Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I am thankful

This weekend my doorbell chimed insistently added with several knocks on the door.  At first I was a little upset, Lucas had just went down for a nap and was sleeping right above this racket.  I wasn't expecting anyone but as I could see, there was crowd of people on my front door step.  I opened the door to a bunch of teenagers.  Yes, teenagers who were laughing and having a great time.  I was about to reprimand them for abusing my doorbell but this one boy started nervously reciting a speech from a piece of paper he held.

They were kids from our local Catholic School.  They were going door to door collecting non-perishables to fill the shelves of our local food pantry.  Down the street I saw another group of kids doing the same thing.  Instead of being upset that they could have woken my sleeping child I was filled with amusement.  I even interrupted the boy from finishing his speech by laughing and saying "I got it!"  I asked them to wait while I went to my pantry.  As I was reaching for different canned goods I was overcome with emotion.  I am so THANKFUL!  I have a pantry filled with food that I can contribute to a good cause.  Here I was about to be upset that someone could have woken my child from his much needed nap but then I was faced with the goodness that does thrive in our society.  I filled a plastic bag and gave it to the kids.  I made their day!  They believed that with my contribution they beat the other kids, I guess they were competing with each other.  As they walked away I listened to their laughter.  Imagine teenagers giving up their Saturday afternoon to go house to house asking strangers for non-perishables to fill up a food pantry.  They were not acting like this was grudge work or something they decided to do to meet a requirement.  They were laughing!  They were having fun!  They even had a healthy competition to see who can get the most!  It was a great act of kindness that they probably do not even know the full weight of.  

I remember back when Leo and I were just starting our family.  It was tough learning how to manage our paychecks to pay our mortgage, bills, grocery shop, diapers and formula.  I even remember a time when at 10pm we belatedly realized we only had 2 diapers left but the store wouldn't open until 8am.  Our parents also helped us buy some groceries during the months we overextended ourselves.  We learned a lot of valuable life lessons during that time of our life.  If these kids were to have knocked on our doors at that time I would have turned them away and feel ashamed for not even having a can of beans to give.  Now, I have a pantry filled with food.  I have learned to keep track of how many diapers I use so I know when we need to buy more.  My family never has to feel that pinch again.  Filling that plastic bag for the kids gave me a moment to be thankful that even when money was tight we always had someone to help us.  Now I can pay that help forward.  Thankfully we never needed to rely on a food pantry to help fill my kitchen shelves

On March 27 my sister had surgery to remove a brain tumor.  Yes, a brain tumor.  Miles and hours away I felt helpless.  The only action I could take was pray.  God has seen our family through many health crisis'.  My husband knew how heartbroken I was that I couldn't be there so he planned on driving our family down for an overnight stay that weekend.  We were so thankful that God Provided us so that we could afford that spur of the moment trip.  My sister came out of surgery with stellar results so she was released early.  When I finally made it to her she was resting quietly in bed.  She and I  just stared at each other with a connection that only we share.  It was one of our more emotional reunions.  I am beyond thankful that we could afford the hotel night, gas money, and the lunch we bought for the family.  I am thankful that I was able to simply be there for my sister during her time of need.  It was heart wrenching walking away from her just 24 hours later.  However, the ride home proved interesting.  It was raining and soon we were treated with the ABS light turning on and this lovely little "ding ding ding" constantly singing to us.  Leo called our mechanic and he told us it is probably just the sensor.  So we turned up the music to try and drown out the noise.  In the next few days a new noise, a type of grinding noise made Leo take the truck to the mechanic.  Yep, something was wrong and we needed to fix it.  I am not even going to pretend that I know mechanical "stuff" so I won't try to say what the problem is.  However, before we could feel the pinch we received a monetary gift for a small favor we did.  If we didn't receive the small gift we would still have found another way.  That's what we do!  We just keep moving forward, solving each problem as it comes at us.  All of our regular bills, medical bills, and unexpected bills are handled with the knowledge that we work hard for what we have and trust that God will help us find the best solution.  God will provide.

I may not have the healthiest life or the richest.  What I do have is a beautiful family, a home filled with happy memories, kitchen cabinets filled with food, access to good doctors, and my husband is able to work to support his family.  Every time I have ever been in need God has answered my prayers.  I think this is a mighty lesson during the Lenten Season.  Life does not need to be perfect to see God's hand helping you along.  I believe it is all the small blessings that build the beautiful life.  My sister survived having a brain tumor removed!  I have enough food in my home that I could give towards others less fortunate! When you consider the whole, how can you see this life as anything but blessed?  I am thankful for all my blessings!!!

Philippians 4:19 

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Happy Time!

