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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

 

This post originally appeared on the blog in July 2017.

We live in a world where information, expectations, and needs come at us like a tennis ball machine set on turbo speed. Women tend to be expert multi-taskers, and we can keep a lot of balls going at the same time. But it’s costing us. Never have we been more addicted, exhausted, numb, and depressed. The more we hustle, the longer the list gets. Too many of us feel like we are running down a road that leads to nowhere, and we are desperate to find another path. This can be as true during summer vacation as it is during the Christmas season. 

Many of us are trying to figure out how we got here. We think, “Maybe the problem is my weight. If I just lose those unwanted pounds, my life will feel different. Or maybe it’s my marriage. If my husband would just change, everything would feel better.” Some of us look to the gym to solve our feelings of lethargy and flabbiness. Or we go shopping. Or we keep accumulating accomplishments in areas that matter to us. But deep soul rest and serenity seem just out of reach.

Could it be that we are looking for peace in all the wrong places?

In this two-part blog series, I’m going to look at 4 ways we can get off the treadmill, quit hustling, and find peace. We’ll cover the first way in this post, and the other three in the next.

If you want to quit hustling and find peace…

1. Stop Trying to Prove Your Worth.

In an interview with Vogue magazine, Madonna said the following, “My drive in life comes from a fear of being mediocre. That is always pushing me. I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being, but then I feel I am still mediocre and uninteresting unless I do something else. Because even though I have become somebody, I still have to prove that I am somebody. My struggle has never ended and I guess it never will.”

However you may feel about Madonna, you’ve got to hand it to her for her authenticity. In her desire to measure up, to be somebody, she pushes and measures herself continually. And many of us are doing the same thing.  We wake up in the morning determined to count, to be considered enough, to stand out or at least fit in. Just because you don’t drive yourself or hustle for worth doesn’t mean this isn’t an area of struggle. Many of us appear unconcerned about people’s approval and outward achievements, but inwardly are full of self-doubt. The “I don’t care” attitude can actually cover up a heart that desperately wants to matter and be seen, but is afraid to even try.

So many of us head into each day, hoping that our performance will earn us the verdict: GOOD ENOUGH. Every morning we are, in essence, getting ready for the trial we think we’re going to face. In this tribunal, we have to prove that we are enough—young enough, smart enough, pretty enough, successful enough, holy enough, thin enough. Some days we feel we nail it. Other days we don’t. A new day dawns, and the proving just starts all over again. We never quite get to that place where we can say, done. The result of this yo-yo life? Insecurity and exhaustion.

But a game-changing event took place over 2000 years ago, and it changed everything about this tribunal. When we forget this, when we relegate this fact to a part of our lives just reserved for Sunday, we miss out on the peace we are promised. We are looking for peace in all the wrong places. 

What happened when Jesus died on the cross all those years ago? He entered the courtroom on our behalf. He stood trial for all our sins and shortcomings. When the guilty verdict came in for what we have done, Jesus took the punishment in our place.  What did He say on the cross just before He died? It is finished.

So when we choose to go into the courtroom each morning, ready to be on trial for our worthiness, God waits for us to turn and notice that He is there, with something to say to us. Sometimes we rush by Him. We’re so busy with so much to prove. But when we take the time to pause, when we turn our face to His, He tells us, “You don’t have to go in there. The trial is over. The punishment has already been meted out and was paid for. You are free to go and live differently.”

There is nothing to prove when we know that we are forgiven.

There is nothing to prove when we know that we are unconditionally loved.

There is nothing to prove when we know that we are accepted by God, not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus has done.

We read of this in Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy.”

It’s already been decided. The jury is in. You have been declared ENOUGH, not because of any righteous things you have done, but because of Jesus and what He did. Lean into  this truth and exhale. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more, or make Him love you less. You are worth everything to Him and are utterly adored.

Praying you will experience His peace that surpasses all understanding,

Lisa

Note: If still you are looking for peace in all the wrong places and you’re ready to quit hustling, read part 2 here.

Walking with Purpose

As a Catholic newbie, I think the biggest mistake I make is trying to figure out God. I sometimes can't help asking myself (and Him) why things happen the way they do.

