Broken and shattered – reshaped in goodness

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shade of the Almighty, say to the Lord, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.”  Psalm 91:1-2

Does your life feel broken and shattered or may be it has at some point in your life?  Perhaps, you have a close friend or family member who feels broken and shattered?

It so easy to tell you there is hope.  All you have to do is trust God and He will make everything new, that His goodness will prevail.  Instead of spending one minute telling you this, I would like to share a little piece of my story that reveals this hope, this newness that comes from trusting God.

I recently took a road trip with my daughters.  I find road trips can be very awesome times with God, especially when everyone in the car is sleeping.  As I was driving along the uninteresting interstate, I found myself reflecting on my life as my playlist was rolling through.  As some of the older songs in my playlist were playing, I began to reflect on a few significant moments in my life.  I tend to like these moments of reflection on my past because they reveal how far God has carried me and how far I have grown in my faith through my past.  In some cases, it helps me to move another step forward.

As the song by Matt Maher, “Lord I need you,” began to play, my mind became very vivid reflecting on the very day I first heard this song.  This day would be one of the most difficult days in my adult life as I was driving to see my counselor with my daughters to tell them that their daddy and I would no longer be together.  I had made a decision that would change their lives forever.  My heart was broken and my life seemed to be shattered as I heard the song playing in my car that day.

When the song came on, tears just streamed from my eyes.  In that moment, I really needed God to be with me.  I needed Him to guide my heart so that I would not fall apart.  I was so broken during this period of time that falling apart seemed so easy.  This would be one of the many moments during my journey where God revealed His presence to me, giving me strength that I would need.  He knew I needed Him at that moment in the car and there is no coincidence this song came on.  He wanted me to know that I needed Him to get through this and that He was holding my hand.

This wasn’t the only song that sparked reflection for me on my road trip.  A little further down my playlist was a song by Danny Gokey, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.”  As a dear friend recently reminded me, this song also speak volumes to my story.  One of the hardest things I think I have had to do during my healing is to forgive myself and to love myself.  God taught me a lot about myself and He began to lead me down a path of healing as He began to mold the shattered pieces and glue my brokenness.  Sometimes I still see the scars and the broken path and I’m reminded where I have been.  This is who I use to be and it has been through the loving hands of God that I was carried through to the person I am today.  I no longer “live there anymore.”  It was His grace and companionship in this journey with me that helped me to persevere.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my adult life is that sometimes we shatter.  It’s in the shattered pieces that God reshapes our lives into something new and good.  It’s not easy being reshaped but it’s essential and possible.  It is made possible through trust, trusting God with the shattered pieces.

If you are feeling broken and shattered or someone you know is, surrender your brokenness, the shattered pieces, to God.  Allow Him to reshape you into the one He created you to be.

Lenten journey

In a few weeks Lent will begin. It is a time of reflecting in the darkness. Its a journey being transformed through the light by the death and resurrection of Christ which brings new life to each of us. For several years, I taught kindergarten faith formation. I have to say although chaotic at times, it is one of my favorite groups to teach. Their little minds are easily fascinated and soak in everything you teach them. One of my favorite lessons was teaching about Lent with the analogy of the butterfly.

Dear friends, there is a butterfly in each of us waiting to be transformed in beauty, and released from the captivity of the cocoon.

Our sin is the cocoon that traps us within. It is the blanket of death in spirit that wraps us tightly, imprisoning us from life, joy and happiness.

During Lent, we reflect on these things that separate us from God, the sin that kills our soul, entrapping our spirit. Through the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are cleansed, set free from the chains that tie us down. The beauty within, the butterfly, emerges revealing the new life of joy. At this point in our journey, we reach a peak moment on the mountain of our faith and are closer to God than any other moment in that season of our journey.

I think the beauty is that each liturgical year, we are able to go through this process of transformation, of growing closer to God, unlike the butterfly who only goes through it once.

Think about Lent as the season of the cocoon. The season leading up to Lent is a season of gluttony. During Lent, we begin to look within and abstain from those things that we have indulged in, particularly our sin. During Holy Week, at Easter we see the transformation, the great release of our spirit, freely embracing our faith and the love God pours out for each of us. This is the height of the season, the Agape of love that covers us, lightening our load on our journey to strengthen us for the new road ahead.

This Lent, I invite you to look at it as a journey of reflection, release and transformation. Receive the ultimate sacrifice and love as if it were the first time you went through this season, as if you had never heard the Passion of Christ. Embrace it and be strengthen and fed for the journey that lies before you.

A small box and a big God

“If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” Romans 8:31

Have you ever prayed for something and felt God was ignoring you and so you begin to take control and force the outcome to fit your prayer request?  If so, how did it turn out in the end?

