Saturday, December 17, 2011


I have been struggling with the word Grace.  I have heard about God's Grace my whole life in sermons, songs, and many platitudes.  I have always wondered, ‘What is Grace’???  My new pastor defined it recently as, “The unconditional love given to those who don’t deserve it.” Even with this definition in hand, the personal meaning of Grace has eluded me until just recently when I was given a real life example of Grace.

My friend Pamela and her family have opened their home to my family ever since we moved from Clovis.  On a moment’s notice, she has let me spend the night in order to raid my storage unit.  These trips have been a wonderful blessing in and of themselves.  On our last family trip to visit, Pamela offered me her home for the Thanksgiving holiday.  She was taking her family to Germany and the house would be empty, so she could see no reason for us to stay in our trailer on a holiday when her home was available. 

This of course sounded great to us, but we had no concept of how kind hearted a gift they were offering us.  As we spent time alone in Pamela’s home, my family became more and more aware of how we had been given something special and unique.  I cooked in her kitchen, we bathed, ironed, cleaned etc. When something was needed, be it a pen or pet cleaner, the hostess was not there to help me find it.  She opened her home to me in a way that I would not normally access it.  I was overwhelmed with the trust and generosity my family had been given.

As the days passed I began to realize this was not going to be a fair trade.  No thank you note, gift or any good deed I could think of would repay this act of kindness.  I had done nothing to earn or deserve such a blessing.  We’ve been good friends, but this was something so much more.  My heart became almost heavy with the amount of gratitude I felt and I knew I was going to have to accept this gift, simply accept it. 

It then dawned on me that this is Grace.   I hear the word and now I have a clear picture with the emotions to match.  Before me is a real life example illustrating how Grace feels. Jesus came to this earth and sacrificed his life so I may have a relationship with His Father.  There is no way to earn His affection, I cannot repay His sacrifice and I will never deserve what He did for me on Calvary. Grace is accompanied by a very deep, heavy and wonderful feeling. Grace is a gift and all I can do is allow my heart to feel the weight of gratitude.  I know I am going to accept this gift, simply accept it.

Thank you Pamela.

  Posts from the Trailer Park ~ Catherine

Monday, November 21, 2011


October holds such sweet memories for me.  Pictures, laughter, friends and family mixed together in memories that are heavy laden with satisfaction.  I have years of some of the fondest fall memories imaginable.  In the past, my son and I have spent the entire month planning unique family costumes and then executing their creation. Our family has, in seasons past, shopped on line for karaoke music and gathered decorations for the most wonderful party of our year.  We have taken hayrides, stumbled through corn mazes, and strolled through pumpkin patches.  I usually cook an amazing array of fall foods, which have included cranberry pumpkin bread, butternut squash soup, cranberry pork, pumpkin rolls, and Chai Tea.  With the heat of the summer leaves, my kitchen came alive with the warmth and the smells of the season. My fall decorations were only slightly less ornate than Christmas, bringing them out signified the beginning of my holidays. For many years, most Octobers have been this way for me.

Not this year.

Besides the most obvious changes of not having my home, friends and the connections that have accompanied it, our lives took yet another twisted detour. My husband became quite ill about six weeks ago.  We spent the month in and out of emergency rooms and ended up at UC Davis hospital. My husband spent 4 days with some of the best doctors in the country trying to diagnose the problem, with no results to show for it all. The stress of juggling our home schooling schedule, the needs of our pets, our lack of income, and the enduring mystery of my husband’s ailment had taken a heavy toll on my little family. 

October came and went for us with little to no celebration.  We drove right past all of the pumpkin patches and corn mazes. Fortunately my son and I worked on his costume very early, but there wasn't any time for me to join him this year.  I don't really like to cook in my little trailer kitchen on a normal day, so with this hectic schedule we were lucky to have Pizza Lunchables and snack pack pudding. This year, there were no fall colored plates, no twinkling lights on the mantel amidst sunflowers and cattails, and no pumpkins decorating our front steps. As the green of summer faded away, so did the hopes for the rich joy we had possessed in seasons past.

But we still possessed each other.  No thwarting of fall traditions can shake my thankfulness.  Although we did not get a diagnosis for my husband, we were very grateful he was released from the hospital the day before Halloween so my son was able to trick or treat with his new friends.  This also allowed for our school party where my son had great fun making spiders and playing games.  My husband is doing better and we have now been "hospital free" for three weeks.  We spent a lot of time together and my son was a trooper with the schedule changes.  He was a great caregiver, kept up on his schoolwork, and really did not complain about the things he was missing.  He seemed mindful of the small acts of God’s grace. I found this impressive and humbling coming from a 6 year old. October did not turn out the way I had planned. I am thankful, nonetheless, for the blessings that came our way in these circumstances. 

