Monthly Archives

March 2020

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Behold How They Love One Another

Image credit: Pixabay.com (2013), CC0/PD

Early Christians were made recognizable by their actions. Aristedes, sent by Emperor Hadrian during the days of the early Church to scope out those known as “Christians,” gave a report and these ending words have stood the test of time. “Behold, how they love one another.”

I love my Bible. The sense of belonging, understanding, mercy, comfort, and love it brings me has no parallel. It is a love story that provides unending hope. In it, we are reminded of the steadfast love of our God. He is our constant companion. There really is nothing that we need that He will not provide. We wait with an expectant heart. For us, God is also a Father who loves to bless. Let us not forget this in times that may seem challenging.

Like a parent who picks up the extra treat at the grocery store or who puts gas in her son’s car, the Lord is this type of parent to us as well. We simply must look for His blessings. We also must trust that as for our ancestors before us, God’s plan for us is always better than what we can imagine.

We all can look at our life and see times of trials and crises where we struggled and felt tested. There is a temptation to allow ourselves to feel distant from God or abandoned by him, but that is very far from our reality. We must look back and see how the Lord was with us and how we were changed from those experiences. The situation we find ourselves in today is not new. The threat of this current health crisis can make fear, anxiety, and worry dictate people’s actions. It is an unknown time of wanting to provide and protect our own families. We are being asked to distance ourselves physically from others as a way to prevent the spread of this virus.

Social distancing is by definition isolating and fear feeds that emotion. The challenge again is to look and see how our Father is working in these times. With eyes to see Him, we see Mass and group prayer being live-streamed. We see families drawing closer, playing games, sharing meals, and praying. Candles are being lit in windows as communities join in prayer. Entire industries are responding in ways to unite people. Individuals are pondering their gifts and humbly sharing them, from posting songs on their social media to poems, letters of encouragement, and selfless acts of kindness to others. The Lord is using this situation as an opportunity for us to respond in grace.

For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

The truth of our history is that God is always giving us opportunities to become more of the people He created us to be. The Christian paradox is that even in times of trial and tribulation, the Lord is blessing and forming His people. We see this numerous times in Scripture. Consider 2 Corinthians 9:8:

Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.

How many times in my struggles have I, on my knees, cried out to the Lord how hard it is to be a Christian and He reminds me that being a Christian is not supposed to be an easy task but rather a leap of great faith. But our Father wants us to have a big and deep faith, a faith that covers all our worries and fears in a blanket of security and trust in Him.

In Philippians 4:6, we see St. Paul offering that same relationship with Jesus.

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.

So let us cry out to God in prayer and petitions. Let us turn to him with expectant hearts that we will be refined and our relationship with him made deeper through these times. But let us take this faith we profess and use it in all the means we have available to us to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. For as the old hymn says “ They will know we are Christians by our love.”

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Stop setting the table

Published in the Catholic Times, March 1st, 2020

Through prayer, I have been convicted to pray hard and let that be my doing.

With Mary as our example, pray and then trust in the Lord.

The prayer of a mother runs like a constant flow between her heart and the Lord. Like blood streaming through the ventricles of the heart, so does a mother’s prayer connect her to the heart of Jesus. It’s a deep and profound prayer – one of surrender and supplication. We ask not for ourselves but for His will in the lives of those we love. Because we are in a constant relationship with the Lord and we feel the freedom that brings, we so desperately want others to know the Lord, especially our family. And yet sometimes they don’t.

Sometimes they run from Him. If they’ve been raised in His light, they might have eyes to see or ears to hear, but a heart that is closed, frightened or wounded by the temptations and worries of this world. They might know that a “Yes” to the Lord requires a change. Has any “Yes” to Him ever kept things unchanged? With Abraham, Peter and Paul as examples, I might not even have the same name by the time Jesus is done with me!

I often ponder how deep Mary’s prayer life must have been. As gruesome as the crucifixion was, there must have been the temptation for deep worry. The late-night mothering of an older child brings me to this reflection often. Throughout the entirety of Jesus’ life, Mary was there beside him. She ushered him into ministry and was with him to the last. Yet she pondered so much in her heart.

We read the word “ponder” frequently in Scrip- ture. The thesaurus shows “meditate” and “reflect” as its most frequently used synonyms. Ponder, meditate and reflect. This is the breath of a mother’s prayer life, even in the fast pace of everyday life. There are times when , like the major negotiator, communicator, organizer and relationship builder that I try to be, I try to control a situation. I believe I am doing God’s will by moving pieces in a fashion that I think will make for the best outcome for what God desires. I try to set the stage for him to work! I imagine the Lord sitting next to me with his head to the side, one eyebrow raised, silently asking me if I am done yet.

Seeing that I am clearly unable to turn off this mission of mine, he waits patiently for moments, days, sometimes years, until I finally surrender and say “I can’t do this. I can’t solve this. Will you please help me?” He swiftly answers, “Of course; I’ve been waiting for this moment.”

It is in that surrender as a mother where we lay out our heart’s desire for those we love; where we pray boldly and trust greatly, that we regain the true freedom of being in a relationship with the Lord. Through prayer, I have been convicted to pray hard and let that be my doing. This is so hard for us mothers. And yet we have been given such an example!

My family is in the middle of so many possibilities and choices for our older children right now, and I am challenging myself to pray fervently to the Lord for Him to light, to guide, whisper, shout and make clear the next steps for them. With a thankful heart, I am praising Him for the gift of being a mother and the treasures of these children. I am asking for the fortitude to stay constant in prayer and let that fulfill my tendency to do.

