Mar 22, 2017

On Forgiving People Who Aren't Sorry



Recently we lost my dear mother-in-law, and as everyone knows who has ever been through loss, it’s a very sensitive time when hearts are raw and it’s easy to hurt someone without knowing it- or, as it sometimes happens, while knowing it perfectly well.

A situation arose with some family members who had not been involved at all, or very little, with Mom’s life while she was declining, but who felt comfortable setting up in her house after she passed, and then even decamping with a large amount of her belongings afterward with no notice. We walked into her house with the kids to try to come to terms with their grief, have some talk and prayer time together, and were greeted with big empty places where lamps, large rugs, and paintings had been. The place looked like it had been looted.

Now, it’s just stuff. We’re raising our kids, as best we can, to value people over things, and they get it, sometimes even better than we (ok, I) do. But this was the day after their grandmother’s funeral. And there had been no communication beyond, hey can we take these couple of small items? Of course.

My kids had lived in that home, and had known it since their birth. Everything in it spoke of happy times with their grandparents, and even of the sad times that they had shared during the long, painful illnesses and deaths.  We could cheerfully have parted with all of those things, and more- in time, and with communication. But as it was, the kids just sat down and cried. As one of them said, “It makes her feel more dead.”

We weren’t given either time or communication, at least not before the fact. In fact, we received several emails in the days to come detailing all the other items that we were not to dispose of, because these folks would be coming back with a U-Haul.  I was, in the old expression, fit to be tied.

First of all, my kids were shocked and hurt at a time when they were already shocked and hurting. They had been constantly at the bedside of their grandmother, through thick and thin, and gave her much joy and peace as she passed away.  This is an honor, and a privilege they would never trade, but they were in need of some consolation. And they got a big smack. As a mama, I really, really don’t like it when my kids get smacked, especially when they are down, and more especially by people who ought to be concerned about their well-being, and, dare I say it, who ought to be grateful to these kids for having been with Mom when they themselves couldn’t be bothered to show up while she was alive.  For years.

So, there was rage.

Some of it was righteous anger, that people could have their priorities so messed up as to wrong Mom with their absence when she needed them, and then to help themselves to her things after she passed.

Some of it was hurt for my kids, and some for my husband and myself.  All of it, I think, was understandable.

But it was killing me. I was trying to mourn and heal, and instead was bailing out my emotional boat constantly to keep from sinking.

I am a talker- when I am upset, I have to talk about it or I will have a conniption, which I think is a combination of a stroke and a coronary event, usually involving one’s eyeballs exploding. So not only did my poor husband knew how I felt in great detail, but I felt unable to help the kids deal with their own feelings, so swamped was I.

What to do. I asked my dearest friends, my folks, and my dear brother, and they all gave me great advice, which I will impart to you.  My question was: how to forgive, truly, and to conquer this anger, when the people I need to forgive are not sorry, even a tiny bit, for anything? And may not even realize what they are doing? Which sounds awfully familiar.

Here’s what I was told, what I tried, and what worked:

1. Ask Jesus for help in forgiving. He forgave his murderers from the Cross. While they were murdering Him. And they certainly weren’t saying, “Gee, I’m sorry.” Actually hand the burden to Him, and to Mary.

2. Pray as earnestly as you can for the offenders, for the softening of their hearts, for the development of their awareness of and compassion for others. It doesn’t take away the anger, but it is hard to feel really destructively angry toward someone for whose welfare you are begging.

3. Accept that you are going to feel angry for awhile. Stop trying so hard not to feel angry. Anger itself is not a sin. “Be angry, and sin not.” (Eph. 4:26)

4. Give it a little time. It’s amazing what a week will do.

5. Step as far back from the situation as you can. Set it down, and walk away. Even if you feel you need to take care of everything and it all depends on you, set it down. Even if only for a short time. Retreat to find peace. Even soldiers are sent back from the front to recoup during a battle. Watch Band of Brothers- it’s true.

