Monday, July 21, 2014

An Open Letter to God.....

An Open Letter To God……

I’m not sure what I thought I was getting myself in to when I signed up to do this Cursillo weekend. I didn’t even really know what it was. I had heard people talk about Cursillo before but never in much detail. They all seemed to have positive experiences so I figured, why not? It all started several months ago when I was at Jeremy and Christine’s house for our weekly date night watching the The Bachelor. Christine and I.  Jeremy doesn't typically participate in our viewing party. He just brings us wine and food.  Bless his heart.  We were having a conversation about being a Christian and serving the Lord.  I made the comment to them both that I sometimes felt like I was less of a Christian because I didn't go to church every Sunday. Because I wasn't in the pew every Sunday, I felt like I was more of a sinner. Jeremy quickly interjected and told me I was a better Christian than probably a good majority of the people that were there every Sunday. He knew I loved the Lord by my actions. We talked a bit more and Jeremy went about making his way to bed so he didn't have to partake in The Bachelor shenanigans. Christine and I kept talking.  I mentioned I would like to have some kind of church family or prayer group or something that made me feel accountable. She mentioned going on a retreat weekend in July and I should go with her.  Without even thinking I blurted out “sure!”.  I didn't even know what it was she was going to, how long it was, the date, nothing. But I was excited at the opportunity to participate and have an opportunity with God.  I was even more excited about doing it with her. I've always know her to be a very faith centered person, as well as Jeremy, with God being in the fore front of their marriage and their family.  I knew that if I was going to learn from anybody, she was a pretty good option and I was excited she would be there with me to guide me along the way. 

I am a baptized Methodist. I was born into that church and went to Sunday school every Sunday as a little girl with my grandparents.  Everything I know about God, I feel like came from them. I loved sitting next to them on Sundays and listening to Grandma sing. There were few things she loved more than a good hymn.  I learned about God, but I don’t know that I ever really soaked in much about the Methodist church.  I can’t really tell you why I am Methodist, other than my grandparents, or what the church stands for.  I am ashamed of that now, a little embarrassed, but proud of the fact that I've chosen to learn now.

Once I became an adult, I moved back home and didn't really ever feel pulled to the church. I didn't feel a connection with any particular ministers that we had in the six churches in Greenfield, and as I said, I didn't feel like I had that church family to keep me connected to Him.  Your church family isn't everything.  I should make that clear.  Our town is full of good, loving, Christian, God fearing people. But there are more than a few that I feel like go to church because of social hour rather than really building their relationship with Christ. But that’s not my problem, that’s between them and Jesus, my point is, I know the social aspect isn't everything, but for me I was looking to get involved and learn more.  I've never read the Bible the whole way through.  I don’t know a lot of scripture off the top of my head.  I don’t know all of the books of the Bible. And I could definitely brush up on the things you learned in Sunday School, like the 10 Commandments, some of the classic Bible stories and all the old faithful hymns.  I was in a place where I wanted to learn more and I felt like having that kind of church family to encourage me, hold me accountable, and pray for my journey with God was what I needed for me to really find the relationship with God I was looking for.

So. I said yes. I would go to Cursillo in July.  But I didn't really think it was that big of a deal to go. I just figured it was a little women’s weekend.  No big thing. 

As it got closer to the weekend, Christine let me know that she needed to go up early because she was a part of the team that was putting the weekend together so she had to set up, but that Mrs. Theivagt wanted to take me. I’ll never call her Pat. Makes me cringe.  She’s been my teacher and mentor for years.  Anywho, I thought this was odd.  Quincy was a two and a half hour drive. That was an awfully long way to drive just to drop me off and say catch ya later.  Christine said I could go with them if I wanted but that Mrs. Theivagt wanted to be a part of my weekend.  So, that was fine with me.  I was excited she wanted to be a part of my weekend. I just wasn't sure why it was a big deal, but that was Mrs. Theivagt to me.  Always there when I needed her, even if I couldn't figure out why.  Christine also kept mentioning how excited she was for the weekend and she’d told her entire family. Given that there are approximately 234 Reid’s, I knew she must really be excited to tell them all, but again, I was a little thrown off as to why this was a big deal.  In my head I was thinking we were going to a prayer group for the weekend or something. Ha. Bless my heart.

