SebnGabe

              We were not sure we were going to have the opportunity to be grandparents.  One after another of our friends heralded the birth of a grandchild, declaring the experience incomparable.  We became doubtful of ever belonging to the club of grandparents.  Not wanting to be intrusive, we avoided questioning Matt and Jenna about their “intentions.”  About the time I became reconciled to the notion of not becoming a grandparent, lo and behold, they announced they were pregnant!  Sebastian was born and we were bestowed the coveted titles of Nana and Papa!

              All that our friends had said was true.  Nothing compared to this blessing.  Over the next several years, Sebastian’s parents debated having another child.   If they chose to, this would be another “geriatric pregnancy,” a description not at all appreciated by Jenna!  And, indeed, when they did conceive again, it proved to be a most difficult and stressful period.  Some circumstances delayed their departure for their overseas assignment.  To keep the assignment, Matt had to go overseas for six week stretches.  Nana and Papa gladly stepped in to fill the gap.  But Sebastian was too young to comprehend what was happening.  He only knew his beloved Daddy was gone. And Mama’s schedule meant she left early and returned late. 

              As if that were not enough complications, Jenna had two deaths of loved ones in her father’s family that occurred over the course of her pregnancy.  She was eight months along when she attended the funeral of her stepbrother.  Sebastian became ill while she was gone.  She returned with the flu herself and had to be isolated from Sebastian and us to minimize exposure.  She coughed so much that she actually cracked ribs. 

              When she seemed stable, I had flew home, intending to return 10 days later for the expected birth.   But I was barely home before Terry  called to report that Jenna was put on bedrest, that her amniotic fluid was low.  I caught the next plane to return but by that time she had been hospitalized. She went into labor that lasted several excruciating days and included an episode where her blood pressure dropped so low she truly thought she was not going to survive.

              Matt arrived from overseas and was whisked from the airport to the hospital in time for the birth.  Gabriel arrived safely and has turned out to be a sunny little soul who adds immeasurably to the family.

              All this is to say:  we fly out Wednesday to visit these little tykes and their parents and Hope’s Café will be suspended until our return in June.  I took a hiatus when we moved to Montana but managed to get back to regular blogging when we got to town.  So I will look forward to being back online in mid-June, doubtless full of stories of SebnGabe!

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: “Your children are your rainbows and your grandchildren are your pot of gold.”—Unknown

 “Grandchildren: my favorite hello and my hardest goodbye.” – Unknown

“I wouldn’t change my grandchildren for the world.  But I wish I could change the world for my grandchildren.”—Unknown

Goals Versus Intentions

A church member, whom I encountered yesterday as he was out mowing his lawn and I was out walking, told me that his mother lived to 101 and that was his goal for himself.   He is 89,  maintains the home he and his wife shared before her death, gardens and generally stays active and involved in church, in the community, and with his family.

This gave me pause to think about several things.  I have an aunt who lived to 100, another who lived to 97.  It seems plausible that I might live into my nineties, perhaps to 100.  I don’t think of living to an old age as a goal for myself though.  However, I do think of staying as healthy as I can for as long as I can as a worthy intention.  So then I wondered what is really the difference between his goal and my intention.

My curiosity led me to read about the two. Goals can be described as destinations or specific external achievements in the future. Intentions are lived each day, and are about your values, about your relationship with yourself and others. The habitsforwellbeing website describes the difference as “goals are what you want to DO….intentions are about who you want to BE.”

 Goals have the potential to set one up in a win/lose mind set.  If I don’t lose 10 pounds in the next 30 days and I lose nary an ounce, have I failed?  If I set a goal to walk seven days a week and I walk four, have I failed? 

I would tend to describe this as friend versus foe.  Goals have the risk of making yourself a foe.  Intentions have the advantage of going about your life in a way that is more supportive to yourself, to how you live your life. 

From The Empowerment Dynamic website (Did you know that is what T.E.D. talks stand for??) :Focusing on intentions does not mean you give up your goals or desire to achieve.   Here are three differences between goals and intentions:

  1. Goals are focused on the future. Intentions are in the present moment.
  2. Goals are a destination or specific achievement. Intentions are lived each day, independent of achieving the goal or destination.
  3. Goals are external achievements. Intentions are about your relationship with yourself and others.

