Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Like Snowflakes Falling from the sky....

So when you are having a crabby day, and feel at odds with the entire world, doesn’t it drive you batty when someone cheerfully chirps something like “you should count your blessings” or “every cloud has a silver lining”? There are times when I don’t want to be cheered up… when I just want to wallow in self-pity. Admittedly, as I write this, I am in a good mood. So I’m looking at things from a “glass half full” view rather than a “glass half empty”. This year has not been without its challenges. Yet even during the worst moments, it wasn't hard to recognize that despite all the anxiety and troubles, there were many blessings as well. In realizing that, I have become much more aware of every day blessings… and am getting much better in counting them and being grateful for them!

Some of my recent blessings:

Our upcoming office move- something that nobody is happy about or looking forward to and have been somewhat resentful of! The reality is, however, that we’re not moving out of our building… we’re merely moving across the hall! Other colleagues have recently moved to another building on campus, and after visiting them, it was very apparent that we were very lucky to be able to stay in the building we’re currently in!

With Christmas just around the corner, my church has adopted several families. In order to make sure that the children in these families received things that they needed and would be happy with, volunteers call each family and usually speak to the Mom. Hearing the tearful relief, joy and gratitude from each Mom was incredible. Several told me that if it wasn’t for the members our church, their children wouldn’t have a Christmas. They went on to say how blessed they were to have been adopted by our church. Yet I felt that we were the ones who were blessed… because this entire experience made it very apparent that we are blessed to have the resources and ability to reach out and help others.

Then there are the tidbits of time spent with my Mother… whose dementia is taking her from us. Yet periodically she can be quite clear, proving that she still is with us! I loving making her laugh, and sharing with her about my day. She can still comfort… and sometimes she is clear enough to remember that we were upset or worried about something… and in her maternal way still offers us loving support and concern. This means more now than ever. I could spend time wishing that I had appreciated her more “back in the day”. Instead, these moments are gifts… and they pack quite a meaningful punch!

The holidays bring with them frantic, frenzied schedules which we are apt to complain about. We have to be here, we have to be there; there is so much to get done and it seems never ending and at times impossible. It can be overwhelming. Yet hearing about others who have no one to spend Christmas with… or others whose families are spread around the globe, making it impossible to be together, make it very obvious that the fact that we can be with our families is a huge blessing that should not be taken for granted.

Our washing machine has been broken for some time. Eventually we’ll get around to repairing it… but I've learned that even though it’s a nuisance, going to the Laundromat and getting 4 loads of laundry done in less than two hours is pretty awesome!

This doesn't even cover the myriad of blessings that cross our paths every day, like snowflakes falling from the sky… too many to count, too many to recognize. Blessings like:

The wave of a friend from across the street * The snoring of three peacefully sleeping Newfs * The laughter of a baby in a restaurant * A message from a long lost friend on Facebook *A smile from a stranger * A student holding the door open when you have your hands full * Find gas for a ridiculously low price * Heat * Electricity * A good boss * A job * Driving around a night looking at Christmas lights * Chickadees greeting me each morning * The hoot of an owl at night * Starry Skies *

Again, there are so many that it’s impossible to list them all. No matter how big or how little a blessing may seem, the impact is the same. To know that we are blessed means so much. The important thing is awareness. Look for them. It’s not really that hard. And when you come across one, cherish it and then be sure to give thanks!

In closing, here is a prayer of thanksgiving that I found online (click here) :

For all You have given,

Thank You God.

For all You have withheld,

Thank You God.

For all You have withdrawn,

Thank You God.

For all You have permitted,

Thank You God.

For all You have prevented,

Thank You God.

For all You have forgiven me,

Thank You God.

For all You have prepared for me,

Thank You God.

For the death You have chosen for me,

Thank you God.

For the place you are keeping for me in heaven,

Thank You God.

For having created me to love You for eternity,

Thank You God.

Amen


Monday, December 12, 2011

Gaudete Sunday

Happy Third Week of Advent, also known as "Gaudete Sunday". On this day, we are to Rejoice, because the Lord is Near! Our hearts should be filled with Joy as we prepare for the coming of the Lord!

"Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thes.5: 16 - 24

Some may say "easier said than done...". And considering all the hustle and bustle of the season, that's understandable. Yet to have joyous, meaningful Christmas celebration, it's imperative to prepare for the way of the lord. It's imperative to set aside time for reflection and thanksgiving... for contrition, and yes, for rejoicing that the Lord is near! It is for this reason that the candle for the 3rd week of Advent is rose colored. This symbolizes joy in anticipation of the coming of Christ.

Of course this isn't always easy to do! We're all under an immense amount of pressure at this time of year. I am blessed in that I love being with my families. Yet there is still stress. For me the stress is the lack of time. It seems that we are always rushing. We hurry up to get somewhere, only to start watching the clock so that we're not late to the next place on our schedule. This is ridiculous! It's more important to be "present" and enjoy the company of the people we're with. Everything will get done... it always does. So stressing about it is a waste of time.

I have an 'app' on my Facebook page called "Message from God". Each day I receive a different message. Yesterday's message read:

"On this day of your life, Annie, we believe God wants you to know ... that a soft answer turns away wrath. When everyone around you seems to be in bad spirits, bickering and complaining, take a step back. It's so easy to answer in kind, but instead feel into your heart and answer gently. Let peace radiate from you."

What a beautiful reminder of 'how to be'. Practicing this in times of stress and clock-watching would be so awesome.. and would enable me to have a much nicer, peaceful celebration with my loved ones. After all, this is a season to Rejoice and not a season for anxiety and strife!

In closing, I'd like to share with you this wonderful video about the 3rd week of Advent:


May God bless each and every one of you. It is my prayer that all who read this have a joyous and blessed Christmas season.

Amen

Monday, December 05, 2011

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Today is the feast of St. Nicholas! As a child, my family never celebrated St. Nicholas day. I remember hearing about some of our friends who did, and feeling envious of them. And in childlike wisdom, who wouldn't want to wake up to a stocking full of goodies on the morning? It was like a preview to all the toys and gifts we were going to receive on Christmas morning! I thought that St. Nicholas Day seemed to be a good idea! It would be a way to "tide us over"! Of course, in reflecting on the absence of participation in the Feast of St. Nicholas traditions, it's obvious at how secular my family's celebration has always been! After boldly suggesting that perhaps we should celebrate this, my Mother replied that it was a "Catholic thing", and since we weren't Catholic, then we didn't "do" St. Nicholas day.

So, ok. We weren't Catholic, and in reality I was probably past the age of believing that Santa really came down our chimney. Yet I still embraced the magic of Christmas. Curiously, when I learned that sad truth, my Mother sat me on her lap and explained about "the spirit of Santa

Claus" and how he really did exist, but that Mommy's and Daddy's helped him out. And once Christmas morning came, and there were still presents under the tree, any anxiety I felt evaporated. And while these are warm memories... and this time of my life was filled with joy, love and laughter, I see now that I missed out on so much... missed out on celebrating the birth of the Christ Child- the true reason for celebrating!

