Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Friday, September 28, 2012

Entrustment to Mary = Trusting in God's Love, Even When I Don't "Deserve" It

My older sister is a Sister in a Franciscan order.  Every three years she travels home for a 2-week visit.  This year, she spread her time out with a few days at our home, a few days at my younger sister’s house and the remainder at our family home with our parents. Our whole family was looking forward to her stay.  My kids were now at an age to appreciate their time with her, and were counting down the days until her arrival with my parents.

So, being the control freak that I am, I went into major “Martha” mode, cleaning everything, grocery shopping, trying to arrange her favorite meals and treats.  I had asked everyone to be on their best behavior (when will I ever learn and let that go?), and create a peaceful environment during her time with us. 

Needless to say, after our joyful reunion followed by my son’s baseball game AND a BBQ AND a late chat session over coffee and dessert, my kids were not in the mood to settle down and go to sleep and prepare for school the next day.  In their bunk beds, my daughters started picking and poking at each other and soon a full on catfight emerged. 

My sister was treated to a dose of our family’s reality, and the peaceful and joyful family illusion I tried to create was shattered. 

I was a bit humiliated, because I could not “control” my daughters into behaving.  They were exhausted and over-stimulated.  I came downstairs to the scene of my sister doing the dishes and cleaning up after our meal.  I told her to stop! That she was our guest!  But she stopped me, letting me know that she just wanted to be part of our everyday lives.  All she wanted out of our visit was to connect with the kids and be part of the family.  I relaxed and thanked God for reminding me once again, through my sister, that I am loved as I am; that I am loved when all is messy and loud.  I am loved even when I clean and polish the exterior tomb (“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.  Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.”  Mt 23: 27-28). 

I love how God surprises me with the ways He loves my children.  The next day, my parents and sister did not mention the temper tantrums of the night before.  During the remainder of the visit they focused on loving my children in the present moment, loving them as they are.  They helped with homework, went on walks, treated to ice cream.  My sister organized an early birthday party for my daughter, with decorations, cake baking and my daughter’s favorite dinner.  The day she left, my sister even placed a beautiful note on my daughter’s pillow to find when she went to bed that night.  My daughter misses my sister tremendously, and I believe a lot of that has to do with feeling loved, as she is, not as she so-called “deserves”. 
Yes, God loves my children so much better than I can.  And He loves me, too.  But I have to credit Blessed Mother for accepting God’s love with me.  I am still so much caught up in thinking I have to “deserve” His love.  She helps me see, over and over and over again, that God doesn’t love in the limited way that I do.  She helps me celebrate my awareness of the ugly, as it can convince me that God’s love is beyond my imagination.  “…It is extremely important that you want to stand in truth before God.  Your Lord desires for you to acknowledge your own misery and simultaneously attempt to trust that He does not stop loving you in spite of all your evil that horrifies you.”[1]

[1] S.C. Biela, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock, 1st ed. (Fort Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005), 10-11.  Used with permission.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Entrustment to Mary = Being Convinced...

God Loves Me All the Way!

I hit my sister because I was mad.
God loves me anyway.

I popped my brother’s balloon; that was bad.
God loves me anyway.

I teased my sister and she told dad.
He said God loves me anyway.

I told Angela “You’re the worst friend I ever had!”
God loves me anyway?

A man at the store told me “you are an awful little lad!”
God loves me anyway.

I poked and poked and now my uncle is mad.
God loves him anyway.

My sister always follows the latest fad.
God loves her anyway.

I broke,
I poked,
I choked,
Do you think these things make God mad?
Mom said, “Perhaps. These things could make God mad.
But, God loves you this way.”

I bit,
I hit,
I spit,
Do you think these things make God glad?
Dad said, “No, these things do not make God glad.
But, God loves you this way.”

I lied,
I spied,
I cried,
Do you think these things make God sad?
The priest said, “Yes, all these things make God sad.
And, God loves you this way.”

Every night I have more and more to add…

Thank you God, for loving me
all the way!![1]

[1] “Everything that you experience is linked to the love of God who loves you, and to His desire for your good. He is present in your life no matter what you do. Time is a sacrament of your meeting with God and his mercy, with his love for you and his desire that everything work toward your good. Then every fault becomes a “happy fault” (felix culpa). If you looked at every moment of your life in this way, then spontaneous prayer would be born within you. It would be a continuous prayer since the Lord is always with you and always loves you. Every moment of your life would be permeated with the love of the Presence that always encompasses you.”  Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), 7.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Entrustment to Mary = Surviving the Empty Nest

School’s back in session, and I have no children at home. Last year began our empty nest syndrome when our baby went off to college. It was a sad 5 hour ride home with tears filling my husband and my eyes wondering what we were going to do now? We had spent the past 11 years involved in high school sports. That was our social life. That was our ticket out of the small town we live in for those games against distant schools. The playoffs/state tournaments were our vacations. It was hard to believe it had all come to an end. The first few days were tough. The empty bedrooms and quiet house added to the heartache I felt. For 24 years I had defined myself for the most part as mother and caretaker.

