… All things through Christ Who strengthens me, but I don’t have to do ALL things

We live in a world where multi-tasking is an admired and coveted skill. I mean, why shouldn’t it be? The ability to take on multiple tasks at one time and seeing them to completion is nothing to frown at, but maybe it shouldn’t be idolized as much as it is. Think about it, if one of the tasks falls through, everything is thrown off balance and ultimately falls through with maybe one surviving task. Or nothing can be given the time and effort it deserves because our effort has to be spread out amongst many different things, so instead of having one really good product or completed project, you have a few okay-but-could-be-better results.

In a way, this way of working, if it’s the only way you ever work, robs you of a certain joy. You weren’t allowed to get lost in something and produce something you are truly proud of. Your work, though good, wasn’t the passionate undertaking it was capable of being, something that makes you feel alive.

This way of working, in a sense, is a prayer. It is a gift of yourself to those around you and, more importantly, to the Father. He so loves when we get excited and really into our work. That joy, that light in our eyes and excitement, is a lifestyle He wants for us.

Yes, sometimes we need to get things done in a timely manner for our jobs or upcoming events. Multi-tasking is always going to be a way of doing things. Quantity over quality sometimes is the only way to get things done. But I think there should be more of those projects that make us come alive and serve as prayer for us than otherwise. Because if we undertake every task just to cross out our to-do list, we’re going to get burnt out real quick.

Just like we can’t do everything all at once, we can’t possibly choose every good option that comes our way. Whether it’s a job that we know will be good work, a trip that will take us somewhere new, or spending time with people in our lives, we can’t do it all. The sooner we accept that, the less heartache we’ll feel and cause for others. This inability to do it all should not make us feel like we are less of a person or less of whatever God is calling us to be. On the contrary, this liberates us and keeps us healthy. I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me… but I don’t have to do ALL things. Discernment is a beautiful thing because, through discernment, God can guide us to the thing that will bring us closer to Him, the thing that will give us His peace. And I think that’s what we need more of in this world: more peaceful people instead of SuperMans and WonderWomans.

We should never give of ourselves to the point that we lose ourselves. Nothing is worth that. We are called to be so many things to other people, but we are not called to be their Savior. They already have one of those, and we’re not Him. No, Jesus took on all of that pressure on the cross. He would never put that on me or anyone else.

Praise God.

-Megan

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An Attitude of Gratitude

Last summer I read an interesting article about something called a gratitude journal. It was on a writer’s website, and the purpose of the journal was to come up with topics and subjects for your writing. I really liked this idea, but I tried it for a different reason.

I had just moved home from an almost year-long internship in Florida, and I was having a hard time adjusting back to life here. I was facing the most terrifying question: “Now what?” The goal of grade school was to get to college. The goal of college was to get my degree and get to this internship. My entire life, I felt, had led up to that. There wasn’t really a plan for after that (let’s be real: there STILL isn’t a plan for after that), and I kind of fell into a rut that would take months to get out of. So I decided to try this gratitude journal.

Some days this journal served as my only prayer because praying from the rut was hard. As we’ve all heard at some point, there’s always something to be thankful for in each day. The big and little things that made me smile during the day were brought to God before I went to bed, and I filled up a small notebook after a few months of loyally writing about songs, encounters with others, food, etc.

It helped. Boy, did it help. In today’s world so many people are looking at the negative things going on in their lives, be it on a global scale or that one idiot who cut you off while driving to get frozen custard. I know I fall into the habit sometimes of complaining and playing the victim when work gets to be too much or when I have the moments of frustration that come with single young adulthood and these aches and desires that aren’t going to be fulfilled in this stage of my life. The roots and commitments I long for aren’t here yet. But that doesn’t mean that I have nothing in this period of my life.

