In sickness and in health…

Sickness.  Busyness.  Craziness.  All of these things are tools that Satan uses against us.  Crankiness tends to follow.  And with crankiness, comes impatience, frustration and a lot of misunderstanding.  But, what do you do when the the crankiness, impatience and frustration comes out in sarcasm or harsh words?  And then, the harsh words hurt and ignite old wounds from our past?

At least, that is the pattern that happens around here.  It is so hard to ignore the hurt feelings and open yourself up to interact intimately with your spouse when their words hurt/wound us.  Especially when their words follow a pattern from your past which NEVER led to closeness or good feelings, but only pain.

Even knowing that it is the frustration and sickness talking and not the way they really feel, it is hard to convince yourself to offer the other cheek and dive back into the fray of life. But, I’ve learned that I have to be open and let my spouse know that his words have hurt me.  Not usually when the hurtful words are being said (that would just be insanity), but later at a calmer moment.  When I’ve done this, he usually doesn’t even realize what he said as he is too caught up in his own frustrations/discomfort.

So, why do I do this?  Why do I open myself day in and day out to more pain?  Why?  Because of my vow.  I stood on the altar and vowed to love him the way that God loves me.  Freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.  I can’t live out my vow and withhold part of myself.  I know my husband and I know that he loves me.  I also know that he is human and prone to the same errors that I am.  He has his own set of internal hurts, walls, and defense mechanisms.  And God calls me to love him in spite of them.  I wish I could say that when his words come out harsh, that I don’t tense up inside, say some pretty harsh things back and start to shut myself off from him.  I wish I could say that instead of doing that, I pray for him.  I do sometimes.  But, not nearly enough.  But, I am trying.

God grants me mercy each and every single morning.  How can I not give my spouse the same mercy?  Together – we are one.  We have been joined into one being through this powerful Sacrament of marriage.  Turning away from him would be like cutting off my own leg.

So, we each battle the voices/demons in our heads that call us to hide behind our walls and try to tell us to walk away when the going gets tough.  But, mostly — we need to remember God’s way is the only way and surrender it all to him.  No, I’m not perfect.  But, I am trying.

** disclaimer — this is not to say that if a person is in a marriage and is being emotionally or physically harmed that they should stay.  Those are different circumstances from what I am discussing.  In harmful situations, please seek help through any of the Domestic Violence programs in your area.

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Super “me” is feeling the effects of my own personal Kryptonite!

When I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed (which has been pretty much life lately), I count on others around me to pick up the slack while I work through whatever is being thrown at me.  Lately, that has been the audit.  Meetings started this week with the auditor and I now have a face to put on the nameless terror of my nightmare.  She seems very nice.  The reality is that she can really hurt our family and I’m remembering how the previous auditor in 2008 seemed very nice until she swept the floor with us for trusting our accountant.  When she laid down the verdict in the final meeting, she wasn’t nice, warm or fuzzy.  Instead, we walked into the meeting stone faced and stone faced she remained throughout the sentence pronouncement.  She acknowledged that she understood that we had followed the advice of our accountant and then looked at me sarcastically and asked if I really thought anyone in their right mind would think that was legal.  *sigh*  So, in essence, she saw us as stupid which we obviously were as we didn’t even see it coming.

Fast forward to now…..  After the drilling of thousands of questions regarding how we handle money of any kind for our business and personal uses which lasted over 3 hours, this new auditor asked me if I had any questions.  I simply asked one thing… “How long will this last so that I can plan my time for the business and our home life around this?”

Her reply was cautious saying, “I’m not sure how long this will take to work through.  Do you have something important coming up that we might have to work around?”

Thinking quickly and thinking that this was still a ways off and expecting  a response along the lines of — oh, it won’t take that long, I said, “Well, my daughter is getting married in early January and it would be nice if this was done before then.”

Her response?  She said while shaking her head in doubt, “I’m not sure that will be possible, but I will try.”

Seriously?!?!?!?!  There went my holidays.  My nightmare will not be going away anytime soon.  It will continue to haunt me into the coming year.

