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Ink Slingers Offering your suffering Overcome: Keeping Faith with a Disability Prayer Sarah Series

When Healing Hurts: How I Almost Lost My Faith.

Overcome: Keeping Faith with a Disability

The Beginning of Doubt

I exited the Taco Bell, oblivious to the event that would forever change my life. At the time, I was a young 13-year-old girl with Cerebral Palsy. My mom had hired a companion to work the weekends in order for me to have more independence. I was waiting for my companion to start the car when a man approached me. He said, “if you believe, Jesus Christ will save you, you will be healed.” His words shocked me. As a young Catholic, I had no idea what he meant by Jesus Christ saving me. I knew Jesus Christ.  I thought I believed in him. Yet the concept that he could save and heal me never crossed my mind. I immediately wondered if the guy was an angel since my companion never saw him. However, upon returning home I began to embrace reality. In the midst of tears, I told my mom what happened. For the first time in my life, I asked myself, why doesn’t God heal me?”

At the dinner table that night, My family went to say the blessing. I tried to take my mom and dad’s hand, but I was shaking. My mom saw that I was clearly uncomfortable. She asked, “ are you having trouble praying because of what happened today?” I nodded my head weakly. At that moment we stopped praying the blessing. Throughout high school, my family and I would continue to go through the motions of being practicing Catholics. I would reluctantly attend Mass and youth group. Somewhere along the way, my mom decided to raise my brother in a Baptist church. As an 18-year-old, my mom left me to make my own religious decisions. Still angry and confused, I entered college as an agnostic.

Tragedy Strikes

During my last year of college, I became very ill. No-one could figure out what was wrong with me. I would end up leaving the university and returning home. While home, I would be admitted to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical hospital. Even in the hospital, I could not escape the mentioning of God’s healing. One instance, in particular, affected me. I was in the hospital bed waiting to receive x-rays. A fellow patient from across the room commands my attention. He asked me if I believed in Jesus Christ. I said I thought he was a good teacher. The gentleman proceeded to tell me about the healing of the blind man in the gospels. He said that he would pray for my healing. This stands out to me because I had assumed that my physical disability made me an easy target. Yet, this man knew nothing about me and still wanted to pray for my healing. The hospital experience forced me to acknowledge a higher power. I had to rely on and trust in something beyond my own strength. While in the hospital, Regent University accepted me into their Masters in theology program.

Confronting Name it Claim it Theology

Regent University, while a good school, caters to Pentecostalism. Thus one learns to expect the miraculous at every turn.  I would attend events on campus and random strangers would ask to pray for me. During my time at Regent, there were two notable instances. The first occurred when I was volunteering at a homeless shelter. We had just finished our job and were in the parking lot. My friend was meeting another mutual friend for a late dinner. While in the parking lot, this mutual friend decided to pray over me. After he prayed, he insisted that I get up out of my power wheelchair and walk. His forcefulness shook me emotionally. I felt broken. He claimed that God had called him to be a prophet that would bring down heaven. He wanted to keep praying until something happened. Emotionally drained, I declined. Second, a man confronted me at a praise and worship concert. He asked if he could pray for me. I accepted and told him what I wanted for prayer. Unfortunately, he decided he would pray for me to walk instead. I interrupted him and asked if I could finish the prayer. He was shocked.  These two instances stand out in my mind. I had multiple opportunities to confront the Name It Claim it theology while at Regent University.

Coming to Terms

At this time, I attended Vineyard Church. The young adult pastor also wanted to pray for my healing. When I mentioned my struggles with healing, he said something insightful. He said that we do not pray for the results, but to increase our faith and trust in God. His advice has followed me through my reentry into the Catholic Church. Catholic theology allowed me to reclaim the notion of redemptive suffering. The notion that I can unite my suffering with Christ. In my heart, I knew that this is what I was missing. I no longer had to feel bad about my lack of healing, but rather my suffering had a purpose. Redemptive suffering needs the concept of healing otherwise it just becomes an excuse for unbelief. I desperately wanted to combine both theological principles. Luckily, The Catholic Charismatic renewal showed me the way. One must both pray for healing and offer up the situation.

