A Giving Heart

Have you ever heard a story that tugged at your heartstrings? Maybe you’ve watched a TV show or seen a commercial that was particularly moving. Perhaps you were watching the news and saw a story that struck home, that reminded you that there are others out there who are in need or suffering difficulties. Often, these experiences elicit an emotional response – “How beautiful!” “How awful!” “I wish there were more people out there like her.” “Why isn’t someone helping him?”

I would like to share with you one such story that is near to my heart and I hope, will become dear to yours as well.

Ben’s cousin Colleen is presently working in Hyderbad, India through an organization called Sarah’s Covenant Homes. She is a long-term foster mom for 7 children, all with special needs. Colleen has a true calling to work with these precious children. She has had to overcome an incredible number of hospital visits, late nights, early mornings, and a severe learning and language curve since she is in India, a place she had never been prior. Colleen regularly blogs at Letting My Light Shine where she gives heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories of her everyday life with these little ones.  Colleen does an excellent job of sharing stories of all the children in her care, letting her audience really get to know them and the challenges their disabilities present.

Katherine - kktaliaferro.wordpress.com, shininginindia.wordpress.com #DailyGraces #WorksofMercy #DonateNowI would like to specifically draw your attention to one of Colleen’s little ones – Katherine. Katherine is a 2 year old who is blind, deaf and has a form of cerebral palsy. When Colleen first met her, she was lethargic and very unresponsive. Colleen’s patient, steady and loving care of Katherine has yield some incredible results. In just 3 short weeks Katherine began responding to the stimuli in her environment by crying when she was displeased with something. Before this, she would not have any response, even if she was uncomfortable or upset, she would just shut down and go to sleep.

Colleen’s diligence with Katherine has brought an incredible opportunity to her. Colleen has been very good about following up with best care she can for all of her kids, pursuing whatever avenues she needs to with each of their unique disabilities and challenges. For Katherine, she has been trying to figure out what options are available for her hearing loss. After a whole series of doctor’s visits, Colleen was thrilled to find out that not only is Katherine’s cochlear nerve intact, she is still a viable candidate for a cochlear implant! With only 3 of her 5 senses working, regaining some hearing will completely revolutionize Katherine’s world.

As if this wasn’t enough good news, Katherine has been blessed by a local organization who is willing to pay for the implant itself. It is a huge financial burden off of Colleen and Sarah’s Covenant House. However, it means that it is up to Colleen to raise the funds for the surgery and hospital stay. In total, she needs to raise $3,000.

This year, especially during Lent, Pope Francis has really called everyone out. In his address for Lent, Pope Francis said:

For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us” (ibid.)

We all can’t travel to India. We all can’t sit with Katherine at breakfast and watch her reveal in a sense she can enjoy. We can’t all sit with Colleen as she struggles to help Katherine engage in the world around her. We all can’t sit by Katherine’s bed when she wakes up from surgery. We all can’t be there the day Katherine begins to make connections between the sounds she is hearing and her environment.

But we can help make this life-changing surgery possible. Lent is a time of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. If you have been discerning a new charity or cause to support, consider Katherine’s. Pope Francis wants us all to “reawaken our conscience” by actively performing the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy. By donating for Katherine’s surgery, you are not only helping the sick, you are concretely giving Colleen the tools she needs to shower Katherine with even more love and works of mercy.

Here is the link you need to donate. It is simple and all through PayPal so it is secure. Any amount you can give will help Katherine get that much closer to the gift of hearing. If at this time you are unable to give, please pray for Katherine, Colleen and the other children. You can also share this post or any from Colleen’s blog to help spread the word about Katherine and children just like her in need of advocates, in need of love, in need of mercy.

Thank you so much. Please click through the links so that you can learn more about Colleen, Katherine and the incredible work she is doing.

Salt Cravings

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Do you ever have one of those days where you need salt. Everything salty sounds delicious and you find yourself fantasizing about french fries, potato chips, pretzels, or anything with enough salty goodness  to satisfy the craving. And no, this doesn’t just happen when I’m pregnant. I’m sure you’ve all had at least one day like this. Our bodies need salt. It is one of the components necessary to help water move through our systems. Our bodies do not function properly when we do not have enough salt.

