Perseverance

As I have been looking through my “started” list of articles, I found this one that was originally started on December 9, 2018–a year and a half ago. We’ve been in Williston six months now, but I’ll do a another post for that update. ~Tracy

One year ago today I woke up with my right side going numb.  Eventually even my scalp was numb from the center of my head all the way down on the right side, like when you get a shiver and it feels like your scalp shrinks. It was weird, annoying, and starting to get creepy because a similar thing had happened two years before on the left side.  As my readers know, this led to the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) on December 28, 2017.

A year.  A lot can happen in a year.

After my diagnosis Nolan and I decided we would move the family to Williston; we are finally doing that this week.  We have a buyer for our house–the home we’ve had for the last fifteen years and the place we’ve raised our children.  Although we thought (and hoped) it would sell sooner, we’ve actually needed this whole year to adjust to the reality of moving, of letting go, of trusting that this next step is the will of God.   It’s a good thing we are convinced this is His will because this move is going to be quite the change!

Our home since August 2004

We live a mile and a half (technically only 1/2 mile from the northern edge) from a town of 2000 people on three acres. We have a chicken coop, a little barn, a small shed, and a half-finished guesthouse (something we’ve dreamed of since staying in Uncle Don and Aunt Kathy’s guesthouse in Washington years ago).  We’ve raised chickens and pigs, had dogs, cats, and rabbits for pets, and cared for bottle lambs some years.  We’ve had a huge garden that people would drive past just to look at how it was coming along.  Over the years we’ve added trees and bushes to block wind, absorb excess water, provide food, and just for their beauty.

This house is where our six children have most of their memories and, for the youngest three, all of them.  Fort-building (both inside and outside), wagon rides, sledding, mattress sliding on the stairs, sword fights, real arguments, dolls, hammocks, zip line riding, biking, frisbee, and star tipping. There have been the homeschooling ups and downs. They’ve all taken piano lessons (and guitar for a couple), participated in Missoula Children’s Theater, worked part-time jobs, and been active in church.

For most of these years, we’ve had the Vandal family living across the road and the kids have met at the end of their long drive in the spring to play in the water-filled ditches. Vandal’s have been like cousins and the fun the kids have had over the years are sweet memories. The boys worked hard to make a trail through the slough and used it year-round for bikes, sleds, four-wheelers, and anything else they could think up. They would pull old mattresses (and once a couch!) behind the snowmobile! I’m sure I’ll hear some stories years from now that were the, “Don’t tell Mom!” ones.

It’s been hard to leave all that behind and move to what I encouragingly told the kids, “It’s like the Tardis–it’s bigger on the inside!” We’ve gone from three acres to a postage stamp yard with neighbors who share walls with us. It’s been a big change and we’re learning a lot about ourselves. And, really, that’s what happens when life has to change–we change and discover things about ourselves we never knew. But we know that, as James reassures us in 1:2:

My brothers and sisters,[b] whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

We are trusting, and are sure, that this move will do just that for each of us. I look forward to the time when we’re able to look back and see, as God is able to see clearly now, that this move was a blessing to all of us, even through the tears.

Giving Glory to God

I will sing of Thy steadfast love, O Lord,[a] for ever;
    with my mouth I will proclaim Thy faithfulness to all generations.
For Thy steadfast love was established for ever,
    Thy faithfulness is firm as the heavens. (Psalm 89:1-2)

What does it mean to give glory to God? How, exactly, is that done? Do I have to wait until Heaven to truly give Him glory? I can praise Him in worship and in song, but how does my life give Him glory?

I wish I could give proper credit for this quote, but I heard it in a homily and don’t remember the source. But when I heard it, it not only convicted me, but also excited me:

“When we fail to tell people what God is doing in our lives, we rob God of His glory.”

It convicted me because, flashing through my mind, were all the lost opportunities I have had to give God glory, but held back for fear of being thought uber-religious, naive, pushy, or saying it awkwardly. There have been times I was afraid that by saying something I would make the Christian life seem pollyannish to the listener.

It excited me for two reasons. First, as those thoughts were flashing through my mind, I realized they were signs of pride in my life. Such pride is a sin. If I want to be perfect as my Heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. 5:48), then sin must be rooted out so that His perfect love can fill me. I can’t confess a sin I don’t realize is there. Score! Found another of pride’s hiding places! 🙂

Second, it thrilled me with the realization that I am free to say all that God is doing because it will bring Him glory! Even if someone would think less of me, God will be pleased! He will be glorified!

