Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Grace-filled Life

As I have dealt with health problems over the years and difficult, complicated pregnancies, one thing the Lord has had to keep reminding me is that his grace is sufficient for me. He even told me once that the only difference between me and someone without these issues is I just need to rely on more of his grace.

This has made me wonder how to best do that. Often I have felt inadequate and like I must be doing something wrong because I often have not felt I had the strength and ability to do all the things I believed I needed to do. In my mind grace equaled strength.

I have come to realize however that grace does not always look the way I think it should look. Sometimes grace comes in the form of my children getting along and playing nicely with each other so I can lie down and rest. Sometimes grace comes in the form of a friend helping me with something I am not able to do by myself.

There have been times when I have been down on myself, feeling like I should be doing more with my children and I haven't done enough to teach them about the Faith. Grace in that situation is that my children are still passionate about following Christ even though I was often lacking. I am actually getting teary-eyed as I am writing this, thinking about how blessed I am. My oldest daughter is in college and I am so proud of her! Not only is she doing well academically and being responsible living on her own, but she has gotten involved in the Catholic campus ministry at UCF and plans to attend the March for Life in January. My 16 year old daughter, who still lives at home is experiencing a call to become a religious sister and desires to join a certain order when she turns 21. The only credit I can take for any of this is that I have always surrendered them over to the heart of Jesus. When they were little, there were often days I was too weak to get off the couch. I could barely take care of their basic needs and I let them watch cartoons to keep them out of trouble. Since I didn't have the strength at the time to do the things I thought needed to be done, I didn't think I was tapping into God's grace but now I realize his grace is that he has always made up for my own weaknesses and where I have been lacking.

God's grace truly is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Cor.12:9).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

God's Judgement or His Mercy?

I once had a professor in college that would say God's judgement wasn't usually in the form of natural disasters and such. Sometimes God's judgement is when he steps back and lets us have what we want. I am wondering however if we ever really receive God's wrath. Everything he does and everything he allows stems from his great love and mercy. I think of the song by the David Crowder Band, "How He Loves". God has a jealous love for his people and will do whatever it takes to help us follow him more closely. It seems to be a fact that people do have a tendency to cling more closely to the Lord during times of turmoil. Whatever happens in life however, we can know that God is still in control and he will ultimately use tribulations for his glory and to bring about good.

One reason I am wondering if we are coming into hard times is because several months back I had a vision of a big, black dragon swooping down and crushing grapes with it's talons. I believe the grapes represent the Body of Christ, the Church. I had the sense that God was going to allow persecution so we can be poured out like wine for the salvation of others.

On a more uplifting note, around the same time I also had a word come to me:  "It is coming! It is coming! It is coming! A great harvest of souls is coming! Now is the time to get ready! I am raising up a Royal priesthood, a Holy and chosen generation! Now is the time to get ready!" When this word came to me, I had the sense that people were going to be flocking to the Church like we have never seen before. He is preparing us for this now. Now is the time to get ready!!!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Storms of Life

I get the impression that some Christians judge whether they are in God's will or not based on how happy they are. If they are happy with a certain number of children, then that must mean they are not supposed to have more. If they are not happy in their marriage, it must mean they are supposed to get out. I do not think it is a good idea to use happiness as a barometer for discerning the will of God in one's life. I also think this type of attitude is a direct result of the "health, wealth, and prosperity gospel" being proclaimed in many churches today. In order to increase attendance and offerings in churches, it is widely preached, "come to Jesus and he will fulfill all your needs." This is really tragic and really not biblical.

Recently a Facebook friend of mine posted that she was starting to doubt the existence of God because of all the bad things that were happening in her life. I believe this is a direct result of buying into this type of gospel. If this is the type of "gospel" people are fed then as soon as the storms of life come, their faith will crumble. It is like building your house on sand instead of solid ground (Matt. 7:24-27).

In my last blog entry, I also talked about "cheap grace". Some people do not think obedience is all that important to the Lord because no matter what they do, God will still love them. It is true that God will still love them but obedience is very important to the Lord and the bible is full of examples of that. There are many who want the promises of Christ but without the cross. What they do not realize is that it is only through the cross of Christ that we can have true joy. Joy is different than happiness (I will save that one for a different blog).

The truth is, God does not promise us happiness in this life. I do not even know if it is possible to be completely happy in this life because we were made for heaven. He also does not promise us that we will not become broken. A few years back I had an image come to me of duct tape on a window. Some people put duct tape on their windows when a hurricane is coming so when the window breaks, it will not shatter. I felt like the Lord was telling me that he does not promise that in this life we will not become broken. What he does promise us however is that if we put our trust in him, then when the storms of life come, he will hold us together and our lives will not shatter. Non-believers do not have this promise. When they encounter the storms of life, often their lives fall apart.

