Thursday, March 26, 2015

Living my word of the year



When I first chose the word Trust for my word of the year, I chose it because the past 9 years have been an extraordinary challenge for me and my husband. When things would continue to spiral downward, people would find clever ways to let us know that we were not suffering properly..

--someone once wedged the CD and Book, The Secret between our front doors, letting us know that we basically caused all of our own struggles. 
--our mail box once contained "The Power of Positive Thinking" I suppose, for the same reason as we got the materials jammed in our front door. 
--people would tell us "to Trust in God" as if we have not. 
--a priest once asked us "what the hell we did wrong to cause all of this." Yeah, I found someone else to go to for spiritual direction. 
--I heard often that "God never gives you more than you can handle"--Wrong, he does give you more than you can handle. This is why we need Him so much!

In the Old Testament, Joseph, unexpectedly found himself victimized by the people he loved the most. As a boy of 17, he could easily have cried out, "Why would I want your God when you treat me this way?" He could have ditched his faith and joined a band of rebels. In today's world, he would seem an ideal candidate for a gang member.

What kept Joseph from turning against God? How did he overcome his disappointments, which were many, to the point of becoming a leader in Egypt?

There were many facets of our lives that were crumbling--finances, health, legal issues and no matter how much I trusted, it all continued to plummet downhill. On numerous occasions, my husband and I needed to speak aloud, "Jesus, I trust in You" and prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet often.  

On top of the above issues was the feeling of being discarded --from my faith family, from friends and from my work. It got to the point that I was feeling apprehensive about leaving the house. 

"Jesus, I trust in You."

"But, what are you doing?"

How do we climb out of our own pit of rejection? How do we continue to actively seek God when the weight of undeserved oppression threatens to drown us?

There are several ways, but a most important one is to continue moving forward on your God-given pathway. There are many quitting places, but you don't quit, you keep moving on, one step at a time for God.

Along the way, I realized that one of my contracts as a writer was on a destructive path. For years, I tolerated the abuse. One day in prayer, I heard the Holy Spirit tell me that I no longer had to be abused and that I could leave and He would take care of me. 

As I wrote my good-bye's, I had a strong desire to lash out--to scream about the injustices, the abuse, the ill-treatment. In fact, I wrote a lengthy list of all of these sins and grievances against me. But suddenly, silently and yet loudly, I heard the Holy Spirit again in my heart. 

"Leave with grace"

I lined up the curser to the last word on my list and deleted every word, and instead, wrote with kindness and grace. An hour after I sent my resignation, there were two phone calls from two different companies, asking me to sign contracts with them.  

"Grace" 

If only He did not have to teach me these lessons. If only I knew them instinctively. Perhaps though, this is how I continue to need Him.

Joseph was sold by his brothers, then sold by the Ishmaelites, lied about in Potiphar's home and sent to prison. He could have thrown his hands up and quit at any time. But he didn't.

Joseph consistently chose to follow the Lord, believing God's invisible manifestations despite all visible evidence to the contrary. Joseph is the epitome of a victim who could have become hard as nails, yet Scripture goes to the trouble to record his tears again and again. He stayed tender when most men would have become bitter.


God chose to use Joseph to spare the Messianic line. Joseph's half-brother, Judah, the direct link in the bloodline to Jesus Christ, might have perished in the famine. God chose to use a sidelined offspring to salvage the Abrahamic promise and the coming of the Messiah.

How did Joseph do it? What gave him the strength? I believe the answer lies in an addiction - with each trace of God he collected from his prophetic dreams and their interpretations, his craving for God revived and intensified. From one location to another, he continued seeking God through the use of his gift because he understood that it was God's chosen avenue for him, and thus it was the best place to see God again. Never did God abandon him. In each new location, God consistently brought Joseph opportunities to use his gift.

Discouraged? 

Trust God. He won't forsake you, either.



Sunday, February 1, 2015

The road less traveled

Sometimes it takes being alone to make you realize that you are not alone.


I will admit to not enjoying winter all that much. Mud, wet rugs, layers of clothes and cold often make me long for more tropical climates. But today, in the midst of a blizzard that is still prevailing, I began listening to the quiet voice inside, beckoning me to don my snow pants (thank you Sean), boots, coat, hat (you are welcome, Blaise), and gloves and to venture into the woods to absorb God's magnificent world. We are blessed to have access to hundreds of acres out of our back door.

Thankfully, I grabbed my camera, and while trudging through 3 foot drifts, I began seeing beauty where yesterday, I did not.



