Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Days are Long but the Years are Short

Last week during a visit to my mother’s house during spring break, I found myself having a rare opportunity to relax by myself for a few moments. I was sitting on the beach and watching a little boy about three playing joyfully in the sand. I thought to myself that it was only yesterday when I could not take my eyes off my two busy toddlers as they ran back and forth from the surf. Now my eldest was half-way across the world on the Bearing Witness trip visiting Dachau and Auschwitz, and my youngest was somewhere on the island doing an eight mile run by himself. When the kids were young, the days could feel so very long. I often reminded myself, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

I cannot believe that we are already in third term. Where has this year gone? I have been told that time goes by more quickly the older we get, and this has proved to be true. My daughter was sick this week and was home from school yesterday. We were lying in bed together chatting, and I thought to myself how the next two years of her time at Marist are going to go by so very quickly. In some ways I want to just stop time, or at least slow it down to make the moments really count.

I really enjoy a blog written by a very grounded Christian college student named Grace Valentine (gracevalentine.org). Although this list is written from the point of view of a girl, many of the life lessons could be translated to our sons as well. She encourages young girls to embrace their innocence, and stop trying to grow up too fast.

51 Things I Wish I Knew in High School (from gracevalentine.org, 12/31/15)

  1. Do not spend more than $9 on mascara. CVS sells ones that work just fine.
  2. It won’t matter later on that he was on a high school football team.
  3. Your push-up bra is obvious.
  4. Chill with the eyeliner.
  5. If he cheats on you, say goodbye.
  6. Stop subtweeting or Facebooking your life.
  7. Don’t tell your mom you hate her; you will regret it.
  8. Innocence is beautiful.
  9. Call your grandma just because.
  10. Some people will never like you; don’t let it bother you.
  11. Kill them with kindness.
  12. TPing/Rolling houses is all fun and games till it rains and you have to clean it up.
  13. You were beautiful before he told you.
  14. Don’t believe stereotypes. Get to know people personally instead of judging them.
  15. Don’t let one mistake define you.
  16. But learn from your mistakes.
  17. Eat home-cooked meals. You will miss it one day.
  18. Your mom can see a fake friend before you can.
  19. Your dad can see a crappy boy before you can.
  20. Enjoy your metabolism while it lasts.
  21. There is more to life than Friday night.
  22. If your parents buy you something, whether it’s a McDonald’s or an iPhone, say thank you.
  23. You are more beautiful than you will ever know.
  24. Prom is not the “best night of your life,” but go anyway.
  25. High school years are not the best years of your life.
  26. However, enjoy high school while it lasts, you will miss some of it.
  27. Bad times make you appreciate the good times.
  28. It’s only a bad day, not a bad life.
  29. Stop comparing yourself to others; that will never do any good.
  30. Learn to forgive. Also learn that not everyone deserves your trust.
  31. Learn to apologize.
  32. He isn’t the love of your life.
  33. Sex does not make you mature or an adult.
  34. Stop pretending to be someone you are not to impress people.
  35. Keep a journal.
  36. You’ll regret spending $90 on that Abercrombie fur vest.
  37. Eat the dang doughnut.
  38. Five for $27, appreciate it, and never forget it.
  39. Pray for your future husband every once in a while.
  40. Pray for your future kids too.
  41. Take those ACT prep classes seriously.
  42. Hug your grandpa every chance you get.
  43. Write thank you notes for everything.
  44. Tell your favorite high school teacher she rocks.
  45. Nothing good happens past midnight.
  46. Put others before yourself.
  47. Unless that person is an ex-boyfriend. You deserve happiness – stop worrying about him.
  48. If you love God, then you should love people.
  49. His plan is greater than yours (Romans 8:28).
  50. Stop speeding; especially on turns. Also stop at stop signs.
  51. Enjoy life. It goes by faster than you think.

