Tag Archive | Hope

Hope in Waiting

All of us are waiting for something. Right now, someone may be anxiously waiting for an anticipated job offer, or for a long-awaited medical test result. Or perhaps, someone is joyfully waiting for a child to be born, or sadly waiting for a loved one to peacefully die.

I think of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, who is the ultimate example for how to endure deep fears, doubts, and pains, while waiting with a completely grace filled heart. She consistently put her complete trust and hope in God for leading her and her family through their trials and darkness. This hope was rooted in a promise. It sustained her and gave her tremendous courage, which allowed her and Joseph to wait patiently.

 In his book, “Finding My Way Home”, Henri Nouwen talks about the secret to waiting. He says,

“If we wait in the conviction that a seed has been planted and that something has already begun it changes the way we wait. Active waiting implies being fully present to the moment with the conviction that something is happening where we are and that we want to be present to it. ”

 “A waiting person is a patient person. The word “patient” implies the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us….Waiting, then is not passive. It involves nurturing the growth of something growing within.”

Like Mary, we can sometimes get frightened when our waiting becomes hard to bear. Yet, our faith helps us to realize that we need not wait in this darkness all alone. We have the everlasting bright light of Christ to guide us and keep us focused on His promises. We have the gift of community with our close friends and family, who sustain us with their friendship and love.

I waited for more than 20 years for my mother to fully love herself and choose sobriety, until her body inevitably began to give out on her about 10 years ago, when she was in her mid-late 50’s. It began with multiple broken bones (the dog was always to blame from her “tripping” over him).  Then it was  Gull Bladder surgery, Colitis, Pancreatitis, Osteoporosis, bleeding on the brain (twice), Hydrocephalus (with brain surgery to have a shunt placed), Dementia, 2 broken hips, and now Kidney failure.

For most of that time, I struggled with waiting with hope. I desperately tried to trust that God was leading our family towards healing. The problem was, I held on to tightly to what my vision was of what that healing should look like. I held on to the false notion that I could control certain situations that were very much beyond my control.

It is only within the last 6 or so years, that I have begun to more deeply understand what this surrender of trust truly looks like. I have slowly come to see that God never takes us where He cannot lead us through, and that there are very large lessons and spiritual gifts to be gained within our painful journeys.

I have learned what true forgiveness requires, and how to practice compassion despite my deep fears, anger, and anxieties. I have learned how to have obedience seeped in love. A love for my mother, who was and is a close friend, and who gave me life. I have learned that I will never stop learning, and that is a beautiful thing.

This Advent, I focus on the hope that my trust in God’s promises will allow Him to dwell in my heart, not just on Christmas, but everyday. I have hope as I wait, knowing that where God is leading me, is filled with goodness and gifts that are better than I could ever possibly dream of.

 “To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God molds us in love, holds us in tenderness, and moves us away from the sources of our fear.”  ~ Henri Nouwen

 

 

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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.

 

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

 

The Dig

I dig and dig

to get to the deep roots

of my brokenness

and deep hungers,

without severing

the young fruit

growing strong in the

shadow of Your wings.

My soul is parched

in this dry and weary land,

“Come to me all who thirst.”

Yearning for Your living waters

Open this heart

saturate and fill in

these crevices

created so long ago.

Cover these wounds

with Your pure and healing waters.

Help me yield

more lasting fruits,

renewed and nourished

by Your saving grace.

I rejoice because

You alone

Satiate.

You Are More

I have a good friend who is going through the process of a divorce. Her husband is an alcoholic, and has tried treatment many times, but he just can’t seem to stay sober. Our kids are very close friends as well.

It has been so difficult witnessing this raw pain caused by the devastation created from the effects of this disease, which also mercilessly tore my own family apart. In a way, it feels like I am reliving the agony and it makes me feel like that helpless, sad, & lonely little girl I was for so long, and still am in some respects. In therapy, it is grueling work trying to work on recovering and healing that innocent & lost inner child. With God’s grace, I hope to get there someday.

