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When was the last time you could not fall asleep because you were worried about the future? Was it last night or sometime this week? What are you worried about? 

The older I get and the more I hear your stories as I meet you when I travel, the more I understand. To be a woman almost certainly means to worry deeply about the future. And if you are one of the few who cannot relate, count yourself among the lucky. 

Allow me to illustrate precisely what I am talking about: 

You are thinking about how much you like your job, and then suddenly, you convince yourself that you will eventually lose it. Before you know it, you are planning how you will make due for your family with no income and no hope. 

You are staring at your sleeping baby in pure, unadulterated joy. In a flash, you find yourself spiraling as you consider all the ways that one of you could die. 

As you stay up late worrying about your adult children, you are consumed with regret of all the ways you think you have failed. Things did not turn out the way you had hoped for them and your heart aches as you wonder if they will ever achieve the happiness you so desire for them. 

You turn on the news, and before you know it, you are consumed with fear about the future of society. What will you do when there is no food left and society resembles a scene from the Hunger Games?

Whatever it is, we often allow anxiety about the unknown to consume us. It is a disordered expression of our love, and it leaves us incapable of embracing the joy that God wants to give us. Instead, we tepidly welcome life’s joyful moments—holding them at arm’s length and always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Now, I am not writing this post to tell you that you should never worry. Worry, when properly handled, can be helpful to our well being. I recently read an article titled, "How to Worry Better," that explained worry’s usefulness. “When it comes to worry, that function is pretty clear: It draws our attention to the fact that there’s something we maybe should be doing or preparing for or preventing, and it gives us the motivation to do something about that.”[1] 

And yet, 85 percent of the things we worry about will never happen. Yes, 85 percent![2] Ladies, we lose so many hours of sleep. We miss so many moments because we are stuck in our heads, afraid of things that will most likely never happen.

Some of us struggle with anxiety that can only be helped through counseling and medication. But many of us do not struggle with a clinical type of anxiety—we have convinced ourselves that this is just the way we are.  

Today, I want you to know that you can find freedom. You do not have to live in bondage to the cycle of anxious thoughts, worrying over things that most likely will not happen. The Lord calls you to let His peace control your heart (Colossians 3:15). I get that this can be hard. Life can be brutal. And yet, even if it begins incrementally, you can have peace. Instead of focusing on what could happen, God invites you to focus on what did happen. Let the reality of His victory shape the way you handle the unknown. 

Colossians 2:15 says, “He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in [the cross].”

St. Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians, who were pagans before they accepted Jesus. They worshiped these powers, or in Greek, stoicheia, a word that means “transcendent powers that are in control over events in this world.”[3]

These transcendent powers were not kind. They sought to enslave and control men. Today, we recognize them as “Satan and all his evil spirits who prowl around the world seeking the ruin of souls.”[4]

In verse 15, St. Paul said that Jesus “triumphed” over these spirits. This phrase would have evoked the well-known image of a Roman general who had won a major victory. To spread the news of the victory over all the land, the general marched his victorious army through many villages, dragging members of the defeated army behind them. 

Fr. John Riccardo described a depiction of one of Julius Caesar’s triumph parades in his book Rescued: “The whole Roman Empire was in the streets to greet their victorious hero, a long line of captives behind him. At the very end of the line was a cage with a man in it—naked and chained, with a sign above his head that read, 'This is the one who used to threaten and tyrannize us. He won’t do that anymore.'”[5]

So what does this have to do with our anxiety about the future? When you find yourself unable to stop worrying, remember that Jesus has won a complete victory over the enemy who has brought so much misery onto this world. Your life is not in the hands of one who wants to harm you but One who will protect you. And although tragedy is inevitable, your God wants you to remember that your life is “hidden with Christ" (Colossians 3:3). He has given you His complete protection. He has promised you that you will never walk alone no matter what you walk through. Your Savior has stripped the evil one of his power. You are not in his control, so do not let him deceive you into giving him power that does not belong to him.  

If you are struggling with anxiety about the future, be encouraged. Have peace. Your life is hidden with Christ. 

Recently, I opened the book Jesus I Trust in You: A 30-Day Personal Retreat with the Litany of Trust by Sr. Faustina Maria Pia. In the introduction, she said that in her prayer, she heard Jesus asking her to “Trust in me, not in your circumstances.”[6] Why? Because Jesus is worthy of your trust, and whether you can see it or not, He is with you in your circumstances. Cast your anxieties on Him, for He has won the victory, and now He offers you His peace.

