Courage in Christ - A Letter from Wendy Castillo
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Dearest Sisters in Christ,
Have you ever had one of those desperate cries to God? The type of desperate (literal) cry where you don’t even know what to say, you’re just pleading to feel something…hear something back from him. Perhaps you’ve experienced that desperation that makes you grasp firmly to God but feel like He’s completely silent and your grip isn’t strong enough. Yet, you keep praying...you keep seeking…you keep reaching out for him. You’re not alone. The fear of the unknown and all the doubt that lies within our human hearts is no match for God’s unwavering love. I don’t know about you but for me trusting God completely, is a work in progress. It is not an easy task to say, “Yes, God. Take control." We want God to be gentle and giving to our hearts desires. And, our desires for control and quick fixes intensify when we’re praying for something that is causing suffering and havoc in our heart. When you think God is silent and inattentive, God is producing a great harvest of faith in your heart. He listens attentively and fights the battle with us. I can tell you this with confidence because I’ve experienced God’s amazing labor in my heart.
In December 2015 my son started experiencing medical problems. He was two and a half months at the time. I remember looking forward to his first Christmas. My heart was filled with joy and hope for the future. On Christmas Day he began to experience seizures. At first, they were mild, to the point where we weren’t sure what was happening. Once at the hospital, he began to have several seizures a day. It was frightening and heartbreaking to see. There were so many unknowns. All the medical tests that he was given did not reflect that anything was wrong but the seizures continued. The uncertainties with his diagnosis, all the medications and prognosis settled a great fear of the future in my heart.
(Page 2) That December, doubt and fear creeped in with a horrible fury. I was in a serious battle. God tenderly, and with marvelous victory, fought this battle with me. Thankfully my son’s treatment and prognosis improved greatly. Still, during those times of desperate cries, my weeping voice was silent but my heart yelled as loud as it could for God to deliver me. The fear of the unknown, the fear of suffering and not getting what I want was blinding me from all the mercies and grace he was already placing in front of me. I thought about our blessed Mother Mary and her “yes” to God. How beautifully brave and tender she was. God needed her, and she said yes without hesitation. Her heart was torn by the greatest pain, and yet, she endured the suffering with confidence.
I thought about our blessed Mother Mary and her “yes” to God. How beautifully brave and tender she was. God needed her, and she said yes without hesitation. Her heart was torn by the greatest pain, and yet, she endured the suffering with confidence.
Before my son was born, my husband and I were talking about what we would name our baby. My husband was going through a rough time and I remember reading this scripture to him, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) – we were moved and knew God wanted us to remember these words always. We named our son Joshua.
God speaks these words to my heart daily. I’m constantly learning how to say “yes, God. I trust you." I’m still afraid and I still doubt. God is so merciful and patient, though. He does not and will not get tired of fighting battles with us. Loud and clear he tells us, DO NOT BE AFRAID! Be strong and courageous. May you remember that He is willing to be patient with your struggles, whatever they may be. I pray, that when you’re consumed with fear and/or doubt, you allow God to hold you in his mighty grip of grace and love.
Get to know Wendy
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hello! My name is Wendy Castillo and I am 30 years old. I am a California transplant living in Oahu, Hawaii. My husband and I have been married for almost 6 years and were in a long-distance relationship for about 5 years before getting married. It was tough, but we give all the credit to God for helping us through it. Now, we have an amazing two-year-old son.
I am a special education teacher for mild/moderate disabilities, but I am currently doing a long-term substitute position at a private Catholic school in a second-grade classroom. I absolutely love it!
How does your Catholic faith affect the way you live your day-to-day life?
I feel like every day is an opportunity to be a reflection of God’s love and that’s what I strive to do. Yet, every day I stumble and fail in some way. My faith gives me the beautiful realization that I have mercy and grace so generously gifted by God to get through any day.
From one Catholic woman to another, how have you discovered your sense of belonging in the Church?
