But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it. 2 Timothy 3:14
My heart is so full right now I can hardly type! Today I got to be the book ends to the school journey of some truly amazing young men and women. Today I got to see a group of students who were my very first class of 1st graders graduate from high school. The best part was that they invited me to be the speaker at their graduation and it was so much fun talking with my first group of little lovelies on this landmark day. I was asked to give a speech but instead I climbed down from the stage to stand on the field house floor and teach one last lesson to my graduate lovelies!
I spoke today on behalf of an entire community of teachers, bus drivers, school cooks, custodians, parents and grandparents who have invested in these kids for the last 12 years. I got to wish them well, offer some lessons on how to be an amazing human and invite them to be the catalyst for change in this world. In our small community these kids are known by name and they are prayed for and encouraged all along their way. I watched them walk across the stage right in front of me to get their diploma and I saw little backpacks and wide eyed first graders in my mind. It all zoomed by so fast that I felt a catch in my breath wondering if we had taught them all they need to know. I wondered if I did all I could to prepare them to make this world a better place. I prayed I had used well each opportunity I’d been given to help them grow in discipleship.
As I climbed down the steps to be closer to the kids for our last lesson, I remembered the first day they walked into my classroom and I’m pretty sure I was as scared then as I was today. I hoped I could cover my nervous voice and hold back the tears that stung behind my eyes. I hoped that the Holy Spirit would speak through me with the words he wanted them to hear. I felt the weight of responsibility that every teacher feels when they are given a classroom of young people. After the first couple of minutes I began to see their smiles and hear their laughter and every emotion bounding through my mind and my heart was replaced with hope and gratitude. They will do great thing, they will go great places and they will be amazing people! I have great hope that they will use their God given gifts and talents to make the world better. I’m grateful that I had a chance to be a part of their life, a part of their day, a part of their journey to this milestone. I’m grateful to be a teacher, it’s a vocation that reaps rewards that are too many to measure. Mostly I’m grateful that I landed here…in this place…in this community…to do this work. God is so good!
If the PW class of 2018 takes only one thing from todays lesson with them into the world I hope it’s the reminder that changing the world requires three simple things. Be kind, be honest and be grateful. When I give it some thought, that’s probably a great lesson for all of us!
A Seed To Plant: Which of the three things will you focus on today…kind, honest or grateful?
Blessings on your day!
Psalm 139 reminds us we are fearfully and wonderfully made. In other words, we are perfect in the eye of our Creator. That seems like a simple enough announcement but yet, we spend so many minute trying to be like, look like or in some way act like someone else. Today seems like the perfect day to take a look at ourselves through the Father’s eyes. Lets take notice of who we’re trying to follow and say thank you for our gifts instead of wanting someone else's. Todays guest blogger has the perfect post to get us started!
Todays post is brought to you by a genuine, huge hearted, young leader named Kash. This impressive young man was instrumental in getting the whole book study started, and his leadership with this project truly made a difference in our classroom!
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:5
I really love football. My favorite player is Tom Brady because he is such a great quarterback. When we got this assignment and I was praying about what I was going to write about, I saw this scripture verse, it all clicked together. I realized I shouldn’t strive to be like a great athlete. Being like Tom Brady wan’t important; I thought instead, I should strive to be a great disciple. I am not saying you shouldn’t play sports, I am saying if you play sports you should always praise God and thank him for the gifts he gave you.
We should strive to be like Jesus. One way we can do this is go to mass. Another thing we can do is go to confessions so God can forgive us. After he forgives you praise him and thank him for taking your sins away.
God wants us to use the gifts he gave us. Thank God for all of the gifts you have and praise him.
A Seed To Plant: Some time today make a list of 5 gifts God has given you and be sure to tell him thank you!
Blessings on your day!
Thank you Kash…you’re amazing!
This weekend at Mass we celebrated the feast of the Ascension and Father Eric gave a terrific homily about the “Good Fridays and Easter Sundays” of our lives. We tend to want to take a pass on the Good Friday moments and wish for the joy of Easter Sundays to fill our days. It can be pretty easy to get stuck in the sadness when the struggles and difficulties of life come upon us. It can almost feel like things will never feel better. We are an Easter people though, and one of the greatest promises of Christ is that there will be resurrection joy. He will lift us from our sadness and struggle just like his Father lifted him, but there is work to be done in the dark days. Todays post reminds me that all of us feel pain and sadness but there is joy to choose and grace to be granted.
Kambrie is todays guest blogger and she is a perpetual spring of enthusiasm, compassion and sweetness! She’s a hard worker with a heart warming smile and an A+ attitude. She tackled a topic that really tugged at her heart and it reminds us that the good goes with the bad.
“If any of you want to be my followers you must forget about yourself . You must take up your cross each day and follow me.” Luke 9:23
In our book, Make Every Day Count, they talk about death and how death gives you sorrow and how we change our sadness to joy. But how exactly do we do that?
Two years ago I was at my grandma and grandpa’s house with a lot of my cousins. We were all eating pizza beside my grandpa who was very sick. I was standing next to his bed talking to my sister. When I looked over at my grandpa,his eyes were open and was looking around the room. I was so excited because he rarely opened his eyes but I realized he hadn’t blinked yet. I went into the kitchen to talk to my parents about it. When I told them my parents were shocked. They went running into the living room and that’s when I found out he passed away.
As I was standing there crying,I thought this is what my grandpa wanted, he was free now. He was always smiling and cheered people up and that it would be the best thing to remember about him. I had to remember those things were important to him and thats what I needed to think about. Sad things happen but we can’t let that get in the way of living our life to the fullest.
A Seed to Plant: Think of a sad day;as you remember that day can you find joy in it?
Blessings on your day!
Thank you Kambrie…you’re amazing!
It’s May…the universal crazy pace month! This is the month jam packed with events, activities and just lots of STUFF! The month of May can cause us to loose our breath and come a little unravelled around the edges! In honor of crazy May and the general unravelling we sometimes experience this time year, todays post hits the nail on the head!
Todays guest blogger is Gracen. He is a witty guy with a huge sense of humor and a deep affection for a great prank! I remember well his famous smirk as he looked up into the bleachers at me while the story you’re about to read unfolded.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17
Five Christmas Pageants ago, I had just finished singing my 1st grade song. When we finished, we left the risers and sat on the gym floor. As I sat there, I noticed a little string on my new red sweater. It was common sense at the time to quickly yank it off. The only problem was, the string didn't rip off. I kept pulling and pulling and pulling until one sleeve of my sweater was about 2 in shorter than the other. The little red string became a heap of red string. I walked up to my teacher, Mrs. Wohlfert, and she couldn't stop laughing. We fixed the sweater with about 15 safety pins to hold my sleeve together.
The lesson I learned in our book and with my sweater in first grade is this; no matter how unraveled or undone things can get, God will always love you. It just doesn’t matter how unraveled you may get, the Man Upstairs will stitch you together with strings of grace.
A seed to plant: How unraveled is your sweater? Is it brand-new or is it a little unraveled? Spend some time in prayer this week and think if your sweater is brand -new or does your sweater need some stitches by the Heavenly Father.
Blessings on your day!
Thank you Gracen…you’re amazing!
This weekend I had the opportunity to speak at a conference for Deacons and their wives in the Diocese of Lubbock, TX. As I sat in the audience waiting my turn to take the stage, I was wrestling with some fear. The fear was self inflicted because the morning speakers were Deacon Dominick Pastore and his wife Teresa Tomeo Pastore. Teresa Tomeo is a Catholic Rock Star! She is a famous TV and Radio personality and the author of many powerful books. To say I was a wee bit apprehensive to follow in the footsteps of such giants of the faith is an understatement. As I sat wrestling, I heard that familiar message of the Father that reminds me; Sheri, I’ve called you to be my servant, not a star. Fear was trying to creep it’s way into my heart and that’s when I remembered a lesson taught by one of my own students who is todays guest blogger.
Todays blogger is truly a sweet, gentle, beautiful daughter of God. Melanie shares her many gifts and talents as easily as she shares her warm smile and her faithful spirit.
