Managing expectations, not disappointments

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interest, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – the reading during my wedding ceremony.  It seems forever and a day but I remember the voice of the person who read it.  As my dear friend read this reading during my wedding ceremony, many dreams and expectations filled my head.  Love was this GREAT EXPECTATION.  It was supposed to be exactly like 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  Why?  Because God said it was.

I’m sure no one else has done this – had GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

Towards the end of my marriage another set of verses filled my head as they were repeated to me often, Ephesians 5:22-23 “wives should be subordinate to their husbands…. for the husband is head of his wife.”  Everything in between and afterwards was strategically omitted during these reminders of the Word of God.

I don’t want to dwell on the details of my past.  The important thing I want to point out is I started my marriage with expectations of this blissful marriage with no problems, with an image of love as in 1 Corinthians 13.  And I ended my marriage with grave disappointment.  My ex-husband is human and I am human, neither of us are God and the marriage could never be perfectly blissful, with the perfect love of 1 Corinthians 13.  In a relationship, both individuals should definitely strive to uphold God’s definition of LOVE but we are not perfect.  We are going to miss the mark sometimes and that’s ok as long as we respond to the missed mark with this definition of LOVE.

My marriage seemed to be the exact opposite of what I think God intended in the covenant of marriage.  Towards the end of the marriage when I kept hearing the verses from Ephesians 5, I thought something was wrong with me.  I was broken and therefore my marriage was broken.  I was failing at fulfilling what I thought the expectations (key word) God had in Ephesians 5.  Part of that could very well be my own fault as I was ignorant to what God really meant in Ephesians 5 – perhaps because most of the message was missing when it was told to me over and over again and I accepted that as it was.

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Ok – now, I’m hoping to tie both of these things together.  I want to first focus on expectations and disappointments.

We wrestle in our lives with disappointments because of our expectations.  If our expectations aren’t aligned with accepting God’s plan, His Will in our lives then we are greatly disappointed when something happens or doesn’t go the way we planned or we prayed for.  I’ve blogged a lot about God’s Divine Providence in our lives and sometimes it involves bad circumstances in our lives to bring the beauty or fruit.  If our expectations are anything other than what God has in store for us, disappointment rears its ugly head.

What often happens when we become disappointed?

We start pulling away from God.  We start questioning God’s motive in our lives and whether He is a good God, a loving Father.  Our faith starts to suffer.

So when Ephesians 5 kept being brought before me in some things that I felt weren’t healthy, I really began to question God and who I was.  This was embedding inside of me an image that I was a failure in my marriage, not good enough, a disappointment to my husband and to God.  Fast forward to where I am in my faith today, I have a more informed knowledge of the entire message of Ephesians 5:21-30.  As I read Theology of the Body, a wonderful book by the way, I began to put these verses in perspective.  Here is my new perspective and new understanding of Ephesians 5:21-30.  God does intend for wives to submit to their husbands and He also intends for husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church.  So, God’s intentions are exactly 1 Corinthians 13-4-7 in Ephesians 5.  In order to be obedient to Ephesians 5:21-30, both husband and wife have to give themselves freely to the other.  Christ loved the Church so much that HE gave Himself to His bride, the Church, by offering His life.  So in order for a husband to “love [his] wife, even as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5: 25),” he must give himself completely to his wife.  A wife in return must submit to her spouse, giving herself entirely to him.  It also says that the Church, the bride of Christ, is subordinate to Christ.  I think this is fulfilled by desiring all that God desires for us – alignment to His Will.

Going back to my own story, at the end of my marriage, I had become disappointed in myself because of another expectation.  Looking back, this is a very good lesson to me on my expectations and disappointments and it reinforces my desire to be aligned with God’s expectations, His Will in my life.

I invite you to evaluate your expectations – may be they involve your children, your parents, your spouse, your job, a friendship or an illness.  Are they aligning with God’s Will?  Are your expectations flexible to accepting circumstance that is part of His plan for you?  If so, you will have less disappointments and more life giving joy.  Blessings!

“Do not, my child, approach Jesus Christ with the hope of bending his will to yours: what I desire is that you yield yourself to him and that he receive you, so that he, your Savior, may do with you and in you whatever he pleases.” St. Cajetan

 

Your cross

In the still of the morning, my mind wanders to the path you walked. 

