The following is a transcript from the Raised Catholic podcast. To listen to the podcast, click here.
Today is episode 37: Be Where You Are
Well, hello there, friends. Around here, we’ve hit that part of the summer when we feel some things coming to an end at the very same time that we gear up for the new things that are right around the corner. Lots of people dropping off their college kids, many for the first time, and grieving over the end of family-as-they-knew-it and pondering what the future might look like now. Pre-K to 12, families are facing the start of another school year and all that entails with COVID still, unfortunately, in the mix. And my fellow teachers, it seems to me, are facing this coming school year with a mix of determination, purposeful optimism, a massive case of the ‘Sunday Scaries’, and not quite enough reserves to get back at it once again. We’re at that part of the roller coaster just before the real movement begins. We’re anticipating what will come next, but we’re not quite there yet. And today’s episode is all about the spiritual ramifications of that time of transition when all is not as it was, but also, it is not as it will be. When it comes to our faith lives, what do we do with this moment?
My daughter and her boyfriend rode roller coasters just a couple of weeks ago. Her boyfriend is a huge fan of coasters, and my daughter…wanted to be. She’s like me in this way, I think. I never understood paying actual money just to be terrified. But anyway, we talked about the nerve-wracking nature of the tick tick tick of the climb, the chilling anticipation of what is to come. And once it gets going, of course, you’re in it – moving with speed in the coaster or the system or routine that largely does the carrying for you. But that moment at the top when everything is quiet and still – that can be scary but it’s also the best view, if you dare to open your eyes and take a look around.
If you were born and raised Catholic, you might feel some discomfort around the idea of ‘be here now’ or ‘the present moment is all we have’ because these can seem kind of Buddhist or ‘new age’, I guess, but they are also true. There’s nothing contradictory in Catholic Christianity about grounding yourself in the present moment, and there are lots of examples in the Scriptures of Jesus doing that very thing. He went to the mountain alone to pray. He did not plan for the feeding of thousands of people as we might have prepared for such a large dinner party, but instead miraculously solved the problem, right in the moment. He called His disciples’ attention back, time and again, to the present. When a woman broke the perfume jar to anoint Him and they criticized her for how that treasure could have been spent in the future, or when Mary of Bethany sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him teach, or when the disciples thought Jesus would lead an army to free the Israelites from Roman oppressors, Jesus refuted them every single time. And in Gethsemane and at His last supper, Jesus sought connection with His friends. Even though He knew what was to come, He desperately wanted them to be there with Him ‘now’, and to perceive the weight of that present time alongside Him.
My daughter is a senior in college, and her school’s Instagram account posted some advice for freshmen they recorded from a collection of parents who were tearfully dropping off their dear ones. One of the moms said to ‘enjoy it, because it will be the best four years of your life.’ And I thought, well, maybe. That’s a lot of pressure, don’t you think? This time of pandemic has taught us, I hope, that we can plan and dream, and we should, but that things won’t always sort out as we think they will, and friend, we have to be okay with that. My therapist often says something truly maddening, whenever I fret or overly plan or hope with relentless specificity for the future. She says, “We’ll see.” Ugh. And I have it as a reminder on my corkboard, too, because, friend, we have no idea what is to come, so here at the tip of the roller coaster, let’s look around at what is.
Today there are purple flowers in my clean kitchen. Today me and my dear ones are happy and healthy, thank God. Today my sweet pup, Bailey, is snoozing happily in the air conditioning. Today the French-pressed coffee is delicious. I sit on my blue couch and breathe in for six beats, hold it for three, and exhale for nine. I notice the pops of buttery yellow in my living room, the green leaves shining in my sunny windows, the whistle from a train that is leaving the station near my house. I put my hand on my heart and say, today is good, a gift from God who loves me. And friend, what do you see or hear today, right where you are?
My fiftieth birthday is in just a few months and so I’ve been looking around at my life with a more thoughtful lens lately. I’ve been making sense of some big parts of my past and how they influence me today, in my reactions and practices and I’m cleaning up that which does not serve me. I do have hopes for the future, of course, but they’re more generalized now, more open-handed. Mostly I’m trying to trust and be grateful for what is, and to walk through doors as they are opened for me by a God who loves me and who has my future in His kind hands. None of that is easy or natural for me, by the way, but I am learning that I can choose my approach and my lens. And friend, so can you.
Last night I felt the presence of my mother who art in Heaven. It had been a while since she visited, and of course it was emotional. In my spirit, I felt her reminding me of the 50th birthday gathering I threw for her way back when. My Mom turned 50 16 plus 9 years ago, passing as she did from this world at age 66 and this November, the day before my birthday, she will have been gone for 9 more years. So, we celebrated her fiftieth birthday 16 plus 9, 25 years ago. I wonder at the time, how it passes, how we compartmentalize it in chunks just to try to make sense of it somehow and yet in the moment, I felt her celebrating me in love, present and realer than you can imagine.
I didn’t know what to say. “Help the kids,” I said to her, somewhat urgently and silently in my spirit. After all, I’m a mother much more than a daughter these days. And she replied in the way she always had when we ended a phone call when she was here. “Hug the kids,” she’d say, “but you, first. Hug yourself first.”
As you sit at the top of whatever roller coaster you’re on right now, my friend, I’ll wrap up with some words of advice or maybe think of it as sort of a benediction for you today:
Be where you are.
Take a look around,
and as my mother would say, hug yourself first.
Today is a gift and your kind companion, Jesus, is right there with you in it, so breathe. May the Lord bless you and keep you right in this moment that you’re given. All is well.
Well, thanks so much for listening to today’s episode. If you liked it, would you please consider sharing it with a friend, subscribing, rating, and reviewing wherever you listen to podcasts? That would be so helpful, and I really appreciate it, so thank you in advance. I have resources for you in the show notes which will help you engage further with today’s topic, so check those out, and if you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com.
Thanks again for listening. My friend, have a beautiful day, and I’ll see you next time.