Sometimes I come across a gospel story that doesn’t make sense to me. I can read it over and over again and listen to explanations, but something about it doesn’t click. Jesus often spoke in parables and veiled language to His followers. Two thousand years later, it’s easy for me to find my head spinning as I try to figure out what He was saying.
One story has left me perplexed for years. It comes from Matthew 8:
Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. A scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:18–20)
A scribe approaches Jesus and tells Him, “I will go wherever you go,” and how does Jesus respond? He doesn’t say, “Welcome, good servant,” or “Are you sure you have considered the ramifications of your decision to follow me?” He doesn’t seem to acknowledge the scribe’s statement at all. Instead, He gives this vague response: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”
As many times as I have read that paragraph, I have never been able to grasp what Jesus was trying to say. Jesus did have somewhere to lay His head. He camped with His apostles, and villagers often hosted Him and His followers as they traveled. So what did He mean?
Last week, I was sitting with this passage—confused yet again—but this time I kept reading. The story following this encounter is called “Jesus Calms the Storm At Sea.”
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him.” (Matthew 8:23–27)
It was that first sentence, verse 23, that unlocked everything. I had never caught it before. “And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.” The disciples obediently followed Jesus. They followed Him directly into a storm. The experience of the storm wasn’t a byproduct of their decision to follow Jesus—it was directly because of it.
Jesus gives us a sober understanding of the stakes of following Him in both passages. When Jesus told the scribe in Matthew 8:20, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head,” He wanted the scribe to understand that following Him would lead only to Himself, nowhere else. Yes, following Christ can lead to a great adventure, but the adventure isn't the point. The point, the end goal, is that we get Jesus. When Jesus led the disciples into the storm, He wanted them to understand that even in utter darkness, even when we don't feel His presence, He is right there. He never leaves. He is always faithful.
Our current society likes to attach many other promises to Christianity. We are told that our lives will be easier if we follow Jesus. We are told that following Christ will lead to comfort and financial prosperity. Even if we don't explicitly believe these messages, they seep into our culture, and inadvertently, we begin to think that life should be easy for Christians. None of this is true. We will easily be fooled by these messages if we aren’t careful. We will then find ourselves only willing to follow Jesus if He leads us where we want to go—toward our preferred way of living. We will walk away from Him the moment the journey becomes difficult or we find ourselves in uncharted territory.
But Jesus never promised us an easy life; He promised us abundant life. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” So what is the abundant life? It’s Jesus. That’s it. Him. All of Him—nothing more, nothing less.
And so, dear sister, put yourself in the shoes of the scribe and the disciples as we encounter them in Matthew 8. There is a good chance that if you are reading this, you have a desire to follow Jesus. Are you willing to follow Him if, in the end, you only get Him? Do you have the courage to let go of your life’s expectations and let Him have complete control? Will you follow Him wherever He leads you, for better or worse?
At many moments, for me, the answer is no. In my heart of hearts, I know my commitment waivers. I have expectations for my version of the abundant life that I refuse to release so He can give me His abundant life. I'm afraid of the storm into which He may lead me, so I withhold my love from Him. I sit comfortably in my curated Christian life while He beckons me to go deeper.
Years ago, I sat with a very holy priest who told me, “Mallory, I see in you that you could be a great lady. When situations get messy and people start to fight and gossip about each other, I see you as having the ability to rise above it—to live on a different level. You could be that lady, but you are not that great lady yet.”
I am not that great lady yet because I haven’t yet chosen Jesus over everything else. But what if I did? How much more would I know Him? How much more would I love Him? How much more peace would I experience in my own life if I just gave Him a total yes. I would become that great lady. I wouldn’t necessarily be a wealthy lady, a famous lady, a successful lady, or even a popular lady. I’m not opposed to any of these things, but more than these things, I want to become a great lady. One who dared to follow Jesus wherever He led, so that in the end, I would receive Him as my prize.
So what is holding you back? If you find that you can only get so far in your faith, maybe it’s time to let go of something. Perhaps it’s time to go all in, no matter where He leads. Because in the end, He is the abundant life. It is He who leads us. He makes us great, and life with Him is all that matters.
