I’m just sitting in a hospital bed waiting. I don’t even really know exactly what I’m waiting for. I’m waiting for my health to go south so the doctor will be forced to deliver the baby in my womb. I’m waiting for my water to break or contractions to start; I have a history of pre-term labor, so this wouldn’t be too far-fetched. I’m waiting for the weeks to go by to give my baby time to mature. I’m waiting for my uterus to stretch just a little more and help that placenta get out of the way of my cervix. I’m waiting for the day that the doctor comes in and tells me that he can deliver the baby safely and lets me in on making the call to induce or wait. I know I’m waiting for our baby, a little girl, but the circumstances are not ideal and I’m just feeling uncertain and unsettled about how everything is playing out.
And I’m no stranger to uncertainty. Thankfully, I’m not a worrier, but almost daily I’m wondering if I’m doing God’s will and what His plan for me is. I do believe that God is with me and I know that God has a plan for me, but that doesn’t always mean I’m feeling confident or secure.
There are three ladies from a local parish who administer the Eucharist at this hospital. They are such a bright spot in my days. In addition to the Eucharist, they pray with me, tell me stories, offer me encouragement and sometimes bring prayer cards for me. The last one who came brought me a card that really spoke to how I am feeling in this moment and the words are so beautiful that I wanted to share it with you all.
God has created me to do Him some definite service;
He has committed some work to me which He has not
committed to another. I have my mission –
I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught. I shall do good,
I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth
in my own place while not intending it – if I do but keep His Commandments.
Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever, wherever I am. I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity
may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers,
He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me –
still He knows what He is about.
I may never even know exactly what my mission is! For me there is tremendous comfort in this. How freeing it is that I don’t have to know everything. By keeping the Ten Commandments, loving God with my all my soul, mind and strength, loving my neighbor as myself, heeding the Beatitudes, doing Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy and living the Great Commission, I will already be doing the mission He has planned for me. I don’t have to worry if I haven’t started a ministry or wrote something so profound that hundreds of people felt prompted by the Spirit to know Jesus. So maybe I’ll never feed thousands of hungry people. Maybe my mission is just to feed a few, like my kids and husband and friends and the occasional sick person or homeless person. Or maybe He’ll ask me to do things that don’t seem related to what I think my mission is. I don’t have to figure out how it fits into the plan. The burden of knowing everything is lifted. I can just have faith and do His work without knowing the exact mission. Like most everything that is good and beautiful and worthwhile, it is not easy, but it is very simple. Everything I do, even this waiting in uncertainty, I can do for Him.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
Text © Natalie Clevenger 2018
The story of The Visitation is the gift that keeps on giving, especially for us women.
I’ve written before on this holy get together, but the more you sit with those words, the more that the Spirit reveals. Not surprisingly so, after all, it is the Living Word.
What strikes me the most about Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth is the model of charity and service that is perfectly lived out by Our Lady.
But, this time around, it was the connection between the two little hearts inside those bellies that really tugged at my soul.
Play out the events of the Visitation in your thoughts like a movie…it is one of the most adorable scenes in the Bible.
Think of the two tiny babies connecting with each other, not body to body, but living soul to living soul.
Seeing baby St. John the Baptist “leap” inside of his mommy because he actually feels the presence of baby Jesus in Mary’s womb, wow.
I see the two little boys smiling during this moment.
Love radiating all around.
The presence of the Holy Trinity, right there.
The Spirit is so present that it actually moves Mary to break into song in the following verses.
What a moment.
Four people, four souls, all connecting with each other.
The Holy Spirit moving within all of them, bringing them together, gifting each to the other for the sole purpose of glorifying God.
And we all know what happens when humans glorify God, He turns right around and blesses us in the most unimaginable ways.
It’s what He does. It’s that love He has for us.
Isn’t the gift of life so precious and beautiful?
Can’t help but see the pro-life message in all of that.