Jesus said we need to be like children when it comes to turning to the Father. Children don’t worry about how the other person is going to receive their excitement; they’re just excited! Sometimes that embarrasses us as parents (or at least it did when I was a younger parent). It doesn’t need to. Childlike excitement over the pure and the good is refreshing to the soul and reflects back on the source of the excitement. In this case, when I tell of what God is doing in my life at opportune times, it is reflecting the glory back to Him. And when that happens, I am more blessed than before. What a glorious catch-22!

Kicking the Camel in the Nose

Recently I was listening to a speaker discussing St. Ignatius’ Discernment of Spirits.  One of his illustrations has really stuck with me and I’ve found the visual quite helpful.

Apparently, camels are rather “nosy” creatures and they try to get into a tent by nosing under the edge, then pushing their way in.  Now, a camel is a large animal and, as I’ve been told by those who know such things, they are a nuisance.   A friend told me the camels in Iraq are dirty, smelly, and rather disgusting as they roam all over at will, spitting and farting!  (Who knew?!)  They are also rather determined animals, which is a problem when they get in your tent because once a camel is in, it’s very difficult to get it out.  Therefore, it is important to pay attention when camels are around and when (not if) one starts pushing his nose under the edge of the tent, kick him in the nose!  Don’t let that creature get his head in or the rest of the body will follow and then you’ve got problems!

Sound familiar?  

“You sure screwed up that relationship by…”

“Royally stuck your foot in your mouth that time, huh?”

“If you’d just done ________ five years go, it would all be different now.”

“You idiot.”

Ever heard that voice in your head?  You realize it’s not the voice of God, right?  It’s the voice of The Accuser, the Father of Lies, the Devil.  How do I know?  Because while it might be true that I’ve messed up stuff and certainly had my “coulda, shoulda, woulda” moments, God is in the business of bringing good out of my failures, not continually reminding me of them.  After all, the moment Adam and Eve sinned, God was there to say, “Yep, you messed it up and there are consequences, but here’s how I’m going to fix it and it’ll be glorious!” (the Tracy paraphrase)

“What shall we say then?  Are we to continue to sin that grace may abound?  By no means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?”  (Romans 6:1-2)

We are not to continue to sin or to blow off our sins as if they’re no big deal, but we are also not to wallow in them.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9)

God is in the business of redemption, cleansing, and healing.  That’s why Jesus, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, came to earth as a baby, lived to manhood, and died for our sins–to redeem, cleanse, and heal us from that sin of Adam and Eve.  He’s been planning all this from the very beginning!  And He had my sins and yours in mind when He did it.  Don’t lessen Christ’s sacrifice for you by wallowing in past sins for which you have asked forgiveness.

I have two suggestions for your kicking technique:

  1. When the accuser accuses, agree!  “Yes, I should have ______” or “Yes, I can be very arrogant.”  Then praise God for His forgiveness and all the work He’s doing in your life.  Thank Him for reminding you how far you’ve come by His grace.  (By the way, never speak to the devil.  Resist him, but don’t talk to him.  The point here is to ignore him and use every accusation to turn your thoughts to God.)
  2. When the thoughts tend toward sins you struggle with, visualize yourself kicking that nose at the tent edge!  I find this very helpful because it brings me awareness of what’s going on before my thoughts get too far.  And, sometimes, I realize that I actually really like that particular camel, but know that allowing that sin entrance into my thoughts is a sure way to misery.

So, be aware of your camels and when one of them starts pushing his nose under the edge of your thoughts, kick him in the nose!

On Second Thought…

I’ve decided to stay with WordPress for another year.  There are some reasons for this:

One, if I renew before the 19th, I get the same price.  Next year it goes up $30, so I’ll decide then what to do.

Two, we’re about to move a week from today–not the best time to make a decision on this.

Three, I’ve had two or three ideas I want to write on since I said I was going to take down the blog! (Of course!)

The thing is, I really enjoy writing, but it does take work (once I’m going I’m fine; it’s just starting) and it takes vulnerability.

