Gratitude – A mountain of graces

“Gratitude is the thing that brings us the most grace…I have learnt from this experience; try it, and you will see. I am content with whatever God gives me, and I show him this in a thousand little ways.” St. Therese of Lisieux

Do you desire a love with God that is beyond anything you could ever imagine?  If so, I want to invite you to focus a little on gratitude.

Have you extended gratitude to God for all things – the small stuff, the big ones, the joy, and the suffering?

I’m sure each of us find it easy to give God gratitude for the joyful moments in our lives.  But what about those moments that are tough, that hurt within us, wash our faces in tears?  These moments are a bit more challenging to offer gratitude to God.  I’m sure 90 % of the time we question God in these circumstances.  I’m definitely guilty as charged.
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St Therese tells us that gratitude brings us the most grace.  St Ignatius of Loyola also tells us in his prayer of gratitude that when we are filled with gratitude for all things, we will love and serve God in all things.  My dear sisters and brothers, that also means our pain, our suffering, the things we don’t like or appreciate, and the moments we aren’t feeling appreciated.

Think about that for a moment.  Imagine how you felt when someone did something nice for you and you extended thanks to them, appreciation for what they did.  I’m sure it brought joy and love into your heart as well as theirs.  Do you think the love and joy was filled because of their act of kindness, your act of gratitude or both?

If God is the creator of all things and is present in all things, do you think He is present within the moments that hurt, anger, and disappoint?  If God allows you to suffer, do you think He loves you less?  Do you think He is more present in those moments – those when you need His strength the most?  I’m pretty certain He was present on the cross, the greatest moment in history that endured the most suffering.  By our Christian faith, we do offer Him thanksgiving for this, the moment He laid everything down to save us.

Why wouldn’t we offer gratitude for even those not so fun times when we are at our worst?  If we offered gratitude during the rough circumstances in our lives, would we feel more loved instead of disappointed, lost and unloved.

I want to circle back to my first question at the start of the blog…. Do you desire a love with God that is beyond anything you could ever imagine?  If you answered yes, then why would you not try offering gratitude in all things, even the worst moments, just as St Therese and St Ignatius suggest?  What do you have to lose?  Face with the person who angered you?  What about a love so great that satisfies every ounce of your being beyond anything you could fathom – THE LOVE EXCHANGED BETWEEN YOU, YOUR CREATOR, YOUR REDEEMER, AND YOUR SANCTIFIER?  Give it a try, you may be surprised at the graces you receive.

 

A desire so great

“The hope of truth and of freedom is already ours, dearly beloved, but if we are to attain truth and freedom in reality we must endure and persevere.” St Cyprian

What are your greatest desires? Do they consist of happiness and love?

St Ignatius’ spiritual discernment focuses on the things that bring us life and closer to God. God places deep desires within us, which align with His will for us in our lives. Our deepest desires may be found in a number of things. They may be seen in the smiles of your children, your spouse, your grandmother, a parent, friends, nature, even the most soothing sounds. It is in these things which bring life to our spirit, drawing us closer to God, that sync us to hearing God in our lives.

I invite you to pay attention to all things that make your heart smile.

As I write this, I am sitting outdoors, listening to the sounds of nature surrounding me. Peaceful surrender to what God wants me to hear and understand as I sit and write. Nature usually is my go to place to surrender and hear God speak to my heart. It’s a place where I can get in touch with my deepest desires. Sometimes I wonder if it’s the life surrounding me that draws me to the life of God within me.

In several of my recent posts, I’ve referenced the song by Tauren Wells, “God’s Not Done With You.” This song has so much meaning packed in it. Today as I listened to it, I began to contemplate my choices in my life. I have always been very practical and safe in making decisions, yet many of my choices led me down paths that may not have been very practical and safe. As I listened to the song, I realized that my choices make an imprint on my story, but God is still the author of my story. God will take these imprints and continue to write my story. To ever think He is done with my story would be spiritual detriment, spiritual hopelessness.

As we endure and persevere in our lives, God gives us hope. This hope leads us to freedom as we surrender trust in Him, allowing Him to author our story despite our choices. I always like the image of the shattered piece of pottery that has been glued back together and placed on display as a beautiful piece of art. I can imagine the broken pieces in my story being glued together and transformed into something even more beautiful than it was before. I could claim that I was the one who mended the pieces together, but I know the artist was God and it was His hands that picked up each piece, felt my sorrows and gently placed them together with the bond of His love. Even in the broken pieces, God transforms our desires into reality.

