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Devon Wattam Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth Testimonials

I see Him, and He sees me.

 

One of my earliest childhood memories involves my grandparents taking me to a church very early in the morning. So early, I remember thinking it was still night and the world must all be sleeping. We found our way into a small chapel that I recall little about except the warmth of its glow in the blackness of night. I was confused as to what we were doing there, but I was happy being with them all the same. Years later, I realized that my grandparents had taken me to their weekly adoration appointment, at 4AM.

That memory has stayed with me over the course of my life, and while the details of it are now a blur, the feeling it gave me then revisits me now when I feel the pull on my heart from our Lord to make it back to Him.

I have gone to adoration in many churches over the years—some big and ornate, others small and barren. Fortunately, I’ve been able to find Holy Hour or perpetual adoration at every place the Navy has brought us, even in the smallest of towns. My memory of each duty station is colored with what church I would run to to find solace paired with what intention was weighing on me at the time: anxiety, family issues, illness, marriage problems, forgiveness, loneliness. The list could go on.

But no matter where I found myself or what burden brought me there, the motive was always the same. Jesus was there. In the flesh. Looking at me.

One time in college, I was in a particularly confusing state that left me riddled with anxiety and restlessness. I ran to my parents’ house, flopped down on the couch, and turned on EWTN. I needed clarity. Mother Angelica was on, whom I love and reminds me so much of my grandmother. She was talking about going to Holy Hour even when you don’t feel like it. You might have a headache, be tired, and have an ingrown toenail, as was her case, and the last thing you can think of is what to say to Jesus, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is being with Him, along with your imperfections, and even when you have nothing to say. She said: “I see Him, and He sees me. That’s enough.” I’ve carried that with me ever since.

I started making time for weekly adoration from then on. Wednesday nights at 9pm in a small, simple chapel right down the road from my college. The lights were dimmed, the incense rose, and there sat Jesus, week after week waiting for me to lay it all out to him, and so I did. My favorite part of those weekly dates happened at the very end, when it was time to say “goodbye” until the next week. As Father raised the gold monstrance to bless us one last time, the Divine Praises were sung in a way I had never heard before or since, in such a powerful, joyful, holy way that it gave me chills then and still does thinking of it now. Once again, the Lord had provided a light in the darkness of my life and my restlessness began to fade.

Since then, weekly adoration has not always been practical. I get so busy and distracted with my children, husband, and own life that Holy Hour is often not made a priority, but it never fails. In the midst of the busyness of life, Jesus will knock on my heart and whisper, “It’s time. Come sit with Me for a while.” And I will. And even though there will always be a laundry list of things I feel like I need to tell Him or ask Him to do for me, it usually ends with me simply whispering back, “I see You, and You see me.” That’s enough.

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Ink Slingers

Woman, Why Are You Weeping?

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” asks Jesus of Mary Magdalen at the tomb.

How often in my life has Jesus asked this very question of me? Woman, why are you weeping? Grieving is necessary and appropriate. If I have not grieved, I would question the authenticity of my passion for a project or an idea or my love of a person or friendship. Grief is needed to process real disappointments and losses. There have been, however, seasons or situations in my life when I have experienced a grief that turned into something else entirely. At times I have gotten quite comfortable with sadness allowing it to cover me, tucking me in for a long nap. And this grief, while keeping me company in the mourning, has in time turned to pity. Pity is dark, cold and slippery. Pity easily gave me permission to wallow in the injustice of my disappointment turning it rapidly into discouragement. Self-pity has taken my sorrow or my suffering, turning it to depression and eventually despair.  I have experienced all these emotions in varying degrees at times in my life. I have had to work hard through therapy and counseling, prayer and proper self-care to better manage my emotions and thoughts. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” It is difficult to know how often I have been unable to see Jesus standing with me in the mess. I am unsure of how many times I have been unable to hear Him asking me, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  

Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord!

