“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.”
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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…

Let My People Go

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and speak to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me” ~ Exodus 9:1

This weekend I learned that the company I worked for while living in New York City was closing. I cannot say the news surprised me; what surprised me was my reaction to it. One of the main reasons I was so eager to leave the company was the fear it would close and I would be out of a job. The company had been struggling for quite some time, but its managers were good at hiding this from its employees. They had a way with words that made it seem as though conditions would only improve. I bought into this lie when I first accepted my job there. After realizing I had been manipulated into this, I became very angry with the company. The true freedom I experienced on quitting was wonderful and an enormous relief. It’s terrible to admit but part of me wanted the company to close out of sheer spite. However, when I heard that it was definitely closing, I didn’t get that satisfied feeling–instead, my heart broke. All kinds of memories flooded me, and I thought of all my former co-workers. They are some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met and they are still my family. They showed me what “family” really means. We lived and worked together and despite all the hardships we endured, we had each other’s backs. I could go to them with any problems, and they always helped me feel better.
After reliving several memories and putting myself back into that workspace, I brought all my emotions to the Lord, hoping He could make sense of this. His voice came through so clearly, there was no denying it. Just as He said to the Israelites in Egypt, He once again spoke: “let my people go!” Today the doors of the company closed forever, and His people are finally free. There is a great deal of fear about what happens next, especially since the news of the closing came so quickly, it did not leave much time for the employees to search for new employment. The Jews in Egypt did not have much time to make plans either–all they had was their faith in the Lord that He would deliver them from Pharaoh, and He did. That mass exodus was the beginning of an epic journey toward true freedom.
I feel as though this closing was another mass exodus orchestrated by God. All the people involved have such talents and can truly change the world given the right motivation, now that they are not trapped by the fear of leaving the comforts of their jobs, which weren’t very comfortable at all. They needed a little push and now they are free, free to go and serve the Lord using the abilities He gave them. Tomorrow will come; the sun will rise and reality will set in–there is no longer a store to open. Now there are so many new possibilities. They can do anything because there is no store to open. The future is bright and holds the promise of new changes. God is acting in this world. I believe He is working on something as big as the Exodus that will change the course of the world as that event did so many years ago.

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.

Home

“Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. “And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. “If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.” ~Matthew 10: 9-14

My time as a New Yorker will soon be coming to an end. Over the weekend I was finally successful in finding a place to live in New Jersey. I will no longer be a “New Yorker” but a “Jersey Girl.” Finding the right place to live was difficult mainly because it took me some time figuring out what I really needed. For the first time in my life I have a job that allows me to afford a place of my own. At first, this idea was extremely appealing. I could make a place entirely my own. I found an incredible apartment that backed up into a national park and nestled in a quaint little town completely separated from the outside world. It was almost a dream come true and spoke to my inner introvert. I would have the chance to make my own version of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. I would have an entire national park to explore. I would be able to walk for hours talking with the Lord, the way I did when I first moved to New York and walked the streets for hours after work. It was on those walks that I truly got to know Jesus Christ and He reminded me who I was, a child of God. For awhile I entertained this idea of renting this seemingly perfect apartment. Something felt off though and as time went on I lost my feeling of peace about the property. I was forced to discern what was making me hesitant.

It came down to the fact that I would be making a solid commitment and making that apartment my true home. I realized I was not prepared to settle down. If I took that apartment I would have invested all I had into that place which was going against everything that the Lord had been calling me to. I was reminded of the verses from the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus Christ sent His disciples on their mission. Do not acquire any additional position and make your way from village to village proclaiming the Word of the Lord. During my journey in New York I discovered my vocation and what the Lord is truly asking of me which is to go out into the world and spread His message.

I am here today able to say with complete confidence that I have found my forever home and that is within the heart of Jesus. New Jersey is simply the next village where the Lord has brought me to but I will not be there for long. I am so grateful that the Lord brought me to a perfect house where they are renting out a small room. I knew it was the right place when entered and I immediately felt welcomed. It was worthy to give it the “blessing of peace” as the verse in Matthew said so perfectly. I truly do not need much just a place to rest my head. This house is in an ideal location and it is safe but it is not permanent. I need to be ready for when the Lord calls me to move again and when He does call I will dust off my feet and go.

Harsh Reality

It has been about a week since I returned to New York after my Christmas vacation. I gave myself a week to prepare before I started my new job. When I initially made the decision, it sounded like a great idea. I was still in that “vacation mode” and I simply did not want to return to the real world yet. To my surprise the week that I thought would be just another vacation week turned out to be a long spiritual trial and essentially ended me humbly approaching Jesus Christ asking for forgiveness.

The week was a gift from the Lord, I was given complete freedom to do whatever I wished. What I should have done was offer the time back to the Lord. Instead I used it for my own selfish intentions and as a result my spirit was left empty, nervous and anxious. Not having a set work schedule makes it hard to get up in the morning just because I really had no reason to get up. When I did manage to get up I was left to wander aimlessly. I did go apartment hunting but it turned out to be fruitless. My mind became consumed with the “what if ” thoughts. Everything I did was centered around my future plans which only lead to self imposed stress and fear. I was trying to control my future which I should know by now does not work. I should have surrendered the week to the Lord and trust that He would take care of my future plans. Being the kind and considerate Father that the Lord is of course He did take care of the future, I just made Him do it the hard way with me resisting at every step of the way.

By the end of the week when I had finally realized the error of my ways the Holy Spirit graciously presented a small opportunity for me to make amends. I was taking the subway home one evening and a man came into the train car I was riding in. He sat directly across from me. He had a plastic bag of leftover food and a large keyboard. It was evident that he was homeless and he planned to play the keyboard in the hope of making some money from the passengers riding the train. Normally, I don’t pay much attention to these “performers” mainly because they usually are just looking for a hand out but this man was different. He had a demeanor that reminded me of Johnny Depp. He was very talkative and said that he wasn’t looking for money just food. I was compelled to do something for him. I think it was because he understood the reality of his problems and did not wish to beg for anything. He had gone to college got a degree in music and technology but was unable to make a living with it. As he played the keyboard you could see his passion for what he was doing and just because it didn’t make him money didn’t take alway his desire to share his talent with others.

Before I exited the train I realized that I had a bag of Miraculous Medals in my backpack, I kept them there for moments just like these. I hesitated at first, I feared his reaction. It is not unusual for homeless to get upset with people when they give them seemingly useless things. I was able to overcome the initial fear with the belief that the Holy Spirit put me in this position for the very reason to give the medal to the man. I will never forget the reaction he gave me. When I first handed the Medal to him he graciously took it and said thank you, thinking that it was just some spare change, but when he took a closer look at it his eyes grew bigger and true excitement came across his face. Praise the Lord for giving me the opportunity to share Mary with someone that night. I can only hope that the Miraculous Medal lifted his spirits as much as it did mine. I owe that man a great deal because he helped get outside of my selfish thoughts and anxieties and brought me back into the world.

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.