Saturday, April 23, 2016

Autism Awareness: Light It Up Blue





Blue: The Color of Heaven

Light It Up Blue!

It’s April, Autism Awareness Month.

April also signifies National Poetry Month.

How do I compete with that?

Well, waxing poetic... Paul’s life is a poem.

Paul ran a half-marathon on April 2, 16

Here Goes:

    First things first. The coffee pot. After a restless night of haphazard dreams, that earthy caffeine is the only way I’m going to get this party started at five am. We have to leave by six for a half marathon that Paul is running today. Western Carolina University is an hour away.
    At 26 years old, Paul must depend on me to drive him to the race. He’s anxious (in a good way) to get there. I asked him the night before what he’ll wear.

     “My long running pants and running shirt. And a running shirt with long sleeves… I think-- (he draws this out slow). I’ll wear different shoes in the car and change into my running shoes for the race.”

    I’m listening to him close these days-- paying attention and measuring how articulate he’s grown the past few months.
    I attribute these subtle victories to what Our Lady refers to as “signal graces”. I’m a rosary prayer warrior. There are 15 promises associated with faithfully praying these divine mysteries. I’m starting to recognize their fulfillment. I pondered this, ‘signal grace.’ What does that mean? I take it to believe that it is a sign connected with what is so deep within our heart of hearts; that God hears our cry, our prayer. Paul’s 'peace', is a subtle, quiet victory. It’s not lost on me. I’m not alone in this. Every ‘autie’ Mom out there knows what I’m talking about.

    We get on the road. It’s pitch black in the mountains, no street lights. But we’re used to it. We stop for gas at Ingles. Paul doesn’t lose an opportunity to sneak in the grocery store with the night stockers to use the bathroom. The store wasn’t open yet and Paul stealthily stepped underneath the sensor to walk in. If anyone noticed, they didn’t say anything. They probably recognized him anyhow in our small town, “Oh that’s Paul. He’s alright.”

    Back on the road, the minutes seem to tick tock past, fast. We should have left earlier.

The morning sky emerges. It’s a privilege watching dawn rise over a blue ridge line.

    I lift my faithful rosary beads off of the rearview mirror. I can’t tell if its rattling disturbs Paul or he’s settled by it. Probably somewhere in between. I begin with the Seven Sorrows of Mary Mysteries. I’d picked up where I’d left off from Friday...Third Sorrow: Losing Jesus In the Temple.

    My thoughts: Oh Mary, how did you stand it? I always think of losing my Paul at Hilton Head Beach for a couple of hours as he wandered off for a walk without telling anyone. It’s part of my meditation to apply my own real life struggles to Mary’s; her's to mine. “Jesus, I worship you in this mystery.”

    All of a sudden Paul starts clenching his fist and smashing one against the other palm. But he controls it-- it’s diminutive. This is a recent trend for him to calm down sooner than later. I’m trying not to get anxious myself, for fear that he’ll crank higher and we’ll suffer an episode the whole way there. As the driver, it’s distracting. We experience it all the time, my husband and me, sometimes his siblings too. It’s like being around somebody in a bad mood. You never get used to it. You just endure it.

    “What’s wrong?” I ask.
     Paul speaks in fragments.
    “I’m worried of silliness. Of daydreaming--talking to myself--when I shouldn’t.
     When it’s inappropriate.”
    He continues: “Do you think I should be not talking out loud? Do you think I shouldn’t be not appropriate this way?” His voice rises and loudens.

    He stammers his words, showing the frustration he harbors for himself.

    I say, “Paul, let’s not focus on what’s wrong. Let’s focus on what’s right. I’m proud of you. You are articulate. Do you know what that means? Have you heard that word before?”

    “No.”

    “It means that you express yourself well. You don’t speak in broken sentences anymore. You’ve grown in how you speak. You can have a conversation now. We can talk about things.”

    “Okay,” he settles.

    I launch into a prayer aloud, taking the risk that it will annoy Paul.

    “Guardian Angel, and St. Michael (Paul’s patron saint), please help Paul calm down and let him know how much God loves him. St. Michael, the Archangel, please commission your healing angels over Paul.”

    I still feel strange, when I pray like this, something I started only recently. I was a Protestant so many moons ago. I was taught that we pray only to Jesus, not his mother, not the angels and saints. Old cemented foundations crumble hard. But I’m stretching my wings of faith. When your child is autistic, you’ll go out on any limb, even if it breaks, because it may just help. I guess that’s why it’s called ‘faith’, believing though you can’t see.

    Paul instantly stops his clenching and slapping.

    Is it because he’s 26 now? Human development and maturity we take for granted in our neuro- typical children. In our autistic children, it manifests as miraculous.

