Sharing in the Psalms

So I don’t believe in coincidences, or fate, or luck, but I do believe in the Holy Spirit, and that’s who arranged the blessing of today. Allow me to explain!

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We are Beloved Children of the King! Let us never forget. Though this photo when taken in “healthier times”, its a reminder to always hope in the Lord! He is our sustainer and our stronghold!

Earlier this afternoon I had two separate conversations with women very dear to my heart. They are women whom I trust, who support me, who encourage me, and most of all, who love me! In our chats, I opened up about how I am feeling/doing these days. At the moment I feel a lot of things (mostly health problems) are piling up on my shoulders and weighing me down. I suppose you could say my faith is being tested a little, or I’m just not learning the lesson of surrendering to God… so I keep getting new opportunities to do so. Yay? Being stubborn is not always a good thing. Maybe its never a good thing? Still not sure about that….

Anyways, these are both women of God and they were able to encourage me at a faith level. This is exactly what I needed and both of them said the same thing:

“Why don’t you read and meditate on the Psalms?”


They challenged me to really live and pray with the Psalms during this heavy time. The Psalmists are often lamenting and crying out to God for his help, his protection, his mercy. So if the Psalmists are so free in their prayer, why aren’t I?

So, I did it. I opened my bible to the Pslams and started reading. The verses that struck me the most today were actually from the very beginning. Pslam 1: 1-3:

 

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seats of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he mediates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers”

 

Isn’t this imagery wonderful! We can be that tree- soaking up the graces of the Lord, and not withering away in despair or sadness (as I am so often tempted to do). In these streams of life and hope, we can be renewed both in body and spirit, and yield fruit. I guess it isn’t a calling to plant fruit trees on my balcony this summer ( although that would be lovely), but he wants to help us (me) grow in the virtues; in love, in charity, in patience, in humility, in perseverance!

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I think I am going to start reading the Psalms each day. Maybe I’ll share a few more of the verses that speak to my heart as this journey in the Psalms continue.

What are the verse(s) that speak to you?! I would love to hear how you live with the Psalms right now. Let us encourage one another in faith & hope!

 

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More than a Book.

“The word of God is something alive and active: it can judge secret emotions and thoughts”

Alleluia! This was the Gospel antiphon for today’s mass : )  The word of God is alive and does speak to the innermost part of our hearts. God comes to us through the person of Jesus. Through scripture, we have the “roadmap” to Jesus. The stories, the events, the life of Christ, are intimately connected to our own lives. Jesus wants to come to us through the Word of God. These books are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the word of God can change our lives. The questions is: Do we let it? Do we allow the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our hearts to His word? Do we let sacred Scripture sustain us in times of sorrow and joy? Peronally, I am growing in this department. It’s easy to feel like the bible is “hard to relate to” or that I need to “study more” before I can really understand. But this isn’t true.  I want to fall more deeply in love with the word of God. I want to fall more deeply in love with Jesus!

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Here are a few examples of how Sacred Scripture can be healing, rejuvenating, inspiring and sustaining for our hearts, minds and soul.

 

  • Temptation to despair?  Battling dark thoughts or negativity? Feeling unfree in your thoughts? Read Philippians 4:6-8

” Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” 

 

  • What does a Christian attitude look like? How can I grow in becoming a better man or woman? Read Ephesians 4: 25-29

” Therefore, putting away falsehood, let everyone speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear”

 

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  • Struggling with your health? Feeling weary and tired? Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

” So we do not lose heart. Though our outer man is wasting away, our inner man is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” 

 

  • Feeling blessed and thankful for the wonders of God? Has your prayer, or the prayer of a loved one, been answered? Read Psalm 108:1-6

 

” My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples, I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great above the heavens, your faithfulness reaches to the clouds”

 

I really could go on and on, but this post would be too long! God is a God of love ( 1 John 4:16). He wants to meet us exactly where we are. He wants to encourage us, love us, challenge us, strengthen us and heal us. Let’s take the invitation today, to encounter the Lord in sacred Scripture.

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Whoops!

Baking Tip # 1: Never let dough (containing yeast) thaw overnight with the lid on! Waking up to this doughy-monster-mess on my counter, was hilarious. It looks like it grew legs overnight and tried to walk away! So much for my perfect buns for breakfast….

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Baking Tip #2: When making black bean burgers, be sure to use black beans!! I kept telling my husband I was making these delicious black bean burgers, but used kidney beans the whole time. It wasn’t until they were in the oven that I realized I had used the wrong beans!

Sometimes the whole cooking/baking world can be harsh. You check out a nice recipe on Pinterest and buy the right ingredients, but when it’s finished, it looks or tastes NOTHING like what it was supposed to! Or perhaps your like me. You set out to make a new recipe but make so many mistakes that your left with kidney bean burgers, and monster-dough!!!

Isn’t life a little like this though!? We have areas in our lives where we expect flawless results (diets, relationships, marriage, Church, gym, even cooking). We have this “perfect” vision of how something should be, but in reality, things turn out differently. Perhaps we fail that diet with whole lot of snacking, or we choose the wrong words in the argument with our spouse or our colleague.  We all fail each other in one way or another. We see their flaws, and they see ours.

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Life is always throwing us curve balls, and we are often going to drop the ball. I’m trying to learn to take the road of humility. The road that learns from mistakes, is quick to say sorry, laughs it off and moves on! I think this sort of perspective is in line with what Jesus meant for us. He knows we are imperfect. He knows we make mistakes. He knows we will fail each other. But he calls us out to live a positive, and fulfilling life which includes accepting our moments of weakness and failure, and letting them change us for the better. So whether its failing our colleagues at work, our family at home, or failing in the kitchen with those dang kidney bean burgers… we are invited to see these moments with eyes of hope, and a sense of humour doesn’t hurt either 😉

 

 

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.

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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.

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).

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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.

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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!

To be honest.

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.

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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

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!