How often I wonder where God is when I am overwhelmed or suffering. Why God have you allowed this thing to happen to me? Why God does it seem You are not answering my prayers? Why God are You allowing so much suffering to go on? Recently it occurred to me that maybe it isn’t in the why but the how. In imitation of Mary, Our Blessed Mother, maybe I should be asking how is it that I am to carry on Lord. How Lord can I serve you in the suffering? How Lord can I find you in the sorrow? How Lord can I join my sorrows to yours? Because isn’t it true that it is not if I experience tribulations but when? When I find myself asking Lord, where are You, am I not already consumed by my distress? Fear takes over, peace is absent. Where is my Lord? Where has He gone? “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” I am weeping for a variety of reasons; many of them have to do with my perception of what life should look like or feel like in any given situation on any day of the week. I am a perfectionist working on recovery. Messy. Chaotic. Disordered. All of the stuff that is a part of being alive and caring for others is hard on me.  People are messy. Relationships can be as disordered as my emotions. Family life, well, ours can be a rollercoaster ride. And, far too often I forget to remember that this life is not without suffering. This life, if I am trying to live with my heart wide open, is not without pain. This beautiful gift, along with the people God has placed in it, is meant to shape me, refine me, teach me and mold me into the best version of myself God created me to be. “Whom, am I looking for?” Like Mary Magdalen, in the sorrows or frustrations of my everyday life, I want to be looking for Jesus? Am I seeking Him to be my teacher, my guide for this earthly journey? When the reality of life is harsh and heartbreaking I know I need to be running to Him for solace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. -John 14:27

I have found these four practices to be essential to keeping me centered and at peace. They have become incorporated into the routine of my life. In regularly participating in these four practices I have encountered Christ, and I have grown closer to Him. I have become more confident in His promises.  He is with us. Always and all ways.

Daily Morning Prayer. Every morning I get up. Make a cup of coffee and grab my prayer journal along with the daily readings. I open them up and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to me in the readings. And, He does! All I must do is show up and pray. This has really changed my relationship with God.

Mass. I try to go daily. I need this to ground me for the day and to feed my spirit. It is what has healed me and sustained me through many a difficult time.

Confession. I know. I have a love-hate thing with this Sacrament. It is so hard to get myself there oftentimes but once there it is such a beautiful healing mercy.

Adoration. The most important regularly scheduled appointment I have on my calendar. Once a week for one hour I sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament in quiet. I drop all my stuff right there at the altar. I just leave it and pray, listening for the Comfort of my soul.

Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff comfort me.

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Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Mary Beth Prayer

The Answer is Always the Same

The Answer is Always the Same

It never fails.

Whenever I am in need, or can’t figure out something, or have to make an important decision, I try to first offer my question to God. It could be composed in my prayer journal. It could be in the form of a petition during Mass. Or it could be whispered in the dark of a sleepless night. But no matter what the question or quandary, I hear the same answer loud and clear from Him lately: “More of Me.” 

That’s it. He wants me to draw nearer to Him, to pray more to Him, to ask Him to reign ever more completely over my life. That’s His answer to my problems big and small—More of Him. It’s not an easy answer to accept. I would rather He just go ahead and fix it, thank you very much—whatever “it” is: Just answer my question or solve this problem and we can all move on, God. But that’s not how He typically works. Instead, He wants us to lean on Him harder and lean into Him deeper whenever we are at a crossroads.  

When I was anxious over an upcoming event, and my imagination was running wild with concocted scenes of public humiliation (one, in particular, involving a trip-and-face-plant exhibition in front of hundreds of people), I asked for confidence and reassurance. I heard this: “More of Me.” When I was confused by an emotional response I was having in a relationship and I turned to God for clarity, the answer was once again clear: “More of Me.” 

