Promises

This Easter brought with it a recurring thought: “He keeps His promises”.

How many times have we been told that? God keeps His promises. Depending on your journey it could be hundreds over the years or maybe it’s a new revelation to you. Regardless of that, what is your reaction when you hear those words?

Growing up it was often just one of those lines that sounded nice but I honestly didn’t pay much attention to or try to fully understand. It wasn’t until this past year when I came face to face with it in a way I never had before. During the hardest months of my life many close and well-intentioned loved ones told me that “line”. I remember hearing it and thinking, “How? I thought what He had given me was Him keeping His promises but now it’s all gone so how can it be true?” Then as I began to heal just a little more and the emotions weren’t clouding my every thought, a different question was allowed in: “What even are God’s promises?” Now this was a profound and startling thought. What does this God I’ve spent my entire life believing in and trusting and doing my best to follow, what does He actually even promise me?

Being in a still rather fragile state, I didn’t have the stamina or determination to figure it out on my own so I asked those loved ones who had originally shared that thought with me what they believed His promises were. Honestly, I think some of them were as thrown off by the question as I was. Some came back with good enough answers, but they still didn’t feel concrete enough. So naturally I pushed the question aside and moved my focus to easier thoughts instead. (Classic avoidance mentality haha)

Months later, as I was praying the Surrender Novena again for the umpteenth time, something stood out to me- a promise from Jesus right there! I’d prayed it how many times at that point and never put two and two together? (see my last post for more on that) So, in response, this time I decided to make a list of any promises God has made to add to whenever one popped up. I started with that promise I had just read and another one in a subsequent day’s prayers. These included:

  • I will take care of things, I promise this to you.
  • I will take care of it all; I will console you, liberate you, and guide you.

Then a couple Bible verses came to mind:

  • Love never fails 1 Corinthians 13:8
  • I am making all things new Revelation 21:5

These were a start and gave me comfort but I was still struggling to fully believe God was being serious and would come through. Then Holy Week 2021. This Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) was the most beautiful and impactful one I have ever experienced in my life, and most of it I was all on my own for, which is new for me. God had emptied me so much over the last year that I had literally become an empty vessel. But that emptiness was no longer a profound ache or discomfort, it had a freshness to it, a welcoming presence ready to accept whatever the Lord desired to pour into me. It had a peace to it which very much came through over those three days.

And that’s when it happened. Easter Sunday. As I scrolled through Instagram one of the first posts I read said, “’He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.’” Bam. Those words, “just as He said”, stopped me in my tracks and hit me with such a deep amazement. He had promised it, His resurrection and defeat of death, and He had delivered. That was it. That was the promise of all promises and when all hope could have been lost, He did just as He said He would. So that became my Easter message to people, “He keeps His promises!” because that’s the why, that’s the reason, that’s the hope.

Now I’m seeing His promises pop up everywhere and it makes me smile and feel an excitement to actually believe them, believe HIM. When we can’t do it on our own, when our strength is decimated, when our tears are an overflowing waterfall, when our thoughts are stuck in a revolving door, when we don’t want to believe anything remotely beautiful or good could come from our current circumstances, when the passion is stale and the days disappear into each other, there’s only one sane thing to do- hold onto the promises He’s ALREADY fulfilled. Those in your life, those in other’s lives, but most importantly that one that changed the world. The one promise that took every single thing you’re experiencing, asked it to die, asked it to wait, asked it to empty itself, then blew away any expectation that could have ever been fathomed by giving the answer of a NEW <<WHOLE>> LIFE.

As I continue to walk through this new life and as I’m called to testify to my past, this is it. This is the word I want to live by and share. The depths of despair do not last, but that doesn’t matter when you’re in it. Feel it all and don’t be afraid of it BUT do not turn from the One who…

…is with you always, until the end of the age. Matthew 28:20

…will give you peace that surpasses all understanding. Philippians 4:7

…will fully provide whatever you need. Philippians 4:19

…will fight for you. Exodus 14:14

…will wipe every tear from your eyes. Revelation 21:4

His promises are as endless as His goodness. Hold tight.

Are you struggling with this too? Ask God to reveal His promises to you! “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 (Hint- that’s another promise 😉)

 

The Joyful Banana

Last year, around this time, I found myself in the throes of depression yet again. It has been a fog that has followed me for many years now, limiting my capacity to feel, receive, and express joy in more ways than I like to admit. The cross of this is a truly defeating and exhausting one, no matter the reasoning for its presence in the first place. Well, last year someone posted a video of a little girl receiving a banana for a Christmas gift. And her reaction made me break down in tears. “A banana! A banana!” rang from her lips as she joyfully proclaimed what her gift was and how excited she was to receive it. I expressed that, that joy was what I wanted for Christmas. I wanted my heart and mind to become overwhelmed by the little blessings and gifts in life no matter how “common” or “ordinary” they seemed.

Well, when Christmas came, the last gift I opened was just that, a banana. Yet, joy was not my initial reaction. In fact, confusion was. To the gift giver’s disappointment, I had to be reminded of the video. Only then did I break down into tears with the biggest smile on my face.

Now, with that banana long gone, I reflect on the moment and realize how often that has been the case in my life. I pray for something that I so deeply desire, and then I promptly get distracted by other things in life and forget the prayer was ever said in the first place. Even with the answered prayer right in front of me, I remain clueless and a little embarrassed knowing I’m missing something… Only after the gift is explained to me do I even remember the prayer was said at all!

