You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘gratitude’ tag.
Valentine’s Day is difficult when you are single. I know that all too well, and I keep all single people in my thoughts and prayers on this day when love and romance are celebrated and loneliness and yearning are cast in darker, sharper shadow.
I’m not going to tell anybody not to feel sad or lonely or broken-hearted. It is only human to feel these things. Remember, however, that such things are only part of the ephemeral world, which is passing so quickly. They are not part of the eternal life that God wishes to share with us even, to some degree, while we are here in the world. As such, we should never let ourselves become fixated on them. Feel them, yes–and then offer them up. Today is Friday, right? Make it part of your Friday penance and your remembrance of the Lord’s Passion. Take those feelings and lay them at the foot of the Cross. Lift up your broken heart to the Crucified Lord and ask Him to make it whole. He will do it.
Instead of dwelling on what you lack, take some time to remember all of the many great blessings and wonders God has filled your life with. Remember that no person loves you and cherishes you more than God does. Let your heart be full of love and gratitude for Him. Also let your heart be full of love and gratitude for the people who are in your life: family members, friends, colleagues, teachers and mentors. The love we share with these people may not be as thrilling as romantic love, but it is generally more constant and loyal, every day of the year. There are also many, many people out in the world who are even more lonely and hurting and unloved than we are–even if they may not appear to be so. Look kindly on every person you meet. You never know how much good a smile or a hello might do for them–and for you too.
Know that you are not truly alone. I know that sometimes it feels like you are the only single person in the whole world on Valentine’s Day. You’re not. Your bonds with others who are in the same situation may span time and space–but they are there. This is especially true for Christians. We are never alone. No matter how isolated and alienated we might feel, the Church never fails to include us in her loving, universal embrace. We have people in Heaven, in Purgatory, and on Earth who share the familial bonds of the Church. None of them are ignorant of what we are going through and how we are feeling.
Have a happy and blessed day!
No matter how many prayers I pray, I always feel like I need to offer God more gratitude than I do. It’s not so much that I am ungrateful (although that might be the case at times, sorry to say), as that He deserves so much gratitude! Infinite gratitude, in fact. And we are finite creatures. Sometimes I even feel frustration at what I can or cannot express with words.
At times like that, the Psalms are a special blessing! Whatever you are feeling, whatever inside you is yearning for expression, there is always a fitting Psalm. Tonight, that Psalm for me was in Evening Prayer, Psalm 138:
The kings of the earth will bring his glory and honor into the holy city (see Revelation 21:24).
I thank you, Lord, with all my heart,
you have heard the words of my mouth.
In the presence of the angels I will bless you.
I will adore before your holy temple.
I thank you for your faithfulness and love
which excel all we ever knew of you.
On the day I called, you answered;
you increased the strength of my soul.
All earth’s kings shall thank you
when they hear the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the Lord’s ways:
“How great is the glory of the Lord!”
The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly
and the haughty he knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of affliction
you give me life and frustrate my foes.
You stretch out your hand and save me,
your hand will do all things for me.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal,
discard not the work of your hands.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now,
and will be for ever. Amen.
When I began reading this Psalm tonight, my heart became light, as if a weight was literally being lifted from it. I read the Liturgy of the Hours each day (at least Morning and Evening Prayer). It is always instructive. But occasionally, exactly the right Psalm comes up at exactly the right time.
The part that struck me most of all was the second stanza:
I thank you for your faithfulness and love
which excel all we ever knew of you.
On the day I called, you answered;
you increased the strength of my soul.
No matter how greatly I experience God’s faithfulness and love, I am always surprised and bewildered, in a good way. It often leaves me lost in wonder. He excels, and then excels again, and excels once more, and on and on and on! Just when you might think He could not lavish any more upon you, He does. And He has given a great deal of much-needed strength to my soul. And all the gratitude in the world is not enough for Him and His deeds!
Thank God for the Psalms. There is always such depth in them. Sometimes I pray them and may not even realize why I am so strongly affected by them. The words are often very simple. But the Psalms are more than their words. Of course, we hold them to be divinely inspired. I think they are imbued with the Holy Spirit’s own prayers, into which He elevates and transforms our humble and insufficient words and feelings and thoughts.
I say again, thank God for the Psalms!
So, for a while recently, for reasons I won’t go into, I’ve suffered frustration, exasperation, and indignation on account of men. More specifically, bad men. Men who are bad to women (and who have been bad to me in particular). Men who are bad in general. And believe me, I have been wanting nothing more than to vent my rage in some public forum… such as this blog. To just let it all out and prove, once again, how correct William Congreve was when he wrote:
Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.
