Honesty and Failure

I have always, at least since motherhood, felt like a failure.

I firmly believe that God called me to be a wife and mother and yet sometimes I feel like He didn’t give me the skills to do this job.

Compared to pretty much every mom I know, I am less organized, less cleanly, less prepared, less talented and able to do far less, oh and usually not as skinny either. Seriously–that’s just the way it is.

I used to beat myself up about it. I used to tear myself up about it. I used to feel so . . .bad.

But by and by, through prayer and study and just letting God speak to my heart and getting a glimpse of how much he loves me, I came to be ok with it. Because it just doesn’t matter if everyone is better than me, if everyone can do more than me. I am what God created me to be and if He created me to be a little, hidden soul, then that’s who He intended me to be.  I don’t need to have a perfectly clean and organized house or even be interesting to other people. I just need to be what God created me to be.

It doesn’t always work just like that. It’s a process that requires me to get my pride out of the way constantly. But hey, I’m making headway.

And the other thing that happened was this book study we are doing this summer. We are reading Momnipotent by Danielle Bean. A big theme for her is that us mothers need each other to be honest with each other. Honest about the struggles, honest about the discouragement, honest about the moments we fail or our families fail–and of course the good stuff too.

See, one of our big problems as women is that we compare. But we often compare our worst to someone’s best–everything we know about ourselves to the front others choose to show people. So it’s not an accurate comparison. And here we are, feeling so bad about how we measure up.

As moms, we need to know we are not alone. That other moms are struggling like we do.

And so this re-purposed blog was born.

An honest look at the success and failures as I try to lead, drag, and push myself and my family to holiness.

 

And now . . .here is what I want to call a turtle food story.

In Danielle Bean’s chapter called “Give Till It Hurts . . .Everyone”, she shares a story about a full day where she realized she forgot to buy turtle food. After this realization she locked herself in the bathroom and cried because “there always seemed to be something  . . .to remind me that I was falling short . . . .” Her point is that if we don’t keep ourselves spiritually, emotionally and mentally fed, we end up feeling overwhelmed and incompetent.

Anyways, here’s a recent turtle food  story from my many. It’s about shirts.  So, my kids go to Catholic school so they wear uniforms. My oldest is starting high school–a new school so we don’t yet have many uniform pieces.  The school sent a letter telling us about a used uniform sale. Thank goodness, right, cuz uniforms can get expensive. So, I never wrote it down on my calendar (huge mistake, my calendar is my brain!).  You know when I remembered it? Yesterday.

But the sale was two days ago.

I just literally cost my family at least $60. Maybe it’s not the end of the world but it definitely is a moment that makes me feel like I fell short. I didn’t have my act together.

Thank goodness my mom was here to put it in perspective, to say “So what?”

I looked up the world record for number of balls juggled at once . . it’s 11. Turns out the uniform sale was ball number 12.

So, you see, I’m telling you this because forgetting turtle food (or uniform sales) happens to everyone. And to hear that it happens to everyone, makes us feel a little bit better when it happens to us.

And lastly, now that I’ve told you the truth about myself, I will tell you my greatest strength. Despite the fact that I fail more often than not, I always try.

The definition of earnest is: serious in intention, purpose or effort, sincerely zealous. That’s me. Not a succeeder but a trier.

I fall. I get back up. I fall. I get back up. I fall. I get back up.

I came across this on retreat when we prayed the Stations of the Cross. It’s from Station IX:

Holy Father, enable us to understand that it matters not if we fall a thousand times as long as we love the fight not the fall. Grant us strength to battle on, knowing for sure that this is more pleasing to Christ than an easy victory achieved at no cost.

I am a warrior.

There you have it, my  weaknesses, my failures and my strengths.

Welcome to the honest look at my walk of holiness.

 

PS–The Saint reports are done! We video taped them and I will share it with you soon. Talk about an honest look at all the squabbling nonsense that goes on in my family!

 

The failure and success of our saint project

“Pick a saint, any saint.”

That’s what I told my kids at the beginning of the summer.

See, we’ve had this list of virtues that have been hanging on our wall since–

well, okay, I admit it, since Lent.

Because, let’s face it, I am incurably unrealistic.

Every Lent, every Advent, every summer, every beginning of the school year, every New Year . . . .