Let us put our trust in Christ and trust that no matter what trials come our way, he will see us through.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The grass isn't always greener

Some people might find it surprising to learn that Tom and I were away from the Catholic Church for 10 years. My own 16 year old daughter questions how we could have ever left the Eucharist, especially after I witnessed a Eucharistic miracle first hand and started a household devoted to the Eucharist. I don't have an easy explanation for that. The only thing I can think of is that we did not fully grasp the infinite level of intimacy available to us by receiving Jesus' body and blood. When I was in my early 20's, we were more about doing and being involved in ministry. We did not have an understanding about resting in the Lord and allowing him to transform us from the inside out. Since we were all about doing ministry, it was easy to become frustrated as we kept running into brick walls. The parishes we were involved in had much different views of ministry than we did.

One thing I always loved was Eucharistic adoration. I even tried to start up perpetual adoration at a parish we attended to no avail. I think for me, it was all about experiencing God's presence which I definitely experienced when I went to adoration. I think it takes a little more contemplation of the mystery when we receive Jesus at Mass and unless we are able to contemplate this mystery, we may not experience his presence. Since, for me it was all about experiencing his presence, well I could do that while worshiping with my Protestant brothers and sisters.

Tom and I were also longing for community and to be around other like minded young adults like we had at the Franciscan University. This was hard for us to find at the parishes we were involved in. We were able to find this however at a local Protestant church. Our original plan however was to get involved with the Protestant church but also attend Mass on Sunday. After a while it became too hard to keep doing both so we stopped going to Mass.

I ended up having a pretty profound dream after being away for about a year. I did not realize the full meaning of the dream however until nine years later when we were praying about going back.

The dream started with me walking down a hallway. I came to the end of the hallway and there was a door. I opened the door that led to the outdoors and a platform. I walked out on the platform. I saw Jesus sitting against the outside wall talking to a guy. I then proceeded to walk to the edge of the platform that was also surrounded by a 3 foot wall. I looked over the wall and there was a florescent green river in a valley and it had thousands of flamingos wading in it. I knew I needed to get to the land that was on the other side of the river and the only way I saw to be able to do that was to cross the river with all the flamingos. I proceeded to climb over the wall of the platform so I could cross the river and as I did many flamingos started coming up over the wall and attacking me. I realized that was not the way I should go and I climbed back over, onto the platform. I then walked back over to the door and tried to open it, however it was locked. Jesus then stood up and he had a key so he unlocked it for me. He then led me back through the hallway in which I had come. He also led me to another door and opened it for me. We walked through the door and there was a beautiful redwood forest. He said to me, "This is the way you should go."

Tom and I did a pastoral internship at two different non-denominational, evangelical churches. We also ended up starting a house church that we pastored for 4 years. Everything was going pretty well. Our church was growing and we were able to branch off and form a second house church. The local paper even did an article about us and it was on the front page of the paper on Easter Sunday.

We never had any doctrinal problems with the Catholic Church so a lot of what we did at our church was very "Catholic". We baptized babies and even had weekly communion. We thought if we had the faith, Jesus would be just as present in our communion but it was different. We began to really miss the Eucharist and a sense of the sacred. We began to pray about whether we should return back to the Catholic Church. When I was praying about it, the flamingo dream came to my mind and the interpretation hit me like a ton of bricks. It suddenly became very clear.

The first thing I did in the dream was walk through a hallway and walk through another door. I believe this represents walking away from the Catholic Church and going over to the Protestant side. It is interesting to note that Jesus was still there. In my dream, he was hanging out on the platform, I believe mentoring a guy. I looked over the platform and felt I needed to get to the land that was on the other side of the river. I think this represents our desire to do ministry and believing the way to be able to do that was to cross over to a particular denomination that we ended up joining. In the river were flamingos. Flamingos are pink which is a white-washed red. Red stands for the blood of Jesus, the passion, the cross. If it is watered down, white-washed, I believe it represents a cheapened form of the cross or what Dietrich Bonhoeffer described as "cheap grace" which is grace without the need for repentance and change.  In his book, "The Cost of Discipleship" he says, "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate." This pretty much sums up what we encountered at the churches we participated in. There seemed to be a lot of talk about grace and even grace extended to people involved in serious sin however, there wasn't a whole lot of grace extended to your average person in the pew. This explains how in my dream I was being attacked by the flamingos. Although we did have some good experiences and encounters with the Lord, being attacked by the flamingos sums up my experience at the evangelical churches we attended. It should be interesting to note however that Bonhoeffer was not Catholic and I do not believe that all Protestant churches give into cheap grace and being seeker sensitive.

Another fact about flamingos is they stand on one foot. I believe this stands for Protestants holding to Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) whereas Catholics are grounded in Scripture and Tradition. If you hold to Sola Scriptura, you only have one leg to stand on and it may not be as well balanced. Flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp. Shrimp eat the scraps off the bottom of the ocean. They were also wading in florescent green water. Green stands for life. The green the flamingos were standing in was a florescent green which I believe stands for it not being real. There is a better way, a more real way and that is to eat from the tree of life which is Jesus himself in the Eucharist. He is the bread of life, real food and real drink for our souls (John 6:35).

