Tag Archives: Christianity

God Never Fails

“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  

~ 1 Corinthians 13

This passage is probably one of the most well-known passages of the New Testament and was the second reading this past Sunday in Mass. Particularly the middle section, “Love is patient, love is kind…” These words have been set to music, used at weddings, in anniversary cards, on candles and plaques for the home, and so on. Even those who may not be familiar with the Bible have likely heard these words before. Many of us can rattle off the passage by heart, having heard or read it so many times. The beauty of these words touches people. But the popularity of these verses can sometimes cause us to forget their true meaning.

I have heard people say when planning a wedding that they do not want to use this reading because it is “overdone” or “cliché.” Yes it may be read a lot, and yes it is used in many weddings, but I believe it is so popular because it rings with truth. This beautiful passage describes the ultimate love. Not only between a husband and wife, but between God and ourselves. It describes God Himself and the qualities we should strive for here on earth.

There can be no love outside of God. God is love. (1 John 4:8) So what if we try reading the same passage, but with “God” in place of the word “love.”

“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have God, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have God, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have God, I gain nothing. God is patient, God is kind. He is not jealous, is not pompous, He is not inflated, He is not rude, He does not seek its own interests, He is not quick-tempered, He does not brood over injury, He does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God never fails.”

When you read the passage in this way, it forces you to look beyond the love between a man and a woman. It forces you to go deeper. In today’s society, many people are of the opinion that because they live a good life, are kind and loving to each other, that is all they need to do. They do not feel the need for religion, for faith, for church or prayer. Spread happy thoughts, live happily, help the needy. While these are all excellent things, without the true love that can only be found through God, without God Himself in our life, what does it matter? Many people put their faith in themselves, in hard work, in the people they love instead of placing that faith in God. Without God, we are nothing. We can do all sorts of wonderful things with our lives, but if we do not have God at the very center, we are still lacking.

Since God is love, the qualities that Paul writes of love are true of describing God Himself. God is patient. Although we may sin time and time again, although we may stray from His path, He waits for us with open arms every time. God is kind. He is not jealous or rude or boastful or selfish. In fact, God is so kind and giving that He gave us His only Son, forgiving us of all wrongdoing, of all injury. He does not rejoice because we make a mistake, does not revel in punishing, but loves us unconditionally. God bears all things. He believes in us, He hopes for us to turn to Him, He endures our failings and awaits our return to His never-ending grace. He never fails. No matter what difficulties we may encounter, He will never fail us. We can always rely on Him. How amazing is that?

 Knowing that this beautiful scripture describes the ultimate love that is only found through God and is God, we must go a bit further. We are called to love one another as God our Father loves us. And not just to love our spouse, our parents, our children, our friends, but to love our enemies as well. We are called to extend this love that Paul writes about to everyone. To truly exemplify God through our own expression of love. We are called to be patient and kind. We are called to be forgiving of wrongdoings and to rejoice in the truth of our Lord and Savior rather than to be jealous or involved only in ourselves. We are called to hold our temper, to let go of the hurts we have dealt with, to bear and endure all our troubles, all the faults against us with grace through Jesus Christ. We are called to always believe and hope in God and to share that with others. That is a lot to live up to! How in the world can we who are only human and are subject to so many earthly temptations hold up to such a standard? The answer? Only with God. We can try our very best, but as Paul tells us, without love, without God, we are nothing. Everything else we know will come to an end. We grow up, we learn more, things change. Friends, career, wealth, these can all come and go. All that we have constant is faith, hope, and love. And the greatest is love. The greatest is God. Because without God, without love, what have we to hope in? What do we put our faith in? The love of God must be at the center and greater than all else in our lives.

God knows us better than we even know ourselves. He created us in His own image and loves us with a love so deep, so pure, so true, that we cannot even comprehend it. This beautiful scripture shows us a glimpse of the power and wonder of that love. God can work in many ways. Perhaps the so called “cliché” nature of this reading is in fact God spreading these words of love even to those who may not fully believe. I know I myself have these words in my home in many places, but so often I glance at the familiar verses without truly thinking about the meaning behind them. And so today my prayer is that we all may take these familiar words to heart. To keep God at the center of our lives and to always be reminded of how truly amazing His love is. To learn how to better love our spouses, our family members, our friends, and even our enemies. To remember that without love, without God, we are nothing. And above all, to remember that even in the most trying of times, love prevails. Love never fails. God never fails.

Sing a Song of Christmas

Christmas Day has come and gone and we have entered into the New Year. Back to work, back to the routine. And it seems that, for the most part, Christmas itself is gone. Many people have taken down Christmas decorations already. The Christmas tree in our office at work has been put away. The radio stations are no longer playing those joyful Christmas melodies. And it has only been a week yesterday since Christmas! In the Catholic faith, the season has only just begun, but in the secular world that surrounds us, it has already ended and the stores are gearing up for Valentine’s Day!

