A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

We’ ve all heard about criticisms levelled at people whose physical challenge wasn’t immediately obvious—arthritis or the early stages of multiple sclerosis, for example—when they used parking spaces reserved for those with a disability.

Not all pain or illness is easy to spot. But do we keep that in mind as we go about our day?

We see the driver moving too slowly in the passing lane, or the person with too many items in the express lane at the store, or the cell phone user chatting too loudly, and we assume the person is inconsiderate or uncaring of the rules or selfish.

Do we ever stop to think about what this person might be dealing with?

We’ve mentally tagged the person as obnoxious when he or she might be reeling from a personal situation: a layoff, the needs of elderly parents or young children or both, a recent health scare or an ongoing health situation, a marital crisis, financial loss, or even a combination of these.

That person might be more tense than usual when driving, unaware of how many items are in the cart, too caught up in the situation to worry about who can hear the cell phone conversation. Too wrapped up in his or her stress or pain to worry much about social graces. Too busy working to keep putting one foot in front of the other to be concerned about others’ opinions.

We can’t do anything about the behaviour of strangers, although we can work harder to keep from taking it personally and to remember that we have no idea what they might be struggling with.

As for people we know, if they’re acting out of character, we can do something. We can reach out. Invite them out for coffee. Ask how they’re really doing and whether things are okay. Offer to pray with or for them. Let them know someone cares enough to ask.

I’ve been coping with a lot of stress this year. I hide it fairly well with smiles and little jokes. And makeup. But those who know me have seen the stress and offered support—a phone call, a text, a hug, coffee and conversation—and that has made the stress a little more bearable.

Before we judge others for what seems to be simple thoughtlessness, I pray that we would take a moment to ask ourselves what they might be trying to handle that isn’t plain to see. May we pray for those whose struggle isn’t obvious, bearing in mind these words from Psalm 147:3*:

He heals the brokenhearted,

and binds up their wounds.

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

 

Whether the battle is large or small, we need to prepare ourselves mentally and physically to face it. We need to carry the right gear and know how to use it.

I’m not talking about an armed conflict but rather about the struggles we face every day: our efforts to keep our children safe, protect our marriage, defend our beliefs, or stand up for others’ rights.

King David knew that he needed God’s help to face the conflicts in his life, such as King Saul’s efforts to capture and kill him or the attempts of his sons to take the throne:

Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war,

and my fingers for battle;

my mercy and my fortress,

my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield and he in whom I take refuge (…).

~ Psalm 144:1-2*

We can turn to God for comfort, for a safe place to cry out in pain or anger, for forgiveness when we act and react in the wrong ways. But he can also prepare us to do battle when necessary:

  • to put an end to the bullying or cyberbullying of our children
  • to secure the health care or educational assistance our children need
  • to help our spouse deal with an addiction or another health issue
  • to stand up for our right to practise our faith
  • to speak out on behalf of those who are persecuted or in need

God can give us the tools we need, such as the wisdom to know when to speak or listen, the words to say, empathy to help us see another person’s perspective, courage to make the right choice and take the necessary step or steps forward, and perseverance to resolve the situation.

When we find ourselves needing to do battle, may we remember “The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. . . .Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7*

We find ourselves in the middle of wedding season, with many couples choosing May and June to get married. Often this chapter of Corinthians is read at weddings, including mine in 1996.

These aren’t simply beautiful words about love. When we apply them to marriage, we can see that we need to be patient and kind with our spouse, happy for and not jealous of our spouse’s success, willing to compromise, unwilling to hold grudges, and prepared to hang in there during the rough times and not only the smooth ones.

Doug and Linda engaged013240756_10206434256681945_1275776754904074119_nMy in-laws have been married for 46 years and my parents, for almost 48. No marriage lasts that long if one spouse always has to be right, have his or her own way, or gives up when things are difficult. No marriage lasts that long if husband and wife let job stress, family conflicts, illness, financial problems, or an inability to forgive drive a wedge between them.

