Own your sensitivity

It’s crazy, but it’s true –

I have to warn you.

They’ll literally try to talk you out of being yourself-

they’ll go to dramatic lengths to complete this task.

It’s like they have an advertising campaign specifically designed to silence you, but

don’t let them fool you.

Trust me:

There is no such thing as being too sensitive.

It’s impossible to feel things too deeply

or care about people too much.

You can’t be too loving or kind or gentle.

These are just fairy tales they make up.

They try to silence us, so

they don’t have to do the hard work of opening their hearts too.

You can love them,

but you have to protect yourself.

You can forgive them,

but you cannot let them steal your voice.

It takes courage to have a soft heart in a hard world.

It takes consciousness to stand in the truth that we’re the brave ones.

 

Joy on the faith journey

“Joy is the net, which catches souls.” – Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Have you ever picked up a children’s book of Catholic saints and seen Saint Sebastian gazing upward toward heaven aglow with eyes of love, then been a little horrified to see he had bloody arrows in his chest portraying his martyrdom?

Did you panic a little when you learned about our hero Mother Teresa’s decades-long dark night of the soul period, when she didn’t feel the Lord’s presence even as she so clearly did His work serving the poorest of the poor?  

I think if we authentically take these icons to heart, it’s natural to squirm.

When he was still in preschool, my son shocked me by asking “If I want to be like Jesus, does that mean I have to die on a cross too?”

It ached to hear that question from his sincere little heart that I wanted so badly to protect, but it also made sense since he’s a perceptive kid. We took him to church every Sunday to worship an image of our Lord being violently murdered on a cross – naturally, he noticed it and had questions.

Don’t we all have questions about suffering at some point of our lives? If we serve a loving God, why is there so much pain in the world?  What’s the point of following the Lord if it can lead to such horrible outcomes like it did for some of the saints? Why did Jesus even have to die on the cross, when He had the power to avoid it?

As He was preparing the apostles for his death at the last supper, Jesus said “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)

Jesus wills our joy because He loves us – it really is that simple, even though it doesn’t feel like it when we’re struggling. Jesus Himself compared suffering we experience on earth as being worthwhile like having a baby. “When she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because the joy that a child has been born into the world.” (John 16: 20-22)

We can rest assured that Jesus allows our struggles for the sake of a greater good, whether we ever fully wrap our heads and hearts around that difficult truth or not. 

Saint Augustine explained it well “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works unless his omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.”

When we have faith, being loved by God can bring us immense joy, even in the face of suffering. No one forced the martyrs to offer their lives for the Lord. They did it from a great joy, love and faith within them, trusting that God would bring good out of their ultimate sacrifice.

Instead of fearing the sacrifices our faith may require of us, we should be praying for the grace of that joy, trust and faith the heroes of our faith posessed, which is ultimately the most liberating gift we can receive.

Having experienced the juxtaposition between awe inspiring miracles and encounters with the Lord and a fair share of hearache – I have wrestled with these questions, especially in light of wanting to share a healthy faith outlook with my children. 

I don’t remember how I answered my young son’s question at the time. But thanks to his innocent contemplation of the cross, I have been motivated to find peace with the whole concept of suffering and faith, even when it comes to my precious boys. 

Where before, I took my kids to church with a secret agenda of hopefully preventing them from ever suffering in their lives – Now, I bring my boys to church with a conscious agenda for them to be filled with the grace and joy it will take to realize that no matter what challeges life throws at them, their faith can give them the strength to respond with God’s love, which creates beauty out of the ashes.

I try to infuse the Lord’s strengt into them through my prayers, words, actions and attitude every single day. It’s a simple concept, really. What’s more important: What happens to you or how you respond? Will you respond with faith or fear? We always have a choice.

Don’t get me wrong! I still pray happiness and protection over my family every single day, but I also accept that the journey to the greatest joys God has planned for them will probably require them to work through some suffering, whether I like it or not. It actually already has! And it’s all good because every struggle we go through as a family solidifies our faith in God’s Divine Providence and ability to create beauty out of struggle. 

