Peggy Writes

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Lilacs, Rwanda, Immaculee and Women’s Inner Strength

Have you noticed the lilac bushes are in bloom?   In the Midwest every spring in early May the streets and yards are lined with beautiful purple fragrant lilacs.   Perhaps you grew up with a Common lilac, Persian lilac, Dwarf Korean variety, Himalayan, Chinese lilac or even a lilac tree.    My sister Linda Kay Doyle had a beautiful white lilac bush that she cherished.  It was an exceptionally fragrant lilac in her yard, just off her deck.    My sister Linda died 10 years ago today, May 5 2005.   She was an avid gardener and whenever I would visit her home, we would walk arm and arm around her yard to explore what was currently in bloom.

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Linda was an educator who was very compassionate and cognizant about the surrounding world.   She was always giving me fiction and non-fiction books that would get me thinking.   We had long conversations about the underlying theme of books such as the Kite Runner and The Red Tent.   The week before she passed she urged me to watch the movie Hotel Rwanda with Don Cheadle.

Hotel Rwanda is the story of the 1994 horrific genocide that took the lives of one million people who were brutally murdered in Rwanda, Africa.   In an era of high-speed communication and round the clock news, the events went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world.   In three months, one million Tutsis; men, women and children were massacred by the hands of the Hutu marauders.   The movie shared the courage of one man who in the face of unspeakable dangers granted shelter to thousands of helpless refugees in the hotel that he managed.

I never had the chance to chat with Linda about her thoughts on the Rwanda genocide.  And yet, two years after she passed, I learned about a woman who survived that genocide and knew that I had to hear her story.  Immaculee llibagiza was a Tutsis college student, who was urged to go into hiding by her father.   Immaculee found shelter at a pastor’s home, where she and seven other women hid from the deadly rebel mob in a 3-by-4 foot bathroom for 91 days.    During those 91 days of unimaginable suffering, Immaculee found her faith, taught herself English and most incredibly, committed herself to a life of peace, hope and forgiveness.  Even for those who had murdered her family.

Last week, I was privileged to attend a luncheon entitled “Aid for Women” and the keynote speaker was again Immaculee.  She again shared her powerful life lessons from her Rwanda experience of love, forgiveness and world peace.    The organization she spoke was in support of Aid for Women, which has been instrumental in providing support for women and especially empowering women to choose life.  They provide funding to Heather’s House, a home for unwed mothers providing education, medical assistance, spiritual and housing support.  You can read more about their organization at www.helpaidforwomen.org.   You can read one of Immaculee’s several books or watch this short video about her story.

Linda placed an enormous value on the inner strength within a women and the bond of friendship between women.   Considering Linda’s own health limitations, nothing held her back and I knew she drew strength from faith, friendship and family.   Where do you draw strength to be the women God intended you to be?  How do you age gracefully and rest within the challenges of your life, the body we have been given and live within our unique giftedness?  How do the relationships in your life help you to fly?  Helping women explore these questions have become my life work.   Thank you, Linda!!!!

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Blessed Mother Teresa – 33 Days to Morning Glory

33 days to Morning Glory

Illinois Benedictine University had an amazing event in March, where I had the honor of speaking to the Campus Ministry students. The keynote speaker was Eric Mahl, a former Cleveland Browns football player, who was transformed by God’s forgiving love. Eric shared with me “A Do-It-Yourself Retreat”, basically a 5-minute prayer practice to begin my day. Father Michael E. Gaitley, Director of the Association of Marian Helpers (a community of priest and brothers that has been instrumental in spreading the message of The Divine Mercy),  has written this 33 Days to Morning Glory, which has had an amazing impact on my life. The reading from this morning (Day 16) was from the Blessed Mother Teresa. She shared with her fellow sisters, The Missionaries of Charity, a vision she had of Jesus. I feel it was written for each and every one of us.

