Faith Over Fear. Always.

Remember: When you feel like you’re drowning, your lifeguard walks on water!

Keeping Your Head Above Water

I won’t lie. The challenges I have faced over the years have often seemed insurmountable. From being a homeless teenager who dug through the cushions of a lousy boyfriend’s ancient couch for enough change to buy a dollar cheeseburger because we had no food, to watching my husband waste away in a hospital bed as he suffered from Gulf War Syndrome and having to have his large intestine removed, to birthing a son with a severe heart defect, I have many times wondered where God was in all of that.

It’s hardest at night, I think, when I am putting my son to bed. The Voice, as I call it, lifts up from the darkness and whispers loudly all of my insecurities. It reminds me to look at the helpless little toddler resting peacefully and focus on the way he tucks his right arm up. Then it gives me those loathsome flashbacks of when, not so long ago, my little boy could use both sides of his body equally like any other baby.

Damn this stroke!

And I get angry. I get sad. I get hurt.

And sometimes I get belligerent. I look toward Heaven, succumbing to the Voice, and ask God “Why? Why wasn’t it just enough for him to have the three chambered heart? Why make this so much more difficult?”

Friends, I would love to say that in that deep quiet, with the crickets chirping in the background on the sound machine, I hear a different voice. A calm, deep, comforting voice that stills all the angst in my heart. I’d love to say I get a message that makes it all okay.

But I don’t. I get more quiet. Lots and lots of quiet.

There are nights when the Voice wins and I am brought to tears. In those moments, I don’t understand why it seems everything in my life has had to be an uphill battle on a hill I can’t seem to conquer while other folks seem to breeze right through with all the answers. Sure, they’ve had setbacks, but a three month hospital stay where your husband wilted from 200 pounds to 150 pounds and nearly died twice? Or a baby who’s had two open heart surgeries and a stroke by the time he was four months old? And still has another surgery in his future?

I’m not a saint; not yet. Sometimes I falter and lose my way. I think we all do. We all go through some stuff, am I right? We don’t need to compare our suffering to someone else’s. The point is, we all suffer something and that suffering hurts. A lot.

I’ve come to understand that God doesn’t necessarily whisper back in those dark moments when I am questioning like a petulant child because I’m not in a space to receive Him. In those moments, I want a hard, solid answer that makes everything alright and I won’t take less for an answer. Quite simply, my human pride gets in the way.

However, God doesn’t abandon me. When I ask Our Lady to sit with me, to comfort me because I am feeling desperately alone and broken, I know she does. As a mother to another mother, especially a mother who helplessly watched her son be tortured and then crucified, she understands the depths of human pain like no other. I cannot imagine her heartbreak as she bore witness to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. And as a mother, I can imagine that if it had been me- a lesser mother by far- I’d have been making any deal with God to switch places, to take the pain, to go through it for my son so that he didn’t have to. And I would’ve invalidated the sacrifice completely, not to mention I’d have been a pretty lousy role model for women everywhere.

Mary’s gift to us all is her surrender to God’s will. Even at the foot of the cross, her heart feeling as though it were being ripped from her chest, and her human mind probably desperately wishing for anything but this, she surrendered to God’s will. She didn’t make deals with God like I would. She didn’t ask for it to go away from her. She didn’t even ask “why?”. Mary knew why it had to be this way. She had to let her heart break and she did it with profound grace and humility.

Maybe I don’t know why my son was born different and the situation was exacerbated. Maybe I will never know why God chose this path for him, or for me. But what I do know is that in surrendering my need to know why, God brings me the peace I need when the Voice reminds me of all the awful things. When the flashbacks begin and I once again see my little baby attached to all those monitors and machines with a million different cords going in a thousand different directions, when I surrender it over to God I find peace.

Friends, I won’t pretend it is an easy thing to do. Sometimes I simply can’t do it that night and all I can do is cry into a towel so I don’t wake up anyone else. There are plenty of times when I feel like I can’t breathe, I can’t function in those moments. I’m sure a lot of you- too many of you- know exactly what I mean when I say all of this. Yet once that storm passes, and it does pass, it is in the stillness afterward that I can finally remember Mary’s surrender and try to emulate it. I think to myself, “Lord, I am broken. I am hurting beyond measure. I can’t look at pictures of my son as a new baby without remembering. I can’t stand the images from the hospital because I know the pain. Help me to be able to get through this.”

And then I ask Our Lady for her intercession, because that’s what we Catholics do. We don’t worship Mary, or any of the saints and angels, as so many accuse us of doing. It’s like going to a coach or a teacher you trust and asking their advice. That’s what we do: we ask for intercession, for their prayers, their advice, their strength. After all, the saints and martyrs have been through this before. So I ask the greatest Mother of all, Our Mother whom Jesus gave to us as he hung, dying for our sins. I ask her to pray for me that I may obtain the grace of surrender as she did in the midst of all the pain.