Jesus, You said “In this world you will have trouble, but take Heart I have overcome the world.” We need your grace to help us accept the reality of suffering in our world. Please fill our hearts with such an outpouring of Your Love, Joy and Peace that Your Grace overflows into everyone we encounter throughout our lives. Help us to know Your love and trust You on such a deep level that we are willing to bring Your Truth into difficult situations, even at personal expense. Give us the grace of Faith to truly believe in Your loving to create beauty from ashes. Help us to always live in the Light of Your Promises and experience the fullness of Your life and joy through it all. Amen.

 

Shift your focus to faith

To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.
– Walt Whitman

To fully experience the joy a life of faith can offer, we must cultivate a spirit of gratitude. Life can be hard, but the truth is: God is walking with us through it all, whether our hearts are open enough to appreciate His works and wonders or not.

Personally, I’ve been blessed to witness the mind blowing, faith-enhancing miraculous healing of my middle child from kidney disease, which doctor’s thought he’d have for his whole life.

Daniel 4:2-3: “It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me. “How great are His signs And how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom And His dominion is from generation to generation.”

I’ve also struggled through seasons of sorrow, where my heartfelt prayers seemed powerless to change a harsh reality I was facing.

John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Through it all, my faith has grown into a deep appreciation not only for the awe-inspiring ways God blesses us with the desires of our hearts but also for the ways God purifies our souls through trials and tribulation.

James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I have questioned deeply what the most powerful way to share faith is. How can I share the joy of my spirituality and belief in miracles, while also being real about struggles? Let’s face it, many parts of our faith journey involve waiting on the Lord, which can feel excruciating.

We know “all things work for the good of those, who love God and are called according to His purposes,” but how do we experience this in our daily lives when we’re struggling?

This is a big question with many answers I hope to blog about over time. One thing I think helps tremendously is to cultivate a miraculous mindset.

A miraculous mindset is just a choice to intentionally focus on all the serendipitous encounters, moments of grace and mini miracles of daily life.  They’re there if we look for them, but all to often we fail to notice. 

The more we focus on God’s actions in our lives, the more we witness them and appreciate His steadfast presence in good times and bad. This increases our faith and naturally motivates us to praise Him and pray, which starts a ripple effect of receiving increasingly more grace and miracles over time. It’s that simple!

Prayer works, but we have to wait sometimes. And one way to keep our spirits up is to focus on the good and miraculous things God is doing for us in daily life.

So, the question is: what wonders is God working in your life lately? Has He given you perfect weather and sweet words from a toddler you love or arranged a chance meeting with an old friend that meant a lot to you? Has He given you a sense of His loving spiritual presence or performed a dramatic miraculous healing in your life? (I can vouch that they happen!)

To get you thinking, here are some miniature miracles I’ve experienced in recent weeks. These are actually what I consider big ones, praise God for having an amazing couple of weeks!

On a recent trip to the ocean, on our first night there we saw whales spouting from our living room window in the distance and were able to cuddle up as a family and watch them for hours. This was a total dream come true and a magical memory our whole family will always treasure. I had prayed that God show us the wonders of nature, and I believe He orchestrated that to razzle dazzle us on night one, which he proceeded to do for the entire trip. I actually think even just getting away for a vacation to such a beautiful place was a miracle with our busy lives. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for the priceless experiences we shared.

Just yesterday, I received a snail mail letter of love, appreciation and encouragement from a dear friend, as if her consistent loving presence in my life isn’t enough of a gift from God. This letter melted my heart in a big way. I’m someone, who has walked through seasons of  loneliness and experienced extreme lack of supportive community. Though I now see how God used those times to forge a deeper relationship directly with Him, they were very hard at the time. So now after all these years to be nourished with so much support from faith-filled friends is truly a miracle to me, I am so grateful!

These are just a few personal examples! I could go on about all the sweet miraculous moments of everyday life as a mother, even though my kids truly drive me crazy very often. I’ll save the grit and grace of praying through motherhood for another blog post!

But I write this to help YOU get thinking about the miniature miracles in your own life.

