Have you seen the movie posters of a boy fighting for his life under water?
Breakthrough hits theatres Wednesday, April 17, just in time for Easter. I had the opportunity to see the film and interview some of the movie’s key players. Here’s the inside scoop and glam red-carpet pics!
Catching up on his news feed on a flight from Dallas to Sacramento, Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez began his journey as Executive Producer for Breakthrough; a story about a boy- John Smith- who fell through a not-so frozen lake, was dead for one hour and through the bold prayers of his mom, was miraculously brought back to life.
John is now 18 years old and sharing the story God gifted him, through the big screen. Evangelization at its’ sparkliest.
Dr. Sam read John’s story, used it in his Sunday sermon and then received a message from a woman telling him he hadn’t done the story justice. Turned out the woman was Joyce Smith, John’s adoptive mother.
The two then began a conversation that would bring them to where they are now, less than a month away from Breakthrough’s opening day.
Through a string of God moments, Producer DeVon Franklin (Miracles from Heaven) came on board the project.
“I just feel like this space really requires authenticity… I think its hard to make movies in this space if you’re not living it. I don’t know that I could produce these types of films and have an ear towards this type of content if I wasn’t out there preaching and speaking in churches regularly…I know it, ‘cause I live it. It’s not something I do for money, it’s who I am.”
Franklin preached his first sermon at 15 years old.
Roxann Dawson is the Director of Breakthrough, as well as a fellow Catholic mom.
Dawson shared that her top reasons for being a part of this movie were here beliefs and her adopted daughter.
“This was one of the first times that I could actually do a film that reflected my personal beliefs…I also have an adopted daughter and that brought me very close to how Joyce feels. I felt that I understood her and not only that, but I felt I understood John better.”
There is a scene in the movie where John reveals his challenges of being adopted through a school project and that very same project was one Dawson’s daughter had to do and happened to experience the same emotions as John. That coincidence between the film and real life spoke to Dawson’s heart.
John’s real- life Pastor Jason Noble, who stayed closely at the family’s side while John was in the hospital, gave us the dish on his rocky relationship with Joyce Smith.
In the movie their new, hip pastor vs. traditional church member drama wasn’t how it played it out in real life, but it was meant to show real world conflict that does exist inside church walls.
Noble also shared why community is so important to Christian life, as greatly showed in the film.
“ I think community is so important because we’re stronger together than we are apart…and it’s something we’ve actually lost, I think, in the church world today. People are so separated with social media…they’re more lonely than ever…Who do you have when you walk through a difficult time with? You have to do it by yourself, it’s difficult, compared to having a whole church around you walking through it.”
John Smith, 18 going on a mature 30, feels “It is a huge blessing, what else can you say, to have your story, something that God did so amazingly to my family be brought to the big screen. It’s just a huge blessing to see how this has all been God-ordained since the time I was born.”
“Breakthrough is so unique, because everyone wants to look at these God-based films and go, Oh- that’s…all cheesy Jesus… it’s another one of these stereotypical easy to predict films. This is yes, a God- based film, but you also have to realize we have science to back it up…God is the source of this whole story, but then we also have this little character behind it going- I have science, I have 300 plus medical documents to verify why I’m alive. And that helps because when I’m talking to an unbeliever… they hear that there is a… number one in his expertise of hypothermia and drowning saying that this is a bonafede miracle from God, what can you say to that? What can anyone say to that? They want to say it was the cold weather, well we have evidence to backfire that…This is such a remarkable film because we have more than just fiction, we have the truth. We have evidence. We have back up.”
Then, my fan moment with This Is Us star, Chrissy Metz who plays Joyce Smith.
Sitting down to talk with her is like sharing a cup of coffee with an old friend.
She shared an incredible story, how three months before Metz knew this movie was going to be made, her mom had a major stroke.
“They were not sure that she was going to make it through the night. There was a lot of swelling in her brain…and I just said to my sisters - We’re going to pray for healing, for the swelling to go down and we’re going to be very specific about what it is that we want and we’re going to visualize it… and only think positive thoughts about it.