Everything in life needs a little salt. Have you ever noticed on pretty much any cooking show that has a judge, someone is always critiqued for not using enough salt. Just the other day I heard a judge say “If you had just put a few more grains of salt, then the flavors would have really popped.” Even desserts need to have some salt.

There was one time, I was in high school, that I was making a new cookie recipe. I believed that the recipe, in my fairly inexperienced baking hands, called for too much salt. These were supposed to be sweet cookies after all. So I left the salt out. I think that we all know how those cookies tasted. Lifeless.

It is interesting, Jesus told his followers to be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). He didn’t say to be the yeast, to be the flour, or to be the water – all other fundamental ingredients. What makes salt different is it’s ability to add flavor. Flour, yeast and water are all basic components to make bread. You don’t technically need salt to make bread, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you like to eat cardboard. Maybe you do.

I definitely don’t like cardboard. I like flavor in my food and my life. I like to think that Jesus did too. After all, he did hang out with some pretty “flavorful” people for the time (tax collectors, women, non-Jews, lepers, to name a few) and he certainly spiced up the lives of his followers. Jesus asks us to do the same. We are supposed to spice things up. How? By being fully alive.

To be fully alive, we have to know who we are. We are children of the most high God, the author of all creation. We cannot be fully alive without recognizing that we are not the source of our existence. How can a building stand when it’s foundation is cracked? The basis of our “saltiness” comes from this primary fact of our being.

If you are ever feeling like you are losing touch with your “saltiness” (aka your ability to connect with Jesus and therefore your ability to see the world as he would want you), take some time to think about your encounters with Jesus. Pope Francis just said ““He never forgers, but we forget the encounter with Christ. And this would be a good assignment to do at home, to consider: ‘When have I really felt that the Lord was close to me? When have I felt the need to change my life, or to become better, or to forgive someone? When have I felt the Lord asking something of me? When have I encountered the Lord?’ Because our faith is an encounter with Jesus. This is the foundation of our faith: I have encountered Jesus.” (see more at http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-our-faith-is-an-encounter-with-jesus)

Divine Mercy Sunday

I know I should be posting Part II of my Lion King reflections (which by the way, since that first post I’ve heard the soundtrack about 15 times. It’s a miracle that I can sing any other song in my head at this moment). But I would be remiss to let this very special Sunday pass by without a few words of reflection.

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The first Sunday following Easter is a unique Sunday celebrated by the Catholic Church called Divine Mercy Sunday. We are celebrating the incredible love and mercy that flows from Jesus, our savior. At Mass today we even had a large portrait of the image of Divine Mercy. John and Rosie were so intrigued by the change. They kept asking about the colors coming from Jesus. I loved watching them notice the change in our liturgical space. It means that they really are observing and starting to participate in the rituals, which is so incredible as a parent.

On the topic of parenting and mercy, what a huge job parents have. When you really stop to think, from the earliest of days a parent’s actions, words, tones, looks, etc., are all taken in by our children. Lessons of discipline, respect, obedience, trust, and honesty are all so important for the development of both the child and the parent. Mercy, however, may be one of the most important things that a parent can teach. We demonstrate mercy when we are compassionate. We teach mercy when we extend forgiveness. We live mercy when we do not let yesterday’s hurts shadow over today’s triumphs (or struggles, or joys, or hurts).

Pope Francis, our wise pope, has declared that starting in December this year, the Church is going to be celebrating a extraordinary Holy Year (usually these happen every 25 years, the last being in 2000, hence the “extraordinary”) of Mercy. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco_bolla_20150411_misericordiae-vultus.html. This is going to be an incredible year. We all have a chance to make a difference, make a change, for mercy. Pope Francis says “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life…The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.” One of the really cool things about our Church is that it sees families as the foundation, the building blocks of the whole Church. Families are called “domestic churches,” a microcosm of the global Church. If my family is a microcosm of the Church, then my family is called to have mercy at our cornerstone.

I hope to focus on learning about mercy and teaching/modeling mercy for our family. Keep up with Pope Francis if you can, he’s shaking things up all over the world.