Allow

My good friend, Bridie, has a tendency to say “As God allows” as a way of giving God the final say in a situation or in what she’s able to offer at that time. So when my word of the year for 2022 turned out to be “allow” that was the first thing that came to mind. It’s a simple statement yet a continual act of surrender, which we all know can be anything but simple at times. I was glad to have this phrase knowing that I could use it to keep my word of the year in the forefront of my mind. Sure enough, it worked out quite well.

As I reflect on this past year, I am reminded of many of the ways my word as well as my saint of the year found their way into my life.

For my saint of the year, I was chosen by St. Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist. Her patronage? Pregnancy. I laughed at this and knew almost immediately that this was going to connect to the café dream. This was going to be a year of gestation. The birth wouldn’t be coming this year. This also meant I knew the “Be Still” verses were going to remain prevalent this year as well, knowing I was called to continue to be patient through the pregnancy of this dream.

Something I’ve been reflecting on lately in relation to all of this is God’s timing. So often He’s already said yes to our prayer, however, He needs to work something out in someone else’s life before He can actually fulfill the request or promise. For instance, in retrospect we can see how Elizabeth and Zechariah being unable to become pregnant allowed their miracle pregnancy to not only glorify God but also align with Mary’s carefully planned conception of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Then we see how Jesus also needed to wait to begin His public ministry in order to give John adequate time to prepare the way for Him. All of these were prophecies that the Lord was going to fulfill, but that also required a certain order and timing before each one could come to be. An answered prayer isn’t as satisfying when you can tell it’s been rushed or forced because all the pieces that could be aligned have not been.

In relation to this, I was listening to one of Fr. Mike Schmitz’s homilies recently and he related this same thinking to Daniel’s situation from the Old Testament. If you read Daniel 10:12-13 God through an angel says to Daniel, “from the first day you made up your mind to acquire understanding and humble yourself before God, your prayer was heard. Because of it I started out, but the prince of the kingdom of Persia stood in my way for twenty-one days, until finally Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.” God was ready to answer Daniel’s prayer from the moment Daniel decided to pray but another got in God’s way which He allowed because of His promise of free will. It wasn’t until someone else used their free will to help clear the path that the prayer could be fulfilled. Fr. Mike went on to say that “God is doing something in this that He couldn’t do without it.” This is why we need to trust God and allow Him to work in our lives and the lives of others even if it doesn’t make sense or the path isn’t clear. He is always working, He is always on time, and He is always closer than we think.

I love that even with one week left of the year, God is still using my word (allow) and my saint (Elizabeth) to show me a little glimpse behind the master plan He’s asking me to oh so patiently wait for.

What was God asking me to allow Him to do in my life this year? Well, below is a list of just SOME of the ways He moved in my life. Each time whether I realized it or not, I had to pause and allow God to work in my heart or in those around me. I had to give my own “fiat” or “yes” as Mary did or make up my mind to pray as Daniel did so that God had the permission (was allowed) to work in my life. The times I used my free will to resist His hand, the more grace I missed out on (some of which I have become aware that I’ve missed out on, but most I probably won’t realize this side of heaven).

So for what it’s worth, here is a list of some of the ways I allowed God to move in my life and some of the ways He allowed me to become a little bit more of who I was created to be:

