A few weeks ago, I wrote about Fr. Christian Mondor, ofm, a man who played an important role in my spiritual development. I was happy to share my private reflections on my blog, but yesterday I had the privilege of speaking publicly about Fr. Christian’s life and legacy at a paddle out held at the Huntington Beach pier.

As soon as Tim and I heard of Fr. Christian’s passing, we immediately texted Terry, a mutual friend. Though he’s not in the surf industry, he is the epitome of a “surf turkey,” always up-to-date on wave and water conditions and happy to talk shop. We knew there would be a paddle out to honor Christian’s life and we wanted to participate, but we didn’t expect Terry to ask me to speak.  (In Catholic circles, women aren’t often given the microphone at “priestly” functions.) However, Terry knows my love of the ocean and my passion for Franciscan spirituality.

I guess as a Huntington Beach native, former lifeguard, surf shop owner, student of Franciscan theology and friend of Fr. Christian’s, it just made sense.  

 

8P5A6055.jpg

It was a pleasure and honor to share my thoughts with a gathered community of like-minded people and I wanted to share them with all of you.  Tim was able to capture it on video, but you can also read the transcript below.

https://player.vimeo.com/api/player.js


Terry Thein asked me to say a few words today, not just because I was lucky enough to be raised here in Huntington Beach, where I come from a family of lifeguards – two of us here at city and two at state, but more importantly because I was raised at Sts. Simon and Jude by the Franciscans, including Fr. Christian who was one of those sandal-wearing, brown-robed padres of the Catholic church.

Everyone knew and loved Fr. Christian, but not everyone knows that much about the theology and spirituality that animated his soul and directed his life.

Professionally and personally, Fr. Christian followed the teachings and example of St. Francis of Assisi, a 12thcentury Italian saint. St. Francis lived a 1,000 years ago in medieval Europe, in a time not unlike our own, a time plagued by war and violence and economic and cultural upheaval. But instead of getting swept up in the fear or anxiety, or engage in the violence like so many other young men were doing, St. Francis’ mystical experience of God and Jesus allowed him to take a step back from what everyone was doing and double down on living in Radical Simplicity and Loving Community with all of the created world – human, animal and natural. And I know Fr. Christian tried to live his life that way as well.

Fr. Christian lived simply, unimpressed by titles and success – his own or others – and unattached to objects, except for maybe his banjo and longboard. And he lived In Radical Community – loving his own family, his Franciscan brothers, his church members, his banjo players, his fellow surfers, his swimming friends, his Jewish, Muslim, and Protestant sisters and brothers and he loved this place, Huntington Beach, and everyone he met here.

Fr. Christian also took to heart St. Francis respect for the natural world. In one of the few writings that have survived, St. Francis thanked God for his Brother Sun, and Sister Moon. He honored his Brothers Fire, Wind and Air. He thanked God for Sister Earth,our Mother. Most poignantly for our surfing padre, St. Francis specifically praised our “Sister Water, useful to us, humble, precious and pure.” 

Fr Christian’s love of the ocean wasn’t separate from his Christian faith; it was an integral part of it.

In the Franciscan tradition, the physical presence of the Divine is everywhere in this world. We call it the “First Incarnation.” God first showed up in the world as the world. We live in a sacred universe. We just have to wake up and see it. And Fr Christian saw it! He saw it in the waves and the water, in dolphins leaping, and whales breaching. Those are the easy places, where most of us see it too. But St. Francis and Fr. Christian kept going, until they saw the face of God, not just in every friend, but in the face of their enemies as well, until there were no enemies.

Perhaps most importantly, Fr. Christian lived by the words St. Francis reportedly said to his followers: “Preach always! And if necessary, use words.” Fr. Christian rarely used words, except in church on Sundays, which was part of his job description. But he couldn’t help but preach!

