Prayer Journal Pondering

At His Heels

Sammy, feeling soooo far away from me.

“I’m going to rename him Velcro,” my husband proclaimed as he shook his head at my little pup, Sammy, who is never more than two feet away from me at all times. “He is constantly stuck to you.”

He’s right. He often has to compete with Sammy if he wants to sit next to me on the couch, or move in for a goodnight kiss in bed. Sammy is perpetually by my side, watching, waiting and trying to anticipate my next move.  He follows me from room to room throughout the day, and lies in a dog bed next to my desk when I’m in the office. He’s always at my heels.

Sammy is a good example for me. Not when he barks for scraps at mealtime, or chases the cats, or chews up my socks, but when he sticks close to me.

It’s how I imagine I should be following Jesus. Not just following in a general sense, like I know he’s ahead of me somewhere and I think I can make him out in the distance if I squint hard enough. Or following somewhere along the fence line and only scurrying over to him when something spooks me. But following closely. All the time. Where I can see him and recognize his voice when he calls and can let him guide me down the path one step at a time. Where I can touch the hem of his garment when I need to.

This is how I imagine the saints felt— that every step they took in their spiritual journey was in sync with Jesus. Like they could just turn to the right and turn to the left and see and feel and hear the Lord next to them. They were always near to him, not bringing up the rear of the line in the back of the herd. They were the good sheep and he was their Good Shepherd. He wanted them close and they wanted to be close to him. Right at his heels.

And that’s how it is with us, too. He wants us close. Where we can feel his presence in every room, in every situation, in every challenging circumstance. Where we can feel his great love. And where we don’t have to go far to find his mercy and forgiveness.

I’m going to stick close to Jesus as best as I can. At his heels, even. Like Velcro.

[Sammy is so inspiring. I can’t wait to point this out to my husband.]

Prayer Journal Pondering

Make Room, Make Haste, Make Holy

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for two weeks. After all, January is almost over and it’s my New Year’s Resolution. But I just couldn’t seem to get the words from my brain to the Word document with all the other things going on. Perhaps I should have put “Be More Organized” on my resolution list this year!

This resolution, or more accurately, this phrase, came about through the process of prayer journaling (surprise, surprise!). The first segment—Make Room—came to me during Eucharistic Adoration in late December. I was pondering what the Holy Spirit would have me do next, specifically in 2018, and this thought popped into my head: Make Room. Make room for what? I wondered. I worked through the possible meanings over the next week and ended up with several thoughts: I need to make room in my schedule—that’s a little challenging but can be done. I need to make room for discipleship and kingdom-building opportunities. Makes sense. And I need to make room in my heart for the Holy Spirit to move. Hmmmm, that one’s slightly intimidating. But I am committed to praying for the Holy Spirit to come into my heart and clean house to make room for amazing things in 2018.

Make Haste entered into the mix when I was reading about the wise men and the shepherds in the fields who heard about the birth of Jesus and made haste to go find him. They didn’t doubt, they didn’t question, they didn’t ruminate—they dropped what they were doing and they made haste.  According to one of my previous bosses, instead of a “Ready, Aim, Fire” person, I can be more of a “Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim” person.  Guilty as charged (although I did defend myself by saying that at least I wasn’t a “Ready, Fire, Aim” person). Admittedly, I love the idea generation phase of a project, but I get bogged down in the execution. I second-guess. I want more time to test. I need to go over things with a fine-tooth comb one more time. I hesitate to pull the trigger. Yea, if I was one of the shepherds, I would still be sitting on a rock contemplating the pros and cons of heading into Bethlehem, and wondering if I really did see angels singing, while my fellow shepherds would already be gazing into the glory of the manger. I don’t make haste. But my new saint friend, Catherine of Siena, has been getting under my skin with her quote, “Start being brave about everything.” So when an opportunity presents itself in 2018, I plan to be brave and jump on it.

And finally, there’s Make Holy, a phrase that popped into my head at the precise moment when the priest at Mass was saying, “Make holy these gifts…” It’s kind of the cherry on top of the resolution ice cream sundae. Make Holy is a way, as St. Francis de Sales says, to Live Today Well. It means elevating my everyday acts and encounters to a holy level. To offer up my entire day to God, so he can sanctify the situations and sanctify me and take my meager offerings and make something holy out of them. Cue the Little Way of St. Therese: Doing dishes can be made holy. Getting groceries can be made holy. Making phone calls can be made holy. I don’t have to accomplish anything newsworthy—I can know, instead, that when God adds his grace to my everyday actions, they can be made holy. I just need to ask.

