Saturday, November 29, 2014

Life Through a Different Lens



 Every now and then I am given the opportunity to see life through a different lens. I have experienced some difficult and even scary circumstances that have compelled me to view life differently. These times challenge my faith, present me with a different perspective and allow me to draw closer to God. There have been tragedies among family members and dear friends, my own miscarriage, and health scares with my children, just to name a few. I think the scariest time of waiting as a mom, was four years ago. We were told that our newborn had a hole in her heart. (This actually was rivaled by some scares with our first daughter years ago, when we had a lymph node removed to see what it was. Thankfully it was nothing, but that waiting was hard.) Back to four years ago when we needed to wait to follow up with a cardiologist when the baby was two weeks old. The hospital could tell us nothing else. We left with complete uncertainty and had no choice but to wait and pray. My husband had to leave the day after we came home from the hospital for training for a new job. For those two weeks I was forced to choose faith in God or complete despair. It literally hurt to breathe thinking there was something horrific going on with my baby’s heart. I needed to choose the faith part, if for no other reason than to be strong for my other kids. The short version of that story is that she thankfully was fine, and the hole closed on its own. I was praising God for His goodness, that our baby was OK. Would I have felt that He was so good if she didn’t end up being OK? Honestly, I am not sure I would have felt that back then. I hope that I would have though, because He is good always. Those two weeks gave me a different lens in which to view my life through. The lens in which your life could look completely different than what you had hoped for. To view what is truly precious and important in life, and to pause and really embrace those gifts. 

 In October of this year I was blessed to have another lens change with a health scare of my own. Yes, I did say blessed! I went for a routine mammogram and ended up needing a biopsy. The entire process from the mammogram to the clear results took only a short five days. But in those five days I felt so many things. Each time I was tempted toward fear, God faithfully showed up with a Scripture verse, a song on the radio, the Sunday Mass readings, and even the images that filled my Facebook news-feed, to remind me that He was with me; there was nothing to fear. Why do I say it was a blessing to have faced the possibility that I may have had cancer? It was a blessing because I was surrounded by love of family and friends. I was completely covered in prayer and carried through that scary week by those prayers. I was able to see what is genuinely important in my life. And guess what? The “To-Do” list that rules my days, and the messy house that I am usually upset over, did NOT show up on the radar of importance. Not even once. What did show up was my family, love, and spending time together, remembering how much we love each other, holding each other a little closer, smiling a little longer…you get the idea! But most of all, the constant (and I do mean constant!) conversation with God, Mother Mary and the saints. Mary and the saints were faithful in their prayers for me, as always. I am sure my grandma was up there praying too! I needed to decide to live in the moment, not worrying about tomorrow. This was a chance to draw closer to God and trust Him with my life and my future. The morning of the biopsy, as I walked through the hospital doors I felt panic and I prayed. I felt God give me a sense of comfort as the words, “All will be well” came to mind. It wasn’t an audible voice but I know it was God. I didn’t feel like the message necessarily meant I would be cancer free, but more of a sense that all would be well no matter what. I was assured that God is in my future whatever the circumstance. While I was waiting in the hospital I was able to gaze upon the cross in the waiting room. What a blessing to see it there. It brought great comfort.

  After I received my results that everything was fine I heard things like God is so good, He is so merciful. Of course I agree 100%, but wouldn’t He have been those things if I had cancer? Yes He would, because He is good all the time. Would I have so easily been able to proclaim it if my results were different? I hope and pray I would have. I know a few brave fighters who still believe God is good even though they are fighting a horrible battle. I hope if I am ever truly faced with it I will still cling to that truth.

 What if we could be thankful in the uncertain times knowing God has a perfect plan? What about being thankful for the lessons, even though they are hard. I did ask God for a deeper trust in Him years ago, and remembered that request as I was going through this. I also surrendered my will to His a long time ago. I can’t take it back. He will give what we ask for. We can’t choose how He gives us the answers. But if we lean into Him in those times we will receive His grace and strength to see it through. He is refining us. 

