smells like home.

If someone asked what your favorite place in the world was, how would you respond?  For some it is a travel destination, a place where family comes together and for others it is a secret location that only they have explored. Regardless of the location, I think we all have a place that speaks to our heart in a special way. A place where we feel ourselves. Where we feel at home.

For me, this place is my parents summer cabin. Countless childhood memories stem from this beloved place! Year after year I celebrated by birthdays there, played and explored in the woods, learned to drive for the first time and consumed countless smores and bush pies (best cabin foods ever!!) around the campfire.

This whole topic came up last weekend when my husband and I were walking along the seaside where he spent many summers as a child. It was a beautiful moment of peace and serenity. At one point he commented on how much he loved and cherished the smell of the sea. How it evoked so many good memories for him. It was funny because in those same moments, I was thinking that the sea smell was a bit too strong for me. That I could only smell the plants and soil of the grasslands around.

We had a similar moment a few months ago. While we were sitting around the campfire, I was closing my eyes, breathing in the smoke and sharing that this is my favorite smell in the world (I even love the smell of my clothes after a campfire). For my husband, the campfire smell is nice, but not that exciting.

After our seaside walk, I realized again how God uses our sense of smell to bless our lives abundantly! Smells can bring us back to a moment, a place, a person or an emotion. These smells are often capable of bringing peace, joy and comfort to our hearts. I also found it interesting to see the connection between our favorite places in the world and the smells related to that place. For example, the smell of the sea is especially beautiful to my husband because it is linked to his positive childhood memories there. The smell of campfire is especially beautiful to me because I always think about our summer cabin and I have such wonderful memories.

Just as our sense of smell is a blessing, the Lord didn’t stop there. He gave us the sense of taste to enjoy the most vibrant spices, flavors and food combinations possible. He lets us hear the voices of our loved ones, the notes of a gentle melody, the laughter of our children and friends. We can touch the hand of our beloved, cuddle in a cozy blanket, hold the hand of our dying parent. We can see the wonders of nature, communicate to others with our eyes, and observe the world around us.

Perhaps when we go about our daily routine today, we can take a moment or two to thank the Lord for the gift of our memories, our senses and for how he created us!

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silent speech

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One perk of a long commute to work is the possibility to read! For years I have been feeling guilty in regards to my reading habits..or lack of. BUT (sounds the trumpets please!) the literary desert is blossoming once more. I am turning into my grade 4 book-worm self again. Yipeee! How refreshing it is to be captivated by a novel again. Burrowing into the pages and getting lost in the lives and events of the characters and setting is so freeing.

I recently started reading The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise by Cardinal Robert Sarah. This book presents a timely and necessary critique of our noise addicted culture. Cardinal Sarah is not afraid to say it like it is. He makes clear that the sounds and constant input of society (technology, activism, artificial speech, constant lights & stimulation) has become so loud that we cannot recognize the voice of God. We are a people so caught up with ourselves, so captivated by the world, that we are unable to find silence anymore. Any silence that is attained is often merely exterior. Our mouths and enviornment may be quiet, but our interior lives are raging within.

The Power of Silence (P. 35)

I find that this quotec clearly articulates the message of Cardinal Sarah. That authentic silence; where we encounter ourselves and where we are capable of encountering God, is a necessary prerequisite for love. Without making time for this interior stillness, we are incapable of genuine acts of charity, self giving and generosity.

After only a few pages of this book, I see how much I also long for this silence. Far too often I have background music on, or I watch something on youtube, or I listen to a talk when I’m cooking. I’m always finding ways to keep my mind occupied, without realizing that my heart and spirit are seeking silence. The world is caught up in everthing but God. It has forgotten how to be still before the Creator. It has forgotten how to hear his voice among the voices. What a great encouragement from Cardinal Sarah to find more moments of interior silence. To make conscious efforts to create a space of stillness in our day. Whether that be quiet morning prayer, walks without music, cooking in a quiet kitchen… I think we will be surprised how the Lord speaks when we give him the time.

 

let your lips reveal his glory.

Why is it that we are so quick to ask for prayer, but so slow to share about our answered prayers?!  Perhaps its just easier to pray when we suffer? Or maybe when we feel better, we are so quick to resume our ‘regular life’, that we forget to offer prayers of thanksgiving.

This winter I had been very ill and found myself clinging to the prayers of friends and family. Often I did not have the strength or desire to really pray on my own. After a lot of doctor appointments, tears, waiting, google searching and praying, I am feeling back to my good old self. Even a bit better! I owe a lot of the success to the intercession of St. Kateri Tekakwitha (a story for another day). Just a few days ago, I came across Psalm 40 and the following verses stood out to me:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure…I have told the glad news of deliverance  in the great congregation; see, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your saving help within my heart, I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.

