Tag Archive | Blessings

Love is a Gift

Anna and Nana

 
Authentic love is not a vague sentiment or a blind passion. It is an inner attitude that involves the whole human being. It is looking at others, not to use them but to serve them. It is the ability to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and to suffer with those who are suffering. It is sharing what one possesses so that no one may continue to be deprived of what he needs. Love, in a word, is the gift of self.
 
~ Blessed Pope John Paul II
 
 
 
Grandparents
 
Grandparents bestow upon their grandchildren
The strength and wisdom that time
And experience have given them.
 
Grandchildren bless their grandparents
With a youthful vitality and innocence
That help them stay young at heart forever.
 
Together they create a chain of love
Linking the past with the future.
The chain may lengthen,
But it will never part….
 
 

Fall in Love
Attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907–1991)

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

– See more at: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/prayers-by-st-ignatius-and-others/fall-in-love/#sthash.nTKtSwvu.dpuf

 
 
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Grateful for Grace

This weekend my daughter Lauren is receiving her First Reconciliation. As one of her Catechist teachers, I am so excited and grateful to be sharing this experience with her! As Catholics, we believe that an abundance of God’s grace is received during this holy Sacrament (outward sign of God’s grace and love) . Speaking out loud our weaknesses and wrongdoings  to a representative of our Lord is a very healing and freeing experience.

There is something about hearing your sins spoken out loud to another that makes you feel so much more accountable and deeply sorry for hurting others and God. I told my students that it feels like getting a car wash for your soul.  Afterwards your heart is made clean and you feel so much joy and love from our merciful Father!  I said, “You know how you feel when you get up on Christmas morning and you are so happy you can hardly stand it? Well, receiving  God’s Grace and forgiveness after Reconciliation feels a lot like that. You feel so much lighter, and brighter, and you have a new sense of hope in your heart to try to love others, yourself, and God even better than before!

It can be painful to honestly look at our actions and motives for doing what we do in certain situations or relationships. Sometimes we see things that we don’t want to see. Sometimes we struggle with the same sins over and over, and we need to continually pray for God’s guidance. It is important for us to realize that we are not alone in our struggles, and that God’s mercy and love  is always present, no matter what. Through Reconciliation we receive the strength and courage to become who we are meant to be!

Confession is an act of honesty and courage; an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God. It is an act of the prodigal son who returns to his Father and is welcomed by him with the kiss of peace. 

 ~Blessed John Paul II               

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt. Taken at the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

 

ABC’S of Parenthood

I “borrowed” this from a plaque that I saw recently and wanted to share it.  I have always loved simple statements of truth in quotes or sayings. It gave me the idea to share my own ABC’s of Parenthood….I hope you enjoy 🙂 Mine are in parentheses next to them.

Ask for help!  (Answer the tough questions) (Allow for mistakes)

Be proud of them (Believe in them) (Bake together)

Call a babysitter  (Create peace & balance)

Discover Joy (Dream together) (DANCE!)

Eat birthday cake (not just on birthdays) (Exercise your mind and body)

Find Time (Free your lost inner child) (if it’s lost or broken)

Give them a road map (Glorify God) (Greet strangers kindly)

Honor individuality (Host fun parties) (Happily help them with their homework) (seriously)

Inspire! (Invent exciting adventures!)

Just Listen (Jump in puddles)

Kiss them goodnight (and good morning) (Keep the good memories alive and make many more)

Let them go (Love them unconditionally) (LAUGH LAUGH LAUGH!)

Meet their friends (Make music together) (Munch really tasty and unique foods)

Nurture Kindness  (Never underestimate what they understand)

Order Takeout (Organize your junk!) (that one is for me :))

Pay Attention (PRAY together everyday!)

Quiet Fears (but don’t dismiss them) (Never Quit making your own list!)

Read to them (Regularly) (Reach out to others in need)

Set high standards (Send thank you notes)  (Sit together at the dinner table)

Tip the Tooth fairy! (Treat others the way you want to be treated)

Use Hand Sanitizer (Understand their pain and struggles)

Value Opinions (Vent your anger responsibly)

Wear comfortable shoes (Wish upon the stars) (Wake up with good thoughts)

EXplain the Important Stuff (Xpect ups and downs)

SaY “I love you” (everyday) (don’t Yell (to much)

BE AMAZED (catch enough ZZZZZZZ’s!)