  • Allow yourself to dream
  • Allow others to dream
  • Allow yourself to be honest but deeply kind and loving
  • Allow St. Joseph to stir up something special in your heart
  • Allow yourself to stop worrying because Mary said she is caring for him and so you’re going to choose to believe her
  • Allow mentors to speak wisdom into your heart and dreams
  • Allow yourself to go all in
  • Allow the dream to become public knowledge
  • Allow yourself to leave a job even if it feels uncompleted
  • Allow yourself to say “Let’s stay in touch” and mean it
  • Allow your physical and mental limits to be pushed
  • Allow yourself to move to a new state
  • Allow yourself to learn something(s) new (from teenagers too)
  • Allow road trips to be adventures full of joy and stillness
  • Allow fear to reveal to you where you still need to grow in your relationship with God
  • Allow yourself to retreat
  • Allow yourself to keep brainstorming
  • Allow humility to reign
  • Allow yourself to travel far for your friends
  • Allow your friends to show you how much you mean to them
  • Allow the place where so much of this journey started to refresh you in a new way
  • Allow the pain and discomfort of discernment to stretch your heart bigger and bigger
  • Allow the setup
  • Allow the vulnerability and fun that had been locked away for a long time to be released
  • Allow the addition to your family and a furry dream kept on pause to be fulfilled
  • Allow the pitstop on your drive home
  • Allow the breaking and simultaneously the kintsuji process on your heart to begin again
  • Allow prayer and friends to sustain you in the darkness of the pit
  • Allow God to continue calling you to this dream even when the joy and hope are lost
  • Allow your friends’ dreams becoming realities to fill you with immense joy
  • Allow the deepening of a newer friendship
  • Allow the distance so you learn to rely on God first and foremost
  • Allow yourself to take time before jumping into a new job
  • Allow God to handle your finances
  • Allow yourself to trust that their rejection is His Providence
  • Allow the Holy Spirit to plan a happenstance run-in on a Tuesday at noon that leads to an apology and hug that finally sets that last bit of you free
  • Allow the continual “Be Still” reminders to bring you joy instead of an eye roll or “c’mon, again!”
  • Allow Him to keep leading you down this path even when it feels like He’s telling you to stay still
  • Allow the prayers for them to continue
  • Allow healing
  • Allow joy
  • Allow hope

Having a word and saint for the year have been beautiful guides that have allowed ( 😉 ) me to meditate on certain areas and situations in my life through a common lens over the entire year. This brings a special continuity and hope that we could all use. So I highly encourage you to take advantage of this for 2023. You can use the generator that Jennifer Fulwiler puts out or you could bring it to prayer and see what God places on your heart. I’ve done both and God has used both methods earnestly. Whether you do this or not, do spend some time reflecting on this last year and dreaming about what this new year could look like. While being in the present moment is crucial, there’s a reason it’s sandwiched between the past and future- both hold it together and allow it to be what it is meant to be.

I also want to note that as I finish this blog post up, a dream that I’ve had for a long time just curled up on my chest to snuggle. Ever since my childhood cat passed away I’d wanted another cat but the timing was never right. I wasn’t sure if now was the right time either but when the opportunity presented itself, I went for it and I’m once again seeing how God’s timing is perfect. Hold onto hope and let it curl itself up next to your heart.

 

View from my last trip to Virginia

I Did a Thing…

I did a thing…

I quit my job and I’m moving.

That sounds pretty dramatic and well, it is and it isn’t.

I wondered if the time would ever truly come for me to share this with the world. Now the day is here, so grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and settle in!

No, quitting my job and moving is not that dramatic because I’m not actually leaving until the end of this month. This wasn’t some “peace out, watch me jaunt away” kind of scenario. I thought and prayed long and hard about when I would leave my job and God led me to this timing. I tried to leave at other times, hence the “Be Still” verses being a favorite of His for me haha. When I finally acquiesced to His timing it seemed like the end of this academic year was where His “ready, set, GO” was culminating. My original plan was to give my notice after Easter so I could tell the students in person but to stay until the end of June. In an ironic twist, God’s call to “be still” in this situation was apparently no more and He actually moved up my departure date even sooner. I sure love His irony 😊 It’s His irony that brings me to the moving part…

Again, not as dramatic as it sounds because while I will be moving 8 hours away, it’s only for the summer and then I’ll be back up here. (That is unless God has something else in store but that’s NOT my plan. And yet, I have to be ready for anything because I’ve seen where clinging to “my” plan gets me 😉).

So now that I’ve knocked down the drama level a bit, there actually is quite a bit of drama behind all of this too.

I’m not just leaving my job and moving for the sake of something new. Far from it. Every bit of this is God-ordained and dates back nearly 2 years (really more but we’ll start there).