The weekend came and Mrs. T told me she’d be there to pick me up at around 5.  We were stopping in White Hall at the church first for “a little thing”, we would grab a sandwich and then head to Quincy.  Wait.  What is the “little thing”?  We just have a little prayer thing she said.  Ok. These Catholics are really excited about this weekend, but I’m down with that.  Whatever floats their boats.  She picked me up, along with Lisa Longmeyer, and away we went.  I know Lisa.  But I mean, I don’t KNOW her that well, so slight confusion there too, but I kept quiet, just thinking how nice of her to go along for the ride.  We get to the church and there are about eight of us there. I’m just following along so I’m still not sure how it’s gonna play out.  I'm just waiting for everyone else in this thing to show up for whatever the church put together. Then everyone gathers around and starts talking and I look around trying to figure out where the rest of the crowd is.  I thought the church was having a “thing”.  They let me know they were just meeting to pray for me and the rest of the women on the weekend, they do it before every weekend.  Oh.  Well do you always know someone there?  No.  By this point I am so confused.  Out of the eight people there, I knew three of them, I knew of two more, and the other two were complete strangers.  I could not figure out why these people were taking time out of their day to come and pray with me and for me and for my weekend with God. I was humbled and really felt loved and even more excited about the weekend, but I was starting to realize that this weekend away was going to be a little more of a big deal than I anticipated.

We got to Quincy College and signed in and went where all the other women of the weekend were and shortly after that, Mrs. Theivagt and Lisa left.  Have fun on that 2.5 hour drive back home ladies. I’m glad you hung out for 20 minutes : ).  The evening got started and we got assigned to our tables, met the other women, got our rooms, met the women on the Cursillo team, and met Father Doctor and Deacon Wayne.  I took notice of a lady across the room, she ended up being seated at the table in front of mine.  Her name was Marilyn, and she was probably in her 70s.  I didn’t know why, but something about her just made me smile, and she said her hobby was mowing….which made me think of Grandpa.  We ended the night with a trip to the chapel and the opportunity to pray and called it an early night, as we were told we needed to be ready bright and early the next morning.  They didn’t give us a time schedule, we weren’t allowed to have our phones or watches, and we were supposed to just let go and let them serve and cater to us and our weekend with God and each other.

I won’t go in to a step by step replay over the next three days.  Apparently it’s like the world’s best kept secret or something and you aren’t supposed to give away all the good surprises. And I really don’t feel like having 10,000 Catholics hunting me down, so I’ll just keep it to the cliff notes.  Although, this started out as a “letter” and it’s already half a book, so, we’ll see how that goes.  

My purpose of the weekend was to find a church community and to find peace with my path and direction in life.  It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with my purpose in life for awhile now.  Having graduated from a very good state university three years ago, and still not being able to find the career that I never even gave a second thought to having trouble finding, was starting to wear me down.  I assumed the career would hand itself to me after graduation, I guess.  I definitely didn’t envision myself as the valedictorian of my high school class that would go on to get a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois to be a bartender.  I come from a successful family of hard workers that all maintain many jobs to provide themselves with a comfortable living. And here I was, 25, and still dependent in many ways upon my parents.  I could pay the few bills I had on my own.  And I had animals that I was passionate about, never turning away a stray, I’m the local pound.  I truly am proud of my work with animals and know in my heart it’s what I’m called to do.  To help animals and be their voice, to give them some kind of dignity, and to make a difference for them.  But I didn’t have a career, I didn’t get a salary, I didn’t have insurance on my own, and my dad still made my car payment…..which if anything ever went wrong with that he had the pleasure of paying too.  You’re welcome, pop.  I felt like the family failure. I had a family full of teachers, farmers, physical therapists, police officers and a former Secret Service Agent (shout out to George W. Bush…..I played with his dogs).  Me on the other hand, I could sling ya a beer if you wanted.  Don’t get me wrong, bartending provided me with a great financial cushion. I was able to pay off credit card bills and student loans (the smallest one, my parents pay the bulk of those loans).  But the hours were sucky, sometimes the crowd wasn’t ideal, and I sat in a bar all day every day.  I can get down with my bad self at a bar just like the next guy, but my idea of a good time isn’t sitting in one Tuesday through Friday from 11 to 6.  I had more to offer than that and I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t been able to find it.  I hadn’t even been given the chance.  I had applied to hundreds of jobs and hadn't even been called in for an interview for most of them. 