Text ©Stephanie Stovall
The Advent season is a time the Church asks us to slow down. We are encouraged to spend more time in prayer in preparation for the reality of the huge-ness that is our Savior’s birthday.
If you are a fan of St. Ignatius’ imaginative way of praying, you know that spending time in the Scriptures of that first Christmas is an impossible thing to do without looking into the eyes and heart of Mary.
The Church does not tell us to worship Mary and it does not tell us to hold her as high as we hold the Trinity. The Catholic Church is all about following the Ten Commandments right beside Jesus, which means we honor His Father and His mother.
As a cradle catholic, I’d always been aware of the love we are supposed to have for our Holy Mother- especially coming from a Hispanic background.
Every time my family traveled to Colombia we’d see shrines dedicated to Mary all along our trip. I understood. She’s a big deal.
As I grew more serious about my faith and matured in theology I understood why we hold Jesus’ mom on such a pedestal.
It all made sense in my head and I loved the idea of her.
I just didn’t know her myself.
I would pray the rosary, but with little Marian faith or love behind it.
The closest I’d ever come to praying a novena was when our family would get together and pray the Christmas novenas with song and dance the nine days before Christ’s birth.
But, pray one of those serious long ones on my own? No way. I did not have enough self-control for that!
Or, I’d forget I was doing it by day three.
That was until I reached a moment of complete hopelessness and despair.
I had been battling an emotional situation for years and years with no moving past it in sight.
Through a miraculous little God moment, I was given a booklet on the Mary Undoer of Knots Novena.
Something about the painting on the front of the prayer book tugged at my heart.
Seeing that ribbon in such a tangled disaster on one side and then on the other side, once the ribbon passed through Mary’s hands, perfectly ironed out…it struck me.
I wanted her to untangle my darkest place.
I began the novena that night.
Those nine days were hell. Events took place that took me to the rock bottom of my emotions. I now know and see them as what they were, days of purification.
On the ninth day, the worst day of them all, my family happened to be visiting from out of town.
When the final blow was given to me that ninth day, my heavenly mother had brought my earthly mother for my physical need of love and tenderness.
I bawled in my mom’s arms like I had never done before.
With my mom living so far away, she was rarely able to be there like that for me.
It was exactly what I needed.
I consider this one of the greatest gifts of my life, having my mom there to hold me that night.
After that, came peace.
Nothing. But. Peace.
The days, months and years since that night, since that novena, have been filled with peace for my impossible emotional situation.
My heavenly mother had taken my ribbon of disaster, placed it before her Son, and it was ironed it out.
Of course there are still tough, tough moments, but the peace that I have in my heart for the situation makes me handle it all…truly with God.
Mary Undoer of Knots didn’t bring me back to the relationship with God that I had before.
That novena has taken me to a deeper, more beautiful relationship with Jesus than I have ever experienced before.
After all, that is what Mary is all about. Just like on that first Christmas day, all she wants is to give us her Son, to bring us into His heart. The only heart that loves freely and saves.
text ©Stephanie Stovall 2017
In an effort not to look stupid, I avoid things. I especially avoid things that could broadcast my perceived stupidity publicly. Like writing a blog about Jesus and Mary and being a Catholic mom. Because, you know, the world might start hating me because I’m not smart. My intelligent Christian friends will see how incredibly ignorant I am or worse, how bad a Christian I really am. Other people might start to think I’m one of THOSE people who need religion to console themselves and they’ll think I’m weak and feeble minded. Really, I could list a zillion things that keep me from being a fool for Christ but they all come down to fear.
And I’m pretty sure Christ said, “Do NOT be afraid.” (Emphasis my own.)
A zillion times He said that. (An exaggeration, I actually do not know how many times Jesus actually said it.)
Yesterday I was doing my reading for a study that I am doing called “Courageous Virtue” by Stacy Mitch (it is a really wonderful study by the way) and I read Wisdom 2.
