Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Where's The Peace?

Since cancer treatment resumed, I've been struggling. One day last week, I felt particularly discouraged. After all, I need the ongoing treatments, but the side effects are debilitating me.

One Saturday afternoon, feeling discouraged, I didn't know where to go or what to do. I just needed to get out. So I raced to church where I sat, all alone, in the empty sanctuary, sobbing.

There were no lightning strikes or booming voices from heaven that day, but God did have a message waiting for me.

Days later, I returned for a weekday Mass. My attitude was no better. I was still angry, discouraged and frustrated. I want good health so I can go on and live my life. It's not happening. The thought of returning for additional treatments the next day was daunting.

I don't want this, I kept thinking. Ugh. I just don't want this.

Additionally, some of the symptoms I'm having caused my medical team to request an MRI of the brain. So, during the Mass, my negativity spiraled downward. What if this didn't go well?  An image of a shaven head popped into mind. No, thanks, I really didn't want that.

At communion, I stood and prepared to take my place in line. That's when I looked up.

Surprisingly, my gaze landed on a piece of modern art in the back of our church. It's been hanging in the church for years, but I never paid attention to it. It had something to do with the crucifixion. But that day, I saw it anew. That day, the image was sharp...definitive....I clearly saw the image of Christ...Christ and his cross.

Quickly the words arose from deep within: I'll bet he didn't want that.

Then, as I stepped into the aisle and claimed my place in the communion line, I noticed the couple in front of me. They were joyful, faith-filled people who, years ago, began a far-reaching prison ministry helping families of those incarcerated. They started it when their son was imprisoned.

Again I heard: I'll bet they didn't want that.

Up ahead I spotted another parishioner who faced serious injuries in an accident.

The same message surfaced: I'll bet he didn't want that, but here he was, helping out during Mass.

I was astounded that, with the help of God, each negative situation had blossomed into something positive.  There's beauty in this place.

As I received communion, I knew I'd come to the right place. I felt at peace.

I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 
John 14:6

Monday, May 29, 2017

Would You Follow this Leader?

Once you glimpse the glory of God shining all around, you can't help but be attracted to this God. At least, that's what happened to me. 

Luckily, I was standing on fertile ground.

At the time, our oldest daughter was enrolled in first grade at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School, so my associates were faith-filled moms I met daily in the carpool pickup line. Their conversations and faith helped build mine.

It's no mistake that papers and projects from my daughter's religion class made it into my hands, helping me to grow in matters of faith.

And it was no accident that my daughter was thrilled to see me attend the weekly Masses, where I began listening to kid-sized sermons that fit my appetite.

All along, God had his hand on me.

I became part of the tight-knit faith community. When the school raised funds for a mom who was critically ill and needed a special van, I contributed an amount bigger than any donation I'd ever made before. 

Change was taking place.

One day I stopped our pastor to let him know how glad I was that our children attended the parish school. I'll never forget my closing remark: "At first you think you are doing this for the child," I said. "But then you realize it's really a gift that comes back to you."

So true. My own faith was growing, and I was at peace.

When we needed a leader for our middle daughter's third grade troop, I didn't really want the position. However, something just kept telling me I needed to do that.

After all, my daily prayer was that God would guide me, and this was one time it was obvious that's where he wanted me. 

I'd soon find out why.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thursday's Thoughts

For I know the plans I have for you,
says the Lord.
Plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future. 
Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Think He's Got Your World in His Hands?

I'm struggling through another round of debilitating cancer treatments. It's discouraging. Sunday I felt too poorly to go to church, and really, I could have used the inspiration.

So on Monday I was determined to get to Mass. Mass is my tranquilizer. God speaks to us there, guides, directs and comforts us.

I trudged my way into the church as the priest approached the altar.  Immediately his opening statements hit home, making me glad I was there.

"It is the Feast of St. Rita," Fr. Frank said. "She is the Patron Saint of Incurable Diseases and Impossible Situations.

What? Really? 

I'd never thought of it this way, but I do have an incurable disease. After all, the cancer I have, while treatable, is incurable.

And I have an impossible situation. The problem I mentioned in a recent post, the distant relative who betrayed me, is an impossible situation. Although he wants an apology from me, he refuses to accept an apology from me.

I relaxed my shoulders. Just knowing others face similar challenges was a freeing thought.

No wonder I had to be at this Mass. I love it when God reaches out and touches me...calls my name...speaks to me...whispers words of encouragement...directs me...Could today's message have been any more personalized? 

