Selfishness, Responsibilty and a Blue Couch 


Selfishness is so easy. It’s so easy to focus on yourself and blame all your troubles on others. Doing so allows us to stay in a state of inaction: there is “nothing” we can do about our problems because they are “not our fault.” Someone else is to blame. But this attitude dooms us to shadow-boxing all our lives–flailing out our arms uselessly to hit the imaginary causers of our own difficulties. 

If we are honest with ourselves, we discover that the source of our brokenness is within. Even if we were isolated from all others in a tiny hermitage, we would still struggle. This is a sobering thought. It means we have to rise from our stupor and take responsibility for our lives. Only we can change them for the better. 

But while we can take positive steps towards small changes for the better, healing our brokenness is not something we can do alone. We can’t make ourselves never grumpy, annoyed, snappy, imprudent, lazy or selfish etc by our willpower alone. We are like broken light bulbs whose wires are not connected, so the electricity can’t flow through them. We need to reconnect those wires by joining our hands in prayer, so the grace of God can flow through us and help us to shine. 

In the bustle of daily life, it can be easy to forget this. We get wrapped up in our troubles and forget to ask for help. We forget to pray for our needs, and for the grace to bear hardships cheerfully. But God is just waiting to show us signs of His affection, if we open our hearts to receive it. Sometimes His generosity is very concrete. Recently my Dad and I went on a wild goose chase search for a second-hand dresser for my eldest daughter. We drove all over, even out of town, and checked three stores with no luck.  We saw a couch I liked which could replace our old beat-up red one, but I couldn’t get a-hold of my husband at work to ask his opinion. It was a hot, tiring day and nothing seemed to be quite working. 

But the next day, the reason for our fruitless search was made clear: there was something  better waiting for us. A block from our house, my Dad spotted an estate sale with gorgeous furniture. There was a beautiful maple dressed in perfect condition for $45. And even more lovely, an antique Coombs couch and matching armchair, with wooden finish and lovely blue upholstery for $250 together. I don’t know what their original price would have been, but the reupholstering alone would have cost $2000 in the ’80’s! Talk about score. Furthermore, they were willing to deliver the furniture to our house, which was another godsend, because some things are just too darn big for my double stroller (we don’t have a car). 


So this is just a little reminder, to myself as much as to anyone else, to take time to join my hands in prayer, reconnect with God and let His love flow through me. If we could all shine our little lights, instead of staying in the darkness of anger and blame, how gorgeous the world would be. Like a glowing Christmas tree, every little light sharing its warmth with the others. In a time of uncertainty and violence, I think the peacefulness of this image is one worth focusing on, hoping and praying for. God bless you all. 

Learning to Pray

This lovely little picture is by my 6 1/2 year old daughter, who is much better at drawing than me! She is very excited about her First Communion coming up this June, and likes to express it through art. She told me, “This is a priest teaching a little girl the same prayer he learned when he was a little boy.”

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Here is one more drawing:

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Happy Spring!

Velvet Flame

Holy Spirit​,
You are like a velvet flame
enveloping me in Your warmth,
surrounding me with Your light
till even my insides glow
and the beating of my heart
is a pulsating brightness
emitting Your love.

Without You—
a burnt wick
a cracked and snappable thread
a lack of light
an emptiness.

Holy Spirit,
remember those days
almost 12 years ago now
when I was so excited 
to receive You for the first time?

When I imagined You coming to 
take up residence in me
the way a cat curls up cosy
on her master’s lap,
bringing warmth and comfort?

Thank You for being with me
guiding me
inspiring me
helping me
my true muse and soul’s friend.

May I always speak Your words
spread Your love
shed Your light
and bring the twinkle of Your beauty
into the world.

  

(Image from watch and pray blog)

Easter Vigil

Those who dwelt in darkness have seen a great light…Easter vigil with the kids is always a bit of an adventure, but it certainly makes Easter memorable! Seeing the Easter fire…entering the dark church led by the Easter candle, and slowly seeing the church lit up by tiny pools of candlelight near the joyful faces of each person, all holding their little beeswax candles. And of course, all accompanied by song. It’s something worth staying up for. 