Crack open your Bible to the second chapter of Wisdom. I’ll wait. If you have a Protestant Bible, well, you are missing out. Read the second chapter of Wisdom here.
I had to pick my jaw up off the floor after I read it. Then I headed straight for the World Wide Web to find out when Wisdom was written. Folks, it wasn’t yesterday. It was written about 50 years before the coming of Christ. So, for at least the last 2067 years (give or take a few), the world has been rejecting believers and embracing the “live it up now because we’ll soon be dust” mentality. The culture of death?? Yah, I guess that’s not a new thing.
I almost cried when I read the misguided reasoning, “Let our might be our law of right, for what is weak proves itself to be useless.” (RSV, 2nd Catholic Edition) I can’t help but think of abortion and euthanasia. The exploitation of the poor and the exploitation of women and an amazing list of a zillion other sins that our culture embraces continue in a long train in my mind, torturously reminding me that in our great country the majority rules, even when the majority is horribly wrong and terribly misguided.
And then I stopped being afraid. The people of God of have been insulted forever and they will continue to be mocked and called stupid. We have all been tasked with taking up our crosses and following Christ. He didn’t say to take up our crosses but only if you feel like it, or only when you have the encouragement and support of your peers, or only if you can safely do so.
So here I am, O great big Internet. I love Jesus.
I want to share him with all of the people. I want you to know Him. I want you to love Him. And I want you to share Him too.
If even just one person is stirred to crack open the Word by my post, then Jesus wins. If even just one person turns their mind towards Christ because of some word of mine, then Jesus wins. If even just one person wants to get to know Him better because of some feeble thing I said, then Jesus wins. And the thing is, Jesus wins anyway, so maybe more of us can win with Him and spend eternity basking in the heavenly glow. Yes, our bodies will someday return to dust, but they are joined to a soul that is eternal.
Lord, show me the areas of my life where I am afraid to be a fool for you. Help me live for eternity and not for the acceptance of others. Amen
© Natalie Clevenger 2017
There’s a song every Texas school kid learns as they take their first steps into an educational building.
“The stars at night, are big and bright
(clap clap, clap, clap , clap clap)
Deep in the heart of Texas.”
It’s one of those songs that as soon as the melody starts playing, your heart smiles and your memory pulls out the old Elementary School File.
You think of the 5th grade performance and that silly costume you had to wear.
You think of old friends and the ones you’ve somehow been lucky enough to have kept along the way.
You think of art class and was it, Ms. Daley? What a terrifying, wonderful woman.
Usually childhood memories bring comfort and joy. If you live far away from where you grew up, they mean all the more to you.
When the rain began relentlessly pouring down over Houston; those memories came rushing back with deep sadness and hurt.
Hurt for your family and friends that were living it and hurt for the places of your past.
Houston will be different, but Harvey will not change the heart and soul of who we are.
We are the Astrodome, Jeff Bagwell, J.J. Watt and Hakeem Olajuwon (Clutch City, baby!), Brother’s Pizzeria, HEB, Lupe Tortilla and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, where all artists are invited…from Selena to Boys II Men to Garth Brooks.
A full beach trip can be made in a day and rockets get sent into space from our H-town.
But more than anything, deep in the heart of Texas, is goodness.
Good, God fearing people that desire to hurt right alongside their neighbor.
People that were lucky enough to have a dry living room did not hesitate to throw all credit and gratefulness to God. They considered it a blessing from above and intended to go right out and become a blessing themselves to those that did not have a dry floor.
Since the floods, all eyes have been on the fourth largest city in our country.
The world has watched my class mates, just regular good ol’ boys, jump into bass boats and monster trucks to go save some stranger’s life.
Doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, what you believe…you need help…you grab my hand, get in and let’s go rescue some more people, buddy.
And shoot, Mattress Mack isn’t just a local legend anymore, that beautiful catholic man’s gone viral.