 

  1. To cut to the chase, I am pursing the call and personal desire to open a Catholic café in MA!

 

What’s a Catholic café? I’m glad you asked 😉 My tagline is this: A place of beauty that provides community, nourishment, and simple encounters with God.

Building community, especially faith communities, has always been a passion of mine. I’ve also always loved the café vibe and the space it can provide for friendship, reflection, innovation, and joy. That mixed with the absolute beauty of the Catholic faith and its ability to introduce you to God in such unique ways feels like the perfect fit. And come to find out, God agrees!

When I tell you that I never would have actually gone for this dream if it were just mine, I’m not kidding. It would’ve remained a pipe dream that I brought up in starry eyed conversations until the day I died (and then it would’ve disappeared completely!). It wasn’t until God elevated it to a dream He had for me that things shifted and I began intentionally and deeply pursing this.

That all began nearly 2 years ago with a random thought about this old dream and then providentially coming across Trinity House Café on Instagram. And that’s where we come to the moving part…

I’ll explain more of the Trinity House backstory in another post but it’s a Catholic café in Virginia where I’ll be working this summer! I’ve been in contact with the owners, Soren and Ever Johnson, since Summer 2020 and they beyond graciously offered me a job with them as a barista and the chance to learn all I possibly can about running a café. I’d also like to point out that this was offered to me after I had already decided to leave my current job and live off savings for a bit. God is so good and when we surrender to Him, He always provides in ways above and beyond what we could have ever imagined.

So, that’s my big dramatic news- 2 years in the making. Now you know the dream I’ve been elusively mentioning 😊 I cannot wait to share more about the 2-year process in getting here and how it is all going to continue to unfold!

I invite you to follow along through this blog and IG page and to pleaseeee pray for me as I transition out of one dream and take a big step into the next one- into my own Jordan River, trusting God will fight for me and part the sea after my obediently being still these last 2 years.

Exodus 14:14

*The picture is from my last trip to Virginia at a winery my aunt and uncle brought me too. Cannot wait for more of that this summer too 😉

 

Moments in the Stillness

During my week long silent retreat at St. Scholastica Priory & St. Mary’s Monastery in Petersham, MA I kept my phone off in my purse and took out my good camera. It helped me to stay present in the moment and to experience the stillness in a completely different way than if I had used my phone or not taken any photos at all. These photos and the many others I took were an act of prayer in and of themselves. I hope as you look through them you will take the time to ponder them and to enter into the stillness with me.

 

 

Be Still: In the Ordinary

It had snowed the night before and the glass doors and windows in the living room gave way to a beautiful view of frosted over trees, dancing in the wind, and glimmering from the sun’s rays. I gazed upon this site and gave an audible yet soft “wow”. 

I had just finished reading the reflection for that day in the Rejoice! Lenten Devotional I’d been working through (see the last two posts here and here for more on this book) and the theme for the day had been “Ordinary” through the eyes of St. Joseph. What Fr. Mark Toups was able to unpack here in a few short pages was remarkable and gave me real pause. The cliff note version that I wrote down that day is this…

How did Joseph view the ordinary?

  • He found God in it because he lived with God and in God.
  • He was intentional in the ordinary. This allowed the extraordinary to in fact be that- extraordinary, not burdensome or falling flat. Intentionality in and with both (the ordinary and extraordinary) is key.
  • He wasn’t always longing for more because he didn’t have to because he saw God right where he was, regardless of external or internal factors. God always provided in these areas.

As I sat nestled in the couch separated from those iced over trees by a mere wall of glass, I contemplated the ordinary and the extraordinary through the eyes of St. Joseph. In that moment I had simultaneously stepped out of the ordinary (by going on a retreat) and stepped into the ordinary (by slowing down to experience nature, silence, and stillness more fully). How could this be? It was through this paradox that I realized this retreat was yes, perhaps an escape from the ordinary in some areas of my life but more so it was an opportunity for the enhancement of the extraordinary that is contained within the ordinary. In this case, the ordinary was the silence, was nature, was the consistent prayer schedule of the Benedictines, was the making of meals and sitting to enjoy them, was the early rising and early sleeping, was the sound of my sole footsteps echoing all around me. What made these all extraordinary through this retreat was the experience of them outside of my normal, daily life- even if they are each something I can encounter within my normal, daily and ordinary life as well.

