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Bible Ink Slingers Linda Marriage Motherhood Parenting Prayer Sisterhood

Swimsuits and Son Bathing

Well, it’s here again. That wonderful season where bathing beauties fill the covers of our favorite magazines announcing the latest and greatest styles for summer swimwear and apparel. Are you excited? Yeah, me neither!! I know there’s a greater announcement that God wants me to hear – that created in His image and likeness, my swimsuit needs only to embrace the Son bathing He can give.

As I stand in the grocery line, I’m surrounded by magazine covers boasting perfectly sculpted models with dramatic tans, leisurely basking in the sun of a picture-perfect island. For most of us, this is a far cry from our reality. I don’t know about you, but after five pregnancies, my body is far from perfectly sculpted and after the time I’ve spent in my backyard garden or at a sporting event -my skin has more of a “red as a tomato” glow to it. My island – well, let’s just say at this age, my private little island has more to do with my hot flashes than anything else. There are days (heck, seasons) that I’m guilty of allowing the media’s reality of beauty to permeate my own.

Just around this time last year, we were getting ready for my daughter’s wedding. It was the first of my daughters to get married. I had been pretty successful in my exercise regime prior to their engagement announcement and was well on my way to reaching my goals for the big day. Life had other plans, however. We had a series of events happen in our life that despite my best effort, got the better of me. Sadness drained my energy and mood swings wreaked havoc on me physically. Needless to say, this beautiful day came and went without me reaching my goal. 

I graciously accepted the heartfelt compliments on how wonderful everyone looked, but deep down I wasn’t happy with what I considered to be a failure. I didn’t let it dampen the day, how could I? With every graceful glide my daughter took, my heart was filled with joy for her, her husband and their new life. But, the lasting memories in the photos is what I need to come to grips with. I know in my heart that I’m much more than this outside form that shapes me, but those thoughts have a way of creeping into even the happiest of moments, don’t they?

I’ve learned that in any moment of doubt there is only one place to go for truth and that is scripture. I turn to the Psalms where I read:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully madePsalm 139.14

When we can’t compliment who we are and where we’re at, especially when it comes to our bodies, we do God a great disservice. We are telling Him that His creation – me – isn’t so great. I have to constantly remind myself that this body housed new life. This body physically worked alongside a wonderful husband to tend to our home and land. This body made time for each of my children throughout their young lives and put everything else on the back burner. This is where I am right now at this time of my life. These are the moments and things that God placed before me and called me to minister to.  

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.…. 1 Cor 6:19-20

The analogy of a temple points to the temple in Jerusalem that Paul knew. This temple was a rebuilt version of the temple Solomon had built back in the Old Testament. The body that receives the gift of the Holy Spirit is special to God and is to reflect His nature. If we don’t care for this temple and receive it as a gift, are we reflecting who Jesus is through us?

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place… Psalm 139:15

Although there are things I have no control over, like my height and frame, there are those moments I whisper, “boy I wish I could wear that cute outfit?” Some of us just have to work harder than others and I have to learn to accept that this is the form He chose for me. It is the very form that He chose to dwell within and I have a responsibility to do my part to care for it – despite how much effort it might take.

Do you remember the glow that people said you had when they saw you in love for the first time? There’s a noticeable difference externally when we feel loved internally. This is the feeling that we need to work on instilling in our heart and there’s only one way to get it. We must allow ourselves to be loved by God. This is the difference between happiness and joy. I’m learning how to feel that joy and receive that love. 

I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people…2 Corinth 6

For many, food can have enormous power over us in difficult moments. I’m not sure I ever noticed this happening in my life, it was just an unconscious reaction to things I couldn’t control. But now, I’m working hard to pause and ask God to comfort those areas of my life where food once did. He knows my wounds and sorrows, worries and disappointments better than anyone.