I think sometimes just as in Natalie Grant’s song “King of the World,” we “try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world.”  We forget how big God really is and how small we are.  As a result we put God in a box that we design.

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Many years ago, I remember putting in for a position that would have been a promotion.  I really thought I was the best candidate for the job.  Hands down, I was going to get the job.  To my amazement and a kick in my pride, I was turned down for the position.  I remember being upset, knocked down, even a little embarrassed that I didn’t get the job.  A year or so later, another position became available that would lead me to a higher promotion as well as provide the perfect work/life balance I needed.  Reflecting back, I realized that the job I wanted would not fit in with work/life balance I would need later in life. As I look back on this very example, I realize how big God really is and how small I made Him when I was turned down for the first position.

Circumstances don’t happen by chance.  God allows them or God wills them.  When they are allowed, He will pick us up and carry us through it.  When He wills it, it will be better than we would have ever imagined, definitely better than our own plans.

I humor myself sometimes when I start to think how many years I’ve been single.  This is definitely a part of my life I have learned to put in God’s hands and every time I start to think about it, God reminds me of all the things He has been placing in my path that I could not do if I were not single.  He also reminds me that His love sustains me and is enough every time I go to receive Jesus in the Eucharist and my eyes begin to weep because of the love He pours in me.

Just as in Romans 8:31, God gives me and you everything we need at each given moment, even His Son.  It’s a great reminder for each of us that He is the “king of the world.”  How can we put  Him in a box based on our criteria?  How can we draw lines and tell Him that He has to stay between those lines?  Why do we think we can take control from the God who knows all, the God who is “for us,” the God “who did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us?”

I think the answer is found in our human trust experiences.  Over the years, through our human relationships, we learn to not trust because of circumstances that hurt us in relationships.  I think this affects our trust in God as well.  When we lack trust in God, we want to take control because we can only trust ourselves to deliver the outcome we expect.

Trusting God seems to be one of the hardest things to do, yet it’s in this trust that makes life simpler, easier, more joyful and peaceful.  Look at your life circumstances in your past, when the thing that you thought was best for you fell apart and something better came up – was that God’s hands?  When you went through suffering and came out of it more alive and joyful – was that God’s hands?

Think about how life would be if we allowed God to be the “KING OF THE WORLD” in all our life circumstances.

 

 

The deeper meaning

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

When you read Psalm 46:10, what comes to mind? What do you think God is asking you?

This verse has been a headline in my head for years.  In fact, it has been a part of me so much that my phone case has the verse on it.  Several years ago, I found myself hearing this in so many things I was reading and the music I heard.  I even remember a session in spiritual direction on this very topic during that same time period.  I remember it so vividly because at the time I was hearing this message, I had signed up for not one but two retreats, back to back weekends – insanity perhaps or may be divine intervention. My spiritual director looked at me and asked me to pray about this because one of the retreats she was very familiar with was not “be still”.  I can vouch for that, neither retreat involved resting in the stillness of God.  

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After I had attended the second retreat I found myself on the floor in my study surrendering something that had overcome me – “fear”.  At the time, I knew that the retreats were definitely meant to be because of the fruits I received that I desperately needed at the time.  What I didn’t realize was that God was about to lead me on a journey of learning to surrender and trust Him.  Several months after the retreats, a defining moment in my life and spiritual journey began as my ex-husband began to pursue custody of our children.  I began reading a book on surrendering to the divine providence of God that spoke volumes to me.  What I saw was how much God’s presence in my past had impacted so much goodness in my present; how much He had delivered me from and how much He held me and loved me.  As the reality of my struggles in my past shed light on my present and the goodness God had brought out of my past, I began to learn about trust, trusting God.  The moments when I truly placed my trust in God, I found inner peace.  I knew things would be ok, no matter what the outcome would be.

Why? BECAUSE ALL THINGS ARE FROM GOD AND OF GOD… GOD CAUSED OR GOD ALLOWED. AND HIS GOODNESS WILL ALWAYS BE REVEALED EVEN IN THE MESSES.

Last night, I was driving home from a meeting and on the radio the DJ was talking about the Hebrew meaning of “be still” from Psalm 46:10.  What he said really spoke to me about my journey.  He said that the meaning was to let go, to surrender.  I was amazed as I began to reflect on my journey of trust that began 2 ½ years ago. When I was trying to understand and discern what God meant when He was telling me to “be still and know that I am God”, really was a discernment of trust and not so much stillness as I had assumed.  I was embarking on a path in which I would need to surrender and trust Him and His ways, knowing that all good things come from Him. This surrender would begin during these two retreats as they began to open me up to see fear within me and to allow me to let it go by dropping to my knees that Sunday afternoon after returning from the second retreat.  

