Sunday, July 21, 2013

It has to be grace...

It has to be grace.

This calm in the midst of craziness.

We leave for Haiti this week. I'm not packed. I haven't planned my dog-sitting schedule. I sing for a wedding the day after we return and still haven't practiced two of the songs (don't worry--I have a plan).

But I'm incredibly, beautifully peaceful. And joyful. And trusting.

I feel His presence so tangibly these last few days. In a way I haven't in a long time. It's been somewhat dry spiritually for me. The busyness, the sin and selfishness, the uncertainty of the future, and even a few doubts from the past. So this rain of grace washing the windows of my soul is wonderful and welcome. I can't help but think it's the prayers of sweet friends like you who have prayed for me and this upcoming trip.

Last night I was driving the hour home from P.'s, allowing the comfortable rhythm of reflection and prayer to play out as I drove on the lonely roads. An indescribable rawness of emotion surfaced, a questioning of who I really am--or was, or will be--and if I'm where I'm supposed to be.

And then the familiar notes of one of my favorite songs started playing on the radio. Meredith Andrews, "Not for a Moment." The song I listened to so often during the breakup period between me and P.

The song that reminded me that He, this God and Abba and Lover and Friend, is the only one sure thing in my life. The only Constant. The Unchanging One. The One who never, ever leaves-- whether I feel His presence or not.

And I was reminded again. He is still here. Every question in my mind of who I am can be tossed into the beautiful abyss of knowing Whose I am. No matter what the future holds, He has a plan. He is not confused or surprised or disappointed by my life. And He loves me. Always.

Though I look at my life as the past, the present, and the future, it's all the same to Him. He simply is. He's already there in Haiti, He's already there in the decisions I need to make later this year, He's already there years from now. What a comfort.

Even now, the thoughts bring tears to my eyes. What an amazing God we serve...what an loving Father we've been adopted by.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Where There is Love, There is God: A Book Review

I remember being in 5th grade when she died. The same year Princess Diana died. We had our kids' issue of Time magazine and both women graced the cover.

As a young girl, the pictures of the beautiful Princess fascinated me...

Yet even then, I remember the indescribable, intriguing beauty of the other woman.

Mother Teresa.

That was fifteen years ago, but she continues to inspire me the more I learn about her life, her heart, and her overflowing love for God and others.

So when I saw this book become available for review, I jumped at the chance to read more of her beautiful yet challenging words. Her humility and simplicity sometimes mask the strength and courage of this incredible daughter of God. Yet in every picture of her I see that unmistakable grace, that light of Christ shining through her. And I want to be like that. That's the beauty I want.

Though it would be too extensive to chronicle my path to my upcoming Haiti trip, this woman has had a huge part in it. We'll be working with the same order she was a part of--the Missionaries of Charity-- and I'm deeply happy to meet them and see the same spirit of joy and love among them that exuded from her. As a Catholic, I firmly believe in the Body of Christ both here on earth and in heaven, so I asked for her prayers surrounding the trip, that all would work out for me to go if God willed it and that my heart would be open to whatever way things turned out--even if it meant humbly accepting that I could not go. Sweet friends in Heaven.

Where There is Love, There is God is a collection of letters, speeches, and teaching from Mother Teresa. As the title implies, the resounding theme is love. It all comes down to love. Not a fluffy, emotional type love, but a deep, powerful love that can only come from intimacy with God, the One who is Love.

Time and again, she exhorts us to go deeper in prayer to find joy, peace, unending love, and a heart ready to serve--not to perform or check off good deeds, but rather as an outpouring of the love we receive from the Father. This is what the secular world does not seem to see in Mother Teresa...that she not only served the poor and was a world-changer in social justice, but that her service was so deeply rooted in a relationship with Christ. As St. Paul says, our actions are nothing without Love.

Beautiful. And challenging. Sometimes the simplest things are the most difficult.

This book is a treasure. The only downside I could possibly say about it is that it takes a long time to read--simply because each paragraph is so rich and so full of thought-provoking sentiments. And yet, perhaps to path of holiness is best taken one small step at a time. To reflect on one small truth at a time and let it sink deeply into our hearts and souls. Here are a few of those small steps that I loved. (And if you like, you can read Chapter 1 here!)