I don’t know why this happened to my hometown, nor does it matter.
What I do know is that God brings good things, real good things, from the bad.
Another thing we all know is that these times we’re all living in, are crazy.
We’ve all gone insane.
I’m not sure there’s a person out there that isn’t scared or concerned to the core about what kind of future our children will have to face.
But, take a moment to look at Harvey and all it has done.
Take a look at the faces of southern Texas.
Do they look like they all come from one place? They don’t.
They look like your family and mine.
They look like that picture in schools where the Earth has those stick people of all kinds holding hands around it.
There’s another song every single Texan knows by heart, and please, hold the eye rolling until all Texans have at least finished tearing down the dry wall.
The song is called “God Blessed Texas.”
Today, those verses have taken on a deeper, close to home meaning.
“First, He let the sun shine
Then He made the waters deep
Then He gave us moonlight
For all the world to see
Well everybody knows that the Lord works in mysterious ways
He took a rest, then on the very next day…
God blessed Texas
With His own hand
Brought down angels from the promised land
Gave 'em a place where they could dance
If you want to see heaven, brother, here's your chance
I've been sent to spread the message
God blessed Texas.”
Here’s the thing, and P.S., I don’t mean to be controversial in these extra sensitive days, but…God didn’t just bless Texas.
The pictures of unity you are seeing are not because the hurricane happened to hit a state where people know how to love.
If disaster would have hit Nebraska, Alaska, Colorado or any other state…the pictures would look exactly the same.
We’ve seen this time and time again.
People being there for each other.
People picking each other up off the ground and simply loving.
Whether we like it or not, deep in the heart of our country, is love for our neighbor.
It shouldn’t take horrible natural disasters or terrorist attacks to show us.
We need to stop acting like a tantrum throwing little two year old, guys.
Quit the talk of “we want unity!” and actually unite!
Are we not all tired? How are we not all exhausted?
Let the media do its’ media thing.
Let’s, the rest of us, do US.
So, how ‘bout this for a game plan…
Deep in the heart of the United States, we really do love each other.
It’s just time we start acting like it.
Text ©Stephanie Stovall 2017
A couple of winters ago I was pulling out of my driveway attempting to convince myself that arriving at the gym instead of Chic-fil-a was a much better start to the day.
In the midst of my inner debate, catholic radio caught my attention.
I ignored the fight going on between #3 and #4 in the back seats and turned up the volume.
The program host was interviewing a doctor that used to perform abortions back in the day. He was sharing his conversion story and I came in when he became emotional while recalling all of the abortions he had been a part of.
You could hear the pain and disgust for himself in his heart as he spoke.
I turned up the volume some more.
What I heard next completely threw my world into a whirl.
The doctor began to talk about how he hadn’t just been a part of the abortions that occurred in his office, he had been a part of possibly thousands.
Huh? Without knowing? What do you mean?
Doctor: “ I realized that I had been an active participant in all the abortions that occurred through my prescribing of birth control. I was sick. I had to get to confession.”
Me to car radio: “What is he talking about?!”
Then the radio host and doctor start talking about how birth control can act as an abortifacient but people are not aware of this facet. Then they dove deeper into the details of how the pill actually works.
It was then my turn to feel sick.
I had never heard this before.
In all of my life, I had never heard that birth control could act as an abortifacient until I turned on my radio that morning. I was shocked and disgusted with myself.
My husband and I had been on and off the pill in between kids.
We always felt guilty, we always knew better. But, it was so much easier than any other option!
We’d use it for about 6 months and then decide we were either too guilty to stay on it or ready to be open to another baby.
Yes, everything I knew about Catholic teaching on contraception should have been enough to make us dedicated NFP-ers.
The problem was, I could not trust God with all of it. I just couldn’t.
(I still have trouble with this, PS. But am relying on His grace day by day.)
I had very recently thrown away my birth control because I couldn’t stand going against God anymore. But after hearing that radio segment, there was no way I could go back to using the pill.