I then decided in my dream to go back through the door in which I came from but it was locked. Jesus had a key. It is only by his grace and mercy that we came back. He then led me to another door that led to a beautiful redwood forest. The redwoods are the most ancient of trees. They have stood the test of time.There are some very interesting facts about the redwoods. For instance, they have some unique survival tactics. Their bark is up to a foot thick in some places and when exposed to fire forms a heat shield that protects the main part of the tree. Redwoods  have a chemical composition that is distasteful to termites and ants. Redwoods are also very resistant to water rot. There are many more interesting facts that you can read about redwoods here.

When we were praying about whether we should return to the Catholic Church, suddenly it became obvious to me, the correlation between the  Catholic Church and redwoods. Like the redwoods, the Catholic Church has also stood the test of time. She is ancient, founded by Christ over 2,000 years ago. Despite many trials, tests and sinful people, the teaching and doctrine of the Church has survived and has been unwavering.

It feels very safe to me that the bar is set pretty high in the Catholic Church. There is still sin but the Church makes it clear that it is sin. When you lower the bar and allow anything to go, it does not feel very safe. Churches that are being "seeker sensitive" and watering down the gospel in order to win souls are not really doing anyone a favor. If people are coming to Jesus under a "gospel" that says, "Come to Jesus and all your needs will be met." or "Come to Jesus just as you are and you don't have to change" are really doing people a disservice. As soon as these people encounter trials or the storms of life, which they will, they could easily lose faith. 

I am very happy to be back in the Catholic Church. It is not perfect. There is still sin and I am still longing for more of a "sense of the sacred" but I know that Jesus is there and is present in the Sacraments and in the Eucharist. That gives me comfort and peace and I couldn't imagine ever leaving again. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Road Less Traveled

I've kind of fallen behind in blogging. I am in the thick of being pregnant and miserable. Fortunately some of the nausea has let up but now I am dealing with constant headaches. When I am pregnant, sometimes I think it would be better if I just crawled into a hole for nine months and didn't see anyone. I feel like even if I am not complaining in words, misery is written all over my face and I do not want to be a downer to anyone. The Lord reminded me that when he walked Calvary, he wasn't smiling. Actually that would have been pretty weird if he would have been. Also, the image of Veronica's veil came to my mind. According to Christian tradition, there was a woman named Veronica who was deeply devoted to Christ. She followed him on the road to Calvary and wiped his bloody face with her veil. The image of Christ's face was transferred onto the veil. There are documents of this as far back as the early 300's. I felt like the Lord was telling me that when we choose the road of suffering (which could just mean doing His will instead of our own) and join our suffering to his, we cannot help but leave an imprint on the lives of others.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Name of the Game

A while back, during a season when I was going through some very difficult circumstances that I did not want to accept, I had a simple but rather profound dream. In the dream I saw a board game. On the side of the board game was the word, in big bold letters, SURRENDER. I woke up and the thought came to me, "The name of the game is surrender!" 

I was reminded of that dream when I had a similar word I felt led to give this past Friday for our 1st Friday holy hour at church. This was used for our guided meditation:

John 21:1-6 (After the resurrection) Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Like Peter and the disciples we can often work tirelessly from morning till night. We use up all our human effort and strength only to gain nothing. Sometimes it can feel like we are running on a treadmill; working endlessly but not getting anywhere. We can be left feeling discouraged and weary. When we finally come to the place where we realize we can do nothing on our own, we let go and surrender to the Lord, he can take over and we will begin to see the fruit of our labors. Jesus is eagerly waiting for us to come to this place so he can shower us with his abundance of grace and blessings.

I believe the Lord would say to us tonight, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Fall back into my love and mercy. Let go of all your fears and concerns. Fall back into me. I will hold you and I will carry you through. Put your trust in me! Let go and I will replace your worries with my joy and my strength!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dying to Live

“At times, to choose the will of God over our own is excruciating. We love our flesh and it hurts to have its desires crucified! Never misunderstand pain as permission to forego the will of God.” - Beth Moore.  

I could not have said it better myself! I can definitely relate to that quote these days as I am currently almost 10 weeks pregnant. I am in the thick of all day long morning sickness that will most likely last for 20 weeks, fatigue, congestion, and moodiness. Next trimester I will probably look forward to migraines and pubic symphysis pain and the third trimester, gestational diabetes, constant contractions, preterm labor and bed rest. After the baby is born it will most likely send me into a flare-up with my connective tissue disorder which will cause me to have debilitating joint pain and muscle weakness for 9 months to a year.  I've been thinking lately that people would be right to think I am insane to put myself and my family through a 7th pregnancy. It really was not a very logical decision especially as my oldest daughter is getting ready to go to college in the fall and we are still wondering where all the funds are going to come from. 

I went to Eucharistic adoration last Friday and the Lord helped me have a better attitude. I felt like he told me that yes, I am insane...insanely in love with him! That was a good reminder for me and a very good reason to make the choices I have made. Tom and I really believed the Lord wanted us to have another child and that is the reason we were open and conceived again.  We did not choose this because we selfishly "needed" another child. Don't get me wrong. Human life is precious and sacred and we are very blessed. I just do not have the suffering part of it down yet.

