I Never Knew Happily Ever After Would Hurt This Much

I Never Knew Happily Ever After Would Hurst So Much

And they lived “happily ever after.”  The ending words of fairy tales have become our expectation for real-life marriage. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a “happily ever after” marriage is easy. You walk off the altar with such joy and think that this marital bliss will last forever.  That it will come automatically and be pain free, because we are sooo in love! But the words, “Darling I never knew it would hurt this much to live happily ever after,” are much more realistic. The words are written by my good friend Cinda DeVet in a poem she authored.

With World Marriage Day on February 11th, and Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be fitting to reflect on the splendor and the challenges of marriage. In celebration of the beautiful Sacrament of Matrimony I am sharing Cinda’s poem, In-Between Anniversary. It is full of truth and hope. Cinda and her husband Joe know quite a bit about marriage. They have been married for over fifty-one years! Cinda speaks not only of the struggles and pain of marriage, but of the glory too!

Read through its entirety and experience the beauty of a grace filled marriage that lives out the vows of “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, and…until death do us part.”

In-Between Anniversary
By Cinda DeVet

My hand slides towards you
across the bright, white cloth,
and yours is already there.
We’ve learned some steps,
you and I, over these years of love.
We don’t trip as often,
nor fall as far.

This is one of those in-between years
When few are inclined to ask
if we have special plans for our anniversary.
People in the early years
think you need a five or a zero
to make an important anniversary,
but we know better.
This year is imperative.
People outside cannot fathom
the tiny fragments of time
that comprise forever.
Like this moment,
when your hand closes over mine,
covering the ring you gave me,
one evening, long ago,
when we were playing dress up
and stumbled into forever.

What did we know then?
Two little children,
we dressed appropriately for wedding
and behaved well.
We stood on the brink of eternity
and spoke solemn, weighted words,
exchanging rings of gold,
and we knew not what we did.
What miracle occurred that evening
in the far away past,
as we stood in God’s presence

speaking solemn weighted words,
exchanging rings of gold.

We promised forever,
but we were speaking words
unknown to us, unlived.
We said them with conviction,
purposing forever,
but I, at least, had no idea
they would bring us to today.

On the altar,
bread and wine became Christ.
Before the altar,
two little children
(appropriately dressed and well-behaved)
became Christ,
but we knew not what we did.
(There were words in our heads
that spoke of sacrament;
they came from books
and our book was not yet written.)

Father spoke words I can recapture,
words you know well
because I’ve recaptured them for you,
over and again.
You remembered only shaking knees
and a vision of loveliness,
that was a little girl playing dress up,
coming down the aisle of the big, big church
to join you in becoming Christ.

If we had known,
would we have feared to take
the awe-inspiring step we took?
We moved into a new universe,
with new laws and a new language,
on that lovely spring evening.
And we didn’t know the laws, nor speak the language-
and didn’t know we needed to.
We wasted years, love,
trying to make the old laws and language serve forever,
trying to avoid learning the new.
Years fraught with conflict and competition,
with hurt inflicted, and hurts sustained, and hurt hoarded.

When did we learn,
how did we learn,
the language,
the laws of love?
When did we stop trying to work out a compromise,
recall whose turn it was,
make sure each of us did a fair share?
It began long ago,
even that same evening, I suspect,
but the beginnings were so tentative
and the change so cosmic,
and the way so uncharted, unthought-
who could imagine?
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard.
Now we have begun to see and hear-
and to forgive.
Darling, I never knew it would hurt this much
to live happily ever after.
I never knew either,
it would be this glorious,
an explosion of glory between us.
I try to speak this across the table
in the very lovely restaurant you chose
for the celebration of this in-between anniversary.
Words won’t come-only tears,
and a deep silence between us
where Jesus walks

and raises His hands in blessing.

II

I look back over the years,
wondering again how it has happened;
when did we learn (or begin to learn),
when did the steps become more apparent,
the voices quieter, less harsh,
the movements gentle and healing
instead of fierce, self-centered,
tension-provoking?
I see the shadow of the cross over the years,
absorbing and healing the little crosses we’ve carried,
and fought about carrying,
and threatened not to carry any longer
without adequate support and remuneration.

