“God created you to create me.”

One day on the way to pre-school with my son Eugene, who was four at the time, he started asking me if God created the houses. I explained that God created people and that people created the houses. He asked if God created trees, then asked about roads, birds, and finally, of all things, poodles. I explained with amusement which things were God’s creations and which were men’s creations. I was thoroughly enjoying his intensity and intelligence this particular morning. Eugene is an exceptionally bright child who has been through his own hell already. He then asked me if God had made him. I explained that God made him up in heaven and then he was in my tummy until it was time to be born. Without missing a beat, he said to me “So then God created you to create me.” I had no better answer than, “Yeah, Buddy, I guess you’re right. He did.”

After all that my Eugene and I have been through, it is always his insightful little soul that catches me so off guard. That one matter-of-fact statement about God’s creation from a child of four who had just had his feeding tube removed had somehow summed up years of soul-searching, intellectualizing, rationalizing, and agonizing over why God had put me on this earth. I always told myself that to have created me as one crazy, screwed up, self-deluded, self-hating individual, He must have also created bourbon and had a few on the day He made me. Then I had kids.

Kids are God’s way of telling you to lighten up. Kids teach you that rain is good, mud is better, and puddles are the best. Watching them, you learn that dogs make great therapists since they listen, look interested, and yet you still have to figure out your own solutions. Kids also get you to look at your faith. Really, really look at your faith and no, not that religion that you have practiced for years without giving it much thought. They ask hard questions about what you actually believe about God, life, death, creation, prayer, and heaven. I think I missed a couple chapters in the parenting books I read when I was pregnant, because I was totally unprepared for those questions. And yet, I think maybe kids are also God’s way of telling you to quit fooling around with just doing religion and get on with exploring and expanding your faith.

Just Let Go

Matthew 14:22-32

Over time I have found that of all the people in the Bible, with the exception of Jesus of course, Peter is my favorite. He screws up way more often than he gets it right but Jesus loved him and more importantly believed in him anyway. I look at it this way: If I was going to trust my church on earth to anybody, would I really pick the guy who betrayed me three times, cut off a guy’s ear, and babbled at all the important teaching moments throughout our entire friendship? That Peter guy? Not my first choice.

Obviously, Jesus knew all of Peter’s failings. So what did He see in Peter? Pure faith and pure love. Peter would do anything for Jesus. When the disciples saw Jesus walking toward them on the water, they were afraid. Peter was the one who had the faith to say “If it’s you Lord, tell me to come to you.” He had the faith to get out of a boat, in a storm nonetheless, and walk across the water. There is no way I would be getting out of that boat! I’d be cowering with the rest of them and thinking Peter’s finally flipped his lid. After a few steps, Peter faltered. The wind was so strong and the waves so large that the “real world” around him distracted him from his focus on Jesus. As soon as he started to doubt the wisdom of walking out of a boat at sea in a storm, he started to sink. But still Peter believed in Him, even when he doubted and started to sink. He still believed, calling on the Lord to save him. Peter was a fisherman so I’m willing to bet he knew how to swim. He didn’t try to swim back to the boat on his own. He trusted Jesus to pull him up out of the waves. That is faith: trusting that Jesus isn’t going to lead him into a stormy sea and then let him drown.

Can I doubt and believe at the same time? Sure, I do it all the time. It’s called faith. If I believe in something I can see there is no room for doubt or faith, only fact. To believe in the power of Jesus Christ takes faith in something I cannot see, or even truly comprehend, which leaves room for doubt. Doubt is merely the fire that refines faith.

I describe myself as a cradle Catholic but more precisely I am a clumsy Catholic. I grew up in the religion. That does not guarantee faith however. I have staggered and stumbled along my whole life and every time I think I might almost have a clue, I find out I don’t. I go to Mass several times a week and on the holy days. I receive the sacraments and, being a Vatican II baby, I read scripture. None of it is a sure ticket to true faith, only to religion.

But I know what that kind of faith looks like. I saw it in my father’s eyes right before he died.
He was dying of lung cancer at the age of fifty-four. I was only fourteen then and the last time I saw him, he couldn’t say more than a few words at time. He was suffocating slowly and I knew it. It was unthinkable to me that this big, loud, boisterous Irishman, who was always singing or telling some tall tale was about to be silenced forever. I was staring out the window with my mind racing. This was not the way life was supposed to work. He was supposed to see me grow up. He was supposed to walk me down the aisle at my wedding. He was supposed to hold my children and read them the same poems he’d read to me. But in God’s plan, he was supposed to leave me at fourteen with an unforgettable image of trust and faith. I had received the sacrament of Confirmation ten days earlier but this moment was truly the confirmation of my faith.

Daddy called me away from the window to sit on his bed. He struggled to sit up straighter so he could look me in the eyes. He was so gray, so haggard looking, and yet there was a light and a peace in his eyes unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was a struggle for him to breathe, much less talk. He had to keep stopping every few words to catch his breath.