To be fair to myself, it is human nature to ask, to wonder, to want to learn. Even though my pastor reminds us on Sundays of “the mysteries of faith” (chanted in his delightfully off-key voice), the mystery-solver in me just can't seem to let some things go. And by some things I mean the bad things; especially the bad things that happen to good people.

I've been thinking a lot about Sue, a woman in my parish who has four children, and who has the worst illness I think I've ever heard of. Sue has ALS. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is very rare, affecting fewer than 20,000 people a year. It is a devastating disease in the way that it attacks the body, and there is no cure.

I haven't seen her since she was diagnosed in December. I've been thinking about her a lot recently, though, and wondering if she thinks the way I do. Is she asking God why-why she must suffer so horribly? Sue is Catholic, and I wonder if her faith is being tested or if it's what gets her through it all.

Sometimes I picture myself in Sue's situation, and I test my faith in an imaginary way. If I told you that I could be 100% buoyed by my relationship with Christ and the promise of eternal life while fighting a terminal illness, I'd be lying.

Over the summer, I ran into a friend at a party who gave me a quick update on Sue, which birthed in me an almost manic need to write Sue a letter. I thought constantly about the letter I wanted to write and agonized for weeks about the words I'd choose. Clearly, phrases like “you'll beat this… you're strong... you have the best doctors” wouldn't work at all, and standard get-well-soon sentiments just don't apply when you're fighting a losing battle with ALS.

Could I find the right words in the Bible? I seriously considered googling “Scripture verses for sick people.” Then I decided one night as I lay sleepless, deep in thought about Sue, that Lisa Brenninkmeyer (founder of Walking with Purpose) would have the right words for my letter.

The next morning I turned to the Walking with Purpose Bible study Opening Your Heart (authored by Lisa), and specifically to Lesson 15, which is about the role of suffering in our lives. I expected to be able to pluck Lisa's favorite Bible verse related to suffering right out of Lesson 15, and scrawl it onto a notecard for Sue. 

In her wisdom, Lisa writes in the introduction to Lesson 15:

“I don't know about you, but when I am in the vise grip of suffering, I don't really want to hear someone whose life looks a heck of a lot easier than mine quoting Romans 8:28: 'We know that all things work for good for those who love God…'”¹

Fair point. I read on.

“When we encounter suffering, nothing robs us of peace like expectations.”²

We expect to understand God, Lisa says, and when we don't, confusion shreds our faith. We expect God's definition of happiness to be the same as ours, but when things go wrong, we wonder if He cares. And we expect to see evidence of God when we need him, but often, he remains invisible.

Opening Your Heart Lesson 15 is five days of learning, Bible study, and reflection. After taking in this lesson a second time, and clearing my heart and mind of all those expectations, I came out of it with a tremendous sense of peace. And I wrote a card to Sue and put it in the mail.

I should tell you that I didn't find words for Sue in Lesson 15, but I found peace and comfort for my heart, and a clear mind to come up with the right words all on my own.

I told Sue she was an amazing mother, that her four kids were terrific (which they really are), and that I was praying for her.

Peace,
Jen Gilbart

PS: After I finished writing this blog, a well-known truth from Scripture landed in my email in-box. I find it so comforting and feel compelled to include it here:
It is the Lord who goes before you; He will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you. So do not fear or be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

¹ Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Opening Your Heart (July 2018), 173.
² Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Opening Your Heart (July 2018), 174.

Catholic Bible Study

 

Dear friend,

Are you feeling the hassle of the hustle while you long for a little rest? Even though it's summertime, do you still feel busyness and pressure?

I get it, and blogged about something we can do to QUIT HUSTLING AND FIND PEACE in my last post. In it, we were challenged to stop trying to prove our worth, and rest in the fact that Jesus already took care of that. Picking up where we left off…

The second thing we can do in order to step off the treadmill and breathe deeper is to…

2. Recognize the True Source of Peace.

We're told where we can find the true source of peace in Ephesians 2:14. It says that “[Jesus] is our peace, he who made the both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh.” The passage goes on in verse 17 to say that Jesus “came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.”

Maybe you are feeling like you're in the camp of those who are far off. You can point out all sorts of people that you figure are near to God. You wonder if the promises about Jesus just apply to them. They don't. Jesus came for those who are far away and those who are near.

