Archive | April 2015

The Precious Pearls

There once was a little girl who loved her dad very much. When she was young, he handed her a small paper box tied with a pink ribbon. Untying the ribbon she opened the box to find a plastic string of pearls. In her eyes they were the most beautiful gift her father could have given her. Setting her old beads aside she proudly put on her new plastic pearls. She loved those pearls so much that she wore them everywhere she went. No time was right to ever take them off. She wore them outside to play, in the bath tub, at school and even when she slept. For years these precious pearls and her were inseparable.

Then, one day her father asked for the pearls back. Her eyes brimmed with tears. How could she possibly bring herself to give up her precious pearls? Her voice cracked as she replied, “No.” Her father said jpii 2
nothing but turned and walked out of the room. A couple of days later, he asked for the pearls again. With quivering lips she again replied in a whisper, “No.” Once again, her father’s head lowered and he left the room.

Her little heart broke at the disappointment in her father’s face but even more at the thought of losing the pearls he had lovingly given her so long ago. Finally, her father came to her one night after she had said her prayers and was climbing into bed.

She unfastened the clasp from her pearls and they fell into her hands. Tears streamed down her face as she handed them to her father. Calmly, her father accepted her offering and reached behind his back. With steady hands he gave opened a small velvet box. Inside was a string of real pearls.

There are many things we hold on to that God has given us in our lives that would be extremely hard to let go of. For me, it is leaving Colorado and our amazing parish and priests (I still cry when I think about it). It has been months but my heart still mourns every time I think about our life there. Yet, now, I can see that God is trying to exchange my precious pearls for those of even greater beauty and value. It is in letting go that we allow God to give us greater gifts than those He first has bestowed on us.

“When one tears something dear away from us, and when this is demanded of us in the name of obedience–for a future which is yet hidden from us–one must say yes, one must be content in saying yes, one must be content even to feel suffering. But it is with happiness one suffers, for he has something to give to God” ~Cardinal Journey

Reflection: I know it is not the most logical thing to fear what gift God is trying to give me. It’s like a car salesmen coming to my house and saying, “You know, I noticed your car could use a few upgrades. I’ll give you all that I can for free.” or better yet, “Your car is looking a little worn, I’ll give you a brand new one free of charge. All you have to do is say the word.” Sometimes it is harder to replace things that still seem functional than those that are falling apart. Anyone whose car is a rust bucket would gladly accept a free new car. But those whose cars are still running and doing fine would be a little more reluctant. Our car maybe be a little worn but it is well loved and has served us a good many years. Why replace something that works? Because, sometimes, God wants us to let go of those things that we have out grown spiritually. It is His way of calling us closer to Himself, to trust Him fully even though we may not understand it at the time.

Challenge: Examine your life. Can you see the times where God was asking you to give something up and you reluctantly and sorrowfully said, “No”? In the short amount of time we have here on earth we will spend a lot of time holding onto gifts less precious than those which God wishes to give us. This week, work on docility and being open to the small gifts God plants before your path. If you have a prompting to go to adoration, do it. Daily Mass? Do it. Rosary? Do it. Help a neighbor or friend? Do it. Send an encouraging note to someone who randomly popped into your head? Do it. Spread God’s gifts to others and practice saying ‘Yes’ even to the smallest promptings even if it is delayed.

The Cloak of Invisibility

I will admit it right here and now that I have read Harry Potter. Yes, there are many things that could be said about the books but as a writer I tend to look at books differently than others. One of the things I love to do is look at the new ways that other authors approach every day things and turn them into opportunities for creativity. In the book J.K. Rowling takes an ordinary object like a cloak and makes it into something that, even though I can’t prove, I think is a universal truth.

This cloak has amazing powers, it makes the wearer disappear to the eyes of passersby. Harry can easily slip out of buildings, down hallways and pass people without being seen. Who wouldn’t want that?!

I’ll tell you who–Moms.

That’s right, pick your jaw off the ground–Moms.

Like I said, I can’t prove it to be a universal truth but I’m pretty sure that women inherit a cloak of invisibility when they enter motherhood.

Visualize with me.

