We Are an Easter People

This Lenten season started like any other for Catholics. We buried the Alleluia, celebrated somber Masses & began our fasting. With Churches all over simplifying decor, drawing nearer to Gethsemane. We are making our way through the desert when we hear the news that the pandemic sweeping across the globe is upon us.

Continue reading “We Are an Easter People”

Marked for Salvation

The Tattoo

When I was 17 years old I got my first tattoo. I was at the home of my then boyfriend’s friend who was a tattoo artist and was getting black ink embedded into my hip in the form of a Celtic knot symbol. I did this of course without permission behind my mother’s back and was very pleased with myself thinking how smart I was to put it in a place that I could easily hide it from her. I thought I was so cool! Though the Triquetra symbol has been known to be used in various cultures and beliefs, what I thought was just representing the Irish in my blood took on new meaning later in my life. Little did I know that the symbol I chose was also known as the Trinity Knot and has historically been associated with early Christianity symbolizing the holy trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yes, even in my rebellion it was clear that God wasn’t giving up on me that easily. Indeed, he wasn’t finished with me yet.

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The Seal of God

Ephesians 1 describes the seal of God as the Holy Spirit which comes upon you when you believe.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. -Ephesians 1:13-14 (NIV)

During my defiant years I was adamant about denying the Lord but, God in his faithfulness kept his seal of protection over me. As much as I may have tried I wouldn’t break the seal of the Holy Spirit. As much as I would resist, I thankfully couldn’t erase my name from his book of life. Even when I let go, he held on to me and I’m so grateful that he did.

The Stamp

When I was 19 I was in the throes of an abusive relationship. One day I was wearing a Celtic knot cross necklace, again for style more than anything else. I got into a fight with my ex which quickly escalated and I ended up punched hard in the chest. Later that night after the chaos was over I looked in the mirror at my sad reflection. Tired eyes, bloodshot and puffy from crying, a sore face that I couldn’t bring myself to take home to my mother, and a red cross shaped bruise where the necklace once was. I never felt more alone.

The word sealed comes from a Greek word which means “to stamp with a private mark” and refers to preserving and protecting the object which is sealed. I was quite literally stamped with the mark of my salvation through the cross of Christ. I kept the charm and when I left the relationship I held onto it for years in the drawer of a jewelry box. Just to remind myself to never allow something like that to happen to me again. I didn’t know it at the time but looking back this was more evidence of God’s seal on my life. Through my sin and the circumstances it placed me in, it was a harsh reminder that I still belonged to God. Though the harm of my body might not seem like protection it was. And it would eventually lead my soul back to a place of repentance.

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Refined by Fire
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. –1 Peter 1:6-7

Soon after that physical fight another even worse one followed which lead to me and my daughter (barely 9 months old at the time) escaping that situation for good. It caused me to move home and rent an apartment from my mother which allowed my daughter grow up close to family and gave me the support I would need as a young single mom. Moving there put me back into my old hometown where I reconnected with my estranged friend group (isolation happens often within abusive relationships) including my now husband, and we fell in love.

Hindsight allows me to see that hard season as a fire that refined my faith, a harsh lesson and a blessing after all. It started a chain reaction of PTSD, anxiety, and depression which would only be healed by a relationship with the Lord and without those humbling factors I might have continued to convince myself that I didn’t need him.

The Conclusion

So many things happened because of that difficult time in my life that made me who I am today. It lead me back to my faith which is now the foundation of my life and the source of the joy I am blessed to now experience daily. It’s funny to me that both of these significant “marks”, the tattoo and the bruise, had the common theme of Celtic knots. God planned it that way so I would know for sure that it was him.

 

As I was writing this post I received a pair of earrings in the mail from my Dad for my upcoming 30th birthday-Celtic crosses! The emblems though they remained the same in each situation have been transformed. Just like God gave new names to people changed by his grace in the scriptures, so these symbols and experiences take on new meaning to me in the light of God’s love. No matter how hard our battle, we can turn our trials into inspiration and the symbols of our struggles into symbols of our strength.

How have your trials refined you? How has God made his mark on your life?

