Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
And all this is from God who has reconciled himself to us through Jesus…2 Corinthians 5:18
A long time ago I had a co-worker who was difficult to work with. She was a bigger challenge than putting on panty hose on a hot August day! It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, how friendly I was or how efficient I became, I just couldn’t please her. Every day before work I would ask God to give me a heap of patience so I wouldn’t have boiling blood by noon. Most days I was at a slow simmer by 10 am and I would feel like God wasn’t listening or I just wasn’t trying hard enough. Luckily, it was just a summer job but I have never forgotten that experience. I remember it because just like that summer, there have been plenty of other times I have found myself in a pickle and I go into prayer asking God to give me patience or understanding or whatever the necessary grace might be and then I trot off to fix the situation. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I didn’t have it quite right. In his book God Help Me, Jim Beckman offered a thought that spun me around like a top!
“I was using a self-help approach to Christianity. I would diagnose myself and then, like a good doctor, prescribe myself a prescription like patience. Then I went to God and told him to fill the prescription. Is it any wonder nothing ever changed? The language itself is all wrong anytime we find ourselves telling God what to do we’re in trouble. At the very center of this self-help approach to prayer was ME, not GOD.” He goes on to explain that the whole mystery of our faith is realizing Jesus is the center, not us. We can never live a perfect life as humans but we can through Jesus. “God doesn’t want you to live the Christian life; if that’s what you think the invitation is, you’ve got it all wrong. He wants Jesus to live the Christian life in you! And through Jesus you are to become the very righteousness of God.”
When I did some serious thinking about this information, I realized that it wasn’t at all about the behavior of that tricky woman one summer a long time ago. It was about what Christ was trying to teach me about myself through her. He was inviting me to look deeply at myself so he could reveal and teach. I discovered looking back that I was angry and hurt at that point in my life and he was trying to get me to turn those things over to him, but I couldn’t or didn’t want to deal with that, I wanted to find another way out. Looking back it was like riding my bike into a wall every day and expecting it to move! He was trying to mend my heart and show me some truths, but I was wasting all my prayer time demanding he give me the tools to fix somebody else.
I’d like to say that I’m much older now and I’ve moved past such silly prayer mistakes but the truth is I needed these words right now just as much as I needed them that summer long ago. I need to stop complicating things and let God be God. I need to stop approaching prayer with a self-help attitude and begin to let God reveal and teach and love me; that takes an honest and open heart. Whew…I’ve got some work to do!
A Seed To Plant: Listen to your prayer words this week. Are you self-prescribing or letting God be the center?
Blessings on your day!
…for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
Sometimes it’s all in how you look at it! That little thought popped into my head as I was walking out the west facing living room door to hang up some laundry Saturday afternoon. It’s late September and that means the sunny west side of the house, including the screen door is plastered with box-elder bugs. I don’t know why they come every fall, I don’t know why they like the west sun and I certainly don’t know why they gather by the hundreds on my door.
As I was swatting my way through the cloud of bugs with my wet basket of wash, I had to giggle and realize it could be worse. Other than being annoying and puzzling those bugs don’t really harm anything. As I was hanging sheets and towels I began to think about how awful it would be if those pesky little things stung or bit or were filled with venomous spit or something…that would really be awful. I soon realized it really wasn’t such a bad thing at all. As I finished my task and headed to the house, I wondered how many other thing I was looking at all wrong; here’s my list.
*Teaching in 90 degree heat with a room full of kids that smell like sweaty pencils isn’t so bad when I consider what the folks who were in Harvey, Irma or Maria’s path are dealing with.
*Getting up to go to the bathroom a few times a night isn’t so bad when you consider all the folks that don’t have clean water to drink.
*The world if full of problems and knuckleheads. My concern should be not causing more problems, not worrying about the ones I can’t do anything about and certainly trying everything I can think of in order not to become another knucklehead!
*Lots of folks say we’re going to hell in a hand basket…I’m not gonna grab one of those baskets…I’ll just pick up a bag and keep on trying to head for heaven.
*Just because someone says so doesn’t make it true. I can waste lots of minutes trying to pick a side or I can just remember God is the author of truth and I only need to worry about picking his side.