God gave me a heart for prisoners. Actual people in prison. I don’t write them letters or send books as my dear friend has, but I pray for them often. No matter their crime, by God’s grace, I suppose, the good that I believe is in them shines brighter for me than whatever evil they have done. Our culture is one of pointing fingers, laying blame, and crucifying, and I am sorry, but I just can’t hop on board. As corny as it sounds, we are all God’s children. Especially the ones in prison.
I have had the blessing of meeting faithful, loving parents of children who have been incarcerated. I have sat in a courtroom and witnessed young, lost men led out in shackles, their loved ones waving from a distance and mouthing, “I love you.” What I have seen has changed me. Deep wells of compassion have been dug in my heart that would have never existed if it were not for my life experience. And it has convicted me of my darkness within, because the reality is, we all sin. Whether we care to admit it or not, when given the choice of life or death, sometimes we love to choose death. Are we not all living behind the bars of our disobedience? Sin is jail, and no one escapes being sentenced. The difference between us and those in actual prison? We haven’t lost our minds. Not entirely, at least.
We read in 2 Corinthians 4:3–4, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God.”
Sin not only hardens our hearts, it also veils our minds. In other words, the gospel remains hidden and misunderstood not because it is lacking in clarity, but because the perishing (those spiritually dead) do not recognize the face of God. Sin blocks the light from penetrating. When we lose the light, we risk losing our minds. They are no longer our own. “Every attack on your flesh begins in your mind, and from there, desires are birthed that lead to action.” Satan, the god of this world, has a favorite battlefield and that, my friends, is your mind. If he can get you to doubt the goodness of God and abandon your faith, he can get you to do anything; things you never dreamed you were capable of doing.
Jacques Fesch was the murderer of a French police officer and died by guillotine in 1957. Born into a wealthy family, his parents divorced when he was seventeen, and he grew up so lazy and self-absorbed that he abandoned his Catholic faith in exchange for a life of partying and trouble. (Sounds like a typical teenager.) Married with a daughter in his early twenties and another child with his mistress, it is safe to say that Fesch was feeling trapped by his own poor choices.
Looking for a way to escape his chaotic life, he asked his father for the money to purchase a boat and sail away. When his father refused to help him, I believe it was the final straw. Jacques lost his mind.
This is where it all goes wrong. Fesch decided to rob a currency shop, but when his brilliant plan to escape his life got botched up, he shot and killed one policeman and injured three others. It’s a tragic story that I cannot stop thinking about, because I do not believe he ever intended to take someone’s life. I believe he was trying to escape his own.
Have you ever looked at your life and been so overwhelmed that you wanted to buy a boat and sail away? Have you ever felt like you were drowning in your own poor decisions that sinking to the bottom felt like the only option? You can’t see me, but I am raising my hand to my questions.
So, what’s the point of this story?
Life without the light of the gospel is chaos, and if it were not for my holy habit of meeting Jesus in Scripture, I might be searching for a little extra cash and a cheap boat for sale. Praise God for Walking with Purpose, a ministry that teaches women how to read the Bible. A community that showed me what breaking open Scripture looks like, and that no matter how crazy I feel (which, for the record, is super crazy most of the time), God’s Word has the power to penetrate my heart and heal, restore, renew, and recreate my mind. No matter what I have done or where I have been, what God speaks to me in Scripture is the truth that I am loved, I am His, I am worthy, I am forgiven, and I am free. And fun fact: the same goes for you, too.
After three years and eight months in solitary confinement, Jacques Fesch experienced a profound conversion. His story reminds us of Hebrews 4:12: “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it can judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
In his last journal entry before execution, he wrote, “In five hours, I shall look upon Jesus!” Jacques Fesch has been proposed for beatification, proving that the hope of redemption is for every soul and that God’s grace can break through anything. Even prison bars.
 “The Attack On Your Mind,” Hour of Power, https://hourofpower.org/the-attack-on-your-mind/.
 Heather King, “Light Upon the Scaffold: The Prison Letters of Jacques Fesch,” July 10, 2017, https://www.wordonfire.org/articles/light-upon-the-scaffold-the-prison-letters-of-jacques-fesch/
Last year my husband and I went on a marriage retreat. During one of the sessions, the retreat leaders performed an illustration. They asked a couple to go up to the front of the room and stand back to back. One leader asked each partner to describe what they saw. The wife said she saw windows, a snack table, and an audience. The husband said he saw a white board. The leader looked at us and said, “Two people can be standing in the same place and see completely different things. It is your job to seek understanding so that you can move forward in unity.”
