Nudged awake again at four in the morning. An ungodly hour. Inky black, perfect weather to swim lazy backstrokes on lakes of silken sheets, rumpled blankets and pillows. But no. Up. Eyes pop open, staring at the red numbers of the demanding alarm clock. I don’t know why I keep jolting awake. Seriously. Every morning at four. Technically it is really still night. Horribly dark and filled with whispers of reveries, and lonely skies filled with fading flowers of light.
I could use a couple more hours of sleep easily. Maybe my guardian angel just doesn’t want to hear the annoying blare of my alarm and wants me up before it goes off. I can see him now. He is bored and antsy, perched at the edge of my bedpost, waiting for me, drumming fingers and fluttering his wings, impatient and annoyed by the repetitiveness of my snoring. He wants me up. He wants to start our day. Our adventure. He knows I spend the first hour of the morning praying, his favorite part of my day. He exudes joy, delightful giddiness, as he joins my praise and worship, bumping off the walls as he flits about rejoicing. He hums and sings along. I know. I have stopped, quieted my heart and have listened.
“Okay, okay.” I grumble and crawl out of bed, pulling on warmer clothes; sweat pants and a fuzzy sweater. A sweater and sweat pants I would not be caught dead in outside my home, mind you. Yes ~that hideous, and yes ~that comfortable. I stagger through the dark, tripping on shadows, books, laundry and miscellaneous objects littered about. I am not Martha, heck no, I am definitely Mary when it comes to my choice of how I spend my home time. A cluttered house is a well lived in home.
I manage to always pull in strands of my hair as I brush my teeth in the dim light of the bathroom. Clipping back my hair would take too much effort, and ruin the morning ritual of washing tooth paste out of my hair.
Normally I enjoy my prayer time with delicious cup of coffee, but it is Lent and I stupidly decided to give it up for the season. Yes I’m an idiot. I’ll never do that again. Never. Ever. I put on water for tea. At this point I hate tea, but it will have to do. One more week. They lie about Lent; it is longer than 40 days. It’s an eternity.
The dog jingles awake too as he hears me clattering about in the faded yellow kitchen, dumping noisy kibble into his bowl. He thumps off the couch and meanders into the kitchen to greet me with a wag and a smile. I let him out back into the darkness to do his business. We have a system. He scratches on the back door if I forget to let him back in. The cat too joins in, slinking across the kitchen table, walking across my catholic paraphernalia, to be caressed, usually sticking her butt in my face. Lovely.
Vanilla Chi tea with a splash of almond milk. Sweetened. I tried unsweetened almond milk once. Just once. Yeah, it was that bad. I look into the swirling, milky, brown, watery concoction and mutter, “you are not coffee. I will not miss you.”
I spread my bible, books, journal, Magnificat and bits of acquired prayers on ratty paper and mangled prayer cards about me on the table. I start. Sign of the cross and pray the prayer St Francis prayed before the San Damiano crucifix. Then Come Holy Spirit, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be … I ignore the Litany of Humility. I loathe that prayer, which really means I need to pray it often. I continue to ignore it. Push it aside. Turn it over. Jesus, scourged on the other side, I slide it under my bible. Not today, litany. Not today.
I rattle through my prayers; I have collected eight typed pages of prayers over the years. I know I should skim them down and pick a small handful, but I love them all. Large or small, praise, thanksgiving, or intentions. They each have their place and purpose and I cannot give them up. I wrap myself in their words and get courage and peace from them. Like a desperate Gollum, they are my precious. I need to pray them all. All. I cannot bypass any of them, or only read the first line. I need the whole prayer. It just doesn’t feel right to disregard or skip any bit of a prayer. I need it whole. Swallowed, dissolved and ingested into my soul. They are all a necessity, my morning ritual. Food for this starving sinner. I need this whole conversation with God before I face my day. All would be lost before the sun rose.
Immersed in Lectio Divina I have to pull myself out of the gospel and away from my conversation with Jesus, my hair reeking of nard. I could spend all day at his feet, looking up at him, listening to him. He likes to tell me~ Be not afraid. He reminds me he is with me. Not to worry. He shakes his head; don’t listen to others like Judas and Martha who like to rebuke me for what I want to do. He has my back. He is my rock, my salvation, my love. He always looks at me with compassion and mercy. His eyes. He knows me, knows where and who I’ve been and still loves me and wants to be with me. Not too many people are like that. My morning hour goes too quickly. I peel myself away from the table, gulping the last sip of cold dissatisfying tea.
Showered and changed I tackle the lunch boxes. I find an unfortunate, old, smooshed banana in the bottom of my son’s backpack, not a fun fruit to find mangled, brownish and nasty at six AM. Sweet putrid rottenness. I manage to scrape it up, wipe it out and soldier on. I complete packing the boxes with the appropriate foods that only my picky children will eat, which entails mostly junk food with smatterings of fruit and nuts. One son will eat a peanut butter sandwich on occasion, but I usually find it in a confused mass conformed to the side of his pencil case the next day.
Getting the boys up is another endeavor that requires much bellowing, bed wiggling and on occasion, threats. The Aspie always mutters, grumbles and says nothing polite as I shake him awake in my sing-song manner. The other groans and rolls over asking for a couple more minutes, in which I respond by ripping the blankets off him. Lord knows it always turns into him not getting up at all and me screaming like a crazy woman. I have perfected that art, if you wanted to know. Professional mother bear with a twist of crazy, sprinkled with cackles of maniacal laughter and drizzled with kisses. I have a PHD in it.
Backpacks tossed into the minivan, we head off to school. Up the hill and around slippery corners, one to the elementary, the other to the middle school and I to the high school. We arrive at each destination with minutes to spare. A miracle really.
The vast high school campus stretches across acres of land. Proud brick buildings peer around lanky pine trees as teens lumber and curse along with overstuffed backpacks perched on shoulders, over paved paths to their first period class. Wishing I had three arms, I shoulder a slippery book bag and juggle my vinyl lunch box and bottled water while I begin The Divine Mercy Chaplet. My fingers are my rosary and I mutter as I walk, moving to the beat of Sister Faustina.
I know they join me, in this place, oozing with secular moral relativity. The prayers reverberate, call them to me. They surround me. Their Wings fluttering, voices raising, singing, bellowing, trying to smother the teen angst and perversion with their heavenly ecstasy.
We do what we can, make that small dent in the day with our prayers. Plant seeds with smiles and encouragement. I nod at a fellow Catholic who touches his front shirt pocket that carries his rosary blessed by John Paul the Great. It is our signal, reminder, and acknowledgement. We have our weapons. We are not afraid to use them. My Miraculous Medal hanging from my lanyard. She is facing in, pressed against my ID picture, the M facing out. Yes the world needs a miracle. This is the place to start.
“Good morning Mrs. R,” my student smiles at me as I hurry to my desk.
Time to do my job. Teach. But it is more than that. In this day and age, it is a lot more than that.