So, in the midst of my working with the auditor for 2 full days, life at the clinic went chaotic.  With dh planning on being away at the end of the week for the state convention, appointments for the week had been condensed into 4 days versus 5.  Add to that, a colleague’s wife passing away and needing us to cover their appointments as well, and our appointment schedule blew up.  Dh is great and I love him so much, but he doesn’t handle being overwhelmed well.  His melancholic personality tends to take him into the dumps and everyone around him feels the effects.  So, when I got back to the office after 2 days with the auditor (which within one hour, she found something that the accountant obviously didn’t see and didn’t count in the return and which was from dh’s side job which just added more stress to him) and most of the day on Wednesday at a seminar and webinar, attitudes were tense and very stressed.  It took much of the morning, listening to, caring for, and cajoling attitudes to a more positive mood.  As I said to dh, we are stressed.  That much is obvious.  BUT, our employees and customers are counting on us to be upbeat and positive to help them through the stresses they are experiencing as well.  That as the manager/leader, we needed to set the tone.  So, thankfully, that helped him and pulled all of us into a better working frame of mind.

Reality??  Due to dh’s temperament, I realized for the hundredth time that this is all on me in so many ways.  I need him to stay positive and to stay strong so that our business continues to run smoothly through this tough stressful time.  I need his strength and support to help me get through this and in order for that to happen, I need to stay positive to keep him positive.  I can’t let on to him how stressed I am as the more stressed I feel, the worse he feels.  So, staying positive in everything is the goal.

But, my own personal Kryptonite brought me down!  What is you might ask?  My own personal Kryptonite is chaos in my home.  When my life is going nuts around me, I need the order of my home to counter the rest of life’s chaos.  Order at home allows home to be my sanctuary and stronghold.  So, when I came home from work on Friday, tired and drained after a day of trying to catch up and do the work I normally would accomplish in five days in the 2 and 1/2 I had, I was looking forward to going to a fun evening watching a comedy play at the high school #3 dd goes to with the kids.  But, when I called en route to make sure they were eating and to give them an ETA on my return, I found that they hadn’t even made dinner yet.  Then, when I walked in, I found 1 child playing in the middle of the living room with toys EVERYWHERE, another sitting reading a book, another messing with her hair and the other running around trying to do all that she should have done all day in 10 minutes before we had to leave.  My house was NOT in order.  It too, was chaos.  So, the mean mom in me came out as I started to ask a few questions.  I quickly found out that no one had washed any dishes all day and my kitchen was trashed.  My living room was trashed with toys that the youngest had pulled out to play with all day since there was no school.  I found that the one who was rushing around trying to do everything quickly, had not done any homework for school (she was off all day too) even though she has homework due on Monday, has 8 missing assignments, and is flunking a class which is required for her to graduate in May.  And to top it all off, the oldest one at home had slept in until she had to get up and go to work at 10 am and then had been playing with hairstyles vs doing any of her household duties even though that was her only time to do anything since she worked all day today AND even though she had not done any of said chores which were supposed to be done weekly for the previous 4 weeks.

That became the straw that broke this camel’s back.  I can go a LONG time without water, but I am not invincible.  My Kryptonite exposure was walking into my home yesterday to find a bunch of hooligans had taken over our house and had disguised themselves as my children.  So, now I have to stay positive and upbeat for my dh and I have no stronghold/sanctuary to come home to.  Instead I have to stay strong and focused as all of the years of training I have already done for my children falls apart if I am not the constantly vigilant parent guiding/disciplining my children.

The reality is that I’m not Supermom, Supermanager, Superwife or anything super.  I just feel as if I have to be so everyone else can be super in who God is calling them to be.  Days and weeks like this last one makes me wonder where I can just be myself when I don’t have to be someone or something for everyone else.

