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Yes

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.
— Romans 8:28

I had to leave my engagement ring at the jewelers the other day to get it appraised. In place of not having my actual engagement ring I wore the original ring that Dom proposed with, which is a miraculous medal ring. It's a long story, but the basic gist is the ring he chose for me wasn't going to be ready in time for him to be able to propose with, so he chose a miraculous medal ring as a stand in. And what a sweet stand in it was. He could have given me a piece of string, I wouldn't have cared. But he chose this ring, and I couldn't be more thankful. Not only do I now have 2 rings that mean something very special to me, but I have a ring that is a literal symbol Mary's prayers for us. It's a reminder to me of her yes to God and of my yes to Dom. It's a reminder of the road I'm saying yes to. which is ultimately a yes to God's story for my life through the vocation He has called us to together. 

A couple weeks ago, we celebrated what has always been my favorite of the Marian feast days. The Feast of the Annunciation. It's a celebration of Mary's 'yes' to God. A yes that would change the world forever. It's a celebration of her complete surrender to His will. Her total gift of self. I wonder how Mary must have felt. When the angel announced to her that she had been chosen to carry God's son into the world, she had no idea what that was going to look like. She couldn't have predicted all of the joy and heartache it would entail. And yet, with full confidence, she said "yes". 

I don't know about you, but I'm someone who wants to see the entire picture. I like to fully understand what my commitments mean, but that's often not the way it works. You know what saying yes to eating 5 candy bars is going to lead to. A potential sugar rush, most likely a sugar crash and a tummy ache. But saying yes to a new job, to a move across country, to a college, to a proposal, those things you can't see the big picture for. You don't know how it's going to end, which I'm pretty sure is the way God designed it to be. A friend of mine once put it like this. Your life is like a huge wall mural that God's painting and He only let's you see one little section at a time. Even though it might not make sense right now, in the end it all fits together beautifully. To you, your life might look like a gigantic mess that doesn't make any sense at all. But to Him, it's a work in progress. It's one giant masterpiece.


Think about your life. If you had known exactly how everything was going to turn out, would you have said yes to certain things? Even if something didn't turn out great, did you learn from it? There are plenty of things I'm not sure I would have said yes to had I seen the outcome beforehand. For example, if I had known how hard living in Atlanta was going to be, I probably wouldn't have come here. On the flip side of that, I have already seen some of the fruits that have come from being here (specifically in the friendships I've formed). Just because you can't see the resurrection in a situation doesn't mean it's never coming.

Life is hard work. It takes time and effort. It takes you saying yes day in and day out. It takes showing up.  I read this quote from Bob Goff, author of Love Does, the other day. He said, "Quit waiting for an invitation to go live your life. Your failures won't define you; your engagement will." I want to live into the masterpiece that God is making out of my life. I want to live without fear of the future. I want to seek and find what's waiting for me in every turn. Every moment on this planet that I still have a breath to take and a beating heart is a gift. How easy it is to forget that.

Today, I'm asking our mother to pray that I too can have the same confidence in my life. To say yes in the every day. To trust the Lord and His plan. To walk by faith and not by sight. "Let it be done unto me according to Thy word." And even though I have no idea what our road ahead looks like, I am confident that if we keep the Lord at the center, we'll be able to make it through whatever comes our way.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

In The Silence

I can be such a brat.

The other day, I decided to go to adoration. I hadn't been able to make it to the chapel in awhile, so I was excited to finally be able to go. There I was, sitting on the floor (which is my preferred place to sit in an adoration chapel), with my books neatly placed all around me. I took a deep breath and began to journal. A lot of times it takes me at least 20 minutes to get out everything I have to tell God about, and that's on a good day. After saying everything I needed to say, I decided that this was going to be a day that God would say something profound to me. Never mind Him actually having something profound to say to me at that point in time, I just really wanted Him to.

So I sat and waited silently.........

