Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Well Done Good and Faithful Servant

The Parable of the Talents is one of my favorite stories of the bible.  Yesterday as I prayed for Paul in adoration, I was getting very frustrated that I was not hearing God.  I couldn't hear him.  I wanted some peace and found that I left without feeling it.  I had taken a journal and drew as I prayed {no judgement- this is how I do prayer}.  I ended up writing "Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant".  I saw that a lot today.

In the story the master gives his 3 servants talents.  The first servant gets 5 talents, the second servant gets 2 and the last servant gets one.  The first servant goes out and trades with his talents and gets 5 more.  The second servant goes out and makes 2 more.  The last servant, in fear of making his master angry, buries his.  The master calls them to him to see what they did with what he gave them. He praises the first 2 and says, "Well done my good and faithful servants.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your masters joy"  To the 3rd servant he says, "For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."  He then threw the servant out into the darkness.

Today I thought of this parable and took some time to reflect on it..  We come into this world with all of the gifts God has bestowed on us.  When we leave he expects to ask us what we did with those gifts.  Did we use those gifts to gather more riches for our master?  Did we bury them away, to return them unused to the master?  If you are given faith and use it, you will receive goodness in return.  If you are given faith and do not use it, everything will be taken away.

I think about Ann's post on Paul being victorious- even in death.  There is no losing for a man of faith.  When you live a life of faith like Paul, you are blessed and lifted up in prayer.  You are taken care of and so is your family.  You are also called to share that faith and return it to your master doubled.  I believe you do that by sharing it in everything you do.  Encouraging those around you to live it.  You do that using the talents God gave you.  God gave Paul fearlessness, kindness, joy, courage.  He used every one of those and wore his faith like a superhero cape.

Paul definitely changed my life and the life of my family.  I have learned that laughing does a person good.  Laughing at yourself is sometimes the greatest joy you can have.  I have learned that if you look at a tree and say, "that looks like it would be fun to climb", you climb it.  I have learned if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all and challenge yourself to lift that person up.  I have learned that when God gives you crosses, you carry them fearlessly and you never, ever give up.  I have learned that all of us are one day going to die, we are called to do so faithfully and courageously.  Most of all I have learned that having gifts from God are useless if you are not going to use them to inspire others.

There will be a lot of talk on the lack of miracles and the "see, praying does no good."  But you have to use the faith God gave you to see beyond the disappointment of prayers, seemingly, unheard.  Look to the miracles God has granted Paul and his family through the millions of prayers he received.  Prayers he received because he gave out his faith like candy.  Look at the way, God has used Paul to change something inside of yourself. 

Look at the thousands of people who are following Paul's story and are changed for the better.  They are inspired by the love shared between a husband and wife.  They are encouraged by Paul's refusal to stop trying to live every moment he is able.  They are inspired by how his community of friends is rallying to rebuild his home.  They are in awe of his faith, even at the hour of his death.  Most of all people are seeing and believing in the victory of his death.  Today he dies victorious and returns to the master with arms full of the blessings he gave during his life.  This is not the tragic story of a husband and father who died from aggressive cancer.  It's not the end of a life, its the beginning of a beautiful story of faith.  It is a story of a Good and Faithful Servant returning home victoriously.  Well done, Paul, well done.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Power of Prayer and NEVER Giving Up

Last night all I did was pray and check Facebook like a stalker for word on Paul.  I was so scared to fall asleep because I didn't want to wake up and read that he had died.  Well, guess what dear readers?  He is still alive and kicking, only through the ever present grace and mercy of my God.  He is not giving up and is STILL fighting.  In that beautiful moment of survival, I believed in the power of prayer.

I am a cradle Catholic.  Every Sunday I went to mass with my family.  We prayed the obligatory rosary as a family.  We fasted, we confessed, we read the bible.  Statues adorned our home, our entryway had a holy water font and rosaries were in a jar in the kitchen.  We had the creepy Jesus picture that seemed to watch you anywhere you walked.  As a family we learned to pray in times of need and promised to pray for all those suffering.  This was part of who I am today.  Those Catholic traditions and customs are now in my own family.  But, something changed for me yesterday.