In June, I quit the bar and had the opportunity to take a position as the Library Director at the public library in Greenfield. Mrs. Theivagt again.  Seeking me out and giving me some sort of purpose back and a little bit of self confidence.  For the first time in a long time I was excited about what I was going to be able to do every day.  It wasn’t full time, but I could work it out to where I didn’t lose any money, I didn’t have the drive, and I could be home every day to make Grandpa’s dinners.  It was an opportunity for me to build my resume.  Bartender wouldn’t get me very far, but Library Director might.  She was an answer to many prayers for me, guiding me in life like she had so many times before.

I had moved in with Grandpa a year and a half prior.  Grandma had passed away the year before and I was moving home.  It was either move back in with my parents or get my own place, so I chose Grandpa’s.  He was living alone now without Grandma and he always said, “it’s an awfully big house for an old man and his dog”.  So, when I moved home I felt like that was where I should be.  I was excited.  Grandpa and I are buddies and I knew we would have fun.  We would keep each other company, I could take care of him and the house, and we could find trouble together.  Turns out, he takes more care of me than I do him, but none the less, it works out.  It’s now Grandpa, me, six dogs, and the cat.  I laugh when I think of him saying it’s an awfully big house for an old man and his dog.  He should know by now to be careful what he wishes for...I moved in my loot and brought a three ring circus along with me.  Not so quiet anymore is it, Bullet?  I love living with Grandpa.  I would do it again in a minute.  I wouldn’t change a thing and I know that being with him is where I’m supposed to be, but I still felt like I was missing my purpose.  Like I was dangling in the wind just trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing.  I needed direction.

A friend once said in her own description of her story that she didn’t believe in coincidence.  She thought that was God’s way of remaining anonymous.  I loved that.  And over the next three days I would start to see how that was working in my life.  We started at what I can only assume was a Godly hour, because although I didn’t know the time (I didn’t have a watch or phone remember J) it pretty much felt like it was an hour I had never been awake for before.  Probably in the vicinity of 6:30.  I’m just guessing.  I walked to get some coffee.  The coffee maker wasn’t working, which I thought was kind of a sick joke on God’s part.  I didn’t really feel it would be appropriate to be a hag on the first day or take a nap in the pew, but homegurl needs her coffee before she can actually function in the morning.  But in trying to find the coffee, I saw Marilyn again, she smiled at me, and I smiled back and felt a little tug on my heart but still wasn’t sure why.  We both wanted coffee and all we got was water.  

After morning prayer and some breakfast, we got letters from friends.  One of my letters was from Debbie Powell, a well known Christian woman in our community and one of my Grandma’s favorite people.  She wrote to share her prayers with me for my weekend and some of her experiences from her own Cursillo weekend.  She’s a Baptist who married a Catholic (they're Batholics....hahaha), so she knew what it felt like to be there and be a little different than everyone else because of our different religion.  I was floored she wrote me a letter.  I didn’t even know she knew I was going. The fact that she took that time to write to me was awesome.  At the end of her letter she wrote, “Look for Jesus this weekend! If you do, I promise he will show up!”  Andddd cue the first box of Kleenexes of many that I used over those three days. 