Prayer
God bless anyone reading this to receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and to be filled with the grace to realize Your Powerful Presence in every aspect of their lives. Bless them immeasurably and help them to appreciate all the gifts you are constantly pouring into them.

Reflection Questions
What beautiful thing happened to you lately that you couldn’t have orchestrated yourself? How does God work through the people and experiences of your life to bless you through good times and bad? 

Action Step
Start a gratitude journal! Write three loving things God did for you every single day before you go to bed, and watch your perception of life shift. Miracles truly are a mindset you can cultivate with a little intentionality, and you will be so glad you did. 

Share a mini miracle you’ve experienced in the comments below. We’ll praise God for all the ways He’s blessing your life and pray for you to receive ever-more grace from Him.

Your broken heart can be your breakthrough

 You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
-John 16:20

Out of difficulties grow miracles.
-Jean de La Bruyère

Who longs for suffering? Only the saints. Rather than welcome sorrow, most of us would do anything to avoid it.

When pain sneaks into our hearts like a Trojan horse anyway, we may start to notice that others would do anything to avoid us because they’re as uncomfortable with our sadness as we would be with theirs.

This can complicate our grief with loneliness. When the deepest parts of our emotional experiences of are treated as untouchable by others, we can feel kind of like a leper must have in biblical times. We may be tempted to hide our pain with a happy face, but even if we manage to accomplish that, the sadness catches up with us in our quiet hours.

Anyone who has experienced grief knows that sorrow demands to be  experienced until it’s fully processed, no matter how unwelcome it is.

But paradoxically, Jesus declared “Blessed are those, who mourn.” So how can we experience the blessings Christ promised to us through our own sorrows, which ache in the very foundations of our being?

How can we begin to think like Saint Peter, who said “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4 12-13)

Here area few ideas:

1-Forgive everyone
Whether we blame God, ourselves, a loved one or a stranger, if we want to experience the blessings of grief, we have to get in touch with any feelings of resentment we’re harboring and let go of them to grow in compassion and mercy.

2-Accept everything about the situation
When we are brave enough to experience the full reality of all of our heartache and allow ourselves to feel the depths of our sorrow, rather than avoid feelings through escapism and denial, we are able to grow stronger through the grief process.

3-Open your heart to others
We can choose to cultivate empathy by developing compassion for those, who are going through similar struggles, rather than focusing entirely on our own pain.

4-Choose gratitude for what you still have
We can  open up to grace by choosing to treasure what we still have or we can become bitter, due to what we’ve lost – it’s our choice.

5-Detach from the superficial
If we allow it to, a gut wrenching loss can help us gain a big picture perspective of what’s truly important in life, rather than sweating the small stuff.

6-Embrace the spiritual side of life
When we lose what’s most important to us on the physical plane, we can grow a deeper sense of spirituality through prayer and meditation, which can never be taken from us.

7-Cultivate resilience
It’s empowering to realize we can survive a loss and faith is really all we need.

8-Embrace humility
In experiencing the powerlessness of a tragedy, we can let go of illusions of control and more fully realize our dependence on God’s grace.

9-Expect more happiness than ever before 
Our faith promises resurrection after death, blessings out of burdens, but we need to have faith to stay open to receiving them.

10-Seek wisdom
If we open up to receiving grace through hard times, even we can begin to see and experience the gifts of suffering like the saints. It may even begin to seem desirable to us for spiritual growth, like it was for them(we are all called to sainthood after all).

These aren’t easy blessings to embrace! But they truly are gifts from God, which can be attained through suffering if we pray are way through it and have the courage to lean into our feelings instead of falling into the temptation to close our hearts.

Christianity isn’t an easy road, but as the Psalmist said “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” My prayer is that you can feel His loving presence, as you work to embrace whatever difficult life lessons you’re going through, so you can more fully experience the joy He has for you.

Are you in a process of grieving? Comment below, and we’ll pray you through this challenging time. 

 

How to transform your fears into faith

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

I am a born worrier, who has been transformed by grace into a prayer warrior, who doesn’t stay stuck in fear for very long.

