Categories
Anni Faith Formation Ink Slingers Prayer Spiritual Growth

Anxiety, Change, and a Whole Lot of Trust

Not too long ago, I was surveying the to-do list of what seems a million things as my family adjusts to our newborn, my postpartum medical issues, and we prepare to move in the next month. The more I considered everything, the more I began realizing my breath shortening, my pulse getting quicker, and my palms starting to sweat. For those with anxiety, you will certainly appreciate those signs of an upcoming panic attack. And, I was quickly able to take steps to ward off that particular panic attack.

One of my favorite prayer times is when I am elbow deep in dishwater. At those moments, I am able to fully focus on speaking with God, and often find myself staring out of the window perched above our sink, either laying my heart on the counter for Him, or listening to His whispers in my heart. The day I just previously described was one of those days – and, recognizing those symptoms – and taking the concerns to prayer – was one of the ways in which I felt my anxiety lessen.

As I stood there at the sink, wiping my hands to dry, I heard the whisper on my heart, “Why question? Why worry? Has God not always provided, even in the midst of doubt?” And, I began thinking about the times in my life in which I felt as though the deck were stacked against my odds – and, the one thing which continues to be constant in my life.

God is always present, always available, and believe it or not, always trustworthy. 

We may not always see Him as trustworthy, and I know quite a few individuals who have left not just the Catholic Church, but faith altogether, because of their doubt in Him. Their doubt about His plans lead them to question His existence altogether. Their lack of trust seeps into their view of God, and taints their ability to recognize His plans and designs as they come about.

And yet, when I experience anxiety, I am doing what those I know have done – I am lacking trust. I lack trust in His word, His plans, and His ultimate goal.

When I consider that, I realize I am not alone. All of us go through a period in which we experience doubt, and we struggle to trust. Our society actually doesn’t make trusting God any easier. We are constantly surrounded by our own doubting Thomases in our lives, and we even experience our own moments of being like Thomas. However, our moments of doubt or lack of trust don’t ever seem to be openly discussed.

Heraclitus is credited with saying, “There is nothing permanent except change… The only constant in life is change.” For so many individuals, change can be daunting, and it can be scary. During times of change, trust can be elusive.

However, St. Augustine is quoted as saying, “Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to His love, and the future to His providence.” God had a divine plan – one which includes every single one of us. And, as St. Teresa of Avila is credited with saying, “May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.” As we undergo the constancy of change, we don’t have insight into God’s plan – for others, or for ourselves. And yet, frequently we fall prey to the whispers of the devil, telling us to doubt God’s plans. We succumb to the notion that we should know and be able to control the change we experience in our lives.

When we lack trust, we are trying to control the change, but we are also trying to convince ourselves that we know best. We are, in effect, telling God that He has no clue what He is doing. We tap into, and channel, Satan’s reported favorite sin … the deadly sin of pride. And, as St. Faustina reminds us, “A humble soul does not trust itself, but places all its confidence in God.”

Therefore, let us each take account of our lives, our approach to change, and our level of intimacy with God. Let us commit to the countercultural notion of placing our trust in something, or rather, Someone. He is not One who visible to us at this point, but He is visible to us through others. The One in whom we should place all our trust has our best intentions in His heart and knows exactly what He is doing. As Jesus told Thomas in John 20:29, “Blessed are those who have not seen and believed.”

When all else fails, Jesus Himself, through St. Faustina, gave us the perfect mantra and prayer to repeat over and over again. To allow us to fake it until we make it, if you will…

Jesus, I trust in You.

A simple, powerful, radical statement, which is guaranteed to change our lives, and the world around us.

I’d love to hear from you:

What has helped you during times in which you struggle to trust God’s plan?

How have you learned to trust His plan in all areas?

In which area do you struggle most to trust Him, and how do you address those struggles head on?

Categories
Alison W Faith Formation Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

God’s Little Miracles: What Great Grandma Called Them

We are approaching a special time of year in Southern Indiana: mushroom season. My great grandmother always called them God’s little miracles because the mushroom is such a mystery. They grow from under trees and they spring up out of the side of rocks. I’ve been mushroom hunting my whole life. From the time I was a very small child we have been tromping the woods to find fungus. This season is a reminder to me to keep my eyes on Jesus. I’ll explain why.

A couple years ago I was mushroom hunting. I was scouring the woods to find a grand mushroom. One caught my eye and I went running toward it. I kept my eyes glued on the mushroom as I jumped over logs and tore through a sticker bush. Anyone that has been mushroom hunting knows that you have to keep your eyes fixed on the mushroom. If you lose focus, you might never find it again. So I was very intent on keeping my eyes on that mushroom. I was also giddy as innocent childhood memories flooded back, plus the hunt is absolutely thrilling. I quickly darted around until I finally captured that mushroom. With pride I stood tall with my find basking in the glory of finding one of God’s little miracles.

