christmas, faith, family, grief and loss, hope, Inspiration, Uncategorized

The Working Title Is…I Killed Baby Jesus

It started innocently enough.

I was meandering through a store’s Christmas section when my eye was drawn to the most unique crèche. The stable/manger was crafted from beautiful blonde wood and the nativity figurines (also blonde, but why start now with historical accuracy) had this child-like, almost cartoonish, appearance to them.

As I picked it up for a closer look, it became quickly apparent that these were two separate pieces. And by “quickly apparent,” I more specifically mean that the nativity scene went flying through the air, careening toward the concrete industrial floor and ultimately smashing into a thousand tiny pieces.

The whole thing unfolded in slow motion before me. In fact, I did a mini “fly through the air” move to reach out and grab it, all the while yelling, “Noooooooooo!” (Think Marty McFly watching Doc being shot by the Libyans.)

I kneeled on the floor in utter disbelief. It was a nativity bloodbath. I quickly turned the sheep away so they didn’t have to witness their decapitated shepherd’s noggin bouncing down aisle four.

My palms started to sweat as I gathered up the pieces. Oh, dear God, I wondered what negative karma would come from such an indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of the Holy Family? What bad juju could this Bethlehem massacre carry? And who is monitoring the store security camera and laughing at my expense right now? I sucked in my gut knowing this could be on YouTube before I even left the store.

As I gathered the sacred chards and anticipated a heavenly lightning strike, I texted a confession to my kids. My daughter Maddie hilariously analyzed the forensic evidence.

 

She was right. Looking past their mangled bodies, I saw they each shared a look of shock, as if they knew they would meet their demise in such a dramatic fashion.

I sullenly approached the register and explained to the cashier what happened. While offering to pay for the irreparably damaged goods, I launched into a whole soliloquy about the potential consequences on my afterlife, but she interrupted, saying, “It’s ok, ma’am, I’ll just add it to our damaged inventory.”

I sat in the car for a bit, trying to shake the feeling of impending doom while still laughing at “Y’all still want this myrrh?”

I pondered the duality of emotion this work of art elicited. The artist’s original motivation for having everyone admire the baby Jesus with such a look of astonishment or surprise was beautiful. How true it is for people of faith to look to the promise of salvation that was born of a tiny baby and say, “Oooh.”

And after my murderous actions, that same facial expression yields a totally different, yet profound meaning. How often, when we feel as though our lives have been broken into a million tiny pieces, do we exclaim a much different, “Oooh.”

And that is how a “cleanup in aisle four” reminded me of the foundation of my faith life and the promise of Advent.

Life can be messy. And painful. And exhausting.

And extraordinary. And blissful. And carefree.

During this holiday season, it is imperative that we remind ourselves that life is all of these things to all people…especially within the depths of our own hearts.

My faith provides a balance that moves me to focus on the untold promise and potential life holds as represented by the tiny baby Jesus. And it strengthens me through the realization that I will have my share of Good Fridays…times of loss and brokenness.  My faith promises me that whether my “Oooh” is one of joy or sorrow, I am not alone.

Today, my prayer is for everyone feeling shattered and defeated and forlorn. My hope is that you can find strength in the promise of Advent…that the candles of faith, hope, love and peace bring a transformative “Oooh” into your heart and a confidence that light will follow this darkness.

Open your heart to gather strength from those who love you…those in heaven and on Earth. Find comfort through scripture, “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you.” (Isaiah 41:10)

You are not alone. And you are loved.

“Oooh.”

kmp

 

 

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abuse and neglect, children, family, foster care, hope, Inspiration, philanthropy, Uncategorized

The Working Title Is… Sole Searching

For me, most of my earliest Back to School memories start in the same place… Rochester Shoe Store on the east end of Kmart Plaza in Mattydale, New York.

I loved school, and new school shoe shopping meant that I would soon be sitting at a desk again. Oh, joy of joys! I would skip into the store excited to step on that Brannock device (made in Syracuse, btw) to see how much my foot had grown since the year before.

For the period of time that spanned purchasing the shoes and the actual start of school, those beauties would remain tucked inside the shoebox, and at least once a day, I would open it up and shove my whole face in there, deeply breathing in the delicious smell of new leather.