I saw evidence of God everywhere


 Then shall the trees of the wood sing out at the presence of the LORD, because he cometh to judge the earth.-- 1 Chronicles 16:33
 While loneliness often plagues my heart, I am a writer and live the writer's life of isolation, so part of it is genetics and part of it is my own doing.  I am also an introvert, which is probably no surprise to those who know me and can appreciate my reticence when it comes to social gatherings. I rebelled against it early on, but it is something I have grown to appreciate and yes, even nourish.




 The simple beauty of a snow covered weed is astounding. It reminds me that God can make us all new and He sees the beauty within our often darkened, and dried-out hearts

 Before shoveling this morning, I spent a few moments filling the bird feeders, and was rewarded by feathered friends who stuck around while I captured them. They are a reminder for me not to worry about our future. 
"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? --Matthew 6:26

 And then, after my wandering, our wonderful neighbors, Jim and Kim stopped by to offer friendship and help with clearing our driveway. God is so good 

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.--Proverbs 18:24

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Jury Duty-anything but trivial



At  -12 degrees, getting dressed in layers, and coaxing the frozen salt encrusted Scion to start Monday morning, was anything but delightful for either of us. Civic duty aside, weaving through Kenosha traffic after a six-inch snowfall to fight for a spot in the overcrowded parking lot is never fun, but especially irritating when you would rather be snuggled under a blanket near a roaring fire as I was earlier that day.

The first 'randomly' drawn summons arrived mid-November; and I say randomly drawn with my tongue planted firmly in cheek as this was my 12th, yes, you heard me, my 12th summons. I was accepting of the responsibility, until I developed a nasty case of shingles all along the right side of my head and neck. It would have been nicer to go in December where we experienced the balmier side of winter, but as typical Irish luck would have it, my duty began with Arctic temperatures.

As I maneuvered out of the car, my feet slid way ahead of me, and to my horror, I noticed that the lot was coated in thick ice, a theme that accompanied me on a four block hike to the front of the courthouse. Because of side effects of late stage Lyme Disease and Levaquin toxicity, normal walking has become difficult, and the slick surface made my journey much more treacherous. My moment of relief upon making it to the building without breaking a hip was brief; quickly contrasted by a couple of guards telling me to put all my belongings through a TSA type scanner accompanied by my walking through a metal detector.

Of course the alarms went off with a dozen irritated would-be jurors behind me. The guard hovered the wand around my body as I tried to explain to him that I have an artificial knee which sets off every metal detector I have walked through since 2008. He scanned again. "You must have a belt on." I did not. "I have an artificial knee," I said again. He scanned a third time. "You must have some metal on." I sighed. "It's my knee, I had a replacement." He stared thoughtfully into my eyes. "You had a knee replacement?" I nodded. "Oh, you may go."

By the time the video outlining juror responsibility began, there was standing room only and approximately a thousand of us craned our ears to hear above the chatter within the room. A couple of hours later, most of the potential jurors were sent home and 37 remained; yes, of course, I was among the 37.

While jury duty is something that few people are thrilled about, it is actually quite an interesting process of waiting and learning about the wheels of justice; wheels that often move excruciatingly slow.

The group of us moved to a court room where the judge welcomed us and explained the case and the magnitude of our civil responsibility. The lawyers took turns peppering us with questions and once they were satisfied, sat down to decide who would encompass the 13 members of the jury. During that time, the judge did something I had never seen before. He took out a 2008 Trivial Pursuit desk calendar and held it up to us, saying that he likes to spend this time playing Trivial Pursuit with the potential jurors. I laughed, wondering if this guy was for real.  He was. For about 20 minutes, he read off questions and those of us who knew the answers, held up their hands to respond. Surprisingly, I answered most of them correctly and first, which caused some of the younger ones to remark that I was "really good."

Actually, the ability to rattle off meaningless random tidbits is a habit that a dear priest friend instilled in me. He would often come by and play Trivial Pursuit with my kids and me, and would win every single time. None of us had a chance and once I remember him telling me that his brother-in-law threw the game on the floor because he could not correctly answer a single question. I never wanted to be the one who could not answer a question, so I used to study indiscriminate facts and attempt to commit them to memory. It seemed to be my saving grace this time.

In the end, I was not picked to serve on this jury, but I learned a lot about this judge. His sense of humor and warm personality made me want to serve this trial. While I don't know why I have been summoned so many times, I do feel that jury service is an important duty..after all, I would hope to have a quality jury if I ended up in court. Wouldn't you?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My word of the year: Trust

Always late to the party, I just learned a week or so ago that many of my Catholic writer friends choose a word to represent their upcoming year. After praying on it for just a moment, I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit imprinting this one on my heart.