By setting your intention first, and combining it with goals, you will become a Creator who enjoys both the journey, as much as the destination.

 May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: “The journey towards your dreams begins with intention. Download Free Intention Setting Worksheet to Set Goals at https://www.pinterest.com>pin
P.S. This represents my 100th post in kateshopecafe.net, begun 2 years ago this week!  It was not a goal to keep it going so much as it was an intention to pay more attention to my life, to what is happening around me and to how I am experiencing those things.  But I do take some pleasure in the fact that I have reached 100 posts. 😊

Hearts of Compassion

I met my husband Terry the year following his return from his second tour in Vietnam.  He had transferred from the graduate psychology program to the graduate school of social work where I was studying.  Our second year in school, he and I were in field placement together in the legal clinic program of the law school.  At the time I would have said I got to know him during that year.  I now recognize I got to know the part of himself he thought was presentable. 

My memories of Terry during that time are twofold and are opposite in nature.  I would often see him in the center of a crowd, keeping the group in stitches.  He could be very funny.  But a third person, Janet, shared our small office in the legal clinic. This young woman had gone through a pilot program where they allowed college grads to do an intense summer of study and then join the second year of social work training.  Quite rigid in her thinking, she tended to see single solutions, and sometimes quite extreme ideas to tackle problems.  I often felt like “The Peacemaker,” trying to maintain some  equilibrium in the space we shared.

In one particular episode, she had an elderly client assigned to her who was about to be evicted from her apartment because she had 27 cats she was unwilling to give up.  Our classmate’s recommendation was to euthanize the cats.  Terry was livid.  Understandably, he was concerned that Janet was not a good candidate for social work for a lot of reasons, to include a profound lack of empathy. But it seemed to me at the time that his reaction was over the top.   It is only in retrospect that I grasp what the killing of anything triggered for him emotionally. 

Fifteen years after graduation, Terry and I went on to marry, in the wake of our individual divorces.  But it was fourteen years after that, as our country went to war with Afghanistan and Iraq, that I gained some understanding of the depth of angst he carried after his experiences in Vietnam.  His PTSD symptoms began to erupt at that time, with a sleep disturbance that has never entirely resolved. 

Up until the Vietnam War Memorial was built, Terry kept a running  mental videotape of the men under his leadership who died, where they died, what were the circumstances.  In my work as a therapist, I ended up with some men in counseling after tours in Iraq.  One in particular shared how troubled he was that he found himself looking at people and imagining what they would look like dead.   We never know all that people carry within.  Sometimes we don’t even recognize all we carry within ourselves.  How important, how necessary, it is for us to offer compassion to those we encounter, as well as to ourselves. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: As Atticus Finch said in To Kill A Mockingbird: “First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Death Comes Calling

This week our friend Bruce contacted us to say his dear wife of thirty plus years had died suddenly the day before.  He didn’t give many details and when I offered our phone numbers to call us, he said he was just too broken right now. 

              The next night I got a call from a former member of the church I came from to accept the Montana pastorate.  He was calling from the hospital with seven blockages in his heart and awaiting surgery the next morning.  In such moments, it can seem like death is stalking you.

              The next day I got a text from a hospice chaplain that one of our church members who has long been in nursing home care was “imminent,” death expected within hours.  When I went to the nursing home, the woman had died not long before I arrived. 

              Somehow these events combined have weighed on me.  I came across the phrase in a poem “the obesity of grief.”  How descriptive of the heaviness, the immensity of loss. 

              Whenever I think of death or the inherent grief,  I think of the poet John O’Donohue, who spoke so eloquently and wisely about those experiences.  I share with you “For Death,” which he penned:


For Death

By John O’Donohue

“From the moment you were born,
your death has walked beside you.
Though it seldom shows its face,
you still feel its empty touch
when fear invades your life,
or what you love is lost
or inner damage is incurred…

Yet when destiny draws you
into these spaces of poverty,
and your heart stays generous
until some door opens into the light,
you are quietly befriending your death;
so that you will have no need to fear
when your time comes to turn and leave,

that the silent presence of your death
would call your life to attention,
wake you up to how scarce your time is
and to the urgency to become free
and equal to the call of your destiny.

