Brick Walls

“The end is never the end; it is only the beginning.”Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver.

I have read this book over and over.  As I sat this morning, reflecting on this passage, I couldn’t help think about my own brick walls.

Brick walls cause an abrupt stop, a confusion of the mind, the immediate need for a decision or new plan, and sometimes a scream for help.

Yesterday, we spent quite a bit of time with our daughter, Katie’s, doctors.  Katie was diagnosed with a seizure disorder at the age of 1.  For 13 years she has found inventive ways to deal with these seizures.  Brick walls are part of her life and she has a knack for finding ways around them that has always inspired me.

I honestly do not handle brick walls quite as well as Katie. In fact, yesterday was a rough day for me because it was a devastating brick wall. Or maybe I should say it seemed like a brick wall we had already journeyed around. Repeat brick walls really frustrate me. Having the doctors tell us that they could not see the seizure activity was rough. Hearing Katie doubt herself about whether or not she really had even felt a seizure was heart breaking. Acknowledging that we may have to try another medication on top of the almost dozens of meds we had already tried was defeating.

Brick wall.

New plan needed.

Katie’s only options were trying new meds and more testing. More testing that will involve at least 5 days in the hospital – and could lead to a possible craniotomy. Well, let’s just say it was a brick wall, I wasn’t ready to hit.

So, this morning as I read those words…

“The end is never the end; it is only the beginning.”

I realized that this brick wall is not an ending, but a new beginning. Stay with me here, because this was a hard one for me to wrap my head around.

God has given us an opportunity for a breather. We don’t need to rush with the testing. We can sit back and allow the new plan to settle a bit. Even if we wait a year to move forward, Katie will be fine. In a year, things in the medical world may change. New procedures are always happening in the Epilepsy world. Changes abound all the time. Just in Katie’s lifetime there have been amazing advances in creating seizure free opportunities.

This brick wall could be a game changer for Katie. In fact, it may open new doors of opportunity that we never realized.

I am not going to lie. I am still mourning the pathway that was blocked. I still wish there was an easy way for Katie. I am constantly saddened that life is so hard for her. I wish – just for once – that things would work out for her the way I had planned (this would be my wish to control everything).

I have to have faith that God has control of this, and He loves her more than I could ever imagine.

Katie told us in the hospital that maybe all of the things that she has gone through will somehow help someone else (down the road) that has these same issues. Maybe, just maybe her brick walls were created to open doors for someone else.

Now that is powerful.

If only I could see a brick wall as a new beginning as clearly as Katie.

The end is never the end; it is only the beginning.”

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The Connotation of Special Needs

Sitting at the speech therapist’s office, Katie looked over at me and asked, “Just why do I get special assignments in class?  Why do my teachers read my tests out loud and sometimes give me more time?”  My immediate reaction was I wanted to tell her because you are “special” because of your seizure disorder.  Yet that seemed wrong.  I mean, she is special to me, but that isn’t why she gets accommodations and modification in school.  I honestly, did not want her to feel “different” either.  I wanted her to understand the problem, and be part of the solution.

I scratched my head on that one and asked for more time to think about it.  She agreed and off she went into her therapy session.

Later I realized exactly what I wanted to tell her.

We began to talk about distances.  She is a lover of math problems, so this worked great for her.  I began to explain to her that sometimes when we go to Florida it takes us 14 hours, and sometimes it takes us 16 hours.  It just depends on different factors like the weather, the road conditions, accidents, and detours.  This brought up lots of stories about our road trips which made both of us laugh.  The ones we laughed the most at were the ones that involved road blocks.  She especially like the long road block we had in Atlanta one year when Megan and I both came down with the stomach flu in a hotel.  She found that one particularly hilarious (me – not so much).  Let’s just say our time to Florida that year was 36 hours. Ugh….

I explained that our brains work the same way as our road trips.  At school we are under time constraints (unfortunately).  If our brains encounter more barriers in that time period because of seizures (or whatever may be the issue), then just like when we are in the car and bad weather hits, we are going to hit more slow downs or detours. We need to have a plan.

The storms and bad weather in the brain are hindering or slowing us from getting to our destination.  So just like we would pick up our phones and ask Google to find us a new route, we need to ask for help from our teachers.  It isn’t our fault there are barriers blocking our way, it is just the hand that we are dealt that day.

