June 7th

Have you ever had something so significant happen in your life that the date is forever engraved into your mind? That date is June 7th for me.

It’s the day that changed my life forever with one phone call and two words. Those two words, “I am”, shattered my heart to pieces, but more importantly set me on a path of making decisions that would alter my life’s direction forever. Decisions to leave a ministry that I loved, decisions to painfully offer my will and desires to the Lord in place of following and wanting His, decisions to invest in myself financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and decisions to follow a dream that is just crazy enough that following it only makes sense once those blind steps of faith have already been made.

June 7th, 2020 wrecked my world.
And I couldn’t be more grateful.

It loosened and revealed so many of the negative ties, attachments, and prideful ways I’d chained myself to over the years. It introduced me to what following the Lord actually means and looks like. It taught me how to pray through the immense suffering and torrential tears blocking any vision of life up ahead.

But what’s an added bonus to seeing the goodness unfold in my life since that awful day? Having God so beautifully redeem that exact date that was so painfully seared into my mind…

A little more back story- The only ounce of joy I had felt in a week following June 7th, 2020 was when I providentially came across Trinity House Café/Community on Instagram the following Saturday. It’s what re-sparked the Catholic café dream. (I’ll share more about this story in another post).

That brings us to June 7th, 2021- I was down in Maryland/Virginia visiting friends and family as I got ready to attend the GIVEN Institute Forum. Without planning it, of all the days I was there, I found myself in VA visiting Trinity House Café for the second time ever on June 7th. I took these photos and captioned them with these words- already feeling the redemption of that date one year later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1. I was blown away by this gift as the pains of that day a year earlier were still reverberating within me.

  2.  

Today, June 7th, 2022, I sit in further awe of God’s goodness, vision, and generosity. I find myself in Virginia again, having quit my job, moved down here for the summer, investing in my dream, and ready to take on my first shift as a barista at Trinity House Café tomorrow and incredibly gung-ho about learning all that goes into running a Catholic café! Once again- this was completely unplanned because if you knew my schedule (leave job on 3rd, do a Tough Mudder on 4th, drive to VA on 6th, drive back up to MA on 16th and back to VA on 19th) it’s quite clear this was not the most convenient of times to get down here! Despite all that, my jaw dropped when I realized the coincidence (God-incidence) with this date once again.

The worst day of my life is being redeemed two times over with an incredible dream I never would have dared fathom would actually come true. And to be honest, even with all the unknowns still surrounding this dream, I’ve never felt more at peace than I do now. (Ok, I definitely have nerves about tomorrow and all of it because I’m HUMAN but overwhelmingly it’s peace and excitement 🤪).

All of this is to say, I don’t know what you’re going through or have gone through but if you have a June 7th in your life (whether that’s an actual date or a person, place, memory, phrase, song, etc.)- ask God to redeem it. He 100% will and He’ll blow your mind with how He does it!

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 😉

 

God Will Still Love Me

This Lent, there’s been a phrase that has been said to me multiple times, mainly in reference to a rationalization of breaking one’s fast: “God will still love me”. It comes with the job I suppose but it’s an awkward thing to encounter especially when someone is clearly looking for you to validate their decision or desire to break their fast.

While pondering this, another similar phrase came to mind: “I’m aiming for Purgatory”. Another one that just rubs me the wrong way.

I don’t write this post in judgement, as I too have said or thought these sentiments many times myself. But this Lent, that first thought in particular has caused me much discomfort in trying to discern the best way to respond to it. Just over the last few days while pondering these sentiments and doing my own spiritual readings I found God speaking Truth to my heart.

Both of these phrases fall short. Remarkably short.

So let’s unpack them a bit…

In relation to the first remark- will God still love you even if you break your fast early or because it’s inconvenient with your social plans? Plain and simple, yes. Absolutely. 100%.

Yet, that was never the question, was it?

Because if you believe in and profess Christ as your Savior in the first place, then He proved that unending love once and for all when He willingly agonized in the Garden of Olives, being crushed like an olive itself by the weight of every variety of sin we’ve ever committed so much so that His own blood seeped out of His Sacred pores just as oil does from that very olive. Or when He willingly gave Himself up to His dearest of friend turned enemy, Judas and his band of soldiers. When He willingly refused to defend Himself to Pilate who questioned truth to Truth Himself. When He willingly knelt down to receive a scourging that ripped the skin right off His back. When He willingly stood on His decimated feet, wrapped in a purple cloak, crown of barbarous thorns piercing His skull, listening to those exact ones He loved, He would always love, mock, ridicule, and ravenously shout any excuse they could think of to call for His death. A death that again, He freely and willingly accepted out of love for mankind, love for the kind of man who says “God will still love me” when they go back on the word they gave to the Word Himself at the start of Lent.

Yes, God will still love. But that was never the question. The question is and has always been- How much do you love God?

