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Category Archives: Thoughts

#write31days ~ day 1: sunflowers

sunflowers

Last year, we grew these sunflowers in our garden. It was the first year that, after their planting, they actually decided to show up. Although, I doubt the late arrival to the party was their own fault. Those birds that swoop through the yard many times throughout the day, I’m sure, may have been the influence.

The sunflowers uplifting presence was a bright highlight every day as I walked into the garden to water. Their orientation toward the sun reminded me to soak in its rays after the chilly, grey days of winter had fallen away. Their radiance brought their own source of light to cheer me. My daughters loved to stand near them and gaze up at their grandeur, their large heads providing a small source of shade from the blazing sun.

………………………..

My grandmother had a great affinity for these delightful flowers. Just recently, we began the process of emptying her house as she and my grandfather both have passed onto their eternal reward. As I swept through her kitchen, painted a sweet shade of pastel yellow, I began unhooking the pictures she had hanging there: all ones depicting in a variety of ways her favorite sunshiny flower. I wrapped them up to bring them to my home, thinking very fondly of her and our times spent in the kitchen, hoping soon to hang them on my own walls to bring back those memories from time to time.

………………………..

We planted another round of sunflowers this year. My eldest finds great delight in the color red, so we threw in a few of that shade as well. I’ve hidden them along the fence, away from the sight of the snatching birds. They do so much better in that spot. We, even, had a several volunteers from last year’s fallen seeds that produced stalks nearly resembling sunflower trees, with multiple heads shooting from the main stem.

What a joy they bring! I’m beginning to understand why they were my grandmother’s favorite. They may slowly make their way up my chart of favorites to the top as the years roll by.

What I Learned This Summer

I’ve enjoyed linking up with Emily for her monthly “What I’ve Learned” posts throughout the year. I’ve had this one sitting in my drafts for a while, adding a little as time went along because I haven’t seen a post up all summer. Well, turns out she decided to do an end-of-summer round up. Good thinking, lady. Here’s my summer’s worth:

  • My girls enjoying things that I once enjoyed as a young girl brings me even greater joy than the joy it brought me in my youth.

Evelyn and carrots

Toys, clothes, little tchotckes that brought me much joy — slowly, I pull these out for my children and witness a similar love. Evelyn, especially, has a sentimental heart just like here mama and takes great pleasure in knowing that something she is wearing or playing with once belonged to her mama when she was little.

  • A little water can make a big difference for growing a garden.

We’ve been in a terrible drought here the past couple of years. Last year, everyone was asked to kill their lawn for the summer, to reconfigure their landscaping to a more “drought-tolerant” scape. So it shouldn’t have come as any surprise to me that it would be difficult to grow a single thing in that parched soil.

I was close to throwing in the towel when it came to gardening because of this. As much as I suspected the lack of water was a huge culprit in the piddly garden I was producing, I still was feeling like it was my lack of green thumb.

But about a month into our plantings, and we had so many sprouts this year. I was a bit giddy with excitement.

We’ve had several rainfalls throughout the months of April and May and they greatly contributed to the health of the garden. I could tell as I was ripping out weeds, witnessing all the earthworms ranging around, that the soil was a million times healthier. And I was hopeful.

It seems I had reason to be.

Rapunzel tomato plant

munching strawberries

  • Tomatillos cannot cross-pollinate with other tomatoes. They need some of their own kind. {Same goes for squash varieties.}

On that same garden vein, we planted one tomatillo plant and waited. And waited. And waited. Watching tons of flowers pop out, but no tomatillos husks appear. I asked about this at our local nursery and, sure enough, was informed that we needed at least two to produce the little buggers.

It was a little late in the planting season when I realized this, so I had trouble locating others. I eventually found a few tiny seedlings that will likely be too late to help my first, but maybe we’ll get something from them later.

Surprisingly, the other day, a couple husks showed up on my plant! Maybe one of the neighbors has some too. Thank you, kind neighbor, for the good deed you have done unknowingly.