In my house I leave my decorations up through Epiphany, the day we celebrate the arrival of the three wise men to see our Lord in Bethlehem. The tree still gets lit every night. Christmas music still plays. The stockings are still hung and the Nativity sets are still proudly displayed. After all, why put away my display of those three kings coming to greet our Savior before we even celebrate it! After Epiphany Sunday, I will take down the lights, back away the tree, and return my house to its “normal” state. A part of me gets sad every time I take down the Christmas décor. It is so fun to see all the ornaments and reminisce about who gave them to us for what occasion or who might have made this for us a Christmas long ago. I love to set up the nativity set which is the same old set of wooden figures that we set up in our home as a child. I love to find the perfect place to place my other manger scenes that my Grandmother has given to me over the years. I find such joy in stringing lights and garland on the tree with my husband (even when we discover that one stubborn bulb has once again caused the entire strand to go out!) I love making Christmas cookies with family and friends, singing Christmas carols, and watching all the Christmas movies I can get my hands on! I love setting up the Advent wreath and lighting the candles each night at our table, adding one every week as we wait for Christmas. I love shopping for my loved ones, sending Christmas cards, and going to Christmas Eve Mass. When the season brings me such joy…why would I want it to end?

What if we kept the tree up all year? What if we were the crazy neighbors who left Christmas lights on through the summer? I know what would happen. I would become bored with the tree. The lights wouldn’t bring me as much joy when they twinkled. As Christians we are called to keep the spirit of Christmas alive in our hearts throughout the whole year. So why not leave these Christmas reminders up all year round? Because that is not Christmas. Those lovely traditions, decorations, and lights are not what Christmas is. They serve as a reminder that the Christmas season is special. Holy. Worthy of that extra cheer, goodwill, and love that surrounds the season. We decorate to visually elevate the spirit of Christmas that should already be present within us! While we strive to maintain this joy in our hearts all year, we are only human. We face trials, times of sorrow, of heartache. During these times throughout the year, we may lose sight of that star over Bethlehem. By the time December rolls around again, as the song says, “We need a little Christmas right this very minute!” To refresh our hearts and souls and to show the world that the Christmas spirit is not gone!

My family has attended Christmas Eve Mass every year since we were old enough to stay awake. While many churches have switched to a 10:00 pm service instead of the traditional midnight, my parents’ church in Georgia has not. We got dressed up in our finest to go to God’s house and celebrate the birth of His Son. We arrived early to make sure our large family could all sit together. And as we prayed and waited for the Mass to begin, the choir sang beautiful Christmas carols. It was absolutely beautiful. Throughout Mass we sang together and prayed together with the special joy and peace that Christmas brings. When it came time for Holy Communion, we sang and sang and sang through every verse of one, then two, then three, and finally a fourth Christmas song! We prayed as we sang while so many people approached the altar to take the Body and Blood of Our Lord. As I sat in the pew praying and singing with my husband, my three sisters, and my parents, I couldn’t help but meditate on the singing. What a beautiful form of prayer song is. I could just picture the angels in all their splendor singing along with the whole congregation. I imagined the angels taking our beautiful songs as beams of joy and light and lifting them all the way up to God. I imagined all of creation singing. The birds, the wind in the trees, the waves on the shore, the rain that falls, even the quiet song of the gentle snow. And I thought how happy it must make God to see us all here singing the praises of His wonder and glory and celebrating the awesome birth of His only Son, our Savior. I imagine that in heaven we will all sing all the time with a never-ending joy!

And then I realized. This is how I should keep Christmas in my heart throughout the year. The feeling of peace, joy, pure happiness and love for our Lord and for my family as we all sat together. This is what I want to feel in my heart throughout the year. And I don’t need my Christmas tree, or stockings, or twinkling lights to remind me of that. I only need to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and see again that picture of all creation in songs of praise to the Lord.

And so I have decided for my New Year’s Resolution to be one of song. To keep Christmas in my heart by keeping Christ Himself in my heart and at the center of my life in all that I do. To remind myself daily of the joy that I found in those beautiful Christmas songs all season and especially during that wonderful Midnight Mass. To sing to the Lord the whole year long, not just in church. Whether it is the familiar Christmas carols, the upbeat praise of Christian Rock, hymns from Mass, or simply the song of my own prayers to God. Whether the songs actually come out of my lips to be heard by others, or whether it is a silent song within myself, to offer up my praise, the prayers, my hopes, and even my struggles to God as a song. To greet everyone with a song in my heart. To approach life itself as though there is music within me! This is how I want to keep the spirit of the season throughout the year! Christmas Day may have ended, the Christmas season my come to an end, but I am making a resolution to keep this joy going through the music of the angels all year. To picture myself singing with the angels in a never-ending hymn of praise and thanksgiving to our awesome and loving God. The true song of Christmas. The song of Christ’s love for us. And with this song of joy within me, I pray that I might be able to shine that joy and love to those around me as I share His love for us in my thoughts, my actions, and my words, the whole year through.

