An open letter to our beloved Catholic clergy, here in the Syracuse Diocese, and everywhere

Dear Father (Bishop, Deacon, Brother,…):

On a Sunday morning in July, I arrived at Mass a mental, physical, and spiritual mess. The busy summer schedule had me running ragged in an effort to keep all my little darlings (7 of them) busy and happy, as well as meeting all of my basic responsibilities. As the weeks of summer wore on, the frenetic pace caught up with me and the physical toll meant that I started sleeping through my “prayer time” alarm every morning. That is always the first sign on the slippery road to spiritual wasteland in my experience. I felt like I was in a vast desert with no water in sight. I doubted that even Mass could restore me to peace.

This particular Sunday, we had some (all-too-common) teenager miscommunication and couldn’t get all the kids to Mass. It was either some of us or none of us, so I was overwhelmed with frustration at life in general and myself in particular. Couple that with grieving the recent loss of my mom, the 2 year-old still-stinging loss of my oldest daughter, and the 7 year-old ache of missing my first-born son, and this mama wanted to throw in the towel. I never would, but it’s the honest truth of how I felt. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, overburdened, and feeling inadequate and powerless to fix any of it. I truly love and live to serve as a wife, mother, friend, and member of the body of Christ, but often it’s a difficult and thankless job. (Often it’s not, but on this particular Sunday I had lost sight of the flip side). As the Mass began and the priest arrived on the altar, he looked right at me and said, “Karen, it is well, I am here to serve you.” OK, not really, but I heard it and felt it and in that moment my hope was restored because a faithful and devoted servant of God was standing his post.

Later, I wondered in awe at the sacrifice and dedication it takes to be a holy and devoted priest in the Church today. Do you get lonely, irritated, tempted, selfish, or struggle with obedience? I certainly do. Do you sometimes feel so overwhelmed by the tasks before you that hopelessness, fear, and despair rear their ugly head? That sounds familiar. Does living your vocation faithfully require determination, faithfulness, and lots of supernatural grace?  Welcome to my life.  As I contemplated our different vocations, (and forgive me if I’ve presumed too much), it dawned on me in a new way; if you can do it, then so can I. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.  I want you to know, your faithfulness shines like a beacon in darkness and brings relief to the desperate, like finding water in a dry desert.

I can’t imagine my life with the absence of the priesthood. I don’t want to imagine it either. You’ve been there in every joyful, difficult, sad, questioning, and holy moment of my life. You welcomed my children into the Church and to the body of Christ. By the power vested in you, you’ve absolved me of my sins and counseled me. You united my husband and me in holy matrimony thereby cementing my vocation. You prayed with us and for us in our times of devastating loss. You have been there, every single Sunday of my life, bringing Jesus truly present to this sinful and needy soul. At every Mass you are John the Baptist crying in the desert, “Behold, the lamb of God.” Without you there would be no need to respond with humility and need, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”. There would be no exchange. There would be no Mass. There would be no hope. Without you the tomb would always feel empty and hopeless.

I have experienced a taste of that hopelessness twice before. It’s a feeling that felt to me like Good Friday x1000. Twice now, we have held a wake to say goodbye to one of our children. Twice, we have greeted thousands and smiled and cried for hours on end. Twice, we have gone home afterwards to stumble through the longest night and wonder how on earth we would face the morning. The tomb was empty and so were we. Then twice again, we have said goodbye and closed a casket and trembled on our way to a funeral Mass, silently screaming to God to let this cup pass us by. Both times we arrived to escort a casket into church and approach an altar flanked with you holy men of God. Devoted in service to Truth, you were standing there like pillars of strength and compassion. You represented the reality of eternity when we were tempted to wallow in the temporal. You represented Resurrection! We needed you and you were there, many of you, silently screaming back to us that we were not alone. When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer together. We never walk alone. Those two funerals changed me in many ways, but the royal priesthood standing up for us is something I will hold dear forever.