Oh yea — my second sanctuary — God and retreat!  Only 5 more days, and I get to be me.  Finally!  Now that it is one hands’ worth of days, I need to start counting down hours…..  as of right now, that would be 122 hours (of which 40 of them should be sleep, so only 82 hours of being alive/aware before I get to leave.😀

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running back to Jerusalem

This evening I had a previously scheduled meeting with my spiritual director.  I almost cancelled it due to the piles of papers burying me as I prep for the meeting with the auditor on Monday.  But, I knew that I seriously needed a break as I was having trouble focusing on the simplest of tasks.  So, I went.  I vented.  I whined.  I vented some more about how unfair this was.  I whined again.

Then, my SD (saint that he was to have listened so far and just smiled at me with a patience that I never would have been able to have) started to ask questions.  Questions that made me think.  Questions that made me realize just how far I had let myself get off track.  Questions that I knew the answers to, but was refusing to even consider.  Instead, I turned my back on even asking them so that I didn’t want the truth of my selfishness staring me in the face.

See, the more I focus on myself, the more I can justify how lousy the hand I’ve been dealt is.  The more I focus only on my problems and issues, the larger those problems and issues can be.  The more I focus inwardly on silly ol’ me, the less I have to look outward.  Instead of focusing on the graces God has bestowed on me, the more I let myself whine about what I don’t have.

When I had the nightmare last week, I experienced fear like I haven’t known before.  In the light of day (and especially in the light of God’s abundant Grace), I can see that instead of looking to Him, I looked inward and was afraid.  I am not capable of much, if anything, on my own.  But, with God, I can handle anything.

As we finished our discussion tonight, my SD asked me one final question.  “What is the difference between the apostles walking on the road to Emmaus before they met Jesus and after?”   I thought about it and wondered if it was because at first they were afraid but then after they saw Jesus so clearly in the breaking of the bread, they didn’t need to fear because they had seen the reality for themselves.  But, it goes deeper than that.  If you really think about it, on the first part of the journey, they were walking away from Jerusalem.  When their eyes were opened to the risen Christ, they RAN back.  So, initially, they were moving away from God and then when they experienced the risen Christ, they RAN back.

So, when we are afraid and are so caught up in our fear that we can’t ‘feel’ God with us (as I was after the nightmare), we are like the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  But, like the disciples, our ultimate destination isn’t to remain in that fear, but to turn around and RUN home to our God who is waiting for us with open arms.

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hope vs. darkness

The nightmare continues as I prep for this audit.  The information request document is 18 pages long.  One item listed ALL bank statements, cancelled checks and deposit slips for all passbook, checking, savings and investment accounts for you, your spouse and all of your dependents.  That is just one item out of 112 items we have to prepare/gather.  An understatement would be that I am overwhelmed.

I have had to take time away from my office to work on this.  Time away for anyone who has a job where they are the only one doing said job is just going to mean being even more overwhelmed when I do get back to my desk.  All of this just feels like such a weight on my shoulders!  I am finding myself vacillating between hope and sheer blackness.  It is easiest to just ignore it and go on with life as if it isn’t there.  But, I have never been described as an ostrich before and really don’t know how to act like one.  Instead, I tend to stick my foot in the middle of the melee and then wonder why I can’t walk when my foot gets crushed.

Today, my accountant crashed my dreams of ignorance by telling me that this won’t be done at 5 pm on Nov 12th after the IRS gets to tour our business.  Instead, he told me that this will take months.  So, after I blacked out and regained consciousness, I find myself battling the darkness/nightmare again as I try to comprehend how anyone can survive the weight of this process for that long of a period, let alone through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  And then of course, for one of the events mothers wait for and when the last thing I want to be doing is worrying — my oldest daughter’s wedding.  The first in our family to be married.  My first daughter starting her own family and life the way God has intended for her.  I want this to be a time of joy and celebration for the wonderful gift she is to us as well as to celebrate the wonder and hope that God has in store for her within her new family and the next generation of ours.   Instead, I will still be battling this monster?

I may need to take lessons on being an ostrich.  If only I could find one that can give me lessons before I hyperventilate. Sooner rather than later preferably!