Through this process I can picture the face of my Lord, so excited to hear my prayer, the wheels turning in His mind as to how He will (not can, but will) fulfill this longing of my heart, and the anticipation He feels as He begins to reveal the gift to me. Then, I can see the sting in His eyes as I look puzzled at the gift in my hands and then back at Him (or on my worst days when I outright reject the gift). However, the sting only lasts a moment because His mercy is beyond my human comprehension. I ask Him, or beg Him, to explain the gift to me and He gently and with a new twinkle in His eye begins to remind me of my initial request and show me how He managed to fulfill it. My goodness is it a humbling moment when the lightbulb turns on and I realize how I forgot the longings of my own heart, yet He did not.

Sometimes, in all honesty, I still reject the gift because it doesn’t come in the package that I want. My pride is a selfish beast that I long to tame so that I never cause that look of pain on my Lord’s face ever again. Yet, I know I will hurt Him more times than I can bear to fathom. But I also know that I can change that pain back into love and joy simply by staying present with Him in that moment and asking Him to explain the love He is offering to me. It is when I pretend to understand and simply brush the gift aside afterwards that I cause more pain. But it is when I humble myself and ask the questions, that I enter more deeply into the most life-giving relationship I could ever dream of.

This year my depression still lingers, and new wounds only fuel its presence. With those new wounds have also come many prayers, many that I am sure I have promptly forgotten as well but that the Lord in His goodness has not. Some have already been answered- most received in packages I did not want, some in packages I have yet to understand, and some with a joy that could only be the answer to a prayer about a banana. As I continue to sit with the Lord and He explains to me His master plan of hunting down and fighting to give me each of my heart’s desires, I find myself fully present, gazing into His eyes, and learning to trust His every word so that each gift results in a joy in me like that little girl had for a banana.

So, as we approach Christmas this year, what is your joyful banana? And how will you respond when the Lord in His unceasing generosity inevitably gives it to you, regardless of what the package it comes in looks like?

 

Welcome to the Present Catholic Blog!

Back in the spring of 2017, as I prepared to graduate with a Master’s degree in theology, I was pulling together the finishing touches of my “Evangelizing the Culture” project requirement. We could choose almost anything we wanted to fulfill this requirement as long as it was evangelizing others in some way. I chose to write and share a daily devotional for Lent and I titled it: Present Catholic.

The purpose of the devotional was to provide a simple way for people to be more present to the movements of the Lord in their lives throughout the season of Lent. I described it in this way, “We all know the anticipation leading up to Easter Sunday and the celebration of Christ’s miraculous Resurrection. However, with that anticipation can also come a disconnect from the present moment. Through this program, you will be given a reflection and an action/challenge for each day. The goal of the reflection is to help bring your attention to that particular moment and to give you something to focus on throughout the day. In addition to the reflection, you will also be given an action/challenge connected to the reflection to help you participate in the present moment.”

It was an incredibly fruitful experience not only for myself but for the nearly 50 people who signed up! (That number alone blew my mind by the way). I had desired to continue writing after the program ended but God had other plans. Any brain power I had left after completing my Master’s program was dwindling, I was involved with a booming young adult ministry, and unbeknownst to me, a few months later, I would be hired as a Campus Minister at a small Catholic college and a year after that I would unexpectedly become the Director. Life was busy and it was clearly not the time. Almost 4 years later and God has taken me for quite a wild ride. Yet all of it has been leading me to this point, a point where the words “be still” are plastered on my heart and up ahead is a future that is only clear to the One who created me. So, with nowhere to go and a vulnerable heart in tow, I venture back into the world of writing!

Since this blog is clearly centered on faith, for those who are curious about my faith background here it is: I seek to abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church in every area of my life which I’m only ever able to do by the grace of God, and when I fail (more often than I care to admit) I embrace the Sacrament of Reconciliation to atone for my shortcomings and seek holy guidance to align myself with the will of God once again. See the Nicene Creed and Catechism of the Catholic Church for a full rundown of beliefs.

In an effort to continue simplifying my life, keeping Christ at the center, and truly having my focus in the present moment, I am aiming to let go of my perfectionist tendencies in regards to this blog. I enjoy being creative through graphic and web design, marketing, and writing, however, when the need to make everything “just right” takes away my peace, I know that I am no longer fully following God’s will. That means, I’m not giving myself any deadlines for posting weekly, monthly, etc. (you’ll have to find your Mindful Mondays elsewhere 😉). I’m also not going to be as strict about sticking to the theme of “being present”, although I’m sure it will still be very prominent as I feel passionate about that particular call to action. And while I have many ideas for making this site more interactive, I’m going to ease into the web design portion and start by simply sharing my reflections. I will offer to send you the reflections directly to your inbox, but don’t expect any fancy looking designs to accompany them. 😀 You can also follow me on Instagram @presentcatholic to see the challenges from the original program and to be notified of new posts.

This blog is a place for me to unpack my relationship with God, my prayers, and my life experiences while embracing the enjoyment I get from writing. I pray that God may use my simple musings to bless anyone who reads them. Feel free to comment or email me with any feedback or reflections of your own! Know that you are in my prayers and that I am entrusting you all to my three favorite examples of pure, holy love- the Chaste Heart of Joseph, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Most Sacred Heart of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Until my next post (which will be coming soon), I will leave you with a Bible verse and a challenge. There are many I could quote in an effort to sum up my faith but the one that has been with me the longest is this: “I believe, help my unbelief” Mark 9:24

So, what do you believe in and who will you ask to help you go deeper?

For more background on the meaning being the name, Present Catholic, check out the “About” page. And shoutout to my best friend, Dayna, who reworked my original logo to make my intent  of representing the “Chi Rho”  or “XP” symbol for Christ  through the intersection of the P and C look so much like it!