Listen to God's voice at the foot of the crucifix." ~St. Gaspar del Bufaro~

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gimping By Grace Through the Gauntlet

St. Mary's Parish Shrine~ One of my favorite places on earth.
  Greetings of Easter peace to anyone who might pass this way!
It's been a long and arduous Lenten trek over in my corner of the world so I thought I'd share some reflections.  I also want to thank any of you kind souls who have been praying for my marriage and family.  We have felt the impact and know they have helped in far more ways than we can imagine!
As I move forward from here in the season of Easter, I truly believe that we are not meant to keep hardships to ourselves.  As I read and think about the apostles after the shock and awe of Calvary, I see that they first wanted to hide.  It reminds me that we can all relate to this as we inevitably go through our own difficult things in life.  Sometimes we feel like curling up in a ball, hoping all of our sorrow will go away... but it never works like that.  God calls us to come out.  Just like Christ drew out his disciples from their darkness to tell people what happened, He also calls us to share how He works in our own lives and give reason for hope.  I would like to do that...Share hope.  I hope in doing so, it might help someone else find light in their struggle and know we are never alone.
 The Pacific Ocean~ My favorite places to find peace
Before arriving at "hope", it seems we have to think about what choices we have to live out our free will in difficult circumstances.  Suddenly, we find there aren't a whole lot of choices in times of crisis.
I recently read this anonymous quote: "When something bad happens you have 3 choices:
One, you can let it define you.
Two, you can let it destroy you.
Three, you can let it strengthen you."
Ultimately as Christians, we know that we are called to pick up our crosses and follow Him.  For in this real person of Jesus, we find exactly what we need to make that third choice of allowing our trials to strengthen us. 
The only problem is actually doing it!
Not an easy thing, I know.
When we are actually call to live what we believe, we look at that bloody face on the Cross with a new lens...
This Holy Week, I found myself in this very position.  There I was, gimping by His grace...
That free gift
of Himself
was all I had to hold on to...
Sacrificial love saves us from ourselves,
it saves us from destruction,
giving strength through the pain,
flowing freely from His wounds.
Our Parish Altar~ The comfort of home
There He was, there He is, being the example for all to see, believers or not. 
He was not a victim but a hero.
Which one will we be?
He lives the Resurrection so that we might believe, we might hope, we might have light outside ourselves, we might (someday) be with Him forever.
And then comes the inevitable question... 
How can we possibly follow this example of absolute love and forgiveness when betrayal and other human sufferings hurt so much?
It seems all fine and dandy for Jesus because He was God, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and God is supposed to do that. 
The real question, is what does this look like in real life for real humans? 
Easter Vigil at St. Mary's~ Hope is alive
I've had plenty of time to ponder these real questions (and more) as they have wracked my brain and heart these last 5 months...
When my world came crashing down.
 Never would I have believed this would happen to us.
How does one actually survive betrayal in a marriage, anyway?
How should I respond to my spouse who has been dishonest?
What on earth am I supposed to do when my spouse isn't sure he wants to stay in our marriage after 16 years and 5 children?
How can I gimp through the gauntlet?
 The honest answer is that there is no easy answer.
The answer is hard but it's worth seeking.
It's not about me but it's about the surrender of me.
When there are very few choices, the real path to survival is an honest face plant at the foot of the Cross, literally and figuratively.
 The will of God is the only answer. 
When we do this in real life, let Jesus take the helm, real God happens.  
Submersing myself in the word of God every day, gave me  exact answers I needed for that very moment. 
Gimping by grace began,
Gimping through the gauntlet continues...
My lifelines and favorite prayer resources
My favorite resources, coupled with the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist gave me strength, along with the prayers and a lifeline of beautiful friends and family who truly kept me (and my family) afloat. 
In real life, the body of Christ embraced me in their loving arms.
In real life, the crosshairs of mercy stared back at me...
Miracles happened.
Mercy does that...It leads to miracles.
The Blessed Sacrament~ Heaven on Earth
As I write this, our marriage is being reconciled.  I do believe it's a miracle and I'm rejoicing in the midst of our gimping, even though I'm terrible at gimping.
  It's not easy to gimp, even by His grace.
 Prayers are still needed because I'm having a hard time.
I know my husband is having a hard time, too.
It's tremendously painful for both of us to pick up the pieces and move in a new direction.
Real life isn't so easy but there is plenty of hope to hold on to, this I know.
In the meantime, I've learned a few good things to share:)
Me learning a new sport~ A new passion!
It's good to stare at mercy through the crosshairs...It's a mirror to your soul. 
It's good to take a hard look at what you believe in because then you have to live what you really believe. "Sweet" Divine Mercy had new meaning this year:)
Krispy Treat~ 2015Our Divine Mercy Rice
It's good to have family and friends who've got your back when you're down.  They are the real hands of God, whether they know it or not.  We should never hesitate to reach out.
It's good to give to others in the midst of your own pain so that you discover it's balm for your wounds.
American Heritage Girls
Holy Week Service Project
Food Bags for the Homeless
It's good to turn to the great Mother of God who knows our suffering and is the best company at the foot of the Cross.  She is the sun that shines for her Son.
St. Mary's Parish Fatima Shrine~ Early morning sunrise
It's good to give thanks for the beauty in the natural world that is heightened in time of trial to remind us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
The beautiful tree on my parent's deck!
It's good to have faith that God has it all under control because His grace is what keeps us gimping up, up, up, the mountain, instead of giving up. 
Arduous hike at Pinnacles National Park~Perfect kick-off to Holy Week! (Photo Credit to my friend, Kim)
Through all of this, I also pray that you might receive the grace you need to gimp through your own gauntlet, knowing that God's plan is always better than our own!  
Through my gimping, I trust that He knows what He's doing. 
Thank you for continued love and prayers.
 Family Photo~Easter Vigil~2015
 {Broken but not destroyed}
"Let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.  For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.  Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of losing blood." ~Hebrews 12:1b-4

