Archive for March, 2011

Twenty six years of kids will leave you with a lot of accumulated junk. Lost and forgotten treasures lurk within every box, stuffed in long forgotten tubs and drawers, all for the unsuspecting mommy to go through when the brood flies the coop. They seem to only take the necessities when they move out and leave the rest for mom and dad to sort…well just mom really. Little do they know that their prized trophy from the fifth grade floor hockey tournament hit the trash can years ago. So sad, so long.

My dear husband the coupon king cannot pass up a bargain and when school supplies hit the stores he was there to get paper, pencils, markers and spiral notebooks for five kids. As I forage through their past, I have come to discover a treasure trove of minimally used, half used, and NOT used school supplies.We have a quantity of spiral notebooks just barely written in, or doodled upon that will keep us in paper until we turn to dust. I don’t even want to talk about the notebook paper supply that when you actually try to handle the paper, it crumbles. Colored pencils…now there is a story. Teachers want students to have them for the solitary project they have assigned in the school year. My darling would purchase new sets each year because the little pumpkins couldn’t imagine using the same ones the following year. Clearly mommy wasn’t along on these shopping forays. Let’s do the math, shall we? Five kids times twelve colored pencils times twelve years of school. Let’s just say I plan on building our retirement home purely out of markers and pencils.

All the accumulated clutter we gather over the years that we often think we must have really comes into perspective as we look at it through the lens of years later. We have boxes, closets, attics, garages, and storage units to house all the junk we can’t seem to part with. Yet, when we pass to the next life there will be those who must sift through what is left and much of it will go where it belongs…the dumpster. We come into this world with nothing and will go out of it in the same way.

Lent is this awesome time each year to really reflect on our lives and what we have that either leads us to or away from God. It is a time of detachment. We need to take a really good look at “what, who and how” we fill our days and nights. We have but limited time on this planet, we are dust and to dust we shall return.

This past couple of weeks for me has been pretty crazy and filled with pain and sadness. It has brought the sudden death of a spouse for two people I know, divorce papers being served to two beautiful women I am close to, the demise of a marriage, a friend whose husband has cancerous tumors all over his body, and news of some personal health challenges.

Life is full of suffering and can be a cause for doubt, lost faith, despair, found faith and newfound hope as well. Lent for me, is a time to embrace all that and see its greater purpose in light of the cross. God “chastises” those He loves. When we accept all that pain and bring it to the cross it can be a way to suffer along with Christ and bring about so much good. The old adage to “offer it up,” is really very good advice. We will spend eternity I hope, in conversation about the many ways our little sacrifices and offerings made all the difference for someone else.

Really use this time of Lent to search your life, and toss out the clutter now. Anything or anyone that does not lead you to being the YOU God created you to be needs to go. Pray deeper for discernment, detach from harmful behaviors, confess and clean out the hidden closet of your soul now. We are not promised a long and pain-free life, but we are told that Christ will never leave us and that is great news.

Come Easter morning we can really celebrate because we will have walked that road to Calvary these forty days and will know the true joy of new life. My Easter basket will be filled with shredded notebook paper and brimming with chocolate and that morning I hope to walk into the light of a new life, one step closer to heaven than I was forty days earlier.

Hardship For God

Pope Benedict says that when the disciples through the Transfiguration “experienced ahead of time something that will constitute the happiness of paradise” These “brief experiences that God grants on occasions, especially in anticipation of harsh trials.”
God knows what we need… when we need it. Like water in the dry parched desert, He quenches our thirst and sustains us through life’s dryness, trials and difficulties.

One Percent

So I am praying about this new challenge in my life to hear or not to hear that is the question. Surgery or radiation on my ear to reduce or remove a tumor growing at the base of my brain where my ear and brain meet. Good news…no cancer, bad news no hearing with either decision. At least I have a spare ear 🙂

So how will I pour myself out as a gift in this event in my life…interesting thing to ponder for sure. Thoughts?

