When I was 22 years old, my 23-year-old friend invited me to attend a women’s small group Bible study. Walking into the room that first night, I quickly realized that my friend and I were the youngest—by well over twenty years. Every other woman sitting at that table landed somewhere between the ages of 45 and 75.
My hesitation played out in my head. I don’t know these women. I wasn’t expecting them to be so much older than me. Will they think I’m stupid? What if we have nothing to talk about?
As we met week after week, my initial hesitation transformed into delight. These women, having so many more years under their belts than I had, were a gift.
Sitting at their feet, I got to hear about the struggles and joys of their marriages and process the choices of their adult children. I listened to the stories of their joys and their tragedies, their good choices and the ones they wished they could change. I saw how Scripture hit their hearts differently at different stages of life. And they did not think that I was stupid. I was also a gift to them, offering them the fresh perspective and energy that accompanied me in my youth.The experience was incredible―nothing less than transformative.
It is natural to stick with women our own age. Why? Because we are going through the same things. When we sit with women who are in our current state of life, we can process our day to day struggles with women going through it too. When we sit in a group of women from our generation, we laugh at the same jokes, reminisce about the same cultural references, and make connections over similar joys and struggles. This is a very good thing, and we should lean on women who resemble us in age and state of life. However, if we only invest in relationships with women who are in our same generation, we are greatly missing out.
In the book of Judges, Joshua, a great Israelite, dies. Because Joshua was faithful to God, he was chosen to be the successor to Moses and lead the Israelites into the promised land. Over the course of his life, he honored God, leading the Israelites with courage and virtue. Judges 2:7–8 says, “And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work which the Lord had done for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of one hundred and ten years.”
So what happened in the wake of Joshua’s death?
Judges 2:10 reveals that “there arose another generation after them, who did not know the Lord or the work which he had done for Israel.”
This is why fellowship across generations is so important. Joshua was part of an incredible generation. His generation was alive during the Israelites’ wanderings in the desert. They witnessed the incredible, unspeakable miracles of God. They had experienced the benefits of obeying God and the dysfunction that followed their disobedience. They were also the generation that took hold of the promised land. Each of them had an incredible story to tell of God’s goodness. Yet, for some reason, there was a disconnect. Those stories did not get passed down. The young and the old did not sit together. As a result, an entire generation of people rose up not knowing God or how He works.
As I survey our current cultural climate, I submit to you that we are in a similar situation. We no longer spend significant time with each other across generations, and we are suffering because of it. And so while I encourage you to enjoy relating to women your own age, I challenge you to form relationships with women who are from a different generation than you, older or younger.
You may be reading this knowing that there is more life behind you than there is ahead of you. I have spoken to women like you who look at the young women at their parish and express how they feel like they have nothing to offer. This could not be further from the truth. Friend, your story is important and needs to be told. You have a wisdom that only comes with age. Young women need to know that their state of life will not last forever, and may not be the hardest. They need to hear about your sufferings and regrets, as well as your joys and your hopes for the future. Please do not discount yourself. Your story may be the light that guides a younger woman into peace and telling it to a younger ear may bring a new kind of healing to you as well.
You may be reading this knowing that there is more life ahead of you than behind you. Sit and listen to older women. Become their friend and hear their story but recognize that you have something invaluable to offer to them. You have a fresh spirit to offer. If you are willing to sit with someone who is older and share your life with them, you may very well soften a heart that has been hardened by unkind years. In you, older women see hope. They see that life might not be as bad as it looks on the news. Your energy is contagious, and your stories may bring up fond memories for them. When you reach out to a woman who is older, you may be the one who brings her out of loneliness and into communion. Do not discount what you can offer to someone who is ahead of you in life. Step out and be the one who reminds her that her story still matters.
Scripture repeatedly speaks to both young and old. Psalm 71:18 says, “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come.” 1 Timothy 4:12 tells us, “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Each of us has something to offer another generation. Let us not keep it to ourselves. Rather, let us step out across generations, so we may be encouraged into our old age and each generation rises up knowing the glory of God.
“We’ve got a ‘Code Adam,’” the manager said discreetly into his walkie talkie. Immediately, the name-tagged employees from around the store looked up and mobilized like it was their daily training drill. The manager continued, speaking calmly, “An 11-year-old boy with glasses and a gray shirt.” He looked at me and said, “Ma’am, please head to the exit and keep an eye out for your son there. We’ll search inside.” He looked concerned but determined and something about his authority persuaded me to obey his request.
