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Emily Ink Slingers Motherhood Offering your suffering Prayer Spiritual Growth Year of Faith

Embracing Your Own Cross

“If we all threw our crosses in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”

Recently, I was having a discussion with a group of women, inspired by the quote above.  Like many conversations do, it opened up into quite an interesting realization.  We womenfolk are quite insightful.

My friends were lamenting their struggles.  Problems that you pray about, and cry over… often very privately.  Problems that resonate in our bones so deeply.  Major burdens that are very much out of our control.

Heavy burdens:  infertility, marriage struggles, financial troubles, health concerns.

We discovered we’re often afraid to talk about them out loud, out of fear that a well-intentioned-friend would offer simple advice without knowledge of the weight of that burden.  Simple, innocent suggestions can so often feel like these friends are jumping right on the cross you’re carrying.  These weren’t simple little lifestyle choices that had daily stressful moments.   It’s so easy to offer a trite “Oh, have you tried oxyclean?” and expect a happy face emoticon and the problem was solved.

No, these are a much heavier kind of burden, not a simple complaint that may have solutions and compromises and ways to get around with a problem-solving exercise.

After a while we learn how to cope with these types of situations.  You learn how to kindly reply, “Thanks for that suggestion!”, smile, and change the subject.  You become thick-skinned to the pain.  Oh, it hurts, but eventually the callous builds and you’re able to survive through the suffering.

So, what if we actually could all throw our own crosses into a pile and pick up a different one?  Would you?

Would you trade in your large family for the pain of infertility?

Would you trade in your gloriously faith-filled husband for a marriage with underlying emotional abuse or conflicting faiths?

Would you trade in your suitable home for one half the size, with underlying rot, sparky breaker box, and leaking roof?

Would you trade your frugal, but sustainable, income for the struggles of unemployment, foreclosure, and bankruptcy?

Would you trade in your random allergy attacks and annual sinus infections for a child or spouse with a serious acute disease?

 

When you stop to think about the crosses you are given, and dwell on them, they weigh us down into the depths of depression.

When you stop to think about the crosses you have NOT been given, in comparison – they are incomprehensible.  These moments start to bring appreciation for the problems we have in life.  Our crosses become something we CLING to with THANKSGIVING.

THANK YOU, GOD for giving me THIS cross.  
It is VERY heavy, but I have already seen you help me cope and survive through it’s struggles.
I TRUST that You will allow me to learn, through this suffering, how to bring others to You.

While these burdens may be very, very challenging at times, God is using them to bring us closer to Him.

He’s asking us to trust Him, during our darkest hours.

 

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Current Events Discipleship Emily Ink Slingers Pope

Getting muddy…

John 13:3-17
So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed  has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.”For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.” So when he had washed their feet [and] put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.

 

My older sons are on spring break from school this week. They’ve had big plans to seize the day and create some fun memories. On Monday my husband took them hiking through the woods in the local state park. They ran down trails, searched for wildlife, and peed on every shrub in sight (sigh… boys!). Four hours of pure male joy in the forest. When they came home they took off their fine hiking Crocs (don’t judge!) and revealed the most defiled feet I think I have ever seen. There was mud caked between every toe, surrounding every toenail. My husband turned to me, held up his foot, and asked “So, you’re going to anoint these things with oil and dry them with your hair, right?”

HA!!!  Uhhhh…. NO!

The three of them scrambled up the stairs to the bathroom and returned with much cleaner feet. After some time I went upstairs to view the scene of the crime… there were muddy footprints up the stairs and down the hall, the bathmats were black, and every towel was well used. (Boys are so much fun!)

I suddenly had a minor epiphany!

“Whoever has bathed  has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over;”

This line has always made me pause. Clean all over? Really? Well, at that moment I didn’t really care whether my boys had clean ears or elbows or hair… none of those leave a trail of dirt behind.
Feet, though… they’re different. They touch the ground and show the path we’ve walked. When you’ve had some dirt in your past it follows behind you and everyone knows exactly what you have done.

 

Today, as most of us already know, Pope Francis is celebrating his first Holy Thursday Mass as Pontiff at a juvenile prison, washing the feet of the young sinners. What have those feet been through? What mud and dirt are those young people desperately trying to scrape off? Will their entire lives be doomed when and if they get out of prison due to the footprints of their past that just won’t disappear?

What a brave man!  THIS is where the ritual becomes real.