Conclusion

Jesus said to pick up our cross and follow Him. He also said that His burden was easy and light. As disciples of Jesus, we are supposed to straddle both statements. For those who carry the cross of suffering and disability, this can be hard to accept. For myself, it took eight years for me to accept healing and miracles.  I rejoice in a God who loves me. God humbles and challenges me through unanswered prayers for miraculous healing. Yet despite the lack of answers, I cannot use it as an excuse to deny God’s provision. I pray that all those living with a disability can also find peace.

 

When Healing Hurts How I Almost Lost My Faith

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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Offering your suffering Prayer Sarah

Offer It Up! The Sanctification of Suffering

Offer It Up

As the cold winter has given way into spring, the Liturgical Calendar tells us that it is Lent. This once was a time when kids around the globe firmly resolved to give up chocolate for the next forty days, moms put down the snacks, and dads might even leave the beer in the fridge, untouched. We sacrifice in Lent, because Christ sacrificed for us.

But have you noticed the changing trend these days? We are a people who loathe suffering. We will do anything for comfort. We’ve seemingly abandoned the idea of “giving up” and embraced the “do-gooder” attitude. Instead of giving up chocolate, we resolve to use kind words. Instead of skipping the sugar in our morning cuppa, we affirm our neighbor. Forget all this suffering nonsense! I’ll just do something “nice.”

Why are we so afraid of suffering? We are afraid to face our humanity, afraid to admit just how small we are, afraid to admit that God’s plan is so much bigger than our own?

Kindness and affirmations are lovely – they truly are – but they miss the point of Lent.

When I was growing up, my mom loved to remind us to “Offer it up!” When we offer up our pain, we sanctify it. Pain and suffering came into the world through the Fall of Adam and Eve. It wasn’t God’s original design, but the logical result of the Fall. We now need to use this pain to draw closer to Him and join in the salvation He is offering us.

When we unite our suffering to Christ, even the small inconveniences become sanctifying. Lent is when we focus on small suffering and offer it to Christ. Our small acts of joyful suffering fortify our souls. They strengthen us, so that when the suffering is big, we are strong enough to turn from sin and embrace virtue. Suffering in the small things makes us strong for the large things. Suffering, offered to and united with Christ, gives grace to our souls and sanctifies us.

We are living in a spiritual battlefield and we need to strengthen our spiritual muscles and put on our spiritual armor. Prayer and real sacrifice are our means of spiritual strength. Each small sacrifice is like a trip to the gym for our souls! We are willing to sweat it out in the gym to make our bodies look and feel great. Why not do the same for our soul?

Christ came to earth to redeem us. He came to undo the effects of Adam and Eve’s Fall. One of the main effects of the Fall is suffering. While Christ could have chosen any means by which to redeem humanity, He chose to suffer! He chose to die a bloody, painful death on the Cross.

Lent has been our time to join Him on the road to Calvary. He didn’t walk that road, handing out joyful affirmations and kind words. He didn’t stop to tell the weeping woman of Jerusalem, “Cheer up! You’re beautiful!” He suffered real pain, offered it for our souls, and died on the Cross so that we could be redeemed.

This Lent, it’s not too late to choose to offer some small, painful sacrifice to Christ. Unite it to His Passion and sanctify your little suffering, particularly as we head into Holy Week. Certainly, be kind, too, but remember that Lent is a time to reflect on Christ’s redemptive suffering and in some small way, to join Him on the road to Calvary.

 

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Ink Slingers

Advent Gratefulness and Emptiness

heavens
I would have had a newborn this week. I could be curled up on my couch with a beautiful new baby in my arms and a coffee table covered in diapers, receiving blankets, and mugs of Mother’s Milk tea. I should be happily exhausted with a bigger family.

But this past April, I had a day of dizziness and GI distress that ended with an ambulance ride and emergency surgery. What I thought had been middle-aged tummy weight creeping up for a few weeks had been an abdomen slowly filling with blood. What I thought had been lightheadedness due to dieting had been dangerously low blood pressure. What I thought had been a stomach bug had been broken parts of myself and an unborn baby. My fallopian tube burst, due to a (unbeknownst to me) six week pregnancy. gratefulness

I am grateful for a sharp nurse and doctor at the urgent care clinic whose quick thinking got me into an ambulance. 

