For the past few weeks, at the urging of my nursing student daughter, I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for the persistent pain in my lower back. After a three-hour consultation but before treatments began, the doctor sent me for a series of x-rays. I think I had more x-rays done that morning than all of the other trips to the radiologist over 51 years combined. I commented on this, and the tech laughed and said, “Yes, Dr. Roberts like to be very thorough.” So thorough, in fact, that on my return visit, Dr. Roberts went over every single inch of every x-ray, pointing out the arthritis here, the degenerative discs there, the minor scoliosis at the top and bottom of my spine, and many other irregularities that resulted from a lifetime of untreated injuries.
Many of the things that were pointed out to me came of no surprise. I’ve had lower back spasms and pain (sometimes excruciating) for about thirty years, and I’ve suffered from upper back pain for about five years. What did surprise me was all of the trauma he identified at the base of my skull and in my neck. I have pain and stiffness there that I didn’t even know I had…
This past weekend, I attended the Abbey Faith and Music Fest in Malvern, Pennsylvania, with my daughter, Katie, as a vendor. I’m pretty sure Katie would like to have been somewhere else, but we’d been planning on going for a while, and I knew I’d need help with sales, so she went with me without complaint. It was long day, beginning with a two-and-a-half hour drive from home that put us at the event shortly before 9am. It was a fun ride with Katie playing music and talking non-stop about which songs on Taylor’s latest album are her favorites. It was much better than the unplanned ride home after a dreadful hotel experience, but that’s a different story!
After we arrived at the abbey and got set up, Katie recognized her former RA from her sophomore year of college sitting in a tent across from us. They hugged and reminisced and talked about how much they loved sharing the same floor that semester. It was a great surprise for Katie, and I’m so happy the two reconnected. Just as nice as that meeting was the chance to meet and talk to young author, Sara Francis, with whom Katie hit it off immediately and promptly bought all three of her dystopian novels!
It’s that time of year again. I’m beginning to see pictures of kids and young adults heading back to school. How does the summer go by so quickly? Morgan heads back to Pittsburgh in just over a week, and it feels like she just got home! Oh, how these girls are going to miss her (Mom and Dad, too)!
Isn’t it amazing how fast our kids grow, how quickly the seasons change, and how each year of our lives seems to be shorter and shorter?
Sometimes, I feel as though I must have slept through a week because I just can’t believe it’s gone already.
The Gospel reading this past Sunday was about the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. I heard recently that for two-thousand years, theologians have gotten the story wrong. The modern interpretation is that the story is not about a miracle but about sharing. Supposedly, the Apostles asked the boy with the bread to share, and once he shared, everyone else decided to share, too. We’re now told that Jesus couldn’t really make five loaves and two fishes feed five-thousand people, and we should accept that this is just a nice story about the good side of humanity.
On Sunday, Father Michael gave us his own take on this story. He confirmed that it is about sharing, but not in the way that modernists believe. Jesus asked the Apostles where they could get food, and Andrew answered, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”(John 6:9). Jesus told the Apostles to share the boy’s food with the crowd, and miraculously, they had their fill and then “collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat” (John 6: 13). Father told us that God was able to perform this wonderful miracle because one little boy was willing to share all that he had.
There are few things our family enjoys more during the summer than crabbing in the rivers and creeks that extend from the great Chesapeake Bay like multiple fingers from a hand. These offshoots, consisting of salt, fresh, and brackish waters, are as much a part of Ken and me as the blood that runs through our veins. I come from a long line of watermen and boat builders dating back to the Ark and the Dove that landed on St. Clement’s Island in 1634. Much of my family history was woven into my book, The Devil’s Fortune. Ken began working as an apprentice on a crabbing boat when he was eleven and owned his own boat by the time he was fifteen. Our girls are water creatures, especially our youngest, a champion swimmer and proud holder of a boating license since she was twelve.
As much as our family enjoys crabbing together, what we enjoy even more is taking other people crabbing. There’s something about it that appeals to people on so many levels that it’s akin to a spiritual event. In fact, our former Associate Pastor, Father Olsen, summed it up best several years ago. After we went crabbing, steamed our catch, and sat down to eat, he said a blessing over the food. He thanked God for the experience of harvesting, cooking, and feasting on God’s earthly bounty. It was such a beautiful moment that I still think of it each time I sit down to eat our catch.
