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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle Schroeder Prayer

The Best Gift from Jesus

Jesus, gift, peace, Ascension, featured photo

I’ve read the words in the Gospels and I’ve heard the line proclaimed in Mass a million times, yet I’ve largely blown by it. But recently, my brain zoomed in on this sentence as I read the recounting of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus in Luke. “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36) 

Before reading the bible one recent evening, I spent a few minutes praying for people I know. Like so many of us, I have a lot of people in my life who are going through a variety of trials, from health to family conflict to personal struggles. I prayed for their healing, that God would fix what was broken in them. Then as I read Luke, I suddenly found Jesus’ choice of words so interesting. He was about to leave them to ascend to His Father and they were facing some very big trials and he gave them peace. Jesus didn’t give them happiness or an assurance of an easy road ahead.  He gave them peace, but what is that exactly?

Peace springs forth from faith. It is a calmness in the midst of a storm that reassures us that we are not alone and that God has everything in hand. Peace is not a guarantee that everything will work out as we want it to, but it is a promise that God’s plan will be fulfilled through us if we believe. It takes faith to accept that whatever happens to us here will ultimately, be the best possible result for our eternity. It may be difficult now, it may be painful now, but it will be for good. That knowledge, that awareness brings peace.

Peace is also something that we can’t achieve on our own.  It truly is a gift given to us when we place our trust in the Lord. It’s something that we have to pray that we can accept because, let’s face it, total trust may not be so easy to have in every situation. Surely, even when we are aware of this gift Jesus offers us, we may still face periods of fear, despair or panic.  We may have our “moments” of doubt and anxiety. The disciples certainly did. They initially freaked out in several situations! But when we consistently accept Christ’s offer of peace, we get to that place quicker. We may still have our first moment of panic but then we quickly remember Him. We are in His care; we are under His protection. Faith, that beautiful gift our Lord gives us, is the cornerstone of this peace. Accepting His gift of peace takes prayer and practice. The more we accept it, the more He gives us and the faster we move from anxiety to His peace.

As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that the best prayer that I can offer for anyone in any situation is that the peace of the Lord be upon them. There is simply no other remedy that will provide true, lasting relief! This understanding is changing the way I’m praying for others and for myself. We all need to accept the gift of peace from Jesus. It will help us ride out all of life’s crazy ups and downs with security and steadiness. We can then pass that gift to others who are navigating difficult paths and in doing so, spread His love and most importantly, His peace in our communities.

 

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Ink Slingers Overcome: Keeping Faith with a Disability Sarah Series

Spiritual Lessons my Caregivers Taught Me

Spiritual lessons my caregivers teach me The song, Glycerine by Bush was one of my favorite songs growing up. The lyric, “I’m never alone, I’m alone all the time,” described my life at times. As a disabled person, I grew up with a large variety of people coming in and out of my life. These people would help with daily living skills. They would be known as my caregivers. I am grateful for everyone, who has ever worked for me. They taught me spiritual lessons: how to trust, how to listen, and how to evangelize. They helped me become a more merciful Christian.

About My Care

I was born with Cerebral Palsy. I suffered from a brain injury. This injury affects the way my muscles in my body move. I do not walk and use a motorized wheelchair to get around. When I was twelve, my parents applied for help with the Department of Medical Assistant Services (DMAS). This allowed us to hire caregivers. In the DMAS system, there are to different types of care. Agency directed care describes a situation in which a company provides caregivers. Consumer-directed describes when the patient employs caregivers. I experienced both in college. I am more fond of consumer-directed care. Yet agency-directed care allowed me to meet people from all walks of life.

