Posted in body, brother, church, death, father, grace, grandfather, grief, heaven, Jesus, life, love, mother, peace, Physical, Prayer, season, soul, Spiritual

I Still Love You

In darkness, in grief, in despair, or even just in the midst of seasons that never seem to end, we need to make space for pause.

~ Ann Voskamp

I still love you even though you left so abruptly. I had even wished it was one of your April’s fool’s jokes. I wondered that whole day on your favorite holiday if you would send a message or telephone to say, “April’s fools! It’s all a joke, I am not really dead.” But not so. You are dead, or least to this world. You have passed onto a much happier, freer life now. How is Heaven, my brother?

I still love you even though we lived so different lives. You a bachelor, no family to attend to and I with 6 adult children and 8 grandchildren. We still shared a love for our beloved mother, father, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and our northern friends. We lived in the same childhood home & family tree farm, made childhood vacation memories. We shared a love of the great outdoors, you especially with your hunting and fishing; I with my gardening. It meant the world to me when you came to Dean and I’s greenhouse and brought Grandpa to see our new adventure.

I still love you even though you left without saying those words to me. You left angry at me and our other siblings. You wanted no accountability, live life mortgage-free and a life full of cigarettes, alcohol, women, and gambling. You were writing checks your body could not cash in on anymore. We all can be a prodigal son at times, get off-course to what really matters. I know I have in my life. I had just hoped you would have come around while living on this earth. But I think you are now with those you loved the most, Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Paula, your soulmate Eileen, and the Lord. The heavenly reunion was a joyful one, I am sure.

I still love you as you have taught me how to laugh and be unconventional. I think you will continue to teach me lessons. I know you were not a churchgoer, but a believer in Jesus Christ. Despite how many knelt knees and fervent prayers are said, it is by His grace that we are saved and set free. I have my quiet time almost every morning, but this week I am attending Mass every morning, too. Not sure how long God has called me to this, but I feel a peace each morning while praying with others and for others. I did this for various seasons while working in human resources, attended noon Mass at the church a block from my office during some troublesome times and for troubled employees.

“We can love completely what we cannot completely understand.” ~Norman Maclean

The movie A River Runs Through It reminds me of you. You are the Brad Pitt character, Paul. I saw this movie a couple of days before I learned of the news of your passing, and I told Dean “Paul reminds me of Steve.” The closing words of Norman Maclean’s story, “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and ran over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops.” To me that river is the blood of Jesus, running through us, the rocks are us, and some of those rocks just have a little bit more sprinkling of raindrops, the blood of Jesus. God rest your soul. I love you, brother Steve.

Posted in cross, death, Family, forgiveness, God, holy, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Lent, Prayer, quote, Spiritual, works

Deny Self

Ash Wednesday begins the Lent season. This season is to examine where our present life is at, confess wrongdoing, deny self, and look to God our Father, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit for guidance and follow the calling. What does it mean to deny self? One way is to deny my own needs so another’s needs are met. A healthy marriage requires this regularly. Or deny my urge to lash out on someone who has wronged me or someone I love, but instead pray for them. Another way to deny self is to make a dinner for someone in need rather than spend the afternoon leisure shopping. The Holy Scripture in Matthew 16:24 tells us “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me.”

Hand in hand to denying self is the admittance where we have done wrong. We can do this daily, not just on Sundays or holy days, but rather during our regular quiet times, or throughout the day as the Holy Spirit leads. In many Christian faiths there is a prayer called the Confiteor, which we confess during our regular services. This is a good place to start if one needs guidance on how to pray for forgiveness.

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault …”

Following Jesus is not an easy task. Sometimes it is multiple uneasy tasks. “How many times do I forgive my brother?” you may ask. “Seventy times seven” Jesus tells us. “Pray for your enemies.” Jesus also says. “The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His,” Christian author and minister George Macdonald is quoted. Have you suffered unto death like Jesus Christ? I am preaching to me as well as to whoever needs to be reminded like myself.

Let this Lent season be a time of reflection, forgiveness, denial of self, prayer, true worship, and good works unto our Lord.