“Don’t worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself.” - Matthew 6:34
Last month, I nervously walked into the State Finals Spelling Bee with hundreds of thoughts twirling around my head. I had just placed 2nd in the Diocesan spelling bee to another speller, who seemed like she knew every word in the English language. This was my second state finals and I had studied very hard, but I still feared that my mind would go blank. I wanted to represent my school well, but a sense of worry loomed in the back of my mind.
Just a while back, we began these books as a Lenten reflection in our class. The girls were reading, Make Every Day Count by Max Lucado. The book was a great tool to grow closer to Christ and it touched my heart in many places. But one chapter really spoke to me. It helped me with something I knew I had; fear!
Fear is one of the most negative energies out there. It originates from the feeling that God’s plan won’t work or we’re not good enough. Yet, fear is something we should embrace. But why?
Fear happens to everyone. It can actually be beneficial or harmful, but it depends how you look at it and how you use it. If we let what we’re scared of take over our minds and hearts, we could be in for some serious damage. Rather, take fear as an opportunity, not a burden.
We can use fear to grow in holiness, because every day we can choose how to tackle it. Instead of running from our fears, we can run to God for the strength and guidance to overcome them. God hasn’t abandoned us; he is always waiting with open arms to aid us in our times of need. All we have to do is believe that he can help us and he does care about us. Because it’s true. But, we also must believe that he will help us, even if it doesn’t happen right away. We must still place our trust in God, even if we are waiting, or else we’ll begin to doubt Him and ask,“Can He do this?” “Does He even care about me?” “I’m not sure He’ll even help…” “Why isn’t God helping me?”
You may be wondering, why can’t I just let my fear go and that be the end of it? Well, to be able to let go of something, first you must embrace it. Just like you have to take the opportunity to run to Jesus and admit you have fears before you can get rid of them.
As I stood up to that microphone to spell my first word, I realized that I was prepared and ready to do my best. And even if I did get out, God didn’t love me any less. I knew that Jesus was right by my side and he had everything under control.
A Seed to Plant: Imagine Jesus running toward you, and taking all your fears away. Offer up all of your worries to God today.
Blessings on your day!
Thank you Melanie…you are amazing!
Back in February, I wrote a post called “Kids and Books”. It was about my amazing 6th graders and the book study project they instigated. (If you missed that one, you might want to go back and give it a read to truly understand how proud I am of these amazing students!)As lent rolled along they continued to read and discuss their faith based books. The project was completely student driven and it was my great pleasure to sit back and listen to them discuss what they were thinking and feeling in regards to their Catholic faith and the way they saw Jesus working in their life. As the final project, I assigned each student the task of taking one or two things they learned in their reading and discussion and write a blog entry for the Joyful Words Blog. They were asked to follow the same basic format that the posts typically take; scripture, story, lesson, conclusion and a seed to plant. I gave them a week to complete the task but most of them had finished their assignment by the next day. Over the next few weeks, it will be my great pleasure to introduce you to the “guest bloggers” from our classroom. They are truly an amazing class and the power in their posts are compliments of their simple, trusting, open hearted faith.
The first guest blogger is Landon. He is a kind, strong, funny, hard working young man. He loves animals, being outside and is currently very excited about his newborn goats. Landon’s post is a great reminder about the importance of God’s mercy and the grace found in a fresh start.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”Matthew 7:7
Way back in first grade, we had a student traffic light chart. The traffic light was used to show how good we were being in class. I had a couple yellow lights, but never got a red. Every time I got a yellow light, my mind would freak out. The light would change back to green if my teacher saw me behaving, so I tried my best to make myself a fresh start. I started fresh because my teacher and I wanted me to start again and refresh my behavior.
It’s never too late for a fresh start even if you are falling apart from God, he will always love you and he will never leave you hanging. I have experienced many times of falling apart from God and getting myself back together like God would want me to. We all sin, that’s why God gives us a fresh start, we just need to use them.
Just like the traffic light in 1st grade we need to set a goal to keep it green. If we fall apart from God, we need to accept that he wants us to start over at the green light. All we need to do is knock at his door.
A seed to plant: Say a prayer that God will help you stay on track with a green light and think how you can be a better disciple of God. Search, and you will find.
Thanks Landon, you’re amazing!
Blessings on your day!
Children let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. 1John 3:18
I love watching parents in action. I especially love it when a mom or dad can immediately halt a behavior with just a look. You know; “the look”. No words needed, just “the look”. I find it really amazing when that look comes from a tiny, gentle, sweet little mom. I observed a tiny, mighty, master mom at work in the airport Friday afternoon and I’m tellin you what, as I got caught in the cross hairs of her gaze, I felt a chill and I sat up straight myself! As fierce as that look was, it was done out of love for her squabbling boys and it was so much better than ugly words or threats. I can only imagine what this world could become if we all took a cue from this line in St. Johns letter and focused on our deeds more than our words.
The first few words of this verse give us a mission; LOVE. Love is so much more than sappy, kissey-face, goey stuff. Hollywood gets it wrong, social media gets it wrong, television gets it wrong so it’s no wonder we’re all a little fuzzy when it comes to figuring out what love really looks like! The kind of love St. John was writing about is the real deal kind of love. Love is mercy and mercy means forgiveness and forgiveness means choosing the Father’s way. Love allows us to see people as their Creator sees them and when we look through his lens, love becomes giving and not taking. Love is not a suggestion, it’s necessary to make earthly life meaningful and eternal life possible.
I don’t know about you, but I could seriously pray on this verse for weeks and probably still not get it right. We are told by the world to find our voice and use our words, but it seems like it’s all becoming a giant screaming match with everybody trying to out-talk the next guy. It’s also a little tricky to navigate through all the words and messages and pick out the truth. Words can be twisted and misinterpreted but actions are concrete and powerful. When we think about the loving things we can do for others, it’s important to think small. Most of us will not be called to build a hospital, start an orphanage or open a school to serve forgotten children. We are simply being asked to do simple things with great love.
Yesterday I sat in a huge, old, gorgeous cathedral and I was captivated by the beauty, but I was more deeply touched watching the people and the way I saw this verse come to life. I got to watch the woman in front of me reach over to touch the shoulder of a hurting friend. No words were spoken, just a simple touch and a look that was steeped in compassion. As I was gazing at the stories being told in the stunning stained glass windows, I was distracted by a man who used his neck tie to play peek-a-boo with a restless toddler in front of him whose mom was trying desperately to hold on to his wiggly body. As I listened to the Bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City deliver a powerful homily, my gaze shifted to the usher as he welcomed a disheveled and frazzled looking little old woman and took her fail arm and escorted her to a seat. She wore years of worry on her brow but as that usher put out his arm and led her to an empty seat you could see the look of gratefulness and peace on her face as she settled in to listen. As I left the Cathedral, I noticed the little house next door that served sandwiches to the city’s homeless every day. God gave me a line from scripture during mass and then illustrated it for me in living color. I love it when he makes it so easy to see!
Maybe today is a good day to just be quiet and do something. Loving deeds speak louder than words…let’s get busy!
A Seed To Plant: Spend a couple days praying with this verse and ask God to put people in your path who need a little action packed quiet love!
Blessing on your day!
Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
Several years ago my friend Cindy and I did a 60 mile walk from Ann Arbor to Detroit to raise money for breast cancer research. That 3 day walk was long, difficult and amazing. We took off that first day not really grasping what it would take physically and emotionally to walk about 20 miles three days in a row. The first day was great but on day 2 and 3 it was a little tougher to get up and get motivated because I knew how far that distance was and I knew what I would feel like at the end of the day. Looking back, it’s one of my favorite memories but I can honestly say I’d probably never do it again.
The distance made that weekend a challenge, but as I get older, I realize sometimes shorter distances can prove to be just as difficult as that long 60 mile walk. There is one short distance that trips me up nearly every day. That distance is a mere 18 inches from my head to my heart. There are so many things I know in my mind to be true and right, but that knowledge and wisdom doesn’t always travel to my heart where I can put things in action. I’ve been noticing the Father inviting me to pay attention to that distance lately.