If you or someone you know are in an abusive situation help is available. It is possible to move on, heal, and live a better life!

❤ Cait

Faith Like a Child

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven -Matthew 18:1-4

Oh, to have faith and trust in the Lord like my child trusts in me. When my 1 year old stumbles and falls she doesn’t hesitate to get up and run to me.

When she is weary she seeks me for comfort, knowing I will take her into my arms to rock her to sleep.

When she looks up at me, her stubby hand out and says “Cracker?” she doesn’t doubt that I will feed her.

She doesn’t question where it will come from but instead waits expectantly, her doe eyes fixed on me in joyful anticipation.

She never questions if I love her, she just runs to me, climbing me like a tree to wrap her little arms around my neck and kiss my cheek.

She doesn’t question if she’s safe because she knows I faithfully care for her each day. She doesn’t wonder if I will be with her because I watch over her, constant as the sky.

She can’t speak to me with eloquence but, I know she adores me with barely a word.

And all I am is an imperfect mother how much more than does our perfect Father in Heaven deserve our trust and confidence in him?

Replacing Anxiety with Hope

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11

Since childhood I have struggled with depression and anxiety. Though they go hand in hand my depression was the main problem when I was young. I was at a tender age where I was learning that not everything in life is pleasant and when my parents divorced it filled my safe-feeling world of innocence with doubt. As I became older anxiety took the reigns and was unfortunately exacerbated by PTSD. I am a survivor of domestic abuse (a story for another post). My ex and I had a daughter as teenagers and after a traumatic stretch of time we separated. My second family in a few short years had crumbled before my eyes.

A couple of years passed and I moved on. I went to school and worked hard to provide for my daughter as a young, single mother but, put little thought into healing myself. Time went by and things got better. I met an amazing man, now my husband, that treated me well and showed me what it was like to truly be loved and respected. I grew up Catholic but had turned away from the Lord in my youthful angst. Once I was in a stable job and relationship, the feelings I ignored in order to put my life back together after the abuse started to come back up. I was experiencing flashbacks, waking up screaming with night terrors, and this is when my anxiety became crippling. I could feel the longing for the Lord in an empty place in my soul. He was calling me and so I sought Him out and he took me in (My testimony story for another post too!).

Fast forward a few years…I was in one of the happiest but, busiest times of my life! I was engaged to my husband, working full time in the medical field, taking college classes online, raising my daughter, and planning our wedding. I was thankful that my life was so full of positive things but, my anxiety had become a staple of my everyday life and was at an all time high. I was taking medication to ward off panic attacks up to 3 times a day.

About 4 months after our beautiful wedding we found out we were expecting a baby! I was so happy to have another chance at motherhood and to finally give my daughter a sibling after 9 years. As you mamas know, pregnancy changes your life in so many ways. One way for me was that I could no longer take my medication. That crutch that I had held for so long was kicked out from under me and my only option was to limp. I was forced to find other ways to cope.

When I felt my chest tighten and my heart race I resorted to breathing exercises, hot showers, or asked my husband to talk me down. Those things helped but, what brought healing was leaning on the Lord. I would come to him in desperate prayer, meditate on his promises and ask him to take my burdens and carry them for me. As I did this I entered into a deep and transformative life of prayer. I knew that God would help me through if only I would turn to him. As my trust in him grew my hope grew with it. My anxieties faded and before I realized it they had all but vanished. Anxiety was no longer was the staple of my life, instead it was hope.

Without all my time being spent worrying there was space in my heart and mind to receive the things the Lord was trying to reveal to me each day. So my trust, hope and faith grew deeper and deeper still. Sometimes I still get nervous when I worry about my children’s futures or when I don’t know how we will make it to pay day. But, instead of wallowing in my doubt I have hope! When the path ahead feels dark and unknown I try to remember where God has taken my life from where he found me. When I was bruised and broken hearted I never could have imagined the life I have been blessed with today. I trust in my heart of hearts that God has a plan for all of us, he is faithful, and he will help us to get through and provide for us every step of the way.

Do you suffer from anxiety? How do you deal with it?

If you or someone you know are in an abusive situation help is available. It is possible to move on, heal, and live a better life!

❤ Cait