Friday, November 30, 2018

Unexpected Blessings

What are you thankful for this year?
It’s a cool autumn day here in New Jersey; the first frost has arrived. It is a time of thanksgiving – for the beauty of the change of seasons here in the Northeastern section of the U.S. – and a good time to reflect on our blessings. God closed some doors in my life this year but then opened new ones with “unexpected blessings.” I would like to share some of them with you.

Ash Wednesday started with a difficult visit to a nursing home to see a friend in the final stages of cancer. “Beth” had two other women visitors. We introduced ourselves and made small conversation. Coincidentally (a God-incident for sure), we all visited “Beth” at the same time the next day. I was again immediately drawn to the loving way they attended to our friend – feeding her ice chips and gently talking to her while lovingly holding her hand. As we all left together, I commented to them about how blessed “Beth” was to have such good friends. They told me they were part of a women’s club and invited me to attend a meeting. Truth be told, that was not on my bucket list! I had no time for more meetings, volunteer work, etc.

Unexpected Blessings [2]
Sadly, “Beth” passed that evening. Fast forward two months. I attended a meeting of that women's club, met the other women, and quickly realized that they really cared for each other and their neighbor. I am now an official member of the club. We just never know when God is going to place surprises in our lives, sometimes when we least expect it. What started as an encounter of three strangers with teardrops in our eyes turned into an “unexpected blessing” for me.

Our Church teaches us to perform corporal works of mercy – acts to help others who are less fortunate. This small group of faith-filled women is involved in amazing projects close to my heart. They are helping me to practice works of mercy while having fun at the same time – packaging and donating food for a homeless shelter; providing and serving meals at a local church that houses the homeless; volunteering at a safe house for abused women and children; playing Bingo at a local men’s shelter, etc.

"Ask and it will be given to you." [3]
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find…(Matthew 7:7)." For months I had been praying and asking God for help in starting a prayer group. My prayer was answered more excellently than expected. One of the women from the club invited me to join her weekly Prayer Group/Bible Study. Sharing and praying with these women has already given my faith a boost. Through their encouragement, I will be going on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land early next year!

These women also meet monthly for Book Club and discuss a pre-selected book. As a book addict, I find this a perfect fit. Through these discussions, we share our lives, personal and spiritual: good therapy for the soul!

Sharing a few words from the Women’s Club Collect -- wonderful words to live by:
Let us take time for all things; to grow calm, serene, gentle.
Lord, grant that we may realize it is the little things that create differences; that in the big things of life we are at one.

And may we strive to touch and to know the great common human heart of us all. 

And, oh Lord God, let us forget not to be kind.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the unexpected blessing of visiting and staying with the Daughters of St. Paul and postulants in St. Louis. The simple joys of praying, sharing meals, friendly conversation, helping in the book center,  and even playing a game with them left me with a peaceful spirit that is still with me today.

I also had the opportunity this year of personally meeting cooperators in formation from Virginia and Missouri. Meeting these faith-filled people and other cooperators from other parts of the US was definitely a blessing.

Another one of my involvements is writing and editing for this blog – something I would have never imagined, but it is a blessing! Again, we never know where God is going to lead us.

Above all, thank you, Blessed James Alberione, founder of our Pauline Family whose feast we celebrated on November 26, for including lay cooperators in the Family. 

Celebrating the feast of Thanksgiving has taken on a new definition for me this year. THANKSGIVING – a time to pause and be thankful for so many blessings and for the opportunity to “give back.”

My life, like that of most people, is filled with its share of trials, but it is also so filled with blessings. In Philippians  2:17-18, St. Paul tells us:  “I rejoice and share my joy with all of you.  In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.” What are you thankful for this year? Let’s share all of our blessings and our joys!

[1] Thanksgiving with deployed family by Senior Airman Felicia Juenke This image is a work of a U.S. Air Force Airman or employee, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain in the United States.
[2] Consecration of Renewed Cross in Kétvölgy by Doncsecz.Licensed by photographer under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
[3] Balinese Teenagers at Prayer by Eka Suryawan. Licensed by photographer under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license..
Maryann Toth has been a Pauline Cooperator since 2008.  She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Richard, is the mother of two daughters, blessed with four grandchildren and semi-retired as a Credit/AR Manager.  She serves as a Eucharistic Minister and lector at her parish and volunteers at a local Catholic hospital.  Helping at book exhibits and JClub presentations are her favorite activities as a Cooperator.  She currently serves as a Lay Provincial Team Member with the Daughters of St. Paul.


Christine Dufresne said...

Hello Maryann, thank you for your beautiful post.

Suzanne Gorman said...

Maryann, you are a gifted writer! I look forward to your insightful and educational blogs. Especially enjoyed the beautiful story of the circumstances under which you met and connected with Beth’s friends, and your ongoing plans as a group. There are no CO-incidences, only GOD-incidences. Thanks for reminding me about the power of simple kindness as I prepare to retire and am sometimes frazzled. Keep your blogs coming and thanks again for sharing God’s word.