Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127:3
Last week my firstborn son turned 23. You would think that after doing something every day for 23 years you would be completely confident in your ability to do it. Well, after 23 years of being a mom I still wonder and question, doubt and pray like crazy for the Lord to fill in all the holes I leave. I remember like yesterday the moment the doctor handed me that brand new 2 foot tall brown eyed baby boy and I was overwhelmed by three things; first, the goodness and amazing work of the Creator. Second; wow this baby is as big as a toddler how did that happen and third; I have no idea how to be a mother so God please help me do it right. Even amidst the unknowns there are a few things I’m pretty sure of after diving heart and soul into this gig for more than two decades.
*Pray for your kids, pray with your kids and model a life of prayer. They may not always imitate your actions but there is no more significant image to leave your children with than the importance of prayer.
*Kids don’t need more stuff; they need more of our time.
*Kids need parents who love them enough to let them fall and bump their nose, and their ego and their independence. The most important lessons are often learned the hard way.
*Our children were created to fulfill God’s plan not ours.
*They grow up faster than you think, that’s only a problem for us; they kind of like it!
*Kids need helicopter parents about as much as submarines need screen doors.
*Quality time most definitely should include doing dishes, cleaning, cutting wood, bailing hay, working cattle and scrubbing stuff for two really good reasons. One, we can’t complain about a lazy generation if we haven’t stood shoulder to shoulder to teach kids how to work and second, life isn’t always fun and that is completely ok.
*Kids need our loving support as we watch them succeed and watch them fail, endure disappointment and deal with the consequences of their actions.
*On any given day the smartest kid in the world can do something really stupid…love them anyway and let them figure out how to stand on their own two feet, take responsibility and put the pieces back together with prayer and humility.
*You can’t say I love you, God bless you and don’t forget to pray too often.
*When you are in one of those spots where all you can do is worry about them, just remember; God loves them more than you do! Just trust Him, He has a plan and He doesn’t need our input nearly as much as we think He does.
*The next time you find yourself praying for everything to be fine and for your kids to be happy and not disappointed or for them to succeed and not fail remind yourself how much you learned through struggle and disappointment. Pray instead for them to be faithful, trusting and obedient to the plan!
*If you know really great kids, get to know their parents and see how they did it.
*Parenting great kids is hard work. If you’re doing your job right you’ll be loved, loathed, smart, stupid, old-fashioned, necessary and irrelevant all before lunch.
*The really great parents I know realize that you can love your kids, be thoroughly disappointed in your kids, be proud of your kids and maybe even wish you could pretend they belong to someone else for a moment or two but the bottom line is you pray for them, ask God to help you love them and return them to Him as saints.
Over the past 23 years sometimes I’ve gotten it right, but more times I’ve gotten it wrong. I’ve lost my patience too quickly and I’ve missed opportunities to say or do the right thing but I’ll never give up trying to do it better tomorrow and I’ll never stop thanking God for the amazing gift of mothering!
A Seed To Plant: The next time you see a young parent, offer them some encouragement or prayer. The world needs great parents.
Blessings on your day!
Thursday came and went...yes it was Thanksgiving day and yes it was the day that marked the 23rd anniversary of my motherhood but it was also post day and I forgot! I hope everyone enjoyed full bellies, much laughter and hearts that swelled in thankfulness to our Loving Father. Until Monday when I return with more joyful words I hope you have a weekend filled with great things, great prayer and great people!
Blessings on your day!
Seek the face of the Lord always. Psalm 105:4
What does God look like? If no one has ever seen his face how are we supposed to seek it and how will we know if we really see it? Those are fair questions when you’re a middle lovely. If we are supposed to seek His face always, I suppose we’d better know where to look! It’s easy to seek the face of God in the obvious, like creation, babies and children. I have no problem seeing and feeling the presence of God when I’m in my classroom! My students fill my days with every emotion possible. I know just what Jesus meant when He said, “Let the little children come to me.” Most mornings when I go into the gym for Morning Prayer and the Pledge I want to say the same thing! It’s a bit more of a challenge however to seek His face in the unpleasant, the unfair, and the unlikable.
