Thank You

To the Lord, my God, who has given me everything that I have and possess I offer my thanks.

Thank you for my diabetes, for without it I would have fallen into a life of sin and would have never learned who Jesus Christ really is.

Thank you for taking away my health insurance, for if I had it I would have never learned what it means to have complete trust in you and know that you are the great physician and will protect me in the best way possible. 

Thank you for my poverty, for without it I would have never been able to experience the charity, kindness and generosity of others and the immense giving spirit you wish to share with your people. 

Thank you for my tears, my anger and my fear, for without these things I would have never learned to listen to your voice. 

Thank you for not giving me a husband in the times I thought I really needed one, for with one I would have never fallen in love with you and been able to realize you are my one and only soul mate. You are the answer not only in this life but in the next.

Thank you for my family, friends, job, health, food, water, the air I breathe, church, community, place of residence, hope for the future, memories of the past, knowledge, wisdom, blind faith, pets, unconditional love, grace, peace, silence, excitement, movies, books, truth, cable TV, vacation, nature, exercise, cellphone, internet, Starbucks, iced coffee, insulin, the kindness of strangers, and everything I have forgotten…

Thank you for everything you have made me to be. I have nothing and truly am nothing without you and your grace. You are love and  even though I am not worthy of it I am so grateful for knowing and experiencing your love every day.

Titanic (revisited)

Yesterday I was browsing through channels on my TV, searching for something to watch when divine intervention led me to the movie “Titanic.”  I hadn’t seen or thought about this movie for a long time.  I remember the movie first came out when I was in fourth grade and truly determined the reality in which I lived for years after seeing it.  “Titanic” was ground-breaking in several ways and redefined the way people in the industry made epic movies.  Since I was only in fourth grade, it was a battle to get my parents’ permission to see the movie because there was so much “adult” content that might not have been suitable for an impressionable 9 year old such as myself.  After ceaselessly nagging my parents about letting me go, they finally gave in and I’m very grateful they did.  The relationship between the two main characters, Jack and Rose, was monumental as well as unusual, and it left a lasting impact on me.
Up until yesterday I had regarded their love story as a tragedy.  At the end of the movie my heart broke, thinking of Rose having to leave Jack behind when the ship sank, and to continue her life alone.  I had convinced myself that Jack was Rose’s true soulmate, and she had to settle for someone else.  The story seemed sad to my 9 year old self.  It didn’t end the way it was supposed to, just as Romeo and Juliet didn’t end the way it should have.  Watching the movie again was a completely new experience for me as an adult because I could see Rose and Jack’s relationship with new eyes, through God’s eyes.  When I watched the movie in the past, I had seen the story unfold through flawed human eyes.  I believed it had a tragic ending because it did not end the way I wanted it to.  I was not open to the beauty and providence of God’s plan for the characters.  Rose and Jack were supposed to meet and be a part of each other’s lives at that exact moment in time.  Jack opened Rose up to allow her to see and become the woman she was meant to be, and in turn, Rose helped Jack fulfill his purpose in life so when he died, God would welcome him into His kingdom in heaven.  I still believe Jack and Rose were soulmates, but not in the constricted way I used to consider such relationships.  They were intended to be together, but only for the time God wanted them to be.  Life continues despite change; nothing stays the same.  Only the Lord’s love for all His created beings remains constant.  The Lord entered Rose’s life through Jack’s intercession and influence on her.  When she boarded the Titanic, she was a prisoner to all the entrapments of an earthly world, but when she reached America, a new world, she was a new person.  She was free–free to be the daughter of God as He created her to be.  She moved forward, not alone, but with Him, and He took care of her.
The movie ended exactly the way it should have.  Rose and Jack’s relationship was precisely orchestrated by the divine Composer.  The whole story of “Titanic” is a beautiful and profound example of God’s will at work.  Although “Titanic” has always been regarded as tragedy because so many innocent people lost their lives, it is also a story of triumph and victory.  Survivors living to tell the grand tale, like Rose, were forever changed and were brought closer to the Lord.  They realized they needed to rely on Him instead of the material world, which could be taken away in an instant.