Posted in anxious, care, God, heart, listen, Martha, Prayer, quote, renew, rest, scripture, serve, silence, solitude, spirit, woman, worry

What Captures My Heart

These retirement days are far from lack of tasks and attention-getting chores. What reels in my attention, keeps my focus, takes my time? What captures my heart? Maybe what I spend time on is where my heart is. The Holy Scripture says it like this …

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~ Matthew 6:21

At times social media and electronics can take too much of my time. Answering emails, deleting emails, Goggle searches, text messages around the clock, catching up on the news online and local television station, word processing recipes for the next culinary class, Words With Friends challenges, etc. Then there are household distractions, a bathroom needing freshening, dishes to get in the dishwasher, laundry to wash, mail to open or pitch in the trash, and bills to pay. There is a place for each of these chores, but I have higher priorities to attend to.

“Turn my eyes away from worthless things; renew my life according to Your Word.” ~ Psalms 119:37

Then there is quiet time. What a treasure just sitting, listening to my breathe, closing my eyes to meditate, counting my blessings, praying to my God for my loved ones, and reading His Word. Refreshment for my soul. After all these years, I still find myself busying myself too much to sit down for this quintessential quiet time. “Just do it, Anna, sit down” I tell myself. Like the story of Mary and Martha, Jesus is quoted in saying,

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” ~ Luke 10: 41 & 42

“Martha served … the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” ~ John 12:2 & 3

Martha is referenced in the gospel of John as well. “Martha served” dinner just before Mary anointed Jesus’ feet. A servant’s heart, Martha had, and I still have today. I need to stop long enough to smell the fragrance of the perfume. Let my “house be filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” And that is the heart of the matter right there.

Posted in answer, anxious, believe, children, choice, day, empty, failure, faith, Family, give, God, grace, heart, house, life, love, mother, people, Prayer, quote, rain, resources, rest, saints, scripture, Spiritual, understand, water, worry

Take, Lord, Receive

It has been a summer touched by St. Francis, St. Joseph, and St. Ignatius. Their lives still live in God’s people today including in me. A stray puppy became a part of my husband and I’s life one week in August before finding the perfect family to adopt him. After several weeks of packing, donating, moving, repairing, scrubbing, and just plain hard work, we finally put my mother’s villa on the market with the St. Joseph statue buried in the yard. Several willing buyers offered contracts more than what we asked for within 24 hours of being on the market. The closing is in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, Dean and I have some major household upgrades. We replaced a furnace well over 20 years old, a roof maybe as old, and gutters failing their job even when removing leaves and debris on several occasions this spring and summer. We have had plenty of rain even over the summer. One wall was showing some leakage during a storm prior to the roof and gutters being replaced, so some plaster work will be next. St. Joseph intercedes while God oversees the details.

“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.”St. Ignatius of Loyola

I awoke one day singing from my heart the spiritual song, Take, Lord, Receive. I sang all day long, beginning with my shower and while I worked around the house that day. This song is based on the quote above from St. Ignatius, co-founder of the Jesuit teachings and Spiritual Exercises. I knew I was singing this for someone else besides me. A phone call from one of the kids revealed who. But the words welled up in my heart for myself, too. A yielding I need right now. A yielding of my own heart matters. Worry about things I cannot control, anxiety about the future of those I love, and my lack of understanding for some of God’s people placed in my life. Take, Lord, receive. My liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will. All I have and call my own … To You, Lord, I return it. Everything is Yours. Do with it what You will. Please Lord, give me only Your love and Your grace, that is enough for me. Amen.”

Posted in change, day, faith, Family, God, grandchild, health, life, Prayer, quote, rest, trust, write, writer

Soar Above And Through

This summer brought change, several of them. I retired from my full-time job right into culinary day camps to teach, a week of writing camp for myself, multiple family gatherings, grandkids and grand dogs staying over, moving furniture and home goods, and prepping my mother’s villa for the real estate market. Life isn’t rosy even in retirement. I have had some adjustments to my new job demands. My per diem job requires a devotion and creativity to lesson plans, and with timeliness. Making more time for writing is still a challenge. That week away in June to write and recipe development was so nice. Hard to capture those moments in my home, but discipling myself to keep to pen and paper most days. The house still needs repairs, loved ones’ bodies and souls need healing, and more of Jesus in our lives. Good news, my PVCs have subsided. The meds and part-time rather than full-time employment have been key as well as prayers.

