Mercy at Trader Joe’s

A friend of mine told me about a prayer request for someone dear to her who was hospitalized with pneumonia in both lungs. Over three weeks his condition deteriorated and finally, he passed away. She had prayed for his healing but it wasn’t to be.

In her words, here’s what happened next.

A mutual friend asked me to bring food to the reception after the memorial service. I offered to take my “go to Blondies.” Trader Joe’s mix in a box, perfect every time, easy peasy! So a few days before the memorial service I head out to TJ’s. Three boxes of brownie mix and the required butter were all I needed.

As I was checking out, the cashier asked if I could bring one back for her. I laughed and said, “Sure.” But then I thought better of my response. I told her that these were headed to a funeral. There probably wouldn’t be any left.

I looked the young lady in the eye and said, “Covid.”

She responded and said, “Covid is for real.”

I said, “God bless you, honey.” I walked outside toward my car.

Suddenly I felt someone coming toward me from behind. I turned and looked. There was the young cashier thrusting a bouquet of flowers toward me. She held them out and said, “I am sorry for your loss!” I thanked her. When I got in my car, I wept. And sobbed. And sobbed some more.

This last year and a half have been filled with loss. People, friends who vehemently disagree about how we can live together, trust, celebrating, time, safety….the list is endless. But in the midst of all of this loss, along comes a stranger, who heard my pain and offered consolation. And touched my weary heart, by telling the truth and caring.

And, I began to heal from a very rough season.

Hi all, this is such a beautiful simple mercy. Funny how a chance encounter at the grocery store can help begin to heal someone else’s grief but that’s the power of mercy. I love that the mercy came from a stranger too – just another reminder to all of us that we belong to each other.

Speaking of which, here is a link to a podcast “Quote Me with Lindsay Schlegel,” where I talk about my favorite quote. It’s by anthropologist Margaret Mead. “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I would only add that it’s done through love and mercy.

If you have not already purchased a copy of Simple Mercies, please go to bit.ly/larabooks or Amazon. We can be that small group of committed citizens who change the world. ~ Love, Lara

Mercy and Miracle-Gro

Hi all,

As I write this it is the end of a long holiday weekend where I didn’t boat or beach or do anything that would require an Instagram post (unless laying around with a needy cat on your chest qualifies). I did rest a lot, and I badly needed rest and quiet and time to reflect.

I also repotted some indoor plants which made me think about how uncomfortable life can be when we are still in circumstances we’ve outgrown. It also made me think about the last time I suggested buying potting soil to my husband he said we didn’t need any and how in the middle of trying to rescue a plant for the trappings of a life it has outgrown I ran out of potting soil. My husband doesn’t always understand the urgency of such things but he reassured me that it would be okay because he was going to “make me dirt.” So, now my rescued plant is in a roomy pot with a mixture of dry leeched soil found from stacks of old planters found in the garage and some sandy mess he dug straight out of our dehydrated backyard.

I added Miracle-Gro, and I figured it’s kind of like life. We make the best of what we have and know that when we add Jesus to it, it will somehow grow.

Also, I have been recording podcasts and interviews and wanted to share this interview about Simple Mercies with you. I am also attaching the link to this article which is a review of Simple Mercies but also shares some of the tips I have from the back of each chapter on how to do each of these works of mercy.

I hope you enjoyed this Memorial Day weekend and special love and prayers to everyone who has served our country. When I think of the beautiful freedom they ensure, I don’t think of simple mercies I think only of sacrifice. God Bless. ~ Love, Lara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Launch: Simple Mercies

There was an amazing article in The Florida Times-Union this past Sunday about the year I spent doing works of mercy. Please check it out: https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/local/2021/05/21/turning-40-led-jacksonville-woman-year-service-writing-book/5091085001/t

The author did such an amazing job capturing the intention of the year and of the book, Simple Mercies

I spoke at my home parish this past Saturday and celebrated with a book launch reception afterward. It was one of those magic nights that made all of the hard days seem so far away. If a picture captures 1,000 words, then surely these capture the joy, gratitude, and love that made my heart simply happy!

 

 

Praying Is a Work of Mercy

Guest post by: Barb Szyszkiewicz

Intercessory prayer is my superpower. I’m not the mystical type, but give me something concrete to do and I’m all set. Is it odd to think of prayer as “something concrete to do”? Not for me. If you’re in a crisis and you don’t live near here, I’ll pray for you. If you live close by, I’ll bring you a dinner – and I’ll pray for you while I shop for the ingredients, prepare the food, and deliver the meal.

During a crisis, many people find that they have a hard time praying. They know they need the prayers, but they feel like God is far away or not listening – or maybe they haven’t connected with God in a while. When someone comes to you and asks for prayer, that is an act of great trust both in you and in God. This is a work of mercy that costs you very little but means so very much to others. By praying for someone in need, you are shouldering their burden right along with them.

Pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. (James 5:16)

Whether someone asks you, straight out, to pray for them, or you know they’re going through something and in need of your prayers, make sure to pray. Part of the mercy of praying for others is that they know you can be counted on to actually do the praying.