In his homily, the priest said that St. Rita's message is one of surrender. Surrender, with hope, he said. Not in a giving-up sense. Surrender to the care of God who so dearly loves us...the God who loves us now into eternity.

When the Mass ended, I left with a spring in my step.

Thank you God for showing up. Thanks for the strength, for the advice.

I can do that.

This songs for you! Click here for "I Surrender" by Hillsong.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Gotta Get You Into My Life

As I continued my search for God, my prayer changed.

Instead of praying for specific outcomes, I became more interested in knowing what God expected of me. I wanted to know Him. I wanted to know His will for me.

I questioned every decision I made, especially my decision to continue business pursuits. Doubts plagued me. At the time, I was primarily a stay-at-home mom. I didn't need the money. Did God really want me working? Were my priorities wrong? Was I greedy?  I wanted the job, but more importantly, I had to know: Is this what God wanted me to do?

I struggled with those questions for what seemed an eternity.

Then one day, out of the blue, I got my answer. It was simple, yet direct. It left no room for doubt.

I was driving home from working at a downtown office when, approaching the highway ramp, I was awestruck by the beauty of the cloudless, blue sky. An overwhelming feeling of thankfulness arose and I bubbled with gratitude.

The words just came out: "Thank you, Lord, for such fun work. Thank you, God, that this job doesn't interfere with my family life, but rather enriches it. Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful opportunity."

Instead of questioning my circumstances, I thanked God for them. Suddenly, all was well.

Gratitude: Perhaps it was the very response He'd been waiting for all along.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thursday's Thoughts

I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are discouraged take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord's greatness;
let us exalt his name together.

I prayed to the Lord and he answered me,
freeing me from all my fears.
those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
I cried out to the Lord in my suffering and he heard me,
He set me free from all my fears.
For the angel of the Lord guards all who fear him,
and he rescues them.

Psalm 34: 1-7

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Can You Believe This?

It's been a challenging week.

Cancer treatments resumed, delivering an unexpected punch. A distant relative betrayed me. I felt knocked down, and I wasn't sure I wanted to get up again. I'm tired of the fight.

My thoughts were spiraling downward:  If I can barely function while being on this treatment, and I need this treatment forever, what’s the point?

That got me feeling lonely, scared, and afraid.

So yesterday, while battling my fears, my husband and I sat outside, enjoying the sunset. Silently, I prayed for help. I needed a distraction...a good, effective distraction. 

Specifically, I was wishing we had something social to do.  I figured conversation and a waft of what's happening in someone else's life would be refreshing.

Suddenly, my phone rings. It’s dear friends...neighbors...Would we like to come over for dinner?  Right...Now..?

What? Really? Yes!

I was amazed. Unbeknownst to them, it was an answer to prayer.

I hung up. A gentle breeze fluttered through my hair and the air seemed filled with the sweet perfume of God’s incredible love. 

Suddenly, a song arose from deep within: "The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor.”

In my desolation, God heard me.

"The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor."

Yes, He does.

Round 2 of the cancer treatments begins today.

I'm back in the fight.

And I'm ready.

I forgive the distant relative.

The tune keeps running through my head: "The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor."

My response?   "Blessed be the Lord."

Click here for the song  (Psalm 34)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Here Comes the Sun...

The stories I've told on my Monday posts relate the mighty stepping stones in the direction of healing from the reign of grief.

Although each step was enlightening, change didn't happen overnight. Healing from grief was a marathon, not a sprint. Despite the impact of the wondrous incidents, finding hope, healing and God in the rubble was a process.

Like this: My brother Jim died shortly after my youngest daughter was born, so, almost without even being aware of it, her initial birthdays were overshadowed by dark, smothering clouds of grief.

I baked cakes, invited friends and wrapped birthday presents in happy, sparkly paper, but my joy was dominated by a thick blanket of  sadness quietly hovering over my heart. Every year it would appear. Every year I'd go through the motions.

But that finally changed.

As we planned her fifth birthday party, I looked at my husband and heard myself say something I'll never forget: "This is the first year her birthday is just her birthday."  It was a turning point.

The dark cloud was gone.

I was finally set free.

Not that I ever stopped loving Jim. It just turned into something better.

In a prior post, I talked about a book I read, The Courage to Grieve, which said that you knew you were healing from grief when you could see something good come out of the loss.

At the time, it sounded ridiculous. But the book was right.

So many good things came out of that loss.

First of all, I turned to God. I realized that nothing earthly lasts forever, and no love is greater than the love of God, which is eternal. I learned that my vision is limited, and although I may not understand it, I can trust God. When things are out of my hands, they are in His. He has a bigger, better plan in mind. He is looking at my eternity, not my limited temporal life here.

