Posted by: wordofthevine | November 16, 2017

Reality, a Necessary Part of Thanksgiving Day!

I’m remembering one Thanksgiving Day when our extended family got together at a relative’s house. My family of six young kids, along with my punctual husband came late for the celebration. I don’t remember why but it was probably due to me trying to pack too much into my time and my food wasn’t ready to take. My relative who was hosting was always really organized and really frustrated (rightly so) with my different way of being. We arrived 25 minutes late and her dinner was cold, along with her reception of my family. We had an uncomfortable interaction and my mood was not thankful from that point on. We often, as family members, experience life very differently from each other and arguments can happen, even with the best cooked turkey.

When I think about having a thankful attitude this holiday, I realize that it has to come from having a prayerful approach to living and welcoming the challenges. I’m reading a wonderful and short booklet entitled, Prayer, by Phyllis Zagano, a senior Research Associate in Residence and Adjunct Professor of Religion at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York. She shares, that “the healthiest prayer we can utter is saying yes to what is real in life. I was told by a wise woman once that holiness means simply dealing with reality.Reality, in life and in prayer,is where we find our holiness and our trust in God tested daily and often and well (32).”

Let’s keep this in mind this holiday. Enjoy reality in each other in the ups and downs and remember that in this holiness is one step closer to us. ~Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | November 13, 2017

Snatching Holiness: Moment by Moment

You know, when you write a book, you write it over time. Lately, I reread my book, Awakening a Life-Giving Heart,a book that I wrote for women (and for men) to help them realize that their own growth and maturation can awaken others and the World to goodness. Simply slowing down, noticing the needs of others around you (and your own) and learning to receive practical help from God. Holiness is not something stuffy or boring or something just to get yourself to heaven. It is dynamic, alive leading each of us that seek it to the luxurious living out of God’s graces through the cross.

In my book, I wrote, “Most women (and men) have not considered the importance of formulating a systematic plan for holiness, although they desire God very much. They also underestimate the power and spiritual significance of their lives (99).” Think about it. Do you rush through life without considering that you and the life you live can make a difference for those you care about and for the world? Watch the evening news, watch your kids or neighbors. Do they seem to grasp that God loves them, and do you consider this for yourself?

When the challenges come or the obstacles, do you think like the holy ones, like Venerable  Elizabeth Leseur that “suffering hollows out the channel through which the great river of grace flows on its way to others (260).” Next time, today, when you experience difficulties, utilize them as a way to unite closer to God for those you care about. Glance at God, even it it is not something you’re accustomed to and experience God’s presence. He will do the rest in making the moment a fruitful offering for that lady next to you who may cut you off or the co-worker who is grouchy. ~ Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | November 11, 2017

What Love Is!

I am having a ball with a friend’s lhasa apso puppy. He is 12 weeks old and at my house to assist his growth. He loves loving and actually slept really well last night considering he’s in a new environment for a time. For the better part of two hours this Saturday morning, starting at 5:15 AM he has been jumping around and fussing when I put him down after I give him attention. Right now he is quiet and learning how to be comfortable alone in his little run. I suggest that for us, in many ways, we are like him, Chance, the puppy.

We are called to grow up continually, even once we are adults. We have to develop an inward flexibility where we learn to move in sync with the deepest goodness, the Holy Spirit alive within and our own needs. We are to remain centered in a deep awareness of God’s love within us, respond to our own needs and learn to love others. We do this even while, sometimes, we have needs that clamor for our attention. We want what we want, when we want it and find it hard to set this aside to pay attention to what others need. Maybe we have a wound from lost love that keeps drawing us to it’s “well.” Many times, we live off centered focused on our own needs. Grace can reorient us, heal us and allow us to love.

As I think about these things, I glance over at the anniversary clock on my mantle. (I gave this clock to my husband when we were newlyweds for our third anniversary.) The brass clock apparatus inside was beautifully spinning back and forth off of a fulcrum in the center, keeping time. For us, our fulcrum is the Cross and the sacrificial love of God. We have to experience this reality as real, something we return to and live from. We are to learn to love unselfishly over time.