So, all of this brings me to…why aren’t the words “WARNING: The pill can act as an Abortifacient!” seen all over the place? They should be on billboards and all over social media! Shoot, why isn’t it in bold red letters on birth control packets?!
It’s one of the best kept secrets of our time.
Doctors will fight you on the truth of the pill. Many are not even aware themselves of how it truly works.
I’m telling you, best kept secret.
Should it be the one fact that keeps Catholics away from using the pill? Nope. However, for those stubborn ye of little faiths (ME) it could be just the thing to turn them back to living the faith.
I have to tell you, ever since this conviction came and God gave my husband and I the grace to be obedient to His desires, our life has changed immensely.
Is NFP challenging and hard and sucky at times? Yup. But, it has opened our hearts to hearing God like we never have before. I feel so much closer to my husband and I feel so much closer to Jesus.
Guess God knows what He’s talkin’ about after all.
Text Copyright 2017 Stephanie Stovall
When was the last time you let yourself go deep in thought about how much you love being a Roman Catholic?
As wives and mothers our hearts send our thoughts down sporadic love paths for our husbands and kids.
I’ll be nursing, looking into my infant’s eyes and completely forget about the world going on beyond my couch and Boppy.
I sit in the passenger side and glance over at the hubby carefully weaving through traffic with the whole family in tow and my heart melts as I remember glancing over at that same man, driving us to our first date.
Our deep love for our families give us little “love bites” throughout our days.
Does love for your Catholic faith ever give you some love bites?
I sure hope so.
We are so stinking lucky to be Catholic.
Just think about it for a second. All of your fave Catholic things.
What’d you come up with? I’ll take some guesses…
How about our Holy Mother? Yeeeessss! I know I wouldn’t be in this wonderful place of life right now if it wasn’t for her.
Which brings me to my next guess…
Novenas and all other Catholic prayers.
I love that when I am so overcome by emotion that I can not put a prayer into words I have “go to prayers” to offer up.
And also, novenas are just wonderful. Something happens, you need help, you find the perfect novena and bam! Your hope in the prayer begins to ease your soul.
One of my favorites are the statues. I love me a good religious statue.
One time on vacation my family was walking down the Riverwalk area of San Antonio trying to find the church we were attending for Mass that day. On the way we passed a skinny woman laying on the ground, pregnant tummy exposed to all. I wasn’t sure if she was begging for money or simply resting from the Texas heat, because I had quickly looked away.
A few minutes later we had arrived at the church and right on the side of it was a statue of “Homeless Jesus.” He was laying on a bench in a way that was so strikingly similar to the pregnant lady I had just uncomfortably walked past.
I reached out and touched Jesus’ head in forgiveness for my heart of stone.
It was a powerful moment. But it didn’t stop there.
As I kept walking towards the entrance, I see one of my boys had stopped at the statue. It was my six year old.
He stops, reaches into his pocket and places the precious penny he had been so excited to find just moments before, right by Jesus’ head.
What a moment.
I am so grateful that our church acknowledges we are tangible creatures that are moved by objects we can touch and see.
Part of that story holds another one of my faves.
I love that our church truly is a universal church. I know that at 9 am on a Sunday morning there are many others doing the same exact thing I am.
We’re all praying the same exact prayers and kneeling at the same time.
We are all calling up to God in this one, universal way.
How beautiful. I mean really, how beautiful.
I love our magnificent cathedrals and how we have men and women that commit their lives to God as priest and nuns. I love that we are the faith of Scott Hahn, Mother Angelica and Fr. John Riccardo. I love that we are “obligated” to attend Mass every single Sunday because receiving the Eucharist, visiting God in His house is just that important. I love how deep the faith is. I love the rich history we have. I love our traditions, how they’ve been passed down just like any family’s traditions. I love that Jesus…Jesus Himself (!) started our church and gave us an apostle as our first Pope. I love our hymns. I love that we put the Bible together and I love that we have guidelines on how to interpret scripture as well as Lectio Divina.
