Monday, July 25, 2011

Devout and Hidden Souls

There are a couple of passages I would like to share from Saint Therese of Liseux. It is from that same mediation booklet I've mentioned previously. She writes,

"Our divine Lord asks no sacrifice beyond our strength. At times, it is true, he makes us taste to the full the bitterness of the chalice he puts to our lips. And when he demands the sacrifice of all that is dearest on earth, it is impossible without a very special grace, not to cry out as he did during his agony in the garden: 'Father let this chalice pass from me.' But we must hasten to add as he did: 'Nevertheless, not as I will , but as you will.' It is consoling to remember that Jesus, 'the strong God' has felt all our weakness and shuddered at the sight of the bitter chalice - that very chalice that he so ardently desired! A saint has said: 'The greatest honor God can bestow upon a soul is not to give it great things, but to ask of it great things.' Was it not by suffering and death that God ransomed the world? The martyrdom of the heart is not less fruitful than the shedding of blood. Have I not, then, in good reason to say that our lot is a beautiful one - worthy of an apostle of Christ?"

These thoughts speak to me on so many levels. I felt as if Therese wrote them from the depths of my very on soul. I can't help but think of how much of a battle it is to combat the many lies the world tells us. How very opposite are the ways of the Spirit, the ways of heaven. Here, Therese quotes a saint that says the greatest HONOR God can give a soul is not to give it great things, but ask of it great things. From the eyes of the world, suffering does not appear to be a merit at all. It is not a "desirable" thing. It is even scorned and pitied. So why should anyone then be honored by such a cross to carry? Who would want to follow a God, who as a means of honor, rewards a soul with such pain? To those blindly living here, solely for what the world has to offer, the answer should be no one. But to those who have tapped into one's eternity, there is a key factor we must remember. Just as Christ was crucified, he also RESURRECTED. He came not to give us such heavy crosses but to give meaning and purpose to them. For if we accept the honor to suffer WITH our Lord, we will rise again too with Him! The greater the price paid, the greater the glory. It is a truth I must strive CONSTANTLY to live in. Not only is there the marvelous crown of life eternal awaiting us, but as St. Therese also said, it is a very special grace that aids us. I experience it constantly. I testify to it.

Along side Jesus' example, Mary is another soul to examine. When I use to think of Mary, I would think of how "neat" it was that out of all women, she was chosen to be the Mother of God. How special. How amazing. What and Honor! Did she fully understand what her yes would entail? Without the grace of God and the practice of virtue, I believe that yes would be impossible (Well, it would be for me at least). I am sure it was hard, not doubt. Scripture tells us God chose Mary because he found favor with her. To someone who does not know the glorious outcome, it all must sound, at the very least, odd. God wanted to honor her with suffering? Yes- partially. But look at her now? She sits beside her Son as the Queen of heaven and earth. She intercedes and advocates for all of her children constantly. The Father lifted up His daughter, sharing in the Resurrection of her Son, because she shared in His Passion as well. Blessed be God forever!

"The martyrdom of the heart is not less fruitful than the shedding of blood." How beautifully said. This tells me every person if he\she accepts, gets to partake in glorious martyrdom for Jesus, for the world without ever shedding a single drop of blood. How merciful. I have the opportunity to be a martyr of the heart many times in a single day. Every time I "die" to myself, my desires of the flesh, gives Jesus the chance to make such an offering bear much fruit. One's heart does not need to be shattered by such a tragedy to be a martyr. It is in the daily, in the acts done with great love.

This leads me to my other thought I use to often dwell upon. I would imagine how a soul I never knew or met, and maybe even from a completely different part of the world from a completely different time, would embrace me and thank me for offering up all those diaper changes, or all the sleepless nights walking a baby, etc. For those small acts offered up gave her the grace to know God and strive for heaven.

The idea is two-fold. I would also think of the souls I will get to meet and embrace and thank, for being martyrs of the heart, so I could receive God's grace to reach heaven as well. And are we not called to be the different body parts of Christ? Are we not called to become like Jesus in order to enter His Kingdom? The honor of suffering gives us the invitation. For suffering yoked with grace performs a miracle. An individual soul transforms to a body part of Christ the King. The heart, which is prone to hardening, becomes a vibrant beating organ. The organ that supplies all the others with oxygen. Whether the suffering comes from tragedy, one's past, a sickness, finances, and so forth, in suffering, compassion invades the soul. Who else then will better suited to be the body parts of Christ? In return, will then bring God's love to others, especially those suffering in the same ways without the illumination of God.

Therese says it beautifully and much more eloquently. She writes, "Just one such faint spark can set the whole world on fire. We are so aware of the bright light of the saints set high on the church's candlestick, and we think we are receiving from them grace and light. But from whence do they borrow their fire? Very possible from the prayers of some devout and hidden soul whose inward light is not apparent to human eyes, some soul of unrecognized virtue, and in her own sight, of little worth - a dying flame! What mysteries shall we one day see revealed! For it is God's will that here below, we shall give to one another the heavenly treasures with which our Father has enriched us."

