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Blog Purpose

The purpose of this blog is to be a guide for those who read it. It is not meant to be a medical or mental health resource, or diagnostic guide, but to discuss moments of the dementia journey. Not everything will be founded in scientific research, but all will be based on experience, both that of my own and of those I work with who have given me permission to share their story on this public platform. This blog is to serve as a discussion starter, and place to develop our shared story. If you have questions about anything I have posted, or find an inaccuracy, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. The opinions and stories are my own unless otherwise stated. Should something be referenced you will find the proper citation at the bottom of that particular post.

I don’t often have guest authors, however, if you would like to write a post for consideration I will gladly consider your submission. If you would like to share your story of dementia please consider writing a letter for the Dementia Letters Project. You may submit your letter by emailing dementialettersproject@gmail.com.

Home – Revisited

Home, a topic that comes up more than we can count when talking about aging and dementia. We are constantly on the quest to find the best response to the question, “I want to go home” and we prance around with discomfort when the question, “Is it still safe for my loved one to live here” comes up. I, myself, have shared posts and thoughts about home more times than I can keep track, yet, here we are again.

Home. It has a different meaning this year, doesn’t it? Now, after months of spending more time in our home than out in the world, the relationship we have with the walls that surround us has changed. With a magnifying glass now on in our care communities, we have a different feeling for our elders and how we care for them.

I have heard from several of you that you are now reflecting more deeply on what home means to you and how you might want to make changes (both physically and communally) to your home. I have heard stories about how this time has caused to you ask the question about finding roommates, seeking out extra care via a home health aid, or are now thinking about moving in with other family members/inviting them into your home, feeling the strain of loneliness. Some of you have escaped your home, to live somewhere else during this time, and long for your home in a new way.

I encourage you to explore ways to improve this place that provides you with shelter and safety from the unknown. I invite you to use your creativity to improve the community you live in. I ask you to use your imagination and to take this time to think about how you might want to age in place or make plans to live in a community. Some questions to think about include:

Can any place be home?

What do we do when our home no longer feels like home? What steps do we take to make it our home?

How can your home be more than a place where you eat and sleep?

How are you creating home with your family?

Are you being called to co-create a home with someone? What does that co-creation look like?

What needs Mercy and Joy in your Home?

What 6 words describe your home? Your desired home?

If you could change one thing about your home, what would it be?

What senses are triggered when you think of your childhood home? What smells come to mind? What sounds? Sights?

Who do you want to greet you when you arrive home? Do you want someone to greet you? What does that greeting look like?

What is one item in your home that brings you comfort? What is one item that you would not miss should it go missing? What is one item you would like to pass down?

What is missing in your home right now?

What does home look like when the world is in chaos? When the world is at peace?

Can an observation of your home tell the world who you truly are? Or, teach you about yourself?

Where can you find Wonder within your own home today, tomorrow, and each day for the rest of the year?

Does your home have a specific feeling for each season?

These moments of reflection can help us become better care partners, community care staff members, and helps us to not only plan but articulate our plan for how and where we want to age. 2020 is the year of Home and maybe we will be better off because of it, having gone through a transformation process, building a new relationship with Home.

Dates That Stick With Us

The dates that stick out in one’s mind can signify multiple experiences and trigger memories year after year. These memories that work their way into our conscience can be harmful when obsessed over, joyful when the thought of with gratitude, or be simple reminders of who we are and the paths we have taken. July 14th, 2005. May 2nd, 2008. December 30th, 2011. January 15th. 2012. What do these dates signify? They are all related to my grandmother’s dementia. They are all memories that could turn negative, but instead for me, propel my work forward in ways unimaginable. Without the experience of “also being the granddaughter of someone who lived with Vascular Dementia,” my career may be full, but not rich or colorful. They are dates that signify my grandmother’s diagnosis, the last day I visited her in her home, the last day I saw her, and the day she passed away. Through these experiences and the reflection of the events of these 4 dates, I have been given a gift that enables me to be present for others in ways that go beyond the fear and sadness of dementia.