I make the list of how I’m going to lead my family to holiness and then–

life.

basketball, baseball, football, swimming, singing, school plays, altar serving, homework . . .and about  100 other things (per week) pile up, interfere and quite frankly wear me out.

So we do so some, and then it all gets left behind or its sporadic . . . .At this point all I can say is I hope some is better than none and even the things they hate doing (reading a chapter of a Matthew Kelly book and journaling about it every night we could one Lent, for example) that they still get something out of–even if they’d never admit it.

So anyway, back to the virtue list hanging on the wall:

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The next step in our Lenten project was supposed  to be to pick a virtue you need to work on and then a saint that exhibited that virtue and do a little report about them and how they show that virtue. It just never happened. And then some wise person said to me at the end of Lent, “Just because Lent is over, doesn’t mean you can’t still do it.”

Well–yeh–I guess that’s true. I guess not meeting my Lenten goal doesn’t mean I’m a failure or all is lost. It’s still a good idea, they can still learn from it,  and on the bright side, they’ve had to share at the list of virtues for several months now–burning it into their brains, right?

And so, summer begins, and life doesn’t exactly slow down the way I always imagine it will, but while we are catching our breath here and there (in between packing and unpacking for baseball games, school trips and retreats), I tell them to pick their virtue and pick their saint.

So it’s taken all Lent, all spring and half the summer but next week, our saint project will finally be done.

I look forward to sharing the reports with you!

 

 

The Agenda for Summer: Being Deliberate

I’ve spent the first part of summer preparing for this and that, packing, unpacking, and repacking food and coolers and sweatshirts to go to ball games, packing and unpacking various kids for various trips . . .
And I was burnt out before we even got out summer off the ground.
Nothing like a few hours of quiet, a start to my book study, a few good friends, adoration, prayer and confession to get me back. Seriously. I felt like I was given CPR and given a bit of life again. And so when I came back alive, I decided I want to enjoy my summer.
I’ve known for a long time that in order to actually do anything–whether its spiritual or just fun–I have to be deliberate.Deliberate in planning and deliberate in following through. So I have a list of things I’d like to accomplish this summer–and a list from each of my kids.
Now its time for the doing.
So here’s my 4 questions for every day:

1. What will I do to help my family grow in holiness?
2. What fun thing will we do?
3. What will get clean?
4.What will I read?

So this is what it looks like today, attached to my to-do list:

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Or my messy handwriting translated it says::

To clean: Front room/landing kitchne/dishes

To play: Outside/play-do

To read: Momnipotence

Spiritual: Work on Our Father (that is having the older kids help me teach the Our Father to the little ones)

So, my goal is to make a  list like this every moring. Some days our fun things will be bigger and may some days what needs cleaned will be bigger or whatever. There’s always things going on and things to adjust for, but I’m willing to just go with it.

So, I’ll check back in with you and let you know if I make the list and if I follow through.

What do you think? Want to join me in being deliberate this summer?

When Lent Ends and Spring Begins

New year is a time of new resolve.
And then winter comes.
In winter we walk in the darkness,
trying to stay on path . . .
Often we falter and lose our way.
Yet, Lent comes to lift us up,
And Lent came early this year.
And winter seemed mild enough . . .
Still, we are surprised to find-
when the light finally does come-
How far off the path we have wandered.
Then comes spring.
Spring is a time to make old resolve new again.
And now we walk the path clearly.
Enthralled by our ability to see we may even choose to run, skip and dance.
And so we begin to live again.

New Year, New Blog, New Path

Just to know you and to make you known, we lift Your Name on high, shine like the sun, make darkness run and hide. We know we were made for so much more than ordinary life. It’s time for us to more than just survive. We were made to thrive.

Every New Year’s Eve, my best friends and I go to the Adoration Chapel at my church and sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament and ask God what He wants for us for  the new year. And then I set my goals, my persepective and my motto for the year. . . .or rather God does.

But this year, entering that Chapel, I already knew. God had already been working on me. In fact, I had sat in that Chapel a few days earlier and began hammering out my goals.

See last year was about letting go and moving on. Letting go of my ideal, my ideas of what my life should look like. . .letting go and accepting reality whether I liked it or not. It was about moving beyond my suffering. Because although my suffering had once been my path to holiness, it was now to the point where it was holding me back instead–where I basked in it, waiting for it to change instead of taking the road carved out in front of me–my path to holiness.

