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

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

How do I agree to disagree and move on respectfully?

Arrrg! I disagree with this decision you are making! It impacts me and I know you heard me but did you really hear me? I don’t want this direction to be a mistake. It will cost us money and time. We/you don’t have the experience needed.

Does this thought process sound familiar? Sometimes the littlest decisions can be big and divisive. Sometimes big decisions can be divisive too. When my husband makes a decision that I don’t agree with, I have trouble letting go. He is my best friend. I respect him. He is knowledgeable. I trust him. I ask his advice on many things. I tell him everything. And yet, when I disagree, it is hard to let go and let him make a decision and support the direction he is choosing to set.

What we try to do is let each other lead decisions that align with our expertise. My husband loves to do infinite research for making major purchases. I don’t have the patience for that so I will give him my wishes like I want a red car with 4 doors and a sun roof and I want us to buy it in the next 3-4 weeks. He will do the research and get it done.

I take care of all the monthly bill paying. I’m efficient and I work well with all the online accounts and I keep things paid on time. I also work with repair people for scheduling work at the house.

We have found our areas of responsibility and trust each other. A couple of areas are still difficult for us to agree on. We have learned to compromise for most of those areas.

Once in a while, we simply disagree. I find that when either of us take the disagreement personally, that can lead to a standoff. In these cases, we both lose. There may be consequences for incorrect decisions. There may be unexpected gains from good decisions.

If we disagree, it is good to hear each other’s point of view and then make the decision agreeing to disagree. Support each other in these decisions and always apologize if in an argument, I forgot to listen and support. In the worst case, we will lose a little money or time.

Perhaps the way to handle the situation is to trust that the outcome will lie somewhere between the best case and the worst case and we will learn to listen and trust each other all the more.  And we might learn a lesson or two.

But… As anyone who knows me knows, I sure do like to get my way. I thank God for a patient, loving, supportive, smart, and faithful husband.

God, please help me to let go of control and trust others, especially my husband. Help me to know that in all cases, You are there. Help me to learn to share my opinion and trust others to listen and make their best decision with the information they have. Help me to be supportive. Thank you for your guidance through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Love,

Mymom

When does sharing news become gossip?

When we are all together with friends or family, it is loving and joyful to share news about those friends and loved ones who aren’t able to be there. We share news of blessings and suffering that our loved ones are experiencing and we rejoice and suffer together. One rule a friend shared regarding the difference between sharing and gossiping is that you should never say anything spoken to you clearly in confidence and you should never share anything you wouldn’t say if you were telling the story with that same person present. Keep your criticism and your editorial comments to yourself as they may be very hurtful. Don’t share comments meant to justify yourself or tear down the other person’s reputation. To that I say while tempting, it is bad form.

What if someone asks you directly about someone you are known to have a disagreement with? Please decline to comment. State that you have strong feelings between you and hurt feelings that are not yet resolved. Ask for prayer support for the opportunity to have the difficult conversation that will be needed to lead to reconciliation. Remember that peace begins with each one of us. Choose not to gossip but love and forgive instead. Pray for each other. Listen with love. Treasure these precious moments of time with family and friends. Spread joy, not gossip.

Oh God, help us to be instruments of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon through Jesus Christ or Lord, Amen. Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for us. Our Lady queen of peace, pray for us. St Frances, pray for us.

Love,

Mymom

Be glad to see each other

Our lives are busy. We work a job or run a business, we serve in our church and communities, we schedule time with family and friends, we spend time in prayer, we read, we exercise. Our days are so full. We often put ourselves and our spouses too low on our todo list. How can we reshape our days to put ourselves and each other higher on our lists?

We can start by greeting each other joyfully. When we see our loved one, we great him or her with great joy. I remember watching my parents greet each other after a long day at work. My dad would inevitably be late coming home. He had a demanding job that always had one more thing to attend to before he could leave for the day. My mom would try to be patient but would be overcome with frustration. She wanted him to be home on time for dinner and spend time with the family.

When Dad finally arrived home, he would sheepishly walk in and mom would let him have her best tongue lashing for being late. Here they were, longing to see each other yet unable to greet each other lovingly. It became a very bad habit for them.

If life’s demands give you only a short time with each other, make that time joyful. Every glance, each word, each touch should be in joy and love. Trust each other and Communicate your love for each other with a welcome and happy greeting. If you only have 5 minutes together today, make those 5 minutes count. This is true for each person in our lives. Make your moments together count.

