Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Prayer to End the School Year

Another school year is coming to an end.  And what a year the 2017-2018 school year was.....

The events of the last 9 months have made me not only thankful to see it end but needing to get on my knees to Thank God for many things.  This school year began with Hurricane Harvey hitting our area and ended with the devastating school shooting at nearby Santa Fe High School.

In the middle of the crisis around us there were so many beautiful things, events and people that touched and changed our community and family for the better.  Let's just start with the teachers and administrators who have interacted with my kids this year...  A special social studies teacher that made a fast friend out of my geography obsessed daughter, an ELA teacher who slowly won my oldest daughter over with her love of the written word, a soccer trainer who pushed my son harder than he thought he could handle, and then helped him recognize how that hard work paid off.  What about a school nurse who repeatedly gave my child reassurance when she felt her anxiety getting the best of her, or the teacher who spent many extra hours creating clubs at school for kids to come together in a shared excitement over Harry Potter, K-Pop, or Creative Writing? I cannot forget the choir instructors, several of them, who provided opportunities for my girls to develop their skills in singing, but also encouraged them to truly use their gift to entertain and inspire others.

That's just small taste of the special people who entered our lives this year.  When I sit and think about our year, the list of people that supported our family, encouraged my kids to thrive, or just truly inspired us with the way they live life is nearly endless.  

My own words to adequately describe or commemorate this 2017-2018 school year are inadequate, but I found a prayer that somehow captures what I'm feeling as my kids take their last finals of the year.

Prayer to End a School Year from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers
This Prayer to End a School Year appears in Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers: A Companion to The Catechism of the Catholic Church

As you finish your school year, I pray God gives you the refreshment and peace you seek.

Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers: A Companion to The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers
The Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers: A Companion to The Catechism of the Catholic Church is my "go-to" when searching for a prayer that sums up my thoughts or a prayer in a needed situation. You can pick it up on Amazon here.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Make Today Matter

Make Today Matter by Chris Lowney - Blog Hop

From the moment I pulled this little book out of the mailing package I  knew it was going to be special.  Why you ask?  Just a hunch based on the smile on my face when I saw it and read the cover.  First of all, the colors were happy and the gold radiated like the sun around the words. "Make Today Matter: 10 Habits for a Better Life (and World)."  Um, Yes Please!

I immediately opened the cover and read the first words, “Picture Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s fury…” my eyes welled up, my chest tightened and I was immediately intrigued to read more.  How was this author going to relate what our city and community went through less than a year ago and making today matter?  The introduction title is, "Why Does it Take a Crisis?" and not to spoil the intro, but I'll share that the author, Chris Lowney, understands #HoustonStrong and how our communities came together to support and take care of one another.  

Diving into this new book from Loyola Press, I found myself looking for a notebook to write down all the big things I wanted to remember for later.  I even jumped on Instagram during Chapter 2 to share a statement I found truly inspiring.
"Bring big heart by making the most of every opportunity, by perceiving your opportunities  as broadly as you can, and by developing your gifts as fully as you can, and using your gifts for great purposes." 

Chapter five, "Banish the Inner Demons: Be Free for What Matters" struck a deep chord with me.  Let's be honest, we all have a habit or two that is holding us back in life.  As I read through this short chapter, I worked to identify what mine might be.  I stumbled onto "procrastination."  Oh my, Yes.  I put off so many important things until the last minute.  My mind reasons I'm just in a busy season of life with a million things going on at all times and I'm just trying to get it all done.  Hmmm.  That's an easy out and I know it deep down.  After going through the first few chapters of this book and identifying what matters to me I'm ready to be a little more honest with myself.

When I examine which things I put off and which things I tackle right away I see that I'm procrastinating out of fear.  These are things that I'm afraid to fail at and worried about the outcome.  It's almost like I'm setting myself up with a ready made excuse.  "If it isn't any good, well, it's because I had to do it in a rush."