Seeking God’s face doesn’t just apply to people…we need to seek his face in situations and experiences. Sure we recognize God in the events that are happy and joyful like weddings and celebrations but we need to know He is present in the sad and difficult and sorrowful ones as well. His love, presence and inviting spirit are there even we can recognize no apparent good in the situation. We are reminded not only to seek Him but to praise and thank Him in all situations. That’s easy to say until we’re smack dab in the middle of ugly and we have to spit out the words, “God I’m seeking you in this mess and I thank you for these circumstances…even though they STINK!” Sometimes uttering those words can taste like vinegar in our mouth but if you repeat them again and again, you can begin to see His face and feel His presence guiding and teaching and blessing.
We like things to be simple and easy and happy and when they aren’t, we tend to think God has left us all alone. Our purpose in seeking God shouldn’t be to make us “feel good”, the purpose is to build us up for the Kingdom and a life spent with Him. Very often the things we need to learn can only be taught when life isn’t all neat and tidy and happy. But make no mistake…God is there…just waiting for us to seek Him so He can take us by the hand and begin the next lesson!
A seed to plant: Write the words, “God I trust you, God I love you, God I will be faithful and seek your face” on a notecard and read it again and again when you’re in a situation where it’s hard to seek His face.
Blessings on your day!
I command you, be courageous and steadfast! Do not fear nor be discouraged, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
Wow; talk about the perfect words at the perfect time! As we are consumed with worry, grief and fear for our brothers and sisters in Paris it’s easy to feel discouraged. As Americans are busy changing their Facebook profile pictures to red, white and blue to honor those lost in acts of senseless violence we struggle to do more. Many are launching conversations about what should and shouldn’t happen with ISIS and refugees and yet in spite of all the conversation we are still left with a sense of desperation when we realize how little we can really do.
That’s exactly how the world would like us to think; like there is nothing we can do but the world would be wrong! Our job is simple yet profoundly powerful; our job is to pray. Pray for peace, pray for comfort, pray for safety but most importantly pray for the enemy. Conversion happens when God’s love swells into action in the human heart. Those hearts in most need of God’s grace and love are precisely the ones we need to pray for the most fervently.
After you peel back the layers of news to get to the truth, it becomes abundantly clear that prayer is really all we are capable of doing and it’s really the thing most truly necessary. I can’t take out an army or charge a complex. I can’t wage war on a terrorist cell or lead troops into a zone that needs protection but I can certainly entrust it all to the God who promises again and again to be with us through it all. I can recognize his protection, his interaction and his plan. I can beg for his strength, his wisdom and his comfort. When I’m doing those things, I really am doing something powerful, helpful and productive.
Before you make a comment on government or terrorism or leadership, pray first. We need to ask God for his mercy. Trade in your fearfulness for prayerfulness. Trade in your anger for a prayerful plea for God’s peace. Trade in your hatred for Christ’s boundless love. Trade in your hopelessness for God’s promise of protection and perfect justice.
A Seed To Plant: Every time the situation of our world enters your mind; stop and pray, “God of love protect us. Mighty God flood this earth with your mercy and peace.”
Blessings on your day!
It's that time of year...report card time! That magical time of year when teachers everywhere try to cram 9 weeks of progress into a few tiny boxes. I'm still looking for the box that says, "Your child is amazing in a hundred different ways that I don't' have a number or a letter for!" Until I find or create it myself, I'll just work with the system I have.
I had a great adventure in Houston this week that I have stories to tell you about but I've run out of time this week so I'll have to say...sorry...and I'll be back with more joyful words on Monday!
God bless your day!
