My dedication is to my family and my faith.
This blog is updated when inspiration strikes and time is available.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Putting Life into Perspective: The Good Guy Always Wins

As a 'cradle Catholic', I've always kinda figured that someday I'll die and go to heaven. Life after death is a heavy topic for a child but I knew that heaven is for the good guys and hell for the bad guys and I was obviously a good guy. So that was all I really thought about for the most part. I had to worry about growing up and making the right choices and doing the right things. I had to worry about all the terrible things in the world on the news and worry that some terrible thing would reach my family too. But what I forgot was Jesus is THE good guy, and the good guy always wins. When watching movies it's easy to enjoy the show and not worry about any difficulties that happen or worry that tragic things will happen, because I always know there will be a happy ending. Somehow I failed to bring that assurance into real life. Jesus has already conquered sin and death. Because I didn't think about heaven or the end of my story much at all I wasn't able to put all my worries in the trust that my good guy Jesus would make sure there is a happy ending.

Soon I was grown, engaged, and meeting with the awesome priest who agreed to witness our marriage. He asked us what the goal of life is; I didn't know the answer. My mind started down the path of thinking it had something to do with obeying God but the priest didn't leave us hanging for too long. He said the goal of life is to get to heaven. And the goal of marriage is to get your spouse to heaven. That's one of those answers that makes me realize of course, I knew that, it's really very obvious! I probably knew it all along, but that was seriously the first time in my life that I really thought about it.

My fantastic mother-in-law sometimes says things along the lines of, "Will it get you to heaven?" when there is an argument, which I think is a great sentiment for putting things into perspective. Every time she says it I am reminded again that I should be putting aside worries and arguments about things that really don't matter if I can just step back a pace and see the bigger picture. The first time I heard her say that I felt stunned by what a fantastic question it is. I also felt sad that whatever argument I had been a part of that felt so important to me was really not important on a grand scale, I had to let go. Sometimes when I hear that question I still feel the sadness of my sinful nature cling to me, I really want my small worries to matter, since they feel like they matter so much to me. Letting go is a part of my journey now.

I feel like I've just noticed a set of goggles that have been sitting on a side table my whole life. I might have put the goggles on a few times as a child but don't remember the experience. Now I have examined the goggles and see that if I wear them they make the world look as it should. The problem is I have to hold up the goggles, they don't stay over my eyes by themselves. And I'm so busy and distracted moving about through life that I often set the goggles down again absentmindedly and forget about them for a while. These goggles are the perspective on life that God wants me to have, like seeing things through His eyes. Reminders in life that get me putting life into perspective once more are like a glint of sunlight on the goggles reminding me to look through them. I pray that I might find the straps that belong with the goggles to keep them always over my eyes and correcting my vision, keeping me focused on the big picture and the end of the story, where I must stand before judgement. At the end of my story I will know and truly understand all that Jesus did as the good guy of my story in saving me. A motto from one of my favorite radio shows, Catholic Answers Live, is "Be a saint, what else is there?". These very true questions will be a start in my journey to put my life into perspective.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Understanding Suffering

I've been such a fool. I don't understand suffering. I'm not sure anyone really understands suffering completely, but people like Saint John Paul II had a pretty good handle on it when he wrote his encyclical on suffering. I read that. I prayed. I talked to my dear sister and a few other people. I read Saint Giana's story when hearing her name on the radio made me cry. I prayed that Saint Giana would tell me why she made her decision to not take pain medication near the end of her life. I've been a Catholic since before the age of reason and seen countless reenactments of the passion of our Lord Jesus. I lost a child to miscarriage, and gave birth to our second without any pain medication. But through this all, I'm still all muddled up and confused about suffering.

I've had a haunting feeling the past 11 months that I didn't give birth right. Yes I declined the medication and yes our daughter was born healthy and everything was fine. Yet I had so much pain and I didn't do anything with it. I'm not happy at all to say I tried to give up near the end. Somehow it made sense that if I were to just lay there and take the pain, someone else could pull the baby out for me. Somehow I thought if I cried mercy they would shoot some pain killers into my system and take away all that pain. Instead I had to suffer through it. I had to be the one to keep moving forward even when it hurt.

