He Knows Not How

There are over 7 billion people living on earth right now, which fact may lead you to wonder if you – little, tiny you – really matter in the grand scheme of things. If you’re like me (you know, human) then it usually feels like you don’t. The world is a mess and you don’t see how you can make it any better, you often feel like you don’t make any difference at all.

Last weekend, in the Scripture passages for June 17, 2018, the roughly 1 billion Catholics in the world (including me) were given a chance to wake up to reality and offered a glimpse of our true worth.

seeds

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As He’s Brushing My Teeth

As my father was brushing my teeth one night, I started thinking about what this very act does to him… or for him.

Toothbrush

When my motorneuron disease weakened me to the point where I couldn’t brush my own teeth anymore, I found the ordeal of having someone else move a brush in and out of my mouth, well… an ordeal.  And it hasn’t been a picnic for my dad, either.  My mother seriously dislikes the job, as I know that I would, too.  That’s okay, she does other things very well.  Anyway, this empathetic kind of thing that requires concentration, patience, and precision is better suited for my dad’s skill set.  But, I know that my father does not like, or should I say, particularly enjoy, this chore.  It’s a chore.

On this particular night, the burden that is my daily care was weighing heavily upon me.  It’s easy to feel a little guilty when you have to depend so much on other people.  And I was thinking that my father would be better off if he didn’t have to do this chore, night after night with little variation and very rare respites, better off if he didn’t have to do it then, at that moment.  Of course, he would rather that I be able to do it for myself – for my sake – but, because I can’t, he says that he is glad to do it for me.  He says this about all of the many, many, many things that he does for me day in and day out.

Yes, of course he feels that way.  He’s a good dad.  He’s a good man.  But – for his sake – I was thinking that someone else should be doing this, someone who hires herself out as a home health aide, for example, like the ones that take on some of my daily care for a few hours, four days a week.  Trying to get more help has proven very difficult.  But, if I was able to arrange some kind of full-time care from professionals, then my father would have a little more of what he deserves – a normal, ordinary way of living.

That night, however, as my dad was brushing my teeth, I began to wonder… (and it could’ve been my self-conscious trying to assuage my sense of guilt or it could’ve been a little inspiration of wisdom – or a combination of both.)  Maybe there’s something in life that he’s gaining through this chore…? Continue reading

Autobiographical Page

I’ve been toying with what to write on my “official website”  (sorry, that still sounds pretentious) concerning my bio page.  The homepage is an “About” written in the third person (yes, that was very weird to write) but, I’ve decided to include a little something more “in her own words”  – yes, in the first person.

Below is something that I came up with – and I really want to know what you think…

 

Life with a disability isn’t anyone’s ideal.

But, it’s life without love that’s a tragedy.

Because of my genetic disease (infantile spinal muscular atrophy) I have experience of particular suffering, often acute suffering, as I lack the gifts of physical health, strength, and abilities. Because of my amazing and self-giving parents, however – as well as my doting sister, close childhood friend, big extended family, brother-in-law, nephews, and even generous strangers – I have always known that I am a loved individual. Best of all, though I didn’t always know it, I have come to understand that I am eternally loved by my Creator, that I have been infinitely and intimately loved into being by God.

Yes, I am gorgeously rich in love.

And that’s the story of my life. For, this love has shaped me, saved me from error, and sent me on my path – on the good, true, and terribly beautiful path created just for me.

Not the bio that you were expecting, I’m sure. Most people, when writing about themselves, would probably list their accomplishments, in the form of college degrees, work experiences, spouse, homeownership, or children. I have none of these usual things. And, yet, I have listed what is most important in my life, I have listed the greatest blessings and experiences that I have been given, by declaring one accomplishment – which is not really an accomplishment at all, but, rather, an unmerited gift: I know that I am loved.

Dear reader, my prayer is that, no matter how worldly-great or worldly-small you may be, you will also receive the greatest and best that human life has to offer: the experienced knowledge of unconditional love, which is divine.

© 2018 Christina Chase

Happy Birthday to Me

baby, crib, Christina Chase

Tomorrow is my birthday.  (Thank you for the kind thoughts!  Yes, of course I can hear what’s in your head, silly.)  This year, my birthday brings good news and bad news.

The Bad News:

I am unable to make my self-imposed deadline for my book.  As part of my New Year’s Resolution, I had resolved to get my first manuscript into the hands of an editor by my birthday.  Well, that’s not going to happen.  (Okay, I know, that’s really not that terrible. But, I’m disappointed and a little scared that I will keep missing deadlines.)

I was able to make the first deadline of my resolution, completing the first draft of the manuscript by March 1.  But… well, perhaps I shouldn’t say that I am unable to make the other deadline – it’s more that I am unwilling.  What I mean is that the first draft was of a book that I didn’t really like.  In my opinion (which matters, since it is my book) it had major flaws.  These flaws required an extensive revision, which included the writing of several new reflection chapters.