Addiction has no mercy. It strips those we love of their dignity, brightness, and truth. The miracle of recovery is that we learn we are more than the sum of our past mistakes, insecurities, and fears. We can be remade in the light of truth.

Watching those you love losing their battle with addiction is like watching a majestic vessel, like the Titanic, very slowly sink into the vast sea. Looking out at the once alive, vibrant, and bright ship, which once had so much potential, gives one a sickening sorrowful feeling.

All of those innocent lives affected, being forced to “jump ship”, so as not to “go down” with it. Yet, instead of escaping, they realize that they have only just entered into a new kind of hell. One where they need to learn to stay afloat…freezing and scared..praying for a life boat.

Thank You God, for the gift of our faith in You, who restores our sanity, and who has become our saving life boat in this vast treacherous sea of life! Now please help us to save and recover our true Selves!

Grace Happens!

"This is better than a lifetime!"

You know that scene in the movie, “Forrest Gump “, where Forrest is running across the country, and a guy comes up to tell him that he stepped in some dog feces? Forrest’s response was an accepting: “@#$% happens!” That scene reminds me that we always have it in our power to either focus on being open to God’s grace, or to focus  on the !@#$ that happens in our lives. It portrays Forrest’s simplistic and honest nature, which is partly why that is such an inspiring movie.  It’s true that bad things happen to good people… and to all people. That is the nature of being human in a wounded and sinful world.

As a Catholic, I believe that grace flows through participating in the sacraments, especially through Reconciliation and receiving  Holy Eucharist, and through the practice of regular prayer and meditation. Grace is also more readily present through our conscious intentions during our daily moments to ask for God’s grace, so that He can give us the necessary strength &  wisdom to find peace & joy within those moments. 

 Hundreds of grace filled moments happen in our lives each and every day. When we strive to align our hearts and minds to what God wills for us within those moments; we can start to see that ALL moments can be grace filled moments. I believe that saying YES to be an open channel for that grace to flow more freely is key .

 Grace happened last month when my kids and I went and made St. Patrick’s Day crafts with my mom and the other residents. Despite my kids hogging all of the shamrock and pot o gold stickers, it was a really rewarding activity! The highlight for me was when I delivered a mini

St. Patrick's Day Fun!

decorated green hat to a woman sitting off in the corner by herself. As my daughter and I walked over and bent down to hand her the hat…her downcast face looked up at us and just beamed with joy. Tears formed in her eyes as she emotionally said, “You just made my day…thank you!” God’s grace is so palpable in those moments, that it just oozes out into the air around us, surrounding us and charging the atmosphere with a profoundly sublime and loving energy.

 Grace happened the other day when my son very sweetly asked for a spoon at breakfast (without any prompting), instead of  impatiently screaming out, “Mom, get me a spoon!”, as he has been prone to do frequently lately!

Grace most definitely happened the other day when my two oldest kids came running up stairs and very uncharacteristically called out saying, “Mom we picked up all the toys…come and see, come and see! I tried not to fall over and faint from the shock. Instead, I very innocently said, “oh really? Let me go see!”

Grace happened on our spring break trip the other week, when my kids were enthusiastically climbing this hugely sprawling 100 or so year old tree,  and my son Colin randomly called out, “This is better than a lifetime!”

 Wow, I thought, he thinks this moment sums up what is better the VERY BEST that can be offered in a lifetime (at least that’s what I gather that he meant). The best part is , he probably had no idea what he meant, he just knew that he was having  THE BEST TIME EVER! There was a pretty heavy dose of joy and grace present in that moment. Again, the joy and grace were thick in the air that day…as we stood around soaking up all of the awe and excitement of new adventure.

 Grace happens every time my 2-year-old sweetly tells me, “I U mom”(her version of I love you)!

Grace happened that other week when my kids played a crossword puzzle game with my mom and the residents at her nursing home in the dining room. They use this mega sized cross word board and write the answers with a dry erase marker as people call out the answers. I was shocked when some of the men and woman called out an answer…expecially when it seemed as if they were totally checked out in that moment! It was so sweet to watch my daughter call out some answers, feeling so proud of herself that she was beating all these people who were WAY older than her! Mom came in second place behind Lauren 🙂

 One of my favorite lines from the movie “Forrest Gump” is, “My mama’s always telling me how miracles happen every day…some people don’t think so…but they DO.” I also love, “Mama always says that stupid is as stupid does.”

