Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's going on around here

Just a quick note... I haven't been avoiding blogging, just too busy.

1) Andy is almost done with his spring semester... just 2 more weeks!!! He'll be taking summer school classes until the middle of July, but it won't be the 17 credit load he is currently taking.

2) We are packing to leave early tomorrow to catch a plane to Louisiana to witness a beautiful, sacramental wedding of one of my dear friends and her wonderful fiance. May God bless their marriage!

3) The boys are staying with Andy's parents... which means time away for Andy and I. We will miss the boys and are sad to leave them even for a long weekend, but this is sooo needed. Thank you Sarita and Eric for giving us this opportunity! And please, Lord, bring us safely back together Monday night!

4) Two more wonderful young Catholic moms, and wonderful friends, joined the blogging community! Please check out their sites: http://krissyfruitfulvine.blogspot.com
http://fallingupwardholly.blogspot.com

God bless you all! May you all have a wonderful, joyful weekend!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Falling on His Grace (what's in a name)

Though it has taken many forms or fallen under many names, I have dealt with some form of depression and/or anxiety for as long as I can remember. It has become a kind of cross for me, one for which I am always looking for ways of setting aside and moving beyond but one that I just cannot seem to shake. While still looking for ways of moving beyond depression and anxiety, I am making peace with the fact that it is a part of my life and am even beginning to see it as a sort of gift. That is, until I fall deep into its lairs once again and find myself struggling to make my way back from the darkness of despair to the light of hope and peace. Praise be to Him who, when I reach my hand out in prayer, reaches back and pulls me out of the darkness with a whisper of encouragement.

I have reflected quite often on this cross I carry as this scenario has repeated itself many times over. When I am standing in the light of hope and in prayer, I can clearly see that this cross of depression and anxiety is really an opportunity and an invitation to rely on God. Because I know despair I also know my deep need for Him. I know that I cannot live my life without Him, and I am learning to rely on Him more and more as I travel through my days. I am learning to rely on Him especially in my questions, in my busyness, in the anxiety-producing times. I am learning to reach out my hand to Him often as I have found that, when I don't, I too easily become overwhelmed by the daily grind of my busy life. I am very aware that, left to my own devices, I would quickly destroy myself, whether emotionally, spiritually, or perhaps physically. In this way, also, our Lord is truly my Savior.

I am also finding that this cross of depression is an opportunity to learn about our Lord, to learn about His love and His patience, and to grow in faith and love in Him. I am finding that not only should I not hide from the Truth that He is but that I must also embrace it, for His Truth is absolutely beautiful. I find no greater joy than in those moments when He reaches out and reveals something of the simplistic beauty of His Truth and draws me closer to Himself, out of my narrowness and selfishness, out of my despair. I am grateful for all those little lessons He has given me along the way and, therefore, for the need to open myself up to those lessons and to that love that depression lends to me.

I see depression as an opportunity to fall on the grace of God, to fall on His love and mercy. I see depression, and any kind of trial or cross, as a sort of tightrope or balance beam. We who are suffering, who are alive in this valley of darkness, are on this balance beam. We cannot stay balanced on the beam forever of our own devices alone. There will come a wind or a tremor that will knock us off our beam. For some, the beam is wide, and it is more difficult to knock them off; for others, such as myself, the beam is more narrow. Whoever we are, when that wind or tremor comes, we have a choice. We can either fall into despair or fall onto the grace of God. I choose to fall onto His grace. I hope you will join me.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A small gift

I went out to meet a few mothers for breakfast this morning. As I said bye to Blaise this morning, he handed me a Hot Wheels race car. "Here Mom, bring this with you." It was a favored race car of his, one he rarely gives up or allows his younger brother to play with. Yet he insisted that I bring it with me to breakfast. I thanked him and told him he was very thoughtful and left.

