Light is on, but no one is home

**This post originally ran in The Florida Times-Union https://www.jacksonville.com/story/opinion/columns/guest/2021/09/26/guest-column-light-on-but-no-one-home-lara-patangan/5762689001/

When I was growing up there weren’t as many medically-diagnosed acronyms to explain one’s differences as there are today. You might have been labeled “not the sharpest tool in the shed,” “the porch light is on but no one is home,” or if you are from the south, “their cornbread ain’t quite done in the middle,” might be an apt description for someone who’s a little bit different.

I do remember being in the reading group for “special kids.” I have since published a book so I figure that was either a really effective group or I was misplaced. It’s hard to know. I have often wondered if I had been tested by some fancy psychologist if I would have a diagnosis that would explain whether my own porch light is on — because honestly, sometimes I think my bulb is the flickering kind that serves to only draw attention to the cluster of dead bugs pooled at the bottom of the light fixture.

I intended to ask my doctor about my memory loss and lack of focus but in all honesty, I forgot. I met a friend for lunch and she whipped out a picture of herself wearing two different shoes to work and told me about how her husband left painter’s tape in their refrigerator. So, it’s not just me. Or maybe we dim-lightbulb types are drawn to each other like the bugs that spiral the light before drowning in its illumination.

All of this of course makes me think about mercy (and medical diagnoses but mostly mercy) because quite honestly, I have had enough diagnoses during the last year that I am kind of grateful I forgot to ask for another one. Part of the beauty of our faith has nothing to do with aesthetics. Instead, it’s the ability to empathize and relate to another person’s suffering despite their brokenness and despite ours too. Because of this, we feel less alone. We stop looking at our deficiencies as damaged and instead find the humor and humanity in them. We stop hiding our hurts and let other people sit with us in them. We stop judging and let shame surrender to “so-what.”

This isn’t just about the silly things we do (or forget to do) it’s about the way we prioritize what genuinely matters in life. It’s not about all the things we forget but about remembering that the gift of our presence can help others navigate a difficult time. As strange as this may sound, that matters more than mismatched shoes.

I’m not sure whether I would have been diagnosed with ADD or OCD or just as a BHM (Big Hot Mess). While I am curious to know, it’s not ever going to be how bright my metaphorically-speaking light bulb is that defines me. For all of us, that’s always going to be love.

Maybe it’s all as simple as the Motel 6 slogan, the chain of budget hotels that weren’t known for being fancy but rather, just enough. They had that folksy tagline that made everyone feel welcome: “we’ll leave the light on for you.”

When it comes to how to love our neighbor, dim lightbulb or not, it’s pretty wise advice.

Hi all ~ I still get frustrated with myself for all of the not-so-bright things I do (or mostly don’t do) in a day. It’s funny how much we can let insignificant things define our value. That’s why I love the simplicity of Jesus’s message to just love God and our neighbor. I’m far from perfect at either but at least the act of trying (and the acts of mercy!) make me feel more like a wise owl than the girl who just flew over the cuckoo’s nest! Can you relate? 

P.S. ~ my birthday is tomorrow and I know you were probably not going to buy me a gift since you think I am so spiritual that I might find material items to be incredibly insignificant.  Sadly, for my husband, this is not true and I had to order some things on his behalf so that he can still be a good husband to his still spiritually shallow enough wife that she wants actual presents to open on her birthday! BUT for the rest of you dear folks, I would be thrilled if you would leave a review for my book Simple Mercies on Amazon. Currently, I have 44 reviews and I would like to have at least as many as my age, which this year happens to be 110. So, as you can see I have a ways to go to reach my goal (and also that I have aged remarkably all things considered.)  ~ Love and gratitude, the birthday girl

https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Mercies-Works-Mercy-Fulfillment/dp/1681924536/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=simple+mercies&qid=1632767357&s=books&sr=1-1#customerReviews

 

 

Mercy: Not for Sale

Hi all,

This is an interview I did on Smart Catholics. In it, I share how mercy has changed my life and how it can change yours too.

I feel like that sounds like an ad for a wrinkle cream or a magic diet pill but I’m really not hawking anything (unless you want to buy my book, Simple Mercies! But I know you probably already did that because you love me and you want to see me on Oprah someday. Okay, I know Oprah is not on network television anymore but I don’t really know who the cool talk show hosts are and I guess that’s because it’s not 1984 and now everyone has a podcast. I really am just trying to keep up).

Anyway, the point is mercy isn’t something I can sell. It’s free. It’s yours. And practicing it, I dare say brings better results than diet pills or wrinkle creams.

