God is Brilliant

I received this picture from my college freshman from the laundry room, obviously somewhere other than her dorm, and it made me really stop and think. She’s beautiful like the others but she’s way different than her sisters. Not one of the others would sit in the clothes cart while waiting for their laundry to dry. One would study, one would leave the clothes and run errands, and the other would probably just chat it up with everyone in the room as she waits. The point is, regardless of being raised under the same roof, every child is different. I know that’s old news and I’m not just realizing it, but this picture reminds me that they each think differently. They each act and react differently, learn differently, and even eat differently. I have no gluten, no meat, no dairy, anything goes children. I have always prepared, slightly anxious, last minute is fine, come from behind children. I have don’t talk to me in the morning, mornings are okay, I love mornings, is it already morning children. And the list continues but the point is still the same. Isn’t God Brilliant!? He makes life so exciting and yet quite the challenge. When we embrace differences, we succeed. When we fight differences, we remain in constant turmoil. And through it all, when we pray, we find peace. Whether our children find their way by making laundry fun or making it a chore, whether they wait until the last minute when they have nothing else to wear or they deal with it as the basket fills, they will all figure it out in their own way, at their own pace. Give boundaries. Set standards. Pray and watch with wonder. Then pray more. It’s a strange world and each will set out after it in a different manner but hopefully, their differences will someday be our delight.

One Big Crowd

“Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.”  Hebrews 7:25

Original by Jean D. Dortch

“Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him.”  Mark 3:8-10
The square was packed with people pushing to get to the front. By the time the Pope was driven around to our side, people were passing their children up to us to get Pope John Paul II to touch them. The entire moment was surreal. When he reached down and took my hand, I understood from that touch what all the hoopla was about and I knew I had been touched by one whom God had sent. The crowd had come from far away places and in order for the Pope not to be crushed, there were barricades and a glassed-in  vehicle. Everyone in the crowd that day wanted to touch him, not because he could cure, but because we knew that before us was a man who truly would intercede for us to God. We knew that the man before us was sincere when he said he would pray for our healing, for our needs, for our children and our parents, for us. The entire pressing crowd knew that his words were guided by the Spirit and through his touch we knew that he was sent to make a difference.
Jesus was sent to save us. He was sent to intercede for us to God. He was sent to heal us and to deeply touch our lives. Despite the crowds, the difficulties, the pressing of others in this world not to believe, we are called to go to Him and allow Him to save us. Be a part of the incredible crowd of believers and arrive early. He will intercede and your life will be changed forever.

Baby Birds, Leaving the Nest, Last to Leave

As I was working outside this morning, I noticed this little nest of baby birds in my front tree. The more I look at the photo, the more I love it. How precious this new life! How precious all life! The first thought that came to my mind was that they seem to be a little late in the season. Seems we usually have new babies in the Spring and early Summer. Guess I’m thinking they will be late leaving the nest, last to get out into the real world before Fall.

Today I took my last child to register for her Freshman year of High School then put her on a bus for Freshman overnight. Last week my son started his Junior year of High School and in two weeks I will take my daughter way up north to begin her Freshman year of college. My two oldest are finishing graduate school while my third is working on career decisions and college classes. And, of course, we have our first wedding next March. Leaving is just on my mind.

Seems that whether they are the first to leave the nest or the last, whether they keep up with the rest of the world or go out on their own a little later, whether they come back for a while or stay gone forever, they all, at some point, have to learn to fly. They all, at some point, will take what they’ve learned inside that nest and they will go out and make lives for themselves. They will build their own nests and they will be responsible for themselves and most likely others. They have been fed and nourished and they will learn to feed and nourish their own.  And we must encourage them to go. No matter how difficult it is to have that empty nest, they need to move along so that as the seasons change, they do not get held down by the storms of life, they do not get washed out or eaten up. We must encourage them to spread their wings and to take that first leap. We must teach them that God will be with them and that when times are tough or seem impossible, they can turn to God for help and He will always, always be there. We must encourage them not just to keep the faith but to spread the faith.

On this day of leaving, on this day of letting go, on this day of changes, I pray these baby birds fly. I pray that while leaving the nest, they take with them all they’ve been taught and they know how much they are loved. I pray that even the very last to leave receives all they need to make it in this world, to weather the storms and to thrive.

Pennies from Heaven

He came in a little before 5, as we were about to close, saying that he had found a penny on the ground, looked up and saw our Pennies from Heaven sign. Then, as if from nowhere, he mentions that his mom died and we extend the traditional, “So sorry.” But he continues to tell us that as he found the penny and read the sign he could feel her presence and understood that she wanted him to come into the store and buy something. The girls and I were moved. He kept wandering through the sale asking what it could be that she wanted him to purchase. He was from out of town and had limited time to shop. We didn’t mind waiting. We too wanted him to find his answer.

