10 April 2014

Let Me Walk Upon The Waters

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me." - Oceans, Lyrics by Hillsong United
 This past weekend I attended a Young Adult Retreat in High Springs, FL. I was part of a group of about 75, looking to see what what in store in a retreat titled "Trust in the Lord."

Many beautiful things happened during this weekend. And many memorable things too. I camped. ( I don't camp - so this is quite memorable. Thank goodness it ended up being more like glamping!) I got food poisoning. Yikes! I took the beautiful 2 ½ hour drive solo and got to enjoy the Central Florida roads in springtime. We participated in mass everyday and read the Liturgy of the Hours. My small group leader was a smart, hilarious, devout, sassy nun from Connecticut (Sisters of Life) & we heard testimonies from other young adults & CFRs. Confession was offered all day (12 hours) on Saturday. A healing Eucharistic Procession took place. Of it all, the most impactful part of the weekend was both the Eucharistic Procession (a story for another time) and our 30 minute session of Lectio Divina.

Grab a cup of coffee & come back. I'm going to re-rewrite my exact words of what I journaled from Lectio Divina. This will be a little bit longer of a post, so really, grab that cup of coffee. I'll wait.

...ready?

April 5, 2014. Lectio Divina
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Lectio: Matthew 14:22-33 Walking on Water

It's 4 am. Salty, cold air hitting the boat; whipping the face. Hands burning from pulling the ropes so hard. Sails blowing in the haphazard, wild gusts. The sea is charcoal, its jaws of white tipped waves biting at them.
When Jesus walked, though the waves hurled and the wind blew, they did not effect Him.
Peter yelled out "Command Me!"
Peter pulled up his robe. With both hands on the side of the unstable boat, he put one foot out onto the water - which felt even and sturdy. Then another foot. The disciples stood in silence. Peter walked. There was no noise. The waves could only be seen in his periphery.
Then Peter looked down.
He started to sink.

Medidatio

Peter asked Jesus to command to do something extraordinary. But Peter doubted Jesus - doubting that God could really perform a miracle using him, for him. Peter sank. Peter needed to be saved from his own request of the extraordinary.

Oratio
"Command Me"

Contempatio

Jesus, I ask you to commission me. Recently, I've asked that you give me a mission as the missionary spirit has been stirring.
But I see Peter's response and realize that I worry - once I get the extraordinary I doubt it - its truth, its awesomeness, its beauty, its grace.
I doubt the extraordinary. It's so easy to distrust the extraordinary. I feel like extreme faith is needed. And that's a faith I don't think I have.
Help me to believe and trust the extraordinary. I live my life ignoring it. What about You in the Monstrance? What about all the graces You & Mother Mary provide? I act like it's no big deal - no, I act like I say it exists but treat it like it really doesn't. I don't glorify You in these things. I do not boast  of You. I act egotistical. I act "too cool". Let me soak in them and be drunk in them. Let me cherish them and appreciate them. Let me yearn for them and recognize the gift that they are when I encounter them.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Throughout the retreat the song "Oceans" followed me. And on the drive home. And I've heard it everyday on the radio since. I think God is calling me to hike up my robe, grab hold of the boat, and flip my feet over to the other side. Because "in oceans deep, my faith will stand."


xo,



01 April 2014

My Testimony

Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. - John 6:26
It was 2003. I sat in the pew of what is now my hometown parish (church) in awe of what I just heard. I was a bullet out of a gun & my life was altered from that day forward. This is my testimony.

Let's backtrack a handful of years.

My mom became very ill when I was in the 5th grade (circa 1995). She had, and still suffers from, progressive scoliosis. I grew up on a Christian home - went to Christian elementary school, attended Easter & Christmas services annually. The religion was always in the background but never an active, called upon resource for any joy or agony life could bring. I was taught to be kind to others, love God, be a good person.

When seventh grade came, my mom was still terribly sick. She was bedridden & I was angry. How could a "God" be cruel to let my mother suffer? How could a "God" allow her and my family to see and feel such pain? I decided to disown God. What God? There is no God.

