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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Who Does He Say You Are?

Growing up I can remember a desire to read and understand The Bible and making some attempts to do so but not really understanding how to access Sacred Scripture in a deep way. However, that has been shifting in recent years. As my love for Scripture has been developing and I am drawn toward reflecting on identity construction, I was excited to hear about Colleen Mitchell's book Who Does He Say You Are?: Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels.

I started reading this book as part of the WINE: Reading Between the Vines Summer Book Club but could not wait to read bit by bit along with the dates for the club. Instead, I read through to the end with the intent to go back and re-read chapter by chapter as they are discussed as the thinking in the book lends well to multiple readings to prompt further reflection and discussion.

Colleen Mitchell starts the book with a personal prologue framing why Scriptures have been powerful in her life and a source of great healing. She then shares her hopes for her readers and some guidance for how to approach reading the book. It is an invitation to journeying alongside her as we discover, re-discover, or deepen our understanding of our identity through Scriptures. Next, there are twelve chapters focusing on different women from The Bible centered on a different layer to our identity, such as: "You Are a Dwelling Place of the Most High God" Mary, the Mother of Jesus; "You Are Made for Contentment" Martha and Mary of Bethany; and "You Were Made for Resurrection Joy" Mary Magdalene. She concludes with an Afterword.

Each of the chapters follow a pattern of sharing Scripture that illustrates the focal woman and concept for the chapter; a reflection that enters in to what it must have been like to live that moment in history with a connection to how it is relevant to our current context; an invitation to ponder what the Scripture and focus of the chapter means for us personally with regards to our own identity in Christ; a prayer; and questions for reflection.

Through my reading experience, Colleen Mitchell achieved her purpose of the book for readers being "a tool to help you draw nearer to the God who created you, who loves you, and who wants to see you whole, knowing you are in him and purposeful in your pursuit of the life that leads you to him" (p. xx).

When my copy arrived in the mail and I skimmed a little bit, I instantly knew without yet reading for myself that this would be a book I would want to share and ordered three more copies to give to others. I can tell this will be a book that comes to mind as people share about their journeys and will be one I will likely revisit over time and encourage others to read.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Living at the Core 5: Retreat


Previously, I wrote about how the most powerful forms of self-care keep God at the core. In my day to day life, this means I have intentional rhythms and routines that help me to maintain a comparatively higher level of peace through strengthening my relationship with God, such as starting my day at 5 am with Scripture and reflection followed by any combination of prayer, reading, and writing; attending daily Mass and weekly Adoration; and praying the Rosary daily.

Making these intentional shifts have meant the difference between regularly feeling like I was drowning and being able to have an overall sense of peace and calm, lower level of stress, and a solution-oriented mindset. Nonetheless, sometimes I can feel the impact of a busy life starting to build and recognize I need a more extended rest. In the early winter I started to think about how I could probably really use a silent retreat; yet, I also knew I wanted to attend the first women's conference hosted at our diocesan retreat center. Logistically, I was having a hard time figuring out how to make it work to block out both that weekend and another time for a retreat.

Instead, I started to think about the retreat center, one of my favorite places and somewhere that I associate with great peace. Even if there was not a directed silent retreat, I thought a couple of days there prior to the conference would nurture me. As the days grew closer, I could tell I was going to need this even more than I had anticipated, aligning with just finishing up the academic year.

It ended up being perfect. Rather than having a structured schedule, I knew types of activities I wanted to do: attend Mass and Adoration (there are 3 parishes within a half hour going in different directions providing for a range of options), read, write, spend time in the Chapel, walk, rest, sit in nature...

Now, it is back to my "real life" with one foot in summer vacation and the other in doing some work at the university and church. As I continue to refine the patterns of my days through liturgical and academic seasons, I will be keeping a couple of days of retreat annually as an option in the back of my mind.










Saturday, June 17, 2017

Share What You Love

One week from today I will be attending a women's conference at our diocesan retreat center, one of my favorite places in the world. It is set in a rural context with open spaces and surrounded by fields and mountains. It brings a sense of calm and tranquility.

I will be going a couple of days early to have some extra space to transition from a busy academic year to summer. I am planning to focus on prayer, reading, writing, and resting flowing into the conference.

One of the reasons why I am excited for the conference is because it is a chance to learn and grow alongside other Catholic women and because it is a new event for our diocese and I am so grateful for the opportunity. I decided to donate some books that have nurtured me in my faith development to be used as giveaways. As I reflected over which books I thought would be a good fit for this context, I ordered copies of the books pictured:

1) Praying the Angelus: I just finished this one with the St. Teresa's Online Book Club. I loved that it focused on the power of Catholic prayer and as with my experience, I think the book will be valuable for a range of reasons. If the person who receives it already prays the Angelus three times a day, it can enrich their experience by pondering the prayer and practice through a new lens. It can help someone who is unfamiliar with the Angelus to begin a transformative habit. Even if the person does not decide to pray the Angelus three times a day, it can help to reflect on the power of existing layers of prayer routines and prompt reflection on room for growth.

2) Who Does He Say You Are?: I have not actually read this one yet but am starting it as part of a WINE Book Club. I love the cover of the book and am excited about the concept. There is a link between WINE and the conference as Kelly Wahlquist, founder of WINE is one of the speakers. During Lent we read Walk in Her Sandals that was edited by Kelly and a book club for both WINE and St. Teresa's Online Book Club.

3) Getting Past Perfect: I read this as part of a CatholicMom.com book club. One of my favorite concepts from the book was thinking about our most important identity in life being who we are in relation to God, something that will complement Who Does He Say You Are? well. Even if a woman who doesn't happen to be a mom ends up receiving the book at the conference, it can still be of value to her based on this concept and many others that can be applied to roles other than being moms in life. For example, I could make a lot of connections to my career while reading her writing specifically focused on the lens of being a mom.

4) Divine Mercy for Moms: This was the original St. Teresa's Online Book Club read and then it was also a CatholicMom.com book club later on. Similar to Getting Past Perfect, though targeted to moms, I think women in general would enjoy reading about their experiences and the role of the Divine Mercy chaplet in their lives. Over time I have been memorizing more of the chaplet but still don't have it fully memorized. I am hoping to do so soon. As I do, I would like to revisit this book. I am also very excited for the authors' latest book coming out this fall.

