small pieces of joy

pieces of joy in each day

ponder no. 3

anxious

I spent some time outside this evening on our patio. There is something wonderful and relaxing about the smell of rain, a gentle breeze, and some insightful words. I’d like to share some of the things I’ve been reading. Ponder with me, will you?

  • On the pull of distractions: “We run away from ourselves because we don’t want to be with ourselves. Our pain is a kind of energy that is not pleasant. We fear that if we release our diversions and come back to ourselves, we’ll be overwhelmed by the suffering, despair, anger, and loneliness inside. So we continue to run away. But if we don’t have the time and the willingness to take care of ourselves, how can we offer any genuine care to the people we love?” —From No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Embracing suffering: “So the practice is not to fight or suppress the feeling, but rather to cradle it with a lot of tenderness. When a mother embraces her child, that energy of tenderness begins to penetrate into the body of the child. Even if the mother doesn’t understand at first why the child is suffering and needs some time to find out what the difficulty is, just her act of taking the child into her arms with tenderness can already bring relief. If we can recognize and cradle the suffering while we breathe mindfully, there is relief already.” –From No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “Pray, hope, don’t worry.” –St. Padre Pio
  • “Don’t fight reality” –Sr. Debbie
  • “In times of anxiety, write a letter to yourself from God’s perspective. What you think God would say to you?” -Sr. Debbie
  • Come, Holy Spirit
  • On anxiety: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:6-7

Please share any insightful words in the comments!

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words of remembrance

As I’ve been working through my grief, I’m saddened I wasn’t able to give words of remembrance in the days following Dad’s passing from this life to the next. I’ve found that I wish I could have said something to everyone who came to his visitation. I wish I could have said something to everyone who prayed for his soul at this funeral mass. I wish I could have given tribute to dad with words from my heart.

Looking back I know there were many reasons why it didn’t happen. Everything worked out the way it needed to in those moments. Some people, myself included, were able to say things to Dad at his Celebration of Life party. That just wasn’t enough for me, especially since he was driving his electronic wheelchair away from me as I spoke!

I guess it is never too late to write the words I would have liked to share with everyone eighteen months ago. And it is fitting that I will speak about his life on this day, March 8th, the day he entered this world in 1959. Here goes.

“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”

These words from Clarence Budington Kelland sent goose bumps running all over me when I read them recently. I silently whispered, “That’s what my dad did.”

I didn’t really have a lot of heart to heart conversations with Dad about living life. But I really didn’t have to.

Dad taught me about life by living it.

By taking us on inexpensive, meaningful family vacations.

By showing me how to put a worm on a hook when fishing.

By helping me oil my glove, and always being my catcher.

By building our swing set and deck with his own hands (and a few helpers).

By helping us fly kites in the open field behind our house.

By showing us how to ‘box out’ at basketball practice and yelling a few intense instructions during a game.

By watching a Chiefs game with the TV announcer muted and the radio announcer blaring. (And yelling a few intense instructions during the game).

By clapping proudly after every sports game and band concert—especially after my adult dodge ball games!

By playing board games with the family and working his business skills to trade one wheat for two sheep.

By claiming every sports movie is his favorite because he loves the underdog. And watching them over and over and over and over.

By playing in the parents band, proudly banging on the drum that gave him so much joy.

By taking leadership positions even when the job is not easy and sometimes goes unnoticed.

By making the difficult call because it is the right one.

By being a man of few words, but making those few words speak thousands.

By respecting and working with people of all nations, creeds, and backgrounds.

By saying his name with confidence, followed by a strong handshake.

By lying down on the floor next to his crying daughter, reassuring her that things will get better.

By letting his daughter move into a shady apartment during college, even though he had huge reservations—and then letting her move out of the house before having a job!

By saying, “I’m proud of you buddy” after he spent a few days with his brand new grandson.

By allowing people into his cancer journey, accepting all forms of help and encouragement, and at the same time paying those gifts forward. And buying lottery tickets for the radiation nurses!

By going to confession for the first time in over 10 years, and then speaking to me about forgiveness.

By letting me teach him to pray the rosary when he couldn’t remember anymore.

By gracefully letting God take him Home.

As someone wrote in a sympathy card to our family, “He was honest, thorough, and trustworthy. There were only two types of people—those that didn’t know him or those that called him friend.”

I do not believe it was God’s will for Dad to have cancer. But God sure did use the fact he had cancer to show us more good and beauty in this world than I ever thought possible. All of our friends and family were God’s hands and feet on earth, showing His love during the most difficult time of our lives. We are now able to see how God used Dad to teach us loyalty, friendship, leadership, and LOVE.