When I lack faith and find myself disappointed, my prayer can stand firmly on the promise that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. “Lord, help me believe in what I cannot see and trust in what I can only succeed in with You.” My life has been filled with reminders of His love – in the family I was born into, in the man He let me share life with, in the children I have been privileged to raise for Him, and in the friends that bring light and love into the places in between. Change on the outside must begin on the inside.

“As he thinks in his heart, so is he” Proverbs 23:7

So the next time the sun is shining and I want to refrain from bathing in the sun, I can confidently choose to bathe instead in the goodness of the Son that dwells within me.  

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Ink Slingers Linda Prayer

Questions for God – Drawing Closer to Him

Have you ever thought about the conversations you’d have with God when you finally meet Him face to face? I laugh when I think about the conversations I have with Him now. I wonder if His eyebrows furrow in confusion, or perhaps He sighs at my repetitive requests. I’m sure that there are days I make Him laugh at the absolute absurdity of my questions. Those who know me know that I often say I have this list of questions for God when I finally meet Him face to face. From the profoundly serious questions about life and family and friends to the everyday mundane questions like what was He thinking when He created the aardvark and why after labor and child-rearing, women still have to endure hot flashes? Seriously, what is that about? Yes, this is what chatting with God looks like for me.

Of course, this list has been revised over the years. The questions I had when I was younger somehow seem to show clarity as I get older. Although I may not know the reason why, it is clear that the what was for a specific purpose and I see its fruits. There will always be those hard questions about world hunger, sudden death, and violence, although I surmise those whys have more to do with us than they have to do with God. I wonder if He will respond to our questions with His own questions, as Jesus often did. And will that question be, “What did you do about it?”, “Why didn’t you speak up?”, “Did you take the time?” Something tells me that we will see how different life on earth could have been had we only been the answer to someone else’s prayers. 

As Catholics, we have volumes and volumes of prayers that can be recited, and each should be a starting place for those quiet, intimate moments we simply chat with God. There was a time when leading prayer in a group was a stumbling block for me. My words fell short of the praise He deserved. I wished I could pray as eloquently as others. I soon learned, this kind of thinking had more to do with me trying to make my prayers sound good for others to hear then it did for God to hear. The practice of just chatting with God has helped. Now there are times I simply say, “Lord, I’m spent. I have nothing but this depleted vessel to give you. Fill me.” And there I sit, in silence … waiting.

Giving God our questions, I believe, means trusting Him with the answers. It shows us with Whom we place our trust. Even if the answers do not come in an audible sense that we always recognize, we are training ourselves to seek Him first, to love Him with all our heart, our soul, and our might. Trusting Him when life is great and when our hearts are broken to pieces – trusting in His plan for our salvation. Then thank Him for all that we see and all we cannot see. A few years back I read this simple quote, “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday.” Wow, so much I take for granted. From the tiniest things that seem so insignificant to the heavy-on-my-heart things that bring me down. This is the stuff God wants us to bring him in prayer. 

I love the line in the song This Is The Stuff, by Francesca Battistelli  “In the middle of my little mess, I forget how big I’m blessed”.

Recently at our Women’s prayer group, a friend shared of how she found a profound message from God to her in a simple, everyday task. I now call it the “Latte Prayer.” This is a woman who selflessly gives to others ALL the time. Her life has been a living ministry of service to those who are often forgotten – the sick, the dying, the mentally handicapped, and those in recovery. In the midst of her busy life, she wanted to indulge in a little treat for herself – a latte, something she would rarely spend her money on, but loved so much. It was special to her because she liked it prepared a certain way – you know – the shaken not stirred kind of specialty drink. When the young lady at the counter didn’t prepare it the right way, my friend politely explained that it was not correct and the young lady went back to get it right. It was taking a little longer than expected and my friend was losing her patience. As the server returned with the correct latte she said, “I’m so sorry for the mistake, do you forgive me?” “Of course, I do,” my friend exclaimed, then whispered, “God, how could I ever let something this simple take my eyes off you?”

