It’s End of the Year Recap Week! Join me as we review over 2016 and share the good, the bad and the funny. Each post will be a link-up for you to share your own thoughts, memories and faves. Choose one or join them all! Here is the line up…
Monday – 2016 Recap (Part 1): 2016 in 12 Photos (hashtag #2016in12photos)
Wednesday – 2016 Recap (Part 3): Top Posts of 2016
Today – 2016 Recap (Part 4): Lessons God Taught Me in 2016
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As a blogger, I find that I am most receptive to God’s lessons when I turn the thoughts in my head and type them out. Finding the right words to use etches the thoughts and ideas into my heart. Since I’ve written about these lessons over the last 12 months, here are some of the ones that meant the most to me.
Looking in the Mirror – Flaws vs Beauty of the Soul
Since yesterday was our 17th wedding anniversary, my mind automatically went back to this lesson. You can read the full post here but here is an excerpt.
… I thought about how young and in love we were and how just being near Brian sent my heart racing. I thought about how he would gaze at me and get this “look” that told me that he loved me as much as I loved him. Our wedding photographer caught a glimpse of that look on our wedding day. I love the way Brian is looking down at me and I remember seeing all his emotions there in his eyes.
Fast forward almost seventeen years and we’ve been through some amazing times and some rough times. We’ve survived the normal trials of caring for babies and toddlers with its messy days and sleepless nights. We’ve survived family trials, miscarriages, cancer and the death of a loved one. It would have been easy to fall away from each other if not for the grace of God! We are still crazy in love with each other but the years have taken their physical toll. We’ve aged.
I look in the mirror and for the most part I think, yeah, that’s me and I’m okay with it. But sometimes I look in the mirror and all I can see are the tired eyes, wrinkling skin, double chin and plus size figure. I wonder, “How in the world does my husband still find me attractive?” Yet, despite the flaws and aging, I’ll still see “that look” when he holds me close or when he steals a kiss in the kitchen or when he reaches for my hand when we are out in public. Because of his love for me, he is able to see something in me that I sometimes can’t see in myself.
However, this goes beyond something we experience with our husband. I see it in my children’s eyes when they hug me, kiss me or tell me that “I’m the best mom eber!” I see it in the loving look of a sister or a friend who gives me a hug when they see me and are eager to catch up and talk.
I see the same thing when I look at my friends. When I think of their various qualities, the things that come to mind are these: she can light up the room with her smile, she would drop everything to help a friend in need, she makes me laugh so hard I cry, she listens to you like you are the only one in the room or she is smart and strong and makes me feel like I am capable of the same.
Despite their various shapes, sizes, ages and occupations, I don’t give much thought things. It’s their qualities, their strengths and their kindness that makes me love them. Our friendship allows their beauty to shine brighter in my eyes.
So today, if you are feeling less than beautiful, stop for a moment and see yourself through the eyes of those who love you – a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, a best friend. They see beauty in you. They see someone they enjoy being with and are blessed to have in their lives. Be thankful that God made you uniquely your own person. Be thankful for the qualities that bring beauty to your soul and to the world around you.
Lessons My Mom Taught Me
I wrote this when I found out my mom had cancer. You can read the full post here but here is an excerpt.
With Mother’s Day approaching, I can’t help but think about mom and how she has shaped my life. She had a rough childhood and made mistakes in the early years of raising us up but she wasn’t content to repeat the vicious circle of dysfunctional families. She surrendered herself to the healing power of God’s grace and corrected her mistakes, and with my dad, raised up a family with a strong faith and love of God. She is now enjoying the fruits of her labor with children that are carrying on the faith and expanding the family tree – particularly with 4 new grandbabies within one year.
I admire my mom so much. I gave her a lot of grief and heart ache in my pain-in-the-arse years but she never gave up on me. She taught me to trust in God and believe in myself with God’s grace. She taught me that life is too boring without a little fun and a lot of laughter. She taught me about inner strength because she is the strongest woman I know. She has faced fears and kept going forward even when she was unsure of the way. And she did it without losing her sense of humor.
As I am typing this, I am also realizing that what I admire about my mom is going to be what gets her through this trial. Her faith, her trust in God, her courage to move forward even when she is scared and her sense of humor will serve as the very tools she needs to fight this battle. Now I just pray that we as her family have the strength to trust in God completely and walk this road with her.
Lessons My Father-in-Law Taught Me
While I wrote a longer post about the lessons my father-in-law taught me, here is an excerpt.
