He is My Fortress

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“…in times of trouble.” Sometimes it seems like all the times are times of trouble. But that’s ok cuz there’s nothing wrong with camping out in your Fortress and just not budging. Just plop yourself down and pull the loving arms of our Father around you, and snuggle in. Stay there. Don’t try to do this on your own. He’s here for you. He’ll take care of everything and in the end it will all be OK… because He loves you that much. So much. So much. So much! For ever and ever. Amen!

Giving Thanks

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“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:18

In all circumstances…? Really…?

The other day, my five year old tiptoed down the hall mumbling something about a “big pwoblem in da baffwoom.” Uh-oh, the toilet must be clogged again, I thought. I made my way down the hall from whence he came.

I had to gasp when I opened the door. I’m glad I didn’t actually shriek. There was a pond on the bathroom floor and the sink was overflowing, the faucet on full-blast.

Oy vey. At least it wasn’t toilet water.

I had some time to think while cleaning up the mess. (It took every dry towel in the house, by the way.) And this is what I thought: “Why me, Lord? Why this? Why, why, why?”

Yep, I was basically throwing the adult version of a temper tantrum. Embarrassing.

A bit later, though, when the bathroom was mostly dry, the soggy towels were in the wash, and I had some time to catch my breath, I could see that, yes, I should have started giving thanks right away instead of wailing and oh-poor-me-ing. Because, for one thing, it wasn’t an overflowing toilet with pee and poo spewing out onto the floor! It was a relatively clean mess: just plain old tap water. Thank you, Lord.

And for another thing: my kids and I are at home. We have the ability to homeschool. If they’d been in public school and daycare, and I’d been out making money somewhere, this wouldn’t have happened… but I don’t have to make money and I can stay home with my kids. Thank you, Lord.

And for another thing: this was the worst episode we’d had in a while. A puddle of water on the floor. We haven’t had any broken bones, auto accidents, or lost toddlers for… well, ever. If this is the worst calamity that’s happening to me and my family in this vale of tears, then wow! Thank you, Lord!

It just goes to show, we really can give thanks in all circumstances. I know a bathroom full of overflowing tap water isn’t the worst thing that can happen this life; but I also know that God always knows best. He’s arranging everything for our benefit… and He never makes a mistake.

Thank you, Lord.

The Way #446

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“If you have so many defects, why are you surprised to find defects in others?” — St. Josemaria Escriva

I took my five youngest kids to Adoration this morning.  (We homeschool and we’re in the habit of taking a weekly ‘field trip’ on Wednesdays to visit Jesus and swing by the grocery store.) It’s a silent Adoration chapel, and my 3 and 5 year olds aren’t so good at being silent, so we only ever stay for a few minutes.  Five or ten is usually the max.

My 5 year old plopped himself down in one of the rocking chairs and started rocking.  There were several older folks in the chapel and I wondered if the squeek-squeek, squeek-squeek from the rocking chair would bother them, but then I just looked at Jesus and guessed that it didn’t really matter, for five or ten minutes.

Well, after about sixty seconds one of the old ladies got up from her chair, went over to my son, and started holding his chair still so he could no longer rock it. Sigh.

I thought older people were supposed to have developed a higher tolerance to all the little annoyances that life can throw at you.  I was disappointed and offended that a woman twice as old as myself, most likely with children and grandchildren of her own, would care so much about a squeeky chair that she’d physically prevent a 5 year old from keeping himself calm in Adoration by rocking.  For heaven’s sake, it was a rocking chair.  You’re supposed to rock in a rocking chair.  If it was that loud, why have it in the chapel at all?

Yes, I was, and am, upset.  Rude old woman.  She should have left my kid and his chair alone.

But, wait. So this lady got annoyed and overreacted. I’ve gotten annoyed at little things and overreacted too. In fact, isn’t that what I’m doing right now…? Such a little thing!  And yet, I’m grumpy about it.

It’s like the old saying: every time you point your finger at someone else, three of your own fingers are pointing right back at you.

Judge not, lest you too shall be judged!  And, let him who is without sin throw the first stone.

