Let Your Light Shine!

Recently, I was named as a facilitator for a team where I work called the Lighthouse Team.  If you are familiar with The Leader in Me, based on Steven Covey’s very influential book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, this may sound familiar to you.  My school has recently implemented this really wonderful way of teaching not only students but all of us that we are all called to be leaders.  It fits wonderfully with the mission of my Catholic school in that we are called to be leaders in our faith.  I absolutely LOVE this program!  It is so exciting for me to be a part of something that teaches students and adults that God has given us each special, unique gifts and that we are CALLED to use those gifts to lead others to Christ.  Each and every one of us, in our own wonderfully unique ways, are called to be leaders.  The Lighthouse Team is, what I like to think of, a light to the rest of the faculty.  We are the team who guides them in this process as they deliver the lessons to the students.  I have been on the Lighthouse Team for 2 years and this year was named as a facilitator, along with a coworker.  While very excited, I was also very nervous when we called our first Lighthouse Team meeting.  I had very mixed feelings about taking on this role because of the climate at my school lately–I am in love with this program, but I know that I am sailing against a strong headwind and that I will have some obstacles along this new journey.  So, I wanted our first meeting to be positive, well organized, informational,  and well…perfect. 

God knows our thoughts, our desires, our wants and hopes and dreams.  He calls each of us to many things in our lives.  That morning, before my meeting, my devotional said, “I want you to live close to me, seeing things from my perspective more and more” and in italics, it said, “Walk as a child of light for my radiance is all around you and also within you; it transforms you inside and out….Trust me to lead you step by step through each day.  I provide sufficient Light for only one day at a time….Live ever so near Me–flourishing in my transforming Light.”

My meeting went really well that morning.  I truly felt like I was a light to my team and that together, we could be a light to everyone else.  And not just any light, but the Light of God, shining brightly for others to see. 

As soon as I got back to my office and set down my stuff, I decided to flip over the next page on a small calendar I have on my desk that has the date and a little saying, quote, or bible verse on each day.  And that day, the quote was, “Let your light shine!”

And at that moment, I knew that at this time, this was my calling.  This all happened 8 days ago.  But I was not moved to tell you this in a post until this evening, when, as I was putting away my jewelry, a poem that I have on my dresser caught my eye and I couldn’t help but read it, even though I’ve read it many times.  The poem is called If and it was the last thing I gave to my grandmother before she died.  It was her favorite poem.  And today, this poem caught my eye, even though it sits on my dresser every day.  And today…today is my grandmother’s birthday.  You see, our loved ones in Heaven speak to us too.  And today I learned that she was also telling me to let my light shine. 

Sometimes, God sends us messages repeatedly in many different ways.  Right when I sat down to write this post, my son came in to see what I was doing.  I told him I was about to write a post.  I didn’t tell him what it would be about,  just that he would have to read it when I was done.  And do you know what he told me?  He told me that when he writes posts, he likes to listen to a song called The Light.

I have never gone back to update a post, but I really feel that I should.  The day after I wrote this post, I went to work and flipped my day calendar to the correct date.  If you don’t think God talks to us, maybe this will convince you otherwise!  All I could do was look up, smile,  and whisper a “Thank you”.  Here is what was on my calendar:

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In My Dreams

I am a very active dreamer.  It is rare for me to not remember at least one (but usually many more) dreams every night.  Usually my dreams are not pleasant.  I have had, though, many dreams either about God or about deceased loved ones–and with the exception of one or two, those have all been very good.  One night, not long after my grandmother passed away, I dreamed that she was alive again and I heard her speak and I remember thinking in my dream how good it was to hear her voice.  When I woke up and scrolled through my phone as I usually do upon waking, I decided to look through the voicemail section, where I discovered for the first time an area that said Deleted Voicemails and had quite a few stored.  I clicked on it and there, about a month before my grandmother had passed away, was an old voicemail she had left me with a very sweet message.  Was my dream, in some way, a foreshadowing, a predictor, of what I was to find upon waking?  I didn’t consciously think to look at my voicemails wondering if there was one from my grandmother on there.  But did my dream subconsciously move me to check for a voicemail from her?  Does God speak to us through our dreams?

A couple of nights ago I had a dream that I didn’t immediately remember upon waking.  It wasn’t until I was lying in bed watching television shortly after waking when I saw a commercial about termites.  When I saw those termites, immediately my mind was triggered and I knew I had some sort of dream about insects.  As I lay there thinking, it all came back to me.  It was a very unpleasant dream about spiders.  I was in a room, and there was  a very large spider web that I was caught in.  It was pulling me down and the force was very strong.  I couldn’t move.  I looked up at the ceiling and saw spiders.  That’s the part I remember.  I know, in that vague way you just know, that there was more to that dream–there were more webs and spiders–but I can’t remember the rest.  I can only remember, very vividly that part of being pulled in that web.  The force was so strong and I was stuck.  I decided then to look up the meaning of spider dreams.  I read through a few websites and then decided, since none of it really made any sense to me, to put away my phone and say my prayers.