So there you have it.  In 2018, I hope and pray to Make Room, Make Haste and Make Holy.

Oh, and maybe become better organized while I’m at it…

Prayer Journal Pondering

A Holy Hug From a Spiritual Brat

I have often envisioned Jesus hugging me, especially on days when things get rough and I am not all that huggable (it happens; ask my husband). It’s always been Jesus taking the lead, smiling and leaning down (Jesus is always taller than me) to scoop me in his arms and hold me tight, and consoling me in the way only he can. I am mostly passive in this imaginary scene. I let him hug me to his chest and I just close my eyes and soak it in. This is a calming image, and it has a healing effect on me, but I think in the future I will imagine something different: I am going to envision myself hugging him back. When I next picture Jesus hugging me, I am going to reach out and slip my arms around his neck and shoulders and pull him even closer. It will be a true embrace (embrace is, not-coincidentally, my word of the year) between the two of us, not a one-sided action on his part only. I will hug him back!

That symbolism of a dynamic, two-person embrace has meaningful application in my everyday spiritual life. Hugging Jesus in return means I will allow him to guide me and lead me through my challenges. It means I believe in his peace and have faith that his plan for me is the best one. And it means I surrender to his will. Not in a feisty, reluctant way, as was the case in my past life, but in an abiding, restful way, safe in his arms and secure in the knowledge that I am a beloved child of his. Hugging him back is like looking directly into his eyes and saying, “Jesus, I trust in you.”

This is an interesting development—I don’t think I was capable of “hugging him back” five years ago. I was too self-sufficient and independent and I was struggling mightily with yielding to God’s plans. In other words, I was being a spiritual brat. The kind who would try to wriggle out of a fatherly hug, not believing or trusting in the forgiveness or mercy or peace that was being offered. I wanted to do my life my way, keeping Jesus at bay:  Okay, hug me if you must, Jesus, but let’s move on now. I have other things to attend to.

Ugh. I cringe when I think of my attitude back then. So prideful. So suspicious. So untrusting. But, as Jesus does, he kept on hugging me. He consistently reached out to me, despite my bratty and disrespectful manner. Like a persistent, ever-loving father, he never gave up on me.

As a result, I now want to hug him back. I want to show him how deeply grateful I am that he has transformed my life. I want to get close and stay close and never stray again. I want him to feel my love and devotion and trust. And I want to serve him and help build his kingdom in whatever way he wants me to.

Yep, when Jesus hugs me the next time, he will get hugged in return, with thanks from a recovering spiritual brat. And I think he will lean down and smile when I do.

Prayer Journal Pondering

Forward in Faith

Wowza, is this world a hot mess right now.  Violence in our schools, deadly mass shootings, incredible natural disasters, government scandals and corruption—and that’s just on the national scale. Every day it seems we are faced with some new challenge in our own little worlds too: Challenges to our belief in goodness, our belief in humanity, and even our belief in a loving, ever-present God.

In one week in October, we had two deaths in our family. One was a long life well-lived, yet still came as a surprise. The other was a life sadly cut short, but was anticipated after a five-year bout with cancer.  I’m the first to admit it’s hard to make sense of it all.

In times like these I turn to an encouraging phrase that came together for me one morning in prayer journaling.  After reading the day’s gospel about Peter who tries to walk across the water to meet Jesus and then takes his eyes off Jesus and starts to sink, I wrote, Move forward in faith. Not just move forward, passing through the tragedies and the illnesses and the unfortunate events we are forced to deal with. There are millions in this world who simply move forward. The trick is moving forward in faith.  Not turning away from God, or being paralyzed by fear, or losing hope, but letting Jesus accompany us through our grief and confusion, allowing him to fight our battles with the evil one, and inviting him in to tend to our physical, emotional and spiritual needs.  Moving forward in faith means keeping our eyes on Jesus as we attempt to sort out and sift through life’s chaos. It’ the only guarantee we have against outright sinking.

