Tag Archive | Joy

Ascend

 

Our treetop hearts

bend and sway

in these strong winds.

 

Yet, our faithful roots

are sturdy,

strong, and deep,

and have no end.

 

We’re lined up,

row after row,

straight and tall

sustaining

lifelong friends.

 

If one should fall,

we hold her up

and help her stand

stable again.

 

Our prayers unite, 

and bind up the hurts,

lifted up

and upon the winds,

they ascend……

This was a poem I wrote today while admiring the trees in the park ūüôā I was thinking of all of the friends God has blessed me with in my life, and how He holds us up in so many ways. The following is a very beautiful song with amazing pictures of the Scottish lankscape. Enjoy and God bless ūüôā

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‚Äď1991)

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

 
 

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

 

 

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 ūüôā

¬†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‚Ķ..”Life is a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get!”¬†But, with God’s help‚Ķ.You can sure bet that no matter what the circumstance,¬†that it can be FULL OF GRACE!

We Shelter Each Other

A church in Mykonos, Greece

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey (Constantinople) It was the largest Christian church in the world for nearly 1,000 years (500-1400)

Inside the Hagia Sophia (Church of Divine Wisdom)

 

A Greek Orthodox church in Mykonos, Greece
Ar Scath a Cheile a Mhaireas na Daoine are old Irish words that mean “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” Within our faith community, we shelter each other, to care for one another and embody the love, peace, and hope promised by God and found in the Life of Jesus.(Jars of Clay, Shelter Album)¬†¬†¬†

My Daughter Anna's Baptism in 2008

A community is a unified body of individuals, who share a common bond and connection. Within my¬† Catholic community, we gather to share our stories; our joys, triumphs, and our sorrows. We gather together in joy and thanksgiving to receive God’s life and grace;¬† through His Word and his body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. Our church is our shelter and our harbor in times of difficulty,¬†as is stated in Isaiah 4:6.. “It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day,¬†and a refuge and hiding place from storm and rain.” And we are brought together in Christ as stated¬†in Ephesians 1:23…”The church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”

I felt a very keen sense of shelter and love within my church community the other week,when I was able to take my mom to Ash Wednesday mass. It was a very momentous occasion for us, because I hadn’t been able to get my mom to mass at a church in four years. This was the first time since her illness begam¬†that mom was well enough to be able to sit through a full mass. I have been able to occasionally take her to catholic services at the chapel in her care center, but it is not the same as attending a full Catholic mass in a church.¬† I had dreamed of going to mass with her again… especially an all school mass, where my kids attend catholic grade school. So, when I finally got her there, it was a very big deal for me!¬†¬†¬†

On Anna's Baptism day at the hospital

I can’t explain how emotional it was for me to sit next to her while listening to and singing “On Eagles Wings”, which has always been a favorite church song for both of us. It brought back memories of when I would play the song¬† on my flute as a young girl in our porch, with my mom standing in the kitchen listening (and probably secretly hoping I would get bored with it , as¬† I would get a little “obsessed” with my playing when I found a song that I loved to play !) Every so often during the mass, I would look over at her, and she would flash me a beaming smile…obviously thrilled to be sharing mass with me and my daughter Lauren. I choked up a few times when I heard her trying to sing, as she garbled out some of the verses of the song. It was a very healing experience for all of us, and a memory I will always hold dear.

Recently I heard a speaker at our parish faith formation night tell us, “We don’t “have” to go to church, we “get” to go to church!”¬† Sometimes I hear people talk of how they don’t “get” anything out of a particular church service. Ultimately, the real purpose of going to church should be to praise God and to show Him our great love and immense gratitude for all of the many blessings that he has given us!¬†

¬†I think of people in war torn or communist countries where there is no religious freedom.There are people in this world who don’t go to church, because they are not ALLOWED to go.¬† It is against the LAW to go and celebrate their faith with their community in public.¬†¬† I can not even imagine what it must feel like to live in such an oppressive place.¬† I have heard of a¬†group who lead a¬†Worldwide Marriage Encounter Christian retreat in China, who had to memorize the whole entire curriculum, as they had to destroy any evidence of holding any sort of Christian event.¬† They needed to hold the weekend retreats while hidden out in the jungles, or in remote areas, where they could not be easily tracked. Talk about having dedication and a deep¬†passion for spreading the Good News!

I think of how important it is to belong to a supportive and loving church community, especially during very difficult times in our lives, like when a loved one dies or is very ill.  Our church friends hold  us up, keep us afloat, and help carry us to shore when we feel so consumed and adrift with our intense pain and loss. I was very much reminded of this during the 6 funeral services that I attended during the last 10 months this past year. 

