Church Life Part 444

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Life.

Never am I more convinced in the goodness of humanity than in December bearing witness to what goes on in the church in which I work. As the Finance Manager, I am often the only person who is privileged and charged with keeping private, the special offerings people make in the name of a loved one or as a special intention. They are heart warming, but my favorite of all donations are the ones that come from the people I know have very little to offer.

This morning I got to be the recipient of an unmarked envelope filled with crumpled dollar bills and assorted coins. The simple direction given in broken English, “for the church”. I nearly burst into tears, but I calmly offered a hug and the largest thank you smile I was capable of. I know in my heart that this person saved all year to give this offering. I asked his name in order to give him tax credit but he wanted no part of it. God will surely give the credit where it’s due, this much I do know.

On the other side of my office door, a florist has arrived with huge plants and some beautiful wind chimes. The phone has rung off the hook with calls inquiring about a funeral taking place here this evening. Five days before Christmas a family will celebrate the life of their 27-year-old son. (I cannot begin to even imagine how I would cope with this. I have a 27 year old. It hits too close to home.)

Still in all I am witnessing the people of this church, come together in multiple capacities. One lady has called repeatedly asking for telephone numbers as she is trying to find someone to be a house sitter for the family; another has just dropped off food for the dinner they will have here this evening; another will be offering a prayer; another will play during the service; five ladies have offered to be receptionists this afternoon as people come to pay their respects; another lady just called to have me check to see if we have sugar for the coffee cart; another has arrived with linen table cloths for the dinner tables this evening…it goes on and on.

A reminder that it’s Christmas week and each of these people surely have other things they were planning to attend to, yet they’ve stopped their respective worlds in order to come together for their friends. It’s beautiful to witness.

I’ve spoken to the Pastor and I can hear the contemplation in his voice. Ahead him lies the daunting task of aiding and comforting the family of this young man; performing a service I am certain he wasn’t prepared to have to do so soon. Bless his heart, he isn’t that much older than the deceased. He’s at home trying to work on multiple things, yet I know where his heart is right now. It can’t be anywhere else.

I came in this morning not feeling my best self. I’ve spread myself too thin over the past months. Last week I catered three separate times in addition to being here and also working another part-time job. I haven’t finished my own Christmas shopping OR decorating; I’ve been stressing out over strained relationships; we’re still trying to close on the sale of my mother-in-law’s home and our car seems to be dying a slow death. Many times I struggle over whether I should keep my church job or move on to something full-time with benefits. I absolutely don’t make enough money here and there are no benefits.

Yet.

There.

Are.

Benefits.

Today I get to sit squarely in the middle of the warmth of God’s love and I get to drink in the love being shared in this building as I continue to field phone calls and answer doors to receive flowers.

Thank you, God, for placing me where you would have me today.

I think I’ll stay a while longer.

 


 

From The Angels:

divine-timing Divine Timing: Change can be fast, yet keep in mind the importance of patience and Divine timing, developing a trust in the unseen mysteries of spirit working in your life.

The more that you can approach your own shifting with loving kindness, the smoother your road of change will be. On some days it may still feel like a roller coaster ride, yet your self-love can help you to have the necessary steadiness within.

Pay close attention to doors that are open to you. As you continue the journey of rediscovering your Divine nature, angels surround you with their love and blessings.

surrender-release Surrender & Release: If we could see the miracle in letting go our whole life would change. Let go, allow God and the angels to help you.

When we willingly release and begin the process of healing from the unhappy situation, we may find we gain the necessary clarity that was not apparent to us before. In having gained clarity individuals often regain their own self-determination and strength.

The angels ask you to try not to control the outcome of your troubling situation. It can take a lot of courage to let go and trust in the decision to do so but It may also be one of the most valuable decisions we can ever make. Let go, and let God help you!

image Healing: The highest purpose of your healer guides is to restore your self-awareness and self-esteem as children of God and help you accept the love and unlimited blessings that God grants you.

Opening your heart and mind to your worthiness is the best healing of all.


 

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There but by the grace of God, Go I.

This That JOY!

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I think I’m victim of the change of seasons. One day it’s perfectly beautiful here and the next it’s forty degrees. I’ve had a low fever coupled with a few random symptoms for a while now. While I don’t think it’s serious, it’s enough to make me feel run down and achy. Yesterday was the first day I considered staying home from work because of it. Not only did I not feel up to going to do my regular work, Charlie and I had slated ourselves to help with kitchen duty for the Church’s weekly, parish-wide meeting. I decided to push through and I am EVER so happy I did!

Who knew how much fun it would be to get to cook in a huge kitchen and then serve a huge group of people? I know it’s not every person’s idea of a great time, but it is mine. I love to cook and being in that kitchen took me back to grade school days where the biggest worry I carrived was whether to choose french fries or mashed potatoes.

The harder I worked, the better I felt and when it came time to stand on my side of the table and serve the people coming through the line, in true Grinch fashion, I felt my heart start to grow and grow. It was so fun to look across and see all of the faces and take a moment to try to make each one of them smile. I think by the time the night was over, I was floating a few feet above the ground and my illness? What fever? What symptoms?

