“Hi Mr. Frese, this is your neighbor, Joan, from up the street. I have your daughter with me. Don’t worry, she is fine. I just happened to be walking by the bus stop and saw her get off the bus by herself. I figured you would not want her home alone.” My jaw dropped. I had arranged for my kids to stay in the after-school program that day as I had an afternoon work meeting that prevented me from being there to get them off the bus as I normally did. With a mixture of relief and confusion, I profusely thanked her and told her I would be on my way home immediately to get her. For some reason, the school had made a mistake and sent my kindergartener home instead of keeping her at school. Just a day in the life of a single parent…
If I had not been so consumed by my anxiety and anger, I would have seen the true reality of what happened. Was it a coincidence that my neighbor just happened to be at the bus stop that day when I wasn’t? Hardly. Was it a coincidence that she was astute enough not to let a kindergartener leave the bus stop alone? I don’t think so. My daughter’s guardian angel was working overtime that day to protect her by orchestrating the help of others. Don’t let the anxieties and challenges of every day life blind you to all the supernatural help that our loving God abundantly provides. Guardian angels are standing at the ready. Call on them!
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom His love commits me here;
Ever this day (or night) be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide.
Amen. – Guardian Angel Prayer
The first year after my divorce was overwhelming. Along with being a single parent to three young kids, I was working full-time and trying to put my life back together. I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. My response was to put my head down and push through the many challenges in my day. I took on this uber-independent attitude; I was going to show the world that I could beat divorce.
Fast forward over thirteen years and I can now see that my struggles were greatly intensified because I checked God at the door each day. I would pray to God in the morning and then go about my day as if He didn’t exist. Thankfully, God does exist, whether I am aware of Him or not. My super-busy life, combined with my pride, blinded me to the reality that God is ever-present and always active, not just when I happen to remember Him. In my blindness, I am the one who clumsily shoves God out of the way and hijacks His plan for me.
Fortunately, our God never stops trying to get us back on track, no matter how many times we hijack Him. Be sure to take time throughout your busy day to lift your head up and become aware of how God is always pursing you and guiding you back to His plan. Like the Energizer Bunny, He never stops!
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. – Ephesians 2:10
It was the day my divorce was filed and I remember dropping to my knees and yelling out to God, “Make this madness stop!” I could not believe this was actually happening. No sooner had the words left my mouth when a feeling of extreme doubt filled me. Questions flooded my mind. What if there is no God? What if my Catholic faith is based on some charade? What if Christ is just some feel good story? Am I a fool for believing all of this? Where is the proof?
I knelt there feeling numb, not sure what to do. Praying was just too big a question mark at that moment. I continued to kneel, completely exhausted emotionally and physically. The last thirty days had been the month from hell. Then it hit me. I suddenly became very aware of my family: my kids, my parents, and my brothers and sisters. I thought of my three beautiful girls and how their faces radiated innocence and goodness. What a gift they are to me! I thought about my amazing parents who were always so available to help and encourage me. I thought of my brothers and sisters who surrounded me with their love by calling to check in on me often and, just as often, dropping everything to pitch in.
In the flash of awareness, I realized that God was in and among them. He was making Himself visible in the love of my kids and family! It was as if God was telling me, “I am right here surrounding you with love and care through your family—through the people who love you the most.” This made a huge impact on me. It opened my eyes to how God was quite clearly—and visibly—working in my life. It was living proof of His reality and love for me. Let the love of those that care about you the most be all the proof you need that God is real and He surrounds you with His love, always.
“I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.” – John 17:26
“Two years ago, did you ever imagine you would be running a marathon in Paris, France?” I asked Linda, a recent participant in our Recovering from Divorce program. Her face lit up and with a big smile, she said, “Not in my wildest dreams! I didn’t even start running until after my divorce.” I believed her. Something that seemed impossible just two years ago was about to happen. Her head was still spinning from trying to grasp this new, amazing reality.
Linda, like most people, was struggling mightily after her divorce with the emotional pain and uncertainty. To her, the future seemed bleak. So, what was the cause for her miraculous transformation? It’s more straightforward than you might think: Linda had experienced Christ’s healing power that comes from living the Catholic faith. It didn’t happen overnight; however, the more fully she lived her faith the more she was transformed. Christ has a plan of abundant life for each of us. The pain of divorce had blinded Linda to that truth. Once she embraced her faith, Christ was able to heal her and lead her back to the path He had planned for her all along—a plan of abundant hope and joy. Now, her future is bright and filled with optimism and endless possibilities. The same can happen to you. Embrace your Catholic faith and claim the abundant life Christ has planned for you!
“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10
After my divorce I was carrying a very heavy cross. Surprisingly, what made my cross so heavy was not the usual challenges of being a single parent, financial uncertainty, or dealing with a difficult ex. I certainly had my share of these challenges. What turned my cross from wood to lead was my difficulties with living a chaste life. I clearly knew the Church taught that I must not be sexually intimate, but I struggled mightily with the temptation. No matter how hard I tried, I always seemed to fail. Each failure drove me into confession where I would emerge with a renewed conviction. Sometimes it would only be a few days before I would fail again and find myself right back in confession. The cycle continued and my cross got heavier and heavier.