One of the funerals was for my dad’s best friend who had passed away after a long courageous battle with cancer. My father gave his friend’s eulogy, which was such an honor for him, as he was his friend¬† for nearly 40 years.¬†I sat there feeling so very emotional and proud of my dad. I knew that it was very difficult for him, as his friend was not only his friend, but he had also become a father figure for my dad.¬† My dad’s friend was 15 years older than him, and as a result he became sort of a mentor for my dad throughout the years.¬† This was especially true since my dad lost his own father suddenly when my dad was only 19 years old.¬†I was very inspired by the high level of deep respect, love, and admiration¬† my father shared with his friend.¬† I was so inspired by the deep faith of his friend, and the very loving support from his family and friends.¬† At no other type of service is it more apparent just how essential it is to have that kind of love and support in a faith community!¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

I myself have been lifted up time and time again by the rosary prayer group that I am involved in at my parish church of St Odilia in Shoreview, Minnesota.We are a group of young moms, who usually gather once a week¬† to share our joys and struggles, and to¬† pray together.¬†We pray for God’s grace and love to heal, protect, and strengthen others that we know who are hurting in our community and our world .¬†We pray for each other and the various hurts that we ourselves battle through.¬†We pray for the safety and well being of our families and our children. We then pray the holy rosary together, which involves contemplating on the sorrowful and joyful events of the lives of Our Lord and his Mother Mary.¬†The rosary allows one to get a very personal sense for what Jesus went through for us…and it allows you to focus on and pray for specific virtues during each meditation throughout the prayer. It has been a very powerful prayer method for me and my group of friends!¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

The home of The Blessed Virgin Mary in Ephesus, Turkey (it was later turned into a chapel)

I want to end this blog post with a passage from Max Lucado’s book “Fearless”. It is about the importance of¬† being a part of a loving Christian¬† church community!

Christ distributes courage through community; he dissipates doubts through fellowship.¬†He never deposits all knowledge in one person but distributes pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to many.¬† When you interlock your understanding with mine, and we share our discoveries…When we mix, mingle, confess, and pray, Christ speaks.”¬†(reminds me of Romans 12:4-8 ūüôā )¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

“The adhesiveness of the disciples instructs us.¬†They stuck together.¬†Even with ransacke hopes, they clustered in conversant community.They kept “going over all these things that had happened.”(Luke 24;14)¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

Isn’t this a picture of the church–sharing notes, exchanging ideas, mulling over possibilities, lifting spirits?¬†And as they did, Jesus showed up to teach them, proving “when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.” (Matthew 18:20)¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

“And when He speaks, He shares his story.God’s go-to therapy for doubters is his own Word.¬†“Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to (Romans 10:17).¬†¬† So listen to it!”¬†¬†

The rock on which St. Paul preached to the pagan Athenians in Athens, Greece

¬†The following is a¬†beautiful song called “Shelter” by Jars of Clay (just click¬†the Youtube icon at the bottom):

Hide and Seek!

(written on Sunday, January 23, 2011)

I usually go visit my mom twice a week. ¬† Today Mom was wearing her hot pink robe again and had messy hair with no makeup on as usual.¬† I find myself often hoping that she will be dressed when we come on any given day…but once again I am learning to let go of my hopes and¬† expectations a little bit at a time.¬† Mom has always liked to be comfortable, and¬† getting dressed is not at the top of her list of comfortable things to do.¬† She often says, “What’s the point? I just sit in this chair all day anyway.”, whenever I ask her why she doesn’t get dressed.¬†¬†¬† It is such a humbling site to see my once beauty queen of a mom be consistently¬†wearing her robe, and in a wheel chair.¬† She is so vulnerable .. and yet. ¬†she is no longer very anxious or angry.¬† She is always very happy to see us come.¬†¬† She is always very thankful that we have come to spend time with her.¬†¬†

¬†I believe mom has reached a resignation stage in her disease.¬† She no longer asks about home or talks about how things used to be at all, which is surprising to me at times.¬† I often wonder how much she actually remembers, and I am mostly hesitant to ask her any of those questions.¬† I am afraid of upsetting her with remembering things that can no longer be a reality for her.¬† She never talks of Florida…which is odd, because it was such an important and special home to her.¬† But, I think that her world has become so much smaller that there may be no room to hold those once treasured memories.¬† She is getting further into a non conversational state, where she just sits and enjoys just simply being in our presence.¬† It is hard for me to take it in some days, as I still remember well, the once vibrant and outgoing personality that was once my mom.¬† She always had many questions for how and what was going on in my life.¬† With me, it was a give and take with our conversations.¬† We rarely ran out of things to talk about and she often had many helpful insights and advice on a variety of issues.

¬†As we were coming down from the top floor deli today, the kids hid from Nana in the living room area situated next to mom’s room.¬† The kids had a blast hiding out and waiting expectantly for us to come search them out.¬† As I rolled mom along she enjoyed playing along saying things like, “oh I wonder where the kids are…they must be behind this chair!”