You don’t have to use fancy words or come up with something original every time. I don’t! I simply use some of the prayers the Church has already offered. A Hail Mary, Glory Be, or Memorare will work just fine.

Follow these three steps to make this work of mercy work for you:

Pray right away. You don’t have to pray out loud (maybe that’s not your superpower – it’s definitely not mine). But don’t wait. Pray right away. Read more

Simple Mercy: Comforting the Sorrowful

A picture may be worth 1,000 words but the picture this story paints just needs one – love.

It’s about Susanna and her neighbor, Mrs. Honeycutt. Susanna noticed Mrs. Honeycutt’s “angel sparkle” the first time they met. “She was open to listening and connecting, and I was warmed and magnetized by it. I’d lost my mother in my 20s so this kind of motherly attention from a slightly more “experienced” mama-gal made my heart swell…she filled a void just by offering me her presence.”

Unfortunately, in January, Susanna lost her dad unexpectedly. “Dad’s death made me feel pushed into a soggy, rudder-less boat adrift to the stupid, yuck-no-thank-you island of Parentless People. Losing Mom was one horrible thing, but when Dad died, I lost my bearings.”

With her brother and her husband, Susanna traveled to Mississippi to empty her Dad’s house: “a stunning Federal-style estate built in 1860 and filled with fineries, antiques and everything I did not want or wish to organize. To make it seem more glamorous or at least a notch up from the despair I was feeling over the process, I posted photos of Dad’s lovely interior décor online. It was a nice release to send some of Dad’s life vision out there into the world. It kept something of him alive. My compass recalibrated just a teeny, little bit.

About a week after we returned, a package arrived on my doorstep with a note on it that read, “You, me, Chardonnay on the deck?” I am always down for an invitation to slurp the chard – especially when it’s Mrs. Honeycutt doing the asking! But the package contents took the cake. That gal downloaded all those beautiful photos I’d taken of Dad’s house and made a beautiful little picture book out of them! A keepsake forever!

Read more

Guest Post: Mercy in Motherhood

Guest post today by Lindsay Schlegel

I grew up watching Full House, and hearing Uncle Jesse say “Have mercy!” in every episode. It was a line that always got a laugh, even though I didn’t know why. As a child, I didn’t have a real understanding of what “mercy” meant, either in the Tanner home or in the context of my faith. I might have said it was being kind or letting things that upset you go.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and I now find myself as a mother of five children, from infant to tween. It’s a gift and a blessing, but it’s also a stage of life that requires a new definition of mercy: kindness and resilience, yes, but also peace, humility, joy, and a generous openness to developing an intimate understanding of the other person.

Every day, I’m trying to teach my children to be gentle and charitable, to have mercy with one another. And at the same time, I’m discovering how necessary—and how freeing—it is to have mercy with myself, after the Lord’s example.

I want to parent my children well. I want to serve God joyfully. I want to be a good wife. I want to create something that glorifies God when I write, edit, and record episodes of my podcast. But I’m a fallen creature. I struggle with pride, impatience, and frustration. I am limited by the finite amount of energy I have and the static number of hours in a day.

In a word, I can’t do it all on my own.

Of course, God doesn’t expect me to live my vocation and my calling on my own. He wants to help me. He intends to be by my side. And He also allows me the choice of whether or not to let Him in.

He invites me to a relationship with Him in the sacramental graces in marriage and baptism (both my own and those of my children). He opens Himself to me in forgiving my sins in confession. He offers true communion in the Mass. Read more

Mercy: Football and Flowers

Over the past few weeks, I have been highlighting what I call simple mercies — small things we can do for each other that help us get through a difficult time. The one I want to share today is from my neighbor whose husband recently passed away unexpectedly.  They were a beautiful couple and had been through so much together.

One of the things they enjoyed doing was attending Jacksonville Jaguar football games together. So, I’m sure it was difficult for Bonnie to get a call from the Jaguars asking if she would be buying tickets for the upcoming season. She explained that she wouldn’t be renewing their tickets because her husband passed away. I imagine when someone close to you dies you have to have a lot of conversations explaining how life will be different now.

But, I didn’t imagine it going any further than that. Neither did Bonnie.  Still, a few days later, flowers showed up at her door expressing condolences. They were from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

When I began this series, I really wanted to show the people to people connection. It wasn’t about business or even non-profits but just people serving. And yet, this act of kindness reminds me that businesses are not just entities but groups of individuals who can make a difference through the positions they hold. I don’t know who the individual or group of individuals were who decided to send my sweet neighbor flowers but I would want them to know that they could not have sent them to a nicer person. And, even if it only gave her a moment of sweet relief, she is worth that effort.

What I love most about mercy, about stories like these, is that we know they don’t end with the act of kindness. Instead, they are like waves of cheering fans: rising, spreading, and lingering long after all has gone quiet. Football or not, that’s got to be the best kind of win.

Hi, friends ~ This past Sunday marked a year since I experienced a spontaneous carotid artery dissection in my neck. I often say I was the stereotype of the “healthy person who drops dead.” Only by God’s mercy and the prayers of so many dear people like you, I didn’t die.

