Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hate the sin. Love the sinner.

This blog is NOT about those who are on the far ends of the spectrum when it comes to their beliefs and demonstrate their beliefs in harsh, severe, and crippling ways.  We all know people like that.

Hate the sin.  Love the sinner. 

That's it.  Seems simple, doesn't it?  Actually, it is anything but simple.

Hate the sin.  Love the sinner. 

Hate the sin.  Love the sinner.  This does not mean keep silent.  

Phil Robertson, from "Duck Dynasty" spoke out in an article about his beliefs on sin and quoted part of the Bible.  Because of what he said, the network his show is on decided to suspend him indefinitely from filming.  His beliefs on sin, although maybe not eloquently worded or fully explaining teachings in a clear manner, are his beliefs and are shared by many.  He also went on to speak about how he tries to live.  "My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

Hate the sin.  Love the sinner.

That is what Phil Robertson tries to do.  That is what I try to do.  This does not mean keep silent.

There are all kinds of things in life that we speak out on, because it would cause harm to someone if we did not.  Simple examples have to do with children:  touching a hot stove, running out into the street.  Kiddos want to do so many things and have no idea the repercussions of their actions.  It is our job to try to teach these little ones and keep them on a safe path. 

I submit that it is the same, or should be the same, with adults.  Although, I readily admit that the water gets murkier with adults.  People want to be happy.  People want those they love to be happy.  People want to be tolerant.  People don't want to be judged.  People don't want their choices questioned. 

Hate the sin.  Love the sinner.

So it gets tricky.  We need to speak from a place of love.  We need to try to meet people where they are, plant those little mustard seeds, and pray that they take root. 


Hate the sin.  Love the sinner.

That's it.  Seems simple, doesn't it?  Actually, it is anything but simple.  However, it is what we are called to do and so it is worth striving for.

"My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. "  Galatians 6:1

"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

Friday, November 1, 2013

College Reminiscings

Each year I go to the Michigan State University alumni football game.  It is a day I look forward to with great anticipation.  Three friends and I meet in the morning, we enjoy some tailgating, watch the game, and often spend the night.  Two of my friends are ones with whom I attended college.  Because we are spread out across the state, this is an opportunity for us to catch up on our lives and we truly delight in our time together.  Personally, I also glory in my time back on that beautiful campus that is so beloved to my heart.

This year, more than any other, on the drive home I found myself thinking of the why.  Why do I love that campus so much?  Why after 20 plus years does the sight of Hubbard Hall as I drive down Hagadorn Road still make my heart rate increase?  Why do the sights and sounds of the campus still make me feel such love? I feel love on that campus.

This year, more than any other, on the drive home I found myself thinking of the what.  What is it about being here and the memory of my time on this campus that fills me with such joy?  What is it about walking along the Red Cedar River that fills my heart with such peace?  I'm home.  Part of me will always feel at home there.

Five magical years were spent on that campus. Yes. Magical.  They were magical and special and like no other years before or after.  I grew up on that campus.  I floundered on that campus.  I stumbled on that campus -- literally and figuratively.  I began to discover who I was on that campus.

As I drove home this year, I found myself reflecting in a new way about my time as a student at MSU, the relationships that formed, and the experiences that I had. What made these years so special?  What made them so magical?  What made these friendships last through the years when we often don't see each other but that one time each year?  The answer I came up with may surprise you.  Or maybe it won't.  I don't know.  Maybe you can share your own thoughts with me later...

Anyway, my answer is innocence.  We shared deeply and we loved deeply.  How many evenings turned into mornings as we talked and talked and talked?  We shared the dreams and sorrows of our hearts.  We loved to the core of our beings.  Our crushes lifted us to the highest of heights and our heartbreaks fully shattered our young hearts.  There was an innocence and beauty to this time in our lives that, I believe, we get to capture just a little bit for one day each year when we get together for that football game.

As we got older and learned more and had gained further life experience, our perspectives changed, our responsibilities changed, and some of our innocence was stripped away by the harshness of life. And that is precisely why this day with these women revitalizes me in a way that little else does.  These women knew me way back when, they knew my dreams, they knew my heart.  These women knew me when I didn't know myself and they loved me. These women know the person I have become and they love me now.

Each year I go to the Michigan State University alumni football game with three dear friends of my heart.  We reflect, we reminisce, we catch up.  Throughout that day we are able to share things that we cannot share with others because there is an innocence and familiarity and trust in these friendships.  What a gift.  And no matter what the outcome of my beloved Spartans during the game, I can't help but to feel when I am going home that I have won.

It is important to have this time together for the sweet reminder of the beauty of our young years together. And, for just a few moments, we can once again let down all those walls and barriers and just revel in the innocence and purity of these friendships with which we have been blessed.  And maybe, just maybe, with that yearly reminder of how beautiful that innocence truly is, I will allow it to flow into my grown up life and relationships.  What do you think?  Will you join me just for a moment?

Not exactly the best video, but the song suits this blog.  For Just a Moment (from St. Elmo's Fire) by David Foster:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Snapshots in Time

Snapshots in Time.

"I love pictures, because the best thing about them is that they never change...even when the people in them do."