Wow.  What a revelation for me.  This changes how I look at tasks I'm avoiding at the current moment.

When I say this little book packs a punch, I'm not kidding.  Chapter five is only six small pages and it helped me realize not only the "why" behind something holding me back but it's lit a fire in me to want to free myself of it.  I want to do this so I can pursue the life I want, a life that matters.

Thank you Chris Lowney and Loyola Press for gifting me this book in return for joining your blog hop.  I haven't even finished reading it but I'm ready to gift a copy to so many people in my life who would benefit from this message.

Make Today Matter by Chris Lowney

If you are interested in "Make Today Matter: 10 Habits for a Better Life (and World) head over to Loyola Press to pick up a copy.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

I Dare You to See This Movie Once

I Can Only Imagine

We love movies for the stories they tell. Their ability to transport us into another world, far far away.  Occasionally a story comes along with the power to touch our soul – to change our lives.

"I Can Only Imagine" reveals a story closer to home, a reality for many.  A story first captured in a song, written by lifetimes of pain and separation: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Of a hurt so deep, it feels impossible to let go.

Do you know that pain? I dare you to see this movie once.

As a child, Bart faces pain and separation from the father who abuses him and the mother who abandons him. Throughout his life he clings to various touchstones found in others, in music, in God, that offer him Hope and opportunity, for a better life following new dreams.

But the pain, unresolved, follows him, an anchor rooted in his past.

His father also lives a life of pain; the pain of failed dreams, of abandonment, of addictions. This story illuminates how a life of pain twists a man into a monster. How the pain feeds the monster. And it is this pain, shared between generations, that threatens to destroy all hope of ever experiencing enduring love.

As Bart pursues his own dreams, a career that takes him away from his childhood, we recognize that he is only running away from his troubles, including the inevitability of becoming his own monster. By not facing his pain, the pain becomes a barrier preventing him from realizing his desires.

When finally challenged to be honest with himself, to yield to his past, face his fears, and be vulnerable to offer and receive forgiveness, he can’t.  He begins an angry journey, a duty or task that is required, but not desired. He faces that pain, personified in his father, with anger, only seeing him through old eyes, not new. Bart is unwilling to listen to his father, to be open to God’s promise of redemption. He is unable to recognize something changed in his father, which is so clear to us.

At one point, his father pleads with him, “If God can forgive everybody else, why can’t He forgive me?” Bart spits out his words bitterly, “God Can. I Can’t.”

God Can. 
And He Does. 
Lord help our unbelief.

God offers His Grace to all, showing us Mercy, allowing us to find and receive redemption from our hurt. But Love is Action and Action requires conscious choice. It is in our choosing the act of forgiving others that we too will be forgiven. By others. By ourselves.

This choice requires our surrender, our ability to yield to His desire for us.  Thy Will Be Done.  This is where the healing begins. This is where the healing leads into transformation.

God can do so much. He can make good out of every bad thing in our lives. And He gives us the opportunity to fix our lives, if we only have the courage to act.

And when Bart takes the stage to sing “I Can Only Imagine” for the first time in the movie, it will feel like the first time you’ve ever heard it. Your heart will be so FULL that you will desire that peace and forgiveness in your own life. God’s Overwhelming Love.

Don’t believe me?
Have Pain?

I Dare You to See This Movie Once.

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, 
who are called according to his purpose 
- Romans 8:28

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Harvey Brought Me Hope

Hurricane Harvey and its rain brought much destruction and despair to the Texas Gulf Coast region, but what you may not know, is that it also brought Hope.

Before Harvey, I was inundated by arguing, disagreements, violence and indifference on social media, in the news and in popular culture. Everywhere I looked, people seemed at odds with one another. Then Harvey happened.