Who Can We Trust?

The election is creeping up faster and faster.  Many of the ads and articles about the election revolve around who we can trust.  Can we trust what Obama tells us?  What about Romney?  People argue back and forth.  Debates ensue not only between candidates but inevitably between friends, co-workers, and so on.  Everyone has their own opinion.  When it reaches this point in election season I begin to think about how divided we become.  Despite wavering statistics, America seems to be split in half over Obama vs. Romney.  But the fact of the matter is: only one will win.

I certainly understand people becoming passionate about their choice for President.  As Americans, we should become involved in the election.  I myself know who I plan on voting for and I will support my decision because of the values that I hold as a Catholic.  We need to hold tight to our values and support candidates who support those values.  But when the election is over, half of America will be disappointed.

As Christians, we are called to love everyone.  We are called to recognize the face of Christ in all everyone we come into contact with.  How do we display our Christian values as we promote our candidates and prepare for the election?  Are we truly praying for guidance and for God’s will in our next President?  Or are we so busy promoting one person that we forget to pray about it?  When discussions and debates arise over hot topic issues, do we calmly state our opinions and truly strive to educate the other person?  Or are we so busy slamming those with opposing opinions that we come across rude and angry?  Do we hold hatred or contempt for the other person?  Or do we pray for them?

After the election, we will have four years with the winner as our President.  And while half of America will be thrilled, do we really want the other half to be miserable and hateful? Of course not!  While it is important to fight for your beliefs, we need to keep things into perspective.  We are called to be in the world, but not of the world.  Becoming involved in the election certainly places us “in” the world.  But we know that this world is only a small part of our existence with God.  God created each one of us at the moment of conception and when we leave this world, we will be able to spend eternity with Him and all His heavenly angels and all the saints in a place far more glorious, beautiful, and peaceful than we can even imagine.   And that is what truly is important.

Will we be able to trust Obama if he is re-elected?  Can we trust Romney to lead us and remain strong in his values if he wins?  We don’t know.  But we have a leader far more powerful who we can trust in every situation and that is our God.  Regardless of who wins this election, He is still in charge.  We can trust Him to always care for us, to always be there, and to always guide us to do the right thing. 

As we near election day, I hope that we will all remember to pray for guidance as we go into the polls.  To pray that God will watch over us and our country whatever the results may be.  To pray for both candidates, that they may be open to God’s will.   And once the election is over, to pray that those who did not win will remember that although their choice for a leader here in America may not have won, God is ruler above all and with Him on our side, we have nothing to fear.  This is only one election.  Win or lose, we have a greater victory to look forward to in Heaven by following and promoting the One True Ruler and Leader of all nations.  In God alone should we place all our trust.

The Least and the Last

Last night I was browsing through my Netflix for something to watch when I came upon Lee Strobel’s documentary on his search for faith “The Case for Christ.”  Strobel, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and a former atheist, recounts the investigative work he did to see if he could find proof for Christ.  After two years of intense investigation, he found that the evidence for Christ was overwhelming and he turned his life to Christ, became a Christian, and began to share his story.  In the final stages of his investigation, Strobel focused on the Resurrection.  This is an area where many unbelievers focus their attention.  You will hear many people say that they believe Jesus lived, died, and was a wonderful person, but that He did not rise from the dead.  The arguments that Strobel found to contradict this opinion were quite interesting.  There was one particular argument that stuck with me through the night. 

The first person to discover that Jesus had risen from the dead was Mary Magdalene.  Mary Magdalene and the other women were the first ones to discover the empty tomb.  In John 20:1-18 we read that she was the first person the Risen Lord appeared to.   Now in the time of Christ, women did not hold much merit in society.  In fact, the word of a woman would easily be discredited without further thought.  We see this even in the Gospels as the apostles did not believe the women and Peter ran to the tomb to see for himself if this was true.  The fact that Christ first appears to women, who were largely considered second class citizens, is truly amazing!  Had this been a fabricated story, why on earth would they choose to have it reported by someone who would be ignored and discredited almost immediately?  Jesus revealed the truth of the Resurrection first to the women, to the lesser in society.

“Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last” Matthew 20:16

This morning I awoke and looking outside at the rain, decided to watch another documentary in Netflix.  This time I watched a History Channel documentary on Lourdes.  A variety of scholars, some believing in the miracle of Lourdes and some not, shared their findings.  One of the scholars featured, who did not believe in Mary’s appearance to St. Bernadette, stuck to the argument that Bernadette was merely a child facing illness and family hardship and turned to a fantasy-type hallucination of her own creation.  Upon hearing his argument, I immediately thought back to the Strobel documentary and that one point that had stuck with me.

“Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last” Matthew 20:16

I have always been fascinated by the Marian apparitions and after watching this documentary, I began to think back on other apparitions.  Who is it that Mother Mary is appearing to in each circumstance?  A king?  The richest of nations?  Not at all. In 1531 Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, a poor peasant.   In Paris, Sister Catherine Labouré, a young sister of only 24, saw Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in 1830.  Our Lady appeared again in 1916 to three shepherd children in Fatima.  In 1933 in a small village called Banneux, the Virgin appeared to a small child of only eleven years, Mariette Beco.   

Each of these appearances was to the “least” in society.  To the poor, the lowly, the last.  Jesus tells us that the last will be first and the first will be last.  He tells us:

“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.  And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” Matthew 18:4-5.

 The women who were blessed with the news of the Resurrection, Mary Magdalene as she was blessed with the appearance of Our Lord, the poor, the children, the women who were humbled by the appearance of Our Lady throughout the years.  These were not the leaders of nations.  They were the least; the last.  If the goal of the Church was merely to fabricate stories, why in the world would they choose time and time again for the visionaries of these events to be of such low standing?  If these events were made up fantasies, why not make up apparitions to kings, to those in high standing in society?  The answer in my mind is simple.  These events are not make-believe.  They are true, glorious, heavenly appearances.  And they happen first to those who are last, just as Our Lord told us.  And we are called to receive the least of these just as we would receive Christ.  As the children and least of society share their miraculous visions with the world, we are called to receive their words. 

I believe with my whole heart in Jesus.  In the Resurrection.  In the Eucharist.  In the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother and in her appearances throughout the ages.  It is something I feel in my heart and my soul and I know to be true.  In examining the similarities between that first appearance of the Resurrected Christ to Mary Magdalene and the appearance of the Virgin Mary to others, I am left with one thought.  One prayer. 

 I pray to be humbled like that of a child.  I pray that my heart and soul will be open to receiving and helping the children, the poor, the least, the last.  I pray that the Lord will fill my soul with the faith of a child so that my eyes and heart will be open to the will of God.   I pray that Christ will work through me so that I may share His love with everyone.  And I pray that the love of Jesus may be known to all.  That everyone may come to know His saving grace, His everlasting peace, and that one day we will all come to see Him face to face when we meet our Loving Father in Heaven.

My Far Away Family

We are all settled into our new place and loving it! The apartment is so much bigger, so much nicer, in such a better community and neighborhood than before, right next to a beautiful little park, and yet I’ve found myself feeling a bit down lately.  As my husband was searching for work, we were just praying and praying for a job anywhere he could find one.  We knew that with today’s economy we couldn’t be picky with location.  And as we prayed, we always asked that, if possible, we find a job near at least some family.  We knew it would never be possible to be near both of our families since my parents live a good 700 miles away from my husband’s.  We searched for jobs near my family, his family, and everywhere in between!  And we were incredibly blessed that he found a wonderful job in his field and near family.  Near his family that is.

To be fair, it is not only near his family.  I have aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and friends within an hour drive of our new location.  I grew up just over an hour away from where we are now.  But my parents and my sisters are a minimum of 700 miles away.  My father had a job transfer while I was in college that took the family a good 11 hour drive away.  I chose to stay at my school and the decision definitely paid off since I met my husband through a friend at school and through our attending the same Parish.  But it has still always been hard being so far from my family.

I am very blessed that I get along so well with my husband’s family.  You always hear people complaining or getting into huge arguments and fights over in-law issues.  I am very happy to be able to say in all honesty that I love my in-laws, that my husband loves my family, that they all love him, and even that his family and mine get along so well together!  It makes holidays, get togethers, and just everything so much easier!