I had someone come in and pray and we just sort of held a vigil… and the doctors couldn’t believe that the swelling had gone down and that she had made it through the night and she wasn’t going to have to have surgery. And they said okay, now that she’s done all this, we don’t know that she’s going to be able to walk again. And I said okay, well, you also don’t know my mom, and you also didn’t think she would make it through the night…She now walks over 10,000 steps a day… She’s now the healthiest she’s ever been.”
Don’t forget to save the date for Jesus and Breakthrough, April 17!
Copyright Stephanie Stovall 2019
Remember how at the end of Titanic no one left the theatre? The audience sat in silence through the credits, processing the tragedy they had just watched.
This night was no different, except this time the tragedy being processed was the reality of abortion.
The story was told so well, and the characters… man, their emotions became your own.
Unplanned is based on Abby Johnson’s life, as she shares through her memoir.
The transparency that Abby has given to this story is truly remarkable. Abby’s humility is one to be admired by all.
During the film my heart filled with gratitude for Abby’s openness with decisions she made in her life, but also with gratitude for the movie creators and actors that had no problem putting their careers on the line to bring Abby’s raw story to the big screen. That takes courage only the Spirit can provide. These people are warriors.
The movie left you physically and emotionally aching by the end.
After the movie there was a Q&A with producers and the actors who portrayed Abby (Ashley Bratcher) and Doug Johnson (Brooks Ryan). They were received with a standing ovation.
Bratcher shared she was offered the part and then had to be on a plane to Oklahoma five hours later.
She immediately called her husband and said, “Hey, I got the role! Um, by the way I’m leaving before you get home from work.”
She then went on through tears to tell her powerful personal testimony.
On the fourth day of being on set, Bratcher’s mom called. She decided to share with her mom where she was and the project she was working on. Bratcher wanted to be sensitive while telling her mom details about the movie, knowing her mom had an abortion as a teenager.
Bratcher’s mom broke down and went on to tell her about the day she almost aborted Bratcher.
Her mom had been sitting on the clinic bed, waiting for the procedure to begin when a very pregnant nurse walked in to examine her. Overwhelmed by seeing the nurse’s belly, her mom walked out and chose to keep her baby.
Speaking about God she says, “He plans our steps from conception.”
You could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in the room.
Brooks Ryan then shared his own story.
When he was 12 years old he was inspired by the movie Good Will Hunting to become an actor. He walked out of the theatre, “…as a 12-year old, my emotions were so moved and I was impacted in a way that I just looked up to God and to the universe and said, ‘I’m going to do that one day. I’m going to be a part of something that stirs people’s emotions like that.’”
Ryan left that stirring untouched until he was 25-years old. Feeling stuck and isolated while working in his home state of Oklahoma, he regretted not ever moving to New York or Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. Then one day he heard God say, “You’re going to do it from Oklahoma and you’re going to do it when I’m ready for you.”
Ryan then went on to share the story of God bringing him out of that isolation and to finding his wife. “She has saved me in so many ways, but she had a past of her own, including a doctor one day stopping her IVF treatment halfway because the numbers were so bad. He looked at her and he said you’re never going to have children of your own. And if you want your body to have them, you need to consider a donor, otherwise you need to consider other options.”
She shared this with Ryan early on while dating. Once they knew they were meant to be together, “I began praying over her womb every night… And here we are, in less than two years we have a 17-month-old and 5-month-old.”
The audience erupted with applause.
“ …To hold our children, life means so much to us. As we know it means so much to others. And when you watch this film and you’re a part of it, your emotions are moved unquestionably and all you want to do is reach out and just say anybody that’s impacted negatively, that it doesn’t have to be that way. People will love you, God will love you, and that there’s hope and there is mercy and there’s grace and redemption. And that’s what we want to show with this film, and that’s what Abby’s life shows us.”