His life was a living sermon. He could not hide the love he felt for this fiercely beautiful world, or disguise what a blessing he thought it was to be in it. He was rarely without a smile on his face. Like the water he so loved, Fr. Christian’s goodness poured out of him and along with it came joy, peace, compassion, mercy, hope, intelligence, gentleness, and finally attentiveness.

Fr. Christian was fully present to the Presence of the Divine in each and every person he met, every note of music he played, and every wave he surfed.

Another Franciscan author and teacher, Richard Rohr, said it this way. He said, “saved” people always feel beloved, chosen, and favored by God.  And by all accounts, Fr. Christian was “saved” in the Christian sense of the word, but the beauty of Fr. Christian was that he “saved” so many of us, not by prayer, but by his presence in our lives. When he looked at us, we too were beloved, chosen, favored and hopefully, empowered to live and to love others as he did, as St. Francis did, as Jesus did.

Surfing was Fr. Christian’s hobby. Loving was his way of life. May we be inspired to go and do likewise.


 

Honoring Fr. Christian’s memory in the water with his fellow surfers. 

IMG_3144

It meant the world to me to share the morning with Finn who currently lives, works and surfs in Huntington Beach. At 19, I moved to San Diego to start my adult life and at 19, he moved back to my hometown to start his own. 

 

In the middle of last week, I felt a sudden and overwhelming urge to see my family. They all live 100 miles away or so and have busy lives, with jobs, kids and hectic social calendars. It had only been a month or so, but I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t send out an S.O.S., or even a guilt trip. I simply sent out an invitation via text message:

 I am missing my family something fierce these days. Is anyone free to come meet me in San Clemente this weekend? Saturday or Sunday?

They had early morning soccer games and late night concert tickets, home projects and volunteering commitments, but miraculously, they all said yes. Sunday morning they were willing to drive forty miles to see me and my family. The only ones missing would be Keara, away at college, and my parents, who are currently crossing the Atlantic on a Disney cruise. Since we were going to be near some of our best friends, I texted them the invitation as well. I immediately heard back:

We are around all day. We will join you wherever you guys end up. Just let me know! Yippee!

Well, that’s awesome, I thought and I went through the rest of my week with a smile on my face, knowing that Sunday would be a good day. But as the week went on, the thought of Sunday started to lag. Our family was out late Friday and Saturday nights; I was speaking at our church on Sunday evening and nightly school, work and social events are lined up for the next six days. I didn’t need an additional hundred-mile roundtrip, beach extravaganza to be happy.

What was I thinking? I asked myself as the alarm went off on Sunday morning. (Alarms should never go off on Sunday mornings!) But we loaded up the truck with surfboards, wetsuits, fins and frisbees and headed up the coast to meet our crew.

Of course, the day was fabulous and worth every ounce of effort. The sun never really came out, but as you can see, it didn’t slow us, or our fun down.

img_1287
My baby sister, Amy and I, always make our own fun!

sc-beach-day

As we piled in the car to head home, I pulled out my phone to send a birthday text message to a very special person.

Twenty-five years ago yesterday on September 18, 1991, I gave birth to Sarah Moses, my first-born daughter and twenty-five years ago today, I gave her up for adoption. She had been on my mind all week as this milestone birthday approached. I had already sent off a birthday card and made plans to meet up with her mom, Dee. Sarah is finishing up grad school in Los Angeles, so getting to see her is always a challenging proposition!

I could have called, but instead I wrote:

Happy Birthday darling girl! I can’t believe you are 25 today. I am thinking of you, love you and spent the morning with my brothers and sisters who all held you the day you were born and loved on you. My best friend Laura sends her love. She was there that day as well and she gave me a big hug for you. You are always in my heart Sarah Moses and I hope you feel my love over the miles.

I hit send and then I laughed.

What had I done? Somehow, unconsciously, without ever making the connection, I had gathered around me the very people who had been present to me on that beautiful and heartbreaking day, a quarter century ago.