Fifteen years ago today my grandmother was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. – I have already shared her story of approaching her diagnosis before, but I think one thing is important to share with all of you as I know many feel unnecessarily guilt after their loved one receives a diagnosis. Her journey toward a diagnosis showed us the many signs. Signs that not everyone was willing to see. She gave us little red flags, that when combined with her history of high blood pressure, gave us the answer was in front of us. I feel at first we skimmed over the little details and the big picture of what was changing for her. We all can miss the signs, and for some family members, it takes until their loved one need full-time care for them to see the fullness of what their loved one is going through and the dementia journey they are now walking. I know for my extended family, that is true, and some didn’t even fully embrace the reality of my grandmother’s journey even after she passed away. – This day was the day that a shift started to form inside of me. For several years, dementia and geriatrics were in my mind as a potential population, to work within whatever form my career would take. I loved working with people decades older than myself. I enjoyed the conversations and the ease of connection that occurred. I would spend my service and campus ministry hours with this population but on this day, it became more than volunteer work and a future professional direction, the story became personal. I knew, somehow my 16-year-old self knew that this was going to be a profound chapter in my life. I have used this experience and the experiences of witnessing my extended family interact with my grandmother, succeeding, and sometimes failing to maintain a relationship with her, to help other families during this chapter in their lives. I take these moments with me as I help others as they seek a diagnosis and wonder what the best path forward might look like for their loved one.

I think about the last day I visited my grandmother in her own home. A home that also sheltered me from time to time. A home she built with her husband, raised her family in, and she experienced great sorrow and great joy within those walls. I didn’t know this was going to be the last time I went to visit her like this, how many times do we know when the last time will be? I take that moment with me. The reflecting on a chapter now closed has helped me be present for those who are visiting their loved one for the first time in a care community, hearing the statement, “I want to go home” and wondering how to respond. I see where our care systems have left a gap in serving the families and loved ones of those now on their list of residents. I understand the emotions that can swell up and come out in forms of anger, tears, out-lashes, fear, and avoidance, and to not simply dismiss these individuals as a “problem family,” but as a family needing someone to walk with them, to listen to them, and to help guide them through this chapter of life. I understand the feelings of wanting the best for a loved one in a skilled care community and quickly blaming the staff for how a situation was or was not handled. This is not to say our care communities don’t have a long way to go in improving the way they show up for their residents and families, but I recognize that it is not always about what a care community did or didn’t do. I take these moments, and the memories of my family’s journey through this process, and work to listen and see the family and their needs during this time.

December 30th, 2011, was the last day I saw my grandmother. I was home from New York for Christmas and wanted to visit Grandma one more time before I left. There was something in me that knew this would be the last time. I remember walking out of her room that day and thinking, “If this is the last time I see my Grandma Marie, I will be okay.” It was a fantastic visit and one I will always cherish. It was a good day for her, and that is likely the greatest blessing I received that year. I was at peace. Not everyone gets that closure, those final moments, nor does everyone accept the invitation to say good-bye to their loved one. But, through this experience, I can be available to those who fear they just saw their loved one for the last time. Who wish they could have that closure and be around during that final “good day.” I can help them through these moments regardless if it is wondering about the future or reflecting on the last moment they missed or were present to the experience. This is where the beautiful work of storytelling and letter writing can come into play, to create those moments of closure, to re-write the ending, and even though it is not reality, it is a window for healing regardless of the relationship’s complexities, and how it ended.

January 15th, 2012, was the day my grandmother passed away. A day we will all experience, but one we can take a moment for pain or a moment for joy. Because I have experienced the loss of a loved one with dementia, wondering what those final years would have been like without the disease, I am able to sit with others who wonder the same thing and help them unpack the gifts of dementia and the relationship with their loved one. I have been able to sit with people as they drown in feelings of guilt because they feel a sense of relief the person is no longer alive, they are no longer a care partner and can start to reassemble life without this individual. I have been able to sit with others as they feel great regret for how they walked (or didn’t walk) with their loved ones. I sit with others as they reflect on a life that may or may not have been a positive person in their life, and come to find the gifts of that relationship.

Yes, the dates that stay with us can be powerful dates that become our guides, holding memories of our past, transforming how we engage with the world in a positive light, if only we allow for our lives to be transformed. What dates stick out for you in your life? Are you allowing them to impact your life for good?

