Attach only to God

I have been studying the lives and words of the Carmelite saints Teresa and John. The concept that I struggle with the most is that of detachment. What does it mean to love totally and with abandon as Jesus loves without attachment? Jesus shows us the way. We are to love God with our whole self and our neighbor too. If the one or thing that I love in my life goes away or becomes angry with me and shuns me, if I am attached, I am devastated beyond repair. I am not free to live out the will of God for me. I may be attached so that I seek the other, my child, my spouse and want only to be with them and when I am not in their presence, then I am lost. I can only think of how to be with them again. If I love without attachment, I gain all. I enjoy those I love and I can let them go too. I am attached only to God and I detach from all that is not God. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love. It means that I love more perfectly without needing attachment or the response of the other. They are free to love me or not to love me and I may always love in return. God is with me and that is all I need. I may love totally and freely in the example of Jesus. God, please show me my attachments and help me to detach from all that is not you. Amen

Love, Mymom

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Upon this Mountain: On Carmelite Prayer

Upon this Mountain provides a beautiful and succinct introduction to Carmelite prayer.  “We are never alone on this most solitary of paths.  ‘We are nudged along, taught, and inspired by so many witnesses in a great cloud all around us’” p. 7.   The author is able to simplify and bring us into Carmelite prayer.  So much of my own prayer has been about bringing myself into just the right place, time, position, attitude, to drive out all my distractions and settle into a fleeting moment of prayer.  “Teresa’s own interior liberation came when she finally stopped forcing herself…and allowed herself simply to enjoy a friendship with Christ Jesus.” P.8 .  Can it possibly be this simple?  Can I stop the searching, practicing and study and simply be in the presence of my prerequisites for a serious life of prayer are love of others, detachment at all levels and humble self-knowledge.” P. 8.

Once I have managed to simply turn to Jesus as my friend, there I will meet God in the depths of me.  I have very dear friends who I don’t hold back from.  I love them and they love me, and I am completely myself with them.  I am safe from judgement.  They listen to my feelings and musings of life with patience and love.  They are given by God as a glimpse of the friendship that I can have with Him.   I love that the Carmelite tradition encourages me to “have confidence in following the way of prayer that suits us.” P.12.  I can be alone in prayer with God himself.  I don’t need to be impatient with myself.  I only need to trust that I will find the God in me through my prayer and then I will find him everywhere; “turn our attention in faith and love to the one whose attention never leaves us for a moment … whatever is on our heart when we come to prayer can be allowed to be there, for it is already on the great heart of God and he lives its reality with us.” P. 13. 

When I realize these truths, I will come into the “same personal contact with the Lord as men had during his life on earth.”p.14.  I like how Teresa “advocates simple attention to the immediate presence of the Lord within us here and now.” P. 15.  I don’t need to find a special moment because the moment is always now to say, I see you here Lord.  I am here with you, and I am yours.  I come to do your will.  My husband and I recently had a beautiful experience of visiting my husband’s siblings who we had not seen in two years.  They live across the country from us.  We were blessed and happy to be present with them.  No expectations, only the love and familiarity between us.  That is the relationship that I have wanted with God.  It is already there for me when I turn to Him.  I appreciated the description of night as “we are plunged into darkness, not because the light is not shining but because the brilliance blinds us.” P. 18.  I do not need to fear the night.  I need to be “aware of the startling simplicity and immediacy of God’s oneness with us”. P. 18.  

Chapter two further describes prayer as relationship.  John of the Cross describes this as between Lover and beloved.  “God wants to relate to the real person that I am and the real God that He is” p 20.  He wants to engage with the real me.  This will involve really getting to know myself and pealing away layers of protection.  This is an interesting way to think of the dark night.  When I fail to see God, it is perhaps because I am not spending time in my own hidden depths where God is.  God is waiting for me to turn to Him.  In the journey, we confront our faults and weaknesses as we learn to cast off the persona we present to others and be with our God.  “We can only consent to live more and more in that light:  to know that we are naked, and not hide. “ p. 25.  “In the stillness of utter simplicity, we are one with God, because he has already chosen to be one with us.” P. 26. 

