Montserrat Love

Living in this crazy, instantaneous, social-media-driven, can’t-live-without-a-phone world these days can be distracting, to say the very least.  It can also be wild and wonderful, but let’s talk about that another day.  Taking time to disconnect for a few days – usually in the spring – has become an annual tradition of mine.  It’s both important to me and for me to do this.  The place I’ve headed to nine times now is Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House in Lake Dallas.

 

A place that is peaceful, tranquil, reflective, joyful, beautiful, and quiet.  It allows me to rest and just be, even if I’m ‘busy’ exploring the grounds, reading, journaling or walking up and down the 1/2 mile long drive.

On the days leading up to this time, the anticipation is always welcome and when I turn onto that long driveway and pass through the gate I can feel the tension beginning to ebb away and almost hear the naps and relaxation calling my name.

 

The retreat leader encourages all of us attending to let go of our expectations and agendas and to just enjoy the time.  Allowing God to lead us where we need to go while resting in his presence is freeing and takes the pressure off of finding the answer to whatever it is on my mind.

This ‘letting go’ has resulted in retreats where I did nothing but rest and other retreats have resulted in realizing things God was trying to tell me but which I couldn’t hear.  You know, because of how often I  allow myself to get caught up in the busyness of life. Either way, I’m enjoying the surrounding landscape beauty – both inside and outside.

My time at Montserrat has allowed me to experience thunderstorms rolling in across the lake as well as basking in the warmth of the sun while gently swinging in a hammock or a porch swing.  I’ve listened to the rain from a rocker on the covered lake-front porch and from an open window in my room as I lay resting while also being treated to an abundance of stunning sunrises in the quiet of a mesmerizing morning. I’ve sat in the dining room and spread notes and books out on the table in front of me while appreciating the view and writing in my journal. I’ve relished the many different varieties of birds as they’ve played, dive-bombed for fish, pecked at the ground and sang from the trees or birdhouses.  I’ve knelt in the chapel and prayed when it was so quiet the stillness was almost heavy. One of my favorites is sitting next to the fountain with the gentle trickle of water that is so soothing you can’t help but relax.  I’ve walked and prayed on the rosary path and sat in front of a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with his arms open. I’ve walked and/or run the driveway and circumference of the property countless times while marveling at the abundance of wildflowers and wildlife.  All of this leads to a reverence for the beauty of creation and appreciation of all that our Creator has given to us.

The retreat sessions or prayer conferences, as they are called, are enlightening and thought-provoking.  Each retreat leader brings a different personality and the ability to help us work through the Spiritual Exercises in a variety of ways.

So many opportunities to pray, reflect, read, write and be still.

It sounds great, doesn’t it?

Trust me, it is.

Full disclosure means I also have to share that this retreat is silent.  While I know that one element is a deal-breaker for most I would love it if more of us could find the time and, I don’t know…courage(?) to experience it.  In all fairness, too, silence doesn’t mean I don’t open my mouth for 3 days – there are opportunities to speak like offering the sign of peace during Mass or signing up to speak with one of the priests or spiritual directors.  I can also speak out loud at any time to God in my prayers – just not where I would be a distraction to those around me.

Montserrat has become an important part of my faith life.  I look forward to more wonderful, soul-refreshing experiences there.

If you would like more information about the facility or making a retreat here see their website Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House

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Sunrise Surprise

There are weeks when it feels like the world is a little too heavy and the news a little too sad.  Last week was like that. The one year anniversary of Guy’s death and reminders that it’s been 10 months since the loss of Maggie (10 years old) and 7 months since Fr. Tim died along with the news of 5 additional deaths – 3 unexpected, 1 expected, 1 suicide – these made my heart hurt in a big way.

Luckily, I had already planned a retreat which offered me focused time to lift up the repose of all these souls and pray for those left behind who are grieving each of these losses.

How I wish I could take their pain away.

Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like enough to pray and yet, my faith tells me it is a great starting point.

