Good always wins

“I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”  John 13:34-35

I’m sure everyone has watched at least one Disney princess movie, if not several.  Each is a story of love and each has some version of good and evil.  What I love about these movies is that good always prevails in the end and most of all LOVE.

LOVE can be easy at times and it can be very challenging.  Have you had those relationships where it was very easy to love the other person?  They made it so easy because they loved you back with a selfless kind of love.  What about those challenging relationships?  Some of these can be within our own families.  It can be a mother, a father, a sibling, a spouse, a child, or a good friend.  They may have hurt you in some way or their form of showing love was demanding and selfish.

I think when Jesus was giving this commandment to love one another as He loved us, He may have had these difficult relationships in mind.  I can’t remember where I read this but in this piece I was reading the author was comparing what it would look like for us today to resemble what Jesus did on the cross.  Would you every consider volunteering to take the place of a man who is about to be executed for murdering your child?  Consider what Jesus did for each of us.  That kind of love for another is pretty hard to swallow for probably all of us – to take the place of another on death row who murdered your child.

Truly let that sink in for a bit in alignment with this very commandment Jesus gives us to love one another and the very action Jesus did by giving His life for each of us, who was on death row for our sins against our Father.

sunrise under cloudy sky illustration
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I’m not a saint by any means but I want to share a personal story that helped me to realize what Jesus meant in relation to me when He said “love one another as I have loved you.”  After Mass on Sunday and hearing the nice homily that the deacon delivered, I went about my normal business.  Later in the week, I attended a banquet with my daughters.  It was my evening to have my daughters.  My daughters saw their dad and went to tell him hi and returned to my table.  After sitting for several minutes, waiting for our table to be called up to get food, I caught a glimpse of their father on the other side of the cafeteria alone.  I whispered to both my daughters to go sit with their dad until our table was called up for food.  Now, this may seem like a normal story to most people and you may be saying I don’t get it.  What I want to share is that deep down I knew that my ex would never do this for me.  His actions have repeatedly been quite the opposite – and this past week was proof of the repeated offenses.  My actions were a result of Christ within me and not a result of me as my selfish human form.  It was Christ’s love that flowed through me to give me the grace to turn the other cheek and show love to a person who has hurt me deep within, who has left very deep scars and continues to inflict me.  It wasn’t until later that I realized the connection between my actions that night and the reading and it brought some peace to me.

I won’t pretend it’s easy to respond in love to those that hurt us or someone who just makes it difficult to love them, because it isn’t.  It is expected of us.  Even those individuals are God’s children and He loves them just as much as He loves us.  To love like Him, we MUST love those that we may feel don’t deserve our love.  Look at the cross, we didn’t deserve God’s love either, yet He freely gave it to us.

Choosing to do what Jesus would do will always bring light in the darkness.  GOOD ALWAYS WIN – just as in the Disney princess stories.  So the next time you are faced with the challenge of showing love to someone who has made it difficult for you to love, take that initiative and act in loving kindness just as Jesus would do for you after you committed your worst sin.

Seasons – a life journey

“God has made everything appropriate to its time…”  Ecclesiastes 3:11

If you could choose a season for all year long, which would you choose – spring, summer, fall or winter?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have our favorite season all year round?

That’s a nice thought.  Kind of the same with life.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have the best season of our life hang around all the time?

Throughout life, we go through all these different seasons.  Some are more joyful than others.  Just like the seasons throughout the year, the seasons in our life have purpose.

Spring brings in new life.  Summer shines the bright warmth of the sun.  Fall begins the transition of releasing as winter approaches killing the vegetation and preparing it for new life.  Then the cycle starts all over again.  Kind of like life.

If we had only one season, how could we sprout new life within us?  We cannot experience new life within us until we release the old and surrender.

 

green leafed plants
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Life flourishes from change. Transformation is a must in our faith journey. Each season of life brings forth new struggles, death to those burdens and new life.