There are a few things I do know about suffering. Suffering can be an effect of a poor choice made, as in a hangover after a night of drinking. It can be less well explained too, as any person quickly learns the first time they fall ill as a child, or lose someone close to them. I know of the great virtue that can come of these sufferings, personal gain. The leap of understanding that I'm still struggling with is how my suffering can be of any use to another person, as with redemptive suffering. I understand that deciding to offer the suffering up for something or someone can make the suffering sweet. In some contexts, suffering has a direct positive that can be seen, such as when a mother does not eat so that her children can have food, or does not get life saving cancer treatment to save the life of the baby in her womb instead. These sufferings are the easiest for me to understand, and I think many people would say the same. But even as I understand that, I've missed out on so much opportunity in my lifetime already because of two things I missed.

I thought that none of my suffering has been a situation of direct positive. If I have a sore neck, or stub my toe, or am exhausted from staying up too late the night before, that's my problem, or so I used to think. Being tired I didn't complain about because I figured I brought it on myself. Stubbing my toe usually is a quick pain that one loud complaint of 'ooowwwwweee' will fix, and then I can move on. A lasting sore neck just put me out of sorts, making me easily angered at other people around me and prone to complaining about my pain. But I realize now that I was wrong. My suffering isn't a personal problem, by complaining or growing angry I made it a problem for those around me as well. I can offer my action of not complaining in order to make life more pleasant for those around me. Though it will be hard to break old habits I'm willing to try.

My pride is a tricky beast. Just when I think that I'm on the heaven path again I realize with shame what an utter fool I really am. For some reason I have had myself convinced that I can't keep my suffering completely a secret; someone has to know about it. Why does someone have to know? So that they can write it in my book someday, when I become a saint. It hurts to write those words. The thought makes less sense when spoken plainly, like a dream after waking up. Somehow I got it in my head, hearing about the saints and their struggles, that if no one knows about my suffering then it will not be recorded in my life history. I also had a notion that if I complain to people maybe they'll help take away the suffering. Asking humbly for what I need would have been the right answer there, but now that I have seen this fatal and ever so foolish thought I can remove it from me and return it to the devil who sent it. I have now written this foolish thought so I can no longer pretend I don't realize the error of my ways.

So, do I understand suffering? Not most of it. Some suffering comes from sin, mine or others'. Some comes for unexplained reasons, and instead of asking why I need to trust God in His infinite wisdom. In either case, I know I have choices in how I handle my suffering. I can take it like a sandy beach takes a wave, and let it wash me away bit by bit. I can sit and take the suffering like a rock takes a wave, standing strong and silent but nevertheless becoming weathered with time. Or I can take that wave with a water wheel and turn the energy into something more. Right now I feel like the sand has washed away to reveal a rock, and on that rock I am making a little water wheel, made by hand with sticks from the beach. It's crumbly and a huge wave might knock it over and take it out to sea. It doesn't do much yet, but it's there. I pray that I can keep that wheel spinning, and build it up stronger and better, to do more purposeful things. As my figurative wheel spins with no knowledge of how to use it's energy, I will keep my prayers spinning up to God to ask Him what I'm to do now.

God's Reply

I closed this post saying that I would ask God what I'm to do now. Then one night I couldn't sleep, which is unusual for me. Thoughts kept chasing round and round and my neck ached a bunch until a thought was given to me. I am selfish about my pain. I might not like to suffer, but when I am it consumes my thoughts. I want to let it ruin my whole day and fill my relationships. The thought of offering it Up not only confused me, it sounded like something I didn't really want to do at all. I wanted to keep hold of the suffering so that I could complain about it. 

 Redemptive suffering works because God knows we want to be selfish with our pain, and when we choose to rise above that and give it to Him as an offering for someone else He knows that it was a difficult and selfless gift of our suffering and answers our prayers. He knows, in His infinite wisdom, that it is good for us to be selfless in all things, even suffering, in order to grow in virtue and come closer to Himself. That's why He gives us the power of redemptive suffering. God is good.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Story of Dog Hair (and How It Disappeared)

Do you ever look back at some of your past purchases and feel very satisfied with your decision to buy? Maybe I'm the only one with that feeling, or maybe you're on the same page as me. Whichever it is, I decided I should share some of my favorite purchases over the past year or so that helped me out in a huge way. No one asked me to write about their products but the links are part of my amazon associates account.

