3…2….1…….LIFT OFF!

While it seems like just yesterday I was turning 30….today I  turn 31.  It’s not a milestone year by any stretch….I’m not 21, and my age no longer ends in a ‘0’ so many ask “why the party”  or “why are you celebrating?” In this case—–it’s not a “why”, but a “what”.  I’m another year older, and trust me, some days my body reminds me of this!

But that’s not what I’m celebrating.   I’m celebrating me.  I’m celebrating the many things I’ve faced in life, and overcome.  Taking care of an ailing father, at the young age of 15, when so many are playing sports, going out with friends, or learning to drive—-I was administering insulin, or double checking doses before my father injected himself .  This planted the seed of my career in hospice chaplaincy, and I knew something in the end of life area was my forte.  My dad is the only one at the time I felt comfortable talking to about these ideas—-and he was very supportive.  (Although he was pretty miffed at me for a while when I gave up my full college scholarship to take care of him in his final months.)  Then, at the age of 16, I lost my father.  My best friend.   I suffered lots of other events in the time following his loss, especially when it came time to deciding which college to apply to, now that my full scholarship had been turned down by me.  And what to major in.  I no longer had my supportive father in my life, and both sides of my family never supported me in my career decision—it simply was a “phase” to them.  Something that would die out once I got over the loss of my father.  (In reality, I realize now, I would never make them happy, unless I followed their set rules and expectations.)  I hit a downward spiral, and attempted suicide five times, the last attempt being gaining weight on purpose.  I was well over 300 pounds, possibly 400 for all I know.  Then a priest entered my life, and allowed me to work through my depression, instead of eat through it.  The weight slowly started coming off.  So did the inches.  But some of the pain remained.

I tried to gain approval of my family by following their dreams for my life—I tried nursing school, I tried a variety of ideas, but even though THEY liked them, I knew it wasn’t a 100% fit—–I wasn’t happy.  They do not approve of being single by choice, so therefore I tried to find and fall in love with someone, to shut them up.  I found someone I did love, but who apparently did not love me back.  That relationship ended, but I was blessed with the precious gift of my daughter Delanie, who I unfortunately lost to a miscarriage.  But she’s still my daughter, and she made me a mother.  Losing her brought its own wounds and sorrows, some of which I still deal with today.

Then, my mother got sick.  I was able to care for her at the beginning of her illness from home, but then she was removed from my care by my sister.  However, I was able to spend many nights by her side as she entered hospice down in Haverhill, and then was moved up to Hanover Hill for the last 10 days of her life.  I was able to talk with her about deep, spiritual things.  I was able to help prepare her for death…and it was through helping her, that my desire, my calling to this field was brought to light.  My mom was the big, yellow flashing neon sign.  I entered school for my BA in Theology, and have recently started job shadowing with hospice chaplains.  Although I miss my mother dearly, I know she is with me—-each time I job shadow and return with a jaw dropping experience.  Each time someone says I have her laugh, or her smile, or I look just like her.  She has helped me to realize the path I was always meant to be on—-and it is because of the many friends, co-workers, and my new Gonthier family, that I have been able to grow through these moments, and learn to believe in myself.

My last job shadow, I did home hospice visits with a chaplain in Concord.  We went all over, and I met various patients.  One loved music greatly, but had started withdrawing, a part of the dying process.  But the day I was there—-I simply sat with him, encouraged him to share his love of music—–and he suddenly got up out of his chair, and played me his favorite song…. “Fast Car.”  Another patient, a 96 year old lady, never opens up about God, even to the chaplain.  But I sat there, as she shared stories of growing up going to the Catholic church with her neighbor friends, and how although she was never raised Catholic, always felt the most comfortable there.  She opened up and shared her spiritual journey with me, a perfect stranger she may never see again.  When we got up to leave—she looked me in the eye and said “Hospice needs more women like you.  Don’t give up.”  And when Duane dropped me off back in Concord, where my ride was waiting, he too, looked at me and said “I’ll be retiring in 6 years time, so be sure to be finished with all your required schooling by then.  I mean it——you’re made for this.”  To be validated not only by patients who never met me before, but also a chaplain who has been in this line of work for over 10 years…..was priceless.

