Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
*This story is a re-post but it bears very strange resemblance to the day I had yesterday so I figured it was a story worth retelling…maybe this time I’ll get the lesson!
This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
The alarm went off at 4:40 just like every morning and I slapped it off the nightstand trying to turn it off. That meant I had to get out of bed immediately so it would stop its annoying beeping before it woke my husband up. I stumbled to the kitchen to make coffee and discovered I was out of filters…amazing what you can do with a paper towel! Then I went to the shower only to discover after becoming all wet and drippy that the shampoo bottle was empty. Luckily my prayer time was free of any disaster. After prayers, I went into the bathroom to finish getting ready for the day and proceeded to drop my toothbrush into the toilet, and my open lipstick onto the bathroom rug, leaving a spot of lovely “dusty wine” for all to see. I moved onto lunch packing. (Yes, the Wohlferts are all big enough to pack their own, but I pray for each of them while I pack their lunch so it’s a good thing) Somehow I managed to put mustard on a peanut butter sandwich and grape jelly on ham. Thank goodness I caught that before the bags left the house! I wrapped up my morning in the house by dropping my peanut butter toast gooey side down on the kitchen floor. As I made my way to the garage, I realized someone had left the garage door open and the barn cats had made a visit to the house. They had feasted on the goodies found in the now shredded bag of garbage. As I flew to the end of the driveway, I nearly barreled into a milk truck. I slammed on the brakes in the nick of time spilling my coffee all over my jacket.
I drove down the road thinking…ok God…really...this is the day you made? You need a do-over on this one! The longer I drove; the more I thought about the past two hours and my response shifted from pout and pity to pure, belly deep, tearful laughter! I couldn’t believe one morning could have so many hiccups! My morning had been like a comic strip of disaster but the second half of this verse from Psalm 118 says rejoice and be glad in it! I decided when I got to school; I’d make a quick stop at the church to ask God if we couldn’t come to some kind of agreement about the rest of the day. While I sat there in the silence of our beautiful church, I realized it was probably me who needed the do-over. I had been distracted that morning and my prayers were more of a laundry list of favors and complaints than sincere conversation. I began to realize as I slowed down a minute, He had used the events of the morning to draw me closer. He was teaching…He just had to get creative to get my attention! I walked into my classroom with a broad smile ready to start over. When I said hello to the first little lovely who came through the door, she smiled and said, “I’m so glad when I woke up today it was a school day.” I smiled and said, "Me too!" Now that was something to be glad about! That was my sign that the Lord really had made that day and that in spite of lipstick stains on the rug, a toothbrush swirling in the toilet and the coffee stain on my jacket, I had WAY more to be glad and rejoice about than to be pouty and grumpy about. He had my full attention for the remainder of the day!
A seed to plant: Make this verse a part of your morning prayers. If you begin each day looking for the stuff to be glad and rejoice about, the rest of it will seem easier to swallow.
Blessings on your day!
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Matthew 25: 31-33
Well, this is the day…the first day of school and the first day with a new batch of middle lovelies! Even after all these years, the first day of school is always a mix of excitement, anticipation, nervousness, and joy. It’s sad to see summer come to a close but I’m ready to get back to what I love. I sometimes look back on those years I stayed home with the three little Wohlferts and I wouldn’t trade those years for anything but as a teacher I get to witness so many great parents in action and I realize I could have really benefited from their example in my own parenting.
In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus is separating the sheep; the obedient loving followers from the rebellious, stiff necked, defiant goats. Now, anybody who reads this scripture want to be a sheep for sure! In fact, most of our journey to Christ centers on being more “sheeplike” so we wind up at his right hand. This parable came to mind last week during open house when I visited with a really great mom. I’ve had the privilege of teaching a few of her children and they are completely cool kids; knowing the parents explains it all.
Since I still have a dozen details to take care of before the lovelies arrive I have just a simple thought for you to ponder and pray with today. I always ask my students how their parents help form their discipleship and the son of the mom I mentioned had an awesome reply. He told us that when he and his siblings leave the house, his mom yells to them, “Have a good day and DON’T BE A GOAT!”
Four simple words…don’t be a goat! How’s that for a living color example of walking as a disciple!
