A Mother’s Love & Christ’s Command

"Luf Mom Best. Luf Luf su mush"

The bond between our Lord and ourselves reflected in that of Mother and Child.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I awoke early this morning and began chores that have been neglected too long. Nothing major. Nothing terribly exciting. Today, I’ll end the day with no feeling of triumph after having cleaned out that hall closet that I have to shove closed with my shoulder. I won’t get the garden planted again this weekend. I won’t sand and refinish the small back deck which has been needing work for years now, and I surely won’t get that mountain of socks sorted and folded never mind put away!

Nope, I got up at my usual time this Mother’s Day and began with the dishes left over from the day before. Dishes accomplished, I’ll move on to the rest of the kitchen with the knowledge that my boys will “surprise” me with breakfast and I’ll have to clean it all over again soon. Could I get the living room straightened, the bathroom wiped down, the stairs swept, the laundry folded before they woke up? Could I climb back in bed, pretend to have slept through, and have them not notice?

The funny thing is, if I work fast enough, I might actually succeed. My boys (some more than others) rarely notice the work I do, the dishes, the meals, the laundry. It wouldn’t occur to them to sweep the kitchen floor on their own or to refill the cat’s food and water or to wipe away the inches of dust gathering behind the tv.

They express frustration and sometimes moan and groan about having to do chores (again, some boys and some chores more than others and some days more than others) but they like them to be done. They ask for rides to soccer and basketball, baseball and the rec park. They want to go with their friends and to parties and school events and only occasionally wonder if I have some place I’d rather be.

I’ve sat up long nights, cleaning up vomit and worrying over a sick little one and have driven to doctors and dentists, orthodontists and orthopedists. I’ve put Band-Aids on skinned knees and held torn skin closed while rushing in to have it stitched back together. I’ve lamented unseen wounds and deeply buried hurts and have prayed to the Lord to heal for hurts I cannot mend and strengthen convictions worthy of strengthening.

And my kids thank me

once in a blue moon.

Motherhood is often a thankless job, and yet,

I’d trade not a second of it for the alternative.

I am fortunate. I have good kids who only drive me a bit crazy every other day or so! ;) but even so, good kids, wonderful, outstanding, amazing, fantastic, incredible kids, are still kids, and kids by design need a lot of a Mother’s time, attention, and energy.

In today’s Sunday Mass readings,  Jesus speaks of Love saying,

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

How much this applies to Motherhood! How much a Mother lays down her life for her child! How willing a Mother is to sacrifice and do what is best for her child! Just as the Lord sacrificed for us, so too are we called to sacrifice for those we Love, to those entrusted in our care, to those children belonging to God whom we have been Blessed to hold in our lives for such a short time!

When life gets overwhelming, as it sometimes will, when the “witching hour” strikes between pre-dinner homework and bedtime cuddles, when everyone is tired and cranky and in need attention and baths and permission slips signed and paperwork filled out and an endless supply of other demands threaten to weigh you down, remember why you do this. Remember what else Jesus said,

I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.

Motherhood can be hard, but it is an amazing profession. We are Mother’s because it is part of the Father’s plan. Motherhood is a gift to us. We are not slaves to our children. Even less are we slaves to our housework or to our minivan’s chauffeur status. We are not slaves to our lives. We are blessed by them.

No matter the actions of our children or the opinions of those around us, we are given freedom, and we choose to be Mothers. We choose Hope over despair. We choose Light over darkness. We choose Love over dislike, and day in and day out, through good times and bad, in soft cuddles and tough love, and in rain and sun we choose to Love our children just as the Father has chosen to Love us for Jesus also said,

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”

Mothers choose to Love, and the fruit that will remain is evident in the lives of our children, in their freedom to make their own choices, in their freedom to Love and serve, and in our freedom to choose to Love them no matter what just as the Lord chooses to sacrifice and to Love us no matter what.

Jesus is visible in Heaven, but the Love He commands of us is visible here on earth today in the bond between Mother and child, a bond like no other, a bond which cannot be broken, a bond which can always be strengthened when we ask the Father to strengthen it, for loving one another is what the Lord commands of us. There is no greater love than to lay one’s life down for a friend. There is no greater love than between a Mother and the Family the Lord has provided her.

Mothers, one day the work will be behind you and you will miss these times which go by too fast. Rejoice, even in the midst of daily struggles, for the friendship you will share with your children for a short time in this world and for a short time and for an eternity in the next.

Motherhood can be challenging, but we are not slaves to Motherhood. We are blessed by the gift of Motherhood. By laying down our lives, by putting our children ahead of all but the Lord, we are freed, freed to Love wholeheartedly and unconditionally:

almost as powerfully we are Loved by the Trinity.

Happy Mother’s Day

And to my own Mother, for all the times I was (and still can be) that ungrateful, self-centered, demanding, obnoxious kid, thank you. You are loved and appreciated! xoxo 

God Bless… 

More Mother’s Day Posts:

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Looking for a Sign?

Pink Rose Bush

The Love Roses to the right of the steps bloomed while those to the left withered and died leaving thorny stems behind.

As a teen, one of my favorite songs was Signs by Five Man Electrical Band. It’s one of those songs that catches you off guard and finds itself stuck in your head at random moments decades later, but I never really paid attention to the words or the meanings behind the words. If I had perhaps it wouldn’t have been one of my favorites, but it really is a catchy tune and, although I  disagree with some of them, the lyrics have some good points too.

Over the years, I’ve thought about what signs mean and how they apply to life. I’m not talking about street signs but about other, less tangible, less man made signs. I’ve also thought about signs I’ve misinterpreted and those I’ve missed or plain just ignored.

