What is Service?...

Sometimes you just got to put in the effort...

I always find it interesting to talk to folks about what is volunteering and what is service.

We all know people who are super volunteers. They have energy that is unwavering and a call to make this world better, and frankly we would be lost without them. We all have these amazing people in our communities who single handily run the events at school, church, community and look amazing. Their kiddos are well dressed, hair perfect and never forget an appointment or responsibility.

I'm not that girl...

I don't know about you, but every so often I get a pang of anxiety about what I'm NOT doing. In a world of busy folks, my plate is often not as full as others. But what I do know is that in my own quiet way, I'm doing service for my family. How you ask?

I keep up appearances.

For the last month, I have had more bad days than good. The bad days have annoyed me to no end. Two rounds of antibiotics to wipe out a simple strep infection has been brutal. The accompanying nausea has had me in bed more than out.

Which means, Jeff is running the show. I have tried to stay aware of our life. Schedules, Jeff's travel and you know the basics of keeping people alive. One of the toughest times of the year for busy families is the end of the school year. It is absolutely, nothing like when we were kids. Between the concerts, plays, living wax museums, countless assemblies, field trips, parent lunches, faculty lunches, planning summer camps, swim lessons, and on and on...  All parents know this is the worst time to not feel well. The end of the school year has more bells and whistles than any preschoolers birthday party!

My people want my face at every single event. Sometimes that is just not possible. When I can, well it comes with expectations.

I may have missed it, but they sent me a selfie...

I missed the school spring concert here on the first round of antibiotics. Jeffrey and I were of very different minds on the concert. I get an ache in my soul when my favorite faces are disappointed by my health. I've talked before about how I

prioritize my week

. On Sunday, Jeff and I review what we have going on, travel schedules, appointments, obligations, fun plans, the Beauties lives--all of it gets tossed on the table for review. Then we talk it out. Sometimes this is a quick conversation over coffee, other times it's a painful one for me. I want to do everything, be everywhere and love every moment. But, this body on her most perfect day can't do half of it. We plan, we make game day decisions, and make it work as best we can.

Which gets me to my brand of service. At this point in my life it is all about taking the best care of my family. My favorite line, "I would love to say yes, but I have to say no," with the biggest smile and bless your heart face ever. My service is taking care of these Beauties and my Beloved. If I can barely get dressed, how on Earth (and why on Earth) would I try to do anything else. (And o'ps and by the way, you owe no one an explanation as to why you say no.)

This has been how we have triaged the last month of our dance. With a couple of exceptions, I have only showered and dressed for two reasons. To attend Mass and to attend the Beauties' programs. I can't recall a time in my life where I have showered less and needed to more.

When I do score that elusive shower, it comes with the expectation that I will look amazing with a full face of make-up. I literately threw out all but one of my lipsticks, lip gloss and chap-stick. Any product that I suspected had strep... gone.  On Monday, I met a new friend for a cup of tea, the location was no coincidence. I needed to run into the department store next to the tea shop for cosmetics.

I have learned one thing on this journey, I dress for others. It has taken me time to learn this fact. But it matters to my Beauties, it's how they can sigh and remind themselves, "she is going to be OK. Mom looks good." Each and every time I have made an outing in the last month, I have been dressed up and had a full face of make-up.  I'm a yoga pants and pony tail girl in my heart and Jeffrey loves that girl.  But, others in my family and those I love most, sometimes need more. They need me looking my best or they worry. So every time I make an appearance, I try to look good. Because it does take effort and if you are making an effort it means you well feel good! Right?

So I deliver, no matter how I feel, if I'm going out in public my appearance matters.

So this week, during one of my appearances at school, I laid eyes on both my Beauties and ran into a friend. My friend smiled the knowing smile and she said, "Good for you Kathryn, you have your game face on. You only have a few minutes left." It gave me that last little boost to make it through. Norah said earlier, "You look good mom. Glad you have that diet coke to give you some energy. It means everything that you made it." And she gave me one of those hugs that makes my heart skip. The one that reminds me... this is why we push on when it's tough.

Because it does matter, each and every event. Each and every moment that we suck-it up and make it work for others, matters more then we can know.

My service may be small but that doesn't mean it isn't as important as our super volunteers. My service is what these Beauties need to feel secure, happy and successful in their life, in their world, for their future.

That is just the service I'm happy to contribute!

So as you plan your summer, please keep in your heart and mind what your service plan looks like. Being busy is not an excuse for not being present.

Open your heart and spirit to what you are called to do. I promise when you follow your path and not others, you will find joy and peace.

Peace be with you.

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Photo Credits:

Pixabay

and Mr. PilgrimageGal

Happy 3rd Birthday Pilgrimage Gal...

I started my little blog on June 1, 2012. I then spent days looking at a blank screen wondering what to say.

Pilgrimage Gal has evolved in three years. I have grown in confidence, witnessing my health dramatically improve and along the way I found my voice. This space began with the support of my Jeffrey and my dear friend Jessica; both encouraging me to share my truth. What began as a sick and frightened women's journal, changed into a place to find hope, courage and little faith. Back in the beginning, I wasn't scared of sharing my truth, I was scared of

dying

.  In my heart, I felt death chasing me and it was terrifying. The blog became a place to share the fear that filled my heart in the darkness of night.  The worries that didn't go away when I woke. I needed my Beauties to know their mom. So as adults they would have my truth of their childhood. The blog would allow them to see in my own words that I loved them with everything that I had. That I fought everyday for their Dad and them.

When I left this world, they would still hear my voice.

A record for the Beauties of what my life, our life was all about.

Total truth.

