Category Archives: Stories from Life

Anniversary Memoire: Our Story

Happy_Anniversary

Five years ago we said “I do.” Funny that I’ve never posted our whole story here, so without further delay…

The Abridged Version:

Congratulations  eHarmony, yet another success story!  God, thank you for answering many, many years of prayers.

The Unabridged Version:

Captivated by her fascinating profile during the Spring Break free communication weekend in March 2010, Mike initiated communication with Lisa. Unable to see his photos, yet impressed by his choice of heroes, Jesus and Superman, she reciprocated. The normal progression of technology-based dating thus ensued:  emailing, texting, phone calling, all leading up to the hot-beverage based first date.

With entirely too much in common and always an abundance of laughter, the connection grew deeper. This man, who was very attentive to this woman’s interests, planned many memorable dates in a wholehearted effort to woo and pursue her.

In April, shortly after the relationship began, issues began to arise with Lisa’s Mom’s health. When Lisa received the news that the Doctor wanted to do more testing that fateful April night, Mike separately but simultaneously could not shake the inclination to go light a candle in St. Monica’s Marian Chapel. Without even talking that night, the Lord was moving within and through Mike to help Lisa. A help-mate. In May, the test results confirmed that the Breast Cancer that Eve had courageously battled against in 2006/2007 had returned in her bones.

During this intense time, it was the prayer and support purely given and received that revealed the truth. It showed what was in heart of hearts of these two people that had both been in search of a great love for many years.

A whirlwind of travel and events were next set into motion.  Here are the highlights:

  • In July, Lisa took Mike to Florida to meet the parents – a first! Obviously it went well.
  • In August they went to New York where she felt moved to return his “I love you’s” a top the Empire State Building, just like in Mike’s favorite classic black and white movies.
  • In September, a family wedding provided the perfect opportunity to meet more family and friends in and around her hometown in Michigan. After meeting him and seeing them together, several proposed that Mike & Lisa’s wedding would be next!
  • Over Halloween weekend, Mike took Lisa home to meet his parents. Something tipped her off that the family approved when Josie, his Mom, said she wanted “babies” and his sister wondered what the hold up was?!
  • Thanksgiving was spent at Lisa’s parents’ home, during which Mike asked for her hand in marriage. Her Father’s only request to Mike was that he could call him son instead of son-in-law, since he was like his fourth son.  Her parents later confessed that they had bought Champagne prior to their arrival, in the anticipation of celebrating their Engagement
  • Mike & Lisa returned to Florida with nephew, Abraham, to celebrate Christmas. On Christmas morning, before Richard, Eve and Abraham, Mike asked Lisa to marry him. It was a magically memorable day.

Mike’s love and support became vital for Lisa and her family during the hardest part of Eve’s journey. As Christmas approached, her Cancer took a turn for the worse. And over the course of the next month, Lisa and Mike were called to really support her parents. Special arrangements were made, and many family and friends all rallied around Eve as she spent her last days on Hospice, waiting to cross more things off her bucket list. On January 23, 2011, Eve Sanchez was called home – 2 days after her 64th Birthday.

Our family and friends, yet particularly our Mothers played a key role in this journey of the heart. Eve came to love Mike during that short time, and it was a great comfort to her that he would be there to take care of her little girl – something she had prayed for since she was a baby. Mike’s Mother had prayed for the very same thing, and had encouraged him to not lose hope—that someone was out there for him. And Mary, Our Mother, continually was there to lead and guide them closer to love.

Dallas Arboretum

On June 24th, the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, we took the next big step along the way: we professed before God and our closest family and friends our love and life-long commitment in the Sacrament of Marriage.  And thus the journey has continued, and more chapters will still be written to chronicle our story.  We invite you to be the characters that fill those pages as well…

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Tribute to Mom: Behind The Bucket List Wedding Dress Story

verily magazine

 

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, this is your story…

There are many treasured moments that I shared with my Mother, and then there were moments that have changed me — even though it has taken time for me to truly understand how. I first wrote this piece that Verily magazine just published back in 2012. Part of my grieving process a year after my Mom passed, I wanted to capture the beauty of that experience. My desire was also to have the story published, which I attempted a few times that spring without success. I knew that in its due season it would be shared, but it likely would still be lying dormant in my archives had the Verily Editor not reached out for another story and my husband not encouraged me to give it another shot. I’m grateful to him, and my friends and family that have shown their love and support.