Never did I want so badly to understand signs as I did in the months after my husband left. I replayed details of our 17 year relationship. I agonized trying to read into things without going overboard. I too often asked myself what I had missed? How could I prevent this from happening to myself or to another again?

There were the cliché signs I shrugged off.

He works long hours; he deserves a break.

He needs to stay in the city; the commute is too long otherwise.

That long hair in our bedroom could have come from anywhere.

There were subtle questions I tried asking only to be shot down by his curt responses. There was that uneasy feeling when the story just didn’t add up somehow, but I couldn’t quite get my finger on why. There were the questions others asked me that I would shrug off, “My husband would never…”

But he did.

At one point, I was so upset that I’d given him my wedding ring and asked him to give it back to me when he was “ready to be married,” but even then, I’d hoped – and I put aside signs that should have been major warnings of trouble in a relationship. I hoped, if I could just do everything right, if I could just not rock the boat, everything would be okay, but those signs I ignored were not just coming from cruel human actions.

Signs are given to us by God, and it is up to us to accept, deny, or ignore them. Some call it Women’s Intuition, but men have it too. You know what it is when something is wrong, the little hairs standing tall on the back of your neck, the nauseous pit in your stomach that won’t go away, the feeling of walking on eggshells when you don’t know why.

 But they weren’t all the signs I’d gotten.

We had been building our house. It was a long, difficult process but one we took pride in. We had limited funds and little time for making things beautiful yet, but we did what we could. We needed patience and fortitude to look past the present incompleteness to the future possibility. Knowing this, I began by planting roses on either side of the steps leading to the front porch, and these weren’t just any roses. They were Love Roses.

I wanted anyone entering our home to be surrounded by Love, but my husband rarely used that front door. He didn’t see the Love Roses, and, while the one side of the steps grew small, but beautiful, wild, untamed Love roses, the other side, which had received the same soil, water and sun, slowly and for unknown reasons withered and died leaving nothing but scarred and thorny branches on the that side of the steps.

Was the death of the Love Roses also a sign?

A little over six months before my husband left suddenly, I had gone to my son’s soccer game. Things seemed to be going well with my husband and I again. Marriages, I’d learned, have ups and downs, and we seemed to be in an up period. I knew I loved him, and he seemed to love me too, but I ignored, or refused to acknowledge too deeply, that he still hadn’t returned my wedding ring, that I still had that uneasy feeling, that I was still unsure of myself.

I returned from the soccer game and noticed the diamond was missing from my engagement ring which I had never stopped wearing. Nothing but a bent prong and an empty place setting lay where the small but glittering stone had once sat. I returned to the fields. I asked everyone I could find. I searched the car top to bottom. No sign of the stone.

Was the loss of the diamond, meant to last forever, another sign from God?

Were these signs or coincidences? Were they messages from God or just happenstances of a cruel and fickle fate? I no longer believe in fate. God has a hand in everything, and we must look for the possibilities of signs that might or might not be found and keep ourselves open for the messages The Lord sends, the Love Notes that are sometimes hard to receive that we get from The Father who Loves us completely.

In Tuesday’s, Gospel reading, the crowds ask Jesus, “What sign can you do for us that we may believe in you?” 

They were looking for tangible evidence of who Jesus was, hoping for something similar to Moses’ gift of bread in the desert, but Jesus replied,

Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.

At that the people asked The Savior to give them that special bread and Jesus replied,

I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

Jesus offers more than a sign. He offers tangible evidence of Love for them, and yet several in the crowd refused to acknowledge the Bread, the sign Jesus offered was not good enough. It seemed strange and unwelcome. Who would make his body, bread? Who would be able to satisfy so fully in a world of such pain, misdirection, and want? The people didn’t want to acknowledge that Jesus was giving them more than just a sign, He was giving them Himself, but they wanted more

And many walked away from Him.

And Jesus watched them go. He didn’t push Himself on them, He didn’t run after them or change His story. He didn’t say that He really meant He is like the Bread of Life, but maintained that He is the Bread of Life. He, who never lies or deceives, truly is the Bread of Life.

Ignoring the signs of a wounded relationship causes pain beyond what many who have not been so hurt would have thought possible, but ignoring the signs Jesus has offered us, denying the words He gave us, not once, but several times in the Bible, denying that Jesus is the Bread of Life and that He is with us in the Eucharist, separates us from the Lord in a way much more damaging than the ignored signs of a floundering relationship. The pain of the broken marriage is nothing compared to the pain of a broken relationship with the Lord who heals all.

Catholics wounded by divorce sometimes feel isolated by the church and are tempted to turn to more sympathetic, more “exciting” churches, but, as Matthew Kelly states in Decision Point, his Confirmation series, it is not the music or the preaching or the sympathetic ear that hold us to the Catholic church. It is the Eucharist. It is the Body of Christ. Even if your relationship with the church has suffered, make no mistake, the Eucharist is still there for you. Jesus is still there for you. The Mass is still there for you.

The Eucharist,

a sign of the Lord’s Love for YOU,

is too important to miss.

We are all Catholics in God’s heart, and He wants you to share in His life. Will you accept this sign?

Catholic, come home. ♥

God Bless…

If this sounds familiar, it’s because I started this Tuesday night but was literally falling asleep while typing on my phone and hit PUBLISH instead of SAVE DRAFT – Yikes! Warning – Never blog while exhausted. Thank you for reading a second time! :)

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Revolting Faith Is No Match for Jesus’ Divine Mercy!

Phillipines statue of Jesus depicting Divine Mercy overlooking immense gardens

Live Divine Mercy with boldness, not with indifference!