Those stones we throw can bounce right back at us.

 

A Confession Story

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I went to Confession on Sunday and heard something from the priest that made me look at myself and my sins in a different way.  (I have been sinning and confessing for so long that I didn’t know I could have fresh eyes on this situation anymore!  Thank God for good priests who know just what to say in the Confessional.)

So, there I was, going over the same list that I usually  have, spilling my guts to Fr. H, and feeling annoyed with myself and just down in general that I’m still struggling with the same old, same old.  Still ticked off that I’m not a complete saint yet.  Wondering when the heck it’s all gonna sink in and I’ll wake up one day and be perfect.

And Fr. H said (and I quote): “Don’t beat yourself up.  You always have a choice when you sin, but don’t beat yourself up. When the proud man sins, he gets mad at himself that he sinned.  When the humble man sins, he says, ‘My Jesus, have mercy.’ And then he gets up again and keeps going.”

And then he gets up again and keeps going.

This reminds me of St. Therese of Lisieux.  When she’d sin, she’d laugh and say, “Another weed in my garden!” She wouldn’t let her missteps throw her into a bad mood.  Her mistakes didn’t ruin her day.  She didn’t end up being all sorry for herself or annoyed whenever she went to Confession. She simply got back up again and kept going.

So am I stuck in a rut with my sins?  Maybe. Am I still a sinner? Mos’ def. Do I have a tendency to get sad that I’m still not a saint yet?  Um… yeah.

But as long as I get up again and keep going, I’m in good company.

The Way #263

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“Don’t be disheartened. I have seen you struggle. Today’s defeat is training for the final victory.”– St. Josemaria Escriva

So many saints have said this in so many different ways. The way to be a saint is to always get up when you fall.

As long as we are in this life, we will mess up.  Little sins, big sins… sin happens.  Sad, but true. (That’s what the confessional is for!)

The difference between Hitler and Mother Teresa is that Hitler gave in to the darkness.  Mother Teresa never gave up the fight.  No matter how dark things looked, how alone she felt, how grim the world was, Mother Teresa– and all the saints in heaven!– never gave up. They never gave in.  No matter how hard it was, when they messed up, they got back up and kept going.

So don’t worry when you mess up. Don’t ever despair.  God is always ready to forgive and forget. You just need to be ready to get back up and try again. And again. And again. Ad infinitum (well, not really, but you get what I’m saying). No matter how old you get.  No matter how tired you are.  No matter how annoying or heartbreaking or disgusting the world is.  No matter how much you’re suffering. Whatever your situation is.  Get back up again.  And again.  And again!

What’s that old saying…? “Practice makes perfect.”

Why, yes.  Yes, it does!

The Way #620

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“If obedience doesn’t give you peace, it’s because you’re proud.” –St. Josemaria Escriva

I’ve noticed this in myself and others over, and over, and over again. If I didn’t  want to listen to my pastor, my boss, or my parents (when I was a kid), it was because I firmly believed that I “knew better.” If people I was acquainted with were badmouthing the Pope, it’s because they thought they were “more Catholic” than he was. If friends insisted on not following speed limit signs, it was because the people who made those rules were stupid and “only idiots follow laws written by incompetent fools.”

I only started being able to obey peacefully after I realized that, in every situation where I thought my authority figure was wrong, there was always a chance that I was making a mistake.

None of us are perfect; it’s a fallen world. Logically, that means that no matter how much I know, how careful I’m being with my thought process, how holy I am, etc. etc. etc., there is always a chance that my conclusions are wrong. Also, God is the one who decides who has authority in every situation, since all authority ultimately comes from Him. So disobeying an authority figure is like saying God made a mistake and you know how to fix it. This is obviously Pride.

On the other hand, obeying an authority figure when it seems to you that you know better, is like admitting to God that He knows better than you do. This is Humility. 

Practicing humility  hurts. Even when you know you’re doing the right thing by obeying against your personal wishes, it hurts. Pride doesn’t like being torn out of your heart by the roots. Once it’s fully torn out though… Then you have peace “not as the world gives.”

