Calm After the Storm

I’m sure everyone’s done talking about Hurricane Irene; some feel it was hype, while others are still cleaning up. My thoughts and prayers are with those who got hit hard and are still struggling.

We were kind of in the middle – a huge amount of rain, many trees and branches down, and power outages galore. But for the most part, we were safe; and I am grateful.

But I want to talk about a different effect Irene had on me and my family. We got hit with a majority of our rain on Saturday night, into Sunday morning. Once the rains stopped, the wind didn’t. We made it through Saturday with only a few flickers; so we thought all was good. We were going to try to go to Mass at noon. However, that was not to be the case. The winds were just too strong for my car; and we decided we’d better not risk it.

We are fortunate to get the Catholic television station, EWTN, so we planned to participate in Mass via the TV. It’s not exactly the same, but we can hear the readings, participate in the prayers, and learn from the homily. Mass was due to be televised at noon, so we made plans to gather around the TV at that time. But that was not to be the case either.

The power went out at 10:49 am. It remained off until 1:30 pm on Monday. Then we had a fire in a transformer across the street and lost power again at 9:00 pm on Monday. It remained off again until sometime Wednesday afternoon. It was an interesting couple of days, but I want to get back to Sunday…

I had awoken early Sunday morning (probably due to loud wind gusts), and began the day reading my Bible. {I am participating in reading the Bible in 90 days} Then, when we couldn’t go to Mass, or even participate via TV, I gathered the kids around me and we did the Sunday readings ourselves – Diva wanted to do two of the readings herself {love that!} – and we prayed the Lord’s Prayer together. The rest of the day, even without power (and maybe because we didn’t have power), was one of the most peaceful days I have ever experienced.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my church and my faith; wouldn’t trade them for anything! But I spent so much of the day, in little chunks here and there, in God’s word, in prayer, and reading another book based in His word (I will be reviewing that book very soon, so come back and check it out – you’re gonna wanna read this one!!!).

There was no work; only rest. There was no noise; only peace and quiet (ok, the kids weren’t exactly quiet all day, but you know what I mean). We read, we prayed, we laughed together. It was a wonderful day – it was a Sabbath.

Now that I’ve re-stocked the fridge and freezer, and cleaned up parts of the yard; it’s time to get ready for TS Lee and TS Katia – they should converge on our area very close to one another, between Thursday and Saturday.

We’ll head to Mass in the morning as usual this week, but as these two storms approach, I can’t help but wonder what next weekend has in store for us…

This post is being linked to Building Our Homes Together.

Word on Fire – The Catholicism Project

The other night I had the opportunity to preview Episode One of Catholicism. Catholicism is a ten part documentary created and hosted by Father Robert Barron of Word On Fire.  The website’s description:

Soon you can discover the rich heritage of the Catholic Church in an epic media experience. Word on Fire Catholic Ministries offers a vision of the Catholic Faith, which has never before been seen. This vision seeks to explore, through a global journey, the living culture of the Catholic Church. From the lands of the Bible, to the great shrines of Europe, to the shores and heartland of America, to the mysteries of Asia, to the rich landscapes of Latin America, to the beating heart of Africa – and beyond, witness the passion and glory of the faith that claims over a billion of the earth’s people as its own.

If the first episode is any indication, this is going to be one great series! Fr. Barron narrates on location from Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and more. Through this series, we visit places central to our faith; places most of us would like to see, but may never get the chance. Fr. Barron takes us to the birthplace of Jesus, the site of the Crucifixion, and the site of the Resurrection.

Fr. Barron takes the Gospels and makes them come alive; while walking in the path of Jesus. He uses his extensive knowledge of Scripture and helps us understand what it was like over 2000 years ago. He brings Jesus to life and makes it very personal.

One of the things that stood out to me was his description of both Jesus and His angels being warriors. Jesus came to fight; but perhaps not in the way the Israelites, or us, think about fighting.

