Monthly Archives: May 2016

It Bears Repeating: Humility and Simplicity

Marist School cycles through a series of six themes each year that reflect Marian values and the pillars of the Society of Mary. This year, our students have been reflecting on the theme of “Humility and Simplicity.” From the first opening Mass with Bishop Zarama to the last day of classes, students have been challenged to consider how they live their lives with these two values, in a school geared toward achievement and success.

We have incorporated this theme into our family in both a serious and a lighthearted way. If we hear something said that might be a bit out of line, we will say “humility and simplicity please!”.

I have often said to my friends and family that we tend to live in “La La Land.” Our lives are so abundantly blessed. When we do not leave our bubble of comfort, we forget that there are so many who have considerable need. We forget that our problems are merely “first world problems.” Thank God for Marist school, where are children are gently marinated in the lifelong importance of quiet, humble service.

Without our choice, my family learned to live humility and simplicity in the past year as well – albeit to a much smaller degree than most. My husband learned that he was to lose his job of more than 15 years around Christmas of 2014. He was very happy at his job, and was at the height of his career. We went through all the emotions you can imagine in the year following – how is this going to change our lives? Our future? Our childrens’ futures? Why is this happening now when the children are so happy at Marist? When we are so close to college? We prayed, we went to adoration, and we had many moments when we lost our trust in God and God’s plan for our family.

Father Tom Ellerman (Class of ’58) is a regular fixture at the MMPG rosary on Friday morning. All the moms love having him, and he has added both humor and guidance to all of us gathering to pray. In a Marist Way meeting in September, Fr. Tom was speaking on Marist values, and told the group that the Latin word for humility comes from the word “dirt.” He reminded the group that listening to the voice of God and opening our minds with a humble heart will, as Jesus did, make all things new. He said that in the end, we are “dirt,” and to dirt we will return.

For a while, my husband and I felt a bit like dirt. We had to do things we didn’t think we’d ever have to do. We had to say things we didn’t think we’d ever have to say. We made changes to our lives that we didn’t think we’d ever have to make. We were humbled.

Humility can certainly be expressed through simplicity. We were forced to simplify our lives – we stopped doing certain things that were part of our routine. We started doing new things. For one thing, when you are on a strict budget, you do not eat out. Or get Starbucks. Or shop because you are bored. Instead, we regularly ate family dinners together that were homemade. Was it a blessing? You bet it was. There is nothing like getting a teenager to talk like sitting around a proper dinner table with comfort food to get them to open up and tell you about their day. Through this experience, we were truly blessed, and our children learned a lot of powerful lessons in both humility and simplicity.

We have tried (I emphasize tried) to teach our children not to boast. However, we should encourage them to boast of what their God has done for them. I was touched by the second reading last Sunday from Romans 5:

“We boast in hope of the glory of God.

Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions,

knowing that affliction produces endurance,

and endurance, proven character,

and proven character, hope,

and hope does not disappoint,

because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts

through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

So I would like to boast that through our family’s challenges, God has continued to pour out His love for us. Our brother Jesus walks with us daily. The Holy Spirit continues to guide us on our journey, and we continue to be strengthened by the Spirit of Mary that touches each member of our family.

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Love, Your Biggest Fan

This week at Marist we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduating seniors as we bid them “farewell” with a Baccalaureate Mass and Graduation. Maybe you have a senior, maybe you know a senior, or maybe you already have a graduate who is back visiting from college. Either way, we can all remember our own graduations or those of loved ones and revisit the swirl of feelings – happiness, anxiety, joy, sadness, trepidation – they mix together into one blurry memory.

As my own children inch closer to that day, I look to the seniors that I know and care about. My daughter has been fortunate to play Varsity Lacrosse, and has had the blessing of getting to know some amazing upperclass women through that team sport. These women have grown on me as well, and I cannot wait to see what they will accomplish in the years ahead, as they have been a great influence on my daughter. This year I think it is hitting her harder as well – she is losing some great friends to college life.

When I was sitting in the bleachers at my own Baccalaureate Mass at Marist 30 years ago this month (we only had Old Kuhrt at that point), the Marist Singers sang a song by Michael W. Smith called “Friends.” A line that has never left my head to this day is “Friends are friends forever, when the Lord’s the Lord of them.”

