Tag Archives: Joy

Holding on to Joy

joy of the LordFor years I prayed for a baby.  I prayed so hard and I cried each month when it didn’t happen.  I didn’t know what to do when we were told it never would happen.  I was devastated and prayed for a miracle.  And I am so beyond blessed today to say that I am just about 30 weeks pregnant with my little miracle baby boy.  I still can hardly believe it!  Every time I feel him move, or listen to his heartbeat, or look at his ultrasound pictures, or see my own growing belly, I feel such joy, happiness, and thankfulness.

And yet, despite the joy, it seems over the past month there have been numerous trials trying to steal that joy.  Things that come up and cause stress and worry and pain (all amplified by the pregnancy of course).

Things like my husband having to travel out of town again for work.

Or like my dog getting a severe infection and requiring a last minute vet visit and several medications (not to mention the costs associated with this) all while my husband was out of town.

Or my car (that was paid off mind you) going into the shop for what we thought were minor repairs only to find out the cost was outrageous and it was more economical to purchase a new (to us anyway) car.

Or contracting a bizarre skin infection that has resulted in unexpected doctor’s visits, medicine, and a few added layers of stress.

Why in the world did all this need to happen in the last trimester of pregnancy?

Despite the joy felt by my husband and myself and many friends and family members over the new baby, there is one who is not happy about the new addition at all, and that is the devil.

I am sure that the idea of new life never thrills him, especially considering how much effort he puts into getting others to end life here on earth through abortion, terrorism, suicide, murder, euthanasia.  And the fact that this baby is nothing short of a complete miracle from God?  Well I don’t think he’s very happy about our joy over all this.  And I can’t help but think that maybe this same someone is watching these little trials come my way just waiting for them to take over so that the joy over this baby inside of me is replaced with worry, fear, anger, doubt.

But I refuse to let that happen.  Because when I take a minute to look at the big picture, there is far more to be thankful for than there is to be upset about.  And those things that caused extra moments of stress?  Well when I look at them compared to all our blessings, they are really nothing at all.

It is hard when my husband has to travel.  He is my best friend and I miss spending every day with him when he is gone.  I miss making him dinners and having him beside me when I go to sleep.  Of course I feel sad sometimes while he is away.  But I am blessed to have him in my life, as my husband and as the father of our little baby coming soon.  I am blessed that he is in good health.  Blessed that he shares my faith and helps me grow stronger in it constantly.  Blessed that he has a job in the field that he studied so hard for and that his job is one that is making a positive difference in our world.  So if that job sends him out of town here and there, I can deal with that.  Compared to all the good, that is nothing!

Our dog getting sick was certainly not fun. (She ate something left behind by some stray cats that dogs are not supposed to eat…)  But she was ok.  And despite the stress it caused in the moment, it was a blessing that I had the time to take her as soon as she got sick.  A blessing that it was nothing serious and that the medicine quickly helped and she is back to normal.  A blessing that we have the ability and finances to go to the vet and take care of our little pup when needed.  And a blessing that I still have her following me around, cuddling, taking walks with me.  So who cares about a silly vet visit with all those blessings?

It was so nice to have paid off my car.  But you know what?  We will make it just fine with the new payment.  Things may be tough but there are many things we can do without when money is tight.  We are blessed now to have a safe vehicle that we don’t need to worry about driving with the baby especially on long trips to visit family out of town.  And we are blessed that we found out about the car issues while it was in the shop, not during a break down on the side of the road.

The skin infection was truly random and caused the most worry out of all these.  I was concerned about it affecting the baby and about the medicine I needed to take for it.  But I am blessed that it was on my arm where I could easily notice it and have it taken care of quickly.  Blessed that we caught it early enough that it remained topical and did not get to baby.  Blessed that modern medicine has options for treating it that are still safe for me and the baby.  And blessed that it is healing!

When I sit down and look at all these blessings (not to mention other blessings we have like our family, home, food, running water, and countless more), I realize there is truly nothing to complain about.  Nothing to worry or stress over.  God is in control and has blessed us beyond measure.