Ever feel like you’re a good enough spouse, a good enough parent, or have good enough faith? Ever stop trying to do better because you’re good enough as you are? There’s an obvious wake up call as we read Jesus’ the words to Saint Faustina for the 9th, and most difficult, day of the Divine Mercy Novena:

“Today bring to Me The Souls Who Have Become Lukewarm and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’ For them the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy.”

The powerful words beg reflection on times we’ve been indifferent or lukewarm in our relationships and in our faith, all the ways we’ve cheated loved ones and the Trinity when we should have honored them. Baring our souls and knowing the pain our indifference caused Jesus in His most difficult hour should make us it made me want to run and hide as Eve did when she found herself naked in the Garden of Eden; however, because of Jesus’ Divine Mercy, we have no need to run and hide.

Our Lord’s words, despite the suffering He endured on our behalf, end with three beautiful phrases, “hope,” “salvation,” and “My mercy.” Despite all our faults, Jesus offers us forgiveness and Love because He has the gift of Divine Mercy beyond our imagining. Now, knowing how our indifference affects Him, it is up to us to shrug off the lukewarm blanket of indifference and embrace a mantle of burning passion, of faith beyond what one finds in the average person. Average is blah. It is up to us to stand out like a lily among the skunk cabbage, even like a rose among carnations.

Maya Angelou once said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

For too long we’ve done the best we could, not because we didn’t know better, but because we didn’t even know we should be trying for better. We accepted good enough in ourselves and in others. We didn’t even know better was out there! How do you know to look for something when you don’t know it exists? How do you know you’re being lukewarm when you’re surrounded by indifference?

We accepted our faults and Jesus’ Love without asking how we could give more in return, and that acceptance invaded our personal lives on too many levels. We accepted our faults and our good enough attitude without doing enough to change them until our faults became the norm and weren’t seen as faults anymore. Instead, those living in faith were seen as faulty.

Better is there. Jesus is there. He knows better. He loves you so much, He left His perfect existence to live among men on this beautiful yet dirty, wonderful yet corrupt, sentimental yet harshly unforgiving planet so that YOU could be forgiven. He suffered for you so that YOU could live in greatness, not so that you could live a lukewarm existence, not so that you could be indifferent to criticism of your beliefs, not so that you could go along with what everyone is doing because everyone is doing it.

Jesus did not come to criticize and to cast us into the fires of hell for our faults. No sin is too great for His Mercy. No sinner to repulsive to be welcomed into His embrace. If you are lonely or saddened, rejected or hurting, you are not alone. Reach out to Jesus and He will be with you always. His Mercy and Love never fail.

Sometimes good enough is truly the best we can do, and Jesus loves us for that. Beating ourselves up for true limitations does no one any good, but often we can do better. We can do better in our relationships. We can do better in our faith. Jesus brought us a spirit of Forgiveness and Love. The Holy Spirit gives us a spirit of Courage and Strength. You are Loved perfectly where you are for who you are and are always welcomed Home to the Loving Embrace of Your Savior Jesus Christ where past transgressions and good enough are left behind, but you must first take that stand against indifference, agains t your lukewarm existence, against simply accepting good enough.

Jesus calls us to practice His Divine Mercy and as we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, what better time to begin! To embrace and begin your own red hot attempt at Divine Mercy, the following suggestions have been made by DivineMercy.org

A – Ask for His Mercy.

B – Be merciful.

C – Completely trust in Jesus.

Remember, YOU were made in the image and likeness of God. Use the gifts He gave you to break free from the dreariness of your lukewarm existence. Embrace wholeheartedly His Divine Mercy. Take a risk. Be bold. Live bravely. Love much and when it is undeserved. Run, don’t walk, to the heart of Jesus and reflect a the Divine Mercy you will be offered. You were made for greatness! Embrace all that Jesus has to offer and live it with passion!

Join us in prayer at 3:00 pm (in your time zone) for a devotion to the Divine Mercy of Our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Read more on the Divine Mercy of Jesus:

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God Bless…

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A Lukewarm Faith is Revolting

Girl with a lamp

Souls of lukewarm faith caused Jesus more suffering than any other and can leave one looking back from darkness. Thank God for His Divine Mercy.

The Novena Before the Feast of Divine Mercy began on Good Friday, and as I picked up the pamphlet following Tenebrae Service and began to read, I was struck by Jesus’ words to Saint Faustina concerning those lukewarm and indifferent in their faith,

“These souls cause Me more suffering than any others; it was from such souls that My soul felt the most revulsion in the Garden of Olives. It was on their account that I said: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass Me by.’ The last hope of salvation for them is to flee to My Mercy.

What a powerful statement! Just look at what Jesus says.

Those soul cause Jesus,MORE SUFFERING THAN ANY OTHERS.”

On Day 1, Good Friday, we pray for “All mankind, especially sinners.” On Day 3 we pray for, “Those who do not believe in Jesus and those who do not yet know Him,” and on Day 5 we pray for those who have left the church.

Those of us who have had a loved one deny our relationship or who have watched a loved one walk away despite our best efforts to Love can only begin to imagine how hard it must be for the Father to watch His children leave the church; yet, it is not those who have turned their backs denying their inheritance who have caused more suffering than any others, but those who say they believe while living their faith halfheartedly, those giving lip-service to the vows of faith while cheating the Lord when they think He’s not looking or when a “better offer” pops up that caused Jesus the most suffering.

It was from such souls that the Lord’s soul, “FELT THE MOST REVULSION”

Revulsion is not a word used lightly. When thinking of those who cause revulsion, our minds are limited to a very few. We know evil exists. We’ve seen it appear throughout history time and again in varying degrees. The loving heart is revolted by actions of those causing the Holocost, by those involved in ISIS, slavery, and other atrocities prevalent even today. We are filled with anger and despair when evils hit close to home in the form of theft, violence, addiction, abuse, and the breakdown of the family, and yet it is not evil souls that cause Jesus revulsion.

