WPC: Reflecting

It is wonderful to walk into the church when it is packed with parishioners ready to worship.  It is also amazing to visit when it is completely empty.

I took this picture of the crucifix reflecting  in the baptismal font with my iPhone.

It was just me and Jesus.  The peace was overwhelming and the beauty of the moment wondrous.

Easter Joy

**The Strife is O’er

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The strife is o’er the battle done; now is the Victor’s triumph won; Now be the song of praise begun: Alleluia!

Death’s mightiest pow’rs have done their worst, and Jesus has his foes dispersed; Let shouts of praise and triumph tell: Alleluia!

He closed the yawning gates of hell; the bars from heav’n’s high portals fell; Let hymns of praise his triumph tell: Alleluia!

On the third morn he rose again, glorious in majesty to reign; O let us swell the joyful strain: Alleluia!

Feeling discouraged on Friday our hope is given new life when he overcomes death and the temple is raised on Sunday.  We thought he was destroyed but he conquers and triumphs.  Hope prevails!!

All Glory and Honor and Praise be to our KING!

HE IS RISEN!

ALLELUIA!!

Psalm 30: 5-6, 12-13

Sing praise to the LORD, you faithful;
give thanks to his holy memory.

For his anger lasts but a moment;
his favor a lifetime.
At dusk weeping comes for the night;
but at dawn there is rejoicing.

You changed my mourning into dancing;
you took off my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness.c

So that my glory may praise you
and not be silent.
O LORD, my God,
forever will I give you thanks.

*The Strife is O’er – Text by Francis Pott. Tune : VICTORY

The Sacred In My Life

Jesus said to him,“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me  John 14:6

Groom, TX

My faith is more than just Sunday Mass.  It’s keeping sacred every single day the realization of how Jesus suffered and died for me.

Groom, Tx

Along with remembering and rejoicing in His triumphant victory over that death.

Groom, TX

These pictures were taken in the Panhandle of Texas in a town called Groom. The Stations of the Cross are depicted in life like bronze sculptures with a 190 foot tall cross which can be see from 20 miles away.

Forgiveness

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I found this picture on Facebook several years ago and, for me; it is one of those profound statements with an impact.  And, it’s been true several times in my life – when I finally found the courage to let go of something I may not have found immediate happiness, but I found a sense of peace.   And, with peace, happiness will follow.

Let me back up a little bit.

It’s been five years since my dad died.  He was an alcoholic, and this piece is about our relationship.

From time to time,  I have the opportunity to share my life story with groups of women.   Each time I’m asked to do it I pull up the written version to re-read it and make any updates that may be needed.   This, inevitably,  always leads to a bit of reflection on my part as I go over the events that have brought me to where I am today.  And, today, I am in a good place.  Healthy in both mind and body having long since left the wounded child behind.

One of the last times I shared my story I was asked a bunch of questions.  Questions about forgiveness and overcoming difficult situations.  The next day, while taking a walk, I continued to reflect on the conversations my story had sparked and, on life with dad.  When I returned home, I went to my mom and asked her if she thought it would be okay if I shared my story in a blog.   After all, I do want to share this, but I didn’t want to cause her any undue pain or make her uncomfortable so we chatted about it for a bit and she gave me her blessing.  Thanks, Mom.

Okay here goes – my dad was a Secret Service agent.  The reality of his job wasn’t as glamorous as portrayed by the media.  He worked long hours, traveled a lot and some months we hardly saw him at all.  Protecting President’s and Dignitaries and working serious counterfeiting cases was stressful and took a toll.  In 1979,  a particularly difficult Trans-Atlantic move combined with a demanding work schedule became too much for my father, and he was at a breaking point.   Let me note here that in 1979 programs had not been implemented to deal with the effects of job burnout and high levels of stress.  You were expected to man up and deal with it.   When my dad went to his boss and said he needed some time away from the job he was told exactly that – suck it up and get over it.  My father’s response?  Well, feeling trapped, needing a break and finding no support he abruptly resigned his position.

