lessons.

Photo Courtesy of Jared Schaaf Photography

“Jesus, Son of the Father, you show me how you live by your Word. Let your lessons be bound to my heart.”

Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network

For the last 31 weeks I have been participating in an Online Retreat offered through Creighton University. Anyone may start the retreat at any time; however, it was developed for and encouraged to be made following the Liturgical Seasons. Which simply put means: an outlined calendar provides a guide for making the retreat according to a schedule that conforms to the Liturgical year!

In early September our Pastor, Fr. Larry Richards, encouraged parish members to consider making this retreat. I was intrigued, looked into the specifics, and then invited a few others to join me in signing up for the 34 week retreat.

I was the only one who did.

(Giggles.)

When I first began in mid-September with Week One I began with great hope and confidence!

By the end of Week Three…I wanted to quit.

The retreat at first felt daunting – and there were many initial steps which were rather challenging for me. Understandably, whenever God calls us into a deeper relationship with Him there are bound to be growing pains; however, by following the advise of the study guidelines – to take it easy, go slowly, take a little bit each day – I discovered quickly God can never be outdone in generosity. Ultimately, through the ensuing flow of the weeks, a tremendous opening for God to work in me was being created.

Now, just 31 short (ha-ha) weeks later, I can barely believe that there are only 3 weeks remaining – and I am a bit saddened by this. However, if I’ve learned anything it is not to expect, look for, or demand anything. It’s about feelings. It’s about God’s fidelity. It’s about gratitude. It’s about a journey.

Sometimes the journey will move slowly.

And sometimes lightning fast!

But no matter – because all we need to do is give God just a little space to transform our everyday lives, a moment at a time.

This week in the Liturgical Calendar with the scriptures, as the study has encouraged me to walk my own Road to Emmaus beside Him, I’ve begun to realize the mystery of our everyday lives is – that Jesus IS with us! (With a Capital I-S!)

We just don’t often recognize Him.

Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,1 but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place.  Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Luke 24:13-35

Just like the disciples, who were quite caught up in discouragement because Good Friday had been so devastating to the hopes they had – we too can easily get absorbed in problems, discouragements, and worries and are thereby unable to see Jesus with us. The study encourages us to identify with the two distraught disciples with their saying, “we had different hopes.” And to share the experience of recognition in the breaking of bread. Throughout the week, in all the background times, we are to return to these thoughts. By doing so, this will help to be more conscious of Jesus’ being with us. It will also help to see and experience the discouragement and really dark moments that can happen in the day in a very different way. Some examples from the study to help better explain are:

“I find myself at a meeting with several difficult people (or on the phone listening to a friend talk about a family conflict, or I’m watching television and seeing the terrible news of war or some violent crime). The moment I feel my spirit start to go down – in the presence of such conflicts or failures at reconciliation or outright evil – I will do a very brief exercise. I will imagine Jesus: taking, blessing, breaking and giving bread. In that moment, I can be open to the grace of seeing that He is present here, in this situation, being broken and given, if only I open my eyes and see.

Creighton University Online Retreat, Week 31

In this breaking-of-bread moment, in our everyday life, we recognize HE IS THERE! In that moment, we will no longer be alone. We will instead be opened to experience love and freedom.

God’s victory over this encounter with sin and death becomes very real!

In these past 31 weeks Jesus has been confronting my own discouragement by revealing himself and inviting me to fall in love with him and his pattern of giving his life away.

His gift of SELF is – for me – as for all of us.

And just as the disciples who were on the road to Emmaus with Him, recognizing this very thing – my heart is burning within me!

hugs n’ blessings for all the lessons to be learned, when we open our eyes!

Respite.

“Ahhhh!” deep exhale. It’s 3hugs&blessings Thursday!

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Papa exchanges a warm gesture with one of his Swiss guards. How thankful he must be for their care of him.

And just like Pope Francis in the photo above  (courtesy of Pinterest,) I am lifting up thanks for the special care I have been receiving these past several weeks!

Some have inquired why my blogging habits have changed…“Why so few posts as of late?” one asked.  “I miss you. Will I be hearing from you more regularly soon?” asked another. Sweet, dear gestures reaching out to touch my heart.

And the answer to both is: “Yes. By the grace of God I hope to get back to my normal publishing calendar.” said I.

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Jared catches Helen & I working on a Christmas post!

But for right now I’ve had to put my feet up IMG_1119 to care for myself body, mind, and Spirit.  Mostly body; however, the mind and Spirit are grateful for the extra time being provided to them as well!

And so it is that today I seek to give thanks in those 3 very categories, as each of them have received warm gestures reaching out to touch my very whole (self) and I am so thankity-thankful for their care!

Body:

My therapy continues & I am so thankful for the wonderful PT’s at Hertel & Brown who are helping me get ready to snow-shoe again! Everyone is wonderful there from the greeting at the door to the “see ya’ next time.”  A  few I’ve had the pleasure to work with like Michael, Jeremy, Matt & Lori always kindly remind me to at least “try” and ice 3 x’s a day and are always polite enough to agree…I am NOT a baby.

 

Mind:

I am counting my blessings for the DECISION to commit to ‘clean eating’ once again.  I cannot tell you how much clearer my focus is.  My thoughts are crisper and I can concentrate with less effort, which restores my peace of mind.