The covenant is unfair! Strike!
And we did strike,
and He felt the lash, falling upon Him.
(When did I see you in need of comfort and caring, Lord,
and leave you in your pain?
As often as you did to one another, you did it to me)

Tonight I see those times
in the pure light of His forgiveness and yours.
One day we began to forgive
i
nstead of totaling up points
and waving overdue accounts at each other.

Light came in.
Jesus walked with us and taught us,
every time we gave Him the slightest chance.
And the shadow of the cross healed us.
Tonight those times are part of the story,
part of the symphony,
a backdrop against which the light of His presence
within us, between us, even just as us,
shines forth,
miraculous and glorious.

III

We did so many stupid things!
It’s overwhelming to look back and see,
where and how, and, dear God, how often,
we attempted to push each other off narrow mountain paths
along precarious cliffs
because neither of us wanted to give way, to go second.
How could we have so undervalued
the incredible, unmerited gift of person
with whom to share life, to share God,
to celebrate His goodness?

He sent one prophet after another;
some died.
How long it took us to hear their prophecy
instead of trying to use the old law,
the old language,
to remake the prophets.
Little, helpless prophets,
speaking with wails in the night,
needing us.
We served them many years
before we began to listen deeply,
to the Gospel spoke
in the image of God.

(A little child shall lead them.)
Now, I ask myself,
what lessons did we miss that He sent us?
Unanswerable question.
I have to let it go,
turn to you in love,
and go on with open heart to listen to them now.

When did I last ask you how this happened?
We were just two little kids, playing house,
and now our children are visions of loveliness,
approaching other people’s children
before other altars
to become Christ.
And you said, “I don’t know,
but I’m glad it did.”

IV

Sing a psalm to our God!
Rejoice in His presence forever!
Moments and days that add up to forever,
Bless the Lord!
Unfolding promises, lived out in faith,
Bless the Lord!
Husbands and wives, called to show forth His love,
Bless the Lord!
Sons and daughters, sent as prophets and messengers,
Bless the Lord!
Bless Him in rejoicing and sorrow!
Bless Him in pain and joy!
Let all the earth bless the Lord!

 

blessing-rings-2

Don’t Just “Bump into” Jesus (And other things we can learn from Berenice)

Touch his tasselA large crowd followed and pressed around him. (Mark 5:24) And rightly so. Jesus had just healed a man possessed with numerous demons and was on his way to the house of a synagogue official who had begged him to heal his gravely ill daughter.

As the crowd bumped into Jesus, hoping to see his next “show stopping” miracle, a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years discreetly made her way through the mass of people. She had suffered much under many physicians and had spent all that she had, and was not better but worse. (Mark 5:26)  She secretly touched Jesus’ garment and was healed. Tradition tells us that her name was Berenice.

We can learn from Berenice, especially as we prepare for the upcoming season of Lent. This desperate, penniless, physically-drained woman touched my heart as I listened to the gospel reading the other day. And I would like to present some points to ponder regarding her story:

  • Don’t Just “Bump into” Jesus

Intentionally seek Jesus out. Berenice had an intense desire to get close to Jesus. Do you want to enter into Lent with a desperate desire to get close enough to touch Jesus as Berenice did? Or will you just follow along with the crowd and bump into him periodically throughout the season?

All practicing Christians “bump into” Jesus during their lives, such as when a prayer is said before meals, or when you go to church on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong-those are good things to do. But have you ever thought that Jesus wants you to do more than just “bump into” him?

Being a tourist- a sightseer- through Lent is easy, but going on a pilgrimage, a special spiritual journey during the season is the challenge. Ask God to show you now (don’t wait till Ash Wednesday) what he would like for you to do this Lent.  Then make those plans that will help you grow closer to him during the 40 day spiritual journey.

  • Surrender and Prostrate Yourself

Berenice was considered unclean by Jewish law because of her issue with blood. She lived in constant social and religious isolation. This is why she strived to go unnoticed and came up from behind him. (Mt 9:20) She knew of her “impurity” and prostrated herself. She surrendered totally and sought out his healing.