I stood at the exit feeling helpless with a pit in my stomach, my heart racing, and no sign of my son. I had already scoured the store looking for my son before asking for help. Had I waited too long? As the adrenaline kicked in, all I could pray was Jesus, find my son.
After what seemed like 20 minutes, the manager approached me and smiled saying, “We found him.” As we went back inside, he whispered, “Do you want to know where he was?” He grinned. “Picking out a Squishmallow in the toy section. He didn’t even realize he was separated from you. Kids, am I right?”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I hugged my son and kept repeating “thank you” to the manager, who simply replied, “It’s no problem, ma’am. It’s my job.”
My son had not left with a stranger, thank God. He had just wandered off from me in search of something more interesting than the produce section—the largest stuffed animal he could find.
As we walked out of the store, I glanced at my phone. I had called my husband immediately after approaching the manager for help, and it had only been two and a half minutes since then. Only 150 seconds.
On the way home, as I began to calm down, I wanted to call everyone I knew and share my joy with them. That feeling of relief and joy reminded me of the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:6: “And, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’”
Did you know Luke chapter 15 contains three separate parables in which Jesus describes His particular concern for those who are lost and God’s love for the repentant sinner?
Jesus wasn’t referring to lost kids in grocery stores in these parables; He was talking about people who have turned away from God. We have all been the lost ones in need of rescue in these parables at one time or another. But when we are the ones who are seeking and hoping for the return of a loved one, it can be a uniquely heart-wrenching experience.
Maybe your loved one has inadvertently slipped away from God, not realizing how lost they are, like my son in Costco. Or maybe your loved one has freely chosen to turn their back on God, and it doesn’t seem like they will change their mind any time soon. Either way, those of us left seeking can feel helpless while we wait for what seems like an eternity for them to return.
If this is where you are today, sister, I want you to remember that this is why Jesus came. He told us so in Luke 19:10: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
It’s HIS job to seek and save. Like the store manager who was prepared for that moment when I walked up to him and told him my son was lost, Jesus lives to seek and bring back His children who have wandered off. If the earth is a giant Costco, then Jesus is the manager.
Remember these truths today if you are longing for the return of someone you love:
In his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the life breath of all mortal flesh (Job 12:10).
Jesus knows the heart of every person, and no one can take your loved one from His hand.
The lost I will search out, the strays I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, and the sick I will heal (Ezekiel 34:16).
Jesus knows where lost sheep tend to go. He never stops seeking them and calling them back to Himself, even if we don’t see it.
With the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day (2 Peter 3:8).
His time is not our time. What seems like twenty minutes is only 150 seconds.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7).
Yes, I believe Jesus answers our prayers to find our lost loved ones—we should never stop praying for this. I think the question we should also be asking Him is, “What would you have me do, Lord?” Jesus knows how we can be most helpful in the search, and His answer to that prayer may surprise you.
Perhaps the hardest lesson I learned from this experience is that the manager knew how to look for my son more quickly and effectively than I did, his own mother. Going to the exit is not what I had in mind; although in hindsight, it makes perfect sense. In a similar way, Jesus knows how we can be most helpful in bringing our lost loved ones back to Him. Have you asked Him what He would have you do?
Pray this prayer with me today:
Lord, You know my heart. You know how desperately I want ____ to be reunited with You. Help me to trust and believe that You never stop seeking him/her. Enlighten me as to how I can be most helpful in bringing ____ back to You. Jesus, guide my words, actions, and prayers so that I may remain steadfast and in union with You, the Good Shepherd. Amen.
With you on the journey,
“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things.” —Kurt Vonnegut
I framed this quote for my kitchen wall years ago, during a season when it felt like much of my day was spent doing inconsequential, little tasks. I needed this reminder whether I was continually washing a child’s dirty hands and face, picking up toys that were only going to get taken out again, or doing laundry with no end to the pile. Those days with littles are in the rear view mirror for me now, but my life is still full of little things: listening to an older loved one repeat stories I’d heard before, trying to respond with patience when someone is going slowly in front of me, and picking up the phone to listen to an aching heart instead of letting it go to voicemail. Then and now, I’ve always felt the temptation to rush forward toward “tasks that matter,” things that I can measure, accomplishments that make me feel productive. And God’s still small voice tells me to slow down, pay attention, and savor.