People often say that God will not give us more than we can handle. I think they get that from the scripture that says, "God will not test us beyond our strength." 1 Cor. 10:13  I see this as two separate things. God gives me more than I can handle all the time but isn't that the point. We are supposed to let go, surrender, and learn to find all our strength in him. We need to come to the place where we realize that we can do NOTHING without him. I used to pray for healing and that the Lord would take this condition away from me.  You know what he said to me? "My grace is sufficient for you."

It is ironic. When I was in college, I was discerning the religious life (becoming a nun). I think one reason I decided not to go that route is because I was afraid of losing myself and my identity. By choosing the beautiful path of marriage and family, that is still happening to me. I think however that that is what is supposed to happen. We are supposed to lose ourselves.  We are supposed to lose our lives! It is no longer supposed to be us who lives, but Christ who lives in us (Matt. 16:25). Once I have this baby, I am pretty sure there isn't going to be anything left of ME. I think that might be the point though and I think that might be when the fruit of joy comes in. If there is nothing left of us and all that is left is Christ, wouldn't that ultimately bring complete joy and freedom?!

Sometimes the Lord takes me on adventures. Not because I am anything special but probably because I am able to open up my imagination to him in that way. He has taken me on a hot air balloon ride to China where we talked to an elderly lady who had a lot of wisdom, we have stood on top of a mountain overlooking a river valley at a National park and most recently we watched people skiing in the Alps. One thing I believe the Lord keeps saying to me as he takes me on these adventures is, "Do not feel bad if you do not get to experience everything this world has to offer. What I have prepared for you is greater than ALL this!"

So, I will look forward to losing myself in the hope of gaining more of Christ and I look forward to the day when my joy will be complete!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Reveal - ation

Some might wonder why I am so open about the revelation I receive from the Lord.  After all, didn't Mary ponder all things in her heart?! St. Therese of Lisiuex even said that revealing certain revelation can lessen the fragrance of it. I agree with having the same attitude as Our Lady and St. Therese. I think it is important to initially ponder revelation in our heart. When the Lord gives us revelation, we need to first let it germinate and grow deep roots in our own heart before we share it with others. There are also certain revelations that reflect our intimacy with the Lord that probably should not be shared. Mary pondered all things in her heart but I do not think she permanently kept those things there. Just look at the Magnificat, a powerful, prophetic utterance! There are also Gospel accounts that we might not have if Mary didn't share what she experienced. However, if we let revelation from the Lord germinate first in our own hearts then we can give people a piece of the plant without giving them the whole plant.

There was a time I was insecure about the revelation I would receive, especially when I would see things others did not see. One such incident involved a girl who was on the worship team at a church I attended.  She was a very likable person and had a lot of friends. However I discerned that she was involved in witchcraft along with some other things. I brought some lesser offenses to the pastor concerning her in order to test the water. Even these lesser offenses were not received so I knew the greater ones definitely would not be. Since the pastor was not willing to do anything about it, I had to take matters into my own hands. I told this girl I could not have a relationship with her outside church unless she got the help she needed. The next couple years, she made my life a living hell! She turned people against me and I'm pretty sure she was cursing  and casting spells on me and my family. I wanted so bad to leave that church but the Lord would not release me.  He was calling me to stay and face it. It felt like I was face to face with a big dragon that was breathing fire in my face and I had to stay and take it.  Finally, that pastor left and we got a new one.  I went to him and told him everything. He believed me, confronted her and made her leave unless she was willing to change. I was relieved to say the least!

After that incident, I just wanted to wash my hands of anything supernatural. I began praying for a nice leisurely life. A life like my sister and her family had. They would go boating and camping every weekend and didn't seem to have a care in the world. I told the Lord I wanted that kind of life and just wanted to be "normal". Well, the Lord honored my request and for about 4 or 5 years he left me alone. I hardly had any revelation at all. I didn't have any dreams or visions and I didn't hear the Lord speaking to me hardly at all. I was absolutely miserable!!! The worst thing about those years is that passion for the Lord was also gone. I kept praying for it to come back not realizing that the lack of passion was also an answer to my prayer. It was so bad that I felt like Jesus could have appeared right in front of me  and I would not have been moved. It was a horrible place to be! I finally realized that this was not the life I wanted and I began to repent for ever asking for a nice, normal, leisurely life. Through the Lord's infinite mercy, he began to restore back the passion in my heart and eventually I began to receive revelation again.

I am forever grateful for the Lord's mercy and that he restored me. I never want to go back to the place I once was. I am very careful now to keep up with my prayer life and my relationship with the Lord. Almost every time I receive communion now I get teary eyed because I realize the level of intimacy that is available to us through the Eucharist. I am so grateful for all his gifts and especially for the gift of tears. I realize that it is  a gift to even be moved by him.