Trust

When relying on others for help, you learn a lot about trust. I cannot get into bed or go to the bathroom by myself. Thus when people do not show it is an exercise in trust. God has been faithful and always made a way for me. One example happened when I was studying at the University of Virginia. I had gone out with some friends to see a play. I had told the agency caregiver that I had expected to be back around 9 pm. My phone was on silent out of respect for the performance. Turns out that it was closer to 10 pm. I didn’t think much about it because her shift didn’t end until 1am. When I returned to my place and knocked on the door, nobody answered. After much struggle, I was able to get the door open myself. I walked in to find nobody there. Luckily for me, a local student, who happened to be one of my caregivers, was available at 11 pm to put me to bed.

Listening

Until coming to know the Lord, I struggled with this quite a bit. I had zero patience for small talk and typically only cared about my needs. I thought that my caregivers were there to cater to me. After having an encounter with Christ, I started valuing people. Even my mom noticed. When I struck up a conversation with a hospital nurse, my mom remarked, “you’re a lot nicer now.” I try to make time to talk with my caregivers and ask how they’re doing. I still am not perfect. I have a hard time forgiving mistakes especially when they affect me. I get easily frustrated when a caregiver burns dinner or is late. I am striving in those moments to call upon the Holy Spirit and show mercy.

Forgiveness

I, unfortunately, have been wronged by caregivers in the past. I have been emotionally manipulated and stolen from. The wrongful actions down by people I trusted made me angry. It makes it harder for me to have compassion. It also teaches me the importance of forgiveness. As a Christian, I’m called to forgive. I am not called to forget. I forgive them so that my anger does not make me cynical and bitter. Forgiveness enables me to let go and focus on the good people I have in my life.

Evangelizing

One of the greatest ministries I have involves interacting with my caregivers. Some of my caregivers come from broken homes. Some are not religious. A lot of my caregivers are evangelical. Thus they have misconceptions about the Catholic Church. When they interact with me, I try to show them what a faithful Catholic looks like. I am able to dialogue with them about God, Jesus, and religion. One of the best interactions was with a lesbian caregiver. I didn’t preach to her or tell her she was wrong but tried to love her (even though I was clear that I stood with the church). When her brother got into a car crash, I gave her gas cards so that she could see him in the hospital. By my witness, she was considering church again. People need love and I have the unique position to show that to them.

Conclusion

My disability provides ways to grow in holiness. In the grand scheme of things, growing in holiness is more important than getting out of bed by myself. I do believe this is what Jesus meant when he said, whoever loses his life will save it.
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Ink Slingers Mandi

Lead Me: Letting Go and Letting God

Lead Me Letting Go and Letting God

Imagine, your eyesight is temporarily impaired, and you are totally reliant on another to guide you.  A friend comes along to comfort you and asks to walk with you. Reluctantly, depending upon the intimacy of your relationship, you allow yourself to be led. As the two of you journey along, your friend alerts you of bumps in the road ahead, assists you safely crossing streets, stepping down curbs and climbing upstairs.  At times though, you pull away confident your way is the way. This causes you to trip or even stumble. Gently your friend pulls you back or sets you right, as you realize having someone to walk with is good. Eventually you become adept at listening for cues, even sensing the direction you are being guided next. And, after a time your bond has grown, your anxiety has lessened, and you find you are at peace.

Saint Teresa of Avila’s definition of prayer: “Prayer is nothing else than an intimate friendship, a frequent heart-to-heart with Him by whom we know ourselves to be loved.”  Daily prayer is necessary in order for us to mature in faith, growing closer to God. This is a discipline of the will and a devotion of the heart and mind. It is thanksgiving and petition in daily communion with God. I liken it to the everyday interaction I have with my closest friend.  When we do not habitually communicate with one another our friendship changes, our intimacy dwindles. We intentionally make time to connect in order to maintain the closeness of our relationship. Sometimes this is as simple as a text message exchange until we can catch up with one another in deeper conversation.  This connectivity is what allows us to freely spill our hearts out to one another. Prayer is like that too.  We need – no, we must carve out quiet time each day inviting God into our lives, building a friendship. 