I have felt since our son died seven years ago, that if his death helped bring one beloved soul home to our Savior then he did not suffer or die in vain. I would suffer it all again knowing how precious every one of us is to our Lord. The same is true for our daughter. So many beautiful testimonies of faith stemmed from her death and I know there is so much wisdom in allowing her to leave us. I freely offer Michael and Anna and trust in Jesus to work it all for good. I simply wanted you to know that by your faith this one soul has been soothed and saved.

From the very depths of my heart, I thank you:
I Thank you for answering your cell phone in the middle of the night when a terrified and desperate mother needed to know you were praying for her child.
I Thank you for going to the hospital, instead of to bed, to offer prayers and comfort when my mother was afraid and facing the end of her life.
I Thank you for the many house calls to unite our family in prayer when our son was dying of cancer.                                                                                                                                  I thank you for bringing Mass to our home when we were too distraught to bring ourselves to Mass.
I thank you Bishop for the personal hand-written, snail-mailed letter of encouragement and affirmation that renewed my strength again and again.
I thank you for your service to the kingdom of God.
I thank you for standing for truth, especially in the face of growing persecution for daring to speak it. The thing is, your faithful flock knows the Truth deep within and we need you to reaffirm it. The voices of the culture would have us buy into the lies and we might be tempted, if not for your voice of truth. As long as there is a spark of light, there cannot be total darkness.
I thank you for your prayers and Masses. You will likely never know what they have meant to me this side of Heaven.

May you have the courage to stand strong in this world as the tide rises against all that you have given your very lives for, and the fortitude to suffer for the Truth no matter what lies ahead. Just as you have reminded me time and time again, when you walk in obedience and service to the Truth, you never walk alone.
With gratitude, admiration and love,
Karen Pullano

“The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.  When you see a priest, think of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ∼St. Jean Vianney

My Year of Faith

Eight months.

It seems impossible but it has truly been 8 months since that Fateful Friday night.  I waited up for Anna that night as I did every time she was out.  Usually around 11:30 I started texting her, just to make sure she was on target for curfew.  She was always patient and pleasant with her answers but I knew she wanted more trust and independence.  And since turning 18 in January we had tried to give her exactly that.  The thought that very soon she would be out of our house and out of our grasp entirely gave us courage to start letting go. So 8 months ago I waited up until midnight and then made the decision not to contact her.  I knew she would be on her way very shortly.  I said goodnight in my heart and left her where I constantly leave my children when their welfare is out of my hands, in God’s very capable and loving ones.  No sooner was I sound asleep than the phone was ringing us awake and the horror of the moments that followed has not faded since.  Not at all.  And yet in those moments before comprehension completely dawned Heaven intervened. I may never be able to properly describe it, but God was at work in those moments, powerfully, keeping the horror at bay until it could be borne.

All the events of this past year have been on my mind and heart very strongly of late: The good, the bad, the tragic, the miraculous, swirling in my mind, present and real. I’m not a big fan of dwelling on the past, preferring instead to look ahead with Hope.  Still the thoughts surface, coaxing me.  To what?  I’m not sure.  It’s as if this past year isn’t finished with me yet.  There is still much to learn perhaps so I’ve been pondering.

And then I heard a speaker the other day remind us that remembering can be useful and good.  Looking at where we are versus where we have been can really highlight how God is always at work.  He quoted the scripture  “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

One year ago we were working diligently to bring Sergei home from an institution in Russia.  Those chubby cheeks and blue eyes beckoned across land and sea and barriers I never thought we could dare to cross but our hearts were full and sure.  We had gotten through the homestudy process and all the initial paperwork and 50 hours of parent training and of course paid the necessary fees along the way.  I was starting online Russian language lessons in the hopes that I could navigate more easily on our trips there.  It was all a great distraction from the torturous thoughts about where and how our sweet Sergei, and thousands of orphans, are living.