...for about a minute. Because that's all the time a person (especially a female) needs to stop thinking, quiet their heart and try to hear God's voice. A minute. (Note the sarcasm). I then proceeded to pick up my Bible. Surely God would speak to me through my Bible. I decided to partake in a little Bible Roulette. You know, when you open up to a random page of the Bible and read what your finger lands on. Attempt after attempt, it failed me. Topics of famine and war and lament (I kid you not, that's what I landed on over and over again) just weren't speaking to my heart that day. Let's be honest, Bible Roulette almost never works well.

In the middle of me struggling to "hear God speak something profound" but not actually trying to listen at all, I look over to my right and see an older gentleman walking in. Literally within 45 seconds of him sitting down, this man was out like a light. Snoring pretty loudly, I might add. This is when things got real. I'm going to get vulnerable with you all, I started judging this man a little bit. I couldn't help it. My head was filled with thoughts like, "Why is this guy here right now if he could just take a nap at home? Does he even realize that there are good intentioned people in here trying VERY hard to hear something from the Lord?! How can the Lord speak to you if you are asleep?"

And then, I heard God speak quietly in my heart.

"Sarah, sometimes I just want you to come and rest with me."

That was it. Not the "profound" I was expecting or wanting, necessarily, but there you have it. That sleeping old man taught me an important lesson that day. God isn't always going to say profound things to us. (I've been praying for awhile, I should know that by now). Spiritual life is a journey. Sometimes that means small, baby steps towards God. Other times, it means taking a leap off a cliff, trusting He's going to catch you. A lot of the time though, it means sitting in front of the Lord, resting in His presence, and learning how to still your heart so that when He does have something to say to you, you know how to recognize His voice.

As Blessed Mother Theresa says, "In the silence of the heart God speaks." Maybe He has something to say in that still, silent place of your heart or maybe He just wants to lead you to a place of rest. A place where you are free for a little while from the thoughts, the doubts, the fears that arrest our minds on a daily basis. Where you are free to think about nothing. Where you are free to just be.

I pray that you are able to visit that place of stillness with the Lord this week, even if it means falling asleep in prayer :). I pray for freedom from whatever is arresting your mind and heart right now. I pray that you get a chance to just be.

 

In the silence of the heart you speak,
and your mercy is the air I breathe.
You come to me in whispers
and forgiveness sings.
In the silence of the heart you speak;
Lord, you speak.

To the quiet of this room you come;
I am captivated by this love.
You light these darkened corners,
and I’m overcome.
To the quiet of this room you come;
Lord, you come.

Silence, fall; oh I am listening.
I am listening; sing to me.
Spirit, fall; oh please stay with me.
I am listening now;
I am listening now.

In the stillness of my soul you know;
you are hope that will not let me go.
You are the voice I follow;
you lead me home.
In the stillness of my soul you know;
Lord, you know.

In The Silence, By Sarah Kroger, Sarah Hart and Josh Blakesley

To My Girls

"Jesus is the one who sees you when you feel the most invisible"

This past weekend I had the honor of serving at a women’s conference in Dallas. It had been a great day already, filled with joy and powerful moments of prayer. There I was, just quietly listening to a beautiful talk by Sister Amata (of the Sisters of Life). All of a sudden, my mind just stopped. I couldn’t get past the words she spoke. “Jesus is the one who sees you..when you feel the most invisible.” I don’t know why it struck me so much in that moment. All I know is that I couldn’t shake it.

God sees us. He knows us by name. He doesn’t want us to hide. He wants us to draw near.

So why do we still hide sometimes?

I’ve been skinny my whole life. It doesn’t matter what size or age you are, self-image is almost always an issue for women. I remember countless times being made fun of for my weight in middle school. Girls would come up to me and ask if I was anorexic. The lies started. I remember thinking, “Maybe if I was just a little bit bigger, I would be pretty.” I was constantly judging myself on the way my legs looked in shorts or the way my arms looked boney in a sleeveless top. Even though I had a loving mom who told me I was beautiful, I couldn’t shake the pressure for perfection at school. I was the only one in my group of friends that didn’t date until college. Enter in a whole other set of lies. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for anyone. I wasn’t interesting enough, pretty enough, funny enough, smart enough, I was too into my faith etc. It seemed like a non-stop attack from the enemy. The pressures built and built until one day, I heard a message that changed my life forever. It was a simple message that I had heard before, but it had never quite stuck until my youth minister drilled it into us at a women’s session on a retreat.