Taking both my hands, he said to me, “Well Nudnik, I think you and I both know that I’m not going to be here much longer. You know how much I love you and how proud I am of you. You’ve been so strong and so brave through all this, but now I want you to stay home. I don’t want you to come up anymore. I don’t want you to remember me like this. We had a lot of really good times and that’s what I want you to remember. And a day is going to come when you are going to get angry, really, really angry and when that day comes, you don’t get to be angry with God. You get angry with me because God never bought me the cigarettes and God never passed me a lighter. I did this to myself. God gave me a gift and I abused it. I just didn’t know back then and even when I found out how dangerous smoking was and I quit, it was just too late. The damage was already done. I’m so sorry that I have to leave you like this but I promise you I will see you again someday. Do you believe me?”

I had tears streaming down my face and I couldn’t do any more than nod. But that wasn’t enough for Daddy. He took off the oxygen mask and leaned into my face saying, “Tell me what you believe.” How I managed to say anything at all when it felt like my throat closing I will never know. But I did tell him that I believed him. I told him I would see him again and he would be whole again. In that moment, we let go of each other, trusting that God would sustain us both, I in this life and he in the next. In that last moment we had together, I could see Jesus in Daddy’s eyes and He called me out of the boat into the storm and for just a moment I walked on the waves. In that moment, I understood what faith really was about. It isn’t about what you hang on to, it’s about what you let go of and trust that God will be there to pull you up when you start to falter, when it’s all just too much to take.

My father was right of course. I did get angry but even at the worst of my anger with God, I could hear not my dad’s words echoing, but my own. I believe that God will bring us together again, that He will heal my wounds no matter how deep and how awful they seem to me. I believe that I will still have times when I doubt that power but those are the times when He will stretch out His hand to me before I sink beneath the waves. He will never let me drown. And every time I doubt, every time I start to sink, every time He pulls me back up, my faith gets stronger and purer. If I learn nothing else from this life, I will learn to trust Him, eventually anyway.

Thanks Daddy.

Be Bold!

The Story Behind The Tattoo

In an earlier post, I mentioned being described as bold, brash, and brazen for having a tattoo of a cross and stars on my right forearm. My tattoo was meant to be a reminder to myself of all that I believe in and am called to be. It serves as an antidote for that nasty little gremlin voice in my head that is constantly reminding me what a screw-up I am and how God couldn’t possibly accept me “as is”. I remind myself often that Jesus was not a nice quiet Jewish boy. He was a radical in every sense of the world. He challenged the status quo. He asked the hard questions no one wanted to face. He proclaimed boldly that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He was not mainstream by any stretch of the imagination. He calls his disciples to boldness in their proclamation of the Good News. I didn’t set out to be bold. I sort of stumbled into boldness and landed in grace. Every time someone asks about my tattoo, I am given the opportunity to proclaim my faith.

Disclaimer: I am not recommending that anyone go out and get a tattoo.

Okay, now that I have that out of the way, let me tell you the “why” behind the tattoo and then I can explain the tattoo itself. From the time I was seventeen, I wanted a tattoo. To me it was something so deeply personal and even spiritual. No, I don’t think skulls, demons, or Betty Boop are personal or spiritual. I am talking about a tattoo that I would design myself. I knew I wanted a white rose. To me a white rose signifies perfection. Just as white light is made up of all colors, a white rose can represent all the meanings that colored roses carry: love, affection,passion, friendship, loyalty, gentleness, grace, joy, harmony, calm and delight. My first sketches were all of long stemmed white roses.

At nineteen, after having survived an abusive boyfriend and the months afterwards when he stalked me everywhere I went, the rose sketches now also featured thorns and drops of blood. At twenty, when I met my husband, I considered two roses intertwined. He wasn’t a big fan of tattoos and when we got engaged, he suggested I wait until after the wedding so I wasn’t trying to find a dress that would hide it. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to hide it but a wedding wasn’t exactly the proper place to be flaunting a new tattoo in front of both families, neither of whom were likely to be thrilled at the idea.

After the wedding, there was never enough money and then there was the question of whether or not I could take the pain. After having my first child, who weighed in at eight pounds and eleven ounces, without an epidural or drugs, I knew pain was not going to be an issue, but now I was a mom. Moms don’t have tattoos. Or do they? I still sketched, always with the rose in there somewhere. After twelve years, as the marriage was falling apart, I sketched one of a stained glass window with the rose in the center and the word “Nevermore” at the bottom as a tribute to The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. The character says his soul is trapped by the shadow of the raven. I was in despair and felt completely trapped in my own home.

At thirty-four, I filed for divorce. Six weeks later, I had created the final sketch of my tattoo and made an appointment to have my tattoo done. I had to wait three weeks to get the artist that I wanted. I went to a Healing Mass with my friend Patti on the night before my appointment. She tried desperately to change my mind. She offered to give me back my deposit money. She offered to buy me a cross necklace, ring, bracelet, anything I wanted if I please, please, please wouldn’t do this. I was not about to be swayed. I had waited seventeen years and that was long enough.

