I will be brave!

It’s another Wednesday for Saint Maria Faustina KoWalska (what else,)

with a brief reflection on the Divine Mercy of God:

Speaking of Christian mercy, we are referring to acts which are morally good. Theology not only describes human acts, but also gives the criteria for their moral evaluation. Action (also human thought) plays an extremely important role in every human life for it shapes and forms one’s personality and attitudes, and influences the development of one’s spiritual life, or does the opposite – humiliating or degrading a person, and inhibiting his or her development as a human being and as a Christian. It is actions that speak about who a person is; they influence one for good or evil; they reveal one’s similarity or dissimilarity to the image of the Son of God. Every action leaves a trace in man, multiplying or reducing the good; this is why human choices, decisions and actions are so extremely important.” Beauty and Richness of Mercy p.28  

One of the many admirations I have for Saint Faustina (and truthfully ANY of the Saints) was her bravery.  I marvel at the ability to act on the ‘Will of God’.  There were critical moments, for all of them, to internally evaluate the choice God had presented.  Each circumstance, different and unique in their own lived-out life; yet, each were called upon to make a Choice for themselves.  And each, despite the doubt or difficulty involved, chose to take that brave step of trust!

God strummed upon their hearts in ways they eventually heard.

Have I been listening to the ways He has been speaking to my heart? These past two weeks God has presented me with 3 beautiful examinations (of conscious & heart,) to ponder.  Each of the 3 have been a ticker-tape display of thoughts billowing down and around.

#1 As I volunteered in a Ministry I am a part of I pondered: Do I use the gifts/talents God has entrusted to my care?  Do I use them wisely? Enough? Do I nurture them? Share them? Or have they grown stagnant?  Do I bravely claim them, use them, and glorify only God through them?

#2 Came as a result of recently spending some beautiful time with the relics of Saint Maria Goretti.  Her relics are currently on a tour throughout the United States for the first time as a Pilgrimage of Mercy, and Cuppycake & I spent some time with her during the scheduled stop in Columbus, Ohio.  IMG_6449(Amazingly our daughter also shared in this grace when her parish in Chantilly, Va hosted St. Maria’s relics & also our eldest son as her remains made their way to Atlanta!)  She is The Patron Saint of Purity and Forgiveness:  Have I forgiven all the harm done to me? To my loved ones? Have I forgiven myself for the ways I’ve failed to be His representative? Am I pure in thought and deed toward others and self? Do all my actions represent pure intention of glorifying only Him?  IMG_6462

#3 While at a movie theatre viewing WOODLAWN:  (God can be so imaginative and present Himself just about anywhere our hearts have been left open.) Several lines strummed my heart-strings but it all began with, “Sometimes old dreams must die for new ones to begin.” What HAVE I been dreaming of, Lord? Have I held on too long to dreams not meant to be fulfilled? Have I missed the ones You desire for me to complete? Will I trust you enough to believe this messy, sometimes cruel, all-the-while wonderful life You have given me has been a portion of what is necessary, to reach “The Real Dream” of being with You one day in Heaven?

And suddenly I feel brave.

Because My heart sums it all up for me…

#1 Love what has been given to you. (For if YOU love who God has created you to BE…gifts, lumps, bumps & all…you will generously give yourself away…unapologetically!!) Because God must love it…it was His GIFT for you!

#2 Love beyond measure. (Thoughts but especially deeds and no matter the cost to you! God will never forget what you have forgiven.)

#3 Above all things…Love! (Even that which dies away must be cherished and loved for it has brought you to where you stand today.  And it is what will lead you to where you wish to go…)

And so, I have written this 5 word message in my phone to look at in those moments I lack courage…

“Today I will be brave!”

Won’t you join me?

hugs n’ blessings to everyone stepping into their brave shoes! 

Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours today was a beautiful affirmation He is speaking, (as He does everyday)…

and bravely I practiced listening!

My commandment is this:  love one another as I have loved you.” ~Antiphon 1

There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends.” ~ Antiphon 2

You are my friends, says the Lord, if you do what I command you.” ~Antiphon 3

Psalm 63:2-9

A soul thirsting for God!