My excitement quickly plummeted when I realized I was stuck. Stuck in the middle of trees and sticker bushes. As I began my crawl out of that mess, it was slow. I was scratched. My hair got tangled in a bush. It was very slow moving, but I did manage to find my way out of that mess. It was painful and with much effort, but I lived to tell the tale.

I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart. This was much like life. On the way in I had my eyes fixed on that mushroom and I ran right through some really big obstacles. However, on the way out I was focused on the thorns and foliage and I was almost defeated by them. The only difference was my focus. That one difference resulted in two totally different experiences.

So now I see that my focus needs to be on Jesus. It shouldn’t be on the obstacles. In this life we have so many. Jesus will never abandon us. He will always be a place of focus. So let us keep our eyes locked on Him and follow Him the way He intended. Not to take the obstacles away, just to help us get through them. We are so blessed to have this option. We are so blessed to be able to call on Jesus. We are so blessed to able to follow Him. There is such a difference in focusing on Jesus and focusing on the storms around us. Let us trust in Him.

Another thing my great grandma always said was to thank God every time you found a mushroom and to hope for another. “Thank you Lord, send us another one.”

Cheers to another season of mushroom hunting!

Blessings to you!

Categories
Amy M. Ink Slingers

Life on Hold

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

Matthew 16:24-27

 Life on Hold
         

            Sometimes I feel like a life on hold.  Life is on hold while we run from activity to activity so quickly while planning how we can fit it all in.  We run on coffee and fumes and daydream (because sleep is fleeting and too short when it is achieved) of the day when we won’t be sleep-deprived.  We talk about how someday we’ll be able to help and make a difference.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I love watching my children play their sports or do their activities.  I cherish our daily walks.  At the end of the day, I fall asleep nursing the baby in the chair, too tired to carry on a conversation.  I feel guilty that I have little to give to anyone outside our immediate family.  I know this season of life will pass and all too soon at that.  It’s little consolation in the moment though.

            Yesterday was Eucharistic Adoration at church.  It was on my mind all day to go.  After I made sure the puppy was walked and the children were picked up at school and… Well as things turned out, I didn’t make it.  “Life” happened.  Instead, Adoration should have been at the top of my list.  Stop in at drop off, not after pick up.  Then the unexpected call or the nap at just the time I could have gone wouldn’t have derailed my plans.  

            I know God is there in the waiting.  He is with me as I speed through each day.  It’s me viewing these interruptions and activities as obstacles to prayer life instead of God’s plan for my life right now.  It’s me not living with the joy He wants me to have.  

            My life isn’t the moments around the activities or the games.  My life IS the activities and the games, the laundry and housecleaning, the homework and refereeing the sibling conversations, the carpooling.  These daily things need to be taken to God and done with Him and in Him and for Him, with joy, for the abundant blessings He has poured into our life.  

            One of my favorite songs right now is called, “Unfinished.”  I love listening to this song to start my day, as it reminds me that whatever mistakes I make, God only makes masterpieces, and as one of His creations I’m “just unfinished.”

            I may remain tired and sleep-deprived for years to come, but I need to redefine my goals and ambitions.  My thoughts should not be about how tired I am but about how I can offer my work and my day to God and live in His joy and Grace.  

            I may put hundreds of miles a day on my van while basically driving in circles.  However, if my joy is for the Lord, He will use me right here, right now.  It’s time to press the “play” button and live.

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

TRUST JESUS TO SHOW UP!

One of the scariest places in the world is in a courtroom opposing an ex-spouse. I have known few anxieties that could hold a candle to this type of fear.

God hates divorce; every divorcee knows this. But more than that God loves the divorcee, and that is where hope lies. It’s my theory that God is right about marriage but we are misguided in how we discern marriage. We tend to leave God out of the discernment instead of letting him guide us. My great grandmother was a rock star at discernment and I fear it’s something our generation has lost or even doesn’t know anything about.

One of my court adventures was also one of the most consoling days of my life. Not because everything went right in the trial, far from it, but because it was in this heralding moment that I felt the presence of Jesus by my side.

The purpose of this hearing was a general child support hearing. It was bad for me because my ex-husband quit his job and I knew my child support was about to tank. I had to work two jobs in recent years just to make ends meet, so I knew all too well how this could affect me.

Before court my mom asked me if I’d like her to accompany me. I politely told her I’d be fine and Jesus would go with me. She thought I was being facetious, but I was serious.  I hoped he would anyway.

So I went to court, rosary prayers said and rosary in my pocket. I found myself alone in the courtroom begging Jesus to be with me. My heart was peaceful, but my worry wasn’t gone.

In walked my ex-husband with his new wife and baby. There is a certain pain standing alone against someone that has moved on to a new family while I’m struggling so hard to maintain the first.

I focused all of my attention to ask Jesus to be with me. I prayed and I trusted.

Then Jesus showed up too; I know this because despite having every reason to want to climb the walls (the comments of the opposing table and the fear of what will become a financial burden for me) I was perfectly fine. My heart was peaceful.