Trust

What a responsibility.

Trust. Not the noun, but for me, a verb, for it will take much action on my part to realize the true impact of this word. It will be an ongoing effort to open myself wide, allowing God to provide for us in an extraordinarily uncertain year.

Our precious family is again threatened by outside forces so great that we are once more faced with the prospect of losing our home, of financial ruin, and of health issues so challenging that the outcome is uncertain.

Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." The words flow easily from my lips, but living them day after day requires another level entirely.

To trust in Him, means to truly realize that He knows what is best for me. He knows more than my little worldly mind can comprehend. He sees the completed art on the tapestry, but I merely see the loose, multi-hued threads flailing about. What I understand is never the overall picture of what God sees. My vision is limited by my thoughts, my experiences and my poor insight, but God sees the past, present and future and it is His will that all that happens will lead me to Him.

The concept of trust for a worrier like me is challenging but something greatly needed.  Perhaps on the exterior I appear to have everything together, but like a shiny red apple with a little worm crawling inside, I don't. That little worm is wreaking havoc on the sweet delicious pulp of the apple, and worry is like that worm inside me, wreaking havoc on my faith.

My goal will be to put the truth of trust into practice, making it such a powerful theme in my life that I see every sorrow, every joy, every event, every prayer with the unwavering certainty that God's Divine Providence is totally, and purely trustworthy.

This theme is an ongoing quest to learn to trust in what I cannot see, to allow Him to guide my life. Everything.... and to know that in the end, it will be amazing.



Friday, December 19, 2014

Last minute Advent




Somewhere between Thanksgiving and my good intentions, Advent blurred into five days before Christmas. It began well, and the first candle was lit on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.....a prayer said over the wreath waiting in the kitchen.

I hummed "O Come O Come Emmanuel" while decorating the tree. 

The second Sunday came and went and one day my 5-year-old granddaughter asked why the pink candle hadn't been lit for Gaudete Sunday. Yes. She is five. I looked at the wreath and felt that pang of melancholy at never making it to the second or third weeks of Advent. Each year it seems, I replace just a single candle.

My intentions were numerous. I had planned to renew my Marian consecration, to pray a novena, to attend daily Mass, weekly Adoration, to volunteer more; but somehow Shingles and Lyme disease treatment found me, along with the business of appointments, assignments, shopping, baking, and everything, but preparing my heart to welcome the coming of the King. 

One of the issues with Advent is that it gets consumed by Christmas. The truth is, of course that Advent indicates the coming of Christmas. But the kind of Christmas the liturgical period of Advent is meant to signal is not the Christmas we observe in this country. The secular Christmas is about the storing up of things. The Christmas to which Advent directs us is about being emptied, so we can become satiated. 

Advent directs us to the spirituality of emptiness, of enough, of a barren, but quenched soul. Advent reveals to us, the essentials of life and commercial Christmas points to its superfluities. 

The two great liturgical seasons of the church year, Advent and Lent, are about very different things. Advent is not "a little Lent." Advent is not a penitential period. Advent comes to trigger consciousness, not to provoke our consciences. 

Lent reminds us who we are and who we are not and Advent reminds us who God is and who we are meant to be. Advent is about the opulence of vacuity. 

The Jesus "who did not cling to being God," but is like us in all things, models what most of us take the greater part of our lives to learn: how to "be ourselves." The divinity who comes to us as an infant is the archetype of what it means to learn from life as we grow into who and what we're meant to be. The God who comes without retinue or riches is the metaphor of a humility that requires us to remember how really small we are in the universe--and to come to the point where that is enough for us. 

Advent is about the power of emptiness and the spiritual meaning of smallness. 

When we have little to begin with, we have even less to lose. We know, then, that we don't have all the ideas or all of the answers. It means that we have nothing to fight over and even less to boast about in life. We become full of potential. 

When we know who we really are, when we present no disguises and display no vanity, when we are honest both with ourselves and with others, we are free to be ourselves. We have no image to maintain, no lies to gild in an exaggerated world. 
We become full of integrity.

When we learn to live with the basics rather than to hoard what does not belong to us, we can never be made bereft by the loss of life's little baubles because we never depended on them in the first place. We become full of contentment.

When we recognize our own limitations, we need never fear failure. Then we can't possibly be destroyed by losing because we never anointed ourselves entitled to win. We become full of confidence.

