In the Garden of Souls

I recently read the book “Left to Tell” by Immaculée Ilibagiza.  It’s the incredible story of how she survived the Rwandan genocide in 1994 by hiding in a bathroom with several other women for 3 months.  During this ordeal, she had incredible experiences of the presence of God, of true meditation, and of miracles.  The book was totally wonderful and I couldn’t put it down.  I read the whole thing in less than 24 hours, including me staying up waaaaaay past my mommy bedtime because I just had to know what happened next.

Immaculée Ilibagiza

Immaculée Ilibagiza

The book has tremendous insights into forgiveness, trusting in God, and prayer and so many things spoke deeply to me. I was most amazed at how her faith could be so strong and deep and her prayer life so intense in a time when things were more horrible than anything she could’ve imagined in her life or than I could ever imagine having to experience.

I’ve used this book and what I’ve read as a reference point a lot lately.  When things have gotten challenging or difficult for me (which, incidentally, they have a lot lately as I am basically single-parenting for a month while my husband is away working), I try to find all the things in the situation that I can be thankful for.  I try to immerse myself in prayer or at least point my thoughts towards God when I am starting to wallow.  I try to be a woman of faith.

I recently had a really, really, REAAAAALLLLY rough night with my children.  And, being without my husband, it compounded the fact that I had no relief during that night and knew I wouldn’t have any the next day, either.  Anyone who has children can understand what a bad night with kids can be like.  You love your kids more than anything, but you reach a breaking point.  You start begging God to make the crying stop, to have mercy on you, for guardian angels to comfort the kids, to please let you have sleep so that you can parent well the next day.

I was pushed to my limits and beyond and I had a lot of not very friendly words with God  that night. I’m convinced I was wrestling with some demons, too.

But, eventually, the hours passed and the crying stopped and the children rested (though, I didn’t really).  And, as I laid awake with my thoughts, I cried at my weakness and lack of faith.  I thought of Immaculée and how strong she was during something that was truly from the devil and lasted for THREE MONTHS (not just 3 hours).  I thought to myself, “The Lord barely gives me trials in comparison to what Immaculée and so many people suffer.  How could I ever hope to attain heaven when I can’t even make it through a tough night of parenting?”

Suffice it to say, I was disappointed and ashamed of myself.

The next morning, I prayed in thanksgiving for the new day, for my beautiful children and their happy little faces, and I asked God to forgive me for all the unpleasant things I had thought (and, some which I spoke allowed) the night before.  I prayed for the grace to be a better parent and to somehow come to an understanding of how I could ever reach sainthood when my struggles, trials, and life seem so small in comparison to what so many others live through.

And, God in all His mercy and kindness, gave me some words of comfort and a reminder of how we are all called to sainthood.

I love a good flower garden!

I love a good flower garden!

“[Jesus] set before me the book of nature; I understood how all the flowers he created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy.  I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.



And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden.  He willed to create great souls comparable to lilies and roses, but he has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when he looks down at his feet.  Perfection consists in doing his will, in being what he wills us to be.”  (St. Térese of Lisieux)



I will probably never be a rose or a lily in Jesus garden of souls.  I will never, God-willing, have to suffer something like Immaculée did that is so horrendous and agonizing that it must be shared so that others may learn and have their faith deepened.  But, being a less significant “flower” doesn’t make my life or my sufferings any less important to the God who created  and loves me.  He glances down at my small life and hears my prayers.

It comes down to this – God has willed my life and sufferings to be what they are and my perfection, my sainthood lies in being aligned with that reality.  It’s my job, now, to be the best little dandelion or daisy that I can be.  Because, the garden of souls currently growing on the earth would be incomplete without mine, even if it’s not the prettiest or most noticeable one growing there.

This little guy loves his dandelion mama!

This little guy loves his dandelion mama!

The Mass is Long

Not too long ago, I came upon this meme on Facebook….and, boy has it stuck with me.

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I’ve read many things written by many saints.  But, this particular sentence hit me right where it hurts.  Not because I don’t love the Mass and not because I would ever leave early because I “had to be somewhere else.”  There is no where I could or would ever need to be that is more important than at Mass.

Sometimes, though, I am internally annoyed because the priest chose the longest Eucharistic prayer.  Or, I roll my eyes at my husband when I see which priest is saying Mass because his homilies are always far longer than I think they should be.  Or, my favorite priest, much as I love him, decides to sing ALL.THE.MASS.PARTS.  Or the choir decides to do an especially long performance type piece a the offeratory.  How quick I am to groan, internally or audibly.

I saw this picture and read these words and I was put in my place.  It’s a short enough sentence that I can’t forget it.  It has stuck with me even though I wasn’t TRYING to get it to stick with me.  It jumps directly into my brain as soon as I start to get impatient with something at Mass or if I’m having a rough time with the kids or I am annoyed with someone sitting nearby with their loud breathing or constant chattering.

It’s no one else’s fault, especially not the priests’, that I lose my patience and focus at Mass.  MY shortness of love is the problem.  And that’s the last kind of love I want to show to my Lord or anyone else.  This week more than ever, I pray that I might enjoy all the “long” Masses and events of Holy Week with an abundance of love.

A Hidden Life

There was a time in my life when I thought I wanted to be famous.  Well, maybe not famous, but at least notable.  When we took the Meyers-Briggs personality test in high school and college, I would undoubtedly always get the “Extrovert” E.  I used to love meeting as many people as possible, being included in major events, going to parties where there would be lots of people, making an impression.

As I got older and began my career in ministry, I thought it would be great to become a public speaker.  Maybe not be on a major circuit, but at least on a minor one where I got to travel and meet lots of people and be a recognizable name.  I wanted people calling me because they were so impressed with my public speaking skills.

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Spiritual Breathing Room

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I’ve been reading “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.”  Yes, I’ve been reading it for awhile.  It’s not that I am a slow reader, it’s just that when I find a few minutes here and there to sit down and read, it’s just that – a FEW minutes.  Anyways, I am, finally, nearing the end of the book (I plan to finish it before Lent is over!).

Yesterday, as I was reading about working, resting, service, etc., I came across an interesting passage from St. Ignatius.  He was speaking to a group of young Jesuits who were so exuberant about their new found desire to serve the Church that they were trying to “out-do” each other with ridiculous religious practices.  Ignatius had this to say:



“Let your service be a reasonable service.  First…God is not really served in the long run, as the horse worn out in the first days does not as a rule finish the journey…Second, gains that are made with this excessive eagerness are not usually kept…Third, there is the danger of being careless about overloading the vessel.  There is danger, of course, in sailing it empty, as it can then be tossed about…But, there is also danger of so overloading it as to cause it to sink.”

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The Lenten Police

I just wanna tell you how I'm feeling...

We all made it through the exciting first day of Lent (and there’s no possible way you could’ve missed it what with all the Facebook reminders to “Attend Ash Wednesday!” and blogs with suggestions on what to do for Lent or explanations of what I am or am not giving up, etc.).

On Thursday, we faced the reality of what we gave up for the next 40 days when we realized how challenging this or that things might be to do or not to do.

And, now we’re sitting here on our first Meatless Friday – perhaps having forgotten and had a bite of meat to eat and then face-palming upon remembering the Lenten season.

Hopefully, we are finally firmly planted in Lent. With our sacrifices imbedded in our brain, we’re suddenly noticing what others are doing or seeing it unfold as we spend time with our friends and family and someone orders water instead of coke or is reading a book when they would normally be watching TV.

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