I miss you, Dad, everyday. I’m working hard to continue the legacy you began and I hope to teach George and my future children the way you taught me. By living.

“I came so that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” –John 10:10

If you have some memories or words of remembrance you’d like to share with my son, George, so he will know his Papa better, please send them to george.j.ashley@gmail.com. I know he, and my family, would be forever grateful for your sharing of memories!

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child’s prayer

small thing: a child’s prayer

A few days ago I was video chatting with a friend when I asked George to sing his best friend, Monkey, to sleep. Because I have to show my friend his adorable singing of ‘Edelweiss’.

To my surprise, something else came out.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

I’m speechless as he is reciting this prayer, in toddler speak of course. I’ve never heard him say it before! As I’m wondering about how he learned it, he continues.

Great Grandpa Kennedy, Grandpa Kennedy, Pray for us.

Pray for MeMa and Uncle Leon get better ’cause they are sick.

Amen

I could barely breathe. My sweet, loving, amazing husband has been secretly teaching my son to pray. And I was able to see the beauty of it revealed before my eyes.

Now instead of singing a song before bed, he wants to say his prayers. And he wants to teach that to his best friend, Monkey, too.

I guess I didn’t realize how much my little man would teach me. IMG_1816

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plan

Today’s small thing: making a plan for lent

Hey, it’s Ash Wednesday…boo!

That’s kind of how I felt today as lent creeped up on me and knocked me out of bed.

The problem I have with lent is that it is perceived as a horrible time of self-sacrifice and denial. A time of not eating your beloved steak and instead eating a basket of fish and chips (it’s rough). A time of feeling bad about yourself waiting for the banquet of Easter. A time of guilt and sadness.

Lent is so much more than that. It’s a time of reflection. A time of change. A time, set apart each year, to identify what is going on in your life and actually take steps to move in a positive direction. A time to work on yourself and your relationship with God.

It is too too easy to spend life not knowing what you’re doing, where you’re going, and how others around you are affected. I have the curse of ALWAYS thinking about those things yet never doing anything about them.

That is why I love Lent. Not because I like to remind myself of what I do wrong, but because I can remind myself of what I CAN do RIGHT. And then take active steps to change. To return to the path I want to walk, and to bring God along with me.

So today I spent some time making a list of the things in my life I want to change. Anything I want to change. From keeping my house clean, to daily prayer, to drinking 64oz of water a day kind of things. Then I decided which ONE I wanted to focus on this lent and made a daily plan to work on that.

I’ve decided I want to work on keeping my house clean. I’ve mentioned it before but I’m determined to make the sacrifices I need to make to create a stress-free home, during this time of action. I think I’m going to make myself get up at the same time each morning (talk about a LOFTY goal) and throughout the day focus on my daily cleaning plan. I made a plan similar to this before, but it failed miserably. Here is my new plan.

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My hope is that as I complete one of the tasks I will check it off and feel a sense of accomplishment. Who knows, this could fail just like the last one. But I’m trying, and that is the point, right?

I’m also going to set an alarm on my phone to remind me to pray each day, in addition to my alarm that reminds me to do some kind of workout during nap time. Oh the many alarms I will be answering in the near future…

It may seem silly to focus on this, when lent is a time to bring yourself back to God. But for me, right now, taking care of my home and my sanity are ways I can order my life back to God. I can make room for Him by making this change. Instead of worrying about my messy house all the time, I can maybe sit for a few minutes and talk to Him.

I just wanted to share these things because I love hearing what people are doing to better their lives and relieve stress (read–tell me what you’re doing!). I hope others feel the same. Remember, Lent is not a terrible horrible time. It’s an opportunity for greatness.

What is your plan?

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ponder no.2

The background music: Christmas Piano Favorites from iTunes

The scent: Sage, Mandarin, and Eucalyptus votives from Yankee Candle

The place: My bed, books strewn about and my journal (there might be a pile of clothes too…)

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Here are some reflections and Bible verses I’ve been pondering lately. Take a moment and ponder with me.