One day I realized I had to make a decision. Either I was going to live what the Church taught, or I would have to leave the Church. Something had to give. To make matters worse, I knew that if I really was going to live the Church’s teaching, I feared my cross would get heavier still. It was already so heavy I could not imagine taking on the tremendous burden of faithfully living a chaste life. The weight literally drove me to my knees. In the most heart-wrenching prayer, I gave my leaden cross to Christ. I could not take it anymore. I told Him the only way I could continue to carry my cross was if He helped me. What I didn’t realize then was at that moment I died to Christ. My will died to His. Jesus was now able to come into my heart and give me a new life. A life centered on His will instead of mine. Suddenly, my cross became much, much lighter. I was not carrying it alone anymore. Christ was walking with me, helping me. It made all the difference!
Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” – Luke 9:23-24
During this solemn season of Lent, it comforts me to unite my sufferings with Christ. I draw close to Him as we commiserate on The Agony:
I throw myself down at the feet of Our Father with anxiety erupting within my heart over the circumstances that brought me to this desperate place. I replay the hurtful events that led to this pain. I am anxious about what is going to happen in my life and whether I will have the strength to bear the future. I ask God to make it all stop! Then I see Jesus, relating to me. He looks at me with tender love and compassion and tells me that he knows just how I feel. For he fell to his knees in the garden, anxiety-ridden by the totality of sin that brought him to this place. He sees the hurtful, hateful, devastating sin that has brought him to this place in time. The reality of what was going to happen to him was overwhelming and he wondered if he would have the strength to bear it all. He asked that this cup pass him by, but consented to the will of his Father.
I sometimes wonder why it seems so easy for my friends and family to carry on with their predictable lives when mine is spinning out of control. Sometimes I feel let down by people that I used to call my friends. It is so hard to bear this indifference. Then, with that all-knowing glance he turns to me and says, “Yes, I know.” My best friends could not even stay awake while I was undergoing such immense anxiety. They claimed to be right there with me, yet acted so indifferently to my pain.
Then I remember the people who have helped me along the way; the ones who dropped off dinner for my family, offered to pick up the kids from school, called out of the blue to see how I was doing and insisted that we meet for coffee. I call them my “Angels”. Jesus smiles and I know he is about to remind me of the comfort he received in the Garden of Gethsemane from the angels sent by God. I realize that God has sent me my angels too. He has been with me all along. He remains with me for as long as I must bear my Agony and he will not fall asleep.
I am grateful for my friend Jesus, who knows me so well. Who, in his infinite Mercy for me, suffered in such a way as to bring me comfort in my deepest sorrow.
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. – Hebrews 4:15
If Jesus were to send you a written Valentine, it would probably say something like this:
I know the pain you have been through, I experienced it when they were beating me.
I know the loneliness you are feeling, I experienced it when everyone abandoned me when I was arrested.
I know your feeling of betrayal, I experienced it when Judas sold me out.
I know your tremendous sense of loss, I experienced it when I was hanging on the cross.
I also know you; you have had a special place in my heart since before you were born.
I want you to be my Valentine.
I will never leave.
I will always love.
I am pursing your heart everyday.
I promise to treat it with the utmost care.
I know right now it may be bruised, maybe even broken.
I am here to hold you, to heal you, to remind you that you are unconditionally loved.
Make me your first love and I will make every day Valentine’s Day for you.
Your Forever Valentine,
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” – John 15:9
In general, we don’t like change. Change equals risk, and people tend to be risk averse. It comes from our basic survival instincts. When we lived in caves, change could mean not finding any food, or worse still, stumbling upon some wild animal and becoming their food. (Yikes!) We seem to equate change with being wrong. As a result, our inherent nature is to avoid change.
Jesus is the largest change agent the world has ever known. He challenged the people of his day to change, and they didn’t like it—not one bit. His admonitions to change from their old ways to a new way—a way based on love—made them very uncomfortable. His call to change continues to rumble through our lives, and it makes us just as uncomfortable as the people of His day. Where is He calling you to change? Could it be to be more patient with your kids? How about showing more kindness to your former spouse? To live your Catholic faith more completely? Maybe a deeper trust in Him for your future? Whatever is most uncomfortable is likely the area He is nudging you to change the most. Wherever that is, He will not set you up to fail. You can bet He will shower His graces upon you to succeed. And that’s a risk well worth taking!
“Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.” – Mark 2:22
Divorce always sounds like the word “divide” to me. I am no Latin expert, but my guess is they both have the same root word. Sadly, divorce is a time marked by division. Much of what you love and cherish has been lopped off. You tend to be consumed with fighting to keep what is yours: your home, your money, your kids, and your self-respect. It is easy to focus on what you have lost.
Your true freedom comes from stepping back from the trials of life and focusing on your faith, the love of your family, your education, your ability to give and love, and your purpose. These are all things that no one, and nothing, can take away—not even divorce. Take a moment and reflect on these blessings; blessings rooted in God, not this world. Let this fill you with confidence that you were made for so much more than this world can provide—or take away.
For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace. – 1 Peter 2:19
Recently, I saw pictures of snowflakes that had been with a highly magnified. I was absolutely blown-away by the uniqueness and beauty of these images! Each snowflake was way too intricate and detailed to be created by some random act of nature. Clearly, the Creator’s hand was at work to create a magnificent work of art in each snowflake.
If God does that with each and every snowflake, think how much more incredible and perfect He has made you! You are the pinnacle of His creation, created for a unique purpose that only you can fulfill. Live that purpose well and you will adorn His creation with a life that celebrates His Truth and Majesty.
God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27