And, not long ago, I was distraught, fearful and borderline angry over a family situation. I wanted to turn my back on God with an “I’ll show him” attitude and not even crack open my prayer journal or my Bible or go to Mass or confession or Adoration. But I was stopped by the words I kept hearing whispered in my heart:  “More of Me.” So I begrudgingly kept at it. I showed up at Mass, prayer journaled daily when I was so not in the mood, and unenthusiastically recited my rosary (all the while moaning and groaning about my situation of course).  Yet I could tell, deep down, that it was working. More of Him kept me going, pushing through the hurt and pain and confusion until at long last I emerged on the other side with a renewed sense of peace. 

I do get answers to my issues in one way or another, eventually. But more importantly, graces are poured into my heart. Courage is instilled in my shaky spine and calm is restored to my soul. I change. I grow spiritually. I trust Him more. I end up with fresh faith. Every. Single. Time.

But—here’s the catch—I only receive these benefits after I’ve sought More of Him. Which, not coincidentally, calls for Less of Me: Less of my self-sufficient attitude, less of my pride and stubbornness, less of my willingness to easily give in to the evil one’s constant offering of doubt, discouragement, and disappointment.  

This tiny revelation is going to help me immensely in the future, I know. There are dark tunnels ahead for me, and for all of us Catholic Sistas, truth be told. They’re inevitable. But I can picture myself going through the dark tunnels singing because I know how to make it through to the other side.  I know if I stay close to him, dive even deeper into his Word, get more intentional about receiving the Sacraments and spending daily time with Him in prayer—if I seek MORE of Him—I will be fine. Everything will be fine. Even when it isn’t. 

More of Him.

It never fails. 

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Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth Susan

It Really IS That Simple

Years ago I found myself in the darkest days. Illness, fatigue, and depression were my constant companions, but not only. Of course I had wonderful family support, but I also was given a desire for God like none I had ever known. This desire led me to sit quietly in Church nearly every day for even a few moments of time. But this desire also led me to seek out advice on how to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. I decided to take a chance and contact a Benedictine monk whom I heard speak on EWTN. He was kind enough to send me an email that changed my prayer life for good. I hope it will also help yours.

I told him in my message the various obstacles I was facing, the mental strains I battled, and the desire for God I had. I asked how am I to pray when so many things are worrying me? How can I BE with God in the midst of it all? How should I pray? His answer was short: Go to sit before the Blessed Sacrament daily; when you are there keep bringing your thoughts gently back to pondering who God is. Think about His attributes. Don’t limit time, but also do not force more time. He will take care of everything.

And He did.

Instead of planning my prayers, or listing all my concerns, I sat for the first time and considered who God was? Perfect Beauty. All Loving. All Goodness….. Day after day I went, and well………, so should you. I discovered God is eagerly waiting to just be sat with and loved. For I believe it is impossible to sit and ponder His attributes and not become grateful beyond words and loving beyond description toward Our Creator and Savior.

But what of petitioning in prayer? God wants that too, right? Yes. But try to petition like this: My dad is in pain and ill. Or…make haste to come to my son. Or…..I am tired and worried. After focusing on Who God is in prayer, the petitions become confident and statements of fact and knowledge that God can and will help when He knows is best. Why? Getting to know someone builds trust in who he truly is AND in what he can do. We have seen this in getting to know our husbands. With God we need to do the same.

Let me give a practical example. My husband started a new job in November. We soon saw the commute was just too long for us to remain in our most beloved home and town. So we searched for homes in the town where he works now. One thing led to another….and only three weeks later… our home has been prepared for sale,  a contract with a new house has been signed, and after 1 day of our current home being on the market, we have potential buyers! One day! This is ONLY work God can do! Sure we put all the muscle into it, willingness to follow where He leads, but in prayer….I sat and stated the fact, “ we cannot afford the large gas amounts for my husband’s commute.” And then let it go. Look what He did! Look what He is doing! I praise Him publicly in this post because credit is due only to Him for the marvels He does.

