Tag Archives: Group

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

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Positively Lent

After being gone for eight days over spring break, I came home to a giant heap of mail.  I started to sort it into piles – bills, junk, coupons, personal, etc.  As you can imagine, the bill pile was the largest, and the personal pile was the smallest.  With the immediacy of text, email, Facebook and Instagram, it is not every day that one receives a real live letter – one that actually takes a few days to appear in a physical box at the end of the driveway.  I saw that it was from a dear friend with whom I’ve done Bible study for a number of years.

Her letter was a personal one of affirmation and thanks.  She wrote words that lifted my spirits during a particularly down week and gave me hope that what I was doing was not for naught.  I cannot describe how much I appreciated her putting pen to paper and sharing her kind and uplifting thoughts with me.  It was a unique gift of her time and her heart, and it is one I will not soon forget.  And because it is an actual letter on an actual piece of paper, I can keep it, and pull it out when I need a positive thought from a special person.  In her explanation of how she is on a journey of writing 365 letters this year, she said, “It doesn’t have to go viral to be valuable.  Kindness and creativity matter – even one day/letter at a time.”

During a college visit over spring break, my daughter and I went to Mass where the priest was talking to the students about “fasting” from social media.  I am sure for young people (and many older people), this would truly be a sacrifice.  In another example of the power of the positive (in this case, virtual) pen, my friend’s college freshman considered giving up social media for Lent.  Instead, she decided to turn it on its head.  She made a list of 40 people she wanted to affirm.  She put them into random order, and has logged onto Instagram only to post an affirming message and photo to thank and encourage that person who has touched her life.

With the discourse today that we see on television, read on social media, and hear on talk radio, kindness does not always abound.  This is what our children are reading, hearing and seeing as examples of how to speak with and to one another.  Did Jesus speak this way?  Is this the example we have been given about how to speak with one another?  Let’s turn this on its head given what the Word says:

“The Lord has given me a learned tongue, so that I would know how to uphold with a word, one who has weakened.  He rises in the morning, he rises to my ear in the morning, so that I may heed him like a teacher.” – Isaiah 50:4

“Careful words are a honeycomb:  sweet to the soul and healthful to the bones.”  – Proverbs 16:24

“Grief in the heart of a man humbles him.  And with a good word he shall be made glad.  – Proverbs 12:25

“When anyone speaks, it should be like words of God.  When anyone ministers, it should be from the virtue that God provides, so that in all things God may be honored through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 4:11

I know that personally, my Lenten promise is to try and speak more positive words to both myself, my family, and to others, and not swim in the cesspool of negativity that plagues our communications to one another.  Yes, I fully recognize that it is something that I should be doing anyway.  But thankfully, I have fantastic role models in my life that show me the way to how Jesus would have spoken to his friends, family and followers.  The power of the written and spoken word is so powerful, and can lead to a more positive Lent for us all.

 

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!

 

An Early Christmas Gift

I feel so very happy – like I have received an early Christmas gift.  Since a week ago Friday, I have had events – both social, and spiritual/church-related (and even better, combined – whoopee) – which have rejuvenated my spirit.  This may not sound like a big deal to you, but it is a very big deal to me.

Last Christmas, my family was dealing with the loss of my husband’s long-time job.  I was not feeling very merry.  My children were not feeling very merry.  We were looking to the future with trepidation and fear.  So what did I do?  I closed myself off to the people I cared most about.  I responded an instant “no” to the Evite of my dear friend Cathy who hosts a lovely Christmas brunch, chock-a-block with incredible Christian women from our parish.  I am sure I also said no to my awesome “boozy” friends who wanted to celebrate with a glass or two of Christmas cheer.  Hey, all are welcome in this place.  We are all God’s children.

This year, despite the recent loss of my dear mom, and my funk of not only feeling poor physically but also feeling perennially behind the eight ball logistically, I said “yes” to more than my usual invites.  It even surprised me, as social as I like to think that I am.  The MMPG Christmas meeting at Pam’s house inspired me to honor my mother who just passed, my parish’s Life Teen Special Needs group reminded to me to dance as if no one was looking, and my Marist Love & Logic ladies group said we are all in this together – no matter what our children’s age.  I also encountered in this small space of time:  my friend Cathy’s gathering of “incredible Christian women whom I seek to emulate,” my former Bible Study’s rock star moms who foster newborns while raising their own families, and lastly – an amazing group of women at my parish “Walking with Purpose” who reach out regularly to moms like me with welcoming invitations to “come and seek.”  That’s a lot for a week during Advent.