Oh, and if you haven’t bought the book yet and want to support my dream to be on Oprah and also go back to the eighties here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Mercies-Works-Mercy-Fulfillment/dp/1681924536/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=simple+mercies&qid=1632184275&sr=8-1

Mercy works. Try it.

Love you all ~ Lara

Mercy on the Climb

This isn’t my usual post day or my usual post. I am writing under the pretense of inviting you to a book signing this weekend because really that’s what I should be doing to sell books and I need to sell books. But that isn’t really why I am reaching out.

Mostly, I just have noticed that life feels extra hard right now. I hesitate to share that because I don’t want to be a downer. Besides, I am not down. My family and I just returned from an adventurous trip to Maine where I hiked and climbed mountains (and slid down steep rocks on my bottom so I wouldn’t have as far to fall) and I rode a bike (and sometimes walked a bike) through Acadia National Park. I felt brave and discouraged and scared — sometimes all at once.

I thought about God a lot, and what it means to have faith and trust and just take one more step on the climb and how going down a mountain can be just as hard as going up. Either way, sometimes we need someone to catch us.

I don’t know what to expect of middle age or if it has anything to do with age at all, but I know so many people who are losing people they love – to age, to illness, to what feels like complete randomness. And with the ravages of COVID, life once again feels too fragile, too precarious, like one wrong step is all it will take for us to fall.

I lost a dear, dear friend, this past week. Someone my family traveled to parks like Acadia with. We awed at the Grand Canyon together and at our growing children too. And, now he’s gone. Another friend I’ve lost in this abyss of the middle years. And, none of it makes sense to me. Too young. Too precious. Too final. Read more

Mercy Matters at MD Anderson

The beautiful thing about giving mercy is thinking about the person who is on the receiving end and what our small acts of kindness can mean to someone else. In my book, Simple Mercies, I share a beautiful act of mercy that my friend, Julie Anna, did while I had been at the hospital all day with a dear friend who died unexpectedly. I will never forget her kindness because it was the only light I saw on that dark day.

She is so thoughtful that it didn’t surprise me when I learned that despite being several states away, she was still doing acts of mercy. This time, with a little help from a friend.

This is how Julie Anna does mercy:

Mercy Matters!

Recently, my cousin and her husband traveled from their home in Missouri to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston hoping to qualify for a clinical trial for terminal cancer. Some of their friends from Missouri travel internationally teaching about God’s healing so they had their friends from WoodsEdge Community Church welcome my cousin to Houston. They visited my cousin and her husband at MD Anderson offering support and prayers for healing. Mercy.

My cousin posts updates to family and friends on the Caring Bridge site with specific prayer requests for a healing miracle for her husband. When I read her post about how the WoodsEdge Church welcomed them I wondered if this was where my close friend, Lesley, who had recently moved from Jacksonville, Florida to Houston, Texas attended church…And it was! A God Moment of Mercy, Not Coincidence.

I reached out to both women to let them know of this “small world” God moment and put them in touch with each other. Both women are amazing prayer warriors and are true inspirations of living/speaking your faith, trusting in God, and sharing it with others.

Lesley wanted to do something in addition to praying to help my cousin. Lesley’s 13-year-old daughter, Lindsey, was cooking dinner and told Lesley she wanted my cousin to have a warm meal. Lesley then made the 40-minute drive to MD Anderson, dropped it off at the nurse’s station, and drove back home. Mercy Me!

This act of mercy that Lesley and Lindsey made happen brought me peace. It’s so hard to be far away from a loved one when they are suffering and not be able to do anything to help. My cousin was so touched that a total stranger would bring her mercy. Lesley is now my cousin’s prayer warrior and can be available for them if they need her. Two strangers now connected by God’s mercy. Not a coincidence. Just mercy.

Small everyday acts of kindness matter! God’s mercy moments matter. I am learning to recognize these moments and thank Him!

PLEASE PRAY for my cousin Stacey and a Healing Miracle for her husband Russ ~ Julie Anna.

Hi, all ~ I love stories like these that have so many connections that could be passed off as coincidence but really have the hand of God all over them. And, I love how Lesley and her daughter, Lindsey, readily stepped in as an act of mercy to the sick and an act of friendship to Julie Anna. The picture above is of the cooler that I found on my dining room table on the day my friend died unexpectedly. I had spent the day pouring out mercy in every way I knew how and I came home and received it. Mercy matters. Giving. Receiving. Simple Mercies. ~ Love, Lara

To purchase Simple Mercies: https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Mercies-Works-Mercy-Fulfillment/dp/1681924536/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8 or locally at http://bit.ly/larabooks

 

Mercy at Trader Joe’s

A friend of mine told me about a prayer request for someone dear to her who was hospitalized with pneumonia in both lungs. Over three weeks his condition deteriorated and finally, he passed away. She had prayed for his healing but it wasn’t to be.