Chapter three brings us into stillness.  An elderly member of the author’s order explained how to enter into silence by “listening to the silence of the chapel”.  McCormack extends this to the silence of where we are.  We can absorb the moment of the chapel or garden or wherever we find ourselves.  Become aware of the traffic noise, the fan, and then the noise of my own breathing.  Then, repeat a simple word or phrase.  For me it is “Be still and know” or “Jesus, I trust”.  This book was rich and profound in its simplicity and depth.  “If all we can do at the time of prayer is to be there, then we must be content to sit there and just be.” P.32  In that space we meet our God.    

Lessons from Lois

My friend Lois died yesterday afternoon of old age. She was 97 and a joyful person all the many years that I knew her. For the last dozen years or so, Lois was blind from macular degeneration. For the last 2.5 years, she was in memory care. Prior to that, she lived in her home lovingly cared for by her children, grandchildren and home Healthcare staff. I rarely heard Lois complain if ever.. She might say something self criticizing for her weight which was a struggle for her. Or,, I might hear her say “I could complain but what good would that do me”. During COVID-19 lockdown, I couldn’t see her but I could call her on the phone and chat. It was difficult to tell if she knew who I was or if the many questions she asked were her way to cover her confusion. I loved those talks. Lois was always an encourager, helping me to see the positives in the day. When I would say goodbye and wish her a good day, she would say it was a wonderful day already because I had called.

I met Lois when I met her two daughters Barb and Beth and the rest of the Higgins family as a teenager. Barb, Beth, and I have been lifelong friends. Lois was always cheerful, interested, listened with compassion and generally helped me to feel good about myself. She believed that you offer your advice only when it was really needed. I needed that advice on more than one occasion. My husband and I made it a practice to visit Lois and her husband Dick whenever we were in Des Moines, usually 3-4 times a year. When our children were young, they came with us and visiting the Higgins house is a good memory for them. We were always welcome. When I was in my 30s, I had a tendency to complain about my mother and my mother in law for one thing or another. Lois let me know that wasn’t ok. She said that she didn’t go for the “blame your parents” theme of the time and encouraged me to see that my parents were doing the best they could and I needed to be thankful. Lois rarely corrected me so I was taken aback. I hadn’t realized that my comments sounded so negative. I learned to appreciate my mother and my mother in law in a new way and developed a close relationship with each of them that I cherish. I thank Lois for that revelation and for guiding me to treasure the women that I loved so much.

My memories of Lois include how warm and welcoming her house always was. I always felt like I belonged. She remembered my birthdays and always asked about my parents, my husband, and my children. Lois and her husband Dick, who died in 2013 were a model of a good marriage to us. When my husband Michael and I coached engaged couples for 20 years, we used little stories of how we saw Dick and Lois live out a good marriage. I knew they had arguments like everyone else but they didn’t have those arguments in public. We learned to be supportive of each other and save tough conversations for private time

I lost both my mother in law and my mother in 2012. Lois was a comfort to me. In her later years, she forgot that they were gone and she would ask me about them. For a brief moment, they would be there before I reminded Lois that they had died. My dad died in 2019 the same day that Lois lost her son Doug. Their funerals were on the same day in different states. I couldn’t imagine her pain and hoped that her dementia would ease her pain as she lived mentally in earlier times.

While life has given Lois many challenges, she always focused on the blessings and a positive way to respond. She also always left others with a positive thought. She has been an important role model in my life and I will miss her. From Lois to all of us, listen with love, encourage others, do what you can, don’t take yourself too seriously, be willing to lovingly say what needs to be said, argue if you must and do it in private, look at the positives and live this day joyfully.

Love and prayers,

Mymom

Family doesn’t give up on anyone.

You each have your own stresses right now. The pandemic has gone on so long. You are working long hours. Caring for little ones. Being there for family and friends. Know that we love you and we are here for each of you.

