“B” is for Benny

I am currently doing my best to let go control over my life and allow the Holy Spirit to guide me.  This is not as easy as it may sound–even when I believe I have truly let go, I impose my own objectives on my actions and convince myself that what I want is God’s will and not mine.  However, the Lord knows me so well (better than I know myself) that He knows what I’m going to do before I actually do it and therefore factors in my mishaps and lapses in judgment.  What happened to me today is a perfect example of how beautifully the Holy Spirit can orchestrate life to not only ensure I am in the right place at the right time, but also in the right frame of mind to take on the task God gives me.
I was headed for New York City to meet friends before seeing a show on Broadway on the hottest day of the year so far.  The city was on high alert, due to extremely high temperatures in the forecast.  Normally when I visit New York City, I leave early so I can walk the streets the way I did while living there.  This time I chose to take a later bus because it wouldn’t have been safe to be outside in the heat as long as usual.  This seemingly minor alteration in plan led me to a different path, literally and figuratively.  The Lord led me down a side street I was unfamiliar with and, unlike most New York streets, it was almost deserted.  As I was walking, a man lying on the ground caught my attention.  At first glance he appeared to be the “typical” homeless person one sees so often on the streets, but as I came closer, something about him struck me as not typical.  He looked up and reached out his hand.  He didn’t say anything; I don’t think he was even looking directly at me.  He was no doubt dehydrated and hallucinating.  I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t pay as much attention to the homeless as I should, perhaps because I accept the lie that I’m not in a position to help them.  The Lord has been working with me to overcome this lie and putting me in this situation was another step toward that aim.  As I walked past this man, I realized there was no one else around.  No one would see him or help him; I was the only one who could.  A sense of urgency compelled me to “find some water,” as a voice inside me said.  I went into a nearby store and bought a bottle of overpriced water without hesitation.  As I brought it back to the man, I was relieved to see him up and moving around, but as I approached, he collapsed again.  “Excuse me, sir,” I began timidly, “but would you like some water?”  He nodded and took the bottle from my hand.  I asked if there was anything else I could do for him, and he said he could use some food.  Of course, I had none so I left him again.  I felt as though I needed to keep him conscious, so I found a grocery store and bought some fruit, protein bars, and a much larger bottle of water.  The urgency inside me did not ease up as I hurried back to the man, but I was comforted to notice that the street was becoming busier.  Hopefully the food and water I gave him would sustain him till someone else could do more for him, maybe even get him off the streets.  When I gave him the groceries, I asked for his name.  He said it was “B”, short for Benny, but he wanted to be called “B.”  I told him I would pray for him, and suddenly remembered I had some Miraculous Medals in my backpack.  I gave him one; I don’t think he knew what it was, but I left it with him, having faith that the Blessed Mother and her Son would protect him and do what I could not for him.  “B” told me he would be 66 in October and seemed very proud of that.  I walked away, praying he would survive until his 66th birthday.
So many insignificant factors led me to taking the road to “B” as well as putting me in the right mindset to do what I did when I found him.  I would never have remembered those medals if I hadn’t given one to a friend a few weeks ago.  More importantly, I would never have had the courage to reach out and help him if I hadn’t heard a similar story from one of my role models the previous weekend.  God is guiding me even as I continue to resist Him.  The past week was full of several failures on my part, which had created a defeated mentality in me.  I was actively asking the Lord’s forgiveness for not having more faith in Him when I met “B.”

