Walking to the creche

As we journey in these last few days to the creche and the birth of our Savior, I pause and ponder the ways of our Heavenly Father. To love us – me – so much as to send a vulnerable little meek and mild child, born to a lowly couple in the quiet of the night, to grow up and take on the sins of humanity – well – it’s just a lot to ponder. The wood of the creche – the wood of the cross. The sins we lay down could be wrapped as gifts for this little King… He whispers to me … give me them… I want to let go but I’m holding them tightly, so afraid they will hurt him. They will; they do. But that is why He came. To go to the creche with empty hands or hands over my eyes or to not go at all would be a great loss. This King awaits me; he looks for those gifts every year as I tend to pick them back up through the year. Will this be the year I finally stop taking back this gift of who I think I am because it’s not perfect enough? That I haven’t sorrowed over it or felt guilty enough? No. The Lord God, the mighty King, born of a woman in a lowly stable, laid in a manger with hay in the dark and cold of a night, wants me to bring Him my gifts of sorrow, shame, abuse, neglect, abandonment, injustice, hurt, pain and fear – all my brokenness. He has new gifts to give me but my hands are full of the obstacles to His love. I know I must put them down – surrender them to His will and leave them there this Christmas.

I need to hear these words I’m speaking as much as you my followers. We must stop taking back, going into the past, reliving the pain and brokenness of what we could not control or was done by us or another who either knew better or didn’t. It cannot be any other way. Receive with me this Christmas. I ask you to let it all down – all the sin, brokenness and sorrow as gifts to Him who came to take them up and destroy them by his dying and rising. Receive the light of Christ. Walk in His light – truth – grace and He will give you all you need.

It’s so hard to be humble sometimes. I just want to be good and right ordered and help people yet it feels like all I’m doing is telling them what they need to do or not communicating enough with them. Yet I realize I am filled with concupiscence. I must review my own words spewed out for all to read. Where did my neediness come from? Why do I fall to depths I thought I conquered? I have realized, very strongly now, it is because Satan would like me to think I can still control so much. Yet everything is gift. My friends, family, coworkers, parish, community – the strangers at the bank and the gas store. All of us are gift and all we have and do is only from the one who gives the next second of breath to us all. Can I live in my thinking that at any moment, God could stop it all? That nothing I do is so important – my works and my faith are one but they are nothing without noting they come from God the most high Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier? It came to pass that God allowed me to be moved into a beautiful work for Him in Memphis with the Mary and Elizabeth Apostolate, and, that He would then allow Covid to make me look at my every step …. to count them out …. to put me in a state of insecurity in how long of a life God had me to live on this earth. God sure works in crooked lines.

I am better. My health is improving. My sovereign God has granted me a great healing of body and soul. And after much discernment and prayer, I believe my heavenly Father is asking me to step back with Him into a more “Mary vs Martha” role. I’ll be doing this from a new location and in doing so, I will have more time to heal, do Spiritual Direction, read and write some very important memoirs.

I will miss my missionary lady friends in Memphis greatly – these loving women who have become very dear sisters in Christ and I will become their intercessor, with great honor to do so.  Memphis will always have a strong place of hope and healing in my heart. 

If you are looking for a Spiritual Director, please consider looking up and supporting the MaryandElizabeth apostolate.

Isaiah 41:10
Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
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Day of Remembrance

As I sat in church this weekend and heard our Pastor speak about the 50th anniversary of the famous Roe versus Wade landmark case that made abortion legal in all states, an opposite feeling I suppose of many came over me – a great peace.  I reflected back to when I first heard the message of forgiveness and an invitation to come out of the darkness of sin.  Didn’t see it coming as the darkness was a comfort – I learned to hide my regret very well and no one knew my secret past.  But like this weekend, in 2005 another Pastor broke open the truth of healing from abortion.