“But,” I remind the Lord, “You Yourself have a big and bold mission! Revelation 7:9 tells us that You are in the process of gathering together a multitude of people—a group so great that no man can number it, from every tribe, nation, people and tongue. And then You’ve invited us into that mission, to ‘go therefore and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19). ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few’ (Luke 10:2). So don’t I need to get going and do something that has far-reaching impact?!”
It is true that we worship and serve a big God who has a big vision for His people. Yet, despite the grandeur of His overarching plan for mankind, God has a remarkable love for the small. In fact, in God’s economy, it’s often the smallest of things that have the most significance in His eyes. In Matthew 6:4 we see that God notices us during small moments. It says that our Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward us. Jesus lauded the generosity of the widow’s mite—a tiny financial donation by worldly standards (Mark 12:41–44). And Jesus modeled and encouraged taking time to be with children (Matthew 19:13–15).
Yet I must admit, I often have trouble sharing God’s love for the small. When things start to feel small, I am prone to complain. I can wonder if my efforts are worth it. I feel hemmed in. Discontentment grows in my heart.
If you relate, perhaps you’ll be encouraged by the word of the prophet Zechariah in Zechariah 4. He spoke to his people who were captivated by a big vision, and it was a God-given vision to rebuild the temple. God didn’t tell them not to dream and not to work toward that goal, but He said this:
Do not despise the day of small things.
Zechariah was speaking to people who were returning from exile and were rebuilding the temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel. But these were people who could remember Solomon’s temple, and what they were building seemed so sad and small by comparison. They had dreams of former glory, but their dreams were dying in the day of small things.
They were weeping, but God was not. He had big plans for His people, but He valued the small steps that would bring that vision about. The fact that the progress was slow wasn’t a sign of His displeasure. God was with them, God had rescued them, and God’s plans were going to prosper, but there were going to be many “days of small things” along the way.
The Israelites wanted to see the glory of the temple restored, but the true temple was to be the incarnate body of Jesus. That miracle wasn’t to come for over 400 years. Our big God was patient enough to endure centuries of small days. His kingdom (which will one day cover the earth) did not begin big. It began with a baby in Mary’s womb and spread to twelve uneducated men. And then the world began to change, one heart at a time. Slow, but real, transformation.
The application for us is clear. While we might long for opportunities to serve that are worthy of a social media post, a platform, or at least a little attention, God longs for us to be content with faithful obedience in the small things. And if we will do these small things right away and with the right attitude, we’ll find that all these acts of obedience cumulate and ultimately change who we are. This allows us to leave a faith-filled legacy in our wake.
We can dream big and pray big and work for the big, and at the same time, remain faithful and content while devoting ourselves to what is small and hidden. Each little act of love matters. The day of big things is coming, but until then, we are not to neglect the day of small things.
Zechariah’s words again ring true: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). Our human efforts alone can never produce the day of big things, but if we invite God to work through our small offerings, His purposes will prevail. Big things will come. In the meantime, He asks us to be faithful, one small step at a time.
With you on the journey,
Does the importance of a family decrease when children start to leave the home?
Is a homemaker still needed when the laundry pile is small, “chauffeuring” duties are done, and there are fewer places to set at the table?
Does an “empty nest” signal it’s time for a mother to reinvent herself?
These are some of the questions I have been musing over as Leo and I fly home after visiting our adult children on the other side of the country.
Our boys are living full and independent lives—one married, one single. This could lead me to conclude that the days when I am needed are over and that my role is to recede into the background. And to some degree, that is true. They don’t need me telling them what to wear, when to shave, or that they need to put on some sunscreen. But I still have a role to play in their lives. The home I create in Florida is still to be an oasis for all, and my heart can be a home that my family travels to whenever needed.
The Catechism tells us that the family is the original cell of society (CCC 2207). But this doesn’t mean that a family is like a basic building block where one unit can serve as well as another. Each family is unique, and all are strengthened when the family affirms that each member (whether the mother, father, brother, or sister) is a distinct and unrepeatable person, imbued with dignity. When family members see themselves in this way, they are better able to fulfill their mission of being “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). A Catholic family has a mission to spread the warmth, hope, and peace of Christ into the communities that they are a part of. Saint John Paul II summed up this truth with the words, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.” This mission doesn’t end when children leave home.