A friend had this posted on Facebook and the quote had my mind drifting to all kinds of places.

Snapshots in Time.

I thought of my children.  When I look at pictures of them as infants and toddlers I am transported back to that time.  Even though the children continue to grow up and change, those moments are forever captured.  Time stands still and I can go back there whenever I would like to stroll down memory lane. I love photos of my children. They remind me of the gift and wonder of being a mom.

Snapshots in Time.

I thought of my siblings.  Growing up as the youngest of eight filled life with many challenges and blessings.  Memories of my youth are filled with laughter.  As we have grown and started families of our own and had life experiences away from each other, our relationships have transitioned.  Some bonds have grown stronger and some have become strained.  I love photos of my youth.  They remind me of the sweet family connections we had during a simpler time.


Snapshots in Time.

I thought of those snapshots that live only in my mind.  One particular picture in my mind is of my husband when he was roughhousing outside with the kids in the snow. The smiles. The laughter. The moment. The sheer exuberance on the faces of my husband and my children is frozen in my mind in the best possible way. There are only a handful of these gem snapshots that I can see only when I close my eyes. I love these photos of my reflections.  They remind me of those precious moments that are seared into my memory in a way little else is.

Snapshots in Time.

I thought of slideshows.  I started playing around with creating slideshows from photographs in the early 2000s.  For my parent's 50th wedding anniversary in 2004, I created my first full slideshow.  Stitching together photo after photo tells a story - of a person, of a family, of a life. I love the photos in a slideshow. They remind me that life is made up of moments and that together they can tell a beautiful tale.

Snapshots in Time.

I thought of photography.  How I see things through the lens of the camera.  What I learn from what other people see through their lenses.  Is it the close up of a face, someone laughing, someone crying?  Is it a moment when a wife and husband become a mom and dad?  Is it love? Is it a child smiling for the first time?  What does the person see who is taking the picture and what does the person see who is looking at the picture? I love photography.  It reminds me how we all view things differently depending on how we look at something and how we see it.

Snapshots in Time.

I do love pictures. I love what they can capture. I love how a picture can speak volumes to you although it cannot say anything at all.  Pictures evoke feelings and for that I am eternally grateful. I look at photographs and feel sadness at what has been lost.  I feel joy at what has been.  I feel hope at what can be.  I feel blessed at what is.  Pictures are fabulous gifts to us. Keep snapping.  Keep smiling.  As Paul Anka so apply sings, "These Are The Times of Your Life." Embrace them. Live them. Remember them.

Paul Anka:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

You Have the Right to Remain Silent...

Anything you say can be used against you...

I was thinking about this phrase today. Not because I am thinking I may be arrested or that I have been arrested.  Nope. I was thinking about how sometimes I need to be careful of what I say to some people.  Some of the most innocent phrases or discussions end up being "used against you."  Do any of you deal with this as well?

You have the right to remain silent...

Choose your words carefully.  I've gotten much quieter as I've aged. I try to think about the words I'm going to say.  Why am I going to say it?  What good will it do?  Will it be a benefit?  Will it have a negative impact?  Since I've never been great at small talk this can be even a little more crippling for me in a group of people.  Of course, I don't always do the best job and something wrong comes on out.  Sometimes I may even say all the best things.  Either way, it is important to remember that anything I say can be used against me.  Do any of you struggle with this as well?

You have the right to remain silent...

But sometimes you have to speak.  Silence can be perceived as agreement.  Depending on the discussion, to be silent speaks more loudly than words.  This can be a real challenge when those around me have an opinion that is different from my own.  I have found through the years that I need to speak God's truth and share my opinions even when they differ from other people's opinions - especially when they differ from other people's opinions! Again, I try to be responsible with my words, speak with love, and be respectful of what people believe.  Even so, I have found that anything can be used against me.  Have any of you dealt with this as well?

You have the right to remain silent...

Then there are times when I want to speak - I want to defend - I want to explain.  I've had people comment on my marriage, on my being a stay at home mom, on wasting my college degree, on where I live, on what I do with my spare time, on my spirituality... this list goes on and on and on.  When this occurs I find myself wanting to defend my decisions, come back with a rally cry of the sacrifices I've made, scream about what I've done with my life and what I hope to do still.  However, when I'm at my best, I just sit back and breathe and pray and try to let it go.  These things are best handled with as much humility as I can muster.  I hope to get support and love from my circle of family and friends.  However, if I don't get that support it is important for me to remember that I wasn't made for this world. When I die, I will have to answer to God for the decisions I've made while on this earth. And although I do the best I can in these situations, I still find that anything I say can be used against me.  Have you ever felt confronted with these situations?

You have the right to remain silent...

There is an art to knowing when to speak, what to say, how much to say, or when to exercise that wonderful right to remain silent.  It is something I will probably struggle with throughout life.  And whether I do everything right or not when it comes to my words, anything I say can be used against me.  Makes me wonder... what do you do to help you determine when to be silent and when to speak?

