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 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.

Humble

Everyone should have an outlet, a passion, something they love to do just because they love doing it.  For me, that is running.   It was only 3 years ago that I started running, at the age of 37 and it took hold of me and set me free.  It was a gift that God showered down on me at a time in my life when I needed something to give me confidence and joy again.  I went from never having run, well, anything, to running and winning 5Ks and then running 10Ks and then right into half marathons.  It was a release, an escape, and it even became spiritual for me, as I found myself using the time to talk to God.

In the years that followed, my running ability has steadily declined.  My body took a toll that first year, when I went all out.  Now, I only run a couple of 5Ks a year and no halfs.  Now, I am just grateful if I can get out there and run 3 1/2 miles a few times a week.  And I do because it is still a spiritual escape for me, a time when I can talk to God and praise Him, as I look around at nature and take in its beauty.

On a recent weekday run, my mind drifted, as it often does when I run, and I found myself thinking about how good I was doing with various aspects of my job and how strong I felt running.  And immediately, I found myself asking God to help me stop exalting myself.  I saw right away that I was feeling very in control of my life and it scared me.  I have learned, throughout the years, that as soon as I start feeling that power, that control, that praise in my own talents and abilities–that is when everything tends to start falling apart.  Because that is when I rely on my own strength, my own abilities, and I stop relying on God.  That is not a good place to be.  So, I immediately asked, as hard as it was, that God humble me.  That I come down from my high point where all I can see is myself and be brought back down to a level where God is my focal point again.  It’s not an easy prayer to say, because when I ask to be humbled, it means swallowing my pride–it means defeat in some aspect of my life–and it is a very hard thing to know when you have been defeated and to have to  swallow your pride.  I know this all too well, as I have watched my running ability ever so slowly be lessened and lessened.  That is when you have to rely on God’s goodness and trust that His plan is far better than your own.

I said that prayer a couple of weeks ago and life went on.  God answered that prayer just a few days ago.  Again, a weekday run.  Recently, I had been experiencing some pain in my hip/hamstring area and I was having to take it easy on my running.  A regular occurrence these days.  I’ve been running with my husband, who only started running with me about a year ago and not steadily until recently.  He’s been running to lose weight.  Naturally, he’s been a slower runner than I have, since I’d been running longer and was in better shape.  Until now.  On this run, my husband passed me up.  And then, on the next run, my husband passed me up again.  How could that be?  I’ve run (and won) tons more 5ks, I’ve run half marathons.  For 3 years running has been my life.  He’s only been running steadily for about a year.   How could he be passing me up?  It was a blow to my pride.  I prayed, again a very hard prayer to say when your pride is wounded, that God help me to be happy for him, to help me let go of the anger and jealousy and pride that I was feeling.

When I got to work that morning I was still feeling so wounded.  I put my stuff in my office and then I stood by my desk and suddenly, the poster that I hung up just the day before caught my eye.  It was one of those motivational posters, with lots of words on it.  But, in the midst of all those words, I only saw one.  Humble.  The word jumped out and it was all that I could see.  And I knew, in that instant, that God was showing me that one word.  Suddenly, I remembered that prayer that I said a few weeks ago and God was telling me that He was humbling me.  He was humbling me to make me a better person.  He was humbling me so that I would once again rely on Him.  What a gift He had given me.

Because it’s not about being a number 151Y7UBvfc3L._SY450_  runner.  It’s not about being number 1 at your job.  It’s about what is number 1 in your life.  What is your focal point?  What is the one thing you could never live without?  Once again, God humbled me so that all of those other things in life that we start to place such a high value on could be put back in their proper place.  And I could once again see clearly what is most important.  I could once again be made strong in my weaknesses.  Knowing that God’s strength is stronger, God’s plan is better, God’s love is bigger.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.–2 Corinthians 12:9

 

 

What We Are Called To Do

Sometimes God puts prayers in my heart to say in very particular ways.

Before my family and I made a very big move out of state, away from all of our family, I kept praying that God would help us on our journey.  In those words, always using the word journey.  That became a prayer that I prayed for months before, during and even after our move.  Amazingly, when I went to the first retreat at the new school I was working at, we were told that our theme for that year would be The Journey and that we were all on the Journey together.  Of course, I realized immediately that this was no coincidence.  This was God letting me know that indeed, this was the Journey He wanted me to be on.

Something very similar just recently happened.  For about a year now I have been praying that God show me what He wants me to do vocation wise.  I just haven’t felt very passionate or motivated by what I am currently doing in my job and I just felt like there had to be more or something else that I was supposed to be doing.  I just didn’t have any idea of what that was!  Within the past few weeks, as I have been praying about it, I have felt God telling me to stop worrying so much about what’s next.  He showed me that this is something I have been doing for a long time.  Always searching for “what’s next”.  I felt God telling me that I am exactly where I am meant to be.  I am where I am.  He has told me that the important thing is what I am supposed to be doing where I am.  And that is that I need to be Christ to others.  Through my actions, words, thoughts and deeds He wants me to show others who He is.  He wants me to love with a Christ-like love so that others will see Him through me.  That message suddenly became very clear to me, almost like an epiphany.  And I embraced it immediately.  I began praying about this, asking God to help me, through my words, actions, thoughts and deeds, to show others who He is.  And not to be afraid.