    We come up on the turn that short cuts our route to WCU. I’m nervous. Even with the GPS, in our rural area, the satellite doesn’t always get it right. Space is far away from where we live in the boondocks. The GPS adds 20 minutes to the trip. “What?!” I panic. Paul groans, “ugh, ugh, ugh.” He wrings his hands. This doesn’t help. What is the point of a shortcut if you get lost anyway? Somehow I think there’s a lesson here.

    We make it with 40 minutes to spare.

    It’s chilly. It will be good for Paul running 13 miles. He’ll warm up quick. He takes his place at the starting line. No lack of confidence here with about 40 or so runners all together. The starter prepares the racers with housekeeping details, water tables at the mile splits, ambulances at checkpoints, massages and food wait at the finish line, blah, blah, blah. “Are you ready?” she shouts. Paul soundly replies, “Yes!” (As if his response will start the clock.)

   I note that Paul is extremely composed. He’s aware of the other runners, and totally at home among them.  I see a maturity in him, earned from experience in running but also from living 26 years on the planet. He stretches a tricep and takes a deep breath. He’s trained as best or better than most, I know. in athletic cardio circles, our mountains are the reason for the adage, “West is Best.”

   “HONK!” There he goes!

“Go Paul!” I yell, then whistle with a thumb and middle finger underneath my tongue. An old swimmer whistle, now a lifeguard for my adult autistic son. My 5k race starts 15 minutes later. I run in solidarity with Paul. Really there is no other reason than to stay in shape for my job as a Mom, an advocate.

    Paul finished in 7th place with a time of 1:34. He placed third among his age group. Tough crowd. I thought how brave he is, how disciplined. I also thought that the autism hampered him a little. He wasn’t aware that if he’d trained a little harder, a little smarter, maybe ate less french fries, he’d do even better. But does that matter?

    He wasn’t angry at not placing first, or second, or even third. This too is a recent development, his acceptance of himself.

This was Paul’s race.
His race.
Blue. The color for autism awareness.
He lit it up blue that day.
For so many.
Blue. The color of heaven.



    

    


    

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Mary, Our Tabernacle of Mercy

We're starting the Year of Mercy on this special feast day.

One of Mary's days, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception. December 8.

And like the way God does things, there is nothing more appropriate.

It's great to be Catholic. To belong to the church that Jesus founded, built upon the rock of Peter, sealed and guided by the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against his church. This is Scripture.

A few months ago, I completed a personal pilgrimage called Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, guided by the writings of St. Louis de Montfort. It has been a life changer.

My consecration ended on August 15 which is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. Yes, she was assumed into Heaven. Didn't suffer a mortal death. Why do we believe this? Well, there is no tomb that holds Mary's skeleton in the ground. I would think that the Mother of God would be commemorated that way, if she had; wouldn't you? Is is a stretch for me to believe that? No. Through Scripture we can infer that Elijah was assumed and also Enoch. For a fuller explanation, please see,
http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/was-elijah-assumed-into-heaven-before-mary



And there we may say, "But those cases are recorded in Scripture." If it's not in the Bible, it doesn't count. Not if you're Catholic. Why? Because we believe that the Church existed before the Bible was shared in 60 or so A.D. The church gave us the Bible. Look at 1 Timothy 3:15. Our Apostle Paul says, " If I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. We take that scripture quite literally.


The Feast of the Immaculate Conception does not refer to Jesus' conception. We already know He was conceived and preserved from sin. He, being fully human, yet fully divine.
What I've come to learn and believe is that Mary was conceived and preserved from sin. St. Anna, Mary's mother was from a devout lineage of Hebrews, called the Essenes. They were looking for the promised Messiah. They devoted their lives to God in every detail of their earthly existence. This included the marriage bed. These devout souls took it all very seriously and only came together in order to conceive a child and give glory to God. This wasn't happenstance. Mary as the Mother of God wasn't a case of random selection. She was chosen by God; for God. Through His grace, she consented and said yes. She chose to cooperate with the divine will of God. Mary was not an everyday person. She was holy. Are we saying she was divine? No. She is not part of the Trinity, but she certainly plays an essential role in the salvation of every Christian, whether he or she acknowledges her or not.

This leads me to devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. I count her also as my spiritual mother. 

Do I worship her? No. Like I've said before, we don't worship Mary. We just don't ignore her.



But where in Scripture does it say that Mary was sinless? Where does it say she was assumed into heaven? If it isn't spelled out in Scripture, "I don't believe it," many say.
Why is that? 

The Catholic Church is not a secret society. The documents are public and for every one to read. Just like Jesus. He preached openly for everyone. The word, "Catholic" after all comes from the Greek word, katholikos, meaning universal: from kata ‘with respect to’ + holos ‘whole.’

