Tag Archives: Faith

A Full Basket of Joy – From 2016 and Today

On my commute to and from work each day, I like to listen to Sirius XM Today Show radio.  It pales in comparison to actually watching the show, but I’ll take listening to it if I can’t watch it like I used to.  This evening as I was driving home, I was listening to the Hoda Kotb show, and she was apologizing for discussing “depressing” things on the program during the Christmas holiday season.  I kept listening, and she talked about the year she lost her father, and how every Christmas brings up so many memories – mostly happy ones.  However, she said that the year she lost her father, there were only four chairs at the table instead of five, and how she felt that loss very specifically.

The Cully family is having a strange and unusual Christmas this year.  In the past, we have been late getting our tree up, late buying gifts, and late getting cards out (and if you don’t get one, please don’t take it personally – the algorithm should be one created by GA Tech graduate students – or I simply don’t have your recent address which is more likely).  In fact, if we are not addressing cards on New Year’s Day, it would be a Christmas miracle.  Christmas cards should be called January cards in our house.

Let’s call it a phase in life.  Let’s blame it on a lack of soccer tournaments the first weekend in December that happened for years and years on end.  Let’s say it is because we have one at university and one embroiled in his junior year, so we are not attending to the needs of our children as much.  But we aren’t crazed.  We aren’t running around like chickens with our heads cut off.  We have become “those people” – you know the ones. The ones who have gifts actually wrapped before Christmas Eve.  The ones who have their cards out before Valentine’s Day.  Who are these people?  We have become them.  My husband and I keep looking at each other and asking, “how did this happen?”.

I have to say, I miss some things (gifts thanking teachers, coaches and people who make a real difference in your family’s life), and not others (the pressure I put on myself to make things I thought were important come to fruition).

One thing that broke my heart a bit tonight, however, was finding a basket of cards.  When my mom died in 2016, as when my dad did in 2013, it was a difficult year – and a very difficult holiday season.  I had a hard time doing my thank you cards for all the gracious friends and families who offered Masses, meals, and meaningful consolation after my mom passed away.  I still owe some thank you notes to friends, even this long after.  But I realized that in 2016, I did not open most of my holiday cards.  I still had them in a basket, laying there unopened. I was grieving too much to open them at the time.  My mother died in August, and I was still pretty raw in December.

I have to say, it was a joy to open some of the cards tonight.  To see my friends and family members just a smidge in the past.  I know what they are doing now and where they have come, and it was fun to see where they were just a bit ago – kids grow so fast!  I felt like I was going backwards, in preparation for the next round of Christmas cards this year, where I can go forwards.  I still have a pile to open, and I’m thankful that I’m in a place where I can open not only the ones from 2016, but the ones from 2018 with gratefulness in my heart for the friends and family who have stood by me during times of difficulty.

There is such focus on the joy and happiness of the season, but for so many, the season can also be a time of isolation and sadness.  Not to bring you all down, but I encourage you to reach out to one person who might find this season difficult or challenging.  Tell them you love them, even during this joyful, albeit difficult time.

My co-worker Sharon noticed I was wearing a necklace that said “Joy” for our office Christmas luncheon. She asked me if I knew what it stood for.  She said, (and I paraphrase) “The word JOY, stands for Jesus-Others-Yourself. If you put Jesus and others before yourself in all that you say and do, you will find the path to true joy. This is a joy that does not come from the world but comes from faith and from our hope in Jesus.”  Even as a cradle Catholic, I had never heard this description, but it makes complete sense.

Wishing all of my friends, family and loved ones JOY in this season. Real joy, real peace.  Whether you still feel like you are running around like a maniac, or whether you feel as if this holiday is “under control” (as if), I hope and pray that you feel a true sense of joy this season.  Love and peace to you all.

 

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Those Darn Teenagers

I know this goes along with the territory of being a parent, but I worry about my teenagers.  I not only worry about my own teenagers, but I worry about their friends.  I not only worry about their friends, but I worry about teenagers I do not even know, the children who go to our school.  There is something universal about being a parent.  When one child suffers, we as parents all suffer.  When one parent despairs, we all despair.  When something unfortunate happens to a child, it could have just as easily been our child.  We are all one in these moments.  No one parent is immune to the influences of our crazy world on our dear, beloved children.

What do I worry about?  Probably the same things you worry about.  The big stuff, and the small stuff.  Their grades, their immediate futures, their long-term futures, their circle of friends, their driving to and fro.  Their stress level, their happiness, their lack of happiness.  Their faith life, and the times they question their faith.  Their temptations, their reliance on the electronic devices in their lives, their ability to say no when they need to say no.  Their ability to say yes when they need to say yes.  Will their college roommate speak to them if they continue to make mountains of dirty laundry in the middle of the room?  Did they take their multivitamin today?  Ok, whew.  One less thing to worry about.  Is it not so much harder to be a teenager today than when we were teenagers?  I feel like a 45 record in saying this (hello child of the 70’s), but it is exponentially harder to be a teenager today than it ever was for us – and we felt like we had it rough!

I would like to say that I “give it all up to God” when it comes to my children and their daily challenges.  However, I don’t.  I feel like I can fix it.  My husband feels like he can fix it.  However, as parents, we can SO not do this alone.  We need the unconditional, non-judgmental support of our friends.  If we think we are alone in our challenges, we are not.  We need our faith communities – youth group, positive and faithful adult role models, or just a great relatable priest, youth minister or religion teacher can make a huge difference to a teen.  We need the model of the Holy Family – a mother and father who lived simple lives but still had the reality of raising their child to be a functioning adult amidst normal day to day challenges.  (Did Joseph regularly grab any milk on the way home from work?)

And of course, most of all, we need prayer.  There is a line in the Marist Mother’s Prayer Group prayer that says, “whatever we may do for our children, let us never fail to pray for them.”  Our role as parents is to help them to know, love and serve God.  No short order in our current, crazy world with distractions galore.

Here are two prayers I found, one for both a boy and one for a girl. (source: http://www.lords-prayer-words.com)

Prayer for my Teenage Boy

Dear Lord,

Help me to love, without expecting anything in return.
Help me to engage, even when I don’t fully understand him.
Help me to provide, quietly and gently to give good gifts.
Help me to speak, not to sow criticism but encouragement.
Help me to say sorry, to own up when I mess up.
Help me to forgive, even when I feel hurt or ignored.
Help me to hope, to breathe out joy and vision for the future.

Help me to carry my son, through the patchwork of hopes, dreams, hurts, worries, anger and the joy of teenage years.
Help me to remain open and soft
To understand and not to judge
My brilliant son.
Amen.
Prayer for my Teenage Girl

Dear Lord,

Help me to love, when she is angry and upset.
Help me to engage, when she needs a friend and a listening ear.
Help me to provide, to accept her needs and give out when she is needy.
Help me to speak, not to sow harmful words, but encouraging ones.
Help me to say sorry, to apologize when I fail her.
Help me to forgive, each day to provide grace and a new start.
Help me to hope, to pour out love, acceptance and truth.
Help me to carry my daughter through the patchwork of hopes, dreams, hurts, worries, anger and the joy of teenage years.
Help me to remain open and soft
To understand and not to judge
My beautiful daughter.
Amen.
We are all on this journey of parenting our pre-teens, teens and young adult children together.  Let us support one another in words, deeds and mutual prayers.  The occasional knowing hug, or well-timed text message.  Let’s get all these monkeys to heaven.

 

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!