My little family moved in to our first real house a little over a year ago. That would be one husband, one big fat pregnant lady, one baby still baking in that lady's belly, one cat, and one very hairy black lab. The last on that list is where the trouble came in. We don't have a huge amount of carpet in our house, but what we do have is a nice light creamy color, a perfect backdrop for the piles of black hair to lay upon. We moved in with a second hand old hoover vacuum and a standard dog brush.

 I shortly discovered that those tools would not allow us to survive with a giant black house dog. Even though our dog Vader loves to go outside in his beautiful fenced backyard, the house was sure to be filled to the brim with hair within a limited time span. Since I felt this problem had to be solved before our baby was born so the baby could have a clean house to live in, and since moving Vader outside was not an acceptable option for my husband, I did some internet searching for my solution. We were on a budget that did not allow me to buy a new vacuum cleaner, especially not one that would suck up that much hair and not die. Then on Amazon I found my answer:

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a $10 rubber broom. That piece of rubber on a stick saved our sanity and budget for about a year. It is a lot more work than just vacuuming, but it gets the job done. 
I will have to say that when we first got it I tried to use the bristle part and was unimpressed. The product pictures on Amazon seem to indicate the bristles should be used. But when we turned it over and used the squeegee side, scrapping it across the carpet, we got clean carpet and a pile of hair to pick up, as shown in the above photo. That photo I actually took a few months after we got the broom, after we cut down the amount of hair with a FURminator. 
Before the FURminator we had about twice the amount of hair on the carpet, and if we didn't brush the carpet twice it still looked pretty black. So back to the internet I went for more solutions and I finally caved and got the much advertised FURminator. This brush is much more expensive than the rubber broom, and more than I thought was worth paying for any brush. But desperate times call for buying gadgets that are cheaper than a new vacuum.

What do you know, the fabulous FURminator works! It is worth that ugly price tag with the huge shedding problem that we had/have. Also, Vader loves it. He lays very flat and still when getting brushed because he thinks if he moves we will stop brushing him.

About the same time as the FURminator my mother was kind enough to gift us a Swiffer Sweep and Trap Floor Cleaner Starter Kit for the hardwood floor. So I found a solution to fit our budget and keep floors clean for the little baby girl who was soon to be crawling upon them. Armed with this solution I began to save money for a nice fancy vacuum that could do the same job and use much less effort. Just recently I finally got my prize, and it was love at first use. This vacuum has been everything it was advertised to be, and more since I didn't see all the bonus features it has on the product page.

I love that I can use this vacuum on the hardwood floors as well, and it works a lot better in that respect than the sweep and trap did.  We still have to vacuum every day because Vader has incredible powers of shedding hair. But now it can be cleaned in much less time and effort. So I have learned there is great value in both the rubber broom and the fancy vacuum. One costs little money and much effort, while the other costs more money and less effort. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Four doodles

I don't think my art is anything special, or even really passable as an adult's handiwork. But I'm OK with that. When I get the time and inspiration, I doodle regardless of how grown up it looks when I'm finished. These I drew on an iPad mini using a stylus and the app Penultimate. I think many people don't doodle because they have 'no artistic ability' by their own judgement. It doesn't take artistic ability to make a fun doodle. The doodle doesn't have to be shared with anyone, the benefit is in the relaxation and fun of doodling it. So here are my doodles, and my wish is that you might be encouraged to doodle too.

My posture has been slowly declining, and I have found the reason. I drew a little doodle while thinking about how this happened. In high school I had no lap top and was thus required to sit correctly (for the most part) in a desk chair by a desk. In college I got my laptop and was no longer confined to a desk. Instead I could lounge about on couches and chairs, but still for the most part sitting is the easier way to operate such a device. Now I have a smart phone at long last (have had one for a few years but not until I graduated college) and I am no longer even required to sit in order to operate such a device comfortably, which results in long hours of laying in bed or lounging in whatever poor postured position I desire. Good or bad? A very hard question to answer. I'm comfortable in the moment, and love the advances in technology. 

The customer at work has a team of people who decide on the requirements for the app we are writing for them. They named themselves the Tiger Team, so I drew a word art to fit the title during one of our meetings.

An image and message that popped into my head. The bible asks a similar question but I thought it was fun to put it to a doodle.
My coworker had a 42nd birthday party, themed Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy of course. Drew a doodle of the book cover alien.