Worth Revisiting: Lessons Learned From My Mom

This morning as I awoke, I thought of both my heavenly and earthly mothers. With eyes closed, my lips whispered to Mary, “Thank you for your yes- to being the mother of Christ but also for remaining with me when my earthly mother could no longer do so. Please continue to guide me and all those I encounter till my own journey is done. ” Then, with a heart smiling full and complete, enveloped in love and gratitude, today I said Happy Mother’s Day to them mutually.

My mom, the second oldest of four and a high school teacher, met and fell in love with my dad within the span of two weeks. A whirlwind romance, fed by non-substantiating infatuation, they had met, married and divorced in a span of less than two years. Recognizing too late my father’s habits of drinking, and violent mood swings, there was cause for serious concern as she had discovered she was also pregnant with me. She had made the decision to raise me alone.

Mom's1st pic:
Her 1st picture as a new mom!

Though this was not what she had pictured, and despite several close friends advocating an abortion, her faith could not allow for her to make that choice. She felt that the life within her, me, was a gift from God and while unsure of what laid ahead she knew she needed to trust. That summer, as I came into the world my mom said goodbye to my father, never to be heard from again. Nonetheless, a part of my mom always hoped that he would find recovery and reconcile with me one day.

So the lessons I promised? Well, they are many but here are just a few…Mom and I:

1. Trust- not in what the world tells you are the choices before you, but in a bigger plan that only God is aware of. Though you do not have the strength to do it on your own, and when you wonder how you’ll carry on- lean on Him.

“I raise my eyes toward the mountains. From whence shall come my help?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
or your guardian to sleep.” (Psalm 121)

2. Love- the gifts given, delight in the surprises around you, seek God and you will most certainly find Him.

“See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)

As a single parent, on a meager teacher’s salary we did not indulge in big trips, but would go out exploring the world around us. Sometimes we would trip upon a free museum, pack a picnic lunch, go fishing, or drive out to the Mississippi river just to sit with our toes in the bank.

3. Share- what you have with others that are in need, both physically and spiritually. Growing up, I noticed that others certainly had more than me and yet there were so many that had less. One day, when I was about 8, my mom was approached by a young mom with several toddlers in tow asking for help. Without hesitating, she had invited the family to stop by our home for dinner. The little faces that had been downturned and suspicious in the beginning all at once beamed at all the food that lay before them. Before they left, she packed up a few containers for them to take home with the offer to come back again. Upon noticing that there were a number of items missing with their departure, my mom was neither upset nor saddened. “They are more in need of it than us Elizabeth”. To which I learned what it was to give without expectation of return.

4. Encourage- the gifts in others, even those that they fail to see in themselves. My mom was my biggest cheerleader, and my most vocal critic. Sound contradictory? No not at all. You see, she knew that life could be difficult and how easy it is to settle or give in to an easy choice. She pushed me further than I thought I could go, and always pointed to the “more” in the world that God was calling me to do. As a teacher, she inspired her students who came from very difficult and impoverished backgrounds to continue with their education and challenged them to see their gifts. I cannot count the times, over the course of her life that former students would call her or run up with a hug to tell her the difference she had made in their lives. This is the teacher that I strive to be, thank you Mom for teaching me.

 Peace, 

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Worth Revisiting: A Daughter’s Love

There is obviously one thing wrong with this picture.The text is incomplete. It fails to convey the full truth that not merely do I Like Mary but I “LOVE her!”  However, it wasn’t always this way, as for so many years I did not really know my heavenly mother. For loss of better words, I was an estranged daughter.  I more or less assumed who Mary was and dare I say..had taken her for granted.What was it then that led me to rediscover my mother’s love? First there was my conversion to the Catholic faith. Like a newborn baby I needed to grow in understanding who I was in light of a mother’s love.

Still, I grappled a bit with the new found love I felt for my heavenly mother and the ever present closeness I had always had with my earthly mother. Inside I almost compartmentalized each of these relationships not able to glimpse their intended congruence. Unable to see that the love that I already knew in my birth mother’s arms was but a reflection of the immense love that Mary had for me. That is..until I faced the sudden impending death of the only mother I had known for the first 21 years of my life.

