Category Archives: Doing God’s Will

Summer Freeze Bath

Transitioning into summer has been like jumping into an ice-cold river! The universe seemed to get a signal that school was wrapping up and began to send wave upon wave of intensity at my doorstep. I thought I was ready for summer. Now I am not so sure.

I suppose my youngest said it best. We headed out to weed the front beds and she informed me, “Why did we wait so long to get to this? Look at all the weeds!” She was right. It had been too many weeks. But family and friends and family and vacations and visits came tripping into our lives day after day since before the end of May. If we had a free moment, we were either all doing laundry and putting our house back in order or not feeling well. This is the first weekend in a long time that our calendar is actually readable.

I had a lot of amazing plans for this summer. I wanted to get back into the bible study that the kids and I started last summer. I mentioned that our chef (a/k/a me) who prepares lunch and dinner would need a sous chef this summer and that each child would get a turn. I haven’t even started planning my overnight week camp for cousins and friends.

But reality is much different from plans. My focus has shifted from the “would like to’s” to the “have to’s”. I have a house to finish remodeling along with many repairs to be made. I have to take the youngest to their swim lessons and the oldest to his college classes. I have to find a way to let the children play, yet have time to get these “have to’s” done. The list keeps growing and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Although I think I am flexible and can roll with changes, I have not been handling all this very well. I got a little grumpy with God. I had to go to Confession again! Yes, I am definitely a sinner. My little plans had to shift. I should know by now that God has a bigger, better plan. But I don’t always have the faith I need. As my wise friend said, “You know what the motto in Hell is, don’t you? I did it MY way!”

I am so thankful for the Sacred Heart Sisters who shared with me and my family on a weekend retreat. They refilled my heart with good thoughts and solutions. They live their faith, and their joy is contagious. I sure needed that lift as I head into this summer. Thank you, God, for Sister Rose, Sister Teresa, Sister Adriane, and Sister Laura! Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

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Challenges of a Foster-Father

Today is the Feast Day of St. Joseph the Worker. He is so special as the Foster-Father of Jesus that he is the only saint that has two feast days– March 19 and May 1. Of course, the Blessed Virgin Mary has a whole host of feast days, but most saints just have one.

I have been seeking to understand the Holy Family more deeply–how they lived, what example they provided for every family, and specifically, what role St. Joseph played in raising the Son of God and living as spouse with the Mother of God.

I am pretty certain of a few things:

1. St. Joseph was humble. Everything about this man speaks of humility. He was a carpenter who provided for himself, then his family by the work of his hand and the sweat of his brow. Although he descended from the kingly line of Judah, he was content to work for his living.

2. St. Joseph was pure. When he discovered that his fiancée was with child, he knew the child was not his. But he also knew that Mary was not the type of girl to cause this to happen. He cared deeply for others and that’s why he was willing to quietly divorce her without fully understanding why or how this came to be. He didn’t worry about himself or his reputation first. His intentions were pure. That’s why God sent an angel to help him understand more deeply.

3. St. Joseph was receptive. When angels came to him in dreams with warnings or clarifications, he listened. It doesn’t mention that he argued back with them. He was open to hearing from God in this way. Also, we have no quotes from St. Joseph. He is silent in the Gospels. His thoughts and prayers were saved for God alone.

4. St. Joseph was faithful. His response to all requests from God (and most likely the Blessed Virgin) was immediate action. That takes tremendous faith! Again, we hear no account of St. Joseph questioning God or the angel-messengers. He took action. If you want to see how to put your faith into action, simply follow the example of the life of St. Joseph.

St. Joseph lived a simple yet faith-filled life. He ordered his entire life around God, and more specifically His Son and the Mother of His Son. He had the same responsibilities of fathers today–to provide for their families. He didn’t always have it easy, especially as an immigrant in Egypt! But he walked by faith and humbly accepted his role in the Holy Family. St. Joseph, Patron of Families, Pray for Us!

Should I stay or should I go?

The lyrics from on old song came roaring through my head this morning: Should I stay or should I go now?/ Should I stay or should I go now?/If I go there will be trouble/ An’ if I stay it will be double/ So come on and let me know/ Should I stay or should I go?