I love the thought that God is still writing our story. He tells us that He knows every single thing about us. So He knows every season of life we will go through. Recall the time when you may have veered off the path God had you on.  Your choices led you on a path away from your faith or you struggled with a recurring sin that separated your heart from God.  Perhaps this took place over a day, a year or several years.  Now, remember the day that you discovered the path again or reunited your heart to God.  Do you see God taking all those things in the detour and writing more pages in the book of your life that will uncover joy in your heart?  Do you see Him transforming those events or circumstances into something good and fruitful?  Often times this is when we experience the death and newness of our lives. This is when our lives begin to feel more complete and full. It’s when the transition occurs in that season of life.  And we witness this every single year through nature.

Don’t you just love how nature teaches us about life? How everything in nature in some way presents a lesson for us, God’s studious students?

Will you welcome the next season in your life with open arms? Will you welcome what God may have in store for you so that you can grow like a sturdy oak tree fulfilling His purpose in you?

Listen to the lyrics of this song.  Find the patience in each season of life as there is always fruit waiting to sprout even when it seems to be hidden.  Uncover the newness of your journey.

Hillsong “Seasons”

I can see the promise
I can see the future
You’re the God of seasons
And I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest
Is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done working
God I’m not done waiting
You can see my promise
Even in the winter

 

The masquerade

He gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall. They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. Isaiah 40:29-31

Have you ever been to a masquerade ball? Do you feel like sometimes life can be like a masquerade ball, you are masked on the outside with something that is totally opposite of what’s on the inside?

I’m sure many can say that they have at least once or many times said everything was fine when someone asked but in actuality it wasn’t.

Often it seems like social media is a masquerade ball. Each of us can hide behind the things that we post, keeping our inner vulnerabilities hidden or portraying that everything is amazingly awesome when we are completely broken apart.

The masquerade ball I wanted to unveil is the one that traps us within. It’s the one where our reality seems trapped behind a mirror and we take control instead of surrendering to God.

assorted color mask
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My daughter has been watching Once Upon a Time. If you aren’t familiar with this series, it’s a somewhat twisted combination of a lot of the Disney fantasies. A spell is cast and all the characters find themselves in another world trapped in a town and have no recollection of their former life. I think sometimes life can seem just like this series. We are trapped in a world that is not the one we are meant to be in. Perhaps the spell or the illusion is masked by sin or the ideals of the world we live in.

My favorite Bible verse is Isaiah 40:31. I love this verse because it’s a constant reminder of where my strength comes from when I am weary and restless. Like a spell bound world, sometimes I feel like my weakness is trapped behind the mirror of what I perceive as strength to others and in some cases to God. In other words, I don’t allow myself to really be unveiled. In many cases this leads to me trying to be in control, not allowing any defenses down and be vulnerable to support – Jesus carrying that cross for me. I will do this until I absolutely become restless and weary. In these moments I think the tornado starts to whirl around me and I get lost in the center of the darkness.

Let’s draw some focus on the part in Isaiah where it says “they that hope in the Lord”. It is this hope that is the rope in the well that we draw this strength from.

Exposing ourselves, stripping away the mask, whatever it may be that is separating us from God, allows us to grab on to the rope of hope and draw in this strength to truly face the things we need to.  I can go another step further and call the threads of this rope that bind it – trust in God.  This well is the living water that we draw in, refreshing and strengthening our spirit.  It’s the nourishment we need for the journey but we first have to leave the masquerade party and be vulnerable.

When you feel like life is beginning to look like smoke and mirrors, try unveiling the mask of whatever is preventing you from being stripped and bare before God – allowing Him to do His amazing work in you and through you by strengthening you.  Shatter the mirror, exposing whatever is trapped behind the illusion and grasp the rope of hope, drawing your strength from the well of life giving water – Jesus.

 

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.

belief bible book business
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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

 

A path covered in crosses

“For I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God.  And I say to you. ‘Don’t be afraid.  I am here to help you.”  Isaiah 41:13 NLT

Do you sit and imagine places you will travel?  Roads and trails you will walk?  Perhaps, you sit and dream about walking along the beach on a quiet morning as the sun begins to rise?  Or you imagine walking near the streets of Paris?  Whatever your dreams are, do you imagine a walk with your Lord?