Friday, February 13, 2015

Lenten Meditation~ 2015

My friend Julia recently sent me this meditation. It fit me perfectly and I will be reflecting upon it quite often this Lent...It's so good that I had to share!  I pray it might be just what you need as well:)
In His Hands
We must offer ourselves to God like a clean, smooth canvas and not to worry ourselves about what God may choose to paint on it, for we have perfect trust in him, have abandoned ourselves to him, and are so busy doing our duty that we forget ourselves and all our needs.  The more closely we devote ourselves to our little task, which is so simple, so secret and so hidden and apparently so paltry, the more does God enrich and adorn it: "God works wonders for those he loves." (Psalm 4:3)
It is true that a canvas simply and blindly offered to the brush feels at each moment only the stroke of the brush.  It is the same with a lump of stone.  Each blow from the hammering of the sculptor's chisel makes it feel--if it could-- as if it were being destroyed.  After blow after blow descends, the stone knows nothing of how the sculptor is shaping it.  All it feels is a chisel chopping away at it, cutting it and mutilating it.  For example, let's take a piece of stone destined to be carved into a crucifix or statue.  We might ask it: "What do you think is happening to you?" And it might answer: "Don't ask me.  All I know is that I must stay immovable in the hands of the sculptor, and I must love him and endure all he inflicts on me to produce the figure he has in mind.  He knows how to do it.  As for me, I have no idea what he is doing, nor do I know what he will make of me.  But what I do know is that his work is the best possible.  It is perfect.  I welcome each blow of his chisel as the best thing that could happen to me, although, if I'm to be truthful, I feel that every one of these blows is ruining me, destroying me and disfiguring me.  But I remain unconcerned.  I concentrate on the present moment, think only of my duty, and suffer all that this master sculptor inflicts on me without knowing his purpose or fretting about it."
~Father Jean-Pierre De Caussade, S.J.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lord, Hear My Cry!

I went up to a high mountain and cried out...
I cried out at the top of my voice.
I know he hears me and will answer in time...Unfortunately not my time but His.
Family At The Foot of The Cross continues to live it's name.  I see more clearly that God helped choose the name for this blog, this path, my journey here on earth, for a good reason.  I trust that I may also share that goodness, eventually.

In the meantime, I wake up every morning with a pit in my stomach...It's still here, the terrible nightmare (another nightmare in my life) that's real.  Sometimes there are no words to express wounds to a soul so I daresay it's best to just ask for prayers.  I know that this situation has now become part of my story, a story unfolding as I groan through the motions.  In the midst of Advent and Christmas joy,
I am delivered a cross...
Passed like a torch, these crosses bind our wounds and heal our pain through each suffering step and stumble.
As I stumble through each day, I recall the stumbles of a Savior who carried His cross for me and for the whole world. He fell three times and I fall many more times in sorrow.  I question with agony: "Who will wipe my face of these tears?  Who will save me from this darkness?"  Thank God for answers...It is He, the light of the world. 
"Your light shall break forth like the dawn,/ and your wound shall quickly be healed;/ Your vindication shall go before you,/ and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard./ Then you shall call and the Lord will answer,/ you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!" ~Isaiah 58:8-9

I speak out here in writing instead of sinking in.  I hope that if there are others who are suffering, we might band together to comfort and pray for one another.  The depths of a dark hole will never swallow up the light if we refuse to allow it.  We are never alone

The Lord hears our cries and saves us through the Cross.  He is mercy and He is love. 

The Cross is a game-changer and victory is ours!

The eyes of the Lord are upon those who love him;/he is their mighty shield and strong support,/A shelter from the heat, a shade from the noonday sun,/ a guard against the stumbling, a help against falling." ~Sirach 34:16
I would love to pray for you as I offer up my own time of great trial.  Please leave a comment and I will add you to my list!  If you would find it in your heart to pray for my marriage and family, I would be so grateful.
And earth repeats a loud Amen.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hold My Hand

Don't we all just want a hand to hold sometimes? 
I've been thinking a lot about this during a recent challenge around our house...Dear husband has been gone on a month-long business trip to teach tactical medicine in another country.  We discussed the opportunity quite a bit before making a mutual decision that he should go.  That being said, the challenges of him being gone were yet to be seen...
The first thing I did was call upon many prayer warriors to pray for his safety and our sanity at home.  I've been told that I'm a strong person but I really don't feel like I am.  One thing I know for certain is that I do have a strong God who sustains me.  I knew that our family was going to need those prayers, especially for me to do my part alone with 4 kids at home.