The topic: hope

  • “The sufferings of the present time simply don’t compare to the glory to come that will be revealed to us.” –Romans 8:18
  • hope is “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” –Hebrews 6:19
  • “Oh Israel hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.” –Psalm 130:7
  • “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” –Romans 5: 3-5
  • “Trust God and he will help you, make straight your path and hope in him.” –Sirach 2:6
  • Let us learn to abandon ourselves to have total confidence in God, in the big things as in the small, with the simplicity of little children. –In Conversation With God Reflection
  • Hope keeps us moving forward when we’d just as soon give up–The Catholic Youth Bible reflection on Romans 8.
  • Life is something of a mixed bag. There are days of joy, when all seems complete and we are perfectly contented. Then there are days when we feel lost, confused about our purpose, and alone in facing our difficulties. We enjoy happy moments, and those of pain. All are a part of life. While embracing the fullness of this human experience, Paul reminds us that our hope is in something more. There is a longing deep within us–deep within all of creation–for another home. This present world, in all its beauty and wonder, cannot compare with the glory that awaits us in heaven.–The Catholic Youth Bible reflection on Romans 8
  • “Jesus asks for faith in his person, for the complete trust that opens our hearts to his saving and transforming power. Thus, asking for something with faith really means entrusting my needs and my hopes confidently to the One who loves me.” –John Janard, Magnificat Advent Companion

“May the God of hope fill you with all the joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy spirit.” –Romans 15:13

What have you been reading/pondering lately?

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memorial

divine mercysource

a reflection on our memorial service on the one year anniversary of Dad’s passing. 

Last week at this time I was in Chicago waiting to take a train back to South Bend from my quick trip to KC. It is hard to put into words how the weekend was, but I know it was exactly what needed to happen.

Friday evening we gathered at the cemetery with a few family members and friends to pray and remember the life of my dearly missed father. It was a beautiful night with a slight breeze and colorful sky. Around the gravesite we stood, some sitting in lawn chairs or on blankets, all with thoughts of Dad in our minds.

We began by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which was the prayer we prayed only minutes before Dad took his last breath. This prayer brought us so much peace in that moment, and ever since. Knowing that Jesus greeted Dad as the Merciful Savior makes me so thankful that we were able to help give Dad a holy death, which I didn’t think existed.

We sang the Salve Regina, which is a prayer that is so close to my heart. It is often sung at the end of the day, right before going to sleep. How perfect that it was a prayer we prayed before Dad fell asleep in this life and awoke again in Heaven.

Following the prayers we sang the song “Hymn Song” by Utah Phillips. That song has become our family’s theme song throughout our journey with Dad and it will always remind me of him and his love for his family. I believe if I lived my life again I’d still be here with you.

During all of this I was feeling a wave of peace sweep over me. As I knelt next to Dad’s grave I didn’t really feel like crying. I just felt comfortable there, knowing that Dad was with us and proud of the memorial we were giving him.

To leave on a happier note, we sang and danced to one of Dad’s favorite camp songs, ‘Alice the Camel’. I’m pretty sure the people driving down the road next to the cemetery had to do a double take when they saw us dancing! It was a perfect end to our tribute to Dad. A nice balance of serious and fun!

It was so wonderful to get hugs from friends and family who have been supporting us throughout the journey. Talking with people and feeling their love for us and Dad was just the medicine I needed. I am hopeful that the memorial was a helpful tool for those who came, because it definitely was for me.

My hope is that this can be a ritual we do each year, whether we are all together or not. The great thing about prayer and song is that you can be united no matter where you are physically. I know there were many who were unable to be there with us last Friday, but were praying and singing along.

Especially Dad.

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ponder

I’m feeling reflective tonight. Here are some things I’m pondering.

  • “God is not in the event. He is in the response to the event. In the love that is shown and the care that is given.”
  • “We go on living until we’re alive again”

            –Both quotes from Sister Julienne from the TV series Call The Midwife.

  • “There was suffering and no cure so God said ‘Come be with Me'”
  • “I do believe when people die their goodness, the good things they’ve done, they melt into your likeness and you become a better person for it.” –Billy Joe Shaver
  • “For it is when we are where we don’t want to be that we often meet God.” –Saint Peter
  • “God does not give us our trials, but the tools to face them.” –Priest during his homily on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows
  • Why do we pray?
    • build relationship with God
    • It is in the silence that God speaks to us
    • listening to the voice of God in order to better follow His will for our ultimate good
    • petition is awareness of our relationship with God and turning back to Him with hope
  • Why do we pray for others?
    • heart attuned to God’s mercy
    • expression of the communion of saints, all part of the Body of Christ
  • “The seed sewn in our hearts has sufficient strength to germinate, to grow, and bear fruit. First, however, we have to enable it to reach our heart. We have to make room for it within us, to accept it and not push it to one side.” In Conversation With God

Please share in the comments any words you’ve been pondering lately. I’d appreciate it! (And I’m sure the readers would too!)

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