Give with a Generous Heart
If there was one attribute that stood out the most in my father-in-law, it was his generosity. It was more than just being generous with his wallet, the man gave of himself. He lived Gospel charity. He was always there to lend a hand, do a favor and visit the lonely however tired or busy he might be. After his retirement, you would find him walking the halls of the local hospital or various nursing homes visiting the sick and bringing them communion. When friends or family were sick in the hospital he would be there to visit every, single day. He never wanted a person to feel alone or unloved. He was relentless in his service to the church and to the community, while never neglecting his own family. That is a rare feat.
Value Wisdom and a Broader View of the World
My father-in-law had a rich history of life. Coming to American from former Yugoslavia as a young man, serving in the army, building a new life in a new country, earning a Masters in political science, succeeding in business, raising a family and living nearly 90 years of life gave him wisdom and a broader view of the world than I could ever have. We didn’t always see eye to eye on politics or world events but he always gave me a better understanding of differing views and helped me to see the world beyond me with a more compassionate heart and wider worldview.
My Final Lesson
In the final year of life, after my father-in-law’s stroke, you would think that there was little left he could teach us. But I think his deepest lesson was saved for last. It was difficult for all of us to watch Dad decline physically and mentally. It wasn’t easy to explain to the kids why Opa could no longer go on hikes with them or play soccer in the driveway.
He was still able to love us and he taught us how to love back unconditionally without expecting anything in return. He taught us to look beyond the aging body and faltering mind to see the strength and beauty of his spirit, to recall the wisdom he gave us and to duplicate his generosity. We saw the dignity and value of just being by his side and holding his hand when no words were left to be spoken. He taught us how to love, how to let go and how to hope that we will see each other once again in the presence of God. Those are lessons that can never be taken away from me or my family.
Lesson # 4
Some crosses are an unavoidable part of life. Some crosses are self made.
You can read the full post here, but here is an excerpt.
Is That Cross My Own Making?
Sometimes we give ourselves crosses that God did not intend for us to carry. For example, the other day I woke up extremely tired because one of the kids was sick with a fever in the night and I was up taking care of them. I finally got back to bed and it seemed like moments later the alarm clock was ringing way too soon. This was a normal cross of motherhood. You take care of your babies and sometimes it leaves you sleep deprived but God gives you the grace to endure.
Another morning I also woke up extremely tired but that was not because of a sick child. Rather, it was because I was binge watching The Walking Dead to catch on episodes I missed. I went to bed way too late on a school night and the next morning I was tired and grumpy. That tiredness was a cross I then had to carry but I was never meant to. I was supposed to go to bed at the appointed hour and get a decent night’s sleep so I wouldn’t be acting like a Walking Dead myself the next day.
As I considered this, other moments came to my mind with similar outcomes. One afternoon I was busy helping my in-laws and by the time I got home I was rushing around to get dinner on the table. I knew God wanted me to be a loving and helpful daughter-in-law at that moment and I’d just have to deal with the stress of getting dinner on the table in time. It was the sacrifice God was asking of me at that moment. Another afternoon, I was also rushing around frantic to get dinner on the table but that was because I spent way too much time on the computer when I was supposed to be cooking. That cross should never have happened. Instead my sacrifice should have been turning off the computer and getting my butt in the kitchen. Or how about the day I was feeling ill because I came down with a flu bug? Sometimes illness is unavoidable. But what about the time I was feeling sick and run down because I was overindulging in junk food or desserts. That was not supposed to happen. Get what I’m saying?
Take a Second Look
So while there are unavoidable things in our lives that will go wrong or will be hard to deal with, sometimes it’s helpful to take a second look and ask ourselves if there’s something we can do to ease the chaos or lighten the cross. Are we overly stressed because we are mismanaging our time or over extending ourselves with outside activities? Are we upset that our husband isn’t pitching in yet we don’t actually tell him specifically how he can help us out and instead are resentful because he can’t read our mind? Are we running around crazy in the morning getting ready for school because we don’t have any kind of morning plan or order in place? Are we angry because there is so much stuff to organize and put away and we’re not dealing with the fact that we might just have too much stuff? Are we grabbing a pizza again because we failed to make a menu plan ahead of time? Are we going crazy at work or school because we are getting sucked into someone else’s drama?
