‘Riches are in relationships’

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on February 21, 2021 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/riches-are-in-relationships

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Margaretha called me every day for the next few days after I told her I wasn’t feeling well.

Her concern felt like a grandma’s would. My grandparents have passed away years ago. I only knew a couple of them. My grandpa on my Dad’s side was sick in a hospital when I was a little girl. I have memories of holding his soft, wrinkled hands as the nurses fed him. I don’t remember his funeral; I was so young. “Mimi” is what we called my grandma on my mom’s side. She lived with us for my whole childhood and teen years.

There is something so special about the love of grandparents. I miss them. And I wish I knew them all.

My 90-year-old neighbour Margaretha was happy to hear from me when I called her on my lunch break.

“Good thing it was nothing serious. Yeah, I worry.”

We chatted about her trip to Canadian Tire with her son. She bought bulbs to plant in her garden, a new variety that grows tall like hollyhocks.

“My wood-burning stove isn’t working anymore. Something is wrong with the pipe.”

“Are you going to fix it?”

“No, John says we could get a gas fireplace.”

One time pre-COVID I visited her house with my sister. We brought over our ukuleles. She welcomed us in with tea and cookies. The whole room smelled of wood smoke and roasting onions. We had to have a shower to rinse out the strong smell afterwards. It was such a nice visit, so it was worth it.

Having an elderly neighbour care about you is like having a grandparent giving you a hug. We always talk about the weather because if it’s raining it means she can’t go out in her garden, arthritic knees and all. She grew up working on a farm in Germany, so she is tireless. Margaretha always tends to the garden that surrounds her home even when she is in pain.

I am grateful for her reliable phone calls checking in to see how I am doing in the pandemic. Talking to her makes me want to trust the Lord more. He always sends me love in the way I need. Loving God and loving my neighbour are what I strive to do.

He can provide for me when I am feeling depressed or overwhelmed. Sometimes I need to wail and cry in his presence. To know that he is present in this pain, worry, and fear. If I take time for silent prayer, reading Scripture, and a good spiritual book, I am found by God. His peace warms my heart. I am his family. I bask in the joy of knowing I am his beloved daughter.

When I am full of God, I can reach out to my loved ones and be present to their needs. “Riches are in relationships, not possessions,” says Jane Trufant Harvey in Ask Him, Simple Words to Jumpstart Your Conversation with God.

My phone rang on the weekend and I couldn’t pick it up in time.

“Hello, Lisa, it’s Margaretha. How are you? I miss you. Come over.” I am sad during this difficult time when we can’t visit in people’s houses. It’s hard to accept that I can’t visit Margaretha in person at the moment. I do what I can and call her instead.

Our divine call to holiness is through the life of a family. Ordinary phone calls, visits, and conversations bring supernatural love to our relationships. As Margaretha nurtures the plants in her garden, I am going to set down strong roots to rise and grow in love. Will we seek Jesus? Will we be creative in how we can connect with our friends and family during the COVID restrictions?

I entrust the Lord with my life. I can’t do anything on my own strength. I am a child in his arms. He is taking care of me as he is taking care of you. We are to share our struggles and help each other.

As Thomas Merton says, “Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find in with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our isolated meditations. The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love.”

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast with a new name, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience , is available on popular streaming services. It is updated once a month on Wednesday.


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.