Turning to God in the little things is just as important as turning to Him in the big things of life and that includes all the questions and doubts that can lead us astray. In the movie The Passion of Christ, there is a scene where Mary is walking behind the crowd, trying to keep up with her Son as He carries His cross down the Via Dolorosa. She spots Satan glaring at her on the other side. Suddenly her stare is broken as she quickly fixes her eyes back upon her suffering Son. I’ve watched this movie so many times and never noticed this simple shift before. I wonder if, in that split moment, Satan represented fear and doubt – “Why, God, why?” But, Mary knew why because she remained in a constant conversation with God. In her perfect example of surrender, she shows us how to turn our gaze back towards Jesus, even in the midst of suffering.

No question is too silly for God. Nothing is too mundane. The simple, everyday details of our lives are the stepping stones that draw us closer to Him. They are the starting point to seek His truth, to examine our own hearts, and to trust in Him. So the next time you wonder why and take your eyes off Him, perhaps it’s time to slow down and have a chat with God.

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Fatherhood Ink Slingers Linda Mary Motherhood Parenting Prayer

Beyond the Darkness

I wrote this post last year after a dark season of Lent.  If you entered the Lenten season with a heavy heart, where fears and doubts consume your thoughts, know, sweet friend, that we are called to be a people of hope and light.  God has promised us light and hope in our darkness.  Mother Mary, take our hand and lead us out of any despair that stands in the way of God’s Grace.

It’s 3:00 a.m. Easter morning; another sleepless night.  There’s no use in trying to go back to sleep so I make a cup of coffee.  As I stumble to the couch, hands cupped around the warmth of my favorite mug, I settle in and close my eyes – aware of the silence surrounding me.  The week has been a chaotic one, typical of my holy weeks over the years. However, I’m happy for the distractions this year because the silence reminds me of all the change in our lives.

As I stare out of the window, in the darkness of the evening sky, a star captures my attention.  It fascinates me as it appears, then disappears, then re-appears again a little lower in the sky.  My eyes couldn’t help but follow its movement. This fascination lasts for quite some time and breaks the constant thoughts that want to occupy space in my head. The thoughts win and I’m overcome with the sense of loss that seems to have become the theme song in my life. Permanent loss of those who have passed, loss of a household filled with the chatter of children, loss of family life as we once knew it, and in some sense, a loss of purpose. I know there is much to be thankful for, but in this darkness, I seem to be stuck.

A failed Lent?

This Lent didn’t go as planned.  It was a series of failed attempts to draw closer to God through spiritual reading, prayer, and fasting. It was a whirlwind of activity where my role as wife, mother, and caregiver took center stage.  I couldn’t focus on anything but the task before me and simply asked God for the grace and patience to get through the day ahead (sometimes even the hour ahead).  By Holy Thursday, I was feeling no peace and blaming myself for the endless chaos that surrounded me. I resigned myself to getting up early Friday morning, attending Tenebrae, then simply coming home to begin preparation for our Easter Sunday meal when my parents and children would all be there, surrounding my table.  After Tenebrae, on my way back home, I received a call from my son. His voice was shaking as he shared another round of devastating news – his childhood friend and classmate had taken his life the night before.  Darkness. 

My mind cannot wrap itself around the pain his family now bears.  A pain that on the very night that we commemorate how Mary helplessly endured the ordeal her only Son was about to go through. The pain and anguish as they walk their own Via Dolorosa. It is times like these where words cannot always comfort and we need only to lean into Christ and ask Him to carry us through.  Allowing the overwhelming ache and heaviness of sorrow to fall into the arms of Christ.

I glance back out the window, the morning light begins to break through the darkness and the star’s light begins to disappear.  And so it is with the darkness, God seems to say…it is temporary.  And even when the darkness permeates the moment, He reminds me He’s always there.