Some days may be better than others, but just like the weather, we cannot predict when that will happen, so we have a plan to get through the detours.  Thank goodness for teachers and flexibility!

Our plan is by giving Katie accommodations and modifications to her work load, then she is better able to accomplish the task at hand.  Her brain surgery has caused some slow downs, and addressing these road blocks and how to detour around them is important.

It doesn’t make her less than any other student – it just means we have to be prepared for slow downs, just like when we take road trips to Florida.

Her entire life she has experienced these slow downs, and plowed her way through the obstacles with perseverance and patience.  Sometimes she gets frustrated when she cannot get as much done as she would like to, but most of the time she accepts the challenge and powers through.  Seizures are just part of her life.

Society tends to call these kiddos – “Special Needs Kids” – that’s an okay name, but it stresses the special to ensure we understand they are different.  Usually different doesn’t have a good connotation to it.  It can sometimes make kids feel bad about who they are, and that certainly should not be the case. It can cause other kids to point out these “special” kids and treat them unfairly or differently, and that can lead to the “special” kiddos feeling like outcasts.

These kids are only different because they must work twice as hard to accomplish the same tasks as other kids.  Most of these “special” kids make it to the very same destination as everyone else – it just takes a little longer because their storms or road blocks hinder their journey.  The goal, in most cases is accomplished, but with more perseverance and humility.  Definitely more humility.

We make these kids feel “less than” because of the help they receive, but that is certainly far from the case.  Their humble strength should be an inspiration to others, but unfortunately society sees it differently.

I am so proud of Katie’s strength and endurance.  She doesn’t win awards for academics, for high test scores, or for the best essay – but she does win for enduring and finishing the race with the most road blocks.  That is pretty darn special in my mind and certainly not “less than” others.

So I guess if you want to call her special for that reason, go right ahead.  I can only hope that someday she won’t have as many road blocks and will be able to finish the journey in record time all the while having compassion for those who just like her needed a little extra help along the way.

Hebrews 12:1-3 And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

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Making Worthy Women Whisperers

“Lord, I am not worthy for you to enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” (comes from Matthew 8:8)

At Mass each Sunday, Catholics recite this phrase before going up to the communion table.  It is a humbling phrase that I am sure many have different thoughts on.  Even in my Catholic prep classes (RCIA) I can remember a woman leader saying – I don’t like saying that I am not worthy, because I am worthy.  That got me scratching my head.  Just what are we saying when we recite those words from Matthew?

Those words are uttered every week, and I am not sure there is a clear understanding of what is being said.  Because it isn’t to make you feel bad about being unworthy – it is meant to re-center your focus from yourselves to Christ.

In today’s world, we often try to fill ourselves with worthiness from “things.”  Those things look different for all of us.  Sometimes we allow others to make us feel worthy.  Sometimes we allow money to make us feel worthy.  Sometimes we allow social media to make us feel worthy.  All these things can have the opposite affect too.  They can also make us feel very unworthy at the snap of a finger.

On the other hand, Jesus never makes us feel unworthy.  He reminds us that He loves us right where we are – even when we feel unworthy of it.  In no way are those weekly words to make you feel unworthy – only we can do that to ourselves.

Right out of scripture, the bible tells the story of the Centurion in the book of Matthew.  He pleads for his servant to be healed.  He acknowledges to Jesus that he (the Centurion) is not worthy for Jesus to step into his home, but he is willing to do whatever he can to change that – for his servant’s life.  Jesus recognizes this pivotal moment and heals the servant.  He never makes the Centurion feel unworthy, and the power of the moment is that a Centurion (one with much strength who commands power over an army of men) would humble himself in front of Jesus.  Why?  Because he recognizes in order for Jesus to work His miracle, the Centurion must accept this greater strength.

Interesting, how in order to encounter Jesus we must find ourselves humbled.  In fact, I cannot remember a time that I didn’t feel humbled when I encountered Jesus.  Meeting Jesus when we are full of pride is impossible. Why? Because we are focused on ourselves, not on Christ. So those words uttered each Sunday serve a purpose for all of us.   So why do we take offense to this?

In my own struggle with unworthiness, I have found women in particular take offense to these words, and I am sure a lot of it has to do with us trying to find our purpose in the Church.

