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Every summer when I was a kid, we’d all pile into the back of the station wagon to make the two-day, endless, no end in sight, drive to Hilton Head Island. There were no seat belts. There was no technology. There were no snacks (because back in the day there was no kitchen in the car, and we were sturdy enough to survive without a snack every 20 minutes). We learned how to entertain ourselves by leafing through books, looking out of car windows, and searching for the alphabet on highway signs and license plates. And every 10 minutes or so we inevitably asked, “Are we almost there yet?”

Life sort of feels like that right about now. I swear, the 5k Fun Run I didn’t want to sign up for, and planned to walk anyway, has turned into a marathon that I am forced to sprint and comes with no finish line. Good grief, is it just me, or did the race officially just get too long? The uncertainty of the future mixed with the fear of “what is to come” is brewing stronger than that third pot of coffee we shouldn’t have made. And yet, here we all are, reaching for another cup, wondering why we can’t shake the queasiness and involuntary twitching.

Has your zeal to emerge stronger finally given way to weariness?
Has your hope been buried somewhere beneath that pile of canceled plans?
Has that positive outlook you put on like a champ taken its last breath, along with your dream of everything going back to normal this fall?

And I am not sure what it was that finally broke me. Maybe the hurricane and loss of power and water? Or was it the announcement that my kids would be attending school for only two days a week? Or perhaps the laptop that decided right now would be the perfect time to have a nervous breakdown? (Or was that me?) Whatever it was, something was added to the pile of disappointment and fear, and I finally threw my hands up to the Lord and demanded to know, “Are we almost there yet?”

We all have this desire to know the future, don’t we? That urge to pick up the veil and take a peek. And at the root of this desire? Fear. We want to know how much longer, when will this end, and what will become of us, as if we would be satisfied with the answer; as if knowing the date were the true remedy for the peace our hearts lack. These are the weeds, sprouted from seeds of fear, that thrive and grow in our cluttered minds. If only we were as good at keeping our life-giving thoughts as alive as we were these! And yet, all hope is not lost. 

Two weeks ago I began leading a group of over 50 women in Marian Consecration; 33 days of seeking to know Jesus and offering Him our hearts, by way of Mary. Our Lady was most obedient to the will of God without any certainty. She never asked, “How long, Lord?” She never demanded to see more than one step ahead. Mary is our perfect model for such a time as this, offering us three practical and prayerful ways to handle the fear of uncertainty and temper our need to know what comes next. 

1. Trust the Word of God

This young maiden at the Annunciation agrees to an unimaginable invitation, without certainty or details of the future. The ardent desire of Mary’s heart to do the will of God trumped the desire for more information and put her fear to rest. How do we know she was afraid? Because the angel commanded her, “Do not be afraid.” But it isn’t enough for us to be told “do not be afraid,” is it? In fact, for some of us today, being told to quit being so scared can feel insensitive and unhelpful. This is why what Father Peter Cameron observes about Mary’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation is so important: “Why were the angel’s words to be trusted? Because when Gabriel said to Mary, ‘Do not be afraid’ (Luke 1:30), she stopped being afraid. The Word of God transfigured her. What the angel announced to her corresponded with the deepest longings of her humanity.”[1]

We, too, can be transfigured by the Word of God. 

2. Resist the Urge to Go Back to Egypt

When the journey started to feel too long for the Israelites and complaining got the best of them, they looked back to what they had left behind. And I get it. When there’s no end in sight, you forget that God has a plan and you just want to go back to how things used to be—even if they weren’t that good. With each new obstacle, and report of another cancellation, it is tempting to respond with frustration, anger, and doubt. This is why I turn to Mary. From the moment she gave her fiat, it was one obstacle after the next. Leave your hometown, give birth in a stable, flee to Egypt...I mean, seriously! Had the Scriptures read that Mary jumped off that donkey and ran back home crying to her mother, we’d all be like, “I get you, girl.” But she didn’t. Because of her trust in God’s Word, Mary’s response was always one of heart-pondering.[2] She did not run backward, but remained in place, pondering God’s will in that moment.

We, too, can be at peace in the moment by developing a posture of heart-pondering prayer.

3. Keep an Upward Perspective

Because of her pondering, Mary lived beyond the right here, right now. Her constant disposition was one of faith, and her heart was set firmly on the goal of life: Heaven. When fraught with fear, this is too easily forgotten. If our focus is more on the race than it is on the prize, we will drop dead from exhaustion. This race requires perseverance, not perseFEARance. We must put on our blinders, turn off the world, and keep looking upward.

We, too, being created for heaven, can live in a gesture of looking upward.