We are remodeling our kitchen and clearing many things out of our home. Through this process, we are trying to determine if we should stay in this home or move. There are a whole host of reasons for choosing to stay or choosing to go. I used to be the kind of person who would list out all the pros and cons and decide from there. Boy, have I changed!

Nowadays, I am learning and practicing the 4-step:

Step 1 = STOP
I stop when faced with a big decision like this. This takes a tremendous amount of will power for me because I am by nature a decision-maker. So I force myself to completely halt everything to do with the decision.

Step 2 = PRAYER
I step up my prayer life and go directly to God. My weekly Adoration hour has been focused on listening. What does God want us to do? Is there a reason we should stay? Is there a reason we should go?

Step 3 = WISE COUNSEL
I turn to someone who knows our Lord better than anyone else, the Blessed Virgin Mary. I started a Novena to Our Lady of Good Counsel which has turned into what feels like an eternal novena! I am way past 9 days of praying, but I keep asking for guidance. However, it has been revealed to me that the Blessed Virgin’s guidance is guaranteed when it concerns your eternal salvation. This made me realize that staying or going may not affect my eternal salvation, so I may not need or receive much guidance here.

I usually find myself scheduling a meeting with my Spiritual Director, who always has practical yet difficult-to-hear-and-do advice. Honestly, I haven’t done that just yet….

Step 4 = CLARITY
I wait for clarity through this discernment process. This is the hardest part of the 4-Step. Hanging around when you are living in no-man’s land is a test of patience, fortitude, perseverance and faith. Especially when everyone around you–your spouse, your remodeling help, your family, your friends, your neighbors–is really badly wanting an answer. Waiting is difficult, but waiting while being pestered can be intolerable. Ask any mom who has toddlers in the grocery store check-out line.

This 4-Step has taught me to be more patient. I used to pray things like, “God, I need to know by next week if you want me to sell my house. If I don’t  hear from you, I’m going to assume you want me to stay.” Wow, what pride I had/have to demand things of God. His ways are not our ways, and his time is not our time. I am feeling this truth tremendously right now.

Please do not think that I am “perfect” in this regard. At the beginning of this process, I jump-started into action, then realized I had broken the rules of 4-Stepping. I had to backtrack, apologize to some folks, and undo some things. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I once again overlooked God in a big decision in my life. So, my hope is that by sharing this with others, I will feel even more compelled to follow it in my own life.

Today, I still am under tremendous pressure to answer this question: Should we stay or should we go? And just like the song states,”if I go there could be trouble, and if I stay it will be double.” But I am not asking a person to answer this for me. I am asking an all-knowing, all-powerful, merciful, awesome God and His handmaid, Mary the Untier of Knots, to help me. I am sure I will know with much clarity what I am supposed to do soon enough.

 

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?” 

Finding the Good in Good Friday

Only God could take something as brutal and wicked as a crucifixion of an innocent man and make it into something good and holy. We call today “Good Friday,” and it is good in so many ways. However, as my children are presenting a live “Stations of the Cross” today due to a request from an audience member at their Passion Play, I am vividly aware of the brutality and evil that was present during our Lord’s Passion. As I watch my children act out these scenes, I shudder. The same crowds that sang “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest,” when Jesus entered Jerusalem are now asking for his death, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” I think the Lord has a very clear understanding of the human heart.

Sacrificing your only begotten Son in itself is heart-wrenching. I think about Abraham and Isaac. God put Abraham to the test and asked him to sacrifice his son. I personally am not sure how I would respond to such a request. I would like to say my faith is such that I would gather up the wood and head up the mountain. But I know myself well enough to realize that I probably would begin a long argument with God.

But not Father Abraham! His heart must have been so pure. And I think he must have done a pretty good job raising his son Isaac because Isaac was carrying the instruments of sacrifice. Isaac even realized what was going on and asked, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” Fast forward in the story and Abraham is getting ready to sacrifice his son. Abraham was elderly and his son Isaac was a youth. I think Isaac could have fought off his father and escaped, but he clearly didn’t. Did Abraham share his faith with his son at such a deep level that even Isaac understood that God’s plan is the best plan no matter what? God stopped Abraham before he could sacrifice Isaac, but God surely saw just how much Abraham loved Him. He also saw how much Isaac was obedient to his own father and to God’s plan. This must have pleased God very much.