I can read lots of scripture and say lots of prayers but if I don’t let those words travel from my mind to my heart, they don’t become action. I can write all kinds of goals and ambitions in my prayer journal but if I don’t set my heart on them, they are nothing more than words on a page. In my mind I know he loves me infinitely but when I shrink away from his affection and hide from him when I’ve done something I think will disappoint him, my heart isn’t living his love.
I know he will meet my every need but when I find myself feeling jealous of things others have, I’m not letting the knowledge make it to my heart so I can feel gratitude more than greed. When I compare every meal I cook to something the Pioneer Woman creates in her test kitchen or when I walk into my living room and compare it to something Chip and Joanna create, I’m stuck in my head, not my heart. Making those comparisons is a little like thinking the fancier my stuff is, the more the Father loves me. If I closed that 18 inch gap a little I would realize that’s nonsense. God doesn’t sprinkle his love like ship lap and cinnamon, he slathers it right into our struggles, disappointments and simple joys.
My head tells me he’d love me more if I was put together and less of a hot mess; my heart tells me he is delighted to meet me in the middle of my daily disasters. My head tells me I should work harder to be good so he’ll love me more; my heart tells me he doesn’t expect perfection, just prayerfulness, contrition and a dozen do-overs a day. My head tells me I’m not worthy of his love; my heart agrees but reminds me worthiness isn’t a condition for being loved and cherished by my Creator. My head tell me I’ll never be good enough or strong enough or holy enough; my heart tells me I’m HIS and he will be all those things for me. My head tells me work harder; my heart reminds me that he says “rest in me”.
Who knew there could be such a disconnect in that short distance! I’m thinking I don’t need to take a long hike or climb a tall mountain; I just need to do a better job at the short space between my head and my heart…that’s a mission that will keep me busy for a while!
A Seed To Plant: Jot down 3 or 4 things that get jumbled in that distance between your head and your heart.
Blessings on your day!
She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year…1 Kings 17:15
A wise little girl told me one time that what the world needed most is “more giving stuff away.” It made me giggle but something about that simple little idea just clung in my thoughts. I’m still unfolding the story of the Prophet Elijah and the widow that I wrote about last week and that little girl’s idea bounced in my mind. As adults, we know the word is generosity and she’s right, the world needs more of it. The widow in the story matched her loving generosity with a gigantic dose of trust. I think that’s a pretty powerful combination don’t you?
I was watching a little video clip about St. Katherine Drexel last weekend and her life too demonstrated enormous generosity coupled with amazing trust. When Katherine’s wealthy parents died, their estate left Katherine and her sisters with 14 million dollars each. Today that amount would be closer to 400 million. Even though her family was very wealthy, their wealth was outmatched by their generosity. The Drexel family opened their home three afternoons a week to bring in and feed, clothe and pray with the poor and the needy. Guided by her parents example of loving generosity, Katherine became a nun and used her fortune to generously serve societies lost and forgotten. Out of that entire fortune, not one little bit was saved for herself. One of the people I was watching the video with said, “I think I would have set some aside in a special little account just in case.” Like the widow, it was generosity first, trust second and blessings third.
Don’t be puzzled, this is not a post offering financial guidance for managing the millions of dollars you have lying around, I will let you manage your millions yourself! It is however a good day to look at all of the thing that constitute our personal fortune, like our time, health, resources and God-given gifts and talents. It’s a good day to evaluate our generosity and trust, using the example of the heroes of our faith. There are people like Katherine who have so much and then there are people like the widow who have so little yet both acted with such generosity it left a mark! I suppose that eliminates all excuses for the rest of us doesn’t it! We are each called to be generous stewards of our gifts no matter how great or how small they seem. We are also called to give an example of generosity to our friends and family. I wonder what Katherine would have done with her fortune if she hadn’t grown up in a home that flung open its doors to love and care for the poor? I have to ask myself what I have taught my own children about generosity.
I think the biggest thing sitting on my heart as I type this post…what does my loving God have in store for me if I were to act in complete generosity and trust? The widow got a blessing far beyond imagination, Katherine Drexel was blessed immeasurably by those she loved and served in the name of Christ. So what’s waiting for me? I suppose I have to grow in trust, act with greater generosity and see what happens. I’ll keep you posted!
A Seed To Plant: As you sit in prayer this week, ask God to show you how to be more generous and trusting.
Blessings on your day!
Do not be afraid…1 Kings 17:13
The other night I was making dinner and I reached in the cupboard to grab the olive oil. I pulled out the dark green bottle and began to pour, only to discover that instead of a stream of oil coming from the bottle all I was seeing was a few drips! I immediately got frustrated at the inconvenience. Instead of quickly finishing up, I had to go dig through the pantry and hopefully retrieve a full bottle. After just a few seconds of looking and re-shuffling the pantry I found a full bottle and returned to my task. As I stood there in my kitchen stirring I was wondering who it was who emptied the old one without replacing it and why couldn’t they have just taken a few more seconds to replace the bottle instead of leaving the work to me. Then like a smack to the head, I remembered the story of the widow and Elijah from the Old Testament.
If you remember the story, Elijah shows up at this widow’s house during a time of famine and asks her for some water to drink and something to eat. She looks at him and lets him know she’d love to help but can’t. She honestly reports that she has only a bit of oil and a tiny bit of flour and she was getting ready to prepare the last of it for a meal for herself and her son…get this…and then they were going to die because there was no more food. Pause there for a minute…replay…I’m going to use the last drops of oil and spoons of flour to make a cake (yum ?) for us and then we will prepare to die. Not, then I will go to the pantry and get more oil. Not, then I will run to the store and buy more oil or go to the neighbor’s house and borrow more. I will use what I have and that is the end of it all. I can’t even imagine!
As I stood in my kitchen embarrassed about my little empty oil bottle tiff and the widows story I began to see things differently. I glanced over at a full pantry. Behind me was a full refrigerator and on the counter was a bowl of fruit all of which could probably feed a village in some places of the world and suddenly the word plenty was the only one I could think of. I have plenty; plenty of food, plenty of money, plenty of clothes, plenty of EVERYTHING but yet I often focus on what I don’t have instead of what I have plenty of. All of the sudden I felt pretty small, pretty foolish and pretty ungrateful.
The widow’s story continues when Elijah tells her to go ahead and make him some food and the Lord will take care of her and her son. In an unbelievable act of faith she uses the rest of her resources to feed Elijah and as promised, her oil jug and her flour jar never ran dry. The story is about so much more than kitchen staples! God offers the same promise to us each and every day. Just trust me, I will take care of you because I love you and I will reward your faithfulness. The widow loved God more than she loved her stuff. The widow was generous and trusting to an extreme; and her generosity and faithfulness were rewarded to an extreme. It’s a story that offered me perspective and reflection. It made me think about my own gratefulness and trust and generosity. I can’t change all the crazy stuff going on in the world right now but I can’t help but think how much different things would be if we focused on a few of the widow’s lessons and figured out how to use them in our own life.
A Seed To Plant: Read the story from 1Kings 17:7-16 and ask God to help you reflect on the story and show you how he wants you to draw closer to him.
Blessings on your day!
"There's a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” John 6:9
I have a confession to make…sometimes when I’m in mass and the reading is one I’ve heard dozens of times, I can tend to “tune out” thinking; oh yeah, I know this one! Last Friday at school mass the Gospel was the story of the loaves and fishes. I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t offer my complete attention as the Gospel began because I knew how this one ended. Pinching myself for having such a bad attitude, I quickly asked God to show me something new; please give me a new idea about this story. He did!
As I was listening to the Gospel I wondered; what if the boy hadn’t shared his bread? What if he had thought it was too small, or not the right shape or maybe a little over-baked or lumpy looking? What if he figured it was never enough to begin with so why bother? It was at that moment I realized it was a good thing I was not the little boy with the bread because I probably would have thought about all those things and more! I am often the queen of “ALL OR NONE” thinking. Jesus took whatever was offered that day and made it perfect.