Jesus loves me. He has claimed me as His.

You see, to the God of the universe, I am everything. I matter. I am loved beyond comprehension. The God who made the stars made every single piece of my body and He loves every single piece. No matter what size it is. No matter what the world thinks is acceptable or pleasing. He loves every single part. He even loves my forgetful mind, my crazy emotions, my (sometimes) klutzy side. He sees me when I feel my ugliest, in my darkest moments of temptation, in joy, in sorrow, in every season. Whether people see me as smart or funny or love able, God sees me. God takes me, just as I am. And the same is true for you, dear sisters.

If we truly believed this, if we as women knew, without a shadow of a doubt, our dignity and value in the Lord, I know this world would be a different place.

There is a song I’ve been listening to recently that has brought a lot of healing to my heart on this matter. It’s called “Wonder” by Bethel. The lyrics talks about being caught up in wonder and awe of God, and seeing beauty in everything He does.

May we never lose our wonder

Wide eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child

Staring at the beauty of the King

You are beautiful in all Your ways

While I know that the song is supposed to be us singing to God, I can’t help but hear God singing it over me.

I know it’s not as easy as hearing a “God loves you!” message to get over the lies that you’ve maybe struggled with for years. It has taken me a long time to get to the point of loving my body, the way God made it. It’s taken me a long time to let Him draw close and show me exactly what He loves about me. Today, don’t be afraid to let God see you. To let God see the mess. To talk to Him about your struggles. Ask Him to show you exactly how He sees you. Pray for the grace to see yourself through His eyes every. single. day. Surround yourself with people who see you as Christ does. This life is too short to hate the way you look. It is a daily choice to see yourself as beautiful and good.

This is my prayer today. That we as women may always be in awe of who God has made us to be / is making us to be. That we never lose sight of the amazing, beautiful, powerful ways He formed us in His image. May we never forget that when we glance in the mirror, we are starring at a reflection of the beauty of the King. May we know that He makes our ways beautiful. He makes everything beautiful. He has the power to create a stunning portrait out of the messy pieces of our lives.

Jesus sees you, today and every day. His heart is on fire with love for you. Just as you are.

DRAMA

Have you ever heard that song that goes, "WAR, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing, say it again!"? If you haven’t, check it out. It will be stuck in your head all day. Replace the word “war” with “drama” and you can see where this is headed. Drama is good for absolutely nothing. I'm not talking about drama as in a performance at a theater. I'm talking about the feuds between friends, high emotions, irrational behavior and thoughts kind of drama.

In college, I had a major falling out with one of my closest friends. When we first got to college, everything was great. But as the year progressed, we started hanging out with different circles of friends and it became clear that we wanted different things out of life. A couple uncomfortable situations lead to misunderstandings, which lead to an awful series of fights. Hurtful words were exchanged. Words that I will never be able to take back. We stopped talking. We would avoid each other on campus, and it forced some of our mutual friends from home to choose sides. I isolated myself. I chose to hold onto feeling hurt and angered by her actions, and all in all it was a pretty terrible couple of months. I finally took it upon myself to be the “bigger person” and send her a message on Facebook. The Facebook message turned into a face to face meeting, which was a day that I’ll never forget.

That was the day that I chose to let go of my anger, to seek reconciliation with a former dear friend, to recognize the ways that I had failed to love her, and for her to recognize the ways she had failed to love me. It was the day that I chose against isolation and chose love. It was not fun. There were plenty of tears and it hurt a lot. It's never easy to look back at a situation and recognize the ways that you had failed. After we talked, it was like a weight was lifted. Rebuilding our friendship wasn’t easy, but I am very glad that we did. I was able to live in freedom again, which is what ultimately happens when you choose love. Freedom.

Here is something to think about. When we hold onto hurt, when we hold grudges against others, when we hold onto anger and choose to not move on, it leads to isolation on so many levels. It isolates you, it isolates your friends, it isolates the person you are fighting against, and it’s not worth it. It even isolates you from the Lord, who is love Himself. Take it from someone who has seen a fair share of drama throughout the years. Take it from someone who has grown up with friends who isolated themselves as a result of holding onto things. Take it from someone who used to do this.