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Nightmare

I had a nightmare the other night that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since. When I woke up in the middle of the dream, I had that ‘otherworldly’ feeling and had to convince myself that it was just a dream and not real. I didn’t sleep the rest of the night as my mind kept wanting to go back and have it end happily instead of with a feeling of impending doom. When I let myself drift off again, I went back into the dream, but instead of it ending happily (no matter how I tried to convince myself to think that way), it stayed in that level of fear that comes with all music changes in horror movies.

In my dream, I dreamed that there was a figure, probably a man, that would come in and out of people’s lives and kill. I had worked with this man before.  I knew him.  I knew how easily he could hurt people and not have any remorse.  He had tried to hurt me earlier and had caused me a lot of anguish and financial strain from which I was just beginning to recover.  When I heard he was back, I knew that he was after me to finish the job he had started years earlier.  In the dream, I remember hearing a gunshot and screams. There was a feeling of chaos and utter fear as we didn’t know where the killer was. We all tried to hide and went into a closet to hunker down to wait until the good guys came and stopped him. The good guys came and searched. They looked everywhere but the man was like a ghost and disappeared easily without getting caught. Then, after everyone else stepped out of the closet and I went to stand up, I felt a wisp of a breath on my neck and quickly realized that the man was right there behind me. I couldn’t avoid him anymore and I was next.  I wasn’t going to get away this time.

That was when I woke up.

As I woke up and realized I was in my own bed, in my own bedroom and it was all a dream, I tried to put the dream into perspective.  So, I tried to think of what was happening in my life that would take my mind along this path.  I immediately knew who the man was in the dream. The ‘man’ in my dream was/is the IRS. Since receiving the letter in the mail about being audited again, I have been feeling a heavy weight of fear and impending doom. I am battling feelings of stress and fear like I’ve never known before. I just want to cry out and let everyone know that I am sorry — that any mistakes I made were because I’m a fraud! I don’t know what I am doing most of the time. I always feel totally incompetent whether it is in the financial matters, as a manager of the business, as a wife, as a mother, when I was a homeschooling mother. All of it seems to overwhelm me, and so I’ve learned to wear a mask and smile so that no one knows that what they see is just a fake shell and that the real me is an ugly, stupid, whimpering, whining mess of a person who is clueless.

This audit is the killer. It is the piece that will totally and utterly show everyone the real me. It will show that I really don’t know what I’m doing and that instead of speaking up sooner and finding someone competent, I have pulled my whole family down into financial ruin.

As I feel the wisp of the breath of the auditor right behind me, I feel complete fear. I am struggling to break away from the lure of the fear to turn to God. I have tried praying the St. Michael’s prayer to rid me of this feeling of evil trying to take over my life. I have prayed the Memorare but have found myself fumbling with the words as my focus is so hypnotically drawn back to the fear.  I have never felt so alone and scared.  Others are reaching out, but I know that ultimately, it comes down to me.  I am the one who has kept track of the books and the finances.  I am the one who is clueless but is just trying to do what is in front of me as it comes.  I am the one who just does what she is told when she is told…. if I remember.  I am the one who is ultimately responsible for the bill that will come from the IRS.  And I have no doubt that there will be a bill.  Our first experience with an audit 6 years ago showed me that.  They will find something and that something will then be multipled exponentially due to time and finance charges/interest and it will lead to the demise of life as we know it.  When we were audited before, it was with our first business and involved just the two of us.  Now, it involves everyone who works for us.  Their lives, our lives, our clients lives, the life of the business  —-  all of them are dependent on me not screwing up.  That is where they will learn that I am really just a fraud and have no idea what I am doing.

The fear continues.  The fear grows.  The fear is with me every second breathing down my neck.  Right now, as the darkness threatens to overtake me during this time of preparation, I am clinging to the thought that there may be a light somewhere at the end.  I can’t see it now and the fear makes me think it isn’t really going to be there, but I need to cling to that hope.

The only glimpse of solace I have found recently that holds the fear at bay for a few minutes is the Prayer for Courage from St. Joan of Arc:

Dear God, give me courage for perhaps, I lack it more than anything else!

I need courage before men against their threats and their seductions.

