Of all the saints and their various lovely stories, one of my favorite traditions in the church is an idea that St Therese of Lisieux expresses very clearly in saying, “Suffering itself becomes the greatest of joys when we seek it as a precious treasure.” It’s a beautiful reflection on Jesus’ suffering, suffering is one the primary ways that he loved us. Jesus literally died on the cross for us. Literally. And he had so much anxiety going into it, so much so that he sweated droplets of blood. And, yet, we as Christians are called into an equally deep love by accepting suffering as “the greatest of joys”. We do this to model our Lord Jesus who already took upon himself all the anxiety and pain for us. His cross and His death, becomes a call to a deep imitation of His love. It’s exactly what Lent is all about, entering deeper into prayer, fasting and almsgiving to cultivate a deeper love for Christ and for others.
I love Lent. A little off-color, but I find the greatest spiritual fruits in contemplating Christ’s passion, the pain He bore for us, and what that means for the crosses I bear in my own life. The cross is what brought me back into the church so many years ago, and His passion is what keeps me faithful throughout every season of hardship in my life.
I’ve been told time and time again to “unite my sufferings to the cross”, and I’ve had many varying levels of success. Suffering the flu, I was made to think I was holy. Going through a breakup, I almost thought of myself a mystic. I’ve come to love suffering. I’ve come to love sadness, sorrow, and pain, because I got the opportunity to learn more and more how to better imitate Christ in those moments... even to the point of purposefully entering into suffering, with varying levels of success.
However, this means when God is particularly good to me, when my life is easy and simple, I fall into a thought process where I think I need MORE suffering, for fear of not participating in God’s mystery ENOUGH. This can be a slippery slope as we often, "get what we pray for". I tend to look forward to Lent every year, as an opportunity to dive more deeply into Christ.
This lent, I set out to do something I’d never ventured to do. I decided to give up my biggest vice: coffee.
Now, coffee is a simple thing. Incredibly morally neutral. But, I, like many other young adults, was incredibly addicted. I love the jumpstart to my morning, I love the pep in my step, I love the warmth of a mug in my hand. I loved my routine of waking up early in the morning, to make myself a cup of coffee, and sitting down for prayer at the start of my day. I thought I had plenty of reasons why coffee was a good thing to keep around, I thought I could convince myself it would have been bad to give it up… there was not a single thing at that point in my life that would have been a worthy sacrifice, there wasn’t anything I could think of that would have been hard to give up. And I had decided that even though it was small, that it would be my challenge for the season. The least I could do, I had thought.
I was sorely mistaken.
I had entered lent with all my hubris. I don’t know if I had thought it would be easy, or if I had thought I would handle the withdrawal with much more nobility than I was capable of, but I had much higher expectations for myself. I was a baby, I complained and whined, I took frustrated naps, and I found myself irritable, impatient, and anxious.
I was not taking this teeny tiny little baby cross near as beautifully as Christ did.
Every morning I had to write on my wrist, “I will not complain” just to remind myself that in theory, I did love the suffering. But it was so hard to love in practice. It felt impossible to link it to the cross. I felt so far away from Jesus, simply because my very weakness distracted me from the present. This distracted me from prayer, which distracted me from being aware of His love. I was too focused on my own self-pity.
And I feel so foolish that it took me several weeks of Lent to actually turn towards the cross to see Jesus speaking directly to me.
Jesus cries from the cross, and into my heart I thirst.
The God of all creation, and the Lord of all abundance, now crucified and humiliated on the cross lacks something so simple as a drink. He begs from His tree where he was pinned, ever so precariously for our sins. The God who gave us everything - weeps, and he weeps to us, so desperately, for something.
I’ve come to deeply love Jesus’ thirsting. It highlights his humanity – Jesus who walked on water, the man who gave the blind man sight, our Lord who fed the 5000, he also asks for a simple drink. Have you ever had a time when you have really been thirsty? When have you ever been truly absolutely parched? Where you have headaches from dehydration, and your saliva feels like a paste? It’s horrid! It’s an experience that’s rather foreign to most of us, but it’s far more relatable than perhaps being scourged at the pillar, or sweating blood out of anxiety, or carrying a cross that would soon carry you.