Changing Roles: The Care Partner’s Journey

We all play multiple roles during our lifetime. These roles can be a care partner, sibling, parent, grandchild, student, peer, employee, artist, gardener, friend, and the list goes on. While on this dementia journey we frequently get stuck in the role of the care partner. Stuck in a place that does not allow us to live fully alive. Stuck in a place that can cause us to become disoriented, unfamiliar with ourselves once the role is stripped from us. This puts a strain on us mentally, physically, relationally, and spiritually. We sometimes forget the other roles we are called and created to play. When we are stripped of our dementia care partner role, along with it we sometimes lose the role of son or daughter, sister, spouse. This loss of roles can bring its own level of stress, anxiety, feelings of being lost, feelings of a daunting personal unknown journey and purpose. The grief that enters into our narrative, opens the gates for so many other emotions and thoughts about our own lives as an indivuals and in relation to others in our family and community. The role of care partner often comes without warning, without an invitation, we fight it, play with it, become accustomed to its presence, and then on some unknown day in an unknown way, it is stripped from us as fast as it arrived. If we allow ourselves to remain stuck with a single role, how do we discover the next single step in our lives?

The role of a family care partner is slightly different than that of a professional care partner. We don’t enter into it having prepared ourselves for the role. There is no formal education, internship, graduation, and first job with someone set as your guide. No, it shows up without that training and we must seek it out, oftentimes our experience become the best teacher, and those moments when we feel like we are going to snap, our hardest test. Our graduation, the day our loved one passes away. All of this without being able to clock out at the end of our shift, on 24/7. Has very different tone to it, right? There are many twists and turns to this role, and we cannot watch another person for a character study. Each care partner is on their own track, but all apart of this same dementia ensemble. The cast of your own journey? You, your loved one, your loved one’s professional care team, and Dementia. You play together, working through trials, blocks, and triumphs. You play off of each other, learning each other’s personality, skillset, and needs. You learn how to work in unison in order to walk this dementia journey to the best of your ability. You learn to find the moments of joy, and you find the limits of our physical and mental capability. You are selfless in your acts, and may at times both bless and curse the moment. You give, and sometimes you lose yourself to this single role.

For many care partners, we see other beloved roles stripped from us as we learn more about our role as care partner. Our loved one’s needs increased and we need to spend more and more time with them. We selflessly serve our loved one, only to find ourselves losing the role of a friend, co-worker, even mother, spouse, or father. As dementia progresses and we find ourselves the sole keeper of our shared memories, the role of daughter, grandson, sister, or brother, fade. These roles, of course, are still there, still inside us, still wanting us to create new stories with us as the lead player. As our time no longer becomes our own, our roles as artist, gardener, lay minister, coach, sneak off in the middle of the night. We lose ourselves in the service of another. We selflessly love those who (maybe) once cared for us. This is good, and the family care partners are never thanked enough. Sure it is in some way part of the deal of being a human being and a member of a family, but this journey asks of us things we wish to never ask for, or be asked of during our lifetime. We find ourselves standing alone with our loved one in the story, the only roles being care partner, loved one and dementia.

This is only one narrative of what can be on this dementia journey, and while parts of our society think that there is nothing we can do to improve the balance of roles while caring for our loved one, that simply is not true. We can do many things. We can do little things. We can do great things while still playing the leading role of the care partner.

Over the last year, I have worked on developing the 3-Dimensional Care Partner Project. Some of you have joyfully assisted me with your input and your playfulness, and in doing so prove there is more to this care partner role than we have currently discovered. I want to share this with all of you over the next few weeks a new story, a new narrative, and a new way of playing the multiple roles we were created to play. I hope to spark new thoughts about what you still CAN do while never negating the struggles and demands of being a care partner. This project was meant to be rolled out in phases over the next year, a book, a podcast, a workshop, and a theatre process, but this year has other plans in mind. Starting next week, I will share with you a segment from the unedited book, leading to rolling out this project a new way. It is important to find ourselves again, living fully alive. The question was asked a few weeks ago by the women at Abiding Together, “What titles are you called to live further into? What does growth in those areas look like?” I think these are questions we can all ponder as we enter into becoming 3-dimensional care partners, living fully alive in the roles we were uniquely created to live.

