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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Christmas Letter Summer 2010

Dear All,
Felt led to share my journey of faith as it unfolded this summer.
End of June, Jim was laid-off from his job with 6 weeks pay. Oh my, was my faith tested and gave me a chance to sit back and really examine the important things in life. Six weeks of pay, how far will that take us before we will have to start using everything we have saved for retirement? Jim’s age was a concern. Last time he seriously had to look for a job (hated the one he was in) it took a year. The news every night paints a picture of many in our Nation who cannot find work. Boy was that in the back of my mind continually as well as the fact we now live in Arkansas, land of not many opportunities. I also thought about my grandparent’s and parent’s generation. They grew up in the depression with their luxury being the food on the table at each meal. My grandparent’s never made big corporate salaries, lived in simple homes (paid for), they owned one car they shared, (no frills & paid cash for it) never had a credit card, died with money in the bank and money to bury them. Very few women worked in those days and today most American families have a hard time making ends meet on two salaries.
I thought of all the stuff we have bought over the years that were wants and not needs. Have to “have” and really could have lived without it just fine. If we had lived like my grandparents, I am sure we would be billionaires today.                                                     
Our world tells us we need the latest fashion, IPods’, designer tennis shoes, granite counter tops, leather furniture, boats, television in every room of the house, big screen, surround sound, and on and on.
Jim and I have built our own little castle and if he cannot find a job, all this “stuff”, all of a sudden, seemed to feel more like bondage.
A friend of mine that just got back from a mission trip has been remodeling her home. She has remodeled with top of the line, every aspect you could dream about, the latest, grandest fixtures, appliances, hardwood, granite, tile and decorated every room like it was built for a queen. She has one more room to go, her master bath. She went to Belize on her mission trip with a team of doctors, dentist, hygienist and dental assistants. They ministered to 4,000 people. They pulled teeth and they witnessed every illness you can think of. For 10 days they worked non-stop and treated these desperate poor people with the limited supplies they had. They stayed in a compound with no A/C, no running water, mosquitoes pestering them continuously, and filth everywhere. My friend has never seen conditions like this in her entire life and then lived in it for 10 days. As she is telling me this story I am beginning to think she was sorry she went. So I asked her, “Sounds like you were in hell and wish you never went?” “No!!” was her reply, “It was the best experience I ever have done in my life. It showed me how blessed our nation is and you know my Master Bath? When I came home it was the most beautiful bathroom I have ever seen and I could care less if it ever gets remolded.”
This is where the Lord finally took me a few days after the shock of this lay-off. We start with nothing in this world and we sure won’t be taking it with us when he calls us home. If we are to go down with the ship, “It is well with my soul”. To be truly honest with you my prayer was “help me Lord to accept the things I cannot change and show me ways I need to change.”
We are blessed and we only went three weeks not knowing what our future held. We only knew who held our future. The three weeks seemed like six month, but in the end Jim’s ex-employer wanted him back, they pulled some strings (really God was pulling them) and he is back with his old company.
I am humbled by the outcome of our story because so many in our Nation are out of work. I pray that things will turn around, but I know it is going to take sacrifice for it to happen. We have all become the McDonald’s generation… We want it now and we do not have the patience to wait. I know through this experience He showed me the ways I need to change. I will ask myself more often when I go buy something, “Lord is this a want or a need?” This was our valley we walked through this summer and praise my Lord, He carried us. Though my story is not over, for He then carried us to the mountain top, the summit.
The month of August for many of us has been very busy; vacation, getting ready for school, getting married. The list goes on. Our month of August turned out to be a time of rest & a time we escaped the world to learn more about our Lord Jesus. I have felt like I have been on the mountain of transfiguration with Jesus, Moses & Elijah.   Occasionally hollering down to Peter, “Yes, please do build the tent around all of us… because I do not want to come down.”
Starting out this spiritual journey, our family went to the Catholic Charismatic Conference in Little Rock with great speakers; Our Bishop Taylor was there with his family which included his parents, siblings, nieces & nephews. This was the last day of the conference when they attended. They were all there because that week-end he was celebrating 30 years as a Priest.
Jim and I then traveled up to Eureka Springs to Little Portion Retreat Center and spent a weekend with Michael Card discussing the Book of Luke. Folks from Canada, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Colorado & other parts drove many miles for the retreat. We were the only ones from Arkansas. Great time!
Last week I went with Jim on a business trip to Huntsville, AL. We drove it and my plans were, while he works, I get to play & visit some old friends. We lived in Huntsville 6 years & still kept up with a few friends there.  About 45 minutes outside of Huntsville I saw a sign… big sign… Shrine of the Most Holy Sacrament. We were ahead of schedule and I asked him to follow that sign. Did not know what it was that and my adventurous spirit wanted to know. After 19 miles of nothing, Jim is getting a little annoyed I took him off our Huntsville destination. He is picturing a shrine of stacked rocks with a cross that someone built and 19 and 19 is almost 40 miles we will have driven to see stacks of rocks. Then all of a sudden out of nothing, nowhere…  was this most beautiful place. On 380 acres of isolated farmland encircled by the Mulberry fork of the Warrior River sits The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament. In 1996 Mother Angelica, who started EWTN, visited Bogota, Columbia and while praying next to a statue of the Child Jesus had a vision or word from God. “Build me a temple and I will help those who help me.” When she returned from her trip, she began looking for land in Alabama. She found over 300 acres that belonged to a 90-year old lady and her children. They were not Catholics, but when Mother Angelica told her what she wanted the land to build a temple for Jesus, the lady responded, "That's a good enough reason for me."
