Category Archives: Trusting in God

Winning the Lottery and Knowing You are Dying

“I know what I’d do if I won the Lottery,” my sister said to me.  I thought to myself, “Really? She knows what she would do? Hmmm…I’m not quite sure I know what I would do.” She continued, “I would pay for our entire family to go on a Disney Cruise.” Right now, that’s about 70 people at least. “Yeah, that would cost some money,” I replied.

I’m not sure how we got started talking about winning the Lottery, but our conversation right before that is what we would change if we knew we were dying. That was a much easier question for me to answer. I said right away, “I wouldn’t change one thing.” That sounded crazy to my ears at first, but I followed it with, “I have fought long and hard to get my life ordered on the right things. I have put God first, my spouse second, my children third, my family next, followed by my neighbors and community and church. I don’t think I would change a thing.”

But the more I thought about it today, the more I realized I would change some things. I would go to daily Mass. I would wake up much earlier and pray. I have done both of these things on and off for the past few years, but I cannot seem to be consistent. It’s like my selfishness and my love for God are battling it out. Sometimes, I feel as if I am on the sidelines watching. Sometimes, my vocation as wife and mother makes me wonder if this is even possible. So, I think I would change this, but everything else, I wouldn’t change.

As for the Lottery, I have given it some thought. Although I never play the Lottery, if I did, I know what I would like to do with that money. I would like to buy a large property with woods, a lake, and cabins all around. I would build a Retreat Center for Families. This would be a place where families could come and spend time to relax and grow in their faith. I would ask the Sacred Heart Sisters to teach and plan the retreats because this is their charism–to serve the Married Church–and they are awesome at it. I would make it so that money was never a barrier for experiencing a weekend full of grace and spiritual growth. On the days when the Retreat Center was empty, I would have a 24-hour Adoration Chapel and I would pray.

As I type this blog, I am thinking the whole time: “You will never win the Lottery. Why are you even writing this?” Just now, it hit me. In all truth, I have won the Lottery already, and it is because God’s plans are so much bigger than mine. See, Jesus Christ died on the Cross for each single person. He made sure each of us “won the Lottery” in the most incredible way possible. He gave us Eternal life and invites us to be adopted sons and daughters of God! This changes the whole way we look at living and dying, too. If I knew I was dying, I would know I was that much closer to being with God face-to-face. I imagine I would be experiencing a “quickening” of sorts that would prepare me for this. Although those around me would grieve, I would only more strongly have to share my belief and faith in God’s plan. I would want everyone to know that we all have won the lottery, and death has been conquered! I pray that all people will come to understand that they have won the lottery in this way when they know they are dying.

Finding the Good in Good Friday

Only God could take something as brutal and wicked as a crucifixion of an innocent man and make it into something good and holy. We call today “Good Friday,” and it is good in so many ways. However, as my children are presenting a live “Stations of the Cross” today due to a request from an audience member at their Passion Play, I am vividly aware of the brutality and evil that was present during our Lord’s Passion. As I watch my children act out these scenes, I shudder. The same crowds that sang “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest,” when Jesus entered Jerusalem are now asking for his death, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” I think the Lord has a very clear understanding of the human heart.

Sacrificing your only begotten Son in itself is heart-wrenching. I think about Abraham and Isaac. God put Abraham to the test and asked him to sacrifice his son. I personally am not sure how I would respond to such a request. I would like to say my faith is such that I would gather up the wood and head up the mountain. But I know myself well enough to realize that I probably would begin a long argument with God.

But not Father Abraham! His heart must have been so pure. And I think he must have done a pretty good job raising his son Isaac because Isaac was carrying the instruments of sacrifice. Isaac even realized what was going on and asked, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” Fast forward in the story and Abraham is getting ready to sacrifice his son. Abraham was elderly and his son Isaac was a youth. I think Isaac could have fought off his father and escaped, but he clearly didn’t. Did Abraham share his faith with his son at such a deep level that even Isaac understood that God’s plan is the best plan no matter what? God stopped Abraham before he could sacrifice Isaac, but God surely saw just how much Abraham loved Him. He also saw how much Isaac was obedient to his own father and to God’s plan. This must have pleased God very much.

