Weekend Ponderings: Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted

Today I’m up to my ears in basement. We have a professional organizer turning a heavily packed and useless living space into a downstairs office and play area for us! (This will come in handy in the summertime!) Special bonus — got part of the garage cleared out, too!

As divine Providence would have it, Sarah Reinhard posted a lovely reflection today at CE on waiting with her suffering child in the emergency room, on her helplessness to relieve little Babb’s suffering … and her realization that the Blessed Mother could especially relate to her suffering, from her own experiences during the final week in the life of Christ.

Weekend Ponderings: Are You Happy in Your Marriage?

This week at Mommy Monsters, I posted a reflection on the three directions — past, present, and future — the evil one directs his arrows at our hearts.

As I write this, I’m packing up the car to take a few days with my family, playing at Kalahari Water Park!  Please pray for us, for direction and … a renewed sense of family.

Lord, You created the sacrament of marriage.
It was YOUR idea to match us up, man and woman with children together,
to reflect Your communion of lov in the world.
Help us, Lord, so that when that reflection pales or distorts,
that we might turn to You again,
and in that turning, experience Your love anew.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!

From Tearful to Cheerful: Thoughts of Thanksgiving

To be honest, I started out this Thanksgiving weekend feeling surpremely sorry for myself.  It would just be us for dinner – my family is far away, his family is unavailable, and for one reason or another no opportunities presented themselves to invite anyone over. (I know that sounds lame, but true nonetheless.) So I got a little turkey, made the pistachio fruit salad, and decided to make the best of it. But inside, I was grumbling all the way.

Poor me. All alone with my family, with all of us healthy and plenty of food in the cupboard. No, we couldn’t travel this year (like we do most years) but all in all, it could be MUCH worse.

Then I was reminded how much worse. Yesterday I discovered a dear friend had been hospitalized with leukemia. Her oldest son (whom she and her husband foster-adopted 11 years ago) has the rest of the family sleeping with one eye open as much for self-preservation as filial concern. I went to go visit her in the hospital this morning, and my friend told me about her list of all that she was thankful for, as a result of this sickness.

Of all the people who had reached out to let her know how much she means to them.

Of the answers to prayer that she had already experienced by offering her suffering back to God.

Of all the ways her doctors had been fighting on her behalf, even before she knew she was ill.

Yes, she had much to be thankful for.  And so do I.

So tonight, as I put the last vestiges of turkey carcass into the trash (after “souping” them all evening), pour the last glass from the wine bottle, and sit down to compose this last little reflection for my “Weekend Ponderings” message to you, I just have to say . . . Truly, we have much to be thankful for.

Lord, I’d like to thank you for my friend Roxy, and ask you to illuminate her path.
Give her light enough for the rough places, and courage enough for the dark ones.
Give her only enough suffering to make her holy, and only enough worry to cling to you all the more.
And finally, Lord, as I hold her up to you in prayer, help me never to tire of interceding
not according to my will, Lord, but yours.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Mary, Seat of Wisdom, please pray for us.

Waiting for the Light

BartimaeusThis week I’ve been thinking about blissful ignorance — the kind of willful blindness we sometimes embrace in our humanness because seeing the truth is just too painful, or unexpected, or unsettling, or, well, icky.

Among believers, it can become a kind of spiritual schitzophrenia. The kind that sees with blazing clarity the splinter in the eye of those outside our immediate spiritual circle, but cannot bear to acknowledge our own shortcomings. Scriptures twisted and pulled like so much salt water taffy, or isolated into submission like a single stubborn branch on a topiary.

There comes a time, however, when we have to ask ourselves: What is TRUTH? And how can I be so sure that I have a handle on it? Have I reduced everything to what makes sense to me — or is there something more, something greater than what one tiny human mind can conceive? Am I being entertained . . . or transformed?

In today’s Gospel, a man who wanted nothing more than to see encounters ultimate Light, ultimate Truth. “Have pity on me, Lord. Son of David, have pity on me…”

Like blind Bartimaeus, this posture of humility and dependence is necessary. So long as we think we have all the answers, our ears are deafened to the truth; so long as we believe we view the world exactly as God sees it, we will be blinded to the present realities just beyond our field of vision. So long as we are busy telling God exactly how to run the world, we cannot be still enough to listen to his heart, or understand what he wantsof us.