This is not a test for the Lord to see if things will go my way, but rather it is a test for me to learn to grow in prayer and trust. I am laying down my way. Padre Pio is known for his simple breath of a prayer, “Pray, and don’t worry.” May we all learn to trust in this way.

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Lenten Family Traditions in the Home

Living liturgically gives a rhythm to the daily life of a catholic family. It is no mistake that mother nature corresponds her seasons to that of the church. I love the peaceful anticipation of Advent and the white calming snow that accompanies it. Just as necessary is the rain and grey skies of Lent while looking forward to green grass and blooming flowers of an Eastertide. As a mom of many, tying traditions to these liturgical seasons helps my family enter into the season with a prayerful spirit and also helps draw us closer together as a domestic church.  Here is a list of some we have practiced over the years.

  1. Burying the Hallelujah: The word Hallelujah is not used once during the season of Lent. It is not even used on Sundays. Hallelujah comes from a Hebrew expression which means praise the Lord. It is a term of joy and celebration. Burying or hiding the Hallelujah is a type of fasting of celebration and builds the anticipation for that first Easter shout!
  2. Crown of Thorns: We take a circular grapevine wreath and fill it with toothpicks. Every time a member of the family does a good deed or a sacrifice, they get to remove one of the toothpicks with the goal of all the thorns being removed by Easter.
  3. Family Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet: An increased focus on family prayer.
  4.  Cleaning out the pantry: Our week of Mardi Gras is usually when we use up all the snacks and treats to prepare for a dryer period of food in the house during Lent.
  5. Stations of the Cross at our table: A dear friend of ours made us a long thin board that we place upon our dining room table. Upon it we place 15 small candles. We have a book we have used for 18 years called The Story of the Cross by Mary Joslin. The book used to be read by Dad but is now passed around the table as we now have a table of readers. We turn off the lights and read a station, light a candle and sing the Stabat Mater. As the kids have gotten older, we have added in the Latin. This tradition is my favorite.
  6. Amon’s Adventure by Arnold Ytreeide is another story that we have read throughout our Lent. We use it as an Advent calendar except the treat is the quality family time.
  7. The decorations in our home for Easter do not go up till Easter. It is always joyful to decorate on Easter Sunday with flowers and linens and decorations that remind us of the triumph of the cross and that Easter is celebrated longer than just a day.
  8. The Passion of the Christ directed by Mel Gibson: As our kids have gotten older, this has become a rite of passage. This movie we usually wait till confirmation, as the content is not new, but the imagery adds depth to the strong themes of this movie.

Family traditions plant seeds of faith within the hearts of our children. From Mardi gras to meatless Fridays there is much we can do within the walls of our homes to enter into the Lenten season.  I once had a vision of my son as a young adult hearing about stations of the cross and being mentally drawn back to our dining room table where he attended stations every Friday during Lent as a child. His hand lit held the flame to light the candle and he remembered. I hope and pray that none of my children fall away from the church as they grow into adulthood but the gift of knowing that each tradition we establish within the walls of our home forms a positive memory of Christ’s love and presence makes it worth every bit of effort.

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Want a grateful family? Take time to look for Jesus

Image credit: Flickr.com (2012), CC BY 2.0

Last night, I sat by the fire with a friend and marveled at God’s provision. This necessary pause infused my soul with breath and joy. I’m finding it necessary to take this pause and remind myself of the presence of God in everything. I sat back and reflected on how the year unfolded for us and prayed for the vision of seeing God in it all. From a new position with increased travel, outsourcing some school classes, mom’s new opportunities, a graduation, walking through our last-ever surgery, finding a new trail to walk as a family, growing new friendships, a renewed focus on marriage, taking more self-care opportunities, and the opportunity to teach again, there is a recognition that God was with us through it all. Wherever we were, God was and is now. That is so powerful for me. To know that the Lord of hosts, the King of Kings, humbles himself to sit beside me in all my minutes is incredulous and marvelous in the fullness of the meaning of those words. For he is mighty. He is wisdom incarnate. He is hope. He is love. He is mercy … and he sits with me in the joy and in the dark and in the tears and in the peace. He is the ever-faithful counselor of our soul.

Now if you know me, you know that I always take these moments and apply them to those around me; my family, friends, and even the cashier at the local Kroger. For who can contain that moment when you realize how loved you are? What a true friend we have in Jesus! There are moments when the re-realization of this causes us to come aflame for and with Him.

So I sat with my smalls (our affectionate nickname for the younger block of kids in our family) and asked them to list out what they remembered about this past year: a new friend, a lost friend, a scored goal, a huge ice-cream sundae, running with the dog, playing a piano piece, three drama performances in one day, swimming in the pool, bonfires. We took time to quietly look for Jesus in all those moments. Friends, it was so powerful and I could just feel the heart of Jesus gladdened by this recognition. For with this recognition hearts and eyes were opened again to His presence. I could see the love and peace settle upon their souls. It was incredibly beautiful.

Similarly, my older kids feel the presence of God in forming more solid friendships, feeling a calling that won’t go away, relationships ended and relationships grown, trust built, goals achieved, late-night runs to Taco Bell and Chipotle, lunches squeezed into an orthodontist visit because we squeeze every minute out of our time together. Encouraging them to take the time to see how the Lord has always been present is a reminder of the bonds of this everlasting friendship.

It’s a simple thing to do. Quiet time with the family. An easel or notepads and just writing down memories. Where do you see Jesus in those moments? The discussion that comes forth is worth it. It changes and forms us all. My husband and I try to ask each other where we saw Jesus in our day every night before we put our heads down on our pillows. A reminder of His presence and the joy that comes from knowing He is with us.