  • Short, but sweet, podcasts are my jam. 

Perhaps it’s because my occasion to listen is always in short spurts, but I’m really a fan of quick podcasts — ones that are 10 minutes or less. This one to inspire writers is one of my favorites right now.

  • Even a three-year old is capable of finding enjoyment in needlecraft.

Evey stitching

Evelyn has been begging me for months to teach her how to knit. I really want to but I’m afraid 1) she’ll find it too difficult and just get frustrated & 2) I feel completely incapable of such a feat. Someone suggested to me trying out finger knitting, which I will have to read up on. But, in the meantime, we found a little embroidery kit at the craft store that she is absolutely enjoying. I mean, she’s not doing the stitches the way that is shown on the box, but I figure, at this point, what is important is getting the hang of threading the needle in and out of the correct side each time. {Easier said than done, even for a seasoned crafter!} I’m so impressed by her desire and drive in working it out.

And last, but not least…

  • I am so happy we chose to live a quieter summer this year.

skipping rocks

All extra-curriculars were cancelled, spontaneous trips to the cabin occurred, many, many books were borrowed, purchased, read, countless hours were spent splashing in the water outside, and we spent a lot more time just being. {Plus, there were about a hundred hiccups/disappoints that needed dealing with and it always helps to have a tad more freedom to give those things the attention their due.}

 

What did you learn this summer??

Starting Somewhere {7QT}

When you’ve been away for a while, it is difficult to know where to start, so I’ll just jump right into the middle since it’s Friday, a.k.a. 7QT’s Day!

summer popsicles

1) I’m following along and living vicariously through friends that are in Poland for the annual World Youth Day with Pope Francis this week. I was blessed to be able to attend in Rome in 2000 and Toronto in 2002. I shared a bit about how Pope St. John Paul the Great has influenced my life through his great sermons given at these two events over at my friend Patty’s space, A Modern Grace.

WYD 2000 Tor Vergata Mass

WYD 2000 Pope John Paul II

WYD 2002 rainy morning Mass

2) I read through Pope Francis’ sermons {source: here and here} from the past two days and walked away with these gems that I’ll be pondering for a while:

“[God] is in our midst and he takes care of us, without making decisions in our place and without troubling himself with issues of power. He prefers to let himself be contained in little things, unlike ourselves, who always want to possess something greater. To be attracted by power, by grandeur, by appearances, is tragically human. It is a great temptation that tries to insinuate itself everywhere. But to give oneself to others, eliminating distances, dwelling in littleness and living the reality of one’s everyday life: this is exquisitely divine.”

“[God] does not want to remain on his throne in heaven or in history books, but loves to come down to our everyday affairs, to walk with us.”

“The eternal is communicated by spending time with people and in concrete situations.”

“Let us ask for the grace to imitate [Mary’s] sensitivity and her creativity in serving those in need, and to know how beautiful it is to spend our lives in the service of others, without favorites or distinctions.”

“To say that Jesus is alive means to rekindle our enthusiasm in following him, to renew our passionate desire to be his disciples. What better opportunity to renew our friendship with Jesus than by building friendships among yourselves! What better way to build our friendship with Jesus than by sharing him with others! What better way to experience the contagious joy of the Gospel than by striving to bring the Good News to all kinds of painful and difficult situations!”

Pope Francis WYD 2016 Poland

{source}

3) On the garden front, we’ve been fighting the good fight against an army of harlequin cabbage beetles {a.k.a. firebugs} that are ravaging our garden. They’ve gone from one plant to the next, taking them out. I finally found them in my tomatoes this morning, after grasping a ripe one and having a billion little babies crawl out of the middle. {Definitely woke up the neighbors with that squeal.} I promptly ran to Home Depot and we sprayed insecticidal soap all over the plant. I’ve tried regular bug spray {when I couldn’t use the soap on the nasturtiums} and pulling them off individually to throw them in a bowl of soapy water. It seems to kill a squad but not the entire army. Once I rip out the remainder of the bed where the nasturtiums are, I’m going to throw down the black tarp of death and hopefully extinguish them while the heat is still high so I can still plant a Fall garden come September.

