Monthly Archives: January 2017

Ladybugs and Cardinals

My daughter and I experienced a “God moment” this week together.  I do not know if there is a formal definition of “God moment,” but I could define it as a way that God speaks to me in the ways of my every day, normal, mini-van-driving-mom existence – through an unexpected experience, a “chance” or not-so-chance encounter with someone or something, a song on the radio, or a scripture reading – however you might define it.  But it clearly leaves me with a sense that God and His Holy Spirit are truly with me.  And I do not mean that in a creepy way – just a true sense of what I already know in my heart and soul but often forget – that God is with me at every moment of every day if I would just open myself up to Him.

I think we all know that God speaks to us in many ways:  through His Word, through other people, in the Sacraments, and the list goes on.  It is not every day that we see a billboard from God screaming:  “Hey!  Yeah!  YOU!  I’m talking to YOU!”  However, God chooses to “wink” at us all the time in unique and personal ways that says, “I see you.  I’m here.  I want you to hear my voice today and always.”  The trick is opening your heart, mind and incredibly busy existence to how He wants to speak to us.

My daughter is going down a path that is different from many of her friends and classmates as she prepares for her future.  It is right for her, but may not be right for others.  Some of her friends are supportive, encouraging and curious.  Other friends are disdainful and making her question her choices and her dreams.  We were watching a program on TV the other night together, and the excitement it created in her was contagious.  We took what we learned and jumped on the internet to learn more.  We were both excited, and knew that this very random show on a random night was no accident – no coincidence.  A God-incidence, perhaps?

A friend of mine shared with me a story about a special sign in her life.  She was going through a challenging time with one of her adult sons.  In the midst of it, lady bugs began to visit her daily.  They literally starting appearing all the time and in many different places.    As a devout Catholic, she looked up the significance of this.  She learned that the lady bug is actually named for “Our Lady’s Bug.”  In the middle ages, a pestilence invaded the land, and the people asked Mary to intercede on their behalf.  Lady bugs swarmed the land, and ate the pests.  My friend knew in her heart that the lady bugs in her situation were there for her uniquely – it was her mom (who gifted her the special devotion to Mary) letting her know to give it all to Mary and to trust in her intercession with God.  She loved the lady bug visits, and through them, she learned to trust.  One day, she realized that the lady bugs had not been to visit in a while.  She realized that her son was in a wonderful place, and that peace, at least for a time, had come back to her family.  She prayed that the lady bugs had moved on to someone else who needed those sweet little visits as much as she did.

I have also heard that cardinals have long been a Christian symbol of visiting those who have been saddened by a loss – in particular, a “Cardinal Loss” or a heart-rendering loss of a loved one.   I am no theologian, so please do not quote me, but birds have long symbolized the soul’s ascent to God above material things.

The cardinal has traditionally held spiritual meaning in the Christian faith. The cardinal’s distinctive red color symbolizes the blood of Christ, representing the everlasting vitality of Christ’s blood and the fire of the living spirit.  (source:  reference.com)

I first heard of the visit from a cardinal from a very devout friend of mine after her long-time partner died of cancer.  When I saw a bright red cardinal by the marsh where my dad and I always loved to fish, I was shocked and amazed – I had never in more than 20 years seen a cardinal there.  Now, after losing both my mother and father in a few short years, I regularly see male and female cardinals outside my kitchen window – and cardinals mate for life.  Coincidence?  Easily.  A God-wink from my Father in Heaven letting me know my parents are OK?  Possibly.

Either way, my faith is renewed, and my hope is restored.  Bring on the cardinals.  Bring on the lady bugs.

To the God-moments and God-winks in our lives!

 

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Resolutions – Round II

We are almost ¾ of the way through January, and you may or may not still be going to the gym.  I read recently that gym attendance goes back to pre-January levels by February 15th.  So how do we keep these new year’s resolutions that we felt so good about as 2016 turned to 2017?

I led my CRHP (Christ Renews His Parish) group through a discussion of resolutions tonight, so I’m going to double dip a bit here.  I am sure we have all heard that the most successful people not only make goals and resolutions, but that they put pen to paper and write them down.  If they are written down, we can return to them, review them, and identify how we are doing in relation to moving toward that goal.  You have also likely heard that goals should be actionable and attainable.  You can have a spiritual goal of getting up at 5:00 a.m. daily and making time for prayer, but if you know that you do not function well until 8:30 after half a pot of coffee, that probably is not a realistic goal for you.

My group also talked about accountability.  We know that ultimately, we are accountable to God our father day in and day out for our thoughts, words and deeds.  However, if we have a close friend, spouse or spiritual director that can help us to be accountable for the change we seek in our lives, we may be more likely to power through the difficult transition of change, or at least seek help when we are not succeeding as we would like.

