Archive for January, 2014


Flashback in Time

We were driving to a family event the other day with several of the kids in tow. Kids in this context refer to a seventeen, twenty and twenty-three year old. My dessert was carefully stowed in the back of our suburban. The back-seat inhabitants were safely plugged in to their ipods to avoid communication with each other or us.  We had just picked up Andrew from work, and saddled with his lunch bag he jumped in. I made the suggestion he put the bag in the back. With a flick of his wrist he let it fly. In that instant I had a flashback of an incident 15 years earlier.

Back then we lived in Illinois. I operated a small catering business from home to help make ends meet. My husband was frequently out of town, so deliveries included dragging along five young kids.  The flashback involved a birthday cake delivery on a snowy winter day. After securing the cake, and loading up the clan, we were off.  As was typical with my loving children, moments into any trip, an argument would break out.  It was always something critical to their existence, like who was smarter or the color of snow.  In an act of utter defiance, five-year-old Andrew chucked his shoe to the back where the cake was.  It was one of those slow-motion moments in life I watched unfold through the rear view mirror. I knew where the shoe was headed and there was nothing I could do to stop it. NOOOO-oooooooo, I screamed.

At the first opportunity I pulled over, trudged through the snow, and opened the door. A little brown shoe, size four, lay in the cake.  The van was so quiet, you could hear the snow fall as they awaited the aftershock.  I can’t exactly recall what transpired, but suffice it to say, I still have five children.

That little catering business grew out of my overzealous need to volunteer at the kid’s school. Organizations can see my type coming a mile away.  I imagine the word sucker is stamped on my forehead or something oblivious to me and obvious to them.  I am convinced; I wasn’t born with a NO gene. I seem to have some sick need to say yes to practically any request.  In fact, most of my sentences either begin or end with: yes, sure, when do you need it done or absolutely.

After many years of volunteering I launched my own catering business, which helped bring in a few extra bucks. Let me emphasize the word few here.  Catering at home with five young children under ten, is something only a psycho yes-person like myself attempts.

Once when catering an afternoon tea for a neighbor, I had run out of preparation time.  My assistant, four-year-old Becky, was standing on a chair beside me. She was tired of observing and wanted to help. “I want to hep, can I hep?” The last of the whipping cream was mixing when she grabbed a stick of butter and threw it into the bowl. AHHH-hhhhhh! I screamed.  After gently removing her off of the chair, I sent it airborne back to the dining room.  At that exact moment my neighbor’s husband was peeking in the door to render any last minute assistance. Explaining the wooden projectile to a father of 6 was easier than I thought.

Another memorable winter delivery involved sliding into a ditch only moments from the destination.  The recipients happened to be driving by and stopped long enough to pick up the First Communion cake, and drive off.  One must question what compelled me to continue?

Catering was a crazy time in our life and I am happy to report that the experience didn’t scar the kids too badly. Little Becky is a trained chef and Andrew is suffering only occasional flashbacks from his childhood.

As far as my flashbacks, I still get them from time to time and simply smile to myself or go find a dark corner to cry in.

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I got a chance tonight to grab a few friends and go see “Gimme Shelter” staring Vanessa Hudgens. I was looking forward to supporting a movie that would tell the story of a young woman’s struggle through a harrowing life and teen pregnancy. It would be a movie that would not insult my ears with record-breaking F-bombs, or shameless nudity and sex scenes.

While it was a Monday night and not normally busy at the theater, we remained the only seven souls in the place just three nights after its opening. We all found ourselves saddened by the lack of viewers, or supporters of a pro-life message, and feel good story so rarely found in the media today. The story was compelling and engaging. We felt it was well acted and not over the top with its message. Yet, most all the reviews I have read rip the movie to pieces. Secular society can’t be reminded in any way shape or form that a young woman in Apple’s situation might actually want her child to live rather than be dismembered limb by limb and never thought of again. Perhaps her child could have a better life than she did. No, abortion is the only logical and intelligent choice and anything other than that is just poor writing, directing and movie making. How pathetic, and small minded. Can we get you more kool-aid?

