Monday, March 26, 2012

A Response

I received an email from a fellow "hiker" - one of you. Her email was quite relevant to the temptations I faced recently. We were out as a family Sunday. We went down to a lovely area in the city. A place that has lots of "green". Trees, grass, and we even saw quails. I love quails because they are part of many childhood memories. I haven't seen them here in Phoenix. Looking at the area, the homes, we then ventured to an outdoor shopping mall. The children were running and laughing around. It was evening time and many families were out and about. The stores were all lit up with beautiful items. I was taking all of it in. Instead of just thanking the Lord for the beauty of everything, I couldn't help but feel comparisons coming on. Why couldn't we be one of those families? A family with all children here. What about all the beautiful over-priced merchandise? It was all so beautiful. Why does everyone look so happy and COMFORTABLE? I want comfortable. Why don't I deserve any of that? Why do they? Such feelings and questions started to whirl in my head and emotions in my heart. As we walked by each store, I looked at each one and would just say to myself - "Lies." Pottery Barn - "Lies". Vera Bradley "Lies". Origins - "Lies" Saks Fifth Ave - "Lies". Haagen-Daaz - "Li-- No actually delicious." J.Crew - "Lies" too. However, none of this put out the fire of envy. Where do these things come from inside? I love beauty. I enjoy it. I am drawn to it. Who isn't? However, seeking the mere imitations will only last briefly. My wise husband reminds me again, that even as I look at the people who seem to have "comfortable" lives with all children present, we still never know what their lives are like or what they have been like. And most people who are worth admiring went through great trials and overcame them. How does he speak such words and immediately my soul is calmed. The embrace follows and I feel very COMFORTABLE in his arms - actually more than comfortable, I feel safe, loved...content.

The sister in Christ who wrote to me told me a quote her father would tell her that he heard from priest. He said, "God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to be extraordinary." Thank you, sweet sister, for reminding me of this. Why not both? Can't we be comfortable and still receive heaven? At times we are. God gives us respits on our journey. He places oasis in the desert, havens during storms, plateaus when climbing the mountain. He is so good. But He does not want us to get too comfortable because something awful happens if we do - we become lukewarm. And Jesus promises that if we are lukewarm he will spit us out of His mouth. It's more repulsive to Him than being cold towards Him. Therefore, comfort is for the Kingdom, not for our earthly life time. I know, I cringe at that reality too.

I was also asked what I do for my prayer time and if I could blog about it. Hmm...My prayer time is constantly changing and like everyone else, finding time to make it a priority can be challenging as schedules change and life flies. I'm no different than anyone else for that matter. My prayer time lately is in the evening. It's a difficult time of day for me because I am so tired, but no matter how exhausted I am, I know the Lord honors it. There are times I when I sit before Him so tired and weak, and simply say "Well, I'm here. I made it." And that's it. I just sit ready to fall asleep. There are evenings it doesn't happen. I remind myself of what St. Therese said when she could not go to Mass and receive the Eucharist because of her poor health. One of her many famous quotes is "Everything is Grace". This stemmed from it. She mentioned that when she gets to go to Mass every day it is indeed a grace, however times when she cannot is a grace as well. The intention of missing prayer time must be pure , not just "I don't feel like it." However, I have said that as well and then I rely on God's Infinite Mercy as well after I ask for forgiveness. I often fall asleep praying the rosary or Mercy Chaplet sitting still. I pray those during the day usually while I'm driving, running, etc. I sit in silence. I am learning to let the Holy Spirit speak more than me. I praise God aloud. I read Scripture. I read other spiritual books. I meditate on the Passion, on Jesus life. I write in a journal. I cry and complain. I don't do all of them in one sitting. Some nights it is a short prayer time - ten minutes. Some nights it is long 1-2 hours. I remind myself when I want to unwind in front doing something I enjoy - art, TV, reading, emails, etc. That if I have time to those, I have time to pray first. However, I know my day is a prayer too. All my offerings, my service, my teaching the children, and loving those before me are all prayers. We have images of Jesus, Mary, Saints etc. and they remind me throughout the day to praise God in a moment. I sing praise songs while I do the dishes or get meals ready. I talk to Heaven throughout the day. We stop and make a visit at a chapel. We try to go to Mass throughout the week. So I know, the prayer is my life, not just the moments I decide to sit down in silence. Both disciplines are just that - disciplines. I work at them constantly. I fall short daily. I get back up and try again. Mondays, John has atrium class while Gia has her morning nap. I LOVE that time because I get to pray in the morning while I am refreshed. But that is just Mondays. God will take whatever we have to offer and multiply it. That's the business He's in, that's who He is. Think of the story of the fish and loaves. Never get down on yourself for falling short. It gives Satan too much room to work. I hope that was the answer looked for. I find too as a parent, it is so important my children see or know we, as their parents pray. It's different than even saying a family prayer. It teaches my children how important it is for one's personal life. They see the consistency just like they see me cook three meals a day for the families needs. The food of the soul is just as important! More so actually. It shows them that God is first in their parents lives. It teaches them to do it as well. I shared how Stella would do it - not every day but she would ask me to light a candle for her and she would go in her room for five minutes and say she was going to go pray. It was soooooo precious. She would come out skipping and happy and telling me what she prayed for. OH SWEET GIRL, I MISS YOUR SHEER JOY!! How all of Heaven must marvel at it in you, Stella!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Water Water Everywhere, Yes in Arizona