This was my clue- my clue that experiencing the ordinary in an extraordinary way is possible. It just takes an active, intentional decision to pause -to be still- and to recognize God in that ordinary moment with you. When the ordinary becomes extraordinary in that way the constant longing for more begins to wane and we also gain a greater clarity of vision to view the extraordinary with true awe and wonder.


When we are longing to escape the ordinary a few things happen.

  1. Instead of trying to find what is extraordinary about the ordinary, we try to bring what is in and of itself extraordinary into every moment. This in turn dulls the extraordinary so when we encounter it on its own, we need bigger and bigger experiences in order for it to make any impact at all.
    1. i.e. Eating your favorite food all the time (extraordinary because it’s your favorite) makes it no longer special on special occasions. Your mom’s amazing lasagna every week means it’s not as special on your birthday and maybe you’re even sick of it by the time your birthday comes.
    2. Or turning random days into something worthy of a big celebration, get together, or purchase- just try listing all the “National _fill in the blank_ Days”.
  2. The ordinary is viewed as so terrible or monotonous that we find ourselves always planning for that next extraordinary experience. So much thought/longing/desire goes into it that when it finally arrives, we’re paying more attention to the fact it’s going to end and dreading the return of the ordinary than we pay to the actual extraordinary experience itself.
    1. i.e. Christmas. How many of us spend so much time buying gifts, planning parties, cooking food, etc. that once Christmas day (and the Christmas season which only begins on the 25th) actually comes you’re ready to take down the tree, cut the lights, and crash on the couch before the night even ends?
    2. Or a honeymoon or vacation that takes so much planning and build up that once the time comes it’s a whirlwind that’s hardly remembered, the trip ends, a month passes and you find yourself asking- When can we start planning another trip? Can we spend two weeks this time? Can we go even further from home than last time?
        

As Fr. Mark Toups said, “Joseph found God in the ordinary. Therefore, there was no need to overindulge or escape the ordinary because after all, what would he be looking to escape?”


 So the question then becomes, how do we keep the extraordinary special?

  1. We acknowledge there is a time and season and it’s not meant to last forever. This is a legitimate true fact about its reality. Again, consider Christmas, or your birthday, or a pregnancy, or a vacation- they all last for a certain length of time.
  2. We find what is special about the ordinary in its own right.
    1. The ordinary gives us peace, stability, a place to grow & learn, form relationships & invest in others, embrace silence, grow in humility & virtue, repent and forgive often.
  3. We have to be intentional.
    1. Find ways to focus on the extraordinary during its rightful season so it doesn’t get lost, forgotten, or mistakenly seen as ordinary.
    2. The ordinary can be special too, it doesn’t necessarily mean boring or dull. Intentionally live your everyday life well and with joy. However, it can also be boring and in fact needs to be at times because boredom inspires creativity and encourages silence which is where we meet God and are called deeper into our co-creator relationship with Him.
        

Fr. Mark Toups again reiterates the importance of the separation here when he says, “If we are not intentional, we actually may lose sight of the extraordinary because of the extraordinary.”

As we try to wrap our minds around this idea of the ordinary and extraordinary, I ponder one more question. What do we all have that is both ordinary and extraordinary?

A heart.

We all have one. In its physical manifestation it beats at relatively the same speed each moment to keep us alive. Yet, in its spiritual manifestation it is also what makes us each so incredibly and uniquely different. Ordinary and Extraordinary.

Joseph’s Chaste Heart

Mary’s Immaculate Heart

Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart

Use your heart and the hearts of the Holy Family to guide your journey through the ordinary and extraordinary.

BONUS: I also want to share a quote that I read from Matthew Kelly’s book, Life is Messy, shortly after my retreat. He titled this section, “Cherish the ordinary”.