Jesus is the true source of peace. If we look for it anywhere else, in our relationships, in our bank account, in our yoga class, or in our own achievements, we will come up empty. Only He can go to the places deep within that need His presence and truly satisfy.

The third thing I'd encourage you to do as you seek peace is to…

3. Show Jesus Where it Hurts

Instead of masking your emotions, stuffing them, or numbing your feelings, show Jesus where it hurts. Take some time, ideally in the morning, to recognize what you are feeling. Bring the myriad of emotions to Jesus in prayer and ask Him to order them—to redeem them. Listen to your body—it doesn't lie. Is it telling you that something is wrong? Don't ignore it.

Don't worry about shocking God with your doubts, fears, depression or anger. None of it takes Him by surprise. He's seen it all. He even made sure loads of emotion were recorded in the book of Psalms so that we would know it's ok to be honest with God. God wants the real you.

Some people do this out loud, others like to journal this type of prayer. There isn't one “right way” to express yourself to God. But the choice to stuff, mask or numb your emotions is never the best choice.

The last thing I'd like to leave you with is this…

4. Don't Try to Go it Alone

The Christian life was never meant to be lived alone. We were created for communityfor close and meaningful relationships. When this part of our life isn't in good shape, loneliness and discouragement quickly set in. I encourage you to find a group of women who share your faith. It makes such a difference to be surrounded by women who speak truth into your life—truth about your value being rooted in Christ, about how loved you are, and about how faithful God is even when your circumstances aren't what you desire. Maintain these critical friendships. Find your tribe.

This is where the Bible study program, Walking with Purpose, can make all the difference. Women come together, often with differing views, but all with the desire to grow spiritually. An environment is carefully created where all are free to come as is- with doubts, fears, baggage. Masks are checked at the door. A judgment free zone reigns, and competition and comparison are kept at bay. Instead of allowing the discussion evolving into self-help or advice giving, trained small group leaders let Scripture do the teaching. Women blossom in this environment, and true spiritual transformation occurs on the heart level.

If you are a WWP participant, consider bringing a new friend to Walking with Purpose this fall so that she too can grow closer to Christ and experience the spiritual transformation that you have found at WWP.

If you don't have Walking with Purpose in your community, then I encourage you to pray about creating one. It's easier than you would think. We take your hand, and lead you every step of the way with our Leadership Development program that offers training, promotional materials, tools and mentoring.

The hustling never delivers on its promises. But Christ always does. Go to Him for peace, and you will never be disappointed.

With love and prayers,
Lisa

Lisa Brenninkmeyer
Founder and Chief Purpose Officer
Walking with Purpose

Dear friend,

We live in a world where information, expectations and needs come at us like a tennis ball machine set on turbo speed. Women tend to be expert multi-taskers, and we can keep a lot of balls going at the same time. But it's costing us. Never have we been more addicted, exhausted, numb and depressed. The more we hustle, the longer the list gets. Too many of us feel like we are running down a road that leads to nowhere, and we are desperate to find another path. This can be as true during summer vacation as it is during the Christmas season. 

Many of us are trying to figure out how we got here. We think, “Maybe the problem is my weight. If I just lose those unwanted pounds, my life will feel different. Or maybe it's my marriage. If my husband would just change, everything would feel better.” Some of us look to the gym to solve our feelings of lethargy and flabbiness. Or we go shopping. Or we keep accumulating accomplishments in areas that matter to us. But deep soul rest and serenity seem just out of reach.

Could it be that we are looking for peace in all the wrong places?

In this two-part blog series, I'm going to look at 4 ways we can get off the treadmill, quit hustling, and find peace. We'll cover the 1st way in this post, and the other 3 in the next.

If you want to quit hustling and find peace…

Stop Trying to Prove Your Worth.

In an interview with Vogue magazine, Madonna said the following, “My drive in life comes from a fear of being mediocre. That is always pushing me. I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being but then I feel I am still mediocre and uninteresting unless I do something else. Because even though I have become somebody, I still have to prove that I am somebody. My struggle has never ended and I guess it never will.”

