The Grace of Joy is Waiting for You! Do You Want it?

Yesterday, while picking up a prescription for one of my boys, I overheard an exchange between a Pharmacist and a Pharmacy Tech.

As the Pharmacy Tech was looking up the prescription I needed, she turned to the pharmacist next to her and said, “So what are you doing for your birthday tomorrow? I know your husband isn’t going to do anything for you,” she chuckled, “but how about your mom or your kids are they doing anything?”

“Well, tomorrow is my kids’ end of the year baseball party, so that’s what I’m doing.” She said with a smile, “When you have kids, that’s how you spend your birthday some times.”

With a snarky snort the Pharmacy Tech said, “Yeah! When you have kids, you have no life!”

The Pharmacist paused for a moment and then replied, “I have a life! My kids are my life but I have a life”

“Yeah, your kids are your life.” said the Pharmacy Tech as she moved to the shelf to grab my prescription.

Joy Filled Catholic

Parenting is SO Much More Joyful than You Think it Is!

That’s what I wanted to say to her when she brought my prescription…but I didn’t. The exchange has been running through my mind since yesterday afternoon. I wanted to tell that tech that kids are a HUGE joy! That when we say our kids are our life, that doesn’t mean we don’t exist anymore – our existence is transformed into something much greater.

My children are also my life! If not for them, I believe that my world would look quite different! I know I would be much more selfish and self-centered. I know, because that’s how I lived for many years. My children and my husband are helping me to become a better person.

I think about those many times when I was so tired, and one of my boys would wake in the middle of the night. I would shuffle into their room, praying as I went, for him to fall asleep quickly, so I could go back to bed. I remember so vividly rocking each of my babies back and forth, while humming a song to get them to sleep. I was forced to slow down, to be patient, and to do something for another person who was completely dependent on me.

It was amazing how the frustration and exhaustion would transform. It was still there but as soon as I looked at that sweet face in the glow of the nightlight and kiss those plump soft cheeks, I could feel myself changing! As I gazed down at my child, you might find tears streaming down my face from the mix of exhaustion and JOY.  If not for my children, I would never experience the juxtaposition of these emotions during such a precious moment.

Joy Filled Catholic

Why do We Sometimes Assume the Worst About People’s Lives?

As my mind begins to marinate on these things, I imagine that the lady (without kids, I am assuming) has a picture in her mind of how life sucking having children must be. She probably envisions kids running around wild, breaking vases, the mother screaming, all while the kids are shooting each other with silly string.

Meanwhile, I am picturing how lonely her life must be. Sitting in a darkened room that is bouncing with shadows and flashes of light created by the glow of the television. Each night, I imagine, she nestles in her recliner with a TV tray in front of her, while stroking one of her 15 cats and eating Chinese take-out straight from the box.

The truth is, when we don’t know someone’s life, we can only assume what we do not know, until we do – and even then we still don’t really know. What I mean is, that woman can’t possibly know the joy of parenting and all of the precious moments and love it provides and what it means when a parent says that their children are their life – and in turn, I don’t know how fulfilling all the activities and events she experiences without children truly are. After all, not everyone is called to marriage and family, and there can be extraordinary joy and great satisfaction in those vocations as well! I know, because I have seen it happen for people I know and love.

Joy Filled Catholic

Non-Catholics Cannot Understand the JOY of Being Catholic!

I began to relate this experience to how someone who has no belief in God at all, or someone who does believe but isn’t Catholic, might view religion in general – or Catholicism specifically.

Just like I pointed out above, it is hard to explain the joys of marriage and family or the joys of being single to someone who isn’t living it. In turn, it is difficult for me to explain all the grace and mercy that has been poured out on me – and filled me with more peace and joy than I have EVER experienced in my life, to someone who has not lived that for themselves.

My non-believer friends might think that religion is a waste of time, that I believe in fairy tales, or my freedom to do whatever I like, whenever I like, is being stifled by the “rules and regulations” they think that the church puts forth.

This isn’t just the thinking of atheists or agnostics, other Christians and former Catholics, too, have told me that they wouldn’t want to be part of the Catholic Church because of all the “rules”. At one time, I also scoffed at what I thought were rules that were put in place to make me feel guilty about all my sins, which kept me on the outskirts of the Catholic faith for many years. I felt like an Outcast in God’s Family.