Each of us unique in our role to the body parts of Christ are imperative to all other parts. To do the will of the Father is to give and receive the heavenly treasures each of us is given! What a beautiful will that is. Who wouldn't want to say yes to that? Certainly I will try until my Jesus comes to bring me home. Pushing onward, one step at a time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Perfect "Accident"

Phillip and I were reminiscing about a car accident we were in, when Stella was about fifteen months old. We were visiting my family in Northern California. I don't remember all the details but I remember I was in Santa Cruz with Stella longer and Phillip drove up to pick us up and hang out for a little while. We did that a handful of times. I would visit my family and Phillip would drive and pick us up. This time he decided to ask his sister if he could use her car. That was the first time he had ever done that. Her Honda civic got a little better gas mileage than our Honda CRV. I remember thinking it was strange of him to do that just to save a small amount of money. But he was the one making the drive, so he could plan it however he wanted. Anyways... We were on the tail end of the long trip home. We had only a couple hours left of the twelve hour drive. I was driving. We were on the I-10 going somewhere between 75-80 mph. It's the part of the drive that is the most boring. The road is straight and in the middle of the flat desert. There is a huge ditch between the highways. I went to change lanes and didn't see the car in my blind spot. I swerved back over into my lane and because I panicked I slammed on the gas instead of the brakes. I lost control of the car and we went full speed spinning into the ditch dividing the two highways.

I was terrified. I heard Phillip mumble a calm prayer of "Lord, take care of us." He did. Our car just stopped spinning. There was no impact. I immediately turned back to see if Stella was alright, hoping that her body and psyche were not injured in any way. She was smiling and signed with her hands the word "More." I felt so relieved but very shaken up. It was the worst car accident I had ever experienced. On top of it, the only thing that needed to be replaced was one of the tires. There may have been a scratch or two as well. But considering what had just happened that was nothing. When the highway patrol got there, he couldn't believe that we were all perfectly fine and that the car was as well. He was dumbfounded.

For a couple weeks after the accident I remember waking up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding and heavy. I felt so guilty. All I could think about was how I could have either killed or seriously injured my family - my baby. These thoughts tormented me. Then one night as I woke up, I just heard inside these words, "Don't you see your lives are completely in my hands?" After that, I never felt that anxiety or guilt again. Instead, Phillip and I look at all the factors involved in the incident. He randomly decided to bring his sister's car. A car that is low to the ground. If it was our CRV we would have probably rolled. If there were other cars closer to us, we could have hit one of them and caused a horrendous trauma. The fact that in my "panic" I stepped on the gas instead of the brake. If I had stepped on the brake that could have made it worse with a different outcome. The Lord knew at the time as well that we didn't have the money to fix a totalled car. We simply had to replace a tire. And the icing on the cake was seeing Stella motion for "more" with a big smile on her face. We often refer to it as, "The Perfect Accident" because if one little aspect of it was different the outcome could have been fatal. In reality, it was no "accident" at all. As nothing is, God knew what he was doing with us that day.

I believe it was part of our preparation for January 30th. I clearly remember those words spoken inside "Don't you see your lives are completely in my hands?" Yes, Jesus they are. I reference back to it because You, my Lord, wrote it out perfectly. It reminds me in my weakness of questioning and the "what if's" that there is no need, for as you showed us with that accident, our lives are completely in your hands. I lack the humility you call me to when I feel guilt. You have shown me as well ,that when these normal questions come to mind, it is in some way my attempt to try to not accept such a heavy cross you have given me. So that is why I continue to ask for grace. Grace to become more humble and grace to accept your will. I also beg for the grace to keep the eternal perspective in view. For when I walk in your grace, all crosses seem like feathers. They are no longer heavy, but even a joy to carry for You, my God, and the world. Fill me with your Spirit this moment in the depths on my heart. That is where You have humbled your mighty self to live. You choose to find a resting place in a sinner's heart such as mine. A sinner's heart it is, but none-the-less, it is Yours to own.

Oh, and a quick blessing today. I walked up to the church to pray with Johnny and Gia. As we were leaving a friend stopped me to chat. As we were talking, a woman passed us to go inside and her shirt had a pink star on it and it said, "STELLA MARIAE". Isn't heaven lovely?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thanking God for His Unfairness

This was the hardest week I have experienced other than ones just following our tragedy. There were some significant triggers involved. The rest was pure darkness. I let God know how angry I felt and how the feelings of abandonment were unbearable. I told Him everything. But these are not the things I want to focus on. Three things I realized. One is, my words to Him are nothing. He knows me. He knows my heart. Just as a mother when she looks at her child's behavior she can often detect where it comes from. I know my Father looks at me and understands the place of pain I spoke from. Furthermore, I came downstairs to a Western movie on the TV. I briefly saw one of those scenes where a house was on fire. The whole town formed an assembly line as each person passed a bucket of water to the next. The person closest to the house would splash the bucket on the roaring flames that consumed the home. I laughed to myself as I watched the frantic townspeople work so hard using one small bucket at a time trying to put out this ferocious fire. I thought how similar my situation with God was this week. My spouts at him and anger were like the little bucket of water being poured on the raging flames of the merciful heart of God. IT DOESN'T DO ANYTHING! Romans tells us there is NOTHING that can separate us from the love of God. My measly attempts of anger towards the Father couldn't even remotely begin to put out his flames of love for me.

