Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Journey Is a Roller Coaster

I miss posting on this blog, but often do not because I have TOO many good ideas!  I can't pick just one, so don't post anything.  I haven't heard any complaints, though.  Ha!

The past couple of weeks have been such an emotional roller coaster.

A very wonderful man from our church and community passed away, leaving behind a legacy of leadership, faith, and love for our town, parish, and city.  Tom was such a gift to all who knew him.  His battle with cancer was heroic, and we are all better for having known him.

A dear friend of mine had a sudden death in her family.  It has rocked their world.  No one ever expects to lose a younger sibling who is so energetic and seemingly healthy.  I didn't know Jody, but I know her older sister, and it breaks my heart to see her work through the loss.

Our community and my husband's work place have seen juveniles go missing.  Some by their own choice; some, due to the cruel decision of others.  As a parent, I groan within, not being able to grasp the anguish their families must be experiencing.

Ahh, but the joy...!

New babies coming into the world.  A new home, and a fresh start, for friends who have walked through indescribable pain--joy in the morning, after their long night of sorrow.  New friends.  Faithful men who will soon be ordained deacons and priests.  Sweet little friends who will soon receive their first communion.  Good friends who have become dearer.

And in the midst of it all, this song rings ever true:

"Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me."

Have a blessed Sunday!





Saturday, January 23, 2016

Lessons Learned

If you've been reading this blog for any time at all, you know the purpose is to share my journey--life in general, and, more specifically, my faith.  This post is going to be a bit more on the mixed up side of things.  This is about a literal journey to a literal destination, with the lessons learned along the way.

A few months ago, a great deal on plane tickets showed up in my email. I decided this was my opportunity to visit my sister and her family in Colorado.  Anyone who knows me at all knows trips are a major stressor for me.  And traveling in the winter?  Not me!  But this was a too-good-to-pass-up deal.  I made up my mind that I was going to do this!  Long story short is that I made the trip and had a wonderful time.  However, I learned some lessons that definitely translate to the bigger picture of life!

1.  If you have indigestion the night before your flight leaves to go back home, it may not be indigestion.

2.  If you have to have stomach "flu," have it at your sister's home rather than in an airplane or airport.

3.  Sisters are great nurses.



4.  If you have the opportunity to visit family--do it.  Don't put it off.  The memories far outweigh the stress.



5.  Colorado is just as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer.



6.  Great nieces and nephews are just as much fun as nieces and nephews.


7.  Little-kid giggles never grow old.



8.  Watching your nieces raise their own kids is so cool.




9.  Sister time is waaay underrated.  (As is seeing them with their grandkids.)





10.  The imagination of young children is a wonderful thing.



11.  No matter how old you are, if a 1 yr. old offers you invisible food in a pot, and tells you it is "hot," you will blow on it, just to see the joy on his face.



12.  "Bump and Jumps" are a great invention.

13.  Gelato may have been made in Italy, but it was invented in heaven.



14.  A Colorado mug full of chocolate candy is always a great birthday gift!



15.  Americans are some of the most rude people on the planet.

16.  Americans are some of the most kind, generous, and helpful people on the planet.

17.  America's landscape is amazing.



18.  Free pretzels from an airline may get tiresome after a few hours, but at least it's food!

19.  Auntie Anne's across the hall from your flight's gate is a definite gift from God when you've only had free soda and juice for several hours.



21.  Racing across an airport in record time, only to discover the doors are closed and you have to wait two hours for the next flight...is sometimes a blessing.  You have time to eat a pretzel.  :)

22.  People on moving walkways and in terminal hallways should not text/talk on said walkways or in the middle of said hallways, just in case someone is racing across the airport in record time.

23.  A monorail train can hold a lot of people, especially if several flights have gate changes.

24.  A pink hoodie can be a great reward for a weary traveler.  (Especially when it's on sale!)



25.  Just because a sandwich costs $10.00 and has a fancy name, doesn't necessarily mean it is tasty or delicious.

26.  Being away from your husband and sons for a week is tough!

27.  Being greeted at the airport when you've been gone a week is WONDERFUL.



28.  Missing a major snowstorm is a great idea.  I definitely recommend it.

29.  People-watching is either the greatest or most agonizing thing ever.  I haven't reached a conclusion.

20.  I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.



Happy weekend, everyone!