Some might wonder why I wouldn’t want to be part of a church who “entertains me” from start to finish! I used to think I wanted that too until I experienced it and begin to long for the sacredness of the Mass.

I cannot explain what a gift and JOY that it is to receive our Lord- body, blood, soul , and divinity in the Eucharist.

I cannot explain the JOY that I feel when I hear stories from converts, explaining what made them come home to the Catholic Church — to hear some of these check out the Coming Home Network.

I cannot explain the Joy that comes from reading the scriptures and knowing that the Catholic Church doesn’t just make up rules to take away freedom – but instead to help us focus on Jesus and give us the wisdom to live in the world but not of it!

I cannot explain why I get teary as my heart swells with JOY every time I witness a baptism.

You know what steals freedom? Sin. Shame. Anger. Addiction. Activism without truth. I know because I have felt like a prisoner to all of these things.

You know what sets us free? Or more accurately Who?

JESUS!!!

I have never felt more joy, and peace, and freedom in my life. I have tried many things to feel happy, to make my way, and to figure out who I am. When I stopped doing what I wanted, when I wanted, for whatever reason I wanted – and began to ask God,

“What is it YOU want from me? What shall YOU have me do? Why have you put me here and why do you keep saving me, when I don’t think I really have much to offer this world?”

My entire life changed!

I cannot explain the JOY I feel when I say my children are my life and I cannot explain the JOY I feel when I say I live for the Lord!

You just have to take the leap and experience that for yourself.

 

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Feeling Like an Outcast in God’s Family

www.joyfilledcatholic.com

You know that feeling you get, whether it is a big event, a meeting, or even just a conversation within a small group, when you suddenly think:

“What am I doing here? I don’t really belong. I don’t quite fit it.”

When I find myself in those situations, it feels a little awkward and uncomfortable. It is an unsettling feeling, which usually leads me to excuse myself and head for the door.

Now, let me ask you, have you ever felt that way as a member of God’s family? I know that I have! There are many times I observed other Christians living out their faith or attended church services, and though I desired to have that peace and blessed assurance, I never thought I would ever find it.

I would attend Mass with my mom infrequently. I would say all the things I had been taught to say, I would kneel, make the sign of the cross, and participate – but I felt like an outcast. I mean, I was there, but I didn’t feel like I really belonged – or that I was worthy to belong.

I even tried going to other churches to see how that “felt” but something was always a little (sometimes a lot) off for me. However, I did keep trying to find my place in God’s family. I admit that I didn’t try too hard, but I was seeking.

Once I finally realized that God wanted me back in the Catholic Church, there was no where else to go. Suddenly, I had an insatiable desire to know all about His Church, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Mother, the saints, and the Bible. It is a fire that continues to burn inside of me today and I pray it will continue for the rest of my life!

What brought me back?

Not what, it was who! It was Jesus pursuing me with His mercy! He was relentless, compassionate, and loving. Every time I said,

Lord Jesus, I am not worthy. I have committed sins too terrible to truly be forgiven. I ignored every blessing you put before me to pursue what I wanted. I chased after all the things I thought would make me happy, complete, and adored. Instead, this pursuit has left me broken, anxious, and despising the person I have become. I can no longer live this way but I am still not worthy to be in your family. Lord, you see me. You know my sins. You know my heart. I think we can now both agree that I am not worthy.

But he did not agree! He did not agree with me at all.

I had a lot of work to do. But when I finally stopped running from him, because I was too ashamed to face him, I ran to Him and my life has never been the same. Once I realized and accepted that I had not ruined God’s plans for my life, everything changed. Yes, I chose a path that was a lot bumpier, and far more perilous, than it could have been if I had made better choices. However, the Lord showered me with graces that have made me the person I am today.

He has used those trials and suffering to bring about so much good in my life and he will surely do the same for you. If you are feeling like an outcast in God’s family, take heart! You are so loved by a Heavenly Father who knit you together in your mother’s womb and He knows you inside and out. He wants to shower you with His grace and mercy.

