Category: Catholic Womanhood


Why have a national holiday that’s very purpose is gratitude oriented? For all intense and purposes it offers folks a few precious hours to stop, reflect, and  remember that everything is gift. It is right and good to stop and celebrate each other, the bounty and the abundant blessings we all can take for granted more than we would like to admit.

Each moment, each life,

Each breath, even strife.

Each person and place,

Gratuitous grace.

The bed we sleep in, and dawn awake,

The mountain, valley, and tranquil lake.

The snow and rain, every ache and pain,

subtly remind us, our lives are not in vain.

We are wanted and desired,

like precious metal fired,

refined, by purity inspired,

by the ONE who made something from nothing, so long ago.

Realize your worth, and each precious fleeting day

lift your eyes and heart in silence say

Thank you Father, for your generous way

in blessing me today.

 

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Ever since moving back to Arizona in ’97, we have lived in the same neighborhood; quite a feat these days. Only a few houses were finished back then, and the desert seemed to begin right where our yard ended.

We had met on rare occasions, as our homes were being built, these strangers who would become our neighbors. Everyone seemed friendly enough as we tried to imagine what our new lives together might be like. We laugh now about those early assessments, when the kids were kind of squirrely, and it was easy to prejudge.

Move-in day boasted one hundred fifteen degrees and by the grace of God didn’t leave any of my siblings or their families with heat stroke. Sweat saturated our clothes and streamed down our faces much like the comical gags you see on TV.

Real love helps you move in, expecting nothing, even when it feels like you are moving into hell itself.

At last, I was back after living in Korea, Texas, New Mexico, Idaho, England, and nine years of freezing in Illinois. My husband was far less enthusiastic than I, since this move required that he commute to work. After dutifully following his “career” all over the world for seventeen years of our marriage, I was going to raise our family, near family. He was still going to be happily flying to destinations most folks dream about, so I wasn’t feeling that sorry for him.

So fast-forward to now. Our neighborhood is complete, and some homes have even had multiple owners. Those original neighbors we met so long ago are still here becoming more than just neighbors, they are friends. We occasionally host each other for meals, look after home and herd, and have watched our small children morph into young adults. We have laughed, cried, and supported each other through scorpions, javalinas, teenagers, roaming coyotes and the rare tarantula. (Yes, all those wild creatures are properly lumped together.) Standing collectively we have cringed as each new child received their driver’s license and drove off alone for the first time.

We come from a variety of faith backgrounds but share a common belief in taking care of our homes, families and neighbors. When news of my impending surgery reached their ears they snapped right into action providing us with meals, cleaning help, prayers, encouragement and hope. Even through this personal challenge I was given a gift to slow down, reconnect, and really appreciate the folks who have been beside us all this time. For years it seemed we were simply “waving blurs’ as we hurried in and out getting kids here and there. Our neighbor across the street will always recall fondly the time our family came home from a vacation in those early years. She happened to be watering her plants as our suburban pulled into the drive. Exhausted, frenzied children poured out of every opening. Finally emerging, our youngest daughter looked over at her and sighed, “That’s right, Mrs. Cross, the freak show is back!”

These strangers are more than neighbors and greater than friends. They have become like family to us. God placed us all together so many years ago, in this space and time and we have been touched, helped, loved and accepted, nurtured and embraced by each other. Isn’t that what we are all called to do, as we build here on earth strong families, communities and nations? Mutually respecting and treating each other with kindness as brothers and sisters in humanity and children of the most-high God.

Our little freak show is the fodder of many neighborhood tall tales, and a catalyst for lots of laughter. Looking back we all smile recalling those long lost days, yet, look forward to new adventures too.

Look around the world. Who is your neighbor? In God’s family there are no fences or boundaries, so reach out and make someone’s day brighter like so many others have done for you and me. For their love and generosity I am immensely grateful and forever changed and we all must go and do the same.

Barbara Lishko  is blessed to be a lifelong cradle-Catholic. She and her husband Mark, have been married for 30 years, and have five amazingly talented young adult children who are an abundance of inspiration for her weekly columns. Through her experiences as a wife, mother, and full time youth minister she shares her unique humor and insight with her readers. God continues to abundantly bless her life by allowing her the honor of serving as a tiny instrument in His Almighty hands. Barbara is a past recipient of the St. Thérèse of Lisieux Service Award given through the Diocese of Phoenix. Visit her blog at https://pouredmyselfoutingift.wordpress.com

This is the second year I have decided to invest in a home garden here in the desert. That means we start planting by late February or March when most places are still shoveling the nasty white stuff.