Last night I revisited the Bobbe of days gone by, who IS very social and loves to cater to people. I do know where my joy comes from…it’s in connecting with and in serving others. Trust me when I say that not every person I encountered yesterday had a bright, shining face, and not everyone was responsive. It didn’t matter. Joy’s got game; it doesn’t recognize snarls and snarky remarks. Joy only sees other people with compassion and love.

I would have been justified if I’d chosen to stay home yesterday. Thank GOD I didn’t or I’d have missed the most fun I’ve had in quite a long while.

When I finally collapsed in bed last night I truly felt I’d been of good service. Nothing replaces that feeling, except perhaps what it feels like to first be falling in love. I think joy lives equally in both experiences.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you are having issues with angst and depression or you just need to uncover your own joy; find something to do that’s in service of someone else. Go out of your way to be kind when you don’t feel like it. Help someone who cannot reciprocate. Offer a heartfelt compliment to a stranger. Tutor a student. Visit with the elderly. Find something to do that takes the focus OFF of you and places it onto someone else.

Joy lives there.


ACTION

An Angel Reminder: A man is the origin of his actions. Aristotle

Action is movements. It is the exertion of energy or influence. As humans, we are in action a lot of the time. We take action, or we go in and out of action. If we are the origin of our actions as Aristotle said, then who are you? What have your actions in the past hour said about you? How about in the past year? How about your actions toward certain people? What is is that your actions are trying to get across? Once we take action in response to something, we can’t undo the action. We can know many things, but we will never really know the effect of and extent of all our actions.

Think about your actions today. Think about the actions of the angels. Is it always possible to think before we act? Do you recognize all your actions, or do you sometimes look back and ask, “Did I do that?” Ask the angels for help in acting consciously, with courage and compassion.

An Angelic Reflection: With the angels in my life, I can be a true action hero.

(Angel Courage: Terry Lynn Taylor & Mary Beth Crain (c)1999, Harper Collins San Francisco)


From The Angels:

answered-prayer Answered Prayer: Each day connect with your soul allow the divine light in. Your prayers have been answered.

In your life find a way to experience spiritual devotion through prayer or meditation in a way that brings out devotional qualities. These qualities or energies are healing. They drive away anger. All of your prayers are always answered.

The angels request that you be observant of everything you see, hear, touch, taste, smell, or sense in any way it is an aspect of Divinity.

celebration Celebration: This time of light is a time of rejuvenation, of recharging your batteries. Take time to celebrate and rejoice in the uplifting of spirits. Lighten up. Acknowledge your diligence and give yourself credit and appreciation for all that you have accomplished. Stop and smell the roses. Stop to appreciate the beauty and majesty that is present in your lives.

Focus on what you are creating, not what is crumbling. Remember: neutral compassion, this is especially important for what is in your personal experience. Witness and bless. All the angels join with you in celebrations of light at this time, it is by this light that you are united, and by this light that you have created all that is on its way to you. What a glorious time to rejoice in all that is good and all that is true.

Don’t give up – for while it appears that you are on a solitary path, you are supported by reams of fellow beings of light on all around you. If you do nothing else at this time of celebration, remember the unseen party that is going on everywhere!

image Serenity: You are free from stress and your disposition is of greater inner peace and tranquility.

Even if your unable to resolve a current task at hand, your peace of mind and faith will allow you to trust that the angels and God will take care of you. If something in your life isn’t working, be willing to release it to God and the angels.

The angels reassure you that tranquility and refreshed peace of mind is within you. As you work toward serenity, and inner peace your life’s unforeseen problems begin to lessen and disappear.


Blessed are they who give
without expecting even thanks in return,
for they shall be abundantly rewarded.

Blessed are they who translate
every good thing they know into action,
for ever higher truths shall be revealed unto them.

Blessed are they who do God’s will
without asking to see results,
for great shall be their recompense.

Blessed are they who love and trust their fellow beings,
for they shall reach the good in people and
receive a loving response.

Blessed are they who have seen reality, for they know
that not the garment of clay but that which activates
the garment of clay is real and indestructible.

Blessed are they who see the change we call death
as a liberation from the limitation of this earth-life,
for they shall rejoice with their loved ones
who make the glorious transition.

Blessed are they who after dedicating their lives
and thereby receiving a blessing, have the courage and faith
to surmount the difficulties of the path ahead,
for they shall receive a second blessing.

Blessed are they who advance toward the spiritual path
without the selfish motive of seeking inner peace,
for they shall find it.

Blessed are they who instead of trying to
batter down the gates of the kingdom of heaven
approach them humbly and lovingly and purified,
for they shall pass right through.

Peace Pilgrim’s Beatitudes – Mildred Norman


I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart
Down in my heart
Down in my heart

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart
Down in my heart to stay

And I’m so happy
So very happy
I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart
And I’m so happy
So very happy
I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart

 

 

Church Lady Woes

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This morning before I got out of bed, I laid there in an attempt to pray. I was lying there asking God to take care of my loved ones and to keep everyone happy, healthy and secure. Also I was seeking help on my current employment situation. (I am just not sure I am supposed to be where I am any more.)