What did you feel when you were condemned to death?  Were tears welling up in your eyes for the love you felt for me as I placed my own sins on the cross that you would carry?

When you picked up your cross, did the thought of me cross your mind as you knew you were offering yourself up for me?  

Each time you fell from exhaustion of carrying your cross, burdened with the weight of the world, did your heart ache?  

When you saw your mother Mary, did sorrow fill your wounded body?

When God sent Simon of Cyrene to companion this journey with you, lifting the weight of the cross from your body, did you feel His overwhelming love and the power of His Will within you?

When Veronica wiped your face, did you feel her kind heart?

With each swing of the mallet when they nailed you to the cross you were carrying, did you feel the sting of each of my sins that you carried along your journey?

This journey I travel through life has a familiarity.  Every corner I turn on my path is strewed with crosses.  Some of these come with great pain and suffering that seems unbearable as I try to carry it alone. Yet some seem light and airy.

You carried one big cross for many and I carry many small crosses.  When I feel burdened with the weight of my cross, you tell me I’m not alone and you send me a companion to aid me in carrying that cross.  Along my path, our Blessed Mother meets me and comforts my sorrowful body with her gentleness.  You send many Veronica’s to show kindness to me, lifting my head and wiping my tears.  

It is in these crosses I pick up and carry along my journey, that I meet you.  I meet you in those around me, the companions you send.  I meet you in the pain, suffering, love and mercy.  I embrace you when I trust in your presence within me as you lift the burdens of the cross.  It is these crosses that become light and airy.  And it is in these crosses that I find true joy, love and forgiveness.  

Have you felt a familiarity with Jesus’ passion?  Do you see the similarities of your crosses in life.  Do you recognize the Simon’s of Cyrene He sends to help you carry your crosses?  Do you recognize the Veronica’s that show kindness lifting your spirits?  Do you feel the gentle embrace of the Blessed Mother comforting you?  Although Jesus endured much more pain and suffering than we may ever endure, our journeys are similar to His when we carry our crosses.  It is in our crosses that we empathize with Jesus’ passion, that we feel close to Him, where we meet Him more intimately.

As Holy Week approaches, I invite you to look at your crosses in your journey – where you were sent a companion, or a kind person, or an embrace of comfort.  Truly feel the passion of Jesus through your own crosses, your own pain and suffering and thank Him for laying these crosses before you.

May God keep you and bless you this Easter season.

Finding love and forgiveness – A lesson from grandma

My grandmother passed away March 30, 2016.  As I was thinking about the Lenten season today and what forgiveness means to me in my own life and those who have left deep scars, I was reminded of my grandmother.  I wanted to repost this blog post I wrote last year.  It talks about one of the greatest lessons I learned from my grandmother.  Her actions spoke volumes on forgiveness that I know resided in her heart.  Forgiveness is an essential part of our spiritual journey, the health of our souls and the quality of our lives.  I pray that I will be an example as great as she was in forgiving and showing love and kindness.pexels-photo-334978.jpeg“You have never been in love” Antonia Lipari Mire

Words spoken by my late grandmother as we sat on her front porch swing. I was in my early twenties. I was a baby in my career, just graduated college, on my own in a small town in Arkansas. I was cocky, independent and lacked wisdom. My grandmother lived about 45 minutes away from where I lived after graduating college. I often would pay her a visit on the weekends. One conversation I remember clearly was talking to her with a very self centered attitude about marriage. I remember telling my grandmother that I was glad I had a college education so that I, unlike my aunts, would not have to put up with marital issues due to lack of the ability to support myself. My grandmother put me in my place in a matter of seconds. She looked at me and told me, “you have never been in love”.

Later I realized how much that conversation really impacted me. As I grew wiser and settled into my own marriage, I recognized what my grandmother meant. My grandmother was a model of love, love to her family and love to my grandfather. My grandparents had separated for as long as I could remember. My grandfather from what limited knowledge I had of him was not a very kind person to my grandmother. He appeared to be very lonely and didn’t have great relationships with his kids. When he was dying of cancer, 20+ years after they separated, my grandmother with the loving heart she had, moved in with him to take care of my grandfather until he passed away.

