Why is it we can have total confidence and trust in God's plans with everyone else's life, but not our own? It is easy for me to recognize God's hand in your life... in your misery... in your tragic circumstance, but when the storm hits my own house, I question and doubt. I begin to wonder if my Catholic faith really is crazy and the saints are all just a bunch of nuts.
I spent my summer with the Blessed Mother. I managed to turn a 33 Day Consecration into a four-month plan, but I finally did get there and praise be to God for it. Because no sooner did I give my fiat, uncertainty and disappointment came crashing down on me, and once again, I was hurled back into that pit of doubt and despair-otherwise known as, “Seriously, Lord? THIS is for good?” And I hate this place. I really do. It makes me feel unpleasant, and worse, I become unpleasant. It's more hideous than getting a root canal at the DMV, naked.
Has this ever happened to you? Not the naked root canal at the DMV part; the other part about falling into despair when uncertainty hits. About being so confident and unafraid about everyone else's circumstances, but your own? Because it happens to me more often than I care to admit. I am, however, practicing something that helps get me out of the pit-not immediately but sooner rather than later. I meditate on the virtues of Mary.
Do you know there are ten virtues of Mary? According to the teachings of Saint Louis De Montfort, the ten virtues of Mary are: constant mental prayer, ardent charity, profound humility, universal mortification, blind obedience, divine wisdom, surpassing purity, angelic sweetness, lively faith and heroic patience. Now don't get overwhelmed by this. There is no way any of us can be perfect at all ten virtues all of the time, or quite possibly, ever. Why? Because we were not chosen to be the Mother of God. But, with a brand new consecration to Mary under my belt and the desire to emulate her, I figured if I pick one virtue a month to intentionally focus on, it had to work better in times of trial and tribulation than what I was currently doing (which was yelling at the dog and wondering why on earth my husband has to breathe so darn loud).
I have chosen to work on blind obedience; to fully trust in God's plan for my life and the lives of my loved ones, even when-especially when-I do not understand His ways at all. Even when strapping the dining room table to my back and jumping off of a bridge feels like a safer option. When the ground drops out from beneath you and nothing you planned for or expected appears to be anywhere on God's radar, blind obedience looks as attractive as a 1980's bridesmaid gown. So before I allow myself to spiral into a total abyss of despair and depression, I fly to Mary. I sit with her at the Annunciation. I reflect on her life, which quite frankly was a series of unplanned, difficult to understand events, and I stay in that place with my Mother. I sit with her in that moment when all was changed by her “yes.” Often when uncertainty strikes, we throw aside our “yes” and run miles ahead into the land of “what if?” We let go of God and grasp onto things that give us a false sense of security. But not Mary. Mary loved God enough to trust that all that was required of her was the next one step, not the next hundred miles. She could be blindly obedient because she loved Him more than she loved her plan. What a treasure chest of grace we have in Our Blessed Mother, who took the leap so that we could, too.
On a dog walk with a friend that was filled with both of our projecting and fear over the ones that we love, I finally said it out loud: faith is a leap! It just is. And when we hit these obstacles that aim to knock us off course and throw us into worry, we have to choose this leap. We must embrace this uncertain, unplanned thing in our life and give God our yes, whether we understand it or not, and then... we need to leap... off of our plans and into His. I am not implying that any of this is easy, but boy do I allow my wild imagination and lack of patience to complicate what really is so simple. Leap, or don't leap. Trust, or don't trust. Love, or don't love. The choice is ours.
If you are in the midst of a trial that is uncertain and you feel your doubt increasing, I encourage you to meditate on these ten virtues. Get to know Mary, who knows better than anyone else what it is like to trust that God's uncertain plan is good. Give yourself to Him entirely through her, and do not worry about the future. Will this require you take a leap of the worst kind? Yeah, probably. But as C.S. Lewis says, “The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole-self-all your wishes and precautions-to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead.”
Praying we all take that leap,
The kids are off from school and summer is here-although it has been raining forever, but nonetheless, so I am told... summer is here. And quite honestly, it can rain for as long as it wants and I will be okay, because I do not have to pack any school lunches for another two months. Can I get an Amen?!