As I was puddling this through in my head, Fr. Eric offered a line in his homily that hit my heart and finished the lesson I had asked the Lord to teach me that morning. He talked about the times in life when the best we have to offer the Father are our crumbs. I am often worried about offering only a perfect loaf when all he really needs from me are my crumbs.
I bake 3 loaves of bread every week. One is always a give away loaf, I just take it to school with me and ask the Lord to direct me to the person who might need a little something special that day. Dave is always happy to get the other two loaves but I’m guilty of studying the 3 loaves and most often choosing the nicest one to give away. I will also admit if I have a week when the bread doesn’t turn out pretty, I won’t give one away at all. In all my time of giving away bread, nobody ever commented on it’s color, shape or size. Each person I’ve given bread to takes it with a smile and goes home to make toast. As Fr. Eric talked about giving God our crumbs it all made sense.
God is…well he’s God; the author of perfection, so why would I doubt for one minute that I had to offer him a perfect loaf when all he needs are my crumbs. He can take the broken, the crumbled, the messy and the small and turn them into absolute perfection. I don’t have to be the perfect christian, I don’t have to be the perfect wife, mom or teacher. He’s asking for the tiny crumbs of my life to be lifted up so he can bring great good. When we give him our crumbs, he can do great things with them and then we just simply stand back and give him the glory. The Gospel doesn’t tell us the little boy’s name; it doesn’t matter. His humble generosity trumped his notoriety. I’m not gonna scream out to the world, “Hey look at my crumbs!” I’m going to give them to the Father and then stand back and say, “Hey look what he did!” Thank you Father for taking my crumbs!
A Seed To Plant: Read this familiar story with new eyes this week and then ask the Lord to help you lift up your crumbs.
Blessings on your day!
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Isaiah 55:8
How about that for a Thursday kick in the pants! As I think about the Prophet Isaiah’s words, they have a more truthful application to my life than I’d like to admit! My thoughts ramble off into the back 40 during prayer and the things I’m thinking are definitely not His thoughts and sometimes, my ways are so NOT His ways! Why do we do that…when we know we shouldn’t speak words to others we wouldn’t speak directly to Him and we know His way and His plan trump ours EVERY time? Yet we keep runnin around sayin stuff we shouldn’t say and doin stuff that our stubborn nature tells us is easier! I guess it all leads me back to the truth…I’m just a big ole sinner who needs the love and mercy of a Gracious God because I sure can’t get it right without Him! Maybe that’s the whole point!
Not long ago I heard a priest teach a simple prayer during his homily. Here it is, “Thank You God, Your will be done!” Even I can remember that one! Seems simple and easy and makes sense...until you begin to think about when you should say it! It’s going to be easy to say that little prayer when I get a good parking spot, or when something good happens. The tricky part is when the yucky stuff happens. Fr. Gordon used the examples, when you loose your keys in the snow, “Thank you God, Your will be done.” Or when you loose your cell phone, “Thank you God, Your will be done…now I have more time to talk to You.” Seven little words that can change everything! I think we can get so busy we forget to have that ongoing dialogue with Our Father, maybe lost keys and slow traffic and broken mower belts really are a tiny nudge inviting us to speak with Him.
Disappointments are a great place to plug in this prayer! When things don’t go the way we plan, we can get pretty down. I remember not getting a teaching job I wanted so badly! I prayed, I researched, I practiced interviewing I did everything to prepare yet despite my best efforts, the interview committee picked someone else! I was so disappointed! I called my mom in tears and she listened to me blubber on and on and when I was finished, she softly said, “It wasn’t your job to get!” I remembered that conversation clear as a bell in church as Fr. Gordon was talking about that very simple little prayer and on the drive home, Isaiah’s words chimed in and I was overwhelmed with the power of God’s plan. It hit me that if I had gotten that teaching job, I would not have gone to K-State, I would not have found out about the job opening with the State Department of Education in Michigan, I would not have moved here, met and married Dave Wohlfert, had three wonderful children and my life would NOT be any of the terrific things it is right now! Thank you God, Your will be done! And it was done…with amazing attention to detail I might add! It’s surprising what seven little words can stir up!
God always knows what He’s doing. We have to thank Him especially when things don’t go our way. I don’t know about you but sometimes I forget that part. The harder something is, the bigger our thank you should be! He blesses us through good and happy things and He blesses us BIGGER through the difficult, disappointing and heartbreaking! We tend to see what’s good for us; He sees what’s good for ALL of His children. We have to remember we aren’t the only ones He has to care for. Our disappointment is most likely someone else’s blessing…we can stamp our feet like a spoiled impatient toddler or we can use that time for some of the greatest prayer and fortifying ever. He doesn’t withhold things to make us squirm, He waits for the perfect time and the perfect place and the perfect peace…all He asks is that we thank Him and ask Him to show us His way while we wait on His perfect timing. His ways, His words…yeah, it makes sense since we are His children!
A seed to plant: Write this little prayer down and stick it somewhere so you’ll remember to pray it often. Thank you God, Your will be done!
Blessings on your day!
I am an imperfect person loved by a perfect God!
I had a funny realization the other day when I had the middle lovelies and their kindergarten buddies at mass. One of the littles had a runny nose so the big buddy turned and asked me if I had a Kleenex they could give the kindergartener. I immediately began rummaging through my coat pockets pulling out Kleenex after Kleenex. I smiled and thought I must have looked a little like a magician pulling colorful scarves out of a hat. I finally came to one that was wadded but after careful inspection, I could tell it hadn’t been used. It looked a little rumpled but as I did the unfold test I could tell it was a “never been used” one. Feeling a bit successful at the fruitful Kleenex search mission, I handed it up with pride to the middle lovely. The little one looked a bit suspicious and after using it the child looked at their big buddy and said, “My mom buys the kind that come in the little rectangle package and come out folded nicely, I’m not sure I like this kind.” It took everything I had not to laugh out loud!
As I looked down at the pile of crumpled white Kleenexes in my lap and began to tuck them all back in my coat pockets I realized my discipleship journey is a whole lot like that crumped pile of Kleenex! Here’s what I mean…
*When I forget to let God be in charge, things get all wrinkled, wadded and jumbled.
*Even when things get messy in the middle, all I need is a fresh corner to clean up my act.
*Things rarely come neatly packaged and perfectly stacked like the little rectangle Kleenex packages.
*Things don’t always have to look new, neat and tidy to work well, sometimes following Christ is just messy and unpredictable.
*God loves me even when I’m a rumpled mess and all I have left is a little room around the edges.
*God always wants to give a little extra love so I have some left to share.
*Just because I appear to be prepared, well packaged and all put together, it doesn’t mean I’m holy. Holiness focuses on the inside not the outward appearance.
*Just like those tissues in my pocket, God has a very specific purpose in my life and I sometimes have to do a little searching to find it.
*All too often, I have to dig around and try all the wrong things before I get to the good one.
*Finding a good Kleenex right before a sneeze is a great relief but it’s nothing compared to the relief in my life when I let God take control right before I try to do it my own way and goof it up.
Some people say they never really hear God speak to them; perhaps the problem is they just aren’t listening carefully because he can communicate his lessons and his love in the strangest ways; even in a pile of rumpled Kleenexes!
A Seed To Plant: Are you a fresh new package disciple or are you one who’s a little ruffled around the edges? Take some time in prayer this week and think about it…are you waiting until everything is in perfect order to invite him in or are you willing to invite him into your mess?
Blessings on your day!
This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
I have watched the pictures trickle through my newsfeed all week and they make me sigh a little. It’s spring break week for folks around here and the family trip pictures from beaches, cruises, mountains and lovely places have been fun to see. Today however, the joy shrunk a little as I looked out my window to a windy April snow storm. As I grabbed a heavier sweatshirt I suddenly wished a few of those lovely beach people would be pinched by a sand crab or something! I know that was not very christian of me but looking at the April blizzard in my front yard made me a little jealous!
When the snow stopped I realized I’d been completely childish and I apologized for my ugly thoughts and jealous wishes. As I stopped to think on it for a bit I realized it was a great lesson on a subject I obviously haven’t learned yet. Contentment is the name of the lesson and rejoicing in another mans blessings is the assignment. I flunked both today!