A Seed To Plant: Make yourself a little sign that says Don’t Be A Goat! Then take some prayerful time to identify the places in your life you act a little more like a goat than a sheep.
Blessings on your day!
Be anxious about nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
I’m a pretty big fan of the “Gospel according to Sheri”. In other words, I often like to do things my own way, predict the ending I fancy and try to arrange every detail along the way. I can count the number of times that has worked well on one hand; and they were probably just happy accidents. Last week I was at a parenting crossroad an questioning his plan when I happened upon this verse and it was a beautiful reminder that he has a job and so do I. His job is to manage the universe and each life he created and my job is to let him do his job. Seems pretty simple don’t you think?
Many of us are at a parenting crossroad as I see post after post on Facebook about taking kids off to college and staring Kindergarten or the last year of high school, this verse just rings in my mind and echoes in my heart. It reminds me that our kids were designed to grow up not live in our basement until they were 30. Our kids were meant to learn, grow, travel and live. They are going to meet people and make friends; some will shape their character and some will test it. They are going to make great decisions steeped in the love and wisdom we’ve slathered them with and they will most likely make some not so great decisions and those will be where the real learning takes place. Independence is a great thing until we watch our kids creep away from us and use it! I’ve always heard people talk about growing pains but I didn't expect parents to be the ones who suffered from them the most!
Our daughter Shannon left last week for a semester in Austria. She will see more than a dozen countries, climb mountains, do mission work in Romania, attend Mother Theresa’s Canonization, see Pope Francis, study art in the Sistine Chapel, visit Poland and see the birth and death places of some of the holiest people of the century; just to name a few items on her schedule. I would love to be her but I will be content to live the experiences through her SnapChats, Facebook posts and the endless stories she will come home with. It’s so amazing but the fact remains that my little girl is living in another country for 4 months. I’m thankful that I’m not a worrier or this whole thing might make me a little nuts but there have been moments when I’ve clung to this verse and felt so much comfort. On the night she was flying to Europe I didn’t sleep much so I spent a lot of time praying with these words from the letter to the Philippians. I did what the verse told me, I thanked him for the restlessness and for her opportunity. I asked him to keep her safe and bless her experience. I asked him to guard her and draw her closer to his Son. Each time I woke up I hit repeat and did it again, thanking him for waking me up to be with him. Through that process of trusting, there came great peace. In the middle of that long night, I grabbed a pencil and paper and these thoughts just tumbled out. I’m sure they are from him because I would not be writing in a notebook at 2 in the morning just for my own amusement. I hope they just might come in handy no matter what new crossroad you find yourself at this day.
*Your child is mine…I love them more than you and I will care for them today and every day after.
*I parted a sea, I can make sure your child has someone to play with at recess.
*I put a piece of me inside them, just ask me to help it shine through them.
*Being mine is far more important than being on the team or the homecoming float so help them keep their priorities straight.
*The more time you spend in worry, the less time you spend in trust.
*I always know what’s best…it isn’t always easiest but it’s best because best is getting to heaven and only I know that path for your child.
*My plans for them far exceed yours…let me do my work and just pray for your child to cooperate.
*Tell them you love them but make sure they know I love them even more.
*Truth trumps popularity every single time so demand honesty.
*You can’t pass the test unless you do the lessons…and some lessons are really hard…let them do the work, especially when the lesson is hard.
*Trust me, thank me; when things are easy and when they are hard; don’t worry, I’m a very reliable Father!
*Pray for them and pray with them, speak my name together and often.
*My love isn’t attached to being first, best, beautiful, popular or perfect so please don’t let your love be either.
*It’s not your job to constantly rescue and save your child, one particular Friday my Father watched me suffer through something really awful that turned out pretty awesome! I knew he was there but he didn’t do it for me.
*Everything in life isn't easy...but everything isn't hard either; know that I'm there loving you through it all.
*If your child needs someone; I'll always get there first, teach them my call sign...JESUS COME!
A Seed To Plant: Write this verse on a post it and stick it somewhere you’ll see it when you worry then pick a couple things from the list that hit your heart or that might touch someone you know who is worried about a child and ask the Father to help you put it in motion.
Blessings on your day and on your Children’s backpack wherever they may be taking it this fall!
