Becoming Holy

Thank you, St. Michael!

No photo.  This is it.  Our last night together in our home before the big transition.  What a journey this has been!  A week ago, Gabbie wrote a blog called “Go Away, Satan!”  I could easily have titled this the same.  It has been the week from you know where!  We have survived two hornet stings, a fall and injured shoulder, the dog’s surgical stitches rupturing, thunder storms, two trips to the Clinic and today, a toothache and emergency filling! To top it off, there is a scheduled power outage, so we will be getting up and ready to leave for our flight in the dark!!!  What are the odds?  All day long I have felt called to pray the prayer to St. Michael.  Please join me in this prayer for our family and yourselves this week.

St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle.

Be our safeguard against the snares and wickedness of the devil.

May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,

And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God,

Cast into hell, Satan, and all evil spirits, 

Who prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.

I prayed this as I mowed the lawn, as I drove, as we packed, at the dentist and throughout the entire day.  I know that St. Michael heard my prayer.  No one had an allergic reaction to the stings.  The shoulder was hurt not broken.  The dog survived the stitch rupture and is kenneled at the veterinary clinic for the week.  The Clinic visits resulted in improved outcomes.  Max’s toothache was today and not tomorrow on the plane.  The power outage forced us to load the van early and be totally prepared.  I feel like we have been pawns in a spiritual battle.  Satan seeking our injury and God denying him victory.  St. Michael standing guard along with our guardian angels~cheering us on our journey.

I knew to expect this.  A great thing is happening in our family.  A mighty work is about to unfold before our eyes.  Many people are about to be blessed as Jordan moves forward.  Despite the intense sorrow of seeing Jordan go, this chess game between evil and good has blessed me in many ways.  I am confident that this change is a good one.  No battle is fought if nothing is at stake.  But the battle rages on and so I trust that there is something worth fighting for, worth praying for.  I am reminded to thank God and praise Him at all times.  His mighty angel goes before us.  Our God is the God of angel armies.  Whom shall I fear?

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When Life Changes…

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In 1995, at Christmas, I had to write the most difficult Christmas letter to date.  Jennifer had passed the end of October and our family was never going to be what it had been.  It would never be “right” this side of Heaven.  I find the words from that letter coming back to mind and heart as we prepare for our next big change.  

These words are from a precious scene in “The Muppet Christmas Carol” when Kermit the Frog, playing the role of Bob Cratchit, speaks to his wife and children about the death of Tiny Tim.  Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Future are looking on.  “Life is made up of meetings and partings.  That is the way of it.  I am sure we shall never forget Tiny Tim nor this first parting there was among us.”  I still choke up every time I watch this movie.  It was relatively new back in 1994 when I first saw it.  Watching it shortly after Jennifer died had profound impact. This summarized our year in 1995. Gabbie had just joined our family in August and Jennifer had left in October.  Meetings and partings.  That is the way of it.  

Fast forward to 2013~meetings and partings.  Reunited with family and friends where we grew up.  Our children are busy meeting new people, meeting a new community, meeting new adventures.  Parting.  Parting with old friends.  Parting with our neighborhood.  Parting with our faith community in Kennewick.  Parting with Jordan.  Parting with a season of life.  That is the way of it.

There is a difference I feel in my soul.  That first parting with Jennifer was different.  The permanence of death is heavy. And despite the crushing weight of loss, we remember.  We survived the first parting and because of our faith in Jesus, we know we will be “meeting” her again.  The kind of parting that happens by moving does not bear the heaviness of death, but it holds elements of mourning and sorrow as things will not remain the same.  I share in the anguish of my peers who are sending their children off to college.  We all mourn together the changes of life.  The partings that will shift our family dynamic.  The knowledge that things will never be the same.  I also share JOY~this is what is supposed to happen.  At Mass yesterday, a friend and I were talking.  Her son had just left for college that morning and the tears were right at the surface.  She reminded me, and herself, that it IS what is supposed to happen or we would be 40 something year olds, living at home with our parents.  We both giggled at the thought~such a healthy reminder that children moving on is the natural progression.  

I expect these next days will be thick with emotion.  Perhaps writing these words will help me live them.  It’s time to be real.  Let the tears fall.  Let the laughter ring out. It’s time to live in the present moment.  No worries about tomorrow.  There will be meetings and partings for the rest of our lives. That is the way of it.  