And this question ties us right back into the second sentiment- “I’m aiming for Purgatory”. Yes, perhaps this comes from some seemingly reverent and humble place, but if we unpack it further we find two things. 1. A lacking in our determination to do everything we possibly can to serve God with every single ounce of our love while on this Earth. 2. A lacking in our trust that when we do fall short, continually and expectedly, that our God, who suffered a torturous death unlike anyone who was or is to come for us, has the power to redeem those failings just as He did with Peter and make us into one of the greatest Saints the world and heaven itself has ever seen.

There is a prayer that now hangs on my wall as a constant reminder of who I am called to be and who God is: Bold prayers honor God. God honors bold prayers.

In a world where it’s so easy to make excuses and rationalize our decisions I urge you my dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

 

BE BOLD AND LOVE GOD WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAVE AND EVERYTHING YOU ARE.

 

Anything short of that will not cause God to love you less but it will in fact show God how much you love Him.

On this holiest of Saturdays, as we wait -are still- let us unite our hearts with the Apostles and disciples who asked the same question in the midst of their own agonizing tears and raw hearts two thousand years ago- how much do I love God?

 

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…

 

Jesus Crucified

Carry YOUR Cross

Carry your cross. It’s a phrase that’s thrown around a lot in the Catholic sphere. And for good reason. We’re always being called to embrace the sufferings we inevitably face in this world and to unite them to Jesus on His Cross. But recently I’ve been reflecting on this call to action in my own life, in my current situation as well as in an experience I had nearly 2 years ago. Let’s start with 2 years ago.

I was on an annual pilgrimage to Montreal with a group of Catholic young adults- most of whom I knew really well. At one point we were all in the two story Airbnb hanging out. I started talking to a friend who shared with me that a few months ago he’d gotten a concussion. Due to the injury, he actually lost his sense of taste and smell. As he talked about it, he genuinely, boldly, and confidently said something along the lines of “This is my cross to carry so I will do it and offer it up for Jesus’ sufferings.” I remember looking at him but not having my typical thought of admiration for someone who could so boldly embrace their suffering. Instead, I said, “but is this a cross that the Lord is asking you to carry?” I went on to ask if this was perhaps something that God wanted to heal for him and he shouldn’t be afraid to ask for that healing. That maybe every suffering we come face to face with isn’t one for us to bear for an extended period of time. I remember the look of surprise and inquisitiveness wash over his face. I felt the same feelings wash through me- knowing quite well that thought hadn’t come from me but most definitely came from the Holy Spirit. None the less, this was a thought we both needed to ponder.

I ended up seeing this friend a few months later. I asked how he was feeling and unfortunately his smell and taste still hadn’t really returned. But he reminded me of our conversation and how much that had stuck with him. I told him it had really stuck with me as well. So, while it seemed this was in fact his cross to carry, that question remained one that needed to be asked and brought to God.

Fast forward to now and I have been in a yearlong endeavor to actively figure out where my own health issues are stemming from. For the longest time I simply bore them on my shoulders alone. Now, a year into it and I still have no concrete answers and about 100 possibilities crossed off the list. Yet, I ask the question- is this a cross the Lord is asking me to carry? The answer- right now yes, BUT with Him.

That’s the thing about carrying your cross, it’s a necessary thing to take it up and march forward with it but you’ll only ever see goodness come out of it if you allow Christ to bear it alongside you. I’ve recently started with a new doctor and while things haven’t changed physically, I feel a new peace inside. This peace carries over into my faith and trust in God. I noticed the change when I was visiting with a dear priest friend and at the end of catching up he offered to give me the anointing of the sick. I was taken aback and literally said, “I never thought of that for myself” as if my ailments weren’t “big” enough to warrant that sacrament. As he prayed those beautiful prayers over me, accompanied by his own prayers for me, I didn’t feel myself grasping for a miraculous, immediate healing. Instead, I felt peace wash over me, knowing I was fully seen- every single part of me, and I was fully loved- every single part of me.

So, I continue on, carrying this cross, MY cross, but I do so knowing that its weight, its size, its appearance doesn’t factor into whether I can look to Jesus and say, “Is this a cross you are still asking me to carry or have we arrived at the place together where you’d like to take it from me?”.

We should never grasp to carry a cross. When we find ourselves clinging to a cross, which sounds counterintuitive but happens more than we realize, it’s often out of our own woundedness. For me, when I cling it’s often out of pride in thinking I’m able to bear it on my own or I’ll “look strong” carrying it or I even want to be viewed as the victim. But rather, the correct posture is to hold every cross loosely enough that if Christ ever turns to us and says, “It’s My turn to take this from you”, we easily release it and let His mercy, humility, and love bear it alone.

 

    1. So, the moral of the story- carry YOUR cross, but carry it WITH Christ for only as long as He asks you to.

Which crosses are you presently bearing in your life? Are you bearing them alone or with Christ? How can you invite Him into each moment of this journey so that you feel comfortable allowing your hands to only be loosely wrapped around those tough and jagged edges of your sufferings while He holds on tight?

