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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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.

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.

 

 

Painted Churches of Texas – Hostyn and Ammansville

Mention Texas and the first things that might come to mind are cowboys, horses, oil wells, Tex-Mex and barbecue. Or maybe it’s our love of all things football and our flare for doing things BIG.  While all of that is true it only describes a portion of who we are here in the Lone Star State.

The reality is Texas is very diverse culturally.  And, one of those cultures I recently experienced is the Czech heritage.  I was born in Dallas and have been back in Texas since 1979 and yet, I had no idea what a strong influence Czechoslovakian immigrants had on Central Texas.

First arriving in Texas in the mid-1800’s they built some of the most beautiful European influenced churches I have ever seen.  Who knew Texas contained such amazing dwellings for worship? Still in active use,today they are known as the Painted Churches of Texas.  My mom, having seen a piece on television about them, encouraged us to take a weekend trip and begin exploring.  A total of eight were in the area of Shulenburg which is off of I10 – smack in the middle between San Antonio and Houston.

We were overwhelmed by their beauty and the heritage which has been preserved so lovingly.  For this piece I bring you the first two churches we saw located in the towns of Hostyn and Ammansville

Our first stop was not actually one of the painted churches.  However, we were in the mood to explore and so we followed the signs to see what was what.

We were not disappointed.

The Queen of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Hostyn had something going on and we did not step inside.  That was okay, though, because the outside was enough to make us say, “wow”.

The Lourdes Grotto was the largest.

Smaller grottos dotted the church property.

The cemeteries at each church were similar and different from a typical American style.

From there we went to St. John The Baptist in Ammansville.

As we pulled up we saw a sweet little country church.

The quaint white building gave no hint as to the beauty inside.

The detail was amazing and intricate.

The back of the church – containing the choir loft – was also pretty.

Wandering around this sweet and holy property we were in awe of the magnificence we were experiencing.  Knowing we were at the beginning of the tour we couldn’t wait to see what other beauties were out there.

Tomorrow – St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption in Praha, The Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church in Moravia and St. John’s Catholic Church in St. John, Texas

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Dr. B

I woke up to the news this morning that our dentist had passed away overnight.

He took care of my family for 25 years.

25 years.

He did the orthodontics for all four of my children, has taken care of abscessed teeth, fractured roots, root canals and crowns.  But, never once did I feel like he tried to get me to ‘fix’ anything that wasn’t a necessity.  He was a good and decent man who lived for God, his family, his friends, his staff and his Texas Aggies.

He was an amazing dentist with a quick wit and a goofy sense of humor. His office style was laid-back, and there was an ease among the staff that evoked a sense of happy.  His employees were all long-term, which says a lot about the type of boss he was.  He could tease and joke and yet, be serious and empathetic when needed.

Being a huge Texas Aggie fan everything in his office – and even his car – was maroon.  My boys, who loved his easy-going manner and totally non-threatening threats about wreaking pain during ortho appointments, would dare to wear burnt orange just to get a reaction from him. (Rival University of Texas colors are burnt orange and white). He would always comply and they traded many good-natured barbs over the way they were dressed.

I still feel stunned.  I am going to miss this relationship so much.

I believe in God and know that His plan is always good and right and perfect.  I also know that he understands why so many of us are grieving tonight. My heart is saddened for my own loss but, it breaks even more for his beautiful wife, children and granddaughter.  I will lift them up in prayers during this difficult time.

God Bless You Dr. B.

And, rest in peace.

Matthew 25:21  His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’

 

 

 

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

 

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.