Tag Archives: Jesus

Losing Lent

Oh, the season of Lent.  The most important season of the year next to Easter.  The season of fasting, penance, and almsgiving.  Or in the case of me, the most important season of the Christian calendar when I fall seriously down on my job as an adopted daughter of God.  Why oh why does Lent always fall during the busiest time of my family’s calendar?  I know that I have no say in the matter, but it always brings me down.  Advent, that I can do – albeit half-way.  Lent?  It falls during – dare I say it out loud – spring sports season where my entire family lives in a state of constant and utter chaos.  (Please forgive me – yet again – Lord.)

Does God want me in a state of constant chaos?  He does not.  He wants and hopes that I stay in the holy season of Lent.  He wants me to give my mind, heart and soul to this holy season and all that it offers me as a person.  It offers me such growth – such promise.  And then life takes over, and I get taken away in a fast current of track meets, lacrosse games, stinky laundry, and meals at 10:00 p.m.  Oh yeah, I also have dogs and a spouse.  I lose Lent.  It loses me.

So, I head to my parish’s Penance Service last Monday with my “memo card of sins.”  It is my turn, and I am face to face with the kindest face I’ve seen in a long time.  The priest is a jolly, older Irish man, and when he sees my “memo card of sins,” he jokes, “Is that the litany of Saints?”.  Phew.  I got a good one.

I know that reconciliation is full of graces that I will never fully comprehend.  Sometimes I leave feeling worse than when I walked in, but most of the time I feel the compassion and mercy of my heavenly Father, the sacred heart of my brother Jesus who walks my same roads, and the Holy Spirit who guides me through my crazy, 2017 life.   Most of the time, I leave armed with the armor of God – ready to do battle.

This time (and please forgive me for oversharing), but I confessed that I have not done a good job of holding onto my Lenten promise.  And let’s be clear – my Lenten promise is something that I should be doing anyway.  It wasn’t something above and beyond the pale.

This kind, sweet, loving old priest said to me, “Jesus himself fell beneath the weight of the sins of the world three times.  Even though he knew Calvary was ahead of him, he got up – three times.  When you fall, just get back up.”

I cannot begin to tell you what that simple message said to me.  “Just get back up.”   When you mess up once, don’t berate yourself.  Just get back up.  Do the next right thing.  When you make that mistake that you always make – you know the one – try not to make it again the next time.  Use positive self-talk telling yourself that you want to be the best version of yourself.  Pray to the Holy Spirit to redirect your thoughts and actions.  Ask forgiveness.  Again.

The priest said to me that we are close to Easter, but there is still plenty of time to work toward my Lenten promise.  Just get back up.  Here’s to getting back up.  We are all in this together.

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)

 

 

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.

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!

Little p vs. Big P

My daughter approached me recently with a “little p problem.” Not a “Big P Problem”, but a “little p problem.” I gently suggested that she pray about it. She said to me, “Why would I pray about something like this?” She saw it as small and insignificant to bring before God; I saw it as something that Jesus would be more than happy to guide her through and help her to reach the other side.

Depending on how you tend to pray, you either focus on the “Big Stuff”: my aunt has terminal cancer, my sister is going through a divorce, my child is not adjusting in school, I am confused with how to handle my aging parents, my child is leaving for college and I’m just not ready, or, my marriage is suffering. Or, you may pray through your needs: “I need this, I need that, my son needs this, my dad needs that – what can You bring to me today? What have You done for me lately? Hello? Anybody out there?”

Either way, I truly believe that God really wants to listen. Not just “will listen,” because that’s what He does – that’s who He is. But He wants to listen. He wants to hear our hopes and our dreams – He wants to hear our day to day challenges and our fears. He wants us to reach out to Him in prayer – vulnerable and submitting to His will – not ours. Because His will is so much better, so much richer, so much more abundant. So much more than our earthly minds and hearts are capable of understanding.

When we come to Him with an open heart, an open soul, a joy-filled heart or a breaking heart – He is so ready and willing to listen, whether it is a “Big P Problem” or a “little p problem.” Isn’t that awesome?

Bring all your joys, challenges, burdens, little p problems and Big P Problems, to Jesus our Brother, God our Father, and the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Is there seriously something they can’t handle?

I think they got this. Phew, I can let go.

 

Silver in their Hair, Gold in their Heart

Happy Easter everyone!

The week of Holy Week I was in a frenzy trying to get out of town to visit my mom for the Easter holidays, and I knew that I was not going to get a weekly meditation out. My husband reassured me, “Let the week speak for itself.” I am glad he said that, as there was not much I could add to a week that is so fundamental to our Christian faith.

We arrived at my mom’s on Holy Thursday, and that night our family was settling down to watch “telly” (a throwback from our time in the UK), and we came across The Passion of the Christ. I assumed that being on TV, it would be the edited version, so I thought it would be OK for the kids to see it. It wasn’t the edited version. Whoops. Yikes.

My daughter later asked me, “Was there a part where you cried?” I told her that the part that made me cry (this time), was where Mary watched Jesus fall under the cross for the first time. Mary flashed back to a moment where she was watching Jesus stumble and fall as a child, and how she ran to comfort and hold him. However this time as an adult undergoing great trial, she could not. She could only watch in some combination of despair and desperation as he fell under the immense weight of his cross. As a mom, it brought to the surface all the feelings of how you want to save your children from all the pitfalls, disappointments and failings of life, but as they get older, you cannot catch them. You can only prepare them for the challenges and help reconstruct the pieces after the fact – if in fact they truly want your help and counsel.

As we as a Marist community celebrate Grandparents Day tomorrow, I cannot help but remember my grandparents, and all the wise counsel that they imparted on me. Unfortunately, both sets of my grandparents lived in the north, while I grew up in the south. However, they still managed to share with me lots of life lessons, both directly and indirectly. My maternal grandmother taught me how to suffer with grace, as she struggled with breast and bone cancer, while still maintaining a stiff hairdo and a biting sense of humor. My step-grandfather taught me that being a grandfather by marriage was no different than the real thing – he loved me as much as if I was his own blood. He also taught me commitment and true love. He brought my grandmother a single red rose each Friday for the entirety of their marriage. My paternal grandparents were the ones who gave me my red hair and my dad’s sense of fun and adventure. My grandfather taught me the importance of hard work, silly puns, and commitment to hobbies that bring you joy and purpose. I was especially fortunate to develop a real relationship with my paternal grandmother as a young adult when I moved closer to her for my job. She was a convert to Catholicism and one of the best examples of a Christian woman I have ever met. She taught me to live life to the fullest, as she rode dog-sleds in Alaska and did aerobics well into her 80’s. I think I would like to be her when I grow up.

So I will leave you with some Bible verses about grandparents….

“Children’s children are the crown of the elderly, and the glory of children is their parentage.” – Proverbs 17:6

 “Even to your old age I am he, even when your hair is gray I will carry you; I have done this, and I will lift you up, I will carry you to safety.” – Isaiah 46:4

 “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by a life that is just.” – Proverbs 16:31

So hug (or call) a grandparent today, and let them know how much you love and appreciate them. If they are no longer here with you, pray for them, and know that they too are praying you and your children through your lives.