It was a great illustration, but I found myself with questions: What if the couple cannot come to an understanding? What if both are convinced the other is wrong? Can they still choose to be unified in action? The answer, for the most part, is yes. The couple standing back to back can still move together in unison—for example, doing a jumping jack. It is possible to have different perspectives, or even vehemently disagree, and still commit to working together.
This brings me to the biggest Supreme Court decision of my lifetime.
A little over a week ago, the Supreme Court caused an earthquake when it released the Dobbs vs. Jackson decision which overturned Roe vs. Wade. I know that you, like me, have seen the public response, heard the sound bites and seen the memes, and are processing your own strong feelings about this decision.
Walking with Purpose reaches 50,000 women a year. Each is made uniquely in God’s image and is irreplaceably different from the other. Each is a work in progress―an imperfect woman who God is patiently leading into deeper holiness. The women who read our blogs, order our devotionals, and dive into our Bible studies are at different places in their faith journey and search for God. And much of the time, they stand in similar places and see totally different things.
The Catholic Church clearly states, “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.”
Many committed Catholic women know the Church’s stance on abortion and disagree. My reason for writing is not to attempt to argue for the Church’s position. I am very happy to do that but not in this post. My reason for writing is to explore how women of goodwill, who have come to different conclusions regarding this matter, can still act together in Christian unity to uphold the sacredness of life in society. Can it be done? I declare that it must be done! So where do we start?
One of the more productive internet conversations concerning a post-Roe world has revolved around how the government can better support families. Some are calling for legislation requiring fathers to become financially responsible for their children during the mother’s pregnancy by paying for a portion of the medical bills and child support. I have seen others advocating for better policies around paid family leave. Still others say that if we are going to support working mothers better, the government should provide universal pre-k.
These are the beginnings of great discussions that will hopefully lead to government policy that better supports marriage and family. But the love of Christ compels us to not wait for the government’s permission. We are His hands and feet, and it is time to lean into Christ’s mission with our entire beings. We have been given an opportunity to use our money, our time, and our energy to support mothers at every stage of life, and to create local communities that make it easier for families to thrive. It is here that I believe that women with good intentions, who desire to live for God, can come together no matter how they feel about the Supreme Court’s decision.
So here are five things you can do right now that can help families in your local community:
Examine the way you speak about motherhood and family
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.” Marriage and family is most spoken about in a negative manner. Not only is it discouraging to those who are trying to raise children, it convinces others that marriage and parenthood are not worth the hardship.
We are called to speak about marriage and family as the blessing that it is. Does that mean we shouldn't be honest? Of course not. But take a moment to examine how you speak about marriage and family. How can you speak with joy about these gifts and start to change the societal tone?
Invest in your own marriage and children
The Catholic Church calls the family the domestic church. “It is a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church, as is evident in the New Testament.” Many people, however, did not experience family the way that it should be experienced. Let it be different with your family. Take time to invest in your marriage. Work to create a family culture of love and security where each member can experience love, joy, and security while being challenged to grow in maturity.
Offer to help the families in your church and your neighborhood
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
If you do not have children or your children are out of the house, I invite you to think of a family that you might be able to help. Perhaps you could help with errands, meal planning, or babysit for a few hours a week so a mom can get a bit of space without having to pay a ton of money for childcare. Motherhood is an incredible gift. It can also be unspeakably hard. You might be able to lighten the load for a mother in your church or neighborhood.
Donate and volunteer at your local pregnancy center
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
For many women, a positive pregnancy test leaves them in despair. They aren’t married and feel they don’t have the resources to raise a child. There are many nonprofits that exist to help these women. Most need donations and volunteers. Jesus calls us to care for these women and offer them hope in their despair. Let us answer that call and give our help where it is needed.
Pray about foster care or adoption
I recently heard about a church in Florida whose congregants emptied the foster care rolls in their county. Can you even believe that? That is radical love, and it comes with a high cost. As Christians, we are called to embrace that cost if the Lord is calling us to this kind of love. Some of us are being called to step up and consider adoption or foster care. I invite you to pray about it and answer that call if it is you!