Finally, when Advent permeates our souls, we come to understand that small is not nothing and empty is not bereft. To be small is to need, to depend on the other. Smallness bonds us to the rest of the human race and frees us from the arrogant isolation that kills both the body and the soul. To be empty is to be available inside to attend to something other than the self. We become full of the blessings of life.

Then, emptied out by the awareness of our own smallness, we may have the compassion to identify with those whose emptiness, whose poverty of spirit and sparseness of life is unintentional. Then, we may be able to become full human beings ourselves, full of compassion and full of consciousness.

An Advent spent in thoughtful reflection on the power of emptiness and the meaning of smallness puts everything else in perspective. Most of all, ourselves. Or, as Isaiah put it, "The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled and the pride of men brought low."

Perhaps the season did not escape after all.......



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Don't be an angry Catholic



While I am proud of being a practicing Roman Catholic, there are times when I would like to run and hide and pretend that I have no association with the Faith of my infancy.

It seems to happen over and over- my husband or I will attend an event designed for evangelizing other Catholics and nearly every time, we seem to run across a few judgmental and angry people. They are the type who will look down upon others whom they do not feel worthy of being in their presence or worthy of attending the event. Maybe they don't worship the right way, or sing the right songs, or volunteer in the right ministries. Or perhaps they are not considered holy enough. I just don't know.

It happened again this week when my husband attended a men's event designed to bring holiness to the family and into the Church. Several of the men could not smile or laugh, no matter who tried to engage them. They seemed to be critical, sullen and moody and perhaps taking their role as a Catholic father and man much too seriously. I am not saying that we should not treat our Faith seriously, but for crying out loud, smile once in a while! Show a little joy. Sure there is Catholic persecution but it should not come from the members of our own faith. We do not need to judge others as to who is holier than the other. It is not important to bring up the sins of another or treat them as if they are insignificant, while probably wallowing in their own hidden transgressions.

We encourage the sacrament of reconciliation and suggest frequent trips to the confessional. Yet, we seem to be so wrapped up in our own righteousness that we fail to see that the man or woman in front of us may have already been forgiven for their sins and yet, we choose to condemn them. No one knows the heart of the man or the woman except God. It is easy to judge the person next to you for not living up to your expectations of what you think they should be doing or not doing. No one knows the history of the person in the pew, except God--just as, nobody knows the intentions of another, except God.

Even with well known sinners in the Church and outside the Church, we do not know their heart and whether or not they have asked for forgiveness. Perhaps that person had an abusive childhood or marriage. Perhaps that person is ill. Perhaps that person has already made reparations for their actions.

Instead of condemning, it might be helpful to speak with that person, get to know them, and welcome them as Jesus welcomes them. I bring these issues up because I have been that person. And sadly, I have also been a judgmental Catholic. I am a sinner and yet I have been forgiven. It does no good to attend conferences, rallies, or Bible studies if we cannot open ourselves up to being  Christ for others. If we can learn from this, perhaps we will be the welcoming Church that we propose to be.

Please don't be an angry Catholic as I have seen it turn away way too many people. Let's love each other as Jesus loves us. Please


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Eucharistic Adoration. It's not just for old people



My grandfather, aunts and uncles used to call it, "making a visit" and I wondered what they meant.

My parents never spoke of it at all.

In my 30s, I finally learned what "making a visit" really meant; and along with several Catholic homeschooling families, I brought our children to experience a different way to pray to Jesus. Aside from the children, the chapel was generally filled with those in their 70s or beyond. It seemed sad to me that my generation or my parents generation had no idea what Eucharistic Adoration meant or why they would want to go.

Eucharistic Adoration is a practice in which the Blessed Sacrament is adored by the faithful. And let me tell you, it is a really nice privilege to be able to take time out of a busy day to slip into a chapel for prayer.

Thankfully, the practice of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is making a resurgence among young Catholics. At St. Anne in Pleasant Prairie, the youth are on fire with love for Jesus.

This Saturday, they are hosting Behold. A time for praise, worship and prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Louisa Frederiksson says this, "With the new school year, our lives become very chaotic. Adults, teens, and children all experience the speeding up of schedules. In all of this business, we might lose sight of God.

 Father Todd Belardi is at St. Anne's Behold event to tell you how you can use this new year to form the new and improved version of yourself with Christ's help. Come and join us at St. Anne's Catholic Church at 7 on September 20th for a night to praise and adore our Lord, to experience the healing of Reconciliation, to feel the joy of fellowship, and to learn with our guest speaker. See you there!"

Want to learn more? Watch this captivating video on the Behold experience
Behold Jesus