*I’m rounder than I’d like, I’m shorter than I’d like, my life is not glamorous, I’m not rich, I don’t have a fancy anything but I have WAY more than I need, and WAY more than I deserve because I’m loved by a Father who spoils me rotten with his grace and mercy and love.
*Hot coffee, green grass, freedom to pray on my front porch, a clothes line to hang wash, a family I love and a job that challenges and delights me daily…I’m rich and more privileged than royalty!
Oh wait…I forgot…I am royalty because I am the daughter of the King of heaven and earth. It’s all in how you look at it!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the things that “bug” you and then flip them over and look at them another way.
Blessings on your day!
I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not. Isaiah 45:4
I had an amazing mom! However, she did sometimes call my brothers and I by the wrong name; which was highly curious since I look nothing like a Jim or a Joe. This little habit was something I said I’d never do as a mom. Unfortunately, I did it too, more times than I could count. Thank goodness we are loved by a Father who created us and calls us by name; the right name.
There is power in our name and we take pride in our titles; they’re a big part of our earthly identity. If I speak to my class and say “hey you” the response is very different than if I call a student by name. The Father doesn’t just know our name, he knows us; every gift, talent, struggle, sin and quirk. The title he has given us declares boldly and mightily his love for us; our title is; HIS beloved child. We don’t have to take a test, write an essay or prove anything to claim the title. We simply have to recognize that we are his beloved and spend each day getting to know him more deeply and love him more adoringly.
Our Father is so amazing we should set aside some time each day to discover something new about the One who created us, inspires us and calls us by name. The Father doesn’t call us by name because we’re famous or popular, he is personally inviting us to go forth and share his good news and demonstrate his love and mercy to others.
A Seed To Plant: Thank the Lord for loving you enough to know you by your name. Lord, help me remember how precious I am to you and grant me the grace to proclaim your name to those around me. For bonus points; say hello to ten people today and use their name.
Blessings on your day!
As one whom his mother comforts so I will comfort you. Isaiah 66:13
As I was driving in the car today pondering the current state of my motherhood, the song “Dear Younger Me” came on the radio and I was immediately a puddle of tears. My baby girl turned 21 on Saturday and it’s always a special day because she shares her birthday with my grandma. Grandma died just a few days short of her 90th birthday so when Shannon arrived on what would have been her Great Grandmas 90th birthday, I felt like God had given me an extra special gift. When my beautiful Irish aunts all told me Shannon was sent to take Grandma’s place, I felt extra grace to help her become as faithful, joyful and kind as the amazing woman she shares her special day with.
Fast forward 21 years and my babies are all grown up now. I blubbered a bit as I looked at their baby pictures, choosing just the right one to post on Facebook, but they weren’t tears of sadness or grief…they were tears of joy, relief and thankfulness. Joy that we have three adult children we are very proud of and that we really enjoy. Relief that we survived drivers training, orthodontics, awkward middle school stuff and discovering the path God picked for each of them. And thankfulness for all the graces, gray hair, lessons in patience and proud mamma moments along the way.
I took all that to Mass with me and watched a sight I’ve seen many many times unfold before my eyes. Mass had just begun when I spotted her…you’ve all seen her…that mom with the little one who at moments has the strength of Hercules. You know the mom I’m talking about…the one who walks in with a load of kids and stuff and looks exhausted before we even stand for the opening hymn. My heart is always touched by the moms who desperately want to look put together but all too often they rush out of their house wearing the only outfit that will fit over their beautiful body that is still shaped a little differently after bringing forth another miracle. I look across the aisle and see the mom who tried to do her hair in the 2.5 minutes she had to get herself ready after wrangling up all her little lovelies only to have it all messed up, pulled down and chewed on by the soggy fisted wee one in her arms. I notice the mom who had an extra 30 seconds and decided to accessorize only to have her beautiful necklace become a chew toy. I see the mom who is wearing her favorite color in the hopes of brightening up her tired complexion only to have it decorated with stripes of spit up down the front and back. I see the moms who are trying every thing they know from pacifiers to board books to cheerios and goldfish to keep their little one quiet in church but they end up frazzled, stared at and sporting the tell tale sweaty lip before mass is even half over.
