Think about those times in your life when you have felt inspired to something really great. Where does that inspiration come from?
The Holy Spirit. God inspires us to do great things with our lives.
----Matthew Kelly

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Deliver Me

The Struggle is Real

As a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) in the public schools, I have a pretty thankless job. The thanks I do receive is usually in the form of having a child "graduate" from Speech/Language Services. My school system (especially my special education coordinator) has tried on a monthly basis the past few years to spotlight some of her teachers/SLPs in different ways. A couple of SLPs appear to have been targeted for providing professional development, either in person or through technology. I'm really struggling with this. I have been an SLP for over 30 years and have had an enormous amount of different experiences that I could share with other SLPs and teachers. I bust my tail each and every day for my school system and have learned about technology in order to "work smarter, not harder". Yet I am overlooked. Therein lies the struggle.

It's All About HIM

The past couple of weeks God has certainly been sending me messages. It's not all about me. The reason I am in my profession is for Him. I have to remember why I am an SLP...not for the recognition but to serve HIM. It all started to hit home for me during the Gospel Readings about John the Baptist. No doubt John was an important part of Jesus' ministry by paving the way. Did he ever once say, "What about me?" "Doesn't anyone see what I'm doing?" It would appear that he didn't...he pointed the way to Jesus. I am no John, for sure. I am also nowhere near being able to emulate Jesus. Even Jesus didn't want recognition, he wanted it all to go to God the Father. His whole purpose in becoming man was to bring people closer to God and to save our souls.

A Life-Altering Recommendation

I was at a diocesan CCW meeting last week. Our spirituality commission chair is a wonderful young sister. She began our opening prayer and subsequent talk on...you guessed it...humility and doing everything for God, not for recognition. Our president then followed up on the same topic. I'm fairly certain that they didn't coordinate ahead of time. As we queued up for lunch, I found myself right in front of Sister and I mentioned how I needed to hear what she said because I was really struggling with it. She recommended that I read the book Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe. She said that she's read it several times; it helps her put things in perspective. As soon as I sat down, I pulled out my phone and ordered it. I've started reading it but am taking it slow so I can digest what I'm reading. If it helped Sister, I have no doubt it will aid me in keeping focused. 
The president ended with her report with this prayer that I will be adding to my morning prayers:
"O my God, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve to be served, to give without counting the cost, to fight without fear of being wounded, to work without seeking rest, and to spend myself without expecting any reward, but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will. Amen." — St. Ignatius of Loyola

The Epitome of Humility

As I read Saturday's mass readings, the thought occurred to me that these didn't really relate directly to the whole "make sure you're doing it for God" theme. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. I wanted God to talk to me and to remind me that it's not about me. (And by feeling that way I made it all about me!) Then I read the reflection in my Magnificat. Father Jean-Nicolas Groll, S.J. wrote, 
Oh how true it is that to be anything in the sight of God we must be nothing, we must pretend to nothing, we must only desire to be ignored, forgotten, despised, and considered as the most vile and abject thing in the world.
He continues by encouraging us to show devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the epitome of humility and sacrifice. Once again, God didn't let me down! 

Humility.

Shortly after the new year, I looked through the prayers in the front of my Blessed is She Planner (which is great, by the way! It has everything a working-which pretty much includes all of us!-Catholic woman needs in a planner/calendar.) and ran across The Humility Prayer. Well, I immediately had an "earworm"; you know, a song that is stuck in your head that you just can't get out. Audrey Assad performs I Shall Not Want on an album. I've been listening to it almost every day on my way to work just as a reminder. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

What Shall I Bring?

