Thanks & Giving

2020 has been an unusual year, with plenty of challenges. (You don’t say! 😉 ) But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an abundance of things to be thankful for.

I am thankful that our son and daughter-in-law were able to have a beautiful wedding in early February. Our families and a few friends gathered together to celebrate the happy occasion.

“Uncle Jon Jon look! I threw all my petals for you!”
Getting my sweet little flower girl to exit stage right so that the bride could make her way down the aisle was a bit of a challenge!

My sweet Lila was one of the flower girls, and it’s safe to say that she truly enjoyed the experience! She made sure to toss all the rose petals, but then didn’t want to just leave them there! 🙂 Toddlers always add a bit of laughter to a wedding! On a side note, when my daughter (Lila’s Mama) was three years and two days old, she was the flower girl at my sister’s wedding. She provided the laughter when she proclaimed “I have to go potty right now!” My Dad laughed so hard! And, being the good Grandpa that he was, quickly jumped up to rush her to the bathroom. Ah, memories!

I am also very thankful for our second granddaughter. The sweet babe was born back in May, during the height of CoVid. Which means that we didn’t get to meet her until she was nearly 48 hours old. But we did get to care for Lila while Mama, Daddy and baby sister stayed at the hospital, and I really enjoyed all the one on one time. It’s hard to believe that the sweet newborn babe is already 6 months old!

You can’t help but smile at her happy grin, and I swear she can see your soul when looking at you with those dark eyes!

I’m also grateful for the ability to sew. It’s one of the things that gave me focus and joy during the stressful times of 2020. Being able to create something beautiful and useful is a wonderful gift, and I definitely thank God for blessing me with this talent.

I am thankful that the yoga studio I attend was only closed for two months during CoVid. A regular yoga practice helps burn off anxious energy, and yoga breathing is definitely calming. It’s been a great form of exercise for me. And seeing the familiar faces every week has kept a sense of normalcy in my life.

photo courtesy of @coastalyogafl

I’m very grateful to be able to live in sunny Florida, where, despite the ridiculous number of hurricanes and tropical storms this year, we haven’t suffered any damage beyond broken palm fronds and a small roof leak. We have the opportunity to visit with family who live within a few hours drive. We get to walk the beach, breathe the fresh sea air, and see beautiful sunsets over the ocean.

Dan and his brother enjoyed having a dolphin swim quite close to them during our last beach day.

In short, I have much to be thankful for. Now for the “giving”. Obviously I believe in charitable giving. Our faith calls us to share and care for others. I’m talking about a different kind of giving, more specifically giving up the things that no longer serve us.

2020 has been a very contentious year on social media. Mean-spirited attacks on people with different beliefs on everything from politics, faith, CoVid restrictions, you name it. Some people have become downright mean turning to threats and bullying. It’s just silly! Arguing and acting like a child throwing a tantrum just because someone holds a different point of view certainly isn’t going to win them over to your POV! 🙂

Hopefully we can all give up our feelings of superiority, and give others the opportunity to discuss their beliefs. Let’s give up our judgemental natures and recognize that everyone is created in the image of God, and therefore we all have value. Can we also give up the temptation to so easily wander into sin? It’s not like we don’t have a simple guide to life in the ten commandments! 🙂

I plan to work harder at giving up a grumpy attitude when things don’t go as smoothly as I’d like. To not let the small irritations in life turn into major worries. Instead I plan to give in to God. To surrender my need for control, and recognize that God loves us, and wants us to be the best possible version of ourselves. That no matter what challenges life in 2020 brings, God is and always has been there for us.

Happy Thanksgiving dear readers! I am thankful that you read, follow, and like my little blog. No matter where you are in the world, I hope that you too are giving thanks for all the good in your life. I also hope that you’ll join me in giving up the negative and give in to God’s call. ❤

Going Forth

I have felt my eyes tear up at Mass on more than one occasion, and generally it is due to the moving words and music of a beloved hymn.  Sometimes it is a remark or observation during a homily that hits particularly close to home.  Obviously I have cried at funeral Masses, but I don’t recall tears dripping down my face and quickly ripping off my mask while hurrying to the car so that I can cry in private.  Until today.

