My Favorite Things about Summer

…having the time to sit and watch the birds on the bird feeder; barefooting in the grass, playing and going on adventures with the kids; 9 a.m. bubble baths; gardening in the early a.m. and at dusk; the sounds of crickets, locusts and frogs at night; wonderful greens and blues (my favorite colors); passion flowers & black-eyed susans; swallowtails; reading a book in my sunroom; athletic shorts nearly all day – everyday; the smell of sunscreen; no homework and no scheduled bedtime; lunch dates with friends; laying on the trampoline and gazing at the stars as they appear one by one; fireworks; how everything stays relatively neat and clean and organized; afternoon naps; having the time to try new recipes; making breakfast for my kiddos (and me) – not eating in the car on the way to school; time for a second cup of coffee; watching the geese in the pond grow and get their adult feathers; blueberry picking; the beach; fruit & berries; matinée movies; extra snuggle time with Sadie; a change of pace; time to really reflect upon my blessings:)

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Decisions Made Simple

“Do nothing without consulting Him in the Tabernacle. But then act fearlessly, if you see it is for His honour and glory, never minding what others may think or say.

Fr. Willie Doyle

I don’t know who Fr. Willie Doyle was exactly, but I began “following” him on WordPress because we share a common last name!  I was intrigued!  A quote from his blog yesterday is the perfect introduction to what I want to speak about today.  This is the next chapter in “my visit from Jesus collection” I’ve been writing as of late.

Another truth I heard loud and clear when “Jesus” came to visit my house was this:  We don’t have to make others happy – we only have to concern ourselves with making God happy with us.  When our focus shifts from pleasing the world to pleasing God alone, it makes decisions ever so much more simple.

In any given situation, we can ask ourselves, “Would this be pleasing to God?”  If the answer is, “No,” then we know exactly what you must do!  It works on everything from deciding which movie to watch to deciding which job to take or whom to marry.  When pleasing God is the basis of all of our decisions – big and small – we find ourselves cutting away a bunch of junk – activities, things and sometimes people who pull us away from our relationship with Him.

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Think of this: “If _____________ doesn’t edify my relationship with God, then it is not needed.”  I love that word – edify.  By the way – getting back to Fr. Willie’s quote – my favorite place to go when I have a decision to make (or for a myriad of other reasons) is to the tabernacle.  Jesus’ presence is calming and somehow always seems to put things in proper perspective for me.

My visitor also pointed out another truth:  “What comes into our eyes and into our ears can change our hearts.”  We need to be super careful about what we allow into our eyes and ears – is what we see and hear edifying to our relationship with God?  Is is just “junk,” or is it actually detrimental to the health of our soul?

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Speaking of junk – I’m just about done with television!  It is so difficult to find something that is appropriate and edifying to watch as a family.  Even when we find that one show, the commercials punctuating the program are often terribly inappropriate!  We must try, try, try to minimize our exposure to the things that are ungodly.  I’m not saying to turn a blind eye to what is going on in the world.  We need to be aware of it in order to pray about it – and to do so fervently!  We just don’t want to allow ourselves to be so inundated by it all that we  become desensitized to things that once disturbed or appalled us.  Remember: what comes into our eyes and ears can change our hearts!

Have a blessed Sunday!

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Reflection on the Readings for Sunday, June 26, 2016

Readings for Sunday, June 26th

Unknown-2  When reflecting upon the second reading from Paul to the Galatians, I was struck by the whole concept of freedom, and how we have really twisted its meaning.  Society has this mistaken notion that freedom is the right to do whatever we want – “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility.”   (#1731)   Freedom is a gift from God that allows us to respond to His great love for us.  Without freedom or free will, real love cannot exist.  That would be called manipulation or control- not love. Freedom is not only a gift, but a responsibility – something to be employed thoughtfully – wisely.

Paul said, ” For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.”  Real love is selfless – not selfish.  It is life-giving.

That has been my experience of God’s love.   So often, we find ourselves caught in a whirlwind of things that consume us – work, responsibilities, entertainment – noise, noise, noise, movement, movement, movement…  God’s love is life-giving and refreshing.  In order to feel that, however, we must put Him absolutely first in our lives.  Doing the minimum – mass on Sunday and a prayer before turning in isn’t going afford us that peace that our hearts and souls are craving. We’ve got to carve out time each and every day for silence and stillness, for it is there where we might hear God’s whisper and feel His calming presence deep within.  “He is as close to you as the very beating of your heart,” a woman once told me.  I’ve held onto that wonderful thought!  Sit for a few moments and try to focus on the pulsing of your heart.  Imagine your heart and Jesus’ heart beating as one together. He’s that close!  Isn’t that amazing and awe-inspiring?