In a nano second my mind wandered away, thinking about how much I love my work and the many positive experiences I get to have while working in a church that isn’t of my denomination. I am Catholic. I work for a liberal Baptist church. Their hands are in everything imaginable and it’s a beautiful thing to witness and on occasion, to get to be involved in.

What has always interested me about this job is what goes on behind the scenes. Growing up a Catholic girl, I only experienced Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation Masses, funerals and Weddings. Aside from the one time as an adult that I joined a new church, I don’t recall ever setting foot inside a church office.

(Wait. There was one other time where I visited a favorite Priest to talk with him about my experience with The Blessed Mother and the Angels. That was a lovely experience I will talk about another day.)

The point is that I don’t think I ever thought about what goes into running a church. Who makes the decisions;how do things operate; how do the bills get paid; where does the money come from? Who steers the direction? Who decides what events to have, etc. Does “The church lady” really exist?

It is mind boggling. (She does exist, by the way, and she has lots of church lady friends.)

Catholics look to the clergy and the clergy have a very clear hierarchy. Most Catholic Churches have a Parish administrator who handles the business end of their affairs and there isn’t much wiggle room. This is not the case where I work. Everything done within my workplace is done by committee. One team handles personnel, another team handles, finances, another team handles worship, another team handles memorials and so on, and on, and on. Every three years the teams rotate.

For the most part everything works out just fine, but there are some years where the tides turn and I start to feel frustrated when things are done that I personally do not agree with. Usually problems occur when someone appears to be acting out of ego instead of what’s in the best interest of the church. This is where I am right now. I don’t like ego-driven anything especially when it interferes with my work happiness.

For the first time I find myself seriously questioning whether or not I am in the right place. It makes me sad.

Returning to my prayers with apologies to the Lord for being so distracted, I hear in my heart:

Dear Child:

Be still and know that I am near. You will hear my direction when your heart is clear and the time is right. For now, offer your best in all that you do. Do take better care of your temple. In this, you will find your joy.

Breathe in. Fill yourself with my love. It is there.

All is well.

God.


Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  Matthew 6:25-34


From the Angels:

divine-timing Divine Timing: Change can be fast, yet keep in mind the importance of patience and Divine timing, developing a trust in the unseen mysteries of spirit working in your life.

The more that you can approach your own shifting with loving kindness, the smoother your road of change will be. On some days it may still feel like a roller coaster ride, yet your self-love can help you to have the necessary steadiness within.

Pay close attention to doors that are open to you. As you continue the journey of rediscovering your Divine nature, angels surround you with their love and blessings.

imageHealing: The highest purpose of your healer guides is to restore your self-awareness and self-esteem as children of God and help you accept the love and unlimited blessings that God grants you.

Opening your heart and mind to your worthiness is the best healing of all.

harmony Harmony: Strife, confusion and conflict be gone. A difference of opinion has clouded your thoughts.

If you change your focus and look for the common ground of peace, you can bring harmony into your relationships again.

You know that one of the most powerful ways you can fight for your relationships is to be a peacemaker? Beloved child of God, you are a peace-lover at heart. You are bringing unity into your relationships.

Focus and look for the common ground of peace, you can bring harmony into your relationships again, you become an Earth angel. Remember, God and the angels tells us that blessed are the peacemakers. When we dwell together in unity, we honor God and open the door for His hand of blessing in every area of our lives!


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Life is a tapestry: We are the warp; angels, the weft; God, the weaver. Only the Weaver sees the whole design.

 

A Sign from Padre Pio

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The other day I told you the story of my new friend, Tenskawata (Open Door), from the Shawnee Tribe.  A lot of you wrote and said you loved hearing the story and I thank you for this.  It’s always a little nerve wracking to open up and speak about what actually goes on in my life.  ha!

As I’ve stated a million times, the more open we are to receiving our signs and messages from beyond, the more abundant they become!  It’s important to note that when I say, “from beyond”, I’m using this as a “catch-all” phrase for all things of super natural origin.  For me this includes, God first, and also the Universe, the angels, Saints, loved ones, and spirit guides.  “Universe” for me even includes signs in nature.  I realize it’s a vast definition but how vast is this place we live?

I had another visit last night that came in the form of a dream.  I asked specifically for a dream, because I wasn’t in the mood to be startled awake by a presence in the room.  I did receive a dream.  I won’t relate it here because it’s personal for me and for the two others I requested it for, but suffice it to say, “Ask, Believe, Receive”.

I will tell you that for about three months I’ve suffered with a terrible case of hives on my forearm.  Just yesterday I noticed it spreading and it’s really bothering me.  As I was falling asleep last night I heard something on TV say, “some Native Americans have remarkable healing abilities through their spirituality”.  The thought occurred to me to ask for my arm to be healed OR AT LEAST to be relieved of the itching.  So I did.

This morning the rash is still there though not as pronounced and I have had no itching since last night.  Coincidence?  I think not.