I discovered that there are many different customs for St. Nicholas Day. I read on the Fisheater's Website that

"Today is, for many Catholics, the day for gift-giving (some do this on Christmas, some do this on the Feast of the Epiphany in memory of the gifts the 3 Kings gave to Baby Jesus, and some spread the gift-giving out on all these days). In some places, especially in the Eastern Catholic churches, "St. Nicholas," dressed as a Bishop, will show up and hand out presents to the little ones, and children put their shoes in front of the fireplace to be filled with candy and presents by morning. Because coins are one of the many symbols of St. Nicholas, chocolate coins are a perfect thing to put in the childrens' shoes. One can use Christmas stockings instead of shoes, or one can buy adult-sized wooden shoes, paint and decorate them, and bring them out for use just on St. Nicholas's Day.

In any case, an icon -- even a nice Holy Card -- of St. Nicholas should be visible today if at all possible. Surround it with greenery and candles, and tell your children the story of the Saint Nicholas behind the "Santa Claus."

On St. Nicholas's Feast Day, it is customary to serve Speculaas cookies, a spicy Dutch cookie, cut into shapes relevant to the life of St. Nicholas (coins, mitres, ships, balls, money bags), and painted with colorful icing"

I also found an compelling blog, written by Father Steve Grunow which examines the constant struggle between Christians and Secularists. Click here to read: St. Nicholas and the War against Christmas.

And finally, just who was St. Nicholas? Check out this video that tells the true story of Santa Claus:

2nd Week of Advent

Happy 2nd Week of Advent. The Gospel from this week:

Gospel Mk 1:1-8

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
"Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths."
John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel's hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
"One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." Amen

Pope Benedict as asked: “As we prepare for Christmas, it is important that we find time for self-contemplation and carry out an honest assessment of our lives."

I know in my heart of hearts that this is always a good thing to do... it's cleansing, it's uplifting and it's healthy. So with all these wonderful benefits, why does it make me uncomfortable? Just the fact that it does tells me that I need to get busy!


Friday, December 02, 2011

Be Not Afraid - St. Louis Jesuits & Bob Dufford, S.J.

Praying thanks for this Morning, turning my back on the darkness of night towards the light of day, the light of hope, the light of life and love.... All of which are the light of God!

It amuses me at times when I realize what a slow learner I am! I'm not necessarily slow all the time, but it seems that when learning some of life's important lessons, I'm horrifically slow! I've even blogged about this before, so one would think that I'd get it.... that I wouldn't continue to fail. The failure I'm speaking of is not epic... it's merely a result of being human, of being weak.

I recently heard or read (and Lord knows I wish I could remember the exact words) that to worry, is to sin. Those words made me sit up and take notice. Upon closer look however, I wonder... at these times, and I really worrying... or is my conscience speaking to me? My gut tells me the right answer is a combination of the two.

When my conscience is bothering me, I often wake up in the darkest point of night and begin to fret. The darkness of the night seems to nurture the anxiety, and I am soon in the clutches of panic and fear. At these times it's hard for me to remember to as God for help. I do pray... and usually fall into a restless sleep, relieved to hear the alarm and to "get away" from my anxious thoughts. And during these times, when I'm out with the dogs... I find comfort in looking to the eastern skies, where a beautiful pink glow is forming. The sun is rising... and soon the darkness has faded and the light of a new day gives me hope. The symbolism is obvious... the relief and comfort are real.

I recently read: "The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us the need to trust in God in our troubles, to pray humbly, without presumption but with hope, and not to give up when the answer doesn't seem to come."

From "The Catechism of the Catholic Church 2830 "Our bread": The Father who gives us life cannot not but give us the nourishment life requires - all appropriate goods and blessings, both material and spiritual. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus insists on the filial trust that cooperates with our Father's providence. He is not inviting us to idleness, but wants to relieve us from nagging worry and preoccupation. Such is the filial surrender of the children of God: To those who seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, he has promised to give all else besides. Since everything indeed belongs to God, he who possesses God wants for nothing, if he himself is not found wanting before God."

From the New Testament: Matthew 6:25-27 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

Gary Zimak writes in "Does God Want Us To Worry?": "One of the most difficult problems that we must deal with in our earthly life is fear. We are anxious about many things and spend a lot of time worrying, often about events over which we have no control. In his initial speech as Holy Father, Pope John Paul II repeated the phrase “Be Not Afraid” three times. "

Which reminds me of one of my favorite hymns: "Be Not Afraid". Here are the lyrics of "Be Not Afraid" followed by a video:

You shall cross the barren desert,
but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety,
though you do not know the way.

You shall speak your words in foreign lands,
and all will understand,
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid,
I go before you always,
Come follow Me,
and I shall give you rest.

If you pass through raging waters
in the sea, you shall not drown.
If you walk amidst the burning flames,
you shall not be harmed.

If you stand before the pow’r of hell
and death is at your side,
know that I am with you, through it all

Be not afraid,
I go before you always,
Come follow Me,
and I shall give you rest.

Blessed are your poor,
for the Kingdom shall be theirs.
Blest are you that weep and mourn,
for one day you shall laugh.

And if wicked men insult and hate you, all because of Me,
blessed, blessed are you!

Be not afraid,
I go before you always,
Come follow Me,
and I shall give you rest.



Father,

Forgive me for my weaknesses... for my propensity for worry. Please lift me up, make me stronger so that I can be a better child of God...

Amen!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Silent Monks Singing Halleluia

Someone just sent me a link to this video, and it's wonderful. I wanted to share with you on my blog!

Happy First Week of Advent!

Advent has arrived.... along with the long awaited and often dreaded changes to the Roman Missal! I wondered to myself if Advent would get lost in the midst of big change. Our parish prepared us, and my impression, happily, was that the arrival was not lost. We had cards in our pews to help us along with the changes to the Mass. The Advent wreath was set up, and beautifully so on the altar. There was another beautiful outdoor Advent wreath, in front of the church, its first candle lighted! We had set up the giving tree in the front vestibule of the lobby early Saturday morning. So yes, Advent is here. And with it comes the question, what are we to do next?

We are to watch and wait, and prepare for the coming of the Christ Child! I love Advent. Until my faith journey began 5 years or so ago, I never understood the significance of Advent. After learning about Advent, and taking time each day for prayer, and reading of the Scriptures, and for reflection, I have been spiritually ready for Christmas. I have been able to embrace the true spirit of Christmas! Of course, the secular hoopla still exists, and still demands my time. And while I used to embrace that side of Christmas, it pales in comparison to the true reason of the season... the coming of the Christ Child... the coming of our Salvation!

Below are excerpts from an article entitled "History of the Advent Wreath by Fr. William Sanders." (Click here to read the entire article)

"The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.

By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. After all, Christ is “the Light that came into the world” to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (cf. John 3:19-21). By 1600, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.

The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath is made of various evergreens, signifying continuous life. Even these evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted to our faith: The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns, and one English legend tells of how the cross was made of holly. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead."

In closing, I'd like to share with you this prayer I found:

"Advent Wreath Prayer for the First Week of Advent”

Bestir, O Lord, Thy might, we pray thee and come; that, defended by Thee, we may deserve rescue from approaching dangers brought on by our sins, and being set free by Thee, obtain our salvation. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.

