When was the last time you could not fall asleep because you were worried about the future? Was it last night or sometime this week? What are you worried about?
The older I get and the more I hear your stories as I meet you when I travel, the more I understand. To be a woman almost certainly means to worry deeply about the future. And if you are one of the few who cannot relate, count yourself among the lucky.
Allow me to illustrate precisely what I am talking about:
You are thinking about how much you like your job, and then suddenly, you convince yourself that you will eventually lose it. Before you know it, you are planning how you will make due for your family with no income and no hope.
You are staring at your sleeping baby in pure, unadulterated joy. In a flash, you find yourself spiraling as you consider all the ways that one of you could die.
As you stay up late worrying about your adult children, you are consumed with regret of all the ways you think you have failed. Things did not turn out the way you had hoped for them and your heart aches as you wonder if they will ever achieve the happiness you so desire for them.
You turn on the news, and before you know it, you are consumed with fear about the future of society. What will you do when there is no food left and society resembles a scene from the Hunger Games?
Whatever it is, we often allow anxiety about the unknown to consume us. It is a disordered expression of our love, and it leaves us incapable of embracing the joy that God wants to give us. Instead, we tepidly welcome life’s joyful moments—holding them at arm’s length and always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Now, I am not writing this post to tell you that you should never worry. Worry, when properly handled, can be helpful to our well being. I recently read an article titled, "How to Worry Better," that explained worry’s usefulness. “When it comes to worry, that function is pretty clear: It draws our attention to the fact that there’s something we maybe should be doing or preparing for or preventing, and it gives us the motivation to do something about that.”
And yet, 85 percent of the things we worry about will never happen. Yes, 85 percent! Ladies, we lose so many hours of sleep. We miss so many moments because we are stuck in our heads, afraid of things that will most likely never happen.
Some of us struggle with anxiety that can only be helped through counseling and medication. But many of us do not struggle with a clinical type of anxiety—we have convinced ourselves that this is just the way we are.
Today, I want you to know that you can find freedom. You do not have to live in bondage to the cycle of anxious thoughts, worrying over things that most likely will not happen. The Lord calls you to let His peace control your heart (Colossians 3:15). I get that this can be hard. Life can be brutal. And yet, even if it begins incrementally, you can have peace. Instead of focusing on what could happen, God invites you to focus on what did happen. Let the reality of His victory shape the way you handle the unknown.
Colossians 2:15 says, “He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in [the cross].”
St. Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians, who were pagans before they accepted Jesus. They worshiped these powers, or in Greek, stoicheia, a word that means “transcendent powers that are in control over events in this world.”
These transcendent powers were not kind. They sought to enslave and control men. Today, we recognize them as “Satan and all his evil spirits who prowl around the world seeking the ruin of souls.”
In verse 15, St. Paul said that Jesus “triumphed” over these spirits. This phrase would have evoked the well-known image of a Roman general who had won a major victory. To spread the news of the victory over all the land, the general marched his victorious army through many villages, dragging members of the defeated army behind them.
Fr. John Riccardo described a depiction of one of Julius Caesar’s triumph parades in his book Rescued: “The whole Roman Empire was in the streets to greet their victorious hero, a long line of captives behind him. At the very end of the line was a cage with a man in it—naked and chained, with a sign above his head that read, 'This is the one who used to threaten and tyrannize us. He won’t do that anymore.'”
So what does this have to do with our anxiety about the future? When you find yourself unable to stop worrying, remember that Jesus has won a complete victory over the enemy who has brought so much misery onto this world. Your life is not in the hands of one who wants to harm you but One who will protect you. And although tragedy is inevitable, your God wants you to remember that your life is “hidden with Christ" (Colossians 3:3). He has given you His complete protection. He has promised you that you will never walk alone no matter what you walk through. Your Savior has stripped the evil one of his power. You are not in his control, so do not let him deceive you into giving him power that does not belong to him.
If you are struggling with anxiety about the future, be encouraged. Have peace. Your life is hidden with Christ.
Recently, I opened the book Jesus I Trust in You: A 30-Day Personal Retreat with the Litany of Trust by Sr. Faustina Maria Pia. In the introduction, she said that in her prayer, she heard Jesus asking her to “Trust in me, not in your circumstances.” Why? Because Jesus is worthy of your trust, and whether you can see it or not, He is with you in your circumstances. Cast your anxieties on Him, for He has won the victory, and now He offers you His peace.