Prayer – it’s such a powerful tool and being able to spend time with the Lord – disconnected from the pull of a million things that each day brings – praying for those souls and their loved ones, those who are hurting, those who are sick, those who gave me specific intentions and those I love and just want to lift up was a gift.  A gift to myself, to make that connection with Christ and, I hope, a gift to those I prayed for.

This morning I got up to see the sunrise but my phone said it was ‘mostly cloudy’ so I thought there wouldn’t be much to enjoy.  I decided to go down to the lake anyway just to enjoy the quiet of an early morning.

To my surprise, there was color in the sky.  It was like a little hole was opened in the clouds and I was amazed at how pretty it was.

Then, just like that, the colors exploded and became more brilliant and the oranges and golds turned to pinks and purples.

It was a spectacular display of color and beauty.  I believe it was a gift from God saying – I hear your prayers and I’ve got them. (all those I prayed for by name)

A little bit later the clouds, the wind, and the gray settled in and took over the day.

Thank you, Lord, for your gift.

 

 

Takeaways from a Parish Mission

Our church – St. Jude – concluded a 3 evening Parish Mission on Tuesday night and it was a great way to begin Lent.

Fr. Ron Hoye is an amazing presenter and his joy and passion for life and our faith is contagious. His reminders of what our faith should look like were an inspiration to the packed church he spoke to each night.

A few reminders (in no particular order and not complete)

  1. To be a disciple of Christ I should serve God with joy AND enthusiasm
  2. God wants my heart and my hunger for him
  3. God wants me to be happy!
  4. You’ll never find in the Bible verses that say, “I came so you could barely get by”.
  5. Why did Jesus come? John 10:10 says, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
  6. Is what I’m doing putting a smile of the face of Jesus?  Even if I’m not doing it ‘perfectly’?
  7. Gratitude – for 25 days take a moment to write down 3 things and tape them to my bathroom mirror. As the sticky notes increase, marvel at all for which there is to be thankful. (no repeats)
  8. Sunflowers follow the sun throughout the day – always turning towards the light.  Jesus is the sun – keep turning my face towards him.
  9. The longer meat marinates the more flavor it takes on.  It becomes more tender.  Spending more time with Jesus helps to soften me and make me more like Him.
  10. God Moment App – random reminders throughout the day to stop and say, “Thank you, Jesus.”

www.parishmissions.org – serious, funny, inspiring, thought-provoking Vincentian Priests spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to all ages.

Mother Teresa

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

The Hope Amid the Darkness

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.                 Corrie Ten Boom

Holy Saturday.

Jesus has been crucified and buried.

His followers are bewildered and afraid.

Darkness prevailed.

Looking back over the past month I have struggled with my own bewilderment and darkness as I’ve attempted to come to grips with the death of the 16-year-old soccer teammate of my son, Ben.

It began on March 8th.

That morning I received a text from my other son, Patrick, “something’s happened at Jesuit”

Me, “what do you mean?  is the school on lockdown? Are there alarms going off? Are there emergency vehicles? Why do you think something has happened?” (It had only been three weeks since the school shootings had happened in Florida – I was feeling a little nervous.)

Son, “I’m not sure but they announced a freshman and sophomore meeting and changed the class schedule for the day.”

A moment later, “a sophomore died.  It was a car crash.  Guy Delaney, he played JV soccer.  Ben probably knows him.”

And, with that news, the day and the ones that followed went dark.

My heart was shattered for Guy, his family, his teammates, friends and, the staff at Jesuit who now had to help the students and each other navigate a second student death this school year.

My heart was also broken for Ben who was devastated and confused and had no idea how to handle the amount of grief he felt. I was overwhelmed, and surprised, by my own sorrow and the anguish I felt for Guy’s family.

Darkness settled in and I struggled through the ensuing days. I tried to choose joy when I woke in the morning and I tried to be thankful for the many blessings each day brings.  I tried.

But the darkness and grief were powerful.

I didn’t question God or why it happened.  I know free will dictated the choice made by the driver who caused the crash.  And, I believe strongly that, even as Jesus welcomed Guy into His kingdom, he also cried for the loss felt so strongly by so many.

