Enjoy the Journey

I recently saw The Shack.  It is a wonderful, beautiful movie with so many pearls of wisdom, so many moments that make things seem so clear.  I am sure that there are different parts of that movie that speak to people in different ways, depending on their circumstances and their life experiences.  For me, the part of the movie that pierced my heart was so hidden, but so powerful.

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are taking Mac to a beautiful destination.  As they are walking, Mac asks, “So where are we going?”  Papa immediately says, “Take a look around  and enjoy the journey.”  That line took my breath away because it hit so close to home.  This is a lesson that has taken me seven years to learn…and I am still struggling with.  It was a lesson that began with having to leave everything I had planned and many people I love. To leave a place I thought I would be at forever and to take a job I knew nothing about.  I look back on that, on before the move when I kept asking God to help me in this new journey…always using the word journey.  And then coming here and my first retreat was focused on our journey.  And then I became involved in running and through running I kept learning to enjoy the journey of running and not to get so caught up in the race.  And yet still, still I struggle constantly with wanting to know my destination.  Constantly I ask God to show me what it is I’m supposed to be doing, where I’m supposed to be going.  I want to plan my future.  I am always looking ahead.

But God is not ahead.  And God is not behind.  God is now.  God is here.  How many times must God be whispering to us that we are precisely where we are meant to be?  How many times must He be trying to tell us to stop focusing on where we are going and instead to live, to love, to trust right where we are?  Who is in control?  Is it you…or is it Him?

That line in that movie, “Take a look around and enjoy the journey”, was a beautiful reminder of what my Father is probably whispering to me every day.  He is right where we are–we only need to let go of constantly looking for the destination and instead look to Him and enjoy the incredible journey He is on with us.

 

You Are Never Powerless

You are never powerless.  This is what God said to me, after learning that doctors found a spot on my dad’s liver that needed to be biopsied.  

I know that God purposefully put me where I was when my mom texted me the news about my dad.  I was in the first day, in the first hour, of training in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  We were on Habit #1:  Be Proactive.  There I was, learning what it meant to be proactive rather than reactive.  Realizing, that I have a tendency to be a reactive person.  I tend to let worry and stress overtake me quite frequently.  I react to life and try to figure out how I’m going to deal with it, many times feeling overcome with disappointment, overwhelmed with stress, and powerless.  I know how to play the victim.  But there I was learning that proactive people are not victims.  Proactive people realize that, while they may not be able to control the outcome of an event, they can always control the way they respond to the event or to the outcome.  They can control their attitude, their behavior, their outlook.  Proactive people realize that they always have a choice.  Proactive people are never powerless.

So, I was listening to this and feeling empowered.  It really dawned on me, for the first time, that I always have a choice in every event in my life.  The choice lies within me.  I cannot control other people or what life throws at me.  But I can control me.  I decide how I want to respond, how I want to look at what life hands out.  And as I was feeling this wonderful, empowering feeling, my mom texted me that doctors found a spot on my dad’s liver that needed to be biopsied.  And, immediately, I was crushed.  I became worried, stressed, and scared all at once.  And immediately, in my reactive state, I wanted to shout out to the presenter, “Oh yeah, well how can this help me now?  I do not have a choice now, do I?”  And just as soon as I had that thought, God spoke to me.  And He told me that there is always something we can do.  It is the most powerful thing we will ever do in our lifetimes.  He told me that I can pray.  

You see, I know that God purposefully put me in that training when I received that news.  He knew that I needed to be open to the fact that we are never powerless.  He knew that I needed to learn what being proactive was all about, so that He could show me that even in the scariest, worst circumstances in our lives, we always have a choice.

Remember, there is always something you can do when life hits hard.  You can always pray.  You can always hope.  You can always trust.

You are never powerless.

Lost and Found

Sometimes I feel lost.

From an early age, I had control of my future. I knew early on that I wanted to be a teacher. I became a teacher right after graduating from college and after more than ten years of teaching, I knew I wanted to get my Masters Degree and become a principal. I got my Masters Degree and then, suddenly, I lost control of the direction of my life. Suddenly, my life took a turn I was not planning or expecting. Suddenly, I was far away from family in a new state, in a new school, doing a job that I had not planned on doing. Now, going on five years later, I am still at that school, still at the job I had never envisioned myself doing. There are things about it that I like, but there are things about it I don’t like as well. Often times, I get the feeling that my job has little purpose…or rather, that I have little purpose in the job I am doing. I have prayed and prayed that God show me what He wants me to do and the scariest part is, when I think about what I would want to do, for the first time in my life, I have no idea…I have no direction…I have no plan. Nothing sounds exciting, nothing ignites a fire. I often times just feel lost.

Last night, as I fell asleep, I remember asking St. Anthony to help me find myself. He is the finder of lost things and I felt as though I had lost…myself. Who was I? What was my purpose? What am I supposed to be doing? As I drifted off to sleep, I just kept repeating, “Help me find myself”.

