Striving for sainthood

Jeannie-300dpi-214x300

When I was a young girl, I would often daydream of one day accomplishing something so extraordinary, so valiant, that I would be decorated as a heroine for my bravery.  My longing was to “do great things for God,” and I saw this only through the lens of extraordinary martyrdom or extreme renunciation that many of my favorite saints exemplified.  Reading about them wasn’t enough for me.  I wanted to become one of them.

At the time, however, my untampered zeal had not been cooled by God’s embers of love.  My fervent ardor was, indeed, supplanted by God, but I was young and impetuous, not yet seasoned by life experience.  In my naivete, I did not acknowledge that my particular path to sanctification might be something rather undesirable – even loathsome – to me.

Naturally, my understanding of holiness was altered by both theological knowledge, as well as what became my reality of grief: betrayals from friends and ex-boyfriends, premature deaths of both family members and friends, the presence of addictions and mental illnesses in my family, and, now, raising two daughters with special needs.

My oldest daughter, Felicity, has developed severe sensory and psychological problems.  She is my invisible martyr, because her suffering cannot be detected by others. There are times I overlook her struggles, because, like the rest of the world, I tend to view her in lieu of her typical peers.  Sarah, my younger daughter, was born with a rare craniofacial condition called Apert Syndrome, which was not detected prenatally.  Her birth was dramatic in the sense that my husband, Ben, and I received the shock of a lifetime.  Sarah’s visible differences make it easy to love and care for her, but despite her sanguine temperament, she requires ongoing daily medical care that depletes me as the primary caregiver.

Over the past two years, I have acknowledged that my children are my highway to Heaven.  Caring for them will lead me to a path of constant self-denial and rebirth in Christ.  I’m not just speaking of caring for their fundamental needs as all parents are required to do, but instead caring for their needs while growing in virtue.  This is the challenge for me: to display patience, forgiveness, and charity while handling a hot-headed toddler who tries to kick me as I put on her orthotic inserts and special shoes or as my preschooler so easily sasses me without prudent thought.

I learn each day through my primary vocation as a mother that I must model the virtues I wish to instill in my daughters, and I so seldom succeed.  In my perfectionistic frustration, I am quick to judge myself rather than extend the same mercy I desire from Jesus.  He has shown me, however, that my myriad weaknesses are the tunnel for His grace; they are the means by which I will become empty so that He can fill me with Himself.

At the end of the day, I realize my entire life’s journey can be summarized thus: “God’s grace compensates for my lack.”  I do not accept this as an excuse for sloth on my part, but instead it is a statement that wells a renewed hope in me each time I falter.  My limitations are great, but God’s goodness and mercy is greater.  In the messiness of life, my path to holiness is strewn with rocks and thorns, but it concludes with gratitude for God’s pruning.

Text Copyright 2015 Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.

Image Copyright 2014 “Trappist Church” by Capecodprof on Pixabay and edited in Canva by Jeannie Ewing.

Jeannie Ewing is a writer, speaker, and grief recovery coach.  She is the co-author of Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers.  Jeannie was featured on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition and Tony Agnesi’s radio show Finding God’s Grace.  She offers her insight from a counselor’s perspective into a variety of topics, including grief, spirituality, and parenting children with special needs.  Jeannie resides in northern Indiana with her husband and two daughters, both of whom have special needs.  For more information on her professional services, please visit her websites lovealonecreates.com or fromgrief2grace.com

Striving for Sainthood


Striving for sainthoodStriving for sainthood

Striving for sainthood


Jeannie-300dpi-214x300Jeannie-300dpi-214x300

Jeannie-300dpi-214×300

When I was a young girl, I would often daydream of one day accomplishing something so extraordinary, so valiant, that I would be decorated as a heroine for my bravery.  My longing was to “do great things for God,” and I saw this only through the lens of extraordinary martyrdom or extreme renunciation that many of my favorite saints exemplified.  Reading about them wasn’t enough for me.  I wanted to become one of them.

At the time, however, my untampered zeal had not been cooled by God’s embers of love.  My fervent ardor was, indeed, supplanted by God, but I was young and impetuous, not yet seasoned by life experience.  In my naivete, I did not acknowledge that my particular path to sanctification might be something rather undesirable – even loathsome – to me.