Our group discussed four areas in which we could make resolutions:  mind, body and soul.  The fourth area was “fun just for me” – something we could do to bring joy to our lives so that we can pass that joy onto others.  We shared our spiritual resolutions, as well as ways to make those come to fruition.  One friend suggested that making one spiritual resolution per week made the task less daunting and more doable.  Another suggested finding a word that describes an overall theme to your resolutions – trust, hope, joy – and integrate that into multiple areas and how you wish to change your life and approach others.  I came away from this group filled with hope that I can begin to make some of the changes that I need to make in my life.  I know I have women (and men) in my life who support me in making changes that will help me to be the person that God continually calls me to be.

An author and speaker that I really admire is Matthew Kelly.  He is also an executive coach, and before he works with clients, he asks them to consider and answer some questions.  These questions are not light – they are heavy, and provoke thought and introspection.  Get out your journal, head to a quiet spot or the adoration chapel, and give these a whirl.

13 QUESTIONS THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE IN 2017

“It’s another year. In lots of ways you get to decide what this new year will be like. Sure, things will happen that you have less or no control over. But even in those situations, you get to decide how you will react or respond.

Consider some of these questions:

  • What are the biggest changes you would like to make to your life in the next 12 months?
  • What are the biggest changes you would like to make to your life in the next 1–3 years?
  • What do you want to achieve most in your life?
  • What is your greatest obstacle to this achievement?
  • What are 3 of your biggest achievements to date?
  • What dream have you given up on?
  • What major transitions have you had in the past 2 years?
  • What is the hardest thing in your life you’ve ever had to overcome?
  • Looking at the past 6 months of your life, do you like the direction your life is moving in?
  • What part of yourself have you given up on?
  • What are your primary stressors?
  • What is your definition of success?
  • What would you like your personal legacy to be?

This is an easy list of questions to read. They are not easy questions to answer. Take some time over the next couple of weeks to write out your answers. It will be a life-altering exercise.”  (Source:  Matthew Kelly, DynamicCatholic.com)

We all need a little inspiration and encouragement to make a change in our lives or to break a bad habit.  Fortunately, we have the communion of saints who have “been there, done that” and have come out on the back end on the right side.  We have Mary, our mother, who knows our suffering and intercedes for us.  We have Jesus our brother – fully God and fully human, who experienced our human existence and understands our day to day struggles.  Sounds like we have an awesome accountability group looking out for us and supporting us in our quest to be the best version of ourselves.

Lord of new life, thank you for the gift of a new year.

You have entrusted us with the coming days, weeks and months as stewards of your divine plan;

To live in gratitude, joy and an ever-growing confidence in your Kingdom to come.

We ask for the humility to reform our lives;

The courage to commit ourselves to you no matter the cost;

And the wisdom to shine the light of faith on others.

Open our hearts, give us your Spirit and show us how to share your love so that we may bring hope to a world in need of your justice and peace.

We pray to be a sign of your grace in this new year through your son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

(Source:  ICSC)

 

 

Hello 2017 – Nice to Know You!

Everyone rings in the new year in different ways – some quietly with family, some spending fun times with friends, some with hardly a nod to the fact that the date has even changed.  My family had a fun cookout with another Marist family (in Florida of all places) before watching TV as the fireworks were going off outside to mark midnight.

On the one hand, part of me is so relieved to say “arrivederce” to 2016.  I have been more than ready to close the door on this year.  It was even a little frustrating to hear at Mass on January 1st that just because the year changes, it does not mean that this year will not have its share of heartaches, disappointments and challenges.  Intellectually, I know this.  I just always want to believe that there are better days around the corner.  I want to have hope in 2017.

Somewhere in the last week I read, “Your year may change, but God remains the same.”  It was comforting to know that no matter what this year brings – happiness, peace, sadness, family challenges – that God does not change, only my circumstances do.  God is with me in the hardest of times, bringing me peace or helping me to cope.  God is with me in my happiest moments, celebrating along with me and reminding me that He is good and all good things come from Him.  God is with me as I make continued attempts to change for the better – you know, those darn New Year’s Resolutions.  Or Lenten resolutions.  Or July resolutions.  God is always with me, and wants to see me become a better version of myself.

I have been blessed to know Fr. Josh Allen, who heads up Georgia Tech’s Catholic Center.  He had some interesting thoughts about resolutions that he posted to Facebook (and I paraphrased a bit):  “Friends, if you are thinking about resolutions for the new year, don’t bother.  If you’re serious, you’ll start whatever it is today without delay — this very moment even.  If you’re waiting for an arbitrary point of the earth rounding the sun to make a change in your life, you’re not gonna make it.  Want to be a better person?  Do it now.  When our Lord calls, he does not tarry with delay.  Each of us can change with God’s grace.  Even the most profound changes.  But we can’t schedule an appointment with God’s grace sometime in the future.  The only moment that matters is now.”

I usually have far more resolutions than any mere mortal can be expected to follow through on.  This year, I’m going to consider this one:  I will recognize that God is truly with me at every moment, and to try my hardest to act in accordance with that truth – to trust more and to have more hope.