On that day, I was physically and emotionally exhausted, in love with my newborn daughter and letting her go. I had told my mom in advance that I wanted my family to come meet her. Even though she wouldn’t be a part of our lives, I wanted us to celebrate her birth together. It was a school day, so my dad drove my 14 and 11-year-old siblings, Tim and Amy, a hundred miles through rush hour traffic to be there. Charlie, my older brother, was at school at USD just around the corner, and he brought his then-girlfriend, Laura, with him to lend support.

When we got home from the beach, I pulled out my photo album from the day of Sarah’s birth and found the family photo that included the baby girl who celebrated her twenty-fifth birthday yesterday.

fullsizerender-8
September 18, 1991

I sent it to her with the caption: Your birth family on your birth day!

I also discovered pictures of moments I had forgotten, showing the tenderness with which she and I were both held that day.

befunky-collage3

In The Alchemist, Paolo Coelho writes: “When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.” Though I loved the book, I never really believed the message. There are too many examples from my own life and those of others that seem to refute it, but yesterday, my experience was undeniable.

The universe conspired to bring me something I wanted, even though I didn’t know why I wanted it. I put it out there, an invitation, and twenty-five years later to the very day, I was again surrounded and held with tenderness and love, in joy and celebration of being a family.

Last night, I looked through all the photos I took at the beach yesterday, of my siblings and Laura (yes, the then-girlfriend, but still dear friend), and their spouses and children, and I saw the Universe conspiring again.

img_0026
Some of my crazy beach crew kids from the Bush,Wilson, Gebhard and Kirkpatrick families

Before we packed up, I made some of the kids pause for a picture. They did and then they started to pose themselves. They were laughing and falling, clamoring for the shot before they dropped their friend or cousin or sibling on the ground. I stared in disbelief at the photos last night at what I didn’t see when I was taking them. They were holding one another, like babies in their mother’s arms, like each of their parents had held Sarah on the day she was born.

befunky-collage2
Top: Molly holds Maddie B. while Finn photobombs Bottom: Maddie B. holds Sia G. and Nick holds his cousin Cole (who also just happened by!)
befunky-collage
Molly and Wyatt Wilson take turns, while Nathan holds the love of his life, my sister Amy and Nick shows off his feats of strength by taking on Finn.

Last night as I lay in bed with Tim, I almost wept in surprised gratitude for the way it all came together, the way life unfolded and encircled upon itself, all in one day and in one fell swoop. I am so glad the Universe responded, even though I was blessedly unaware of the reason for my call.

I think that’s how the Universe conspires. It doesn’t necessarily bring us what we want to be happy, but it brings us what we need to be whole. It doesn’t respond to the dreams we broadcast out loud, but listens instead to the whispered longings of our soul. And when it shows up, whatever “it” is, we have to be open to it. We have to let go of what we think we need to be happy, so we can be present to the healing that’s possible in that moment, through the seemingly random confluence of people and places, songs and situations that filter through our days. Call it synchronicity, or quantum entanglement. Call it Love, or call it God, but no matter what, call It to you and then look for it to come.

 

P.S.

As complete and beautiful as yesterday was, I wish Keara Moses, the daughter named in honor of, but NOT as a replacement for, her older sister, could have been there with us. I also wish my mom and dad could have been present. To see all of us together brings them such joy. Pam Kantrud, is another significant person from my life at that time. She was the mother of the family I lived with while I was pregnant, and she was there on Sarah’s birth day too, counting my breaths, rubbing my back, and cooing over the beauty of my newborn baby girl.

img_1295-1
My mom and Pam, my fearless “midwives” who guided me through Sarah’s birth

And Sarah? Do I wish she was there too? Of course I do, but that’s a story for another time. In all things related to her, I work to find the delicate balance between loving her as my daughter and knowing she is someone else’s pride and joy, of calling her family, but respecting that she has her own. My own family, large and small, has all been able to spend time with her and I hope there will be ever more opportunities for that.

And finally, Tim. As I’ve mentioned before, he was there that day and every day since, holding my life in a tender embrace.