DSCF0244

At the Vatican waiting for the Pope to arrive

One year ago we were getting ready to take our older girls on a trip of a lifetime to Italy, courtesy of Grandma.  The promise and excitement of new adventures was high!  We all took a few Italian lessons and were looking forward to experiencing places we had only seen on television or in books, not the least of which was the Vatican.  I remember getting the confirmation invitation to the audience with the Pope and feeling overwhelmed with excitement.  Pope Benedict XVI had just opened the year of Faith and spending a week in Rome felt like a great way to spiritually get involved.  Our Holy Father’s intent was for the year to be a time for the faithful to learn more about their faith through reading papal documents and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It struck me that we can also learn so much about our faith by hearing witness of others who are living it and so I had planned on this blog to gather faith stories to share throughout the year.

In general, at this time last year, we were filled with the holiest desire to follow God’s will for the building of the kingdom and fulfilling our heart’s desires.

We had an amazing trip to Italy and enjoyed a very special time with our girls.  Experiencing the Joy and awe and wonder through their eyes was such a gift.  I can see Anna so clearly walking the streets of Capri, and in open-mouthed wonder with her camera in the Basilica’s and churches, at Trevi fountain lit up at night,

What did you wish for Anna?

What did you wish for Anna?

and then dressed and radiant for the Papal audience simply because she knew how special it was for me.  She was in her Glory, or at least as close to it as I ever witnessed.  The memories are painful and bittersweet.  She was so alive and so vibrant.  I am so thankful that we had that time on that trip for many reasons but mostly because I had a glimpse of what she must feel like now in Heaven, her true Glory. I can picture her Joy and awe and wonder and that is a gift of untold worth.

God is always at work.

Only a few weeks later we found out we were expecting our little Olivia. We were a little amazed and certainly overjoyed and I love to gross our kids out and tell them we brought home a lifelong souvenir from Italy! HAHA.   And then came a bombshell for the adoption world. No sooner had we re-committed ourselves to bringing Sergei home and updated our homestudy and obtained the necessary approvals, that news of a Russian adoption ban broke.  The days turned into weeks and then weeks into months before the reality of that sank in for us.  We are still coming to terms with the fact that we will only ever be able to love and pray for him from afar.  And on March 1st, instead of being halfway around the world, we were home when our phone rang that Friday night.  I am thankful for that great mercy.

God is always at work.

I’m remembering New Year’s Day 2013.  The Holiday celebrations were over and our household was busy getting ready to head back to school and work.  We all went to mass after dinner and I had the overwhelming sense that there was no place more important for our family to be, at that moment and in the year to come. It was an incredibly peaceful interlude, like the calm before the storm. I obviously had no idea what was to come but knew in my soul that our family would be facing challenges and that we would need Jesus to do it.

God was at work preparing me I guess.  I left that mass to face the new year with courage and faith and hope.

Jesus we trust in you… Lord, wherever you lead we will follow.

The months following Anna’s death were a time of extreme closeness with the Lord.  It was a time that ‘oneness with God’ held new and profound meaning, a time when all of this life seemed to fade away and Eternal Life was brought to the fore.   I remember this exact phenomena from the months after Michael died, of being here but not really being here.  Of going through the motions here but truly residing in the heart of Christ.  It wasn’t a challenge or something I was striving for, it was simply survival. I wrote a bit of my experience during those first months here and here though no words were ever adequate enough.  Slowly the world around me crept back in and continues to do so.  We are called to be here for a divine purpose but it feels cold and cruel after such intimacy, as if I’m being ripped out of Jesus’ embrace and thrust back into the world.  Of course the spiritual unity remains but simply put, duty calls.  The unity is shifting though the relationship is stronger for having been tested. The race of Life marches on and seasons change but I can say with certainty that God has walked every minute of it by my side.

The Life He started in my womb almost a year ago has come to fruition and is a living, breathing crying!) reminder of how real God’s work is in our lives.  Our little Olivia is like a healing balm to this family. She brings Joy, day in and day out.  As we mark 8 months of this earthly process of grieving and healing, it is easy to see how far we have come and yet the road ahead stretches endlessly on.  How will we navigate 8 more months without her and then another 8 after that?

If I’ve learned anything from pondering the events of this past year it’s this: Through trials and joy, through life and death, God is present and at work.

In a few weeks, the year of faith will come to a close.  As I reflect back and ask myself what I did with my year of faith, I realize the answer is simple.

I did the same thing I will continue to do in all my years of faith to come.