This early morning pondering turned my focus back to what today was about – coming out of the darkness of the tomb and into the light.  Asking God to roll away the stones that I’ve allowed to bury me; those of worry and doubt, unforgiveness and hurt, pain and rejection, failed expectations and despair.  Recognizing this deep, dark place where only God meets us. Understanding that He never forgets us, He guides us out of the darkness to a place of hope.

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;

I will turn darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth” ~ Isaiah 42:16

However darkness is manifesting itself in your life – there is hope in our Saviour.

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Ink Slingers Linda Prayer Sisterhood Spiritual Growth

Foes, Fans, and Friends – Discerning Opinions and Dominions

Foes Fans and Friends: Discerning Opinions and Dominions

 

Our calendars should reflect what we love and where our priorities lie. If our emotional energy is increasingly sapped, it’s time to re-evaluate where and with whom are we spending our time and talents? We need to remember that when we listen to the opinions of others, we can forget who has dominion over us.

It’s an exhilarating experience when we get the opportunity to use our gifts. To be part of a team or to lead that team is quite an honor; watching our ideas build into something bigger. The excitement we experience can be a motivator or deterrent towards the next project, and many times we base that excitement on the responses we receive. To give glory to God for our gifts will keep our motives in check when we step out to use those gifts.

The people we surround ourselves with play a huge part in helping us discern who we are in God. So when those comments come rolling in (positive or negative), we can feel confident in keeping them in perspective. But how do we know who our foes, fans, and friends are?

FOES

I think it’s easy to pick out the foes in our life. They’re the people offering suggestions on making everything you do better or taking credit for your ideas as a way to get ahead themselves; the in-law critiquing your parenting skills, or the person in ministry who complains about your leadership ideas. The individual who is kind, then cold (usually acknowledging you only when they want to be in the center of your drama). They’re the people we will find easy to walk away from but that’s not necessarily the path God wants us to take.

God places “thorny” people in our lives to refine us. They’re there for a time and purpose to help us grow. God may be directing us towards them for a purpose or showing us why we must walk away.

So how do we deal with those “thorny” people in our lives? First, I think we have to bring it to God. He can take it. Tell Him just how angry that person makes you and how awful their words or actions make you feel. Point out where you’re struggling with the situation and ask God to reveal to you any part that you may play in their response.

The story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt is a perfect example of leadership that hurts. Here Moses was, pulled into a situation that he didn’t ask for, but for love of God, was obedient and embraced the leadership position. The Israelites complained, were jealous, and in frustration did things their own way, ignoring Moses’ calling. Yet Moses interceded for them just the same.

Responding to nastiness with love and respect isn’t easy. However, it is what we are called to do as Christians. What we learn from the experience of obedience will always be a place of growth and may sometimes be a message to walk away. We can walk away and still be kind and respectful to those thorny people in our lives.

FANS

Fans are not always as easy to pick out. These people may be the result of a lifetime of patterns in how and who we choose to be involved. Perhaps it’s where the “cool kids” hang out, or who is most popular. Maybe it’s a place we find our ego stroked.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (Prov 27:6)

Proverbs 27:6 point this out stating that those who speak God’s truth in love, pointing out our weakness and sin, care far more for us. They’re willing to risk wounding us to keep us close to God. Those who flatter us or show us outward attention, “kisses,” usually do so with selfish hearts, gleaning what is only good for them.

Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor 15:33)

It’s important for us to be mindful of those we form relationships with and their worldly morals. The amount of time spent in these relationships can lead us to engage in their behaviors (anger, gossip, jealousy, prejudice, bad language) and before you know it we are no longer of Christ but of the world. Discerning our relationships with our fans will help us to know whom to let go of.

FRIENDS

“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” Eph 5:18-19

We are a communal people, meant to share our lives with others. But how can we be sure we are forming relationships that will point us to Christ? Here are a few qualities to look for straight from scripture.

Godly friends encourage us

Therefore encourage one another, and build one another up. (1Thes: 5:11)

Let’s be honest, we can all become a little lazy in this area. Encouragement is giving someone a bigger vision of why their obedience matters in God’s kingdom.