On my way home, I stopped at church to spend a little time with our Lord. As I reached into my pocket, I felt the race car and pulled it out. "Thank you, Lord, for Blaise's thoughtfulness and ability to share such a special toy. Thank you for such a wonderful, caring boy."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thanks in Advance


The retreat I had gone on two weeks ago was at a Franciscan Capuchin retreat house. One of the Capuchins opened up the retreat with a prayer similar to one a fellow deceased Capuchin, Solanus Casey, would often pray: "Lord, thank You in advance for all the blessings You will grant us during this retreat" (paraphrased). I found it instantly opened me further to the plans God had for me during that retreat, rather than my own, more narrow plans.

I've been praying that prayer daily since: "Lord, thank You in advance for all the blessings You will grant me today" or "...for all the blessings You will grant me this evening with my family" if I'm on my way home from work, or another phrase as appropriate. I find it opens me up to the blessings He does have in store for me that day and helps me to be more joyful as it does remind me God is constantly sending His graces upon us all. It helps me to let go of the narrowness of my plans, of the anxiety that I feel when I think of all that I need to get done and to open up to the vastness of God's plans and His wisdom.

Lord, thank you in advance for the blessings you will grant my family and me tonight.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thank you, Lord, for the awesome gift of redemption



After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone.... The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.'" (Matthew 28:1-2, 5-7)

May God bless you all this Easter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

To my Holy Mother

Mary, as I am waiting for Easter, I wonder how you must have felt waiting, after your Son had been put to death on the cross. And I wonder how you must have felt during the events leading up to His crucifixion. Were you startled when He was arrested and being sentenced? Were you praying that Pilate would excuse Him? Were you surprised at all that was being said against your innocent Son? Did you understand all that was happening and why it must happen this way? As He was being scourged, did you feel every whip blow? How you must have wanted to run in and hold back the hand of the man so brutally beating Him! As you saw His bloodied body carrying that wood to Calgary, how much sorrow you must have felt! How did you feel as He gazed so lovingly into your eyes with the love only God can give? When He fell, did you try to rush in against the push of the crowd to pick up your Son as you had when He was a child? Did you picture Him as He had been when He was just learning to walk, run, and jump?

What could you have thought as they drove those nails into His hands? How you must have jumped at every hammer blow! I can only imagine your sorrow and feelings of helplessness as they raised Him onto that cross, as you saw your beloved Son being crucified. How final that must have felt! Did you recall Simeon's words so many years before, "A sword will pierce your heart?" Did you know that He would rise again, or did you wonder how this would possibly turn out and what God would do with His own Son's death? As Jesus turned to you from the cross, John at your side, and said, "Woman behold your son," did you understand that you were to become Mother to all mankind? What were your thoughts as He took His last breath? And after they lowered Him from the cross, and you looked at His beaten and blood-smeared face, holding the body of your grown and crucified Son in your arms, did you wonder how humans could be so cruel to another man, and to God? Were you relieved that the His torture was over and that His body had been removed from that horrible cross, or did you long to be looking into the eyes of your Son once again?

And how was your soul? Having been redeemed by Jesus' death and resurrection even before your own conception and birth, being without sin, did you feel anger? Were you easily able to forgive His persecutors and those who sentenced Him to death? Were you frightened by all that had taken place, or did you feel complete and total trust in God the Father? Did the same Holy Spirit that had come over you after your holy "yes" come over you once again to comfort you? Did you feel the fear and the anger that was in the hearts of people surrounding you through the ordeal?

And, as you look at us, at our world, at so much sin, is your heart pierced again and again? As you see the sin we humans are still committing even after God had come down among us, that we may know Him, and had allowed Himself to be crucified for forgiveness of our sins, rising again that we may be redeemed, are you deeply saddened? Mary, I pray that I may provide some comfort for you with my own life, that I may grow in holiness and give you a small matter that may brighten your smile in the midst of sadness. Help me, guide me, pray for me in the midst of my sinful tendencies, in the midst of my pride, that I may be made more holy for your Son who gave of Himself for us all.