I am grateful for skilled emergency room staff who ordered and clarified my tests, who validated and calmed my fears, and who questioned and remedied my comfort.

I am grateful for the obstetrician whose casual greeting and explanation belied capable hands and intense focus (She was sipping an espresso while leaning against the door frame of my room, telling me how she would, “get in there, get me cleaned out, and put me back together, good as new.”). I hung onto her words. She was excellent. And correct, for I was safe in her care. 

I am grateful for our Holy Faith full of mystery, consolation, suffering, redemption, and love. 

I am grateful that this tiny one’s perfect soul is with our Lord and I have peace in the knowledge that he or she knows me.

And while I am grateful for all these things, I still want my baby. 

Oh, Advent, lead me closer to the Infant Christ and his Blessed Mother.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (I Corinthians 13:12-12).”

jesus-1

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Ink Slingers Martina Spiritual Growth Testimonials

Reconciling the Home Front with Redemptive Suffering

Reconciling the Home Front with Redemptive Suffering

Years ago, I got this twisted idea in my head that being home (with the kids) was akin to not being a contributing member of society. Hard to know where I would have picked that up, right? I grew up the eldest in a two-parent double income household, and while there was really no pressure spoken of in the home to do the same, the example made a definite impression on me. 

So, when faced with the financial numbers of my teacher’s income at the end of one school year {with one kiddo in first grade and the other in the toddler room at the school where I taught} I noticed that after gas, tuition, lunches, and a few creature comforts such as oh, I dunno, appropriate clothing for my teaching gig, the money and time just wasn’t there. The tradeoff, the expense was too high. While the timing would never be perfect {had we planned long enough, set enough aside, etc.?}, it was a plunge we had to take. 

And still, that nagging feeling of you’re not contributing to society kept ringing in my ear like a nasty little bug. 

You have a college degree.

You should be using it.

You wasted all that money on a degree you aren’t using.

I would shoo that bug away, trying to fill it with pursuits I thought noble enough to pursue while staying at home, putting myself into a class {or so I thought} that helped quell that feeling of not contributing. 

I would begin my own wedding photography business in Northern Virginia – just outside of DC – but my heart wasn’t in it. I’ve always loved photography – I got my first Pentax K1000 when I was just 15 – but starting the business made me soon realize that I loved it for the art and not the work side of things. 

Back to the drawing board.

Back to being just a stay-at-home-mom. 

Just.

A.

Stay-at-home-mom. 

Society had really gotten to me. That cursed message told me I was worthless if I was at home. So, I continued to search for things that would fill me in a way that I could stay at home and still be able to provide on some meager level. 

Then, one day I started to pray that God would silence that nagging feeling of being at home. I had tried various things with no real success or – worse – fulfillment, so I turned to God. My prayer was simple – I don’t like being at home, help me be at peace with it. I didn’t even ask Him to help me like it. I just wanted to be at peace with it. To settle that feeling of not contributing. 

And my word, did God provide a whole new sense of clarity about things! It took many years of this simple prayer to pull the scales back from my eyes. 

I realized it was my perspective that was leading to my own demise. I didn’t really think I wasn’t contributing to society. My society was represented within the walls of my own home. 

BRILLIANCE! 

Why didn’t I think of this before? From this epiphany, emerged a sense of confidence in the role that God had shown me. I was always a child of God, beloved in His eyes, first, and then wife and mother after, but it was my lack of understanding of the last two that led to being trapped in my own flawed thinking. 

Of course being at home has value – take THAT stupid society and your stupid impossible standards! 

Now came the hard work. Parenting kids all day long is hard, and exhausting, and mentally draining. At the end of the day, all I wanted to do was pour a stiff drink or eat a pound of chocolate…so, my prayer shifted. I went from needing peace to having peace to…desiring to like where I was. There’s a difference between existing in your vocation and thriving. I wanted to thrive. My family needed me to thrive. What I needed was spiritual Miracle Gro!  

Reconciling the Home Front with Redemptive Suffering

And so began a second phase of prayer and discernment:

Why was I home, truly?

What was the goal?

What were my own personal goals?

Was I meeting them?