I love that every single thing about being Catholic enriches my faith life and brings me closer to God.
Watching people walk up and receiving the Eucharist gives me the biggest love bite for our Catholic faith. It can bring me to tears.
Fall in love, truly FALL IN LOVE with being Catholic and be excited!! We are SO STINKING LUCKY to have been called into this faith. Jump for joy, guys!!
Take some time and think…what gives you your Catholic love bites?
Text Copyright Stephanie Stovall 2017
There’s an article with the title, “11 things to do in your 20’s to become a millionaire by 30.”
The article is shared and praised by many as a great rule book for life.
Now, I am not one that hates money. I am a slave to it in many aspects. I dream of the lavish vacations to Europe. I think it would be so fun to order that super expensive bottle of wine on a date night with my husband.
Shoot, I’d like to simply know I will be able to send all five kids off to college loan-free!
Money is not a bad thing. When your life’s arrangements revolve around money, your social status and everyone else’s worth is based on how many dollar signs follow them around…that’s a whole other story.
As I was reading the article, I thought about how each suggestion would play out in an article titled, “ 11 things to do in your 20’s to become a Saint by 30.”
Let’s take a look at these “11 things” …
1. Focus on earning.
1. Focus on the end goal, holiness. Train yourself to focus on the heart of God throughout the day.
2. Develop multiple streams of income.
2. Develop multiple ways of feeding yourself spiritually. Don’t just go to Mass. Attend bible studies, pray the Rosary, schedule a Holy Hour of Adoration.
3. Save to invest, don't save to save.
3.Grow spiritually not only for yourself, but also for others. Become a Christian that is active in their faith. Be the missionary you were meant to be- whatever that may look like. Make your faith one that grows much fruit.
4. Be decisive.
4. Learn discernment. Learn how to hear God’s voice when He speaks to you through scripture, other people, in the stillness.
5. Don't show off — show up.
5. Don’t show off how great of a Christian you are- live it! Be God’s love- don’t just talk about it. Live what you preach. Let your faith be visible in your works and attitude.
6. Change your mindset about money.
6. Change your mindset about money! Have a holy outlook on money. Don’t let it be your driving force.
7. Invest in yourself.
7.Take care of yourself spiritually. Exercise your faith. Make time for God and His Word.
8. Ditch the steady paycheck.
8. Don’t settle for the relationship you have with God right now. Your relationship with Him can always improve. Always be working on getting to know Him better.
9. Set goals and visualize achieving them.
9. Set realistic goals for your faith life. Read the bible more, pray more - always reach for an improved spiritual life. Make it a goal, work towards that goal.
10. Start hanging out with people you admire.
10. Have a solid group of Christian friends as your backbone. Surround yourself with people that will lift you up, hold you accountable and support your beliefs and values. But! At the same time - be open to relationships with all types of people. Do not pick and choose who you hang out with based on their social status. Remember, Jesus hung out with all.
11. Shoot for $10 million, not $1 million.
11. Shoot for Sainthood, don’t sell yourself short! Remember the universal call to holiness. You were made for heavenly greatness; don’t settle for just being a good person. Become best friends with God and let Him shape you into the best version of yourself.
“We were made for greatness, not for comfort.
Take a moment and really read those words.
Think about your life and that thing God has been asking of you.
That thing that keeps popping up in your heart… maybe mostly during your prayer time, or while at Mass or a bible study.
Is it a hard thing He is asking you to do? Does it make you a little queasy?
Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air and a queasy feeling in the stomach
Let’s go to our Blessed Mother at The Annunciation.
I wonder, hours after that conversation, was she jumping up and down in excitement for what the angel had just told her?
Did she rush to post on her Facebook status how pumped she was about the gigantic, life changing task ahead of her?