I simply walked the road with God.

Excuse me for a moment while I grieve

So flag day is around the corner.  June 14th is a biggie on my calendar.  In 2004 it became far more than a day to honor our country and banner of freedom; it became another date to honor and celebrate the life of a member of our family.  We welcomed a treasure, a gift and beautiful little soul, our 5th child and firstborn son, Michael.   We cared for him and loved him and doted on him and made plans for him and took a million pictures and passed them around like the proud parents we were.

Birthday celebrations in our house are usually disorganized and a little chaotic but we do our thing – decorate and have cake and presents.  They are nothing special by most standards but in our family they hold a special place in the fabric of our traditions.  We gather together (an increasingly rare phenomenon now that we’ve entered the busy teenager years) and joyfully celebrate the gift of the person we recognize and honor.  For me it is always a time to thank God for Blessing us so richly and abundantly, for gifting us with these little souls that are constantly defining the meaning of Love.  It is a time to celebrate the people they’ve been and are becoming through their accomplishments and goals.

This year Andrew will graduate from Kindergarten on Mikey’s birthday and surely it will be a momentous occasion and cause for celebration!   I know we will enjoy it (we’ve been through a few already!) and be proud of our son’s performance but beneath the surface we will be aware of the birthday celebration that we should be having later that day but won’t…  This particular birthday has become a time to mourn.

Instead of putting up festive decorations we will likely make our way to the cemetery to plant some flowers around the stone we had made with Michael’s sweet face etched on it.  We put a lot of thought and time and effort into that memorial stone but truthfully it’s little comfort.  It’s still just a stone.  And it rests on the grave that contains earthly remains of a beautiful and precious life gone too soon from this mother’s arms.   I find little comfort at the cemetery because everything I know and believe tells me that he’s not really there.  In fact a man gave his very life to assure me of that truth and that same God-man gave his very spirit to continuously erase the doubts and convict my heart of it.

And therein lies the comfort, the hope, the grace to smile, the Joy in the everyday.  In the midst of the cold and silent burial grounds arises the Promise of new LIFE – life everlasting.  Jesus came – and died – so that we would have life and have it more abundantly (Jn 10:10)

A dear friend recently related a story to me in which she was offering words of comfort to a friend who’s child was heading off to college.  This friend of hers was distraught at the idea that her little boy was all grown up and leaving the nest possibly never to return.  My friend’s words of comfort and wisdom went something like this. “Every moment of your life raising him has been geared to this moment of sending him off to be on his own”.

These are the same words of comfort my Lord and Savior offers to me.  Every moment of the 4 years, 2 months, 4 days and 14 hours of being Michael’s mom had eternity as its ultimate goal.    Furthermore our parting is only temporary, we will be together again.  In the meantime he has a future and a hope and he’s securely ensconced in the arms of His savior, exactly where he belongs.    And so I do this dance of healing and grieving all the while embracing Hope and Joy.  I straddle the gulf that exists between navigating this world and the promise of smooth sailing in the next.

I can’t say I want Michael back or wish he were still here with us – how could I possibly when I know where he is?  What kind of Love would wish a child of my womb out of paradise?  But I miss my little Mikey for this time that we are separated.  I miss what we had for 4 short years and grieve for what we never will in this life.  But I also trust wholeheartedly in the providence and sovereignty of the God of the universe.   He promised me, and all mankind, that He would be our God if we would be His people.  I rely on that promise, even when it means trusting that the death of my son will ultimately be for my good.  Even when it means that every day for the rest of my life I live without a treasured piece of my very own self.  The truth of the promise and the Joy that it holds is beyond compare.

I’ve become a new creation in every sense, in every area of my life, in every way that I can think of.  Tomorrow or next week or next month, by the grace of God, I will be made new yet again.  In fact, every time that familiar ache surfaces and I flee to that most sacred of hearts for solace and consolation I am being re-created, formed and shaped like the clay in the potter’s hand.  I have no choice but to surrender to the maker and creator and it’s a pretty great choice.

So my life will march on in the glorious splendor of birthdays and graduations and everything in between, but please excuse me for a moment while I grieve.