I know many of us might disagree passionately, but we are still the Church—broken and beautiful. These are only a few suggestions. Go to God and ask Him how He wants you to be His light to the world. Then, go and be that light.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258.
 Colossians 4:6
 CCC 2204
 Galatians 6:2
 James 1:27
It’s a safe bet that my husband knows too much about ballet. He’s a #dancedad. Our 14-year-old daughter has been dancing since she was 2 ½, so we are fairly used to recital weekends in our family. For the past several years, my daughter’s annual recital falls on the weekend of Father’s Day. So instead of planning a day of kayaking or BBQing—anything that my husband would want to do—he spends his Father’s Day at the theater. He sits through hours upon hours of ballet, jazz, hip hop, and contemporary routines.
This year during one of her last recitals of the weekend, as our daughter was on stage dancing, I saw from the stage lights this shining smile on my husband’s face. He was beaming with delight and joy as he watched our daughter doing what she loves. He leaned over and whispered to me, “I could watch her do this all day long.” It didn’t matter that it was a day that was supposed to be dedicated to him and his role as father. He would not have chosen to be anywhere else.
It was this precious moment, on Father’s Day, that led me to reflect on how we often forget the fatherness of God. The radiant smile that I witnessed on my husband’s face is the smile that I believe God, our Father, has on His face for each of you, His daughters. I don’t think we can ever be reminded enough that we are not just loved but are delighted in by God the Father. He is totally captivated by you—who you are, what makes you smile, what brings you joy.
And as my husband’s face radiated such pride and love for his daughter as she was dancing—something she truly loves and has a talent for—our Lord’s face also beams when we use the gifts He has given us, the talents that He has blessed us with. And when these gifts are used for His glory? Well, Zephaniah 3:17 tells us, “[The Lord] will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
And as a good and wise Father, the Lord doesn’t want us to get lost in self-adulation. It always feels good to know that something we do or something we’ve accomplished or just who we are makes someone else happy—so happy that Zephaniah says God is exulting over us and singing over us. God’s delight in us is not meant to put the spotlight on ourselves. He doesn’t want us to stop there. Rather, our pausing to reflect on His delight in us serves to increase our delight of Him. It’s a beautiful feedback loop, defining and enhancing our two-way relationship with God. We focus on His goodness in our lives: His unceasing and steadfast love, His mercies that never come to an end, and His faithfulness to us is great (Lamentations 3:22-23). Our trust and confidence grows and our behaviors begin to align with His will for us. If we are busy delighting in Him as daughters, we are distracted from the trappings of the world and protected from those who would seek to turn us away from Him.
Scripture is abound with passages that speak of what we receive when we delight in our heavenly Father:
“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).
When we set the Lord before us, we grow in fortitude and faith.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
We live fearlessly.
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
Our Father is trustworthy; He protects His daughters.
“The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. And he thrust out the enemy before you” (Deuteronomy 33:27).
He will catch us when we fall each and every time.
See how good of a Father He is? He looks out for us, always. And He provides for us through His unending mercy and love. Whether or not we see it, whether or not we follow God’s will at all times, His hand remains upon us. Following Adam and Eve’s sin, they were naked and on their way out of the Garden of Eden, never to be allowed back inside. And what did God do? Genesis 3:21 tells us that the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve to be clothed. He couldn’t let His beloved children go out into the wilderness naked, without clothing. He provides.
This is the fatherness of God.
How lucky we are that we can celebrate God the Father every time we receive the sacrament of Holy Eucharist. As the priest, standing in the place of Jesus Christ, lifts the host for consecration and says the words, “Do this in remembrance of me,” we are reminded of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice—of God the Father’s ultimate act of provision. Through the death and resurrection of His Son we are gathered into the embrace of our loving Father. It is through Jesus Christ that God provides a way directly to His heart.
This is the fatherness of God.
No matter what it is that you find on your plate for this week, I challenge you to be mindful of God as Father. To keep foremost in your mind His delight of you, His beaming smile in the work that you are doing for the vocation He has called you to. And let His delight of you focus you ever more intently on His precious and abiding love, and on the ways that He continues to provide for you, His beloved daughter.