But I have to say, the highlight of the entire night for me was the car ride to the screening.
I had the privilege of having dinner with Ashley, Brooks, the producers and other pro-life champions.
Towards the end of dinner, Ashley, a dear friend of mine and I struck up the beginning of a great conversation about God moments. Those little moments when God reaches down and makes a connection with us through people, circumstances and holy signs. We were so into the conversation we decided to ride together to the screening.
In the car Ashley shared her heart so openly, and what struck me the most was her unwavering faith in God.
She spoke of how she finds none of her value in her projects, but in God alone.
She has no fear of not ever working in Hollywood again after this film, because in 2012 she gave her career over to God and she knows He will take care of her either way.
Then we bonded over our love for Hallmark and I thought dang, this girl is the real deal.
At the end of the night one of the producers told us of ways we could help the film.
The number one thing that was requested was prayer.
On Facebook you can search for Unplanned Movie Prayer Team and join the cause.
They are also in need of financial help for marketing. You can go to unplannedfilm.com to donate.
Lastly, go see the movie! Get a big group together for a night out.
This movie has the ability to change hearts and save lives.
How are you going to help?
As I slowly prepare our house for Christmas and my heart for Christ’s Second Coming, I keep circling back to the words of John 1:14.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us
God, in his awesomeness decided that we were worth saving and he stooped so low as to become a baby. A flesh and blood infant, a helpless child whose only communications are whimpers and cries. I have had six babies so far and can definitively say that they can do nothing for themselves. They can’t feed themselves or clothe themselves or even wipe their own heineys. The Almighty God chose this. I can’t even fathom the love and trust that would compel Father, Son and Holy Spirit to do that. Adam and Eve couldn’t even be trusted with a piece of fruit!
Inevitably I think of the Blessed Mother after the Incarnation, how she felt and what she was pondering. What an awesome responsibility to know you are raising the Savior and what an incredible gift to be chosen out of every single woman who was, is and yet to be born. Through her “yes” the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I love that we get to celebrate her appearance to Juan Diego during Advent. I have a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother and the image she left on a humble little tilma is my favorite of her. There are many reasons I love it so much, but one special distinction is that she appears pregnant in the image. The Word Incarnate, the Blessed Fruit of her womb has taken on flesh.
In a special way I think this image asks us to allow the Word become flesh in us. Each one of us are asked to make His love manifest in our lives, to bear fruit. And one of the best ways to do that is to read Scripture. If we can be faithful to reading his Word we can better understand His great love for us and in return love him more. Great fruit will be born in our lives if we make a habit of reading His Word, but even greater graces will flow into the lives of others from our faithfulness. Mary’s motherhood was certainly a gift of crowning glory for her, but more importantly it was a gift for humanity.
Like the Blessed Mother, let us ponder his Word and let it bear great fruit for the kingdom.
Watching the funeral of George H.W. Bush, I couldn’t help but think of God’s all-encompassing love for us.
If you saw any bit of the ceremonies for President Bush, you could see the love.
Every little detail was thought out and lovingly planned by family and the tradition our country holds.
This guy was a big deal, just like all of our presidents. He deserved to be laid to rest respectfully.
And man, did it take a while! I had started watching before taking the kids to school, then continued while at the gym, then ran errands and came home still able to catch the last couple of hours.
This death was a big deal.
So will yours be.
Most of us will live an ordinary life. To the big world, we will not be seen as a” big deal”.
But, as Christians, we know better.
We are sons and daughters of THE King. We are great because of who God is, we are great because we are His. Not because of anything we do, but because of Him.
God made each and every one of us simply because He wants to BE with us.
He didn’t have to create humans. He doesn’t need us. He’s God, he’s got this. He just wants us here to love us.
And that makes us a big deal.
As Catholics, we have carried our Lord’s body INSIDE of our body.
So, God becomes Man- for us, dies a horrible death- for us, goes up to Heaven and then comes back - for us (so far it’s sounding like we’re a big deal if God’s going through all of this just for us, just sayin’.)
