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Darcie Faith Formation Ink Slingers Marriage Prayer

Stepping Out of the Boat

Stepping out of the Boat

Four months ago, my husband and I spent an entire weekend finally starting our business. I say finally because this is something we had dreamed of five years ago when we were about to get married. We loved the idea of working together and being our own bosses. Our skill sets, styles of work, and temperaments complimented each other. We planned it out and dreamed big. We were convinced we were meant to do this and disappointed when it didn’t happen. There were too many moving parts and it was clear it wasn’t the right time.

You can understand then, why we were on fire that fall weekend when the inspiration came back. In 48 hours, we had a name, logo, website and had started the legal paperwork. We thought it would be a good starting point to funnel my freelance work through. We planned to slowly build it up until there was enough work for my husband to leave his current job and come on full-time. But that wasn’t God’s plan. On that following Monday afternoon, my husband was unexpectedly let go from his job.

The business went to the back burner and the applying process for my husband took over. Until, we were struck by the seemingly crazy idea that what if, right now, was actually the right time to start our business? Right now when we have two little children, me only working part-time and still saving for a house – right now? We felt like Peter talking to Jesus from the boat, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Mt. 14:28). Was God asking us to step out of the boat?

Of course, it was God’s providence that my husband was leaving for a pilgrimage less than a week later, that we had booked months before. We both prayed during that time, and we asked God what He wanted us to do. The same answer came up for us both: He wanted us to do it. Like Peter, we heard Jesus say, “Come” (Mt. 14:29).

So we stepped out of the boat. We started walking towards Jesus.

The confirmations kept coming. With clients knocking on our door, our business was starting to take shape. That’s not to say that the waves threaten us, but we resolved to keep our focus on Jesus. For we know what happened to Peter when he took his gaze off of Jesus – he started to sink. We know that if we start looking at the strong wind around us that we will get frightened. Our only focus has to be Jesus

This journey is still unfolding. I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far about God’s incredible goodness in this process.

How We Stepped Out

First, just because it isn’t the right time for something now, doesn’t mean there won’t be the right time for it in the future. When our attempt to start a business five years ago failed, I automatically thought God didn’t want it all. I was disappointed that my husband and I wouldn’t work together and that we’d never be our own bosses. I was even mad, why would God put that desire in our hearts and then not let us follow through? How often do we assume a one-time failure is a forever-failure? God wants to remind us that His timing is not our timing. It is precisely because we failed five years ago that we recognized the opportunity to start a business this time. Sometimes our “failures” are just God’s heads up for future plans. Those desires He placed in our hearts are meant to be fulfilled!

Second, we all want to give our control to God, but when the opportunity actually presents itself, we panic. I think it’s because God knows it’s when and how we least expect it. It digs deep and requires trust. Not the kind of surface trust, but that trust without words. That trust in which you literally trust Him with your life and everything in it. Do we trust Him or not? Are we in the boat or walking on the water? How often do we not trust Him because it’s “too crazy,” “too unknown,” or “letting go of too much”? God wants us to trust Him. Yes, we can say, “Jesus, I trust in you,” but He also gives us opportunities to show that we do.

Lastly, we chose the Infant of Prague as the patron for our business. There’s a nine-hour novena that’s very powerful (and short!) I found that praying for the same intention three times in a row for nine consecutive hours (27 times total) helped me figure out exactly what it is I’m asking for. This is the novena for you if you’ve had an intention that’s been feeling “stuck”!

We walk forward aware of Jesus’ words to Peter once he started sinking, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt. 14:31). Let us resolve to have faith and not doubt God’s marvelous plans for us.

Jesus, Infant of Prague, intercede for us!

Categories
Chronic Illness Ink Slingers Prayer Spiritual Growth Susie

When God’s Voice Sounds Different

 
 
I recently found out that I will be needing surgery soon to remove a cyst on my ovary. This isn’t a very abnormal occurrence, but in my case it could be potentially life-altering. Just over one year ago, I had my other ovary removed due to another cyst — a much larger one that time. I also found out from that surgery that I have endometriosis. For someone in her 30s who is still single yet has always dreamed of having children (with the right man, of course), the last year has been tough, and this upcoming surgery is more than a little threatening to some of those dreams.
 
I’ve never been one of those people who gets clear, unequivocal messages or directions from God. I always try my best, albeit in my very flawed way, to be open to him and whatever he wants for my life, but a lot of the time it can feel like I’m just leaping without a lot of assurance that any given choice is God’s will. As in anyone’s life, some things I’ve chosen have worked out and some haven’t — but because I’m never quite sure if I’m hearing God right, I tend to blame myself and beat myself up when things don’t go well, and when my life isn’t turning out the way I thought it would.
 