I mentioned before that this series was filmed on location. Over the course of all ten episodes, Fr. Barron will take us to the following places:

  • Chicago
  • Kentucky
  • New York City
  • Philadelphia
  • Mexico
  • Ireland
  • Florence
  • Spain
  • Lourdes
  • Rome
  • Kampala, Uganda
  • France
  • Poland
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Turkey
  • Israel
  • Egypt
  • Kolkata, India
  • Philippines

The Catholicism Project will dispel myths and take you on a journey of our Christian faith that you will never forget. The Catholicism Project, while Catholic, is for everyone. It is for Catholics who want to learn more about their faith, Catholics who have left the church, all Christians, and even those of other faiths. Fr. Barron has comments on his site, testimonials of his work,  from people of other faiths who are learning what the Catholic church is really all about. There is one from a Mormon who is considering what he has to say; and one from a former atheist (who ironically found Fr. Barron while searching for Bob Dylan!). I encourage everyone to give the Catholicism Project a chance. It will be available on TV and on DVD.

Here’s a list of the titles of the ten episodes:

  1. Amazed and Afraid: The Revelation of God Become Man
  2. Happy Are We: The Teachings of Jesus
  3. The Ineffable Mystery of God: That Which Nothing Greater Can Be Thought
  4. Our Tainted Nature’s Solitary Boast: Mary, the Mother of God
  5. To the Ends of the Earth: Peter, Paul, and the Missionary Adventure
  6. A Body Both suffering and Glorious: The Mystical Union of Christ and the Church
  7. Word Made Flesh, True Bread of Heaven: The Mystery of the Liturgy and the Eucharist
  8. A Vast Company of Witnesses: The Communion of Saints
  9. The Fire of His Love: Prayer and the Life of the Spirit
  10. World Without End: The Last Things

So, check out Fr. Barron’s Catholicism Project at Word on Fire. It will be well worth your while. It isn’t just about one religion – it’s about Jesus, His reason for His humanity on earth, His teachings, His reasons for dying, His reasons for the Resurrection, and what He wants us to do with it.

 

Media and Me

Today Courtney over at Women Living Well is beginning a series called Media Mondays. The topic this week is Media and Our Walk With God.

I will admit that there are times that I have rationalized to myself that I am walking with God while I am on the internet. How, you may ask? Well, I subscribe to faith-filled blogs; I read articles on social justice issues and their Biblical implications; and I blog about my faith (sometimes). However, as Courtney points out, there are always chimes that call my attention away from what I’m doing, or should be doing. Those chimes do come in the form of sounds, but they also (at least for me) come in the form of colors and pictures and more articles. Sometimes I can find myself following rabbit trails for hours if I allow myself.

But that’s not the only reason that my time on the internet is not really time with God. Many times, what I am reading is someone else’s opinion, explanation, or theory. Yes, many of these people are more qualified than I am to interpret certain passages; however, they are not an adequate substitute for actually reading the Bible myself. The internet is not a substitute for quiet-time or prayer-time.

I also have to think about the behavior I’m modeling for my children. If I am on the computer all day, what am I teaching them? Let’s see, I could be teaching them that:

  • the computer is more important than they are;
  • the computer is more important the God and prayer-time;
  • the computer is more interesting;
  • this is how a wife and mother is supposed to behave;
  • they are an inconvenience or a burden when they ask me to do something.

I’m sure there’s more, but I think that’s bad enough. I’ll admit that I’ve passed more than one of those messages to my children at one point or another.

While my walk with God is important for me, I also have to realize that it’s important to my family. I need to model the behavior that I want to see from them. In order for me to raise children who love God and love to serve Him, I need to demonstrate that in my own life.

So there are many things – and inherently none of them are bad. The problem lies when I let the things I do compete with and surpass the needs of my family; and more importantly, my Walk with God.

I cannot seem to get the button to work! So this post is being linked to Media Mondays. Please hop over and check out what the other ladies have to say about Media and their Walk with God.

This post is also linked to Prairie Flower Farm’s Building Our Homes Together with Jesus. Hop on over to Linda’s place and find out we’re all doing!