That’s The Way It Is

When you want it the most
There’s no easy way out
When you’re ready to go
And your heart’s left in doubt
Don’t give up on your faith
Love comes to those who believe it
And that’s the way it is~ Celine Dion, 
That’s The Way It Is
I learned sign language to this song in the sixth grade.  Though I didn’t realize it at the time, that year was one of the most significant in my life.  I was blessed with two truly gifted teachers and can confidently say I would not be the person I am today without them.  What they taught me far exceeded the basic educational subjects; they taught me about life.  Everyday they would check our day planners to be sure we had recorded our homework assignments.  They were also responsible for a xeriscape garden and enlisted all their students as helpers as well as to educate others about the importance of this garden.  We actually had to invite people to come and tour the garden, led by us!  They taught us sign language, and at the end of the year we held a “concert” for our parents, which included “signing” two Celine Dion songs.  These two teachers opened my eyes to the world.  I was no longer comfortably secure in elementary school, which terrified me.  I remember always being afraid of messing up in front of them; I never wanted to disappoint them.  As scary as that year was, I got a strong dose of how to deal with reality.  They used to say, “you may hate us now, but you’ll thank us later,” and I did and still do.
One of these teachers became my Confirmation sponsor in 8th grade.  After middle school, I lost touch with her, but always hoped to reconnect.  When I was diagnosed with diabetes my first semester in college, I was filled with a revitalized need to re-establish communication with her.  Diabetes requires a great deal of self-discipline, a skill she instilled in me in sixth grade.  Without it, I would not have had the same ability to manage and monitor my blood sugars, and in that sense, I owe her my life!  I was fortunate to find her mailing address and sent her a letter.  Miracle of miracles, she wrote back and invited me to come visit her.  Getting to know her as an adult was odd but wonderful.  She insisted I call her by her first name.  I struggled with that since she had emphasized that we should address her as “Miss” back in middle school out of respect.
A few years ago she was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer.  I have never known another person who fought so hard to conquer the disease.  She started writing emails to update her close friends and family regarding her progress.  It was always inspiring reading her hopeful messages.  She never gave up and was willing to do whatever it took to keep going.  The pains and trials involved did not deter her; if anything, they motivated her to fight harder.  She started an annual tradition of gathering her friends together for a “Celebration of Life.”  I began to see the human side of my sixth grade teacher, whom I had previously considered indestructible.  On July 5, 2019, she finally finished her battle with cancer and is now at peace in heaven.
On the same day, I was taking a small road trip to visit friends for the weekend.  I had just finished praying the Divine Mercy chaplet around 3 p.m. and all the sky opened up in a torrential downpour.  I have never experienced anything like it!  All cars came to a standstill on the highway because there was no visibility, just a solid sheet of rain.  I should have been frightened, but instead I was overcome by the Father’s love, and in that moment I knew I was exactly where I should be.  I was completely still, completely under the protection of the Lord in prayer.  When the clouds parted and the sun shone I heard the words, “it is finished.”  The next day I received an email from one of my teacher’s friends saying that my teacher had passed away.
Ever since I first met that teacher I had a strong feeling she was an angel.  I am so blessed that the Lord allowed her to be a part of my life as long as she was.  She helped guide me through life like a true guardian angel, and now she will continue that guidance from heaven.

And that’s the way it is…

A Million Dreams

My job requires a great deal of data entry and monotonous paper filing. These tasks can get very lonely and there are hours during the day when I have no human interaction at all. This past week I hit my breaking point and was consumed with an incredible claustrophobic feeling. I retreated into prayer asking for relief from the Lord and His answer was simple, He said listen to music. The answer was so obvious, I was amazing that I hadn’t considered it sooner. I went to my Pandora app on my phone and searched “Disney.” I needed something uplifting and I grew up in the 90’s when Disney was hitting its peak releasing one hit song after another so I naturally just thought of those classic songs. My childhood was molded based off those classics like “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King, “The Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas, and “You’ll Be in my Heart” from Tarzan; just to name a few. Over the course of the week I could feel myself being brought back to life through the music. It didn’t just help me get me out of the solitude confinement I was trapped in at my job but it also awoke the dreams that I had when I was a child.

God blessed me with an extremely vivid imagination growing up. I would often make up stories in my head and then go outside and act them out in my backyard. This imagination allowed me to believe that anything was possible. When I grew up, reality entered into my soul and crippled all those dreams. I was diagnosed with a chronic disease, type one diabetes, and I lost my belief that anything was possible. My world went from multi- colored to stark, two-dimensional and black and white. It has now been over ten years since being diagnosed and I am just now remembering what it feels like to believe in the impossible. I owe all of this to the inner workings of the Holy Spirit. His promptings to revisit the classic music of those childhood movies was the next step in His grand design.

Not all the songs that I have been listening to were from Disney, some songs came from a movie which was released last year, The Greatest Showman. I had seen it when it first came out and was truly taken by it. Like the classic Disney movies it was inspiring. This one song “A Million Dreams,” was especially invigorating.