By the time high school started I found myself lonely. It's the kind of lonely that maybe suicidal people feel - because honestly, those thoughts did cross my mind. I (thank goodness) decided that wasn't the answer, but that there HAD to be an answer out there. I could no longer support myself emotionally. I needed something bigger than myself to lean on.

All of high school and in the beginning of college I read. My research project: Does a God exist, who/what is that God?


  • Is there one god? Or many gods?
I looked at Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Atheism, Agnosticism, Judaism, Muslim, Wiccan, Scientology. I went to a Buddhist temple. I went to the Scientology center. I visited a Mosque. I went to Jewish Temple. I discovered, there is only one god.


  • Ok, one god. Is god male or female or neither or both. I continued the search. 
It got to the point in my research, that I could no longer avoid (and I use avoid because that's what I did in the fullest) that Jesus is a requirement in the bigger picture.  Jesus is my savior. But this led to another important question: With so many denominations of Christianity, which one is the best right? I attended a Baptist church, a Lutheran church, an Anglican church, a non-denominational church and then about 3 other non-denominational churches. All of them had their take on what Jesus said. All of them had a different way to baptize.

As far as I knew it, Jesus only gave us one set of instructions - how come there are so many variations??

Back to 2003. Catholicism wasn't even on my radar. I had heard from so many of my Protestant friends that they are idolators & blasphemes. I adopted the negative ideology they had for the Catholic church without ever looking into it like I had so many other religions. My boyfriend at the time asked that I attend his cousin's confirmation. I went. I was a good girlfriend you know. My first impression was that it was "alright". And then he asked me to go to Sunday Mass the following week. I went, but still with my arms crossed figuratively.

This particular Sunday, the readings were on John 6:22-69, the Bread of Life Discourse. Ok, another parable. Jesus taught with parables. What struck me was the priest. He was quite animated & excited. By the end of it, I could see why. He walked across the sanctuary (stage, if you will) back and forth, all through the sermon. Hands held up, very "on fire" so to speak. He pointed out that Jesus repeated "Amen, amen" four times. There are many important facts to this. To say Amen means "I agree" or "So Be It". To say it twice means there is indisputable emphasis in the statement. Then the priest pointed out that Jesus said "Amen, amen" anytime someone questioned or disputed His statement "I am the Bread of Life, whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood with have eternal life." Jesus said "Amen, amen" when they called him a cannibal & blasphemer.  He said "Amen, amen" when they asked Him if He was serious, because He just couldn't be serious. Jesus said "Amen, amen" when they questioned His divinity. Every other parable in the bible, you'll notice that when the listening ear didn't understand the point to be had, Jesus would explain it in a different way. But not this time. This was no parable. He persisted with the same statement. Eventually, they walked out on Him.

Jesus stuck to His statement and they (but the 12) all walked out on Him. Those were the people that saw Him heal the lame, blind, give life to the dead, perform miracle after miracle. But this statement was to hard to swallow (see what I did there :)).  They saw him perform miracles but that wasn't enough to make them stay. That wasn't enough to make them believe - not after a statement like this. They walked away and went back to their previous beliefs.

At the moment I heard these words, my life was forever changed. I was to be Catholic. I didn't know how - heck I didn't even know all of what they stood for. But I couldn't walk away from Jesus. I believed His amens.

For the following year, I attended RCIA (Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults - see your local church, every parish has this ministry) My leader, Danny, equated me to a two year old. I always asked "Why?" to every tenant of the faith. But, why? I would continue. And the Church ALWAYS had an answer - and not a "Just because" or "That's the way it's always been" answer either. There was always an answer for everything, and everything always led back to Jesus and/or the covenants God made with us.

Easter of 2014, I will have been Catholic for 10 years. I have never looked back. Yes, there are times of doubt and deserts. But my faith is a relationship with the Lord. And relationships have dry spells sometimes, but there is an undying, unconditional (on His part - hey I'm human), LOVE that will never deteriorate.

It was the best decision I ever made for myself.

xo,




 P.S. click the link on the right called "Catholics Come Home" if you are a fallen away Catholic, are Catholic and looking for resources or aren't Catholic and just have questions about the faith.