Are we almost there yet? That is not for us to know. But God gives us a Mother to wait with; a Mother who teaches us in this moment to trust the Word of God, keep a heart-pondering attitude, and to go beyond our present circumstances as we keep looking upward. 

When uncertainty disturbs your peace, remember these three things. When fear grips your heart, behold your Mother.

[1] Father Peter John Cameron, O.P.,  Mysteries Of The Virgin Mary: Living Our Lady’s Graces, (Servant Books, ST. Anthony Messenger Press, 2010), p. 43
[2]  Luke 2:19, 51

Bible Study

 

My fourth pregnancy was a nightmare. For starters, it was not in my plan. Yes, I wanted more children, but not right then. I had just gotten myself back into my regular clothes. Our apartment was tiny. Adding a fourth child was something that needed to happen later. Not sooner. When my husband suspected I was pregnant, he urged me to take a test. So, while on the way to adopt a cat with my three small children, I stopped at K-Mart, bought a test, and took it.

We didn’t adopt the cat.

The pregnancy was high risk and difficult, and came with a labor and delivery that required seven blood transfusions to save my life. When I was finally discharged on Mother’s Day and my husband handed me a small gift box, I could only imagine the present inside! Was it diamonds? Pearls? I slowly opened the box in great anticipation, and uncovered what I was certain would be the gift of all gifts.

It was a rosary.

And I was disappointed.

That’s not easy to admit. But it is the truth. I had no idea what a priceless treasure I was given. My mother had definitely made known its importance and reverence when, as a child, I tried to look like Madonna andwore my rosary beads as a necklace. But praying it? That was never something I felt I needed to do. That was something the old holy women did.

Four years later, one morning after Mass, that fourth baby of mine went missing. I ran back into the church, but couldn’t find him. I panicked and set out for the parking lot, fearing the worst. Finally, I spotted him. Knees on the pavement, his hands folded in prayer, my 4-year-old son was praying in front of a statue of the Blessed Mother. He proceeded to do this every Sunday after Mass. He ran to Mary, as if she were calling him.

A year later, the enemy attacked my marriage. It was during this time that my husband bought me a Valentine’s Day gift. It was not a diamond necklace. It was another rosary! (Cue more disappointment.) But this was not any ordinary rosary. It was the beads used to pray the Sorrowful Rosary. I did not know that then, nor did my husband when he purchased it. I figured he got a discount because it was missing a few beads. 

Despite my lack of rosary knowledge, I prayed it as best as I could and faithfully every day. Our marriage was restored and life was good. And then the enemy attacked again. This time, he went after my children. Without hesitation, I found myself running to the church, but when I discovered it was in lockdown, I ran to the one who could unlock any door, the one would bring me to Jesus: our Blessed Mother. And in the same spot that my son would run to, I got on my knees and began to pray.

That was no small moment. It was huge and significant, and had our Lady’s hands all over it. I could go on and on with the countless ways that Mary has interceded in my life, so you would think that I would be praying the rosary fervently, every day. But I am sad to admit, it has not been that way. Despite my devotion to Mary, my many consecrations and my enrollment as a member of The Association of Mary, Queen of All Hearts, praying the Rosary is a habit that I all too easily allow myself to slide out of.

Until now.

Since quarantine, there have been no more excuses of “not enough time for Mary.” And the more I get back to this devotion, the more crystal clear the spiritual component of this virus has become to me. The enemy is real, my friends, and he is delighting in our fear and panic over this pandemic. He is thrilled that our churches have closed, and the Eucharist has been removed from our lives. But while the enemy whispers, “you are helpless, you can’t get to your God”…Mary comes to us in haste, stands on his head, and says, “Do not fear, my daughter, your Mother is here.”

When the Blessed Virgin Mary came to America in the visitation of the miraculous apparitions of Guadalupe, our Lady said to St. Juan Diego: “Know for certain that I am the perfect and ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God…Here I will show and offer all my love, my compassion, my help and protection. I am your merciful Mother, the Mother of all who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who have confidence in me. I will hear their weeping and their sorrows…their necessities and misfortunes...Listen, and let it penetrate your heart...Do not fear any illness or vexation, anguish or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”[1]

Today, April 28, is the Feast day of one of the greatest Marian Saints: St. Louis De Montfort. His books, True Devotionand The Secret Of The Rosary, have radically transformed my life, showing me how Mary is necessary and the Rosary is our greatest weapon. And so I urge you today, to use this gift of time we have been given wisely, to draw closer to Jesus through Mary. As I encourage this, I am aware that many see no need to go to Mary. “Why go to her, when I can go straight to Jesus?” Fair question. And so, as Lisa Brenninkmeyer responds, “The more we understand her, the more we can love her. The more we love her, the more we’ll be drawn to her son. When we turn our eyes to Mary, we don’t take our focus off of Christ. She just helps us to see him better.”[2]

I cannot think of another time in my life when the world needs to see Christ better than right now. If you have been away from the Rosary, I urge you…come back. If you have never prayed the Rosary, I urge you…try it. Listen to the call of your Mother, and let her bring you to Jesus. 

