Have Your Dreams Come True?

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Have you had your happily ever after?  Have your childhood dreams come true?

When you enter a Disney Park, you read the words, “where dreams come true” and every fairy tale has a happily ever after. I’ve been to Disney World 4 times and Disney Land once and my dreams have not come true.  At least the dreams I had as a child of finding my prince charming, living in a big house on the top of a hill with horse stables and open green space.  And don’t forget the maids…. Does that mean that my dreams will never come true?

The greatest aspect of childhood is the imagination and dreaming.  Exploring imaginations as children opens a world of adventures and dreams.  As a child you were open, the world had no limits, life seemed simple and you could do anything you imagined.  In an instant, you could climb into a spaceship and fly to the moon, slay a dragon and rescue a village, find yourself in an African safari roaming with lions or being rescued by a handsome prince and living happily ever after in a castle.

Then one day, you grew up and reality set in.  Your imagination dwindled, your dreams faded and your openness became constrained.  Why?  Why did your dreams as a child or even as an adult not come true and fade into the wind? Why was your openness placed in a closet and your imagination disappeared?  Why did you not have your happily ever after?

Although you can imagine and dream what your life would be, but if your dreams are yours and not aligned with God, you won’t have your happily ever after.  You may have a temporary happiness but it won’t be permanent.

One of my favorite saints, St Ignatius of Loyola, discovered this lasting happiness when his imagination aligned with the saints and Jesus.  When he was seriously wounded, the only material available to him was books on the saints and Jesus.  What he realized was that when he would imagine himself fighting for the King of Spain and winning the hearts of the most beautiful ladies, he had a temporary joy.  When he found himself imagining the adventures of the saints and fighting for another King, Jesus, his happiness lasted longer.  This was the birth of his conversion and the spiritual exercises.

As it was with St. Ignatius, when your dreams align with God, they do come true and you do receive your happily ever after.  Your dreams and openness are keys in your life to the doors God has ready for you to open.  In Matthew 19:26, Jesus says that “for God all things are possible.”  Right there, He tells you that your dreams are possible with God.  If your dreams are His will in your life, they will be fulfilled.

Today, my dreams no longer consist of finding prince charming, living in a big house on a hill.  These are the things that the world wants me to dream of having.  My dreams consist of what’s impossible for me alone, but with God is a reality.  It is a dream of love, joy and charity.  My dream is of peace in knowing that God has greater things in store for me, a greater purpose for my life.  It is a dream of listening and receiving the key to the kingdom of Heaven.

What is your dream today?  What does your happily ever after look like?  Does it involve conforming your will, your dreams to that of God’s?  Do you have joy and hope knowing that it aligns with God’s dream for you?

Motherhood – A Unique Gift

With Mother’s Day around the corner, I wanted to honor all mothers on the beautiful gift of motherhood that God reserved just for you.

A delicate flower
Grown from a seed
A design like no other
One would concede

As strong as an army
As gentle as a dove
She inspires and uplifts
With a nurturing love

Patient and trustworthy
Supportive and caring
Clothed with beauty
Vibrant and glaring

A heart like the ocean
Stretching to no end
She embraces her role
Like the touch of the wind

Grown in His garden
A mother is she
To fulfill His desire
Through all eternity

God created mothers with very unique gifts.  He knew that she would be exhausted at times, so he made her stronger and more determined.  He knew that she would be unappreciated at times, so he gave her little embraces of love.  He knew that she would feel that she wasn’t good enough at times, so he gave her little rewards of her hard work.  

Men were created with a physical strength and women were created with the strength of compassion.  I know there are many times that many mothers feel exhausted, underappreciated and that they are failing their children as they try to balance life or experience tough teaching moments.  Some moms stay at home, some are working moms, some are single moms and some are beautiful moms to others.   With each variety, each mom has a role and that role is unique to each child.  It’s unique in the way she loves each child, unique in the way she supports and encourages each child, and unique in the way that she teaches each child discipline and to survive in this world.  Each mom has one thing in common, she was created with compassion and love that connects her heart from that of God to another.  As she recognizes this, she fulfills his role as mother perfectly.