Naturally, my understanding of holiness was altered by both theological knowledge, as well as what became my reality of grief: betrayals from friends and ex-boyfriends, premature deaths of both family members and friends, the presence of addictions and mental illnesses in my family, and, now, raising two daughters with special needs.

My oldest daughter, Felicity, has developed severe sensory and psychological problems.  She is my invisible martyr, because her suffering cannot be detected by others. There are times I overlook her struggles, because, like the rest of the world, I tend to view her in lieu of her typical peers.  Sarah, my younger daughter, was born with a rare craniofacial condition called Apert Syndrome, which was not detected prenatally.  Her birth was dramatic in the sense that my husband, Ben, and I received the shock of a lifetime.  Sarah’s visible differences make it easy to love and care for her, but despite her sanguine temperament, she requires ongoing daily medical care that depletes me as the primary caregiver.

Over the past two years, I have acknowledged that my children are my highway to Heaven.  Caring for them will lead me to a path of constant self-denial and rebirth in Christ.  I’m not just speaking of caring for their fundamental needs as all parents are required to do, but instead caring for their needs while growing in virtue.  This is the challenge for me: to display patience, forgiveness, and charity while handling a hot-headed toddler who tries to kick me as I put on her orthotic inserts and special shoes or as my preschooler so easily sasses me without prudent thought.

I learn each day through my primary vocation as a mother that I must model the virtues I wish to instill in my daughters, and I so seldom succeed.  In my perfectionistic frustration, I am quick to judge myself rather than extend the same mercy I desire from Jesus.  He has shown me, however, that my myriad weaknesses are the tunnel for His grace; they are the means by which I will become empty so that He can fill me with Himself.

At the end of the day, I realize my entire life’s journey can be summarized thus: “God’s grace compensates for my lack.”  I do not accept this as an excuse for sloth on my part, but instead it is a statement that wells a renewed hope in me each time I falter.  My limitations are great, but God’s goodness and mercy is greater.  In the messiness of life, my path to holiness is strewn with rocks and thorns, but it concludes with gratitude for God’s pruning.

Text Copyright 2015 Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.

Image Copyright 2014 “Trappist Church” by Capecodprof on Pixabay and edited in Canva by Jeannie Ewing.

Jeannie Ewing is a writer, speaker, and grief recovery coach.  She is the co-author of Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers.  Jeannie was featured on National Public Radio’s Weekend Editionand Tony Agnesi’s radio show Finding God’s Grace.  She offers her insight from a counselor’s perspective into a variety of topics, including grief, spirituality, and parenting children with special needs.  Jeannie resides in northern Indiana with her husband and two daughters, both of whom have special needs.  For more information on her professional services, please visit her websites lovealonecreates.comor fromgrief2grace.com

Confessions of a Catholic Geek

I’m a Catholic Geek.  I admit it.  Anytime I hear the words “Catholic” or “Christian” my ears perk up.  It’s like those old EF Hutton commercials-“When Catholics talk, Laura listens.”  I’m a sucker for just about any book on theology, Christian spirituality, or prayer.  In fact, I’m so focused on faith these days that a non-Catholic friend of mine accused me of being a “closet evangelical!”

That gave me a good chuckle.  Then, I started thinking about her comment and, being who I am, I did an Internet search on the definition of evangelical.  This is what Bing had to say:

evangelical-adj.

1.  of Protestant churches
emphasizing personal salvation:
relating or belonging
to any Protestant Christian church that emphasizes the authority of the Bible
and salvation through the personal acceptance of Jesus Christ



2.  relating to Christian
Gospels:
relating to or based on the Gospels of the
Christian Bible



3.  with strong
beliefs:
enthusiastic or zealous in support of a
particular cause and very eager to make other people share its beliefs or
ideals
 
According to these definitions, the only one that applies to me in the strictest sense is the third definition-“with strong beliefs”-check, “enthusiastic or very zealous in support of a particular cause”-check, and “very eager to make other people share its beliefs or ideals”-check.
 
[This is me getting on my soapbox.]
 
Here’s my issue though, why aren’t Catholics put in this category more often?  After all, I know a lot of Catholics who are on fire with their faith and are striving to share it with others.  Granted, evangelization in the common sense has not traditionally been considered a Catholic characteristic but I think that’s an old school view of Catholicism.  Modern Catholics are Bible reading, praying, witnessing members of society with love for God and neighbor.  Granted, their enthusiasm might not match mine.  It may be less (or more!) but I find that enthusiasm for anything isn’t as common as I think it should be.  But, that’s another post.
 