Even in my own unit, a couple visiting from California, the wife a patient of ours, when I went to order her lunch tray, we got to talking and I shared some of my story with her.  Especially my goal as a hospice chaplain.  Her husband bought me a coffee for no apparent reason, just because he wanted to.  When she was discharged, they both hugged me, hers lasting a little longer—–she held me on the shoulders, looked me in the eyes, and said to me, “Do not give up your dreams.  You’ve had some bumpy roads in your life, but now is your time to dream and to shine.  There are countless souls whose lives you will touch as they prepare to leave this world, and they are counting on you.  Do not give up.”  By the end, we were both misty, and I hugged her again and whispered “Thank you”, and said I’d pray for a safe return to California.  Was she an angel placed in my path to keep me motivated?  Or was she simply a vessel my mom, or someone up above wanted to use to encourage me?  Whatever her purpose, she will never be forgotten.

Now the party is over—–or is it?  I say, it’s just beginning.  For I’ve overcome so much, through my faith, and the many lovely friends I have in my life.  I’m launching my best years yet—–I’m taking the summer off to rest, recharge, and simply sit at his feet for a while.  Spending time with friends, exploring, flying, visiting, swimming.  Then in September, I will be back at classes, and continuing the climb towards my degree.  Which will then open up the door to my career as a hospice chaplain.  A ministry, a career, a calling that I cannot wait to begin working in.

XO- AHG

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Finding Mary in a Martha World

Today is Pentecost Sunday, where the Christian church remembers the Decent of the Holy Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles.  How fitting, that I returned to a ministry  I loved so dearly, on this special Sunday.  But these past few days have been emotionally difficult, and it is because of this, that I’m writing this blog.

I have been praying for a few months, in secret, about where God wanted me to serve.  Although  I love to sing, as it’s also a gift he gave me, I was starting to feel dry.  Like I was letting the choir down on the major holidays, by being unable to go to most of the rehearsals due to work schedules.  But singing itself had also not fulfilled me as much as it did at the beginning.  Granted, it could be something on my own personal heart that is causing the dryness, but I felt like I needed to pray, and let God lead me to my next “Ministry assignment”.  He answered.  And today I reclaimed that ministry—-another gift.  The gift of reading scripture.  Proclaiming God’s holy word at mass.  I’ll be serving as a lector at the 10:30AM & 6PM masses at the Cathedral.  My father was a parishioner of the Cathedral in his final months of his life, so it’s rather interesting that I’m now a registered member and active parishioner there.

But another prayer was answered tonight—for my heart has been very heavy lately.  I’ve had some down time due to work schedules.  This down time was a blessing, as the weather has been gorgeous.  BUT also a curse, because I’ve had the time to face things—-well—–things I had been trying to hide from.  Myself, for one.  I signed up for so many ministries, volunteer here, do this, do that.  Which is all great—-but…..I did that, to hide from the things I need healing from.  After evening mass, I went to adoration with a friend.  During adoration, I took out the bible, and let the Holy Spirit guide me to a scripture to meditate on—-and he led me to John’s account of Martha and Mary.  This immediately resonated.  Jesus is telling me I’m Martha—-and it’s my time….to be Mary.  To sit.  To let him heal me.  To come away with him, and be healed.

So—-that is what I plan to do.  I’m taking the summer off from most of my ministries, other than lecturing and Eucharistic Minister to CMC patients.  If there’s no penalty to my degree, I may even take a semester off.  To focus on myself.  I tell others numerous times, you can’t pour from an empty vessel—-all the while letting my own vessel run dry.  Now I must take the time to let myself be ministered to.  I’ll be taking more time to spend time with those who build me up, spend more time at daily mass, and daily adoration. Do physical things that will help me heal—-exercise, healthy eating, my first doctor’s appointment in many years on July 15th, and an actual, REAL vacation for two weeks in August, at an undisclosed location (it’s not a true vacation if people know where to find you, now is it?)

