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!!!!

Back To School, Prayer

Back to school 2014

This week our five children returned to school.  Our oldest entered 8th grade and our baby, kindergarten.   The beginning of a new school year brings excitement and a return to routine in our daily life: homework, extra-curricular activities, dinner as a family at the table, and earlier bedtimes.  During the summer, when our schedules were more relaxed, I had set a personal goal of reading small bits of scripture with my children, hoping the stories would become more ingrained in their heart and mind, and that they would come to know better who Jesus was to them.  Our 4th grader was very interested in reading her children’s bible on most nights, but I wasn’t as successful as I had hoped with the others.  As parents, we establish the family values, goals and expectations; I wonder which ones will take root and still be with my children when they are grown.

Summer also brought a fall for my mom, resulting in fractures that required her to spend 7 weeks in a rehab center.  Because she would be going home with a walker, my siblings decided to de-clutter her house to make getting around easier for her.  Have you ever cleaned out your parents’ home, while they were in the hospital, or after they passed away?  It can be a rather odd experience, going through their drawers, closets, and personal belongings, finding old letters that were written to loved ones, jewelry that had been saved from a deceased relative or everyday items that were stashed in a special drawer, clues to what your mom or dad held close.  Sifting through your parents’ possessions while trying to protect their privacy and dignity can be an overwhelming, frustrating and emotional experience.  (I’m blessed that my older siblings let me “off the hook” this time, and shared this chore between them.)

My mom is turning 85 at the end of the month, and has been known for writing in a journal. She jotted down memories of us growing up in little notebooks or even scraps of paper, and documented important dates or events with a photo attached. She even recorded details of my dad’s deteriorating health last year as she cared for him up to his death.  My mom also wrote down many prayers and scripture passages over the years that were meaningful to her.  While tidying her home, my eldest sister, Debbie, found this prayer. It was typed on an old-fashioned type writer, and the paper was slightly yellowed.  It was tucked into a big stack of books in the corner of her home, and could have easily been overlooked.  My sister shared it with me, and it reminded me of my daily struggles and how I wrestle with who is in control: God or me?

 

Our Thinking versus God’s Promises

It’s impossible.

               All things are possible. (Luke 18:27)

 I’m too tired.

               I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28-30)

 Nobody really loves me.

               I love you. (John 3:16)

 I can’t go on.

               My grace is sufficient.  (11 Cor. 12:19)

 I can’t figure things out.

               I will direct your steps. (Proverbs 20:24)

 I can’t do it.

               You can do all things. (Phil 4:13)

 I’m not able.

                    I am able. (11 Co. 9:8)

 It’s not worth it.

               It will be worth it. (Rom. 8:28)

 I can’t forgive myself.

               I will supply all your needs. (Phil. 4:19)

 I’m afraid.

               I have not given you a spirit of fear. (11 Tim. 1:7)

I’m always worried and frustrated.

               Cast all your cares on Me. (1 Peter 5:7)

I don’t have enough faith.

               I’ve given everyone a measure of faith. (Rom. 12:8)

I’m not smart enough.

               I give you wisdom. (1 Cor. 1:30)

I feel all alone.

               I will never leave you or forsake you. (Heb. 13:5)

 

This prayer is a beautiful reminder that God’s promises are far better than what we come up with on our own, in our human condition. Often, we fall short when we rely on Our Thinking, but if we instead entrust ourselves to God’s Promises, our lives will be a lot easier!

This week is the one-year anniversary of my ministry, Creating Space, and my blog.  As I look back over the year, and even just this summer, I see that some things I had hoped to achieve didn’t happen; my children didn’t memorize scripture (a discipline I admire in our protestant brothers and sisters).  Yet in finding this prayer that my mom had tucked away, I can see how she relied on scripture throughout her life, and without using actual words, she taught me to do the same. Perhaps when my children are 45 they will find my old-fashion blog writings, and have a glimpse of how scripture played a part in my faith, and hopefully their own, as well.

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 “New App For your Phone Connect your Parish, Growing the Faith, One Parish” and “Extending Compassion, Losing a Child & Evangelization” She is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com

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

Feast of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today is the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saint for today is Saint Joan of Arc.

Visitation

From the Gospel of Luke we know that Mary traveled to Judah to spend time with Elizabeth, whom is also getting ready to bear a child.   We hear that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”  My family made a New Years Resolution this year to focus on the Holy Family and we have been doing that in very small and simple ways.   This summer we are continuing that focus by spending time pondering short lines from sacred scripture.   Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.   How does it feel knowing we are also filled with the Holy Spirit?  We are all called as Christians to share the gift of the Holy Spirit with others.   Do you know the unique spiritual gifts that you have been given at baptism?

 

The Saint for today is Saint Joan of Arc, which I discovered on my favorite new app for my phone.   The OneParish app. reminded me that St. Joan of Arc is the patroness of soldiers and of France and she was also filled with the Holy Spirit.    As a young girl she entered into battle and defended her faith.   Did you know that each of us are called to be saints?   I know I have a great way to go on that journey and yet taking time to ponder the saints such as St. Elizabeth and St. Joan of Arc provide me an example to follow.

saint joan of arc

I hope you and your family can enjoy the summer months and some of my post from scripture and saints of the day.

Sunday Snippets, 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.

Benedict

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.

The Christmas Story

This is a guest blog from Figuring It Out One Day At a Time. Since I was born in 1968 this blog provided great memories. Merry Christmas Charlie Brown.

It Just Dawned On Me

“That’s What Christmas Is All About, Charlie Brown”

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas

I was born in 1968.

Of course, I don’t really have any recollection of that decade. My memories come alive for me in the 70′s.

My childhood.

Last night I watched, A Charlie Brown Christmas, with my husband and kids. The cartoon first aired in 1965 on CBS. It has been watched during theChristmas season every year since that time. I remember watching it as a child, back before cable TV, back when one had to check out the TV guide to make sure no shows were missed. The Christmas shows were special back then…before VCR‘s and DVD players. Tivo wasn’t around yet, and most people only received the three main channels on their sets.

I’ll admit that I bought all the Peanuts cartoons on DVD….because I wanted them….for nostalgia’s sake.

As I watched the cartoon…

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The Days Leading Up To Christmas – Reblog

It Just Dawned On Me

The day is wrapped in early morning quiet.cropped-img_01701.jpg

The blanket of snow muffles all sound.

It is barely light, and the icy blue sky has the barest tinge of pink.

A cold winter blush.

Layers of clothes and the warm snuggle of sweaters and soft fluffy socks.

The soft twinkle of tree lights and the faint scent of pine and cinnamon.

Bing is singing traditional favorites, and I sing along.

Warm cookies, straight out of the oven. Melted chocolate sweet on the tongue.

My senses are overwhelmed in the days leading up to Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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