“They can say it all sounds crazy. They can say I’ve lost my mind. I don’t care, so call me crazy. We can live in a world that we design. ‘Cause every night I lie in bed. The brightest colors fill my head. A million dreams are keeping me awake” ~The Greatest Showman, A Million Dreams

This song caused me to think how backwards life can be. This world has this ability to keep people for dreaming and longing for unimaginable possibilities simply because this world claims them to be impossible. The world calls people “crazy” if they dare to be different. Yet these movies still come up like the Greatest Showman and they grow in popularity as the world takes notice. Why is this? Could it be because we are all starving for these dreams in our own lives? I believe God places these dreams into our hearts because it is His way of calling us home. We live in this world but we are not of this world so we retreat into our imaginations were “we can live in a world that we design.” This past week I have seen life through music and it has inspired me to live differently. I will seek the Holy Spirit to show me His world that He wishes me to live in, the world where anything is possible.

A Friend

Last year, when I was living in New York and working at a truly horrible job God graced me with several blessings in order to keep my spirits up. Those blessings were also key contributions to my journey with the Lord because they were constant reminders that while I was “in the trenches” at a terrible job I could always count on Jesus to be there enduring the terrors with me. One of those blessings was a friendship with a coworker. We bonded when we were both scheduled to work in the pastry department and were tasked with handling an extremely large delivery of cookies. It was a grueling task and one that we would have never been able to do alone. It was through that task that we discovered how much we could rely on each other for anything. Over time our friendship only grew stronger and after I left that job he was really the only person I continue to maintain steady communication with.

This friendship came as a surprise to me because we were so different. While working at that job I was quite open about my Catholic faith and he was quite open that he was not. I never felt judgement from him though and instead he asked and continues to ask about my faith. In fact, even though our religious beliefs do not always match we always end up agreeing on many “hot topics” that can often create major divisions between people. We both can see that we were meant to have this friendship with one another. He believes that it was done by the universe where as I know it was the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless we are united in the faith we were destined to be in each other’s lives and this belief was only affirmed last week. We had somehow found ourselves on the topic of my future wedding. To clarify, I am not engaged and I am not even dating anyone but we like to fantasize about the wedding day just because he is a florist and being the artist he is has already started picking out flower arrangements. It is no secret that one of my greatest desires for my life is to find that special guy and get married however I also have a deep desire to be a mother which I have not expressed to the general public quite as much. I have never had that motherly instinct and I do not gravitate to children like some do. It is because of this I question if I would be a good mother. In the deepest part of my heart I have that fear that God does not intend on me becoming one. Fortunately, the Lord knows my heart and knows what I need to hear and when I need to hear it. During that wedding conversation I was having with my friend he suddenly shifted the conversation from the wedding plans to motherhood. He told me that even though he is extremely excited to see how my future love story turns out he is even more excited to see me as a mother because he knows how wonderful I will be as a mother. This statement was so powerful I was left speechless. It was in that moment that I realized I had never heard that before. I have never heard someone consciously tell me that they think I would be a good mother without any coaxing from me. I have complete confidence that the Holy Spirit was using my friend to get a message to me. I told my friend that his statement was the most incredible and significant thing anyone could ever say to me because his words left me forever changed. I was filled with this new and enriched faith that I am meant to be a mother someday and that I can actually be good at it. The Holy Spirit is beautiful in His design and He can perform miracles in the most simplest of circumstances. I am so grateful to have this friendship in my life and it is because I know that it is a gift from God.

Identity Crisis

In these current times the threat of having your personal accounts, credits cards and even identity compromised is a sad reality. Fortunately, it has become so common companies have come up with good methods at detecting fraud early. My parents have had to replace their credit cards more times than I can count and I am catching up. I have gotten pretty familiar with what to do when my credit card number is compromised, the credit card company recognizes a charge on my card that I did not make and notifies me and replace the card. A few years ago when this happened it would truly have disrupted my life but nowadays it is so common it barely registers.

Nevertheless, I recently was a victim of a different kind of identity fraud. Instead of the invader using my credit card to make a purchase they gained access to my password to my credit card account and because they knew my password they were able to start changing my information from within my account without the credit card company alerting the credit company of fraudulence. The only reason I became aware of it was that I received an email stating that I had changed my email in my account. Of course I hadn’t so I contacted the credit company at once. The first customer service representative I spoke with was very helpful and went through the normal protocol. He reset my password to my account and issued me a new card but then he transferred my over to the credit card company’s actual fraud protection division. That representative was much more intimidating. He informed me that since the invader was already in my account they had probably already changed other pieces of my information. I had to go through and verify every signal piece of my information. Sure enough some other things had already been altered. The representative said that he would put my account on “high alert” status. Just that simple phrase made me uneasy and made me feel extremely vulnerable.

