Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Empty Hands


I just finished the most beautiful book about Mother Teresa by Monsignor Leo Maasburg (the priest who accompanied her all over the world, translating for her) called, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a personal portrait.  A beautifully written memoir, I completely recommend it.



In it (somewhere, I can't seem to find it!) he quotes Mother Teresa as saying she wanted to go to Heaven with "empty hands."  At first I thought this was because she was so humble, she was saying that everything she did was done by God (and not herself) so she would arrive with nothing.  Or maybe she wanted to show Jesus that she gave everything away that He had given her while on earth (which would be in keeping with her vow of poverty).  
But then I thought of something else.  Mother Teresa was never about herself.  She always focused on God.  So if she approached God with empty hands, she wouldn't be thinking about what she was bringing at all.  Rather, she was preparing herself to be able to accept whatever and however much God Himself wanted to give her.  
It was only with empty hands that she would be able to hold all that God wanted to give her.  Anything else would be in the way.


Then I thought about all the stuff that fills my hands (err...I think my arms too, and I might be juggling some stuff with my foot), things that make it impossible to hold what God wants to give me.
  My worries, my fears, my sins (pride!!), and my expectations (and all the other useless things which I frequently scramble to hold on to) are the exact things that are making it impossible for me to receive Him.

I think, as I age, God is saying, more and more, "Let go. Let me."  And I want to. And maybe you do too.  But where do we begin? This is a good start: a willing heart.  

And God wants our heart...our hands...our all.  His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness.  




“Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”  
Mother Teresa

“A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.”  
Mother Teresa

Monday, February 12, 2018

The most beautiful place in the world: New Zealand


New Zealand is the most beautiful place in the world!  At least it is the most beautiful place I have ever seen!  I feel like I entered a magic kingdom where all the other countries in the world collected their most beautiful bits and pieces and then put them together into one (err...two) island!  






We started in Auckland where we ate in Ponsonby, walked the Bayside Promenade, and then went up the Sky Tower.  We made it to Mass at the Cathedral where the priest led us in the Our Father and the Sign of the Cross in Te Reo (Maori language).  Then we took our rental car (driving on the left-hand side!) and headed for the east coast.




As one of my friends pointed out, this was a non-stop trip.  We arrived at 11pm in Tauranga and were up and out by 8 the next morning.  We hiked Mount Maunganui after drinking some fantastic coffee at a little beach side cafe and then drove down the coast and went inland to Rotorua, stopping at a Kiwi farm along the way.  Two waterfall hikes and a geo-thermal spa later, we landed in our hotel again at 11pm.  





This time we were up and gone by 7:30am in order to make it to Hobbiton...talk about entering something magical.  It was like we stepped into the movie or book and I could see Bilbo, Frodo and Samwise Gamgee living around us.






In the afternoon we hit up the glowworm caves before heading back to Auckland.  This was perfect because it felt like we went from visiting the hobbits to seeing the dwarves from Lord of the Rings.  




The next morning we were on a plane to Nelson in the South Island where we tackled Abel Tasman National Park: bike trails, kayaking, and hiking, interspersed with yummy eats and lots of laughs.


(more pics below)

Then it was back to Auckland for two more nights.  Originally we planned to bike Waiheke Island on our last day but God's divine providence made it rain.  Our exhausted bodies gratefully slept in and then made a leisurely afternoon of it by bus, visiting wineries on a nearly empty island.




One week was definitely not long enough for a trip to the other side of the world but would I do it again?  Absolutely!  <3


"All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost." ~JRR Tolkien




















Sunday, January 28, 2018

Let him ask in faith


So I'm packing today for my trip to New Zealand on Friday.  Always something good!  But between now and then I have 4 night shifts.  Yikes!





Have I mentioned my leg injury?  I hurt my calf before Thanksgiving and for five weeks couldn't run without limping.  After Christmas I got hooked up with Physical Therapy and wow what a difference.  Three weeks into it and I am back to a 20 minute pain-free interval run!  It's been a lot of focus on muscle strengthening and not over-doing it (which is something I'm apparently pretty lousy at!).  I've had to be patient (not my forte) and trust that the therapist knows what I should be doing.  I have to say, I do trust her and I am seeing an improvement, so praise God!



Something else I wasn't sure I would write about but I think I will is my breast cancer scare.  Over the holidays I found a lump and over the past few weeks have passed through the mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy gamut with thankfully no cancer.  I didn't tell many people mostly because I didn't want to worry anyone unnecessarily.  It was definitely a trust trial and although I had a heightened sense of anxiety, I also had a lot of peace that regardless of the results, God was in control.  And He was.  And He is!



So now I'm back to me with no worries except you know everyone else's problems around me...I mean things to pray about not worry.  :o)



Here are some pics from a recent hike in Cape Cod.  Hopefully I'll have some pics of New Zealand to share in a couple weeks!




Have a great week and peace be with you! 




Friday, January 19, 2018

Hope




I've been reading and listening to a lot of meditations about the theological virtue of hope lately.  Not on purpose, more like a God thing.  After reflecting on all these passages and podcast videos, I don't know that I've really thought that much about hope before.  I think I just assumed I trusted in God so that was that.  What else was there than trusting in God?

One thing that keeps jumping out at me is that hope is a relationship.  It is not an optimistic attitude or a positive outlook on life, "Eh, God will work it out."



Pope Francis says, "Hope never disappoints.  Optimism disappoints, but hope does not!"

