Be Brave

Over the course of the past month, I have embarked on an intense spiritual retreat.  I have often written about how the Lord has blessed me by truly healing so many aspects of my life, I cannot begin to express how miraculous this transformation has been.  Despite all this healing, I still found myself struggling with my faith.  I would be praying and become so distracted that I would be unable to recall what I had just prayed about.  I hit my breaking point when these distractions began to consume my life.  These distractions were basically food, self image and weight.  These are the key cruxes that had taken over my life and the main weapons Satan uses to cripple my spirit.  The wisdom of St. Ignatius of Loyola suddenly filled my thoughts.  St. Ignatius was known for his pioneering contributions to spiritual exercises.  He understood that the best way to be entirely united with God was to eliminate all material elements that have priority in one’s life.  St. Ignatius himself was a military man; his self image was extremely important to him, yet he decided to go and live in a cave where he let his hair become unkempt and his fingernails grow ragged.  He did this because he recognized his unhealthy attachment to superficial practices regarding his physical appearance.  I decided to follow this saint’s example and went on what might best be described as a spiritual rampage.  I made a vow to visit the adoration chapel every day; I started a consecration to Jesus Christ through His mother Mary, and I fasted from food, exercise and looking at myself in the mirror.  During the days leading up to this consecration, I was filled with fear and uncertainty, questioning whether or not I could actually do all this.  These thoughts were from the evil one, who was trying to convince me I was too weak.  When the day came to start the 33 day consecration, the moment I woke up I could already feel the weight of all my distractions being lifted from me.  Even though it was a struggle and there were times when I faltered, I could feel the Holy Spirit supporting me.  The encouragement I received from the Holy Spirit and Mother Mary was affirmation that I was on the right track.  Going to the adoration chapel every day helped me pay attention to my prayers again.
As part of the “spiritual rampage,” I embarked on a 33 day consecration to Jesus Christ through Mary.  The basic premise of this exercise is to give your life entirely to Jesus through the intercession of Mary.  Through this consecration, I pledged to give myself to God.  I no longer want to live my own life–from this moment on, everything I do will be for God and according to His will.  This miracle has been so monumental that I was afraid to write this blog in fear of unwanted judgment from others.  However, when I made the decision not to write about it, I immediately encountered writer’s block and was unable to write anything for 2 weeks.  It was not until yesterday while I was praying in the adoration chapel that I heard Mary’s voice.  I was dozing in the chapel after a long work week when suddenly I awoke with a slight jolt and Mary’s voice ringing in my ears, “be brave.”  It took me awhile to understand what she was trying to tell me but I finally got it.  I am supposed to speak about this miracle and not let the fears of being judged by the earthly world keep me from proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.
Here is my personal miracle:  only a few days after my consecration began, I woke up early before anyone else in my household was awake.  I had to go to the bathroom, which is quite normal, but the feeling I had was different.  There was blood in the toilet.  I had my period.  For most women, this is a normal occurrence that happens every month, but not for me.  Ever since I was diagnosed with diabetes almost 13 years ago, I have been unable to have a period.  I have spent countless hours praying for the restoration of a monthly cycle and had reached the point where I believed I was not meant to have a period. If I was meant to have children, the Lord would make it happen without going through a period.  On that morning, however, the Lord made the impossible a reality.  Having a period again was a most incredible experience and almost indescribable.  My body was strong enough to bear children!  God had healed so many mental and emotional difficulties in my life, but that morning He showed me that He could heal me physically as well.  There, in actual blood, was evidence that God is real and alive and working.  It was the greatest affirmation that not only do I personally want to have children and a family,  but that God wants this too, and He is physically preparing my body to take on the role of a mother.  I thank His Mother for giving me that jolt in the adoration chapel to “be brave.”  She assured me that the Lord is actively working in my life, and that He can transform anyone’s life in unimaginable ways.  Just ask Him and allow Him in yours!!