As I thought back to my “young me” I decided she had some things to say. After nearly a quarter century of being a mom, here’s what I’d like the mom with the sweaty lip to know. You are beautiful and the fact that you got out of sweats or yoga pants and made it to mass with your family makes Jesus smile; don’t worry about the cranky person two pews back who doesn’t know that. I want you to know that growing babies leaves evidence; on your hips, belly and thighs and it’s BEAUTIFUL! You are beautiful because you are a walking sacrifice…every day. Women often give up flat bellies, tight buns and perky anything so another human can enter the world and then feel bad because they don’t look like they did when they were 16. Each roll and lump and wiggle tells the story of your YES to life. Just so you know, there are no body size specifications for entering heaven.
I wish the younger me would have know that babies are loud, they smell bad and they are messy…usually in public! They are also cute, funny, amazing and holy in the eyes of the Father who perfectly created them and gave them specifically to you! Our world is pretty crazy and bringing our wee ones to church is the greatest security measure we can offer their soul. They belong there and you belong there! We need you there, and the Father needs you there. You may walk out the door and not be able to recall a word the priest said, but the graces will be granted because you were there with your babies, trying to worship and praise God with your church family. That's what we’re called to do and he certainly doesn’t expect us or the infant and toddler we’re toting along to be perfect but present.
I see you tired and frazzled and wondering if it was all worth it and the older me says “YES IT IS! Please don’t stop coming to church!” I see you sweat, I see the spit up, I see your patience sometimes fade but more than all that I see your faithfulness, your hopefulness and your absolutely stunning beauty. I remember it and I needed you to know some days I’d like it all back. I’d like you to know that it won’t last forever. I’ve never seen a 12 year old ask for goldfish, a sippy cup or a story book during the homily. Someday you will return to outfits that match and accessories and hair do’s that are stylish and lovely, but for now, just revel in the fact that you are doing the greatest job on earth…being a faithful mom whose trying to help her kids get to heaven. So wipe the sweat from your lip, buy a comfortable outfit and sit by people like me who will reach out to take your baby or make faces at your toddler to try and entertain them while you take a breath.
A Seed To Plant: If you aren’t a mom, share this post with someone who is and most of all, be the one who makes that young mom with the sweaty lip feel supported, loved, welcomed! Next time you see that mom in church, instead of scowling or judging, say a little prayer for her and ask the Peace of Christ to come over her and the little one she’s desperately trying to keep from distracting you.
Blessings on your day!
Out of the fullness of his grace he has blessed us all, giving us one blessing after another. (John 1:16)
I just love it when surprises show up in my day! The best part of trying really hard to be a good disciple is the way God sends his grace in tiny little packages and I notice them. I can be pretty thick headed (not sure if that’s a gift from my Irish father or my German mother?) but lately he’s been really good at helping me recognize the great little surprises of life as his gifts. What I’ve discovered is that the more I notice them and follow them with gratitude to him; the more little graces he sprinkles throughout my day! He’s so good to me!
Yesterday I drove to downtown Detroit to do a training at Sacred Heart Seminary. The building is incredibly beautiful but it is nestled in a part of Detroit that isn’t quite so beautiful. I was excited to be invited to the Archdiocese of Detroit again because the people there are SOOO amazing and in love with the Lord, but the travel there makes me a little stressed. I occasionally have to slow down on my morning commute for a tractor or possibly a school bus, but traffic slowdowns mean something TOTALLY different in Detroit. When 6 lanes of traffic became a parking lot and I was totally unfamiliar with the route, I decided I had 2 choices. First, I could become a giant stress ball sitting in my Chevy Traverse or second, I could say loudly and repeatedly, Jesus I trust in you…Jesus build my patience….Father, if you could part the Red Sea you can get me through this traffic to the place I need to be; AND…he did! The fist surprise of the day was the big truck that let me scoot over into the lane I needed so I didn’t miss my exit and it came with a giant smile and a happy wave from the driver.
After I finished in Detroit I had an hour drive to meet my 6th graders at camp. I was sad to miss the first few hours of camp but the little surprise in that; I didn’t have to ride the bus! The best surprise of the day happened when I arrived at camp and heard little voices yelling hello to me and the giant wet hug I got from the camper who fell in the lake while canoeing was awesome! I fell asleep last night thinking God had graced me huge and I thought that was enough. Then today began and the surprises just keep coming!