God asks a lot of us. He even asks for sacrifice at times. We are only capable of doing this because of His great love within us. But God never takes us over the edge. He may take us to the edge, but never beyond what we can handle. Only He is willing and able to do that as He shows with his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, on the Cross for our salvation. And that, my friends, is why He is God!

Jumping Off a 7-Story Building

I would not say I am a risk-taker, but I did choose to throw myself off a 7-story building when I was in high school. It took a lot of courage to do it and here’s why: I was being held only by a rope and spotted by others down on the ground. Of course, I had been rappelling over a few smaller cliffs and had trained to get to this point.

Standing on the ledge of a 7-story building can change your perspective. I wondered if I would really go through with this. I remember the feeling of backing up to the edge of the ledge and realizing that I just had to go for it. Talk about understanding the meaning of trust! I had to trust that I had reliable equipment, knowledgeable instructors and attentive spotters.

At this point, many people would choose to walk away, but not me! There was an added dilemma to this whole ordeal. We were working from a building that the fire department uses for practice on high-rise fires which meant that there were no windows. The building was just a concrete structure with giant holes shaped like rectangles for the windows. I remember my instructor saying, “Just be careful not to swing sideways because you don’t want to swing into an open window hole. That would be bad.” As he is saying this, I am immediately thinking of all the variables that could make that happen, like wind, my trembling hands, and lack of experience. It took a lot of courage, but in the end, I jumped. I followed all the rules that I had learned to safely rappel. When I got to the bottom, I was ready to go again.

This is how it is to trust God’s will for us. Often, we must jump without knowing with certainty how things will land. Isn’t that the definition of faith? Such a simple word, but so hard to put into practice. God will give us the grace we need in those moments, just like I had the equipment and people to help me jump. God has also given us some very wise instruction in His Word (also known as the Bible). God has considered all the variables and knows how to help those work for our good. And when we land safely, we are so happy to know that we have true faith and we are ready to go further, higher, deeper, wider for our good God. And maybe even bring some others along to try it, too!

 

 

 

Lessons I learned from the circus

My education and upbringing really emphasized having a game plan and goals in life. Leadership was presented as being strategic, setting goals, and working your plan. I thought that being a leader would mean having success. What I apparently didn’t spend enough time thinking about was what type of success would really fulfill me as a person. I honestly never took the time to think deeply about “success,” what it was, what it means, or why I should care. Here I was pursuing it, yet not really even sure what I was pursuing.

I share all of this to say that I am experiencing what my wise friend calls “hang time” right now.  I went to him for spiritual guidance and he always has just the right example to help me visualize what my real problem is. He talked about the circus, which at first, I must admit, bemused me. I thought to myself, “The circus? Really? What does the circus have to do with this serious issue I am having in my life?” But he explained with patience and kindness: “When the trapeze artist swings from one swing to another, there is a point in time when he has to let go of the first swing, hang in the air, then catch the second swing. He has to trust and have faith that he will be able to grab that second swing.”

Sometimes in life, we are in that moment where we have let go of one thing and are waiting for God to show us what’s next. We have to “suspend” between two things. This feels so unnatural, especially for someone like me who has been groomed to have goals and plans and strategy. It feels like letting go of the steering wheel while driving 100 miles per hour. It feels dangerous! Now, I have long ago worked through my view of success which is probably quite different from a worldly view of it. Money, power, status, and position no longer matter to me. These are passing things that definitely do not bring me fulfillment. I am trying to follow God’s strategic plan which has a much longer vision for me, as in eternal! However, in these moments of “hang time” when I am waiting for the next prompting of the Holy Spirit, it feels like a wasteland and seems to last for eternity, even if it is only a blip on the timeline of my eternal soul.

Being a helpmate of my husband

Being the head of the household must be a challenging job, especially when you have a wife like me. In Ephesians 5, St. Paul makes it clear that just as Christ is the head of the Church, and we are the body, so the husband is the head of the wife. Of course, many people overlook the next verse of this important message. To sum up, Christ loved his Church so much, that he gave his life for them.

I think my husband is much like Christ. He works hard every day at a job that doesn’t necessarily give him warm fuzzies and is surrounded by a materialistic, worldly, self-interested group of people. But he continues and perseveres, always doing the right and honest thing, even if it hurts his paycheck or chances of promotion because he is a man of integrity. That’s why I married him and I hope and pray that never changes.

