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!

 

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.”

 

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. ❤

 

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?