Tag Archive | Courage

A River of Hope

waterfall

On some days

the cold rains don’t stop

 

A stormy torrent 

of pains

colliding

with hard rocks.

 

I cling to Your grace

and Your cross

a little tighter

My knuckles are raw

I am a fighter

 

You are my sturdy boat

keeping my head held up

and my life afloat

I hear you gently say,

“Keep your eyes on me”

“Don’t be afraid”

 

And I do believe

that with You

I can be free

 

No matter the day

where or when,

I see….

 

Your saving hope

will always 

stay

with me.

“Walk on the Water”

You look around, staring back at you
Another wave of doubt, will it pull you under? You wonder
What if I’m overtaken? What if I never make it?
What if no one’s there? Will You hear my prayer?

When you take that first step into the unknown
You know that He won’t let you go

So what are you waiting for? What do you have to lose?
Your insecurities, they try to hold to you
But you know you’re made for more, so don’t be afraid to move
Your faith is all it takes, and you can walk on the water, too

So get out, and let your fear fall to the ground
No time to waste, don’t wait, and don’t you turn around and miss out
Everything you were made for, I know you’re not sure
So you play it safe, you try to run away

If you take that first step into the unknown
He won’t let you go

So what are you waiting for? What do you have to lose?
Your insecurities, they try to hold to you
But you know you’re made for more, so don’t be afraid to move
Your faith is all it takes, and you can walk on the water, too

Step out, even when it’s storming
Step out, even when you’re broken
Step out, even when your heart is telling you
Telling you to give up

Step out, when your hope is stolen
Step out, you can’t see where you’re going
You don’t have to be afraid
So what are you waiting, what are you waiting for?

So what are you waiting for? What do you have to lose?
Your insecurities try to hold to you
You know you’re made for more, so don’t be afraid to move
Your faith is all it takes, and you can walk on the water
Walk on the water, too

Risen Life

I wanted to share this poem awhile ago, but life got in the way. It’s message reminds me of when Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16: 33). He didn’t say, “You might have trouble”, or “If you try really hard, you can avoid trouble”. No, He said, you WILL have trouble.

I appreciate how Jesus always said it like it was. He never minced words. I often think of the term “tough love” when I think of His many teachings. He wanted us to take responsiblity for our sinfulness, and warn us of what would happen if we didn’t “feel” like listening or obeying. So, although we will suffer through both natural and man-made troubles in our lives, our Lord time and time again reassures us that He will give us the courage that we need to rise above it all.

Risen Life

When you see a forest ravaged by storms, and earthquakes blasting the land, and fire burning down your home, say to yourself: I believe that the forest will come to life again. That land will be calm again and I shall remake my home.

When you hear rumors of war and people everywhere are dying of terror, when “nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom” (Matt. 27:7), say bravely to yourself, “Jesus warned me of this and he added: ‘Look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28)

When sin has you in its grip and you feel utterly defeated, say to yourself, “Christ is risen from the dead and I shall rise from my sin.”

When old age or illness embitters your life, say, “Christ is risen from the dead and has made a new heaven on a new earth.”

When you see your son running away from home in search of adventure and your cherished dream as father or mother crumbles around you, say, “My son will not run away from God; he will come back because God loves him.”

When charity seems to have vanished forever and you see others sunk in sin and drunk with treachery, say to yourself, “They will touch the depths but they will return because no on can live away from God.”

When the world seems a defeat for God and you are sick with the disorder, the violence, the terror, the war on the streets; when the earth seems to be chaos, say to yourself, “Jesus died and rose again on purpose to save, and his salvation is already with us.”

When your father or mother, your son or your daughter, your spouse or your friend are on their deathbed, and you are looking at the in the pain of parting, say, “We shall see each other again in the kingdom. Courage.”

This is what it means to believe in the resurrection. But there is more. Belief in the risen Christ means something else.

For Mother Teresa of Calcutta it means comforting the dying, and for you it means doing the same.

For Martin Luther King it meant facing death, and for you it means being unafraid to die for your brothers and sisters.