Only you truly know your situation. You may be doing everything as well as you know how and life is still chaos simply because you have babies and toddlers running around the house. That’s pretty much comes with the territory. You are carrying the expected cross of motherhood. Or maybe you have a stressful job and you can’t really avoid it. Whatever the situation, it doesn’t hurt to ask God to show you if there are any areas in your life where things could be eased up a bit if you just changed a few things around or did something differently. That way we can put our energy into the following the path God gave us and not stray onto difficult roads that weren’t meant for us.
Love Is My Vocation
It seems like lately God has been telling me over and over that I need to increase my love for those around me. In Saturday’s Blessed Is She devotion, Brigid talked about the anxiety her heart feelt over the turmoils of the world and she wondered how she could go from prayer to action. She said:
“I want to fill my heart up with love. I want to carry love with me as I move through the world. I want to respond in love to the people I meet. Sometimes the love will be a love of justice, to be sure, but I will move and live in love.”
Those words have stuck with me.
Then yesterday at Mass the visiting priest said:
“It’s our capacity to love that will bring others to Christ.”
It makes me think about the people God has placed in my hands – my husband, my children, my family, my friends, members of my community, even you as you read this. It is not mere chance that they are in my life and I in their lives. I have a role to play and a mission to fulfill. But that requires me let go of my instinct to be selfish. It means thinking of others and how my actions (or lack of action) affects them. It means taking a few extra minutes on my knees to pray for you or for a struggling friend or making a meal for a mom who is having a rough time. Or not losing it when one of my kids breaks something in the house again. It means tuning off the phone and talking with my teen or reading to my sons. There are so many ways God wants me to share his love with others. I just have to decided if I will listen and act or turn a blind eye.
There Is Beauty in the Mess / Life with Boys
You can read the full post here but here is an excerpt.
Our life now is anything but calm and quiet. Everyday I am greeted with hugs that resemble football tackles, hysterical laughter at anything resembling bathroom humor, countess Legos and action figures wherever I look, and plenty of sweaty heads and muddy hands. And although I’ll roll my eyes or share a wry smile with Brian or Bella at their craziness, I have to admit that deep down I wouldn’t change any of it. (Okay, I’d change the bathroom from always smelling like pee and get them to put their dirty socks in the hamper and not under their beds) but I love my little guys. I love watching their creativity and hearing their laughter. I love seeing their little personalities emerge and when they show kindness to a sibling or friend. These crazy little guys of mine are my joy and their hugs and kisses never fail to melt me. So for today, despite the mess and the noise, I am grateful for my life with boys
Family Is Paramount, Whether by Blood or by Choice
Sisters by blood and sisters in Christ
Last month, we traveled to So Cal and enjoyed a family reunion with my parents, 9 siblings and all our families, including many new babies. It was the perfect reminder of what is truly important. Our lives may not be perfect and there are the usual ups and downs of day to day living but the difficult moments are completely worth it when you have one another. The laughter, love and faith we share bring us joy amidst the pain, brings us strength when we feel weak, and reminds us that there is still beauty in life, even if we sometimes have to look a little harder for it.
However, not everyone is lucky enough to have a family that believes the same way (or is at least respectful of differences.) It’s hard enough to have to deal with a negative situation but it is even more painful when it involves a family member. That is what I especially love about ministries like Blessed is She. It brings like minded women together to support one another. We all need family and they don’t have to be blood relatives.
God sends us special people in our lives (although we sometimes we have to try hard to seek them out) that are capable of loving us like family. I’ve seen it again and again with friends I’ve made here in my town, at school or people I’ve met online. If these sisters in Christ are unable to be physically near, they hold us close with their prayers and support. When I have been blessed enough to meet some of these online friends in person, it has united our hearts closer.
This is a beautiful example of the Body of Christ with God as Our Father, Mary as Our Mother and Jesus as Our Brother. I pray that whatever crosses you are carrying or whatever joys you are experiences, you are surrounded by loved ones to share them with you. Be assured of my own prayers for you that 2017 is a year of peace, joy and love!
Happy New Year,
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Do you have a lesson or two you’d like to share? If you are a blogger, link up below. If you aren’t, feel free to share in the comments. 🙂
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1. Create a post with your top lesson(s).
2. Add a link back here so others can play along.
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<img class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-9452″ src=”http://revolutionoflove.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/logo_lessons_2016.jpg” alt=”logo_lessons_2016″ width=”640″ height=”427″ />
4. Link up below. Make sure you’re sending us to your actual post, and not to your general blog address.
The link up will be active until January 31, 2017. 🙂