The beauty of water has intrigued me surprisingly this last week. I know the health benefits, the uses of it, the power of it, and the capacity of it to change form. But I've been enamored by the sheer beauty of it. I almost feel like I haven't been able to get away from it recently. Where to start? John and I have helped my father-in-law plant his spring garden. I love all the fresh veggies! John, Gia and I go outside almost every day and check to see if anything has come up. If any new, promising life has started to crawl out of the dark, mystery earth. The other day I caught a glimpse of the drip system. The sun at dusk was peeking over the West wall, giving the fertile soil one last kiss good night. The drops of water hitting the ground looked like hundreds of flashing diamonds, taking tuns dancing and showing of their reflective splendor. I said with a tone of awe "Johnny, look!" He peered over and said with a bit of a solemn voice, "Wow, mom - beautiful." It was indeed.

The kitchen window sits over the sink as many do. Bubbles fill it - water bubbles from the pressure of the faucet, not soap bubbles. The sun gleams warmly through the glass pane. Each tiny bubble holds an entire rainbow of its own. Precious and quite incredible if you think about it. I place the fish just starting to thaw from the drive home from the store in the freezer. As I open the freezer door my eye catches another beauty of water. The light from the freezer combined with the natural light from the sun peering through the kitchen window turn the bag of frozen fish into a bag of glitter. I stop and enjoy the fairy dust-like sparkles in hand.

We had a big storm yesterday - all day. The weather dropped twenty degrees over night. Us, Arizonians weren't sure what to do. We took the children to play at an indoor play area in one of the malls. The parking lot connects to the mall by an outside walking bridge. We left around six. It was pouring hard outside but there were sunbursts all over. Just as we crossed the bridge, there was a full arched double rainbow! Not just one, but two! People were stopping and marvelling. We did too.

