Written by Laura Phelps
Columnist for www.catholicmom.com
She has been sitting in the same church as me for well over a year. I do not know her name, and I have no idea who she is. All that I know is she has the habit of wrapping her white rosary beads around her hands when she goes up to communion.
And how she whispers special intentions so that you can’t quite hear the words, but you feel them, regardless.
And that for an older woman, she dresses with a unique flair and style I have always admired, and how much I love her funky hair cut, with the white stripe that sweeps down the side of her face.
I ran into her in the bathroom after mass this morning, and finally decided I should say something to her. I complimented her fashion sense and told her how I loved her hair, as I walked into the stall.
“Thank you,” she smiled. “I am going to be losing it. I bought a wig.”
I stopped. I turned around. And I looked at her. Really looked at her. “You’re sick?” It was more of a statement than a question.
“Chemo starts on Thursday,” she told me.
She has been sitting in the same church as me for well over a year. And she has breast cancer. She is a mother. And she is a grandmother of five grandchildren. And she put that awesome white stripe in her hair for her daughter’s wedding just to spice up her look.
She is 74 years old. She had breast cancer 30 years ago. And now it has returned. And had I never opened my mouth to tell her how much I loved her hair, I never would have known any of this.
And we all do this, don’t we? We all are so busy and constantly running and so wrapped up in our lists of things to do and our own crosses to carry, that we miss it.
We miss the people that God’s mighty hand purposefully places in front of us. We miss the opportunity to connect or encounter or teach or encourage or learn or weep with or pray for. We miss the point of why we are here; to shine God’s bright light on everyone, to bring joy and love to another.
No doubt, this world can feel so dark, but God shines brighter. And if we get on our knees and pray that He fills us up with His light, He will! Every single encounter is an opportunity to live the Gospel, an invitation to shine. But if our heads are down, and our eyes and hearts closed, what exactly are we living? What message do we spread to others when we do not take the time to say hello? If God shines bright, should’t we?
I am not sure why I decided today, two days before she starts chemo, to compliment her hair, but the irony of this clearly points to something of grace. God’s curious ways and constant “coincidences” never escape me. I assured this new friend of mine of my prayers, and was amazed at how very much at peace she looked.
Had I not said anything to her, and just waited quietly for my turn to use the bathroom, I would have never known her story. She has never broken down in tears at mass, she has never prayed her intentions so that you can actually hear them, she does not look ill, her shoulders have never appeared to be shaking under the weight of her cross.
And so I sit here and wonder. I wonder how many people I have walked by, head down, eyes turned away, that could have used a “hello,” a simple compliment, or a friendly smile. Truth is, we are all carrying crosses, everywhere and everyday. People whose names we know, and faces we know but have no name. Every single one of them is just praying to God that they are strong enough to carry their cross for one more day.
We are one body, you know. We are not alone. We are suffering together. We are young and we are old. We are single and married. We are sitting in car line up at school, and standing at the check out line. We are driving our kids to sports, making dinner, and helping with homework. We are trying to lose those last ten pounds, save our marriages, get through to our teenagers, waiting for the school bus. We are caring for grandchildren, sitting by hospital beds, driving to work, looking for a job.
And we are sitting in the pews at mass, whispering our intentions, wrapping our hands in our beads, looking fashionable and stylish, allowing that beautiful strand of white hair to gently sweep down the side of our face.
Who will you encounter today? And how will you shine bright?
Article found on http://catholicmom.com/2014/09/23/discovering-gods-light-in-me-in-the-church-bathroom/
How to Set a FAITH Goal
by Rick Warren
“I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above.”
(Philippians 3:13-14 NCV)
I believe in setting goals. I’ve set them all my life, because goals are simply statements of faith. The Bible says, “The just shall live by faith” and “Without faith it’s impossible to please God” and “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” and “According to your faith it will be done unto you.”
God always operates in your life by faith. That’s why you need goals in your life, because a goal is a statement of faith. A goal says, “I believe God wants me to accomplish something by a certain date.” If you don’t have a date, it’s not a goal. It’s a wish. It’s a dream. It’s a desire. But wishes are a dime a dozen; they’re worthless. The only thing that will change your life is setting a goal. You’ve got to wake up from the dream and go to work!
A “FAITH” goal has five characteristics:
Focused. That means it is specific. If you use the words “more” or “less,” it’s not a focused goal. “I want to be less angry” or “I want to weigh less” or “I want to be more like Jesus” are not goals because you can’t measure them. You have to be specific.