Today was Fr. Jonathan’s last Sunday Mass at our parish.  I love Fr. Jonathan, and will really miss having him here.  The end of June is when Bishops transfer priests within their diocese to fill the needs in other parishes.  Perhaps a priest is retiring, or the needs of a parish are greater than one priest can handle.  Perhaps the gifts a priest possesses are greatly needed at another parish.  This is the time of year that the transfers happen.

When we first moved to Florida, and temporarily lived in the middle of the state, we attended the local Catholic church that my parents had attended when they lived there.  There wasn’t a big sense of belonging, because we knew that we were only living in that city for a short time.  When we bought our home, but hadn’t closed on it yet, we began our search for a Catholic church in the area.

It may seem funny that we didn’t bother looking for a new doctor or dentist, hairstylist or barber, restaurants or stores, but rather began researching our new town by looking for a church.  I guess it kind of shows how important a church family is to a Catholic.  We looked up the Catholic churches in the area, and I chose our church as the first to visit because it also had a school.  To me, this was a sign that the church was invested in nurturing families.  So we got up early on Sunday and made the long drive over to our soon-to-be new county, and went to Mass.

Fr. Jonathan presided over that Mass, and that was it.  There was no need to visit the other Catholic churches in the area, this was the one, this was home.  His passion and sincerity, his homilies that make you think, that speak to your heart, that inflame you with the Holy Spirit.  His reverence for the Body of Christ, all of it, and in a young man not much older than our children.  His preaching is truly inspired, and even guests who have gone to Mass with us have commented on the power in his words.

This, this is why I cried after saying a quick goodbye after Mass.  Because of CoVid 19 social distancing, we couldn’t hug Father, or even shake his hand.

After a particularly inspiring homily last year, I recall asking him after Mass if he had ever considered videotaping Mass, or at least his homilies.  He quizzically asked me, “Why?”  When I perhaps awkwardly explained that I would like to be able to share it with people on social media, he commented that there are others so much more qualified than he, who already had such things available.  And that the church didn’t really have the equipment to do such a thing.  Little did anyone know that just a year later everyone would have to adapt to livestreaming Mass!

Fortunately, we’ve been able to attend Mass in person this past month.  It seemed so disorienting at first.  As per the CDC guidelines, every other pew is blocked off.  We have to wear masks, and aren’t allowed to sing, so there’s no music.  We can wave or bow to others, but not shake hands for the sign of peace.  There are tape marks and arrows on the floor to follow when going to Communion, and sections are color coded to guide people to separate exit doors after Mass.

It’s quite different than normal, but it is SO GOOD to be able to receive the Body of Christ again!  It’s funny how something that we probably took for granted for years became so missed during the months we had to stay at home.  You certainly realize how going to Mass on Sunday really sets you up for the week.

During his homily, Fr. Jonathan reflected on the apostles being sent forth on their mission.  Bishops send their priests forth on new missions when they relocate them to a new parish.  We have to have faith and follow God’s will to go where we are needed.  Even when it feels challenging to leave self behind, we have to trust and look forward to what God has planned for us.  Easier said than done, huh?

So it’s sad to have said goodbye, but I am excited for the people who will now benefit from Father Jonathan’s encouraging words.  And I know that God will certainly bless him for sharing his faith.  Life can feel scary with all the changes and disruptions in our lives lately.  But God loves us, He has a plan, and no matter how crazy the outside world may seem, we need to focus on the big picture, share our faith, and stay on the path that leads us to our final goal- eternal life in Heaven with Jesus.

 

Note: this photo was taken on Easter a couple years ago, before the church was repainted, and before social distancing was a thing.  Sadly, I don’t have any recent photos of our church to share.

How Are You Starting This Lenten Season?

During Bible study this week, we got off on a bit of a tangent.  This is not an unusual thing, 😉 as we almost always run a bit long due to one discussion or another!  When our  study first started, I used to feel a little impatient when we would get off subject, because I wanted to focus on what we were studying that week, what we were “supposed to” learn.  As the weeks went by, I realized that these off topic conversations were also helping us grow.  Sometimes it was a question about our faith, sometimes it was a personal story, sometimes it was noting how God touched our lives, or the lives of someone we know.  The discussions gave everyone the opportunity to learn more about  others in our group, have questions answered, and the impact that we, as Catholics, can have upon our world.