My situation now, including the upcoming surgery, have helped me see more clearly that God’s been there with me all along. He’s allowing this time of uncertainty, and he’s given me my specific crosses, for very good reasons that can be explained with the word “love.” I realize now that God speaks to me in a quiet, gentle manner — no huge revelations, not a lot of clear, direct instructions that I look for and want, just a great deal of immense love. Earlier this year, I was on a retreat during which I felt that love God has for me to a degree I’d never felt before. Being more of a head knowledge person, I’ve always been able to trust the fact that God loves me without necessarily feeling it much (if at all). On this retreat, however, I felt it and heard it almost as clear as if it were someone standing right in front of me.
 
That experience opened me up to the revelation — which probably should have been obvious sooner — that my life right now, despite not being what I hoped it would be by this point, isn’t a backup plan that God haphazardly put together for me when I didn’t listen to him earlier in my life. His plan for me and my holiness directly includes this time of singleness, and facing potential permanent infertility. It’s not at all what I would have chosen for myself, but through this time God has brought me so much closer to him. I wouldn’t have been able to have the relationship with him that I have if he had given me a husband right out of college and multiple kids by the time I was 30. His ultimate goal for me, his deepest desire for me, is not for me to be married, but for me to be as close to him as I can possibly be. Our vocations are always meant to bring about our holiness in the best way possible for each of us, and that’s going to look different for everyone. Some people get the lives they want right off the bat, only to find out that it’s not what they thought. Others are asked by God to wait (and wait…and wait…and sometimes wait some more). He knows so much better than we do what will truly make us happy and holy, and sometimes that requires a time of pain.
 
For far too long, I’ve been listening for God’s voice to sound like a “yes” to whatever prayer I might be praying at the time. I’ve been listening for him, expecting clear instructions from above, like the voice of a pilot on a plane telling the passengers where they are and where they’re going and when they’ll get there. I’ve been listening for God to sound a whole lot like me and the way I think things should go. But God truly is that small, still voice. When he’s talking to me, he’s not my pilot telling me where the plane is headed. He’s a best friend, so close to me that he doesn’t have to speak above a whisper, letting me know that he’s here, guiding me, teaching me, and, most importantly, loving me even in the pain and uncertainty that life can bring.
 
 
Categories
Amy M. Ink Slingers Parenting Vocations

Spring Break

Spring Break… Answering the Challenge

   Spring Break 1

 

   As Spring Break approached, it seems the talk of the school and even the city, centers around where everyone is going.  Florida, Mexico, cruises… they all seem to be popular answers. Those of us “stuck” at home feel caught up in still “making the most” of the week. When I asked the children what they wanted to do this year during spring break, two things won out.  

   The first was a major bedroom switch. Four bedrooms, seven kids in five days. It was no small task. Amazingly, it went well with even the attic being reorganized! Most of the kids are enjoying the new arrangement of rooms.  Our “Felix and Oscar” (think “Odd Couple”) no longer share a room, which will hopefully preserve their relationship in the long run! The only one who may have gotten the short end of the stick is our oldest who is now sharing a room with his much younger brother. He’s adapting though, so life lesson built in!

   The second request was a trip to the Dunes to go hiking. The plan was to go on Monday. It was cold and raining.  Tuesday, and more of the same. All week our plans to go to hiking were thwarted by cold, wet weather. It seemed maybe we would have to be satisfied with the room change as our only spring break adventure.

   Saturday dawned bright, chilly, and breezy. We decided to make a go of it, packed a cooler for lunch, and made our way to the beach. The balmy 45 degrees nearly deterred us when we arrived, but the horizon was bright. After a stopSpring Break 2 at the nature center introducing us to many different birds, we chose a trail. Our only criteria before choosing was that we wanted a moderate or easy trail. We figured relatively short was probably best given the low temperatures and short legs and wanted to end up on the beach to walk back to the parking lot..