P.S.S. My mom is still sick - please pray for her and my family. God is with her & He is glorified through this. At the very least, through my mother's illness, I found the Lord - that in and of itself is a blessing.

27 March 2014

#SheSharesTruth - Reflections on Jonah 3 & 4

"For You love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what You have hated, You would not have fashioned." - Wisdom 11:24

So many things are swirling around in my head right now. In the last half of Jonah, there are so many directions which I could have focused on.

  1. Fasting. Sackcloth. Repentance. 40 Days. Chapter 3 is oozing with Lenten symbolism. I love it!!
  2. Chapter 4 looks at Jonah's tantrum when the people Jonah feels are "beneath him" get God's mercy. 
  3. "...and announce the message that I will tell you..." (Ch 3, vs 2). Will tell you. Hmm. God sends us on our missions sometimes withholding all the info. Does He do this to be mean? Does He do this because He has not planned out every step? No - rather, He does this because He asks us to continue to TRUST Him in every step AND NOT LET OUR PRIDE GET IN THE WAY. Oohhhh pride. I laughed when I read this verse. If I were asked to go tell/teach/preach something, I'd want to plan it all out, know everything I am going to say ahead of time. I'd want to be prepared & knowledgeable. I. I. I. <-- That's the point. When we're on God's mission, it's not about "I". A lot of LOLs here. 


    This is a post for the #SheSharesTruth blog collaboration on the study of Jonah 3 & 4. Yes, we are sharing & reflecting on God's truth, but today, I'm going to focus on KristinaSharesTruth.

    Back to point 3 - Pride. My truth is that I am a prideful person. But aren't we all on some level? (enter  semi-embarassing hand raise, light chuckle, and smirk) 

    Even as I write this post, I've already written & deleted it several times, trying to come up with the perfect words so that I can come across intelligent, witty, and likable. But this isn't what I'm called to. 

    I am called to the humble way. I am called to die to self. This means then, that I need to be honest & actually write about what is standing out most in all of chapters 3 and 4 - "... and announce the message that I will tell you...." That's it. Not the repentance of the people of Nineveh, not Jonah's toddler like fit about the sun on his forehead. 

    So, I'll be focusing on pride in my personal prayer. Praying that I get out of God's way and be a vessel  and not the main attraction. And trust. Trust in His way, His guidance, and that He provides the words. 

    xo, 

    P.S. Speaking of toddler like tantrums & trust, I have another Praise God Timeline!!

    • March 19th: I tell my co-worker passively "You know, I need to go on retreat. It's been almost 14 months." <-- there's that "I" again...
    • March 22nd: I tell my husband passively "I really want to go on retreat."
    • March 23rd: A retreat crosses my mind several times. But then I remind myself that I do not have time, I don't have money, and there aren't any being offered in my area anyways. Whoa is me. 
    • March 27th 830am: I get a Facebook message that I am invited to a retreat about 2.5 hrs from my home, hosted by Friars (my favorite retreats are hosted by religious).
    • March 27th 9am: Call the coordinator to see if any spots are left. Leave message on voice mail. ((sigh))
    • March 27th 130pm: Get a call from the coordinator. She invites me to the retreat AND IS COMPLETELY PAID FOR BY SOMEONE ELSE! ((gasp))
    • March 27th 2 pm: Get email with retreat application and see that the retreat is titled "Trust In God" with a focus on the Eucharist & Jesus' Sacred Heart.  <-- another set of LOLs. Isn't God hilarious?!
    • And did I mention, the retreat is NEXT WEEKEND! April 4-6! MIND. BLOWN.

    P.S.S. If you don't know, Margaret Mary Alacoque is associated with the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus - my most beloved and favorite devotion! It focuses on His immense love & mercy. ((clap clap clap, happy dance)) I cannot contain my excitement! 


    This post is a participation of the #SheSharesTruth collaboration where the participants from the Jonah study share what the Holy Spirit has been stirring up in our hearts. 

