Finding God in a Flowered Housedress

I do love the story that appears in this chapter of Finding God in Ordinary Time.  I’ve been telling it for years, in the wake of a particularly moving encounter on an Alternative Spring Break experience in Savannah, Georgia in 2009.  Since Gwynedd Mercy’s own ASB teams just started their 2018 adventure, it seemed like a good time to post it.  To them I say:  May each of you find–and remember–your Rose!


Chapter 8:  Finding God in a Flowered Housedress

I have called you by name: you are mine. — Isaiah 43:1

Rose was scary. And she was scared.

She hovered in her bedroom doorway in a flowered, old-lady housedress and ratty slippers, her chopped-off hair looking like it had been styled in an asylum. Eyes full of suspicion, she peered anxiously at the do-gooders who had come to mess up her apartment. But it was that or eviction.

I was the head do-gooder, sent by Rose’s social worker along with four of my students as part of an alternative spring break service experience. The apartment had descended into filth and chaos, we’d been told, since Rose’s “boyfriend” had been transferred into assisted living. The landlord was ready to bounce her, so it was our job to make the place habitable—and not just for the many roaches scurrying through the cabinets.

I was so proud of my students that day. They donned gloves and tackled that awful kitchen with good cheer, emptying cabinets, throwing out contaminated food, and washing every sticky surface. I had the far easier task of organizing the living room: tossing discarded food wrappers, newspapers, and tissues; organizing anything that looked worth keeping; dusting everything I could get my hands on. There weren’t as many roaches to be alarmed by, but there was Rose, watching me with alarm. She didn’t respond to any overtures so I went about my business quietly under her apprehensive gaze.

How is this her life? I found myself wondering. Having been blessed with what I considered a full and meaningful life, overflowing with friends and work, travel and adventures, I was increasingly distressed by the emptiness of this poor woman’s existence.

And then I found it. Hidden among TV Guides and junk mail was a birthday card, the kind you get at a dollar store. I peeked inside. My darling Rose, someone had written, I will always love you. — your Bill

My eyes welled up, and I gently placed the card in a prominent position on her freshly dusted end table. To me she had seemed like a pathetic creature, yet she was someone’s darling Rose. She was a social worker’s challenging case, a landlord’s problem tenant, and our Tuesday project, yet a man named Bill had remembered her birthday and had selected, written, and mailed this card with its tender message.

I do believe that we are all precious in the eyes of God. But I was humbled, that day, to realize that a person I could barely bring myself to look at was precious in the eyes of another human being as well—one who had penned the words we all long to hear.

Who do you find difficult to look at, never mind love? Try to imagine them precious in the eyes of God, and even in the eyes of another human being. What shifts inside you?


May each of your ordinary days be extraordinarily blessed.

– Christine

Next Week:  Finding God in the Cafeteria

Messengers of Grace

Last Thursday I had the privilege of facilitating a retreat for members of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps / Baltimore region.  IVC volunteers are people age “50 or better” (love it!) who serve 1-2 days a week with a partner agency, using their considerable talents to care for individuals who have slipped through society’s safety net.  Their slogan is “Experience Making a Difference,” and I certainly experienced that difference myself in the course of our day together.  What a delightful, engaged and engaging group of people, seasoned enough to offer wisdom, yet beautifully open to new questions.

We spent the afternoon working with Part Two of my book Finding God in Ordinary Time.  Called Messengers of Grace, Part Two presents surprising encounters with strangers as one of the terrains in which we can spot the presence of God, hidden in plain sight.  As you may know, I’ve decided to give faithful blog readers a peek into my book each Sunday in winter Ordinary Time.  So with gratitude to the IVC volunteers whom I no longer call strangers, this week I want to share my introduction to Part Two.


Part Two
Messengers of Grace

People are beautiful, courageous, and inspiring, but we are also messy, complicated, and fallible.

And yet we are dear to God’s heart. In Genesis—the first book of both the Jewish Torah and the Christian Bible—we learn that all humanity is created in the image and likeness of God. The Qur’an teaches us that God (Allah) is “nearer to man than his jugular vein.” In Catholic Social Teaching, the dignity of each person is the first principle. Quakers affirm that there is “that of God in everyone.”

Ever wonder why so many religious traditions feel the need to point this out?

I love how my friend John puts it: every person we meet contains a revelation of God.

In Matthew 25, Jesus says that whatever we do for “the least of these,” we do for him. Who are these “least”? If we look at Jesus’ list (people who are hungry, thirsty, naked, or ill, those who are strangers or imprisoned), we will see that he clearly identified with those who are most vulnerable.

Sometimes vulnerability is attractive, and sometimes it is repellant, but it is always a place where, if we cock our heads at a certain angle, we can catch the message God wants us to hear.


Who has been a messenger of grace for you?  Tell us your story in the “Leave a Reply” section below!

May each of your ordinary days be extraordinarily blessed.

– Christine

Next week:  Finding God in a Flowered Housedress

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

When I was a child, one of my favorite tales was a short story by William Dean Howells called “Christmas Every Day,”  in which a little girl gets her wish to have it be (you guessed it) Christmas every day for one year.

It doesn’t go well.

Because, as it turns out, people can only handle so much merriment, so much turkey and cranberries, so many tummy aches, and so much present-getting and -giving before getting sick of it all.

Continue reading