For Abbe Schultz, prior to Taize, it means opening his convent to hope, and for you opening your house to hope.

Every departing missionary is an act of faith in the resurrection.

Every newly opened leper hospital is an act of faith in the resurrection.

Every peace treaty, is an act of faith in the resurrection.

Every agreed commitment is an act of faith in the resurrection.

When you forgive your enemy

When you feed the hungry

When you defend the weak you believe in the resurrection.

When you have the courage to marry

When you welcome the newly born child

When you build your home you believe in the resurrection.

When you wake at peace in the morning

When you sing to the rising sun

When you go to work with joy you believe in the resurrection.

Last Things ~Carlo Carretto

Risen Life

I wanted to share this poem awhile ago, but life got in the way. It’s message reminds me of when Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16: 33). He didn’t say, “You might have trouble”, or “If you try really hard, you can avoid trouble”. No, He said, you WILL have trouble.

I appreciate how Jesus always said it like it was. He never minced words. I often think of the term “tough love” when I think of His many teachings. He wanted us to take responsiblity for our sinfulness, and warn us of what would happen if we didn’t “feel” like listening or obeying. So, although we will suffer through both natural and man-made troubles in our lives, our Lord time and time again reassures us that He will give us the courage that we need to rise above it all.

Risen Life

When you see a forest ravaged by storms, and earthquakes blasting the land, and fire burning down your home, say to yourself: I believe that the forest will come to life again. That land will be calm again and I shall remake my home.

When you hear rumors of war and people everywhere are dying of terror, when “nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom” (Matt. 27:7), say bravely to yourself, “Jesus warned me of this and he added: ‘Look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28)

When sin has you in its grip and you feel utterly defeated, say to yourself, “Christ is risen from the dead and I shall rise from my sin.”

When old age or illness embitters your life, say, “Christ is risen from the dead and has made a new heaven on a new earth.”

When you see your son running away from home in search of adventure and your cherished dream as father or mother crumbles around you, say, “My son will not run away from God; he will come back because God loves him.”

When charity seems to have vanished forever and you see others sunk in sin and drunk with treachery, say to yourself, “They will touch the depths but they will return because no on can live away from God.”

When the world seems a defeat for God and you are sick with the disorder, the violence, the terror, the war on the streets; when the earth seems to be chaos, say to yourself, “Jesus died and rose again on purpose to save, and his salvation is already with us.”

When your father or mother, your son or your daughter, your spouse or your friend are on their deathbed, and you are looking at the in the pain of parting, say, “We shall see each other again in the kingdom. Courage.”

This is what it means to believe in the resurrection. But there is more. Belief in the risen Christ means something else.

For Mother Teresa of Calcutta it means comforting the dying, and for you it means doing the same.

For Martin Luther King it meant facing death, and for you it means being unafraid to die for your brothers and sisters.

For Abbe Schultz, prior to Taize, it means opening his convent to hope, and for you opening your house to hope.

Every departing missionary is an act of faith in the resurrection.

Every newly opened leper hospital is an act of faith in the resurrection.

Every peace treaty, is an act of faith in the resurrection.

Every agreed commitment is an act of faith in the resurrection.

When you forgive your enemy

When you feed the hungry

When you defend the weak you believe in the resurrection.

When you have the courage to marry

When you welcome the newly born child

When you build your home you believe in the resurrection.

When you wake at peace in the morning

When you sing to the rising sun

When you go to work with joy you believe in the resurrection.

Last Things ~Carlo Carretto

Shine On

I have unpleasant visions of my mom’s thick, gnarled, ultra long toenails that are just waiting for me to attend to. The nurses don’t tackle toes. Apparently, toes are above and beyond the call of duty. I really can’t say that I blame them. But, there is something very sincere and intimate about caring for someone’s feet. Whenever I do mom’s toes, I feel humbled, and glad that I can help her in this way. Although, I think the salon would do a much better job. And almost every woman loves to have her “toes done”.