So although that thief of joy might be waiting for me to lose sight of my blessings and turn to negative thoughts instead, I refuse.  When I feel myself getting overwhelmed or stressed, I will turn to prayer and to counting my blessings to keep things in perspective and to keep holding on to that joy.  The joy that comes from having the Lord in my life, having Him beside me every step of the way, and from all that He has blessed us with.

“…for the joy of the Lord is your strength” ~Nehemiah 8:10

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Moments of Glory

Moments of GloryBeing a disciple of Christ is hard work.  To stand up for what is right when it is more popular to do what you know is wrong is tough.  To preach the gospel through our words and actions despite how we might be feeling that particular day is not easy!  To love our neighbors, including our enemies, is a difficult concept to comprehend let alone live out in our daily lives.  And to remain filled with the joy,  hope, peace, and love of Jesus Christ, even when things around us seem to be too much to handle, well that can seem impossible.

And in truth, it very well might be impossible if we had to do it alone.  But the wondrous truth is that we are not alone.  We never have to face these tough times of discipleship on our own.  Even at times when we might not feel God’s presence, even during times when we may have strayed or turned away from the faith, God is still there.  Sometimes the things going on in our own lives or the things we see on the evening news discourage us and make us feel as though all is lost.  But God is still there.  Remembering this even during the times we do not “feel” His presence can be a struggle.  So how do we do it?

This Sunday in Mass we will hear Luke’s gospel account of the Transfiguration of Jesus.    Peter, James, and John go up on the mountain with Jesus to pray.  They are overcome with sleep and awake to see Jesus transfigured before them.  Jesus is standing there, dazzling white in all His glory with Moses and Elijah at His side as they discuss the events to come.  A cloud from heaven comes upon them and the voice of God says, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

Some time ago, our wonderful parish priest gave a homily on this very gospel story that has stuck with me.  He spoke of how the memory of this glorious experience remained with them and served to bring them hope in the tough times to come.  They had many trials yet to face, but the moment of glory that they had witnessed would provide them with strength to carry on.  It would serve as a reminder for them of the truly awesome glory of our God that surpasses any difficulties we face here on earth.

In our own lives, we have moments where we glimpse the glory of God. They may be large or small, but they are there.  Maybe it is a particularly breathtaking sunrise over the ocean that, each time you think of it or see a photo, you are reminded of the glory of the Lord.  Maybe it is your wedding day that you can look back on and see how clearly God’s glory was shown as you said your vows.  It could be a moment during mass when you were overcome with emotion or a silent moment alone in adoration where you felt His presence in an undeniable way.

These moments of glory stick with us and remind us that yes, God is there!  When things seem impossibly difficult in our own lives and when the world around us seems hopelessly lost, God has given us moments of His glory to look back upon and remember that the same God who created the sunrise, who brought you to your spouse, who is there in the Blessed Sacrament…He is here with you right now.  Even as you are reading this, He is there.

No matter how bleak or dark things may appear, find the glory of God around you.  Before becoming overwhelmed with stress, worry, fear, sadness, strive to remember a moment in your life when God’s glory shone through. And don’t stop there, but seek to find His glory displayed all around us each day.  Collect these moments of glory and keep them safe in your heart.  Use them to fill you with renewed strength to preach His gospel, to share His love, to stand up for what is right, to love those around you, and to remain filled with joy, hope, peace, and love in Christ no matter what happens.

We may not see the Lord transfigured here present be fore us like Peter, James, and John did.  But we can certainly see moments of His glory all around us.

Christmas Joy

Christmas JoyDo you remember being a child and anxiously counting down the days until Christmas?  Maybe on an advent calendar or maybe a paper chain that you made?  Do you remember singing Christmas carols without a care as to how you sounded and dancing around the house laughing?  Do you remember being so excited on Christmas Eve night that you could barely sleep?  And waking before the sun to see if Santa had come?

As children, it seems that the joy of Christmas is impossible to miss.  Without having to worry about running errands and getting things done around the house, children can focus purely on the excitement of the season.  Even if part of that excitement is directed towards the coming of Santa, they still know and experience the incredible joy of the Christmas season.

As we get older, sometimes that excitement can begin to fade.  Perhaps because our schedules have become so busy we don’t have time to stop and focus on the joy.  Perhaps because we have experienced pain and sorrow and the Christmas season makes us feel sad or alone in suffering.  Perhaps it is simply that we feel we have other, more important things going on.