There have been many times where I’ve felt a sense of belonging in the Church. As a young adult I belonged to an incredible ministry called LifeTeen. As a Core member I had an awesome opportunity to serve the youth by encouraging and helping them learn about the Catholic faith and lead them closer to Christ. Belonging to this ministry allowed me to fall more in love with my Catholic faith.
Another time I felt an encouraging sense of belonging in the Church was when my son was in the hospital. I knew I had a family of God that was praying for us, offering mass for us and coming to see us at the hospital to offer loving support. The love of Blessed Mother Mary had never felt so personal and real. Her prayers of intercession were very uplifting in many occasions of that difficult time.
What’s the most empowering piece of advice you’ve been given as a Catholic woman?
The most empowering piece of advice I received as a Catholic woman was to love myself because God created me with great love and thought. There is a letter from St. John Paull II where he wrote:
“Necessary emphasis should be placed on the 'genius of women', not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfill their deepest vocation. Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way, the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty - not merely physical, but above all spiritual-which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women.”
What a marvelous gift womanhood is. For that reason, I try to live each day recognizing that I am significant and I’m living out an important vocation.
Tell us about a woman who inspires you. What lessons have you learned from her? How has she influenced your life?
It’s difficult to name just one woman who inspires me, so I’d like to generalize my answer and say that I am inspired by women that share their faith. I am inspired by women who share their vulnerability about the struggles of womanhood and share their search for God through it all. I am inspired by women that give of themselves to serve those around them. From these women, I’ve learned to be honest about my struggles and to share how God has worked in my life. I’ve learned to be present and generous with my time. Most importantly, I’ve learned not to be afraid to share about God’s love, about my Catholic faith and the gifts God has blessed me with.
What aspect of your life right now do you find the most beautiful? The most challenging?
Becoming a mother has been the most beautiful yet most challenging aspect of my life. Motherhood stirs your heart in ways you just can’t explain sometimes. As a mother, I’ve had beautiful days of joy and marvel. I’ve also had days of heartbreak and total chaos. Sometimes you feel so inadequate, but you know you’re doing the best you can. There are days of extreme exhaustion where you just want to hide but somehow you manage to have the strength to get things done. Motherhood is filled with everyday miracles. I’m eternally grateful for the joy and blessing of becoming a mother.
What’s currently your biggest stumbling block in pursuing the Lord?
Perhaps my biggest stumbling block in pursuing the Lord is my time management. I feel that sometimes I fall into a state of idleness. With so many things to do it’s easy to lose track of making time for things of the Lord. I know I can make more time for prayer and a more significant effort to be completely present for Mass. I am a continuous work in progress.
What’s the best smell in the world to you?
In my opinion, the best smell in the world is that of fresh limes. I love cutting into a fresh lime and having the lingering smell on my hands…so fantastic!
Fill in the blank
A typical day in my life looks like…
Waking up my toddler (weekdays) or being woken up by my toddler (weekends). On a weekday I am usually up by 5:30 AM to get ready for work. I go into my toddler’s room and lay there for a bit with him before waking him. I enjoy this time where I can silently pray for his and my day. I wake him up and wrap him up in a blanket to drop him off at grandma’s house. Thankfully she lives right next door. I head over to work and quickly have my breakfast before embarking on the days lessons. I teach a group of energetic second graders at a wonderful Catholic school really close to home. At around 3:30 PM I head home and spend as much time with my husband and son before doing more work. We try to be in bed by 9PM on a weekday but that all depends on our son who likes to give us a hard time with bedtime sometimes. Every day is quite eventful.
My favorite quote is...
“Cheerfulness prepares a generous mind for all the noblest acts” - St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
I feel most inspired when…
I am teaching, or my son is enjoying something we’re doing together.
The Catholic Church is…
A community of imperfect people striving to live according to God’s teachings. The family of God coming together in prayer and service to one day share a place in eternal life with Him.