(continued from 6/24 entry)

The pallets of roofing tiles were still bundled and stacked in the perimeter – even on the unfinished roof. But only a few areas of the roof were completed. The rest of the roof was left open to the birds of the fields. And they did enter in, one and all. Wood weakened by wind, rain and the elements warped with time made up what were to be the floors upon which the discalced Carmelites would walk. You can enter easily now , as the doors were never hung, and inside you find various elements of construction waiting as patiently as a bride whose groom was delayed for 20 years.

Four words spoken by Sr. Jean Marie that day struck me more by the love with which they were spoken, than by their rock solid faith: “It will be completed”.

Many milestones have led Vickie and me to this place, and many “non-coincidences” have confirmed our choice to place ourselves into the lay community that surrounds this work of renewal begun by the sisters. My recent fundraising and development experience have prepared me to “leverage” the vision we so quickly caught as we re-connected with the sisters. From the recent work in helping marriages in the area of empathy and communication, to our new understanding of the urgent need for PTSD programs in every community, our recent past has all been a preparation.

We are thankful that God is continuing to bless us with his financial provision as He has in the past. Our kids are number one, and the people who have helped us get to where we are will be blessed too. We have decided to pour ourselves out for this mission – the mission for healing in marriages and families.

And don’t think for one second that we have chosen to involve ourselves because we have “arrived” or somehow “have it all together”. On the contrary, what we have realized more than anything is that our many imperfections can only be dealt with through the grace of the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ! In fact that grace is the very essence of the “New Life Family Mission”: to invite all couples and families to immerse themselves into the river of mercy that flows out from the Heart of Jesus Christ!

God doesn’t want to shower His torrent of grace on just a few “holy people”on this planet. His love is unending and His heart as a font of Mercy for us all! and I mean ALL! God actually longs to dwell in the heart of the family! It’s like He is actually ‘lonely’ to hang out with us! His generous message of forgiveness and healing is something we have experienced in our own marriage. And since you can’t share what you don’t have, and all we have is His Mercy, that’s all we can share!

                     Every marriage has its trial by fire, and ours is no exception. But one couple Vickie has known from the time she was a teenager living in Sebastopol, CA has had a literal trial by fire. I can’t tell the whole story now, but suffice it to say that Sue and Rusty Lugli were in a horrible motor home accident in the ‘90s in which the vehicle exploded into flames. Rusty was burned over 60 % of his body, and was in a coma for three months. Sue broke her back, but still managed to kick her way out of the burning motor home. Their daughter Nikki was thrown through the front window along with the dog, and landed on a patch of dry grass that ended up being spared miraculously by the ravaging flames.

Sue and Rusty have an incredible story and would admit in an instant that it is the hand of God which has sustained them and continued to remind them that each day is a gift. To meet them is to experience two people who you can easily tell live every day as if it’s their last. They walk joyfully and humbly through the same garbage you and I walk through each day. But there is always a smile in their eyes sparkling, because they have had the gift of immense suffering which puts all of life in it’s correct perspective.

You can read about their story in Sue’s book “Just Get Over It!”, or as the first story in the book “Amazing Grace for Married Couples” by Jeff Cavins, Matthew Pinto, and Patti Armstrong.

In 1999 Sue and Rusty, along with their kids and grandkids moved from Sacramento to Buellton, CA – right across the Santa Ynez River from the Carmelites of St. Joseph. They own 2000 plus acres and share opposite sides of the river with Sr. Jean Marie’s 100 acres.

That’s right, they are right across the river!