Most people navigate fear, confusion, worry, and hopelessness on a daily basis. They exist in a world that values them in relation to their productivity. Far from being seen as irreplaceable people of dignity, they are expected to fit into a framework which leaves no room for God and sets a very high bar for success and significance. Even at the end of the day, true rest and restoration is elusive. Many return home just to dash out to evening activities (there’s still more to achieve and accomplish) or to numb out in front of a screen.
Our homes are meant to be sanctuaries in the midst of the world—to be life-giving alternatives to a sterile way of existing. Our families are called to be the church in miniature, a place of welcome and healing. If we could grasp this vision and reorient ourselves around it, I believe we would find that the need for this kind of a homemaker would never diminish. We’d quickly discover that there is always someone who longs to be invited into this kind of environment.
I recently watched a video about the transcendental of beauty by philosopher Roger Scruton. In it, he describes two different kinds of beauty. The first is grand and perfect. You know it when you see or hear it. It’s the rose windows in Chartres Cathedral, the face of the Blessed Mother in Michelangelo’s La Pietà, and Andrea Bocelli’s tenor voice. There’s a harmony and a perfection. The second kind of beauty is the type that matters most in our homes. It’s the everyday kind of beauty—the ordinary beauty. We express it in the way we garden, cook, set the table, and fluff the pillows. The reason this beauty is important is because it’s the way we cultivate an environment where things and people fit together, creating an atmosphere that restores. Although this beauty lies all around us, Scruton notes that we need eyes to see it and hearts to feel it. But the most ordinary event can be made something beautiful when people see into the heart of things.
Scruton considers this kind of beauty as an instrument of peace. It creates a sense of home. It’s an imperfect beauty, but nonetheless, it settles us. It’s not the beauty of a perfectly clean house, a designer interior, or an updated color scheme. It’s the beauty of a space that’s become a haven for all who enter. It’s a place that has been cultivated by a committed woman who has made it her mission to create an atmosphere of warmth and welcome. She has prepared for each person’s homecoming (whether a family member or not) by focusing on each person’s unique dignity and unrepeatability. When we think of home in this way, it’s clear that the significance of a homemaker’s role continues throughout the decades.
Author Leila Lawson writes, “A lot of homemaking consists of being ready for those times when someone needs you—and it’s hard to justify this way of using time to a world that measures productivity in equal units and output.” The world is pulsing, action-oriented, and distracted, rewarding the self-centered. But if we have chosen to center our lives on God, we no longer need to justify the way we use our time to anyone other than Him. He invites you to measure your days by how you love, not by what you produce. And loving well means being available.
Your heart and home can be a sanctuary. Just being available is a tremendous gift you can offer to those you love. An empty nest is not a signal that you need to reinvent yourself. Those in our care will always need a shelter—a place to come home to where they don’t need to produce something to be considered worthy, where they are received as the gifts that they are.
Perhaps, as Dostoevsky claimed, beauty really can save the world. What might change if more women responded to this high calling to cultivate this kind of home?
With you on the journey,
 “Why Beauty Matters” by Roger Scruton, https://vimeo.com/128428182, accessed April 4, 2022.
 Leila Lawson, The Summa Domestica (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2021), 208.
Recently, I opened my youngest son’s school folder to find an envelope addressed to him. I told him about it, and he excitedly rushed over to open it. And when he did, the biggest smile erupted on his face. It was an invitation to his friend’s birthday party. In the midst of COVID, the birthday party invite was one of a thousand things that we had to forego. My 7-year-old son has not been able to celebrate his own, his cousins’, or his friends’ birthdays together for more than 2 years, so this invitation was special. It was obvious that my son felt eager and excited for this party.
Tomorrow, we celebrate Ash Wednesday. On this day, we enter into a season of deep reflection and prayer. Our heavenly Father invites us on a 40-day journey into the desert. He invites us to be part of the crowd during a procession of palms and Hosannas. He desires our presence at a very special dinner and an evening garden gathering. And don’t forget, He invites us to play a part in a dramatic, yet real-life Passion play. The last place He wishes for us to visit is an empty tomb on an early Sunday morning. Will you be there? Please RSVP—ASAP.
Will you accept this invitation as eagerly and with as much joy as my 7-year-old accepted his birthday party invitation?
We often don’t think of entering into the Lenten season eagerly and with joy, do we? I know what you are thinking: Lent = sacrifice and fasting. And none of that necessarily equals joy. Or does it?
Today, I want to encourage you to accept this invitation extended by the Church and our heavenly Father WITH EAGERNESS AND JOY.