Queen of the most holy Rosary, pray for us. 

In Jesus and Mary,

Laura

P.S. Looking for ways to better understand devotion to Mary? Check out the Walking with Purpose Bible study on the women of the Bible: Discovering Our Dignity. This is my favorite study, and Lesson 16 is all about Mary and showing us how this devotion flows from a deep understanding of Scripture. 

[1] Father Peter John Cameron, Homily for December 23, 2012, at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, Connecticut. https://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/am-i-not-here-who-am-your-mother  

[2] Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Discovering Our Dignity(Walking With Purpose, July 2019), p. 230.

Bible Study

At my core, I am a New Yorker. While some find Manhattan an assault to their senses, it is there, in the midst of the chaos and noise, and the Naked Cowboy in Times Square (yes, he is a thing) that I thrive.

Until recently.

My husband and I celebrated our anniversary in the city where we became husband and wife. And as I stood like a sardine on the C train surrounded by all sorts of humanity, all I kept thinking was, “I kind of miss my minivan.” And friends, if you have ever seen my minivan, the weight, if not shock, of this sentiment would surprise you. This was a serious shift from the “get up and go, hurry up and do” kind of woman I had proudly identified with for years.

The bottom line? I am done with the rat race. I want to rest. Physically and spiritually. There has been a steady decrease in my desire to move more, talk more, do more. And in its place? An undeniable increase in my desire to sit more, listen more, ponder more.

For someone who never shuts up, this is no small thing.

And perhaps this shift is simple maturity. Maybe this desire is birthed out of nothing more than middle age, an inevitable consequence of growing up.  But I believe it comes from something greater; from a heavenly nudge, an inner pull and stretch that is always the result of a heart open to Mary. Mary, our Mother, whose role is to lead us to Jesus.

On this Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, we not only acknowledge Mary's critical role in the salvation story, but we are gifted with this Marian Feast on the very first day of the New Year. This day, where resolutions are made, and words are carefully chosen to live by, we celebrate Mary...and this is no coincidence. Who better to step out with, into the fresh, empty calendar pages of 2019, than the woman whose chosen word of the year - her yes, her fiat - changed everything?

After journeying through Advent with Mary, I am convinced that there is no better, no faster way to Jesus, than going through the heart of His mother. As she continues to gently guide me to her Son, the word REST has been firmly pressed upon my heart; specifically, rest after prayer. Because I protect my daily prayer time with faithfulness, but have failed to equally protect the time I sit and wait for God to respond. Instead of embracing the stillness, I close up the gap. Instead of lingering in His presence, I get up and go. This beautiful breathing space that time after prayer offers me is completely ignored. It is as if I don't know how to sit still anymore. It is as if I am afraid of the very quiet I crave. And for certain, there is an enemy who loves nothing more than to usher me out of this space of anticipation, and back into the chaos of my cluttered mind.

And maybe you are right there with me. And if you are, I am pleased to report, there is still hope for non-stop women like us. Women, who are great talkers, but not so great at listening. Women who love to pray, but hate to wait for His response. You see, we have a Heavenly Mother who is our helper and advocate. A Woman who models for us how to sit and wait, ponder and reflect. My sweet sisters, if we want to grow in relationship with Jesus (and I know that we do) and if we want to have a year filled with peace and love (don't tell me you don't) then we have to begin by learning how to sit in the silence. And I wonder, can we do this? Can we be still and wait? Can we jump off of the treadmill, and rest in the empty spaces we are so tempted to fill?

With Mary as our model, we can. You know, I spent so much of the past year wondering where God was. Why He didn't respond. It wasn't until flying to Mary that I realized, He was there. He did respond. I was just too busy moving to notice.

Through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, on this Holy day and every day to follow, prayers for each of God's beautiful daughters. May this be a year of thriving in the quiet and rest that only Christ can give, to those who sit and wait.

With love,

Laura

PS: What a year this could be if we, His precious daughters, chose Mary as our model. What a world this will be if we choose to lean into the quiet, and wait patiently for His response. To jump start our devotion to Mary, starting 2019 off on the right foot, let us turn together to Lesson 16 in Opening Your Heart, What Does Mary Have to Do with My relationship with Christ?

Laura Phelps author bio

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