faith


It Just Takes Time 4

It just takes Time

It just takes time [for the heart to heal].

A friend whispered this to me during my adoration hour and I let the phrase seep into me and guide my thoughts.

What does that mean, “it takes time”?

Usually, when I hear this phrase I think of time as abstract and passive. But this time I envisioned time as a tangible and active material object – like a salve I could apply to heal my internal wounds.

I pondered this a while and realized God has answered my prayers for healing by giving me time, loads of time. But I often squander it with chronic busyness to avoid the pain and make that time go by faster.

Yet, what I’ve discovered, as many others have, is you can’t rush the healing from grief or other life crises and you can pretend the pain away all you want but it only buries it deeper and deeper, making it harder to heal and causing it to fester.

I knew this intellectually but emotionally I felt lost, confused and didn’t really know what else to do but to “keep going” and “stay busy”.

Everyone complains about not having enough time to do what they really want or really need to do. But, in reality, we all have the same exact amount of time every day. It’s how much we try to pack into a single day that makes it feel longer or shorter.

This year, I decided I needed to listen to my friend’s advice and fully embrace the gift of time and rediscover joy and hope in the little grace-filled moments of everyday life.  

I’ve lessened my personal and family commitments, said no more to extrafamilial activities and yes more to spending time just being with my family and friends.

One of the biggest changes I made was the decision to limit my time on Facebook and social media in general and, as you may have noticed, a break from writing and keeping up with the blog as much. (Though I’ve missed that!)

I’m thankful for the ability to stay connected with family and friends and do agree that social media has become an important communication tool. That said, I felt I had become so attached to all my social media connections that I’d find myself scrolling or “just checking” so many times throughout the day that I didn’t even know I was doing it anymore.

Like a cigarette, checking Facebook on my phone was my “go-to” when I felt stressed and overwhelmed with life or just didn’t feel like doing the dishes or dealing with yet another squabble or whiny complaint.

Instead of actively and personally engaging with friends and family, I felt more like a passive friend, peering into their lives through status updates and pictures they shared but not really taking the time to know how they are really doing.

I knew I needed to pray more but whenever I had a few moments of quiet time, instead of praying I’d get my phone out and “just check” and end up using all my rare moments to myself scanning through others’ lives instead of “checking in” with God and opening my heart to Him. I wasn’t sure how I would spend my time without Facebook, and that’s when I knew I needed to uninstall it. If I couldn’t remember or imagine what my life would be like without it, it was time to give it up.

I decided I wanted – needed – to remove this from my life, or at least greatly limit the time I spent using social media. I uninstalled Facebook from my phone, leaving the Messenger, Groups and Facebook page app so I could still stay connected with specific people and groups that use Facebook to plan get togethers. I didn’t give it up completely, I still check it on my computer every now and then and I usually get emails if someone tags me.

The morning after I uninstalled it I felt…free. Like a huge weight had been lifted and I was no longer chained, though I didn’t even realize I had been.

It was a little hard, and still is sometimes, feeling like I’m probably missing out on important information – or not so important. I also worry that people may get the wrong idea and think I just don’t care about them anymore or think I’m somehow “better than”.

I do care very much and most definitely do not think of myself as “better than” anyone. The problem is, as much as I love the ability to share glimpses of our lives with those we truly do care about, I still feel dissatisfied and empty after scrolling through my newsfeeds.  It’s because I desire a deeper more personal connection than what social media can offer.

I want to know how my friends and family really are and listen openly to their thoughts with a personal conversation. 

By limiting my commitments and spending less time hypnotized by a screen, it’s like my eyes are slowly reopening and seeing the tangible world around me again.

Shortly after my dad passed away, I shared with a friend that I didn’t know what else to do with my days except fill them with activity,  “I mean, what am I gonna do, just sit and stare out the window all day?”

“Maybe.” She wisely responded.

Hmmm, yeah…maybe.

Instead of rushing around from one activity to another, frantically working to meet deadline after deadline, I’ve turned the speed dial of my days wayyyy  down.

And guess what? I feel like I have more time to do the things I need to do with more joy and more time to do things I like and which are good for my health with less guilt.

I’ve had more time to meet friends for coffee or playdates, call or write letters to friends I don’t get to see often. I’ve reworked my exercise goals to focus on rebuilding my “core” strength (in more than one sense of that word) instead of escaping my sorrow with only high-intensity workouts. I have more time to plan and prepare simple yet nutritious meals and #eatmoresalads. 😉

I try to take a short nap in the afternoons so I can devote my attention to the kids after school with more energy and I’ve started cooking as much ahead during the day so I’m available to help with homework without as many distractions.

