Categories
Alison W Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting Single Parents Vocations

God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle

I hate the cliché “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I’ve spent a decade as a single mom and I’ll assure you this isn’t true. God has given me, or at least allowed, more than I could handle. Some days were soul crushingly more than I could handle.

I know the sentiment is to reassure people, but I’ll be honest and say it didn’t reassure me. And I won’t boldly say God gave me all of my problems, I know that I created most of them on my own. So this isn’t a blame game, but more of a reality-check.

The problem with the quote is the YOU, more specifically, “YOU can handle.”  

We aren’t expected to handle everything alone. Jesus said his grace is sufficient, so we could know we need his grace. We also need the people around us, and that is really painful for those of us that have been abandoned on some level.

I struggle with the sin of pride and if we start talking honestly, I‘d say many of us do. The pride of thinking we can handle everything on our own, so much that we don’t even want anyone to help. You see I’ve gotten quite good at providing by myself and I’ve gotten quite good at shutting people out. Part of that comes from a place of necessity and part of that comes from a place of pain.

I think this is a huge problem in society. Look at the high levels of people on medication for anxiety and depression. Look at the suicides and broken homes. Look at the fall out of us thinking we could do things all on our own. The pressure is so high and people are cracking under it.

Jesus cried in anguish when the apostles fell asleep. The living God needed people to be there for him.

St. Teresa of Calcutta so boldly set off on her own at the prompting of God. But it wasn’t to be alone. The sick and suffering were what sanctified her soul and led her to sainthood.

We need each other, both to help and to be helpers.

I’d like to re-write the quote to say, “God will provide the grace, strength and help that you need.” He will and he has for me repeatedly. I’ve always known I wasn’t alone in raising my children alone because Jesus was helping me every day. I know without his grace I would have never endured the hardship of so many trials. I know without the people in my circle, I couldn’t have covered all those shifts, practices, dinners, payments, appointments, court dates, homework, etc. We were created to love each other and help each other.

God will absolutely give us more than we can handle. That’s not to say he will leave us abandoned, but it is to say we will have days or seasons that are too much. We aren’t called to walk this life alone.

We were created to be the body of Christ and to help each other and to lean into God’s grace. We have to help build the body of Christ to come together with all of our strength and struggle. We weren’t meant to be self-sufficient, we were meant to need help, both Heavenly and earthly. By God’s design, He will give you more than you can handle, but He will provide the grace, strength and help that you need. May God bless you!

Categories
Ink Slingers Mary Beth

Love, Despite

Love, Despite

I am a word nerd. Always have been. Growing up, I knew how to read before I started school. I wrote funny poems about and for my second-grade friends. And I often stayed in at recess just so I could get a jump on my new spelling words. When I first discovered the existence of a thesaurus, my nerdy word world was rocked! My Creator made me this way, so I choose to run with it. And because he made me this way I have learned that whenever he wants my attention, he likes to send a word for me to ponder. The ponder word can bubble up during my prayer journaling time, while I’m reading a book, while I’m saying the rosary or even while I’m spacing out in the car or the shower. I know the word when I see it and hear it because it usually compels me to pause. The word crackles my brain circuits for the tiniest moment and makes my heart sit up and take notice. I love this special way God and I have of communicating. It always draws me nearer to him. It teaches me something that’s relevant to the particular season of spiritual growth I happen to be in.

despite stands out

The most recent word that has been surfacing on a regular basis in my life is despite. Initially, I thought it was a negative word that implied a struggle, a difficulty, a challenge to overcome. But after stewing on it and wondering how God wants me to apply it in my life, I found it to be a positive, faith-filled word. A turning-point, change-of-perspective word. A word that I need to integrate into my daily life to keep me motivated and help me to become a stronger disciple of Jesus.

One example? Jesus commands us to Love One Another. That wouldn’t be so difficult if we weren’t humans, am I right? As EWTN’s Mother Angelica once said, “If it wasn’t for people, we could all be holy!” We humans have faults and quirks and annoying personality traits that make us tough to love. Ask my husband, who has to bite his tongue every time I bring home another lost cat or dog, forget to put gas in the vehicle or launch into one of my infamous pouting jags after a disagreement. I know I can be tough to love! But that’s where the word despite comes in. We have to love, despite. Jesus did not say to us, “Don’t worry—you only need to love those who are easy to love.” He said to love one another (everyone–even our enemies!) and that means to love one another despite. Despite the character flaws, despite the behaviors, despite the anger or frustration we may feel. By adding the word “despite” to the command, I can acknowledge that it’s not going to be a cake walk to do this loving thing, but I need to do it anyway.

