Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Taking It Off

I am actually taking this week off. Regrouping from Thanksgiving weekend and planning our Advent traditions this week. I will resume the usual post on Monday Dec. 5th. God Bless everyone during this first week of Advent!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Perfectly Punctual

No matter what has been revealed to the soul, or what the flesh repeatedly denies, until we are home, we are still in captivity. I continue to experience every and all aspects of grief. Grief comes to us all in many ways. We experience death many times during our short stay on earth. Death of a loved one, death of a relationship, death of expectations, dreams, desires, death of a season in life, etc. There are many encounters of grief. We are constantly being asked to separate from things in this life. And since we are made for Home, for security, for real Love, the more we try to hold on to things that appear sturdy. It is the soul's way of crying out to its Creator, her King, trying to seek His security and stability, His Love, in mere imitations. The soul may do this multiple times until finally her search ends when she finds her Beloved, the only unmovable, unshakeable, unchanging and mighty pillar, strong enough to be steadfast for all of her uncertainties, wounds, and fears. These encounters, while on this earth, may only last for a brief moment. She seeks so ardently for a mere glance of her Home.

This search in grief can feel daunting and even impossible at times. I saw three connections over the weekend. I remembered a part from the book called "Impact of God" by Fr. Iain Matthew. It is a book based on the teachings of St. John of the Cross. He reminds those who are seeking to remember, the seeker himself is being sought after even more so. He gave the image of a hiker who has gotten lost in the woods. He searches for help endlessly, but if one looks at the larger picture, one would see a helicopter and search teams looking high and low for the one lost hiker. So first thing to remember is when we are searching for a moment with God, He is actually seeking after us even more.

The second thing brought to me was this quote about the soul by John of the Cross - "Let her not fail to pray, and let her hope, in nakedness and emptiness, for he who is good to her will not delay." Jesus does not delay. He doesn't put us off until gets around to it. Or when he is tired of hearing us moan and groan. I must remind myself of the process of all seasons He has for us and His Divine time in all of it. To continue further with that in mind, the Gospel story of Lazarus was the third thing that came to mind as I continue to have my waves of struggle with God's time of calling Stella to Him. There are times those horrible "what ifs" won't seem to stop. I was so thankful as the Scripture literally appeared before my eyes. I went to read the story word for word. It's John 11:1-44. I will pin point what spoke and comforted me.

1.) Mary and Martha's brother, Lazarus, was ill. They were close friends of Jesus. They sent word to Him of their brother's illness. This is what the following verses read, "When Jesus heard this he said, 'This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God that the Son of God my be glorified through it.' Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, 'Let us go back to Judea.'" The disciples asked some questions as they were confused by the situation. Jesus knew exactly what He was doing although he waited a couple days before going to Lazarus. So although he physically delayed the trip, He did not delay at all in God's timing for His glory. Jesus had already healed many sick. His followers had seen in thousands of times. He was to show them something much greater - the raising of a man who was dead for FOUR days. He was right on time.

2.) Mary and Martha met Jesus at different times when He arrived and yet they both greeted him with the same accusation. "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." He could have spared them days of grief. If Jesus arrived when Lazarus was ill, but alive, they would have expected the healing, no problem. Again, God's plans were much greater. He pushed His friends faith and partly because of that faith, He did glorify the Son of God and rose the brother from the tomb.

3.)Although Jesus knew what He came to do, He was still suffered profoundly with those mourning. It was noted that he was deeply moved, and actually had anger towards death and He wept. He experienced grief completely in that moment. His heart is so tender to His children even though He knows and sees all, the "bigger picture." I have grownn in more love of Him as He shows this about Himself.