"A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse one crushes the spirit." 
Proverbs 15:4

Friday, August 16, 2013


Facebook. Email. Texting. Cell phones.  We have the capabilities of being more connected than ever before.  We can speak to someone miles away, even overseas, in real time - and for free!  Then why is it that I feel more disconnected than I did growing up and going to college? 
Growing up we would spend much of our days outside. We would go down to our neighbors, stand outside their door, and call them out in a sing-song voice. We rode our bikes to people's houses.  We would sit and visit with a neighbor on her front porch glider.  Our neighbors talked to us.  We talked to them.  We knew each other and cared about each other.
Over the 15 years we have lived here, we know only a handful of neighbors.  Being one of the only stay at home moms, the neighborhood is very quiet during the day.  While sitting on our porch or patio, few people are out and about.  Most people will drive right by without so much as a nod or a wave.
I remember racing my siblings to the answer the ringing telephone.  There wasn't any call waiting or caller id.  We had a telephone in the kitchen with a super long cord.  Now the telephone rings and no one moves.  The kids have cell phones (except for our youngest), so they know the phone isn't for them.  And, more often than not, it is some kind of telemarketer on the phone rather than a friend or family member.  Few feel the need to call and catch up one on one anymore, especially when they feel "caught up" via Facebook posts and statuses.
Common pleasantries among strangers.  I miss that.  I do.  The simple smiles. The "hellos."  The "how are you doing today?"  The "can I give you a hand with that?"  Yep. I miss that.  I really do.  I will be in line and hear someone say "hello" only to look up to hear them continue to chat away with the unseen person talking in their ear.  People look through the clerks ringing them up and look passed the people near them because they are more interested in... what?  We don't see each other anymore.  That makes me a little sad.
In college when signing up for classes we went to the IM (intermural) building and waited in line after line after line.  If you needed to change a class you went into "The Pit" and you hoped to get out of there in time to still see the light of day.  You would talk to people in line around you and commiserate with those in longer lines than you or caught in The Pit seeking and searching for classes that would work for them.  Now all class registrations are done online.  No lines. No talking.  No commiserating.  No contact.  More efficient?  Yes, I will give you that.  But I don't know if what is being lost is worth it.
Am I grateful that my college daughter can shoot me a text or Skype with me so that I can keep up with what she is doing and see her sweet face?  Absolutely.  In fact, it has been a wonderful blessing.  Am I grateful to be able to see what relatives who live far away are doing?  Absolutely.  I love seeing pictures and not feeling like they are so very far away.  Am I grateful to have email to ask a question or find out about something that is going on?  You betcha.  However, email will never trump a hand written letter delivered snail mail!
I'm certainly not anti-technology and I feel that in many instances what I can do with the Internet and my cell phone are things that really can help me out in so many ways.  So maybe some of you wonderful people can explain to me why in this world filled with more and more ways to keep us connected I often feel more disconnected than ever before?

"The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world.  There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor.  But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents.  Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give.  Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around.  It's overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt."  -- Leo Buscaglia

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Many Parts, One Body

One of the scripture readings that I love has to do with how we are all parts of one body.  "As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ." (1 Corinthians 12:12) It goes on to say that "If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy." (1 Corinthians 12:26)

This has always been one of my favorite passages upon which to reflect. We, the church members, make up the body of Christ.  As the body, we are at our best when the entire body is healthy.  Although some scripture can be a bit difficult to put into context, this seemed to be a fairly easy one.  To put this in perspective I only needed to think about when I was sick and unable to do all I needed to do.  Or I could think about if I had hurt my hand or foot how I needed to compensate in order to get things done.  Could I be productive?  Could I change the way I did things in order to carry on? Yes. I could. Was it as good as when I was completely healthy and on top of my game?  Never.  So, I could take such experiences and apply it to this scripture.

As the body of Christ, we are at our best when we are all spiritually healthy and well.  When one of us is ill, it effects the entire body.  We may be able to compensate and carry on. However, we are at our very best and the way that God intended when we are all healthy and working together.  So, just as we would nurse ourselves back to health, we should also care for each other spiritually and physically so that we all are healthy.

This always seemed like one of the relatively easy scripture passages to wrap my brain around.  Maybe not always easy to put into practice, but one I thought that was easily understandable.  Until the other night, that is, when I realized it was so much more. 

The other night I was thinking about my mom's stroke and what has transformed since then.  She has changed.  My dad has changed.  My siblings have changed.  I have changed.  Relationships have changed.  Communication has changed.  Expectations have changed.  So much has changed.  And as I sat in bed journaling about all of these changes this scripture passage drifted into my mind... if one suffers, we all suffer with him.

I thought about how so many dynamics in my family have changed since this one event.  Some changes for the better, some not. It was so clear to me at that moment how a "body" - in this instance a family - was effected due to what one member was going through.  Because, you see, it isn't ever one person who goes through something.  All those who know and love the person are also effected by it.  "If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy."

