Day 16: Keepsakes

Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

When my mother came to live with us, everything she owned in the world was packed into the back of our van and unloaded into the little suite we had created in the corner of our walk-out basement: a dresser, a bed, a beautiful old desk, a wooden chest, and a bookshelf full of old photo albums and treasured books. Her most cherished possession was her wedding ring, which had grown too small for her but she insisted on wearing. She and my father were no longer living as a married couple … but she cherished the memory of him. And so, the ring stays on.

As human beings, we are body-soul composites; the stuff of life conveys emotions and memories that can last a lifetime. What can you be doing today to show that you treasure your partner through the honoring of the memories of your life together — and forgiving and laying to rest the skeletons of the past?

How are you tracking your memories? Do you keep photographs and scrapbooks Collect recipes or newspaper clippings? Or do you collect memories of other more troubling kinds? Do you harbor grudges, regrets, and deep-rooted offenses that have, over time, built a wall between the two of you?

During Lent the Church prescribes going to confession to prepare ourselves for the Easter feast. If after reading this, you are reminded of some toxic “keepsakes” that need to be consigned to the dustbin, why not go as a family to receive the sacrament of reconciliation? Make a celebration of it – go out for a treat afterwards. You will be so glad you did!

Has it been a long time since you’ve been to confession? Don’t worry. The priest will be glad to help you through it.  Here is a little “cheat sheet” to help you prepare —  you can just print it out and take it with you. And know that the angels are waiting to cheer!

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Day 15: Integrity

Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

Who is the person you trust and respect most in the world? Is it the person you married . . . and if not, why not?

Early in our marriage, I confess that it was hard to let go of some of the emotional ties of the past in order to hold fast to my new husband. Both of us had been ‘mature singles’ when we married (I was nearly 35, he was nearly 45), and both of us had our fair share of (often self-inflicted) scars from previous relationships. Until I met Craig, my father had been the only man in my life who had ever never let me go or broken ties with me, and his word was Gospel. So, when conflict erupted — nothing serious, just the normal adjustments required of two previously unfettered people learning to live together — I began quoting my father to my new husband. As you might expect, this did not end well.

My husband, for his part, had spent a lifetime working for two family businesses, and they had become accustomed to having him at their beck and call. When I protested, Craig found himself caught between warring factions, both of whom he wanted to please … and one of whom wrote his paychecks. Twenty years later, I can appreciate what a difficult position my new husband was in. At the time, I remember going to bed, alone, with some regularity. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t stand up for us, and draw firmer boundaries. After all, my dad had always clocked out right at five to make it home for dinner! (Ahem.)

Over time, I learned that just as no two individuals are alike, no two marriages are alike. Integrity, then, comes from ordering your priorities according to the needs of the family, recognizing that this requires balancing multiple needs and realities. And ultimately, it means coming together with trust and honesty, willing to sacrifice our own preferences for the needs of the other person.

It is simply not possible to cultivate an intimate marriage if one or both partners is determined to shut the other person out of part of their life in order to make decisions in a vacuum. It can be tempting, of course, to bear a grudge and withhold trust or even affection. And yet, one of the bravest — yet most essential — acts two people can make is to daily make a choice for love.

Is there a tiny part of your heart that you are holding back? How can you take a step toward love today?

 

Day 14: Hope

Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

Today’s theme is short and sweet. In a word . . .  “hope”!

“All human wisdom is summed up in two words: wait and hope.”

Alexandre Dumas

If you’re following along in Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta, you will find that hope can have a dark underbelly. While faith is oriented toward the past, and love to the present, the virtue of hope is planted firmly in the future, where we wait for God’s promises to blossom into full flower.

Hope doesn’t ignore the darkness, or downplay the pain and hurt we experience in those shadowlands of our lives. Rather, it is the lifeline that we hold on to, knowing that God has not abandoned us and that better times are indeed ahead. I know whereof I speak.

A few years ago, my husband and I were going through the darkest time of our married lives, trying to help our children who were in crisis. At one point one of my closest friends called to tell me that she was leaving her husband of more than twenty years. When she heard what I was going through, she wondered aloud if I had ever thought about walking away from it all.

To be honest, there was a time that I would have been vulnerable to this suggestion. While my husband was (and is) a wonderful man, grief does strange things to people. But I knew I had made a promise, and so did he … and so we held on. We went on a Retrouvaille weekend, and learned new skills to get us communicating constructively again. Gradually the pain and stress began to fade, and we were left with something new and, in time, wonderful.