He creates a masterpiece through our desires that He has planted within us, a desire for Him – to love and be loved.  God’s desires for each of us is written in our hearts and they are revealed in many different things in our lives.  Openness and awareness are the only requirements from us.  As we unveil our deepest desires, we feel God’s presence and understand His will.

heart shaped clay pot
Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

In a few posts, I’m sure I’ve mentioned often how my spiritual director will ask me if something I’m discerning brings me life. If we follow the things that bring us life, we feel most connected to God’s presence. Why? Because these are our deepest desires that come from God. When we are discerning, this is the path that is most aligned with God’s will – and the story He is writing, MY STORY AND YOUR STORY.

I invite you to ask yourself, what are my deepest desires? What makes you feel most alive in your life?

“Whatever you are doing, that which makes you feel the most alive…. that is where God is.” St Ignatius of Loyola

Wide open lens… endless possibilities through faith

“Faith widens our lens of our limited human understanding, giving us the graced view of eternal perspective to see that all is well in God.  It’s the unveiled revelation of living faith that allows us to see Christ in the midst of our pain, as our hearts open up to anchor themselves in the promise of life beyond the grave, which is the ground of hope.”  Mary’s Way the Power of Entrusting Your Child to God by Judy Landrieu Klein

Are you operating in a box?  Are you open to the possibilities God has for you?  Are you constantly looking back or dwelling in your past, unable to move beyond it?

I love these sentences from the book Mary’s Way the Power of Entrusting Your Child to God.  The Blessed Mother through her faith and trust in God had an openness when she was visited by St. Gabriel and he told her she would carry the son of God in her womb.  So what about us are we able to place so much trust in our faith and love of God, to be this open to say yes to whatever direction He may be guiding us to, to whatever path He is leading us on?

Today’s readings I find interesting to unpack in relation to my life, especially after reading Inner Compass by Margaret Silf. In the first reading “Elijah set out and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen.”  In her book, Margaret Silf writes about this very passage. One of her dear friends asked her to meditate on it. To his surprise, her reflection was centered around the eleven team of oxen plowing ahead of Elisha.  She goes on to describe the skill of plowing.  When a farmer is plowing, he finds a fixed point to focus on and steadily moves towards it.  She says that when she reflected on this passage, she realized the fixed point in the spiritual life was Jesus and that the oxen teams ahead of us represent those in our life that are guiding us on our journey to the point of reference, Jesus.  In other words, the oxen represent our spiritual friendships, saints, anyone or moment that provides a beacon for us to move forward towards Jesus.  I love this visual because I can see my own yoke of oxen in my life, those that do keep me focused on Jesus.

photo of grass field
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

This morning upon the very great advice of one of my spiritual friends, I meditated on this reading and today’s Psalm 16:11 – “You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in Your presence, the delights at Your right hand forever.” As I sat there reflecting on these verses in silence waiting for God to reveal what my “path to life” is, where are my “joys in His presence,” and how will I be able to “delight at [His] right hand forever,” tears were pooling in the corners of my eyes. As I felt them, I asked God what they meant? I guess He thought I needed more tears because that question opened a flood gate of tears. I’m like “really God, not sure that’s an answer.” As I continue to wait for Him to respond on the tears, I could sense that these readings were really talking to me and the last few weeks of me flipping rocks or should I say boulders over in my life that have buried deep feelings within me. My realization in that moment was that these tears were a piece of letting go and opening myself up to a new season in my life – a season of discovery.

I have the beauty of the most amazing spiritual friends, my oxens. They keep me in check and guide me in my journey – whether they know this or not. They help keep my eyes fixed on Jesus as they help me carry the load in my journey. When Jesus says Matthew 11:30, “my yoke is easy, and my burden light,” I think He helps us to bear the load by placing these people in our life that keep us focused on Him.  This is a very important reminder, another message I was reminded of by one of me spiritual friends this past week.

I also think a key for me today is that with a wide open lens through my faith, there is “life beyond the grave” – this is the “delights at [His] right hand.” And it is the ground of hope that inflames my faith in my heart. So this new season for me becomes a season of discovery, discovering a new path of my life, not looking back at my past but pushing forward with the oxen in my life keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, the one who will always give me joy in His presence.  Perhaps the tears during my meditation were tears of dumping, cleansing the burdens of my past that have filled my vessel so that I can begin to press forward in searching who I am in Christ and what my path of life will unveil.  Part of me is excited to begin this new search, yet a little afraid.  I am blessed that God has given me a gift to turn over the boulders and look deep within myself and recognize that I have a process that isn’t complete.  I also know now why the song “God’s not done with you” by Tauren Wells keeps playing and flooding my eyes when I’m in my car.  God isn’t done with my story.  My story thus far has had a lot of pain, yet a lot of growth and love.  The hands of God have swooped in my life in many ways and taught me there is life beyond the cross, the sun does shine above the clouds.  Now I am ready to begin this new journey of finding myself and moving beyond my crosses.  I embrace what they have taught me and where they have brought me in my faith journey.  Now it’s time to let them go and discover new life, new crosses and new growth.