Eternity

Life seems to be speeding up.  I especially noticed this acceleration during the past year when I moved to New Jersey from New York City,  Looking back, I cannot believe I have already lived here 6 months!  In many ways, this relatively short span of time feels like an entire lifetime.  The Lord has given me so many new and beautiful blessings and provided them all in only six months.  However, now I have been confronted with that common question “what did you do this summer?” on several occasions, and each time I always draw a blank, because I feel as though I just celebrated Memorial Day and it is now almost October!  The kids are back in school; the new seasons of prime time are premiering on television–two clear signs that summer is over.  I find myself growing anxious and wondering whether I am doing everything I should.  Despite all the miracles I have experienced recently, I crave more and fear I am getting too comfortable–sitting on the sidelines while life passes me by.  My deep desire to marry and have children, accompanied by the concern that this will never happen, begins to rear its ugly head.
As if on cue, while I am drowning in my personal misery, the Lord’s voice intervenes.  I was sitting in Mass this morning and the gospel reading was from Luke 16, regarding the story of the rich man and the poor man, Lazarus.  The rich man enjoyed his reward in this world, but was doomed to suffer after he died for the rest of eternity, while Lazarus suffered his entire life on earth, but was then rewarded in heaven.  This gospel allowed me to view life from a better perspective.  I am spending so much time worrying about making my life significant here, but I should be focused on what comes after my life on this planet is over.  However long my life on earth might be, it is only a single moment in comparison to the eternity that awaits after my death.  I often fall into the trap of convincing myself that I need to be married with children to make my existence meaningful.  The fact is I don’t!  My whole life will be as God wants it to be, and if I never get married, I have faith He has a greater plan for me that cannot involve marriage for some reason.  After all, I can spend eternity with the best bridegroom ever, Jesus Christ.  As for having children, I could always adopt, which might be a very valuable way to serve the Lord as well as my “neighbors” in this world.
I must learn to turn my gaze away from myself and my personal desires.  As evident from the rich man’s story in Luke’s gospel, that focus will only lead to suffering.  I need to trust that God holds my life in the palm of His hands, and He will make sure I find happiness, even if it ultimately comes after death.  I need to think more about my neighbors and love them in the precious time I have on earth.  Yes, time is moving faster, but instead of becoming caught up in the worry of losing time, I will now consider each day as one day closer to eternity.

Invisible

What I consider weakness, the Lord uses as strength.  What I see as a hindrance, the Lord turns into an asset.  All my life I have felt invisible and unimportant.  I had a desire to accomplish great things that would make an impact on the world, so I had to connect with the “right people.”  This was an ongoing struggle–whenever I attempted to make those crucial connections, I was overlooked.  Each time I went to an event I believed could lead to a life-changing moment, I was left feeling empty and a failure.  I would always blame God and question Him.  I was doing everything in my power to use the life He had given me as an opportunity to change the world for the better, but I ended up with doors being shut in my face.  What was I doing wrong?  Maybe I was not looking in the right places and not placing my trust in God, although I believed I was.
This past Thursday was the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, and at the Mass I attended, the priest spoke of Mary’s many gifts.  He mentioned subtlety, which I had never heard described before.  The priest used the example of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth.  A young pregnant woman taking on a long journey through treacherous landscapes all by herself without WiFi, cell phones or cars–the priest emphasized the lack of modern technology that would have helped when the roads were difficult and thieves were everywhere.  How could Mary possibly have survived that journey on her own?  The answer lay in her subtlety–by the grace of the Holy Spirit, He allowed her presence to be felt but not intrusive so she reached her cousin’s home in safety.
I thought of my days living in New York City, walking the streets late at night after work.  The streets of New York are easily as dangerous as the roads Mary traveled.  More than a few times, my path was crossed by rather aggressive individuals hassling other walkers for money or food.  They would approach everyone ahead of me, but when I finally passed by, it seemed as though they didn’t see me.
I used to feel my invisibility was a curse; I wasn’t significant enough to be acknowledged, but now I realize it was a gift.  I resolved to place my faith in the Lord and trust that He will put the correct people in my path who will see me.  I was back in New York City this weekend and stopped in a church with a chapel open to all for prayer.  I had endured a long and strenuous morning and while I was in the chapel, a man approached me and asked for $20 for food.  I was somewhat taken aback–I am used to people asking for money, but $20 seemed a bit excessive.  Nevertheless, there was an aura of kindness about him.  I truly believe in the influence of the Holy Spirit and the importance of listening to His subtle promptings.  There was a peace about this man unusual for a person living in New York City.  He asked me if I was an actress and when I told him I wasn’t, he said I should be because I looked like one.  He continued to say he was a comedian, trying to be discovered by NBC.  The question about being an actress was most likely a line designed to get money, but I felt there was some sincerity behind it.  I have no desire to be an actress, but it was a career I once considered, and it was affirming to hear that someone, albeit a total stranger, thought I could be one.  Nothing happens by coincidence, and I am sure this man was placed in my path to see me, and that I might see him.  I gave him $5 and hope he used it for food.  The short interaction we had was uplifting and provided me with strength to get through the rest of my day.  Perhaps it helped him in the same way.  Our meeting was also a reminder that the Lord is in charge and only allows the “right people” to enter our lives at certain times–when they do, we need to pay attention.  We are all called to be in community with one another for we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.  When we are open to recognizing our fellow brothers and sisters as such, we can change each others’ lives for the better, even if only in small matters.
Thanks to the Lord’s blessings, I understand that I am not invisible.  I am fully seen by my Creator and Father, who is the only person that counts.  By placing my life completely in His hands, He has the ability to use me and make me visible to the people He chooses.  If I put Him first, ahead of my own desire to be seen, I can walk in confidence (and subtlety), knowing that everything I do will be done for the glory of God

Good-Bye

I said good-bye to my job yesterday. It was nothing less than surreal. This job had been my constant and my everything during my time in New York. I actually begged my boss to let me work on Thanksgiving last year because I didn’t want to be alone on the holiday. At that time the closest thing to family were my coworkers. During the last days at my job I truly was saying goodbye to my family members. Sometimes it is hard to see the impact a person has on your life until you have to let them go. I had to let a lot of people yesterday and in turn they had to let go of me.

