Chelle Summer


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. 

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.


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.

The Swimsuit

Michelle Rusk

The plan had been to start making swimsuits. I just thought I had bit more time to learn my new serger before I tackled my first one. However, my friend Veronica was leaving on vacation at the end of July (to the beaches of California, no less) and she needed a suit. I wasn’t going to say no to the opportunity to create something for my friend, especially because it was a chance for me to start making them.

But I didn’t really consider what a daunting challenge I had in front of me. What didn’t scare me was that I knew my mom had created one for my older sister Karen in the 1970s– one that lasted Karen quite a long time– and Mom had done it on the same Bernina sewing machine that I am using.

We bought a serger for me in Late May but with two trips in June, I haven’t had much of a chance to use it. I would need to make Veronica’s swimsuit on the Bernina with lots of zig zag stitches.

Taking her measurements, the pattern, the notions, and the fabric she picked in hand, I realized what a daunting task I had in front of me. I couldn’t do it alone.

Often in the past I have written about my struggle to be the competitive runner I was supposed to be. I often joke that in high school God and I broke up- an unanswered prayer in eighth grade regarding my dad’s job situation left me not believing in God. I thought I had to do everything on my own.

But several weeks ago as I watched the Olympic trials, particularly track and field, many of the runners talked about how much God helped them.

If I was going to make a swimsuit, not only would I need to channel my mom but I’d need God’s help, too.

Sewing knits– which tend to slide all over the place– is tricky. Getting the needle and thread to behave on the knits can be perilous, too. I allowed myself hours at a time. Just in case. And prayed a lot, often shaking as I sat down, unsure how I could truly make Veronica’s measurements match a pattern that was confusing (my friend Bonnie often called pattern instructions “destructions” because of the chaos they cause). It also made me realize why women hate buying swimsuits. No one’s measurements are the same. How can we be standardized when our bodies are so unique? And I know this from trying on all the clothes that I do– how much doesn’t fit right because of my short frame.

With the seams sewn together but nothing else, Veronica came by and was happy with the fit. It looked great but I was mostly concerned that it felt good. I didn’t want to create something she would never wear.

And when the suit was finished, truly looking like a swimsuit, I felt like I’d survived a final exam and needed a nap. When she put it on, not only was it a perfect fit, but she was happy and comfortable. Excited is a better word.

It wasn’t beginners luck as I attribute some of my successful to the binkini bottom I made in January that taught me some elastic lessons, but rather it was taking the time and letting go, asking for help in a way it took me a long time to comprehend.