I wanted a mark of my faith. God had saved me from myself and had given me the strength to take myself and my children out of a bad situation. I wanted a reminder to myself of who I am and what I am called to be. I was not thinking that this would be such a powerful symbol to the people I encounter. That never even entered into the equation for me. For the first time in my life, I did something that I wanted and in my mind it benefited no one but me. Little did I know how many conversations about faith would stem from this particular white rose.

It was ironic to me that it took three hours to have it done – the same amount of time that Jesus hung on the cross. I had to face my fear of needles and even though I hate the sight of blood, I watched her work. People always ask me if it hurt. In a word -YES! The pain was like a really bad cat scratch, except it didn’t stop for hours. The needle literally colored on my arm, one small section at a time for nearly three hours. Was it worth it? Again – YES! I have not regretted it for a moment. I do not try to hide it. I am not ashamed of it. I love when I run into someone who will ask me what it means as opposed to the usual “Where did you have it done?” or “Did it hurt?” or my least favorite, “Did you do it out of spite?” which I get because of the timing of it.

So what does it mean? I am an avid reader and writer. I thrive on symbolism. So here is the symbolism behind the tattoo.

My Tattoo Defined

My right forearm, where it is a constant reminder of all that I am and all I extend to people as I extend my hand in greeting

A tribute to my true self – the woman my father wanted me to become

The Gold Cross
A reminder that Christ is risen and I am saved – if He can rise from the dead, He can heal and forgive anything I endure in this life

The White Rose
The perfection that I seek, which can only be found through Christ

The Pink Starburst
The love and mercy of Christ flowing freely from His sacrifice

The Ten Spiked Stars
The Ten Commandments and the crowning with thorns

The Eight Green Jewels
The Eight Beatitudes

The Twelve Purple Bars
The Twelve Points of the Apostles Creed

The Colors Used
Black, White, Green, Red, Purple,– the Liturgical Colors along with Blue and Yellow (Gold, which is often used with White) – the addition of Blue represents the water of Baptism, when I was reborn as a daughter of God

Further Explanation:

(taken from the Catholic Encylopedia – see links)


Outside of Rome uniformity of observance was affected in the second quarter of the nineteenth century by the abrogation of other uses. In the Western Church only the Ambrosian Rite retains its peculiar colors. Most of the Oriental rites have no prescribed liturgical colors. The Greek Rite alone has a fixed usage but even among them it is not of strict obligation. The Ruthenians follow the Roman regulation since 1891. The variety of liturgical colors in the Church arose from the mystical meaning attached to them. Thus white, the symbol of light, typifies innocence and purity, joy and glory; red, the language of fire and blood, indicates burning charity and the martyr’s generous sacrifice; green, the hue of plants and trees, bespeaks the hope of life eternal; violet, the gloomy cast of the mortified, denotes affliction and melancholy; while black, the universal emblem of mourning, signifies the sorrow of death and the somberness of the tomb


The solemn blessings (beatitudines, benedictiones) which mark the opening of the Sermon on the Mount, the very first of Our Lord’s sermons in the Gospel of St. Matthew (5:3-10)
Four of them occur again in a slightly different form in the
Gospel of St. Luke (6:22), likewise at the beginning of a sermon, and running parallel to Matthew 57, if not another version of the same. And here they are illustrated by the opposition of the four curses (24-26
The fuller account and the more prominent place given the Beatitudes in
St. Matthew are quite in accordance with the scope and the tendency of the First Gospel, in which the spiritual character of the Messianic kingdom — the paramount idea of the Beatitudes — is consistently put forward, in sharp contrast with Jewish prejudices. The very peculiar form in which Our Lord proposed His blessings make them, perhaps, the only example of His sayings that may be styled poetical — the parallelism of thought and expression, which is the most striking feature of Biblical poetry
, being unmistakably clear.

The text of St. Matthew runs as follows:

Blessed are the
poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Verse 3)

Blessed are the meek: for they shall posses the land. (Verse 4)

Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Verse 5

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill. (Verse 6

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Verse 7

Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God. (Verse 8

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Verse 9

Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Verse 10

The Ten Commandments

1 – I am the Lord thy God and thou shalt not have any strange gods before me.

2 – Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

3 – Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

4 – Honor thy Father and Mother.

5 – Thou shalt not kill.

6 – Thou shalt not commit adultery.

7 – Thou shalt not steal.

8 – Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

9 – Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.

10 – Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.

The Twelve Points of Faith found in the Apostles Creed

1) I believe in God the Father Almighty Creator of Heaven and earth
2) And in
Jesus Christ
, His only Son, our Lord;
3) Who was conceived by the
Holy Ghost
, born of the Virgin Mary,
4) Suffered under
Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried
5) He descended into
; the third day He rose again from the dead;
6) He
ascended into Heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God
the Father Almighty;
7) From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
8) I
believe in the Holy Ghost
9) The Holy Catholic
Church, the communion of saints
10) The forgiveness of sins
11) The
resurrection of the body
, and
12) life everlasting.

Can I get an Amen?