Happy New Year!

The Nativity scene at my parish St. Norbert

My Christmas Employment

I have finished my seasonal job; Saturday was my last day. On that particular day, a customer came in to purchase a new handbag. Her handbag looked quite worn out. “I’ve had this bag for 10 years, and I think it’s time to purchase a new one,” she said. “Ya Think?” I said to myself. I watched as she perused the store for a new purse. The young woman looked pretty normal, wearing black leggings and a black top. Her tennis shoes looked new, yet she has held on to this handbag for 10 years. People like this lady are from a unique group of individuals; they do not care what others think about what they wear or use. These people are more than the salt of the earth; they harvest the salt, and that is why they appreciate what they have. It took her a while to pick out the perfect purse, and all I wanted to be sure of was that she buy the matching wallet. I looked for the matching wallet, but we were sold out. Turns out she had already purchased the wallet months ago and was waiting for the purse to go on sale. This young woman taught me a lesson in patience; she waited for the deep discount on the handbag to match her wallet. It was  not important for her to have everything new together. She was frugal, yet she had fun shopping around and trying different handbags. But all along she was just going to get the one that matched her wallet.

This is how we should all be when it come to searching for our spiritual needs. We are too quick to make decisions; we compromise because we lack guidance in prayer. The lady with the new handbag will never return her purchase because she was certain it was the right one. In our walk with the Lord we take many turns; some roads lead us closer to Him, while others take us in a different direction. It is on those roads that we learn our life lessons. We can get stuck in the misguided roads in life, but it is not until we have learned the task that we go on to the right path. This is when we  feel that release to leave the past behind. Many times the Lord will place people on your path for a season; these people have important roles in our lives, but when the road ends we each go our separate directions. We may never see these individuals again, but they were placed in our path for a reason. These acquaintances may have been those special angels we needed when we were hurting  or needed a friend to talk to.

Christy and me

My Friend Christy

When we moved to the San Fernando Valley, I did not know a soul. My children were small, and Mike was in his late twenties when he was promoted to a VP position in a large corporation. The demands for his job meant long hours at work. This was during my soul-searching years; I had left the Catholic Church and wanted to get connected with a new fellowship. As a family we started attending Valley Vineyard. I quickly made friends with the pastor’s wife Christy. We had children the same age, and it was a perfect fit. For two years we were content with our lives. Christy and I had so much in common: we exercised, made meals together, and our families became best friends. Then came the news that we had to move because Mike was starting a new company. I was devastated! Christy and I remained friends for a short period, but our busy lives would take its toll on our relationship. She was a friend that God placed in my path and I will forever be grateful for her. My friend Christy went home to be with the Lord at age 56. We were blessed to attend her beautiful service.

The Lord continues to place these individuals in our lives. You can serve as one of these angelic beings by becoming a friend to a stranger. It does not take much to meet the desires of someone who needs your friendship. We are all looking for love, and just like in the song by Kenny Rogers, we are looking for love in all the wrong places. REMEMBER:  to be used of God, you need to be near Him so you can hear what He is saying. In a whisper He breathes life into our spirits, but we must be yielded to what He wants of us. As busy as I was during these past weeks, I felt that the world got the best of me.

 

The Wise Men paying homage to baby Jesus

WW

My prayer life was suffering because I was on overload. I slept a lot more than usual, and all the See’s Candy I was eating added to the lethargic mindset; the sugar played with my blood glucose, bringing me down to a new level of fatigue.   Then I opened an email to discover that Weight Watchers was not giving up on me. The deal was a sweet hallelujah, and I signed on the virtual dotted line. So here I am, Lord, coming to do your will. I have also decided to use my last season’s spring handbag one more time. God is Good!

Iris, me, Dani, and Brandon

The Real Epiphany

As a reminder, we are still celebrating Christmas until the Epiphany of the Lord, which falls on January 6th. Enjoy another two weeks of the glorious Christmas season. O Come, Let Us Adore Him! The Wise Men came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The gold represents His birth, the frankincense His ministry, and the myrrh His death.

Matthew 2:10-11 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

 

The Co-workers

I was delighted to work with the most wonderful group of people. These young adults are not only hard working, they are humble and don’t feel an entitlement. Many are still in college but manage their time to earn their own way. These millennials are cut from a different cloth, and God will help them every step of the way because they deserve special treatment for their efforts. My daughter Sonja and assitant manager Jacob have trained them well!

Ben Sira 3:18 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

18 Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
    and you will find mercy in the sight of God.

Eli, Norma, me, and Freddie Years ago I had a prophetic
Will, Mikos, Maddie, and Jenny Hebrews 3:4 New American Bible (Revised
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Fourth Week of Advent

Christmas card from 2009, my grandchildren: Maddie, Lucas, and Will

Joseph

The readings for Sunday, December 22nd, were from The Gospel of Matthew 1:18-24. These are powerful verses about St. Joseph, Mary’s future husband. He was a man caught in a difficult situation: his fiancée was with child and he wanted to do what was right before God. Though Joseph was to become the foster father of Jesus, he is never quoted in the Bible. Joseph was a strong, silent man. When the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him in a dream,  he did as he was instructed. I imagine  Joseph being in deep prayer and asking God for a sign from heaven; then Gabriel appeared to him in a dream. Joseph had already contemplated quietly separating himself from Mary. God used archangels at this time because the world had not been introduced to the triune God. These angels were powerful messengers from God; they had the anointing to convey a message with gentle force. Joseph knew that his prayers were answered with the confirmation of the message from Gabriel the Archangel.