So last year was about letting go, accepting and moving on and being willing to take steps. Maybe it would only be 20 steps not the 200 I thought it should be. But like my confessor told me, it was still 20 steps. I was still moving forward.

But this year . . .this year it’s time to stop walking.

That’s right. Because this year, I am running into Jesus’ arms. This year, it’s time to THRIVE.

I think I’ve said it before, but my suffering is only a small part of my otherwise very blessed life. So this year it’s time to focus on my other aspects! So I made quite a lot of goals this year, goals that will help to make me the best version of myself as Matthew Kelly would say and to help me grow closer to God. I’m reclaiming areas of my life that I have lost focus on!

My goals include things like losing weight, getting better organized, spending more time with my kids, making sure my kids and I get to Adoration every week, helping my kids to be more responsible, getting better control of our finances, saying a family Rosary every week, writing more, and reading 10 books that will help me better myself.

Am I doing all those things right now? No. And I’m ok with that. I recognize that it’s a process. and I’ll get there–little by little as my spiritual director always says.

But for the first time in  a really long time I’m ready–I see beauty and I’m ready to thrive.

JOY UNSPEAKABLE

FAITH UNSINKABLE

LOVE UNSTOPPABLE

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE

 

Some side notes:

The song I quoted at the beginning at end of this post is called Thrive by Casting Crowns, my theme song!

I have gotten a good jump on some of my goals. I’ve lost 7 pounds and I’ve begun reading my first book of the year called a Mother’s Rule of Life which hopefully will help me get better organized too.

Lastly, as you can see, I’ve updated my blog. I have some ideas for my writing that focuses largely on saints. So I’ll use this blog to explore a lot of those ideas. I am hoping you’ll hear a lot more from me this year!

Our Pilgrimage to see the Pope

Before we left,  I kept an eye on the weather all week. At one point they were even saying an 80% chance of rain on Sunday in Philadelphia. By Thursday it was 20% and when we were driving there on Friday, both Saturday and Sunday had a 0% chance of rain. But it was windy.Like it was when I watched the video of him getting of the plane in DC and the Cardinals couldn’t even keep their beanies on.

So it appears that Pope Francis cleared up the rain and brought the wind–which makes sense, seeing how wind is a symbol for the Holy Spirit.

Now, on to our personal journey.

We had no idea what to expect. In fact, on Monday, I had a bit of a panic attack. I’ll just go ahead and say honestly that my son has been playing some great football, had just secured his place as starting quarterback (which until the week before we left he had been competing for with another kid) and as it turned out, the weekend we were to see the Pope, turned out to be the biggest game of the season–his undefeated team, facing the hardest team they’ve played all year. We weren’t sure if his coaches would be understanding or how it would hurt his football season.

Besides, my husband had been slightly reluctant from the start and we added on many things like the fact that our car died and we needed to find another and that the following weekend was my grandmother’s memorial service that I had been helping to plan . . .So that Monday evening, I had told my son’s head coach after practice. And I was trying to explain, he was like, “I have to catch the other coach. Our whole offense is built around him [my son].” And I was driving away, I felt a moment of panic. Omigosh, what if this wasn’t worth it?

Like I said, we had no idea what to expect but we knew we needed to count on a bunch of walking, waiting and standing.

And we had no tickets, no train tickets, no tickets to get in a 2 1/2 block radius on the Pope. We were completely winging it. I don’t mind winging it–we are that kind of people–but what if in the end, my family didn’t think it was worth it?

But I had prayed and prayed about whether we should go. In some senses, with everything going on, I just kept wondering if it made sense. But I just kept feeling like we should. My husband felt it too. Everyone I told was so excited for us. My pastor even hugged me when I told him. So I knew–and my husband knew–that we needed to go.

Our start on Friday was slow–my husband had been working all week and this was the first chance he had to get tires on our van which we desperately needed. We left close to noon and arrived at our hotel in King of Prussia (40 minutes outside of Philly) about 9ish at night. We packed up our back packs for the next day. We all had UnderArmour packs within the size limit and we filled them with water, a notebook, and snacks (except for the little ones who had animal leashes–never done leashes before but felt nervous with the predicted size of the crowd).