Many days I wrestle with just what I am suppose to do in this life here on earth.  I love being a mother, a wife, and a friend, but there is so much more I yearn to be.  I truly desire to spread Christ’s message in a gentle way, accepting people where they are all the while lifting up women so they see their potential to witness the Gospel.

The problem….I honestly do not feel worthy.

I do not even know where to begin.

I am not sure my place, as a woman, in the Church.

I do not feel educated enough in Theology.

So much unworthiness, yet so much desire to do good.

I feel as though I am unworthy.  Not because Jesus makes me feel this way, but because I make myself feel this way.

I yearn to be so much more.  I have a deep desire to show Christ’s love to the multitude.  I want to be a fisher of men.  Matthew 4:19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”  

Many will say in the Catholic Church women serve minor roles.  I know this to be untrue, but the truth is: it isn’t easy trying to find the “right” role.  The roles are definitely limited for women, and trying to pave a way in, well, it can definitely be difficult.  Being a woman does present its problems, but it doesn’t mean we don’t serve a purpose.

The women of the bible should be inspirations and models for all of us trying to find our place in the Church:

Luke 10:38-42  Jesus entrusts Mary and Martha to prepare for a teaching session – we even witness Mary sitting at Jesus feet – Jesus blesses Mary for her desire to learn.  Something that was unheard of for a Jew back then.

In Luke 8:1-3, Mary of Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and others Jesus traveled with Jesus.

Mark 15:41 “In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.”

Acts 16:41 “One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”  

John 19:25 “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

While these are just a few examples of women as disciples in the bible, they are also examples of courage, faith, and trust.  They were fishermen – trusted, faith-filled, disciples of Christ.

So, how as women in the Catholic Church, do we find our place?  How do we use our voice for Christ?  How do we find a way to preach the Gospel and share God’s Word.

We listen at His feet.  Humbling ourselves to the fact that while we are fishermen, only Jesus can make us into disciples.

We follow Him on the journey.  We walk with Jesus everyday.  Spending time with Him will make us understand more clearly what our path is.

We stand with courage to uphold His message.  Those women who stood at the cross were strong because they had spent time with Jesus.  They had been formed into disciples, and understood that all of this was necessary.  Sure because they were women they were overlooked, but that made them even more valuable.  They were fishers of men, but even more so they were whisperers of God’s Word.  They could do so much for the Message in just a whisper.  Their presence was secretly powerful.

So how can I be a whisperer of God’s Word?

How can we as women find our worthiness at the foot of the cross?

How can we fulfill our need to spread the Word of God inside and outside of our own family?

These are questions that I am still pondering in my head, praying for guidance on, and reading texts to help me discern.  I do not think I am alone.  In fact I am sure there are many just like me in the Church with a deep desire to share the faith with others.  A deep desire to gather and support each other on this earthly journey.  A deep desire to help each other raise families, be loving wives, and minister God’s Word to the multitudes.

Let’s find a way to journey together.   Let’s be Whisperers of God’s Word.

 

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A New Management

In the classroom there is a fine line between authoritative classroom management and respectful classroom management.  Growing up, we just did what the teacher said.  Mostly because we knew, if we dared to get in trouble or disrespect the teacher, then when we arrived home, our parents would lay into us about our behavior.  It is just the way it was back then.  I suppose there were kids whose parents did not do this – but it was far and few between.  It worked for me, but I knew in my heart there had to be a different way.  A way that would attract more students to keep the peace in the classroom.

It isn’t just the classroom where leadership is an issue.  The same thing happens in corporate America, on school sports teams, in a family, and even in a church.  Authority in the past looked a lot more like a dictatorship than servant leadership.  Type A personalities ruled the board room.  Things went exactly how the top dude (there weren’t a lot of dudettes back then) said they would go.  No questions asked.  Just do what they tell you.

Today, there are ways to manage people – in and outside of the classroom – with respect.  Respect is a powerful tool.  One that earns you the right to be a leader.  Yet your leadership looks a lot more like an equal, than it does like a dictator.  This great idea for management came from a pretty cool guy.  Back in the day he was known as Jesus.

He had a pretty new way to manage people, and most people found him odd and a little crazy for even trying it.  Somehow it worked, and for centuries people have been using this approach with much success.

