Busy Lives

Chapter 10: Embracing the Railways

“Resurrection People exude joy no matter the circumstance.  These people live a faith that attracts others.  They seem to possess a depth and a groundedness.  Their eyes dance with joy that seems untouchable.  If you listen to their stories, you hear about plenty of hurt and hardship.  But you also hear a quiet, strong confidence in someone other than themselves as they share about how God carried them through many tough times. Their eyes are framed by the lines of life but keep their sparkle of joy. It is obvious they have encountered the risen Jesus (page 120)”

Who do you know that is a Resurrection Person? Who do you know that is filled with the joy of knowing the risen Lord?

Our lives are not always fun-filled days.  There are tough days, those times when we are let-down, or things are not going our way and nothing seems to be working out. Everyone has these tough days where we know we are broken and unhappy.  Yet, no matter how broken and unhappy these “Resurrection People” that the author speaks of are, they are full of joy, even in the midst of the struggle.

Happiness is when we feel good about doing something, or when someone praises us.  Growing up I remember there used to be little cartoon images that would say “Happiness is…” and it would say something like “a flower,” “a hug,” or other things that do bring a moment of happiness.  Happiness is good and we should strive to find happiness in our lives. But happiness can turn to sadness when the flower dies, or the friend who gave us the hug leaves.  What we really need to search for is true joy.  Joy is connection with God. As my connection with God deepens and my prayer life grows I find great joy even in the midst of struggle.  It doesn’t take the struggle away, but knowing that God is with me through the struggle is comforting and gives me the strength I need to hope and have faith that good will come, that the spring will follow the winter!

This week we go into Lent.  Lent is typically a time of fasting, praying and almsgiving.  People see this as a somber time.  Yet when we enter Lent with the intention of finding joy in all things – joy in our fasting, joy in our prayers, and joy in our giving – we can, and will, have a greater experience God! We find the more, the greater yes and the next right step! We meet the risen Jesus who walks with his disciples on the road to Emmaus, whose words and actions create a burning within their hearts.

May we all grow in relationship with Jesus the Lord and find the joy that burns within our hearts!

Patty Mayer, Director of Adult Faith Formation

My reflections based on the book: “Busy Lives & Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life” by Becky Eldredge given out to OLIH parishioners at Christmas 2018

Chapter 9: Sent Forth

“Prayer is about action - not just God’s action, but yours and mine” (pg 104).

This last weekend I went to Cloisters on the Platte retreat center in Gretna, NE. Thursday evening we began, and we were sent forth on Sunday afternoon. (If you haven’t heard about Cloisters, check it out, and then sign up for your retreat today!)

As with most retreats, you arrive and are handed a schedule, yet God often has other plans for us within the retreat!

Saturday afternoon I watched as the snow removal vehicles were driving around in circles trying to keep up with the falling snow. Due to the blizzard conditions, and the fact they were no longer able to stay ahead of the snow, we had to cancel the evening events, enjoy an early dinner and return to our lodges to hunker down for the storm. Once I was back in my lodge I sat and watched the snow. There were moments that it was coming down so beautifully and moments when the 50+ mph winds were fiercely blowing it everywhere. Before the storm began the snow was ankle deep on the deck, by morning the arm rest of the chairs were partially buried under the blanket of snow!

While watching this Jesus and I talked about the events of my life over the last year, the beauty and the storm. I contemplated the gift of consolation - the increase and growth in my life of faith - even in the face of the powerful storm that could have blown me down and buried me under some powerful negative emotions! I have not only survived the storm, but I have grown stronger because of it! The prayer the author speaks of is one I pray more and more regularly!

“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,

My memory, my understanding,

And my entire will.

All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.

To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and your grace,

That is enough for me” (pg 105)

ALL that I have is yours! What a powerful thought - everything is God’s and I offer it back to Him! God gives me what I need to get through anything. 

I have been working with a group of women on discerning their Spiritual gifts. A charism, or spiritual gift, is something given to us by God that is not meant for self, but is meant for the community. What a thought, the only way to use this gift is not to keep it, but to give it away! As we find our gifts and share them with others we find the more, the next right step, the greater yes!

As we were sent forth from retreat on Sunday, and as I sit in a hotel room in Omaha on Monday afternoon (yep, that’s as far as we could make it due to the road conditions!) I ponder... where is God calling me to action. This year I’ve been working on knowing my spiritual gifts and how I live them out in my life. When I am making choices that go along with my gifts there is great peace and consolation - even when it’s not easy. My greatest desire is to bring others closer to God, so I hope and pray that my actions are in line with that desire. Strangely, in the last few months I’m sensing a new desire being placed within my heart, a desire to share myself and my story in writing to encourage others who are going through storms! This is something I continue to discern!