Last Wednesday at RCIA, during the reflection of the upcoming Gospel, I kept thinking about the movie "The Little Drummer Boy". The 3 Kings (or Magi, or Wise men) brought Jesus precious gifts from their region, "normal" gifts for a king.
During the first reading, Isaiah spells it all out:
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
                                         Isaiah 60:3
It is just amazing to me all of the prophecies in the Old Testament. Why haven't I noticed it before now? Then there's this also from the first reading:
bearing gold and frankincense
                                       Isaiah 60:6
The gospel tells the "story" of the Magi and how Herod tried to trick them into telling him where Jesus was. The Magi were warned in a dream so they left without reporting to Herod. Has anyone else noticed how powerful dreams were back then? Incredible! It makes me want to start paying better attention to mine, for sure.
If you were going to see the Baby Jesus, what would you take him? This question was posed to us at RCIA by Sister. Someone jokingly said, "diapers...you can't have enough diapers". If you're a parent, you know that's true. But, being serious...what would you bring?
The Meditation Song for Mass was "In the Bleak Midwinter" (Gustav T. Holst and Christina G. Rossetti). The last verse says it all:
 What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; 
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; Yet
what I can I give him: give my heart.
We may be the richest people on the planet and have more than enough material items, but if we don't give our heart we've given him nothing. That is all he asks of us: to give him our hearts. 
One way we can do that is by using our talents for the Church. We all have a talent. I'm not talking about the "artsy" talent. As St. Caesarius of Arles said, it may be the talent of devotion or chastity. It may be dedicating our lives to live as the saints did. It may be doing our best to live without sin. If you aren't involved in your parish, get involved. Look through the different ministries your parish offers and find one that suits your talent. Greeters have a special talent to make people feel welcome as they walk through the door. Eucharistic Ministers have a talent to serve the parishioners. You don't have to be a musician; you don't have to have a lot of time to volunteer. You only have to have the willingness to bring your talent to the feet of Baby Jesus.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

It Takes Time & Effort

When my husband & I were on vacation, we went to a local parish for Mass. As we walked in to find a place, I almost chose a “half pew” directly behind a longer one, but we ended up sitting in the next pew back. A group of what appeared to be college kids ended up sitting in the 2 pews ahead of us. It was obvious that only 3 of them were Catholic. My first tip-off was that one of the young men who sat in front of us walked in carrying something that looked like chocolate milk, and they all ranked of cigarette smoke. I took a deep breath and thought, “Well, at least they’re taking time out to go to Mass.” The young man with the drink took a couple of swigs during Mass, and at one point, handed it to a young lady in front of him. She took a swig as well. The thing is: this is one of the young ladies who is Catholic, and this was right before communion. She then proceeded to put a piece of gum in her mouth. You have no idea how badly I wanted to say something to her.
The disrespect was just unbearable, and it made me extremely sad. Yes, I should have been paying closer attention to the Mass, but when it happens right under your nose & the Catholic young lady keeps turning around to talk to the young man behind her, it is very difficult to not see it.
Had I thought ahead, I should have shown the young man with the drink where he could follow along in the missalette. He honestly seemed to be paying attention and, if he had the proper direction, would have been more respectful as far as the drink. I actually felt a little sorry for him when, after the Lord’s Prayer, he kept going with the Protestant ending. His Catholic friends should have prepped him for that.

It’s so hard not to judge

Now, about the young lady who took a swig & popped some gum in her mouth: I soooo wanted to say something to her, but had to keep saying to myself “Don’t judge; God will take care of her.” I said a small prayer asking God to direct her. But, man, it was hard to not say anything!
This whole episode reminded me of the mass for the Immaculate Conception at my home parish. Since it was on Wed., the Middle School Youth Group sat together. After it was over, I saw our guitar player roll a soccer ball over to the group. As it turned out, there are children in that group that don’t attend Mass. They haven’t had Formation Classes. Apparently, their parents just drop them off the youth director fuming, and she’s usually pretty even-keel. The priest walked over and had some words with the kids as well.

It takes time & effort

I admit to not giving my boys the strict religious upbringing that they should have had, but I did make sure they went to CCD/Religious Formation. I made sure they knew how to act during Mass. It hurts my heart that kids today don’t know how to be respectful during Mass. Even more, it hurts that the parents don’t realize what a miracle takes place every time a Mass is celebrated. If they did, the kids would have a better understanding. Maybe the parents don’t understand it themselves. In a world where we are all busy, it’s all about getting ahead and trying to get the kids athletic scholarships. Instead of putting their faith first, people are trying to fit their faith into their lives. It takes time to learn the truth about our faith. It takes time and effort to put God first. It takes time and effort to teach our faith to our children. It takes time and effort to answer questions, and, if we don’t know the answers, to find them. But that time is so worth it. Are you putting in the time and effort?