As I was busy humbugging other peoples fun I forgot how thankful I am that I got to take three of those trips when each of our kids were seniors. I forgot that I’ve been able to slow down and catch up this week…I’ll really appreciate that on Monday! I forgot that I was able to go to Jim and Tonya’s funeral this week and be amazed and inspired at the strength of their three children as they delivered their parents ecology with the strength and grace of faithful warriors. If I’d have been on a beach I would have missed Easter with a few dozen family members that I love and I’d miss a trip to Franciscan University this weekend to see my daughters Nursing Dedication Ceremony. My hamper wouldn’t be empty, my furniture wouldn’t be dust free and my refrigerator wouldn’t be absent of anything green and fuzzy. All of that makes me feel a little accomplished I suppose!
I have to remember that THIS really is the day the Lord has made and he made me right where I am for a good reason. Before I hit the pillow tonight I’ll be sure and thank him for that. And, I’ll be sure to say a prayer for all those beautiful people enjoying a lovely trip with the family they love.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of 5 things you are grateful for right now!
Blessings on your day!
The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Psalm 34
When I hear the word poor I usually think of no money…anyone else think that? I know financial poverty is not what the Psalmist was referring to so I paused to think about the bigger meaning of these words. I pondered all the areas of my life where I was poor and here’s what I came up with.
There are days when I am very poor in patience. My tongue can be snappy and my judgments quick. One of the great casualties of being poor in patience is not being a good listener. I wondered how many things happened on these days that could make me richer if I wasn’t so busy being impatient. Lord, on these impatient days,help me remember to cry out for your calm and your peace.
Sometimes I am poor in trust. When my pockets seem to be emptied of his treasure I decide to take control and do God’s work for Him. I tend to look to heaven and say “I got this one God!” I can tell ya how that usually works out. When I’m poor in trust I doubt His love for me and the wisdom of His plan…silly me! I forget that I’m looking at one page of the story and He’s holding the whole book! Lord, on the days I lack trust, help me remember to say the words Jesus, I trust in You.
More often than I’d like to admit I’m poor in acceptance. I have to remind myself often that things in my life are organized specifically the way God needs them to be. When money is tight or when success seems to find its way into someone else’s life it’s tough not to get discouraged. One of the things I work on with my middle lovelies is celebrating when good things come to others because they are blessings from God. All too often instead of celebrating with others in their good fortune we evaluate all the reasons it should have happened to us instead. When I’m poor in acceptance; Lord remind me to keep my nose in my own journey.
I think I am the poorest when I fail to live in the present. God has created THIS day for me. Yesterday is already finished and tomorrow isn’t a guarantee. The people, the opportunities, the joys and the challenges of THIS day are His gift to me and it’s my job to soak it all in and ask constantly through the day what the plan for all of it is. When I get this right, I feel His blessings. Recently I had a mountain of a day to climb; jobs, tasks, deadlines, projects and a teacher evaluation scheduled on top of it all. I woke up that morning feeling like limpy lettuce! It wasn’t even 5 in the morning and I wanted to go back to bed and be done with the day. I threw up my hands in morning prayer thinking God, how in the world am I supposed to “rejoice and be glad”when I’ve got a day like this! I then stumbled across the word surrender several times in my readings and prayers that morning. So, that’s what I did…I flat out said, “God, if you plan to be hearing from me during evening prayers tonight, you best be sending re-enforcements because I can’t get this all done and still be joyful.” I gave Him the day and I just sat back and watched Him show off! I was very rich indeed that day. Things fell in place, help I didn’t even request showed up, and the middle lovelies were particularly bright and funny that day. The grand finale to the day was a cancelled meeting and plopping into bed at 11:40 only to realize that I’d smacked the wrong button on my alarm clock that morning and it was really only 10:40. That was just icing on the cake! The Lord hears our cries…especially when we see and ask for help in the places we’re poor. Try Him…cry out and see how He answers
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in prayer asking God to help you see the areas where you are poor. He’s waiting to hear and answer your cry for riches in these areas.
Blessings on your day!
Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8
Happy Holy Week! This is the most powerful week in the life of a Christian. It’s a week to pause, ponder and pray. I’d like everyone reading this post to take some time to stop in their tracks and soak in the beauty, sorrow, sacrifice and magnificence of this week. Imagine for a few minutes what it would be like if Holy Week were made into a motion picture; I know Mel Gibson kind of already did that but think of it in your own mind and your first task is to cast yourself in one of the roles. I’m going to assume none of us would cast ourselves in the role of Jesus, so I’ve listed some of the other characters for you to select from. So…climb up in the director’s chair and see where you fit best.
John – beloved, loyal friend…the only Apostle to travel to Calvary and weep at the feet of the crucified Christ…generous even to the point of taking the mother of Christ into his home; must be fearless enough to walk beside Jesus as he carries his cross and tender enough to comfort and console His mother in her unspeakable grief and agony.
Peter – strong, faithful follower…until put to the test…must be willing to seek with all your heart the forgiveness and mercy of the loving Jesus after you deny him not once but three times.
Apostles – must be willing to abandon all of your possessions to follow a man named Jesus who you don’t always understand…must make a commitment to tell His story with enormous passion for the rest of your days…must be able to live with the guilt of falling asleep and running away to hide during the very hours your love, prayers and support are needed most.
Judas – must have serious issues with priorities and loyalties…demonstrate in living color how wealth and power can blind good judgment and destroy truth.
Simon of Cyrene - strong, compassionate and helpful spirit…must be willing to help another of God’s children with absolutely no regard to personal cost or gain.
Veronica – courageous, tender and loving, yet brave in the face of tremendous personal danger…must be willing to act spontaneously with unsurmountable compassion being your only motive.
Mary – unfathomable obedience and absolute reliance on the strength of God the Father…complete surrender of every joy and every sorrow…flawless, sinless and utterly selfless even to the point of unthinkable personal grief and torment inflicted on a mothers heart.
Pontius Pilate - curious, conflicted and controlled by circumstances of politics and position…must feel deeply but lack the confidence and security to properly act on your beliefs.
Claudia – (wife of Pilate) must be open to the promptings and stirrings of God in your life and possess the personal confidence and conviction to share those stirrings and promptings without reservation even if others don’t respond in the manner you know is right.
Chief priests and leaders – cowardly, deceitful and dishonest…must prize authority, power and vanity over all things…must be willing to hush or squash all things that might interfere with personal security and position…must have a great ability to distort or ignore the truth in the name of personal security and achievement.
The Crowd – must be willing to go with the flow…acceptant of popular opinion and able to be swept up in the culture no matter the consequence of your actions…must be unwilling to form, voice or defend a clear sense of right, wrong, truth or justice.
So…which part fits best? If you’re like me, as you study the list you can see yourself in lots of roles…but that isn’t a positive thing. The roles I desire most seem to be the places where I give my most lack-luster performances and as much as I look hatefully upon some of the characters, I sometimes see myself in their role. This week isn’t as much a “reliving” of an event as it is a “reflection” on their power to transform us into Christians, who love more tenderly, appreciate more deeply, sacrifice more obediently and repent more wholeheartedly. It’s a week to be drawn in by the overwhelming and overpowering love of the Savior who endured all of this for US while contemplating the reality of the fact that our sins did this to Him. It’s not a regular week, it has a title for a reason, make it your mission this week to live like you know this week is different, it’s Holy!
A Seed To Plant: Make a plan right this minute for the way your actions and behaviors will make this week different. Decide what to put aside this week, what to pick up this week and include plans for reading the Gospel accounts of this week.
Blessings on your day!
My God my God, why have you abandoned me. Matthew 27:46
I had a Holy Week post all planned but then life took a different turn. Readers can always count on reality and raw truth when they stop by to read the Joyful Words blog. Another thing you can count on is that from time to time the post isn't exactly joyful; today is one of those days. The scripture verse from Matthew has real meaning for our small town this week and I think God has a reply to those of us pondering the way that verse relates to the lives of the hurting. When a beautiful couple in their late forties heads off on a spring vacation and they die in a tragic accident on their way, you have questions for God!