I long for moments I can spend with God, especially in nature.  Nature is where I connect the most with Him.  It’s where I feel I’m open the most to hearing Him and seeing Him in the things around me.  I learn so much about myself and the things in the world that affect me within through watching nature.

Earlier in the week, I was walking around the pond at work and I just asked Jesus to take a walk with me.  Funny thing about it was that He reminded me that He has been walking with me, EVERYDAY.  He reminded me of these little visible signs of His presence in my life – crosses that I see along my path.  These aren’t just any crosses.  These crosses are my crosses.  They are the ones He has helped me carry in life.  They each have a story.  Some of the stories are harder and more painful – I think those are the tougher twigs.  Some are quite small, most likely the pine needles I see in the shape of a cross.  Some have been really hard to carry, they have been buried or embedded within – these are the ones found in the concrete.

img_5399Somedays, I may only see one cross in my path, others 20.  When I see these crosses, my heart leaps for joy and my face morphs a smile.  WHY?  Because I know that each of these crosses has a story that has led me closer to God.  Each has created a greater dependence on Him.  I know this is how to discover trust in God, accepting my crosses with joy.

Of course many of these crosses have come and gone but some still linger.  Today I struggle with the one that is embedded in the concrete.  This cross is one that will reshape me within.  It’s the one that bears the greatest level of pain.  It’s the one that will give me the greatest peace of who I am as God continues to pour into me.

I love hearing songs, reading Bible verses, or reading books that talk about God not being finished with us or Him writing our story, creating music from the chaos, reforming us from the dust.  It is truly in these crosses that God is rewriting our story.  He is rewriting it to align with His story, His plans for us.

The greatest message I could ever tell in my story is trusting in God’s Divine Will and discerning what His Will is by aligning your life to His Will.  Are you willing to allow Him to rewrite your story by accepting your crosses, allowing Him to carry you through them?  I invite you to stretch out your hand and ask Him to take it and walk this journey with you.  And if you happen to see a cross in your path, remember your crosses that He has helped you carry.

May you be filled with the Holy Spirit and your desires align with His desires.  Blessings!

 

 

A Merciful Love

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!” St. Catherine of Siena

Have you met someone you admire?  That one person that has taught you how to be a better person?  That one person that opened your heart to your Heavenly Father, that was a catalyst igniting your faith?

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.  It’s a day of celebrating God’s mercy.  The devotion of Divine Mercy is based on the private revelations of St. Faustina.  Most importantly, I think this devotion, the messages St. Faustina received and this day of Divine Mercy is a realization to each of us of God’s great mercy that He gives each of us in the graces we receive and ultimately the merciful love He asks of us to give to each other.  This mercy is another expression of God’s unconditional love for us and is illustrated throughout the pages in the Bible.

Divine Mercy

Our response to this devotion of Divine Mercy should be an expression of bringing the love of Christ to those who are broken physically and spiritually.  It is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sharing the love of Christ with those who feel forgotten.  It is as simple as giving a hug to someone who is going through a difficult time and letting them know that God’s goodness is the ultimate consequence of their trial.  It is as simple as volunteering to serve the community in some way.  It is as simple as sharing hope and comfort with an elderly person by spending a little time with them.  There are so many ways we can share in God’s Divine Mercy.  He gives us opportunities everyday. I think the quote by St Catherine of Siena is so fitting – “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!” That is truly what the message of Divine Mercy is for us in our daily life – to be the person God created us to be by showing His merciful love to the world.