My day began with an incredible surprise…two beautiful ladies I don’t even know made the most delicious coffee I think I’ve ever had and I drank my first cup of the day in a rocking chair, on a giant porch, looking at a lake while saying my morning prayers! Nobody ever makes my first cup of coffee of the day…I didn’t realize how such a simple thing could make me so delighted and I was so grateful! I didn’t think I’d be able to post a blog today but…the lodge has wifi and I’m typing with a view of a beautiful lake. God is really outdoing himself and I have to wonder…is he really working harder this week or am i just seeing things more clearly because my heart is more open and grateful?
I’m in a beautiful place the next two days with the students I love, some great parents who happily volunteered to come along and we are surrounded by Camp Ohiyesa staff who are beaming with joy and are using their God given gifts and talents to make this a fabulous experience and my heart is just so full! Thank you God for your grace…now please help me remember to notice it even when the surrounding aren’t so pretty and the people aren’t so lovely and the coffee isn’t so tasty. Help me remember that your grace comes to us in happy times but it also abounds in times that are tricky. Help me remember you will always give one blessings after another!
A Seed To Plant: Your mission today is two fold…look for his surprises and then tell him thank you. The more you repeat the process…the more he will send his grace!
Blessings on your day!
And when I wake up, you are still with me. Psalm 139:18
Wow…is this the little wink we all needed to hear this morning. There is so much on our hearts this morning…fires in the NW, flooding in the south and Irma scooting and thrashing up through Florida and Georgia. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed as we think about all those who are suffering so much, but then along comes Psalm 139:18 and we exhale a little. He’s still here. He’s still inspiring people to give and help and support. He's comforting the lost and the lonely and the frightened. He’s working his mightiness through the sadness and the chaos.
Dave and I made a quick drive home this weekend to attend to not one, but two family emergencies and there was verse 139:18. His fingers are in the middle of everything I”m trying to bear on my own shoulders. His embrace is around all those who are hurting and in need. His love, mercy and protection is new each morning…just in time for renewed hope and a new beginning.
He will never NOT be with us; we just go through moments when we forget to notice he’s right there. Let’s remember he’s right here with us today and remember to ask him to make his presence felt in the midst of the chaos.
A Seed To Plant: Tragedy doesn't strike EVERYWHERE all at once. If you aren’t in the midst of tragedy or chaos, your job is to pray for those who are, so let's join together today and do just that.
Blessings on your day!
“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
Happy Labor day! I realize this isn’t a holiday everyone gets to celebrate. As I sit here typing in my pajamas with hot coffee inches away from my computer, Dave and Kevin are hard at work with the cattle and Shannon is going to class. That’s all a little against the spirit of the holiday don’t you think? Or is it?
I think sometimes we forget that our labor is a great way to love and serve the Lord. As Paul told the Corinthians, we are God’s fellow workers so that means we’re in this together. It’s easy to want to separate work from play or busy from peace but the truth is, God wants to meet us in both places. He wants all that we do to be an outpouring of his love. If we work, we have a chance to grow in holiness by serving others. Working can be a great way to gain something more valuable than a paycheck. Many of us spend the better part of our week at work so thats a lot of time to work with the Father in his fields and in his buildings don’t ya think? I think I need to shift my perspective.
I’ve decided to re-do some curriculum this weekend and as I stare at the pile of opened books and scattered sticky notes and notebook paper I have all over the dining room table, I realize today is a day to pause and thank God for our jobs and it’s an even better day to pause and pray for those who are underemployed or desperately seeking employment. Re-doing and long range planning may not be my favorite part of the job but I’m right where God put me, doing exactly what he’s asked me to do so I’ll ask him to join me in all the parts of my work, the fun and the not so whippy!
Wherever you are this weekend, at work or at play, know he’s there with you. It’s pretty easy to see him from a lounge chair watching the sunset on the lake but as we all head back to work tomorrow the questions are; can I see him in the cranky person at work and am I honoring him in the way I preform the tasks I’ve been given? Father, come with me to work because I want to answer both of those questions with a big yes!
A Seed To Plant: Take some quiet moments to thank God for work and ask him to show you more clearly how to bring him along.
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com