We know she was humbled and ready to go.
Didn’t matter what she wanted, she was on earth to do God’s will and God’s will alone.
No matter how scary…or uncomfortable.
These days us Christians are a bit nutty with our theology of how God works.
Everyone wants to “feel good” about what God calls them to do.
And, if suffering is a part of anything at all, well, it must not be God’s will for me!
We are wrong. So, so wrong.
God never promised us easy. Exactly the opposite was promised, actually.
Yet, whenever we are discerning a potential call from Above, do our own feelings about it all cloud the Truth of what is being asked of us?
I know I’m guilty of this.
That’s a great idea God, but…I don’t have the money for it, that’s totally out of my comfort zone, I don’t have the time right now, I don’t have it in me but so and so- they would be great at it- call them!...and the list goes on and on.
Now, what if there is potential danger within what you are being called to?
Let’s say, for example, ohhhh…death.
Well, what’s the worst thing that could happen if you decide to take that trip to Target? You need mascara, milk and maybe a new shirt (the kids have been awful lately, you deserve it).
You could get in a wreck and die. Dramatic, yes, but true.
Do you still decide to take that trip? Yup.
Simply going to the scriptures we see time and time again God calling the simple to huge tasks.
Tasks that got them in a lot of trouble and were no fun.
But, these people that said yes, these Saints, knowing the negatives said yes anyway.
They knew God didn’t put them on earth for warm fuzzies and lots a fun.
He gave them a mission, and they were going to get it done no matter the cost.
Jesus on Good Friday.
Meant for greatness, not for comfort.
So, at the end of this Lenten season, make it a goal to open your heart and mind a little more to that crazy thing God is calling you to do.
Your reward will be great and wide for that little “yes.”
The reward of knowing you are working hand in hand with Jesus in this life is the greatest feeling of all.
Let your “yes” to God bring you your warm and fuzzies.
On Wednesday, you received the sign of the cross on your forehead in ashes, reminding you that you came from the dust and to the dust you will return. It’s a pretty sobering thought. I always think of Old Testament sackcloth and ashes kind of stuff. The penitent person, shouting to the world he’s wrong and he’s sorry by smearing dirt on his head and wearing an itchy shirt. I hope you’re not just now figuring out that I’m no biblical scholar.
Well, I must admit that I did not go to Ash Wednesday Mass for the first time in years. I always went as a child, missed a few years when I thought I was too smart for God (another story for another day) and have relished in every Lenten fast and liturgy since finding my way back to the church. So, when exactly five of my five children were vomiting all over every surface in my house, I did something uncharacteristic and I sacrificed my place in church so that my husband could go.
Now is where I really confess. I found it extremely difficult to skip Ash Wednesday mass. (Yes, I know it is not a holy day of obligation.) Mass would have meant a break from the sickness and I’ll take the holy smells of the Sacrifice of the Mass over the funky breath of my kids any day and especially on days they have emptied the contents of their stomachs all over the couch. More than needing a break, my pride was making it very difficult to make the decision. It went something like this (in my head of course), “I am a good catholic. There are people who think I’m a faithful person. Since I’m overweight, dress poorly and have greasy hair, it is important that I keep that good reputation intact. It’s all I have left!”
And that is how I realized that I’d been wearing those ashes for many years like a badge of honor. Rather than the sackcloth and ashes that they mimic from the Old Testament, I was walking up the aisle ready to get my medal. Recognizing that disgusting pride, I offered to stay home and care for the sick kids. I deserved it.
It was with a spirit of recognition of my sins that I entered into Lent and it was with that same spirit that I was truly able to hear God speaking in His Holy Word on the first Sunday of the Lenten season.
The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.
God created us out of dirt. Out of nothing He made man and woman and without God in my life, I am nothing. Without God, life is meaningless. The only way for me to truly live is to ask Him to send his Spirit to breathe life into me. To ask Him daily to walk with me.