The news of my mother’s lung cancer prognosis literally rocked my world. Earlier that year, I had already generously grieved my grandmother’s death, who I was perhaps the most like in disposition and priorities.Then just weeks after giving birth to my youngest son, I was told by the doctor that my mother had perhaps a mere month left on this earth. I could never forget that day. As scheduled workers hammered away on the installation of siding, everything around me noisily shook and reverberated. Then the windows, ripped out and curtain less, utterly expressed the bare and vulnerable feeling that I could not seem to cover.

I sought refuge and strength. However, everywhere I turned, revealed the reality that I would soon be without the two most influential and loving women who helped shape my very being. After the news, the first trip to see my mom would be as a family. A twenty-four hour car ride amid carefully worded conversation, I knew I had to be strong. Easing them into understanding how important it would be to cherish this time, I wiped tears and held little bodies close.Yet, who would mother me now? While eternally grateful for a loving hubby and good friends, I longed for the smothering maternal presence that I was so accustomed to.

Returning just a week before my mother’s passing, I traveled only with my youngest this time. So in need of respite, there were moments in the beginning days that I found it difficult to even let down my emotions to nurse or sleep. That is when I realized, my profound need to go to my Father’s house. Little did I know that here too, waiting for me was my Mother. As I sat in the small chapel of the aptly entitled Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, ceiling of sky blue adorned with gold fleur de leis, I spied her graceful silhouette once again. In the stillness I cried out “I am too young to loose my mother, Lord. I am just a new mom myself.I need help, I need guidance, I need strength… from my mom”

“When have you ever been alone, when have I ever left your side?” “Never Lord..you have been with me always. Please forgive me Lord, if I may persist..this is a different emptiness.” “I am here too..I have given you my very own mother, look to her.” In this moment, whereby my heart heard his, my entire body sighed releasing the weight that I had felt since the diagnosis. For some time I sat there, comforted and strengthened by the warmth of the love that I felt.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I would return to this safe haven,trusting the promise that Mary was more than ready to fill the void that I felt. In fact, she had been waiting for me to merely ask.

“Mary, my blessed mother, how very sorry I am to have held your love at bay. It must please you, though, to know how I yearn to draw close and follow your son. Please help loving lead my steps and support me through this time, as well as, in the years to come with my own children. And when I forget, remind me of your presence and witness of faith through both joyful and difficult times alike.  One more thing..please let my mom know how much she has taught me and that I will forever love her.”

Your loving daughter,

Signature

A Seamless Garment

 :

As a child, I can’t remember my mom ever specifically relegating  any amount of time to just for herself.Up at the crack of dawn, she hit the ground running accomplishing more before sunrise than I would venture a good majority of us can claim given a regular work day. This she did this day after day and rather than storing credits for compensation later was satisfied to see the fruits of her efforts in her children, students and community.

With such an incredible witness of a life steeped in virtue, you might think that it would have been a simple hat trick to imitate. Yet, just because we may have been given a front row seat to another’s journey does not indicate a readiness to steer a virtuous life ourselves, nor does it convey the full story. In truth, a life for others  does not mean there isn’t a real daily struggle for balance in our lives. Competing needs and demanding timelines as well as a healthy measure of self care tug and wrestle at us constantly. In order to walk in virtue each one must be practiced. For, a fullness of faith, hope, charity, fortitude (courage), justice, prudence (wisdom/discernment), and temperance (moderation) are not gifts merely bestowed but a collection of daily hard won battles fought. Sound contradictory?

St. Teresa of Calcutta once remarked that “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

So it is with the practice and living out of virtue. Thus, what appears to the naked eye as a seamless garment of love, is actually a pieced together working out of our journey with God and those we encounter. For this reason, we can never assume that any garment is perfect, or ever finished in this life. Though for a brief time, we might just glimpse the glimmer and handiwork of God working in our life or in the lives of others along the way.

Reflect:

Have I felt the virtues are too challenging to even attempt? If so, why? What is needed to redirect the course I follow when needs compete?

Peace,

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An Engaging Faith: Jane & Ellen Knuth

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST

Breaking into your ordinary
with the extraordinary …

 

Over the next few weeks, as part of this blog, I will be highlighting a guest from An Engaging Faith. If you have missed any of these shows it will be a perfect opportunity to catch up! 