A man comes home from work. He drops his work things by the door and heads right for the living room. Here he sits down, turns on the television and pushes off his shoes. Balls, puzzle pieces, cars and trains are tossed around in front of him by his loving children. After a bit of rough housing with the kiddos nature beckons. When he returns to the recliner he finds his shoes gone, his recliner in its full upright position, and the television turned off. All the toys are put away and the kids a quietly reading books. Suddenly, he feels a breeze on his back. He turns but no one is there. Then he sees it. The empty roll of toilet paper he had left has now been replaced with a new one and the trash can is empty. How can this be?!

As he turns he realizes his shoes are neatly lined up by the front door, his coat his hung and briefcase stowed on the steps. The trash he planned on taking out later has evaporated. Suddenly, there is a a disturbance in the kitchen.

What is going on?

While the children play, he investigates more. In the kitchen he finds pots and pans filled with food and simmering on the stove. He turns to grab dishes to set the table but before he can grab a dish the door swings open and in an instant a pile of plates flies out into the hands of a ball of swishing brown hair. Before he can speak the plates are set, glasses filled and silverware put in place. He never stood a chance at helping.

Deciding it is time that she sit down, he tries to trap the blur by planting a pair of shoes in the middle of the kitchen floor. Surely, she will follow their scent and he can trap her for a word. Then blur that is his wife sweeps past him with an armful of laundry and a sopping wet onesie covered with baby poop. Without missing a beat she slips her feet in the shoes and takes them downstairs. He’s left stunned standing in the kitchen.

I don’t mean this to be a slam towards husbands or a ‘poor you’ to the wives of the world. What I want to point out is that there are a lot of times in our days that we are so focused on other ‘larger’ issues that we forget to take notice of the little things.

Ladies, we need to slow down in our day. So often we get wrapped up in the ‘larger’ picture of a clean house, clean kids, food, schooling, etc. etc. that we forget to nourish the relationships we have with those we cook and clean for. Do I clean because I need to or is it because I fear the knock on the door from a well meaning friend and them seeing the mess of my life? Do I seek refuge from my motherly responsibilities because I’m overwhelmed by the immense task that it is to form little saints? One of my largest fears is irreversibly screwing up my kids so that later in life people will look at them and say, “Yeah, they spent too much time with their mother.”

Ask yourself, am I busy for the sake of being busy? I know I am sometimes. How much do we miss because we get caught up in what we have to get done. Do I really need to do the laundry right now? Or do I need to read Green Eggs and Ham for the upteenth time to my whimpering two year old? Do I need to yell at my kids funniest-mommy-memes-13for playing under the table or do I need to toss a blanket over the top and join them in their fort? How often to I get so wrapped up in what is to get done that I make myself invisible to those around me? How much of being invisible is because I take myself out of the view of others?

Moms and dads, in all that needs to be done, don’t forget to take time to make memories. Time passes too fast for us to miss out on memories or to do special things for our loved ones.

Do we show the men in our life that we appreciate what they do for us? For the work they put in, especially at a job (that they may not be happy in doing) so that we have food on the table? Do we do the little things to build them up about themselves and their role in the family? Do we let them help? Do we notice when they try or do we have to do it all ourselves? Do we snuggle our little ones enough? Tell those around us that we love them at least five times a day?

Men, I know you are tired when you come home from work/school. I know you need time to decompress and not think about work. But please, please, please, try to remember that (if your wife is a SAHM) most likely your stay at home wife has not had any contact with people above the age of 7 all day. This in turn means she has not talked to anyone but maybe the cashier at the grocery store for more than two minutes. All of those little chores that you haven’t had to do in awhile (vacuuming, dusting, emptying the funniest-mommy-memes-8dishwasher, etc.) is because your wife has had you in mind all day. She knows you will be tired but it if means she gets five minutes of conversation, a hug and a ‘thank you’ she will do those extra little things so you don’t have to.

‘Thank you’ and ‘I love you’ tear the cloak of invisibility in two like the veil of the Temple after the Jesus’ death and Resurrection. This applies to more than just our spouse.

At the end of the day there is someone even more hidden then any man or woman. Someone who has been around at work, school, home, grocery store and in the car. Who does more than clean the kitchen, straighten shoes and make dinner.

God.

God is constantly in disguise. He slips in and out of our days, leaving traces of His presence. Can you catch Him acting in your day? Do you see His footprints in your words, thoughts, kids, spouse, work? Though invisible, God walks through our lives with ease. If we have attentive eyes and ears we may be able to hear and see Him in those around us.