 Pawlowski, “How to Worry Better,” NBCnews.com, NBC, accessed May 3, 2022, https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/praise-worry-why-fretting-can-be-good-you-ncna757016
 Pawlowski, “How to Worry Better,” NBCnews.com, NBC, accessed May 3, 2022, https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/praise-worry-why-fretting-can-be-good-you-ncna757016
 Bible Tools. https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/topical.show/RTD/cgg/ID/1627/Stoicheion.htm
 Prayer to St. Michael
 Fr. John Riccardo. Rescued (Maryland, The Word Among Us:2020) p. 121
 Sr. Faustina Maria Pia, Jesus I Trust in You: A 30-Day Personal Retreat with the Litany of Trust, p. 2
It was the year 2000, and we had a good plan. A plan that involved leaving our New York City apartment and heading out west. Despite our friend's warnings, selfish ambition got the best of us. “We will be back in a year,” we promised our loved ones, “when we have enough money to live comfortably.” And so we said goodbye to everything and everyone that we knew and loved in pursuit of success at all costs.
The future was ours to create. Or so we believed.
Living one year in sunny California turned into ten years stuck in Los Angeles. The money, status, and comfort we left our family for were replaced with bankruptcy, stress, and regret. Turns out, we were not the masters of our fate. So much for the good plan.
The great irony is that 22 years later I look back on that season and would give my right arm to relive just one of those days. As I prepare for one daughter’s 21st birthday and another’s high school graduation, suddenly the Scripture verse that warns me that I am “a puff of smoke that appears for a little time and then vanishes” sounds like the obnoxious ticking of the world’s most insensitive time bomb. I want my four small kids back. I want that tiny one-bedroom apartment. I want to drag my family’s dirty clothes to the laundromat with kids in tow, cover every corner of the kitchen table with glitter and glue, and go on an “adventure walk,” which really was just picking up snails on our way to add quarters to our laundry card.
It was a hard season. So why do I long for it?
Turns out that my struggling life—the one I was so eager to get ahead of—was a deliberately crafted garland of ordinary moments strung together by the wisdom of God. Knowing the confident pride I am prone to fall into when planning my future, He gifted me with four little sanctifiers and a husband who made barely enough money to cover rent just so I’d keep tethered to the better part. All those years when I dreamed of where I thought I ought to be, I was, in fact, exactly where He needed me to be: witnessing Christ to others in the little places and messy spaces we called home.
Oh, sweet friends…do not buy into the lie that you belong somewhere else.
Do not believe for a minute that you are replaceable, not enough, or incomplete.
The season you are in is not God’s mistake, oversight, or His just killing time.
And if the glitter drives you crazy, have no fear. It, too, will disappear.
The older I get the better I understand that God has a divine plan. What looked like obstacles to my living a good, secure life (four small kids, no babysitter, a tiny apartment, and a disappointing paycheck) were opportunities to depend on God’s grace, mercy, and will in every moment. Our good plan was never going to bear us lasting fruit; not only because we were living in the confidence of ourselves, but because, spoiler alert, man’s plans are always tentative.
If you’re struggling with the season you are in, here’s a fun fact:
the season you are in is the only season you are guaranteed.
The opportunities of today may not be available tomorrow.
So, stop worrying about the future, and who you think you need to become, and be present to the woman you are right now. Be her. I am more than confident that someone in your life really loves and needs her. Not tomorrow. But today.
We read in the Letter of James, “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, for him it is sin.”
I am not denying the value of a sound plan, nor am I calling you evil for having a future vision. Sometimes a future vision is the only thing that gets us out of bed. However, Scripture makes it very clear that our lives, fragile and temporary, are not to be focused on tomorrow. We cannot predict the future, we do not live forever, and nothing we plan is permanent. The only thing secure is today.
I don’t know where you are right now, but I can tell you where I am. I’m living in the present moment; choosing to love God in my every move and serve Him where He has placed me—not where I am striving to place myself. You know, back in the day, I would have cooked, cleaned, wiped noses and kitchen counters, and grumbled to myself, “What is my life?” It can be difficult to see Jesus in the ordinary, and yet, dare I say, it’s His favorite place to be.
The season you are in might not be where you want to be, but it is where God needs you to be. Today, for as long as it lasts, is always a good place to be. So open your eyes to today, my friend. If you’re lucky, you will not only see Jesus, but you may also catch the sparkle of glitter from a long time ago—hidden but present in the messy places and spaces of this temporary home.
 James 4:14 (NAB)
 James 4:14–17 (RSV)
Since childhood, I’ve been inspired by an incredible woman of faith named Elisabeth Elliot. Elisabeth was widowed with a ten-month-old daughter when her husband was savagely speared by members of a violent Amazonian tribe. Jim had gone to Ecuador to share the gospel, but the mission ended tragically. One might have excused Elisabeth if she wallowed in self-pity or raged against God for taking her husband when he was only trying to do good. But instead of doing any of these things, Elisabeth gathered her daughter, her Bible, a snakebite kit, and tremendous courage, and moved to the very place where her husband had died. She was determined to offer a hand of forgiveness and friendship to the very people who had killed the one she loved most, and many of them came to faith in Christ as a result.
