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!
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose HOPE is in the Lord. Jeremiah 17:7
Maybe it’s just a Kansas thing, but growing up I often heard older people talk about the woes of the day and it would very often be followed by the phrase, “It’s all goin’ to hell in a hand basket.” As a kid, I wasn’t even sure what a hand basket was! Then I watched The Wizard of Oz, and when Elmira Gulch showed up on her bike with a basket to take Dorothy’s dog Toto away, I figured out what a “hand basket” was! Among the things on the list of woes were teenagers. It seemed older folks didn’t have much hope in them.
This past weekend I had the privilege of chaperoning two busloads of high school students from our area to a conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. We joined more than 2,000 others Friday evening in the university field house and the atmosphere was like a rock concert. Kids clapping and singing their guts out, passing beach balls above their heads all through the crowd and forming human trains and running through the aisles...ELECTRIC is the word that came to mind. (It’s ok if you need to take an aspirin before you read on.) But here is the amazing part, it was praise and worship music…these kids were going crazy for their Faith! Their love of the Lord is what brought them together and fed their frenzy! I was awestruck about 30 minutes later when all those teenagers dropped to their knees on the bleachers and hard gym floor in complete reverent silence to pray, praise , worship and adore the God who had created them! I watched teenagers laugh, pray, weep, and scream with delight as they drew closer, dug deeper and became more connected to Jesus! I’m not sure I even have words yet to describe what I was so blessed to be a part of this weekend. I went to help, but left with more HOPE than I can even describe.
On the 7 hour drive home, I thought about that “hell in a hand basket” phrase and realized that if those teenagers were goin’ somewhere in a hand basket…it sure wasn’t where the older folks from my childhood thought. To be quite honest…we’d all be lucky to climb in the basket with them because they’re goin’ somewhere alright, and based on what I saw this weekend, I wanna go too! The Steubenville Youth conferences will reach more than 40,000 teenagers this summer…talk about setting faith ablaze! This is the generation that will design, construct, operate, manage and decorate the nursing home I’m gonna live in! They are also the generation that is going to renew the spirit of the church and they will do it well!
In a world where bad news is pretty easy to find, today’s verse from the Prophet Jeremiah is the key to settle our troubled hearts. HOPE in the Lord is our comfort! We get worried and anxious about the woes of the day and we forget that our blessings will spring from the trust and HOPE we place in the Lord. Those teenagers I spent the weekend with get it! They renewed my hope because their faith is alive, real and contagious!
A seed to plant: Hope is rooted in God’s plan. Pick three things from your “I’m worried about” list and pray specifically for each one to be blessed by God and then replace the worry with expectant hope!
Blessings on your day!
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.
Key words..."I have in mind"...meaning God is in charge of the plans not us! News flash...He is a much better planner because His eyes see what ours cannot...His ears hear what ours cannot and His plans for us are sprouted from a love so big we can't even imagine it!
God is a God of surprises and they are quite excellent! I'm from Kansas and every December Dave and I pack up the three little Wohlfert's (although they are all much taller than mamma so little isn't the best adjective but it makes me forget how old I'm getting so I'm gonna go with it) and drive the 800 plus miles to visit my family. A couple years ago as we were traveling back to Michigan on New Year's Eve we were racing against the clock because the boys had suddenly become old enough to have a social life and heaven forbid we missed one minute of fun. I remember stopping at a rest area and hearing a loud hissing sound as we crawled out of the Suburban...YIKES...not a happy sound coming from a tire! The boys groaned and began to see their evening plans turn to mud. I said a quick prayer for our safety and the kids patience and understanding. And...as the God of surprises would have it, we hopped back on interstate 70 and the next exit was only 2 miles away and guess what the first thing we saw was...yup...a tire repair shop. In the time it took the kids and I to walk to the fast food place across the road and order lunch, the tire was fixed and for a surprising cost of less than $15 dollars New Years Eve was once again a happy thought.
You can't plan that kind of wonderful...you can't invent that kind of surprise...only the God of surprises is THAT good. I spent the rest of the trip home wondering how many times had God surprised me and I'd been too wrapped up in my own plans to recognize His work?
A seed to plant: (aka..your homework...man I love being a teacher!)
For the next week, before your feet hit the floor, tell God good morning and then ask Him to plan your day without any help then keep a running tally of all the surprises and blessings that come from living Jeremiah 29:11. Please pass them along so we can all enjoy your surprises!
Blessings on your day!
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