“Jesus wants me to tell you again…..how much love He has for each one of you – beyond all you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus – one to one – you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel – but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace, He is longing to give it. Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able to hear Him saying ‘I thrist’ in the hearts of the poor. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person – not just the idea. How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say “I love you” – impossible. Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air. If not, prayer is dead – meditation only thinking. Jesus wants you each to hear Him – speaking in the silence of your heart.” “Be careful of all that can block that personal contact with the living Jesus. The Devil may try to use hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes – to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you. This is a danger for all of us. And so sad, because it is completely opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you. Not only that He loves you, but even more – He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy. When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes – He is the one who always accepts you. My Children, you don’t have to be different for Jesus to love you. Only believe – you are precious to Him. Bring all your suffering to His feet – only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are. He will do the rest.”

These two paragraphs above could probably be enough prayer for me for a lifetime. I believe the love that God has for us is the model we are to use for all other relationships in our life. I think of how my 5-year-old longs for me to play a board game or jump around in the pool with her or cuddle to read a book. How often am I distracted and fail to acknowledge the love she is waiting to share with me? On that note, I am going to go cuddle with her and watch a morning cartoon.

If you would like to read more about the 33-Day Morning Glory, or obtain copies of this prayer, please check out their website below. http://33daystomorningglory.blogspot.com/p/small-group-resources.html

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Extending Compassion, Losing a Child & Evangelization

With tears in her eyes a friend approached me in the parking lot after mass. She was reaching out to comfort me and express her concern for our family celebrating our first Christmas without our dads. She knew that both my husband and I lost our fathers this last year. We moved into a conversation that caused her to ask “where has all the compassion gone?” This has been a common question that many have asked, since I have begun my ministry Creating Space In Your Life. Our family has taken the New Year to ponder the characteristics of the Holy Family, so this week with the baptism of the Lord and through my Sunday Snippets (my weekly blog), I wanted to look further at the virtue of compassion.
Several years ago a very good friend of mine, at 20 weeks along in her first pregnancy was told by her doctor that her baby had a fatal chromosomal condition. Heartbreak doesn’t clearly express the impact that news had on my friend and her husband. After many consultations they were told with almost certainty the baby wouldn’t survive too full term and surely beyond birth. They were given the option to terminate the pregnancy. Through prayer they decided to carry the baby, as long as God would choose. On Thanksgiving Day that year, on her delivery date, she delivered a beautiful baby boy who was already resting in the arms of the Heavenly Father. Benedict’s funeral was emotional for all in attendance and yet the faith demonstrated by my friend, her spouse and both sets of grandparents was a testament to their faith. The priest who presided made the comment “some people live an entire life and never make an impact and yet this little boy wasn’t even able to live one day and his life touched the hearts of hundreds.” Over the years I have always wrestled with how to keep his memory alive. I wanted to honor his life, yet respect my girlfriend and her privacy and pain. Finally I opened the window with my friend and acknowledged the anniversary of his life and then I allowed her to take the lead. She shared that Benedict’s life deepened their roots in Christ and through their beliefs; they found true joy for the life they shared with this child for 9 short months. They also shared a heart of gratitude for all the people who recognize that little boy’s life as a gift, no matter how short. Benedict’s parents took comfort and reassurance in God’s plan through this passage.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD.

  Plans to prosper you, never to harm you;

plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

I think we can all relate to the uncertainty of what to say to a friend, when they have experienced loss or a disappointment. We have all known someone who has lost their job, lost a parent, had trouble with a teenager, stress in their marriage, a child is born with disability, a family member is suffering from addiction or depression, a new mother is wrestling with postpartum the list of life challenges is endless. How to reach out to them, respond or acknowledge them can be filled with uncertainty. Starting with thoughtful consideration of the circumstances, along with prayer may be a good start. I have always appreciated a hand written note, a hug, and a friend who can lend a listening ear.