5) Extreme Makeover: The full titles of the books show why Who Does He Say You Are?: Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels and Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, not Conformed to the Culture will likely complement each other well. When I originally read this book, I appreciated seeing glimpses into the transformation in Tomeo's own life based on better understanding her Catholic faith. It was a journey I was starting on when I first read it.

6) The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion: This continues to be part of my daily morning routine. Like the other CatholicMom/Ave Maria Press books I have listed here, I think women in general will see value in this book, whether or not they are moms. I appreciate the short daily reflections that follow a consistent pattern on a range of topics from a variety of writing styles of the contributors.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Praying the Angelus

I continue to love the books selected for the St. Teresa's Online Book Club. Our current book is Jared Dees' Praying the Angelus: Find Joy, Peace, and Purpose in Everyday Life. Growing up Catholic, I had never heard of the Angelus prayer. It was not until the summer of 2015 when a Totus Tuus group came to our parish that I learned about the Angelus as they prayed it after daily Mass. Then, my priest mentioned that it was part of his family's daily prayer routine.

In the book, Jared Dees starts with an invitation to integrate the Angelus into our daily lives three times a day, following the established custom. He talks about the origin of the prayer (and the Regina Caeli that replaces the Angelus during the Easter season), as well as how and why to pray them. My favorite concept from this section was the value in having something to turn our thoughts back to God, "Praying the Angelus [...] reminds us to dedicate our time, our work, and our lives back to God. Each time we stop what we are doing and pray; we orient our lives and our time to God, the source of our lives and the inspiration for our work. In pausing to consecrate time back to God and rededicate our lives to him, we recognize that our life and our work are gifts that he has given to us and that we give back in return" (p. 3), as well as "We can find peace in our busy lives when we stop and remember that we are put here on earth to do God's will" (p. 5). He explores this concept of time throughout the first part of the book.

I also liked that in the How to Pray the Angelus section he addressed why prayer can be so powerful, even though it requires courage and discipline to do so because it is not necessarily going to always feel like an immediate profound experience. However, when we commit to a regular prayer routine and then follow through, he describes how it can be transformational.

The second and third parts of the book focus on meditations of the different words in the Angelus and the Regina Caeli. He pulls out concepts from different lines which he describes briefly and then transitions into a meditation. In the book club, the facilitators have been drawing from these meditations to do daily posts for group discussion. This section of the book reminded me in some ways of St. Teresa of Avila's The Way of Prayer looking deeply at the Our Father.

The book inspired a deeper appreciation for the Angelus. Though I made some attempts to integrate it into my daily life, it is not a consistent part of my routine yet. One reason is logistics. I have a traditional slider cell phone, rather than a smart phone, so I am limited to setting 3 alarms. I tried to do a rotation of once I switched off one alarm, programming forward to another (such as 6 am to 6 pm and 12 pm to 3 pm - when I pause to reflect on Jesus' Crucifixion); however, that did not go too smoothly. The other challenge was that I do not yet have the prayer fully memorize (and am even further off on the Regina Caeli), and when I don't have the prayer memorized it is hard to pause and prayer whenever the alarm goes off if I don't happen to have the words with me at the time. A smart phone would be a quick solution to that as well, and with the prevalence of smart phones, I would imagine my challenges of the limited alarms and not always having access to the words wherever I happen to be would not necessarily be obstacles to smart phone users.

I am also trying to decide whether to layer in one more prayer routine or to continue with my current routines. Whether or not I add in the Angelus, the book was still valuable in considering the power of my current prayer practices from new lenses as a lot of what he said about the Angelus applies to my daily Rosary and the 3 pm pause to reflect.

Eventually, I would like to read Dees' other books.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Consoling the Heart of Jesus

Last year when I read 33 Days to Merciful Love for the first time, I bought Consoling the Heart of Jesus because of his references to some concepts of interest being expanded on in the book. I started to read it and then part way through misplaced it. I was on maternity leave, navigating life as a mom of four and preparing to transition back to work at the end of summer.

I kept thinking eventually it would show up, but when I was reading 33 Days to Merciful Love this spring - one year later, I decided it was time to re-order the book as it was still nowhere to be found. I started again from the beginning and was not completely sure at which point I crossed over from already read to new; however, I do know that toward the end of the retreat portion of the book it was so perfectly aligned with areas of confusion and struggles from last spring/summer. The material that I didn't quite get to because I couldn't find the book would have been highly beneficial.

Now, through the lens of concepts in this book, I can see those experiences with deeper clarity, helping to illuminate how God was helping me to navigate part of my journey and making me stronger in the process. Of course, based on additional space and time to reflect, his ideas made more sense now than they would have then. Maybe I needed those additional months to be able to let the experiences to take shape in my mind in order to then step back and view them from this lens in a more meaningful way. Fr. Gaitley mentions that he typically re-reads the retreat annually, explaining how "With each new reading, the old themes seem to enter my heart more deeply, and I'm brought back to my spiritual foundations" (p. 26).

The book is set up to be a self-guided retreat. In recognition of the power of 30-day Ignatian retreats filled with silence and prayer and the reality that it can be a struggle for many people to access one of the retreats for various reasons, this book is an alternative to help support similar growth. The retreat portion of the book begins with an introduction, followed by a section to lay a conceptual foundation to live a guiding principle in our lives, a section to overcome obstacles to living the foundation, and a conclusion.

The foundation all comes back to St. Ignatius' First Principle and Foundation, focusing on the purpose of life and how align our lives to that purpose through proper prioritization. In general, this foundation is closely aligned to my experience in 2015 of choosing core as my one little word to guide my year in which my journey led me toward recognizing that God had not been at the core of my life and then on-going discovery through an inquiry process about how to change that. Fr. Gaitley explains, "the principle 'first things first' basically means that when one keeps his eyes on such a vivid goal, the 'first thing,' then all else falls into place. It can also imply that when one goes after a 'second thing' first, he loses not only the second thing but the first as well" (p. 37).

The longest section in the retreat portion is dedicated to overcoming obstacles, which makes sense as it is comparatively easier to understand the principle but much harder to navigate authentically living it in our lives as the obstacles (fear of suffering; our weaknesses, sinfulness, and attachments; fear of suffering, again; the sensitivity of the Lord's heart; and the insensitivity of our hearts) arise.