Along my journey as a mother, I have struggled and adjusted wanting to make sure I teach my children to love God and others, be accountable, responsible, trustworthy, respectful and above all the “best version” of who they are.  In doing so, I have tried many techniques, some that were successful with one child and not the other and some that failed miserably.  Above all, 3 things that have never failed:

1.       Praying with them before bed

2.      Reading the Bible with them and/or a devotion centered on a verse

3.      Encouraging and challenging their abilities

There have been frustrating moments where I felt they were not listening or paying attention and what I was doing had no value.  Just when I needed it most, God would send me a message through one of them revealing the impact in their lives.  One of these moments happened on an evening I was exhausted and needed reassurance that I was fulfilling my role as a mother and role model in my children’s lives.  That evening, one of my daughters told me she needed to tell me something.  She said, “Mom, thank you for having us read the Bible.”  She continued to tell me why this made such an impact and then told me, “Mom, you are a good mom.”  My heart was full and I knew God was beside me, letting me know that I’m doing my role to my best, that I am making an impact on these young souls.  I am not going to always get it right, but the things I will get right are the things that will matter the most.

Today as Mother’s Day approaches, know that you were created for this role as a mother and no one else could do it but you.  He knew that your children would need empathy and compassion, so he gave them you.   

 

The Great Ascent

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Imagine, you are walking in a nearby field at the base of a mountain.  You marvel at the height of the mountain.  Each day, you feel invited to draw closer to the mountain.  One day, you begin to walk and realize you are ascending up the mountain.  As you continue the journey, you come across steep rocks in the path and you think to yourself, there is no way I can go any further.  I’ll have to turn back and head back to the field.  As you begin to turn around, you feel something tugging at you but you don’t see anything there.  You pause for a second and then begin to move downward and then you notice someone approaching you.  He is carrying a shepherds staff.  You are a little startled.  You know that you didn’t see anyone a second ago and now here is a person, a shepherd with no sheep in site.  As he draws nearer, you begin to feel something sweep over you, strength and courage.  He stands beside you and looks at the path ahead.  He nods in agreement on how steep the rocks look and he tells you give it a shot that he is right there beside you.  You begin to climb and what seemed impossible, now seems doable.  You are astonished.  Once you have reached the other side of the rocks, you look back and no longer see the shepherd.  You tell yourself, I thought he would be right beside me.  It looks like he left.  Before persisting onward, you notice 3 small rocks that look unusual.  You take the 3 rocks and stack them at the location you have just conquered over the steep rocks.

Then, you continue to pursue the path laid before you.  As you proceed up the mountain, you reach a place that has two paths.  One of the paths looks easy and wider than the other.  The more narrow path appears to be steeper, has very rugged terrain, and gives you a sense that you could fall below with just the wrong footing.  You stop and analyze both paths, thinking of all the consequences that could possible happen on either path.  As you begin to walk towards the path that appears wider and easier, a boulder falls and blocks the path.  You again assess the situation and with fear, you want to turn around and return back to the field.  Just then, you see the shepherd again.  He doesn’t say a word as he stands beside you.  You then begin to journey on the narrow path.  You notice this time he is behind you as your foot slips and dust and rocks fall below.  Your heart is beating very fast with fear of falling.  Suddenly a calmness sweeps over you and you feel strengthened to move forward ascending the mountain.  As the narrow path comes to an end and it opens  up again, you notice the shepherd is no longer behind you and there are 3 small stones before you.  You stack these stones as you did before and press on.

You are beginning to feel hungry and thirsty.  Just then you notice a spring and some wild berries.  You stop to eat and drink from the spring.  You sit a while to rest as you delight in the view along the bank of the spring.  There are vibrant, colorful flowers and greenery that you have never seen before.  It looks like a painting hung in an art gallery.  Just as you are about to get up and restart the journey, the clouds roll in and a storm begins to cover the sky.  No place to run and no place to hide, you wonder what you are going to do as the rain begins to pour.  A storm on a mountain can’t be a good thing.  As the lightening begins to strike, towards the eastern side of the path, you notice the shepherd and what appears to look like a small crevice, like a cave that could provide shelter from the storm.  He signals for you to join him.  You sit in this small space for shelter.  Your clothes are wet and you begin to shiver.  You feel an embrace and realize the shepherd is holding you and you begin to feel warm and comforted.

