For I know well the plans I have for you declares the Lord…Jeremiah 29:11
I think we’ve all been exposed to the logic that if we’re trying to get better at something, we have to hang out and practice, or “do it” with someone who’s better at it than we are. That goes for anything from studying, playing a sport, music and growing in discipleship. If we don’t put ourselves in the company of someone who will challenge us to grow, we run the risk of becoming complacent or even stagnant.
This past week I was put in the middle of the story of a spiritual giant. I ask God every morning to put things in my path that will help me grow in holiness and he did just that, through a beautiful soul named Barb. I’d like to tell Barb’s story; it’s about a woman who is smack dab in the middle of a lousy situation that would have many of us in misery thinking God had forgotten about us. This beautiful woman's advice is heartwarming, life changing and life giving. I want to share her story because she’s the ultimate example of how to get better at discipleship by hanging out with someone who’s really good at it.
Her story begins with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis just weeks ago. The first pictures I saw of her days after the news were at her daughters wedding, and by the twinkle in her eye and the smile on her face you would have guessed the doctors were nuts and the stories were a lie. Sadly, the doctors weren’t mistaken and the story was true, so Barb’s journey began. I suppose in an attempt to comfort her family and friends she put the whole thing in perspective with her suitcase analogy. I was so touched and inspired by her story I asked permission to share because I think hanging out with Barb, her faithfulness and her suitcase story, we will all learn from her example, be inspired by her attitude and grow in holiness.
After Barb found out she was so sick, the first thing she did was to thank Jesus for giving her part of his cross to carry. All she asked in return was the courage to help her carry it to completion. The next step was to look at her cancer like packing her suitcase to go on a trip. The first thing to pack is the most important, and for Barb, that was obviously Jesus. He has to be the most important and the top priority. She makes sure she packs in a lot of Jesus through her daily prayers; especially Daily Mass, praying the Divine Office, the Rosary and Novenas. Novenas are very important because they are harder and require commitment and dedication. Next to go in are her sorrows and pain. The sorrows aren’t packed for pity or attention; quite the opposite. The sorrows are an important thing to pack because they are offered for others. Barb is keenly aware that offering our personal suffering for others is a powerful and loving gift. Suffering and pain are especially helpful for the suffering souls in purgatory. Up next are the blessings. I can just see her standing over that suitcase lovingly and gratefully calling each blessing by name and tucking it into her suitcase with tender, sincere thankfulness to God. Each day she does a little more packing; more prayers, more thankfulness, more suffering and she tucks it all in getting ready to go. Her mission as she wakes up each day is to fill that suitcase as full as she can so she’s ready for her trip. She doesn’t know what Jesus has in store for her but she is prayerfully and faithfully getting ready.
This weekend as I helped my daughter pack her suitcases to head back to college, I couldn’t help but think about Barb’s suitcase. It’s such an ordinary object but yet Barb turned it into such an incredible lesson in trusting in God the Father. I want to be a better packer…starting today! I hope you will all join me in praying for Barb and her packing; may she be fully prepared for her journey!
A Seed To Plant: What’s in your suitcase? If you wait until the last minute to pack, you might rush and miss something so take some prayerful time this week to think about what needs to come out of your suitcase and what needs to go in.
Blessings on your day!
Consider it all joy, my brothers when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Consider trials JOY? What was St. James thinking when he wrote this? Upon first glance at this verse we might be tempted to wonder if the beloved Saint put in a few too many prayerful “all-nighters” because surely he wasn’t serious about feeling joyful when the washer breaks, someone you love gets sick, the fuel pump on the car goes out or the sweet teenager in your home eats the last piece of peach pie you were hiding…I mean saving, in the back of the fridge! Joy…I don’t think so! And what about the really big stuff like losing your job or serious illness, surely he couldn’t have meant those things could bring joy. I suppose we could sit down and make a list of all the trials that have happened upon us in the past month and we would be overcome with many emotions, none of which would be joy!
The real meat of this verse is the part that explains what we can get in exchange for our trials…stronger faith and perseverance. Do you remember when you were young and you went home from school and complained about that boy who pulled your pigtails or the girl who annoyingly pointed out your every move to the teacher? The standard reply from home went something like this, “Well honey, if they didn’t like you they wouldn’t tease you.” This verse has a little bit of that flavor to it don’t ya think! God promised that we would have trouble…it is a guarantee, not a possibility. Even though we’ve read those words more than once, trials still seem to catch us by surprise. We sometimes even cop an attitude and think, “What, me…why me Lord? What have I done to deserve this difficulty?” We might even get really sassy and say, “Oh, pardon me Father, but you’ve made a mistake, I’ve already had 8 serious trials this month, I believe this current dilemma belongs to the neighbor or even better, the guy who cut me off in traffic this morning!”
The simple truth is, if He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t give us trials at all. Each difficulty or disappointment that knocks on our front door or barges right into our day is an opportunity to grow in trust or compassion or patience. When we throw up our hands in despair and say, “Ok God, I don’t know how to do this…I don’t think I’m strong enough for this, please guide me and guard me and love me through it!” we will grow in faith and perseverance plus we will be blessed with grace and mercy. I think what St. James was teaching us is that any time we surrender to the holy power of God, that’s joyful, and the blessing is more strength, more grace and more faith for the next thing! It seems strange to thank God for the lousy stuff but that is what we are called to do. We need to act like we are completely aware that He is about to do a might work through that trial if we would just stand back and let Him take us through it.
A Seed To Plant: The next time a trial comes your way, stop and thank God
for it and ask Him to show you the joy in the situation. We’d love to hear your stories!
Blessings on your day!
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