Recently at a middle school basketball game an 8th grade boy, named Jack with no hesitation came directly up to my husband, extended his hand and said “Mr. O’Flaherty I am so sorry for your loss.” Of course I quickly looked around for his parents to see who nudge him over. Yet his efforts were directed from his own heart. Jack’s ability to demonstrate compassion shows that he was taught or demonstrated this in his own family. At 13 years-old he showed maturity of heart, he took a risk that was driven by concern for another person’s life circumstances over his own feelings.

Last week The Catholic Stand published a blog titled The Prophesy of a Christmas Stamp by Karol Henseler Orsborn. The blog points to the Holy Family as the example for our modern families. Orsborn noted that Pope Francis, has convened the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in the Vatican in October 2014. The theme for this Synod will be “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization”. I believe Pope Francis is encouraging us to extend the church from the circle of our family out into the world. Evangelization is spreading the gospel of Christ and that is best done through our loving actions. Simply following the Jack’s example of extending compassion would be a good example.
So to my dear friend in the parking lot, I am hopeful that compassion still exists in our world. The feast of the baptism of the Lord, reminds us of our own baptismal promises. We are called to actively engage in extending love and compassion to others. Taking a step to acknowledge another person’s pain can be risky? Sure. Can it be uncomfortable, absolutely? Does it require extra effort, perhaps? Yet, I feel the benefit can transform our world.

Here is Benedict a Thanksgiving gift to our world.

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You can read more about The Prophesy of a Christmas Stamp via the following link. http://bit.ly/1fpcVGn

Sandy Hook Mom, Nurturing, Healing, Love

I published this back in November and wanted to support this mom and the memory of her son Jesse.

This morning the Today Show featured an interview with Scarlett Lewis, a mother who lost her son Jesse, at the Sandy Hook school last December.   His memory is living strong in her new book “Nurturing, Healing, Love.” .  She writes about his brave act of love that saved the life of his classmates.   I found this interview about Jesse touching, his mother is an inspiration of strength and faith.  She demonstrates amazing amounts of love and forgiveness.   The link below is the interview with Matt Lauer.   I plan to buy this book for a few friends and even a few teachers.

http://www.today.com/news/todays-takeaway-newtown-mom-finds-solace-dylan-marches-osu-8C11498310

They have also established a foundation “Choose Love” in her son’s memory that partners with organization that will support and educate children.

http://www.jesselewischooselove.org/

This blog is based on the personal experiences and opinions of Peggy O’Flaherty. Any reproduction of the material in this blog may be used with written consent of the author by e-mail at peggy@creatingspaceinyourlife.com. Peggy O’Flaherty, is a certified spiritual
director, public speaker, blog writer, wife and mother of five children. Her recent writing projects include “Who Is Listening?” and “Why Clean Your Garage?” She is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at
www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com.

Remembering Those We Have Lost

Poppie Girls

This Thanksgiving I am especially thankful for my Dad.   He passed away in February after 12 years of suffering from Alzheimer’s.   Have you lost anyone special this year and how are you entering into the holidays with their memory?     Remembering the great lessons that he shared is soothing for my soul.   The greatest lesson he taught me was that church is not simply a building with four walls.    He would say “church is a community of people who serve together with a generous and thankful heart”.     He would have been so proud of our neighbors who came together last Friday night to collect and donate supplies to the families in Washington Il, who were impacted by the tornado.    An entire crew of Downers Grove individuals loaded 8 busses.  It was cold, backs were sore and yet their hearts were warm.

Sending Thanksgiving blessings to everyone and especially those who lost someone special this year.     May their memory bring warmth and love to your Thanksgiving celebration.

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Overscheduled & Overcommitted?

Do you know anyone who feels overcommitted in their life or overscheduled with their family? Have you laid your head down at night and thought, “I need to find more time in my day.”? Matthew Kelly, a best-selling author and international speaker on both business and Catholicism, explains how our culture has shifted: “We have taller buildings and shorter tempers, we have bigger houses and smaller families, we can go to the moon and back again, and yet have trouble crossing the street to visit our neighbor, we have more conveniences and less time.” Many people begin their day before the sun rises and continue running until late into the evening. Regardless of how effectively we manage our day, many of us still often go to bed with the question of how to squeeze more time out of a 12-16 hour day for precious people in our life.