Thursday, December 31, 2015

Out of the Silence

During this year's Advent season, I decided to take a break from posting on Blogger, as well as penning new articles for Catholic365.  It wasn't so much that I had no ideas, as it seems I constantly have new ideas running a race around the track of my mind.  No, it was more that I felt this deep need for silence.

The season began with a hectic rush of "go here, run there, do this, fix that" in a crazy pace of non-stop action.  I came down with a painful, energy-robbing sinus infection.  Advent was not starting off well.

The second Sunday of Advent, though, brought me to the silence.  We attended the annual evening of "Lessons and Carols" at our diocesan seminary.  It was deep, beautiful nourishment for my soul.  In the midst of the words of Scripture--promising our Lord's birth--and the lyrics and melodies of the carols and instrumental harmonies...God brought a sweet, holy silence into my heart.  The night began in quiet darkness.  Then, slowly but methodically, the candles in the room were lit.  The prophecy of Isaiah 9, being fulfilled in Matthew 4, came to my mind:


"that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:


'The land of Zeb′ulun and the land of Naph′tali,
toward the sea, across the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
 
the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.' ”  Matthew 4:14-16

I couldn't shake the feeling that these concepts were meant to be the theme of my own Advent meditations:  silence, darkness, and then, the great Light.

Imagine that quiet night on the hillsides outside Bethlehem.  It seemed a night like every other:  shepherds watching sheep, taking turns guarding the flock, and preparing for the next day's task of herding.  The silence suddenly exploding with light and sound, as angels appeared and announced the birth of the long-awaited Messiah.  

Though a night filled with the noisy sounds of a busy town (overcrowded with pilgrims due to the census), a stable filled with the silence, with only the occasional bleating of a sheep, the lowing of a cow, the crunch of an animal chewing its late-night meal...then the cries of a young mother-to-be in the throes of labor.  The voice of a newborn trying out His new lungs.  A true Light in the quiet of a darkened barn.

As we walk into the new year, may the moments that changed history on that night so long ago, change your history as well.  Let the silence reign, then listen to the voice of the Child, crying out and making the darkness a new place of light.





Saturday, November 07, 2015

Falling Into Memories

I think we've all had that aroma-memory moment.  It's similar to the music-memory moment.  (You know the one.  You're in the middle of a store, hear a song on the in-store music, and a flood of images fill your mind.)   Aroma-memories are so amazing, aren't they?  While walking behind an older woman recently, a waft of her perfume caressed my senses.  Suddenly, I saw my grandmother's face so clearly.  It was a sweet moment.

Fall is like aroma-memory overload for me.  There are so many crazy-good memories associated with the fragrance of the fallen leaves, the bonfires, the pumpkin-scented candles...

Today, I got to have one of those memories.  We were in apple harvest overload in our house.  I had purchased a couple of bags of apples at the grocery store a few weeks ago.  Only days later, I decided to take a trip to the local orchard, and brought home a "large" bag of seconds.  (These are great apples, and always a mix of varieties.)  We've eaten a lot of apples, but...my refrigerator overfloweth.  This evening, I took the opportunity to downgrade our stock to "slightly full" by making some applesauce.

I've made applesauce a couple of different ways in the past.  But today was the "best" way, as I relived memories.

For about four years, we lived in an area of the country fondly known as the U.P.  For those of you who are wondering, "WHAT?!"  Those letters stand for "Upper Peninsula," and it is the northernmost part of Michigan.  It is a land of forests, waterfalls, beaches, shores along the Great Lakes, and snow by the ton.  It is beautiful and wonderful and breathtaking.

During our time there, a sweet friend would occasionally gift us with a tub of her homemade applesauce.  My husband absolutely LOVES applesauce.  (Most of us eat a small serving.  He eats it by the bowl.  I am not kidding.)  Well, Myrna's applesauce was the most amazing concoction he had ever tasted.  A whipped topping container-full would disappear within two meals (or less).

After we moved back to troll land (another U.P. reference), we had a very prolific apple tree in our backyard.  I couldn't stand seeing all those apples go to waste, or worse yet, be destroyed by wasps and bees.  I made a quick call to Myrna.  "How do I make your famous applesauce?"