I need courage to bear unkindness, mockery and contradictions.

I need courage to fight against the devil, against terrors, troubles, temptations, attractions, darkness and false lights,

against tears, depression and above all, fear.

I need Thy help, dear God! Strengthen me with Thy Love and Thy Grace!

Console me with Thy blessed Presence and grant me the courage to persevere until I am with Thee, forever, in Heaven!

Amen.

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the swiftly changing tides

Oh how time flies!  The thoughts of doing regular reflections/blog posts again has been on my mind for a bit.  So, tonight, when I couldn’t sleep, I decided to pull it up and begin anew.  As I did, I couldn’t help but look back and realize how much and how little has changed since my last blog post.  I’m still a wife and a mother.  But, I am no longer a homeschooling mom.  I am now a mother with 3 children in private Catholic schools and working a full-time job as the Practice Manager at my husband’s practice.  Life has changed dramatically in the last 2 months.  I’m not sure I have caught up with all of the changes yet.  We are all still working out how this all comes together.  This is almost as big of a paradigm shift as it was when we left the school system and started homeschooling.

Along with work/home life changing, life is taking another change in that we will be moving into the next season of parenting soon — that of parents of a married child and soon to be mother/father-in-laws.  I’m not sure yet which part is scarier.  That I have a daughter old enough to be getting married, or that my soon to be son-in-law might consider me to be a pain as so many sons-in-law feel about their MIL.  I guess time will tell whether I will be a witch or a friend like my MIL is for me.  I pray that it is more of a friend.

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My name is Kelly and I’m a sinner

Hello, my name is Kelly and I’m a sinner.  I seem to be in a mood for a bit of self-revelation tonight.  See, others seem to think I don’t know my own foibles, weaknesses, and sins.  They seem to think I just want them to look at me and tell me, “You’re an angel.”  Well, if they did that, I would look at them and ask, “Now, who is lying?”

I have made a big error in judgement.  I assumed that those I spend a huge chunk of time with each day and who smile and nod and act like they care about me, really don’t.  In fact, not only do they not care about me, they call me names behind my back.  They say one thing to my face and say the exact opposite when I’m not there.  When I thought we were each working toward the same basic goal, I found out that we had two totally different goals.  Mine is to run an honest, hardworking business where every person we work with is part of our larger extended clinic family.  Theirs is to get a paycheck and do whatever they deem necessary to keep getting that check.

My second error in judgement?  To expose my kids to these false relationships as well.  Because of my time being needed by my kids through homeschooling and my time/presence being needed at the business, I had combined both so that I could pop between duties on a regular basis.  I loved the experience of having my kids with me and yet still being able to help my husband as well.  But, instead of them getting an education about how business works and how to serve others through your work, I have exposed them to the same hurt that I have experienced — feeling betrayed by those who seemed to be care about us.  The biggest problem with this?  I can deal with the feeling of betrayal.  I’ve experienced it before and will more times through my life.  My brain can process the realities and can help my heart along with knowledge.  But, my kids don’t have that ability to process what happened. And so, I hurt even more at their confusion and pain especially because ultimately, I know I was the cause of their pain.  If I hadn’t exposed them to that experience, they wouldn’t have been hurt.

For a while there, I felt a level of pride.  That I was actually following God’s will and still providing for the needs of the girls and providing the support for my husband.  I felt like I had actually figured out how to balance and keep spinning all of these plates.  In fact, the last post I made was about a vision that instead of having all of these different plates to keep spinning, I really only had one plate.  That plate had different items with different weights, but that it would be possible for me to balance out those different weights and keep the plate spinning evenly.

Well, that was the hope.  That was the dream.  That was actually the illusion.  I find it interesting that as soon as I thought it was humanly possible to do such a thing, life as I knew it crashed and became a huge mess.