Where is life going? It is a question I ask often. I am a planner, but I must rest in God’s plans, not my own. Faith. Trust. In God, not myself or others. While I have launched into this new season, I spent part of July in quiet, just not doing anything some days. In these contemplative hours, I considered where I have been, and then where life is going for my loved ones and I. I cannot dwell here very long as I begin to think things too much, try to figure out God. I simply need to pray, trust that He is caring for me and my loved ones in every minute of our days. “What wings are to a bird, and sails to a ship, so is prayer to the soul,” Corrie Ten Boom has said. Soul, fly and sail through this busy month of August, soar above and through all the unknown and unanswered details with God’s guidance. Father God be with me.

Posted in children, cry, Elisabeth, Emotional, Family, fear, flower, God, grandchild, health, love, mother, Physical, Prayer, Rachel, Spiritual, strength, thankful, trust, Women in My Life

Dear Mom

Mom, I miss you. I needed you this week. I needed your listening ear. I got scared, too scared to trust for little while. I let the world bother me to the point I was doubting who I was. I am still your daughter. Even if you are not here with me, reminders like the female cardinal bird at the feeder last evening that seemed to peer through the window pane at me. This is my first Mother’s Day in my 60 years without you, Mom. If you were here you would be telling me “God gave you the strength and brains to get through this tough patch in life.” You’d also say, “count your blessings, be thankful.” You were always so strong. Well, maybe not always, but most times. Tougher than me for sure. I remember tears from your eyes just a few times. But mostly you plugged through things, complained when you had enough of Dad or one or all of us kids. Social injustices fired you up. No angel, a tough cookie that was very independent in most aspects, and gave that same tough love to me and those around you.

I sought God this week. He answered my cry, and sent other people in my path to pray for me. Mother Mary, other heavenly saints, and probably you and Dad, too prayed for me. My cries turned to gratitude. I am thankful for my husband. I am thankful for my children. I am thankful for my whole family, Dean’s, too. I am thankful for my jobs, and my retirement around the corner. I am thankful for the physicians caring for me and our girls, Rachel and Elisabeth. I am thankful there are medicines to keep our health. Rachel found a new doctor, a better one. She made it to California with her family, and are on the way back now. Praying for the traveling angels to guide them along the way. Those grandbabies got to put their toes in the ocean for the first time while in Malibu! I am thankful for where God has me right now. He has much more for me to do but also to rest and relax more. “Flex your gratitude muscle to fight off fear,” author Ann Voskamp encourages me. And it works. Stronger to fight off doubts and let God’s love win. Happy Mother’s Day in heaven! We left flowers for you!

Posted in Ann Voskamp, anxious, authors, body, comfort, compassion, cross, cry, Emotional, fear, God, health, heart, Holy Spirit, insecurity, Jesus, love, mind, pain, passion, people, Physical, Prayer, restore, sad, scripture, secure, spirit, Spiritual, trust, woman, worry

Inside My Aching Heart

An ear infection lead me to the urgent care before we left for vacation. My blood pressure was alarmingly high. The urgent care sent a report to my primary care, and she messaged me while on our 2-week vacation to take my blood pressure the next few days, and send her the readings. Still high and some chest discomfort soon after our multi-state road trip, I was in the doctor’s office when I got back to reality. Referred to a cardiologist and more testing, we discovered I have an arrthymtic heart condition. I have premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) that cause echo beats. This Friday I meet with my doctor to discuss what I need to do to take care of my physical heart besides take a beta blocker and lose weight. Questions flood my brain … How did I acquire this condition? When will I feel myself again? Can I return to speed walking as that helps in my weight loss efforts? How long has this arrhythmia been going on? I know I have not felt myself in a long while. I am tired much of the time. Not sleeping well most nights. I have become anxious with my relationships and social settings. I thought that was because of the COVID social distancing for too many days. This learnt introvert does not trust people easily. Trauma does powerful things to one’s mind, body, and soul. I cannot take anxiety meds, as they upset my digestive system so bad, and that causes more anxiety as I worry if I will find a bathroom in time when I go out. I am an insecure woman right now who doesn’t feel or even know if I am loved by those I have been close to over the years. I feel out of rhythm and vulnerable. The ironic thing is my physical heart is going through the same, out of sync and aching. Which came first, my aching physical heart, my stifled emotional heart, or my parched spiritual heart?