Lunch came around and while we were sitting and finishing up our meals, all the men serving were introducing themselves.  That’s part of the weekend too.  The men serve the women on their weekends and vice versa.  I could get cool with that real fast.  They got to a man at the end of the line.  He was shorter with bright white hair and an expression that gave you the impression he didn’t have much of a sense of humor.  But he was so dang cute, you just wanted to give him a hug.  He introduced himself.  Johnny Po-la-la-la (something Polish, that’s all I got) and said he was from Chicago with a full city slicker accent.  Ahh. Chicago. That explains the no laugh face.  But everyone laughed when he said his name.  He didn’t even flinch.  Stone faced.  I thought, why are they laughing at him? Did he miss the joke? Christine said that that wasn’t really his real name, he was just being funny and that’s why they were laughing, but he did it again at lunch and everyone laughed again, AND I knew that was his name because his name tag said so.  Being the grandpa’s girl that I am, I was appalled.  All those women were laughing at him, and he didn’t respond so he must not know they are laughing at him or why, and that must really hurt his feelings. Rude.  Look at me figuring it all out.  Yeah.  Turns out his name is really Don.  He’s from Camp Point.  And he’s actually a real corker.  He likes to make the jokes and then sit stone faced and not crack one single expression.  He’s my kind of people.  I loved him.  When I figured this out everyone got a good laugh at me….being me….and at one point he chimed in to the conversation.  I don’t remember what Christine said to him, something about how good looking he was, but for just a moment, he smiled.  He had such a pretty smile, that was a little lopsided with only one side of his mouth curving up, and his eyes lit up.  When we sang after lunch I glanced at him and saw him, with his eyes closed, holding the hands of the men standing next to him, singing his heart out.  I started to cry.  Again.  In the middle of lunch. Earlier in the day, during one of our talks, the speaker said, “those who may not see Jesus elsewhere, should always see Jesus in you.”  That day….Don was Jesus for me.  The rest of my time there, I took any opportunity I got to crack some jokes with Don (I still called him Johnny). At the end of the day on Friday I went to leave and I hollered at him “see ya at breakfast, Johnny!”  He said he wouldn’t see me until lunch.  Had to take care of the dog.  Oh, Johnny/Don.  A soul after my own dog loving heart.  I saw Jesus through Don the whole weekend.  I later learned he’d recently lost his wife.  He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “she was my sweetheart for more than 50 years. She never quit being my girlfriend”. He explained, after you get married and life happens apparently sometimes you quit doing those little things you did for each other while you were dating.  Not Don.  She never quit being his girlfriend.  And it hit me with a floodgate of tears, that he reminded me of my Grandpa and his love for my Grandma. They say Don comes to most every Cursillo weekend, so I’m sure he would have been there no matter what, but I knew in that moment he was there for me.  There was a reason that out of 15 men, I was drawn to pick him out of the crowd.  I loved Don, and I’d only known him a hot minute.  But he had shown me a little more of God’s love and it truly made me happy. 

I wrote Don a letter on Saturday and gave it to him at one of the meals.  I explained that he had been a big part of my weekend and that my letter explained why and I would have just told him why, but I knew I’d cry so I wrote it down instead.  But when I tried to explain that to him, I cried too.  So, props to me on the crying.  He thanked me the next day for the letter. He told me he’d never forget it and he kissed my forehead. I love Don.

Between Don, and Christine, and the ladies of my table, I was realizing throughout the day that I had answers to my prayers for a church family.  These women (and some men) knew more about me after knowing me for a day than most people did that had known me my whole life.  I was figuring out that I had a family of faith now.  All I had to do was ask…..and look.  But I was still searching for my purpose.  Debbie told me to look for Jesus and he’d show up, so in the chapel that evening I asked Father Koozie to pray with me for my purpose.  We talked for a minute and he said to me “do you ever feel like you’re at the bus stop waiting on your bus and it just never comes”.  Exactly.  He’s good at this. He paused and said, “the bus will come, you just have to wait and be patient for the right colored route. He does things on his time, not ours, and the job will come when He is ready”.  I felt an overwhelming sense of calm come over me.  I didn’t fully get it yet, but I was trying. 

Meanwhile, I was still running into Marilyn.  Something about her was so familiar to me but I knew she didn’t look like anyone I knew. I just kept catching myself watching her. Which sounds a little creepy when I put it that way, like a stage five stalker or something.  I just kept being drawn to her.  Saturday morning we went and had mass before lunch.  The chapel had these gorgeous stained glass windows.  They remind me of the windows in the Methodist church. They are so tall and vibrant with different pictures of the scripture.  In the mornings before breakfast, I would just sit and stare at them as Father Doctor was talking to us.  It was a great way to start my day by taking in all the beauty of the morning sun shining through those ornate windows.  As we were standing in a circle around the alter for mass, all holding hands and singing and praying, I glanced up and caught a glimpse of Marilyn.  I quickly shot my eyes back to her.  It hit me.  And I lost what little control I have of my tears on a regular basis.  It was my Grandma. 