So, why do I say I’m a sinner?  Because, I am.  I can see now looking at my recent thoughts and patterns that I was letting Satan into my thinking.  I can’t do anything on my own, especially what I thought I was doing.  I am the weakest and most fragile being on my own.  On my own, I can do nothing.  I was praying and I was telling God what I needed to do.  I wasn’t asking.  I was telling.  I did at one time ask God to help me do it and to guide me in doing it.  But, doing it wasn’t an option in my mind.  In fact, when a priest questioned me on whether I really should be doing what I was trying to do, I felt angry.  How could he question me on that?  He didn’t know my life.  He didn’t know my options.  He didn’t know me and couldn’t judge me.  So, instead of hearing his question and examining it, I closed my mind and heart to the question and in so doing, closed my heart to God and set off on my own path.

So, whether I have done the sins I was accused of the other day or not, I know without a doubt one sin I have done.  I re-played the role of Eve from Genesis that we heard about in the readings at Mass today.  Just like Eve, I thought I could be as wise as God and that I could do this on my own.  Instead of realizing that I am a creature born with original sin, a sin which continues to challenge and tempt me every day to not need God, I thought I was God and could control my own life.  How much worse can it get? All other sin pales in comparison to this one.

Overall, reflecting on the past few days, I want to thank God for the pain and hurt I have been feeling.  This open wound humiliates me and cleanses me.  This pain is truly a gift of mercy.  Thank you Lord for this gift of pain!  Your gift Lord is my salvation!

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Lent and spinning plates

Today is Ash Wednesday.  In many ways, it isn’t any different from any other day.  But, for so many of us, it is a special day.  It is a day of fasting and abstaining from meat.  It is a day which includes Mass and being reminded that from dust we came and to dust we will return.  And, it is a day that many of us begin a Lenten process of dying a bit to ourselves and turning more of our attention to our Lord and the sacrifices He made for us.

Maybe it was the fasting part that got me started thinking of plates.🙂  The image of spinning plates popped into my head early this morning as I drove to the hotel where the annual conference I was attending was being held.  That image has stayed with me and has developed over the course of the day.

Many years ago, I heard a talk from Dave Durand where he discussed a time management/life management concept and used the imagery of a juggler who had many spinning plates on the ends of sticks.  The juggler’s job was to keep moving from one plate to the next, keeping them all spinning, and not letting any of them slow down enough to fall.  That was the image in my mind.  I remembered how Dave described how each of those plates stood for the different areas of our lives that we all need to keep spinning.  Health.  Finances. Physical.  Spiritual.  Intellectual.  Emotional.  All of these areas and so many more need to be kept in a perfect balance within our lives for us to achieve happiness and a sense of peace and balance.  Sometimes certain plates need more attention.  At other times, we put too much focus on one plate and forget to watch the others and they flounder and fall with a crash.

But, as I thought of all of these plates, the image of one, filled, dinner plate came to mind (as I said — I was hungry).  On this dinner plate, there were several items in different quantities.  Each of the items had different weights.  Each of them took up different amounts of space.  On the dinner plate I imagined this morning, half of it was filled with a serving of steak, one-third taken with a pile of mashed potatoes and then the remainder taken with a serving of string beans.  I couldn’t help but wonder — would it spin??

Nutritional balance is, of course, important (and one of the areas I need to focus on during Lent as many of my old eating habits are creeping back in).  But, the question that kept popping into my head was –  would it spin?  Was the plate balanced enough so that it would spin?  An ideal plate would be well-balanced among the different weights of food so that it was evenly proportioned and the plate would spin smoothly.  My thought was that the plate described above would not spin evenly.  It was too heavily weighted with the steak and the potatoes and would tip in that direction.  A healthier and more balanced option would be a smaller portion of steak and potatoes and a larger portion of string beans. Once the weights were more evenly divided, the plate would probably spin.

Isn’t life a bit like that?  Rather than imaging many plates all spinning by their lonesome selves on those sticks, I like this new image of one plate evenly balanced and spinning smoothly.  The items on that plate are in healthy portion sizes and balance each other out.  Items like work, play, prayer/spiritual life, friends/relationships, physical health, and emotional health all need to be evenly proportioned in order for our plates to spin properly.