Amen.

Have a glorious Advent!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Grace

Freedom from Want by Norman Rockwell

I found this lovely prayer online. I would love to give credit where credit is due, but I can't locate where I found it originally. When I read it to Russell, he agreed that it is, perfect!

Lord, bless this gathering of our family, a circle of strength and love.

We are a close-knit group of fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and more. With every birth and every union, the circle grows. Every joy shared adds more love. Every crisis faced together makes the circle stronger.

Help us realize how much we mean to each other each and every day and guide us so that our bond of love lasts eternally.

Look down on us Lord and surround us all with your divine guidance and love so that we may continue to be blessed by our children. Grant us the wisdom to embrace their innocence and see the world through their eyes with simple wonder so that we might not take for granted one single moment of the miracle that is life.

We thank you for the many blessings and great abundance in our lives. As we gather to celebrate this Thanksgiving, let us remember to share with others and keep the spirit of giving ongoing throughout the year.

We Thank Thee, Heavenly Father, for all things bright and good. Please bless this loving family… our lives, our health, our food. We ask these things in Jesus’ name.

Amen.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's all about the stuffing

One of the hot topics of discussion before and after thanksgiving is stuffing. Newspapers are stuffed with Grocery store ads the week before Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving, newspapers are stuffed with ads for "black Friday". When it comes to the actual Thanksgiving feast there is talk of stuffing the turkey an of being stuffed ourselves. This brings me to my main point.

You would think that the stuffing we use to stuff our turkey would be a fairly basic. However, it seems, that (myself included) are often passionate about what kind of stuffing they prefer. There are all sorts of varieties of stuffing! Many people shudder at the thought of actually stuffing a turkey, and they make it completely separate from their turkey! Others stuff the turkey, and then even make extra.

There are many varieties of stuffing:

Oyster Stuffing
Cornbread Stuffing
Box Stuffing
Box Stuffing doctored so that it is absolutely delicious
Bread Stuffing
Sausage Stuffing


This list expands significantly when you realize that there are dozens of recipes an varieties of each kind listed. People are passionate about their favorite stuffing. Those who are "traditionalists" are often emphatic about "what is the best stuffing". I know I am! After marrying, I rarely have been able to enjoy the stuffing from my childhood... my family's "recipe" has been use for decades.

It's gotten to the point that my Mother, sister and I refer to it with a sort of reverence that can only be compared fans of NASCAR, or Fans of the NFL, NBA or MLB. My sister brings a dish of stuffing to my Mother every year. My Mother is in a nursing home, and when asked if she would like us to bring her a plate, she says... just bring me some stuffing. I totally get that, an always feel a bit petulant when I on't get any!

So this year, I'm gonna stuff a turkey and save it for myself. My husband's family will have their traditional stuffing, which is delicious in it's own right. And I'll have mine.... and maybe I'll share!

What kind of stuffing do you like?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Blessings

After a tumultuous year, filled with a broad spectrum of emotions, blessings and fears... we are incredibly blessed. God is loving and merciful, and in the spirit of true Thanksgiving, I came across this Thanksgiving Prayer (author unknown) online. I feel that it is absolutely perfect:



Lord, bless this gathering of our family, a circle of strength and love.

We are a close-knit group of fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and more. With every birth and every union, the circle grows. Every joy shared adds more love. Every crisis faced together makes the circle stronger.

Help us realize how much we mean to each other each and every day and guide us so that our bond of love lasts eternally.

Look down on us Lord and surround us all with your divine guidance and love so that we may continue to be blessed by our children. Grant us the wisdom to embrace their innocence and see the world through their eyes with simple wonder so that we might not take for granted one single moment of the miracle that is life.

We thank you for the many blessings and great abundance in our lives. As we gather to celebrate this Thanksgiving, let us remember to share with others and keep the spirit of giving ongoing throughout the year.

We Thank Thee, Heavenly Father, for all things bright and good. Please bless this loving family… our lives, our health, our food. We ask these things in Jesus’ name.

Amen

I share this with you, your loved ones and not so loved ones.... in the spirit of true Thanksgiving. Love one another.. no matter what. Cherish each day. Keep the faith.

God Bless each and every one of you....

Annie

Monday, July 11, 2011

Blogging from my iPhone!


Blogging from my iPhone!

Wow technology is amazing... I can't believe it. I got an iPhone a few months ago, for my birthday. Due to a series of events, I've not been blogging lately... and that has made me feel guilty in a way. Russell was diagnosed with colon cancer in mid may, and we've been sucked into a vacuum of activity since then.

He had surgery in June, and will begin chemotherapy in a couple of weeks. Things are looking very positive and we have been blessed by the grace of a loving God, by the prayers and wonderful support from all of our family, friends and co-workers.

We have both felt the love and power of God. During the darkest of times, I have felt Jesus with me. When I thought I would collapse from fear and anxiety, I was lifted up and stood strong. I can only credit this to Jesus. He was and is with both of us. And we are both so very thankful.
to start blogging again.
I have avoided blogging about this. And perhaps finding this feature is a little nudge

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

As Aunt Jo would have said... "Day of Days"....


Aunt Jo, who lived to the ripe old age of 97 used to journal... alot! She would use spiral bound notebooks that you could buy at the corner drug store. She had multitudes of them. And each page began with "I was born on May 6, 1893, and my Father from in his Diary "Day of Days"! We always had a good chuckle about that, bless her heart. Her birthday, clearly was very important to her. And rightly so! My family has always made a big deal about birthdays.... a birthday is a person's unique day where they can celebrate and be celebrated. After moving away from home, we could always count on the phone ringing at midnight. It would be my Mom calling. She wanted to be the first one to say happy birthday.

However this year, the phone was silent. Mother is still able to make calls but she has a broken leg, and has been pretty heavily medicated to keep the pain away. And while I certainly understood why she didn't or couldn't call, it still made me sad. So I went to bed feeling a bit melancholy, and more than a little sorry for myself. Silly I know. I wrote in my journal yesterday:

My birthday... lots of expectations... lots of doubts. Lord, I pray to you for help with this. For some reason, I always have unattainable expectations on this day, and am always disappointed. I know in my heart that this is nobody’s fault but my own. Help me Lord, to appreciate the many blessings I have and to find joy and celebration in them. Amen.

And as it turned out, as I should have known, my prayers were answered. I had a truly wonderful day! Thank you Lord! I truly am very blessed to have good friends, loving family and caring co-workers.

