Tag Archives: family

Promises, Promises

I have a climbing rose bush by my garage that I cut back every winter by about half in hopes that it will bloom better in the spring.  All winter long it has looked nothing short of pathetic.  Each year I look at the stubby branches and am convinced it will never grow back.  Miraculously, it is starting to bloom again as my entire lawn and garden are coming back to life.  That is the magic of spring for me – the whole world seems to come alive after a brown and dreary winter.  God never lets me down – each spring He puts on a show which gives me a little spring in my step after a cold, lifeless winter.

God does not go back on His promises.  He is faithful.  He brings the spring back each year.  He breathes new life into us when we are feeling down or hopeless.  He takes care of our families.  He brings us and our children peace and healing as they receive their college acceptances – or not.   He has the back of a child who is struggling with academics or social pressures.  He holds our aging parents in the palm of His hand.

One of my favorite Bible verses is “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28.  God does not just bring about good in the big things.  He brings about good in ALL things – even the small things – in the little details of my life.  I know that despite my short and long-term worries for my family, God will keep his promise to me and take care of my family in ways I cannot even understand.

Just this week Pope Francis talked to a Vatican audience about how God promises the “impossible.”  He asked the audience to hope against all hope.

“Our hope is not based on human reasoning, predictions and assurances,” Pope Francis said.  Real hope arises “where there is no more hope, where there is nothing left to hope for.”  True hope “is rooted in faith and, precisely for this reason, it is able to go beyond all hope” because it is built on faith in God and his promise, he said.

“There is only one price” to be paid for this, he said. “Opening your heart. Open your hearts and God’s power will carry you forward. He will do miraculous things and he will teach you what hope is.”  Just “open your heart to faith and he will do the rest,” he added.  (Source:  CNS)

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope, without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:23

 Your faithfulness endures to all generations;  you have established the earth, and it stands fast. – Psalm 119:90

 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

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!

 

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.

O When the Soup Comes Marchin’ In

I was sick for a solid ten days before I dragged my sorry self to the doctor.  “Bronchitis and Sinusitis,” she said.  Four prescriptions later, I was on my way to recovery, or so I thought.  When the antibiotic kicked in, I was sleeping 12-15 hours a day.  Laundry was piling up.  My feral children were wondering if I was going to throw them some raw meat for sustenance.  I would get up, wander around, and wonder when I could go back to bed.  We were surviving on take-away pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches.  That’s when the soup started arriving.

First, a frozen batch of tomato bisque arrived from my friend Cathy – a definite “open in case of emergency” soup.  Next, my friend Gae brought Italian Wedding soup.  It fed my family for three to four meals.  My daughter said, “Thanks for the nice dinner, mom.”  I told her to please thank Miss Gae instead – I could take no credit. When all this ran out, St. Tricia of Alpharetta came through the back porch with baked potato soup with all the fixings.  That’s when I realized that soup is love.  Soup warms the tummy and the soul.  It is comforting and sustaining.  Soup is communal and often comes from a family recipe that means something to the giver.  Soup is little bit of love.

Jesus said, “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.”  When you donate a bag of rolls to My Sister’s House, make a homemade cake for the men’s shelter, donate onions or apples or a turkey to Campus Ministry at Thanksgiving, you are feeding people both body and soul.  You meet their immediate need of hunger, but also their deeper need to know that someone loves them and cares about their well-being.  You are feeding their need to be seen and recognized as important and as a valued member of the body of Christ.

I promise that there are far greater needs in our Marist community and beyond than my small and temporary situation.  I just hope that my recent example reminds you that as Saint Mother Theresa said, In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”

Here’s to all the small things that we can be thankful for in this week leading up to Thanksgiving.  I am incredibly thankful for my family, friends and faith community who sustain me body and spirit during good times and not so good times.  Small gestures are never forgotten by the receiver, and are certainly never forgotten by our Father in Heaven.

I know that our children are coming up on exams, which brings stress and anxiety.  Here are some prayers for both exams, as well as for older children who are traveling back from college or work to be with us during the holidays.

Wishing you all a peaceful and blessed holiday with friends and family.

Prayer During Exams

 Notre Dame, Our Lady, they call you the “Undoer of Knots.”

Turn your eyes to us during our exams, and undo the knots in our minds,

that we may think creatively and compellingly in those critical moments.

Undo the knots in our bodies, that we may channel stress

in good health and with noble composure.

Finally, undo the knots in our souls, that in our study and success,

we may not become puffed up with the wisdom of this world,

but come instead to know the Wisdom of God, and the heart of your Son, Jesus,

who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Amen.

(Source:  Fr. Chase Pepper, CSC – University of Notre Dame)

 

Prayer for Exam Anxiety

Heavenly Father,

Only your peace can sustain me through the anxiety and stresses of exam nerves.

Your peace surpasses all understanding.

I ask for this gift and choose to lean upon you at this time.

Lord, come and remind me of your unfailing love.

Remind me that you hold me safe, you understand me, and you cherish me.

I lay down my fears before you.

I leave them at the foot of the cross, for you have overcome the world.

I choose to give you all my concerns, worries and fears of failure.

I trust that your loving hand will hold me through these exams and lead into a bright future.  Amen.

(Source:  living-prayers.com)

 

Prayer for Travelers

 God of the journey, your grace and favor has always been with us as you called us by name before the foundation of the world. Thank you God for your faithful, steadfast love. Jesus traveled from his home to share your good news with all lands.

May the Holy Spirit surround all who are going to new places or sites of past visits. Lead the pilots, drivers and all passengers to be patient at all points. Remove all fears and anxieties about those left behind and those one meets at the end of the trip. Open my eyes, open my ears to see You and hear You each moment of the path. Amen.

