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.
As many of you know, the hand of God has been moving within me since 2006 when I found God loved me despite all my weaknesses and poor decisions of the past. I came to find great mercy from His Son Jesus Christ, and have embraced my Catholic faith in which I was baptized into as an infant. I have learned much over these past 15 years and even a greater degree in the three years since my husband Benny’s death. It has all come now to fruition through God’s guidance to possibly the last most exciting and challenging journey of my life on this side of heaven.
Today you will find me over 700 miles from where I last called home on the plains of Illinois. God has given me an opportunity to serve Him in a way that seems to pull upon the many gifts He has blessed me with over the years. I now reside in Alabama, in a temporary location in Birmingham, until I move to a more permanent site in just a few more weeks.
Many years ago when my husband and I owned and operated a bed and breakfast in southern Illinois, we enjoyed serving others by providing hospitality with overnight lodging, conversation, great food and events. We hosted many family members and new friends over the five years we owned and operated Francie’s Inn and banquet center. It was a good time in our life, but prior to Benny’s sickness, we moved back north. I thought I had hung up my Innkeeping skills permanently.
However, now I find myself part of the team of Disciples of Christ within the Avila Foundation. Under their Foundation umbrella, we will soon be opening the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Retreat and Spiritual Formation Center in rural Montgomery, Alabama. In my new position as the Operations Manager and Spiritual Director, I am working with President Dan Burke and his wife Stephanie, Executive Director, to get this beautiful 10,000+ square foot building on 60 acres (16 acres include a small but beautiful lake) prepared for guests to come and receive spiritual direction and healing. We hope and pray to have a facility open for larger conferences in the future.
Last week we held our annual Summit, where 250+ people from the Avila-Institute.org, SpiritualDirection.com, Divine Intimacy Radio and the ApostoliViae.org community came together for many days of renewal, commitment and teaching. The conference was a huge success with many outstanding speakers, including:
Dr. Ralph Martin, Dr. Anthony Lilles, Father Boniface Hicks, Bishop Wall of the Diocese of Gallo, New Mexico and Dr. Kevin Vost, author and speaker. We had Confession, Adoration, daily Masses, prayer and healing, great meals and social times to just catch up with each other or visit vendor booths. If you’ve never heard of the Avila Foundation, be sure to check out links above. It was a great time to work closely with the team off site, share quiet times and many conversations. We are a great mix of ages and blend of complimentary skills.
It is still strange to be here – the roads wind up and down and all around, storms pop up and flash flooding hits fast. The humidity is high but the people are great. They are all very kind, welcoming and I am getting comfortable. I’m looking forward to a warmer winter! Yes, I miss the family. Who wouldn’t? My son, although a grown man, still likes to hang with his momma and his single daughter for special weekends. The great grand-babies wonder where I am. And I’m closer to family in Nashville. I will do my best to see them ALL as often as I can, but now I’m more a “pop in and lets have some fun” grandma/mom. So we count the blessings we had for many years when we lived close.
I truly believe God has called me here. As you may have read in previous blog posts, I have been praying for direction since my husband passed, to give me a mission for this last chapter in life that gives all glory to God. I didn’t know if it was to stay in Princeton or move, but this came about and surely seemed the right fit for me. I am motivated to work and pray throughout my day with people who choose to do the same, who work hard, pray together, laugh and share many joys and sorrows. I am excited to see those who come to the retreat center for respite, to serve and pray with them; to lead, light and live the way to union with God. 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
When I began this blogsite it was to express some thoughts/views on discerning direction in life; to share my life journey and perhaps chat along the way about how we all seek to find the path God desires for each of us. I am grateful to have many spiritual friends who helped me to not get ahead of God, to have patience, perseverance and trust that He would show me when the time was right. It all came together, and I believe I took the next right step in coming down here. It felt very freeing as I gave most everything away and saved a few very special things to start again. Yes, my days are unknown, it’s new territory and logistics, but I just keep surrendering and trusting I’m here for a very specific reason.
Pictures will be coming as I begin to work it all out, but for now, just know I am nestled next to our Lord’s feet, trying to balance both my Martha and Mary sides; listening, loving and working for and with God, silently thanking Him for all the blessings of friends and family who have blessed me in friendship and love along the way. I thank God for the gift of YOU! Please keep me – and all of us – in your prayers!