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As for me and my house…

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I was speaking with a friend the other day about building our house and all that I envision it to be. It’s not so much about the structure as it is about what will happen there once it is built.  From day one, when we realized the extreme rockiness of the ground, we have felt the words of Scripture in our hearts~Luke 6:48  “That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built.”  It’s more rock than one wants to see when digging ditches for power lines and sewer lines.  Geothermal energy became out of the question.  BUT…a house built on rock is a beautiful thing and challenges me to daily strive to build our lives on the true Rock~Jesus!

We have been blessed with incredible workers on this project and there has been an atmosphere of respect and kindness whenever I’ve been present. “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.”  1 Timothy 4:10   Joe and I have felt incredibly blessed by each person involved in the building of our home~from the financial team to the builders, the subcontractors, the suppliers and designers.  It is a really beautiful thing to see the talents God has given each person on the team.  I marvel at the creative genius we have in our midst along with the technology and resources found in this area.  We pray for the safety of all working and thank God for their giftedness.  “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”  Hebrews 6:10

Early this spring, the mini-series, “The Bible,” came out and we were impressed by the theme, “God is With Us.”  It became our “go to” phrase when we panicked about the journey we were undertaking.  I would be in freak out mode, asking Joe what on earth we were thinking uprooting our family.  We would look at each other and say, “God is with us,” and it would calm my heart for a moment or two!  I have had a strong desire to place those words somewhere in our house~either on a sign or with vinyl letters.  I need the reminder because those panic moments are always going to be there.  Remembering that God is with us is important to my soul.  

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Along with the words, “God is with us,” I have hoped to bless our home by placing holy medals in the walls before it is dry walled.  In speaking with my friend, she mentioned a family who wrote the words of Scripture on the wall studs.  YES!  So off we went, Sharpie in hand, to write Scripture on the walls of the house.  It is still a work in progress~there is much to write.  Friends who were visiting on Gabbie’s birthday were given markers to write a favorite verse or quote or message in the house.  I will treasure all of these words and be reminded that we are standing on the word of God.  In Isaiah 55:11 we read,  “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  Awesome!  Awesome!  Awesome!

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Now the challenge will be to live up to these lofty plans~to stand on God’s word and strive daily to become the people He calls us to be.  I know we will stumble and fall.  I know there will be road blocks.  I know we will be called to choose on a daily basis how we are going to live. “Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  

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It’s just not Fair!

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It’s Fair Week and when you live in a small town, that is a REALLY big deal!  Our week started off with our poor dog, Rudy, splitting open her stitches from being spayed.  She has a nose cone on to prevent her from doing any more damage.  If she could talk, I’m sure she would tell me this is “not fair!”  She is bumping into things and having a harder time eating and drinking.  Just walking around is more difficult.  All of these things are actually blessings in her healing.  It has slowed her jumping and running as she has to pay attention to where she is going. We are caring for Rudy at our nephew’s home, up the road, where there is room to run and play.  Yesterday, the hornets outside were so numerous we couldn’t get through the gate without risking getting stung.  We returned, insecticide in hand, to access the backyard and check on Rudy.  Extra work, how unfair!  Right?

We finally made it to the fair around 5:30 pm~anxious to check on Maddie’s entry in the Open Class exhibits.  Sno-Cones were on the “hot commodity” list for the youngest two.  As we waited in line, the hornets and wasps plagued us.  The sugary sweetness of the Food Row was calling out to more than just the fair-goers.  I offered to risk the swarm to get the sno-cones.  Within moments, Nicole had been stung and her face was swelling.  Really?  She had been safer up by me.  She took benadryl and headed home with Jordan to ice her neck.  How unfair! She was the most excited about watching the Fashion Show that night!  I was feeling frustrated as we headed to the Open Class exhibits.  It took a little searching to locate the Junior Division, but there it was~Madison had won her first blue ribbon!  Her “Snickers-ish” candy had survived the heat long enough to impress the judges~it now looked like a melted lump no one would want to eat!  A quick text to check on Nicole and one to Dad to let him know of the blue ribbon.  Fair week was starting off well in spite of the sting.

Good news~Nicole rallied and returned to the fair in time to watch the Fashion Show.  The entrants did a fantastic job.  Max, however, was not impressed.  He was upset he had to sit through this “girl-thing” when he should be outside having fun.  He was offered a treat afterward if he could just hold it together~he wasn’t entirely successful.  The treat he wanted after was a $7 sword.  He was told, “no,” because he hadn’t really been on best behavior and he could try again another day.  This was most definitely “not fair” in his eyes.  We talked a bit about how much he really NEEDED another sword and how unfair it would be for him to spend $7 if each of the girls didn’t.  My mind was aware of how many times the word “fair” had been used at the Fair!!!