Venerable Fulton Sheen ~ Beauty

Beauty is only skin deep…It’s what’s on the inside that matters…Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…I wish you could see how beautiful you are…

All of these have no doubt been heard by nearly every pair of female ears at some point in their lives. They are sweet, well intentioned phrases used in desperate attempts to salvage a girl’s self-esteem. For me, these phrases were nice to hear but did nothing to effect my outlook on myself.

A shy person most of my life, I hid behind sarcasm so others wouldn’t see my insecurity. It worked for the most part. All through high school I made people laugh with my wit and charm but inside I was hurting. I wanted someone to want me. I saw all my friends pairing up and I was left with nothing but my own words and “Love Stinks” as an anthem.

Then came that fateful day, the day that all girls have, the day when you ask the question, “What is wrong with me?” That sinking feeling that there may not be much attractive about me to the opposite sex. That there was something missing from my side of the equation. When I looked around I saw the beauty in my friends’ hair, laughs and most of all their complexion. I have had my bouts with acne ever since my teen years. Finally, in college I gave up makeup for Lent (not that I wore much before but when I had a break out I caked it on). I wanted to see if people would treat me differently and if I could be secure with the skin God had given me. It took a bit but I eventually grew accustomed to what I saw in the mirror. Sure I wanted the little red devils to go away but it no longer bothered me to have them uncovered.

Yet, when I looked at those around me I still felt like I didn’t measure up. One friend had the poise and grace that would make Grace Kelly jealous. Another had a wonderful sense of humor and bouncy personality that brightened a whole room. Still another had the steady personality to calm any situation. These women were intelligent, incredible, and holy. And here I was (am) a sarcastic, witty, sports loving lady who can make a joke at a drop of a hat. I couldn’t help but feel out of my league. These ladies were like petite precious tea cups and I was the ugly travel sports mug with stains inside.

fulton sheen 4I always thought that beauty was one of those things you either had or you didn’t. The more I was around these women I realized that I didn’t…at least not in the same way. The Bible tells us that we are each uniquely made (Psalm 139:14). I was so worried about what these women had and what I didn’t that I was unable to see what I did have. Which was a soul created beautiful by God.

So what if I had acne at the age of 23? So, I didn’t have the compassionate heart of Mother Teresa. Or the gracefully quiet soul of our Blessed Mother. Does that make me unfit to be a saint? Not at all. Their beauty lied in the gifts God had given them and so does mine. God made me this way, a witty, quirky, sarcastic and in my humble opinion, hilarious person. But He also gave a wondering heart. One that longs to feel loved, to be close to people, to be alone and contemplate things about myself and God. He allows me to see my faults. This has allowed me to make enduring beautifully close friendships with a small number of people. Each of these people will always hold a piece of my heart.

Beauty truly does come from within but like all good treasures there has to be a hunt for it in order to appreciate it. Sometimes we have to dig inside to find our true beauty. If it was already known to us only God knows what sort of women would be walking around. But as we toil and struggle against our imperfections and  dig into our relationship with God the less the outward seems to matter. When our souls are transformed by grace, zits or no, beauty will radiate from the windows of our souls out into the world. And that is a beauty the world desperately needs and every woman needs to find.

Reflection: I used look at the Sunday ads and covet outfits. Sure, I didn’t find them all that pretty but someone obviously did and put it up there. Maybe I just didn’t have refined enough taste. So, I’d go and try it on. Of course, once I tried it on and realized I wasn’t a size zero like the model who had advertised it on t.v. and saw every lump curve and underwear line, my level of worth plummeted. I mean, who doesn’t love trying on jeans, bathing suits and shorts every year? There’s a real boost to the ole morale. Out grow your favorite dress? Boom, low. Can’t fit into your favorite pair of jeans? Boom, lower. Bend over and tear your skirt…there are no words. How often do we let things like that effect our day? Though we may not say it out loud, there is that inward plummeting that happens to us. Fight that urge. We are not defined by our clothes, weight or makeup job (thank goodness). We are defined by how we adorn our souls–in those moments of dread and aggravation adorn your heart with the virtue and withhold the four letter words that come to mind.

Challenge: The next time you look in the mirror think about what God has given you. Thank Him for the sense of sight, though you may not like your eye color or shape, God has allowed you to see His creation through those precious eyes. Thank Him for your ears and the ability to hear the sounds of your day. From the sounds of your babies crying, your husband’s voice, the sounds of a bird singing or your favorite song popping up on the radio. Give thanks. For each of your senses thank God for something in your day that you take for granted.