Today couples are too quick to let their relationship slide—slowly or quickly—into separation and even divorce when they hit a bump in the road. But think about these words of Jesus from Mark 10:7-9:

“‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Pulling apart a marriage isn’t supposed to be easy because our lives are meant to become one on our wedding day.

If we know a couple who has been married a long time, we should ask them their secret. It won’t be selfishness or resentment or barely veiled contempt; we’ll probably hear that it’s commitment to loving each other and to staying together, hard work, love, and selfless giving.

I pray that, whether we’re engaged, newly wed or married for a long time, we would give more thought to these passages and renew our commitment to our partner in thought, word and deed.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

With a bit of chaos in my life right now, I find it can be hard to see other people’s problems since I’m feeling overwhelmed.

As Christians, we’re called to do exactly that—to see others’ needs and help meet them, to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15*).

We may find we see and try to minister to the needs in our community and beyond but fail to see the needs in our own family.

Shen Yun

Working hard at trying new activities and attending different events with my son.

We have to remember that, when we get married or become parents, our focus has to shift from me to us. No longer do we get to think only of our preferences about where we live and work, how we balance our home and work lives, or how we’d like to spend our free time; instead, we have to think about how these choices will affect our spouse and children.

Today, we focus so much on ourselves as individuals that we struggle with this shift as a society:

  • Parents work long hours to advance their careers or pursue hobbies with the same intensity they did when they were single, and they miss out on time with their children.
  • Many children do extracurricular activities five nights a week, meaning family meals may be rushed or everyone eats at different times.
  • Some of us are so caught up in community or parish activities that we’re too busy for family time.

That’s not to say that using our talents in our jobs, relaxing through hobbies, or taking part in the life of our parish are bad things. Far from it. But do we think too much about the me (what I want to do, what my goals are, what would make me happy) and not enough about the us (how our family is affected by our choices)?

As summer gets closer and we push the pause button on school and extracurricular activities and, just maybe, work slows down a little, the time is right to look not only at where we’re headed as individuals but at where we’re headed as a married or an engaged couple or as a family—and to ask God’s guidance in seeing where we need to make changes and in transforming our lives as a result.

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

 

After a long absence, I’m returning to the workforce. Those who have been there and done that know what a daunting prospect it is: preparing a résumé, lining up references, creating profiles on job search websites, chasing job leads, and trying to land that elusive interview to get a foot in the door.

Recently, I’ve made a few visits to the Y Employment Access Centre in my area. I’ve discovered a lot of helpful resources there. But besides the handouts on CVs and cover letters, job boards, and workshops, I found something more valuable: encouragement.

When we’re feeling discouraged—about our weight-loss efforts, job search, and so on—hearing people say they believe in us can give us that boost of confidence we need to start believing in ourselves.

I found that positive “You can do it” attitude in everyone from the receptionists to the career counsellor to the job developer. And in my husband and son, my mother and mother-in-law, my piano teacher…

How often do we have the opportunity to offer someone else that little bit of encouragement but fail to seize it? How beautiful to help others see they have it in them to pursue a dream or goal that makes good use of the gifts and talents God has blessed them with!

Society respects people with confidence but is quick to condemn those who seem to think too much of their abilities. No wonder we can struggle to believe we have what it takes to make our plans a reality!

Whether we’re young or not so young, we can all use a word or a note or an e-mail of encouragement to help us take that next step. I pray that, the next time we have the opportunity to encourage others, we take it.

I believe in you

I can’t even count the ways that

I believe in you

And all I want to do is help you to

Believe in you

~ “Believe in You” by Amanda Marshall

Ever feel as though you do nice things for everyone but yourself?

I know parents in particular struggle with this problem. It seems more important to make treats for the bake sale, wash a teenager’s favourite shirt or pair of jeans, sign permission slips, and help with homework than it does to take care of ourselves. And if we’re married, doing things for our spouse—picking up dry cleaning, confirming appointments, making special meals—often trumps things we need or would like to do for ourselves.