I never honestly expected to be here to celebrate this blog turning 3. While I was making peace with my death, the Divine was creating my way to life. Each doctor at every turn was a tiny grain of sand to wellness. You never see the beach when you are focused on individual grains of sand, you can't find the ocean--you can only see the grains.

No one has had access to better doctors. No one. I have fought, challenged, cajoled, and laid out a few. I have listened, cried and screamed when I needed to, I did what I was told, and I never stopped fighting. Never given up. Have I had dark moments? Good Lord, yes.  I looked at my Jeffrey and my Beauties and knew NO ONE would ever love them the way I do. No one possibly could. They are as much part of my soul as I am theirs.

I have meet brilliant minds, doctors who love me more than they should. I have given too many of them sleepless nights. My husband who never once has said it's too much. A doctor, Harvard, who stood next to my hospital bed in the darkest moments and who wound't give up on his most unique patient.  I know no person on earth that has more loving friends, soul sisters, more perfect Beauties and my mother who drops everything to support me.

My riches are too vast to imagine. I may never win the power-ball, but I have won more than my share of grace and love.

So as I step back and give thanks for medical interventions that keep me stable. Teachers who love my children as their own, friends no matter my geography that have my back, a husband that loves all of me, every broken part and every super power.

I know one thing that is true, that none of this is possible without my faith. A faith that humbles me. That in all of my abundance, I have been able to walk with LOVE. My greatest gift in all of this is faith that is built on love.  I have a faith that never falters. That faith has enabled me to see love hidden, love flourishing, and how to find it, keep it and make it grow.

It's all of these gifts that make Pilgrimage Gal my safe place as I hope it is yours too. The Divine gave me the love of all of you. My Pilgrims near and far. Thanks to technology, I have virtual tea dates around the globe. Someday the Divine will connect all of us, in London and in Finland and too many of you to mention in Canada and the States. Each and every one of you take a moment out of your busy daily life to walk with me. To share your truth, to give me insight in your life. You share your Beauties, your dreams, your faith and struggles. Thank you, for walking with me; sharing your exquisite every day moments. My life is richer with your love.

Jeffrey surprised me with a huge Pilgrimage Gal birthday cake, chocolate with salted caramel, no words for the yummiest cake ever. The cake was from the talented cafe and my newest Santa Barbara friend Gillian of

Lilac Patisserie

. I washed the cake down with a toast and small sip of champagne (I'm on crummy antibiotics) toasting each and everyone of you. Without you I would just be some lonely girl jotting musings in her diary.

Your loves, your likes, your comments, your shares, and your amens have made me productive, open, more honest and the best version of myself.

I'm beyond humbled by my life and look forward to celebrating all of our joys, celebrations and struggles for years to come.

Cheers, to you all! To Jess and Jeffrey, I love you both with all that I have, thank you for encouraging me in the darkness. You both give me more than I ever give you!

Peace be with you all.

The Divine in me bows to the Divine in each and everyone of you.

Happy Birthday from the Pilgrimage Gal and our journey continues.

xo,

Kathryn

Photo Credit: Mr. Pilgrimage Gal

Love Letter to Mom...

Three Generations...

(Back when I could go to the beach.)

Happy Spring...

I have used this Lent as an opportunity to review the last year, and it reminds me how much I love Easter; the chance for rebirth, renewal, of hope.

Lent offered a time for blogging reflection, to see how this whole exercise has changed me and my relationships...

Lately, I have had some of the loveliest talks with my Mom. We got away for a perfect lunch and I just delighted in her company. Maybe I'm the one who is finally becoming an adult at the ripe old age of 42. For the longest time, I was under the impression that the whole blogging thing was too much Irish for her German soul to handle. But, I was wrong, like so many things about my Mom. She is so mysterious to me, now more than ever...

You see, parenting is really hard and I'm learning that grown-up parenting is way harder than navigating the "he touched me" or "Mom, she is so annoying; the way she constantly talks, can't I please have a moment of peace."  The real question is, which Mother was hearing these comments... My Mom in the 70's or what I heard today? Scary, the answer is both... HOLY CATs and DOGs!... The irony... God your sense of humor is not funny... Seriously...

But, back to my Mom, she has always been my biggest fan, and has told me so. But, she hurt my feelings early on with the blog. I wrote what I thought was a love letter about my

Grandmother

(her mom) and she read it and well she didn't love it... So immediately, I'm all on defense, getting my Irish-up. We didn't discuss the blog for a long time. Several months later, I broke down and showed her another post... And she loved it... And I was 7 yrs old again looking for approval and wondering, why this time and not that other one... 

And then she sprang it on me...

Basically, she told me that she never realized that writing was one of my gifts.  My writing was too much for her, the reality of  my pain and struggles...Well they hit too close...  But, she explained that I had developed this voice, because of my illness, and I was writing in-spite of my illness; and oh by the way, I had tapped into this from a place of physical pain and made it beautiful... And she was so proud of me...

Well, you could have knocked me over with that one... This conversation continued for two or three talks where Mom shared how my writing has touched her... Again, in my narcissism, I never saw that coming... Never... 

And what made our conversations so powerful, was how right she was... About everything. I have become more open, vulnerable,  honest... This space has given me a peacefulness that I have never had... An opportunity to pray, via my words, to share my spirit and to feel the presence of  Christ in a different way... 

That is what this exercise has given me... Peacefulness...

You see my illness has changed me so profoundly...

We all have heard stories about some people who lose a sense and then the other senses become keener and more aware... Maybe that is what I am learning.  My body is failing me completely, but it has given my mind, spirit and heart the ability to love better... To see clearly...

No surprise that the woman who spends so many sleepless nights worrying about her daughter is the one who sees me so brilliantly...

I love you so much Mom... Thank you, for all the beauty in your life lessons...

Forever yours,

Kathryn