Whatever the reason, as Christians we are called to find that joy again and to share it with all those we meet.  Despite our hectic schedules, despite the suffering we may be experiencing, despite the things we have going on in our lives, there is always time to find the joy.

Mary and Joseph did not face an easy road in preparing for that first Christmas or in the years that followed.  Yet, despite it all, they found joy.  In fact, the whole Christmas story is filled with examples of joy.

Mary, after learning the news that she would be the mother of Christ, goes to visit Elizabeth.  Elizabeth greets her with joy.  John the Baptist, still in his mother’s womb, leaps for joy!  And Mary, despite all that was going on in her life, since learning this news, exclaims with great joy, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

At the birth of Christ, the angel of the Lord appears to the shepherds saying “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11).

When the wise men, on their search to see this new King, saw the star in the sky,they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10).

The Christmas story is filled with joy, not because there was a complete lack of stress, pain, and suffering.  They did not experience the joy because they had nothing else to worry about or because they had never experienced sadness.  They had problems much like we all do today.  But they were able to recognize that something bigger was happening.

Something bigger than the fear of a young, unmarried girl being found pregnant. Something bigger than the stress of traveling such a long distance while nine months pregnant.  Something bigger than the worry of having to search for a place to stay and eventually finding only a stable to give birth.

That something was the long awaited Messiah!  Jesus Christ, the Son of God!  And joy that they felt that first Christmas, the joy that we experienced so freely as children, that joy is still there calling to us in the midst of this holiday season.

Being filled with the joy of Christ’s birth doesn’t mean all problems will magically melt away.  It doesn’t mean the gifts will wrap themselves and there will be nothing else on the to-do list.  But it does mean that in spite of whatever else we may be dealing with, God is with us!  Emmanuel!  And that wondrous and amazing reality, that God sent His Son to us as a tiny babe to save us all and resides within the heart and soul of each and every one of us?  That is something bigger than all the stuff we have going on.  That is something to truly fill us with joy.

Merry Christmas to you all!  May it be a season filled with holiness, family, friends, and joy.

With Us Always

sun-441565_640As the apostles gathered on that mountain preparing to say goodbye to Jesus once again, I imagine there was quite a mix of emotions. They had already said goodbye before, in a very different setting.

That night of the Last Supper may have been on their minds. Then they did not know what was to happen. They were confused and frightened by His words. They scattered when Jesus was arrested. They hid in fear and shame at betraying their teacher, their friend, their Lord. They wondered what they were supposed to do next. With Jesus dead, now what?

And the Jesus was resurrected from the dead! He was there with them! Not merely as a vision or a ghost, but as an actual person with flesh and bones. A person who ate with them, talked with them, and once again taught them. In these moments spent with Christ after His resurrection, I imagine the apostles were filled with joy. Despite the fear of persecution that followed them, they knew now that Jesus had conquered death! They knew that He truly was God! In the presence of His fully glorified body, they knew in their hearts that He had changed everything and that following Him was the only way to live.

Now, here they were preparing to say goodbye again. Not goodbye forever. No, they knew they would see Him in Heaven one day. But for the remainder of their time here on earth, this was goodbye. Before He ascended into Heaven, He told His apostles to go! They were not to merely sit around amongst each other and reminisce of the “good old days” when Jesus was here. They were not to hide away in secret so that no one would ever find them or know who they were. No. They were called to go forth! To share the Gospel, to baptize, to do all that Jesus had taught them to do while He was there with them.

I wonder if they felt inadequate. If they were worried about how they would fulfil this call. I wonder if Peter’s mind raced back to his betrayal. I wonder if Thomas remembered his doubt. I wonder if in that moment, as Jesus commanded them to go forth and continue on in His work, they felt scared and uncertain. After all, they had messed up before. What if they failed? How would they carry on His mission without Him? How would they know what to say? What to do? How would they know where to go?