My head knew these things but I couldn’t seem to convince my heart that everything was going to be okay.

As funerals often do, it began the process of closure for those outside his immediate family.  Guy’s parents invited the soccer players to honor him by wearing their jerseys, processing in and placing a white rose on his casket.  The service was filled to capacity and the tributes remembering Guy helped everyone laugh through the tears.

And, a sliver of light broke through.

Two weeks after his passing, and playing their first soccer game since the funeral, the JV soccer team was praying before things got underway.  It was a cloudy sky but as the team huddled together a ray of sunshine broke through and shone on the players.  It was an incredibly powerful moment.

(photo cred to Rob Kelton)

The grace of God and our faith tells us this was Guy.

The sliver of light became a bright sunbeam.

The hope amid the darkness.

As Ben and I continued to talk about Guy, and the hardness of losing someone, the days slowly became brighter.  One morning, Ben shared with me that Guy had come to him in a dream during the night.  In the dream, Guy told him he was okay, Ben was able to tell him goodbye and they hugged. Ben felt the hug and he felt the love.  “It was so real”, he said.

Guy is in the arms of Jesus.  And, in a few hours, we will commemorate Jesus’ victory over death.

Bad things happen but, God is good.  Today, he has wrapped his loving arms around Guy’s family and all those who love him and continue to struggle with their grief.

And, long ago, on that Holy Saturday when his followers were baffled and afraid God knew the bigger plan would triumph.

The light is coming.  Hope is on the horizon.  Jesus will rise.  His followers and those of us who believe understand that even amidst all the confusion, grief, and darkness God’s love will prevail.

Thanks be to God.

Guy’s own profound words, written in a memory book and shared by his father, Neil, at the funeral:

“Work hard, be patient, say your prayers and the rest will follow.”

warning:  Love wins.

I did another post right after Guy died when the team played their first game without him.  If you are interested you can read that blog here.

Meandering with Lucy

Maybe it is the time change, but my 14-year-old Westie, Lucy, woke up this afternoon and was feeling feisty.  Lucy, who is mostly deaf and partly blind and spends most of her days sleeping wanted to play so – taking advantage of a pretty afternoon and the extended daylight – we went for a walk.

Cool temperatures, budding trees, blooming grape hyacinths, and one of those amazing sunsets turned a quick walk into an opportunity to meander.

These moments are always good.  And appreciated.

Daily Post – Miraculous

I have always considered the birth of a child to be a great miracle.  God is wondrous and amazing, and when I think how a beautiful new life is created by an act of intimate love, I am awed.

Our first miraculous event occurred more than 30 years ago today with the birth of our first child; our daughter, Krista.  She is a continual blessing in our lives, and I am blessed to be her mom.

Happy Birthday to our first born miracle (holding her last born miracle) You are loved simply for being gifted to us by God.

 

 

Welcomed Home

Six years ago my dad completed his journey here on earth.

In the early hours of that morning my mom sat with him when he breathed his last.  It was a peaceful – and blessed – death which seems strange to write but, really isn’t. He was at home, in no pain and had the opportunity to say goodbye to his family.

Later, waiting for the funeral home to arrive, I sat on my back patio.  Facing east, and the house my parents lived in, the sun began to rise and a soft breeze wafted across the yard.  I watched, and listened,  as the leaves gently swayed in the big pine tree and, I knew angels were moving through as they escorted my dad to Heaven.

It was a beautiful moment in the midst of a loss.

It was a quiet moment – before the glaring busyness of phone calls, texts and visitors began –  to reflect on all that was and all that could have been.

Just a couple of hours later a song about grief and death –  Welcome Home – by Michael W. Smith began playing….

What a lovely sound
Angels all around
Saying this is where you belong
Welcome home
Welcome home
Welcome home

Coincidence?  Not in my world.

It has been six years since the angels welcomed my dad and, still, when the breeze moves the tree ever so softly I think of the angels escorting him and I know that he is home and….

It is well with his soul.

 

 

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