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.

lilac

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!!!!

Family Values – Teaching Our Children To Pray

This morning I was interviewed for a parenting article about the O’Flaherty Family values.  If I had to sum the interview up in two words it would be LOVE and FAMILY.  Both of these things in our family are rooted in our faith.   In continuing my summer plan to impart small bits of scripture to our children, I am blessed with the gospel reading for today which is from Matthew 6:7-15.

Jesus said to his disciples This is how you are to pray:

“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Cillian and Mother Mary

Back in 1965, Pope Paul VI had a little something to say about parents and their role in educating their children:

“Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators.(11) This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered. Hence the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs. It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and office of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught from their early years to have a knowledge of God according to the faith received in Baptism, to worship Him, and to love their neighbor. Here, too, they find their first experience of a wholesome human society and of the Church. Finally, it is through the family that they are gradually led to a companionship with their fellow men and with the people of God. Let parents, then, recognize the inestimable importance a truly Christian family has for the life and progress of God’s own people.” (Declaration on Christian Education, Gravissimum Educationis

Thanks to Amanda another blogger at Worthy of Agape, http://worthyofagape.com/2014/06/11/according-to-the-law-of-christ/ for her quote from the Pope.

Wondering if you can share what are two words that would express your family values?

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 http://www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com

Good Friday, The Interview With God and Pope John Paul Canonization Divine Mercy Novena

My 13 year-old daughter shared this short video with me today. The Interview with God is a nice reminder on Good Friday about the life we have been given and His endless love for us. Good Friday is also a good day to consider starting the Divine Mercy Novena, which is a 9 day prayer that leads up to Divine Mercy Sunday. This Divine Mercy Sunday is April 27 and is exceptional as Pope John Paul II will be canonized.

My experience has been that God provides great grace and healing over the next 9 days, through the devotion to the Divine Mercy chaplet. I hold someone who has passed away in the last 12 months close to my heart, along with anyone I know that needs special healing from physical illness or spiritual healing/conversion. Please consider reading more about Divine Mercy, the messages of Saint Faustina and her experience with the Lord via this link.

http://www.marian.org/divinemercy

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.

Recent writing projects include:

Spring Sports, Family Dinner and Faith

New App For your Phone Connect your Parish, Growing the Faith, One Parish

Extending Compassion, Losing a Child & Evangelization”

Getting Through Holidays: Tips for Surviving the “Most Wonderful” Time of the Year

Getting Through It: Tips for Surviving the “Most Wonderful” Time of the Year.

Read this blog from another site. How attentive are you for others and yourself during this joyous time?

Overscheduled & Overcommitted? Create Time For Those Who Are Precious

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.

Creating-space-logo

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”.
Pier with Name and Tag 09242013
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 http://www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com

Who Loves You?

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.

Why Clean Your Garage?

A marriage invariably brings together two individuals who are skilled in different ways. Some are gifted in nurturing, others are adept in managing finances. One may have culinary expertise or even a natural inclination for decorating. Yet, another is gifted at craftsmanship to handle the home repairs. My father was the consummate worker, a plumber by trade, but he could also fix anything, and he loved any home repair challenge. My mother, on the other hand, was the model of hospitality. She welcomed exchange students from France. She created our home as a hub for all the neighborhood children.  Most importantly, she taught us to reach out and care for the marginalized. Mom and Dad were a nice blend.

I must have inherited a small degree of my father’s desire to keep things in order. This was most evident to my husband’s chagrin a few weeks back, as I asked the family to help me clean out the garage after attending Sunday service. “Ugh,” was his reply as he had just settled in to read the Sunday paper on his IPAD. Well, I knew he would like some quiet time to read, so I decided to prey on my five children. I tempted them with outdoor playtime and a trip to the pool, if they helped. Again, after a few moans and groans and my persistence we moved out to the garage. We began by pulling everything out on the driveway. It was going well until I unrolled a carpet and out of the carpet, a mouse ran up my arm, and I ran down the driveway screaming! After we calmed down, we swept and organized the entire garage.  That day, we donated a few things. The kids rode their bikes and had fun with an old box. They even practiced shooting hoops. Close to the day’s end, we even pulled our two cars into the garage, which hasn’t happened in months.

The next morning as I ventured into the garage to find some batteries, I had an overwhelming feeling of being content. I paused for a moment to soak in the rewards of our labor. It led me to think about where does contentment and happiness come from in life? Cleaning my garage allowed me to remember how good we feel when our life is in balance. Our family unravels when we are running around for days on end with sports, school activities and family obligations. We feel overwhelmed and overscheduled. The flip side is how we connect when things are in balance. Attending to each of our individual needs and family needs isn’t always easy. I find that balance when our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs are being met.

Our family makes an attempt at healthy eating even with the occasional drive-thru meal. School and park district sports, along with dance are the bases for our fitness regimen. Connecting as a family comes through enjoying family dinners, game nights or movie nights on the weekends and a healthy dose of affection at bedtime. Taking time to nurture our marriage doesn’t always get the highest priority. We both agree a regular date night is a necessary component, especially since it is easier with older children. We try to keep our life mostly in balance, and sometimes, we even get over confident and feel really good about ourselves. Then life throws us a curve ball. When my Dad’s illness took a turn for the worse our family had to readjust the meaning of balance.