In our darkest moments, we are not alone. Even when the Voice tries to convince us that we are, that nothing will get better, that God has targeted you for this because of XYZ. The Voice wants desperately for us to forget where our strength and our grace comes from so that we fall away and curse God. If we can remember, even in the midst of our pain and suffering, the image of Christ on that Cross, then we know that pain and suffering is temporary. Death and sin were defeated. And if Jesus can defeat Death itself, He can certainly pull us out of the mire we find ourselves in.

So I have learned that when the Voice starts in on me I need to close my eyes and ask for help. I need to lean harder into Jesus and not away. I don’t need the “why?” answered, as much as I’d like it to be. I need to practice surrendering. My son is mobile. He can use his arm and hand so much more than anyone expected. He continues to surprise us all. He is walking, sometimes without holding our hands. He is working on “getting better”. These little steps, these little pieces of progress are all part of the miracle God has and is giving to me. It may not be as sudden as Jesus healing a blind man, or bringing someone back from the dead. But these are miracles just the same.

The Voice cannot win unless I allow it to. I have an Army of Angels at my disposal, so says the Lord. I am not alone. And neither are you. Sometimes, the lesson is simply surrender. Let go, and let God.

St. Joseph, Man of Action

It’s easy to get caught up in all the troubles surrounding us and lose sight of what God has in store. We can see the immense wickedness in global leadership, the wayward spirits of people all around us, and the hopelessness in the eyes of many. But despite all of the conflict that the last two years has brought about, we can find courage.

Jesus told his disciples not to worry about food, clothing, or life. He compared them to sparrows and reminded them how much God feeds and cares for the smallest of creatures. “How much more will He care for you?” Jesus asks them.

The thing of it is this: We may be faced with unprecedented times. We may see our liberties and freedoms trampled. People – especially Christians- are being persecuted and may be driven to worship “underground.” We may come to a crossroads where we must choose between a career we have built and a vaccine that may harm or kill us. Difficult times may lay ahead, but God would never abandon us without hope.

For me, I find that no matter what the future brings, change doesn’t mean I am forgotten. Maybe I have to leave my job and become a sheep farmer somewhere (which would be sort of hilarious as I know nothing about sheep). Or maybe I have to stay put and ride this out. Either way, I know that if I follow the example of St. Joseph when he put all his trust in the Lord and acted when God said it was time, I can’t go wrong.

For my non-Catholic friends, let me enlighten you a little bit on St. Joseph. I think it’s easy for us to overlook Jesus’ foster-dad. After all, he doesn’t say much of anything (in the Bible) and he seems to disappear mysteriously half way through Jesus’ life. But Joseph wasn’t a bystander. He wasn’t a man who was afraid to act. He was quiet, contemplative, and whenever he was in question about something he went to God in prayer. How much can we admire and emulate that?

St. Joseph

Joseph was called to action several times. When he was considering quietly divorcing Our Lady, an angel came to him and told him to not be afraid. Joseph had a very important role to play in Jesus’ life. Instead of allowing fear to dictate his next actions, Joseph humbly stepped up and took on the role that would be the most important role of any human man ever: raising our Savior to adulthood.

We know St. Joseph taught Jesus his trade and that Jesus spent some time as a carpenter. But we can go back before that, before Jesus was growing into a man. We can imagine St. Joseph as any other proud dad: Maybe he taught Jesus to walk, helped him as he toddled through the village. Maybe he laughed when child Jesus did or said something funny as children always do.

Yet in the beginning, before Jesus was even born, Joseph was asked to do something unprecedented and he rose to the occasion instead of shying away because the road was uncertain, unpaved, unfamiliar. He bravely did as God asked, trusting in God to provide, and became the patriarch of the Holy Family. He became the earthly father to the Son of God.

How relatable is his uncertainty to our current socio-economic and spiritual lives right now? We are living in a time where our own road is unfamiliar, unpaved. It is very tempting to shrink back and shake our heads, lamenting that this is too difficult.

Thankfully, we have a second example of Joseph as “Man of Action” that we can fall back on!

Flight to Egypt

When King Herod began searching for the child Jesus to murder him, an angel came to Joseph in his dreams. The angel told him to take his family and go. Without hesitation, and in the middle of the night, Joseph awoke the Blessed Mother and her infant son. They left behind their possessions, fleeing to Egypt without a second thought. Joseph led the family to safety.

St. Joseph teaches us the power of action, the humility of submission to God’s will, and is a model for father’s everywhere. He is the example of leadership.

Take a few minutes to really ponder the man that St. Joseph was. Consider your own life and circumstances and ask yourself: What will you do when God calls you to action? Will you rise to the occasion like St. Joseph? Will you slip away in the night if you must?

Take courage, my friends! God will not leave us to the wolves. In this difficult time, God already has the plan and the stage is set.

“For I go before you, always.”