Jim and Tonya were full of life. They were great parents, great neighbors and great friends. They worked hard, prayed hard and played hard. They raised three wonderful kids to young adulthood. They spent years going to games and school events supporting their kids and everyone else kids right along with their own. Tonya always came with her bubbly personality and her infectious smile and Jim was always good for a great laugh. I’ll never forget being at a baseball game huddled under blankets watching our sons play baseball on a 35 degree spring day in Michigan. It was so cold the boys were actually wearing the coats that came with their uniforms. Those coats were so old that Jim shouted to the players to check their pockets and see if they could find a “Vote for Regan” button. Loosing Jim and Tonya will leave a hole in this community for sure!
Tonya was one of the blogs biggest supporters and most Monday and Thursday mornings she would be the first “like” or comment on a new post. More than once I have thought that the blog might have “run it’s course” and just as if she knew, she would call or message me and randomly offer the encouragement I needed to keep writing. A couple of years ago I wrote a post at the beginning of Lent that touched Tonya’s heart. It’s funny that the words from that post, offer comfort and hope to my heart tonight. That post talked about a simple way to approach difficulties and call on God’s help. It seems completely relevant today so I’ll share that prayer and how we might use it to find hope and peace as we lean hard on God this week. The prayer is four simple lines; I can’t, You can, You promised, Please do.
I Can’t …I can’t understand, I can’t comprehend, I can’t believe all that happened in the blink of an eye. I can’t believe you could let this happen, I can’t imagine how difficult it will be for those three kids and the families that loved them. I can’t do anything right now…but I don’t have to…because YOU will.
You Can…You can bring triumph out of tragedy, you can make all things new, you can bring hope to the hopeless and comfort to those who suffer greatly. You can bring mercy and grace and forgiveness to any circumstance or situation if we invite you in. Please come Jesus, we need you…we need all you can do, and will do in the grief and the hurt.
You Promised…You promised to never leave us, and to always love us. You promised that if we trust in you, goodness and blessing will follow us all of our days. When you created us in your image, and claimed us in the waters of Baptism, you made the promise of eternal life with you. You promised and we will remind ourselves that you are a God who always keeps his promises.
Please Do…Please do what you promised and wrap Jim and Tonya in your loving arms and grant them eternal rest. Please rain down your comfort and your love and your understanding on all those who are hurting. Please give us hope and strengthen our faith. Please do a great job loving us hard and putting people in our path that will support and love and care for the ones with hearts heavy with grief.
I know Tonya prayed this prayer often and I know she shared it with others, especially with her son Hayden. The prayer touched his heart too; so much in fact, he has those four simple lines tattooed on his arm as a constant reminder of what to do and how to call on the Lord. I still giggle about the night he texted me and asked me to proofread the words before he got it inked on his arm; he told me he wanted to make sure he’d always remember the words. From now on I think I’m going to call it “Tonya’s Prayer” and I’ll think of it as her final lesson.
As we focus this Holy Week on these words from Jesus, we have to remember that God didn't abandon His Son and He will never abandon us. His love and mercy are far greater than our emotions. In those moments when the pain and the grief make us feel alone and abandoned, those are precisely the moments we need to be assured of the Father's presence and his desire to meet us in the middle of the pain and messiness of our life.
A Seed To Plant: Please take a minute to offer prayers for the souls of Jim and Tonya and for their children Halie, Hayden and Reece as well as the rest of their families.
Blessings on your day!
Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink or about your body, what you will wear. Matthew 6:25
If I asked you to make a list of the top ten things you worry about, what would it look like? Stop for a second and bring a few of your worries to mind….Why do we spend so much time worrying? What do you suppose brings it all on in the first place? I actually know a few folks who could be professional worriers. I’ve met people who worry if they can’t think of enough things to worry about. It’s a crazy thing but it’s so common.
I happened to meet a worrier extraordinaire on my flight home recently so I knew exactly what God was going to ask me to write about this week! In the span of about 10 minutes this poor woman who was the size of a pixie stick worried that her bag wouldn’t fit under the seat, that her toothpaste would squirt out of the tube due to changing air pressure, that her Diet Coke wouldn’t be served with ice, that the sweater in her bag would get too wrinkled, that her curling iron cord would get tangled and that the seat belt would be too small to fit around her itty bitty waist…that one made me laugh out loud and as I pointed to my already fastened seat belt… we both chuckled at the ridiculousness of that last concern. I asked her if she often felt joyful and she looked at me like I had two heads and replied, “I don’t have time to be joyful, I have too much to worry about for that!”
This passage from Matthews Gospel is one of many that warn against unnecessary worry. Jesus was teaching that too much worry is a clear sign of not enough trust! Yes, we are going to be concerned about things and ponder and pray about our children, our finances, our future and when we will next have dessert, God knows that but he expects us to lift those concerns to him and faithfully ask him to take charge…and he will…in his time…in his wisdom and in his way.
I was glancing at my boarding pass as we landed in Chicago and Mrs. Worry Wart glanced down at it and nearly hyperventilated. She told me there was absolutely no way I could make my connection 3 terminals away in such a huge airport in less than an hour. “Aren’t you worried, it’s late, you’re gonna miss your flight and you’ll never get home tonight, you’ll have to sleep in the airport and someone might steal your things while you doze off sitting in the uncomfortable chairs, what will you do?” I smiled at her and said, “Sister, God invited me to go on this trip and spread a little of his word and he knows my middle lovelies need me tomorrow morning so I am certain that he will help me glide my chubby hind parts three terminals over in time to get on the plane and make it home tonight.” “How can you be so sure about that?” came her reply. I smiled, touched her hand and said, “Because the God who made us and loves us takes care of everything perfectly when we let him. He depends on us to love him and if we’re too busy worrying, we don’t have as much time for that as we should.” I made it to my gate with several minutes to spare so I sat down to tell him thank you!
My friends, worry robs us of peace, it strips us of our joy and it erodes our trust. When we were little, our mom’s told us not to touch the stove because it was harmful and dangerous. In scripture our Father tells us the same thing about worry. We listened to our mom’s but how are we doing with listening to our Father? Jesus told the Women of Jerusalem on his way to Calvary not to worry even while he could see his own cross. I’m sure nothing I could worry about could even compare so I think I’d better pay attention. Charles Spurgeon, a famous preacher used to say, “ Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its trials; it simply empties today of its joy.” Great food for thought as we get ready to begin Holy Week.
A Seed To Plant: Lift your list of worries to the Lord and ask him to help you swap worry for trust!
Blessings on your day!
…the Lord set his heart on you and chose you…Deuteronomy 7: 7
It was on page 35 of the Sears Christmas Toy Catalog and I had it circled, folded and flagged with a yellow yarn book mark. I was 8 and I had my heart set on that Barbie Dream House. I had a spot all picked out in my tiny little bedroom to put it and all I could think about was the hours of fun I would have playing with that perfect gift. Knowing how much I wanted it and knowing how far it was out of our family budget my mom loving explained to me before Christmas that I would need to choose something else to wish for because it just wasn’t possible. She didn’t use many words, just a few lovingly spoken. She knew I would just need time to be disappointed and then life would move on. After a few hours she helped me move past the sting. She came into the kitchen with a giant box, some fabric, supplies and a giant smile. We proceeded to sit together at the kitchen table for the afternoon and create a homemade Barbie Dream House complete with furniture and curtains in the windows. When we were finished she put it in my room and said she hoped I’d remember it as a lesson on setting my heart on things that were more important than shiny stuff.
This verse from Deuteronomy reminds me of that beautiful afternoon and the love that spilled from a mothers heart. I stopped to realize that if my mom could love me that much, and her love is only a sliver of the love our Father has for us; I think I’m underestimating some things. You know, I have no idea what I asked for that Christmas because whatever it was, paled dramatically in comparison to the doll house mom and I made that winter afternoon. I suppose God tries to show me that truth a dozen times a week and I’m so focused on what I have MY heart set on that I forget that HE has his heart set on ME! What could I possibly want more than that.
