Category Archives: Difficult Times

Worry or Pray

I occasionally struggle with worry, especially when it comes to my dear ones facing problems that are out of our control. Today, a friend of mine shared this story:

A long time ago, a wise judge was faced with a room full of upset people. They all had many worries and wanted his advice. He asked them all to write down the one most important worry that they had in their life and place it in a large earthen jar. After everyone had placed their worry in the jar, he asked them to now draw one worry out of the jar. As probability would have it, each drew a different worry than their own. After reading their selected “new” worry, they all decided they would like to have back their own original worry!

As a Christian, I know that I am called to either worry or trust. It is that simple. But as a human, I find myself with my stomach in knots and my mind racing about how I can help. I get so caught up in the emotional side of the event, that I totally neglect the spiritual side.

This week, my family received heart-breaking news. It was so out of our control that we all felt helpless. Being physically far away forces me to simply pray because it’s all I can do. I realize now that it is what we should do first anyway! While my family scrambled to take action, I took to prayer. In my many sighs and tears to God, He revealed to me that the family member needed healing–spiritual healing. That’s when I took action. I made phone calls and helped arrange for a priest in another city to visit this family member. At first, I met with lots of barriers. But I have a not-so-secret weapon called “The Divine Mercy Chaplet.” At the hour of mercy (3:00 p.m.), I begged God to send me a holy priest. I was getting nowhere by myself and needed His help. Within 30 seconds of finishing my prayer, the phone was ringing and a priest was on the line. The ending of this Chaplet prayer is: “Jesus, I trust in you.” Such a simple prayer, yet so easy to forget, and even harder to do!

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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.

 

 

Running from Job

God has been telling me lately to read the Book of Job. I have read the Book of Job many times, and the last time I read it, I really liked it. I liked that he had tremendous faith. I liked that he had the fortitude to even respond to his “friends” who were not being very understanding of his situation. I liked that although he had some pretty frank discussions with God, he ultimately revered and trusted in Him.

Last year, my sister told me she was supposed to read the Book of Job, and she really didn’t enjoy that book of the Bible. I told her all these encouraging words about how great Job was and how amazing his faith was. I told her that this was a story of triumph. Yes, it was a difficult story, but it had a really good ending.

Today, I am about halfway through Job. I should have already read it by now. I just cannot seem to want to read it. Here I was, encouraging my sister when heavy things were coming into her life. And now that I am heading there, I’m running away. I have had to force myself to read Job. How hypocritical am I? This is embarrassing to admit, but I have let my feelings get in the way of listening to God. Because I am not feeling good about reading Job, I’ve dragged my feet. I’ve even taken to reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations! My son told me it was a good book, and even though I have read it before, I thought now would be a good time to dive into this massive piece of fiction! Ha, Ha. Oh the lengths we go to so that we can avoid facing what we need to face.

Tonight, I plan to read another chapter of Job. I plan to listen to what God has to say to me. Then, I will fall asleep finding out what’s in store for Pip. I have a feeling that his “great expectations” may not end up so great after all.

Imagination and Reality

Have you ever had a dream that was so real that when you woke up you were still feeling the intense emotions you had during the dream? This is the power of imagination. Our imaginations are a huge gift from God. It’s where we can create and discover, just like our Creator. Afterall, we are made in His image!

Lots of famous inventions came about because of dreams, for example the design of the needle that would make a sewing machine actually work. Mothers and grandmothers across the world felt a load lifted from their shoulders when this machine was invented. Making the family’s clothing became a much easier task. Today we don’t even think about sewing out of necessity. Everything comes ready-made. Clothing the family is as easy as choosing the style you like and can afford. All because of one man’s imagination taking a creative idea and making it a reality.

As amazing and wonderful as our imaginations are, we can misuse our free will with our imaginations which can create some serious dilemmas for us. One clear example is that we can let fear overtake us in our imagination. When something difficult happens in our lives, we tend to imagine all types of outcomes or ways to respond to the difficulty. The “what ifs” can overwhelm us and rob of us any real peace. Or we can decide that life is supposed to be a certain way, and to keep it that way, we simply ignore the reality staring us in the face. You can call this a game of pretend, but let’s be honest–that’s Satan’s territory.  He has a lot of freedom in the realm of our imaginations, and many times we willingly or unknowingly allow him in.

On the other hand, God is all about reality. He owns it because it is true. When we are faced with difficulty and suffering, we sometimes avoid facing reality. It seems so easy to rename what we are seeing or experiencing. If we pretend or ignore reality enough, we start believing that our pretend is real. That’s when Satan starts having a field day. The longer we keep up the pretense, the stronger hold Satan has on our lives. We even are willing to limit our view of God and His love for us, just to keep our “pretend” game going.

All of this to say that we are called to use the gift of our imaginations for good. We are also asked to accept our lives as they really are. When we suffer or face a difficulty, we are told to give thanks: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) And remember that God isn’t the one behind suffering, pain or death! To quote Saturday Night Live’s Church Lady character, “Can you say Satan?”

