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.

Suffering Versus Sin

What’s the worst thing that can happen to you?

Sin.

we think of all these terrible things: abandonment, health failing, losing our senses or being deformed, someone we love dying . . .I could go on and on–there are so many ways to suffer!

But recently, I came across two Bible stories where I realized Jesus was saying sin is the worst thing. Why? Well, because it separates us from God. And it could separate us from God forever. And we know that there is nothing God wants more than to be with us forever.

Do you remember the story in Mark 2 when Jesus heals the paralytic and says to him, “your sins are forgiven,”? And how the scribes thought he was blaspheming because only God can forgive sins?

And here is the part that struck me (finally–I admit; I never really got this until now . . .I can be a little slow), Jesus said, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.”

Jesus saw this crippled man but His first action was not to heal His body. No, he looked first to his soul. And the first thing He did was forgive the man’s sins. Because that was what mattered most!

In another story we heard a couple months ago in John 5, Jesus heals another invalid who was lying by a pool hoping to get in the water and be cured. Now this starts a big controversy because it was the Sabbath, etc. But what stood out to me when I heard the story this time was when Jesus found the cured man later, he said to him, ” “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” And, again, it struck me, Jesus was saying that if this man were to fall into sin it would be worse than all those years he was an invalid.

Yes, we suffer. So much sometimes that we can barely withstand it. We long to be cured, to be made whole and right. And Jesus wants that too. But when He sees us wounded, He sees first our wounded soul and longs to heal, touch and cure us there first.

Again and again, its that reminder that this life is not what its about, that often our eyes are on the wrong thing, that there is something so much better waiting for us and we need to keep our eyes–and our hearts and mind–focused there.

To strive to be perfect–as our Heavenly Father is perfect–whether we are suffering or not.

Looking Back at Lent

So Lent is over and we welcome the joy of the Easter Season. Alleluia! I think its good to take a look back at Lent and see where we succeeded . . .and where we failed.

Biggest success: as a family, my kids love the m&m bowl . . .where we had given up chocolate as a family but every kind deed earns them an m&m in a little bowl and on Sunday we got to eat them. I think it has helped them to be more motivated to do favors and improved attitudes when mom asks for a favor. My favorite moments are of course, when I catch them doing things, not to get an m&m, but then I get to reward them with that. My favorite examples are my oldest son playing hide and seek with his little sister and my other son sitting down and reading with her one night–including patiently reading the same book over and over.

Personally, my biggest success was with the books I’m reading. Father Larry Richard’s book, Surrender, has been highly motivating and of course, has brought into clarity some things God was already laying on my heart–especially about getting out of our own way and letting God love through us!

Biggest challenge–for me the biggest challenge is always remembering to do things. For some reason, nobody seems to want to remind me! So when we get rushed and busy, I forgot to say the rosary, read the Gospel, or even ask the kids what favors they have done that day.

Biggest failure–well, as I was just saying, because of my bad memory, our gospel reading after dinner was almost non-existent. Sigh. Our Rosary was not been 100% either, although it is improved from before Lent. And I actually ended up taking away our only drink water day on Thursdays because I felt like it was just too much for everybody. Personally, I didn’t remember to read my daily reflection much.

Keepers: I definitely want to continue to do a decket of the Rosary a night. As a family and I want to continue to improve kindness although I don’t have a specific way in mind to work on that yet.

I have to say, in general, I feel like I’ve grown this Lent. I feel like I’ve moved along the path of recognizing where I need to let God be the one doing the work and I need to just let go! Do I always do it right? No way! But at least I’m starting to recognize some areas I need to view more through God’s eyes instead of my own . . .or even through the eyes of the world, or other people I care about! Hopefully my family feels closer to God as well.

Does anybody have any goals for the Easter season?

 

 

Beautiful Song for the Suffering

I’ve been wanting to share this  for a while–It’s kind of a cheater’s post because I’m just sharing these lyrics but there have been times when I’ve played this song over and over–it has moved me . . .it has helped me. If you’re suffering, may be it can comfort you too so I’m passing it along!

The song is Need You Now by Plumb.