But when the Eucharist is placed on your tongue…you are officially a living Tabernacle of our Lord.
…. Whoa. Baby. That is a big deal.
We went from being one with the Holy Spirit, to being ONE with Jesus.
We’ve heard over and over again about how important our bodies are through the gift that is Theology of the Body.
But, are we getting it? Are we truly understanding how important our bodies are?!
I’m learning more and more and I don’t totally get it.
How could we ever comprehend how huge of a deal our bodies are? It’s a crazy thing to comprehend!
And how heartbreakingly corrupt have we made our bodies out to be.
Just turn on secular radio and it won’t take long before you hear disgusting sexual lyrics.
I just want to jump inside my radio, take these musicians by the shoulder and shake them! I want to say to them, YOU are SO much more than this! The women you are talking about are SO much more than this! Your bodies have been chosen by God himself to be here right now! You are higher than this! You are holy!
While watching President Bush’s processions, funeral and then more processions, I wondered…at our moment of death, what does the invisible world around us look like?
Are our Guardian Angels holding their heads up to God in joy because their mission is now complete? Are there Angels and Saints all around us celebrating God’s child finally coming home to Him, giving us a beautiful heavenly procession?
Or, are our Guardian Angels weeping, head down low because we have come to the end and never realized how much of a big deal we are because of Our Father chose to create us.
Every single body deserves procession after procession, trumpets and glory at the end of life. Not because of anything we did (if that was the case, we wouldn’t deserve anything at all!) but, because of how much God loves us.
It’s so simple, it’s incomprehensible.
How different would this world be if we all had the teensiest bit of understanding of how big of a deal, how so very precious, we all are to God.
Man, the thought brings me to tears.
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Text ©2018 Stephanie Stovall
In the summer of 2006, my soon-to-be youth group traveled to a Steubenville youth conference.
In September of 2006, God touched my heart at the exact time I opened it to Him, just the tiniest bit.
A rush of warmth came over and then, an explosion of sparkles and prettiness all around me (more on that some other time).
At that moment, I left my atheistic ways and completely gave my life over to God.
The next week that soon-to-be youth group became my church family, my best friends.
And all they ever talked about was Zoolander, plans for the upcoming weekend and their amazing experiences at Steubenville.
Their stories were about powerful encounters with Jesus and “the best praise and worship ever.”
Our youth group would be going on a mission trip to Mexico that upcoming summer, so me being a senior, I knew my chances of a Steubenville experience were long gone.
Fast forward 16 years…
This summer I spent a weekend at a Steubenville youth conference chaperoning my parish’s youth group.
*Yes, dream come true. Thank you, thank you! Pass the Kleenex *
When I heard the youth group was in need of another female adult for the trip, I jumped at, no, attacked the chance of experiencing this conference.
Now, I’m gonna lay it all out there.
Sure, I was happy to hang out with some teens. My passion had been in youth ministry for years, but when baby after baby came, my focus had to shift.
So, of course I wanted these kids to like me, but let’s be honest, this was about me getting the Steubenville experience.
On an early Friday morning, I stepped out of my car in the church parking lot, saw a bunch of hyped up teenagers, pillows and blankets in hands and; I felt a deep desire to truly know each and every one of them.
I couldn’t stand not knowing them. I didn’t even know their names and I felt this crazy need to know their souls!
Once our charter bus took off, I forced myself to wait an appropriate amount of time before going total adult-loser on them.
When that appropriate time came, we danced in the aisle to High School Musical.
As the weekend unfolded, these kids stole my heart.
They shared their stories with me and listened while I bothered them with mine.
We laughed, cried and praised Jesus whole-heartedly.
They expressed their frustrations, worries about life and faith.
They broke my heart as I listened to their hurts.
We rapped to Christian music and encouraged each other through some awful dining experiences.
These kids gave me a weekend in Heaven.
To my most grateful surprise, these kids were my Steubenville.