A few years ago the film “Race to Nowhere” called us to challenge our current thinking about how we prepare our children for success. It featured the heartbreaking stories of students across the country who have been pushed to the brink by over-scheduling, over-testing and the relentless pressure to achieve. Over the last 13 years, as I have stayed home to raise my children, I have seen this in my own community. Friends and family who are doing so many wonderful activities for their family are still searching for more time to do the things that matter the most to them.

Many of us find a rhythm to our life. Our daily, monthly, and annual routines are tied to the clock and set by the calendar: the rhythm of the 4 seasons, school year, holidays, sport seasons, quarterly sales goals, and the list goes on. Our lives can feel like the movie “Ground Hog Day,” stuck in a rhythm, reliving the same scenarios over and over again, not knowing how to change our situation. Etching into the schedule a date night with a spouse, an afternoon with an aging parent, or one-on-one time with a friend or child can be a challenge. Spending that quality time with those we love often gets the least of our attention, as does making time for our own physical health and spiritual well-being. This was my inspiration for Creating Space: helping individuals create the space in their life for the people and things that matter the most to them.

The first step with launching my new ministry was introducing it to the world. My goal was to discover a way to talk to people about God without “talking to people about God.” In order to begin this process, I knew that my marketing and web development would be best left to the experts. Cindy Tschosik, a local business woman and friend, did an outstanding job defining my business plan, implementing the website and integrating my social media. Another friend, Leanne Lally, owner and creative director of SeaHaus Studio (www.seahausstudio.com), is a marketing and brand expert. I was excited to see how her gift for design and her overall creative vision would help me communicate my message.

The concept of Creating Space was easy for Leanne and Cindy to identify with—as wives, mothers and business women, they were familiar with the challenge of “not enough time.” They intuitively began working with images, colors and logos that would complement and communicate the concept of Creating Space. The logo was the first to be developed; each element of it has meaning: the box represents our life, the pattern within the box is the rhythm and movement of our daily routine, the color blue conveys serenity. The white space in the middle of the box is the solution I foster: creating space in the rhythm of our life.

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In my ministry, I help clients create space to explore the core of their happiness. For some, that happiness may be a deeper relationship with their spouse or children. Others desire a greater awareness of their life’s purpose, and want to explore their faith through their gifts, talents and even their personal limitations. And still others have simply wanted to create space for grieving a loss. Each of us usually needs to create space for something in our life, and in doing so we gain a greater sense of “being”.
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The second image Leanne conceived of for Creating Space was the pier surrounded by water. Vacations at the beach or time at a lake house commonly bring a sense of peace. Our life journey is always winding and can often lead us to places that are unknown. Without a roadmap, we may struggle with ineffective routines, or not know which way to go. Through a one-on-one Creating Space session, clients intentionally carve time out of their month, if only 1 hour, to explore their life journey. Like time at the beach, our session together is a vacation from the busyness of life, a mini-retreat, to reflect upon the day, relationships, career, faith, and find direction for what’s most important to each individual. Taking time out to discover what makes us happy isn’t a new concept, but it is hard for many of us to do. I hope my writings (or one-on-one sessions) will help you with this mission.

My writings are due in part based on the gifts and talents of Karen Crowe who has done an outstanding editing several of my projects. Thank you, Karen.

So, do you know anyone who feels overcommitted in their life or overscheduled with their family? How might their life look or feel if they carved our time for those who are precious, including themselves?