That you would gather yourself
and decide carefully
how you now can live
the life you would love
to look back on
from your deathbed.”

May we indeed be called to attention, gather ourselves and decide carefully how we can live in this present moment.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  I once attended a workshop where we were instructed to imagine ourselves at 80. (Amazing how that doesn’t feel so very far away now. At the time I was 36).  We were to consider receiving some message, some wisdom, from our 80 year-old selves.  I remember the message I understood, both startling and comforting, was “Thank you for doing the things you needed to do so that I can look back on my life now with a sense of satisfaction and gratitude.”  I did and I can.

“Sprinter”

We had a lovely spring day…..and then winter returned with a vengeance.  Snow fell all night and most of the day. Easter plans began to fall apart.  A dinner engagement I had really looked forward to got postponed.  How, when things can look so promising, can they dissolve in a matter of hours?

I wonder if things falling apart, disappointments, even catastrophes, serve to remind us there is much we do not control.  And I ponder whether that illusion of control contributes to a lack of empathy in our society.   If I am master of my fate, captain of my ship, why are you floundering?  Just take the wheel! Make something of yourself! 

There is an ad for an insurance company that puts my teeth on edge every time I see it.  The woman, her long blond tresses in bouncy curls, her makeup perfectly applied, her build slender and her clothes stylish, who is advertising her father’s company for whom she works, says: “You can be anything you want to be.”   She probably really believes that because she has had advantages that she almost certainly assumes are available to everyone. 

I have a heart murmur that wasn’t discovered until I was in junior high.  Because other kids could run and play seemingly endlessly, I spent years thinking I was “defective.”  I would tire long before they did.  My confidence was impacted in myriad ways because I considered myself “less than” others.   And that obstacle pales in comparison to children growing up in poverty, dysfunctional homes, abuse; others who have crippling physical or mental limitations.  There are children who grow up to overcome their circumstances, but they are the exception rather than the rule.  Their chances of living up to their potential, of “being anything they want to be,” are slim at best.

If you have had a “sprinter” experience lately—you were going along just fine and encountered obstacles you didn’t expect and weren’t prepared for—be reminded that the one reliable control we have is of our attitude.   “I find that it is not our circumstances but the spirit in which we meet them that constitutes our comfort,” is a quote I have often relied on.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.  OR alternatively:  God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change; courage to change the people I can; and the wisdom to know that person is ME!

Rain and Fire

When I was much younger rain was an inconvenience.  The day of ninth grade graduation, all dressed up and wearing high heels, my girlfriends and I got soaked as we ran to the local burger place after we got out from school.  I resented being drenched!  My hair was a mess.  My new dress soggy. 

In high school, our youth group planned a trip to an amusement park, which was cancelled two weekends in a row.  The third weekend we finally just went despite the rain.  I’d like to say I took these weather events in stride.  But in my youth, rain seemed like the enemy.

Years later, my friend Mary would say: “It’s only weather.”  I remember being startled.  Indeed, it was merely nature taking its course.  Over time, I grew fond of rain.  I grew even more so after my father came to live with us.  He loved rain.  He often asked me at night as he was settled into bed, “Is it rain I hear?”  I finally put a sound machine in his room and put it on the rain mode for him.

I recognize since we moved to Montana, that I miss rain.  Average rainfall in Tennessee is 51.6 inches; in Montana it is 15.2.   Last week there was a dark sky and a clap of thunder and I felt a sense of anticipation, but it was mostly for naught.  I think in part I am concerned about wildfires this summer. 

In 2007, I received a call from Terry while I was in Maryland at a summer “residency” for a distance learning program I was in.  Tennessee was in a drought at that time and there was a wildfire on the other side of the mountain from where we lived.  It was headed over the mountain and he had been told by officials to be prepared to evacuate.  Terry wanted to know what I thought I was important to take if it came to that.  Thankfully, it didn’t. The memory also has stayed with me from last summer, seeing fires blazing below, as we flew in for my candidate weekend with the church.