Changing adult sized diapers would be my deal breaker. The committed, caring, and compassionate aides and nurses are saints, in my eyes. Changing a confused, sometimes angry, depressed adult who sometimes resents you and hates you would be very tough work. I am so eternally grateful for those angels caring for my mother day after day. She keeps them on their toes, and they keep her on hers! I can sleep soundly now, after many years of worry, knowing that she is safe and well taken care of. For that, we are all blessed.

I think of what it means to lovingly sacrifice for those who are defenseless, vulnerable, alone, and without a clear voice to say what their true desires are. I think of the frail elderly, the physically & mentally challenged, the unborn, the under-appreciated, the unaccepted and the unwanted. Who is willing to be their voice…their helping hand…their advocate and Christ like friend? We are all called to be God’s hands and feet in this painful and broken world. When Jesus rose again His wounds were still visible, helping us to see that with His help we can survive our brokeness. We have our scars and wounds, like the risen Christ, to remind us what He has brought us through, and what He has lovingly sacrificed in order to make us His forever.

I think that it is a comfort to know Jesus’ wounds remain visible in His risen body. Just as our wounds are not taken away, but become a source of hope to others. And underneath our scars, we bear His light, for the whole world to see. During the Easter season, we summon the courage to let that light shine on through us for now and for always!

“Christ has no body now on earth but yours;

no hands but yours;

no feet but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which

He is to go about doing good;

yours are the hands

with which He is to bless people now.”

~St. Teresa of Avila

Surrendering My Shame

You know the saying, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me?” Well, in a family where there is an addiction problem, the family members, along with the addict herself, often live a life filled with crippling shame. The addict lives a roller coaster life of secrecy and regret, often viewing the world through a lingering haze of darkened, heavy shame. The other family members become enmeshed in a world of second guessing, desperate hoping, and pleading. This can lead to an almost unbearable shame, as their loved one never seems to “get better” from any of their concentrated efforts.

This tremendous amount of shame is a major difference between the disease of addiction and other types of diseases, like cancer. When a loved one is inflicted with other types of diseases, people are not often embarrassed to ask how he or she is doing. Concerned family and friends  don’t hesitate to offer support and encouragement in various ways.

Yet, when a loved one is away getting treatment for a chemical dependency problem (at least a 28 day stay), often times few people acknowledge it to the family that is left behind. The shame and embarrassment of talking of it, combined with the extreme awkwardness of people not knowing what to say or do, often wins out over the potential compassionate moments of reaching out.

The multiple times my mother went into chemical dependency treatment, our family did not get a whole lot of support, except from a few close family members. At least, I don’t recall much of it. Maybe my dad was to proud or embarrassed to receive any outside help. And maybe I don’t remember because I was so wrapped up in my own confusion and sadness . I believe that our family and friends were deeply concerned, but I think that the “don’t talk” policy was still very prominent in our family.

The “don’t talk, don’t tell, don’t feel” rule is a very common phenomenon in alcoholic homes. Especially in homes that are more affluent, as they struggle with trying to appear happy and well-adjusted to the outside world. Self Pride and denial also play big roles within this disease, as everyone is consumed with secretly trying to control the addict’s environment in trying to lead their loved one away from what is destroying them.

I was told early on not to betray any of our family “secrets” regarding my mom’s drinking problem. I was told not to tell ANYONE about what was happening, because it was not anyone’s business. I lived in a constant state of heavy sorrow and shame, as I did need to confide in someone. I confided all of my deep and dark family secrets to my  best friend on a daily basis. I do not blame my parents now for expecting that of me. It is the unfortunate  nature of  the damaging effects that result from this devastating disease.

In the book, “Adult Children of Alcoholics”, it talks about the difference  between healthy shame and toxic shame. Toxic shame is unhealthy shame, which originates from past verbal or physical abuse.

      “Others have been shamed by perfectionist goals that we could never reach. We were judged as failures for not being perfect or for not trying hard enough. Unhealthy shame is near the core of the adult child wound. We feel deeply flawed as a person due to this type of shame. Dealing with toxic shame takes courage, patience, and a Higher Power (God).”

      “Healthy shame exists when we recognize a wrong we have done, and we want to make it right with ourselves and with the person we have harmed. For example, when we gossip, we should feel shame because we know what it was like as children and teens to be gossiped about. We know how painful it is to be labeled or to be called names.”