Sometimes, one item might be a bit heavier in our life.  So, counter balancing with other items needs done so that the plate doesn’t topple before it can even possibly spin.  Life for me has included a huge shift in weight of one item — specifically work — in recent months.  My plate has gotten out of balance because I haven’t spent the time I should have to shift the other items around to counter balance this new weight.  With the balance off on my plate, life has been spinning pretty roughly.  My weight has gone up. My stress level/emotionalism has been much too high. My prayer time has shifted and in some cases dropped. My physical health has decreased as I haven’t taken the time to exercise. And instead of setting up the counter balances, I have rationalized all of this with an ‘Oh woe is me’ attitude.

Thankfully, Lent is here and I’ll get the kick in the pants I need.  I can’t change the weight shifts that have occurred on my plate.  But, I CAN change how I arrange my plate to adequately counterbalance this heavier weight of work in my life.

So, here goes 40 days of a new balancing act.  Broken plates will be part of the act.  If you want to watch this circus show, tickets will be $1 a piece.🙂  The collection basket for your ticket fee is at your closest church.  You will probably see me there mending those plates in the confessional…

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Advent reflections… it’s time

Today, on the first day of Advent, I listened to the words of Matthew and heard them in a new way.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As it was in the days of Noah,
so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
In those days before the flood,
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage,
up to the day that Noah entered the ark.
They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.

These words struck me today.  In fact, they hit me between the eyes!  You see, I live in central Illinois.  No flood here.  But, I live in one of the communities that was hit by devastating tornadoes on November 17th just after 11 am.  One tornado touched down just south of us in North Pekin.  Another one touched down not far from my house, jumped over the highway, destroying 30 homes and severely damaging 200 along a path through East Peoria and then picked up again to set down at the category of EF-4 on the south side of Washington.  There, the tornado went right through subdivisions, destroying everything in its path.  The last estimate I heard was over 1000 homes destroyed.   Pictures have been all over the internet, but nothing is the same as seeing it firsthand.

I am thankful that we were not hurt.  Our business and our home were spared.  But, friends have not been so fortunate and that in itself makes this so hard.  You see, that morning of the tornado, I was on my annual silent retreat.  Finishing up the final conferences on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and having come to terms with the changes that had been happening in my life.  I was looking forward to coming home and entering life with a new passion and purpose.  I took some pictures along the bluffs of the Mississippi of the dichotomy of the blue skies over the Illinois side of the river and the black, dark, foreboding clouds over the Missouri side of the river.  I was reflecting on how that image was so true of life!  One minute our life could seem so blue and crystal clear while dark storm clouds are brewing on the edges.  Little did I know just how real that image and reflection would come to mean in just a short period of time.

It has been 2 weeks since that day.  I can still remember how I started getting texts from workmates/friends wanting to make sure we were okay.  I didn’t know why they were asking and finally one told me what had happened.  I called my husband to make sure he and my daughter with him were okay and they were.  I was told that I should stay and finish the retreat, that they were okay.  So, I did.  I stayed for the final Mass and luncheon and left afterwards.  As we drove north, I called and checked in with friends and starting hearing details of what exactly had happened.  The more I heard, the more I shook.  When I got home, we ate dinner and prayed as a family and then I went out to start checking on clients and friends who lived in the areas hit.  The ones I knew about at that time.  All I knew about then were okay, just without power and only minor damage.  But, then each day brought more information.  Each day has brought more stories.  Each day has brought more knowledge that nothing we knew the morning of November 17 will ever be quite the same again.

The communities are working together and it is good to see the camaraderie that has come about in the aftermath of this tragedy.  It still takes my breath away with the realities.  There has been some not so good times as well with miscommunication and misinformation.  But, overall, we will survive this.  But, we won’t be the same.

My biggest prayer is that this helps all of us realize the true meaning of today’s Gospel and maybe take it to heart in a way we never have before.

So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

 

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realities and struggles of the true union…

A husband and wife are no longer individuals, but are of ‘one flesh’.  Scripture tells us, ”Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  One flesh means that what one feels, the other feels.  What one does, the other does.  When one sins, they both sin and both need to work together to strive to overcome the sin.  This is especially true of the sins of the flesh that one or both are battling.

