All posts by gracespark

A Poem for B

A bird fell from the sky today,

Its broken wing, so hard to see.

The rain like tears washed its body,

As we gathered round deciding what to do.

 

It chirped and pecked to keep us out.

We stood confused not knowing what to do.

Too long, too long and our worry grows

Our prayers and sighs slowly rise.

 

Please heal, restore and mend, we pray.

Keep this sweet bird within Your hand.

So many tangled webs around it,

and only You can set it free.

And the next Judas is….

Today is the Feast Day of St. Matthias. If you are not familiar with him, he is the apostle who replaced Judas Iscariot the betrayer of Jesus Christ. In fact, the apostles had to choose between Matthias and another witness of the resurrection, Barsabbas also known as Justus. Wow, how do you make that choice? Well, the apostles give us a great lesson in decision-making:

1) Identify the real problem. St. Peter does this well in the Acts of the Apostles Chapter 1: 15-17. Judas was “allotted a share in this ministry.” And now Judas is gone. Who will take up that allotted share?

2) Turn to God’s Word (the Bible) for solutions. Of course, at this time, it would be from the Old Testament, as the New Testament wasn’t yet written. St. Peter quotes the Book of Psalms, “Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it. and: May another take his office.” God is telling them that they must find another person to take up Judas’ office of ministry.

3) Consider friends or family who have walked the walk. St. Peter explains that whoever they choose to replace Judas should be someone “who accompanied us in the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.” Although there may have been quite a number of disciples, St. Peter understood how critical it was for their community to have leaders who actually saw and believed from the very beginning.

4) Pray for guidance. Even after selecting two candidates, St. Peter and the apostles called down the Holy Spirit to guide them in this decision.

5) Trust in God to provide the answer. Using lots, they discovered it was Matthias who should serve in Judas’ place.

I have always wondered how it felt to be St. Matthias. He was there since the beginning, hanging around the twelve apostles and Jesus. He actually witnessed the Resurrection. And now, God bestows on him the ministry that Judas turned away from. Did St. Matthias ever imagine this plan of God’s? He most likely had no idea that he would be called to fill in for such an important role in history. He was probably simple and humble and faithful (having been there since the beginning). He most likely thought that Barsabbas would be a better choice, but prayed that God’s will be done. What a surprise God had in store for him!

 

The Repairman or the Homeowner?

I was talking with the HV/AC repairman while he was fixing our broken air conditioning system some years ago.  I was explaining that we had just moved, so our home looked a bit turned upside-down. He laughed and said that he had seen everything. He described how he went to an appointment at a million-dollar home  when he was new on the job. The landscaping was gorgeous and the building itself was awe-inspiring. The repairman rang the doorbell. When the homeowner let him inside, the repairman noticed that although there were gorgeous draperies across the front windows, the back windows had nothing covering them. Also, the only furniture he could see was a folding table, a folding chair and a mattress on the floor. The repairman said to the homeowner, “Wow, it looks like you are in the middle of moving.” The nicely dressed homeowner looked at him and said, “No, I have lived here for 5 years.” Oh my!

How deceived we are by outside appearances. From the repairman’s view, this home was a very expensive, well-appointed mansion. Once he was allowed inside, his view was abruptly changed. He was even willing to suspend belief and suggest that this person surely was just moving and that’s why there was such a big disconnect between the size of the home and the furnishings. When the repairman finally realized the ugly truth, there was no turning back. He said that he finished the appointment as quickly and quietly as possible and got out of there. The repairman felt so horrible for this homeowner who was appearing to be something that he was not.

I have been that repairman before. I have been totally sucked into believing an appearance to be reality. I have judged by the outside, and when allowed to see the “inside,” I have even chosen to suspend my belief thinking that surely this person would not be like that. I would call this concept a form of denial. When faced with the ugly truth, I was unwilling to see it for what it was, and this was compounded by the problem of my own naiveté.

Humbly, I must admit that I have also been that homeowner. I have been so comfortable with my own denial and keeping up appearances, that I have boldly stated the ugly truth, but not thought it was ugly because I believed my own lie! My conscience was so deadened that I truly did not see the ugly truth. I instead saw a “pretty lie.”