The needed revision wasn’t so extensive that it needed, say, 40 days and 40 nights of rain to cause a biblical sized flood to wash away the horrors and start afresh.  Nope.  Just another six weeks or so of work.  My new deadline for sending the manuscript to an editor is my parents’ 48th wedding anniversary (mid-May.)  Or traditional Memorial Day at the absolute latest!  (To this date I must stay firm – please help me by bugging me, dear reader!)

The Good News:

The good news is that it’s my birthday tomorrow.  Every birthday is good news!  I am sublimely grateful to be celebrating another year, especially after what I went through medically last year.  But, I’m always grateful.  Frankly, due to the grim prognosis of my disease given to my parents on my second birthday, every year since I was 18 has felt like a bonus prize.  For, every time April 6 comes around, I wonder if it will be the last birthday that I will get to celebrate.  This wonder isn’t as morbid as it sounds, for it doesn’t fill me with gloom or anxiety.  Rather, it is truly a wonder – a gladness and a delighted surprise that I am still here.  Oh, all of the beauties of spring that I will again be able to witness dripping, stretching, and bursting open all around me!

An essential part of this good news is that I know that I am loved.  My amazing parents are still with me, able to give of themselves to me as they have done for decades, showing me and everyone who knows them the wondrous truth, beauty, and power of self-sacrificing love.  And all with a great sense of humor and enjoyment of life!  My big sister, too, is in my life, a cherished gift in herself, having also brought to the family the gift of her good and loving husband and their two bright and beautiful sons, who, themselves, are endless gifts of wonder and joy.

And, most thankfully, I know that I am infinitely and intimately loved by my Creator.  No matter what.  Always and forever.

Life is good.  I am happy that I was conceived and born into the world!  And that’s what I’ll be celebrating tomorrow: the gift of life and all that God has given me.  Yes, all.  I willingly take the bitter with the sweet for the chance to be able to live in God’s terribly beautiful Creation and participate, in every little way, in Creation’s awe-filled praise of the Divine.

It is good to be here.

Spring, Apple blossoms, cherry blossoms

© 2018 Christina Chase


1st photo, me in my crib, reaching for my photographer father

2nd photo by Arno Smit on Unsplash

New Year’s Resolution 2018

I make the same mistakes, repeatedly.  You?  And, so, as each year comes to an end and a new one is about to begin, I seem to make the same resolutions.  Heavy sigh.  This brings to my mind, with a smirk on my face, the words of Saint Augustine: “ever ancient, ever new.”

Too often, my New Year’s resolutions center on me:

I will be more…

I will be less…

I will be a better…

But, this just goes round and round, and I circle around myself, like circling around a drain.

So, this year, in order to make a difference, my resolution is focused on a thing

a book.

Books, library, book

I resolve, God willing, to write a book by March 1 and to put it into the hands of an editor before my birthday (which is in April.)  I make this pledge loud and clear, witnessed by the world (which is you, my dear reader) so that the world (you) will hold me to it.

So, ask me how my book is going: Have I finished my outline?  How many chapters have I written?  Is the first draft done?  Bug, harass, harangue me – but don’t let me slack!  Help me not to make the same mistakes this year, so that my book won’t be just an idea that bursts its fire upon the sky to be heard no more.

(If you have a New Year’s resolution with which you need help, please write it in the comments below and I will gladly bug you, too!)

Thank you, “world”.  And may you have many blessings in the new year!

© 2017 Christina Chase


Photo by Glen Noble on Unsplash

Just One

Sometimes, I feel so small.

NASA, earth, planet

This planet is far too large for me to understand, with way too many people for my mind to comprehend.  What does 7 billion mean?  And here I am, just one.  Just one blade of grass in a continent wide savanna, one tiny drop of water in an ocean of earth-time.

And yet…

And yet, within these little bones of mine, beneath this fragile skin, I feel gnawing, aching, heartbreaking sorrows, quaking everything within me more violently than tectonic plates and magma flow.  This quivering verge of cataclysm is somehow hidden, unseen by other eyes, the tremors undetected.  And this is true for every one.  A human life can slip so easily through a fissure of space where no hands can grab it back – and the earth doesn’t even know that it is gone.

Why would God want to feel like this?

Why would God take on human flesh and limitations, a tender heart susceptible to storms and pain?…  To become a small blossom of humanity easily decimated by the winds of war, sickness and age, forgotten, neglected, rejected, ignored, unseen…?

God must know something that I don’t.

babies, infant, newborn, foot

In preparing to commemorate the birth of God Incarnate into the world, filled with awe, I wonder… and I wonder… and I am stilled with wonder

– that the All-Powerful Creator and Master of the Universe Entire should become so small.