But, no doubt due to a God-given measure of grace and self-control, I have refrained. For one thing, nobody wants to read it–and I don’t blame them. For another, no matter how justified my anger might be, I would only come across as a bitter, petulant, and overall ugly shrew of a woman–and that is not what I am. For another, enmity between the sexes only serves the devil–he helped start the whole mess, and he hasn’t ever gotten tired of congratulating himself over it. And finally… I’m just above that. My own character demands that I guard my passions and any words that may arise from them.
I also know many more good men than bad. Men who know my worth and help me to know it. These are the men who matter. These are the men I want to write about. These are the men who bring out the very best in me.
So, here is to all the fathers who have gone before me, from whose lives and blood I have sprung. Here’s to all the fathers, both biological and spiritual, who have prayed for me and shown me my way forth into the world and toward Heaven, who have protected me and mended my wounds, and cherished me, commending me to the future and to God as a gift and a legacy they are leaving behind them. Here’s to all the men who have cared more about the future and about their descendants than about themselves and their own interests.
Here is to all my friends–brothers, really–with whom I have grown up and learned. Here’s to all the men of my generation who have been bold enough to stand firm against the assaults of our culture, those who have refused to dirty themselves and their regard for women. Here’s to them who have dared to remain pure and honest, respectable and responsible, diligent and dutiful. Here’s to them who are reviving that rare breed known as the Gentleman and, Lord willing, the Saint as well. Through thick and thin, these are the brothers who walk by my side.
Here is to all the heroic men who have deemed themselves unworthy, unequal to the responsibilities with which they have been charged, and wrongly believed themselves to be inadequate when in reality, they are just weary from the efforts they have already made. Here’s to those humble enough to cast ego aside and receive from my lips a whisper of encouragement and belief, or from my hands some small token of support and esteem. Here’s to them humble enough to regard me as their benefactress, just as Christ regarded Veronica when she gave Him her veil.
Here is to all those men of great stature, and more importantly, great hearts. Here is to all those men God-fearing and God-worshiping. Here is to all those men clever, resourceful, and wise. Here is to those who have allowed me to be daughter, sister, friend, patroness, counselor, teacher, pupil, gift, treasure. Here is to those who have entrusted to me their love, courage, selflessness, esteem, admiration, respect, and desire–and cherished mine in return. Here is to those who have been willing to die upon the dread hill, to shed their blood–or time, or money, or toil–that I might live more happily and securely.
Here is to all of those men who have placed themselves before me to show me my own value and worth, my own beauty and preciousness, my own goodness and genius. Here’s to those who have shown me who I am as a woman and a daughter of God.
There are way too many of you to name–I think, and hope, that you know who you are. I thank you and love you from the bottom of my heart! And I humbly call upon you to pray for me, for the healing of my pains, disappointments, injustices, and betrayals at the hands of men, and that someday not too far in the future, I may find a good man, one of your true brethren, to be my husband.
One more thing–because I’m not a saint yet–to all of those men who do not fit any of the descriptions above: Grow up, grow a spine, trash the narcissism, and stop making excuses. You’re an affront to both men and women. And stop making empty apologies to me when you know I can’t do a damn thing to hold you accountable–that’s way too easy. Instead, try apologizing to God, because He knows full well how you’ve treated me, His creature and His daughter. Even if I don’t have a man on this earth to stand up for me, God will. I promise He will hold you accountable and I shall receive justice sooner or later.
Even if life is getting me down, there’s no excuse for negativity. So, in times like these, I like to do “gratitude posts” where I consider all of the many blessings I have been given! Not necessarily an exhaustive list (that would take forever!), but just whatever is at hand or on my mind at the time.
So tonight, here we go:
1) Cooler weather! OK, so “cooler” has it’s own definition here in Dallas. But our high and low temperatures have plummeted about 20 degrees! For example, tomorrow’s forecasted high is 89° F. That may not seem “cool,” but for the last couple of months, our low temperatures were usually in the 80s. It’s supposed to get down to 61° tonight–which is downright chilly. I don’t think I’ll need my air conditioning on.
2) Having men in my life who have cherished me. Especially my dad and my fiancé, Patrick. It sucks that they are both deceased. But I know that somehow, they are still watching me and loving me. This is really important because to some degree, my identity and self-worth as a girl and as a woman have been defined by how the men around me regard me. Since losing Dad and Patrick, I’ve often found myself feeling totally lost and totally clueless about myself and my self-worth. But I try to remind myself that they still cherish me. And that good men who can cherish me do exist! Now, if only I could meet one who is in the market for a wife…
3) Free education. One of the most incredible employee benefits offered by the university where I work is that I can take classes there for free! F-R-E-E! I only have to pay for my own books and supplies. I’ve only taken a few classes so far (not ready to plunge into a degree program right now). I have thoroughly enjoyed them, and enjoyed being involved in formal education again.