Tim Kirkpatrick

 

WindandSea

Tim and I woke up this morning and we did not put on our Sunday best, not even in our hearts. After getting annoyed with each other for the 10th time in an hour, we knew we had to get away from Ground Zero. We had to go home to the beach.

We went to Wind and Sea in south La Jolla and got wet. We climbed rocks, breathed in the salty air, listened to the waves and watched the water rolling on shore, over and over again. Our hands brushed and instead of pulling away, our fingers intertwined. Over the minutes, the ticking time bombs lodged in our chests became our beating hearts once again.

I don’t know exactly what it is about the ocean that brings me home, but there is no place on earth where I find such peace, where I find myself inhabiting my own body, my heart and soul. I know the ocean doesn’t work magic on everyone, but everyone has a place that works magic on them.

It could be the beauty of a canyon, the desert, or a lake in the mountains. It might be standing in freshly fallen snow, listening to the rain, or a river go by, or even the smell of the earth and the feel of it in your hands. Everyone finds their own way “home.”

We forget to go where we feel most alive, because we confuse being “alive” with “life.” Life is what we do every day; it’s the simple act of breathing in and out and all the complications that come with it. It’s work and chores, relationships and realities. Being alive is something else entirely. When we are truly alive, we are fully present to ourselves, body and soul. When we are truly living, we aren’t just keeping busy with the smallest details to avoid asking the larger questions.

For my birthday last month, my friend Leighann gave me a journal with one of my favorite quotes on the cover.

Mermaid

“I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.” Anais Nin

Life will keep us on the surface. Alive, we want to go deeper. I wish it weren’t quite so easy to simply live our lives.

I’ve spent a lot of time at the beach lately, swimming, paddling, thinking, reading and writing. My car is a mess of sand, seaweed and salt-water stains. My life tells me to clean it up. My heart tells me to leave it be, so it can remind me to get back to living.

Piershot

This week, I hope something does the same for you – an over-reaction, an under-achievement, a dirty car. I hope you remember where you feel most alive and get there if you can. Go early in the morning, or late at night, in the sun, or rain, or in the bright, hot light of day. Breathe in the air that gives life to who you are. Close your eyes and let the smell of your home surround you. Be in that place. Be in your body. You might laugh or cry; going home will do that to you, especially if it’s been a while.

I want to leave you with a poem by Jane Hooper.


“Please Come Home”

Please come home.
Please come home.
Find the place where your feet know where to walk
And follow your own trail home.

Please come home.
Please come home into your own body,
Your own vessel, your own earth.
Please come home into each and every cell,
And fully into the space that surrounds you…

Please come home.
Please come home to trusting yourself,
And your instincts and your ways and your knowings,
And even the particular quirks of your personality.

Please come home.
Please come home and once you are firmly there,
Please stay home awhile and come to a deep rest within.
Please treasure your home. Please love and embrace your home.
Please get a deep, deep sense of what it’s like to be truly home.

Please come home.Please come home.
And when you’re really, really ready,
And there’s a detectable urge on the outbreath, then please come out.

Please come home and please come forward.
Please express who you are to us, and please trust us
To see you and hear you and touch you
And recognize you as best we can.

Please come home.Please come home and let us know
All the nooks and crannies that are calling to be seen.
Please come home, and let us know the More
That is there that wants to come out.

Please come home.Please come home
For you belong here now.You belong among us.
Please inhabit your place fully so we can learn from you,
From your voice and your ways and your presence.

Please come home.Please come home.
And when you feel yourself home, please welcome us too,
For we too forget that we belong and are welcome,
And that we are called to express fully who we are.

Please come home.Please come home.
You and you and you and me.

Please come home.Please come home.
Thank you, Earth, for welcoming us.
And thank you touch of eyes and ears and skin,
Touch of love for welcoming us.

May we wake up and remember who we truly are.

Please come home.
Please come home.
Please come home.


photo 3I hope you’ll share your homecoming with me here, or on Facebook. They are my favorite stories. Where will you find home this week and how does it feel to be alive?