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24
I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make things better. Sometimes loving Christians carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and run around with pure hearts trying to save the world. I was speaking with someone not long ago and they were completely exasperated because of all the nasty stuff and unkind people in the world that didn’t act like they knew a thing about Jesus. The whole conversation made my heart heavy and I realized I'm surprised at the things some folks think they have the right to say to others. All too often someone will spout off a rude remark and when called on it, they snip back with a comment about free speech and being entitled to their own opinion I’ve been noticing a growing number of “ugly words” lately so as I sat with that on my heart, God pointed me to this verse from Proverbs.
If you are someone who likes to make things better, this is the verse for you! I realized after reading it a few times, I had the process all wrong! It really isn’t about “fixing” the words and actions of others! I can be upset by it, I can pray about it, I can even take a stand about it…but the truth of the matter is this…I can’t do a darn thing to change it! Change has to come from within…change has to be desired. If I’m busy trying to change someone else, I’m guaranteed only one thing…disappointment! Besides, my Mom would remind me I should keep my nose in my own business anyway. When I read this verse again this morning the solution to the problem became crystal clear…I have to change MY behavior. I can’t change someone else’s snappy rude tongue…but I can be in charge of my own. I can make sure my words are pleasant and sweet like honeycomb. God didn’t put me in charge of the world, the state, the county or even the town…He put me in charge of just this one person and after some prayerful time with this verse, I know exactly where I need to begin. What if we actually realized that every word we speak could be healing? What if each sentence we uttered were crafted with that intent? That would be pretty remarkable don’t you think?
The simple power of this Proverb was illustrated through a story I read not long ago. I had actually forgotten about the story until I was writing this post. The story involved a mom of six kids under 9. She and her husband have a deep commitment to the Lord and promised to accept lovingly all the children He chose to bless them with. They love their life but the rude remarks from others can sometimes be heartbreaking to this mom. She was telling the story about a disastrous grocery store adventure with her babies that had 5 of the six kids crying by the check-out lane. She was completely frazzled and on the edge of tears herself. Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, a woman stopped next to her and she braced herself for an ugly comment or rude remark about her large family but instead the two sentences spoken at that perfect moment changed her day completely. The woman looked directly at the frazzled mom and said, “Bless you for saying yes! These are lucky children because they will have the courage of their mother and lady; you’ve got a lot of that because I’m not even brave enough to bring one of mine shopping with me!” They shared a laugh and the frazzled mom was lifted…two little sentences is all it took! One sweet word, one kind gesture completely absent of judgment or criticism or opinion worked magic. I may not be able to change the world but I can work harder at speaking kindly to everyone I meet and that just might change a thing or two all on its own.
A Seed To Plant: Randomly speak three kind sentences this week!
Blessings on your day!
Consider it all joy, my brothers when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Consider trials JOY? What was St. James thinking when he wrote this? Upon first glance at this verse we might be tempted to wonder if the beloved Saint put in a few too many prayerful “all-nighters” because surely he wasn’t serious about feeling joyful when the washer breaks, someone you love gets sick, the fuel pump on the car goes out or the sweet teenager in your home eats the last piece of peach pie you were hiding…I mean saving, in the back of the fridge! Joy…I don’t think so! And what about the really big stuff like losing your job or serious illness, surely he couldn’t have meant those things could bring joy. I suppose we could sit down and make a list of all the trials that have happened upon us in the past month and we would be overcome with many emotions, none of which would be joy!
The real meat of this verse is the part that explains what we can get in exchange for our trials…stronger faith and perseverance. Do you remember when you were young and you went home from school and complained about that boy who pulled your pigtails or the girl who annoyingly pointed out your every move to the teacher? The standard reply from home went something like this, “Well honey, if they didn’t like you they wouldn’t tease you.” This verse has a little bit of that flavor to it don’t ya think! God promised that we would have trouble…it is a guarantee, not a possibility. Even though we’ve read those words more than once, trials still seem to catch us by surprise. We sometimes even cop an attitude and think, “What, me…why me Lord? What have I done to deserve this difficulty?” We might even get really sassy and say, “Oh, pardon me Father, but you’ve made a mistake, I’ve already had 8 serious trials this month, I believe this current dilemma belongs to the neighbor or even better, the guy who cut me off in traffic this morning!”