These experiences causes me to put my life into a different perspective. Basic information that I have taken for granted and claimed as my own like my email, phone number, place of residence, are compromised and I found myself literally fighting to prove that I am who I say I am. Identity theft has a great ability to make someone feel a loss of control and rightfully so. In times like these I normally would easily give into anger. I would allow negative thoughts to plague and take over my mind, “how dare this person change my information” and “what right does this person have to invade my privacy.” The truth is they have every ability to take over my account and invade my privacy. The reality is that this is a fallen world and evil is everywhere seeking to disrupt our lives. What defense do we have to combat it? Obviously, there is identity theft protection technology but that can only go so far. While going through the process of checking all my accounts and making sure they all were secure I found myself relying on something or someone greater. I found strength in my faith that I am a child of God. That is my one true identity and there is no password that I require to gain access to it, all I need is my savior Jesus Christ. He holds the ultimate access to the greatest account there is, eternal life. It was thanks to this truth I had the capacity to overcome my initial inclination to give into anger. Once I gave it up to God I had confidence that He would protect my identity. Not only was I able to release the anger I was able to feel compassion for the person who invaded my account. In the name of Jesus Christ I prayed for them and forgave them. It is in these circumstances that I believe God is calling us to our true purpose. In this day and age what is the best protection available when our identity is compromised? It is prayer, prayer for the people who are doing these things. They need help and the best thing we can do is to forgive and pray for them.

Drink Up

“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” ~John 4: 10-14

Jesus Christ is truly the Word incarnate for He continues to reveal Himself through the Word to me. This passage from John tells of the Samaritan woman. I know this story well but never was able to relate to it. It took the insight of a priest to enlighten a new and powerful understanding.

It has almost been a month since I moved from New York to New Jersey. Coming into this new life in New Jersey has been like a rebirth everything is new and beautiful. I find myself praising God for every little thing I receive and life has become a life of blessings. My points of struggle come when I have to go back into New York. The days I have to travel to the city I wake up with great anxiety and it is a fight just to get out of bed and on my way to the train station the anxiety quickly transforms into pure fear. Once I arrive in the city I am filled with harbored anger inside my heart. Everything that I come in contact with makes me frustrated and upset, I get very tired very easily and place unwarranted judgment on others. I do not like the person I am when I am in New York. It is because my internal peace that the Lord has granted me in New Jersey feels like it is being taken away. All these negative emotions that I have towards New York truly confused me, I used to adore New York. In fact it was in New York where I found the Lord and He brought me back to life. How can I be so angry at a place that reunited me with my Savior?

After speaking to this priest about my struggle he enlightened me with great wisdom that I would have never reached on my own. He said to me that it sounded like I went through my own crucible in New York. At first it was alarming to hear mainly because once again I had not accepted how traumatic my time in New York really was. He also referenced the Israelites being delivered from Egypt. Colorado, my home, was Egypt and I knew I needed to leave that place in order to grow. I went to New York believing that New York was the “Promised Land.” I believed that was where the Lord wanted me to be but in reality New York was the desert that I had to get through in order to reach the Promised land. I found the Lord in New York because my life was so difficult and so impossible that I had to surrender myself completely to Him. Looking back there is absolutely no logical explanation of how I survived New York. My time in New York was a true miracle. There was a significant reason for my time in New York, like there was a reason for the Israelites to endure those years in the desert. When they reached the Promised land they were entirely the Lord’s and they were able to appreciate the Promised land for everything that it was. My entire reality, identity and life has been transformed because of things that I endured during my time in “the desert.”

How does this all relate to the woman at the well? While I was in New York I was digging my own well searching for the spring of water. I had faith that is was there and my soul thirsted for the water of eternal life. The well is deep but when I finally reached the spring water gushed forth. I am entering into a new chapter in my life, a chapter of great gratitude. I fully intend to drink deep during this time and to take advantage of every close moment the Lord grants me to spend with His Son. Even though I have found the spring the well can always go deeper and the Lord is always calling His people to go deeper. The water I drink now will revitalize me so that I can dig again. I know that this chapter is preparing for the next chapter.

