Will to Love

It’s 5am. My time; my time to wake and take my sweet and bitter cup to my lips; sip and send sleep away and pray. I take and read God’s word for me and I let him guide my prayer with the words of Psalm 40, “Here am I Lord; I come to do your will. Sacrifice or oblation you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me.” I close my eyes and allow some of the words to float to the surface of my thoughts, “will”–what is will? a decision, God’s will of love and mercy. “Obedience”–ab-audire means to hear or listen to. Then I hear them, the sound of little feet gently padding up the stairs; then I see them, the sleepy eyes shielded from the gentle light of the reading lamp. My seven year old son curls up beside me as I read and ponder the day’s readings, he warms my side and covers my feet with his blanket. My heart swells, my feet warm and then it comes, I hear it. “Mom, can you make me some hot cocoa?” (cue vinyl record scratch) My face wretches a little as I look down on his, my mind makes a thousand reasons why I should NOT be making this boy –who is plenty old enough to make his own and certainly doesn’t need the extra sugar–a cup of hot cocoa during my time with the Lord! I look away, sigh, then remember the words I was just contemplating: “will,” a decision, love and mercy, “obedience,” hearing and doing.

What decision will I make in that moment of intrusion?

I have a choice, love and mercy or a selfish grasp at my time? “Sacrifice or oblation you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me” and not only open ears, but eyes open to see a way to grow in love right here, a mouth open with a smile to lovingly obey this little request and a heart open to love more than I want to at this moment of time. My time? There is no time that I have that I wasn’t first given, there is no reason to sit and pray other than to transform me into a more loving person, to grow the love that started when he was conceived. Here’s my chance. Here’s my decision. Here is where God’s will of love and mercy comes crashing into my will, my comfort, my time, my decision. I choose love. A tiny sacrifice of love; what is love anyway, but a decision to suffer a little bit for someone else. “Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will.”img_4307

My Beloved

Happy New Year! I know, it’s already over a week into this new year, but with all the holidays and solemnities that the Church recognizes, today we hit the ground ready to grind away at all our well-laid plans for the new year. Today, the Church gives us the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord where Jesus goes to John the baptist seeking baptism and he comes out of the water to the sound of a voice from heaven declaring, “this is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” This is recognized as the launch of Jesus’ mission as the redeemer, the son of God, pleasing to him and sent forth to save the world from sin and separation from God the Father. By our baptism, too, we are pulled into the water with Jesus, die with him and rise with him, but not only that. We are given his Spirit, the Holy Spirit within us, indwelling and forming us into the shape of God’s own sons and daughters, holy and beloved adopted children of the Father who looks at us, at all our potential and says, “this is my beloved, with whom I am well pleased”(Matt. 3:17). Knowing who we are in relation to God is the foundation to discerning our purpose in life; with a firm foundation of who we are, we can set off on our life’s mission as Jesus did.

I guess I never thought of it like that before. That our life’s mission is intimately tied to who we are, we must remember that first and foremost, we are beloved. This was certainly a starting point that led me to action like never before, thanks to a little insight on vocation and planning from Simplified Organization, I abandoned my study of the theory of goal-setting and my plans to set goals and just set to paper to lay out my mission for the year ahead. You may know how it is; some days, many days, spent at home with little ones can just slip through my fingers and the messiness and busy-ness can clutter my mind and clamp my tepid efforts to accomplish anything; then three o’clock rolls around and I’m scrambling around to keep up the appearance that my day wasn’t wasted on board books, baths and social media. But I am also God’s beloved with whom he is well pleased, why don’t I act like it? Why do I feel so useless and disappointing sometimes? Maybe because I’m not living up to the potential that God sees and has given me; so this year, I resolved to reach for my potential. I thank God for my ability to so resolve, to be determined, to try through difficulties and reach for who I am as beloved and pleasing to God.

My first step in the process was to ask, who am I? What are my roles? Then based on that information, build a plan for improvement in each of those areas so that I can be a more intentional and fruitful disciple. Let me tell you who I am and what I do in each of those roles (the verbs in each role I’ve underlined):

  • Daughter of God: I belong to God. I seek first his kingdom and righteousness.
  • Wife: I love and honor my husband.
  • Mother: I teach and form my children.
  • Person: I take care of my body and social life.
  • Homemaker: I organize and improve my household.
  • Minister: I encourage and inspire others to a deeper relationship with God.
  • Landlord: I provide and manage properties.