This is my sabbatical summer…..I have had so much pain in my life, so much loss.  So much verbal abuse, from people who are supposed to love and support me always.  Other kinds of abuse I’ve suffered but just pushed it aside.  Buried it.  Wrote about it, but never truly allowed GOD to touch it.  Now is my turn to focus on the Four S’s of the Holy Spirit, as Fr. Marc mentioned at the Pentecost vigil: Surrender—-I need to surrender everything to him.  This is much more difficult than simply saying “Jesus I surrender ______”.  With surrender comes healing.  Silence—-I need to silence not only my mouth, at times, but also my own soul.  I need to focus on the quietness of my soul, and silence the world around me.  Sensitivity to the Senses—-I need to be sensitive to how I feel, both in body and spirit.  I need to pray, and wait for the Spirit to react, and pay attention to how that spirit reacts.  And lastly—–Be Saturated.  I need to let Jesus Saturate me, surround me, completely cover me.

So if I seem distant over the summer, or appear snippy and unusually sensitive—–please be patient with me.  It is nothing you did personally, I am just in a vulnerable state of healing right now, and some things may set me off easier than others.  I ask for your prayers, as I embark on this spiritual sabbatical, as I enter into the chambers of my heart that I’ve locked up for so many years, and face the broken pieces of my heart that were recently shattered.  As I learn to let go of my worldly Martha status, and take the hand of Jesus, as Mary did.

XO- AHG

Come, my Child, and Rest

The Red Sox win the championship, and thousands flock to watch the duck boats.  A famed politician is in town for a rally, drawing hundreds in a small auditorium….all the while, in chapels all around the world, Jesus waits.  He waits in monstrances and tabernacles, waiting for his children to come and sit in his presence.  But the chairs remain empty.  A few devout children sit and watch with him for an hour.  But where are the thousands?

This world is broken—-there are higher rates of drug overdoses and lives lost to overdoses than ever before.  Marriages are crumbling, divorce rates are climbing, young people are committing suicide left and right….while Jesus, the Divine Physician, sits alone.

No, the answer to your overdosing is not in Narcan, your marriage will not heal by watching junk on television.  You have been trying to heal yourself with all the wrong things—-Jesus himself says “Come, all you who are weary.  Rest awhile.”  He says to Martha, who complains to Jesus that Mary is not doing anything but sitting and resting at his feet, “Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her.”  This “better part” is available to anyone—-and it is found in Eucharistic Adoration.

“Well, I’m not Catholic, I can’t go to adoration.”—–Of course you can!  Adoration is just you and Jesus, whom every Christian religion believes in.  You don’t have to declare out loud to anyone else who may be in the chapel or church with you, “Hey, just an FYI- I’m an outsider, I’m Baptist.”  Jesus waits for you, just as much as he waits for the woman who faithfully attends mass every morning.  You are his child too.  Never forget this.

“Well, what would I do in there?”—-There are so many things you can do.  Some adorers have a routine—they do their rosary, they do the chaplet, they read Spiritual books or read the bible.  But do you have to physically do something in adoration? Absolutely not!  In fact, sometimes I simply sit.  And gaze into him present in the monstrance/tabernacle—-as if I would gaze into the eyes of my groom on our Wedding day.  I look at him, and he looks back at me.  Sometimes I journal, and listen for his response in my heart.  Other times, all I can do is sit there and cry.  And still there are days where I simply sit in silence, with my eyes closed—and let him minister to me.