Jesus’ revulsion is for the lukewarm and indifferent.

It was on their account that Jesus cried out, “MY FATHER, IF IT IS POSSIBLE, LET THIS CUP PASS ME BY.”

It has been said, “The opposite of Love is not hate, but indifference.” Is this indifference what the Lord saw in the crowd as He stumbled under the weight of the Cross? Is this indifference what He saw in too many souls as the jeering soldiers pressed the crown of thorns piercing His flesh? Is this indifference what He felt as the sting of the whip broke His skin again and again? Is lukewarm faith what He saw as He looked over the people from up there on the Cross during the hours He lived while praying to die? Was it His fear of the pain ahead or was it our indifference that made Him want to avoid the Cross as He cried out in that Garden?

Did He see my indifference? Did He see your indifference? Did He see the indifference of the spouse, the child, the parent, the neighbor? Is it from me that He felt revulsion? Is it because of you that He begged to let the cup pass?

I look back at the times I’ve acted with indifference, times I have used my faith to my advantage, times I’ve denied my faith because it was inconvenient or cumbersome or unpopular or because the teachings didn’t make sense in the short term and  I lacked the ability to see the long term. I think through the times even now, when faith is tough and I still slip and fall,

times I should have bitten my tongue but spoke harshly,

times I should have spoken out but turned my back,

times I let me lead my faith when I should have let my faith lead me.

And I wonder if, in those moments, I am revolting to Christ?

Tonight, please join me and others committed to living faith with intention in praying on this last day of the Novena for the conversion of indifferent and lukewarm souls. Then join us tomorrow to reaffirm our commitment to our faith and discover that, despite our faults, each of us has worth beyond measure, that each of us, even after acting in the most repulsive way possible, is still perfectly Loved!

Intro to Day 9 of the Novena Before the Feast of the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ.

“Today bring to Me The Souls Who Have Become Lukewarm and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’ For them the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy.”

For More Info On Jesus’ Divine Mercy:

God Bless…

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I Didn’t Want to Read My Bible

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I wanted to live in the Hope of the Resurrection, not in the reality of the trials that follow.

I sat in the big comfy chair in my living room ready to enjoy the predawn quiet, a cup of freshly brewed coffee with plenty of extra cream on the small table by my side and my Bible, journal, and sharpened pencil in my lap. I was ready to begin my “Coffee with Jesus,” time as the boys and I call it. This morning I was to begin 1 Timothy, but I just couldn’t bring myself to open The Book.

I’d never had this problem before. Oh sure, there have been more days than I care to admit to that I just skipped my Bible reading because I had other things I just had to do or because I had woken up later than I’d intended. Reality is, as much as I don’t want to admit it, I know there will be more of those days when I’m just, “too busy,” ahead.

But for me to have the time and just not want to start, to have woken up early enough, to have all the boys still sleeping in darkness, to have extra days off from my teaching job, and to just not want to read the Bible was unexpected and thought-provoking, and instead I sat reflecting on the Holy Week.

I began the Holy Week in New York where Cardinal Dolan had asked parishes to celebrate Reconciliation Monday. Every parish in the Archdiocese held Confession from 3:00 – 9:00 pm the Monday before Easter. I took advantage of this opportunity and dropped by a small church only to find long lines and one priest handling many sinners. I soon realized that even on this busy day, there was only one priest for this parish. The man sat for over six hours, since people were still waiting past the 9:00 ending time. The man patiently listened to my sins and spoke kindly with me, never rushing, ever gentle in the forgiveness Jesus offered me through him.

FORGIVEN – What a way to begin the week!

Holy Week continued, and I attended Tenebrae Service on Good Friday, a gray and drizzly day back in my hometown. I listened to the readings and wondered about the Passover and the power of the Lord to protect Jewish homes from the plague that would kill firstborn Egyptian males. I hurt for those who had lost loved ones those thousands of years ago and began thinking of all the firstborn sons I knew, beginning with my own, my nephews, my brother and cousins, friends’ sons. How sorrow-filled we’d be without them! What a permanent hole their loss would leave in the lives of so many! I wondered how we would have gone on. I also wondered about the power the Lord yields over us even today, protecting each of us from unknown terrors and heartbreaking hardships. I thanked the Lord for His protection over each of the firstborn sons I knew and over  us all.

During Tenebrae, as I watched the lights be extinguished one by one during the service, I was again filled with awe over what the Lord Jesus Christ was willing to do for us and how little we are willing to do for Him. I have a hard time putting that into words.

I stayed afterward with a small group and began the Novena Before the Feast of Divine Mercy and thought about the power we are given through it. I thought of Jesus telling Saint Faustina that the group who cause Him the greatest suffering are those with lukewarm and indifferent souls. I thought of how many people I knew who are lukewarm or “good enough” Christians. I thought of how often I had acted like that, how often I still act like that. I thought of the power given to us to bring souls to Christ. I thought of the power people seek and how misguided our goals are, how powerless we become by the things we seek to make us powerful.

I attended Easter Vigil Holy Saturday and had spoken to someone earlier who asked why I wanted to attend such a long Mass. He was incredulous and warned me about the dreariness of such a long prayer session. He warned that, if there was an adult joining the Catholic faith, Mass would be even longer. I hadn’t remembered attending Easter vigil before. It’s not something one easily does with young children. I wiped the comments from my mind and looked forward to the Mass.

I met the shadowed group gathered around the small bonfire behind the church and took a candle someone passed to me. I arrived too late to be close to the front (a note to self for next year!) and had difficulty hearing our soft-spoken priest, but there was a solemnness to the night, a quiet, a calm, and yet an anticipatory, gentle excitement in the air.