6. Try hard to find some extenuating circumstances, or to understand what in the world is going on inside those dopey heads of theirs. I.e. They are grieving too; they don’t realize what they are doing; we didn’t communicate well enough up front; the sun was in their eyes; even if it seems kind of lame to you, it’s something, and the act of trying to be generous is a good one- you will be less upset with yourself for feeling so bad.

7. Remember that forgiveness is as much, or more, for your own good than for the good of others. That kind of rage and hurt is toxic and will poison you after awhile, and will render you unable to help those around you who need you.

8. Think about hell for a couple of minutes- really think about it, envision it. Think, “Do I really want anyone in that?” Of course you don’t. You may truly wish to smack them quite hard in the face, but- not hell. That’s a comforting thought.  You do, deep deep down, wish for their ultimate good. Which, happily enough, does involve them coming to some sort of realization of what creeps they have been at some point. Just don’t expect it anytime soon… or necessarily even in this life.

9. Try some gallows humor. At first you may not be in the mood, but in the past week or so I have gotten a lot of cheap enjoyment out of pointing out to my husband various rugs that X forgot to take with him. Like the sanctuary rug at our parish church as we were kneeling for communion at the altar rail. It’s a lovely oriental. Luckily, my sweet husband has a good sense of humor. I hope God does. Anyhow laughing makes me less angry.

10. I saved this for last, because when you are really hurt and angry this is terribly hard to do- it can actually make you more angry, thinking things like, “Just because I “forgot” to pay back my son 20 bucks doesn’t mean it’s ok for these other guys to knife me in the back!!” Of course it’s not ok. It’s wrong, and getting knifed hurts, legitimately. But your stuff is not ok, either. Your kid probably needs that 20 bucks.  So give it some time and space, and then remember that you hope to be forgiven for your own stupid, careless stuff. We can’t ask God for forgiveness if we are clinging tightly to a grudge.

Has this all worked for me?  Well, it wasn’t like a whiteboard eraser, with everything disappearing at once. But a huge layer of resentment was washed away as soon as I got our Lord and His Mother involved, and then it just got better from there. When I allow myself to really think about it, I do still feel that anger trying to bubble up. So I am still maintaining a distance, until my forgiveness becomes more firmly rooted. The truth is, I don’t want to waste any more precious minutes of my life feeling like that.

Of course I realize that in the scheme of things, there are much, much harder things to forgive than what I have talked about here. I don’t pretend that I could just apply my convenient ten steps and be floating on a cloud of forgetful joy and love in every circumstance- maybe not in ANY circumstance. But forgiveness, as one of my friends reminded me, is an act of the will. Decide to do it for your own good, begin the process, and put it in God’s Hands. Whatever healing comes will come from Him anyway, so let Him handle it.  Meanwhile, know that there are people who are sorry that you are hurting, and who wish they could make it better for you, and be grateful for them. That kind of love can help begin to heal whatever injury you have sustained. Reflect on how you will someday pay them back for their kindness in your hour of need.

Which reminds me it’s time for a trip to the ATM for a twenty.



Mar 21, 2017

Adoration Reflection



Denis-Carl Robidoux / Flickr

I was reading Fr. Gaitley's Consoling the Heart of Jesus (I highly recommend it.) during my regular Holy Hour with Jesus tonight and wanted to share a few nuggets of insight right now, before I forget.

I often get excited in the freshness of the new year or at the start of Lent or Advent.  I make grand plans for all I'm going to "do" and accomplish during the coming year or season.  Then, inevitably, I will hit a wall.  I'll stop in my tracks and feel like such a failure.  I have such a difficult time with balance.

You could say that I'm racing ahead of Jesus in my excitement.

Jesus wants me to be His friend.  He wants me to walk with Him, talk with Him.  He does not want me to race ahead (or fall behind).  He wants me to walk at His side, side by side.