I came home from mass and felt the need to finally write that blog about Paul.  Before I wrote it, I prayed to the Holy Spirit to give me the words to make everyone see how amazing him and his family are.  I watched the views grow and couldn't believe how many people read it.  In a matter of hours 2000 people had read that blog.  I have only had on average 40 views on anything I had written.  It was about Paul and people who love him.  People who are praying and not giving up.

Last night I found myself looking over the Team Paul and Ann Coakley page and could not believe that over 4000 people have liked this page.  I looked through the photos of people ALL AROUND THE WORLD who stopped for a few moments of their day to post a photo of solidarity.  I knew that each person had taken the time to pray for Paul.  No one was giving up.  For a few moments I allowed myself to believe that a miracle could still happen.  It's not impossible. 

So I hit my knees and I prayed.  I prayed really hard.  I prayed a prayer for peace.  If it was God's will, a peaceful passing for Paul.  Peace for the many people who loved him and will be left behind.  Peace for his sweet wife as she endures the hardest fight of her life.  Peace for his children now and throughout their lives.  Most of all I prayed that God would give a miracle to Paul and his family.  I prayed that Paul would not give up.  The world still needs that beautiful smile.

Today I received the update that Paul is still actively fighting for every moment of his life.  The doctors are shocked by his strength and the way he is not giving up.  He is far from out of the woods, but the hospital and his family are allowing him to fight.  I am so proud of Paul and Ann because fighting takes true courage.  Facing down your greatest fears with an attitude of defiance is something that is absolutely inspirational.  As I watched those numbers climb with people ALL OVER THE WORLD following our friends and praying with all of their hearts for peace, was unbelievable.  No one has stopped believing in the power of prayer or miracles.  Least of all Paul.

I was thinking of all of this as I went to grab some groceries.  As I went to pay for my purchases I found a copy of the most recent People Magazine.

After I saw the cover, I offered up a prayer of Thanksgiving that Paul had not given up and that he continues still to believe in the power of prayer.  He desires and asks for a miracle through the intercession of Margaret Costello.  I offered a prayer of Thanksgiving for his wife, who is allowing him the right to fight even though, I can only imagine how that must be ripping her apart.  His family who are standing by Paul and encouraging him even though the prognosis leaves much to be desired.  I thanked God for using Paul as inspiration to get 4000 humans praying for hope. 

I then prayed a prayer for Brittany and so many like her who fear the possibility of pain and question the power of prayer.  I prayed for her husband who lost hope in miracles and assisted his wife in ending her life.  I prayed for all of the people who stand in solidarity with Brittany and mourn that they have never experienced a fighter like Paul.  I was really sad that they gave up and waved a white flag in surrender.  Life is precious and we should fight every day, just like Paul, to live it fiercely and never give up.

I know Paul may not make it.  But, that doesn't mean a miracle is not, even as we speak, taking place.  People are praying.  Hearts are changing.  Prayer changes everything.  It gives hope to the hopeless.  Offers faith to those who don't believe in things unseen.  It encourages those who are experiencing spiritual drought.  So as we lift up Paul in prayer, so too are we lifting ourselves.  His story is becoming ours and changing our outlook on life everyday.  We are watching the suffering of a beautiful soul who refuses to give up and continues to fight for every breath of the body God loaned him.  We are thanking God that he is still here fighting and we are praying still... ever hopeful for a miracle and ever faithful to God's will.

You see, today prayer changed for me.  Prayer became a thing that is alive and powerful.  To pray is to truly believe in what you are asking and with humility, accepting the answer God has for you.  Praying is about NOT giving up and putting all your worries at the foot of the cross. Praying as a collective, raising your voice in community, begging God to bring healing and peace... this is powerful stuff.  This is miraculous.   Prayers can be answered in unexpected ways, and you may find that as you pray for someone else, you are helping to change yourself.  As Paul begins his next round of Chemo, pray like crazy.  Know that we are lifting up Pual but we are also being lifted up by Paul.  We are all fighting for Paul and he is fighting for his life.  And most, of all, WE ARE NOT GIVING UP!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

"Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?"

