Monthly Archives: December 2014

Joy to the World

sunshineWhen Katie sees a ray of sunshine her face lights up and she uses every effort to get to that ray so she can soak it in. She always finds beauty in such simple things. She has no wish list from Santa and if there was nothing for her under the tree on Christmas morning she would remain happy. I believe she is happy because her heart is not tainted with sin. Sometimes when I pray for God to heal her I hear Him saying, “She is perfect, she has never sinned. If she were healed to live a normal life sin would come. She is pure.”

I believe this purity, this happiness that Katie has, is true  JOY. Sometimes I get confused about what JOY is. Is it the smiling faces of my kids when they see the gifts on Christmas morning? Is it the feeling I get when I open that special box from a loved one? Or is it much deeper than that?

JOY is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. At Baptism we receive seven special gifts from the Holy Spirit; wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. When we live our lives according to God’s will accepting and using these gifts for His good, “We see the effect of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives in special qualities and attitudes that we develop as we grow in faith.” (RCL Benzinger’s website) These are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. “We live with JOY when we recognize that true happiness comes, not from money or possessions, but from knowing and following Christ.” (Benzinger)

smikTo me that describes Katie perfectly. I pray that my typical children see this as a gift not as an impairment on her part. I think we sometimes feel sorry that Katie may not understand things like Santa and his gifts, but I think it is just a part of her purity, her beauty, her simplicity. I wish I was more like her!

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit; whoever serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by others. Let us then pursue what leads to peace and to building up one another.” Romans 14: 17-19

I have found that there is no feeling of JOY greater than when I do something for someone else, whether it is a physical assistance or just saying something nice or even a simple smile. When I make an effort to make someone else happy, to build up another rather than do what I want to do, it pleases God. If I did this more often I would be a more JOYFUL person. I know this because when I respond in a grumpy manner with a, “no way, I am too busy to be bothered with that”, I am the opposite of JOYFUL. I’m not sure the best definition for that, but it does not feel good.beach

Another action that always brings JOY is when we repent and accept God’s forgiving love, when we accept that we are far from perfect and desperately need God as our savior. Think about the most JOYFUL people you know, the people who always have a smile on their face. These people shine brighter because they have God in their hearts.

“I tell you, in just the same way there will be more JOY in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” Luke 15:7

According to gotquestions.org, a very informative Christian website I found in researching the topic of JOY, “Possessing JOY is a choice. We choose whether to value God’s presence, promises, and work in our lives. When we yield to the Spirit, He opens our eyes to God’s grace around us and fills us with JOY.”

smileOne of our priests at Prince of Peace, Father Tom Ackerman, says JOY comes from Hope. The hope for what is promised in the Bible, hope for the day we are reunited with our Lord and Savior. As we wait and prepare our hearts for this coming, may our hope bring JOY TO THE WORLD. My hope of being more like Katie and allowing her to teach me what God has in store for me brings JOY to my heart.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Merry Christmas!!

The Reason for the Season

image1 (3)Our first Christmas as a family was spent in the NICU of Huntsville Hospital. We had just been given the news that Katie may have neurological issues. It did not feel like a time to celebrate. It was a time of great uncertainty, but with that uncertainty came hope. On our second Christmas we no longer had that hope. Katie had turned 1 and we knew things were not normal. My emotional state was really bad.

I will never forget taking Katie to get her first professional Christmas picture made. I couldn’t wait to make that adorable Christmas card to show off my baby to all my friends and family. She couldn’t sit up well and her vision was significantly impaired so her eyes would just roll up. She was very fussy that day and would not cooperate. It was all still so new to me and was very hard to deal with in front of a complete stranger, that poor photographer. We finally gave up and left, I had a complete breakdown in the car.image2 (3) I was bawling crying because this was one more thing that was just not going the way I had planned. I was still in a place of complete selfishness, I wanted that Christmas card come hell or high water. So we tried again and got a great picture, I made a fool of myself to get that smile, but it was worth it.

I’m reminded of these early years when we decorate for Christmas. Our tree is filled with ornaments given to Katie that first year. As I was rushing to get the tree up and place that decorated garland on the mantel that my husband loves so much, (he cusses me every time he tries to change the channel on the TV), to get all those Christmas gifts purchased, the cards ready to mail and all the millions of other things that come this time of year, I realized I am not doing these for the right reason.

So I stopped and started praying and reading the advent book I picked up at church. “Advent is a time of anticipation, but anticipation of what?”, Dianne Bergant, Daybreaks Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas. I had wondered the same thing. Jesus was already born, so aren’t we just celebrating His birthday? Spiritually speaking what are we waiting on, what are we preparing for?

In the Catholic Church we have very specific readings from the Bible at mass leading up to Christmas, “They all point to a new age of peace and harmony when the promises made long ago by God will be fulfilled. We do indeed look forward to Christmas. However, we do so not merely because it is the anniversary of a past event, but because these promises made so long ago…”, (Bergant) The promise that God will come back to Earth.

