Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Opinions

The election results are in and we are looking at four more years of Barack Obama in the White House. I'm frustrated. I'm upset. I'm worried for our future. However, this election season, like most, has left a bad taste in my mouth and a sinking feeling in my gut. We are people made up of varying beliefs and thoughts, ideas and opinions. Over and over again I have seen people trample on another because they believe something different than you. Why?

Does is make you feel better to slam what someone else believes? Does it make you feel more intellegent when you try to make someone else feel stupid? Does it make you feel stronger when you try to make someone else feel weak? Are we becoming more and more a people of tunnel vision, walking around only seeing what is in front of us and not opening our minds and our eyes to what else is out there?

Having a lot of Irish blood running through my veins, you could say that I come from a fairly stubborn stock of people. Growing up, I thought what I thought because I thought it. Why? Didn't really matter if I understood it. If I thought it, it must be so. Women were surely as strong as men. Abortion was a choice (not one that I could make, but how could I tell someone else what to do with their body?). Humility was weakness. Religion was important. As long as you weren't hurting anyone you were ok. Family was important. Birth control? What's the question there? Why wouldn't you use birth control?  Oh, I just believed so many things. Did I understand everything? No. But I would dig my heels in for what I believed even without fully getting it.

As I got older, I began to soften a bit. Why did I believe what I believed? What was the other side? Was there something I didn't know? I opened up and began to listen. I learned that I still had an awful lot to learn. There were so many angles to go at different topics. What did I think about this or that? Why did I believe what I believed? Why did others believe what they did? As I journeyed along many of my beliefs began to change and many of them became stronger. There was power in getting both sides of an issue.

When you are open to hearing what others have to say, learning what they believe and why they believe it, there can be understanding. You may or may not accept what they believe, but there can be understanding. When you research something you don't fully comprehend it will either strengthen what you believe and give you a stronger foundation for what you think or it may cause you to step back and re-evaluate your thought process on a topic. What's so bad about that?

And then, of course, there is the delivery. How do you share your thoughts and opinions with others? Do you bulldoze them? Do you make sweeping generalizations? Are you pithy? Are you so rigid and stubborn that there isn't room for dialogue? Where is that going to get you?

Were you ever where they are? Did you ever believe what they believe? Did you ever change your mind on a topic? Meet people where they are with kindness and openness. Share your opinion.  Plant seeds. Give them what they need to make them curious and be inviting enough so that they can ask you questions.

Listen to their opinion. Why do they believe what they do? Hear what they are saying (I want you to listen AND hear).  Maybe it is you who has to learn and be open and change. Maybe it is you who needs to transform what you believe and think on a topic. You won't know if you are closed off to the message.

People are going to think differently than you and believe different things than you. You can either close yourself off or be open to the reasoning behind people's thoughts.  Learning why people feel a certain way and sharing why you feel a certain way allows understanding and tolerance. When you are searching out a pithy comment or seeking a real dig that comes at someone's expense then no one wins.

It would be really wonderful if, because of the nastiness of this election process, we learned how we do not want to interact with one another. It would be really wonderful if we decided to meet each other with kindness and thoughtfulness. It would be really wonderful if we learned from each other. It would be really wonderful if we lifted each other up instead of tearing each other down. Oh, wouldn't it be wonderful?


Do more than exist, LIVE.
Do more than touch, FEEL.
Do more than look, OBSERVE.
Do more than read, ABSORB.
Do more than hear, LISTEN.
Do more than listen, UNDERSTAND.
Do more than think, PONDER.
Do more than talk, SAY SOMETHING.
-John H. Rhoades

Friday, August 24, 2012

College Moving In Day Revelations

When I was pregnant, people would smile and tell me, ”When that baby comes, your life will never be the same again.” And I couldn’t wait for that change in my life. My husband and I were planning and choosing baby names and decorating the house. Then that little blessing came into our world and our lives truly were never the same again. And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Through the years, we have been blessed with two more children. Each time a child comes into your world everything changes. And that is ok. That is part of raising a child. Certainly there are moments of pulling your hair out and worrying and stress. But the love and the laughter, the blessings and joy that come with having a child under your roof will trump out the sad moments in a heartbeat.

Life will never be quite the same again.

2012 has been, and will continue to be, a year of milestones. My girls turned 10 and 18 respectively. My son will be 16 and is working on acquiring his driver’s license. My youngest finished her last year in the lower elementary school and that also marked the end of 13 years there for me. My eldest graduated from high school and is beginning college. Being an emotional person, these milestones brought tears to my eyes – happy tears and sad tears. Some of these moments really brought home the concept of something being bittersweet. My heart was rejoicing at the very same time that it was weeping.

Life will never be quite the same again.

Yesterday, we drove to Aquinas College to drop my oldest off to begin her orientation and her life as a college student. I was able to really enjoy the time getting her dorm room set up and helping to organize things. Lunch was great and we were able to take some time to walk around the campus and enjoy the day. At 2 o’clock all the parents, incoming freshmen, and current students who were helping with orientation met in the athletic building for convocation. They had a beautiful program to kick off their academic year and welcome the Class of 2016. I knew the family time would end at 3 p.m. and the student orientation would go into full swing. I looked at my watch and realized in less than an hour they would be asking us to leave and yet I was able to hold back the tears. At 2:30, I held my breath while I held Trisha’s hand knowing soon enough I would have to let it go. At ten minutes to 3, we were told we had about 10 minutes to share our last parting words of wisdom with our kids before they headed off to get their class picture taken and get busy with their afternoon. It was at that moment the tears began flowing and they haven’t quite stopped yet.