harlequin/firebugs on chard

red nasturtiums

corn on the stalk

corn stalks

4) Lots of knitting this past month with many beautiful, hand-dyed yarns by this lovely lady, as well as some fun, blue color-way socks for my latest nephew. {First set of socks so please don’t judge.} Also, a warming set for my brother who is headed off for law school in Michigan next month and will get the chill of his life come winter.

blue baby socks

knitting tools

5) The heat burn has been phenomenal this week. Day time temps soaring past 100 and evening not dropping much below 80. Makes me ready for autumn…tomorrow. I’m just grateful we don’t live where the humidity is high or I might melt like a popsicle. The water table, kiddie pool and squirt guns have been our best friends. And I don’t just mean for the children.

watering the pool

throwing water

6) We had a TON of fun with our good friends and Evey’s godparents a couple weeks ago camping near the coast. It was the first time for the girls sleeping in a tent. Other than the scare Lucie experienced when she rolled into the side of the tent in the middle of the night, they were both troopers and slept like logs {albeit rolling logs}. We promptly came home and marked another one on the calendar in September.

munching s'mores

our campsite

searching for mysterious creatures

photo lessons with Matt

7) We’ve been dealing with many house issues this month too, which are slowly getting resolved one by one. The broken dryer for several weeks certainly slowed life down, as I was canvassing every spot in the house that might be “hanging rack” worthy. Maybe we’ll just forget the dryer from now on and install a clothesline. They are much more trustworthy, turns out.

hiking up the hill

Click over to Kelly’s space to read more of this week’s 7QT!

 

Springtime Snow at Serene Lakes

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

We’ve been going, going, going around here lately, so when we found ourselves with an empty weekend, we seized the opportunity and ran up to the cabin for a quiet weekend on the lake. This time of year is more of an off-season so it was quite ‘serene’ save a few year-round locals.

We took a long walk around the lake with the girls who impressed us with their endurance, making it at least three-quarters of the way {about 2 miles} around before asking for assistance.

The snow was still abundant so Evelyn was happy to begin her notorious snowball fights with us. Lucie especially enjoyed finding streams of snow melt to throw rocks and pinecones into. There was ample opportunity so lots of stop-and-go as we went along.

We found many groupings of daffodils just beginning to bloom, which was rather funny to us as they bloomed in our area about mid-February. But, there, they are just now having the opportunity to peek through the ground as the snow melts away.

Large sections of the lake have melted, which Evey was rather disappointed about as she wanted to ‘skate’ across again. I’m rather looking forward to the summer season, to taking boats and paddle boards out, splashing on the shore with the girls. It’ll be here soon enough.

In Search of Mercy — The Best You Can

{I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.}

in search of mercy

Thoughts of mercy and forgiveness keep invading my headspace in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. I’m sure it could be attributed to the plentitude of graces being poured out in this Extraordinary Year, but I do often hear His message of Mercy resonating frequently throughout these days.

I recently finished Brené Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong, which I’ve been waiting for from the library for 6 months +. {It’s a hotcake right now!} She’s a researcher who speaks on the subject of shame and living wholeheartedly. Her thesis is roughly something like this: Although many consider shame a negative experience, it is, in fact, an avenue to growth, to living in a more wholehearted fashion.

When speaking of shame, I was always return to thoughts of John Paul II’s “naked without shame” that he speaks of in the Theology of the Body. He says that before the Fall, Adam and Eve were “naked without shame”, that they were able to see each other in the fullness of who each was without any desire to “use” the other for their own pleasure or gain. Shame came into the picture because, with the Fall, there was now a tendency to view the other person as a means to an end, a means of use, not as the gift that they are.