But what Jesus wants is more desperate than water. More desperate than coffee. No, Jesus is crying to us from the cross for us. He is thirsty for our souls. Taking on Lenten penances was never about feeling pain, it was never about being holier for doing more things, it’s about reminding us of Jesus’ pain. Reminding us of ALL the pain felt throughout the world. It’s about empathy, solidarity, and love.
Do you only seem capable of focusing on yourself, as I often do?
So, take this as a reminder that it’s not too late to end Lent strong. It’s not too late to double down on fasting. Even after Easter, it’s not too late to delve into the mystery of the cross.
I have many friends from all over the world: Effingham IL, to Elizabethtown KY, to Terre Haute IN, and from Ireland to Japan.
One of my closest friends, who is our pastor, told us he was leaving to go to his next parish. Upon hearing this I thought, “I am losing one of my dearest friends!”I was excited for him, knowing others would feel the same way I do. I knew they would have this wonderful priest that they can learn from. After that weekend, I was pondering my friendships and how much they have changed throughout the years.
Why is it we are pulled towards some people more than others? What makes us want to continue this friendship? Why is it harder to build lasting friendships as an adult is than it is when we are young?
Friendship is like wine. ;) If you know me I love my sweet wine and I love my sweet friends. Friendship is a special kind of love, more than true and more than endless. Connecting with people who genuinely care about one another is a gift from God that we sometimes take for granted.
Friends are those people we feel good with. Friends make us laugh, hear us out and really listen to our hearts, support us when the going is tough, and hang with us when we just need some fun time. True friendship is about unconditional love. That unconditional love is Jesus’ will for our lives. Jesus wants us to have this love in all we come in contact with.
A true faithful friend holds up a mirror in which we see ourselves. One of my best friendships started in college and we have been friends for 25 years. She was from another country and I liked learning about cultural things, and we both were “Catholic”, these 2 things brought mutual bonding into our friendship. Over time, circumstances changed. We started drifting not because we both didn’t value our friendship when life began taking us in different directions. I left and went home to Effingham after college. She got married and started having kids. Even when I moved back to our college town, I was single and she was raising two small kids.
About 10 years ago things changed again. We started having lunch at least once a month. I started hanging out with her family. Our friendship grew stronger and stronger – we wanted to make this friendship work. We had deep and significant conversations, beyond ordinary superficial things. It’s not simply about spending time together but about the desire to strengthen the bond between us.
25 years ago I wouldn’t have called her my sister in Christ. She has grown so much in her faith since then, and so have I. As we grow closer to Christ, we grow closer together. She is not only my best friend, she is truly my sister in the Lord.
Friends are the ones who show us how tough we are when all we see is how weak we are; they point out our good traits, like courage and wisdom, when we are down on ourselves. They remind us of capabilities and motivate us for our future. They strengthen our lives and we are richer for having spent time with them. We come away with a sturdier sense of self because we have strengthened each other.
But friends don't just uncover our good qualities; they tell it like it is. They are the people in our lives who aren't afraid to tell us what they really think, who hold us accountable. They speak the truth in love, and in the process, make us better: "As iron is sharpened by iron, one person sharpens another" (Prv. 27:17).
Be aware of the mirror you hold up for your friends. Do you throw back to them the goodness you find in their hearts and in their character? Are you able to lovingly reveal the areas in their lives that they need to work on? With any relationship it’s two-sided, not one. We have to make sure we truly listen and make each other feel heard.
It’s easy today to be sarcastic and mean in our comments with one another and pass it off as if we‘re only joking. But when we come away from spending time with friends feeling hurt by their words, we need to reevaluate our friendships. A true, faithful friend can joke and laugh with you, but the tone changes when they laugh at you. When that happens, the mirror they hold up to you is negative and it tears down your spirit. You come away with a lesser sense of self.
People who leave you with this reflection are not true faithful friends.
Be mindful of the reflection you hold up to those close to you. How do they feel after an interaction with you? Be willing to reflect back their strength of character. Be kind when honesty requires a hard look at something in another’s life. Build people up in a way that challenges them to continue moving in a positive direction in their lives.
