Monthly Archives: February 2016

Hoping for Varsity, Barely Making JV

Spring sports bring me to the realization that if there was a Lenten equivalent for trying out for a Varsity spring sport, I’d be in a bit of trouble. If I tried out for the Lenten Varsity, I just might barely make JV. More likely, I’d be hanging out with the dabblers at the middle school level (still a great thing! – don’t get me wrong middle school parents!). I look to my friends and see people who “do Lent” so much better than I do. They choose things to give up that are quite challenging – and they even succeed! They sacrifice, they change, they make it to daily Mass – every day. Wow – I so admire that. Even my daughter can put me to shame with her level of self-control with her choices of Lenten sacrifice. However, that is not the first time that I’ve learned something from my kids. And I am sure it will not be the last. Can I be them when I grow up?

So I’m sitting in the pew at our parish’s Lenten Mission on Monday night and listening to Allen Hunt – such a rock star. He inspires me whenever I hear him. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, he was a highly successful Methodist pastor of a very large flock who converted to Catholicism. He was on WSB radio. He continues to be a very accomplished author and speaker. He is probably one of the most humble people I have ever heard speak about his faith. He is as real as real gets.

Despite giving an hour-long talk to a full house, one of the first sentences that he spoke touched me the most – not the crescendo or the powerful thesis at the end. At the very beginning of his talk, he said that this Lent is an opportunity for you to step one step forward in your Lenten journey. This is a Lenten journey for you, just you. Not the person in the pew next to you. Not the woman or man in your Bible study who knows more than you. This is your Lenten journey. If you take just one step forward, Jesus steps towards you, with true joy. If you take two, you might just make a major change in your spiritual life. I loved hearing that it was my unique journey towards the Easter miracle. My journey looks different than your journey. But isn’t it incredibly beautiful that we are all walking together in our own unique ways? We can help one another – no doubt.

So don’t compare yourselves to others. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I have heard this so many times, but do I really take it to heart? No. I need work here. Just do what YOU need to do to move towards the grace, mercy and forgiveness of Lent and the joy of the Easter miracle.

I pray that all of you move on your own time to reach your Lord where you are, when you can. He is waiting for you! Do what you can do, and if you can do more, do more. Either way, all is good, and all is God.

 

Now Hear This!

My family and I have been praying for a special intention for more than a year now. It is fundamental to our family’s life and immediate future. We got an answer to our prayer last week, but it did not look close to what I had in my head. In fact, I was downright disappointed and discouraged about the answer. When I called my mom and shared the news, even she said, “We got the answer. It just wasn’t the answer we were looking for.”

So then of course, I start questioning myself and God. You know the swirl that can go on in your head. “Seriously?” I started to think. “This is probably the worst of both worlds!” (And by worst, I don’t really mean worst. It’s always relative of course.) I proceed to call my wise Christian friend and ask for counsel. She told me to stop calling myself a brat (which I was doing), and reminded me that I was human, and my feelings were normal. She said it was OK to feel befuddled.

She helped me to realize that my prayer now needs to change. Now I need to ask God to help me to react to this answered prayer in a way that both honors my feelings and supports my family as we proceed. I need to feel a little more gratitude, and a little less attitude. I need to live today, and ask God to trust in His plan for right now. This answer may not be a permanent answer, but God is putting this in front of us right now.

My friend said – “Now. Here. This.” God’s plan is in front of me right now. It is right here. It is this that my family will be facing and coping with. Will it change? Maybe. But it is our path at this time. Maybe God is actually using this as a way to draw me closer to Him – to rely on Him more and myself less. Maybe just working through this will help me grow and change for the better. Am I scared about the future and the changes we will be going through? Yes. Do I trust that God is so much bigger than my fears? Absolutely.

I found this great devotional passage from Sarah Young in Jesus Lives – Seeing His Love in Your Life.

The Future

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! I am a God of surprises – infinitely more creative than you can imagine. The universe displays some of My creativity, but there is more – much more. I am making a new heaven and a new earth. Moreover, I am preparing My people – all around the world – to live there with Me in endless ecstasy. Let the eternal perspective strengthen and encourage you.

As you journey along your life-path with Me, refuse to let the past define you or your expectations of what lies ahead. You may feel as if the road you are on is tiresome or even a dead end. That is because you’re projecting the past into the future. The roadblock you are straining to see up ahead is really just an allusion. The future is in My hands, and I can do surprising things with it!

Your gravest danger is giving up: ceasing to believe I can still do wondrous new things in you and your world. Your assignment is to keep moving forward in trusting dependence on Me. Stop focusing on obstacles you might encounter, and concentrate on staying in touch with Me. As you continue taking steps of trust, expect the path before you to open up in refreshing newness. I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

 

Have a blessed week as you journey through Lent!

Just Do Something

I mentioned last week that my mother’s best friend who I have known for 20 years died on January 28th. If that was not difficult enough, my father’s best friend, who has been a substitute father for me and a substitute grandfather for my children, died suddenly of a heart attack this week. I know that I am “of that age” where these things are more frequent than we care to mention, but it still dealt a harsh blow. Needless to say, I showed up at my Superbowl party with my eyes red and needing a complete makeup do-over.