The days and weeks passed by...some slow, some fast, some crazy, some sane.  Needless to say there were many lessons learned and strength was gained a long the way, no doubt from the prayers that were prayed from generous and loving hearts.  I am so grateful for all of them and he's finally coming home this weekend!
What surprised me the most was the differing reactions that I received.  People I hardly know were checking in on us yet some of my closest friends and relatives never even asked how we were doing.  I sat and listened to one particular "friend" ramble on about herself while never even casting a word or question about our survival.  Seemingly insensitive and uncaring actions are puzzling thoughts about a "friend." 
All of this reminded me of my widowhood when some people I thought were close friends seemed farthest away.  On the other hand, the people who seem to care the most during this difficult situation were the least expected.  It's like God plants them there to open our eyes to beautiful people all around us that we failed to pay attention to before.  He makes up for our human failings and His hands reach out to us through these special people that reach out to us, taking our eyes off the disappointment.
When all is said and done, the fact is that we need each other.  We need hands to hold when we are struggling.  Big struggles, small struggles, it doesn't really matter.  What counts is a caring gesture.  I remember one particular homily when our pastor emphasized the need for Christ but also the human need for people with "skin" here on earth.  God made us in His image and likeness to be His representatives on earth...The arms and legs of Jesus for one another.  I was reminded of this need in my own need.  We aren't meant to walk alone.
Receiving a kind text message asking how we were doing, how my husband was doing, was such a life-line this past month.  Some sweet church friends brought pizza and dropped it off, without even asking; a friend that I only see once a year sent chocolate; another thoughtful friend dropped off stress relief soap and lotion...I never expected any of this but I can't tell you how each of these hands that reached out brought light to a dark moment or ease to a struggle.  I am beyond humbled. Words cannot express enough gratitude.
The reason I share this is to bring light to the kindness, to the importance of hands to reach out.  It reminds me how critical it is to be that same light for others.  We can all make a difference, even in the small things...Sometimes we will never know when the small things are really big things so we just need to act!  We should not hesitate or wait to be asked...Just reach out. Since we are all human, it's inevitable that people will disappoint us but right behind them are new smiles to discover and new friends to behold.
I saw this picture of Pope Francis on Facebook via Catholic Catalogue and it brings home this loving sentiment.  The way he reached out to that Swiss Guard was so endearing...Look at that smile!  Isn't that how we all feel when someone touches our hearts?
I pray that I will not be that "friend" who is too self-absorbed or too busy to reach out...After all, the Pope's not too busy to grab a hand!
Moving forward from here, I want to reach out a little more. 
I hope you will join me...
Share love,
Share compassion,
Hold hearts,
Hold hands!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

St. Monica's "Sweet" Tears

Here I am, back to blog about what I really love to do...celebrate the feast days of the saints!  With our older kids not so keen about doing crafts or coloring much any more, I can still sneak in a saintly lesson (with food:)  Even the high school son was interested!
What's not to celebrate about a woman who persevered in prayer, through many tears, for her husband AND wayward son? Not to mention that her prayers were answered in a BIG way. Both Monica's husband and son (St. Augustine) eventually converted. Augustine's conversion is rather famous and he has been declared one of the greatest saints, prolific writers, and doctors of the Catholic Church...
Happy Feast of St. Monica!
I made these sweet "Tears of St. Monica" treats for our evening dessert and discussion about the back to back feasts of mother and son. (August 27 & 28)  It was nice to sit around the dinner table and talk about these 2 interesting heroes of the faith.  In our busy lives, it was worth the extra planning moments to make it happen!
Two easy ingredients...How can you beat that?
Crescent rolls and Nutella!  The treats represent the sweetness of God's grace, resulting from the sweat of Monica's prayers and tears.
I posted more details over at Catholic Cuisine.

These were super easy...Just spread and roll into the shape of teardrops!  
For a family of 6, we needed 2 rolls of Crescent dough...Big hit!
Prayer to conclude our dessert:
Exemplary Mother of the Great Augustine,
You perseveringly pursued your wayward son
Not with threats but with prayerful cries to heaven.
Intercede for all mothers in our day
So that they may learn to draw their children to God.
Teach them how to remain close to their children,
Even the prodigal sons and daughters who have sadly gone astray.
Dear St. Monica, troubled wife and mother,
many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime.
Yet, you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence, and profound faith,
you prayed daily for the conversion
of your beloved husband, Patricius,
and your beloved son, Augustine;
your prayers were answered.
Grant me that same fortitude, patience, and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica,
that God may favorably hear my plea.
(Mention your intentions here)
Grant me the grace to accept His Will in all things,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
in unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
May the hope of St. Monica be with us all!
On a side note, St. Monica's tomb and her relics are currently venerated at the church of San Agostino in Rome!  It was on my bucket list for my recent trip there, but I just couldn't swing it.  Darn, guess I need to go back;-) 

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