Accepting that was freeing.

I learned to respect everyone. Before Jim's death, I'd see someone begging at the side of the road and I'd turn my nose up and think, get a job, buddy. But after Jim died, I realized that he could easily have ended up in those shoes. Mental disabilities and his early death stole my dreams for him to achieve what I considered a 'normal' life. 

After his death, however, I learned to view his life through the eyes of God, and I learned there was value to Jim's difficult life and early death...perhaps even if it was just to save my prideful, wretched soul.

I learned to be generous. Right in my own home, I tried to be more patient and helpful. I tried to listen more and talk less. I became active at church, giving, donating and volunteering. I joined a bible study and we began making meals for the homeless. 

I stopped judging others. I realized it's not my life I'm living, but the life of Christ that is being lived through me (Gal 2:20).  His mission? Love one another.

I learned that only when we become aware of our intense need for God's forgiveness, can we become aware of His incredible love for us.

I learned God is with us in every circumstance, in every breath of our lives. We have nothing to fear. He will guide. He will provide.  We just need to listen.

I learned what we want for ourselves might not always match what He wants for us, but that's okay. I've learned that God's plan is always better.

I learned to be thankful.

I learned to be joyful.

I learned to love.

It was April. Our daughter was turning 5, and it had been 5 years since Jim's death. Those were 5 formative years, in which I established a strong foundation of faith.  Good thing. I needed it for what was to come.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Will You Let This Prayer Change Your World?

Have you ever prayed the rosary? I mean, really prayed the rosary. It is not a boring monotonous prayer, it is a rich walk through the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of His mother. It's not meant to be repetitious, but contemplative.

When I gather with others to pray the rosary, an amazing transformation takes place. No matter what concerns we carry, by the time the final prayer is recited, a hush falls over us. Peace settles in, a stillness so thick it feels tangible. It always happens...Doesn't matter who. ..Doesn't matter where...Doesn't matter when.

Peace reigns.

And we're not alone.

Years ago, I interviewed the last fighter pilot to escape Saigon the day it fell to the communists. He said he found himself deserted on a lonely airfield, amid rounds of artillery fire and violent explosions, and scrambling to escape...And what did he recall?

He remembered scenes from his childhood, when his family gathered the in the living room to pray the rosary. He recalled the peace, the tranquility, the power of those gatherings. 

That's what surfaced on that crucial day, delivering peace and strength on that lonely airfield. 

Peace reigns.

The power of the rosary reaches beyond all ages, as in the following case.

Sometimes the elderly feel there's no reason to live. Not Mel. Mel might be elderly and wheel-chair bound, but he is full of purpose. 

“I know that I’m here to do something," he said. "It’s to pray for people.”

Mel prays the rosary daily.

“I take each bead and make it count for something,” he said. He prays for friends, for our country, the military, for world peace, for those struggling with illnesses and addictions. He prays for himself, that he draws closer to God. “It is not a boring, repetitious prayer.”

When he recites a Hail Mary, Mel believes something good is going to happen.

“I can’t always say things are going to work out," he said. "But we are receiving God’s help in some form or another. Maybe it’s not the answer we want, but it’s God’s answer for us.”

Peace reigns.

The rosary is within reach of each one of us. It's power is universal. It's the best tranquilizer. It's the best weapon for spiritual warfare. Praying the rosary makes a difference in your life, and in the lives around you.

Why not give it a try?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Will God Bless Us...Every One?

I'm nearly through telling stories of the long trudge out of grief following my brother's death, but the postings wouldn't be complete without this story. These events took place early, within weeks of Jim's death, so it's a little out of sequence with my Monday posts. I apologize for that, but keep reading...I must share this with you.

It was a sunny spring day and I was home alone. Well, home alone with my infant. My brother had died suddenly several weeks earlier and my heart was a vast wasteland, tangled in a web of grief.

Around mid-morning, I found myself staring out the kitchen window, engulfed in that all-too-familiar gnawing, sinking, persistent, desolate feeling of grief. I saw nothing good in the day. I wanted out of that pain.

Desperate, I found myself reaching for a bottle of wine. I wanted to wash this pain away.

As I reached for the corkscrew, however, I came to my senses. It was 10:30 in the morning! What was wrong with me? What was I doing? Had I gone crazy? 

I slammed the cabinet shut, left the kitchen and headed into my bedroom, where my newborn was sleeping.

Suddenly, something snapped. I felt like I was being swamped by an emotional tidal wave.  I felt unsteady, and reached for the dresser to stable myself.