The hearing went just like I expected: child support dropped to less than half and smugness from the opposite table. But I was okay, I knew we would be fine. Held up in faith, I walked out the door and down the stairs with my head held high. As I crossed the yard of the courthouse I could feel the bright sun and peace all over. I smelled clean laundry. That smell reminds me of mom’s house, my place of safety. This phantom aroma was a reminder from Jesus that He was with me.

I’ve done some time in the land of single parenting. I’ve cried and had breakdowns. I’ve feared and I’ve stood in faith. I’ve never regretted the days I stood in faith, and despite the fear and tears, I know the most painful days brought me a strength I didn’t know was possible.

Jesus didn’t promise we would not face hard times. He didn’t promise that the people around us would stand beside us or that we would be given a fair cut in worldly duties. He did promise to never abandon us, and He won’t. He comes into the dirt of our biggest fears and stands beside us. He brings mercy and hope that cannot be matched. All he asks is that we trust Him.

If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that life is very simple. Trust Jesus to show up and He will. If you know someone that is heading to court, let them know you’re praying for them and help them to trust Jesus to show up. Though we’re stubborn and probably won’t ask for it, we single parents need support.

Categories
Amy M. Ink Slingers

Struggling

Struggling            I have been struggling to write this post.  Starting and stopping over the course of a few weeks.  Many apologies to my editor!! I’m not sure what the block is.  Sunday morning I decided to go swim laps at our city pool.  My oldest son was serving a late mass, so I had time in the morning, and it’s free (always a big plus!!).

            I have always enjoyed swimming, from the feeling of weightlessness to the cool water as I cut through the water.  I am in no way a competitive swimmer though. Quietly swimming my laps alongside the other (mostly daily) swimmers and water-walkers helped to let my mind run free and not even to compose a to-do list or reflect too much while I swam.

            It’s been a summer of slower schedules but mixed with unexpected things, which is typical.  Praying, reflecting, asking for direction and healing mixed with grace and forgiveness – these have been my constants.  However, I haven’t been seeing or feeling any progress.  Why?

            Recently, I read that when we are putting others down or wishing we are better at something, we are actually questioning God’s plan for our lives; we are, in effect, saying that how God made us isn’t good enough.  God doesn’t make mistakes.  That I feel inadequate as a mom of teenagers (or adolescents or preschoolers or toddlers…) is a reflection on how I am looking at myself.  Trusting in God’s plan and purpose for my life needs to be my focus.  If I work from a place of hoping in God, trusting that He made me exactly like He wanted, joy is easier to come by, and I can find peace in my daily activities, even when they don’t go as planned.  

            However, when I try to do it on my own, I’m not letting Jesus lead, and I’m not taking His yoke upon myself.  He tells us that His burden is easy and His yoke is light.  That is because He is with us.  I don’t have the strength to do this life on my own.  I will be weary, worn out, and beaten down.  Taking Jesus’ yoke, letting Him lead me, gives me His strength.  Only then can I do His will and find peace.

           When I read a book, I am terrible about flipping to the end to see how it turns out. This habit has ruined more than one mystery for me. Reading ebooks helps some (it’s much harder to flip quickly to the end!).

            Unless I let go of the questions I have about how life will turn out or how to do, God can’t get into my heart.    “God does not fit into an occupied heart.” (St. John of the Cross)

           I am praying for guidance while my mind is still plotting a course on its own.  I want to know how the situation will play out.  If we do this, then they will do that and so on.  It doesn’t work that way.  While on the surface, I’m asking God for help, I’m not truly giving Him the reigns.  It’s time to let go of the questions and truly give God my heart and my life.

            How many times in the bible do we hear people asking for healing?  Or we hear that Jesus healed someone even before they ask.  Sometimes, the person has been suffering for years, as was the case with the woman hemorrhaging for 12 years. (Matthew 9:20)  Other times, it is a fever as was the case with Peter’s mother-in-law. (Matthew 8:14)  Jesus would be preaching or walking along and someone would call out to him for healing. (Luke 7:11-19)  

            Jesus’ healing took on many forms.  He healed the woman at the well by his knowledge and forgiveness of her sins.  He healed the woman brought to him by the elders by his forgiveness and refusal to cast stones at her or her accusers.

            Our need for healing can take many forms: physical, spiritual, emotional, mental.  There are times we aren’t even aware of our need for healing.  A small thing that doesn’t seem significant chips away at our well-being.  After time, we look, and God seems far away.  

            It happens in our relationships with other people too.  We take for granted that our close relationships, family or friends, will always be there.  Without work and awareness, though, that isn’t the case.  A day slips by, maybe two, which grows into a week or a month.  Suddenly, we look around and that relationship that was always there is gone.  

            When we let bitterness invade our thoughts, we turn our back on forgiveness.  Even the smallest of grudges can turn into bigger issues.  

            Letting go of control and letting go of the “need to know” releases these issues from our minds and our hearts and lets God come back in, where He belongs.