Attainable. If you set an unrealistic goal, it’s just going to discourage you. If you say, “I’m going to pray three hours a day,” you’re setting yourself up for failure. Set a goal that stretches you and then trust God will help you stretch.
Individual. That means it’s personal. You cannot set goals for other people because you can’t control them. You can’t set goals for your children, your husband, or your boyfriend or girlfriend. You can only set goals for yourself, because you can control you and not anybody else. The only way you can change other people is by changing yourself.
Trackable. Trackable goals can be measured. They’re verifiable. You set a date and say, “By Nov. 30 I will have accomplished this, and by Dec. 30 I will have accomplished this, and by Jan. 30 I will have accomplished this.”
Heartfelt. Your goals have got to be heartfelt. You’ll never reach a passionless goal. If you’re not passionate about the goal, wait until you get passionate about it. If you don’t have a deep desire to do it, don’t set it.
I encourage you to set one spiritual goal for your life today. Maybe your goal is to have a quiet time for five minutes every day for the next month. That is a FAITH goal, and you can accomplish it in faith.
Talk It Over
To My Fellow Moms, on the First Day of Kindergarten
Written by Kim Simon
Mother, Wife, Blogger (mamabythebay.com)
Dear New Kindergarten Mom,
This morning, I bundled my boys into the stroller and went out for one last impromptu morning walk. Max will be starting kindergarten next week, and the days spent hanging out in our jammies and meandering to the nearest park or Starbucks are almost over. My best friend texted me a picture of her own 5-year-old a few minutes later, standing in front of his new elementary school. "How did we get here?!" I texted back. It was yesterday that we were pregnant together. Visiting the fire station with toddlers together. Welcoming second babies together. "How did we get here?!"
Well, Mama, I want you to take a break from packing lunches and tucking pencils into binders. Click out of Pinterest for a minute, and stop reading the list about the Top 10 Lessons You Need To Teach Your Kindergartner. Put down the chalkboard frame that you're making for the perfect first day photo shoot, and listen up. This one is for you.
Kindergarten might be the beginning for our little ones, but it's a graduation of sorts for us.
How did we get here?
We waited and we worried, reading the BabyCenter emails each week that compared our rapidly growing babies to kiwis and oranges. We mourned losses and said goodbyes to the babies who grew in our hearts, but not our bellies. We labored and breathed and screamed and prayed as our littles made their way into our arms. We ate celebration dinners in hospital beds. We cradled impossibly small newborn bottoms in the palms of our hands, cut hospital bracelets from tiny ankles and learned to swaddle little limbs into baby burritos. We winced at each bad latch, and exhaled with each great one. We filled bottles and emptied breasts, measured milliliters into droppers and g-tubes. We pumped and we mixed and we forgot to feed ourselves. We fed our babies with love.
We rocked, we paced, we sang. We woke every three hours, or every three minutes. We shushed and we danced and we dozed. We may have spent more time awake than asleep.
We cut grapes into tiny cubes. We cleaned pasta from the carpet and yogurt from their hair. We made sure that the green veggies weren't touching the orange ones.
We were Batman and Thomas and a dinosaur and a policeman and a princess. We stepped on 47 Legos and built 72 towers and 298 spaceships. We hid in blanket forts and behind closet doors. Sometimes we hid in the bathroom, because it was the only quiet place we could find.
We drove to preschool and playdates. We practiced our goodbyes and perfected our hellos. We caught slippery bodies at swim lessons, and twisted perfect topknots for ballet. We played the tambourine at music class and sang the "Hello, friend" song at Mommy and Me 341 times.
We held chubby little arms and legs tight as the doctor gave each shot. We counted ounces and inches and celebrated each step. We met with speech therapists and occupational therapists and oncologists and radiologists. We elbowed our way down paths that we never thought would rise up to greet us. We fought fear and doubt and guilt. We woke up each day, and put one foot in front of the other.
We yelled at our partners and cried to our mothers and fell into the arms of the friends who became our family. We learned to let other grown-ups love our kids, and struggled to accept a night out or a lasagna or a hug. Or a mimosa.
We worried about TV time and Vitamin D and developmental stages and hearing tests. We celebrated birthdays and did the potty dance and doled out stickers and ultimatums.
We kept going. We got better at it. We surprised ourselves.
We've been exhausted, and fed up, and overwhelmed, and overjoyed. We've cheered for first words and first steps and first date nights in months. We've fallen asleep during Dumbo and memorized Goodnight Moon and Horton Hears A Who.
We've bargained with God over stitches and lab tests and "routine" operations. We've soothed bad dreams and inspired bigger ones.