So when Elisabeth Elliot talks about suffering, I listen.
In her book, A Path Through Suffering, she writes:
Each time God gives us a hard lesson He desires also to give us Himself. If we open our hands to receive the lesson we open our hearts to receive Him, and with Himself His vision to see the glory in the surrender…
He stands ready today to supply us with His wisdom to understand what He wants to teach, and His strength to carry through, for He never allows us to undergo anything for which He has not promised the strength to endure. His commands are always accompanied by power to obey. The Everlasting Arms are always underneath us, the everlasting love always surrounds us.
But difficult circumstances don’t automatically make us saints. It isn’t the circumstances themselves that do the shaping. It’s our cooperation. When life throws us a curveball, we have a choice about how we’re going to receive it. We can choose to become bitter, to be filled with self-pity, and to dwell on our doubts. We might begin to ask questions like, “Where was God in this situation?” “Why didn’t He intervene by giving me the answer I wanted?” “Doesn’t He love me?” “Isn’t He powerful enough to do anything about it?” The choice is set before us. We can water the seeds of doubt by focusing on our circumstances. Or we can focus on the fact that somewhere in the midst of the current state of affairs is an opportunity to be transformed.
When we are going through trials—little ones or big ones—deaths of a sort, and experiences of brokenness, it’s important to remember that Jesus understands suffering from experience. Jesus entered into what appeared to be meaningless suffering. This means He is never indifferent to what you are enduring. He sees all the little and big deaths that you experience. And He stands ready to bring new life in those places that feel desolate.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote of that process of transformation: “This word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Arise and go down to the potter’s house; there you will hear my word. I [Jeremiah] went down to the potter’s house and there he was, working at the wheel. Whenever the vessel of clay he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making another vessel of whatever sort he pleased…Can I not do to you as this potter has done? Indeed, like the clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand” (Jeremiah 18:1–6).
These are the verses that get me through hardship. In difficult times, I don’t want to experience what I am going through. I want to escape. But these verses stop me before I give in to bitterness or numb out. They remind me that I have a choice. I can offer myself to God as clay to a potter. I can say to Him, “In this particular set of undesired circumstances, I give you permission to shape me—to mold me—to transform me, because I want to experience a better eternity. I want to become the woman you created me to be. And if a death of sorts is required for new life to be born in me, I accept it. I say yes. I say, Jesus, I trust in You.”
When the potter sees a bubble or a defect in the pot, he has to press the clay back onto the wheel and reshape the pot. But all the while, he is making it into something of great beauty. So here is the question: can we trust God that when He asks us to experience something that is hard, He promises to use it to mold us into vessels that are filled with His Spirit? May we never forget—He can turn brokenness into blessing and beauty.
After enduring twenty years of imprisonment, confinement, and hard labor in the Gulag of the Soviet Union, Walter J. Ciszek, S.J. wrote a phenomenal book called He Leadeth Me. In it, he wrote, “God’s will was not hidden somewhere ‘out there’ in the situations in which I found myself; the situations themselves were His will for me. What He wanted was for me to accept these situations as from His hands, to let go of the reins and place myself entirely at His disposal.”
Perhaps you feel hemmed in by your circumstances. You feel stuck. You wonder if things will ever change. The enemy wants you to keep your focus on all those thoughts. But the Lord invites you to raise your eyes and gain a higher perspective. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).
What if the peace we so long for is on the other side of surrender?
With you on the journey,
 Elisabeth Elliot, A Path Through Suffering (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell Publishing, 1990), 87.
 Walter J. Ciszek SJ, He Leadeth Me (New York, NY: Random House, 1973), 81.
Are you wrestling with a decision you need to make, and aren’t sure what you should do? Do you wish the right choice was obvious, but instead feel that each of your options look equally viable?
In James 1:8, we are warned against being double-minded. This means having two opposing views in your mind at the same time. Some people call it cognitive dissonance. What results is inconsistency, vacillation, acting one way today and a different way tomorrow, and having trouble making a decision and sticking with it. No one wants to live like that, but too many of us do. Here are some tips for decision making, and a prayer that will invite God into the process.
1. Get in touch with your deepest longings.
Identify what drains you and what energizes you. Make a list of each. This will help you grow in awareness of what you truly desire and separate it out from others’ expectations of you. Once you’ve made your list, check that your desires, if they came to fruition, would pass the death bed test. In the end, will you consider this thing to be important? Are you choosing a project over people? Accomplishment over relationship? Also note whether or not the things you have listed reflect what God desires most for you. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be happy, but God wants you to pursue the holiness that will provide you with eternal, not just temporal, happiness.
Do those longings pass those two tests? Then look at the decision you face in light of those desires. Which decision leads you closer to those longings becoming your reality?