On the contrary, I have SO much: people who care, a support system that believes in me even when I don’t see much worth looking at, an education, opportunities to better myself and love those around me. Things are good in spite of the negative things that sneak into my everyday life. They can’t consume me. God doesn’t let them touch me. He doesn’t give me more than I can handle. If I’d think about that instead of what color to use for the table clothes at my “woe is me” pity parties, I’d probably have a lot less anxiety. I’d be more joyful. When I’m joyful, I’m more myself than anything else. And, as Blessed Mother Teresa once said, “Joy is strength.”

Joy is strength to keep moving forward when things get tough. Joy is strength to grow into the person God is calling you to be. Joy is strength to be there for others.

Joy is strength.

There’s always going to be something that brings us down and tries to steal our peace, but there is also always going to be something that gives us hope that life is indeed beautiful. We’re not in Heaven yet, people, and following/choosing God doesn’t magically make things easy; instead it makes things worth it. God is good like that.

Here are some things that I’m thankful for in this moment:

-The sky was SO blue yesterday and again today!

-Reading a good book (I’m only like 60 pages in right now, but read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children).

-My supportive family and getting to do everything and nothing with them.

-Good friends who call me to be better and who love me in that process.

-Being able to witness a new community of Catholic youth coming together.

-My Guardian Angel being so good at his/her job of protecting me. You the real MVP.

-Plantation tours and wildlife preserves.

-A best friend coming to visit for a whole week.

-The possibility of new possibilities.

-Cameras. Like actual, real, not-your-cellphone cameras.

-St. Philomena.

-The Divine Mercy Chaplet.

-Hearing your favorite song on the radio.

 

I think I’m going to start another gratitude journal, and I have the perfect notebook for it (thanks, Sharon!).

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What are you thankful for?

-Megan

I Have Seen the Lord…

Tonight as the sisters of the Magdalene House gathered to worship, Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the Resurrected Jesus in the Gospel of John became our own. After Jesus spoke her name, she recognized Him and then went out proclaiming to the other apostles, “I have seen the Lord!” I wanted to share a song that we prayed with tonight, titled after this great proclamation, written by my good friend John Finch. If you haven’t heard of The Vigil Project, you’re missing out on amazing songs of prayer and worship for the Lent and Easter seasons. Check out the video for this song below and visit http://www.thevigilproject.com to hear more!

~Rita

Easter: Finding Joy in the Suffering

A couple of years ago, I was asked to portray the Blessed Mother in a drama about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Every year at Easter, I always recall that experience to mind. I really threw myself into the acting. I tried to see everything that happened through Mary’s eyes—I prayed that she would give me insight into what she felt and saw and knew in each scene, and through that experience and by the grace of God I gained a little window into the passion of Christ that I could go back to year after year as a great meditation for Holy Week—until last year.

Last year, God gave me a similar yet different experience of the sorrow of his passion and the hope of his resurrection that would leave a mark on my thoughts of Holy Week—one that I never in my wildest dreams expected.

Last Wednesday marked a year since my mom passed away.

I had been serving with a missionary group for about 8 months and we were in Los Angeles at the time. My mom was pregnant with her 8th child. She had had complications with high blood pressure for her last pregnancy, but this time around it was going really well and we weren’t really worried. I got a call around midnight from my mom saying that her blood pressure had gone up and they went to the hospital. She said after they got there, it went back down and they gave her the option of inducing labor or having a C-section. My mom HATED C-sections, so she chose labor.  She said she would keep me updated throughout the day while I was working a retreat for some middle school kids with my missionary team. Then we said a quick “love you” and hung up. After I hung up—something inside me said that that would be the last time I would talk to my mom. I pushed it out of my brain, and went to sleep, but that whole night I had dreams about getting “that phone call” telling me something had happened. I woke up to an update that she was only a few centimeters dilated and still had a ways to go so I carried on with my day. Around 10am I got a text from my dad of a picture of my new little sister, and god-daughter– Jennie Elizabeth—and I was so excited! But something gave me pause—that was a really quick labor. So I called my dad and he told me that my mom’s blood pressure had spiked again while he had gone to grab some food. She had a seizure and after it was over, she woke up and told the nurse that she was in pain. The placenta had ripped from the uterine wall and Jennie was without oxygen. They quickly put my mom under and did an emergency C-section.