Physically, Marilyn looks nothing like Grandma.  Marilyn has very short black hair, she’s a farming woman.  You can tell she’s worked hard her whole life.  She wore shorts most of the time and a plaid button up shirt because it was chilly in the rooms.  She dressed nothing like Grandma.  But it was something about the way she carried herself, the way she held her shoulders just like Grandma did, the way that her mouth looked when it was sitting at rest, the way she crossed her legs and did a little tap back and forth, or a sway kind of with her feet when she was listening intently to something.  In that particular moment, it was the way she was holding her hands.  For someone you could tell worked so hard, she had delicate hands, that were clasped together and relaxed, with a little vein that showed on the top of her hand, that made me have my moment.  The defining moment of the weekend for me. 

After that there was just something in me that came to peace with the answers I was searching for in regards to my purpose in life.  Some of them were answers I already knew but I guess just expected some kind of added explanation.  It was explanation that wasn’t needed.  I was where I was supposed to be.  With Grandpa.  Later in the day, we had a group prayer session, and Julie, one of the girls at my table said to me, the job will come to you when it should.  When this phase of your life has passed, the job will come.  But right now, this is where you should be.” It was now enough to be where I was at.  Grandpa and I taking care of each other.  Grandma once said to me when I was a little girl that she hoped Grandpa died before her. I remember it vividly, it was a Sunday morning at the breakfast table, Grandma had made breakfast while Grandpa and I bottle fed the ophan baby calves.  She said it to me and I thought that was so cold.  I asked her why, and she said because she didn’t want to leave him to take care of himself.  Meals and laundry aren’t Bullet’s finer qualities.  It made a little more sense then, but I didn’t fully grasp what she meant until she was gone.  All the things that she did for him when she was here, many were things he just won’t do if there isn’t someone to do them for him. They aren’t things that will kill him, but things that made him healthier and more taken care of.  Making sure his bed is made and clean, making sure he’s got balanced meals that don’t consist of only cream horns, chocolate and cider, making sure his dress shirts didn’t have wrinkles, and he didn’t wear the same work clothes for a whole week straight because he doesn’t care.  She made sure the house was vacuumed, that there were decorations for holidays, that he had a Christmas tree, she cleaned up and threw away all the newspapers he would read and then just leave where he finished them, and that he had plenty of his favorite snacks.  Right now, at this point in my life, I am supposed to be with him, doing all the little things for him that she would do for him if she were here.  And just like her, he is my best friend.
Saturday night I wrote Marilyn a letter trying to briefly explain my story, being drawn to her, and finally getting why.  It was five pages.  I’ve never been one for brevity.  I told her that once I realized why I was drawn to her, it was so easy for me to see that I was seeing Jesus in her.  I thanked her for allowing me to see God, and my grandma, in her, when I really, really needed them.  She didn’t really do or say anything, other than be herself and smile that gentle little smile that was just like my grandma’s.  I gave her the letter on Sunday morning.  After she read it, she came to find me with tears in her eyes.  As I hugged her, I heard her thank me.  She told me no one had ever said something like that to her before.  We hugged for quite awhile and for just a minute, I felt like I got to have one more hug from my beloved Grandma.  I can never thank Marilyn enough for the gift she gave me.

After everything was over Sunday and people were saying goodbye, a girl from Marilyn’s table came over to me and gave me a hug.  She told me she just wanted to thank me for what I’d done for Marilyn.  She said Marilyn really needs someone like that in her life to make her feel special.  All weekend Marilyn had shared that she really wasn’t sure what her purpose was for coming to the weekend.  She didn’t really know what she was looking for out of it, but she felt the need to say yes to the weekend.  After I gave her my letter, she told her group that she realized her purpose for coming was for me.  Turns out, she’d indirectly led me to my purpose and I’d led her to hers.  I still smile just thinking about Marilyn.  I don’t know the details of her story.  I wonder if she has children or people that spend time with her.  I would ask her to become Bullet and I’s third roommate, but she lives in Missouri, so it’s a bit of a move for her.  I hope that she has those people in her life to make her feel worthy and special.  And if she doesn’t, I pray she finds some.  I know I’ll stay in touch with her.  She changed my life.  She deserves the same.