What I wanted to talk about today is something that happened during Sunday Mass this past weekend.  We attend a church that I simply adore.  It took us a long time to find this place.   We feel immense comfort inside and the other parishioners seem to be just as laid back as we are.  I have two favorite Priests there.  One is from Africa and truly exudes joy and the other is an elderly man, who to me, seems to be one of the “Holiest” of all the Priests I’ve ever known.  (I can’t explain what it is about him that makes me feel this…but I feel it and this is what’s important.)

I can be in the worst possible mood going into this place and the moment I sit down, I start to feel the layers come off.  This past Sunday I was downright giddy and giggly to the point that I was almost bothering Charlie.  LOL.  Every time he looked over at me I was flashing an ear to ear smile.  Typically this would make him start to laugh, but this past Sunday, he wasn’t really laughing.  I decided I was probably being disrespectful causing him distraction so I attempted to contain myself.

About half way through, I looked up and was elated to see St. Padre Pio standing just to the right of our Priest.  I sat there a few minutes watching him go through the exact motions our Priest was and I giggled.  The moment I broke concentration to look away, he was gone.  When I gathered myself and went back, I’d see him again.  This only went on about three minutes but that’s as long as it takes.  I knew it was a sign…(perhaps just to tell me to stop being such a giggle box and pay attention. So I did.)

Padre Pio is special to me because he was my Grandfather’s favorite.  Because of this, I’ve read several books on the man’s life and I’ve prayed to him on numerous occasions to intercede for me.  One of his many signs is the aroma of violets (my favorite flowers) and once a million years ago, I was Blessed to get to smell them as a sign of his presence.

His is a fascinating life story.  I won’t get into all of it here, but I encourage you, if you are curious, to go and do some research.   Get a book and read about this man’s life.  Incredible stuff.  In short, he was a Catholic Priest who bore the stigmata (wounds of Christ) for most of his life.  He is very well know for bi-locution…meaning he is believed to have manifested himself in more than one place at a time.  He had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and his miraculous healing work is well documented.

So there I am sitting next to Charlie seeing this.  I was overcome with joy and could not figure out why Charlie didn’t seem to be his normal self.  He looked a bit bothered,, which I chalked up to my being so goofy.

Days later, AFTER I finally told him about Tenskwata’s visit, I decided to go ahead and tell him about seeing Padre Pio on Sunday. ( I’d kept this to myself because believe it or not, there are things I actually prefer to keep quiet.)  Before I’d even finished telling him, his eyes grew wide and he said, “OMG!  WHERE WAS he?”  When I told him he gulped.  He had seen something as well but he chalked it up to shadows playing tricks with his mind.

What did he see?  Well, it may sound very strange but at the very same time I was seeing Padre Pio to the right of the Priest, Charlie was seeing what he says looked like the shadow of a demonic being standing just next to him.  He confessed this is why he was so somber during Mass, half thinking he was seeing things and the other half wondering why he would see such a thing on the alter next to a Priest.

Part of Padre Pio’s story has to do with the fact that it is said that for the many years he had the stigmata, he was also tormented by demonic beings.  I recall reading how the other Priests would sit outside Padre Pio’s room at night, keeping vigil, while they heard all sorts of horrible noises coming from inside his room.  In the morning he’d be weak and beaten, bruised and of course bleeding, but he never missed saying a Mass.

What in the WORLD does this all mean?  Well for me, it’s confirmation that I wasn’t imagining things.  Since I know some of the history of Padre Pio, this is just part of the sign letting me know what I experienced is real.  Do I think the Padre is still being tormented by the devil?  No way.  I do know that wherever goodness is present, darkness tries to loom but never wins.

For me it seems to be a continuation of the same message I keep receiving which translated says, “Keep moving forward and don’t stop, no matter what happens.”

For Charlie it’s confirmation that our church hasn’t been invaded by demonic beings.  HA!  Do I think it was a real demonic being standing on the alter?  Nope.  I think he was meant to see this so that we’d talk about it and that’s all there is to it.

I wonder how much we would learn from one another if the fear of being labeled “crazy” wasn’t present?

Sometimes people tell me that as soon as they reach a place in life where they feel they are finally on the right track, something comes along almost instantly to knock them off and keep them down.  I think we all feel this way every now and then and it does get so frustrating.  It’s these times we are supposed to draw God closer, pray harder and refuse to give up.  Nothing can knock us down faster than our own psyche telling us, “this is too hard…I’m tired…I give up”.

Padre Pio was attacked just about every day, his miracles were scrutinized, his wounds were scientifically examined, he was weak all the time for lack of blood, yet his faith in God never once wavered.  He didn’t quit when it was hard. It was hard EVERY day.  Despite all he went through he experienced immense joy and he exuded light to all he encountered and I believe with my whole heart, that in giving he received on a daily basis.

Times are hard for almost all of us but we don’t have to remain stuck in that hardness.  It’s a decision.

Ask.  Believe.  Receive.

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Church Perks

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Very often when least expected, God sends a messenger.

People are shocked when they learn that I suffer tremendously with internal issues of self-worth. Because of this I am nearly always questioning myself. “Did I do that well enough?”; “Am I on the right path?”;”Does anything I do even matter?”;”Does anyone even care about me, really?”;”Am I doing enough?”;”What is wrong with me?”. I could go on and on.