Life will never be quite the same again.

As I fell asleep last night and woke up this morning, I was contemplating why this was so difficult for me. When I held her for the first time, life as I knew it had ended and a new chapter began. We brought her home and lived. All the life events happened together as a family. We were a unit and shared the joys and sorrows of life together under one roof. We watched her grow and learn and mature. We watched her laugh and cry and explore. We lived… together.

I realized that this hurts my heart so deeply because everything has changed. She will be growing and learning and maturing, but not here at home. She will be laughing and crying and exploring, but not under this roof. She will stumble at times. She will soar at times.  If we have done our job well as parents, we have given her the foundation to do all of these things and to flourish in her journey. I know she will always be my daughter and I will be able to celebrate all of her achievements and support her in tough times and wonderful times. However, the knowledge she is outside of the circle of my arms is a difficult pill to swallow. The only thing that makes it easier is knowing that she will never be outside the circle of my heart.

Even so, life will never be the same again.


Our family is like the branches on a tree.
We may grow in many different directions,
yet our roots remain as one.
Each of us will always be a part of the other.

Friday, February 10, 2012

He's Waiting For You, Too.

It is difficult to be a faithful, practicing Catholic. We are made to live in this world, but not to be of this world. We need help and support to live out our lives as Catholics. Sometimes that is so very difficult to do. Sometimes it feels nearly impossible.

I was brought up in a Catholic family with 8 children. We were all baptized, made our First Holy Communions, were confirmed. We all went to church every Sunday and attended Catholic school through 8th grade. My family was Catholic. We got ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday, prayed before dinner and before bed, and wore crucifixes. We were Catholic. We have each gone on different kinds of faith journeys - many have led away from the Catholic church and a few have remained.

Through my later teen years and college years I fell away from the Church. I didn't understand Her. I just didn't see exactly how She fit in my life. I most certainly did not understand Her teachings. Even though I had 8 years of Catholic schooling my catechisis was not as strong as it could have been. I felt closer to God near water or watching a sunset than I did in a church building. Even though I didn't quite know what the Church's place was in my life, every time I entered a Catholic church something inside me felt at home and at peace.

When my husband and I were getting married we wed in a Catholic church even though at the time I was going to church very sporadically and my husband was not Catholic. That is one of the greatest blessings of my life. We received all the graces of the sacrament of matrimony even though we had know idea about their power when we walked down the aisle. How these graces have poured out for us many times in the years since we were wed!

I began to attend Mass again regularly and we welcomed our first child and then another. We also had our children baptized. As I began to view my faith with more adult eyes I had questions. There was so much I didn't understand about my faith - birth control, abortion, women's roles in the church, just to name a few. Because of the churches we attended, the priests and people God put in my life over these years, the scales began to fall and the depth and beauty of my faith began to get a little clearer.

As I would learn about the Catholic faith and Her teachings I began to make changes in my life. They were not always easy, but they were always good and always strengthened us as a family. I also began to learn that we are called to be witnesses to the faith. This also has been challenging. Speaking out when there is so much that I don't know is daunting. Yet the Spirit will always help you along the way.

All along my journey, I would come into contact with so many different kinds of Catholics. Some still go to church here and there, but practice more of a cafeteria approach to their faith. "Mmmm. I'd like a little of this and a little of that. Eww. That is a tough one. I don't want that. Thank you very much!" Some have left the Catholic faith and follow other demoninations. Some fall under the Chri-easter Catholic and show up on Christmas and Easter. Some have left the Catholic faith all together and are atheist. Some are strong and faith-filled trying to live the Gospel of Christ and following the teaching of the Church to the best of their abilities. There are so many different roads and we are all at so many different junctions.

The journey ahead is long and I have so very far to go. I am but a poor sinner who falls every day. However, every day I get back up and pray and hope to do better the next time. I do wish that I could share this journey more fully with my family. We were all raised Catholic yet I am occassionaly looked at as, well, a little TOO religious. I would love to be able to get together at family gatherings and really share my faith walk. Yet that is difficult and often painful to do.

However, God has placed in my path some dear friends who lend me support and love. God has given me a husband who, although he is not Catholic, embraces my journey and allows me to dig and learn and be as good of a Catholic as I can be. God has given me three beautiful children who ask wonderful questions about our faith. If I can't answer their questions, we seek out the answers together so that we can all learn and understand what our faith teaches and why She teaches it. I continue to seek out those people who God wants in my life. The people who will lift me up, help me on my journey, and give me sustenance and strength through friendship and love to keep living out my faith as best as I can.

It is difficult to be a faithful, practicing Catholic. We are made to live in this world, but not to be of this world. We need help and support to live out our lives as Catholics. Sometimes that is so very difficult to do. Sometimes it feels nearly impossible. Yet when it feels nearly impossible I am always reminded that when I feel all alone, I am not. God is always there for me, through the good and through the bad. All I have to do is seek Him out. He is waiting for me and wants to show me the way. He's waiting for you, too.

"God of our life, there are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and weigh us down; when the road seems dreary and endless, the skies grey and threatening; when our lives have no music in them, and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage. Flood the path with light, run our eyes to where the skies are full of promise; tune our hearts to brave music; give us the sense of comradeship with heroes and saints of every age; and so quicken our spirits wthat we may be able to encourage the souls of all who journey with us on the road to life, to Your honour and glory"
St. Augustine