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My big sister Dede tragically passed away this week, the report stated heart failure. I am still in shock. This photo was taken just last Sunday, she is in the middle between my sister Mary Grace and myself. She struggled, like all of us, with parts of life. The beauty of what I learned through her particular struggle is a play book that should be used by everyone because as my spiritual director says: “Weez all crippled-- weez all broke-- some just realize it more than others.”

So with that said, in a spirit of tribute to my big sis, whose heart though stopped in this world, I'm sure continues to beat with love for us in the next, are the rules for a happy, whole and honest life. God bless you Dede, may your soul rest in peace. And thank you for teaching me so many things in life, both through your strengths (like how to cross the monkey bars, do a flip on the trampoline and drive a stick shift) and in your struggles (what follows is from AA and Celebrate Recovery). I love you.

1. We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. (My takeaways will follow in italics: Whatever has control over you and not you over it).

"I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. "Romans 7:18 NIV

2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. (Only God can transform, empower and make us whole).

"For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Philippians 2:13 NIV

3. We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.(Only God is capable of handling us in all of our humanity and is worthy of abandoning our lives to).

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship." Romans 12:1 NIV

4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. (I look deep within and allow God access to do the same, I allow Him to show me what is good and what imperfections need adjustments and improvements).

"Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord." Lamentations 3:40 NIV

5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. (I go to confession).

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." James 5:16a NIV

6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. (I make an act of contrition and ask for forgiveness).

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." James 4:10 NIV

7. We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings. (I throw myself on His mercy and love and He absolves me of my sins).

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 NIV

8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. (I undertake an act of penance before God and ask God to show me who I need to get right with here on earth).

"Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:31 NIV

9. We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. (I apologize and make amends where necessary).

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." Matthew 5:23-24 NIV

10. We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. ( I keep short accounts with God and with others on a daily basis).

"So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" 1 Corinthians 10:12

11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out. (I have a daily quiet time of prayer and Scripture meditation, go to daily Mass as a practice and do an examine of conscience each night.)

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." Colossians 3:16a NIV

12. Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs. (I pray that God will guide me in all of my ways and seek to bring the wholeness I receive from Him to others knowing it is all by an act of His grace).

"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore them gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." Galatians 6:1 NIV

Dear Lord,

I cannot do this life on my own, none of us can, we were not designed to. Thank You that You give us the grace to become Holy* and You rush to us to enable us to do it. I pray for all of those struggling in life who have fallen in big and small ways and are now dealing with disappointment, discouragement or dispair. Lord I ask that You would enlarge their capacity to receive the grace needed to get back up, and for those around them the grace to encourage them to do so. Help us Lord, open our eyes to see that without Your grace, mercy and love, we can do no better. Jesus, we trust in You. And for those who have passed, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, (including my sister, Dede Pennington) through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

I ask this in the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

*This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday. This beautiful bit of encouragement is from St. Faustina Kowalska herself taken from her book, Diary: Divine Mercy in my Soul:

“My Jesus, it is truly easy to become holy; it just takes a little good will! And if He finds this minimum of good will in a soul, He quickly gives Himself to her. And nothing can stop Him, neither our faults nor our falls, absolutely nothing. Jesus hurries to help that soul; and if the soul is faithful to this grace from God, she can in a short time reach the highest level of holiness that a created being can attain here below. God is very generous and does not refuse His grace to anyone. He gives even more than we ask for. The shortest road is faithfulness to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.”

May you be inspired by the Holy Spirit to walk out the grace given to you each day. Watch the "BLESSED" retreat video HERE, be uplifted and pass the inspiration along!

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