Why all these thoughts about water this week? I sit and ponder it, knowing there must be a revelation in here somewhere. I sit, I pray, I think, I examine, I listen. I think of an art history class I had in Rome. I loved it. It enthralled me. There was so much beauty to see, to sense, to learn about, to take in. My memory falls short on the specifics. I recall looking at some paintings that came from artists in Venice, Italy, a city built on...WATER. There was a period of art that focused solely on water, and especially the way light played on it. Artsists became intrigued by water, wanting to capture it's beauty on canvas. That's it! There's the revelation. Each moment I had that drew me to water's beauty involved light. The way the light hit it, the different light from different times, combined with different forms of water. I beheld more aspects of water's beauty by observing these different variables. I could stop there. Many people choose to. Others don't even get that far. They don't even take notice at all. Some do and take it in, admiring the water's interaction with the light. They might even be so enthralled by it, they paint it and start an era of art history. One might even receive "fuzzy and happy" feelings by observing such beauty and its dimensions. But is that all? Why stop there? Why stop at the worshipping of water? I CHOOSE to go beyond. To look at, admire, soak up, and adore the One who created each and every aspect of water. So I see His ways a little more when looking at the water. I see myself, my soul a little clearer and its relation to Him, my Creator. I see the key to water's stunning beauty and all her faces this past week was dependent on light. It was the light that could touch and reveal the water's potential to hold rainbows in all different sizes and reflections.

Is this not like my own soul and her God? The beauty potential and revelation of my soul is dependent on The Light. It is the Creator shining upon all the different facets of my revealing endless possibilities of all the potential I didn't even know was possible to begin with! A soul, like water is still something to marvel at, because of the nature of it, its purpose, its substance, but it transforms to glorious and almost magical when it is in a place where Light can reach and shine upon it. Light, melts icy hearts, Light makes one's self dance like sparkling diamonds, and hold spectacular colors within, and therefore project spectacular larger colors on the entire world. This is only possible for water with Light. However, the soul, like water must be in the right place for the Light to touch it in order for such things to even begin to take place. Grace must be received, accepted in order to take root and thrive in a soul, in a life. Light can be cut off by objects and create shadows, hindering the "AWE" effect. The soul must work endlessly to keep objects out and move ones in the way, so shadows can not be cast. She must work tirelessly to put herself in a place to only hold and project rainbows for her own sake and the sake of the world around her. THAT is where the challenge lies for each of us. Thank you my Father for speaking so loudly, and the grace to hear you. Thank you for the beauty I experienced through one of your creations this week.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Hiking Foreigner

Sorry about not posting last week. Gia had pneumonia. I was emotionally drained as it brought me back to hard grief. The processing continues on. It has passed, and I am thankful. I see how far I have come, but still how far I have to go.

During last week when Gia was sick. I couldn't help but cry out to God and say, "She shouldn't have died! She was a healthy little girl! She shouldn't have!" When the storms of emotions calmed as I sat in quiet prayer. I was led to contemplate on the First Station of the Cross - Jesus is Condemned to Death. The next day I would remind myself of the first station. Not sure of what I was suppose to think about or dwell on, or what the Holy Spirit would show me, but I just kept trying. I thought of what that must have been like to be condemned to die. How did Jesus feel as He looked out into the crowd shouting "CRUCIFY HIM!" The crowd with some of the same people that followed Him miles, and watched Him perform miracles. Did He feel hurt? Scared? Betrayed? Misunderstood? By pondering this one aspect of His life, I saw how He used it to speak to mine. Christ shouldn't have died either. He was innocence itself. He came so we might have life and have it in abundance. He came to spread hope that the world had never heard or seen or experienced. He came to give love - agape love. He performed no crimes, all the evidence points to the same conclusion - He, too, shouldn't either. But He did. Why? Because it was the Father's Will, and that is why He came. It wasn't enough for Him to be a good person with good things to say. He had to give the Father all. He had to complete what He was sent to do. That is why we are all here, to do the Father's Will. His holy, perfect, all-loving Will. The Will that is not the path wide and smooth. The Will that takes us on the straight and narrow. The Will that many do not choose to follow because it is often so very HARD. The Will where the weak, the wretched, the lost, and the broken are the VICTORS. The Will that leads to everlasting life, to perfect love, to only belonging, and forever safety. His hands are in everything, even in what appears to be repulsive and unbelievable. Stella, pray hard for all of us! The path to the summit is getting steeper. Let no soul be left behind. Blessed be God forever and happy hiking.