'The Father loves me, He wants me, He needs me.' That kind of attitude is our trust, our joy, our conviction. Anything may come: impatience, failures, joy, but say to yourself, 'The Father loves me.'

You must be full of silence, for in the silence of the heart God speaks. An empty heart God fills.

What does it mean to be alone with Jesus? It doesn't mean to sit alone with your own thoughts. No, but even in the midst of the work and of people, you know His presence. It means that you know that He is close to you, that He loves you, that you are precious to Him, that He is in love with you.

And if my heart is pure, if in my heart is Jesus, if my heart is a tabernacle of the living God to sanctify in grace: Jesus and I are one.

[This book was provided to me at no cost in exchange for a review. These are my honest and original thoughts about the book. Thank you, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Company!]

Friday, July 12, 2013

7 Quick Takes [vol. 12]

1. It's twenty minutes to midnight. So we're just going to jump right in with number one. And that would be that I'm feeling a little rusty with the quick takes!

2. I reached my breaking point from stress and exhaustion tonight after work and cried through three phone calls-- my sister, my boyfriend, and my mom. Bless them! I just felt completely spent and burnt out and overwhelmed by taking care of people...The jobs are really exhausting...I see so many patients at each job and I just get worn out from people's stories and needs and coordinating their care. And the pregnancy center really took it out of me with an abortion-seeking client this past week. I love serving. And I love people. I just reach my limits sometimes. After traveling the last two weekends, I'm so thankful to be home this one. I have a million things to get done, but I have a feeling I'll be able to sneak in some time in the sun, some farmer's market shopping, and some good fiction reading...

3. My roommate A's friend from Haiti-- yes, Haiti!-- is staying with us tonight! I'm hoping to get to visit with her tomorrow at breakfast and hear more about her family and life there-- her dad is a medical missionary doctor there! So exciting! And...guess who will be in Haiti in less than two weeks herself!!!!!

4. I sold my car. Uh-huh. The convertible I always talk about in the summertime on here. I don't think the reality of it has hit me yet...some delayed grieving or something. Or maybe I'm distracted by the stress of driving my parents' PT cruiser-- a charming little thing with a stick shift. P asked me awhile back if I could drive stick, and I was like "oh yeah, no problem. I learned long ago in my teens." Well, the long ago part was right because my first day out with it had me stalling at a stoplight three times in a row. I'm telling you guys, this car was the bane of my existence last week. I would plan out my routes to avoid hills or stoplights. I would plan for twice the amount of time to get from here to there. And it's possible that I rolled quite a few stop signs to avoid shifting into first gear from neutral. But (drum roll, please) I. Am. Conquering. It. Likely I'll live a few years shorter because of it, but it feels great to have jumped this hurdle. (Okay, more like tripped over it, but hey, I'm on the other side of it now.)

5. Remember that abortion-seeking client above? She's choosing life. And words can't cover the emotions I've carried throughout my interactions with this precious woman. She called our office originally seeking the abortion pill RU-486. She ended up talking with me for almost an hour, and then the following day with one of our counselors. Then she went to the abortion clinic. Saw the ultrasound. And chose life. Beautiful, beautiful gift to walk with her on the path of decision and now to help support her through the uneasy road ahead. Please pray with us for her and for a healthy baby.

6. Oh friends, I still can't believe I'm going to Haiti!!! I so wish I had shared with you more of the details of these past few months because it's just been so many roadblocks to get here! It's really surreal to me that we're actually going--yes, that man I love is going, too. So deeply happy to share this experience with my best friend. We're headed to Haiti with a diverse group of around 40 people. We'll work with the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's group) at their orphanage (my heart is aching to love on those precious babies!), their house of the dying, and their makeshift wound clinic. We'll also be visiting the tent cities and building simple furniture for them. With the craziness of this summer, I feel hardly prepared for all this. Yet my consistent prayer is for open hands and open heart. That I go with no expectations, but rather an empty willingness for God to work both in me and through me however He desires. I'm just so thankful to be going and I know He's had a hand in it.

7. So the girls are getting ready to go to bed and we decided there are some back massages due all around...hmm...blogging or a back rub...tough choice but goodnight, everyone! ;)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey."

-Pope Francis, The Light of Faith