For anyone who has done any personal writing, you know how risky it can feel to put your thoughts, feelings, views, etc. out in a public arena.  I need to overcome the fear of openness and write what, I hope, will be of help and encouragement to others.

So, for another year, I will work on my little piece of the Web and see if in another year I think what I’m doing is worth the money!

 (And I really need to learn how to use all the tools on here, especially since they just changed it again…)

Signing off

I’m doing one last post here on my slow-writing blog to let you know I’ll be taking it down.  As I look at the stats over time and realize how little I write here, I can’t justify the money to keep my domain name of “catholic4areason.”

So, thanks for reading my little blog!  Hope you enjoyed what you found here and that it was of some help and encouragement.

(And, Emily, don’t worry–I printed out all my posts!)

Trying to Explain

Have you ever been asked a question that you struggled to adequately explain? I’m pretty good at thinking and speaking “on my feet,” but there are times when the subject matter and circumstances of the asking make it difficult to pull my thoughts together. This has happened to me a few times and left me feeling very frustrated at being unable to communicate what I want to say. It happened again the other day.

I was in the grocery store when a young woman stopped me and asked what church I went to.

“The Catholic Church,” I replied.

“Oh,” she responded with obvious disappointment. “I am looking for someone to go to a church my friend wants me to try, but I’m scared because it’s pretty out there.”

Further conversation revealed she’d been raised in a Baptist-style home, but has been wrestling with whether what she’s been taught all her life is actually true. A friend has told her she needs to speak in tongues in order to be saved and she wants to know what’s true and what’s not. How are we saved?

We stood and talked for some time.  It wasn’t the best environment for it, but I did the best I could and assured her that God would guide her if she would seek Him and His will. After assuring her of my prayers for her journey, we went our separate ways.

Over a year ago I was asked the same question by a family member who is struggling to understand our conversion to Catholicism. Unfortunately, it was asked in a noisy room and “off-the-cuff” as well. There are issues with both circumstances.

First, my hearing is getting worse and I struggle to hear when there is a lot of background noise. I almost have to close my eyes and concentrate on what is being said to sort it out from everything else, so discussion was difficult. Second, although when I was an evangelical that would have been a five-second sound-byte answer, “Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior,” that’s not the case as a Catholic.

Why is it so different? Well, rather than trying, once again, to explain it with my own words, I’m going to use someone else’s explanation who knew he was being asked and adequately prepared to answer it. I’ll warn you, though, it’s an almost 25 minute explanation, so grab a cup of coffee and settle in to listen to Fr. Matt Hartley in Arvada, CO.

 

Bartholomew

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(Mary Anne holding Bartholomew in his favorite position!)

“When this cat and these dogs are gone, I’m done. No more pets. I want us to be able to take off and go to Wyoming or anywhere else without having to worry about animals.”   Famous last words.

Actually, it’s not my fault, not entirely. After Sammy, our last surviving cat, disappeared last year I had no intention of getting another one. I enjoy cats and there’s nothing better than laying in the recliner with a cat on my chest, snoozing away a lazy Sunday afternoon. That deep-throated purring from a warm, fuzzy body snuggled up on me is about as relaxing an experience as I can imagine. The only thing better was when my babies laid there to nap, but then I was always a little tense, worried I might move wrong and drop the baby. You never really worry about that with a cat, because they usually land on their feet with only an eye roll in your direction at such clumsiness.

But, animals have to be looked after when you travel, so I figured it would lessen my anxiety if there weren’t any to worry about. But every time I would say, “No more pets after these are gone,” my kids would give me the “Right, Mom,” look and go about their business, shaking their heads.

Well, for my birthday in August, Mary Anne took matters into her own hands and brought me a kitten! A pretty tan, lightly striped, male whom I named Bartholomew. I like using Biblical or saint names for pets when I get to do the naming and he came from a family with several boys named after the Apostles, so I thought Bartholomew would be cute. Besides, his meow is so loud that I can say to him, “Bartholo!” and he’ll respond, “Mew!” Pretty cute, huh?

He is now about seven months old and a nice-sized cat. While I write this he is laying on my chest grooming himself with an occasional lick on my chin to make sure I, too, am properly groomed. I don’t know what will happen when the dogs are gone, but I’m pretty sure I’m always going to have a cat!