I spend more time reading and creating on my own and with my family. I’ve been able to spend more focused time with my husband to talk with each other instead of rushing off to evening packed with activities or only sitting and staring at our phones or computers the whole evening.

Like I said before, at first I worried I might miss out by not checking in on Facebook throughout the day. Now, I see I was missing out on those raw yet profound moments of life that were starting to pass me by without my awareness.

And sometimes, I just sit and stare out the window and allow my mind to ponder, remember, and pray.

Yes, time heals.


He is Our King, we His Kingdom

I’m a people watcher. I like to observe people’s behaviors, hear their thoughts, and try to discover who they are.

The ways of the world intrigue me, fascinate, and bewilder.

We, humans, are so interesting – unique, yet predictable, innovative yet, repetitive.

Sometimes, I feel like we are in the same story over and over again. The actors and scenery change but the backdrop and main storyline stay essentially the same.

For example, whenever an election year comes and new candidates are elected, there are reactions from all “sides”. Obviously, the ones who voted for the winners celebrate with great excitement filled with “hope” for a better future, a better country, better jobs, better healthcare, better everything.  Those who voted for the candidates who lost wake up the next morning in a fog, dejected and depressed and filled with a deep sense of foreboding for the future, for the country, for jobs, for healthcare, basically everything is going to be a disaster and all life, as they knew it, is over.

Happens every. single. time. Over, and over.

Through all our human history, leaders have risen and fallen.  People repeatedly put all their faith and hope in one person or a certain group of people, hoping this one might be the one that finally brings order, peace, and security.

Occasionally, we’ll get leaders who fulfill those dreams well – for a time – until the winds of change blow in and the people decide they want something different and better.

Recently, I’ve been spending more time reading the books of the Bible. I’ve been paying closer attention, seeing beyond the words and noticing the recurring theme weaved in and through its pages. The Bible is really an amazing book, if you think about it beyond its religious value. It’s the only book, that I know of, that compiles such a great span of human history – human anthropology and psychology – in one place.

It’s composed of many individual stories, written from the earliest years of humanity through millenniums of time and human experience. Each book, though written by different authors, differentiated by various times and cultures, is essentially the same story written over and over with different characters and scenery.

A person, or a group of people are lost, hungry, oppressed or suffering, hoping and waiting for someone to save them. 

Interestingly, when that help comes, it’s often scrutinized, doubted, and finally rejected by the majority – especially by the current leadership of the time.  We see it over and over in the Old Testament and by the time the “Promised Savior” does come, the people are so hardened and jaded they do not recognize him or accept him.

The people were expecting a king – a worldly general – to come and physically rescue them from the oppression of the Romans. But Christ did not come to us as a king of this world, but for another.

My kingdom does not belong to this world… (Jn 18:36)

Today, we, the Church, celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. Admittedly, in the past, I’m not sure if I really grasped the significance of this feast day or considered how appropriate its timing is.

In the Church liturgical year, it marks the end of a liturgical year – the “Year of Mercy” – as we prepare for a new year beginning on the first Sunday of Advent next Sunday. (Yes, already!)

For our country, and as what goes on here affects the rest of the world, this marks a time of transition from the current leaders of our government to the newly elected candidates.

Once again, people from all “sides” are either very excited or at least satisfied with the election results, believing the elected leaders will bring a hopeful future; or, they are incredibly dissatisfied, stunned and even depressed thinking of what these new leaders mean for the future.

I found it very interesting when I read Catholic Culture’s explanation that, “The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism…intended to proclaim in a striking and effective manner Christ’s royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations.”

Pope Pius XI saw the same problems in 1925 that we grapple with now. We all want a savior – someone who will make life easier, free-er, better.

But, like the people in 1925 and the Israelites thousands of years before us, we are looking in the wrong place, to the wrong people.

Christ, the God who became one of us, suffers with us, died and rose again in Glory – He. He is our King. He is our Lord and Master. He is our Savior, the only One who can really, truly, and completely satisfy our greatest needs and deepest desires.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t vote or try to improve our world by electing good leaders and establishing good laws and policies. The Holy Spirit works through all of us to bring goodness into the world.

And I guess that’s part of my point.

Aside from all the grumbling and protesting we hear leading up to and following each election, I’ve also noticed a recurring resolution each time:

Be the Change. Be the Good.

We look to Christ as the One, True King and Ruler of the world. And He, in turn, looks to us – to you and me – as the people who will proclaim Him to all the land. He elects us to carry out His Mission, to bring Truth, Beauty, Justice, and Love to the world.

He is our King. We are His Kingdom.