This truth permeated me that evening and I was able to internalize this scripture in an entirely new way, or maybe I should say deeper way.  We are all part of this wonderful and marvelous body of Christ.  We are all connected.  Until we realize how intrinsically united we are with one another, until we realize how much we need one another, and until we realize that we were created to be many, but yet still be one, we won't ever really be whole.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Place in this World

Growing up I was a member of one (1) parish community. Granted, as a Catholic, we are a universal community of believers. One of the things that I love is attending Mass when we are on vacation. We are not at our "home" parish, but we are always at home with our Catholic community in the world. However, within our beautiful, universal Church there are many parishes and you usually call one your home parish. And I belonged to one parish from the time I was born until the time I went away to college.

This church truly felt like home to me. I knew its stained glass windows and would get lost in their beauty. I knew its tabernacle with the beautiful candles hanging above it.  I knew its fabulous crucifix that drew me into times of great contemplation. I knew the people who I went to school with and the people I worshiped with. I knew its warmth. It was a beautiful, quiet, inviting place. When I was there, I always felt that I was at home. Often, even in my youth, I would go there by myself, immerse myself in the cool darkness of the building and just be, just be with myself and with God. It was a wonderful and welcoming place in this world for me.

When my husband and I moved to our current city 15 years ago we were looking for longevity. We searched for a home that would grow with our growing family. We sought out a great school district.  We looked for a place in this world where we could plant ourselves and, hopefully, allow our roots to grow deep and strong.

Since living here, my family has been members of three different churches and now we will be looking for our fourth. The little parish we currently belong to is in the process of being clustered with another parish and will close in the near future. Where do we belong? Where is our place in this world?

Each time we have moved I find myself feeling a little lost. This is not what I had hoped for my family when we moved. I wanted my children to grow up and feel that sense of belonging, feel that sense of home within one parish community. I wanted to feel that for myself as well. However, that wasn't the path that God had in mind for us apparently.

As I mentioned earlier, the Catholic Church is a universal church.  God is there.  Jesus is there.  The Mass is the Mass.  I am so grateful for that. I know that and realize that my family can be members at any Catholic parish and we will be home.

There is something very special, dare I say sacred, about the people and community within a parish.  We are called a parish family.  And each parish community, like a family, has a different way of being together and engaging one another. We come together.  We pray.  We worship.  We sing.  We laugh.  We cry.  It is a beautiful thing to see the connections within a parish family.  A thriving parish is like a stained glass window with the sunlight pouring through it.  The beauty engages your mind and eye as you look at the images and colors and then emanates far beyond the window itself and you see colors dancing on the walls and pews and floor. That is the people in a parish, we make up that window and it is our individual colors that come together to make such a beautiful image of our faith.

Each parish has taught me something about myself, my faith, my family, our God.  At each church I have met some wonderful and engaging people and made some dear friends.  Each church has opened my eyes to different things about my faith - what we believe as Catholics and why we believe it.  Although I have had these beautiful lessons there have been some difficult ones as well.  Through it all, I still find myself struggling to find that place in this world where we can just be, just be as I was in my childhood parish.

Throughout our lives God will prune us in order to get rid of what is dead and to help us to thrive and bear more fruit.  It can be a painful process. It is not one that I particularly enjoy.  However, it is a necessary one to grow and flourish.

Generally, I don't just jump right into new situations.  Because of this, each parish change has been difficult as I have had to slowly immerse myself in a new community, try to find my place in a new family.  So many times in life I find myself struggling to discover where I fit. This is another one of those times. Where do I belong?  Where is my place in this world? I'm not sure yet where we will be, but I trust that we will end up right where He wants us for this time in our lives.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; in all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths."  Proverbs 3:5-6

Michael W. Smith - A Place in this World:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Revolution. I am occasionally in the rather uncomfortable state of revolution.

In my last post I said that I was in a constant state of evolution. That is true.  And it is that very thing which causes me to be in a state of revolution from time to time. There are times when I or someone else want to overthrow a habit or belief that I have. The ensuing battles make my very uncomfortable!

What happens when someone questions something you have done or said?  Maybe it was a friend or family member talking with you or maybe you heard something in a homily or talk that made you stop in your tracks and say, "What? Are they talking about me? Do I really do that?"

What happens when someone changes and reacts or lives or responds in a way that is different from your presumptions?  Maybe it is something small and you just let it slip on by or maybe it is something bigger that makes your mind stop and say, "What? What just happened? Did they really do that?" 

It is at these times in our lives that revolution occurs.  Has it happened to you before?  Maybe you have been on the receiving end or maybe you have been on the giving end.  Maybe a revolution was warranted or maybe it was a battle that needed to be walked away from. Maybe the revolution was trying to challenge you and lead you on a better path or maybe it was attempting to draw you away from the path God intends for you to follow.

People have certain expectations of you just as you have certain expectations of others.  The closer you are to someone, the more you can predict what they will say or do, how they will react or feel in a given situation.  What happens, however, when someone doesn't respond as you expect?  What happens when someone has a strong opinion which differs from your own?  Have you ever needed to hold to a conviction?  Have you had to make an unpopular stand?  Does this cause a revolution? Will it be long lasting? Will the relationship be severed, will it be cracked, or will common ground be reached?  These, by far, are the most difficult revolutions for me.