 

walking with our backpacks

walking with our backpacks

Before we left another family we knew that was going had posted on facebook about how things went smoothly when you followed God’s will. So far, I hadn’t felt that way. And truthfully, I felt a little discouraged to see her post, because I felt we were following God’s will too. But between the stress of all else happening and our late start, it just didn’t feel smooth.

But Saturday morning. I got a phone call from another family we knew that was there. They had extra train tickets–just the right amount for our family. Did I want them? Absolutely. One big problem just solved and I began to get excited for whatever the adventure turned out to be. Things finally began to come together. In fact, boarding the train turned out to be quite easy. The place we drove to to pick up the tickets was the train station–the train station with plenty of parking and no huge crowd. We waited a very short time to board the train.

The kids loved riding the train. A man who was involved with the Festival of Families handed out prayer cards and drawings of the Pope to the kids. We prayed the prayer and a decade of the Rosary and just enjoyed watching everything move by fast!

We got off the train. Now two things were obvious. There were plenty of people helping you get to the right direction and there was plenty of security. Of course, what we saw initially was only the tip of the iceberg on that front. And so we followed the crowds and began walking. We crossed the bridge. We saw all the merchandise for sale and debated over what to get. We stoppped to buy some flags.

“Look mom, it’s the Metzlers!” Our best friends who had also made the trip had just got across the bridge as well. In a place with a million people, it was kind of amazing that we had managed to run into them right off the train!

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Our two families together

So with our new flags, and our old friends, we began to walk. We were told the walk would be about a mile and a half but it really didn’t feel hard. We parted ways with our friends, as she had to go pick up a volunteer shirt, and we had no plan as I said before.

So we walked along until we ran into a fence.

“You know,” I said to my husband, “this looks like the fence I had seen on someone’s blog where they waited for the Pope-mobile to come through.” We asked someone with a volunteer shirt what the fence was for.

“We think the Pope is going to come through here after he says Mass,” she told us. We could see him saying Mass on the Jumbo tron. This is great, we thought. We were just one row back from the fence. So we waited. We watched Mass finish up. We waited a little more. Then, a police man who was standing guard on the other side of the fence (along with many other police) came over and as the people in front of us asked him a few questions, we heard him say, “Oh no, the Pope isn’t coming through here now. He isn’t coming through here until 5 or 6.”

It was 11:45 am.

The woman next to us had two middle-sized kids and said there was no way her kids could wait. In fact, except for the row of people standing right up on the fence. The crowd thinned out quite considerably.. I looked at my husband and said, “We can’t leave! Look how close we are.” We agreed to try and wait it out.

Actually with the room to move around, it wasn’t too bad. The kids ate snacks from our bag and drew and wrote in their notebooks:

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The toddler chased birds (which has long been one of his favorite past times):

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Then he took a nap:

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Then the four year old took a nap:

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We said a couple deckets of the Rosary:

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We got an authentic Philly Cheese Steak from a restaurant who had someone walking around delivering orders. We got smoothies from Dunkin Donuts which was on the corner of the street we were standing in. We took turns taking kids to the port o potties. We all watched the jumbo tron performances. When Matt Maher sang, the whole crowd sang along. It was pretty inspiring actually.

At some point a group of people from Texas came up beside us with an elderly lady in a wheel chair. They asked if she could squeeze in with us. She was their grandma and they wanted to make sure she got a view of the Pope. So she got out of her wheelchair and stood up beside us and the rest of them were able to stand kind of next to us and kind of behind us.

As it got to be closer to 5, crowds began to gather. Up until this time, we had had plenty of space to move around  but now the crowds began to press in. The Texas women offered us the wheel chair for our kids to sit in when they got tired of standing. We made sure that whenever the grandma wanted to sit, she was able to do so!

There was a lot going on on the street so there were many moments when we thought he might be coming. There were several lines of motorcades, big buses (one was full of cardinals), police motorcycles and police cars and golf carts going up and down this closed off street. At one point we even saw the Pope mobile go by and the back of a truck. (but no Pope in it)!