In that instant, my life flashed before my eyes.

It was like watching a short reel of all the decisions I'd made in life. While they seemed like good decisions at the time, my choices, now viewed from a different perspective, was like watching a horror film. 

I felt like Scrooge. In the popular book, A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Christmases past, present and yet-to-come. In the harrowing experience, a horrified Scrooge is shown how his self-centered decisions destructed others.  

It was the same for me. It was like a ghost was showing me the decisions I'd made, and how they'd been filtered through a self-centered lens. It was horrifying! 

Then, just as quickly as the episode began, it ended, leaving me shaking.

Like Scrooge, I got the message: Like Scrooge, I needed to change. Like Scrooge, I took the hint.   

In all my life, thankfully, I've never had anything like this frightening episode happen again. Yet, looking back, I'd never eliminate the experience. And I couldn't leave it out of my story to you either. As my story unfolds, you'll see.  

God was just beginning to speak to me. And I was just beginning to listen.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Thursday's Thoughts

Mary responded-
Oh, how I praise the Lord,
How I rejoice in God my Savior!

Luke 1:46

How about you? Are you praising the Lord today? Are you rejoicing in God, your savior?

This song is for you! Click here to listen to Michael Talbot, with his rendition of Mary's response to Elizabeth (Luke 1:46-55) commonly called the Magnificat. The mighty God has done great things for all of us...Holy is His name!!!!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

It's May - Do You Know What That Means?

Welcome to the month of May!  In the liturgical calendar, this month is devoted to Mary, the Mother of God.

Let's pray the rosary! Let's walk through the life of Christ, letting the prayers of the rosary lead the way.

Just a clarification for my non-Catholic friends: As Catholics, we don't worship Mary. We worship God. We worship Jesus. But not Mary. 

However, we recognize Mary's holiness as the devoted mother of Jesus. She is our role model. We want to see Jesus through her eyes. When we pray to her, we are asking her to pray to God for us, the same way we ask our friends to pray for us.

Please hear this, my dear non-Catholic friends. We are together on this: All glory and honor belong to Christ.

Next Wednesday I'll share some stories of what the rosary means to some people who pray it.

But for now, please consider this: Dynamic Catholic is challenging us to pray 5,000,000 rosaries (collectively, of course.)  Learn more by visiting their website at for details.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Dream Weaver...Can You Get Me Through the Night?

When I arrived, the funeral home's parking lot was filled to overflowing. Cars were jammed along the curbs, in the grass, and beside whatever tiny strips of space that could be found. I finally wedged my Ford between a cluster of vehicles behind the building.

I shut the ignition off and squeezed my way out of the car.  I arrived too late to hike around to the main entrance, so, squinting in the bright sunshine, I zigzagged my way to the nearest door, which happened to be a beat-up, utilitarian-looking, backdoor entrance. 

I grabbed the knob and flung the door open. There was no corpse, no visitors, no serious-looking-men-in-black suits. It was just a room...just a small, quiet, empty room with a counter that divided me from the other side.

As I stood surveying the chamber, the door opposite me suddenly opened, flooding the place with bright light. In it, I could see the image of a janitor, who had entered the room, pushing a mop.

The image seemed surreal. The janitor seemed unaware of the brilliance surrounding him. Instead, he humbly stayed focused on mopping the floor. He didn't even seem to realize that I was there.

I was drawn to him. I felt like I knew him forever. He radiated love.

For an instant, I stood in awe, trembling at the scene. I was captivated by the radiance, the overpowering love, the humility and the familiarity of his presence.

Then I realized - this was my deceased brother! What? Had he come back to life? My heart leapt for joy.

"Jim," I shouted.

He never looked up. It was like he couldn't hear me. It was like he couldn't see me. He just quietly went about doing his work.

It was my brother! He was alive! But how could it be?

"Jim!' I shouted again.

He looked up. In one unforgettable moment, our eyes met. He uttered one word: "Deb." 

My pulse quickened. I kicked my way across the room, trying to get a reaction from him. He was way too calm.

I was still thrashing the bedcovers when I awoke. 

"Jim, Jim," I was saying.

The vision, unlike any other dream I've even had, rocked me to the core. My brother appeared to me after his death, in the form of a simple janitor pushing a mop. He was radiant, humble and at peace.

Why? I wondered. What was he trying to tell me? It was real.

In time, the message became clear: With God, we are here to serve others. With God, there is no darkness, only stunning light and wondrous love. With God, we are peaceful and serene. 

Some things in life you never forget. This is one of them.

From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that he had to go to Jerusalem , and he told them what would happen to him there. He ...