Jennie was fine but my mom never fully regained consciousness after that.

What happened to her was essentially the perfect storm of pregnancy complications. My mom had DIC, which only happens to a small subset of women, where your blood loses its ability to clot. There was also a bleed in her abdomen that the doctors could not locate, so my mom began to bleed internally after the C-section. They had to put her on a ventilator because she could not breathe on her own anymore. A few hours after all of this happened, it was decided that I needed to leave my missionary team and fly home. I spent the night in the airport and caught a red-eye flight home. They said that during the afternoon my mom would occasionally open her eyes and was vaguely lucid. She seemed aware that she was in the hospital and would look around the room. I think at one point she tried to move and they had to restrain her arms after that. That night, my mom’s best friend told her I was on a plane home, and my mom squeezed her hand, and just like that she slipped back into unconsciousness.

I arrived early the next morning and the next 48 hours was an emotional roller coaster of life or death medical decisions and helping my dad take  care of a newborn baby for my mom who couldn’t. When I walked into the hospital room, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My mom was normally 115 lbs soaking wet. The woman couldn’t gain weight if she tried, but the woman I saw in the bed with tubes coming out of every possible place was swollen beyond belief with eyes that couldn’t open. She was barely recognizable. They had to do a surgery on her that morning to drain the blood from her abdomen and they decided to pack her and leave her open for the time being with a draining tube. Her kidneys began to fail and they also had to put her on dialysis. The doctors said her blood needed to clot before they could take care of anything else and that the next 24 hours would be critical. I remember praying the entire next night “Jesus, let her blood be your blood.” I said it to myself over and over again and hoped for a miracle.

The following day, nothing had really changed, and my dad and I decided it would be best if I took Jennie home. When I got there, I took a shower, and tried to take a nap while she was napping. Around 3pm, I got a call from my dad. After all the hope and the prayers of those 3 days, it was time. He told me to come back to the hospital, so I left Jennie with family friends and when I got there he explained that my mom’s blood was starting to clot, but it was clotting in the dialysis machine which was making the toxins from my mom’s kidneys rush to her heart. They could thin her blood, but then she would just continue to bleed. They had already revived her twice by the time I got to the hospital. There was no longer anything they could do. Her heart would continue to stop. A few days before, my mom had posted on Facebook:

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:26

I don’t think she realized how true that statement would be for her life in just a few days.

My dad then asked me, “Should we let her go? Should we tell them to stop reviving her?”

I can tell you with absolute certainty that what came out of my mouth next was both the easiest and hardest thing I had ever said.

I told him we should let her go, and in that moment I knew it was right and I felt peace for the first time in 3 days.

I was so sad, but I was so at peace because something in me knew for the first time in my life with absolute certainty that this was God’s plan. Sitting around her bed with my family, waiting for her heart to slow to a stop, I began to know, though not completely,  the sorrow, the hope, and the strength the Blessed Mother felt watching her son die on the cross.

Mary watched her son be beaten until he was unrecognizable. She watched him suffer as he walked with the cross up to Calvary. She watched him labor to breathe as he hung there. She felt the sadness and the sorrow for the pain of her son. She wished there was another way, but knew there wasn’t. She knew that she would miss him, but I believe she also knew that the suffering was worth the cost. She knew of her Son’s great love for us and she knew this was necessary in order for Him to gain salvation for those He loved. She knew that there was hope in this. She knew that there was hope, and that gave her strength.

In the same way, I knew of my mom’s great love for her children. I knew that if there was any way that she would want to leave this world—this would be it. Doing something she loved—being a mother– Giving that final piece of her heart to the world. I had hope and strength because my mom’s death was one of the greatest acts of love I’ve ever witnessed.