Both these holy men of God took on Christ’s healing heart to offer the truth to their flock; each offered hope through healing and reconciliation.  Christ didn’t want me to flee from him – no sin is greater than his mercy.  I didn’t know that was possible.  Praise God for these Pastors across the globe who are not afraid to say the words that seem uncomfortable – so many lost parents need to hear that forgiveness is available, and release from the bonds of poor counsel, great fear and a lifetime of regret and shame can happen.

My sweet child Mary Elizabeth, the name I gave my aborted child at a healing retreat in 2006, has been with me in a very special way since my acknowledgement of her life.  How I wish I had not been so weak as to listen to the evil of abortion.  She would be 47 this year – would have been born near Mother’s Day.  She would have given me so very much a different life.  But as I read and hear Psalm 139, I realize God knew for whatever reason that evil would affect my ability to understand and interpret right from wrong.  He knew her days would be counted only a few, but the impact on both of us would span many – hers in heaven and mine on earth.  Can I say O happy fault as St. Paul did?  It is hard.  Christ told me His grace is sufficient for me, yet the memories are there.  I make a determined effort to push them back to the past and stay in the present moment.

Father in heaven, your ways are far above my ways.  I crawl to you with wonder and awe of your majesty, your great love for sinners like me who fall to my faults and past instead of remembering you already know all my days, you chose me, and I am yours. My dear Mary Elizabeth, you were given life here in my womb for a very specific purpose.  You died a martyr’s death for me.  I have cried an ocean of tears but cannot change what happened. You gave your all and I’m sorry I did not recognize you for so many years.  I do today and I know so many are much more aware of the truth.  Evil will not win; we know God is victorious. 

My prayer today is that my heart be ever joined with my daughters in speaking up and not hiding from my mistake, but to recognize that neither she nor I are a mistake.  Our Father does not make mistakes.  Our days are created and given to us as written in Psalm 139. 

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. 
You beset me behind and before and lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit? 
Or where shall I flee from your presence?  
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! 
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 
If I say, “Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,”

even the darkness is not dark to you, the night is bright as the day;
for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you, for I am wondrously made. 
Wonderful are your works! 
You know me right well; my frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance; in your book were written,

every one of them, the days that were formed for me when as yet there was none of them. 
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! 
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand. 
When I awake, I am still with you.”

Psalm 139:1-18

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Goodness and evil

As I try to go to sleep my mind wanders to the police reports on my Citizens app that I looked at just a short time ago.  Another robbery at gunpoint.  A carjacking.  Gunshots.  All within my neighborhood; less than five miles away.  Evil lurks in the dark. 

I moved to Memphis in August this year to begin once again to serve the Lord.  Having been in Montgomery Alabama for just about a year, Memphis was bringing me closer to family – seven hours versus twelve from some, three hours from others.  It was a good location to go many ways in visiting family and friends. 

It was also a door God opened that I had been waiting for… I had been waiting, watching and praying for a change as what I had come to Montgomery to do was completed.  I knew in my heart God had plans for me to help women in healing their heart, mind and soul – He told me this specifically back in 2014 through a message from a dear family member.  He would show me the way in His time, and I waited patiently and prayerfully.

I didn’t know where I would go but the need rose, and the Bishop approved it. I was invited to Memphis to provide for the need of Spiritual direction to women and to begin helping widows in discerning their role in the world and life of the church.    

Settling in these past weeks plus some travel, painting the house and shopping has kept me busy.  But now a fear arises.  I have found – heard and seen that evil does exist – here and many, many places in the States.  If you google search “best and inexpensive places to live,” three quarters of them will indicate the good along with “higher crime rate” exemptions.  I ask, why aren’t our cities safe anymore?  Why do we fear the dark of night and the misery of man?  The other day on the highway another police chase and gunman.  Desperate times make desperate people.  No money equals no gas, groceries, rent.  People are not born evil; evil comes upon them by their choices or the choices of others thrust upon or ingrained into them.  The little baby who grows up to shoot people at random wasn’t thinking to hurt anyone; evil changed him. 