Well, everybody’s got a story to tell
And everybody’s got a wound to be healed
I want to believe there’s beauty here
‘Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on
I can’t let go, I can’t move on
I want to believe there’s meaning here

How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this?”
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now

Standing on a road I didn’t plan
Wondering how I go to where I am
I’m trying to hear that still small voice
I’m trying to hear above the noise

How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this?”
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now

Though I walk,
Though I Walk through the shadows
And I, I am so afraid
Please stay, Please stay right beside me
With every single step I take

How many times have you heard me cry out?
And how many times have you given me strenth?

How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this?”
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.

I need you now
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.
I need you now
I need you now

Listen to the song here: Need You Now by Plumb

You can buy the album on Amazon here: Plumb Need You Now

Let Go, Let God Heal and Surrender!

Do you ever get in the way of your own healing?

I’ve been realizing this a lot lately–things change but suffering stays and I find I have to still let go of many things . . . .

And that I’m still holding on too tight.

So one day in the Adoration Chapel, I cried out, “God, help me to heal!” And I felt God saying, “do you really want to be healed?”

And I realized in some ways I didn’t. I didn’t because I wanted to hold on to my hurts. I was afraid accepting them would mean they would never be made right.

But my unwillingness to let go wasn’t changing anything-it wasn’t altering my hard reality-it was only keeping me bound up in the hurt and bitterness.

And making it impossible for God to heal me.

Because the truth is, it’s not always my job to make things “right.” And sometimes I just can’t. And the truth is, things may never be “right” in this lifetime.

Perhaps it is a lack of humility that has kept me from letting go, so worried about my own feelings. So I’ve begun to pray the litany of humility:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.          

From the desire of being esteemed,  Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…          

From the desire of being extolled …          

From the desire of being honored …          

From the desire of being praised …          

From the desire of being preferred to others…          

From the desire of being consulted …          

From the desire of being approved …          

From the fear of being humiliated …          

From the fear of being despised…          

From the fear of suffering rebukes …          

From the fear of being calumniated …          

From the fear of being forgotten …          

From the fear of being ridiculed …          

From the fear of being wronged …          

From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …          

That, in the opinion of the world,  others may increase and I may decrease …          

That others may be chosen and I set aside …          

That others may be praised and I unnoticed …          

That others may be preferred to me in everything…          

That others may become holier than I, provided  that I may become as holy as I should…

You see with Lent, my renewed prayer life, reading Father Larry’s book and my realization that I was standing in God’s way, things have begun to happen–in me.

I’m just going to be honest, there were times before, before all my suffering began, when I wanted to follow God’s will, but I was afraid of what challenges God might give me in order to make me a saint. I was too tired, in a way, just managing my day to day life. I didn’t think I could handle more.

And that is perhaps the most beautiful thing of all this suffering . . .I am not afraid anymore. I am holding nothing back from God. I have had every emotion under the sun. I have experienced pain more intense than words could ever, ever describe. But now I know–there is nothing I can’t handle. God stands next to and carries me through–whatever. I’m not afraid of what God will do to make me holy. So now when I pray, God help me to become holy, I am honestly willing to face whatever He has to take me through to get me there.

This is my surrender.

Ready for Lent?

So how’s your Lent looking?

Have you thought about it?

Have you thought about what you are going to do this Lent–what you are going to give up or add in?

I heard someone on the radio say, I think it was Father John Riccardo, that when Lent ends you should look more like Jesus than when Lent began. So that’s what I’ve been keeping that in mind this year as I’ve been setting my goals for Lent for me–and for my family.

Now, there have been years, two that I remember distinctly, where my suffering for Lent was kind of built in. And I was told by my confessor to not worry about making too many other sacrifices. One year was the year I was pregnant with my fourth and she was due right about Easter. You don’t think that suffering–then you’ve never experienced the end of a pregnancy!

And the other time was last year–my year of intense suffering. I barely even remember Lent last year. Well, that’s survival mode for you.

Well I’m not 100% right now, my suffering hasn’t ended, but I’m ready to take on more. Mostly because I’ve realized my prayer life, although I’m still praying, has gotten a little stale. I think it’s been mostly whining!

I realized I have grown weak in resolve and purpose and . . . hearing God.

So this Lent, I’m ready to do more to get back to where I need to be. I’m ready to come out of this holier–closer to God.