Friday, December 22, 2017

I'm Not Ready

I'm not ready for Christmas. My heart's not ready to rejoice in the birth of Jesus. This has been a tough year for me; this will be the first Christmas without either of my parents. Somehow I knew that last Christmas would be the last one with my father, but when you actually live through it, it hits hard. On top of that, my oldest son is clear across the country. This won't be the first Christmas he hasn't been home, but he's always been closer to home.
I'm trying; I really am. Here are some things I'm doing to attempt to get my heart ready:
I've attempted to get back into the routine of reading the daily mass readings and reflecting, as well as getting back into the habit of daily prayer. That meant updating my prayer list a bit, but that in itself was a bit of a prayer. I don't seem to be getting much out of the reflections, but I know I have to keep trying and eventually, I will.
I've kept up with Dynamic Catholic's Best Advent Ever. This year, I received a book in the mail. Every day, there is a chapter to read that goes along with the daily reflection. The book, Beautiful Hope, is speaking to me loudly right now. So maybe I'm not supposed to be getting much out of the readings right now.
If you aren't familiar with Dynamic Catholic or Best Advent Ever, check it out. During Lent, there will also be a Best Lent Ever.
I had to get a box off to my son, so I made some of my traditional candy for him. I spent a day making 3 different kinds of candy. This is severely scaled-down for me. When the boys were little, I would spend a whole day making candy and another whole day baking cookies & other goodies. I looked at a cookie recipe and thought about it, but then decided against it.
I baked. It was without Christmas music, though. I usually have the music blaring as I'm working in the kitchen. This year, though, it was quiet. I think I needed that quietness of an empty house with no extraneous noise.
I went to confession. In the past, my parish has had a penance service; however, this is the second year that the priests have been available the 2 Wednesday evenings leading up to Christmas Day. I think I like this better.
I decorated the house, even though I wasn't really "into" it. I hoped it would get me more into the "spirit". It has helped some, but this Advent definitely has a different feel to it.
I participated in the Catholic Sistas Advent Photo Challenge...up until 2 days ago, anyway! I have to catch up! If you don't know what that is: Check out their website. They usually do a photo challenge during Advent and again during Lent. A word is provided every day, and you interpret that word however you want. Take a picture and post it on Instagram, Facebook, and/or Twitter.  Use the hashtag provided. It's quite fun to search the hashtag & see how everyone else interpreted the word for the day.

Yes, this year is completely different than past years. For the past 3 years (following the passing of my mother) I picked up my father and took him to Midnight Mass. Sitting next to my daddy at Mass last year, somehow I knew that would be the last one. He's celebrating in Heaven with my mother by his side, and that makes me happier than you could ever know. It's a "new kind of normal", and it's going to take some getting used to.
What do you do to get your heart ready for Christmas?

This post was written with the intent of participating in 7 Quick Takes hosted by the amazing Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum; however, it would appear that Kelly is taking December off, so I'm doing this one solo!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