However, when the retreat concludes, there is still a little more than half of the book remaining, including: an appendix that addresses Ignatius' rules for discernment, another appendix with excerpts from St. Faustina's diary, and references and notes. The end of the book has a "Consoler Cheat Sheet" to summarize the main concepts and key reminders of how to live aligned to the suggestions. His section on discernment was a good supplement to True North, Discerning the Spirits, and Discerning the Will of God. It helped me to feel more confident with the concepts of consolation and desolation. I did not read the section with excerpts from St. Faustina's diary since I read the whole book earlier this year; however, I eventually might read it since I like how it groups together by common topic. As I was marking page after page when reading the diary, part of what I was noticing was the concepts that came up again and again.

Though this is the third book of Fr. Gaitley's that I have read, it was the first one that he wrote. Fr. Gaitley recommends reading the retreat portion of the book over a weekend; however, I read it in smaller pieces over a longer span of time. Perhaps, that is why his newer retreat books are intended to be spread over 33 days, recognizing that sometimes people are able to block out a weekend, and other times, they need to read and ponder in smaller pieces.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Living at the Core 4: Spiritual Notebook

I firmly believe in the power of writing to facilitate learning and have used writing to navigate my thinking about different aspects of my life over time. Though I had been keeping a spiritual notebook off an on since the summer of 2015, when we started a new liturgical year last November, I committed to reflecting on daily Scriptures each day. Writing about my faith is my current most predominant writing territory.

My two main spiritual notebook habits are that when I read the daily readings as part of my 5 am routine, I make note of verses I love, verses that make me think, verses that bring comfort... Sometimes I also do some journaling about what I think the Scriptures are conveying, questions I have, how they relate to my life, or ways they encourage me to persevere or to improve.

Then, after Mass I prefer when I have a little bit of time to capture my priest's key ideas from the homily. I note how his thoughts complemented mine or how they helped to deepen my thinking. I also reflect on books I am reading or making sense of different layers of my life. Sundays are the exception. When I go to Mass with my whole family, I do not have the luxury of that quiet space for reflection and greater Mass attendance on Sundays means the church is not as quiet immediately after Mass anyway.

Carving out time for regular writing in quiet spaces means thinking intentionally about what is accessible within my typical days. I need to find places  that are conducive to writing within close proximity of where I am already at. Though I usually write in the church after Mass, one day last week I spent a little bit of time in a quiet space on campus. I love being out in fresh air, especially when it is one of those not too hot, not too cold perfect spring days.


While I will still be able to continue with my writing at home, soon there will be less consistency with my writing directly after Mass. During the summer I will likely have a combination of work days and family days. On family days, I will often bring one or both of my little girls (1 and 4 years old) to Mass, making it challenging to be able to sit, focus, and write afterward. One of my older daughters also expressed a goal to dedicate more time to God this summer by attending daily Mass and going to Adoration with me sometimes. Then, once the school year starts, it appears that I will have my 4 year old with me for almost every daily Mass prior to dropping her off at preschool.

Living at the core means discovering the rhythms and routines of life that help us to live comparatively more peacefully based on nurturing our relationship with God, while also recognizing that as circumstances shift we need to let go and create new habits that align to the current circumstances. We also need to focus on what is beautiful about shifts, rather than longing for the comforts of previous routines. The beauty in the summer will often be linked to nurturing my girls' faith formation by attending daily Mass together, as well as walks after Mass and time at home without having as many outside obligations. In the fall it will be about providing access for my third daughter to attend a pre-school with a strong focus on Biblical stories.

The beauty is all about relationships and recognizing that sometimes to nurture my girls' faith formation, it means I have to be willing to change some of the rhythms and routines of my day that bring so much comfort and help me to feel centered. Instead, I need to get creative and think about how I can still find that sense of peace while transitioning to something new. The specific habits might not look the same; however, I know that prioritizing my spiritual notebook has had its benefits, and as needed, I will rediscover how to layer it into my life through different phases.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Strength Training

Thy will be done. You know the bigger picture. You know whether this is part of your plans for me or not. You also know the stories of all the other people this might impact and whether or not it is a part of helping accomplish your plan for them. Thy will be done.

I was surprised to see an unexpected potential opportunity. So much about it seemed so perfect. It was something that I had been longing for, yet it did not seem like it would be possible any time soon or perhaps ever. Then the chance arose. I was in awe with how God had lined up different aspects with an element of surprise if it were to work out.

I thought back to how a part of the book Desiderata spoke to my heart when I read it a couple of years before, focusing on how our lives can have interesting twists and each of our previous experiences can position us well for where God is leading us in ways we never could have imagined. This opportunity felt like it was going to be another piece to my story, something that would better position me to fulfill God's plans for me. 

Nonetheless, I knew that even though it felt perfect, it might not end up being part of my plan. While my excitement built, I knew I should be patient and not get too excited until I knew one way or another. But of course, there I was dreaming and mapping out a detailed multi-year plan mixed with reflecting on how I wanted to respond if it did not work out. 

Thy will be done. You know whether this will help me or pull me away from being better positioned to accomplish your plans for me. If this is not part of your plans for me, even if I am the only one who expressed interest in it, guide those making the decisions to hesitate from offering it to me. Let them tell me no and turn down the opportunity. Or, if it is offered to someone else, let me be happy for the other person. Let me accept. Thy will be done. 

A couple of days ago the decision came. Even though I was planning on waiting patiently for things to unfold when and as they naturally would, I was impatient. I wanted to know whether there was a reason to keep hoping or whether the process had already moved forward with someone else. As I read the word "sorry" in the text response, the sad emotions came even though I wanted to fully accept whichever answer came as God's will and His ability to work all things for the good of all involved. 

Even though I proactively focused on approach, I realized that would not keep me from feeling a sense of loss even though I knew it meant the closing door must have been for the better. It did however give me a chance to feel the range of emotions that come with a disappointment and all the what if questions but then conscientiously choose to turn it all back to God and to pray in gratitude for being able to trust that it was not part of my plan for now, for others who would take part in the opportunity and the many lives they would impact as a result, for the people who inspired by the Year of Mercy had decided to offer this generous opportunity to begin with... 

I need to delete the folder with all my plans, I thought. But, what if something doesn't work out with the original plan and I end up being able to do it after all? Maybe I should keep it. 