Presentation of the Virgin
Presentation of the Virgin in the temple

Mary

It was different with Mary; the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her in person. Mary had taken a Nazarite vow, which meant that her entire life was set aside to serve God. Her parents, Anna and Joachim, were like Hannah and Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:1-28); they  could not conceive a child. Tradition has it that Anna and Joachim concieved and dedicated Mary to the the service of the Temple. At the age of three she was presented to the priest, and she remained in the care of the priest until it was decided that she should marry Joseph. Mary was 15 years  old at the time of Jesus’ birth. Her life remained true to the consecration of a Nazarite vow.  Joseph honored her and cared for her, but they never had children together because she remained a perpetual virgin. Joseph was much older than Mary; he was a widower with sons of his own. God set Mary aside to be the Mother of God.  Mary, from her birth, had been prepared for this great and mighty calling. Thank you, Blessed Ever Virgin Mary, for saying, “Behold , I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

Baby Jesus

The reason  that we celebrate this wonderful Annunciation, and the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ is no surprise. He came to save us, and we are all called to serve Him. This tiny baby was born in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and nursed by the holy, consecrated milk of His precious Mother Mary;  yet many cannot set aside time to recognize the greatest event in all of history. There is no better time than now to seek Him! The Lord waits for us to give our heart, mind and spirit to Him. I pray that we all come to the understanding that it is He Who sits on the throne, it is He Who allows us to go through trials, so that we can draw closer to Him. I will never stay silent about how much I love Jesus, for where would I be without Him in my life? I bring good tidings in sharing that Our Lord was born on Christmas day, and He loves us all the same. No person is more special than another. We may believe that because we served Him longer that He loves us more. That is not how He operates. I am closer to the Lord because I seek Him out. I may know more about serving Him because I sacrifice my time to serve, but in all honesty anyone can do the same. Nothing changes in the Kingdom of God.  He loves us all the same and patiently waits for us to come in.

The Seasonal Job

I worked this past Saturday for eight hours. I watched as people methodically decided to pick out a wallet as a Christmas gift. I learned a lesson in patience that day. The Lord showed me those who could not make up their minds  because they were taking everything into consideration for the person they were purchasing the gift for. At first I wanted to scream, “Pick a wallet for Pete’s sake!” I never experienced an uncomfortable situation at work; instead I learned special things about strangers. One lady shared a touching story with me. This young lady,  a newlywed, said that she moved the date of her wedding so that her ailing mother could attend the ceremony. Her mother went home to be with the Lord shortly afterward. She bought two wallets because she wanted to be certain that she purchased the right one for her husband.

I could not believe that I lasted that long on my feet; I believe the Lord gave me special graces to endure this long day. I looked at my watch and it was 3 o’clock, the Divine Mercy Hour. I silently prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to myself during this time, partly because I still had three hours left on the clock, but mostly because it was the right thing to do.

 

Our family: Jacob, Lucas, and Will, back roll, Russ, Sonja Mike, me, Jenny, Maddie, and Mikos

The Big Misunderstanding

Working with my daughter has allowed me certain privileges; for example,I get a substantial discount on the merchandise I purchase in the store. I had already worked four days and  was planning on paying for some of my purchases with the money I earned. My daughter Sonja told me that I had a check at work. Then the saddest thing happened: I got to work early to select the gifts for other family members, but when Sonja rang up the total, I paid with a credit card. Then I asked her for my check,  only to discover that the money had already been deposited into my account almost two weeks ago! I had no idea that it was a direct deposit situation.  I never really enjoyed the fruits of my labor.  I had already spent the money without being aware that it was already in my account. I know that may come across as odd, but honestly my mind has been so preoccupied with matters of life that I did not bother to check where  the extra money came from. It just  meant more spending.

As I sat in great despair over the most ridiculous  mistake, suddenly it came to me that I still owed a co-worker $100 for throw blankets that he scored for me on a discount. I could feel the blood rush to my face as I announced that I owed him money. Since Sonja pays me a stipend for watching her sons, she told me that she would pay for the blankets with the money she owed me. So, woe is me, I can’t cook, and I can’t manage money either! That’s perfectly fine because I have other gifts.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Eli, Norma, me, and Freddie Years ago I had a prophetic
Will, Mikos, Maddie, and Jenny Hebrews 3:4 New American Bible (Revised
The Nativity scene at my parish St. Norbert My Christmas Employment
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Third Sunday of Advent

The Pink Candle

Isaiah 35:5 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

Matthew 11:4-5 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.