Read, “I Learned the Secret to a Happy Marriage While Fulfilling My Mom’s Dying Wish” here.

BONUS: Scroll down below the pictures for an unpublished bonus part of this story, an exchange that reminded me God’s loving care and tender mercies in the final weeks of my Mom’s life. It is the Year of Mercy after all.

This story really is a tribute to the woman, mother, wife, sister, daughter, Godmother, Aunt, cousin, friend — all of who she was, and the profound impact on our lives and the imprint that she’s left on our hearts. These are pictures captured while I was trying the dresses on for my Mom, as well as a bridal portrait with my Sweet Mother Mary and my Mom’s Rosary, wearing my wedding dress and my birthstone jewelry that she gave me. Also, I had to include a shot with Mary Katherine, the sweet dress shop owner, that made it all possible. {Bridal shot by John Wehlage}

wedding dress hospicemom bucket listmary katherines fine ladiesmonth of maryMary Katherines wedding dresses

STORY BONUS:

…Changing out of the last dress, my heart had expanded.  Humbled, I confided in my new friend, “My mom loves Angels. There are over seventy that she has collected, all over this house. Mary-Katherine, you were our Angel today.”

“No, it was my blessing,” she responded, without hesitation.

“I am a one-year breast cancer survivor,” she told me. She had been a Medical Social Worker for about twenty years, and had served on the Board of Hospice for five years. I was now making it a habit of crying to Mary-Katherine.

Throughout her second battle with cancer that eventually claimed her life, Mom reminded us that we can laugh and find joy amidst the suffering of life. She cherished the opportunities to celebrate life and love in all circumstances. I hardly expected to have a profound experience of love while trying to cross one more thing off Mom’s Bucket List; yet I discovered a love that draws people together and carries them through good times and bad, in sickness and in health.


As it is Mother’s Day, I send love and blessings to all the mothers in their many faces: moms, godmothers, foster moms, adoptive moms, moms-to-be, grandmothers, spiritual mothers. Happy Mother’s Day! I also send my love and prayers to those whose mothers have passed, to grieving mothers, and women who grieve to become mothers – the Lord knows your suffering, may you know His peace.

If you haven’t read my previous article at Verily, 6 Pieces of Hard-Earned Advice I Gained From My Single Years,” check it out.

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5 Books to Advance Your Spiritual Journey

Spiritual-JourneyCan you believe we are halfway through our Lenten Spiritual Journey? It serves as a great checkpoint, and opportunity to provide some inspiration.

My 40/40/40 Prayer Pact has been a more intense experience this second time around. Within the first few days, there was a feeling of a mounting Spiritual Battle, and an ensuing attack. Then, one friend that had signed up asked me to pray for an extremely ill family member. Five days after the day that I prayed for this intention, that family member passed away — may perpetual light shine upon her. This all reinforced the need for daily prayer and spiritual nourishment.

In order to allow the Lord to guide us through the ups and downs of our daily walk, it’s vital to find ways to truly nourish ourselves spiritually. One easy and effective way to advance in our spiritual journey is through reading. The Bible is the ultimate book – obviously it’s our Spiritual Superfood. Reading other books should supplement and compliment your Scripture reading, not replace it.

I have shelves of spiritual books, even ones from back in the day studying Theology at Franciscan University, but I have some staples. I do have books on my shelf that I’ve been wanting to read that may be rivals for some on my list, (to name a couple: “Consoling the Heart of Jesus” by Fr. Mike Gaitley – an old college friend; and “Be Healed” by Dr. Bob Schuchts – a Catholic Therapist that led the Healing retreat that I went on in 2014). While I could pontificate on the many spiritual books I love, the five below are my tried and true list.

NOTE: I’ve linked the books to Goodreads so you can learn more about them. Incidentally, all of these books have over 4.5-star ratings there. I always recommend that you support your local Catholic bookstores first if you want to buy any of them – shop small whenever possible!

