Thursday, August 16, 2012
Last week I began reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, and this week I became a copycat. Immediately moved by the author's dawning realization of the value of giving thanks, day in and day out, I chose to take the dare she laid out on the pages. I am writing down in a small notebook the moments that produce thanksgiving. What I quickly understood is that I tend to reserve my offerings of thanks to the times when I come to pray - on the occasional mornings when I take a few minutes to pray and read Scripture, in the evenings as I lay in bed at the close of another day, and especially at Mass, my knees on the kneeler, my forehead resting on my folded fingers. The challenge I am taking up is to give thanks all day long... to maintain a riveted awareness of all there is to be thankful for in my life.
For the first time ever I feel like maybe what St. Paul describes could actually be possible: "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)," I've been able to explain all I want what those verses mean but I can't claim to have had success at living them. Setting my standard at "pray daily," I measure myself in a lesser manner. But as St. Francis de Sales pointed out, "You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves." And so, we learn to pray without ceasing by praying without ceasing. We learn to give thanks in everything by giving thanks in everything.
If God allows me to see/hear/touch/encounter something beautiful, something meaningful, something joy-giving, something that makes me smile or laugh or sigh happily, then He has given me reason to give thanks. If in an experience of difficulty or negativity, He keeps my perspective in check, or causes me to exercise compassion, understanding, or patience, then He has given me reason to give thanks. Perhaps eventually I'll be able to see that God never isn't allowing those things to happen, only I didn't always recognize or accept them.
Ribbons on gifts
Dark red raspberries bobbing in a carafe of cotton candy pink lemonade
The softness of warm kisses
Cold orange juice
Waves from the neighbors as I leave for work
The scratch of pen on paper
Baby pictures on coworkers' desks
Patience in traffic
Thankfulness gives rise to joy. Do we not all crave a greater well of joy in our lives?
Friday, August 3, 2012
So what now? The contemplative version of myself seems but a distant acquaintance, one that cannot be brought back to intimacy in a mere moment. Yet I can take a step toward her. Right now. And in the next hour. And in the next morning. And in the next night. That first step to regain her presence took me to the Scriptures, thankfully.
I found myself in 1 Corinthians 13. Talk about age old statements, right? Love is patient and kind... not jealous or rude or arrogant or insisting on its own way. Hits me in the gut as I recall it again. St. Paul was naming off what I'd become in certain aspects of my love relationships! A point by point list of how I'd chosen to be in my words, actions and thoughts.
Then, by the Holy Spirit's help, I stumbled upon this devotional blog post: http://www.proverbs31.org/devotions/choice-points-2012-08/. That Holy Spirit, He knows what He's doing. The author presents a perspective on "choice points," those moment by moment choices we make that seem insignificant but in reality affect our lives and those in our lives to a great degree. I have a serious tendency to focus everywhere but the moment I'm currently dwelling inside and so lack awareness of the immediate effects wrought by my words and actions. This choice points lens has the potential to change my daily vision.
As it has in the past I've no doubt that this blog of mine can be useful in the quest for reflection and awareness. I don't know if I have any readers left, absent as I've been. If I do though, I thank you and I welcome your input.
Monday, March 19, 2012
The neglect and difficulty involved in writing in recent months is not only a worry, it is a disappointment. I miss it. I miss being a writer. Rarely have I liked myself more, been prouder of myself, been as encouraged by life, as when I am actively living as a writer. I am well and happily occupied with other things and so the missing isn't felt until I have a slowed down hour or two of stillness. Then it comes and I remember all the hours of satisfying effort I used to enjoy on a regular basis.
Today I came across a quote that sums up my state as a writer quite well. “A creative block is the wall we erect to ward off the anxiety we suppose we’ll experience if we sit down to work” (Eric Maisel). I have reached the point of being afraid to try very hard again, fearful I will disappoint myself even more by not being able to write well again. That would indeed be a deeper disappointment than continuing to not try. This recent return to blogging is a step, at least; an inching movement forward.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Anyway, my original point was the urge to strip away and simplify. It has lingered in the weeks following that round robin transferrance of belongings. I look in my tiny, stuffed to the gills closet, then think of my fiance's large, more than enough room for one person closet, and realize that with some reductions on both our parts, we can share that closet just fine. I scan my bookshelves and picture the walls of Matt's apartment, knowing full well that there are not enough empty spaces for the arrival of all my shelves. Many books will have to be stored. This brings a frown, a deep one, but I remind myself that there is likely a heap of books that I could reasonably choose to give up. It'll be hard enough deciding which ones to pack into storage and which to keep at my fingertips. Having fewer to choose between is essential if I'm to do it without much sadness.
Maybe it's a Lenten thing, maybe it's just a starting-a-new-stage-of-life thing, or maybe Spring is to blame; whatever its root, I am becoming surer every day that I can be content with far less than what I have at present. I can reduce my wardrobe to what I actually wear and will never miss what I would like to but never do wear. I can give up the books that I enjoyed but not so much that I would ever read them again or even recommend and lend them to friends. I can surrender the dozens of CD's and DVD's that are rarely or never played and those too will not be missed. Yes, I'm becoming quite sure of it. I feel less locked into my material frivolities already, and that's never a regrettable feeling.
