Catholic Sistas Post

Even If

“When did I become such a worrier?” I asked my friend as we lamented about various circumstances in our lives that were monopolizing our hearts and minds. She shrugged. At one time, in my circle, I was known as the calm, measured one; the one who took challenges as they came and didn’t look back with regret…or forward with worry. “She takes things in stride,” one of my supervisors stated in my employee evaluation when I was fresh out of college and ablaze with enthusiasm for my new career. Nothing seemed to bog me down.

Maybe the worrying habit started when we became parents, my friend and I surmised. Because if you ever had the notion that you had control over your life, that notion goes out the window after you have kids (can I get an Amen?). Or maybe worry took root when I became a homeowner with a mortgage and unending bills to tackle. Or maybe worry became part of my DNA after my dad died suddenly, or when I had a miscarriage, or when the C-word began lurking in my husband’s medical charts— all times when I found myself on shaky ground that was once solid. I get it. If you have enough of those experiences, you can tend to worry about what’s around the corner. It’s the fear of “what if.”

But this I also know: When I let worry slither in under the door (or, rather, when I march right up to the door and usher it in with great fanfare), I am turning my back on what the Lord has promised me. And you.

Our loving Lord promises that he will be there, in our tomorrow, just as he is here in our today. In fact, He’s already there! Think about that. He won’t abandon us. He is constant, everlasting, eternal. He is our Rock, our Fortress and our Stronghold! He crushes the “what ifs” with his love and peace and grace.

That means our worry is useless. It is unproductive and unnecessary. It is, dare I say it, worldly.

But, call me human, I still do it. So I need to remind myself (and perhaps you need to remind yourself too?) that even if bad things happen (and they will), Jesus will be there to help us through it. The Holy Spirit will guide us. Something good will come of it. God will still be on His throne. Even if. Even if real and legitimate concerns arise. Even if a heartbreaking diagnosis is given. Even if a loved one is taken from us in an instant.

Even if.

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Catholic Sistas Post

A Deeper Look

My mom and I share an interest in flower gardening. Over the years, she has given me many “starts” from her perennial gardens, and I try my best to keep them alive. Sometimes it works, other times I am forced to take the walk of shame from the flowerbed to the garbage can to toss the feckless, fruitless, failure into the bin.

A few years back she gifted me with one of her “money plants” that grew for years in wispy waves in the flowerbed along her garage. I always admired the cuttings she made from the plants every fall.  Delicate, pearlescent silver dollars dangled from tall stems in a vase on her table. No additional flowers were needed to brighten the arrangement—these beauties made a bold enough statement on their own.

With that vision in my head, I planted her silver dollar money plants along my garage too, and took special care not to kill them. Turns out, these plants are hard to kill. In fact, given even slightly reasonable conditions, they will multiply. Massively.  Like dirty laundry in the corners of your kids’ rooms.  By the following fall, I had more than enough plants to create my own stunning centerpieces.

But there was a problem: My silver dollars weren’t luminous white discs. They were ugly, bumpy and brown! They looked dead. Oh no, I thought. Here comes another shameful trek to the garbage can. Stupid plants. What did I do wrong?  I couldn’t figure it out. My money plants all died back over the winter, with no chance to adorn my table.

The next year, I was determined to do better. The prolific plants doubled in number again! But when the end of summer came along I was in the same frustrating boat, staring with furrowed brow at a sad crop of dry, wrinkly pods. That’s it, I decided. Time to call in the plant cavalry (ie my mom).

What she told me on the phone first made me fall silent. And then it made me smile. And then it made me laugh for a good long time.

I had been missing a very important piece of knowledge. I dashed outside to snag a stem of silver dollars and pinched a pod between my finger and thumb. Then I slid my fingers back and forth, ever so gently, and voila! The unattractive outer layer fell away and revealed the lustrous shiny coin I was yearning for. The ugliness that I had scorned for two seasons was merely a protective covering—a botanical body guard– that hid the fragile beauty beneath it.

