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…

 

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 😉)