Friday, April 10, 2009



Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Having said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Cup


I have always been intrigued by the Agony in the Garden. Jesus, sweating blood, asks His Father, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done." How He must have suffered, knowing the trials and pain He would undergo. What strength and love He showed in willingly allowing Himself to be brutally beaten and hung on the cross so that we may all be reconciled to God. Jesus says, in Matthew's account, "Do you think that I cannot call upon My Father and He will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?" (26:53-54). I am thankful He did not do just that. He knew He must drink of this cup, and His Father was not going to take it away from Him, but "to strengthen Him, an angel from Heaven appeared to Him" (Luke 22:43). He who had the strength of God was sent an angel to strengthen Him in His trials.

I used to naively think that if I just follow God closely, trials and sufferings would just melt away. He would take care of all my problems. As I grew older, I learned that clearly this is not true. There are many cups I would like God to take from me, but that is not His Will that my cups of suffering be taken away. He uses my trials to accomplish His Will in my life and the lives especially of those close to me; He uses my crosses to draw me closer to Himself, to teach me how to live, and for my redemption. But, though He will not take our cups, our crosses, away, He does provide us what we need when we look to Him. A Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus contains this prayer: "Divine Heart of Jesus, we come to You seeking rest in our weariness, patience in our trials, peace in our troubles, strength in our temptations, and light in our darkness" (Apostleship of Prayer pamphlet). Instead of taking our cups, God gives us rest, patience, peace, strength, and light to endure them and promises He will be with us always.

Lord, I pray that I may always look to You for the rest, patience, peace, strength, and light I need to endure my trials and sufferings. I thank You in advance for providing this for me and for walking with me down my own road and as I endure my own crosses. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering You endured on the way to Calvary and on that cross. That You for drinking of that cup and giving me the gift of redemption, opening the way to eternal life with our Heavenly Father. I will never be able to express enough gratitude for that gift You gave in your willing suffering.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Opportunity of the Cross

"Paul does not regard the cross from the perspective of its horror, its hardship, or its hurt. He sees it as a chance. The cross is the way to break out of our crippling self-reliance so as to depend fully on God. Without the cross in our life, how comfortable we would become - how complacent and self-content.... The cross is the way that God persistently calls us back to Him, moment by moment, detaching us from all our secret supports by which we would connive to become autonomous and self-serving."
Peter John Cameron, OP; Magnificat, September 2008; Vol 10, No 7.

Thank God for our crosses, or trials, then. If not for difficulties, we would never know our need for Him. We would simply go through our lives, content and comfortable, though unfulfilled. It is in our crosses that Christ calls us back to Himself.

Our trial are opportunities to turn to God and to grow closer to Him. They are opportunities to look to Him for all that we need and for guidance, so that we become less self-reliant and come to know our dependence on Him.

Lord, please help me to make use of these opportunities You have given me in my trials and difficulties, in the cross I carry, to rely on You, to trust in You. I pray I will remember I cannot do it all myself. Help me to learn to more easily come back to You moment by moment, especially in my difficulties, and to rely on you.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ok, ok, I get the hint.

You know how sometimes you hear something in church or you read something that you know was meant just for you? Well, that didn't happen this time. I was too busy. But God wanted to make sure I paid attention and got the message. I have heard this Bible verse several times and a couple reflections on it over the course of the last couple weeks, and then it was part of the theme at the retreat I was at this weekend, when I actually had time to listen. Ok, God, I get it. I'll pay attention.

As they continued their journey He entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at His feet listening to Him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." (Luke 10:38-42, emphasis added)

As women, we spend too much time in both the literal and the proverbial kitchen of life. We work hard, caring for our children and husbands, doing housework, and often working or volunteering. We give and give some more, often becoming burdened by all the tasks we have before us. We can easily become anxious and often worried.