The following is a poster I have hanging in my daughter’s room. It is by a favorite writier/artist named Sark. It sums up much of what parenthood is all about!

HOW TO REALLY LOVE A CHILD

BE THERE. SAY YES AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE. LET THEM BANG ON POTS AND PANS. IF THEY ARE CRABBY, PUT THEM IN WATER. IF THEY’RE UNLOVABE, LOVE YOURSELF, REALIZE HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO BE A CHILD, GO TO A MOVIE THEATRE IN YOUR PAJAMAS, READ BOOKS OUT LOUD WITH JOY, INVENT PLEASURES TOGETHER, REMEMBER HOW REALLY SMALL THEY ARE, GIGGLE A LOT, SURPRISE THEM, SAY NO WHEN NECESSARY, TEACH FEELINGS, HEAL YOUR OWN INNER CHILD, LEARN ABOUT PARENTING, HUG TREES TOGETHER, MAKE LOVING SAFE, BAKE A CAKE AND EAT IT WITH NO HANDS, GO FIND ELEPHANTS AND KISS THEM, PLAN TO BUILD A ROCKETSHIP, IMAGINE YOURSELF MAGIC, MAKE LOTS OF FORTS WITH BLANKETS, LET YOUR ANGEL FLY, REVEAL YOUR OWN DREAMS, SEARCH OUT THE POSITIVE, KEEP THE GLEAM IN YOUR EYE, MAIL LETTERS TO GOD, ENCOURAGE SILLY, PLANT LICORICE IN YOUR GARDEN, OPEN UP, STOP YELLING, EXPRESS YOUR LOVE, A LOT, SPEAK KINDLY, PAINT THEIR TENNIS SHOES, HANDLE WITH CARING

CHILDREN ARE MIRACULOUS

Here is a favorite song of mine about parenthood. It is beautiful!

 

Blessings in Disguise

We had my mom’s bi-annual care conference the other week. I met with mom’s nurses to discuss her progress and plans for future treatments.  We were told that she would not benefit from anymore physical therapy sessions in hopes of her walking again. So I made the decision to “wean” her from therapy, as insurance no longer covers the sessions. It was a final “letting go” moment  in regards to letting go of the hope that she would ever walk again.

 Although I feel sad that mom will probably never walk on her own again, I try to focus on all of the many gifts that God has given us throughout this difficult journey. I suppose that is a primary  struggle of life. To pray for the eyes to see the blessings and angels that God mercifully sends our way in order to make our hearts lighter and our journey brighter, especially when it feels very difficult to do so.  To continue to pray for the faith to see that sometimes He gives us things that we need for growth, rather than things that we think we need or want.  To pray for trust to see that our trials in our life are perhaps, in certain ways, blessings in disguise.

A very huge gift was how mom ended up getting into the place that she is in now. I had initially hoped that she would get into Waverly Gardens, but that center and others that I interviewed would not take her, mostly because of her addictive behaviors.  I finally got her into a place that had a locked memory care center floor, which agreed to take her after many interviews and reassurance gained that she would not be a flight risk.  Within 6 months, I knew that this was not the place for mom. I began to fervently pray for God to help us find  a new place for her to live. Within 3 months, mom ended up needing to have surgery again on her right hip, as it had never healed properly.

 Amazingly, the Care Center the hospital  set up for her to do her rehab in was Waverly Gardens. It was after mom stayed for a few days that they began to see that mom was not going to be a flight risk, so we signed her up long-term. It was a huge relief and burden lifted from my shoulders.  I should add that a huge gift was when I immediately got her into the brand new beautiful wing of the Center, which usually has a wait list!

Another gift in this difficult struggle has been the fact that my mom is now totally and completely chemical free, except for a few prescriptions for depression and anxiety (and who isn’t on those these days anyway?!) and for other minor health issues. She is so much less anxious, nervous, and irritable than she used to be that it is like night and day. I no longer dread our visits. Instead I look forward to visiting her with my kids. And my kids love running around the place and getting their ice cream in the deli!

Some days, like this week in particular, I struggle with pronounced melancholy when I remember all that my mom was and could have been. I think it is partly because my two daughter’s birthdays are in the next few weeks, and celebrations always remind me just how much is missing in our family. The start of the fair reminds me of all the fun times mom and my family had going to the State Fair every year. Some years we would go 2 or 3 times. Of course, we enjoyed gorging on all of the greasy goodies, just like almost every one else.