Cherish our family relationships with each other. None of us are perfect and each of us are special in our own ways. Where you are weak, I am strong. Where I am weak, you are strong. Our family is a beautiful pattern of people knit together by the love you share with us and with each other. Sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, daughter in law and sons in law, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends for life. Our family is strong because of our unconditional love, forgiveness that is granted without strings attached. Grace from God and sharing that grace with each other. Build each other up. Be patient with each other. Communicate. You are loved and valued. No one is left out and no one is left behind. We are each as close as we choose to be. God bless each and every one of you.

Love,

Mymom

Love and Kindness Counts

If you feel that you have harmed me in any way this year or at any other time, I have long forgiven you. If I have offended you or hurt you in any way, please forgive me. I am meditating daily on First Corinthians Chapter 13. I recommend reading this chapter as the definition of love and kindness. Don’t carry grudges, live your life each day with this passage in mind. It defines what love is and how we should love. Love God, Love neighbor…and don’t forget to love self with all humility. You are a unique, special, beautiful gift of God to the world. Love really is all you need. Be kind. Your words matter. You matter.

Surviving a pandemic and working on thriving during pandemic

  1. Get up at your usual time each day
  2. Work out at least 30-60 minutes each day
  3. Shower, dress to go out as if going out to work.
  4. Pray each day and attend church on Sunday even if it is to watch a service
  5. Tell your family you love them and be present with them.
  6. Keep your social media time and news time to a minimum (no more than 1/2 hour a day)
  7. Call and connect with a friend
  8. Send a thank you note. There is always someone to thank.
  9. Put energy into the work you have to do this day even and especially if your work today is to look for work.
  10. Keep your living space clean and tidy
  11. Mind your self talk to be positive and kind
  12. Notice all the blessings around you
  13. Appreciate those in your life with positive language, be helpful and kind
  14. Spend time alone meditating with God. He wants to talk to you and you have to be still to hear Him.
  15. Take a walk.
  16. Enjoy your children, grandchildren, family,, friends, co-workers and pets. Be kind.
  17. Say please and thank you and mean it.
  18. Apologize when you have been rude, tense, or vented
  19. Forgive and love unconditionally
  20. Pray for everyone to the right and to the left of you. Be kind and don’t say rude things about anyone. Instead, listen with generosity.
  21. Be open, listen, and be willing to change your mind.
  22. Remember that the media is entertainment and any resemblance to facts is coincidental.
  23. Wash your hands, wear a mask when you are in a public place, and be kind
  24. Go for your annual physical and your dentist appointment and get your flu shot
  25. If you are overweight, lose weight in a healthy way as the best thing you can do for your overall health.
  26. Read the Bible, a good novel, and a good non fiction book.
  27. Enjoy your spaces indoors and outdoors
  28. Go to the lake or park nearby.
  29. Listen to the wonder around you and seek peace.
  30. Volunteer, support your church and your charities.

God bless you and I pray for your health and well being. Love Mymom

Moving Past Disappointment to Gratitude

Oh how sad I feel right now.  I prayed and prayed and prayed.  I wanted your wedding day to be everything you wanted it to be.  And with COVID-19, it will be a different day.  I really believe that God is in these plans.  I believe that we will still have a blessed day for your wedding.  And we need to look forward to what will be.

Today, when we have to accept changing plans, it is a time to feel feelings and cry.  Cry out to God.  Ask Him to be with us as we face the disappointment of today.  Thank Him that he is with us.  Turn to Him.  Sit quietly with God.  Cry with Him.  Let Him comfort you.  Feel your feelings and ask Him for strength.  Tell God how you feel.  Ask our Blessed Mother Mary to comfort you and pray for you.  Ask God to help and he will help.

God didn’t cause the COVID-19.  He isn’t causing all the panic and the closed venues.  We didn’t cause this either.  Politics need to be put aside.  Families need to be together.  We need to begin again.