These kinds of anniversaries are strange – filled with gratitude, anxiety, and emotion. Sometimes I wish that our hearts healed as completely as our bodies do from injury but it seems like these kinds of traumas sometimes take a little longer.  But they also remind us how much acts of mercy can mean to others.  So for all of you who have gotten me through the last year, who sent up so much as a single prayer, know that I am grateful.  And, I’m more determined than ever to share the mercy you showed me with others. Likewise, I hope you are inspired to keep sharing your compassion with others, I promise it makes all the difference. ~ Love, Lara

If you are interested in reading about how acts of kindness can bring peace, my book, Simple Mercies is available for pre-order now at bit.ly/larabooks or https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Mercies-Works-Mercy-Fulfillment/dp/1681924536/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3F4TVB0MQ94V6&dchild=1&keywords=simple+mercies&qid=1619481953&sprefix=simple+merci%2Caps%2C163&sr=8-2

Simple Mercy: Keeping Children Safe

Nancy Sebastian has spent much of her life working to keep children safe. This is how Nancy does mercy:

“Sharing what we know about personal safety with the children we love is an act of mercy that can save a life. It’s as easy as teaching a child to cross the street. Children who recognize red flags and know circumstances to avoid will be safer. The same is true for teens. In addition, teens dealing with depression and anxiety are now at an all-time high. Showing concern and kindness can make a huge difference to them.

Everyone wants to know they matter.

I feel very blessed throughout my life to have been able to empower children and teens to protect themselves and their peers from harm and live safer, happier lives. As a mother, teacher, school counselor, and now Executive Director of the KinderVision Foundation for the past 27 years, my journey has been one of amazing grace and awesome miracles, both personally and professionally, with the well-being of young people always a priority.

KinderVision began in 1991 as the result of the abduction and murder of a 7-year-old little girl. Her case remains unsolved. We wanted to prevent future tragedies so we created a video with personal safety tips for young children in English and Spanish narrated by an 8-year-old little girl and a police officer. We personalized our safety video by recording the child on the end to encourage viewing. Hundreds of thousands of children have benefited from that program. It is now digital and the safety tips can be found at www.KVKids.org.

Ten years ago law enforcement asked us to create a program for teens, the age group most at risk for victimization. The Greatest Save Teen PSA (Public Service Announcement) Program was our response. In this peer-to-peer personal safety program, teens choose any topic on teen victimization, research it, and create a 30-second video message for their peers. The messages are then organized by topics and used by schools across the country to raise awareness, engage students in discussions about personal safety, and end teen victimization. Read more

Simple Mercies: Teaching the Faith

Growing up, Wendy Nelms wanted to be a reporter and travel the world. Instead, she answered a greater call as a beloved teacher sharing the word of God.  She has been at Assumption Catholic School most of her life — first as a student and now as a teacher.

We know teachers practice mercy in countless ways, but here is how Wendy does mercy:

“I am thankful to say that my life as a teacher is one of my greatest blessings. In my time at Assumption, I have had many different roles but my favorite is being the 7th and 8th-grade religion teacher. I am inspired and amazed at the insight and faith of the students I teach and truly love coming to work every day.

Being with teenagers and listening to them share their faith gives me true hope for the future of our church. While being the religion teacher, I have had the amazing opportunity of taking groups of students to serve at Catholic Charities and attend the Steubenville youth conferences. Watching students see the reality of what is taught in the classroom is one of my greatest blessings.

My job is to take their hands and lead them to Christ and then let go. That is the hardest part for me-letting go. Once they walk through my classroom, they know they are always a part of me. There is nothing better than watching someone become who God created them to be!”

Note from me: The spiritual work of mercy, to instruct the uninformed, is about sharing our faith with others. Wendy taught my son and she has an incredible gift for ministry. But all of us have something we can teach others – even if it’s only through simple acts of love.

One of the reasons I wrote my new book, Simple Mercies, is because oftentimes we fail to recognize the way small acts of kindness can make a difference. For the next few weeks, I’m highlighting simple ways that others are sharing mercy as an organic part of their daily life. If you or someone you know would like to participate in this series, please email me at lara@mercymatters.net to share your own story of mercy. If you would like to learn more about the ways that mercy can bring peace and fulfillment to your life while answering God’s call to serve, preorder Simple Mercies, at this Amazon link or San Marco book store http://Bit.ly/larabooks ~ love, Lara

Happy Easter and Happy News!

Sweet friends,

Today we rejoice! And, after the last year we had, that is such happy news. Jesus has risen. 

The gift of Easter, beyond the white lilies and choruses of jubilant Alleluias, outside the pastel dresses and the wide-brimmed hats, sweeter than the chocolate in wicker baskets or the smiles of delight they invoke, is the resurrection of the Son of God which makes our rising possible. It takes the black ash of our suffering, grief, and sorrow and wipes it clean.

And, while it often seems like our newspapers are filled with dread, I have an Op-ed in the Florida Times-Union that is filled with Jesus! Please check it out. And, if you don’t have time because you are busy rejoicing with your dear families, I can sum it up in one word — alleluia!

https://www.jacksonville.com/story/opinion/2021/04/04/guest-column-easter-reminder-life-rises-ashes/4838311001/

Love~ Lara