Jenny, Mikos, Mike, me, Anthony, Sonja and Russ

This is the third week of Advent. The pink candle is lit because it is an indication that Christmas is just a week away. The readings for Sunday, December 15,  were from Isaiah 35:5 and Matthew 11:4-5 about opening the eyes of the blind and the deaf to hear. We all, at one time or another, experience spiritual blindness that causes us to go astray. Spiritual blindness limits us from appreciating the gifts that God has stored up for us. Christmas is a season of giving and receiving gifts. The greatest of gifts come from our Heavenly Father. We need to open our eyes, look up, and ask Him to reveal Himself to us. I promise if we do this, the spirit of the Almighty Father will manifest. All it takes is the faith of a mustard seed, and even if you have doubts, ask Him to remove them from you. The Lord patiently waits for us, so don’t be denied of your gifts this Christmas. During Advent our spiritual eyes will be opened. This is a time to strengthen our walk with the Lord. When I’m at Adoration all the busyness of the world is shut out. In the stillness of this time I seek His holy Presence. I’m inspired to write, I pray for the needs of others, and for my personal needs as well. There no better place to be than in His holy Presence. When we sacrifice this time to be with Jesus, the Lord pours upon us special graces. Tasks that would have taken hours are cut in half. We are given peace over every conflicting matter. This is one of  the ways I can plan and execute the tamale party. God’s grace is with us during Advent.

The Party

Mikos, champion of the Merry Christmas game and Brew Master
Judges: Ryan, Norma, Dave. Kathy, Jason, and Anthony

I could not have planned the party any better. My confidence was soaring; nothing was going to rob me of the win. Well, not until Anthony arrived. Anthony and his son Marcus were in town for the funeral of a mutual friend. Anthony had other business to attend while he was in town. He is a dear friend, so Mike invited them to stay at our home. Anthony has always been a big talker; he is also a self-proclaimed expert on tamales. When he heard that we were having the contest, he immediately assigned himself as a judge. “Cuz! I can’t believe you didn’t tell me about the tamale contest. I make the best pork tamales in the world!” He raved about the tamales for several hours. In the meantime I was cooking up a batch of my tamales for him to sample. Ater tasting them he said,”These are good, but they ain’t gonna win a contest!” When Anthony is around, no one can get a word in edgewise because he never stops talking. After the slap in the face, I did my best to defend my tamales, but he continued to critique my work. “Cuz, your masa needs more lard! In Colorado we add much more, because it’s in the flavor of the masa that you’re going to get the best tamale.” Just when Anthony was done tearing my tamales into shreds, Larry walked in. Larry is married to Helen, my tamale nemesis. She has won the contest the last five years. Though I was hesitant to offer Larry one of my tamales in front of the expert, I went ahead and served Larry a tamale. I put on my poker face and watched as he took the first bite. “Lynda, these are good!” I asked Larry if I had a chance. ” Yes, these are definitely contenders,” he said. Then good ole Anthony had to open up his mouth and add his two cents’ worth. “Cuz, they ain’t gonna win!”

As the night progressed, a shadow of doubt entered into my mind. It was time for the judging. I carefully selected judges who seemed to have knowledge of what they were doing. Two women and four men, including the naysayer Anthony. I led the judges into the kitchen and explained the rules:

  1. No nepotism;
  2. Must have full knowledge of how a tamale is made;
  3. Judges are not allowed to speak to other judges;
  4. Judges must never influence the other judges;
  5. Rolling of the eyes or other physical gestures are not allowed; and
  6. Judges are never to look at the score sheets of other judges.
Score Keepers: David and Scott

Anthony broke two rules: He could not shut-up. We numbered the tamales,  and when Helen’s tamales came out, he announced, “These are Helen’s tamales! I know they are, I can tell by the masa!” I was about ready to disqualify him for insubordination, when I noticed the rest of the judges being influenced by his biased remarks. I reminded him that he was not allowed to speak, but that did not stop him from praising Helen’s tamales. Helen won with the full endorsement of the out-of -control judge, but in all honesty her tamales are really hard to beat. As the scores were being tallied, I already knew that I didn’t stand a chance.

 

Sonja, Helen (tamale Queen), Gianna, Marcus
Linda, Dave and me
Renae, me and Brandi
Pam, me, and Scott
Mike, Damian, Mark, and me

My Consolation Prize

Words of consolation from Anthony, “Hey maybe you didn’t win the contest, but you did win for best Christmas decorations, being the best hostess, and having the most comfortable guest bed to sleep in.” What can I say? Anthony is that friend who has an opinion on every single subject on this planet, but we still love him.

My prayer:

Dear Lord, may we all find special time to thank You for our blessings. May Your Holy Spirit be ever present during Advent. Bring us to another level of understanding of what Christmas is really about. Teach us to open our eyes and ears to the gifts you have in store for us. Speak to us in a still, small voice. Amen

 

Eli, Norma, me, and Freddie Years ago I had a prophetic
Will, Mikos, Maddie, and Jenny Hebrews 3:4 New American Bible (Revised
The Nativity scene at my parish St. Norbert My Christmas Employment
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