Worth Revisiting: 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,

Signature

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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,

Signature

 

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: Coffee, Communion & Conversation

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.

So, many of us are quite familiar with the 3-R’s of Reading Writing, and Arithmetic in our academic studies.. but our faith lives have their own necessities too! From which come 3 of my own favorite C’s of spiritual reflective prompts!


Coffee, Communion & Conversation

With cheers and tears, I have begun thinking about the back-to-school essentials for my children who are, by the way, returning next week. Likewise, as with any good Jesuit student, it has been a cue for me to reflect on my own much needed necessities at this time in my life as well.  While there are of course countless others that could be included in this list, these chosen three are the ones that leapt to the forefront of my mind!

1. Coffee- (Substitute tea, juice or a smoothie for those that find those more preferable.)

Strong, and certainly caffeinated, the inviting aroma beckons me to take seriously the day’s events ahead. This is my time for morning reflection, and perhaps one of the few times during the day that I will sit still without a project, paper, or errand to complete. It is quite literally the reminder for me to re-fill my cup- to empty myself and the events of the day prior so that I can be able to accept and embrace God’s gift of self in my every moment. Not the least of which are the many requests upon my own time.

Father, you ask us to be still and know that You are God, that you are always with us at the break of each new day, and that with you we will not be shaken. (Ps.46:6-11) Fill me with your love, grace, and compassion for those who might need you most today.

  2. Communion (daily if at all possible!)

Several years ago, after having made my Cusillo retreat, I consciously resolved to attend daily mass whenever the time allowed. Yet, initially, this commitment was but a new curiosity, filled with an unknowing of whether I could continue, or how I would be affected in my own spiritual growth. One morning in particular, in that first week, I noticed a woman about my own age, and felt the Holy Spirit guiding me to speak with her after mass. Having seen her before on Sunday mornings with her family, I remarked how happy I was to have another mom with small children there that day. Smiling, and with all earnestness she said something that moved me profoundly.

“I’m here because this is where I need to be as a mom, it is my time to regroup, talk to God, and gain the strength to be the mom that God wants me to be”.

Her words were meant for me, and found a dwelling place deep within my heart. God wants to do something great for me in giving me the tools and the space to break into my ordinary with the extraordinary experience of this intimate closeness with Christ. I think of this moment often these days as I slide into the pew, kneel before Christ, and let out the biggest sigh, a breath of relief that I actually made it there. No matter how I arrive- rushed, anxious, or frustrated, I leave transformed in heart, mind and spirit. As I think about the future after graduate school, I have already begun thinking about daily mass times in the area that might allow me to continue this now essential time with God in my day.

IMG_06163. Conversation(Lots, with those that uplift and draw you closer to Christ)

As you may have noticed my precursor to this one, conversation just for conversations sake isn’t essential at all. In fact, the wrong conversations are draining, disruptive, and detrimental to both you and all those in your life. We have all, at some point found ourselves in these instances, whereby the conversation turns gossipy, argumentative, or judgmental towards others. Yet, as a mom of school aged children whose time is limited anyway, I can honestly say I leave these conversations feeling unsatisfied. The question I keep returning to is whether this is healthy for me even if I am not participating.

Conversely, the right conversations lead us and others nearer to where God wants us to be, and leave us knowing our time was well spent. They inspire, nourish, enlighten, support, and buoy us up when we need to feel God’s love most. They remind us to listen deeply and speak when needed. These are moments of awareness to the Holy Spirit’s presence  guiding and filling us with peace and joy.

One of the best assignments I have been given in my graduate ministry work, in lieu of reading, was to take time to pursue that which uplifts us. Here, I was given a week set aside to reconnect, to decompress, and renew. Not surprisingly, I made sure that I met with those also in ministry to give them that much needed break as well. So essential is this for me, that I do this now on a regular basis!

With much gratitude to my advisor, friend (and creator of the above assignment), Eileen Daily for helping me to see that self-care is not selfish but vital if I am to be of help to myself much less anyone else!

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