“Well, you’re so Holy, it’s easy for you…I’m just too busy, and I’ve been so distant for so long.”—-I am not any more or less holy than you.  Although I may have a deeper prayer life, I am a sinner just like you.  I am not perfect all the time.  I fall too.  But Jesus is always there waiting for us—no matter how many times we’ve ignored him, walked away from his gaze, or even if we’ve never “met” him in a personal sense before.  He waits—-quietly.  He stands at the door to your heart.  But he’s a gentle God.  A patient God.  A true gentleman.  He will not bang and clash at the door of your heart, and demand you let him in.  Instead, he will wait.  Perhaps at times gently knock, through the gentle nudge of a friend.  Give him a chance—-give him your hand.  Open the door, just a crack.  It’s ok if you still have the chains on.  Every step is a start.  Give him 5 minutes before your shift, maybe a quick prayer of thanksgiving after your shift.  If you’re a doctor or a nurse, perhaps offer a quick prayer for guidance if you must deliver bad news to a patient.  Offer to pray with family members.

Jesus knows your heart—-he sees the cobwebs of your soul—-the pain, the broken, shattered pieces.  The losses.  The emptiness.  The sins you can’t forgive yourself for.  The secrets you don’t even let your closest friends know.  Jesus knows—-and he wants you to give him those.   Will you???

If you want to accept this challenge, and try adoration.  Let me know, I will tell you where your nearest chapel may be located.  You won’t be disappointed.

“Come, my son.  My daughter.  Come and rest your weary soul.  I will restore you. For your are mine.  I know you by name.”

When Mother’s Day hurts…

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in the United States and Canada.  A day symbolized by First Communions, Flowers, Candies, Mother’s Day cards, blessings, and usually is presented with the word “Happy”  in front of it.

But…. Mother’s Day doesn’t always feel happy.  In fact, more people than you know probably struggle with Mother’s Day.

This year…. I am in that category.  I have been for four years, but this year is a double whammy.  My first Mother’s Day….as an adult orphan.  My father died in 2005, and my mother just passed away at the end of February.   Plus my own child, ,Delanie, has been in heaven for 4 years.  Mothers Day is never easy for me.

But, it’s not just those grieving the loss of their mother’s, that have trouble on Mother’s Day.  It’s also those whose children have passed, rather lost to miscarriage, or stillbirth, or who have passed later in life, to cancer, or overdose, or suicide.

It’s the divorced mother, who may not feel like her children love her.  Who only sees her beloved children on certain holidays.

It’s the hard working mother, who works a job that requires they be away from their children on nearly every holiday, birthday, or special event—-those who work in nursing, medical, police, fire, ,EMS, retail.

It’s the single mother that works two jobs to make ends meet, and still feels like she’s letting her children down.

It’s the single woman who can’t seem to find her match.  Or the married woman who is struggling with infertility.  Who loses baby after baby, or can’t even get pregnant at all.

It’s the foster mom whose heart breaks each time her foster child finds a new home and is taken from her.

Or the mother, whose children seem to have walked away from her. Who mistreat her, don’t visit her, or call her.  Only come around when they need something.  The mother that questions what she did or said, that made her a failure to her children.

Perhaps, it’s the woman who went down the wrong road, and now finds her children taken away from her, or perhaps she herself is imprisoned for a crime she committed.

Or the woman or son whose mother is abusive…..the person desires a mother in their life on Mother’s Day, but their own mother seems not to care.  Is too busy with their own lifestyle to remember their job as a parent.

The mother who made the painful decision to give her child up for adoption, and struggles with if she is a mother or not, since she does not have her child with her.

Perhaps even, the mother who had an abortion, and is now regretting or struggling with her choice.

What can you say, when you come across someone whom Mother’s Day is painful for?  Are words always needed?  Just be there.  Give them hugs, or squeezes on the shoulder.  Buy them a “I’m thinking of you” card.  Pray for them.  Treat them to breakfast, or ask them if there is anything they need or would like to do.  But please, most importantly—-just tell us you care.  Tell them you’re there for them.  That you love them.  Don’t give up on them.  Don’t tell them to “move on”, or “be happy”, or  feed them cliché lines of “it’s for the best.  It will happen when it’s meant to.”  For you don’t know that.  We are not God.