Our goal as a Christian spouse is to help the other spouse gain entrance to heaven by helping them come closer to God each and every day.  Sometimes, that means we have to point out their faults and their weak points.  Maybe this works for others, but it doesn’t usually go over well here.  I can’t help but think who wants the person they love to point out all of their imperfections?  Isn’t our dream partner one who loves us unconditionally?  So, shouldn’t they just overlook all of the not so pleasant sides of us?

This is a true challenge in marriage today.  At least, it is in my marriage!

I came across this meditation today on a friend’s Facebook status.  It struck me profoundly as it is a very powerful statement and really speaks to me today.

“We don’t teach meditation to the young monks. They are not ready for it until they stop slamming doors. — Thich Nhat Hanh to Thomas Merton in 1966

The piercing truth of this statement struck me as a perfect way to communicate the endless disguises and devices of the false self. There is no more clever way for the false self to hide than behind the mask of spirituality. The human ego will always try to name, categorize, fix, control, and insure all its experiences. For the ego everything is a commodity. It lives inside of self-manufactured boundaries instead of inside the boundaries of the God-self. It lives out of its own self-image instead of mirroring the image of God. It is that superior self-image which must die.

The ego is constantly searching for any solid and superior identity. A spiritual self-image gives us status, stability, and security. There is no better way to remain unconscious than to baptize and bless the forms of religion, even prayer itself. As long as I am going to church, it is really meaningless whether I close the door quietly or slam the door. A spiritual master would say, “first stop slamming doors, and then you can begin in the kindergarten of spirituality.” Too many priests, bishops, and ministers are still slamming doors, so how can we expect the laity to be any better?

In the name of seeking God, the ego pads and protects itself from self-discovery, which is an almost perfect cover for its inherent narcissism. I know this because I have done it all myself.” – Rohr

When I first read this, I immediately identified with it.  I could easily sit here and accuse others I know (including my spouse) of hiding behind a wall of spiritual self-righteousness.  But as I continued to ponder this truth, I realized that the ‘point’ in this sword of truth is really in my own gut.  I have slammed a few doors in my time, especially when I am angry.  It happens when I allow myself to build up that self-righteous feeling, believing that I am right and the other person is wrong but just too bull-headed to listen or admit it.  I admit to hiding behind my ‘image’ as a good Christian knowing deep down that if those that really know me and know of my sins could speak out, it wouldn’t be all rosy and sweet but rather more like the stench of a road-killed skunk!

I especially find this concept hard in a marriage.  It is so easy to see our spouse’s failings but to ignore our own.  As a spouse, it is our role to help them get to heaven.  So, pointing out when they are ‘slamming doors’ is good — but to do so requires that we aren’t also slamming our own doors in the process.  Our spouse is never inferior to us.  Nor are they superior.  Instead, spouses need to be teammates helping each other tear the walls that get built between them down AND most importantly, it needs to be done in the greatest of humility.

If we are truly one flesh, then a spouse needs to always realize that what splinters they are pointing out in the other’s eye, are really in their own eye as well.  It is so easy to ‘know’ inside when I have done something wrong.  It is an entirely different thing to speak that knowledge for others to hear.  Why is it any different for our spouse?  It should be just as difficult to acknowledge their sins as it is to acknowledge our own.

Honestly, I think this is why so many marriages now end in divorce.  Couples are not taught the true meaning of being ‘one’ and the realities that come with being one.  When hard times come like lost jobs or illness, most couples know they are supposed to stick together.  But what about if your spouse has an addiction to porn or drugs?  Is that his/her problem? Is it really any different from an illness or lost job?  It shouldn’t be different.  But, it sure can seem to be!

The ego is constantly searching for any solid and superior identity.

But, a ‘one flesh’ marriage cannot survive with this ‘superior’ ego intact.  To move to spiritual kindergarten and the true understanding of the ‘one flesh’ marriage, we need to stop slamming doors.

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