The gospel reiterates the importance of putting God first in our lives.  Jesus makes it very clear that second or third place will not do!  Our priorities have got to be

#1 God, #2 Family, #3 Everyone/Everything else

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When we order our lives this way, we acknowledge and honor God’s dominion over our lives.  We use our gift of freedom to return love for Love.   It is then that we can rest in the knowledge that God will be faithful to us – ever-present – always providing exactly what we need when we need it.  God’s generosity is never outdone!  To this I can surely testify!

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Matthew 6:33

 

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The Next Installment – When Tragedy Strikes

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“Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.

This is my comfort in my distress, that your promise gives me life”.

                                                                                                                 Psalm 119: 49-50

I’m still not out of revelations to share from my visit with “Jesus” almost two weeks ago. It was that profound! Another thing I took from that conversation was the importance of employing SUPPORT – especially when life gives us way more than we can handle.

The absolute sadness and tragedy of this past week’s events are still very much on everyone’s minds. Our hearts go out to those who died in the mass shooting and the little boy who was snatched by the alligator. I’m particularly worried about those left behind. After all of the memorials and funerals are over – when the world goes on “as usual,” how will the family members of these people find the strength to get out of bed in the morning? Will grief consume them?  I pray that they have faith to sustain them.

There are many different forms that support may take: scripture reading, prayer, exercise, meditation, medication, therapy or a confidant to share with, gardening (or something that helps you to connect with the beauty of God’s creation), good nutrition, reaching out to help others, receiving the sacraments frequently… My visitor experienced a great loss in her life. I asked how she managed to continue to put one foot in front of the other – to get out of bed when she’d surely rather withdraw.

She told me that withdrawing for a time and sitting with the pain is necessary for healing. Crying can be downright therapeutic. She also emphasized the importance of using lots of support of different types like the ones listed above. She reminded me that we only have to “Do Today.” We really mess ourselves up when we look too far down the road saying, “How will I be able to sustain this horrific grief for days and months and even years? I can’t do it!” We can’t do it alone, but we are not alone! There is Someone who wants to carry us – to help us bear the weight of our grief!

Another important aspect of gaining peace in the midst of tragedy is being able to forgive. Forgiveness TRULY is freedom. I have benefitted greatly from the grace of being able to forgive.  It was not something that happened overnight – or even something that I could do on my own.  That is why I call it a grace!  (I will talk more about that another day.)

“Lord, we pray for those who have been devastated by recent tragedies. We remember those who have lost their lives so suddenly. We hold in our hearts the families forever changed by grief and loss. Bring them consolation and comfort. Surround them with our prayers for strength. Bless those who have survived and heal their memories of trauma and devastation. May they have the courage to face the days ahead.

Help us to respond with generosity in prayer, in assistance, and in comfort to the best of our abilities. Keep our hearts focused on the needs of all the community. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”    (Taken from http://www.amm.org/praywithus/tragedy.aspx)

 

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Highlights of our Alexandria Trip

#1 Annie’s graduation from High School!  We are so proud of our girl!

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Fooling Around

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The Immediate Fam

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Senior Slideshow

#2 Visiting the Louisiana State Arboretum and seeing Bambi up close and personal!

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Where we first found Bambi

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She wasn’t afraid of us at all!

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LA State Arboretum

The Alexandria Zoo which was celebrating it’s 90th birthday.

Yes, the jaguars were feeling frisky!

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We saw many of these which let us know we were where we were supposed to be:)

Attending mass twice at this Cathedral was a real treat.  I got to see a priest ordination for the first time!  Simply beautiful!

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Just Do Today

(part 3 in the installment – Jesus came to visit…)

Life can be downright overwhelming.  There are surely times of celebrating and great joy, but there’s a lot of hard stuff, too.  We get ourselves into a big mess when we worry about what will happen tomorrow, three weeks or even a year from now.  If we are in pain now, we worry about how we will be able to withstand it – what shape we will be in six months down the line.  We can get ourselves all worked up and really off track.

My visitor last Thursday reminded me of some very good news.  She said, “Life is hard…but it’s o.k…I can do hard.”  Instead of dwelling on the fact that circumstances at the moment are nearly unbearable and allowing those negative tapes to play and replay in our heads, “Oh my gosh.  I can’t do this.  This is too hard.  I can’t bear it…blah, blah, blah.”   We can sit with the fact that “It hurts, but I’m o.k.  I’m still here.  Life is hard.  But I can do hard.”  We can do “hard” with God’s grace and only with God’s grace.  That’s why they call it AMAZING!