Where is God calling you to action? Take time to discern. The steps of discernment as she lays them out are perfect! Practice them often to find where God is calling you!

Patty Mayer, Director of Adult Faith Formation

My reflections based on the book: “Busy Lives & Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life” by Becky Eldredge given out to OLIH parishioners at Christmas 2018

Chapter 8: Through Tough Spots

About eighteen months ago my then husband let me know he wanted a divorce.  He wanted no discussion, no talking to a counselor, just an “amicable” divorce.  People have asked me if I saw it coming, and my answer is both yes and no.  Yes, because the four to five months prior to this there was a change in my husband and although I knew something was wrong he refused to talk about it. No, because by this point I thought we were communicating better and that we were taking steps – baby steps – towards working through whatever was going on. 

Those four to five months I felt like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane – praying fervently for my husband and for our marriage, yet knowing that I had to surrender all control.  The author talked about feeling God asking her “Are you still in if the answer is no? Are you willing to remain in relationship with me if the answer to your prayer requests are no?” (pg94-95) I could relate to that question.  I knew the crisis of faith I had 15 years ago but I also knew I was in a different space now and I trusted that God was with me and would see me through!   

When my husband finally told me he wanted the divorce I knew there was no changing his mind.  The best I could do at that point was figure out what moving forward would look like.  I knew I could not do this on my own, so I told my family and within a week I had shared it with my colleagues and close friends.  As our separation proceeded I knew I was struggling to pray for myself, I still trusted God was with me, but I was too weak to pray for me. I knew that prayer would lead me and guide me, but I was just trying to move forward and anything above and beyond taking the next step forward was beyond my energy level.  I started reaching out to those whom I knew would pray me through those deep dark moments. When I moved out of our home and went to live with my sister and her family in Bondurant I was well aware of the power of prayer to see me through.  While living with my sister I was able to rest, to just be, to think through what moving forward meant and looked like.  In that time of rest and healing I was able to find that sweet spot with Jesus again, my prayer life was changed. 

My divorce was final last March, yet there are many days when I feel that I am still in the midst of working through it.  I know that this is, and will be, one of those “treasured sorrows” in my life journey.  As a result of this experience I know that I am growing in ways I could not have imagined, and my prayer life is deeper and richer than it’s ever been. I trust that someday I will look back on this piece of my life and realize the gift, the treasure, that I gained as a result of going through this storm and trusting in God to guide me even when the answer to my prayer was no.

When have you joined Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane?
Share your “treasured sorrows” … (you can do so in just one word or phrase)

Patty Mayer, Director of Adult Faith Formation
My reflections based on the book: “Busy Lives & Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life” by Becky Eldredge given out to OLIH parishioners at Christmas 2018

Chapter 7: Prayer within the Reality of Life

“Jesus was not a hermit, focusing his entire day on prayer with God. He was out there in the world, as each of us is.  He was in relationships.  He was doing his work. He encountered people of all kinds, just as we do each day” (page 84).

I love the example that the author uses with the lamp and the wick.  As I consider this I think about what am I immersed in?  What source of energy is my wick resting in? At this point in my life I can honestly say that it would be my prayer life.  I tell people that one of the blessings I have of living alone is that I can have quiet time any time I want.  But for me to really engage in prayer and set aside the time to do this I get up early and start my day with prayer.  It’s not always been this way, but as with all things our prayer lives evolve and we continue to find what works for us.  My time for prayer right now is first thing in the morning.  And by first thing I mean I am up before the sun most days.  My prayer chair sits facing east so I am able to watch the sunrise during my prayer time.  This morning when I got up I sat with the book I am using based on the Spiritual Exercises.  I read a short piece, reflect on what it says to me and contemplate what God is asking of me.  I talk, but I listen too.  After my prayer I get ready for the day.  This routine works well for me and allows me to start my day with the most important conversation I will have.  As the day progresses I continue to enter into conversation with God, asking for His help or asking for His intervention for someone.  Next weekend I will take a 3-day silent retreat – a kind of vacation with God – to recharge myself and renew my relationship with my creator.  I’m hoping for mild enough weather to spend some time outdoors.