So, for all the mothers who fit somewhere in this category, or a category of your own.  It doesn’t matter if your miscarriage was last week, or 30 years ago.  Nor does it matter if you lost your mother last month, or 20 years ago.  For each person, they deal and grieve differently.  I see you.  I care about you.  I pray for you.  You ARE a Mother. Your mother is with you. Your mother IS your mother—wherever she may be in life.  And I only hope that your friends and family will raise you up in some way, and help carry the pain that you feel on this day.

May your Mother’s Day be filled with peace, mercy, and love….wherever you are in your journey.

XO—- A.H.G.

Up From the Ashes

Like every year, for many of us, Lent is a powerful time of year.  We spend 40 days in somber friendship, as we await the passion and eventual resurrection of our Savior.  We give up things, or promise to do more good things for others.  But for me, this year, Lent was extra….well…….extra deep.  Extra somber.  I knew it would be, since my mom passed away February 22nd.  Lent started March 1st.  I’m not going to lie and say I flew through it without a scratch.  It was difficult in places.  The reality set in.  I had a really good day one day, job shadow….uh…..self coined term “job chaperoning” Sr. Martha, the chaplain at CMC, and ran home so excited to call mom and tell her about it….just to remember……she wouldn’t answer this time.

Then came Holy Week—–this week has always been powerful (and painful) for me.  Not just in a spiritual sense, but in a physical sense.  Ever since I made my Confirmation in 2005, I have been blessed/chosen/graced however you want to see it, with sharing his physical pain.  It starts with Palm Sunday and progressively gets worse as the week goes on.  I feel extreme pain in all the major areas that Christ suffered—-back, knees, side, shoulders.  And on Good Friday, from 12pm-3pm, I experience a crushing migraine (probably relating to the crowning with Thorns).  This year, with the added grief setting in of losing my mom, the pain was extreme.  But I also felt, through the pain, an inner peace. A new awakening.  In adoration one afternoon, I heard his voice in my heart say, “take this week with me deeper. I want you to be with me fully during this journey, but you are occupied with work.”  This resonated on me deeply, I thought immediately of the story of Mary and Martha….and realized…..I have two vacations a year….why not make one of them Holy Week?  So that I can truly and fully walk Holy Week with my beloved?  This is what I’m going to do next year, and hopefully every year going forward.

Easter was difficult.  But I got through it.  Divine Mercy Sunday was powerful.  And I had my own “ah ha” moment during the Divine Mercy devotions.  That God is removing external barriers from my life, so that I can focus on Him, and His Divine Will for my life.  While I do not see them as a barrier, he has taken both of my parents home safely with him.  I now no longer have to worry about what would happen to them if I were to stumble upon a job opportunity away from Manchester.  Both sides of my family, except a select handful of cousins, have eliminated themselves from my life.  The few cousins who have stayed by my side, mainly my Gonthier clan, and two cousins on my dad’s side, support my calling whole heartedly.  So, God has eliminated the toxic barriers from me, and replaced them with God believing, God seeking family who support my calling, and support my happiness.

I have come very, very far, in even just a few short months.  I took a leap of faith, left a job that was waring me dry and not even giving me a chance to refuel.  Found a job I absolutely love, as a secretary in the CDU.  Met amazing women who have become friends for life (well……a vast majority of them). More importantly, I’ve learned to believe in myself, listen to my heart, and not give up.  I enrolled in Theology classes, and know I’m finally on the path always meant for me.  Will it take a while? Yes.  Do I sometimes wish I had just told family to pump sand, and followed what I knew was right anyways? Yes.  But…..if I didn’t go through everything I did…..I would not have the moments and memories I hold now.  Had I not gone the “family box route”, I would never have had the experience and honor of ushering Veronica to heaven in the  ER.  I wouldn’t have met my good friend Amy, if  I hadn’t gone through Journalism classes.  I wouldn’t have met my ex, who even though he is not missed by any sense of the word, he did give me the gift of my precious daughter Delanie, although she is tucked into the arms of both grandparents in heaven.  I took the road less traveled, and it was a shitty ride in some spots, I’m not going to lie.  But….I wouldn’t change a thing, ultimately.  Each step I took brought it’s own gifts, graces, and blessings.