So, I’m appealing to all Christians including my Catholic brothers and sisters.  Don’t let the evangelicals hog all the enthusiasm.  There’s a lot to get excited about in our faith and it’s time we all start letting it show.  Start reading!  Start praying!  Start finding out why people like me are so excited!  Get out of your spiritual rut and feed your faith life!
 
[This is me getting off my soapbox.]
 
So, I guess I am evangelical, an evangelical Catholic, that is.
 
Blessings
Laura
 
 

Quick Takes Friday

  • Words that actually came from our 13 year-old’s frustrated mouth, “Since when did you guys care about school!”  Seriously?  Does he know us at all?
  • Now that the heat has subsided and the rains have returned, our garden has started producing again.  We’re hoping for a harvest of red and green bell peppers in a few weeks. 
  • October 11th begins the “Year of Faith” as declared by Pope Benedict.  Are you doing anything for the YOF? Why not join my Year of Prayer?
  • After highs in the high 80s and low 90s, tomorrow’s high is supposed to be in the mid 50s!  Yikes!  I’m now thinking about making soup, cooking warm bad-for-you things, and harvesting my herbs to preserve for the winter.  Does anyone have experience with herb drying?
  • Looking forward to a long weekend.  Thanks Columbus!  So, why do we celebrate Columbus Day in October?  Is it his birthday? The anniversary of his historic trip?  Just curious.
  • Our nine year-old has discovered football.  Evidently, he plays everyday during recess with some of the other fourth graders.  Yesterday he was happy because the other boys had declared him quarterback after an especially awesome pass.  Here’s praying that he’s more athletic than his parents!
  • Our daughter is now learning that fine arts aren’t always fun.  Sometimes it’s just work.  It’s a sad day for all of us.

Have a relaxing weekend and enjoy your family.
Blessings,
Laura

Must Be Present to Win

In August, I had the chance to attend the Catholic Writers Conference which was held in conjunction with the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and the Catholic New Media Conference in Arlington, TX.  It was a great opportunity to learn, be inspired, and meet other Catholics who have a similar desire to spread the Gospel.

Throughout all of the events I attended and all that I learned, one theme jumped out at me: Show Up.  I realize this isn’t an innovative thought.  It isn’t new to me and it’s not new to you either.  In fact, through the years you’ve probably heard this old Woody Allen quote more than once,.-“Ninety percent of life is just showing up.”  

But, at the conference I learned how important this lesson can be.  For instance:

  • When you make an appointment-show up.
  • When you volunteer to help-show up.
  • When you get the opportunity to meet other authors, bloggers, speakers and publishers-show up!
  • Making connections with others online is good but when you can-show up in person.  It’s even better.

Keep in mind, though, that you can’t just be a warm body in the room.  You need to be mentally present as well as physically present.  You need to be engaged in what you’re doing and have enthusiasm for it.  While I was at the conference I tried my best to focus on what I was doing and not let myself be torn between the Conference and my family.  When I was with my family, I tried my best to focus on them and not let thoughts and activities from the Conference encroach upon our time together. [Note:  I said “tried” not “succeeded.” 😉 ]  When I got called away from the conference to take my son to the doctor after he broke his arm, I switched from “Author Mode” to “Mom Mode.”

(As I said to my son, “I always knew you’d break something.  I just thought it would be hearts!”)

Really, showing up is a way we express our love for each other.  In fact, sometimes it’s all you need to do. When my sister passed away from cancer almost eight years ago, the people who “showed up” for the funeral supported me far more than they’ll ever know.  I felt their love and their friendship buoy me in the weeks and months that followed her death.  When someone you know dies and you feel like you need to “do something” to help their loved ones, do your best to show up at the funeral. It will mean more to them than you realize. Give them a call a few weeks after the funeral just to tell them that you’re thinking of them.

But often it’s not major tragedies that call upon us to “show up”.  More often than not, “showing up” is about being there for a friend when they’re going through a hard time.  Give them your undivided attention.  Don’t check your watch.  Don’t rush them.  Don’t try and finish their sentences.  Just listen. Even more importantly, don’t wait for hard times to strike your friends or family.  “Show up” for them each time you’re together.  I guarantee that they’ll never doubt how you feel about them. 

