“Let us remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm, and look forward to the future with confidence.”
Pope St. John Paul the Great
At Mass on Thanksgiving day, our pastor mentioned the above quote from St. John Paul II. Certainly, it sums up very well what our Thanksgiving should look like. I have been thinking a lot about gratitude this month, and trying to remember my blessings, be happy and content in the present, and look forward to the future with great trust in the Providence of God. Ironically, I realized it’s been three weeks since I recorded my every gratitude. So here’s a few things I’ve been particularly grateful for this past month, though not necessarily in chronological order.
Dear Lord, I praise and thank you:
- For the kids being all better after two weeks of a nasty virus. We had to stay home, and the Cecilia wasn’t sleeping well, and Grace was getting very antsy and wanting to get out and see her friends.
- For a warm, snug house as the weather turns colder. Cozy blankets, and snuggle time.
- For hosting Thanksgiving in our own home. And lots of help doing so from hubby, who cleaned the house, set the table and carved the turkey 🙂
- For pleasant, sunny days, and the chance to be outside, take walks and go to the playground.
- For our first hike since last spring, when we explored the Chancellorsville Battlefield.
- or the opportunity to pray for the Holy Souls this month in a special way.
- For an almost six year old daughter, who keeps us amused by her constant chatter, and who has become an incredible helper, always willing to lend a had and do some clean-up. She even begged to clean the bathroom one day!
- Raking leaves and the sweet smell of falling leaves and pine needles. There’s a lot of trees in our yard and we raked an enormous leaf pile, which the girls loved!
- Making my first fresh flower arrangement for the church altar! I put it in front but it was moved in front of Our Lady 🙂 So blessed to be using my floral skills this way!
- Freshly painted shutters for the house, changing the way the whole front looks! Great to be adding some *curb appeal* and looking forward to decorating for Christmas.
- Checking out historic homes near our house, which had beautiful grounds to walk around. It’s a fun way to get out instead of going to a playground.
- Christmas cards are almost done! Grace put on the stamps, return address labels, and then stuffed and sealed the envelopes! I cannot believe what an awesome helper she has become.
- Walking through downtown to see the Christmas lights and displays. We love the town here because it’s so old fashioned and pretty.
- Looking through pictures of the last month, I remember that at the beginning of November, Bobby and I were invited to a Gala to benefit the charitable outreaches of the OB/GYN I go to. It’s an a great, pro-life practice, and we had a wonderful night out with dinner, live auction and dancing.
- Gracie helped me plants 60 flower bulbs in the front yard. Hopefully lots will bloom in the spring!
- Solemnity of Christ the King and the end of the liturgical year. I love Advent, and I’m looking forward to it. Since it’s so short this year, I feel like this week is a bonus week to get ready *before Advent* instead of scrambling right after Thanksgiving.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or what you will drink,
or about your body, what you will wear….
Look at the birds of the air;
they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them……
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow;
they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you,
even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these……
But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.”
In the latest copy of Imprint, (a publication of the Sisters of Life) I read a striking article on prayer, particularly what they called “praise prayer.” The article states “praising Jesus for everything says, ‘Jesus, I trust and know you will bring a greater good out of this situation than any I could possible create or imagine. Your plans are more beautiful than mine. You have the big picture. You see all things with an eternal perspective. I trust you and I thank you.’ Let Jesus work it out…. If you think you can’t get beyond a trial, pray these words again and again. He slowly takes over and brings peace. Be patient.”
I feel that this simple, yet profound suggestion, challenges us to go deeper in prayers of gratitude, to actually praise the Lord for everything! It almost seems silly, like saying something absurd, yet it is the way of the saints, so here’s my best shot…
- Praise you, Lord, for a blessed pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The children were (relatively) good for a Holy Hour and Mass, the music was beautiful, and Theresa especially loved praying at the individual Marian shrines. There was also a new Rosary garden with a large, beautiful depiction of Our Lady of Fatima and the three children, where we said the Rosary and the kids could run around. (It is entirely fenced it!)