And with that, the career he loved so much was finished and a hellish life began. I was 16 years old, and up until then, I had had a pretty good childhood.

My dad always enjoyed his beer and wine and did his fair share of partying but after he left the Secret Service his drinking took on a whole new intensity.  I’m going to skip a lot of the details of living with an alcoholic.  Let’s just say life was not fun or happy at my house.  He was drunk most of the time, and in that drunkenness, he began to abuse my mom and us kids emotionally and verbally.

Each of us in my family handled it differently, and I cannot speak for anyone else but, for me, I turned to Ronald – my then boyfriend and eventually my husband.  I spent as much time as possible with him and away from my house.   As my home life deteriorated and my dad wasn’t able to find or hold onto a job the financial picture became grim.  My parents ultimately had their house foreclosed and ended up returning to the town where they both grew up.  This occurred just after Ronald and I married – at the tender age of 19.  After they had moved, I believed that, with my father in another city, and me married, that all my troubles were over and I would indeed live happily ever after from that point on.

I can almost laugh at how naïve I was.  I had no idea how much I had been affected and the work it would ultimately take to overcome.  I thought all the problems were with my dad and did not realize that living with him and his addiction had created a whole set of problems for me too.  It wasn’t long after they moved that my issues began to surface.  Again, I could give you all the sordid details about what I mess I was and all the mistakes I made, but I would rather get to the better bits.  Let’s just put it this way:  I had anger issues and felt like I could never get a grip on life.  I was happy one moment and despairing the next.  I wondered if I was crazy because I couldn’t control my emotions.  Eventually, I learned that much of what I went through was typical for a kid with an alcoholic parent.  But at the time I had no clue.  Overall I could have been the poster child for a troubled young adult.

I don’t want you to think that I was a complete raving lunatic all that time.  There were wonderful aspects to my life… two beautiful children, a beautiful house we built, good friends and a church I adored.  I don’t think outwardly I displayed too much of the confusion that I was experiencing.  I think most of my craziness happened behind closed doors and out of earshot of anyone but Ronald and maybe a few confidants.

Over the years I did a lot of counseling while trying to deal with this.  I would go for a while, hear blah blah blah and surprisingly (not) I continued to deteriorate.  I would stop my sessions but then would decide I needed to continue so I would find someone new and start again. Eventually, I found a therapist that was awesome and amazing and helped me to turn my life around.  It also happened around that same time that I began working with this great company.  They were pretty forward thinking and were constantly making us read positive books like Stephen Covey’s Seven Habit’s of Highly Effective People,  do affirmation exercises and encouraged us to live our lives in gratitude and appreciation.  The timing of this was incredible and instrumental in helping me begin to turn my life around.

Don’t ever try to tell me that God’s timing isn’t perfect.

With these elements in place, and taking root in my life, I headed off one day to see my counselor.  During this appointment I began, yet again, whining about how my dad wasn’t who I wanted him to be and how he was wreaking havoc in my life when my counselor stopped me, looked at me and said….

“You have to let go of this fight.  Your dad is who he is.  You will NOT change him.  He is an alcoholic. You can either accept this and love him where he is at or you can leave this relationship and have nothing to do with him.”

Wow.  Was that ever a breakthrough moment.  The light bulb lit up, the proverbial slap on the forehead occurred, the big Aha…..well you get it.  Right then and there my life changed.  I guess maybe I was in a place that I was finally able to absorb those words – whatever the reason I finally got it into my head that I was who I was and he was who he was.  I wasn’t going to change him, and I wasn’t going to be able to make him stop drinking.  I could only change myself.  I made the decision to stop fighting the fight of trying to make my dad be who I wanted – and thought – he should be.  I took a huge breath and at that moment began healing myself.

Was it easy? No.  Did I find success overnight?  No.  Did I do it perfectly? I wish!  It was a process where you take two steps forward and one step back.  Sometimes it was one step forward and two steps back!  And as much as I would like to say that things were rosy and happy between my dad and me from that moment on anybody who has experienced ‘real’ life knows that isn’t realistic.  But on the other hand, it wasn’t all bad either.  I have some very sweet memories of my father mixed in with the tough ones.  As I healed and found more success in letting his words and actions bounce off me, I was able to find more objectivity in my dealings with him.