It is amazing to me how the Lord can bring good out of any situation. It is through my experience that I was able to realize that the world does not have anything better to offer. People are miserable if they do not have the Lord. They might appear happy on the outside but on the inside they are lost. People however are not interested in a god that is distant and just a judge in the sky with a list of does and don't.  People want the real deal! They are interested in a Living God. A God that cares about them and they can have a relationship with. Here, especially in the west, Christians might be afraid to admit if they hear from the Lord because they are afraid of appearing "crazy".  However, that is what sets our God apart from other "gods"!  Psalm 135:15-17 says - "The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.  They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths." We are called to have a relationship with God through his son, Jesus Christ. A relationship involves two way communication. People are longing and hungering for that kind of relationship! Our God is a Living God that longs to speak to us and have a relationship with us. This, my friends is why I am not shy about sharing revelation. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

No greater love... (A Eucharistic Miracle story)

Today is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) in the Catholic Church.  I am reminded of something I got to experience a little over twenty years ago. When I was in college, I had the privilege of witnessing a Eucharistic miracle. The semester had just started and it was around the second week of September, in 1991. I was on my way to class and my roommate was passing me in the middle of campus as she was coming back from class. She asked me if I would like to go see a Eucharistic miracle.  I said, "Sure!"  She told me that she and a friend would pick me up when I got out of class. 

I really didn't know at that time what I was saying yes to, but I was always up for an adventure and I did not have anything else going on. Like she said, they picked me up right after class and there was one other girl that my roommate knew that was in the car as well. I thought we were going to go see a Eucharistic miracle that was on public display but as we were driving, I found out the story.

It turns out that at a parish about an hour away, the main pastor of the church was telling the first communion children and others that the Eucharist was just a symbol and Jesus wasn't really present. One day the associate pastor was taking communion to an elderly woman at a nursing home.  He placed the consecrated host on her lip but she was not able to consume it.  The priest did what he was taught to do in a situation like that and he wrapped it up in a napkin. When he got back to the parish, he placed it in water for it to dissolve.  Normally the host would have dissolved in a couple of days but in this case, it did not dissolve. Instead it turned into a round ball that looked like flesh. The pastor told him that he should throw it out.  Amazingly not long before this happened an old tabernacle was being thrown out and the associate pastor felt he needed to keep it so he had put it in his living quarters. This old tabernacle provided a place for him to put the cup of water with what appeared to be Jesus' flesh. 

So, naturally my jaw dropped as I was being told this story. My roommate's friend who was driving us also shared that he had a sense that we would be "smuggling" the miracle back to campus.  The reasonable person I was, tried to talk some sense into my friends.  I warned them that we needed to test this and we shouldn't automatically buy into it. I was a little skeptical to say the least.

After about an hour in the car, we finally arrived at the church.  The associate pastor greeted us outside.  He thanked us for coming and then he led us into his living quarters.  He began telling us the whole story and then told us he did not know what he was going to do because the pastor wanted him to throw it out. He asked us if we would like to see it.  Of course we said, "Yes!"  He brought it out of the tabernacle very reverently and immediately, we all dropped to our knees.  The presence of the Lord in that room was so strong and we couldn't help but praise him and sing.  As we were praying, a couple of us that had our eyes open, witnessed this "ball of flesh" turn red and begin to pulsate. When we were done praying, it went back to being a grayish white color with frayed edges.  He then put it back in the tabernacle and proceeded to talk to us.  He again said he didn't know what he was going to do and that is when we offered to take it back to the monastery on campus. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  My heart was pounding so hard.  I was so nervous!  That is exactly what we ended up doing however and we held it in the car as we drove an hour back to campus.  The whole way back was surreal and the presence of the Lord was so powerful. We were singing and praying the whole way back. Again as we were praying, it was turning red and seemed to be pulsating. There were also lots of prophetic words coming to us.  One had to do with the scripture passage from 1 Timothy 4:12 - "Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young..." We had a sense that we might not be received real well when we got back to campus.

When we got back to campus it was already dark.  We knocked on the monastery door and one of the friars answered.  We told him what we had and he asked, "What would you be doing with it?!" We then asked for another friar who personally knew the associate pastor of the church we came from.  He then came out, heard our story and seemed to believe.  He then told us he would keep it safe and contact his superior to see what should be done.  We felt relieved that it was out of our hands.

The whole next week was surreal.  Everywhere we went it seemed people would randomly talk about the Eucharist.  One example was when I was having a conversation with a girl about hand lotion and then she randomly said she always checks her hands after receiving communion because every little piece is fully Jesus. It seemed the Lord was confirming to us that this really was a miracle.

After a week went by, I approached the president of the university. I asked him what was going on with the miracle.  He told me it had started to dissolve and the priest we had met with at the monastery was asked to consume it. Once I heard this, I had a peace come over me.  I felt for some reason the Lord just had the few of us witness this. That experience definitely gave me a deeper understanding and devotion to the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. It is only within the last couple years however that I have really begun to understand the infinite level of intimacy and love offered to us by receiving his body and blood. The real miracle is that at every mass the bread becomes Jesus' body and blood and we get to receive him into our bodies and souls.  The real challenge when we receive him, however, is to allow him to enter all the inner chambers of our heart.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Better to have Loved and Lost...