I have heard it said that God puts people in your life for a reason, for a season or for a lifetime. I have been truly blessed by Marist friendships that have continued for my lifetime as it continues to roll along. As teenagers, I dragged my friends to church with my family if they spent the night at our house, whether they were Catholic or not. We have celebrated engagements, marriages, births, graduations and deaths together – in a church, a chapel or our backyards. When we have been in health crises, the call for prayer went out, and it was immediately answered without question. Usually followed by a casserole or blondies on our back step. The Lord has been the Lord of us. He has held us together by something much stronger than simply having fun together on the weekends.

When MMPG met two weeks ago to celebrate our senior moms, I could feel their mix of emotions. We teeter between pure pride and happiness for the adventure of our graduates’ lives unfolding before them and the opportunities that are at their doorstep, and yet we can’t help but personally grieve for the loss of their infectious presence in our home on a daily basis. Thank God that He has them in His hands, and is walking with them daily, even if we cannot walk along. All the moms recited this prayer:

Prayer for Releasing My Child into God’s Hands

Lord, I come to you in Jesus’ name and give my child to you. I am convinced that you alone know what’s best for them. You alone know what they need. I release them to you to care for and protect, and I commit myself to pray for everything concerning them that I can think of or that you put upon my heart. Teach me how to pray and guide me in what to pray about. Help me not to impose my own will when I am praying for them, but rather enable me to pray that your will be done in their life.

 Thank you that I can partner with you in raising my child and that I do not have to do it alone. I am grateful that I don’t have to rely on the world’s unreliable and ever-changing methods for child rearing, but that I can have clear directions from your Word and wisdom as I pray to you for answers.

 Thank you, Lord for the precious gift of this child.   Because your word says that every good gift comes from you, I know that you have given them to me to care for and to raise. Help me to do that. Show me places where I continue to hang on to them and enable me to release them to your protection, guidance and counsel. Help me not to live in fear of possible dangers, but in the joy and peace of knowing that you are in control. I rely on you for everything and this day and every day I trust my child to you and release them into your hands. Amen.

 I sat tonight in a meeting for rising Junior parents where we discussed the upcoming steps in the college search process, so I know that I am not far behind those who will be watching their children walk across the stage this weekend. I completely expect to be a puddle on the floor when that day comes for me – I hope someone hands me a tissue or at least wipes me back up. Please, please take a minute to click and enjoy this song by Nichole Nordeman called “Slow Down.” I would write out the words, but the video is so much more powerful. I’m still cross at my friend for sending this to me, as I can’t look at it without getting weepy. I dare you not to get misty.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clcNB_EUao8

Peace and happiness to all the graduates of 2016 and their loving parents – their biggest fans!

I Want to Live in that City!

One of the blessings of being an alumna is having Fr. Bill Rowland as our alumni chaplain. Every time he preaches or every time we get a chance to interact, I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. The other week at the Marist Family Mass, Fr. Bill Rowland gave an amazing homily that I will attempt to summarize, but will probably do it a complete injustice. Family Mass was the final event of our Reunions weekend, and was a fitting end to reunions in the Marist Way.

The second reading was from Revelations, and St. John was describing heaven as a radiant, gleaming city coming down from the sky. Fr. Rowland was explaining to all of us that Marist is also like a city – a city that never sleeps. There is always a hustle and bustle at Marist – students moving across the campus getting from tutorial to practice, celebrations and banquets, performances, and outside organizations utilizing our facilities when they have none of their own. Marist is a city of excitement, electricity and constant motion – even more so now as we approach graduation and the end of year. You can feel it in the air.

He then described heaven as a city – a city of light, joy and dancing. A city where there are no more tears, no more death, no more disappointment. A city where all of the faithful spend their days in the presence of their Creator, among all their loved ones, and all the saints and angels.   Forever!

As a Christian I certainly aspire to live now as to live that way in the future. What more could I ask for? However, it feels a little far away right now. It probably should not, as we all see time and time again that our time is not our own, but God’s.