Isn’t that the way it goes sometimes, Sistas? I pondered the notion in my prayer journal: We can be so quick to make judgments and come to conclusions that turn out to be so wrong. And I’m not talking just plants here, of course. Whether it’s the mom who is consistently late to her children’s events, or the co-worker who is struggling to stay awake, or the child who is throwing a tantrum in the grocery store, we have to remember we are looking only at the unpleasant outer layer. We don’t know if there’s an elderly parent’s care making the mom late, or an abusive spouse situation creating the co-worker’s exhaustion, or a special needs diagnosis causing the child’s behavior.  Only the outer layer is visible to us in that moment of time.

READ THE REST OF THE POST OVER AT CATHOLIC SISTAS HERE!

Catholic Sistas Post

Roadside Reality Check

In the midst of this busy, hot summer, I’ve been trying to faithfully log 30 minutes of speed walking/jogging (I have never found a good name for it. Is it wogging? Jalking?) almost every morning.  It hasn’t been easy–I am often unmotivated by the heat and humidity. Plus I, as a woman in my mid-50s, have chronic shin splints, creaky knees and arthritis in my hips. But I know I need to stay active to keep the cholesterol from skyrocketing, not to mention keep the midlife muffin-top from overflowing even more, so I trick myself by saying my wogging time is my “think and pray time.”

I live on a country road that’s so country it’s just one notch above a dirt road. It doesn’t even warrant a real name–it goes by a mere letter: “D.” The advantage of jalking on Road D is that I do, indeed, get quiet think and pray time. I am more likely to be interrupted by screeching killdeer or scurrying groundhogs than by a truck or car whizzing by. I can get in a full rosary without distraction. But for a number of years, while pondering and praying over life’s issues, I have wogged along the shoulders of Road D in the same fashion: South side heading out, north side heading home. The gravel crunched under my Nikes as I dodged the deer tracks, the chunks of broken-off asphalt and the occasional beer can. Until yesterday.

Yesterday, I made an impromptu change. I moved from jalking along the side of the road to wogging smack dab in the middle. It was a simple move–maybe six feet over. But what a difference it made! Suddenly, I was out of the shade of the giant oaks and into the bright sunlight. I could see my end goal (home) better. I enjoyed a smoother surface underfoot: The crunch morphed to a soft thup thup on the pavement. The road seemingly stretched before me, like one of those horizon shots from a car commercial. It was refreshing to move from the sidelines and onto the straightaway. My spirit instantly lifted.

This little variation in my routine made me wonder: Are there other areas of my life where I am on the sidelines, making some progress but not willing to take any new risks? Am I stuck in a rut, assuming the path I’m on is best, when I haven’t noticed the more exhilarating path just a few steps away? Or worse, maybe I did notice it and I chose to ignore it.  After all, the side of the road is safer and more predictable, while the middle is more risky and vulnerable. It takes a bit more courage and effort to run my race from that central position. It’s easier to keep wogging along the sidelines doing the “same old, same old.”

As I pondered my new routine during my prayer journaling, I experienced a gulp-worthy realization: Yep, my spiritual life is probably too comfortable as well. I am missing opportunities, hampered by routine. I am playing it too safe. I am on the sidelines.

READ THE REST OF THE POST ON CATHOLIC SISTAS  HERE

Praying with a Pen

“Among Women” Podcast with Pat Gohn

I had the honor and privilege a few months ago to be interviewed by the wonderful Pat Gohn, author of “All In–Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters,” and host of the popular “Among Women” podcast.  Her superb interviewing and editing skills helped me sound coherent on this broadcast and for that I am very grateful!

Tune in HERE to find out more about the wonders and rewards of establishing a persistent prayer journaling habit. My segment begins around the 18-minute mark, but be sure to listen to her fascinating presentation on Saint Olympia too!