It will be but for a moment. The rewards will be everlasting.

Evangelical Earthworms

More reflections from the garden:

Yes I am writing a catholic blog post about …. earthworms.

Earthworms are a good example of soil-dwelling...

Earthworms are a good example of soil-dwelling detritivores (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They really are fascinating little creatures and I decided that if God put the time and energy into making the slimy little things then they are definitely worthy of a little Godversation!  For sure they do really important work in the soil.  I’m certainly no expert but I do know that lots of worms = good soil!  Luckily I have lots of them in my little garden and as I’ve been preparing for planting  I’ve had plenty of opportunity to observe their activity.

What strikes me is their strength of purpose.  They instinctively know exactly why they were created and what they are supposed to do in God’s ultimate design and they just do it.  No fuss, no muss.  They slither into the soil and eat it up and poop it out.  Over and over and over, all day long.  And I bet if you dig up a worm a thousand times it will gracefully disappear back under the soil all one thousand times.  It won’t stop to whine and complain and question.  It won’t get distracted and stray from it’s task.  It won’t get bored and decide to sow it’s wild oats elsewhere for a while.

It’s simply an obedient and purposeful little creature that was created for a specific and necessary purpose and it does it’s part no matter how insignificant it may seem.  As a general rule they don’t aspire to be anything other than what they are.

“In Him, we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28

They embody that verse and I think it’s a tremendous model for all of us.  Yes, I am saying that we should all channel our inner earthworm!  All creatures great and small glorify the Lord by being exactly what we are created to be and all of creation gives testament to the amazing wonder of God’s ultimate design when we play our part in it.  This is evidenced in the delicate balance of our ecosystem working harmoniously over the Earth.  When any one piece is missing the whole system goes down!

It would be crazy to think God created us for a purpose but didn’t give us the tools we’d need to achieve that purpose.  In the same way it would be crazy to think that He created us with no purpose!  Of course not.  If he fashioned that ugly slimy little worm to play such a vital role in our world, then how much more vital are we, his beloved and cherished children?  He created each and every one of us with purpose, for a reason, with a plan in mind and He’s equipped us with all that we need for that purpose. We are clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49) to achieve what he’s laid out for us, and when we cooperate we find fulfillment and joy and happiness.

The real kind.  Not just the temporary and temporal.

But unlike an earthworm we’ve been gifted with free will to choose if and how and where and when to become all that we were created to be.  Or not.

Sometimes our greatest gift can be our greatest pitfall. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.  If you are anything like me, we are not always as obedient and cooperative as, say, an earthworm but God loves us anyway.  He will never stop encouraging us to achieve the perfection for which we were created.  Not actual perfection of course, because no one gets there this side of the pearly gates (Rom 3:23) but the perfection of our purpose! A perfection born of Love that the Father has for each and every one of his children.  He sees us perfectly, wonderfully and fearfully made (psalms 139:14), even when free will and sin interfere with the grand design.

Saint Anne with child Mary (Св. Анна с младенц...

Saint Anne with child Mary (Св. Анна с младенцем Марией) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Throughout the bible God has sent prophets and angels and evangelists to shepherd his people. He is always guiding and teaching us truth and wisdom.  Ever notice that you know exactly the person you need in a given situation?  Ever notice the worms in your garden being little evangelists?  The truth is that we all evangelize by being what we are in our walk with God.   We are called to holiness.  We are destined for sainthood.  Take the example of St. Anne living out her vocation as a wife and mother.  She kept her house, took care of her children, taught them to know the Lord, and remained a faithful and dutiful wife.  Imagine the moment she found out that her daughter would bring forth the Messiah of the world!

God has placed us and will use us!   The only prerequisite is to simply be what God has created us to be.

Bedtime or is it???