My moments with Don and Marilyn were my major moments of grace, but the rest of my time was filled with God’s love as well.  Constantly getting cards from people telling me they were praying for me.  People I didn’t know knew I was there.  People in my community that I didn’t realize knew me well enough to want to pray for me.  People who didn’t even know me at all, people from Iowa, Missouri and all over Illinois.  All of these people were praying for me. And good Lord was I able to feel it.  They always say prayer is a powerful thing.  But until you actually experience what that actually feels like in one of those moments, you can’t truly understand how overwhelming it can be. 
One of my big concerns for the weekend was for the fact that I wasn’t Catholic.  It’s not like I thought they would shun me, I just knew most of the people were.  I knew it was based in the Catholic faith and I had some nervous concerns that at times I might feel out of place.  Anytime I met someone new, especially when I would pray with different Fathers, I would immediately blurt out “My name is Morgan.  I’m Methodist”.  They probably thought I had tourettes.  I just didn’t want them to think I was sitting down to confess and get that process going and then not know how to stop it.  I get dizzy enough during mass.  I just wanted to tell them straight up.  Methodist.  Big Red Truck.  I almost think that was my way of subconsciously making myself different or somehow less deserving of the weekend.  I don’t know if I thought a priest would treat me differently when I told him that or what, but I was amazed and so pleasantly surprised by their reactions. Every time I said that to them, each and every priest smiled at me a gentle priest smile, you know the smile you think a minister or a priest should have that just makes you feel more comforted, and he took my hands and squeezed them tight, waiting for what I wanted to pray about with him.  He didn’t love me any less or treat me any less because I wasn’t an official member of his church.  He loved me anyway and still prayed with me and for me to know God’s love as best as I could.
There were more people than I could keep track of that affected me this weekend.  Everyone had their own stories and their own struggles.  Who would have ever thought you could so deeply know 50 different women that you had never met four days earlier? The girls at my table were phenomenal.  All of us so different, but in it together to grow and learn.  Jessica was closest to my age, I admired her for her maturity and her faith filled marriage.  She was an inspiration to me for what I hope for my own marriage one day.  Pat was the tiniest, sweetest woman.  The perfect picture of what you imagine a godly woman to look like.  She just looks like the little lady that goes to church every Sunday and has so much knowledge to share about the Lord.  The kind of lady that gives the perfect hugs.  Julie was there to take charge and lead when the rest of us got quiet.  One of those people you just like to be around because of their optimistic and fun personality. Someone that truly deserves to be loved.  Linda was the one that found her voice, coming kind of broken and quiet, like the rest of us, and seeing such a change in her by day three.  I saw in her the worthiness and love that I know she struggled to see in herself sometimes, but was making her way by the time we went home. Becky was the friendly and social one that everyone can relate to.  She doesn’t meet a stranger and just lets her light shine just making it so fun to be around her. And Sharon, the singer J. I could sit and listen to Sharon sing hymns all day.  She knows every word, you can tell she is deep and settled into her faith, and she sings loud for all to hear.  She was the one I thought all weekend how surprised I was that this was the first time she’d ever been on a Cursillo weekend because she knew so much about the Lord.  Turns out, it wasn’t her first weekend.  Go me.  Six ladies I didn’t think I’d have anything in common with at the beginning of the weekend, are now six women I’ll be connected to for the rest of my life. 
Every time I thought I had it figured out or I couldn’t be surprised any more, He went and exceeded every expectation I ever could have had.  “Participate, Don’t Anticipate”. They don’t tell you that for nothing, apparently.  On Saturday night, we walked upstairs for a program and one of the men was standing at the door, propping it open and singing a song, presumably by himself.  I knew from his name tag he was the husband of the lady in charge of the music for the weekend so I got slightly concerned that we were headed to the chapel for Mr. Mitchell to sing us a solo.  And I’m not gonna lie, I seriously thought things were about to get real weird.  But once again, I was wrong.  Once inside I found a lot of things inside that chapel. Things that I'm sure were different for every person there, but that was the beauty of it. 
 In the closing ceremony we all were invited to tell everyone, a church full of new everyone’s that had apparently also been praying for us, what the weekend had meant to us and what we planned to do with it.  We didn’t have to share if we didn’t want to, and I was pretty determined I wasn’t going to. With my knack for crying I knew I wouldn’t make it through it and my arm pits sweat a little when I have to talk in front of people because I’m afraid I’ll sound like a bafoon. But then every other dang lady in the group shared her story, so here I went.  For someone that majored in communication I sure do get stage fright when speaking to large crowds.  I got in front of the microphone, I brought my own box of Kleenexes, and introduced myself with, naturally, “My name is Morgan.  I’m a Methodist.” Half of them laughed.  Half of them were just confused as to why I made that announcement.  I told them I didn’t really know what I’d signed up for but when a Reid girl tells you to do something, you just do it.  It’s easier that way.  I knew I came looking for two things.  I found one in all of them as a church family. And I found my peace for my purpose in Marilyn. 

