Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Rocky, Bumpy Road to Bethlehem

     “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with the worries of this life.”   
                                                                                                          Luke 21:34


     Thanksgiving was behind me.

     Advent was quickly approaching.

     My prayer: My God, on what do You want me to focus in order for my heart and mind to be ready for Jesus on Christmas morning?

     You may not realize it, but I like to have a plan and not waste any time, whipping myself into spiritual shape. God knew what He was doing in not having me born during the times of hair shirts and self-flagellation!

     Each time I brought this thought to prayer, I got the sense that God wanted me to work on becoming gentler and more patient ABOUT myself. “That’s a novel thought. Doesn’t sound too difficult! Maybe it’s not from God… I’ll keep asking.”

     But the answer did not change. It remained the same: be gentler with yourself and more patient. “Hmm. I guess this IS what He wants.”

     As I thought and prayed about God’s answer, it became clear that the past twenty-two months have been pretty intense. Truth be told, as I pondered more fully, it became evident that I have not given myself a break! When my different faults and foibles were revealed to me in either prayer, or in life situations, I was sent into a panic! It was all up to me to change, and to do it quickly! I went to work, doing I what I could to remedy my behavior. I expected far too much from myself and wanted to eradicate the imperfections that I saw right then and there. I searched for books to help, spent time in prayer and talked to family members and friends. I also spent time before Our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, hoping He would heal me of all my brokenness. I wanted to fix it, take control of the situation and become that woman God has called me to be from all eternity, without any more delay!

     To my surprise, this is not the route God is purposing. God is calling me to slow down. Take a deep breath and accept both His help, as well as His timing. He is calling me to stop the frantic pace of having to be perfect. Perfection was not His idea, but mine. Ugh!

     Why was I trying so hard? After all, intellectually, I knew I was far from perfect, but when all of my imperfections were revealed to me, my reaction said otherwise. I didn’t want to take the slow, sometimes painful, long road and journey to change. I wanted to be on the fast track and just arrive. Well, maybe not just arrive. I was willing to do the hard work that was involved, but I wanted it to be over in a timely fashion.

     Unbeknown to me, I had let my heart get weighed down with the worries of my life, trying to fix myself. I am not the Potter, He is!

     God has impressed on my heart that becoming THAT woman, will take a lifetime and possibly, some time in purgatory as well! It will take my cooperation, but is His work and timeline. I still need to be alert to His promptings and grace, and open myself to His design.

     This will still involve prayer, receiving the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance, time before the Blessed Sacrament, asking for His healing for my own woundedness, spiritual reading, as well as speaking with family and friends about cares and concerns, as they present themselves. I will still try to practice all the lessons He has taught me these past number of months and stay His course. But my attitude with my effort will be quite different. I will stop trying so hard, believing it is ALL UP TO ME! I will also have to remind myself that I do not have the timeline by which it HAS to happen! Only the good Lord knows when He will be calling me home.

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    As Advent begins, please join me on a journey. I am traveling with Mary and Joseph. Mary is very pregnant with my sweet Jesus, so I cannot be in a hurry. I must go at their pace and not my own.

     I will spend time speaking with St. Joseph, seeking the wisdom of his good counsel and direction. I will turn to him when I’m unsure of which direction to take. With his gifts, wisdom and manly care, the Holy Family arrived at their destination. He will help me to do the same.

     When I’m feeling weary of the journey, I will climb up on the donkey with Mary, and wrap my arms around Her. I’ll allow myself to be comforted by Her words, as well as The Word, safe within Her womb. I’ll speak to Her, heart to Heart, as one does to such a precious Mother. I’ll let Her nurture me with Her presence, as well as the presence of Her Son.

     This Advent, and hopefully beyond, I will allow myself the luxury, of slowing down and being gentler and patient with myself. I will breath in God’s love and acceptance of Whose I am, receiving it, so I can become who He sees when He looks so lovingly at me.

     I will try my best not to allow my heart to be weighed down by the worries and burdens of life, and instead, make room for Jesus to reside there.

