Wednesday, August 26, 2015

small sins

Whenever I read about the Pharisees, there is a part of me that worries I am just like them.  It is not because I do not believe that I sin.  I know I sin. Daily. Sometimes hourly. Despite my efforts not to, I still sin.  So that is not what worries me.  What worries me...or should I say terrifies me, are the times I do not even recognize my sin.

The Pharisees.  They did not recognize their sin.

I once sat at the lake at 3pm with a friend, and as our children played in the sand and water, we prayed the Divine Mercy.  I shared with her a long time ago experience; a shameful one, and in sorrow told her, "I had no idea what I was doing was wrong."

I think it is safe to say that most of us, if we look at our lives honestly, can find at least one experience, just one situation we willingly put ourselves in, and ask ourselves now, "What the heck was I thinking?"

I have had times I was not thinking.
But when you are stuck in yourself, thinking of just yourself, and relying on just yourself, seeing God in yourself is impossible.
Sin is blinding.
Sin is the work of the devil, who I know all too well to be so very real, and he works day and night on you, convincing you that what is wrong is right. He robs you of grace.

Over drinks one night, a friend told me she didn't believe in needing to confess her sins.
They were not that big.
How terrifying that statement is to me.
I pray I never lose sight of any of my sins, no matter how small.
Do not, my friend, underestimate the small sin in your life.
Small sins have a hideous way of growing into bigger sins.
Like a cancer, a fatal disease; if you ignore it, it will grow, take over, and possibly kill you.
Notice them.
Confess them.
Recognize them.

"Small interior sins tend to snowball into bigger sins, until the soul rebels directly and violently against God himself in a vain attempt to alter reality to fit his own distorted vision of self." - John Bartunek, LC, THD The Better Part

Sunday, August 23, 2015

decide today whom you will serve

I had a minor nervous breakdown last week, as I sat at the kitchen table and tried to read e mails.  E mails that contained upcoming schedules. Schedules for cheer practice, football practice, Religious Ed classes, and various ministry deadlines and events.  Now, if I were Padre Pio and able to bi-locate, or even Elasta-girl from The Incredibles, I might not have broken down in tears. But I am no Saint, and I am no super hero.  I am just me. Mom. Wife. Catechist. Ministry Coordinator. Tortilla chip fanatic.  And I have to say, the calendar set before me just seems impossible.

Let's take Monday for instance.
Kids will come home from school, only they won't really come home. They will get off of the bus, see their home, then hop into the car. I will throw something at them that resembles a nutritious snack. Which is a lie. They will get chips and cookies and if they are lucky, a bottle of water. Together, we will go to Religious Ed class.  Luke will run through the parking lot like a rabid raccoon, and by the grace of God not get hit by the angry mothers who find Religious Ed a total inconvenience, and make his way to his class.  I am Annie's teacher, so we will go to class together. After class we will get back in the car, and quickly head to the high school, and pick up the two teens-one from football practice, the other from her art class in New Haven. Keep in mind, I do not expect either one of them to be out on time, but if I think about that right now, my head might spin off.  From there we will drive back home, where we will grab something that resembles dinner, that clearly I had to make ahead of time, and now I will leave most of the kids home to take care of themselves, while I drive Annie to cheer practice.
Cheer gets out at 9pm.
And no homework has yet to be done.
This is Monday.
A fine way to begin the week, don't you think?

And so I really prayed about this.  Well, after I cried, and complained to everyone I saw about how busy I am...then I prayed.  Should I home school Religious Ed?  Do we quit cheer?  Do I move to Africa?  Do I cut  my hair shorter? Which, yeah, I know, the hair makes no sense, but this is what happens to my brain when it gets overwhelmed. I mean, really, what are my options?  And then God stepped in, as He always does, because He is the ultimate rock star and always comes to my rescue.  I was at daily Mass, seriously considering telling the Religious Ed Staff that I would be unable to teach this year, when out of the corner of my eye I saw Evan.  Evan was in my 5th grade class last year.  He is a great kid, with a  beautiful faith, and as he made his way back up the aisle from Holy Communion, his eyes caught mine, and his sweet face broke out into the biggest, best smile you have ever seen. He waved.  I waved back.  And a wave of love and light swept over me. The question burned in flames above my head....How could I not teach?

We are all busy.  But we all get the same amount of hours in the day.  And I don't think that my problem is not enough time,  but rather, how I choose to spend my time.  I do not want to force my daughter to quit a sport (yes, cheer is a sport) that she enjoys and works hard at, nor do I want to give up teaching children about their faith.  And sure, I can teach another day, but those days are actually busier than Monday.  Monday is my day of rest! When discussing this with another football mom the other day, her response was, "Oh well, yeah, we had to cut out religious ed all together. I mean, who can get there by 4pm, that is ridiculous.  It was too much.  Something had to go."