I spoke with my mom this week, and she was hesitant to call the family, lest she disturb them during this difficult week. I felt differently, even though it may have been wrong. “Just call them!” I practically shouted over the phone. “They won’t answer if they don’t want to talk!” My only thought was – Just Do Something.

When someone close to us dies or is very ill or is going through something really difficult like a divorce, a seriously ill child or something that we just can’t get our heads around, sometimes it is just easier to say “I’ll call later” or “I’ll pray for them right now until I hear from them.” Having gone through two life-threatening surgeries myself, I would encourage you to swallow whatever is keeping you from action, and Just Do Something.

So what meant the world to me when I couldn’t take care of myself or my family? I found blondies on my back stoop. Tulips in a grocery store container were delivered to me when I was sleeping. Meals were organized like a military operation and brought in with no requirement of a thank you note. Thank you notes were made for me so that I didn’t have to go buy them. I could go on and on about the mercies that were shown to me and to my family. People didn’t say to me, “Let me know what I can do to help” – which I am VERY guilty of myself. They said, “I am picking up your children and taking them to the park today so you can sleep. And I’m feeding them before I drop them back to you.”

One very memorable act of mercy was from one of my best friends. She was not a real fan of hearing some of the specifics of my surgery and the aftermath, but she showed up in a way I will never forget. My aunt was coming to care for my family and me after my second brain surgery. She was going to stay in a bedroom suite in our basement which was pretty exposed to our neighbors and sunlight in general. I wanted my aunt to have privacy but had no time to sort out curtains or window coverings before I left for my surgery. My friend came in while I was away for surgery, had the windows measured, then selected and installed the blinds. It was like the window fairy had visited my house and waved her magic wand. It was an amazing gesture, and perfectly suited to her and to her gifts, and I was more grateful than I could have ever imagined or communicated to her.

So when you think you have nothing to offer – you DO. When you think you have nothing to say – just be there to listen and hold their hand. When you think you might be “bugging them,” just drop something off to let them know you are thinking of them. Be Christ for someone. Be a light for someone. Let your light shine in your own, unique way. You have something to give that no one else can give.

As we begin the season of Lent, we are called to fast, pray and give. So give, and give abundantly – of your time, your treasure and the gift that is uniquely you. The you that God created and created perfectly.

I was listening to the Fish today because I was afraid that if I listened to one more minute of talk radio that my head might explode. I heard a great quote:

Do as much good as you can
For as many people as you can
As often as you can.

God bless you and your family as you undertake your Lenten journey over these next 40 days.

 

 

 

All God’s Children

When I was a child, I never moved house between the time I was two and the day I got married. Then I got married, moved 12 times, lived in three different countries and visited more than 20 countries. So I’ve been blessed to see many different faces, in many different places. I’ve seen totally impoverished children in Africa with huge, infectious smiles on their faces. I’ve seen students in a former Soviet republic with anxious looks as they try to learn English to better their lives. And I’ve sat with a British friend grieving her lost pregnancy while trying to maintain the traditional “stiff upper lip.”

Just this week, I’ve had the opportunity to see some more diverse faces. We have a Peruvian student from the Marist school in Lima staying with us, and the look of pure joy on her face and the laughter of her schoolmates when they bounced around in giant plastic balls at Skyzone was precious. As part of the Marist Evening Series, my husband and I visited the Bremen Museum where we heard a Holocaust survivor re-tell his story with both humor and gravity. What really struck me was how he wore a medal with St. Christopher on one side, and the Jewish star of David on the other. During the war, he was hidden by a Christian family who risked their life by keeping him, and he was eternally grateful.

OK…so I’m completely stating the obvious, but it kind of struck me this week that we are all God’s children. Young and old, dying and healthy, foreigner and next door neighbor, Republican and Democrat, Christian and Jew. We are all in this together. Cain asked the Lord, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I think we all know deep down inside that we are, as difficult as that may be sometimes.

So what does that mean practically? Yes, we all know that we – as an outpouring of our faith – are called to do good works for others. We don’t have to drop out of society and haul off to a poor African country, although that’s a wonderful idea. We can pour coffee and hand out donuts at the VA Hospital. We can sign our family up to pack boxes at the Food Bank. We can stand with a basket on the landing at church asking for donations to St. Vincent de Paul. We can donate clothes and food when we are asked. Lent is coming, and the opportunities for service and almsgiving are many.

Where I often fall down on seeing everyone as a child of God is in everyday interactions. When I’m slighted by a family member, cut off in traffic with a rude gesture, or embarrassed by a friend in public, do I see them as a child of God? I know that I should, as we are all adopted children of our Father, and we all fall down, just about every day (or for me, every day!).

I love this song by Matt Maher, “Hold Us Together.” It reminds us that despite our differences, we are not alone. Not ever. Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvnVjLX_hRE

In the same way, all of us, though there are so many of us, make up one body in Christ, and as different parts we are all joined to one another. – Romans 12:5

If you see the exchange students, please say “hola!” and welcome the stranger.