Yet, we can’t retreat our way through life.  We can’t spend all our time in our prayer chairs and never come out.  What about the top part of the wick?  As we stay immersed in God we also reach out to those around us.  The author gives us four questions towards the end of the chapter to help us recognize the top of our wick – who are those people affected by us having our wick immersed in the right oil!  Take some time to really consider those questions:

  • Who has God given me to love?

  • Who is my neighbor?

  • What is my work?

  • What are my other responsibilities?

Most days I know exactly who God has put into my path and I can plan ahead, but then there are the days that I am surprised by who walks in the door of my office, or calls me on the phone, or sends me a message.  By keeping myself immersed in God’s grace and love through intentional prayer I can meet those whom I come into contact with each day with grace and dignity. 

What is your wick immersed in?

Patty Mayer, Director of Adult Faith Formation
My reflections based on the book: “Busy Lives & Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life” by Becky Eldredge given out to OLIH parishioners at Christmas 2018

Chapter 6: Re-situate Your Life

“Patty, do you love me?”

Last fall I had a period of time where I would play out this conversation in my mind while in prayer.  But it wasn’t really me deciding where this conversation would go, it was purely Spirit directed.  It began with a friend showing up at my door, coming in to my home and asking me this question, “Patty, do you love me?” and I would say yes.  He would ask me a second time, and I would again say yes and laugh saying this was feeling very Peter and Jesus like.  When he asked the third time I would be irritated and say “yes, I do, I love you as a sister loves a brother, as a mother loves her son, as a friend, I love you.”

We would enjoy some conversation and then he would ask me to ask him the same question.  In the beginning I would walk away and not be able to ask the question, telling him that I am not loveable.  As this scenario kept playing out in my mind and heart he began to challenge me to explain how it was okay for me to love him but not okay for the reverse – that in order to love someone I must be able to receive their love also.  It took many days in prayer to work through this conversation. When I could finally both ask the question, “do you love me,” and accept the answer it became clear to me that this conversation was never between me and my friend, but that it was between me and God the whole time. 

This “imagined” conversation assured me of what I already knew – God’s love and mercy is available to me always and that I only need to be open to receiving it no matter what is happening in my life. When we allow the “dark realities” to control our life we close a door, and block out the love and mercy of God wants to shower upon us. How will you crack open that door and let God’s light shine in for you? How will you let go of the darkness that holds you back from embracing God’s love?  

How often do I need these reminders of God’s love and mercy? As often as it takes for me to remember that God’s love is not the same as human love - it is unconditional. God loves me and extends His mercy to me because of who I am - His beloved child - not because of anything I do. May you always receive the reminders you need to embrace His mercy day after day!  

Patty Mayer, Director of Adult Faith Formation
My reflections based on the book: “Busy Lives & Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life” by Becky Eldredge given out to OLIH parishioners at Christmas 2018

Daily photos of my amaryllis from first signs of flowering to actual flowering!

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Chapter 4: Living Awake

After my crisis of faith 15 years ago I have found God in the most amazing ways in my life. I really never thought that my faith would be tested like that again, but I hoped that if it was I would trust Jesus to walk with me. Prayer and intimacy with God through the times of consolation (good times) give us the strength to withstand the storms!   

In September of 2017 I once again survived a violent storm that would uproot my life.  My storm? Divorce.  As I began processing this I was reminded of the people in Florida and Texas that year who were waiting and watching as hurricanes Irma and Harvey were building.  Just as they watched these hurricanes build strength I had seen my husband spiraling for the last few months. In each situation we needed to pray that when the storm hit, the damage would be minimal.  For all of us, the damage was more than we could expect.  Knowing God was with me I knew I would survive.  One day at a time.  I was struggling with praying for myself and enlisted the prayers of others.  Each day began with a written purging of all the things that were weighting me down and a request, a plea, to God to help me through the day. 

Months later I would be sitting at the blood drive at OLIH and receive phone calls about a tornado hitting Bondurant, where my sister and her family lived, and Marshalltown, which is where I lived for 9 years before moving to Ankeny. My sister and her family were safe, but I was concerned for friends in Marshalltown. The next day I went up to see friends and help with what I could.  There were buildings ripped apart, homes knocked off their foundations, and trees completely uprooted.  I sobbed! I saw with my own eyes what catastrophic damage was – I saw what I felt inside.

A few weeks later I would be on retreat and sitting in my room preparing to meet with my spiritual director when a storm kicks up, darkness first, then the wind, then rain and hail, and then it leaves as quickly as it came.  What I noticed after the storm left was that it stirred up something inside of me and that became the topic of my spiritual direction session that night.  We spent time looking at what this most recent “storm” kicked up in my life, uprooted and knocked off foundations.  As I spent time examining the last several months in the midst of the storm I was not surprised to find God everywhere in it with me! I had a solid foundation in God and trust in His plan! I sat there weeping and thanking God for being my strength in the storm and never leaving my side.