- I praise you, Lord, for the odd and initially unpleasant experience of glimpsing my former boss during the Mass. We parted on extremely bad terms, and I struggled awhile with forgiveness and charity towards him. At first, I was irritated that I would be reminded of such unpleasantness during this pilgrimage, but as a prayed for peace, I realized that God gave me the grace to see him and know I had forgiven, moved on, and no longer harbor resentment. I was able to pray for him. That, truly, is a profound grace.
- I praise you, Lord, for the child screaming and crying every night, even as a write. She is strong, healthy and talking amazingly well for almost 20 months, and this is part of her development. I praise You for the opportunities for extreme patience, perseverance and humility as I am nightly deprived of sleep (after enjoying several weeks of her sleeping through the night).
- I praise you, Lord, for the opportunity to stay home with my children and educate them myself, enjoying the milestones, little moments, and beginning of the education adventure. Although this involves far more of a sacrifice than I realized it would (since I cannot easily find a job and work outside the home), I do love being with these little girls.
- I praise you, Lord, for the good you will bring out of the financial and marital difficulties I am experiencing. I trust that You not only can but will care for our daily needs and bring good out of the situation.
- I praise you, Lord, for the beauty of these autumn days- blue sky, the scent of fallen leaves and pine needles, the subdued colors of the the fall leaves, the song of birds in the many trees surrounding our home, and the clear, dry air, so rare in Virginia!
- I praise you, Lord, that my husband can easily take sick days when myself and the kid are sick, to stay home and help me get better.
- I praise you, Lord, for new friendship, very dear friends of many years, new opportunities, and the chance to grow, chance, learn and discover who You call me to be.
- I praise you, Lord, that somehow I have been finding more time to read again. Indeed, all year long I have been able to read several books a month.
- I praise you, Lord, “O Beauty ever ancient and ever new,” for a life filled with beauty and blessings, especially the gift of my Catholic Faith, and the treasures of the traditions, Traditions, writings of the saints, gifts of the Spirit and very real grace of the Sacraments.
Mary, most holy, Mother of the Church and my Mother, purify the praise of my heart and let it be a pure offering of love to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Mary Catherine, pray for us.
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”
“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”
St. Thomas Aquinas
This past weekend, I was immensely blessed to see numerous friends and classmates at my 10 year college reunion. I am so thankful for all the people who made the trip, and I was sad for those who were forced to miss it. I chatted and laughed with dear friends from freshman year, as well as people I hardly knew at school. I especially loved seeing so many beautiful children, a testament to the Faith and love still shared by all these classmates.
- Dear Lord, thank you for four years at Christendom College, and the friends and formation I received there.
- Thank you for the opportunity to attend my reunion and visit with friends.
- Thank you for delicious food at receptions, dancing with my husband (he still remembers the foxtrot we learned for our wedding!) and a fantastic fireworks display.
- Thank you for a fun “family day” where the kids spent hours in the bouncy house and took about a dozen pony rides.
- Thank you for the generosity and hospitality of my parents, who watched the kids most of the weekend so I could enjoy time with my friends (and my husband) sans children.
- Sleep. Because my parents get up with the kids while I sleep on the other side of the house.
- Rain. Because it has been very dry here (beautiful but dry) and the soft pitter-patter of rain, as well as the gray days to spend inside, has been pleasant.
- The freedom to fit school into our schedule, and the need to only do a few hours a day.
- The joy of baking. Chocolate cake (oh my!) and Dutch Apple Pie.
- Warm apple cider, hot tea, steaming coffee.
“For me, prayer is a burst from my heart,
it is a simple glance thrown toward Heaven,
a cry of thanksgiving and love
in times of trial as well as in times of joy.”
