Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

For anyone who has worked with toddlers before, they will know how exciting and exhausting it can be. I am currently working in a daycare room that can hold up to 15 toddlers at a time! Thats 15 little boys and girls who need diaper changes, lots of love, nap times, noses wiped, cuddles, and a whole lot more! 

The other day was very stressful due to the fact that almost all of the kiddos and the teachers were sick. It was finally nap time and the first peaceful moment of the day had  arrived. While I sat in the room, I decided that I would try and pray. I had been feeling completely run down by the demands of my work; being a “mother”, nurse, playmate, disciplinarian, chef. I needed to reconnect with Jesus. But in that moment, I couldn’t get my mind to calm down. My mind was racing, my thoughts were soaring. My spirit was agitated. It seemed that I couldn’t formulate any prayer.

grayscale photo of baby feet with father and mother hands in heart signs

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Then it happened. I noticed the sound of their breathing.  All 11 tiny, sweet humans, softly breathing in and out. In and out. Some breathing through a stuffed nose, some baby-snoring, others so soft you could hardly hear a thing. Instantly, I felt the Lord saying, “ It is I who breathed life into these children”. Immediately, I knew that my prayer was one of thanksgiving! To give thanks to the God of the universe, for breathing life into his children gathered before me in the nap room. To thank him for my own life, and the life of my loved ones. I was reminded of how very special each and every breath is. God is the giver of life. He has crafted these toddlers so perfectly. They are his beloved children, and so are we.

I felt a profound peace in that moment. It was the most simple prayer, but one that was real. I was reminded of how much God wants to speak to us in our day to day life. It doesn’t always have to be a whole rosary, lectio divina, or a bible study to converse with Him. Sometimes it’s just stopping to listen to our breathing. Taking the time to give thanks for what we have been given through our very existence.

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Back to Basics

For the past few months, I have been attending weekly speech therapy to help with my very problematic (and painful) jaw. I am required to re-learn a “correct swallowing pattern”. Yup- you heard that right. I have to learn to swallow again! Apparently, I have been doing that wrong for quite some time. When I first heard the orthodontist tell me that, I wanted to burst out laughing. I had no idea that people, let alone adults, could have to learn such a fundamental body process. Needless to say, it has been an eye opening, or should I say mouth opening, process!  Once I have mastered this technique, there will be significantly less stress on my jaw, resulting in less pain ( yahooo).

red and white mouth plastic toy and food plastic toys

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I am probably the oldest client there by 10-15 years. I have only seen children or young adults in the waiting room. The funniest thing is, that once I begin therapy, I actually feel like a child again. Whether its making crazy faces while trying an exercise for my tongue or lips, playing games, talking into the mirror, or working on my posture… it’s always interesting. I think every time I have therapy, I find myself laughing out loud! At first, I was embarrassed; sticking out my tongue, puckering my lips, reading like I have no teeth. But the more I attend therapy, the more freeing it becomes.

I have never been a person who liked to stand out, or do crazy things, or be embarrassed in front of anyone. I kind of like to be “put together” and appear to have things “under control”. But speech therapy is teaching me to be more and more free. That doing things that make you feel silly, or being like a child is okay! It can even be really fun. I guess sometimes I get stuck in the responsible adult and practical role… but I want to get better at breaking away from that more often.

dawn sunset beach woman

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It is my sincere hope that I can keep growing in this childlike freedom and JOY! Life is just too short to be over serious, totally stressed, or hopeless. Although life can be complicated ( and mine feels that way right now), I want to take steps toward this freedom feeling. Here is a little list to make some concrete steps in this direction. Perhaps they are something for you to try, too:

  1. Let ourselves loose track of time. Goodbye clocks and phones and schedules. Take time to enjoy our hobbies & loved ones without feeling a time pressure
  2. Laugh. Really Laugh with those around us. For me this can be done with my day care kids and with my husband (sometimes we make “homemade” jokes… that always works)
  3. “Be a Duck”- My mom always encouraged us by using this analogy. To let (the negative) things roll off our backs  like the water rolls off the feathers of the duck. Not to hold on to the 2-3 negative moments, words, experiences of the day.
  4. Count our blessings- Foster a thankful heart that rejoices in the good, beautiful and lovely moment of our day.
  5. Pray- Sometimes we have areas in our lives that are like chains. Parts of our past, or our character that holds us back from being free. God wants to meet us there, and break the chains. He is there to help us, when we can’t do it alone!

three things.

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acorns autumn autumn decoration autumn leaves

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1. Green grapes dipped in crunchy peanut butter- This flavour experience takes snacking to a whole new level. I highly recommend you try it out.

2. Skyping with a friend- Sharing in the joys, obstacles, adventures and life of another, is truly a great blessing

3. Autumn stroll to the grocery store- I felt like I was walking through a Hallmark greeting card… the leaves were so vibrant and gorgeous.

Today, these were three little moments where I felt joy and happiness in mini-blessings. Yes. Peanut butter made the list!!

What were your three things today?! I would love to hear : )

 

 

“Count your blessings, not your calories”

 

 

 

 

To be honest.

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A few weeks back, we received a gift certificate in the mail for 15 free euro at a clothing store. At first I was really excited! The store was very nice, and had the kind of clothing I was looking for. Very quickly however, that feeling of excitement faded as I turned the ad around and located the small print. Our free 15 euro would only be validated after a purchase of 25 euro or more. I shook my head a little and thought to myself, I should have known. These advertisements never mean what they say.