   We chose a trail we’ve walked many times, climbing one dune and then heading straight to the lake. However, with the older kids running ahead of us, they wanted to try a “new” path. We veered off from our original plan to trail 8. We figured we would just climb the one extra dune and then meet up with our original trail back to the beach. Reaching the peak of the dune we enjoyed the beautiful view. The cold temperatures and the breeze were much more tolerable while moving. After a quick break, we headed back on the trail toward our original trail. It’d all be downhill from there, we thought.  Spring Break 3

   It was, for a while. Then, we started to climb again. Spring Break 4 Hmmm…. Reaching a second peak, one of our daughters pointed out that we had now completed two-thirds of a 3-Dune Challenge the Nature Center advertised. Not ones to back down from a challenge, what could we do but continue and complete the challenge of the dunes.  Spring Break 5

   The third dune was all stairs. Easier than sand? Um no. But we did it! From the top, we could see the waves breaking and the shoreline for miles. It was breathtaking. The challenge trail looped back to the Nature Center where started.  

   It wasn’t the adventure we planned. It wasn’t the easy trail or even a particularly short trail. In fact, it was the only rugged trail on the map we learned on our way home. We didn’t end up leisurely walking back along the beach to the parking lot. 

   As Lent comes to a close this week, I find myself reflecting on my plans on Ash Wednesday. The prayers, fasting, almsgiving all have helped me quietly reflect on Jesus’ Passion.  I feel myself resetting as I often do during Lent. The purposeful slowing down chips away at the barriers that grow during the year. Busyness, plans, commitments that seem harmless but in reality are walls building up between God and me, pulling me away from God’s plan for my life. Lent is the time each year where I refocus, which breaks down those walls.

   Getting off the merry-go-round of keeping up and doing more, I can see that the simple, the best, things come when we just let go and let God. 

   God has a plan for each of us. The plan tends to be so much bigger than we can comprehend. We can only see a little ahead of us so that we don’t become discouraged. If we had known what we were going to be climbing, it’s likely we would have chosen a different trail, afraid the one with all the dunes would be too much for our little ones to complete.  

   In the end we would have missed out by doing that though. We would have missed the camaraderie, the sense of accomplishment, not to mention the beautiful views. Asking the children if they had a good break was met with a unanimous “yes.”  God’s plan is bigger and better than any of us can imagine. We just have to take the first step in faith. He will do the rest.

   “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm
   you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

Spring Break 6

Categories
Allison Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacred Scripture Spiritual Growth

Does Jeremiah 29:11 Promise Me Prosperity?

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

My Facebook newsfeed exclaimed, “This isn’t just encouragement; it’s truth for all believers!” while subsequent commenters chirped amens. Aside from denigrating encouragement, is this “truth for all believers”? Since my Facebook friends were probably not referring to our heavenly future of prosperity, what have millions of poor, troubled believers from the apostles to the saints to the Third World done wrong not to have this “truth”?

First of all, the verse sits in the middle of a letter of prophesy from Jeremiah to the Israelites, who were exiles in Babylon. God told them to submit to King Nebuchadnezzar and settle down, that they would not be freed to return home for seventy years, that He knew the plans He had for them . . . (and the rest of the verse). It is a specific plan for a specific situation with a specific nation, not to individual people. I wonder if there were Israelite women (sistas like us) who, upon hearing the prophesy read, crumpled a little on the inside. Our husbands and older sons were speared to death; our teenage daughters abducted; our little ones sold into slavery. The promise will come too late for us, Lord. Again, the plan was for a nation, not individuals.

Does this mean the Old Testament holds no significance for Christians today? Not at all. The New Testament is hidden within the Old, offering luminous glimpses of Jesus in the drama of early salvation history as it advances toward the Incarnation. What we know from it all is that God has a Plan, that obedience matters, and because we are living in the Church Age, that hope and future mean heaven.

There are also telling translation differences. The translations that use “prosper” (NIV and GNT) were published in the mid-twentieth century, while older ones (and some newer ones as well) use “peace” (shalom).

“For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord; thoughts of peace and not affliction, to give you an end and patience.” (Douay-Rheims)

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord; plans for your welfare, not for your woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.” (New American)

God guided the Israelites to an earthly land, government, and salvation from their enemies. But the new covenant has Jesus teaching us that His kingdom is within us and among us, regardless of government; and that our land, hope, and future are found in His Father’s House. That is true prosperity.

So the verse is not a fist-pumping excitement over God’s plans of material prosperity without harm. It is part of the story of His love and leading of the nation of Israel (our elder brothers in the Faith) to salvation, which we read and focus our knowledge of Him onto the Person of Jesus Christ, Who loves and leads His Church to salvation. It is truly a better promise than earthly prosperity, and is harmonious with scriptures about suffering and trouble.

God, the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent I Am, thinks about His people. Has plans of peace for His people. Has a hopeful future for His people. Because He is Love. Now that’s a prosperity promise I can exclaim over. Amen!