It helps to remember all of the gifts, or the “silver linings” in the dark clouds of loss…no matter how dark things are or not. Those bright spots are God’s grace shining through…guiding us and loving us.  I think of Psalm 94 “When I said, “My foot is slipping!” Your loving kindness, God, held me up.” And it is prayer that helps us find those bright spots. It is prayer that breaks open the dark clouds for the bright spots to find us! Those are the true blessings in disguise.

 

A God-incidence in London

 

I am known in my family as a sort of dreamer, one who is always “thinking out loud” (much to their dismay), and one who sees a potential miracle in every moment. I like to call incidences that don’t seem to happen by “chance” or that are seeping with synchronicity “God-incidences”. Some cynics would probably roll  their eyes when they hear the cliché “everything happens for a reason”, and respond with a “no, it’s just a coincidence”. In those moments I would just smile and say, “Well, I just don’t believe in coincidences, I only believe in God-incidences!

To many things have occurred in my life that when I look back, seem to have been orchestrated for a purpose. Of course, often times it took many months or years for me to recognize that, but certain meanings in situations or problems were eventually made clear. And, of course, there are still things that are frustratingly not made clear yet…but I guess that is where my faith steps in. After all,  “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1)

Last month on our family vacation to Europe, I was in London exploring the city by myself. My family had all split up wanting to experience different sites, so I took a cab from Harrods to the National Art Gallery where the Van Gough “Sunflowers” was on exhibit. I have always been drawn to the art of Van Gough, as it seems to fluctuate between intense, dark sorrow, and bright, passionate, transcendental joy. “Starry Night” is a favorite of mine. His art has a dreamy spiritual quality to it. I have read that early in his life he had been a preacher, and later on in his life he suffered with mental illness. Both of which are obvious factors that helped to influence & deepen his artistic expression.

So here is where my “God-incidence” comes in. While I was on the trip I had read a book, titled “Miracle Detective” by Randall Sullivan. I had downloaded it on my Nook while I was on the cruise ship. On the cover of the book there is a beautiful vibrant colored painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I had never seen this image of Mary before seeing it on the cover of this book. The painting depicts her reverently and serenely bowing her head with her delicate hands gently clasped in prayer.  I had felt drawn to look at the cover periodically while I was reading it, as it helped me to feel closer to her and to God. I was thinking about looking up online who the artist was, because I liked it so much, but I never found the time.

The National Art Gallery of London

So, there I was in the London National Art Gallery walking quickly through the gallery rooms, trying to find an exit, so I could make it back in time to the hotel to meet the rest of the family for dinner. I had just seen Van Gough’s art and some of the other impressionism pieces, when I stopped a museum guide to ask where an exit was. As I was going in that direction, I pleasantly noticed that I was strolling through a huge religious art gallery room. I took my time, as this form of art is  a favorite of mine, when all of a sudden, at the end of the room, a very unique & exquisite painting completely stopped me in my tracks. I stood there in front of it with my jaw dropped to the floor, feeling such an amazing sense of awe and wonder.

So can you guess which painting it was? Yep, it was THE original one of Mary that was on the cover of the book that I had just finished a couple days before.  There are only 3 or 4 versions of it in the world, and the other 3 versions are all more drab in color. This particular version portrays Mary’s mantle with very deep and vibrant blues and reds. It was painted by an Italian artist named Sassoferrato from 1640-1650, and is titled, “The Virgin in Prayer”. The perfect timing of how I “accidently” found the painting a couple days after reading the book, was most definitely a God- incidence for me! I actually even posted the book on Facebook the day before I not so  “randomly bumped into it” in the museum.

As I stood soaking in the tremendous grace and beauty of this inspiring piece of art, I felt in intense  surge of deep gratitude and love for the Blessed Mother and Our Lord. It felt like Mary was just saying, “Hi..I love you!” in a very simple, yet profound way, confirming my hope and belief that she has always been my heavenly guide and mother. It helped me to feel in a very real way, that she is constantly watching out for me and interceding my prayers for me, as she is for all of us, if we simply just ask her to.

The book “Miracle Detective” is an informative and inspiring memoir written by a past Rolling Stone magazine editor, who was interested in researching how the Catholic Church investigates alleged holy visions. It is a deeply moving book that follows 9 long years of his extensive research and eventual profound spiritual conversion. When he began the process, he was a non-believer. He was purely interested from a writer/researcher perspective. His spiritual experiences and discoveries eventually led him to develop a very real and lasting faith.