My dear sisters and brothers, I invite you to allow your faith in God to open your lens and be open to what God has in store for you – may be it’s a new path, may be it’s growth and discovery on the current path.  Whatever it is, be open and obedient, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus as you plow through life with your set of oxen that He has given you to be yoked together, lightening the load. I think this will guide you in seeing your path to life, joys in Christ’s presence and hope in awaiting the delights at the right hand of God.  Blessings on this day the Lord has made.

 

 

Unbinding through desolation

“We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel.” St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ever feel like running into a closet to get away from everything in your life? To get away from all your struggles, the pain, the noise, family drama?

I had a friend who once shared a story with me that as a grown adult she literally wanted to escape the noise and the demands of family life and went into a closet and was careful not to breathe heavily, hoping no one would find her.

As she told me this I laughed but I think we can all relate to that moment when we just want to hide from the world.

In theses moments, sometimes, we may also feel the absence of God or a desire to give up on Him. It is important to recognize these moments. St Ignatius teaches us of two movements in the interior spiritual life, consolation and desolation.

Consolation are periods when we are on fire, on a spiritual high (after an ACTS retreat for all my ACTS sisters). During these times we can’t contain what God is moving within us. We literally want to tell the whole world and want them to be a part of it.

Consolation is an awesome experience but I don’t want to talk about that today. I want to talk a little bit about desolation. Desolation can be crucial to our spiritual journey, although it is more critical to recognize it. During these movements in our spiritual journey, we really begin to deal with areas that in turn will produce great growth in our spiritual journey.

I’m not an expert on either desolation or consolation but I guarantee you I’ve been on both roads many times…. kind of like that roller coaster I once wrote about. My spiritual director once told me that consolation helps us to prepare and move through the desolation that will come – like the coaster you need potential energy to give you the kinetic energy to keep that roller coaster moving up and down.

gray cave near body of water
Photo by anouar olh on Pexels.com

Today I find myself in a period of desolation. At first I didn’t recognize it, but it became very prominent when I wanted to just retreat from everything, even my prayer life and community of friends.

As I work through my own desolation, I have been uncovering darkness found in my deepest wound that has rooted itself in sin. God has revealed to me that this wound I have buried is not allowing me to move forward, that it is binding me to my past and from my happily ever after. It is a deep source of unforgiveness and unlove. It has created weeds such as fear, anxiety, anger, frustration and exhaustion. This is the junk I mentioned in my last blog filling my vessel preventing me from being able to shine the light of Christ onto others.

So how am I handling this period of desolation? Through spiritual direction and my own experiences, small bits of wisdom from God, I have learned a few steps or techniques to journey through desolation. When I begin to feel this way, actually when I recognize these feelings, I know I do have to retreat. I have to retreat into solitude with God. It is essential for me to find time to pray. I do this by carving time, whether I want to or not to pray at home or go to Adoration. In prayer, I am completely open with God about what I’m feeling which eventually leads to asking for graces I need in that time. I also try to find days that I can go to daily Mass, to receive Jesus and be fed. Both help me to sort and discover the roots of what God is inviting me to dig up or fertilize into something fruitful. If I uncover sin at the base of this root or a resulting weed through this process, confession is another stop for me.

I think each of us will go through both consolation and desolation. Some of us may experience it as a result of God inviting us to see the consolation period as a gift and to invite us to discover Him in a new, fresher light and not necessarily from a dark root or sin.  Each of us may have different techniques to walk through it.  What’s important is that we identify it and take the necessary steps to journey this interior spiritual movement and grow closer to God.

Whatever may be the cause of desolation for you, will you be prepared to tackle it and grow leaps and bounds in your spiritual journey?

Mending the path, uncovering the treasure

“For God who said, ‘Let the light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.  But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:6-10

When you were a kid, did you run around the neighborhood? Perhaps played in the nearby creek or hopped over rocks and broken paths?

