April 3, 2009

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

As Lent wanes, continue to ‘offer up’ experiences

Shirley Vogler MeisterEven though Lent is winding down, for some of us it’s not easy to see the “Resurrection light at the end of the tunnel” from this vantage point.

Sometimes we’re just plain tired of the rules. When I begin feeling like a clock with minutes ticking in slow motion, I try to allow myself to “go with the flow” and “offer up” my malaise or weakness just as I do when “offering up” pain.

“Offer it up” was like a mantra when I was in grade school and high school. I learned well from the Sisters of Christian Charity and the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

When attending college while our three daughters were still in school themselves, “offer it up” came to mind whenever I felt stymied while studying or writing papers—and when working to pay for college expenses.

However, my family always came first. In fact, despite “wearing many hats” in Indianapolis, I even planned a surprise birthday party for my husband’s mother.

This wasn’t easy because she lived in Illinois at that point, as did my mother. I especially remember one time while sitting in (rare) silence one day, feeling overwhelmed with the tasks that I juggled every day. I even found it difficult to pray. Then an inner voice quietly said, “Offer it up, Shirley. Offer it up.”

From that moment on, I felt spiritually whole and happy, despite my daily life continuing to be challenging. Soon there would be more challenges as both of our mothers’ health seriously waned. I continued to “offer it up.”

Lent this year has been a special time of reflection about lessons learned, but Lent also brings bright hope for the future.

Serious challenges popped up all through Lent this year, but with God’s grace I’m handling them, hopefully well. More and more, I see the blessings that come forth from offering up difficulties that come along.

Near the beginning of Lent, my husband, Paul, and I joined other couples for our annual winter hike and picnic at an Indiana state park. Because of heavy rain, our usual trek on trails turned into a walk with umbrellas on paved roads. We had such a good time.

“Offer it up” came to mind when rain pelted us. Later, an open-sided shelter with a huge stone fireplace provided a wonderful eating place. Each couple brought food to share, and we thanked God for blessings.

Offering up both the good and the less than good can be done any time and anywhere, whether the experience being offered is painful or wonderful. Offering up even one’s delight in a day’s sunshine or the sound of birds singing—anything that makes us happy—is as important as offering up what’s difficult or painful.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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