  
   
 

And after the solemn prayers of expectation, the great joy of Easter, a burst of brightness, and the choir proclaiming the resurrection to the sounds of ringing bells and exultant organ. It’s gorgeous, and festive and joyful. And after all this, there was a huge reception downstairs! The kids, excerpt my eldest who stayed awake the whole time, woke from their sleepy spots on their pews and had treats. What kid doesn’t love staying up late and eating chocolate!  Happy Easter everyone!!

Holy Saturday

  
Day of silence

Of exhausted aftermath

Of unbelief

Can it really have happened??

The strangeness of life continuing 

Just as it had before

Yet—on the inside— 

Earth-shatteringly different 

Every mother who has lost a child 

Knows this feeling

In the core of her soul

In her hollowed-out heart

In her empty aching arms

The day after death

For most of us

The long wait for reunion

For resurrection

Lasts a lifetime

One long Holy Saturday 

Until death breaks the silence

And we hear our babies laugh

To endure this day

Stay close to the mother of the one they pierced

No sorrow deeper

No love stronger

No patience more graceful

Than that of the one who spent that Holy Saturday

Weeping tears of hope

Holy Thursday

  

The evening song rises,

wavering upward with the incense.

Voices sound out like trumpets,

break open in beauty like daffodils,

proclaiming before the great suffering begins:

“It is for love! It is for love! 

This great folly is for love!”

And then, the garden,

agony

alone.

Jesus, your prayer rises like a whisp of smoke,

like a candle extinguished…

leaving only a sad grey trail

curling heavenward in the darkness.

The tabernacle sits empty,

like a heart broken open

and found abandoned.

Love—

life—

lost.

We stay,

mourning you with our songs,

eyes open and aching,

empty of tears,

waiting.

  

Do we live with reverence for creation?

What strikes me when I listen to Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” (find it recorded here) is an attitude of reverence…both for nature as created by God, and for every human person as part of that same creation. The poor, the humble, the sorrowful sinner, the bird with the broken wing, the glorious sunset…are all beautiful manifestations of God’s infinite creativity. As such, all can be approached with a gentle reverence that inspires respect and care, rather than judgment and selfish dominion.

So what resonates deeply with me, is the Pope’s assertion that the way we treat nature is a sign of, and even affects, how we treat people. If we take all created things for granted, as items to be used for our own pleasure and financial benefit, it leads us to also objectify our fellow  human beings…to use and abuse them as well. We become disconnected from creation, and unable to relate to those who suffer because of our selfish actions; our vision becomes microscopic, and we only see things as they affect us. 

We forget that everything we receive is gift…air to breathe, the sunrise, fresh food to eat, laughter, joy. When we see such things as rights instead of blessings, we fail to appreciate them. We get caught up in trying to cram our souls full of new gadgets, acquisitions to fill the emptiness that should be filled with gratitude for all we already have. 

  
But what if we tried to live with more simplicity? What if we tried to make our money stretch a little further, so we could have more to share with those who really need it, for whom every dollar counts? We had a Lenten meal at our parish in Sunday, and ate a simple meal of soup and homemade pretzels. All the donations for the meal were given to help build a school for poor children in South America. We watched a little video of these beautiful kids with great big brown eyes, smiling and full of hope as they shared their ambitions. “Yo quiero soy un professor,” (I want to be a teacher) said one little girl. (Forgive me if I spell the Spanish wrong!)

That soup tasted like a million bucks. I wish I had a million to send to those kids. They are the little ones whose world we must take care of. The ones for whom we need to lift our eyes behind the screen of our iPhones to look into the future. Let’s tread gently, and live generously, so that as many of them as possible can grow up to fulfill those dreams, and in turn also make the world a better place. 

5 Simple ways to grow in the virtue of poverty this Lent

  
One of the things my family is trying to do this Lent is to grow in the virtue of poverty, in order to better appreciate our many blessings, and to be able to share them more with others. We were inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si to be more aware of what we consume and to not waste food when so many go hungry. 
Here are some simple ideas you could try as well.

1. Unless you plan to freeze it right away, make just enough food for your meal. Often leftovers get left for too long and end up in the compost! Or if you do have leftovers, take them for lunch instead of eating out at work. 