On another note, many times in your life a revolution is taking place and no one even knows about it because it is happening within you.  Sometimes you feel that little nudge from your conscience requesting attention.  Sometimes you feel that twist in your stomach that calls for consideration. These things may occur for various reasons. Maybe you have said or done something yourself in a manner you shouldn't have or maybe you are making a life choice that is taking you away from God or maybe you witnessed an incident and remained silent when you should have spoken up or maybe it is one of the hundreds of other things you must grapple with throughout your lifetime.  What happens when you address these promptings within your heart?  For me, at this point either a mini revolution will occur or a massive drawn out war will take place.  I know that at times I have lost the battle and continued to do what I shouldn't and other times I have come out victorious.

A sudden, complete, or marked change in something is revolution. That can be a good thing if you are battling to better yourself and inspire others to do the same. Seek answers. Engage in discussion. Fight for the right. Reflect thoughtfully. Share your beliefs. Do all of this with love. 

I still have a long way to go on my journey and many more revolutions await me. I hope that I always remember that my battles are not with other people or even myself, per se, but that these battles are opportunities for me to grow in my faith. And although we may feel alone on our journey, like a soldier on the battlefield we are not alone. God has given us each other so that we may lift, support, encourage, help, listen to, and even challenge one another.

Thank you to those who help me every day. Because of your caring, I am able to endure the discomfort of the revolutions I face and am able to rejoice in the tranquility of the peaceful times. I hope I do the same for you.

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  James 1:2-4

Monday, June 10, 2013


Evolution. I'm in a constant state of evolution. 

"People can't change."  That is something I hear frequently. However, I don't believe that to be true. People are indeed changing all the time, whether they are aware of it or not.  We are like the shoreline of a beach. You may return to the beach day to day and not really notice any change. Yet the tide has come in and gone out; it isn't quite the same as it was the day before. A storm may roll in shift things on the beach or push seaweed and rocks and shells onto the shoreline. We can see this change. Or there may be a devastating whirlwind that changes the landscape of the shoreline and we can barely recognize it. So it is with us, I think.

These changes can be positive or negative; they can be beneficial or detrimental. And these changes, I dare say, are occurring all the time.

Elementary school was difficult for me.  Being the youngest in a large family I wasn't quite certain who I was outside of my brood of brothers and sisters. I had asthma as a toddler and the medication that was required discolored my permanent teeth which made me very self conscious.  I was shy and tentative and lacked self confidence. Wanting to fit in, but not knowing how, was a big struggle for me. Often times I was made fun of and, when someone else was being made fun of I have to admit that I readily joined in because I was so grateful that the hurtful words weren't directed at me. That is something that I still regret.

At this time of my life, I was quiet and docile and just wanted to be accepted. However, after being hurt so often I started shoring up my shoreline, so to speak. Wanting to protect myself, I began to put up some barriers. Some of the barriers were strong, like a stone wall and others were softer like reeds. Both offered me various forms of protection.

In high school I was still struggling with a desire to be liked and fit in and be what I thought the world wanted me to be.  I never felt like it was okay to just be me. There would be times when I could truly be myself, but more often, I was putting out there what I thought would be best received from other people.

College began to crack the protective walls I had put up.  This was the first time I was away from my family and just on my own.  It was exhilarating and frightening all at once.  Still struggling with what I thought I needed to be for the world, I partied and laughed and struggled to find my place. It was during these years that I began to realize it was okay to just be me. Once this realization began to set itself in my soul, I was finally able to begin to become who God intended me to be in this world and not who I thought I was supposed to be in this world. It was at this time that those walls began to crumble.

Marriage and motherhood have been the largest blessings for me and have made my shoreline far more beautiful and warm and welcoming. Being a wife and mother give me the space to really reflect and pray. These roles allow me to spread my wings and soar. It has been during this time in my life that I've come back to the one thing that has always made sense to me; the one thing that has always made me feel safe and whole - and that is my faith.

Life is evolution. I am evolving, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Hopefully, more often for the better. The reeds and stones can be beneficial as long as I allow people in to get to know me. I am a woman of faith, but I love to laugh and have fun.  I am a woman of prayer, but love to have a nice, long chat over a cup of coffee.  I am a woman of God, but am bolstered by my relationships and friendships.

"People can't change." They can and they are - every moment. I think we need to do all we can to inspire positive evolution in each other. I think we need to do all we can to evoke beneficial evolution in ourselves. We are the shoreline. Some of us are the rocks. Some are the grains of sand. Some are the drops of water. Some are the reeds. Yet together, we can make a most beautiful landscape.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Turn The Light On - Slowly!!!

People feel strongly about different topics and issues. Some topics have to do with religion, others may be about politics, some bring up ideas of animals and how they should be treated, while still others will discuss all kinds of human rights.  Of course, this list could go on and on and on and, well, you get the idea.

There was a time in my life when I didn't speak out on issues. I figured that people had a right to feel what they felt for whatever reasons that they felt that way and it wasn't my place to shake that up.  Also, I feel incredibly uncomfortable with conflict and, therefore, I will generally stay as far away from any kind of conversation that may center on differing opinions.