In her words, here’s what happened next.

A mutual friend asked me to bring food to the reception after the memorial service. I offered to take my “go to Blondies.” Trader Joe’s mix in a box, perfect every time, easy peasy! So a few days before the memorial service I head out to TJ’s. Three boxes of brownie mix and the required butter were all I needed.

As I was checking out, the cashier asked if I could bring one back for her. I laughed and said, “Sure.” But then I thought better of my response. I told her that these were headed to a funeral. There probably wouldn’t be any left.

I looked the young lady in the eye and said, “Covid.”

She responded and said, “Covid is for real.”

I said, “God bless you, honey.” I walked outside toward my car.

Suddenly I felt someone coming toward me from behind. I turned and looked. There was the young cashier thrusting a bouquet of flowers toward me. She held them out and said, “I am sorry for your loss!” I thanked her. When I got in my car, I wept. And sobbed. And sobbed some more.

This last year and a half have been filled with loss. People, friends who vehemently disagree about how we can live together, trust, celebrating, time, safety….the list is endless. But in the midst of all of this loss, along comes a stranger, who heard my pain and offered consolation. And touched my weary heart, by telling the truth and caring.

And, I began to heal from a very rough season.

Hi all, this is such a beautiful simple mercy. Funny how a chance encounter at the grocery store can help begin to heal someone else’s grief but that’s the power of mercy. I love that the mercy came from a stranger too – just another reminder to all of us that we belong to each other.

Speaking of which, here is a link to a podcast “Quote Me with Lindsay Schlegel,” where I talk about my favorite quote. It’s by anthropologist Margaret Mead. “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I would only add that it’s done through love and mercy.

If you have not already purchased a copy of Simple Mercies, please go to bit.ly/larabooks or Amazon. We can be that small group of committed citizens who change the world. ~ Love, Lara

Book Launch: Simple Mercies

There was an amazing article in The Florida Times-Union this past Sunday about the year I spent doing works of mercy. Please check it out: https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/local/2021/05/21/turning-40-led-jacksonville-woman-year-service-writing-book/5091085001/t

The author did such an amazing job capturing the intention of the year and of the book, Simple Mercies

I spoke at my home parish this past Saturday and celebrated with a book launch reception afterward. It was one of those magic nights that made all of the hard days seem so far away. If a picture captures 1,000 words, then surely these capture the joy, gratitude, and love that made my heart simply happy!

 

 

Praying Is a Work of Mercy

Guest post by: Barb Szyszkiewicz

Intercessory prayer is my superpower. I’m not the mystical type, but give me something concrete to do and I’m all set. Is it odd to think of prayer as “something concrete to do”? Not for me. If you’re in a crisis and you don’t live near here, I’ll pray for you. If you live close by, I’ll bring you a dinner – and I’ll pray for you while I shop for the ingredients, prepare the food, and deliver the meal.

During a crisis, many people find that they have a hard time praying. They know they need the prayers, but they feel like God is far away or not listening – or maybe they haven’t connected with God in a while. When someone comes to you and asks for prayer, that is an act of great trust both in you and in God. This is a work of mercy that costs you very little but means so very much to others. By praying for someone in need, you are shouldering their burden right along with them.

Pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. (James 5:16)

Whether someone asks you, straight out, to pray for them, or you know they’re going through something and in need of your prayers, make sure to pray. Part of the mercy of praying for others is that they know you can be counted on to actually do the praying.

You don’t have to use fancy words or come up with something original every time. I don’t! I simply use some of the prayers the Church has already offered. A Hail Mary, Glory Be, or Memorare will work just fine.

Follow these three steps to make this work of mercy work for you:

Pray right away. You don’t have to pray out loud (maybe that’s not your superpower – it’s definitely not mine). But don’t wait. Pray right away. Read more

Guest Post: Mercy in Motherhood

Guest post today by Lindsay Schlegel

I grew up watching Full House, and hearing Uncle Jesse say “Have mercy!” in every episode. It was a line that always got a laugh, even though I didn’t know why. As a child, I didn’t have a real understanding of what “mercy” meant, either in the Tanner home or in the context of my faith. I might have said it was being kind or letting things that upset you go.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and I now find myself as a mother of five children, from infant to tween. It’s a gift and a blessing, but it’s also a stage of life that requires a new definition of mercy: kindness and resilience, yes, but also peace, humility, joy, and a generous openness to developing an intimate understanding of the other person.