God is closer to us than water is to a fish. St. Catherine of Siena
A couple of months ago I was flying home and my travels took me through the Dallas Ft. Worth airport on a Friday evening which was a crazy adventure to say the least. It was a stormy night which added delightfully to the chaos and lots of delayed flights added to the crowd. I had to board a tram to connect to another terminal and when I got on, it was full but not packed but as the tram approached the second stop that began to change. Each stop added another glob of passengers and I got packed tighter and tighter toward the middle of the tram car. Everyone was laughing about it which was great but at one point I had to turn my head sideways in order to breathe because my face was pressed tightly into the back of a tall gentleman in a tailored suit who would probably not have appreciated me breathing on his fabric. I remember getting off at my stop thinking; Phew! I don’t think I’ve ever been packed so tightly against that many people in my life!
Today’s quote from St. Catherine of Siena reminded me of that tram trip in Dallas. It also reminded me of a line from Psalm 139, I will hem you in behind and before with my hand upon your shoulder. God desires to be that close to us; as close as water to a fish and as close as the people in the tram car. Isn’t it funny though that sometimes we think he’s so far away? If that’s how we feel then the ten million dollar question becomes; is he far from me or am I far from him?
I am a visual person. I learn much better by demonstration and touching than reading so when I came across this quote it made Gods desire to be with me so visual and so clear. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the blame for all the bad geography! You can’t get much closer than water to a fish or being hemmed in from before and behind so if God’s not close it’s because I’m in the wrong place. If I don’t feel him close it isn’t because he’s taken a lunch break, it’s because I’m not on the path he led me to. If I can’t feel him when I reach out it isn’t because he’s not there; it’s because I’m reaching for something that isn’t mine to have. I suppose before I again question his nearness to me, I’d better make sure I’m in the right spot…on my knees with my arms stretched out toward him asking for a rescue and a re-start. He doesn’t want to be a Father who loves me from a distance; fish and water are pretty close and he wants to be even closer than that to me. Come on God…I give you permission to invade ALL my space!
A Seed To Plant: Find a picture of a fish and put it somewhere visible to remind yourself how close God is to you then while he’s right there, go ahead and ask him to guide and help you!
Blessings on your day!
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. Ephesians 4:7
The grace of God is a beautiful thing! It’s an amazing gift given freely to us. We don’t earn it or deserve it. It’s a gift given just because we have a Father who loves us so much and he’s just waiting for us to ask him to slather us with it. Grace is what allows us to believe, trust, be patient, persevere and rise above the things of this world that like to grab us by the ankles and pull us down. The grace of God is what keeps us going when we think we’ve given or endured all we can; it’s what allows us to live as a Child of God.
During the month of November we spend a lot of time studying the Saints and saintly folks. We learn about the greats like Paul, Mark, John, Patrick, John Paul and Mother Teresa and lots of others who have lived a life of beautiful lessons. I had a student ask me once why we paid so much attention to dead people. It took me a little off guard but the child did have a point. After a moment of thought, I explained that the reason we studied them was because those dead folks had a lot to teach us about how we should live. I realize the only way I will ever be among them is by the grace of God! That led me to wonder if I really was living gracefully.
Fr. John Meoska tells the story of the day he visited a dying parishioner in the hospital and asked the question, “Are you afraid of dying?” It surprised the priest when the man replied, “No Father, I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid I haven’t really lived yet.” When I read this little story my mind flew back in time 27 years to the days I sat with my mom as she was dying. We had some great conversations those last few days that I will treasure in my heart forever. Some I’ve shared with others and some I keep tucked away until they bubble out at the perfect time. Sometimes they tumble out because I need her wisdom; funny how it works. The last things she told me was, “Sheri Ann, I hope you’re alive all the days of your life!” I think about those words a lot. It’s funny that our last conversation involved a lesson. Barb could be a little bossy and I giggle when I realize that her final words were not, “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” or “Good-bye my beautiful daughter.” (I would have liked that one) No, her final words to me were a job; the most important job she ever gave me! Be alive…fully alive…gracefully alive. They were my marching orders and they came from a woman who taught me how it was done!