I’ve written many times about my first trip to Israel and the friends I met on that trip who have become family. Since that trip in 2016, we’ve shared many happy times and some sad ones, always leaning on each other and witnessing to our faith. This week, we received the news that we lost a second pilgrim, and the Lord gained a new saint in Heaven. Just weeks after we returned from our sojourn, one of our most beloved pilgrims was killed in a plane crash. He was a veteran who continued to fly missions as a civilian bringing home POWs and MIAs. His loss came as a great shock to all of us. Just as sad, and initially shocking, was the very recent passing of a dear, sweet woman who has been battling cancer since our trip five years ago. The news came two night ago, and my friends and I are in the midst of sending flowers and planning our travel for the funeral that coincides with Hurricane Elsa. I’m sorry, Elsa, but you are no match for the strength of our Frances.
Frances’s passing comes at a unique time for me. My parents have always paid summer visits to our home, with the exception of 2020, and they have been here all week. What makes this trip unique is the duration of their stay. Rather than just a long weekend, they are spending an entire week with our family, and they brought my 15-year-old nephew with them to spend time with my girls. We’ve watched many classic movies that the kids haven’t seen, played cards and games, visited the local maritime museum where Morgan works, stopped into the shop where Katie works, and spent a fair amount of time on the boat. It’s been a wonderful week, and I’m sad to see it coming to a close. Mom and Dad will head home tomorrow night after my book launch, and I will head to Pennsylvania to stay the night with a friend before the two of us drive to New York for the funeral.
While I always enjoy every minute that I am blessed to spend with my parents, the coinciding of these two events gives new meaning to this precious time. We are not meant to waste a single minute of our lives or our time with our loved ones. Frances knew that. My parents know that. I pray that the rest of the my family knows that. Bickering and fighting and petty disagreements should never come between people who love each other, and every day should be faced with courage and strength, joy and peace. Frances taught me that. She taught all of us that.
Earlier this morning, I read that spending trends among Americans are changing. Rather than buying things (which we all did a lot of over the past year), Americans are buying experiences (which we did very little of in 2020). People are realizing that they have enough stuff but not enough experiences. People are not only ready to get out of their house (and out of their pajamas and sweatpants) but to get out into the world.
I’m always amazed by those who have little but live a lot. By that, I mean those who sell everything and buy a sailboat or an RV and live life as one grand adventure. A few years ago, friends took their four small children (and I mean really small–ages 3-9) on a sailboat trip around the world for a year. I can’t even imagine that! Ken was enthralled and talks often about selling everything and living the rest of our lives visiting one campground after another.
Did you ever see the movie, Up? The movie is about Carl, a grumpy old man whose wife passes away before they do the last thing on their bucket list–visit Paradise Falls. Carl ties hot air balloons to his house in order to fly himself to South America to live out his last great adventure with his beloved Ellie on his mind and in his heart. There’s a lot more to the story, but Carl learns the beautiful message of the movie when he returns from his adventure, still not satisfied with the way his life has turned out. He sits in his chair and leafs through the photo album of his life with Ellie and realizes that their entire life, every single moment great and small, was an adventure.
The older I get, the more I realize that there are all kinds of adventures.
Those who follow me on social media know that I’ve spent the past seven days at our family’s cabin the San Juan Range of the Rocky Mountains in Southwest Colorado. I’ve been enormously blessed to be able to share this majestic part of the world with eight other women from my tribe of women to whom I have become close since meeting in the Holy Land in 2016. Six of the women had to leave after five days, but two were able to stay a little longer and will return home later today. To say that a piece of my heart goes with each one of them is an understatement.
I learned so much about and from these women in just a few days, and the insights continue as the week goes on…
Yesterday, I was talking to my friend and tour expert, Anne, about the upcoming pilgrimage I am planning to the Holy Land. We were exchanging stories of our Easter celebrations–mine here in Maryland and hers in New Jersey. Anne made the comment that “the entire day truly had a Resurrection feeling to it.”
Those words kept coming back to me over and over throughout the day.
A Resurrection feeling.
They took me back to this time last year, and I was amazed by how right Anne was. It is as if we have all experienced a true resurrection…