TRUST and surrender are still illuminating my path as I journey through my life, now with a beautiful family of ACTS sisters. This year the theme for the retreat I am teaming on, the same retreat I attended first 2 ½ years ago, is “my refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust,” Psalm 91:2.  

Although sometimes, I do believe God is calling me to rest in stillness with Him, I now know that when He called me to “be still,” He was telling me to let go and let Him be my God, taking care of what is dearest to my heart – my children.

God has a beautiful plan for each of our journey’s.  Sometimes we may not understand at first, but the more we are open and in tune with Him, He sheds a bright lamp upon the path and reveals more to us about our journey and His plans as He molds us.  

Refuge in the rubble

“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.  Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken and mountains quake to the depths of the sea.”  Psalm 46:2-3

Have you experienced the summit of the mountain and suddenly your world begins to shake and you find yourself in the midst of despair?  Or may be you feel your life has always been shaken and you just want a break from the quake that is ever present?

Our life can be shaken by so many things.  It can be loss of a loved one, terminal illness, divorce, addictions, a miscarriage, an unexpected birth – the list goes on and on.  When the rocks start tumbling, where do you run to?  To whom do you turn?

God promises to be our refuge, our fortress, our strength, yet most of us still struggle.  I have been reading a book called “A Friendship Like No Other”.  One of the key points in the book is having a relationship with God, with His Son, just as we have relationships with those before us in the flesh.  In order to have a friendship with someone, you have to converse.  As your friendship grows and trust grows, you begin to share more with that person, perhaps in some cases you share deep thoughts and feelings that you don’t share with others.  If your friendship is stable and strong, you are comfortable talking about moments when you don’t agree, moments you become angry with each other over a disagreement.

What about with God?  Have you felt angry with God when life throws a curve ball and all the rocks begin to crumble, crushing you from the inside?  Do you feel comfortable telling God you are angry with Him, that you don’t understand His ways, that they are too difficult and you can’t follow His ways.  In Matthew 19:16-22, a young rich man approaches Jesus and ask what he needs to do to have eternal life, Jesus tells him to go sell his things and then come follow Him.  The young man goes away sad.  The author of “A Friendship Like No Other”, William Barry, proposes a question, what if the young man stayed and had a conversation with Jesus?  What if he told Jesus how difficult it was to sell all his things, that he just couldn’t do it and he needed help?  Do you think the story would end differently?  Do you think a friendship would have been sprouted if he had stayed and told Jesus just how he felt?

What if we are totally honest in conversation with God, just as we may be with a friend about our life situations that shake our world, turning it upside down?  In the song by Micah Tyler, “Even Then”, in the pre-chorus he sings “Where could I run to?  Where could I go?” and in the chorus when he talks about our world being shaken and the waters rising, he ends with “no matter how it ends You’re with me even then.”  If we are honest with God about our feelings, if we tell Him everything and then ask Him to help us to not be angry, to understand, to follow Him, even then He will stand with us, give us all we need with love, compassion and mercy.  He will carry us through the rubble no matter how long the journey takes.  He does this because His greatest desire is a relationship with us.  He longs for our friendship.

I ask you, dear friends, is your relationship with God a friendship?  Can you converse with Him, just as you do with your best friend?  Do you listen for His response, receive Him?  If not, start today to tell Him everything that is on your mind.  When you can’t pray, tell Him you can’t pray.  When you are busy and you don’t have time for Him, tell Him you don’t have time for Him.  When you are angry because He didn’t answer your prayer, tell Him.  When you find it difficult to accept the things around you and you struggle with following Him, tell Him.  He loves you no matter where you are in your relationship with Him.  As you are more open with Him, your friendship will grow and when your world is shaken, you will know that “even then”, He’s with you clearing the rubble and carrying you through.

In your struggles, when the boulders seem too heavy to move, always remember that with “God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

I will not be shaken

“I keep the Lord always before me.  With Him at my right hand, I shall never be shaken.”  Psalm 16:8

Are you aware of God’s constant presence with you?  If He was sitting next to you, whispering to you, would you hear Him?  If He stood behind you and gently pulled a strand of hair to get you attention, would you notice it?

Over the summer, I bought my girls each a tree frog.  When it was feeding time, I went to feed them live crickets.  In doing so, I removed the top lid from the terrarium and placed it on the ledge the terrarium was seated on.  I had only noticed one frog when I began to place the crickets inside.  I just figured the other frog was under the moss.  When I went to put the lid back on, as I picked it up I noticed something had fallen off the lid.  I quickly realized it was a frog.  I screamed and jumped backwards, dropping the lid.  Yesterday, I was met with a similar fear of a small reptile.  As I was eating breakfast with my kiddos, my daughter began to get my attention and was pointing down at the table within one foot of my plate.  When I realized that she was pointing at a lizard, I jumped and screamed creating quite a bit of excitement and adventure in catching the lizard.