One of the more personal experiences I have had in my life of Divine Mercy was through a few ladies in my life.  These women have impacted my faith journey immensely.  They have been examples to me and have guided me in my faith.  They always pointed me in the right direction when my compass seemed a little out of whack.  They have touched me in a way that led me on the journey of my life, my relationship with Christ.  Jesus said “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. (John 17:20 NLT Catholic Edition)”

I never thought in a million years that I could ever be as they were to me to another.  To share in this gift of God’s Mercy by sharing my faith through my journey, through my continued growth in trusting in God’s Divine Providence is a great blessings that I never realized was so impactful.  Until the other day, I never connected my journey over the last few years as a vehicle of participating in God’s Divine Mercy.  It was the words of a dear friend and sister that helped me to see that my own journey has been an example of God’s Mercy and has impacted those around me even when I didn’t see it.  My heart smiles to see how God can use my own story, my own experience and the transformation in my faith to reveal His unending love to others, His goodness in all things, even the pain and sufferings.  It is in this that I know my pain has produced much fruit in me and through me.  It is humbling to be to others as those who were catalyst in my faith journey were to me. It’s another way of paying it forward – revealing God’s merciful love.

Sharing in God’s love story, His Divine Mercy, is simple.  It’s sharing His love with one another.  It’s taking the opportunity to love on someone in need, to pray for one another, to assure someone that God’s goodness is in everything, especially in those things that appear to be hopeless to our human eyes.

The greatest story I could ever share through my own experiences is the message of Divine Mercy – “Jesus I trust in you”.  It is a message I was introduced to 6 years ago. One of the ladies that impacted my faith journey used to tell me to say these 5 words when my struggles were at their peak.  May this message be a catalyst to many just as it was to me during a period I needed to hear it the most.

“JESUS I TRUST IN YOU”

 

Prayer – my design or God’s?

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14

Do you feel frustrated when you sit down to pray and your mind is cluttered with distractions? Do you think the clutter is really clutter or a distraction or is it there for a reason?  Does this clutter or distraction have a purpose in that moment, in your prayer?  What is God inviting you to discover?

Many years ago, I remember walking into my very first meeting with my spiritual director and telling her that I couldn’t pray, my mind was cluttered with all this stuff.  Her response to me was – perhaps you should bring this clutter into your prayer.

I had to chuckle today as I was reading today’s message in “An Ignation book of days” by Jim Manney.  It was exactly this topic – What to do about distractions.  There was a quote from the book “Finding God in All Things” that said exactly what my spiritual director had mentioned to me about 5 years ago – “make the distraction the content of [your] prayer, to hear God’s word in this person, situation, whatever it might be.”

For me during that time period, prayer was a place I went to in order to remove myself from what was going on in my life.  It was my escape, my refuge from my life.  I felt so at peace in my prayer time.  In other words, my moments in prayer FELT GOOD.  They were shear moments of me conversing with God about how He was moving me internally at the time.  At the time, He was helping me move through a key time in my life, so I think that I needed to feel this refuge and fortress from my life -this inner peace, comfort and protection.  So when the clutter hit, it through me for a loop.  It didn’t feel peaceful or comforting – it was far from GOOD.  I know today, it was God inviting me to deal with the things that were cluttering my life, not just my mind.

Over the years, I still feel uncomfortable when a ton of things fill my prayer time that I don’t intend to bring to prayer.  I want my prayer time to be peaceful, to just bask in the presence of God.

As I have grown in my faith journey, I have come to realize that this is me placing God in a box.  When I am frustrated with the clutter, I’m not happy with inviting God to do some of the conversing.

Prayer is a key part of our relationship with God.  In fact it is the kick of flavor in our recipe of our faith journey.  Just as in our earthly relationships we have to allow the other person to do some of the conversing.  We can’t always monopolize the conversation or we won’t really have a great relationship with that person.  When we control or monopolize our prayer time, it is no different than taking the steering wheel from God in our life and directing what we want in our relationship with God and not what He may be inviting us to.

Listening is necessary in any relationship, especially the one we have with God.  Next time, you feel distracted in prayer, listen to what God is inviting you to bring to the conversation and deal with in your life.  It could be the next best thing in your life, a golden opportunity in your journey of life.

I love this song “King of the World” by Natalie Grant.  It speaks volumes to me when I’m trying to control my life, especially what goes on in my moments of prayer.  May God always be the King of your world.