Thankful For The Invitations In My Life

By Tommy L.

Over the past few months, I have been glued to news programs (when not watching non-scripted programs and “Friends” repeats), watching the images of the “War Against Terror.” I have felt tremendously uneasy with the events of the world for some time. Although I am concerned about what is and could be happening in the U.S., I’ve been very concerned about the devastation going on in Iraq. Images of destroyed neighborhoods, broken families and chants of hatred are disturbing. I try to focus on the good that I hope will come from this war regarding freedom. These thoughts help me appreciate my freedoms and opportunities, both simple and remarkable. I receive many opportunities, many ‘invitations,’ everyday in my life that I take for granted when I should be thankful. These invitations help me in my spiritual journey and make me a better person. Even when it’s beyond my control, I need to accept things for how they are supposed to be and to be thankful for them.

I had the pleasure and honor of leading the Triduum Retreat at St. Paul’s Center a few weeks ago. The experience was fun and spiritual for me because I was able to share my faith as well as learn about other people’s lives. This strengthened my Lenten experience tremendously – it was peaceful and prayerful. I felt blessed for the opportunity and realized that not everyone in the world is able to participate in an experience like this. There were times when I felt pressured with the planning and the time commitment involved. I felt disappointed about the lack of response from all the people I reached out to about the retreat personally. But the retreat turned out exactly the way it was supposed to turn out. The people who attended were the people who were supposed to attend. The retreat unfolded exactly the way it was supposed to unfold. I appreciate the time we had together and their acceptance of the invitation to be a part of it.

I have been my current job for two years and I’ve never been happier. My boss is a great person who challenges me and encourages my career growth. The people I work with are caring and energetic, as well as interested in my family and personal life. The company has been tremendously successful. There are many people in my life who are not happy in their jobs but tell me how fortunate I am. As often happens in the corporate world, another company acquired my company. The future is uncertain but change is eminent. It is likely that my boss will change and my colleagues will move to other areas or companies. My workplace will be different. Although it’s challenging right now, I need to focus on what’s happening to me day to day and appreciate it. I cannot control the future but I can enjoy the present. I’m not happy with what’s going on but I need to accept that this part of my career is happening exactly the way it was supposed to. I appreciate what I’ve experienced and the invitation to be a part of it.

Annie Flanagan was my wife Kathy’s grandmother. She came to United States from Ireland in the 1920’s and worked her entire life to support herself and her family. Her fantastic life stories revealed the many episodes of her life. She has always been a huge part of Kathy’s life and contributed to the person she is today. Annie, who was Nana to everyone she knew, had been through many celebrations and tragedies in her life but always shared the stories of them with tremendous acceptance and strength. I would hear her stories and be amazed: her survival, her strength and her wonderful sense of humor. One time, I remember visiting Nana at her apartment and watching this then 93 year old woman running around cleaning and preparing food to make me feel comfortable and welcome. I watched her cuddle my infant children in her arms and making silly noises in their faces countless times. The gift of Nana’s life ended for us recently, just shy of her 103rd birthday. I write about her because she was a tremendous presence in the lives of my family. She lived a fruitful life exactly the way it was supposed to be. She had great appreciation for her many blessings and, especially, for the invitations she responded to in her lifetime.

As a Christian, I am called to share my compassion, appreciation and respect for all people everyday. It’s not always easy but I am called to do it: by someone who shows His compassion, appreciation and respect to me everyday. What are the things that are happening in your life that you find difficult to accept? What are the events in your life that you can look at as an invitation to growth? Are there things in your life that you find hard to accept now but may be seen in the future as developing as it’s supposed to? Sometimes I don’t understand God’s plan but I need to continue to accept the invitations presented to me. My life is as it’s supposed to be and I am thankful for it.

“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace”. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)