Lord, help me to be more like that blind beggar in Mark’s gospel:

Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way. 

Image credit: More Things.com

Weekend Ponderings: Happy Feast Day, Mother Teresa!

mother teresa window

Today we celebrate the life and homecoming of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, one of the world’s most famous “mothers.” A wonderful reflection of her life can be found at Catholic Fire.

You can read my series on Blessed Mother Teresa as the perfect patroness of foster and adoptive mothers, based on the book “Come Be My Light,” here.

Mother was an unmistakable sign of the love of God turned loose in the world, touching the lives of those who were least able to reciprocate her ministrations. We see this kind of compassion over and over again in the life of Christ.

From Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37)

And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.

Jesus’ healing miracle was a wonderful fulfillment of Isaiah 35, which reads in part . . .

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.”

This connection between word and act, between promise and fulfillment, is seen clearly in this passage. The healing itself was miraculous . . . but it was not an end unto itself. It was always intended to be a sign, pointing those who witnessed it to a greater and higher reality.

Every person that Jesus ever healed would die one day of some other cause. Our time here on earth is truly a gift . . . and yet, it is also a sign of something better that is to come. That’s not to say we should walk around with a death wish, for life is also full of wonder and blessing. But we should never lose sight of the fact that this, too, is temporary.

When I was in B

Photo Credit: Dave Burke’s blog (Also click on this link to read an interesting meditation on the meaning of the Aramaic word “Ephphatha!”

Weekend Ponderings: Uncertainties and Surprises

virginsAt midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.

Today’s Gospel is a sober one.

It is no exaggeration to say that I was not prepared for motherhood. Some might find that surprising, given how much time I’d spent with children — especially the year I spent in Senegal, teaching ESL — before I was married. I did not realize just how relentless, exhausting, and … well, all-consuming motherhood would be.  Marriage, either, for that matter.

That’s not to say I regret my decision to become a mother. Only that I discovered early on that — like many things in life — motherhood is one of those things for which one can never adequately prepare ahead of time. There are too many uncertainties, too few guarantees. Even the best-laid plans are only just that: plans. The reality is often something quite different.

Some time ago a mother wrote to me about her sister, who was contemplating the possibility of adopting the siblings of the troubled child she and her husband had foster-adopted. I urged her to welcome the new member of the child with open arms, despite his obvious challenges — but to urge her sister-in-law to make sure a bond had formed with the newest member of the family before expanding the circle further.

I’m happy to report, my concerns appear to have been unfounded. Bridget (the sister) writes to me: “I just wanted to let you know that my SIL and BIL have adopted the additional 4 children totaling 6.  They are all adorable and it really seems like a match made in heaven!!  St. Raphael has helped them and through his novena and anointing oil from heaven and our priest’s blessings the little boy has changed for the better.” 

Are you contemplating a challenge — whether it be adoption, homeschooling, or welcoming a special-needs child — and feel unequal to the task? Making an informed choice is important — nothing can be gained from closing your eyes to the facts. But leave room for God to surprise you. If you feel the pull of the Spirit, like the wise virgins, be prepared . . . be ready . . . and do not be afraid. 

Parmigianino – Three Foolish Virgins Flanked by Adam and Eve :: Parmigianino :: Allpaintings Art Portal

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Weekend Ponderings: Going Up! (Happy Feast of the Assumption!)

ourladyoftherosaryAlthough I haven’t posted to this blog in a while, in honor of the Feast of the Assumption I’ve posted a brief reflection over at “Behold Your Mother” about what the Assumption of Mary says about the destiny of all believers.

Death hurts. It strikes us as vaguely unjust, no matter when it comes. There’s a reason for this: We were made for eternal life, and so death’s victory — even an empiric, temporary one — is in a very real way “unnatural.”

Today we celebrate the fact that death has indeed lost its sting. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, the power of death has no lasting effect on the life of the believer. All of us, like Mary, will one day be reunited — body and soul — in heaven in that eternal communion of love, absorbed in the beatific vision.