However you may feel about Madonna, you've got to hand it to her for her authenticity. In her desire to measure up, to be somebody, she pushes and measures herself continually. And many of us are doing the same thing.  We wake up in the morning determined to count, to be considered enough, to stand out or at least fit in. Just because you don't drive yourself or hustle for worth doesn't mean this isn't an area of struggle. Many of us appear unconcerned about people's approval and outward achievements, but inwardly are full of self-doubt. The “I don't care” attitude can actually cover up a heart that desperately wants to matter and be seen, but is afraid to even try.

So many of us head into each day, hoping that our performance will earn us the verdict: GOOD ENOUGH. Every morning we are, in essence, getting ready for the trial we think we're going to face. In this tribunal, we have to prove that we are enough- young enough, smart enough, pretty enough, successful enough, holy enough, thin enough. Some days we feel we nail it. Other days we don't. A new day dawns, and the proving just starts all over again. We never quite get to that place where we can say, done. The result of this yo-yo life? Insecurity and exhaustion.

But a game-changing event took place over 2000 years ago, and it changed everything about this tribunal. When we forget this, when we relegate this fact to a part of our lives just reserved for Sunday, we miss out on the peace we are promised. We are looking for peace in all the wrong places. 

What happened when Jesus died on the cross all those years ago? He entered the courtroom on our behalf. He stood trial for all our sins and shortcomings. When the guilty verdict came in for what we have done, Jesus took the punishment in our place.  What did He say on the cross just before He died? It is finished.

So when we choose to go into the courtroom each morning, ready to be on trial for our worthiness, God waits for us to turn and notice that He is there, with something to say to us. Sometimes we rush by Him. We're so busy with so much to prove. But when we take the time to pause, when we turn our face to His, He tells us, “You don't have to go in there. The trial is over. The punishment has already been meted out and was paid for. You are free to go and live differently.”

There is nothing to prove when we know that we are forgiven.

There is nothing to prove when we know that we are unconditionally loved.

There is nothing to prove when we know that we are accepted by God, not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus has done.

We read of this in Titus 3:5, “he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy.”

 It's already been decided. The jury is in. You have been declared ENOUGH, not because of any righteous things you have done, but because of Jesus and what He did. Lean into  this truth and exhale. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more, or make Him love you less. You are worth everything to Him and are utterly adored.

Praying you will experience His peace that surpasses all understanding-

Lisa

Lisa Brenninkmeyer
Founder and Chief Purpose Officer
Walking with Purpose

Note: If still you are looking for peace in all the wrong places and you're ready to quit hustling, read part 2 here.

“In your anger, do not sin.” Ephesians 4:26

Scrolling through Facebook and other social media sites, it is clear that we are increasingly feeling free to express our rage, disgust and disappointment however we choose. Regardless of the issue and which side of the fence we land on, emotions are running strong and a lot of blood is boiling. Differing opinions are nothing new. There have always been issues where people don't see eye to eye. But the way in which we are discussing those differences has changed in recent years. And the consequences are anything but good.

It seems we have lost our ability to listen first, to only post something we would be willing to say to someone's face. Distance demonizes, and the social isolation that results from communicating screen-to-screen, instead of face-to-face, is hurting us.

We are relegating character and integrity to the backseat as our emotions are unleashed, and sadly, Christians are not the exceptions to the rule. And all the while, a watching world observes us not practicing self-control becoming unhinged by our hatred and disgust.

When I travel across the country and speak, there is one thing that remains consistent no matter which state I am in. We are worried about passing on the faith to our children. We see that they are disengaged from our faith and are bored by it, and we aren't sure what we can do about it. A 2015 study of Catholic family life found that 68% of Catholics with children under the age of 18 have not given their children any form of religious education. One in three parents did not find it important that their children celebrate their first Communion, and one in four didn't consider it important that their children be confirmed.

In the words of Kathleen Cummings, the director of the Cushwa Center for the study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame, “For the first time in history, young Catholic women are more disengaged than their male counterparts. That is a huge, important shift. If you don't have women, you lose the children.”

What part does our lack of practicing self-control with our anger and expression play in this? Studies of Millennials reveal that they greatly value authenticity and are repelled by hypocrisy. Is it possible that they understand enough of our faith to wonder why our religion isn't impacting the way we talk about our enemies or those who are different from us? James 1:26 reminds us, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.”