My heart has been so heavy lately as I watch our friend Paul's health failing.  For those of you who don't know the story, Paul was diagnosed just before Christmas with testicular cancer.  The cancer has spread to his lungs and his brain.  They found a hole in his heart and a very dangerous blood clot.  He has been in the hospital for weeks... teetering between life and death.  He is 34, married to the most lovely lady Ann and is expecting their 4th baby in April.   Last night, he almost didn't make it. When I told my kids about Paul's condition, my oldest daughter Emma, broke down sobbing.  She asked the question I have asked myself time and time again.  "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

Paul is not just a good person.  He is truly a saint.  In my life I have known only 3 people I put in this category.  For those that are not Catholic, a saint is someone who lives a virtuous life and positively impacts the lives of others.   Saints go straight to heaven.  They pass go, they collect $200 and no questions are asked.  Paul fits this category because since I have known him, he has inspired every person to become closer to God.  He doesn't seem to try to.  He just does.  With no judgment or righteousness, he finds some way to shine that light of Christ directly into your eyeballs.  Like an annoying camper playing flashlight tag.  You can't escape it.  Even after you are blinded, that light stays with you. 

Paul lives his life out loud and has always done these crazy, spur of the moment, carpe diem things that us regular ol scaredy cats can only dream of.  Some of you Paul people have got to accompany him on this journeys.  I am jealous.  I always watched from a distance, in awe and in admiration.  In these adventures, God is always present.  He has taken God along for the ride and we have all seen that.  His life is his testament to his faith in God.  That faith has permeated every relationship he has ever had.   We have been lucky enough to witness that and it has a lot of us talking, praying and spreading the word about who Paul is. Strangers are inspired to follow his journey, share the joy of his life and pray for a miracle.

My sister went to a Catholic college and developed strong friendships with all sorts of crazy Catholics.  It would drive me insane because I am selfish.  I never wanted these "friends" to come into my family and take up my precious time.  My sister loved them.  I feared she loved them more than me.  But, then I met Paul.  He was her first friend that didn't piss me off {sorry Steubie friends}.  He made me laugh and made me feel comfortable hanging with them.  I think he also kind of understood my weirdo obsession with my family... and forgave me for it.  He has a way of making every person feel understood and loved. 

When I had Shawnie, every family member came to the hospital to visit... Paul came too.  He came in and acted a fool.  Making everyone laugh by blowing up a hospital glove to make Shawnie a chicken.  He then proceeded to peck my infant son with the balloon.  If anyone else had done that, I would have killed them.   But, it was Paul.  At Thanksgiving one year, Paul took one of my mom's china plates {the same plates we had to HANDWASH because they were so "fragile and precious"} and in front of the whole family, busted that plate over his head.  If any of us had done that, my mom would have kicked our bootie.  But, it was Paul.  Different rules apply to different people.  Paul was always the exception to the rule.

All of us have these Paul stories.  How he came into our lives, why he is so important and so deserving of a miracle.  But my favorite and most inspiring Paul story is his son Christian.  Paul and Ann wanted children so badly and waited so long for God to bless them.  One day God put together Paul and Ann with a little boy named Christian. Christian was an unexpected miracle.  I got to meet him when they brought him to Michigan for the first time.  I was amazed by the love they had for this kiddo.  They were protective, loving, kind and such good parents.  I can't tell Christians story, because I don't know all the details, but I know that God gave them a son in the most unexpected way and they said YES with faith, hope and love.  Their example and advice, gave Shawn and I courage to say YES in a very similar way.  Without Paul and Ann's example, we may not have had the faith to adopt our Keegan.  Their yes inspired our yes and allowed us to not run in fear but accept, with faith, a gift God had unexpectedly sent our way.  This is living your faith out loud.  This is making a difference.