Emotional Memory

It was not talked about, I never saw the program or ticket, but I knew. I could remember.

When I was little my parents took me to see a local theatre production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s, Cinderella. I was too little to remember anything that happened, from where we sat in the theatre, to which theatre we were in, to what dress I wore, yet I remember. These memories are not from seeing the program, or photographs from the day, or having conversations about it with my parents. There was something special about that experience that tapped into my emotional memory, pulling me in and allowing me to become apart of its narrative, or for it to become apart of mine. The power of storytelling, sound, sight, smell, touch, and creativity all were engaged during that experience, that has allowed me, almost 30 years later to remember this live theatre experience. I think it is why, when asked about my “start” in theatre, in aging, in therapeutics, I respond with this answer, speaking to that time when my parents took me to see something that tapped into my emotional memory, my creativity, my imagination. This experience pulled out of me an emotional reaction, giving something that should have been forgotten, life. 

What is it about some elements of our life that we remember so vividly, so purely, so warmly without the aid of family stories, photographs, or other prompts that enriches our lives? This is it that allows each one of us to have experiences where are emotions run with such strength that it can almost outpace dementia? This is sort of a messy question, but truly, do we understand the full power of emotional memory? Do we know how we can use emotional memory to help someone living with dementia, live fully alive?

Early on in my work with dementia, I recognized the power emotional memory could hold, long before I knew anything about its research and support, the instinct and the results I saw were more than enough. As I worked to become relational with others in a way that would not require them to remember my name, title, the reason for being with them, I found ways to help them tap into that part of there lives, and frequently we found a common connection, a place of beauty, a place of warmth. The emotional memory, and engaging the senses, are, for me, the two pillars of successfully working with those living with dementia. Filled out with creativity, imagination, and seeing the person for all they have and can continue to be and become, these two pillars are powerful! I saw how when we created something new, together, even if it was a reflection on something we both loved, a bond was formed and even on the bad days when one would not remember me, I would bring up our shared connection and suddenly I was no longer someone to fear, to fight with, to be alarmed by, but someone to smile with, to hold hands with, to spend a moment with as we move to the next part of the day. In a small way, I was recreating that theatre experience for us, by creating something that didn’t require logical or linear thinking. I normally fight for logical and critical thinking, but this is an area where the emotions are the shining star. 

There is a great emphasis on improv and dementia right now. Programs are popping up all over the country and beyond. It is used both as a teaching tool for care partners, but also as programming in Memory Cafés, Life Enrichment calendars, and in partnership with community organizations. Last summer I wrote about these programs and my opinion about them remains strong. As we look for tools to help us understand emotional memory on a very simple level, engaging in improv workshops for those living with dementia shows us what each person can do, can remember, and can engage with and in. It always amazes me how someone can transition from not remembering much about their life, to telling me the full story of their college career, their parents, their 40th wedding anniversary, simply and clearly, by allowing the creativity and movement of play bring out stories that cause you to forget about dementia. These stories are not always joyful however, the stories of war vets often come out and haunt you as you move through the workshop and head home. It shows us where we are lacking in care for those living with dementia who are also veterans.

Early on in my work with dementia, I recognized the power emotional memory could hold, long before I knew anything about its research and support, the instinct and the results I saw were more than enough. As I worked to become relational with others in a way that would not require them to remember my name, title, the reason for being with them, I found ways to help them tap into that part of there lives, and frequently we found a common connection, a place of beauty, a place of warmth. The emotional memory, and engaging the senses, are, for me, the two pillars of successfully working with those living with dementia. Filled out with creativity, imagination, and seeing the person for all they have and can continue to be and become, these two pillars are powerful! I saw how when we created something new, together, even if it was a reflection on something we both loved, a bond was formed and even on the bad days when one would not remember me, I would bring up our shared connection and suddenly I was no longer someone to fear, to fight with, to be alarmed by, but someone to smile with, to hold hands with, to spend a moment with as we move to the next part of the day. In a small way, I was recreating that theatre experience for us, by creating something that didn’t require logical or linear thinking. I normally fight for logical and critical thinking, but this is an area where the emotions are the shining star. 

