I was standing outside the door of my sister's cottage Thanksgiving afternoon while the sunlight danced over the waves on the lake and made the snow on the ground sparkle like diamonds. I stood watching my brother Bill as he kept an eye on the turkey deep frying, and stood talking with our sister Sue, who is the most effervescent of the three of us. I felt filled with love as I stood watching them. Here we were, Bill and I at 50, Sue three years younger, now the official adults of the family with both our parents gone. I lit a cigarette and walked over to where they stood.

"You know what we all have in common?" I said.

"Not much," Sue replied a bit flippantly. "We are so different."

"Yeah," I said, "That's true. But what I see is that even though Mom and Dad are both gone now, we have such a strong loyalty to each other as family."

Bill agreed right away, and Sue did too. I've seen other families who don't stay in touch or stand up for each other that much. Despite our different personalities, the three of us are intensely loyal to our familial bond. It's just a given that we will always be there for each other.

Here stood my very fashionable, financially secure, soccer mom, new-age sister with her plethora of Sylvia Browne books, and the hodgepodge of beliefs she teaches her girls of Christianity, mixed with spirit guides and reincarnation. And there was my handsome, educated, successful businessman brother with his growing devotion to Buddhism, though still harboring a desire for a Christian church home, but not enough to leave his wife on Sunday mornings and venture out alone for one. And then me. The artsy, twice-divorced sibling, eking out a living as a designer, who lives much more modestly than either of them in a small mobile home, and is devoted to being a Christ follower and attending an emergent style church.

The other people at Thanksgiving dinner included my youngest son, who's also a Christian. My sister's girls with their new age spirituality blend, my brother's daughter who "doesn't do church", and my brother's teenage son who declared recently he doesn't believe in God. My friend/companion Noble who, when life was really hard, wanted to go to church, but now that life is better he tells me he doesn't believe in organized religion. My first husband was there too. He would profess to being a Christian, but I don't think he has any desire to talk of it or think about it too much. I think his mother crammed too much scripture into him when he was growing up, and he's never had a desire for much of it since. I don't think my sister's husband or my brother's wife are very much into any spiritual life. I have a feeling it just doesn't interest them too much. But for some reason my siblings and I, despite the lack of faith growing up, are all very spiritual people. But we walk down different roads. I can relate to Paul venturing to Greece and talking with all those Gentiles. My family is my Athens.

But I don't really talk about Christ with them much, except to say how happy and filled with joy I am at my church. I hope one day I'll feel so knowledgeable and filled with His presence that I can communicate more of the stories of this Jesus of Nazareth, because I don't think they really know his story and His words, and if they did it may make a huge difference.

Or maybe it wouldn't. But what I do know is that Christ said to get out there and love people. On a snowy Thanksgiving filled with sunshine, I found that so easy to do. We may be going down different spiritual paths, my siblings and I, but we talk and laugh and are totally devoted to each other. We love each other fiercely. And that, I know without a doubt, is a God thing.


How Toni Found God

At a party recently I sat by Toni. I particularly wanted to sit by her because I knew she had "found God" and I wanted to hear her story. It didn't take long for me to engage her in a discussion about her spirituality. When people are in love, they are eager to talk about it. And Toni is so in love with Christ.

For most of her life an atheist, Toni's journey started a few years ago when she lived in Ireland for a year. She said that one day she was in an ancient church that had been in existence for almost a millennium, and while she was sitting there she started thinking about all the feet that had walked up those steps and sat in those pews for over 800 years, and contemplating what was it that kept people coming to this place for such a length of time. It was the first spark of wondering just how big this Christian faith thing was that called so many for so long.

Back in the States a couple of years later she was feeling lost and sad after a fight with her boyfriend of many years and got in her car and started driving aimlessly. Toni told me that she saw a building and pulled into the parking lot to sit and cry. She didn't realize that she had pulled into the parking lot of a Catholic church until a woman came up to the car and told her that the priest was there taking confessions if she wanted to go in. She said she didn't, she just wanted to sit there and try to find some peace. But after the woman left, Toni ended up in confession, crying and talking for an hour.

But it was a little later that God firmly wrapped her in His arms for good. She said she was sitting in her bathroom one day naked and praying and felt nothing. No God was touching her heart, she felt no sense of the divine, and she started wondering if faith was real, or if she was searching for something that wasn't there at all. Suddenly she said she was surrounded and filled with a love so intense that she still finds it impossible to describe, though it immediately brought her to tears when she told me about it. Toni said knew what it was like to love people here on Earth, but that this love was so incredibly powerful and immense that she didn't even know where she was anymore, or how long her encounter lasted. God caught Toni at her most vulnerable, stripped physically and spiritually.

It was life changing. She loves to go to a local Catholic church whenever she can because it's a church that never closes. She goes for Perpetual Adoration, to sit with Christ who is there for her in the Eucharistic sacrament, and pray and celebrate that she can be there with Him.

And I was grateful that I got to sit next to her one evening and hear how God first opened her heart in a church where other hearts have been reached for almost 1000 years.



Like before - the Boy Scout award ceremonies, the school recognition assemblies
And now - the one-act play in high school -

Him, hopefully: "Maybe my dad will come."
Me, brightly: "Yes, maybe he will."

The last time his dad came to anything he was in kindergarten.