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Anni Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth Uncategorized

Weathering the Storm

I recently sat inside our family’s RV on a Sunday afternoon, watching the lightening, listening to the thunder, and seeing the raindrops of the most recent storm blowing through our camp. The rhythmic sound of the wind and rain lulled me to sleep, and when I awoke, I began to think of the metaphor between the storm I was experiencing in life and the storm which has surrounded the Catholic faithful.

I have always heard reference to a storm being on the horizon, with the faithful being tested through it: “Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). As faithful Catholics, we ought to prepared for storms.

But rather than worry, St. Padre Pio reminds us, “Pray, hope, and do not worry. Worry is useless. God will hear your prayers.” 

As we analyze the components of a storm, we see the divine power within. 

Much like the verse from Isaiah 35:4, thunder is the voice which reminds us, “He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense, He will come and save you.” It wakens sleeping children, it rattles animals and humans alike, and it casts a pall of fear over those who sit directly under the boom.

Clouds roll in to darken the earth during a massive storm. Thunder breaks the silence. And yet, in a good storm, lightening illuminates the darkness. Satan loves darkness. He loves secrecy and living in the shadows. Yet lightening brightens the sky, even if only for a flash. Lightening forces the demons to scurry. It brightens the path, showing the way to sanctuary.

With all good storms, there is wind, too. The wind can cause chaos and confusion. It can blind even the best of seers, all-too-often forcing even the strongest among us to bend with the breeze and seek shelter from the wind. But the wind is also a force of change, as we are reminded in Acts 2:2: “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.” The wind gives strength to grit through the storm.

Finally, with the storm comes the deluge of rain. Big, fat, drenching raindrops falling from the heavens and meeting the earth. Rain washes the dirt and grime from everything in its path. The rain cleanses. It purifies.

My friends, we are in the midst of a storm unlike we have ever experienced as faithful Catholics. The storm is no longer on the horizon; rather, we are in the thick of it. The Church is being tested in a manner we have not seen before.

This past month has been difficult for the Catholic Church. The devil is among us, looking to cause division, suspicion, anxiety, and suffering. And, he is hell-bent on destroying the foundation of the Rock of Peter. Literally.

Too many priests, as fallible men, have fallen into the temptations of the devil. The sins of the cover-up, even more than the abuse itself, have played directly into the devil’s hands. Most priests are good, holy men, whose chosen vocation has been thrust into a terrible spotlight. They now are battling to endure and survive this storm. They are scrambling to safeguard their sheep who are experiencing doubt, fear, anger, grief, and betrayal.

In Ezekiel 34:12, the faithful can find some encouragement, “As a shepherd examines his flock while he himself is among his scattered sheep, so will I examine my sheep. I will deliver them from every place where they were scattered on the day of dark clouds.”

This past spring, a chaplain said during his homily, “When there is unity, it is a sign that the Holy Spirit is working. When there is division, it is a sign that the devil is at work.” The devil works tirelessly, with one aim in mind: to take souls for himself. 

Yet the sun comes out after the storm. The damage and debris from the storm won’t disappear overnight. It will take hard, dedicated, tireless work. It will require us to listen to the instructions in Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” We already believe the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church, but the cleanup will take time, effort, and energy.

At the end of the storm, the sun is on the horizon. It shines brightly, beckoning all to bask in its warmth, dryness, and glory. We are reminded that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). 

So suit up, my faithful Catholic friends. Join me for the turbulence of this storm. Let us weather it together, each playing our part to ensure the gates of hell do not prevail. We will stand together, facing toward the Son. Because He alone will be left standing, helping us out of the raging waters, drying us with His radiance.