     “May the God of peace Himself make you perfectly holy and my you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and He will also accomplish it” (2 Thes:23-24).
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    

Sunday, November 18, 2018

With Gratitude

     “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”                
                                                                                                       G. K. Chesterton


     Taking things for granted, is such an easy way to live.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Bigger than the Hard Thing

     I can’t believe that it’s November already, but the fact that it’s been almost two months since I’ve posted on Avia Joy startles me!

     Life has been anything but “normal” these days. It seems that on many fronts, what used to be familiar and “automatic pilot” has become unfamiliar and more challenging.

Monday, September 10, 2018

So Many Grains of Wheat!

     “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (Rm 8:28).

      ALL things! Not just good things or some things – God’s Word clearly states ALL things!

     As I sat in the chapel during a retreat, I allowed those words to penetrate and saturate my mind and heart. I desperately wanted and needed to believe that statement at this particular time. I have been having a difficult time lately with needed changes within myself – new changes in my behavior and with my reactions!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

New Wine ~ His Wine

     “In the crushing, in the pressing, You are making new wine. In the soil, I now surrender, You are breaking new ground. So I yield to You and to Your careful hand. When I trust You I don’t need to understand.
     “Make me Your vessel. Make me Your offering. Make me whatever You want me to be. I came here with nothing, but all You have given me. Jesus make new wine out of me.
     “In the crushing, in the pressing, You are making new wine. In the soil, I now surrender, You are breaking new ground. You are breaking new ground.
     “Where there is new wine, there is new power. There is new freedom and the Kingdom is here. I lay down my old flames to carry Your new fire today.”                                                                                                                     Lyrics to “New Wine” by Brooke Lingertwood, Hillsong Music


     Sometimes you have to be careful for what you pray!

     Little did I realize that fact, a year and a half ago, when I asked Jesus, through the intercession of Our Lady of Cana, to turn the water of my marriage into a deep rich wine.

     I was yearning for something more, in my relationship with my husband, as well as my relationship with God. What did I have to lose? It felt like an inspiration from the Holy Spirit, so I made my “infamous” request!

     Although I had no idea just how God would answer my request, I didn’t expect it to be too difficult or grueling. I assumed that He would point out a few ways that my husband needed to change, and several ways for myself. You know, keep it even. Keep it fair!

     Now, in retrospect, I can hear Jesus speaking the words that He uttered to James and John: “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” Mt 20:22.

     Jesus was correct. I DID NOT know what I was asking. I had NO idea that I would be placed under a big microscope and that many flaws that I had, would be pointed out to me, and along with them, the manner in which to change.

     God began to show me just how very poorly and conditionally I loved. Not just my husband, but many others. He then began to show me how I was not able to overcome my faults on many levels, the way I was able to do in the past. He was showing me all my weaknesses and shortcomings. I felt like I was crushed and pressed – maybe even obliterated! If this was the answer to my prayer, I’m not so sure I wanted that deep rich wine anymore!

     I was struggling and suffering in many areas of my life: in my marriage, in relationships with people I loved, in prayer, with God, and many other ways.

      I felt confused, and stuck. I didn’t want to move forward or backward because I wasn’t even sure which direction to head. I felt like I was regressing so very much in my relationship with God and on my spiritual journey. I felt like a failure in so many ways and wasn’t sure which way to turn.

     It was about that time, when all felt lost, that I gave my dear friend, the Carmelite Hermit, a call and shared my dilemma with him.

     To my utter surprise, he told me that I was in a good place. God was in fact, answering my prayer by perfecting me in all the different ways that I was lacking. He told me to be patient with myself and thank God for the work that He was doing in me. Brother told me that for all these years I was self-sufficient, believing it to be a good thing, but it was not.  God wanted me to depend upon Him and not myself. I was to allow God to do what needed to be done and to co-operate with Him in bringing this about. This IS really GOOD news, he told me excitedly! Somehow, I didn’t feel his excitement, but he did shine a glimmer of hope on me.

     In sharing my “good news” with another friend, she sent me the song, “New Wine,” by Hillsong. She told me that this was My Song: This is what has been happening to you since you prayed for new wine. I listened to the song and then printed the words to digest them and let them sink in.