Healthy shame allows you to honestly examine your life, choices, and your conscience, in order to seek reconciliation with God and those you have hurt. By seeking out forgivness in this way, you can begin to much more easily heal your toxic shame. Good counsel (pastoral, psychologist, support groups) can help you to recognize your different types of shame that hold you back from living a full life. This helps people to be open to receiving the healing and awareness that God wants all of us to have.

I recall a very painful situation of ridicule and shame that happened 3 years ago, when my mom first went into the hospital. When mom went into the ER, she was extremely inebriated and belligerent. She actually fell  down in the ER and broke her hip, which required her to get emergency surgery.

 One of the nurses that she had taking care of her was so completely and outwardly condescending and rude to her, that it was very insulting and painful to endure. Mom was very out of it and confused. She did not even understand where she was. Her dementia was worsened by the trauma of the surgery, and she was very demanding and anxious due to the effects of extreme chemical withdrawal.

It is difficult to describe  how hurtful it was to try to defend the dignity of this frail, sick, confused, difficult woman, who happened to be my mother and friend. I know that the nurse understood why she ended up in the hospital. He was visibly disgusted by her condition. Perhaps, he himself, had a parent who had sometimes also been a  belligerent alcoholic. Perhaps he did not have much compassion for those who ended up on that path in life. What I didn’t understand though, was his lack of compassion for me and my sister. By disrespecting my vulnerable mother, he was also disrespecting us. We complained about his lack of compassion, and we then got a different nurse to care for her. I prayed that he would not treat other families in the same way.

I can still vividly recall the pitiful glances of the nurses and doctors, as they watched me take my mom in for her second hip surgery. She fell out of her hospital bed a few nights after her first surgery, and tragically broke her other hip. The looks were mixed with pity, sorrow, and disgust. I have never felt so alone in my entire life, as my mom was grasping at me, begging for me to help her, as she was not even sure of what exactly had happened to her. I remember saying to her surgeon, while trying to choke down my tears, “It’s been a long 20 years”. He nodded his head in sympathy.

At certain points during her almost 3 week stay, it seemed that mom might not make it. After the 3 weeks, she moved into a physical rehabilitation center (on the locked down dementia floor)  for a month to help her recover. During that time, she was very sick. She was angry, combative, confused, and in tremendous pain. They needed to keep her in a bed that had a mesh tent attached to the top, so that she would not fall out or escape from her bed. She reminded me of a deranged caged animal. It was upsetting, to say the very least.

I have never clung so tightly to my faith, in the hope and love of Christ, as I did during that time period. I felt carried in a way that allowed me to calmly and gracefully put one foot in front of the other. And It was during that time that I began to get a glimpse of what true surrender looks like. “Letting Go and Letting God” became more than just a tired slogan for me. I started to commit myself to a deeper and more frequent prayer life. I prayed the rosary more often. I prayed with my family and church friends more regularly, and attended Reconciliation again, after not receiving it for a few years.

I asked God to please help me accept His will, what ever that may be…instead of focusing most of my prayers  on curing my mother. It was when I began to practice surrendering my will, for His will, that I began to experience moments of real peace and detachment. I started focusing on what I was grateful for, instead of mostly focusing on why this was happening to us.

You see, in many ways, I did not at all feel ready to be looking for a nursing home for my mom to move into when I was still in my mid thirties. This was not supposed to be in our plans. I was not supposed to become my mother’s legal guardian. And certainly not when I had young babies of my own, or just a few years after my mother and father separated.

But, slowly, God was beginning to show me that He was indeed, the One in control. And the more I surrendered all of my expectations and fears, the more I felt that He was guiding me. It was then that I began to see in a much more profound way,  that as long as I kept my focus on Him, on His Words and promises, and  nourished myself with his life-giving Body and Blood in the Eucharist, that everything would be just fine. That, actually, everything could be more than just “fine”.