Now I was back to my main role as wife. I realized the years rearing our four daughters had distanced me from my husband. I was more in tune to the needs of the girls and busy with the school activities, that I had not paid him a lot of attention. Now it was back to just us two. At first I was a bit anxious about how we would get along. What would we have to talk about? I decided to ask him to attend Worldwide Marriage Encounter with me. I thought this would be a great opportunity to open up the lines of communication. It did do that, especially for me, as I have a hard time expressing my feelings. [Remember I’m Scaredy Cat.]

What helped the most though, was entrusting myself, and my marriage to the Blessed Mother. With Her, WE [Blessed Mom and I] can see how special this time is for my husband and me. There are a lot of graces that come with an empty nest.  WE now have time in the mornings for prayer without kid distractions. WE can cook exotic recipes. WE have fewer worries about what the girls are up to or what time they are coming home at night.  WE [Bl. Mom, husband and me] can go on vacations that do not entail high school sports!

When I start to get nostalgic about life when the girls were here, WE can remember to be grateful for those memories, but then turn the focus on living in the present moment. Also, WE can accept the fact that the loneliness I feel is a special grace which leads me into the comfort of my Blessed Mother’s arms. She understands loneliness, as She was alone [humanly speaking] at the Annunciation, at the foot of the Cross, and while awaiting Pentecost.

There is a great section in the book Open Wide the Door to Christ, by S.C. Biela that describes this loneliness from a spiritual point of view:

“The grace of loneliness is one of the most precious gifts that God gives to us on our path to sanctity. We encounter the Lord in the deepest way, and our communion takes place with Him, in loneliness. Blessed is the poverty of loneliness in which a person discovers that truth about himself, as well as the truth about God and His love.”[1]

“Every person who wants to open himself up to God has to accept loneliness at home with his family, in a relationship with a husband or wife, and in raising children. It is necessary to fall in love with poverty at work, during prayer, and even in contact with those to whom we are united by spiritual bonds. If it were not for blessed loneliness, faith would not deepen in us, and we would never desire God before all else. In the light of faith, we see that we are certainly never alone because the Father who loves us is always close to us.”[2]

Yes, my husband and I are adjusting to the empty nest. The pangs of loneliness hit hardest after visits from our daughters. But for me, I can look at this loneliness with Blessed Mom, and WE can thank our Lord for this special time knowing it brings purification on my road to sanctification and that realization brings joy on my journey!

[1] S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 178.
[2] Ibid. 176-177.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Entrustment to Mary = Falling in Love with Her

This past week I was pleasantly surprised by a somewhat unexpected visit from my spiritual director (a priest). He was with some family members, who were visiting from out of the country, showing them the sites of our area.  During their visit, we were blessed by private Masses, along with one wonderful evening of having our new house blessed, followed by dessert. 

My children were so pleased to go to room to room, following this beloved priest, as he sprinkled holy water in each of their rooms, along the stairs, in every nook and cranny they suggested.  After we settled back into the living room, my 3-year-old daughter snuggled up to this priest, which took me by surprise.  This is the daughter who loves her personal space.  This particular daughter is not particularly affectionate.  This is the same daughter who usually wipes off people’s kisses and frowns at anyone trying to talk to her! 

And so I had to wonder:  “How much of this has to do with the priest?  Or is it really and truly Blessed Mother she recognizes with him and in him?”  I really felt that she was snuggling up to Blessed Mother!  This priest strives to live in communion with our Blessed Mother.  This priest directs me on how to live in communion of life with Christ through His Blessed Mother.  And so I was convinced my little one sensed Her presence. 

During dessert, Father shared some photos he had taken during their excursions of the day.  His favorite photo was taken at a church, which so happened to be where my husband’s parents had met and later married over 50 years ago.  In the picture, he was standing beside the church’s statue of Our Lady.  And he was beaming.  He raved about how beautiful She was.  His pure joy over his Mother made me look at my own relationship with Her.  It challenged me to look at how much (or how little, really) I value my relationship with Her.  At times I hold Her at arm’s length, appreciating the gift She is in my mind, but not fully embracing this truth in my heart.  By the end of the evening, I was pleasantly uncomfortable with the awareness that I waste this gift at times.  I was grateful that this awareness was brought to my attention, and that I was also inspired with a desire to live more fully in communion with Her – not so much as an idea, but as a reality.

Today we celebrate Her birthday, and as I shared this news with my children this morning, I again reminded myself of my desire to fall in love with Her.  As S.C. Biela writes in Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock, “The easiest and surest way to arrive at falling in love with God is to fall in love with Mary first.  When you fall in love with Her, you will want to disappear and to die to yourself like She did.
…Likewise, you will then desire to be incapable of your own action, and instead you will desire to fulfill God’s will, just as Mary did.” [1]

Happy Birthday, Blessed Mama!

[1]  S. C. Biela, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock, 1st ed. (Fort Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2005), 63.  Used with permission.