  1. I Believe In Love by Jean C.J. d’Elbée, “is a guide to happiness based on the teaching of one who found it entirely: St Thérèse of Lisieux.” I’ve had this book since I was in college, and by the looks of my copy, it shows. It is like taking a personal retreat about the interior life based on the childlike spirituality of St. Thérèse – probably because it’s derived from the retreats of the Priest that’s the author. There are powerful insights – such as on humble confidence and total abandonment to Christ – in this beautiful book.
  2. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. A classic, this book is almost a manual for spiritual development. The meditations by this 15th c. Augustinian monk on the spiritual life have inspired many through the years, including great Saints and Popes. “No book has more explicitly and movingly described the Christian ideal.”
  3. Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Jacques Philippe. An old Priest friend of mine recommended this book to me, and I can’t hold onto it because I keep giving my copies away – it’s THAT good. A small book, it’s one you could easily finish before Easter. But it has profound spiritual wisdom that really helped me: I can now see how the Enemy attacks with the aim of disturbing my peace as an entry point. Everyone craves peace – this book will help you in the spiritual practice of maintaining peace in your heart.
  4. Abide: Keeping Vigil With the Word of God by Macrina Wiederkehr. Recommended to me in Spiritual Direction, the book leads you through how “to make the Word of God your home through the practice of lectio divina.” It is about going deeper into the Word, meditating, and thus going deeper into your relationship with Christ. It’s full of meditations, reflections, and prayers around numerous scripture passages. If you want to learn to pray the Scriptures, this is the book to help you.
  5. The Inner Voice of Love by Henri J.M. Nouwen. If you’ve never read Henri Nouwen before, you need to change that. This book, his “secret journal”, was written during the most difficult time in his life. He published it at the urging of friends, as it felt it was too raw and private. But his vulnerability, sharing “the fierce inner battle that lies underneath so many of [his] spiritual insights”, provides consolation. If you’ve suffered through any type of anguish and despair, you will find solace in the pages of this book.

What books would you recommend as guidebooks along our spiritual journey? Add them in the com box!

Writing Goal Achieved!

Get published — it’s been a goal on my unwritten “Bucket List”. Start with a magazine, work my way from there, and eventually get one of my book ideas published. Yet I haven’t been very proactive about achieving this goal, until about a month and a half ago.

I was home alone one evening, thinking about what I want to be when I grow up. I concluded that if I wanted to be considered a writer, I not only have to write more, but I need to get published. Don’t put it off anymore – write. Right now.

I started to draft a couple of things, but nothing was popping. I know that writing from experience, particularly from the heart – when it has suffered, that’s what connects emotionally with people most. Something began to take shape, and I submitted it. And then waited for a few weeks.

Then the good news came! So, if we’re not connected on Social Media (for the love of God, at least follow me on Twitter would you?!) then you missed the smattering of announcements. I submitted a relationship article to Verily Magazine in November, and it was published!

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{Photo Credit: Rachel Haslam Photography}

Cruise on over to Verily and give it a read, “6 Pieces of Hard-Earned Advice I Gained From My Single Years.” Then hit a com-box and let us know what you think.

Feels good to wrap 2015 achieving this goal. Excited to see what 2016 will bring!

Christmas Letter + Bonus Pics from 2015

“Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Big 10 Martinez Memories of 2015

  1. Mike Celebrated 10 Years at his Job

On November 14, 2005, Mike began working in the operations center. Ten years later Mike is a Senior Nerd InfoSec Analyst, and CEO of our Digital Marketing Co, illuvint. {Hey, like us on Facebook, would ya?}

  1. Learning to Slow Down

Distraction + walking down stairs = A dangerous combo. Lisa took a tumble down the condo’s outdoor stairs, landing on top her foot, resulting in a severe midfoot sprain. Impeccably timed, our move was pushed back since this happened the week before. 3 Doctors and 2 PT’s later, she’s still in Physical Therapy, with hopes to be back to 100% soon!

  1. On the Road Again

Almost all our travel was in Texas this year. There were San Antonio weekend trips to see both Sanchez + Martinez families. Many Austin house-hunting trips from March through May – thanks to the generosity of our friend + cousins in housing us then. In June, we went to our nephew’s, Dustin, high-school graduation in San Benito and smuggled him back to Dallas. In early September, Lisa was in Alabama for the Delaune’s wedding, Mike was in Austin when his Tio Americo passed, and then back together in S. Tx for the funeral.

  1. Fixer Upper {And gratitude for the help of family and friends.}

Our condo needed some TLC before renting it. From the bathroom renovation, to adventures in plumbing, painting, repairs, and kitchen refresh – there were long and laughable moments.