I’m sure everyone, at some point, has these feelings of being lost. But this is scary to me. I think it’s because I have never lived feeling lost. I have always had a purpose, a goal, a plan. I was always in control. I know that God is teaching me to give up my control and give it to Him, to trust in His plan for me–in my heart I know that. But after five years, you’d think He would start showing me what that plan is–or at least give me a glimpse. But no, I am exactly where I was five years ago–still searching, still wondering…still lost.

Today in Adoration, I told him how lost I felt. I prayed that He would show me the way. I prayed for a long time. Then I decided to spend a few minutes reading a book that I’ve been reading during Adoration, but had not read in the last 2 weeks. I picked up where I had left off in the book and here is what I read today:

“I find that when we’re willing to serve like Jesus did–while we’re on the way–divine appointments…start popping up everywhere.  And if we’ll take the time to stop and listen, we may find our destination, even when we thought we were lost.” (Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Joanna Weaver) 

And, “When we surrender ourselves to be used by God, we don’t always get to pick the time, the method, or the place of ministry.  In fact, sometimes, we find ourselves doing nothing at all–except praying and waiting for God’s leading.”  (Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Joanna Weaver).

And finally, “…the key is not in our activity, but in our receptivity to God’s voice–and in our willingness to be used in whatever ways he brings to our attention.  When we bring to him our willingness to serve, he’ll always, eventually, point us toward something we can do for him.  And that task will always have something to do with love.” (Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Joanna Weaver).

It is no coincidence that this was the section of the book I was on today.  God knew that I needed to hear these words–that I needed reassurance that, while I may feel lost, God has not lost sight of me.  

This is the journey I am on and while I may not understand it or have any control over where it will take me, He does.  Maybe, when we have so much control over the direction of our life, God needs us to lose all control so that we can find Him.  I am always looking for the destination, but  maybe God is trying to teach me that it is what we do on the journey that matters. 

Wherever we are on our journey, we have an opportunity to serve God.   And while we may not know where the road will take us, maybe what really matters is just knowing that we are on the road with Him. 

And He knows where He’s going.

You Can Always Pray

“You can always pray.”  This was the message I received on my oldest son’s 19th birthday. 

Being a parent is hard work.  It is physically demanding when your children are small.  It is emotionally demanding when they grow up.  Being the parent of a 12 and 19 year old, I have been through the baby, toddler and teenage years as a parent.  I always thought that the toddler years were the hardest.  What a stage in life!  Here you have a little person who is discovering their independence for the first time.  They are learning to walk–getting around on their own–going where they want, when they want.  They are learning to talk–and why is it that their favorite word is No!!  They are learning that they can do things on their own and they WANT to do these things on their own.  They WILL put the spoon in their mouth themselves, even though the spoon is upside down.  They WILL NOT sit in the stroller, they want to walk instead!  When you think about it, this assertion of their independence as a two and three year old is much like their assertion of independence as a 17 and 18 year old.  Things circle back around, and now you have a big person who has learned how to drive a car, how to hold a job, how to do things that THEY want to do.  The biggest difference as a parent between these two stages is the amount of control the parent has.  When they were a toddler, yes, they wanted to do things on their own–but ultimately, the parent had more control over which things they did.  As a teenager, yes, I was still able to set some boundaries such as curfew–but the amount of control you as a parent have slowly starts to dwindle.  I can demand that you be home by midnight, but I am not there with you while you are gone, helping you make the right choices.  And while I know it is a good thing to give your child the independence that they so desperately crave so that they become productive, responsible adults…it sure is hard.  For me, being a parent now is much harder than it ever was when my kids were little.  Then, I was their world and I knew what they were doing, when they were doing it and I was able to make sure they were safe and happy.  Now?  I am not their world, nor should I be at this stage.  I HOPE that they are safe.  I HOPE that they are happy.  But my control over that is slowly slipping away.

The night before my son’s 19th birthday, I was at Mass praying.  My heart was so consumed in prayer for my son that tears were streaming from my eyes.  I want so much for him to be happy, to be loved, to find his path and to remain close to God.  Those are my deepest desires for my children–they are what I want more than anything in this world.  At one point in my son’s life, I could provide that.  Now, I must rely on God to provide that for them.  The feeling of helplessness, on my part, filled me with despair. 

The next morning, on my son’s birthday, I read my devotional.  God spoke to me in this sentence, “When you see a need, don’t ever think there is nothing you can do, because you can always pray.” (Love Out Loud by Joyce Meyers)

I pray for my children every day.  I pray for them now more than I ever did when they were little.  When I think about it, I don’t think I prayed much for them when they were little.  Why would I need to?  I was taking care of them.  I was in control.  Silly, yes, but that was my thinking.  Now I realize that as my control slowly begins to fade away, my prayers for them have increased tremendously.  And that has made me realize that now they are in much better hands than they were ever in when I was their world.  Now, they are in God’s hands. 

A parent’s work is never done, it just changes.  God has shown me that as a parent of a young adult, I still do have some control.  I can control how often I pray for my son and what I pray for.  My despair has been turned to hope, knowing that through it all, I can always pray.