December 19, 1999: Consecration of the Shrine took place - in the Bible Belt, where Baptists are the majority and Catholics are only 2 percent of the population. I used the term Bible Belt in a restaurant in Alabama & the manager corrected me “It’s the Bible Zipper.”
Five donors paid for the property, all the construction costs, and materials.  This is a miracle. The architecture is 13th Century.  Mother Angelica wanted the marble, gold, and cedar for the temple that God commanded David to build him in the Bible.  The ceramic tile came from South America, the stones from Canada, and the bronze from Madrid, Spain. The floors, columns, and pillars are made of marble.  There is a rare red Jasper marble from Turkey that was used for the red crosses in the floor of the temple.  The wood for the pews, doors, and confessionals was from cedar imported from Paraguay.  Spanish workers came to build the doors. The stain glass windows were imported from Munich, Germany. The Statutes of the Stations of the Cross were hand-carved.
One of the most striking parts of the temple is the gold leaf wall.  There is an eight foot stand with gold plated top for the consecrated host. Two nuns pray in 1 to 1 1/2 hour shifts 24 hours a day behind the gold leaf wall in the temple.  The cloistered nun’s purpose is to pray and worship Jesus. They pray for those who don't pray for themselves. The nuns stay focused on silence, solitude and prayer. 
Jim and I were both touched by our Lord at this place. You knew you were on Holy Ground. You could feel Shekinah Glory “Yahweh’s Presence”. I was overwhelmed by it all and before we went and entered the temple to pray before the Most Blessed Sacrament, I called my Aunt to share with her this journey, only to find out my Uncle was in intensive care, again. He is my second Dad and he has had heart disease for 20 years – 2 bypass surgeries, stints, balloons… you name it he has had it. For six months now his heart has kept him in the hospital numerous times – in and out of intensive care. The several Cardiologists who have cared for him have been going in circles trying to figure out what to do for him. They have told us, surgically nothing can be done. The area of the heart that is causing the problem contains vessels and arteries that are very small. Medicine is the only hope, and the medicine was not helping.
I entered this Holy Place with a heavy heart, but got as close as I could to the Eucharist and looked upon the Host. I knew Jesus was with me. I shared with Him my heart and a peace filled my spirit and I knew whatever the outcome was I trusted it and knew He was with us.
I learned later, a few hours before I was on my knees at the Shrine, a nurse came into my Uncle’s room and told him about a Cardiologist in Ft Worth that might be able to help. So while I was on my knees my uncle’s Cardiologist came to his hospital room & gave the okay to transport him from intensive care to Ft Worth. This was Wednesday afternoon. Friday afternoon my uncle went into surgery and 2 stints were placed in this area of the heart that no other doctor would tackle. Sunday morning my uncle was at his Parish worshipping his Lord.
Why do I want to share this with you? 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11; He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Sr. Ann Shields who spoke at the Charismatic Conference has many Catholic Books and DVDs out there. I bought a DVD of hers titled “The Fruit of Suffering In Our Lives”. Very good DVD. One thing in the DVD that stood out and spoke to me the most was this statement: “Most Catholics do not like the word evangelize. It threatens them in so many ways.  But in the whole scope of this world we live in, we are all being evangelized. Who is evangelizing you? Is it the television, the media, the Internet, your peers, your friends, or is it your Catholic Faith?  Parents, I ask you the same question, who is evangelizing your children?
As most of you know I am a new Catholic. I was baptized as an infant in the Methodist Church, married in the Presbyterian Church and grew in my personal relationship with Jesus in many Protestant churches that I have attended over the years. Do you know every time I dip my hands in the holy water as I enter a Catholic Church, I thank my parents for that act of obedience to God they did for my own personal journey to start life as an infant in the Christian faith? To say that I am Catholic today is not, in no way, saying to you or anyone, “I am a convert to Catholicism.” I have been on a journey of conversion, growing in my Christian faith since the day my parents baptized me in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Christianity is a lifetime of one’s journey in growing and knowing we are only here for a speck when you take into account, eternity.
On your Confirmation day you said to Jesus, “I will follow You.” We are to pick up our cross and follow Him; to learn about Him, to grow in Him and to help others know this treasure we carry in our hearts and this treasure we partake of every time we come to Mass.
This August 2010 I will always have fond memories of the special times I shared with my Jesus and so many others in the Body of Christ. Life is full of mountain tops and valleys. I look forward to the next summit. I end with James 1:4; Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
I encourage you all, rise up in the valley, get involved and seek the summits Jesus has for you. God Bless.

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