  1. Redeeming Mother’s Day

After 3 offers on 3 homes and 3 “NOs”, our house-hunting began to feel like a beat down. A wild turn of events led us to a lovely 2-story home in North Austin. We made our offer on Mother’s Day (we were 1 of 3.) Late on May 11th, our Realtor + cousin Myrna Garcia, congratulated us on our new home!

  1. Not Saying Goodbye

We haven’t had to say goodbye to Dallas, especially since Mike travels weekly to work in the office a few days, w’re grateful for the Kahlich’s generosity in housing him. Lisa’s visited the D a couple of times too.

  1. From Porch to Plot o’ Land

We moved on up from a cement slab porch to a big, green backyard. Still adjusting from watering 2 plants outside the door to having 5 flower beds, a garden, compost, covered porch, and lots of grass. Living on a Cul-de-Sac, with a dead end street and open land behind us, it’s a peaceful place of beauty. We love it!

  1. New Ventures

In November, Lisa opened Little With Great Love, an online Etsy shop to feature our handmade goods – currently Mom Martinez’s crochet. She’s also been working with her partner, and their Mentor, on a new initiative to serve religious organizations that will officially launch in 2016.

  1. Settling In

Mike’s wanted to live in Austin for many years. We’re learning the Austinite ways + making new friends!

  1. Visitors to Our New Home!

What joy to have our friends + family visit our new home. We had Lisa’s brother, Paul, and nephews, Dustin and Jacob, during move-in weekend. In July we hosted the Florida Sanchezes, and had our House Blessing + Warming then. The Martinezes have come to stay a few times. Weekenders with friends have been great!

Follow Francis: Pope in US!

popeinus

The dove has landed! It’s the first time the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has stepped onto American soil. #popeinus

If you’re interested in Pope tracking, like we are, here’s a few resources:

STREAMING 

http://ewtn.com/multimedia/weekly-schedules.asp — The EWTN schedule to see when you can LIVE stream

http://www.catholictv.com/pope-america  — The CatholicTV schedule to see when you can LIVE stream

http://www.relevantradio.com/relevant-radio-pope-tracker — Relevant Radio coverage

http://blog.siriusxm.com/2015/09/14/pope-radio-america/ — The Catholic Channel on Sirius coverage

INFO WEBSITES

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/usa15/ — Catholic News Agency is all over the Pope’s visit to the US

http://www.popefrancisvisit.com/  — Good overall resource

http://www.worldmeeting2015.org/ — Info for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia with the Pope

http://wheresthepope.us/  — A good tracker, and where I got the nifty background image for my graphic

http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/holy-see/francis/papal-visit-2015/ — USCCB lists 10 ways to participate in his visit

http://catholicmom.com/author/lhendey/ — Follow Lisa Hendey at CatholicMom.com share stories from the ground

lovewins

Join me in welcoming and following Pope Francis in the US. First stop — #PopeinDC

A Sketch of my Lifelong Companion: Happy Birthday Hubby!

A spouse, a lifelong companion and path to holiness, is not something stumbled upon. It is a hard won quest for unconditional love, and once discovered, it becomes the work of a lifetime to nurture and grow with each other.

We certainly aren’t perfect, as like every couple we have our challenges; but, I have never encountered another heart filled with such a deep love and a desire to do good for God, Our Lady, family, friends, and me – as humbling as that is. I am a better version of myself today because of you, and even amidst the moments where the dying-to-selves part of life may become palpable, always know that I am thankful for the gift that I, and many people for many years, prayed for — YOU.

So, in honor of your 40-something Birthday today, drumroll please… a poem for my beloved husband.

A Sketch of my Lifelong Companion

As I am pensive, he is dreaming.

As I am eager, he is enduring.

As I am consumed, he is consuming.

As I am riotous, he is calming.

As I am solid, he is bending.

As I am abrupt, he is deliberating.

As I am spicy, he is moderating.

As I am strategic, he is improvising.

As I am trustful, he is protecting.

As I am witty, he is conjoining.

As I am sentimental, he is romanticizing.

As I am cheerful, he is reveling.

As I am creating, he is supporting.

As I am beloved, he is loving.

As I am blessed, he is blessing.