2. Follow the traffic signal.
Picture a traffic signal with three circles: green, yellow, and red. Now imagine that the red circle is the Word of God. Does the red light come on when you think of making a certain decision? Has the Word of God actually already given you an answer? Don’t move forward if God has already said no in Scripture. No red light? Continue to the next circle.
The yellow circle is godly advice. The key word is godly. As you discuss the decision you face with loved ones, pay attention to the life choices being made by the person you are talking to. Is this person pursuing God? Does this person understand God’s desire that you be holy? Don’t just talk to people who tell you what you want to hear. Seek the advice of people who are spiritually mature and love you enough to speak truthfully. Their yellow light might tell you to slow down. But if they give you a go ahead, move onto the next circle.
The green circle is the feeling in your gut. Over-thinking and over-analysis can be paralyzing. Our fear of failure can prevent us from taking necessary risks. Ask God to help you discern the difference between nervousness (which often accompanies a good decision) and true unrest in your spirit, which is your own life-earned wisdom letting you know you are moving in the wrong direction. Imagine yourself having made the decision. Walk around for a day imagining that was the direction you went. How does it feel?
3. Learn from St. Ignatius of Loyola.
We want to make all our decisions prayerfully. We’re crazy to charge ahead without consulting the One who hung the stars, sees the long-term view with total clarity, and loves us like no other. St. Ignatius of Loyola talks about the importance of praying for confirmation once you’ve made a decision. This prayer takes place before the action of the decision. St. Ignatius also discourages making decisions when you are in a period of spiritual desolation. When everything around you feels hopeless and dark, this is not a good time for change. When that’s your reality, St. Ignatius advises that you make no new decisions. That you wait. The desolation will pass, and clarity will return.
To help you invite God into your decision making, I wrote the Litany of Decision Making. I hope it gives words to the thoughts and feelings swimming in your heart and mind, and carries you down the road to clarity and peace.
With you on the journey,
My resolve to stick to my new year’s resolutions is so strong first thing in the morning. I’m like Wonder Woman with all her gear on, ready to take on the world. But as hours on the clock keep ticking, my self-control decreases. At 7 am, I recall that wine used to taste like cough syrup to me, but by 7 pm, I’m convinced a cold glass of chardonnay is the reward I deserve for my day’s work. I hate it when I break the promises I’ve made to myself to both be better and do better. I want my grit and resolve to be enough, but I have found that if I want to become a saint, I need something more.
Can you relate? Remember your determination and commitment to change at the start of the new year? Is it beginning to wane a bit? If that’s where you are today, you are not alone. But I encourage you, don’t give up. Don’t settle for a word of the year if what God is really calling you to is intentional growth in holiness.
In our desire to be all that we can be for Christ, we sometimes forget all the resources at our disposal. We set out to do things in our own strength, find it’s not enough, so lower the bar. We justify mediocrity when God is calling us to heroic virtue. Because after all, it’s never too hard to find someone far more messed up than we are. And isn’t the point to be authentic?
Ummm… Authenticity isn’t actually the goal. It’s a means to an end. It’s the first step toward admitting that we need help. But God doesn’t want us to stop there. He wants us to get up, reach out for His aid, and get moving.
You were not meant to figure out the Christian life all by yourself. God’s message is not “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” He wants to be invited into the struggle. When we do this, everything changes. Far from leaving us with unrealistic expectations, God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3). God has placed His own Spirit within us to give us power (Acts 1:8), make us holy (2 Thessalonians 2:13), and recreate and renew us (Titus 3:5).
One of the greatest weapons we have at our disposal in the battle for holiness is the rosary. Are you longing for an outpouring of God’s grace? Could you use a fresh jolt of the Holy Spirit’s power? Then I challenge you to download the Walking with Purpose Meditations for the Sorrowful Mysteries and pray them regularly. These are the prayers I wrote and prayed with you all on our Rosary Call for Personal Holiness, and you can pray along with the video recording as well. I invite you to join the Blessed Mother and boldly go before the throne of grace, asking the Holy Spirit to transform you from within.
When God’s children ask Him for help to grow more like Jesus, God always answers. St. Paul wrote that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Prayer is the key to unlocking that promise. It’s the game changer—the thing that takes our good resolve and grit and infuses them with supernatural grace. It’s what we need if we want to change.
With you on the journey,
It’s Advent. My favorite time of year. Every morning in December, I get to wake up before the entire house and pray by a Christmas tree. It’s glorious. For four weeks, I get to meditate on the mystery of God becoming man, and I love it. I love it because I love God, I love Christmas trees, and I love history. And while all of these things make me feel good, I rarely allow these delightful moments to transform the way I live.