'They do not need to see our rage; they need to see us practicing self-control. They do not need to see our judgment; they need to see our mercy.'

In Colossians 4:6, St. Paul writes, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Salt enhances flavor-it makes food more appealing. In the past, salt was used to preserve meat. When St. Paul compares our words to salt, he's encouraging us to communicate in a way that is winsome, drawing someone closer, preserving unity whenever possible. Being behind a screen or in the midst of an angry group does not give us permission to let graciousness go by the wayside.

Shifts in culture and moral decline unsettle us. Many Christians are feeling increasingly powerless as we see that in a very short span of time, we lost a seat at the table and no one is really listening to us anymore. And it's true. Millennials will not listen when what they hear smacks of judgment, anger, and a sense that we are looking out for our own interests instead of caring for the poor and defenseless.

We might look to politicians to fix the problems we see. But the truth is, it begins with us. The hard work of reaching your hand across the aisle, of being an agent of reconciliation-that begins in our communities, our churches, our neighborhoods, and our homes.

Nowhere in Scripture will you find Jesus exhorting us to defend our rights. But there are countless times when He implores us to lay down our rights for another. We are able to do this because we have our eyes fixed on heaven. We have a sure hope as an anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6:19), and because of this, we don't need to be afraid. God is in control-His purposes and plan will not be thwarted.

As our children watch us engage in a culture very different from the one we grew up in, they do not need to see our fear; they need to see our courage and hope. They do not need to see our rage; they need to see us practicing self-control. They do not need to see our judgment; they need to see our mercy.

Blessings,
Lisa

This October feels good. I feel awake and full of hope even while I'm a little bit afraid to breathe in my own house. Let me elaborate.

As many of you know, I have seven kids. Since most of them change their clothes about three times a day, and a piece of clothing coming into contact with my children's skin means said piece of clothing is now contaminated, our laundry piles are large and in charge. So when my washer or dryer doesn't cooperate, it really qualifies as a full-blown crisis for me. After being without a dryer for a month (I will not bore you with those details), and after discovering that no one wants to be my friend at the laundromat because I hog all the machines at once (therefore it is not the ideal opportunity for me to evangelize), I decided my entire life would change if I revamped my laundry room and had not one washer and a broken dryer, but two washers and two dryers.

Unfortunately, when we started the remodel, we discovered mold and all sorts of nastiness in the walls. I am now sniffling and having allergic reactions to these little toxins…hence my current fear of breathing deeply when I'm at home. My hearing has gotten funky because there's fluid behind my ears, and overall, it's a very annoying situation.

But here is what I know to be true in the midst of the crazy:

Just showing up can be enough.

I had a speaking engagement the other night, and the topic was putting God first. My allergy symptoms hit a crescendo just before I needed to be there, and all I wanted to do was crawl into bed. But I decided to count on the fact that the material in the talk was actually true. I chose to bank on the truth that “I can do things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) All I could do was get my body to the Church-to show up. The Holy Spirit would have to do the rest. I was about as limp as a glove on a table could possibly be. But God was faithful, as He always is, and gave me strength that was not my own.

Sometimes the best we can do is just to show up, but that is enough. Every single thing we do does not need to be worthy of a Facebook post or a Nobel peace prize. Small acts of faithfulness, done when we least feel like it, are collectively powerful.

A friend is going through a hard time and you don't know what to do or say? Just show up.

Are you feeling spiritually dry and going to Mass feels like a drag? Just show up.

Do your children's needs seem never-ending? Just show up.

Showing up is when we just say, here I am. I don't have much to offer, but what I've got is yours. There you are. I see you. I'm not here to fix you. I'm just going to be with you. That's how I'm going to love you today.

Here's the other thing I'm learning right now:

Being real and authentic is messy but it wakes up your soul and lets you feel alive and present.

When life is out of kilter, our ability to hold it all in and be perfect goes out the window. We end up being real and authentic whether we intend to or not.

I really like being in control, and my go-to preference has always been for people to see the best side of me at all times. But lately, I've been trying out saying what I really think. I've been quicker to admit that I don't know what I'm doing. I've been slower with dispensing advice. I've been doing more sitting in the disappointment with people than trying to fix their problems.