I suppose it doesn’t matter which was first. God wants to restore all three. Where do I start? My foundations, the Word of God and prayer. I recall Holy Scriptures that says I am “fearfully and wonderfully made”. In 1 Samuel 16:7 it says “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” King David’s prayer wells inside me into a song … “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit in me. Cast me not away from thy presence, take not thy Holy Spirit from me, and restore onto me the joy of thy salvation, and renew a right spirit in me.” Psalm 51: 10 -12. I cannot hide from this truth nor the truth inside myself. The truth is I feel unsteady, insecure and timid right now in life. I do not know how long I will feel this way. With God’s help I will come out of this. I need to get my spiritual heart right first.

Author Ann Voskamp so eloquently writes . . .These days feel like a flood of heartache . . . And there’s not one moment God doesn’t feel that with us. “His heart was filled with pain” (Genesis 6:6). God has a heart . . . and it hurts. It hurts with what hurts us. His heart hurts not just with a few drops of ache, not just with a slow drip of sadness—the whole expanse of His heart fills, swells, weighs dark with this storm of pain. God, who hung the stars—He has taken a thread of His heart and tied it to yours. And He didn’t need to, but God tied His heart to yours — so when you feel pain, He fills with pain. Time only continues on in this impossibly suffering world because God Himself is willing to keep suffering the impossible with us. We read the headlines and wonder, lay in our own beds way too late at night & soundlessly cry: If there’s a God who really cares, He’d look at this world and His heart would break. And God looks to the Cross, and says, “My heart did. ”On that Cross, they speared His side and pierced straight into His heart, filled with pain, and it was the water and blood of His broken heart that gushed right out, a flood of love. Grace—it, too, has floods of its own. . . . The way heaven comes down so we can rise. In a world of grief beyond magnitude, what will change us and the world, is the attitude of Beatitudes. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” In a world that doesn’t feel fair — His cruciform love and outstretched arms embrace us — so what we feel is Him. No one knows more than Jesus that this world isn’t fair — and no one loves us to death like Jesus, until everything is fair for forever. In a world of loss — the deeply suffering are deeply touched by the suffering of Christ. We do not weep alone. No matter what happens in this busted-up world in the days ahead, in your own beautiful world: Pray. He listens & He holds. “When you call on Me, when you come & pray to Me, I’ll listen…I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady” Jeremiah 29:12, Isaiah 41:10MSG #TheBrokenWay#WeepingTogether

The physical and emotional heart healings will come . . .

Posted in answer, book, care, comfort, fear, feelings, give, glory, God, heart, hospitality, Jesus, king, light, love, Prayer, quote, Rejoice, scripture, silence, sorrow, worry

The Silence First

I prepare myself this Advent season, Christ’s coming. I quiet my soul this morning. Reading in my daily inspirational book which I neglected a couple of days this past week, “All of man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone,” written by 17th- century philosopher Blaise Pascal. I don’t want to be miserable. Do you? “Silence is God’s first language,” the 16th-century mystic John of the Cross wrote.

“Adventus” is the Latin word that the more modern word “advent” comes from, which means “arrival”. When someone arrives at your house or the office, you usually straighten things up and prepare some details like a meal or documents for your guest to partake or take with them. So we try to be accommodating, showing hospitality to our guests. The Latin meaning for hospitality is “host”. Most essentially, it refers to the relationship between the host and guest.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” ~ Revelation 3:20 

What can I, the host give Jesus, my guest this Advent season? My heart. Jesus just simply wants my heart. And yours. He wants to take residence in my heart and yours. Jesus wants a relationship with you. Open your heart to Jesus, our Messiah, the Lamb of God, the King of Glory. Welcome Him. Silence first. Pray to Him, tell Him your heart. Your sins, worries, fears, tears, sorrows, praises, joys, and dreams. “Leave all your worries with Him, because He cares for you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:7. He is listening, He cares, He comforts, and He answers with His love. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.” ~ Jeremiah 31:3

Posted in body, change, choice, community, courage, day, deed, differences, feelings, happy, house, husband, job, lesson, life, live, Mental, mind, neighbor, people, Physical, Prayer, purpose, resilience, spirit, Spiritual, strength, thankful, well

What Am I Waiting For?