Both of these situations have taught me that we are easily duped. Many people who we perceive have possessions or wealth or any other outwardly appearance of success are really hollow inside. In fact, if we are invited “in,” we might be shocked by the hidden reality of their lives. Alcoholism, narcissism, addiction, depression, abuse and other bondage may lurk behind that perfect image. We need to stop comparing our insides with their outsides. Whichever person you can relate to–either the repairman or the homeowner–there is only one answer for how to overcome the lie/denial pattern. Make a decision to know and follow the Way, the Truth and the Light–also known as Jesus Christ!

 

 

 

Are You Building Up or Breaking Down?

Have you have ever watched a home or a building being constructed? It can seem to take forever to complete. Digging the foundation is a big job. Weather conditions have to be just right for many parts of the construction. There is an order that must be followed or you will end up with an unreliable structure. All of this to say that building or unifying is hard work. It is God’s work and it is often beyond what we are capable of doing on our own.

On the other hand, destroying is quick and easy. A couple of well-placed explosives and some front-loaders and dump trucks can clear a building or bridge rather quickly as we witnessed recently in our neighborhood. It is relatively easy to take down a building or a family. Divisiveness or destruction is the Devil’s work. He is completely thrilled when he sees us giving into this temptation. There is no need for help when it comes to sin. We are perfectly capable of doing this all on our own. The real lie we often believe is that our personal sin affects no one but ourselves. Ha, ha, ha. That is a really great “whopper” of a lie. Because when we sin, we separate ourselves even further from God. We separate ourselves from each other. Our sin can divide our friendships, our church, and ultimately our family.

Keeping a family together demands God’s help. We must practice forgiveness daily. We must serve each other, not use each other. We must practice charity when we would really like to “give them a piece of my mind.” We must keep God at the center of our family— not soccer, not television, not money. Unifying your family is a real challenge in today’s world. When the media is screaming that we should want more, do less, and live a life of vice, you wonder where the truth has gone. I say we must fight this good fight and not allow Satan to have his way with ourselves or our family. And it starts with visiting the church of two-knees!

 

Looking Back at Missed Opportunities

At Mass today, I couldn’t help but notice her. She sat by herself, nicely coiffed, with her dark black curls fixed just so and her petite size 4 designer clothes immaculately pressed. Her posture reminded me of a ballerina, except that she had a humility that is hard to find in a dancer. I’m guessing that she is in her late 70s or early 80s.

The reason I couldn’t stop seeing her was because she was by herself. Many years ago, when my children were young and I was hopeful to attend daily Mass, she and her two sisters would always stop and talk with us. Over weeks and months, we got to know them better, and they each had their own sweet personalities. They had such a similar look and mannerism that my children may have thought they were triplets. It was like having three Grandmas cooing and adoring my passel of children. Even though they were not related to us, they knew how to love and my family basked in their warmth.

As life goes, we moved away and moved on. We haven’t seen these ladies in years. Today, we went back to celebrate Mass for Mother’s Day with my husband’s mom at her church. That’s why I saw her. So many questions I wanted to ask. Were her sisters still living? I hope they had just moved into a nursing home. Was she the youngest? Did any of them have children? What is life like when your best friends and also your sisters die before you?

As Mass ended, and we headed out the door, I turned to see if she was in the crowd. That’s when another friend and her family spied us and interrupted my thoughts. “Happy Mother’s Day,” she said and gave me a hug. I smiled and hugged her back. When I remembered to look back, my elderly friend was nowhere to be seen. I hope she has a lovely Mother’s Day and may the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.

 

 

Losing a Father, a Daughter and a Marriage

My oldest sister always says that bad news comes in threes. Today, my son’s teammate’s father died, a friend at church’s daughter in high school died suddenly, and prayers were requested for a couple in their 70’s who are on the brink of divorce because of much unforgiveness. By about 9 a.m. this morning, I no longer wanted to even check my email!

Maybe that’s why my day was just off kilter. I was moving a bedroom for my daughter while she was at a soccer tournament. Everywhere I turned, this small project grew. The bed I was planning to use needed a repair. I didn’t have the right tools, but decided to try anyway. Translation: this will take twice as long and most likely won’t turn out as well. Once I made that repair, I found another repair was needed. It kept going like this almost all day long.

When my husband called to see if I wanted to come see the soccer games, I was a bit curt on the phone. Of course, I want to see my daughter play soccer on a beautiful day, but unfortunately, I had a job to finish. The ridiculous part of it all is that the actual moving of the bedroom probably took only 1 hour. It was all the repairs and cleaning and reorganizing that consumed the rest of the day.