I remembered that story from my college days, yet the love and forgiveness didn’t sink in until after my grandmother had told me “I had never been in love” and after I was married. Both of those memories of my grandmother merged and gave me a lot of food for thought as I struggled in my own marriage and a divorce. The example my grandmother showed me was an extraordinary example of love and forgiveness. My grandmother had an immense capacity to love and she also had a great ability to forgive. Both of these were gifts that came to fruition when she took care of my dying grandfather, a man that did not treat her with love and respect.

It’s been a little over 2 years since my grandmother’s passing.  As I think of this memory of her,  my heart sings with joy because of the impact her words and example of compassion has had on me.  I truly believe as God has worked in my own heart, the example of my grandmother is a gift that has helped me to love and forgive even when it has not been reciprocated.

How many times should you forgive your brother or sister? Jesus tells us that we should forgive seventy times seven.  I’m sure he really meant infinitely.  St Paul also tells us in Colossians 3:12-14, that we should put on “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.  If one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.  And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.”  Forgiveness is very difficult when you have so much pain buried with in you.  It is important to lift that pain to God and trust he will fill your heart with love to pave a path for forgiveness and healing in your heart.  In order to forgive you have to love.

 Are you practicing your capacity of love and forgiveness, especially to the one person who has inflicted the greatest pain upon you?

How well are you known?

Lord, You have probed me, You know me; You know when I sit and stand; You understand my thoughts from afar.  You sift through my travels and my rest; With all my ways You are familiar.  Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord You know it all.  Psalm 139:1-4

Have you ever sat in a quiet place, perhaps beneath the stars in the dead of night or under the blanket of the suns warmth near a creek or a lake and just wandered how well God knows YOU?

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite Psalms.  I could sit and meditate on this Psalm for hours, bathing in God’s presence as He probes me.  Of course, there may be days I don’t want God to probe me but He does.

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I have struggled with seeing God as a God who judges and disciplines.   Viewing God in this light and reflecting on Psalm 139, can be a little bit of a fear factor – seeing God as someone who knows every nook and cranny of my being.  Someone who knows my thoughts, my actions, and my feelings even before I do. What does He think when He sees my ugliness, my sinfulness?  Does He judge me then?  Does He nod His head and say, “there she goes again?”  When I first read Psalm 139, this was my reaction.

Oh no, God knows what I was thinking when I saw Betsy Sue take the last piece of that delicious cake and I’m going to have to go to confession.

God may see the ugly thoughts I have and all my sins but where I find the AWESOME SAUCE in this Psalm, is that God knows me so well that He guides me through life.

I think sometimes we don’t realize this until we go through something major in our lives and we see God’s hands guiding our steps and those around us.  In some cases, we may not see it in the midst of what is going on in our life but it’s revealed to us later.  Other times, it may be something simple, something we read or see.

One day, I was humored when my daughter was reading a daily devotion that spoke directly to her with something she was dealing with that day.  She paused and looked at me and said “how does He do that? How does He know what I was going to be dealing with today?  Did He swap the pages?”  I often wonder this exact thing when I read something that speaks directly to me about what I have been dealing with.  Often it is in a devotion or opening the Word of God and reading scripture.

After reading Psalm 139, I’m not sure why I am ever surprised when God speaks directly to me or guiding me.  After all, He knows exactly what is on my mind, what is in my heart.  I could give testimony after testimony on where I have seen God’s hands guiding my life.

This my dear friends is where surrender and a journey of trust begins.  It’s seeing God’s presence in your life, seeing His hands guiding you, reading something that speaks to your heart because He knows what is on your mind and in your heart.

Wherever you are in life, “even there [His] hand guides [you], [His] right hand holds [you] fast.” (Psalm 139:10)  “[Your] days were shaped, before [you] came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

Are you ready to surrender and trust your God who knows you better than you know yourself?  Are you willing to allow Him to guide you along the path that He has already mapped out for you?

Tauren Wells says it so well in his song Known…. “It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace to be known fully known and loved by You.”

