This week I am thankful for seeing the delight in my child’s life and being able to share it.
For the Little Martyr’s birthday this year, we bought her a week of horse camp. She has loved horses for years but never had the opportunity to ride or be around them. This year, I found out about a non-profit, Christian-based organization that rescues horses in New England. They offer an affordable camp teaching horsemanship, hard work in the stable, and a love of Christ. Children get to ride and care for horses, and the farm gets free labor for a week. Win-win.
Her face, her eyes, the excitement in her voice brought me a great happiness. I’m so thankful I can make a dream of hers come true, and that I can share in that excitement, too.
“…thy words became to me a joy, and the delight of my heart.” Jer. 15.16
These words struck me as I read today’s mass readings. God’s words are a joy to me and the delight of my heart. Is that true? Many things delight my heart: my children, my husband, books, fall days, temperatures below 70, solitude. Do God’s words make that list? I’d have to say, yes, but I don’t take advantage of tasting that delight and experiencing that joy often enough.
First, a word about happiness and joy. Happiness is a fleeting feeling based upon circumstances (my kids are obeying, everyone liked dinner, we have plenty of money, I did something fun), while joy is an emotion of delight that lasts despite what may be happening. It can exist with sorrow and suffering. In fact, the deeper the suffering I experience, the greater is my capacity for joy.
Anyway, so God’s words–when He speaks to me in silence, through His love letter (the Bible), and through persons and circumstances–bring me that lasting delight. When I read God’s Word, I often feel a sense of calm, of safety, of assurance. That all is right and orderly. Not always. Sometimes I feel nothing. That doesn’t mean the joy isn’t there. It’s just hidden.
My God, thank you for the joy of your words. May I listen to them, delight in them and share them.
It’s been over a week since I wrote last. Mea culpa. In that time, my husband came home from 6 weeks away; we went camping as a family in the loudest, most miserable campground in New England; and I taught 5th-6th grade at a local Vacation Bible School. Yikes. Oh, and yesterday I had every intention of posting something, but we came home from VBS to a fly infestation in our house. We spent the next 9 hours killing and cleaning.
This week I am most thankful for the challenges God sends my way. They quickly demonstrate how far from perfect I am and how much in need I am of God’s strength and mercy. I need that reminder. Ever so often, I feel like, “Hey, I’ve got this!” That’s when God says, “No, actually, you don’t. It’s only by My grace.”
The biggest challenge this week was teaching VBS. It’s my second year as the 5th-6th grade teacher, and the second year was definitely not easier than the first. I think I was a bit more organized but still not prepared to handle three boys with the demanding diagnoses of various forms of autism, PTSD, etc. That’s in addition to the other children in class. Every day I was taking one to the director.
After the first day, I prayed every morning, “God, I come to You empty-handed. I have nothing. I can do nothing. Only let me do Your holy will and whether I succeed or fail does not matter.” I also asked for the intercession of St. John Bosco, patron of troubled youth.
Did I succeed? Well, there were moments perhaps but also epic failures. As it comes to a close I pray only that I did God’s will and planted at least a tiny seed of God’s love into the kids’ hearts.
This week I am thankful for several things. First was lunch out with my dear friend/mother in the faith at a local restaurant with locally sourced, organic foods. I ate ricotta gnocchi with tomatoes, mozzarella and chicken. We talked for a few hours on a lovely patio, not even breaking for a passing thunderstorm.
Next, an enormous party in honor of my friend and running partner, on furlough from a missionary trip. Let me tell you, there is no party like a Catholic party. We all brought dishes from different countries and ate ourselves silly. Children definitely outnumbered adults. I got to see almost all of my friends from our previous parish, and my oldest got to attend his old youth group. I really miss that community. It’s where I feel truly at home, where I belong.
Finally, my husband came home after 5.5 weeks away! I missed him terribly but am thankful we were still able to communicate daily. And now, I have my partner back, so we can continue walking together the road of faith in this life.
Yesterday wrapped up the readings from the book of Hosea. In the last chapter, God tells his people how he will heal and restore them if they will only turn back to him. He reminds them who it is that hears their prayers and looks after them. Not the idols they have been worshipping, but himself, God the creator of all. “From me comes your fruit” (14.8).