Now, don’t get me wrong. He grumbles and stresses and worries. He is not perfect, nor am I. At times, he thinks that I am trying to run the show. Honestly, both of us have issues with trying to run our own game plan instead of listening to God’s plan for our life together. So instead of turning to God, we sometimes are like two people in a tug-of-war, feeling as if one or the other is winning or getting their way. God must be looking down at us and just shaking His head. I know how I feel as a parent when my children behave this way, and God loves us more than a parent loves a son or daughter, but I am certain at times He must be amazed at how we choose to use our free will.

A dear friend of mine shared some insight into the life of the Holy Family. I have developed a devotion to St. Joseph because he lived with two people who were like no other on earth, and had the responsibility of being the head of their household. My friend shared that although the Blessed Virgin Mary was without sin, she still deferred to St. Joseph as the head of the household. This made me stop in my tracks. It is making me take a long, hard look at myself and my willingness to serve and be subject to other. I fully understand that marriage is a mutual self-giving, a communion of persons. I just had not realized how much my own pride and will get in the way of fulfilling that ideal of marriage. I need to let go of my plans, listen to God more, and be the helpmate to my husband I am meant to be. Sometimes, this will be a giving up of self and of control. I really don’t like the thought of having to do this, but I will do it out of love.

Wonderful, Scary, Sad Announcements

I’ve been thinking about announcements–when they occur, what they mean and why we make them. In my life, there have been wonderful announcements, scary announcements and sad announcements.

Wonderful announcements: “We’re engaged.” or “I’m expecting.” or “It’s a boy!”

Scary announcements: “A tornado is touching down.” or “An airplane has flown into the twin towers.” or “Your youngest brother has cancer.”

Sad announcements: “We’re getting divorced.” or “Grandma died.” or “You are losing this baby.”

It really doesn’t matter who delivers these messages, when they deliver them or how they deliver them to you, there is this feeling right before the message that sinks into your heart. Sometimes, in that moment, it is even hard to understand what exactly is being said because the reality of the statement is just too much to bear.

On the Solemnity of the Annunciation of our Lord, I wonder if Mary felt all these things at once–wonder, fear and sadness–when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her. What an announcement that was for her to receive!

Although the announcements in my life are minor compared to Mary’s, I think about how impactful those moments were in my life and how I had to really spend some time processing the news, either good or bad. I do not think I always respond in the best way. Instead, I let fear or despair or sadness or pride reign over me.

But the Blessed Mother’s “yes” to an announcement that is beyond all announcements has changed the world. I am trying to learn to say “yes” like her and change this little corner of the world around me. O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

 

 

Are you a human being or a human doing?

I’ve been getting a lot of calls lately from close friends, family members and even acquaintances that have an overwhelming need to vent. These calls or conversations last at least an hour or two. If I had to group these conversations into a category, I would name them “mid-life discontent” or something of that nature. I have listened to both men and women who range in age from late 30s to early 50s.

I am a pretty good listener. I really try to understand their perspective. I also try to imagine the other person’s perspective, too. Often times, after listening for a long, long time, what I suggest is not what they want to hear. Why? Because usually it is true and it is hard to do. Believe me, I know this to be true because I have good friends who will listen to me and suggest the wise course, which I sometimes do not want to take!

I called these conversations “mid-life discontent” because my callers are usually not happy about a situation in their lives. Sometimes, it is a result of their choices. Other times, it is a result of their spouse’s choices. Often times, it is because they chose to act before seeking wise counsel or discerning God’s will. In our hurry-up-and-go world full of messages of instant gratification, slowing down and listening and pondering the right choice is not even considered. It seems that we have taken in the lie that we should always be “doing” something versus “being” someone.

I work really hard to be a human “being”. I try not to rush ahead to solve a problem or to accomplish my own game plan before listening and discerning. Sometimes, I am accused of being “lazy” or not being open to a change. That is not so! If only the accusers understood how much self-control it takes for me to slow down, listen and wait!!! It is not in my nature to do these things. It has taken considerable prayer and change for me to get to this point. I like to “do” just as much as anyone, but I have learned the hard way that “being” is much better than “doing.” So, even when I am being confronted for my lack of “doing”, I fall back on prayer and listen to God’s will. It has served me much, much better than my old human “doing”…Now, if I could just get more people to try it!