The simple truth is, if He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t give us trials at all. Each difficulty or disappointment that knocks on our front door or barges right into our day is an opportunity to grow in trust or compassion or patience. When we throw up our hands in despair and say, “Ok God, I don’t know how to do this…I don’t think I’m strong enough for this, please guide me and guard me and love me through it!” we will grow in faith and perseverance plus we will be blessed with grace and mercy. I think what St. James was teaching us is that any time we surrender to the holy power of God, that’s joyful, and the blessing is more strength, more grace and more faith for the next thing! It seems strange to thank God for the lousy stuff but that is what we are called to do. We need to act like we are completely aware that He is about to do a might work through that trial if we would just stand back and let Him take us through it.
A Seed To Plant: The next time a trial comes your way, stop and thank God for it and ask Him to show you the joy in the situation.
Blessings on your day!
The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Proverbs 21:5
“Being a Christian is a bit like getting involved in the stock market!” What? Those were the opening words of the homily at Mass this morning and if I wasn’t paying complete attention before I heard those words I immediately snapped to attention! Money and faith aren’t usually a great combination; one usually offers the other complications so I was curious to see where this line of thinking was headed. I was also inclined to pay careful attention because I had the privilege of attending Mass in the Diocese of Saginaw this morning and Bishop Cistone was saying Mass so I wanted to pay attention and soak it all in. I’m actually on lunch break of the Hospitality training I get to offer to the fine folks of the Saginaw Diocese today and I just had to skip lunch to write this down because it was such a cool message. I sincerely hope the “Good Bishop” won’t mind me spitting out parts of his wonderful homily to all of you!
Here are a few of the great ideas I left the chapel with today. When we make an investment in the stock market we aren’t guaranteed the return we expect. We can’t predict with certainty what ride our investment will take. All we know for certain is there will be times of highs and times of lows. We also know that sinking money into the stock market is risky and you have to have a “stomach” for it. If you plunk in your money expecting gain after gain after gain you will be disappointed, frustrated and maybe even a nervous wreck. The seasoned investors know it’s about the long haul not the immediate return. They know to keep their eyes on what’s to come and not panic at every down turn along the way. The stock market takes faith, courage and trust that things will prosper in due time. The most successful investors also know there are lots of adjustments along the way. They also know that if they handle themselves with patience, diligence and faith the rewards on their investment will be amazing.
Isn’t all that true of our Christian walk? The most successful disciples aren’t afraid to make a sizeable investment; maybe even go “all in”. In our discipleship we know that the bigger the investment the bigger the return! In our walk with Jesus there will be gains and losses, there will be highs and lows. We need to keep our eyes on the end result…Heaven. If things start to go sour in our lives like loss, disappointment, sufferings and struggles of all kinds and we just loose our nerve and pull out thinking God has let us down, we will miss the return on our investment. Every time we trust and put our faith in the Father the return is far more plentiful than we can ever imagine. Being a Christian takes some nerve and some patience and the realization that every day won’t be lovely and predictable but through all the highs and lows God is there and the return on our investment will be of immensely higher value than anything we will ever chuck into the stock market. Thank you Bishop Cistone for a great image of discipleship.
A Seed To Plant: Take this analogy to prayer with you this week and see where God invites you to follow him. By meditating on the parallels he may have some great things to reveal to you…I know he’s got things bubblin in my head and heart.
Blessings on your day!
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Love me tender, love me true…raise you hand if you now have a 60 year old Elvis song stuck in your head. (If you're too young to know the song; google it!) That 1956 hit song created an image of a love dripping with sweetness and tenderness that melted hearts, made females swoon and prompted people to see love differently. The key word in that song was “tender” and after this song topped the charts the word then applied to more than just steak!