I have been blessed to have this job and looking back I was able to recognize the reasons the Lord put me in that place. I was meant to have that job. I am not the person that I was when I was first hired. I was quiet, insecure, and subordinate. I had no concept of my worth. Through that job the Holy Spirit was able to enter into my soul and revitalize it. What was the greatest surprise was that when I opened up and allowed my true self to shine people actually saw it and appreciated it. I spent most of my life not being seen, countless times I had experienced feelings of being invisible which resulted in me believing that I may just be unimportant or worthless. I was just another person taking up space. This was the greatest lie fed to me by the enemy and I had been living with it for so long I couldn’t even acknowledge the lie. The Lord brought me into the truth and showed me who I am. I am a child of God and that in the most important role anyone could ever have. I can now leave that job because it has fulfilled its purpose. I know who I am and I can enter into this this world with confidence knowing that no one can take away who I really am. As I walked out of that job into the real world for a moment I felt alone, putting my work family behind me and venturing out by myself. But I was not alone, Jesus Christ was right there on the other side waiting to take me home.

This has been an unexpected and surprising Christmas season. In many ways it has not felt like Christmas. I have been so caught up with the crazy schedules of work it made it difficult to stop and take in the joys of the season. On top of that it has barely snowed, it has only rained. I love the rain but it does not bring the feeling of Christmas cheer. It wasn’t until I came to my final days at my job that I realized how much the spirit of Christmas had been present in my life all along. We are in the season of Advent and we are awaiting our savior Jesus Christ. I just quit my job, I should be terrified because I just lost my consistent source of income and my health insurance. What am I doing? I have no fear though and I have never felt more at peace. Jesus Christ has truly come and He has come and saved me. Instead of seeing doors closing I am seeing them open. The possibilities are endless because I am finally free.

What is next for me?

Everything! I want to do everything and be anything and I can do it because I know who I am in Jesus Christ.

I Quit

After a year and some months I was finally able to break the ties and quit my job. The emotions that came after were surprising. There have been several months leading up to this day and were many days when I was tempted to quit on the spot. Nevertheless when the time came to actually say the words “I quit” I hesitated. Some of that hesitation probably came from my fear of telling my boss, he tends to take things personally and has an ability to passive aggressively make you feel terrible. Aside from that there was also a feeling of not wanting to let go. I became very aware of the Satan’s capability of subtly manipulating your mind. Yes, I hate that job but it is an income. Satan can grab hold of those thoughts and heighten them. The minutes that came after I quit were filled with doubt.

“What am I doing?”

“Am I making a mistake.”

“I am living in New York and I don’t have a job. What am I going to do?”

“This job really isn’t that bad.”

All these thoughts are lies fed to me by the enemy. The Lord was gracious enough to allow me to rationalize the situation while in prayer. I do have many prospective job possibilities and I don’t want to stay in New York anyway. He also reminded me of all the terrible things that I had to endure while working at that job. In God I place my trust and I know if He really wanted me to stay I would not have been able to speak the words “I quit.” I did and therefore it must be God’s will.

I am now facing the task of telling my coworkers that I will not be returning to work in the new year. I am once again facing the lies and doubt the enemy is placing inside of me. I have come to truly care for these people who I work with. My job had been my home away from home, a little dysfunctional family. Do I really want to say goodbye to them? Can I say goodbye to them? For most of my time there I felt like I was living a strange version of the Beauty and Beast fairytale. We were all trapped in the grand palace (store) that used to be wonderful and flourished but has now been cursed and has cursed the people trapped inside. Though cursed these people are able to bring light and happiness to the drudgery of the everyday. There have been true angels that I have met while working there. Like Belle in the fairytale I have found friends who saw me for who I really was even when I wasn’t able to and like wise I was able to see them for who they truly were. Even the Beast (my boss) was able to be tamed by the end. He may have had a rough exterior but he did hire me because he saw believed in me and without that initial faith he had I would have not made it as far as I did.

The Lord clearly placed me there for several reasons. Working there allowed me to learn about myself and learn about the human condition. I know these people inside and out, including al their faults, the good and bad are what make us human. The crosses my coworkers bare are why I love them so much. I have struggled in the job but it has made me stronger and I will carry that strength into the next chapter of my life wherever that may be.It is appropriate that I am quitting during Advent, it is a time of waiting and great anticipation. Like Belle trapped in that castle awaiting to be freed by the prince, I too am waiting. My prince, Jesus Christ, is coming and by Christmas He will set me free.