The only reason I toy with this fantasy has everything to do with what we did after the in-ground trampoline had bounced its last bounce. We filled in the space with real dirt. You know the kind the rest of the country takes for granted. You see here in the desert southwest we have rocks, with dust mixed in for giggles. When we agreed to have a trampoline in the first place, it was on the grounds (no pun intended), that a ground-level trampoline was safer. The kids got right to work with their little shovels and after an hour had accomplished nada.

Observing the locals, we decided a pick-ax would do the trick and only mom and dad were allowed to wield it. That lasted thirty minutes and we didn’t care if the four year-old swung it as long as there was visible progress. After a week we had made a hole the size of Malibu Barbie’s wading pool. We were losing heart, and the kids were conveniently unavailable. Week two, we saw some progress when dad got serious with the ax. The diameter extended to five feet around and a whopping six inches deep.

It was about that time I had a landscaper come by to make a bid on the yard. He took one look at my husband and said the magic words, “If you give me the job I will throw in digging the hole for free.” You would have thought Mark had won the lottery. The ax hit the dirt and it is history from there; but I regress.

So we have this lovely circle in the yard with authentic dirt, and shrewdly determine to grow our own produce. “Why not, think of all the money we will save.” A few trips to the store later, about a hundred bucks, and we are in business. Or so we think. Tomatoes need cages, grapes require a trellis and then there is the netting, fencing, and the gross amount of water needed to keep plants from turning to crust in the desert heat? Need I go on?

The first year we had no clue and netted a harvest fit for a mouse. This year, the birds beat us to the grapes although I did get to taste the last ten they left on the vine to tease me. Our tomatoes were a different story altogether. A rabbit found his way into our yard through a small design in the fence, and ate himself too fat to get out. I discovered that desert rabbits love tomatoes and ignore carrots and lettuce. Between the bunny and the birds they sampled most of the tomatoes, much like a kid samples a box of chocolates. Arr-gh!

I am pretty sure that if we divide the cost of everything into the harvest, we can happily say we dined on twenty dollar tomatoes. Even from a production and labor cost comparison, this happy experiment was a failure of seismic proportions.

What have I learned? Set traps next year and learn to cook rabbit, then we will have meat with our carrots.

Thinking about this from a spiritual perspective, I can imagine that we humans are the seeds God loving and expectantly plants here on earth. Each of us has such potential to grow and be fruitful and transform the area we are planted in. Trials and difficulties can come by and chew on us leaving us a little imperfect but stronger as we continue to grow and mature in the light of the Son. When we are ripe and have remained rooted in the vine, the master gardener will come and gently remove us and take us to the great banquet in heaven where He can show us off as the fruit of His unconditional love.

It is there I hope to see everyone; strong, perfect, beautiful and displayed in a dazzling array of unique and wonderful creations.

Barbara Lishko  is blessed to be a lifelong cradle-Catholic. She and her husband Mark, have been married for 30 years, and have five amazingly talented young adult children who are an abundance of inspiration for her weekly columns. Through her experiences as a wife, mother, and full time youth minister she shares her unique humor and insight with her readers. God continues to abundantly bless her life by allowing her the honor of serving as a tiny instrument in His Almighty hands. Barbara is a past recipient of the St. Thérèse of Lisieux Service Award given through the Diocese of Phoenix. Visit her blog at https://pouredmyselfoutingift.wordpress.com

“[Jesus] consented to empty Himself and become the hardest thing in the universe…a mortal human being…to enter our daily lives. God walks among us, is so simple we refuse to believe it; it fulfills our deepest yearning and binds us to what has actually been fulfilled” ~King

-It is the hardest thing, being human. It is also the most joyful, painful, amazing and incredulous gift. To savor a morsel of deliciousness, to hear the laughter of a child, to be enraptured by setting sun, to birth and nurse a child…to KNOW you are loved by a Being so ineffable, so merciful and kind is a gift beyond all telling.

What has your humanity brought you today?

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.