  • Laura, my boss brought in flowers, a lovely cake and sand-tarts... she said that a little birdie, who I knew was my former boss Alan, had told her that they were my favorites.
  • Barbara my cousin took me out to lunch to the Sidebar in the Oregon District and we had an awesome lunch. She gave me a gift of a necklace she made for me and a lovely beaded flower. This was truly unexpected (the gift) and I will cherish them.
  • Russell, knowing that I was out to lunch with Barbara, stopped by and left a pot of violet colored hyacinths on my desk, with a little note that said "Happy Birthday Dork, Love Harley"! That was very unexpected, and of course I cried.
  • Alan, my old boss stopped by with a card, chocolates and tickets to the Dayton Philharmonic Designers Showhouse!
  • Emails, cards and hundreds of messages from friends around the globe filled my mailboxes at home, work and on Facebook. That was an incredible feeling.
  • Dinner last night with Russell, Lilli, Phil and Logan was a blast. Lots of laughter and good times. We ate at EO (Extra Ordinary Burger) at the Greene.
The day was lovely. The fact that I was feeling blue and melancholy just 24 hours before makes me feel very silly. I will take a small birthday cake to Mother's tomorrow night and we'll have our own little celebration. So again, thank you God for helping me to have a wonderful Birthday. It truly was a "Day of Days"!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Last night’s lullaby

Normally, I read all of my meditational readings during the day… one in the morning and the other two sometime in the middle of the afternoon… when I can catch a few peaceful moments. However, as luck would have it, I wasn’t able to find any time yesterday because happenings in the office were so hectic. I caught myself gazing at them from time to time, feeling like I was missing something. I kept reminding myself that I would get to them, even perhaps right before bed! And it wasn’t until bedtime that I was able to get to them. Russell had gone to bed, the dogs were all settled for the night, and the house was quiet. So I turned off the tv, and read quietly form both books, which other than being about Lent, are in no way connected.

I picked up the first book, titled “The Little Black Book – Six-minute meditations on the Sunday Gospels of Lent (Cycle A)” which is based on the writings of Bishop Ken Untener and published by The Diocese of Saginaw. There website is http://littlbooks.org . The date of yesterday’s reading was March 22, 2011 and is based on “And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. (Mt. 17:3)” Bishop Untener wrote:

“On that mountain, the disciples got a glimpse of how human beings look with God’s spirit running through them.

That’s what Peter, James and John saw: A human being when seen with the eyes that see the whole person.

The astounding thing is that if people could see me with the same eyes, they could see a similar sight.

I am a daughter, a son of God. I have the Holy Spirit running through me. I am the beloved of God. I was immersed (figuratively, at least) in the waters of baptism which symbolize being immersed in God. I received confirmation, with holy oil soaking into me as a sign of the Spirit running, coursing through my whole being.

I am shaped by the Word of God, which Jesus calls the “Bread of Life” and which forms me, nurtures me.

When I receive Holy Communion, the Lord Jesus and with him the whole Trinity enter within me.

Lent is a time when my fasting, prayers and good works help me to sink deep within the Spirit so that I can see myself, others, and God as they truly are.

What an awesome sight.”

At this point, readers are asked to spend some quiet time with the Lord.

As I sat there, thinking about this moving passage, I was consumed with the feeling of great peace. I’ve always known I was loved… but at this moment, the power of these words… that I was a BELOVED DAUGHTER OF GOD filled my consciousness! What a glorious feeling. What a wonderful lullaby to fill my heart as I climbed in to bed and fell into a restful sleep.

And with that in mind, I am reminded of the Bedtime prayer I said every night, many years ago:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
if I shall die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take
if I shall live another day
I pray the Lord to guide my way.

Amen

And of course, I am reminded of Brahms Lullaby, which my my Mother would sing and hum as she put us to bed:

Lullaby, and good night, with pink roses bedight,
With lilies o'er spread, is my baby's sweet head.
Lay thee down now, and rest, may thy slumber be blessed!
Lay thee down now, and rest, may thy slumber be blessed!

Lullaby, and good night, your mother's delight,
Shining angels beside my darling abide.
Soft and warm is your bed, close your eyes and rest your head.
Soft and warm is your bed, close your eyes and rest your head.

Sleepyhead, close your eyes. mother's right here beside you.
I'll protect you from harm, you will wake in my arms.
Guardian angels are near, so sleep on, with no fear.
Guardian angels are near, so sleep on, with no fear.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Stations of the Cross

Just prior to Ash Wednesday, I contemplated on Lent and what my own intentions were for Lent. This is what I came up with:

My intentions for this Lent are:

To be more prayerful-
*by saying the Rosary at least once, preferably twice
*to say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at least once
*to attend Mass and/or Eucharistic Adoration as much as possible
*to attend the Stations of the Cross every Friday


To be lest wasteful
*to eat at home more often
*to not take snoozes in the morning.. to not waste time

To be a better friend
*by writing a letter or email every day to one person who has made a difference in my life

To give up candy during Lent, and Meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays.

I am keeping a journal this Lenten, and writing about each day, and things that happen during prayer and throughout the day. To date, this experience has been very powerful. I am so motivated and inspired, that it surprised me when today at lunch I was feeling lethargic and blah. I explained to a friend that I had planned on going to go to the Chapel for the Stations of the Cross at 3, but that I was not sure I have the energy to do so.

How quickly we can be tempted away from our good intentions! I never saw it coming!

Truth be told, my lethargy is nothing more than laziness. My conscience spoke to me, loud and clear. This is a commitment you made to yourself and to God. And of course, my conscience was right. So I flew out of the office shortly before 3 and rushed to the Chapel. Breathless, I opened the door and there was Fr. Jerry and one other person, who was not staying. So, it was just the two of us… and we prayed the Stations of the Cross. Talk about a one on one audience with God. I’m so thankful that I went. It was awesome.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Stations of the Cross, Wikipedia defines the Stations of the cross as:

Stations of the Cross (or Way of the Cross; in Latin, Via Crucis; also called the Via Dolorosa or Way of Sorrows, or simply, The Way) refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. The tradition as chapel devotion began with St. Francis of Assisi and extended throughout the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval period.
The object of the Stations is to help the faithful to make a spiritual pilgrimage of prayer, through meditating upon the chief scenes of Christ's sufferings and death. It has become one of the most popular devotions for Roman Catholics.

The traditional form of The Stations themselves are usually a series of 14 pictures or sculptures depicting the following scenes:

1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus is given his cross
3. Jesus falls the first time
4. Jesus meets His Mother
5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7. Jesus falls the second time
8. Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of His garments
11. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus' body is removed from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense.

I find participating in the Stations of the Cross to be a very moving reminder of how Christ suffered for all of our sins.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My 6th Grade Graduation....

Earlier this week, I found some old pictures, and decided to scan them and post them on Facebook, in order to share with friends and family. This picture was taken at my 6th Grade Graduation from Harman Avenue Elementary School, in June of 1970. After posting the picture and tagging a few people, a flurry of nostalgic conversation ensued. Several of my classmates began talking about that day, our dress, our hair styles, and what we recited and sang during the ceremony.

Normally, I have a great memory, but I remember little about the actual ceremony. So I am intrigued.. and really rather stunned to have been reminded that we recited "THE CREATION" by: James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) from The Book of American Negro Poetry. Here is the poem:

THE CREATION

by: James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)

ND God stepped out on space,
And He looked around and said,
"I'm lonely --
I'll make me a world."

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said, "That's good!"

Then God reached out and took the light in His hands,
And God rolled the light around in His hands
Until He made the sun;
And He set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said, "That's good!"