All right–so for Lent, I thought about getting my family closer to Jesus, what we personally need to work on, and hitting all of the three areas of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Here’s what I came up with for my family’s goals:

  • Do one nice thing for another member of the family everyday. We will be recording all these in a notebook and giving a star to the biggest favor of the day.
  • Do the Week of Prayers published by the USCCB. Here’s the link: http://www.usccb.org/about/justice-peace-and-human-development/upload/Lenten-Prayers.pdf.
  • At dinner time, read the Gospel of the day and discuss it.
  • Continue our habit of praying one decket of the Rosary a night (and making sure this happens more often!) and saying a full Rosary once a week.
  • Participate in the Living the Eucharist study put on by our parish.
  • Give up chocolate. For every good deed, put an M&M into a bowl. On Sunday, we get to eat all the M&Ms!
  • No dessert after dinner on Mondays and Wednesdays.
  • Only drink water on Thursdays.
  • Only watch/use entertainment that does not offend our Catholic faith. If it does, have the courage to turn it off.
  • Earn money for Operation Rice Bowl.

Of course, we haven’t had our family meeting yet, so we’ll see if the list stays unedited or if things are added or subtracted as we talk it out.

Personally, I decided I needed to do a few things myself in addition to that:

My parish was nice enough to put together a little Lenten package for us as well with prayers, devotion booklets, daily Scripture reading (The Word Among Us) and encouragement to go to Adoration, etc.

There’s a sheet attached to the front with suggestions for Lent.

lentlit

So that’s what my Lent will look like. Here’s to hoping–not that its not too hard for us–but that positive changes and growth come out of it.

Are you ready for Lent?

 

 

 

 

Busy? Pray More!

Well life doesn’t stop just because we are suffering. Sometimes we have to cut back to our basics…but stop? We can’t.

Sometimes I think that’s a good thing and sometimes I think it’s not. It’s good because we need to keep going, we need to think of other things besides our pain, we need a reason to move. But it’s bad because sometimes we need time to process…and to keep our spiritual life going.

Which is the point. No matter how busy, we have to keep praying. Especially when we are suffering.

Because when our spiritual life gets put on the back burner, we get weak. We somehow seem to lose perspective. And when we are already suffering, we don’t need that!
St. Francis de Sales knew this truth when he said, “Everyone one needs a half an hour of prayer each day. Except when we are busy. Then we need an hour.”
That’s exactly it–business can add to our feelings of overwhelmedness–and of our own failures. And when we throw our prayer and devotion time out the window, we don’t even realize sometimes that we made ourselves weaker adding to the cycle of feeling overwhelmed, burdened, focused on the wrong things . . .

I’m writing this because I got a pretty good reminder of this in the past month. As  you can tell by my blogging absence, I’ve been caught up in being busy! Don’t ask me what–it’s just the daily drama and the practices for the kids for this and that (and everything) and, well, even just trying to normalize life again. It’s a constant adjustment, as the suffering still ebbs and flows.

Throw in a couple sick kids and some long snow day  . . .and well, I started to feel it.

I guess the good news is when I feel so out of sorts, I cry out to God. It’s a natural reminder to get back to the things I’ve put aside.

And yes, God is faithful–helps me to find my way out and I begin to cleave to him again.

So if you’re feeling it, reach out to God now.

Add some extra devotion in. I bet you could find a little time despite the business. I bet you’ll be glad you reached out to the One who can help  you through your overwhelming business.

Getting There

It’s been about a year now since I began my particular suffering. A year.

A year is the time that some say, you begin to come out of it a little–come out of survival mode, come out of the fog . . . .

For the most part, I can see that that is true. But I’ve have twists and turns that make it interesting–some good, some bad.

Its still just a matter of acceptance.

Accepting that after a year, my life is-well-what it is. Accepting that grieving still happens and probably still needs to be done. Accepting that everything isn’t going to turn out the way I want, that even the good parts aren’t everything I dreamed.

The reality is that suffering changes us and our lives forever–in good ways and bad.

There will be parts of me that will be haunted forever, and will mourn forever over my suffering.

But I think what it points to is that reality that this life is broken. This life can never be perfect.

This life is not the end goal.

And so maybe we can’t heal the way we dreamed of. In fact, I can’t even imagine being able to fully heal. It’s hard to believe that even in Heaven,  I will be completely okay. But we will.

We will.

There’s beauty here.

But there’s stunning beauty in the world to come.

And that is always something to give us hope.

And hopeful is  good way to look at the new year.