Pope Francis spoke to a crowd early in his Papacy and encouraged people to “love with aggressive tenderness”. He also spoke about the tenderness of St. Joseph and encouraged all Christians to imitate his loving tenderness. The dictionary defines tenderness as; gentleness or kindness; sensitivity to pain. It seems like a pretty great thing to be doesn’t it! In my mind there is something significantly different about treating someone nicely and treating someone tenderly. I’m telling ya, this word has caused me to do a lot of thinking the past few days. I always know when God puts something on my heart and he makes it clear when I should let some words about it spill out onto paper. I was washing dishes the other night thinking about all this tenderness stuff and I glanced over to the table and noticed a prayer book lying there. When I finished, I opened it up and read a page about a man named St. Poemen, he was an Abbot who lived in the 5th century. I sat down on the porch and read this short page and wondered, where is this going God? As I got to the last paragraph, the story was told about a young brother who asked Poemen what should be done with someone who nods off during prayer (I often do this so I was curious about the reply!) He answered, “When I see a brother overcome by sleep, I only wish I could pillow his head upon my knees, that he might rest the better.”
Nothing like an old song and a really old holy guy to slam you with a lesson! I couldn’t believe those words and there really isn’t any better word to describe Poemen’s response than tenderness. I sat there on the porch wondering if I had ever really shown true tenderness and I immediately saw my children as babies. I remembered lots of instances when I was tender to those three little people. I don’t recall ever entering the baby room at 3 am and screeching, “knock it off, just suck it up and go back to sleep I don’t care how wet your diaper is or how hungry you are!” I would have never done that, I just sleepily picked them up, comforted them and took care of them lovingly…tenderly because they needed me. Then I wondered why I didn’t look at others with the same tenderness. The BIG question became, how would the world be different if we were all more tender? What if our first thought was “what do you need to feel better” not “what is your problem?” God is so tender with us and I forget to tell him thank you for that. I suppose the best way of all to thank him is to love others with more tenderness.
As I was sitting at the island in the kitchen typing this blog wondering if it was the story to tell, Dave was in the living room watching the Olympics and a life insurance commercial came on and the background music for the commercial was, “Love Me Tender”. You just can’t make this stuff up so I hope God stirs up something big in your heart with the word tenderness.
A Seed To Plant: Write the word tenderness on a sticky note and give it some thought and prayer this week…see where the Lord leads you.
Blessings on your day!
His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever He tells you.” John 2:5
Would everyone who ever had a mother look into their eyes and say, “Just do it…because I said so!”, please stand up. If you are a reader who follows directions, you’re probably now reading this post standing up! Somewhere early in mamma school the women in my mother’s generation learned how to say that phrase with such authority and strength it was simply a conversation stopper! When my mom launched that phrase from her lips it was a done deal…mamma said do it…case closed! Lucky for me, my mother passed on the talent. As I fast forward lots of years I have said those same words to my own children at the end of a debate I had to come out the winner of. It’s like the motherhood trump card…do it because I said so!
Why is it so powerful…why does it work…why do we say it? I think the first thing that makes it so powerful is that it’s biblical…if Mary, the mother of Jesus could use the line successfully all mother (and fathers) should be encouraged to use it too! I think it works because it’s simple and I think we say it because we love our children and we know what’s best for them. Mary’s words had a deeper meaning; they were an invitation to the servers to be a part of something amazing that was about to happen. Mamma Mary knew great things were about to begin with her son…she knew best that night so she spoke those powerful words and the servants at that wedding did what they were instructed because Jesus’ mother “said so!”
These words from John’s Gospel have a strong tie to our lives even today. We are the servers…we are those called to be Christ’s hands and feet on earth. We are called to live and spread the Gospel message so Mary’s words are as relevant to us today as they were to the servers in Cana the night Jesus performed his first miracle. Our mothers told us to “do what they said” because they knew there was more to the situation than we could see. Mary knew that too. Mary knows that still. Whenever we hear the words in this Gospel message, we should be reminded to “do whatever He tells us”. That really is our job…to do whatever He tells us. He has every last detail about our life sealed in His heart why wouldn’t we listen and obey? We are a stubborn people. Lucky for us, we are reminded by Mary's words in this verse to do whatever Jesus tells us, and even luckier for us, because of God’s great love and wisdom, we are invited back again and again to try to do it the right way…the way He tells us.
A seed to plant: Before you go to bed tonight, recall a situation where you didn’t “do whatever He said”. Think about the outcome of that situation and prayerfully sleep on it. Tomorrow morning pick one tricky or difficult area in your life and specifically ask God to help “do whatever He tells you”.
Blessings on your day!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com