Things could be GOOD, because I was starting to really KNOW, as I still know, that “I could do ALL things through Him, who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. And I began to truly feel the truth, as I still do, in  Jeremiah 29:11, ‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 

Everything

The word “nothing” implies that I have

not learned a thing.

And that is simply not true.

 

Your lies and denial

taught me to hold on

and seek out the truth

no matter the cost.

 

Your deep needs

taught me that

there’s a fine line

between love and hate,

and it all depends

on the choices we make.

 

Such choices as:

Which fork in the road

Should I take?

The one that promises

the world…

Yet only proves to be fake?

 

Or, the path

leading to higher ground?

It’s much steeper

and requires a

deeper look inside.

It is the most  painful, yet lasting way,

The long way around.

 

You taught me to

accept love at an arm’s length,

not trusting it

could be real or lasting.

 

Ironically (or not) you taught me

to have a strong faith,

even though you didn’t fully live it yourself.

 

You taught me to rely on The One

Who’s promises (unlike yours)

I did believe.

He taught me

Unconditional love

Truth, justice, compassion, mercy

And sometimes He even portrayed a

tough kind of love,

which I tried on you many times.

 

Over the years,

He and I have had our ups and downs.

I have denied Him.

I have questioned Him.

I have ignored Him.

I have even hated Him.

 

Yet, all the while

I still knew at my Core

That He is for Real.

His Grace was just too obvious.

And His mercy constant…

 

As greatly evidenced by

The countless blessings

And generous gifts…

A wonderful husband

Three beautiful children

Amazing friends

A wonderful church & school community

And so much more…

 

And those things are not just “nothing”.

They are not even “something”.

 To me, those things are

Everything.

 

Love is a Choice

Having a mother slowly fading away in a nursing home because of her chemical addictions can be very emotional and stressful. I struggle with vacillating between extreme anger and sorrow almost on a week to week basis. Sometimes I go through those complicated roller coaster emotions all on the same day. Those days really suck. On those days I am just trying to survive, and not really thriving all to well.

The hardest part throughout all of it has been trying to forgive myself. I know that sounds strange to some people. They may think, “Well, she should realize that she was innocent in it all and you can’t make someone change.” Well, I can tell myself that and I believe it most of the time on an intellectual basis. Trying to believe it emotionally and psychologically is a totally different story. It will be a long process for me to get there, but I am working on it through lots of therapy and spiritual direction. With my guides and angels helping me, I have no doubt that I will get there someday.  I wrote the following poem trying to navigate through these treacherous feelings, that sometimes threaten to sweep me under. Writing has always been a cathartic process for me. Thank God.

 

I am hemorrhaging

poisonous memories and fears

How much blood-letting

Do I need to endure?

 

All my attempts

to cure you failed.

So what does that say

About me?

I know what it says about you,

Even if you will never see it.

 

I gave you my world.

I bled my hopes and dreams

And desperate desires for you.

Hoping you would

Notice.

Hoping against all hope

You would change

For me.

 

Nothing was enough for you.

And you gave me nothing

In return.

 

I despise what you did

to this family.

I despise how you choose

To not get better.

You had it all…

The world at your fingertips,

Unlike most other addicts.

 

And now your grandkids

Will grow up

not knowing you…

The real you…

Who ever that is.

 

I have tried to paint

Picture perfect portraits

Of who we were together.

I desperately try to hold on

To those illusions

Because if they are not true

Than who am I?

 

The hardest part to all of this,

Is that I still desperately

Love you, and I continue

Looking for you.

Yet, I have loved you and loathed you

for most of my life

In equal measure.

 

You probably wonder why

I never call you.

You think your room

Is the only one without a phone.

I was forced to finally take it out

Because you were calling 911

Almost every day.

So, yet another thing

You made me take away from you.

First  it was your freedom,

 then it was your home

And finally, your phone.

I can still hear your

High pitched, “Hi Honey!”

 

I will continue on

Praying I find my way

Through these stormy

And painful thoughts

And memories.

Hoping to thrive

And not just survive.

 

If  love is a choice,

Then I will still choose it.

Because I know it is

The right thing to do.

You never chose it

For yourself.

 

But it is not to late for me.