I’ve finally reached a point in life—-where I can look back, and say  I am glad.  I’m glad the 5 times I attempted to end my life…..failed.  I’m glad I was there to take care of my father when he was sick, even if it meant skipping out on prom, not having a job, not playing sports, or any other thing teenagers did.  I’m glad I was there for mom’s illness as long as I was able to, and I’m glad I was able to spend many nights in Haverhill talking to her, many hours (added up of course) on the phone laughing, reading scripture, and just talking about my day.  Although there is a tinge of sadness that I can’t continue the amazing visits, or the fun phone calls—-I’m glad I have them.

I have truly risen from the ashes of my past.  Will every day be positive and filled with hope?  Maybe not.  But I will not turn back to where I once was.  I go nowhere but forward now.  Mentally, Spiritually, Emotionally……Physically.  Because I have finally come to the point in my life, where I’ve discovered….I am worth fighting for.  I am worth saving.  And there are countless souls that I am called to guide home to Christ.  It is those souls that keep me going during the darker times, or when I feel overwhelmed with school. I stop, and I think of the faith filled discussions mom and I shared towards the end.  And how much peace they brought her.  I stop and think of Veronica.  And the many future patients like her that I will help.  I think of the little boy I ran into at the hospice house one night, who felt a little sad as his grandpa was dying, but I used my talents to make him understand death in a new way.  A way he could remember each morning as he woke up.  It’s these things that keep me going.

Modern day Veronica that I am, I will wipe the tears from faces of all who are broken.  If they refuse the veil, I’ll leave their name at the Foot of his Cross.

—AHG

Born Again

A month ago tomorrow, at 8:53 AM, I got the call I was half waiting for but still never really ready for—-the call that my mom was requesting family at her bed side.  Little did I know (but yet should have….little stubborn French woman that she is), that she’d last the entire day, and even night…choosing to pass at 07:30 AM the following morning.  I was closest of all the family members, and got there first—allowing a full 30 minutes of mom and me time.  By the time I arrived, she was already pretty much in the fetal position and not verbally communicating….but at this time no words were needed.  I simply looked into her eyes, stroked her hand, smiled.  For we had talked for weeks leading up to this day.  Every time my dear friend Sandy would bring me to see my mom, we would have conversations.  Deep conversations.  Conversations about life, about what her new life in heaven would be like.  This was preparation for myself, as much as it was for her.  She mentioned to me, at our last visit, that she wanted me to direct anything that I felt she would want while we were gathered around.  The only thing I thought of, was to open the window as her soul was departing….which my cousin Heather thankfully filled that request.  The rest of the time, I just went with my gut.  I stood vigil, joined by my sister, and her brothers and sisters.  Just as Jesus’s apostles did with him on Holy Thursday, while he prayed in the  Garden.  As I watched the process—–it hit me.  Did you ever realize how similar death is to birth?  It, too, is a labor of love.

You don’t know what to expect—much like labor.  You hear the horror stories, but also the beautiful, peaceful ones.  There is hard work involved.  While there are no classes to take that can prepare you for death, as there are labor, you do have people who assist you—LNAs, Hospice nurses, or Hospice Angels, as mom would call them.  Chaplains.

There’s medication administered that assists with the process—-in labor, there’s Pitocin to speed it up, and an epidural to dull the pain.  With death—-morphine does pretty much both.  It speeds up the process while also making you comfortable.

There’s a transition phase—–in labor this is usually when the patient is 100% done and ready to throw in the towel.  Screaming at her husband or anyone else in the room.  With death, this period is visible as the breathing slows, becomes more labored and difficult to watch.  As mom’s Hospice Angel described it to us— it’s painful for us to watch, but she does not feel the same pain and discomfort we see.