©Lisa Martinez, August 13, 2015

 

A little photo montage of our earlier days, moments where you found your way deeper into my heart…

Mike + Lisa CanoingTiger Stadium DetroitRose Mike LisaBack CameraBack CameraIMG_2060Mike + Lisa Kissing at SunsetMike + Lopez'sMike Lisa + San ParentsProposalMike + AnnaIMG_3418IMG_4850Mike + TimIMG_4036IMG_4055IMG_4103211437IMG_4472IMG_4009IMG_5076Love One Another

 

 

Keeping Still In A Frenzied World

inspirational scriptures

The past several months have been brimming with activity. Much of life for everyone these days feels like this – a frenzy of hustle. In my younger days, hustle and flow was my routine – push it until it is done or it breaks me, whichever comes first. But the Lord has been taking me down a new path, teaching me that there is a time for everything, and everything in its time. Not that I still do not get after things, but He has been showing me to put more of a strategy and wisdom into what I do, when, how, and who.

Relocating to our new city of Austin is an adventure and exciting, yet intermingled with the sadness of moving on from our beloved Dallas home and community. And then there’s just sheer exhaustion. But the joy of even sitting in a home of boxes, and the peace of a beautiful yard that was lovingly planted before our arrival, it makes all the sacrifice and struggle worth it. The yes to the open window and desiring a home where more blessings can be outpoured outweighed the tears in closing the door that was no longer where we were called to be. I still miss my Dallas friends and family very much. And my Louisiana and Michigan friends and family for that matter. #sigh

Bigger picture though, there is one. I’ve become a student again (Teacher = God), being taught a lot lately about something that I don’t do very well, keeping still. And keeping silent (or at least trying harder to) when there is every desire and reason not to be. I come from a line of people that work hard and are industrious, and we are not afraid to tell you what is on our mind, so raw hustle is in my nature. But it can become at odds with the humility with which the spiritual life needs to be nurtured.

Inside it is like a tug of war most days. Ego: I want, I need, me, me ME! Spirit: Relax, surrender, let GOD do it!

If my Grandma called you a hard worker, you had won her respect. It’s in my DNA – go, go, GO! If I don’t know how to do something, I work until I figure it out. If I set a goal, I chase that sucker down. If I am on a mission, kindly move aside or you’ve been forewarned.

And then boom, a week from moving, a silly distraction and I misstep into a badly sprained ankle. Noooooooooo.

Years of horseplay and sports, and I nab my first sprained ankle comes right when my hustle was in full swing. Now I realize that there are far greater physical sufferings that my community may be dealing with (I am praying for you!), but I do not like to compare, as I’ve read and it’s resonated that “comparison is the thief of joy.”

I’ve had on my big girl pants for a good deal of the past five weeks, yet the inability to walk for me right when that big dream we’ve been readying ourselves for at least the past five years to enjoy, well, it has brought me to the cross in a new way. Even after only experiencing just a taste of it temporarily. I have deeper understanding and appreciation for the suffering of the immobile, particularly my Mother when Bone Cancer robbed her of even being able to cross a room without aid. #deeprespectandprayers

It becomes even more painful when the noise of our age comes into play. The world tells us we need to work harder, faster, better, stronger. We need to stretch and press and go after everything and be more. You need to accept, go with the flow, do not question the world but be accommodating and always be whatever is the current thought or expectation of the day. Pull yourself up and make yourself something that the world cannot deny. Get after it!! And yes, we need to do our part. Yet what did the Lord tell the Israelites in their fear and complaining.

“The Lord himself will fight for you, you have only to keep still.” – Exodus 14:14

God wants to do everything for us, but there are moments when we must keep still and allow Him to do it. How must we participate in this act?

By giving our consent, “Lord, fight for me.”

There is a discernment as well as spiritual + mental maturity that comes into play here. Knowing when to move, when to be still. When to speak, and when to be silent. When to fight for something, and when to walk away.

I’ve had to fight my way through many things in life, and as the only girl in my family with three older brothers, my brain programming says, “Fight for it.” But in reality, the surrender to lay things down and leave them in the Lords hands to do the bidding is the source of my true battle. Can you relate?

The Lord has shown his glory and power many times throughout history, but people take it for granted. There is so much happening in the world right now that reveal deep woundedness that is festering and bleeding out. There is a darkness that can feel as oppressive and obstinate as Pharoah and the Egyptians.