© 2017 Christina Chase


Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Photo by Ryan Graybill on Unsplash

Radically Give Thanks in All Things

Thanksgiving, Bible quotes,

“In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”[1]

You know that Thanksgiving tradition of going around the dinner table asking each person for what he or she is most thankful?  One easy way for me to respond would be to say, “I’m thankful for my family.”  Simple and, perhaps, cliché – yet, this gratitude is so profoundly, undeniably, and unshakably true that I do feel compelled to say it aloud whenever situations allow.  May I write out right now: Thank You, God, for the awesome blessing of my family and friends!!!

Yes.  It is good to express gratitude out loud for good people and genuinely praise God for them.  But…

Radical Thanks

In the Bible verse that I quoted from St. Paul, it doesn’t say to give thanks for the nice things in your life.  It says to give thanks in all circumstances.  And this calls to my mind the words of Jesus, who reminded us that it is easy to love the people who love us – but what about the people who hate us?  Christ calls us to cast into the deep, to not be bound to what comes naturally to us as creatures of the flesh, but to transcend instinct and do what is supernatural, what is divine, responding in accordance to the spirit within us.

As we, then, are radically called to love our enemies, we are also radically called to give thanks in all circumstances.  Yup, all of them.  If we are in the midst of an unjust situation, then we are called to be thankful for the opportunity to practice virtue, to right a wrong, and to share God’s compassion.  If we are in the midst of grieving the death of a loved one, then we are called to be thankful for having known and loved this precious person, who is thankfully not lost, but alive in Christ for all eternity.

This gratitude doesn’t mean that we are called to be complacent.  We pray for the courage to change the things that we can… but we also pray for the serenity to accept the things that we cannot change.

One Big Thing That I Cannot Change

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Life with Dignity: a Personal Plea against Assisted Suicide

Saint Augustine wrote, “it is never licit [right] to kill another: even if he should wish it, indeed if he request it because, hanging between life and death, he begs for help in freeing the soul struggling against the bonds of the body and longing to be released; nor is it licit even when a sick person is no longer able to live”.  (Ep. 204, 5: CSEL 57, 320)

For centuries, good and brilliant people have been advocating respect for human life.  I am not so very good, and certainly not brilliant, but the issue of assisted suicide, the so-called “right to die with dignity”, is very important to me. Physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients is the law in some states, like Oregon, Washington, and California. Other states have sought to pass similar legislation, including my own state of New Hampshire. When attempts fail, advocates continue to push and I’m sure that more proposed bills will be coming to a state or country near you – perhaps your own.  Here, I don’t offer pages of arguments against these laws.  Instead, I offer a heartfelt plea against “Death with Dignity” in the hope of saving countless innocent lives.

Christina Chase, disability rights, pro-life

My Life

Do you know what it’s like to be weaker than an infant, laboring daily to breathe, ravaged by an incurable disease, completely and utterly dependent on others for every basic need of survival? I do.  Although I am not terminally ill, but rather chronically ill, I know that one chest cold can turn into pneumonia and kill me… probably an agonizing death over days… or weeks.  Living all of my life with a progressive motorneuron disease, I have slowly weakened over time, becoming more crippled up and deformed, losing strength, losing simple abilities, losing energy, losing privacy. My family and paid home health aides feed me, brush my teeth, clean me of waste, bathe me, dress and undress me, transfer me to and from my wheelchair… and more. My parents have made tremendous sacrifices in order to help me survive each day. They are sacrificing their time, energy, strength — their own personal lives — for my life. And there have been times when I have wondered… is my life worth all of this? … all of this work, sacrifice and heartache? Continue reading

4 Life Lessons of Football

This reflection is about football.  That subject may seem like a departure for me, especially if you’ve read my blog before, but it’s really not.  Football happens to be one of my favorite topics of conversation.  But, don’t worry – even if you don’t like the game or understand the jargon, keep reading, there’s more.  Because this post is about the life lessons that one can learn from watching football.  You may scroll to read the detailed text or watch the video version below.

First: Life is a team sport.

Football, quarterback

Football is obviously a team sport, no matter how much some players may think that the game is all about them.  Now, although the quarterback gets most of the spotlight, hype, criticism, and glory, he knows that he is completely dependent upon his 10 teammates on the field – not to mention coaches, coordinators, trainers, and, obviously, the defense and special teams, who are both responsible for ball position on the field as well as score on the board.  No matter how well your quarterback may throw the ball, if he and the receiver aren’t communicating, or if the receiver drops the ball, then it’s all for naught.  Of most importance to the QB are the offensive line and other blockers, without whom the quarterback would just be scrambling around, trying not to become a permanent dent on the turf.