 

Journal idea: Are there times in your life when you felt like an outcast in God’s family? What changed that feeling for you? Who did God place in your life to plant seeds? How did He guide you back and show you how forgiving and merciful He truly is?

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“God Doesn’t Call the Qualified, He Qualifies the Called!”

My husband gets up early in the morning, so he is usually in bed by 9:30pm. I can’t quite get myself to go to sleep that early, but going up to bed at the same time each night is something that is important to both of us. So while he sleeps, I watch TV or try to get work done from my phone. I should probably be reading instead…I need to start doing that a lot more, actually.

Anyway, I usually turn on Food Network or HGTV. Sometimes I have shows recorded like EWTN’s The Journey Home or At Home with Jim and Joy. However, the other night I decided to turn on the Protestant television channel and up popped a familiar face. I was sure I would only watch for a few moments but the way the woman on the show spoke, really drew me in. Probably because she reminded me a lot of my husband’s Grandma, who I love. No nonsense, kind of serious but throws in some humor every now and again. Her message for the day grabbed me right away and one phrase she repeated a few times, stuck with me:

“God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”

I have heard this saying before, but last night it stuck with me and I started to meditate on what this means for me and my life. The woman’s message resonated with me. The topic was that we may feel very unqualified to do the work that God is calling us to do. We may be filled with the urging of the Holy Spirit, but perhaps we don’t know where to start and what we are even doing.

I feel that way a lot, which is probably why my blog gets so neglected. On one hand I feel like I don’t really have the credentials to speak about what the Church teaches and why someone should be Catholic. So I lose my confidence and just don’t write.

On the other hand, I spend a lot of time reading, doing research, listening to Catholic apologetic podcasts, etc. and I know that this desire to know and learn is building up to something. I think all the time, “I should do a post about that!” and then I don’t – but I usually write the idea down for a later date.

I mean, I know why I am Catholic. I know why I am raising my children in the faith. I have had a lot of life experience, which propels me forward and qualifies me to speak to others who are going through, or have gone through similar situations. These are the things I can be writing about. Even though it is hard for me to share those experiences, I have to remember that it could help encourage others.

For example, I am a child of divorce. While I cannot speak for every child of divorce I can share my experience and why that makes me an avid defender of life and the family. I had a father who’s battle with substance abuse finally overtook him. I also happen to be a recovering alcoholic, who just celebrated 20 years of sobriety this year. While I cannot speak for every child of a drug addict – or every recovering or active alcoholic – I can share my story of struggle and hope with others. So they can say, “Well, if she did it, through the grace of God, so can I!”

I have felt hopeless a lot in my life. I used to wonder “why” about a lot of things. Why can’t anything just be easy for me? Why can’t things go my way just for once? Why is everything such a struggle? I pray, I beg, I cry out in desperation and nothing…nothing…nothing. Does God even care what I want? Is he even listening?

Perhaps, if I had heard the stories of others like me, and how God delivered them, then maybe I wouldn’t have felt so defeated. Maybe I am supposed to be that person for someone else.

Joy Filled Catholic

Those unanswered prayers really did lead me to greater things. My mistakes have helped shape who I am and what I value and believe today. God really can bring so much beauty from the ashes. During all those dark times people came and went from my life to serve a purpose and seeds were being planted. While I sat there feeling like a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle, completely pulled apart and mixed up, God was working to connect those pieces — and he still is.

I am thankful to now live the life I always dreamed of. Actually, it is even better than I ever dared to imagine. I feel so unworthy of these blessings but I know that I am now called to share my story and experience with others and do as Jesus instructed the Gerasene:

‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you’”
– Luke 8:39

God delivered me from my “demons”, from all the things that were keeping me from hearing his call for my life. I now realize that God has qualified me to do the work he has set before me. He will continue to qualify me as I travel the path of life, so that I may do his will.

Joy Filled Catholic

Journal idea: Are there things in your life that you felt quite unqualified for, but during your journey you gained the experience necessary to qualify you? You could also make a list of the crosses you have had to carry in your life, or mistakes you have made. How has God worked through you, to turn those experiences into something that could help others?

 

 

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