I really have it on my heart to write about what I have learned through my miscarriage.  Even though about 50 percent of women experience miscarriage, I am finding that it is almost taboo to talk about.  The reason might be different for different people.  For some it may just be too painful to talk about and others think it is too personal of a topic. Still another reason that I am finding out about is a feeling of shame. Some women actually feel there is something wrong with them that they were not able to carry a healthy baby to term. One woman even recently shared with me that a neighbor told her it was probably for the best because she had enough kids. If it will help others, I am willing to talk about my experience and what I have learned from it.  

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I had a real sense of just how sacred this little life was.  When I lost the baby, I felt like it was the Lord showing me that even though this life was short, it was no less important. Part of the pain of the miscarriage was that I didn't see it coming.  The thought didn't even enter my mind.  Thinking about it however, I am glad the Lord didn't show me because I may not have bonded with my child.  I have also wondered what I would have done if the Lord had told me even before I conceived, "I would like you to conceive a baby but this baby will only live 9 short weeks and then I will bring him to heaven."  I believe I still would have said yes. Whether a life lives only a few short weeks in the womb or 100 years on this earth, it is still sacred and a precious gift. Bringing a new life into the world that will go on to live into eternity is something to be proud of. I can honestly say at this point that I feel as though I have gained something instead of lost.

I will admit that I grieved for about a week but at the same time the Lord was whispering sweet nothings in my ear and it made it hard to be sad.  One thing that was painful for me to think about was the possibility of the baby being a boy because I believe God has promised me a boy.  While in prayer, I felt like the Lord said, "Thank you for giving me your first son."  When I heard those words however, I had peace.  Heck, how can you be upset when Jesus thanks you for something?! 

Another thing that was on my mind after I had my miscarriage is something the Lord revealed to me regarding aborted babies.  I felt like he showed me that one of the tragedies behind abortion is that these babies were not given the opportunity to sacrifice for others and grow in love.  Even Jesus said, in regards to Judas committing suicide is, it would have been better if he hadn't been born (Matt.26:24).  This indicates to me that it is not a good thing not to ever be born.  I was praying about this and believe the Lord showed me something pretty profound.  I felt like he showed me that miscarried babies like mine, benefit from our love and willingness to sacrifice for them and they carry that grace up to heaven with them.  We felt led to name our son, Benjamin. Benjamin in the bible was the beloved youngest son of Jacob.  It comforts me to think of my Benjamin almost with a glowing, neon sign on him that says CHERISHED! All the angels are probably gawking at him saying, "Wow, he was really loved!!!" Even though Benjamin didn't get to sacrifice and grow in love, he benefited from our love and sacrifice for him.

One thing that has really been on my heart lately--and that I have been praying about--is the plight of aborted babies.  It makes me sad to think they didn't have parents that were able to love them and willing to sacrifice for them.  I have been asking the Lord if there is anything I could do to help them have the same glory as our Benjamin.  Who knows, maybe through this the Lord is stirring up a calling in me.  For now at least, it is leading me to intercede on their behalf.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


NASA photo of the Helix Nebula
taken by the Hubble Space
Telescope has been labeled the 'Eye of God'
The quickest way to be purified by the Lord is to have him look straight at you and into your heart. Several years ago I had a vision of the Lord's eyes.  They were periwinkle blue and see through like glass.  They were beautiful beyond description and when he looked at me they seemed to pierce right through me and my heart was laid bare. I asked him how to back up my experience with scripture because the only scripture I knew of that described his eyes was from Revelation 1:14 - "His eyes were like blazing fire." I felt like he asked, "Can't you just take things at face value?" but then he answered my question and asked, "What is the hottest part of the flame?" I then realized that the hottest part of the flame was the bottom of the flame which is periwinkle blue. 

The next several weeks proved rather challenging and were bittersweet as memories from my past started coming to the surface and the Lord came into those memories with his purifying work. In much the same way as gold is purified in the fire, the dross in my heart came to the surface and needed to be skimmed off. This is not necessarily a fun process but necessary to become more like Jesus and become brighter so his glory can shine through us. I hope some day I will get to the point where people can look in my eyes and see the love of Christ looking back at them.

2 Chronicles16:9 - "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sweet Nothings

When I was a little girl we lived out in the country and there were lots of little purple flowers called clover blossoms that would grow in the field.  Somehow I discovered that if you pulled off a petal and sucked on it,  it contained sweet nector. I don't know if many people would  know that about this unassuming flower.  In the same way, when we join our sufferings to Christ's sufferings they become so sweet. Somehow when we join our sufferings to Christ, he takes them and turns them into something beautiful.  He has a way of turning our sorrow into joy.

"The holy sufferings of Jesus is a sea of sorrows, but it is also a sea of love.  Ask the Lord to teach you to fish in this sea.  Immerse yourself in it, and , no matter how deeply you go, you will never reach the bottom.  Allow yourself to be penetrated with love and sorrow. In this way you will make the sufferings of the gentle Jesus your own. Fish for the  pearls of the virtues of Jesus. This holy fishing is done without words." - St. Paul of the Cross

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Power of One

One of my favorite bible passages is from Matthew 11:28  Come to meall you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." 