This week, our study started off with a conversation about Lent.  Which is quite fitting, since today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  We all know that Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  A penitential season to prepare for the joyful Easter season.  Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are ways to help us grow in self-control.

When you think about it, a lack of self-control is what can lead us into sin and unhappiness.  Sometimes we let anger dictate our actions, then end up saying or doing things that we regret.  Learning to bite your tongue, and not lash out in anger is a valuable skill set!  Taking a moment to collect your thoughts so that you can have a conversation and calmly discuss what is on your mind generally leads to a much better outcome.  Whether we struggle with food, alcohol or drugs, casual sex and the “hook up” culture, gossiping or lying, or any of the other vices, we can work to increase our self-control, and overcome the addictive behavior.

We may enjoy snacks or sweets, or just plain struggle with the desire to eat more than what our body needs.  I tried a toffee recipe a couple of weeks ago, and it turned out so perfectly delicious!  Dan is not really a fan of toffee, so of course that left me to eat all of it.  As I finished up the little container last night, I knew that I had consumed far too much sugar.  My body didn’t feel great, and it was a great reminder that I need to have more self-control.  Despite how great it tasted, I definitely shouldn’t have eaten all that sugary, buttery, chocolate deliciousness.

It’s a wonderful example of the struggles we all face with over-consumption.  Whether we love shopping for shoes, or playing violent video games, or listening to music with demeaning lyrics, or watching movies that are truly a waste of our time and brainpower.  Whenever we use “any means necessary” to win a game or a promotion, no matter who gets hurt in the process, we are really hurting ourselves, and our relationship with God the most.

That is why we have a conscience, to remind us when we’re straying down a path we shouldn’t be on.  We don’t have to be like everybody else, to not speak up about something we know is wrong, out of fear of “offending” someone.  That is not to say to be mean or judgemental.  But we can be a reminder of goodness.  We can let Christ’s light shine through us.  We can pray for, and exhibit, and encourage others to use self-control.

Lent is a wonderful opportunity to pray, reflect on our faith life, to really focus on self-control and grow in prayer, and in our relationship with God.  How are you starting this Lenten season?  Would you like to join me in working on self-control?  I encourage you to go to Mass, to seek out the sacraments, to fast and abstain, to read The Bible and join a Bible study, to take advantage of this opportunity to increase your faith.

 

Merry Beachy Christmas!

One of my friends in Michigan commented on Facebook yesterday that it didn’t “feel like Christmas” because it was 50*F, rather than snowy and cold.  Others quickly chimed in, and were either happy that it was (comparatively speaking) so warm, or disappointed that it wasn’t expected to be a snowy white Christmas.

For those of us who live where the weather is warm this time of year, we are enjoying the beautiful sunshine and appreciating the unique ways people decorate for the season.  I am frequently astounded at the fun, beautiful, and creative sand sculptures I see when walking the beach.

The nativity scene above not only includes Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus, but animals, shepherds, an angel, and the neighboring inn.  I love the way that the sculptor made use of debris on the beach to create the beautiful Christmas scene.  They took what was around them, what some might have ignored, or considered trash, and turned it into something beautiful, sharing their faith with others.

Holidays in general, and Christmas in particular, can sometimes feel challenging.  It is a time when families and loved ones gather together to celebrate Christ’s birth.  But if you’re mourning a loved one, or separated from family, or struggling financially, dealing with health issues, or feeling a little lost or overwhelmed, it might not feel like a happy time of celebration.  We might think that we’re the only ones that feel this way.  But I think we all have at least a few of these concerns on our minds.

I certainly miss my Dad, and his funny, sort of Bah Humbug! sense of humor (and matching Christmas hat). 🙂 I miss my grandparents, and their sweetness, and sense of fun and excitement to see and spend time with everyone.

I wish my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter didn’t live so far away.  And I wish that they could be here for Christmas.  Who wouldn’t want to see the excitement on their grandchild’s face at Christmas?  But we’ll have to make do with Facetime and photos.  (Including slightly fuzzy Facetime photos!)