God asks a lot of us. He even asks for sacrifice at times. We are only capable of doing this because of His great love within us. But God never takes us over the edge. He may take us to the edge, but never beyond what we can handle. Only He is willing and able to do that as He shows with his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, on the Cross for our salvation. And that, my friends, is why He is God!

Jumping Off a 7-Story Building

I would not say I am a risk-taker, but I did choose to throw myself off a 7-story building when I was in high school. It took a lot of courage to do it and here’s why: I was being held only by a rope and spotted by others down on the ground. Of course, I had been rappelling over a few smaller cliffs and had trained to get to this point.

Standing on the ledge of a 7-story building can change your perspective. I wondered if I would really go through with this. I remember the feeling of backing up to the edge of the ledge and realizing that I just had to go for it. Talk about understanding the meaning of trust! I had to trust that I had reliable equipment, knowledgeable instructors and attentive spotters.

At this point, many people would choose to walk away, but not me! There was an added dilemma to this whole ordeal. We were working from a building that the fire department uses for practice on high-rise fires which meant that there were no windows. The building was just a concrete structure with giant holes shaped like rectangles for the windows. I remember my instructor saying, “Just be careful not to swing sideways because you don’t want to swing into an open window hole. That would be bad.” As he is saying this, I am immediately thinking of all the variables that could make that happen, like wind, my trembling hands, and lack of experience. It took a lot of courage, but in the end, I jumped. I followed all the rules that I had learned to safely rappel. When I got to the bottom, I was ready to go again.

This is how it is to trust God’s will for us. Often, we must jump without knowing with certainty how things will land. Isn’t that the definition of faith? Such a simple word, but so hard to put into practice. God will give us the grace we need in those moments, just like I had the equipment and people to help me jump. God has also given us some very wise instruction in His Word (also known as the Bible). God has considered all the variables and knows how to help those work for our good. And when we land safely, we are so happy to know that we have true faith and we are ready to go further, higher, deeper, wider for our good God. And maybe even bring some others along to try it, too!

 

 

 

Changing Creative Ideas into Physical Reality

Tomorrow night is the big performance: The Passion of Christ. As we ran through the lights and sound this evening before our final dress rehearsal tomorrow morning, our director was commenting how much she enjoys this time of a production. All the creative thoughts and ideas finally becoming a concrete, physical reality. I agreed with her as I pricked my finger because I wanted just one more safety-pin to hold up the backdrop.

The backstage is something to behold. Giant crosses are resting against the walls. A mannequin’s head holds the Crown of Thorns, which stands next to the purple robe and burial cloth. Costumes hang in rows on coat racks, ranging from browns to greys to shimmering pink. Our backdrop is a rolling cube which allows us to easily change between 4 different backgrounds for the scenery. All of it is very simple but effective.

We have no idea who will show up for this production. Last semester, we set chairs for an audience of 50, and ended up adding another 30 chairs to accommodate the crowd. But that was a Friday night, and we had to go with Thursday evening this semester. We are all wondering if families will skip soccer practice or forget about it being a school night and turn their hearts to the story of the Passion? I’ll let you know how it goes, but for now, I guess I will rely on the Holy Spirit to fill our room. All for Jesus, Mary & Joseph!

Lessons I learned from the circus

My education and upbringing really emphasized having a game plan and goals in life. Leadership was presented as being strategic, setting goals, and working your plan. I thought that being a leader would mean having success. What I apparently didn’t spend enough time thinking about was what type of success would really fulfill me as a person. I honestly never took the time to think deeply about “success,” what it was, what it means, or why I should care. Here I was pursuing it, yet not really even sure what I was pursuing.

I share all of this to say that I am experiencing what my wise friend calls “hang time” right now.  I went to him for spiritual guidance and he always has just the right example to help me visualize what my real problem is. He talked about the circus, which at first, I must admit, bemused me. I thought to myself, “The circus? Really? What does the circus have to do with this serious issue I am having in my life?” But he explained with patience and kindness: “When the trapeze artist swings from one swing to another, there is a point in time when he has to let go of the first swing, hang in the air, then catch the second swing. He has to trust and have faith that he will be able to grab that second swing.”

