Forgiveness Friday… The begininng of an attempt to forgive myself.

I’ve said it before, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

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I’m not going to lie. I struggle with this.

I struggle to forgive humanity for being human.

I struggle to forgive my friends for misunderstandings that happen between us.

I struggle to forgive my parents for things they have done.

I struggle to forgive my siblings for their wrongdoings.

I struggle to forgive my kids for being kids and making mistakes.

I struggle to forgive my husband when he does something wrong.

I struggle to forgive God (seriously) when life doesn’t go the way I need it to, the way I have it planned.

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Most of all, though, I struggle to forgive myself and I have a LOT to forgive myself for.

I have to forgive myself for being a doormat to my parents for the first 15 years of my life.

I have to forgive myself for rebelling against the Broncos and maintaining allegiance to the Green Bay Packers, then rebelling by starting to wear lots of black (a heretofore parental unapproved color) after the Packers lost THE GAME. Brett Farve, you let me down, man.

I have to forgive myself for falling in with the wrong crowd at my job and letting them influence me (Mom, Dad- I’m still innocent of your perceptions and certain fictional journal entries. Love you, but get over falling for a lie in my journal.)

I have to forgive myself for losing my faith.

I have to forgive myself for wasting my last precious moments with my Pop-Pop and not speaking to him for the 2 years before his death.

I have to forgive myself for hurting my aunt and uncle and for being a burden to them when they were kind enough to open their homes and hearts to me when I desperately needed the love of family.

I have to forgive myself for a mostly wasted trip to the United Kingdom.

I have to forgive myself for hurting my Ma and Grumps over the gift of that trip and the time that they lavished on my ungrateful self.

I have to forgive myself for cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs.

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I have to forgive myself for dropping out of school (I still think my senior year was a complete waste of my academic time. Freshman classes for a super-smart senior? Yeah, no. (I’m not humble about my academics. Yet another thing to work on…)

I have to forgive myself for being raped, beaten, and living a very shameful life worrying more about my next party, my next drink, my next hit, than my body, my soul, and my general well-being..

I have to forgive myself for delivering my oldest daughter so early. For being in shock at her birth. For having to leave her at hospital, hooked up to tubes.

I have to forgive myself for having to go on Food Stamps and Medicaid, and making a withdrawal from my future Social Security deposits.

I have to forgive myself for losing our first apartment.

I have to forgive myself for spending such little time with my oldest as I worked 2-3 jobs to make ends meet once we got off state assistance.

I have to forgive myself for not meeting and falling in love with my husband sooner.

I have to forgive myself for a second unplanned, premarital pregnancy.

I have to forgive myself for marrying outside of my Church.

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I have to forgive myself for struggling with strong depression, anxiety, and soul-chilling fear through the last 2 pregnancies. (#1 doesn’t count since I didn’t know I was pregnant.)

I have to forgive myself for the meds that I had to take to make it through those pregnancies and the potential damage that the meds did to my daughters.

I have to forgive myself for losing my job.

I have to forgive myself for choosing to be a stay-at-home-mom.

I have to forgive myself for going back to school (it really does feel selfish, in spite of the benefits that I know it will bring to my family in the future).

I have to forgive myself for the time and effort that my school work takes, which takes time away from my family and other responsibilities (like cleaning and spending time with my friends).

I have to forgive myself for the days I’m too exhausted to take my children to Mass (ohhhhhh, I have to work on that one. YIKES.)

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I have to forgive myself for the nights that I don’t make dinner for my family, for the housecleaning pushed to the side (yeah, literally, especially on my desk and my dining room table), for the times where I promise to make my kids favorite granola bars but push it off because I don’t have time, for the books I forget to read to my kids, for the times I can’t stop to play Polly Pockets.

I have to forgive myself for my temper (especially when it comes to helping my teenager with her homework).

I have to forgive myself for not taking care of myself properly.

I have to forgive myself for being a struggling human being, who is slowly, but surely, learning how to be the best mother, the best wife, and the best child of God that I can be.