Consecration Day

My life is no longer my own.  For the past 33 days, I made the commitment to consecrate my self to Jesus through Mary’s intercession.  This devotion has been adopted by many saints–St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. John Paul II, just to name a few.  There are several ways to approach this dedication, but the main purpose remains the same:  to give up one’s life and give it to Jesus Christ, with the faith that Mary will take everything you offer to Jesus and use it to provide the most good for all humanity.  It seems a bit daunting–a tall order to release total control of your life.  As I went through the consecrate, my desire to give away my life grew stronger.  My trust in Mary intensified because she gifted me with many affirmations, revealing that through this sacrifice, she would bless my life in return.
The 33 day devotion ended today.  I had great expectations for it.  For 33 days, I had been reading about the wondrous things Mary and Jesus would start to do in my life once I had made the vow to consecrate it to Jesus.  I should know by now that I should never have expected what I had been led to expect!  At a glance, my day appeared pretty horrendous, not just for me, but for everyone involved throughout the course of it.  My day began with a special mass of remembrance at my church where I sing in the choir.  Our rehearsal started late because the conductor forgot her music.  In the process of her hasty departure to go back home to get it, she ran over a choir member’s phone with her car.  His phone had fallen out of a hole in his pocket, and he hadn’t noticed till it was too late.  Needless to say, the sense of urgency and stress triggered by this incident set the tone for the rest of the day.
After Mass, I took the time to actually make my consecration.  Unfortunately, my mind was already flooded with distractions, and I found myself focusing on all kinds of subjects, but not the consecration.  I felt discouraged.  Here I was, seeking to surrender myself and my life to the Lord.  Why was it so difficult?  I should have simply retreated to my room and made the new beginning the following day.  Instead, I had to go into Manhattan; I had even actively chosen to make the trip more difficult by going later in the day when more people are out and everything around NYC is more chaotic.  I should mention it was also the coldest day of the year so far.  I did reach the city and headed off to meet a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile.  We were going to catch up.  I was only blocks away from our meeting point when the the true struggle of the day occurred.
I was walking the streets of NYC when I heard a faint voice.  “Could you help me?”  If I hadn’t just finished the consecration, I would never have entertained this request.  I stopped and inquired, “What do you need help with?”  I assumed it would be a “normal” street request–directions to the subway, some money or some food.  Not this time.  A woman and her sister had quite an elaborate story to share.  They had traveled to the city from New Jersey and lost their cell phone on the cab ride.  They had no money because their check was declined at their bank.  All they wanted was formula for their children and enough money for the trip back to New Jersey.  This was a significant request for me, considering how expensive formula is.  My mind started to become unhinged; I wanted to tell them I could not help, it was just too much money, but there was a voice inside my head reminding me that my life was no longer my own and I might be the person Mary had chosen to help these women.  I gave in; I could not say no to Mary and Jesus.  Unfortunately, the quest to buy groceries was not easy.  The store we went into did not carry their formula.  They continued to suggest different resolutions, including walking to another baby store.  Of course, I did not have the time to accompany them.  I was struggling with the uneasiness of the situation.  I was running into roadblocks and became extremely conflicted.  Were these roadblocks from Mary keeping me from making a mistake, or from Satan causing me to question my faith in Mary and ultimately in Jesus Christ?  I did eventually give these ladies some money so they could buy the formula and hopefully return to New Jersey, but I am still in a quandary.  I do not have that sense of peace I am accustomed to after having responded to a call to help others.  It may have been the increased amount of time and money required–I have never been asked to give away so much money before.  Regardless of what caused my lack of peace, I am left still questioning my decisions.
I have no choice but to return to Mary and place all this in her hands.  Whether or not these women truly needed my help or were just out to take advantage of an innocent person on the street, my intentions were pure.  If they did take advantage of me, they will answer to Jesus Christ on the day of their final judgment.  In the meantime, I surrender those sisters and myself to Mary and her ever merciful Son, Jesus Christ.  May they take this day and all that resulted from it and use it for the greater good of everyone involved.  I must adopt this attitude and find peace.  If I truly believe in what I have vowed after undertaking this consecration, I have nothing to fear because Mary will make sure her Son will use what I have done the way He did at the marriage feast of Cana when she prompted Him to His first miracle.  “Do whatever He tells you.”  From now on, I will endeavor to follow these words.