When I was kid, we lived on a naval base and I remember running around the neighborhood by myself often to the nearby creek.  I guess you can say from my childhood I was discovering God through nature, yet unaware of my discovery.  The creek would have stones laid throughout, creating a broken path.  I would walk or hop across the rocks, carefree and childlike.

 

person wearing blue pants standing on rocks across green and orange trees
Photo by Catherine Guay on Pexels.com

Today, I sometimes find the path I’m walking on broken.  Unlike when I was a kid, I don’t walk this path carefree.  I walk it with heavy burdens.  If I don’t recognize it and continue to walk the path the burdens fill the vessel God has given me to hold His treasure, the light of Christ, within.

In my last blog, I wrote about the importance of going to confession and how sin can cover our hearts in darkness and can continue to manifest that darkness within us, separating us further from God.  I also find connections of this and carrying heavy burdens.  When our burdens fill our vessel, it hinders our ability to carry the treasure God gives us and therefore we are unable to shine the light of Christ outward to aid in building God’s kingdom, something we are each created for.

I don’t think the broken paths are necessarily bad.  I believe they are there to draw us closer to God.  Where we may get into trouble is when we don’t see this as an opportunity to look within and see what God is wanting to mend on that broken path.  Some may continue to let the brokenness linger and the burdens grow, further filling the vessel with unwanted “junk”.

I personally don’t want to carry these burdens and I’m certain if you are reading this you don’t either.  I encourage you to consider the invitation that God may be presenting to you when you are walking on the broken path and carrying these burdens.  Is He asking you to pick up the stone, hold it in your hands, examine it and ponder your feelings surrounding it?  Is He asking you to then hand it to Him and let Him fill the gap, the brokenness it has created with His treasure, His love, His grace?

Sometimes when I’m faced with brokenness in my path, I look back at the times that God has filled these gaps and filled me.  Sometimes the path seems more shattered.  When I allow this brokenness to linger, I find myself spiritually empty.  The vessel fills up and God has no space to shine His light within.  Personally, recognizing this is crucial for me because it has tremendous affect on other areas in my life.  I don’t think wisdom is found from the intellect of math and science.  It is found through our journey and awareness of how all things affect each other.  What I have discovered is that when my vessel is full of junk, it can have an affect on a number of things, including my relationships with other and my relationship with God.  The last thing I am able to do is be a spiritual light for others to help build God’s kingdom.

What steps do we take when we find our path broken?  What does that invitation look like?  It may look different for each of us and different during the different seasons of our lives.  Some things I think that help to discern clarity of the invitation is to start by looking within to see what the feelings are, find quiet time to spend with God asking Him to reveal these feelings, to overturn this rock and give you direction.  Perhaps that direction may lead you to confession, to forgiveness.  May be it’s just God helping you to understand what it is, refining you and refueling you.  In some cases, it just may be down time, rest in Him that He is calling you to.

Whatever you may be faced with today or tomorrow, accept God’s invitation in those moments to uncover the relationship He desires with you.

Good vs Evil

“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.  What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:45 NLT Catholic Edition

Have you ever watched the series “Once Upon a Time”.  My kiddos absolutely love this series and I have to say I have also developed an interest in it – although I often am lost in the twisted story line.

“Once Upon a Time” is a very twisted series of all the fairy tale stories we heard growing up and even some of the current fairy tale stories produced by Disney.  I have found it extremely interesting to understand good and evil in this series.  What is most intriguing is that good and evil is dictated by a person’s heart.  The more the heart becomes dark the more evil the person becomes.  The heart literally becomes black as a person embraces evil.  Evil is dictated by the person’s choice to do harm to others, in most cases by using dark magic.  An evil person, like the “Evil Queen” from Snow White, can become good by choosing to help the heroes save others by defeating those that are inflicting dark magic to harm others.

Reflect on that for a minute and what Jesus says in Luke 6:45.  Pause for a second and think about how sin eats away at you when you haven’t sought reconciliation.

lighted candle
Photo by Rahul on Pexels.com

When you are carrying your sins within you, do you feel this dark cloud hanging over you?  Does your actions come from a place that is not of love?  Do you see small little signs that reveal a relationship of darkness in your heart from sin and your choices, especially your choice of words to others?

Dear sisters and brothers, when we carry sin, we are right where the enemy wants us.  He directs our heart away from God by covering it in darkness.  As we continue to carry it, the darkness continues to grow and we become more separated from our Father in Heaven and our ability to hear Him begins to fade.