I have learned that my greatest contentment comes from being aware and grateful to the source of the blessings in my life. Having a discipline to nurture my spirituality, even in very subtle ways, has transformed my life. Taking five minutes in the morning to rest in God’s goodness and then five minutes at bedtime to reflect upon the day has been my most meaningful spiritual practice. It is in that 10 minutes every day that I remember the moments that were filled with love and those that were absent of love. From there, I determine what I can do differently tomorrow.

My husband may not jump for joy to clean our garage, but he brings an important component to our marriage. He creates a loving atmosphere that is focused on balance in all areas of life. He demonstrates a great work ethic, he is an avid reader, and he values education. He coaches the children’s sports teams and remains connected with their needs. He hugs me first when he comes home from a long day of work. And most importantly, he teaches our children to pray.

Cleaning my garage is like my spiritual journey. Having the discipline to nurture my faith provides me stable footing (the balance in my life) and supports me when life tosses me a curve ball. When life gets cluttered , we hit the reset button to get it back on track. Then, when the curve ball comes and we have that balance, we are better prepared to tend to ourselves and those we love in our life.

“If we will walk humbly with our God, He will lead us by the hand to exactly who and what we need, to those people, things and experiences He has designed and intended for us, and this alone will be the cause of our deep fulfillment and happiness.”   Matthew Kelly

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 “Love One Another,” “Who Loves You?” and “Who is Listening?” She is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com.

Who is Listening?

Dental appointments are often a long process, especially with 5 children. My goal has been to always keep each person busy and quiet while we wait for each of our procedures. I remember a few years back, in an effort to keep them quiet; some of the kids would read a book or color. Now each of us has collected the plethora of electronic gadgets: Kindles for books; iTouches for music; iPhones for texting; DS’s for video games; Even my 4-year-old has a princess laptop to learn her ABCs and 123s.

Who is Listening

Technology obviously provides great value in learning, communication and overall advancement of our world. I’ve begun to wonder the value of these electronics. How does technology impact our relationships and our emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual well-being? Surely social media provides value in reaching out to long-distant relatives, classmates from years past or networking for employment opportunities. While waiting at the dentist, as I began typing this blog on my laptop, my 11-yearold daughter asked, “What are you working on, Mom?” I turned the question around and asked her, “How does it feel when Mom is texting or sending an email, and trying to listen at the same time?” She replied, “It makes me feel that whatever I am saying isn’t important.” Recently, a child psychologist told me that there is fine line between children feeling that “what they say is not important” and “who they are is not importantbecause they interpret their worth to the attention they receive. While I was out for lunch with a friend, she continually looked down at her phone to check an incoming message text. I started feeling that what I was saying was not her top priority. However, I had the understanding, as an adult that I was important to her. Children do not have this wisdom that comes with age.

Active listening is a practice of being fully present for another individual. As an active listener, you have a genuine interest in the person talking and want to hear their message. This often requires that we stop multi-tasking, refrain from giving our opinion, and limit our desire to shape or fix the outcome of their story. Being an active listener to those in our life, regardless of technology, is often a challenge. We are called upon daily to be active listeners in so many instances. A friend calls distraught and you are in the middle of making dinner. A co-worker comes into your office for the fourth time this month to vent about an unresolved issue. An aging parent repeats a story about a new ailment that they talked about yesterday. A child is looking for your attention, in the midst of attending to another child’s need. Almost all of us have experienced at least one of these scenarios. David Augsburger, the author of Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard, said “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” ― David Augsburger

What did my children need from me, their mother, during that dental visit? On some days, based on my own busy-ness and energy level, I miss the chance and gift of attentiveness. I have to remind myself to be patient with myself, as pausing to listen attentively is a practice that needs constant renewal. As I paused in that moment, I could see my 9-year-old son really wanted to be consoled after he had a cavity filled. Another younger child wanted to be reassured that her procedure wasn’t going to hurt. My oldest daughter just wanted to share her excitement about the upcoming volleyball season. My 8-year-old daughter wanted me to glance over for a second to comment on her rainbow loom bracelet that she was making for the dental hygienist. And the youngest, was looking for me to hold her hand while she flipped the pages of her book. In reflecting upon that time now, none of their needs involved technology and all of their needs involved me being attentive to them.

Yes, it is absolutely a challenge to be attentive to others in our fast-paced technology world. With all the distractions and our need to multi-task, it is almost a battle to slow down long enough to rest and listen to the people around us. I certainly wouldn’t want God texting during our conversation or my prayers. When we pause for even a moment to recognize the precious people in our midst, it is often a surprise to feel the emotions that are evoked in our heart. And it is there in our hearts where we meet God. It is in my attentiveness to God and my family, where I find my life has an overall balance with my emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual well-being.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5 

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 Loves You?” 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.