For I know well the plans I have for you declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 29:11)
I think we’ve all been exposed to the logic that if we’re trying to get better at something, we have to hang out and practice, or “do it” with someone who’s better at it than we are. That goes for anything from studying, playing a sport, music and growing in discipleship. If we don’t put ourselves in the company of someone who will challenge us to grow, we run the risk of becoming complacent or even stagnant.
A couple of weeks ago, I was put in the middle of the story of a spiritual giant. I ask God every morning to put things in my path that will help me grow in holiness and he did just that, through a beautiful soul named Barb. I’d like to tell Barb’s story; it’s about a woman who is smack-dab in the middle of a lousy situation that would have many of us in misery, thinking God had forgotten about us. This beautiful woman’s advice is heartwarming, life-changing and life-giving. I want to share her story because she’s the ultimate example of how to get better at discipleship by hanging out with someone who’s really good at it.
Her story begins with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis just weeks ago. The first pictures I saw of her days after the news were at her daughter’s wedding, and by the twinkle in her eye and the smile on her face you would have guessed the doctors were nuts and the stories were a lie. Sadly, the doctors weren’t mistaken and the story was true, so Barb’s journey began. I suppose in an attempt to comfort her family and friends she put the whole thing in perspective with her suitcase analogy. I was so touched and inspired by her story I asked permission to share, because I think hanging out with Barb, her faithfulness and her suitcase story, we will all learn from her example, be inspired by her attitude and grow in holiness.
After Barb found out she was so sick, the first thing she did was to thank Jesus for giving her part of his cross to carry. All she asked in return was the courage to help her carry it to completion. The next step was to look at her cancer like packing her suitcase to go on a trip. The first thing to pack is the most important, and for Barb, that was obviously Jesus. He has to be the most important and the top priority. She makes sure she packs in a lot of Jesus through her daily prayers, especially Daily Mass, praying the Divine Office, the Rosary and novenas. Novenas are very important because they are harder and require commitment and dedication.
Next to go in are her sorrows and pain. The sorrows aren’t packed for pity or attention; quite the opposite. The sorrows are an important thing to pack because they are offered for others. Barb is keenly aware that offering our personal suffering for others is a powerful and loving gift. Suffering and pain are especially helpful for the suffering souls in Purgatory.
Up next are the blessings. I can just see her standing over that suitcase lovingly and gratefully calling each blessing by name and tucking it into her suitcase with tender, sincere thankfulness to God. Each day she does a little more packing: more prayers, more thankfulness, more suffering, and she tucks it all in, getting ready to go. Her mission as she wakes up each day is to fill that suitcase as full as she can so she’s ready for her trip. She doesn’t know what Jesus has in store for her, but she is prayerfully and faithfully getting ready.
This weekend as I helped my daughter pack her suitcases to head back to college, I couldn’t help but think about Barb’s suitcase. It’s such an ordinary object but yet Barb turned it into such an incredible lesson in trusting in God the Father. I want to be a better packer … starting today! I hope you will all join me in praying for Barb and her packing; may she be fully prepared for her journey!
A Seed To Plant: What’s in your suitcase? If you wait until the last minute to pack, you might rush and miss something. Take some prayerful time this week to think about what needs to come out of your suitcase and what needs to go in.
Blessings on your day!
Copyright 2017 Sheri Wohlfert