After a few moments, the priest, holding the Paschal candle, led the procession of six altar servers and gathered faithful to the front of the church. Even the wind, that had blown before the procession, halted, allowing us to make our way into the church candle still aglow.

Mass began with the sharing of the flame and then, we extinguished our flames in darkness, leaving us in darkness and began the reading of Creation from the Book of Genesis. I was reminded of our trip to the Creation Museum in Kentucky and thought of all the people who don’t understand that God really did create the world. I thought of my own friends, family members, and loved ones who doubt that God would (or could?) create the world in seven days. I marveled at the Lord’s plans right from the very first moment He created the Earth.

The readings of the Old Testament continued in utter darkness, only the Paschal candle and small lights for the lectors and the choir high up in the rafters, lit the church. And what an amazing job the choir did. I had never before heard such beauty coming from our small church choir, and it took all my willpower to not turn around and stare! I tried in vain to hold onto those Psalms so I could sing them to myself later.

We read through Moses and Abraham and King David and others and then we were done with the Old Testament.

And suddenly, the lights went on! We blinked with the brilliance of the glow after so long in darkness! The altar servers led a joyful ringing of the bells that lasted longer than any I had ever heard! It was a brilliant light, a glorious sound! And, as our eyes adjusted and I saw even our good-humored Pastor blinking and smiling as though he were holding back a chuckle in the brilliance, I wondered if this would be what Heaven would be like. Choirs belting out song in perfect harmony,  light filling the world, and souls filled with Love!

To make the Mass extra-special, a man from a family I’ve known and loved for a long time, a man I’ve seen often in church and always assumed was Catholic, was Baptized and Confirmed. I watched as his sponsor stood by his side. I watched as he gave his word rejecting Satan, vowing to Love the Lord, and promising to live the Catholic faith. I fought back tears of Joy and Love and looked around to all the Good Men in the church, many of whom I’ve known for years. My heart swelled as I thanked the Lord for these men, strong leaders of their families, Loving, faithful Husbands, devoted, involved Fathers. To say I was happy the Lord put these men in our lives would be a gross understatement. So many good men who don’t realize the impact they have on those around them or the number of people giving thanks for them. I prayed for their wives and children, for their families and friends, and I prayed my own children would see these men as role models and imitate them.

I was moved beyond words and fought back tears again. I was reminded again to not compromise if I ever looked for Love again. I again realized that it would be better to live alone than to be unequally yoked. i was reminded how much I desired a mate who would share in my eternal journey, not just one for the sunny days we share here on earth. I was inspired to wait for God to decide my path rather than trying to make Him work with my plans as I had in my past.

I can feel a lump in my throat and a sting in my eyes remembering this, even now.

I left Mass almost three hours after it had begun, and the time had flown by. How was it possible that Easter vigil was over already? There was a brief moment about three quarters of the way through Mass that I did get tired, but that moment passed without my realization of it, and I knew this was something I’d celebrate every year I possible. I wondered whether Kaleb would be old enough to make it through Easter vigil next year but knew I’d have plenty of time to decide that later.

And then before I knew it, it was Sunday night, and the best day of Easter was over.

The kids came home and started a week’s worth of homework. I would not have to go back to my Catholic school teaching job for a few more days, but the hustle and bustle of life with five boys had begun already. Today, there’d be lunches to be made and school carpool lines, baseball practice and Boy Scouts.

And I really just wanted to hold onto Easter.

I wanted to hold onto the Hope that comes through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I wanted to live a life spent blinking in the glorious Light that comes after the darkness of the Old Testament. I didn’t want this period to end. I wanted to revel in the Resurrection and what that means for me as a former Wife, as a Mother, as a daughter, as a friend, as a teacher, as a sinner, as a Child of God.

I didn’t want to read about the hardships faced shortly after the Lord Jesus Christ walked this earth as a man. I didn’t want to face the reality of the suffering the martyrs faced. I didn’t want to hear their disappointment or acknowledge their need to encourage those who faltered in their faith. I wanted to live in the moment that occurs from knowing Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.

But that rising is not the end of the story. There was much that occurred afterward. There was my favorite part of this whole God thing – the descending of the Holy Spirit. And because of the Holy Spirit’s work today, the story continues beyond the Resurrection, beyond Jesus Christ to today and into the future, and it continues beyond the hardships faced by those disciples to the hardships faced by all of us in the world today and to those our children will face in future generations. But hardship is not the end of the story either.

Because of the Father, we have a plan. Because of Jesus Christ we have a future. Because of the Holy Spirit, the story continues in strength and Love and we are powerful enough to meet it.

If we had stopped with the Resurrection, there would be so much of the story we’d have missed, and so, despite wanting to stop time in a glorious moment, the Lord expects more of us. He expects us to pick up our own Crosses and follow Him.

I didn’t want to read the Bible, but I will. I will read and learn more about how the Lord wants me to act. I will read about the hardships faced by my ancestors. I will learn and grow and live out my faith in as good of a way as my human failings let me live it. I will teach my children about the story that continues beyond the Resurrection.

I know this is a long post; thank you for reading and Happy Easter!

God Bless…

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Would You Recognize God?

footprints

The Lord is with you every step of your journey. Do you recognize Him or put your faith in other places?

Hindsight is incredible isn’t it? Imagine, Peter, James, and John following Jesus as they made the strenuous assent, climbing higher and higher, stumbling a bit in the hot middle eastern sun. They couldn’t have know what was about to happen or what they were about to see. They wouldn’t have known – couldn’t have known! – what might lie over the next ridge never mind the view they would get at the top.