Another favorite is, “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.” This line reminds me of all of those people, like my mom, who suffer with all types of dementia. Over time, dementia robs a person of their thinking capacity. They can no longer remember basic information. Eventually, most of them will not even remember the names of their children or even their own name. Ultimately, when that time comes, what is important to remember is that they will still need your love….when all else fails…love still endures….

The most famous line in “Forrest Gump” is…..”Life is a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get!” But, with God’s help….You can sure bet that no matter what the circumstance, that it can be FULL OF GRACE!

My Hope in Despair

Living with an alcoholic mother is like riding a never ending roller coaster of despair and hope. At certain times, my heart sank from the terror and anxiety of anticipation for what crazy new thing mom was going to do later while acting all “goofy.”

     Sometimes during the good times, I found myself rising up, and up, just along for the ride, feeling exhilarated and joyful, with just a tinge of suppressed fear mixed in. Within our families twisted world of denial, I often thought on those illusionary days, “I’m not afraid, I’m having fun!” Today is a good day, right now is all that matters!”  On those days, I felt hopeful that mom might actually want to stop drinking.

     On the other hand, on those days after a particularly despairing  night, I did not feel as willing to play that not so fun game of pretend. These were times when she might have said things like, “What’s the matter honey, you seem so sad today”, after completely forgetting about the night before when she not so gracefully tumbled down the stairs in her drunken stupor and proceeded to slap me in the face after I angrily pleaded with her to “stop doing this to us.”

     During the fun times though, when we were on our “A game” with the pretending, she was, believe it or not, my best friend. She was concerned, caring, fun, adventurous, and a great listener. She was always known as the “beautiful” mom, and the “fun” mom, who was always friendly and nice to those around us. I admired how she talked so nicely to the store personnel and grocery workers. She was full of charisma and charm, and was always ready to find the bright side of any situation.

      I began attending Al Anon and counseling when I was a young teen in order to better cope with all of the emotional difficulties that comes with living with an alcoholic parent.  It was during that time I began to realize just how important and necessary it was for me to have strong faith in my life.

      It was at Al-Anon where I learned  that my higher power could restore my sanity (step 2).  I learned how to turn my life over to the care of God (step 3), and I began the practice of  making a regular searching and fearless inventory of myself (step 4).  After awhile, I began to seek through prayer and meditation to improve my concious contact with God (step 11).  Some of my favorite Al-Anon slogans got me through many difficult days and nights.  I still love, “Get out of the driver’s seat…let go let God”, “Replace guilt with gratitude”, “You are not alone”, and “If it isn’t God’s will…I can’t make it happen”.  My very favorite slogan though, is “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.”

     I began to utilize prayer and devotion in my life more frequently, and I started to notice how it seemed to help ease my fearful and anxious feelings.  Attending mass every Friday at my Catholic grade school with my class became my saving grace.  It was during those times that I learned how to talk to God on a more deeply personnal level, most especially after my nights of despair.  I remember gazing up at the beautiful statue of Mother Mary throughout mass, which was displayed right to the left of the altar.  It was during those moments where I began to establish my strong relationship with and devotion to our Blessed Mother.  The soothing, bright colors of the stained glass that lined the sides of the pews comforted me, and made me feel at peace and loved.  I would look up at those loving, shining faces of the saints and I felt at home…believing that they were watching out for me and loving me. 

 Throughout my life, my faith in God has evolved and has been strengthened, granting me with a joyful and lasting hope. This transforming peaceful hope is something I would not trade for anything in this world….not even for a mother who no longer suffers from Vascular and Alcohol Induced Dementia, as my mother is currently afflicted with now. Hope changes everything, as is expressed in my favorite Biblical verse:

   “We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these trouble produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts.” Romans 5: 3-5