Apparently, the “Wolf of Wall Street”  “has been packing them in” and “hunting for Oscars.” After watching the previews, it seems we have more of the same old thing in store. How boring, tedious, and monotonous. Mindless, limitless sex without consequences, record breaking swearing, killing without purpose, and vampires. Gees, can we get some young people who can write something more profound and less exasperating?

Where do you spend your money Christians? What do you let into your minds and hearts? What are you telling Hollywood with your support of such films…and lack of others? If Christians are not putting their money and time behind genuine efforts to produce films NOT filled with filth, mind-numbing profanity, gratuitous sex or just plain insultingly stupid film…then expect to see less and less movies worth seeing.

Hollywood when not blatantly poisoning minds, is most interested in making money. We so-called Christians have more power than we think by voting with our wallets. Can we really stand to go see another putrid vampire saga?

We must stop hiding in our homes with our little lights covered under politically correct bushel baskets as truth, beauty and goodness are trampled. Get off your duffs and go support a good film. Tell others about it and help spread the word.

If we don’t, we can stop wringing our hands and whining, cause it will be our own inaction that lets the darkness cover more ground.

Devil Business

Saint Catherine of Siena writes, “…what the devil can’t do by himself, he does by using other people…” At times, we humans are attempting to navigate the world in all its storms and confusion on our own. While we are surrounded by the complexity and exquisite beauty created by God, it is important to be aware of a dangerous, lurking menace that lies in wait.

The prayer to St. Michael the Archangel reminds us that the “devil prowls about the earth seeking the ruin of souls.” That is predator language, and yes, it should give us the creeps.  The verbiage reminds us that he actively searches for ways to pull us into his lies, twist our thinking about God and one another, and seeks with deadly precision ways to destroy our souls. The devil has much at his disposal and as St. Catherine reminds us, will even use others if it suits his purposes. If he can get us to “see what doesn’t really exist,” then it is easy for us to misunderstand, limiting our trust in others and in their goodness. “Words lead to actions, and this is how he divides those who love each other.”

Is it just me or is there much more division in the world these days?

What can we do to be a unifying power in our families and in our areas of influence? St. Catherine tells us to have “hatred and contempt for ourselves, opening our mind’s eye to know God and His Goodness…He neither wants nor seeks anything but that we be made holy.” If we place our littleness at the forefront of our mind, and seek to place others before ourselves, we grow in humility and love. Pride puffs us up, which can lead to thinking less of others, becoming paranoid, defensive, and distrustful.

Love unites!

I am  attempting to practice, ‘thinking the best about others’ this new year. This is a difficult task at times. I can quickly remember past experiences, hurts, and betrayals when I hear gossip, and immediately think the worst. It takes heroic strength and Divine assistance for me to have any chance for success in this endeavor.

How have I been doing so far? Not so good.

However, every new breath is a new opportunity to beg for help, and start again. Realize this, God, “allows the devil to cause others to torment and harass us, only to prove the virtues of love and true patience” in us. Why you might ask, would God allow this? So that our “imperfect love may become perfect.”

God loves us too much to leave us wallowing in the muck of our habitual sinfulness. So He let’s the devil do what he does best, by giving us lots of practice in seeking what is good and right and holy. People don’t get good at something unless they have lots of opportunities to practice. How merciful that our Heavenly Father loves us that much.

So while we might get discouraged when we keep messing up, we must remember that our love is proved when it is tested. We are not alone, and never have to go it on our own either.  We have an advocate in Christ, His angels and saints. And not to be outdone, Jesus left us a mother too and not just any Mother, His Mother. Mary is here to help us, desires to grow us closer to her Son, and lead us to heaven. She has loads of grace, all for the asking.

The devil may want us to think we are without any support, especially when we have really messed up and feel that there is no way back to God’s love. Make no mistake, there is an army of warriors in heaven, ready at a moment’s call to battle with us, and fight the good fight.

Never Give Up.

Never Give In.

Never Lose Hope.

You are loved beyond compare!

Just in case you need a little reminder, here is Whom Shall I Fear– by Chris Tomlin,  🙂

Mama Mia Attacks

A group of us were invited to go see “Mama Mia” live on stage the other night. I remember viewing the movie a couple of years ago and not liking it at some point, but I couldn’t remember why. As the musical danced its way into my memory bank, it became increasingly apparent.

