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.
I’m thrilled to have my friend Heather Khym guest blogging for us today! You’ve likely heard Heather on the Abiding Together podcast. Read on for a beautiful reminder about building our lives with Christ as the foundation. —Lisa
Last year we had the amazing experience of building a new house that we hope to be in for the rest of our lives. I’ve watched so many Chip and Joanna Gaines renovations, I felt like I was ready for my honorary design certificate and to get started on my own project. In the midst of my excitement, I underestimated how many important decisions needed to be made before we got to the fun design part. The most important of which was laying a strong foundation so we could have the security and confidence that it was going to last.
One night, a few months after we moved in, my husband woke to our alarm beeping because the power had gone off. On his way back to bed, he glanced outside and noticed there was a huge storm. The trees were bent over with the wind, our entry lantern was erratically swinging back and forth, and our neighbors were outside with flashlights because the storm had damaged their house. My friend later told me that she woke up with the sound of the wind hitting the windows so loud that she thought they were going to shatter. Do you know where I was? I was fast asleep. I didn’t hear a thing. Our house was so strong and insulated that it was completely unaffected by the severity of the storm outside. I was safe and cozy in my bed without a care in the world, because we had prepared for the storms before they even happened.
As a part of our preparation of the home, we had written scriptures all over the wood framing when it was being built. In the basement, I had written the scripture from Matthew 7:25: “The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.” It reminded me that building our home on a strong foundation is important, but building our life on a strong foundation—with the Word of God as our anchor—is vital.
We have all experienced suffering and trials throughout our lives, especially this last year. We have been overwhelmed with change, disappointments, sufferings, losses, and pain. On top of it all, leaders and institutions we trusted have also let us down. There is only one who has been and always is steady, secure, trustworthy, and safe: Jesus. He is the unchanging One, faithful and good, and He is strong. He truly is the only foundation that is firm and worth putting our hope in.
It’s so easy for our priorities to shift, and when they do, we have an opportunity to reestablish Jesus as our foundation. We can do this through recommitting our life to Him, through prayer, drawing close to Him through the Sacraments, and through His Word. In recent years, the Word of God has been my most crucial weapon against the tactics of the enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). It has been my daily reminder of where my hope comes from, of the goodness of God, of His plans for my life, and that He truly has won the battle against the enemy once and for all. It has also been the protection and power that I declare over the storms of life.
When we place our hope in anything other than Jesus, we will end up disappointed. When we build our life and place our hope in Him, we can rest easy that He is going to take care of us in the midst of our joys and sorrows. Of course a life built upon Jesus doesn’t mean the storms stop. Jesus clearly says in John 16:33, “I have told you 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.” A life built upon Jesus means that we are not alone in the trouble, and the One who is with us is bigger than the trouble. Not only is He strong, but He has the power to change trouble into something beautiful.
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Heather has more than 25 years of experience as an established evangelist and speaker. She attended Franciscan University of Steubenville where she studied theology and catechetics and met her husband, Jake. Currently, Heather speaks on a variety of topics, leads conferences, retreats, and women’s ministry, and has a successful podcast called Abiding Together. Her passion is evangelization, discipleship, and creating an environment for people to have a personal encounter with God. She lives in British Columbia with Jake and their three teenage children. Follow Heather on Facebook and Instagram.
Today is the memorial of Saint John Vianney, and I only had to read one line about the character of this saintly priest to become utterly and completely hooked:
“A man with vision overcomes obstacles and performs deeds that seem impossible.”
Personally? This is precisely both how I would most like to be remembered and how life currently feels: a woman with vision who performed deeds that seemed impossible.
Saint John Vianney, born in Dardilly, France, in 1786, had the desire to become a priest from a young age. But because of his meager formal schooling, he wasn’t exactly cut out for seminary studies. Apparently, Vianney was as good at Latin as I was at biology (fun fact: I failed biology). This, however, didn’t keep him from pursuing his dream. In fact, as his story goes, despite encountering one obstacle after the next, he pressed on, and so here we are today, celebrating his sainthood; recognizing his assistance to the poor, his fervent celebration of the Eucharist, and his incredible gift of leading parishioners to the Sacrament of Penance. As for me? Well, I didn’t pursue biology after the 8th grade. Not because I was a quitter, but because biology was never my dream. Nor was it God’s vision for me.
I wonder, sweet sisters…
Do you have a God-given vision you’ve given up on because you do not feel qualified?
Do you look around at what everyone else is doing, and worry that you don’t measure up?
Has God handed you a cross that you have been trying to hand back because you are convinced it is nothing more than an impossible obstacle keeping you from performing good works and deeds?
If you answered yes to any of these, listen up.
That vision you are unqualified for? That’s actually not for you to decide. Vision, by definition, is the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom. And the last time I checked, wisdom, along with common sense and understanding, comes from God (Proverbs 2:6-8)—our God whose hallmark is seeking out and calling the completely ill equipped and equipping them. Don’t believe me? Look at His apostles.
The worry you feel when you look around and are convinced that everyone and their mother is doing way more that matters than you ever could? That’s a lie. Saint John Vianney will tell you that “it is not the size and greatness of deeds which give them merit, but the pure intention with which they are undertaken.”
And how about that cross—that obstacle in your life that if God only removed, you’d be able to accomplish so much more for His Kingdom? Another lie. In fact, that obstacle is your invitation. These crosses we try so hard to lose? These, my friends, are our pathway to heaven. Resist the urge to kick your cross, and embrace it instead.
You might know all of this in your head, but do you believe it in your heart? I struggled, myself, with each of these lies for a long time. Despite knowing they were untrue, it was not until I put into practice two specific things that I began to live out of my true identity, feeling wholly capable to withstand any obstacle or battle I faced. Curious what they are? I’ll tell you: receiving the Eucharist as often as I can and frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
It took removing the sacraments from my life during quarantine to recognize how badly I needed them; how they are the exact remedy to all that ails me, and the necessary source of strength that keeps me persevering in the race. And it was in returning to these with new appreciation that I was able to see how dull and weary I had grown. It also became clear to me how delighted the enemy was at my inability to confess my sins to a priest or to receive the actual body and blood of Christ; how hard at work he was behind the scenes, doing all that he could to disturb, confuse, frighten, and frustrate me, all in the name of preventing me from approaching this fountain of grace.
On this memorial of Saint John Vianney, patron saint of priests, I am so grateful for the good and holy priests in this world who stand in the person of Christ and offer us all that we need: the hope, peace, strength, remedy, and redemption we long for. Let us pray today for all priests, especially our Walking with Purpose chaplains: Father Dave Sizemore, Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, Father John Hopkins, LC, and Father John Riccardo. Let us mirror the praise of Thomas A. Kempis when he writes, “How great and honorable is the office of priests, who have been empowered to consecrate with sacred words the Lord of all majesty, to bless Him with their lips, to hold Him in their hands, to receive Him with their mouth, and to administer Him to others!”
As we hurdle our impossible obstacles, fueled by the sacraments, may we never give up on our vision. And today, let us pray in a special way, through the intercession of the great Saint John Vianney, “a man on a journey, with his goal before him at all times.”
Saint John Vianney, pray for us!
With you on this journey,
 The Magnificat, August 2020, Vol.22, No.6, p.66
 Thomas A. Kempis, The Imitation Of Christ (Catholic Book Publishing Corp.,1993), p.267
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