2. Try to use up what’s in your cupboards, instead of always buying more food. Sometimes this is a good creative challenge! This week I made French Onion soup with my many onions, Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf with a can of pumpkin in the cupboard, Lentil Dahl and rice with my cans of tomatoes and coconut milk, gnocchi with frozen peas and rosé sauce, and some good old beans and toast! Instead of a fancy salad, we had slices of apples or fresh veggies on the side. 

3. Eat more vegetarian. Things like beans, rice and veggies are cheap and nutritious, and can be cooked in tons of different delicious ways. Go on Pinterest for inspiring yummy photos.

4. Make use of the last drop…After my morning coffee I’ve been pouring that little extra bit of coffee from my French press into a glass Starbucks bottle, then adding a little milk and sugar and putting it in the fridge. Voilá! Now my afternoon coffee is ready! 

5. Don’t buy anything unnecessary. Shop from your closet. Find those things you forgot about in the back of your wardrobe and combine them in new ways. Enjoy the liberty of choosing to be happy without those new shoes or that new gadget. You are bigger than that. Our hearts weren’t meant do be filled with mere stuff. 

Perhaps it does not appeal to give up things or be frugal, but we have to ask ourselves, if we can’t give up even little things for a short time, are we truly free? Also, the less we “need” the more we can give, and the richer we truly are. 

What do you like to do to live more simply?

Meet Tami Kiser, mom of 10, who organized The Catholic Conference 4 Moms!

Interview with Tami Kiser, founder and creator of http://www.CatholicConference4Moms.com


Please tell us a little bit about yourself:

Gladly. I am Tami Kiser, aka, Smart Martha in some circles. I live in Greenville, SC with my husband of 28 years. We have 10 children (ages 3-26) and 5 grandchildren. DH is a headmaster at a Catholic School and most of my time is spent managing this large brood providing family dinners, essay edits, haircuts, rides, stories, and lots of advice (mostly unsolicited). I also teach dance part-time and work on this exciting conference whenever I get the chance.

What is the “Faces of Mercy” 2016 Catholic Conference 4 Moms?

It is simply an online conference for this coming Year of Mercy, particularly catered to moms. It is set up so that Mom’s groups or parishes can use the presentations to put together their own simple conference/retreat/mom’s day out. So far, we have about 25 parishes all over the US hosting the conference. But, starting January 20, we are opening it up for individual moms to attend at their own convenience in their own homes throughout the rest of Lent.

What gave you the inspiration to do a project like this?

I was familiar with online webinars. I was also familiar with Protestant groups doing a similar thing focused on just one presenter (for 1000’s of $!). And I also ran a mom’s ministry, called Smart Martha, where I traveled to parishes and held one day seminars. I blended all these concepts together and came up with this idea. I consecrated the whole thing to Mary, and this is where we are today.

I understand the need for moms to be encouraged in their vocation and faith. I also understand how difficult that can be to fit into busy schedules. This conference with the focus on Mercy is the perfect solution. It’s even better if moms can find other moms to share it with–in a parish mom’s meeting, or at a friend’s home while kids play. And if that’s not possible, then part of an early morning quiet time or a treadmill run at the gym. The conference has the flexibility that moms need along with the great messages moms need to hear.

So the day the conference begins is February 20th?

Yes, this is the day which we are asking everyone to set aside for the conference so that we can all be united in mission and in prayer on this day. We will be live streaming a presentation by Jennifer Fuller at 10:30 EST and at 3:00 EST, we are asking everyone to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together. But that being said, the online conference is very flexible and can accommodate many different days and weekends. If that day doesn’t work for a mom or even a mom’s group, the conference is still available from February 20th to the end of Lent in order to accommodate everyone’s busy schedules. So anytime during Lent, you can view these presentations.

Is there a cost? 

For individual moms online, registration is about the price of one book, $14. Not only does this get them full online access throughout Lent, but it also gets them a conference “swag bag” which is full of online gifts and offers suitable for mothers. It also includes every presentation as a downloadable MP3. As part of the publicity of the conference, there will be great prizes awarded every day from February 8- February 25. There are discounts available through the conference affiliates for an even lower registration price.

Thank you for the interview! For all my readers, please feel free to use my coupon code “Eastland” to save $4 and register for only $10.99 (American)!  Register here! Enjoy!