All that being said, while I am certainly very aware of my blessings, it doesn’t change the fact that I am only able to visit with my family maybe twice a year.  Sometimes that bothers me more than other times.  And lately, I’ve been in a place where it’s been on my mind a lot.  In our old place, we were a good 3 hours from his family and had no other family near us.  When we moved there, we didn’t know anyone.  It was like we were both in this together.  Now, in our new place, it’s different.  My husband’s parents are only 15 minutes away from us (and honestly, that’s if there’s traffic.) While I’m so happy to be near family, it’s been tough.  It’s hard to know that we can decide on a whim to meet up with his brothers and their girlfriends one night just for fun.  Or that with a short notice we can just pop by to say hi.  That we can have them over anytime we want to see new decor, to try out a new recipe, or just to visit.  It’s hard to know all of that and then to sit and realize I haven’t seen my sisters since Christmas and it won’t be until this Christmas that I am able to visit with them in person again.  Today’s technology makes it a lot easier.  We can text, Facebook, call, or even video chat with each other.  And I’m very thankful for that.  But there are days when I really just want to show my mom a new dress I made.  Or share a new recipe with my sister.  Or just take a walk in the park with my Dad and their new family dog.

As soon as I start to have these thoughts I begin to feel selfish.  What right do I have to feel sad about being far from family?  I am blessed to have a family I can keep in touch with and that I am so close with.  I am so thankful for the technology we do have.  I am so thankful that my family is all in good health and that we are financially steady enough to see them at least once or twice a year.  And I know how incredibly blessed we are to have my husband get such an amazing job opportunity right our of grad school and close to family that I love, even if it’s not my parents or sisters.  The truth is, we could have ended up in the middle of nowhere without any family at all which would have been so much harder.  And there are many people who live so close to family but don’t get along.  Many others still who can’t afford to visit relatives or who don’t have families to even visit. 

I am so so very thankful that even though we were not able to visit my family this summer and they were not all able to come visit us, my mom was able to get a flight to come see our new place.  She stayed with us all last week while my husband started his first week of work and we had the best time. We visited, we talked, we prayed, we decorated, we cooked, we just had the best time.  That was such a blessing.  Since I have not found work yet, once my husband leaves for work in the morning, it is easy to get a little bored, a little lonely.  Having my mom with me especially the first week my husband was working full-time at the new job was just wonderful.  And I suppose it is the fact that a few days ago she left that is making me miss her and my Dad and sisters all the more.

While my mom was here we talked about how hard it can sometimes be.  We talked about how we both have days where we really miss each other.  And then we started talking about God’s Will.  We started talking about how Mother Mary said YES to God.  And how that YES changed her life forever.  She traveled with Joseph to Bethlehem while pregnant with Jesus.  She was not surrounded by her parents and family when she gave birth to our Lord.  And she was not able to rush over the next day and show her mother her beautiful grandson.  Instead, she and Joseph were on the run in Egypt to protect the baby Jesus from Herod’s decree.  Despite the fact that Mary was not near her parents or birth family.  She was doing God’s will and was with her husband and with the Lord.  And throughout the life of Jesus, Mary watched her precious Son grow up and travel around, only to be put to death.  Still, she remained faithful to God’s will.

While my mom was here with me she said she often thinks that perhaps we are all spread out because we are needed in different parts of the world.  My sisters are in various states for college.  All of us are spread out.  But all of us are very serious in our faith.  Perhaps God has placed us in different locations so that we can help share our faith with many people in many places.

I know there are days when I will miss being close to my mom.  I know there are times when I will hear a friend talk about stopping by her parents after work just for a visit and I will wish I could do the same.  I know there are times when I will think about when one day I have children of my own and how I will be able to share that joy with my mother when she is far away.  But when I am faced with those thoughts, I know I just need to trust.  To trust in God and be thankful for all that I do have. A loving husband.  Wonderful in-laws close by.  Extended family and friends only an hour away.  And I can’t forget my wonderful little pup who keeps me company throughout the day! And the technology to remain close with my sisters, my mom, and my dad, even though hundreds of miles may separate us.  We are blessed to have the relationships that we do with each other and I know that.  I know that God has a plan for me and my husband and for my parents and sisters as well.  I know that even on days where my husband is at work late and I am home by myself, I am never truly alone.  I know that God is always by my side.  I know His angels are watching over me.  And I know that when times get tough, I can give always call and of my sisters, my mom, or my dad just to chat.  But more importantly, when I start to feel sad, I know I can call on my Heavenly Father and the intercession of Mother Mary to remind me I am never truly alone and to wrap me in the peace of Our Lord as I pray for the strength to do His will. 

Keep Calm and…

Today’s Gospel reading was a passage I have always considered myself to be very familiar with.  I have known it since I was a child.  I have taught it to pre-school children in Sunday School.  I even have a children’s pop-up book version of the story that we used in Sunday School.  Today we heard the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish at told in John 6:1-15: 

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days?’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.'” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

Today, the priest highlited an aspect of the story I hadn’t given much thought to before.  Before the miracle is performed, Jesus tells His disciples, “Have the people recline.”  And the food was given ” to those who were reclining.”  Before they were able to witness and partake in this miracle, Jesus wanted to the people to trust that He would provide for them.  He wanted them to relax.  To Keep Calm.