Growing up, my family wasn't too keen on debating issues. Someone was right. Someone was wrong. Often, whoever spoke the loudest or most sarcastically won the argument. Looking back, I'm not sure what exactly was "won" and so very much was lost. Even today, many topics cannot be discussed in my family because differing opinions can't seem to be discussed, appreciation and tolerance can't be given to the other "side".  What a shame that is for us all.

My thoughts on some issues have changed throughout the years.  And, I would guess, that some issues I feel a certain way about now may also change as the years continue to pass.  What has made the difference?  Knowledge.  Openness.  Delivery.

Knowledge.  You only know what you know.  If you fail to seek out new information then you are left primarily in one spot with no real room to grow, stretch, and expand.  Many of my opinions changed or became stronger based on information that I would get from other people, from reading, from living. 

Openness.  If you aren't open to opposing viewpoints or ideas then how will you ever learn the merit of what is being shared?  If you aren't challenged in what you think then how do you know how it balances up against what other people think?  Your beliefs may be bolstered by what you hear or a seed may be planted that will grow and allow you to change the way you think.  If you aren't open, think of all you may miss out on in the world.

Delivery.  This is critical.  How is the message delivered?  It is so vitally important that we meet people where they are with kindness and love and tolerance.  Our message will be lost if we don't do that.  Who is our audience?  The message will not be received if you aren't delivering it to who it needs to reach.  This makes me think of someone who is in a dark room.  Maybe you have an idea or thought you want to share with them.  If they are in a dark room it can be startling to just throw the door open and shine a bright light on them.  Sometimes we need to crack open the door and put the lights up slowly.

There have been many instances I have dug my heals in on something I thought because I wasn't open, didn't appreciate the delivery, and, therefore, was not open to new knowledge.  For example, I remember a very well meaning faith filled friend who was sharing the benefits of a certain devotion of our faith.  At the time, she was so in my face and telling me with great insistence that I must do this devotion.  I was so turned off I went home and put the information that was given out of my mind.  As the years went by and I learned more about this fabulous devotion through other avenues, I opened my heart and it is now a devotion which I dearly love.  The initial delivery, unfortunately, caused me to take much longer to come around to the beauty of this prayer.

Another dear friend just recently shared her experience with a pro-life advocate. As she was exiting the expressway with her family she came to a red light where someone was standing with a large image of an aborted baby.  When she told the gentlemen that she had children in the car, he moved forward and thrust the image closer to the family.  He had no idea if this family was pro-life or pro-choice, yet he pushed this image into the children's minds. What a sad breakdown in what could have been a positive message for protecting life.

The scenario with my friend's family saddens me for many reasons.  The delivery was all wrong.  Who is this man's audience?  Are these images for children to see?  I would say no. Who was this man's target?  Does he think that someone will be open to his message if they feel violated?  Maybe it would indeed be helpful for an adult to see some of these images in order to demonstrate the vileness of abortion on these little babies.  However, I do not agree that standing on the side of the road with an image like this is the way to do it.

We are called to stand for the truth and share that with people even if it will not be readily accepted. I believe this with all my heart.  Because of this, I continue to push myself out of my comfort zone to share my thoughts and beliefs with people.  This is rarely easy.  I try to be kind and loving and tolerant of other people and I truly try to meet people where they are. In doing this, I attempt to remember all the different places people have had to meet me, all the different places people will still have to meet me on this journey to enlighten me, bolster me, change me, and help me through. 

Do I always do this well?  I doubt it.  However, I keep trying.  And I pray that as I go along I get bolder in my courage to share what I'm thinking and that God will help me to deliver the message thoughtfully. Otherwise, how can I hope to meet people where they are at the moment? And I also pray that God will push me to continue to seek knowledge and be open to what other's have to say.  Otherwise, how will I learn and grow from all the wonderful wisdom you dear friends have for me?

"But in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God's will, than for doing wrong."  1 Peter 3:15-17

Friday, May 17, 2013

Stroke Lessons

Patience. Tolerance. Understanding. Empathy. Compassion. I have never quite felt the need for these qualities more than I have needed them throughout these last four weeks.

Before the sun was up one morning my telephone rang and my dad was on the other end of the line. "Can you come over?" he asked. There was something in his voice that I'm not used to hearing. Fear. A bit of fear had crept into my father's voice. "I'm on my way."

My mother suffered a minor stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. My mom suffered a minor stroke. I remember when the doctor said "stroke" my father and I just looked at each other. "She had a stroke?" Yes. That word is still sinking in four weeks later.

Emotions. Exhaustion. Confusion. Worry. I have never quite felt the draining power of these qualities more than I have throughout these last four weeks.

We have a large, complicated, beautiful family. My mom carried six children and then, when her sister passed away and her brother-in-law followed a year and a half later, my folks took in two of their eight children.  So, what we have is my dad dealing with this change in his wife of 58 years and eight children with thoughts and ideas and feelings coursing through their minds.  How do we deal with this? How do we deal with each other?

My mom loves. She loves her husband. She loves her children. She loves her friends. She loves the staff who helped her at the hospital. She would learn a person's name even if they were doing just one test on her. She hugged her therapists. She exchanged addresses with her roommate. The therapists told her that they wanted her to come back and walk down the hall to see them all when she gets stronger. She loves.