Jesus says in Luke 6:42 “get rid of the log in your own eye.”  A little further, in Luke 6:48, Jesus describes what it looks like for a person who listens and does what He says.  He compares it to a person who builds a house on a solid foundation that can withstand the floodwaters that break against it.

In the context of these verses, I find a lesson of reconciliation and a strong statement of what our heart produces and the strength of our faith when we don’t reconcile our sins against our sisters and brothers.

I have been in this place a number of times and I’m sure you may have as well.  We dwell in the sins of anger, unforgiveness, jealousy, resentment, and judgement and our heart reflects that place of establishment.  This may weaken our faith when we need it most as it begins to separate our heart from God.  In some cases, it may totally fill the vessel within us so that we are not able to allow God to reside within, disabling us from reflecting the spirit of light onto others.

We are all called to shine the light of Christ to our brothers and sisters.  In order to do so, it is essential to reconcile our sins and fill our heart with the goodness of our Lord.

God bless each of you.

Prince, King, Lord and Hero – Happily Ever After Awaits

“He said to me, ‘My divine heart is so in love with people, and with you in particular, that it can no longer contain the flames of its ardent charity. It needs you to spread them. It must manifest itself to people and enrich them with the precious treasures that I will reveal to you. These treasures are the graces of salvation and sanctification, necessary to rescue people from the abyss of perdition…’ This divine heart was shown me on a throne of flames. It was more resplendent than the sun and transparent as crystal. The heart had its own adorable wound, and was surrounded by a crown of thorns, signifying the stings caused by our sins. And there was a cross above it.” St Margaret Mary Alocoque

Once upon a time…. A young woman stumbled in the darkness, seeking something deeper… a love, a desire for ecstasy and happiness that only one true prince could provide. She searched the land, her heart and only found pain, fear and loneliness. On one fair day a great light shined upon her and directed her to a castle. She wasn’t certain of it’s existence. As she followed the light directing her path, she stepped through the doors and fixed her eyes upon her Prince Charming, her Lord, her King, the one true love of her hearts desire.

Have you ever dreamed of your fairy tale, your happily ever after? Or perhaps your fairy tale or happily ever after has come true?

I’ve spent a week in Disney World among princesses, princes, and villains. I’ve watched the fairy tales of my childhood unfold before my eyes. Among the adventures and the thrills, there is always a hero or a prince and a happy ending.

The fairy tales we heard as a child have a few things in common…

1. Heroine

2. Hero

3. Villain

4. Magical element

5. Happily ever after

Being engrossed in all of these fairy tales and happily ever after, I venture to imagine my own happily ever after, my own Prince Charming.

As I marvel in this dream of my personal fairy tale, I realize my life has definitely had these elements and I’m certain yours probably has as well.

Take a moment and reflect on these elements and your life. Reflect on yourself needing to be rescued, awakened from the depths of your sin and temptation. The villain is lurking around constantly trying to pull you away from your hero in your story…. Jesus. You may say, “well, my story doesn’t have a magical element.” What if the magical element is not supernatural but a decision, a choice that only you can make. That choice becomes the defining moment when the hero, your Prince Charming swoops in and rescues you from the villain that lurks around you and may be even within you. The story you were living begins to turn, perhaps rewritten, into the elemental finale of a happily ever after – your prince has rescued you and resides with you throughout eternity.

Yesterday, as I entered a place that had once given me great peace in a time I needed it the most, I fixed my eyes upon the prince that has always been a part of my life. It was then that I realized my Prince Charming was always there – here in this peaceful castle, the chapel of my church. I had already met my Prince Charming. He had captured my heart in the purest, deepest way many years ago and continues to do so. My satisfaction can only be found through Him and in Him. The key ingredient was that I had to choose Him. I had to make the decision to open my heart to Him and let Him fill it.

Phil Wickham has a song called “Til I Found You.” This song is a constant reminder to me in how my own story as I knew it was being rewritten as God’s story, my happily ever after when “I found [Him].”

I invite you to search within find the magical element to choose your happily ever after by finding your Prince Charming, residing in the castle – YOU.

Although He lives within me, I find great comfort in visiting Him in a tangible castle, the chapel of my church, as I fix my eyes upon Him in Adoration in the most simplest form waiting to satisfy me in every way. “I see you in a transparent Host as material substance, but faith takes away the veil with which you cover yourself, love shaking the foundations of my heart makes me feel your presence, and the joy you cause it to feel lifts it up to the sublime hope of possessing you, overcoming all the obstacles that separate us.” Conchita Cabrera de Armida’s, Irresistibly Drawn to the Eucharist