As for me, I will consider myself much farther down the road of spiritual growth when I can embrace these three things fully. When my thoughts and imagination are only focused on good things. When I can accept my life and all of its circumstances as it really is. And when I can face serious suffering and/or difficulty and my first response is “Thank you, God!” instead of my current response which is more like “Why me?” 

Prayer Warrior of the Dying

One of my dear family members is dying. He was diagnosed with a terminal illness many months ago. We were given a general timeframe (1 to 3 years) but also were told by the professionals that it may be only months. This is a cruel illness that slowly takes away everything, even his ability to breath. To add to the painful process, he also suffers from dementia. In case you think he is very elderly, he is not.

Last night, things seem to have turned for the worst. His whole family which is quite large was already planning to gather for Easter. Now, they may be spending time at the hospital. Many of them are wondering if they should be heading home today instead of tomorrow. I think Good Friday is going to have a whole new meaning for them.

I have been praying for complete and total healing for this dear one if it be God’s will. I have pleaded with Fr. Emil Kapaun whose cause for sainthood is underway. I have simultaneously begged that if it is not possible for complete healing, then for his eternal salvation. I have come to the point in my life where I want that for every person and am willing to sacrifice for it.

God knows this about me. He actually wakes me during the night and asks for prayer. I am a busy Mom who doesn’t get enough rest. I really don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night. I know that most people with my vocation as wife and mother are not asked to do this. However, I cannot ignore such a request at such critical times. I am not perfect. Sometimes, I fall asleep praying. Often, my prayer is disjointed because of my drowsiness. But I offer this up to our Blessed Mother who can take all things and make them perfect.

As for my family member who is dying, I pray that he feels relief from the pain. I pray that he knows he is supported in prayer for both his healing and his salvation. I pray that my family who is caring for him can be sustained. I pray.

 

The Worst News Ever?!

Here’s a roundup of the news I have received from this past week: Stroke. Car accident. Death. Terminal illness. Back strain. Divorce. Alcoholism.

Now, before you think all of these things happened to me, well, they did and they did not. What I mean to say is that I would argue all of this does in some way happen to you when you have a large family full of love and brokenness. Yes, some of the suffering is self-inflicted, but some of the suffering comes on in its own.

Our response to suffering shows a really clear picture of where we stand emotionally, morally and spiritually. It’s why one of my friends who is a Protestant minister likes to perform funerals. She says that it is when the suffering is at its peak, so the people are most open to hearing God’s Word. Their hard hearts have been cracked, just a little, by the loss. They become real again, facing things that they have ignored for a long time.

My prayer has always been to let God help me see through the light of Christ, so that when the suffering comes, whether of my own making or on its own, I am strengthened and can give God glory even in those moments.

I was deeply impacted when I watched a news report about 10 years ago when a man lost his entire family in a freak flash flood which washed his minivan off the highway into flash river in a location where this had never occurred before. During his interview, he explained that he and his wife had adopted many children with disabilities. They were all in the car. When the water came over their car, he could not get to his family because he was sucked out through the front windshield. He watched his wife and all of his adopted children get pushed down into the river in their minivan.

His response was, of course, sorrow. But, he said he could not be mad at God. This happened in his life and he trusted God had a plan for him. He quoted the Bible verse that speaks to trusting in God with all your heart. I had never witnessed what that meant until I saw this man on television. He was that Bible verse.

I pray that God will show me how to trust him in those dark moments. I pray that my prayers for my family bring healing and love. I pray that suffering can be offered up for the whole world and make our world a place of deep, abiding peace. I know suffering will come. I hope that I am ready.

Fitting my son for a Cross

I am measuring my son’s arm span this morning to fit him for a cross. Last night, I wove a crown of thorns. As I worked, I was thinking things like, “Hmmm…those thorns don’t look sharp enough. How do I make them sharp? Do I have enough big thorns?” I feel like I am in a really terrifying Twilight Zone episode!

We are putting on a Passion Play and my son auditioned and received the part of Jesus. The director spent quite some time preparing him for this role. Not only mentally and emotionally but spiritually. She is a nationally recognized professional who has been in all sorts of performances, but she shared with him that anyone who takes on the role of Jesus Christ is always in for a tremendous journey of faith. I can see that I am in for a journey, too.

When I found out my son had the part of Jesus, tears welled up in my eyes. I have such a deep devotion to our Blessed Mother that I have very intense feelings of her sorrow during her Son’s Passion. I am not sure how I will be able to be the Stage Manager while watching my son walk the Way of the Cross.

As I shared all of this with my dear friend, she turned to me and said, “How do you think I feel? My daughter is the tormentor!” We both laughed until tears ran down our faces. Thank you, God, for dear friends who can make us laugh when facing something difficult.