She replied with her usual humble chuckle, and quietly explained the process.  The thing about great cooks, though, is that they have learned by the "doing."  Trying to describe it over the phone was like describing a great work of art to someone who cannot see...words fail.  She did her best to help this culinarily-challenged young mom understand the process.  But there was one major piece of kitchen equipment missing:  the apple grinder.

I asked if I could possibly use another utensil?   Again, she laughed and said, "Well, I've never done it any other way!"  I figured I could try, though.

Well, being a mom of two young, energetic boys, my applesauce project was delayed a few days.  During that time, I received a curious-looking package in the mail.  From?  Of course, Myrna.  She added a note saying she had an "extra" apple grinder, and thought maybe I could use it.

I have never treasured anything more.  What a kind, thoughtful gesture!

So this afternoon, as I turned my surplus into savory applesauce, the warm, homey scent of the fruit filled my kitchen.  I reminisced about the lovely woman who made this moment possible.  I ground those apples into a smooth, creamy blend of flavors.

My applesauce will never be as tasty as Myrna's, but the memories are still as sweet.

Happy fall!


                            



Monday, November 02, 2015

Standing In The Need Of Prayer

I haven't heard this song in many, many years, but the words came to my mind today.

If you've never heard it, check out the link below (they modernized the words a bit, but it's still pretty much the same).

The basic idea is this:  Here I am, Lord, needing prayer.  Just little ol' me.  It's not someone else.  It's me!  I can't speak for all the others, Lord, but I know I need prayer!

The beautiful thing about this song is that it's descriptive of every single one of us.  We are standing in the need of prayer.  Whether our day is full of joy or sorrow, we are still in need of prayer.

I often forget that simple concept.  It's so much easier for me to pray for others than for myself.  People share their prayer needs with me on a regular basis.  I am not one of those, "I'll-pray-for-you-but-not-until-I-see-you-again-and-remember-I'm-supposed-to-pray-for-you" kind of individuals.  I take the entrustment of others' prayer requests very seriously.

Don't sit there reading this and think, "What a sweet, kind lady!  How wonderful of you to do this for others."  Because it's not a fair assessment.

Yes, praying for others is a great thing to do.  I'm not sorry I do that.

But that's the problem.

I often don't pray for or about myself.  For long periods of time.  (Usually several days in a row.)  So, you might be thinking, "Well, that's good, right?  It's very unselfish to pray for others and not yourself."

Maybe.  But probably not.

It's called pride.

You see, if I'm always lifting the needs of others, and never my own, then I have less time to allow the Holy Spirit to "search me...and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"  (Psalm 139:23-24)  If there is no searching and trying and knowing, then there is no finding of wickedness and walking in a new way.

So that creates another problem.  Because God already knows of my wickedness.  He has already peered into the deep recesses of who I am and what I have done.  It's really ME who hasn't searched, known, and seen.  It's ME who hasn't been listening.  It's ME who is avoiding repentance.

Pride and denial are a lethal combination.

Though the words may seem simple and catchy, there is so much truth to the song.  "It's me, it's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.  Not my brother, not my sister, but it's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer."

I will still pray for you.  But I also need to pray for me.



Friday, October 02, 2015

While a Nation Grieves

It has happened.  Again.  Another troubled person has taken out their pain on others, leaving behind distraught teachers, parents, friends.  There is yet another community trying to sort out the reasons and work through the agony of a loss beyond comprehension.  It will never make sense.  There will always be more questions than answers.  A tragedy of indescribable proportions leaves a deep wound.

I have heard those in the news media trying to give their own insights.  Some are wondering why it is that "only" 10 were killed and there is an uproar, when over 300 people have been killed in Chicago in 2015, and we hear little about it?

Why was a 5-month old baby killed yesterday, as the car she was in was hit by bullets meant for others?  She is one of several victims in a series of shootings in Cleveland. It only proves that the size of a town or city does not cause or prevent violence.

My question is, "Why isn't there outrage at every...single...violent...death?"

I won't pretend to have the answers.  Because, honestly, there isn't a simple one.  No matter how much it's analyzed and discussed, investigated and examined, the truth is, we will never know all the "why's" of such brutality.  Why is it that we live in a world that sees life of so little consequence that shooting others is a commonplace way of expending our rage?  Why is it that babies are aborted every day by the hands of medical professionals who were sworn to save lives, not take them?