I say people are shocked when they learn this, because I present myself as the exact opposite. Most people who know me think I am the most confident person around and they would never dream that inside, very often I am a mess.

When depression attempts to pull me under, I go on the offense; slapping the fake smile on, forcing myself to “go the extra mile”, etc. I have learned through years of practice that when I am successful with my efforts, God always meets me half way with something glorious. This is what carries me through.

The other day I was in my tiny office in the back of the church when I heard an African man talking to the ladies at the front desk. First of all, I love that accent, so my ears perked up when he started talking.

He had been to a ministry several blocks away from our location in order to receive financial assistance with his rent. As he told his story, I could tell he was very upset. He explained that he understood we are not affiliated with them, but as he was driving by the church, he felt compelled to come inside to talk through it.

Apparently, over a month ago he’d been granted financial assistance (by the other ministry) with his rent so he thought everything was fine. However, when he retrieved his mail that morning, he found an eviction notice. Fearful, he jumped in the car and went back to the Ministry, only to be treated as if he’d never been there.

Under ordinary circumstances I am not the one who handles people who walk in the office for help, but on this day, because of the dire situation, I felt compelled to intervene. So I went out, introduced myself, asked for his paperwork, told him to have a seat, and went back to my office to call the person who leads that Ministry. As it happens, in addition to my part-time work at the church, I also do the finances for the Ministry in question.

Coincidence? I don’t believe in such things.

After a few back and forth calls, it was determined that his file had been misplaced and indeed, the payment for his rent had not been made. A few more calls were made, including one to his Landlord, who accepted the explanation and agreed to wait to receive the past-due rent and I was able to walk back out and tell him his situation was remedied. By this time, hours had passed, and this poor man who had been in the office so upset and nervous finally had relief. He thanked everyone in the outer office and then asked to speak with me privately.

Inside my office, he took both of my hands in his and asked me if I would allow him to pray with me. Tears streamed down my face as I listened to this man, a stranger, praise God for having prompted him to stop into my office. He thanked God for me; he asked God to continue to place me in the path of people who need my help; he told God to continue to use me as his instrument; to continue to allow me to minister, not just in the finance office, but in the community. He said that when he entered the office he was scared and afraid and he felt alone and hopeless and that because of my actions, he was leaving renewed and restored and secure in the knowledge that God still listens to prayers and offers aid in remarkable ways. He mentioned the angels and he called me “one of God’s earth angels”. It was beautiful.

In other words,God met me half-way with something glorious that I would never have imagined for myself. Depression lifted. Joy inserted.

It was as if the Lord, Himself, stood right in front of me and said, “Yes, daughter, you ARE worth it. You ARE appreciated. You ARE loved. You ARE doing exactly what I expect of you. I love you. I love you. Carry on.”

And so I will.

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Day 5 Progress Report. God Sees.

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Amazing grace, I made it to Friday! Wednesday and Thursday were really hard days for me, but I had armed myself with my “plan-ahead” weapons, so I made it!

To recap: Monday I began a two-week jump-start project which I am calling, “return-to-me”. For two weeks I am working on rehabbing my tired body, mind and spirit. For me this means more prayer, replacing breakfast and lunch with protein shakes, eating a healthy dinner, limiting alcohol and writing (because it feeds my spirit.)

I knew Wednesday and Thursday would be  trigger days for me because they are the most stressful of each week. Wednesdays my hubs and I work until 1:00 PM and then we head into the kitchen of a local church, where we create, serve and clean up after their Fellowship Meal. Usually this meal serves about 100 people, but sometimes it can rise to 150. This week we served pork tenderloin.

So you get the idea, it’s laborious, but glorious. I always go home smiling when the people are full and they’ve loved the meal. (In case you are curious, the sides were wild rice and a veggie medley of carrots, broccoli and cauliflower with a three bean salad or coleslaw plus cake and brownies for dessert.) We aren’t playin’!

My Thursday afternoons from 1 until 4:30 are spent with my aging parents. While I am so grateful both of my parents are still here on earth for me to visit, it can be hard at times. (This is a story for another blog, though.) I usually arrive home emotionally drained in some form or fashion.

The problem for me on both of these days is that we have fallen into the habit of evening cocktails on these nights. Everything is so stressful, it’s a nice feeling to get home, change clothes, flop in our favorite chairs and sip on whatever it is that we’ve decided upon for that night-sometimes it’s wine; sometimes it’s vodka; sometimes other things. The bottom line is, this is what we’ve done for years, so it’s a habit that we equate with “reward”.

I knew this would be an issue at the beginning of the week so I intentionally prepared for it. Wednesday morning I woke to my usual prayers for strength and perseverance, then I wrote in my prayer journal. I planned to eat a meal at church just before going home so I would be full. Even with all of this, the drive home a battle raged inside my mind.

“Just one won’t hurt.”, said my ego.

“You made a commitment! And you’ve prayed to God, too! If you do this, it’s like you are quitting on God, ya know. You have to give Him a chance to work.”, said my heart.