I wonder what kind of meal Martha was cooking. Was she cooking a five course meal? If someone famous were coming to my house, I would be tempted to prepare the best meal I know how to make, to clean the house top to bottom, and to buy fancy napkins and a new tablecloth. Was Martha doing the same? And what was her attitude toward serving? Obviously, she wasn't finding joy in her preparations for dinner. Of course, with so much to do and with her sister reclining at her guest's feet, I can imagine why Martha had taken up the bad attitude. It's the same attitude I often have when I have finished a long day at work and come home to screaming kids and housework waiting to be done. So I really can't blame her.

But we also have to make a point of stepping out of the kitchen often in order to sit at the Lord's feet and listen to Him speak to us. We need to talk with Him and tell Him our difficulties and our burdens and place them in His lap, for He also says, "My yoke is easy and my burden light." We have all heard, and hopefully experienced, that when we take time to pray, our days go more smoothly and we are more at peace and less anxious. It is not easy to do this since we are so busy; it can seem like just one more thing on our to-do list. It may not be until days or weeks later when we feel our stress level growing that we realize we have not sat down to read scriptures or to do an examination in a while. St. Francis de Sales has said, "Half an hour's meditation is essential except when you are very busy. Then a full hour is needed." Well, that is just not possible in my week, but I get the point. Prayer and meditation are absolutely necessary, especially when we are so busy. So we have to make a point of setting aside time to pray. When it comes to the general direction of our lives and family, and when it comes to eternity, there is "only one thing" necessary for us to do. Spending time with our Lord in prayer and getting to know Him is that one thing. Without that, all that we do has no purpose.

I am finding I need to schedule prayer time into my day. A walk and rosary at lunch on Mondays and Thursdays, stopping at church after working on Tuesdays and Fridays, a prayerful run on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and Mass on Sundays. And dinners, bedtime, and other random prayer time I hope.

Lord, help us to be like Mary. Help us to step out of the kitchen often to take time to sit at Your feet and talk with You and listen to Your wisdom rather than constantly working so hard and giving ourselves away. Amen.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New blog... please read!

One of my very best friends just started a new blog today. She is an absolutely beautiful woman, devout Catholic, wonderful mother and wife, and fantastic friend! Please visit her.

HuMAMAe Vitae

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Update

I have not posted anything in a week or so, and so I thought I'd write a bit of an update.

I am still struggling with what I wrote about a week ago, but I suppose that day last week was my low. I know that will be a struggle for a while longer and that life is not easy anyway. But I also know I can learn to appreciate what I have been given. What I find difficult is that I take one step forward with learning to find joy despite the difficulties and busyness of life, then I take two steps back. Once I feel I am doing well, life hits me like a ton of bricks. But spring will be coming to Wisconsin soon, and the weather is one piece of the puzzle, so that will help.

I will be going on a retreat this weekend, which I believe will also help. The theme is "The Freedom of Letting Go" and is about meeting the challenges of our day. I think it is not only the perfect timing but also a wonderful topic for me. This is one place I certainly can see God's hand in my life. Please say a quick prayer He will guide the weekend and give me and the other retreatants what we need.

This last weekend, we went to visit my parents and had gotten a babysitter for the boys so that they, my husband, and I could go out for my birthday. When we got there, my brother Jeff and sister-in-law Katie were there. What a wonderful surprise! Later, my brother Brian and other sister-in-law Katie came with my niece. And then early afternoon, my other brother Dan came with his girlfriend, Beth. Everyone had come! So we had a very nice afternoon together, then all ten of us went out for dinner and enjoyed a little time afterward back at my parents' house. It was the most special birthday I had ever had! I was so appreciative they had all driven over to come for my birthday.

I am finding this second half of Lent, God is wanting me to work on giving up my pride. Pride is something I have struggled with in some ways my entire life. I am still trying to recover a healthy sense of humility following times in my life when my pride has been badly bruised and when I've tried to hold too tightly to its torn strings. It seems to me that pride is a funny thing. The less control we feel we have, the more we cling to our pride and cling to control. But that keeps us from the embrace of God and from He who is in control and can give us fulfillment. True humility is a difficult thing to grasp, but so beautiful!

God bless you all!