The police lined up straight. Someone from the Secret Service pushed his way through the crowd. The DEA and CSI (why?) walked by on the street. The kids started to say their feet hurt. All of of our feet hurt. The crowd made it so we couldn’t really sit down now. It got dark and a little chillier. In fact, I saw the young photographer that had been standing in the front the whole time, put his arm around the grandma to try to warm her up.

The excitement in the crowd was growing. As 6 came and went, we really felt it could be any minute now! As we heard flutters going up and down, we tried to position everyone so they could see. My middle son was practically in tears because he couldn’t see. The very tall man behind us offered to put him on his shoulders. They family with the wheelchair said they could lock the wheels and he could stand on that. He was hesitant at first, but finally accepted that offer. The people behind and my husband asked if I could see. I said I couldn’t see all that well but that was okay. The couple behind us insisted on moving us around until I could see. “You’ve been waiting this whole time,” they told us. “You should see!”

In position now, the wait went on. At a little after 7, the noise of the crowd told us it was no false alarm this time. With me videoing, my taller husband taking pictures, my one son standing on the wheelchair, my four year old down on the ground peering out through the fence, my two older kids standing,  and my toddler on my husband shoulders, we all got a clear view as the Pope drove by waving on the Pope mobile. Then he turned around and came back and drove by us once again.

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The moment we had waited all day for was over. And we felt . . .elated. There really is no way to describe what it is like to be in such close proximity to somebody so amazingly holy and close to God, but I think my 9 year old described it well when as we walked away, he said, “I feel like I just came out of confession 6 times!”

We stopped to change a diaper and put on the baby’s pajamas and again to buy a t-shirt. We stopped once more to give a few bucks to a young homeless man on the streets who thanked me profusely and told me I was a good person and was teaching my kids good things. We were exhausted and pretty hungry so we didn’t entertain doing anything else that night although originally I think we had intended to get as close as we could to the closing celebration of the Festival of the Families. There was a long line to get back on the train, but they had a couple trains going at once so we only waited for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Still, by the time we got back to the hotel and got our pizza, it was about 10.

But it had been a beautiful day.

The next day was Sunday, the Papal Mass. Although we had debated about it a bit, because doing so would put us back home in Ohio quite late, I knew there was no way I could live with missing the Papal Mass when we were able to go. And so, we planned to once again, take the train and take the walk and see how close we could get to the Mass.

But that’s not how the day ended up going.

As we packed up to check out of the hotel, my four year old reached out to stop the hotel door from closing and got her pinky stuck in the hotel door. Now, if you’ve ever been to a hotel, you know how heavy those doors are. But God is merciful. I was not standing out in the hall with her when this happened but my husband was. My husband is a Physician Assistant and he scooped her up, brought her in the hotel room and had her hand wrapped in a wash cloth before I ever saw it. And for that I am so thankful. I think I would have freaked out. He was very, very calm (as is his nature) and comforting to her. I asked him what we needed to do and he told me we had to go the Emergency room. I started to cry which wasn’t the best because it upset little Therese who was crying but not freaking out. My husband comforted me too and took Therese to get directions to the hospital. I sprung the kids into action to finish packing get the car loaded.

My husband sat in the back next to Therese while I followed my phone’s directions to the hospital without any freeways because the freeways were closed due to the Pope’s visit. On the way there, I almost laughed out loud as it occurred to me that although my husband was amazingly calm, the fact that he even reacted was a tip off to me that something was wrong. Usually, when the kids get hurt or cry, he doesn’t even move a muscle.

At the ER, I finally asked my husband the question I had been afraid to but had certainly crossed my mind. Was she going to lose any of her finger? He said she could possibly lose the tip but he had saved fingers that looked worse than that. I prayed we didn’t have someone less skilled than him working on her.

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But again, God is good. Her finger was miracously not broken at all. With my husband overseeing, they were able to suture it back together and I really didn’t have to get a good look at it until it looked kind of like a finger again.

It was after 1 pm when we left the ER. As I saw the time ticking away at the hospital, and knowing our train tickets were only good until noon, I had called the train station and asked them if there was anything we could do. But there wasn’t. There were no trains running after noon and no other way (minus walking several miles) to get into the city. We even drove to the train station when we left just to see if something could be done. But the roads to the train station were even closed down.

We headed home.