Bl.Mother Teresa once said

“ Love, to be real, it must cost– it must hurt—it must empty us of self.”

Her self-giving love was such a powerful witness of Christ’s sacrifice for me— and for all of us– one that will leave an indelible mark on my heart for the rest of my life.

After my mom passed, though, I began to feel the same confusion the apostles felt. After Christ died, they didn’t know what to do, so they hid. In the same way, I felt just as lost. My mom was my rock. The one who I turned to for comfort, for faith, for her opinion, and her advice. For the first time, I had to look at my world standing on my own two feet instead of leaning on her. I moved home to help my dad take care of Jennie and the rest of my siblings, and let me tell you— there were a lot of times this year that I hid just like the apostles. I hid from the people in my life that I cared about, from my own emotions, and even from God.  There were a lot of times when I wasn’t strong, when I couldn’t feel the peace that I felt that first night quite as strongly—But God was still there in those moments too. I don’t know what I would do without my brothers, my dad,my family, my friends, my church community. The outpouring of love that I and my family have received from our community in this year has constantly reminded me that I was not lost, and that there was no need to hide. Through the suffering, the doubt, and the pain—the hope of new life breaks through. The promise of the resurrection and salvation of God permeated even my darkest times. All I had to do was grasp it and hold on. When I miss my mom, I always remember that because of the great love and passion of Christ, my mom has found salvation, and that always brings me joy.

Joy—true Easter joy—is not just about being happy.

Joy is the fruit of our faith, hope, and love. It’s knowing that God is working and is close to our hearts in the good and the bad. It’s knowing that God works for the good of those who love Him, and that the trials of this life are nothing compared to the eternity that is waiting for us in heaven.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor she has sorrow, because her hour has come, but when she delivers the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, because of the joy of knowing that a child is born into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
John 16:20-22

This is my prayer for all of you this Easter—whoever you may be– that you would know the true Easter joy and let NO ONE or NOTHING take that joy from you. Whatever battle you are facing, big or small, be assured that Christ has already won. Know that He is and will always be victorious over suffering and  death. YOU belong to Christ, who has purchased your salvation with His unending love.So when you are suffering, walk with Christ and his mother up to Calvary and share in his cross, but always remember that his suffering leads to the hope of new life and there is always a reason to rejoice!

HE IS RISEN!

Happy Easter!

-Hailey

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In Memory of Gwen DeLaune
Jan 10, 1972- March 23, 2015

To Be Chosen

We want to be chosen.

Whether we’re 7 years old and want to be chosen for the better kickball team at recess, 16 years old and want to be chosen as that special someone’s date to the prom, 30 years old and want to be chosen for that promotion at work that would secure our future.

We want to be chosen.

We want someone to see us, our effort, our talent, and make an intentional decision about who we are as an individual, that will tell us that we’re desirable.

And we let this drive our lives. How many times do I hit the gym this week? How much overtime do I put in at work? How long do I spend picking out my outfit? The list of areas that this desire to be chosen affects is endless. Sometimes we can let this desire run us into the ground. We want to be chosen and we’ll do whatever it takes, even at the risk of burning ourselves out. And if this desire is not met, if I’m not chosen, disappointment and despair can take over so easily.

Before we go any further, let me say that this desire to be chosen is SO GOOD. It’s not a curse that we have to put up with. It’s not a longing that we have to shove way down deep. It’s not a sign of being needy or desperate.

A great priest friend of mine once told me that our ache carries a message. In every corner of my ache lies the voice of the One who can ease it. I won’t hear that voice unless I venture into the ache, but when I do – when I find the courage to inquire about this desire to be chosen, He speaks directly into that deep ache and says, I have chosen you and I am proud to call you my own.