Christ echoes these words when he says, “He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15. 5).
Sometimes I forget that any progress I’ve made climbing the Mountain of God has not come from my own efforts, but from the sheer gratuitous grace of God. Any time I have had success in showing forth the virtue of patience has been God’s gift, not my achievement. And so on with mortification or piety or charity or mercy. It is not by my power that any good thing has happened, but only by God’s.
Directly after he murders the king, Macbeth ponders why he cannot say “Amen” after hearing men bless themselves. It is because he has closed his soul to grace and its fruits by committing a mortal sin. If he, like the people of Israel, would turn back to God and repent of his sin, he would be restored and find himself able to bring forth fruits again.
This week I am grateful for going outside of my comfort zone and saying “Yes” to hospitality. I was delighted to spend a lazy day with an extra little girl in the house. We baked, hiked and ate ice cream. I pray for the grace to say “Yes” to the Holy Spirit’s promptings more often.
I’m also grateful for a friend reaching out to me and providing some much needed outside perspective on a difficult situation with which I am struggling. Thank God for words of encouragement and for sane responses to illogical problems.
Hosea is one of my favorite minor prophets. Actually, that distinction goes to Jonah (I get how Jonah feels. Check out 4.9). Hosea, though, gives a glimpse of God’s great love for His people. It shows his vulnerable side, his never-ending mercy and desire for His people’s love. When I was reading this section of Hosea today, this verse struck me: “They made kings, but not through me. They set up princes, but without my knowledge” (Hosea 8.4).
The people of Israel have turned their backs on God time and again. Here God is complaining that though He should be an integral part in their lives, having an intimate knowledge and part in all their decisions, He is swept aside.
I hear Him chiding me. Where is He in my daily decisions? Does He have an intimate knowledge of me, my hopes, dreams, fears, plans? Of course He knows all, but He will not intrude where He is not invited. All that I do should include Him. All my choices should go through Him. Oh Lord, I invite You in. I want You to have knowledge of all of me, the good and the bad. The parts I want to show off and the parts I want to hide. I want You to be involved in all my life, small and great. I need Your wisdom in order to follow and do Your holy will.
I read this year a little book by Wilfrid Stinissen titled Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us. I had been working on it for a few months. It’s one of those that grabs you by the throat and throttles you but in an oh-so-gentle, loving manner.
Abandonment to God and His Will is something with which I really struggle. As a firstborn, I want to be in charge, in control. Especially when my life feels out of control. If I can just get something right, I think, I’m still okay, still worthwhile. Big problem. Measuring my self-worth by accomplishments or what I can grasp in my hand is a short road to despair. Because I can’t do everything, and I can’t control everything and everyone. No matter how hard I try.
The author says that to live in the present moment is how we abandon ourselves to God. “We encounter the infinity of God only in the present moment.” God is. He was and He will be. But we only are. The past is over, the future may never happen. Only the present is certain, and that is where I can meet the divine. Replaying the past, saying “If only I’d done things differently” is deadly. It kills my chance for grace here, right now, in this situation. Worrying over the future is wasted time. I don’t know what’s going to happen in my next breath, let alone my next year. But in this very moment, God waits to meet me, to give me his grace, his love, his mercy.
Help me to stay, Lord, right here with you.
Today’s responsorial psalm is from Psalm 66. In it is a verse that has always made me pause in consternation. “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me” (v. 16). I should be telling others what God has done in my life. Probably partly because of our American mindset of religion and faith being a “personal” individualistic affair and partly because of my introverted nature, I don’t do this. At all.
So this is my opportunity to “tell what he has done for me.” He has given me a husband who adores/cherishes/protects me, children who are a delight to me, extended family who love me, a lovely home, plenty of food and material goods. He’s given me the Catholic Church to mother me and lead me on my path to heaven. He’s given me friends I can depend on to laugh and cry with me. He’s given me health and strength. He’s given me the opportunity to be home with my children and educate them. He’s given me his Word, his love letter that I can open any time I want. He’s given me His very Self in the Holy Eucharist. He’s given me a love for my vocation to marriage and family life, a love that took many years for me to accept. I have been given more than I deserve. My God, I thank you for all you have given me. It is yours, and should you decide to take away what you have given, may you give me the grace, like holy Job, to say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1.21).