“Love is,” according to my book, Awakening a Life-Giving Heart,is active. Love involves the struggle to know oneself and freely love another in a sacrificial way, in the midst of mutually competing needs and demands (67).” What about you? Did you start off your day like Chance the pup, clamoring for your own needs or do you see you may be making strides with inner flexibility in movements of sacrificial love? ~ Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | November 8, 2017

What a Good Example Can Do!

We’ve all heard the maxim, “Do onto others what you want done onto you!” I met an older couple who had been married over 60 years who showed me the power in a good example. In simple ways, this husband was caring for his wife with such a gentle patience. She lay in the bed not able to speak much short of a quiet whimper that she had some pain. He spoke in a loving tone reassuring her that he would help her. He stroked her hand and forearm with a steady loving touch which reassured her. After the nurse came and offered some pain medicine, when she settled down in the loving presence of her husband that’s when it hit me, “what love has to do with it.”

This husband spoke of how he loved his wife, how she was the extrovert and had been his spark plug through out their long life together. For him, she was the most beautiful woman. He owed who he was to her and their love that had drawn the best out of him in living. When we reflect this loving touch to others, we bloom ourselves and we help them open up to be who they were created to be.

The power of the love between these two stayed with me the rest of the day. I felt aware of how a loving example can illuminate others to reflect on love. A good example is catchy and a simple glimpse of heaven here and now. Let us remember this and be inspired to be “lights to the world” especially when we turn on the evening news and see the fear and defeat that a bad example brings.~ Mary


Posted by: wordofthevine | November 7, 2017

Holiness: Keeping a Loving Perspective!

I’ve learned many wonderful things in working with the dying as a chaplain. For one, I am particularly moved by their example in letting go of petty worries to focus on people important to them and key aspects of living. They seem to seek a greater awareness of what has given their lives meaning and who they love and have positively influenced in their living.

I am reminding myself of this, for example, on those nights when I feel upset about something I have no control over, like maybe, when a relative is grouchy and snaps at me through out the weekend. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have grown up some and try not to over react, but my poor husband has had to listen and support me when I’m over tired. Usually the next morning, I get a better perspective and move on with life. Maybe it is my husband’s supportive presence that assists me to get a new way.

I’m remembering how one woman, who had just months to live, clasped the hand of her husband and looked him in his eyes and said, “You have been God’s greatest gift to me. You are goofy in a good way and have brought such joy to my life.” In the same breath she said, “That’s not to say that we haven’t had moments that seemed to go on forever, but you made the difficulties something I could deal with. Thank you, my husband… thank you for everything!”

After I walked out their door, I remembered how I had felt yesterday, grocery shopping with my husband. We were getting irritated with each other over the dumbest things. Grocery shopping is a new skill for John. He studies prices seemingly longer than I have. Other moments, we spend wasted time trying to find each other, for we go to opposite corners to get different items and we lose each other. Next time this happens, and I’m sure it will, I want to be “goofy” and find the humor in it. I want to say like this woman, even in the “dumb moments,” John, you’ve made life moments better by being there.”

What about you? What gets in the way of you living the moments focused on the important people? When you look ahead, and think about the end, what do you want to be able to say to those you love? ~ Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | November 5, 2017

Keeping Perspective: Grief

I’ve been doing some thinking about grief so maybe that is why I have been blogging about it. I was at a training for care givers   who walk with people who are grieving. The instructor said that we can best help others by, yes, acknowledging and feeling our own losses but more, he encouraged us to keep a sense of humor in the process. He said, ” we do not need Eeyore grief counselors.”

I guess as well as feeling the loss we have to be able to respond to the situation. I am remembering a deeply sad experience being called early one morning to the hospital as the chaplain due to a death. A woman about my age with teenagers and young adult kids the same age as my own had just died. When I arrived her husband and three young adult daughters surrounded her body and were weeping. All of a sudden the cabinet door flew open, and her C-Pap machine dumped out on the floor spilling water on the floor. Everyone was startled until her daughter caught the gist. She yells, “Mother! You are such a practical joker.” The room burst out in laughter. Yes, in unison, they all bellowed with laughter,saying, “Mom, can’t you just let us be sad for a moment. You always have to have the last word and keep us light-hearted.  With this, the family continued, both, sharing stories of what they appreciated about their mother and wife and wiping tears from their eyes.