Yes, I am Catholic and today I went to church to receive my ashes to mark the beginning of Lent.  I was raised with the type of Lent filled with a feeling of needing to give something up as a way to understand and follow in the path of Jesus.  It was a time of self deprivation and when Easter finally came I was filled with JOY because Lent was OVER!!!  As a child you can get creative as to what you are going to give up so that the season isn't too hard to cope with.  My parents often remind me of the year that I did not give up cake and I did not give up ice cream, no I gave up "Ice cream Cake!"  Honestly, as a child it is such a hardship to not eat ice cream cake.  My good parents even made sure there was at least one time during Lent that I was faced with Ice Cream Cake, and I had to go without.  I learned what it was to make a commitment and deprive myself of something I enjoyed.  I knew I was honoring the sacrifice Jesus made for us.  It helped me understand the level of deprivation Jesus made to save us.  It hurt to not eat ice cream cake but Jesus gave up so much more than I could have ever dreamed so my small sacrifice was just a tip of the hat acknowledgement towards Jesus.  As a Mother I know how hard it is to teach a small child about the real meaning of Lent.  Lent and Easter are not as easily explained to children as Christmas!

As an adult I see Lent differently.  Last night and this morning I prayed, asking for guidance on how to best give myself this Lent season.  I didn't know what I was going to give up or give extra.  I quickly talked to Gabe about deciding what he is going to do for Lent and that we would talk about it more after dinner tonight.  Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence, sorry Leo!  Because of my pain medication I have to revise my fasting and allow myself a small breakfast.  I still had to deal with the crazy chaos of getting Lucas ready for school, and his last minute meltdown as the bus pulls up because suddenly he wants to stay home all day.  Honestly I pray every day asking God for more patience after I put Lucas on the bus!  God and I talk daily about how I cope with the very lovable Lucas.

At the Ash Wednesday Mass, Father Jude spoke about how his own mother changed his viewpoint about Lent years ago when she battled cancer.  Her take, it was a Happy Season!  Even though she was coping with losing her hair and fighting cancer she couldn't help but feel like the season was about Jesus' love for us and how that was something worth celebrating.   I cannot retell Father Jude's story but what I got out of it is that she was happy to give back to Our Saviour.  She began to address it as "Happy Lent" a season to be happy!

My church hands out these lenten packets every year that are filled with prayers, information about events, and activities that you can do with your family.  They always remember to be child friendly.  This year the kids booklet was titled "Learn to Love this Lent".  How amazing is that?!  On the cover is a cartoon picture of Jesus with a child on his shoulders and another child next to them.  They are all smiling and it looks like they are having FUN, not being solemn and respectful.  They are filled with joy and it is about Lent!  I opened it up and the first activity page is for today, Ash Wednesday.  It is titled "Lent is for Love" and the child's activity is to finish drawing the child's face with an ash cross on the forehead.  At the bottom of the page it says "Jesus, thank you for loving me.  Help me to learn to love others during this Lent and always."  This is the message I want to fill my boys with.  To love everyone as Jesus loves.  Lent is about Jesus path to the cross and how every choice he made was filled with Love for us.

I am refreshing my own perspective of the season.  Do you watch cooking competitions?  In them you will always find at least one chef who takes a familiar dish and deconstructs it to the basic concept and then reinvents it.  That is going to be my own approach to Lent this year.  Instead of staying with the traditional sense of "giving something up" I am going to take a better understanding of the sacrifice Jesus made for us and deconstruct it into how it applies to my life today.  What can I sacrifice in honor of Jesus?  What is a sacrifice?  How can I make this blend in with our family life and teach my boys about Lent?  If I gave up coffee does that really send the message that I am trying to follow in Jesus' footsteps?  What if I gave something instead?  What if I gave my time, talent and energy this Lenten season?  Is it wrong to happily do something that will bring me closer to Jesus?  What about my children?  What can I do to help them honor this season?

I think I found the answers to my questions that will best fit my life and family.  It came to me as I was in the Gathering Space of our church and then the message was sent home while listening to Father Jude talk of a "Happy Lent".  God answered my prayer and in doing so I knew I had to talk about it in my blog.  I will be giving my time, talent and energy this year.  I still need to make the phone call but my plan is to bake my grandmother's homemade bread and donate it towards the Lenten Soup Kitchen each week.  I am going to have Gabe get back into the habit of night time prayers but I am also going to ask him to help Lucas pray each night.  I am also going to find the opportunity to "pay it forward" and cook a meal for a family in need.  I think that doing this has more spiritual meaning than giving up my coffee or going without sweets for the next 40 days.  Jesus GAVE his life for us but that doesn't mean he GAVE UP his life.  For now on I am choosing to "give" each Lent instead of the traditional "giving up".   I am going to focus on making Lent a Happy season instead of a season of loss.

I am going to ask that you do one thing for me.  Pray.  Please remember to say a prayer for my RSD family so that no one should ever feel lonely or lost in their pain.  This can be said about all chronic pain disorders but I am asking for you to make RSD warriors a focus in at least one of your prayers.  Believe in the power of prayer.  Thank you!