Cheerleader For God

“Give me a J, give me an E, give me a S-U-S, what’s that spell? Go-oooo Jesus!” That’s me at times, a real cheerleader for the Lord. As a mother and youth minister I have opportunities galore to get out the pom poms and give the rally cry for Christ. No, I don’t really use pom poms, but I am not above that if it might work for the cause.

Last Sunday I returned from back to back retreat weekends with teens. How the schedule lined up in that way was beyond my control and what the heck, I like to clump things together anyway. Point in fact; five kids under seven years of age. When you are in the zone, you might as well stay there as long as you can.

The first one was a nationally recognized retreat called Kairos and is based somewhat on Cursillo I am told. Because of its depth, we offer this retreat to juniors and seniors only. Their lives are sometimes stormy places at that age and being with like teens can show them they are not alone. My biggest efforts for this retreat are not in the administration of it, the months and months of planning, or the intensive collection of the materials needed for its success. No, my greatest effort is always as a cheerleading coach for the parents. “You can do it, yes you can, be the parent and get them to the van!” My reoccurring battle cry this year was, “Be the mom.” Over and over I would share with the teens and their parents, that I had never met a kid yet “that regretted going.” I think for some purgative purposes…God took that as a challenge and laid out for me one of the toughest battles I have fought to date. By the miraculous grace of God and Mother Mary, the confrontation was won and the outcome so far, was worth every tear and all the frustration that accompanied the skirmish. Seeing the happy face of this teen now, in dire contrast to the mêlée that preceded her first night of retreat, for me, makes doing what I do worth it.

The second retreat was for high school teens and over four-hundred and fifty teens congregated up north with snow on the ground and ice all over the paths. This collaborative effort on behalf of eighteen parishes to gather as the young church was phenomenal and inspiring. Youth ministers from all over the valley shared their unique gifts and talents. Mass, adoration, talks and small group time offered the teens an invitation to grow deeper in their faith and relationship with Christ. Despite the multiple trips to the hospital for broken bones from falls, our spirits and those of the teens could not be dampened. God’s presence in the joy and sharing were apparent. Many teens voiced their desire to remain in that space longer. All things good must come to an end, and such was this experience, as well.

So to bring my point full circle I wanted to remind parents that getting their teens involved in their Catholic faith is critical. Your job is to “parent them.” They only have you as parents and you have a job to do- do it. It is worth the battle to equip them for the fight of their lives, the fight for their eternal destiny. They need the tools that are in ready supply in youth programs, retreats, catechetical classes, mass etc.

After ten short years of ministry to our young people I can tell you the brokenness is rampant. They are hurting. Much of the pressure they feel is unnecessary. They are young once, society places unreasonable pressures on them to succeed and work toward college degrees while still in high school. To what end? Club sports and club activities offer them little downtime or rest in the off-season. Grades, friends, and trying to conform to irrational parental expectations and hopes are at times, the means that push them over the edge. They won’t let themselves off the hook, and they do not want to disappoint us. So they take care of mistakes on their own, without the wisdom of the ones they love, to the often regrettable choices that impact and wound their lives even further.

They need us, and we must start making time for nothing but “carefree timelessness” as Matthew Kelly calls it. Time to just be. To relax, to take off their masks and be our babies again without all the outside pressures to be who they are not. Do we set up opportunities to chat or just listen…on their schedules, not ours? Are we available to them, in nonjudgmental moments of attentive listening? Do we allow for quiet and calm in their lives or are they always running from one activity to another?

Some of them are ready to implode, and it is right under your very noses.

They are cutting and numbing their pain in countless self-destructive ways, in silence, wondering all the while if anyone even notices. Nothing else should matter but helping them to find joy in being who God created them to be and being that as best they can. With your love, support and attention, their lives will find clarity and real value.

Give them what they need the most, J-E-S-U-S! Live your faith out loud and show them that with Jesus on their team, they will come out winners.