AccountabiliTEA

I could take this post in two directions- focus on wounds or focus on how they’re being healed. When I first started writing this blog a few weeks ago, I began by sharing a lot about my personal wounds in the area of friendship, especially female friendships. I was expressing everything how I wanted but paused when it came to writing about the whole inspiration behind this blog post in the first place. Then life happened and this post sat in my drafts folder. I was also served some humble pie in another area of my life in regards to friendship and I realized I no longer wanted this post to be about the past but about the present. Hmmm novel thought for a blog titled Present Catholic 😝 So as you read through this, I challenge you to yes, acknowledge any of your own wounds that may surface but then to follow up quickly with a prayer to the Holy Spirit asking Him to reveal the ways He’s already healed those wounds and the opportunities He’s putting in your path to continue healing them now.

One of the greatest joys in life is to cheer another human on as they walk, run, tip toe, crawl, or dance down the path God has designed specifically for them. Recently I’ve been given a front row seat to this journey for three amazing women. A couple months ago, one friend suggested we start a group chat where we could send each other quick video updates on our lives each morning via Instagram as a fun way of connecting throughout the week more regularly. It was lovingly named Morning Tea- drinking tea (or coffee lol) and spilling tea!

Initially these were fun quick little videos that we all loved getting each morning. We’d send our joys, struggles, menial daily tasks, confusions- you name it, but all in quick snapshots. Then something interesting happened- we began to spend time responding to what the other ladies had shared. But not only responding- unpacking, offering advice, spending time meditating on each other’s thoughts/experiences, and praying for each other specifically over their current needs. These quick little morning videos became in depth conversations and a real source of joy, affirmation, hope, comfort, being seen, being heard, and accountabiliTEA 😉

We LOVE cheering each other on! Let me tell you, even the smallest things like sharing that I threw lipstick on one random day that I knew I was only going to be in my apartment just because I wanted to garnered so much affirmation! Or when one of the ladies made a cute video to Slim Shady’s I’m Back when she hadn’t shared any videos in a few days, we all loved the silliness! With these ladies I can just. be. me. And we can all be our goofy, raw, loving selves.

But beyond the affirmations, we’ve learned how to speak to our wounds. Multiple times we all individually had thoughts that the others would start to get annoyed by all the videos or by us taking a long time to respond. Then someone mentioned the fear, someone else reassured them how life giving this group was, the others agreed, and poof the fears disappeared because our old wounds that had birthed those fears had nothing to hold onto anymore. The reminder that we are not burdens on each other but gifts to one another has been especially healing for me. And it’s not just words- it’s actions. These actions, this accountabiliTEA, followed through on have given me a space to be vulnerable and not afraid of rejection, abandonment, or comparison- those personal wounds I mentioned I had originally written about.

The healing and growth I’ve witnessed has not only been in myself either, but in each of these three ladies. Their courage to dive into the hard stuff and let it stretch them so that they grow more and more into the women God has designed them to be is truly breathtaking. Even the moments when they want to hold back, there’s always another one of us encouraging them to not close in but stay open and let us and the Lord walk with them even if it’s painful. I am in awe of them and thank the Lord for gifting me with a front row seat to witness it all.

I find it extremely fitting that I’m writing this on the Feast of the Visitation- when Mary, the Mother of Jesus, after just accepting God’s request that she bear His Son, went to go serve her cousin Elizabeth who had miraculously become pregnant in her old age with her own son who would become known as John the Baptist. The four of us ladies have each been Mary aiding Elizabeth or Elizabeth receiving Mary. The beauty we’ve shown in loving one another without being asked, pressured, or burdened and the beauty of receiving that love without fear, pride, or questioning has been a true example of this divine meeting. I’m also realizing, and have witnessed, how us women lifting each other up has also allowed us to lift the men in our lives up and bring them closer to God. Just as Mary serving Elizabeth brought Jesus to John which caused him to leap with joy and Elizabeth’s prayerful response gave him an example of how to praise God, both of which inspired him to serve God so faithfully his whole life, we too bring God and an example of how to love Him to the men in our lives by serving and receiving each other well. When women love each other better, they love men better and then men AND women love God better. This might have to be a whole other blog post, but what a powerful role we’ve been given as women!

So, my parting words- love each other better. Go deeper, bring the wounds to light, and affirm the beauty of the life in front of you, whoever it is and whatever place they’re at in their life. Make room for that accountabiliTEA because it just might be the warmth you need coursing through you on an unexpectedly cold May morning.