Beauty

* This post is being linked to Home Sanctuary‘s Company Girl Coffee and Prairie Flower Farm’s Building Our Homes Together.

When I think about Homes and Sanctuary, I think of Beauty. When we first had to move to where we are now (back in October), I was not entirely happy. We had to leave a very rural area with a large yard & garden on a very private street, to a whole new county with smaller everything. We no longer had a private street and silent nights.

We now live near a military base where things are regularly exploded. We now live near a railway and a fire station. This combination can make for very noisy periods; and noise can drown out beauty – if you let it. The noises that made me cry the first night here, are now so routine, that I barely notice them.

I was worried when we moved here that we would not have the wildlife that we were used to seeing. Boy, was I wrong – the wildlife has just changed. Before, we had wide open spaces, so we saw many deer and large birds. We were near cattle and horse farms so we saw many large animals. Here, we have trees, so we see squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, chipmunks, and many varieties of small birds.

Spring came; so did the flowers and baby animals. Our landlord did an amazing job of planting so many surprises that each week seems to bring something new. While I’m not as good as catching wildlife on film, I have gone on a tour of my yard this week and captured much beauty in our flowers.

For the most part, I have no idea what these flowers are, I just thought they were beautiful. I hope you enjoy:

I think this is Echinacea.

At first, I thought the black spots were part of this flower, but upon closer inspection, I found that they were ants!

The hummingbirds love this one – they can only see the color red!

Here’s a close-up of those flowers – love all the colors in this!

I love that God gave us so much functional beauty in this world! Ya know, it wasn’t until I studied botany with my children, that I learned just how important flowers are! Either I didn’t pay enough attention in school, or I was never taught how God created these beauties to benefit us in more ways than just to appeal to our eyes. Without flowers, we wouldn’t have many of the fruits and vegetables we rely on for nourishment. I didn’t know.

God is an incredible designer – His palette is truly amazing!

Tough Decisions

Like I said in this post, I have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome on both sides of my body. You can learn more about it here, here, or here. Even with all this information (and there’s a ton more out there), I find myself very conflicted.

Or, maybe because of it.

I have had two thoracic surgeons examine me and perform tests; they both came to the same conclusion: this is a debilitating disease that will only get worse if I don’t address it via surgery. I have been through physical therapy with no improvement. I have taken pain meds which only last a little while, if they work at all. I have been at a healthy weight (when the symptoms first appeared) and at a “less than” healthy weight.

My symptoms are getting more and more difficult to tolerate. I wake up daily with pain in both shoulders and numbness or tingling all the way down to my fingertips. I have difficulty ~ pain, heaviness, fatigue ~ in every day things like brushing my hair, shampooing, dressing, baking. I go numb when I type (I have taken several breaks while typing this post) and when I drive. Sleep is difficult as I cannot get comfortable, or I go numb when lying on my side. These symptoms are not easy to ignore; and they are getting progressively worse. I am actually starting to drop things.

So here’s my dilemma: The docs both say surgery is the only way to alleviate the symptoms; they say I’ll recover quickly and feel much better, returning to normal activities within a few days. Though some say I’ll create more problems than I will solve with this surgery.  I want to make sure that it is a decision I can live with – literally. It’s not like they can put my ribs back in once they take them out.

Lord Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to guide my decisions. Help me to do what is right for my body and my children.

First Days

I’ve heard it said often enough, “This is the first day of the rest of my life.” This phrase usually implies that there has been a change in the person’s life, either for the better or the worse.

Well, I said that phrase yesterday and it was because something ‘worse’ had happened and it looked like it was on its way to becoming the ‘better.’

This has surely been one crazy month. There have been continued medical issues, like I posted about here.

But that’s not the worst of it… You see, something happened this month that turned my life upside down. It made me question so many things. It was devastating. Add the fact that there were others involved and you have multiplied pain. As in all things, God gives us free will; and with that free will comes the opportunity to make choices. I had the opportunity to choose to hold onto anger and to let bitterness fester or to let go of the anger and begin the the process of forgiveness.

