Author’s note: I wrote this blog post in one long sitting on a turbulent flight to NYC weeks ahead of my deadline to try and be ahead of the curve. When I was back online and it came time to upload my blog I couldn’t find it anywhere. Somehow, I had failed to save it. Strangely, I also couldn’t remember what I wrote. I felt a dark cloud over my memory as if the whole reality of having written it was veiled from my view. I couldn’t even attempt a rewrite. I couldn’t recall the title or even the general idea of what I wrote. I truly feel as if the enemy didn’t want me to share this struggle with you. But the Holy Spirit has prevailed. Yesterday evening, on a whim after days of heavy-hearted frustration, I decided to grab my iPad and just see, if somehow, by mere chance, I had copied it to the clipboard. Sure enough, I hit paste and the whole blog pasted into my document. After days of searching for my draft and weeks of using my iPad, I hadn’t used the copy and paste feature and it had held the whole blog intact in its memory. Wow! I really am amazed to be able to share this with you now. The enemy doesn’t get the victory in the end.
I wish to share with you a very personal journey of the heart.
As a youth, there were few more convicted of the truth or committed to living the Faith to the full than I. I felt called, set apart and truly felt as if I was privileged to encounter a most personal and rich indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Holy Hours, daily Mass, the Rosary, sitting at the feet of Our Lord, journaling and plumbing philosophical and theological depths were truly common to me, although never mundane. I don’t doubt the fullness of these experiences, however naive I may have been.
I discerned religious life as a young girl and tried in earnest to chart my course in such a way as to please the Lord. This discernment led me to experience the rich patrimony of faith, yet convicted me to embrace marriage and family life. Babies came, ministry work ensued, life grew in complexity, relationships proved to be hard, personality conflicts mounted, financial strain and the allure of business slowly preoccupied me, homeschool-overwhelm surfaced, exhaustion set in, and slowly over the course of a decade the vibrancy of my interior gaze dwindled and faded. Appearances were maintained and not all wisdom lost. But the abundant life I set out to live slowly began to drag and the tests on my character began to crack my resolve. Fifteen years into marriage and I hardly could recognize myself or remember the dream the Lord so vividly and authentically etched in my heart.
Distance from a Holy Hour, distance from daily Mass, distance from journaling and reading of Sacred Scripture, distance from common virtuous behaviors and the adaptation of sloth, anger, frustration, impatience, cell phone addiction, poor eating habits, disorder in my home and doubt weighed heavily upon me. How could one such vibrant and truly loved child of the Father be so unrecognizable and in many ways lost?
Where, O Lord, was your hand in upholding me and protecting me from the enemy’s lair?
Can you relate? Do you identify with this sentiment? Are you there still? Lost, but with every desire to be found?
I wish to offer 5 suggested steps to begin to find your way. These steps I have taken and am actively seeking to embrace. I am still in the weeds. I don’t claim to have found the safe harbor of stable holiness, but these steps have helped me to find again the way that I seemed to unknowingly have lost. One thing is sure: I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He is about a greater work in me than on the surface appears to have been taking shape. This, I believe, is due to the true consecration of my heart to Him through the hands of Our Blessed Mother so long ago. Recall the prayers you have prayed and have hope and begin again.
1. Assess and accept the truth of your situation. No excuses. Only truth. No one has power of your interior life but you. No suffering is so grave that excuses the call in your life to be united to Him. No priority is more important than your cor ad cor with Christ. Repent and believe in the mercy of Christ that calls you to a heroic life of selfless love. Period. Holiness is your call. Regain confidence that He will accomplish this in your life. Reject that this work is something that you can do alone and equally so, that this is a work that He will do apart from your cooperation. The essence lies in prioritizing a relationship with Him through which grace will be communicated. Engage anew in committing time to this relationship daily.
2. Address your lifestyle imbalances. Nutrition, supplementation, deep breathing and movement are absolute non-negotiables. Nothing will change in the spiritual realm until these foundational neglected steps are rectified. We are incarnational beings and everyone of us, despite disease, handicap, limitation or impediment can take steps to improve our natural habits and habitat. Grace builds on nature. A lifestyle that includes continuous comfort eating, justified junk food, cell-phone surfing and medicating pain away is not going to produce fertile soil for spiritual growth. (Note: these elements as occasional exceptions are not going to derail us; however, if you assess that they are embedded into your life, own your addictions and fight to untangle them from your daily experience). As a health coach, this has been one of the larger hypocrisies to address in my life.
3. Seek spiritual counsel, listen to positive and uplifting authors and music, take a true retreat and be inspired again. Ride the coattails of community support and wholesome affirmation back into the arms of Him who seeks your welfare and your joy above all else. Don’t settle for mere entertainment, but rather, anchor yourself periodically into challenging inspiration that compels you to advance and builds up your will power to live the disciplined and integrated life where the extremes of our passions, from anger to extravagance, are tempered and redirected toward others.
4. Establish a stake in the ground. Choose to do battle against the one dominate vice in your life. Write out your commitment to conversion. Make it clear, measurable, positive and actionable on a daily basis. Establish accountability and take a stand against the mediocrity that has crept into your life. Don’t bite off more than you can chew at one time and don’t offer yourself cheat days. If you fall, do not forfeit and concede to defeat. Grow the virtue of perseverance and stick-to-itiveness.
5. Offer everything to the Father — the good, the bad, the ugly, the tired, the angry, the wounded, the proud, the arrogant, the lazy, the lonely, the success, the beauty, the happy, the pure, the free, the doubt, the confused, the messy, the dramatic, the passionate, the imperfect, the pain, the joy, the true, the holy, etc. Offer everything up and consecrate your life. Don’t let a day go by that you don’t surrender your life into His care through the hands of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary in union with the sacrifice of the Mass being offered throughout the world, in reparation for sin and the conversion of sinners. Once all is in the hands of the Father, adore Him and rest your heart against His heart, if only for a moment.
Pray for me, dear moms. I am lifting you up as well and together let us keep trekking. The path is narrow and the way is hard, but we mustn’t lose heart. His mercy is ever renewing and it is never too late to begin anew.
Join me and share your journey. What steps are you finding helpful in regaining your footing in the spiritual life?
Copyright 2017 Chantal Howard