So...the sum it all up. I see in grief when seeking the Healer, He is already ardently looking for me to heal. And although it may feel like he delays or didn't "get there in time", that is not true. His timing is perfect as He continues to do His Father's will. Asking questions is part of grief and the lack of understanding in our humanity and God's mystery. When Jesus comes, He comes to execute and glorify the will of the Father in us. And even when those "if's" arise, our powerful and triumphant God is not bound by ANY of the paths we think we could have or should have taken. He permits and does His will in each of His children, while we cooperate in it. And God makes NO mistakes. A soul's conception and death is neither too late, too early, nor a mistake. His gentle hand guides both the making and the taking.

Last of all, Jesus continues to suffer WITH me. He feels all of my pain inspite of the victorious outcome. He is an intimate Lover, this God of souls.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Time Travelling on Sunday

I had two unique experiences this weekend with suffering. I have been thankful for the comparison of the two situations for I have learned much. Both situations have to do with the active choices we have in our response to one's own or someone's suffering.

The first experience was awful for me. In my own sensitivity to my cross, I was approached....let's just say, poorly. I have been LOVED and embraced so much and so tenderly, however, I have had many experiences with foolish tongues as well. Some days I can easily brush such "good intentioned" non-prudent comments or encounters. Some days, they just hurt deeply. I don't need to go into details of this encounter, but after it, I left feeling so heavy. I felt as if this cross I'm carrying was undermined and simply pitied. Fortunately, I was able to be embrace by Jesus through the arms and words of my mother-in-law and husband. My soul was renewed and stronger after. God allowed all of it to happen so I might come through better. I see and know how in our human weakness we can be repulsed by suffering when it comes too close. Watching it on the news and offering up a prayer is much different than coming face to face with a person who is deeply suffering. This reaction of our flesh can sometimes override one's compassion and prudence in speech. I know I have been on both ends of the tongue. After God renewed my strength that night, I asked Him to give me someone who was greatly suffering so I could embrace them in the way I was not. I wanted because of my own deep suffering, to suffer with someone else, whether it be for a minute, an hour, or a day. I desired truly and deeply to give someone else in pain, the compassion and comfort I, myself, did not receive. The Lord answered my prayer.

The next day I was given a random opportunity to do just that. I encountered a living saint in the midst of battle, the midst of fire. I got to pray with her and ask my sweet Stella for her unceasing and powerful intercession. My daughter and I were in "business" together! We worked together. It was so special for me. I was given the absolute gift to suffer with another member of the body part of Christ. She serves me in her suffering, she serves all of humanity in her suffering, just as each of us does when it is offered to the throne of God. I felt connected to her in our spirit because we both carry such heavy crosses, different, but heavy. It was the same experience and comfort I receive when I sit with one of my books on a saint. I don't know the soul personally but there is a mutual love and connection, like family.

I can't write for her, so I can't say what her experience was. I can tell you mine. I received a real embrace from heaven. As soon as I put my hand on her, tears filled my eyes because my spirit recognized the Kingdom in her, my Jesus in her. I felt her closeness to heaven. It was overwhelming to me. I received grace for my own suffering and strength from her strength. I saw how we are all bound together through and with Jesus. I experienced being the hands and heart of Jesus for one of His precious souls. When we truly suffer with someone, even if for only moment, torrents of goodness, beauty, holiness, and grace are released. It is undeniable. It is life giving and life changing. Deep and real compassion is completely different than pity. We not only get to be a vessel for Christ when we suffer with someone else, we get to do something truly amazing, something that surpasses time it takes us back over 2000 years.

When we encounter someone suffering, we are encountering the crucified Christ. When we truly embrace a suffering soul, we are telling and showing Jesus as He hangs on His cross, "See, Jesus, I remain. When other have ran away and left you, I... re...main." We comfort our very own Jesus' soul on the path of Calvary, like Simon, Veronica, or His most blessed Mother. Such a task is not always easy because suffering in others can unnerve things in us. But, grace is there. Grace will be there. And if we trust God to get us past those negative emotions and comfort and love a suffering soul, healing in oneself takes place! The only way Jesus can heal each of us is if...We REMAIN.