We are busy, we are smart, we are involved, we are parents, children, teachers, farmers and dozens of other things. We fuss about getting ahead and doing better, making more money and achieving success and titles. We are so many things but I give so little thought to the fact that above all the other stuff; I am CHOSEN! Not just chosen for the team or the part or the position but for HIM…HE chose US! I don’t know about you but that kind of makes my heart skip a beat when I think about it. We’re not some random clump of cells that was spun into existence by a nameless, faceless creator…We were chosen, created and KNIT in our mothers womb perfectly and lovingly. How’s that for an antidote to not feeling very important. We matter because we’re his!
God's participation in our life didn’t end with our creation. Once we were created and born into earthly life the relationship didn’t end…he has his heart set on us! He wants us, he desires our happiness and our relationship with him. That all seems a pretty small thing for him to ask. He isn’t asking us to swim the ocean or climb Mr. Everest to prove we love him, he simply wants our time, our love and our attention. He asks that we show his love to others, speak to him daily in prayer and live as if we realize how adored we are by the one who created us.
I’m way older than 8 but when I read this verse, I think I know what my mom really meant. She showed me what was more important than shiny new things; she showed me that love, communication, generosity and the gift of simple time were the things to set our heart on. God is asking the same thing. As we wrap up this last week of lent and get ready to celebrate Holy Week, it seems like the perfect time to think about the things we have our heart set on.
A Seed To Plant: What are three things you can do this week to “choose God” and set your heart on him?
Blessings on your day!
Out of his fullness, we have all received grace in place of grace already given. John 1:16
I had a teacher in elementary school who asked a dozen times a day if we had crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s. It was her way of asking if we had looked things over and taken care of the details. The older I get, the more I realize how much the little details matter. The tiny stuff can take something from good to amazing! I’ve had a week to process my trip to New York and I realize it was so packed with extras that I feel like a spoiled kid on Christmas morning. My trip was sprinkled with amazing people, beautiful encounters with the work of the Father and so many perfectly arranged details it has left my cup absolutely running over! I hopped a plane and headed off to “give” but when I got back home I realized I “received” so much more than I “gave”. The Lord introduced me to a giver, an entertainer, a doer, some shepherds and a whole lot of beautiful disciples . All of these people touched my heart and just by doing what they are naturally gifted to do, brought joy, light and the Love of God into my life.
The giver was the woman who brought me to New York. She is undoubtedly the most gentle, humble, giving soul I’ve ever met. She gives to everyone she meets with sincere generosity! She worked for months to arrange the details of the trip but when the event happened she quietly slipped into a church pew un-noticed. When the Father calls us to be humble, I’m thankful she showed me what that really looks like. When weather changed my trip home and took away the time I was going to spend getting a surprise to take home to the middle lovelies, she handed me a package to take home for them. From now on when I imagine my guardian angel swooping in to put all things in order at the height of my frazzle; I will see her sweet face!
The entertainer laughed easy and loved hard. She opened her home to me; a total stranger and welcomed me with loving hospitality, excellent meals and stories and conversation that made me laugh and think and cry. We shared coffee, tea, prayers, friendship and it all came so easy to her. Her mission was to serve and she did it with Martha’s flair sprinkled with Mary’s holy focus. I was truly touched by her genuineness and when I think about Jesus’ call to be last of all and servant of all, I will remember she gave me a powerful lesson in exactly what that should look like.
The doer was like a whirling dervish that showed up out of nowhere with a bright Italian smile and just put things in order. She could zoom in on the details and add a creative flair before I even realized something was missing. This beautiful soul hauled equipment, hung signs, made things pretty and prayed for us all without missing a beat. She was so full of passion and life you couldn’t help but feel energized standing next to her. When Pope Francis challenged us to not be “pew potatoes” or “believers with sour faces” this lady followed his direction perfectly.
The shepherds were so amazing! I was so blessed to meet seven fabulous priests and a few delightfully joyful nuns who so truly loved their work for the Lord. Each one of them had a set of gifts and graces that allowed them to love and serve the Lord and his people in a unique way. They made me laugh, they made me think and they called and inspired me to go out into the deep. Some led with humor, some inspired with a sense of holiness you could almost feel and each had a passion and a loyalty to their parish flock. I watched them have loving conversations, pray powerfully with troubled and hurting people, and greet and welcome with the true passion and love of Jesus. I enjoyed watching the way their combined gifts shepherded three parishes of believers.
Finally, there were the disciples. I met people of all ages and stages. They shared their stories and trusted the middle lovelies and I with their prayer requests. They came out in the cold each evening to enjoy prayer and fellowship and walk toward Christ together. I got to spend time with students and teachers and at a luncheon in a room filled with beautiful faith filled women. They were so quick to share their story and their struggles and their discoveries about the ways Christ was working in their life. I was touched by their honesty, their openness and I’m so completely grateful that God gave me a front row seat to the incredible things he was doing in their hearts.
The lessons, the grace, the laughter; they were laid out like a banquet right before me and all I had to do was open my eyes and soak in the beauty of HIS beloved children. Are your eyes open to the gifts and graces the people in your path have to share and teach? Open your eyes…God is great with the details!
A Seed To Plant: Be on the lookout today for a lesson in generosity, kindness, service or prayerfulness.
Blessings on your day!
Then He said, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily…” Luke 9:23
I know two women who battled cancer. Upon diagnosis the first woman said, “Why me God, I’ve tried to lead a good life, why would you punish me like this?” The second woman said, “Well God, why not me! I’m sure you could have picked someone holier and stronger but you didn’t so please show me how to use this suffering to bring me and those who love me closer to You.” I know for a fact that the second woman clung to this passage from Luke’s Gospel like a life raft; that woman was my mom!
If the greatest, purest, holiest most awesome man to ever walk this earth experienced suffering, pain and anguish what in the world makes us think we should be exempt? Time and again I greet inconveniences and small sufferings with distain instead of embracing them and allowing them to help me grow in faith. Little things like a car that won’t start, a checkbook that won’t balance and a pile of dirty laundry that multiplies at the speed of light are my crosses to bear. Some days I’m a lousy cross bearer! I like to wiggle and whine and pout. I like to climb on my soap box and lament the fact that if my family appreciated me and respected me the way I deserved I would get a little more help and cooperation. Truth is, loving and serving my family with my whole heart is part of my vocation as a mother and sometimes it is exactly the cross I am called to bear.
My mother always said,” The greatest way to serve God is to serve others; so go fold the socks and serve God!” It truly takes a servants heart to take up our daily crosses. The burdens and sufferings of our days are meant to help us depend on the love of the Father. The harder we lean on Him as we bear our crosses, the more united we become to Him and the less important our needs, wishes and desires become. My mom understood that completely and lived that understanding beautifully right to the end!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the crosses you need to “take up”. Ask God to help you see how to do it gracefully and faithfully. Make a note of someone in your life that bears a heavy cross in an inspiring way and think about what you can learn from their example.
Blessings on your day!
And behold I am with you always… Matthew 28:20
I’m always fascinated when I see a crime show on TV and the investigators go through the process of dusting, taping and analyzing finger prints. It’s just utterly amazing to me that there are millions and millions of people on this earth yet none of us has the same fingerprint. How is that possible? We’re not talking about a large area of skin to create unique patterns…our fingertip is really small but yet each of us has a print that is completely different! When my students ask me how that can be, I smile and tell them, “It’s so amazing only God could do that!”
A couple years ago, several homes in our area were broken into; ours included. I watched as the Sherriff’s Deputy dusted many spots in our home with the grey finger print powder I’d seen the detectives use on TV. It was so interesting to watch the prints become clearly visible as the powder was brushed over an area. It was almost as if they had appeared out of thin air. I watched with such interest, I think the Sheriff’s Deputy must have thought I was nuts! He was so immune to the process, I’m sure he had done it hundreds of times but being a “first timer” I found it so interesting.