Enemies, Forgiveness, and Love

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“Jesus said, ‘I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.’ ” — Matthew 5:44-45

We all have enemies. Whether we like it, or not.

I didn’t realize it at first, but hindsight is twenty-twenty (as they say) and somewhere along the line I figured out that my biological parents were my enemies. Yes, God literally delivered me into the hands of my enemies… He Himself chose my parents… And then He delivered me out of their hands and led me to forgive them and love them with a holy love.

My childhood was one of constant abuse: physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, even spiritual. I was taught the Ten Commandments, and then taught to tell lies if anyone ever asked if my parents hit me. I was forced to ration my little brother’s drinking water that time our parents tied him up in the garage in the middle of the Southern California summer. I was given only one meal a day, for days at a time, as punishment for childish peccadilloes like talking back. My father sexually abused me. My mom closed her eyes to the situation, accused me of lying, and told me I was on my way to Hell in a hand basket. The list goes on and on. I wound up with chronic depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and an eating disorder.

From my earliest memories, 99% of what I got from my biological parents was not love, but pain. I call them my biological parents because I never felt parental love from either of them; and because I realize now that God is my true Father and Mother.

I, on the other hand, have always loved my parents. I loved them with every piece of my broken heart. At this moment, with my heart (mostly) glued back together by God’s love and the love of the beautiful people He’s put in my life, I love my parents in a way I never thought possible.

I choose to not see them if I can manage it, and I keep my kids and husband away from them as well, but I love them. I wish them the best, I hope they heal and grow closer to God, and I look forward to the day that all this is behind us and we can be a family together in Heaven. And every time I remember how they hurt me, and I suffer through it all over again, I know Jesus is in my heart, hanging on His cross, suffering and loving with me.

I struggled for years with forgiveness. It seemed to me at one point that I would never be able to forgive them. But every time I said the Lord’s Prayer, “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” I tried again. And one day I remembered that Jesus died for them as well as for me.

He loved my parents so much, even knowing everything they would do to me and my siblings, that He sacrificed Himself to save them. The Blood of the Lamb was spilled to set them free. And because God put so much love in me, and because of His infinite grace, I finally found it in my heart to forgive. I can not express how happy this makes me.

My parents are worthy. They are loveable and precious… Because they are worth it to God. And God never makes a mistake.

Suffering through what they did to me, and suffering still with the memories and scars, I happily give myself to God our Father with Jesus, our Brother, as a sacrifice, to save my abusers, my parents. I say with Him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I’m sure it will be enough. Jesus and His Love are always enough. And it is an honor to help save the world by suffering with Him.

To God be the glory!

I lost a week…

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…It just went by. It’s gone. Poof.

And I feel like I have nothing to show for it.

But at least if I did even a little bit of growing towards God, or of helping others, then it wasn’t a waste.

I feel like it was a waste. I feel like I am a waste. I know for a fact that I’m not, but… I still feel like I am. This is confusing.

That’s OK, though. I’m totally OK with being confused and at a loss about pretty much everything, because I know that God is in control and he’s taking care of everything for me.

And not just for me, either; for every single one of us.

I don’t have to worry — we don’t have to worry — about family or kids or the future or the past, or money, or the government, or ISIS, or anything, because God is bigger than it all. And he’s watching over us and arranging every little thing to our benefit.

He’s such a wonderful Father. 💛

The Way #410

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“May your virtue not be noisy.” –St. Josemaria Escriva

I don’t know where to start with this one except to say ha ha ha ha this Saint made a funny LOLOLOL!

Ahem.

In all seriousness, though, haven’t we all occasionally run into those people whose sanctimoniousness practically oozed out of every pore and threatened to contaminate everything within a ten yard radius? Maybe that’s even been us once upon a time… (Oh, the shame!)

Nothing drives people away from God better than annoyingly pious people who make a big, loud deal about how holy they are. Sigh.

I’d like to try to be more like St. Teresa of Calcutta. She only had two changes of clothes! (That is unrealistic for me, but it’s still a nice idea.) And, although I know holiness radiated from her, she was so quiet about it that it spoke for itself. Can we say #LifeGoals?