Then God himself stepped down --
And the sun was on His right hand,
And the moon was on His left;
The stars were clustered about His head,
And the earth was under His feet.
And God walked, and where He trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.

Then He stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And He spat out the seven seas;
He batted His eyes, and the lightnings flashed;
He clapped His hands, and the thunders rolled;
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.

Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around His shoulder.

Then God raised His arm and He waved His hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And He said, "Bring forth! Bring forth!"
And quicker than God could drop His hand.
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said, "That's good!"

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that He had made.
He looked at His sun,
And He looked at His moon,
And He looked at His little stars;
He looked on His world
With all its living things,
And God said, "I'm lonely still."

Then God sat down
On the side of a hill where He could think;
By a deep, wide river He sat down;
With His head in His hands,
God thought and thought,
Till He thought, "I'll make me a man!"

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled Him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of His hand;
This Great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till He shaped it in His own image;

Then into it He blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
Amen. Amen.

What an wonderful and beautiful poem! It amazes me because Harman Avenue School is a public school! Can you imagine this same poem being recited in a public school today! Yet we were allowed to talk about God and the Creation in PUBLIC!!!! How awesome was that?!?!?! Sadly, however, this is serves as a reminder on how secularism is running rampant... and so much wonderful poetry and literature is now frowned upon and/or forbidden. I highly doubt, that Harman Avenue Elementary School would be able to allow their students to recite this poem at their 6th Grade Graduation this June.

Another classmate reminded us that during our graduation we also sang "Get Together" by the Youngbloods:

"Get Together" By the Youngbloods

Love is but the song we sing,
And fear's the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Know the dove is on the wing
And you need not know why
C'mon people now,
Smile on your brother
Ev'rybody get together
Try and love one another right now
Some will come and some will go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moments sunlight
Fading in the grass
C'mon people now,
Smile on your brother
Ev'rybody get together
Try and love one another right now
If you hear the song I sing,
You must understand
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It's there at your command
C'mon people now,
Smile on your brother
Ev'rybody get together
Try and love one another right now
Right now
Right now!


And as she said, "This was 1970, so it was right after "the summer of love!" And I suppose it was! People preach for tolerance... but doesn't secularism promote intolerance?

Monday, March 07, 2011

Lent

Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday, aka Mardi Gras. Traditionally it is a day of gluttony and celebration.... a sort of "last hurrah" before Ash Wednesday... when Lent begins. While some people will be "whooping it up tomorrow" we will most likely be delivering food to the hungry as we do every Tuesday. Mardi Gras is merely a reminder that it's time for Lent. I've been soul searching about this Lent... what I am going to give up... and how I can make this Lent meaningful.

Giving up Chocolate and/or sweets has been my standard sacrifice.. but this year that strikes me as, well, a cop out. Lent is also a time to become more prayerful, and that is my desire. To spend more time with God, with Jesus, and to connect in a meaningful way. So it is my intention to say the Rosary and the chaplet of Divine Mercy at least once a day. In addition, I will attend Eucharistic Adoration on campus as much as possible. There will be the opportunity to attend a couple of retreats as well as one or two Missions.

As far as Sacrifice goes, in addition to fasting on Ash Wednesday, every Friday as well as Good Friday, I hope to eat more at home... meals that are simple... and use the money that we'd normally spending for alms-giving. And of course, there is penance as well.

I wish everyone a peaceful and joyous Lent. God Bless all of you...

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A prayer for Lent:

Loving Lord!

Thank You for bringing me into these days of introspection. I take this time to analyse my ways and meditate upon the ultimate sacrifices You have made for me, a grant sinner.

Lord! There were times when I had been so mean to others and when I had lost my patience and integrity. There were times when I had lost faith in You when I had been unfaithful to You without even acknowledging Your sacrificial love for me. Please forgive me for all the sins I have committed against You as well as my fellow-men.

Let me regain the spiritual values I have lost and restore in me the original first love for You. I rededicate myself at Your feet Lord! Search me and fill me with Your divine presence so that my life can reflect the Gospel. Let this Lenten season be a time of restoration and the means for renewed direction and perspective. Please guide me and make me a channel of blessing to others. Thank You for helping me to reflect Your love and sacrifice. In Jesus' name, I pray.

Amen.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Quote of the day....

Later today, I will be meeting with a woman's faith group here at work. We're going to be discussing books today and are supposed to bring a copy of our most favorite book. My favorite book is "The Shack" by Wm. Paul Young. Of course, I left my copy at home. It's a Monday, and I forgot! LOL! So I was online looking at quotes from the book, so that I could at least have something to participate with. That's when I found this quote:
"Oh child," spoke Papa tenderly. "Don't ever discount the wonder of your tears. They can be healing waters and a stream of joy. Sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak."
Reading this gave me a big jolt. On Sunday, during mass, I listened to the readings and to the Gospel... and the Homily. I didn't zone out, I was fully engaged.... and as I heard the words, they went directly to my heart, and I knew that they were what I needed to hear at that very moment. Because I was upset and angry... with some loved ones who I was judging... not my job, I know. I had been so angry... I knew I was wrong to be so... and then, as I heard the Gospel, and the Homily... my tears began to fall. I couldn't seem to stop them, and I didn't really want to. I prayed silently that I was so so sorry.. my heart was filled with sorrow and remorse. And as I heard the words, about the power of forgiveness... my strong sense of guilt and remorse seemed to fade. It was a moment of true Grace. I was sorry, and God knew that I was sorry. And so I well understand and believe these words:
"Oh child," spoke Papa tenderly. "Don't ever discount the wonder of your tears. They can be healing waters and a stream of joy. Sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak."

Peace replaced my sorrow. And I felt a sense of joy... because my heart had spoken, and God heard me.... and connecting like that is so incredible and amazing.

The Shack is an incredible book. I can't believe that I have never blogged about it before. Of all the books I've read in my entire life time, this book has affected me in the most profound way. Initially I was reluctant to read it. It took me way outside the box.... and I just thought it sounded too weird. So I put it back on the shelf. Somehow, I kept being drawn to it. I didn't want to read it... I didn't want to read of the heart breaking tragedy.... because remember, I "don't do sad".



One day I was in the bookstore, and was compelled to pick it up. And I looked at it for several days, before I finally started to read it. And I would never be the same again. The story has profound beauty, and and is the story of the blessed trinity.. of the good news... and of hope. It taught my heart about the Blessed Trinity. It made me "get it" and understand how very much God loves all His children. It's the ultimate love story!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I'm in the mood to prattle....

The day dawned, and it is good to be alive. I was snuggled warmly under my mound of blankets when the 2nd snooze rang... it was time.. time to get up and get going. I knew it would be cold... we were supposed to get down to Zero over night. The weatherman confirmed that it was "indeed" cold... -2 to be exact. And if you pay attention to windchill factors, it was somewhere between -10 and -14 depending on the wind. I have no clue what the windchill was at our house.. all I do know is that it was cold- cold Cold COLD! It is a comfort to know that in just a few days, our temperatures will rise into the 40's! A heatwave, to be sure!