I credit my sensitive disposition as one of the factors that sparked my spiritual journey, which has forever enriched my life.

So if you’re a worrier, I see that as great news.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not an advocate of fear by any means. I agree with Jesus, who  advised us to “be not afraid” in a myriad of creative ways.

But I also see anxiety as an excellent launching point to grow a soul-satisfying faith life.

I mean! So many people wander the earth in a superficial way, carelessly trodding through life oblivious to people around them and the negative effects of their insensitivity.

Worriers don’t make that mistake.

Worriers  tend to be highly sensitive people, who feel things deeply and naturally want to care for others. Worriers tend to be thoughtful, compassionate and fiercely loving human beings, who are wired to pay attention to the emotional landscape all around them.

Though worriers run the risk of getting overwhelmed, it’s because they’re perceptive and brave enough to notice the heartache and risks that really do exist all around them.

I see this a good thing because we can’t pray for a problem that we don’t even know exists.

The mind of a worrier is a natural prayer list creator – we just need need to practice shifting our fears into faith, so God’s grace can start transforming us into the prayer warriors He’s calling us to be.

Here are a few habits that can begin to transform your fear into faith:

1 – Take time to quiet your mind in prayer and meditation every morning
The early hours are best for this because it’s quiet, while everyone else is sleeping. This literally can rewire your brain to be more peaceful.

2 – Cultivate mindfulness throughout the day
Pay attention to your thoughts, take more deep breaths. Notice when you’re starting to think fearfully.

3 – When you find yourself panicking, pray instead
When you pay attention to your thoughts, you have the power to shift into prayer. For example, if a news headline makes you fear war, pray for peace. When you’re concerned about a friend, cover her in prayer. When you’re afraid of losing your job, pray for God to guide you to a more secure one.

It really is this simple! Just stick with it. Grace is transformational, but it takes time to rewire our brain from worrying into warrior-ing.

Do you struggle with worry? Comment below, so we can pray for you to experience more of God’s peace in your life?  

Are you growing closer to God through your struggles?

Have you discovered www.explore.org? You can actually watch a live cam of wild grizzly bears catching salmon in a river in Alaska’s wilderness.

It’s a breathtaking glimpse into the majesty of creation.

As I soaked in the wonder of it from my couch in Iowa, what really started to catch my eye were the salmon. Who knows how long they’d already been swimming upstream before they came across this obstacle. Not only did they need to swim past several enormous hungry bears, they had to jump up a 4-ish foot waterfall even though they’re just little fish.

It was astounding. For a long time when I watched, none of them made it, but they kept trying. From my perspective I could see easier parts of the falls where they had a better chance of making it, but they had no way to know from their fishy perspective.

They just kept leaping with impressive strength then flopping back into the water and trying again with gusto.

Again and again, while the bears calmly took swipes at them.

I was amazed by their persistence.

Winston Churchhill said “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

My question for you is: Do you have an area of life, where you feel like you’re swimming upstream?

Are you working like a salmon and making no progress, while coming up against crazy-hard obstacles that threaten to devour your last bit of resolve?

If so, I want to remind you that it’s okay. You’re okay.

If you’re doing your best to follow Christ in your daily life, the external result matters much less than your steadfast pursuit of His Love.

Just like I marvel at the salmon’s spunky resolve, a choir of angels is marveling at yours. And whether you realize it or not, you’re positively impacting the people around you as well.

Our best leap of faith is always – always – enough.

St. Paul said “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”-James 1: 2-4

If we’re walking a spiritual path, we need to let go of attachment to results on the physical plane. 

It isn’t easy, but it can become a joyful process when we begin to understand the deeper graces our struggles reveal.

St. Faustina said “Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Savior; in suffering love becomes crystallized; the greater the suffering, the purer the love.”

No matter what you’re going through, I encourage you to “Just Keep Swimming” like Dori. And keep praying too! Trust that God is shaping your character in beautiful ways through this trial.

What life challenge are you working through today? Comment below, and we’ll lift you up in prayer!