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Alyssa Azul Ink Slingers

Heart of His

Heart of His

The scariest part about it is when we are alone.”

A paramedic told me exactly this last December when I experienced my worst anxiety attack. These words made an imprint on me.  My head seems to say one thing, but my heart screams another. I know I shouldn’t be alone. I know it’s healthy to reach out to someone to talk to. But, stubborn as I am, I want to learn how to be strong alone.  This was my mindset.

I’ve been reflecting lately on the kind of woman I want to be, and I fear that I am slowly becoming one that is closed, controlling, and cynical towards the world. When I am alone is when I feel most vulnerable.  As an eldest daughter with a single mom, I’ve invested years into killing my desire for love and validation. I’ve guarded my heart with the same barricades that my mother used for herself, so that vulnerability would not be an option for me. My anxiety stems from a need for control. A need to control my studies, my career, my family and other people’s perception of who I am. Most of all, a need to control my emotions.

I never fully understood why my foolproof method to controlling my life and suffocating my heart wasn’t working until I recently dove into Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge. As women today we are always pressured to “keep it together”.  I had always perceived danger or chaos if I let go and let my guard down. We don’t like to turn to our neighbors for help, because who wants to burden someone else with heartache? Surely not me! I needed to start at the beginning. First by opening up my heart to He who created this heart in me. Instead of hiding and negotiating what my worth is with God, I needed to embrace His validation. I needed to allow myself to receive His love, which is something many women, Christian or not, struggle with today.

What that book showed me was something even more valuable than what my desires were–it was that I am not alone in this. That I don’t need to fear loneliness with the millions of women, and most especially, the Lord on my side.

Since then, I’ve found that loneliness has now become solace. Regular prayer, reflection, and breathing help me cope with stress and anxiety, as well as mend my heart a little at a time. Although the doubts, worries, and insecurities still attack, I know there is a refuge in a place where I can be still and free from distractions. Free from feeling like there is something I have to do. I experience the most peaceful loneliness and unity the moment my knees meet the floor in adoration. There is no greater serenity than to be able to come before the Lord and give him my plans, fears, and worries.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

 

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Confession Decorating a Catholic Home Domestic Church Ink Slingers Michelle Sacraments Spiritual Growth

Remodeling Our Hearts for Christ

remodeling our hearts for Christ

We have lived in our home for 18 years now. In those 18 years we have put a lot of wear and tear on it. To be honest, it wasn’t a quality built home in the first place so things were very lacking to begin with; but over the years our family has been hard on this house. Of course, since we homeschool, we are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our house is unlike others that perhaps are empty throughout the day because everyone is at school and work. No, our house is full of life all the time.

Over the years we have tried to keep up with repairs as we could. As a one income family, and a cop’s salary at that, there have been times that we haven’t been able to make the repairs that truly need to be made. It’s not been that we haven’t wanted to; oh, we’ve wanted to! But because our income is limited so is our ability to fix everything that needs to be fixed at the time it needs it most. Still, we try our best.

Recently we decided that this year would be “renovation” year. We decided we wanted to fix the things that never get to be fixed and yet so desperately need it. As the months have ticked by (doesn’t the year just slip away faster than we anticipate?), a few things have been done here and there, but not in the way we had originally hoped. I decided that July would be the month that things finally get done.

We are so overwhelmed (and tired) sometimes at the everyday things that need to be done that we needed motivation to get started. It helped that we decided to throw a couple of parties in the near future- Anna, who is turning 12, is having her first ever birthday party. It’s a slumber party so her friends will be staying overnight here (something that rarely happens at our house!). We are also having Savannah’s graduation party next month as well. We will have her grandmother and great aunt and uncle coming from out of town to celebrate. While the party isn’t going to be here, they will definitely be coming here. Surely we need to get our house ready to have company, right? Who wants to invite special guests to their home when it is run down and in desperate need of repairs?

paintingAnd so, we started. We started fixing the dings and the holes the boys have put in the walls. We fixed light switches and outlets. We are painting the walls and fixing ceilings. We started with the things that we had money for right now and that would give the most “bang for our buck”. We plan to fix the front steps, paint the garage doors, put on new screens (again), fix the back deck, and have our septic lines repaired. Those will come slower as they cost more money, but we have a timetable to get them done. Several kids need new beds so there is that as well. There are so many other things we need to do, but really, it’s like eating an elephant… we have to do it one bite at a time.

As I was up on a ladder today painting away, I began thinking about the repairs we were making. Sure, we want our home to be livable and homey for ourselves and our children, but we also want it to be a place where friends and family feel comfortable too; where they want to come and visit. I know that those who truly love us look past all those imperfections, but I want my home to be nice, to be clean, and to be a place of love and comfort. I want all who enter in my home to know that they are welcome and wanted and that I took the time and care to prepare a place where they can feel this way.

As I stood there, a thought took hold that I couldn’t shake.

While I am trying to make my home a place of refuge for my family and all those who cross our threshold, am I neglecting to make my heart a home and place of refuge for Christ? If so, what can I do to change that? How can I renovate my heart so that it is the perfect dwelling for Him?

If we are to truly call ourselves Christians we must make a place for Christ to dwell within our hearts. We have to clear the clutter, throw away the “junk”, and make our hearts into a home that is worthy of such a special guest.

It’s easy to prepare for the company that will visit us shortly, but how do we prepare for Christ to make His home inside our hearts?

As Catholics we are blessed to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I know that there are many who believe that confessing our sins to God on our own is all we need to do to be forgiven. Of course we absolutely can and should do this! But there is something about going to Confession that just helps us to clear away the sin and the “junk” that we’ve built up in our hearts. We use the tools we receive in the Sacrament to help us to remodel our hearts so that Christ feels welcome to dwell within it.

paintingAs I painted today I thought about what a great gift it was to have my older children there to help me (the little ones not so much!) Sure, I could do it on my own, but to have them there to help me not only made the job go by faster but it was done more thoroughly as well. I was tired and missed a few places; they helped point out where I missed. They could see with fresh eyes what my tired ones couldn’t see. When I needed help they could hand me the right instruments to make the painting go faster and ultimately better. When I was tired and ready to quit, they cheered me on. They helped me go further than I thought I could go. I accomplished so much more because of their help.

Reconciliation is like this as well. The priest is there to give advice, to point out what we could be doing different, to help equip us with the right tools to overcome our sins, and to help us know that we have been forgiven. He can see what we may be missing… what our tired minds and souls are forgetting. He can point us to places we need to do more and he can cheer us on when he sees us conquering the sins that seem to dominate our lives. We can accomplish more through the Sacrament of Reconciliation than we can when we try to prepare our hearts on our own.

Remodeling our hearts so that Christ can dwell within is not easy. It requires us to take a long, hard look at how we are living our lives, how we are treating others, and to ask ourselves if we truly wish to allow Christ to live in us and shine through us. It means making changes in how we think, what we say, and what we do. It means leaving behind our selfish thoughts and deeds and instead allowing Christ to be at the center of all we say and do. It means ridding our hearts of sin and all the emptiness that sin brings.

As Catholics we are blessed to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help us with the remodeling that needs to take place. Through it we receive Christ’s grace, love, and forgiveness. We are reconciled to God and to one another.

It takes a tremendous amount of humility to go to Reconciliation to ask for forgiveness and to ask for help in overcoming our sinful nature. But when we humble ourselves in this manner we begin the process of remodeling our hearts into a dwelling place fit for a King. We tell God that He is welcome within us and that our hearts are ready to become His home.

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