In the days to come, I’m certain there will be many a youth who feels things are not fair.  As the 4-H projects and animals are judged and ribbons are handed out, some will win and some will lose.  There will be discussions of fairness, favoritism, etc.  I can already imagine the parents who will say, “Life is not fair.  This is an example of the real world.”  And they are right.  Life is not fair.  We don’t all win blue ribbons or best of show.  Life is going to have its share of bee stings, second place ribbons, recovering dogs and disappointments.  But we show up. We try again.  We persevere.  Sometimes we are rewarded.  Sometimes not.

Even though life is not fair, I am thankful that God is.  He is aware of all we are and all we do.  Because of this, He doesn’t base His judgment on a record book or how we stand up in the arena.  He doesn’t hold us up to others to decide who wins and who loses.  We each stand on our own merit.  No comparisons.  No grading curve.  No favorites.  He knows our inmost thoughts, our motives, our fears.  He also knows our giftedness and grace.  He desires to work all things to the good for us.  Like any parent, He is proud of each of us for striving to do our best, regardless of any ribbon or trophy.

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Wishes Do Come True…

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I don’t even know how to start this so I’m going to hope for inspiration as I type.  Yesterday was Gabbie’s 18th birthday~her golden birthday~and the celebration of her 18 years reminds me of God’s constant presence in our lives.  As we prepped for her party, I couldn’t help but think back to her actual “Birth” Day!  Jennifer had just had surgery in Seattle and my feet were extremely swollen.  We had to induce labor about two weeks early.  Joe and I were hoping and praying that Gabbie would arrive before Jennifer left our earthly home.  ARRIVE she did!  I don’t know if it was the megadose of pitocin or Gabbie’s love of making a grand entrance, but she literally burst forth into our world and we have been blessed ever since.

For as long as Gabbie has been alive, she has hoped and prayed we would move back to the Prairie.  She has always felt this was “home” for her.  She would pray to be near her grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins and all the amazing friends she met when we were here visiting.  Gabbie loves the country life~the easy pace, the farm community, and the kind of fun kids here create.  She loves dancing and just hanging out.  Sometimes I think God the Father has a special spot for that girl and hears her prayers in a unique way.  This year, Gabbie celebrated her birthday in the setting she has prayed for.  There must have been 40 teens here celebrating with Gabbie~volleyball, games, food and dancing.  The neat part it, all five of our kids were out in the middle of it.  Some of the older teens taught the younger girls how to swing dance.  Max was in the mix with his high school cousins~being used as a human baseball bat as bean bags were being tossed at him!  Everyone had a great time and I loved seeing this mix of all ages working so well!

Along with the joy of this new setting, God sent us reminders of the blessings of where we have been.  Two of Gabbie’s Tri-Cities friends came for the weekend to celebrate!  Jenn and Nicole brought with them all the joy and love and beauty we have known from living away!  They know Gabbie in a special and amazing way!  They have been a source of support for Gabbie through the ups and downs of teenage life!  These girls came and worked with us to make the party happen.  As always, they brought  the gift of laughter~the kind of laughter that is so continuous and so unaffected that it fills the corners of your home!  By the time the party started I was literally joy-soaked!

I don’t know why my eyes are filled with tears again.  Maybe it is because there has been a certain amount of pain in moving and wondering if we were ever going to be okay.  Maybe it is because yesterday, I watched my sweet daughter turn 18 with one of her heartfelt prayers answered.  I watched the laughter, the dancing, the games, gifts and giggles.   Maybe it is because of my gratitude to God for giving us Gabbie. Maybe the tears came because I am relieved.  Wishes do come true.  Prayers are answered.  Happy Birthday, sweet Gabbie!

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A Tribute to Mom

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Today is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother into Heaven~a day to celebrate her witness to life, her willingness to say, “Yes,” and her complete faith and trust in God.  My aunt, Sister Mary, gave a statue to me in the early years of our marriage depicting the Assumption of Mary.  It is a beautiful, wax-like statue, approximately 18 inches tall and very heavy.  It shows Mary being carried to heaven on the wings of many little angels.  Her mantle and robe appear windblown and her eyes look up, awaiting her God and Son.  For some reason, our Madison had a special love for this statue.  She would ask to “carry it” and that is exactly what she did.  She was two years old and barely taller than the statue.  She would lug this durable statue all over the house!  We had watched the CCC children’s movie, “Juan Diego:  Messenger of Guadalupe” and in it Juan refers to the Blessed Mother as, “my little Queen.”  Maddie talked to the statue in her best Spanish accent and would pack, “my little Queen” everywhere she went.  One day while packing Mary, Maddie tripped and “chinned” the statue, resulting in a 1/4 inch gash on the bottom of her chin.  I cannot help but smile at the memory of Maddie and Mary.  Madison’s middle name is Marie to honor Mary~perhaps her special connection is in part due to this.