Father Mike also makes the same distinction between the two: 

"It [hope] is not the same as optimism or presumption. It is not the blind faith that we will go to heaven or the escapist way to avoid the troubles of this world."

So if it's not just trusting God to make everything work out in the end or determining to never be sad or disappointed (what, you are discouraged? lack of faith!), what are we dealing with?  

What we are dealing with is something much bigger and much deeper.  We're talking about the relationship that God, the infinite, wants to have with us, the finite, every moment of every day.



"We must not let hope abandon us, because God, with his love, walks with us.  We can all say 'I hope because God is beside me; I have hope because God walks with me.' God walks and holds my hand."         
Pope Francis

So what is hope if it's not optimism?  Father Mike says that hope is rooted deeply in faith, when we entrust ourselves to another. When it comes to God, I've placed my trust in Him.  Faith is a relationship. Hope is this trust extended into the future.  I'm not just optimistic that things will turn out. No, I'm living that relationship, looking forward into life and this relationship will be the thing that bears me up.  This relationship with Jesus...will be sustaining me.  Things don't have to go well for us.  Because I know He won't fail me.  It doesn't mean that I won't go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death but it does mean that when I walk through the Valley, He will be with me at my side.     

(somewhat paraphrased from Father Mike video link above)


So from here to there and back again.  God and I are starting 2018 with a bang.  So glad to entrust tomorrow and the next day and the day after that to his Divine Providence.  On to our next adventure!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Conversion Story (abridged*)



I feel inspired to try and record my conversion story.  I'm not sure how many people in my 37 year old life know that I was not raised Catholic or baptized as a baby.  It's not something that generally comes up in conversation anymore although I feel like it used to be something I'd talk about in my early 20s.

I was raised by a protestant father and fallen away-revert Catholic mother.  My mom re-entered the church when I was 8 or 9 years old and I remember she and my dad went to have their marriage blessed in the church while she was pregnant with my baby brother around the same time.  I think I had been in a Catholic church several times but usually because my grandma was visiting.  I have a vivid memory of my mom writing my name in cursive on a piece of paper during mass when I was very little and copying it over and over.

Up until I was 12 years old, we went as a family to my dad's church every Sunday and Wednesday.  When I was 11 my mom had a spiritual experience that led her to start homeschooling my two younger sisters.  A year later I started and it was during that year that I read the Baltimore Catechism as well as a book on Church history.  

I was raised to think that we kids would choose our own faith when we grew up, so although we went to my dad's church regularly, I was never formally pressured to go forward and be baptized.  I knew enough bible verses and stories to pass for a protestant!  However, I never really felt ready to commit to being baptized.

The actual moment I chose Christ (He chose me?) is stamped in my mind.  My sister and I had participated in a soccer tournament which was half way between our house and my grandparents.  We didn't get to my grandparent's house until way after dark and I remember my mom waking me up from sleeping on the floor of our big old van.  I remember her saying I felt hot and helping me walk in the house, announcing I had a temperature to my grandparents.  Usually all the kids slept in the basement but she put me in the guest room at the back of the house and went to get some medicine for the fever.  I remember telling her that "I want the pillow open" but what I wanted to say was "I want the window open" and being scared that I couldn't say what I wanted to say.  Then she gave me the medicine and left me to sleep.  

As I lay there I thought, "What if I die?  Do I want to die a Catholic or a Protestant?  Jesus, what do you want me to do?"

I'm pretty sure this is the first time I talked to Jesus with an awareness that He was listening.

And in that split second, I decided I wanted to die a Catholic.  It was settled.  That's how I wanted to go.

When we returned home I told my parents about my decision, met with my dad's preacher, youth minister and then went to the priest at the Catholic Church who arranged for me to have private RCIA classes, and who eventually baptized me by full immersion so my father would not worry I was getting baptized "wrong." 

Something that I remember vividly is that I came to know Christ during this time and the tentative reaching I made that first night began to grow roots.  I can remember sitting on our front porch several months later and thinking, "What a difference it is to know about Christ versus to actually know Him."



Since that day to this, God has taken me on some pretty crazy adventures.  There have been difficult times, sad times, overwhelming times and wonderful times.  But He has never abandoned me.  I feel with each mountain I approach, He is asking me to trust Him that much more.  

Father Mike says that theological hope is a relationship, because it is trust in a person and that person is God.  2018 is starting off with a bang (I'm sure it won't continue with this momentum!) but that is perfect because God is perfect and He's loves us perfectly.  On to the next summit!

*I say abridged because there are other things that happened but I didn't want to make this blog into a book.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

From Frozen to Moana and back again

After a flying four day trip I feel like I went from visiting Elsa to visiting Moana and then right back to Elsa!

First I was here:


Then I was here:








I am always awed by God's artistic hand.  He paints from so many different palette schemes and creates such beauty!  

These are the moments when you just sit and take it all in.




When I flew home last night it was dark and my car was buried in snow.  I found myself squeezed in the tollbooth with Linda, the toll collector, who made sure I was warm, seated (in her chair!) and entertained with stories of her family for the thirty or forty minutes we waited for maintenance to come shovel me out.  

As I sat there, chitchatting and laughing (inside) at the awesome array of people that God has brought across my path, I realized that even though He probably uses a different paintbrush, it is the same artist painting us, the one that paints the beautiful sunsets and turquoise waters and frozen oceans.   And as easy as it is for us to love and appreciate the beauty He created on earth, it is that much easier for Him to love what He has made: us!  

John 15:9-17 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.  Abide in my love.

Psalm 136:26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.