“It’s only weather,” is a good admonition when we are simply complaining because it doesn’t suit us at the moment.  When Mother Nature turns violent, destructive and deadly, we best remember to pay heed. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: Sadly, there are many fewer things I can recycle here in Montana.  But one thing I am doing to reduce my use of plastic is to use “Earth Breeze” laundry sheets.  What is one thing you might do to “pay heed” to climate change and its effects?

War

During this season of Lent, the Lutheran pastor and I have alternated offering services on Wednesday nights.  One week we have soup supper at our church and she leads.  The following week we have supper at her church and I lead.  Each week has had a different theme paired with a scripture.  This week my passage was from Philippians 4:8-9: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

But the topic this scripture was linked to was justice and peace in the midst of violence.  I pondered how in the world I would relate those two things, especially after weeks now of watching as Ukraine suffers unimaginable destruction, unfathomable loss.  But then I began to think of the videos I had seen of various Ukrainian musicians playing their instruments in the midst of bombed out buildings, their surroundings littered with the carnage of war.  I recalled an image of a group gathered in a shelter in prayer.  There was one video of refugees dancing when they reached a country that welcomed them with food and toys for the children.  The most touching one was of a Ukrainian child, who had reached another country, drawing flowers on the sidewalk with chalk.  She said “This is how I calm myself.” She was eight. 

I spoke that night of how “thinking on these things,” the lovely things, the admirable acts, enables us to respond to the ugliness, the greed, the hate and all that grows out of it in this world, with a spirit that seeks to uplift.  Mr. Rogers said to “look for the helpers.”  When we do, we are often inspired to “join the helpers…..be the helpers.”  May it be so.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:

Olha Rukavishnikova. Violinist. Fighter.

1 day ago

Friends! Thanks to everyone for the kind words and support! From the first day of the vile attack of Russian Nazis on my country, I have been in the ranks of the Territorial Defense of Ukraine. Ordinary Ukrainians are fighting in our unit, not professional ones – managers, drivers, musicians, teachers. Although it’s not easy for us, since there is a lot missing in the squad, we believe that good will always triumph over evil, and we put all our strength into it! Glory to Ukraine!

The Lemonade Stand

Early this week I had a massage.  The masseuse gave me an exercise to do, which requires a small ball.  On my way to Family Dollar a few days later to search for such a ball, I came across two little girls, maybe 10 or 11, running a lemonade stand.  I went on to the dollar store but determined I would stop on my way back.  When I did, the exchange was most interesting to me.  I asked how much the lemonade was and the two looked at each other blankly as though they hadn’t considered that.  So I asked if they were just taking donations for it and the one handling the “purchase” said yes.  Then she asked if it was okay that it was pink lemonade. I said that was fine. 

She and her “partner” in the “business” worked together, one holding the glass, the other pouring.  I gave them 4 quarters, thanked them and drove on.  Who knows what the going rate is for lemonade these days?  I mean, I got a dime from the tooth fairy for each of my teeth and I know kids now getting Microsoft stock. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but I have heard some tooth fairy quotes way beyond the inflation rate!)

 When I got back to the church, where other duties awaited me, I pulled in to my parking spot, turned off the engine but sat there a moment.  I recalled a little girl from many years ago, selling lemonade (me), which I sold for 2 cents a glass.  I sold it in front of my house, which was on a dead-end street (not a great business plan).  But it was such a thrill when some neighbor stopped to buy my lemonade.  I considered whether these little girls would get much business either.  They were on a corner, a plus, but not a heavily traveled street.  I started the car, pulled out, and drove back down the street.  I told them that was such good lemonade I needed another glass (which was true!)  This time I gave them a five dollar bill and drove away feeling a warm glow.  They would each have at least three dollars apiece and maybe more.  Beyond that, they would have had the joy of sharing their business operation and perhaps a feeling of accomplishment. 

