Tag Archives: Love

A Life on Fire

A Life on Fire

While at a stop sign last week listening to pop music (don’t judge), these lyrics pushed their way into my scattered thoughts, “Toniiiiight we are yoooooung, so lets set the world on fire, we can burn brighter, than the suuuun.”

I gave a half snort/half chuckle as I mused that the singer and I probably have very different ideas of what it means to set the world on fire.  Then I realized, perhaps my notion of what it means to be on fire in the world is just as mistaken, or at least incomplete.

When I chose the name Half Kindled, I was filled with the idea that a life on fire was a life full of unquenchable passion.  That a fully kindled life would be one of dynamic, contagious, life changing love; a love that would constantly push out into the world at large where it would transform all whom it encountered.

I still think this is true.  I am just realizing that there is more to a life on fire than this outgoing version of love.  There are also times when this all consuming love looks different.

Many times it looks like suffering.  Long hours of silent, lonely, suffering.  A suffering that reaches down into the core of all that you are and burns away all that does not belong.  And it hurts so much.

Perhaps it is the pain of the hole left behind when the Divine Physician attempts to remove the little selfish attachments that have infected your heart.

Or perhaps it is the pain of having your heart pierced with sorrow as you struggle with the pain caused by physical evils such as sickness or death, or moral evils caused by sin.  And your heart breaks open and burns.

It is in those moments, that your heart can most resemble that of Christ: pierced and aflame with love.

A life on fire is not just for those who are living their passion out in the world; it is also for those who are suffering with great love.  Perhaps few are called to the former, but anyone can participate in the latter.

Some fires have great effect by radiating a penetrating heat.  Others are the still, small flame that shines out in the darkest of nights, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

A Life on Fire

©tacluda /rgbstock.com

Mother's Day

The Gift You Might Need This Mother’s Day: Permission to Grieve

Mother's DayI love the idea of Mother’s Day: families taking time to honor those special women who have given so much of themselves. My own mother did so much for my siblings and I, that celebrating her generous love for only one day seems inadequate.

For many people, mother’s day can serve as a painful reminder of loss. Perhaps some will be mourning the passing of their mother or grandmother for the first (or even twentieth) time. In other cases, the day serves as a reminder of the child unable to join the celebration through death or separation. Some struggle as they mark another year childless. Maybe, most painfully of all, the day harbors the regret of motherhood lost through abortion, or childhood lost to abuse or neglect.

It is at these times when presence and love are most anticipated and desired, that their absence is most keenly felt.

This mother’s day, perhaps the most important gift you can give yourself or a loved one is permission to grieve. No one wants to feel sad, especially on a day when happiness is expected, but feigned happiness is not very helpful in the long term.

In order to deal with emotions properly you have to give yourself permission to recognize them, and accept that they are there for a time. It is so important not to shame yourself for what you are feeling. Telling yourself, “I shouldn’t feel this way” does nothing to resolve the situation and only adds the burden of guilt. Find healthy ways to express these emotions, perhaps through writing a letter, creating a work of art, or talking with a loved one.

Although I am blessed that my mother is still living, my husband is not so fortunate. Mother’s Day has become one of the most difficult days of the year for him. A day when he needs to take time to grieve.

I have to confess in years past, I was not very supportive of this. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t choose to focus on celebrating me as mother of our growing family and his grandmothers, both of whom are still living.

Frankly, I was being selfish. He shows me in so many ways throughout the year how much he admires and respects all that I do as mother to our children – I was not in any way suffering from a lack of appreciation. I needed to recognize that he was unable to celebrate in the way that I expected and that he needed space to grieve. He needed me to take a step back and truly listen to what he was saying and give him the space to process all that he was feeling. Sometimes it is so difficult to show true compassion.

Broken down into its roots, compassion literally means “to suffer with” someone. Often we focus on doing whatever we can to try to make a person feel better, when in fact what they really need is someone to suffer with them. Suffering alongside someone reveals great love and can foster deepened intimacy.