“But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” Mark 13:32-33

Since I do not know, I have to be ready, I have to be vigilant. When He comes I sure hope I’m not running around like a crazy chicken with my head cut off trying to purchase the latest and greatest toy that my kid will just adore on Christmas morning or grumbling about the ridiculous elf that I have to creatively place in the perfect spot. I hope I am in prayer and having a calm peaceful day living for God. So how do I make sure I am the latter?

We watch for opportunities to bring God’s forgiveness to others in our lives; we are alert to the needs of others so that we can bring them God’s compassion; we are awake to ways vulnerable people are being ground down so that we can stand up with them; we are prepared to open ourselves to being an agent of God’s love in our world.” (Bergant)

Father Robert Barron says the biggest challenge of Advent is realizing we desperately need a savior. In today’s society we have the mentality of “I can do anything”, “I don’t need any help”. But there is so much that we have absolutely no control over. He says until we realize this we can’t appreciate God’s special gift.

Father Barron always uses such great comparisons to explain a teaching, this time he uses the story of a man so deeply addicted to drugs. This man is completely out of control, as much as he tries to help himself he is powerless. He can’t help himself because his will is the very problem, his will is only toward the drugs, it is tainted. After loved ones convince him that he needs help he turns his life over to others, over to a higher power.

Father Barron explains that the human race is marked by original sin. We can try hard every day to live a sin free life, but we fail because we are human. This sin taints our will, it changes us and takes us away from God. There is nothing we can do to change that. We need a savior, someone who can break through our dysfunction and heal us. That savior is Jesus. At the second coming, when God comes back to earth, we will no longer have sin or evil, we will be glorified if we have lived according to His will and not ours.

IMG_6436So I want to be ready and worthy of that beautiful life God has planned specifically for me. I am trying this season to stop the rushing, stop the things that don’t really matter and concentrate on the one thing that does…GOD IN ALL HIS GLORY!

The Wrong Assumption

What does Katie understand? It’s a question I would pay a million dollars to answer. My biggest fear is that she understands more than I realize and that I talk below her level.

Most people who don’t know Katie well, either don’t talk to her, talk to her like a baby or talk really loud as if this will somehow help her understand more  clearly. I am not offended by this at all, I just try to explain that Katie does understand what we are saying. I know this because she absolutely responds to the people in her life that take the time to get to know her, the ones who talk to her like any other 11 year old. image1 (2) When these people come around she lights up. It’s almost like she is saying, “Finally someone is taking the time to talk to me.”image2 (1)

I also know she understands because she nods or shakes her head when asked a yes or no question. When we hold up two colors and ask her to pick a certain one she almost always picks the correct one. She does the same with the letters in her name and various objects. She is in there, her brain is functioning. I think so often when we see people like Katie we just assume their brain just doesn’t work. Katie has a friend named Jerimiah who he has Cerebral Palsy, he recently started using a Dynavox Communication device. Just the other day he grabbed my arm so I stopped and said, “How are you today, Jeremiah?” It took him about 4 minutes to use the sensor on his forehead to select the correct response on his computer screen. After about 2 minutes, I admit I thought he was going in circles with his answers, but finally there it was as beautiful as ever…his response, “I’m good, how are you?”

When we assume things about others we most likely short change them.  Katie is teaching me this and because of her I try to think about this with every person I encounter. Like the homeless person on the side of the road, an old friend who has taken a wrong turn in life, a neighbors daughter who is hooked on drugs, the older person who is driving slow blocking traffic. These people are in front of me for a reason. Almost like a test. Will I look past them because they are not important to me, because they don’t understand anyway? Or will I take the time to assume they know more than I could ever imagine? When we judge others and withhold our love from them, we are doing it to Jesus.

“When the son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another…Then the king will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you…For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me…Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me…Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you accursed, into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” Matthew 25:31-46  

Every person on this earth is given breath by God so they are worth something. I know when people look past Katie and don’t take the time to know her, it hurts God. He put her here for a reason and one of those reasons is to teach us that things are not always what they seem. It’s the same with people we assume are just bad, like criminals  or people who just make bad choices. Yes, people make bad choices, but everyone has a reason they do what they do. Not an excuse, I’m not saying they should be allowed to do bad things. But maybe they have never been loved by anyone, not even their parents. Maybe crime is all they have ever been taught, it’s expected of them to live that life of crime. But if we take the time to show love, show them they are worth something maybe we can affect their life. One of the corporal works of mercy is visiting the imprisoned.

Also with people who are currently displaced. We recently made care packages in our MOMS group at church. We filled large ziplock bags with crackers, water, chapstick, wipes, toothbrushes and more, so we can give them to people on the side of the road who are asking for money. But I think the most important thing we included was a personal note saying, “You are worth something, you matter to me, you are loved and I am praying for you.”

20141019-DSC_0416I talk to Katie differently than I did 5 years ago. Partly because I’ve seen her progression, but mostly because I now see Christ in her. I see how He uses her to change people. She is worth so much more than I can ever imagine.