Letting Go of Our Wills 4

My soul is full of silent words as it groans and moans and sludges along after “losing” my dad last month. 

I’ve wanted to come here and write but I admit I’m afraid of depressing everyone with my current situation. But I also feel like I have much to share from what I have learned and am learning from these major challenges of life. A friend said I shouldn’t worry about it because if people want to read it they will and if they don’t, they won’t. Simple.

I’ve been thinking about why this grieving is so hard. Because it is. Losing someone, whether you had years to prepare or no time at all, is excruciatingly difficult.

I’ve heard that from others but I couldn’t have really known until now.

I think there are many reasons that make it so hard to get through. Some moments, I feel like I’m ok, I’ll get through this just one slow step at a time. In other moments, living with the pain of grief feels like I’m trying to continue swimming upstream with a 100 lb weight attached to my feet.

I’ve been trying to journal but it’s hard to get any words out. Words are empty in times like these, they swirl around in my soul but then they only come out like pieces of lint from the dryer. Mush.

However, the thought I’ve been pondering the most is about “God’s Will” and our extreme attachment to our own wills.  In private, it’s easy to say I “trust God” and “I will do whatever He asks of me.” But in reality, we cling desperately to our own wills, our own plans and ideas for how things should go.

This is what makes losing someone so hard. It goes against what we want.

This isn’t to say that God wants us to suffer and die. Not at all. He mourns our suffering and our deaths along with us because this is not how He wants it to be.

But just as he created nature, even with all its profound beauty and it’s unpredictable destruction, so too death is now a fundamental part of this mysterious natural world we live in.

God invites us to become part of Him and His creation by loving others just as He does.

But he also calls us to surrender everything to Him. Everything. Even those whom we love the most.

But for many of us, our love for others becomes more of an attachment. And the more attached we are, the harder it is to detach.

Love is not attachment. Love is surrender. Love is Agape.

Love is desiring for another to have love. Love is desiring for another person’s total and complete happiness. If Love is God and God is Love – which I firmly believe is true – then Love is desiring for another to be in total and complete union with God. Forever. 

And this is what God’s Will is, as I wrote about about a year ago, His Will is simply to Save All Souls: Bring them to Heaven and provide Eternal and Complete Happiness for All. 

The how, when and where are the hard parts because we have very little, if any, control over those. And that’s the main reason grieving is difficult. We don’t want to let them go, we want them to stay with us forever and our lives to go on “as usual”. But they can’t.

We have to surrender ourselves completely to His Will and let go of our control – or at least accept that it was a farce to believe we had control to begin with. Talk about being humbled.

What I am learning, over and over, is that we need to ask God not to take our pains away but to help us accept and surrender to whatever He allows us to go through, no matter how difficult. Easier said than done but it’s really the key to getting through the hard stuff of life.


Still Clinging to Hope 2

Just about two weeks ago, I wrote about Holding onto Hope during the Advent Season as we waited in Hope for the Joy of Christmas.

In that post I shared that –

The interesting thing is that the past few months, even before Advent began, I felt the Holy Spirit tugging on my soul much like my three-year-old tugs my hand when he wants me to go somewhere but I’m “too busy” doing something else.

I felt God calling me, in His “still, small, voice” – Slow down, Erika. Come…come deeper with me.

I felt Him preparing me for – something, though not sure what, I knew there was something coming.

That something has been unraveling itself slowly each day in different forms.

Recently, our family has learned some hard news and serious health issues have come up in various forms that have given me enormous and profound pause. 

It is with a deep sadness that I share, for anyone who reads this but may not know me and my family as well, that the very next day after writing that post, my dad was unexpectedly taken to the hospital and, much to our shock, passed away the day after into the mysterious realm of God’s eternal Kingdom.

We have spent our Christmas time working on funeral arrangements, trying to enjoy some joy on Christmas still, and terribly missing my dad.

Like I shared in the eulogy  at his Rosary,  it has been hard for this to happen during Christmas time but in a way, it is also quite perfect. Christmas is about remembering and celebrating that God humbled himself to become human like us and to enter into our world so that he could save us from all suffering and bring us into His Kingdom. That’s the whole purpose and great end that we all hope to attain. So in a way, all the songs and the liturgy have been a constant reminder of this to comfort us in our grief.

That said, even though I put on a smile and try to “carry on”, my mind of Faith (and everyone else) tells me that this is better for him this way and yet, my heart still aches terribly as my family and I miss him so much.

Looking back over the months, this must have been what God was trying to prepare me for. I couldn’t have known it would be this but I know He is sending our family the Grace we need through all our friends and family who have been so incredibly generous and kind to us during this time. I am literally speechless (if you can imagine) at all the support we’ve received.