Just because I’ve learned this lesson doesn’t mean I always practice what I preach.  I let my busy schedule take precedence over my relationships more often than I’d like to admit.  Maybe I’m a slow learner.  Maybe I’m just human.  Who knows?  What I do know is this-when lessons like this come to me, it usually means that God is trying to tell me something.

Gotta go!  It’s time to Show Up for my family!
Blessings,
Laura

Mid-life Crisis?

Have you ever had a moment when your view of yourself crashed headlong into reality?  I have.  In fact over the years it’s happened several times.  I like to think of them as reminders from God that 1) I’m not Him and, 2) I’m not “all that.” 

Some people might call this a mid-life crisis but that’s overstating things.  These glimpses of my imperfection usually provide me with insight about myself and the way I look at life.  More like lessons in humility but without the humiliation. 

A few years ago, I was fretting about my children’s grades in school.  I worried they should do better than they were doing.  After all, my husband is very intelligent and I was always an A/B student.  Or was I?  Around that time my Dad had been cleaning out closets and came across a box of my old school papers.  Of course, he passed them on to me (I probably should’ve paid him rent for storage all those years!)  As I went through the papers, I came across a report card from 4th or 5th grade.  I took a look and was surprised at the variety of letters I saw on the page.  There were A’s and B’s, yes, but there were also C’s and I think even a D!

At first, I was a little horrified.   I always thought I was a good student!  What were those other grades doing there with the A’s and B’s?  Slowly memories came back to me. I remembered struggling to learn my multiplication facts. I remembered test anxiety and stressed out evenings studying with Mom & Dad at the dining room table.  Then it dawned on me.  My kids are better students than I was at that age!  At that moment, I realized that I could relax.  My kids made good grades (better than mine, probably) and, after all, they were KIDS!  They had time to work out the kinks and overcome whatever challenges were thrown their way. 

So far the score is Reality-1, Laura-0.

More recently, I was at the lake with some friends where I got the opportunity to drive a Waverunner (Jet-ski, whatever) for the first time. Once I got the quick tutorial, I started off with my friend riding behind me to be my guide.  At one point she said, “You can go faster if you want to.”  Faster?  Wasn’t I going fast as it was?  After all, I was almost going 25 miles per hour!  That’s the fastest I’d ever gone without a car surrounding me.  So, I asked her how fast she’d gone when she was out on the lake.  What?  Did you say 60 miles an hour?! 

So, I conveniently concluded that she was reckless and I was smart.  Then, it was my husband’s turn out on the water.  Before he left, I told him we were going to see which one of us was wilder.  The gauntlet had been thrown down!  Until that point I had no question which one of us was more of a daredevil.  It was me, of course.  Imagine my surprise when he got back from his spin around the lake.  With a cocky smirk on my face, I asked the fateful question, “How fast did you go?”  The answer that I never expected came-45 miles per hour.  I had been beaten at my own silly game!

At that point I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was more cautious ( & probably more competitive!) than I realized.  But, just like my report card incident, this realization sparked memories from childhood.  I never liked sleeping over at friends’ houses.  It took me forever to learn how to ride a bike because I was afraid of going fast.  Yes, I am a cautious person.  There’s no escaping it now. 

Score update-Reality-2, Laura-0

After the “Epiphany of the Lake”, I had to laugh at myself and my delusions of grandeur.  What was I thinking?  Did I seriously think that I was a straight A student and a closet biker chick?  No.  Deep down I knew reality was, in fact, real.  It seemed God was again reminding me of who I really am.  Not in a hateful way.  Not because He’s trying to bring me down a notch.  But because He loves me and wants me to love Him as myself and not as the person I think I am or the person I think I should be. 

So, instead of a mid-life crisis, I guess I’ve had a series of mid-life “moments” that let me laugh a bit at myself and remind me how human I really am.  What a relief!  Now I can relax and just be me.  Of course, I’ll probably still need some reminders from time-to-time about who I really am.  I’m sure God will help me out there.  Until then, crisis averted.

Final Score-Reality-2, Laura-Humble (and Happy.)

Blessings,
Laura