God doesn’t desire any of His children to be evil or to turn to it for answers.  He calls us to Him no matter how far evil has struck them down and turned them against others.  He calls the sick, the sinner; he calls each one of us to His sacred heart.  So, what can I do now that I live here and am surrounded by disorder created and sustained by evil?  How do I go to Him in my fear?

I pray for all of us.  The victims, the perpetrator, the bystander who could have done something to stop evil before it took over, those trapped in their homes in fear.  I will pray and be vigilant in not giving evil any more foothold than possible.  Locking my doors, cars and being aware of my surroundings will help.  And to always remember, a person may commit evil, but they are not evil itself – they cannot be because the most-high God cannot create evil.  God may allow evil to occur, but He also can make good from any bad. 

Put your faith in Him alone and help me to pray to end the evil that surrounds my new home, as well as many others in larger cities across the country and the world. We know who wins and it isn’t the evil. Praise to our Lord Jesus Christ, KING of the Universe!

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Rebuking the wind

In the gospel message today, Christ is found in the boat with his disciples at sea. A great wind comes up and they are terrified. They ask our Lord to save them from perishing. His answer? “Why are you so terrified o you of little faith.” He then got up, rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a great calm.

Nine months ago I ventured from Illinois to Alabama to begin work at the Avila Institute in helping to open a retreat and formation center. In a previous post “Seeking answers from above” I spoke about how the move came about and the work to be done. I also mentioned “Yet I stay open to His will, here or wherever He sends me, making my priority only to know, love and serve Him as best I can.”

It has been a year of much work and self discovery, yet clearly identified a greater yearning to do the work I was called to many years ago – spiritual direction and the ministry of healing for women. I thought it would work into life in Alabama but it has not come to be. During my discernment, the winds and storms of doubt and despair would come upon me. But I kept my eyes on Jesus, on the Father’s will and waited with docility and humility. My director asked me to wait for God’s timing and project to open the next door.

Clarity came in late May one year from my first move. I am now Tennessee bound. More will come with what that looks like in the days ahead. For now, I am happy and grateful to be at peace with another big decision. How good it is to be with the one who provides the great calm. Who would have thought a move would be this soon?

Where are you on the sea? Is it calm or stormy? Let Him in and stop resisting. He already knows your whole life. May we always be His and hear His voice directing our every step.

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Blessings from above

I recently walked the lake where I am living for some early evening reflection. I was blown away by what I thought to be a vivid image of a large dove in the sky directly over the property.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, heaven and earth sing of your glory.

The cloud formation gave my eyes a sight that looked as if truly the hand of God was on this land and He was blessing it. How joyful that we sing of God’s goodness in the community of Apostoli Viae in which I belong.

We have chosen in the membership to live “the way.” God will use us in spreading love, kindness and hope in the world.

Sharing what I receive with others brings His light where there may have been darkness. The gifts given are received and He draws me closer.

Yet I know the road on earth we travel is different for all – it may be long or short, but each and every day we have the opportunity to lead others to walk with us to union with Christ.

How does the vocation you live reflect the purpose of your life to know, love and serve God?

Have you taken it to prayer lately and asked the Lord what He desires for you to do?

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Seeking Answers

It has been a long time since I blogged; more than half a year. I have missed it, but have filled my time with many things, like completing many joyful commitments within parish life and it’s related ministries. But it all ended in May and the month of June 2021 has been very different – I began preparing for a major, life changing move.

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Freedom and Vulnerability in the NEW year

Where oh where has the time gone? Each day I wake to the wonders of the world – the brilliance of every living thing created by a God who loved it into being. As I write today I look out at a cloudy white sky with a mirrored ground of snow. It is winter in the mid-western United States and the temperatures are below freezing. It is a time of stillness, of emptying out of self.

You will seldom hear the neighbors voices on days like these; instead maybe a snowplow or shovel against the ice will echo in the distance. It is a good time to gather with a cup of hot coffee and a Bible and sit to contemplate holy scripture. What will I find the Lord is speaking to me about today? I am sure it will not be long before I find amongst the words both questions and answers; always moments to ponder and wonder.