Now, you might be thinking; “That’s all great buuut, what does this have to do with Humanae Vitae?”
Well, I’ll be happy to share.
All of these kids have a mom, a dad, a grandparent; that said “yes” to life.
Because of their “yes,” my life has been blessed beyond belief. Truly.
See, Church teaching is hard. And, it can be very easily seen as annoying rules that are thrown at us simply because the Catholic Church is so out of date.
But Church teaching isn’t here, just ‘cause.
It’s here to save our lives.
It exists, thanks be to God, for our own good.
Look at this mess we are in, folks.
Look at how Pope Paul Vl, through Humanae Vitae, warned us all.
When the creation of Life, a Human Person, is looked at as something that must be “dealt with,” we have completely lost sight of who we are as People.
Why did God ever begin creating humans?
To love! YOU and me.
Whether our parents created us out of complete love or not, OUR God made us because He wanted us alive so HE could love on us. All we have to do is allow His love!
Those youth group kids, every single one, added so much in their own way to my life.
Some were born to loving families, others have had a harder go at life.
I hope one day they will understand what a treasure they are, by simply being.
I pray that one day soon, all of those kids see themselves as their Father in Heaven sees them.
I pray that one day soon, we will all see ourselves as our Father sees us.
He doesn’t see a pill as an answer to freedom.
He doesn’t see a double line on a pregnancy test as the end of the parents’ lives.
He sees a creation of new Love.
Whether our parents created us out of complete love or not, OUR God made us because He wanted us alive so HE could love on us. All we have to do is allow His love!
What if we started seeing Life for what it is and will be?
A heartbeat that will grow into someone’s husband.
Tiny fingers that will grow into hands of a surgeon.
Little toes that will grow into feet that take her on missionary work to save the nations.
A pure, innocent soul that will grow to become someone’s life-long best friend.
Humanae Vitae is a reminder of who we are.
With this 50th anniversary, I hope we are all reminded.
We need that reminder now more than ever.
Do you ever feel the excitement for your Catholic faith fading out a bit? Maybe you’ve noticed you’re beginning to simply go through the motions of your faith life without that zeal you once had. Or, maybe you’re in that dry desert stage of your relationship with God.
If you thought, “Yup, that’s me,” don’t be so sad, you’re just in need of some Catholic Caffeine!
Here are 10 Catholic treasures that are worth “googling” to help a momma out in her time of need, in no particular order.
1) Surprised by Truth by Patrick Madrid
Girl, I’m tellin’ you. This is a gem. An easy read that’ll have you falling in love all over again with this One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. (PS: This is my go-to gift for people that are curious about the Faith.)
2) “Lord I Need You” by Matt Maher
Not only is this song goooood, it’s written by a fellow Catholic! We gotta support those Catholic musicians. All of his albums are wonderful for you and your kids. Check ’em out.
3) The Fourth Cup talk and book by Scott Hahn
Blow yo mind. This will remind you/teach you just how deep and craaaazzzyy awesome our faith is. It’ll have you throwing your hands up in the air ’cause you just don’t care how weird you look ’cause, dang. And, it’s Scott Hahn. What else do you need?!
4) Novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots
Our Lady: all she wants to do is bring you closer to her Son. This novena will do that for you. You’ve got an impossible problem? Hand it on over to her, girl.
5) The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn
Scott Hahn. Mass. Boom.
6) Daily Mass
There is something so intimate about Daily Mass. It’s usually a small-ish number of people there and knowing that you don’t “have to be there” makes your presence in front of Jesus so special.
7) Christ is the Answer podcasts, Fr. John Riccardo
Ho-ly. Spi-rit. Moment. Every single talk. Listen to while cooking, doing the dishes, laundry, whatever it is; you’ll thank yourself for tuning in to this blessing of a priest. Find his talks all neatly put together by subject. Or on your phone.