Radio Interview with Jane and Ellen Knuth

Jane and Ellen Knuth, will be joining us to discuss Love & Salt. Jane has been volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the last 15 years. She is also an eighth-grade math teacher. Jane and her husband, Dean, live in Portage, Michigan. Ellen recently returned to the USA after 5 years in Japan. Having already been an English teacher, a singer in a rock band, a dairy princess, a MC, and a newspaper columnist, Ellen now works as a university relations manager for a study and intern abroad company. Settled (for now) in Clinton Twp, MI, she travels extensively, writes occasionally, and sings constantly.

Mother’s Day Special: Lessons Learned From My Mom

This morning as I awoke, I thought of both my heavenly and earthly mothers. With eyes closed, my lips whispered to Mary, “Thank you for your yes- to being the mother of Christ but also for remaining with me when my earthly mother could no longer do so. Please continue to guide me and all those I encounter till my own journey is done. ” Then, with a heart smiling full and complete, enveloped in love and gratitude, today I said Happy Mother’s Day to them mutually.

My mom, the second oldest of four and a high school teacher, met and fell in love with my dad within the span of two weeks. A whirlwind romance, fed by non-substantiating infatuation, they had met, married and divorced in a span of less than two years. Recognizing too late my father’s habits of drinking, and violent mood swings, there was cause for serious concern as she had discovered she was also pregnant with me. She had made the decision to raise me alone.

Mom's1st pic:
Her 1st picture as a new mom!

Though this was not what she had pictured, and despite several close friends advocating an abortion, her faith could not allow for her to make that choice. She felt that the life within her, me, was a gift from God and while unsure of what laid ahead she knew she needed to trust. That summer, as I came into the world my mom said goodbye to my father, never to be heard from again. Nonetheless, a part of my mom always hoped that he would find recovery and reconcile with me one day.

So the lessons I promised? Well, they are many but here are just a few…Mom and I:

1. Trust- not in what the world tells you are the choices before you, but in a bigger plan that only God is aware of. Though you do not have the strength to do it on your own, and when you wonder how you’ll carry on- lean on Him.

“I raise my eyes toward the mountains. From whence shall come my help?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
or your guardian to sleep.” (Psalm 121)

2. Love- the gifts given, delight in the surprises around you, seek God and you will most certainly find Him.

“See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)

As a single parent, on a meager teacher’s salary we did not indulge in big trips, but would go out exploring the world around us. Sometimes we would trip upon a free museum, pack a picnic lunch, go fishing, or drive out to the Mississippi river just to sit with our toes in the bank.

3. Share- what you have with others that are in need, both physically and spiritually. Growing up, I noticed that others certainly had more than me and yet there were so many that had less. One day, when I was about 8, my mom was approached by a young mom with several toddlers in tow asking for help. Without hesitating, she had invited the family to stop by our home for dinner. The little faces that had been downturned and suspicious in the beginning all at once beamed at all the food that lay before them. Before they left, she packed up a few containers for them to take home with the offer to come back again. Upon noticing that there were a number of items missing with their departure, my mom was neither upset nor saddened. “They are more in need of it than us Elizabeth”. To which I learned what it was to give without expectation of return.

4. Encourage- the gifts in others, even those that they fail to see in themselves. My mom was my biggest cheerleader, and my most vocal critic. Sound contradictory? No not at all. You see, she knew that life could be difficult and how easy it is to settle or give in to an easy choice. She pushed me further than I thought I could go, and always pointed to the “more” in the world that God was calling me to do. As a teacher, she inspired her students who came from very difficult and impoverished backgrounds to continue with their education and challenged them to see their gifts. I cannot count the times, over the course of her life that former students would call her or run up with a hug to tell her the difference she had made in their lives. This is the teacher that I strive to be, thank you Mom for teaching me.

 Peace, 

Signature

A Daughter’s Love

There is obviously one thing wrong with this picture.The text is incomplete. It fails to convey the full truth that not merely do I Like Mary but I “LOVE her!”  However, it wasn’t always this way, as for so many years I did not really know my heavenly mother. For loss of better words, I was an estranged daughter.  I more or less assumed who Mary was and dare I say..had taken her for granted.What was it then that led me to rediscover my mother’s love? First there was my conversion to the Catholic faith. Like a newborn baby I needed to grow in understanding who I was in light of a mother’s love.

