He Made Me New
Letter from Grace Smith
(Click on the letters to enlarge)
Dear Sweet Sister,
Know that I am grateful for you where ever you find yourself today - emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually. Whether you’re in a library pouring over your messy handwritten notes or in a messy living room full of toys. Whether you are in an empty house or sipping your third cup of coffee at the office. I’m grateful for you whether you fell asleep praying your rosary last night or rolled out of bed late and still haven’t prayed yet today. I’m grateful for you as you are. Why? Because you are His, and so am I.
We are more alike than we are different, sister. And though I’ve never met you I feel as if I know you. How? Well, we both have hurts. We both have wounds. I may not know yours and you may not know mine but the One who gives us life does. And He breathed compassion into my little lungs after my conversion. You see, He brought me back to life.
He brought me back slowly and subtly, yet all at once and with a fierce pursuit.
It’s strange to try and explain how he took my stony, bruised, and beaten heart and infused it with love. He answered a yearning so deep down inside of me that I didn’t even know it was there. And once I discovered that I was longing for more I didn’t know how to allow goodness into my life. It was easier to drink and numb and pursue pleasure as I had been doing for so many years before. But he conquered all of those things and continues to conquer them.
It took the death of my beloved grandfather for me to fully open up and receive the grace that had always been there waiting for me. And once the floodgates opened, He hasn’t stopped pursuing me and bringing me to greater healing. He flipped my life upside down, but it was a long road to an openness of heart.
I had been living sort of a dual-life for nearly 4 years before I surrendered to Mercy. I was drinking copious amounts of alcohol on the weekends beginning my sophomore year of high school. I used and allowed others to use me both physically and emotionally. I sought pleasure and comfort always. Yet oddly enough I was going to Mass some Sundays and never totally lost touch of a prayer life. I can probably count on my hand the number of times I’ve missed my routine bedtime prayer in my life. But I was trapped, paralyzed by the vices and the walls I had built up and trapped by the reputation I had created for myself.
Throughout college, I started opening up to the idea of learning more about the faith and was invited to many bible studies by the missionaries on my campus which I half-heartedly agreed to as I tried to maintain my “too cool” attitude. My walls began crumbling as I experienced more internal strife during a bible study on the feminine genius. A genius that I was most certainly not living out. I was living strikingly opposite of the true femininity we are capable of. I reacted rashly at first, telling my missionary that this group wasn’t for me and that I felt unworthy and uncomfortable being in fellowship with the other women in the bible study. My little heart was discontent and restless by these new truths in my life, and the Lord was slowly opening me up. He used those women to show me authentic love and life-giving community like I’d never experienced before. He was shining a light directly on the dark spots of my life and putting the right people in my path to show me that I wasn’t alone in that darkness.
However, this back and forth of desiring goodness yet living a vicious cycle of emptiness persisted until my grandpa passed away in November 2014. Leading up to his hospice care and death I had started sincerely praying and pleading with God to free me from the life I was living. Many times that year I found myself falling apart in tears. I would cry in the shower of my college apartment, or to the missionaries I’d grown close to over the past couple years, and eventually I cried in the confessional.
What changed? I let Jesus pursue me… I desired Him. The war inside my heart gave way after I attended a conference in Nashville in January 2015 where I experienced the objective Truth of Jesus in the Eucharist during Adoration. I ended up leaving a lifestyle, friends, and even a serious relationship because of the Great Love I was experiencing. The love which I was experiencing in and through His Church and through the beautiful new friends he placed in my path. I went from using contraceptives, and binge drinking to the point of blackouts, to a newness of life. It was painful and there have been many falls along the way. But something just as painful as my initial conversion of heart is the aftermath of dealing with deeply inflicted wounds I have incurred over time. My initial conversion was over and I had decided to give myself to Christ, but the real struggle and honestly the continuous struggle is letting Him be the Divine Physician; The Great Healer who not only heals through prayer and the Sacraments but through the people he places in our lives.
Healing is a funny thing... There is a sort of wrestling with God that happens. Confusion, frustration, shame, guilt. These were many of the emotions that I felt after initially coming back to the loving arms of the Father. My inner critic struggled with why destruction and sin had to be a part of my story. Why did He allow certain things to happen? Why couldn’t he just heal me fully in a single moment of time? Why do I still struggle to live a life of virtue?
Over the past three years, He has shown me that this life is a journey and it’s a surrender. 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. Even the darkest moments of our life. No, especially the darkest moments of our life. If you let him into those moments and those memories He will make them new. Those things happened so that He might be glorified - because He can make all things new. You are no exception to that truth, nor am I.
But I haven’t come to this place of acceptance on my own. Oh no, He sent me so many joyful examples of love. He has blessed me with true friends who are constantly calling me higher and lifting me up. Friends who made it easy to share my story and be vulnerable. Vulnerability that ultimately brought all things to the light so that He can reveal His glory there in the darkness of my past.
So, invite Him into your hearts, and minds sweet friend and let others into your mess. He wants to heal your wounds, and he will, but have patience. As C.S Lewis says, “'Course he isn't safe. But he's good.”
He is good sister, so let His glory shine through your wounds.
In Him through Her,
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Get to know Grace
Full name: Grace Smith
State-in-life / Occupation: Executive Assistant
Location: Cincinnati OH
Educational background: Business Admin and Arts Admin degree from Winona State University
How does your Catholic faith affect the way you live your day-to-day life?
My faith is like the air that fills my lungs. It sustains my life. And in other ways it takes the breath right out of me; filling me with peace and belonging all the while creating in me a longing for eternity with Him. My faith has given me a perspective, a different lens to see the ordinary everyday life.
Has there been a particular teaching of the Church that has intimately transformed the way you see yourself and others? If so, please describe.
A truth that more recently changed my life is Jesus’ merciful love and forgiveness. When we give our whole selves to Him and seek mercy he heals powerfully and he transforms hearts.
What’s your favorite way to pray?
I love being with the Lord in Adoration in silence and solitude. I also really love praying aloud with and for others as well.
Tell us about a woman who inspires you.
My grandma Mary inspires me deeply. She’s so tiny yet so strong. She loves with a fierceness that I’ve never seen before. She loves her family that way, she loved my grandpa that way, and she loves the Lord that way. It’s who she is. She’s willing to put up a fight and oh boy does she know how to fight for what she believes in. I like to think I learned how to stand up for Truth from her fierce and zealous heart.
Fill in the blank
My morning routine consists of: waking up on the first ring of my alarm, getting ready for the day , scrambling to feed myself breakfast before starting my rosary on the way to work. On a good day I find a couple minutes to sit in the chapel at work before really jumping into the day.
I’m currently obsessed with: Alanna Boudreau’s music and the novel A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
I feel most inspired when: I’m drawing, doodling or hand lettering outdoors
The advice I would give to the millennial Catholic woman is: share with the Lord your whole heart. Don’t hold back how you are feeling in prayer. Whether that’s sorrow, joy, anger, envy, gratitude, you name it… He wants you to tell Him. Love is being with another. So love the Lord and love those around you with your whole heart.