“It was the ordinary things that saved me. I have experienced enough extraordinary to know that I would choose the ordinary over the extraordinary all day long. Learn to cherish the ordinary. Make a list of 20 ordinary things that bring you joy when you experience them consciously. Here’s my list: Breathing. Sleeping. Waking. Water. Nature. Food. Reading. Thinking. Conversation. Music. Art. Seasons. Friendship. Children. Kindness. Chocolate. Laughter. Hugs. Holding hands. Home. Allow the ordinary to heal you.”

 

Be Still: Right Where He Wants Me

Going into this retreat I was sure it was where God wanted me, but I also had no idea what to expect- nor did I want to set any expectations. I wanted this to be plain and simple time with the Lord. In fact, I was quite adamant about this with myself. Not having expectations set a precedence for what I brought with me, what I left behind, and the attitude I had surrounding the whole week. That being said, I really had no idea how this week would go, and it can be a little unnerving to step into the unknown, even if you are holding the hand of someone you deeply trust. If He wanted to reveal a particular direction or focus, great! If He didn’t, great! I was ready and open to whatever He wanted. And let me tell you- He wasted no time making it clear.

That first night, after joining the Benedictine’s for Evening Prayer, I went back to my little room named after St. Theresa of Avila. With its twin size bed, basic dresser, plush chair, small but endearing desk, and even a kneeler, I found myself in there often, feeling cozy, secluded, and peaceful. This first night I pulled out my Rejoice! Advent Meditations book as I hadn’t done the meditation for the day yet. I found it very fitting that that day’s theme was “Remember” and was asking us to review the last 20 days of Advent and all we had reflected on during them. So, my first night was filled with memories and seeing how past insights settled on the current state of my heart. Little did I know what tomorrow would bring…

The next day, my first full day, I didn’t rush myself to wake up but I did make sure I got to the 9:30am Mass. After that and making myself some breakfast, I grabbed my Bible, the Rejoice! book, a pencil and got comfy on the living room couch. There were a couple others utilizing the retreat house at this time and I shared the living room with two of them as I opened my Bible to try and catch up on my Bible in a Year readings (side note- proud to say this retreat allowed me to catch up on the two weeks of readings I was behind, which meant I was able to finish it in exactly 365 days alongside my parents and Fr. Mike Schmitz of course! 😉). Throughout that time, one of the guests packed up to leave and the others disappeared into their own time with God. Thus, I found myself alone in the quiet of the living room.

It was in this solitude that I then turned to the Rejoice! book for that day’s reflection. Now, let me preface by saying- I. Cannot. Make. This. Stuff. Up.

I kid you not- I opened to Saturday’s reflection and what was the Bible verse for the day? Psalm 46:10- “Be still, and know that I am God.”…

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD!

So many thoughts and emotions raced through my mind- astonishment, joy, confusion, excitement, laughter, disbelief, and pure love. I quickly turned to the reflection and began reading to try and understand how in the world the same verse was being used and HOW IN THE WORLD IT WAS FOR THAT DAY OF ALL DAYS.

After yesterday’s reflection asking us to review the last 20 days, today’s was meant to remind us of where we started (Psalm 46:10) and where we were now in relation to that starting point. Wow.

Here is a quote from my reflection on that’s day’s readings:
“Peace. I feel peace in reading this verse and Psalm again. I feel seen and loved…You knew. You knew today would be my first full day on this retreat that You called me to with this very verse. Thank You. Do not let me miss anything You are trying to share.”

And here’s a quote from a separate journal entry from that day:
“Once again, God knew I would be here, reading that verse and reflection on the very first day. The smile it brings to my face and the peace it brings to my heart. Praise be to God! I love You, Thank You  ❤️”

If that wasn’t yet again confirmation that I was exactly where I was supposed to be then I should’ve just walked out right then and there because nothing else could’ve been clearer.

But something else amazing happened too- the theme for that reflection was “Ordinary”. Beyond the obvious gift of that verse, that theme and associated reflection actually gave me great insight into a bigger dilemma I had been facing for quite a while.