And finally—-after hours of labor, a new baby is born and the mother (after a while) forgets the pain and agony she went through, as she looks at her prize—her new son or daughter.   Likewise—–in Death.  The prize is not a new son or daughter, but rather—-a new life.  After all those hours of spiritual (and physical) labor—the newly deceased is now living in heaven, reunited with loved ones, and people they may not have even known had passed.  I take comfort this day, and going forward, that my mother is reunited with her mother Bea, her father, aunts, uncles, friends, cousins, my father, my daughter Delanie, and even people she never met in real life—-she’s probably partying with Elvis!

I was blessed beyond belief to be with her those 12 hours, and the many deep, special, emotional conversations her and I shared the weeks leading up to this day. Because of this journey with her, a dream—a yearning—a calling, I had long since buried (due to lack of support from family, and a life long battle of low self-esteem) has come back to life—and this time I am going to respond to it.  Those of you who read my book “Trading My Sorrows”, met Veronica, and know of my experience.  (Those who haven’t read it yet—-you will!) But even after that profound experience, I buried the calling—-or rather was TOLD to bury it—-because it didn’t come with a fancy title.  I wouldn’t have a big figure salary.  I wouldn’t live in a beautiful house with a big fancy car, and who in tarnation would marry someone that was so close to death all the time? (These are all excuses my family gave as to why I should not follow this calling).  I believed them.  I tried to fit in their box.  But traveling this road with my mother—-I will deny no longer.  Upon receiving my BA in Theology, I plan to get certified as a hospice chaplain.  So I can do what I did for my mother, and for Veronica……with many other souls.

Will I have a fancy title?  No.  I don’t want one.  Will I have a big salary?  No.  Will I live in a fancy house with a fancy car? Nope—-but did God tell us these things were needed in life?  No.  The Necessities are needed.  That is all.  If I live comfortably, with a roof over my head, I have all I need.  And the last one, who will marry someone close to death constantly?  If God has someone in mind for me, he will find him.  But perhaps I am meant to stay single—-or Marry Christ in my heart, and minister to the dying souls he sends me to.  And what I *can* take with me from this calling—–is knowing that I was there for someone who may have otherwise been alone at the point of death.  Knowing that I can give peace of mind to family that may be traveling and afraid they will not make it in time, knowing that I am there for their loved one.  Knowing I was a part of that person’s death, and rebirth into Eternal Life…….Now THESE things are important in life.

A month without my mother already…..and many more firsts, and missing memories to grieve.  But  I hold these memories deep in my heart.  The many visits, the 30 minutes of beautiful eye to soul communication, and most importantly, the unburying of the calling I always knew was there—–and this time, will NOT bury again.

AHG—- “Soul Whisperer”

Faith N’Pasta

Catchy title, I know…But I also know you’re probably saying “she’s putting faith and food in the same category?”  In a way, faith is a lot like food—-Especially Italian food…..because when you think comfort food, usually your mind goes to anything with lots of carbs (pasta), cheese (Lasagna anyone?)  and that home made filled with love dish that Grandma used to make.  But Faith works in the same way!  When you think of how much love Jesus had for you—–he loved you so much, he DIED for you, so that you would not have to suffer such a tormented death as he did, only do live forever in a grave.  No, he died, so that when your body itself passes onward, your soul lives on, your soul raises to be with Jesus for ever, surrounded by all the loved ones you’ve missed—-sort of like an Italian Sunday!

If you come from an Italian family (or married into one, or had an Italian friend…or just like Italian food), you will quickly notice that Italians LOVE greatly.  And they show their love through food.  They slave themselves in the kitchen, like Martha, and create gorgeous and delicious meals to show their love for you.  Jesus does the same for us.  But I’m sure many of us treat this as nothing, and continue on our own lives slaving like Martha.  We feel we must do everything, we have to have everything, and we have to be everything, in order to feel worth something.  Let’s break these down a bit:

  1.  We must do everything—-how many of us wake up in the morning and groan as we look over our to do list, as we sip our morning coffee.   Meetings, PTO, sports, for some of us an 8-12 hour job, plus cook dinner, make lunches…..It just never ends, does it?  We tell our friends we need a break, a night out, even a date night with our husbands——-but when we look at our calendars, what’s the first thing that we easily erase and back out of?  Our social plans!  Bunco night? no, I can’t make it.  Date night?  Can we just order pizza and watch a movie, even though I’ll have to get up in the middle of it to put the kids to bed?  But GOD reminds us—-we don’t have to do it all.  We can’t pour from an empty cup.  So next time you feel like you’re tempted to erase that bunco night, or drop date night….even if it’s with YOURSELF…….DON’T DO IT.
  2. We need to have everything.  A new running gadget comes out,  we instantly NEED it.  A new kitchen appliance comes out, we must get it, for our family dinners will never be the same if we don’t.  The sales people know how to sell a product.  The sad part is that we are gullible enough to fall for it.  We make ourselves believe life will never go on without this product.  We justify buying it, saying it might be tight for bills, but it’s worth it.  We buy that $1500 Bowflex, or the subscription to Sonobello, because we see the results on those models, and tell ourselves we will look the same in 6, 9, 12 months.   Do you truly ever end up looking like the models? No.  Gee, I wonder why!  Because each person’s body is different.  Some can be the fittest people in the universe but still have a heart attack and die.  If we would just focus on what we do have, and stop looking at what we don’t, God reminds us gently that he is the provider of all we TRULY need—–his truth, his love, his mercy, and he provides the necessities.  All of these material things will perish, when you die, who is going to get that treadmill?  You can’t be buried with it!
  3. We need to be everything.  Similar to point #1, we feel we have to do and be everything for everyone.  We all wear many hats—-some of us balance teacher, wife, mother, aunt, sister, caregiver, friend, PTO member, RCIA team, choir, lector, CCD teacher—–we all wear hats.  And there’s nothing wrong with being a part of so many activities.  But a point raised in #1, comes back to help us here. We CANNOT FILL FROM AN EMPTY CUP.  You need to make YOU a priority, before you can minister to all these hats you wear.  JOY (Jesus first, others second, yourself last) is true to a degree, and a great metaphor to live by.  But you need to ensure that your body is being taken care of, as well as your soul.  If all you do is feed others, but yourself is left exhausted, what good is that? Shouldn’t your children have a mother who is fully present at all their games and concerts, versus a mother who is just physically there, but mentally exhausted, or watching her phone for another engagement waiting in the wings?  Be everything you can be, but don’t forget most importantly to be Present.

Another point I want to mention in this blog is the importance of sharing.  Again, we return to the scene of the Italian family dinner.  The base of that is sharing.  You rarely go to an Italian meal without hearing about everybody’s life, everybody’s day, even joys and sorrows.   As Christians, our job is to share our faith, similar to how an Italian family shares their food.  We easily make an excuse….oh, my faith story isn’t that important.  it’s pretty basic believed since I was a kid, never stopped.  That won’t help anybody.  Or, we say we could never “get up in front of a group and share…it’s too personal.”  Who said you had to?  Do you know how simple it is to plant a seed of faith in somebody who may not have any left?  It’s a simple as “I’ll pray for you”, or “I’m sorry you have to go through this.”  But, I know I sure have, and know many of you, have gone through something in your life where your faith kept you strong—–a failed marriage that turned around, a drug addicted child who found sobriety.  A miscarriage and years of difficulty that finally ended in a beautiful baby.  Perhaps your faith kept you strong while watching a parent die, or watching a disease such as Cancer or Alzheimer’s steal and rob you of your loved one.  Perhaps your faith kept your bills paid, despite not knowing where the money would come from every month.  Perhaps your faith, and belief in prayer found you the job you’ve always wanted.  My friends……..this is your Italian masterpiece.  Dish your faith story to your friends, in simple ways, as if you were serving a delicious meal.  For someone could find faith, in just watching or listening to how you respond.

What event in your life did your faith help you through?  Start there—-start by  simple discussion at dinner, or over coffee with a friend…..and watch how that first ingredient can create the most delicious and beautiful Lasagna ala Faith you’ve ever dreamed of.

XO & Prayers,

AHG