It is not always easy to say that we need help. That we are hurting or struggling, or that we have failed in something. What are your pains? What/who are you tired of dealing with, fighting with? What exhausts you? Maybe it’s a physical aliment like Berenice. Maybe it’s a strained relationship. Maybe it’s a situation at work. Or maybe you have done things that you consider unforgivable.

We can fall into the trap of thinking we need to deal with these issues all on our own. But surrendering totally to Christ and laying our troubles at his feet, is the way to go. This Lent, God is calling you to give him all those heavy burdens. He wants you to give him everything, yes- even those “impurities” you are ashamed of. Empty yourself, and lower yourself before the Lord this Lent.  Surrender and prostrate.  He will heal you completely, just as he did Berenice.

  • Act in Faith/Pray for Faith

If only I touch his garment, I shall be made well. (Mt 9:21) Berenice believed that Jesus would heal her. She did not plead with Jesus face to face for him to touch her. She had confidence that if she only touched the tassel of his garment she would be healed. And of course she was! Then Jesus said to her, daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace. (Luke 8:48)

Having faith is obviously an important thing. And we should grow in our faith. In Luke 17: 5, the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. We too can struggle with the issue of faith. We might wonder, do I have enough faith? How can I increase my faith?  Faith is a spiritual gift from God. Faith can be increased by prayer and by acting in Faith (just as Berenice acted in faith by reaching for Jesus’ garment.)

One of my favorite prayers regarding faith is from the father whose son is possessed and pleads with Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “‘If you can! Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24)  This is a prayer I bring before the Lord often: God, I do believe, help my unbelief. This Lent-and beyond- God would love to increase our faith. We just need to ask him; pray and ask him to help us.

In closing:

  • Seek the Lord intentionally and purposefully this Lent. Make a plan that will help you to grow closer to him.
  • Surrender yourself totally to Christ and bow before him as your God and King.
  • And, act in faith as well as pray for the Lord to help increase your faith.

Berenice (and others in scripture) can teach us so much. Is there anything about her story that left an impression on you? How is the Lord calling you to be more like Berenice this Lent?

Where is the Newborn King?

Where is the Newborn King

Where is the newborn king? This was the question that drove the Magi on their long journey. They were wise, so they went to the most logical place to find the newborn king of the Jews, the holy city of Jerusalem- but unfortunately it was the wrong place!

When in Jerusalem they inquired, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” (Mat 2:2) King Herod heard of their quest and was troubled. So he met with the Magi to ascertain from them what time the star had appeared.

Herod gave the Magi the information that the new king had been prophesized to be born in Bethlehem. He sent them off saying “go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” (Mat 2:8) This of course was a lie; he did not want to worship the new king, but destroy him.

The Magi continued their mission to find the new king with the star leading them. They were overjoyed when the star “came to rest over the place where the child was.” (Mat 2:9) They rejoiced when they finally found who they had been looking for.

The king they were looking for had been born in a stable; a crude and unexpected place for someone of royalty. The king was born into a poor, simple family. Yet the Magi hailed him, and fell down and worshiped him, offering him their gifts.

The wise men initially looked for Jesus in the wrong place, just as we do sometimes. We seek in the wrong places too! We think our spouse, a job promotion, a dream vacation, a bigger house, a smaller waist, popularity, etc. will fill our emptiness. We sometimes get drawn into the impressiveness of “Jerusalem” and lose sight of the star-the light of our true pathway.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Only in God will (man) find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.” (27) To find the joy the Magi found, to experience deep happiness and peace, we need to keep our focus on the star; the true light from our Lord. Know that he can be found in the most unexpected corners of our world!

And if we make a “wrong turn” as the Magi did, don’t give up. Keep seeking the divine. “Because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.” (CCC 27) Another way to say it is that we have an internal homing device, placed there in our hearts by God, and he never stops drawing us to him; just as the Magi were drawn by the star to Jesus.