All you need to do in a circumstance like this is to remember that when a woman loves the way my mom loves it is only natural that people will love her back. And when a woman you love suffers a stroke it shakes you -- maybe a little, maybe a lot -- but, it shakes you.  When you are shaken it is so important to have patience, tolerance, understanding, empathy, and compassion.

That was what I needed to do while my mom was in the hospital.  When something would happen I would try to remember this.  When someone would suggest something or ask something or do something, I reminded myself that it came from love.  That helped me to respond in a kind and loving way, I hope.

I tend to be a little quieter and slower in my reactions. I wasn't always like this, but over the years I've come to realize that if I have the ability to let something soak into me a bit before I respond that the outcome is generally more positive. Everyone's emotions were raw. Everyone was exhuasted. Everyone was confused. Everyone was worried. And that is precisely why I needed patience, tolerance, understanding, empathy, and compassion.

I don't know how many times I heard someone say, "Don't they know better?" or "They should have known..."  Why? Why do we expect people to know certain things? Why do we assume that people know the "right" thing to do or the "right" thing to say?  Not everyone does know better.  Because of this, it is so important to try to talk to people with kindness and love. Give them the benefit of the doubt and trust that they are coming from a good place of wanting to help and wanting to make things better. 

People have different ideas about how to handle situations. Sometimes a different idea is just that. Different. Sometimes there is a right way and a wrong way.  Sometimes there is a better way and a not-so-great way.  Sometimes there is just a different way.  Stop.  Listen to each other.  Does something have to be done "your" way?  Let's talk about it.  Let's hear each other.  Let's remember that we are all coming from a place of love and concern.  Be open. 

We all want the best for my mom and we are all going through so many emotions.  Because people react differently to stress it is so very important to remember that everyone is hurting and coming from a place of great love for this woman.

When you give someone the benefit of the doubt it is very freeing.  Why do I do and say the things I say during this difficult time?  Because I love my mom.  Why do I think others do and say the things they do and say?  Out of love for my mom.  So, if that is the case, we should approach each other knowing that we all want the best for her, want to do the best, want to say the best things.  We may not agree with everything, but when you know someone is coming from a place of love doesn't that change the way you interact with them?

These four weeks have been challenging for so many reasons.  Yet these four weeks have brought many blessings as well.  One of these blessings has been bringing into focus the importance of how we interact with people, whether it is just for a moment, a day, or a lifetime.  This part of my journey, the journey of my mom's recovery, is just beginning. We still have a long way to go. I hope it is a time of drawing our family together and strengthening our bonds.

I have never felt the power of these qualities more than I have these last four weeks and so I tell myself: Be patient.  Be tolerant.  Be understanding.  Be empathetic.  Be compassionate. 

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And over all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."  Colossians 3:12-13

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Slippery Sand

My oldest daughter will be coming home for her summer break after her first year away at college in about 2 1/2 weeks. How do I feel about that? Surprisingly, I feel a tad bit distraught.

You weren't expecting that, were you? Neither was I. Throughout the year whenever she would come home on break I would be filled with excitement. Hugs. Cuddles. Smiles. All three kiddos. All right there under my roof. Why the trepidation as her first college year comes to a close? I'll tell you...

About a week ago I was thinking about T coming home for the summer. It wouldn't just be a weekend visit or even a week. I would have her back home for 3 months. Wouldn't that be wonderful? Yes! Yes! Yes! Ummm. Wait...

As I was standing in the kitchen thinking about these wonderful months ahead when all the kiddos would be home a realization swept over me - the realization of how fleeting time actually is in this world of ours.

Think back to the moments you have had in life when you realized how quickly the sands of time have slipped through your fingers. Maybe it is looking at how quickly a vacation came to an end. Maybe it is seeing your child's face and no longer seeing those sweet chubby toddler features and then blinking and seeing a young adult in front of you. Maybe it is returning to your high school or college to span the faces and realize how far you've grown and changed from those days. So many moments in our lives when we stop and truly FEEL how time has gone by and we have barely noticed.

So, there I was in the kitchen feeling the excitement of T coming home from her first year of college. And then it hit me. She was finishing her first year of college. The specks of sand that made up that year of her life have now been swept out to sea. It went so quickly. It went so very fast.

In that moment I grasped the sands of time within my hands and just stopped to contemplate.

I dared to glance ahead in that moment and think about the future. Just three more years of college for her. Possibly a semester or longer studying abroad. Then the search for a job that may take her far away. When will this house no longer be her primary home? How quickly will the time come when I am looking forward to her visiting this house rather than living in this house?

I challenged myself to think about my son who is now looking at colleges and will be heading out for his first year college experience soon enough. Two of the joys of my heart will be spending more time under another roof than this one.

I thought about sitting at the dinner table with our youngest each night. How empty the table will feel.

Yet that sand is slippery and, although I grasped it tightly, it slid through my fingers and in that moment my excitement was gone and I was feeling a bit distraught. Being a mother and having my house filled with children is by far one of the greatest joys and blessings in my life. Whenever something I love comes to an end there is always some melancholy. However, the feeling of melancholy is usually fleeting.

