Listen to the Silence

MK - book house with tree in color

As we are making commitments to exercise more and make healthier food choices, there is one more area where resolutions can be made. Take some time in 2013 to nurture your spiritual health. When we strengthen our spirit, we find our center, bringing focus, inspiration, and peace.

Spending time in the great outdoors is an effective way to reenergize and center. This time of year, I am particularly fond of walking in the woods during a light snow fall. Have you ever taken the time to stop on these walks and just listen? The faint noise of snowfall makes a beautiful and unique sound. My father frequently encouraged me to stop what I was doing when we were in the woods and “listen to the silence.”

Activities which challenge your mind can also nurture your spirit. Reading a thought provoking book, learning an instrument, or taking the time for daily devotionals are all effective ways to broaden your horizons. For me in particular, singing is a powerful activity. It challenges and centers me. I also enjoy singing in church as it is one of the strongest forms of worship and one way I can give back to my parish. (And to my fellow church members, now that life is returning to normal, I will be rejoining the music schedule soon 🙂

While all of these activities are quite fulfilling, the act that centers me the most is trying my best to attend church each week. Please understand that I am NOT trying to increase membership in my parish (though all our welcome). I am merely sharing why I find weekly church attendance so beneficial. Before I can explain why it’s important, I first must tell you those things I find unpleasant. Usually churches will have a healthy share of church drama and church politics. I have been on the receiving end of this, and honestly, in my weaker moments, I have been the cause of church drama. However, I find looking past those moments to be worthwhile as most churches are full of kind, hard working people who are a pleasure to see each week.

I attempt to attend church each week because it provides a much needed routine. Getting up at the same time each Sunday, following the standards of Mass, and having that weekly time with my church community provides focus, keeping me centered on what I must do each week in my life. My children are also gifted with that same weekly plan and are in regular contact with other young people who share their faith. In addition, weekly church attendance puts me in contact with people who need help. It might be a parishioner who would benefit from ten minutes of conversation after Mass, the notice of someone who is ill and could use a meal, or any individuals who would benefit from a card or phone call. That’s what life is all about, helping those around us.

So in 2013, take some time to nurture your spirit. Explore the nature around you, “listen to the silence,” read a book, join a Bible study, or even start a book group. Two books that have inspired me are “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis and “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge. Or are you looking for more routine in your life? Do you long for more community time? Start looking around for a church community.

Thanks for reading! Happy New Year!

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Take a Keek at your blessings…

We all have blessings… Sometimes we need to look into the blessings and simple acts in our lives to know just how much they affect our lives. While this fall has been quite challenging, Chad and I sat down and listed what made our lives so special. It was a powerful reminder that despite the difficulties in our lives, we have so many blessings. We came up with the following list:

Mary Youngs: This woman, who is no longer with us, was a substantial blessing in both our lives. Chad remembers her from a young age. He remembers her loving presence as a second mother. I remember her gingerbread men, her famous cheese bread, and most important, her love. She always had time for anyone who needed an ear or a hug. As a young woman who had trouble fitting into a new small town, I will always remember when Mary reached out and made me feel at home. Do you have a special individual who made all the difference in your life? Have you tried to “pass it on” to another in your community?

The Lamb Tournament (one of the first wrestling tourneys of the Hastings’ season): Chad has made time for this event since he graduated from high school. Now that his boys are wrestlers, it holds more significance. Wrestling was elemental to Chad’s life; he has been trying to give back and pass on the positive influence. Whether it’s sports, music, or other extra curricular activities, is there a community activity where you have the opportunity to give back?

St. Patrick’s Day: It’s more than just a day of heavy drinking. In my church, St. Patrick’s Day provides the opportunity to share that saint’s history and message with the students. I try to bring in shamrock stickers and share St. Patrick’s first lesson on how the shamrock with its three leaves can represent the Holy Trinity.

This holiday is also a chance to bond through cultural education. Chad and I bring out our books: “Born Fighting,” “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” “Ulysses” and many others. We share with friends and family the role the Irish (and Scottish) played in our nation’s history. My father also liked to tease that it was ironic for a lass of Scottish and Irish heritage, letting her children attend a school with a Saxon mascot. Do you have cultural influences to share?

Tom Maurer’s rendition of “Roll Away the Stone:” When I first joined my husband’s church, his voice first caught my attention on Easter morning, a simple rendition, a natural and powerful praise to our Lord. Even after 17 years, I look forward to it every year. Music is powerful. Is there a song that energizes, motivates, inspires, or heals? Which songs complete you?

Sally Dreyer: When Chad and I discussed the blessings in our lives, her name came up as he remembered his years with her as his 5-6 grade teacher, and we both remembered the years all three of our kids spent with her. They learned organization, an advanced view of the Civil War, and the experience of a teacher who refused to accept “I can’t do it” for an answer. (She’s still at St. Rose, by the way, if you are looking for that influential teacher.) Do you have a teacher who made all the difference?

John and Helen Willson: While these individuals have been part of my life since I was around six months old, I most remember their words of wisdom through my teenage years and beyond. Helen was there for me as a young teen with the answers to all the important questions. She always made time for me and treated me with respect. As a college student, John respected me as any academic. John helped me sort through my thoughts and work and point me in the right direction, so my college years would have the most significance. He taught me a mantra that stays with me today (and motivates this post), the importance of “Family, Church, and Local Community.” Do you have that influential family friend who motivated your life path? Also, can you “pass it on” to a youth in your life?

The first football game of the fall: It may be a small thing, but both Chad and I appreciate that first game. It could be high school or college, but watching those boys strive for excellence and define themselves is a treat. Just like wrestling, it’s an opening, a chance to start over and strive for excellence. We also love the weather and love watching the thrill of witnessing a new season.

Gary Noblit: “Hawkman” has been an influence in my life since the Campfire Girls hosted the yearly Father/Daughter dance in the early 80s. Gary was the motivation behind my love and value of nature. Over the years he demonstrated the connection of the care of our land with our lives. While I do not hunt, I have the knowledge and respect of where our food is obtained. Because of his influence, I believe in the importance of common-sense conservation and find a sense of fulfillment when we fill our freezer and root cellar with the fall harvest from the garden and the white tailed deer harvest. Regardless of the political divisions, are you a caretaker of your surroundings?

Which events complete you? Have you put some thought into the blessings in your lives? While we all face challenges and unpleasant situations, we can also benefit from viewing the many positives that are immersed in our daily lives. Take a minute this holiday season to reacquaint yourself with the people and activities that fulfill your lives throughout the year. It’s quite worthwhile. We all have blessings…