Here's the thing. On the one hand, Catholics take Scripture literally. We recognize scripture to be All authoritative. Every word is sacred, every word is divinely inspired. All Scripture is derived from Truth. And because Jesus is the Way, The Truth, and the Life, we know that the Word of God is how He communicates with us. But because God is infinite, we know that every situation, every truth, every miracle, every mystery is not contained in a bibliography of 73 holy books. Scripture even tells us that!

John 21:25: But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

On the other hand, because God can not be contained and his truth is endless, and He gave us the church, we trust the Holy Spirit for discernment, for interpretation. We can through critical thinking, infer truth based in the Church and from Scripture.

I believe that Mary was preserved from sin. That fits what I've learned about how God does things. He loves his only begotten son. He is well pleased with Him. Why would He not specially preserve his son's mother from original sin? Why is that such a stretch? If you were God, wouldn't you? When I prepare food for my family in the kitchen, I try to make sure that the sink is clean, the pots are clean, and the dishes and silverware are washed; spotless, actually. And I'm only human. When a surgeon operates on a patient, every thing is as sterile as he can get it? Right? To prevent disease, or infection. Sin is disease. Sin is infectious. To me the question becomes, "Why wouldn't God preserve Mary from sin?"
Mary being preserved from sin doesn't take away from our worship of God. For me, it enhances my worship of God. My all knowing, all loving Creator, who doesn't leave anything out, doesn't waste anything, and thinks of everything.
Jesus was raised by Mary. God entrusted his son to her. In her humility, she relied not upon herself to care for Jesus, but with every fiber of her being, she trusted God her Father in Heaven. She didn't demand attention. She said in her canticle recorded in Luke 1: 46-55: 

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
My Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
For He has looked with favour on His lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
The Almighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His Name.

He has mercy on those who fear Him
In every generation.

He has shown the strength of His arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
And has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of His servant Israel
For He has remembered His promise of mercy,
The promise He made to our fathers,
To Abraham and his children for ever.

There is nothing here where Mary demands the attention. To me, she is the perfect example of a Christian; one who leads all to Jesus.

I'm also thinking about Gabriel when, he said, "Hail! Full of grace! The Lord is with you." Luke 1: 28. When a container is full, that means there is no room for anything else. Mary was full of grace, full with Jesus. There was, is, and never will be any place for sin in the holy vessel that Mary is. Then there is St. Elizabeth who followed with, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." Luke 1:42. And by the way, Scripture says that Elizabeth was full of the Holy Spirit when she said this.

I've asked myself these questions: "Why would I dig to find dirt on Mary? Would I do that to my own mother? Why is Mary's sinless condition a threat to my relationship with Jesus?" It is not a threat. Her Immaculate Conception is an affirmation to my belief in my savior Jesus Christ, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He will come to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom will have no end.
Recently, I recalled verses from Revelation that helped me conclude that the ignorance of Mary that Christians have is rooted in Satan's ploy to divide the Church. When Satan failed in his attempt to murder the Christ child, Scripture says that he went about seeking to devour Mary's children. Revelation 12: 15-17:
15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.

It is time to be bold about our faith. Let us not be ashamed of our salvation. Let us not be afraid to love Jesus and love his Holy Mother. Mary doesn't detract from our relationship to Christ, she enhances it. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pearly & Beachy End Table


Brown Turns To A Pearly Monet



My Mom says I tend to plunge into things with both feet. I'm an all or nothing type of person. It could be as mild as a hobby or as serious as a religion, i.e. becoming Catholic and having six children, (another band wagon, having a large family).

Well, now a new hobby, not so life-changing as having a lot of kids, or choosing the hardest discipline of life that I know.

Oh, then there is my writing. I've eased back on that a little and it scares me that I may lose the skills and the enthusiasm I've gained. Hence this blog...

I am refinishing furniture.

Now after painting a few pieces very amateurishly, I'm hooked. I'd like to develop it and combine it with writing. Why not? Kill two birds with one stone? Ooooo, I would never intentionally kill a bird. (That was another fetish I had for awhile). At one time, I had nine zebra finches and two parakeets, and more were hatching out of eggs. But I digress.

I'm hoping that like being Catholic, having a lot of children, and writing, that painting furniture will be a long lasting enjoyable endeavor.

So here goes; a tutorial!

A little round end table sat on the end of our monstrous sectional sofa, as the only viable place to set a drink. It's an important piece, yet it was free, so I thought it was worth experimenting with color. My Dad bought it at a thrift store and passed it on to me. Here it is:

 Because this blog is called Sacred Oysters and I imagine myself and the people in my life as such; you know imperfect humans struggling and working by the grace of God and with Him to create beauty around us, I would describe this piece as a brown pearl. It is certainly pretty as it is, but it's just too dark. I'd like to shine it up a bit. My deck during the warm weather is a lapidary, a place to refine and polish pearls. The deck is where the oyster churns.

Alright, too much metaphor...

Let's get on with it!