For A Time Such As This

We were created for a time such as this! In our ever-changing world, we were created with this moment as part of our narrative. As the Dementia Letters Project community, now is the time for which we will thrive together. Now is the time when you can share with younger generations the beauty of your strength, your joy, your hope, and the stories of your life.

The Dementia Letters Project was created for a time such as this! It was created as a way to share something we felt compelled to share about our dementia journey, for ourselves, for dementia, for our families, for our community. During this time I have been sending out my own letters to family, friends, and to residents in care communities, to share a moment of light in the darkness. 

As artists and storytellers, we were created for a time such as this! We were created to create and this moment has inspired or has provided us with the time, to create what our heart has longed to put out into the world. Some of us are creating new things each day, each hour, some of us are dreaming of the art we would like to create but have yet to open our ArtBin. No matter where you are, you are right where you need to be, doing what you need to do. Sometimes simply daydreaming about all the things that inspire us brings greater joy into our lives than actually creating something new. I trust that someday your art will make it out and on to your canvas, paper, or through your fingers and onto the keys. 

We were created for a time such as this! No, this is not a declaration of punishment, of despair, or ugliness. It is a declaration of the beauty of the human spirit to survive, thrive, and grow no matter what the world may look like at any given moment. This can be hard. It can be hard for everyone no matter what age or status in life one may be currently living. But, for the care partner, there is a special moment of prayer and gratitude that goes out to you! 

As family care partners your world has been thrown off, that routine you worked hard to develop and keep is no longer possible. Life has gone virtual and not all of us were equipped to make such a move. There are homes without a computer or iPad, or even an internet connection. Some families now have children home full-time needing assistance to attend school via online classes, with parents trying to care for their children and help their parents stay connected. Some programs don’t work via Zoom, which cannot simply flip the switch. Some programs can work, but we may be struggling to navigate the new world feeling disconnected, anxious, and out of sorts as we work a video call. And then there are our own emotions, worries, and health. We are navigating the dark unknown during a time such as this. 

As professional care partners, you are on the front lines, you are navigating a world that many of us may not understand. You are caring for our loved ones and community members, doing your best to make sure they don’t get sick while now trying to also figure out how to engage and create with the residents. You are meeting them, quite possibly, in true person-centered/relationship-centerd care form. You are learning new ways of becoming relational with those you serve. You are forced to become relational with the residents in ways beyond a task list, in ways beyond the role you initially signed up for when to took this job. And because of this, our care communities can make this moment a moment of transformation into a new way of living. Yet, this time is painful, dark, and scary. You may not see the growth, only the dwindling resources, the fear of getting sick yourself and bring it to your family at home or your residents. You fear a spread of illness, on top of the many other concerns you might have during a “normal” time. You are exploring a new world during a time such as this. 

We were created for a time such as this. We were created to grow, to transform, to love, and to care. We were created to create something new, be it in the fine arts, or in our community, or in the world of health care. Our differences have been magnified, but so has our collective humanity and goodness. We are walking the unknown journey towards an unknown end, but we are walking it together as human beings in communion with one another. While we see the true colors of many leaders and peers, disagreeing with or being encouraged by what we see, it is our task to respond with compassion, prayer, and understanding as they too are scared, struggling, and wondering if what they are doing is enough. Now is not the time to criticize, but to support and understand in a time such as this.

We were created for a time such as this, to dream and to hope, to find joy and to allow ourselves to mourn. The world has been through darker times, so we frequently hear, and that does not always help. But we have the strength of our human spirit, and we can see the light along this unknown journey, and together we will walk to support each other, to encourage each other, and to live during a time such as this. 

We Are An Easter People!

Easter morning has passed, the tomb is empty, and the celebrations we had in our new small way have come to a close. We as a world may have not found our collective Easter Sunday yet, but that does not mean joy cannot ring as loud as the church bells on Sunday morning.

We are an Easter People! 

We are an Easter People! 