All of this being said, yes, people can and will hurt you. Yes, people sometimes suck, and it’s perfectly OK and warranted to say “adios” to someone who is not life giving. Yes, you are going to have fights because let’s face it, we live in a broken world full of screwed up people (myself included). But friends, it is never OK to allow anger or bitterness to take root in your heart. Why is it not OK? Take a look at what St. Paul says about it:

”And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” // Ephesians 4:26-27

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to give the devil any means of gaining any entrance into my life. Ever. Anger is not of our creator. We have a God who is slow to anger and quick to forgive. A God who is always there to welcome back the 'prodigal son'. A God who sees us when we fall down and offers His hand to help us up again.

Life is precious. Life is a gift. Life is beautiful, and is meant to be lived. We hear it all the time, "life is short". Life is too short, when you really think about it. I want to spend my life loving like crazy. You and I don't have time or room for anger to be rooted in any part of our hearts. It's simply not worth it. I'd rather be made uncomfortable for a moment by confronting someone who has wronged me than allowing it to fester in my heart for a lifetime.

I don't know what kind of situation you're dealing with today, but I encourage you to choose love.  It’s not always going to be an easy path, but it’s worth it.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice,  and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you." // Ephesians 4: 31-32

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” // Romans 12:21

GIFTS

"As generous distributors of God’s manifold grace, put your gifts at the service of one another, each in the measure he has received. The one who speaks is to deliver God’s message. The one who serves is to do it with the strength provided by God. Thus, in all of you God is to be glorified…” -1 Peter 4:10-11

I read this passage while doing morning prayer recently. Boom. It hit me like a 2x4. (Scripture tends to do that to me). I started to reflect on all the times that I’ve tried to hide or shy away from my gifts in the past. Heck, to this day there are things or abilities that the Lord has blessed me with that I really don’t want anything to do with. Mainly because they challenge me. Or take me WAY out of my comfort zone. Or I doubt my capabilities. Or they take work to develop. Or doubt doubt doubt, lie lie lie. Name it, I can think of almost any excuse why I shy away from gifts.

The song “Our God” makes me think about this sometimes. There’s a line in the song that my heart always seems to gravitate towards. The lyric is, “there’s no one like You. None like You.” I know, pretty simple, right? And yet, when you look deeper and actually think about the words it takes on a whole new meaning. If I really believe and proclaim that there is none like God, than I must also believe that there is none like me because He has made me in His image and likeness. He made me to reflect His beauty and majesty on earth. And how often I forget. How often I allow lies to penetrate my heart and fuel my deepest fears. How often we as a people forget that we are the children of a great, powerful, mighty God who made each of us uniquely to reflect His image. To individually reflect His heart to the world as only we can.

So what does it look like for you?

For me, it looked like standing up in front of a church full of 1,000+ people leading songs with sweaty armpits, shaking knees and an unsteady voice. (I might have even peed my pants a little from being so nervous). Singing was the last thing on earth I wanted to do in front of people. I would have danced the macarena, wearing a blow up sumo-suite over squeaking out a single note in front of a crowd of people. Sharing my voice meant surrendering a huge part of me that, up until that moment, I had complete control over. But I did it anyway. I did it because I was convicted that God had given me a gift. A gift that was meant to be shared and that He desired to use, even if I was absolutely terrified by it. If someone had told me back then that one day God would send me to World Youth Day to sing for the universal church, I would have literally rolled on the floor laughing. God uses even doubters like little old me. And God will use you.

The truth is, the gifts God has given you should be challenging. Gifts call you to greatness. To more. To serve Him and the church in ways that only YOU can. Yes you, Susie Q or Bobby McGee or *insert whatever your name is here*. I’m talking to you. I’m talking to me.

Will you say yes to being a distributor of God’s grace? I pray that you will.

Because in all honesty, this world desperately needs you.

"Give the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you."  -Blessed Mother Theresa