We've stepped on 4,724 Goldfish crackers and 3,193 Cheerios.
We've kissed scrapes and cheeks and noses. We've bathed squirmy bodies and cut tiny bangs. We've whispered I love yous against giggling bodies. We've hugged and we've helped and we've explained. We've answered 17,000 whys and why nots.
We've made it.
They've made it.
There will be thousands of firsts that follow this one. Our jobs aren't even close to being done. But on this first day, for the hours that stretch between squeezing his little hand goodbye and welcoming him back to the arms that he began in, be gentle with yourself.
In your heart of hearts, you know that he's ready.
But I'm here to tell you that you are, too.
You might think this first day is all about him, friend. But it's also about you.
How did we get here?
You rocked and you fed and you soothed and you worried and you taught and you cuddled and you counted the nap time minutes and added up the ounces and marked the passage of time with pictures and gasps and tears.
So as that brave, crazy kindergarten teacher ushers you out tomorrow and closes the door behind you, be proud.
You did it. We did it.
That classroom of amazing, brilliant, imaginative, loving, self-sufficient (well, sort of), hilarious, unpredictable, completely capable little people? We made them that way. So before you walk away to worry about all of the first days to come and the homework and the life lessons and the setbacks and the TV time and the reward charts... come find me on the playground.
I'll be looking for you.
Let me be the first one to tell you "Good job, Mama. You survived. You watched as your heart grew outside of your body, and then you prepared him to greet the world alone. He is ready, because when they placed him in your arms, you were." For all of the times that we've told them "good job," and "great listening," and "you're so brave," and "I'm so proud of you," not once did we say those things to ourselves. So on that very first day of school, as you take one last look over your shoulder to make sure that your little one is safely tucked into her classroom, and you wipe away the tears as you climb back into your (suddenly very quiet) car, remember this.
You did it. You are so brave. I am so proud of you.
Just look how much you've grown.
Happy graduation, Mama.
A Kindergarten Mom, bawling her eyes out in the car parked next to yours
-Sit quietly and think of 10 (or more) reasons why you are a great mom. Congratulate yourself on these amazing accomplishments.
-Close your eyes and visualize your child/children's smiling face in front of you. Allow the joy of that smile to spread fully over you. Think of 10 (or more) reasons why they are a great son/daughter. Tell your child these reasons the next time you see them.
Pouting… whining… screaming… sobbing… tantrums… biting… slamming doors… hitting… meltdowns! How many of us as moms have experienced one or all of these behaviors in our children (or possibly in us as parents)? With three very strong willed young boys in our house, these behaviors often occur daily, sometimes before breakfast is even on the table. Most days, I feel like we are on a roller coaster of emotions in our home. Can anyone else identify?
At one of our recent Mom’s Group meetings, Dr. Anne Corwin (aka “The Parenting Doctor”) taught our group a life changing parenting message… “Feelings are real and something we feel, what matters the most is the way that we deal!” She enlightened us on how to help our children (as well as us as parents) deal with our emotions in a healthy and constructive manner. She explained that “Children behave because of the way that they feel. They have tantrums and act out because they don’t understand or can’t verbally explain how they are feeling.” She told us that in order to deal with emotions in a healthy way, we must work on our “emotional literacy” which consists of these three important lessons:
1.) Acknowledging that feelings are real and learning how to identify and define each feeling
2.) Understanding that feelings cause behavior (both good and bad), and helping our children identify what behavior they generally do based on each feeling
3.) Learn tools to help deal productively with each feeling as it occurs
If we as parents can increase our emotional literacy and in turn teach our children emotional literacy, it can help us all to deal with the emotional roller coaster of daily life in a much healthier and less stressful manner. For more information from Dr. Anne and to learn more about emotional literacy, please visit her website at http://theparentingdoctor.com/. She also has a great monthly free email newsletter you can sign up for with tons of practical parenting tips.
One of the most powerful and positive reactions we as believers in Christ can do in any emotional circumstance is to pray. Turn to our Lord with gratitude when we are happy. Call out to the Holy Spirit for safety when we are scared. Breathe in Christ’s love when we are sad. Rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father when we are tired.
Take a moment today in personal meditation and give all of your emotions to the Lord. Then listen to the song “Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gS9e0nxHP-w . Dr. Ann told us that “music changes moods and releases endorphins”, so turn up your speakers and sing it out to Our Lord!