Role Model???

Recently, my life seems to be changing at a rapid rate, and these changes are major ones.  The Lord is adjusting my body, my soul and my spirit, leading me to become someone I never thought I could be.  During my early childhood, I took on the persona of “a child of God” and was completely content.  I was so content, I stunted my growth with Jesus Christ because I wanted to remain an innocent child my entire life.  Unfortunately, like all children, I was also naive and began to seek recognition and wisdom from worldly sources.  I was always looking for role models to emulate and I found several, but they only stayed in my life for a fleeting amount of time and never lived up to my standards.  I finally realized they never would because I was searching for the perfect role model, Jesus Christ.
I have to admit I developed into a Peter Pan, singing “I won’t grow up” and planning to continue the theme throughout my adult life.  I feared growing up and all the responsibilities it would entail, so I did everything in my power to delay the process.  I did put it off for a fairly long time till the Lord intervened and showed me that this was keeping me from a stronger and richer relationship, not only with Him, but with everyone important in my life.  By His grace, I entered a new chapter in this life, and it has turned everything upside down.
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”  Luke 14:26
This is a verse I always struggled with, for how could I “hate” my father and mother?  The truth is that it is possible and can actually result in a more powerful relationship with one’s parents.  I had to put aside “childish things”, which meant I had to release my firm grasp on keeping my parents the same people I knew as a child.  I believed that, like a child, I was unable to truly stand on my own two feet and take care of myself.  Whenever I fell and scraped my knee, I wanted my parents to be right there to make it better.  This attitude does not foster a healthy relationship; I needed to turn to God to “make it better” because He is the only one who can.  When I finally came to this realization, it was as though the huge walls that stood between me and the Lord were shattered.  I was able to place my past completely in the past, and it no longer has power over me.
Accepting and dealing with this new identity still has trials, but there is nothing I cannot overcome in all I encounter because I can find Jesus Christ in this more mature identity, and I have faith that this is intended for my ultimate good.  One great example is a new image of myself as a role model to others.  I have always sought others as role models and never ever wanted to be one myself, mainly because I was so insecure, and did not find any qualities in me that anyone else would admire and strive to imitate.  Nevertheless, in these last few months, the Lord has shown me that these insecurities are in fact worthy of respect from others.  In my job, I have to sit for long periods of time, so I have developed a habit of walking around the building throughout the work day.  I was rather embarrassed about this because I was taking time away from my duties, but then I started noticing my fellow workers walking around the building too.  When I asked them about it, they surprised me by saying they were following MY example!!!  Somehow, this little habit had made a positive impression on others.
I never believed myself to be worthy of role model status, and to be honest, the concept is till slightly terrifying because I can fall into the trap of regarding myself as that small child, naive in dealing with worldly ways.  However, the big difference is that I now have Jesus Christ as my role model, and can encourage others to follow Him through my own behavior.