While the kings back in Jesus’ time led as dictators, Jesus came in with a very different tone.  He ate dinner with tax collectors, touched the lepers, spoke to women (and even to some who were prostitutes), and hand-picked disciples who were fishermen for goodness sake!  He delegated many tasks to his team – in fact these tasks looked a lot like the things that Jesus did.  He allowed them to heal the sick, feed the poor, and preach the Good News.  Of course with all these tasks he paid them no money whatsoever!  What an amazing job (wink wink)! He did however have one great benefit: eternal life with Jesus in heaven.  You’d have to be crazy to pass up a job offer like this: no pay, one benefit, and drop everything to do so!  Yet somehow Jesus sold this idea to many, and those disciples did amazing things in order to work for Jesus.

Jesus’ new management concept and choices for his top staff astonished many, and quite honestly made his humanity even more fragile because people doubted his divinity.  Seeing Jesus as God was not easy for people, because he was so much like them!

Strong leadership is not about dictating or barking orders.  It is about meeting your team or your classroom or your family or your church  or whoever you are leading –  where they are and guiding them to their destination (which happens to be the leader’s goal).  Showing them trust, compassion, and love the entire way.  Jesus did this, and got his feet dirty doing so.  And that leads me to one of the most important parts of this strategy – showing your team that you are not afraid to do exactly what you are asking them to do.  Which makes you just as desperate to serve others, as you are to lead them.

 

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Comfort or Cross?

Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’

I can honestly say I never recognized the meaning of this statement until the last few days.  What I have come to realize through spending time each morning reflecting on scriptures, reading transforming books, and praying for guidance, is that taking up that darn cross is hard work – and that is exactly how it is meant to be.

When Jesus called us to do this (which by the way you can always say no to- and many did), He called us to an eternal life with Him knowing that it would be hard work.

Being a disciple who denies himself:

  • Letting go of your money bags – no more holding on to the “things” of this world that you think mean a lot but really are holding you back from God. This can be a lot of different things – money, family, friends, career, beautiful home, etc.
  • Pride has to go out the window – the opposite of pride, humility, is a good thing.  It brings us back to reality, and reminds us we are vulnerable.  We need to realize we are vulnerable in order for God to mold us into a new person.
  • Crush the control – everyone likes to be in control.  Come on, we all want our world to be “normal” and “scheduled.”  Surprises can throw a wrench in our plans, right?  Some of us dwell on this more than others, but you cannot deny yourself if you keep trying to control every little thing in your life.  Plus it will make you miserable if you try.
  • Relinquish reactions to the Spirit of Love.  This is my favorite – because I am a work-in-progress at this one.  Basically to deny yourself is to allow God to take over in your heart.  When we respond with love and compassion, we allow God to help us forgive, talk kindly to others, make decisions that are right, and that is exactly what He wants us to do.  It’s called Grace.

Take up your cross and follow me:

  • Accept struggles as blessings.  This is one of the hardest for me.  Struggles cause anxiety for me.  They throw me out of sync with life.  I get stressed out and angry (usually because I haven’t done one of those bullet points above).  Yet struggles are ways for God to transform me into a better version of me.  They are ways for me to allow God to take over in my heart and show me that there is an end to this.  I know when I allow God to take over, I have great peace and joy – even during the suffering.  But when I don’t, my suffering tends to get worse and worse – because I am controlling it – not God.
  • Take time by yourself.  When we take up a big, old, heavy cross, remember that God is doing it to transform you.  So take time and pray about it.  Take time away in a quiet place to think about what God needs you to do.  Take time to recognize that He wants to help you, but you have to deny yourself first.  And by the way, this is essential.  You cannot possibly understand God if you don’t spend time talking to Him.  Multi-tasking this is not an option.  It needs to be done with complete attention to God.
  • God did not call us to be comfortable.  He says that very clearly in Matthew 16:24 that I wrote above!  Unfortunately, a comfortable life means you are not being transformed.  When you aren’t being transformed, then you aren’t going through the process that you need for eternal life with God.  That is not something that people like to hear, but it is absolutely true.  We are humans and sinners.  We are a work in progress.  There is not one of us that doesn’t need to change.

Going through the process of struggle can seem like torture to so many.  I know it did (and still does) for me.  The constant feeling of going one step forward and three steps back can be exhausting.  Yet when I took time for myself, I realized that going through this process with the spirit of love in my heart (which is called Grace) changes the whole ballgame.  Remember to responding with love to the situation through God’s loving eyes can make a horrendous struggle into a transformative blessing.