Here’s to pink lemonade and random acts of kindness!

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

  • Hope’s Café Bonus: Homemade lemonade:
  • 10 large lemons
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • Ice
  • Lemon slices, for serving
  • Cut the lemons in half. Squeeze the juice from the lemons into a bowl, and pour through a strainer to remove the seeds. Add the sugar and water to the lemon juice and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Put the lemonade in the fridge to chill. Serve with ice and lemon slices!

The Poverty of Loneliness

This past week, our church returned to offering services at the local nursing home and the assisted living facility, which had been suspended since Covid 19 descended upon us. 

The last time I routinely participated in services for care homes was in college.  In the midst of Lent, I confess, it seemed like one more thing on my plate.  As we arrived, the people were gathering, some clearly delighted we were there, others seemingly unaware of what was going on. 

After greeting folks, we began to sing. I offered communion and then we started to sing some more.  One woman appeared to be totally unresponsive to anything going on.  But then she slowly began to pat her leg in time to the music.  Soon after, she began to clap. Then her eyes, closed up to that point, opened, revealing their lovely blue color.

Our efforts there were rewarded as well by the many expressions of gratitude, Music, of course, naturally engages and uplifts people.  But it seemed just seeing fresh faces and knowing people were willing to make time for them, were equally meaningful to them.

I think of how lonely their days must be even with the best of care situations.  I have never forgotten the fellow I met as a young woman, when a church group I was part of, visited a nursing home.  He was speaking of how much he missed his wife.  When I asked how long they had been married, he replied “54 years.”  As a 21 year-old, that sounded like a near-eternity to me. “What a long time!” I exclaimed.  A big tear rolled down his cheek and he said, “Not nearly long enough.”

We were to provide a service. We were instead blessed with the gift of entering into their loneliness and grief and offering a bit of relief for a few moments. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Mother Teresa, who certainly knew something about working in the midst of poverty, is quoted as saying: “The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”

To Post or Not to Post

For several years I talked about blogging.  When the pandemic hit and I was home more, it seemed like an excellent time to begin.  I discovered, in the midst of a less structured schedule, that I liked the routine it provided.  Writing regularly was a pleasure too.

It seemed questionable whether I would be able to keep the blog going when we ended up in Maryland taking care of our preschool age grandsons for nearly four months in late 2020.  But I managed to do it and it didn’t seem all that difficult despite all my other responsibilities during those months. 

So when I accepted a position as pastor in Montana, I thought surely, if I could do it caring for two small children, I could continue as I pastored. Many pastors I’m sure would wholeheartedly agree that this role is even more time-consuming than caretaking small children!   But because there were many opportunities I passed up when I was younger due to lack of confidence, I tend to challenge myself with things that seem like a stretch. Witness pulling up stakes at this point in our lives to move to small town Montana to take a pastorate!

The path to ministry itself was a challenge.  I nearly gave up.  A minister who had once served on the ministry committee “overseeing” my progress, encouraged me to persist and even asked me to fly down to Florida to present at a women’s conference.  The fact that she had enough confidence in me to ask me to lead a day long conference for 100 women probably meant more to me than her message not to lose heart. I had never done anything like that and it is still one of my favorite memories.  I had returned from an overseas trip, landed in Atlanta, spent the night at a nearby hotel and caught a flight to Tampa the next morning.  Though in need of hip surgery at the time and in terrible pain, I hardly noticed it throughout the presentation because I was having such a wonderful experience with the group. 

So I started out to write this to suggest as I approach the 100th blog post, that I may be nearing the end of this run.  But the message to myself that seems evident is to persist!  I write for the discipline of it and for my own pleasure.  But I do hope there is some benefit to others. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  When I began this blog, I thought I would use the bonus for recipes to tie into the title “Hope’s Café.”  Over time, I have evolved into other uses for this space.  Today, reflecting on persistence, I just suggest your deepest prayers or strongest support for the people of Ukraine and all those impacted by this war.  And for a remarkable piece of history about the Ukrainians that is very pertinent search for Holodomor, a famine induced by Stalin that killed millions in 1932-33.