In general, I am not one to be in a foul mood. But I found myself caught in that trap today. Did I stop and turn it over to God and let Him take care of it? Oh no. Did I acknowledge that the news of death and divorce makes me sad? Nope. Did I remember to thank God for this day? Nope. Did I remember to thank God for my husband? Nope. Did I remember to thank God for my daughter? Nope.

So, basically, I failed drastically today. I let the emotional turmoil of harsh life realities bleed over into my own mood. I did not practice gratitude at a very fundamental level. The only thing I did accomplish was a bedroom put back together. Compared to these other things, that just doesn’t feel like much of an accomplishment.

I think I will spend this evening focused on gratitude. And I pray that tomorrow is a very different type of day.

 

 

50 Years of Motherhood + 40 Grandchildren

I’ve been thinking about my mom and what an unsung hero she is. First of all, my mom may never have been born, if my grandma didn’t have tremendous faith. My grandma had at least 14 miscarriages. Her doctor told her that it was no use trying to have children, and that is was actually unsafe for her to continue. My grandma is a bit like me–when someone tells her “no,” she digs down deeper and busts through. That’s when she had my mom, and the next year, my aunt. Two women who would not have been here without a very strong-willed, faith-filled grandma.

A couple of decades later, my mom marries my dad and one year later gives birth to my oldest sister. The next year, she has my next oldest sister. A year and a half later, she has my next oldest sister. Then she miscarried during that next year. The following year, she has me. To sum up: 10 kids in 13 years, then a 7-year gap, and the baby of our family is born. That’s a 20-year range for the math challenged!

Here’s the kicker: my mom was having babies when everyone around her was “burning their bras” and “going to work.” She was home with preschoolers and toddlers and babies when the whole world was screaming, “Don’t let them keep you at home. You can be everything you want to be.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. My mom is a brilliant lady. She had a business degree and could organize the world. She managed to have us all fed, dressed and to school early with hair combed, matching socks, and complete backpacks. Laundry in our home was like a small business. There was no room for error because we actually wore all the clothing we owned. Shopping for food was a weekly exercise with two grocery carts full. Thankfully, the grandparents on the farm provided the beef. Home-cooked meals were all we could afford and the only thing my dad wanted. So, we ate together every night at 5:30 p.m. around a long kitchen table.

Because my mom stayed home, we had a huge comfort zone. We knew she was there for us. The other working mothers called her regularly to provide rides for their children to various activities and events. They never seemed to include her or befriend her for anything else. She did have a group of friends who were stay-at-home moms, too. They became the monthly bridge group. Although some of them ended up working part-time, mostly they rallied around each other. It was not a popular time to have a large family. In fact, the over population myths that are still around today started during that time.

My mom was telling me a few years ago when I was complaining about how much weight I had gained with my last pregnancy and that nothing fit that she only had 2 maternity outfits total. That’s all. Boy did I feel selfish. When my husband had to travel three days a week for a few months, I called her to cry on her shoulder a bit. She reminded me that our father traveled for his job for weeks at a time, even months sometimes. She gently helped me see that I would make it through this.

My mom is confined to a wheelchair now. I think all those pregnancies just sucked the calcium out of every bone. She has both knee and hip problems, and probably won’t be walking anytime soon. Her memory is starting to slip a bit here and there. She can no longer cook or plan family events. Much of what the world outside our family loved about my mom is slowly fading away.

But what I see is a lady who has been an amazing mom for the last 50 years, who is facing major changes in her life with grace. She has gently suggested that maybe my dad needs a break once in a while. She knows she will most likely need to transition to a care setting soon enough. Yet, while she can she still enjoys her grandchildren. The extended family gathers tomorrow to celebrate Mother’s Day with grandma and grandpa. It will be a large affair. And Mom will be there, sweetly smiling and loving on the little grandbabies, and thinking of names because number 40 is on the way!

 

 

Husbands Should Discover Secret to Best Mother’s Day Present

I wondered what searching the internet for these keywords, “Best Mother’s Day Gifts for 2014” would uncover. Fox News listed a Top 10 which was mostly comprised of ways to get mom in shape (5 out of the 10 items).  Glamour had 22 suggestions of comfort or vanity items from food to kitchen utensils. Real Simple offered 40 ideas focused on gardening, kitchen and clothing style. And here’s the real kicker, AskMen.com was the highest ranking website. They just listed a bunch of items you can buy in all categories that might interest women. Personally, I think they must pay some big bucks to a really great SEO optimization company.