I love the last line in the book, as he sums up what faith and love for God is ultimately all about.

“All this time, I thought, all this effort, and all I had demonstrated to myself was that I could not live without God’s love, and that the only way I knew to get it was to love him back. I looked up at the light sparkling on Oregon pine needles and saw rosebushes blooming in Texas. It was a miracle, I knew, even if I could never prove it. All I had to do was ask.”

Ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you. Yes, everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And everyone who knocks will have the door opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

 

Called to Witness

My mom and I with my kids on Halloween!

Some different definitions of the word  ‘witness’ are, “one who testifies in a cause”, “one who has personal knowledge of something”, or “one who gives evidence”.  As a Christian, when I think of the word  ‘witness’,  I think of how the apostles of Jesus were first hand witnesses to His teachings, and then to his eventual passion, death, and glorious resurrection.  These followers gave up everything they had in order  to go and testify  how their lives were completely changed by the love of God.   I think of how Jesus told them to “Go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation (Mark 16:15).  I think of how God calls every one of us to be a witness to His love and mercy in our lives.  We are all called to testify and share how God’s love has changed us, or how his mercy and grace has inspired us.  I feel personally called  to  let people know how the promises of God have given me a lasting and joyful hope, as a direct result of watching and caring for my parent who has a chronic and debilitating  illness.

When you have a relatively young parent who has dementia and is physically impaired like my mom, it takes awhile to get used to the ways that people tend to react to her.  People tend to notice us, both because mom is obviously ill, in a wheel chair,  and because we are both relatively young (I’m 38).  We often get the sympathetic, sad stares and the disbelieving looks that seem to say, “they look so young!” or “that poor girl or woman”.  At times, I even imagine some of them may be thinking, “Thank God that is not me!”  Sometimes you also get those welcomed truly genuine smiles of compassion that seem to tell me, “Good for you”, “Good job”, or “you are inspiring to me” On  some days, the looks seem to say all of the above!

At the beginning of her illness,  I loathed those uncomfortable stares.  I would dread taking her places, knowing I would  need to receive those unwanted looks of pity.  I was having a hard enough time fighting off and coping with my own internal feelings of intense anger, despair, and confusion, that those additional stares felt more like a burden to me.  In a way, they felt like just another painful stab at my already wounded heart.

As time has gone on, those looks of pity have given me an odd sense of  fulfillment.  Sometimes, I hear in my head the words, “I am a witness”, and sometimes I silently pray, “Lord, make me a witness and your example”.  At times, I get the feeling that it  is no “coincidence” that we are in this particular life situation.  I get a strong sense of “knowing” or a sense of a deep purpose, like I was meant to play this role in being an example or a witness  for this sort of compassion and mercy that is needed.

An example of this is when I took my mom to the neurologist the other day.  She was being evaluated for some  irreversible  involuntary facial and body movements that were caused by a particular strong  psychiatric drug.  During the appointment, there was a young med school student who was in her final year, who sat in to observe my mom’s appointment.  I could sense the young girl’s uncomfortable posture,  with her foot twitching and her legs crossed, as well as her obvious lack of eye contact with  me.  In those moments, I try to remember that my witness and compassion matter a great deal.  It is my hope that I showed this future aspiring young doctor what it looks like to lovingly and joyfully care for a parent with dementia.  It is my hope that I showed her patience, gentleness, and kindness; all of the things that she will need to exhibit to her future patients in order to one day be a good doctor.

This lent, I think about the ways I am called to further testify and be a witness to the love of God for others.  How can I extend my self even further than I have?  In what areas have I been only giving “just enough”?  How  can I strive to make more of a sacrifice for others by giving more of my time, more of my care, concern, or charity to others in need?  Have I given until it “hurts”? Because, sometimes that is the only way that any lasting and authentic growth can occur, when we are forced to “live outside the box”, where it is uncomfortable and difficult.  We can then gain a humility and a compassion that we could not other wise receive if we always live to “safe”.   Afterall,  If we are giving “just enough”, what is our true purpose in giving?  Is it to make a true difference and change….or is it just to appear to do so????