I wonder if they complained about the steepness of the climb or the rockiness of the trail. I wonder if they stumbled or were windblown and then cursed the God who designed that mountain or who allowed that gust of wind to shake their footing.

I wonder if, when they reached the summit, they wished they had been less critical of the mountain and its challenges and more open and accepting to God by their side.

Hindsight is 20-20, and for us, it is easy to see the greatness of Jesus even compared to great men like Moses and Elijah. We wonder how Peter, James, and John, three great disciples, three close friends of Jesus, could have mistaken our Lord for just another great prophet. Knowing the outcome of the event, we find it incredulous that these great men didn’t see then what we see so easily now. Too often we think we would never have done “that” or said “that” or thought “that,” but too often we do.

Too often we mistakenly feel isolated, abandoned, and alone on our journeys. Too often we fail to recognize the Lord as He walks along the trail with us. Too often we mistakenly put our faith in people and places it doesn’t belong. Too often we are then disappointed and turn the blame on God.

We are physical, visual, tactile creatures, and we tend to put our faith in what is conveniently in front of us rather than searching for what is real. It is easy and understandable to rely on a spouse, a parent, even a child for love and support, for protection and understanding. It is easy and understandable to rely on education and hard work, on a career and investments for security and prestige.

But none of these completely fulfills us. None of these thoroughly satisfies. None of these is ever enough. Each keeps us wanting more. The question is,

Do we recognize this or

do we put too much faith in that which is not God?

Do we walk the line, giving proper credit to our loved ones and to our own hard work without mistakenly putting too much pressure on them or too much stock in them? Do we recognize our loved ones as incredible God-made creatures, worthy of love, but chock full of human failings? Do we mistake our loved ones and our own hard work for God, thinking they can or should solve our problems? Do we, like Peter, James, and John, fail to recognize God is different even from those we love, even from our own abilities, even from the greatness that surrounds so many of our days?

Do we recognize that God is different, that God is present, that God is either beside us or carrying us all the way up every mountain? Do we recognize that, just as Jesus was transfigured that day so long ago, each of us can be transformed by recognizing our limitations, by recognizing that Jesus is our Savior and in Him our faith should belong?

Do we recognize the power God has to transform us on our mountaintop when we acknowledge Him?

Last Sunday’s Gospel  showed us Jesus leading Peter, James, and John up the mountain to where they would meet Moses and Elijah and be awed by the power of Christ in the Transfiguration, but, even after the Heavens opened up and God the Father pronounced Jesus as His Son, did Peter, James, and John truly recognize the power Christ held? No. Those familiar with the event know that even then the apostles failed to truly recognize the superiority of Jesus. Knowing the closeness these three believers shared with our Lord compared to the distance we often feel should make us inspect our own ability to recognize God and inspect where we place our faith.

The Transfiguration must have been an amazing, word-defying event, and yet, even after that, the apostles did not fully recognize Jesus as the Lord that day on the mountaintop. Jesus walked beside them the entire time, just as He walks beside you. Do you recognize the Lord beside you in your journey or do you put others before Him? Are you open to the Lord’s ability to transform you when you acknowledge Him? 

Other pieces relating to the Transfiguration:

     Who Will Help You Climb Your Mountain?

     What Does Your Mountain Look Like?

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Who Will Help You Climb Your Mountain?

Distant Mountain Peak with Two hikers

Who Will Help You Climb Your Mountains?

Sunday’s Gospel, the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, told of Jesus’s time on the mountain with Peter, James, and John and of His meeting Elijah and Moses on the summit, and it shows us that even Jesus in His man form was seldom left alone to conquer His battles, to climb His mountains.

The proper focus of this historical event is what occurred on the mountaintop, the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, and so we tend to forget there was a mountain to climb, and perhaps it was not a gently rolling hill kind of mountain with lush greenery and gently meandering streams. Perhaps the path was not well marked or paved with beautiful stones. Perhaps it would have been a rough and lonely trek without friends along the way.

Perhaps it was just the desire for companionship that made Jesus ask Peter, James, and John to go with Him. It is not as though He needed their word to convince others of what took place. Even without them, followers would have believed the Transfiguration. Doubters would have denied it. It is not as though Peter, James, and John took photos or documented the conversation Jesus had with Elijah and Moses and presented that as evidence of what took place.

We know Peter, James, and John went with Jesus but not why Jesus chose these three. It is not as though they left the mountain with questions answered. It is not as though they had any ability beyond what many others had. They were just like most other men. In fact, despite a few differences, over centuries, through spans of time and space, mankind is astonishingly similar to mankind. Even differences in ability, thought, and physical prowess are minute compared to the variance in God’s creation. Knowing this, Jesus could have chosen any random person to accompany Him, and yet, He chose Peter, James, and John.

So why these three?

It is not as though no one else would have gone to the mountain with our Lord. He had thousands following Him. In fact, perhaps just important a question as why did Jesus choose these three to accompany Him is how did He tell the others not to? How and why did Jesus tell the multitudes not to follow Him that day? With so many people clambering on His every word and deed, how was He able to get some time alone with these three close companions?

Sometimes saying no to those who want your time and attention can feel nearly impossible. 

Throughout history, individuals have struggled to climb their own mountains. Each of us is faced with unique difficulties and challenges, obstacles and downfalls, and we tend to see the mountains of others with eyes that miss the ruggedness of their paths. We tend to think we are alone on our mountains.

We may read about another’s struggles. We may listen to their pain firsthand. We may visit them on their mountain, and they may visit us on ours. We may cry with them and really feel their pain, but we always return to our own places, leaving our friends and family members on their own mountains just as they leave us on ours.

It doesn’t mean we love them less or wouldn’t climb their mountains for them if we could sometimes, but we cannot. Each of us has his or her own mountain to climb.

