Such Joy!

I am overflowing with joy right now so I’ll let it fill up a blog post in hopes that it can bring you some joy as well.

My joy was tapped by a phone call, one that I missed, half an hour ago. It is from my friend. Yes, I am actually thrilled even though I missed his call. He has been suffering with health issues for the past few weeks and specifically over the past few days. I hadn’t heard from him in a few days so, with the help of the internet and the interestingly old-school habit of his pal keeping a land line, I was able to locate a mutual friend through the white pages online, someone I haven’t seen since the mid-90s. We had an enjoyable phone call and with the humor typical of our mutual, ill friend, he explained the situation to me. As we spoke, our friend was on the upswing and “head and shoulders” above where he had been the day before.

This friend had an incident on Saturday which was very very bad, but I am told he is now recovering. I was unaware of that. Our last conversation was on Friday night.

I look at my silly texts from the past few days: links to articles about the demise of couchsurfing, photos I sent of bloated lakes above Texas, increasingly concerned texts as mine were met by silence. Finally, last night, a text sent with tears in my eyes telling him I didn’t know when he would read it but that I wanted him to know that we were thinking about him. I wondered if it would be days or weeks before he go around to being in touch again. So, you can imagine my excitement when I see that he called me about half an hour ago. I don’t know what it will be like to talk to him. Over the past few days, I’ve had sentimental thoughts, funny thoughts and disbelieving thoughts at the health issues he is experiencing right now.

He’s the one who talked me into walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in 2002. He invited me in about 1999 and I blithely RSVP’d yes, hoping he’d forget about it by the time 2002 rolled around. Well, he did not forget about it and I found myself flying to Spain to meet him 13 years ago this week. Our plan was simply to “meet in front of the cathedral in Leon” on a certain date. He sat in a bench there every hour on the hour that day until I made it to the spot. My over confident Spanish caused me to accidentally buy myself a one way ticket to “Avila” when I was trying to say “A Leon” so that caused a beautiful, mystical delay traipsing around the land of St. Teresa for a few hours. Anyhow, we met on that bench and took off walking. He, already a veteran of a few weeks on the camino, told me some of the lore and uncharacteristically beheld a butterfly with much sentiment as it flew by. Myself, a newbie on the trail, chuckled at his sweet observations of the butterfly and found myself shedding the following within 1 mile of setting off:




-giant lonely planet guidebook to Spain

-Extra pens

-Extra coat

and some other stuff I don’t recall. When you start lugging your stuff around you quickly realize we can live without most of it.He had lots of stories to tell me already and described the hostels where we’d be crashing on floors and bunks among elderly French bicyclists who, it turns out, will strip and change clothes right in front of you with no warning. And so began our first few hours of our adventure together. It is the hardest physical feat I’ve accomplished in my life. We swore to one another that we would not permit the other to take up that endeavor again in the future. I’ve been invited and tempted a few times but I remember our shared vow, shared in the midst of new, camino-caused ailments and exhaustion. We laugh about it now. We chuckle at any quote calling life a pilgrimage or whatnot because we know that the pilgrimage is different when you arrive on an a/c bus in a town for a few hours vs. when you’ve walked it, schlepping your same two outfits and journal over hill and over dale, over the river and through the woods, through amber waves of grain (and hops) and arrive at your destination, weak-kneed, tired, sweating, sore, hurt, thinner, hungry, thirsty, unwashed, smelly, collapsing in a pile in a pew and crying for all the things you ever forgot to cry about in the past, for all the things you feel at that moment and for all the things you may have to cry for in the future, just in case this was your last chance to cry.

So, I’ll continue to inundate his phone with texts and in the meantime I ask you to storm heaven with prayers for his speedy recovery.

Update: He is out of the hospital and back home. Please continue prayers for his recovery.


Offer it Up

This is my uncle. I am very proud of him and think you will find this article inspiring.

Al Ostergaard volunteers for parish despite disability

Starting the Holy Redeemer Thrift Shop gives him a chance to give back to God

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Why you want to know Allen “Al” Ostergaard: In spite of numerous health problems, Al continues to volunteer every day at the Holy Redeemer Thrift Shop that he started in the parish.

Parish: Holy Redeemer

City: El Dorado

Age: 70

Family: Wife Judi, five grown children and four grandchildren


Arkansas Catholic’s theme this year is “Worth it.” What investments of time or money have you made to enrich your faith?

I am limited because I’ve got lots of disabilities and I am limited in what I can do, but I made a promise that as long as the Lord would allow me to get up every morning, I would dedicate my life to working for him and the Church.

How long have you been in Arkansas?

Since 1988. My wife’s mother and father are from El Dorado. Her daddy passed away in 1988 and we moved here to take care of her mother. I’ve been retired since 1977 because of a medical disability.

Did you always attend church as a family?

(When we lived) in North Carolina and Moorhead, Minn., Judi wasn’t Catholic yet, her children weren’t, and they started going to church with me. I liked that. Once we got here, Judi and her two kids really got involved with going to church with me on a regular basis. Judi expressed to me that she would like to take the RCIA course, so she and her two children took that. It was a short time later that they became Catholic.

What fuels your dedication to the church?

I had a real “come-to-Jesus meeting” several years ago. I was diagnosed with refractory anemia, which is terminal. Generally when they tell you that, you’ve got about six months to live. I went to confession when we visited Our Lady of Good Health in Wisconsin. There I kind of decided that I needed to do something with my life. I really feel that’s what I am doing. I feel so close to the Lord now. It brought a real closeness. I don’t know how to explain it; I feel like I am at the place now where I always wanted to be.

How did the thrift shop come to be?

I talked to Father Gregory (Pilcher, the former pastor) one day because we had this empty building down here, and I said “Father I’ve got a lot of time on my hands and I got an idea of a way to make the church some extra money.” I brought up the idea of a thrift store and he liked it.

How do you deal with your disabilities?

A lot of days I do work in pain. Father Gregory had an old saying when you had to go through an ordeal or pain or whatever, “Offer it up to the Lord.”

What does “offer it up” mean to you?

It is kind of a way that I connect. I just watched a movie the other day, “Killing Jesus,” and I know the kind of pain that he endured during his crucifixion, whatever pain I am suffering pales in comparison to what he went through. If he could sacrifice himself like he did, I can certainly work through some pain.

What would you tell others with disabilities who are not as active?

God finds a way to tap into your potential in lots of different ways that you cannot even comprehend. Never give up. I’ve found that by devoting myself to the Lord and to the Church, that everything is going to be all right.

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