Written by Amy Connelly for the OLQA Mom's Group
God: Never in a Hurry; Always On Time
BY RICK WARREN
“Don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed.” (James 1:4b MSG)
Be patient with God and with yourself. One of life’s frustrations is that God’s timetable is rarely the same as ours. We are often in a hurry when God isn’t. You may feel frustrated with the seemingly slow progress you’re making in life.
Remember that God is never in a hurry, but he is always on time. He will use your entire lifetime to prepare you for your role in eternity.
The Bible is filled with examples of how God uses a long process to develop character, especially in leaders. He took 80 years to prepare Moses, including 40 in the wilderness. For 14,600 days Moses kept waiting and wondering, “Is it time yet?” But God kept saying, “Not yet.”
Contrary to popular book titles, there are no “Easy Steps to Maturity” or “Secrets of Instant Sainthood.” When God wants to make a giant oak, he takes a hundred years, but when he wants to make a mushroom, he does it overnight.
Great souls are grown through struggles and storms and seasons of suffering. Be patient with the process. James advised, “Don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed” (James 1:4b MSG).
Don’t get discouraged. When Habakkuk became depressed because he didn’t think God was acting quickly enough, God had this to say: “These things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!” (Habakkuk 2:3 LB)
A delay is not a denial from God!
Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be. Years ago people wore a popular button with the letters PBPGINFWMY. It stood for “Please Be Patient, God Is Not Finished With Me Yet.” God isn’t finished with you, either, so keep on moving forward. Even the snail reached the ark by persevering!
Have you ever felt like God is speaking directly to you through voice of your child? I had a profound “God moment” this last week, at of all times, during our children’s bedtime routine. Normally bedtime is super chaotic in our household of three young boys. But for some reason, this night’s bedtime ritual was actually going pretty smoothly. Maybe our kids were just hot and tired from the 102 degree temperature that day, or maybe I was just taking to heart our discussion from Mom’s Group regarding appreciating every moment we have with our children as they grow up so quickly. Either way, teeth were brushed easily, kids were in bed on time, and mommy was feeling happy. Then it happened, in three simple actions, my children spoke straight to my heart and brought to life this Sunday’s Gospel passage where Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Here are the three ways God spoke to my heart through the voice of my children that night…
“I am the Way”… It came time for reading books and the boys asked me to read them one of their all time favorites, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, a very cute and silly story about a pigeon who wants to drive a bus and a bus driver who asks you, the reader, to stop the pigeon from driving the bus. My kids get so excited telling the pigeon that he cannot drive the bus, and we all end up laughing out loud till our sides hurt. At the end of the story, one of my sons turned to me and said, “You know Mommy, the writer of this story must know Jesus, because he is encouraging us to do the right thing, just as Jesus always encourages us to do the right thing.” WOW! Out of the mouth of a child! Jesus teaches us the way! Jesus is the way!
“I am the Truth”… During our evening prayer time, I always say a special prayer over each of our children and thank God for something wonderful they did that day. As I prayed over our oldest son that evening, I noticed that he had his eyes closed more tightly than normal and was really focused during our prayer time. When we finished praying he said, “Mom, while you were praying for me, I was praying for you at the same time. I know that you always pray for me, even if I do something wrong, and that makes me feel really good. It lets me know that you will always love me and that God will always love me too. So I really want to pray for you and thank God for you being my mom.” Again, WOW! Now, with tears rolled down my face, I hugged my child closely, knowing that God’s truth is found in how we love one another. Jesus lived the truth! Jesus spoke the truth! Jesus is the truth!
“I am the Life”… After turning out the lights, tucking them in, kissing them goodnight, and telling them each that I loved them, I turned to walk out of their bedroom. But before I could make it to the door, I heard little footsteps running up behind me and felt a huge warm hug embracing around me. I hugged my son back as I heard him say “thank you Mom for showing me what it means to be loved and how important it is to love others.” My waterworks started again as I hugged him even tighter, feeling God’s loving kindness wrapping our embrace even closer. Jesus loves us so much that he created our life and the lives of our children! Jesus came to live with us, to show us true love, and to give us eternal life! Jesus is the Life!
Jesus is the Way! Jesus is the Truth! Jesus is the Life! Thank you God for teaching me these lessons through the amazing love of my children!
For Meditation: Take a quiet moment for yourself and say the words of Jesus 5 times: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” What is Jesus saying to you personally in each of these sayings?… “I am the way”… “I am the truth”… “I am the life.” Throughout the rest of your day, seek ways in which your children can speak God’s message to you regarding “the way, the truth, and the life.”
Written By Amy Connelly for the OLQA Mom’s Group
"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'"
Please visit often as new meditations are posted weekly.