“O God, you are my God, for you I long;

for you my soul is thirsting.

My body pines for you

like a dry, weary land without water.

So I gaze on you in the sanctuary

to see your strength and your glory.

For your love is better than life,

my lips will speak your praise.

So I will bless you all my life,

in your name I will lift up my hands.

My souls shall be filled as with a banquet,

my mouth shall praise you with joy.

On my bed I remember you.

On you I muse through the night

for you have been my help;

in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.

My soul clings to you;

your right hand holds me fast.”

hello, is it me you’re looking for?

I celebrated my one year bloggity-blog-say-I space Anniversary recently!! WordPress sent me a lovely little notification, which filled me with nostalgic memories of the trepidation I felt

right…

before…

i hit…

SEND (on the registration page) for the WordPress Blogging 101 course, held at their online Blogging University!  cropped-seal_v2-042I couldn’t imagine myself sitting in their cyber-space classroom, a pupil all overly-older than most.  But I am so glad I did!   You can re-read all about it if you click on here: Blogging 101.

And the loverly-lovely Anniversary Con-grat-YOU-latory message WP sent, has so inspired me to be tippity-tap-typing through the course yes…… again!  (Mother Mary, Pray for me!75059_475938559114964_2008898797_n

I’ve done this on a whim, very muchly like last time but THIS time around I know it will be fine.  The “Happiness Helpers” at Blogging U are fan-tab-u-lous!!  And I just knowingly-know I will stretch my writing and bloggity-blog space in new ways.  (Hopefully, I will be inspired to do some personal aerobic exercising as well….stay tuned for that comical potential!)

As a repeat student, (this does not mean I failed the first time,) I’ve been challenged on this first assignment to:

“(a) revisit what you said when you first started blogging, (b) take stock of what you’ve accomplished and what more you’d like to do, (c) lay out some goals for your next six months.”

After revisiting my About Page (which I’ve linked here, so that you may hoverly over and find, or scrolly up to my menu and clickity-click there) I believe my manifesto has remained the same!   What is written About Me remains true to “who I am and why I’m here.”  (Imperfectly as I may remain to be. At it.)

  I am appreciative of what I have accomplished this past year!  And I am pleased with the development of my cyber-journaling, (I think my stock is a good investment!) I did not quite knowingly-know that my world was about to go topsy-turvy down shortly after the enrollment.  (The two are in no way connected and I do not hold WordPress accountable as they all live-up to their title of: “Happiness Helpers!”)  However,  what I can attest to is this:  The blogging helped me to turn-it-all-side-waysly, upside-up again; which was a much needed blessing!   Sometimes the writing served as a distraction from the drama being lived out, while other times it was writing about my experience that helped me to “care for the Spirit” which dwells within me.  And today…ONE YEAR and some pluses later…life has smiles again.  Perfect ones?  No. But I will try to be braver at sharing when/why/if everly the smile goes topsy-turvy down again.   th

Please Lord, if it be thy Will, I prefer laugh lines instead of the worried ones!”  The Dawn

I’ve learned a lot from fellow bloggity-bloggers this past year; most especially how there is often a moment, when that magically  “ah-ha” occurs; to discover “someone else is experiencing something similar/samely as I.”  The scariness softness and I don’t feel so a lonely anymore!  Shared experiences do that.  I will try to be brave enough to share mine more.  My rule will remain, as it does with my effort for living:  All things in Love.  Love does not destroy.  Love does not harm another.  So my writings will always be my lived-experience...and if another has gone down a similar/samely road as I….I welcome you on my path!  May we learn from one another.  And love kindly as two, (or more.)  Knowing God gathers there with us… 577207_506633402712146_2070071519_n

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.  Colossians 3:17

My goal for the next 6 months will be similar/samely as before (with a little hula-hip-flip of a twist!)

Quite simply:  All that I write I try desperately to show you the face of my God, Who is all of Love imagined.  His face. Not mine.

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The flip-twist is:  I mostly reflect on how my God helps me in my manners of living but what about the tools He has given?

I’d like to Sharpen Some of Those together…with you!

(By showing you what tools He has given me…and how I “to do” it!)