I’m not going to lie–it took me a while to get over it. I had to trust God that it was for the best although it was certainly one of those circumstances where it seemed impossible to see how it could be. But God knows why we couldn’t go the Papal Mass that day. And that has to be enough.  I did hear it was taking up to 4 hours to get through the security checks and that some people didn’t even get through in time to get to most of the Mass.

By the time we hit the trains station, it was almost 2. Even if we had found a way, we most likely wouldn’t have made it at that point.

On the surface, our trip doesn’t look like much. Walking and waiting in one place for over seven hours just to get a glimpse of the Pope as he drove by?

Was it worth missing my son’s football game for?

Was it worth all the money we spent?

Was it worth the ache in our feet and back?

Was it worth the kids missing two days of school and getting swamped with homework?

I can say without hesitation and without any doubt  that it was incredibly worth it. Ask any member of my family and they will all tell you without hesitation and without any doubt that it was so worth it. I can’t remember the last time we did anything where all seven members of my family felt that way. On paper, it doesn’t sound like much, but it was amazing. Here is where words fail me. Because being in a crowd of people who were so on fire and being in the presence of the Pope, can only be described as a mountain top experience–like when Moses would come off the mountain from talking with God and his face would be glowing or  like when the Apostles were on the mountain top with Jesus at the transfiguration and they wanted to stay there. “Master, it is good that we are here.”

His holiness, his dedication to service, his mercy–it radiates, it spreads–it’s palpable.

It leaves you transfigured and speechless.

Philadelphia 2015. We were there!

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It’s a Wonderful Life

All right, let’s be honest. This blog is, well . . . A few people still read it. At this point, it’s probably all old news anyways–I’m probably just beating the same old drum. That’s fine.

I started this blog to “launch” my writing career–knowing it would be a slow process. I started it really to help myself and to help others who suffered, but I had to meet myself where I was at.

What I was going through was too consuming to be able to focus on writing about anything else.

Still, how long can you sustain a blog about suffering? Especially since you don’t have the time, really, to market and promote? Facebook and my nine followers on twitter are the only ones who ever even see when I publish on my blog,

All this is fine with me. I want to launch my writing career but I don’t have the time to put towards it.  Not right now.

My vocation calls. And calls. Being a wife and a mother are my highest priorities. Yes, so I spend more time, running to practices, cleaning, getting drinks and snacks and meals and doing laundry and overseeing and paperwork and  . . .

And so an hour a week to blog–it’s not going to cut it.

The writing career has to wait.

But what I’m often really lacking is energy. Why? Because I let the suffering beat me. I let it beat me down, I obsess, I spend time with it, and I feel depressed, indulgent and going in slow motion.

But the thing is, that suffering is only one aspect of my life. Just one. And I make it everything.

I let it define me.

But just look around–just see. SEE. There is so much more to life than that.

I am not my suffering.

There is beauty everywhere.

There is my mothering.

There is my writing.

There is my path to holiness.

MY PATH TO HOLINESS.

My path is a beautiful path, a path marked by suffering, suffering that has helped me to grow closer to God, to understand God more, to understand more of what He wants for me.

You know, I’ve prayed for years to understand God’s love for me. And intellectually I knew the rhetoric, but I never felt it, never really got it.

But through this suffering, I did. I felt it.  I understood that He was everything that those who had failed me were not.

He is my beloved, and I am His!

He adores me!

He’s so loving towards me. He sees my worth. He does not want me to hurt. He cares when I do hurt.

He is a friend–a friend who hears me.

It’s beautiful. Knowing this covers over a multitude of hurts and pains, helps me through it.  Helps me survive it.

And when I’m not obsessing and focusing on the stupid suffering instead of God’s love, it helps me to do more than survive. It helps me to start to thrive. It’s just a start. But I am so sick of just surviving.

I’ts a wonderful life. The poster in the coffee house where I’m sitting said so.

I know its a ridiculous blurry photo-but the circled poster says, "It's a wonderful life".

I know its a ridiculous blurry photo-but the circled poster says, “It’s a wonderful life”.

 

Where’s the Peace and Joy? In the Letting Go

These two phrases keep echoing through my mind:

“The Peace which surpasses all understanding . . .”

“The joy of Your salvation . . .”

They are both phrases from Scripture.