Here’s the thing. This morning, as I contemplate the encounter, I realize that what matters, what we learn from gifts like this that God obviously has a hand in, is not what the man was sent to purchase but that the man was sent to witness to the fact that we should all be aware of the signs He sends. We should all be open to the idea that nothing happens by chance. Everything and everyone we encounter has a purpose. All is grace. All is gift. That man at that moment experienced a close moment with his deceased mother and shared that moment with the young girls in the store and they in turn experienced the truth that there is so much more to life after life. That man at that moment shared the faith of his mother and the rewards of a life well lived for Christ. That man at that moment turned a simple sign, a penny (what some people consider worthless), into a Godincidence. His message seems clear. Stay awake. Be aware. He dwells among us and He has gifts to give that make a difference to us and to those we encounter. It may seem like something minor, something simple, just a penny, but it can turn into something worth so much more. Maybe riches…of the Kingdom.

Visiting, Taking Time, Shining Light

Funny how things happen. I fully intended on using this picture of the display in St. Mary’s for a blog about my book, Visiting Mary, because quite frankly the summer is a great time to take the opportunity while on vacation to visit the many Shrines and Grottoes that we have in the U.S. But I became immediately distracted with the idea that the picture I took was just too busy looking, too distracting. Which, coupled with the Gospel readings this week, prompted me to realize how easily we are distracted by the busy background of our lives. If you’re like me, you may take the readings from Scripture and try to focus on sharing God’s message throughout your day, whether to your family or your friends or your co-workers or complete strangers. We try to take what we believe His message is for the day and live it out, shine the light, not leaving it “under a bushel basket”. We try to live the Commandments and the Beatitudes. We may leave our morning prayer time or morning Mass and think, “I’ve got this. I can do this all day long. I am focused and today I will simply be kind to everyone I meet. I will love God and my neighbor.” Then, bam. Life causes distractions. Our focus is blurred by the busy background. We can no longer see what’s really important. The next morning we start all over again. And the next morning, again. And little by little we realize that life is just busy. The times when we cannot see Jesus or His Mother against all the background “stuff” is the time when we probably need them the most. The times when we cannot hear Jesus or His Mother against all the noise is the time when they probably should be heard the loudest. If we stay focused, we can see light. If we listen, we can speak truth. If we keep Him in our hearts all day, we can truly love. The ways of this world keep us hopping from one “thing” to the next. The ways of God keep us centered on what’s important.

P.S.The OT reading today was Elijah trying to find God in the wind and the earthquakes but only finding Him in a whisper. At some point today, or maybe all day, may we quiet ourselves enough to hear His message in the whispers. And the message before the Gospel reading,
” Alleluia, alleluia. Shine like lights on the world, as you hold on to the word of life. Alleluia, alleluia.” AMEN.

Journeying to Find the “Answers” in Life, Does Not Have to be Some Big, Well-Planned Trip

Since watching the movie, The Way, I have been thinking about looking into a pilgrimage down the Camino de Santiago. When I watched Eat, Love, Pray, I wanted to look into a pilgrimage of prayer, like to the Holy Land with a group led by a priest or to Guadalupe or something. Actually, anytime I watch a movie or hear of another group going on a trip that “changed their lives forever,” I’m ready to jump on board the next flight. I am constantly looking for the answers, a quick fix, something more. And, in some ways, I believe that is a good thing…searching for something more. But what I am finding, as I really pay attention to my day and the people I believe God is putting in my path, is that I definitely do not have to go anywhere to find the answers to the questions in my life. The Answer is in our midst day in and day out, in the people we meet, in our church Tabernacles, in the Breaking of the Bread. Where else do we really need to look for the answers but right in our own back yard? Besides, there’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.

As my son’s class is finishing their 8th grade school year, parents are asked to put together pictures that will be put on a video shown at the class banquet at the end of the year. Since he is number 5 of 6 children, I had to scroll through many, many pictures to get to the ones I wanted to put in the video. I have boxes of pictures of my children, never organized, always a guess as to who some of the baby pictures are because they all look alike. I had more fun looking through those pictures and laughing and loving the fact that my children truly love one another. Raising six children, and I still have a ways to go, has been a journey within itself. As I look at these pictures, it’s funny, but I remember all the good stuff. Even during the most trying years, we found something to laugh about or something to be thankful for in one another. As I journeyed, all I could do was thank God for these awesome children and their father and their grandparents who have been such an important part of their lives. Right here, on my dining room floor, with pictures piled around me, I took a long wonderful trip, I felt the hand of God, I received answers, I realized my life has been changed forever and I remembered He is right here and there’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.

Working in the Midst of the Holy

“Hey! Can you help me with candles?” “Sure.” “Ya see I’ve got this little room with my mom’s religious things in it and I’d like to light some candles like she used to do. You may have known her. Margaret Booker?” “Known her? I didn’t know.” “She passed away in 2011. I’m just moving back and trying to get myself together.” “She came in here all the time.” “I know that’s why I’m here.”