Brothers and sisters, you and I have already been chosen. And we’ve been chosen for something that is greater than any date, any promotion, any world-class kickball team.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you. – John 15:16

We make our choice to follow or not follow God. To love Him or not love Him. And sometimes in the midst of our decision, we forget that God has chosen us first. He chose us long before we had ever heard His name. He chose us, knowing full well that we may choose to never choose Him. He chose us, knowing that we would choose Him, but still hurt Him everyday by our action and inaction.

But even in this – He doesn’t regret His choice for us. I regret choices that I make all the time, like St. Paul who does the thing he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do the thing he wants to do (Romans 7:15).

The Father’s choice for you and me led Him to much pain and heartbreak, but He doesn’t regret it. It isn’t in His nature to abandon his faithfulness.

Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands. – Isaiah 49:16

I once heard about this ancient wedding tradition, where the groom would tattoo the name of his beloved bride on his hands as a sign of his devotion and faithfulness to her.

This is OUR story. When Christ the Bridegroom came to lay down His life for His bride, they pierced His hands with nails. The scars on His hands bear our names. They’re a sign of the lengths that Love will go to show His beloved that He’s chosen her. He’s not leaving. He’s not giving up on us. He’s chosen us and He doesn’t regret it.

Brothers and sisters, our desire to be chosen is satisfied in this. The Father has chosen us. But not just “us” – You and Me. By name. He’s not calling us by the name the world calls us, by what we believe we are sometimes. He doesn’t call us by our sin. He doesn’t call us by our broken circumstance. He doesn’t call us by our disappointments. He doesn’t even call us by our accomplishments.

You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will give you. No more shall you be called forsaken or your land desolate; you shall be called My delight is in her, and your land married; for the Lord delights in you. You shall be called Sought out, a city not forsaken. – Isaiah 62:2, 4, 12.

He calls us His. This is what He’s chosen us for –relationship with Him. An intimate relationship, where we find rest in the security of knowing that we have indeed been chosen. And when we’re not chosen for things in this life, we have the blessed assurance of knowing that we’ve been chosen by a good Father, a good Savior. It was a choice that cost Him everything, but there’s no regret in His voice as He calls us by the name He’s given us: Chosen.

~Rita

Let’s talk about the D-word!

Ha. No—not that ‘D’ word. The other one.

Discernment.

If you’re Catholic/Christian and in your early to mid 20’s you have probably heard that term ad nauseam. I feel like I hear it on a daily basis but I feel that a lot of us use the term too flippantly.

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What I mean by that is, a lot of the time I hear the word used as an excuse to avoid making a decision.

“I can’t really do that right now… eh heh hem… I’m … Discerning…”

Or a lot of times I hear the word only reserved for the use of describing someone’s never ending battle with God  about whether they are going to join the convent, go to seminary, or hold out to see if Mr. or Mrs. Right is ever going to come along.

“Well.. I’m kind of discerning my next step in life righ…”

“WAIT–  You’re going to be a priest?!”

But, I’m here to tell you friends, discernment is not just for those big ticket items on the list of our lives. In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians he says, “Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophesying, but test everything. Hold fast to what is good and abstain from what is evil.”

Test EVERYTHING. Everything in our lives needs discernment. Paul told us not to quench the Spirit who thirsts to be a part of our lives. God wants to be a part of ALL of our decisions. He wants to permeate our lives. I am not saying take an hour to pray about what you’re going to eat for lunch, but we are, on some level, supposed to take our decisions to God and ask him to conform them to HIS will—not the other way around.

But the big question is—how do we discern? There have been tons of books written and many talks given, but I will spell out a few pieces of discernment advice I have found helpful  for all aspects of life.

  1. God is most likely not going to call you up on your cell phone to tell you what college you should go to, who to date, what to give up for lent (Netflix. It’s a struggle, y’all.), how to find a new job, where to live, or how to remove or change a negative relationship in your life. I do not doubt God’s power—He can do whatever He wants, but His preferred mode of communication from the beginning has typically been in ‘the whisper’ and not in ‘the earthquake’ and delaying decisions for long amounts of time while waiting for Him to come down in a big booming voice and hand you the answer is probably not the most practical thing to do.Don’t get me wrong–we can’t discern impulsively either (Applying for a missionary year a few days after your boyfriend breaks up with you—probably not a prudent decision. Lucky for me, God works all things for the good those who love him, am I right?)
  2.  Adopt a spirit of detachment. 