Let us consider how to stimulate one another toward love and good deeds (Heb 10:24)

Godly friends support us

If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help. Ecc 4:10

Those who bear our burdens and support us in our moments of weakness are good listeners, offer practical assistance to lighten the load, and never leave our side.

Godly friends expose our sin that keeps us from God

Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit (Gal 6:1)

We all need friends who are willing to point out our weaknesses and sin; see the things we may not be able to see. These are the friends who keep us accountable to God; speaking to us out of pure love and kindness.

Godly friends pray for us and intercede for us before God

Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:3-5

Through prayer, we can bring our friends to the Father, asking Him to do big things in their lives, and boldness to pray for themselves.

Friend, if you’re in a place where you are discerning between opinions and dominions, ask yourself if those whom we allow to influence our lives have the qualities above. I’m learning to siphon out the opinion police from my real friends; seeking the counsel of people who care about me and the work I’m doing and not those who just want to ride the drama train. I surround myself with people who love me deeply, despite my shortcomings. They are those who will point out those shortcomings but aren’t afraid to gently share the hard things I need to hear. Those who bring me joy and draw out the good in me, make me a better person. And those who celebrate my successes and hold my hand in my defeats.

I should also mention that not all of my friends are Catholic, nor are they Christian. I marvel at the diversity of the friends I have; high school friends, forever friends, long-distance friends, even online friends. Each one reveals a different part of me. Many of them I only see once or twice a year. This is the case with one very special group of women. A few of us raised our children together. We saw each other on a regular basis. As the kids grew, we became online friends with no face to face contact at all. Then we met at a Women’s Retreat a few years back. We’ve shared so much more than the lives of our children. We shared our Catholic faith, our motherhood, our womanhood, and most precious, our sisterhood. These are women who help me refocus, keep me accountable, and are there when I can’t get out of my own way! They remind me to place faith over feelings, pointing me to the only opinion that truly matters – God’s!

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Bible Domestic Church Ink Slingers Lent Linda Liturgical Year Motherhood Parenting Prayer Sacred Scripture Single Parents Spiritual Growth

Keeping Your Kids Engaged Throughout Lent

Kids and LentCan you believe that we are having a conversation about Lent already? Weren’t we just swaddling the infant Jesus and celebrating His birth? I feel as though I really haven’t had time to prepare myself for the sacrificial season of Lent. Although it’s no longer my responsibility to keep my kids engaged throughout Lent, when they were small I always had a game plan to engage them in the season and promote conversation around our faith story. We were blessed to belong to a church where there were plenty of activities for both adults and children to participate in, which made for a great support system for us. I thought I’d share a few of the ideas we used with our kids for those that may not have the same kind of support system or just want to supplement what their church may be doing; perhaps even begin something new themselves.

For as long as I can remember, our church provided Friday evening Soup to Stations. We’d pack up our pot of meatless soup to share, along with our kids and head to the church where we shared a meal with our faith community, followed by Stations of the Cross. It was a fun way for adults and kids to socialize, share an array of meatless soups, swap recipes, and forge new friendships. Because everyone had their kids with them, our kids never felt like they were the only ones at a church event. They saw that other families prayed together, making it a comfortable place for them, even into their teen years. There were different formats to the weekly Stations of the Cross. One week the prayers might be through the eyes of Mary, another week it might be scriptural, then the traditional, and when I was a Youth Minister, I organized a Teen Stations of the Cross. This included a PowerPoint with visuals, contemporary music and the best part, the teens created the prayers with a contemporary and relevant script for each station.