Russell and I had planned to drive separately, because I have a concert to go to tonight, and I need to leave work early. He left first, to go to an early appointment. Of course, this was after cleaning off my frozen car, which has been parked since before the great ice storm of 2011. He is such a good guy... he is a blessing. The sun was shining... another blessing, most definitely! After getting the dogs settled, myself ready, out into the frigid world I marched.

And, of course, I noticed some things.

First, our bird feeders are experienced a great deal of activity, which gives me great joy to watch. Our feeders have been visited by White Breasted Nuthatches, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Cardinals, House Finches, House sparrows, a myriad of woodpeckers and Carolina wrens. All of this reminds me that I need to start my bird list for 2011.

Second, as I was driving through the "new neighborhood" I saw several deer on top of a hill. It looked as though they were sunbathing, and perhaps they were. It was such an awesome sight to behold, and I frantically fished my camera from my purse to capture it. I pushed the button to put down the window, but nothing happened. It was frozen, so my plans were foiled. I was running late, and in all honesty, it was simply too cold to stop and get out of the car. Of course, as I look back, I'm kicking myself.

The third thing I noticed as I drove in was that my car was surrounded by swirling snow. What a sight that must have been. All the snow that has been sitting on my "parked car" for the past couple of weeks took flight and I was in cased in my own personal squall. LOL It tickled me... I felt like Pigpen from "Charlie Brown"!

I got to work, went the long way, for some unknown reason.. wasn't really paying attention, which I probably shouldn't admit! My driving was not impaired, but I was just used to going one way, and ended up having to backtrack. And as it turns out, I'm not the only daffy Milliron today. As I walked from the B lot, I saw Russell's truck pull in. It turns out that his appointment is next week.. and not this week!

So I hurried on to my warm office. I logged in, read my email, and checked Facebook. In my email, I came across this awesome quote:

"God is not disgusted by your uncleanliness. You are the one who is so ashamed of your dirt, and you are the one whom He embraces with His love saying, 'Do not worry, I love you just as you are and I will purify you with great tenderness.'" -S.C. Biela “Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock” pg 16

I felt incredibly uplifted by this. It's so easy to get caught up in feelings of guilt and sorry. It's so easy to beat ourselves up over things and to fill unworthy... forgetting of course that we are Children of God... Children who are loved and adored.... and this quote.... well it's breathtaking.

While on Facebook, quite by accident, I stumbled across a post from a high school friend. I learned the very sad news that another of our high school friends lost his son several days ago. and this was also breathtaking... but breath-taking in the saddest of ways. My heart filled with sorrow for my friend and his loved ones. Details are sketchy but they don't really matter. A young life is over... and from all I could see, he was loved and adored by friends and family alike... people who are all struggling in their sorrow to comprehend what has happened.

After reading my friends page for a while, I went back to mine... only to find a post from a relative that they have a new great-grand child. Death followed by new life. I was struck by how the cycle continues... and I thank God, that I am a child of God... because on days like this, when there is so much to ponder, to consider... so much to mourn for, so much to be joyful for.... none of it is possible without Him...

Friday, February 04, 2011

I will never hear the end of this one....


This is This is a tale of my lost cell phone, a Good Samaritan and my husband, who once again, came to my rescue! I posted this on Facebook yesterday:
Russell just called.... from Marycrest... wanted to know if I could see him from my window. I asked what he was doing up there. I came to get your cell phone... someone called me from it saying that they had found it. Ugh. So THANK YOU, to the nice student who took the time to figure out who it belongs to.
And so it goes. I knew that I had my cell with me yesterday on the way to work, because I had left it in the truck. I checked it to see if it even had any power left and was surprised that it did.... even though it was down to one bar... hanging on by a thread. As I was climbing out of the truck, I glanced around, wondering where I had put it.

This happens all the time, I'm never consistent where I put it. I have a pocket in my purse, designated for the phone. And it's there 75% of the time. But when I start carrying it around in a pocket I always absentmindedly put it down somewhere, and then have problems finding it later.

Enter the Good Samaritan: this time, a student here at UD. He found my phone, picked it up and kept it safe, until he could find who it belonged to. He tracked it down by calling Russell on my phone... and that is when Russell trekked up to Marycrest to retrieve it. Russell offered the young man a reward, but the young man refused to accept it. A good soul to be sure. And this is the true spirit of UD.... a true community of very nice people.
I don't really mind that I will have to endure the teasing from Russell. I have no ground to stand on, and I do, need to pay more attention to where I put that blasted phone! LOL!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Weathering the storm...

It started on Sunday... the reports of impending doom... of the wrath of old man winter. We were going to get nailed. Ice this time, not snow. Ice scares me to death. I don't want 2 feet of snow, but if I could choose, I might be tempted to pick that much snow over ice. Initial reports were that we were going to get hit with the "first wave" late Monday evening.... Freezing rain and ice they said... but then it would be followed with the "second wave" which reports foretold of high Winds, more ice, and snow.

Please please please..... say it ain't so! I spent quite a bit of time, channel hopping from one newscast to another, and surfing around the internet's variety of weather sites. They were all comparable. Ugh. Adjectives like Catastrophic, Epic, Horrific were used. And the more I watched, the more anxious I was. And unfortunately, they were right on. I felt angry and frustrated... but it's not their fault. After all, it's their job to report the news, to inform.. so that we can prepare for the worst. And unlike a freak storm or a tornado, we did have time to prepare. Stores were jam packed all weekend and into Monday night.

And then it began.

Tuesday dawned and you could see that everything was frozen. The yard was glazed over, reminiscent of an ice rink rather than a yard. Trees were encased in ice. Russell had learned on Monday that he was officially considered "essential personnel" which means that he had to go in no matter what. We debated on what I would do. I did not want to stay home.... with the potential of losing power and being stranded. I was happy to see that the university was going to open at noon, so I suggested that I just ride in with him, and hang out. And that's what I did.

The drive in, was thankfully uneventful. Russell's truck handled the ice with ease. I conveniently left my office keys at home, and when Russell dropped me off, I was relieved that the cleaning crew was there to let me in. My boss called my cell phone, thinking I was still at home, and suggested that I just stay home. Laughingly, I told her I was already at work. It was not too much longer that the word came down that the University was now closed! Oh well... the day was quiet. There were a handful of people on my floor. Most of the afternoon was relatively quiet weather wise. I compared it to what it must be like to be in a hurricane. We were in the eye of the storm, with the back end headed our way. And as with hurricanes, the back end is the part that packs a wallop.

Since it was Tuesday, we were scheduled to make food pantry deliveries. We got that done, and hurried home. As we gingerly walked the truck to the house, I was un-nerved by the sound of the frozen trees crackling in the wind. And to think that the wind really hadn't ramped up yet made us very uneasy. Russell got the dogs in and out, and once fed we settled in. I had candles and flashlights ready to go. We had the news on.... watching ongoing coverage of the storm of the century. I read my friends posts on Facebook... Indianapolis and Chicago were getting hit really hard.... Ice in Indy and snow in Chicago and surrounding states.