No, letting go has been an area of growth for you. Delete the file. Let go. Intentionally remember to pray for others at strategic times, and in the face of unplanned reminders, pray. Trust and let go.

Thy will be done. Thank you for this opportunity to strengthen me, for helping me to desire a certain response if faced with disappointment and then being able to make a conscious decision to follow through. Thank you for helping build my excitement so that I could feel a loss but then still be able to respond with trust and confidence in you. Thank you for providing the contexts and scenarios in order to grow in the ways you would like me to. I know it is all part of my preparation to fulfill what you desire for my life. Thy will be done.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Living Joyfully in Hope

 

Recently, while at the library, my daughter brought over the book La semilla de zanahoria, feeling nostalgia for her first years of school at a dual language English-Spanish school. Though we had read the book together years ago, I had forgotten what this simple text was about. As we re-read I thought about the connections to faith. 

In the book, copyrighted in 1945, The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss has just one sentence on each two-fold spread pages until the last pages where the single sentence is stretched out over multiple spreads. It begins with a boy who plants a carrot seed. His mom and dad let him know they are "afraid" it won't grow and the big brother definitively says, "It won't come up." Nonetheless, the boy cares for the area where he planted the seed and maintains hope, despite being surrounded by people saying it won't grow. There are two pages saying that it did not grow followed by a page where everyone reiterates it will not, but he perseveres and continues caring and hoping. Then, the shift in the book occurs. The one sentence pattern switches to the concluding stretched out sentence where all the boy's hope pays off - a carrot comes up, and not just any carrot, but a huge carrot that he has to tow away in a wheel barrow. 

When we went to the library, I had recently heard a homily from a visiting priest focusing on John 16:16-20. He had talked about different potential interpretations of what Jesus meant by "A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me" and that something woven through the different interpretations is the essence of the Christian experience. We are called to wait in joyful hope throughout all different scenarios in life, such as shifts between light//darkness and happiness//sadness. 

I like how seemingly simple children's books that aren't even explicitly about faith can still inform Christian values - thinking about persevering even when there are not immediate signs that something is working or having the effect we hope it would. While the huge carrot at the end is an exaggeration and not realistic, it can be used to illustrate how when we have faith and continue doing the next thing whether we are in phases of consolation or spiritual dryness, God is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28). Whether or not we can see the fruits of our labor, we can commit to praying, to trusting, and to seeking to align our lives to God's will by deciding which voices to listen to and which to silence as we lean into God throughout the discernment process. 

Which books do you appreciate for what they can offer related to Christian values for different age ranges? 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Living at the Core 3: Quiet Reflection

I crave quiet reflection amidst the busyness of every day life as a wife, mom, and professional. Back in April of 2014 I wrote in my one little word album, "I am realizing again and again that sense of feeling like I am drowning from time to time. Though I am getting better with the mental side of busy, today I have been feeling like the word to describe it is coping. Yet, I want to go beyond coping."

Though counter-intuitive to add in additional layers, I have been learning that even when you feel so overwhelmed that you just couldn't possibly add anything into your daily schedule, it is actually more about what is missing from your schedule and then learning what you need to say no to in order to make space for what matters most.

In 2015 I realized that part of shifting the rhythms and routines of my life had to do with leaving some "breathing space" in my schedule. In that context, it was more about mapping out less than what I thought I could accomplish in a block of time so that when the typical unexpected aspects arose that then always left me feeling overwhelmed in a schedule that was already crammed too full, I already had extra space built in to accommodate.

At the same time, I had also been thinking about how to fit a more intentional and sustained prayer life into my daily schedule. Eventually I realized how the two went hand in hand and through the process I have been discovering what helps bring the sense of calm that St. Francis de Sales refers to in his well-known quote, "Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset."

Through selecting a one little word each year since 2010 (starting with simplicity), I have realized that each year I was being drawn in closer to God. As St. Augustine notes, our hearts long for God. Even though it took me years to figure out that what my heart was longing for was to deepen my faith life, the Holy Spirit was there whispering to help me identify areas of my life that I needed to transform.



By re-thinking what guides the scheduling in my life to seek a Christ-centered life, I have been recognizing what I need to change in order to remove obstacles to a sense of peace. I'm still busy; yet, instead of drowning, I am growing stronger through knowing what does and does not bring me peace and then committing to doing the hard work over time to allow the grace of God to transform me. Nourished by Sacred Scripture and the sacraments and by carving out intentional space in my schedule for silence, for being still, for pondering the glory of God, I feel a greater sense of calm. When the proactive decisions I have made to maintain that feeling are not quite enough and the overwhelmed feeling starts to creep in, instead of despairing, I recognize I need to pause and reset. It's a process, but I know I am making growth in the right direction.

Friday, May 19, 2017

33 Days of Merciful Love

Because reading Fr. Gaitley's 33 Days to Morning Glory had been a powerful experience for me, when I heard about 33 Days to Merciful Love being available for pre-order last year, I ordered a copy right away and then decided to read the book leading up to the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima and just finished re-reading it on the same cycle, leading up to today, the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fátima.

Even though I was excited for the book, I was worried about another consecration, wondering if it would feel too overwhelming. Nonetheless, Fr. Gaitley put me at ease right from the introduction as he talked about how the concept of Marian consecration and a Consecration to Divine Mercy align with each other and are complementary, rather than two disconnected aspects.

With that worry already set aside, I was instantly drawn in. Having a better sense of the narrative of trust running throughout The Bible through a conversation with my priest back in the summer of 2015 ended up being a pivotal experience for me, so when I started reading 33 Days to Merciful Love and noticed the big emphasis on trust, I took note.

Unlike 33 Days to Morning Glory, rather than focusing on a different saint for each of the four weeks, this time Fr. Gaitley focused specifically on St. Thérèse of Lisieux throughout the book, with some attention to St. Faustina occasionally. The book focuses on: Week One: What Is Trust? Week Two: The Little Way, Week Three: The Offering to Merciful Love, Week Four: Into the Darkness and the last days as review and preparation for consecration. Similar to 33 Days to Morning Glory, the review cycle focused on a day with three key words from each week. I appreciate this way to reiterate key points and tie it all together. I especially liked the reminder from week two with the emphasis on recognizing our smallness and then being persistent with trusting and trying. That is a reminder that I would do me good to hear again and again as it relates to so much in relation to our lives of faith.