If this were a traditional work out of the home job, how would I be evaluated – honestly?

Was I giving my work 100%?

If my husband is my companion in my vocation, how was his input and support affecting my work?

This second phase would involve a difficult look inward – until I heard Noe Rocha, our parish Adult Faith Formation director share in one of his talks during our Jesus Is Lord program:

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.

I CORINTHIANS 10:31

Reconciling the Home Front with Redemptive Suffering

I realized that if I were to find any peace, any sense of calm in my heart, I was going to have to shrug off whatever had been weighing me down – my own personal stumblings. 

So, I set to work on just changing my own attitude. Chores around the house, once the bane of my existence, I now looked at as opportunities to glorify God. I’m going to bloom where I’m planted, I decided. My husband and I were gifted this beautiful crucifix years ago that hangs over our fireplace. I knew that even though I wasn’t wild about chores – especially the kitchen which I found to be the absolute least gratifying room to clean – I could find solace in uniting my small suffering to Christ on the Cross. Not as a way to hush myself up, but to give my daily work meaning in a way that I hadn’t done before. Redemptive suffering gave me an opportunity to see my own suffering in a new light, almost like food that shouldn’t be wasted. 

Don’t waste suffering! Someone else can use that, Miss!

While the struggle is always going to be real, it’s become much easier to deal with the daily doings when they have a purpose that is bigger than myself. 

How have you embraced your vocation?

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When Life Gets Old

elderly3Isabel, ninety years old, bed-ridden, unintelligible, unable to communicate, afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. This is my grandmother—now. To see her now arouses pity, but to have seen her THEN… Oh what a woman she was.

She wasn’t the spunky, sassy kind of lady that was strong and daring. No, she was different and strong in her own way. She was not worldly or proud; she was, however, kind and generous with what she had and with what she was able to give, and that was all of herself.

She loved to feed people. Walking into her house afterschool, watching her make tortillas, peeking into her refrigerator. “What can I get you? What do you want to eat?” My grandfather’s lunch on the kitchen table—a sandwich wrapped in foil, a pickle spear, a side of beans and chile. She prepared for me a homemade hamburger on sandwich bread; my mom came early to pick me up, “But she hasn’t eaten yet.” She wrapped it in foil. “Here, take it with you, Mihijita.”

She grew up poor and hungry. She knew how important it was to be fed. I walked into her house when the disease had started to set in. She said she had gotten so busy that day—laundry, cleaning, cooking. Then she felt “that feeling”. “What feeling was that, Grandma?” “You know, that feeling I felt when I was a little girl… I got so busy, I forgot to eat.” Her memory of childhood was hunger. She knew how important it was to be fed. She is on a feeding tube—now. She can’t eat; she forgot how to swallow.

She loved to care for people. She would rub my sore shoulders and legs. Give me atole when I had a tummy ache. “Grandma, the baby kicked a cactus and there are needles in his little toes. What do I do?” She’s the first person I called. She would have been a great nurse. Ironically, she needs full time nursing for herself—now.

“Grandma, help me hem this bridesmaid’s dress.” “Grandma, those new blouses with the lace on top are so pretty, but expensive.” “Ooh– I can make you one, Mihijita.” And she did. She made me clothes and helped me fix the ones I had. Now we bathe and dress her.

I remember her devotion to God; she prayed the Rosary, went to Mass with the little piece of lace pinned to her hair. She always said, “God bless you” or “God be with you.” I admired her devotion. She can’t really receive the Eucharist now– only a morsel to dissolve on her tongue.

Isabel, ninety years old, bed-ridden, unintelligible, unable to communicate, afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. This is my grandmother—now. Her life seems so inane, so futile, so desperate now.

gma1But I cannot define her by this latter portion of her life, five years out of ninety. Her life is defined by it all: the care of a wife, mother, grandmother, friend. She prayed for me and my entire family daily. I know in my heart she still prays, even if she doesn’t know. She suffers; she suffered. This suffering has purpose and brings her closer to God. She looks at each one of us with a look of love, even if she doesn’t know who we are. So, I will stroke her hair, wash her, bathe her, dress her to show her I believe she is still alive in there– all the while I pray for God to take her to His kingdom, in His own time. She deserves it.