“Drat! Blasted Heart! But still, you don’t have to do this all at once, ya know.”, said Ego.

“If not now, when? I’ve prayed over this and over it. God will help me fight you when I get home, now shut up.”, said Heart.

“Still”, Heart thought silently, “What if I fail yet again? Why can’t I just do this?”.

When we arrived home, I went straight upstairs opting for a long, hot bath, which has always been a source of comfort. While I was in there I prayed again for strength and I thought about just what I was asking for and why. (Aren’t I worthy of having the life I was intended to have? I am. It’s up to me to do the work in order to get back there. I’ve let things go for TOO long-taking care of everyone else. It’s time for ME. If not now, WHEN?)

So I went downstairs, had a banana, flopped on the couch and turned on a comedy show. Later, I went to bed happily thanking God for seeing me through the day.

Last night, having battled through Wednesday night, I knew what to expect out of that darned ego-talk. Even though I was prepared the same as the night before and EVEN though I knew Friday was slated to be “cheat night”, as far as dinner and cocktails are concerned, it was still THE hardest time I’ve had. I went to my parents per usual, then stopped at the grocery on the way home (my happy place) in order to select something I’d like to cook for dinner. (This is my way of tweaking the usual routine.) I even went so far as to go to a market I do not frequent. I selected some nice filets, fresh asparagus and I planned on serving the last of the fresh squash I’d made nights before. I even bought two tiny cheesecakes as a treat. Then, I stopped at Redbox and rented a funny movie as a non-food, non-alcoholic activity.

Still, when I arrived home the temptation to throw it all out the window, met me right at the front door. Blasted demon ego!

“Look, you made it past Wednesday! Isn’t THAT enough? You are stressed and sad. You can make up for this later. Next week you can tackle Thursday over! Have a drink. If it makes you feel better, you can skip dinner!”, Ego quipped as if it were nothing.

This time my heart was silent. Instead, I thought of what I’d written in my journals to God. I thought about what I really want. I thought about why I started this in the first place. I thought of starting over and over and over again, never making it over the hump.

“Darn it. This is ridiculous. I am worth MORE than sitting on the stupid couch with a stupid cocktail.”, said Heart.

Just then, I remembered I’d ordered a special herbal bath potion to soak in. Walking to the mailbox I told myself if it was there, I’d use that as my reward. It was.

Determined, I went back into the house, made a nice salad, and sat down and ate it so I would not be hungry while I prepared dinner. After dinner, I headed up the stairs and took a glorious, “I DID IT” soak!

And so here I am today. It’s Friday. (Tonight, I get to have wine and homemade pizza and it doesn’t even feel important any more.)

As I reflect back on the work-week, I am reminded of what I have always known: when I suit up and show up and do the work with God in front, miracles happen. God isn’t just for the big stuff, He’s here for us for all things and He responds in all sorts of wonderful ways. There is something to be said for journaling thoughts, hopes, dreams, prayers etc. to God. (I think it cements things in the heart more securely.) Is it necessary to do so in order to communicate with God? Absolutely not. (In fact, I’m sure there are some people out there who will be offended that this is one of the ways I choose to be connected. Oh well.)

Having said all of this, I am fully aware that after tonight, I still have to go through Saturday and Sunday in order to truly say I had a successful week. (This is a Holiday weekend so I know it will be a little harder.) These days I really am trying to keep focused on the day at hand. While I do plan ahead,the object is to keep my emotions and my determination centered on “one-day-at-a-time”.

So color me grateful. I know God sees me and I like to think He’s happy with my tiny bit of progress. I am feeling joyful beyond measure! The bonus factor that I knew when I began this is that I’m feeling closer to God than before. Lest you think all I do is pray about getting through these two weeks, among other things, I also pray that my relationship with all things spiritual, especially God, continue to strengthen. It’s working.

NOTE: Although I missed a couple of days blogging, I am still here, and I am not going anywhere. Admittedly, this is a lot of harder to do than my blogs of days-gone-by where I had a set routine and outline to follow each day. I WILL persist!

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So you have a visual, here is a photo of the tiny journal I keep in my purse. I pull it out and write in it whenever and  I have something on my heart. (The first page I always use for my favorite verses.) When I get home later, I’ll photograph the book I use there. It’s similar but large. The one below is about five 1/2 inches by 3 and 3/4″. It fits perfectly inside my purse.

FullSizeRender (1)                    FullSizeRender (2)

BTW, if I talk about food, I will always leave the recipe here:


Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients:

  • (2) 1/2 lb Tenderloins (1 package of tenderloin has two 1/2 lb tenderloins inside)
  • 4 tablespoons
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Any seasoning blend you like. I used a prepared one that had garlic, lemon, oregano, chili pepper etc.) You can even use prepared rubs OR just make your own with whatever you like–you want enough to coat the Tenderloin all over.
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • Kosher salt (to taste)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • On a baking sheet, sprinkle each tenderloin with the balsamic vinegar. Rub it into all sides.
  • Drizzle olive oil and rub into all sides.
  • Coat with your seasonings (or prepared rub)
  • Let the pork sit for up to 20 minutes prior to cooking.
  • Roast in hot oven for 20 minutes. If it still gives a lot to the touch, flip it and let it go for 6-8 minutes.