You would never know today but in the early 2000’s I struggled just getting out of bed. I would often fall, my hands would lose their grip and sometimes, especially following exertion, go so deeply asleep they’d curl & palsy. But the worst was the terrible brain fog!  A once fully organized person I’d somedays have no memory of where I’d parked the car and was always opening/reopening the calendar because I just could not focus long enough to remember where I needed to be next.  It took over a year for the final diagnosis, with everything from lupus to Parkinson’s being considered, but finally fibromyalgia was the diagnosis.

Close to two years we experimented with medications, which greatly helped to get me back on track, but through my own research I began exploring more holistic ways to treat the illness.  I have been med free for close to 12 years, yippee! Part of my holistic management; however, is key to what I do & do not chose to eat.  Carbohydrates (especially the processed ones) are my worst enemy!! As well as white flours and processed sugars.  So when the brain-fog begins to seep back in I need only look to two different triggers: the cupboard or the pillow! (Because restorative sleep is also vital at keeping fibro-flares at bay.) The holidays & my injury  took big hits in both those areas but today I am counting my blessings at having each back on track!

Plus it is good to remember where I parked the car again!  Now if I could only remember to fill it up with gas…giggles!

Spirit:

I am especially blessed to have the most wonderful Spiritual Director, Fr. Dan, who though I do not deserve it…keeps my Spirit fit as a fiddle!

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Fr. Dan in Rome!

 

He guides me, challenges me, and always makes certain I am staying Spiritually Fit!  At our last gathering he instructed me to begin a Do-It Yourself Retreat using Fr. Michael E. Gaitley’s book, Consoling the Heart of Jesus as my guide.  Opening the book today during my time in the adoration chapel I was so grateful that Fr. Dan knew, just as he always does, exactly what was needed to refresh my Spirit.

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Maybe you will join me to0? Which will it be?

Snow-shoeing? Better eating? Or Retreat?

Hey, how ’bout all three????

AND please be sure to let me know if you’ll be joining me…

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for I will be sure to count my blessings for thee!!

may these hugs n’ 3 refreshed blessings go out & touch you by the hand!

 

DME (Divine Mercy Encounter!)

It’s another Wednesday for Saint Maria Faustina KoWalska (what else,) with a brief reflection on the Divine Mercy of God:

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The Secretary of God’s Mercy
The Lord Jesus chose Sr. Maria Faustina as the Apostle and “Secretary” of His Mercy, so that she could tell the world about His great message, which Sr. Faustina recorded in a diary she titled Divine Mercy in My Soul. In the Old Covenant He said to her:

“I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart.” (Diary, 1588)

In an extraordinary way, Sr. Maria Faustina’s work sheds light on the mystery of the Divine Mercy. It delights not only the simple and uneducated people, but also scholars who look upon it as an additional source of theological research. The Diary has been translated into more than 20 languages, including, English, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Castilian, Brazilian, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Swedish, Ukrainian, Dutch and Japanese.

Our local Diocese offers a Retreat focused on The Divine Mercy of Jesus.  Hosted four times a year, it is a wonderful opportunity to Encounter Christ through His Divine Mercy!

What is Divine Mercy?

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The mission of St. Faustina was recorded in her Diary which she kept at the specific request of the Lord Jesus and her confessors. In it, she recorded faithfully all of the Lord Jesus’ wishes and also described the encounters between her soul and Him.

“Secretary of My most profound mystery,” the Lord Jesus said to Sr. Faustina, “know that your task is to write down everything that I make known to you about My mercy, for the benefit of those who by reading these things will be comforted in their souls and will have the courage to approach Me.” (Diary 1693)

Task One
Reminding the world of the truth of our faith revealed in the Holy Scripture about the merciful love of God toward every human being.

Task Two
Entreating God’s mercy for the whole world and particularly for sinners, among others through the practice of new forms of devotion to the Divine Mercy presented by the Lord Jesus, such as: the veneration of the image of the Divine Mercy with the inscription: “Jesus, I Trust in You,” the feast of the Divine Mercy celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter, chaplet to the Divine Mercy and prayer at the Hour of Mercy (3 pm). The Lord Jesus attached great promises to the above forms of devotion, provided one entrusted one’s life to God and practiced active love of one’s neighbor.

Task Three
The third task in Sr. Mary Faustina’s mission consists in initiating the apostolic movement of the Divine Mercy which undertakes the task of proclaiming and entreating God’s mercy for the world and strives for Christian perfection, following the precepts laid down by the Blessed Sr. Mary Faustina. The precepts in question require the faithful to display an attitude of child-like trust in God which expresses itself in fulfilling His will, as well as in the attitude of mercy toward one’s neighbors. Today, this movement within the Church involves millions of people throughout the world; it comprises religious congregations, lay institutes, religious, brotherhoods, associations, various communities of apostles of the Divine Mercy, as well as individual people who take up the tasks which the Lord Jesus communicated to them through Sr. Mary Faustina.

Our entire family has been blessed, not only to have experienced a Divine Mercy Retreat (DME); but to now volunteer at “working” the Retreat in varioius roles!  This is one of our favorite ways to Serve the Church by introducing others to the powerful gift of God’s Mercy!  The Retreat is open to all faith denominations and we have had people from all parts of the country travel to our hometown for this experience.  It is humbling to watch lives transformed or faith strengthened and I’m giddy with excitement as I prepare to volunteer at the next upcoming Retreat!!

There are so many people desiring to either explore, form, or deepen their relationship with Christ and it is indescribable to watch them take an active leap to Trust In Him!

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The DME (Divine Mercy Encounter) Retreat continues to be an active part of our family and we look forward to the next generation of our family one day sharing in this same experience!! Grammie (Oma) and Gompee (Opa) will again be giddy with excitement!!