The Positive Side

Sometimes when Dan and I go for a sunset walk, we know that we’re unlikely to see a pretty sunset.  It may be an overcast cloudy day, or the skies are just gray and misty looking.  Sometimes there is a large bank of clouds blanketing the horizon, so you know that the sun is unlikely to make an appearance.

That doesn’t stop us from walking, feeling the breeze on our skin, enjoying the sound of the waves, and breathing in the fresh salt air.  It is therapeutic to walk out in nature, to absorb the beauty of God’s creation.  Occasionally we’ll feel the need to quicken our pace, to hurry and try to “beat” an approaching rain shower.

rain cloud 5-1-19

We usually make it home long before the rain hits.  Once in a while we are treated to a little shower when we have gotten too far from the park entrance and can’t make it back in time.  Sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised when the sun peeks out or drops below  a bank of clouds and we actually get to see the sun set.

sunset 5-8-19

When the world seems to be swirling around you, and you feel a bit overwhelmed, where do you turn?  Are you grounded in your faith?  Do you know, honestly know and trust that it will all be ok because God really is in control?  It can be hard to do, because we like being in control, feeling like we have power over our world.  And we do, because of free will.  We choose the paths we take and are responsible for the consequences of our actions.  That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have faith, and trust and lean on God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, to help and guide us.  It’s more that when we feel overwhelmed that we do turn to God as our first line of help and support.

It can seem easier to turn toward the world, to hear that it’s not our fault, to “drown our sorrows” in unhealthy ways, be they alcohol, drugs, bad and dependent relationships, or whatever other source of fleeting pleasure, yet long-term sorrow or pain that we burden ourselves with.  Know that you can always change.  You can always open your heart, and let God in.  There is always room for healing, for forgiveness, for moving forward into the light.  You can let go of the burdens that you’ve been trying to carry on your own.  They really do become lighter when they are shared.

Open your heart, listen, and pray.  Look for the light and the beautiful sunsets.  God is always there, always waiting and calling out for you.

sunset 4-24-19

A Little Help

My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter flew down for a visit this week, so we took advantage of the beautiful weather and spent the day at the beach.  We walked the beach, built sand castles, played in the ocean, and were enjoying the wonderful day.

ocean play

A couple in their young thirties were walking past, and I complimented the gentleman on his cool track chair.  I like seeing people who are differently abled have the tools and technology to be able to enjoy something we take for granted, like enjoying a day at the beach.  He asked my husband and son if one of them would be willing to carry him into the water.  He explained that he would drive his chair closer to the water so it wouldn’t be so far, and his wife demonstrated the proper lifting technique.  Our son quickly stepped forward and helped his wife carry him into the ocean.

Everyone enjoyed playing in the water, and the gentleman tried to give me tips on mastering the boogie board.  “Start swimming before the wave gets to you so that you’re going the same speed as the wave.”  I did more bobbing like a cork than truly riding the waves, but it sure was fun!  I was truly impressed by his swimming skills because the waves were quite strong and breaking pretty hard.  Even when they washed over his head, he continued to swim with just the use of his arms.  His wife frequently walked up to shore to check on his sweet service dog.

When we took a little break, our son let the dog sniff his hand, gave him some pets and back scratches, and the dog backed into his legs for more pets and attention.  He obviously sensed that our son loves his own dogs and knows just how to give a proper back scratch and rub! 🙂  The couple spent an hour or two playing in the surf before our son helped carry him back to the track chair.

As a rather shy person, I was thinking about how hard it has to be to ask someone, a complete stranger, for help.  Especially asking them to do a more physically demanding and personal task like carrying you into the water.  How hard is it for you to ask for help?  Is it easier for you to help others than to ask for help yourself?  We all need a little help sometimes.

Life can feel challenging at times, and that is the perfect time to pray and ask God for help.  If you’re not used to prayer and talking to God, it can be awkward because you may feel like you don’t know what to say.  I think just having a conversation like you would with a friend is a great way to start.  Say what’s on your mind (it doesn’t have to be out loud, it can be a conversation in your heart).  God listens.

I am loving being able to spend time with my family, and build precious memories with my granddaughter.  I hope that you are enjoying some conversation with God and Jesus, are willing to ask for help, as well as to step forward and help.  We had a wonderful Palm Sunday, and look forward to Easter.  Enjoy this Holy Week in anticipation of the glory to come!
Lila shovels

 

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?

What A Week!

From Illness To Gratefulness

I am finally recovering from a week of influenza and it feels so good to be upright!  I was literally down for the count for a week, laying in bed, slowly walking to the sofa or dining table, and back to bed.  I hate being sick, feeling dependent on others, and not having my normal energy and routine.

My husband was a champ!  He made me food, did the dishes and laundry, and took excellent care of me.  I told him how much I appreciated him taking care of me, and he said, “You’re always taking care of me and would do the same for me.  It’s not a big deal.”  While it’s true that it may not have been a big deal to him, it meant a great deal to me.  When you are naturally a caregiver, it’s interesting to see it from the other side.

When you are constantly taking care of others, of the household, of your children, etc., you can easily get irritated or feel a little bit resentful.  “Gah!  I just vacuumed and you’re tracking dirt everywhere!”  “Ugh!  Sweaty, gross gym clothes to wash and they are laying on top of my outfit in the laundry basket and getting it all stinky!”  And of course you’ll make eggs for breakfast when you’d much rather make banana pecan waffles topped with strawberries and blueberries because you know he’d prefer the protein.

I generally don’t complain about the inconveniences (OK, other than the tracking in dirt!), because caring means that you are doing these things out of love.  And really, it’s not hard to do any of it, and it really isn’t a sacrifice.  It’s just the way it works for your family.  Everybody has to do their part to make their family life work.  Maybe your family dynamic is different, and you’re the main breadwinner, and someone else has more time for the household.  Or maybe you are responsible for everything yourself.  Everybody has to participate in making life work.

But working joyfully, and cheerfully giving, that decision is up to you.  I can tell you that life is happier, you are happier when you move through life with a happy heart.  Is life always easy?  Do things always go perfectly according to your plans?  Of course not!  We all have worries and concerns.  Maybe you are struggling financially, maybe someone you love and care for is sick, or injured, or dying.  Maybe you just feel like life is beating you down.  We have all been there.  Everyone has struggles.  How we face those struggles is the question.

Do you think that you have to carry the burden alone?  On the surface, it may appear to you that you do.  But you don’t.  There is always someone you can talk to, someone who will listen, someone who will lighten the load.

Talk to God, talk to Jesus.  Surrender your heart, look, and listen for the little spark of joy.  There is beauty and happiness everywhere.  What are you grateful for?  What can you do for others?  What small look, gentle touch, gesture of friendship or love can you give?  Because that is the secret.  Opening your heart to God, praying and listening for His voice.  Giving of ourselves, rather than just focusing on what we “deserve”, what I think the world “owes” me.  Be grateful to the one who gives us all the opportunity for everlasting life.

And don’t forget to say thank you to the people God has placed in your life.  The ones who take the time to care for, or be kind to you.  Pet the cute kitty who snuggled you while you were sick.  Hug the loving husband who kept you fed when you didn’t have the strength to make your own meal.  And talk to God, open your heart, feed your soul.  Be grateful for whatever crazy, wonderful life you have.

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.

 

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.

sunset 12-30-18

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.