Jesus does not want me to suffer because He loves me so much.  However, when I do suffer (and, of course, I do and I will), He is wonderfully consoled when I unite my suffering to His.  He will be there to help carry the cross.  He may even carry me the distance.

But He cannot help me carry my cross if we are not walking together.

 


Mar 15, 2017

A Perpetual Yes

It might seem that the expectations on us as mothers are never-ending...right?!?!  Between the ordinary, daily activities like laundry, dishes, cooking, etc. and the extraordinary pulls on our time including transporting kids to activities, Church committees, visits with friends in need, don't you feel the pressure to get it all done and to do it well?  Maybe I'm alone, but somehow I doubt it, somehow I just know that you feel overwhelmed and under appreciated just as much as me.

The irony is that we put the expectations on ourselves.  We are the ones placing so much pressure on our daily to-do lists. We spend our days and nights emphasizing productivity over living and we're surviving instead of thriving!  But the One who created us, loves us, and knows exactly what we need to do every day to spend eternity with Him in Heaven...all He asks of us is to say yes to His will for our lives.

We put more pressure on ourselves than God!  It's not that He doesn't have high expectations….to whom much is given much is expected...but He only asks us to do or accomplish what we are able to within the time He's given us.  I'm fairly certain God doesn't expect you and I to run full speed from 6am when our feet touch the floor to 11pm when we finally lay our heads back down!!!  However, more and more that's what I'm doing and many of my friends find themselves doing.
 
When we say yes to what God has planned and we do it daily I just know that our daily lives will look and feel differently.  Asking Him to help us be present in the moments He gives us makes such a difference.  I know because I've prayed that prayer. I've asked Him to make me present to my kids, for example, and to not miss special moments with them and He's delivered well beyond my expectations.  He's helped me to focus on the people in my life, building the relationships, not constantly issuing commands and dictating school lessons.

Our goal should just be to keep saying yes, it should be our perpetual response to whatever God asks of us, whether it's going to be easy or difficult.  That simple yes, our willingness to do as He asks, is our path to Heaven.


Mar 10, 2017

Friday Feasting: Seafood Fettuccini Alfredo


 Seafood Fettuccini Alfredo

"Once in awhile lobster tails are available at our local grocery store for a great price! This week it was ½ off and the pre-packaged shrimp was also on sale. This meal is on the expensive side ($20 for the 9 of us), so save it for a special occasion, or omit seafood (which we do for the younger children, anyway) for an everyday meal. Serve with a side of roasted Brussel sprouts and garlic bread." 

Ingredients

1 lb dry fettuccini noodles
4 tbsp butter
4 cloves garlic (or 1 rounded tsp minced garlic)
¼ C flour
2 C milk
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp  parsley
2 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 lobster tails, chopped
1 lbs raw shrimped, deveined and chopped
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic
½ C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ tsp salt

Directions

1.  Put pot of water on to boil for pasta.
2.  Meanwhile, melt butter in saucepan on med-high.  Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3.  Sprinkle flour over butter mixture and stir until slightly browned.
4.  Add 2 C milk, stirring constantly over med heat until thickened and bubbly. Add parsley. Reduce heat while the pasta cooks.

5.  Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.
6.  Once pasta is cooked, drain and return to pot. Pour cheese mixture over and stir to coat noodles.

7.  Serve as is for an everyday meal or follow next step.
8.  In a large skillet, melt butter over med-high heat. Add garlic and brown slightly. Add chopped lobster and shrimp and cook until just done, about 4-5 minutes.

9.  Don’t overcook or shrimp will be rubbery. Shrimp will be pink/orange and lobster will be opaque. 10.  Add pasta to skillet, toss using tongs, until all ingredients are combined. Top with additional Parmigiano-Reggiano, if desired. Serve.