How many of us are so focussed on our families that we don’t make time to eat well, exercise or get enough sleep? How many of us say we’re too busy or we need to put others first?

We are called to serve our family and our community with the gifts God has given us, but if our gas tank runs dry, we won’t be fit to serve anyone.

Maybe the time has come to direct a little kindness toward ourselves. God loves all his children—and we need to remember that we’re included in that number.

Despite the upheaval in my life, I’m not running on fumes because, for the first time in years, I’ve been making a serious effort to take care of myself. I get up early, have a healthy breakfast and work out before I get my son out the door for school. I don’t keep junk food in the house or bake many treats. And I get ready for bed long before bedtime, get the next day’s clothes (workout gear included) ready, and turn in at a decent time. But I’m still not making the grade in the making-time-for-fun department.

 

What small changes would we be willing to make to improve our self-care? Here are some suggestions:

  • Make sure lunches and backpacks are packed and clothes are laid out the night before to cut down on the morning rush.
  • Get ready for bed before bedtime: take off makeup, wash up, put on pyjamas, turn off the television and other devices.
  • Put out workout gear at bedtime to make it easier to exercise early in the day, or pack the gym bag for a lunchtime or an after-work gym visit.
  • Stock up on fruit, veggies and unprocessed foods so healthy choices are always available.
  • Plan fun activities to do as a family: bike rides, movie nights, soccer in the park, a visit to a community festival.

I pray that we would make the effort as well as the time to take better care of ourselves so that we would be fuelled to serve God and care for others.

When the UV index is high, we know to look for shade—especially those who, like me, burn at the drop of a hat. When there’s a blizzard, we know to get off the roads and find a safe place to wait it out. And when there’s a thunderstorm, we know to seek shelter, and not under a tree.

We know how to handle tough weather conditions, but we don’t always know how to deal with the storms life sends our way. We may try to cope by spending more time at work, looking for ways to numb or block out the pain, or overindulging—anything to keep from feeling what we feel.

Why do we try to tough it out rather than turn to God?

In Psalm 118:5*, the psalmist says this:

Out of my distress I called on the LORD;

the LORD answered me and set me free.

Sometimes we’re slow to call on the Lord, even though we know that he is always faithful, always ready to hear our prayers, always merciful and loving, and always a safe place for us, as we read in verses 8 and 9:

It is better to take refuge in the LORD

than to put confidence in man.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD

than to put confidence in princes.

We need people in our lives we can trust and depend on but, being only human, people will let us down, sometimes through no fault of their own. God will always be there for us, no matter what challenges come our way—health concerns, job loss, financial problems, even betrayal by a friend or loved one.

When we face difficult times—and we will—it’s good to know that we have a God who is ready to listen and comfort us and help us make it through those times to better days so that we, like the psalmist, will know that the Lord is our strength.

The LORD is my strength and my song;

he has become my salvation.

~ Psalm 118:14

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

At special times—Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, a wedding, the birth of a child—giving thanks seems natural. Surrounded by family and friends, we recognize just how blessed we are.

And then there are the other times—the times when we feel worn down by a tough work week or a family situation or even world events, and gratitude seems out of reach and blessings hard to count.

In Psalm 50:14-15, 23*, we read these words:

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,

and pay your vows to the Most High;

and call upon me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

 

“He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me;

to him who orders his way aright

I will show the salvation of God!”

God knows we go through challenging times, and yet he still calls us to offer “a sacrifice of thanksgiving” and honour him because he promises to hold us up and carry us through it all when we call on him:

Cast your burden on the LORD,

and he will sustain you;

he will never permit

the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)

Even when we struggle and find it hard to be thankful, we are dear to him and he cares for us and longs for us to share with him what is in our hearts. Even when we feel broken and doubt our own abilities and worth, he never leaves us. He is always faithful, always merciful, always loving—and for that alone, he is always worthy of our praise and our thanks.