How did I do it?  First and foremost through my faith.  God is so amazing and when I stopped trying to mold my dad into what I wanted I also turned my attention more fully back to Him.  The grace He will flood you with is astounding when you finally say – and mean – I cannot do this on my own – I need You.  In letting go of my need to control I was able to open my heart more fully to Christ and by doing that I was able to take a step back and see the bigger picture more clearly and deal with our relationship more effectively.  I’m not kidding.

Most days this is my mantra – Philippians 4:13 – I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.  And on those days I forget to repeat my mantra – I tend to struggle more.

I also made the effort to start turning my negative thoughts into positives one.  Living a life that is thankful and appreciative does make a difference.  It is remarkable the change that occurs when you stop focusing on the pessimistic and celebrate the good things happening in your life.

The last thing I did was continue in therapy.  I buckled down and dealt with the issues that had plagued me for years.  I learned how my dad’s alcoholism had adversely affected me and I wanted to overcome that and put it behind me.  It would have been very easy to stay in that negative world and blame him for all that was wrong in my life.  But that is dangerous.   Once I learned the impact that alcoholism had on me, then it became my responsibility to overcome those negatives and find my happiness.  Yes, it is true that I had a rough start, but ultimately my peace of mind and joy is up to me.

What else contributes to peace of mind?  Forgiveness. Which is not forgetting.  Forgiving my dad for his shortcomings never, for even one moment, meant that I was okay with his drinking and the way he treated us.  I think Matthew West said it beautifully in his song appropriately titled “Forgiveness”:

There is no end to what it’s power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

Yep – it’s true.  In giving up the need to control and finding a way to forgive my dad the one who was set free was me.

Am I a happier person overall since I began the healing journey? Without a doubt. Do I, at times, still struggle with a short fuse and say or do things that I wish I could take back?  Oh for sure.  Do I have moments where I slide back into the needy, whiny 20-year-old and wish the world would just do what I want it to do?  Probably more often than I realize.  But here’s the thing….. I have the skills now to overcome the negatives and the desire to live a happy life with Christ at the very center of it.  With God, the most amazing thing is that I can start every day new and fresh.  A lot of times I have forgotten that – sometimes for days or weeks at a time – but once I manage to get myself re-focused I find that starting point and begin again.

My dad did stop drinking eventually, but our relationship remained tricky.  We butted heads until the end.   The years of drinking took a toll on my dad’s health, and he suffered from many different ailments.  Before he died, he needed to be on dialysis three times per week.  This is hard on a body, and he was tired of the toll it took and decided that he wanted to discontinue his treatments.  He sent my mom and us kids an email one morning outlining his decision.  I was at home at the time and took a few moments to sit and reflect on this.  I knew without the dialysis he could not live long and felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to walk over and see him. (I know I said earlier that they moved back to their hometown but they ended up moving back this way to be closer to their grandchildren.) I asked if he was sure this is what he wanted to do.  He told me it was.  So I told him that I would support his decision and support whatever he needed to make his remaining time as comfortable as possible.  I also took the opportunity to tell him that although he and I had a very difficult relationship, I considered my young childhood to be one of the best.  I told him I loved him, he told me he loved me, and we hugged.  I was glad for the opportunity to share that moment with just the two of us as the coming weeks were constantly filled with people.   He died 16 days later, peacefully at home.  I am very aware of the gift I received –  knowing my father was dying, God, in all of his graciousness helped me to put aside my hard feelings to make sure his last days were tranquil and not filled with discourse.  I am so humbled by God’s love and the grace that He gave me not only to be able to give this gift to my dad but also to be on the receiving end of it.  In the end, I have no regrets about how things were between us when he passed from this world. That in itself brings me a great measure of peace.