So what keeps us from being gracefully alive? I suppose my list would include complaining, disobedience, stubbornness, rebellion, selfishness and a big scoop of pride to top it all off. If I looked back on the days I didn’t feel or look too alive, I was probably busy comparing, judging and doubting. Those things are like throwing a huge wet blanket right on the grace of God. They stomp out the joy, love and energy that come from being alive in Christ. I don’t remember the Gospel telling us to go forth and be crabby or gather the nations and spread the selfish news. I don’t recall Jesus ever telling a parable showcasing the joys and blessings of the self-reliant control freak who furthered the kingdom on earth. Those things are the things we try to do to “fix” things instead of asking for, receiving and living through the GRACE OF GOD! So, it might just be the perfect day to ask yourself…am I gracefully living this life of mine or am I just breathing?
A Seed To Plant: On a sticky note, write the words, “Be alive all the days of your life” and put it somewhere you will see it often as a reminder to live this life God gave you gracefully!
Blessings on your day!
***In honor of All Souls day, I chose to do a re-post of a great story about one of my favorite souls and his son!!
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12
Every now and again a thought or idea pops in my head and I stop and think…wow…where’d that come from. It usually takes about 10 seconds for me to realize it was NOT me! It’s amazing how often the Holy Spirit makes things pop into our heads at just the right time. Not long ago a good friend from my childhood, now living many states and lots of miles away shared a story through the magic of Facebook that warmed my heart. His story was one of a connection with the voice of a heavenly soul and the choice it inspired him to make. I’m so happy Little Will gave me permission to share his story.
Little Will is the name everyone in our small town grew up calling him. It had nothing to do with his size, he’s a tall, broad shouldered, football playin, shot put throwin sized kinda guy but everyone called him Little Will because his dad was called Big Will. The biggest thing about both these men is their heart and their spirit. Truly like father like son! Big Will was one of the strongest, hardest working men I ever knew and he inspired those same qualities in his son. He had a big laugh, an easy going nature and a smile that lit up a room. Our families always seemed to wind up near each other every Sunday morning at Mass and Big Will always walked in with a smile on his face. He was one of those great folks that touched lives with his kindness and goodness and he is sorely missed by all of us who knew him. One of his gifts was saying just what needed to be said without using more words than he needed to. According to his son Little Will, that’s a gift he’s still giving.
Earlier this fall, Little Will was at a convenience store and a lady approached him and asked for money to pay for gas. He reached into his pockets and couldn’t come up with anything more than a couple dollars. I’m sure Little Will, was in a hurry but instead of handing over a couple bucks that really wouldn’t do her much good, without saying anything, he walked into the store handed over his credit card and asked the clerk to put 10 bucks on pump 10. He got in his vehicle and drove away. He posted that day that he knew it was his dad talking to him. Out of nowhere, that thought from a heavenly soul crept into his thoughts and it made a difference in the life of another. What a way to honor both of his Fathers! I really hope Little Will’s son, Wilburn was there to see his Grandpa and Daddy working together that day!
We are all called to honor the memory of those we loved who are no longer here on earth with us. The best way I know to do that is to repeat the great acts they were best known for. Listen to the prompting voices of heavenly souls that put ideas in your head and on your heart. Do great things in memory of those you love. I was at a high school football game a couple weeks ago and saw something cool. One gentleman paid his five dollar entry fee with a twenty dollar bill. He told the person at the ticket counter to use the change to pay for the next three people in line behind him. The ticker taker asked if he knew them and he replied, “No, but my dad loved high school football so I honor him by allowing somebody else to enjoy what he enjoyed for free.” You can call it random acts of kindness or paying it forward or just doing the right thing. It doesn’t matter what you call it, what matters is that you DO IT.
A seed to plant: Think of a heavenly soul who had beautiful qualities. Pick one of their qualities and put in into action this week. If you’re not sure how to do that, ask in prayer and then wait for that prompting or idea to pop into your head.
Blessings on your day!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com