I pray that we would take time each day to give thanks for the blessings we’ve enjoyed, such as good health and the love of our family and friends, and the blessings of that day, no matter how small they might seem.

And blessed be Your name

When I’m found in the desert place

Though I walk through the wilderness

Blessed be Your name

~ From “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

heartI heard someone say today that she didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because she could give her husband a card or chocolates or make him a special dinner any night of the week.

We could do those things anytime—but do we?

Isn’t it more likely that we’re too stressed out and tired from work or classes, child-rearing and chores to make the effort—let alone feel like making the effort—to let our spouse know that we love him or her so much more than we did on the day we got married? That we appreciate the ways our husband or wife cares for us? That we still find him or her attractive? Isn’t it more likely that we expect our spouse to make the effort to show and tell us how wonderful we are?

If both sides are waiting and neither makes a move, we have a time-tested recipe for the blues on Valentine’s Day. So why not take a little time to show that we still love and cherish our spouse, as we promised on our wedding day?

While ads would have us believe that the way to prove our love is to buy our loved one an expensive gift, the reality is that there are better ways to show our love on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year.

Every day for the ten days up to and including Valentine’s Day, I’ve been writing my husband a note that says two things I love about him, and every day I leave it in a different place. He can’t help but feel special when I take the time not only to say that I love him but also to share some things I love about him.

Here are a few other great ways to show we care:

  • Start and end each day with a kiss and an “I love you.”
  • If our spouse gives us gifts, show they’re appreciated by using them: wear the necklace, listen to the CD, or use the gift card.
  • Wear our wedding ring, and get it resized if it’s too small or too big.
  • Hold hands—in public!
  • Have pictures taken together (since one spouse is usually behind the camera) and frame some.
  • Plan regular dates, whether they’re for a favourite activity or something new.
  • Say positive things about our spouse to other people.
  • Make a card or a special dinner for Valentine’s Day. Why should our anniversary be the only day we celebrate our love?

If we truly appreciate the gift God has given us, we should make sure that our spouse feels loved on Valentine’s Day and all year long.

The school of Christ is the school of love. In the last day, when the general examination takes place…love will be the whole syllabus.

~ St. Robert Bellarmine, quoted in “Celebrate September 2015,” Catholic Digest, September 2015

 

Planning a wedding, celebrating a new job, welcoming a newborn or an adopted child into our family, moving into a new home? If so, the solemnity of Ash Wednesday might seem at odds with our mood.

Think about this reading from Joel 2:12-13*:

“Yet even now,” says the LORD,

“return to me with all your heart,

with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

and tear your hearts and not your garments.”

Wedding 300dpi BW

My maternal grandparents on their wedding day

Who could think of fasting or weeping or mourning at a joyful time? And yet that is what we’re called to do.

We don’t have to draw on memories of sadder times to get into the spirit of Lent; instead, we need to look into our hearts to see where a change is in order:

  • Do we focus on appearances, or are we genuine?
  • Are we proud of what we have or thankful for our blessings?
  • Do we judge those who are less fortunate or give to those in need? Do we give donations or volunteer our time to gain attention or to serve?
  • Do we take our spouse and parents for granted, or are we grateful for their love and support? Do we care for them in turn?
  • Do we encourage our children or nag them? Do we push our expectations for their lives or encourage them in their God-given gifts? Do we notice and comment only on acting-out behaviour or give them credit for the good character they show in working hard at school, getting along with siblings, doing their chores and being kind?
  • Do we focus on others’ mistakes and refuse to acknowledge or ask forgiveness for our own?
  • Do we attend Mass and receive the sacraments only occasionally, or do we receive them regularly to strengthen us?

If we do a spiritual self-check and think everything looks fine, maybe we need to ask the Spirit to show us where we might be failing our families, our friends, our faith or ourselves. Then, even in a time of great joy, we can enter into the spirit of Lent and begin to prepare our hearts to welcome the risen Lord at Easter.

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.”

~ Luke 3:4

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

 

 


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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