Advent is a season for preparation. During this time, we prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming, but that preparation should not only affect our hearts and minds. The work we allow God to do in us during Advent should leave a mark that makes us different during the rest of the year. But how? How should praying through old prophecies and thinking about Jesus’ being born in a manger change us? It should change us because, when we meditate on them, they tether us to reality, and when we live in reality, we will live more joyful and ordered lives.
Frank Sheed, a Catholic theologian, said in his book, Theology and Sanity, “Seeing what the Church sees means seeing what is there.” When we see the world as it really is and interact with it how it actually works, our behavior harmonizes with truth, which brings on peace and guards against anxiety.
The issue is that this is easier said than done. It is not easy to live grounded in reality because we are surrounded by illusion. Our society is a marketing machine that is constantly telling us what should make us happy, sad, or afraid. It sends the message that life is about our comfort, our preferences, and our happiness at the cost of humility and sacrifice. If we do not deliberately hold on to the truth, we will eventually live as though the world revolves around us—even if we don’t believe it in our hearts. Meditating on God’s promises during Advent can break us out of the cultural narrative because it draws us out of our daily grind and into the broader story of God’s faithfulness throughout history. It reminds us of our role in the story.
One of these promises does just that. These words remind us of who God is and who we are in His plan of salvation: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them, light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy” (Isaiah 9:2–3).
Notice where the people are. They are in darkness. Notice that it doesn’t say, “The people in darkness have themselves walked out of the darkness and into the light.” No, the people were pretty helpless, and it was while they were still in darkness, the Light began to shine. The hero in the story is God, the Light, that saved the people. The people themselves did very little. They may have responded to the Light, but it was God who did all of the work.
Dear sister, this Advent season, as I pray through Isaiah 9, I am declaring over and over again that the world does not revolve around me. I am not the point of the story; God is. I don’t believe it in my heart, but I often live as though I am the center of the universe. How do I know? Because I am easily inconvenienced and offended. I’m also quick to believe that I am pretty amazing, and if others don’t verbally recognize my greatness, I am overcome with discouragement.
What about you? I bet that you know that the world does not revolve around you, but how do you live? What are your knee-jerk reactions? Examine your thought life. What do you think other people owe you? Answer these questions, and you will quickly find out whether you act as though life is about you or God.
During these weeks of Advent, if you let Him, God will gently but boldly put you back into your place. He will remind you of what is real—that all of history is about His goodness. We are the ones in the darkness, and He is the light. We needed a savior, and He did the saving. He is meant to be served and glorified, not us.
The season of Advent is ultimately about freedom. God became a man to set us free from sin, and in doing so, saved us from ourselves. He is the center of everything. When we live our lives according to this truth, wonder becomes attainable and joy becomes common. We become free of the burden that comes from trying to be the star on a stage that was never meant to be ours in the first place.
So, as we approach Christmas, let this season change you. Let it change how you respond when others upset you or fail to notice you. Let it free you from the tyranny of self-love so that your life reflects the reality that it is all about the One who is Love itself.
Come Lord Jesus, set us free from ourselves so all that is left is love of you.
 Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity (Ignatius Press: 1993), 22
Are you feeling depleted—like you’re running on fumes and you still have a hill to climb? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to be infused with exactly what you need for the week ahead? These questions remind me of a recent visit to my son in Los Angeles. We were strolling through the streets of Santa Monica and happened upon a shop where they were giving people drip IVs for fatigue, hangovers, migraines, and colds. The sign in the window promised that these super-doses of vitamins and minerals would get right into your bloodstream for immediate impact. Walk-ins were welcome, and if you bought four shots, you got one free. I’m not endorsing this therapy, nor did I try it, but I must admit, I found the concept intriguing. It sounded like instant relief.
But even if there was something I could safely and instantly take that would boost my energy, it still wouldn’t get to the root of what I desire most. What I really long for is connection—connection to God and to other people. Isolation, we have all discovered, does not make us feel better long term. It’s one thing to have a few hours of solitude with a good book and a great cup of coffee. It’s quite another to feel like you are doing life alone and there’s no one to give you a hand when the road gets rough. I want deep, authentic friendship with people who are running their race with their eyes on Christ. I agree with Ecclesiastes 4:9–10, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.”
Another thing that I long for is to see some improvement in areas of my life where I struggle with habits I hate. St. Paul writes about this in Romans 7:15: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Can you relate?
Do you want to quit eating so much sugar but you crave the pleasure it promises?
Do you want to drink less but find that you keep faltering in your resolve because you think you need it to relax/have fun/loosen up?
Do you long to be more hope-filled and positive but find that your words and attitudes are as negative as a newsfeed?
Do you want to follow Christ and obey Him but find yourself in the familiar rut of the same old sins, over and over again?