The great news is that we only have to do today.  God gives us grace for TODAY.   We cannot get a loan on grace for something that has not occurred yet and may never happen.

I’ve lived long enough to learn that life can turn on a dime.  Things can be completely different (or at least hopeful) in 24 hours.  If there’s on thing I could say to people who are feeling the desperation of suicidal thoughts or despair, it would be hold on.  Get some support.  Things can look very different in a small amount of time – especially when you are holding on to the one who holds you in the palm of His hand.  (Isaiah 49:16)  He never, EVER leaves us alone.

We only have to do today.   Oh, that is very good news!

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A little treasure from Hobby Lobby!

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A Definite Change in Strategies

(part 2 in the installment – “Jesus came to visit me…”)

I really don’t like exercise.  I always look for whatever will give me the quickest results as I am admittedly impatient.  I’m also struggling with turning 50.  It’s more than the sagging, wrinkling, new curves and gray hairs.  It is definitely knowing that (probably) 2/3 of my life has come and gone.  It is in dealing with the fact that one day, because of my age, I will surely feel irrelevant to my young students.  What will God have me do then?  Without a doubt, I’m closer to my death than I have ever been, whenever that might be!

I’ve been “working out” when the mood strikes me using this torture device – the ab roller!   It promises to give me back that flat stomach of my youth!  Ha!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, as a result of my visit with Jesus last Thursday, I came to know that I needed to change my strategy significantly.

My visitor and I spoke about the word, “isolation.”  You know, it surely has negative connotations.  Man was not meant to live alone…Isolation brings thoughts of depression and desperation – at least those are the first thoughts that come to my mind.  I was asked to think about it another way.  Isolation can also be healing.   In fact a certain amount of isolation is necessary for healing and strength.

When I read the gospel each day with my students, we often come across a passage where Jesus (before He has enters into a big task) goes off to the mountain in solitude to pray.  I have said to them that Jesus is modeling for us what we should do when we have something difficult to face or a big decision to make – or when we simply need refreshment.  I often visit the adoration chapel on our campus.  I thought that I was living this message – perhaps not well enough!

This is my new work out equipment.  Check it out!

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my porch swing

Though it was not specifically told to me that this is my new workout equipment, I was given to know that this is where I needed to “work out” each day this summer – multiple times a day if necessary.  “How long am I to sit here?”  I queried. “As long as it takes – until nothing can disturb your peace.”  Dang!  That could be a long time!

Well, I began my workout routine Thursday evening.  I sat in the chair, closed my eyes and just listened to the frogs, birds, crickets – then the soft rain – then the thunder.  When a bolt of lightning struck close by, I bolted! So much for sitting until NOTHING disturbs my peace!  I think God must have chuckled to Himself!

I’ve been working out now about twice a day – once in the early morning and once at dusk – today around noon – just because.  I’m finding that the more I practice listening and just being in God’s presence, the easier it becomes (for the most part) to get to that place where I can bask in His peace.  At times, I remind myself that God actually lives within me.  I concentrate on my breath and my heart beat – and I think of God dwelling deep within me.  I’m in awe.

Today, I sat to the far right of the swing and left a place for Jesus to sit beside me.  I closed my eyes, listened to the sounds of the birds, the dogs – the breeze – the cars on the highway, and I could swear I felt an electricity on that left side of me – like all my tiny hairs were being drawn up and outward toward Jesus.

As you struggling with age, life, disappointment, pain, too much to do?  You need to work out!  You need to do the work of being still and listening.  If you dedicate yourself to this, I know you will be transformed.  I feel it  working on me already!!

“Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10

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Jesus Came to Visit Me on Thursday

Yes!  You heard it correctly – and no I haven’t lost it (at least I don’t think so:)  This past Thursday, I was visited by an incredible woman of faith.  I was supposed to be giving her some help/advice (at least that was the premise of the visit), but I think that she wound up helping me more that I helped her.  When she looked into my eyes and spoke with such love and conviction, I could have sworn I got a glimpse of Jesus, talking to me through this beautiful, blue-eyed disciple.  Her eyes were so compassionate and so piercing!  (After she left, my daughter commented on the depth of her eyes as well!)

When she left my home, my mind was just reeling with so many profound epiphanies she had sparked that I had to write as much as I could down to make sure the impact wouldn’t diminish with the passing of time.  You see, the things she told me – it wasn’t the first time I had heard them – perhaps it was their delivery that was special.  I’m not sure.

We are called to be Christ for one another.  I truly experienced what that meant on Thursday, because I would swear to you that Christ Himself visited my home that day.  Over the next few posts, I’d like to share what I heard from my visitor that has me all fired up!  Maybe some of the truths will resonate with you as well.