You may say, what does the presence of God have to do with tree frogs, lizards and a screaming woman?  Actually it has an interesting perspective and parallelism.  You see, in either case – the instance with the tree frog and with the lizard – I did not see the small creature right away.  I was not expecting either to be within my personal space and when I did notice I was very startled.

It can be the same way with God.  When we are not attentive to our relationship with God, we may not recognize His presence or His call to something He is wanting us to do or say.  When we finally realize God is there, we may become startled, especially if He is calling us to something and we are headed the other direction.  On the other side of the coin, we may not have a relationship with God and are shaken by many things in our lives, especially in moments of struggles.

The very essence of it is that God is always with you and it is your attentiveness to your friendship with Him that is the key to all things in your life.  God has paved the road in front of you.  He has constructed the scenery along the path and He is directing you.  It is your awareness of Him along your journey that creates the peace in the adventures of the joy filled moments and the painful moments.  Being aware that God is on the journey with you carrying your baggage when they are too heavy and running carefree along the countryside when there are none to carry prepares you so that you won’t be surprised, but filled with peace and excitement.

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Although He is always near, God does not force Himself into any of our lives but if we nurture a relationship with Him and know He is “at [our] right hand, [we] shall never be shaken.”  Even in the biggest trials along our journey, we will not be overcome.

Are you nurturing your friendship with God, tuning in your awareness to His presence?  Will you notice when God taps you on the shoulder or whispers to your conscience?   Are you prepared for the unexpected or will you be startled?

When the unexpected comes to visit, fear may stop in to visit as well but it can turn into peace knowing that God is present guiding you in all things.

Just say YES

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Luke 1:46-47

Have you had intentional or unintentional moments when you did not say yes to God when He called you to something?  Have you brushed that feeling off, that little nudge to help the person on the side of the road or the homeless person at the corner?  Perhaps you keep telling yourself you will write that book, talk to your friend about going to church or serve in that ministry you keep being asked about?  Sometimes I think procrastination and fear of stepping out of our comfort zone are Satan’s favorite in keeping us from saying YES to God in the moments He is calling us.

What if Mary procrastinated or just didn’t feel comfortable saying YES when St. Gabriel told her she was chosen by God to carry and deliver His son.  What would that story look like?  Would the Bible end at the Old Testament?  Would Christmas even be a day of celebration?  What about Easter?  What about us?  What would life be like for us sinners?

I think it’s interesting to look at salvation history if Mary had not said YES, if she had not trusted God and His plan for her.  Seriously, could you imagine the fear she must of had, being so young and told that she would be the mother of God’s son?  The fear of potential shame of being pregnant and not for the one she was betrothed to?  In our world that’s a scary thought and would be considered a heavy burden.

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In this perspective of Mary’s YES, I think about the many times that I have said NO out of fear or I procrastinated something that perhaps God was calling me to do.  I wonder how much richer life would be if I said YES and trusted God at least 75% of the time when He is nudging me.  I honestly wish I could just kick FEAR to the curb and didn’t make so many excuses of why I don’t have time to do something except put it off.  As I’m writing this, I’m procrastinating writing two other pieces because I’m afraid of what others may think about it.  In fact, my plan as my day started in prayer was to spend my day writing.  I found so many menial tasks to do today and didn’t pull my laptop out until 8 pm.  At that point my mind is restless and ready for bed.

Some time ago, I noticed an elderly man on a chilly morning sitting near the curb in front of a department store.  I felt this nudge to give him some cash and then began to talk myself out of it.  I could feel this sense deep within me to help him out.  I drove by where he was and lowered the window.  Gave him the cash I had.  The smile on his face and the words of blessings that he spoke told me that this was a God moment.  I’m not sure what that little bit of cash was able to do for this gentleman but that wasn’t for me to know or understand.  I was only to say YES to the feeling in the pit of my stomach to do something that would make some difference in God’s plan.  What if I had just kept driving?  Would God have nudged someone else?  Would that person have helped him out?  Would that poor elderly man been able to get something warm to eat or drink?  What if this man was the face of God calling me, calling you to compassion and mercy, love and kindness?

When St. Gabriel came to Mary, did she know or understand God’s plan?  Or did she just trust that God knew what He was doing and she was His humble servant?  I’m always astonished by Mary’s model of trust.  She is one of the greatest example of trust alongside Abraham in my opinion.  This Christmas as we celebrate, let’s take a minute to thank Mary for her YES and ask Jesus for the courage to resemble the trust that His mother had in accepting God’s plan for her, for Him and for us.  Without her YES – would we be celebrating Christmas, would we celebrate Easter, would we have eternity to look forward to?