One of the few good things about grief is that it is a sign of love. No one mourns what they are indifferent about.

I hope that tomorrow is a day of joy and celebration for you and your loved ones. But if it is not, I hope that you are able to mark the day in a way that is full of peace and connection with the loved ones around you. Take time to enter into the day according to whatever season of life you are in. Allow yourself and other’s to be fully present in whatever commemoration the current stage of life requires, even when that is out of step with others. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:4, there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

This Mother’s day, I pray that any sorrow you may experience can give way soon to a time of profound joy.

P.S. Here are a few links to ideas that have been bouncing around in the back of my head, while writing this post:


Letter to Ana 3.0

Dear Anastasia: A Letter to My Daughter on 50 Shades of Grey

Letter to Ana 3.0

I have a custom of writing letters to my children when they are young.  In general, these letters are very personal and a gift that is only shared with the recipient.  Due to the alarming popularity of the “50 Shades of Grey” book and upcoming movie, I decided to make an exception in the case of this letter.  Please note that I have not read the book, nor do I ever intend to.  My understanding of it is derived from a fairly brief summary, and that degree of detail has proved more than sufficient for me.     

My Dearest Anastasia,

Hello, my daughter.  Right now you are just a baby sleeping on your father’s lap, totally at peace in his arms.  Someday, though, you might be in another man’s arms and I wanted to pass on a few suggestions for how to find someone worthy of that honor.

You see, there is a book that is quite popular right now.  I won’t bother to name it since I am sure that by the time you read this it will have long been forgotten.  This book tells the story of a young woman’s sexual relationship with a sadistic man.  Normally, I don’t give such filth a second thought, but while reading a critique of the book, I learned the young woman’s name: Anastasia.

Then the book changed.  Instead of seeing it as just another smutty story, it became personal.  It began to represent a future that I hope you will never have to experience.  It led me to think of some things to suggest for you to avoid in future relationships, as well as qualities to look for in a potential husband.

First, if a man tries to control you or coerce you into being the perfect partner for him, run away from that relationship and don’t look back.  Love isn’t about controlling another person in order to maximize your own satisfaction.  It is about giving generously of yourself, and in so doing becoming who you were meant to be.  Love doesn’t force another person to conform to his or her own standards of perfection, but rather provides gentle guidance in trying to become more like Christ.

Another thing to beware of is a man who refers to virginity (either his or yours) as something to be taken or lost.  Virginity is a gift of oneself to another.  If any man talks of taking it or asks you to “lose” it to him, he does not understand the value of the gift you have to offer and is not properly disposed to receive it.

From what I understand in the aforementioned book, the main male character requires Anastasia to sign a non-disclosure agreement so that his various sexual exploits will be kept confidential.  I presume he thinks that this will provide him with the means to engage in a more “liberating” sexual encounter.

It should come as no surprise to you that your father and I have entered into a formal agreement of a sexual nature.  Ours goes something like this: “I take you to be my lawfully wedded spouse, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”  It is only in this type of an agreement that one can experience the true freedom that comes from giving oneself to another completely and unreservedly for life.

The reason that the male character desires Anastasia to sign the non-disclosure agreement is because he is a sadist.  He derives pleasure from causing her pain.  My daughter, I hope and pray that you will never find yourself in a relationship with such a man.  No matter how convincingly he may profess to love you, it is a lie.

Love never finds pleasure from inflicting harm on the beloved.  There can be no true union of persons when one is using the other as an object to satisfy their lust.

Some proponents of such a lifestyle argue that the pleasure doesn’t come from the inflicting of pain, but from the trust that the victim places in the aggressor not to permanently injure or kill them.  At this point words fail me.  Hoping that the man who is abusing you for his own pleasure won’t kill you hardly seems like trust to me.  Rather, true trust is pledging your life and your heart to another, come what may.

Finally, my daughter, please know that no matter what choices or mistakes you may make, I will always love you.