So...I offer a challenge to every one this week if you're up to it. Ask God to send you someone that you can suffer with, even for a moment. Comfort then from the depth of your soul. It is real encounter between heaven and earth and you will not only give hope to someone in pain, but you will be given much in return. And if you want to email and share your encounter, I would LOVE to hear of it. Blessings

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Confession

"The very act of willpower even directed toward sanctity, she [St. Therese] understood, could be tainted by self-love that could drive her to try to make herself the saint she wanted to be rather than allowing God to make her the saint she was created to be. She recognized that in use of her willpower she could sometimes be self-serving or even violent to herself or others in her efforts to be good. She was beginning to glimpse that holiness while needing her cooperation, was really a matter of God's doing."


This is a passage from a book on Therese of Lisieux called, "Everything is Grace". I read this part the other night and can't stop thinking about is because I saw my own struggles. A couple of things in particular touched and convicted me. How tender and merciful God is. When He wants to illumine our soul of its errors, He is gentle if we are of a willing and have open heart. He points out the error and then offers help and hope. If one feels shame or defensive, that is a matter of oneself, not from Jesus. For God is a good father with the tender heart of a mother. As long as we are open and responsive, His direction is clear, soft, and piercingly truthful. The soul knows when it is asked to progess in an area.


The word "self-love" screams at me. I see as I read that passage about Therese how much self-love I have!! I can think of times when I was a child where acts of self love arose clearly - tantrums, hitting my sister, or simply being stubborn. However, I think of myself as an adult taking care of others and putting my needs further down on the list, I guess I thought my self love has diminished greatly. I believe it has, but self love is so big that even when it is diminished greatly, what is left, remains large. How cunning is the flesh! Or maybe I should say, how foolish. I see how my self love conitnues to arise in not what I lack to DO, but in the attitude I do it in. It can be so deeply rooted that even when my desire is to become holy, the love of self can mask itself in righteousness and sanctification. I must pose the same question to myself, "Am I becoming the saint I want to be, or the saint God created me to be?" That is a poignant question with a baffling answer if I look at myself with truth. I think - both. I know I'm on the right path to the sanctification God has called me to, however I am sure the methods of travel are influenced to often by selfishness. That no matter how much I want to be good, those efforts are often tainted with self love, or the lack of LOVE I put into such actions. I write these words with thankful conviction, but not crushing despair. For as Therese realized, although holiness and sanctity do need cooperation it is God's work and I mush remind myself of her famous words - EVERYTHING is grace. How much hope there is for my soul, for as my soul is the boat on life's mysterious and treacherous waters, God is no only it's seasoned captain, but the One who made and placed the waters there to begin with.


**On a side note, I think of how Therese was known for her words -everything is grace. I thought if there was a book written about me I could narrow the title down to three options - "Time to Eat", "Stop Touching Her", or "Shhh...Mommy Needs Her Rest." Not quite as inspiring, but a bit comical.


***I realized I hadn't told a story recently of heaven. On All Saints Day, someone gave me a rose from Stella. She told me she saw Stella with her soul's eye and she had a white rose to give to me. However, when the person went to the store to get a white rose there were none! She asked the florist and she told her because of All Saints Day all the white roses were gone. So the person saw a white rose with just a touch of pink on the very tips of the petals. She prayed and asked, "Lord, Stella, what should I do?" She heard the words, "Tell my mom the the pink is from where I kissed it." I thought it was a precious gift. However, two days later I moved the long stem rose from one table to the little side table by my bed. I've been using Stella's side table from her room. It was from Shabby Chic (Chique?). I got her the side table and matching mirror. It is white iron with white roses. However at some point when I redid Stella's room, I wanted more color so I paint the very tips of the petals pink on her table and mirror. When I place the rose on the table I realized they matched perfectly. Only heaven could have planned that!



















Tuesday, November 1, 2011

ALL SAINTS CELEBRATION!!