The man was looking for all the people who connected him to his mom. I, in my usual busy way, did not even realize it had been that long since she had been in. Was she sick? She never seemed sick. She was rather passive most days, just wanting to get her candles and move along. She always asked for me. She was sweet, asking occasionally how she could get the best deal. I got it. I understood. Or did I? Why the hurry? Why did we never chat like I do with other customers? Why did I not realize she hadn’t been by the store?

She was just one of those souls who wander the earth, flying low under the radar, making a difference to those who may never remember or realize and yet, to many who will never forget. “Ya know, my mom used to go by the Church and get the flowers they were ready to replace and take them home. I would go in and she would have flowers all over the place, taking out the wilted and replacing them with fresh. She took them to the nursing homes for people who did not have visitors. When she ran out of flowers, she just sat and talked.” “What a wonderful woman your mother was!” “She wasn’t even sick. She just died one day.” “I’m so sorry.”

Today after Mass, I had a little sidewalk talk with a long time friend about the meaning of ASK – Ask, Seek, Knock. We agree that God wants us to Ask. He knows what we need. He knows, but He wants us to ASK. He wants us to seek…answers, needs, people, Him, goodness, love and on and on. Look for Him. Look for the good. Look for the needs of others. And, put it into action. Knock on the door, go to Him, let Him open up a whole new world. Be aware of one another. Bang on it if you must but move. Don’t sit around waiting for someone or something to come to you.

I am fortunate to work in the midst of so many holy people who I really barely touch the surface of knowing. I am fortunate to have a God who knows me and loves me anyway. To have a God who despite my busy-ness allows me to witness something so much more. I am fortunate that when I don’t remember to ASK or am too busy to SEEK, that He pursues me and He knocks. And sometimes, YES, He knocks me over… with His love and His goodness and His mercy.

To Mrs. Booker, my holy friend, and to all who work quietly in our midst, who go unnoticed by our busy lives, I am grateful that you were truly His hands and His feet and His heart. I am grateful for all who do the will of God and ask and seek and knock and make a difference. I am grateful for the son who shared and who wants to take the hand-me-down and pass it on. This is how we learn. This is why the holy are working in our midst.

As Usual…It’s Right in Front of My Face

God has a way of giving us all we need if we just trust in Him, pray, listen, believe. For me, when I need an answer to something “going on” whether I realize I need the answer or not, He seems to print things out for me plain and clear. I can take this many ways but to me it’s this simple, I need answers to be written out for me and put right in front of my face.
This morning, I was bemoaning the fact that I had a difficult day at work yesterday, came home to a dinner where all that was left was ham and mac and cheese when the kids ate ham, mac and cheese, broccoli and rolls and I had to clean the pots and pans. I whined and ate a bowl of cereal. Big Baby.
I am reading an awesome, awesome book by Colleen Carroll Campbell, My Sisters The Saints. Did I mention that it is awesome? Anyway, so I am still a little worked up this morning about my bad yesterday and I proceed to read this: The reference is to a “woman’s maternal gift going awry” and “when this happens, the generous, selfless mother (wishful) becomes the controlling matriarch with a martyr complex whom no one can please.” (And there’s much more.)  “Edith (Stein) suggests two remedies for a woman who finds herself falling into this trap. The first…thoroughly objective work…sweeping…researching a term paper. Such work forces a woman to submit to laws outside herself, helps her escape her obsessive focus on herself and her own emotions, and encourages her to develop self-control, an important discipline for the spiritual life.”
Well, well, well. Okay Lord. I hear You loud and clear. Ya see, I’ve been procrastinating working on this new book which needs quite a bit of research work and bam! I’m back to work as of today and back on track and working through my whining and well, my acting the martyr. I can see I have quite a bit of work to do and this book has given me so much to think about as far as the lives of certain Saints that I would like to read more of. 
So, as usual, He spells it out for me and puts it right in front of my face.  God is so good.

God is Speaking

“Write all the words I have spoken to you in a book.” I find this a very interesting request from God to Jeremiah. I try to constantly stay tuned into words in Scripture that come directly from God. Well, don’t we all. These words were repeated to us Tuesday and I can’t seem to get them off my mind. As if they were meant for me, and I believe they all are, I have wondered what I should be writing down and who is my audience. But the more I ponder, the more I realize that God does not say a thing about what or who, He just says to write all the words. I so often allow this world to crawl into that little space between me and God (what’s the rule) and mess things up. The rules are so simple in His one liners but first I have to let loose of all that clogs my ability to hear Him. He’s speaking to me. He says so right here and He wants me to write all the words in a book. As a writer wanna be, this is truly a gift from above. I want to do a shout out to every writer out there and say, “Hey guys, there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Listen. God has the answer. God is the answer. Write it down.” All I have to do, literally, is to listen and to write. Maybe it’s for this blog. Maybe it’s for a book to be published. Maybe it’s a simple prayer. Maybe it’s for many or maybe it’s just for a few. All these things I put in the way are all about me. The few things that He requests make life and words flow much easier. Listen to Him. He speaks.