We were blessed to go to Mass this morning to celebrate this great feast.  A memorable part of mass for me was during the prayers of the faithful.  The prayer that spoke to my heart was, “Let us follow Mary to Jesus.”  It reminds me of our journey to Lourdes with Gabbie.  The amazing part of our pilgrimage was the way Mary constantly led us to her Son.  At the Grotto, where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous, I expected a totally Marian experience.  My heart anticipated the entire Lourdes experience to focus on the Blessed Mother.  It was amazing to see Mary’s statue at the apparition site in a niche off to the right of the Grotto.  At the center was the altar~not for Mary~for Jesus.  This proud mom is off to the side, directing all who seek her to look center stage at her Son.  On the hillside is a chapel for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with a nearby trail for the Stations of the Cross~again following Mary to Jesus.  The entire pilgrimage was all about Jesus and His power to heal.  Mary revealed herself as a messenger of His grace and healing.  We felt the love of our mom in heaven as she drew us more deeply in relationship to her Son.

It is easy to relate to Mary as a mom~to understand how easy it is to step aside and to desire the spotlight to be on our children.  Her understanding of Jesus as the Savior made it all the more desirable to lead people to Him.  She watched Him from infancy~saw Him as He truly was~and knew that He was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  In the song, “Mary, Did you know?” we hear the questions pointing out all the special things she would have known about her Son.  What an awesome privilege!  In return, her Son blessed her with incredible intimacy and Divine Love.  Today we celebrate from the Tradition of the Church that after Mary’s death, the apostles did not find her body in her tomb and held that she had been taken body and soul into Heaven.  Our priest reminded us today that this is God’s way of showing us that we, too, will be taken into Heaven, body and soul, at the last judgment.  Jesus did for His Mother what He will one day do for each of us.

We celebrated with a special breakfast of blueberry pancakes, sausage and eggs~blue to honor Mary.  The morning was shared with both sets of grandparents.  In celebrating, I hope to cultivate in our children a deep respect and appreciation for Our Lady~for her motherhood, her faith, her love of Jesus.  I pray that they will always know that we follow Mary to Jesus, our Savior.  I imagine the day when we are all together in heaven, sharing stories of our earthly life.  I can see Mary touching the scar on Maddie’s chin, now dazzling white, and laughing with delight.  I imagine all of us, listening to stories of Jesus’ childhood~awestruck at all the unrecorded events which Mary pondered in her heart.  I can see them in my mind’s eye~a mother and her Son, so in love with each other and with each of us.  I can do nothing but celebrate a love so profound that the world was changed with a simple, “yes.”

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Be It Ever So Humble…printable

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Madison read my blog and immediately went to work making a pretty printable for our refrigerator.  You can click on the picture above and print one for your own use.  I would love your comments about how this humility challenge changes your lives!  

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Be It Ever So Humble…

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Just popped on Facebook a minute ago and the first thing I see is this article on The Catholic Company’s website.  The title, “Mother Teresa’s Humility List,” caught my eye and I found myself drawn into the 15 things Mother Teresa recommends if one wants to grow in humility.  My eyes raced down the list and all I could think was YEGADS!  So NOT FUN!  Do you ever want to become more like someone without doing the work it took that person to become who they are?  I do.  All the time.  I find myself longing to be more like my mom and then realizing I would have to put everyone else’s needs above my own.  Simply cannot do that.  Hmm.

I have always admired Mother Teresa~I would love to have her heart.  A list like this speaks to me.  It’s like a Holy Bucket List!  Do all these things and you will be humble and wonderful like Mother Teresa.  Obviously, since I am blogging about this I am going to struggle with #1 on the list.  “Speak as little as possible about yourself.”  #’s 2, 3, and 4 seem to go together for me~in summation, I would title them the “Mind your own Business” rules.  The other 11 are a mix of tolerating irritations and not expecting to be esteemed by others.  It’s a tough list.  It’s a good list.  I’m sharing it here for anyone who is feeling called to pursue humility.