Jesus doesn’t leave them stranded though. No. Instead, He blesses them, He tells them of the signs and good deeds they will do in His name, and He tells them that they will be receiving the Holy Spirit.  And then He assures them that He will still be with them. Not just for a few days, not just a few weeks or even years. Jesus promises them “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20)

Jesus is always with us. It is something we learned as children, something we may have sang songs about in Sunday School. Something that perhaps, sometimes, we begin take to take for granted. Something that we are so used to saying, so used to hearing, that we fail to recognize the awesomeness of it! Jesus, our Lord and Savior is with us always!

When we are lying in bed at night worrying about bills to pay and work to do; He is there. When we are busy with the family, rushing from one event to another, making phone calls all day long; He is there. When we are angry, when we are sad, when we are joyful; He is there. He is always there.

Jesus is here with us in our hearts, in our minds, and in our souls. And through the immeasurable beauty of the gift of the Eucharist, He is here with us not just as a vague idea but actually, physically present among us! We are blessed with the wondrous gift of receiving His Precious Body and Blood into our very selves each Mass. How truly amazing that is!

Just as the apostles were told to go forth in Christ and spread His word, we are called to do the same. And just like the apostles, we are not expected to go do this alone. Through the Sacraments, we have been baptized, we have received the Holy Spirit, and we are able to receive Christ Himself in the Holy Eucharist. We have been given all that we need! Sometimes we may feel inadequate or doubt that we could ever live up to what it is we have been called to do. We need only to remember that He is truly here with us. Right now, in this very moment, and in every moment still to come.

After Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles “after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52) With the gifts we have been given and the promise we have of Christ’s constant presence here with us, we are called to do the same. To worship Him and to go forth in joy to spread His word. All the while knowing that He is still here.

The Wonder of Christmas

188718454_origBy now we are so familiar with the Christmas story that at times we may take it for granted.  We hear the story, we sing the songs, we pray together, and we are filled with joy and excitement!  As well we should be!  The joy, the anticipation that we feel is all brought on by the most wondrous gift.  Sometimes we lose that wonder.

The wonder that our God humbled Himself and became man for our sake.

The wonder that He came to us as a tiny baby, born of the Virgin Mary in a stable.

The wonder that this tiny little babe would be the Savior for all of us.  Would wipe away sin and death.  Would lead us to eternal life.

We should be filled with wonder and awe of this miracle!  We have heard the story countless times.  Each time we hear it, each time we read it, each time we raise our voices in songs of praise for the Son of God born in Bethlehem, let us pray that our hearts become like that of a child.  Fully open to the wonder of this glorious day!

Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the kings, they had been told that something wonderful was going to happen.  The believed fully and without reservation.  And when the precious Baby Jesus was born, there was great rejoicing!

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.” (Luke 2:13-14)

When the angel appeared to the shepherds in the field that night, they went straight to Bethlehem, filled with the wonder of what they had been told.  They went to the Christ Child and after seeing Him lying in the manger, “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:20)

And when the kings saw the star in the sky, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:10-11)  They were filled with the wonder of it all.  They knew this was the Lord and didn’t think twice before bowing down in worship to the tiny Christ Child.

We may know the story well, but that should only give us more reason to rejoice!  For we know that this baby born so long ago has saved us from sin and death.  We know the immense mercy and love of God that was shown to us through Jesus Christ.  As we approach this wonderful day, I pray that along with the excitement, the joy, the hope, and the peace of Christmas, our hearts may be opened anew to the wonder of it all.  The wonder of Christmas.

Christmas Music Already?

ball-2037__180Every year it seems Christmas creeps earlier and earlier.  And for the past several years, I would bemoan the early enticement of sales and decorated trees.  I refused to listen to the music until Santa rolled through the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.  For me, that was the official start of the holiday season, followed shortly thereafter by the start of Advent at which point we would really get into the Christmas spirit.

But this year, when almost a full week ago now I heard a local radio station had already switched to playing continuous Christmas music, I didn’t change the channel.  In fact, I didn’t even reach for the dial.  I just let it play.

Why the change?  Maybe seeing the Christmas displays in all the stores builds the excitement.  Maybe it’s the six inches of snow that has covered the ground and the subzero temperatures forcing us to break out the winter clothing, extra blankets, and delicious hot cocoa (not to mention snow shovels) earlier than usual.   Maybe it really is that Christmas music that did me in.