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Victim

What are you storing away here on earth….money, time, desire to be liked others, need for others to accept you, fame, career, pride, sickness, fear, worry? When we seek happiness from the wrong source, it becomes so easy for others to steal from us. No one can steal your joy if it is based on God.

When we base our joy on false idols here on earth, then we become easy victims.  Find time each day to center yourself on God before you even step out of your bed.  Most importantly, find what is holding you captive to being a victim of “joy theft.”

Name it every morning.

Pray for God to remind you He is first.

Ask God for assistance to let go of that false idol.

Be aware when that idol takes over again and again.

When you lose your happiness – remember it is not God taking it…it is you allowing it.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21 NIV

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Why Should I Pray?

Prayer is a conversation with God…then where is He? Why isn’t He answering me?

Prayer can change God’s Will….or can it?

God has a plan and it doesn’t change….then why do I pray for Him to change the plan?

Prayer isn’t working….or is it?

Prayer is a waste of time…or maybe it’s the only way to spend time?

These questions and so many others have crossed over and over in my mind the last few weeks – actually months. Am I doubting? I am not sure, but I am absolutely questioning.  Questions tend to happen when you are hit with bad after bad after bad moment.  I have found it hard to take a breath after each incident the last few months which is why I am wide open for questioning my prayer life and faith.

First I lost my job teaching.  I questioned God on the timing of it all.  Why?  What was the purpose of this?  Do the kids in my class need to suffer without a teacher for the last 6 weeks of school? Was He trying to tell me I couldn’t do it all?  I had been so lost in caring for my daughter, Katie, with multiple neurology appointments in Cincinnati that I couldn’t take the time to figure out what God’s message was, I just had to keep moving through the motions.

Prayer:  God, please care for the students in my class when I cannot.  Help me to see that you need me elsewhere.

Then Katie had multiple week long hospital visits.  Test after test after test…. Surgery which entailed more tests.  It was something I knew had a great benefit for Katie (who has suffered with Epilepsy for 13 years of her 14 years of life), but that did not make it any less exhausting or scary.  On top of that we were moving to a new state and into a new home.

Prayer: God, please help the doctors determine how to help Katie.  Grant her with complete healing.  Please help us all find comfort in our new city.

Then my brother’s pancreatic cancer took a turn for the worse.  His prognosis was not good.  My hands were tied…I couldn’t fly down to see him in Florida because Katie had brain surgery scheduled, then recovery, then started a new school. Life is messy.

Prayer: God, please help heal my brother.  I know you have plans for him, but we want him with us here a little longer.  Continue to watch over Katie. God, I am beginning to wonder where you are?  I need to see some light at the end of the tunnel…

Shortly after school began, my brother left us.  His pain and suffering had ended.

Prayer: Please take my brother up to heaven to grant him the peace that he so much deserves.  After such a long suffering, give him rest. 

Then my dear great nephew, Mighty Max, was born.  I received word from my sister that she had a new grandbaby, but I could tell that something was wrong…or at least she felt something was wrong.  Her instinct was correct.  Max was born with undetected diaphragmatic hernia.  Within 18 days, Max was taken from us as quickly as he arrived on Thanksgiving Day.  This was 4 days after Katie’s second brain surgery.

Prayer: Why are we receiving so much suffering God?  What have we done to deserve this?  What can I change in my life to stop this all from happening?

Then the day after Mighty Max was laid to rest, we received a call that my sister Sandy down in Florida had been rushed to the hospital with bleeding on her brain.  She would spend 21 days in ICU with multiple surgeries, strokes, and delirium.  She isn’t out of the woods yet as she fights to regain her life the way it was.

(Insert breathe here….really fast….like you are searching for air while drowning in the ocean…gasping and aching for one last chance at life….just get to the air)

Prayer:  Lord, I don’t know that I can handle one more thing.  Please grant Sandy complete healing.  She needs you more than ever.  I need you more than ever.  This is too much.  Really….Too….Much….

I really was questioning where God was.  I began to think….if God has a plan, then why on earth am I praying to change it?  I mean I am not going to change God’s mind.  So why am I praying?