As for what I was going to do with it, the quote from the first night stuck with me.  Those who may not see Jesus elsewhere, should always see him in you.  I had been blessed with that all weekend. Here’s looking at you Johnny Po-la-la-la. And Marilyn. And Patti (That Patti Nord is bossy, chatty and has big hair.  We are soul sisters).  And Sheli.  And Christine.  And Nana.  All those pretty ladies at my table. Father Jim, who spoke to us on the last day and openly wept through many different parts of his talk.  I loved that he showed that emotion.  Usually priests keep it together emotionally because they deal with so many other emotionally fragile people.  I love that he wasn’t afraid to show it.  He said two things that stuck with me.  The first was when he told about being at a new church.  He said he spent a lot of his time on the playground so he could get to know the children because they were the innocence of God.  And at the end he sang to us.  He had us close our eyes and silently repeat to ourselves “be still and know that I am God” as he sang.  With his deep voice and the song, I felt like God was singing directly to me through Father Jim.  And when he sang the line himself with his deep, powerful voice “be still and know that I am God,” I had chills run through my entire body. 

And last but not least, Father Doctor, who shared with us that he was born a very sick baby.  The doctors told his mother he wouldn’t live so she should just leave him at the hospital.  She disagreed, she was a nurse and she said if he was going to die he was going to die at home.  When his parents took him home they prayed that if they made him well and let him live, they would never stand in the way of whatever God called him to do with his life.  They waited to tell him that story until after he was already a priest as they didn’t want to influence his direction in life and what he felt like God was calling him to do.  And he seriously rocked my world when on day 2 he announced that he “had a big ass” and then clearly got embarrassed for his slip.  A priest. Shouted he had a big ass! And I thought Doris Reid’s jaw was going to hit the floor when she shouted “oh my word, Father!”.  I knew he was my kind of people.  In all seriousness, he humanized himself for me.  He wasn’t a scary or stuffy priest.  He had a sense of humor. He had a love of the Lord like me.  And he used the word ass.  He looked so much like my friend Ross.  They had the same mannerisms.  The same way they kind of shake their head a little sometimes and the way they shift their body from one foot to the next when they are talking to someone.  Their lips are the same, kind of the way they move them or press them together as they are talking.  Or when they both are listening to something intently their mouth kind of sits in the same half open way.  And they actually look alike, too.  One is just 40 years older than the other.  All weekend long I told Christine that sometimes I had a hard time paying attention when Father Doctor was talking because I'd think of Ross.  And if you knew Ross and envisioned him as a priest, you would know why I giggled every time I thought about it.  As I sit here and write this, my friend Ross just sent me a text twenty minutes ago asking how my weekend went.  I haven't talk to Ross on the phone in well over a year and I haven't seen him in person in probably closer to two or three.  How in the world did he know about my weekend.  He then called and said he was making a joke, asking about my weekend because I had already posted part of this and as he was scrolling through facebook he saw my post, so after I'd written a ten page report on my weekend, he was going to be clever and ask about how it went anyway.  I sat there stunned a minute and finally asked him if he'd read the actual post on my weekend.  He said, "hell no I didn't read it. Writing a ten page report on your weekend is about the dumbest thing I'd ever heard".  I had to laugh.  That response is exactly why every time Father Doctor spoke I had to giggle thinking of Ross as a priest.  He definitely missed his calling.  Not. 