Our Lord is calling-we need to keep focus and be diligent in our search; and upon finding him, rejoice! Honor him, and give him our gifts.

To close, I want to pose an interesting question regarding this piece Where is the Newborn King? The Magi found the newborn king in a most unexpected place, so I ask you, if Jesus was born today, where do you think he would be born?

Make a New Year’s Resolution with the Holy Family

Holy Family into Egypt

If you haven’t made a New Year’s resolution yet, or even if you have, the Holy Family has something to offer you. This year, New Year’s Eve happened to fall on the Feast of the Holy Family, which provided an excellent opportunity for me to reflect on this humble family, and to consider what they can teach us regarding the resolutions we usually make.

As I thought about the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and all they went through, one thing kept coming back to my mind over and over again. A virtue that I noticed they all possessed. A quality that seems to be lacking in our world, and something that God has challenged me personally to work on. It is something most people don’t like, and it is usually considered a vice rather than a virtue. What is it you may wonder? What trait did all members of the Holy Family have, but we need to work on? Obedience. It is the virtue of obedience.

Ouch! The word has a bite to it I know. Mainly because we value our individual freedom and independence. We want to do things our way. We ask selfish questions such as “Is this in my best interest?” Or “What’s in it for me?” Imagine if Mary told the Angel Gabriel that becoming pregnant before she was married to Joseph was not in her best interest? Or if Joseph told God after the angel visited him in a dream that there was nothing beneficial for him in this big mess and that he was bailing ship? Even though what was happening to them didn’t make sense, they trusted in the Lord and obeyed.

Mary’s words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to our word.” (Lk1:38) is a beautiful example of obedience. She obeyed “blindly,” having faith that God knew what was best. And Joseph gives us a good example of immediate obedience. After Jesus was born, an angel came to him in a dream at night and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you: for Herod is about to search for the child and destroy him.” (Mt 2:13) Joseph rose and took Jesus and Mary immediately out by night on the long journey to Egypt.

Jesus also showed obedience in his childhood- to Mary and Joseph, and then on into his adulthood. For example, when Jesus was experiencing tremendous agony in the garden before his crucifixion. He pleads with his heavenly Father “If you are willing, remove this chalice from me; nevertheless, not my will be done, but yours.” Lk (22:42) Not my will be done, but yours. That was the prevalent motto of the Holy Family. Accepting the will of God with total obedience to their Father.

The Holy Family is a model for us to imitate. Obedience is something we can all work on. So, I invite you to join me in working on obedience in 2018. It won’t be easy, but with help from the Holy Family we can grow in this virtue. One way to bring the virtue of obedience with you into this new year is to reflect on something that you struggle with obeying. Maybe you struggle with following a teaching of the faith. You just don’t “get it,” or you think that following the teaching is not really in your “best interest.” Your prayer can be God, it is hard for me to be obedient. Please help me to trust like Joseph. Help me to say yes like Mary, and help me to do your will like Jesus.

Or maybe this New Year instead of asking yourself, “What can I do to become a better person this year?” Why not ask God, “Lord, what do you want me to do this year to become a better person?” Yes, ask him to let you know what New Year’s resolution you should make! Then listen; be attentive. He will let you know.

Truth be told, saying YES to God’s plan and saying no to your own plan is difficult. It is a yes to love, but also a yes to sacrifice and hardship. It will be hard to confront our seemingly unyielding defiance towards obedience. So prayer; the quiet listening kind, like in silent adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, is paramount in this undertaking. If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to God’s grace, then amazing things will happen. For his plans for us are way, way bigger and better than any plans that we can create or imagine for ourselves.

Know that if you make a New Year’s resolution with the Holy Family regarding obedience, you will have the best teachers in the world as your companions through these next 12 months. And though it will be a demanding and challenging journey, take to heart what the angel told Mary-it is a message for all of us. That “nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) With God being the key words. We can’t do this on our own.

May God shower us with grace as we strive to grow in this virtue.

Have a blessed (and obedient) New Year everyone!

