to celebrate her day and the Immaculate Conception (the church's feast day) and Greg and I were asked to bring up the gifts. We had been asked recently so I didn't expect it– we get asked about once a month– but the usher looked desperate. And my friend Alicia gave me a rosary with Guadalupe on it and a book about Guadalupe in New Mexico. Everything was pushing me toward her and this day.

And so on this birthday as I write this (it's the afternoon of the 12th), I have enjoyed all the messages from people, but I find myself drawing inward with some work to do for the year ahead. At mass at noon, I again lit a candle and asked her in prayer that I spend the year getting to know her better, drawing closer. 

I think I know how this will pan out. Now to see next year what my birthday blog brings. In the meantime, here I go.