The following are a few songs that have been really inspiring me lately to look beyond “my own little world” of comfort…and help me to think about how I can give more, and strengthen my love for God and others!  The first is Josh Wilson’s song “I Refuse”.  The second is “Small Rebellions” (sorry, this one you need to go to youtube!) by Jars of Clay, from their latest cd “Shelter” (VERY good btw :))  The third song is called “In My Own Little World” by Matthew West.  For the last song, all you need to do is click on the address link at the end of this post to hear/see it on YouTube!   All of the videos show the lyrics of the song.

……enjoy & let them inspire you too 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UywpoHe61sE

We Are So Blessed

The other day, I ran into the daughter of a resident who lives with my mom in her nursing home.  She is an amazing woman.  At the beginning of my mom’s stay, I had seen her helping out so frequently at meal times, I began to think that  she worked there!  But, it was more than just the amount of time that I saw her there that impressed  me, it was her warm rapport and loving compassion that flowed from her as she interacted with the residents.  She knew each of the 15 or 20 people by name, and she seemed to know each one of their unique personalities and individual needs.

 We started talking about our moms,  about why they are there, and a little bit about our family histories up until this point.  She expressed how she and her mom have had a rocky relationship for much of their lives together, but that she feels so incredibly blessed now to be caring for her.  We talked about how at times, giving that gift of unconditional love can be very difficult to do, especially if there had been unresolved issues or resentments in the relationship.  Giving that sort of selfless love  can be hugely painful, and sometimes requires  a gigantic amount of sacrifice, but ultimately,  it proves to be enormously rewarding  and life giving  in the end. 

I think of another conversation in an email that I had with a friend recently.  She was explaining how she had  taken care of her father for 3 years before he finally passed away from cancer this past fall.  She talked of the difficult burden she carried  of being  the only one who knew  the secret of how long her father had left to live, as her father did not want anyone else in the family to know.  She was even told to keep the secret from her mom, as well.  She expressed how very challenging it was during those 3 years, but yet, she truly feels that it was an incredible  blessing and a huge gift to be able to share in that journey with her father up until his passing.

 These examples cause me to remember what Jesus taught  in the Sermon on the Mount (Mathew 5:1-12) .

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed  are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 

 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

When your parent is so sick and vulnerable, you feel very helpless and lost at times, not knowing what to do to ease their troubles or pain.  You find yourself being freed from certain expectations and attachments, such as letting go of long held dreams of the way you wished or hoped your life could  be together.  You become spiritualty poor in the sense that you begin to fully realize just how much you desperately need God’s grace to guide you every step of the way.  In that state of spiritual poverty, you know that you can not do it alone, and you realize what an amazing blessing and  gift it is that you don’t have to!

This week I feel blessed, because mom has started physical therapy again, in order to help her possibly walk someday.  We had tried physical therapy with her for 18 months, and this past October I had to make the painful decision to stop her therapies, as she was consistently very uncooperative and shown to have made hardly any progress during that time.  At this time, she is very cooperative and willing to work at it, so we are giving it another go!  Time and God willing, mom will be able to hopefully walk again someday, which would be no small miracle!!!

Two years ago,  I was very blessed to travel to Ephesus, where Paul the apostle preached and was believed to be imprisoned.  It is also the place where Mary, the mother of Jesus, was believed to have been taken to live out her last years with St. John, who was a very close friend and beloved disciple of Jesus.  Visiting Mary’s house was an amazing blessing for me, as I have a very strong love and devotion for her! (below is a pic I took in Rome, a mosaic of Mary)

The following passage is from Ephesians 1:3-14.  I had read somewhere how a bible study teacher had used this passage as a prayer exercise with her students that seemed very personal and powerful.  I encourage you to insert your name in the blanks of this passage….and hear Paul speaking directly to you!!

 Spiritual Blessings in Christ

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed ________in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose _______ in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined ________ for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will—to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given  _____ in the One He loves. In Him_______has redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of her/his sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on her/him. With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to when ________ believed, she/he  was marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing her/his  inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory. (Eph 1:3-14, modified)

In Christ….we are so blessed!!

 God’s blessings are dispensed according to the riches of his grace, not according to the depth of our faith…..so…..we don’t give up.  We look up.  We trust.  We believe.  And our optimism is not hollow.  Christ has proven worthy.  He has shown that he never fails.  That’s what makes God, God!!  (Grace For the Moment, Max Lucado)