All this to say that I feel sorry for husbands who are desperately seeking something to give their wife for Mother’s Day on behalf of their children and family. Although some women thrive on receiving “gifts” that are costly, deep down I hope and pray all women understand that there is no gift in this world that can even come close to truly affirming what being a mother means.

Here’s the thing: being a Mom is the most incredible gift our good God gave to us women. He allowed us, with our spouse, to be a partner in creation. When God created, He created out of love, not out of need. In fact, His creation is love. We, as wives, are called to be mutually self-giving with our spouse and to create with God. The result of this is a wonderfully amazing, compact gift from God called a baby. And that baby starts at conception. I have no idea how the sperm and the egg connect and create a baby. But I do know one thing for sure: I have never known an ape or frog or turtle that was naturally conceived in the womb of a woman. When I became pregnant with my first child, I did not have to wonder if I would have a baby monkey or a baby human!

God tells us in the Bible that we are made in His image and likeness. Can we understand this mystery? I’m not so sure. Can we appreciate that we carry this inside us? Can we fully understand the responsibility we have for caring for His children who are also made in His image and likeness? If you are a mother, this is the most important thing you can do while on planet earth. Period. God wants you to love and cherish and raise your children.

Think about it. God celebrated the first Mother’s Day when he put old Adam to sleep and made Eve from his rib. He understands what a gift a mom is for her entire family. If a husband wants to really honor his wife, he may want to start by acknowledging that he is incredibly thankful that his wife had their children. He should simply recognize what the world will not recognize–that motherhood is a gift from God and by his wife saying, “Yes” to children, she gave the greatest gift to him and the family. Finally, he should even be open to having as many more as God will provide. But that takes faith, of course.

Frightening Fairy Tales of Today

My youngest daughter asked me to read some fairy tales to her this evening. She found a book entitled, “The World’s Best Fairy Tales” that was published in the late 1960’s. As I began reading aloud, my oldest daughter found her way into the room, too. The first tale was called “The Golden-Headed Fish.” It became clear to me that many parts of the story sounded very familiar. Then I realized that the Book of Tobit in the Bible seemed to share certain themes with this fairy tale: an elderly person suffering from blindness, a fish that could help cure this, a servant who had amazing abilities to help, and even a beautiful, young lady whose husbands had all died on their wedding night. Although the Book of Tobit was written in the 2nd Century B.C., the Golden-Headed Fish is an Armenian fairy tale that was translated into English then published in the late 1800’s. The date of origin seems to be unknown.

The next tale was the well-known “Hansel and Gretel.” Both girls knew this story but had forgotten certain parts of it. As I read to them the beginning part of the story where the father is worrying because he cannot provide their daily bread, I said to them both, “Well, I guess he didn’t have a very strong faith in God.” My youngest said, “Mom, they don’t seem to believe in God in a lot of these fairy tales.”

Both of my girls had read more recent, revised versions of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales from the library. In this 1960’s version, the step-mother was wanting to abandon the children. The new version didn’t show this ugly side of human nature. As we moved through the story, and we arrived at the section where Hansel and Gretel are alone deep in the forest by themselves at night, Hansel said to Gretel that they should rely on God. This also struck my daughters’ ears. “Mom, they never mention God in the new version at all. Hansel and Gretel never even say anything like that.”

Well, why do I find this surprising? To sum up: the most recent revisionist fairy tales present a milk toast version that is politically correct and has not only made human nature remarkably unspoiled, but it has also nixed the idea of needing to rely on God for anything. And we wonder why our children and our world have troubles? You will have to wait for my future post when I tell you what they have done to “The Little Red Hen.”

Best Mother’s Day Gift Ever!

My son had to write his first college entrance application essay. The college gave him 5 choices of topics. As I read the choices, I wondered who comes up with these questions? He selected one of the topics and started writing.

About halfway through the essay, he called me to his room. He was wondering what I thought the folks at the college were wanting from these essays. It was a valid question. I re-read the topics and quickly realized that it really didn’t matter what they wanted.

I told my son that there could be all kinds of agendas behind certain essay topics that neither he nor I would fully understand or want to understand. I suggested that his best course of action was to write honestly and well. If what he wrote did not fit their agenda, perhaps it was a good thing that he would not get accepted into that college.

Later in the day, I asked my son what topic he chose for his essay. He chose this topic: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you? Interesting, I thought. I asked him, “So what is the place where you are perfectly content?” Without blinking, he said, “Home.” And that, my friends, was the best Mother’s Day gift I could have received this year.