My poor husband. He is the victim of the random thoughts that go through my head every day. They are only random when they pop out, however. There is definitely a flow of thoughts in my brain that connect together for me. Sometimes, the last one just begs to be spoken aloud.
Last night was just the latest in a long series of those spoken thoughts. “What’s the first word you remember learning?” I asked innocently. I actually have an answer for that. I know I learned many words in my journey of alphabet to words to sentences to reading. We all remember “See Dick run,” right? But the first word I actually remember learning is surprise.
First grade, Christ the King Catholic Church in Omaha, Nebraska. Sr. Mary Amy was my teacher and I have the clearest memory of her writing that out on the chalkboard. (Remember chalkboards? Sorry, random thoughts streaming again…)
I remember I couldn’t read it at first. I tried to sound it out because that is what we did in 1965. And then Sr. Mary Amy read it out loud: surprise! What a great word to have at my fingertips! Who doesn’t like a surprise?
I realize there can be bad surprises, like when you get a call after midnight that wakes up your roommate who angrily comes to your room to say your sister is calling from Colorado and when you get on the phone you hear that two of your other sisters have been hit by a train. That is a bad surprise.
Or when you’re seven years old and everyone is gathered in the kitchen of your house waiting for your dad to come home from the hospital and tell everyone that your mom is not coming home because she just died. Again, a very bad surprise.
But there are good, even wonderful surprises as well. Like when the handsome man who was the first to hold your hand (at the ripe old age of 42) after taking you on your first date, leans over and gives you your first honest romantic kiss. That one stayed with me for a long time. A good surprise.
Or when that same amazingly wonderful man gets down on his knee on your 43rd birthday seven months later and gives you a ring that comes with a question. I said “yes,” but not until after I made him pinch me and repeat the question. That was a GREAT surprise!
The reason for writing this down today is because of the surprise that blogging brought me just yesterday.
My Aunt Carolyn is a Franciscan nun. I usually call her SAC, which stands for Sr. Aunt Carolyn, as she was a sister before she was my aunt. She reads my blog and encourages me with the most wonderful emails. She even gives me treasures to write about. Well, yesterday she sent me this email:
Julie the other day I was reflecting on a few things important to me and one of them was the blog you had about your First Communion and the Sisters at Christ the King.This Sister Joyce Rupp is a famous author and has written many books (you would love them) and a national speaker. So as I wanted to receive her free newsletter that I just learned about I sent my request as I saw in a book I was reading, etc. and so used that opportunity to ask if she might have been the Sister or one of them from back then. Remember we did have different names, etc and I had always heard that after Jean died the Sisters brought food to your house…the rest was history. I thought you would be interested to learn she remembers you as I had not mentioned your name only the name Prescott…What do you think? Check out her books – Google: Sister Joyce Rupp and you will be surprised….Take care, Love, SAC
Attached to that email was this one from Sr. Joyce to SAC:
Yes, I taught at Christ the King for two years, in the ’60’s. I recall having Julie Prescott in one of my classes during those two years. Sr. Louise Genest was the principal then. A fine woman and would have been very kind to George.
Abundant peace, Joyce
So indeed, I went to Sr. Joyce’s website and there was her picture. And here I was, looking into the eyes of my first grade teacher. Fifty years later. Surprise!
I wrote her an email – surprise! – to be sure it was Sr. Mary Amy, and she wrote me back. Indeed, it was her:
I read your recent blog on your first communion and it touched my heart. Isn’t memory a marvelous gift? How you can go back to a moment that reached into your heart and remains there to bless you even now.
And I discovered that she is a woman of words, of poetry, of compassion, of a deep spiritual walk. She is a woman of God who was an example and teacher to me fifty years ago, and will be even now. Her poetry is beautiful. You can read a piece here:
I am so grateful for a God who would surprise us by joining our human journey, invite us to the table of grace and forgiveness, suffer for our brokenness, give us memory as a marvelous gift. It is a blessing.
And the thing about that table is that he meets us there in the bread and the cup. “My body, broken for you. My blood, shed for you.” In communion with all the saints and all the sinners who show up at that invitation, he meets us.
From my mother, through Sr. Mary Amy and the other Servants of Mary at Christ the King, by and through my wonderful Sr. Aunt Carolyn, and with and through my best friend and husband Steve, I am reminded over and over again that I am loved by an amazing God. We are in communion, all of us, together.
And that is no surprise.
5 thoughts on “Surprise”
The first thing I learned to read was The Make It Book. I had come home from kindergarten crying because I couldn’t read what the teacher had written on the board for the other classes there were K-3 in one room at Ponca back in the day. It has also stuck in my mind. Thanks for the reminder!
Beautiful! Thank you for sharing all of the surprises you did… Even the painful ones. Life is indeed complex and sometimes messy… Yet even in the midst of the mess, God is at work.
I recently reconnected with a dear man who was a seminary intern when I was in Middle School. He was going through an incredibly low time and I happened to see his name in an article. My wife and I will be seeing him and attending the Mercy of God community retreat in October. It is an ecumenical Franciscan community 🙂
I would love to hear of your time in the Middle East. I bet you’ve got stories to share. 🙂
Sadly most of my time was behind walls because folks were shooting at us (Afghanistan). However in the Emirates we were able to experience the more “westernized” Middle East. It was a study in contrasts for sure!
wonderful story! Thanks!