Are you looking to deepen your bonds with certain people? Ask God how He thinks you should go about this in the present moment. Ask him how He wants to heal some of those underlying relational or self image wounds. Ask Him to love on you BIG through other people. Who knows, maybe He’ll answer with a steaming cup of Morning Tea 😊

 

I Surrender: A Year In The Making

I have a bunch of scribbled notes in various places with ideas for blog posts but nothing really inspired me enough to sit down and write. Then I realized something- I have been praying the Surrender Novena for a full year now. Let me put that into perspective for you. A novena is a 9 day prayer that you usually pray for a bigger intention. While the specifics of my intention changed and transformed and molded into something new over the year it really all came back to wanting to deeply surrender my entire life (every single aspect of it- every desire, every hurt, every question, every doubt, every joy, every gift- everything) to Jesus and His most Sacred Heart. Now 365+ days later I have prayed that novena over 40 times. I have never prayed for something so consistently before in my entire life.

And let me tell you. It worked.

There is a new perspective, a new lens that I’m viewing this life through, and it is hands down the most freeing feeling I’ve ever felt. I’m no longer afraid to dream and trust that the King of the Universe sees those dreams and knows exactly how to give them to me in a way that will not only fulfill the desires in my heart but also touch the hearts of so many others in His kingdom.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suddenly able to give every single thing over to God with a big smile, open hands, and a heart full of unbreakable trust. Hardly. But there is one dream that God placed on my heart many years ago that He brought to the surface again in a big way. Over the years I always looked at it as my own random concoction, such a pipe dream and so unattainable. But now, now I look at it as something God planted there knowing full well how HE would deliver on it. “Reason” would tell me what I’m asking for is impossible, too much, or bound to fail. But with this new found freedom in surrendering it God is saying to me- this is possible with Me, keep asking Me big things because I’m the only one who can give them to you, and even if this fails in the eyes of the world if you’re following My will  it will not be a failure. In that knowledge, I have literally never felt more free to surrender something and really  go for it before.

So after a year of praying for, fighting through, and slowly releasing my grip, there are a few things I learned that may inspire you to begin your own surrender journey.

I’m a self-proclaimed perfectionist and have been called controlling by some. So when I began this novena I was well aware that I had a long journey ahead of me. Surrender and release are synonymous. As we think about this it’s important to remember that while God asks us to release everything to Him, doing so can lead to many different outcomes. Here are some lessons learned about surrender and release:

 

  1. Release and surrender = less anxiety, less worry, less confusion, less chains & more freedom.
    We stop clinging and start receiving.
     
  2. He asks us to release it to HIM. Not to anyone else, no matter how well intentioned they may be. Others can help us discern but they cannot decide for God  what you need to release. Ultimately, the stronger your relationship with God the more you’ll be able to recognize what God is asking for and when someone else is asking things of you that God is not.
     
  3. He might not actually take what you release- shocker! He is a generous God and gives us what we have which means He doesn’t want to take it all away. He just wants to make sure we’re rightly ordering our lives and putting Him first before all else that He is giving us.
     
  4. If he does take something, you better keep those hands open and ready to receive whatever it is He’s planning to give you in return. He doesn’t leave us empty handed, and if it seems like He has then He has actually given you an opportunity to hold Him so incredibly close because this is a moment where there is nothing else in between you and Him. So build up your strength and surrendering skills as you wait, and cling so utterly close to His Heart that you feel it beat next to yours.
    “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 
     
  5. Embrace the joy in the uncertainty. A year ago I would have scoffed in your face had you told me that. Uncertainty was quite literally sucking the life out of me. Now, I look at it a little bit differently. I still feel the pains and hurts and wounds, the boredom and monotony and frustrations, the trepidation with excitements and hopes and joys. But even in feeling those things I’m choosing to view God BIG. Big enough to bring beauty out of the ashes of what was, bring miracles out of graves long buried, and bring uncontainable love out of hardened hearts.

It took me a full year to reach this place, and  still this confidence in surrendering only fully surrounds one particular area of my life. It will take me a lifetime to hand over the rest as I’m sure I’ll fall and find myself clinging once again. So my advice to you- start now. Stop waiting. Stop making excuses. All it takes is one small yes. Once small prayer and a determination to keep praying it over and over and over and over and over no matter what obstacles you come up against. You CAN do this. You CAN invite Him in and let that still small seed begin to grow and bloom.

Miracles are waiting, friend. Miracles are waiting.

Practical advice- print out the Surrender Novena or get it in pamphlet form. Use a sticky note to mark your spot and set a reminder in your phone to go off every morning. Before you even get out of bed pray it and let your day begin with this first act of surrender. 

O Jesus, I surrender myself to You, take care of everything.

Mother, I am yours now and forever. Through you and with you I always want to belong completely to Jesus.

 

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?