This Lenten invitation is gifted to us right in the middle of Ordinary Time in order to remind us that our Christian call is to be extra-ordinary. I don’t know about you, but I need the reminder right about now. In the middle of our ordinary lives, the Church, through the season of Lent, invites us to go deeper into the desert with Jesus. But we must remember, Jesus was not alone in the desert. Encountering Jesus there gives us the opportunity to become attuned and aware of who the other—very real—player is: the enemy of our souls. And the enemy would like nothing more than to distract us from our time with the Lord and lure us to join him for a succulent feast, tempting us with all of our favorite worldly desires, material goods, and pleasures.
The enemy tempted Jesus in the desert in three specific ways. He invited our Lord to do what FEELS right instead of what IS right, to question our heavenly Father’s love, and to desire His own glory over the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:3–10).
I bet we don’t even have to think too hard to realize the temptations the enemy used with Jesus are ones that we are all too familiar with ourselves. How many of us, in the words of St. Paul, “do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:19)? I know I have some bad habits that I just can’t seem to kick. Or I kick them for a time, but then slowly, when I’m tired, stressed, or frustrated, those habits start reappearing. How many of us hold onto the shame of a past sin—one that we’ve received absolution for but continue to beat ourselves up about? How many of us get caught up in envy or jealousy when we see another person garner attention or acknowledgement for something we desire? Each of these situations can lead us down the road to sin, and none of them result in joy.
Good thing the Bible didn’t end there in the desert. With each temptation offered, Jesus battled the enemy back with Scripture, “the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). And the devil left Him.
Sister, the invitation into the desert with Jesus is to remind us who has won. Jesus didn’t just win the battle in the desert—He won the war on the cross! Lent reminds us that He fought for us then, and He fights for us now. Can we allow this truth to spark in us a desire to enter eagerly into Lent, into the desert of our spirits? It is in this season of Lent, in the desert with Jesus, that we are given the opportunity to discern how the enemy tempts us, to identify his plays against us. We are given the opportunity to learn how we respond to those temptations, and where we need Jesus the most.
Here’s a hint: if we aren’t responding to the enemy with Scripture, as modeled by Jesus, then let this season be the time to change that. When we stop the enemy in His tracks with the truth of Scripture, he has no other play.
Sister, we have the blessing of knowledge on our side. We know what extraordinary events occur at the end of these 40 days. We know what happens the week after we read the Passion at Mass. We know that when Mary Magdalene and the other women approached the tomb of Jesus, the stone had been rolled away, and an angel greeted them and said Jesus was not there “for He has been risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:6). What joy and eagerness the women must have felt as they set out to tell the other followers of Jesus! What joy and eagerness Jesus must have felt to be able to meet with His friends and His mother again, to reassure their doubts, to settle their fears, to forgive them and embolden them.
Let’s allow what we already know and who we know to penetrate our hearts. We know Jesus rose from the dead. We don’t have to wait until Easter Sunday to allow that joy to fill our hearts. We can choose to live joyfully through this Lenten season knowing the desert is not the end, knowing the cross is not the end.
Sister, this Lent, let us confidently accept the invitation of this season without reluctance or hesitation. Let’s resolve to be joyful in our discernment of what to abstain from each day or which spiritual book or devotion to begin. Let us choose to fill our hearts with a sense of extraordinary eagerness to return to confession, to ask for forgiveness, or to mend a fractured relationship.
And let us remember our Lord's words to His disciples and to us: “I have told you all these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Take heart, sister. He has won. Let’s celebrate the victory by having an extraordinary Lent. Let us RSVP to Lent—to Jesus—ASAP and with joy in our hearts.
Your sister in Christ,
I can’t tell you how many friends wrote that in my high school yearbook. Never change. Could you imagine if I never changed? Since 1988? I don’t know about you, but if I never changed, there’s a good chance I’d be dead. Or still wearing shoulder pads.
In the past week, I have had multiple close friends comment on a change they see in me. A good change. A deep soul change. Praise the Lord for friends who aren’t afraid to call out spiritual progress. All too often we don’t recognize our own transformation unless someone points it out. But this change? This is one that I am, and continue to become, acutely aware of.
The people I am closest to don’t just see the change, they understand it. As for those who don’t know me as well, I am not so sure they understand. To protect us all from repeating conversations I was never present for (remember Sirach 19:7–9), let’s just say that the people are wondering, Where did Laura go? And not just where, but why?