Our family made it through on promises. Promises we found in God’s word. 

I have heard your prayers and seen your tears; I will heal you.  2 Kings 20:5

Do not be afraid, stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  Exodus 14:13

We have allowed the word of God to comfort us through some very dark days.  He was our strength when we had none.  It was God who calmed our fears and saw through our tears. He is not finished with this yet, but we are standing with Him and anticipating what He is doing in our lives. I trust my God to be with me until it is finished. This has been a very different time for us.  I have been learning to let go of many of my traditions and plans in order to live the life I am given.  God has met all of my needs. This year I have let go of things I value, only to find my heart full of His Grace.  
Posts from the Trailer Park ~ Catherine

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Shooting Star

When you see a shooting star it is only for a brief moment.  Your eyes widen, inhaling a deep quick breath, while reaching for the arm of your companion in order to share the wonder.   The star is quick, surprising, and joyful and then it is gone.

I arrived here in Angels Camp broken, crushed in spirit.  I cried out to God in my loneliness.  I have needed to move so many times. I’ve had to leave behind all that has been familiar, comfortable, and friendly.  I always arrive in a new place a bit frightened by thoughts of continued loneliness and rejection.   Each new place has its own characteristics from embracing to hostile. What would this new place be like?  Will they get to know me?  How long is it going to take before I have non-cyber people in my life once again? As soon as I whispered this prayer, my shooting star appeared.

Sandy, in her wide brimmed hat, Hawaiian shirt, and crocs, rolled her motorized wheel chair into my life as soon as I arrived.  She lived three sites down from us and had a large bag of carrots to give away.  I was her intended recipient. Over the next few days she appeared in my yard any time I was outside.  She probed me for information, looking for a need she could help fill.  She began giving me gifts.  I would leave for the afternoon and return to find gifts of plants or food on my patio.

Sandy brought laughter with her and left joy behind.  My son Joshua truly enjoyed her company.  He would wait with anticipation for her visits.  He would peek over the bushes for any stirring from her home.  When she came, he would gladly offer to bag up any soda bottles or cans we had to give her so she could turn them in for extra money.  Sandy wheeled around the neighborhood with a friend who also had an electric chair.  Joshua stood in the road as if he were officiating a drag race.  He loved to see who would get to him first and this left all three of them in giggles.

Sandy was my shooting star and you are the arm I am reaching out to share the wonder with.  Her heart gave out a few weeks ago and she passed away very suddenly.  Just like a star, she was gone. By writing this I am attempting to give honor to the best gift she ever gave me, friendship. She came as an answer to prayer to acclimate me to a new environment.  I will be eternally grateful for her kindness and laughter.  She will forever be a reminder for me to be kind to whoever God puts in my path for however long they are there. 

Posts from the Trailer Park ~ Catherine

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Cord of Three Strands

I am the mother of one.  In my youth I floundered away my time.  I then put forth a great work effort. By then, I was old enough to know I did not want to start a family until I could stay at home.  I was set in that goal.  My husband and I saved and planned. Everything was perfect until two weeks before my baby was due; his company laid him off work.  All that planning and work was for not….

Now what??

There was nothing the outside world could throw at us to stop the wondrous thing God was doing in our lives.  We became parents in spite of our circumstances and we have never looked back.  Our baby fit perfectly into our lives. We became three and will forever be stronger together. 

We continue to struggle, as is the human condition, but there is still nothing the world can throw at us to stop the wondrous thing God is doing in our lives...

Because we are a cord of three.


Friday, August 19, 2011

A simple act of kindness and so much more...