I’ve seen versions posted with sayings such as “Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate” or “Keep Calm and Buy Shoes” or even “Keep Calm and Blog On.” In the Gospel story today, there was an enormous crowd and they were hungry!  They had followed Jesus to witness His miraculous healings and hear His teaching.  But now they were far from home and were all quite hungry.  Once it was discovered that food was not nearby, it would have been easy for the people to panic.  To go after their own human desires and leave Jesus to search for food or to head back to their homes.  They could have turned to chaos, or given up on following Jesus because of their own impatience and hunger.   They could have gone in search for what they thought they needed most instead of relying on what Jesus would provide.

I think that if this same situation were to occur today, we might create our own “Keep Calm” sign, with this saying, “Keep Calm and Just Recline.”  Actually, I think this sign is quite fitting!  Jesus knows that we are subject to human desires.  To our own wants and needs.  He knows it is our human nature to want to take care of things our own way.  He knew that many of the people in the crowd may have left to find their own food.  Instead, He has a message for them, and for us.  Keep calm, and just recline.  Just recline in the grass and trust that our God will provide all that we need in His own perfect timing.  Sometimes we need to be active in our search for God’s will and plan in our lives.  But other times, we have simply done all that we can do. And in those instances, instead of becoming stressed or nervous or filled with doubt over what we should be doing next, we just need to keep calm and trust in God’s plan. 

My husband and I are all moved into our new apartment.  He begins his new job tomorrow!  While I absolutely love the new place, I’ve been feeling the stress creep in lately as I continue to search for employment.  Even though I know I am doing all I can in searching and applying for jobs, there are times when I feel like I need to do something more.  I feel like I can’t sit still!  Maybe a new job has just been posted.  Maybe I should search again.  Maybe I should…..

Maybe I should Keep Calm and Just Recline.  Maybe I should Keep Calm and Trust God.  

God will provide all that we need.  If we trust in His plan, in His perfect timing, in His constant presence in our lives, we have no need to stress.  All we need to do when we begin to feel overwhelmed is to take a moment to relax.  Take a moment and recline.  Think about all the wodnerous things we have already been given.  And then take a moment to trust and pray.  Take a moment to find true calm.  The peace and calm that comes only from our Lord who watches over us in every moment of our lives.  So the next time we feel overwhelmed, we need to keep calm. Not the kind of calm that can be found by simply carrying on in our own human stress.  Not the kind of calm that can be found in chocolate or in a new pair of shoes.  The kind of calm that is found only by reclining for a moment to remember all our Savior has done for us and in trusting His glorious plan for our lives.

*The “Keep Calm” posters I used here were created using http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/.  They offer free programs to create your own saying but do request that you link back to their webpage.  At first I was hoping I could create one with my own image inserted in place of the crown, but then I thought the crown image fits perfectly!  Only by placing our trust in the one true King of all the heavens and the earth can we ever find any peace or calm in our lives.*

A New Page

There are so many people we meet in our lives.  Friends, co-workers, neighbors, classmates, and so on.  It has been said that our lives are like a long chapter book.  Some people are simply in our lives for a few pages.  Some may make up entire chapters.  Some are the core characters that are with you for the whole story.  And some people are the very binding that hold the book together.  As I’m preparing to move and start a new chapter in life, I’ve been thinking more about this. 

I truly believe that God sends people into our lives for a reason.  Some of those people may be in your life to help you through a particularly difficult time.  Some may be there so you can help them through a tough time.  Some are there to make you laugh.  Some are there for when you cry.  And some are there for everything.

I never close the book on a friendship.  But sometimes, there are simply too many pages in between where we left off.  So much has happened in those in between chapters, that you just realize those people may have been in your life for only a chapter or so.  In the recent chapters of my life, so much has changed.  I have moved, started a new job, met new people, gotten married, and am preparing to move again.  But more than that has changed.  A part of me has changed. 

When I met my husband, I changed.  I know that God meant for us to be together because from the day I met my husband, my faith has grown stronger every day.  And what is more, my desire to have a stronger faith, to be more connected with God, to be more Christ-like, has grown.   Since I met my husband, I simply feel more connected to God.  I don’t have all the same interests I used to.  Instead of hanging out all night with friends, I would rather enjoy a walk in the park appreciating the nature God gave us and spending a relaxing evening with my husband.  It’s a change I’m happy with! 

Anybody that comes into your life and immediately makes you want to be a better person and be closer to God is certainly more than a chapter in life.  They become the very binding of the book.  And those pages and chapters from before?  Well some of them are still very much a part of the story.  They embrace me even as I change into what I hope is a better person.  They embrace my husband as well, and have gotten to know us together.  But there are some people from my past whose pages are now out of touch with the very binding that holds the story together.  They may not know my husband, my interests, the things that make me, me. 