Remember that words make a difference. Be aware of the tone and body language you are sharing with those you care about. It communicates loud and clear!
Always surround yourself with friends who are truly friends, and not ones who tear you down. I had to distance myself from some friends because they would tear me down or others around me. God has reasons for placing us in each other’s lives. He brings us together so we can help each other get to heaven.
Over the course of time, people will seldom remember what you said to them. But they will always remember how you made them feel.
Evaluate your friendships. Nurture those who build into your life. Seek out ways to support those you care about. Here some ways you can be a better friend:
Listen well and offer advice only if asked.
Respect different points of view. Remember every coin has two sides and relationships goes both ways, just as every issue does.
Never betray trust. Hold confidences with care.
Never manipulate by being intentionally controlling, needy, or weak.
Deal with conflict. Left to simmer, it will boil over and do damage.
Cultivate warmth and care.
Remember friendships are a gift from God, and Jesus showed us the true meaning of friendship: Jn 15:12 states, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” Our friendships with others is an opportunity to discover Christ. They are to be valued and nurtured so that deep connections can be sustained. Be like Jesus! He had 12 friends that were everything to him. Because Jesus is the ultimate true friend you have.
The only thing worse than being single on Valentine's Day is living through the build-up of Valentine's Day, single. Stores begin stockpiling themselves with colorful hearts, cuddly teddy bears, clichè cards, flower bouquets, and isles of chocolate to gift your special someone. Couples start plastering the internet with sappy posts, memories, engagements, and exciting dates that they are going on. Those in relationships seem to have the whole love thing figured out, but not me.
What is it about Valentine's Day that makes the sting of singleness so much worse? Perhaps it is the glamorization of the holiday or the intense fear of missing out. But whatever feeling I may have, I know that Jesus understands.
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)
Jesus lived his entire human life, single. Jesus was entirely God, but sometimes I forget that he was also fully human. He was tempted, expressed his emotions, and probably had a crush on a girl at some point. Jesus knew that he came to earth for the sole purpose of restoring sinners so that I (and all other Christ-followers) may have eternal life with him.
The Bible says a lot about singleness and how much of a gift it can be (1 Corinthians 7:7). As a single Christian, I struggle to find the silver lining or hope on most days. And who can blame me? God created Adam and quickly realized that he should not be alone (Genesis 2:18), and so God created Eve.
God created Eve from Adam's rib to populate the earth and not be alone. As Christians, we are called to live and be in community with other followers of Christ. Society places so much pressure on individuals to find love and get married. Because of that, I constantly fall into the mistaken mindset of feeling incomplete without a significant other.
While I believe that it is my vocation to be married one day, I do not feel like now is that time. I am a first-year teacher and if I were in a relationship, I would not serve my students or continue to grow my educational skill. I pour everything I have out for my students every day and return home exhausted.
My exhaustion comes from a day of serving my students and putting their needs first. I return home to recharge and reflect on my day. I also spend time with friends, family, and out in nature. Community comes in many forms, and a romantic relationship is just one of them. Relationships are all about balance, and although I desire marriage, I am finally learning how special the single-life truly is.
Singleness is a gift because I can focus my entire self on the most important relationship: Christ. I can devote my time to Jesus and grow with him so that I can bring others closer to his kingdom. We all have unique God-given gifts, talents, and abilities that can be used to benefit the Mystical Body of Christ.
"I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that." (1 Corinthians 7:7)
Every Christ-follower has been blessed with a spiritual gift. Spiritual gifts are not something that can be taught or that we possess but instead God's supernatural ability showing up in our lives in various ways.
During this "season of singleness," I have been able to dive deeper into my spiritual gift and grow closer with Christ by using it. I believe that my spiritual gift is understanding. The spiritual gift of understanding is a lot like the virtue of faith. As a follower of Jesus, it is essential to find ways to grow and utilize your spiritual gifts. I am a teacher and use my gift of understanding to help my students succeed.
We are all fearfully and wonderfully made, and our spiritual gifts are too (Psalms 139:14.) I am not perfect and sometimes struggle to understand my purpose and use the gift/s that God has given me. I am unique by design, and God has me on earth for a particular purpose. I was not made to be like someone else, and neither were you. The spiritual gift of understanding has been gracefully given to me and, if used for Christ, that gift will glorify his kingdom.
"Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery." (1 Timothy 4:14)
I have a proposition for you:
Today, I challenge you to begin thinking about your spiritual gift.
What has God given you that makes you vital to his kingdom? I know how daunting it can be to think about it because you might not feel worthy of such a miraculous gift. But I am here to tell you this: You are worthy. Romance movies and your Facebook news feed project the single-minded category of physical love that society has taught you to pursue, but you already have Christ's, unconditional love. No chasing required. Christ loved you so much that he sent his only son to die for you. Our job is to return that love to Him by trusting in his plan for you, participating in Christian community, and using your gifts and talents for the good of his community.
I’ve always felt I had a disposition towards the sorrowful; for as long as I can remember, I felt drawn to the tragic or dark. A lachrymose nightmare for my parents, I’m sure. When I was eleven or twelve, I discovered Emo music at the height of its popularity and in a way, it felt like coming home. The unabashed outpouring of these songwriters’ hearts was a breath of fresh air, a refuge to hide myself in as I navigated my own difficult middle and high school years.
And yet, I didn’t fully understand why. As a young evangelical protestant, I was being brought up in a breezy, rose-tinted Christianity. With Christ, everything was supposed to be easy, fresh, neat and tidy. Christ was supposed to make me new, make me clean, make me joyful at all times. I had a part to play, but I couldn’t. I didn’t belong. What was wrong with me? I wrestled with this question for most of my teenage years.
It wasn’t until almost a decade later that things began to make sense. After years of studying and discernment, my husband and I were welcomed into the Catholic Church in January of 2014, a few months shy of my twenty-second birthday. It felt like the gears were all falling into place; it felt like a light had been shone and I could finally see clearly. It was then that I realized that everything in my life had been leading me up to this point: to coming home to Christ in the Catholic Church.
By the time I was twenty five, I had almost entirely forgotten about Emo music. My conversion still felt fresh and everything within Catholicism was so new and important; I listened to Latin chant, sung prayers, and Catholic podcasts almost constantly. I was still finding my place in the life of the Church, learning about devotions and saints and how to really live as a Catholic. Putting on my new self, letting go of my old self as they say.
But then one day I rediscovered an old playlist: a mess of songs from the early 2000’s, featuring a heavy dose of My Chemical Romance. And as I listened to many of these lyrics for the first time since my conversion, I realized that I knew exactly why they had meant so much to me -- and why they still do. My love for the sorrowful and messy, my attachment to these songs, was like a thread woven throughout my whole life that I had only just noticed.
While the artists likely didn’t intend it, and some of it can rightly be described as unorthodox or offensive, I’ve learned that some of my greatest moments of prayer have come while listening to Emo music in my car. To put it plainly, this kind of emotionally raw, often sorrowful and morbid music feels incredibly Catholic to me. Once again, I find myself at home.
Catholics are not afraid of death, and we do not shy away from our mortality or our suffering. In fact, we embrace it. We carry the bones of our Saints, we kiss crucifixes, we venerate Our Lady of Sorrows, we meditate on death (#mementomori). We know that Christ makes us clean but that it’s a long and messy process; we don’t have to put up a facade or play any parts. And we don’t have to walk this path alone because we have the examples and intercession of the saints that have gone before us.
There are two verses from songs on My Chemical Romance’s 2006 album, “The Black Parade” that have stuck with me, and I wanted to share them with you, too.
"Do or die you'll never make me
Because the world will never take my heart
Go and try, you'll never break me"
- Welcome to the Black Parade
"I am not afraid to keep on living
I am not afraid to walk this world alone…
Awake and unafraid"
- Famous Last Words
In a world filled with luke-warm Christians, take courage and take note. Has the world taken our hearts? Are we willing to die for what we believe in? Are we afraid to walk alone for the sake of our Christian faith? Christ never claimed that it would be easy, but he did promise that he would never forsake us. These songs convict me of my own weakness and inspire me towards courage and fortitude. I am reminded of the Church’s many martyrs who were not afraid to suffer because they were so confident in the truth of the Gospel. Strengthened by these verses, let us go out and dare to live -- Awake and Unafraid.