The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is among you. (Lk 17:20-21)

The leaders of the world will come and go, empires and nations will rise and fall, laws and policies will amend and adapt.

Christ, the King, remains, always. 

Christ King[1]


Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion #Book Review

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle

I visited and ate at the delicious Homegirl Cafe when on my “pilgrimage” with my brother in LA back in February and was immediately intrigued and impressed. I finally had the chance to read Fr. Boyle’s book, Tattoos on the Heart, a couple months ago.

I had no idea how much I would get out of this book and was blown away by his profound reflections on God, Love, and the Greatest Commandment:

“Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus (John 13:34)

Fr. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J. is the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, a rehabilitation program for gang members.  You can read more of Fr. Boyle’s history here.  Long-story short, this guy knows everything there is to know about gangs – or at least he knows the important inside-out side of things better than anyone, aside from maybe the gang members themselves.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the book. I would say it was nothing like I expected yet so much of what I yearn for.  Like Fr. Boyle explains in the book, it’s not exactly a memoir, nor a history of Homeboy Industries per say, it’s a…song…a dance!…a beautiful piece of art hanging on the wall expressing all the ugliness and all the good  that makes our world so immensely and paradoxically beautiful. 

For many people, hearing about or seeing the terrible tragedy of gang violence is enough to send anyone running, hiding, or shaking their heads and think, “What a shame,” and then move on to whatever they were doing in the comfort and safety of their own lives.

I, admittedly, know very little of the history of the gang violence in LA and throughout our country but, from what I got from the book, it’s been bad. Real bad.  And Fr. Boyle was “stationed” right in the very heart of it all.

He thought he was sent there to bring Christ’s love to the people there but ended up learning about the true deep-down essence of Love not in spite of the gang members but because of them.

You know, most people, when they think of gang members or criminals, they easily cast them off as only that – criminals and “no good” people of society. The world doesn’t even see them as humans anymore – only monsters who have lost their souls without any chance for redemption. Once a gang member, always a gang member.

And I’m no better. I’ll admit if I found myself in the heart of LA’s “gang district”, I’d feel terrified.  I’ve been taught to “love everyone”, but it would be hard to look into a gang member’s eyes and look past the tattoos and threatening demeanor and not immediately assume the worst of that person or what he or she might do to me.

It’s so hard to see past the thick wall of our natural inclinations of self-preservation and prejudices.

I truly want to…I just don’t want to put my life,  or my family’s, in danger because of it.

But that’s exactly what Fr. Boyle did.

With Tattoos on the Heart, Fr. Boyle invites us to turn and look. Look beyond the scary. Look beyond the actions or “records”. Look beyond the outsides of people and see. See the person for WHO that person is. Not what they’ve done, not how they act, talk, or what they wear, who they associate with, their gender, age, demographics or ethnic appearance and really and truly look at who that person is, to his or her very core. 

And then, love that person.

You stand with the belligerent, the surly, and the badly behaved until bad behavior is recognized for the language it is: the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear.

That said, this book isn’t only about how to take Jesus’ Great Commandment to “love one another” to the ghetto or prisons. It’s a profound theology of love: God explains Love and Love explains God. 

[Leon Dufour said], “I have written so many books on God, but after all that, what do I really know? I think, in the end, God is the person you’re talking to, the one right in front of you.”

Reading this book came to me in a time of my spiritual life where I often feel like I have never desired God with such an intensity as I do now while, at the same time, with such a frustrating inability to reach Him and feel Him.

Tattoos on the Heart showed me the intimate  and subtle ways God works on the hearts of the wounded and showed me I need to allow myself to “marinate” in the Love of God, in His Mercy, in His quiet and healing presence. 

Tattoos on the heart page excerpt

Other quotes I jotted down from the book worthy of “marinating” in for a while:

Thomas Merton – “We discover our true selves in love.”

Thomas Merton –  “No despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there…We are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.”

Thich Nhatt Hahn, “our true home is the present moment…”

“[Bill Cain said] – ‘Living within the withinness of God.’ This is the intimate union and full promise of kinship that is being offered to us every second.

Breathe it in, breathe it out. The Lord is everything I want. A yes that means yes… Isaiah has God say: ‘Be glad forever and rejoice in what I create… for I create my people to be a delight.’… delighting is what occupies God, and God’s hope is that we join in. That God’s joy may be in us and this joy may be complete. We just happen to be God’s joy. That takes some getting used to.

Chew on that for a while:

YOU are God’s Joy!


Remembering All Souls with a Joyful Sorrow 2

When we stop running from God's invitation to open our hearts ever wider to the magnificent chasm of His love and mercy, we will discover peace infiltrating our entire being.

