Lent Has Arrived

Forty Days Of Preparation

Lent is a time of preparation.  Catholics (and other Christian denominations) use this season for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as we look forward to the celebration of Easter, Christ’s resurrection.

You may think of  almsgiving as just giving the sacrifice of money.  But consider it as an opportunity to give of yourself.  Give your time, or share your talents, in the spirit of Christ’s love.

I pray that you have a fruitful Lent.

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So Many Things

How Much Is Too Much?

I spent last week helping my Mom try to prepare to sell her house.  My Uncle is helping her by fixing things, cleaning out the garage, etc.  But they are both in their 70’s, so they needed more help.  My brother flew down, and we spent the week hard at work.  We got the exterior of the house caulked and painted.  We took load after load, after load, up to donate to Goodwill.  We filled the trash can and recycling bin, along with the trash cans and recycling bins of nearly every neighbor on her street.  Neighbors commented on how nice the house looks with a fresh coat of paint, cleared out garage, and maintained lawn irrigation system.

We spent an entire day clearing out closets and spare bedrooms, carrying unwanted items downstairs.  Now that the obvious junk is gone, Mom is left to sorting through all the things.  My brother and I tried to help her as much as we could.  “Do you want this, need this, have anywhere to put this if you keep it?”  If the answer was no, then we donated or trashed it.  But there were so many boxes and bins of “I want to look through that to see if there’s anything in there I want.”  Old paperback books and magazines, VHS tapes, knick knacks, etc., some of which had just been boxed up and  brought over to her house when my grandparents had to sell their home and either go into assisted living or move up to Michigan to live with Mom so that she could take care of them.  So much stuff!

And I get it, I really do.  We attach memories and meaning to things, because we loved the people that they belonged to.  But we cannot keep everything a person we loved ever owned or gave us.  There’s just no room in our houses or lives for so many things.  Too much stuff is just clutter, and leads to anxiety just having to look at all of it sitting there in our space.

After Dad died, Mom told all of us that we could go through Dad’s things and take any mementoes we wanted.  I chose his old slide rule (for those of you under 50 years old, with a calculator on your phone, it was a tool to help you do calculations back in the days before calculators, but long after an abacus!), an old Timex watch and retractable keychain I remember him wearing during my childhood, and a pair of funny pajama pants he wore all the time during the last months of his life.  Everything fits in a little 12″ x 12″ box.  Mom kept asking if there was anything else I wanted, but I have the memories of the things we did, the time we spent together, the quiet conversations, of the person he was, and I don’t want any more things.  I would like more time with him, but that will have to wait until I see him in heaven.

I painted the laundry room, cooked meals and cleaned up the kitchen, and started painting the door frames.  But Mom is basically down to what is to her, the hard part.  Sorting through the stuff and deciding what she wants to keep.  My brother and I can’t help her with that, because as we joked, we’d just order a 30 yard dumpster and clear it all out so that she can sell the house and not have to worry about it any more!  Once she gets to the point of actually packing things up, I’ll be able to help again.  I can cook, clean, carry, pack, and paint.  But I can’t sort through her memories and decide what has meaning to her.

How much stuff do we all carry around in life?  Whether physical things, or worries and regrets.  We can sort through the physical stuff, and get rid of the things that clutter our space.  It’s even easier to sort through the worries and regrets, because we do not have to carry that burden alone.  God has an ever listening ear, and wants us to share our problems and burdens.  Talk and pray with Him, and lighten your load.  Ask His forgiveness for any wrong you’ve done, and that weight can be lifted from your shoulders and soul.  Open your heart, and let Him in.  That’s the kind of peace and calm we really need in our lives!

It might seem overwhelming at first, but it’s easier than standing outside The Home Depot and choosing what color to paint the house!  Let go of the things, and welcome God into your life.

 

Lila Prints

Clean it up Grandma!

We recently replaced the trim around our mirrored coat closet doors.  While wiping down the filled nail holes so I could paint, I looked at the mirrored doors once again.  It’s not that I don’t see them every day, because I do.  I walk past them probably 20 times a day.  And I once again glanced at the Lila prints all over them.

I know that I should clean them off.  Some people might be horrified by the fact that I’ve left dirty fingerprints on my closet doors for nearly two months.  But they’re a tangible reminder of Lila’s last visit.  And I miss that baby girl!

Jennifer is very good at Facetiming with us on a very regular basis.  In fact, we got to see and chat with her and Lila earlier today.  It is awesome to have the everyday technology to be able to see and hear people you love by simply making a phone call.  I love the way Lila’s face lights up as soon as she sees me on the screen.  I enjoy seeing her run around the house (with Mama chasing after her to try and keep her in view!)  It’s fun to see her pull book after book off the shelf to look at, “read”, or just toss on the floor.  She played with a new wooden puzzle this morning, and carefully removed and replaced the pieces.  She likes her stuffed lambs, and it’s cute to see her hug them and carry one around.