I began, as I always do, with my daily meditation in the book, “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young.  This book has a short meditation for each day of the year.  I turned to that date and the meditation was about trust.  This was very appropriate for me because trusting in God is always difficult for me.  In fact, just the night before, my husband and I had an interesting conversation about anxiety, worry, optimism and pessimism.  I am a natural worrier, anxious about many things, while my husband is the complete opposite.  When his mind thinks about the future, it naturally thinks of happy things.  When my mind wanders, it naturally thinks about all the things that can go wrong.  I know this about myself and I ask for God’s help with this very frequently.  As I was telling a friend just a few days ago, I worry most about my children.  Not for any specific reason–they are both very good young men, doing very well in school and are happy and healthy.  But as they’ve grown older and I have less and less control as a mother, I think I try to hold onto some of that control by worrying.  So, reading a meditation about trust is always helpful to me.  But, when I came to the last two lines of the meditation, I knew right then, that God was speaking directly to me.

Here is what it said, “Tomorrow is busy worrying about itself; don’t get tangled up in its worry-webs.  Trust Me one day at a time.”

Not only did it use the term worry-webs, but in that whole meditation, the only part of it that was italicized was that line, “Tomorrow is busy worrying about itself; don’t get tangled up in its worry-webs.”

God speaks to us all the time.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  God knew exactly what I needed to hear, but not only that, He knew that I needed to hear it a new way, a way that would get my attention.  You see, had I not had that dream, I would have read that meditation and passed it along as another great reminder about trust, but then I would have been on my way.  Having that dream and then reading that line hit me like a ton of bricks.  God does not want us to worry.  He does not want us to be anxious.  He wants us to enter a fully loving, fully trusting relationship with Him where we know with certainty that He is always working for our good.

Listen in all your moments.  God our Father is the greatest Teacher and He speaks in ways that are beyond our wildest dreams!

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.

 

My Friend

God is all around us.  And, I believe, so are our loved ones who live with Him in Heaven.  The question is, do we recognize them, when they are speaking to us? 

I found out on a Sunday that my grandmother passed away.  She was a good friend of mine.  We did not always have a close relationship, but God, in his goodness, brought us close in those last few years of my grandmother’s life.  She brought to life a passion I had as a child that I had let go of for awhile–reading good books.  It was through sharing books with her that I really learned who my grandmother was; and discovered that she and I had alot in common! I will forever thank God for allowing us to share a bond with one another.  My grandmother truly was my good friend.

The Thursday before that Sunday, as I went into the Adoration chapel like I do every Thursday, I was overwhelmed with the scent of the gardenias that were growing right outside the chapel.  I knew the gardenias grew there, but the powerful aroma reminded me that they were there, that Katie was there.  Of course, I didn’t know at the time why that was so significant, but I did know that God and Katie were speaking to me.  It gave me a very comforting feeling–one that stayed with me for some time.  The feeling was so powerful, in fact, that when I heard the news on that Sunday, I immediately thought back to that powerful scent that reminded me that I was surrounded by love.

Fast forward to that Sunday.  I woke up very early that morning–I just couldn’t sleep.  After alittle while, I decided to look at my phone and check the time.  And that’s when I saw the message that my grandmother has passed.  After speaking with my parents and then saying a rosary, I decided to go for a run and pray.  When I walked outside, the sun was just starting to come up through the clouds and it was a beautiful sunrise.  And as I ran and cried and prayed, I passed by bushes and bushes of gardenias.  The further I ran and the more gardenias I passed, I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They were everywhere!  And as I passed them I could smell their sweet fragrance.  It made me happy and sad all at once.  But mostly, it made me aware that God was with me.  That God was with her.  And that Katie was with her too.

As I look back on these events, I see how intertwined they are.  It’s those small moments, those little things that God gives to us.  On my run this morning, Grandma popped in my head and I started talking to her.  And shortly after, I watched two cardinals fly in front of me and I knew she was there.  And then, a big green leaf floated from the top of a tree right in front of me.  And I knew she was there. 

We are always surrounded by love.  The love of God and the love of those who live with Him are always around us.  It may be in the breeze that blows across your face or the unusual song of a bird or the sunset that makes you stop and stare.  We are never alone.  We are never without a good friend.