~Ann Voskamp says it well here~
http://www.aholyexperience.com/


 As I reflect on the things I am thankful for, this year the biggest blessings seem to be those that come out of the scary times; the chance to view life through the lens of what is essential, and embracing the opportunity to have a closer walk with God, to trust Him and love Him more. Of course I am thankful for my health, that I am OK. I am also thankful for the chance to realize and remember all those who did not get the same result as me, and the honor to pray for those who suffer.

                                             
Praying we can all thank Him no matter what and remember He is good all the time!
Trusting in His grace,
Jen

Some songs that have inspired me in the unsure times,
How Great is Our God The line that really struck me here was, “And time is in His hands”





Wednesday, November 26, 2014

God is Good Always



 During the season of Thanksgiving we naturally tend to focus on the blessings that surround us. In addition to being thankful for the many, many blessings in my life (too many to list here!), I am also thankful for the moments where God reels me in and helps me to see things in myself that need work.  Not too long ago I was having a moment of absolute frustration and disappointment in the way some of my kids were acting. I noticed a very stark difference in their behavior when things weren’t going their way and when things were looking up for them. When they are upset about something they grumble and pout and treat me like their worst enemy. But this attitude quickly dissolves into a simple, “I love you so much” when things start going their way. I have always found this to be so disheartening. It always makes me want to say, “Wow, you love me so easily when you get what you want?”

 My recent awakening was in regard to why this bothers me. It bothers me because this is how I have acted toward God at times. YIKES! It is so easy to love God when He blesses me and when I feel like things are just great, when life is going well, and everything is manageable, but so much harder to trust and love Him fully in the tough times. The truth of the matter is God is good ALWAYS! God knows what is best for me. Even while I wonder what He will reveal in the times of waiting for answers, or when I wonder why things may be the way they are in any given circumstance, I can trust that He is in control, He knows what’s best, He sees the whole picture and He will use it for good. He is my God, His plan is perfect and He is trustworthy. He is worthy and all deserving of our praise no matter what is going on in our world.  So today I am thankful for the gentle reminder that God is good all the time.

Wishing you a happy and blessed Thanksgiving~
Jen



Monday, September 29, 2014

Things That Seem Insignificant



 I began this post last spring, in the midst of a rough week when the whole family had a terrible respiratory virus. I have since forgotten that I started the post. It's interesting that I came across it today, as I just watched Mom's Night Out last night. Boy could I relate to the main character, who felt overwhelmed by her life as a mom and saddened by realizing her dream of being a mother wasn't exactly what she thought it would be. I completely commiserated with her on so many levels. I laughed and I cried because I knew exactly how she felt. The huge message in the movie, which all moms need to hear, is that our job is IMPORTANT!! God created us for this purpose.

 I do believe everything we do for our children, our husbands and our homes means something to God; something bigger than we can imagine! It's just hard to stay focused on that at times...

 With that, here are my thoughts from the midst of our sick week in April...

 Sometimes I get so caught up in the seemingly insignificant tasks of my day and start to wonder, "is this it?" The mundane jobs of a mother, the time consuming tasks that appear pointless can make a mom to wonder. This week as my family has been sick, I keep finding myself feeling down and asking God, "is THIS all you created me for? Is this all my mind will ever be used for?" I seek these answers as I spend my days dosing medicine every 4 hours, refilling juice glasses, making soup, cleaning up dirty tissues, taking temperatures, making sure everyone is receiving enough fluid intake-and monitoring the output as well (fun!), keeping an eye out for dehydration. I wonder these things when my 3 year old finally feels better and is back to being little miss sunshine in the wee hours, when I have barely had any sleep. Of course I am relieved she feels better, but could we sleep a little?! Where did she find her energy?! I keep find myself singing the Steven Curtis Chapman song, More to This Life.

"There's more to this life than living and dying, more than just trying to make it through the day..."

 A few verses end with the words, "life just goes on." That is the way it feels sometimes, doesn't it? Life just goes on. Yet, if I keep singing I will be reminded,

 "So where do we start to find every part of what makes this life complete? 
If we turn our eyes to Jesus we'll find life's true beginning is there at the cross where He died." 

 So, even though I wonder what else I can do in THIS life, I am reminded it's about Eternity. My vocation as a mother is about far more than all these seemingly insignificant tasks, which are actually pretty important to God. It's about raising our children for Eternity. And that's a pretty significant vocation. When I do ask God these questions He reminds me, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40) That includes wiping little noses!