There’s also Follow Me, despite. Again, Jesus does not promise an easy path by obeying this command. There’s a cross we need to take up with this one, after all. But for me, hearing that word in my ears reminds me that when the going gets tough, I need to keep going! Whether the road is uphill, or rocky or fogged in on all sides so I have no clue where it is leading. I need to Follow Him, despite the obstacles.

And then there’s Be Not Afraid, despite. Despite the fact that the financial strain is overwhelming or a child’s situation is desperate or the diagnosis is terminal. This is a tall order, Sistas. It’s fraught with doubt, discouragement, and fear. But if and when we can Be Not Afraid despite the circumstances of our situation, we learn to trust Jesus more. And when we trust Jesus more, we can Be Not Afraid even more, despite. See how that works?

And here’s more great news: our Good Shepherd also freely gives us patience, persistence, hope, joy, grace, mercy, strength and peace, despite. Despite the fact that we are ungrateful, grumbling, complaining little sheep; despite the fact that we don’t deserve it and can’t earn it. And despite the fact that we are sinners. He loves us with an all-encompassing, never-ending love, despite everything we do to push him away or ignore him or offend him! He pours out gifts to us, in abundance, despite.

Cool, huh? It’s a perfectly formed Divine strategy. So go forth today, sweet Sista, and know you can love and be loved. Have peace in your heart and be not afraid, despite!

Categories
Anni Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year

“Peter Moments” and Lent

Taking two different bloggers’ ideas on how they encourage their children and teach the Catholic Faith and traditions, I have been waiting until my oldest was at an age where he would be ready to actively participate in Lenten activities – and, perhaps slowly grow closer to God during Lent. This year, I decided he was ready to try out the simple activities planned.

On Fat Tuesday, I conducted a last-minute shopping trip to purchase supplies for this project. Our items consisted of a spring-form pan (not for our project), some toothpicks, and some play dough. As we checked out, the cashier casually asked what we were making.

I thought about my answer carefully. The several seconds’ worth of hesitation seemed awkward, uncomfortable, and as though time had slowed. I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to answer her innocent question. While she and I stared at each other, in my head I was hearing a voice tell me,

Don’t tell her. You’re already the crazy Catholic lady. You answer, you’ll continue to be that crazy Catholic mom – you know, the stuff jokes are made of. You’ll be that fanatical Catholic lady – more than you already are. It won’t be just family that laughs at you – it’ll be everyone else around you, too. You don’t owe her any explanation. So, don’t say anything.

I wanted to crawl into a hole and pretend I didn’t hear her, as painfully obvious as it was that I had heard the question. She politely held my gaze, waiting for a response, as things began to really get weird. So, I feebly muttered, “We’re making a crown of thorns.” She raised her eyebrows as she repeated what I had just said, and then I knew I had to explain the project in its entirety. So, I launched into a brief moment of how Lent was beginning the next day and gave her a rundown of our project.

As my children and I walked away, I breathed a sigh of relief and thanked God for the strength He gave me at that moment to seize the opportunity to share my Faith. Yet, I was, and still am, troubled by the inner struggle and critic’s voice, which had tried so hard to silence me by using doubt.

The longer I spent processing the entire scenario, the more I realized I had just experienced a “Peter moment.” A moment in which I was called to identify Christ in my life, or it was a moment in which I could have easily denied Christ. I will be honest – a huge part of me wanted to take an easier road and just chalk the contents of the conveyor belt up to some innocuous art project. Yet, as I contemplated that option, I also felt a tug on my heart to use that moment – with my two young children watching, and facing the young cashier and her equally young bagger – to defend my Faith.

We all have our own, individual “Peter moments.” They are small moments, every day, where we are called to actively be witnesses to Christ. Sometimes, we stay faithfully by Christ’s side, like the apostle John. Other times, we succumb to our internal voice in the manner of the first pope of the Catholic Church. Sometimes we deny Christ once – other times, we deny Christ more than three times in a single day.

"Peter Moments" and Lent

 

When Christ faced Pilate, He was given an opportunity to deny His own role in history. He was led to the waters where it would have been so easy for Him to say He was not a king. And yet, in John 18:36, Jesus boldly answered His kingdom was not of this world. Jesus did not deny Himself, simply to save Himself. Instead, He embraced His destiny, in order to save humanity.