The Seder meal is commonly celebrated the same way by Jews all over the world. It is a fulfillment of the biblical command from Psalms 145:4, “Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts.” It is an orderly retelling of the Exodus from Egypt leading God’s people from slavery to freedom and has a growing interest for Christians. The Seder is a wonderful teaching experience that tells the story of God’s grace in history and calls us to share in the experience as our own. It broadens our awareness of the importance of the Old Testament as our history and the sacredness of our liturgy and sacraments. Although there are slight variations to the Seder meal, the custom includes telling the story of the Exodus, partaking of symbolic foods placed on the Passover Seder Plate, drinking four cups of wine, eating matzo, and sharing in a celebratory meal. 

I found two websites that elaborate on this celebration. The Voice describes the event and meaning in great detail, while Jennifer Dukes Lee site lists step by step instructions for a Christian Seder that incorporates the elements of the Last Supper Jesus celebrated with his disciples. There is a printable copy and link to recipes, etc. I also found, in the comments, information that we Catholics don’t always hear too much about or are even aware of – the explanation of the fourth cup of wine and its absence at the Last Supper.

If you have younger children and are trying to teach them about charity, alms giving or penance, a simple idea that also engages dinner conversation is the Good-Deed Jar. Draw the outline of a cross on a large piece of poster board and hang where all can see it. Place a jar filled with something like ripped scraps of paper, lima beans, flower petals, etc. on the center of the table. Discuss what “Good Deed” they did that day to help Jesus carry His cross. After dinner, take whatever item you chose to fill the jar and glue it inside the poster board cross and watch the progress in filling the cross.

If you don’t already have one, creating space for a Family Altar is a beautiful addition to your home. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Psalm 78:4 remind us that WE, the parents, are our children’s first teachers and it is OUR responsibility to pass on the faith, our history, our story, to them. Our home is the Domestic Church and where most of our time is spent. A family altar is a visual reminder of our faith offering comfort during difficult times and reminders to offer thanksgiving for the simple, tender moments of family life. A place to stop and pray with our children for a bit or simply to gaze upon offering a quick thank you. An altar can be as simple as a corner shelf, your dining room hutch or a cabinet; placed in a central location that you pass everyday or a quiet corner within your home. Some items to include:

  • Crucifix
  • Bible
  • Statue of the Blessed Mother
  • Holy Water
  • Rosaries
  • Candles
  • Pictures of Saints

Other people include linens that change with the liturgical season, books, incense, etc. If you like to do crafts with your children, some of these items can be homemade as well. I found two great websites that offer various suggestions for family altars – Catholic Icing and Catholic Mom.

My kids love their father’s Italian heritage, especially when they could sneak a sweet treat (St. Joseph Sfinge) on the Feast of St. Joseph in the middle of Lent – March 19th. I recently saw another Italian tradition that could be lots of fun with the kids called the St. Joseph Table. This ancient tradition, celebrated more fervently in the southern region, goes back to the Middle Ages. It is a day to pray to St. Joseph for his intercession, but it cannot be for personal gain, it must be for the benefit of someone else.

The stepped table includes the statue of St. Joseph holding the baby Jesus with candles and flowers surrounding him. Many Italians also place homemade wood crafts on the table in memory of St. Joseph. The foods surrounding him are foods that grow wild in the field, those of vegetables and wheat – no meat. Breads and sweets are also displayed. An added element for kids is performing small acts of work as an offering. St. Joseph took great care of Mary and Jesus and did so with a loving, giving heart. He provided food, shelter, and protection for them faithfully and lovingly. Doing small tasks for another person, in secret, not expecting it can be offered up to St. Joseph, for his intercession, as he presents it to God as a gift of love. For more in-depth information and step by step instructions on setting up your own St. Joseph’s table, I found this website chock full of information.

I loved to cook with my kids when they were small. It’s a great way to keep their hands and minds busy while enjoying simple conversation. It was also a great time to share stories with them about our faith, using the food and ingredients in front of us. Over on my blog, I share a few of my favorites over the years in Cooking Through Lent With Your Kids.

Whatever the tradition you and your family choose to partake in this Lent, be sure to keep our story alive and well for generations to come.  Many blessings to you and yours.