But was it not the Lord that raised up Moses? Didn’t he take the Israelites, HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE, through slavery, forty years in the desert, and through the Red Sea? And in the end, HE TRIUMPHED!

Much has been in my mind and heart these days. The time for writing is scarce, yet the Lord moved in my heart to share a bit for now.

Holy Trinity, Sweet Mother Mary, fight for us!!

Taking on one more thing whenever I feel stretched often may feel like a monstrosity, but in these times, God has been moving in mysterious ways. I look forward to sharing more about a great work that has been developing out of established partnerships with a small, faithful, uber talented group of people that I deeply respect and admire. Stay tuned for that.

Until then, I pray that God will remind you of his power and glory, and that you will allow him to fight for YOU.

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3 Things Lent Taught Me About Prayer

What we learn from LentPrayer is not something new to me. My Catholic resume has some pretty decent bones to it. Even so, I do believe we tread on dangerous ground when we feel like our faith cannot teach us something new. As a lifelong learner, I love when old “practices” can bear new fruit.

Sometimes simply making a few changes feels like opening wide the windows, allowing bright light and fresh air to pour in. Spiritual refreshment is an important part of our faith walk, otherwise we can experience pitfalls, such as mindlessly go through the motions or getting stuck in a spiritual rut. This Lent, my approach to prayer was different {read more here}. For 40 days, I prayed for 40 people and their at least 40 intentions — my 40/40/40 Lenten Prayer Pact.

It was a beautiful time of intercession, and I’m really grateful to all who participated – either through asking for prayer, or hosting your own. My heart swelled when my Sister-in-Law told me that she had her whole South Florida Catholic grade-school class doing the 40/40/40 for Lent.

What did I learn during the 40/40/40? Here are three things that Lent taught me about prayer:

1. Generosity and reciprocity.

My 40/40/40 in no way suggested to participants that anything may be expected back from those submitting their prayer intentions. This was not framed as, “Let’s pray for each other this Lent.” I told people that I wanted to pray for them, and that was that; yet I found that prayer begets prayer more often than not — reciprocity.

Many signup forms or emails were returned telling me, “I’m praying for you too!” Whether you call this show of generosity “Pay It Forward”, Karma, or the Law of Attraction — I know it was a blessing for all involved. Some of the intentions tapped into such a personal part of my own journey, so my heart was moved with compassion many times throughout Lent.

2. Outward focus begins in the heart.

If you do a Scripture search on “heart”, you will see from all the results that the Lord addresses the disposition of our hearts frequently in the Bible. As the central part of our person, that is intentional. Scripture affirms that our actions, thoughts, and words all flow from the heart. It follows that if we are to follow Christ’s example of Servant-Leadership, then our hearts need to be focused on others.

Prayer is a movement of the heart, so interceding on another’s behalf inclines the heart outward, which brings us to a frame of mind to be focused on others before self. When our heart, mind and prayer is not consumed by our own desires and thoughts, we become less self-seeking and desire to serve and help others more. I found myself participating in more ways than normal to support and help others that were in need.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” – Matthew 5:8

3. Prayers prepare your heart for the answer.

We all can relate to asking others to join us in praying for something that we want God to provide for us. Whether our heart is seeking a general provision, like God send me a spouse, or a specific provision, such as heal this person of Cancer, our hearts are set on the answer of YES. Should God provide another answer it can be painful.

This weekend God further reminded me of how we ask people to pray for one thing, but it can be at work in another way. On Friday night, my husband and I decided to drive to Austin to see some properties we were interested in touring with our Realtor. Everything fell into place (thanks to a friend, with 3 hours notice, that responded, “You’re staying with me!”) On Saturday morning, after viewing a few lemons, we walked into a beautiful home that felt perfect. We agreed — we could live here — felt excited, and made an offer on the home the next day. Considering that we weren’t the only offer, even though the home was on the market for only 2 days, we immediately began asking our closest family and friends to join us in praying that they would accept our offer.

There was no lack of prayer, yet several hours later we learned the news that our offer was their 2nd choice and the home-owners were going with another offer. I believe that my prayer and the prayers of others afforded the grace to receive the news and remain positive and open to God’s provision still. The home for us is still out there, exactly where we are meant to be. My heart was readied by prayer to hear and accept the news that I did NOT want in that moment, but answered the greater prayer of moving exactly where we are meant to be. Was it disappointing – sure – but was I devastated and thinking God had failed us, certainly not. Everyone’s prayers lifted us up, and are still at work for the overarching prayer.