There is a dull thud as the softball hits the ground. The batter hasn’t hit it very far, but the crowd of parents and caregivers goes wild! The player drops the bat and smiles as he makes his way to first base, where he gets high-fived by a volunteer and waits for the next player to hit the ball before advancing to second. This is Challenger Baseball. It is a league for children and adults who have developmental disabilities. I have been volunteering there as a ‘buddy’ for five years, and I experience God every time I attend.
When I first started helping out, what struck me was how uncomfortable I felt interacting with people who have disabilities. Mother Teresa described her work with the poor as “Jesus in a distressing disguise”. Some of His disguises there were distressing to me. Some players were in wheelchairs, and their legs looked very thin and weak. Some had severe Down Syndrome. Some muttered to themselves and seemed to wander in their own world. One boy was blind, and I could not see his eyes, only blue sockets. I was ashamed that I was uncomfortable. I’ve always believed that people are people. So when I actually met others who had noticeable physical or mental differences from me and that belief was challenged, I did not know what to do. I did not know who to be, how to act, what to say, or how to say it. I didn’t want to be condescending, but sometimes I needed to give instructions. My job as a ‘buddy’ was to stand at one of the bases, wait for the batter to hit the ball, and then guide the player to the next base. Sometimes, I was also asked to play catch with the players in the outfield to help keep them occupied.
After I got used to being there, I didn’t really notice the players’ disabilities anymore. I began to notice something else. It was the parents. I saw how they cheered every player on after they hit the ball. I saw how they sometimes helped their own children around the bases. I saw how much love they had for their children and how beautiful the smiles were on their children’s faces when they got sincere support from the crowd. No one cared who won the game. What mattered was that the players were happy and active. There was something warm and sincere in the way the parents and caregivers cheered on each player. And most of all, in the players, there was never any hint of a lie. Each one was perfectly him or herself. The players weren’t like me. They weren’t worried about how they looked to other people. They weren’t concerned with being judged. They weren’t concerned about who to be, how to act, what to say, or how to say it. They just were. They just acted and spoke. They knew what they liked, they knew how to have fun, and there was straightforward, honest happiness in each of them.
As I kept participating, I stopped noticing the players’ disabilities. I slowly began to see each player’s different personality, and I would try to remember it. That way, I could adjust my energy level to match theirs. I learned how each player liked to be greeted and how they wanted to be high-fived. I knew which ones liked being goofy and which ones were more serious or slow-paced. Slowly, I realized I didn’t have to worry about who to be. I didn’t have to worry about being judged. I could just be.
“Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Mark 10:15, NRSVCE). I didn’t really understand that passage until I worked at Challenger. Many of the players are childlike or at the learning levels of younger children. I struggle with trust in God most days. Usually, I get caught up in some worry for the day. “What should I do about this?” “What will my future look like?” “Is there even a solution to this problem?” Things like that. To put it in St. Mother Theodore Guerin’s view, I struggle to remember God’s providence, that God will take care of me in all of life’s circumstances. Worries like these never occurred to the players. They just simply lived. “Your heavenly Father knows all that you need” (NRSVCE, Mathew 6:8). Worry gets in the way of love. How could I dive into the game with the same enthusiasm the players had if I was worried about how I looked?
Similarly, how can I dive into God’s plans for my life with passion if I am worried that He will leave me alone? Working with these fantastic people, I saw how heavenly it is to simply be who God created you to be, and the rest will take care of itself. I saw how beautiful life can be when you love unconditionally, the way the parents and caregivers love the players, and how they love everyone they meet. It helps me to remember that God loves me unconditionally and individually. He knows my personality, my likes, and my dislikes. And He wants me to use everything I have to love Him back by being exactly who He made me be in every moment.
At the beginning of our journey together, my fiancé, Jake, began his journey into Christianity. We bonded over shared experiences, values, and goals. Cute stuff. We were friends in high school, and we both remember the first day we met each other. He had grown up atheist, while I grew up Catholic. The summer we came together was when we both were feeling lost. In the classic phase where everything and nothing make sense, we were stuck in a loop of "Huh? What is this life? What do I do? Where do I go and when?"