Harvey came onshore late Friday night south of us. We were on the dirty side of the storm which brought severe thunderstorms, wind gusts and spawned tornadoes. That night a tornado ripped through my neighborhood waking us up with the undeniable sound of a freight train and things pelting the windows. After a few terrifying minutes, the worst was over. We were scared but fine. When the sun came up and we looked outside, we realized the tornado had just barely missed our house while seriously damaging those around us. We were stunned at the damage.

Soon, everyone began pouring out of their homes to check on each other. Thankfully, no one in our area was injured. Almost immediately, people started arriving to the worst hit streets just behind us to begin assessing their needs, cleaning up, cutting up trees, tarping roofs and offering people places to stay. I don’t remember hearing that anyone put out the “word” that help was needed, they just turned up. My husband and son went out to help a neighbor cut trees off his roof while the girls and I went to check on friends. I was amazed by what we saw. The contrast between the destruction of these homes and the sheer number of people out there helping in every way imaginable. It was an awesome sight. There was so much to be thankful for.

My story is just one of thousands such stories from Harvey. You’ve heard the big stories, such as the Catholic Houston businessman who immediately threw open the doors to his furniture stores to anyone needing shelter, or how JJ Watt, NFL superstar, made a quick video on his phone to raise some money for aid and ended up raising over $35 million. How about the Cajun Navy? Those determined men and women who hitched up their boats and headed straight for the Houston area to help out first responders with water rescues.

There are so many stories to tell. What Mattress Mac, JJ Watt and the Cajun Navy did was big and public but those actions are exactly the type of things that many people were doing on a smaller, less public scale with their friends, family, community and even for strangers. Everywhere you looked, you saw the corporal works of mercy in action. Without being asked, told, or even expected people were taking care of one another. Over and over. And it is ongoing as there are still many communities overwhelmed and needing help.

These are the stories from Harvey I want to remember. Heartwarming and selfless actions taken by regular people to help out and support those hurt by Harvey and the floods. When people who were helping were asked “why” by so many reporters, the answer time and again was, “That’s just what you do.” These are the stories that fill me with Hope for our future.

The hard truth is that this will be a long recovery and the full repercussions will not be known for some time, but this tragedy revealed the humanity and compassion we still have for one another.

Tweet: In the midst of the devastation, Harvey brought Hope to @LisaHenleyJones

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Finding Faith during Tough Times

Just a few short weeks ago, we heard about having faith during trials in Matthew 14:22-33 when Jesus walked to the disciples while the boat “was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.”  

Right now, many of us may be experiencing our own challenges in faith. Our homes, our friends, our community, our city, our church are threatened or flooded with uncertainty, stress, and a long road of recovery ahead.  Do we have doubt? Do we find ourselves wondering – How can this really be God’s plan?  

When Jesus spoke to the disciples, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid,” Peter, showing great faith, joined Jesus in walking upon the waves. “But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord Save me!”

Even the apostles and saints experienced darkness that caused them to call out - Lord, I Need You!
As confusing as it may be to grasp, sometimes difficulties and stress are necessary to help us grow in our faith. Faith is not a life of “chance,” but the conscious act of purposefully choosing a life with a God who loves us! During our testing times, we must reach deeper to find and cling to our faith. 

Really, there are only two choices for people of faith -  
Do we look up at the heavens and cry out in abandon, “Oh God Why?”
Or do we look deep within us and cry out in faith, “Oh, Lord Save Us.” 

As a people of faith, we know that God never said it would be easy – He said there is a Life to Come. It is our human pride and sin that discourages us, that turns us away.  “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.” (Romans 8:28)  

God has a plan for each of us.  Always.  He will sustain us during our struggles. Always.

Immediately, Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  After they got into the boat, the wind died down. 

Suggested Playlist for Prayer during times of Stress and Uncertainty

Trust in You
Find You Here
Forever Reign
10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)
Great Are You Lord
Your Grace is Enough

This post was inspired and based on a homily given by Fr. John Cahoon on Aug 13, 2017 from Mass Readings. 
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