Stretch Out Your Arms

Stretch Out Your Arms

One of my favorite things about going to Mass during the Christmas season is seeing the nativity set. My most favorite piece, the one that always mesmerizes me, is the infant Jesus.

The infant Jesus at our church has his arms extended – reaching out with love to embrace us – as if the baby already knows his role. His arms reaching out to serve, his hands ready to heal. The young arms of this child will grow and stretch out on a cross to show us how much he loves us. The tiny hands of this babe will have bloody holes in them to save us. That’s what I always saw. The beautiful Christ Child reaching out to me and showering me with his love.   A love that I joyfully accepted, but usually kept for myself.

Then, a few years ago, it changed.

No, they did not change the nativity set. All the figures and the baby Jesus were the exact ones they had always used. But this particular Christmas I saw something different when I looked at the Christ Child with his arms outstretched.

Infant Jesus looked at me and pleaded with me, “Will you embrace me? I need you to pick me up and love me.”  The “me” I realized he was referring to was all those in my life who I was struggling with loving. Jesus wanted me to embrace his love, and then share it with others. The Baby was inviting me to change; to stretch out and give his love to those who needed it most.

So consider this when looking upon the infant Jesus in the manger this Christmas:

  • Yes! Embrace and accept his love, but don’t stop there….
  • Ask yourself–Who does that meek and helpless baby represent? Who in my life needs me to embrace them with the love of the Christ Child?
  • Then stretch out your arms and ask for the grace to do it.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

Look East

Look East SUNRISE

My body screamed for more sleep. It was pitch black and very quiet. Why did I agree to get up so early on our girls weekend away? My friend had pleaded with me to wake up and watch the sunrise on the porch of the beach house we were staying at. She knew I was a single mom who was tired and ragged from working a full time job, cooking, cleaning house, taking care of the yard, and running around all busy with my children’s school and sports activities, so why not let me get some long needed rest?

When we first arrived she asked me if I had ever seen the sun rise on the beach. After I told her that I hadn’t, she became passionate about convincing me to get up early. As she talked, I heard something in my friend’s voice that intrigued me- a peaceful joy as she told me the simple plan for the morning, and I found myself agreeing that I would join her. She had never steered me wrong before.

But now, under the warmth of my covers, everything was telling me to stay in bed on this cold December morning and blow off the whole idea. All the other ladies were still asleep and I could roll over and be snoozing again in two seconds. Then I faintly heard my friend slipping on her shoes not far from me and I sighed. I had made a promise, and she was almost ready. So I mustered up what little energy I had and got out of bed.

Before long we were on the porch swing, looking out at the dark ocean with no sign of the sun yet. Not even a sliver. I waited and waited. Nothing. Nothing but a black sky and slow rolling waves that were lulling me back to sleep. I started to nod off, but the squeak of the swing and its hard cold wooden slats wouldn’t let me. My friend was silent; waiting patiently, seemingly content. I on the other hand was impatient. Thoughts raced through my head. When was this going to happen? Why did she have us wake up so early? How are my kids doing with me away? What am I going to get them for Christmas with virtually no money? And so on and so on…I stifled a yawn and drummed my fingers on my leg.

My eyes strained to see something on the horizon-anything. Maybe clouds were covering the sun. I scanned the vast waters from left to right, my eyes getting used to the darkness, but I could not make out any clouds. Maybe I was looking in the wrong direction. What was the right direction!? Then the words of a song from Mass the week before came back to me… people look east, the time is near…I glanced at my friend out of the corner of my eye, who I knew would be looking east, and strived to mimic her peaceful posture; unfortunately though, the ashy sky was still barren of any hint of light.

More lyrics floated through my head- stars keep the watch when night is dim and people look east and sing today, Love the Star is on the way. And I realized, that’s exactly what we were doing! Looking east, keeping watch in the dim night, and looking for the sun, our star to rise.