Meanwhile, the frontal cortex is still in development and all that fun stuff. We were searching for a sense of home. When we came together, it felt like a step in the right direction. As you can imagine, there was a mega culture shock from coming from our diverse backgrounds and then trying to form a union. When I would I ask the Lord, "Am I on the right track here? Am I helping him get on the right track and closer to You?" All I got was, "Yeah, chillax, just stay the course, and everything will be okay."
Eventually, Jake got baptized through Chi Alpha, a Christian student organization at his school. It was interesting to hear about his experiences in a non-denominational church. I appreciated every moment he had during this time, for it was the beginning of a new life for both of us. Soon, he expressed that there was something he was searching for still, as "our hearts are restless until we rest in Him." The Lord may have been calling him to the Eucharist, so I brought him to mass with me. I was hopeful that he'd at least appreciate it since it was so different than anything he had experienced before. It turned out he resonated with that portion of the liturgy! Phew!
Weeks go by, and he calls me, saying, "I'm deciding that I want to become Catholic."
"Okay, cool :)" I thought it was pretty neat, to say the least. This decision opened the door to a world that was about to get a lot bigger for him. The anxiety of feeling like he had to "catch up" and make up for lost time started to creep upon him. He spent days trying to get everything right.
I had a reoccurring question while trying my best to guide him through the RCIA process: Will we ever know all there is to know about our faith? Will we ever get everything 100% right? Only God knows. He wants our love and for us to love His creation. So, as long as that is unwavering through the waves of life, He will take care of us and won't allow us to go astray. Like any other relationship, the closeness with Christ will feel like it ebbs and flows, but we must not let this discourage us. Don't get caught up in the shenanigans so much that you forget the point: to allow your love for God to grow in the ways He has planned for you and ultimately to say yes to Him. We know that love grows stronger through trying times. We must draw closer to our Lord and our loved ones during struggles that are simply new opportunities to fall in love in disguise.
Now back to the story...
There were Sundays where my fiancé, Jake, would yearn to receive the Eucharist so much that he'd get deeply emotional about it. This was amazing to witness - the sheer amount of love for Jesus present here woke me up in a whole new way. I began to feel a new love for Jesus, myself. As a cradle Catholic, it was hard for me to fully understand this feeling of urgency. It was inspiring for me because obviously, we all strive to be so on fire with the Holy Spirit. At this moment, I truly learned that because God made every individual with their unique beauty and talents, the way that the Holy Spirit works through us as instruments will be different. We shouldn't expect people to see, feel, and experience things exactly how we do and vice versa. Every unique thread in the tapestry is meant to come together to form the whole and be unified.
It hasn't all been peaches and cream; he and I worked through every struggle with the perspective that it is us together approaching the issue, not me vs. him. Our anxieties settled more as time went on, especially as he learned more about God's mercy and unconditional love. Learning how to offer our struggles to the Lord is one of the biggest things to learn in order to bring more peace into our lives. Trusting in Christ and the path he had laid for us was an area that we both are continuously growing. A lot of things that seemed obvious to me were incredibly eye-opening to him. (I am NOT calling him or his faith childish or immature, but differences in understanding are simply what happens when you grow up in one world and then discover something entirely new!) I learned a great deal about my faith that I would never have known if Jake wasn't on this journey toward Christ. He wasn't the only one going through faith formation. I had grown up in the faith, yet there were many things I took for granted that I didn't realize.
During the Easter Vigil of 2021, Jake received all the sacraments of initiation in the Catholic Church. This was a mark of the next chapter. Being his sponsor was the first time we stood at the altar together, and I can't fully describe how it felt to look into his eyes during that moment. It was indeed something otherworldly. We now have the privilege of discerning marriage as two initiated Catholics, and we got engaged on March 26th, 2021. The engagement has been a whirlwind, and having a solid foundation is a total game-changer. I'm thankful and deeply honored that God used me as one of the many instruments to help Jake on his journey and help him enter his Christian family. It is something that we hold dearly in our relationship. (I joke that I just showed up to shake up his life in every way possible. I can't help it, sorry, not sorry.)