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Photo Credit: Scarymommy.com

Whew! That was a long-winded confession. A priest would tell me to get over myself, to forgive my past, get over my crappy relationship with my parents and let it be whatever it is, to get my marriage blessed by the Church (it’s complicated), and to get my tuchus to Mass every Sunday along with those of my children. He would say to stop and read books with my children more often, try sweeping the floor before I go to bed, and to stop stressing out so much about graduating summa cum laude (totally my goal but I guess wouldn’t magna cum laude isn’t soooo bad…sigh).

So what prompted this confession? Well, one, it’s Forgiveness Friday, here on this blog. Secondly, I watched this amazing video of a premature baby’s journey through his first year. He was 2 ounces bigger than my oldest, and went through many of the same things. The technology is slightly more advanced (ventilator tubing is no longer hard and too stiff to move with less than 2 nurses and a respiratory therapist on hand just so Mommy can hold her baby). However, the emotions, the fear, the sadness at leaving your child overnight (parents, in my experience, are not allowed to sleep overnight in the NICU), the fear of breaking your fragile baby, are all expressed in this film.The fear of the unknown, the disbelief that such a thing could happen to you, the terror of falling O2 sats and heart rates. The inexplicable joy of hearing their first cry, of giving them their first bottle (it’s really difficult to breastfeed micro-preemies), and the unbelievable disbelief, joy, and renewed terror when your NICU doctor tells you that your baby can go home, then gives you the GINORMOUS list of therapies and cautions for the further well-being of your precious miracle.

This video gives a beautiful peek at the preemie experience. I caution you to have a box of tissues nearby.

http://vimeo.com/benjaminscot/wardmiles1styear

I was 18 years old, a depressed and troubled teen, and my experience with motherhood, the NICU, and my beautiful baby, gave me the strength to struggle, the guilt of the last 32 years, and the wisdom to realize that I need to work on my life, continually, until my Final Judgement.

It’s Forgiveness Friday, folks. It’s freezing. My advice is to bake some chocolate chip cookies, watch this video, engage in some self-reflection, and cuddle with your kids.

I will be stressing out over my homework with some fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.

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Photo Credit: annies-eats.com

I forgive you Broken Rose

My Broken Rose,
Know first that I will always love you….even when you don’t see it. I love as best I can. I will never be the perfect daughter in law you keep locked inside your head, nor am I the she devil you make me out to be. I am somewhere in the middle, a broken human being stumbling under my own cross, sinful but struggling to be the best possible mother, wife and human I can be.

I am not afraid of you, even when you try so hard to hurt me. I am not going to let you hurt my family with your bitterness. I will still love you in spite of it. It isn’t my fault you are so unhappy. When you are ready, I am here to hug you, to talk to you, to help you if you ask me to. I do not force my way, or push. It is up to you.

I have never intentionally treated you poorly or disrespected you. I don’t intend to start now. I don’t see things the way that you do, that should not be a reason for this hatefulness. For where I have stepped wrong in the past I have apologized, I have done my best to change what I can. I am not too proud to admit there is room for improvement. I would prefer to speak with you in person if I have offended you so we can come to a true reconciliation, a mutually respectful conversation. I don’t appreciate manipulation, threats and venom in the cowardice of typed letters. Have the courage to face me, then we can work things out. Hiding in your bitterness does nothing for either of us.

I know you are sick, that Bipolar Disorder creates a darkness that you can’t see around that colors every memory, every perception until it lifts. I know that the hateful spew is part of your cycle, that you don’t remember the painful words you say or write in these fits, but they hurt. The barbs run so deep they build a wall of blades between us. I forgave you last time, but you hated me so much that you wouldn’t speak with me or even acknowledge your grandchildren or son for two years. I am praying this time will be different. I have already begun the journey of forgiveness but the wounds are still fresh and bleeding…it will take time.

Your imperfect, but devoted Daughter in Law,

The Hiland Rose

Forgiveness Friday: I Forgive You, Humanity.

Dear Humanity,

I am one of you, although much of my life I have felt like an alien.  From my earliest memories, I have pondered you, and although I was always sure of love, I still always had this feeling that I didn’t quite fit in with you.  When I went to school I was sure of it, although there were glimpses here and there of those who understood me, or spoke my language… but I still struggled to be accepted by you and fit in.