I have chosen to begin the process of healing, forgiveness and learning to trust again. But it’s not easy. There’s one person involved in this situation who expects to be trusted immediately, just because they have promised not to do it again. I believe that trust is one of those things that can be switched off in an instant, but it cannot be switched on in the same way. I believe trust must be be earned. Now, that’s not to say that the person who committed the sin is to be untrusted for a specific amount of time, or a certain number of days without incident; but it still must be earned.

The person who sinned against me should want to do everything possible to earn my trust back, if truly sorry. Questions should be expected. Doubt should be a given. This is not a punishment – I don’t really want to punish anyone. Though I did want to punish everyone involved at first.

Then I had one of those “ah-ha” moments. Like I said, I wanted everyone to suffer at first. But something strange happened. I was driving Diva home from the hospital (she’s fine, just a doctor’s appointment), and mulling all this over in my mind, when a song came over the radio. I didn’t really focus on the verses, but the chorus stood out, “Hold on just a little bit longer. He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger. The pain ain’t gonna last forever. And things can only get better.” (from Stronger  by Mandisa)

I felt at peace. I no longer wanted everyone to suffer as I had; and I just knew that everything would work together for God’s glory. God’s Holy Spirit just filled me – it was amazing.

I will continue to pray and continue to walk the path of forgiveness. I know it’s going to take some time, but I also know that God has blessed me with His Holy Spirit to walk with me, to help me, and to lead me.

It’s the first day of the rest of my life…

COURAGEOUS: Honor Begins At Home

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15)

Recently I was privileged to participate in an advanced screening of Courageous ~ the latest movie from Sherwood Pictures. You will remember Sherwood from their life-changing movie a couple of years ago called Fireproof.  And after what I saw in Courageous, I think God is using another movie to deliver a powerful punch.

In Fireproof, Stephen and Alex Kendrick reminded us that marriage is a covenant. In Courageous, they remind us of the importance of fatherhood. Courageous does deliver a powerful punch and more. It’s convicting (smacks hand to forehead ~ that’s the word I was searching for when I was filling out the comment card after the movie!). Like Fireproof, it makes you think. But the real question is, how will it make you act?

Some might ask why we need a movie on this topic. Don’t fathers know how important they are? Don’t mothers know how important a father is to her children’s lives? Of course, children know how important fathers are, right? Apparently not.

The Bible tells us that God created a man and a woman and told them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:22). The man wasn’t told to plant his seed and the woman would take care of the rest. God created a family – with a mother and a father. God placed the father at the head of the family (1 Cor. 11:3; Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:25-29). He is there to lead, to guard, to guide, and to protect. The father has a vital role in the success of a family.

Now back to Courageous… the Kendrick brothers introduce us to four police officers and we hear about their experiences with fatherhood; whether it was as fathers themselves or their relationships with their own fathers. They did a good job depicting families that exist today – families with two parents, a divorced family and a single man. One of them grew up without a father, but had a father-figure as a mentor. One is a so-so father, another is a good father, and still another is just a weekend father. We see how their individual situations have shaped their views of fatherhood. We also see varying degrees of faith, and journeys toward developing deeper faith. A little later in the movie, we are introduced to another father who really brings a lot to the story.

The major themes running through the movie are that honor does indeed begin at home and that every home needs a father. Courageous hits us hard, right out of the gate. This movie is not a chick-flick (but ladies, you may want to have a tissue or two…). But, like one of the other attendees at the screening said, of the four movies Sherwood has done, this one outdoes them all in terms of acting, action, cinematography, message, and story.

Throughout the movie we see situations that many families face on a regular basis – busy schedules, feelings of inadequacy, fear, a need to forgive, anger, and more. More importantly, we see how to handle some and not to handle others. When tragedy strikes one of the fathers, it sends him on a journey to discover what God says about fatherhood, and he eventually confronts his own mistakes as a dad.