Friday, December 23, 2011
Since that Friday, we have managed to schedule our date at our church, with our priest and with the reception hall of our choice. Yesterday we chose a photographer. The rest will wait until next year. It is an exciting, praise-God-for-His-plans time in our lives.
And now we come to Christmas. That annual feast that never ceases to bring a spirit of expectation, joy and warmth, no matter how many times we celebrate it. It is the mystery of that Child born in the humblest of circumstances, that He can reach through the centuries and still touch the hearts of each of us. Even those who don't realize it's His doing! The spirit of excitement and love takes hold in us all to some degree. Let it in! Let it fill you up! I pray that this Christmas pours its spirit into our lives, spilling over to all whom we love. In between the cooking, the cleaning, the gathering, the gift giving and receiving, and so on, may we take a moment to contemplate the Christ Child!
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
(Originally written for "The Bells of St. Mary's" parish newsletter)
I’m on break at work and it’s been one of those days: computer issues rendering me incapable of completing my task list, miscommunications and lack of responsibility by individuals, and a vague awareness that I need a vacation. It’s all adding up to a mood in which I’m simply trying not to ruin other people’s days. Now I’m sitting down to write about forbearance. The humor is not lost on me.
Forbearance. The word almost sounds foreign. Certainly not one that rolls off the tongue in everday conversation. It is a word hearkening back to the antique language of the Bible, before revisionists tried to modernize the verses of Scripture. But what is it? Merely a synonym for patience? When St. Paul instructs us to bear with one another (Colossians 3:13), is it a matter of just putting up with people as they are? Or is it a virtue that integrates several virtues at once?
Patience, compassion, mercy, understanding, humility, forgiveness – each is in play when forbearance is practiced. And why do we forbear? Ultimately? Because God does. Because “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
We forbear because the Father did not wait for us to understand His plans before He sent His only begotten Son. Christ did not wait for people to believe in Him before performing miracles, or for folks to humble themselves before setting a holy example of service. And He did not wait for us to stop sinning before pouring His life out on the Cross. When we consider the Lord ‘s mercy, we should “consider the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:15).
The family member who can’t shake an addiction, or who has an unbroken pattern of selfishness; the friend who clings to self-pity and grudges, or is too proud to admit a mistake; the coworker who gets under your skin; the spouse with the habit you wish could be eradicated; the child who just can’t correctly do what you’ve shown him how to do a hundred times. They all need your forbearance.
One who forbears looks upon another’s struggle, suffering or shortcoming and, as he does so, humbly acknowledges his own of the same. Forbearance manifests itself in enduring, determined patience. It is the antithesis of provocation. Where you could react in loud anger, you choose mildness and calm, firm words. Instead of giving up hope, you ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to help. Rather than dismissing the troubles weighing on another’s mind, you listen and seek to understand. Forgiveness is chosen over resentment. Intercession is offered up instead of condemnation.
Look on everyone with the eyes of your Heavenly Father, from the briefest encounter with a stranger to the most intimate relationships in your life. The Father’s eyes see each of us as we truly are, with every success and failure, strength and weakness, act of love and act of fear, virtue and vice. Through those eyes, we can love, and because we love, we can forbear.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Last night I began a post on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. It was left unfinished and I expected to wrap it up today. The words were full of hopeful things... the mystery of God's masterful ways, the beauty of Christ's humility, the wonder of what God can do when we are faithful even in suffering, the rich abundance of living as victors in Christ. I meant to finish it for you, whomever you are, but I find that I can't. Not today. Today has morphed into a Jonah day. The morning brought stress and tiredness and a wish to hide away. Then the afternoon arrived with news of a family friend's very unexpected and difficult to fathom death. I've kept my head bowed low over my workspace to hide the tears that keep falling each time it creeps across my thoughts. And so I find I can't wrap up last night's thoughts on the Triumph of the Cross. And yet the Triumph of the Cross is the only thing that matters on a day like this one. The only thing.
Monday, September 12, 2011
In 17 days, I'll turn 30. I've concluded this has a lot to do with the current feeling. Until just the last few days, I've given little thought to this mile marker birthday. It hasn't bothered me or worried me or excited me. Celebrating birthdays is a great love of mine so I have simply looked forward to enjoying this one in a fashion similar to the rest. My sister and my boyfriend have undertaken the plans though and I am not privy to details. This arrangement certainly warrants some happy anticipation. For some reason though, it is more than that. It is more than the expectation of a fun, memorable celebration. It is a hope.
An undefined but hearty hope. I am hopeful. I am hopeful about my still unpublished novel which I am working diligently to revise and improve and nervously submit to my fellow book club ladies for their reading pleasure (ideally...). I am hopeful about the man I love with all my heart, who is gradually welcoming a faith in Christ and the Church and all the life giving goodness that comes from a sacramental relationship with our Lord. I am hopeful about the things in myself that need significant growth - those habits and virtues and courses of action that will lead me daily closer to the best version of myself.
Whether it's the Holy Spirit or my own persistent optimism, I am expecting big things.
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, NAB)