4) Being able to write and listen. I sometimes put myself down because I am not very good at talking. I’m just not. I’m generally a horrible conversationalist because I find it challenging to put my thoughts into words in a quick, spontaneous manner. If I am called upon to speak in a meeting or something, even if it is something brief and simple, I must have written notes, and I must rehearse it… and rehearse it… and rehearse it. If I don’t have at least a few days to prepare, I’m a nervous wreck and get tongue-tied. But I have other gifts, gifts that seem relatively rare: writing and listening. It’s amazing what you can hear when you’re not talking–and that’s most of the time for me. And writing–writing is its own special process. People may assume that if you can write well, you can speak well, and vice versa. That may be true for some people, but I think they involve very different thought processes. And my mind is much better wired for writing. I can write quickly and spontaneously in a way that I can almost never speak. And I am really proud of that.
5) I have a job. So many people in this country do not. If I am ever tempted to feel bored or plaintive about my job, I have only to think briefly about the alternative: trying to find a job. That straightens me up forthwith. And I offer prayers for those who are out there trying to find work.
Because so many dear, thoughtful people have taken the time and care to check in on me to make sure I am OK… and also to drop reminders–subtle and not-so-subtle–that it’s been a really long time since I’ve posted anything here… And because I am so touched and grateful for it all…
I just wanted to let everybody know that I am indeed OK and that I am not unmindful of how long it has been since I posted here. :)
In fact, I should love very much to flood you with fresh blog posts. The only problem is that I’ve had trouble thinking of anything worth posting about (with the exception of the upcoming retreat with my Lay Dominican community, of course). I’ve had considerable writer’s block with regard to the blog. However, I have not been letting my creativity wither away. In fact, I have been quite busy with various off-line pursuits: writing fiction, doing some drawing and coloring, reading.
I wish I could say that my spiritual life is going swimmingly… but it’s not. It hasn’t been for quite some time. I’ve experienced a long arid spell. Loving God has been mostly cold-steel sheer will–it’s been a while since my love has been the unquenchable, all-consuming fire that it is often capable of being. Which is not to say that I love Him any less. Just that it is a different sort of love. Love would be pretty boring if there weren’t some variety to it, right? I often experience God’s love of me in a similar way–sometimes it’s all warmth and tenderness and beauty, almost a kind of romance, and then sometimes it’s like being cranked through a wringer or tossed off a cliff, tough as nails (yes, Lord Holy Spirit, I’m talking about You!), and then sometimes it is reserved, still, silent, a desert wind, an encompassing darkness–but never empty or indifferent.
So, it’s not going swimmingly, no. But it is all right. It is going. It is bringing me somewhere. Teaching me something. It always does. In hindsight, I always look back and can’t believe I didn’t realize how very close God was to me, and how much He was saying to me and doing for me.
Health-wise, I can’t complain. The worst I’ve had to deal with is bursitis in my foot. The depression is under control.
At least, the physiological aspects of depression are under control. I still have lots of emotional and psychological stuff to work through. Mainly grief and sorrow. I know that the physical elements are under control because I have once again turned my mind to the elements that are beyond the reach of medical science. They are quite huge and intimidating–even frightening. But I can stand them now and begin my passage through them. And that is quite a relief, actually. I want, and need, to set out on that path.
We are in the middle of a long, extremely hot, drought-ridden summer here in Texas. We’ve had about 27 consecutive days with high temperatures above 100° F (38° C). It’s gone on so long that I dare say (while shuddering) that I am almost used to it! But I still avoid being outdoors as much as possible. Summer has always been my least-favorite season. But in general, as I have matured, I have come to appreciate some things about summer. As long as there are luminous, long-lingering evenings, glowing fireflies and singing cicadas, and a bottle of Sho Chiku Bai chilling in my refrigerator, I find that I can face summer with a rather peaceful and poetic outlook. I think it is this outlook that has so inspired my artistic endeavors of late.
So this is where I am. Typing words about love and summer and God and life. Admiring the silhouettes of trees against a powder-blue sky sketched over with faint apricot-colored mares’ tails. Holding a cold sake cup delicately in my fingers. And thinking about you, whoever and wherever you are, very thankful that you have paused to read these words.
God bless you.