So, as I prepare to turn the page into a new chapter, I am thankful for the friends I have met along the way.  I am hopeful that many of my new friends will continue on in my story.  I am happy to say that I have no regrets on any past friendships and that I truly wish the best for all those who have been in my life, whether for one page, or for a few chapters.  But the pages keep turning and like keeps moving forward.  More than anything, I am so blessed to have the people that I do in my life for my next chapter.  I have been blessed with a wonderful family that I remain very close to.  I have some amazing friends who through all of the changes have remained close and have always been there for me.  And I have my truly incredible husband.  The man who stole my heart and who I married just over a year ago.  The man who from the very beginning has inspired me to grow spiritually.  The man who holds it all together for me, who puts things into perspective for me, who loves me unconditionally, who motivates me, and who makes me a better person.  With my family, friends, my wonderful husband, and Our Heavenly Father who I know is always with me, I can’t think of a better place to be or better people to be surrounded by as the next page turns.

To Light, To Guard, To Rule, To Guide

When I was a child, we always said family bedtime prayers together.   My three sisters, my parents, and I would gather in one bedroom each night to recite all our prayers.  Then we each took turns saying our own personal prayers our loud.  What we were thankful for and what we were asking for ourselves, our family, and the world.

Now that I’m married and grown, my bedtime prayers are a little different.  My husband and I still say our prayers out loud together before bed each night.   But things have changed some.  There are different things I pray for now, and new things I am thankful for.   One prayer from childhood that we still say nightly is the Prayer to my Guardian Angel:

Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here.  Ever this day be at my side to light, to guard, to rule, to guide.   Amen.

I have always loved this prayer because it is so simple, pure, almost childlike.  Just the other day I was walking through the park with my little pup and I began to pray.  I found myself praying this prayer to my guardian angel.  As I looked down at the ground and saw my shadow, I imagined that shadow was my angel.  Right by my side.  I started to think more about angels.  And how I could use my angel’s help a bit!  You see, I think we often think of angels in extraordinary circumstances.  Finding a loved one in the midst of a disaster, a miraculous healing, or being led away from a dangerous event.  When something like that happens, we might think about our angels.

In the Bible, we see angels appear at extraordinary events.  To tell Mary she would become the Mother of God, to tell the good news of the birth of Christ, to spread the word that Jesus has risen from the dead!  The truth of the matter is, that while angels are certainly present in God’s glorious extraordinary events, they are also here by our side in our daily, very ordinary, events. 

Matthew 18:10 tells us “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”    And in Psalm 91:11-12 says “For God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways.  With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”  Not only does the Bible tell us the glorious deeds that the angels carry forth of messengers of the Most High, but the Bible tells us that each of us has an angel that is always by our side.  Always guiding us from even such a small thing as bumping our foot on a stone.  Saint Basil said,

“Beside each believer stands an Angel as protector and shepherd, leading him to life.”

A lot of changes have been happening recently in my life.  My husband accepted a job offer that will have us moving in just a few weeks!  We are very excited about the move, although of course with any change comes a little bit of caution.  We become accustomed to certain things and seek guidance when changes come our way.  Instead of letting the nerves get the best of me and allowing the devil to sneak worries into my thoughts, I have given it over to God and to all His angels.  

I am happy when I think of my angel beside me, guarding me and guiding me to the path to life.  That is, the path to Christ.  When I start to feel overwhelmed by moving, searching for jobs, and so on, I instead try to picture my angel.  My wonderous Guardian Angel, created as a spiritual being and chosen to be a messenger for Christ.  How awesome to be an angel!  To see and to know the glory of the Lord.  Surrounded by the glory of God.  Just thinking about it beings me peace and comfort.  I imagine my angel as a spirit floating in the wind, shining like the stars in the night, singing songs more beautiful than we have ever heard.  Maybe we get glimpses of our angels and they bring the message of God’s glory to us.  Maybe in a shadow on a hot summer day, maybe in a soft breeze, maybe in a baby’s laugh, or the shining stars.  Lighting our way and opening our eyes to the glory of God that we are surrounded with here on Earth daily.

So as I say my prayers and think about the upcoming changes in my life, I pray to my Guardian Angel.  I ask my angel to guide me, to guard me, to help me make the right choices that will keep me on the path to everlasting peace and joy in Christ.  To light up the world and open my eyes to all the wonders I have to be thankful for.  And I know my beautiful angel is by my side.  Listening and sending my prayers up to the Lord.