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One of the things we discussed was the Word of God – what it holds for each one of us.  I’m a religion teacher for goodness sake.  I know the importance of the Bible!  I have multiple copies highlighted, bookmarked and underlined.  I read the readings of the day each morning, but still the words often seem like a story from long ago.  My visitor reminded me that the Word of God is a LIVING WORD.  It has messages and promises for me to claim as my own today – in 2016.  God can literally speak to me through His Word now.  What does He want to say to me today?  I can’t wait to find out!

Now, I’m not saying that I’m free to interpret scripture however I choose.  As Catholics, we rely on the Magisterium of the Church to do that.  But wow!  When I think of God’s Word as “Living” – with the power to breathe life into my soul, or with one word cause a conversion in someone- now that gives me a reason to want to read more and know more!   I hope that you will think about what I just said, say a prayer to the Holy Spirit and pick up that bible!!

There’s a song on Christian radio whose refrain says, “Just hold on to the promises…”

Here are just a few of the promises from God’s Word that we can stand confidently (and humbly) upon today:

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Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Matthew 11:28-29
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

John 14:2-3
“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

Tomorrow, I will write about another revelation I had when Jesus came to visit!  May you find refuge and safety in the hearts of Jesus and Mary!

 

 

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What’s Growin’ On?

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my garden.  If I had my way the whole yard would be nothing but one big bed – O.K. maybe two – one for flowers and one for veggies!  (Perhaps one day!)  I look forward to coming home everyday, clipping, weeding and watering – and recently, harvesting!!

Here’s a look at what is going in the garden over the past two weeks:

Some of my favorite things:   I’m very excited that are a fig tree and a dogwood tree that I thought were dead have come back to life!  I’m growing peanuts and asparagus for the first time.  (See if you can spot them above.)  I have a nice new stepping stone from my amazing prayer partner at school – a great reminder of the power of prayer and friendship!  I’ve transplanted our olive tree from a large pot to the ground, and it’s got some great new growth on it.  Also, my sister-in-law gave me some spider plant “babies” last year.  They are finally making offshoots or “babies” of their own!

Something else  has been taking place in my backyard!  Check these babies out!

You can see how much they’ve grown in just two weeks.  They come by now morning and evening for breadcrumbs! (And to get their picture taken!)

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A beautiful “bleeding heart plant,” a gift from my son and his fiance’ last year – This year it is blooming like crazy:)

I hope that you all are enjoying spring as much as I am!  May God Bless you and yours!

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Sing it Until you Mean it (Or the “Power of Praise”)!

 

 

UnknownI don’t know about you, but I just feel depleted – like an old, dry rotted bicycle tire that has gone flat.  You try to pump it up to ride, but the air just flows right through, leaving it saggy and listless instead of firm and resilient.  (Now that’s a picture for you!) I guess I’m in a slump of sorts – and probably feeling – well,  50:(    It’s a good thing that school just let out, huh?!

If you are feeling down, overwhelmed or worn out, praise God!  ( I bet you’re thinking I’ve had a bit too much to drink!)  Nope.  I know what I’m saying!   You see, when you praise God in the storms of this life, it actually makes the burdens lighter and gives joy to the soul.  You might be thinking, “The last thing I feel like doing is singing.”  I understand completely.  Trust me on this.  You say it until you can sing it, then you sing it until you mean it!  You will notice that the doom and gloom begin to lift.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to put on a smile and “fake” happiness when having to  address a group of people.  Something miraculous happens when I do that.  While it is difficult to paint that smile on and speak with enthusiasm, after a few minutes, I actually begin to feel what I’ve been faking!  Try it.  Smile until it is no longer a chore!

When we suffer – physically, mentally or spiritually – this can be a gift from God – an opportunity to draw closer to Him.  When we unite our suffering to Him who suffered for us, our hurt can be used to obtain graces needed to turn souls in need of conversion to Him.  I don’t know about you, but it always helps to ease my suffering/sadness when I know that it is doing somebody somewhere some good!

There are many wonderful contemporary praise and worship songs that you can play and sing along until you are feeling blessed (not stressed) :)  One of my favorites is a hymn that is usually sung right after benediction, Holy God We Praise Thy Name.  Won’t you give it a try?

Holy God, we praise Thy name. Lord of all, we bow before Thee.  All on earth, Thy scepter claim.  All in heaven above adore Thee.  Infinite Thy vast domain.  Everlasting is Thy reign.  Infinite Thy vast Domain.  Everlasting is Thy reign!

Words: Ignaz Franz, 1774;
trans. Clarence Augustus Walworth, 1858
Music: Grosser Gott

 

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