It’s a fair question. Let me explain.
When COVID hit hard and the world shut down, I was already suffering my own personal pandemic. What felt like an endless doggie paddle through the raging waters of mental illness and addiction, I was already exhausted by years of treading in place before we were forced to shelter in place. I know I am not alone. I know that many of us were in the midst of fighting our own battles, only to be told to stand still. Put it on hold. Stop paddling. Stay where you are.
The problem with not paddling? You drown.
As I watched everything close its doors—doors to things that we had worked so hard to open—the church closing was the final straw. And please do not mistake this post for a debate on whether this response from the church was right or wrong. I do not have the emotional bandwidth for that discussion, and more importantly, to veer off the point here would be unfortunate. This is not about right or wrong, safe or unsafe. This is about my total reliance on God and my need for the sacraments. The Eucharist is my strength, my sanity, my food, my oxygen, my therapy, my everything. It is what keeps me afloat when sinking to the bottom looks like a far better option. And so, when the church doors closed, I did what I knew I needed to do to keep my head above water. To be a good wife and mother. To continue to bear my share of hardship for the gospel (2 Timothy 2:3). I found a church with open doors.
That’s where I went. And that’s where I have stayed.
Because, when I walked through those doors, what I found was not only the most beautiful, reverent Mass, but also a holy presence that stilled my soul and silenced the storm in my mind. At a time when the world was spinning out of fear, chaos, and confusion, the Traditional Latin Mass offered a peace and security that transcended all understanding (Philippians 4:7). So caught up in its beauty, I found that participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was not so much about me anymore but about Him. When we read that God works all things for good (Romans 8:28), this right here would be a most appropriate example. What aimed to take me down by keeping me from the sacraments, the Lord has used for me to experience them even greater; to experience Him deeper. No longer treading in my desperation, I found myself swimming in His grace.
And it has come with a cost.
Imagine going from a leader in your parish to nobody knowing who the heck you are. Imagine that one day you are co-coordinating your church’s most vibrant ministry, and the next, you are settling quietly in the back pew, hidden by your veil. And then, imagine how the enemy delights in playing with your mind when word gets back to you that the people are talking. The people are wondering, Where did she go? Does she think that she is holier than thou? Now, I am not going to lie. I would love to be holier than you. In fact, I desire to be as holy as I possibly can be! And you should too. But that’s not why you do not see me anymore. In fact, it was never about you.
I went to where I was unknown by others so as to be convinced that I am known by God.
And this is the spiritual journey, is it not? A sign of maturing faith. Nobody grows by staying the same. Yes, I have embarked on a new stretch of pavement, but make no mistake, the road I travel is the same, for its destination is eternal glory. If you crave a deeper faith—and you should—don't plan on staying comfortable. Jesus didn't command you to pick up your electric blanket and follow the crowd to Starbucks. He asks that you pick up your cross and follow Him. Not everyone will understand why you do what you do. And that is okay. Since when did being a believer require that everything makes sense? At the center of our faith is total Mystery. If you ask me, understanding is overrated. Blind obedience is where it’s at.
The Lord has been doing a new thing in my life. He has been making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:19). And I am utterly amazed by His faithfulness. True, He never changes (Hebrews 13:8), but praise God, I do. So do not be afraid, my friend, when the Lord calls you to something new. If He closes a door on you, rest assured, He will open another. You just need a little more courage than fear to walk on through.
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,
This is the time when we all start to think about what we wish we hadn’t eaten over the holidays and other ways we’d like to improve ourselves. Two currents of thought run through our minds. One stream bubbles with excitement over a new challenge. But discouragement flows in the other one, because try as we might, bad habits are hard to kick. Swimming in the discouraging stream leads to self-loathing and negative self-talk. The result? We remain stuck.
God doesn’t want us to be stuck in self-destructive habits. He has not only laid out a plan for healthy human flourishing, He’s given us what we need to live accordingly. In 2 Peter 1:4, Saint Peter writes that because of Jesus, we have “become partakers of the divine nature.” This is the opposite of being stuck with an unaided, flawed human nature. The study notes in my Bible explain that becoming partakers of the divine nature is “a strong expression to describe the transformation of human nature by divine grace.” But how does this happen? And does the Incarnation have anything to do with the transformation we are longing for?