No events of the world can take that Truth away from us. No events of the world can take away Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. No events of the world can put out the light that shines only because of Christ. 

Our Lenten Journey was not what we expected. Our Holy Week strange and unknown. Our Easter lacking in its usual earthly splendor. For me, it was an Easter without the usual beautiful holy moments, yet it still held joy, hope, and beauty. It was an Easter without Hughes Chocolates (oh how I miss you!) and without the great music that fills the church, yet, it was an Easter of hope. I recognized many friends finding new ways to make Easter special this year. We need that! I saw families still dress up and call in family that could not physically be at the table to share a meal. I saw parents find new traditions filled with laughter and fun. I saw families come together in prayer and share with friends how it brought the family closer together. I saw people get creative, prayerful, and seek light in the darkness. This brings us hope. This shows us that Christ’s death and resurrection still live in our hearts with the recognition of the gift and beauty of that act. This brings joy, as it brings color to our strange world. This brings faith as we find new ways to grow in faith when the very strength of that faith is being challenged. 

I invite all of you to continue this journey of faith through the Easter Octave and Season, for it is this time, without a day set aside when we risk losing what we have gained, what we have created. So when the glimmer of Easter starts to fade, remember, “Do not abandon yourself to despair. We are Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” – JPII

I will see you later this week when our regular Dementia Letters posts resume. Thank you for walking this Lenten Journey with me.

Our Holy Week Journey

It is Holy Week. It will look like no other Holy Week we ever expected or wanted to live. Separated from the sacraments, the traditions, the beauty of this time does not mean that we are separated from Christ and the greatness of the events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. We are called during this time to find Christ in ourselves, find ways to live in holiness, in prayer,  in beauty. We are called to seek our own cross, ask God for the strength to carry it, and ask God to take our sufferings and do good with them, offering them up for those in our life who might need our help, or the souls of those whom we have lost, or for the world. Take up your cross and follow the Lord! 

Actions:

Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.

Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.

Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.

Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.

Find a moment of Joy each hour of the day, each morning when you wake up, each week when you would normally be gathered in faith.

Create with the Lord! Create the light we seek. Create room to continue to grow in faith, hope, charity, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Co-Create with God

Rest in the sharing of a meal, the reflections of Christs Passion, and the Waiting for Easter Morning. 

This Week’s Journal Question:

In what ways can I create space for the holiness of this week in my own home?

Prayer:

Lord, take this week and transform it into beautiful holiness, creating in me not a heart of anxiety, but a heart of peace and rejoicing in your great gifts.  Amen. 

Our Lenten Journey-Week Five

For many of us we will not have the Holy Week and Easter we wanted, have come to know or would desire to have. Fellow Christians from around the world mourn with you. In this last week before Holy Week, I cannot help but think how we can be co-creators with God to make these last few days, and next week special, life-giving, and holy.

At the Easter Vigil Mass, we hear of the Creation Story and are reminded that God is the Great Creator. From Him, all life is born. He also created us to create and invites us to co-create with Him to live fully alive the Vocation He set before us. Take time this week to plan how you would like to live the journey through Holy Week and ask God to help you find the spirit of faith, hope, and joy that we have come to love about the traditions of this time. Invite Him into your hearts and minds, into your homes, families, Zoom calls. Co-create something beautiful with God!

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.
Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.
Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.
Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.
Find a moment of Joy each hour of the day, each morning when you wake up, each week when you would normally be gathered in faith.
Create with the Lord! Create the light we seek. Create room to continue to grow in faith, hope, charity, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Co-Create with God

This Week’s Journal Question:
How can I open up my life to co-create with God during this time and throughout my life? What have I created with God in the past?

Prayer:
I invite you, Lord, to come and create with me during this time and always. You are the Great Creator, help me to bring beauty and goodness into my life.

Our Lenten Journey – Week Four (The Great Lent)

These Lenten reflections have been knocked off their original theme and arc, and have shifted in times of need and change. We are living our Lenten journey in ways we could not imagine before this time. The Great Lent. How are we remaining open to the will of God? How are we opening ourselves up to the possibilities of this time?