    20 March 2014

    #SheSharesTruth - Reflections on Jonah 1 & 2


    But Jonah made ready to flee to Tarshish, away from the Lord. He went down to Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and went down in it to go with them to Tarshish, away from the Lord. - Jonah 1:3
    Have you ever seen a map of Jonah's travel? I did recently.  And it surprised the heck out of me. Why was it a surprise? It was a map of my heart.

    How many times have I run from the calling of the Lord? How many times did I go above and beyond to avoid His voice - err maybe even the whisper that He gives - calling me to something.

    - - - 
    I have been in hot pursuit of a bible study. As an at home mom of a 9 month old, I need something available online. But many that I found, though Christian, are outspokenly anti-Catholic. I need something that would fill my soul with God's word and balance it with my Catholic faith. Enter SheReadsTruth. It is this perfect balance. I see Protestant & Catholics alike on the site. And they are welcoming, open about their hearts, encouraging, and also in pursuit of the Lord. All of this came from my active anti-participation of Lent in 9 years. (see backstory here.) I thought I would just take it easy and read from St. Faustina's Diary: Divine Mercy in my Soul & from a book called "In Converstion with God" by Francis Fernandez. Boy, was I wrong.

    God wanted to fill me with His Word & consume/overflow my heart with His love. He put scripture study on my heart. So in pursuit, I found SheReadsTruth and it's first study I am participating in is on Jonah.

    God wanted Jonah. He pursued him until he couldn't avoid Him any longer. And God came at him strong, but in full love. God met Jonah where he was at, even if that's in the middle of a raging storm.

    I'm realizing that God is pursuing me - in the middle of my storm. Lent is a time to turn to the Lord and seek him. My heart hasn't been able to do that these past 9 years and recently I asked the Lord to meet me in this place. I didn't/couldn't/was to scared to come to Him. So He found me where I am and is speaking to me through Jonah.

    This post is just on chapters 1 & 2. I am understanding now that I, like Jonah, have an awesome God who loves me unconditionally. When I say understanding now, it's not that I have just accepted my Jesus. Rather, it's been a reminder or rekindling of this relationship that I have had all along. It's like, "oh yea, I do have a merciful, loving, compassionate God who forgives and accepts me - how did I forget that? Duh."

    God could have let me drown, just like he could have let Jonah drown. He could have let the waves crush me and let me be forgotten into the endless sea of the lost. But God didn't do that to Jonah. And He hasn't done that to me.

    "But I, with a thankful voice, will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed to pay: deliverance is from the Lord." - Jonah 2:10

    God is delivering me from what I thought Lent would be: a dry desert, abandoned by God. (again, see backstory) Rather, He is delivering me from those lies and showing me that I am never abandoned - I just have to say yes to Him and willingly obey.

    I'd like to add here the timeline of finding this study:

    • March 7th: Made a reluctant agreement with the Lord that I will try  to participate in Lent.
    • March 11th: Spoke with a friend of mine that bible study was on my heart.
    • March 11th - March 18th: Searched Google, Facebook, and Pinterest high and low for an online bible study. Nothing. (rather, nothing called to me) 
    • March 18th a.m.: FINALLY wrote in my prayer journal (this makes it an actual request in my mind for some reason - weird, I know) that God must give me a bible study because I'm at a loss. 
    • March 18th p.m.: Discovered a study on Jonah that just so happens to start the next morning.
    • March 19th: MIND. BLOWN. 


    xo,


    .today I visited the sea - what a visual gift from the Lord that serves as a reminder of Jonah's story.

    This post is a participation of the #SheSharesTruth collaboration where the participants from the Jonah study share what the Holy Spirit has been stirring up in our hearts. 

    07 March 2014

    A Nine Year Tantrum

    The Christian who goes through life systematically avoiding sacrifice will not find God, will not find happiness. What he will have been taking care [of, is] to avoid his own sanctity. (1)

    This Easter will be my 10 year anniversary of my conversion to Catholicism. The first year was an extreme high for me. Visiting our Lord in adoration several times a week & attending daily mass lead me to, what I thought was, a permanent residence on Mt. Zion. Jesus and I had hourly conversations. I was with my Lord and He was always with me. Every decision, every joy, and every pain, was discussed with, celebrated with, and survived with my Jesus.