 

These thoughts of hers make me think that my time is shorter than I think for imparting words of wisdom, values and life lessons on my children before they are out of my reach. Then I have to remind myself that I have been trying to do this their entire lives, and probably will continue to do so even when they are adults! Even my 74 year old mom has moments where she still wants to parent 47 year old me – I think that inclination never quite goes away.

“Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

 I also have to remind myself that I am not perfect. In fact, I make a lot of parenting mistakes and mishaps. However, I pray for guidance, strength and patience, and ask God to help me to be the best parent that I can be.

“Perfect families do not exist. This must not discourage us. Quite the opposite. Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is ‘forged’ by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences. Love is born and constantly develops amid lights and shadows.”

– Pope Francis, during visit to Cuba and the U.S. (source: Lifeteen.com)

So I am going to continue to try and train my not-so-young children in “they way they should go,” and hope they remember at least a few of the times that I actually got it right. And I will continue to work on my mission of helping them to know, love and serve God every day on their journey toward adulthood.

“And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.”

– Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, April 24, 2005

If you have a spare moment, take a look and listen to a favorite song of mine called “Blink” by Revive that encourages us as parents to slow down the pace of our crazy life and enjoy these gifts of children we’ve been given. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4itARWKR-A)

Peace to all of you on your journey towards Easter.

 

 

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Lent: Not Just Giving Things Up, But Doing Things Differently

When I was in elementary school, there was a lot of emphasis on “what are you going to give up for Lent?”. I would give up candy or sweets and then have a heyday come Easter Sunday when my basket arrived from the bunny. When I attended Marist, the priests and my religion teachers took it a step further, and challenged us to do something meaningful on a daily basis as our Lenten challenge (more prayer, silent, humble acts of service, etc.). Now that I am an adult (when did that happen?), I am always looking for the best thing to do during Lent that will help me to grow closer to God. And I struggle with this every Lent. I start out with the best of intentions, and then fall down on the job.

Last week my parish hosted a Reconciliation service. I waited in line with my memo card of transgressions waiting to see the priest. After I left, it was very clear what I needed to give up this year for Lent – unforgiveness. And not just give it up for Lent, but work on giving it up for good. When I am not forgiving, I am definitely not being the person who God is calling me to be. Unforgiveness hurts me far more than the person with whom I’m struggling. This thoughtful, old retired priest suggested, “Who are we to judge? Leave that to God. We cannot see into another’s soul. We must forgive as we have been forgiven.”

Allen Hunt had just finished a great talk about forgiveness, which he called the most powerful word in the English language. He said that Jesus’ heart is to love first, and forgive first. However, for those of us who are mere humans, that can be a tough road. So what was the suggestion of this elderly priest, this man of faith? He said I must pray for this person daily – pray for their well-being, their happiness, their wholeness. He said as I pray for them daily, my heart will be softened and more open to forgiveness.

This makes sense, because as my aunt likes to point out, we all have a bit of a “bitter bank.” Something bad happens between you and someone you care about, and you make a deposit into that bitter bank. And then another, and then another. Month after month, year after year. And then one day, you make a withdrawal – maybe on purpose, or maybe some conversation or action brings you to the brink and the withdrawal comes out in very big bills. The withdrawal can be a snarky retort or a full-on shouting match. Either way, it isn’t pretty, and it isn’t what God wants for our relationships.

So I went to my bookshelves of “books I should read when I have more time” and pulled out Everyone Needs to Forgive Somebody by the aforementioned Allen Hunt. Here’s what I found:

“Do you want forgiveness? Know that the more you forgive, the more forgiveness you will receive. The more you live a lifestyle of forgiving others, the less you yourself will be affected by bitterness, grudges and resentment. The more you give, the more you get. When you clench your fists, fold your arms, and grit your teeth in anger or hatred toward someone, you have no room in your heart for God to place His hand in yours. Replace your clenched fist with an open hand and watch as God fills your soul to overflowing.”

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  – Colossians 3:13-14

Have a blessed (and forgiving) week and enjoy your spring break!