I just love this so much! The Psalmist is deeply touched by the saving grace of the Lord, that he finds no other answer but to tell the ‘glad news of deliverance’ and ‘speak of your faithfulness and your salvation’. After reading this verse, I saw so clearly that the Lord wants us to proclaim His mercy ! When he heals us, when he hears us, when he consoles us, when he inspires us, when he sustains us, when he speaks to us! We are called to share of how God works in our lives!

Like the Psalmist, I too must share my thankfulness to the Lord. That even through months of being sick, battling hopelessness, feeling abandoned, the Lord was holding me. This time of suffering was a time to really rest in the arms of my Father. To surrender to my own littleness. I didn’t think I would ever write a blog post like this, because I felt so stuck in that state. But the good news ( for anyone who feels this way), is that it doesn’t last forever. God will answer your prayers. God will bring you comfort. It might be a different timing, or a different style then you expect. But he will act. Let us continue to be like the Psalmist. Proclaiming the great and small wonders of the Lord in our lives!

 

It’s not Abram, it’s Abraham!

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Today’s first reading from the book of Genesis is about the call of Abraham. The Lord called Abraham to be the leader of nations, the father of the Jewish people. This covenant promise between God and man through Abraham, was and reamains so fundamental for the life of the Church. For us! However, what struck me most about the reading today was the following verse, ‘ …no longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations’ (Genesis 17:5).

We often read stories in the bible where men and woman receive a new name through the Lord: Abram becomes Abraham, Saul becomes Paul, Simon becomes Peter (the Rock on which the Church was built).

For Abram, Saul and Simon, their new name is a permanent reminder that they have been changed and transformed through the call of God. These men truly ..’put on the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’ (Ephesians 4:24). The new Abraham, Paul and Peter could proclaim the inner transformation of their heart through something external like their name*

A few months ago, this topic of names and naming in the bible was on my heart a lot. After getting married, I took the family name of my husband. It just struck me one day. I also had my name changed in the Lord! This was done through the sacrament of matrimony. When I gave my life to my husband, I said YES to the vocation of marriage. This was and is answering the call of God in my life!  When I now tell someone my name,  I bear a new identity through my marriage! Its so beautiful. It was a HUGE joy for me to change my name. I couldn’t imagine it any other way. For me, taking my husbands family name was a concrete sign of my unity with him, and with this new life in Christ.

Sometimes in life we need a name change, a big step or something radical to symbolize our YES to God. It is through these moments or occasions that we allow the Lord to step into our lives! We give ourselves to him so that we can, like Abraham, Paul and Peter, become the ‘…new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’

 

 

 

* There is also a much deeper discourse about the significance of name change in the bible. Names in the Old Testament were so highly regarded. There was a profound sense of identity when called by name ( see online resources for more info)

berlin bustle.

 

Growing up in a city of 200,000 people and moving to Berlin, a city of four million has been a crazy adventure! I didn’t know it was possible to have 4 Ikeas in one city?! AMAZING. I had also never drove on a highway with four lanes before. Fun and terrifying all wrapped up in one driving adventure. The lessons I am learning while here are countless. From simple things like new driving rules to more complicated culture changes… everyday is an adventure. I am sure any expat would share the joys and difficulties of the transition period. I definitely underestimated culture schock. As a person who loves traveling and experiencing new things, I figured this move was a piece of cake. But its been a huuuge eye opener for me.

Take for instance the topic of poverty. Not only have I been confronted by the materially poor, but also the poor in spirit. I have witnessed so many sad, angry and lonely people while being here. Living in a big city can be a blessing, but many people seem to be forgotten. Isolated. No hi’s, thank you’s or eye contact has an effect on us after a while. The other day I also caught myself in the typical ‘grumpy berliner attitude’ when some students took a seat beside me and forced me to move all my books, homework and backpack from the seat where I was studying. When they saw my reaction, they felt terrible and wanted to move seats. I could hardly believe myself. Wait, what? You are actually getting angry that these people are sitting beside you… on PUBLIC transportation?!  I tried to cover up my first reaction by being more friendly and thankfully convinced them to stay. But this moment has stayed with me since then.

In Canada, rarely did I have such a negative reaction to strangers. There was a different sort of stranger policy. Everyone was polite to everyone. That’s just how it was. After the episode on the train, I realized that I was letting the berliner attitude rub off on me too much. Unfortunately, over the past few months I have rarely seen friendly encounters on public transportation. Most times, everyone is busy with their own lives, stuck on their iphone and they don’t want to deal with another person who is in their personal bubble. And actually, I can understand that perspective. I have dealt with some strange, stinky and upsetting people on the train. But even still, we must not let that attitude keep us from loving. From being kind. I think these small gestures like smiling as you let someone take that empty spot beside you, or moving your bag so someone has more space, or letting the old granny take your seat, is a remedy against the poverty of spirit. Its definitely not the easy way, but I think its the way that brings light and joy and peace into our day and the day of those around us. Even if just for a train ride.

