I have often envisioned Jesus hugging me, especially on days when things get rough and I am not all that huggable (it happens; ask my husband). It’s always been Jesus taking the lead, smiling and leaning down (Jesus is always taller than me) to scoop me in his arms and hold me tight, and consoling me in the way only he can. I am mostly passive in this imaginary scene. I let him hug me to his chest and I just close my eyes and soak it in. This is a calming image, and it has a healing effect on me, but I think in the future I will imagine something different: I am going to envision myself hugging him back. When I next picture Jesus hugging me, I am going to reach out and slip my arms around his neck and shoulders and pull him even closer. It will be a true embrace (embrace is, not-coincidentally, my word of the year) between the two of us, not a one-sided action on his part only. I will hug him back!
That symbolism of a dynamic, two-person embrace has meaningful application in my everyday spiritual life. Hugging Jesus in return means I will allow him to guide me and lead me through my challenges. It means I believe in his peace and have faith that his plan for me is the best one. And it means I surrender to his will. Not in a feisty, reluctant way, as was the case in my past life, but in an abiding, restful way, safe in his arms and secure in the knowledge that I am a beloved child of his. Hugging him back is like looking directly into his eyes and saying, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
This is an interesting development—I don’t think I was capable of “hugging him back” five years ago. I was too self-sufficient and independent and I was struggling mightily with yielding to God’s plans. In other words, I was being a spiritual brat. The kind who would try to wriggle out of a fatherly hug, not believing or trusting in the forgiveness or mercy or peace that was being offered. I wanted to do my life my way, keeping Jesus at bay: Okay, hug me if you must, Jesus, but let’s move on now. I have other things to attend to.
Ugh. I cringe when I think of my attitude back then. So prideful. So suspicious. So untrusting. But, as Jesus does, he kept on hugging me. He consistently reached out to me, despite my bratty and disrespectful manner. Like a persistent, ever-loving father, he never gave up on me.
As a result, I now want to hug him back. I want to show him how deeply grateful I am that he has transformed my life. I want to get close and stay close and never stray again. I want him to feel my love and devotion and trust. And I want to serve him and help build his kingdom in whatever way he wants me to.
Yep, when Jesus hugs me the next time, he will get hugged in return, with thanks from a recovering spiritual brat. And I think he will lean down and smile when I do.
Sometimes I’m a willing passenger. But most of the time I promote myself all the way up to chief engineer.
I’m talking about the Complain Train that I frequently find myself on. Let me tell you, last night I was definitely the chief engineer, taking the lead and steering my complain train all over the place, not stopping for anything or anybody, spewing complaints left and right.
How I relish my role as engineer of the Complain Train! Look out world—like it or not, this train is coming through! I say. Complaining makes me feel validated. And heard. And it gives me an opportunity to let off some steam, much like the Seinfeld episode where Frank Costanza establishes a holiday (“Festivus”) where one of the main activities is the “Airing of Grievances,” (i.e. “I got a lotta problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it!”).
Except the Complain Train is a train bound for nowhere (is that a song?). It has no triumphant ending, no satisfying resolution. There’s no pulling into a station with a great sigh of relief and feeling of accomplishment. The Complain Train is nothing but an unproductive, herky-jerky, never-ending ride through Frustrationville, Crabby Corners and Waste-of-Time Town. It’s a fruitless journey.
And that doesn’t take into consideration what this harmful habit does to the state of my soul.
Read the rest of the post over at Catholic Sistas HERE
Advent 2017 is just a blur. Amid the typical Christmas run-up of shopping, gift-wrapping and decorating, it was fraught with mysterious stomach viruses, medical tests and insurance battles, and the unexpected deaths of two family friends. Yet, there were memorable moments that made me smile. I heard my due-in-March grandbaby’s heartbeat, enjoyed a glorious season of choir singing at St. Michael’s that culminated in a Midnight Mass that took my breath away, and we booked flights to Rome to go see our son. My husband and I took our moms on a Christmas-light tour one Friday evening, complete with hot chocolate and candy canes from Santa. And I stayed anchored to the season with the Blessed Is She Advent journal.
You can read about my experience with the Advent journal here. But suffice it to say I am a fan of Laura Kelly Fanucci’s writing and her incomparable gift of capturing a story and bringing Scripture to life. When Blessed Is She announced the availability of their new Lent Journal, “She Who Believed,” also written by Laura, I had to have it. Laura’s lyrical, poetic writing is anything but aloof—it brings us right down to earth, eye-level with the women in the Bible that are featured in the journal. And the journal’s format is down-to-earth too. The pace of the readings and reflections gives us busy women time to pause, take a breath and soak in the meaning of the Lenten season. The inspiring stories, coupled with practical lessons on prayer, are gently offered to us like a bouquet of flowers from a friend. Lent begins on Valentine’s Day; why not show yourself a little love and order a copy of this journal? Just go here, but hurry—they will likely sell out soon!
As someone who understands the power of prayer journaling, I anticipate this resource to be an anchor to my Lenten season, even if it passes by in a blur.
I am honored to be a presenter tomorrow night for the January Blessed Is She workshop: Praying with a Pen: Prayer Journaling as a Spiritual Practice. If you’re interested, go here to sign up! I so appreciate the ministry of Blessed is She. I’ve been following them for a number of years, receiving their daily emails and inspiration and enjoying their workshops and journals. And now here I am doing a workshop for them! The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways!
I’ve picked a saint of the year for the last three years. I am always surprised and delighted with how that particular saint influences my life as I learn more about him or her and asked for intercession. I’ve randomly chosen St. Teresa of Avila, St. Margaret of Antioch and St. Bonaventure. The lessons I’ve learned about humility, being still and the preciousness of life from these three saints are forever etched in my mind. I appreciate the opportunity to get to know saints through this process, so I was looking forward to my selection this year.
My saint for 2018 is…(Drumroll…)
St. Gabriel the Archangel!
St. Gabriel is the patron saint of messengers, telecommunication workers, broadcasters and postal workers. His feast day is celebrated on September 29, along with St. Michael and St. Raphael. He appeared to Daniel and Zecharias and was THE angel that appeared to Mary at the Annunciation.
I wonder what my year with St. Gabriel will bring? I will keep you posted!
If you want to pick a saint of the year, go here for Jennifer Fulwiler’s simple Saint Generator.
(Photo is The Annunciation, depicted in one of our church’s magnificent stained glass windows. Beautiful huh?)
It’s a new year! Time to re-commit to the prayer journaling habit! You can do it!
The spunky nuns in my Christmas village are still enjoying the Christmas season.
Happy New Year, friends!