As we have established, I am new here.
The site my trailer sits on has not been lived on in five years. The man that lived here before me was a gardener of some kind so there are many fruit trees, vines, and bushes that have not been tended to. I have been doing a lot of work in my little outdoor space.
My son, Joshua, and I found a ton of rocks that all matched and we created a small rock wall together. My plan was to fill in behind the wall with dirt and plant some flowers. I got ahead of myself and purchased flowers before the bed was finished. That is just how I do things. I got my eyes on pretty flowers and I had to have them. My justification, “What if they were gone when I finished preparing the bed?”
I have a neighbor who is helpful beyond measure. Her joy is to go from site to site assessing and filling needs. Joshua and I like her a great deal. She loves to garden and it did not take her long to see that I needed dirt.
She offered me a bucket of chicken poo.
I should have said no right there, but I have seen many beautiful flowers growing in the yards around the park. I was already told their secret ingredient – you guessed it! She brought me the bucket of poo and told me to fill it with water, keep it full, and soak it for a week so no seeds will grow when it is in my flowerbed.
I was quickly out of my league with this gardening adventure. In my family of origin we cannot handle smells. I am not going to go into any detail here except to say that things were getting extreme. One of my new friends with beautiful flowers rescued me from my latest gardening project. She borrowed a truck, hauled the bucket out of the back of my lot, and her poor husband dumped it in her garden.
Again, these people do not know me. I have done nothing for them in any way. Yet they are willing to implant themselves into my life. She handled the dirtiest, smelliest part of my life without hesitation…just because I needed it. Once again, I am blown away by the genuine kindness of my new friends.
There is a lot for me to learn here. I hope and pray I am paying attention and am able to keep these lessons in my heart.
I don’t want to walk away from this place unchanged.

Posts from the Trailer Park ~ Catherine

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Recycle Guy

We were sleeping soundly in our trailer when the sound of the garbage truck woke us up. Keith got up and started getting ready for work. I was dozing in that early-morning-brain-fog while listening to the sounds of garbage.
It began to dawn on me…we were allowed only one small trash can at the park and ours was chained to our trailer. Our can was completely full. As the Garbage truck went by, I extracted myself from my comfy spot, crammed my stocking feet into my flip-flops, and hurdled myself towards the garbage can. I fiddled with the lock, fiddled with the lock, it was too early…what was the combination?!? 

The garbage truck was now driving up the hill and turning onto the next street. My back was recently injured during our move, so anticipating the pain, I picked up the can and started up the hill. I was moving with the can as fast as I could go. Up, up, up the hill huffing and puffing and limping. In my pajamas, wild hair, flip-flops, and socks...I made it to the garbage truck.

Low and behold, a young Arnold Schwarzenegger type guy gave me a white toothy grin and said in a soothing accent, “I’m the recycle guy.” 

I felt my face turn red. 

I kind of giggled and said, “Oh, I’m new here.” It was the best I could do.

The walk of shame as I waddled the can back down the hill was priceless.

In my life I have not prayed much for humility because there is ample opportunity for God to adjust my pride already. 

1 Peter 5:5 Put on humility. For God resists proud ones, but He gives grace to the humble.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Posts From the Trailer Park

Warning: the post you are about to read is not written by Susan Pauling but by her slightly older and funnier sister Catherine Brison.   That’s right, we both think we are funny and are constantly at war as to who is the funniest. Susan wants me to write on her blog and has suggested that I call my stories “Posts from the Trailer Park”.  This sounds very funny to Susan but it cuts deeply into my pride.  Please understand, my family has recently undergone some very intense changes. They have included multiple job changes, the sale of our home and relocation into a mobile home park.  Not so very funny really.

I chose this location because I have a 6 year old son, Joshua, and he has had to say quite a few emotional goodbyes as of late.  We could have parked our trailer at a RV campground but it would have involved making new friends and constantly saying goodbye to them (again, not funny).  I thought that my family needed community.  I believe that I was right to make this choice and it is working out fine but both my husband and I are dealing with an unexpected shame about telling people where we live. This has surprised us both.  Joshua (being a social butterfly) keeps making friends while we are out.  He will run up to us and ask if he can tell his new friend where we live and ask if they can come over?  Keith and I just cannot bring ourselves to say where we really live…. and we know we are wrong. 

My preconceived notions about this park have been so wrong.  I expected tattooed, pierced, drug taking, idiot hoodlums.  What I got were people.  Real People.  They have greeted me with open arms and have become the immediate community I very much needed. They have more than exceeded my expectations.  But many of these people have been through rough times and they tend to throw all their “junk” out right upon meeting them.  I have been greeted by such statements as, “I used to be homeless, things get better.” And “I have been clean for years now my son still uses but my husband and I are doing good.”  “I buried my child a few years ago” and “I have custody of my daughters children, their fathers are all in jail” (most surely not humorous).  What do you do with this much pain?  They don’t have time or use for pretense.  They throw their life stories out before me, a total stranger, and they seem to dare me not to run. So far, I have not.  They have, in fact, been very kind to me. Their honesty has come with an openness and acceptance that I have found a great comfort in this time of transition.  

God works in mysterious ways.  Every day I pray that I can be His hands, feet, arms and ears to these people and for God to use me while He is working on my pride. Maybe one day I will look back on all of this and laugh-

today is not that day, but until then…

Matthew 25:40- If you have done it (or not) to the very least of my brethren you have done it (or not) to me.