It wasn't too much longer when our phone rang... my Mother in law reporting that she had lost power. This is problematic because she needs electricity for her oxygen. There were a few calls and frantic conversations about "what to do". I found a motel nearby that still had power, and Russell offered to take her there. She was reluctant to leave home, which I can understand. Thankfully a cousin brought over a generator, and hooked her up. She was good to go. In the meantime, I managed to report her outage to DP&L. And as an afterthought, I entered that number into my cell phone- just in case. Our lights flickered once or twice, making very very edgy.

It was almost a relief to go to bed. We still had power, and I tucked in and figured that sleep would be a welcome escape from the winds, that were now howling outside our window. Neither of us slept well that night. Russell was up and down, looking out windows to see if any of the falling ice or tree limbs had hit our house or cars.

As Wednesday dawned, we could see that thankfully, we lost only a couple of branches, and they didn't hit anything. The rain had stopped yet the wind was still ferocious. Things didn't seem as bad. Daylight made things seem less scary. And we still had power, thank God. The University had closed again, so Russell headed off to work with out me. I wasn't thrilled about this, but if we did lose power, I needed to be there to take care of things. What or how I have no clue... but I'm sure we would have figured that out. I fed the dogs and got settled in the den, watching all the news reports about damages and forecasts. I called my mother in law and was happy to learn she had power... it had come back on around 3AM. I called and checked on my sister and Mother... and then when I didn't hear from Russell, I called to check to see if he had made it OK. He had. It was now snowing... I didn't much care about that. We were only supposed to get an inch or so, and after everything else, that didn't seem so bad.

As the day progressed, the howling wind seemed to subside. By nightfall, we were only getting some flurries. The winds had calmed. It was time to begin digging out.

This morning, we woke to the sun. It's bitterly cold out, but the sun makes everything seem so much better. The University was open, and the day has been spent chatting and catching up... comparing notes, and just being relieved. There are many still without power. Neighborhood shelters are available to those in need. They are calling them "warming shelters". There's something about that term that has a sweetness about it.

This storm will be one that we all remember. Over 2500 miles of the United States were affected in one way or another. There are pictures online that are mind boggling. Some people experienced true horror, being stranded on highways that suddenly were shut down because the snow was too deep and fierce to drive in. Downtown Chicago was paralyzed, and people were trapped in their cars and on buses. That I can't even begin to imagine.

Here are some pictures I took around campus on Tuesday, during the lull, when I could still get out and about:




I'm counting my blessings.... in retrospect, now that it's passed, I realize how truly blessed we were.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Rosary VS. My Panic Attack: Rosary 1 - Panic Attack 0!!!






Panic!

I got a call I had been dreading!


I panicked!


I got all hot and bothered.


I got jittery and weepy.


I flew to the car… I must have looked like a mad woman.


I tried to breathe, I tried to calm myself.


Vague, rational thoughts struggled to take control.


Panic is so strong... adrenaline drives it.


Yet the rational, calming thoughts struggled against it.


I tried to concentrate on my driving…


My fingers flying on the radio dial.


Searching for distraction, anything would do.


Nothing worked.


Panic… I allowed myself to be its prisoner.

I was so weak… so human.


In desperation, I prayed


Dear God, I prayed… please help me.


I stopped at a light… frustrated, needing to get home.


I glanced out my window at the car next to me.


And as my eyes focused on the rosary hanging from the rearview mirror,


It stopped.


The panic weakened.


I remembered my faith.


I remembered to turn to Jesus, and lay my worries at His cross.


I breathed.


Calm replaced panic…


God was with me.


It was going to be alright.


It was alright!


Of course it was!


Thank you God, for your loving grace and for your loving mercy.


Amen.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

On my Bookshelf

Or rather, on my Kindle! LOL I've been reading, and mind you, it's not just my usual "dime store fluff"! And as you know, and as I've blogged before, I like fluff. I like reading to escape... to be entertained, to be charmed. I've long admired my friends for their reading lists. Major Titles, educational, historical, significant. I once asked my cousin Virginia "what are you reading" Her reply knocked my socks off. She was in the process of reading "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", by William L. Shirer. "Why?" I asked. "Just cause" she said. She asked me what I was reading and somewhat embarassed, I told her the name of some romantic fluff filled pocket novel that I was reading at the time! We had a good laugh. This past Christmas, when she was home, she shared that she had just completed a book about Pope John Paul II. I'm not sure why she shared this... perhaps she shared because she knew I was Catholic, and she thought I would be interested. Or, maybe she was "just saying"!

Happily, I told her about reading "Secular Sabotage in America" by Bill Donahue along with some other things I had on my Kindle. She had just gotten her Kindle, and we were gleefully discussing how awesome they are. And yes, my reading tastes have broadened quite a bit! Which brings me to the reason for this blog. Since the beginning of the New Year, I have completed two books, neither of which could be considered as romantic fluff. I am going to share my thoughts about both of these books in this blog.

The first of these two is the book titled "Unplanned" by Abby Johnson and Cindy Lambert. This book is non fiction and tells the tale of Abby Johnson's career with Planned Parenthood and subsequent conversion from being pro-choice to pro-life.

I heard about this book an a variety of blogs and from several "tweets" on Twitter. I felt called to read it. So within minutes, it was downloaded onto my Kindle. I say that I was 'called' to ready this book, and I believe that to be true... because of my faith journey, my passionate belief that Abortion is murder, I had to read this book. It was awesome. Normally, I don't just jump into a book, but I did with this one. And it grabbed hold of me and didn't let go. It didn't take more than a sentence until I was fully engaged in the book... it's so well written, that it draws you in. This book gripped my heart, and I'm sure will grip the hearts of all who read it. Abby's story is compelling and one of immense love and bravery. This book clearly shows that Abby's path was one that God set before her. It demonstrates the power of prayer and faithi. It's an awesome read, and I highly recommend it! I pray that people on "both sides of the fence" will read this book, particularly those who still believe in Choice... and in reading this book, that their hearts lead them to crossing over to the Life side of the fence.

After reading an exceptionally good book, I always seem to mourn... and am eager to find another book to read. And so I jumped in to the next book, which from all revies, seemed to be right up my alley! A book about Dogs, and Racing... who could ask for anything more? Perhaps romance? Well there is romance in this book as well. And so I dove in to "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein.

Technically, this is an awesome book. It's so well written that there's no sense of "getting to know you" or "slugging your way through the first few chapters to get attached." It got me right way. The book, about a man and his dog, is told from the Dog's perspective. And what a Dog Enzo is. And despite the fact that the book hooks you from the very first sentence, I had to force my self to hang in there, to continue on... hoping and praying for redemption and a happy ending. I once attempted to read "The Guardian" by Nicholas Sparks.... my sister swore to me that I would love it. And I did, until I figured out that the dog would die, and my heart would be crushed. I never even attemped to read "Marley and Me" by John Grogan for the obvious reason: I don't do SAD! And yes, I realize that's silly and childish, but I read to escape the daily grind. I read to relax, and to enjoy. I love happy endings and books that leave me feeling warm and fuzzy.