Something had to go.
This made me sad.
It still makes me sad.
Because I am convinced that life is not going to get any slower.  It just keeps moving faster and faster.  Kids are pulled in a million directions, and parents have to split up and play tag team, just to get the kids where they need to be.
We say we do it for the kids.
We say we do it because they love it.
But what does this say about us?
Where we stand?

Something had to go.

Sunday is far from a day of rest.
Sunday is the day our entire town worships sports.
And it hit me like a ton of bricks.
If we could just live out our God given lives the way He planned...with Sunday as a day of rest, I wouldn't have this problem!
Sports would be on Saturday, and my kids and I could go to religious ed on Sunday, after Mass, like we are supposed to.
We are rewriting our lives to fit our own desires, and I have to be is not working out so great.

My son has a Mormon friend, who quit the High School football team because games were on Sunday.
I have yet to meet  a Catholic in my town with that kind of faith.
Myself, included.
And I would consider becoming Mormon, if they allowed coffee and wine, and well, also if they realized that the Catholic faith is the truth. So yeah. Becoming Mormon is not really an option.
But I will tell ya...this is a holy discontent that is starting to rise in me, and I am feeling like I might have to take a stand.
My kids should not have to choose between God and sports, because without God, there would be no sports.
God comes first.
So we will take each day as it comes, minute by minute, and do our best.
Dinner will go in a crock pot at the crack of dawn, and I will pray extra hard for patience, and sanity.

After the woman told me "religious ed had to go", I took a moment and called out to the Holy Spirit for the right words...because the words that came to my mind were totally not appropriate for the Holy Spirit.  And finally I said, "Yeah, well, no Religious Ed is not an option for me.  For starters, I am a Catechist.  And I love it.  And really, it would be foolish of me to remove God and learning the faith from our day, when you consider that HE is the only thing that gives me the strength to get through my day in the first place."  After a pause, the woman dropped to her knees, begged for God's Mercy and asked if I would take her to Church.

Just kidding.
She drove away.

But I mean, really? What kind of  message are we sending our children when we are okay signing them up for teams that travel, and spending hours on a Sunday morning sitting on the side lines of some field, but we quit our Religious Education because we are just too busy?

I want my Sunday back.
And I want this world to get its priorities straight.
You can't remove God, and do everything else, because God IS everything, and that is all there is to it.

"Decide today whom you will serve...As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." -Joshua 24

Saturday, August 8, 2015

mercy moments: my attempt to see and be mercy

You know when you have picked up a great story to read, because you think about it all day long.  Phrases and scenes pop up in your head like a neon sign, and characters become so real you would think they could sit at your table and join you in a cup of coffee.  A good story changes you.  You are one person on the first page, and by the time you reach the last, you have been transformed.  And I love this. I love good books, and I love great stories.  And I long to be constantly transformed into someone better than I was when I pulled that book off of the shelf.

I am nearly finished with Mercy In the City, by Kerry Weber.  This book, like most of my favorite books, was a gift from a friend.  It is about a young, single woman's quest to complete the Corporal Works of Mercy during the season of Lent.  It is funny, it is real, it is thought provoking.  And it has had me contemplating, "How merciful am I?"

I mean, when push comes to shove, when it is not Lent, or good deeds to cross off of a list, am I merciful?
When no one is looking, and nobody sees, am I showing mercy?

Kerry goes out of her comfort zone when it comes to mercy.
She spends a night...a full a homeless shelter.
She wakes at ungodly hours to stand on a bread line with the truly hungry.
She opens her house to anyone...and I mean anyone...

and I do not know that I could do this.
With my life as it is, a mother of many and a household to run, I physically and logistically do not know how I can do this.

As I write, an old friend in need of a place to stay, who went to bed not feeling well, sleeps in the office.
And the coffee maker, after painfully giving birth to one last lukewarm, pathetic cup of coffee, died on me.
And as I type this, a little boy makes his way down the stairs, sleepy eyed, and will no doubt, want to be fed shortly.
The same little boy who woke me out of a dead sleep at 2am for a drink.

We think, and by we I mean me...that in order to do great things, to please God, to truly prove our love for Him, our efforts need to be huge, our acts of mercy off the charts impressive.
And that is only a sign of how little I know, understand and trust my God.
He knows my heart.
He knows what I am capable of.
And He gives me a mustard seed.
It really isn't about impressing Him with my works, but simply that I not forget Him in all that I do, and that I take action in any small way that this exhausted mom can.

You see, I believe there is opportunity for me to be mercy nearly every second of my God given day.
Fasting for others.
Caring for the sick.
Giving shelter to the homeless.
Drink to the thirsty.
Feeding the hungry.

I am not on a breadline.
I am not in a homeless shelter.
But I am alive today, and I will encounter many people, in my own home, and out on the streets.
People I love, people I do not know, people that annoy me, people that I would rather not run into at all.
And so this is my prayer for today:
I pray I do not ignore, close my eyes, or walk away from the simple mercy moments God gifts me with.
Because they are there. They are right here.
It is entirely up to me to recognize them, and respond.
It is up to me to see Jesus in everyone, and to be mercy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


I wake up and swear that I won't do it.