Today, 16 October, is the birthday of Elisabeth Leseur. Here is something she wrote the day after her 39th birthday in 1905:
How plainly visible is Providence in the history of my soul and of my life! It must be the same for all, if one knows how to discern its beneficent action; when I look back, in spite of misfortunes and tears, I can only bless and adore. I begin this new period of life–long or short, calm or sorrowful, according to God’s will–with these words from the depths of my soul: I believe, I adore, I hope.
I too can clearly see God’s Providence when I look back over my life, and especially in the past five years. Years of so much sorrow, grief, pain, and battle. And like Mme. Leseur, I can only bless and adore God for it all.
A happy and blessed Thanksgiving Day to all my countrymen!
My heart brims over with gratitude when I think of how much I have to be thankful for: my family and friends, my country, my freedom, all the bounty of creation, my education and career and all the many opportunities I’ve received, and too many other things to name. Above all, I am so grateful for God and His Church! Without our Lord, we would have nothing.
I hope it is a lovely day for everybody! I will be feasting with some of my relatives in my hometown. Cherishing the long weekend and visiting with friends. And looking forward to the beautiful Advent season!
(Photo by Lawrence OP)
I’ve had a busy but wonderful weekend. The retreat on faith and science was fantastic! A lot to absorb, a lot to think and pray about. Of course, I will try to share some of what I have learned and pondered.
One thing we discussed at the retreat is the nature of faith: that it is an act of trust and steadfastness. One phrase I wrote down and that has really stuck with me is: “Faith is the habit of trusting God.” I think that came from St. Thomas Aquinas.
Faith is the habit of trusting God. I have to say, this makes me a bit uncomfortable. To tell you the truth, it makes me seriously question just how much faith I’ve got. Looking back over the last couple of months, I see a pattern of me not trusting in God. It’s something I’ve have to bring up with my confessor a few times.
Oh, I know God is good. I know God is generous. I know God has saved my skin (and my soul) more times than I can remember. I know God is trustworthy and constant. I know, I know, I know. I believe in God’s goodness and generosity. I believe that He will not cease to save me, provide for me, be good and generous to me. I believe, I believe, I believe.
And yet… I still have the awful habit of worrying that my life is just going to be a huge disaster and I’m never going to be happy. I still have the awful habit of demanding that God prove to me His goodness and love… usually by demanding that He do what I want Him to do, give me what I want Him to give me–and do it now because I’m tired of waiting!
Where is the trust? Where is the steadfastness? Where is the good habit? In short–where is the faith?
As if I weren’t already being haunted by these questions, our parish priest (who is also my confessor), gave his homily this morning on pretty much the exact same topic: faith as trust. I got that sinking “This is not a coincidence” feeling deep in my gut. That unnerving “Here we go again, the Holy Spirit is not going to let me go until He’s thoroughly banged this into my head!” feeling.
I felt like Father was speaking directly to me this morning when he said that faith is much more than just checking off the list of beliefs you assent to. Rather, it is based on steadfast trust, on a strong personal relationship with God that perseveres even in the times when we don’t understand, even when we feel doubt. Faith pushes us beyond the comfortable things we think we know about God and draws us into the mystery of who He really is. It draws us into the “hard sayings,” such as that He gives us His flesh to feed, indeed to gnaw, upon. And at that point, we, like the original disciples, have to make a choice: do we stay with Him or do we leave?
I realized that lately, in my life, I’ve come to a point where I don’t know what God is doing. I don’t know what He’s got in the works. I can’t see, and I don’t understand. Doubt, frustration, and impatience creep in. And I make the wrong choice. I choose to go my own way. I choose to walk away.
It’s not a permanent choice, obviously. Something brings me to repentance. Something opens my eyes and makes me say, “Oh Lord, what have I done?” I think that something is the personal relationship I have formed with God so far. It’s remembering that His love and goodness are real, that they are not just a list of things I believe. They are the fabric of my life and who I am. They have been proven over and over, without my demanding it. There is something more there.
I am not without faith (thank God). It just needs to grow. I need to let it grow. If I can’t see things clearly now, as is bound to happen, I don’t have to bang my own head against it–nothing is more futile than that. Rather, I can take that opportunity to look back on all that God has done for me and given to me. In fact, this was my confessor’s advice on a recent occasion: stop and look back to where you have been. See the ways in which God has led you and provided for you, and see how you have received and responded–or not. Get your bearing so that you can stay the course.
This also relates to some things Father Powell told us. That faith is a gift from God, among countless other gifts He gives us. God’s giving is a given. The question is: Do we receive? Do we receive with gratitude? So, gratitude is an important piece of the puzzle also. What other reaction can we have when we realize just how good God has been to us? Does not gratitude engender trust?