As a teacher, I know how common it is to hear teachers lament that students don't know a concept that they should have learned in a previous year only to hear the teachers from the previous year(s) say they did teach the concepts. While re-reading this book there were so many concepts that I felt like I was figuring out through experiences but then realized that the concepts were in the book, that I had exposure to them before the experiences that made me feel like certain truths were becoming apparent to me. The realization of how a book could resonate one year but then make significantly more sense the next year with the time and space of additional first hand experiences to ground the concepts in between helped to confirm the need for on-going investment in spiritual development and the value in re-visiting resources that capture our attention, knowing that with time we change and can understand at a new level.

Now, I am currently reading Fr. Gaitley's Consoling the Heart of Jesus and Praying the Angelus

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Discerning the Spirits

Reading Fr. Timothy Gallagher's The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living helped me to understand so much of my experiences, especially over the last year or two since I have been intentionally focusing on my relationship with God in a deeper way than earlier in my adult life.

I mentioned previously that I read a Life Teen book last summer that introduced me to St. Ignatius' teachings, followed by reading Fr. Gallagher's Discerning the Will of God in March. Essentially, True North combined the concepts from both of Fr. Gallagher's books into one, so it laid a good starting point foundation to then revisit some months later in more depth.

After an introduction and prologue, this book goes into depth with each of St. Ignatius' 14 rules, followed by a conclusion. I remember that certain rules resonated for me this summer, while others seemed to resonate as truth on a certain level but I wasn't quite sure I fully "got" them. The concepts of consolation and desolation had stuck with me but it was easier for me to connect to properly identifying consolations. As I began to revisit the concepts with this book, one week I tried to track consolations and desolations, I later ended up crossing out desolations, upon realizing that I wasn't confident enough to use that term.

As if God noticed the teachable moment, shortly after I was pondering the concept, a desolation hit. It was a brief, short term one but impacted the majority of the day. I didn't immediately recognize it as desolation; however, as I continued reading, the concept started to make more sense. More importantly, I was able to reflect on whether or not it was specifically spiritual desolation. Having a clearer sense of the concept helped me to have deeper comprehension for the rest of the book.

I now feel more capable to recognize and know how to respond to the different movements in my spiritual life. I would like to re-read True North and know that I will also refer back to Fr. Gallagher's books over time. It helped me to reflect back on St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul, another book I would like to re-read. It put the quote from St. Frances de Sales that I love in proper context, as well "Do not lose your inner peace for anything, even if your whole world is upset." From the time I first saw that quote, I was drawn to it, knowing it was something I wanted; however, it was still baffling to me how I would be able to counteract the natural inclination to have my inner peace disturbed in response to external tensions and stress. Now I feel like from Fr. Gallagher's books (especially this one) and other resources, I am better equipped to maintain that inner peace. That will make all the difference.

I am so grateful that Sr. Hope happened to recommend this two books to me - the perfect suggestion for this phase in my life and something I really needed to make sense of occurrences. I am now better positioned to navigate my on-going faith journey.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Informal Education

I love school and learning. If I wasn't still paying for my last degrees, I would love to find an online degree program to get one in theology. I have even explored sites for programs and had started a someday list, but alas...

Recently, I have been thinking about how through shifting my routines and habits the last couple years my depth of knowledge has significantly changed without a formal program. By reading the daily readings on my own each day paired with daily Mass homilies, I have a much stronger understanding of Sacred Scripture, not to mention being nourished by the Eucharist each day. I have also been reading a range of books - contemporary and classic - and watching resources on Formed on various topics. Then there's many resources available to help engage Catholics for free via online technologies via blogging, YouTube, Facebook, and email.

Though I won't be earning another official degree anytime soon (or maybe ever), I can commit to investing in my faith formation - a combination of independent reading, viewing, studying, and reflecting alongside community and collaborative experiences.

As I recommit to my yes over time, God is creating the context for my growth with a perfect sense of what I need to know, when I need to know. He can help weave together a curriculum tailored to me.

Lead me, Lord. Help me to trust that you will reveal to me what you want me to know when and how you want me to according to your plans for me. You can create a learning environment more perfectly than I could ever imagine for myself. You know when to help me spiral back to a concept with which I will now have deeper comprehension based on the background knowledge that has been building. Thy will be done.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Perseverence in Parenting

"I want to go to Adoration," my 4 year old begged last night. I knew from experience how it would turn out, and yet...

"I want to pray," she said.

"I won't move," she said.

"I promise," she said. Again and again.

"Please."

If I walked out the door I would go with her crying in the background, wanting to come to church with me. If she came with me, I knew I would not have my time for quiet reflection that I look forward to each week.

Last night I gave in. It is about the 3rd time I have taken her with me to my weekly time slot spanning across multiple months, and each time the outcome is similar. Glimpses of piety mixed in with a whole lot of activity and curiosity. An "I want to pray the Rosary" followed by reciting after me part way through the first decade, guiding her hands along the beads. A kiss on a statue that she knew was Mother Mary.

There were tender moments of bonding between mother and daughter in front of the Blessed Sacrament, but there were also some frustrations. I tried to remember what my priest told me once when I said she had distracted me at Mass - "she's not a distraction; she's an attraction." I tried to think about the value in bringing her from time to time, even though I know it will be a struggle, rather than a retreat to rest in Him. I thought about her having early exposure to my most powerful form of self care and about how she will hopefully grow up longing to be in His presence on a regular basis as well - a comfortable rhythm and routine to her life.

Nurturing others in the faith requires sacrifice. Sometimes we need to set aside our plans for what we want and how we want it in order to provide access to experiences to others. As we were heading out the door and she repeated after me, "Good night, Jesus. I love you. Thank you for this time together," I knew this was a good thing; yet, I also knew I will hesitate to bring her again for a while. There was also a layer of sadness that I didn't get "my hour."

I'm navigating this journey of investing in my relationship with God, while also allowing space to help construct a foundation for her relationship with God. As some have mentioned before, "You can't give what you don't have," I know that at times it is okay to tell her no when she begs, while at other times I am called to say yes to her pleas.