Lila 12-9-19

I think most of us have a financial or health concern of some kind.  Whether it is our own finances or health, or concern for the struggles, and mental or physical health of people we care about.

I encourage you to look beyond, and let go of your struggles and concerns.  Spend some quiet time in prayer.  Remember why we celebrate Christmas.  Because Jesus was born into this world to save us from our sins.  We do not have to struggle through life alone.  In fact, life is so much easier and better when we don’t!

When we reach out in love, with kindness for others, when we look for things to be grateful for, when we open our hearts and turn to God, relying on Him for hope and help, peace and joy start trickling into our life and heart.  I encourage you to go to Mass, to let the beautiful Christmas hymns wash over you, and open your heart and ears to listening for God.  He is always there, waiting to welcome you into His love.  Give yourself the Christmas gift of the time and opportunity to feel that love.

shell Christ tree

Whether you are knee deep in snow, or strolling the sandy shores, I wish you a Merry Christmas wherever you are!

sand snow flatsand snowman

 

 

Ice And Sunlight

When you live in the midwestern United States, you get used to snow.  Generally speaking, it snows all winter long.  It starts with an occasional flurry in October.  A Midwesterner knows that in all probability, your children are quite likely to need to wear a coat to go trick-or-treating on Halloween.  This year there was a snowstorm across much of Michigan, so family and friends there stuck to indoor Trunk-or-Treating parties and events.  The snow keeps coming all through the winter, well into April.  And there’s no guarantee that there won’t be a freak snowstorm in May.

Ice storms are less frequent, but often produce spectacular results.  When temperatures are on the edge of freezing and a storm blows through, it’s somewhere between rain and snow, and the ice coats everything.  It makes for super dangerous driving, since the roads are literally covered with a sheet of ice.  If you’re trapped at home and can’t drive anywhere until road crews can salt, and the sun warms everything enough to start melting, you might as well take a walk.

My daughter Jennifer, (who happened to be up visiting us in Michigan during an ice storm) and I went for a walk in the neighborhood.  It was strangely quiet, since there were very few cars on the roads, and few people out in general.  But every once in a while, we would hear a strange creaking noise, followed by a loud crack, and then a loud boom as a branch, heavily laden with ice broke off a tree and crashed to the ground.

oak crossed

As we walked along, we admired the strange, stark beauty of the thick coating of ice on the trees, shrubs, and plants in the neighborhood.

red berries

It was interesting to see how the thick layer of ice weighed the branches, leaves and berries down.  Even thick branches arced down toward the ground.  Once tall bushes looked much shorter, and any dead brown leaves still clinging, became frozen in place.

crusted leaves

Do we become like that in our lives?  Especially in our faith life?  Somewhat frozen in place, sort of isolated?

berry clumps

Near others, but kind of stuck in our own little cluster?

If we look around, we can see the sun at work.  Glistening and shining, melting the layers of ice, with light shining through the layer of ice that may be upon us.  Maybe the path we’ve taken seems to be the end of a forking branch.

close drip

But you’re always connected to God’s family, and there is always another direction to go.  God’s love is never-ending.  The sun comes to melt away the ice, and His Son, Jesus, came to take away the sins of the world.  No sin is too great, no sorrow too heavy if we hand it over to Jesus.

drip down

Even when we’re bent low with the weight of our troubles upon us, we can ask God for forgiveness, and look for a new path in life.  We can pray and be strengthened.  We can pray for others, whose burdens look heavy.  We can lighten their load with every act of kindness we share.  We can let God’s light shine through us, as we share the love of the Lord.

tiny crust

May you open your heart this advent season, and look with joy to the coming of the Lord, and sharing that joy with others.

Offer It Up

Do you ever feel like you’re walking along, flowing through life, then someone says something rather profound, and you really feel it hit you?  I don’t think that this is uncommon.  For instance, as we are working through grief after the death of a loved one, a song, a smell, or a comment can easily transport us back to thoughts of that person.  We think that we’ve bundled up that grief, packaged it tightly, and stuffed it into the back of our mind.  Then that comment or thought floats across the surface, and it’s all brought back full force.  Maybe slightly dulled, but definitely still there.