I have heard many are disturbed by this approach… and I can appreciate that pushing the envelope of tradition is sometimes painful to watch. Sometimes it’s okay to push the envelope – just a little, and even then the rules and regulations can often be a little confusing. In 2005, Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley actually approached the Congregation for Divine Worship at the Vatican for clarification:

”The Congregation [for Divine Worship] affirmed the liturgical requirement that only the feet of men be washed at the Holy Thursday ritual.” However, the Congregation did ”provide for the archbishop to make a pastoral decision.”

O’Malley then decided to include women in that year’s ceremony. He made a pastoral decision.
Muddy rules?  Yeah… but sometimes it’s okay to get a little muddy.

Pope Francis is also making a pastoral decision… and for some that is a bit terrifying.

His bravery is a challenge to us all.

 

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Conversion Emily Ink Slingers Offering your suffering Prayer Spiritual Growth Uncategorized

Loneliness seems worse…

I went to a funeral a few weeks ago.  A close friend of mine from high school and college lost her father after a sudden stroke.  My mom and I drove together and visited with several of my school friends and their mothers, catching up and consoling each other for our friends’ loss.
The funeral itself was very touching, but what stood out to me the most was how poignantly lonely the previous generation seemed.
I saw a newly-widowed woman, with her only-child-daughter (my friend, who is married with two children) living over 1,500 miles away.
I saw another widow – who’s only-child-daughter (another friend, engaged to be married) lives over 800 miles away.
I saw an aging couple, who’s only-child-daughter (my single friend) lives over 400 miles away.
I saw another couple, who’s two daughters (both married with one child each) live hundreds of miles away.

Sure, they get together for holidays and a few special events, but beyond that they seemed to be strangers.

I slowly started to realize that I was clearly the outcast in the group, married with four children and living within three miles of both my parents and my in-laws.  Two of my three siblings also live within the same town.

I quickly was overwhelmed by feelings of my own family’s drama.  You know, the classics:  strong personalities vs weak ones, short-tempered fathers, opinionated mothers, and babble-on-forever mother-in-laws, trying to figure how to squeeze in your sister’s baby shower between your 2nd-grader’s First Communion and the school charity dance, and oh yeah – gotta make sure someone can babysit!  WHEW!  Yes, I have to admit – my crazy life often makes my head spin!

The more I think about this funeral experience, though, the more I realize how BLESSED we really are.  It was a really good opportunity for both my mom and I to see what the alternatives are like.  While life can certainly feel a bit overwhelming at times it is hardly boring or lonely.   It was a much-needed dose of perspective to see how petty our little family “issues” can be.  It’s important to count our blessings and be thankful for the fullness of life all around us!  I am thankful for my family:  I have two sisters who I can text and call at any moment to share a funny story or to make plans for lunch.  I have parents who I call every morning, just to say hi and ask how their day is.  We go to their house almost every week for dinner, and they get the chance to see the grand kids. I have a mother-in-law who also eats a meal with us every week.  She is always willing to watch the kids so my husband and I can get out on a date night – every single week!  I have a husband who makes me cry with laughter, and children who are filled with with nonstop chatter but are dripping with joy and LIFE!  Yes, there are personalities that can certainly drive me up the wall once in a while, but when I stop and look at the big picture I see such enormous love bursting at the seams!

During Lent it’s important to really evaluate where we are in life:  Where are the *little* things getting in the way of your family relationships?  In what ways can we all give and take in order to bring a little more love into our lives?  This is not to suggest that there aren’t very valid reasons for cutting off extremely toxic relationships, but these should be evaluated on a regular basis and examined to find opportunities for forgiveness and growth.  Examine, re-evaluate the situation, and make an annual review of the situation.  Allow for others to change and grow as Christ is merciful with our own shortcomings.

As difficult as many personalities can certainly be, loneliness seems worse.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”

 

 

 

Categories
Communion Confession Emily Fasting Ink Slingers Offering your suffering Prayer Sacraments Spiritual Growth

Groundhog Day

It’s February 2nd… again.

Remember that fabulous Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell movie? Bill Murray’s character repeatedly wakes up to find he is reliving the same day over… and over… and over. It takes a while, but over the course of the movie he slowly improves day after day by loving and serving others. Only when his efforts have become perfect does he finally escape the crazy time loop. It sounds rather nightmarish to me…

You know those moments in your life when you constantly re-live  certain past events in your mind… playing them over and over? Wishing sometimes you had just responded differently? It’s painful – like a burning in your chest – knowing that your words or actions (or lack of words or actions) negatively impacted a situation. I wonder if that’s like the “fire” of purgatory? But what happens when it’s not past events, but daily turmoils, and you have to continue to carry on through what seems to be a torturous existence? You know God has led you to the desert – and it feels like He’s just forgotten about you. 40 days seem to come and go, but the burdens seem endless.  That’s when patience has to turn into perseverance.