Mar 4, 2017

Saturday Scripture Reflection: Divine Providence



wildflowers.jpg
Photo Credit:  http://www.hdwallpaperup.com
Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples:
"No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wildflowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?'
or 'What are we to drink?'or 'What are we to wear?'
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil."
__________

Last Sunday, I went to Mass at St Mary’s in College Station...this is the Catholic Church that serves Texas A&M University students, including my oldest two daughters.  Father Brian McMaster’s homily had a powerful message...one we have heard before and probably try to live, but it is always good to have a reminder.  

Pray, don’t worry.  God’s got this.  

We all have stuff that we worry about...it could be the kids, money, our relationships, work, school, illness, or  whatever.  We all have stuff.  The message from the gospel passage (and from Father Brian’s homily) is that we are loved by God, and He sees our needs and will provide.  

The word “provide” comes from the Latin “pro” meaning before or for and “videre” meaning to see.  So, the meaning of “provide” is “to see before” or “to see for.”  God sees our needs before we even know them.  An even deeper translation...He sees for us.  He knows very intimately exactly what we need, better even than we know ourselves.  

So, when we pray for Divine Providence (notice that providence comes from the same root words), we pray for God to “see for us” and for us to follow His most holy will for our lives.

It is so hard to give up the worrying.  We (at least most of us) seem to be programmed to worry about the things that are outside our control, things that have happened in the past, or things that will happen in the future.  God sees all of this for us.  If (instead of worrying) we concentrate on living our lives for Him and follow His will, He will take care of the rest.  He loves us far more than the wildflowers on the side of the road.  God will provide.







   


Mar 1, 2017

The Perilous Journey

**photo credit can be found here**

“The Perilous Journey”

per-i-lous adj. full of danger or risk

We hear Lent called a “journey” all the time.  I say it is a journey inside a journey inside a journey inside a journey inside a journey…

         From the moment of our conception, we are thrust on one perilous journey after another.  As we mature - as our callings are revealed – and we answer them (hopefully with grace), we find ourselves battered again and again from all sides. Even from inside ourselves!  Sometimes especially from inside ourselves.

How do we stay on that path we’ve been called to tread without “losing our way”?  When we falter in our ability to find joy or see the worth or just feel too weak to continue, how do we come back to a place of spiritual contentment?  

As a mother of eight, ages 15 down to 4 months, I am constantly wondering what God was thinking when He thought I could handle all this.  I falter most often when my gassy baby just won’t stay asleep, the toddler is doing headstands on the sofa and trying to kick his 5-year-old brother who’s playing so nicely, the 8-year-old is crying over subtraction and borrowing, and the three oldest are just trying to get their school done in the din of it all. Yeah, we homeschool, too.  If I didn’t feel His calling so strongly to both of those vocations, I would be in the “Funny Farm”!

I’ve heard from my well-meaning family that I don’t have to do this to myself.  Strangers have no qualms about telling you you’re nuts.  “Send your kids to school!” “Get better cable!” “Do you have a good gun?” (That was from some old guy in the grocery store; I didn’t hang around to figure out what he meant by that.)

My journey as a homeschooling mother-of-many is not easy.  AT. ALL.  Guess what??  It’s not meant to be!!

But I must watch myself.  I have to do my best to put a label on all those naysayers, especially the ones in my own head; it’s the devil doing his best to put Doubt and Fear in my mind, my soul.  I MUST look to the Light…I MUST stay the course…this battlefield is mine to conquer with the love of my Lord as my shield.  My GOAL is to get my husband and my children to Heaven, despite my failings.  This journey is so very perilous, but I – with God’s grace -  will prevail.

This Lent will be a tiny workshop within This Big Plan that is His Will for my life.  A spiritual workout that will only strengthen my might and my will.  A redirection towards the “light” that always leads us to the right place.  It makes me think of the story I read to the children, The Squire and the Scroll by Jeanne Bishop.  The main character always turns to the “words of the scroll” to direct him no matter the situation, and the scroll always leads him the correct way.

I pray for you all this Lent.  I pray that you, too, find your direction, stay on the course, and hopefully find joy in your journey.