Lead me, Lord. Help me to recognize when I need to focus on my relationship with you and when I am called to sacrifice my desires to participate in your plan for building her foundation with you. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Getting Past Perfect

When I saw Getting Past Perfect by Kate Wicker advertised via Catholic Mom as their next book club book, I ordered it right away. Once I started reading it, I realized that I couldn't stop to read along chapter by chapter according to schedule and instead, read through the book quickly.

After a foreword and introduction to set the stage for the book, there are 8 chapters that follow a similar format, followed by a conclusion. Each chapter has a title accompanied by an evil earworm and an unvarnished truth. For example, Chapter 1 - Queen Mommy: Motherhood is Not the Most Important Job a Woman Has. Evil Earworm: Being a mother is the most important thing a Catholic woman can do. Unvarnished Truth: Motherhood is actually not your highest calling. Being a daughter of God is (p. 1). Chapter 6 - I am Mother! Hear Me Roar!: Your Child's Success is Not a Measure of You. Evil Earworm: My kids are my sole custody, and their happiness is a reflection of my success as a parent. Unvarnished Truth: You do not own your children, you are stewards of them. They belong to God, not you, and they are here to fulfill his will--not yours or theirs (p. 69). I found that I enjoyed even just skimming through the introduction pages to each chapters and that this information alone provided a lot for me to ponder.

Then, jumping into the chapters, I appreciated being able to see how her thinking developed these concepts through her personal experiences over time. She writes with humility, not afraid to show what could be perceived as weaknesses (especially through the lens of those evil earworms) in order to share an authentic look at motherhood and the power of seeing it through the lens of the more realistic and healthy unvarnished truths.

She concluded each chapter with a Mom's Time-Out, a prayer followed by a wrapping up reflection with a call to action, an encouraging way to ponder the concepts of the chapter or to make a step toward aligning our lives to them.

Around the same time someone recommended Present Over Perfect. Though I have not bought it yet, it seems like they would be good companion texts. Wicker mentions Brené Brown's work in her book and Brown wrote the foreword of Present Over Perfect.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

33 Days to Morning Glory

In 2015 33 Days to Morning Glory was passed out on Ash Wednesday at churches across our diocese. The timing was perfect to start the daily retreat leading up to the Annunciation. At the time, it was a pivotal point in my life as I was pondering what was core and realizing that even though it felt counter-intuitive to add in additional layers to my life when I had been working so hard to set career boundaries and say no to some of my career related passions  in order to say yes to more time with family, multiple layers were drawing me deeper into reconnecting with my Catholic faith in a more meaningful way.

I had already been realizing multiple areas of the faith where I either never had a solid foundation or just wasn't ready to grasp concepts that were probably introduced at one point or another. This book made me think about the role of Mary in so many ways I had not yet considered. The introduction says, "what Marian consecration is all about: A new way of life in Christ. The act of consecrating oneself to Jesus through Mary marks the beginning of a gloriously new day, a new dawn, a brand new morning in one's spiritual journey. It's a fresh start, and it changes everything" (p. 20).

I worked my way through each day pondering the ideas. Because it was so new, I could tell I was not fully understanding everything. The Annunciation fell on my spring break when I happened to be miles away from home in Toronto, Canada for a conference. As I sat alone on my hotel bed, I prayed that I could tell there was so much more I had to learn but that I was willing to make the consecration with hope and trust.

Looking back, it is hard to untangle how much of the "changes everything" had to do with my Marian consecration and how much was related to other layers happening concurrently. I do know that having a better understanding of Mary and being able to look to her as a mentor in trying to align my life to God's will has been a game changer for me.

I ended up re-doing the retreat the summer of the same year, leading toward The Assumption. Once again, I found myself away from home on the consecration day. This time I was at our diocesan retreat center for an evangelization and catechesis symposium and sat in the chapel (one of my favorite places). That too was another key point in the year as I had been discerning which direction God wanted me to go and ended up making some decisions that weekend.

In 2016 I did not re-read the book because instead I read 33 Days to Merciful Love. This year I decided to read it again on the February 20th to March 25th cycle working toward the Annunciation. There was so much that made more sense. I could see how the concepts laid a foundation that impacted so much of my thinking, even when it was not necessarily at the surface level to make the direct link between my thoughts and the book until revisiting the book. I could also see how the impact of other experiences between then and now meant that I was different and able to understand at a new level.

The book is starting to get worn, and I anticipate it will be used many more times in my life. I have heard other people testify that their experiences also resonate that it changes everything, but I have not heard specific details. I would be interested to hear more about the experiences behind the statements as I am sure it would inspire a lot of awe and wonder for how God works in our lives.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Walk in Her Sandals

This Lent, I read a chapter from A Walk in Her Sandals: Experiencing Christ's Passion through the Eyes of Women each week alongside others in the St. Teresa's Online Book Club. After an introduction the book focuses six chapters on different days of Holy Week and Pentecost, followed by a conclusion. Each chapter focuses on a gift linked to the liturgical day, such as The Gift of Receptivity for Palm Sunday and The Gift of Prayer for Holy Saturday.

The book has a range of contributors with Kelly Wahlquist as the editor. Each of the main chapters incorporates an exploration of the gift and liturgical day through multiple angles. A consistent flow chapter to chapter makes it easy to navigate the different elements woven together as the pattern starts to feel comfortable. The components are: A Moment to Ponder, Enter the Scripture, Walk in Her Sandals, Unwrap the Gift of _____, Reflect on the Meaning of: ______ (Liturgical Day), Lectio, Questions for Group Discussion, and Walking in the New Evangelization. Some sections had a consistent contributor throughout all the chapters, while others rotated depending on the chapter. I loved the blend of different types of writing (fictional narrative, reflective writing, calls to action...).

I especially loved the final chapter focusing on Pentecost and the way that it linked to my one little word for 2017: filled.

Some of the names were familiar as they crossed over with The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion and Catholic Digest. Right around the time we started to read the book, I heard that Kelly Wahlquist is going to be a speaker at a women's conference in our diocese this summer, so I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know her through the book and anticipate the conference this summer even more.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Filled: One Little Word 2017

This year my one little word is filled. After focusing on what was most important in my life with core in 2015, followed by thinking about shine in 2016, the natural next step for me ended up thinking about the concept of filled // empty. It has given me a lot to ponder as both can be either positive or negative, depending on how they are used. 