God thirsts (John 19:28) for us. He is the first initiator of prayer. This is worth spending a lifetime meditating on.  God thirsts for us.  He initiates the conversation with us because He loves us and longs for us to fall as deeply in love with Him as He is with us.   It is so amazing!  Our God, Creator of all is pursuing a uniquely intimate relationship with each one of us.  Are we willing and intent on showing up and sharing ourselves with Him?  When we make time to offer God our hearts and minds in prayer each day, we acknowledge in faith our desire to be in relationship with Him too. Consider what may be preventing you from a deeper prayer life? And, then begin by asking God to help you come to Him freely. Maybe you have heard that saying, “A friend is someone who knows everything about you and likes you anyway”. God knows. There is nothing about us that is hidden from Him and yet He loves us infinitely more than we comprehend.  To mature in faith, we should be honest and genuine with ourselves and God in prayer. We don’t need to dress it up or make it pretty.  It is our weaknesses, our fears and our failures He wants us to bring to Him, along with our gratitude and thanksgiving.  God is the Father that longs for us to stop and talk with Him about the things that fill us up and those that break our hearts. Cast all your worries upon Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7). 

Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. 

Prayer is a battle. 

 Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter 

who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. 

(Catechism of the Catholic Church 2725)

Time spent in the company of friends is joyful, light work. Mostly that is true, however, there are periods when it is laborious and can feel like a chore.  In any relationship that matters, we experience seasons that require patience and endurance while working through difficulties.  This happens in our prayer life, especially when we allow our feelings to dictate the depth or quality of our conversations with God.  Our emotions are unreliable.  There will be stages when our prayer life seems insufficient and lifeless.  Yet, we must fight back discouragement and maintain faithfulness especially when we feel the absence of God’s response to our petitions.  Show up, allow God to do the work. He is patiently and unceasingly drawing us into a deeper friendship and spiritual life.

Love to pray.

If you want to pray better, you must pray more.

Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of himself.

St. Theresa of Calcutta

We need friends to walk with us in this everyday life.  Good, gracious friends teach us much about the bond of love. We do not know what any given day will bring us. Blessings or burdens, each a different gift from God. He is working through people and situations in our life to turn our hearts and minds to Him. Be still and know that I am God. Be not hesitant or lukewarm in opening your heart to our Father.  Be steadfast and confident God hears you. (1 John 5:14)  We are called to do God’s will as Jesus did. Love God with our whole heart and mind and love our neighbors as ourselves is what Jesus told us.  But this mission is impossible without leaning on the power and grace of God. We need Him to guide us in the way we ought to go. We cannot do this without the intimate exchange of heart-to-heart with Him. Our Father is waiting with arms wide open to embrace us. He yearns to fill us up with his goodness, joy, peace, kindness, mercy and love so that we may share our abundance with all those we encounter.  We can choose to give our whole heart or just a little; that is the battle. He thirsts for you. Be still, pray and be led. 

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Ink Slingers

Even If

“When did I become such a worrier?” I asked my friend as we lamented various circumstances in our lives that were monopolizing our hearts and minds. She shrugged. At one time, in my circle, I was known as the calm, measured one— the one who took challenges as they came and didn’t look back with regret; or forward with worry. “She takes things in stride,” one of my supervisors stated in my employee evaluation when I was fresh out of college and ablaze with enthusiasm for my new career. Nothing seemed to bog me down.

Maybe the worrying habit started when we became parents, my friend and I surmised. Because if you ever had the notion that you had control over your life, that notion goes out the window after you have kids (can I get an Amen?).  Or maybe worry took root when I became a homeowner with a mortgage and unending bills to tackle. Or maybe worry became part of my DNA after my dad died suddenly, or when I had a miscarriage, or when the C-word began lurking in my husband’s medical charts— all times when I found myself on shaky ground that was once solid. I get it. If you have enough of those experiences, you can tend to worry about what’s around the corner. It’s the fear of “what if.”