In Loving Memory

My cat died a few weeks ago.  He would have been 17 in human years today, roughly 119 in “cat years.”  His death came as a surprise to me, and stirred a well of grief inside me.  He was elderly, showing many symptoms of age–dementia, joint stiffness, matted fur, etc.  Despite all these signs, I convinced myself that he would live any number of years more as cats often live to be twenty or so.  My state of denial might have been a result of being disconnected from his day-to-day routine. When I moved to New York City, I left him with my parents because I would not be able to care for him, but I fully intended to come back for him once my life stabilized.  I have always had a cat; my parents had one before I was born, so it’s hard to grasp my new reality of life without one.
This cat was the second in my life–initially just a replacement for my beloved first cat who lived to be sixteen and a half and died when I was a freshman in high school.  When she died, I was so overwhelmed with grief, I insisted our family had to get another cat right away.  I wanted a kitten, however, and there were simply none available in our city at that time of year–we searched!!  We finally found a six month old kitten at a shelter in a small town, a half hour drive from where we lived.  When I first held him, it was obvious he had a temper–he bit my ear!  It wasn’t a hard bite, but certainly an indication he was not the cute, cuddly kitten I had imagined.  Nevertheless, he became my kitty and we grew to love each other.  I even came to rely on him for security.  There were times in the middle of the night when he would be on high alert–meowing and hissing at forces I could not see.  This made me feel safe, as though he was protecting me by constant vigilance while I slept.  He truly flourished in the darkness of the night, which made his diagnosis of dementia at his annual check-up so heartbreaking.  The night time patrols he used to feel compelled to make suddenly confused him.  He began howling piteously every night, and the vet said it was because he couldn’t remember where he was and needed reassurance.
When I received the news of his passing, I immediately felt guilty.  I wasn’t there when he died; I had abandoned him.  In the midst of my grief, I even felt ashamed, wondering what my cat thought of me not only for being absent at his death, but also for not being with him during his last years of life.  Logically, these thoughts are slightly ridiculous; after all, he was a cat, not a human being, but even so, my mind can wander into surreal places when processing the loss of a loved one–animal or human.  Fortunately, the Lord enters in and provides unexpected healing and grace.  For some time, He has been showing me how to release the attachments I had developed in my life that kept me from fully surrendering myself to His will.  I thought I had detached from most of my childhood belongings, but I had forgotten about my pets.  Even now I am struggling, accepting the new reality that I no longer have a cat to call my own.  I find myself trying to devise ways I could get another cat, but it is simply not possible for me at the moment.  The Lord beautifully asks me to release control of this situation to Him.  I am reminded that everything in my life is a gift from Him, including my cat.  I was blessed to have him as long as I did, but in the final analysis, he was never really mine, he was God’s creature.  Although I will always feel pain that I wasn’t there when he died, what I need to remember is that the Lord was.  I am so thankful that through His grace He could do what I could not–release my beloved pet from what had become a harsh and unfamiliar world and give him peace.

Invisible

What I consider weakness, the Lord uses as strength.  What I see as a hindrance, the Lord turns into an asset.  All my life I have felt invisible and unimportant.  I had a desire to accomplish great things that would make an impact on the world, so I had to connect with the “right people.”  This was an ongoing struggle–whenever I attempted to make those crucial connections, I was overlooked.  Each time I went to an event I believed could lead to a life-changing moment, I was left feeling empty and a failure.  I would always blame God and question Him.  I was doing everything in my power to use the life He had given me as an opportunity to change the world for the better, but I ended up with doors being shut in my face.  What was I doing wrong?  Maybe I was not looking in the right places and not placing my trust in God, although I believed I was.
This past Thursday was the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, and at the Mass I attended, the priest spoke of Mary’s many gifts.  He mentioned subtlety, which I had never heard described before.  The priest used the example of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth.  A young pregnant woman taking on a long journey through treacherous landscapes all by herself without WiFi, cell phones or cars–the priest emphasized the lack of modern technology that would have helped when the roads were difficult and thieves were everywhere.  How could Mary possibly have survived that journey on her own?  The answer lay in her subtlety–by the grace of the Holy Spirit, He allowed her presence to be felt but not intrusive so she reached her cousin’s home in safety.
I thought of my days living in New York City, walking the streets late at night after work.  The streets of New York are easily as dangerous as the roads Mary traveled.  More than a few times, my path was crossed by rather aggressive individuals hassling other walkers for money or food.  They would approach everyone ahead of me, but when I finally passed by, it seemed as though they didn’t see me.
I used to feel my invisibility was a curse; I wasn’t significant enough to be acknowledged, but now I realize it was a gift.  I resolved to place my faith in the Lord and trust that He will put the correct people in my path who will see me.  I was back in New York City this weekend and stopped in a church with a chapel open to all for prayer.  I had endured a long and strenuous morning and while I was in the chapel, a man approached me and asked for $20 for food.  I was somewhat taken aback–I am used to people asking for money, but $20 seemed a bit excessive.  Nevertheless, there was an aura of kindness about him.  I truly believe in the influence of the Holy Spirit and the importance of listening to His subtle promptings.  There was a peace about this man unusual for a person living in New York City.  He asked me if I was an actress and when I told him I wasn’t, he said I should be because I looked like one.  He continued to say he was a comedian, trying to be discovered by NBC.  The question about being an actress was most likely a line designed to get money, but I felt there was some sincerity behind it.  I have no desire to be an actress, but it was a career I once considered, and it was affirming to hear that someone, albeit a total stranger, thought I could be one.  Nothing happens by coincidence, and I am sure this man was placed in my path to see me, and that I might see him.  I gave him $5 and hope he used it for food.  The short interaction we had was uplifting and provided me with strength to get through the rest of my day.  Perhaps it helped him in the same way.  Our meeting was also a reminder that the Lord is in charge and only allows the “right people” to enter our lives at certain times–when they do, we need to pay attention.  We are all called to be in community with one another for we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.  When we are open to recognizing our fellow brothers and sisters as such, we can change each others’ lives for the better, even if only in small matters.
Thanks to the Lord’s blessings, I understand that I am not invisible.  I am fully seen by my Creator and Father, who is the only person that counts.  By placing my life completely in His hands, He has the ability to use me and make me visible to the people He chooses.  If I put Him first, ahead of my own desire to be seen, I can walk in confidence (and subtlety), knowing that everything I do will be done for the glory of God