A few weeks ago I heard some very disturbing news from a family member.  They were physically hurt, their immediate family is really struggling, and they do not see a clear path out of their problems.  First of all, this breaks my heart because I love them.  Secondly, I live 1,300 miles away, and can’t be there to give them a hug or try to help in some way.  Other family lives nearby, so they aren’t alone or uncared for.  But all I could do was call, listen, and pray for them.  And of course, worry.

That worry must have been weighing on me more heavily than I realized.  Sitting in Mass two weeks ago, Fr. Charles did something unusual.  He paused before the consecration and asked everyone to “Place all your worries and troubles on the altar, and offer them as a sacrifice to the Lord.”  Whoa!  That hit me like a ton of bricks!  And it was obviously the reminder I needed to quit my needless worrying.  The tension in my shoulders eased and my heart felt instantly lighter.  Tears sprang to my eyes and I tried desperately to blink them away.

How often does God put someone in your path to help you see things in a different way?  How many reminders does it take for you to remember to pray and put your troubles in God’s hands?  I can’t magically make everything better for everyone I love, no matter what I do.  I can certainly do whatever I can to help, and I can definitely pray.  But I need to remember that what I really need to do is to put it in God’s hands.  To offer it up as a sacrifice to Him.

birds 10-5-19

What Are You Thankful For?

We all have troubles, and things that worry us:  physical limitations and health scares; jobs (or lack thereof) and money issues; and any number of situations and problems among our families and friends.  But don’t let that become the focus of your life.

Focus instead on the wonderful things in life, the things that you are grateful for, the things that make you happy.  I am thankful for my faith.  Unbelievably thankful!  Even when there are struggles, and bad situations, it calms me to know that in the end it will all be ok.  I don’t have to worry, it is in God’s hands.  And I am constantly reminded of the goodness in life.

I can see my neighbors flag flapping in the breeze, amidst the palm trees as the sun rises this morning.  And I know that despite any political or partisan bickering and nonsense, that I am blessed to live in the greatest country in the world.

flag 7-20-19

As I reminisce about my nephew David’s wedding a couple of weeks ago, I am grateful for my family.  We all flew in from Florida, Colorado, and Tennessee, or drove across the state of Michigan to meet up and celebrate the marriage, and to welcome Caitlin into our family.  It was so much fun to spend time with people I love, to laugh and be silly!  Photo booths are designed to bring out the silliness, so you should just embrace it and have fun (which we obviously did!)

photo booth 7-6-19

I am grateful for my sweet husband, and our unconditional love.  For his good heart, his strength, and all his “handyman” skills.  For his willingness to dive in, work hard, and get things done.  Even after years of working together to turn our old “fixer upper” into a beautiful home, he wasn’t phased by the idea of tearing down a non-load bearing wall in our new “fixer upper” home to open up the kitchen.  Of course this means we’re living in a bit of a construction zone.  And since we don’t have the money to replace the flooring throughout our house, we’ll  be living with a holey floor for the foreseeable future.  But that’s ok.  We have a roof over our heads, and each other!

I am thankful for my parents instilling me with a strong work ethic.  I am grateful for the blessings of intelligence, for the creativity and sewing talents God chose to give me.

I am so grateful for my beautiful, wonderful children, and their spouse and fiancée.  I love seeing my children happy and blessed with people that they love.  And I’m so, so happy that my daughter and son-in-law brought the blessing of Lila into our lives.  This sweet granddaughter of ours is such a joy!  When we FaceTime, it’s so cute to hear her ask “Where’s Grandpa?” if he’s not nearby when I answer my phone.  She loves to have you sing nursery rhymes over, and over, and over again.  It’s so fun to hear her giggle and belly laugh uproariously when we do “This little piggy” for the twentieth time.  And to hear her sweet little voice ask for “A, B, C!” so that she can (try to) sing the alphabet with me.  I love her quick hugs, and slobbery “smooches”, and to hear her say “I love you” back to me.  She fills our hearts with joy, and I am so grateful for every moment that we get to spend with her, whether it’s running in circles around the hotel, or last minute snuggles before we checked out.