Yesterday, at now my fifth retreat at my school, I was reaffirmed of my prayer, once again.  I know this, because the priest’s homily was (and these were his words) how our words and actions show others who God is.  He repeated “our words and actions” quite a few times…the same words I have been using lately in my prayer.  The moment he said it, I knew that what I had been feeling in my heart was truly God’s message to me.

And thinking about it, isn’t that His message to everyone?  We are all so busy searching for “what’s next” that we fail to do the most important thing we are called to do right where we are.  And that is to love.  To love all of those around us, all of the time.  At first, when I heard this message from God, all I could think was how simple that is.  Really?  That’s it?  That’s my purpose?  But right after that retreat, when I felt empowered and gung- ho about starting this mission from God, I learned that to love with a Christlike love was not going to be a simple task.  I had received an unkind email shortly after the retreat that immediately made my blood boil and I couldn’t wait to email something equally as unkind back.  However, God, in His grace, whispered to me, “Love”.  I did calm down after a few hours and did not respond to the email until the next day, when I had a chance to let God help me with this and I could respond in a loving manner.  At that moment, I realized that this would not be an easy task, but it was a mission, a calling, that I knew God had given me and I am determined to carry it out.

I hope that all of us can, at some point, hear that very same calling from God. I believe it is what we are called to do, wherever we are.  Because the important thing is not where we are.  It’s what we are doing while we are there.

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.

Answered Prayer

Have you ever had a new thought or an answer to a problem pop up during prayer?  This happened to me a few weeks ago.  I was at  a meeting and the morning was not going well.  My coworkers knew this and right before we began our opening prayer, a few of them said they were going to pray for me.  Not but a minute into that prayer, the answer to a problem popped into my head.  Sure enough, once I tried what I thought of, the problem was solved.  It was truly amazing and I know without a doubt that God heard my coworkers prayers and He supplied me with the answer.

On another occasion, a few months ago, I was saying my morning prayers and I suddenly felt a need to pray for one of my coworkers.  This was a bit difficult for me because I find it very hard to get along with this individual.  There are very, very few people that I don’t get along with, but this was one of them.  I listened to that voice in my head however and, while it was a difficult thing to do, I did pray for him.  This went on for about a week, each day getting alittle easier.  I wasn’t sure really what to pray for, so I just prayed that God would bless him and give him much happiness and good health.  It had been about a week of praying for him when he told me that his wife had just had a miscarriage.  In that instant, I knew why God had urged me to pray for him and I could honestly tell him that he was in my prayers.  That actually led me to not only pray more for him, but also to include his family in my prayers as well.  After that happened, I urged friends and family to always listen to that voice in your head.  That prompting, I knew, was the Holy Spirit. 

I find that those clear cut answers or promptings in prayer are not frequent.  It seems to me that God speaks to me in more discreet ways, in more quiet ways that sometimes seem forever to make themselves known.  But there are times when God’s voice is very direct, very clear.  Through all of the ways God speaks, I have learned that prayer is incredibly powerful.  I think sometimes He shows me the direct effect of prayer to strengthen my belief in its power.  There are some prayers I have been saying for some people for a very, very long time and yet, nothing changes.  I know God hears those prayers, but I wonder why they don’t seem to make a difference for those people I have been praying for.  Maybe, when God shows me answers to prayers like the two instances I wrote about, He is also showing me that all of my prayers make a difference, even the ones that seem to go unnoticed.  He is showing me that our prayers are always heard, and that when the time is right, and in His perfect way, our prayers are answered.

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.

Do Not Worry

Have you ever had a concern, prayed about it and then, the next day, you read something and it speaks EXACTLY to what you  had just prayed about?  That happens to me–and I know that is God speaking to me.

Last week I had a big concern come up at work.  Of course I prayed alot about it, that God would help me with it.  But that night I woke up in the middle of the night thinking and worrying about it.  I kept telling myself that sitting there at 2 am in the dark thinking and worrying about this problem was not going to solve or change anything.  I kept telling myself to go back to sleep, but I just couldn’t.  I kept hearing a voice in my head telling me to stop worrying and to trust God.  I have come to learn, through many experiences, that when you hear that voice in your head that is surrounded by God’s light, that is not your voice.  That is God’s voice.  I finally did get back to sleep.

The next morning, when I got to work, I opened up a devotional book I had found in my new office, left behind by the previous occupant.  I had just decided the day before to start reading each day’s devotional when I got to work (they’re pretty short).  So, on this second day of reading the devotional, God spoke to me.  Here are just a few lines of that day’s devotional:  “I have found that victorious people in the Bible faced their problems with prayer.  They did not worry; they prayed.  I ask you today:  Do you worry or do you take your needs to God in prayer?”  and here is another, “The answer to your problem, whatever it may be, is not to worry, but praying and trusting that Jesus is leading you.”  (Love Out Loud by Joyce Meyer)

Now some people might call this a coincidence, but I know that God was speaking to me.  And His message helped me immensely.  Since then, the problem has been fixed and all is well.

God tells us all, always, “Do not worry, but trust in Me.”