I succeeded at one point, but that involved putting aside everything I believed in, and in the end, my heart won out even if I was alone.  But even though I have been true to my heart (for the most part) since my young adulthood, I have still been continually shocked by you.  Most of you don’t care.  Most of you are interested in your own agenda, even if you have to take advantage of someone else to get it.  Some of you are good-hearted and even worship God, but you still have your own agenda which still trumps everything and everyone in the end.  Some of you believe in violence and in harming others to express your anger, your religion, your hate… and you cause unspeakable pain to many.  Some of you are politicians who seek power over the weak, forgetting that you could be one of them in a heart beat.  Some of you will do anything for money, even kill babies or sell children or violate people’s dignity through pornography through some sort of lie of “free speech” or “choice.”

Some of you impress and inspire me… you make sacrifices and are misunderstood but carry on doing the right thing.  Some of you suffer with joy and patience.  Some of you are courageous and fight to protect the innocent or to defend our country from evil.  Some of you hold fast to your faith and pour out your life in the service of others.  Some of you have had a kind word to say in my moment of need, or helped me through my own suffering without counting the cost or thinking of yourself.  Some of you are generous with your time and your treasures, and there is nothing you wouldn’t do to help another.  Some of you have encouraged me and helped direct my thoughts in a positive direction without implying that I must be crazy to have such dreams….

I count myself among both groups… I have had my own agendas, I have forgotten about others I know who may be suffering, I have let my own hurt or exhaustion with some groups get in the way of doing more to protect the innocent, I have fretted about money… And I have also poured myself out at times to help others even at the detriment of my better interest, I have tried to be as generous as possible with what I have, and I have tried to encourage anyone I thought might need it…

But as for all of us, one fact remains.  We all let each other down, some of us more than others, because none of us is God.  While I have honestly in my heart not quite reconciled yet with any of you who would dare harm children, I can say to the rest of you, thank you for reminding me that you are not God, and neither am I.

I get disillusioned when I think that people who worship God might possibly resemble a holy person, when I expect people to see what I see or hunger for what I hunger for, when I see hypocrisy everywhere, when I expect people to be grateful for the freedoms they DO have instead of constantly pushing the line to perversity… I get disillusioned when people can’t seem to see logic, when families argue over trivial items that are so unimportant, when loved ones value material possessions over each other, when the world values ‘control’ and ‘safety’ over human life, when so many people are paralyzed with either fear or indifference.

But what do I expect?  We are not God, and we are not perfect.  We will mess up.  We are all sheep, even if some of us have a little more between the ears in the way of truth… but we are still all sheep, from death row to the Pope.  And so therefore, I forgive you.

I mess up too.   Some of you have not cut me slack.  And I have not cut slack sometimes either.  But that’s because our forgiveness is not perfect… but at least it’s an attempt at love.  Forgive me.

I don’t know what will become of you, Humanity… we’re quite a messed up family.  There are divisions everywhere.  But we don’t have to let it stay that way.  For once, could you care, just a little, about someone else?  For once, could you open your eyes to the truth and put aside your infatuation with death?  For once, could you realize that all those material things that you cling to even in your winter years are passing away like dust?  For once, could you please value your loved ones and realize that every second they are here on this earth is a gift, more of a gift then your ambitions and schedules and appetite?

Humanity, with the exception of the blessings in my life of loving people who care, many of you have abandoned me… but I forgive you and I am grateful, because you have helped me point my eyes in the right direction: UP to God… and down, to the baby in my lap and in my womb… and around, to those who are in my life for a reason.  I won’t try to force you, Humanity, to GET IT.  But I assure you, one day you will.

And so will I.

Your estranged family member,

shalimamma

In the Spirit of Pope Francis’ call to let Easter change our hearts…..

Forgive me

Forgive the wounds I cause to you
The silence that rends your heart.

Forgive the harsh words and quick temper,
The fear driven outburst that severs our bond.

Forgive me for being so stubborn,
For blocking my ears to what you really are trying to say.