    The upcoming Lent, my first Lent, I was gun-ho to "give up" something - to experience this desert of faith that we are asked of as Catholics. Honestly I do not remember what I "gave up", but the experience of that first Lent altered all my lents up to the present day. Desert? Oh yea. I was in a desert. My Lord was no where to be found, no where could I hear Him. No where could I feel Him. By the middle of Lent, I was on my knees "ugly crying" (you know, the kind of uncontrollable sobbing where you can't breathe, your mascara is running, your eyes swell just about shut), pleading for Him to never leave me again and vowing that I would never go through a desert again. Even if Mother Church asked me to. How dare she ask me to experience a desert! How dare she expect me to lose the closeness that I had! And how dare she ask that I do it every year!!! This can't be what she would want for me.

    When I hear the word 'Lent', a little part of my spirit shivers. The experience of my first lent has left a permanent scar on my soul's memory.

    But why does she ask us - why does the Church see this desert as something so important as to repeat the exercise every year?

    Come to a week before this lent. In prayer, hilariously, I am asking God to "take this away from me". "Can I just ignore it Jesus? You don't really need me to participate in Lent, do You?"

    For some reason, I feel compelled to participate this year - though the feeling is like the the time I was about to zip line. Being petrified of heights, the feeling is similar to stepping onto that platform, seeing the drop below me, with the end - my survival - off in the far distance, almost unattainable. But there is this urge. And then, as soon as I am finishing the "do You?" of this toddler like tantrum negotiation, my Jesus says to me - "this is what Hell is like. Learn from it now."

    Um.. what? I'm sorry, there's wax in my ears. [finger in ear.. squeak squeak] One more time?

    That sentence - THIS IS WHAT HELL IS LIKE - is what my first lenten experience was. I had spent a year in high heaven (see what I did there), and that 1st lent was the depths of hell. I was without God. I kept reaching, scratching, clawing, grasping for Him; yelling, shouting, screaming His name - and it felt as though He would not save me, wouldn't come back for me.

    Hell is the absence of God - it's knowing that He's just on the other side of this wall, but I cannot be with Him. This is the wall that we build through sin, being lukewarm, and being systematic in our walk of faith.

    I don't think my parents taught be about death very well - or maybe they did and I just didn't absorb the idea well. I am petrified of death. And it's solely based on the idea that I will be without God. It's this weird idea that I am only going to experience God while here on earth, because I am not worthy to be with God in the eternal. The promise of our faith & hope of our salvation is the complete opposite, yet I have been battling this demon of doubt since I was maybe 6. To this day, I have a period of 1-2 months a year where I wake up in panic attacks, having nightmares at night that one day I'm going to die.

    This upcoming season, something has been altered. There is this peace that I can see off in the distance, but I'm being asked to trust the Lenten experience. ::shiver::

    Ok, so Jesus, what do you want me to do? ....

    This year, I'm giving up my time. I've pulled out 2 books this year, along with using my Bible, the Diary of St. Faustina & "In Conversation with God" are the two books that I will be leaning on this year. I'm realizing I am perpetuating my own fears by not participating in Lent for the past 9 years. The Church is SO SMART! Haha! Lent is a time when we are supposed to recollect ourselves, acknowledge our sins, our immense need for Jesus and re-recognize that HE IS OUR SALVATION. He is our only way to heaven! If we don't recenter our lives on Him, we are lost. We are in Hell.

    The beauty of the Holy Spirit is that He teaches how to pray, yes? So in His intelligence, He has led the Church to an annual re-centering. We are so human. If we didn't have this season, we would stay mundane, systematic, robotic in our faith. It's the "going through the motions". How beautiful that our God knows we need the reboot. And that He is patient and loves us through it. Even when we  purposefully ignore it for 9 years.

    xo,



    1. "In Conversation With God: Daily Meditations of Lent", Thursday after Ash Wednesday - Francis Fernandez

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