I don’t think I would be where I am today if those words about letting go hadn’t been spoken to me so many years ago.  It IS a happy moment when you can find the courage to stop trying to change what you cannot control.  And like I said earlier – the peace to be found in forgiveness is unparalleled.  And never would I forget to give credit to God for working on my heart all these many years and, in the end,  giving me the courage to put aside my feelings.

1 Peter 4:8  Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.

Christ Mirrored

At Mass the community atmosphere is warm and welcoming and it’s always good to see the House of God filled with people.

But, every once in a while I get the opportunity to walk into the sanctuary when no one else is around.  The feeling I get at that moment is indescribable.  Surrounded by beauty that is both simple and refined I am often overwhelmed by the gift of Jesus in my life.  And, I am thankful for the quiet moment to enjoy His presence.

Taken on my IPhone  I didn’t even realize the mirror of Christ was part of the baptismal font.  I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered ‘my’ clever skills.

St. Jude

Motorcycle Mishap in South Dakota

On a Sunday afternoon in June, while riding through the hills of South Dakota, my sister-in-law, Chireen, was involved in a near fatal motorcycle accident. She and my brother, Jon, were 350 miles from home and, for the next 3.5 weeks would endure numerous complications and setbacks from her extensive injuries.

It was a scary time for them, as it was for all of us who love and care for them.

It began as an overnight trip riding motorcycles through the hills of South Dakota. The weather was beautiful and the scenery magnificent.  However, it all changed in that proverbial ‘blink of an eye’ when they came upon a sharp curve that was not clearly marked.  Jon – about 1/4 of a mile ahead of Chireen –  went through the curve first.  Realizing she would need to slow down he immediately pulled his bike over to warn her.  But it was too late.  Time slowed to a crawl as he turned around and saw her and the bike tumble through the air, hit a guardrail and crumple to the ground.  The bike landed on top of her and by the time he reached her side she was making gurgling noises and bubbling was coming from her mouth.

The accident occurred in a secluded area with no cell service and it was 20 minutes before anyone drove by.  The first car to pull over then turned around and drove back to a spot with a cell signal to call 911.  A few minutes later a family of three came by on their bikes and stopped to render aid.  Stephanie – a nurse – was the calm in a raging storm as she took charge of first aid until paramedics arrived.

The extent of her injuries were bad and, the area pretty remote, and it was decided she needed to be air lifted to the hospital.  As they loaded her in the helicopter Chireen was semi-conscious, and as Jon told her goodbye, all he could think was, “this may be the last time I see my wife alive….”

When he finally caught up with her at the hospital she was – for that moment – in stable condition and the good news was she had no head or neck trauma. (Thank God they are a safety-conscious couple and each were dressed head to toe in protective gear.  Without a doubt these items saved her life.)  However, the other injuries she sustained – a broken collar bone, a fractured wrist, multiple fractures in each rib on her right side, a punctured lung and a shattered ankle – caused a myriad of complications that ended up prolonging her stay way longer than the originally anticipated few days.

The complexity of things that went awry were, at times, baffling to everyone involved in her recovery, and there were several low points as she battled to overcome the seriousness of subsequent infections. As the length of her stay went from days to weeks the news would be good and it would be bad.  It felt like she would take one step forward and then two steps back.  We would be encouraged by her progress and then discouraged as she encountered one complication after another.

It was an extraordinarily stressful time for my brother.  Not wanting to leave her bedside – especially that first week – he dealt with every single thing on his own. Phone calls, texts and emails to family, friends, employers, insurance, tow companies, police and the bike shop.  Bombarded with new medical terms and procedures he was forced to learn and absorb on the go. Sleeping was in bits and spurts as he watched over her and her care. The hospital food was not appealing to him and as a result he was not eating.

For Chireen, bad days that brought unbearable pain and little to no progress were discouraging and, when the effort became too much to cooperate with the treatments Chireen was tempted to give up.  And, while those moments frightened all of us they were short-lived.  Her determined will and desire to live would resurface each time and ended up being stronger than the infections.

Bob Marley has a quote attributed to him that says, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.”