I googled (because that is what we do)….nothing

I went to Mass – almost everyday.  Certainly a priest would have an answer….nothing

I read my devotions – Every. Single. Day…. Nothing

One day, on my facebook feed came an ad.  It was for the book “It’s Not Suppose to Be this Way” by Lysa Terkeurst.  I bought it, and four others to divvy out to my family.  Soon I found exactly what I was looking for.

I had allowed myself to get to the point where nothing – even good news – seemed to be good.  I was cautiously happy about things that in the past I would have been overjoyed with.  I was placing myself in this pit of awfulness that I seemed to be pulling people into.  I didn’t mean to pull people into it, but it just happened.  I needed a sign strung over my body. “Bad things happen to me….stay away….it could be contagious!”

I picked up the book, and this is what I read…

“Darkness has such a way of swallowing up enthusiasm for the future.”

“God allows suffering to happen in doses to increase our trust.  Our pain and suffering isn’t to hurt us.  It’s to save us.  To save us from a life where we are self-reliant, self-satisfied, self-absorbed, and set up for the greatest pain of all…separation from God.”

“God loves me too much to answer my prayers at any other time than the right time and in any other way but the right way.”

Focus my eyes on God.  Fixate on Him.  Draw Him near by PRAYING to Him.

Keeping my eyes on God means praying to Him. Trusting that He will answer in His time and in His way is hard.

I need to share my questions, my desires, and know that by keeping that communication ongoing, my eyes are on Him and not anything else.

Prayer is not about changing God’s mind…it is about changing my heart.  It’s about maintaining a relationship with the most important presence in my life.

I don’t need to be cautious about what I say to God – He wants to hear it all – my fears, my worries, my burdens, my expectations, my desires, and my openness to His plan (and sometimes I am not really open to His plan). Sometimes it takes multiple conversations before I am ready to accept His plan.

My heart must be centered on God…not humans, not the things of this world, but on how I can allow God to mold me into exactly what He needs me to be.  Right now.  In this moment. One day at a time.

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Finding Grace

Just what did Mary say “yes” to?

As I sat in church hearing the scripture I hear every year, something different occurred to me.

Maybe it was because over the last 4 months life has taken such a toll on my family.  After burying my brother and my great nephew, and enduring Katie’s brain surgery, I felt like I couldn’t take much more.  Yet on December 4th, I received the phone call that my sister Sandy was being airlifted to the hospital for bleeding on her brain.  She has been in ICU for almost 3 weeks now, and the sadness has been burdening my family to the point where I have to ask God, “What are you thinking here?”

So, when I heard the scripture last week about Mary saying yes to God, I thought….just what was Mary saying yes to? And did she fully understand what she was saying yes to?

Luke 1:27-33; 38

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Mary had found favor with God.  He had hand-picked her for the vocation to become mother to God.  She would become a minister to so many people.  Unfortunately, with that privilege, she would was also saying yes to a world of hurt, struggle, and heartbreak.  Over the years, she would run for her life from Kings trying to kill her son, she would watch cautiously as others would taunt her son, she would be by Jesus’ side as he told the disciples that they would endure hardship because of him, and she would be at the foot of the cross as her son died a horrible death because people did not believe what he was preaching.

Mary’s yes was not just a happy occasion, but one of strength and courage.  She was saying yes to the good and the bad.  She was acknowledging to God that she was not only worthy of the task, but could do it with grace.

Most of us would be filled with fear and anxiousness.

So as I look around and wonder, where is God in my present family situation? I realize that He is right next to me.  Just like He was with Mary.  She was fearless and strong.

I am fearful and weak.

Where can I find the obvious grace that Mary had?

When I said “yes” to God years ago, I was acknowledging that there would be good and bad.  While I didn’t realize the amount of bad there would be (for goodness sake He has entrusted me with a mountain of bad), I did recognize that life would throw me curveballs.  How I handle those moments (or months which seem like a lifetime) is up to me.

I need grace.

I could turn my back on Him and run during this harsh season (and I have felt like running many days), or I could turn my face toward Him and acknowledge I cannot do this alone.

Oh God, I cannot do it alone.  Trust me – I am a coward and I am struggling here.

I need courage.

I need strength.

I need grace…..and for that I need God.

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Dare to Be an Andrew

In light of the Feast Day of St. Andrew….

I dare you to be an Andrew.