(Some have said that legalizing abortion made an improvement in our society.  I can't even begin to see any reasoning for that.  How can killing innocents ever improve anything?  Safe abortions are still abortions.)

Some would say the answer is more gun control.  Statistically, though, that doesn't pan out.  Chicago and New York City have some of the tightest laws on gun ownership, yet still have very high rates of shootings per capita.  So to this I say, what we might need are more ways to keep guns away from criminals.  I don't know the answer, though.  I don't claim to know how that can be done.

Some would say the answer is more security in schools.  Well, that might help with school shootings.  But what about the streets?  What about businesses where an irate employee returns to take revenge?  There are not enough security guards to place in every business in every town on every street of the country.

Some would say we need less prescriptions for mental health and more counseling.  That also might help.  I don't know much on this topic.  I do know that the old days of simply institutionalizing anyone with mental issues are a thing of the past, and that great strides have been made in understanding the human psyche.  How to deal with all the current issues, I have no idea.

This I do know.  The more we separate people from the Church, and foster hatred for anything the Church stands for/against, the more we will see these types of things happen.  I do know that millions of people across the centuries have found hope in Christ, when all hope seemed lost.  I do know that the Church provides a place of refuge for the lost, lonely, and downtrodden.  I do know there are many amazing and wonderful Church-provided ministries that help those with depression and other mental issues.  I know that our nation needs to return to trusting in the Creator of all and following in His ways.

I do know that we need to pray for our nation.  This I know.

                                       





Saturday, September 12, 2015

What Have We Learned?


Like so many others in our country, the events of 9/11/01 will forever be emblazoned in my mind:  The initial shock of the report that a plane had hit a building in New York City.  The horror of watching live TV as another plane hit the tower adjacent to the first.  The continuing agony as I learned of more hijackings, more downed planes, and the loss of so many lives.  Anguish as people began leaping from the infernos.  Overwhelming grief as hour after hour of coverage unfolded:  firemen and other rescuers dying to save lives, heroic passengers giving their lives to protect others on the ground...and on and on it went.  The angry realization that someone plotted these attacks in the name of honoring God and their religion.  The feeling of unity with our entire nation, as all citizens were called to prayer.  Even in the midst of tragedy, America was at her finest, standing strong against terrorism.

But now, fourteen years later, what have we learned from 9/11?  Have the lessons from that tragic day really sunk into our national conscience?  What have we, as "regular" people done with 9/11 in our daily lives?

Please don't misunderstand me.  I believe that life must go on.  I believe we must look beyond the tragedy and show the world that we cannot be stopped by such events.  But what have we learned?  There are three things that were in the forefront in the weeks and days after we were attacked, that I hope we can and will continue to foster in our own lives, and in the lives of generations to come.




1.  Faith.
     It was the first thing people said in response:  We need to pray.
    Prayer vigils sprang up everywhere.  There was no cry of "separation of Church and state," because we were all too busy praying to argue about whether or not that was a good idea.  Churches were packed to capacity.  Prayers were sent up at national sporting events, and no one cried, "Foul!"
     Are we still praying for our country and our leaders?  Or are we too busy criticizing them?  Are we continuing to learn our faith so that we have hope to share with the world?  Are we still entreating God to bless America?





2.  Freedom.
     Patriotic clothing became popular again.  We hadn't seen that much red, white, and blue since 1976.  Flags were waving from front porches all over the nation.  Our military once again received the honor due them for their sacrifices.  Parents were once again proud of their sons and daughters who signed up to go fight on foreign soil.
     The first responders (emergency personnel of every agency) were lauded as heroes.  Their daily work became national headlines as we saw them work tirelessly and witnessed them forfeit their own lives for the sake of others.
     In short, we were once again proud to be Americans.  We were all standing arm-in-arm, no matter what color our skin, no matter what our station in life.  Young and old, rich and poor, men and women, children and teens...we were together in showing the world that we would not be defeated.
     But are we now, a mere 14 years later?  Or are we more divided than ever?  Are we standing behind those who defend us, whether in our own county, or in other lands?