[1] Pawlowski, “How to Worry Better,” NBCnews.com, NBC, accessed May 3, 2022,  https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/praise-worry-why-fretting-can-be-good-you-ncna757016
[2] Pawlowski, “How to Worry Better,” NBCnews.com, NBC, accessed May 3, 2022,  https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/praise-worry-why-fretting-can-be-good-you-ncna757016
[3] Bible Tools. https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/topical.show/RTD/cgg/ID/1627/Stoicheion.htm
[4] Prayer to St. Michael
[5] Fr. John Riccardo. Rescued (Maryland, The Word Among Us:2020) p. 121
[6] Sr. Faustina Maria Pia, Jesus I Trust in You: A 30-Day Personal Retreat with the Litany of Trust, p. 2

 

Last week, it was my turn to be on Instagram stories for Walking with Purpose. What do I have to say this week? I thought. I know; I’ll ask our audience if their week isn’t going according to plan because mine certainly isn’t. And then I’ll say something like, “Sister, I’m right there with you.” This was my brilliant idea to be “relatable” until I realized I had posted that exact message only a few weeks earlier. A pattern had emerged.

I am not a planner, but I like plans. And I like it all the more when my days follow the plan. Plans make me feel ordered. They give me peace. They make me feel productive and bolster my self-esteem. When I am acting within a plan, my identity feels strong. I am a good wife and mother. I am a good employee. And gosh, I really love Jesus Christ. The problem is that my life follows the plan only about ten percent of the time.

My life most often unfolds somewhere between the plan and total, utter chaos. The most important things get done but not without a major dose of stress, mess, and repeated promises that things will be different next time. And how does this make me feel? Well, first of all, hot. I’m running around so quickly that I am just hot. But I also feel unglued, out of balance. I feel like a failure, and my identity begins to waver. I would be a good wife and mother if... I would be a better employee if... And I love God, but I keep failing Him. 

Are you with me at all? Do you do well when your life goes according to plan but begin to fall apart when you fail or the plan falls apart? The problem with this is that life so rarely goes according to our perfectly laid agendas, so if we submit ourselves to this cycle of happiness, we will find that we rarely experience true joy and contentment. Could many of us be more intentional about how we organize our time? Absolutely. If we did this better, things might be easier, but life is messy on this side of heaven. And so, if we are going to live the abundant life that God offers, we will have to do so even if our best plans and our greatest intentions fail. We need a different perspective. 

Two years ago, my husband and I attended a marriage retreat, and I will never forget our teacher’s advice. “Your marriage will fall out of balance,” he said. “There is too much life happening for it not to. The key is not to obsess about always being balanced; it’s to always be balancing.” 

Always be balancing. This was such good advice—not just for marriage, but also for how we respond when life doesn’t go according to plan. If the goal is to always live in perfect, holy harmony, we will constantly feel defeated. But if, instead, we recognize that life is a process through which we allow God to sanctify us in every situation, we can take joy in the whole thing—the good and the bad; when things go smoothly and when they don’t. We always have the opportunity to recalibrate, refocus, and reset our eyes on God.  

Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”

Scripture also tells us that God’s thoughts are above our thoughts and His ways are above our ways. In our broken, finite state, we only see what’s in front of us. We make decisions and plans based on our limited knowledge, and then we assess the outcome with a myopic view of success. Our God is different. He sees all from eternity. He looks at every moment of our lives and sees it from the clearest perspective. He knows how to make us holy and bring Himself glory. And so, instead of giving in to our negative thought spirals, God calls us to continually bring our gaze back to Him. He orders what is disordered. He brings beauty out of tragedy and good out of evil. 

And this is exactly what we will celebrate at the end of this week. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, thought they had a good plan when they sinned against God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That plan failed miserably, and the consequences were dire. And how did our Lord respond? By sending His son to live, die, and rise again. In doing so, He tipped the scales from death to life and brought us back into His perfect balance. God’s infinite mercy brought about His perfect plan, Jesus. And now, He draws close to us, using every life circumstance to make us more like Him if we let Him. 