Catholic Sistas Post

On Potholes, Pity Parties and Problematic Pants

“They’re just so ugly,” I told my sister-in-law last week. “They don’t fit, I did not order them and I do not want to wear them.”

“And they are so not in your color wheel,” she said sympathetically.

“I know, right?” I countered. “Obviously there was no consultation involved. I would like to return them.”

“But you can’t,” she said.

“I know,” I sighed.

The offending piece of attire we were bashing? My Big Girl Pants.

I was not in the mood to put them on. I knew I had to, but that did not stop me from whining about it.

The Big Girl Pants are never a welcome sight in my world, because they signify a looming cross that I will need to take up and carry. I had hoped that I had successfully avoided the need to don the Big Girl Pants for a short time, all the while dreaming that it was a permanent separation. Nope. They were back. They were insistent. And they were definitely accompanied by a cross.

We all have crosses to bear in this life. I often tell my seminar attendees that Jesus did not say, “Pick up your Ghirardelli chocolate bar and follow me.” Or, “Pick up your new car and follow me.” Or “Pick up your Lotto winnings and follow me.” No, sorry. He specifically said “Pick up your cross and follow me.”  And, because they are crosses and not feather pillows, they are uncomfortable. They are heavy. They can even hurt. We don’t want to pick them up at all, much less carry them around for any significant length of time.

But despite the oh-so-wise things I say in my presentations, when this new cross of mine was on the horizon, I spent some time prayer journaling, aka having a downright pity party about it. Try as I did to avoid the pothole of sadness and despair that is often associated with this cross, I ultimately flung myself headlong into said pothole. I implored. I complained. I got mad. I brazenly suggested other options to the Creator of the Universe: “Why couldn’t it be this way or that way instead, God?”

Read the rest of the post over at Catholic Sistas here.

Catholic Sistas Post

Book Review: The Kingdom of Happiness

Happiness—it seems so elusive in our everyday lives, doesn’t it? This is likely not because it doesn’t exist anymore, or because we humans are a hopelessly discontent lot or even that we are too lazy to pursue it. More likely it is that we aren’t pursuing the correct definition of happiness, and therefore we miss the mark.

This is the premise of Father Jeffrey Kirby’s book, Kingdom of Happiness—Living the Beatitudes in Everyday Life (Saint Benedict Press, 2018). Father Kirby asserts (rightly) that Jesus is and has the path to authentic happiness, and that Jesus did us the favor of laying out that path when he gave his Sermon on the Mount and presented the Eight Beatitudes.

The word beatitude means “blessed”; this is a foundational understanding that starts us down the path. Happiness then, Biblically speaking, is defined in the book as “receiving, accepting and seeking to live in a state of beatitude, a condition of being blessed.” “Happiness,” Fr. Kirby contends, “is the satisfaction that comes from beatitude and the awareness of this blessing, and its providence, power and purpose in our lives.”

Through personal stories, practical examples, Scripture-based study and reflection questions, Father Kirby reaches out and leads us through a methodical uncovering of the providence, power and purpose we are meant to experience. He dissects the beatitudes with careful attention and a tone of encouragement, drawing out the meaning of Jesus’ teaching and convincing the reader that she can leave behind despair and reach a more meaningful existence with the Beatitudes as a compass.

There is an abundance of spiritual gold in this book. In Chapter 1, Blessed are The Poor in Spirit, my yellow highlighter was especially busy. Fresh insights such as “In our lives and in our own choices, we have to approach the kingdom of happiness with a poverty of spirit,” and “Being poor in spirit means we choose not to command things of God, our world, our loved ones, or of ourselves. We truly surrender and seek to be open to receive all things as a gift from our heavenly Father and to generously give ourselves in service to our neighbors,” are now etched in my brain. Before reading this book, actually seeking to be poor in spirit was not on my radar as a consideration.

Read the rest of the review at Catholic Sistas here