Here is another: my 16 year old wanted to buy herself a car. When my husband was told when he was to start his new job, I knew with one car my two daughters would be limited on their unique activities they have done for a long time, and which are good for them. I found however the day after I uttered a short, “my daughter needs a car, I need her to have a car” prayer…..and I then mentioned the need to two friends out of the blue….the one quickly texted her brother who was selling his son’s Honda. By the Friday before my husband’s job starting my daughter bought herself her own car and has matured considerably. Would this have happened if I did not utter a simple prayer, nor would it have happened if I had not willingness to open up my needs to others? I do not believe so. God has been so good to us!

So many little utterances from the heart have proven to me that God hears, God helps….He is ALL that is GOOD. He wants for us to know and love Him….and to ASK SIMPLY.

So as your life gets ahead of you (and my family’s life begins a new journey in a new town), let us not neglect to take time to sit before God and ponder Who He IS. “Let Him take care of the rest.” You will be amazed at where He leads you.

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Charla Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting

When I am overwhelmed…

 

aaaThere are many ways in which we all deal with stress, we all experience that feeling that life is just too much and the feeling of “I just can’t…”  I am not talking about the big stressors such as major illness, unemployment, death or other life-changing events. I am referring to the daily grind, the day to day, overwhelming, daunting activities: kid sports or clubs, homework, dinner on the table, cleaning, laundry, workload, dieting, exercise, parents, friends, pets, and the list goes on and on… even prayer feels like it cannot be included in my harried lifestyle.

I am in the midst of this feeling right now. There just does not seem to be enough time to do anything, so I make things worse and even more stressful by doing nothing. It seems ridiculously ironic that I would resort to apathy or outright laziness when feeling overwhelmed, but this mechanism serves me, if only for a short while.

I have stock mantra that I tell my students during the overwhelming times: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Once I decide it is time to dig in and that I have to stop being complacent, the most effective motivation is prayer.  What happens if that is one of problematic issues that is overwhelming? The inability to pray is always the path that leads to laziness and apathy for me.  I have to begin with a pep talk, and that speech must be a plea to God asking for the motivation I need. Though I feel strapped for time, the most efficient use of that time is spent in Adoration.  Being in Christ’s presence forces me to pray for that pep talk, if only for a few minutes.  That time in Adoration centers me and places me in a state of mind to feel I can do anything.  

Another mechanism I utilize is a pen.  I write it all down.  When I do this, nothing slips through the cracks because I have visual and tangible evidence of what I have to do.  I have a hard calendar listing all events, all duties, all responsibilities.  Now here is the clincher… I have to check off everything that has been completed or accomplished. A simple check mark says a lot to me.  Even cancellations are marked with a line drawn through the words.  This simple act spurs my motivation and allows me to continue on my productivity path.  It makes me feel accomplished and empowered. I have control over what I do and what I need to do.ab

Another method is to speak the things I have to do out loud to someone.  If I say it, I have to do it.  If I tell my students they will have their graded essays the following day, then I have to get them graded and returned. My integrity and me word is at stake, therefore verbalizing my responsibilities is an act of commitment.

This is not to say that I do not falter or drop a few balls, because I do.  But because of the calculated steps I take, I am also able to forgive myself.  Because of the genuine concerted effort I have made, I feel proud of myself and in control.

This sense of control is the driving force behind quelling the feeling of being overwhelmed. Control and self-control are virtuous and what God wants for our lives.  I am the first to admit how much self-discipline I lack, but I am convinced that God wants me to at least try. I make myself do that which I do not find enjoyable.  I have to get uncomfortable  If I am trying to attain some sort of organized semblance and order in my life, my spiritual health will be better for it.  Therefore the whole process is a cycle. For me, it always comes down to prayer: I pray for motivation, I organize my responsibilities, I commit to a witness, and I implement a course of action and plan.

I hope that this little discussion motivates you to also seek Truth and turn to prayer to remove the lack of control from your life and search yourself for the motivation placed inside you by the Holy Spirit,