Maybe you, like me, have made yourself all sorts of promises, have set goals time and time again, only to find that old patterns of behavior die hard. Something I know beyond a doubt, one of the reasons I fail is because I try to do things on my own. I want an injection of everything I need so I don’t have to rely on anyone. Self-sufficiency sounds strong and appealing. But God asks me to lean on Him and others. He invites me on a journey where I’ll need to reach out for help instead of turning to self-reliance.
Do you want to grow spiritually but you feel stuck?
Are you longing for friendship, acceptance, meaning, and a weekly shot in the arm?
Are you tired of running your race alone?
Do you want strength to get through your next week?
How about reassurance that you aren’t crazy for the way you look at the world from a Christian perspective?
If you are longing for these things, I wonder how you are attempting to satisfy those desires. One thing I know for sure, there is nothing like a regular gathering of a small group of like-minded women to make all the difference in the world.
I’m not talking about a group known for its uniformity, rather its unity. I’m not talking about a group of women who are holier than you. I’m describing a group of friends who are on a spiritual journey together, women who have taken off their masks and are honest about the difficulties of life. It’s a judgment free zone—a safe place to share a part of your soul with women who understand. It’s relaxing to be able to talk about your faith and who you really are.
If you are not connected to a Walking with Purpose small group, I want you to prayerfully consider why not. It could very well be that THIS is exactly what you need—this is what would be the game-changer for you. Better than an IV drip full of vitamins. Better than a workout class. Better than a boozy mom’s group. There is support out there. You don’t need to figure your life out on your own. We are here to help you connect to God and sisters in Christ so that you are infused with true, lasting wellness.
Click here to see if there’s a WWP group near you.
No group near you? Could it be that God is tapping on your shoulder, asking you to be the connector, the instigator, the one to gather just a few women who are longing for the same thing as you? Click here to see how we can help.
With you on the journey,
I have been doing this thing for years where I spend way too much time looking at myself in the mirror. I lean over the counter and get up real close, taking my face in my hands and stretching my skin back, while calling out to my husband, “Look! See? Look at how much better I look without all of those wrinkles!” He doesn’t quite see me the same way. In fact, he thinks I look creepy with my face pulled back. What does he know anyway?
The aging struggle is real, my friend. And no, you can’t give it up for Lent.
Last week, after an emotionally draining weekend, I found myself staring back at my own reflection while running on the treadmill. Usually, I am good at tearing apart what I see. A face that has gotten way too thin. (Seriously. If it gets any thinner, both eyes will be on one side of my head like a flounder.) Grey hairs sticking straight up out of my scalp. (Why straight up, Lord?) And don’t get me started on the sagging breasts. It’s terrible that I speak this way of myself. It is actually a sin and makes God so sad. I am His beautiful creation. A masterpiece. Even if I look like a flounder.
But this time something different happened. Last week, as I ran and reflected on the arena I was thrown into and how, despite years of the battle, I am still standing, my reflection told me a different story. In fact...that just might be IT in a nutshell.
I didn't see me. I saw A STORY.
A beautiful, fierce, and strong story. A life that despite tragedy and trauma still glorifies God.
Why on earth am I just seeing this now?
The Psalmist begs, “Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; and give me life in your ways” (Psalm 119:37).
Tell me, friend. Do you turn your eyes from looking at vanities?
I have spent years ignoring this verse and focusing on every imperfection instead. Staring at everything that is wrong and failing to be grateful for so much that is right. I have been scrolling through Instagram boxes that are filled with plump faces and toned bodies, longing for my youthful, fuller face. You know, the face I had in my youth that I thought was too full. Can we say never content?
But it was while I was running and thinking about the hard places God has called me to—the hard place I am currently standing in and the uncertainty of a future I have tried to control—that the scales fell from my eyes, and I heard a question being asked of me.
What if the lines on your face that you so badly want to erase are your roadmap to heaven?
The wrinkles of worry and fear that glide across my forehead, the deep crevices of sorrow and despair that circle my mouth, the fine lines that shoot out from my eyes like rays of light: these are not signs of OLD age. These are signs of BOLD age. These tell the story of who I am, and where I have been. These are a warrior's markings, honoring the mountain tops I have rested on, the deep valleys I have completely crumbled in, and every place in between. Like the black ink on a child's bedroom wall that charts his growth, these are my growth chartings. They are quite literally my life lines. And right there on that stupid treadmill, for the first time in my life, I loved them. I was proud of them. And I was honored to wear them.
I got on the treadmill believing I had been beaten down by life and that it showed; that I was worn out by my circumstances and that it showed. But listen up. Suffering has not handed me a worn out life, but gifted me with a life well worn. And sure, I can erase them all. I can get fillers and Botox and a really good moisturizer and wipe away my life. But why? Why would I do that? Why would I take away the visible reminder of what I have endured? Why would I hide the signs of my suffering so well?