The uniqueness, with which God created millions and millions of different finger prints, is the same uniqueness with which He loves and cares for each of us. Like that Sherriff’s Deputy, it’s easy to become immune to the ways God leaves His finger print on our days. Very often His finger prints can be so gentle and slight they go completely un-noticed. We can get busy about our everyday tasks and not realize how many times God leaves His prints as He organizes every detail of our day. He guides and guards and blesses us constantly and we are often unaware. The very fact that we and those we love arrive home safely at the end of each day is a really big finger print but sometimes we need a dusting of that grey powder to make us see.
There are times when God leaves His print on us for the sole purpose of passing it on to someone else. Sometimes seemingly random people, often people I don’t even know very well, will pop into my head and I get the sense I should pray for them and maybe email or call them to tell them I’m praying for them. I start with the praying part and hope that’s good enough…but more often than not, I get a stronger sense that I need to make contact and tell them they have been prayed for. Out of the dozens of times I’ve responded to that nudge from God, never once have I had a person react negatively…the response has always been one of gratitude, joy and comfort. I sent an email once to a woman in South Dakota who I had been put in contact with when I first started this blog. We had exchanged two or three business like messages and then out of the blue one morning in prayer I got a strong sense that I should pray AND tell her I’d prayed. So, after some “toddler like” feet dragging, I sent the message and within hours she replied and said she had been “overwhelmed and overloaded” with a project she felt God calling her to do. She had prayed that God would give her assurance that she was on the right track and shortly after that, she opened the message telling her she had been lifted up in prayer. She told me later that at that moment God’s love for her was confirmed and she faithfully pressed forward with the task, recognizing God’s finger print fully stamped on her day! The next time you are tempted to say something was “good luck” or “coincidence” take a minute to thank God for what it really was…His finger print on your day!
A seed to plant: Keep a piece of paper handy today and jot down each and every time God touches your day with His loving finger print. Make sure it’s a long piece of paper because once you purposefully start looking for all those finger prints, you’ll be amazed at how many times a day it happens!
Blessings on your day!
Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
I am writing from the dining room table of a beautiful new friend from New York’s “North Country”. I’m here in this beautiful place presenting a Parish Mission for the 3 Catholic Churches in the city of Plattsburgh. It’s been a delightful trip so far and I just had to share a little bit.
I flew into Vermont Friday night and God is good, it was one part of the north east that wasn’t affected by Friday’s costal storms so the trip was smooth as could be. Traveling from Vermont to New York I got to ride my first car ferry. It wasn’t quite the Love Boat but it was a cool adventure. As I got out of the car to climb up and take a few pictures of the Adirondack mountains I was a little stunned to look down and see this ferry filled with rows of cars sailing across lake Champlain. I took a moment to thank God for giant ships that float…however that works!
God really has plunked me in the middle of some amazing people. As I toured the churches and met the pastors on Saturday I was overwhelmed with their passion, their faith and their incredible good humor. I’ve laughed so much! The churches are old and gorgeous and their history tells such a beautiful story. Each parish has a captivating sense of pride and family. God is truly stirring among these beautiful people. I learned that the Italian marble used in one of these stunning churches had to be purchased twice. The first order was loaded aboard a ship and set sail for America. Unfortunately, the ship that was carrying it was the Titanic and the churches beautiful Italian Marble sunk with her. I thought that was an incredible story of disappointment, tragedy, hard work and persistence. I ran my hands over the smooth marble that came to this country from Italy more than a hundred years ago and I thought about all the stories it could tell.
Tonight we talked about the Father’s amazing love for us. He’s waiting for us…just as we are…just where we are. He’s waiting to meet us in our brokenness. He’s waiting to meet us in the present; not the future, not the past but right here and right now. As we pray the Lord’s Prayer we say, “give us this day our daily bread…” It says give us THIS DAY, our daily bread, not last weeks or next weeks but THIS DAY! He’s right here today; don’t to forget to tell him hello and invite him to join you in this day. He’s waiting to help us discover the joy of living in his love. He’s gazing down at you right this very moment with such tenderness and love. Don’t forget to pause a minute and look up at him and let him love you.
A Seed To Plant: Please say some prayers for these wonderful people. Pray that they will be flooded by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Blessings on your day!
…and Jeremiah sunk down into the mud. Jeremiah 38:6
My oldest brother and I had a favorite thing to do when we were little. It involved a couple illegal ingredients for little kids. The event was so secret it had to take place behind the shed where mom could’t see, but it was worth all the secrecy! In our back yard, we had an old cement fish pool. Before dad filled it in with dirt and mom made it a flower garden, it used to collect rain water. If we could get out to play before the water drained through the cracks in the cement, we could scoop up our first ingredient; water. Dirt; the second ingredient was easier to find. The third magic ingredient was the tricky one! If we could get rain water and dirt we knew all we needed was shaving cream. Our house was tiny so sneaking out the door with two handfuls of shaving cream squirted as quietly as possible from dads shaving cupboard took some skill. When we managed to pull it off we’d create the worlds best mud pies in the back of Jim’s big yellow Tonka Dump Truck. With sticks to stir and army men and toy animals to stick in the mud pie, we were set for a long afternoon of great fun! When I became a mother myself, it occurred to me that mom probably knew exactly what we were doing and just enjoyed the peace and quiet and maybe even the thought of her oldest two playing together happily.
When I read this line about the Prophet Jeremiah, I remembered the sight of all those toys sticking in the mud pies we used to make. It got me to thinking about the times we get stuck in the mud ourselves. Sometimes we wallow and struggle and just dig in deeper. Sometimes we get stuck because of the choices we make and sometimes we get stuck as a result of the choices others make. The good news is, mud is different than cement. We can get out! It might take some work but it’s always worth the struggle.
Last Saturday our home parish hosted a Lenten Ladies Conference and the speakers were beautiful, faith filled, inspiring women. All of them shared stories of times and events in their life that could easily have left them stuck in the mud and mess. Some had experienced tragic loss, some had overcome personal battles and all of them were trying to team up with Jesus to get through the everyday messiness of life without getting stuck. Their stories and their perseverance were powerful. They choose not to stay stuck in the pain, sorrow, frustration and everyday annoyances that plague us all. The beautiful thing is that they all came out of the mud and the mess changed. They allowed their experiences to make them stronger, wiser, more prayerful and more trusting. God doesn’t want us to stay right where we are. The truth is, we are either moving toward him or away from him, never staying just where we are. Staying just where we are is like being stuck in the mud and the Father wants us to ask him for help to get unstuck so we can move closer to him.
A Seed To Plant: Are you stuck? What are you stuck in the middle of right now that is preventing you from moving closer to the Father? Hold out your hand and ask him to pull you out!
Blessings on your day!
…”Saul Saul why do you persecute me.” Acts 1:4
I learned something new and it’s been bubbling in my heart for a few weeks. Since I’m a little long on tasks and a little short on writing minutes I thought I’d share this little tidbit with all of you and let you ponder on it a little.
The story of Saul to Paul is powerful and packed full of lessons. Saul sought power and fame. He was on a mission to exert his superiority over every Christian he could sniff out. I’m sure his name was known by many and feared by many as well. For the life of me I can’t imagine wanting to be feared, desiring to conquer others and to achieve greatness because of it. Saul was big stuff and I think he liked it that way.
I was searching for videos to use for morning prayer with the staff at school and came across a clip of Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s movie Passion of the Christ. In this clip he said Saul means; great one and Paul means; little one. One little letter changes and the difference is enormous. Isn’t it funny that after his powerful conversion Saul who sought to be great in the eyes of the world became Paul who wrote, taught, prayed and led us all to learn to be little. The holy are little, the kind are little, the saints were little. I realized everyone I try to be like in my daily life is little in terms of earthly standards.
As I pondered the difference between being great in the eyes of the world and being little in the eyes of the Father, I suddenly felt the weight lift from my shoulders because being little seemed so much more important and doable than trying to please the world; live up to it’s standards and concern myself with position and power. So, my word of the year is BE and now I am inspired to BE LITTLE!
A Seed To Plant: Where will you be little this week?
Blessings on your day!
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