Teamwork is also essential in real life.  I know this personally and extremely, because I’m completely dependent upon other people for my every physical need.  I know that I can’t survive without others.  But, do you know that?  No one is totally independent or self-sufficient.  Yes, we interact with others, in some way, to get the basic resources of food, clothing, and shelter – but we also need each other for direction, encouragement, and, most of all, love.  We cannot be fully human, fully alive, without love.

Let’s us remember that we’re all in this together and love one another.

Second: It’s important to do your job.

Football, athlete, prayer, praying

“Do your job” is the famous mantra of Coach Belichick.  When a defensive player isn’t doing his job, it’s rather obvious, because a receiver goes uncovered and the other team makes a big play.  Even a perfect season can be ruined by one person not doing his job.  It’s about being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and fulfilling your role in the team.  In football, as in real life, we have particular roles to play.  Each person has God given gifts, talents, strengths, and a mission to fulfill.  We can’t do all things in all situations.  But, what we can do, what we’re called upon to do, we must do with diligence and excellence.

Now, your particular job is highly unlikely to have direct influence on changing the world.  But, it is your job to influence your family, your circle of friends, your workplace, or your community, for the better.  You may be just some rookie, backup corner named Malcolm Butler, say – but, if you do the grunt work of your job, preparing, training, and practicing, then when you are called to step up… well, you may just secure the championship for your team with one small act.

In my life, I’m able to do many things (have a blog, make videos, volunteer for my parish, write stories, essays, and poetry) because I live at home with my parents.  However, if I lost my whole family, God forbid, then I would end up in a nursing home.  In that situation, it would be my job to merely be patient, forgiving, and cheerful.  There’s nothing “mere” about that – it would probably be the hardest job in the world!  But, doing it well would benefit everyone around me, my fellow residents, and the staff members taking care of me.  I would still be able to fulfill my job of inspiring others.  And doing my job would help them to do theirs.

Third: A selfless act is a beautiful thing.

Football

There’s nothing prettier in all of football than when a highly talented wide receiver uses his abilities and strength, not to score a touchdown, but to block the defenders so that one of his teammates can go in and get the score.  Sometimes, what we are called on to do is to help another get success.  Good parents are examples of this.  My parents, with the sacrifices that they make in order to take care of me every day… well, they are wonderfully amazing examples of the beauty and power of self giving.

Fourth – going for it on fourth down: Every moment of life is precious.

Football

Life is beautiful – I believe this strongly and am grateful for every moment of my life, even through the difficult times, the weakness, the suffering.  I will try my best to live my life excellently, right through my life’s natural end and into eternity.

Want a football example for the importance of treating every moment of life as precious?  Okay.  The New England Patriots were down by 25 points in the third quarter of Super Bowl LI.  Most people thought that the game was over and, perhaps, another team may have thought that way, too.  But, not New England.  Coach had always drilled into them the importance of using and playing every second of the game, right until the end, no matter how bitter that end might be.  Doing your job is what matters, being there for your teammates and giving your all for the team – that’s more important than any statistics.  With this understanding, the Patriots were able to soldier on with their very best, employing every second wisely – and ended up victorious to the amazement of the world.

So, there you have it!  Enjoy the season – not just the football season, but also every season that comes your way.  And go Pats!

© 2017 Christina Chase


 Photo by Riley McCullough on Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Photo by Geoff Scott on Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Shively on Unsplash

 

Joy of Heaven

When I was going through my cancer scare, a friend of mine asked me to pray for her friend who had just been told that his leukemia was terminal.  And I didn’t know what to pray.  The thought of my own dying was, I think, still to close to the matter.  If I were, indeed, terminal, I thought, for what would I pray?  For what would I want others to pray?

After heading out of church one Sunday with a sudden, bright knowledge that I was healed, I began to understand what was important about last rites and what was needed in all of our prayers for the dying.  It isn’t enough to tidy things up before one dies and then leave everything to God’s mercy.  The part about leaving everything in God’s merciful hands is certainly sufficient, but the beautiful healing in that is not only the rightness of it and the sense of peace that it can bring – but also the joy.

Sky, clouds, Revelation

Joyful Hope

What will it be like to be dead?  Does this question seem dark and morbid to you, raising up fear?  It does a little to me, but, perhaps that is instinctive, since it goes against nature to want to experience being dead.  However, as people of faith, it is not a scary question to ask.  For, we do not believe that death is the end of our lives.  Our bodies will no longer be able to hold onto life, will die and decay back into the earth – but the life that is let go continues.  Our souls, which had animated our bodies, are of spirit and therefore they are immortal and cannot die.  So… what happens after our lungs stop breathing, our hearts stop beating, and our brains stop firing signals?  What will life be like then? Continue reading