Nothing you can do or say could ever change my love for you.  If you ever want to talk about anything or need a safe place to run to, I will always be here for you.  Your father and I love you more than life itself, we would gladly die to save you.

As much as we love you, there is one who loves you even more.  He has already died to save you.

Should you ever fall, run back into His arms in the Sacrament of Confession.  It is there that He will hold you close to His pierced heart in the most loving of embraces.  If you ever need a model of true, selfless love, look to Him my daughter.

In Him I Remain,

Your Devoted Mother

Do you ever write letters to your children?  What are some pieces of advice that you want to impart to them on the expression of love in a relationship?  What are your thoughts on the “50 Shades of Grey” saga?  

Due to the nature of the post, I ask that all comments be kept discrete and charitable.  Thanks!

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Comparison Post with Text

In the Comparison Game No One Leaves a Winner

“The invitations you sent out for Sammy’s birthday were so cute,” a friend complimented at a recent play date.  “It is so sweet that you are doing a themed party.  It makes me think that we should put more effort into our children’s birthday parties.  They are so inadequate.”

“Um . . . thank you.” I stammered.  “I wasn’t originally planning on doing a theme, but Sammy asked me and wanted to be very involved in the planning.  It entertained him and kept him out of trouble when we designed the invitations together.  I totally wouldn’t have done it if he wasn’t so interested.  And you are selling yourself short!  We all have a lot of fun at the birthday parties you host.  There is nothing superior about having a themed party, especially if it drives you crazy in the process!”

This type of conversation has recurred a few more times in recent weeks with different friends and over different topics.  One friend pondered whether home made Halloween costumes were superior to store bought. Another claimed she was “unmotivated” for not working on organizing her sewing and crafting supplies and fixing up her house (while pregnant).

Throughout each conversation I was puzzled as to why they were judging themselves so harshly.

Don’t they know???  Don’t they know that I compare myself with them and find that I come up lacking?  One friend is in great shape, another incredibly intelligent (and an AMAZING cook), a third is an engaging teacher, who really invests herself in her students.  There are so many things that they are doing better than me.

Don’t they see how talented they are?

In the comparison game everyone eventually leaves a looser, distracted from using all of their unique talents and qualities.

Comparison Post with Text

No one has the time or capacity to be good at everything, no matter how it might appear on the outside or from one’s carefully controlled internet presence.  Time spent on one thing is time not spent on another.   We need to invest our time wisely and prioritize it on the things that play to our strengths.

So, please my friends (both in real life, or online), please don’t spend your energy regretting all of the things that you aren’t doing (or aren’t doing as well as someone else), and instead reflect on your gifts and use them in all the ways that only you can.  If you enjoy planning themed birthday parties with your kids, or sewing them costumes, that’s great.  If you don’t enjoy doing these things, then that is awesome too, and nothing to be ashamed about.

You are an amazing unrepeatable individual.  You have a combination of talents, dreams and passions that has not been seen previously in history.  You have been put on this earth for a purpose and have a mission no one else can accomplish.  Please don’t spend your time comparing yourself to others.

You are capable of doing great things.  You are doing great things.  Even if it is something as simple as selflessly giving to your loved ones day in and day out or as small as keeping your cool when the toddler has drawn on the wall with a permanent marker.  Especially then.

The most important part of “greatness” is loving without counting the cost.

And that my friends is something I see you doing incomparably well.


Graveyard with text

To Suffer Slings and Arrows: Finding Meaning in Death and Suffering


Taken by my husband on a visit to the cemetery on All Souls Day.

Recently I posted this article written by a college classmate on my Facebook page.  Later that day, a friend asked me to contrast that article to this one (be warned, the article contains vivid descriptions of what it is like to die a lingering, suffering filled death).  This post is born of thoughts I had after reading both.  

Because of the intense suffering and break down of the body that occurs with death, some call it ugly.  To the atheist, the suffering that accompanies the final days of one’s life could be described as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” If pain is devoid of all meaning and purpose, than the most reasonable thing in the world is to “take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them.”