Sometimes in life, we are in that moment where we have let go of one thing and are waiting for God to show us what’s next. We have to “suspend” between two things. This feels so unnatural, especially for someone like me who has been groomed to have goals and plans and strategy. It feels like letting go of the steering wheel while driving 100 miles per hour. It feels dangerous! Now, I have long ago worked through my view of success which is probably quite different from a worldly view of it. Money, power, status, and position no longer matter to me. These are passing things that definitely do not bring me fulfillment. I am trying to follow God’s strategic plan which has a much longer vision for me, as in eternal! However, in these moments of “hang time” when I am waiting for the next prompting of the Holy Spirit, it feels like a wasteland and seems to last for eternity, even if it is only a blip on the timeline of my eternal soul.

Being a helpmate of my husband

Being the head of the household must be a challenging job, especially when you have a wife like me. In Ephesians 5, St. Paul makes it clear that just as Christ is the head of the Church, and we are the body, so the husband is the head of the wife. Of course, many people overlook the next verse of this important message. To sum up, Christ loved his Church so much, that he gave his life for them.

I think my husband is much like Christ. He works hard every day at a job that doesn’t necessarily give him warm fuzzies and is surrounded by a materialistic, worldly, self-interested group of people. But he continues and perseveres, always doing the right and honest thing, even if it hurts his paycheck or chances of promotion because he is a man of integrity. That’s why I married him and I hope and pray that never changes.

Now, don’t get me wrong. He grumbles and stresses and worries. He is not perfect, nor am I. At times, he thinks that I am trying to run the show. Honestly, both of us have issues with trying to run our own game plan instead of listening to God’s plan for our life together. So instead of turning to God, we sometimes are like two people in a tug-of-war, feeling as if one or the other is winning or getting their way. God must be looking down at us and just shaking His head. I know how I feel as a parent when my children behave this way, and God loves us more than a parent loves a son or daughter, but I am certain at times He must be amazed at how we choose to use our free will.

A dear friend of mine shared some insight into the life of the Holy Family. I have developed a devotion to St. Joseph because he lived with two people who were like no other on earth, and had the responsibility of being the head of their household. My friend shared that although the Blessed Virgin Mary was without sin, she still deferred to St. Joseph as the head of the household. This made me stop in my tracks. It is making me take a long, hard look at myself and my willingness to serve and be subject to other. I fully understand that marriage is a mutual self-giving, a communion of persons. I just had not realized how much my own pride and will get in the way of fulfilling that ideal of marriage. I need to let go of my plans, listen to God more, and be the helpmate to my husband I am meant to be. Sometimes, this will be a giving up of self and of control. I really don’t like the thought of having to do this, but I will do it out of love.

The Worst News Ever?!

Here’s a roundup of the news I have received from this past week: Stroke. Car accident. Death. Terminal illness. Back strain. Divorce. Alcoholism.

Now, before you think all of these things happened to me, well, they did and they did not. What I mean to say is that I would argue all of this does in some way happen to you when you have a large family full of love and brokenness. Yes, some of the suffering is self-inflicted, but some of the suffering comes on in its own.

Our response to suffering shows a really clear picture of where we stand emotionally, morally and spiritually. It’s why one of my friends who is a Protestant minister likes to perform funerals. She says that it is when the suffering is at its peak, so the people are most open to hearing God’s Word. Their hard hearts have been cracked, just a little, by the loss. They become real again, facing things that they have ignored for a long time.

My prayer has always been to let God help me see through the light of Christ, so that when the suffering comes, whether of my own making or on its own, I am strengthened and can give God glory even in those moments.

I was deeply impacted when I watched a news report about 10 years ago when a man lost his entire family in a freak flash flood which washed his minivan off the highway into flash river in a location where this had never occurred before. During his interview, he explained that he and his wife had adopted many children with disabilities. They were all in the car. When the water came over their car, he could not get to his family because he was sucked out through the front windshield. He watched his wife and all of his adopted children get pushed down into the river in their minivan.

His response was, of course, sorrow. But, he said he could not be mad at God. This happened in his life and he trusted God had a plan for him. He quoted the Bible verse that speaks to trusting in God with all your heart. I had never witnessed what that meant until I saw this man on television. He was that Bible verse.

I pray that God will show me how to trust him in those dark moments. I pray that my prayers for my family bring healing and love. I pray that suffering can be offered up for the whole world and make our world a place of deep, abiding peace. I know suffering will come. I hope that I am ready.