Shame serves the purpose of guarding the gift, of guarding the goodness in each of us that is now capable of being misappropriated. We feel a sense of shame when either we sense another might be reacting wrongly to what we share, or even when we ourselves might be not loving/appreciating the goodness within us the right way.

Shame also appears when we see one who does not regard the gift of themselves or another in the right fashion, behaving in a manner that does not reflect goodness. It raises our hackles to see someone behave in such an abominable manner.

As Brené points out, our reaction to another is often an awareness of this related fault in ourselves. We feel shame at their behavior because we recognize the tendency in ourselves, which, in turn, can make us act out in our own shameful manner. But, she suggests, a better reaction to the shame we feel should be to take this opportunity to recognize the shame for what it is and grow into a better person because of it.

The opportunity for forgiveness often comes from a place of shame. Hurt caused by another certainly causes us shame. Being used instead of being viewed or treated as the gift that we are, as the goodness we possess, brings up that place of shame. That “nakedness” has been rejected and misused in one way or another. One response is to wallow in that shame and hurt. Another, and better, response, is to seek forgiveness and growth from the bad encounter.

***

One of the things that struck me while reading her book, was an anecdote she related regarding an encounter she had with a roommate at a conference she was attending. This roommate was chosen for her; she didn’t know what to expect. Upon entering the room for the first time, she encountered her roommate engaging in some quite unsavory behavior.

Her reaction was shame. Her reaction was disgust. Her reaction was anger. She began lashing out at others because of her feelings of shame.

She recognized this feeling and sought to slow it down and heal from it. In speaking to her therapist, the therapist suggested this to her: Perhaps the roommate was doing the best she could at that moment in time.

My initial reaction to this suggestion was just like Brené’s — yeah, right! But think: what if in her current state that was all she could muster? That she really wasn’t capable of any better behavior.

This is not to let people off the hook, including oneself, when falling into sinful or disgraceful behavior. We must hold people accountable.

But thinking of this notion that one is doing the best they can at that moment–if I was doing the best I could at that moment–doesn’t that make forgiveness and mercy just a little more accessible? 

When I’m working through the process of forgiving another, one large obstacle is the thought that they didn’t live up to my standards. And maybe they didn’t. Maybe they didn’t live up to their own.

But if I was to give that person grace and consider that what they did was possibly the best they were capable of that moment? Doesn’t that act of generosity make the process of forgiveness just a little bit easier? Doesn’t it make it just a little more accessible when I have that block in my heart that doesn’t want to let go of the hurt they caused me?

As I said before, I’m not suggesting that we not hold another accountable, or that we shouldn’t establish better boundaries {if that needs to happen}, but rather that we give a little grace, a little compassion. I think it would make our hearts a tad lighter and more inclined to complete that process of forgiving another.

And perhaps, even more so, we need to apply this to ourselves when we don’t live up to our own expectations or standards.

I like to think God’s mercy and forgiveness perhaps looks a little like this. He looks past the shame, the hurt, the bad intentions, the pride, etc. and chooses to focus on the good that is always there, the good that He placed in us at creation.

***

DSC00400

As the title suggests, Brené’s book is about rising strong when we feel kicked down on our face either by another or by own selves. It is about finding a space to rise from the shame, the hurt, and return to a place of wholeheartedness instead of wallowing in our fragmented state.

“Integration is the soul of rising strong. We have to be whole to be wholehearted.”

God wants this for us. He wants us to be whole, not broken and fragmented. He wants us to be able to rise from whatever has kicked us down — be it the hurt of another or the hurt of own selves.

This Year of Mercy is about rising strong. It is about healing ourselves, healing our relationships, making ourselves whole again, rising from our brokenness. Seeking forgiveness from a place of generosity–considering the actions of another, the actions of own self as the best one is capable of at that moment–will help us on this path of mercy.