And few of us will make it to the top.

And none of us will make it alone.

Thankfully, we don’t have to. Just as Jesus had companions to climb with, we are given companions to walk with each day and choosing our traveling companions wisely is vitally important, especially when making a climb.

When climbing mountains, fatigue and fear can make us vulnerable. Isolation can make us wish for any traveling companions.

But those who have climbed to the summit know the wrong companions can weigh you down, hold you back, and even prevent you from reaching the top at all.

In extreme mountain climbing, the wrong companion means certain death.

Just as Jesus choose which friends should climb the mountain with Him, we also must choose wisely those who we will permit to climb the mountain with us.

Just as Jesus must have said no to many followers, we too must say no to those who will not help us reach our heavenly goals.

The Bible tells us,

Walk with the wise and you become wise,

but the companion of fools fares badly

Proverbs 13: 20

The Lord sends us traveling companions whether we are on our mountains or enjoying peace in a lush valley. Some of those companions will stick with us through a lifetime. Others will contribute no more than a passing glance we will forget almost at once.

And every one of them will have their own mountains to climb. Some may be climbing mountains invisible to us even though we think we know them well. We cannot judge another by the mountains he appears to be presented with or how he has conquered or been conquered by them. We cannot judge our mountains by those others appear to climb.

Instead, we must put one foot in front of the other. Vow to make it to the top, to not get overwhelmed by the next boulder, the next wild animal, the next cliff, the next gust of wind. Root yourself to the mountains. Wisely and gratefully cling to those companions who will help you make it.

And know that, just as the Lord was with Peter, James, and John that day even though they failed to recognize Him as such, He is also with you on your way to the top, and He is rooting for you. He is giving you companions who will help you make it, and He is hoping you will choose wisely, stay in peak condition, and help them summit their mountains too.

Make the Lord your constant companion. Let Him take the lead and show you your right path, let Him lift you when you stumble and fall. Learn the power, strength, and wisdom of saying no to those who would weigh you down. Take only those companions who recognize the importance of what you are trying to accomplish, not those who can only see the boulder ahead or those who might push you off the cliff.

Please join me for part three of this discussion, and if you missed part one, please go here.

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What Does Your Mountain Look Like?

Man looking out from mountaintop

Will you envy your neighbor’s mountain when you reach your peak?

Did you ever think about the path that led Jesus, Peter, James, and John to the mountaintop to meet Moses and Elijah that day so long ago? Perhaps it was a slow, gentle, meandering path, but mountaintops seldom have gentle pathway leading all the way to their peaks.

Sure, mountains may have gentle pathways at their base, and many people linger there contemplating the assent. Casual strollers may walk the base enjoying a beautiful day, families may picnic by the mountain’s flowing streams, and those in love may stroll hand in hand resting at lower vistas to gaze upon the beauty of creation as though it were made just for them.

Those wanting more of a challenge may push through the lower pathways and find hiking trails marking trees by some adventurer long ago. Perhaps a few will even discover their own trails where few have gone before, scouting a new path to the next resting spot.

But few will make it to the top.

And when we are climbing our own mountains and stumble and fall or want to give up, we often think our particular mountain is too high, too steep, too great of a challenge. We think our mountain has unfair obstacles others aren’t faced with. We look at the mountains others have conquered, but we often mistake the challenges they met along the way. The padding of time and distance make the mountains of others seem less rugged, less demanding, less frightening than our own.

We don’t spend every second on their mountain. After all, it is their mountain, not ours. We look over at their mountain from our own place on our own hill and see rounded tops and tree covered mounds. Distant mountains look almost soft and cushiony from a distance.

But to the one on the mountain, the one struggling to make that climb, every cliff and boulder and rock faced can seem so monstrous that it  blocks the view of what lies ahead, and sometimes we would choose to stay where we are rather than face the unknown.

Those same trees that seem so soft and cushiony from a distance only serve to block out the sun and camouflage scary things to the one beneath their branches. Those same trees which provide us so much comfort and shade from the heat of the day almost always make the night dark and cold for someone on the mountain.

When we are on our mountain, under the tree line, facing an uphill battle with a peak that is unseen from our vantage point, it becomes easy to judge our mountain as more difficult than that of another. It becomes easy to think our life has obstacles others wouldn’t have to overcome. It becomes easy to feel victimized. It becomes easy to forget that other people have their own mountains and other mountains have their own challenges.

You were given your mountain for a particular reason. Do not shirk the climb. Do not envy another her mountain, and do not think that just because you have read about or heard about or spent time on another mountain, that you understand it’s assent

Or that you can imagine the view from its peak.

You were given your mountain, and no one but God knows it like you do. The climb was designed for you. The lessons learned along the way, the companions you meet as you walk the trail, and especially the view from the top were all designed for you and no one else.

Peter, James, and John witnessed an amazing event on the mountaintop, but they didn’t know that when they began the climb. They didn’t know that when the path got difficult. They didn’t know that when the hot sun beat down on them or when they stumbled and fell.

But they found the difficulty of the climb wasn’t even worth mentioning when they got to the top.

How is your unique mountain shaping you? How is it preparing you to experience the summit? Do you really think you will regret the climb if you keep going, if you make it to the top which you will do as Peter, James, and John did, with Jesus by your side? If you join the Lord in Heaven, will you really wish you had been given your neighbor’s mountain?

Please join me for part two of my discussion of Sunday’s Gospel reading Mark Chapter 9, The Transfiguration, tomorrow.

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Dear God, You Know It’s March Right?

house hidden by snow

Does God know it’s March and Spring should be here soon?

It’s March 1st and another snowstorm is sweeping across the eastern United States. It’s cold and snowy and bitter outside, and if I could have reached through my dashboard to the Christian DJ who predicted “gusty breezes in the week ahead,” I might have shaken him pretty good.