Prayers from a Planner

In my family my mom and I always joke that we are such planners!  We like to have everything planned out.  From what we will make for dinner tomorrow, to what time we will go to the park today, to what we will do over the weekend.  Growing up we would sometimes have “family meetings” where we would all sit around the table to plan our weekend out.  We have, upon occasions, made plans to plan!  As in, what time should we all sit down to plan our plans for this weekend?  A plan to plan!  Sometimes this is a good thing.  We are very organized, always prepared for guests, and love to plan functions.  Our obsession with planning definitely came in handy when planning for my wedding last year, for graduation parties, surprise birthday parties, and so on.  But sometimes, we just cannot plan for everything!  Sometimes we need to let go and trust God and just have patience.  And this can be a struggle for me.

In the past few months, my husband and I have been praying and praying for guidance as we waited for news on a career move for my husband.  We were thrilled and so thankful to find out in the past week that the job we were hoping for was offered to my husband.  In the midst of our excitement we found out that we would need to be moved and ready for him to start in about a month.

Woah!  The planner in me started to panic.  When will we look for apartments?  What if we can’t find something in our price range?  What if they don’t allow dogs?  What if I can’t find a job?  How much time do we need to pack?  Should I start now?  How many trips will moving take?  How much will it cost?  And on and on and on.  My brain, it seemed, could not be stopped!  While certainly you do need to plan at least a little bit when preparing for a move out of town, the fact is there are some things I simply cannot plan.  I can research apartments but until we go look this weekend, I cannot do anything more. I can look for jobs and apply, but I cannot possibly plan beyond the job search phase since I don’t know what is coming next.  And as my husband reminded me yesterday as I began to panic, it has been less than a week since I started looking for work and I still have plenty of time.  The truth of the matter is, even if it takes me another month or two or even three to land a job, we will be ok.  So why do I keep stressing over it?  Because inside my head, I want to plan!

So this week I am sending up prayers from my plan obsessed self.  Prayers for peace, for guidance, for patience.  I know that God has a plan for us.  He has blessed us with so much already, why would I worry about what is next?  This morning I came across the perfect verse for myself this week.  2 Thessalonians 3:16 reads

“May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way.  The Lord be with all of you.”

Peace at all times and in every way.  As I let go of my desire to plan the future and place my trust in God alone, I pray for this peace.  For deep and lasting peace to be with me and my family constantly and in every way.  I cannot worry about the future.  God already has a plan for me.  I need to trust, to pray, and to praise God for the blessings He has already given me.  Sometimes it is good to plan.  But I need to place my trust in God and His ultimate plan.  Then, with His peace, guidance, and grace, I can work towards carrying out His plan for me instead of worrying about creating my own. 

Maker of Beautiful Things

flower-204857_640While the title of my blog may refer to roses, my favorite flower is the daisy.  For our wedding, all I wanted were white and yellow daisies.  It was surprisingly difficult to find!  Most florists would try to convince me I needed a more impressive bouquet, that daisies were too plain or simple.  Some florists offered to combine daisies in with a large variety of other “fancy” flowers.  One florist offered to include daisies with little gems and jewels attached to them.  All I wanted though, were daisies.  And eventually I found a florist who gave me just that.  Beautiful daisy bouquets.  Simple.  Elegant.  Beautiful.

The fact that daisies are considered just plain, or boring, or simple, is exactly why I love them.  The distinct white petals seem so pure when contrasted with almost any background.  The small yellow center just seems to be a little pop of joyful color.  In their simplicity, they remind me that beauty is all around us.  That makeup, designer clothes, expensive haircuts, are not what make us beautiful.  Our God is a Maker of beautiful things of all shapes and sizes.  We only need to look around us to see all the beauty surrounding us. 

The way the leaves on the trees seem to dance in the wind outside my window as the sun peeks through them while beginning to set.  The way that the river gently flows through the forest.  The way that the clouds make designs in the sky and create small holes where the sunshine pours through like angels coming down to earth.  God makes beautiful things all around us.  And we are no different.  He can take our ordinary lives and make them into something beautiful. He can turn our lives into beautiful lives filled with the love of Christ and the peace of the Holy Spirit.  And we can share that love, that peace, with those around us.  I may be a “simple” girl.  But just like the daisy can be so simple and yet so beautiful through its Creator, I pray that God will take my ordinary life and make it beautiful. 

Below is a video of the song “Beautiful Things” by the band Gungor.  I heard this song come on the radio the other day.  It’s a song I’ve heard before but always just in the background.  I never really paid attention to the lyrics.  But it seemed to hit me in just the right place.  In all the confusion and chaos of everyday life, I pray that God will fill me with peace, love, and light so that my soul will be beautiful in the eyes of our Maker.