Still, I grappled a bit with the new found love I felt for my heavenly mother and the ever present closeness I had always had with my earthly mother. Inside I almost compartmentalized each of these relationships not able to glimpse their intended congruence. Unable to see that the love that I already knew in my birth mother’s arms was but a reflection of the immense love that Mary had for me. That is..until I faced the sudden impending death of the only mother I had known for the first 21 years of my life.

The news of my mother’s lung cancer prognosis literally rocked my world. Earlier that year, I had already generously grieved my grandmother’s death, who I was perhaps the most like in disposition and priorities.Then just weeks after giving birth to my youngest son, I was told by the doctor that my mother had perhaps a mere month left on this earth. I could never forget that day. As scheduled workers hammered away on the installation of siding, everything around me noisily shook and reverberated. Then the windows, ripped out and curtain less, utterly expressed the bare and vulnerable feeling that I could not seem to cover.

I sought refuge and strength. However, everywhere I turned, revealed the reality that I would soon be without the two most influential and loving women who helped shape my very being. After the news, the first trip to see my mom would be as a family. A twenty-four hour car ride amid carefully worded conversation, I knew I had to be strong. Easing them into understanding how important it would be to cherish this time, I wiped tears and held little bodies close.Yet, who would mother me now? While eternally grateful for a loving hubby and good friends, I longed for the smothering maternal presence that I was so accustomed to.

Returning just a week before my mother’s passing, I traveled only with my youngest this time. So in need of respite, there were moments in the beginning days that I found it difficult to even let down my emotions to nurse or sleep. That is when I realized, my profound need to go to my Father’s house. Little did I know that here too, waiting for me was my Mother. As I sat in the small chapel of the aptly entitled Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, ceiling of sky blue adorned with gold fleur de leis, I spied her graceful silhouette once again. In the stillness I cried out “I am too young to loose my mother, Lord. I am just a new mom myself.I need help, I need guidance, I need strength… from my mom”

“When have you ever been alone, when have I ever left your side?” “Never Lord..you have been with me always. Please forgive me Lord, if I may persist..this is a different emptiness.” “I am here too..I have given you my very own mother, look to her.” In this moment, whereby my heart heard his, my entire body sighed releasing the weight that I had felt since the diagnosis. For some time I sat there, comforted and strengthened by the warmth of the love that I felt.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I would return to this safe haven,trusting the promise that Mary was more than ready to fill the void that I felt. In fact, she had been waiting for me to merely ask.

“Mary, my blessed mother, how very sorry I am to have held your love at bay. It must please you, though, to know how I yearn to draw close and follow your son. Please help loving lead my steps and support me through this time, as well as, in the years to come with my own children. And when I forget, remind me of your presence and witness of faith through both joyful and difficult times alike.  One more thing..please let my mom know how much she has taught me and that I will forever love her.”

Your loving daughter,

Signature

Worth Revisiting: A Catholic Mom’s Prayers For Her Teenage Son

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

Merely one year since this post was written, my middle son Peter is a good 3 inches taller, entering the 10th grade and on the football team as a corner back. And yet, the very fact that time flies, is a good reminder that we are asked to cherish this time with our children and our vocation as parents. Though the going forward might include a few steps back or challenges along the way, let our hopes and prayers guide us as we seek to guide our children today.


A Catholic Mom’s prayers for her Teenage Son

Today, as we remember the tragedy of 9/11, I am blessed to also Small-Success-Thursday-250pxcelebrate the 15th birthday of my son Peter.

IMG_0703That day as he was turning two, I was out making necessary birthday preparations when the Twin Towers went down. This event that has so defined the spirit of our nation in both sorrow and solidarity is an indelible part of his birthday as well. Yet, rather than disregarding or muting the sentiments of the day, perhaps there is much grace for him in being reminded of the world outside of himself. In recognizing that in life we often hold sorrow in one hand and joy in the other, and that each one is essential in awareness of our blessings and the presence of God. So with this I opened his baby book and found the prayers that my husband and I had written to him before he was born.

1.  From Dad: IMG_0294

“My prayer for you is to be a good Catholic, and patriotic American. To live a life of honor, as you seek to follow Christ.”

IMG_04602.  From Mom:

My prayer is that your life will be filled with happiness and laughter-surrounded by true friends and family. That you will be able to see the good in all things, to be the one to change and work for change when needed.”