I think the biggest reason is that my heart is ready for Christmas.  More than  that, it needs Christmas.  Truly, we all need Christmas.  Sure the early start to the season is brought on largely by the materialistic side of Christmas.  But whatever the underlying motive, is there ever such a thing as too much Christmas spirit?  That spirit of joy, excitement, and hope!  The spirit of giving, of sharing, of love.  Is it ever possible to get excited about the celebration of the birth of our Lord too early?

I don’t think so.

Even as we begin the celebration of Advent in a few weeks, I believe that our time of waiting does not have to be a somber one.  It should be filled with excitement!  With hope and joy and love.   We are not waiting in darkness, but in the light!  We know what it is we are waiting to celebrate.  We know that God came to us that night in Bethlehem in the most precious and wondrous way as the baby Jesus.  And we know that He will come again.

I don’t have Christmas decorations up yet.  I haven’t started watching my favorite Christmas movies or baking cookies.  But I have enjoyed looking at Christmas decorations, shopping for loved ones, and, yes, listening to Christmas music (and even singing along!)  There’s something about Christmas music that instantly cheers you up.  The lyrics tell stories of love, of family, of the Lord.  Even the goofy songs make you smile when you hear them.  Hearing my favorite Christmas songs again reminds me of the immense joy that fills the Christmas season.  And why should that joy be confined to only one month?

Despite the fact that Christmas is still over a month away, I will confess that I am in the Christmas spirit.  Shouldn’t we all be?  The Christmas spirit is one that we should be carrying in our hearts year round.  Even if we wait to outwardly celebrate the Christmas season, that spirit of love, happiness, and hope should be with us no matter what the season.   So even though it is early, I think we all need a little Christmas.  And I am going to let that joyous Christmas music continue to play.

Reality Check

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Do you ever find yourself getting your hopes up about something only to quickly suppress them with a “reality check?”  You think for a minute that what you have wanted is just about to come true!  Hopes are high and you are filled with joy and certainty that everything will work out perfectly.  And then the little thoughts creep in…

“well it’s not realistic to expect that to happen immediately…”

“Better not get my hopes up, realistically we couldn’t afford it anyway…”

“Just because I want it to happen, realistically there is a lot standing in the way and chances are pretty slim…”

We dash our own hopes with our perceived notions of reality.  We have an idea in our minds of how things “realistically” happen in this world.  And more often than not, that idea is filled with negativity.  Why is that?

We can tell ourselves it is because we are being realistic.  Because we are thinking logically.  Because we are analyzing the situation from various aspects.  Because we are simply preparing ourselves for what is most likely to happen. But what it really boils down to is this: a lack of trust.

Do we truly believe that our wildest hopes and dreams are too far-fetched for God?  Do we seriously think that for one second we know what “reality” is better than our Father? I’m not talking about tempting God with outlandish requests to see if He really will answer them.  I am talking about sincere hopes and prayers.

Like praying for a friend to be cured.

Praying for a new career opportunity to allow you to spend more time with family.

Or, in my case, even praying for a baby.

When we ask for these things, why do we feel the need to stack the odds against ourselves?  Do we feel as though our requests are too big, too difficult for God?

Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.”  Mark 11:23

God knows what is in our hearts.  When deep in my heart I know my soul is pleading and praying for a baby, do I really think God is fooled by me listing all the reasons it won’t happen?  The only one I am fooling is myself.  Realistically the only thing I know for certain is that God has it under control.

Our God is loving, kind, merciful, forgiving.  Much more so than any of us ever could be.  When we pray and are open to His will in our lives, we need to have full faith that He hears our prayers. Not only that, but He answers them.  We may not know how or when, but He does.  And if the answer doesn’t come as quickly or in the exact way we wanted, we do not need to worry or feel discouraged.  Instead, we remain joyful and filled with the hope and love of Christ.  Because anything He has planned is far greater than what we could dream up for ourselves.

So while we wait for an answer to our prayers, forget about the logic.  Give yourself a reality check.  Not the kind our world tells us we need.  Not analyzing finances and listing all the reasons why it won’t happen.  But check yourself into the only true reality.  The reality that God loves you.  Remain constantly filled with hope and joy and the knowledge that God is answering your prayer!  And the answer is better than we ever could have expected.