     She was correct! I felt crushed and pressed by all that was happening in my life, but now it all made sense. God was making of me a new wine and I needed to surrender and co-operate. I had to allow Him to work and make an offering of myself and my life so He could change me into whatever He wants me to be.

     I needed to yield to Him and stop demanding that I understand all that was happening, and trust instead. I had to surrender in this new soil that was breaking all around me. It was new wine that He was bringing about, if only I would die to my own will and abandon myself to His.

     This is not an easy thing to do, but I now realize that it is essential! In order for me to be willing to surrender and die, I have to remind myself that “where there is new wine, there is new power, there is new freedom, and the Kingdom is here. I lay down my old flames, to carry Your new fire today.” I want so much, in the deepest part of my heart, the freedom that God wants to offer to me by changing me into that deep rich wine.

    Although I am not yet the “new wine” that I prayed for that evening, I am beginning to smell the aroma of a sweet rich wine. I am not na├»ve, at this point, to think I’ll be sipping that wine anytime soon. I am well aware, that there is still so much in me that needs to be purified and refined – crushed and pressed. I am now a willing grape, to be placed in the winepress until God has produced the best wine.

     I hear Jesus say the promising words, “But I have saved the good wine until now.”

     And I do not want to settle for anything less!
    
    
    
    

Monday, June 18, 2018

Give It Up!

     “How many things I do when the soul, in so much spiritual and material need turns to Me, looks at Me and says to Me; ‘You take care of it,’ then close its eyes and rests. In pain you pray for Me to act, but that I act in the way you want. You do not turn to Me, instead, you want Me to adapt to your ideas. You are not sick people who ask the doctor to cure you, but rather sick people who tell the doctor how to. So, do not act this way, but pray as I taught you in the Our Father; ‘Hallowed be Thy Name,’ that is, be glorified in my need. ‘Thy kingdom come,’ that is, let all that is in us and in the world be in accord with Your kingdom. ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’ that is, in our need, decide as You see fit for our temporal and eternal life. If you say to Me truly: ‘Thy will be done’ which is the same as saying: ‘You take care of it.’ I will intervene with all My omnipotence, and I will resolve the most difficult situations.”
                              Novena of Surrender to the Will of God – Day 3 – Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo


     I’ve been praying this novena daily for several years.

     Surrendering to God’s permissive and ordaining will is something with which I struggle!

     For a good number of years, I’ve been praying for a change in a particular situation in my life. The truth is, the situation has changed, but not to my liking. In fact, it has presented itself to me more frequently, in the last couple of years, and when it does, it’s like a sword is plunged into my heart!

     At those times I cry out to God and wonder why He hasn’t changed this situation as I have asked-- no begged Him to do. Over the years, I have given Him, some very good solutions to what I see as answers to the problem. But it’s becoming clear, He either doesn’t agree, or just wants me to truly surrender this to Him and trust.

     While speaking to a friend about my last experience with this hurt, I expressed that I believed God was allowing it to present itself so frequently, because He wanted to heal me. Although I thought this to be true, I wasn’t sure how to go about doing it.

     My friend informed me that I couldn’t do it at all. It was something that God would have to do for me, but I needed to be honest with myself and Him and stop being so darn lady like about it.

     I was a bit confused with her comment and asked for clarity. She said, “You’re angry about it. You keep trying to tell God what to do and how to do it. It’s clear it hasn’t changed all these years and you don’t like it. You cannot control people, their relationships and their actions. You need to begin to accept this as reality and truly give it to God. He wants you to be free and not to be hurt and wounded by this situation. We are all children of God and hopefully will one day, sit at the banquet table together in the Kingdom. Are you going to allow this situation to keep you from entering heaven? Do you want anyone shut out? Are you going to love as God does? Are you willing to take the hand of those who have hurt you and walk with them into the Kingdom of God?”

     Her words were challenging and stinging, but I could hear both love and truth in them. I knew I was at a crossroad and needed to make a decision.