This feels messy. It doesn't feel like buttoned up, tidy living, but with each authentic conversation, each time that I venture out past what feels safe and into what feels more honest, my soul wakes up a little bit more.

I am feeling more alive and more present than I ever have. Instead of trying to rush to a solution that brings everything under control, I'm pausing and thinking about the fact that my fix might not be the right one-that I should listen for a little longer before jumping in with my words. And like I said, this doesn't feel nice. But I'm letting myself feel that and sit there for a little bit.

While this waking up of my heart is causing me to feel the hard stuff a little longer and more acutely, it is also waking me up to joy. I feel joy more than I ever have, and I'm sitting there a little longer, too. Instead of rushing past it, I'm grabbing hold of it and remembering that this is why we are here. This is what it means to really live.

In Galatians 4:15, Paul asks, “What has happened to all your joy?” This month, I've found it and embraced it, right in the middle of the crazy. It was hidden underneath all sorts of feelings and emotions, and I had to take the time to feel each one in order to get to it.

So this October, let's let ourselves off the hook and just show up. Let's be real and authentic, even when it feels messy. Let's breathe deeply, just not in my laundry room.

With love,
Lisa

Some days, everything just seems a little bit out of kilter. My three-year-old, Charlotte, had one of those days this week. We just COULD NOT GET IT RIGHT. The pink cereal bowl seemed like a good choice until the milk and cereal were in it, and then it became an offensive object because it wasn't purple. Her Frozen dress up outfit was utterly unpleasing because it didn't have fairy wings. Any suggestion that she simply needed a nap (el pronto) was met with Charlotte lying prone on the floor in a state of complete resignation to the unfairness of her life. No matter where she looked, something was getting in the way of her peace and joy.

What's getting in the way of your peace and joy? Have you been a little weary about the state of things in your life? Maybe it's the state of the world, or the state of your family, or the state of your heart that has got you down. You can see so clearly how things are supposed to be, yet everywhere you turn there's more evidence that reality is falling short of the ideal.

It's so easy to feel disheartened. We feel out of control. When it doesn't matter how much harder we work or what we say-when the matter is clearly out of our hands-it's pretty tempting to respond in anger or to just give up. Our hopes have been dashed and we can't see how things are going to get better.

Saint Peter addressed these feelings with these words:

Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:12-14)

This passage is loaded with truth. First of all, we're told to not be surprised at these circumstances. This is a call out for us to adjust our expectations. When we step out and follow Christ, our lives do not get easier. Yes, we are given strength, hope, salvation, comfort and a myriad of other essential gifts, but we are never promised a life free from conflict. Heaven is NOT here. If we expect life on earth to feel like heaven, we are going to be perpetually disappointed.

We're then told to rejoice when we are suffering for Jesus' sake. This is not to say that all the suffering we experience is the result of following Christ. Sometimes we're in a mess as a result of our poor decisions, and as a result, we are suffering.

'I'm encouraging all of us (myself included) to speak prayerfully - ask God what we are to say, and how we are to say it, being in continuous communication with Him.'

We may think we're suffering for Christ's sake because we stood up for Him and spoke out. This brings us to tricky territory. Yes, we are to be faithful and are not to compromise our beliefs. But it can be a poor decision on our part to speak at times when it would prudent to remain silent. It can be a poor decision to speak with such pointed conviction that our words wound instead of leading people to truth.

It's worth asking ourselves why we are being picked on for our faith. Sometimes it's due to being surrounded by people who are far from God. But much of the time, it's due to the way in which we have represented God to a world that doesn't know Him.

He is a God of love. All too often, our words have been biting and judgmental, and we are reaping the results. I'm not just speaking of the way we interact with our culture. I'm talking about how we act within our own families, too. By no means am I saying that we are to compromise. That is the coward's way out. I'm encouraging all of us (myself included) to speak prayerfully-ask God what we are to say, and how we are to say it, being in continuous communication with Him,

Monsignor Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington D.C., wrote the following words of encouragement to those of us who are longing for the world to be in a better state:

Do not be dismayed. These are unpleasant times, but not unexpected. For our part, we must not be fascinated, enamored, or discouraged. Simply and clearly draw back from this confusion and see it for what it is: ungodly, confused, worldly and devoid of the Spirit. Have nothing to do with it.