Mother Teresa’s Humility List

1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.

2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.

3. Avoid curiosity.

4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.

5. Accept small irritations with good humor.

6. Do not dwell on the faults of others.

7. Accept censures even if unmerited.

8. Give in to the will of others.

9. Accept insults and injuries.

10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.

11. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.

12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.

13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.

14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.

15. Choose always the more difficult task.

There is a mighty task in front of each of us.  I’m not sure if the walk to humility is one that can be shared.  Seeking humility may just be a solo act.  Perhaps that is why that list was not released while Mother Teresa was alive.  She wouldn’t have allowed her virtues to be extolled.  On the other hand, she may have shared this with her fellow nuns, her companions~that they might walk together in pursuit of this virtue.  Humility practiced in community would surely be a mighty accomplishment.

I think, for now, I will print this list on paper and try to imprint it on my heart.

Be Blessed!

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Make it a Great Day!

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Thanking God for the gift of this new day.  Thinking of His love for us and His wisdom in making Sunday a day of rest.  I’m not sure Sunday is always restful for moms~getting everyone ready for Mass, cooking meals and clearing dishes doesn’t exactly sound restful.  However, there is something wonderful about the “in-between” time when it is good to read a book, call a friend, go for a walk and not worry about the Monday-Saturday chores.

Today, I am reminded by Thomas Merton to live in the present moment:

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” ― Thomas Merton  

Sunday, in particular, is a fabulous day to let go of knowing “where it is all going.”  I look forward to today and what it will bring.  I am going to try to recognize the possibilities and to look at each challenge moment by moment.  Today is a day to embrace.  Embrace the day.  Embrace the challenges.  Embrace Each Other.

Make it a great day, Everyone!

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Bless The Lord, O My Soul!

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It’s one of those fabulous mornings.  The kind where you have the whole house to yourself because people have either left or are still asleep.  The air is crisp.   The birds are twittering.  The coffee is working its magic as I turn on the CD player.  A favorite, “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman, comes on and I cannot stop the satisfaction that pervades my being.  The initial invitation to bless the Lord and worship His holy name is followed by these beautiful words.  “The sun comes up.  It’s a new day dawning.  It’s time to sing your song again.  Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me.  Let me be singing when the evening comes.”  YES!  YES!  YES!  The sun is up.  The day has dawned.  I am called to sing for the Lord.  I do not know what the day will bring~good or bad.  At the end of the day, let me still be singing.  Let me sing God’s praise no matter what. Everything changes when the day is about God rather than me.  If my focus is on self, the day can easily fall apart.  Earthly worries and first-world problems will overwhelm me.  If my focus is on praising God, I will find good in each part of the day~knowing God is being honored in each moment.

The words from the song called to mind a conversation I recently had with my cousin, Fr. Reuben.  I’d asked him one way he would suggest a busy mom could grow in grace.  His response was simple and beautiful.  “Praise God,” Fr. Reuben suggested, “give Him thanks throughout the day.”  He spoke of the importance of praying to worship God, not just to ask for things for ourselves or others.  It’s amazing how one can know something but not really know it.  My conversation with Fr. Reuben was a catalyst~increasing my awareness of how I pray.  It is so easy to pray for others, so easy to pray for something I desire.  I can pray for forgiveness and pray in thanksgiving, but I value this increased awareness to pray in praise.  Real praise.

My heart’s desire is to form my will to praise God in all things.  There will always be storms and struggles.  I will always have people to pray for.  Life’s miracles will warrant prayers of thanks.  I want to wake up praising God simply because He is God.  I want to deepen my understanding of His being, that I might want to join the heavenly host and sing his praises day and night.  My heart needs to seek and find the 10,000 reasons to praise Him!  In the final verse, I am reminded, “On that day when my strength is failing.  The end draws near and my time has come.  Still my soul will sing Your praise unending.  10,000 years and then forevermore.”  I am always in tears by this line.  I think of those I have lost, of those who are ill and facing their final days.  I long to be so in love with God that I will not fear death.  I want to have a soul that sings as I cross to God’s amazing arms.  Bless the Lord, O My Soul!

Lyrics and Video to the song, “10,000 Reasons” are available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXDGE_lRI0E

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Team Buna

Phillippians 4: 6-7 "Cast your cares upon the Lord & He will give you a peace and grace beyond understanding" ....in other words.... As Bob Marley sang it, "Say, don't worry, about a 'ting, cuz every little 'ting, is gonnna be alright!"

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