Beauty – hidden within

Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4

What comes to mind when you think something is beautiful?  What are the aesthetic qualities that define beauty to you?  What do you think God’s definition of beauty is?

There is external beauty and there is internal beauty.  The world teaches us that external beauty is prominent.  We see this in everything – from material things to the runway.  Our society thrives on beauty.  It is in one’s desire for beauty, for ornate things, that floods the financial market of commercialism.  Many of us want more or do more to beautify our outer appearance, our homes, our mode of transportation, the list goes on. 

What is true beauty? 

What does the beauty of the soul look like?

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In 1 Peter 3:3-4, God sees us not as an external adornment, with beautiful hair, fine jewelry and clothing, but He sees the internal character of each of us, hidden in our heart.  The beauty He sees is that “of a gentle and calm disposition.”  We are “precious in the sight of God.”  We are “more precious than corals.” (Proverbs 3:15)

My daughter may define this as those people who are simply not fake.  I personally define it as those who are genuine in kindness, gentleness and love, in essence – “not fake.” 

The beauty of a woman, unlike the beauty of nature, is not revealed through her outward appearance.  She is made beautiful through her very essence of her character.  It is how she carries her crosses, how she responds to those in need, how she humbles herself, how she pours out into another with love and kindness, how she comforts another.  Her beauty is how she clothes herself internally verses externally.

This weekend, I had the greatest pleasure of being a part of an amazing retreat experience with almost 100 women.  It is amazing to see the beauty of God transform a person throughout a retreat weekend.  It is even more amazing to see the beauty of a team going above and beyond, serving and using their gifts to pour out the love of God through the power of the Holy Spirit into each person as if they were the only soul at the retreat. 

I personally have struggled through the years in my life with outward beauty.  Always trying to achieve what I thought others saw as beauty.  What I have learned, through the definition of beauty defined by God and the retreat, is that my smile coupled with serving others with the gifts God has given me defines my beauty, inwardly and outwardly.  These two things pour out God’s love that is embedded within me and this love is the true beauty.  My love revealed through outward actions is the internal character hidden within my heart.  My smile is the adornment on the outside that is the inward joy as a result of my faith and trust in a God that will always deliver His goodness no matter the trial or circumstance.

Because the world tells us that beauty is defined by external adornment, we spend a lot of time, money and energy to fulfill this form of beauty.  When we feel we do not measure up to this form of beauty, we feel ugly, unworthy and not valued.  This is the lie that we are told and we believe. 

The true beauty is planted within and is waiting to sprout out through your outpouring onto others.  It is through your faith and love of God that reveals your true beauty, clothing you in His majestic beauty.

I invite you to think about your inward beauty.  Is this the beauty you are revealing to the world externally?  Let the world see your true beauty, the beauty hidden within that is waiting to sprout outwardly.

Value of a penny

“The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Romans 5:5

Did you pour out your heart to your Valentine Thursday?  Perhaps you showered them with flowers, their favorite chocolate or a romantic dinner.

February is the month of love.  Love is something we should celebrate.  Love comes in so many different packages.  It can be a romantic love with a significant other, the love for a child, the love for a parent, love for a friend, etc.  The form of LOVE I want to talk about is the LOVE that pours out on to each of us that is unconditional.  It is a love with no restrictions.

This love can only come from one source, God through the POWER of the HOLY SPIRIT.

I was listening to a talk by a priest earlier on this very topic.  He read a letter he received from a young lady who had felt she was incapable of being loved by God.  In this note, she discovers God’s unconditional love in a penny.

What she says is that no matter how dirty or beaten up a penny gets, it’s worth is still the same.  There are shiny pennies and there are black dirty pennies.  The shiny pennies don’t go through all the stuff the black dirty pennies go through yet their VALUE, their WORTH are the same.

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I really thought this was a very powerful analogy of the unconditional love God has for each of us.  No matter how beaten we are, how dirty we are, how sinful we are, God values us, desires us and most of all loves us just the same.  He wants to pick us up, dust off all the dirt, and smooth all the rough edges so that we can see His light shine and reflect from us.

Whether you are the shiny penny or the dirty, beaten penny, God wants you to know He loves you.  If you celebrated Valentines day or you love a family or friend, you experience this love “because He first loved [you],” 1 John 4:19.