Sorry for the late post. I wanted to share the pictures from our Eve of All Saints Celebration. The pictures are in random order of the night. I LOVE this celebration. I didn't grow up doing it and our family didn't start until a few years ago when I was really convicted about it. Anyways... I hope you enjoy seeing all of the PRECIOUS children dressed up as saints and other Biblical characters.


Here's my John doint a Halo toss.








A few fairies still made their way in the mix of the saints. They were lovely.





This girl had the most original costume of the night. She dressed as a tabernacle! She did great.








This was Johnny's favorite game - fishing in the sea of Galilee. One thing I love about the party is that older children from the families help out with the games. It is such a great example to the younger children. It gives the older kids a chance to serve. They are great with the little guys and so encouraging. I love that.





Pumpkin carving contest.




Another game.


The boys LOVE this game of David and Goliath.




Johnny just got his face painted.





This is the end of the march going into the hall. We start outside and sing the Litany of Saints and then the children march into "When the Saints go marching in".





Mother Mary. SOOOO darling!







A sleeping St. Nicholas.






Blessed Juan Diego waiting for the party to begin.







Saint Joseph? I just loved the beard.






I loved her smile.




Another Mother Mary. She was my competition and she definitely won. (Yes, I dressed up. You will see that picture too.)





I forget this saint but I was so impressed by her craft to make that hat!





Look at the t-shirt! This is Gianna who is dressed as my Saint Stella! It was so honoring to my family. Her mom told me she thought of it all on her own! One of the highlights of my night.





Ok, kind of embarassing. The whole dress up thing is NOT my personality but John kept asking me and asking me who I was going to dress up as. I wanted to honor John's desire. I scrambled around right before the party and made myself Mother Mary. Johnny LOVED it! I wanted to do it to convey the importance of the saints and the night. When he saw me, his eyes got big and his mouth dropped as he exclaimed, "Mommy - you look BEAUUUUUUTIFUL!" Haha. My sister-in-law is St. Barbara and her husband is St. Francis Xavier.




My angel Gia. I made her little costume.

















Cousins, Mariana and Grace dressed up as St.Clare of Assisi and St. Rita. I made their costumes the day of as well!




Cousin Caleb as St. Caleb and John as St. John the Baptist.




A very excited John the Baptist to get lots of candy.






A couple thoughts on the saints. I grown in much love for them over the last few years. I truly call them my friends as I have called upon them for help and learn of their struggles on this earth. I am missing my saint today. Last week as All Saints Day started to near, Phillip and I had taken John on a date. We went to eat and then had to stop in the store. We were driving to the store after the restaurant and it caught me off guard. We drove past the cemetery Stella's earthly remains are. It was so hard. I immediately ran in my soul to the heart of Jesus. Through tears I begged him to show me something. We got to the store. We ran our errand. I was praying the whole time. This is what Jesus showed me. I looked at the faces in the store. The world feels like such a foreign place to me sometimes. I look in the crowd for something comforting and familiar but I find nothing. I do not belong here I think to myself. I look for a glimpse of Jesus in the crowd. I see all of these people walking with such heavy hearts and long faces. They look terrible to me, but I tell myself each person I see has a soul. Each person I see is eternal. I got home and started reading my book based on the teachings of St. John of the Cross. I immediately feel peace and comfort. I feel my soul spark again and lifted up by this saint. This saint who's physical body has been deteriorating for centuries. However, he is more alive to me than the people I saw with my very own eyes walking in the store. They looked like walking corpses. While my friends in heaven that I cannot see stir in my soul and help me thirst and long for the life of heaven - real life. Therefore, even though those saints have been physically dead for a long time, they appear to me as more alive than many people I encounter on this earth. It was like Jesus was trying to show me not to be deceived by the appearance of some things. The souls gone home are more alive than any of us on earth. Heaven is real. Jesus is alive and working. I am so thankful for this reality. Blessings on all of you on this great Feast Day!