For now, I love when God gives me a glimpse of what life in heaven with Him might look and feel like. My family and I always joke that heaven looks like the view from my parents’ back deck. Sometimes I feel heaven when I’m standing on the beach looking at the ocean and a cool breeze comes up unexpectedly. Just this week two people (one a complete stranger, one a friend) said something so wonderfully kind to me that I felt heaven, right here in Atlanta. One weekend morning a few months ago, we literally had a dog pile on our master bed. My entire family – including my two teenagers, two dogs and two cats – somehow ended up on our bed. We were laughing and relaxing and just enjoying each other’s company – and I looked around and thought, “This is what heaven must be like.”

So I am thankful that God gives us these glimpses of our future with Him. It makes me want to be a better person, so that I too can join my loved ones who have passed and spend eternity with all those who love God in a city that never sleeps – a city of light, joy and dancing. Let’s sign up for that!

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” – John 17:3

 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

– Revelation 21:4

 

An excerpt from the song “Where I Belong,” by Building 429

“So when the walls come falling down on me

And when I’m lost in the current of a raging sea

I have this blessed assurance holding me.

All I know is I’m not home yet

This is not where I belong

Take this world and give me Jesus

This is not where I belong

When the earth shakes I wanna be found in You

When the lights fade I wanna be found in You”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=he32vwlKQPY

 

Wishing you some God moments this week where you experience a tiny glimpse of heaven!

Here’s to Building Cathedrals!

IMG_1031Some days we feel seen, and some days we feel utterly unseen. Aye, there’s the rub. Just when you think you have “Uber” tattooed on your forehead, or “cleaning service” written across your t-shirt, your kids up and surprise you. A fellow alum and I have been laboring – yes, laboring as varsity lacrosse team parents for two years now. The glamorous tasks we undertake would shock and amaze you. I sometimes ask myself, “Does this really matter to my daughter?”

Tonight at the lacrosse playoffs somewhere in Canton, GA a monsoon took over in the last 10 minutes of the game. I was standing there with my stats partner, getting soaked to the bone while the rain was coming in sideways. We attempted to keep the game stats going until the paper turned illegible and the lightning alarm rang. I started running for cover when my daughter overtook me. “I love you mom!” she shouted as she ran by. I was seen. I was surprised, and I was seen.

For moms who have moments of feeling unseen, please read (or re-read) this great story, even though it is a little long. I’ve seen it many times before, but it bears repeating as we prepare to celebrate Mothers Day.

“The Invisible Woman – When Only God Sees” by Nicole Johnson

“It started to happen gradually. One day I was walking my son Jake to school. I was holding his hand, and we were about to cross the street when the crossing guard said to him, ‘Who is that with you, young fella?’ ‘Nobody,’ he shrugged. Nobody? The crossing guard and I laughed. My son is only 5, but as we crossed the street I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, nobody?’

I would walk into a room and no one would notice. I would say something to my family – like ‘Turn the TV down, please’ – and nothing would happen. Nobody would get up, or even make a move for the remote. I would stand there for a minute, and then I would say again, a little louder, ‘Would someone turn the TV down?’ Nothing.

Just the other night my husband and I were out at a party. We’d been there for about three hours and I was ready to leave. I noticed he was talking to a friend from work. So I walked over, and when there was a break in the conversation, I whispered, ‘I’m ready to go when you are.’ He just kept right on talking.

That’s when I started to put all the pieces together. I don’t think he can see me. I don’t think anyone can see me.

I’m invisible.

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’ Obviously not. No one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I’m invisible.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’ I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude – but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.

She’s going… she’s going… she’s gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip, and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.’ And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.’

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’

That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘You’re gonna love it there.’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.”

 

So what does the Word have to say about moms?

“Your adornment should be … the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” – Isaiah 66:13

 “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” – 1 Samuel 1:27-28

 “And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed.” – Luke 1:46-48

 

I have heard before that a mother’s love for her children is the closest that we can get on Earth to our Father’s love for us. Here’s to all the moms out there – those who are living and continuing to bless us in ways seen and unseen, and to those who have passed and continue to cheer us on from heaven.

Love to our moms, and to those who love us like moms!

Happy Mother’s Day!