To answer that question, I turned to Saint Athanasius and his little book, On the Incarnation. In it, he asks if it had to be God the Son who became incarnate. Could it not just as well have been God the Father? He then answers his own question, saying that it had to be God the Son, and the reason for that is found in John 1:1–3: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made.”
Jesus, the Word of the Father, the Word of God, made the world—everything and everyone in it. Man was given a nature full of grace, immortality, and a paradise to live in. But we know the story. Man threw away this birthright of beauty, and death and corruption entered the world.
The result was that things became worse and worse. Man’s sin surpassed all limits. It went from bad to worse. This is the truth of what human nature is like without God, as opposed to a utopian view of the world that thinks that if we can just get the right laws, the right political party in power, the right systems, then everything is going to be good again. We are always looking for something to fix this problem of man’s capacity for evil, our insatiable appetite for devising new kinds of sins, but we want the solution to be anything but God. We see this clearly during this current cultural moment. But it’s nothing new. This has always been the case.
The solution is not to be found in human systems, institutions, politics, or policies. God has always known that we don’t hold the solution in ourselves. And in His goodness, He wasn’t content to sit back and watch us flounder. Athanasius writes, “Man, who was made in God’s image…was disappearing, and the work of God was being undone.” God wasn’t going to let His creation and His children be ruined.
What would God choose to do? We find the answer in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”
God decided that the Word who had brought creation into being was to come into that very creation, take on a human body, and re-create it all. The One who made it would restore and renew it. Not from a distance, but from within.
In some sense, the Word of God has never been far from His creation, because He fills all things that are—as we see in Ephesians 1:23, “the fullness of him fills all in all.” This has always been the case. But with the Incarnation, “He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us.”
He looked at the tremendous amount of suffering we endure.
He looked at His daughters, so desiring to change what was sinful in them, but falling into the same bad habits time and time again.
He looked at our dashed dreams.
He looked at the death of our loved ones.
He looked at the tension and disappointment between spouses who had committed to love each other forever.
He looked at the exhaustion of his people who are just trying so very hard and feel they will never be able to keep up.
He looked at the way disease attacks the bodies of His beloved and wreaks destruction.
He looked at children making self-destructive choices as their parents helplessly looked on.
God decided that He wasn’t going to just toss us some platitudes or good advice in the face of heartache and the corruption of the good. He was going to step down and come into the very midst of that mess and heartache. He became incarnate so that “neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).
The message—the miracle—of the Incarnation, is that the Word of God has not only come to earth, He has come inside of you. He is with you in your suffering. You are never alone. But that’s not all. He has made you a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). He is in you, just waiting for you to invite Him to recreate you, to renew you, to transform you so that you become just like Him.
Where are you placing your hope at the start of 2022? Are you counting on the gym membership, new organizational principles, or sheer grit to bring desired change? May this be the year when the reality sinks in that the hope of glory is Christ in you. “The secret is simply this: Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you bringing with him the hope of all glorious things to come.”
With you on the journey,
 Commentary on 2 Peter 1:4 from The Great Adventure Catholic Bible (Ascension Press).
 Saint Athanasius, On The Incarnation, 17.
 Athanasius, 19.
 Athanasius, 21.
 Colossians 1:27, J.B. Phillips Translation
The best way to spend the final week before Christmas is making a solo 1,370 mile drive with two dogs in the backseat. At least this is what I told myself when I set out to create an unforgettable Christmas experience for my family. I didn’t factor in the relationship my puppy wanted to develop with the dog staying across the hall at the hotel. She “talked” to our neighbor all night long, which contributed to a delightful sleeping experience along the way.
The thing is, I can justify almost any complication of an event if I am certain that making “it” happen will bring guaranteed delight to my kids. And everyone knows that puppies make Christmas extra magical. The way I have approached the holiday season (if I’m honest, it’s the way I approach my life) is to figure out what is possible. Can I somehow make it happen through grit, hard work, and perseverance? Then the juice is worth the squeeze! Until it isn’t.
I don’t know how you are approaching these final days before Christmas, but I would guess that most of you are starting to feel a little panicky over the things you have left to do, and as a result, you’ve got a creeping sense that you are going to be disappointed by the end result. Which just might be motivating you to run even faster and try even harder. At least that’s the way I have lived for decades.