When faced with excruciating, seemingly pointless suffering, some individuals consider suicide a an appropriate response to such a fate, perceived worse than death itself.  As holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, a man well acquainted with suicide from his time in a concentration camp, wrote: “Life is not made unbearable by circumstances, but by a lack of meaning and purpose.”

Advocates of suicide and euthanasia make the bold proclamation that the sufferings preceding death (or even those throughout life) are devoid of meaning, not worth enduring. or simply unbearable.  As a result, they promote suicide as a means of escaping suffering out of despair or fear.

For death to become bearable, one must first find meaning in suffering; this meaning can be seen from both natural and supernatural perspectives.

Every time that I have been a part of someone’s final days, I have been struck by suffering and deaths’ ability to transform, to drive change by forcing one to confront their own mortality. The person grapples with understanding what it means to have the span of their days on this earth numbered, perhaps imminently.

Death dispels the illusion of being in control. The one who suffers through it watches his very body turn on him.  He faces an experience he can try to fight, but cannot escape.  As Viktor Frankl noted, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”  Death, then, offers the ultimate challenge, one that can compel us to change ourselves for better or for worse.

I have seen death bring about great increases in humility, love, forgiveness, and patient endurance.  I have seen it provide a chance for loved ones to express their affection through gentle service and keeping vigil at the bedside, and for the dying to humbly receive that love.  Often it takes the form of holding the dying person’s hand and whispering “I love you” countless times as you suffer together.

Facing the permanence of death has a way of reminding one of what his true priorities are.  The noisy distractions of life fade away and relationships have an opportunity to come to the forefront.  Love may intensify and be purified from selfishness and vain attachments.

Suicide robs the dying and their loved ones of the opportunity to share this deepening of love, the fullness of which can only be realized through the unique process of natural death.  In a sense, our lives are not simply our own; they belong to others.  We cannot be truly happy in this life except by giving of ourselves to others.  Our ties in the human family are closer and more profound than we often realize; each life touches so many others.  When someone deliberately chooses to terminate his own life, he tears a gaping hole in the fabric of his community. Whether intentional or not, committing suicide communicates to others that escaping one’s own suffering takes priority over the time and love that could have been shared otherwise within the natural death process, however painful as it may be for all involved.

The most significant relationship one facing death may no longer ignore is a relationship with God.  Death prompts one to take a final stand and decide what type of relationship they want to have toward God: one of love, apathy, or defiance.

For those who choose to draw closer to God, suffering holds an even greater purpose.  They are in the unique position of being a visible sign of Christ crucified to the world. “Always bearing about in [their] body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in [their] bodies” (2 Cor 4:10). In their pain and trials, the Christian shares in “the fellowship of his sufferings” (Philipians 3:10).  Love is proven, not in the heights of ecstasy, but in the crucible of suffering. Love “bears it out even to the edge of doom.” (Shakespeare, Sonnet 116)

With their bodily sufferings, the dying can fill “up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24). This is not to say that there is anything insufficient about Christ’s suffering and death on the cross, rather that, in His love, Christ has given us a means of applying the merits of His suffering and death to our own soul and the souls of others.  Accepting the sufferings one is presented, is a powerful way of taking up the cross and following in the footsteps of the savior.

Looking back on my own life and reflecting on my sufferings, I see that the moments of greatest pain and sorrow were not pointless.  These heartaches ignited the fire of passions, previously unknown, and increased my capacity to love others.  They prepared me for gifts I had not previously been disposed to receive.

Perhaps then the sufferings which precede death are merely preparation for receiving the greatest gift God has to offer: eternal life.   A life where every tear shall be wiped from our eyes, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”  (1Cor 13:12).


Do you see meaning in death and suffering?  Are there reasons that you find suffering meaningful (or not) that you care to share?   
P.S. Prolonging death unnecessarily will be addressed separately in another article.
I have aspirations of also writing on the idea of what constitutes a meaningful quality of life, but I am a slow writer, it will probably be quite a while.

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