This morning I walked out onto the back porch & faced the sun beams streaming through the trees. I quieted my heart, asking God what the day might hold. I breathed in the summer air, not yet touched by the humidity promised in the lingering haze. I stretched & smiled because I know each morning, each day is another chance.
If you knew me ten or even five years ago, you may be surprised to see my zeal for God and the Church. Back then I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me that I would be a holy water keeping, blessed candle lighting, novena saying, rosary wielding, joyful Catholic.
Continue reading “I Never Meant to be a Catholic Blogger, or Even a Catholic & Why I’m Staying Both”
We had the first snow of the season here a couple of weeks ago and this year I am determined to change my perspective on the cold and darker months. It really was a lovely snowfall.
My family baked, snuggled and went to bed early. I laid in the dark wrapped in my blanket, basking in the incredible silence that accompanies the flurries. I listened to the flakes piling up and the sound of a plow scraping down the street. The next day I decided to make my Advent wreath and cheerfully clipped and gathered the beautiful things that grow and dwell alongside us in our little woods.
I was managing a small chiropractic office and the doctor I worked for was talented and nice but also eccentric and quite a talker! The only two employees in the small home based practice, we chatted all day between patients. With his kids running in and out, family was a common topic of conversation. At the time I was expecting my second daughter, the first child that my husband and I would share biologically.
One day during a lull while discussing my growing brood the doc asked, “So, how does your husband feel about the new baby on the way?” I smiled and responded that naturally, we’re both excited and a little nervous. “Our oldest is in 3rd grade already,” I said. “It’s like we’re starting over!” He laughed in sympathy, then said “This will be a whole new adventure for him though since this is his first child.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am not known for my organization! I find it really helpful to have lists and routines for myself and my family. Even if only followed loosely, I find that it helps us not to be so scattered. Some things you can allow to fall off the list and defer it to the next day but others are a must do!
As I was discussing my attempt at a more orderly home with my family I expressed the importance of making time to pray and read God’s Word each day. I told my 11-year-old daughter that she needs some form of the Word to be part of her day, each day whether it’s a devotional, church, music, or Sunday school–That night I suggested we watch a movie about the miracles of Jesus together.
My preteen rolled her eyes and sighed saying, “Mom, I know all of those stories! I’ve seriously heard them a hundred times! I already know everything!” My husband and I chuckled as I sighed and rolled my own eyes with exaggeration. I regrouped and explained to her that none of us will never know it all!
Yesterday was tough. Really tough. It was one of those days. You know the kind. Where it all seems to be falling apart and you can barely keep it together. Where you run on coffee and adrenaline. One of those days that you just don’t stop. I knew there was a lot to do that day and wanted it to start off with some quiet time with God.
My husband is old fashioned and still likes to buy the paper. One morning as I was reading yesterday’s news over my coffee I saw an advertisement for a grand opening. In a nearby city, a trendy restaurant was holding a round of open interviews. They knew that once they were in business they would have a lot of demand but little staff. “No experience needed! Willing to train!” The ad exclaimed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
…You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. …This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. -1 John 4
This week has been another tough one for me. As I am quickly approaching my 26th week (and 6th month) of pregnancy I am beginning to feel the weight.. literally and figuratively. I haven’t been feeling my best and my lack of energy and fuzzy brain has been messing with me big time!
I’m trying my best to write but, every time I go to formulate a complete thought I can’t think straight. I get frustrated with my lack of focus, my kids, house or dog distract me, or I feel dizzy and just want to lay down. Though I made a goal of creating lots of pretty, white inventory for the upcoming wedding season, my Etsy shop should be selling tumbleweeds. I have five unfinished projects that are giving me side eye each time I walk by them.
This loss of momentum has been disheartening. The lack of inspiration has been making way for feelings of doubt to slink into the corners of my heart and mind and cast their shadows on my soul. I began to slack on my spiritual disciplines and allow my feelings to sweep me into a tide of old bad habits. I began to let cyclical negative self talk revolve in my mind like water swirling a drain. I started to question everything that I was so convinced of just a few short weeks ago.
As believers we have the comfort of living in the truth of God’s love and presence in our lives but, we can’t forget that as long as we are on the Earth we are subject to spiritual warfare. God has been speaking clearly to my purpose and I’ve trusted him and pursued it like never before. This doesn’t please our enemy. He wants nothing more than for me to just give up. He places thoughts in my mind that are contrary to what the Lord has been asking me to do.
Often when we start to listen and make progress for the Lord is when the spirit of falsehood will come around like a prowling lion ready to devour. It doesn’t want me to do the work that God has asked of me but to doubt the Lord’s promises, question my abilities, feel rejected, give into depression, abandon my plans, and roll over in defeat. Even if my words only reach and inspire a few people he wants to prevent that!
It took all week for me to see this attack for what it was and take my power back through prayer. We all stand in victory with Christ so when the enemy tries to make us doubt all we have to do is remind ourselves of that fact. Instead of continuing to believe the lies and sabotage myself I stopped them in their tracks and threw them out like the trash they are. I prayed for strength in the Holy Spirit, restated the Lords promises, remembered my calling, and banished evil back to the sinking pit it crawled out of.
Know that when you reach an incline you are approaching the mountaintop! Don’t give up when you fall off track or things get difficult, just keep going! I am not going to be pregnant and lagging forever although it can feel that way, and I still have talent and dreams and creativity even if they evade me at times. Perseverance is the only way we can break through! I know that the joy that is coming doesn’t compare to the trials of today. I just need to remember not to let so much time go by the next time and banish the spirit of falsehood as soon as it attempts to make me stumble.
How do you banish doubt and negativity in your life?