If you feel incapable of God’s love because of your past, because of your sins, remember the dirty penny – it doesn’t lose it’s VALUE, no matter how beaten, run over, stepped on or dirty.  Jesus carried your crosses over 2000 years ago to demonstrate this phenomenal love and God is breathing in love through the Holy Spirit everyday with every breath of life you take.  When you need to feel the love of God, pause, close your eyes, take a deep breath in and imagine Jesus before you carrying the cross, beaten and bruised, whispering God’s very love for you.

 

How much do I love thee?

 

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.  In this way the love of God was revealed to us; God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might have life through him.  In this is love; not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:7-10

Have you told yourself you love you lately?  If not, take a moment and do so.  And then take a moment and ask God how much He loves you?  How did He respond?  Did you find the answer unexpected?  What about when you told yourself you loved you?  Did you find that difficult?    

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.  Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:  The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God.  This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being.  For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence.  He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.”

Love seems so natural and so simple yet we struggle with it.  We probably struggle with loving ourselves more than anything.

WHY?

I think we are the hardest critics of ourselves.  We see every fault, every failure.  We know every hurt, every negative word said to us.  I think these things aid us in the inability to truly love ourselves, to truly love the person God created in us.  We fail to see the person God sees in us because of the awesome critics we are.  So if you truly listened to God once you asked Him how much He loved you, I’m sure you received a very different answer than you expected.  Sometimes, we just don’t have the capacity and the ability to see how unconditional God’s love is.  It is a hard thing to grasp because of our sin and what we see within us.

I want to share a personal story of a young woman who knew God, yet didn’t have a friendship with Him.  She had not allowed Him to companion with her for many years throughout her life.  Her vision of God was as a disciplinary, one who saw her faults and was displeased with her.  One day, she found herself lost.  She looked up to the Heavens and began to pray.  As the days went by, she began to notice this growing desire for something.  She began to read books about God and her faith.  As she read and as she went to Mass, her heart began to desire more.  As the “bread of life” was raised before her eyes, she felt this ache in her heart.  When she approached the Eucharist, she felt this grave anticipation and hunger as her heart began to beat faster.  She had received Holy Communion for years and had not felt this deep desire to consume the Host of her Lord.  As she consumed it and drink the blood of Christ, she felt this warmth consume her and immediately a tear fell from her cheek.  In that instant she realized the love that her Heavenly Father had for her.  Every Mass thereafter, she longed to receive Jesus, to feel herself being transformed through the love He has for her in the sacrifice He made for her and does each time she goes to Mass.  This desire continued to grow throughout the days, the weeks and months.  She found herself almost daily at the foot of the Host, soaking in the very presence of Jesus in Adoration.  His comforting embrace in her sorrows of her days were her “refuge and fortress.”  She couldn’t wait to rush off to go have lunch with Him, to soak in His love that radiated in the silence of her heart when she was before Him in the chapel.  This love grew beyond what she could ever have imagined.  He was present when she was weak, when she needed comfort from her tears.  He gave her strength to endure the days ahead and courage to follow Him.  He protected her and calmed her fears and lifted her up on eagles wings to fly over the sea of despair into the heights of the mountains.  As she saw all that He was doing in her heart and in her life, she began to place her trust in Him.  Her life, through suffering, flourished in love as she had found her first true love and entrusted her life into His hands.  She had discovered a loving friendship that had been pulling her from the day she was born that would fulfill her greatest desire of communion with Him into an unimaginable happiness – through her joy and pain.  She knew this flame of love would never burn out.  It may be a little dim at times but will always be refueled through the thirst and hunger that is always fulfilled in the love of her Heavenly Father and the sacrifice of her Lord as she receives the grace from the “bread of life” and “the fruit of the vine.”

God meets us where we are and when we are open and ready to receiving Him.  Sometimes that time is in the midst of a trial in our lives.  When that time comes, a true love story is sprouted.  It is an unimaginable love that grows beyond anything you have experienced.  If you haven’t opened your arms to receive the love God is waiting to share with you, today may not be a bad day to start.  Blessings always.