1) I cleaned her up pretty well with a bit of lavender dish soap on a cloth (it has to smell good!) and removed an ornamental drawer pull. This is a very simple table, no drawers.


2) Although what I know about chalk paint is that it is very user friendly on most finishes and it isn't necessary to use primer, I couldn't help it. I've done a lot of painting, and because the brown pearl (the table) was so dark, I coated it with a layer of water based primer. With the weather on my side, it took about 30 minutes to dry and I was ready to paint! That is something else about me; I have no patience, so quick drying paint works for me. This is also another advantage of chalk paint. :)




Then came the fun part. Not being facetious or sarcastic; color is really fun! I think part of this for me is how therapeutic color is. The downside is that I have trouble making up my mind. Although I gravitate towards blues, greens, whites and even browns, I love a bit of red, gotta have some pink in my life, and yellow is always sunny in my corner of the world. I don't really have a favorite color, but I do have favorite combinations.

Another selling point about chalk paint, and this is a factor, (since chalk paint is expensive) is that it is non-toxic. There is no odor, no chemical fumes to be paranoid about. In the winter, when I have to paint indoors, I will certainly take advantage of this.

How beautifully basic can you get? Couleur (French flair for the word color) that is natural and not odiferous.

I went with a company called Heirloom Traditions Paint.

I can't remember how I found them. I think it was Pinterest. Their paint is made here, at home, in the great US of A! Shop local people!

I chose Venetian White (I like the name, as it sounds very Italian and exotic) and Whimsy (which sounds fun and aqua like. This was a good choice because I like both blue and green.


I'll explain the little canning jar later. *

3) I invested in a decent brush by the same company which can be used for paint and waxes as well. I I layered on the legs of the table two coats of Venetian White. On the round top, I first layered on Whimsy. Then I followed with a diluted coat of Whimsy by mixing Venetian White in the small canning jar. It gave the finish a variation that I like. ( I was being a little daring.) It was fun.  

My daughter Bethany said, "I like that Mommy. Don't distress it! Don't antique it. It looks good the way it is!" But you know, I can't leave anything alone. It looked a little bland, too milky. And here is where I get into a bit of my personal philosophy: I like imperfection. It is like perfection to me. Like humanity. God created us after His own image, who is the great I Am, the only perfection. Once upon a time I also got into knitting. There is an tradition in Mennonite culture with knitting to add a mistake to a project. Maybe drop a stitch, or add one too many to a row is to show a bit of humility, because after all, nobody is perfect. Except Jesus, and in my Catholic belief, although not divine, Mary, Jesus' Immaculate mother. The slight dents and scars shows a life lived. If we don't make mistakes, we aren't forgiven and we don't experience the love of God, because we may not recognize that we need Him. I have to mention here that one of my favorite things in the world are my son's baby teeth marks on my husband's guitar. So a little distressing it is!!!!

4) Advised by the lovely Melissa at Heirloom Traditions Paint to do it this certain way: I took a clean white terry cloth rag, (she said use something with teeth), wrap it around your index finger, dip it in water, and within 48 hours of painting (before the paint sets), rub your finger along the places that you want to expose the original finish, or in some places, the under layer of paint. In more sophisticated pieces, or pieces which the artist decided to paint over a color she didn't quite like, you can expose a hint of differing color, creating a patina that is shabby chic. I did this on another piece. There is a word for that, called pentimento. Isn't that a cool artsy word?! Here is a picture:
Distressing towel

Man, look at that hand. That's a lot a diapers, dishes, and duty. But notice the pearl ring. No I didn't actually wear the pearl while painting and distressing. Lol.

Here's the table after distressing:


5) Now the scary part. Now this is where it took real guts. I used a colored wax by Heirloom called Muddy Pond. I brushed it on with a cheap bristly brush on the legs first. I liked that part. But then I tried it on the Whimsy colored round top. Even though I obeyed, wiping the wax with a clean cloth to a look and color (the wax changes the paint color somewhat) I panicked. I hated it. This is what happens sometimes when you try something new. I thought I'd failed. I consoled myself by saying, "Hey at least you weren't afraid to take a small risk." It looked like a muddy puddle.




I walked away and decided to sleep on it and figure out what to do in the morning. Guess what?! It did look better in the morning. What had happened is that the wax dried and set. It's like wet hair at the hairdresser. OOOwey! But then the stylist blows it dry, and uses her tools, and the hair do is beautiful. The wax had to dry for me to see the real beauty. 

6) I brushed on 2 coats of clear finish (by the same company) to protect the wax and paint, and (tongue in cheek), the distressed.

7) Back on went the drawer pull, and Wow-LA! Here it is!


       
 Sacred Oyster Nacres a Pearl

Hey Friends, If you show me that you like this by leaving a comment, I'll do another tutorial. Even if you are only brave enough to share the comment on Facebook. 

Blessings Pearls! xo