Forgive me my hardness of heart,
My lack of faith that things can change.

Forgive me for those times I hesitate,
When I fail to do the things that say “I Love You.”

Forgive me for holing myself up away from the world,
For hiding in my self doubt and unworthiness.

Please forgive me for my Pride, that rules my fears
And drives you away.

Forgive me for forgetting to Love first…….

Why an Eye for an Eye Doesn’t Work… and What Good Friday is all about

Eyes closedOh, before I start, I should let you know, this article is a lesson for ME.  You may already know all of this.  It’s just that I passed another course in the School of Hard Knocks: Emphasis in Spirituality, and I was excited to share with you what I learned.

I’ve had a similar article brewing in my head for a while.  Actually, I have about a hundred brewing, but there’s that whole time thing.  This one was originally going to be more under a business/life heading, something about when to be a whistleblower, and when not to be.  But this last week, with the intensity heating up over marriage definitions, I flew into a Hard Knocks PhD class rather quickly when I opened my mouth.  This is a topic more violent than abortion, believe it or not.

I found myself shocked that people like me and my family disagreed with my views.  And like I have done before when I get shocked, I sometimes become reactionary.  Lesson #1: Do not be reactionary.  See it coming, keep your cool, respond kindly, but still stick courageously to the truth.

Now before I get to lesson #2, and the title of the post, I will give you a little background on myself.  I was born bold.   I was not afraid to point out wrongs when I was three and had already mastered the English language… probably to the exhaustion of my parents.  In school, I wasn’t afraid to raise my hand when something didn’t make sense, and I wasn’t afraid to protect a young girl who wasn’t my friend yet but was being bullied, therefore losing my ‘status’ in school for a good 7 years.  I became actively pro-life at 15, and then at 16 started the first Teens for Life in South Dakota, and worked with the few other freak adults who, like myself, stood for truth when most people didn’t care or see it as a big deal.  I wasn’t afraid to confront my pro-abortion principal at my (Catholic…ahem) high school to start a pro-life group there, again losing favor with her for myself and my family because we stood for truth.  You’d think they would have made us Catholics of the year for thinking pregnant mamas were carrying humans that should be protected…. but no.  It just wasn’t popular.

Basically I was born with a gift of being loyal and desiring justice for all, to the point where I have been willing to stick my neck out and pay the price to stand up for truth and justice.  However, all gifts can also be weaknesses, and can be used the wrong way or for the wrong purpose.   And of course, any gift void of love is quite useless in the end…

Fast forward to my adult life.  From standing up for teen chastity (because of my graduation from the Teen School of Hard Knocks) all the way to continuing pro-life work, all the way to advocating for charity and purity and unity within the Church, all the way to advocating for humility within certain home school groups and spiritual movements, and all the way to my debates of this last week on Facebook asking as charitably as I could for someone to explain to me their differing views, I am still standing up for my beliefs.  This blog is where I have come when I have become exhausted with trying to reason in different forums with those who just plain don’t like me or won’t listen to me or simply hate my views (mostly the case.)

Here’s where my mistake comes in.

Like other times in the past (previously outlined on this blog), sometimes I get attacked.  Out of the blue.  We’re going along just fine, and I think everything is dandy, and I’m engaging with someone in what I think is a great conversation, and then BAM!!!  They slam me with something nasty.  At first I get shocked.  Then I start to question them.  Then I get sad.  And then, from deep within me, a volcano starts to erupt…. and BAM!!!!  I hit ‘em back.  This is where the eye for an eye comes in.  They dished out their unfair challenge to me, so isn’t it fair for me to dish it right back?

Here’s the thing.  It would be, if I could stick with the issue.   But I can’t help it… I end up taking it personally, and because I am super perceptive of people, I end up dishing back more truth than anyone needed to hear.   Sure, it’s truth.  Sure, I can tell they are foaming at the mouth with disgust for either me or what I stand for.  Sure THEY can say anything.  But when Shalimamma dishes it back?  Oh the shock, oh the horror.  Complete with one or two friends emailing personally and saying a phrase that I heard in high school from that principal (who I still pray for): “CAN’T YOU JUST BEAR IT SILENTLY???”