Once the storm has passed, you look around and the shepherd is gone yet again and you see 3 small stones again and begin to ponder. Each instance you began to feel afraid, resistant, weak, or faced with adversity along this path, you saw this shepherd and found 3 small stones.  Who could this be? And why 3 small stones?

You walk further up the mountain and as you ascend, you can sense a newness, a freshness in the air.  Your shoulders seem lighter, your mind feels clearer and you sense freedom.  You feel there are no longer things binding you to the field, to the world.  You spin around with your hands in the air, taking in this new found freedom, resting in it.

At that moment, you realize that each time you were afraid, you met adversity, weakness, and resistance, the shepherd was guarding you, his sheep.  When you were afraid to go on when you thought you couldn’t take on the task at hand, he helped you and showed you it was possible with his help. When you were faced with 2 directions to discern in life, a difficult path and easy one, he guided your decision and walked with you along the difficult path. When you were hungry and thirsty, he provided your nourishment. When the storms covered your life, he gave you shelter in his arms, comforting you until it blew over. He was guiding you and as you pushed pass each of these instances you stacked remembrance stones to signify the areas in your life where you were faced with challenges and Jesus carried you, guided you, nourished you, comforted you, gave you shelter.  At the top of this mountain you just ascended, you are rejoicing in the freedom that he has given you through your trust in his will in your life as you prepare for eternity in his glory.

Can you feel the freedom? If not, have you let go of your own will and fears and allowed him to carry you, nourish you, and guide you as you ascend to holiness, to sainthood?

God or Coincidence?

Ever turn on the radio and hear a song that speaks directly to you? Or may be you pick up a book and the message is just what you needed to hear? Or you hear someone say something and you feel it’s directed towards you even though they are talking to an auditorium or church full of people?  What do you think, coincidence or God?

Many years ago, I was on my way to do one of the hardest things that I have had to do. My children are most important to me next to my faith. On this day, I knew I had to tell them the one thing that I never wanted to have to tell them, something that would affect the rest of their lives. I was on my way that day to see my therapist so that I could tell my children that their dad would not be coming home. As I was driving, the song “Lord I Need You”, by Matt Maher came on. At that moment, I just cried because I did need God. I needed him to not only comfort me and give me the courage and strength for this moment but I needed him to comfort my children. That song gave me a peace that prepared me for this moment of pain that awaited each of us.

This isn’t the only time a song has come on at just the right moment with a message that guided, comforted me or gave me reassurance about a decision.  In fact, just today as I was leaving Mass “Come to the Table” by Sidewalk Prophets came on just as I was thinking about some things in my past that feel my heart with shame and discontent about myself.  As I listened to the lyrics of the song and knew I had just went to the table to receive Jesus, I was comforted knowing that I have been set free and this is no longer a part of who I am.

I also love how books,  devotions or the readings for the day, speak directly to me regarding something that I’m dealing with or discerning.  One evening, my children and I were reading a children’s devotion and as we read it, my daughter looks at me and says “How does he do that?  How does he know what happened today?  Did he just swap the pages?”  I had to chuckle a little as she was questioning God’s method of talking to her through this devotion on an issue she was having with her friend.  It was a very good teachable moment on being open to hear God and how he speaks to us through things we read, things someone says, what we see or even a song.

I believe these moments, when something speaks to our hearts in whatever way it may be, that it can only be attributed to God, not coincidence.  He knows exactly what you need to comfort you or to guide your decision.  If you are open, you will hear him at just the right time and just the right place.  If you need direction, he will guide you.  If you need comfort, he will console you.  If you need peace, he will provide it.  If you need love, he will embrace you.  The form he uses may be different each time.  Be aware.  The next person that approaches you may be someone he sends to help you with something you are struggling with.  The next song you hear, may bring you peace in a situation that has brought you discontentment.  A book you read may guide you to discerning an important decision or direction in your life.