Putting my younger kids to bed sometimes takes the patience of a saint! And while I am certain that by the grace of God I will one day achieve that status, I haven’t yet done so.   Anyone with toddlers probably knows the drill; brushing teeth, reading one story or many, saying prayers, tucking in, going potty, getting a drink and all in a certain ritual order and probably more than once!  The other night I was particularly exhausted and tried to take shortcuts to hurry up the bedtime stuff so I could crash-land myself into bed.  But what’s that cliché about haste making waste?  The more I tried to hurry the process the more they tried to prolong it!  It was an exercise in pure frustration and after a while I threw up my hands and stormed off leaving them crying and upset and anything but nicely tucked in and settled.

While I will not be taking any mommy-of-the-year awards for this particular episode, God nevertheless used the opportunity to teach me.  In my human weakness I have limits.  God our father does not.  I will always lose my patience when I’m pushed far enough.  God our father will never lose patience with his children.  I will always falter and fail but God will turn my failings into fruit.  I won’t always set the best example but Jesus came and gave us the perfect example once for all.

Icon of Jesus Christ

Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In those moments that I felt guilt and failure God himself offered me a do-over.  It is in recognizing and accepting our weaknesses and faults that we give Glory to God by our humility.  I failed.  I will fail again.  With the help of His Grace,  I will try to do better.  This is the very Truth the Church has taught and offered sacramentally in the confessional since Jesus instituted it,  and we affirm it every time we say the act of contrition, “…I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin”.

God in His infinite mercy and endless love doesn’t merely forgive us our transgressions, though that is a priceless gift in itself, rather he renews and restores and builds us up.  He transforms us through our weakness when we turn to His loving counsel.  He turns an exhausted and guilt-laden mother into a creature of Joy and Love and renewed energy and strength by His Love and Mercy. He is constant in His example of being merciful to others, as well as to ourselves.

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (MT 5:48)

I will always be an imperfect parent but He will always be guiding me perfectly.

Lord I thank you for your loving example and perfect guidance.  Amen

Reflections from the Garden

There are lots of reasons I love to garden.

#1 –  Earthworms are very cool (they may even warrant a future blog post!)
#2 – It definitely counts as some sort of workout since body parts always hurt the next day
#3 – All that Vitamin D does a body good AND I get a great tan.                                                                                              #4 – It’s a legit excuse to tell the kids we’re having cereal for dinner tonight. (The organic and healthy kind of course!)
#5 – The kids love picking and eating the stuff we grow which means they actually eat some veggies from time to time.
#6 – No one wants to help do all that work so it’s peace and quiet time
#7 – No one wants to help do all that work so it’s peace and quiet time
#8 – No one wants to help do all that work so…. (you get the idea!)

But most importantly it’s time in my day that I get to spend with the Lord.

All that being said however, I am by no means a gardener.  I just happen to have a piece of land in which I dig and plant and water and nurture and harvest but it does not mean that I actually know what I’m doing!   Who knew it would turn into such a place of refuge and solace and prayer?  Who knew it would fulfill an elemental need to be in touch with God’s Earth?  I really had no idea how much I would love the garden when I took on the task last spring.  I love it and God teaches me through it.

I was thinking about the idea of gardening in the days of old – as in before the days of hoses and sprinklers.  How did gardeners ensure that their crops would be adequately watered so as to produce fruit?  Especially the full-out farmers who relied on said crops for sustenance and livelihood?  I’m sure if I did a little research I would find various creative and ingenious ways that farmers have watered crops throughout the centuries but for the most part I think it’s safe to say that before the days of modern irrigation, farmers were forced to rely upon the providence of God for the growing of crops.    They prayed for and waited for rain.  And if the rain didn’t come they didn’t have crops. Right?

So in my own little garden I thought about the idea of not hooking up a watering system and simply relying on God for whatever needs my little plants might have.  I immediately rejected that idea for all the standard reasons we use in our modern society; “God helps those who help themselves” and “God gave us brains to invent ——– so He must want us to use ——–“.  As quickly as I first rejected it though I decided to give it some more thought.  After all I do profess that I trust God in all things.

It occurred to me that, as someone living in America in suburbia in 2012 with all our modern conveniences, I’m not sure it’s possible to trust God in all things the way the people in the Old testament had to really trust God in all things.  We simply don’t have to rely on Him.  We have hoses and sprinklers and faucets and elaborate underground systems that bring water instantly.