Meanwhile:

While the pork is cooking, to a sauce pan add the following:

  • 1 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. honey

Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Let the sauce reduce by half until it will coat a spoon. When your pork comes out, drizzle it over the top prior to serving.

Grateful Heart stays the course.

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Good grief, it takes so little these days to truly MAKE my day. Yesterday I posted the second little blog I’ve done in years. It was with a bit of trepidation, because I am such a perfectionist! (I have a hard time showing anything that I do not deem to be my personal best.) I did it though, because I am attempting to challenge myself in new ways; ONE of which is to relax my standards a bit. (Who am I kidding, that’s really never going to happen the way it sounds! ha ha) It’s probably better to say I am currently challenging myself in all sorts of new, uncomfortable ways.

Anyway, before I hit that “publish” button, I held a silent pep-rally for myself.

“It doesn’t matter-no one is going to see this anyway. It’s just practice. You can share the links later when you are back in the saddle, etc.”.

Soon after I hit that button, I left my home office determined not to think about it again; just happy I could cross, “write something” off my list.

Then last night something happened. I started getting email notifications that people were subscribing to and liking this blog. I nearly cried. It’s such a small thing, but truly, I am so grateful. It’s the little things that count, right? ♥

So with this tiny boost to my heart, I was able to get through last night without veering from my current eating plan. (Protein shake for breakfast; chalky protein shake for lunch; sensible dinner.) Instead of my planned menu, I made perhaps the best meatloaf I’ve ever made in my life (recipe below), steamed broccoli and regular baked potatoes. The plan had been to make naked burgers and sweet potatoes, but I wasn’t feeling it. (Also, long about four PM, I was starting to have food fantasies, so I made a salad of romaine, tomato, artichoke, onion and light Caesar dressing. It hit the spot.)

(Did I fail to mention I’m a foodie? I probably should have said something. Soon you’ll be seeing photos of my creations!

Tonight is the biggest challenge of the week. Wednesdays are always hard as my hubs and I cook the Fellowship meal for a hundred church people each week.  (Of course today, I FORGOT to pack my lunchtime caulk – I mean shake- but that’s not the real challenge.) Wednesday’s we get into the kitchen around 1PM. Dinner is served promptly at 5:15, so it’s a lot of running around in between. (Did I mention it’s four thousand degrees in the kitchen right now?) The challenge comes when we hit the door at home and it’s almost 7PM and we’re tired. The last thing I want to do is eat, but we’re so wired from working, we don’t want to just lie down either. So what do we do? Usually Wednesday night we have a well-deserved, delicious celebratory cocktail. Not tonight.  I made a vow to stick to this program for 2 weeks, so no imbibing for me this evening.

How will I manage? Determination, dedication and prayer and lots of it. This morning before I got out of bed, I had my morning convo with Jesus. Later, when I went downstairs, I got out my prayer journal and wrote for a while. It’s making a huge difference. There is something to be said about keeping prayer in the forefront of your heart. There is something to be said about keeping a journal just for prayers and intentions. For me it feels as though it’s written on my heart as well as in that journal and it helps me STICK to the PLAN!

Tomorrow I will start to include photos of the things I’m talking about in the hopes that you are currently in the midst of a challenge, you might think about the things that are working for me and give them a try! (I even keep the cutest mini journal in my purse for times when I feel I need a boost. Yes, I do jot down notes and prayers to God there. You’d be surprised at how often the answers come in all sorts of ways.)

OH and…ALSO tomorrow, I have to share the coolest thing EVER…one of my new favorite things…a piece of art that someone rescued from a dumpster for me! (perks of working part-time for a church!) Stay tuned!!

If you are following me, THANK YOU! You make my heart smile! If you have a blog, I will be visiting soon!


Best little Meatloaf Ever 

meatloaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef (we had a grass-fed 80/20 on hand so that’s what I used)
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (I had organic pizza sauce on hand so I used that)
  • 1/2 minced onion
  • 1/4 grated Parmesan
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 3/4 c. steel cut oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Dash or two organic ketchup for the top (optional)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Combine all ingredients (except the optional ketchup).
  • Press into a 8″ x 4″ loaf pan, top with a slathering of organic ketchup if you so desire.
  • Bake 45 minutes.

This recipe will serve 4 – 6 people depending on how large you like your slices. Since it’s just my hubs and I, he will have leftovers for a couple of lunches!

PS-I adapted this recipe from one I found on the Internet.

 

 

Day Three – More on Community

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I grow weary of hearing people say, “All organized religion is nonsense created by humans, for profit and control”.

First, I hate generalizations.  It’s funny because I can remember a time growing up when that’s all my father used to say to me, “Stop generalizing”.  At the time, I didn’t really understand what he meant, but he was right.  I used to make statements like, “You always find fault in anything I say”; “This person is always wrong.”; “You never listen to a word I say.” etc… At fifty, I finally understand what my Dad meant.