As Paul is battling for his life, we are all left asking the question "why do bad things happen to good people?".  I think it is so that we can reflect on the precious gift of life that none of us are guaranteed.  Every day is a miracle and a gift.  We are called to live our lives OUT LOUD, with passion, love and faith... every day, no excuses.   I don't know why this is happening but watching the numbers grow on Paul's facebook page and seeing photos of people just like me, who have encountered the light of Paul... it's life changing.  It speaks to the power of prayer and the belief in everyday miracles.  It tells a story of courage and how one person can change so many lives without even trying.  It shows the generosity of strangers who want to help a deserving man and his family.  Paul is again inspiring others to become closer to God through his fight with cancer and his incredible faith. 

No one is ready to say goodbye to such a beautiful gift and it makes us all so sad.  God blessed all of us with the light that is Paul and right now I am breathing that in.  I am thanking God for allowing me the moments I had, the life changing and inspiring moments.  I didn't deserve them.  I wasn't always thankful for them but now I am so happy that I had them.  Keep those prayers coming.  Pray, that if its Gods will, Paul will get his miracle and we will have more time to enjoy and savor those moments... moments we took for granted.  The most important lesson I have learned is, when the strong fall, the weak rally, to pick them up and carry them home.  If Paul is headed home, he is going home being carried by thousands of people, just like me, who have been changed for the better.

Here is Paul's Facebook Page.. Go and Be Inspired... https://www.facebook.com/paulandanncoakleyneedamiracle

Some Photos of #prayforpaul campaign.  Share and post your own photos. 
Paul's Beautiful Family

That is a great picture of paul!  Make this your profile picture on facebook!

Kiley being a Mountain Climber a la Paul

Mid Air Superman flight

Just hanging around and praying

Hey there's a tree!  I can climb it like Paul would!

Peek a boo- I am praying for you too!

Awesome photo bomb

Barb wire?  Fence?  Illegal Trespassing?  Never stopped Paul...
{Stole from my sissy} The infamous plate incident.  Best Thanksgiving ever!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Look Back at 2014

Whew!  It has been a LONG time since I wrote anything.  I am back on New Years Day for a little look at my year.  Of course I will do it with a rant, a rave and reflection.

If I am honest, 2014 was full of negativity for me and from me.  I have really sat back and tried to take an honest accounting of my highs and lows.  All of my highs were due to the amazing people my children are turning into and the things my husband has accomplished.  Most of my lows were things I had failed at.  This is not to be a whiny blogger... just an honest rant on how I have been walking through my life for the past year. 

I love that my highs were about my kids and my incredible husband.  These really made me happy to reflect on.  My kids did unbelievable things this year.  Shawnie joined a band, became class president and was nominated for a leadership scholarship.  He has raised his grades and will start a month long internship at the UK radio station this January.  Emma concurred her fears and sang at Common Grounds.  Not only did she sing... she literally silenced a room full of jaded college hipsters.  Her confidence and talent literally brought me to tears.  This year we became friends.  We are still mother and daughter but we are starting to create this beautiful relationship that will only grow with time.  Kiley Grace was a freaking star this year! She surprised us by stealing the school play, joining her school choir and getting a part in a REAL play.  She is known for her dramatics but seeing her literally lit up from the inside out was a real treat for this mama.  Keegan has finally started to figure out this school thing.  Although we still struggle {keepin it real} in very serious ways, school is starting to quiet down.  His teachers are beginning to see the little kid that stole my heart 3 years ago.  I also learned this year that the ways he shows his struggle is actual confirmation that we are securely bonded and he trusts me.  This is HUGE!  Dylan is a hot mess who graduated preschool, began to read and I am happy to report, is still obsessed with me. 

My husband has taken off in the comedy world and has certainly earned the nickname "Robin Hood of Comedy".   His Stand Up for KY reminds me, with every show and every person helped by his kindness, why I fell in love with him.  He has hit some really important goals on his comedy journey.    He has found his passion and is putting it into practice daily.