I received one email like that yesterday, after I went at it on a debate and flustered the other person unknowingly.  A loyal friend said “Can’t you just bear it silently?”  Each and every time I have stood up for uncomfortable truth, there has always been one email in my box saying the exact same sentence.  Nevermind all the ones that say “You GO girl…”  This has gotten my attention… and this morning, I realized that there is truth in that sentence.    I would like to thank the well-meaning “choleric (always) loyal friend of the arguer” who has always sent me this type of message.  I have learned from this… and I want to share with you what I learned.  This leads to lesson #2…

Always and everywhere, we must stand up for the truth, even if it is uncomfortable or people hate it.  And by truth, I mean an issue is right or wrong… not a person…

My temptation is to get personal.  And while I may be ‘right’ (I didn’t make up that whole thing about life being sacred, and marriage being sacred, and love your neighbor), I am not all-knowing.  This is why an eye for an eye doesn’t work.  Each and every time I have been attacked and then I strike back personally (you’d think that was fair, right?), I have learned after the fact that the perpetrator was suffering with some secret worry or some secret disaster or some hidden illness.  Had I known about these things, I probably WOULD have remained silent and prayed for them.  I took their attack as “all is fair in love and war” and figured if they could dish it, they could take it.  I was wrong.  Think about it.  If someone comes at you with violence about whatever issue, what is prompting them?  Is it passion for the truth?  If it is, they will engage in a respectful dialog and want to learn more.  If they are not listening?  That’s your clue #1.  They are speaking out of their hurt and anguish, that even they may not be aware of.

Lesson #3: what if I am getting personal because of my OWN hurt?

And Lesson #4.  Jesus, the only One who was qualified to whistleblow all of my mistakes and sins from the cross, DIDN’T.  He said “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.”  Sure, He did point out the sins of the Pharisees and got REALLY personal.  But this brings me to Lesson #5:

If someone is causing scandal and is, or has the capability of, misleading many others, it then becomes appropriate to whistleblow and invite prayers for the individual or group.  This could be political leaders, Church leaders who oppose Christ’s teaching and are wolves among sheep, child predators, any kind of corrupted ‘leader’… you get my drift.  There are times when I stood by good leaders and didn’t mind pointing out who NOT to follow.  I stand by that way of life, and I will continue, if I see many others being duped or harmed by someone.

However, my problem has been in exposing those who simply had a problem with ME, or one or two other people.  People with personal brokenness that I may or may not know of.

To the family that I mentioned yesterday, I apologize from the bottom of my heart if I hurt you while you were already hurting about something else.  To those I have mentioned before in posts where I got personal, and you weren’t misleading a bunch of others but were just broken like me, I ask for your forgiveness.  Yes, you may have hurt me deeply.  You may have gotten personal with me, slandering me, dumping me, defriending me (sorry, that actually makes me chuckle about Facebook ;) )… whatever.  But my attempt at “an eye for an eye” was wrong of me, and it certainly was not the high road.  I am removing anything on this blog that gets personal where there is not public scandal.  While I have forgiven you, I pray that you can forgive me during this Holy Week.

To those I have mentioned that have caused scandal or cause harm on a regular basis to others, I pray for you, but I will not remove my exposition of truth until I know that you have changed your ways, even though most all of my posts are anonymous as far as whom they are about.  In those cases, I will NOT bear evil silently, because we are called to stand up for truth, not simply follow the sheeple and not love our neighbor with our indifference.

But as far as personal difficulties?  An eye for an eye doesn’t work… because we don’t know what that person is going through.  We can’t in most instances.  Maybe their grandmother is dying and they yell at you out of the blue.  Maybe they can’t conceive and you can and they are suffering and trying not to be envious, but it is eating them up inside, so they become irrational with you.  Maybe they are struggling financially and your post bragging about your fancy new car made them cry because they are struggling to put food on the table, and so they just remain silent and don’t talk with you.  Maybe, like me, they miscarried a baby quietly and their husband was furloughed, and they are feeling sorry for themselves and struggling with trust in God, as well as fighting the urge to be mad that no one seems to care.  Maybe they are going through depression…. who knows.  The fact is, we don’t know.  And sometimes, they don’t even know.

