Mall Tears

If you’re not in it you won’t quite understand. Maybe surface level you do but when your dreams and livelihood are on the line it hits differently.

Starting a business is an often overwhelming, frightening, and lonely experience. It doesn’t matter how many family members and friends you have supporting you. Or how many mentors from different areas of expertise to guide you. It’s a lot. So when people ask me how it’s going and are all excited to hear the progress it can be really hard to explain where I’m at and why it’s taking so long to get to the “next step”.

Yesterday I had a day off so I planned to devote a large amount of time working on pruning my business plan and continuing to get into the nitty-gritty of the financials. I started off fine and productive but slowly morphed into being completely unmotivated and annoyed with myself. Even with all the ways I was distracting myself, I was avoiding leaving the house and getting to Mass. Finally, I convinced myself to head to the mall to try and use a Bath & Body Works gift card I was given for Christmas. I figured if I could get myself to do that then I’d get myself to the 6:15 Mass too. Well, on my drive there my mind started spiraling down a rabbit hole of all the ways my various desires could never line up and how I was just going to be lonely, working all the time, and perpetually in a state of physical and mental exhaustion. As I pulled into a parking space there were tears streaming down my face. Annoyed with myself as this seems to be a more regular occurrence for me these days I let the song finish playing, wiped my tears, and walked into the mall.

As soon as I walked in I passed two women and the only thing I heard them exclaim was, “It’s God!” as one of them exited the store. I almost went up to the other woman to ask why she had said that because I wanted some confirmation of God working in people’s lives. But I didn’t and I kept walking.

Not sure where the store was, I took a right out of Macy’s to try and find it. About halfway down the hall out of the corner of my eye I see the word “Charismata” on a storefront. I do a double take and notice the dove paired with it. I immediately thought of the Holy Spirit but with a woman on my heels I just kept walking. As I reached the end I realized the Bath & Body Works wasn’t there so I turned around. This time I went into the Charismata store and quickly realized it was a Christian based clothing company.

A man emerged from the back and greeted me. I asked if he owned the store to which he replied that he did. With a smile on my face I praised him for it. He thanked me and began sharing a bit of his story and how they’d been there since July. Again, I praised him and acknowledged that it is not easy to follow the promptings of the Spirit and open a business like his. To this he asked if I was doing something similar which I responded by sharing the dream of the Catholic café. Now the tables turned and he began encouraging me. My eyes started to water a little as I received what he was saying. Then he went on to say that the devil is going to try to stop me and that I can’t let him get a foothold in my thinking. And now the waterworks just started free flowing. I explained to him that I had been having a really tough day with it all and was feeling so discouraged. His encouragement continued but then he paused and said I needed to focus on the Bible verse, “I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) At this my jaw dropped and my hand went up as I exclaimed that that’s my favorite Bible verse! (You can even see I have it listed on the About page of this blog)

I asked if we could hug and he said he was going to ask the same thing. So we hugged and I asked for his name. Carlos. Carlos then offered to pray over me. In the middle of a mall with tears streaming down my face, a complete stranger put his arm around me and prayed for my strength and that the Holy Spirit would come upon me with His wisdom and protection. That I may be armed with the shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:16-17) I wish I could share the peace with you that I felt after this encounter.

Carlos shared that he had almost closed the store early that day because it had been so slow but he decided against it. It hasn’t been the easiest road for him either but he knows that the Lord is guiding him and will provide. Last night the Lord did that for the both of us I think.

 

    1. After going to the mall for a distraction and some lotion I instead left with a smile on my face, happy tears in my eyes, a new t-shirt proclaiming God’s mercy for a 1000 generations, and the beautiful witness of Carlos’ trust in the movements of the Spirit fueling my soul.

I’ve known this journey wouldn’t be an easy one but to be honest when God told me to quit my job and go for this there really wasn’t any hesitation or doubt at all. I thought there was no way my fire for following His will would wane. I failed to consider my own shortcomings and the circumstances of life that we can’t control. Thankfully, I’m serving a God who understands me, foresees it all, and already has His fingerprint on every single detail including the many divine meetings like this one that He has and will continue to provide along the way.

So if you’re wondering how it’s going, know that it’s really challenging and draining to figure out this puzzle but that I’m not stopping. Whether it takes 6 months or 10 years, if God’s still asking me to journey down this path then I’m going to keep fighting for it and fighting off the lies of the devil until it comes to fruition. I’ve been made aware of the desires of my heart that the evil one has found it easier to manipulate and discourage me through. Those tactics are only going to ramp up the deeper I get into this which means I need to fortify myself even deeper in prayer. Carlos’ prayer reminded me of an Armor Prayer that a friend sent me back in 2020. I found it in the notes on my phone and will be praying this consistently now. I’ll share it below.

If you’re struggling to get out of the same cycle or find yourself making minimal progress, I encourage you to first, be kind and patient with yourself. God often makes us wait in order to show us areas in our lives where we need to depend on Him more than we depend on ourselves before we can fully receive that gift He is so desperately waiting to give us. Second, is to put on the armor of God which comes from investing in a relationship with Him. This armor is not out of fear but rather for strength. We are battling evil in this world and it is only prideful to think we can defeat it (him) by our own will and strength. God’s plan is much more thorough and successful than our own even if sometimes it looks like retreating, taking a “wrong” turn, or letting go of something good in order to have open hands for something better.

This is a long post so bless you if you’ve made it to the end but on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul I’m grateful for Paul’s witness of constant conversion and an openness to the Lord even when it goes against everything he thought he knew. May St. Paul and his letters (such as Ephesians) be a guiding force in your own life and give you the courage of the Spirit to follow whichever path your Father in Heaven is asking you to follow Him along each day.

“Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil…So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:11, 14-17

P.S. Go follow Carlos’ business @charismata.apparel on Instagram for encouragement and all his awesome apparel or stop in the Auburn Mall to pick up something for yourself or someone you love!

This is me no makeup and puffy eyes from crying but full of joy because of how God spoke to me through Carlos!

 

  1. To Put On the Armor of God
    In the name of Jesus, We put on the whole armor of God, that We may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; for We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places.
    Therefore, We take unto Ourselves the whole armor of God, that We may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. We stand, therefore, having Our loins girt about with truth. Your Word, Lord, which is truth, contains all the weapons of Our warfare, which are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
    We have on the breastplate of righteousness, which is faith and love. Our feet are shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. In Christ Jesus We have peace and pursue peace with all men. We Are Ministers of reconciliation, proclaiming the good news of the Gospel.
    We take the shield of faith, wherewith We Are able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; the helmet of salvation (holding the thoughts, feelings, and purpose of God’s heart); and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. In the face of all trials, tests, temptations, and tribulation, We cut to pieces the snare of the enemy by speaking the Word of God. Greater is He that is in Us than he that is in the world.
    Thank You, Father, for the armor. We will pray at all times — on every occasion, in every season — in the Spirit, with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty. To that end We will keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding on behalf of all the saints. Our power and ability and sufficiency are from God Who has qualified Us as Ministers and Dispensers of a new covenant [of salvation through Christ]. Amen.

 

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.

 

Mended with Gold

This summer I got to spend it living with my aunt and uncle. Two people who are truly an inspiration to me. I was welcomed into their home as I took on a new and bold adventure. It was during this summer that I got to hit the reset buttons in many areas of my life. Not only did I learn a lot as I dove into pursuing a big dream, but I healed. I healed in ways I wouldn’t have been as easily able to had I kept on the same path.

During this time, my aunt and uncle also welcomed me into their lives which included an occasional at home Happy Hour on Wednesdays (their date night). So as my time was coming to an end in VA, I began thinking of a gift I could give them to offer my gratitude. Inspired by the big wine lovers that they are, I found a cool company that turns wine bottles into serving trays- perfect for their Happy Hours! It was even in my aunt’s favorite color and could have an imprint of hummingbirds which we often admired from their porch. I was incredibly excited for this gift.

And then it arrived… shattered.

After some emails and realizing there wasn’t enough time for a replacement I got to thinking. Kintsugi, a Japanese art form that uses gold to mend pottery, came to mind. I did some research and realized it just might work. So I tried it and it actually came out really beautiful! My aunt and uncle loved it and found a spot to display it right away.

Now that I’m back home and reflecting on my time, this gift keeps coming to mind. It felt very much like a symbol of my time down in VA- a time of my broken pieces being mended back together. But not just so that I would look like how I was before but to be mended with gold and return even more beautiful. One person described the gift as “a priceless piece of art” and I am now beginning to see myself that way too.

And then just last night it happened… another piece was chipped off of me.

But as this new piece has been removed, I stand still and I surrender it to the Lord. I allow Him to do His work and trust that He will mend this piece too with His priceless gold and that I will emerge from this fresh break even more beautiful, precious, and sacred.

I don’t know what the final artwork of my life will look like when my time here on earth comes to an end. But what I do know is that the Master Artist is not surprised by any of these broken pieces and is already holding the tools that will mold each part of me back onto His Sacred Masterpiece.

It can be easy to look at the broken piece lying next to you and think- will I ever be worth the effort to be kept whole? Will anyone sacrifice themselves to protect me from being broken? Why am I not beautiful enough as I am, do I really need more gold? While these are all understandable questions, they are not valid because there is One Person, the only person who matters, who has already said yes by the gift of His own life.

A few days ago, I sat in church after Mass and questioned my worth. Whether I would ever be the one someone else was willing to sacrifice for. Jesus then gently took me through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection and with each scene looked at me and said, “I thought you were worth it in each of these moments.” Worth it to be tortured, ridiculed, and killed. Worth it to be left lifeless in a tomb. Worth it to actually fulfill His promise and mission and bring ME salvation by rising from the dead. HE says I’m worthy and HE has already proven it. And in that I know I am seen, I am chosen, and I am DEEPLY loved.

Regardless of whether anyone else believes I am worthy (which many do), I trust the Lord in this. I trust Him more than I can ever trust myself (although this new break has also reminded me that my intuition is not as clouded by wounds as I thought it was and that I can in fact trust myself, especially when I continue to surrender all to God in the process). He sees things that I could never see. He creates paths where there was no humanly possible way for it to be formed. He moves mountains for those He loves and those who love Him back by trusting Him. So once again, I release a gift I was so grateful to have for but a short time and I leave my hands wide open ready to receive at any moment whatever He desires to give me next.

As I look at this broken serving dish turned one-of-a-kind piece of art, I remember the looks on my aunt and uncle’s faces and the joy they felt from the story behind it. To them, the gold looked like it was meant to be there. And that is exactly how God views us. Not as broken pieces of art that were slapped back together. But as beautiful stories lined with gold in the most unique and unrepeatable places. Let His light shine through your whole being, broken gold-filled lines and all. You may just find yourself attracting even more attention and love in His name than you ever could have had you not let your act of loving others chip off a bit of you here and there.

Be vulnerable and be bold, friends. The only thing stopping you is fear and that has no place in the making of a masterpiece.

 

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?