We are blessed to have the technology to keep the connections.  I love being able to see Lila wave “bye bye”, and to blow her kisses when we have to say goodbye.  I love that she tries to reach through the computer to touch me.  And I so wish that I could reach through the screen and have her here with me!  But for now I have to content myself with the Lila hand and foot print ornaments from the last two Christmases.

Lila ornaments

These simple little gifts are so precious!  They are a reminder of just how little she was that first Christmas, and how much she has grown in the past year.  And since I have them, I guess I really should go clean the Lila prints off the mirrored closet doors!

Lila 1-18-19

Grandma loves you baby girl!

Welcome 2019

The sun has set on 2018 and 2019 is here.  Many people make resolutions of things they want to change or accomplish in the new year.  I remember celebrating New Year’s Eve at our brother and sister-in-laws home maybe 25 years ago when we all wrote our resolutions on a piece of paper, and put them in a shoebox.  Our sister-in-law put the box up on top of the china cabinet and said we should read them in a year.  I don’t recall if that’s what we did, but I do remember that my resolution was for us to buy a house.

It’s fun to recall memories of time spent with people we love.  It may or may not be so pleasant to recall the events of the past year.  Perhaps we have lost someone we care about, or lost a job, had a health scare, or aren’t happy with our current situation in life.  We have little or no control over some of these things, but we can work and make changes to help with others.  Everyone knows that they should eat healthier, and probably need to exercise more.  Taking a different perspective, improving our attitude, and putting in the hard work that is necessary can help us to change things.

One thing though that should be a constant in our lives is increasing our faith and reliance on God.  That may not be a particularly “cool” thing to do in today’s society, where popular culture tells us that even if God is real, we don’t really need Him.  You might think that too.  But what do you do when things are tough?  Who do you rely on?  Who do you thank when things are good and life seems to be going well?

I can tell you that I have faced hard things in life, the deaths of my Dad and all of my grandparents.  The unexpected and shocking death of our 35 year old niece comes to mind.  Like nearly everyone, we have faced financial challenges, health concerns, and dealt with all the normal problems and issues that arise in life.  But the problems have not overtaken me, because I have faith.  Sometimes it seems so hard to put it in God’s hands.  We like to try to control everything.  (Insert sound effect of a buzzer here, eeeee!)  Nope!  We can’t!  I have peace of mind because of my faith in God, in Jesus.  No matter how insurmountable our problems may seem, it will all work out in the end.

If you feel like you’ve lost your faith, or don’t think that you’ve ever had it, I invite you to open your heart.  God does not demand faith.  He doesn’t push His way into your life.  He knocks on the door and waits to be invited in.  That tiny little spark of desire in your heart?  Feed it!  Read the Bible, go to Mass, visit a church, pray, and talk to God.  Nourish your soul.

Go ahead and make your resolutions to workout, go to the gym, eat healthier, lose weight, etc.  But you can accomplish so much more and live a calmer, happier life by increasing your faith.  I challenge you to truly open your heart to God.  Invite Him into your life.  Put your troubles, problems, and desires in His hands.  Trust Him, talk to Him, and let peace and joy enter your life.

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The sun has set on 2018, and 2019 is here.  Let the new calendar year be the beginning of a better year with the peace of Christ in your heart.

Good Morning!

It’s Another Beautiful Day

Early morning is a peaceful time to write and reflect.  It brings the promise of a new day no matter what the frustrations of the previous day were.  Yesterday I went to yoga, had just eaten breakfast and finished my chores to settle in for some sewing when the power went out.  Not just a little flicker, but out and didn’t come back on.  Dan was gone on a business trip, and we pay our bill online, so I didn’t have any paperwork to reference for an account number or the phone number to call the utility company.  I used my phone to search and was able to report the outage online, and the power was estimated to be restored in 3 hours.

Normally this wouldn’t be that big of deal, I could go for a walk, read a book, etc.  But it was a windy, chilly 55*F, so a walk didn’t sound fun.  And I am participating in a pattern test, and really needed to get sewing so I could turn in my fit photos on time.  I enjoy pattern testing.  You get to participate in trying a new and possibly challenging pattern.  Your input helps perfect the pattern so that it will fit multiple body shapes and sizes well, and ensure that the instructions are easy to follow and will help give sewists the direction they need to achieve professional results.  I take it seriously and put pressure on myself to do a good job.  Not being able to sew was a bit frustrating.