And so you are right, dear friends who rightly asked about silence.  I should remain silent when it comes to personal attacks on someone who may just be misguided or who is simply hurting or who simply disagrees with me, even if they attacked me first.  You are right.  I should rise above their behavior and love them back.  (And I assume, since you tell me to do this, you practice the same virtue as well, right? ;) )

As far as those who asked me to be silent about evil, well, sorry, but I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request. (Means NO. ;) )

And for all of us, let us take this Triduum to think about how our Lord never threw our sins in our face, when He has a total right to.  He has had mercy on us that we can barely comprehend.  My prayer is that we can extend that mercy to those who have hurt us, and to pray for them.

Afterall, and eye for an eye leaves us both blind…

Love,

shalimamma

And the Winner is… Forgiveness!!

HuggingIt’s Holy Week (the week before Easter), and I felt it was fitting to talk about the very subject of this week… Forgiveness, offered to ALL.

Here at Life Victorious, I have found it intriguing how most people arrive here.  Every day, on search engines all over the world, the top search BY FAR are words seeking ‘how to forgive’…  When I log in, I can see what people are searching for, what the most popular posts are, what country people are searching from, and how many people visit each day…  I have seen searches like ‘how to forgive my husband’, ‘how to write a letter of forgiveness to my wife’, ‘I want to forgive’… on and on… I have seen hundreds of different searches, and they are almost always about forgiveness.

This led me to realize one thing: that most of us truly want to forgive and are trying to figure out how.

The top read post of all time has been Open Letter of Forgiveness and Mercy: I Am Sorry…. Second in line has been My open letter of forgiveness…to the Ex-es and by Hiland Rose and third has been The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong., also by Hiland Rose.  I find that interesting… and humbling, as far as our posts, that people most of all want to read about forgiveness, but personally that my letter of apology to all I may have hurt throughout my life is of such interest to others.  I also find that exciting: that others are thinking like me, that I’m not the only one who desires that others, strangers, acquaintances, and loved ones simply forgive me for my flaws and mistakes.  It is so difficult when someone you have apologized to simply will not forgive you, or say that they do, but refuse to reconcile (which I kind of question how much they have really forgiven, unless I am missing something here…)   I truly desire forgiveness with all my heart, for myself and for others, and I desire reconciliation with anyone whose heart is open to such a heavenly experience.  It is freeing, freeing both the wrong-ee and the wrong-er (I just made up those words, but they seem to fit!) and allows for more joy in a relationship than existed before the wrong-doing or offense that was taken.

And so that brings me to Holy Week… This is the week of the Ultimate Forgiveness.  The Forgiveness of Christ, the redemption won… for ALL of us, all sins, so long as we accept His Mercy (and not reject His forgiveness… i.e. despair).  I find that in this last week of Lent (for those of you who celebrate in it, and those who don’t), this is a good time to ask the question: Is there anyone I still need to forgive?  Is there anyone, who when I hear their name or see their face on Facebook, I have an automatic “UGH!!!”?  Is there anyone I refuse to talk to even though they are seeking forgiveness/reconciliation with me?  Is there anyone we have what we think is justified anger towards him or her?  What about deep unforgiveness that we have become accustomed to towards our spouse, family member, someone in our past?

This is a huge challenge for me!  And as soon as I asked God to let me know who I was resenting, He let me know alright, and it was embarrassing…

Please join me in working extra hard this week to forgive anyone who has wounded us… let’s follow Christ’s example, as feeble as we are… He will supply the grace!

Lenten blessings,

shalimamma

Happy Ash Valentine’s Day…

Don’Imaget get me wrong.

I’m about as romantic as they get.

I love art and beauty, music infiltrates every cell of my being, I am a poet, I love being in relationships with people, and let’s not forget, most of all, I LOVE chocolate.

So how could I possibly combine the idea of ashes and ‘dust to dust’ and death and sin and mortification and sacrifice with… the Romantic Lovey Dovey Day?