They had no choice. The reserves of strength, courage and patience each of them discovered were beyond their imaginations.

At the beginning of the third week in the hospital the doctor came in with the grim news that, in essence, the infection was winning.  As they digested this latest setback Jon and Chireen took the opportunity to say all the things they each wanted the other to know.  After signing a DNR (do not resuscitate) and a Durable Power of Attorney they discussed her final wishes.

I spoke to my brother that afternoon and he was peaceful.  He realized he had been given the gift of time with his wife. Time they wouldn’t have had if she had died the afternoon of the accident.

But, as we talked he also recounted another God-incidence which had occurred that morning.  A mysterious picture showed up on Chireen’s phone which had been lying on the windowsill of her room.  A picture in which the whole frame is some kind of bright light.  He didn’t understand it but, it filled him with the knowledge that everything – no matter what happened – would be okay.

As I said before, Chireen is a fighter and that last setback was just that…a setback.  She battled and ten days later was finally released from the hospital to make the six hour journey home.  Home (and two year-old grandson, Jace) proved to be the tonic no antibiotic could cure and, her recovery has been moving forward and on track.

The experience was life changing for Jon and Chireen.  Their faith was tested but they never underestimated the power of our Lord.  The picture was just one of many ways God revealed his love and mercy during this time.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely. In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.

For all of us the number of God-incidences and the multitude of angels he sent to watch out for both of them were numerous.  Our faith is also stronger for the experience.

Philippians 4:13 I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.

There was Stephanie, the nurse who first arrived on the scene.  She stayed with them both and, then, realizing Jon was alone and far from home traded phone numbers with him so she could stay in touch. And she did.  She was an invaluable source of help and support.

There were the numerous hospital nurses, techs, doctors and specialists who consulted and provided unparalleled counsel and care.

Chireen’s mom, Haide, who arrived and provided support for not only her daughter but, also respite care for Jon so he was able to leave the hospital for brief periods of time. Jon’s daughter, Kelli, took care of everything at their home; feeding the dogs, checking the mail, making sure all was well. Their employers, who were gracious beyond reason, offered love and support.  They were told to take all the time they needed – and the beautiful part was, they meant it.   Friends picked up the bike trailer.  Family provided meals so he didn’t have to leave the hospital.

And, the prayers.  So very many prayers for healing were offered up to God. Prayer chains, prayers of the faithful (offered during Mass) prayer warriors, individuals, big groups, small groups, prayers out loud, written prayers put into prayer boxes and prayers held silently in our hearts.  We offered God praise when things looked good and we thanked Him for his love and strength when things felt desperate.  And in those moments when we despaired and railed against the injustice of the situation he gently reminded us He is always in control.

This storm came to pass with the answered prayer we were hoping for – healing.  But, if the gift of Chireen’s life had been shortened we would have continued to offer praise.  Why? Because no matter what God is good…all the time.  All the time….God is good.

Saved Images (2)

 

James 1: 2-4

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Jon & Chireen playing in the snow

 

Mass in Mandarin

Staying in the Jiading ‘suburb’ of Shanghai or district, as they are called here, our light colored skin, hair and freckles have proved to be a source of fascination for many locals.  Heads have turned as we walk by and many have taken our picture.  Some openly and others, thinking we can’t see them, take our photo on the sly.  It doesn’t bother us and we are happy to smile and pose as long as they are relatively polite and respectful.  Which, without a doubt, they have been.

This morning we went to a very small (300 people) local Catholic Church to attend Mass.  We came in the back and sat in the last pew but, in no time at all, word spread through the sanctuary that foreigners were present. Heads turned and they made no secret of staring at us.  I’m not kidding, LOTS of heads turned.

Mass was lovely and while I understood 4 words total….Ni hao (hello) XieXie (thank you), amen and alleluia I was able to follow along because worldwide the service is the same wherever you go.  Same readings and same prayers no matter the language and no matter the location. It.Is.Awesome. (Plus, with Mass Apps I can follow the readings in English)

Jesus I trust in YouI know what this says!! (Jesus, I trust in You)

Sared HeartThe altar of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in the Diocese of Wenzhou

And a big kudos to the congregation for the beautiful and roof-raising singing.  It was amazing to hear such joyful voices being lifted unto the Lord!