I am deeply grateful to have someone to take on the world with. We help each other stay on track when things get shaken. We often shake each other up, but that's part of what makes life exciting and focused on Christ. (Who knew that we could drive each other crazy AND grow deeper in love. All in one day? I wouldn't change it for the world.)
Through these experiences, I feel a new appreciation for my relationship with God. I didn't fully realize until this journey came about just how much stability Christ's presence brings into my life. My life has always been jumping from one thing to the next, and the Lord has been my one consistency and center of my life. Everything other difficulty seems much easier to bear, and thanks to these experiences, I see the life of faith much clearer now. The best risk I ever took was saying yes to going on this journey with Jake. I was a wanderer, not sure where my life was going to go, with only a vague idea of what God had in store for me. This journey took me by the ear and changed me for good in the best way I never could've imagined. I could not have planned this journey myself. Together we found a home in Christ.
If you're experiencing a time in life that feels like wandering, remember that "not all who wander are lost." You will find a sense of home, wherever and whenever, in God's good timing. Each person we encounter in our lives plays various roles on our way to discovery and meaning. You never know when and where you'll be that catalyst for someone too! It's exciting. It truly amazes me how deeply connected God's creation truly is. So keep it going one day at a time, with your heart open to Christ, and everything will be okay.
Recently, my wife and I experienced a deeply personal loss. In a time where so much was going right in our lives, suddenly, there was deep despair. Unfortunately, it was a loss that we had experienced once before in our lives. The pain from that first loss was brought to the surface when we lost our second baby to miscarriage. For those that have never experienced it, the pain is very difficult to describe. Not only was the loss physically and emotionally challenging, but this stressful situation was compounded as it occurred smack dab in the middle of buying, selling, and moving into a new house.
In the days that followed the miscarriage, while I was driving down Hwy 41 past the Carmelite Monastery, I heard the words on the radio, “Don’t focus on the end, focus on the journey to get there.” I realized that I was focusing too much on the “end.” Most of us naturally worry an excessive amount of time - over the big things and the small. Then, when something good or bad happens in our lives, we almost instinctively begin to focus on what the future beyond this event will look like. The truth is, only God has that image. Still, we each try our best to come up with our own version. I don’t know about you, but my version of the future is rarely correct. When the version we envisioned doesn’t match God’s plan, we get discouraged, upset, and defeated.
Throughout my 20 years as a career firefighter, I have accompanied many families through the initial moments of loss. When we experience these hard and sudden losses, it puts our faith in God to the test. The obvious question is, “Why did this happen?” The cookie-cutter response is something along the lines of, “It’s all part of His plan” or “Only God knows.” Unfortunately, that response does little to settle our human emotions. Over the years, I have learned that listening is the key. Take the time to sit and listen to the person experiencing the loss - listen as they try to make sense of their grief. Their heart will guide the conversation. In today’s world, I feel that listening is becoming a lost art. We are turning into a digital society that communicates through text, absent of any emotion. More often than not, just being physically present with someone during a difficult time is the best medicine.
Even though we had this difficult loss, we still have many good things occurring in our lives, and we are still moving forward. It is essential to acknowledge these painful times, express your feelings and frustrations, but it is equally important to recognize that these hard times are just a part of our journey and that life exists beyond them. Life will begin to return to normal as time goes on. For us, our family gathered to support us through the loss. The goal was to lessen the pain of the loss when we needed it the most. In addition to our family, our community also played an important role. Those that were aware of the loss encircled us and made themselves available. Many just offered their support for anything we may have needed.
As I sit back and reflect on the events of the past week, I realize that while I initially thought the miscarriage occurred during the worst week possible, it may have happened during one of the best weeks. Although there are never ‘good’ times for losses, this loss offered us the opportunity to slow down and complete goals that had to be accomplished. Friends’ schedules opened to assist and accompany us, the family was already planning to visit us, and I was already scheduled for time off.
I was so focused on the “end” that I failed to realize all of the benefits available to us at the “now.” In retrospect, I see those. While life will forever be different, we recognize that it is all part of God’s plan. A plan that will not be finished until we meet Him. Our goal is to one day meet Him. So let’s not forget to focus on that journey and to marvel in the “now.”