It's All About Community

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I'm so busy dealing with my own salvation that I forget about my responsibility to others. Salvation isn't just about me...it's about everyone I meet. Not just those I meet on a daily basis, but even those who may enter my life for a fleeting second.
We are called to evangelize, to spread the news of God. In today's First Reading (Ezekiel 33:7-9), I applied it in my life as meaning that if we have the opportunity to evangelize but don't say anything, we are responsible for that person not being saved. But...if we say something and that person chooses to ignore, they are accountable.
I have a co-worker whom I have seen at Mass. I mentioned to her that I didn't realize she was Catholic, and she said she wasn't; the man she is seeing is so she has been coming to Mass. (The times I have seen her, she was coming back from communion but I didn't make it a point to watch to see if she was taking the Eucharist, or if she had her arms folded.) She said she enjoys coming to Mass but doesn't understand all of it. I invited her to look into RCIA, and gave her Sister's name to call at the church office if she was interested. We were around a group of people, so I didn't want to say anything about her taking communion. I decided I would wait until I see her alone and bring it up. It also gave me time to think of how to word what I needed to say. I'm going to start by telling her that I'm not judging, just informing. That was mainly because I didn't know if she was taking communion. Last week, however, I didn't play in the choir and was sitting in the congregation when I saw her go to communion and take the Body & Blood of Christ. Now, I feel that it is imperative that I speak with her, only I haven't had time. I need to make the time to talk to her. I can't be so busy that I can't find a couple of minutes to talk to her. Am I nervous about it? Absolutely. I'm more nervous that she will say something & I won't know the right words to say back to her, but this is a discussion that needs to happen...soon.
That takes us to the Second Reading (Romans 13:8-10) and the Gospel (Matthew 18:15-20). We should love our neighbors enough to care about their salvation. Even those people we don't particularly care for deserve to be saved. I don't know about you, but being a cradle Catholic, when a Protestant friend comes up to me and spouts off Bible verses and starts talking about Jesus, I get uncomfortable. To me,  your faith is personal and is unique to each person. We don't have to say anything to evangelize...actions speak louder than words. And, as St. Francis is attributed as saying: "Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary, use words." BINGO! That is exactly what I think the Readings are saying! Always be preaching. I'm so guilty of acting one way in the work place and another way at home. At work, I try to be all sunshine & roses, and by the time I get home I'm over it. My poor husband takes the brunt of it. It's not easy to preach all the time; in fact, it's quite exhausting. Jesus didn't say it would be easy, though.
In the Gospel, we're given a plan. If someone wrongs us, we are to go directly to that person. If he can't be swayed, then we get a couple of people to go back with us and try again. If that doesn't work, we get the church involved. (That had me a little puzzled, until the Deacon mentioned in RCIA that "church" meant "community".) If that doesn't work, then we make them aware of the estrangement. To me, this means that at some point you have to let go for your own sanity. If you've gone through every step you can to reconcile, then it's time to back away and continue to pray for that person. I'm not a confrontational person; in fact, I avoid it at all costs.  In reading the meditation from Magnificat, Pope Francis says that "This approach is one of sensitivity, prudence, humility, attention towards the one who committed a fault, to avoid wounding or killing the brother with words." In his Homily, Father said that he is often the last to know that someone isn't happy with him, because that person rarely comes to him and tells him. He finds out 3rd or 4th hand. When you go to that person who wronged you, you do it out of love. When you go to someone else and that person goes to another person, and so on, you may be destroying that person. As Pope Francis said, "words can kill". I am guilt of gossiping (I don't know anyone who isn't), but I do have a responsibility to stop gossip. I heard someone say that if you tell 1 person you're venting, but if you tell more than 1 person, you're gossiping. Oh, but isn't it so easy to "vent" to a few people at a time? And, couldn't it be avoided if you just went to that person and discussed the problem? Hmmmm...seems like I read that in today's Readings!
As Father summed up the Second Reading: "There is no evil in love". I had the pleasure of listening to Father Leo Patalinghug last year at our Diocesan CCW Convention. His advice is to pray for the person we don't care for. How can you dislike someone you're praying for? Good, sound advice!
I don't think the Readings are telling us to have the weight of the world on our shoulders. It's not telling us to be anxious about trying to save everyone. It is telling us to act like a Christian, be humble, sensitive, prudent, and attentive. Or, as Matthew Kelly puts it: "Be the best version of ourselves". If we do that, others will take notice and will want to emulate us. It's our responsibility to show that love and to spread the Gospel. It doesn't have to be with words; actions will do.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Conflicts

Photo by Kris Schulze
I really didn't want to get up and go to Mass this morning. I initially planned to go last night, but got busy with a project and didn't go. I've got to focus on Him. I definitely feel like I've lost that focus that I had over the past few years.

I read the Readings while in Adoration on Thursday...that is, after almost falling asleep saying the Rosary. The First Reading (Jeremiah 20: 7-9) had me duped.  Why was Jeremiah saying those things? Why in the world is that the First Reading? After reading it a couple of times (to make sure I read it right the first time), I opened the Bible and read what came before and after, as well as the introduction to this book. It kind of made sense after that.
Jeremiah was called to be a prophet, but it didn't always go well for him. My take on this reading is that he was just tired of being a prophet and sick of being unappreciated. The Catholic Study Bible (3rd Edition) indicates that he had more of an impact after his death. He voiced his frustration in what we read today, but then he turns it around and says that the Lord will prevail over those who are condemning him. But then...he goes back to wishing he hadn't been born. Such a conflicted soul!