The second thing I have realized through this week is my soul longs for my Creator. By experiencing the feelings of abandonment and darkness I was made more aware of my nothingness. I cannot live and do not want anything that is not in accordance to my Father's will. I long for Him more and since those agonizing moments have passed and I experience His peace once again, I realize a moment with feeling apart from Him is a moment I can't bear. I want union with Him all the time. He is my lifeline. He is the only one who makes my yoke easy and my burden light. I have been asking for grace to long for Him even more. I want my soul to search for Him at all times.

The third thing I have been thinking about is my husband. Among my darkness, Jesus used my husband to be His hands, His ears, His love. Where do I begin with such a man? His compassion and patience with me was the small light in such a dark tunnel. My husband drives me to want to love the Lord more. I have been specifically asking for grace to serve and love my husband as if it were Jesus himself. I see how effortlessly it seems for Phillip in serving and loving someone with as many faults as me. And yet I feel like I could never show the love I have for him enough, although he makes it so easy to do so. These faults of mine drive me nuts sometimes. He cannot be compared to anyone I have ever encountered or even heard about. I have thought how unfair this tragedy with our daughter seems to be at times. In my weakness I have asked, "Lord, did I really deserve this?" Maybe not. I don't think anyone would. But I also know I absolutely do NOT deserve my husband either. God's ways truly are mysterious. I feel thankful for God's "unfairness." For I cannot begin to count all the blessings given to me that I am completely unworthy of, especially that of my righteous spouse.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Just Another Heavenly Experience

I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to post until now. The computer has had some problems and my sister-in-law and her family who live in Germany are in town. We have been very busy with all the activity and cousins. I wanted to share a truly blessed experience that happened Wednesday. It was the evening and Johnny, Gia and I were home alone playing on my bed. Since we were alone I asked if Johnny had talked to Stella lately and told her he loved her. His face went sour and he said, "No! I don't love Stella!" My heart aches even more when John struggles. I therefore tried not to cry because I understood he feels abandoned by her. I said, "What do you mean you don't love Stella?" He responded, "I'm mad at her because she went to heaven and I wanted her to stay on earth. She died. Stella died and I want her to stay on earth." My heart felt stabbed again. I started to pray inside, asking the Spirit for guidance. I just started to speak the Truth to him. The things we so often talk about. I said, "I know Johnny, I wanted her to stay on earth too. But John, are we made for heaven?" He answered, "Yes." "Was Stella made for heaven?" Again, his answer, "Yes." I continued, "John, do you trust mommy?" Another "yes." "Well, John, you just have to trust me when I tell you, it is better for Stella to be heaven and it is better for us too. We have to always remember heaven is our real home. We are just on earth for a little while until Jesus tells us it's time to go home to heaven. And then in heaven we will always be together and no one will ever leave you again ever. And John, is Stella alive now?" He answered "Yes" again then John and I start talking about the wonderful things we hope for in heaven.

I continued to tell John, " You know Johnny, sometimes mommy can hear Stella in my heart. That's where I hear Jesus too. You know how mommy always talks about making our hearts beautiful? Well that's because that's where part of heaven lives in us. Try it John. Try listening for Stella in your heart. We have to be very quiet. I'll do it with you." So he put his hand on his heart and bowed his head. I did the same. He looked up at me and told me he heard Stella talk about her room and how there were rainbow fish. He did it again and then said to me, "Mom, Stella says she has a rainbow for you." I thanked Stella for the rainbow. And then all of a sudden it sounded like raindrops outside. I didn't think there would be any because I could still feel the sun through the window. (I do live in a desert too!) I still our of curiosity, turned my head to look to see what the noise was. There were just seconds of raindrops and a lovely RAINBOW outside. I yelled, "John, look! She did send mommy a rainbow! She did!" John turned around looked outside and his face was priceless. His eyes got wide he flipped around and wrapped his arms around my neck and started exclaiming, "SHE HEARD ME IN MY HEART! SHE HEARD ME IN MY HEART!" The grace that came over him was astounding.

Furthermore, I remembered how two days before, I was writing a journal entry to Stella. I asked her to send me an answer that she gets my writings to her. I told her as well that I would look for it and if by some chance I don't see it, I know it will be because I am not looking with the correct vision. The next day after the writing I felt a little sad that I didn't have anything in particular stick out to me that day. I prayed and thanked the Lord anyways. And then my answer was more beautiful then what I thought would be given. Not only did I receive a beautiful physical sign, but the Lord blessed my son too with a moment of glorious, heavenly grace. That moment for me, watching John, was more powerful than a thousand rainbows in the sky.

My prayer is that if I can help teach my son at a young age to hear the whispers of the Spirit of God inside of him now, that maybe by the time he gets to be my age, he will recognize Jesus' voice confidently and clearly. It is something I struggle and have worked to hear for a long time now. I want to give John and all my children as much as a head start as possible. It is a gift to give them.