Wow.  I feel loved.  I feel recognized.  I feel like someone is seeking my miserable, “Debbie Downer” company.  I feel like even when I am a horrible hermit crab, tucked inside my shell and so barely wanting to venture out, someone wants to draw me out and interact with me.  That feels so great.  What a beautiful reflection of God’s love during this season of Advent!  The second week of Advent the theme was “Love,” as we lit the second purple candle

 “Love is knowing that someone cares for us more than themselves.  Love is the realization someone would lay down their life for us.  Loves involves commitment, and commitment involves sacrifice and time.  God loves us beyond any human love we have ever experienced. Love can be ours this Christmas as part of The Christmas Gift.”

 Source:  St. Brigid Advent program

I leave you all with a note of thanks for those who have invited me (and others who may be like me) to partake in fellowship even though I (or they) may seem like a huge buzz-kill some days (not exactly the most Christian words, but hey, they fit).  I strive to reflect God’s glory, even in my challenges, even in my family’s challenges.  Thanks for continuing to invite me to be a part of your world.  It means the world to little ‘ole me.  I also promise you, that reaching out to others will reap the same fruit.  Keep reaching out to those who are difficult or challenging. To the neighbor who drives you crazy.  To the widow on your street who is always complaining about something.  Love, Love, and Love some more.  Even when it is so, so hard.

“Lord, I love you and know in spite of everything I can depend on your love for me.  As I encounter times that are rushed, even crazy, I will repeat the phrase, “I love you, Lord” to remind myself that I cannot do everything alone.  When my chores, holiday preparations, and gift-buying overwhelm me, and I face more darkness, I will turn to you and your LOVE.  You will point me towards The Greatest Gift that awaits me on Christmas.  Amen.”

Source:  Brigid Catholic Church Advent 2016 Program

 

What? Advent? Already?

Advent has completely and utterly snuck up on me this year.  Maybe it was the unseasonably warm weather.  Maybe it was being sick a good bit of November.  I turned around, blinked, and it was the end of November.  I’m not sure where the last few months went, but here we are, already in Advent.  Needless to say, my halls have not been decked.  In fact, I can’t even get to my Advent wreath or calendar, let alone the Christmas decorations, because my Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations are on the floor blocking my way to the closet.

Not only am I not physically ready for Advent and all that the Christmas season brings, I am definitely not spiritually ready.  I always say “this year will be different.”  This year I’m going to be better prepared so that I can actually enjoy the season and my family more.  This year I’m going to have healthy spiritual habits during Advent so that I can focus on the real reason for the season.  This year I’m going to be more joyful.  And the list goes on.

Tomorrow is the MMPG annual Christmas meeting hosted by the mom of a Marist alumae.  Her house is lovely, festive, and inviting.  Year in, year out, she always graciously hosts all of the MMPG moms – current and past – with a warm smile and an open heart.  It is her gift to the Marist community.  I am hoping that our hostess, the speaker, and all the other moms will inspire me to finally embark on my Advent journey.  I might be getting off to a late start this year, but better late than never.

One of my favorite blogs is “Blessed is She.”  As a gift to myself this week, I am sharing a letter from the editor that echoes how I have felt in years past during the Advent season, and I hope that you consider taking on her call to action.  I am going to try.  And then I better hop on the Christmas train that has left the station without me!

Adapted from Jenna from http://www.blessedisshe.net

Every single Advent, I get caught up in the vicious cycle of buying presents, feeling frustrated that I’m not a Liturgically Amazing Catholic Woman, compare myself to what others have done or not done for the season and for Christmas.

And by the time Christmas comes around (hello! the birth of our Savior!), I am sucked dry. I am empty. I am frustrated that I didn’t get *all the things done* like I wanted to. Or my gifts aren’t thoughtful. Or I am not in a peaceful state AT ALL to celebrate this joyous and incredibly important day.

I almost come to a point of saying, “I hate Christmas and all the stress it adds to my life.”

But if I’m being honest, it’s not Christmas that I hate. Not even close.

I hate how I act during the incredibly important four weeks leading up to Christmas. I hate the Jenna that comes out and is irritable and frustrated and impatient and all the yucky things that we hate to admit we’re acting like.

Ultimately, I dive into every Advent with a chip on my shoulder — I think to myself, This season will be so awful.

But then I make myself stop humming and hawing, and I think:

He constantly offers me another way.

He constantly waits for me to wake up from my pity party of irritability and to see HIM.

He constantly beckons me, kindly, lovingly, with the fading trees and the quiet, dark nights.

It is peaceful outside, at night, in the winter. But it is far from peaceful in my heart.

It is peaceful in relationship with Him. But I am walking in with a chip on my shoulder.

Time to throw off that chip.

Time to dust off the dirt of despair and to soak up the peace of winter, the calm of the season that I so desperately need renewal in.

So, this Advent is the one. I am in a place in my life where I want to build a deeper relationship with our Lord. I have a desire for it, I yearn for it, I long for it.

Do you?