I’m in the last of 16 weeks in assigned scripture verses given by my instructors. Today’s verses came from 2 Corinthians 3:12 to 4:6. Paul is talking about our being ministers in the New Covenant. Paul identifies “our being ministers,” as you and me. We are meant to be these ministers of the Holy Covenant – those not afraid to profess Jesus Christ as Lord! Can you see it on me as clearly as the sweater I am wearing? Is Christ seen in my words and actions – oh, even my thoughts? When I think back on the last few days….. could others see Christ through me? Lo, my heart sinks; I reflect where my examination prayer at night has fallen short of not reflecting Him. Truly these last days of December are a good time to take inventory of my spiritual life.

Reading the whole section of the holy scripture from 2 Corinthians; from chapter 3 on to the end of 4, I underlined several phrases. Things stuck out to me like, “You are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God…. not on tablets but on human hearts.” I am a letter written not with ink….. I digress; who doesn’t like to get a letter? You can keep the bills but letters are so seldom sent or received anymore. I love letters. I never thought of myself as a letter. And if a letter, then, having been written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. His Holy Spirit is written in me and delivered to you as a letter! What shall this letter say? When I started out wanting to blog today, I was in a not so great place. I fear it would not have been a very good letter.

The word vulnerable keeps popping into my head. I’ve always been a “ready to tackle” whatever is needed type of person. Bring on more, I can handle it, no job too small, too large or difficult. My plate is never full enough that sure, I can add one more thing to it. But being vulnerable to Christ, surrendering to Him all my control and personal power; trusting Him totally to heal and bring me forward with His new spirit – His plans – to write upon my heart so others can read Him first; well, that’s really letting go. Could I do that? I pause and muse on all I “think” I am in control of or responsible for.

A close friend just wrote about detaching as a challenge for January. Is that my issue? Maybe not vulnerable but to detach so that Christ can be closer? If so, now I have to consider, what am I holding onto? A feeling of being lost since my husband died. Confusion as to what I am supposed to do – this unsure, trapped, anxious, expectant like spinning tires ties my heart up in knots. I have a new vocation as widow, but what does that entail? My type A personality struggles with this. I think and think; desiring answers, fortitude, prudence. And yes, hope is there. Fear has always played a part in my life – so is it fear of the unknown that I grasp so closely to instead of letting Christ show me the way?

And Paul goes on to say “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” In my first thoughts, it’s hard to consider freedom could include being vulnerable where more damage could occur. So let me state this correctly, my desire to become vulnerable is so that Christ can come closer and heal all those hidden wounds that are still there. Freedom provides that choice to be vulnerable and trust. If I am vulnerable to Christ, I would cease to be this shell waiting to be filled. I will recognize His presence in my heart, see the writing of His love upon it and surrender to the healing of wounds uncovered.

This ministry, as Paul says we are a part of as followers of Christ; this is a ministry we choose when we recognize the letters on our hearts being written by Him and not ourselves; with vulnerability at it’s height because we have chosen to trust Christ with our brokenness. Yes, this ministry – the Apostolate of walking with Christ – points me to the one and only truth, hard as it might be to accept.

I am nothing, He is all. Without Him, my breath would fall flat, my eyes cease to see. There is the one and only truth that brings true freedom – it is because of His love for us that we can even be. His light which opens the truth in our hearts, minds, thoughts, words, actions and yes, even feelings; all these can and will always bring peace to us. It brings true freedom from sin. I see now that the restlessness inside of me is from me, not Him. Let go, let God. This I need to remember.

I am confident His light will shine past me and go on to you. We are the treasures of His heart. We can choose this in every waking moment. That is the freedom I seek and hear in His message for today.

Be free to always choose Him and see His hand on your heart; there will thy treasure always be. Happy NEW year in Christ our Savior!

