Sanctifying menial tasks

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on July 21, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/the-prayer-in-doing-chores

The ordinary task of doing dishes helps me to silence the noise I am usually surrounded by and to talk to God. Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Washing dishes with pink gloves in hot suds, I had pause to think of all the good gifts in my life. The people, the growing of a dream, the crafting of a memoir. It all means so much to me. Soap suds squeaked and popped. Plates clattered together. I got lost in a hope-filled reverie.

The sun was behind rain clouds, and outside the window a bright green canopy of trees lined the street. A newness even in the overshadowing of a worldwide pandemic. There was a change. The smell of lilacs and honeysuckle in the alley wafted behind my little grey house.

Leaving the sink, I carried the trash outside. I tossed the compost in with a whump. Stretching my arms to the sky, I watched for aviator-like bumblebees passing by. The evening songbird sang high on the telephone wire. The ivy covering the gate shook in the slight wind. A smile pulled at the corners of my mouth. “I am going to be okay.”

My days are full, and my nights are calm. I have peace and joy. The Lord is my all in all. I try to give myself to him completely. Even the lost and broken pieces of my heart I give to him to find and repair. His love heals me through each relationship and time of prayer.

Often, I say, “Jesus, I trust in you. You take care of everything.” There have been many times when I have felt invisible, rejected, and lonely. And he has been with me through it all. I may not be perfect, but I am enough. I am learning to “trust in the slow work of God” and to “give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading.” 

Sometimes it is hard to follow the advice from Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, in his short piece “Trust in the Slow Work of God” to “accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”

The ordinary task of doing dishes helps me to silence the noise I am usually surrounded by and to talk to God. I long to speed ahead through the chores and in my personal projects. I can be quite impatient. “And yet,” says Father de Chardin, “it is the law of progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time.”

The slow growth in relationships and work is almost unnoticeable. But it is new. Gradually, with grace and action they take shape and mature. When I take a deep breath in nature, I am serene with life flourishing all around me. It takes a long time for a tree to stand tall in a forest. Reminding myself of the steady movement of God in my life, I can be present to all the blessings I have.

Who am I to be loved by a God so great? And yet, I have become more aware of his goodness when I reflect on my day with gratitude. I am grateful for rain-picked raspberries from my elderly neighbour. Time spent with loved ones at coffee shops I hadn’t seen in months brings such joy. The beauty of yellow roses and fragrance of jasmine flowers in nearby gardens are lovely.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever” (Ps 136:1). Instead of dreading chores, I will relish the time to clean. Finding restoration in the Lord who is with me through it all.


Collecting your blessings can be just what you need

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on February 5th, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/collect-your-blessings-it-may-be-just-what-you-need

I have been collecting what I am grateful for, like beachcombing for pretty rocks.

Wind whipped my face as I pulled my tuque tightly over my ears. My sister and I were out for a walk along Kits Beach, and it was a blustery day by the water.

Like the stormy waves crashing against the sand, my mood ebbed and flowed like the tide. Sometimes I feel fine and then, in an instant, I feel extremely low. There is nothing wrong or shameful about having a mental illness. It is known that January and February are often the bluest times of the year. 

Last year, I took an online course from Yale University called Psychology and the Good Life. Not surprisingly, sleeping for eight hours, meditating, doing something kind, and listing five gratitudes were scientifically proven to improve our wellbeing. Making these a part of my daily routine takes effort. Happiness takes work. I pay attention to activities and strategies to live happier. 

I have been collecting things I am grateful for, like beachcombing for pretty rocks. As soon as I started noticing all the wonderful things in my life, a warmth enveloped me. God’s love is ever-present. He looks after the details.

The most precious blessings are the people he has woven into my days. I am rich in friendships and I hope to share the wealth. I enjoy each moment as it comes. I am grateful for many things.

When I went running with my sister in the rain, I felt alive. 

Playing games with my godson as we visited on a video call, I felt silly.

Dining with my brother at my favourite restaurant, I delighted in his conversation and in fine wine.

Playing ukulele with my Mom on a Sunday afternoon was joyful.

Listening to live music with friends and dancing on a Friday night was exciting.