In each of those areas, I made three types of goals: Growth Goals, Concrete Goals and Habit Goals stating the target and the reason why. Here’s an example of one of my habit goals as a homemaker: I will tidy the house before leaving for school so I can have a peaceful and focused day. Doesn’t that sound great? I’ll tell you what, it feels great, too because God wants me to be peaceful and focused to be able to reach for the abundant life he has in store for me. By taking the time to reflect on who I am and what I want in life to be fulfilled, I  could then plan my steps to get there. This has been the best part of the process, because I’m planning on fruitfulness. I’m tired of winter. I’m done with planning and ready for living.

My love lifts up his voice, he says to me, ‘Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come.

For see, winter is past, the rains are over and gone.

Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land.

The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance. Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come. (Song of Songs 2:10-13)

I’m ready and willing to live a life of fruitfulness knowing I’m called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to accomplish his mission for me. So here I am, rising out of the waters of baptism (again) and setting off to do his good work in my heart, in my house and in the world for God’s greater glory. AMDG

Hope Restored

I finally picked up the newspaper that was left abandoned by the gate to our country home down the road. When I opened it up to scan it for something of interest to read, this headline struck me.

fullsizerenderIt struck me because at this time last year I had just lost my oldest son. Our Michael died on December 21, 2015 due to complications with hydrocephalus. There were (and still are) many, many tears. It would seem I had no reason to hope at the close of last year, but we as a family resolutely and defiantly did hope despite our deep loss. We had faith that no matter what came our way, God wants us to hope in Him and not our own feelings. Did you notice how deflated people felt at the close of 2016? People were sort of punch-drunk with the loss of so many Gen-X cultural icons and they were hung over by the time 2017 rang in. But, “my hope is in the Lord who made heaven and earth” (Ps121) and not in the survival of loved ones, not in prolonging living, not in acquiring more stuff, not in even being healthy. My hope is in the Lord.

I read Pope Francis’ General Audience: On Weeping and Hope from Jan. 4 where he recalls a prophecy of  Jeremiah who says, “there is hope for your future”(Jeremiah 31:17) despite your tears, devastation, your exile, your disappointment, your loss, your bad day, your crappy year. Despite it all and through tears, there is hope.

“The tears generated hope. And this is not easy to understand, but it is true. Many times in our life tears sow hope; they are seeds of hope.” Pope Francis

I challenge you to look for and pay attention to the new growth that tears have watered. Every ribbon pinned on a lapel is a sign of someone’s hurt and hope through struggle but not everyone marks their hurt with a ribbon.  Truth is, every one has a story of hurt and loss and struggle and that’s precisely the broken place where God’s healing grace can come in and our tears mingled with his are the rain of springtime that will yield its flowers in time.

Lifted Up

Hello world, it’s little me. I’m little because not only am I small in stature, but one of my favorite images of the Christian life is coming to Jesus like a little child. The “little way” of St. Therese of Lisieux resonates with me, too.

I always wanted to become a saint…Instead of being discouraged, I told myself that God would not make me wish for something impossible…I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight. It is your arms, Jesus, which are the elevator to carry me to heaven. So there is no need for me to grow up. In fact, just the opposite: I must become less and less.img_3952

I’m here to share some of the things that rattle around in my head and I think would be great to share with others. When I write in the margins of books with multiple exclamation marks, when I give an “amen” or an emphatic head-nodding “um hmm” or when I pause a lecture or the daily mass readings to follow a tangent with my kids in the car, or when I start to write a talk in an old spiral notebook, I think maybe this blog might be a better place to get my thoughts out. Usually my thoughts are about discipleship, being loved by God, being inspired by the Holy Spirit and being redeemed by Jesus. I try to live a virtuous life and teach my kids, but as the adage goes, so go I; “those who can’t, teach.”

My life-verse comes from Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides;” as I try to trust God more and more, I notice more and more ways that I find God and his kingdom in the details of my day. I’m also forced to contend with the ways I’m not seeking his kingdom and righteousness. To be honest, I’m a little afraid that y’all will find out I’m no little saint but a big hypocritical fraud and say nasty things about me, my feelings will be hurt and I’ll just pout and go back to writing in that recycled science notebook. But here I am anyway, shoving off on this little journey up and up, lifted higher to the cheek of Jesus where I can just be buried in his healing embrace.