Every day, I’m trying to teach my children to be gentle and charitable, to have mercy with one another. And at the same time, I’m discovering how necessary—and how freeing—it is to have mercy with myself, after the Lord’s example.

I want to parent my children well. I want to serve God joyfully. I want to be a good wife. I want to create something that glorifies God when I write, edit, and record episodes of my podcast. But I’m a fallen creature. I struggle with pride, impatience, and frustration. I am limited by the finite amount of energy I have and the static number of hours in a day.

In a word, I can’t do it all on my own.

Of course, God doesn’t expect me to live my vocation and my calling on my own. He wants to help me. He intends to be by my side. And He also allows me the choice of whether or not to let Him in.

He invites me to a relationship with Him in the sacramental graces in marriage and baptism (both my own and those of my children). He opens Himself to me in forgiving my sins in confession. He offers true communion in the Mass. Read more

Simple Mercy: Keeping Children Safe

Nancy Sebastian has spent much of her life working to keep children safe. This is how Nancy does mercy:

“Sharing what we know about personal safety with the children we love is an act of mercy that can save a life. It’s as easy as teaching a child to cross the street. Children who recognize red flags and know circumstances to avoid will be safer. The same is true for teens. In addition, teens dealing with depression and anxiety are now at an all-time high. Showing concern and kindness can make a huge difference to them.

Everyone wants to know they matter.

I feel very blessed throughout my life to have been able to empower children and teens to protect themselves and their peers from harm and live safer, happier lives. As a mother, teacher, school counselor, and now Executive Director of the KinderVision Foundation for the past 27 years, my journey has been one of amazing grace and awesome miracles, both personally and professionally, with the well-being of young people always a priority.

KinderVision began in 1991 as the result of the abduction and murder of a 7-year-old little girl. Her case remains unsolved. We wanted to prevent future tragedies so we created a video with personal safety tips for young children in English and Spanish narrated by an 8-year-old little girl and a police officer. We personalized our safety video by recording the child on the end to encourage viewing. Hundreds of thousands of children have benefited from that program. It is now digital and the safety tips can be found at www.KVKids.org.

Ten years ago law enforcement asked us to create a program for teens, the age group most at risk for victimization. The Greatest Save Teen PSA (Public Service Announcement) Program was our response. In this peer-to-peer personal safety program, teens choose any topic on teen victimization, research it, and create a 30-second video message for their peers. The messages are then organized by topics and used by schools across the country to raise awareness, engage students in discussions about personal safety, and end teen victimization. Read more

Simple Mercies: Teaching the Faith

Growing up, Wendy Nelms wanted to be a reporter and travel the world. Instead, she answered a greater call as a beloved teacher sharing the word of God.  She has been at Assumption Catholic School most of her life — first as a student and now as a teacher.

We know teachers practice mercy in countless ways, but here is how Wendy does mercy:

“I am thankful to say that my life as a teacher is one of my greatest blessings. In my time at Assumption, I have had many different roles but my favorite is being the 7th and 8th-grade religion teacher. I am inspired and amazed at the insight and faith of the students I teach and truly love coming to work every day.

Being with teenagers and listening to them share their faith gives me true hope for the future of our church. While being the religion teacher, I have had the amazing opportunity of taking groups of students to serve at Catholic Charities and attend the Steubenville youth conferences. Watching students see the reality of what is taught in the classroom is one of my greatest blessings.

My job is to take their hands and lead them to Christ and then let go. That is the hardest part for me-letting go. Once they walk through my classroom, they know they are always a part of me. There is nothing better than watching someone become who God created them to be!”

Note from me: The spiritual work of mercy, to instruct the uninformed, is about sharing our faith with others. Wendy taught my son and she has an incredible gift for ministry. But all of us have something we can teach others – even if it’s only through simple acts of love.

One of the reasons I wrote my new book, Simple Mercies, is because oftentimes we fail to recognize the way small acts of kindness can make a difference. For the next few weeks, I’m highlighting simple ways that others are sharing mercy as an organic part of their daily life. If you or someone you know would like to participate in this series, please email me at lara@mercymatters.net to share your own story of mercy. If you would like to learn more about the ways that mercy can bring peace and fulfillment to your life while answering God’s call to serve, preorder Simple Mercies, at this Amazon link or San Marco book store http://Bit.ly/larabooks ~ love, Lara