What I Learned in March

{I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.}

Linking up with Emily for this fun exercise of sharing what I’ve learned this past month.
Also, with Kelly because when you have 7 and it’s Friday–well, 7QT

brunelleschi's dome florence

Source

One) The Secret of Brunelleschi’s Dome — For those who are unaware, I have a strong fascination with church architecture. This was awakened in me strongly when I studied abroad in Europe. When I was in Italy during my Junior year of college, we visited the town of Florence for a few days. Rightly so, one of our objects of study during our time there was the dome of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. At the time, the mystery of how the dome was standing was still unsolved {this was in 2005}. Although I am no architect and, admittedly, not even great at mathematics, especially geometry, I was intrigued with how even modern man couldn’t solve this puzzle.

Recently, I was browsing the DVD tittles at our local library and I ran across one called Great Cathedral Mystery. I picked it up, not knowing of what cathedral it spoke of initially because I love to learn about any and all, but when I noticed it was Florence’s, I was even more excited to view it. It didn’t reveal on the cover if the problem was actually solved or not, so I was very anxious to watch.

It turns out they have! Besides the herringbone structure of the interior brickwork, which they’ve known about for some time now, they used a specific pattern to build up the rounded walls as they worked. Interestingly, it is the shape of a flower. {If you did not catch the translation from the Italian, the cathedral is name St. Mary of the Flowers.} As they built up the rounding walls of the dome, they used a flower pattern to measure where each brick would go so that it would be secure and hold up the others that were built up around it.

I highly recommend watching the show. Absolutely fascinating. And what a monumental task in having discovered the secret!

Blessed is She Retreat - Ike N'dolo music

Two) The Power of a Retreat — When I was younger, starting about early high school, I used to regularly attend retreats. Some silent, some with discussion, but always very fruitful and inspiring. Since marriage and children, I haven’t been able to attend one, until just a few weeks ago. Blessed is She hosted one in Phoenix, Arizona, which I almost miraculously found funding for, tickets, and a place to stay, making it possible.

Not only was the fellowship wonderful in every way, but the time spent heart-to-heart with Our Lord was so sorely needed, in a way I couldn’t even imagine. I try to maintain that relationship with Him on a regular basis, but a retreat is like a weekend getaway with your Lover–so good for rejuvenating and reconnecting.

garden beginnings

Three) Pulling Weeds Actually Helps My Shoulder Heal — One of my shoulders has been strained for some time now. I was seeing a physical therapist in January and February to help alleviate some of the pain. It is an overuse injury so I’m stuck in a Catch-22: it needs strengthening to prevent further injury, but using it too much makes it worse. I’ve been attempting to strike a good balance, but having a hard time doing so.

With the arrival of Spring, we’ve begun working in the garden in the hopes of a lovely space this year. I started pulling the weeds after the last rainfall {which makes it SO much easier} daily, working an hour or two at a time. The first couple days, my neck and shoulders were literally screaming at me. I would put heat on them a couple of times a day, stretch, etc. I decided to push through a little bit, and by the end of the week, the soreness began to subside.

The movement required for pulling and digging was a great combination for stretching and strengthening my shoulders and neck muscles. I’m getting towards the end of the heavy labor with the weeds, so next up is my birthday gift: the rowing machine.

playing Candy Land

Four) To Say ‘Yes’ More Often to My Children — Too often I’ve made myself too busy to just drop everything and follow the request of one of my girls. Or I’m being too rational or stingy about a request they’ve made. But I’m trying to change that.

Evey has recently taken to playing Candy Land with me on the board I had as a child. {SO much better than the modern one!} She asks daily to play. Sometimes I do need to say no. But the other day she came up to me and asked “Can we play Candy Land tomorrow?” I suggested, “Why not right now?” Her eyes brightened so big and we played a few rounds. I want to incite that joy more.