Control

I have been fairly open about the influence of living with Type 1 diabetes and my struggles in managing the condition.  There have been aspects I have chosen to withhold because I feared the backlash and judgements I might receive for being honest about how I handle this chronic illness.  Medical issues are often highly sensitive topics and provoke quick judgments.  However, this morning at Mass, listening to the homily, I was blessed with courage through the Holy Spirit to write this blog.
The homily was more about earthly possessions and common attachments to them.
“‘You fool, this might will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.” Luke 12:21
The priest pointed out that whatever we try to own in this life ends up owning us and whatever we try to control ends up controlling us.  This last statement and the use of the word “control” grabbed my attention.  On the day I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, my life became all about control.  I was told that my diabetes could not be cured, but it could be “controlled.”  A somewhat severe doctor informed me that if I did not control the condition, I was doomed to suffering all through life.  To some extent, he was right, but his words could be applied to everyone, whether they have diabetes or not.  My life is based on numbers; I check my blood sugars constantly, and every time they are too high or too low, they determine how I conduct myself the rest of the day.  Both high and low blood sugars evoke fear.  Thoughts of being a failure invade my head and frustration takes over.  It’s been 13 years since my diagnosis–why can’t I control them?
I’m supposed to see an endocrinologist every 3 months.  I strictly adhered to this practice till moving to New York when my health insurance wasn’t adequate, and I saw an endocrinologist less and less.  Now my life is becoming stable again, and I can afford to visit an endocrinologist.  I wasn’t expecting a glowing report card; I had let my diabetes management slacken, but was still struck by fear again and how it affected perspective on my life.  My thoughts shifted my focus from the Lord to myself.  The responsibility for controlling my condition reverted back to me and how I needed to take control.  I began to judge myself and fear the future.
Since my latest doctor’s appointment, I have been on a downward spiral.  I was trying to live my life based on blood sugar numbers.  As the priest said, by trying to control my diabetes, I was letting it control me.  The more I tried to force this control, the worse it got until I hit a new “low,” literally!  At my lowest, I received a text from a close friend who had no idea what was going on with me, but she was listening to EWTN and the daily family prayer was for those with diabetes.  When she heard it, she was prompted by the Holy Spirit to text me.  I truly believe my life was saved that day because she sent me that prayer.  When I have low blood sugars, I correct them with quick acting sugar from Smarties to a box of juice–whatever is readily available.  Nevertheless, there are some low blood sugars that cannot be corrected by any amount of sugar.  I had lost control of my life and in my weakness, the Lord was strong and only He was able to raise my blood sugars, which He did.
Even when I know a doctor means to help, when fear enters in the enemy can take control.  I recognize the effects fear has had on managing my diabetes.  It is important to see doctors, take their advice and closely monitor your blood sugars, but actually being able to control them is a false perception.  I am human and thus subject to human error.  If my diabetes management was left up to me, I would be doomed.  Just as people try to hold on to possessions, Jesus Christ reminded me I can’t take them with me–they are not forever and have no value in Christ’s eyes.  Diabetes has no value for Jesus, rather He values me and my immortal soul.