Oh God, help us to see you in each other and in the moments of our day. Give us patience and joy. We thank you for the gift of each other and ask you to bless our time together with gratefulness and Love through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Love,

MyMom

Cursillo

I belong to a wonderful community called Cursillo. I attended a Cursillo retreat in 2010. There I found balance in my faith. I had been all about action and I learned at the retreat that I need a balance of piety (prayer), study (Word of God), and action (service). This fuels me, guides me and directs my action so that my life is grounded in Christ.

The weekend retreat is lovely and even better is the 4th day… after the retreat… becoming part of the Cursillo community group reunions. There are weekly small groups. Monthly larger group reunions and other events throughout the year. We talk with each other about our piety, study, and action and encourage each other as we live out the Gospel message in our environments.

The weekend retreat was a beautiful experience. Annually, I work a weekend so that others may experience this encounter with Christ and join in the ongoing community of Cursillo. Through working in various roles, I continue to grow in my love for Jesus and others.

Dear God, I pray for the privilege of making a friend, being a friend and bringing a friend to Christ through Cursillo. I thank you for this experience and these people who love me and help me on my Christian journey. Please help me to live out my Christian faith with grace and love and service as I continue to learn and grow in you through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns forever. Amen.

Love,

Mymom

What you say matters!

There is an old philosophical question “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”  My answer to you is that of course it does make a sound.  What you say matters whether or not anyone else is around to hear it.  What you think matters too.  You are to conduct yourselves at good and honorable people, examples of Christians in the world.  Sometimes you will get angry.  Sometimes you will hit your thumb with a hammer and you will want to curse.  When I have been the most frustrated; in a car, in the basement, in the woods, those times when I thought I could swear like anything and no one could hear me anyway, someone is always around to hear me.  Sometimes it is my husband, sometimes a stranger, sometimes a friend, sometimes a child who just happens to walk into the situation where I think I’m alone and no one can hear.  I really regret the times when I indulge in venting and fowl language.  It is always unbecoming of a Christian and reflects poorly on me.  When you are angry, say you are angry.  When you need to vent, vent in a constructive way.  Hold your tongue and go for a run or just take a deep breath and ask Jesus to help you to handle the feelings that you are having.  Your feelings aren’t wrong.  The permission that you give yourself to vent, curse, or act out is what is wrong.

Also, never, ever talk badly about another person.  The sarcastic comedy that has permeated our society for the last 40 years has just gotten worse and worse.  It has become so lewd and unrighteous that it is hard to find kindness in any man or woman.  We are asked by Jesus to love one and other.  We are also asked to love our enemies.  When we find it impossible to love, we can ask Jesus for help.  When we fail, we ask Jesus to forgive us.  Admit when you are wrong and ask for forgiveness from each other.  Pray for those who you find most frustrating.  They need our prayers.

Oh God, help me to say yes when I mean yes and no when I mean no.  Help me to speak with grace and dignity.  Help me to hold my tongue and choose to handle my feelings in constructive ways.  Help me to see you in each person and love them.  Help me never to speak harshly about another but to be charitable and forgiving.  I can do these things through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Love,

Mymom

 

 

It’s about love and mercy

Today is the Feast of St Francis of Assisi. St Francis is known for how he left worldly things behind and learned to be present with the Lord through all the people he met at all times.   I went to daily mass today to celebrate St Francis.  The priest gave a lovely homily about St Francis and it gave me much to think about.  I have been studying the lives of St Francis and St Claire as I discern whether to join the Third Order Franciscans.  I have been on this path for 15 months.  This order is a way of life devoted to simplicity and presence with others.  St Francis learned to love himself and then he learned to love others modeling himself after Jesus who is love and mercy itself.

I like the reminder that we have an awesome God who loves me. He made me and I am good. He made others and they are good too. Please remember that and hold fast to your relationships with each other.  Be merciful and loving toward yourself and your neighbor.  St Francis and St Claire give us good examples of how to do this.

When you have an issue with others, forgive them, talk to them, and love them. All of your relationships will be better. Always remember that the devil is the one who wants you to be righteous and angry and unforgiving. God is the one who asks us to be humble and loving and forgiving.

Oh God, thank you for the example of St Francis and St Claire.  Help me to love You, to love myself, and to love others just as St Francis and St Claire did.  Help me to see you when I look at my neighbor and at myself through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Love,

Mymom