Another day, I gave the girls an afternoon bath. Immediately after jumping out, Evey asked to wear her Easter dress and all the finery that accompanies it. My initial reaction was “No way!” because, although we were going out for a bit, it was simply to a little cafe for a treat. But I said “yes”. Why can’t she wear what makes her feel lovely for a short time, even if it is just to the store? She had many compliments while we were out…and was proud that she picked it out all on her own. {And she really was just so beautiful!}

every day mess

Five) Blog About the Mundane — I’ve had a serious block recently about writing on the blog because I feel as if no one really cares about the day-to-day here and I’ve nothing super significant to share. But then I realized that that is what others tend to comment on–and what I love to read at others blogs–the every day, nitty gritty. So I’m trying. I’m trying to better about sharing a bit of what we have going on here. Well, that’s what I started this for anyway!

dishcloth and Rising Strong

Six) How to Make a Knit Dishcloth — Kind of ridiculous, isn’t it? I’ve knit probably several dozen things at this point but had never done a dishcloth. They’re really quite simple and a great place to start if you want to learn. They are also wonderful for practicing a stitch you find somewhat vexing. It’ll probably be my go-to during the summer for knit projects as I can’t stand a knit warm blanket in my lap when it is a hundred plus outside.

writer

Source

Seven) I am a Writer — I feel ridiculous even writing this out, but it needs to be said. Although, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic wasn’t a favorite read of mine, there was something that struck me hard. It was this: you have to believe you are, if you want to be a _____ {fill in the blank}. So often I tell others, “Well, I’m trying to write. I’m attempting to make a thing of this.” But, by golly, I am! Not only have I been doing this blogging thing for almost ten years now, but I’ve had articles published in journals, magazines, etc. since I was in high school. I’ve been a copy editor for a publication. {You can’t–certainly shouldn’t!–be doing that job unless you can write!} I’m a regular contributor with Blessed is She. I have experience. I practice my craft {albeit, irregularly, these days}. And I love to share my thoughts and stories through words. What more do I need to proclaim it?? Nada.

There you have it. I said it. I am a writer.

Next up: I am a photographer. Because I am, and I want to be that too.

The Beginning and The End

annuncation fra angelico

Although we will not celebrate it today, it is the feast of the Annunciation–one of my favorite feast days to commemorate.

But the reason the celebration has been suspended is that today is also Good Friday.

bouguereau-pieta

I think of Jesus today. I think of the moment of His conception in His mother’s womb. I think of His consummation, His final breath. The beginning, the end.

I think of Mary today. I think of the Annunciation — her ‘yes’. I think of her standing at the foot of the Cross witnessing her Son pass from this life — her ‘yes’. Her unwavering ‘yes’ to all God had planned for her.  The beginning, the end.

When I contemplate the life of Our Lord, I often turn to Mary for help. I feel as if the mystery of her Son becomes just a bit clearer seen through the eyes of His mother. I identify with her well as a woman, a wife, a mother. She knew how to live that ‘yes’ to God with her whole being. She kept her eyes on Him no matter where or in what circumstances she found herself. ‘Yes’ when the news was good; ‘yes’ when the news was bad. But, still, sorrow in her heart when the news was difficult to bear.

My sorrow always fills with gratitude on Good Friday, just as I can imagine Mary’s heart did in each step of her sorrow. Contemplating His Wounds, I see His Mercy, His Love. I want to walk that path with Him, being able to say ‘yes’ to all — to the wounds, the crosses, the derision, the misunderstandings — just as He did…for me. From the beginning, throughout, to the end of my life.

Surrender. Surrender to His Love.

For Life

posterize-pro-life

It felt like a punch to the gut.

A woman walked past with an empty stroller, save a black cloth draped across the top and a sign that read “I regret my abortion.”

The tears fell instantly.

The emptiness. That soul that should have been here, but was returned too soon to God instead.

All the souls that have left us too soon.

The weight of it was oppressive and I wept for all those mothers missing their little ones’, those who never had a chance to live on this earth.

 

I hate the lies that have spread so pervasively making a woman (or man) believe that ending another’s life will make their life better. It never will.