And while I’m certainly not suggesting that we give up our modern technology and conveniences,  I do think it merits reflection at the very least.  Do our plans include trusting God only when we’ve exhausted our other means?  When we fall short is God our plan B? or plan C? or any plan at all?

We have advanced tremendously since the fall of Adam and Eve and have become masterful at self-reliance in this dog-eat-dog society but are we better off in our relationship with God?

Adam and Eve Driven Out of Paradise, as in Gen...

Adam and Eve Driven Out of Paradise, as in Genesis 3:23-24, illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are a people driven by success but are we driving ourselves right out of paradise?

I think I would rather fail with God at my side than achieve any success without Him. To have Him, to know Him, to love Him is truly the ultimate success.

Lord God bring us closer into a trusting relationship with you. Amen

Another Bag

I put out a family favorite dish of homemade salsa and tostitos chips for snack the other day. My younger kids were gathered around and devouring it with gusto.  As the chips started to dwindle the kids started getting nervous. You could tell because they went from taking one chip at a time, to a few, to all-out fighting for the bag before their own little stockpile was gone.  Screeching and complaining ensued and my pleas to share and not be greedy went largely unheeded.  It was clear that they heard nothing I was trying to teach them! They became so focused on hoarding chips they didn’t even realize that they probably couldn’t eat them all.  All that fuss obscured the goal; happy healthy snack time together.

It struck me as familiar. How often do we get so caught up in our own desires and wants that we fail to see the error of our ways in achieving them? Sometimes we lose sight of a path that God lays before us because we think we have a different and better path. Or just because we, in our limited human capacity,  don’t see the wisdom of God’s plan plainly, perhaps we dismiss it as less worthy than our own.  Perhaps we are simply so driven and so focused on our own course that we neglect the critical prayer for discernment. How often does God try to get our attention and teach us in our “teachable moments” of life but we can’t or won’t hear Him?

Isaiah 65:2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations

If my kids would have stopped to listen for a minute, they would have heard me trying to tell them something important, “Fear not, Mom is the savior of snack time.!” I have another bag!”  In teenager speak that would be “I got you”. How much nicer snack time would have been if they had taken the hand I held out to them.

And how much more is that true of God in the whole of our lives?   He is Sovereign and He’s got us covered!   When our own plans go awry and we feel like we’re swimming upstream, we need to understand and trust that God definitely has a better way or a better plan.

Isaiah 55:8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.

Turmoil, confusion, dissatisfaction, and hurt are not God’s “ways” for us.  Achieving any end by means of sneaking, cheating, lying, being greedy and selfish is never in God’s plan.  Any course we embark on that neglects Love at its core is less than Excellent.

Lord help us to be attentive to your teaching in all the situations of our lives and always show us your “still more excellent way”(1 Cor 12:31) Amen!

God’s-eye view

My kindergartener recently had a conversation with grandma that went something like this.
Grandma: Pretty soon you will know how to read Andrew, and then you can just pick up a book and read it!
Andrew: You mean I will just go into school one day and I will be able to read?
Grandma: Well you will have to work and learn how to do it but then you will know how to do it forever.
At this point he shrugged indifferently and ran off to play…

If only he could see what he’s missing from an adult perspective!!  How do you make a 6-year-old understand  that the whole world will start to blossom  once they do the relatively short work of learning to read?  At age 6 he simply has no idea what he’s missing and how his window to the world will expand exponentially!

God our Father must feel this way about his children all the time!  He sees not only the great potential we have of our own power but the limitless potential we have when we live through Him.   He knows the world will blossom in ways we simply can not imagine when we trust in His ways.  But to do this requires work, it requires obedience and prayer and humility and a desire to serve the will of our father more than our own. It requires perseverance in the face of self-doubt and worldly failure. Sometimes it requires a single-minded focus that is near impossible to come by in a world full of distractions. It requires patience so at odds with the attitude of instant gratification prevalent in American culture.
God is always ready and willing to teach us.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer 29:11)

I wanted to shout after Andrew and call him back and explain all the wonders awaiting him.  I wanted, somehow, to make him understand.  Even as I write this I’m at a loss.  The impact of knowing how to read is so undefinable.