The journey we started when we found out about the cancer is not over though, it has only just begun. We have to continue on this path for him, even if he is no longer right next to us, I do feel my dad is still with us in a mysterious and unexplainable way.

All that said, I know this means I have to enter into a season of silence and contemplation as my heart heals and we try and continue on. I’m not sure how often I’ll blog here for now, we’ll just see how it goes. I’m going to cancel my Simplemama Podcast for now but will continue helping host the CM Hangout Podcast with CatholicMom.com later this month.  (So if you really want to listen to my old Podcasts, you’ll need to download them before I cancel the service.)

I have learned a lot through this process and, as strange as it sounds, my faith has grown deeper as I cling even tighter to my Jesus. It is hard for me to pray right now, not because I do not believe anymore, but well…sometimes the greatest prayer is a silent one. So if you could please literally pray for me (while I can’t) and I will offer my silent prayer for those of you out there who are struggling.

Cling to Jesus. Cling to Hope. 


Hold on to Hope 2

I took a somewhat unintentional break from blogging for Advent but my heart is full and needs emptying.

Limiting my time online for Advent has been very good. It’s given me time to focus on Christmas preparation, on gift-buying and making, and most especially, time for more quiet.

When I think of Advent, I’d describe it as a time of hopeful silence.

What is hopeful silence?

It’s a man pressing his ear against his wife’s pregnant belly, wondering what’s going on in the silence of her womb, waiting to hear their baby’s first cry, hoping for the moment he’ll get to cradle his soft body in their arms and kiss his smooth pruny skin.

It’s that last breath you take before diving off the high-dive and plunging into the water, hoping you won’t hit your head and you’ll swim back up to the surface soon for more air.

It’s a season. A season to retreat from the loud world, the noisy crackle of insane schedules, a time to release ourselves from outward pressures.  A time for quiet, sprinkled throughout our days. A time for reflection and silent contemplation. A time to just be even while we prepare for the Joy to come.

The thing is, everyone is waiting. Waiting for something better. Secretly hoping for better days.

It’s why people work – to make more money for “a better life”.

It’s why people go to school – to have “better opportunities”.

It’s why most people get up in the morning – to eat breakfast. 😉

 

The interesting thing is that the past few months, even before Advent began, I felt the Holy Spirit tugging on my soul much like my three-year-old tugs my hand when he wants me to go somewhere but I’m “too busy” doing something else.

I felt God calling me, in His “still, small, voice” – Slow down, Erika. Come…come deeper with me.

I felt Him preparing me for – something, though not sure what, I knew there was something coming.

That something has been unraveling itself slowly each day in different forms.

Recently, our family has learned some hard news and serious health issues have come up in various forms that have given me enormous and profound pause. 

We’ve had to step onto a path that none of us ever wanted to ever go on.

And this is how God is calling me to go deeper. He’s calling me to swim away from the safe shore, below the sunny surface, deeper to where I cannot see what lies beneath.

I say I’ll come, but it’s hard to dive deeper when you still have a life jacket on.

He extends His hand out to me and gives me that look. 

Trust me. 

And I can’t resist. I follow.

When one first comes to know Christ, the first “layer” so to say of the new relationship is much like a springtime dating relationship, followed by a blissful honeymoon. Eventually, however, it’s time to get real and that means accepting that if you really want to grow closer with God, you’re going to have to go through a certain refiner’s fire. 

That said, I do not believe God “makes us suffer” or that he “sends suffering to us to make us stronger.” Thomas Merton says it well in his book, New Seeds of Contemplation,

In all the situations of life the “will of God” comes to us not merely as an external dictate of impersonal law but above all as an interior invitation of personal love. Too often the conventional conception of “God’s will” as a sphinx-like and arbitrary force bearing down upon us with implacable hostility, leads men to lose faith in a God they cannot find it possible to love.

I was talking with a good and wise friend about these things, about why God allows suffering in our lives, and what she said was perfect.

[Times of suffering] are opportunities. 

God allows nature to take it’s course, He allows consequences – not to punish us but to allow for growth. He also allows much room for miracles. Sometimes we bring our own suffering. But more often, we find ourselves in hard times by no real fault of our own. Whatever the case, when suffering enters our lives, we have an opportunity.

We can look at the suffering and say, Why me?! I don’t want this! and fight against it and curse God and everyone.

Or –

We can look at the suffering as a gift. An opportunity to use this as a way to come closer with God. A way to reach out to Him for Help.  An opportunity to join with others in their suffering with compassion and love. A time to seek Him and pray…a time to be quiet and listen. 

(I’m laughing at that last line because amongst everything else going on this week I have had laryngitis and have no voice.)