 

 

 

babysteps.

After moving to Germany, settling into married life, finishing a few more German courses, finding my blog password again, renovating my blog site a little… I’m back! It feels great to write again. I always forget that this is my creative outlet. When I negelct the blog, or journaling, I somehow feel a little lost. Todays post is something small, super difficult to practice, but an incredible encouragement for all of us.

‘ For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God’ – Ephesians 3:14-19

Love is that which surpasses knowledge. Authentic love compels us to love without borders. To love without a reason. I was so struck and humbled by this verse today. What a difficult task and command from our Lord.  We all have those people in our lives who feel impossible to love. We find every reason why we shouldn’t put up with them. Yet the call today is LOVE. That we are filled with the fullness of God when we love radically and totally. I guess I/we should really ask the intercession of the saints to help us comprehend the depth of the call of our Christian life! And how beautiful that the Lord himself is there to give us his very own heart. When we ask with faith for a greater grace to love, he will grant it. When we ask with faith for a greater grace to forgive, he will grant it. What good news we have! This is the kind of motivation I needed to commence writing again. Another strong encouragement from our brother Paul who writes the truth of our Lord.

Lets pray for each other as we pursue greater love, forgiveness and kindness in our own hearts, our families and our communities.

 

a little closer

Silent but fierce,

Interior war.

Trigger is loose,

Don’t want anymore.

Holding them back,

Demands all of me.

Words in my head,

Just want to be free.

Count your blessings.

But where do they hide?

Always choose joy.

That path I have tried.

Look to the cross:

More close than before.

See His pierced heart,

Do we still want more?

Look to the Cross,

More close than before.

 

 

what a gift it is

So I was getting into a blogging slump after neglecting this page for the past few months. I’m sure I will publish another blog soon about the many adventures, joys and challenges of moving continents, learning a new language, getting married and adapting to a whole new culture. But that is for another day.

Yesterday in mass, the priest said something that struck me deeply. It was one of those words-to-heart moments, where I desperately wanted a pen and paper to capture the truth of his words, but also the eloquence with which he spoke.

But since I didn’t want to look like a news reporter in the second pew, scratching down the whole homily (although I probably would have done it… I just didnt have paper),  I asked the Holy Spirit instead to help me remeber later.

This prayer came true, although I will never fully capture the beauty of his homily that Sunday. But I will do my best to relay the message and how it spoke to my heart. He was speaking about judgment, death and the final things as they are called in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Father spoke about final judgment before God. He wanted to clear up a few misconceptions about the word judgment. He said, ” God isn’t like Donald Trump, who gives you a thumbs up or thumbs down into heaven or not” (!!). Judgment is not about being liked or disliked by God. God is love (1 John 4:8). God is only capable of love, so there is no way he can just unlike you or hold a grudge against you for all time. That would completly contradict his nature, and who He is. Father went on to say that when we die, and we stand before God, we are standing before truth itself. God isn’t something we can fully grasp. He is not bound by time or space, but He is a presence, and he is thee Divine. We, are not divine. We are poor and weak humans. I mean, if we weren’t sinners, we wouldn’t need God. So our weakness is not totally terrible, but rather it helps us find a complete dependence upon our Heavenly Father (our Dad, Pops, Papa). So standing before God after we die, and seeing own unworthiness before our Father, is judgment. It makes sense. If we look at the sun for too long, we have to turn away, squint, or groan a little because it pierces our eyes. It is too strong, and too bright for us to fully observe. How much more is the brightness of our Eternal Father ( Beatific Vision) going to shine? If He is love, truth, justice, kindness, honesty and mercy itself, and we poor sinners stand in front of  Him, we cannot hide our sins any longer. I know that I, and most of us, try to hide the dark areas of our heart. It is uncomfortable to acknowledge them. After death, in front of our Heavenly Father, we can’t ‘play that game anymore’ as the priest so nicely put it.

forest photo .JPG

So justice with the eyes of faith isn’t limited to Judge Judy, Donald Trump or harsh penalties. Rather, its simply seeing ourselves for the first time, as God sees us. Realizing the areas that we chose to serve ourselves, rather than God and our neighbor. God already sees and knows our sins. He knows us far better then we know ourselves. So its not a surprise to God, but perhaps it will be a surprise to us.