This book jerked my heart out, stomped on it a gazillion times, and then slammed it back each time leaving me hurting and bruised. I cried more when reading this book than I have any other book since I read "The Shack" but those tears were happy tears. Did I like it? I have no clue. I laughed as well, quite alot, actually. I loved the characters in this book, specially Denny and Enzo, the Man and his dog. But dammit, I didn't like the gut wrenching emotions it made me feel. Maybe it's because I have 3 dogs who are old. And that is the best thing about this book. Whether I like it or not, my dogs are going to die, sooner than later. And the book gifted me with that knowledge... as painful as it is. It has reminded me, that each day counts, and that I need to slow down and take the time, to just BE WITH THEM, one on one.. to honor them, and to love them... to cherish them and to be as devoted to them, as they have always, unfailingly, been to me. So if you love dogs, and/or racing, perhaps it's worth your time. Just have at least one box of Kleenex handy.

I'd love to hear other's thoughts on either of these books.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sour Grapes

Oh my goodness, it seems as though the world is filled with nothing but sour grapes! Everywhere I turn on the internet; it seems that there is so much anger, rage, resentment, and just plain whining. Most of this is about politics and/or religion. Yet there is a cynicism about most everything else. The left is attacking the right, the right is attacking back. The middle is erupting in between. People are writing and speaking things that used to be unspeakable. Manners and human decency seem to have gone by the wayside. Vulgarity and profanity seems to be the flavor of the day. I’m not even going to begin to try and figure out why. I have my thoughts about that, but that’s not what I want to write about.

What I want to write about is what I believe. Rather than ramping up the ever popular blame game, I believe that it would have been better had everyone blogging, tweeting, facebook-ing, texting and instant-messaging had taken a deep breath and simply stopped to pray for all effected by the shootings in Arizona last Saturday.

Society is so quick to hate… to hate one another and in turn hate ourselves. Diversity is such a big word these days… yet to me, if someone is different, if someone thinks different, believes different, it’s easier to hate them. Even the people promoting diversity are guilty of this. The just don’t see it. This raging anger that seems to be exploding everywhere is frightening. People seem to love to hate… to find it thrilling. How can that be? Don’t they get that it’s toxic, and that in reveling in it, they are merely destroying themselves?

Jesus called on us to love one another, not to hate! We’re supposed to lift each other up, not tear each other down.



  • John 13:34
    I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.

  • 1John 2:9
    He who says he is in the light and hates his brother, is in the darkness even until now.

  • Matthew 5:43-48
    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate
    your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

  • Luke 6:27
    “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you"

  • Leviticus 19:18
    You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

  • Romans 12:20-21
    To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good

  • Luke 6:35
    But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

  • Matthew 5:44
    But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

Of course, I’m not a total Pollyanna, and I can get just as snarky as the next guy. But if we could all just stop the venom; if we could just look at each other with some empathy and compassion, if we could love one another like Jesus taught, and if we could just stop the blame game, the world would be a bit more decent. Don’t you think?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

So if you're feeling angry and resentful, perhaps this prayer will help. I found it online at this site:

Lord Jesus, there is anger in my heart and I cannot root it out.I know that I should calm down and offer the hurt and disappointment to Youbut my emotion is running away with me. Help me to overcome this weakness and give me peace of heart as well as mind.Let me learn from this experience and grow into a better human being. Amen

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Faces In Our Midst

Like snowflakes, faces are individual and unique... but we don't always "get that". I remember as a young child, riding home at night in the backseat of the family station wagon. We had been at friends for dinner, or my Grandmothers' or out to eat. I would look at cars as they passed or as we passed them, and wonder about the people inside? People who's faces were shadowed in the evening darkness, vaguely illuminated by the lights from their car's dashboard. Who were they? What were they talking about? Were they happy? I never really bothered to delve further into my imagination because soon they were gone from my sight... out of sight, out of mind... their faces fading from memory so quickly. And there was usually another car following in their wake.... and of course, the same questions about the new faces in the current car crossed my mind.

Growing up, and exploring new horizons, I met all sorts of people... people from all over the world, from various backgrounds, ethnicities, faith beliefs and philosophies- people with different faces. And yet despite our differences, the thing that strikes me when we came right down to it, there were more similarities than I had originally realized, and these are the faces that once so very different to me were faces that I grew to cherish.

As I continued to grow and become an adult, I became vaguely aware of the faces that much of society doesn't notice or want to notice. And like society, I didn't really want to see them either- because it was unpleasant and not pretty. Over time, I've come to realize that these faces, are people just like me, and just like the people I comfortably know. One particular face haunts me to this day.

Earlier this summer, I was riding in my sisters car, and we had gone to look at a used car that my nephew was interested in buying. We were in a part of town that we normally would have avoided. And we were comfortable, and eager to get back to our regular stomping ground. My sister was accelerating up the on-ramp onto the interstage, and I was looking out the window. And suddenly, I saw a man, sitting on the ground in some brush.... and we made eye contact and his face is one that I will never forget. The day was blistering hot. He was clearly hungry and thirsty. I wanted to help, but we couldn't stop... and even if we could have, would we have? Because, after all, we were uncomfortable.

In sharing this with some friends, I shared my remorse and my sadness. I shared that my heart ached for him... that somehow I wanted to help him. And I shared my guilt that I had felt fear and unease, and the shame that had we been able to stop, would we. My friends understood... they said they would have wondered the same thing. Not a proud moment. And I said, you know... that could have been Jesus sitting there. And they agreed. We then talked about, what we could have done. Someone shared that they carried water bottles and apples, and that when they encountered someone in need, they gave them one of each. Someone else carries gift cards to fast food restaurants, and gives them out when she comes across someone in need. And we agreed that we could and would always pray for homeless and/or hungry people that we encountered. All good ideas, all things to do. It just takes time, and thought. And in caring for these vague, lost and needy faces.... we could be caring for Jesus.

Today, I encountered a new face in my midst. I was visiting my Mother, and an aide came in to see my Mom. There are many aides working at the nursing home where Mother lives. Many faces, yet I only know a few of their first names. We chit chat about this and that and I know that they take great care of . But we only know that they work there. We know nothing about who they are, what their joys and sorrows are, what their dreams are. Yet it's all vague... their faces blend all together

The aide handed my Mom a booklet, and said "See, I remembered! I promised to bring you one as soon as I had it!" My Mom smiled... and was very pleased. My sister and I had no clue what this was all about, and the aide explained that she writes poetry, and that she had "self published" a book of her poems. I was surprised and impressed. My Mom looked through it, and set it aside so that she could visit with us. My sister glanced through it, and put it down in order to get something for my Mom. I picked it up and thumbed through it, vaguely interested to see what it was about.

As I read, my vague interest evaporated and I was quite taken with the words I was reading. They had depth and heart... amazing emotion and insight. The vague face of the aide came into focus... this face was individual and unique, and in my opinion, quite talented. I'm not a good judge of poetry, but when someone's written words can have such an incredible impact on another "face", this time my own, it loses any anonymity it may have had.

So I have to wonder, about all the other faces that are in our midst. Hundreds and thousands... many I'll never really see, many that I will never know. Yet they are not to be written off. And in not really seeing each of these faces for who they really are, I have to wonder what each of us is missing.