St. Therese of Lisieux
This week, we celebrated the feast of St. Therese the Little Flower, one of my favorite saints. How much I can learn about gratitude by meditating on her quote above! To glance toward Heaven with thanksgiving and love during times of trial and suffering continues to be one of the hardest parts of gratitude for me. Particularly when the trials are ongoing, or daily annoyances, or problems without clear or foreseeable solutions.
While sharing on my blog my weekly blessings has helped me be more faithful to the practice of recognizing them, I am hesitant to constantly mention my trials, in the fear of seeming too “holy” in being “grateful” for them, or of seeming to have a perfect life if I don’t mention at least some of my crosses!
Blessings are funny things, are they not? For those with eyes to see and appreciate, even the most mundane things may be rightly regarded as blessings, and for those accustomed to complaining, cynicism and negativity, even the greatest goods may be looked down on or disregarded. Likewise, since life consists of so many little moments, both happy, sad or ordinary, it can become so easy to focus on the negative and overlook the positive. By personality and childhood experience, I always considered myself to be a positive and happy person. Cynicism and sadness I found very distasteful. And then I grew up, and the cares of adulthood pressed in, and I endured terrible loss and sorrow. Slowly, my natural, happy and carefree girlhood personality threatened to be overwhelmed by a cross and unhappy woman of 32 (so old, I know!)
This past year, my discouragement and depression became so acute that I had to find another way; a way to live both the reality that life is difficult, and the hope and faith that God has and will continue to abundantly bless me. Although numerous elements have influenced my return to a more positive and happy day to day existence, gratitude undoubtedly plays an important role in cultivating a life of faith, hope and love.
- This past week, I was grateful for the opportunity to host a Blessed Brunch, and spend time with several lovely Catholic women.
- The weather in Virginia has been beautiful, and we’ve been playing and doing schoolwork outside. Tuesday, we had an outdoor reading session on the front lawn.
- I have been getting back in a groove of creative dinners and baking. This bruschetta chicken was ah-mazing. I also baked an apple pie with the apples we picked last week, made a yummy jambalaya at my husband’s suggestion, as well as these apple chicken sandwiches on raisin bread that I need to make again ASAP.
- School with the girls has been progressing well. Hope to write a quick post about that soon, too. Last week, we made puppets and a xylophone, and the girls have enjoyed putting on shows!
- I am grateful that despite some coughs and cold as the cooler weather settles in, we have been mostly healthy.
- Looking around at my home, which I decorated with a few fall items, I am immensely grateful for this cute, smaller house, which has proven much easier to keep clean that the sprawling one level we used to live in.
- I am grateful for new friends, new opportunities, and the fact that old friends are only a phone call away.
- On Monday, we were blessed to attend a special Mass offered for the homeschoolers in our parish.
- Also on Monday, I got through a dental appointment with no new cavities being found!
- I finished reading Mansfield Park on Sunday evening. I dearly love Jane Austen, and have read Pride and Prejudice and Emma many times, as well as most of her other works more than once. But Mansfield Park I only read once in high school, and I totally did not appreciate it. Now, I found it quite enjoyable, and was better able to grasp the character intricacies and faults which Austen was bringing forward. I understand now, as I didn’t 15 years ago, that the charm and brilliance of her work is in the characters, their dialogue, their foibles, and their ordinary lives. I think Mansfield Park lacks a character of wit and depth such as we see in some of the other novels, but nonetheless I found it wonderful read.
- After that side note, I’ll close my reflections from this past week with the most ordinary, and yet extraordinary blessings I have: my husband, my children, my Faith, my freedom, my health, my home, and my friends and family.
“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
- Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of four daughters. I bless your name, as we returned to Philadelphia last week, to visit the grave of my firstborn, Mary Catherine. I thank you for the precious gift of her life, of the witness we provided that the life of a tiny baby has infinite value and worth. I thank you for the amazing and unknown nurse who baptized her in the OR, when I was under anesthesia and Bobby wasn’t allowed in. I thank you for her beatitude in Heaven. I thank you for sustaining me through the early months of grief, and for blessing us with more children. Amen.