IMG_06353. As a Freshman this year, Peter passionately and persistently pleaded with us to attend Sacred Heart High School.  Not knowing how we would ever afford tuition with my husband being the only one working and with me in graduate school, we were hesitant. Yet, this is what changed our minds.. (Excerpt from his admissions essay.)

“Yet, if I had to had to identify what is most essential to me it would be my faith in God, and who I am because of that. I pray to God every day, and ask Him for forgiveness when I make mistakes. Likewise, I have chosen to serve as an altar server at my parish of St. Peter’s, since 3rd grade to give back to God who has given so much to me. This is also why I find using the Lord’s name in vain disrespectful, rude and offensive. God is of number one importance to me, and those who disrespect Him, I believe, also disrespect me. I would like to attend Sacred Heart because I want to be in a community of people who appreciate and love Him as much as I do.”

IMG_0456

So, while Peter is a still a typical teenager, and going to make his own mistakes in life, I am comforted in knowing that he is aware that God is there too. That the choices that he makes do not affect him alone, but influence and shape the world around him. Thank you Father, for the gift of our children, and for this day to celebrate and hold the sacredness of the gift of life in our hearts. For this day when this mom can throw her arms around her son who is now far taller than she is!

Signature

Lessons Learned From My Mom

This morning as I awoke, I thought of both my heavenly and earthly mothers. With eyes closed, my lips whispered to Mary, “Thank you for your yes- to being the mother of Christ but also for remaining with me when my earthly mother could no longer do so. Please continue to guide me and all those I encounter till my own journey is done. ” Then, with a heart smiling full and complete, enveloped in love and gratitude, today I said Happy Mother’s Day to them mutually.

My mom, the second oldest of four and a high school teacher, met and fell in love with my dad within the span of two weeks. A whirlwind romance, fed by non-substantiating infatuation, they had met, married and divorced in a span of less than two years. Recognizing too late my father’s habits of drinking, and violent mood swings, there was cause for serious concern as she had discovered she was also pregnant with me. She had made the decision to raise me alone.

Mom's1st pic:
Her 1st picture as a new mom!

Though this was not what she had pictured, and despite several close friends advocating an abortion, her faith could not allow for her to make that choice. She felt that the life within her, me, was a gift from God and while unsure of what laid ahead she knew she needed to trust. That summer, as I came into the world my mom said goodbye to my father, never to be heard from again. Nonetheless, a part of my mom always hoped that he would find recovery and reconcile with me one day.

So the lessons I promised? Well, they are many but here are just a few…Mom and I:

1. Trust- not in what the world tells you are the choices before you, but in a bigger plan that only God is aware of. Though you do not have the strength to do it on your own, and when you wonder how you’ll carry on- lean on Him.

“I raise my eyes toward the mountains. From whence shall come my help?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
or your guardian to sleep.” (Psalm 121)

2. Love- the gifts given, delight in the surprises around you, seek God and you will most certainly find Him.

“See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)

As a single parent, on a meager teacher’s salary we did not indulge in big trips, but would go out exploring the world around us. Sometimes we would trip upon a free museum, pack a picnic lunch, go fishing, or drive out to the Mississippi river just to sit with our toes in the bank.

3. Share- what you have with others that are in need, both physically and spiritually. Growing up, I noticed that others certainly had more than me and yet there were so many that had less. One day, when I was about 8, my mom was approached by a young mom with several toddlers in tow asking for help. Without hesitating, she had invited the family to stop by our home for dinner. The little faces that had been downturned and suspicious in the beginning all at once beamed at all the food that lay before them. Before they left, she packed up a few containers for them to take home with the offer to come back again. Upon noticing that there were a number of items missing with their departure, my mom was neither upset nor saddened. “They are more in need of it than us Elizabeth”. To which I learned what it was to give without expectation of return.

4. Encourage- the gifts in others, even those that they fail to see in themselves. My mom was my biggest cheerleader, and my most vocal critic. Sound contradictory? No not at all. You see, she knew that life could be difficult and how easy it is to settle or give in to an easy choice. She pushed me further than I thought I could go, and always pointed to the “more” in the world that God was calling me to do. As a teacher, she inspired her students who came from very difficult and impoverished backgrounds to continue with their education and challenged them to see their gifts. I cannot count the times, over the course of her life that former students would call her or run up with a hug to tell her the difference she had made in their lives. This is the teacher that I strive to be, thank you Mom for teaching me.

 Peace, 

Signature