It’s incredible how dishonest our society has become. 25 euros is not that much to spend before receiving 15 euro off. The money is not the problem. I am talking about the underlying dishonesty here. When did it become socially acceptable to claim that something is free (in bold and obnoxious print) when its actually not? This happens literally EVERYWHERE. There are magazines with pictures so dramatically edited, that what they are advertising is no longer real. In our grocery stores, we find food labels with false claims about health and ingredients. The news often reports jaded information, fuelled by their own agenda rather than facts. Even our clothing stores try to give us free money, thats not free.

men s gray and black button up shirt on mannequin

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Why are we a society that functions around dishonesty? We play word games with each other, and pretend that it’s okay because that’s “how you make money”. This is wrong.

The people that we trust the most in this world, are definitely going to be people who are honest. We know that if they say something, then they will do something. This virtue of honesty is so valuable in our present times. To become people who strive for honesty above all. That we don’t find ourselves, caught up in webs of lies, or half truths. That we find freedom in being true, authentic and real with ourselves and others. I guess that is my prayer today. That we, starting with ourselves first, pray for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, to become more and more truthful. In our hearts, in our minds, and in our words. That we become men and women of integrity. That what we say, becomes what we do. That we start changing this dishonest world, into one that is honest and full of light and truth. Let’s pray for one another.

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” Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit” Psalm 34:13

Come to the Cross

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“By the light of faith then, rise above every sort of selfish love. And to attain the most perfect love, as I’ve told you before, set before your mind’s eye Christ crucified and the indescribable charity he has demonstrated for you by shedding his blood with such blazing love” – St. Catherine of Siena

Today the Church celebrates the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and what an important feast this is! Its funny, today I was standing in line at the pharmacy and the pharmacist was wearing a crucifix necklace. I mean #1- I hardly ever see people wearing such a bold and beautiful statement of faith (which inspired me to wear mine again!)  and # 2- so great to have this little wink from Jesus on His great feast day!

In the reflection today in the Magnificat, its a short excerpt from St. Catherine of Siena (which I quoted above) and she goes on to say, ” This must be your study: to love God in truth and your neighbour as yourself; to be humble and obedient; patiently to suffer pain, hurt, disdain, and abuse...In times of struggle and weariness, run with this light of holy faith to embrace the most holy cross, and there put your hope confidently in the Blood of Christ crucified…”  

I find this text so life-giving. Its a call to receive and share love in the world. It’s a reminder that although we feel pain, grief and suffering, its shall not pull us down. The cross says one thing; I love you. This love is so real and raw. It is not a fairytale love that sugar coats life. It is not a love that eliminates suffering. But it is a love that can heal our souls. It is a love that can comfort our hearts. It is a love that would conquer death and sin. Jesus on the cross is love. He loves us.

The Lord invites us to give back this kind of love to our neighbour. To endure hardship, to forgive, to be merciful, to die to our selves. Surely not from our own strength, but from the hope and strength of the holy cross of Christ.

I think todays feast is simply an invitation: to receive the love which was poured forth from the cross, and to let it transform us! That is my sincere hope for you and me.

God bless !

Words that do Wonders

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I seem to take abnormally long breaks in between my blog posts.  The last time I was locked out of my account for a few months, and this time I have been internet-less for about a month because we moved apartments #bigcityprobelms

Alas, here I am. Back to blogging. Back to the Internet. Yahooo! The topic of this blog is encouragement. I am becoming ever more convinced of the power and goodness of  an encouraging word or deed. Often its just a simple, seemingly insignificant compliment or affirmation that can really bless us. It is so refreshing to witness or take part in authentic acts of kindness.

A little while ago someone read my blog and wrote the most encouraging comment. It was an encouragement to continue writing, and it even included a few tips. I took that to heart and eventually decided to start writing for a volunteer organization here in Berlin. I have attached the link below if your interested in having a read at my new blog series (Will volunteering help me find the bright side of Berlin?)

Anyway, I guess the moral of the story is:  be a light in this world for someone. I really want to get better at that. I think there are many missed opportunities for kindness in a day. Who knows how someone will react to our words, and ultimately, to the light of Jesus that stems from any genuine act of goodness, beauty and kindness.

 

“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy,
make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others”
– Philipians 2:1-4

Here is the link to the blog post I was speaking of:

https://blog.vostel.de/en/2018/08/09/will-volunteering-help-me-find-the-bright-side-of-berlin/

 

golden.

After getting sick again, I found myself a little down in the dumps as they say. In order to satisfy my entertainment cravings and avoid the fact that I couldn’t enjoy the sunshine outside, I turned to Youtube. Needless to say, I watched countless DIY tutorials and nonsense videos for way longer than I would like to admit. I did however come across something special. A video of America’s Got Talent Golden Button auditions. We don’t have a T.V at home, so I am not actually that familiar with a lot of shows. How it works is that performers come on stage before a panel of 4 judges. They can sing, dance, do magic tricks.. any hobby humanly possible. They give their best performance and then its up to the judges to decide. On some rare and very exciting occasions, the golden button is pressed by one of the judges. Golden streamers fall from the roof while everyone cheers in jubilant joy. The button means the performer will advance to the live auditions, increasing their chances of winning.

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It was so wonderful to watch these men, women, children and families, share their gifts with the world. Seeing the audience members touched to tears, singing along, judges giving words of encouragement and everyone smiling, was truly beautiful. For me, watching this simple video was so inspiring. It reminded me of what this whole life thing is about;  sharing your God given talents, spreading joy, encouraging one another, choosing love, doing your best and blessing the world with our creative genius. Maybe this is the way the world becomes a little brighter. Golden.

 

 

 

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!

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!