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Ink Slingers

False Crawls

Question: What can live for up to 100 years, is known to be harmless to humans and moves no faster than 1 mph but can still scare the living daylights out of a grown woman who comes face-to-face with one? Answer: A sea turtle. Years ago, I was snorkeling in Hanauma Bay in Oahu while on an anniversary trip with my husband when I turned my head away from some lovely circus-colored coral and straight into the snout of a gigundous Loggerhead turtle. Even though I do believe he was just as surprised as I was to make up-close underwater eye contact, it was me (the supposedly grown woman) who let out a garbled, high-pitched scream through my snorkel and made a hasty, comically uncoordinated retreat.

Since then I’ve had no close encounters with sea turtles, but this summer I saw evidence of them. Some dear friends and I were taking a morning walk on a beach in Florida when we stumbled upon what we thought were deep tire tracks in the sand leading to and from the water (Attention coastline residents: please try not to snicker over our ignorance—my friends and I all live in the flatlands of the Midwest!). Upon closer inspection (and a little Google confirmation) we realized we had discovered a sea turtle nest, even before the official turtle patrol had found and marked it with yellow caution tape. We were delighted to learn about the endangered sea turtle’s ancient ritual of crawling out of the ocean in the dark of night and finding a safe place to dig and deposit her eggs before returning to the sea. Further down the beach, however, we found a different set of tracks. These tracks made it only halfway to the high tide line and then made a very obvious U-turn in the sand and headed back to the water. There was no nest, no eggs, no fresh, fluffy pile of sand for the turtle patrol to mark.

“Something spooked her,” explained the patrol volunteer after we waved down his white pickup truck to inquire about this unusual set of tracks. “It’s called a false crawl,” he told us. “She got scared and turned back.”

A false crawl. That term floated back into my brain the next morning as I was prayer journaling.

Hmmm. I realized that the skittish Mamma sea turtle and I have a lot in common.

Yep, there are many instances in my life when I too have made a false crawl. I’ve left a mission unaccomplished, a task unfinished, a risk untaken because I got spooked. I made some initial progress toward a goal, but then fear took over and I made a U-turn. And just like that hesitant mother sea turtle, I withdrew to the familiarity of my home base.

I suppose if we are being honest, we’ve all made a false crawl or two in our lives. Fear is a real obstacle that can keep us from moving ahead or doing the right thing or trying something new. Something (or someone) scares us and then we retreat. I think back on those times in my life when I turned around and I wonder: What if I had asked for encouragement from the Holy Spirit at that moment of decision, that critical pause right before I changed direction? What if I had said a small prayer and asked for the grace and power to overcome my fear and any other hurdles at that particular instant? How would things be different?

I sometimes forget this: When we face uphill battles and fear enters in, the Holy Spirit is our encourager. He is our Advocate, the Paraclete that Jesus promised to send to us after he returned to his Father. In fact, Parakletos is closely related to the Greek word for encouragement! The third person of the Holy Trinity can help us set our troublesome fear aside and move forward in our journey. At those moments of weakness, He can kindle a fire of courage and strength in our hearts to help us persevere. He offers hope, peace, comfort. And when we are being persecuted, He provides holy fortitude to help us prevail.

The Holy Spirit is the antidote to life’s false crawls.

And we don’t have to go far to access all of the gifts the Holy Spirit has to give. You and I were instilled with every one of these gifts when we received the Sacrament of Confirmation. They’re all there, hunkered down in the corners of our hearts, waiting to be released and maximized. All we need to do is ask the Holy Spirit to flip the switch, so to speak.

So I decided to try something new—something that will help me confront my challenges with a fresh faith and a renewed determination. The next time I’m facing a dig-in-or-retreat situation, I am going to stop and ask for encouragement from the Divine Encourager. I am going to let the Advocate take over. I am going to close my eyes and fervently pray, “Come, Holy Spirit!”

I’m guessing there will be no U-turn, no retreat, and no false crawl.

And (hopefully) no garbled, high-pitched screams.