But I am trying to make a change, and although I still justified the drive with the dogs, I can see some glimmers of transformation. Instead of asking myself, “Is this possible? Can I somehow make this happen?” I am asking myself, “What’s the simplest option here?” I am growing in my appreciation for the simple, and it’s not just because I’ve read Marie Kondo’s book. It’s the result of realizing that nothing satisfies me like a quiet and still heart. I’ve learned that in order to encounter the Lord, everything in my life needs to slow down. It’s not about getting everything done and then giving myself permission to stop. I need to set a goal of doing less, so I can create space for Him.
When there’s a little space, I have the chance to ponder what I’m going to offer Jesus as a gift for His birthday. Typically, I offer Him a nicely decorated house, bulging Christmas stockings, loads of food, and Christmas presents spilling over the floor in front of the tree. But when I stop to think about it, none of these things are for Him. They are for my family. And while I know Jesus feels loved when I love well, I am kidding myself when I ignore the fact that any thoughts of Him are pretty far away when I’m doing all of that prep.
What gifts were given to Jesus when He came to earth and was born in a manger? It was simply the gift of people’s presence. In the midst of the mess of the stable, the noises of the animals, and the emotions that accompany things when they don’t go according to plan, Mary and Joseph let the rest of the world fade away and just welcomed their baby. Their hands were empty, which meant there was room for Him.
Instead of patting myself on the back when I can present Jesus with a picture-perfect Christmas, I have come to see the value in offering Him a calmed and quieted soul (Psalm 131:1). Instead of feeling like I need to come with all my to-do’s wrapped up in my hands, I’ve learned that the gift He likes best is my empty hands, upturned in humble worship.
Padre Pio has been ministering to me these months with these words,
Live simply. Eat simply. Love one another simply. Do not complicate matters unnecessarily. How do you live simply? You remove activities that are not necessary or that pull you away from duty…Apostles of Jesus Christ must set an example of service and obedience but not hectic service. There should be calm and if there is not calm in your life, change your life and keep changing it until you find calm.
There is still time to do what matters most this Christmas season. I’m not talking about the gifts, the cookies, the decorations, or the parties. What matters most is finding a pocket of calm, emptying your hands, and upturning them to offer thanks. A humble thank you to the God of the universe because He stepped into our mess as Emmanuel, God with us. Take a deep breath, my friends. Your peaceful presence is more important than the perfect present. That’s what is remembered most.
So offer Jesus your empty, upturned hands this Christmas. There’s no better gift.
With you on the journey,
What are the final thoughts that usually run through your mind when you try to fall asleep? Do you review a litany of unaccomplished tasks, mentally moving them onto tomorrow’s list? Are you thinking with dread of all that’s going to be required of you tomorrow? Do you feel regret over the way you have treated certain people who matter to you?
Almost every night, most of us can think of many things we wish we could have done that are being left unfinished. We can’t always fit in a little bit more. A life well lived is made up of days when the things that are most important are done first and many good things remain undone. As Stephen R. Covey wisely wrote, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Our big rocks are our priorities. But how do we figure out what should be the most important thing?
I don’t believe that a single one of us wants to waste his or her life. We want our lives to count. We read Jesus’ words in Mark 8:36, “For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” Or in other words, what does it do for you if you gain the whole world but end up losing your soul? We don’t want to come to the end of our lives having pursued the wrong things.
The world is constantly communicating its priorities to you. You are to prioritize having a perfect body, having as much money as you can, having an HGTV perfect house, and making a name for yourself with your accomplishments. You should be able to present your life in such a way that it lays out beautifully on Instagram—providing a feed worth following.
But is that a life that is truly satisfying? Even if you were to gain all those things that the world says matters most, is it possible that you could lose your soul—who you truly are—in the process?
What kind of a life do you want to build?
If you want to build a life where you love well…
if you want to build a life that feels simpler…
then I’d like to invite you on a journey.
My newest Bible study, Ordering Your Priorities: Building a Life Well Lived, is where that journey begins.
Ordering Your Priorities lays a foundation that helps women focus on the things that matter most. Diving into the pages of Scripture, we’ll connect our modern-day challenges with the changeless truths of our faith. If we want to live lives of purpose and meaning, we have to start in the right place. We need to begin by paying attention to the One who made us, because He is the one who can best tell us what we need for our lives to run well.
My prayer for you and me is that we would apply the principles contained in Ordering Your Priorities and create a life well lived. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” That is what we are pursuing here.
Join us on a journey to build a simpler life where you love well. Your transformation is just around the corner!
 Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill, First Things First (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 161.
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