The really wonderful news, is that we have the rest of our lifetime to work on seeing our hearts, minds, and souls, as God does. Through the eyes of truth and mercy. God doesn’t want us to feel trapped in the darkness of our sin. He did not intend a life of bondage for us. Although life has its many challenges and we have our crosses to carry (habitual sins, addictions, broken families, physical and mental illness etc), we are capable of conforming our hearts to His. This is possible because God sent his Son Jesus to show us the way. That is why in John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. So yes, judgment is the full realization of our sins and our failings, but it’s also being looked at with the merciful eyes of the Trinity; Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. We must always keep justice and mercy together.

 

This homily on death and judment has inspired me to continue pursuing a life of virtue and prayer. I fail in this area so many times, but I am comforted to know I serve a merciful Father. When I stand before God, when my earthly life has ended, I want to present him a heart that was honestly trying. A heart that let Christ in. A heart that allowed Jesus to reign and conquer those spaces of darkness. A heart that kept repenting, desiring and striving for holiness. I really think thats why God gave us the saints, his Holy Mother and the Church. He has given us the tools, the role models and the means to walk this path in faith. What a gift it is.

 

stepping stones

Being engaged is a dynamic, adventerous, challenging and joyful expereince. As the days of my engagement draw to a close, I am reflecting again on this theme of marraige and particularly, the sacrament of marriage.

Nowadays, there seems to be a profound misunderstanding of this coventant, and sacramental promise. Very often, a marraige is just an excuse for a super expensive and galmorous party (and after planning a wedding I see how one could go crazy with their bank account!), a pinterest-perfect event, or a commitment founded entirely upon emotional-love.

It seems to me that these popular ideas regarding marriage fail to understand the depth, magntiude, beauty, and mystery of the sacrament. A marriage is designed to be a beautiful union between a man and a woman, a fruitful and free relationship and a space of authentic joy. It is also however, a pathway to holiness. In mass the other day, our priest said,  ‘when we choose the path of love, we must pick up our cross’.  These crosses must call us out of ourselves; to grow in patience, self-giving love, compassion, forgiveness and humility. There are two people fighting for sanctity together. This battle can be messy, unclear at times, require healing from wounds, but this story can always end with victory!

I chose to share the following quote from the Cathecism of the Catholic Church. I think it nicely outlines how Christ can always be the anchor of a marraige. That no matter how weak, tired, sinful we are, if we let him, Jesus will carry our crosses and give the necessary strength for a joyful, lively, exciting, holy marraige. This is good, good news!

‘ This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy – heavier than the Law of Moses. By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life’ 

(CCC# 1615)

 

Our marraige is a stepping stone,

to sanctity and grace.

Our crosses are the only way,

we come to see His face.

Sin and weakness are close at hand,

though they define us not.

May truth and trust forever reign,

Let Christ transform our thought.

 

 

Glowing at Midnight

This morning while looking at the daily mass readings, I was reflecting on the Gospel; the beheading of John the Baptist. I began thinking about the sins that lead up to the murder of this holy man. In the end it had me thinking about sinfulness in general. Even if we arent committing murder, all sins share a common ground of darkness; lies, deceit, selfish gain, pride. This can  happen in the darkness of our hearts and minds, but very often sinful behaviour is a nighttime “activity”. My mom always said ” nothing good happens after midnight”. She really has a point there. People often commit crimes or engange in sinful behaviour in the darkness. Trying to hide away behind the curtain of the night. Pornographic images lighting up a dark bedroom, break ins happening as other sleep, prostitution taking place under the street lights, one night stands in a dark and dingy dorm room.

But the whole point of this post is to speak about the fact that we are:

“Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness” – Romans 6:18

When I read this verse it just hit me so clearly. We are called to be a slave to righteousness! A flame in the darkness. A word of truth in lies. A model of the beautitudes. A radical follower of Jesus. The Lord doesn’t want us to remain in the dark. That’s why he use countless parables about darkness and light. It’s not just a nice literary detail. It’s literal. We need to stop sinning in the darkness. Now, this definitely doesn’t mean the struggle of sin is instantly over. No! The fight goes on. Every. Single. Person. is in this battle. Our sinful habits are different. No use in comparing or judging each other in them. If we only see the sins of others, it probably time to re-read Matthew 7:3 (log in our eye & speck in our brothers). We need to bring ourselves, our baggage, our trials and sins to the foot of the cross. Beside Mary who remained at the cross, we can lay our burdens down. We entrust all our weakness to Him who takes our sin and gives abundant freedom. The more we come to the cross, the more we enter into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. He knew what struggles we would face, and he gave us somewhere to bring them. Only then can we walk away in the light of His truth, lighter, free from chains and hopeful in our steadfast refuge.

I’ll end with the song that also motivated this post. I don’t know if I should admit how many times I listened to it on repeat this morning!