It makes me sad that parents head into the clinics with the thought that this action will help them live a better life with no regrets. It won’t.

It grieves me so deeply that one life after another is being destroyed — my co-worker, my teammate, my friend. I feel their absence.

children-are-a-gift

 

The Walk for Life is about more than just a demand for an end to abortion. {Oh, it is definitely that.} But it is also a chance to grieve for and remember all those beautiful souls that have been lost to us through this atrocious procedure, harming the very souls it claims to save.

Finding Delight in the Lord — In Every Moment Given

Blessed is She hosted Advent retreat gatherings all over the world this past Saturday (and a few more take place this upcoming weekend). I offered my home as a location to host, but only a friend of mine expressed interest in coming. As it is easier for the two of us to get together during the week, we postponed until a few days later.

It was this fortuitous event that actually brought the lesson of “delighting in the Lord” home to me this Advent.

Munsill thanksgiving

My grandfather has been in hospice care for a little over a year now, but the past few weeks saw a rapid decline after an illness he caught swiftly made him worse. Over this period, I was able to visit a few times and sit vigil with him as he completed his days on this earth.

Those times spent with him, I spoke a few words with him when he was able to hold a little conversation or shared memories with other family members who were visiting. But mostly, I prayed for him. I prayed with him and over him. It felt very much like time spent in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament–that veil between heaven and earth is so thin in His presence, and I could sense the same as I sat with my grandfather keeping vigil in his final agony.

On Saturday afternoon, when the BIS retreat was to take place, I ended up going over to my parents’ house with the family. While Steve stayed with the girls at their house, I drove over to keep company with my dad and grandfather. When I arrived, my dad was playing Big Band music for my grandpa, joking that he had asked my dad to play the music for him. It was his favorite, so I’m certain he would have asked for it had he been able.

My dad and I chatted. We checked in with the medical tech to make sure my grandfather was receiving his pain medications regularly. We helped him take his breathing treatment and replaced his oxygen when he was finished. We relished the moments with him as we didn’t know when would be his last.

It is not always easy to sit with a dying person. It’s hard to know whether to converse with them. It’s difficult to watch their struggles as they suffer mostly interiorly. It’s painful when others who love the person are present, to know what to say to each other as you mourn the loss of this person who is so dear to you.

But what I certainly did as I sat there with my grandfather was “delighted in the moments” — giving thanks for each breath that still held him here, giving thanks for all the memories of good times past, giving thanks for the family legacy he was leaving to us, giving thanks for his life that had touched mine so profoundly. His presence was still very deeply felt even as he was slipping away and I wanted to be with him every minute I could that was left.

As we went about our Sunday morning the next day, I didn’t know that he had passed on to eternal life in the wee hours of the morning. We took the girls to an early Mass at the cathedral as we were planning to go to the German Christkindlmarkt later that morning. When we arrived at the cathedral, Bishop Soto was greeting a few people after the earlier service. I rarely see the bishop casually waiting in the vestibule, so we quickly made our way over to say ‘hello’. Stephen asked the bishop for his blessing on our family, and he spontaneously prayed for our “strength and health”. I see this as a great act of providence, one of the many moments God was showing His delight in me as I struggled with saying goodbye to my grandfather.

Once in the church, I was thinking of my grandfather and I leaned over toward Evelyn and said we should pray for him as he was having a hard time. She paused for a few moments to do so, then turned back to me and said, “Great-Grandpa has left us.” At the time, she actually said Great-Grandma, and I thought she was speaking of Steve’s grandmother who had died that same day, four years prior. But I realized later, when I asked her about it, she actually meant Great-Grandpa. I got the message when I turned my phone back on after church that my grandpa had, indeed, entered into his eternal rest early that morning.

