Empty, Open Hands

Well it sure has been a while! I’ll admit, this break was not necessarily planned or intended. It just sort of happened. I try to make this blog as close to God speaking through me as possible. So if I’m inspired to write, I write. If I’m not, I try not to force the issue. I’ve been inspired off and on during this impromptu hiatus, but haven’t found the motivation to write about it.

Until today. And I hope it sticks. Because I have some exciting news to share at the end.

This morning, Ben and I got the kids up early for daily Mass. You may recall that we moved back in January. Our new parish is a very active, welcoming community. There is a school attached to the parish and the students attend Mass throughout the week. Each grade/groups of grades go once a week. On Wednesdays, as today happens to be, the youngest students attend Mass.

When the older kids go, they are the ones who lector and serve. The little ones, however, are not old enough yet. Therefore, the homeschooling families traditionally handle these duties on Wednesdays. I love this inclusion of the homeschool families. Of course, we signed up to participate.

On this particular morning, Rosie (age 9) and John (age 10), had prepared to lector and served respectively. However when we arrived we were told by the custodian that Father was away, something had come up, and there wouldn’t be Mass. The kids were disappointed and understandably so.

The lights were off in the church. Only the tabernacle candle and the prayer intention candles at a few statues along the walls were lit. It’s October and we were still early enough in the morning for light to be faint and mysterious. Instead of going home, I suggested we go into the darkened church.

We went in and sat down. After a few minutes of not silence, I started a Rosary. Conveniently, I noticed that we have 4 main statues surrounding the pews – The Blessed Mother, Joseph holding the Child Jesus, a version of the Infant of Prague, and Jesus’ Sacred Heart. We did our first decade in the pews facing the tabernacle. We then began a traveling Rosary, stopping at each statue for a decade.

Our final stop was with Joseph. I was leading again, but standing behind the kids. Clare (age 7), was in front of me, using her hands to keep track of the Hail Mary’s. As she got to the 5th, instead of closing that had and moving on to the next, or just starting over, she kept it open. Then, when she reached the 10th, she kept both hands open and extended for the duration of the prayer.

I was so struck by the simplicity of her posture, yet it’s profound message. I wish I could have taken a picture. Here was a young girl, praying, with hands open and empty, ready to receive the graces bestowed upon her. She did not feel the need to work for the grace, she wasn’t proving she was good enough or worthy enough. It was a very St. Terese of Lisieux moment.

After we finished, Clare came up to me. “I liked that Mommy,” was all she said. I hope she keeps this attitude of prayer. The emptiness, the openness. What a witness to me and my own feeble attempts at proving my worth or being concerned over my accomplishments. God doesn’t need those. He just needs my hands to be ready to receive His gifts.

Speaking of gifts, I’m excited to share that Advent Journals are back and nearly finished! This year we are shaking things up with a brand new format I was inspired to create (truly inspired – I heard this phrase on a knitting podcast of all places and it became a fully fledged Advent journal. Only God can do that!). Remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from when you were a kid? This is going to be similar. The key phrase is “Embrace Your Own Pace.” I’ll be sharing more as I get closer to pushing publish. These will continue to be completely and totally free, as usual. So get excited and please share the good news with your friends, family and parish!

A Rosary a Day Keeps the Frustration at Bay

Happy All Saints Day!

A few months ago I read a blog post written by a mom who was trying to find creative ways to curb her frustration with her daughter. As probably every parent can attest to, some days are harder (much harder) than others and kids go through various joyful, stressful, sweet and down right awful stages. The system she that proved effective for her was, brilliantly enough, hair ties.

I’m sure that others have thought of this before. She would start the day with 5 or so hair ties on one wrist. If she lost her temper or became overly frustrated with her daughter she would move one tie to the other wrist. She would try to earn that tie back through extra efforts at patience, kindness and gentleness. The goal, of course, to start and end the day with all the ties on the proper wrist.

Fast forward to 2 weeks ago, to what I can only a God moment. I have tried to pray the rosary daily on and off for years now (gosh that makes me sound old!) But it’s true! I can remember being in high school and college trying to say a rosary before bed and never making it past the 2nd decade. Or trying to pray them in the car and losing track of how many Hail Mary’s I said. I’ve tried bracelets, the little rings, pocket rosaries, you name it. Then, 2 weeks ago, it hit me. Use the hair ties!

So now, if you see me walking around with multicolored hair ties on my wrists, it’s not because I’m over prepared for any hair emergency. I have 5 thin, colorful hair ties that start every morning on my right wrist. As I say a decade I move one to my left wrist. The goal, obviously, is to have all the hair ties on my left wrist by the end of the day.

I didn’t realize what a game changer this would be. After a few days of this new practice I found myself describing my day in a whole new way to Ben. Here’s what I said, “You know, it’s been a bit of a rough day. But I had enough patience to handle with it, so it really wasn’t a big deal.” What?!? Who is this person who is speaking through me?

Now it isn’t all sunshine and roses of course. But I have noticed a definite change. I am more focused, especially in those moments when I am wondering what to do next. You know, that found time between finishing the dishes and starting the laundry, or the 2 minutes at your desk before a meeting, or waiting in line at the grocery store? Instead of pulling out my phone or aimlessly wandering through my brain, I am saying a decade of the rosary. There is more found time than I thought I had now that I’m on the lookout for it.

In this new practice, I am starting to feel more in sync with St. Paul who exhorts us to

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Jesus Christ. – 1 Thess 5:16-18

So many saints attest to the power of the rosary, here is just a small sampling:

“”The greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.” – Saint Francis de Sales

“The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.” -St. Josemaria Escriva

“The Rosary is the most excellent form of prayer and the most efficacious means of attaining eternal life. It is the remedy for all our evils, the root of all our blessings. There is no more excellent way of praying.” Pope Leo XIII

“No one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary: either they will give up sin or they will give up the Rosary” – Bishop Hugh Doyle

“The Rosary is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God…and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary.” – Pope Pius X

“Our Lady – he says – is always close to Her children and ready to help when we pray to her, when we ask for her protection… let us remember she is always ready to serve and never keeps anyone waiting.” – Pope Francis

 

Today we celebrate all the saints in heaven, including Mary who is Queen of them all. What a most excellent day to pray a rosary!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com