Tune in to everything and everyone around you, he is speaking to you at this moment.  Are you open to receiving the message God is sending you today through your radio, through your friend, through your children or spouse, through the Bible or words in a book?

 

Finding love and forgiveness

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?

The Colors of My Journey

As I sit in the still of the day, my thoughts stream through my mind like an array of colors. Each color represents an aspect of my life. They signify the many challenges, joys, successes, and heart aches that have transpired through my life. I didn’t always realize God’s presence in the mist of this rainbow of colors. As I sit listening to the sounds of the water falling drop by drop and feel the breeze of the wind touching each inch of my face, I know that God was there through every step as these colors emerged in my life. He was watching as I took my first breath, my first steps, said my first words and He just smiled. He was present when I was tempted by the enemy and disobeyed my parents, as He whispered I forgive you and I love you. He was listening when I said my first prayer and He thanked me. As I grew into a woman, He marveled in the person He was creating me to be. He was tugging at my heart when I didn’t realize it. When the clouds were dark and the storm whirled in, He sent me help in the form of a friend. She comforted me and guided my spirit, just as He asked her. An ember He added to spark my soul, warming my desire for Him. This is the time that I would begin to grow in a love so great. I was unaware of what was happening, as I walked this journey trying to survive a life that seemed tough. As the time passed on, my determination bore fruit. My successes grew larger, a degree, marriage, a home and a daughter. Each a joyful gift that He placed in my care. I still had no clue that He was still preparing me for something more, a struggle and a growth as the river flowed through the colors of my life. He lit a flame from the ember that He implanted. It warmed my soul for so much more. I thirst and I hungered to know Him more. I knew He had a purpose for me that was larger. I searched and I pondered, looking here and there. He enlightened my soul and the colors seemed brighter as my relationship and my spirit with Him strengthened. He was still preparing me for events to come. He was laying a foundation, steady and strong to endure an event that was the greatest struggle of them all. He held my hand as I endured the storm of storms, guiding my path by each step that I made. He cradled me when I felt I couldn’t go on any more and strengthened me with His love to continue the journey. Today I look back and I see each color vibrant and bright as the flame from the ember continues to burn and my faith in His presence continues to grow with joy, peace and happiness.

Have you allowed your peace to be swept away?

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” John 14:27

Have you ever woke up in a great mood, ready to take the day and then life began and it all went downhill? You struggled to get your children out of bed. You found yourself cleaning up a mess of spilt milk. Then you realized you are late for work. Rushing out the door, you forget your keys and spill your coffee on your blouse. I’m sure no one has mornings like that, except me.

I use to live in a more open area of the suburbs. I loved waking up before anyone and going outside on my porch in the stillness of the morning to pray and sit in the presence of God. There is something so peaceful about the newness of the day before the sun begins to rise and everyone is still asleep. The birds begin to sing welcoming the day. The air seems fresh and new. I could just feel and breathe in the peace of the present moment. Everything seemed to be in perfect harmony.

And then, my day started. All that peace I just experienced goes tumbling down as I begin to rush through my morning waking everyone up, getting lunches made, and preparing for the unexpected events of spills. My peace from my moment in the stillness of the glorious morning God set before me has just vanished.

Why? Why do we allow our peace, the peace Jesus plainly tells us he gives us, be taken away? Do we confuse the peace of Jesus with the world’s definition of peace?

When Jesus tells you he gives you his peace and it’s not of the peace of the world, he is telling you that his peace is within you. It’s the peace of harmony of all things working within you, with him at your core. It’s the morning peace on the porch, where everything is perfect and new. It’s the present moment of trust in him that he is with you and whatever the outcome of any circumstance good or bad, it is the best outcome for you. It’s the peace that produces everlasting joy and happiness because you have a trust in the greater outcome of all things in life. This peace is you knowing that God has harmonized your life as he does the morning setting of nature. But so often the expectations or how the world defines peace creeps in and when you lose that type of peace, anxieties, frustrations and anger surface. If you center on the peace of Christ, then none of the things of the world – good or bad – can take away your peace. Peace of Christ be with you always.