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As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

I do hopely-hope you’ll stop back for another visit.  I promise when/if you do there’s always….

a hug n’ blessing to go with it!!!

maker of all hearts

Lord, you are the maker of my heart!  Which has been stitched together with yards of you, pieces of others, and a pinch more scraps of you!  And although I know my heart is already full there is still yet more scraps to be added until my heart has been made complete.  Continue to make my heart, stitch by stitch, like unto yours; so that I may one day be a “Keeper” in Heaven. Amen!

Picture courtesy of Olympus Digital Camera

Spring is finally wrapping up in my home town!  It’s been a rainy one this year, so I am not surprised to find myself again listening to the rain falling outside against the metal porch roof as I prepare to leave the house.  I can smell the creek that runs near our home immediately as I step outside; which reminds me the streams must be running high.  It is days like today that thoughts of him leap out to me and my heart becomes instantly full of how grateful I am to have met *Paul.  And because of this I decide the perfect place for Helen and I to take our walk today will be along the banks of this small nearby stream with a piece of *Paul in my heart.  995f36012158571e55936bc0b8db2685

For several years I have had the blessing of being a Hospice Volunteer.  Frequently, when people discover this about me their response(s) can be to say something like the following:

“I don’t know how you do that.”

“I just don’t have the heart to do that sort of thing.”

“It takes a very special person to do what you do.”

This is always an awkward moment for me, but I have learned the best response is a short one that goes directly at the truth!

“I don’t know how I do it either.” (It truly comes from God’s intercession & guidance.)

“My heart has been changed by the people I have met.” (I have learned far more from them than the little I have given.)

“And I am very far from being special.”  (The people I serve and their families have earned them that label.)

When I think of what led me to become a hospice volunteer I see the grace-filled Heart of Jesus reaching toward me.  I had no expectations on what I was being called to do when I first walked through the doors of the Hospice Care Organization I volunteer at; so when the woman at the front desk asked, “What are you here for today?”  The only response I could think to give was, “To help.”  This was all I knew God was calling me to do…I pray I have provided that.

The roles of volunteers are actually quite diverse but volunteers are commonly divided into two major categories: (1) those who are directly involved with the care of the dying person and their family, and (2) those who indirectly support the dying by providing services directly to the hospice.  After a few evaluations it was determined by the administration that I was to be put in this first category of care.

I can honestly say, some of the dearest and most intimate friendships I have experienced in my life have only lasted a few beautiful weeks.  No matter the duration they all leave a piece of themselves in my heart, sometimes which changes me forever.  So it was with *Paul.

My love-affair with *Paul began one particular spring, on a day much like today.  In our first “meet and greet” together I was assigned to spend the entire evening with *Paul, so that his wife *Dorothy could get some much needed rest.  Because of *Paul’s immense discomfort and struggle to sleep, I heard a lot in that first evening together about his life.  He shared proudly with me some of his greatest achievements like his time spent in the Army, the things he was most proud of, such as his expansion of the local fish-hatchery program; as well as some of his deepest sorrows.

It is not uncommon I have found, at this stage of hospice, that a patient wastes little time to share the final things they would most like to accomplish before they are called away from this earth.  *Paul’s request came in that very first time spent together. Although *Paul had lived a full life and had accomplished many great things, earning him the respect and admiration of a multitude of people within our hometown community; his relationship(s) with his immediate family were somewhat, as *Paul would explain, “broken.”  He desired more than anything to arrange for a reconciliation wherever he felt necessary.  And so he asked for my help.  I have assisted in letter writing, video taping, arranging for delayed gifts to be given (an upcoming birthday, anniversary, or simply a personal farewell memento to be given,)  all as a final act of love to leave with those whom are designated.  These are the very moments where I witness God’s intercession and guidance because as I mentioned earlier: I do not know how I do this because it always happens magically, beautifully, and with great grace!  I am truly on auto-pilot, with God at the wheel, in these occasions’ of service!  Our God is an awesome God, (who deserves all glory!)