What about you? When you think about someone you’ve lost, can you appreciate something funny in your memories? Grief counselors tell us that we heal better by holding both sadness and joy together. ~ Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | November 3, 2017

A Brief Sharing of the Grief Journey

Working as a chaplain for Hospice, I often walk alongside people who are grieving. Consequently, I have become aware how important it is for all of us to go into our pain, otherwise it is so easy to want to run away from grief ourselves. In North America, it seems we avoid authentically living our losses and learning what the pain is trying to teach us. We don’t understand that suffering for all of us can deepen us and help us form wisdom in living and, most importantly in loving. Many experts in grieving caution us, that in trying to keep a “stiff upper lip” in the face of the death of someone special to us, or just trying to avoid it by staying busy, we stand the risk of blunting our “divine spark.” We have to let ourselves enter into and feel the pain that comes from losing someone or something important before we can come through it to fullness. We can then learn what it has to teach us. In our world, we don’t understand suffering very well.

As a chaplain, when I meet with an elderly person who is dying, I find that I reminisce about my own father, who died relatively young, age 74, from Alzheimer’s Disease. Growing up, he was very active with his work and often left home before I awoke in the morning and frequently came home when I was just going to bed. I looked forward to his old age when I could track him down. I never got that time. I remember bringing my young family into the nursing home for visits when he sat silently drooling in the wheel chair. I also remember feeling slighted when I attempted to say goodbye to him with “the hopes for interaction with him” stuffed inside when he died when I was a young mom, before our last two kids were even born. I appreciate spending time with my elderly patients now, reminiscing with them about their lives as WWII enlisted men, in working hard during the 1960’s, and in savoring their lives and faith as elderly people.  I wonder that my own dad may be sharing some similar stories if he was here.

Maybe this could be a place and time for you to consider and share your own stories, some of the pain of your own losses with our online community here. By doing so, you may come to be able to be more present to your life in it’s twists and turns and the lives of others who are important to you. Without acknowledging and feeling your own losses, you most likely are not able to authentically be emotionally and spiritually present to the pain of others.

In closing, I invite you to share through the comment function a brief word about losses or deaths that you are dealing with right now. You can share your experiences without sharing names if you wish. Let us keep each other in sacred space and prayer and any comments to each other will be welcoming and supportive. Blessings ~ Mary

You may wonder why I’m writing about grief when we are approaching Thanksgiving and Christmas, two of the most upbeat holidays of the year. Fact is, too, that we just celebrated Halloween and All Saints Day a few days ago. It’s because life is full of opportunities to love and connect but also on the backside of this, if we’ve loved, also with times we grieve the loss of those same people and relationships when they are gone or changed. I’m dealing with my first holiday season as “emptynesters!” Holidays, especially family & friend oriented holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas are really hard to navigate when we are embroiled in grief. Everyone seems happy but us.

Our culture does not give us much support to feel our losses, to honor who and what we have lost. I’ve been struggling with the grief of having an empty nest. The last of our six children went off to college, a good thing. I’m enjoying my husband but I am grieving having the teenagers walking out for breakfast or coming home from school or friends. It seems I am absorbed at times in memories of what was. I notice this especially since we just moved to a new house where we did not raise the kids.While I am trying to savor the joy I felt in raising kids, in my relationships now with our growing young adult kids, I am also feeling sad about how my role in their lives have changed. I have not quite felt this change to the full or integrated this loss of role into who I am now. I am looking forward to having all of them return for the holidays but I am also not naive that it will be like old times. We have all grown.

As Dr. Allan Wolfelt, PhD, Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition shared, “The integration of grief waits on welcome not on time.” We have to go into our feelings, feel them, appreciate who and what gives our lives meaning. We have to slow down turn inward for some time each day in order to heal and reap what the next stage of life holds for us. This is especially true at the Holidays! ~ Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | February 9, 2017

To Be Enough!