     “I’m not sure I can do this. I don’t know if I want to do this. I don’t know how to do this,” I told my friend.  This wasn’t how I wanted things to be. I really didn’t want to accept it! I had justified my position for so long that it seemed right and fair, and I believed that my assessment of the situation was correct. But I knew that God was calling me to trust Him. Time to let go and truly surrender this to God, but I felt inadequate to do so.

     My friend then asked, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be healed?” I knew what the answer was and asked her for her prayers.

     Sometime after our conversation, I brought it to prayer. I told God how angry I was because He had allowed this situation to grow and hurt me even more deeply than before. I let Him know that I didn’t really like the situation, but I believed since He had allowed it and hadn’t changed it like I asked, that He wanted me to accept it. Even though part of me did not want to, something deeper inside urged me to trust that this would be the first step to my healing.

     With that thought in mind, I prayed: “Papa, I know that You love me and You only want what’s best for me. Although I judge that this situation is unfair and hurtful, You have continued to allow it. I’ve been denying my feelings of anger with You. Each time the situation hurt me, it sent me into a state of confusion about Your love for me, and over time, these feelings have grown into anger. Anger toward You and the persons involved. It’s only been lately that I’ve come to believe that You want to heal me, and free me from this pain.

    “So, with that in mind, I surrender this situation into Your hands. I forgive You and all those involved. I give You my acceptance to allow the situation to continue. I want to open my heart to all of Your children and be one with them one day in heaven. Amen.”

     After saying that prayer, I felt a heaviness or burden lift from me. It felt as if something I’d been carrying around for a long time was gone!

     That evening, as I did my quiet prayer, the Gospel hit me like a ton of bricks. Jesus said to His disciples: “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven…  If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:20,23-24).

     As I read those words, it became apparent to me, although I had asked for forgiveness, I truly wasn’t sorry. I was still stuck in my righteousness. I was doing what I believed God was asking me to do for my own benefit and not because of any repentance on my part. The sacrament of reconciliation was desperately needed, if I was serious about repairing my relationship with God.

     The next day at Mass, the gift of repentance came upon me. It was as if each prayer that was prayed, each scripture read, along with the homily, were all directed to me. Tears flowed frequently and freely during Mass, as the gift of humility and compunction filled my being.

     It was a visiting priest who celebrated Mass and his words touched my mind and heart deeply. After Mass, I asked if he could hear my confession. He was free to do so.

      I was able to speak from my heart, through tears of repentance, a true confession of my sins of pride, anger and arrogance in trying to tell God what to do and not accepting His permissive will in my life. I asked for the grace to accept this situation and allow God to be God. Father gave me a penance: 7 Our Fathers and 7 Hail Mary’s to say slowly and to add between each one, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

     He then told me to listen very intently to the words of absolution, knowing that God had freed me from my sins and wanted my healing. As I listened, tears of gratitude flowed from my eyes. I knew that God had set me on the road to freedom.

    I prayed my penance slowly and deliberately, asking God to help me to live this surrender in all aspects in my life. I know the battle isn’t over, but with God’s grace and the help of good and honest friends, it is my prayer that it will continue till my trust in God is stronger than my trust in myself!

     I will continue to pray the Surrender Novena daily because I am a sinner in need in God’s help, mercy and grace. But I am more than just a sinner, I am a Child of God, who has been redeemed by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

     “O, Jesus, I surrender myself to You, take care of everything!”   
    
    
    
    
    
    

    
 
                                                                                  

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Complete Confidence

     “The Blessed Virgin teaches us to believe in our vocation to sanctity, to divine intimacy. We did believe in it when God revealed it to us in the brightness of interior light, and the words of His minister confirmed it; but we should also believe in it when we find ourselves alone, in darkness, amid difficulties that tend to disturb and discourage us. God is faithful, and He does not do things by halves: He will finish His work in us, provided we have complete confidence in Him.”                       Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen


     When Mary said “yes” to God to become the mother of His Son, she was not handed a playbook with all the details her “yes” would entail. Once the angel Gabriel departed, she did not receive any more divine visitations revealing life’s mysteries. Mary lived by faith—as we are called to do—in the ordinary day in and day out events of her life, as they unfolded.