I Am Taking Care of You

The Holy Spirit echoed these words to me a week ago, as I ran in the dark, early morning hour.  And it was more than words, it was a complete, peaceful feeling that settled deep within my heart.  As I ran with the stars and sliver of moon overhead, I felt the comfort and reassurance of God’s gentle love.  It was 4 days before another half marathon and my prayer became one of total surrender, as I asked God with complete trust and confidence to give me whatever was best for me.  It is a rare, rare thing for me to ask this and to be completely fine with whatever God has in store.  Rare, because, while I may ask God to take care of me, I often find that I have my own preference, my own desire for how I want things to happen.  And that usually, unfortunately, is where I tend to lean.  But, as I said that prayer, that morning, I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that whatever God had in store for me, it was the best thing for me.  I knew it then, and by God’s grace, I still know it now.

Three days later, the day before the half marathon, I developed a bad sinus infection that only grew worse the day of the race.  When I barely had enough strength to get up and make breakfast, I knew the race was out of the question.  Die hard runner that I am, this was a bit devastating for me as I had been looking forward to this race for quite some time.  But deep within my heart, there it still was.  The comforting reassurance that God was taking care of me.  It was there, burning bright, enveloping me in His love.  I didn’t read my daily devotional that day.  I stayed in my bed, barely able to function for the day.  But the next day, as my head started to clear up, I did go back and read my devotional for the day before, the day of the race.  And here was the message:

‘I am taking care of you.  Feel the warmth and security of being enveloped in My loving Presence….If you could see how close I am to you and how constantly I work on your behalf, you would never again doubt that I am wonderfully caring for you…’
–Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

I am finding that this message that God so clearly spoke to me a week ago is still alive in my heart.  As I struggle with future events, with what God’s plan is for me at this time in my life, with what my purpose is right now, God is still reminding me that He is taking care of me.  Today was one of those days where doubt and confusion really took hold of me.  So, I decided to pick up another devotional.  It is one I don’t read very often, but sits at my desk, waiting for me to pick it up.  I went to the passage I had marked as the next one to read.  And here is what God said:

Trust me here and now.  You are in rigorous training–on an adventurous trail designed for you alone.  This path is not of your choosing, but it is My way for you.  I am doing things you can’t understand.  That is why I say, “Trust Me!”….Although you cannot see Me, My Presence with you is rock-solid reality.  Find hope in Me, beloved, for I am taking care of you.’
–Jesus Today by Sarah Young

In all the moments of your life, God is taking care of you.  Let that comfort you when you are clouded with doubt so that your heart and mind become as clear as a starlit morning, enveloped in His love.

 

 

 

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.

No Fear

The prayer God put in my heart when this school year began was to ask Him to help me to not be afraid.  I am afraid of many things, I think we all are.  Fear of failure, fear of letting others see who you really are, fear of trying new things and exploring the unknown.  You see, God was showing me, months ago, that I was letting my fears get in the way of developing close friendships and letting others see who I really am, faults and all, and also of failing at my attempts.  So, I have prayed many, many mornings that God help me not to be afraid.  It is hard to step out on that ledge and let go–especially for someone like me, who likes to be in control and to feel safe.  So this year, I have taken a few risks and have joined in on things I might have otherwise opted out of.  It is something I have to work at–letting go of my fear and taking the plunge.  But, each time I do, I realize I am making progress, bit by bit.  Completely letting go of all of my fears is something I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do, but I do think there are opportunities in life that are given to us that allow us to make the choice to let go, if even for just a few minutes or a few hours or a few days.  And when we do, we are making progress; we are trusting in God just a little bit more each time.  And I believe God delights in those moments and that He is cheering us on.

I went to a symposium a few days ago and met a well-known author.  He was having a book signing, so I brought him my book to get signed, as well as a book for a friend.  While he signed the books, we chatted for a minute and then I went home for the weekend.  I did not look to see what he wrote in our books until a few days later.  He wrote a nice message to my friend and in mine he simply wrote, “No Fear”.

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be alarmed, for I am your God. I give you strength, truly I help you, truly I hold you firm with my saving right hand.”–Isaiah 41:10

The Little Things

Are there some things in your life that you just don’t pray about, because they seem trivial?  I have recently noticed that I was not asking for God’s help with something in my life, because I figured, in the grand scheme of things, that there were more important things to pray about.  On my run this morning, as I started asking God for his help in keeping me strong and free from injury, as I have recently started doing on every run for the past few weeks, I asked myself why had I not ever bothered asking for God’s help before with my running needs?  And I know the answer was that I just felt it was so insignificant–with all the things going on in the world and with needs so much greater than mine…a part of me felt selfish for asking for His help with my running.  And, honestly, there was also a part of me that was trying to do it all by myself.  This was MY endeavor, I don’t need anyone’s help.  It really hit me today, on my run, that both of these ways of thinking were just not right.  As I said, for the past few weeks I have been asking for God’s help on my runs.  I think it was because of a christian song I recently put on my playlist–it just prompted me to pray!  And today, on my run and also in my devotional for today, I received confirmation that God wants us to bring everything to Him.  Nothing is too trivial for our God–nothing is too big or too small for Him.  To think otherwise is to doubt the enormity of His love for us.  And to leave Him out of a part of our life is putting limits and constraints on all that He wants to bestow on us.  I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to come to this realization, especially when I know how powerful prayer is.  But I am grateful that I finally heard God whispering to me, in the early morning hours when it was just Him and me and the stars: Ask for My help in every little thing.  There is nothing too big or too small that you and I cannot handle together.  Lay it all at my feet.  I am in every detail of your life. Share your whole self with me.  I am your Helper and I am always with you.  Come to me fully and completely and trust in My love for you.