So, if you tend to fall apart when your plans do, take heart. If you get discouraged when you fail, be encouraged. Your mood, self-worth, and happiness do not have to depend on the success of your plans. Instead, when things go haywire, let that initial feeling of panic immediately drive you to refocus on Jesus. Redirect your gaze to Him, and He will bring you back into balance.



When was the last time that you told Jesus, to His face, that He is not enough? For me, it was last week. Was it my finest moment? No. Was it a necessary moment? Yes. 

Here is the story...

As we were making dinner one night, my husband asked, “Mallory, I have to go to a conference in Florida. Do you want to come with me and stay in a nice hotel for the weekend?” “Let me think about it,” I replied. “Just kidding. Florida in January with one kid instead of four? I. Am. In.”

As soon as I agreed to go, expectations began to form in my mind. A weekend trip could be a much-deserved break. I could pray, read, rest, and work out. I’d have one baby (who can’t walk), warm weather, and one very busy husband. Finally, “me” time. It’s the thing I had been longing for, and I could not wait.

The first day of the trip arrived, and as always, the actual unfolding of events was far from the dream I had spun in my mind. To begin, we landed in Florida to find the weather so cold and dreary that I barely took off my jacket the entire weekend. So much for warm weather. I was disappointed, but I refused to let the weather stop me from enjoying my break. It wasn’t until the next event occurred that I started to crumble.

We arrived at our swanky hotel only to discover that there had been a mistake. We didn’t have a room. And not only did we not have a room, but there were no more rooms available. We would have to find another place to stay. Even as I type this I realize it seems small, but it was too much for me at the time. I waited in the lobby for three hours as my husband got settled at the conference and figured out the room situation. While waiting, all I could think was that this break for which I had longed was slipping away. I was so angry I could barely talk. Seeing my silent rage, my husband suggested that I go to adoration. (This was a Catholic conference.) 

Reluctantly, I walked into the chapel and knelt in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Before I could even stop myself, the words spilled out of my heart: Jesus, I love You, but right now, You are not enough. Ouch. Shame immediately came over me. I’m not supposed to say that. Heck, I’m not supposed to feel that. I make a living by telling the world that Jesus is enough, and there I was, laid bare before Him over a hotel room problem. My heart is so fickle. 

Through the shame, however, I heard God say, “Are you willing to hand me your idol?” I didn’t even know I had an idol, and yet, there it was before me, unable to be ignored. 

It was the break.

I was so desperate for a break from the often intense responsibilities of mothering such small children that I didn’t even realize that I was starting to live for the break. I accomplished tasks at work to get a break. I loved my kids so that, in the end, I could have a break. I began to think that alone time was the answer to all of my troubles. I had been doing everything to get to a place where I could finally tend to myself and only myself. So when I finally thought that the break would be mine, I could not handle the fact that it might not happen.

That, dear friend, is idolatry. It is looking to something else to receive what only God can give. While a break in my life may be good and even necessary, it will not give me the deep heart satisfaction, the soul rest that I so desire. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” 

Jesus is the rest, not the break itself. So when I finally do get a moment alone, I must connect with Him, or I will enter back into my life still desperate. 

And so I ask you, what are you striving for in all of your activities? Are you living for the break, the moment when you can finally get some alone time? Or are you looking to something else to finally give you the rest and satisfaction for which you long? It may be recognition, comfort, compliments, or achievement. Whatever it is, it can only serve as an avenue to God; it cannot give you what only God can.

Psalm 115:3–11 says, “Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them.”

The idols that we worship in our lives are dead, and Scripture tells us that we will be like them if we worship them. But God is fully alive, and it is only He who can bring us into the fullness of life. “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4–5). 

Pope Benedict XVI is commonly quoted as saying, “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!” The implication here is that you were made for discomfort. Why? Because you were made for God, and He is good enough to root out anything that keeps you from Him, even if it means withholding from you the very thing that you think you need. 

In the end, my trip to Florida was a good trip. It was not the trip I wanted; I never really got my break. It was, however, the trip I needed. I got the opportunity to lay down an idol. I got some honest, raw time with the Lord, and that is what I needed most.

What is it that you think you need? The Lord may not be giving it to you because He wants more for you. He wants your holiness, your sainthood, and your greatness over your immediate and momentary comfort. In the end, He wants you with Him forever, and there is nothing better than that.



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

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