After Mass we wandered back into the courtyard where we ended up the main attraction for pictures. We happily posed for about 10 minutes while taking different group shots and individual selfies.  It was fun and the Chinese – in all their curiosity – were welcoming and excited to see us.

Sacred Heart

Taking a picture of them taking pictures of us

Sacred Heart

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.

WPC: One Love

In my world one love has a domino effect.

Matthew 22: 36-38 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”37 He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.

property of terezpics 10/20141 John 3:16a The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us.

 

Matthew 22: 39 The second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (represented by my beloved family)Photo cred to Kyon Photography

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.

 

 

authors note:  Photo cred for the crucifix belongs to me @terezpics.  However, photo cred for the group photo of my family goes to KYon Photography.  Check out more of her pictures on Facebook.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/one-love/

A Whole Lotta Sauce

Spaghetti sauce, that is.

Nov 19 sauce

When you’re hosting lunch for a crowd you need to have a lot of whatever you are serving.  For Saturday’s feast I chose spaghetti and today I made this huge pan of sauce.

Yum.

I won’t have time to make it on Saturday so I’ve stayed ahead of the game by getting it ready early.  My house smelled delicious as the ingredients came together and it simmered on the cooktop.

Why am I hosting a big crowd for Saturday lunch?  To celebrate Ben’s Confirmation and Gianna’s 3rd birthday.

Three years ago today my beautiful granddaughter arrived and she has been keeping us on our toes ever since.  My daughter said it best on Instagram when she stated, “She brings laughter, joy and many moments to practice holiness everyday!”

That’s my girl and I sure do love her. 🙂

Ben is being confirmed on Saturday.  He is growing up so fast and he has grown into a wonderful and handsome young man.  I am so proud of him.

Nov 14 Ben

It’s going to be a great big celebratory, happy, family weekend.

I love these moments.

Romans 12:10

Love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.

 

 

 

A New Beginning

This is my brand new blog. Focusing on my family, my faith and my photography. I’ve had another blog for 3 years but for a variety of reasons I decided to shut the old one down and start fresh.

Here’s to taking chances.

Following are tidbits about who I am.  It’s pretty much a copy and paste of my ‘about me’ profile. But, this way, if you don’t feel like clicking on anything we’ve still been formally introduced.

T mar15So….Hello!  My name is Teresa and I am a Wife, Mother, Nana, Sister & Friend.

I have a big family whom I adore.  And our ‘village’ works hard to support one another.

I am Catholic, I love Jesus and I love my faith.

I am pro-life and pray that the world will have a conversion of heart and come to believe that once conceived all lives matter.

The cast of characters in my life include but are in no way limited to…
My husband: Ronald
My Kids: Krista and husband Leslie, Joshua and wife Emma, Patrick, Benjamin (Ben)
My Grandkids: Charlie, Caleb, Claire, Kolbe, Gianna and Thérèse

I am an amateur photographer learning my way around a camera.  I take lots and lots and lots of pictures – especially of my family.  I am looking forward to sharing them on this blog.

Thérèse just turned one and I had so much fun during our photo shoot.

TAK 1st bday8

The ‘official’ one year portrait.

I am an 8 year breast cancer survivor

I love to eat and I love glasses of wine, vodka & tonics and green tea; especially when it is shared with family and/or friends.

I am a 50-something woman who has lost 50+ pounds from my heaviest weight.  I’m keeping it off with a combination of (trying) to eat right, running, strength training and boxing/kickboxing.

I have a lot of days where I feel like I’m messing up life and not getting anything right.  But, then I try to remember I am a child of God and immensely loved by Him.  When I am able to do that it is easier to pick myself back up and try again.

I hope you enjoy this journey with me. Thanks for checking in and taking the time to read.