Our Lord took this hardened heart of mine, this heart that had kept people and Him at a safe arm’s length away, and softened and molded it into a new creation. Day by day, the Lord helped me recognize and receive love. At first in the smallest of things: a friend doing my dishes after a dinner party I hosted, a coworker buying lunch for me, a stranger leaving an encouraging note on my desk.
In the past, I thought suffering was something to be avoided at all costs. Now I know that when suffering comes, I can offer it as a gift to God on behalf of my brothers and sisters in Christ. While it might not take the pain away, I trust that God uses my humble gift to add seeds of grace and light and peace to a world that desperately needs it. We all suffer in some way, whether it is physically, emotionally, or a combination of both. Sister, I want you to know that God can make your pain beautiful if you let Him.
The consoling knowledge of the “communion of saints” continues to support me on my journey of grief. It is wonderful to know that those that we love need not be dismissed as “dead and gone.” There is the wonderful Reality that life goes on, beyond the grave. I can hope that my dad is “putting in a good word for me” now, that he is currently experiencing reality more fully than the rest of us in the Church here on earth.
As I cried in my bathroom, I told God how sick I am of fighting against my body. I told Him how exhausted I am of trying to love myself only to fail. I told Him how I didn’t understand how I was good even in my overweightness. I told Him how frustrated I was that I didn’t feel comfortable dressing in the clothes I wanted to.
I got out of the shower and stared at myself in the mirror once more. Suddenly, God said: “You are so, so much more than the clothes you wear. There is so much more to you than that.”
But while sitting in front of the Eucharist, the Lord pointed out that I am a human being, not a human doing.
I don’t need to prove myself. The arbitrary limitations I have set are a result of my own pride, not based on the truth of who He is. I have distorted my perception of His affection from loving to loving only if I can be a perfect robot of holy conduct and charity. God’s mercy is not dependent on my actions, but in my identity as His creation.
We sat there, my mom, dad, and I as the man in the white coat leaned against the counter next to alcohol swabs and sterilized medical things. When he said, “Stage III Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer,” I looked to mom as I always did when I didn’t understand the medical jargon.
My Chevrolet Equinox has seen a lot: over 92,000 miles of American highways and gravel backroads, nights of shared laughter and spilled Sonic drinks, flowing tears and back-seat napping, countless passengers (human and canine) riding shotgun, solo concerts and long phone calls.
My faith was characterized by busyness: read my Bible, volunteer at youth group, journal, go to church, teach my children Bible lessons, read something spiritual, lead a Bible study—and I was exhausted.
Throughout my life I had worn a mask of holiness, faith, happiness, and purposeful living by praying, going to mass, and playing the “good Catholic girl” only because it was expected. There was no desire in my heart for a real relationship with God, and it seemed more than sufficient that I simply go through the motions.
He has shown me that the wounds of my past, though He didn’t will them to happen, He allowed them to happen. He uses all, sister. ...Especially the darkest moments of our life. If you let him into those moments and those memories He will make them new.
Go deeper and know your Bible as well as you know your own favorite story, and get to know what happened in the lives of its characters. Carve its verses upon your heart, until its prayers become your own. Fall in love with the Bible and find its place in the heart of our Catholic faith.
At the age of 32, this is my best handwriting. Close to ten years ago, four other Catholic campus missionaries and I were T-boned by a Mack Truck while driving to an end-of-the-semester retreat. I don’t remember a single day from the month that followed.
How much I still struggle to be in control, to know what’s going to happen and predict life. Yet in those quiet moments, He was drawing me into a greater reality. The reality that freedom comes through becoming like children in front of the Lord.
Sometimes, you never really notice how you or your life are changing in the midst of it all. Gradually, things just become your new normal. But looking back, you can see how quickly things changed. That’s exactly how my love story with Christ has been.
As I sat in the Adoration chapel, I tentatively laid out my dreams before God. My hopes for my vocation, my dreams to serve and create, my hopes for life-giving joy. But I was pulling back. I expressed my desire for fulfillment, but I did not dare voice how I hoped they would be molded specifically to my own heart.
I cannot remember a time before anxiety. When I was young, everything had to be just right, and I always had to be in control. As I grew older, the prevailing worry was homework - had I done it perfectly? What if I’d missed something? And then more diabolical fears crept in - and I do mean diabolical in the truest sense of the word. I spent years wrestling with crushing, exhausting, terrifying guilt in my spiritual life.
I am thankful for a God who is re-teaching me to fall in love with Him, not just my own puppet version of Him, and for those who run with me in this beautiful marathon of life with all of its bumps and twists and turns.
“At 28 (almost 29) years old, with a 10-month-old daughter, a husband of 2 years, a mortgage, 3 books published, 40+ speaking engagements a year, a car note, half a Master’s degree, and more stress than I sometimes know what to do with, it’s becoming more and more evident, that following where the Lord leads is the only recipe to success that ever works…”
"I'm ashamed to admit that I have questioned and argued with God intensely in small areas and in large ones. Are you there God? Do you even exist? If you are there, do you care about me at all? These questions and others have regularly echoed in my heart…”
“Dearest Sister, I am writing this letter to you from a crowded coffee shop on a rainy Monday afternoon in Boston. It’s my day off, but like most of my days off in the last month, it doesn’t quite feel like one…”