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.

A Bit of Light

Keep peering through the darkness

I love seeing the sunrise.  I think I’ve mentioned before that my morning coffee drinking spot faces the East, so I am treated to a sunrise every morning.  As the seasons have changed, I’ve noticed the sunrise has slowly rotated in a Southerly direction.  Where I used to notice it rising over the palm trees, it now peeks up through a neighbors large live oak.

It’s still the same beautiful sunrise, but you have to look a little harder to see it peeking through the dark branches of the tree.  I think that is kind of like our prayer life, or seeing the light of Christ’s love.  Sometimes it is so easy to see the glorious colors and brightness of the light.  Sometimes we feel that the light is blocked by our worries or the troubles of the world.  Take heart though!  Keep peering through the darkness, knowing that the light is always there.  Something as simple (and yet as hard!) as changing your perspective can bring the light back into focus.

Yesterday morning on our way to Mass we saw a beautiful sunrise with light streaming up from the clouds.  Since there was no traffic directly behind us, Dan was able to slow way down on the bridge so that I could lean slightly out the window to get a photo.  Tightly gripping my phone with both hands and trying to hold it steady against the wind, I was able to capture the moment.  Perhaps this is another metaphor for life?  Hold on to the good tightly with both hands, steady yourself against the buffeting winds, and capture those beautiful, wonderful moments.

sunrise 10-21-18

Remember, God’s love is ALWAYS there.  Keep praying and peering through any darkness and you will see His light.

What Draws You Closer?

It was the anniversary of my Dad’s death earlier this week.  Every Autumn I remember back to that year and to all the beauty and love, sadness and dignity, loss and growth our family went through.  Dad knew he was dying, he had grown weaker and more tired, and took several naps a day.  I remember my Mom, siblings, Aunt and I taking him to his cardiologist’s office to have his implantable cardiac defibrillator turned off.  They have to do this when a person is actively dying, or the defibrillator would keep shocking and shocking trying to get the heart into rhythm when it stops.  His doctor talked with him, asked him questions, and asked us if we had any questions.  It has to be a sobering moment for a doctor to know that there is nothing more that they can do for their patient.  The handshakes, hugs, and kind words from him and the staff as they said goodbye to a patient they knew they would never see again spoke volumes about the seriousness of the situation, and their fondness for Dad.

That last couple of months our family came together as we hadn’t been since childhood.  Us kids took turns spending days and evenings with Mom so that there was always someone there to help.  We bathed him, encouraged him to eat a few bites of food, refilled his water cup, helped him roll over and try to get comfortable.  By the end we were all basically living there.  I did loads of laundry every day, we took turns cooking a meal or going to pick something up.  We were so grateful when kind neighbors and friends would drop off food or snacks.  My youngest sister and I had longer drives to our day jobs, while my middle sister and brother were walking distance to their evening and weekend jobs.  Our varying schedules helped with ensuring that there was always someone there.

While Dad slept I would frequently sit quietly in a chair just to be with him.  We’d have conversations about whatever was on his mind.  His faith was strong.  He knew he was going to heaven.  Dying wasn’t what bothered him, it was the “collateral damage” that concerned him.  Knowing that everything would change, worrying about Mom and what would happen to her.

I remember conversations with Mom as we laid in bed with Dad.  About how we can’t see the big picture.  God has the big picture and knows that everything is going to turn out all right.   It’s like a tapestry and we see this little, teeny, tiny corner of the picture and don’t know or understand how it’s all connected to everything else, and keeps going on.

The opportunity for closeness and increased faith when someone is dying is a gift.  Was it hard?  Oh yeah.  It was exhausting and stressful.  I spent the last month living out of a paper grocery sack of clothes that I would stop by my house and exchange on my way home from work when I couldn’t stand wearing the same outfits over and over again for another week.  Like my sister, I burned through every sick, personal and vacation day to go to appointments for Dad and to be there for Mom.

By that last week we were all walking zombies from the lack of sleep and the stress.  The slightest sound from Dad and we would hop out of bed, or leap up from a chair, bound over a laundry basket like a gazelle running to see what he needed.  Since I had no more time off, I went to work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday wearing my usual business attire.  Yet I bundled up in a zip front hoodie over my dress while at my desk, huddled in it like a hug.  When I got to my parents home after work, the hospice nurse who visited daily and the CNA who visited twice a week were in the bedroom talking.  As soon as I heard Dad’s breathing, I knew we were at the end.

It’s called the death rattle, and once you’ve heard it, you know what it means.  I hugged Mary, our nurse, and thanked her for being there for us, knowing that we would probably never see her again.  I don’t know if Mom fully grasped it yet, but I know my sisters did.  We spent the evening together and all went to bed, and Mom got in the shower.  Although it was very late, and I was exhausted, I felt the need to climb out of the guestroom bed I was sharing with my sister and go talk to Dad.  I laid my head on his chest, told him that I loved him, and that we would take care of Mom. Mom heard me in there and asked from the shower if everything was ok.  I told her it was, then continued my conversation with Dad.  I told him that it was ok to let go, that we would be alright.

Dad went to heaven to be with Jesus in the early hours of the morning, a place he had already glimpsed when he was slipping out of consciousness and proclaimed “So beautiful, all the colors and light, it’s just so beautiful!”

Oh, how I miss him!  He was so fun, and funny, so smart and handy, a grounding force in our lives.  I wish he could be here to enjoy our expanding family.  The grandchildren, weddings, and great-grandchildren that have added more love to our family, with two more weddings planned within the next year.  He would have enjoyed the babies and children, and having more people to love.

Death can shake your faith, or it can help it grow stronger.  God increased my faith, changing me in ways both  simple and profound.  I am much more focused on the things that are important in life, I am at peace.  I feel joy and calmness, and going to Mass makes me happy, gives me the foundation in life that I need.  “Thank you Jesus” is a common enough refrain because I do realize how very blessed I am.  I pray that when you encounter troubles, that you find the love and joy that your heart seeks, that your faith is increased.  Will you open your heart to Him?

 

Beauty and Wonder

Look for the light

Sunset walks on the beach are my favorite.  Although people frequently come out to enjoy the show, we sometimes find ourselves on a nearly deserted beach.  As I walk I often contemplate the beauty and wonder around me.  It’s hard not to with this scenery, right?  God gives us sunsets, day after day.  Do we always take the time to look at the sky and appreciate them?  Of course not.  Life is busy, it’s not always convenient, it might be raining, the sky is overcast and you can’t see the sun, the list goes on.

But the sunset is constant, it happens every day.  It is like God’s love for us.  It’s there, it’s constant, but sometimes we just don’t see it.  We get busy, we don’t take the time, the clouds of grief or anger seem to hide it, or we let a bad experience or another persons point of view keep us from looking.

crane 9-24-18

Sometimes we might feel like we’re standing alone in the world, in society.  And that’s okay, because in reality, we’re not.  There are others like us, people of faith, who believe in God’s goodness and love.  We may not be the loudest voices in the chatter of the daily stream of information flooding the airwaves, but we stand strong in our faith.

double rainbow 9-21-18

God gives us constant reminders that He is there.  Looking up at the sky after a rain, with thunder still grumbling in the background, Dan and I saw a beautiful double rainbow.  It’s a reminder that although we might be showered with problems, and the voices of discontent are grumbling in the periphery of our lives, there is pure shining light in the world.

Am I looking at the thunderclouds and worrying about the storm, or am I looking toward the light and appreciating the beauty and wonder?