There was one year, however, that came with more than a twinge of anxiety. About to enter Fourth Grade, I was feeling pretty grown up. My classroom would be at the end of the hallway, meaning we’d walk past all those babies in K-3 to take our place as the leaders of our wing.

The talk at the pool that summer was all about Earth shoes, so as we headed to Rochester Shoe Store, I told my mom that’s what I wanted.

We walked out with the most fabulous pair of navy Earth shoes. They had a huge rounded toe and a crazy-cool wavy rubber sole. I’d never seen anything like it.

They also had shoelaces.

Oh boy.

You see, the entire time I was one of those K-3 babies, I wore Mary Janes. I honestly can’t remember how I handled sneakers, as Velcro wasn’t even a thing yet, but I do know that I was not adept at tying shoelaces. Truth be told, more than 40 years later, I’m still not great at it. The double knot is my savior and best friend.

So yes, my mom would tie my shoes every morning. You want to make something of it? And one day, tragedy struck and my shoelace untied midday. I acted like I didn’t notice and just kept walking. The shoe got looser and looser until it was almost falling off. We were coming in from recess, and Miss Crader told me to tie my shoe. I can remember being bent over in the hallway going through the motions, feeling the redness creep up my neck, my throat tighten and tears start to well up, all the while thinking, “You can do this, Katie.”

A boy looked my way and said, “Do you NOT know how to tie your shoes, Katie?” And with tears still pooling at the edge of my lower lid, an angel named Lisa Demperio said, “Of course she does, Philip, now get out of here,” and with just the two of us remaining in the hall, Lisa tied my shoe.

I went home and practiced and practiced and practiced tying until I could at least fake it well enough to keep Philip Cooper off my back.

That memory came back to me this week as I went through photos of a very different kind of Back to School new shoe shopping.

A group of remarkable staff and volunteers took the boys who call Christ Child House their home to the Nike Store in Detroit to pick out new sneakers. Because of the generosity of a number of donors, these boys will be able to walk confidently into a new school year. Some had never picked out their own shoes before. Some had only ever had shoes handed down to them and were never able to bask in the glory of that new shoe smell.

The boys’ pictures would melt the heart of even the crustiest of curmudgeons, and their stories could bring you to your knees.

To protect their identities, the boys’ faces are never fully photographed.

I was reluctant to rejoin the Board of Christ Child after a multi-year hiatus because I was worried my own heart, broken by loss and further weakened by my empty nest, couldn’t bear to hear the atrocities committed against these boys.

I’m still not sure I can. And if self-preservation moves you to live with your head in the sand like I did, you’ll probably want to skip the next two paragraphs.

There is a boy who lives in the Christ Child House who is the same age I was when my greatest struggle was shoelaces, although his struggle involves being a witness to his mother’s murder as she lay sleeping next to him in bed. Shot dead by his father. Waiting and wondering if he would be next.

There is a boy who lives in the Christ Child House who was the same age as those K-3 babies who watched me walk down the hall in my super cool, big kid Earth shoes. Although this boy watched as a policeman walked up to a car parked on the side of the highway as he sat strapped in his car seat with both parents slumped in the front seat, overdosed on heroin.

To face the reality of the horrors of our society can be daunting. To shield ourselves from them is tempting. But to do something…even the smallest of somethings…is imperative to bring change to our world. If one of our actions can create even the smallest ripple of positive change, we must act.

And, so, it all circles back to those laces. For decades, I have been inspired by the many women of Christ Child Society who embody the answer to Beyoncé’s question, “Who runs the world?”   And, this year, they have assembled multiple teams of women who will not only figuratively, but literally run the world (or at least two countries of it) as part of the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon, of which Christ Child House is a recipient charity.

I’ve been assigned my team’s first leg of the marathon. I will run 6.3 miles that include a run across the Ambassador Bridge into Canada. I have yet to disclose to anyone that I am afraid to drive over that bridge much less run over it, but the voice in my head is saying, “You can do this, Katie.”

If the shoe fits as part of your ability to give, Christ Child House would welcome your financial support by clicking here as we continue to move forward, one step at a time, to bring truth to the motto, “It’s never too late for a happy childhood.”

kmp

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