I originally considered choosing empty through the positive lens of emptying myself as I had reflected on trying to be more selfless and about service, but I didn't like that word as much since I knew it often has more of a negative feel. Instead I chose filled based on the positive outcome as a result of emptying oneself. These lyrics from the Sidewalk Prophets' song helped me to finalize my word for the year:

Make me empty
So I can be filled
‘Cause I’m still holding
Onto my will
And I’m completed
When you are with me
Make me empty

This was an extension of my process already started in the fall with the new academic year to be very intentional about letting go of attachments and carefully refining the rhythms and routines of my life to lean into what fills me vs. what leaves me feeling empty. 

This month as a part of Ali Edwards' One Little Word class, she has prompted us to ponder the definition of our word, encouraging sticky notes to be posted around as a reminder. It is already mid-way through the month and I haven't posted my sticky notes yet, but there have been reminders everywhere as we transitioned from the end of Lent to Easter. 

Wanting to align my life to God's will has been at the forefront of my mind since my core year, and earlier this year while re-reading 33 Days to Morning Glory I was prompted to think about the connection between "Hail Mary, full of grace" and her ability to perfectly align to God's will because of that. 

Then, last week I read the final chapter in Walk in Her Sandals focusing on the Pentecost alongside others in the St. Teresa's Online Book Club and my word was everywhere in the context of being filled with the Holy Spirit, as well as being filled with amazement for Jesus. 

Last night at the Easter Vigil Mass and today on Easter Sunday, our priest's homilies included a focus on the stone being removed from the tomb and how we can reflect on connotations to our own hearts and whether they are empty and ready for Jesus or whether they are already too filled with jealousy, rivalries, our egos, materialistic aspects... This resonated as I could think about my on-going reflections. 

I started the year with filled knowing that it had connotations to on-going growth in my faith resulting in self-improvement in general, but different layers continue to be revealed in order to reaffirm and deepen my understanding as I explore this word. I look forward to continuing this filled journey throughout 2017 and beyond. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Living at the Core 2: The Eucharist


On this Holy Thursday, I ponder with gratitude on the great gift of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our Catholic faith. The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary that we meditate on each Thursday culminate in the Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. On Holy Thursday we have the opportunity to deeply ponder the Last Supper as a community.

A little over 4 years ago my husband and I had a big decision to make. We were trying to decide whether to stay in the community where we had lived for 7 years or to move back closer to family. In my mind, the decision was between continuing to teach in K-12 education and teacher education for me and between access to dual language education for my girls and being closer to family. 

We had originally moved away from family as I started my teaching career because I wanted to teach and have my girls grow up with access to bilingual education. Eventually, I started teaching at a dual language school the same year that my oldest started kindergarten. It was the dream school both as a professional and a parent. It aligned to my philosophy and there was a special sense of community, both with colleagues and families. 

Whether or not to move was one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in my life, so I prayed frequently that if it was better for our family in the big picture that we move back closer to home that everything would work out. I let go, and I trusted. Step by step different layers clicked into place. We were back with family, and I transitioned into my role as a teacher educator. 

Nonetheless, a couple of years into the process I still felt those emotional tugs to the community I left behind. In that particular spring I was traveling back there three times in a short period of time for work. As I would approach the community, the memories and tears would come. Facebook posts from my colleagues would have the same effect. There were also the comments the girls would make about missing their school. I was still feeling unsettled. 

Somewhere in between these multiple travels back and forth with physical reminders of both of those worlds and attempts to reconcile my feelings, the bigger picture came into focus as I kneeled down in prayer before Mass. 

At that moment, I realized that the big picture I prayed about was never as simple as whether I would be a K-12 educator or teacher educator. It wasn't even whether bilingual education or being closer to family was a higher priority. Instead, it was about being in a context in which I could more fully live my Catholic faith, a variable that I had not even taken into consideration as a predominant factor to guide my decision making process. I was in awe with just how necessary it was to pray for God to guide the process with the big picture in mind, recognizing that there were so many layers beyond what were predominant in my thought process. I was especially surprised that such a big piece to the puzzle would not be revealed to me until around two years after we made the decision and followed through with the move.

At the point where I had this realization, there had already been some shifts in the rhythms and routines of my days leading me closer to the core of my faith. In that month I recognized that attending daily Mass was possible now in the mix of life in my mid-thirties as a busy mom and professional. It was not something that would have to wait for retirement as I originally thought. 

Prioritizing daily Mass and weekly Adoration has made all the difference. While I still need to focus on trusting more and worrying less and life still feels plenty messy, it has brought a sense of calm and peace when comparing before and after - the difference between feeling like I am drowning by Thursdays and feeling like I am catching my breath and everything will be okay on Thursdays. Over time I have realized that the Eucharist is my most powerful form of self-care

This Holy Thursday, I am reflecting on the great gift of the Eucharist and my Catholic faith. 

I love songs like those on Audrey Assad's Inheritance album for reflecting on the glory of God. 



Monday, March 27, 2017

Living at the Core 1: Setting the Tone for the Day

The last couple of years as I have reflected on what is core in my life and then considered how to align my life to that, I have discovered strategies that help me. I decided to start a feature on my blog where I share tips that I have learned work for me over time. It is an on-going experimentation and process of refining to adjust to shifts in my life.

In this initial installment, I begin with how I start my day. Shortly after multiple transitions occurred within a 5 month period (our third daughter was born, we moved back to the county where I grew up, I transitioned from my K-12 career to teacher preparation, and we sold our house), I read Jessica Turner's book The Fringe Hours. The concepts resonated with me. I was able to reflect on how I was already able to carefully manage my time, while also considering room for growth. As the years passed, I couldn't remember all the details but the concept of maximizing the time we have and finding ways to creatively incorporate the self care we most need here and there into our day to day lives stuck with me.

Last year I discovered that in the juggle of my everyday life I really craved time for quiet reflection and prayer. While I had already begun to start my day with reading the daily readings, I realized that I wanted a more extended amount of time. Because I am often exhausted by the time everyone winds down at my house,  I decided that in order to get my quiet time I needed to rise before everyone else.

These days my alarm goes off at 5 am 7 days a week. I quietly move onto the love seat in my living room, and pull out my Missal, Bible, and composition notebook. I begin with the daily readings, noting verses that especially capture my attention. Sometimes I write my thoughts about the readings and how they resonate with my life at this time. Then I shift into other books, a combination of books that are read short excerpts at a time, such as the daily reflection from The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion, as well as longer sections from books I happen to be reading at the time. My notebook remains close as I shift between reading and writing.

