As we wove slowly through the neighborhoods, I kept my eyes wide open so as not to miss anything. I decided that we should try to locate the Catholic churches within the city limits. I took out the map, and pointed out the intersection where the first church could be found. A few stop signs and turns later, we arrived at the steps of St. Michael Church. It was a cold, windy day, so my family decided to remain in the car while I hopped out to have a look-see. I skipped up the church steps and gently tugged on the heavy oak doors to see if the church was unlocked. The panel easily gave way to my pull, so I opened it and entered. Looking around the beautiful, old church I closed my eyes, bowed my head and whisper a brief prayer. I asked God to open my heart to any message he might have for me on this little excursion. I then opened my eyes, studied my surroundings for a few moments, then, feeling no compulsion to stay any longer, I genuflected again then left the church.
I got back in the car, and my husband gave me the “Well?” look. “Nothing,” I said. I described the church to him, the statues that I saw, the feeling of warmth in the place. My overall impression, however, was that there was nothing in the sanctuary that was intended to “speak” to me. So we set off in search of the other Catholic Church, Immaculate Heart of Mary, on the other side of town. By the time we arrived at this small, neighborhood church made of brick, the computer generated bells were tolling, announcing the upcoming mass. Again, my family waited patiently in the car while I went in to look around. This church also had a warm, welcoming feel to it – I attributed that to all of the woodwork and the quaintness of size. I knelt down to pray, surrounded by elderly parishioners shuffling in for the four o’clock vigil. I prayed hard, asking that if there was something I was supposed to notice or feel that the Holy Spirit would guide me. I felt nothing, so I finished my prayer, genuflected and left, taking a parish bulletin on the way out. I couldn’t help but wonder what the parishioners thought of me coming in, praying, and then leaving just before the mass started. I went back to the car. By this time, the troops were getting restless and a bit tired of my fruitless searching, so I made good on my promise to take them out for dinner. We drove through the beautiful, historic district and made our way back to the interstate. We shared a wonderful dinner at a seafood restaurant where the kids could color the menus and stretch a while. I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t have any revelations on our excursion, however, I have learned, with lots of patience, to be patient, and to wait upon the Lord. He never sets into motion within the soul of a person something that he does not intend to complete. I realized that he was honing me – polishing me – and that I must submit to his timing.
Throughout the coming seasons, I continued to make note of the “Crowley” plastered trucks that would seem to beckon to me on the interstate. One evening, a former colleague of mine called. This young man was a fantastic teacher, but felt that he had to leave the teaching profession in order to support his growing family. He took some courses, and joined an insurance company, selling everything from car insurance to life and homeowners. He was also studying to become a financial planner. Kenny asked if he could stop by our home one evening and give us his “spiel.” I told Kenny that he was welcomed to come tell us about his insurance products, but that we were not really in the market for any extra insurance, and surely did not have any extra cash that we needed to invest.
About a week later, Kenny showed up promptly at the time we had agreed upon. We exchanged pleasantries, asked about one another’s growing families, then he set up shop at our kitchen table. About half way through his presentation, he glanced up at the picture of the Sacred Heart that hangs above our fireplace mantle. He casually asked if we had done the “enthronement” service. My husband glanced at Kenny with a puzzled look on his face. I, on the other hand, knew precisely of what he was referring. I responded, “No, we have not done the enthronement. I just like that image of Jesus, so I hung it there.” We finished the meeting, Kenny thanked us, and he left.
I thought a bit about his question. I had heard of a prayer service that would involve a priest coming to ones home and blessing the picture as well as the home and its inhabitants. I thought it sounded nice, but unnecessary. It’s funny that I have had many decorative wreaths, pictures, and pieces of artwork grace the mantle in the past eight years that we have lived here, but recently, I felt the need to strip that all away, and to simplify – to have the center of our lives, Jesus – in a most traditional rendering – the Sacred Heart – in the center of our living area. Hmm.
I didn’t think any more about Kenny’s question, or about our picture of the Sacred Heart for a few months. It was a sweltering hot afternoon – both in temperature outdoors and in the minds and bodies of my two youngest children, Annie and John. Since John has been old enough to talk and to play, there has been a love/hate relationship between the two siblings. The two can be just gaga over each other one minute, then swinging at each other the next. This particular afternoon, the two had been cooped up in the house together, with myself of course, all day.
Anger was brewing and tempers were flaring. All it took was a word to set the youngest child off, and he flew into a fit of rage … I sat in my husband’s easy chair with the little Rumpelstiltskin in my lap and tried to restrain him… When all was said and done, I was exhausted – totally depleted. I began to cry, and wished that I were in another place.
Believing that the crisis was over, I sought an escape. Against my better judgment, I walked down to a neighbor friend’s house for some sympathy.
Nila is the best neighbor anyone could have. I believe that God put me in a house on this street just because of Nila. She is a warm, friendly, giving person. She is someone who can be trusted to keep something told in confidence… She’s one in a million!
That afternoon, I drug my teary eyed, weary body down to her home for some comfort. I knocked on the side door. She kindly bade me welcome, gave me a hug and asked what was troubling me. I flopped myself on her couch, with shoulders hunched and began spilling my guts through the waterworks flowing from my eyes. She offered me a tissue, and listened patiently, as I told her about what had transpired that afternoon with my kids. I told her about how worried I was with my son’s intense anger. I wondered if I was handling it right… Nila told me about some similar experiences a friend of hers had gone through with her children. She encouraged me to stay calm, consistent and to pray – to continue to model my faith for my children. Then she suggested something amazing!