Forward in Faith has helped me hand off my adult son to God this year, when the mom in me was desperately trying to hang on to my role (can anyone else relate??).  Forward in Faith has helped me leave a close-to-my-heart, part-time job behind as I make room for better things. And Forward in Faith has helped me slog through the grieving process and comfort others along the way.

I wrote this a few pages later in my prayer journal:

Jesus, you tell me: “Take courage, It is I. Do not be afraid. I am with you. I love you and you are mine.” So… Forward in Faith we will go together. Help me to be unafraid and always willing to move forward in faith with you.

Don’t try to go it alone, girlfriends. Focus on Jesus and go Forward in Faith!


Prayer Journal Pondering, Praying with a Pen

Jump Those Prayer Journaling Hurdles! Hurdle #6

The final prayer journaling hurdle I hear often? What do I write?? How do I get started?? Well, my friend, there’s a book for that! 😉

Below is how I address this particular hurdle in Praying with a Pen. But keep in mind what I repeat throughout the book: There are no rules! God is just so delighted that you have slowed down enough to sit quietly and spend time with him that the words you write are of secondary importance.

Hurdle #6: I have no idea what to write. Lucky you! You are holding in your pretty hands a book that will give you plenty of easy writing ideas, prompts and formats to try. You won’t be interested in all of them, and some of them will not fit your style. But there will be a few ideas that will speak to you and you will say to yourself, “Hey, maybe I can try that.” God doesn’t care what you write. He already knows what’s on your mind anyway! Just pick something and run with it. If you don’t like the way you are writing today, you get to try something else tomorrow. And just to show you how easy this process is, I’ve included Prayer Journaling Practice questions at the end of each chapter, so you can ease into it without any hitches.


Prayer Journal Pondering

Green Bean Benevolence

“Make sure you take time to connect with the people you’re working for,” our parish priest advised us as we prepared to depart for our home improvement mission work deep in the hollers of Kentucky. We had our project lists in hand, our tools at the ready and our trucks loaded with supplies. All 22 of us were eager to dive in to the manual labor required over the next five days. But our pastor wisely counseled us to put down our hammers and paintbrushes and invest in the relationships with the homeowners we were serving as well.

That advice paid off for me. In green beans.

Head on over to Catholic Sistas to read the rest of the story here.

Prayer Journal Pondering

False Crawls

Question: What can live for up to 100 years, is known to be harmless to humans and moves no faster than 1 mph but can still scare the living daylights out of a grown woman who comes face-to-face with one? Answer: A sea turtle. Years ago, I was snorkeling in Hanauma Bay in Oahu while on an anniversary trip with my husband when I turned my head away from some lovely circus-colored coral and straight into the snout of a gigundous Loggerhead turtle. Even though I do believe he was just as surprised as I was to make up-close underwater eye contact, it was me (the supposedly grown woman) who let out a garbled, high-pitched scream through my snorkel and made a hasty, comically uncoordinated retreat.

Head on over to Catholic Sistas to read the rest of this Prayer Journal Pondering!

Prayer Journal Pondering

A Magnificat New Year

My palms were sweating like crazy. It was only my second attempt at the Sacrament of Reconciliation since returning to the Catholic Church after a 25-year hiatus. I stood in line at an unfamiliar church with unfamiliar people in order to sit across from an unfamiliar priest and confess my sins and struggles. Somehow I suppressed my overwhelming desire to turn tail and run, if only because I was concerned that my new boots would slip on the marble floor and I would end up doing ungainly splits in front of an imposing statue of Saint Joseph. This was not on my life bucket list. So I imagined myself breathing into a brown paper bag to calm down and I stepped into the confessional area.

Sisters, am I glad I did.

Read the rest of this post over at Catholic Sistas!

Prayer Journal Pondering

A New Writing Partnership!

I am happy to announce that beginning this month, I will be guest-posting on the Catholic Sistas blogsite! If you haven’t heard of this organization, you should visit them, pronto! You can follow the voices of a wide variety of Catholic women and be inspired by their strength and their struggles, just as I have for the last few years.

My guest posts, mainly on my prayer journal ponderings, will show up once a month on their site, and will also be linked from my site. I hope you enjoy this new development. See you soon on Catholic Sistas!