    Imma let my girl St. Teresa of Avila spit some truths on this one–“We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can—namely surrender our will and fulfill God’s will in us.”

    We have to know ourselves as children of God and we have to surrender our will to the father who loves us.I heard from someone once about a father who wanted to give his 3 year old son a cookie, and how instead of having his hands open to receive what the father was going to give– he jumped up and down and grasped at the cookie jar.

    When it comes to our plans, why are we so hell bent on grabbing the cookie jar for ourselves? God wants to give us every gift possible in this life and for eternity but how can we receive that if we are trying to grasp at the things we only think will make us happy? — because let’s be honest, we never really know for sure. We have to detach from what we want and trust that our Father in heaven will give us what we need.

    In discernment, we have to take to prayer the intention of conforming our will to God’s and also for the grace that we need to detach from what we may think is right and stop grasping at it. If you’re still holding on to something tightly in your life, you are not ready to discern what God wants for you because you have already made your decision.

    Detachment takes trust. We have to trust that God isn’t going to force us into something that we absolutely do not want to do. He doesn’t want to fill his seminaries and convents with people who hate the idea of that vocation just for the sake of filling them. He’s not trying to trick you into doing his bidding at the expense of your happiness. We just need to take our blinders off to allow God to bring clarity into our lives. His clarity won’t affect us if we’re not going to see past our own plans. We have to detach first to be able to discern anything.

  3. Once we detach, we have to move.God can’t guide someone who is standing still.
    For those of us who are in/have gone to college – you know that you have to walk through the door to figure out if you’re in the right class or not on the first day. Sometimes, you have to sit through the whole thing before you realize…). I can’t give you an exact blow by blow of discernment because it is different for everyone—but I can say that once you move, God is better able to open doors for you or shut them. You will begin to either have a sense of peace or a sense of discontentment or anxiety. You may see where God is leading you after a few hypothetical steps forward, or you may need to go even farther than that before you realize, but be assured that God has you where you are for a purpose, even if He doesn’t allow you to see it all the way through.

    At the end of my junior year of college, I began to work on getting into Grad school for counseling. That was always the plan. I registered for the GRE, bought the practice book, and then a few months later realized I had absolutely no desire to do it and it wasn’t just senioritis kicking in. I took it to prayer and realized I was filled with this huge anxiety—I was trying to shove my life into this little tiny box labeled “My plan” and I didn’t want to let any of it go, but it was exhausting to hold on to it all. It took me a while but I eventually realized that God’s plan for me was a lot more freeing than my tiny little box. I could look back on it from where I am now, and say that I wasted my time getting a bachelors in Psych only to become a youth minister with no plans of pursuing counseling, but I know that God brought me through that stage of my life for a purpose. It was necessary.

  4.  Take a step back and analyze what is happening. Do you have peace, or not? Is what you are doing bringing you closer to God, or not? If it doesn’t feel right, chances are you need to go back to the drawing board and make adjustments. But eventually, as you detach from your will, and move, and pray, and reflect – God will get you where you need to be. In His time. Not yours.
  5. Whatever you are discerning, big things or little things, do not fear making the wrong decision. Fear is not of God. 

    “The goal of all of our undertakings should be not so much a task perfectly completed as the accomplishment of the will of God.” – St. Therese of the child Jesus and the Holy Face 

    If we place Christ at the center of our lives, we no longer have to rely on our imperfect nature but Christ’s perfection, and His perfect love casts out all fear and doubt.If we bring Christ into the center of our decisions and act WITH him rather than without him, we don’t need to worry— He WILL make straight our paths.

 

Happy Discerning!

— Hailey