It wasn’t that the music was bad, the dancing poorly choreographed, or that there was a lack of acting talent. No, this particular version was unique from the movie and other renditions, in that it made sure to take a poke at “Catholics” not once, but twice. A completely unnecessary line of dialogue was directed to the mother by one of her bed buddies of the past and possible father of her daughter. Why wasn’t she a “good Catholic” anymore, he queried. Like the one he and several others had sex with twenty years earlier, who seems like such a drag now. After all isn’t that how all “good Catholics” behave?

We were also treated to multiple dance scenes depicting the sex act that were scattered in and through the entire show, leaving little to the imagination. You know that little used function that apparently humans are unable to tap into  these days, so everything needs to be spelled out clearly in Technicolor.

As a Marriage Prep Coordinator, I would have to say that media messages such as these could quickly put me out of business. Catholic marriages have already dropped nationally from 250,000 to about 164,000 annually. Do you think it possible that all the anti-marriage media campaigns have finally begun to bear fruit? More than ever, couples are choosing to cohabit rather than commit to a lifetime of happily ever after.

We really have no one to blame but ourselves- married couples of the last four decades.

What kind of example have we been to the beauty of a love that never ends? How have we modeled commitment in “good and bad times, sickness and health, richer or poorer, all the days of our life?”

Unfortunately, we haven’t done a very good job.

We have shown them what unhappy, unfaithful, miserable marriages look like. We have shown them what disposable marriages look like. But most of all we have showed them what selfish marriages, “me first, you don’t make me happy anymore” marriages are like. Better than half of all marriages, sadly end in divorce.

Marriage is hard work. Anything worth doing always is. Learning to love the other is an act of the will. It is not wishy-washy feelings of eroticism that are fickle and quickly fade. No, it is the toughest, most worthy thing we will ever do. It takes way more discipline and endurance than any goofy, trendy race that is out there. Marriage can make the Tough Mudder, look like a nap on the sofa.

So I challenge men and women to consider this, when considering a soulmate for life….do not hop into the sack and make sex the only glue that holds you together. Too many chemicals are masking the reality of who the other person really is. You owe it to yourself and to each other, to make that ultimate gift of you, something worth giving up everyone and everything for. Discover the integrity of the entire person; their personality, habits, qualities and ability to master their self for the sake of a life with you. If they can’t imagine not having sex with you now, they likely cannot imagine waiting to have it with anyone else who floats their boat, when they tire of you. Discipline forms a purity of heart and intention that is attractive.

Avoid the “let’s move in together trap. Try before you buy is a cop-out. If it really was an effective means to testing out a person for marriage, then why is there so much divorce? Cohabitation is up and so is divorce- that is not just a coincidence. I know several couples right now who have lived together for over 6 years, have children together, and cannot stand the person they are with. They are eager for new pastures, ultimately repeating the same mistake, yet expecting different results. Who gets hurt the most in the break up? The children of “no commitment” parents, that’s who. Children deserve to grow up in a home where they see what love and commitment looks like every day. A home where daddy loves mommy and vice versa. A home where they can thrive, be safe, and cherished.

One of the defining lines of the musical was when the daughter shouts at her mother, “I don’t care if you slept with hundreds of men….” Really? In the end, the daughter chooses what was modeled for her all of her life; she doesn’t need marriage to be happy. Checkmate, the anti-marriage campaign continues its sad refrain.

All is not lost, and “hopeless” isn’t part of the Christian vocabulary. Christ reigns Supreme and I am happy to say that most of the couples I work with, don’t want to be the next generation of broken marriages. They are embracing the preparation classes, doing the tough work of dialogue that leads to deeper intimacy, and are willing to discipline their desires for the sake of their beloved. This is great news!

Worthy Resolutions

As I worked on some things at home today, I flipped on Catholic Radio and was amazed at how many outstanding websites, quotes, book titles and free useful tips I got. I was inspired, touched in my heart and gifted in more ways than I thought possible. I had to stop what I was doing several times just to write down all the good stuff.