When it is my time to go home, I want every nook and cranny of my face to speak for me; to tell the beautiful story of surrender and sacrifice and hope against hope. The story of standing strong in the battle and weathering the storm because of a house built on rock. The beautiful tale of a warrior girl who met Jesus at the foot of the cross and knew there was no safer place to be.
During Lent, I will have the privilege of co-leading live discussions on two Walking with Purpose Bible studies: Fearless and Free (with Kristy Malik) and Harmony (with Sarah Swafford). Over the past two weeks, I have started to pray through the studies and want to share with you what it has been bringing up in my heart.
Before I started, I was giddy at the thought of the prayer time I would get. I could not wait to dive into God’s Word and spend more time with Him than my busy life typically allows. As an eternal optimist, I literally pictured myself walking with the wind of the Holy Spirit next to a stream in a meadow during springtime. My expectations were far beyond reality, as usual. For starters, it’s winter and I don’t live near a meadow, but more importantly, the glories of sainthood are still far off. Only two lessons into each study, my brokenness is rearing its ugly head, and I am trying harder than usual to hide it from God.
It’s not that I’m necessarily embarrassed to let God see my failures. I know that God sees the darkness in my heart, and He loves me anyway. My desire to hide comes from the fact these are still my failures. There is no doubt that God’s goodness and mercy have completely changed my life. My behavior looks different today than it did when I was living away from Him. But it’s the deep-seated stuff, the heart-issue sins, that I can’t seem to overcome completely. How is it that I have been on fire for God for so many years and still struggle with jealousy, gossip, pride, comparison, vanity, and a whole host of other sins? How is it that the freedom and joy that I know is mine through Christ still feels slightly beyond my grasp?
I wonder if you have looked in the mirror lately and found yourself frustrated that you are not further along in your spiritual journey. Have you walked into the confessional ashamed that you are confessing the same sins? Or avoiding the confessional altogether? Are you finding it difficult to understand why you haven’t overcome your vices when you really love Jesus? Take heart, friend. You and I are further along than we think.
You may feel stagnant in your walk with Christ, like you are constantly taking two steps toward God and one step back, but His view of things is different. St. Paul reminds us in Philippians 1:6 that, “He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Even if you can’t see it or feel it, God promises us that He will bring our transformation to completion. This is a promise that we can claim even if some of that transformation is completed in purgatory.
Can we actively make better choices? We can, and we should. Should we take every thought captive to Christ and seek therapy when necessary? Absolutely. Should we put in the work to love God with all our heart, mind, body, and soul at every moment of our lives? You bet. There is no doubt that our personal choices actively move us toward or away from the kind of life God wants us to live, but the deep transformation, eradicating sin at the core of our being, is a work that we cannot accomplish.
John Mark Comer, a Christian author, spoke of this struggle in his own life in a recent interview. He explained that he comes from four generations of hyper-perfectionism and OCD, which manifests in him being a neat freak, controlling, angry, and critical of his wife and kids over a messy house. He then explained that willpower alone isn’t enough to eradicate that sin from his life—it is woven into his body at a cellular level from generations before. He said that he needs deep healing from the Holy Spirit; to be re-habituated through practices that index him toward love, peace, kindness, acceptance; and to rediscover what it’s like to live in a messy world yet be at peace.
While hiding sounds safe and trying harder seems like the natural solution, neither is helpful or effective. There is an easier, more effective way, but it requires humility, admission, submission, and patience.
To begin, we must not only admit our failures to Him, but we must recognize, without shame, that we are powerless to overcome them on our own. After we accept this, we have to submit to God. Most of us don’t like the idea of submitting to anything, but if we don’t, we won’t get anywhere. Submission requires us to overcome our pride, stay faithful, and give Him space to work in our hearts. We do this through prayer, silence, time in Scripture, and repentance. We rid ourselves of the constant distraction and consumption that often gets in the way of God’s work. We also have to leave behind the expectations that we place on ourselves and receive the healing He offers.
In the midst of all this, we must be patient with our progress. As we continue to walk with Him, He will do the work that sets us free. And when He does, we will be able to look back and see some progress. We will see that we are a bit freer, a bit more like Him. We will recognize how He was moving through those moments when we felt like we were getting nowhere. Then we can praise His name and give Him the glory because it was His power that overcame our weakness.
In a recent conversation with a friend, I confided in her my frustration with the sin that I cannot overcome. I told her how desperately I desire to live a life of total freedom in which I don’t let little things get to me, and I annoy the rest of this cynical world with a spirit of unbreakable joy. She responded by telling me that she was beginning to experience that type of freedom in her life. Some of the struggles over which she had no power had started to melt away, and she knew that she had nothing to do with it. She said that when she fears the struggles will return, she hears in prayer that the Lord has taken them away for good. He did the work, and the healing is permanent.