The same thing can be said of our Loving God.  We can’t begin to define Him or understand all that he has in store for us.  Only through the steady and faithful building of a relationship with Him will our eyes be opened, will our minds be enlightened, will our hearts be filled.  Are we eager and excited to know Him or do we shrug indifferently and run off to carry out our own plans?

Lord, help us tune out the world so we can focus our attention on you, who makes the world blossom in our minds, our hearts and our souls!  Amen

LOOK UP!

Look Up! Look Up! Look Up! Melissa Look Up! Look Up! Hurry Look Up! Just lift your head and Look Up! Look at me. Look at me Melissa. Look at Mommy! Look at my Face! Look Up!!!

This is pretty much how bath time goes with my 2-year-old every time. I shampoo her hair and when she knows the rinsing is coming she looks down to try to shield her face and cries louder and louder, probably to be heard over my pleas, until she reaches full-out hysteria… and we’re done. I’ve tried reasoning and explaining, but my normally brilliant 2 yr old, just can’t seem to get the message.

If she would only listen to me, and trust me, and obey me, then the water would pour nicely down the back of her head and hair washing would be a non-event. Bath time would be considerably more enjoyable all around and I would simply have a shiny happy toddler.

If she would only LISTEN to me, and TRUST me, and OBEY me… God our Father has been saying the same darn thing to His children for thousands of years! Over and over and over we fall back into relying on our own ways and means. Old habits die-hard I guess. And we suffer for it!

Listening is critical to our prayer life. We are told to “pray always” and “be persistent in prayer” but at times it can feel like we aren’t effecting any good or getting any answers.  Perhaps because, like little Melissa,  we are overcome by our own fears and prejudices and aren’t able to quiet ourselves enough to listen. Sometimes it’s pain and suffering holding us captive or excuses of busy lives. For any number of reasons we might ask but not truly make the time to Listen to what God has to say.  HE  will ALWAYS come into our prayerful silence.

“Be still and Know that I am God” (Ps 46:11)

In the quiet stillness of our minds and souls at rest we will feel conviction in our hearts, we will know truth in our minds, we will feel moved by a gentle stirring or holy fire.  Our souls will hear Love and Truth and recognize it every time if we are listening.  For this we were created and no less.

And if we hear from God we must Trust in His almighty providence as ruler in body, mind and soul. To do anything less is cheating ourselves of the fullness of LIFE in Him.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Mt 22:37)

Through prayer or otherwise, we must then do the work of obeying the Lords’ commands. God wants nothing less than our acceptance, our fiat and our total surrender to His holy will.  Often we have to put aside our own agendas and ideas of how things should be because as mere humans we can not calculate the effect of grace in any given situation.  It is through our obedience that Grace can be at work.  God knows exactly how to calculate the effect of grace in our human situations and he sends it in abundance.  We have to trust him on that!

Our trust and obedience will bring peace. Imagine if Melissa would have just listened and really heard what I was saying to her. What if she simply said, “ok Mommy” and then tipped her head up and not insisted on doing it her own way?

In my infinite wisdom as a parent, (ahem…) I’m sure that my advice would have worked out for the best for my child whom I love. And how much more perfect is the advice of God our Father?

 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mt 7:11)

God, as our loving parent, sees all and knows all, and he’s not just interested in what’s best for us, rather He sees and wants perfection for us!  So many things would be easier, better, more enjoyable if we would remember in those moments of panic and fear and indecision and temptation, to just look up. If we had the courage, despite the voice of this world that tends to drown out all else, to wholeheartedly Trust in the Lord, we would be happier.

Plain and simple

God gives us every grace we need in the moment that we need it. Always, unconditionally. We have legions of angels and saints as intercessors, especially our Lady who loves us better than our own earthly mothers. We have no excuse to live without trusting our Heavenly Parents. We aren’t 2 after all.

Lord, help us to Listen prayerfully, trust in you always and obey without reservation and may we ever remember to “Look Up”! Amen