Waking up at 5 am has allowed me to get about 45 minutes prior to my husband waking up on weekdays. On the weekends the time can sometimes stretch into multiple hours. Sometimes the rhythms of my 5 am fringe hours routine is shift momentarily when my baby wakes up, in which case, I rock her and nurse her in the darkness of my room while praying the Rosary. One way or another though, I have been able to consistently start my day with calm and peace. It sets the tone for the day and makes all the difference.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Discerning the Will of God

A week ago I was at a high school youth conference and was talking briefly to a nun from the religious community Sisters of Life. In our conversation, she asked if I had read about St. Ignatius' works on discernment and mentioned that I might enjoy Fr. Gallagher's books and specifically recommended Discerning the Will of God: An Ignatian Guide to Christian Decision Making and The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living.

Upon arrival home from the retreat, I ordered the books and was excited to get started with Discerning the Will of God. I chose to read it first because the initial pages immediately captured my attention. Last summer I read a LifeTeen book, True North: A Roadmap for Discernment and appreciated the suggestions. I can't remember how different these two books are, other than remembering that True North was written more specifically for a teen/young adult audience - first person narrative layered in with an explanation of St. Ignatius' concepts. I remember that it was an engaging, thought provoking read; however, I forgot the specifics of it containing the rules and modes until I just referred back to the preview on Amazon.

Nonetheless, since I read about the concepts under a year ago, that made reading Fr. Gallagher's book even easier because the concepts were not completely new. In contrast to True North, Fr. Gallagher's book is written for an adult audience and weaves in a range of different scenarios from people in all different contexts in order to illustrate the discernment process. I can't remember if True North included multiple stories aside from the author's narrative that was interspersed throughout the book bringing the concepts to life.

Fr. Gallagher divides his book into three parts - preparation, discernment, and fruit. This was especially helpful because many of the aspects were already a part of my thinking process, but I had not retained how to intentionally move through a discernment process in a systematic way. Discerning the Will of God provides that, starting with setting the stage for successful discernment. As I moved through the three parts, I was able to notice which concepts seemed familiar and which aspects were either new or forgotten. I could reflect on which of the glimpses into lives of others resonated with my experiences and how they differed. I considered how the way I try to make decisions could have a stronger foundation and more naturally flow through a progression.

The section on preparation goes through the question at the heart of discernment, the foundation, the disposition, and the means or spiritual exercises. This helps me to reflect on the core of discernment. With the exercises, it was easy to consider what is already present in my life and what is lacking or could be improved. Part two goes through each of the modes, and that is where many aspects were familiar to True North. Finally, part three frames the bigger picture value of discernment.

Fr. Gallagher's book was accessible, easy to navigate because of clear organization and helpful headings. It will be fairly easy to go back and locate information that I want to refresh in my mind. While I don't have an immediate opportunity to go on a silent Ignatian retreat, I have plans to carve out some intentional time and space to have a self-directed retreat. Fr. Gallagher's book is going to help me with this process. Being able to intentionally look back at some of my spiritual notebooks through the lens of St. Ignatius' discernment concepts is going to help process what I have noticed and what I have been missing and to consider how to proceed.

I am grateful for the suggestion to read the book, God helped put this book in my hands at just the right time.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Joy of Love

As I have seen glimpses into different papal documents in various resources, I have realized that there is so much I would like to read. Pope Francis' post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia was the first complete papal document that I read, but it of course pointed toward many others I would like to explore in full.

Our parish is participating in the Dynamic Catholic Parish Champion program, and this book was one of the monthly free resources last fall.

At the start of the document Pope Francis stated that it "represents an invitation to Christian families to value the gifts of marriage and the family, and to persevere in a love strengthened by the virtues of generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience," as well as "[encouraging] everyone to be a sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life remains imperfect or lacks peace and joy" (p. 11). Pope Francis then provided an overview of the entire document and recommended ways to approach it, namely for readers to take their time reading and to feel free to read sections that appear most relevant to current context, rather than needing to read the book beginning to end.

I appreciated the insight shared relevant to different layers of marriage and family life, including navigating different phases. It provides aspects to reflect on in order to celebrate the vocation of marriage and living a sacramental life. It gave me points to consider as a wife, as a mom, and to support other families with links to current life contexts. It prompted to consider the beautiful plan for families while also recognizing the reality of challenges and less than ideal contexts. Through it all there was a sense of hope to families to reflect on current realities and grow from there and the role of the Church to support this process.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Catholic Mom Daily Gospel Reflections 2017

I participated in the 2017 Catholic Mom Daily Gospel Reflections this year. Today was the second of three reflections for the year.
***
 Today’s Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9
Through the transfiguration, Peter, James and John saw a glimpse into Jesus’ glory. It was natural that Peter had a desire to stay. Nonetheless, there were other plans for his life. We, like Peter, are called to recognize that God’s timelines and will for our lives may be different than our own inclinations. If we are willing to allow Christ to transform us, we have to trust in the goodness of His plans for us and use our free will to decide to cooperate.
When I first started to intentionally think about this concept as an adult, early on my priest drew my attention to Mary and her “Thy will be done.” I had a propensity to worry too much or try to over-plan. Instead, one initial step to transformation was the on-going call to focus my attention on letting go and trusting, conditioning myself to change my mindset.
As I grew in this area, I noticed both peace and unexpected tensions. Once again my priest guided me, letting me know I needed to expect inner conflict, instead of thinking that I would easily know all details of alignment and that all tensions would fade away. Sometimes it is about stepping forward in faith and prayer and doing what we see as the next step, even when it seems counter-intuitive. With time and patience I have been able to reflect with a greater sense of clarity on how God was working all things for my good through those phases of uncertainty. It’s an ongoing process to patiently wait as things unfold, trusting they will happen when and as they should. Just as the disciples fell prostrate, it is important to give praise when we feel a sense of awe upon the recognition of the power of God in our lives.
Ponder:
What is something that is producing anxiety or tension in your life right now? How can you turn to God for support and guidance?

Pray:

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for gently guiding me to do the next thing, whether big or small. Help me to grow in trust and faith through life’s experiences and like Mary be able to say, “Thy will be done.”