 Saint Martin de Porres always comes to mind when I struggle with the mundane. He joyfully completed any menial task he could within his Dominican monastery. He was known as "The Saint of the Broom". I often wish I could go about my tasks more joyfully like he did.

 I know God did in fact create me for other things, it's just that caring for my children is my first and most important order of business.

 Before I close I want to say that I am keenly aware of the fact that while I complain about my day-to-day responsibilities, there are mamas out there who would do anything to have their child on this earth still, to do anything for, as well as women who would give anything just to be able to have a child. I know a few and I always remember them when I begin to complain. And I try to embrace the task with a little more gratitude. And mamas, I hold you in my heart and I pray for you.

 Mamas, let's remember that our job is important to God, the One who made us Moms! May we, by His grace, see the significance in all we do for our families.

God bless,
Jen


Monday, July 14, 2014

Tobit's Dog: A Book Review



 Have you ever reached the end of a book to find yourself feeling a little sad that it was finished; as if you were saying goodbye to good friends? That is how I felt as I closed Tobit’s Dog, by Michael Nicholas Richard.

 Tobit’s Dog is a novel based on the beautiful Old Testament book of Tobit. I had never read Tobit in its entirety, and decided to do so before reading the novel. As I moved on to Tobit’s Dog, I quickly discovered how creatively and thoughtfully the author brought the Biblical book into the Twentieth Century.

 The story is about the Messager family (a black family living in North Carolina during the Great Depression) and their many trials, sufferings, and joys. I immediately connected with Tobit Messager, his wife Anna, his son Tobias and of course his faithful companion Okra.

 Tobit was a hard working man of faith. He was respected by those who knew him well; however being a black, Catholic man in the south didn’t make life easy for him. After losing a good job Tobit made his living by finding things at the dump to fix up and sell. Anna cleaned houses to help. Hardships continued to find Tobit, including an unjust arrest and blindness.

 One day Ace Redbone, a traveling musician and distant cousin showed up to visit the Messager family. Okra could sense his extraordinary presence before he even arrived. Ace seemed to have a calming effect on everyone he met. He convinced Tobit to allow him to take Tobias to collect a debt owed to him from another cousin. Anna was reluctant to allow Tobias to take this trip, but relented due to Okras trust of this man and Tobit’s strong feeling that God sent Ace to help them in this way.

 Tobias, Okra and Ace set out for quite a journey before finding their cousin Jubal, his wife Rose and daughter Sarah. Sarah lost three fianc├ęs and she and her family carried the heaviness of what others spoke of as a curse upon her. While Ace and Tobias were in town Ace began to unravel some mysteries and restoration began to take place in Jubal’s home. Clarity, healing and even miracles followed in Tobit’s home.

 While the ugliness of the racism of that period wove its way through the pages, making a few parts difficult to read, it did not outweigh the appeal of the story. The links between the Biblical story and the novel intrigued me. With each page I loved this book more and more. The final chapters had me smiling. Tobit’s great faith saw him through the adversities he faced. True to the book in Scripture, Tobits Dog is a story that reminds us that God takes care of those who love Him and live a just life. Tobit’s Dog, just like the book of Tobit, did not disappoint.


·        You can find an explanation of why the Catholic Bible has different books here.












Monday, January 13, 2014

Refresher on Simplifying and Refocusing



 Here we are in the second week of January and I have seen a constant flow of blog posts about New Year's resolutions and new things to try in the new year. While I really like setting goals, I really don't care for making New Year's Resolutions. They rarely, if ever, last and it just gives me a feeling of defeat and failure. I prefer to look to each new week as a fresh start. Each new month I love seeing the fresh calendar page, nice and clean. Lamentations reminds us that God's mercies are new each morning, so why would we wait for January First to roll around each year, to start fresh?

In an effort to regroup and remind myself of the goals I began at the start of the school year, I came here to reread my post on goals and simplifying. I thought I'd re-post as January seems to be a time to restart, reboot and refresh. You can find the post here.

Gods blessings to you in the new year~
Jen