“a tiny aperture of light…”

 

There is just so much going on in the world right now. And I am, for the most part, blissfully unaware. Disconnecting from social media for Lent is such a blessing. I am missing out on news of friends (just found out a friend is pregnant again!) but the rest of it, well, I am glad I am unplugged. I do have IG and Twitter, but I am starting to wean off those, as well. It just adds stress to my life. And people were teasing that I had just substituted one for the other. So I am working on it – a “work in progress.”

One of the things I am learning about is simplicity. In all things. In life. In choices. In the time I spend. (Less is sometimes very much more). In the things I choose to have around me. In the way I spend my time – where and with whom. In the things I choose to read or listen to. I am a fan of podcasts these days! Yay! And, I figured out how to organize my iTunes on my phone. I really hate being in the groove with some of my Christian music, and then have Bing Crosby and White Christmas come through my earbuds. Or all of a sudden, I am listening to Disturbed’s cover of the “Sound of Silence” (which I love, but it is rather loud) after just praising God with Mercy Me and “I can only Imagine.” So now I can listen by genre. It is so nice. It is simpler.

Quite often we choose to make sacrifices during Lent. And that is great. We need to do what we can do, in order to more fully participate in our faith. Some people give up soda. And that is where they are at in their faith walk, and they find it difficult, because it was solely what they would drink. And the struggle with that is real. I have been at this Lent thing a long time. This year, social media is my struggle. My soda. And I also encourage myself in adding things each year – developing something that makes me better. A better habit. A better outlook, or way of living. This year, simplicity seems to be my overriding goal and continual lesson.

One of the major things I learned this week – major for me – is that there is a huge difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is fading. It is seeing the first little bloom in spring and smiling…and then moving through traffic and forgetting about it. Happiness is buying new shoes and then shoving them in the closet after you first wear them. Happiness is fleeting. It is a feeling that has to be fed constantly. It is a consumable. Whereas true joy is eternal. It can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ, Our Lord, and Our God. One of the prayers I say daily is this:

“O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ. O come, let us worship and bow down before Christ, our King. O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ, our King and Our God.”

And it truly puts things into perspective. Yes, I can find happiness in my faith and yes, it is a great feeling. Just like listening to some of the music on my phone. I love thinking about the lyrics from Lauren Daigle’s new song, “You Say” – “I believe, O, I believe what you say.” Belief is such a gift. And it brings such happiness. But unlike a new pair of shoes, true faith brings everlasting joy. Oh, I may not be joyful every day. But unlike happiness, my joy is always there. I allow the cares and events of the day steal some of my joy. And that is on me.

And my joy is always my joy. I need to let it shine forth. I also realize that it is my responsibility to safeguard my joy, to share it with others, and do what I can to ensure their joy is theirs, too. So often as parents, we assume our kids have their faith. We instruct, we take them to Church, we pray, we live our faith. And then they become teenagers and start thinking for themselves (oh, the horror of thinking teens!) and they question everything. Do all of our grown children go to Church on their own? They do not. One left for 10+ years but has now returned. One is a young adult and is boycotting family things, like Church with all of us on Sundays. (Unless it is serious and then he is all in, like deaths and weddings and babies). Our other son has never walked away from the Church, and he practices his faith differently than I do. But you know what? They are all finding their own way, their own faith, making that relationship with God their own relationship and not the same one their parents have. And now they, are in turn, sharing it with their own children.

A good Christian will struggle, and we will struggle daily. We are knocked down. But the difference between us and those in the world who have no faith, is we get back up; we enter back into the fray. St. Seraphim of Viritsa says, “Just as a candle, before it goes out, shines strongly and throws sparks, and with its light, it enlightens the surrounding darkness – thus will be the Church’s life in the last age. And that time is near.” I believe that it is my responsibility to my children and grandchildren, my extended circle of family and friends, to shine that light of faith, to help enlighten this “present darkness.”

I have discovered such joy in the simplicity of my faith. But I have also become aware that there are demons prowling about, trying to undo my Lenten progress. And I am so thankful that I am aware. One of the additional things I took on was a Bible Study related to weight loss, that I recently inherited from my mother-in-law (Memory eternal, Mary). I love reading her notes. It is helping me to know her so much better. It is sad that it has taken her death for me to grow closer to her, but it has also been a blessing. She struggled. She struggled mightily. I always looked on her as a strong, strong, woman of faith. To my eyes, she was someone who was so “together” and her talent, to me, was something I truly envied. She was so creative. She could sew and cook, do needlepoint, and quilt. I am so inept in those areas. And I always wanted to be like her in that regard. But now I know she and I are so much alike (guess my husband did marry his mother! LOL!). She had some of the same struggles I do. Her prayers, encouraging her faith goals and weight goals, are so much like mine. And what it showed me is that no one, truly, knows what we are going through and struggling with. We are all being assaulted by the demons in this world – all of us. Some of us just hide it better than others.

I inherited a cross I saw my mother-in-law wear for years, that also reminded me of the cross in the Church she was buried from – Spirit of Christ Catholic Faith Community. And when I wear it, I touch it and think of her, asking for her prayers, and praying for her soul. And it has made me more determined than ever to continue down my own path. I know there are assaults all around me, but I also know the joy I hold close to my heart is a forever joy – the joy of a woman who chooses to simply apply her time and her life to the Christian life – the struggle to attain the Kingdom of God. And it comforts me that I am still learning, and still able to grow as Christian, thankful for each season of Lent that comes my way. And I am thankful for getting to know my mother-in-law on another level; to know she struggled just like I do. Whew. I am feeling quiet, simple, and quite blessed today. I think it is a joy-full day!

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