As a parent, I know that part of my role is to raise my children to be strong, faithful, independent, and caring. Because of that, my feelings of distraught are washing away. I am hopeful. I will cherish the moments that we have together now. I will celebrate the milestones of my children as they continue to grow and mature. I will rejoice in their uniqueness and their journeys.

I choose to sit and delight in the sand as it slips through my fingers. It is sunkissed by the love of my children, my husband, my family, and friends. The warmth of the sand and the sound of the waves bring me comfort and peace. The tides are ever changing, the landscape is shifting and moving, yet I look around and remember the beauty of yesterday, give thanks for the wonder of today, and wait in anticipation for the blessings of the future. The view may be changing, but the beauty around me remains.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

February in Michigan

In February of 2009 I wrote this in my journal. Each year at this time, this writing comes into my mind and challenges me once again to seek out the windows inside myself I don't always look through. I hope you all enjoy it:

The other night I was lying in bed and I could see an airplane’s lights blinking as it flew through the evening sky. But I couldn’t hear it. I live in Michigan – it’s February – the windows are shut tight and locked.

Yet as I watched that plane flying overhead, I was struck by the silence within our home. The silence enveloped me and I longed for the sounds outside my window to fill the room. But they didn’t. I live in Michigan – it’s February – the windows are shut tight and locked.

I’ve always been the type of person who prefers fresh air to air-conditioning. I’ve always loved falling asleep listening to the sounds of life outside my window. But I can’t right now. I live in Michigan – it’s February – the windows are shut tight and locked.

Growing up, I could hear the sound of traffic from the busy road down the block. When I went to college, I became accustomed to the train whistles lulling me off to sleep. In our home now, I hear airplanes and cars going to unknown destinations. But right now I hear nothing. I live in Michigan – it’s February – the windows are shut tight and locked.

So the other night I became overwhelmingly aware of the silence. There was no noise to stir my spirit, only the quietness to pique my senses. I was able to focus on the sounds of life within my heart and within my soul. I live in Michigan – it’s February – the windows are shut tight and locked, but only the windows to the world outside.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Who Am I?

“What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said these beautiful and profound words.

Lately I've been reflecting on just how tiny I am in this world - this big, beautiful, miraculous world. What is my place? What am I being called to do? What could I possibly contribute? Who am I?

Then something comes along to remind me again and again and again that it doesn't matter how little I am. I may feel lost and insignificant at times, but I'm not.

My contribution to this world may seem small to me. My contribution, in fact, may indeed be quite tiny. However, if my contribution is given out of love for the one who created me, then it blends together with all of your contributions done in love, and it blossoms and grows into something beautiful and perfect.

I will still continue to stumble along, hoping that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing on this journey and making corrections when I realize that I am heading in the wrong direction. Yet along this journey, I will try to remember exactly who I am - a special and unique creation of God. And, you know what? So are you. Aren't we lucky? Aren't we blessed?

Together we can do something wonderful.

Casting Crowns - Who Am I

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What Do You Want Me To Be?

We have different gifts and talents. We all cannot do the same things in the same way. In fact, we aren't supposed to. "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieteies of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Corinthians 12: 4-7) How is the Spirit working through me? Am I doing all I can? Am I being all God wants me to be?

I've always been a firm believer that God personally gives us each things he wants us to utilize and share. Like the gifts of the talents, he wants us to use what he has given to us and not squander it or hide it away. To some, much has been given. To some, less has been given. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think that God thinks more or less of someone based on how much He has given them. We are all called to be saints. And if we can all be saints, then we can reach that goal with what God has given us. But am I being all God wants me to be?

Maybe you sing and spirits soar. Maybe you are a good friend and an excellent listener. Maybe you speak and hearts change. Maybe you are a great hugger. Maybe you comfort the elderly. Maybe you are a tireless momma. Maybe you are a loving child. Maybe you teach, excel at a sport, or play an instrument. What are your gifts? What talents has God given you? Are you using your gifts to their fullest?  Are you being all God wants you to be?

There are times in my life when my heart is moved and I am called to change. Sometimes it is seeing a great production, going to a Christian/Catholic concert, hearing an inspirational speaker. It can be attending a retreat, going to a conference, or having an uplifting dinner with friends. How am I moved, you may ask? How am I called to change?  There are moments in life when I have no choice but to change - change the way I pray, change the way I treat people, change the way I live. In all this change, am I being all God wants me to be?

When a moment comes along that reaches into me and makes me stop in my tracks, when a song brings me to tears, when words make my heart leap, I stop and I wonder, "Dear Lord, what can I do? What can I do to affect this kind of change in others? Do you even want that from me?  What is it You want from me? Am I being all You want me to be?"

"Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts." (1 Corinthians 12:29-31)

Help me to be a good steward of the gifts you have given me and an open vessel for You to work through. Help me to be most grateful for what I have and to humbly "desire the higher gifts." May all I do be done for You.  I feel so little. Please take my littleness.  Use it to show how great and how big You are. You made me. When I question whether I am doing enough, please help me to remember that all I have to be is what you made me to be, and to be the very best me I can be.