I admit for a time, when I was being lazy in my faith and wallowing in self pity, I used to say things about organized religion too. I would tell myself that I didn’t need to go to church because God lives in me, etc.  “Church is a building”; “Faith is what’s in my heart.”; “God lives everywhere, I don’t have to go there to talk to God.”, etc.”

I was right (on some level), until I landed in the finance office of a church that isn’t of my own religion. (I laugh these days, because God absolutely does know what He’s doing at any given time.) I started there as an account temp because they lost their finance secretary to a full time job. I thought this job would be pretty clear cut: I’d do their finances and leave each day. NOT.

I never expected that as the finance secretary of a church, I would be the only person who got to see what good “a church” actually does in a community. As a lifelong Catholic, my only experience with church was going to Mass on Sundays, receiving the Sacraments and tithing each week or month.  I never stopped to think or find out just where my tithes went.  I thought they were supporting the church building and the school, period.  I never went beyond this in my thinking. Why would I? I just showed up on Sundays, gave what I could, and left.

Until I landed at my current work place.

Yes, it is true that tithes do go to the upkeep of the building and the staff. Church’s are non profit organizations, which means that they do depend on weekly/monthly tithing and gifts from estates and outside entities.  Without the kindness and faith of others, they don’t get to exist.

I worked for about six months just trying to find my way in the finance office. No one could help me because the business of the finance office of a church is completely confidential. Thankfully, my life long accounting background afforded me the experience and knowledge to be able to create the statements etc.

What I did not expect, however, was learning just what it means to be a church.  What I get to experience every single day is happiness and love.  While we do have a small number of staff, who are paid, the place where I work is largely governed and staffed by volunteers who give of their time freely and willfully day in and day out.  This doesn’t mean that they just write checks to the church.  It means that they come into the office to answer phones, they write thank you notes when we receive memorial donations, they go out to visit the shut-ins and those who are hospitalized, they organize visits to the home-bound, they plan picnics for new members, they create ministries for the elderly and the youth and the children, they buy beds and clothes for people new in the country, they walk in parades, the list is endless.  In short, wherever there is a need, they are there.

My “ah-ha” moment came one day the first year of my employment, when a random envelope of cash was received and on the outside it simply said, “Please give to the church”. It was a substantial amount of cash and we worked hard to find out where it had come from so I could give tax credit. In the end, a random person had given this envelope to a congregant who was leaving Sunday services…he didn’t care about “credit”.

The day we finally figured this out, my heart just opened and I cried. Not knowing the story, I envisioned some stranger saving his pennies until he felt he had enough and then he gave it to the first person he saw coming out of services. The person who received this money and turned it in could only say that this was a foreign person who offered the envelope.

My workplace caters to foreigners and refugees and I love it.  Several times I’ve gotten to use my Spanish to help visitors looking for the “English as a Second Language” classes, which are hosted by the church. (I have a degree in Spanish yet have never gotten to use it for any reason until now.) (PS-Thanks God!)

The Minsters of this place work 24/7.  If a person has a medical emergency in the middle of the night, they jump up and go. Often times during the day, I witness the Minsters going on countless “appointments” to pray with the sick, the lonely, the depressed or those who are trying to figure out “God”, period. They go when they are called, period, and it doesn’t matter how many times per day they are called…they GO.

In short, I’ve been at this place for three years part-time. I’d be there full-time in a heart beat because I’ve finally learned what a church really is. It’s LOVE actualized.

Yes, you can love and pray and worship God all on your own and HE IS there, but a church is a community of people all working together to help others.  At least, this is MY experience.

Lots of times I’m the only person who gets to read beautiful letters attached to checks that talk about what this church has meant and why “this donation” is being made and I feel so honored.  I look at it as God entrusting me as the go-between.  I make sure the donation gets where it’s supposed to, I get to write the thank you note and I get to keep the secret of who gave it.  (That’s between God and me and the donor and it’s so fun!)

So.  Yeah, I’m weary of hearing that organized religion sucks because it doesn’t.  I didn’t even mention all of the money that my workplace donates to local charities OR what it does to take care of refugees from other countries. We receive calls daily from people wanting help on their rent or utility bills and we work in conjunction with other area charities to help as much as possible. I’ve seen our Ministers (and members)buy clothes and shoes for children  (sometimes out of their own pockets), buy a bus ticket to get a stranded traveler home, deliver food to those who need it; I’ve even seen them invite a person in to sit in our church parlor to eat a meal and just chat with a fellow human. I could go on and on.

If you think, for one moment, that organized religion sucks.  I hope you will do some more research.  We give away most of what comes in and what we don’t have to give away, we make up with our own money, time and effort.

I’m so Blessed.

Those who used to know me on Myspace have to KNOW that God led me here to this place and that I’m happy as a clam.  I don’t make much money, but my heart is FULL times infinity.  I haven’t even scratched the surface here.

I think it’s time for all of us to either re-discover or discover for the first time, what it’s like to be a real member of a real community.  Church might just be the first stop.  No. I’m certain it should be.

Praise God. (I do.)