Lila Grandpa runLila Grandma 7-7-19

Do you let the wonder and curiosity and joy of playing and running in circles into your life?  Do you appreciate the awesome beauty of the world around you?  Do you pray and place your troubles in God’s hands?  Do you feed your faith by attending Mass, reading The Bible, and living a prayer-filled and grateful life?  God, gratitude, and happiness go hand-in-hand.  Open your heart, cast your troubles upon Him, and live!

 

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to my sweet husband, and to all the Dad’s I know.  Thank you for being such a great partner on the journey of parenthood.  From the moment our babies were born, it’s been super obvious how much you love them, and how much they love you.  You’ve been an inspiration to them, as well as a teacher of how to live, how to laugh, how to dive in and fix things, build things, keep trying, live fearlessly, speak your mind, be a gentleman, be a kind, loving, and wonderful human being.

Thank you for being a wonderful husband.  Our children have (and in 8 months) will have successful marriages by hopefully following the example we have tried to set.  Thank you for being my rock, for tolerating my sewing habit :-), for having the good grace to take photos of my creations for this blog, even when I get giggly about modeling.  Thank you for having fun while modeling the shorts I made you, for making me laugh, for being my best friend and true love.

Thank you for knowing how important our faith is, for letting it be the foundation in our life and marriage.  Thank you for being the shining light of love that you are.

I love you,

D

 

What Would You Do?

We All Have A Choice

My husband and I were heading out for a walk late yesterday afternoon, when we found a wallet at a crosswalk.  We had already pushed the button for the flashing lights, and traffic had stopped, so we quickly walked across the street.  I said “Let’s see if there is any ID or a phone number inside so that we can contact the owner.”  We checked the wallet, but there was no identification, and no business or credit cards.  Just a few faded out receipts and some cash.

We live in a neighborhood of mostly mature population, (in other words, older people). 😉  People are very active, with a pretty steady stream of bicyclists, walkers, and runners.  You sometimes see people pushing a stroller, (and I don’t know what it is with this phenomena), but there can as likely be a dog in the stroller, as a child.  I had never seen a dog stroller until we moved to Florida, but apparently it is a thing!  I thought the whole point of taking your dog for a walk was to let your pet walk.  I also see people “walking” two dogs, and frequently they will stop, pick up, and carry one of the dogs.  I have a cat, so perhaps I just don’t “get” the dog life!  But I digress.

Since there were some larger bills in the wallet, it’s quite likely that the wallet belongs to a local in the neighborhood.  I’ve noticed and heard my children and others of their generation comment that they don’t carry cash.  They just use their debit card.  Since most people use direct deposit, it is indeed easier to just use a debit card than it is to go to the bank, and withdraw cash.  Which leads us to believe that the wallet belongs to an older person who prefers using cash.

We tried to think of the best way to try and return the wallet to its owner.  There is usually someone from the Sheriff’s Office up at the City Hall Building.  I think they may have an office there?  Since it was evening, City Hall was already closed for the night.  Our neighborhood is on the NextDoor app, so my husband posted it on the app.  Hopefully the owner makes contact soon, and if not, we will take it up to the police.

I was thinking about it, and wondered how many people would try to return a wallet, and how many people would just pocket the cash and toss the wallet.  I think that most people are basically honest and good, and would try to find the rightful owner.  Maybe I am a Pollyanna and see the world through rose colored glasses?  I am sure that there are many places in this country and the world where the cash would be quickly pocketed and spent without a second thought.  But the wallet doesn’t belong to us, so we didn’t even consider keeping it.

Is it just our faith that sets us apart?  I know that faith calls us to be virtuous, to not lie, or cheat, or steal.  God blesses us with a conscience, and hopefully our parents raise us in faith, to teach us to understand right from wrong, and kindness, thoughtfulness and charity.  We live in the world, but don’t have to be of the world.  People of faith are different.  We are still subject to the temptations of the evil one, but with the grace of God, we choose to not fall into the temptation.  We sometime fail, and sin.  Thankfully, we have the sacrament of confession to rid of us our sins, and bring us back into grace.

When we think about the fact that God loves us, and Jesus died for us, hopefully it is easier to choose love and goodness over temptation.  What do you choose?

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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