Oh what a happy day that will be!

Weekend Ponderings: Life (and death) of young, vibrant Catholic girl inspires many to come back to the Church

gloriaGloria Strauss was just 13 when she died of cancer. This young, vibrant Catholic has inspired many to come back to the Church.

This story touched me because of how her cancer was discovered, very much the same way — and at the same age — my sister’s bone cancer was found. In Chris’ case, a horse kick make her knee swell to the size of a grapefruit (which is big, on a seven-year-old). The first doctor said it was a crushed bone … a few weeks later, they found the tumor.

Chris survived, and went on to have two beautiful children (one of whom is serving in Iraq and has a child of his own). This girl’s story ended very differently, and yet it is also a story of what beauty God can make out of tragedy. Her life has inspired many people to turn their minds toward the things that matter … eternal realities we ignore to our peril.

And so, my little sister in Christ, may your angels lead you into paradise,
and may perpetual light shine upon you.
May your soul, and the soul of all the faithful, through the mercy of God rest in peace!

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Weekend Ponderings: “Forget the extra shirt.”

P5020764In the Gospel reading this weekend, Jesus sends out His disciples two by two to preach the good news. His instructions in Mark 6 are very explicit …

He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick—
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.

What I find interesting about these instructions is the balance between self-reliance and trust in Divine Providence, between making plans and “going with the flow.” They were to enter a town, stay with the first family that opened their doors to them, heal and preach … and move on.

In some ways, this is also the “secret recipe” for living the life of an Extraordinary Mom. We need to maintain the balance between knowing what we can do ourselves — and when we need others to help us. We make our plans, knowing that outside forces (our own children included) will often conspire against those plans, and we need to be ready to toss that to-do list to the w ind. We need to simplify our lives, because those extra shirts add up to that much  more “stuff” to manage.

Finally — and this is important — we cannot let ourselves be dissuaded from the nay-sayers, those who second-guess our own abilities to parent, or who make snap judgments about us based on what they see our children doing. Who look at the ODD child or ADHD child and assume we are not disciplining them adequately. Who see our child’s low test scores and assume we are not reading (or encouraging them to read) at home.

Repeat after me: “I am not perfect, but I am doing the best job I can do for my children today. Yesterday is past, and tomorrow isn’t here yet. TODAY I’m going to be the best mom I can be.”

Then call up a friend and schedule a play date. There is a REASON Jesus sent them out two by two. We all need a little extra support sometimes!

God bless.

Weekend Ponderings: Paul’s Thorn … and Mine

This is a little late getting to the blog — I should be posting “Miracle Monday” about now.  Please bear with me.

Today I was listening to our parochial vicar, Father Gordon (who will be leaving us in a week or two), talk about St. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” and I was reminded what a breath-taking confession that must have been for St. Paul to make. While no one actually knows what the “thorn” was, my bet would be either migraines or depression. I blog about it  today at “Mommy Monsters.” 

Okay, you back?  Now for the “main course” …

One of the things I took away from the Catholic New Media Celebration — from Father Roderick, actually — was the idea that each post should be like a good meal — with a tantalizing appetizer, hearty main course, and “something sweet” to finish. Also, he talked about the five I’s of a good podcast (which I’m also extending to blog posts), which should …

  • Interest:  “Hook” them with something intriguing. (Like a good title.)
  • Inform:  Tell your audience what the post/podcast is going to cover, so they know whether they want to stay. (This involves keeping important content “above the fold” for bloggers, I think.)
  • Instruct: “Give people the tools they need to resolve their problems.”
  • Involve:  “Invite a response.”
  • Inspire:  “Pray over your show/blog.”  Here goes …

Lord, today I’d like to remember those who struggle with their own “thorns,” whatever those might be. Use those moments of suffering and weakness to mold us into the beautiful creations you want us to be. St. Teresa of Avila, patron saint of migraine sufferers, pray for us! In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!

Last but not least … dessert!  Bit of pav, anyone? (Yes, I know his point was metaphorical. But this looks much better.)