 

Trust Walk With God

Trust Walk With God

Back in August I helped lead a retreat for a select group of high school students in the Worcester Diocese who want to spend this year going deeper into their faith. This was my first time on the Discipleship Leadership Team so there were parts of the retreat that the other leaders tried to describe to me but that I really just had to experience for myself. One of those things was the trust walk.

For this walk, the students were broken up into their small groups, blindfolded, and led in a single file line by one of their small group leaders. The students were then taken outside and led around the grounds, occasionally stopping to hear a Bible passage that correlated with the life of Jesus and His Passion (journey to the Cross). Why am I sharing this? Because I was chosen to lead my small group and I had a profound moment of realization about halfway through the experience. I had four students behind me, each holding the shoulders of the one in front of them with the first in line holding onto mine as I slowly led them along the grounds.

As I was silently directing the students with only my movements, I found myself watching for ditches, slopes, rocks, branches, roots, curbs, narrow paths, and railings- basically anything that could cause them harm or send one member of the group off in the wrong direction. Sometimes I would kick the twigs out of the way, sometimes I would leave them trusting they wouldn’t cause much confusion or harm. Sometimes I would redirect the group, even if it meant not going in a straight line, just to avoid a slight ditch that could twist their ankle. Sometimes, when something really big was coming up like a curb, I would actually use my words to warn them, but still in a soft, gentle voice so as to not startle them or make them more anxious than they needed to be.

It was halfway through all this that I realized, I was “standing in the position of God”- as in, this is exactly what He does with us. He is constantly looking out for us by removing obstacles and barriers that we don’t even realize are there, redirecting us even if it’s slightly confusing in order to lessen the potential pain, or making sure we feel comfortable trusting Him and can feel His movements or hear His voice.

It’s also true that He lets us walk through some pretty rough terrain at times too. But even in those instances, because of our clouded vision, we have no idea the even bigger obstacles He’s helping us to avoid. His redirecting may feel disorienting, out of the way, or like a long unnecessary pause but in reality, it’s getting us to the right destination not just a destination that seems right.

Something else that caught my attention throughout this trust walk was that the students behind me who were furthest from me were often swinging out to the side in what seemed like in an unnecessary and unprovoked fashion. You could sense their discomfort and disorientation too. In response, I would try to go slower to help keep them from crashing into anything but the further away they were from me, the harder it was to do. However, it was very different for those closest to me because they could feel my exact movements. They were relying solely on me, not on others’ good yet still flawed/distracted/imperfect movements. The movements of those closest to me were not perfect either because it does take a lot to trust 100% when you can’t see anything. This meant that they still tried to demonstrate some kind of control of their own at moments. However, it was definitely the easiest and best position in the line to be in.

As I continue to reflect on this experience, I realize it’s again the same way it works with our relationship with God. The further away we are from Him, the easier it is to find ourselves swinging all over the path, feeling anxious, and really struggling to trust those in front of us. Hopefully we still hang on throughout this turmoil, realizing that if we let go we’ll have absolutely no direction to follow except a blind guess. However, when we’re closer to God the movements and changes in direction feel much more fluid and easy to follow. Again, that’s not to say it is easy because once we feel like we’ve got a handle on His movements He might change direction quickly to avoid something we can’t see, or we might end up on new terrain that makes it more challenging to follow Him. We will never not face these kinds of changes, so what this exercise taught me was that as long as we keep our hands on His shoulders and stay as close as possible to Him, we’ll be just fine- actually we’ll be more than fine because we may even start to enjoy the journey and embrace it like a fun ride, following the one we love and trust more than anything with a big smile on our face no matter which direction we head in or hidden roots we hit along the way. He sees it all and it’s a whole lot easier for Him to keep us from falling when we’re already holding onto Him!

It’s also important to note that we stopped at certain spots along the way to hear Bible passages before ending at the unknown destination (the chapel with Jesus in the Eucharist exposed for Adoration). These stops helped keep us focused on the purpose of the trust walk in the first place. It’s not merely about the destination but the journey of getting to know God along the way so that the ultimate destination (Heaven) can be understood in its fullness when we do, God willing, arrive there.

Why would we want the end result, Heaven, if we don’t want a relationship along the way with the God who created it, encompasses it, and invites us to join Him there? It seems quite foolish to desire a place with Him for all eternity if we aren’t desiring to know and love Him now and even more deeply every day. So that begs the question… 

How can we inch ourselves closer to Him so that our hands are firmly planted on His shoulders and our hearts are full of joy as we embrace this exciting trust walk together?

P.S. These blog posts are one way for me to process my own experiences and struggles so don’t think for a second that I have all of this figured out, I trust perfectly, or I find it to be a joyful and exciting adventure all the time. I’m just as much on my own journey as each of you reading this are. ❤

 

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 😊