This blog is based on the personal experiences and opinions of Peggy O’Flaherty. Any reproduction of the material in this blog may be used with written consent of the author by e-mail at peggy@creatingspaceinyourlife.com. Peggy O’Flaherty, is a certified spiritual director, public speaker, blog writer, wife and mother of five children. Her recent writing projects include “Who Is Listening?” and “Why Clean Your Garage?” She is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com

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Carve Out Time For Those You Love

pic-lakeside-moments-that-melt-hearts2.jpgThis summer my sister invited our entire extended family to her lake house in Michigan for our annual family reunion.  My parents have 9 children, 28 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. This year we were 32. It was bitter sweet, as this was the first year at the lake after losing my father in February. We slept in bunk beds, cots, on the floor, in the closet and even in tents. Some of our highlights include boating, fishing, tubing, splashing in the water, pontoon rides and relaxing by the fire with gooey smores. My sisters have a zest for life as they laugh loud and often, play in the water like children and treasure each child as their own. My brother and brother-in-laws are so patient working with all the teens as they learn how to water ski for the first time. They teach each child how to bait a hook, and they build the best camp fires.  Savoring life and family is the way they demonstrate their love.

Relaxing at the lake offers countless treasures. Our family ritual of enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning as the sun begins to rise over the peaceful lake. We watch the lone fisherman troll across the lake and smile as a family of ducks paddle along. Through the busy-ness of our life it seems almost impossible to enter into meaningful conversations with those we love the most. Yet lake time provides us these opportunities. One lazy afternoon while sitting at the edge of the lake, my grown niece shared how she juggles a career, along with her need to return to school for an advanced degree. Later that day, my college-age niece shared about her intern experience at Maui Jim Sunglasses and her hopes to start her own business. My nephew shared with me his desire to find a new church that will guide him into becoming the father, husband and man that he so hopes to become. I treasure the time to rest and listen to their challenges and joys of life.  pic-sunset-on-lake.jpg

After dinner one evening my sister shared how she struggles with understanding and knowing her faith and God as an adult. We shared experiences of knowing God’s existence in our childhood. We reminisced how our family practiced our faith traditions and our certainty of God’s presence during my dad’s hospice and final passing. Yet she still wrestles with the mysteries of our faith and what she expressed as “rules”. She said “It makes me sad when people feel that I am not a believer if I don’t go to Sunday service.” Then she began to sing her favorite church song for me.

 “Peter do you love me? Peter do you love me?

And again Jesus asked Peter do you really love me?

Then feed my sheep he said, Peter feed my sheep.”

She was brought to tears and we both sat silently looking out over the lake. In a sense, tears represent a prayer, as it is how we can express or communicate to God when we have no words for such a deep emotion. The question that rose up within me to ask my sister was, “How does it feel to know that someone, being God, loves you that much?”

Several years back as I was wrestling with an issue regarding my self-image and God, a trusted friend posed a similar question. We were discussing the greatest commandment that we received from Jesus, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind’ and the second commandment “love your neighbor as yourself.”  She asked me “do you love yourself?” and “can you love your neighbor, husband, children fully if you don’t love yourself?” Just like with my sister, my friend left me speechless. In all honesty, I wasn’t quite ready to answer that as I had parts of myself that I didn’t especially like and perhaps I even loathed. On my wedding day my father made a speech along the lines of “Being my partner would be a bit of Taming of the Shrew.”

Over the last two years, the depths of those two questions my friend posed have brought me to tears, have challenged me to think and have drawn me into pray. I found it hard to believe that even “with my faults,” God loves me unconditionally;  God made me exactly the way He wants me; and that I can choose to find joy in my areas of growth. Surely, I have room for growth and areas that my personality and temperament still need to be ‘tamed.’ As I work on these areas, I remind myself of, appreciate and work towards Thomas Merton’s wisdom.  “There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find him.” – Thomas Merton

This blog is based on the personal experiences and opinions of Peggy O’Flaherty. Any reproduction of the material in this blog may be used with written consent of the author by e-mail at peggy@creatingspaceinyourlife.com. Peggy O’Flaherty, is a certified spiritual director, public speaker, blog writer, wife and mother of five children. Her recent writing projects include “Who Is Listening?” and “Why Clean Your Garage?” She is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com.

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