While you may think that this alone is enough for one movie, Sherwood Pictures takes it a couple steps further. After discovering what God wants a father’s role to be, the other men want in. They put it into practice and vow to hold each other accountable. Now here’s where you expect the typical Hollywood ‘happy ending’ – so not the case in this movie. There’s more excitement to come when one of the fathers truly needs to be held accountable for his actions.

This is a movie where there is no typical Hollywood ending; but there is resolution. Each man in this story is taken on a journey; and each has a different path with a different ending. The solidifying factor is that they all commit to the journey, all are held accountable, and all find the true meaning of fatherhood.

Be prepared for a couple of amazing ‘Daddy-Daughter’ scenes – they will tug at your heart and leave a lasting impression. But also be prepared for some intense moments – remember that the main characters are police officers.

The movie initially received a rating of PG-13, but that rating has been surrendered, leaving the movie currently unrated. The initial rating was for some violence, as well as gang and drug references. These things are certainly understandable in a movie dealing with officers of the law. One thing I noted, and appreciated, was that some of the necessary violence was implied and not directly on camera. For instance, in one scene you see the police officer tackle the ‘bad guy’ on the ground. When he loses the advantage, you see the ‘bad guy’ throwing punches but you don’t see where they land. The cuts, bruises, and blood are mostly left up to your imagination. This is especially helpful in one of the defining moments of the movie. That being said, parents need to be aware that there is some violence; and there are scenes involving drugs and gang activity.

The emotions I experienced during this viewing were many. To quote Larry the Cucumber, “I laughed. I cried. It moved me.” But that does over-simplify things a bit. Alex and Stephen Kendrick have a God-given talent for being able to insert humor at just the right moment; and at just the right level.

Thank you Alex & Stephen Kendrick, Sherwood Baptist Church, the City of Albany, and the many people involved in making this film. I believe it will change many families. Most importantly, thanks be to God for the inspiration, talents, and abilities of these men and women.

Now, Don’t Let Go of the Wheel   —   See. The. Movie! September 30th, 2011. Buy tickets, buy a show time – do it opening weekend. Show Hollywood what types of movies really matter! For more information, visit Courageous online.

NOTE: I know there are some fatherless homes that can’t change the way they are right now for a reason. I have been there, and I understand. This is a movie review and not a judgment. However, there are some families in this position that can change, and should. See the movie. Pray about it.

One of my favorite quotes from the movie

… seek the Lord, even if it means you’re standing alone.

WHERE ARE YOU MEN OF COURAGE?

* Images provided by Courageousthemovie.com

Trust and Faith

I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.Mother Teresa

I have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Raynauds’, and Scoliosis. Now my eye doctor thinks I may have the beginnings of Glaucoma. I am in my early forties. I was diagnosed with the scoliosis around the age of 12, so it and I have been together for a while. While I never had to have surgery for it, I did have to wear a fiberglass brace underneath my clothes – not a good look for the teenager who does not want to look pregnant! If it weren’t for the scoliosis, the doctors told me, I’d be about 2″ taller than my nearly 6′ tall frame already is. As a result I have always had lower back pain and one leg longer than the other.

At the time, these things scared me. While my family was very active in our faith, I don’t recall leaning on God to get me through my teen years. Though He was most certainly there.

Until about a year ago I had never heard of Raynauds’ or Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. It was only though visits with doctors concerning my endometriosis – for which I ended up needing a hysterectomy – that we discovered these two mysteries.