¬†Hearing their tiny joyous giggles made her grin with glee each time we searched one out.¬† They then proceeded to hide in her room over and over again, even when there were no longer places left to hide.¬† It didn’t matter to them, they just loved the thrill of the chase , like all little children do with hide and seek!¬† It makes me happy to see that she can still enjoy a basic game like hide and seek with my kids, even with all of her limitations‚Ķ.Yet again, God’s grace found a way¬† to show us how the true love and joy from children has no limits in warming those around them.

¬†On the way out it was very touching.¬† An older daughter was wheeling her mom past¬†the nurses station when I heard her say‚Ķ”oh, it is soooo nice to see little kids around here!”¬† Donna the nurse in charge, said in reply, “I know!¬† They just brighten everyone’s faces around here‚Ķ. we just love when they come around here!”¬† Hearing that really made me feel proud and happy knowing that our love and bright spirits really do make a very real¬†difference…it¬†was a very¬†uplifting and affirming thing to hear!

For anyone who asks will receive, and he who seeks will find, and the door will be opened to anyone who knocks.  Luke 11:10

Patience is a Virtue!

My faith journey has been tested¬†vigorously¬†throughout my life,¬†as a result of¬†¬†the various¬†illnesses my mother¬†has had during her life.¬† Currently, I find that my patience¬†is routinely tested as I help to care for my mom each week.¬†¬†Having a loved one¬†with dementia is very¬†frustrating¬†at¬†times, as you find yourself repeating question after question and answer after answer.¬† My mom’s short-term¬†memory is very poor, so¬†a lot¬†of the time, she will¬†have forgotten¬†some or most of what we talked about 10 or more¬†minutes prior.¬†¬†So,¬†you find yourself¬† having the same conversation over and over again.¬† On some days,¬†I find it easy to retell my stories.¬†¬†On Some days¬†I even¬†add a¬†few more details, just for fun!¬† On those days that I feel tired or¬†emotionally worn out or¬†sad, ¬†the repetition can be¬†almost torturous.¬† Some times I just don’t have it in me to elaborate, so I just make it short with a “yep, it is” or a “we’ll see”.

Lately, my mom has started to get much more settled in¬†and comfortable at Waverly Care Center.¬† She has lived there since November of 2009, and has only started to routinely come out of her room and spend time with the other residentsÔĽŅ within the last few months.¬† She is on average 15 or so years younger than most of the other residents, so she has had¬†sort of a¬† rebellious attitude like, “I’m not like them“, which held her back from interacting with others.¬† But, lately she has seemed to thrive from some of the friendships that she has made with a couple of the women there.¬† She seems to be much happier lately, which is nice to see.

At certain times, she remembers bits and pieces of her old life, and she gets very¬†discouraged and depressed.¬† The other week she said to me, “If I don’t get out of here soon, Mary, I’m going to lose it…What did I ever do to deserve this?”¬† Whenever she asks me those types of earnest questions, I immediately take a deep breath and ask the Holy Spirit to please help me find the right words to say (like right now?)¬† That day I seemed to have the kind of answer that she seemed alright with.¬†

¬†I told her, “I don’t think, mom, that this has happened to you because of anything that you did or didn’t deserve in your life, I think that it has just happened.¬† God must have his own plan.. we can’t see it all yet.”¬† She then said, “You mean like, it just is what it is?”¬† I responded with, “Well, yeah, sort of…but I also am trying to focus on¬†and recognize all of¬† the things that it is teaching us and strengthening in us…like patience and humility and love.”¬† She then said, “Yeah, I guess..you have been very patient to deal with me and I am too, with having to sit in this bed all day long…I pray all day long for patience.”, and I said, “I know you do mom!¬† I do too, for you and me!”

Here is one very clear example of just how much my patience is being strengthened.¬† Since my mother’s short-term¬†memory is very impaired, she often forgets that she has eaten or gone to the bathroom.¬† She will say to me, “Quick, take me to the bathroom”…even though I had just taken her 5 minutes ago, which she has already¬†forgotten about.¬† My patience is tried as I then try to get help from the nurses or aides, who are to busy¬†helping other patients at that particular moment.¬† My patience is further tried as I lift her out of her wheel chair and help her to the bathroom again, all the while my 2, 5 and 7-year-old kids are in her tiny little room starting to get wild and do naughty stuff!¬† My patience is tried yet again in the next moment, when my mom suddenly “doesn’t need to go”, so I repeat the whole process all over again as I lift her up and wheel her back to her bed.¬† That is just one small 15 minute example of how¬†my virtue of patience is tried and strengthened on any given moment of any given day while caring for my mom.

I will probably talk in future posts about how I feel some of the other virtues are being strengthened in me as a result of this journey.¬† For example, whenever I help my mom in that way, my virtue of love seems to increase for her.¬† My love also grows¬†for¬†our Lord, as he continually shows his mercy by granting me the necessary grace and strength to help me get through each one of those difficult moments….and even with joy most of the time!!¬†

 God is still so GOOD!

We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles 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