Exactly fourteen days from the time *Paul made his wishes known, God had orchestrated one by one the members of his extended family, from various parts of the country, to be with him.  I was blessed to witness conversations occur that were difficult to begin, to watch God minister to their hearts as healing occurred, and marvel as love was ultimately restored.  The healing power of love is truly the most immeasurable thing to behold!  And love is the most powerful gift we possess, (both given and received.)  *Paul gave this most perfect gift to those whom he loved in his final days. And it was of no surprise when, after his final reconciliation, God called him home…with great peace restored to his soul.

His family gave me the great honor of delivering the eulogy at his funeral and on this particular Spring day, as it all swells up in my heart; may a small piece of *Paul be implanted in your own heart too…

We are all united today, not only in our obligation to pay our respects to *Paul; but also our heartfelt desire to do so. And while this is an occasion of deep sorrow may it also be one of dedication: a dedication to live out a life as full of love as *Paul desired for each of us.  May we all have the determination to “unite” and carry on this same SPIRIT of love & generosity, as he showed us how to do.

In the short time I was given to spend with *Paul he became and was my friend. Our shared respect and admiration for the Apostle, St. Paul, united us and gave us a great source for dialogue regarding one’s individual attempt at living a life centered on Christ’s teachings…and our struggles to sometimes live out that life in the Modern World.  *Paul was enormously grateful for the life God had blessed him with; but he knew and admitted that he had, at times, struggled to live out a life Christ would be pleased with.  He recognized in those final weeks that even where he had failed, the same mercy and grace from Christ, (which St. Paul spoke so passionately of in his epistles;) was still being offered to him, even as he prepared for his journey home to God.

During several of our visits together we spoke often about: “Pressing toward the Goal.” “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. … forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)  I know in my heart *Paul has achieved his goal and rests now in the arms of his Lord and Savior.

Whenever we meet someone and they become a part of our lives we begin to take pieces of them with us. What impressed me the most was how many pieces of each of you, whom *Paul felt so blessed to have been a part of his life, he had collected. He spoke often and with great admiration about MANY of you, always with a glint in his eye and the greatest attention to detail(s)! His softball girls and his many athletic comrades, his co-workers and career affiliates, his army and fishing buddies; but none more so than his family. He held so much pride for each one of you and even though he knew he failed to tell you properly or enough, he valued and was so appreciative of the love and support you showered upon him throughout the years. He struggled, at times, to understand how he could be so deserving of your love and I know it was his greatest hope that each of you know how blessed he felt to have been given a life spent with EACH of you. Especially his beloved *Dorothy, who he told me was the biggest prize he ever won!   It is my prayer, that just as *Paul collected pieces of each of us to store up in his heart, that we all remember and treasure the pieces of *Paul that we have collected.  That we look back on these pieces with fondness and love and on a life, although not perfect, well lived.

The final conversation *Paul and I were to have he asked me if I thought he was ready to go?  Was he perfected enough to Press toward that Goal of Heaven we’d spoken often of?  In that moment I reminded him of the story he told me once, about the record number of fish that were released in the streams one particular spring.  You could see his great pride in being a part of fostering such growth in the local hatchery-program even then, as I recalled the story to him; yet he still remained frustrated over the countless fish that would no doubt be caught a little too early, still not quite to optimum size and would not be released back into the stream.  (Catch & Release.)  They were legal length, but Paul felt they just weren’t mature enough to keep. “If you give them just a little more time and they develop a little longer, those are the fish you want!  Those are the keepers, the trophies!” he’d say.  I shared with Bob…how in his own way perhaps, over these past several weeks, he has been like that fish who needed just a little more time to grow; to develop in to the trophy God desired him to be.   And that only God would know if he was ready yet.

*Paul liked this comparison a lot, (as only a true fisherman would.)  And after a while, as I said my final good-bye to him, he looked at me with that flirty-Paul-smile and said, “I think I’m finally a keeper.”

And I just know that *Paul is hoping we all remain patient, while we take that important time to continue in our own growth; so that we too may be a trophy catch for the Lord!  I am sure if we do we will each be ready as we Press toward the Goal, when we will undoubtedly find *Paul somewhere along the streams in God’s Kingdom.

(*Paul – Not his real name, although I nick-named him that because of our in-depth conversations about  St. Paul the Apostle.)

(*Dorothy – Not her real name.)

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Keeping these hugs n’ blessings just for you!