All of these things are awesome.  I even acknowledge that I am part of the reason so many of these awesome things happened.  But, I am ranting because I haven't had any awesome accomplishments myself this year.  I have really sat back and tried to take an honest accounting of my highs and lows.  All of my highs were due to the amazing people my children are turning into and the things my husband has accomplished.  Most of my lows were things I had failed at.  This is not to be a whiny blogger... just an honest rant on how I have been walking through my life for the past year.

I am becoming that mom.  You know the one.  She is always running around, looking like a hot mess, with a list of a million things she needs to get done.  She is yelling at her brood of kids and throwing them some fast food as they race to the next destination.  She means well but never has the time she needs to get everything done.  This year I am really vowing to make sure that some of my highs are things I have accomplished for myself.   

I am going to rave about 2 gifts we got for Christmas that I think everyone needs to get.  This Christmas we got the "Christmas Dog".  The kids and I have begged the old husband for years to allow our dreams to come true.  He finally conceded and after searching all rescue places high and low, we finally found our new family member with a breeder {no judgement, read footnote}.  Having a dog has been ALOT more work than I could ever have imagined.  But, it has also been life changing.  One of the big reasons we wanted a dog was for our Keegan.  Keegan has needed some wins and we knew that a puppy would give him some responsibility and some positive praise that he needed.  He has loved Rosie and she has already done her job in teaching him empathy and unconditional love.  Rosie has brought some peace to our chaotic house.  Right now as I type this blog, Rosie is curled up next to me.  There is nothing more comforting than a warm puppy, who loves you unconditionally.  Our favorite Beatle lyric is "All you need is LOVE"... Rosie has given that to each one of us. Everyone should have a dog.  EVERYONE.

We also splurged and gave Shawnie a digital piano for Christmas.  We have always been huge proponents of music in our house.  Every child has learned any and all instruments of their choosing.  We have supported this with no question.  Currently, we have a drum, a violin, a keyboard, an acoustic, electric and bass guitar, harmonica, a trombone and now a digital piano. It has been one of, if not the best, gift we have given our family.  Here is why this is the best gift ever.  For the last week, we have watched approximately 5 hours of TV.  Shawnie has been playing the piano non stop and getting everyone involved in it.  Emma has sang duets with Shawnie and her dad.  They have written original songs and this howling mom has also sang a ditty or two.  It has made us all more creative, more happy and definitely more engaged.  Music has always done this.   But, now we are bringing and keeping the gift of music in our family room.  It is a huge blessing to unplug and connect.  Music has and will always do that for people.  Everyone should create music in their homes.  EVERYONE.

*Footnote: Our experience with Rescues was not totally awesome.  We found most workers more interested in saving the dogs versus making sure the dog was put in the right house.  Because we have an adopted son, we could not take ANY risks with getting the "wrong" dog and returning the new family member.  On top of that, all available dogs were large breeds.  We do not have a big yard and we have a relatively small home.  Not ideal for anyone.  We also travel a lot and a small dog can go with us {remember, we have to fit 7 people and a dog into a mini van}  Rescues are amazing and one day we may rescue, but for our first dog we decided, for all of these reasons, to go with a breeder.   Now, you can judge.

With the new year upon us, I am left to reflect on the highs and lows.  I am deciding to create a very doable list of things I will accomplish for me this year.  I do this every year.  As I am sure you all do too.    This year my list will be short  and will have little fanfare or explanation.  But, hopefully this list will help me find a little bit more  of who I am .  I want to learn how to define myself without using my kids and husband as my only identity.  I will work really hard on doing these.  Maybe I will share my efforts, failures and successes.  But, if I don't  just know I am working on them.  I sincerely hope that for those of you who are making your own list, you will work on creating a doable list that will help you define better, who you are, what you love and the talents that God gave you.  We shouldn't waste these talents and our time on earth should go towards finding ways to use these talents  everyday, with everyone, no excuses. 
My 2015 List
1. Keep a prayer journal that I write in almost every night {leaving room for exhaustion}
2. Go to the gym 3 days per week
3. Be more creative and do Creativity Sundays with Theresa
4. Keep my Wine nights every month
5. Spend a day to myself and ONLY for myself.  One day of out and out selfishness.
6. Be gentle to myself