In God’s Grace,
“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,
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
He chose to be Judas. No one chooses to be Judas! Except my son did. He was asked to play the role of Jesus in his school’s Passion play—a role that, historically, is offered to a student who teachers feel demonstrates the values of the school’s patron, St. Joseph: humility, compassion, and self-respect. (Insert proud mom smile!)
To which he said no. Why, you ask? Because in the role of Jesus you have to take your shirt off when he gets scourged and then “hung” on the cross. Instead, my son chose to play Judas. His reasoning in response to my pointed remarks of disagreement with his choice was: “We are all Judas, Mom. We all walk away from Jesus. He just didn’t walk back.” (Take out the dagger of pride and insert an arrow of humility to my heart.)
Why am I bringing up Judas so soon after Easter Sunday?
Because all of us are Judas, or can be. We have our moments when we choose sin—when we choose to serve ourselves, our comfort, or our pride over others. We have moments when we feel so overcome by shame and self-loathing that we cannot face the Lord. The enemy’s tauntings become the endless tape we replay in our minds causing hopelessness and despair. And like Judas, we will choose to walk away from Jesus. Our Lord knows all of this. He also knows that it probably won’t take too long after Easter Sunday for this to happen.
Mass readings during the Easter season draw our attention to the communion Jesus desires to restore with His disciples following His crucifixion. In these readings we are reminded of the hope the resurrection promises, despite our very human choices. This past Sunday’s Gospel in which Peter encounters Jesus on the beach for the first time since his own betrayal is among my favorites.
It’s early morning, and I imagine the scene to have been eerily quiet, save the noise of the boat rocking in the water. The weight from the discouragement of not having caught any fish was not nearly as heavy as the internal burden Peter was carrying, distraught over his repeated denial of our Lord in His time of need. Peter’s shame and self-loathing had to have been on par with Judas’ own desperate feelings. Rod Bennett writes in his book, These Twelve: The Gospel Through the Apostles' Eyes, that Peter may have been the worst betrayer among the close friends of Jesus.
Scripture reveals that Peter showed himself to be overconfident, prideful, and arrogant so often throughout Jesus’ ministry. He denied Jesus’ own words to him, denied the faults Jesus was pointing out to him, and ultimately denied knowing Jesus. Following Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16 hinting of His Passion to come, Peter takes our Lord aside and rebukes him: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” (Matthew 16:22). Jesus responds to Peter’s denial of His words by calling out the enemy in him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Matthew 16:23). In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells Peter that Satan will indeed take hold of him, and Peter argues, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you” (Luke 22:33). We know what follows is Jesus’ foretelling of Peter’s ultimate denial that happens only a few short hours later.
Flashbacks of his own bravado and lack of humility had to have been tormenting Peter in the boat that morning on the Sea of Tiberias. And yet in a flash of acknowledgement of our Risen Lord in the distance, Peter, in his despair, does not turn away as Judas did. Instead he leaps toward Jesus. He leaps toward reconciliation, forgiveness, and restoration. He turns away from self-destruction and self-rejection and emphatically chooses the love of Jesus. Fr. John Bartunek writes of this moment in Scripture: “Once so self-reliant and independent, so authoritative and in control, now Peter climbs onto the shore wet and bedraggled, overjoyed to kneel at Jesus’ feet and embrace his Lord.”
In Acts 5 following his reconciliation with Christ, Peter along with other followers, is brought in front of the Sanhedrin and high priests. This time Peter does not deny Christ. He stands in front of this crowd and boldly proclaims, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:29-32). Following the punishment inflicted, Peter and the other apostles “left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of His name” (Acts 5:41).
Do you see the striking difference in Peter? Peter, bathed in the mercy of Christ and overflowing with humility, is transformed. Relying on the grace of the Holy Spirit instead of his own strength, Peter desires only to glorify Jesus. He rejoices, not denies. What a gift Peter’s transformation is to us! When our own discouragement and self-rejection is as intense and overwhelming as it was for Peter, we need only to look to Scripture to be reminded that our risen Lord is in constant pursuit of communion with us.
“There is nothing you can ever have done, nowhere you can ever have been in your life that can ever stop you from turning right now to God, asking forgiveness if you need it—and begin again.”
Judas, lacking in this supernatural grace and unable to hold on just a little longer, missed his opportunity to begin again in communion with Jesus. Let’s not miss ours. Yes, there will be times when we will walk away from Jesus, but more important is our choice to turn back and begin again.