A friend asked me today if I have felt angry or “Why me” about everything going on.

I thought about it a little and you know, not really. I have felt confused. I have felt humbled as I realize I know very little compared to everything I thought I knew. I have felt foolish for forgetting just how mortal we all are and how finite this life is.

But not angry. Why would I be angry with God? He is the ONE person who can help me deal with all this. He is the ONLY ONE who is bigger than any suffering we will endure. I need Him. I cling to Him.

I trust in Him. And I hope. 

I hope for His strength, for his Peace.

Most importantly, I hope for all the JOY He has waiting for me and my family and all of us.

I know so many of us are struggling with various issues, most of us, in a hidden way, some of us in outward ways. I pray and I hope you can find comfort in knowing that God is with you through his Son, Emmanuel (literally, God is with us.) He is our only Hope, the one True Hope.


The Three Things I’m Grateful For Exercise {Day 7} Small Moments of Joy

We made it to Day Seven of the Three Things I’m Grateful For Exercise for Thanksgiving week!

I’d love for you to join me still even if it’s the last day. See here for the simple three-step instructions for joining in Three Things I’m Grateful For Exercise.

Here are my Three Things I’m Grateful For Today {Day Seven}

1. Catching up with my other little brother and hearing my kids have fun talking with their uncle, I’m so thankful they have such a close relationship.

2. My husband playing games with the kids most of the day, I’m so thankful they can have fun together.

3. A picture worth a thousand words from a world away in Uganda where our priest friend awaited the beginning of Mass with Pope Francis.

 

A phone conversation, the sound of children laughing with their daddy, a picture connecting friends worlds apart but united in the same Spirit – all of these are moments from my day that I could have easily forgotten had I not taken the time to sit here and think about the three small things I’m grateful for today. They were a small part of a long day that could have been very boring and depressing. I sit here remembering these Three Good Things, the joy from those moments perpetuates and brings me peace.

What Three Things are you grateful for?

Feel free to share them in the comments, on your own blog (and link back here!), the Simplemama Facebook page, Twitter (#ThreeThingsImGrateful4 or #Grateful or ), or maybe you can just share it with your spouse or family during prayer.


The Three Things I’m Grateful For {Day 6} Technology

It’s Day Six of the Three Things I’m Grateful For Exercise for Thanksgiving week.

I’d love for you to join me! I started on Sunday but feel free to jump in now or anytime. See here for the simple three-step instructions for joining in Three Things I’m Grateful For Exercise.

Here are my Three Things I’m Grateful For Today {Day Six}

1. Two words: Online. Shopping. I scored 2 new winter coats and gloves for our kids for half-price without having to get out of my warm house, woo-hoo!

2. Wi-Fi, WhatsApp and Google Hangout so we could talk with and meet my brother’s fiance in El Salvador. Their civil wedding is tomorrow so even though we couldn’t travel there in person, I’m so thankful we were able to at least talk face-to-face through the computer and extend our congratulations and prayers for them.

3. Leftovers. It was super cold and icy out today and I’m so glad we had a fridge full of leftover food from Thanksgiving so we didn’t have to go out to the store or restaurants.

 

Maybe you’re thinking: Ug, she’s saying she’s thankful for online shopping and technology? How worldly. 

Yeah, I agree, ug. I hate shopping. However, I love giving gifts to people, especially my family and friends and neighbors and teachers and everyone else in between. 😉 It must be my love language. This year, like every year, I cringe at the commercialization of Christmas (which doesn’t actually start for a few more weeks in case you were wondering). Many of us turn our noses up at all the ads and commercials enticing us to buy, buy, buy more, more, more and now even “get”, “get”, “get“. (No joke.)

But what if we could rise above all that? What if, instead of letting the stampede of stuff crush our spirits, we decided to enjoy Advent and Christmas anyway? What if, instead of getting all cranky and whiney about it, we entered Advent and Christmas with a spirit of Gratitude?

I’m grateful my husband has worked hard to earn enough money that we can give gifts  to our children, to our family and friends, to our neighbors and to express our gratitude to he teachers who spend so much time educating and forming our children. I’m grateful we have choices so that we can save money in one place and give more in another. I’m grateful for those who work hard to provide high-quality hand-made gifts so we have more options for giving valuable gifts instead of just picking something up from the shelf because it’s there.

More importantly, I’m grateful for the time we have to connect with others; the gift of time with each other is greater and more precious than anything “the world” could ever sell us.

What Three Things are you grateful for?

Feel free to share them in the comments, on your own blog (and link back here!), the Simplemama Facebook page, Twitter (#ThreeThingsImGrateful4 or #Grateful or ), or maybe you can just share it with your spouse or family during prayer.

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