The Second Reading (Romans 12:1-2) is a short one, but reminds us to stay true to God. Do what is right and don't succumb to peer pressure or what's going on right now. Our country is such a mess in terms of "if you don't agree with me, then you're (insert word here)." Instead of respecting others' opinions, the "other side" is criticized and ridiculed. St. Paul tells us in this very short passage to stick to your guns and don't succumb. You know what is right...keep doing it and believing it. Even when, like Jeremiah, you get discouraged and it seems that the whole world is against you, keep fighting the good fight.

The Gospel (Matthew 16:21-27) wraps everything up. If you stay true and conduct yourself as you should, you will receive your heavenly reward. Peter & Jeremiah both wanted to take matters into their own hands, forgetting God's will.  During RCIA last week when we discussed this week's Gospel, the question came up about knowing what your cross is that you have to bear. Maybe we don't really know what that cross is; we have to have faith that whatever it is, God will give us the grace to carry it as long as we don't turn our back on Him.

As I said in the beginning of this post: I really didn't want to go to Mass this morning. While I was in the shower, I thought about how the devil is trying to get me to not go, and he will not win. I refuse to let him win or have any power over me. So I finished getting ready & went. Imagine how surprised I was when Father said "When we least feel like being at Mass we need to be there most." That was definitely a "Jethro Slap" moment!  (If you watch NCIS, you know what I'm talking about.) No matter what you're going through or whether you're on fire, lukewarm, or kind of cool about God & your faith, keep working through it. He's there for you, and he's waiting with open arms. After all, even the saints went through cool periods in their lives.

Friday, August 18, 2017

{SQT} Stressors All Around

I'm trying to get back in the swing of Seven Quick Tips on Friday, hosted by Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum.

I've discovered that I'll never be a "big time" blogger...I don't have the issues that most of them seem to have. Has anyone else noticed that? I lived a very normal life in a small town in the South. Hmmm...maybe that's a good thing?
The solar eclipse is supposed to be at 100% in my county. All of the schools are going to be closed so we can all experience this once in a lifetime phenomenon. I was a little concerned about how scared the little ones are going to be, so I'm glad they'll be at home. The concern now is that some of them will look toward it without eye protection.
Daily prayer. I'm finding it really hard to get back in the routine since school has started. We have my son's dog staying with us until June (when he graduates); she's not quite house-trained, but she's almost there. How this ties in: it takes her a while to potty when I take her out. I'm not sure why; you'd think she'd be just about to bust when I take her out in the morning. That eats up time. I suppose I could pray while we're out, but I spend that time repeating over and over, "Come on, girl. Make your tee-tee" or "Make your poops". Makes it a little hard to concentrate on prayer. Did I mention that we don't have a fence, so she has to be on a leash, which means I have to actually walk around the yard with her? And, we live on a busy road...and she's a terrier and bolter?
Between the dog and the hellacious kitchen remodel, I was super-stressed this summer. It's been going on for 2 months and counting. Anything that could have gone wrong, has. I've felt like a prisoner in my own house, or rather, living room. With 3 dogs. There is an end in sight. Hopefully, anyway.
People in my house that don't belong here: That's a huge stressor for me. The beginning of the school year is another one. Oh, and the dog that didn't belong here, too.
Grown Boys. I have 3 grown boys: 1 lives in Washington, 1 in Louisiana, and 1 in the basement. The one in the basement is the least stressor of the three.  I'm still trying to let go and let God take care of them. Easier said than done.
Here's the thing: I don't deal well with stress. Stress makes me want to curl up in my bed and stay there until it passes. But...that's not real life. I feel like I've actually done a fairly good job dealing with the stress of the kitchen remodel...most of the time. Yes, I've shed tears in Home Depot. Yes, I've had to get a little nasty with the contractor. Yes, I will have a beautiful kitchen when it's all said and done. But, boy, if I had it to do over....