The Black Panther

Buying a car is probably one of the most stressful and irritating things a person will ever do. Finding a place to live and navigating through all the complicated paperwork, security deposits and realtor fees was easier then it was figuring out the correct protocol of buying a car. I have never bought a car before and I found myself confessing this to many people usually when I found them looking at me like I was an idiot for not knowing something. I instinctively started to take on all the responsibility and apologize for my stupidity. “I am sorry, I am sorry. I didn’t know, I have never done this before,” I would confess. I allowed the intimidation of the task of buying a car to rule over me. I relinquished my self respect and self esteem and reverted back to my meek and self conscious nature. If I am being completely honest with myself I did not believe I could do it and I really didn’t want to do it. The idea of owning a high priced item and taking responsibility for it terrified me. I had to title it and register it and make sure that it is up to the standards that society expects of it. It is like having a child!

Why was I so resistant to this and where did this great fear come from? When I brought this question to the Lord in prayer He graciously revealed that answer. I don’t want to grow up. By buying this car I am once again forced to let go several comforts that I have clung onto with dear life including my Colorado Driver’s license. Even though I lived in New York for over a year I never transferred my license simply because I was not ready to let go of my life in Colorado. My life in New York was definitely what I was supposed to do, I moved there because I was unhappy with Colorado. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to let that go of Colorado because I didn’t want to give up the hope of returning. In the back of my mind New York was temporary, my adventure of moving away was all temporary and I would eventually find my way back to Colorado. I still might return, it is all in God’s hands and I have given up trying to predict what He is planning a long time ago. I know God is not asking me to give up my love for Colorado or my memories. What He is asking is to let go of the attachment I have for them. Attachments are the result of me trying to maintain control of my life. Through this journey in New York and now New Jersey I am slowly learning to let go of those attachments. It turns out I have quite a few but the Holy Spirit is gracious and patient with me only tackling one attachment at a time but He got very ambitious and decided to tackle quite a few this past month. My attachment to my apartment in New York, my old job, and essentially the security and comfort that I held in maintaining residency in Colorado.

The Holy Spirit was truly in control when I finally started the search for this car. I had been struggling with trying decide what were the best cars and the best places to buy these cars. Should I buy through a carfax, Craigslist, or dealership? It drove me crazy and by the end of it I couldn’t keep anything straight. In the end I literally just went out with a good friend who had worked on cars and made our way around Brooklyn in search of cars. He ended up just Googling cheap car dealerships. Google brought us to this little car lot that at first glance looked rather shady. I had written it off even before we had entered the lot but my friend was persistent. All the cars were out of my price range except for one. When I saw this car it felt like a scene out of a movie, Maggie Peyton finding Herbie or discovering Bumblebee from Transformers. This car was parked on the street underneath the train tracks, covered in dust and dirt. At first glance the car looked a piece of junk. My friend gave it a thorough inspection and insisted we take it to a mechanic. Yes, it has its quirks and there are no frills but it has good bones and it is safe and reliable which is what I need. After visiting the mechanic and we expressed interest in purchasing the car the dealer gave it a car wash and cleaned it up. It was transformed and in that moment the Holy Spirit opened my eyes and I saw my car. To my surprise the entire process of purchasing the car was easy. Walking out of that dealership with the title in hand was extremely liberating, I owned a car. There is certain bond that a person can build with a car. Before moving to New York I got into a car accident and totaled my SUV that I had been driving since high school. Letting go of that car was difficult because it had gotten me through several things. I am one of those people who name their cars and I had named it Peter Pan because it was green and it had the ability to take me out of reality and into “Neverland.” This new car seems to have similar capabilities but has a bit more strength because I know it is a gift from the Holy Spirit. Like Maggie Peyton discovering Herbie in the junkyard, I have a hidden treasure. It is also black so I think it fitting to bestow the name of Black Panther (yes, like the Marvel comic) to this one. The Lord’s plan for our lives are beautiful and are made out of these incredible and unexpected stories. I was so focused on buying a car the right way I ended up fighting God to control the situation. He ended up winning and I am so glad He did because I can now be confident I have the car I was supposed to have. My own Black Panther.