This week the Church celebratedAll Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day – “Dia de los Muertos” – the day of the dead – and dedicates the whole month of November to remembering and praying for all souls who have gone passed from this life to the next.

If I were an anthropologist  (maybe in another life) I’d present an essay on the all similarities found among cultures throughout human history when it comes to how people deal with death. While the beliefs and traditions vary widely, humans have consistently participated in some form of remembrance and ritual to honor those who have died. No matter what, death always affects us, in one way or another.

Growing up, I always liked All Saints’ Day better than All Souls. Celebrating those who are already enjoying peace and ultimate happiness in heaven is much happier and exciting than thinking of the ones who may still be suffering in purgatory. Plus, the Catholic schools always had All Saints’ Day off school but not All Souls.

Yet, life has a way of changing our perspectives and now, as I’ve grown older and lost more close family and friends over the recent years, and especially after my dad’s in December last year, I have a greater appreciation for All Souls’ Day now.

A good friend sent me a message letting me know she, who has also lost someone very close, was thinking of me and my family today and praying for us and my dad’s soul along with her loved one’s. She knows days like this are hard as it causes us to remember that we now have someone close to miss – a soul – who is no longer with us here but may not be fully united with Christ yet either.

And that’s the beauty and wisdom of the Church. She gives us days like this for us to remember and pray for the souls of those gone but also to provide grace, strength, and support to those of us who are grieving as we miss them.

I appreciated how my friend reached out so much, it truly lifted my own heavy soul and I was aware that God had sent me His Grace through this friend. I admitted that, yes, days like this are hard but there is also much grace that comes from this day also.

The kids had the day off from school for All Saints’ Day and so we were able to join my mom at the cemetery where my Dad’s remains are.  We joined her in praying the first day of a special Novena (nine-day prayer) for Holy Souls in Purgatory.  We prayed for his soul and other family and friends of ours who have passed on and the kids liked looking at the names engraved on the niches and praying for them too.

After the novena prayer that was about all the kids could handle inside – and me too – so we decided to take a little walk to see how the new mausoleum is coming along.  It was a lovely autumn day –  70’s with very little breeze, whispy clouds dancing like angels in the clear blue sky above, crisp leaves crunching under the kids’ feet, a late-morning sun casting slanty shadows on the green grass.

I inhaled deeply, feeling the fresh oxygen fill my lungs and a mixture of emotions bubble up in my heart, then I slowly let it out...releasing.  

The kids gleefully ran along the path, innocently oblivious to the fact that they were running around in a cemetery not just a park.  Their zeal for life and endless energy vividly contrasted with the absolute lack of life below the ground they ran by (but not on!).

We all sat down on the nice benches set up around the mausoleum and I handed out the Halloween candy we’d brought with us to eat together in honor of their Grandpa since he missed out on the trick-or-treating with us this year and sneaking his fingers into the kids’ candy bags. Kit Kats will now forever make me happysad.

Happysad: when you feel both happy and yet sad all at the same time. One of my 4th grade son’s classmates said this the other day when I was there for a Dia de los Muertos art project and we talked about those who have died and purgatory and heaven and all that “light” stuff. 😉  She said when she hears about someone who has died, she “feels sad…but also happy because I know they are probably happier now but I’m still sad because I miss them. So I’m happysad.”

Yes, Happysad, indeed.

Halloween last year was one of our last “happy” memories with my dad before, a couple weeks later, we first got the news of his cancer diagnosis. The seasons are changing and, just like a mother reflects back on the events surrounding the time before her baby was born, I find myself doing the same about the memories from last year – only for a different reason.

It’s hard, the memories. They are always lurking, always following me everywhere. I’ve tried ignoring them, tried to just “go on with my life”, hiding my face from them, shutting my eyes tightly so I can’t see them. I want to remember, don’t ever want to forget him. And really, I am thankful for so many memories I have of him. But sometimes it just hurts too much.

But the memories remain and they are stronger than me. And I’m starting to see, through prayer, that maybe God is trying to get me to look at them for a reason. Maybe he wants to show me something I wasn’t able to see before.

I read something the other day that gave me such a great pause I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it:

Joyful Sorrow.

Did you know there could be such a thing?

Well, I think this is the phrase God wants me to ponder on, he wants to show me that even in sorrow – there can be joy. But I have to accept the sorrow first before I can see the joy.

I have to slowly release, loosen my tight grip, and slowly open my eyes and look – so that He can show me what I didn’t see before, what I couldn’t: the Joy.