Slowly I began to settle into the still greyness all around me and started noticing things- the fresh smell of the salt water, the gentle wind that was brushing wisps of my hair, and sound of the waves caressing the sand. Then the song playing again, and those words, Love the Star is on the way. And I thought; my Lord and my God…MY LOVE was on the way! And not just in a sunrise, but as a babe into this world, for Christmas was just around the corner. The swing that seemed so cold and hard earlier now felt warm and cozy, and I laughed at the sight of a sandpiper leaving his tiny footprints all over the sand as he scampered after his breakfast.

After enjoying the bird’s antics for a while, I looked east again. It was different. Something was happening. The darkness was slowly fading. A faint hue lingered along the line where the sky and the water kissed. I kept my eyes on the horizon not wanting to miss a thing. There was a definite glow in the east.  Yes, Love the Star was on the way.

What unfolded that morning is beyond words. There were no clouds to shield the view. No trees or mountains or buildings in the way. No rumble from traffic, or airplanes. Only endless sky and water and the soft sounds of nature. And entering into this masterpiece was an orb of light, so radiant and splendid. So colorful and warm. So perfect and peaceful. Love the Star was reflecting on the water, and a golden beam stretched all the way out, in a straight beeline towards me, touching me with the words… this is for you! The healing rays melted my dark worries away. I now felt the peace and joy that I heard in my friend’s voice the night before and was so very glad she convinced me to wake up early, for a love story was being written before my eyes and in my heart.

I thought of the other ladies still asleep in the beach house that was missing this work of art. I thought of the vast majority of people that were in this hemisphere, still asleep and not experiencing this sunrise. Not unlike the night Christ was born. Most everyone slept through it, and didn’t realize that an incredibly amazing thing was happening. But the sky knew. The stable animals knew. The angles knew and told the shepherds. And a few wise men anticipated. Do we know? Do we really know what an incredibly amazing thing happened out east over two thousand years ago?

We must be careful not to sleep through Christmas. Don’t miss what this day is all about. God so loved us, that he sent his only son to be our light in this dark world. He did this for us.

So as we grow close to the birth of our Sun of Justice, the birth of Love the Star, remember to take the time and

Look east.

For the time is near.

And listen to the babe. He is saying,

“This is for you!”

Precious in My Eyes

Apple of My Eye

I couldn’t wait to get out of the elevator. When the doors finally opened I darted down the hall and into the room where my new grandson had just been born. My eyes instantly found him, and my breath was taken away. He was so beautiful! So tiny. So perfect. His black hair was all wet and curly. I kissed his head; he smelled so fresh and pure. His skin was softer than velvet. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. My arms ached to hold him. I stayed close, soaking in everything I could about him and longing for the moment when I could embrace him.

Finally, he was there, in my arms. His weak wobbly body totally dependent upon my hands as I cradled him. He started gurgling and cooing, and then — his slate blue eyes looked straight into mine! My heart melted.  My soul soared. A smile as big as the universe spread across my face and I cooed back to him saying, oh sweet, sweet little one; You are so precious! You are such a gift! You are the apple of my eye!

It was a couple of days later when I was holding my precious grandson again, gazing upon his beauty and in total awe of him, that a whisper of scripture came to me. “You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4) As I looked with loving eyes upon my grandson, I sensed something sacred……there were eyes looking at ME! The loving eyes of Aba, my Father.  And a tender message; You, my daughter, are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.” God was telling me that I was the apple of his eye!   I thought of the intense love I had for my new grandson, and realized that my Heavenly Father has that same strong love for me! Only more! Much, much more! More than I could imagine, and I was blown away.

He looks at me, with tender eyes?

He sees me pure and beautiful?

He gazes upon me with love?

He longs to embrace me?

He stays close by, soaking me in?

He holds me carefully, tenderly?

He can’t take his eyes off me?

The answer is YES! Yes, yes and yes! Yes, because I am precious in his sight. Yes, because I am his beloved daughter. Yes, because I am the apple of his eye. And here is the best part…God doesn’t just love me this way, He loves ALL his children, with this deep, passionate, eternal love.  Whether they are brand new innocent babies, or older tainted adults.

So, know that The Eyes of Love look upon us all and say the same thing…

Oh sweet, sweet one,

You are precious in my eyes, and honored,

and I love you!

Precious in My Eyes