So, you can see, even beyond the retreat, I have lots to think and pray about. Lots to learn and lots to overcome. And I’m sure the Holy Spirit will bang me on the head as much as needed. But as always, that is a good thing. Sometimes we need our walls torn down, and our foundations built up.
[UPDATE 1] Oh, and this section from today’s Evening Prayer scripture passage (1 Peter 1:3-7) struck out at me as one more bang on the head:
You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that you faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears.
[UPDATE 2] And then I found this quotation over at Exultet:
“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”
I think this advice may resonate with me most of all. Leave it to good ol’ G.K.! :D
Beautifully captured in this editorial from the National Catholic Register.
My favorite line:
Thank you, priests, for sacrificing the fulfillment of “making it in the world” in order to give us a chance to make it in the next world.
Indeed, I don’t even know how well I would make it in this world without the care, guidance, and inspiration of our priests… much less the next world!
Deo gratias for all our priests! Go read the whole article.
HT: one of my favorite blogging priests, Father Z!
[UPDATE]: Reading this also made me realize something important. Namely, that I don’t think I’ve ever properly thanked my own parish priest for all he does! Duh!
So, I sent him a little letter via email. I know that’s maybe not the most personal thing… but I’m not very good at speaking, especially when it’s something really important that I want to say. And anyway, I just felt strongly compelled to say something right now.
I let him know that he helped spark my interest in the Dominican Order. I heard him speak of it one time, a few years ago, really just in passing. But it stayed with me and, unexpectedly enough, it opened a door for me that I might not have found otherwise, or at least, not as easily. Funny how such small things can have such a huge impact! He really does deserve thanks for helping me find my vocation.
I should probably send something to the priory as well. How can I so easily overlook those closest to me? Chalk it up to my being a total scatterbrain. [END UPDATE]
Sometimes when life is getting me down and I am drowning in negativity, it helps to just make a list of all that I am grateful for. So here we go:
1. I have the most wonderful, supportive, giving family in the world! I just love them so much, and they love me. They’ve been with me through thick and thin and have never given up on me! I don’t know where I’d be without them. No place good, I’m sure.
2. I have lots of terrific friends too! Old and new, near and far, even some I’ve never met face-to-face. Each is a wonderful and much-needed gift from God. I have a great diversity of friends, and it goes to show that love is greater than whatever differences we may have. I don’t think people come into our lives by mere chance. I’ve been so abundantly blessed with good people… and people who care enough to use tough love when necessary.
3. I have more-than-adequate shelter, food, drink, clothing, and other material needs. I’m pretty sure that I live a life of luxury compared to many people in our world… or even down the street. Just owning a laptop is pretty special. Not to mention my car, my TV, and all of my many, many books!
4. I’m a Catholic. And a Dominican! Oh my gosh, if you’d told me 5 years ago I’d even be a Catholic, much less a Dominican, I’d have thought you were out of your mind. But God is powerful, God is good, God is persuasive. And my heart has always longed after truth, life, love. So looking back, I’m not too surprised at my conversion. But it’s still a pretty huge deal… pretty miraculous, really!
5. I have a terrific parish and a terrific Dominican community that are truly a second home and second family. When I did decide to rejoin the Church, I was dreading having to “shop around” for a parish where I would feel at home. But as it turns out, I didn’t have to shop around at all! I found a beautiful, traditional parish with a good priest and good liturgy and plenty of opportunities to learn, work, and form friendships.
6. I’ve survived so much. Maybe not as much as other people, but definitely my share, I think. I’ve done some stupid and dangerous things and gotten involved with really bad people. I’ve given grief to people who love me. I’ve gone through my own particular griefs. And somehow I’m still here!
7. I have a job. And it’s a job I love. I’m also well-educated, and can expand my education and knowledge as far as I please. Just reading all the books I’ve got on my shelves would carry me pretty far…
8. I’m quite healthy and able-bodied (though I can do more to look after my health and fitness to be sure).
9. I’m an American. I was born in the greatest country on earth. She’ll always be the greatest country in my mind, no matter what stupid and/or evil things some of her people and governments may do. This country is so vast and beautiful, and even though we may forget or take it for granted, she was and is founded on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
10. We’ve got this unique, marvelous little blue marble of a planet that is just teeming with life, in such astonishing diversity! And not only the incredible biology but also geology and geography… mountains, seas, deserts, fuels, precious stones, and all the inanimate features. The sun and the moon. Such endless wonders on this little blue marble! Sometimes I can completely lose myself in looking at a tree (for instance) and marveling at how the Creator came up with such a strange, wonderful idea, something so beneficial in so many ways!
Ahhh… I’m just so thankful for all of these, and much more in addition! :D
What are you grateful for today?