But this I also know: When I let worry slither in under the door, (or, rather, when I march right up to the door and usher it in with great fanfare), I am turning my back on what the Lord has promised me. And you.

Our loving Lord promises that he will be there, in our tomorrow, just as he is here in our today. In fact, He’s already there! Think about that. He won’t abandon us. He is constant, everlasting, eternal. He is our Rock, our Fortress and our Stronghold! He crushes the “what ifs” with his love and peace and grace.

That means our worry is useless. It is unproductive and unnecessary. It is, dare I say it, worldly.

But, call me human, I still do it. So I need to remind myself (and perhaps you need to remind yourself too?) that even if bad things happen (and they will), Jesus will be there to help us through it. The Holy Spirit will guide us.  Something good will come of it. God will still be on His throne. Even if. Even if real and legitimate concerns arise. Even if a heartbreaking diagnosis is given. Even if a loved one is taken from us in an instant.

Even if.

When I pray during my morning prayer journaling time, I can ask for Jesus to shut down those pesky “what ifs” and instead give me the strength of “even if.” And you know what? That phrase is so much more helpful to have bouncing around in my brain. It establishes a kernel of courage deep within me. It lights a flicker of a flame. It compels me to turn to God and be not afraid. Because, even if, I will have Him. And that is all I need.

“Pray, hope and don’t worry,” said Saint Padre Pio. That’s our command, Sistas.

Even if.

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Alison W Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting Single Parents Vocations

Trust Jesus to Lead You to the Fireworks

One year on vacation at the beach, my family took off for the evening to spend some time on the boardwalk. It was a special evening since there was a public fireworks display scheduled. It was crazy busy (of course) and we left the house later than we should have. There were people everywhere and we ended up driving around forever trying to find a parking spot. We took some side streets, then circled a gas station. We searched and searched for a decent place to park. We could have parked a few miles away, but the road was busy and I had to consider carting the kids through traffic.

We started to bicker, because frustration doesn’t look good on anyone. Tensions were building and kids were complaining. Finally, we decided to just go back to the beach house. We found a place to turn around and started heading back.

As we passed the boardwalk, I saw two boys in orange vests parking people! We managed to whip into their little parking lot and found cheap, perfect parking. It was a win for everyone, even if we were still a little irritated with each other.

We parked and made our way to the boardwalk. There were so many food choices we started bickering again. (I think that is the most common fight in my house: “Where are we going to eat?”) That old argument felt even more frustrating after the long parking trial.

If you have a family, I assume this sounds a little familiar.

We finally decide on a restaurant, but found out it had a 45-minute wait. At this point, I was pretty certain we would miss the fireworks, but we were all so hungry and hunger wasn’t helping attitudes.

After a long and irritating wait, the hostess finally took us upstairs to our table–and it was facing out to the ocean. A few minutes later, fireworks start going off literally right outside the restaurant.

We ended up having the perfect seats at the perfect time. The fireworks were beautiful and my heart just filled with joy. Had we left on time, had we not driven around for so long, had we not waited for dinner for almost an hour, we would not have experienced that perfect location or perfect timing. 

I think life can be like this. Sometimes when we are going through hard things, when we can’t see where the road is going, we start to get frustrated. We can feel like Jesus has abandoned us.

But God always sees the end–He always know the fireworks are coming. He has a plan, even when we don’t understand it. It’s up to us to trust that He will use everything, the good and the bad, to move us in the direction we need to go.

I’ve been a single mom for more than ten years now. Some years were hard and draining. They were financially tight. They were tiring and frustrating, not to mention lonely and scary. In those hard moments, I learned to trust Jesus. More than that, I begged Him to be active in my life. My attitude and direction changed when I really started to trust Him.

If you’re struggling, trust Jesus. Trust Him. He loves you more than you love yourself. Ask Him to be active in your life. May God bless your road and may it lead to fireworks!