We will appreciate what we can do to celebrate your wedding.  I am so thankful for you and for your future husband.  You are a beautiful couple and your wedding will be beautiful.  It will be small and intimate and we will have such a celebration later.  And we will be together with you.  Praying for you.  Loving you.  Listening to you.  I am grateful for so many things.  I am grateful for you.

Love,

Mymom

See others through the eyes of Jesus

I can’t think of a person who hasn’t let me down at one time or another.  And I’m sure that I have let others down many times.  God wants us to depend on Him.  He loves us and is always there for us if we turn to Him and put our trust in Him alone.  Only Jesus who leads us to the Father and works in us through the Holy Spirit.  If we can trust God, then we are free to joyfully love others and allow them to be imperfect.  We can love who they are and not who we wish they would be.  We are all imperfect humans trying our best in an imperfect world.  Our sense of sometimes feeling let down often comes from putting too much on the shoulders of that other person to bring us happiness.  Peace comes from those moments when we let Jesus take us by the hand and show us others through His eyes.  Accept, trust, forgive, love.

Love,

Mymom

Do not let the sun go down on your anger

“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil.” Ephesians 4; vs 26-27. In my study bible it says – In the case of personal insults, we should strive for reconciliation with the offender before the day’s end. That is a most difficult thing. I have had many times when I haven’t been able to do this and that leads to a sleepless night or a fitful night. Always remember that we don’t have to be perfect. Indeed, we can’t be perfect but with God’s help, we can make progress and do our best. Sometimes, the best thing is to calm down, journal, pray for help and begin again. Then decide whether it is worth the conversation or not. Maybe we just need to let go and love.

Love,

Mymom

Cooped up because of COVID-19

This has been a tough time for me and I know it is tough for everyone.  I’m grateful for so many things, home, family, food, warmth, working from home, the birds singing.  I’m sad about all the separation.  I miss my daughter, son in law and their children although we do talk to them often.  They live in Minneapolis and that is probably the worst area to live in.  Still in Minnesota, it isn’t so bad.  Our numbers remain very low. I miss church although I am watching it. I miss eating out and I don’t even eat out that often.  I bought show tickets this spring for the first time in a long time and won’t be seeing those shows.    I am sad for my younger daughter who lives in North Dakota, she is trying to look forward to her wedding at the end of May and dreading any news of further extensions of the stay at home orders.  Her venue is hopeful still and has many plans for keeping people safe including a backup date if we need to change it.  Still this should be such a happy time and it is instead filled with stress for her and for us.

 

I thought I was so grounded in my faith that this situation shouldn’t impact me so much.  I should be peaceful, faithful, obedient.  Truly though I have so many moments of anger and frustration.  I am worried about the situation around the world and so I gave money to Catholic Relief Services.  I am worried about my church.  Financially, how can it be solvent?  Donations down $60,000.  How can our church make the mortgage and pay the staff?  So, I gave more money to my church.  What is happening out there while we are all so preoccupied with ourselves?  I feel like I should listen to the news but it is so depressing that I can’t listen to the news.  All I can do is stay in place, work, and enjoy the people in my small circle; my husband, my sons, my daughter in law, and my two grandsons.  Six people.  My life line.  I make phone calls.  I use Zoom to connect with my community.  I watch sitcoms looking for light-hearted relief.   I pray, I work, and I wait.  Please God, help us find a cure, a vaccine, a test to show those of us who have already had this disease, help us to move forward and see each other again.

 

So to the government, from the bottom of my heart, I know that you mean well.  You have incomplete data though.  You have 300 million healthy people locked up just in case.  I agree with sheltering those who may be vulnerable but not in isolating them from their families and friends.  Trust us to wash our hands and take care not to spread germs.  We are a smart group of people.  We can take care of each other and will take care of each other.  No more extensions.  The curve has been flattened.  The hospitals have been built.  The equipment is coming in.  We are as ready as we are going to be.  Peace.

Love,

Mymom