Could it be that I really am so busy that I’m doing a ‘two for the price of one’ blog?  ….. ahem…. well, that may have some truth to it, now that I think of it… hmmmm…..

But really, the title of this blog has been on my mind since last week, and maybe since I was married.  Ok, before I was married.  I have simply always been annoyed by Valentine’s Day.

Naysayers may point out that I’m ‘jealous’ of all those lovey dovey couples where the guy gives his beautiful woman a bouquet of flowers and whispers sweet nothings in her ear and asks her out on the millionth of a million dates.

Wait, am I thinking of a soap opera I once saw?

Or Facebook postings?  Yes, it was probably Facebook, seeing as I haven’t had time for soap operas for as long as I can remember.  Or bon bons.

But speaking of Facebook, I saw a brilliant status by a friend yesterday that said something to the effect of “why do people insult their spouses all year long, and then brag about them and get all gushy on Valentine’s Day?”  And later on, I got another message from another friend saying they were going to build up their spouse for Lent.  And then it hit me.  What a profound message from both of these beautiful friends of mine.  What a profound connection… The two feasts go together.

To address the Facebook message from my friend, what IS Valentine’s Day about anyway?  Yeah, yeah, we know it’s a big commercial opportunity for card and flower and chocolate sales.  But aside from that, why do couples feel the pressure to gush out ‘their love’ on this particular day?  Is it because of Hallmark?  Or, do we really truly know who St. Valentine was and what this feast is really all about?  Yes, it’s about love… but maybe it would be handy to know a little more about this fellow who has inspired pink and red all over the place during the second week of February every year…

For our information, Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his promises to make him renounce his faith ineffectual, commanded him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards, to be beheaded, which was executed on February 14, about the year 270.

Beaten with clubs and beheaded.  I can see it now.  “To my gorgeous beloved Valentine… may we continue to beat each other’s hearts with clubs and behead each other’s egos for many more years.”  You know, I may have bought a card like that (since I am guilty as charged.)  Sadly, I haven’t seen one of these in the stores; however, I understand they are there to make a profit, even if people are faking their love for one day out of the year.

But for the most part, maybe people aren’t faking their love.  Maybe they really DO love each other, with all the depth in the world… but their love makes them FEEL beaten up, in the sense of self-sacrifice, patience, endurance, commitment… and they stick it out like they said they would on their wedding day.  Maybe they don’t need a bunch of red and pink and gushy cards (although there is NOTHING wrong with those!)… maybe they take Valentine’s Day as a day to take a moment to gaze into their beloved’s eyes.  Maybe they write a simple note, from the heart, and leave it on their pillow or on the mirror… maybe they do a hidden sacrifice out of love, go that extra mile… maybe they tell their spouse (and everyone else) in their Facebook status how much they are truly in love…  Whatever it is, it should be authentic, and it should represent the kind of love that the real St Valentine had for the church, the people, who he was willing to die for in a… yes, a HEARTbeat.

And if our love is truly authentic, why should that be limited to one day a year?  My friend’s message really struck me.   Every day is St. Valentine’s day.  And instead of beating each OTHER up, the suffering unto death should be FOR each other.  That is how St. Valentine showed love, real love.  Are we willing to take the beatings of the world and the beatings of temptations to stick with our beloved one, and love them with all our heart?

And so this brings me to Ash Wednesday, today.  My second friend mentioned a renewed commitment to speak kindly to and about her spouse.  This brought everything together for me.  Isn’t this a wonderful way to ‘fast’ and ‘do’ something extra charitable?  And believe me, this is not easy for many of us, myself included.  If we show our loved one our positive support, our building up of their character, our respect and admiration, our love through gritted teeth sometimes when we don’t know HOW we can hold our tongue… will we not be closer to Our Lord by the time we reach Holy Week?  Will we not be a better person by Easter?

I think this is going to be my Lenten commitment, and seriously, I am sure fasting from chocolate would be a whole lot easier.

So yes, I’m going to get my ashes today…

And I hope they will be in the shape of a heart.

Love and prayers in this holy season,

shalimamma