Fortunately the wind died down a bit and it didn’t get too cold, and the power came on sooner than anticipated.  Things improve.  We experience stressful situations, things don’t always go the way we like.  But every sunrise is a new beginning, a new opportunity for a good day.  I love early mornings.  It’s the perfect time to appreciate life. With coffee in hand and the cat snuggled against my legs I can write, watch the sunrise, and know that it’s going to be a beautiful day!

Lynx 12-6-18

So take a deep breath, forget your frustrations, appreciate your many blessings, enjoy the sunrise, and have a beautiful day!

A Thankful Heart

What Are You Thankful For?

On this day of giving thanks, it’s not uncommon to reflect on what you are thankful for.  Some families have the tradition of everyone at the dinner table taking turns sharing something that they appreciate.  I am very grateful for the people and experiences in my life.  Even when everything is not exactly how you wish it could be, life is still so wonderful!

For instance, this is the first Thanksgiving that we won’t have either of our children at the dinner table with us.  For the last seven years or so, we have spent Thanksgiving in Tennessee with our daughter and son-in-law and his Mom (and Dad, until his passing).  This year, with the drive being a bit too long to be practical, and flights not working out with Dan’s work schedule, our plans changed.  Our son and his fiancée are out of town for a well-deserved weekend vacation.  So I am grateful that we took them and my Mom (who was visiting us) out to dinner last weekend.

I am thankful that our niece and her family are hosting an extended family Thanksgiving at their home today.  Dan will enjoy the crazy brother bonding time that he doesn’t get to have often enough.  We will be spending time with people we love.  There will be laughter and giggles, food and fun, silliness and seriousness, selfies and photos galore.  We’ll all end up tired, (and perhaps a bit frazzled!) from the noise and inevitable chaos.  But our bellies and hearts will be full after spending time together.

So what else am I thankful for?  I am so grateful for my faith!  Christ has sustained me and my family, and my life is so good because of it.  I think it’s obvious that my family is super important to me!  My husband is my rock, my true love and my best friend.

Dan & I 11-20-18

We have wonderful children (including their significant others) and a granddaughter who brings joy and light into our hearts.  I am also appreciative of every beautiful sunrise and sunset that I am blessed to see in this wonderful, sunny paradise where I live.  The roar and crash of the waves, the gentle breeze, and the soft sand under my toes as I walk near the ocean bring me peace and joy.

sunset 11-20-18

I hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful Happy Thanksgiving!  Take a minute to reflect and please let me know what you are thankful for.

 

Heavy On My Mind

Put It In His Hands

A couple of people that I know and love are going through some rough times right now.  Because I love and care about them, their problems are rather heavily on my mind.  I worry about them, about the impact their problems will have on their respective families, what will happen, whether they are ok.  I don’t live near either of them, so I can’t stop by for a visit, give them hugs, be a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.  The “little mother hen” in me hates that, because I just want to magically fix all the problems in the world.  As if!

Phone calls and texts are my way of being a listening ear, showing support, and offering (perhaps unsolicited :-)) advice.  The other important, actually most important thing I do is to pray for them.  They both know that I pray for them because I’ve probably mentioned it during a conversation.  They may not know what my prayers are, but I hope that they feel the comfort and calm that I hope my prayers bring.

My prayer life has matured over the years and I have learned from different sources and experiences in life.  From strong faith-filled friends, from bible studies, from homilies at Mass, and from reading.  My favorite book on prayer, 13 Powerful Ways To Pray by Eamon Tobin was so enlightening.  It really matured my prayer life.  Some of the important things I learned were to lean on God and let Him determine the way.

That “little mother hen” side of me wants to just fix it, and have things go in a certain way.  But that sure isn’t reality, is it?  I have zero control over either situation, and frankly, who am I to determine the best outcome for either of them?  That can be a hard thing for us to accept.  We need to lean on God.  And sometimes, when things don’t seem to be going our way, perhaps that’s the lesson that we’re supposed to be learning from the situation.  How hard it can be to humble ourselves and ask for His help!

We like to think that we can control every single situation, determine every single outcome, and make things turn out exactly the way we want.  But we can’t.  We (fortunately) don’t have control over others and can’t determine their actions and reactions.  And, how many times in your life have you wished that something had gone a certain way, were disappointed when it didn’t, then later realized that it was probably a good thing that your original wish didn’t come true?  That perhaps something better, different than expected, but better, took it’s place?

Which I guess is my long way of getting around to one of the ways I pray.  Rather than asking God for a situation to turn out a specific way, I ask for the situation to turn out the best way.  I put it in His hands.  I ask for His calming presence to be felt in the lives of the people I love.  I have faith.

I pray that your heart is open, that you let His calming presence be felt in your life.  That whatever is heavy on your mind, the load will be lightened.