 

Knock, Knock…

Jesus knocking

Doors are amazing things. Really. Think about it. They can open for friends, let in fresh air and allow the sunshine to pour in through its clear pane of glass. They keep out unwanted guests, bugs, and noise if a person just needs a little peace and quiet. Some can revolve as hard and as fast as you push them. In a fit, regular doors make a satisfying slam to let all know of the fury that awaits you if you dare enter. For a mini retreat, they close quietly and seal your mind and heart for those precious moments of silence. Yes, doors are quite handy.

They also serve as markers that something about this area has changed. When we walk down a hallway of doors in a building the only way we know what is behind them is by the signs marking our path. Even in homes every bedroom door signals a separate room. Downstairs, most houses have open doorways to allow people and sound to move freely from room to room. In schools and homes they are personalized for grade, teacher and all that call it ‘their room’.

In church they signal a massive change. To enter the doors of the church is to leave behind the outside world and enter the heavenly realm. They serve as a grand statement to the outside world of the graces that are held within their embrace. The doors of the confessional serve as a portal between heaven and earth. One enters them a sinner and emerges a clean soul washed by the grace and mercy of God. And behind the door of the Tabernacle the Everlasting, Eternal, All loving and All Powerful God who created us lays in wait to pour out the graces He has stored for us.

The Gospel reading this past weekend was that of the apostles in the upper room after Christ’s crucifixion. The author was sure to state that the doors were locked. Twice. The men of Jesus were scared, wanting to keep out the world which had killed Jesus and were no doubt hunting for them. These were the same men that went out with Jesus while He was alive. Many of them were simple fishermen and tax collectors who were drawn to Christ by a simple invitation of, “Follow me”. In John’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t even speak, He simply passes and they follow immediately. There was no fear or second thought of following Christ.

They followed His footsteps, watched his face-offs with Temple officials and heard His parables. Though Jesus confronted many of the Jewish officials and they were often chased from towns, none of this deterred them from His side. They kept going out with Jesus. Yet, once He has disappeared from sight fear set in. Fear drove them behind the lock.

At times, it is hard to accept the will of an Invisible God. We long to see His face and hear His words in our hearts. It is hard to relinquish our hurts, fears, failures and regrets to Jesus’s outstretched hands instead of locking them away. All but one in that room had abandoned Christ at His Passion. Peter had denied Him three times. Each had sworn they would be willing to die with Him, some asked to be seated at his right and left side in His kingdom, a couple had once argued among themselves as to who was the best apostle. Now, after His death it appeared all was lost. Three years of their lives were gone. Their rabbi killed, His promises now faded and the world sought to do to them what they had done to Jesus. The easiest thing to do was to run, hide and lock away the world both exteriorly and interiorly.

There is one problem in locking away our hurts. We also lock the door to Christ.

I, too, am trying to drag myself back to Christ from behind a door of fear and past hurts. Jesus has been asking me to give them to Him for a long time but I have not been able to. I fear opening those doors because of what it means I must do. I have no doubt that Jesus can heal me. I have no doubt that afterwards I would be in blissful and joyful peace. What I fear is the shame I feel about closing the door in the first place and what lies behind it.

Often when we get hurt or afraid we lock the doors of our hearts praying that whatever or whoever did the hurting will never return. Out of protection we keep these doors locked, hop out the window, move to a new house and try to leave the problem as a memory buried deep in the recesses of our soul.

But that is not what God wants.

The room in which the apostle’s hid was shaken with great winds and Jesus still was able to enter that room. He entered into the midst of the fear and remorse to reveal His risen self and to reignite them to the fire of the Gospel. From that point, more than ever before, these men were emblazened with the Holy Spirit and fortified in their commitment to Christ even unto death.

God wants to do the same with our hearts. He wants to enter into those locked doors in our hearts where our deepest hurts, fears and regrets lay and free us from their burden. It is His mercy that drives him to the door within us. Like the image of Revelation 3:20 of Jesus knocking on the door, it is His mercy that stations Him ever ready at the threshold of our souls. As depicted, the handle does not exist on His side of the door but on ours. It is up to us to let Him in. He wants to heal our hearts. He wants us to trust Him enough to talk to Him and let Him into our heart’s hearth and let Him stay awhile.