I knew through the storm that God was with me, but the looking back gave new meaning and identified new moments of God’s grace and presence.  When we survive the storm it is healthy to spend time looking back and reviewing. 

The examen is a great prayer to use daily.  I wish I was in a better habit of using it, because when I do it works so well!  Spending time looking back over your day –  the events, the feelings, the good and the bad – it helps us to find God in the little details of life.

Take time this week to pray the examen.  If the style in the book doesn’t fit check out the app Reimagining the Examen or the Ignatian Spiritulity website for more ideas.     

Patty Mayer, Director of Adult Faith Formation
My reflections based on the book: “Busy Lives & Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life” by Becky Eldredge given out to OLIH parishioners at Christmas 2018

“I want to be real with you.  There are consequences to creating space for prayer in your life.  If you are looking to keep your life the way it is, then, please don’t pray.   If you want to stay the person you currently are, then I suggest not making time for prayer in your daily life.  Because here’s the reality: If you intentionally show up every day in prayer to be with God, your life is going to change.  And guess what else? YOU are going to change!” (Page 25-26)

Fifteen years ago I went through a crisis of faith.  In less than six months I had suffered multiple deaths including my father, a colleague and a client. Each of these three losses being significant in their own way.  After the final one, I went into Mass on Sunday to sing with the choir.  As my friend began to proclaim the psalm, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” I lost it.  I ended up sitting the bathroom on the floor sobbing and asking this question over and over until my question evolved from abandoning me to how could a loving and merciful God “do this” to me. The only answer I could come up with was, He wouldn’t. So as I continued to sit there on the floor in the bathroom my question became ‘so, is there a God?’ I was in a period of deep desolation.  Without knowing St Ignatius or Ignatian Spirituality, but knowing psychology, I knew the best thing to do would be to stay the course – do what I’ve been doing and not to change anything. Ignatius would have agreed!  I continued to go to Mass, I continued to sing in the choir, I continued to go to work and do the good things I did there, all the while questioning where God was in the midst of this deep sorrow and darkness.  Then, I saw the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” As I watched the scene on the scourging I began by not feeling anything, but as it continued I started to get uncomfortable, and just when I wanted to yell “enough already” I met the eyes of Jesus and I knew. I knew his physical beating paralleled my emotional beating.  I knew that as I sat there with him in his desolation, He sits with me in mine. I knew that He had been with me through it all! As I reflected back here’s what I remembered about that six months:

The night before my dad died my mom, my five sisters and I gathered to pray the rosary. This was the first time I heard my mother ask us to pray for the strength to deal with whatever happens rather than prayers that dad would be better.  We had invited Jesus into our situation and the next morning Jesus was with us at the hospital as we sat with dad in his final hours. Months later I was driving to work and felt a strong urge to go to church and pray.  As I entered and knelt I didn’t know what to do, I’ve never done this before. So I said “I guess I will just ask that you give me what I need to get through today.” I entered work to find out about my colleague. I had invited Jesus into my day and He was there with me as I calmly worked with others through that day and the days to come.  Finally, I took some time for myself and went on a silent retreat at the local retreat center.  I spent 2 days there praying for healing and strength. Inviting Jesus into my brokenness.  It was after this retreat that I received the call about my client.  Once again He was invited in and He was there.  

This was a moment for me that opened a path to deeper desire to know God. Entering into prayer, and recognizing Jesus walking with me, opened my eyes and my heart in new ways.  Daily prayer became a desire and through the ups and downs of finding what worked and what didn’t I found God in new and exciting ways.  So when I look back on this time of great sadness in my life I don’t focus on the sadness, but I see it as a point of conversion, when I finally saw Jesus truly as my companion, the ONE who is always by my side. God doesn’t “do” anything to us, but He walks with us through the storm!

Psalm 139 is precious and if you haven’t sat with it and imagined God in this way I highly suggest that you do!  

Patty Mayer, Director of Adult Faith Formation
My reflections based on the book: “Busy Lives & Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life” by Becky Eldredge given out to OLIH parishioners at Christmas 2018

My prayer chair when I first got it. Now there’s a plant next to it and a stack or two of books… I’ve gotten very comfortable there!

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Amy busy getting the books ready to go for Christmas!

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