Patience is passive waiting.  It’s a rather fine character trait, but it’s not necessarily one that gets us anywhere. Perseverance , on the other hand, is a very active word.  It requires effort, sweat, blood, and tears.

We don’t passively work our way through this world that’s filled with sin… we drag our feet through the mud, and it’s not always pretty or easy.

The Old Testament’s book of Job has become a recent favorite of mine. Discerning the purpose of suffering in our lives is an age-old mystery. There is no table of contents that we can turn to in our lives and discover how many more chapters are left. We must wade through the seemingly endless daily struggles. We must – there is no alternative. Like Job, we cannot be tempted to give in and sin. One day we’ll wake up to find the music has finally changed. Prayers are often answered in very mysterious ways. In the meantime, we trudge on.

There are ways to ease our path – through prayer and fasting and giving of ourselves when we least desire to do so. What are your favorite ways to stay close to God in times of perseverance?

I think the Sacraments are the greatest gifts God gives us. Cleansing our souls in reconciliation and receiving the Eucharist – the very BODY of Christ, the ultimate sufferer… what more could we ask for?!?

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7 Quick Takes Emily Getting to Know the Ink Slingers Ink Slingers Kerri

7 Quick Takes Friday, no. 6

Welcome once again to 7 Quick Takes at Catholic Sistas. If you’re a new visitor, WELCOME! We hope you enjoy what you see here and come back to check out our other amazing posts. We have a large list of contributors and today we are highlighting ink slinger Emily. Read on to find out some fun facts about Emily, including her favorite prayer, why she loves doing laundry, and what kind of wine she enjoys. Thanks for visiting, Catholic Sistas!

~1~
What is your favorite religious icon, statue, or other image?

I have a beautiful statue in my bedroom of the Blessed Virgin which belonged to my Grandmother.  I remember seeing it in her house when I was a child, so it’s very meaningful to me.  I also have a small statue of the Sacred Heart that I won in a school raffle when I was a child.  I always thought it was such a quirk that I won such a beautiful little statue and it’s always sat on my dresser, right next to Mary.

~2~
What is your favorite prayer?

The Hail Mary rolls easiest out of my mouth.  I definitely turn to that prayer during moments of fear or panic, and it just brings me so much peace.  I also enjoy the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  I often pray using Rosary Apps on my smart phone… on my drive home from work.

~3~
How many kids do you have?

We have 4 kids… two older boys in elementary school and two younger girls (preschooler and toddler)… at least so far.  They are the light of our lives and it’s an amazing joy to be so blessed with them.  I love learning their little personalities as they grow – their interests, likes, dislikes, quirks, and amazing senses of humor!

~4~
What volunteer activities are you involved in?

I’m very involved at our parish school, childcare center, and on our parish counsel.  I enjoy being around the kids at the school and planning fundraisers and events.  This past year I volunteered at Vacation Bible School – which was fun, but absolutely exhausting!

~5~
What is your favorite secret indulgence?  Do you have to have a hiding spot in your house for it?

I have a problem with chocolate… those little Dove Promises to be exact.  It’s those little messages inside the wrapper that draw me in – I have to keep eating them until I find one I haven’t read before!

Which, at this point, is becoming more and more difficult.

Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, caramel filled, almonds… and seriously, have you tried the sea-salt-caramel-dark-chocolate????  OMG!

They’re hidden in the pantry – which happens to also be our laundry room, so clearly…

~5.5~
What is your favorite household chore?

… LAUNDRY!  Yeah… totally laundry. 😉

~6~
What is your favorite alcoholic drink and when was the last time you enjoyed it?

I’m a fan of red wine – mostly Malbec or Pinot Noir.  We often have a glass in the evenings while relaxing on the couch in front of the TV.
I learned a lot about wine in college when I took an extracurricular wine tasting class.  I’m pretty sure it was my favorite class in college.

~7~
What do you like to do in your “down time”?

Well, between raising 4 kids, attempting to maintain a household, and working full time as an electrical engineer… I certainly don’t get much down time.  But we are blessed to have built-in-babysitters (Grandparents!) who live nearby, so I do enjoy spending Friday nights with my husband – whether it be going out to dinner or simply sitting on the couch enjoying a movie rental.  We also have lots of other friends (mostly other parents at the parish school) that we like to socialize with.  We often have a whole bunch of families over to our neighborhood spring to go swimming on a Saturday night.  We have great fun laughing, joking, and enjoying a beer with our friends.

For more Quick Takes, check out Jen Fulwiler’s blog Conversion Diary.