When we pray, we must also be open to the answers of no or not yet.

A BIG thanks again to all my 40/40/40 participants. Know that as the Triduum began on Holy Thursday, I also spoke each of your names and petitions before the Altar, laying each of them there.

Even though I am a planner and like to get all my ducks in a row in advance, I was the one that suggested we travel to Austin this weekend on a moments notice. Everything fell together beautifully, in that we were able to still spend time with family (even family I had never met before!) and friends. Sharing a few of the sweet moments that we spent in Austin over Easter weekend:

Home Slice Pizza Austin Things to do in Austin St Mary's Cathedral Austin cowboy boots in Austin S Congress St Austin

Kirby Lane Breakfast

It may be blurry, but the flavor of Kirby Lane’s Chicken Biscuit topped with Eggs and Green Sauce is crystal clear in my mind.

With Bill Williams family in Cedar Park

What did you learn this Lent? Please share in the comments — I would love to hear!

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Grieving + Grief Support for Survivors of Suicide

TRIGGER WARNING: This is the second of two posts discussing the personal journey of a dear friend through loss and grieving as a suicide survivor.

NOTE FROM LISA: We continue our short series on grieving and ministering to the bereaved, delving deeper into the journey of guest blogger, Erin…

After a year of intense grief from my mother’s suicide, when I finally found myself able to seek out others like myself who had been through this sort of loss, I took part in a closed Loss by Suicide group offered by the Bereaved Families of Ontario. I truly found in that circle of friends some kindred spirits who “got me” if you will. After 10 weeks of attending, I told them that I had found my tribe.

Some practical advice I would give to those grieving someone’s suicide, as shared by my bereavement group would be as follows

grieving-tips-for-suicide-survivors

  1. Know you can survive. You may not think so, but you can.
  2. Struggle with “why” it happened until you no longer need to know “why” or until you are satisfied with partial answers.
  3. Know you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings, but all your feelings are normal.
  4. Anger, guilt, confusion and forgetfulness are common responses. You are not crazy – you are in mourning.
  5. Be aware you may feel appropriate anger at the person, at the world, at God, at yourself.
  6. You may feel guilty for what you think you did or did not do.
  7. Having suicidal thoughts is common. It does not mean that you will act on those thoughts.
  8. Remember to take one moment or one day at a time.
  9. Find a good listener with whom to share. Call someone.
  10. Don’t be afraid to cry. Tears are healing.
  11. Give yourself time to heal.
  12. Remember, the choice was not yours. No one is the sole influence in another’s life.
  13. Expect setbacks. Don’t panic if emotions return like a tidal wave. You may only be experiencing a remnant of grief.
  14. Try to put off making major decisions.
  15. Give yourself permission to get professional help.
  16. Be aware of the pain of your family and friends.
  17. Be patient with yourself and others.
  18. Set your own limits and learn to say no.
  19. Steer clear of people who want to tell you what or how to feel.
  20. Know that there are support groups that can be helpful, such as Bereaved Families or Survivors of Suicide Groups. If not, ask a professional to help start one.
  21. Call on your personal faith to help you through.
  22. It is common to experience physical reactions to your grief, i.e. headaches, loss of appetite, inability to sleep, etc.
  23. The willingness to laugh with others and at yourself is healing.
  24. Wear out your questions, anger, guilt or other feelings until you can let them go.
  25. Know that you will never be the same again, but you can survive and go beyond surviving.

All of this advice was truly what saved me especially during the first few years of my grieving process. Counseling and spiritual direction were an incredible support as well. Recognizing the magnitude of the loss that my family and I individually had suffered was so important.