How about this quote: “Faith doesn’t remove the pain, it gets us through it.

One of the segments I was listening to was quoting from “Three Little Resolutions for the New Year” by Archbishop Gomez. These are the resolutions he suggests in a nutshell. I highly recommend reading the whole article, found here.

Resolution 1: Make Jesus the center of our lives. First thing in the morning and all the way until we close our eyes at night. He suggests reading the Gospel’s and asking Jesus to show us personally how we might change our lives to follow Him more closely.

Resolution 2: Make life better for others. Receive Christ’s love and then share it with others. “By our love we change the world…Love begins with those who make the most demands on us, those who challenge our selfishness.” He states that we need to have more “patience and understanding…giving others the benefit of the doubt…to stop being so judgmental and accept people as they are.” Positive conversations that cut out the negative is another way Bishop Gomez says can make life better for others.

Resolution 3: Forgive others as God forgives us.“We don’t forgive enough…staying angry or resentful doesn’t heal anything. It just makes things hurt longer.” Forgiving others we know is critical to being forgiven ourselves by God.

Finally, he closes with an important reminder, ask the Blessed Mother to help us get to know her Son more this year.

Easy, peasy and easier said than done! I encourage us all to read the full brief article and then add those to our own resolution list.

Peace and many blessings in 2014.

 

 

New Year Nostalgia

What is it we do most in the New Year? Make resolutions, right? Like everyone else, I think the new year is a great time to start again, do over, and reboot. Why I think the new year is a better time than say tomorrow morning or this afternoon is a mystery. Maybe I like how January 1st sounds? Maybe I wait through the whole year thinking that it is best to wait until it all begins anew? That is ridiculous really, and procrastination at its very best.

When it comes to excuses, I’ve got them. I remember reading “Body for Life For Women” about ten years ago, one statement in the entire book  really rang true for me, “Don’t let your brain hold your butt hostage.” (I think that was pretty close to what it said). My brain has excuses for why I can’t work out, eat healthier, or get more disciplined. In fact, it has a vault of excuses in reserve just in case I go through the ones I have been saving up for  three decades.

Sometimes at the end of each year I peruse my journals from the last couple of decades, there is a repeating theme;   losing weight, exercising more, increasing spiritual reading. Can you shake your head and say PATHETIC? So what gets in the way for me? What stops me from stepping forward and making the beneficial changes that contribute to the best version of myself?

Proper planning, discipline and follow through.

That is pretty much it in a nutshell. What I have to gain spiritually, physically, and  mentally far outweigh choosing laziness. So why do I choose to be lazy?

Motivating forces grow as I age. I do not want a stroke (or worse), to be the kick in the rear I need. We have a brand new granddaughter to enjoy, who is I pray, the first among many more. I want to be around to make a difference in this world and for my family and future grandchildren in particular.

So what will I do differently this year?

Well, alone I will do nothing different. On my own I will pretty much do what I have done for decades- fail. This year, it begins with a lot more help from above. Prayer, petition, sacrifice. If I connect my human good intentions to the supernatural strength of God, then I might just be onto something. I find I am most successful when I unite my efforts to a bigger cause and source of strength. So I intend to begin and end with prayer, discipline and uniting my sacrifice with Christ, through the intercession of His Loving Mother. To some, it may sound totally ridiculous, to call on God’s help for something so earthly and minuet.

I disagree.

Our relationship with  God is intensely personal and intimate. He created us out of love and cares so deeply for us in all of our daily doings. My intentions are not hedonistic. I am not seeking to idolize my body and mind, but rather be a good steward of the gift given to me. So we will see how things work out this time.

Have a blessed and amazing New Year. Live each day one at a time. Practice giving it all up to the One who can transform pain into gain both physically and spiritually. Trust more, love harder, practice joy. Get into His Book, and meditate on the Word. Give up favorite things now and then just because you can,

St Daniel the Prophet stained glass in Ouray

St Daniel the Prophet stained glass in Ouray

offer that up. I trust that those little things, compounded with God’s amazing generous love will produce new fruit in all of us.

Here’s to a great year of growth.