There had been some difficulty having someone with him around the clock to care for him as the staff were stretched thin with many souls needing care that week. It was weighing heavily on me that he might not have someone with him when he passed. I wanted to stay with him, but my little ones needed me during the overnight hours. My parents were able to bring in the lady who had cared for him at home while he was living there a short time after my grandmother passed away. She was to stay with him through the night. A short time after she arrived, he died. I am so grateful for her presence, that he was able to have someone with him as he passed. Another instance of God’s loving care, delight in His precious servant.

christmas cards grandpa and grandma

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

As I reflected during the retreat I was finally able to do with my friend yesterday, I could see this message of the Lord’s delight written all over the past few weeks. I was able to see in those moments that I spent with my grandfather as he lay dying, in the circumstances in which he died, God’s love for me, God’s love for him. Each moment given was an act of His love poured out. I witnessed Christ’s love in that small room, carefully transfixed on him whom He was to carry home soon and on each one of us grieving his loss. Christ helped me to find joy in the midst of sorrow, in the midst of saying goodbye.

The waiting–the advent–of my grandfather’s journey to his eternal home was a great witness and true living out of this Advent season. I miss my grandpa dearly, but I rejoice that he will delight in the joy of heaven this Christmas alongside my grandma.

grandma and grandpa at christmas

I see the countless Christmas trees,
Around the world below.
With tiny lights, like heaven’s stars,
Reflecting on the snow.

The sight is so spectacular,
Please wipe away that tear.
For I’m spending Christmas,
With Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs,
That people hold so dear.
But the sounds of music can’t compare,
With the Christmas choir up here.

For I have no words to tell you,
The joy their voices bring.
For it is beyond description,
To hear the angels sing.

I can’t tell you of the splendor,
Or the peace here in this place.
Can you just imagine Christmas,
With our Savior, face to face?

I’ll ask Him to light your spirit,
As I tell Him of your love.
So then pray one for another,
As I lift you eyes above.

Please let your hearts be joyful,
And let your spirit sing.
For I’m Spending Christmas in Heaven,
And I’m walking with the King.

~Wanda Benke~

It IS Personal : Why My Compassion for Paris Does Not Diminish Those Suffering Elsewhere

trocadero paris

I may not be a French national but I very much consider France my second home. I have many friends who live there, and of all the other countries I’ve been to, France is first on my list of most visited. I lived in Paris for a semester studying, encountering the people, steeping myself in the language and culture, becoming inspired to love good, fresh foods, learning the intricacies of all those winding streets that still exist despite Haussmann’s best efforts to eradicate them. It is a place that lives in my heart even when I’m not present.

To hear of the attacks there last Friday, cut me to my core. I feared for friends. I felt deeply the violation of a country. I considered how easily I could have been in similar circumstances had the events happened 7 years earlier. I’ve visited those streets, I’ve attended a soccer match in that very stadium, where the explosions occurred.

On this same day, there was a bombing in Beirut that killed and injured dozens. This, too, saddens me greatly that there are people anywhere in this world that consider suicidal attacks on innocent civilians an acceptable means of warfare {or whatever it is they consider what they are doing}.

I’ll admit, my thoughts and heart went mostly to France that day. There is a strong current of shaming that occurred on social media, though, for those of us who weren’t equally posting about both events. I do care about what is happening to those in the Middle East and I frequently remember them in my prayers, but the attacks on Paris were close.

I should not feel ashamed to place an emphasis on something I love. As Madeleine L’Engle put it, “Compassion is particular; it is never general.” Sympathy for a general idea of those suffering does not easily produce action to help actually relieve those in distress. A personal connection is more likely to inspire action. It is not to say we shouldn’t do things for those who are further removed from us, but when we turn towards those first who are closer to us, it is an appropriate response. If loved ones were in distress along with a crowd of others would you indiscriminately help anyone or would you search out and protect your loved ones first? 

Sympathy for those suffering in France does not diminish the suffering of those elsewhere. In fact, it may strengthen one’s concern for others in a similar situation. We should not be condemning others who vocalize concern about one person or one group before another. One should emulate their compassion and throw our love, prayers and thoughts towards those God has placed on one’s own heart. 

pensive...

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