About every moment of every day the local, national, and world news capture heart-wrenching stories of tragedy and utter chaos. Although the local news stations have been better about bringing the good news, too. Like how a group of teenagers care for the needs of their elderly or home-bound neighbors during this pandemic with meal deliveries, running errands, minor home repairs, and taking out trash. While helping others, these youth are helping themselves by learning new skills, effective communications, and heart lessons from their altruism acts. These kids didn’t wait for something to change, they made the change. We cannot say how long the pandemic will continue to disrupt our lives. But I cannot stand by and wait to see how long. Life goes on. The new normal is established, for now anyway. What am I waiting for? What are you waiting for?

I have gained 90 minutes a day by not commuting to work every weekday. After about 3 months to adjusting to work from home (and loving most aspects of telecommuting), I decided to make another change. “I don’t have time” is not a valid excuse any longer. I downloaded a walking app, and have been doing interval speed walking for the past 10 weeks 5 mornings a week. It has been so liberating! I am up to 4-1/4 miles in 75 minutes, and my speed is about 17-1/2 minutes per mile. I am out of the house 5 days a week doing something wonderful for my body as well as for my mind and spirit. After 6 weeks my blood pressure and glucose have dropped enough to adjust my meds. There is a new saying I have heard through the online weight management program Naturally Slim. “Mind, meet body.” I play these mental gymnastics, talking to my mind, my body, and my spirit. There is a series of thoughts that goes like this: “This is good for you, get out there”, “God, give me strength, protect me for another day”, “foot, knee, you are going to be okay”, “only 5 more minutes of speed walking before cool down, yes!”, “sweaty wet tank top you are getting washed today”, “God, bless that homeless person”, “the birds sound lovely, thank You”, “God, what a beautiful sunrise You have given this morning!”, “oh, what a cute flower pot” … I think you get the picture. My thoughts turn to prayer, thankfulness, and praise every single day. I turned sixty today! My sassy (my hubby says sexy) sixty self is happy I have not stood by and waited any longer for these walking workouts. We are never too old to learn or do something new. Now is the time.

Posted in authors, children, death, deed, faith, friend, friends, God, husband, mother, peace, Prayer, scripture, sinful woman, strength, woman, Women in My Life

Bathed In Prayer

My heart has been so heavy these past few weeks.  Thoughts have run through my head over and over.  I could not publicly write about it until today due to finding the words, as well as work and travels. The ramifications of the COVID pandemic are many.  Like a spider web, it’s intertwining in every aspect of our lives.  It is about protecting self and family.  For me it is also about the 4,000 employees I work with as an HR professional.  If COVID wasn’t enough, then the international racial riots in response to a bad police officer’s apparent murder of a black man.  How do you and I deal with all this negative news and multiple lives affected with such hatred?

I remember years ago while I was in distress over the lost of a child due to a miscarriage, an older Christian woman called me to tell me she would bathed me in prayer.  That afternoon I was so tired from blood loss and mourning over the loss of the child I would never know.  My husband then was insensitive to my feelings and said, “Well, you will get over it.  We didn’t really want another child anyways.”  So hurtful to me, but this was how he rationalize the pain of this death.  I slept the remaining day and into the night.  I was able to fall asleep knowing another woman was praying for me.  It was the intentional prayers of another, as well as this person sharing this with me that brought peace to my soul, and eventually rest.  From this I learned to pray fervently and unceasingly for others, as well as for myself.

“All strength that we give away comes over us again, experienced and altered. Thus it is in prayer…” author Rainer Maria Rilke writes.  Strength is what I receive when I pray.  “And what is there, truly done, that is not prayer?” Rilke adds.  I take it that the author speaks of works that coincide with or because of faith and prayer. Holy Scriptures tell us in James 2:14-26 New Living Translation (NLT) “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.’ You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’ He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.”

Today our prayers and the works that match those prayers sustain us.  We cannot justify hatred between family members, neighborhoods, co-workers, religions, and races.  Pray.  Pray for the “peace that surpasses understanding.”  Do a good deed towards someone who may be in opposite view as yourself.  If a good deed is not possible right now, then continue to pray.  “Pray without ceasing” until you can.  Bathe yourself and the other person in prayer.