Encouraged by our conversation, I am refusing to hide. I am instead making an offering to God of these struggles that, yes, I still have. What are you doing with yours? Do not try to hide them. Do not try to ignore them or let them be the source of your shame. Give them to the Father; He is not surprised or scandalized that your struggles are still your struggles. He wants your holiness more than you do, and He is more patient than you are with yourself. He is walking beside you, finishing the work that He began.
 John Mark Comer. Interview with James Bryan Smith. Things Above, audio podcast, January 20, 2021. https://apprenticeinstitute.org/2021/01/20/conversation-with-john-mark-comer/.
At six o'clock this morning, I rolled out of bed and sleepily made my way to the coffee maker. I poured my coffee, as I do every day, and settled into my favorite chair. It was prayer time—my favorite time of day. As usual, I began to fall back asleep in the middle of my prayer. Instead of dreaming, however, my mind began to mull over a million tiny grievances that others have committed against me. I am not talking about deep-seated anger or long-harbored grudges, but rather, small annoyances that come from the dirty cup left out by my husband or the imperfectly worded text from a friend. It's these offenses that leave me thinking, "Doesn't he know that I like to wake up to a clean kitchen?" Or, "Doesn't she know that a quick phone call would have solved this problem?" By the end of my prayer time, before anyone else in my house is even awake, I am trying to work my way out of a bad mood. So much for holiness. I guess I'll try again tomorrow.
Can you relate? It's not that you are always mad or even seeking to hold an action against someone; it's just that you often think that someone else could have been more considerate or accommodating to your needs. If they had just tweaked their words or actions by the smallest degree, they would have met your expectations, and all would have been well. But they didn't, and now you are going through life experiencing low-grade grumpiness because of all the people who didn't meet your secret expectations and desires perfectly.
Dear sister, if this is you, there is no judgment. It is clearly me, too. We live in a culture that teaches us to be easily offended. Now, please don't misread this. I am not talking about the issues of justice and equity that ignite a passion in us all. That is not what this post is about. I am talking about small offenses. Most of us go from day to day slightly offended by the family member who said the wrong thing, the friend who forgot to call, the coworker that didn't communicate properly, and the rude coffee shop barista.
Why is it that every imperfect interaction has the power to pick and prod at our confidence and flare up our entitlement? Genesis 11 reveals to us the root of this problem. The people of the ancient world came together and said in Genesis 11:4, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered all over the earth." The Lord then saw the city and the tower. He got angry, confused their language, and scattered the people across the earth.
Where did the people go wrong? They came together and said, "Let us make a name for ourselves." In their effort to seek out the greatness of their own names, they turned their gaze away from God and His glory. They bought the lie that humanity is the center of the universe, and it is our glory that should be sought at all costs. They failed to see that it was God who gave them their place in life, and they turned their heads away from Him to focus on themselves. Their desires and expectations became the main focus. Romans 1:25 explains it this way: "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator."
Part of our problem is that we have the choice to make God the center of our universe (the truth) or make ourselves the center of the universe (the lie). When we place ourselves in the center, everything and everyone becomes subject to our preferences. When they are not met, it makes sense that we would be offended because we see our own preferences as the most important.
Luckily, in the very next chapter of Genesis, God shows us a better way to live. In Genesis 12, God revealed Himself and His plan to a young man named Abram. God told Abram, "I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great so that you will be a blessing" (Genesis 12:2).
Did you catch the difference? In Genesis 11, the people were out to make their own names great. In Genesis 12, God told Abram that He would make his name great. Abram received God's blessing, and he recognized that God is the center of the story, deserving of all the glory. Abram was part of the story, but he wasn’t the center. It is the same with us. We are part of God’s story—not the center of our own.
Who is the center of your universe, the star of your life? Many of us acknowledge God with our lips, but then live as though it is still all about us at the end of the day. It is not. It never was. Every single thing, even our own good, is ultimately about Him and His glory.
There would be a welcomed change in the state of our spirits and tone of our relationships if we moved out of the center and let go of our expectations. We would experience a fresh freedom if we stopped tending to our own greatness and reminded ourselves through unceasing prayer and radical generosity that God’s preference matters most. He will do what He wants with our hearts and our lives if we will only step aside, let go of offense, and join in with the saints and angels, whose unceasing focus is on the One who is worthy of all.
P.S. I loved leading our live discussions through Beholding His Glory and Beholding Your King on social media last summer and fall because both Bible studies focus on God as the center of history. Join Kristy Malik and me on Instagram and Facebook this Lent as we lead a live discussion on the Fearless and Free 6-Lesson Bible study (Thursday nights at 8 PM EST starting February 18). Our focus will be on God as the center of our hearts and how He leads us to healing and wholeness.
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