The last 15 years or so, the Lord has been teaching me to rest in him and rely on his grace and strength for everything I do. I have come a long way but I still find myself getting stressed and overwhelmed instead of enjoying life and walking in joy. There are  the bills, the laundry, the daily meals that need to be prepared, and everything that goes into being a wife and the mother of 5 children.  I have prayed about this and have concluded that I must be doing something wrong if I still get overwhelmed and burdened down.  Jesus' prayer to his Father came to me one day when I was praying about it:

John 17:10-12 - All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.

I believe this scripture holds the key. Before the sin of Adam, our mind, body and spirit acted as one.  We were fully integrated and there wasn't a conflict between what our will wanted to do and what we actually did.  It was a lot easier to worship God through everything we did.  Now, after the Fall, it is harder.  Paul says in Romans 7:15 - "I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."  The good news however is that Jesus paid the price through his death on the cross, not just so we can go to heaven someday but so we can be fully integrated and transformed into Christ's image. So that we can have life to the fullest! In John 17, Jesus says that he will remain no longer in the world.  It was important that he go to the Father so that the Holy Spirit could be released to all believers, not just so we can have a warm fuzzy, spiritual experience, but so we can have the power to be transformed.  He desires us to be one as he and the Father are one. He desires us to be set apart and holy. 

Still it doesn't come naturally. We need to discipline ourselves and be willing to take up our cross. One thing that is helping me to be mindful of Christ all day long and worship him in everything I do is committing to morning and evening prayer (Liturgy of the Hours) and repeating something like the "Jesus Prayer" all day long. These things are proving to be transformative and helping to line up my mind, body and spirit in accordance with God's will. I still have a ways to go but I look forward to the day when I radiate joy because I am able to see Christ in every detail of my life!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A person is a person, no matter how small

I have been thinking lately about the beauty and sacredness of life.  Especially human life, made in the image and likeness of God. I have been contemplating the beginnings of human life. None of us would even be here if God did not love us into existence! We start out the size of a poppy seed and although we are that small, God breathes his life into us.  Since he is so big and we are so small and fragile, he has to be ever so gentle. I imagine it would be the way a gentle breeze carries a dandelion without the petals falling off. This human life, once it is started will also go on to live into eternity.

Life is such a precious gift and it is such a privilege to be able to help bring about new life. The older I have gotten, the more I have realized my fertility is a gift and it will run out. I also have friends who are not able to have children. Tom and I have always tried to be sensitive in prayer to how many children the Lord is calling us to have and the timing that they should be conceived.  Society thinks this is foolish and even irresponsible. There are even some Christians that think it is legalistic. I am not a very disciplined person, and actually pretty weak. I also am not naturally virtuous. The only thing I can claim is that I have always tried to be obedient to God in every area of my life and even that is only by his grace.

Update: When I wrote this post I was actually pregnant.  I recently miscarried at 9 weeks. That gentle breeze carried our baby up to Heaven.  From the start of this pregnancy I had a real sense of the sacredness of this life.  I believe it was the Lord showing me the importance of every life, no matter how short. The reason Tom and I have been open to new life has always been primarily out of obedience to the Lord because I have very hard pregnancies. My children are a gift from him but they also ultimately belong to him and it is up to him to do with them as he sees best. After my miscarriage I was meditating on Mary's yes.  I'm sure when she said yes, her dreams for her son did not involve him being crucified. The same day I read this quote from a book called "Having a Mary Spirit" by Joanna Weaver:  "...saying yes to God brings blessing, but it can also bring pain.  That's why we need a submitted heart that keeps on believing...even when it hurts."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Butterfly Kisses

Most of the time when I am in prayer it is spent in meditation, contemplation and intercession.  I rarely ask the Lord questions but I find when I do I almost always receive an answer.  I don't know why but I often do not expect an answer and I don't always recognize the revelation I receive as a direct response to my question. That happened to me a few weeks ago.

Before I tell you what my question was, let me clarify that I am 110% pro-life.  I see it as a grave evil and a spiritual battle.  I believe that Satan, through the act of abortion would like to kill as many of these innocent lives as he can because nothing reflects God better than an innocent baby made in his image and likeness. I believe these babies therefore are little martyrs that go to heaven. My heart in the matter has always been very grievous, especially for the mother.  I often feel led to intercede for these women who are damaging themselves psychologically and spiritually through such an unnatural act as to kill their own child. Not to mention that they are rejecting such a precious gift. I know women who have had abortions and at the time they did not fully realize what they were doing but later deeply regretted it and said it was the worst decision they had ever made.  Fortunately, the women I know have taken it to the cross and have received God's mercy.  There are other women however that will try to escape the pain of what they have done by escaping through drug and alcohol use and all around continuing to make unhealthy decisions.  There are always repercussions.

So, here was my question:  I told the Lord that I knew abortion was intrinsically wrong but if the babies go straight to heaven, give me understanding on how the babies suffer and how it would have been better for them to live here on  earth. Ultimately I knew it would be better but I felt I needed understanding as to how. After all, some might have decided to reject God in this life. I might have a strange way of thinking but if people are honest some might admit they have had the same question.