 Rod Bennett, These Twelve: The Gospel Through the Apostles’ Eyes (Catholic Answers Press, 2022).
 Fr. John Bartunek, The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer (Circle Press, 2007).
 Fr. Timothy Gallagher, Overcoming Spiritual Discouragement: The Wisdom and Spiritual Power of Venerable Bruno Lanteri (EWTN Publishing, Inc, 2019).
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)
I spent last weekend speaking to an incredible group of women in the deep south. Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is home to the University of Alabama, the SEC school that everyone loves to hate—including me—however, no longer living in the south, my ire has waned in recent years. The women who welcomed me were so charming, despite their university loyalties, that I could not help but fall in love with them.
As I was visiting with one woman, she confided in me that she didn't feel like she fit in with the other women at the retreat. I told her that I often feel that way but could especially relate to her because the retreat center was next to fraternity row. All weekend we could hear music booming from several house parties, and during the consecration of the Eucharist at Mass, the tune "I Love Rock and Roll" blessed our ears and entered our hearts (the perfect song for a post-communion meditation). The sights and sounds flooded me with memories of my own experience in a sorority at LSU, and the feeling I remember most from those days was often feeling like I didn't fit in.
More than I'd like to admit, I felt like a fish out of water when I was around a large group of women. This was not something that one could have seen from the outside. I had friends, participated in a ton of social activities, and was involved in campus life. Yet, much of the time, I felt different from everyone else. I left functions with groups of women feeling like my dress wasn't quite right, and I didn't say the right things, think the right things, or act the right way. If they knew what I was really like, I felt that I would lose my friends and be left alone.
Have you ever felt this way? At the risk of being wrong, let me assume your answer: Yes, you have felt this way. My working theory is that all women—no matter how put together or popular they seem to be—feel like they don't fit in at some point. Feeling insecure and isolated in a group is a universal experience for us, no matter our age. It is as true for the young girl in middle school as for the college student, new mom, working woman, or retiree. Even the woman you think has it all together has felt as insecure as you have. You are not alone if you feel this way, and I am here to tell you that this feeling does not have to be a bad thing. It can be an invitation to remember who you are and why you were created.
First, when you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb, remember that you don't feel at home in this world because you were created for another one. C.S. Lewis famously said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
You were made for something greater than this passing earth and this wavering culture. God created you for Himself. He is the only one who can fully know you. He is the only one who can completely enter your heart, soul, and experience. When you feel like you don't fit in, let it lead you into God's presence. He is your shelter and your stronghold. He is your hope and your home, and it is only with Him in eternity that your earthly longing to be fully known and entirely accepted will be fulfilled.
Second, recognize that you may feel out of place because God has set you apart for His purposes. Throughout history, God has consistently called those He loves to stand out. In the Old Testament, God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments and commanded that they live differently from the rest of the world.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” (Exodus 20: 2–5)
At the time, there was no such thing as a monotheistic religion. By commanding that the Israelites worship Him and Him alone, God set them apart from everyone else. He set them up to become holy in a world that was anything but holy. Those Ten Commandments eventually led the leaders of the Jewish people to set up 613 rules for the people to follow. The way they lived looked different because they were different. They belonged to the one true God.
Thousands of years later, in the New Testament, St. Paul echoed God's call to be set apart: “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:25—29).
Following God means that our lives are supposed to be different so we will feel that difference. We are not supposed to fit in. We are supposed to be holy.
Reflecting on my own experience, I am so grateful for the times I've felt different from the crowd. Why? Because, many times, that feeling of alienation saved me from making decisions that I would have deeply regretted. It is that feeling that propelled me to seek God, and it is the same feeling that reminds me that I am aiming for an eternity in heaven.
If you often feel like you just don't fit, reject the lie that you are, in some way, not enough. Instead, let it drive you to seek the presence of the God, who created you for His unique purpose. Let it remind you that your hope is in heaven. Then, setting your eyes on Jesus, stand confident in the fact that He is setting you apart to be His hands and feet in a world that desperately needs to see someone who is different.
 Lewis, C. S., Mere Christianity. (United Kingdom: HarperCollins, 2001), p 136,137.
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,
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