Well, I don't literally wake up and swear.   At least not since college, when I was late for brunch and couldn't find my meal card, and probably woke up in an unfamiliar dorm with a raging headache, and well then, yeah, I probably did swear as soon as I woke up.  But that was a long time ago.  I'd like to believe that I am now a new creation.  But back to the point.

I wake up and swear I will not complain.
That I will not grumble.
Then cut to me, after morning Mass, and upon seeing my sweet friend who I have not seen in so long, I open my enormous mouth, and out it all pours.

You know, once in confession I asked the Priest if he could invent a contraption for my tongue; something to hold it still.  He said he could try.  I should really find him and see if he has made any progress.

Because the grumbling!
It comes all too easy.

Have you heard, we had horrible poison ivy?
And did you know, my kids nearly drove me to drive off of a cliff this summer?
And how about the mice and mites in my home?
Did I tell you about the dental visit with my kids and how much money their teeth are costing me?
How about the story about how I need a job?
Or the dead mouse under my stove?
Or the fact that I need to start dancing topless on tables just to afford drivers ed? (who am I kidding...I would never dance topless...I had four kids and nursed them all until they were one is paying for THAT!)

But honestly.
Why is it so easy to grumble.
To complain.
My daughter asked me while I was in mid conversation, "Why do you keep talking about the poison ivy?"

Why DO I keep talking???

I was struck by today's reading...
"How long will this wicked assembly grumble against me?" Numbers 13
I am that wicked assembly.

Even more eye opening to me was Monday's reading, when the children of Israel are lamenting about how good they used to have it! How the food was better!  And now they are famished!  And they say "we see nothing before us but this manna."

They forgot.
They already forgot how they were saved.
They already forgot the miracles.

When I grumble, and when I lament over my life, I, too forget.
I forget how I have been saved.  Repeatedly so.
I forget where I  have been.
I forget the miracles.
I see nothing before me...
I see no blessing
I see no gifts
I see no light
I see no Jesus
When I focus on what is wrong
what is hard
what is uncomfortable
what is unfair
what just flat out stinks
my heart hardens
I listen to all the wrong voices
I choose to walk according to my own will
And that walk is a walk through the wide open gate
that leads to darkness.

That poor friend of mine at church this morning.
Did I even ask how she was doing?
I think I did.
I might have.
I cannot remember.

Want to be my friend?
I sound awesome, right?
Good grief.

Jesus, my counselor...
help me.
Help me to stop grumbling.
Help me to search for you everywhere.
Help me to see you and hear you and take you with me everywhere I go.
Help me to always be grateful.
Help me to always remember the miracles.
And please Lord, silence my annoying tongue that gets a kick out of talking about me, and then me again, and then more and more of me...

I want to see nothing before me...but you.
I want others to not see me before them...but to see you.

Just shut me up, really, Lord.
Please, just shut me up.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

are you hungry?

"who ever comes to me will never hunger" is quite the promise.

I starved myself for years. I forced myself to feel hunger.
And when I think back to those years, where food and weight was my idol and Jesus was left somewhere on the corner of selfish and vain, misguided and wrong, I am amazed that I ever came through on the other side.

I have this incredibly vivid memory of me, depressed and alone, under weight and yet so heavy, finding a church somewhere in Boston, getting on my knees, and sobbing.  I was in hideous pants from the Gap, with a button down shirt...a conservative look I took on in a false attempt to change myself, re create myself, even more.  It wasn't me.  It wasn't me at all.

But then again, I had no idea who I was.
Because apart from Jesus, that happens.
Living without Him is like driving across country without a GPS.
Or if you are like me, driving anywhere without a GPS.
I have no sense of direction.

And so it is amazing to me, when I sit back and think about my life, and think about my remember and recall the hard stuff, the great stuff, all of the stuff...and how the ONLY thing that saved me, and continues to save me, from any of it, was, and will always be,  Jesus.  Only in the moments when I bowed my head and acknowledged the ONE who could help me, did I find relief. Only when I believed in Him, did I come to know who I was meant to be.  Only when I stayed with Him, did I move in the right direction.

Over coffee with a friend this week, we discussed our children, because we are moms, and we worry and it is just what we do.  And when she asked how any of us have been able to overcome the obstacles, I flat out told her, "faith."  No Jesus, no chance, is how I truly feel.

And if I didn't have laundry and a dental appointment and outdoor furniture to paint, I would write more.  Or maybe not.  Is there really anything more to say?  Just keep Jesus close today.  And make sure your children get to know him too. If you think you were lost as a kid, just imagine what our kids today must feel like. Give them the GPS. Give them a relationship with Christ.  Talk about Him, even if they roll their eyes.  Read about Him, and let them see you pray to Him, even of they think you are the biggest loser on the planet.  Because we all starve ourselves from the truth in so many different ways.  And we all hunger to know our purpose. "who ever comes to me will never hunger."

Are you hungry?
Go to Him today.