In readitumblr_n25vbqbmol1qi2kego1_500ng, Radical Gratitude by Mary Jo Leddy, I have been continually moved by the snippet that I have been reading each day. If you’ve ever felt like you were led to a book just at the time you needed it, you’d be sharing my experience with this book.  I’ve had the book in my stack of “should read” books  for several years but I sense the Spirit had the book pop out to me right now.

Leddy illustrates the penetrating power that comes from reorienting what you focus on. You can feel a familiar sense of dread and strain if you see clearly what’s not going right and on what you or someone else needs to change. She writes, “Our lives are directed by the stories we choose to dwell on and in.”[i]  Gratitude is possible even in the midst of great difficulty and suffering because we do not have to let our struggles be our defining moments.

As I write this, I am remembering as a hospital chaplain sitting across from a man who was dying from facial cancer. He had a large open sore in his mouth;  his face was deformed and he could not see clearly anymore because of the cancer. He looked at me  honestly and said, “I have so much to be thankful for!”

So often, being a sensitive person, I can tell you so quickly what’s been difficult or hurtful while I struggle to notice the simple good things that each day holds. I tend to challenge myself to grow, to be more loving and more alive so I can be more loving to others.

While this sounds good and generous I suppose, what Leddy and this man with cancer helped me see is that this pursuit of growth in virtues includes a general dissatisfaction with self, even in small things. Leddy writes, “I am struck by how gratitude involves some radical satisfaction with life, with oneself and with the world.” We have to trust that who we are and what we have is fundamentally enough. We become more holy and more receptive to life through gratitude when we say, according to Leddy, that “I am enough,… I have been given an unrepeatable mission…and I can make a difference”[ii] starting right now.

In cultivating this deep sense of our own goodness and the significance of our calling or vocation no matter what challenges we have, we realize “I do not have to be different or better than I am to find a measure of happiness and to be able to make a difference in the world.”[iii]

I saw this in my patient, with his unflappable sense of being blessed; he saw his life in terms of what he had and not for what he was missing. His gratitude for life stimulated a deep desire in me to give him my best to be a blessing to him!

What about you? Where is God leading you to just believe you are enough today? ~ Mary

[i] Leddy, Mary Jo, Radical Gratitude, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, p 50

[ii] P 53

[iii] P. 53

Posted by: wordofthevine | February 3, 2017

The Habit of Gratitude

We are only a few weeks from Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. It is important to pay attention and ask God for the gratitudeinsight and the graces that will draw you to greater union with Him and greater charity towards others.

This Lent, I feel drawn to cultivate a greater sense of gratitude in my life. Sometimes, I let it slip through my fingers. My hope that this sense of gratitude can be more than just a fleeting occasional sentiment in my heart that I notice when things are going good, but become a habit of being grateful.  I am feeding this hope by reading the book, Radical Gratitude  by Mary Jo Leddy.  A priest friend gave me the book several years ago and I came upon it anew just a few weeks ago when I unpacked my library in moving.

While I am just in the beginning of the book and I have not learned how to practically grow in this virtue, her words are drawing me to deeply desire this heartfelt openness to God and to life. She says that in order to fulfill our God given missions in life, we have to learn to sustain gratitude as an all-encompassing attitude to life. We are to desire to live a different way than our consumerist culture trains us to. We are to notice what we have in great detail and stop seeking what we seem to lack.

We are meant for God, to be free of the dis-ease of focusing on the next pursuit. We are to “live with a sense of meaning and direction with some measure of happiness. In the experience of radical gratitude, we know the origin and purpose of our lives.”[i]

Contemplate with me some lines from Mary Jo’s poem from the first chapter of the book. She writes: “create us anew O God. Create us not novel but new. From the remainders of our dreams, create a new hope, O God. From the ashes of our failures, create a new spirit O God. From the castoffs of our words, create a new song O God.”[ii]

Where is God beckoning you this Lent? Where do you seek Him and where can He make you new and more whole and holy this day? ~ Mary

[i] Leddy, Mary Jo, Radical Gratitude, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, p 8

[ii] P 12

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