Some advice that I would also give to people who are trying to support someone who had lost a loved one to suicide would be:

  • Please be gentle with your friend in mourning. Know that their emotions will likely be more intense than may seem “reasonable” due to the stress of the grief they are undergoing.
  • Try to let them know that you are here for them, even if you do not understand what it is like to be in their shoes.
  • Don’t wait for them to call you or tell them to “call if you need anything.” The truth is that while in this type of grief you have no clue what you need. Some days it may be an accomplishment to simply get out of bed. As a mother I had no choice but to care for my young children, but I would have been so grateful for offers of grocery delivery or more childcare help so that I could nap with my new baby. I personally could not brave the grocery store for months and months after losing my mother (my husband did the shopping).
  • Grief is exhausting. Offer help in tangible ways to those who are grieving. Bring food and leave it on the doorstep, or offer to come over and tidy up the house a bit, put on a load of laundry, or do some dishes.
  • Offer prayers, but do not stop there. The Mass cards and prayer offerings are appreciated, but so is the offer to lay hands upon the grieving and pray together in person. Avoid saying, “You know, your ______ was mentally ill. God doesn’t hold it against them.” Catholics, please don’t bring up condemnation – that God doesn’t condemn their beloved to hell. I would like to think that this is generally understood not to be Catholic teaching, though practices in the past have confused people into believing so.
  • Beyond the above mentioned, do not shy away from this out of fear of what to say. Trust in the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Let your grieving friend speak of their dead. Let them share their story if you are comfortable.
  • Offer to watch their children so they can go to counseling appointments, or offer to go with them.
  • Bring flowers on an anniversary or for no reason at all.
  • Offer to go to the cemetery with them. Know that even the simplest act of kindness means a tremendous amount to one in mourning. This is truly a spiritual work of mercy to comfort the sorrowful.
  • Try to avoid simplistic explanations and clichés. Telling your friend that, “They look so well” or seem to be doing great when they are seen out in public can inadvertently be very hurtful. Those grieving will certainly pull themselves together to go to work, church etc. Just because someone is groomed and dressed nicely doesn’t mean that emotionally they are fine. It is so important to look past externals.
  • Offer compassion without trying to explain away the suicide. Be aware that holidays are also likely to be difficult now with the absence of the person who has died. Offer friendship during this time.

Finally, I invite others to change the language we use around suicide from saying that someone “committed suicide” to simply saying that they “died by suicide” or “completed suicide”.

These are the phrases now used in bereavement groups and by those who study suicide and work in the mental health field. It does not negate the fact that the individual who died carried out the act of suicide, but it changes the way we look at the intentions of the person.

When Robin Williams died in 2014 suddenly everyone became an expert on suicide. I was grateful to see the topic being discussed so openly in the press and in the blogosphere, but I resented the fact that so many tried to project their own understanding of suicide onto his decision. One blogger wrote something along the lines of, “Robin Williams didn’t die because of depression, he died because of his choice.”

It is true that he did ultimately make the decision to take his life, but we must always understand with suicide that we do not and will never be able to understand the depth of one’s pain at the moment they choose to end their life. To say they committed suicide is to imply that they did something almost criminal. From a moral standpoint, we know that it is objectively a completely rejection of all that is good, even life itself, to end one’s life, but we cannot see into someone’s heart to see a rejection of goodness. We have to trust that the sickness that brought such mental and emotional turmoil into their life was never something that God intended.

For those who are suicidal, all they know is pain and darkness. If losing a loved one to suicide can have any redeeming qualities, perhaps it might be in helping us as survivors to grow in compassion for those who suffer. Rather than passing judgment, perhaps we can expand our hearts to seek to be more authentic with others in our daily walk. To survivors of suicide, telling them to trust in God’s mercy for their loved one’s soul is a beautiful gift, but please know that just as much they need to hear that you are sorry for their pain and that it is real. Even Jesus wept in the Garden of Gethsemane and we too embrace our humanity when we walk through the valley of tears with our Father during times of grief.

I am amazed at how others have opened up to me in this past few years, sharing their own stories with me and trusting me with their pain. It has been an honour to know that despite this horrible grief that I have endured, somehow God can use even this for His glory. It is a mystery to me that it is possible, but somehow He brings it all to good in His merciful plan.

The other blogs in this series are:

Suicide Survivor Shares Her Journey Through Grief, Part One

Bereavement: A Call For Greater Support to the Grieving

IMPORTANT NOTE:

If you or a loved one is battling through grief as a suicide survivor, and have questions/thoughts that you’d rather not share in a public forum, please send me an email directly –> Send Email. I can get all questions directly to Erin, the survivor and author of this guest post, for personal follow up with you. You are not alone – God’s peace be with you!

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