God has permitted this time to occur. That is clear, so, as a community of people going through this BOTH collectively AND individually, what are we doing to remain open to all that can still happen in these days of distancing, fear, and dark unknowns? It can be easy to fall into the darkness, but we must resist that urge and find the light that never dies. Seek out spiritual friendship. Find a spiritual director. Connect with fellow parishioners. Reach out to me. We are a community of faith, and nothing can destroy that. We can help each other navigate this Great Lent as artists, as creators, as children of God.

During these past two weeks, I have felt that for many of us we have never experienced a time that is fit for the imagination, creativity, the artist quite like this time. Each generation, each year provides new unknowns, darkness, light, challenges, opportunities, closed doors, and invitations. With God as our Creator, the Ultimate Artist, we too were created to be artists and creators. Two weeks ago I put out a call to create and to share in your creation. What have you created during this time that brings the glory of God into the darkness? What have you discovered about your faith, your relationship with God, with others, with yourself during this time? Have you discovered a spiritual friendship in being creative?

Last week we focused on seeking Joy. This week we refocus on creating for and with the Great Creator. We are over halfway through our 2020 Lenten Journey and how are we doing? No matter the world’s curveballs we can still draw closer to Christ, still prepare our hearts for Easter, still pray, give alms, and fast. How are you doing?

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.
Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.
Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.
Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.
Find a moment of Joy each hour of the day, each morning when you wake up, each week when you would normally be gathered in faith.
Create with the Lord! Create the light we seek. Create room to continue to grow in faith, hope, charity, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

This Week’s Journal Question:
How am I opening up myself to create a new with Christ during this time? How am I taking advantage of this Great Lent? What can I do in the remaining two weeks before Easter to embrace the spirit of the season and the joy of what is on the horizon?

Prayer:
Remind us oh Lord that you are the great Creator and that you have made us in your image, to be creators for your glory, your love, your joy. Help us finish these last remaining days of Lent strong in faith, knowing you are a God of great mercy and love.

Our Lenten Journey – Week Three

We are approaching Laetare Sunday, a moment during our Lenten journey when we remember the joy of our identity as an Easter People. It is a day of celebration. This year, for many of us this is the first or second Sunday we are not gathering as a faith community. We are unable to come together and the world feels a little darker, this Sunday a little colder. Because of this, we have an even more beautiful reason to find joy in the darkness.

This pandemic truly has shifted and played with all of our lives, in full ways. It has attempted to destroy the temporal needs and the spiritual needs each one of us has. I have heard stories of children in tears because they don’t know when they will be able to receive the Eucharist next, of families worrying about how the food will arrive on their table with lost work and wages, of feeling like we have been thrust into the unknown with a God who has abandoned us. I want you to know that God is with us, that our identity as His sons and daughters has not diminished or changed. We are marching into the unknown and we this week are called to joy.

Our Joy is beautiful. It will guide us through life’s twists and turns. It will help us cross the threshold of who we are now and who we are becoming, of what the world was into what the world can be. While we are called to sit in our homes we are called to joy. While we work at our jobs to help this country continue to put food on the table, remain safe, get from place to place, and help us in health we are called to Joy. Joy can fight fear in ways only God knows. Joy can be the light that helps a weary health care worker continue. Joy can be the assistants that can lighten the burden of our times. Joy can be what brings us closer to God when our faith practices and traditions are vanishing.

All that I shared last week is still true. God is still with us. Our Lenten journey and hopes are calling us to be flexible and adaptive. We are still called to give alms, to pray, and to fast but we were never called to rigidity or told we were failures if we didn’t keep our Lenten promises just as we have stated on Ash Wednesday. How are you being adaptive on your Lenten Journey?

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.
Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.
Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.
Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.
Find a moment of Joy each hour of the day, each morning when you wake up, each week when you would normally be gathered in faith.

This Week’s Journal Question:
Where did you find joy today? How will you seek it out tomorrow? How will you be joy to one another?

Prayer:
Lord, in this time of dark unknowns, bring rest to the weary, temporal and spiritual assistance to those in need, and joy to each heart and mind. Guide the hands of those who care for us. Guide the minds of those who are leading us. Guide us, oh Lord! For in you, we have no needs, no worries, no burdens. In you we find rest.