Four years later, my friend is regretting her decision . . . but I never did. We are as happy as we have ever been. In the words of Judith Viorst,

“One advantage of marriage, it seems to me, is that when you fall out of love with each other, it keeps you together until maybe you fall in love again.”

Can you relate to this? What is the hardest time you’ve had to face together … and what was the hope that got you through it? Share it with the one you love . . . today.

Day 13: Health

Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

Today’s theme is “health.”  Are you taking care of yourself? When was the last time the two of you did something really healthy together?

  • What was the last healthy meal you cooked together?
  • When was the last time you went on a walk and explored nature?
  • How often do you do something healthy for your mind, such as reading a book aloud . . . together?
  • What is the one habit you know you ought to kick, but never quite get around to following through?

Sometimes in all the hustle-bustle, healthy habits can go out the window. But tending to the needs of body, mind, and spirit is important not just for you, but for your spouse (who needs a strong partner) and your family. I’m saying this as much to myself as anyone: When you exercise and eat right and hydrate properly, the whole world becomes a brighter and more welcoming place. And when you don’t … well, the dog starts to hide. Right?

Just for today, what is one thing you can do to improve your health, and to stay healthy for the one you love?

Day 12: Gratitude

 Start with the Prayer of Abandonment.

“Gratitude” is generosity’s virtuous sister. Those who are thankful tend to find it easier to be generous than those who consider themselves “self-made.”

As I was researching material for Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta, I came across a quote for which I was unable to find the original source (and so did not use it in the book), but I think it has a special application to today’s theme and so I wanted to share it with you. It is said that in her children’s home in Calcutta (Shishu Bhavan), one of her older girls died. This is how Mother eulogized her:

“When God gave you to me he never said that you were mine, that I could keep you always — only borrowed for a time. Now, he’s called you home, I’m sad and I shed tears. Yet, I’m glad he loaned you to me and we had these many years.”

I think these words of gratitude can be applied quite nicely to marriage, as well. Our spouses are not our property, to do with as we please. No, they are gifts God gives us to help us progress in the School of Love, to be fit for heaven.

Today is the day we are going to celebrate, to thank God for, the gift of each other. When you look at your spouse, what makes you most grateful that God loaned him to you “for a time”? How are you going to express your gratitude today?

Teresa-21

Are you enjoying this Lenten series? Please support the effort if possible by picking up a copy of Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta. This week only I’m running a special! Get your copy this week for just $12 (postage paid). My address: 10350 Royal Oak Ct., Osceola IN 46561. Thank you!

Day 11: Generosity

Start with the Prayer of Abandonment.

Today’s theme is “generosity.”  Generosity is a virtue that pretty consistently distinguishes happy couples from unhappy couples. Unhappy couples fight for their rights, each stubbornly holding to marriage as a 50-50 proposition. The reality (as evidenced by their happy counterparts) is that marriage is not 50-50, but 100-100. Then there is the 100% you give the kids so … yeah … a happy marriage is a tiny miracle, and a foretaste of heaven.

Twenty years ago, as a new bride, I had no idea how much this principle was going to be tested in our new lives together. No idea how many kinds of generosity that marriage requires. Sure, there is the “for richer, for poorer,” literal variety. My husband overlooks my occasional shopping binge at Target, while I force myself not to roll my eyes when he finds one more electronic gadget to adorn his jam-packed office.

But there are other, subtler kinds as well: emotional generosity, which consistently believes the best, hopes for the better, and trusts in the goodness of the other person. There is generosity of time, not insisting that the other person always blindly follow our own agenda or timeline (this one is hard for me). There is parental generosity, which steps up to help set the boundaries in times when you really just wish the other person would be the Bad Cop.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus said that it was easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle then for the rich to get into heaven? While money has a tendency to keep us self-centered, generosity keeps us ever other-focused. And this, my friends, is the very nature of love: to give not just what is convenient or easy, but even when it means giving till it hurts. Just as Jesus gave all the way to the cross.

When was the last time you were generous with God? Is he presenting any opportunities to you right now?

Second Sunday of Lent: Family Fun Day!

kissesThere’s those chocolate kisses again … It must be Sunday!

This week I’m going to let you dream up your own family fun. Since today is St. Patrick’s Day, maybe you want to take everyone out for Shamrock Shakes!

Be sure to share what you did on “The 40 Day Challenge” Facebook page – include a picture, too!

What will you do with your second Family Fun Day today? Don’t forget to offer your daily Prayer of Abandonment.