The first mystery was the Raynaud’s. Apparently, there are two versions of this and I have the milder of the two. Basically, a few of my extremities are extremely sensitive to temperature changes; cold especially. My mother always used to say, “Cold hands, warm heart” in reference to me and my hands. I never thought much about it; until the diagnosis. What cinched this little discovery was that my toes were a delightful shade of purple – or was that blue? Now, I wear lots of warm socks, slippers or shoes in the house (at all times), and I take a baby aspirin every day. While in the house, I have made a couple of other adjustments; such as, not stepping on the bathroom floor without something on my feet. I also make sure the shower is warm before I plant those tootsies on the basin. For the time being this works…

The second mystery was one I had struggled with for a long while, but had yet to realize that it was a problem. You see, my right arm would go numb while sleeping, driving, using the computer, etc. After a couple of years of this and many appointments, specialists, and tests, I was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. The first mistake I made was to look it up on Wikipedia. It listed a few people who had died as a result of this condition; people who were in much better shape than I am. All that did was make me depressed and scared. New game plan…

What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome? In a nutshell, the space between my clavicle and my 1st rib is too narrow. The major artery, vein, and nerve become compressed; causing numbness, tingling, swelling, pain, and loss of fine motor skills. I am starting to drop things and it’s really getting annoying :>

My surgeon, yes that’s how doctors ultimately deal with this condition, said I was a surgical candidate for the right side. I have it on the left side as well, but it’s not at the stage of surgery just yet. She offered me an alternative of physical therapy – which I took. But I’ve learned that this is only a delay; kinda like a band-aid.

Most recently, my legs have begun to get this numbness and tingling, without explanation. In the past week, I have had a vascular test and an MRI – both negative/normal; which is both good and bad. Good for the obvious reasons; but bad because we still have no idea what’s happening.

In the middle of all this, I decided to go get a new pair of glasses. I haven’t worn glasses in about ten years, so I thought it was time to get back with the program. Little did I know, God had something else in store for me. This is where the Glaucoma comes in. The doc’s not positive yet, but he’s seeing the indications. Not what I wanted or expected to hear. I mean I just wanted to update my prescription and get a new pair of glasses.

As you can see, my plate is full – Scoliosis, Raynaud’s, Thoracic Outlet, Unexplained Numbness, and possibly, Glaucoma. I have at least two surgeries in my near future. By all earthly standards, I have reason to be scared, even a little mad. What about a little self-pity? And, as a human, I do experience these feelings. However, I choose to look at this differently…

I choose to give this plate to God; to place it at the foot of the Cross. I choose to ask for help with healing, if it is His will for me. I choose to have faith; and trust that God will use all of this for His greater purpose. It all reminds me of a song I’ve sung in church, based on Psalm 91, called “Eagle’s Wings”

And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings,

Bear you on the breath of dawn,

Make you to shine like the sun,

And hold you in the palm of His hands.

I want Him to hold me in the palm of His hands. I can’t handle all this alone. But, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians).

I’m sure I’ve broken some kind of blogging rule for the length of a blog post. I am sorry this got kind of long. But this is something I’ve had on my heart and mind for the last couple of days.

Would you mind saying a prayer that I am able to maintain these choices? That I am able to leave this full plate at the feet of Jesus?

Reconciliation

Last night my daughter, Diva, made her first Reconciliation with a group of other young people at church. They did a short prayer service as a group and then divided up to go to different areas. Diva wanted to have her first confession heard by a certain priest but he was unavailable last night. So acting like the angel she can sometimes be, she was very agreeable and was blessed to be assigned to our pastor who heard Littleman’s first confession as well.

The theme for the evening was that of the Good Shepherd (Luke 15:4-7). After the Gospel was read, Msgr. began a short homily. Shortly after he began, Diva turned to me said, “That’s like a sin!” Any fears I had about her readiness faded away. She understood.

As we sat in the pew, her excitement grew. They were called to line up at their assigned confessional. She got in line and turned back toward me. She smiled, blew me a kiss and flashed the sign (ASL) for “I love you.”

Littleman and I began to pray for her. We prayed until she came out. When she did, she was all smiles. After her penance, she turned to me and said she felt great! She also said she wanted to do it again and asked if she could go tomorrow! I told her she could go any time she wanted, but just not to start sinning on purpose so that she would have something to confess!

To top off the beautiful evening, she met up with a friend at the exit. They shared their excitement of the sacrament and compared recently lost teeth. All-in-all ~ a perfect evening! I love you, Diva!

Diva