But that's not the end of the story. God's glory is going to be revealed. One day, His truth will be seen clearly. There will come a time when all the wrongs will be made right, when betrayal will be replaced by fidelity, when love will win over hatred. In the meantime, we are going to experience the dichotomy between what is and what will be. Continue to ask God for guidance.

“Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

With love,
Lisa

Is there someone in your life who you long to see experiencing the more that a relationship with Christ brings? Do you find you lack the right words to articulate just how much your faith means to you, and wish that you could communicate it in a way that really has impact?

One of our main focuses this year at Walking with Purpose has been encouraging everyone to take seriously the call from Christ to “see to it that no one misses the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15). We've encouraged you all to prayerfully consider who you can invite to WWP in the fall. We've worked hard to bring you a top notch new Bible study, Opening Your Heart, which will both challenge the veteran and lay a solid spiritual foundation for the beginner, allowing you to grow right alongside the woman you invited.

When we step out of our comfort zone and invite someone to join us on our spiritual journey, lives are changed. We are able to experience the rush of being used by God and there is, quite simply, nothing like it. That being said, I think there's a real opportunity for us to do some wordless preaching this summer, and it might have the greatest impact of all.

'People we love are watching to see what makes us different. May our words, actions, and attitudes quietly reveal that God is real, and that His grace is enough.'

I recently came across the writings of a Romanian pastor named Josef Tson. He considers suffering well to be the greatest way of preaching. Suffering well shows others that God is real.

When I read something like that, I have to pause. I can think of a lot of ways that I would prefer to preach than to suffer, and suddenly the thought of explaining why my faith matters to me sounds like the more appealing option. But at the same time, I know that suffering inevitably crosses my path no matter how often I try to avoid it. The thought that it can have an impact on the people I love-the ones who are watching to see if my faith makes a difference, the ones who aren't asking me to give them a theological explanation of anything, but who are looking for hope and peace- that makes me want to hear more of what he had to say.

Pastor Tson was arrested and imprisoned several times for his faith. While being interrogated by six officials, he said the following:

What is taking place here is not an encounter between you and me. This is an encounter between my God and me . . . My God is teaching me a lesson [through you]. I do not know what it is. Maybe He wants to teach me several lessons. I only know, sirs, that you will do to me only what God wants you to do and you will not go one inch further-because you are only an instrument of my Lord.

During an earlier interrogation, an official threatened to kill him. Pastor Tson replied with these words:

You should know your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying. Now here is how it works, sirs: You know that my sermons are on tape all over the country. When you shoot me or crush me, whichever way you choose, [you] only sprinkle my sermons with my blood. Everybody who has a tape of one of my sermons will pick it up and say, “I had better listen again. This man died for what he preached.” Sir, my sermons will speak 10 times louder after you kill me and because you kill me. In fact, I will conquer this country for God because you killed me. Go on and do it.

After he said this, Pastor Tson was sent home. He later heard that a different official was interrogating another pastor and told him, “We know that Mr. Tson would love to be a martyr, but we are not that foolish to fulfill his wish.”

There is something incredibly powerful about a person who loves Jesus enough to suffer with grace and without fear. A life lived on a platform of suffering is challenging, and there are certainly days when it feels unbearable. But one thing it most definitely is not, is meaningless.

Even the smallest bit of suffering can be replete with meaning when it causes us to preach without words. A woman who suffers graciously leaves people utterly dumbfounded. Everyone expects her to fall apart, to be bitter, to give up. But when she stares down fear, people begin to wonder if her God is real. They wonder if she's drawing from a difference source of strength than what they are accessing. They sense that there's something more in her life, something more than what they are experiencing.

I don't know what's going to cross each of our paths this summer. I'm guessing it won't all be rainbows and sunshine. Let's make a choice to receive all that comes our way-both the pleasant and the painful-with a determination to not waste an ounce of it. May we take every beautiful moment and make it an opportunity to thank God who sent it. And may we take every challenging one, and thank Him for the opportunity to shine in the darkness. People we love are watching to see what makes us different. May our words, actions, and attitudes quietly reveal that God is real, and that His grace is enough.

Blessings,
Lisa

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