The first is from Philippians 4:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindnessshould be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (verses 4-7)

And the second is from Psalm 51:

Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. (verses 11-12)

Why these phrases? Because all this time through all this suffering, this is the one thing I could never quite get a handle on. I knew, I heard, that I should have joy and peace through any circumstance. But I just could never get there.

It’s the letting go. That’s it, that’s the whole answer. Not unlike the small sufferings of losing the keys or these bigger hits we take in life, it’s accepting that things are not going to turn out the way WE want.

So I asked over and over again, why don’t I have peace? Father Larry says we don’t have peace if we are sin or if we are not following God’s will. I searched and prayed deeply over that and really didnt’ feel I fit into either of those categories. So where was my peace?

Slowly, I began to realize that I didn’t have peace because I wasn ‘t accepting how things were and how things were going to be. I was still waiting on people and circumstances to change. I was simply hoping in–and for–the wrong things. Not that anything I wanted was bad, but that holding on, that waiting for things to change, was keeping me from being at peace with the circumstances as they were and how they may stay for a long, long time. My hope was in the wrong thing. So I stopped. I stopped hoping for things, people, circumstances to change.  And I put my hope in God. I accepted that what that meant was that no matter what I’ll be okay. No matter what, God will take care of me, He will love me. Situations aren’t perfect–indeed, they are still painful even. But My hope needs to be in Him!

And be satisfied. I have what I need though it’s not my perfect solution.

That is how you have peace when life is in chaos.

Does it mean I don’t keep praying for God’s will, for conversion, for people? No, of course not. It also doesn’t mean that I’m above pain. There is pain. There is sadness. But the sadness doesn’t have to rule me.  See when I was holding on so tight, as long as things weren’t the way I thought they should be, I felt ruled by the sadness–not at peace.

When I keep my eyes on God and trust Him to make me okay, not necessarily the circumstances, then I begin to have that peace. I let him fill up what is lacking. I let Him be to me what the circumstances can’t.

The same is true of joy. When my joy is determined by the circumstances of life, whether its the bigger picture or just whether I’m having a good or bad day, then I’m not going to have that permanent joy. But when I put the joy in my salvation, in the gifts that God has freely given, then there is always joy! Because that never ends, never changes.

Again, that’s my old problem of not focusing on Heaven but getting too caught up in the day to day of this life.

So finally, finally after almost two years, I’m starting to understand where peace and joy really come from. Praise God for the lessons learned from suffering!

Still, its a process. I understand this a little better now, but I still get bogged down, especially if I’m not keeping my eyes on God and giving Him the time He deserves, and that I need to stay focused.

But I’m getting there. And it’s nice to get a taste of that joy and peace.

Defining Ourselves

Who are you?

Who do you believe you are?

Who defines you? God? You? Others?

What defines you? God? What you accomplish? Your children? Your success or failures?

Because it needs to be God. It needs to be the word of God. And what does the word of God say?

It says He loves us. He cares about us, He pays attention to us, we matter to Him, and are so special to Him.

There are many verses that say this–this one struck me during my daily reading the other day:

“O LORD, you have probed me and you know me,” Psalm 139:1.

That day, I need to hear that—that God was looking deep into my heart, that He cared to know me deeply, to know everything about me. Because that is when you love and care about someone, when you truly desire to know them.

Some other examples of verses:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

There are plenty of other verses that say that God loves us. But these I liked in particular because it shows His tenderness. It shows that his love is not distant. He cares about us, about our pain, about our sufferings.

So why would I let other things or other people define me when God loves me so much? Why would that  not be enough for me when God knows me, really knows me, knows all my flaws and failings and yet He loves me?

I remember being in Confession with one of my favorite priests one time. I was undergoing a trial, feeling rejected by someone and it was really affecting me.

This priest looked at me and said, “Carina, you are God’s not that person’s.”

I never forgot that.

And this was my penance– prays this prayer of St. Francis everyday for a week:

Lord, I am yours,
and I must belong to no one but you.
My soul is yours,
and must live only by you.
My will is yours,
and must love only for you.
I must love you more than myself,
since I am all yours and all in you.
AMEN.

It was to remind me everyday that I belonged to God and to no one else and to let God define me.