3.  Forgiveness.
     One thing more.  This is a tough one, too.  Maybe the toughest of the three.
     I know this is no secret, but I am a Christian.  And yet, I will readily admit what I mentioned above:  After the initial shock wore off, I was really, really angry.  The "let's go get those Muslims" mindset took hold of me.  When media sources began spouting their politically correct mantras, I was even more incensed.  A wrong had been enacted agianst our country, and we needed to make it right.  I still believe there is sometimes a cause for "just" war.  Those who commit such atrocities do need to be held accountable and brought to justice.  War crimes are just that--crimes.
     But just as I know a very small number of pro-life people go around shooting abortion doctors and bombing clinics , and 99% of Christians are not like the folks from Westboro, I also know there are thousands of Muslim citizens in this country and around the world who were just as traumatized as the rest of us when those buildings and airplanes came down.  The truth is, there were Muslims in the World Trade Center buildings, too.  Their lives were taken just as senselessly as the rest, whether they were Jews, Christians, atheists, Buddhists...or whatever.  The terrorists didn't pick and choose.
     I also know that Jesus didn't die just so we can forgive our friends when they wrong us.  He died for every...single...person.  He taught us to forgive every...single...person.  No exceptions.
     This lesson rings so true, too, if you think about the "why" of 9/11.  Really, isn't bitterness, anger, hatred, and unforgiveness the motive behind the incidents that occurred?  If we continue in those traits, aren't we perpetuating the mindset we say we loathe?
     And so I leave you with the words of the One who had the most reason NOT to forgive, and yet chose to offer it to the whole human race anyway.  Truly, in light of Jesus' sacrifice, how can we NOT forgive?

Luke 6:27-36 (RSVCE):

27 “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your cloak do not withhold your coat as well. 30 Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again.31 And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

It's a Mom Thing

Well, friends, it's that time of year again.  Our oldest son has begun his second year of college.  Our younger son is in his junior year of high school.  (When I began this blog, they were 10 and 7!)  We're not quite "empty nesters," but are feeling the beginnings of what that will look like.  If you have children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, or close friends that have children, you can probably relate.  They grow up so quickly.  Those toddler years seem interminable.  Then, suddenly, you're in the teen years and dealing with that new world of raging hormones and roller coaster emotions.  Blink your eyes, and they're turning 18--joining the world of adulthood.

Today is the Feast of Saint Monica.  If you're not familiar with her story, she was an incredibly faithful servant of God.  She was a Christian, but for whatever reason was given in marriage to a pagan man named Patricius.  He was a man given to fits of anger, and lived a very profligate lifestyle (read:  he knew a lot of women).  They had a son named Augustine, who was very intelligent, but not inclined to follow in his mother's footsteps when it came to faith.  There were probably at least three other children born to this marriage, but very little is known of Augustine's siblings.

Monica chose to remain steadfast in her relationship with God.  This included a life of prayer for both her husband and son.  Patricius died when Augustine was 17 years old, having requested baptism about one year prior to his passing.

His eldest son was in pursuit of knowledge, but wasn't particularly discerning in the sources of his education.  At the age of 29, he moved to Rome, and then Milan.  His persistent mother followed after him, hoping to have a positive influence on him even in the midst of such a perverse society.  The bishop of Milan, Ambrose, became her spiritual director.


"It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish."


As she poured out her heart to him, he gave her wise advice:  rely on tears and prayer.  Eventually, Augustine became acquainted with Ambrose as well.  Through his influence, the young intellectual slowly worked his way toward God.  His restless heart found its way back to its Maker.  Monica's prayers had been answered in a pround way.

Augustine's writings have become a great resource for Christians throughout history.  To say his influence upon theology and catechesis have been remarkable is really an understatement.  The prayers of Saint Monica have not only affected her prodigy, but the Church at large throughout the multitude of generations since their time (in the 300's).  We owe an incredible debt of gratitude to Monica for her persistence in prayer and indefatigable efforts to evangelize her son.


Which brings me back to my original thought.  My sons are growing into men.  They do not want their "mommy" following them around (Monica listened to Ambrose on that issue, thankfully) and telling them what to do.  And honestly, that is not my role at this stage in their lives.  (Well, as it applies to our oldest, especially.  Our younger son is still just 16...)  But, following the example of Saint Monica, I should instead place them constantly before the Lord in prayer, asking Him to use all the things my husband and I (along with the other godly men and women they have known throughout their lives) have taught them.  He alone can take those lessons and shape my sons into the men he has called them to be.  While our influence is never completely gone, it is time to place them in the hands of God and step back.

But, as I often tell them:  I'll always be your mom.  :)