Packing lunches is not my thing, mainly because eating what I pack is not my kids' thing. I'm not sure what fine culinary experience they are expecting to find in a small brown bag. Salad nicoise? An all you can eat sushi buffet? Blackened grouper on a bed of wilted greens? But let us not think of such things! Because glory to God in the highest, school is out and packing lunches are a thing of the past. Hey kids, you can make your own disappointing lunches now! It's summer!
If you follow Walking with Purpose on Instagram, you might have caught my “stories series” on how to have an intentional summer; practical tips on what not to do, or what to do, to refresh and relax without taking a vacation from Jesus. That was my most favorite week with all of you! For those that couldn't join me, Tip #1 was encouragement to women to not sleep in. Not only that, but to get up early; rise with the sun and start each summer day with praise. So I have been taking my own advice, and what I have discovered is that with the hideous chore of packing lunches removed, I actually have more prayer time than ever. This, my friends, is great news… unless you are a recovering perfectionist and overachiever like me. Because once I realized how much more time I was gifted with, do you want to know what this girl thought? Exactly how much more can I cram in?
You see, all too often I approach my spiritual life like my daughter does a blank canvas. At her art school graduation two weeks ago, her creative voice was described by her teachers as “more is more”. As the years unfolded, blank canvases grew larger, paint application thicker, and the more acrylic she applied - always by hand, never by brush - the more she would step back, examine, and then lean into the canvas to add just a little bit more. On a busy sidewalk of New Haven, as I loaded five enormous paintings that barely fit into the back of my car and weighed more than all of Texas, I realized something about my spiritual canvas. I am trying to pray like she paints.
But you want to know the difference between my daughter's paintings and my prayers? Her finished product is a masterpiece because each stroke and design is intentional and executed with extreme devotion to her ultimate vision. She never rushes a project, and always steps back and away, allowing the space to speak and inspire. And my finished product? Well… it isn't even worthy of hanging on the fridge. All too often what I offer my Lord is a litany of memorized words with no meaning, mixed up and thrown together in the hopes that when finished, a beautiful vision will be revealed to me. There is little devotion because of all those distractions, and plenty of frustration because of all those interruptions. Just because your canvas is covered, it doesn't mean it is worthy of hanging on the wall.
And I don't want to be the kind of woman who prays this way-distracted because I have piled on too much; irritated by life's interruptions, that just so happen to be my FAMILY. (Um, remember Laura… you are a wife and mother; NOT a cloistered nun.) I don't want my desire for personal holiness to be fueled by anything other than pure love of God.
Distraction in prayer is a common struggle, and in my attempt to concentrate and free my mind of all the things that pull me away from where I desire to be, I have learned something. You don't wipe a plate clean of distraction by adding more things to your plate. I heard Matthew Kelly say once, “there is genius in simplicity” and well, I have to agree. Of course, he can say anything in that adorable accent and I will agree. But seriously. What if the key to personal holiness has nothing to do with what we add to our life, and everything to do with what we remove from it?
A few months ago, I added Saint Louis De Monfort's True Devotion to Mary to my early morning prayer routine. With Our Lady's hand gently guiding me, I have slowly removed every other practice and prayer, only focusing on this one book, morning, noon, and night. I have fallen deeply in love with St. Louis De Monfort's Prayer to Mary; a prayer that promises to not only give myself wholly to Jesus through her, but one that begs to have “anything which does not belong to thee”¹ be taken away. My hours of mechanical prayers and distracted readings have been condensed into one heart felt, intentional plea, “Destroy in me all that may be displeasing to God, root it up and bring it to nought; place and cultivate in me everything that is pleasing to thee.”²
As my daughter applies more paint to tell her story, I am asking the Lord to peel my paint off so I better know His. Perhaps this gift of a little more time is not about how I can fill it with God, but how God can empty it of me.
Here is to a summer of blank canvases, peeled off paint, and rooting up all that gets in His way.
Your Sister in Christ,
P.S. The only thing I love more than blogging for WWP, is sharing my days with you on WWP Instagram. If you are not a follower yet, what are you waiting for?
¹ True Devotion to Mary with Preparation For Total Consecration, Saint Louis De Monfort, Tan Classics 2010, p.219
² True Devotion to Mary with Preparation For Total Consecration, Saint Louis De Monfort, Tan Classics 2010, p.219