8) Theology of the Body by St. John Paul ll
Learn how beautiful the simplicity of being human truly is with TOB. If you don’t have the time to read it all, listen to some talks about it … like Fr. John Riccardo’s.
9) Real Life Catholic video series by Chris Stefanick
Perfect thing to watch as a family! This series is wonderfully done. Great quality, entertaining and full of the Truth.
10) “I Shall Not Want” by Audrey Assad
Another inspiring Catholic artist. Her voice will transport you to the clouds of Heaven.
11) Any Mother Angelica talk
(Oops, I added an extra. Bonus nugg.) Do you know Mother Angelica? Make her your best friend. She’s not only hilarious, but feisty and has a way of delivering God’s message that is just so endearing. Her videos are available on EWTN.
12) One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler
(Dang it, I did it again! I should change the title…but 10 just sounds better.)
I love this woman. Real, funny, light and deep all in one. Read this to help you in your discernment of who God made you to be and what only He can do within an already insane life.
I hope these treasures bring more Jesus into your life!
What’s on your list of Catholic Caffeine?
I have an almost 11 month old “tiny” little baby.
He’s crawling and rolling all over the house and has an odd attachment to our Bluetooth speaker, which began one morning we were listening to the rosary (that’s the only thing that keeps me from freaking out about this creepy new obsession).
This little boy will be completely into his new found treasure of the moment, I’ll catch his eye from the kitchen, he’ll drop that treasure out of his mouth, mad dashes over to me, pushes himself up on his knees and stretches his arms out as far as they can go. He breaks out into the biggest, happiest smile you’ve ever seen and begs for a hug.
Ohh, my heart.
Starting a couple of years ago, every now and then, I’d ask for the grace to really feel and understand God as my Father, Father.
So many times I get stuck in the motions of faith and who God truly is, that I miss the depth of His love.
I have no problem referring to God as my BFF, that was where my faith began, but the Father side of God is a side of Him I really have desired a deeper connection with.
One of the most beautiful things about a relationship with God are the quiet, hidden moments when He reveals Himself to you with a gentle touch to your heart. The subtle, “I am here.”
Just the other day my tiny little baby looked up at me with those big eyes, threw his chunky arms up and gave me the cheesiest “I love you!! Hold me!” smile.
I froze. I didn’t grab his tiny little body close.
I just stared at him…but I’m telling you…it was not my tiny little baby.
It was God.
It was God taking that subtle “I am here” moment to another place.
For years now I have been hearing people ask, “Do you know God the Father?”
Because I have never referred to God as my Father in my conversations with Him, I’ve thought, “No, no I don’t know God as my Father.”
In that mere second with a tiny little baby, God moved like a tidal wave in my soul.
As I looked at my son, God asked me, “Why does this baby love you?’
And then, the epiphany.
My baby loves me and his Daddy because of who we are to him.
We are the people that feed him.
We are the ones that put snuggly pajamas on his body.
We hold him tight after a bump of his head.
We give him the baths that refresh him.
We are the ones he trusts.
He loves us because he loves us.
He loves me because I am his Mommy.
He loves his Daddy because he’s his Daddy.
In that mere second with a tiny little baby, God moved like a tidal wave in my soul.
It’s so simple.
Tears streamed down my face.
I know God as my Father. I have always known God as my Father.
I thought I had been missing out on that huge part of my relationship with Him because I’ve never referred to Him as Daddy, but that’s just not true.
Lately I have been feeling guilty about the reasons I love God.
I felt like the love I have for God was based on selfishness.
I love Him for the blessings He gives me and my family.
I love Him for the “God moments” He sends to brighten my day.
I love Him for the lessons He has taught me.
I love Him for how He takes care of me.
But, when my baby reached out for me in love that moment, I realized… I love God for the same reasons my baby loves me.
I, too, put down my new found treasures of the day, reach my arms out to Him in love and beg Him to love me back…simply because He IS my Father.
I love Him because He IS my Father!!
God, I love you…you are my Daddy.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Text ©Stephanie Stovall 2018
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