Throughout the remainder of Lent, as we approach Holy Week, and specifically Good Friday, perhaps it would behoove us to focus on Peter’s thrice-denial of Christ. More specifically, perhaps we should focus on how our actions, thoughts, and words during our daily interactions with others are similar to Peter’s verbal denial of Christ.

Do we have a tendency to deny Christ because of our pride? Or, is there shame underlying the denial – and, to that extent, of what are we ashamed? Do we deny Christ out of fear of something or someone? Or, do we deny Him because we feel the pull of peer pressure – that it simply isn’t “cool enough” to embrace Christ as His follower?

What motivates us to deny Christ in our lives?

During Lent, many Catholics pray a Way of the Cross, reflecting on Jesus’ Passion. At the first Station, in which Jesus is Condemned to Death, we are given the opportunity to reflect on the times and ways our actions today condemn Jesus all over again. It is also the perfect Station to ask God for strength – to increase the times in which we stand passionately and purposefully in defense of Christ our Lord. The first Station is the perfect moment we have to ask God for assistance in standing firm in our beliefs – not just in who Christ was, but more importantly, who Christ is in our lives on a daily basis.

As Catholics, we profess belief that Christ died, but also that He rose from the dead. We believe He ascended into Heaven, fully alive, where He waits the time of His second coming.

We believe Christ lives on – not just in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Eucharist. But, we also believe He lives on in each of us. In light of this belief, we also acknowledge every single one of us is called to greatness in our lives.

As we count down to the days of Holy Week, perhaps we should take some time to ask ourselves how we can best reflect Christ’s role in our lives and to those around us.

Will others know we are Christian by our actions?

Our Thoughts, words, or by our love?

"Peter Moments" and Lent

 

May our individual faith journey see all of us learn from our “Peter moments.” And, may we join John and Mary at the foot of the Cross this Holy Week. Let us stand firm in our belief in the One who gave His life – to save the world from its sins.

Categories
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.

Categories
Current Events Marriage Mindy

With the Pope…but Weirdly.

pope1Two years ago, when I first heard about the possibility of the Pope visiting America, I took for granted that we would be there. Of course we would be there! It’s Philadelphia! From Alaska, it’s not the easiest journey, but certainly easier than travelling domestically, and what an excitement to see the Holy Father on our own land. I’m actually thinking that, when I first heard about this possibility, Pope Benedict XVI was still our Holy Father. Bear with my fuzzy brain.

Yet here we are, and I’ve barely managed to watch any coverage at all. What kind of Catholic am I these days? My parents, who are not of the faith, excitedly shared their joy with me about the coverage they watched of the Pope landing. One of my daughters, who watched the coverage at her school, casually mentioned, “Does President Obama have two daughters? Because they got to see the Pope today, and I didn’t.”

I played with the same reaction–it’s hard not to have a wee bit of envy, imagining an environment in which our Holy Mother Church and her earthly leader at the helm is actually celebrated at large for a change. But once the time came to make plans to go, I didn’t even ponder the possibility. 

Two years ago, our youngest daughter was 5. Traveling for pleasure, exploration, and discovery was becoming, again, a possibility in our minds, while we also wondered whether we’d ever be blessed with more children. Fast forward two years, and our family size has grown from 6 to 11 due to the custody of one child being restored, the adoption of one precious guy who just turned 3 years old this week (CHEERING!!!), the birth of a beautiful little girl, and the long-term fostering of two children who may- or-may-not-be-staying-permanently-who-knows. Thank you, God. We’re overwhelmed with your charitable answer to our question!

I submitted my FAFSA the other day for grad school and got the following error:

Fafsa

So, my enthusiasm for jumping on an airplane to get to Philadelphia with my family this year shrank to basically zero. It turns out, there is a limit to my willingness to suffer for the faith.

However, this week has been brimming with (coffee and) solidarity as I cherish my family members, and especially, my husband. He and I have been utterly devoid of opportunities for conversation lately, let alone times of rejuvenation and relaxed connection. I have been really consciously trying this week, more than most weeks, to keep a positive attitude and demeanor. It is a choice, and what a calming influence it has on the whole family, and especially, him. I pray for the grace to continue this, because I like having lots of happiness in my family. It’s good for everyone.

I find great strength in knowing the Vicar of Christ on earth is walking on American soil this week and praying for me and my family personally, and all of you. We are truly blessed! If you are not among the fortunate souls in attendance this week, may God grant you the time and space to watch the footage of Pope Francis and to receive the peace of Christ ever available in our Holy Mother the Church.