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Ink Slingers Marriage Molly G Special Needs Connection Vocations

Comfort in Faith

I remember before I became a mom I thought it would be hard.  But I also thought it would be the best journey and a joy to experience.  My husband and I married after he finished Graduate school and we had our first child a little over 10 months later.  We decided having them close together (God willing) would be good so before long, I had a 17 month old and a newborn.  We soon realized with us, our 80 pound lab, two young children, and wanting more children in the future we would have to make a change.  The change for us, was to move away from where we were living at the time.  The cost of living was high, the houses were tiny, and we had very little resources to do things that were important to us and the children.  There were downsides however as we would be leaving my parents, my only sibling and his family, my husband’s oldest sibling who had several children, and a lot of very reliable and trustworthy friends.  It was definitely a scary decision, but a decision we felt was best.

Once we decided, of course we had a lot of questions from a lot of people.  The area that opened up with the best job opportunity for my husband was far away, and many people could not grasp why we would choose to move versus finding ways to stay.  We were even asked about why we would “do this” to the grandparents or how we were going to “keep our faith” by doing such a drastic move.   I, too, had thought this over.  Were we doing the right thing? Yes we would miss people, but especially these days, there were plenty of effective ways to keep in touch with family and friends.  Yes we would be “on our own” but as adults weren’t we always on our own to be responsible with our faith? Once we weighed all the pros and cons, we were confident going was the right thing for us.  Not necessarily the “comfortable” thing but definitely the right thing.  Seven years later, here we are.  And we love it. Was it an easy transition? No. But through the ups and downs, we have grown as a family unit, found new friends, and grown our own family. It’s home.

Enjoying their new home
Enjoying their new home

Fast forward four years.  We were pregnant with our fifth daughter.  At our 19 week ultrasound, a serious brain condition was discovered.  Upon seeing the perinatologist we were advised to terminate.  When we declined we were encouraged to meet with the genetic counselor for a detailed meeting.  There really were no details, but instead a 45 minute session of us answering questions as to why (gasp) we would want to bring such a child in to the world when we already had four to tend to. Again, it was  a very uncomfortable situation.  Was there ever a doubt in my mind what we would do? Absolutely not.  However it was awkward and uncomfortable to sit there and restate what felt like the same argument over and over in the face of what was obviously not support for our decision.  Seeing my daughter about to turn three, starting to crawl, talk, and smile at everyone in sight  – defying every single thing that counselor told us is gratifying.  It’s been a tough road, and will continue to be, but having her with us was always the right decision, no matter how uncomfortable it made others. We cannot imagine our lives without her.

Our youngest daughter visiting the Memorial to the Unborn
Our youngest daughter visiting the Memorial to the Unborn

Thinking back on those particular situations (and the countless others, both important and trivial that have occurred in the same timespan) and the struggle it was to make or stick with such a big family decisions, I have started to realize how much that is like our faith today in this world.  Think of all the things we have coming at us daily whether from pop culture, news media, horrible events in the world, or non-faith sharing friends who share “harmless” Catholic jokes that have us writhing inside.  All of these things just scream at us to stay in our comfort zone and hide. Even small events within our own day to day lives that make us squirm or have that moment of doubt if we are doing the right thing.  I once heard a teacher say “If practicing is easy, then you aren’t doing it right.”  She was talking about dance…..but I think this applies to us all in our faith lives.  Practicing isn’t easy.  It just isn’t.  And sometimes making the right decision for us or our family is also extremely difficult and uncomfortable.

Despite this discomfort that may occur from time to time, we must never lose sight that we have the ultimate Comforter right at our finger tips, right in our heart, and right in our soul each and every day.  God is always with us and most especially in those situations in which we doubt our choices because of how they will affect others.  He is always with us to help nudge us in the right direction.  As Pope Benedict said, “We must become mature in this adult faith, we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith.” All decisions in our lives have consequences…but decisions where choosing what is right for us, our family and our faith that cause us the greatest discomfort in others’ eyes, are often the ones that reap the greatest rewards in our lives….both here and in heaven.   And I guarantee a few hearts will be pulled with you along the way.

Always trust your faith
Always trust your faith – the children do notice.