And then, there was one lady that looked like Meryl Streep.  But I’m still not sure what Jesus was trying to tell me with her presence.  At the end of all of that, my hope when I left there on day four was that I could give someone the blessing of seeing Jesus in me, like I had in all of them. 
I walked away from that weekend feeling better than I have in years.  It’s far from figured out for me, but I now have the peace to sit back and let God handle it.  As long as I have Him, I’ll be fine.  I have never felt so much love and support from so many people all over the place, and especially from the people in my local church community.  I know I want to learn and do more.  I mentioned before I don’t really know what a Methodist believes.  And I still don’t.  I don’t really know much more about Catholics either.  But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t interested in learning more about the Catholic faith.  Those people have a lot of love and faith to give. Plus, I really love Pope Francis.  Serious love.  Pope Frank for President.  He seriously is the most amazing human being our world has seen in decades.  But as I was riding home with Christine, Doc and Nana (I call her Nana now.  She told me I couldn’t call her Mrs. Reid.  And then laughed at me every time I tried to call her Doris and had a small convulsion.  It made my teeth itch.  I just couldn’t do it. But Mrs. Reid said I could call her Nana.  So that solves that), as we were riding home I got to thinking about my new found curiosity of the Catholic faith. As I asked them every question you could fit into a two hour car drive about priests, friars, and monks, Franciscans, Dominicans, and the one that Father Hyland is…..I thought back to Father Lou.  I didn’t really get where this comment came from when he was praying with me (perhaps because I shouted, I’m a Methodist! At him) but now, I get it.  One of those, you don’t know until you know moments.  Father Lou told me he was one of 7 children raised in a devout Catholic family.  When his brother was a young man, he moved to a different state, left the Catholic church, and was called to a Baptist church, where he eventually found his wife and made a family.  Years later his brother became ordained as a Deacon within the Baptist church.  He invited Father Lou and their mother to attend his ordainment…..if that’s a word.  Father Lou said it was a little awkward for him, being a Catholic priest and all, but it was his brother, and if he invited him to go he was going to go.  He and his mother went and it was a wonderful ceremony.  In the car ride on the way home, his mother blurted out “well, thank God for that!”.  Father Lou said that surprised him a bit, given that she was such a devout Catholic woman and she had raised her children within the Catholic church which he then left.  He asked her for her reasoning.  He said she looked at him and matter of factly said, “that boy never did take to the Catholic church and my biggest fear was that he’d turn into an Athiest and then he’d really be lost. He loves the Lord and that’s all that matters.  I know we’ll all go to the same place once He calls us Home.”  Well, now I love Father Lou.  And Father’s Lou’s mom.  I’m not really sure yet what God is calling for me to do with the roots of my faith and which church He is calling me to. But I do know He has called me to learn and to get excited about it. 
God does all things in His time.  I was meant to be on that weekend. With those particular women. I wasn’t supposed to go any time but now.  I asked for answers and I got them.  I looked for Jesus and I found him.  He showed up, just like He always does.  And now I can’t wait to learn more about Him and do things for Him. Jesus came to me a few months ago in the skin of Christine Lansaw, one of my best friends, trying to help me get my answers.  He came to me this weekend in the skin of Don and Marilyn and all the others that I talked about.  And he came to me again, one last time, when they dropped me off at my house, finally back with my Grandpa and my puppies.  I got my stuff out of the car and was telling them goodbye, and both Doc and Nana separately said to me, “whenever you have more questions you know where to find us. We will explain anything you want.” In God’s time, I’ll figure out where I’m going, but for now, I’m going to the enjoy the lingering sense of joy in my heart and the feeling of complete relief from loosing all my burdens over the coarse of the last four days. 

When I walked in the back door, I got one last gift.  There was a package waiting for me on the counter.  It had apparently come in the mail while I was gone.  I opened it and looked to find a pair of high heels that I had ordered about a week ago.  I ordered them with several other items included in the order and they had been on back order for months.  I loved them because they reminded me of a pair of high heels Grandma always wore when I was a little girl that I really loved.  They were the only item in the box.  None of the other 7 or 8 items that I ordered within that same order (that were all in stock, when the shoes were backordered) were shipped with the heels.  Apparently, Jesus shows himself in a pair of stilettos too.