- Lord, I thank you for the chance to rest after a long week, when all the girls rested and let me rest on Friday afternoon.
- I am thankful for time in the car to talk with and listen to Gracie. I love hearing her “read” a story to her sisters (she knows The Very Hungry Caterpillar and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by heart). She makes up silly, sometimes elaborate, stories, then tells me she’s just kidding! Like her dad, you never know what ridiculous things she’ll come up with next.
- I am thankful for Cecilia’s sweet and infectious baby laugh. She laughs a lot, because everything amuses her. She is definitely my happiest, most fun baby yet!
- I am thankful for Theresa’s snuggliness early in the morning. Generally, she is independent and busy, but in the morning, and occasionally throughout the day, she gets affectionate and acts so very sweet.
- I am grateful for a special day with my husband on Saturday, as we attended a diocesan workshop for couples on Prayer and Communication. The talks and insights where very interesting, inspiring, challenging, and a few times, profound.
- I am grateful for my parents now living close enough to come spend the day with the kids on short notice, for continuing, beautiful warm weather, and sunny days.
- I am grateful for the chance to go apple picking with friends, and begin making all things apple!
- I am grateful for good books to read, making time for reading to myself, and to the girls, and for the opportunity to teach Gracie to read.
- Finally, I thank you Lord for the challenges, tension, waiting, and change of my life right now; through this time, please help me hear and discern Your will. Amen.
I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
This past week has been exceedingly busy, as many of the school year activities began. There was also several feast days important to our family. For all these blessings, the happy and the difficult, I thank you, Lord Jesus:
- For the first day of home school co-op. I think the group will be a good fit for us. The girls all had fun and no separation anxiety, although they were so happy to see each other after being apart for four hours!
- For the first day at a women’s Scripture study at our new parish. I have never participated in a group study like this long term, and I am very excited. Also, there is free babysitting (!) and the girls were very good.
- I am very grateful for these new activities with socialization and separation for all of us. I think its a good thing for us girls to have a little time apart.
- September 8 we celebrated the Nativity of Mary, and I made a Bohemian poppy seed cake. This feast is my Marian Consecration anniversary. I think this year marked 18 years since my first consecration preparation, according to St. Louis de Montford. I am also very grateful for the new consecration preparation 33 Days to Morning Glory. The format is easier and in a way, more profound, as you read about the Marian teachings of St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Theresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul the Great. Fittingly, we celebrated Mother Theresa’s feast day while I was reading about her Marian teachings.
- And I am very grateful for finding the writing of Mother Theresa. Her words have resonated with me in a profound way.
- I am thankful for my husband’s help this weekend to get the school room cleaned and ready for the first day of our home school.
- For the first day for Gracie and Theresa at Immaculata Academia, my name for our home school. This first day went remarkably well; mostly on schedule and very productive.
- Finally, I am grateful for my interview with a trained Called and Gifted interviewer, who helped me sort through my Spiritual Gifts Inventory and discern two charisms to explore further. I confess to a great deal of excitement over this discovery of my spiritual gifts. It’s like a “super power” to bring people to Christ! More on this, as several ideas take shape in my head….
- I was happy to spend more one on one time with Theresa on Saturday, while her big sister was visiting grandparents. Theresa and I explored the Farmers’ Market, had a snack at Chick-fil-A, chose florals at Michael’s and picked up a few things at Target. Theresa really seems to like these special dates; she talks more, and I think enjoys the attention. (I’m trying to forestall middle child complexes…)
- And thank you, Lord, for the little things. For a walk by myself today, for cold medicine and tissues (our well streak ended with the change of weather and contact with other people), for beautiful blue sky days with amazing, cool fall weather, for the chance to be home with my girls.
- I have also noticed the blessing of less stress since I quit my job, as I’m stress-eating and craving chocolate much less.
Lord, you pour blessings upon us. Please help me to be grateful and focus on these blessings, not on the many things that worry and trouble me. Amen.