Like my friend, Jeannie Ewing, says so well in her book, From Grief to Grace: The Journey from Tragedy to Triumph

When we stop running from God’s invitation to open our hearts ever wider to the magnificent chasm of His love and mercy, we will discover peace infiltrating our entire being. – Jeannie Ewing, From Grief to Grace

Pray for me as I go through this process, this new “stage” of grief I must go to as part of the healing process.

For the souls of all the departed,

May Christ grant them eternal peace.

For the souls grieving,

May Christ send his grace and strength to sustain them.


Imperfect Sanctity

sanctity consists josemaria escriva

Today the Church celebrated All Saints’ Day,and tomorrow All Souls’ Day, beginning the month of November dedicated to remembering and praying for all souls who have gone passed from this life to the next.

A friend of mine and I were talking recently about Saints and how, the more we read or learn about their intimate lives, we realize they really were not as “perfect” as maybe we were led to believe as children. It’s been said that some of the authors who have written saint biographies deserve a certain amount of time in purgatory for only focusing on the saints’ best or ultra-human features and leaving out the parts that made them ordinary humans – relatable to the rest of us simpletons.

The truth is, the more time I spend getting to know those the Church has canonized as “Saints”, the more I realize they really weren’t “perfect”.  They weren’t born with halos or superhuman powers. They all had their struggles – many of them had to overcome severe psychological challenges and mental anguish before they could fully abandon themselves to Christ.  In fact, it was quite common for others around them to question their sanity before admitting their sanctity. It’s always easier to explain the unexplained first by accusing someone of insanity or calling them “delusional” rather than admit Jesus or Mary or anything supernatural could really occur.

On the flip side, I’ve been slightly perturbed as I look at some of the “Saints” through the Church’s history that supposedly led “holy lives” but in reality they probably really were crazy after all.

It’s interesting how our understanding of sanctity and sanity has developed and evolved over the years. Where in one age it was considered holy to “beat the hell out of yourself” quite literally through self-mutilation, we now see this as a heretical and disordered Albigensian mindset about the human body. (that the spirit must be freed from the “evil” body.)

As an adult, I’ve also been shocked and dismayed to learn that many of the stories I learned about Saints as a child were pieced together with patches of hearsay that maybe started with some facts but spun into cultural folklore and legends over the centuries.  There is so much we really do not know about these men and women we revere as Saints.

For some, these discrepancies are probably enough to sway a doubting soul into partial or even complete disbelief in the Saints, the Church, and God all together. However, for me, even when the curtains pull up, revealing unusual and even scandalizing behind-the-scene information about some Saints, it now has the opposite effect on me.

I’m someone who struggles with scruples. (No, really?! I bet you didn’t know that.) In other words, I struggle with a low spiritual-self esteem. It’s easy to get down on myself and feel like I’m not good enough in the eyes of Christ or the Church, especially when I compare myself to all the great Saints of the past.

But then I’ll read about a Saint who admits she detests praying the rosary –

It’s a terrible thing to admit, but saying the Rosary takes it out of me more than any [scratchy and rough] hair shirt  … Try as I will, I cannot meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary. I just cannot fix my mind on them” —St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul

Or others who have cried out to God, begging them to remove their pain and suffering instead of just accepting it with a holy smile on their face. Or all the great Saints who truly suffered from mental delusions yet continued trusting in God and clinging to Him faithfully, or the many mothers who fought impatience or “anger-management problems” daily yet they continued caring for their children out of love for them and the Lord who gave them to her, or those Saints who felt nothing, only darkness – no happy fuzzies after receiving the Eucharist, no warm glows of light when they prayed and, still, they continued serving Christ – serving His people selflessly. 

I read these stories, even if parts of them may be less than 100% true, and they keep me going.

The Saints show me that being a “saint”, isn’t about being perfect or always saying, “Yes, Lord!” to everything He asks or permits to happen to me with a huge happy smile on my face the whole time.

Being a Saint is is about acceptance – even when we’d honestly rather not.

It’s about saying,

God, I really have no idea why you’re letting this happen to me, I really, really hate this. But I believe You do know why. And so, I’ll follow you. I’ll trust you. Lead me. Where I do not want to go, I will go as long as you lead the way and stay with me. 

Like the quote I shared from Josemarie Escriva, “Sanctity consists in struggling…” In knowing we aren’t perfect, in seeing our weaknesses but instead of falling into despair or self-loathing, we allow God to use our weaknesses for His Glory and for the redemption of not only our own souls but all souls.

And so I’m thankful today for all the Saints the Church has given us as examples to lead and light us on our own unique paths. They are there, cheering us on, showing us that yes, it can be done. “If we did it – even with our terrible imperfections and delusional tendencies – surely you can too.”

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