Tag Archives: Stress

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.

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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.

 

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)

 

So. Very. Busy.

One of my friends has a unique ring tone for me.  It is the “buzzing bee” ring tone.  When she told me that, I was a bit perturbed.  Then I realized, “Oh, well.  She sees the truth.  Uncle.”  She also affectionately calls me “hair on fire,” but that’s a separate issue.

OK, so I cannot lie.  I’m a busy mom.  We are all busy parents, employees, friends, spouses and children.  Busy, busy, busy.  This past summer, I saw all the busy pass me by during a time when I was uniquely focused on my mother.  It was like watching the busy out a blurry window – the world was still constantly moving back and forth from my view, while my time stood relatively still.  I still marvel at all the busyness going on around me with the school year that is in full swing, as I wander from room to room in my grief and lack of focus, getting hardly anything accomplished except the occasional thank you note and phone call regarding “notice of death.”

Don’t get me wrong, friends.  If I had not just gone through the death of a parent, I would be right there with you.  Busy.  So very busy.  In fact, when I was at the MMPG intro meeting last week, I spoke with many friends who were already feeling quite stressed on behalf of their children and their families – and it is only September.  I am with you ladies and gents – I have felt your pain.  I so get the busy.

I have been told by a wise friend many times:

“If you don’t have time to pray and read the Scriptures, you are busier than God ever intended you to be.”

 This saying is even written on her workspace wall, and she is so very right.  Does God truly want us to be so busy that we cannot take time to talk to Him, share with Him our greatest fears, or bring to Him our greatest hopes and dreams for ourselves and our families?  This friend also says to me frequently, “We are human BEINGS, not human DOINGS!”  (I know I’ve shared that one before, but it’s worth repeating.)

So how do we use our time?  If time is a precious as we think (and we all want more “time”), then what is the best use of our time?

The Use of Time

Take time to think

– It is the source of power.

Take time to play

– It is the secret of perpetual youth.

Take time to read

– It is the fountain of wisdom.

Take time to pray

– It is the greatest power on earth.

Take time to be friendly

– It is the road to happiness.

Take time to laugh

– It is the music of the soul.

Take time to give

– It is too short a day to be selfish.

Take time to work

– It is the price of success.

Take time to do charity

– It is the key to heaven.

Author Unknown

 In Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba, he said, “Faith makes us open to the quiet presence of God at every moment of our lives, in every person and in every situation.”  What a great way to use our time, if we would only take the time.  So often we pass each other by with a quick, “Hey! What’s up?”  What might happen if we took a little more time to stop and hear the answer?

So today, let’s take a moment and try and quiet our minds and our hearts to the “quiet presence of God” that is available to us at every moment of our lives, if we would just not be so very, very busy.

“Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time.  Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:6-7

Stress Comes Next Week. Or Not.

For some reason, I do not have the anxiety and stress that usually accompanies my Christmas preparations. I do not have a single reason for this, other than the Holy Spirit has already given me a well-needed, pre-Christmas gift. We were out of town after Thanksgiving (and spent some wonderful time as a family), so nothing got decorated – until the last few days. Christmas cards have not even arrived to be signed and sent, but I’m OK with that. I have gifts yet to purchase and not a single one wrapped. My Bible study met this week, and instead of reviewing what we were supposed to, we listened to our friend whose brother was just diagnosed with cancer. Who really cared what was on the to-do list?

Does that mean that I am not going to be a crazed lunatic next week? No. I can pretty much guarantee it as I prepare for three separate family gatherings that I will be hosting. But I’ve been given a gift this week, so I’m thankful for it. In fact, as I put up decorations today that I haven’t been able to put up the past few years because I haven’t been healthy enough, I was nothing but thankful over a few strands of garland and a red bow.

In that spirit, instead of writing something myself, I am using the beautiful words from a website I love called Proverbs 31 – and I’m thankful yet again. I have a little table full of angels by my back door, which makes this even more appropriate. Thank you Lord for this website and the insight of its authors, which is giving me the gift of peace of mind, heart, and time tonight. 

The Most Important Christmas Choice

“Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’” Luke 2:13-14 (NLT)

Tis’ the season to be merry… and stressed. Although it should be a season of peace, this month can often make us feel more tangled up inside than a messy string of Christmas lights.

Some people dread the hustle, bustle, and emotional rustle this time of year brings, knowing that irritability, loneliness, or depression will threaten. While there are others who may love the Christmas season, but worry, busyness, family conflicts, and unmet expectations take their toll.

In either case, we have a decision. We can choose to get bogged down with stress or we can choose to bow down in worship.

Scripture gives us a beautiful picture of praise in Luke 2:13-14. When Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds sharing the good news. Then many other angels joined together and praised God.

“Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’” (NLT)

That’s not the only place the Bible records angels worshipping the Lord. In Hebrews 1:6 it says, “And when he brought his supreme Son into the world, God said, ‘Let all of God’s angels worship him.’” (NLT) And Revelation 5:11-12a says, “Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus.” (NLT)

Angels serve as role models of worship. They bow down before Jesus. They shout with incredible joy as they sing songs of praise. Through worship, angels spread the news of God’s glory and exhibit holy reverence. Angels intentionally and deliberately spend time praising God.

Keeping Christ in Christmas is more than just a cliché. It is an intentional act of worship. It requires a heart of adoration, much like the angels had. When Jesus is the focus of our holiday, we’re centered on His love, peace, and joy.

This prompts us to be His hands and feet to others in need. When worship fills our hearts, it leaves little room for aggravation in long lines at the store. We focus on what Christmas is truly about—the amazing gift of a Savior—rather than stressing out over buying the perfect presents. We exhibit grace to someone when we’d rather do otherwise. Worship turns our attention to giving thanks to Jesus for all He has done, rather than letting stress strip His joy from our hearts.

And it might even mean joining in with the heavenly chorus to sing praises to Him, even if we can’t carry a tune!

The holidays can bring a flurry of heightened emotions and can often result in an unhealthy level of stress which can prevent us from engaging in worship and praising the One we are supposed to be celebrating.

There will be lots of choices to be made during the month of December: where to serve, what gifts to buy, and how many events to attend. The most important choice we can make is to worship and sing praises to our Lord. For His gift. For His love. For His peace.

And when our hearts are at peace, our holidays can be too.

Lord, I choose to intentionally worship and praise You during this Christmas season. Help me stay focused on You and Your goodness. Amen.