A few weeks later, I had a vision that I did not see as an answer to my question until recently.  It was a vision of Mary unlike any statue or picture I have ever seen of her.  In the vision she was very youthful, smiling and wearing a midnight blue cloak.  Her hair was flowing under her veil and the cloak had twinkling stars all over it. I then watched as the twinkling stars would come off her cloak and form into butterflies which were the same color midnight blue as her cloak and trimmed in black.  Mary was kneeling down, playing with the butterflies, letting them land on her finger and taking great delight in them. I also had the understanding that I was one of those butterflies.
I didn't fully know what the vision meant until I was at a conference with Dr. Peter Kreeft. His morning talk was entitled "Why Pro-Life?" During his talk he happened to mention Our Lady of Guadalupe and how she is the patroness of the Americas and we should ask for her intercession to end abortion.  He then mentioned how in the picture of her, she is standing on the moon just like the woman in the book of Revelation and the woman in Genesis that crushes the head of Satan. The moon for the Aztecs was the god of night. Mary standing on the moon shows that her obedience to God conqueres darkness. This is a spiritual battle and she is the one to intercede to end abortion.  He then gave a history of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Because of her appearance to Juan Diego and the miraculous image that appeared on his cloak, millions of Aztec Indians converted to Christianity. The Aztec Indians were known for sacrificing their babies to the pagan gods and millions were sacrificed.  

It then hit me that the Lord was answering my question about abortion when he gave me that image of Mary and the image I had of her was actually Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Just like Our Lady of Guadalupe she had a blue cloak with stars all over it.  I then realized that the real tragedy behind these little lives being cut short through the act of abortion is they are not given the opportunity like we have, to be transformed like butterflies into the image of Christ by sharing in his life, suffering, death and resurrection. It also reminded me of a quote by St. Padre Pio, "The angels are jealous of us because they cannot suffer" and thus join in Christ's sufferings for the Church and one another. We shouldn't take for granted that we have the opportunity to grow in love and express our love for others through sacrifice. "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" - John 15:13.

Let us call upon Our Lady of Guadalupe to intercede for the lives of the unborn that they will be given the opportunity to live and grow in the knowledge of God! Let us also pray that we may be transformed by the trials and tribulations of this life into beautiful butterflies. Our Lady takes great delight in a soul that is fully committed to Christ and is willing to be transformed into his image!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Just BEE

It was 1998 and a typical dreary day in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  My older two daughters were around the ages of two and four. Once again I was stuck on the couch dealing with a debilitating fatigue and muscle weakness. I had a hard time even taking care of the basic needs of my little girls.  This was before I knew I had an autoimmune condition so part of me just thought I was being lazy.  What I did know however was that I didn't have the strength to even lift myself off the couch so I decided to make the best of the situation and meditate on the Lord. 

This time as I was meditating on him, three images came to my mind.  I saw a spider, a grasshopper, and a bee.  I felt like the Lord asked me which I'd rather be like.  I thought about it and realized a spider just kills pesky insects. A grasshopper destroys crops.  A bee however gets to provide something good for society and make honey.  I told the Lord I would rather be like the bee.  I then felt like he said, "Bees lie dormant for a time before they get to make honey."  I did not realize this about bees so I did a little research and sure enough, I discovered that the baby larvae bees lie dormant in the honey comb before they are mature enough to come out and start making honey.

The Lord began to teach me some valuable life lessons that day. Leaning back and resting in God's love for me, I began to realize his love was perfect and complete; There was nothing I could do to make him love me less and there was nothing I could do to make him love me more. God's main goal for my life was to perfect me in that love. Everything else was secondary. Unless I first received his love, then I did not have much love to give to others. And so my journey to greater serenity and intimacy with the Lord began!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Background (my story part 2)

Twenty-three years ago my life was forever changed!  That is when my eyes were opened to the love and mercy of God through his very real presence in the Eucharist.  I discovered that he knew me, loved me, and I could have a personal relationship with him.  He plucked me out of a life full of despair and hopelessness and I was extremely grateful! In order to prove my love and gratitude, I became like a runaway train trying to always do "good" things.  That train suddenly came to a screeching halt after encountering complicated pregnancies and debilitating physical problems.  

Through these thorns however I started to learn how to be still and wait upon the Lord.  I learned that my worth was not in doing but in being. Through these trials he also continues to teach me that his grace is sufficient for me and his strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).  As I have learned to surrender more fully to the Lord and lean back in Jesus in everything I do, allowing him to be my hands and feet, I have discovered a transforming power and greater intimacy with my Heavenly Father than I could have ever imagined! 

Through this blog I wish to share some of the things I believe the Lord has shown me in hopes that it may bless others.  The Lord usually speaks to me through visions, not because I am anything special but because he knows that is how I am able to comprehend what he is saying to me.  You see, I am very dyslexic which makes me also very visual.  I am not a "word" person and have even been told that I do not have very good verbal skills. I am so visual in fact that in order to comprehend what someone is saying to me, I have to form a mental picture in my mind of every word that is being said. It brings me great excitement however to know that God likes to use the things we are weak in and it can bring a greater glory to Him!