“Gusty breezes???” Who is he kidding. The euphemism isn’t fooling any of us this far into the season.

And euphemisms weren’t the only thing from some long past English class that floated through my head this morning.

It’s March 1st, and I’m also reciting the cliche, March comes in like a lion, but goes out like a lamb, as if saying it will make it come true, but while I’m saying it, I’m really thinking, “blah blah blah,” as I wonder yet again how many more days I’ll have to turn up the heat in the morning and how many more times we’d wait to hear whether school will be delayed – AGAIN!

And I can’t help but look up and say,

“Dear God, you know it’s March, right?”

“Dear Jesus, there will be warmer days ahead, right?”

And as the dreary gray skies and bitter cold winds rattle our bones, I can’t help but wonder what God is thinking up there!

And I’m not alone!

Almost every time I turn around, someone mentions being ready for Spring. They ask when God will bring the warmth or they say they’ll need to have a word with mother nature, which I am going to assume they mean as a joke, not as a replacement for our Lord! :)

In my classes I take prayer requests from my students and almost no class goes by without someone praying for Spring and warmth and sun, and I wholeheartedly second that request.

But it also makes me think and wonder about all the things we remind God of.

Dear God, my car is on the fritz again…

Dear Father, I have a big job interview coming up…

Dear Lord, I lost my car keys…

(I should make a recording of that one!)

Dear Jesus, if you could just bring my husband home…

Dear God, if I could just have straight hair…

Dear Mother Mary, my child needs… please pray for us…

Hey God, it’s March, can you please bring the warmth?

When life gets overwhelming, from little things like perpetually lost car keys and crazy hair to unspeakably devastating things like a broken family or hurting child, we often wonder where God is.

We pray as though we are reminding Him of our situation. We pray reminding Him of how we think things should be resolved.

But maybe we should be praying differently.

We must pray without ceasing as we are instructed to do for help and guidance, for comfort and strength, for wisdom and peace. Praying is a good thing, a necessary thing, a wonderful and loving and strong thing, but we must remember that God already knows our wishes, our most secret deepest desires, those truths we hide even from ourselves.

The Lord, who knows every hair on our heads, knows all and will resolve all issues for Good when we are faithful to Him. He often sees outcomes we cannot begin to imagine and brings warmth and sunlight from places we don’t expect them to appear.

What’s more, when we are faithful, that warmth and sun feel infinitely better than they would have had we never experienced the cold darkness of winter.

God doesn’t need our reminders of how we would like life to turn out any more than He needs our reminders that it’s March or that Spring should be coming soon.

Consider it all Joy my brothers – even this cold winter, for it too shall pass. God is in control and He has already sent The Son to warm your heart.

In the meantime, take comfort, He knows it’s been a long cold season. He knows it’s March, and he will send the warmth when He’s ready.

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Lent, Instagram, and Symbolism

I’m not a big Instagagram-er, but when I heard about the photo a day for Lent, I figured I had to try it again. I knew what Instagram was (vaguely) from Cristina over at Filling My Prayer Closet, and it’s been on my list of things to do, but it’s a very long list, and Instagram is not one of my top priorities by any means.

Anyway, Cristina is a Catholic convert who I often think knows more about our Catholic faith than I ever did growing up. I love how Cristina unabashedly shares her experiences and her love of our Lord and those who have modeled the Catholic faith so beautifully for us. She has helped me become more vocal in my faith and in appreciation for the gifts and freedoms we are allowed here.

Pairing Cristina’s enthusiasm with the horror of religious persecution we see in other lands and that is now sprinting toward our open boarders, helps us realize how Blessed we are to be able to worship the way we wish, pray what we Believe, and have Faith in a better, more Loving tomorrow. That paired with the Pope’s call for a new Evangelization got me thinking of how much we take our faith for granted, how spoiled we’ve become, how we forget to tell the world of the Good God has given us even while we are complaining about the bad.

So often in Lent we give up something of no real value or sacrifice to us, and even when we do make a real sacrifice, our small dutiful “giving up” is met with little resistence in the face of temptation. We break down. We hide thinking no one will find out. Me make excuses because, “We’re good people anyway,” or “Giving something up is just a dumb idea,” or something equally convincing.

What if we tried something different instead? What if we tried something positive?  What if, instead of giving up, we specifically went to our social networking sites and spent just a few minutes sharing and leading people back to our Lord? How could doing this change our lives? How could they change those around you? How could they change the world?

Today, I (finally) figured out Instagram and am thrilled to be followng the CatholicSistas in their post a photo for Lent challenge. The @CatholicSistas have picked a word for each day from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday, and Instagramers are finding photos that correspond with the word of the day and posting them. It’s an easy task, but what a great way to promote the Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ!

Today’s #Instagram #Lent topic is SYMBOL.

This is what I thought about the topic of SYMBOL.

     The Symbol

Symbol – an empty box, a broken promise, a rock lost and missing from its setting. These three bound together, wound forever, free only by another…

THE symbol which held the man who is our God risen from the empty tomb, despite our broken promises. The Rock come to gather the missing and the lost. The Rock come to set us free.

The Rock come to lead us, come to teach us, come to give us Hope. The Rock come to correct us and protect us, come to change us and remain with us, come to give us a seed of faith. The Rock come to lead us Home.

The Rock is not a symbol, but The One who cannot be symbolized, only He can symbolize what is real and true and right. The Rock. The Light. The Lion. The Lamb. The Bread. The Wine. All are symbols but weak symbols for the ONE who cannot be symbolized.

Please join me in praying for Catholic Christian, faithful marriages today.

GOD BLESS…

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