The Wisdom of God

I have recently learned what it means to ask God to give you wisdom when having to make a decision.  Yesterday, I asked God to help me know what to do, to make the right decision.  Recently my back started hurting a whole lot and I wasn’t sure why so I really didn’t know how to treat it.  I had a chiropractor appointment scheduled for that day and I didn’t know if I should go or what I should do.  The pain was so intense, I really had no idea what was going on.  So, I asked God many times to just help me to know what the best thing would be for my back to start feeling better.  I ended up going to the chiropractor and after he adjusted my back and did some stretching exercises with me, it started feeling a ton better. 

I am an avid runner.  I love to run!  My plan had been to run this morning but last night I started wondering if I should run or give my back more time to heal. It was finally feeling better and my husband asked if I should give it some more time now that it was feeling better.  My initial thought was, “no way! I’m feeling better, so let’s go!”  But, as I lay in bed before going to sleep, I started thinking about it some more.  I decided not to run, to give my back more time.  When I woke up this morning, my back felt great!  My immediate thought was, I made the right decision.  And then, not a second later, a voice whispered to me that God gave me that grace to make the right decision.  And I knew that to be true.  I love running so much, that it was not easy for me to hold off.  It was only God’s grace that allowed me to make the right choice and do the hard thing.

And that’s how I learned what it means to ask God to give you the wisdom to make the right choice.  It is His grace that gives you the ability to make decisions, when you ask Him and trust in what He is whispering to you.  The choice I had to make was not a monumental decision on some sort of grand scale–but for me, I was truly in a state of not knowing what to do and the only thing I could do that I could rely on, was ask for God’s guidance.

This morning when I opened my devotional to today’s passage, it was entitled, ‘Wisdom’.  The first paragraph read, “All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in me.  So I am relevant to absolutely everything!  The world is such a fragmented place, with many voices calling out to you–claiming to have answers.  When you are learning or experiencing new things, it is vital to stay in communication with Me.  I can help you understand things from My perspective:  drawing on My magnificent wisdom.”–(Jesus Lives by Sarah Young, 2009)

Big or small, God is always ready to help us with our decisions, because He is in all things.  Ask for His grace and trust in His wisdom.

A Powerful God

Today at Mass we were reminded of how powerful God is.  How he knows all the hairs on our head.  How he hears all of our prayers all of the time.  How he transcends time and space and is with each and every one of us every moment of every day.  He is so very powerful.  It was the perfect message this morning, not just for me, but for my son, my 13 year old, who I have been praying for unceasingly and today I was shown that God was not only hearing my prayers, but He was answering them in a way I never would have expected.

For a reason that no one could figure out, my son has been having a hard time, physically, during our weekly school Masses.  He feels faint, sick, weak.  It has been going on for quite some time and has been a source of embarrassment for him.  It has made him not want to go to Mass.  We’ve taken him to doctors, even specialists and no one can tell us why this happens.  This morning, before we left for school, for the first time ever, my son asked me to pray that he does well in Mass today.  I was hit instantaneously at how amazing that moment was.  My son has never asked me to pray for anything.  In that instant, God showed me that in this weakness that has befallen my son, He has brought him to a place where he is now learning to seek God’s help.  Not only that, but God must also be teaching my son that with prayer, God can do anything.  Because for my son to ask for my prayer, he must be learning that prayer is a powerful tool, a powerful weapon.

For this to happen, was powerful to me.  But, what’s even more amazing, is that this was not the only moment that God showed his grace.  You see, just yesterday, during adoration, I was reading a book and the section I happened to be reading was about surrender.  I underlined this section, because it spoke to me in things that I myself have been dealing with: “When we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, we release the Lord of the Process to do this work.  For it is in our weakness that Christ is strong.  It is in our inadequacy that we find him more than sufficient.  And it is in our willingness to be broken that he brings wholeness–more wholeness and completeness than we ever dreamed possible.”  Joanna Weaver, 2013.

I couldn’t help but recall that section this morning, when my son asked me to pray for him.  God showed me that even if my son continues to not feel well physically in Mass, He is pouring out His grace on him in his weakness, He is fixing his spirit.  And so, before I went to Mass this morning, I asked God to show my son just how powerful prayer is.  Just how powerful He is.  And then, the priest gave his homily. 

And it was all about the power of God.