And going to Mass with my friend and her young daughter brought a feeling of home.

These are some things I am grateful for. For you it could be a clean house, a good cup of coffee, or the Super Bowl.

Rushing into the pew at the back of the crowded church, I smiled at my companions. My friend and her little girl were waiting for me. I slipped in as the entrance song ended.

During the Prayers of the Faithful, my friend’s daughter reached out her little arms and asked me, “which one do you want?” Stickers of many colours and shapes were on display between her fingers. I pointed at a bright yellow sun. She peeled it off for me and I stuck it on my hand. The sunshine sticker was a token of love.

It reminded me to look up as the host was being consecrated. Jesus, the true light offering himself to me again. His love, solace during a cold and dark month. I smiled at my friend and her beautiful daughter. I felt connected, a part of the family. 

Growing in resilience builds confidence to carry on in adversity. It is possible to fight the blues with companionship, simple prayers, acting with unusual kindness, and praising the Lord for the good things in your life.

The courage it takes for people to actively choose life is commendable. Struggles can weigh heavy on the mind, body, and soul. It is healthy to seek help and to brave change.

I have hope because I trust in the Lord’s provision for me. I know he wants me to be free of pain and suffering. He can show me a way through depression, anxiety, and fear.

Bipolar disorder has been a tool to lean more on Christ’s strength than on my own. He can calm the storm. “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

I need not be afraid. The Lord brings peace and I will get up again and again. Gratitude and kindness are strategies that can make you happier. Counting your blessings actually works.


Whether your song is happy or sad, God is listening

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on August 27, 2019 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/whether-your-song-is-happy-or-sad-god-is-listening

In these ordinary moments I realize life is all right. That we are unique and irreplaceable. We all have a song to sing.

“It’s a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There is no escaping that,” said Stephen Colbert in an interview with Anderson Cooper on grief. He went on to say, “There is no other timeline. This is it. The bravest thing you can do is accept the world as it is.”

As a depressed teenager I had lost sight of hope. I couldn’t come up with any reasons to live. To stay here. I didn’t understand how treasured I was. By God. By my family and friends. It’s beautiful to discover that you and I were born into this world for a purpose. That life is good even when it comes with suffering. You can’t separate joy from experiences of sadness. To experience happiness, you must also experience loss. A colourful mix of emotions makes us human.

I have been blessed with many graces to thrive as I live in Vancouver. Being surrounded by lush nature. Family close by. Fulfilling work. Diversity in dining. A welcoming church community. Friendly neighbours. And I am grateful that I can enjoy it all with my healthy body.

I’ve missed running for a month. I’ve been avoiding the summer heat! So one cool evening, I lace up my runners and off I go. Breathing in and out quickly. My muscles stretching like a cat’s after a nap. The view as beautiful as ever. Passing cyclists smile and nod, affirming my effort. Stopping at a crosswalk, I think about quitting to get dinner. But I know that further along there is a better view of the water. I push on. In slow mode.

Once at the oceanside, I breathe in deeply. Music twirls in the air as the community piano is played. After the young woman finishes a classical piece, I rush to it. Beads of sweat fall along my hairline as I play. In these ordinary moments I realize life is all right. That we are unique and irreplaceable. We all have a song to sing. God doesn’t leave us in the darkness. The light rushes in. Growth happens. And we can emerge stronger than before.

Having lived in the pit of despair gives me the capacity to connect with people on a raw and profoundly human level. Empathy, a gift of understanding someone else’s suffering; you have felt it too. Everyone experiences grief, loss, or pain. When we can share a moment with another, we promise they are not alone.

A French-speaking man smiling and moving towards the piano says, “Bravo.” I ask, “Do you want to play?” He sits and sings, stroking the keys of the brightly painted outdoor piano. Each of us giving a free concert to an intimate crowd. Making a gift of ourselves, we are “not simply a ‘being’ but always a ‘being for,’” as I heard this year at a workshop by the Pacific Institute of Family Education.

“You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit” (Job 10:11-12).

The longer I live, the more grateful I am for each breath. I will bless the Lord with my comings and goings, knowing how deeply he loves me. Knowing that he suffered too. And what joy awaits us in the kingdom that he has opened to us.