I’ve said before that I’m a sanguine by temperament. If you studied the temperaments, you know that a sanguine wants everyone to like them all the time. They are sensitive to criticism. So imagine what its like when you are well openly crucified, seen as something your not, or even lied about to others? Hey, this stuff happens.

I have been praying the Litany of Humility occasionally (you know: From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, O Jesus. From the desired of being praised, Deliver me, O Jesus. From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, O Jesus Etc . . . ) but that kind of trial is NOT what I had in mind.

However, it’s probably not surprising that God would choose to challenge me sometimes in this area–like I just said it is a weakness of mine.

He is asking me, “what is defining you?”

Is it what certain people say about me or think of me? Wow, I hope not.

Because it needs to be God. It needs to the word of God.

When that defines me, I can rest secure knowing I am loved, known, cared for no matter what. It’s more than enough.

 

The Lesson of the Keys

photoYou probably thought I was going to write about the keys to the kingdom of Heaven or the authority handed down by Jesus to Peter or something spiritual and theological like that, right?

Well, actually, it’s not anywhere near that deep. It’s about car keys. Yes, car keys.

See I lost the keys to my husband’s truck. And not just like we had to search for an hour to find them. Not jus like we found them the next day. No, they were lost. Gone.

You know how it is when you lose something. You look all the places that make sense. Then you pray to God and St. Anthony (St. Anthony is practically my best friend because I am always losing things). And then you retrace your steps, look all the places that make sense again, and then start looking places that don’t make sense.

Well anyway, we did all that. For days. And the keys were nowhere. In the meantime, we are all being greatly inconvenienced as my husband has to take my minivan to work, and I have to keep borrowing my mom’s car, and she has to keep babysitting because I can’t fit all the kids into her car.

And I prayed, and I prayed and I prayed. But God chose not to answer that prayer so I had to ask myself, what is the lesson of the keys?

I asked my husband what he thought it was, and he said that I need to be better organized and put things in their place. Hmm. (To his credit, he really didn’t get too mad during this whole time which was quite surprising.)

I told him it was that we needed to get rid of his truck because he saved money on gas driving my van because his truck is such a gas hog. Hmm.

All right, all unhelpful comments aside, I really had to ask what the lesson was.

First off, its a reminder of the reality of our spiritual life. This was not a suffering in the true sense–maybe just a little suffering or maybe even just an inconvenience. But God didn’t give us those keys. Even though I prayed, God didn’t say yes. I think sometimes we think our prayers are so noble, that they are so obviously for the good of everyone, that of course God is going to give us what we ask. But that’s not the reality of spiritual life. Or earthly life. Things go bad. Sometimes really bad. Things that we know are in God’s will, don’t go that way. We do suffer. And that’s when we have to do two things, I think. One, and most importantly, is to trust God. Trust that He knows everything. Trust that He knows what’s best. Trust that He can see the bigger picture–all those little details down the road that we can’t see. And trust He will be there and that it will be okay whether its in accord with our plan or not.

And the second is to ask God to tell us what the lesson is. And listen. Sometimes, it’s so shocking to us that God wouldn’t answer this or that prayer in the way we think it should be answered that we can even get a little angry. We think obviously what we wanted is the right answer! So why wouldn’t God answer it? Seriously what good can come of not being able to find the keys?? But that’s when I have to laugh at myself–laugh at my presumption, at my own pride to think I know and understand so much. Sometimes the sillier or littler our noble request is, the more upset we can be that it’s not answered. That’s the really funny part. It’s almost like with everything I’ve gone through, with everything I’ve got going on in my life, you are really going to give me one more inconvenience God?

Ummm, sorry, but yes.  We are not exempt from the hassles of daily life no matter how much we are suffering. Sometimes God does give us those consolations of things going just right (do we even notice when He does??) but sometimes He doesn’t. And It calls us back to complete reliance on Him.

So do we really trust Him? Really? Do we trust that it makes sense to not answer the prayer of the keys, that He has something in mind even for that? And that maybe what we really need to do is just ask Him, not for the keys but for what He wants from us.

How He wants us to grow.

What He wants us to learn.

The lesson of the keys? Humility. Dependence. Trust.

Let me know . . .what do you think it was??

P.S. As I go to post this a full month later, we still have never found the keys. We had to pay the dealer to get a new one made.