The first disciple of Christ.  The first to really understand who Jesus was: the Messiah.  A top notch evangelizer (He brought along his brother, Peter).

Andrew paved the way for all of us.  His dedication, loyalty and faith were extraordinary.

Many times I have backed down from professing my faith to someone because I know it might be uncomfortable or awkward.  I have opted for the easy way out.  Andrew never took the easy way out and he always trusted in the Lord.  He dared to be different.

I dare you to be an Andrew.

Andrew faithfully paved the way for Christ.  He was known as a follower of John the Baptist.  So it is safe to assume that he had heard of Jesus.  When Jesus approached Andrew and Peter on the boat, Andrew instantly knew it was the right choice to follow Him.  As he followed Jesus, he took Peter along with him.  He dared to be different.

I dare you to be an Andrew.

Imagine that your tag-along would become the first leader after Jesus… Pretty good snag, huh?  Yet Andrew’s actions lead me to believe he was pretty humble.  After all, we don’t hear about him a lot in the bible.  Yet he died on a cross, reportedly an actual X-like cross; because he didn’t believe he was worthy to die like Christ.  They bound his legs and arms to the X, and hung him to die.  He died for his faith.  He professed the Word even when it was hard.  He handed over the first leader of the Christian church to Christ.  He dared to be different.

I dare you to be an Andrew.

Andrew was present at almost every big event: the Last Supper, the multiplying of the loaves and fishes, and he was there when Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple.  He is humbly there with Peter, James, John and Phillip most of the time.  He never takes pride in his accomplishments because he knows they are for God’s Glory.  He always takes a back seat to the accolades because he knows he is there to spread the Good News, humbly.  He always chooses others over himself.  He stands for what is good and right.  He stands up for the meek and the humble.  He sacrifices himself for the Lord.  He dares to be different.

I dare you to be an Andrew.

So when you are doubtful that you have the strength to make a difference, remember that God can work through you just like he worked through Andrew.  Your story may not be written up.  Your story may never be uttered by a soul.  Yet you have the power to be just like Andrew: a faithful, dedicated, and humble servant to Christ.  Who knows you may even evangelize or shine God’s love to someone who becomes the next leader in your church.

Don’t wait to reveal God’s Glory to someone in your life.  Dare to be an Andrew.

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The World of Knowledge Vs. Wisdom

In a World of Knowledge Versus Wisdom

As I was watching a Matthew Kelly Lenten reflection this morning, he inspired me to ponder the beauty of wisdom and how it is becoming lost in our society.

In today’s world…

We look for knowledge on google.

We occupy ourselves with our cell phones and their apps.

We explore social media and video games for friendships.

We watch youtube videos for information and techniques on how to do something.

We acquire more and more “things” in our life to explore information easier.

What are we losing?

WISDOM

Wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment.

Those “things” from the world provide one aspect of the definition, but the other two seem to be lost for many of us.

We have lost the ability to think critically because we are allowing these items that have knowledge to do the work for us.  This vast world of internet, gaming and television is providing so much knowledge at our fingertips that we have become lazy.  Thinking through things is now too difficult.  Finding the truth seems simple, yet is it really the truth?  Do we even think through whether the information we are receiving – fast, immediate and on-call – is absolute truth?

Our life experience is a blessing that inspires wisdom.  So many of us want to push aside those struggles that have created who we are.  We want to cover them up and forget they happened.  Yet those experiences help make wise decisions.

Good judgment doesn’t just happen.  It takes effort to make a sound decision.  Our first reaction is not always the best one.  Understanding something from all levels is of utmost importance when making a judgement call.  Have we looked at the situation from someone else’s point of view?  Have we asked a wise friend for advice before we jump to conclusions?  Do we allow our emotions to take over?  Do we ruminate over the past or worry about the future?

Here is the good news…

We were all given the gift of wisdom.

Proverbs 3:13  Blessed are those that find wisdom, who gain understanding.

Finding wisdom takes work.  It isn’t just handed to you.  You have to persevere through a lot to find it.  It isn’t sitting out in the open for you to grab on google.  It is hidden under piles and piles of information that you must sift through exhaustively.

We all wish that by googling something we would just find the answer and move on with our day, but it doesn’t work like that.  Wisdom is found through research, through living and persevering through struggles, through listening to others who have wisdom, and by searching for the truth.

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