(Source:  Rev. Jim Bracke, CSC – University of Notre Dame)

 

St. Christopher Motorist Prayer

Grant me O Lord a steady hand and watchful eye.

That no one shall be hurt as I pass by.

Thou gavest life, I pray no act of mine

May take away or mar that gift of Thine.

Shelter those, dear Lord, who bear me company,

From the evils of fire and all calamity.

Teach me to use my car for others need;

Nor miss through love of undue speed

The beauty of the world; that thus I may

With joy and courtesy go on my way.

St. Christopher, holy patron of travelers,

Protect me and lead me safely to my destiny.

(Source:  Catholic Online)

 

You Are Always Welcome Home

The times, they are a-changin’.  Despite the 80 degree temps around these southern parts, the leaves are finally starting to turn fall colors.  The election coverage promises winds of change.  Our children are growing out of the clothes we just bought them (ahem).  We are also about to change our clocks back.  (Thank you God!)
This Homecoming week has also made me think of the many changes at Marist.  The campus has grown in remarkable ways – the Foundations, peer leader and parent mentor programs all help to build the Marist community – a community like none other.  We have our large and welcoming Campus Ministry with retreats for every grade.  When I look around this beautiful space, I cannot help but think that the many physical changes have made Marist a better place for our students, parents and alumni on a far more than physical level.
When I started Marist back in the dark ages, I had braces, wings shellacked back with tons of hair spray, and my fair share of pimples.  I was ready for the next step after elementary school, but I had no idea where I was going or where I was to end up.  When I left Marist, I was a completely different, fundamentally changed person.  Marist’s mission of forming the whole person in the image of Christ through academic excellence, Catholic education, and the spirit of Mary initiated the formation of who I was, as well as the person I am today. For that, I will be forever thankful.
 “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.”
 
– Thomas Merton
My film-making-crazy son has been creating the “hype” videos for Marist this past football season.  This week, he created a Homecoming video which gave me a bit of a chill.  The lyrics to the song he chose say, “Come to me.  Oh, your weary soul…is always welcome home.  You’re always welcome home.”
This lyric not only spoke to me as an alumae who always feels welcome at Marist, but as a Christian, who is constantly being called home to communion with my Savior.  I am always welcome home, no matter how many mistakes I make.  No matter what I do outside of the box, I am always welcomed home.   I just need to ask.
I cannot believe I am quoting my son, but here we go.  His words from his video said, “Let’s stand side by side.  The young and old.  Current and former students.  All those who have shaped this school into making it what it is.  Let’s celebrate that our alumni are home again, because we can all call our community a family, and Marist, our home.”
I couldn’t have said it better.  Welcome home, students, parents, and alumni.  Welcome home, Marist.  You always have a place.  “You’re always welcome home.”

Talking and Walking

When I drive to my parents’ house, I always love to take the back roads.  It takes a bit longer, but I find it peaceful driving through old southern towns with antebellum homes, through the pretty countryside littered with fields of cotton, as well as past a family of cement geese that are always bedecked in the clothes of the season (I’m not kidding.  They live in Blackshear.)  I also love seeing the funny and thought-provoking signs outside the churches that dot the towns south of Dublin once you get off I-16.

During this week’s trip, as I was heading to my parents’ house to clean out 50 years of memories and everyday items, I saw a church sign that spoke to me.  It said simply, “YOUR WALK TALKS LOUDER THAN YOUR TALK TALKS.”

Hmmmm.  How is my walk actually talking these days?  That gave me something to chew on for the next few hours.  And it didn’t always taste that great.

Then, in classic form, God continued to hit me over the head with the same message the next day.  I joined a friend Tuesday night for a Mass being said for her husband, who died earlier this year.  The priest asked us to “live the faith we profess.”  So clearly, I am hearing that it is not just good enough to say we are Christians.  We have to live it.  We can’t just talk to our kids about what they should and should not do, but we need to model it for them (eek).  We need to do more than just show up at Mass or services on Sunday, but work on our prayer and service life during the week.  We need to dabble (or more than just dabble) in Corporal Works of Mercy.  We need to get outside of our comfort zone and do the hard work that God has called us to do.  Yes, that means me.  We can’t just wear a cross on our neck and say we are Christians.  We need to, as St. Francis of Assisi said, “preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

I know for many Catholics, the whole “evangelical” thing is hard and not part of our normal M.O.  But we are called to be more than just disciples.  It is easy to say we love God, and that we are Christians.  The hard part is living that – day in, day out.  We are called to proclaim the good news.  That’s the challenging part.

It can be hard, and it can be embarrassing.  I got into a long conversation with a Marine named London in Wal-Mart yesterday.  He seemed anxious to tell me his story about his tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.  He had been shot six times, and showed me his severed finger.  He was going back to Syria for his final tour in a few weeks, and then he plans to retire after 20 years of service.  This man could not have been 38 years old.  I promised him I would keep him in my prayers.

You know how you might say to someone, “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” and then you just don’t do it for whatever reason.  It doesn’t even have to be a bad reason.  I think I really need to walk my talk and not just talk my talk and actually pray for London.  I need to pray for his safe return to his mom after his final tour.  I need to pray that he gets a good job when he returns after giving the last 20 years of his life for our country.  I get to give a face to the “American soldiers fighting for our freedom” who we pray for every week at Mass that I can’t always get my head around, even though I have family members in the military.

“Do as I say and not as I do” might be easier for us as parents, but I am going to work on the “do as I do” part a little more.  Thanks St. Francis.  Thanks random church in south Georgia.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16

 “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  – 1 John 3:18