Photos by Cathy Trowbridge

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As long as I live

I started my blog earlier this summer. I said and truly thought I would be posting daily. It was a challenge but also a delight as I love to write. Then things changed. School began and for me that meant both student and teacher. Two moves for close family members were in progress. Needless to say, something had to give. My posts began to be days apart, then unfortunately weeks. I truly miss posting daily but realized I needed to be in the present moment, attending to the people and situations most pressing. I had to give myself permission to drop into bed without it being done. It was disappointing but real. I was the only one who had set the bar and I could be attentive to those who needed me if I was more available. So posting dropped from the “must do” to the “like to do” column.

Today I felt a push to write – a push to talk about the joy of being in relationship with God. Two areas of my life are very prevalent these days. I am both student and teacher. As student, part of my daily homework is meditating on a scripture verse assigned by my instructors. I’m now in my fourth week in doing this and I have to say it has been an interesting journey of discovery. We are given a theme for each month – the first was God provides for me; the second God chooses to make me. As a teacher, I am helping nine 6-9 year olds prepare to receive the sacraments of reconciliation and holy communion. We began in Genesis and the garden of Eden. How uncanny that what I am preparing these little ones for is what I am going back to in my studies as well!

I’m blown away by the simplicity and greatness of the works of God. Creation – well just wow. Right now in Illinois where I live, the trees are turning color; the days are crisp; clear, colder yet inviting. All are in a state of movement – birds, squirrels, winds, leaves, clouds, sun and moon, light and darkness, children and adults. The wheels are moving in life and although it is different, we are advancing in time – and inevitably towards the end of each of our lives. I am so thankful for today’s meditation – Psalm 104 – as it truly puts so much in order. This verse (14/15) tugged at my heart in it’s simplicity.

You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plant for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

Yesterday I watched a farmer harvest soybeans in a large field behind my house. Today I went to Mass and received the body and blood of Christ in what looked like bread. It surely strengthens and satisfies the hunger in my heart for God.

And yet I know there are many other places far more beautiful than what I look out to from my porch. There is more to learn, read and seek than what I have completed in my life. I struggle to know whether this is my place since my dear husband passed, yet our Lord knows the plans he has for me. This is my third year as a widow and I feel it’s been a good time of “waiting.” I’ve come to recognize God loved me when I was far away and lost; He loves me still as I am draw near. I know my time here on earth is but a fleeting glance in the scope of all time. I am not afraid to die but only to be close to my Lord and God all the days he gives me to live. I am saddened by those I love who seem to not recognize the call God places in all hearts. Confused with pleasure, power or possessions in our material world, they are deaf to Jesus saying “take nothing, not even a second pair of sandals, and go out to all the world, telling of the Kingdom of God.” They do not hear the words “follow me.” I pray their hearts are softened so they too can have the joy God desires to give to them.

And so in saying this, I pause and wonder, do my ears need a cleaning? Will I hear his call to change if it comes in a way I am not ready to hear? Could I make a move if this is what he calls me to? Will I settle and work being faithful in my journey as I am now? Am I ready to die if this is his desire (no, I’m not sick or expecting to die anytime soon). My Lord and My God. Anything for you Lord. And everything. As a friend recently said to me, I gave Him a blank check. You know me better than I know myself. Especially in such a time as this. Do with me as you will. Here’s my blank check too.

I urge you to read the whole Psalm, not just verses 14/15. Below is a bit more. What does my future hold? Him. That’s all I need to know. He’ll figure out how to fill in the rest.

What is your view, your desire in seeking him with a heart that doesn’t just meet up with him at some point in your day but all day, every day, in multiple ways. As Dan Burke of Spiritual Direction.com said this past summer –
“if you’re not all in, you’re not in at all.”

O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, which teems with things innumerable, living things both small and great.

There go the ships, and Leviathan which you formed to sport in it. These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.

When you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their spirit they die and return to the dust.

When you send forth your Spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever, may the Lord rejoice in his works, who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke! I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him for I rejoice in the Lord. Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more!

Bless the Lord O my soul, Praise the Lord. Amen. Alleluia.

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