Stay tuned for how I found out what it means to be still in the ordinary…

P.S. I was hoping to get this blog post done during Saturday’s snowstorm but I couldn’t get myself to sit still and write all weekend. It took the discomfort of forcing myself not to watch another episode of that meaningless show I’ve been binging to finally make me be still and write. And what a joy it was as I was actually writing. It’s a never ending process, this getting good at being still thing. Just remember that.

 

Be Still Verse from Rejoice! Book

Be Still: A Series

One month ago, to the day, I concluded my first ever silent retreat, and a weeklong one at that! This was something that had been on my list, but I never found or made the time for. It wasn’t until God made it perfectly clear that this needed to happen that I actually went for it. And let me tell you, my gratitude is overflowing even a month later.

Now, some of you may know that the Lord has put a certain phrase on my heart since June 2020: Be Still. It all started when He spoke to me through the Bible versus Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, just be still.” This came at a time when I wanted anything BUT to be still. Yet in his omnipotent wisdom God knew best, and I followed suit. This post is going to focus on my retreat, but I’ve decided there is too much to say about “Be Still” that it needs to be an ongoing series. It will have no official number of posts within it, rather I will simply add to it as inspiration and memories strike.

That being said, I feel it’s important you understand some of the “behind the scenes” for how God got me to this retreat in the first place. So that is what this post will be about. The following one(s) will go into more detail about the retreat itself.

For the last year and a half when the Lord wants to get my attention, keep me from doing something, or to do something, He’ll send a Bible verse with the words, “Be Still” in it. It’s actually been quite an amazing experience to have Him communicate with me in this way.

This November, before Advent began, I had decided I would use Fr. Mark Toups’ Rejoice! devotional, but not the newest one. I had bought the St. Joseph one two years ago but hadn’t ended up using it for a variety of reasons. So, I figured- this is perfect, it’s the year of St. Joseph why not use it now!

These devotionals follow a certain outline. Each day has a theme, Bible verse, reflection, prayer, and space to journal. Excitedly on the first day I opened up the book and my jaw nearly touched the floor. What was the first verse? “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. I could not believe it. When I bought this book, God knew I wouldn’t use it then but even more so He knew I’d use it in the year of St. Joseph and when He had already placed “Be Still” on my heart in such a profound way. Excitedly, I texted a bunch of my friends to bear witness to how God knows and sees us and is working all things for our good even years ahead of time.

Fast forward to the next night and I decided to end my day with a chapter from the book, “Pray, Decide, and Don’t Worry” by Fr. Mike Schmitz and Jackie & Bobby Angel that I’d been very slowly and randomly picking up whenever I felt the urge to. Well wouldn’t you know, the last line of the chapter for that night was, “Take a breath. Be still, and rest in God’s love for you (see Psalm 46:10).” This time my reaction was not excitement. I texted a friend, sent him a picture of the quote, and said something along the lines of, “I swear, if I’m any more still I’ll just die and then maybe God will have me right where He wants me.” Dramatic? Not at all 😉

Why the sudden shift in demeanor? The first time I felt seen and guided. The second time I felt reprimanded and stifled. Was He actually reprimanding or stifling me? No, of course not. But He was trying to get my attention. The next day, as I wallowed a bit in self-pity, I did recognize that something different had stood out to me in the line from that book- “rest in God’s love”. Well, a day or so later I was talking to my therapist and she mentioned that I should try to get away for a few days. I agreed but in the back of my mind thought- I can’t afford anything and where would I go anyways? Well, that’s when God really started to work. He reminded me how last year at that time I had wanted to go on a silent retreat up in Vermont, so why not this year? I began to think about it more and actually got excited about it. I remembered that the Benedictines in Petersham, MA have a guesthouse and it was a heck of a lot closer. So, I sent them an email inquiring about coming December 17th-23rd, they replied with a yes and so did my boss. It was all falling together. I was determined to Be. Still. even if it killed me. (JK, I was just really ready to embrace it).

With no idea how this would go, if I’d be bored out of my mind, or if I’d come out of it with some big realization, I packed my bags and right after work on Friday, December 17th I headed to Petersham for a week of silence and stillness.

To be continued…